Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Be careful what you wish for....

Many folks in the higher circles of the GOP are giddy with the possibility of a major realignment in the American electorate. In these next two election cycles, the Republicans could make real gains in both houses of Congress, take back a few governorships and stop the Obama hope and change express cold. All of this is well and good for the Republican pundits and campaign managers, but I have a question. What then?

The Democrats were sure, once they rid the White House of George W. Bush, the world would be righted by the sheer power of Barack Obama's genius. Woops. Very large, very complex, and systemic problems require drastic action and bold, honest leadership to fix.

Bringing about a fundamental change of this magnitude will require something I believe the American people have lost their taste for; pain. We want someone to fix the problem without paying the price in discomfort. We want someone to make it better, without changing it. We want a dentist to fix 20 years worth of dental problems with no shots, no drilling and very little inconvenience. We want hope and change, not pain and change.

This is a trap I hope the GOP will not fall into. The trillions in new spending and the industrial sized debt the President is piling up for our children will not lead to prosperity, they will lead to ruin. The American people are finally awakening to the sticker shock of this and are standing up to say, enough. So what happens if we give the purse strings back to the Republicans? Are we so certain this short walk in the wilderness has been long enough to drive out the big-spending habits of the Hastert/DeLay Republicans? I have my doubts.

If there is to be real, meaningful solutions for our nation's fiscal outlook, it will take more than a repackaging of old ideas. It will take a revolution in the way Americans think about government; what it should do, and more to the point, what it cannot do. To lead that revolution, we will need leaders who tell the public what the real price of reform will mean; sacrifice.

They will have to tell American's, vote for me, and it will hurt for a little while. Vote for me and I will spend your money as if it were my money. Vote for me and together we will have to make some difficult choices. Vote for me and I will promise to help fix these very large, very complex, very expensive problems, once and for all. Vote for me and you may be sorry when I cut some money from a program you like or receive a benefit. Vote for me and we will make many people angry, but we can look our children in the face and know we did the right thing for them.

Would anyone run a campaign like that? Who would say government is too big, tries to do too much, and it costs entirely too much? It will certainly not be the Democratic Party. Not now, and unless they rein in the progressives and revert back to the party of JFK, not ever. So, that leaves us with the Republicans. Not the 2000-2006 Republicans, but the 1994 Republicans, if there are any left.

Does anyone have the conviction to run as a candidate saying the government is not Santa Claus? I do not know. I do not know if anyone has the courage to say, we are going to reduce the size of government, not slow the growth, but over the next four years we are going to reduce the size government by 4%. One percent a year and everyone will need to take a little less. Defense, Education, Interior, even Social Security and Medicare. Everyone needs to be smarter about how they spend the taxpayer’s money. Everyone talks about waste, fraud and abuse, and the only way to find it is to make the bureaucrats account for every dollar, every full time position, and every check they hand out. It works in the private sector; it should work for government as well.

My fear is the Republicans will be swept back into power without truly repenting their past fiscal sins. Right now we need fiscal conservatives, and lots of them. After the 1.5 to 1.7 Trillion dollar Obama deficits this year, it won't be hard to say we will cut the deficit in half. That will be easy. We need someone who will explain, and then reverse, this huge government expansion before we go over the cliff that is surely coming.

That cliff is demographic in nature, and numbers do not lie. The massive flood of baby-boomers who will be coming into the Social Security and Medicare systems in the next two decades will break this nation, plain and simple. When you hear any politician say that SSI and Medicare will cost X amount in the next ten years, ask this one question. What will it cost in twenty? The first decade will be no picnic, but when the main surge of boomers hit their 70s and 80s and begin fully utilizing the Medicare system, those two government entitlement programs will take up the majority of our national budget.

So what can we do? I wish I knew.

In one respect, the President is right about health care, doing nothing is not an option. With Medicare going broke in the coming decades, the answer is not putting everyone on it, or something similar to it. The answer is not promising even more 'free' things that we simply cannot afford. The answer should be personal responsibility. Part of the answer should be tort reform, so doctors do not give you a myriad of unnecessary scans and tests in the hopes they will not be sued. Part of the answer should be using medical savings accounts to put you in charge of your heath care dollars. Part of the answer should be means testing these programs. Part of the answer will be vigorous, and I do mean vigorous, enforcement of Medicare and Social Security fraud. There will have to more ways to save money, and they will have to be found, fast. These answers are not going to popular, but the alternative is much, much worse.

