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The kind of Hope and Change we really needed!

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

These are not my words, but it was very well put, so I thought I’d post here to pass it along.

1. Obama destroyed the Clinton Political Machine, driving a stake through the heart of Hillary’s presidential aspirations – something no Republican was ever able to do.

2. Obama ended the Kennedy Dynasty – no more Kennedys trolling Washington looking for booze and women wanting rides home.

3. Obama is destroying the Democratic Party before our eyes! Dennis Moore had never lost a race. Evan Bayh had never lost a race. Byron Dorgan had never lost a race. Harry Reid – soon to be GONE! These are just a handful of the Democrats whose political careers Obama has destroyed. By the end of 2010, dozens more will be gone. Just think, in December of 2008 the Democrats were on the rise. In the last two election cycles, they had picked up 14 Senate seats and 52 House seats. The press was touting the death of the Conservative Movement and the Republican Party. However, in just one year, Obama put a stop to all of this and will probably give the House – if not the Senate – back to the Republicans.

4. Obama has completely exposed liberals and progressives for what they are. Sadly, every generation seems to need to relearn the lesson on why they should never actually put liberals in charge. Obama is bringing home the lesson very well:

Liberals tax, borrow and spend.
Liberals won’t bring themselves to protect America .
Liberals want to take over the economy.
Liberals think they know what is best for everyone.
Liberals are not happy until they are running YOUR life.

5. Obama has brought more Americans back to conservatism than anyone since Reagan. In one year, he has rejuvenated the Conservative Movement and brought out to the streets millions of freedom-loving Americans. Name one other time when you saw your friends and neighbors this interested in taking back America !

6. Obama, with his “amazing leadership,” has sparked the greatest period of sales of firearms and ammunition this country has seen. Law- abiding citizens have rallied and have provided a “stimulus” to the sporting goods field while other industries have failed, faded, or moved offshore.

7. In all honesty, one year ago I was more afraid than I have been in my life. Not afraid of the economy, but afraid of the direction our country was going. I thought, Americans have forgotten what this country is all about. My neighbors and friends, even strangers, have proved to me that my lack of confidence in the greatness and wisdom of the American people has been flat wrong.

8. When the American people wake up, no smooth-talking teleprompter reader can fool them! Barack Obama has served to wake up these great Americans!

Again, I want to say: “Thank you, Barack Obama!” After all, this is exactly the kind of hope and change we desperately needed!!

November 2nd is HUGE!!!!

Please encourage others to Vote.

——————————–

Now I just hope that if there truly is a power shift, that those who come in remember how they got there and why the others were thrown out.

SQ744 – Far from a winning team

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

We just got a slick mail piece trying to connect sports team rankings with educational ranking in Oklahoma. As most of us already know, there is no connection at all with our various sports teams and education, despite the student-athlete myth. This one plays on the other great myth of the political-educational complex, namely that there is a direct correlation between spending on common education and the quality of the education. All one has to do is look at the tragedy of the Washington D.C. school system to see that this is plainly not true.

The D.C. system ranks among the highest in teacher pay and per-pupil spending in the nation and is at the absolute bottom in quality.  When we see how much wailing and money the AFT spent to get rid of Mayor Fenty and soon his Education Chancellor Michelle Rhee, it is abundantly clear that the only thing the teachers’ union cares about is protecting their jobs  and to hell with the kids, the parents and everyone else.

The one thing connected to sports that actually does have a direct bearing on education is that you put your best people in the game if you want to win, and put the rest of the folks either on the bench or off the team.  It does not matter how much experience they have, what certifications they have or anything else. Whether it is coaches or players, those that put out 110% and don’t make excuses get the victories and those that whine about funding and process and seniority lose. This is the lesson from sports that we should apply to public education.

Piles of money will not get you a winning team if the main criteria for coaches and players is certifications and seniority, regardless of performance. A union will never produce a winning team because “winning” is not what they are about. Unions are about job protection and grievance process. There was a time when they were also a guarantor of a certain level of skill and expertise going back to the guilds, but that has long been eroded by the almighty gods of process and seniority.

