Posts Tagged ‘America’

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Bank of China Credit Card: America’s Love/Hate Relationship with Borrowing and Spending

10.22.10

Why is it such a huge, vital, cut-all-spending-now situation with regard to our nation’s economic woes?

I get it: being in debt is bad. You end up paying a fortune for something because of all the interest that you then owe to your lender. (Trust me: I have credit cards, I know how it works.)

And there’s a lot of talk about how we’re “running up the credit card” with regard to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the bailouts, and TARP. But it’s not really on a credit card. Right? We don’t have creditors actually knocking down the doors of the Capitol Building.

I’m being snarky here on purpose because people (myself included) talk about the debt as if we know to whom this debt is owed — China, right?  My point is that the way our government spends money it doesn’t have is different from how you or I spend money we don’t have. And the repercussions are different.  I don’t imagine that Hu Jintao is on the phone every month calling up President Obama saying, “Yo, Barry, you didn’t make the minimum payment last month of $233,588,838.35.  Do you know when you’ll be able to pay that?”

Also – we’re in a society that is based on borrowing. The reason our economy is still sluggish is because there isn’t much lending going on to small businesses (some banks being very tight with their lending practices and people not wanting to borrow money to expand/start their businesses at this point in time), therefore not many new hires.  (Well, it’s a reason.)

But, it’s rather bipolar to want the economy to get going through increased spending and borrowing while at the same time blaming spending and borrowing as the reason why we’re in this whole mess to begin with.  So spending and borrowing is both good and bad — but right now, all we hear about how bad it is to spend, how bad it is to keep borrowing.  No wonder the economy is still moving at a snail’s pace!

I have no answers.  I’m merely positing issues that I’m seeing and issues that I’m dealing with in my head.  I would love some clarity on the economics of this because that’s one subject on which I’m not very knowledgeable.

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Why the GOP is Scared of their Tea Party Frankenstein

09.17.10

I’ve been saying all along that this wave of anti-establishment sentiment made no sense.

It’s something inherently ridiculous — elect me to go to Washington because I’m not from Washington so I’ll be different.  As if simply being new means that you’re better.  Or that just because you’re “part of the establishment” that your ideas, your plans, your policies are wrong.  There’s also the fact that the minute you get elected, you then are part of the establishment, the very group of people you were saying weren’t as good as you simply because they were in that group that you’re now a part of.  It makes no sense writing this and it makes no sense doing it.

It seems to be working, though, for Tea Party candidates much to the chagrin of the GOP elites, like Karl Rove himself:

“But we also can’t make progress if we have candidates who got serious character problems … [O’Donnell] attacked [Castle] by saying he had a homosexual relationship with a young aide with not a bit of evidence to prove it.”

Christine O’Donnell won the Republican primary for Senate in Delaware, beating out GOP incumbent Mike Castle.  And if you don’t know much about O’Donnell, well, she’s quite the character.  She’s what we call an ultra-conservative, which is saying something considering how far to the political right the current conservative movement has become. (I mean if you’re too conservative for Karl Rove, holy shit.)

Just take a look at the things O’Donnell stands for:

  • Opposes legal abortion, even in cases of rape and incest
  • Against women in the military
  • Believes gays can be “cured”

And here’s the best: Opposes masturbation, also believing it’s a form of adultery.

While her win was a huge upset, it’s important to note two things:

  1. She only won by a margin of 58,000 Republican votes
  2. She’s overwhelmingly favored to lose to Democratic candidate, Chris Coons

The main players within the GOP know that she’s far too radical to win the general election in a predominantly liberal state, which is why they rushed to support Castle, who has represented Delaware in the Senate since 1993.  It seems that the unilateral anti-incumbent mentality has backfired against the Republicans after all, which doesn’t shock me in the least. Because it’s not like Democrats are the only ones who have held office for a long time in the big boy’s club of D.C.  But the anti-establishment mentality is blind to party lines, apparently.

Most observers agree that O’Donnell has no chance of beating Democratic nominee Chris Coons in November, so for Republicans, an O’Donnell win means failing to gain a Senate seat, and thus likely losing any chance of taking control of the upper house.

The GOP has supported the Tea Party because it appealed to their base — angry, older, white, Christian voters.  But now that their own Frankenstein monster has turned against them, it seems that the political right has a bit of a civil war on their hands.  While the GOP has enjoyed the turning of the tide in their favor when it comes to polls, they’re showing that they’re worried that the exclusionary rhetoric of the Tea Party won’t win major elections — why else would they go to such lengths to bash O’Donnell despite having the backing of the political right god, Rush Limbaugh?

Perhaps the reality that having no real plans for healing the country has finally taken hold.  After all, you can only run campaigns on pointing fingers for so long before those fingers come pointing back at you.

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Getting Fired for Medical Marijuana Use: Why Should Employers Drug Test At All?

09.15.10

Many people are affected by the drug war.  Just take a look at our southern border.

But those aren’t the only ones.

