Friday, March 26, 2010

So Goes America...

In the late 20th century California turned from a paradise to a purgatory

Today California is a mess. How the "Golden State" devolved into a basket case of welfare and high taxes should serve as a lesson for all of us. This lesson if not heeded will result in a cascade of California's across the nation until America is just a temperate version of Mexico.

There are those who would site the enactment of Prop 13 in 1979 as the beginning of California's decline and they just might be right, but to make it the cornerstone of California's troubles may be taking it too far. Prop 13 was ratified by the good folks in California ostensibly to cap property taxes. It was a tax revolt that seemed quite justified at the time when long term residents were being forced out of their homes as rising property values raised their tax levy beyond their meager incomes. Since then the state's entire tax system has become a monster. Prop 13 and property tax issues are only a part of the ugly picture. Just like the Federal government it's spending that has gone out of control California.

As of 2001 California had the highest individual income tax rate of the 8 states with more than 10 million residents. It has the third highest corporate income tax rate and the highest sales tax rate. Only their property tax is ranked below average at 6th among the eight. Rates are one thing, but tax dollars are another. Since California homes are more expensive, when factoring their actual property tax we'd be likely to find it is actually at the top of the list. Also, none of this includes any side by side comparisons of so-called "fees" where California leads the nation.

How was this shining example of America's excellence allowed to self destruct? Who was minding the store?

Was it the state's easy plebiscite system known as initiative and referendum? Was it ever rising taxes? Was it strong public employees unions like those that have crippled many state and local governments? Was it a social justice based legislative, academic and elitist mentality the turned the "Land of Opportunity" into a European-style crippled social state simply limping along from one crisis to another? Yes!!!

Voters and citizens were so fed up a few years ago they (literally) threw out Governor Gray Davis and replaced him with a Hollywood actor who promised fiscal discipline and a return to the Golden Days. In that Arnold Schwarzenegger has failed - miserably so. He never imposed any of the measures that would have hurt for a while but would have began to set the ship of state upright. Instead he caucused with the liberals, the same liberals that would be called leftists in any other state. The voters' sour mood conjures complaints about the way state government operates. Understandably 71 percent of likely voters polled in 2007 believed the federal government wastes a lot of the money that's paid by state residents, while 55 percent are convinced that much of California's own tax money is being squandered. Nearly 2 in 3 Californians say state government is largely run by a few big interests. The biggest interest of all is the 800 pound gorilla no one wants to talk about... The unrelenting illegal immigration and the vast resources devoted by social justice advocates in Sacramento to feeding, teaching and treating non citizens. A remarkable eighty percent of Californians think that the state is on the wrong track.

The illegal immigration situation only compounds notion of the state's inability to govern itself. What ought to be done can never be done out of fear of reprisal at the polls. The state budget is clearly out of control. The deficit, now $26 billion, grows every day by nearly $25 million. Much of that money goes to aide for a growing Mexican underclass blanketing the low income sections of every major California city.

In reality California is bankrupt. Worse, its prospects are bleak for economic recovery and especially job recovery. Silicon Valley has moved away and other high-tech companies have essentially given up on California. California is often ranked at the bottom of all states in the polls as a place to do business. Put it this way and the reason becomes clear: 38 million people live in California yet a mere 144,000 pay one half of all income taxes. Yes, that's right, just 3 tenths of 1 percent of the population pays half the income tax recipients. These are the people that build the businesses and create the jobs. The so-called rich are fleeing California in droves.

The worst is yet to come. Up and down the coast are international shipping docks where billions of dollars of Chinese made goods come in and billions of dollars of raw materials go out. Currently the industry that controls these shipyards is under the thumb of the longshoremen and their powerful (expensive) unions. However, when the Panama Canal upgrade now under way under Chinese supervision is completed ocean going container ships will no longer be forced to stop in California. East coast cities and more likely Mexican port cities on the Gulf of Mexico side will service the huge population east of the Mississippi instead of having imported goods trucked all the way from California. This will mean even more job losses for California.