The one true thing from the mailer is where it says, “SQ744 takes control of school funding away from lobbyists and government bureaucrats, and puts it in the hands of local parents, teachers and school boards.” The problem is that none of those local parents teachers and school boards are in Oklahoma.  We may as well hand over our school funding decisions directly to the NEA/AFT. The results would be the same.

A new film by David Guggenheim, not exactly a conservative ideologue, called Waiting for Superman, will hopefully help to further drive a wedge between those who want to worship process and protect jobs and those who actually care about educating the youth of our country, regardless of party or persuasion. There is also a good review of the film by Matthew Shaffer at National Review Online, (Rocking the Boat on Education) who saw it at a screening sponsored by Democrats for School Choice.

Education is the single biggest factor that can liberate young people  from a dysfunctional, troubled or just loveless home into a functional, productive and fulfilling life. I think that is more important than guaranteeing the job security,  grievance process and pensions of so-called “teachers” that will never make the starting lineup.

Are unions really the problem?

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Having seen both abusive and unresponsive management/owners and the protection of mediocre and unproductive workers by unions in places I have worked, I have to say that the real problem boils down to humans and egos. Both management and unions are quite capable of ruining a firm when they let egos run amok.

In the labor-management transaction, there needs to be a deal that both sides can live with and that will neither break the firm nor take unfair advantage of the worker. The problem is that in many cases, the unions have come into play only after a history of abuse by the employer, so neither side is really bargaining without an axe to grind. Once in place, unions frequently continue to push for more and more concessions, regardless of the net effect on the health of the employer and because of the employer’s attitude towards workers, the negotiators cannot really trust or believe each other.

Some of the unions themselves are unwilling to deal fairly and openly with their own employees as detailed in this piece by Deroy Murdock in National Review. Here again, it’s all about a few people not being able to distinguish between being CEO or President and being King.

Clearly there are major abuses on both sides. The “rubber room” where some union teachers spend years whiling away the day at the taxpayer’s expense because it is so complicated and expensive to just discharge them is a current example.  But, for every example of a union procedure or benefit that seems unbelievable to the rest of us, there is a negotiator somewhere that agreed to it for that employer.

In the public sector, those seen as “management” may agree to nearly anything as they have no vested interest in the “business” anyway, since revenues are based on taxation and legislation rather than a free-market. For this reason I have some real problems with unions in the public sector, unless the union contracts are subjected to a public vote by either the people or by their elected representatives. Otherwise it is just one government employee making a deal with other government employees while no one really has the responsibility to look after the public interest.

On the other side, I once worked for a firm that kept changing the bonus criteria every other month because someone in the home office decided they were paying too much out in bonuses. The net result was that it became essentially impossible to meet the bonus requirements and the very things the bonus was set up to encourage disappeared. At the same time, pay rates were frozen and the employee share of the benefits plan shot up. Needless to say, productivity suffered greatly and absenteeism became a problem. Disappointed with that outcome, management went for the stick instead of a better carrot and several workers, myself included, started to investigate union representation. It had become clear that the firm’s priorities had changed from encouraging productivity to controlling labor expense within very tight parameters.

Republicans would have us believe that all unions are evil and that business owners and managers are all fair and honest folks who just want to make an honest profit from their efforts. Democrats would have us believe that every worker, whether in private business or on the government payroll must be protected from the evils of management and owners. Like so many other issues, neither tells the whole story. Neither side wants to tell you that most things are not black and white, because then you might actually start evaluating candidates as individuals instead of by party affiliation. To paraphrase, the fault lies not in our unions or employers, but in ourselves.

Want me to switch to paperless billing, give me a discount!

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Stop with the green crap about paperless billing. It’s real simple, not having to print and mail statements and invoices will save them a pile of money. Therefore, offer me a discount to go paperless.

These are starting to get bothersome as I pay many of my bills online. The thing now is to have the default button when you login or complete the transaction to enable paperless billing because they know that many of us will just continue to hit the highlighted button or return key.

There have always been some businesses that operate right on the ragged edge of fraud and frequently needed scrutiny by prosecutors and consumer advocates, but it is rapidly becoming the “norm.” Rigging web sites to push people into things that they would not otherwise accept is just the latest trick. I very much prefer the free-enterprise system to anything else that has been tried or proposed — but there is a dark side to it as well, simply because it is run by humans.