If we keep electing people who say they will not cut anything, we will get what we deserve, a complete shutdown of the system. No more checks, no more care, no more 'free' anything. One day all the hospitals who accept Medicare patients will have a padlock on the door and a sign on the door saying come back in four months when the new fiscal year starts, we are out of money. All the SSI checks will stop and everyone will cry bloody murder. We are facing that reality in a few decades, if not sooner.

If Republicans think they can fix this with a few minor tweaks, they are sadly mistaken. If Democrats think they can tax their way out of this demographic noose, they are mistaken as well. The solution will be two fold. Grow the economy, and that means growing small businesses as well as reducing one of the highest corporate taxes in the industrialized world. The other part of the solution is going to be a smaller government footprint. However, even those who want smaller government are going to be upset when their benefits are reduced. Trust me; they will want you to cut off those "other guys" not my benefits.

Whoever takes on this problem had better be prepared for town hall meetings that make this summer's look like a Girl Scout bake sale. It will be ugly.

So, who is willing to say, follow me and feel the pain? The better question is, would you vote for that person?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I know, I am so ashamed

ACORN's "Cash for Chlamydia" program

Do you smell something? I believe it’s the dead horse I was beating a few weeks ago, but darn if it doesn't require another good whooping.

The main stream media has a giant blind-spot when it comes to scandals involving Democrats, so they can think of me as one of those curved mirrors on the passenger side of your car. My message is simply this; "Your demise is closer than it appears."

I know the MSM is going to give President Obama and Democrats a pass on almost every mistake, miscalculation and scandal, but the latest ACORN videos have made an end run around the MSM and people are asking where were CNN and the New York Times on this story. ACORN, at last count, has taken 53 $Million in tax dollars, and would have been eligible to receive much more through the billions in Community Development Block Grants found in the stimulus bill. The GOP tried to keep any stimulus money from going to ACORN earlier this year, but every Democrat in the Senate voted that amendment down.

Then a series of undercover videos were released. I guess the Democrats ultimately could not defend sending taxpayer dollars to people who would gladly give you advice on the best way to set up and tax shelter your underage prostitution ring.

(I do not condone graffiti, but this makes me laugh)

I can hear the liberals screaming that posing as a pimp and prostitute with a hidden camera is gotcha journalism, and should not be taken seriously. I guess you never heard of 60 Minutes, or Dateline. Undercover journalism is only acceptable when it steers clear of liberal groups and politicians, right?

ACORN, once untouchable and completely unaccountable, has finally been unmasked for the liberal boondoggle of corruption it is. I am sure that within any organization you will find some folks who are fine people, with a genuine desire to help their community. It is now plain as day that many others think ACORN is a place where you can be paid to stick it to “the man.”

Don't want to pay your taxes? No problem, ACORN can help you. Don't have a job and want a home loan? No problem, ACORN can help you. You want to be paid for turning in voter registration forms using names from the phone book? No problem, ACORN will pay you.
Oh, by the way, has anyone seen Attorney General, Eric Holder? He must be busy.

So here is my question. What do think would happen if this scandal had been with an organization supported by Republicans?

It would be wall-to-wall coverage. There would be a reporter behind every shrub and bougainvillea at GOP headquarters jumping out to ask Republican leaders what they knew, and when knew it. I don't see that happening here, in fact the MSM has tried its best to ignore this story. They finally had to report the story when the fifth undercover video was released showing ACORN employees actually offering advice to undercover journalist, posing a pimp and a prostitute, on the best way to smuggle underage girls into the country for the purpose of prostitution. He even offered to help them. Talk about customer service....

Those of us on the right have known about the corruption in ACORN for years. Maybe the
MSM is afraid to go after groups like this because they fear their reporting would be labeled as racist. This seems to be the standard operating procedure. If anyone questions your minority-based group, hit them with the R word. There is nothing like the charge of racist or bigot to scare even the largest news outlet into looking the other way. After years of doing it, the MSM does not even bother to look at groups like ACORN anymore. Too much trouble, too much downside possibility.

