Tuesday, March 31, 2009
What I great Senior Fitness session I had today! I increased the weights, resistance, and times on all my routines for the first time since last December when I was cut back by doctor’s orders. Although I have been increasing slightly with each session, today I exceeded all my previous “bests.” I was very tired but my heart felt normal and I felt great. I think I’m kind of proud of myself today. Perhaps all this effort is now taking shape once again.
The rest of this was written beginning at 5:30 this morning and it’s hard to keep organized at that time. But I’m leaving it as is because perhaps in its ramble, it best says what I want to say.
The more I think about President Obama’s car initiative, the more I believe it won’t be good for America. This nation has been built on capitalism, people investing in businesses and businesses producing the goods we need. As a business becomes more successful and the demand for those goods increases, people are put to work and the economy grows.
But we’ve run into some tough times and at the moment the auto industry is carrying the problem on its back. I’m not convinced the potentially impending demise of American automakers is wholly because of decisions it has made. Like the banking industry, like the finance industry, like the real estate industry, many of our economic woes lie squarely on the federal government.
The government has put its hand into each of these. International agreements have allowed many, most American industries to move to business friendlier environments leaving behind closed plants and many people out of work. Regulations requiring banks and financial institutions to grant mortgages to people who otherwise would not qualify. That may very well be the biggest contributor to our woes.
As more people were able to get mortgages, the housing industry built more and more houses. Even though Congress was warned at least eight years ago that the loosening of mortgage requirements was leading to disaster, Congress refused to recognize the problem and do anything about it. As was warned, people could not pay for their new homes. The “American Dream” began to crumble.
How did this all date back almost 75 years? It was then the “New Deal” created, among other things, Fannie Mae and later Freddie Mac, the two financial giants originally federal programs then quasi independent agencies. They were one who guaranteed most home mortgages. Now this is an over-simplification and an awful lot has been left out, but by now most of you already know the story.
As the dream of home ownership crumbled, so did banks and other financial institutions. As they crumbled, credit crumbled and people stopped buying cars. The dominoes continued to fall and today it’s the automakers turn to take the hit.
It’s not just the credit that’s hurting the auto industry. Part of the problem was a government requirement to build cars according to increasingly tightening standards, cars the American public simply did not want. There are thousands of new automobiles in storage on lots all over the country. I wish I had saved the pictures of many of those lots when I saw them not long ago.
Now the government appears to be in a very subtle takeover of the American auto industry. It is setting criteria for a bailout and it is letting the automakers know it will control the companies. We saw the first hit over the weekend when the government forced the resignation of the CEO of General Motors. That was the signal the takeover is beginning.
Ford Motor Company, which has not taken part in the bailout plan, may be spared for the time being; but GM and Chrysler Corporation may be in deep doo doo. Bankruptcy may be the only chance for restructuring for survival, but that restructuring will undoubtedly under the tight control of the government.
To get people to buy cars, the President has announced he will ask Congress for some financial considerations. He says that depending on your income bracket, you will be able to deduct a portion of the sales tax on a new car bought between now and the end of the year. Note that’s a portion of the tax, not the full tax. He also says the excise tax may be deducted, but it already can be.
He also will ask Congress for a financial incentive to buy the green, more fuel-efficient cars that people have already said they don’t want. An incentive, however, certainly could motivate a lot of people hungering for a new car.
There’s also a chance that people won’t buy cars because of the threat of bankruptcy, so the President is proposing the government establish a fund to guarantee the warranties on cars if the maker goes out of business. And so, like the banking and other financial industries, the government extends deeper and deeper into control of corporate America.
I hate to think that this might be the beginning of the end of our capitalistic society and the real beginning of a new socialism. Capitalism, whether we like it or not, has been the backbone of the greatness of America. How many of those other countries which have already embraced socialism can now claim greatness? The “real” American Dream is the ability of business to create jobs that people can use to work toward filling their own dream. That for which we work is far more valuable than that which we are handed. Socialism cannot fulfill The American Dream.
We have a relatively unstructured rambling rant today, and I probably should take the time to go back and make it more structured. I’m not going to do that as it is, after all, just a rambling rant. I’m not happy with where my thoughts have led me this Tuesday morning.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Because of the predicted rain, we didn’t expect Gator Daughter to be here yesterday, and she wasn’t. In fact, Gator Wife and I just spent a very lazy day doing very little. She read for most of the day and once the afternoon arrived, I was glued to the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tourneys. I picked up quite a lot of the Sprint NASCAR race at Martinsville.
I also found myself checking in occasionally toward the end of the golf tournament to see how Tiger Woods was doing. He won with a birdie on the 18th (72nd of the tourney) hole, his first victory since returning to the tour a few weeks ago following last season’s surgery.
This could be a pivotal week for America’s auto makers, especially General Motors and Chrysler Corp. Both are seeking billions of dollars in loans in addition to the billions they’ve already received. The auto makers say they face bankruptcy unless they get the money. President Obama said on CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday that the auto makers must go a much longer way toward restructuring before any more loans will be approved.
He insists the labor unions, management, credit holders, shareholders, and others must all be included in the restructuring. The company has participated by announced several thousand job cuts worldwide. But the President says that’s simply not enough. The CEO of GM has resigned under pressure from the President. And that, my friends, I think is the beginning of a slippery slope for American business.
Auto makers in several other companies have also asked their governments for bailout money, but have been rejected. They also face bankruptcy. Unlike the United States leaders who believe creating more deficits can lead to prosperity, other countries realize that probably isn’t the best course.
Way back when America’s companies began their quest for government money or face bankruptcy, I was on the side that said bankruptcy might be the best solution. It still might be. One thing bankruptcy might succeed in doing is getting those concessions from the various entities that feed the auto industry. President Obama wants American automakers to get their costs more in line with foreign companies to make them more competitive. Of course government requirements on the autos being created by American companies have no effect on that competitiveness.
The President departs tomorrow on an eight-day, five-country European trip where he hopes he’ll demonstrate that his style is more effective in producing world peace, economic recovery, and environmental changes. Early indications are he may run into more resistance than he expects.
Money will be on the minds of state legislators this week. The group that forecasts revenues for the state will be meeting this week with its revised predictions expected later this month. It could be a crucial forecast when it does come out because the legislature is now working on the state budget for the next biennium. A huge deficit is already projected and many who follow such things are saying that the projection will grow dramatically when the new forecast is released.
The committee looking into the new budget will also meet this week. The Democrats have put forth a plan to reduce the highest rate of state income tax but increase the number of items covered by the sales tax and other taxes. The Democrats say the changes will be revenue neutral but Mainers will have more money to spend. Of course we won’t, but I’m always amazed at how many people will accept the explanation. If their plan wasn’t designed for them to get more money to spend, they wouldn’t work so hard on creating it.
The committee is working as if there will be no higher deficit, even though they’ve been warned there will be. If that is the case and they pass the budget generally as is, almost immediately they’ll have to make changes. Of course no one, except some Republicans, is discussing places where the budget can be cut to make savings.
And so a new week is underway.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
But here we are, the last weekend of March. Of course there will be a couple of days left as the new week begins, but March has all but gone. At least we’ll be arriving in April during the coming week and we all know that means May flowers are just around the corner.