I’m sick of “economic news” and the myth of Washington being able to fix the economy

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

I’m really getting sick and tired of hearing every stupid statistic trotted out as Breaking News and then a flurry of  professors and so-called experts from former administrations wringing their hand about what this may or may not mean. This week it is home sales. Let’s see, unemployment still high so not many home sales, what a shocker.

The one thing that should be abundantly clear from all of this is that Washington does not control the economy, no matter how much they borrow from abroad to throw at selected industries in the name of spurring economic growth or recovery or whatever.  It doesn’t matter whether the administration is controlled by either party, the whole economic engine of the country is just too big and too complex for the goofballs in D.C. to do anything more that twiddle around the edges and drive the national debt to new heights. The only difference in the two political parties is who they give our tax money to in order to pay back campaign contributions. No amount of government spending whether on missiles and ships or teacher unions and road construction is  going to bring back a middle-class with jobs and futures and realistic hopes of retiring some day.

Obama wants to create FreddieSpill, FDR would be proud

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

In the fine FDR tradition of creating an extra-legal agency to “address” every problem, the Obama administration (and their many friends wanting high-paying, low stress jobs in Washington) now want BP to pay billions of dollars into an escrow account AND have disbursement of the funds from this account administered by a third party. Anyone want to guess what this third party will look like.

OK, I’m no fan of BP. Their safety and deferred-maintenance record has not been very good in North America in the last decade or so and the continuing mess in the Gulf of Mexico is just the largest and latest.

The White House and the Dems on the Hill are behaving predictably – “Something must be done!” – even if it has little or no effect on the real problem. Not ones to let an opportunity pass, they now propose to have BP escrow billions of dollars in funds and then set up a “third party” to administer the claims on these funds.

I can only imagine how this “claim processor” will be constituted. First we’ll need a big name chief for the Wesley Mouch role, and a blue-ribbon panel of former office-holders, technical experts, legal experts, financial experts, then lots of administrative paper-pushers to build and monitor “process.” This “FreddieSpill” will almost certainly set new records for overhead eating up the available funds.

No doubt Congress will pass some special enabling legislation for FreddieSpill that puts it beyond the normal legal-judicial process so no one will be able to appeal or contest the rulings of this “third party.”

Once an entity like this is created, it will never die, so this will become the de facto liability oversight agency for the oil and gas industry in the U.S. Since this agency will be outside the normal legal process, its determinations will be impossible to predict since it is essentially a political animal, thereby dramatically cranking up the risk for US exploration and production at the very time we desperately need to find and produce energy here.

So, the net result will be lots of jobs for friends of those in the administration, a rapid whittling away of the escrow funds, arbitrary and capricious disbursement decisions that cannot be appealed in courts and a frightening risk variable on the domestic oil and gas industry.

Wow, do these people know how to make lemonade or what?

AfghanisNam

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Headed by President Hamid Văn Thiệu Karzai, Afghanistan is not just like Vietnam, it IS Vietnam. Here we are again backing a corrupt so-called leader after the result of a highly questionable election that we would certainly condemn if it were held anywhere else. (Nguyễn Văn Thiệu got around 94% of the vote in Vietnam in 1971).

We had the opportunity to grab Bin Laden and the key Al Qaeda people in the earliest days and lost the opportunity by a combination of indecision and the faulty belief of a few that smart-bombs, UAVs and Black Ops forces could replace regiments if not divisions in a sparsely populated, mountainous land.
Another 100,000 troops, even if they were all shooters, will not bring back the opportunity that was lost years ago.

The political leadership, past and now current, can not or will not even tell us what success would look like in Afghanistan because they want to be able to change the definition as they go.  Do you really think our fathers, uncles, grandfathers and such would have hit the beaches on Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Omaha or Utah if they had no idea of how success would be defined. That’s what we are asking our troops to do now. How can we look them in the eye and ask them to do this! Saying “Remember 9/11” is only going to last a little longer. They’re going to have to start up the draft again because we have absolutely worn out all of our active duty, reserve and National Guard troops.