So what other scandals and stories are out there? A better question is who will break them? Will it be the MSM with a newsroom full of professional journalists, or will it be another couple of college student?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Straight news

Is it just me, or have the major news outlets simply looked at the demographics and tried to carve out a market for their product, rather than just covering the news in a straightforward way? By any measure, this is not a new phenomenon. Before our nation was conceived, we can see how ideology was the driving factor in the newspaper business. Before the Declaration of Independence had been written, there were loyalist newspapers and pro revolution newspapers. Each paper would print stories 180 degrees apart from the other while covering the same story. As I am always fond of saying, you are entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts.

I am just old enough to remember when almost every local newspaper and local television station received most of their content from news wire services. The Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, they had the reporters on the ground in every major city and when a story broke, the local reporter would write it up and send it over the wire to news outlets who paid for the service. You had to trust the wire story because there was no real way to fact check it in time to make your deadlines.

That is not the case today. With the interconnection of the news, there are multiple sources, multiple reporters, and the almost infinite information that can be researched, and sourced on the internet. Just as the centerpiece document of Dan Rather's report on George W. Bush in the Texas Air National Guard was proved a forgery within hours; it doesn't take much research to find the truth, or at least the other side of the story. Unless you are not looking to find it.

Never has the mainstream media put its blinders on as they have for President Obama. They just do not want look under the hood. The scene from Star wars comes to mind. "These are not the droids you are looking for", says the President. "These are not the droids we are looking for," says the New York Times.

We understand that President Obama is their guy, it is not a secret, but can we at least have someone in the Washington press corps do the job they are being paid for? That job is not going to cocktail parties and taking free tickets to the Kennedy Center, that job is to be the eyes and ears of their readers and viewers. Maybe they forgot this principle, or it simply is no longer being taught at Columbia’s journalism school. Less than a year ago, any statement coming from the White House or the President was treated as a lie that needed to be proven true. In this task, the mainstream media were tireless, and I say, good for them. Under President Obama, the administration’s message is indisputable and any attack on the President’s message is treated as a lie.

Take the recent resignation of green jobs czar Van Jones. While everyone else who was paying attention knew the facts surrounding Obama’s friend being a “9/11 Truther”- you may not want to actually sign those petitions if you want to hold higher office Van- and his radical Communist past. Most in the media were willing sit on the story to protect the President from any further damage, especially with the President taking the heath care debate into a full court press.

If you think I am just making this stuff up, I am not. Read the 2005 piece by Eliza Strickland titled “The new face of environmentalism.” Van Jones is a self-confessed Marxist, Socialist, whose participation in fringe left-wing groups reads like Fidel Castro’s resume, minus the political executions and oppression.

Which brings up the question, did anyone in the mainstream press bother to look at the mountains of information available on Jones? It certainly doesn’t seem like it. For those who think Fox News and Glenn Beck are the Devil, know this; if the media did their job, Glenn Beck would not have one. The reason conservative news outlets exist is the fact that people are tired of hearing only one side to the news. I know I am. When I see the byline of AP or Associated Press, I know the story I am about to read will be slanted to the left. Every once in a while I find an AP story that strikes me as straight down the middle, just presenting the facts without an agenda. Those stories are striking because they are the exception rather than the rule. What a shame.

If you read the white washing of the Van Jones’ resignation today, you will hear term like “Swift Boated.” How laughable. If by Swiftboating you mean telling the truth about a radical, Marxists, 9/11 Truther appointed by the President to the higher circles of government, then yes, Van Jones has been swiftboated. If you mean he was slandered by unfounded rumors and innuendo, then no, he was not.

Before you comment, please do a little research, and I don’t mean on the Daily Koz.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Football in a small town

It has been a while since I had a rooting interest in a high school football game, twenty-six years to be exact, the game and the atmosphere has changed little. No matter the size of the school or the town, a Friday night game under the lights is a special thing.

The girlfriends of the players wearing the jersey numbers of their sweethearts, the grandparents cheering in the bleachers, the parents pushing strollers carrying the next generation of football players and cheerleaders, these sights are universal. I always thought if you wanted to teach a foreign visitor about America, take them to a Friday night football game in a small town.