We still have just a little snow in our back yard behind the house where the sun never shines. Gator Golden loves that little spot.
That’s her absolute #1 favorite outdoor toy she’s guarding while cooling off in a little patch of snow.
Oh, oh. Looking at that bulkhead sure does remind me I have a chore to do this spring. I had forgotten about it. Or perhaps hoping it would paint itself.
Gator Daughter and her Golden will be here as is often the situation on Saturdays. She and Gator Wife will spend some time outdoors today and probably get the final bunch of sticks picked up. GW will do most of that while GD ‘entertains’ the two dogs. Both pups will be sleeping very well tonight.
When we first got the ball for GG, we thought it would be folly as there was no way for her to get it in her mouth. That was two years ago. She was holding it in her mouth within 10 minutes of getting it. GD kicks the ball all over the yard and GG would chase it and bring it back as long and often as it would get kicked or tossed. That’ll be the case Saturday, too. The other pup will just sit or stand there and watch the drama taking place.
These three pictures, incidentally, were taken Thursday while the sun was still out. We got some shower activity over night into Friday and the forecast is calling for a veritable deluge Sunday so probably GD and her dog will not visit us Sunday. We’ve learned over the years, of course, that what’s forecast isn’t always what happens.
Now with the ball well under control she looks around first to decide where she’s heading. For the next several minutes she’ll prance and parade around the yard. When she’s outdoors, Gator Golden and her ball are never far apart.
This last weekend in March is now in full swing and it’ll bring what it will bring. We hope you enjoy yours as much as we’ll enjoy ours and when the weekend gives way to Monday, we’ll be back for some rantin’ and ravin’.
Friday, March 27, 2009
I didn’t see President Obama’s Internet Town Meeting yesterday. I have read several reviews of the session and they fall just about where one would expect. The nature of the reviews simply reflected the views of the reviewers. So this is one time I’m going to refrain from commenting. I can’t think of any fair way for me to do it. Fairness isn’t among the traits I claim in that little box at the top of the column to the right, but I’ll still not comment.
I haven’t listened to Rush Limbaugh for probably close to a couple of years. As I had said in an earlier piece here, I don’t remember why I stopped; but once the habit of listening was broken, it was very easy to stay away. I’ve become intrigued again, thanks to the Democrats. They were trying to convince us that Rush is the titular head of the Republican Party. I don’t believe he is, but it has gotten me thinking about the radio talk show host.
So yesterday I tuned him in for a short period. I don’t remember the whole section, and since I was driving at the time I didn’t take any notes. What I did hear was interesting. He was actually warning the Democrats that what goes around comes around. Right now, he said, the Democrats have control of the federal government. He pointed out that one day the Republicans will regain control. It’s inevitable as that’s just the way cycles work.
When they do, he said, they will use all the bad laws increasing the control of the federal government to use against Republicans right back at the Democrats. Increase taxes on business leaders today; taxes will be increased on athletes and entertainers tomorrow. This is just a brief synopsis of sorts of that segment of the show. I did find it entertaining and I might start listening once again. “Might” is the operative word. As for yesterday, I reached the end of my trip and thus the end of my listening.
I haven’t offered my thoughts on a commercial for a while so here’s some. I don’t know anyone who has actually used one of those food plan weight loss programs, such as Weightwatchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, etc. (All of those are registered trademarks of their respective companies.) Of all the spokes folks they’ve used, I’m most impressed with Valerie Bertinelli on the Jenny Craig spots. A very close second is Marie Osmond on Nutrisystem.
I think the Jenny Craig people also like Bertinelli extremely well, too, as she seems to keep coming back with new commercials even though the company seems to be trying new people. In the commercials she claims she has lost 40 pounds. Looking at her before and after pictures is impressive; she also looks like she lost 10 or 15 years off her 49 years old age.
Osmond, who like Bertinelli, was born in 1960 and she too not only demonstrates a great weight loss (45 pounds), but also looks years younger than when she started. There are other notable celebrities who claim weight loss using Nutrisystem. I liked the results demonstrated by Don Shula and Dan Marino using the men’s plan.
Kirstie Alley claimed she lost, what? 70 pounds? on the Jenny Craig plan. Good secret there. To me she looked heavier when she stopped appearing than when she started. And the current spokes celebrity, Phyllis Rashad, is just not interesting to watch. The script they’ve given her doesn’t help at all. And can you really see any difference in her size?
My biggest question is, Do these programs really work? Sure, we see obvious results in the commercials, but what happens five, ten years down the road? I think there’s just a slim possibility that the best plan continues to be a good exercise program and diet control. Those ingredients also can fail once the program stops, but the program is certainly a whole lot less expensive.
Now my little stream of conscience: I developed this piece last night and not this morning. I’m having some trouble with my cable TV box…the high channels, especially the HD ones, keep breaking up. I’ve had to reboot my box at least once every day and some days several times. This is the worst time of the season for the problem to happen…we’re in the middle of both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tourneys. Both are on the HD channels and break up. In fairness, I haven’t lost anything because they both can be seen on the lower channels as well.
However, I’m still angry at not being able to watch something for which I’m paying. Time Warner is coming today, anytime after 7 AM to fix my problem, so I needed to have this finished for my normal Friday publication. Hmmm. I wonder how the cost of DirecTV compares with cable.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Thursday is also my senior fitness day and I increased each of the elements of my routine a little bit. At one point I had to stop for a few minutes to let the joints catch up with me, but today I found that darned balance ball that is such a chore for me. I had forgotten to do it Tuesday, the first day I was back at the place with no restrictions. I was surprised that after two months, I could still stand on the thing. Perhaps there’s some small hope for me after all.
I’m not sure where I want to go today. There are so many things affecting all of us from both the state and the federal governments that getting focused occasionally gets very difficult. This is one of those difficult days.
I think I’ll just take the day off.
Here’s a good thing. Today is Gator Daughter’s birthday. She’s in her 40s and I guess that’s about all I should say about that. However, she does get to choose the eating place. I mentioned earlier this month when I had one of these memorable days that it is a tradition in our family that the birthday person gets to choose the eating place. Care to guess how many times “home” has been that place?
It isn’t tonight, either. Her choice was the Texas Roadhouse so that’s where we’ll be going tonight. We like the steaks there. For many, probably most in my age range, the place does have one minor fault. It’s extremely noisy. I have an advantage over that noise as I wear two hearing aids. They both have a little button that greatly minimizes the noise.
Of course that means that sometimes the conversation involving me gets interesting. I can, however, manage the noise.
After we eat, we’ll be coming back to Gator Country for dessert. GD always bakes a cake on her parents’ days. We bake hers at a local bakery. It’s always good and she doesn’t complain. She likes to make cakes; we don’t. During this part of the celebration is when she’ll get her gifts from us.
I think I found one of the reasons health care costs are so high. Last night I got a phone call from my insurance carrier. Actually, this was the second call. The first one had come the night before telling me about a program offered by the carrier for patients with heart disease. That caller told me I’d be getting a call from a registered nurse to help me understand my disease and ways I can take care of myself. I could also ask any question I might have about the disease.
The next night, last night, that second call did come. One question she asked was if I understood what my disease was. I politely explained that I’ve been living with the knowledge of it since my heart attack eight years ago and probably for many years before that when I didn’t know I had it. I explained that I’ve discussed my heart disease many, many times with my physician. She thought that was good.