California will be left with a dichotomy of poor and failing urban centers and wealthy productive rural sectors. Eventually the tax burden will affect the food producers to the point of losing market-share to cheaper imported produce and meat. California will have nothing left but it's fine weather.

It's a sad story, but it's story that doesn't have to be repeated nation wide. Only strict immigration enforcement, sane tax laws and the support of free market policies can rescue California. Unless sanity prevails and the leftists that have been allowed to run the state house in Sacramento are shuffled out California is literally doomed. Worse yet is that the same sort of leftists are now in charge of Washington DC where they so conveniently rely on the major media to blame free market capitalism for their policy failures.

As California goes so goes America...


Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform is So Yesterday

Health Care Reform is barely 24 hours old and CNN is preparing us for the second crown jewel in the Socialist trifecta. Immigration Reform is coming. The esteemed Thomas Friedman of the New York Times began the greasing process with a recent column based on the pretense that immigration reform was a tool in America's arsenal to compete with his beloved China. So watch for some form of national ID card. It will be called ESSN for Electronic Social Security Number or some such. On the surface these so-called reforms will seem reasonable, but the devil is always in the details as we will soon find out with this boondoggle called Health Care Reform.

There will be no further talk of securing the border - and maybe that was doomed from the start - simply put, the problem isn't the border it's the hiring of illegals to do manual labor at dirt cheap wages. Before Clinton's so-called reforms in the 90's the cross border activity was limited. It has since exploded to the point where good paying construction work is now going to low wage Mexicans and pushing out American born craftsman. Currently illegal immigration is down because the job market has dried up with the recession. If the economy ever turns around - a big if - watch for a veritable flood of illegals coming in because the green light will be shining brightly, blinking citizenship ahead, citizenship ahead!!!

This year will be a big test for the Tea Party movement. Since the thrust of the movement is really about pushing back on the Federal takeover of key elements of American society. So far the socialists have won every fight. This is primarily because the party in control has huge majorities. The interesting thing and I believe proof that the Tea Party movement has some teeth because everything the socialists have won has been on a razor thin margin. The only landslide was Obama's election itself and even that was not overwhelming. One of the major planks in the movement is immigration reform, but not in the sense of making citizenship the goal rather enforcing the laws already in the books.

The country has already taken one giant step in the right direction by electing a Republican to fill the seat of the one man most responsible for the immigration mess we find ourselves in... Teddy Kennedy.

Health Care Reform is so yesterday.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Bringing Down the House (of Israel)

You knew it had to happen. Those of us who dare to defend Israel's right to exist knew it was just a matter of time before the Obama Administration created a "crisis" that put them at odds with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's conservative government in Jerusalem. They are using an announcement that Israel will build new housing units in Israel's capital city (oh the horror of it all) as a path to denounce Israel.

It's a manufactured rift. These "new" housing permits are actually the third stage of internal bureaucratic process going back several years. Additionally these new buildings will not be built for several years. There will be no territorial expansion of settlements, just new buildings in an existing settlement. These so-called "settlements" are surrounded by existing Jewish settlements they don't even border on Palestinian land. So what's the beef?

Embarrassment? VP Biden's trip to Israel was overshadowed by this announcement. The timing might have been bad on Israel's part but it is not a crisis! More likely it was a way for the administration to feign offense so that the eager (anti-Israel) U.S. media could jump all over Netanyahu's government. The actual truth does not matter, obviously, the media (and the Administration) banks on the American people not digging too deep and just accept that Israel is evil, and conversely the Palestinians are victims.

Again, you have to wonder if it's amateur hour in the White House. If the Adminstration thinks they are sowing the seeds of Netanyahu's demise they are wrong. This will only strengthen him in the eyes of the Israelis. As such the implied threats of American retribution only serve to confirm the worst Israeli fears. They believe, and rightly so, the Obama adminstration is hostile to Israel while seeking favor with the Arab world and the Palestinians. It only makes the Prime Minister look like a national hero. Besides, if Netanyahu goes a more conservative government is likely to follow.