While the states work the whole federalism angle on the legality of marijuana use, there’s bound to be some snags.  And in the case of some people, it’s costing them their jobs.

Glenn Greenwald:

In some cases, workers have been fired for failing drug tests despite having prescriptions saying, in effect, that what they are doing is legal according to the laws of their states.

Here’s the thing: for an employer, you want your employees to be efficient, dependable, and hard-working. If an employee can accomplish all of this while smoking weed — legally prescribed or not — then what’s the issue? If he’s a total wastoid (yeah, wastoid, I said it, bringing it back along with high-tops and snap braclets), then his piss-poor performance should be enough to warrant disciplinary action, regardless of its cause.

Now, I do understand that there are HR costs involved with the hiring of a new employee so companies will want to best determine whether or not this applicant will be a quality addition to their team before they hire him — but, why test current employees?  You already hired them! They already passed your rigorous interview process (so, if they’re sucking at work then you might want to look into revamping your HR department, not firing your employee cause he takes a few puffs to ease his anxiety).  They’re doing their jobs competently, otherwise you could just drag them onto the carpet for their poor job review and cut the dead weight that way.   It’s pointless.

The problem with drug testing is that – NEWS FLASH!!!not all wastes-of-office-space take drugs and not all druggies are inept at work, despite what our current drug war culture would like you to believe. (Total mindblow, I know.)  It’s the whole “well, some pot smokers are lazy and don’t get anything done at work so we’re going to punish them all regardless of their individual aptitude” way of using a gravity bong when a simple one-hitter would suffice.

But since companies fancy themselves as some sort of moral authority now, why stop at drug testing?

  • Why not require me to bring in my hard drive so they can scan it for pirated software and music?
  • Why not scour my glove box to make sure that I indeed have proof of car insurance?
  • Why not stop by my apartment to make sure I’m not illegally leeching some wireless Internet from my neighbors?

I mean, all of those morally questionable practices could affect my job performance, believe you me. Without loads of music to fill my iPod, I’ll go insane at my desk and take my co-workers with me, kicking and screaming. Without car insurance, I could get into an accident, not be able to get a new car, be stuck taking public transport, and consistently arriving late to work irritable and making everyone around my desk miserable as a result.

And without the Internet at home… well, let’s just not imagine that dark, dark world, okay? I just had a glimpse into that lifeless hell when WordPress glitched up, forcing me to re-write this blog, nearly leading me into a total meltdown at my desk — a complete over-reaction, sure, but I almost went social (the post-modern version of going postal).

But, hey. At least I’m not smoking medical herb for my migraines, right?

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Deciding if the GOP’s Conservative Movement is Right for You

04.07.10

Now that Virginia’s Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell has decided to celebrate all things Confederate (because, as well all know, nothing screams “the good ole days” quite like slavery and Civil War), it’s time to take a good look at the GOP political party and decide if it’s for you.

Ta-Nehisi Coates breaks it down:

“If you believe that if we still had segregation we wouldn’t “have had all these problems,” this is the movement for you. If you believe that your president is a Muslim sleeper agent, this is the movement for you. If you honor a flag raised explicitly to destroy this country then this is the movement for you. If you flirt with secession, even now, then this movement is for you. If you are a “Real American” with no demonstrable interest in “Real America” then, by God, this movement of alchemists and creationists, of anti-science and hair tonic, is for you.”

And I’d like to add one more for the sake of current events:

If you decry the decennial American Census as being part of Obama’s socialist agenda despite it being clearly required by the U.S. Constitution, this movement is for you.

Ignorant and proud, indeed.

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Waterboarding is the New Spanking

02.08.10

U.S. soldier Joshua Tabor waterboarded his own 4-year-old daughter because she couldn’t recite the alphabet.

Waterboarding, you might remember, was one of the staple techniques of the Bush/Cheney “enhanced interrogation” methods also known as torture.  It involves the simulated drowning of a victim by elevating one’s legs and then pouring water over her rag-covered face, stopping just short of drowning.  It had previously been reserved for totalitarian regimes like the Khmer Rouge, but then became part of America’s way of treating both foreign and domestic terror suspects, and now apparently, has been co-opted by one man as a method of reprimanding toddlers.

This is what happens when torture becomes legalized and mainstream.  It’s not even called torture by the mainstream media and is defended and approved by federal appellate court Judge Jay Bybee and former Department of Justice official and current law professor John Yoo, who believes that it’s in the president’s powers to crush the testicles of an innocent child if he believes that the child’s father could provide sensitive information.

The brave men and women who serve our country are bound by their duty to follow orders.  They didn’t torture Khalid Sheikh Mohammad because they just came up with it on their own; they waterboarded him 183 times because they were ordered to do so by the highest powers of government.  And those very people are getting away with it completely scot-free. (Notice how in Newsweek they only write the word “torture” with quotes around it, as if it’s not really torture at all.)