Then she went into a long description of what heart disease is, including the health signs that would indicate it. Again, possibly a little less politely I explained that living with the knowledge of this thing for as long as I have and because I diligently and regularly go to both my heart doctor and my primary care physician with any signs that develop along with very regular checkups, I was well aware of the situation.
She wanted to keep the dialogue going, but I got lucky. She had called right in the middle of the supper hour and Wife Gator had completed its preparation. I explained I was being called to my evening meal because she had chosen a terrible time for her call. I reiterated that I follow all my doctor’s recommendations and advice and all that would take a whole lot of precedence over a telephone call to or from a nurse in another state that I’ve never seen or with whom I’ve never developed a relationship.
I explained quickly that the chance of my ever calling this insurance company service was slightly less than zero. She didn’t want to let go and asked what I would like to do with this current case…set up a time for another call or close it out. “Close it out?” I asked. “I never opened one.”
She said it was opened the previous night when I got that initial call. I, still trying to be polite which isn’t my nature with unsolicited phone calls, explained that since I hadn’t initiated the call, I didn’t open anything so she had better check with the that first caller on what she wished to do. I thanked her for her concern and headed off for supper.
Just a couple days ago I got a “report” on my medical activity from the same insurance company. It listed all the drugs I take. It suggested I discuss taking Coumadin to help keep my blood thin so it would flow easier and ask my doctor if I should have a blood test. I’ve been taking Coumadin for nine years and those are the blood tests I mention here at least once a month. The report suggested I schedule an annual exam so my doctor could easily follow my health. I’ve been getting an annual exam every year for so many years I can’t remember when they started.
I’ve had this same insurance company for at least 30 and probably more years. I appreciate their newly found concern over my health, but from these two experiences with their idea of help I’ve concluded they could save themselves and me some money by dumping these “helps” and lowering my premiums.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
It’s not just Wednesday. It’s the last one of the month. That means our little group of retirees will be meeting around noon today for our monthly luncheon session. We’ve been having these sessions for a dozen years and they’re always fun and relaxing. Although we touch upon the events of the world, especially the sports world, we make no attempts to resolve problems. Politics is generally left outside the restaurant. It’s just a good hour or so. Two of the group are in Florida so we will be down by a couple today.
There was a good story yesterday in the Portland Press Herald about something we don’t very often get pointed out to us. The story explained how the loss of jobs sends economic ripples throughout the economy. And if the premise is true for Maine, it must also be true for the whole country. We all know there have been a lot of jobs lost in America in the past several months.
The reason is very simple: if you don’t have any income, you have to cut way back your outgo. It’s the peripheral businesses that take the biggest hit. Families can’t eat out as often so restaurants aren’t making as much money. People can’t afford movies or other places of entertainment. Recreation is cut back. Those are good examples, but people also cut back in necessities like groceries, clothing, etc.
Bills get prioritized and paid as best as people can. As businesses get fewer dollars, they also have to make adjustments, often resulting in layoffs or closings. So the ripple grows.
Government revenue takes a huge it, too. The State is experiencing shortfalls in revenue in just about all tax categories, including state income tax and sales tax. Job losses and the ripple effect of spending cause both those shortfalls. As more people lose their income, the state gets less tax money. As people cut back spending, the state gets fewer tax dollars. As business shutter their doors, business tax falls short.
And the beat goes on.
That brings us to a tax reform idea being promoted by Democrats in Augusta. At least the Democrats are calling at reform. Republicans refer to it as a shift and shaft plan. Basically it would lower the state’s highest income tax rate from 8.5% to 6.5%. That tax kicks in below the $20-thousand income level. But simply cutting taxes is never on Democrats’ minds. To replace the lost revenue, they would add a whole bunch of items that would be charged a sales tax and would increase some of the other taxes we now pay.
It is true that some of the state’s population would pay up to two percent less on their income, but they would more than make that up in the increased sales and other taxes. Curiously, the hardest hit on the new sales taxes would be the Democrats’ strength, the state’s poor, many of whom do not pay income taxes but will now have to shoulder the higher sales taxes. That’s higher because of the number of items added, not because of a rate increase.
The Democrats delude themselves, or not as some believe they know exactly what they are doing, or at least their supporters by calling it revenue neutral and that they taxpayers will have more money in their pockets. Just one place this is delusional is the meals’ tax. The Democrats want to increase it because, they say, that makes visitors to the state pay more of their share. Yet the restaurant association points out that the majority of folks eating in their establishments…far less now with the economy already in the tank…are Mainers. An increase in taxes could very well cause even more people to eat out less often thus decreasing the state’s coffers even more.
I could easily go through a whole litany of similar situations, all of which would lead to the same place, an even greater shortfall in state revenue.
In any event, the state cannot put two dollars in the Mainers’ left pocket and take out $2.50 and call it revenue neutral or convince many taxpayers they have more money. People in the state are spending less because there is less to spend. Sure, a recent report says the income grew a little, but since the report was prepared, even more Mainers have lost their jobs. The revenue in Augusta is demonstrating the fallacy of the report.
Is there an answer? Sure, but the Legislature will neither recognize it or the solution. Shucks, they don’t even recognize the problem. The answer? Reduction in spending. Our welfare system must be reined in. One simple place would be to pass a Republican legislator’s welfare reform bill which defines standards on welfare, such as bringing the system into compliance with Federal guidelines, restricting the length of time recipients are eligible, make sure people are truly Maine residents with residency requirements, among those standards. My bet is the Democrats will not let it pass.
Insurance reform could eliminate the dubious need for the unbelievably expensive Dirigo health project, the one similar to one that Congressional Democrats along with the President want to bury us with.
There are many more places where spending could be reduced. It won’t happen because the Democrats will tell us all that would result would be no response to fires, no police protection, children and the elderly would die, and the list goes on.
Meanwhile, I can’t speak for you, but this household is suffering. We need real, honest change, such as less government, and we need it now.
Speaking of hope and change, have you been following the latest from the Feds? Obama officials are calling for even more authority to take your property away from you. Don’t think the request to Congress just involves business…Business is generally supported by stocks and bonds. That means you.
And finally, The Florida Gator women played UConn last night in the Women’s NCAA basketball tourney and the men played Penn State in the NIT. ‘Nuff said.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I did take the advice of the cardio people and the PT and AT at the fitness place and didn’t push too hard today so that I can gradually work back into full throttle. But it was nice not having those restrictions on what I can do. I can already see the wheels turning at home as Wife Gator thinks of things for me to do around here. It’ll all be worth it.
In case you didn’t figure it out, my visit yesterday at the cardio place was highly successful, at least from my perspective.
It’s been a long time coming, but except for living with it, the adventure of my ICD (implanted cardioverter device) ended yesterday. I got my final O.K. to return to all my normal activity. I have my ICD tested at the heart center and all is working just fine. Having a routine test is now another of my annual events, but implant is solid, working exactly as it should, and is keeping a close tab on the workings of my heart.
Actually the device gets a full test every three months and, as soon as the receiver arrives, takes readings nightly. I didn’t know it until yesterday, but the device has a wireless transmitter in it that sends the readings to a receiver in my bedroom while I’m sleeping. If it shows all the parameters are in a normal range, that’s it. If it determines one is or more is out of range, it automatically transmits the readings to the heart center for doctor reading.