This is the LBJ moment. It’s sounding now that Barry is going to push ahead so as not to look weak. Yes we have lost good people there and yes their sacrifice is very much appreciated and gratefully acknowledged by this old jarhead and countless thousands of others. At this point, the best way to show that we truly support our troops is to get them out of a situation that has no end in sight, before thousands more are maimed and killed.

Can’t we be smart and retain some of the lessons of our own history. Must we continue to follow the failed steps that Britain followed in both Afghanistan and Mesopotamia. I’m not ignoring or forgetting the history of Al Qaeda or the Taliban, but continuing to send the best of our youth and literally tons of our treasure to this place that has swallowed up armies from Alexander to the Soviets is just madness and does a great disservice to those who must fight and die so politicians can say that they did not forget 9/11.

Over 50,000 of us died for the domino theory of Communism in southeast Asia. We lost a generation, nearly ruined the Army and Marine Corps as career options for patriotic Americans and thought we had forever changed how our country’s military forces would be deployed in foreign lands. How many more Americans have to be killed, maimed and forever emotionally scarred in this exercise in futility?

T-Mobile puts the greed in green

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Starting in September, T-Mobile will add a $1.50 per month charge to get paper bills, and be able to mail in payments. Of course this is all being played as “green” when we we all know it is simple greed.  Sure, it costs to print and mail invoices and to process payments that are mailed in.  That is called “cost of doing business.” Since phone companies are already well known for passing along any and every charge and fee imaginable as well as some that are hard to imagine, I guess this should not really come as a surprise. What goes along with this paperless billing is also the requirement to either pay online via credit/debit card or via electronic funds transfer from a bank or credit union account. If you insist on paying with cash, check or money order, you will have to take it to a T-Mobile store as they will not accept payments mailed in.

The galling part of this is that the only way I found out about it was by routinely checking my minutes of usage on their web site. Wonder how long I would have gone otherwise? I already know that I have to carefully dissect every piece of paper included with credit card bills to make sure one of them is not a carefully veiled notice that my interest rate is doubling next month and that I agree to accept it if I use my card even one more time. Can’t wait to see the next T-Mobile bill and see how this new green fee is communicated, if at all.

The terms that you must agree to are fun too (see below and link).  So it is now my responsibility to set a date on my calendar to check for billing, since they can’t be bothered with sending a no-charge SMS to make sure I got it. #12 is a hoot too. Sure good to know that T-Mobile’s system is right on the bleeding edge of Internet browsers. I guess I should not plan to use it with Safari or Chrome or Firefox or  even a very old version of IE6. Wonder why the iPhone went to AT&T? Guess accessing your account and paying from any mobile browser would be completely out of the question.

(Terms) By agreeing to receive my Bill electronically I agree to the following:

Paperless Billing. I may view my paperless T-Mobile Bill for wireless services (Bill) online by accessing my account at www.t-mobile.com/mytmobile. I may also determine how much I owe by dialing #BAL# on my T-Mobile phone or by calling Customer Care.
1. Payment. I will pay my Bill (including any late fees) timely, whether or not I receive a Bill notice or am able to access my paperless Bill.
2. Not receiving a Bill notice. T-Mobile will attempt to send me a Bill notice to my current e-mail address in T-Mobile’s records. It is my sole responsibility to contact T-Mobile directly if I do not receive my Bill notice. I agree to hold T-Mobile harmless for any delay or failure to deliver notice.

—snip—

12. System compatibility and blocking. The ability to receive Bill notices is system and Internet Service Provider dependent. To accurately view your paperless Bill, your system must be running either Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher, Netscape Navigator 6.1 or higher, or AOL 5.0 or higher. Some ISPs may block e-mail from senders who are not on a “contacts” list, so I may not receive my notification unless I specifically add T-Mobile to my contacts or “people I know.”  — (bold emphasis added by aRdent)

T_MobilePaperFee

Even with this, T-Mobile is still cheaper for the voice service that we use, so switching to AT&T is not an option. I would not even consider changing to one of the CDMA carriers (Sprint, Verizon, US Cellular), regardless of rate difference. The CDMA system and their devices are just too limited and delicate. There are many good reasons why the rest of the world uses GSM for cellular.