So much for a new beginning on the never ending Israeli/Palestinian peace talks.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mr. Eagle and Mr. Fox Argue Over Dinner

"Mr. Eagle and Mr. Fox Argue Over Dinner"

18 X 24 (acrylic)

by Craig Willms

This painting was inspired by a photo taken by Pekka Komi. It was one in a series of incredible action shots of this eagle and this fox wrestling over a carcass. The photos have caused quite a buzz on the Internet as some thought they were doctored. Viewed as a series the validity of those claims is destroyed. I hope you enjoy!

Check out the rest of my paintings at Static Art Online.


Friday, March 12, 2010

FOX News: Sharia and Balanced

For liberals who love to hate FOX News I'm afraid I have some bad news. It seems FOX is going to rob you of one of your hate-points. FOX is embracing Islam and will be shouting down anyone who disses the religion of peace... It won't be long now and all those skirt-wearing blondes running around the FOX studios will be covered from head to toe.

Surely I'm joking, right? Well... Considering that one of the largest shareholders in News Corp (the parent company of FOX) is none other than Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of Saudi King Abdullah. Yes, this is the same Prince bin Talal who tried to give Rudy Giuliani $10 million following the 9/11 attacks. The Mayor tore up the check and said no thanks to the cheers of 10 million Americans. Remember that seventeen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

What does it mean that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is a large stake holder in News Corp and that Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp has bought a 9% share of The Rotana Group, a major media conglomerate in the Arab Middle East run by al Talal? Nothing good.

The FOX news division surely has autonomy and will report on Muslim, Middle East and Arab issues with its "fair and balanced" touch. Not so fast.

Dianna West reports on FOX's commentary of the Geert Wilders trial in The Netherlands. She writes:
I’ve grown used to Fox News and all other media ignoring not just the Wilders story but also the cultural story of the century, altogether – namely, the Islamization of Europe, something Wilders, a great admirer of Ronald Reagan and a committed supporter Israel, is dedicated to halt and reverse. The survival instinct of the Dutch, who, earlier this month gave unprecedented electoral victories to Wilders and his party, is a strong indicator that this civilizational transformation is not irreversible.

She Continues:
Regardless of cause or effect, the fact remains that in classifying Wilders as a fascist (Beck), denouncing his views as “extreme, radical and wrong” (Krauthammer), and slandering him as a “demagogue” (Kristol), Fox’s opinion-leaders expressed themselves in terms that surely thrilled not just Murdoch’s Islamic prince-cronies, but also the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). This is the organization driving the advance of sharia in the world...

This makes me sad on many levels - one, as a huge fan of Krauthammer I am dismayed that he doesn't see the danger Europe is in and that Wilders could very well be the Dutch Churchill. The Brits ignored Winston Churchill at their own peril. Secondly, I see this as another nail in the coffin of FOX's credibilty. The people on the center/right side of the political spectrum were buoyed by the introduction of FOX a decade ago as a safe habor in the sea of media leftism. But over the years FOX has slowly turned itself into a shoutfest network elevated by goofiness and lack of journalistic seriousness. It's hard to cut through the veneer of cultural liberal orthodoxy without a trusted and credible TV Network unafraid to present (and even defend) conservative views. Now this...

I used to consider the term FAUX News to be nothing but pure jealousy because FOX continues to beat the pants off CNN and MSNBC, but now I realize it was just a "descriptive" term.

Once again I am without a TV news organization that doesn't offend my sensibilities.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

He's Got a Good Point and Click

I don't usually read Newsweek magazine, but when my nephew passed on this link The Internet? Bah!Hype alert: Why cyberspace isn't, and will never be, nirvana by Clifford Stoll I was immediately struck by a few things. I detected a slight under current of disdain - OK it was a flood of disdain. Actually Mr. Stoll made a few insightful points that I found myself agreeing with.