High school football is a competitive, strenuous, disciplined, strategic game with controlled violence. It's no wonder the Birkenstock wearing, Prius driving people look down on it. It's no wonder the rest of us are drawn to it. I was reading a piece in the Wall Street Journal about football of all the things, and found this quote by former Notre Dame Coach, Lou Holtz;
"You aren't entitled to anything. You don't inherit anything. You get what you earn—your position on the team," Mr. Holtz said. "You're treated like everybody else. You're held accountable for your actions. You understand that your decisions affect other people on that team…There's winners, there's losers, and there's competitiveness."

Last night's game in Esparto was a study in the struggles and changing fortunes found in football. Last year was last year, and unlike politics, there are no incumbents. The Spartan junior varsity went undefeated in 2008; the varsity did pretty well also, 5-5 I believe. This year both the junior varsity and the varsity were man handled by their rivals from Winters High. In both games, it seemed the Spartans just didn't have the horses.

Many of the starters from last year's undefeated JV team are now juniors, leaving a depleted roster of experienced players. This year's juniors are getting their first taste of the speed and hard hitting of varsity football. Not to say this season is over, far from it. The coaching staff will get the best out of the players, and the players will grow into their new roles.

Even though both games were blow outs, it was still great night because the teams didn't quit. I know they felt terrible, and I remember that feeling from my playing days. Seeing the frustration and dejection on their faces, I wanted to jump over the ropes and tell them, it would be all right. I wanted to tell them, you gave it everything you had, and no one can ask anything more than that.

Sometimes your best in not enough, in football and in life. Either you can shrink from a loss like the one they suffered last night, or you can dig down deep and find something you did not know you had inside you. That is football, that is life. Here’s hoping the Spartans bounce back and a few young men step up to help their teammates become better.

As I walked along the sidelines, I ran into a bunch of my friends, even a person I played softball with 20 years ago. On Friday nights in the late summer and fall, all you have to do is follow the glow of the stadium lights and you will meet just about everyone. This was especially true last night if were in line at the snack bar. It seems this year the Esparto Boosters were told they must use a cash register, instead of doing what had been working for decades. This caused a single choke point in the concession process, and the line to buy a hot dog or hamburger looked like the lines to get toilet paper in Soviet-era Moscow. I am not sure how much money was lost last night because of people just giving up and heading back to their seats after waiting in a unmoving line for fifteen minutes, but I am sure more than a few folks did. I think this falls under the, it may not be perfect, but let’s not replace it with something worse, situation.

All in all, a wonderful evening. Both teams shook hands after the game and I saw players from both schools talking with each other as they left the stadium. Some of them are friends from 4-H and FFA. They have learned to play the game the right way, play hard, but leave it on the field. You did your best and you can hold your heads up, but don’t be surprised if Monday’s practice is a gut buster. Good luck Spartans, can’t wait for the next home game.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

What I learned on the way to the ER

I like to call it an episode. It sounds much better than an Atrial Flutter type of tachyarrhythmia. Don't worry, I'm not going to die. Well, actually, I am, we all are, but I don't think this is going to do it. The repercussions of scaring the hell out of my wife on the other hand, that could prove to be my undoing.

I am a guy, and guess what, we don't want to face the fact that we are mortal. We lived this long ignoring all the little '"episodes" we have had in the past, this one will go away too. Except this one didn't.

As I woke this morning I could feel my heart playing what felt like the beat to a Metallica song, something around 135 beats per minute. I have had this feeling in the past and it usually sorted itself out by the time I hit the shower. Having taken a few days off preparing the funeral service for my friend Phil, I knew we would be behind at work. I didn't want to call in and leave the guys shorthanded again. I drove in and found myself at sitting at my desk, but feeling terrible. As we were heading out the door I started to sweat and get a little light headed.

Having the image of two grieving children from yesterday's funeral fresh in my mind, I decided that getting a new internet connection installed in Vorhies Hall was a little less important than my two kids, and went to my supervisor. I told him that I hated to be a whuus, but I really think I needed to see by a doctor. Steve drove me to Sutter Davis Hospital; after I found out that UC Davis' Employee Health only takes workers comp cases. As we drove along, Steve told me to call my wife, and another co-worker called me to remind me to call my wife, which I did. I checked in with the triage nurse, and she found my heart rate around 138, so was taken inside to the ER.