We can’t debate healthcare reform until we know exactly what we are debating

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

The pundits and progressives are all aflutter about some recent townhall meetings with Congress members that have gotten loud and rowdy.  This should not be a real surprise as healthcare is a very personal issue—especially so if you have a chronic condition or are retired on a fixed income. Sure, some of the participants may have been seeded by those with a particular position, but many are just angry at what certainly looks like a huge change with no public debate.

First, it would help a lot if all of us could actually see and read what we are debating. I’d be very surprised if all the members of Congress have even read it all, much less understand it.  With all the communications outlets currently available to the Congress and the Administration, there is no reason why the people should not be completely informed on the proposed package so we are not running scared with rumors of death boards. Yes, I know we can read the whole thing online, but can most of us make any sense of it?

This is a very serious subject which directly affects people’s lives. Broad outlines from the Administration and a few members of Congress from each side of the aisle does not constitute a debate.  Likewise, one speaker making statements and answering questions in a room full of constituents is not a debate either.

In the absence of clear, concise information about exactly what is changing and what is will cost us all, it is not surprising that many will react with fear. Add to this the number of people, both broadcasters and politicos that know that nothing motivates people to action better than fear and you have a formula for emotional reactions and outrage. The liberals are outraged that the masses would dare question the wisdom or motives of the progressive elite who always know what’s best for us and the conservatives are outraged that there is not a lot they can do to stop this train regardless of where it is currently headed.

Many of us have personal experience with finding out after the fact that a nameless, faceless entity has determined that something  is “not a covered expense” or  “not medically necessary, ” but we have to pay for it anyway. Therefore it is not surprising that people are reluctant to trust what sounds like another group of insurance salesmen telling us not to worry.

It’s real simple. If you don’t want us screaming about the latest rumor we’ve heard, replace those rumors with detailed, accurate information, not broad gentle reassurances. Tell us what exactly this bill is trying to accomplish and how a given section or subtitle accomplishes that.

Congress and the Administration need to spend the next month or two putting out detailed accurate information and give people a chance to digest it. Then, go back and make the changes that this discussion has shown are needed and put it to a vote of both houses. Let’s get this decided on its merits, not on who is best at stampeding their followers.

Goodbye Tulsa World

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

We finally decided that the time has come to stop paying $17 a month to have the dead-tree version of the local rag deposited on the driveway. The World has long ago ceased being a newspaper.  I will not miss the front page evergreen stories, the full-page snake oil ads, the bizarre editorial positions or the constant drum-beating to spend any amount of tax money to construct some sort of downtown that only exists in the editorial board and publisher’s  fantasies.

What really pushed us over the edge was noticing how many times they kept jumping stories to the website.  There is plenty of room in the paper for a page dedicated to a brand of Bourbon from years past,  and clearly no shortage of space to plug the current touring musicals, but they cannot seem to make space for actual news any more. Today’s top local story is that people apparently get hot and drink lots of water when it is 100 degrees outside. Wow, shouldn’t that be tagged “Breaking News?”

One would hope that the local paper would be the place to find out about local events. Apparently only those events sponsored by the World or favored by Wayne Greene  merit a mention. Don’t even get me started on Mike Jones’ constant stream of liberal hate-speech for any knuckle-dragger that does not share his clearly superior positions. The World’s editorials frequently remind me that no group has a monopoly on intolerance and that nothing is apparently as vitally important as puppies.

Newspapers across the country are fighting a losing battle to stay relevant and stay in business. The problem is that for too many of them the business plan seems to be to do less and charge more, then wail about the Internet while giving away the precious little original content they still generate on the Internet. Thankfully there are still a few newspapers that understand that their strength lies in digging out and presenting stories, both news and investigative, not just adding their “coverage” to a story we have already heard.

I never really liked the Tulsa World, but as a former print photojournalist I still wanted my daily “fix.”  The Tribune always had much better layout, better use of visuals and frankly better writers and editors, but afternoon papers were the first to go in this Darwinian process. I can read many of the best papers online; some for free and some for a very reasonable access fee.

I’m more than willing to pay for quality content. I do not give my work away for free and do not expect anyone else to.  However, I ‘m no longer going to pay $17 a month for shipping and handling of a daily shopper.  The paper kept telling us to go to their website—so we will.