After the doctor’s review, I could get a call to get to the office immediately or the call could inform me there was a situation and what I should do about it, such as change some medication. I suppose I could be told to get to the hospital; but if it were that bad, by the time the doctor read the readings, I could be dead, or already on the way to the emergency room.
I should point out that if I get two shocks (defibrillations) I’m supposed to call 9-1-1 immediately.
Problem or no problem, the readings get transmitted automatically every three months. Quite a device that ICD. It watches for abnormalities and makes corrections like a pacemaker if the heart beats too slowly or defibrillates like those paddle devices you see on TV if the beat gets too fast. Or something like that. All I really care about is it’s trying to take care of me.
The important outcome of yesterday’s session was the lifting of all restrictions that had been placed on me at the time the device was inserted. I still have three and was told these would be with me forever. I can’t shoot a gun with my left hand, especially one resting against my shoulder. I cannot have MRI’s, and I cannot use an arc welder. I also should avoid anything that could cause a sudden jolt to my left chest or shoulder.
That means today, as I mentioned above, I could return to full activity at my senior fitness center. I was advised to get back into the full routine slowly, more because of my age and condition than because of the implant. So this will probably be the last extensive message about the device. I would be pleased if some of you have followed this from the beginning and have learned something about the Implanted Cardioverter Device. When I first began, it sounded scary. I’d recommend it to anyone whose doctor says, “We need to start a discussion.”
I’ve spend a lot more time on this today than I had planned when I started, but I think it’s important that people know of the miracles available to us in these times. My discussion of the ICD has been periodically on-going since last September. We’ve also attempted, with the help of my Fearless Friend, to give you a little education with a multi-part series about another important, scary sounding operation, cataract surgery. I know he alleviated my fears about that operation. I hope I’ve helped any of you who have heart disease.
Because of all these words today, I’m holding off any rant or rave today. I’d be surprised if something didn’t come to me for tomorrow.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Like today. My morning began very early as I had to do all my usual morning chores before 6:15 AM. Little things, like showering and the other things people must do to prepare for a day. Even breakfast was consumed between 5 and 5:30 because Gator Wife leaves for her part time job shortly after 5:30.
My first appointment, which has been scheduled for the last six months, is an easy one. The hygienist at my dentist’s office is an early bird and I have an appointment for 7 AM to get my teeth cleaned. It’s not a big deal, but very bad early experiences with my childhood dentist caused me to punish him by not taking care of my teeth. I guess I don’t have to tell you who got punished. I’ll probably have cavities.
The second appointment was made just last Friday, and it’s the much more important one for today. By mid to late morning, I could be released from all my restrictions following the insertion of a cardiac device at the end of January. That device will be tested at the cardiology office to be sure it’s working properly and it’ll also give them a record of the activity of my heart for the last seven weeks. If it all works out as I’m hoping it will, any and all remaining restrictions, except arc welding, shooting of guns, and MRIs, will be lifted.
The best part is that I have to have today’s test every three months; but after today on test day I’ll put a device on my chest and while I’m sleeping that night, it’ll call the cardio place and transmit the readings. I’m told I’ll never know it’s happening.
All that necessary and special activity is why I’m posting today’s comments Sunday to be revealed by Blogger this morning.
Now for some thoughts on the weekend news. I had planned not to spend all my time on President Obama and his administration this week. Those plans are not looking too good.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has told members of Congress that the spending by Congress and President Obama’s projected budget are causing a much worse projected deficit than previously reported. The new project says that over the next ten years, the deficit will reach to more than $9-trillion, more than $2-trillion over the President’s projection.
The proposed budget for this year is forecast to be about $200-billion more than the President has told us. Many of his key plans for “hope and change” haven’t even been revealed yet. He still wants to expand universal health care, increase education spending, develop efficiency in energy use, and reduce the deficit by a half.
One very difficult part of all this is most of us, truly including me, have precious little concept of what a trillion dollars is. Or a billion dollars, for that matter. We do know it’s an awful lot of money and we can understand that it will be our children, grand children, and generations yet born that will be paying for all this spending.
As I said on numerous occasions, when you and I have overspent our budgets and find ourselves in a hole (deficit), we have to make serious adjustments and cut some of that spending. We cannot, like the federal government is doing right now, head to our printing presses and pour out more money to pay for our extravagance. The feds are printing more than a trillion dollars with nothing to back it up as I write this.
Like Maine Democrats, the Washington ones believe the answer to all things is increasing taxes. Never mind that most of us cannot afford to spend any more on taxes as Maine’s projected tax collections are demonstrating, just increase the taxes. No direct quote here, but it’s almost like President Obama and the Congress, and Maine government officials, have the attitude of “Don’t worry about it. Just do it.” I think they’ve ever heard of reducing spending.
I think they do have one thing going for them. Because the numbers are so far above honest comprehension, most of us don’t really understand what the government screw ups are costing us and just how much the Democrats desire to change from a democracy to socialism is going to cost hard working, honest Americans.
To be continued. A discussion of Maine’s economic projections is also right around the corner.
And a note on a different topic. The NCAA basketball tournament is underway. I love basketball games when officials allow the kids to play the game, sometimes very hard, and only blow the whistle when the flow is interrupted. And most games at this tourney level are played that way. Not last Friday night’s Pitt vs. East Tennessee State. I have nothing in this game. My Gators aren’t even in the tourney and who wins matters not to me. Top seeded Pitt won as they should have, but the officials did all they could to show they were the most important people there. I thought it was one of the worst post-season officiated games I’ve seen.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
There is an English rule, and I truly did know it at one time, when the word “spring” should be capitalized in sentences, except for the first word in a sentence. The same rule applies to the other seasons, too. As much as I rack my brain, what’s left of it, I simply cannot come up with the rule. I think it has something to do with the use of the word and whether it is referring to the season or not. But then there are times when even referring to the season, it’s not capitalized. Shucks. I’ll continue to misuse it, and maybe sometime that rule will suddenly come to me.
Actually, does anyone really care?
Gator Daughter and her beautiful Golden Retriever will be visiting us this weekend, as she does most weekends. Since most of the snow in our yard has gone to snow heaven, GD and Gator Wife will most likely spend a goodly portion of the time wandering around the yard making plans for the five flower gardens and two vegetable gardens we have.
I know GW has sent for some new flower bulbs of some sort. They haven’t yet arrived and it’s too early for planting anyway. But there are several so the girls will be planning on which garden or gardens will be those bulbs' new homes.
I suspect GW, at least, will spend some time working on the grounds, like picking up the sticks that have fallen from trees during winter storms and picking up little “presents” the two Goldens have left for us for the last several months. I went out to watch Neighbor Ed take down our old TV antenna for us Friday, and we have many, many of those gifts.
Sometimes I wish dogs knew how to use litter boxes like kitties.
Speaking of cats, a feral cat that is, inadvertently I think, causing great anxiety in Gator Golden is roaming our neighborhood. I think the cat once belonged to a neighbor who has passed away and is just fending for itself. It’s doing a good job, I’d say by the its looks. I had thought we had an opossum roaming around, but now, after seeing that cat, I think I had been seeing it.