And while these men who turned America into a nation that tortures its own citizens (Notice how Time magazine uses the phrase “equivalent to torture” instead of just saying “torture,” suggesting that even though these techniques might be equivalent to torture they might not actually be torture necessarily.) manage to ascend in their legal professions with nary a charge against them, GI Joshua Tabor gets arrested for assault.

Now, Tabor should be arrested for assault.  It’s unconscionable to think of a father torturing his own daughter for any transgression, let alone something as small as not having memorized her ABCs.  He should be charged for this crime and, if found guilty, given a lengthy prison sentence.  I just don’t understand how, when in the context of a man and his daughter, this torture technique is immediately greeted with appalling and repulsive reactions and formal charges, yet when it’s done 183 times to terror suspect, it’s legal, promoted, and encouraged.

Torture is torture.  It should always, always be illegal and those who condone and conduct it must be held accountable in a court of law.

(H/T Memeorandum)

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This is Still a Holy War

01.07.10

Segregating people of certain countries to go through pat-downs or walk through full-body scanners, forcing everyone to remain in their seats during the last hour of certain flights, and disallowing passengers from accessing their carry-on baggage during certain times of the flight will do nothing to change the fact that so many people consider this a holy war.

The total religious disconnect with this war makes it unlike anything else we’ve encountered.  This isn’t just an ideological difference like the capitalism versus communism conflicts that America endured in the last century.  Communist ideals didn’t create suicide bombers willing to detonate themselves along with their American counterparts like those involved in this conflict.

America has some difficult decisions to make.  The knee-jerk reaction would be to make any and all Islamic countries banned from all air travel.  We’re already doing a less severe version of that with the restrictions and mandatory extra-security measures for those who travel from certain countries and anyone who is a citizen of said countries.  Sure, on the surface it makes sense: stop those people from countries who want to kill us from entering America’s borders.  But, the issue though isn’t just with those specific countries.  The obvious way around this form of security would be for terrorists to get official papers from countries not on that no-fly list.  They have the money and the connections so you know that will be possible.  What happens when the next terrorist travels on a British, Australian, or Canadian visa or passport?  Do we just start banning anyone with an Arabic sounding name?  What about Richard Reid, the infamous shoe-bomber?  Were these current rules in place then, he still could’ve made it through.

I don’t have the answers to this riddle and I don’t envy those in government this difficult task.  I recently read an article about how Israel handles their airport security that made me wonder why we can’t scrap our system and start over.  I realize the costs involved would be enormous, but what about the costs if we don’t?  How does it help us to spend money on our current system that doesn’t work: we spend all of our time in fear that the terrorists will sneak through the holes in our security (which they will eventually) and then putting bandaids over those gaps (rinse and repeat).  Unfortunately, the article doesn’t explain how Israel deals with incoming flights, which is our current crisis.

There will always be a way around our false sense of security.  When will we realize that we aren’t any safer by adding more and more reactive, rather than proactive, measures that come dangerously close to infringing upon the very values on which America was founded?  Alienating specific demographics – in this case, Arabs and Muslims – will do nothing to help us in this fight.  If we want to create more radicals, this has to be a pretty solid way to do it.

And that will only make us less, not more, safe.

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Duh: 79% of Americans Fear Another Terrorist Attack

12.29.09

And this is newsworthy?

I’m sorry, but why should I are what 79% of respondents in some telephone poll think?  What makes their opinions worthy of my time or energy or anything whatsoever?  On what information are they basing this belief that there will be another terrorist attack on America in the next year?

Oh right.  We just had an attempted bombing of a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day.  Well, it sure doesn’t take a psychic to come up with that notion then, does it?  Kind of like if you’re having your palms read, you sneeze, and the reader says “You have been sick lately… some kind of… head cold” as if that’s some sort of brilliant vision, some kind of otherworldly intelligence.

More of the completely obvious:

Men feel more strongly than women that another terrorist attack is likely in the next year. Older voters are more concerned than those who are younger.

Republicans are more worried about another terrorist attack in the near future than are Democrats and voters not affiliated with either party. The Political Class is much less fearful than Mainstream voters.

Shocking.  Really enlightening stuff here.

I understand why so many people would assume that another attack is likely in the next year.  Given last week’s near-miss and the Fort Hood massacre, the odds are clearly in favor of something happening in the next twelve months.  During that same time span, I’ll go out on a limb and place some bets that there will likely be a hurricane that hits the southeast, an earthquake somewhere in the Pacific, and a group of co-workers will win several hundred million dollars in the Powerball lottery.

Some people are obsessed with polls.  Me?  Not so much.  I don’t really see much value in what a random assortment of people necessarily think about a given topic on which they most likely aren’t even remotely qualified to opine. 

I’m pretty sure that when a few months go by and there are no attacks, Rasmussen will test the waters once again and reveal that the percentage has dropped.  The poll is meaningless.  The only thing that it tells us is that it’s part of the human condition to react passionately immediately following a traumatic event and then have the fear/pain/worry subside as time passes. 

But, did we really need another poll to tell us that?