Have you ever been the only person on a car lot and had three salesmen giving you their undivided attention? That was me. I think they wheeled one guy out while I was there, so I was the main attraction. The IV went in, electrodes were attached, auto blood pressure cuff went on and everything started beeping, and whirring. The doctors and nurses huddled around the high-tech gadgetry to assess how my heart was doing. Like I said, it was a slow day, and I almost thought they were wishing for something exotic or cool to have befallen me. To my relief, it was only Atrial Flutter. As a consolation, a pretty young nurse said that it was a gorgeous flutter, so I had that going for me.

My supervisor Steve was the only person in the waiting room so they usher him back, and we talked about getting old, and how much it,,,, well, how much it sucks. My wife is usually pretty solid when it comes to dealing with illnesses and injuries. She has seen me run over and flipped upside down by a bull, kicked in the chest by a Clydesdale, and bucked off more horses than I can remember. She usually comes over and asks if I am all right, and then she tells me how funny I looked with my arms and legs flailing around as I flew through the air. As soon as she saw me hooked up to all the monitors, she started crying. I introduced my wife to Steve and Steve fled the scene as if he left something burning on the stove.

After an hour, and doctors and nurses coming by about three minutes to see if any really cool was going to happen, I was released with instructions to go see an electro cardiologist next week. Kind of sounds like a doctor who could also wire a new 220 electrical outlet for your clothes dryer.

I am home now with instructions from my doctor, my wife, my mother in law, my pharmacist, and about ten friends to REST! However, I am easily bored, like a four year old at fine china shop. I figured that I could do a little writing without exerting too much effort.

The last few weeks has shown me and my friends just how precious life is, and while I like to think I am smart enough to learn from watching, nothing quite focuses the mind like thinking your next breath could be taken in heaven. I guess I should pay heed to my own sermons and writings. So, I will.

I wanted to take the time to let you know how much fun I have had rolling through this thing called life for the last 43 years. Sure, there have been setbacks, tragedy, and loss. There has also been enough love, fun, laughter, and companionship to last three lifetimes.

To my friends, and you know who you are, thank you. I have enjoyed all the times we had together, even the trying times. You have helped me grow as a person and I hope I didn't get you into much trouble with you spouse, or parents.

To my family; I love you so much. Not just for things you have done for me, not just for the things you have said to me, but for simply being who you are, and allowing me to love you. If my next breath comes in heaven, know this. Have no regrets. Any problems that we ever had between us were most likely my fault. I know you love me, and that is more than enough. Know that I am at home, and at rest with my savior. I will be there, waiting, but don’t come too soon. God has plans for you, just as He did for me.

Here is hoping for another 43 years, but hey, life happens.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Holes in the ground

Not many people know about it, but back in 1991, then owner of the Sacramento Kings, Gregg Lukenbill was building a 100 million dollar multi-purpose stadium primarily to lure major league baseball to Sacramento. When high priced 'personal seat licenses' failed to sell, and with another investor bringing the River Cats here from Vancouver, the baseball park at Arco died a quiet death. The hole where construction began is still there, just north of Arco Arena. The weed covered outline of a ball field with its cement foundations make the site look like a new age archaeological dig.

The ability to see what could be, when everyone says you're crazy, is an integral part of the American fabric. Some dreams are fulfilled, some just leave holes in the ground. So it is with our lives.

When I look back on all the ideas, relationships, business ventures and journeys of self improvement I have started in my life, I see quite a few holes in the ground. Some just rough outlines that were never fully started, some were almost completed and stand as monuments to my inadequacies or to this thing we call life.

We all have holes in our lives that we will never completely fill in, and smooth over. They are a part of what makes us human, what makes us who we are. As with anything in our life, too much emphasis directed at our past, especially our past failures and traumas, can suffocate our future.

When you live as though everything would have been great, if only this had happened, or conversely had this not happened, it can keep you looking backwards. It is hard to see your future when you are a imprisoned by your past.

Yesterday is past, tomorrow is just a promise, you only have today, so start digging. If you fail, so blinkin' what? Big deal. Better to find a hundred ways not to do something and finally achieve success, than sit there looking at your shovel never really living.

Time to make some new holes.