It has chosen sometime around 4 AM to do its foraging in our yard. I don’t know how GG hears that cat, but she wakes us up to let us know we have a visitor. I suspect GG would like to go outside and chase the cat, but ever since GW saw a rather healthy skunk out there a few weeks ago, we don’t let GW go out until dawn. If the striped one were still around, GG would be chasing no matter what time of day. We’ve convinced ourselves that the skunk will not be here in the daytime as it would know of GG’s existence.
I’d guess most of the outside work will be finished Saturday so I can’t venture a guess as to what is going to happen Sunday. I do know we don’t have any specific plans, except to be sure GD is well fed and has a food supply for the week.
The two Goldens will spend a lot of time outside. It amazes us how well these two dogs get along together and how well and hard the play without anger taking over. Oh, sure. We’ve heard a growl or two over the years, but they’re usually only when the dogs are playing with pull toys. Now that the snow is almost gone, and especially after the yard gets a cleaning, they’ll take full advantage of the outdoors.
There’s no jealously shown, either, when GD is patting/playing with our dog, nor does GG object when we’re making of her sister. Golden Retrievers are just wonderful family dogs.
That’s a little of what is expected at the Gator household this weekend. We’ll have a great time and I hope you have one, too. I’ll be back here Monday.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Of course, if you’re reading this after 7:44 AM Eastern, spring has sprung. The long winter has passed and now we’re in a new season, a season of newness, of growth, of occasional warmth. I used to wonder what the changing of the season would bring. I’ve learned not to think about that because it’s going to be whatever it’s going to be.
We are starting out on an ominous note, however. This beginning is going to be a cold one. Let’s hope it’s not portending a cold future.
The bailout mess just seems to grow and grow and grow. Daily, yea almost hourly, we learn about more corporate abuse of the taxpayers’ money designed to save those businesses from extinction.
I’m not even going to attempt any chronological order to this mess. We all know about the bonuses that AIG paid out that has created a growing anger by both elected officials and the public. Wednesday I asked if there were more potential controversial disclosures around the corner. That was a dumb question. We already knew the answer.
Yesterday we learned through ABC News that Citigroup is planning to build new executive offices for its CEO and his assistants at a cost of $10-million dollars. Citigroup has received $45-billion in bailout money and wants more. Citigroup did yield to government pressure a while ago and gave up buying a $50-million dollar corporate jet. Citigroup says the money is designed to cut costs by consolidating offices.
The Portland newspaper yesterday passed on an Associated Press report that at least 13 firms receiving bailout or recovery (it’s no longer referred to as ‘stimulus’) money owe more than $220-million in back taxes. Two of the companies owe $100-million each. Businesses were supposed to have signed statements that they owed no federal taxes.
Yesterday’s news also reported that Merrill Lynch paid millions in bonuses less than a month before being taken over by Bank of America. Bank of America officials have told federal investigators that they warned Merrill Lynch about potential problems over the bonuses, but because at the time BofA had not yet completed the takeover, they had no control over the spending.
And did I read somewhere that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives were also going to receive bonuses? I can’t find that source right at the moment, but somewhere the back of my mind is pulling out that I have read it. Those are the outfits Rep. Barney Frank is enamored with. Probably I’ll stay politically correct and not go into any more of that here. But if my memory is correct, I’ll bet they don’t suffer any wrath.
I probably wouldn’t have to look too hard to find many other reported abuses of the funds. Abuse was invited when the government started doling out billions of dollars with relatively no controls. Bailouts and stimulus spending doesn’t tend to work in the first place; but with no oversight the potential for working is diminished even more.
I’ve asked this question before: Just who is responsible for watching over the taxpayers’ money in this colossal mess? I don’t have that answer and apparently neither does the government. Perhaps they simply imported the person in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services who has lost millions of dollars in DHHS accounts without any accountability to show them how it’s done. We have learned that a clause prohibiting the using of the funds for such purposes was taken out of the recovery bill by the Obama administration. Since Sen. Olympia Snowe was a creator of the measure, I wonder why she continued to support the bill.
It also could be a diversion by the Democrats to advance their socialistic programs. After all, if we get angry enough at what businesses are doing with the spending package money, perhaps we’ll learn to hate them enough to go along with giving up Democracy as we know it. After all, you may notice that the Democrats crying the loudest over the mess are the very ones who created it. And they all want to take from the rich to give to the poor. They haven’t figured out where the money will come from when the “rich” no longer exist, except, of course, the members of Congress and top levels of government.
The possibilities are endless. The sadness is, as I think of them this morning, they may be closer to the truth than we realize.
Thankfully, a weekend is arriving and I’ll simply do my regular weekend post about life on the Gator family farm.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I hope that sun dries us out. To be quite frank, this weather is doing a number on my body. It’s very sore today. I almost didn’t go to my senior fitness class because my hip, with the steel in it, and my knees were hurting so much. But I don’t want to get into making excuses for not doing my little workout so off I went.
As it turned out, I’m very glad I did. I tried a new (to me) machine today. The company has a neat rowing machine. I sit on a little seat that moves back and forth as I push with my legs. I’m holding a tension device which provides what I guess you might call the weight. (I should put in here that my Fearless Friend would probably tell me I don’t need any additional weight to row. But I won’t.)
That is some neat machine. Tension is applied only on the pulling part just as it would be if one were rowing a boat. About half way through my short routine . . . the person who watches over me said I should keep it short and light until I get used to it . . . I noticed that the part of me that was noticing the activity the most was my tummy. I’ve got one. My legs also noticed that I was working on something different.
The PT place didn’t have one of these machines in its old location so I hadn’t been introduced to it before. Although I did have a light tension today and my routine was only for about five minutes this learning time, I could feel the effect on body parts that hadn’t had that kind of exercise in a long time. It far exceeds the stationary bike or any of the other routines I do. If, and of course that’s a big if here, it indeed does help out my belly, I’ll put this machine high on my list of favorite routines.
President Obama has done one thing right. After telling veterans’ groups on Monday that he was proposing billing the private insurance companies of armed forces personnel for their military related injuries, yesterday he reconsidered the plan and called it off.
The veterans’ groups told the President that the plan would be too costly and could even force some business owners not to hire returning veterans because the cost of their health care would be too high. The President had told the groups that part of the plan was to pour $25 billion into the system over five years and make many more veterans eligible for treatment at VA hospitals.
He was told that private companies would have to raise their premiums to cover those service related injuries and that many veterans and their families simply would find paying the premiums too much of a hardship.
When the plan was revealed, it brought forth an avalanche of protests from veterans and from non-veterans alike. Maine Congressman Michael Michaud said he would never support such a plan. Many Americans felt that it was outrageous to think our brave military personnel who volunteer to protect America wouldn’t have their country stand behind them if they received a military related injury.
These comments today were going to be a reflection of my own outrage at such a plan, and I’ve never been in the military. I honor these brave men and women and believe our nation should do all it can to help them through trying times. The President, although first bringing on my personal outrage, calmed it before I needed to vent. I haven’t said, “Good job, Mr. President” much in the last few weeks, but consider it said on this issue.