He talks about telecommuting as the wave of the future - where I come from that's a future that was promised a long time ago. First it was waiting on broadband. Broadband is here. The few attempts I've made at telecommuting were bittersweet. I loved that I didn't have to drive in, I loved that I saved parking fees and $8 lunches, but I missed my comrades, I missed (valuable) impromptu hallway meetings. In the end I felt disconnected, rather odd when I was just as "connected" as I had been sitting in my office the week before.

Internet classrooms didn't exist when I went to school but my college age daughter dislikes the cyberclassroom for the same reason I disliked telecommuting - plus they charge higher tuition for cyberstudies???

Then there are Internet searches, or Googling as it's known. I rely on the pool of technical talent reachable via Internet to do my job. However, as good as Google, Yahoo and Bing are we find ourselves wading through mountains of garbage to find anything useful. And for you technologists please try out those solutions on test systems first, just saying.

Clifford is really bent over the cacophony of voices where most everyone shouts and few listen. Those pesky, deluded bloggers! This is way too broad a brush stroke Cliffy. I have found as many profound and enlightening conversations as I have name calling shouting matches. Here's a hint: stay off the comment sections. The fact that I can peruse hundreds of newspapers, magazines and media news sites everyday has enriched my life far beyond what the Minneapolis StarTribune ever could. In fact the only newspaper I spend my money on is the Wall Street Journal because it actually has content that isn't perpetually condescending to anyone but angry leftists.

Shopping is another area where Mr. Stoll claims the Internet hasn't lived up to the hype. Maybe so, but I enjoy shopping Amazon, Priceline, iTunes and dozens of other places so I don't have to waste my Saturdays. I also love doing my banking online. Shopping in general is enhanced by the Internet in ways that were out of reach before. Comparing products and product reviews by way of the Internet is invaluable. As long as common sense isn't left behind in the dazzle of flashy websites and incredible claims the purchasing choices people make are better informed.

There are downsides to the Internet and Stoll hits the nail on the head when he says people need human contact. E-mail is a wonderfully helpful tool but a single e-mail message pales in comparison to receiving and card or letter touched by real hands and delivered to a real mailbox. Those delights are few and far between, a thing of the past. Just like having all the kids friends running through the house is a thing of the past. My son plays way too many video and computer games for my liking. I know all the kids are doing it and they have created a cadre of online friends that share common adventures and "big battles". Often when they actually get together physically in the same room they all connect to the web anyway and play their war games. Logically is this any different than playing board games? The Internet is the new game board. We older folks feel sorry for the kids that don't go traipsing about in the woods or hanging out on street corners with their pals, but this is their new hangout. Different yes, but worse? Who can say.

Lastly, I believe Clifford is right that we all have a yearning for human contact. To the notion that it's being squelched by the "Internet" I have one word to say: Facebook. Facebook has brought me into contact with friends and classmates from a lifetime ago. While I do not now or ever intend to spend much time on Facebook its popularity is a testament to what Stoll is driving at. I have already attended social gatherings that were well attended because the notice was sent out via Facebook. Even my adult daughter and I enjoy (extra) connections through Facebook from time to time.

The Internet is a tool, a marvelous tool. It shouldn't replace but rather enhance human relationships. The Internet can also be a destructive and dangerous tool if you let it - but then so can gambling, drinking, boinking... I could go on, but I won't.


Saturday, March 06, 2010

Welcome to the Party

There comes a time when the blinders come off for all of us. In our private lives it usually happens as we find that we can no longer defend the actions of a loved one (or possibly even our own actions). Eventually your prejudices are overwhelmed and you succumb to the reality others have seen all along.

Having read for quite a while I have come to expect decent writing and mostly reasonable arguments when filtered through a leftist shaded world view. So imagine my surprise when I read Jacob Weisberg's "Make It Stop" where he removes his own blinders in public. In the bright light of reality he sees that the legitimate concerns the conservatives, libertarians, independents and yes, even the Tea Party denizens have harped on all along. The Obama Administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress is out of control.