Do you have a Facebook page or a Twitter account? I have both. I joined both groups, www.facebook.com and www.twitter.com this week. I have absolutely no idea why except “everyone” is doing it. That’s the same “everyone” I used to chide my kids about when they were begging for something I wasn’t going to let them have.
Now that I have a Facebook page and have the ability to tweet, I don’t have a clue on how to make them work. Sure. I can log in to both and get a very generic page. But what in the devil does one do on them? I certainly don’t know so both of mine remain relatively blank. I couldn’t even find a way on the pages to cancel these accounts. Since I created a new gmail.com account to use for email on these sites, I guess I can just cancel it and let it all go quietly away. At least my inbox won’t get flooded with stuff I don’t want.
The NCAA national basketball tourney begins today. Well, actually, it began a couple nights ago when Morehead State won it’s prelim for the 64th seed. Morehead now plays Louisville in the first round. They might have wished they lost. Getting back to the main subject, we’ll get a great chance to see some good basketball, and probably some pretty bad basketball, over the next couple of weeks.
I have one minor question about the tourney. Why is a West Regional first round being played in Philadelphia and an East Regional first round being played in Boise, Idaho? Other brackets have the same convoluted schedule. I really don’t care, but it sure does look ridiculous.
The NIT is also underway. Given a choice, I’ll be watching the NCAA tourney. But I should mention, although I can’t tell you why, that I saw on the scoreboard this morning that the Gators have advanced with a win over Jacksonville. Miami, according to the scoreboard, beat Providence so the Gators and Hurricanes will meet in the next round in Gainesville. But CBS begins broadcasting the NCAAs shortly after noon today, so that’s where I’ll be right into bedtime.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Today will be a nice one with temperatures possibly running into the 50s. Some rain will move in later today and end sometime tomorrow morning. But those 50 degree readings will mean any precipitation will be rain and not snow. Speaking of snow, it is disappearing now at a very rapid pace. The temperatures we’re getting are helping greatly.
The AIG situation is fascinating to follow. The government is working real hard at getting back the money AIG says it contractually must pay in bonuses. I hope you understand the 165-million dollars involved is only a pittance, something like two percent, of the total money in the spending package. But all the attention it’s getting is drawing the taxpayers’ attention away from all the other lack of accountability in that trillion dollar package.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the paying of those bonuses is a huge mistake on AIG’s part. It was taxpayers’ money being used and someone should have said it wasn’t going to happen. If Rep. Barney Frank’s assertion yesterday that the taxpayers own 80% of AIG, then common sense says stopping the payment should have been easy.
But I’m not a contract lawyer, or any other kind of a lawyer for that matter. It seems many times that common sense and law don’t always hold hands. However, as I understand bonuses, they are paid out for performance. If performance wasn’t included in the contracts of those getting the bonuses, then the AIG negotiators should be ashamed of themselves and held responsible.
If performance were included, then the causing of the near bankruptcy and total collapse of AIG leading to the bailout should be a hint of a lack of positive performance and the bonuses denied on that ground. More common sense. Why would anyone get a bonus for driving a company into the ground? But it happens frequently with CEOs getting millions of dollars on the same day that a company proclaims millions of dollars in losses.
I won’t agree with Sen. Charles Grassley who said those getting bonuses should either return them or follow the example of Japanese executives. The senator later said that suicide wasn’t what he really meant, only that the executives should take responsibility for their failure.
There are also reports of billions of dollars going to foreign banking institutions to pay back debt. Some Congress people are upset about that, too.
What all this and other accompanying stories are proving more than anything else is the Democrat, along with three Republicans including Maine’s two, plan for all that spending was given away with relatively no controls, no rules, and no way to track it. It’s AIG demonstrating the total lack of government leadership this week; I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot more follow.
As I said, the biggest reason for all the anger coming out in Washington is an attempt to cover up the real problems with the spending package promoted by the government. I love the “I told you so” line; I think I’ve mentioned ever since the first one that the whole idea of bailouts is bad.
And you and I are paying for it.
The AIG executives, incidentally, will be on Capitol Hill today to testify and answer questions before a Congressional committee.
One person who says he won’t criticize President Obama over the economy is former President George W. Bush. He says President Obama has enough critics and deserves the former President’s support. “I love my country more than I love politics,” says the former President. He’s got a lot more class than many people give him credit for.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I had a great surprise when I got home from my senior fitness session today. Wife Gator had some super cinnebon muffins waiting for me. There’s nothing quite like spending an hour or so in strenuous exercise and then getting a nice cinnebon muffin.
Speaking of exercise, it went well today. My Fearless Friend gave me a little lecture the other day on not paying attention to the young bucks who are now there and just concentrate on doing the things I need to do. I did that today and must admit it made the whole experience just a little better. I still haven’t gotten the OK to lift things above my head from my doctor. I’m “patiently” waiting for an appointment to have my implanted device checked to be sure it’s all right to resume full normal activities.
We’re now in week seven since the operation and I was told I’d get that check sometime between week six and week eight.
You’ve read here about one of my fellow seniors who travels to Montreal during the winter to see his beloved Canadiens play hockey. Today he proudly showed off a special Loony that was minted in Canada just to honor the team. It was a limited edition of the dollar-equivalent coin which the hockey team gave to everyone in attendance a few nights ago, one day ahead of its national release. I got the impression that coin is worth a lot more than a dollar to him.
An interesting development in South Carolina yesterday could have a bearing on events in Maine, but the SC event may have been simple politics. A request by the SC Republican governor to use some of the federal ‘stimulus’ money to pay down the state’s debt was denied by federal officials. They told the SC governor that debt paying was not included in the ways the money could be spent.
The political part is two-fold. First the governor was the first Republican governor to turn down at least some of the money and he had a face-to-face confrontation with then President-elect Obama in December over the spending plan. And now the SC Democrats are waging an advertising campaign against the governor over the spending package.
The question becomes simple. Was the refusal to allow spending down the debt a payback for the governor’s confrontation with the President? The governor said he thanked the President for the explanation and will present a more detailed plan for paying off the debt today. He then said that for the parties to work together, the Democrats should stop their advertising campaign.
That brings us to Maine. Governor Baldacci wants to use some of the stimulus money to pay off a huge debt owed to Maine’s hospitals, other health facilities, and doctors. One might also gather that he wants to use some of the money to pay off the huge deficit created by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Gov. Baldacci is a Democrat.
We’ll have to wait to see if President Obama is consistent or not. I would think consistency would dictate his telling Maine they also cannot use the federal money to pay down debts. Of course one situation is Republican and the other is Democrat, so there’s probably some wiggle room in the stimulus conditions to allow one and not the other. Ya think?
School systems around the state are getting a little reprieve. That free federal money coming into the state will allow school systems to restore much of their budgets cut earlier by the cutbacks in Augusta. The schools were told yesterday that although much of the federal money will be for specific purposes, such as special education, it will free up some of those locally provided funds for other purposes.
One of President Obama’s goals with his spending package was to assure that many public employees, including teachers, would be able to keep their jobs during this recession and it’s that purpose that Maine schools will be providing their portion of the funds. This is not the same situation mentioned above about the money being used to pay down debt.
School systems may also be saving some money as the result of the completion of health care costs negotiated between the Maine Education Association and Anthem Insurance, the provider of health care insurance for school districts. The newspaper has reported, for example, that Portland had budgeted an increase of about five percent for health insurance, but the negotiations resulted in no increase. So that’s money that can be used elsewhere or even eliminated to hold down the budget for the next year. It would be true for school systems throughout the state.
Changing the topic just a little, I’m probably the only one wondering if Manny is already being Manny again, this time out in Los Angeles. To be honest, neither the news media nor the people involved are posing the possibility, but I find it amusing that following a tense negotiations season that came down to the beginning of spring training to get resolved, Manny is already complaining of injury.
He missed the planned return to the lineup last week because of an injury to his hamstring. Over the weekend he was taken out of a game after he once again complained of injuring his hamstring while sliding in the outfield to catch a fly ball. He’ll miss several days with only light practice, and the Dodgers say it could be at least a week. Naturally, as Boston did when he first started his tantrum while playing for the Red Sox, the Dodgers are playing it down. It does seem like it’s a little early for Manny to be Manny.
Manny, of course, is Manny Ramirez who used “injury” to aggravate the Sox into trading him last season.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I had a little tiny disappointment last evening. The Gators didn’t make the “big dance.” It really wasn’t a surprise as they had a rather weak schedule this year and didn’t win the ones they had to win to get into the NCAA national basketball tourney. Nevertheless, I love this season and I’ll be watching as many of the games as I can right up until that April 6th championship.
The Gators are a top seed in the NIT (National Invitational Tournament) as they were a year ago. The NIT, however, is very low on my list of sports programs to follow.
I do believe this wasn’t the strongest year for college basketball, though. Seems to me there are several rather weak teams dancing. There may even be teams the Gators could have beaten. Florida wouldn’t have gotten past the Sweet Sixteen in any case, even if they were in the tourney.
AIG. What can anyone say about the mess that outfit has gotten us into along with the total disregard for the results of that mess for the American taxpayer, business closing, bankruptcy victim, fired worker, and on and on. They get billions of dollars in bailout money to save their sorry sit-down places and give several million dollars away to the executives who led them into the mess. I hope they spend their money wisely, like in AIG stock. I’d doubt the government would save them again. Maybe the government will let that Madoff guy out so the AIG bunch can invest with him.
We watched another spectacular space launch last night. NASA sent the space shuttle Discovery into space to join up with the International Space Station still under development. The largest component left was aboard the Discovery along with some international personnel. There’s something great about watching that thing lift off and heading into space. I’m always impressed by the calmness in all the folk involved and the amount of contingent safety plans they have in place.
I got a note from my Fearless Friend who, along with his wife, lives in Florida for a few months each year. Their Florida home, although not within direct view of Cape Canaveral, has a good view of the spacecraft after it has reached just a few feet off the ground. He said it was the second most spectacular he had seen and probably would have ranked right up with the best if it had been total darkness and not just dusk.
He described the flight and the rocket discharge as he saw it for five or six minutes after liftoff until it reaches orbit. Unfortunately, at over 17-thousand miles an hour, the space craft quickly lifts out of sight from his home. What he did describe confirmed the spectacle as I saw it on TV.
I’ve always wanted to see a liftoff, but I’m afraid my window of opportunity has closed. When I lived in Florida, I was on the West Coast or in Gainesville so even if space launches had been made then, I probably wouldn’t have seen them.
I’d bet a lot more information on Maine’s shortfall in its Medicaid (MaineCare) budget will be coming out today. Last Friday after most legislators and the news media had left Augusta for the weekend, the Republicans announced the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) would be short 235-million dollars for payments for the rest of the fiscal year, about three months.
DHHS officials say the figure was misinterpreted; the shortage is only about $65-million with the rest being from federal reimbursements or payments. In any case, it’s money that will have to be found from a budget already decimated to cover a huge shortfall in other accounts for this fiscal year. I don’t know why the DHHS or Governor Baldacci didn’t let the taxpayers know much earlier. He didn’t mention it in his State of the State address last week.
We’re told that much of the money will be covered by the Federal Government Spending Package (stimulus) that was passed a couple weeks ago. Seems to me Maine’s portion of that spending package will be running a little thin before long.
The shortfall didn’t get very much play in the weekend news. There’s no surprise there. The news media will do all it can to protect the Democrats running the state. There should be, however, much more news on this coming out beginning later today. It’s going to be a fun debate to watch.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
We’ll have a typical Gator family weekend. Our daughter and her dog will visit both days. We have no work planned so the visits will be completely for the dogs to play. Gator Daughter will join us for lunch both days, but that will be the excitement for the weekend.
The snow cover is disappearing rapidly. Eight or more inches a week ago is now down to an inch or two, and with the weather forecast for the coming week, we could be snow free by next weekend. Well, probably not totally free as a couple piles left behind by neighbor Ed’s plow might still be here at the end of the month.
The lawn is showing in many spots, especially spreading out from tree bases. Plants have popped up in many places around Wife Gator’s gardens. She watches daily as it seems more and more are making their presents known. The weather forecast for this coming week will really cause those plants to spring forth. Hmmm. Maybe that’s why we call this season ‘spring.’
She has made her order for flowers and they’ll be arriving in time for spring planting in the very near future. I’m really over my head here. The truth be known, I only know such things as flowers, plants, and bushes. We have many colored flowers, and both green bushes and bushes with flowers. GW can name them all with just a quick glance. Gator Daughter is getting there.
We’re rapidly approaching the outdoor season. The gals will be starting their garden work in the near future. The vegetable gardens won’t be planted until the last frost in May, so we’re a way away from those gardens.
My job simply becomes the lawn. I’ll begin taking my regular rides around the yard in April, I would imagine.
We have all this outdoor discussion this weekend because we are very tired of winter and snow; and this gives us something fresh. The best part is that next weekend at this time, Spring will have Sprung!
The Gator gals join me in hoping your weekend is a super one, and we’ll be back Monday.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Gator Wife found herself in one of the Portland papers way back when we first found each other. I forget if it were the Press Herald or the Evening Express. Remember when we had two? We looked at the paper one day and right there on the front page was a picture of her walking down a street in Portland as she was walking under a ladder leaning against a building.
Walking under ladders was also considered to be bad luck. It was a big picture showing the whole world this foolish young woman getting ready to have the whole world cave in on her. I told her at the time that I saw she wasn’t superstitious. “Of course I am,” she said. “Look who I’m with now! Can’t be good luck.” She was for me; we’ve been together almost a half century.
Yesterday had very nice sunshine and when the wind wasn’t blowing, it was a nice but cool day. The wind, of course, made it rather bitter at times. Today will be somewhat similar but with slightly higher temperatures and a little less wind. It’s the weekend we’re looking forward to. At last the temperatures will return to normal for this time of year and reach into the 40s which often means we could see a 50 or two.
I’m not sure to what he keeps alluding, but the WCSH-TV meteorologist Joe Cupo has said during the last two night’s newscasts that those pesky computers are hinting at something happening in the middle of next week. Cupo is careful not to reveal what the expected weather might be. It’s too early, he says. Kelly LaBrecque said this morning it’ll be rain into snow.
I’m sure you saw last night’s news or have heard or read it this morning that the Maine Democrats can’t face the task of creating a responsible budget for our state. As we’ve said numerous times, their solution to the economic woes of our state is taxation. They are calling their current idea a tax reform package and even are trying to convince us that Mainers will actually see a lowering of their taxes as a result. They’ve sure got a long way to go to convince me.