Weisberg opens with:
Amid the right's hysterical repudiation of everything President Obama has done or wants to do, one legitimate concern stands out: that Washington will grow without limits.

Now I would contend that the left's hysterical repudiation of everything President Bush did was easily equal to what the right-wingers are doing today. Regardless, the point is of course Weisberg is right about the out of control growth of the federal government. For those who don't understand what the Tea Party movement is really about - this is it. To be clear these sentiments didn't start with Obama, after all the federal government grew faster than ever under GW Bush. But Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress has kicked in the afterburners and shifted the expansion of the national government into overdrive. People are right to be concerned.

The last two gigantic expansions of the federal government had some serious side effects. Weisberg remarks that Obama has said in his defense that the issue isn't how big government is but whether it works. Define works. Historians still argue about the ultimate effect of FDR's massive expansion of federal power, but most people can see with their own eyes what LBJ's Great Society has wrought. Riding the wave of Federal expansion big-government-Democrat controlled big cities are in shambles. (Democrat controlled states aren't far behind). The so-called underclass LBJ sought to rescue have been devasted directly and indirectly by government policy, both in the social realm and through economic inopportunity.

Today the federal government is sucking up all the oxygen leaving the states - the government entity best able to address the needs of their own citizens - stranded and gasping for breath. The states can't raise taxes when the federal government is bleeding those still employed dry.

I have no illusions that the folks at including Weisberg would actually jump from the good ship Obama, but it is interesting that the light of truth is getting through.


Monday, March 01, 2010

The Smartest Guy in the Room

I freely admit that I do not like Jon Stewart - the most trusted newsman in America. The fact that he is not a newsman but a comedian should not get in the way of exalting him as a voice of reason. Whatever...

It does bother me a little how the rest of the media pundits, famous authors, cabinet secretaries, politicos and even candidates are forced to pay homage to Stewart and his robot audience. I do find it a bit disconcerting that so many young people get their politics from Mr. Stewart and his cohort Mr. Colbert doing their make-believe news shows on Comedy Central. But is it any more disconcerting than the bloviating on Fox's O'Reilly and Hannity or the tripe found on Olberman's Countdown or Maddow's breathless indignation over on MSNBC? I guess not. Thank God we have bloggers!!!

Where is this going?

I was reading a rather pompous, self impressed blogger, David Roberts on Grist.Org's site, who can't seem to get enough teabagging references in his posts regardless if teabagging is even called for. I scrolled down into the comment section and found this gem posted in response to the aforementioned blogger's ir-regard for the so-called Tea Party Movement... The first thing that came to mind was Jon Stewart.

please, read on

I know you're just sure you're the smartest guy in the room, as every piece you write drips with a smug, smarmy self-indulgence that is as condescending as it is dismissive. Tragically, your vastly superior intellect is unappreciated, and you must scratch your head wondering why the rest of the world isn't singing your praises and nodding their agreement. You are, in short, a poster child for today's Left.

Just a generation ago, the Left distrusted government and valued personal freedom above all else. Today, government is the solution for everything, personal freedom is subjugated to the collective, and people can't be trusted to make their own choices. Before you pigeon-hole me, I don't recognize or admire the GOP, either. Hence, the movement you childishly dismiss with vulgarities. This movement has more in common with the 60's era Left than it does the southern Klan, which you clumsily reference in your predictably contemptuous reply. I challenge you to open your eyes, but know you won't. You are so thoroughly convinced of your own superiority that I harbor no hope you could ever be a true thinking person.

Unlike others here, I don't despise you; you are of course entitled to your opinions, however shallow, simplistic and egocentric. I pity you, frankly, because your own grandiosity prevents you from thinking, seeing or appreciating any alternative reality despite the countless historical failings of a tireless devotion to a ridiculous dogma. It's a shame, really.

by libertasso

Now if I could have 2 minutes with Mr. Stewart that's exactly what I'd say to him.