First, some of its provisions: The income tax rate would be reduced from 8.5% to 6.5%. That would be a good thing and will lull many Mainers into thinking at last, a tax cut. Unfortunately, many Mainers don’t pay income taxes. To pay for that reduction, however, the sales tax would include many items not now taxed, such as recreation and amusements, repair and maintenance except for home repair, personal maintenance such as dry cleaning, pet grooming, and others.
That meal you go out to enjoy will cost you an addition 1.5%, rising from 7% to 8.5%. Need to rent a car for a short term, perhaps while you own car is being repaired? That tax will rise from 10% to 15%. These are only examples. Some items, such as haircuts and snacks, which lost in the last attempt at “reform,” won’t be included.
I see a major fault with this tax shift. It will also increase the cost of businesses doing business. Just for starters, it will cost more for record keeping and filing reports with the state. Who do you think will pay for these costs? Of course, you. Those costs will be added to the prices you pay so a 5% added tax on your recreation, for example, will probably cost you closer to 7% or 8% or more. Sure, you might end up saving a few hundred dollars on your income tax, but that savings and more will be eaten up with the other taxes.
Not so, proclaims the legislator introducing the idea of this tax shift. He says you’ll save 160 million dollars and the new tax structure will bring in $160 million. That’s the shift. And he says out-of-staters will pay about 40% of that. It’s a typical argument of the taxers in the government. In the annual term, you’ll still pay more to the state, especially if you’re one of the poorer Mainers who now pay no or only a small amount of income taxes.
People like me who complain are always asked where we would cut expenditures if we couldn’t support more taxes. My answer is always I didn’t create the mess. But I quickly add that I’d bet the Health and Human Services Department with its virtual unlimited Medicare and welfare payments might be a place to start. I doubt it would have to end in that one department. The Legislature itself might be another place.
It amazes me how in these economic times when you and I are struggling to makes ends meet and finding places to adjust our spending, why the Democrats in our state legislature, as they’ve done for more than 35 years now, feel that adding to our burden will make things better. I’d like to see the state do a little of our struggling for a while and then see what happens.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
It’s the weather that’s brutal this morning. The forecast calls for sunny skies but temperatures only in the low 30s this morning. The temperatures wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have some rather strong winds. That puts the wind chill well below freezing. We’ll look forward to the weekend when those temps should be in the 40s both days.
Governor Baldacci said in his state of the state speech the other night that he envisions lots more spending in Maine. Many of the programs he’s pushing probably would be good for the state if economic conditions and our taxing structure weren’t in such bad shape.
One of the items he mentioned was forming a new commission to consolidate all the energy packages he wants passed. That, of course, means more government growth which in turn means a higher cost of state government. He says Maine must become independent of foreign oil and develop more efficient ways of providing energy. They include, but are not limited to, more wind mills for wind power and more use of solar energy. I don’t think I read anything about harnessing the state’s rivers for water power. Oh, yes. I just remembered. We’ve torn down most dams in the state.
How does he plan of paying for all this “investment?” Simple. More taxes. One legislator already has grabbed hold of the energy plan and is proposing a tax on heating oil. Like the cigarette taxes (I don’t smoke), a tax on heating oil will hit the state’s poorest the hardest. We’re already taxed on electricity, telephones, gasoline, etc. Now we’re going to be told to pay a new tax, from the governor who promised no new taxes, for heating oil. The cost will again go up, more people won’t be able to afford it, and more people will be asking for government assistance; taxes will have to go up even more.
Here’s another way the state, already deep in the financial hole, is going to spend your money on a program in education. The governor hinted in his speech that the laptop program in the schools will be expanded to cover all students and teachers in grades 7 through 12. We learned from WCSH-TV yesterday that the state is already negotiating a contract for 100,000 laptops with Apple Computer Company. The TV station reports it will cost about 25-million dollars a year.
I wrote about how I wished I’d had a computer in my school days…or even a typewriter…as there’s no question about it making writing easier. But does it make it better? After a few years of giving computers to the middle schoolers, the whole writing section of the Maine State Assessment Test had to be thrown out because the kids didn’t write effectively. They didn’t use computers. All the computer can do in writing is make it easier to write. It doesn’t create better writing.
The school system should return to the tediousness, yes, I’ll admit learning is tedious, of learning how to construct a sentence, how to develop ideas, how to use effective grammar and correct spelling in writing. I’ll readily agree that the only place that’s necessary for correct English is in writing. The formality of grammar and construction isn’t necessary in oral communications at all. In fact, just a glance, a shrug, a quizzical look along with the short, choppy sentences can communicate what people talking want to communicate.
Not all communication is face to face, however. When we’re writing something, we must remember that folk from many backgrounds and ability levels will be reading and it’s through the correct use of the language that written communications is effective. Readers cannot look up and ask what the intent of something is.
I’d be the first to admit, in fact very early on last year I mentioned grammar and construction in writing, that all I write is not formal. I use some slang, I use some sentence fragments, and I use some creative construction. But I know every one of those things that are here; and all have been used for a purpose. For that purpose to work, however, I had to fully understand how grammar is used properly. I’m not always successful. I thank all the English teachers in high school and college that made me follow the rules.
And one area which I never see addressed is what I would call cheating or plagiarism by students. I wonder how many adults realize that almost anything a teacher requires can be found on the Internet. Students have simply copied and pasted information they have found. I mentioned that comparative essay on three novels by one author I had to write in high school yesterday. In today’s age I could have found one on the Internet, probably in less than five minutes, copied it, changed the name, etc., and passed it in.
For those of you who would like me to cite a source for that last paragraph, my source is my simple observations of it actually happening.
Few teachers will take the time to sit down with students and question them on these writings. Questioning the meaning of words, for example, or what the student meant in a sentence or paragraph. That could be a real eye-opener.
I’m glad we’re making life easier for students, but test results are not supporting the effectiveness of that ease.
If that $100 million dollar figure WCSH-TV cites is correct, I wonder if it might not be better used elsewhere.
Who’s leading our country? I’ve been reading on various news sources that Democrat pundits are even questioning the leadership and the ability of President Obama to lead. Yesterday he signed into law the omnibus bill designed to keep government running to the end of the fiscal year. That bill is loaded with more than nine thousand pieces of pork, earmarks, legislation.
Calling the bill flawed, he signed it out of range of the cameras and public, almost as if he felt if we couldn’t see him, it didn’t happen. Shortly after the signing he told Congress he would be more critical of earmarks after this. But he’s said he would oppose earmarks before and in two massive spending packages so far, there have been more earmarks than any other kind of spending.
The question comes from those asking who’s really in charge? Is it House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate leader Harry Reid? There have been reports that even those two have had closed door shouting matches. If President Obama is not the one calling the shots, then his ability to lead is being called out.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Seems to me the big majority of the pre-college ones were in the 500 word range, except at least one each year was a much longer, involved piece of writing. The teachers, mostly English teachers and a very few social studies or history teachers, gave a topic for the writing and mostly those pieces were related to something being studied at the time.
The worst part of those writings was that they had to be handwritten. I had at least one teacher who had a very simple rule: If the piece of writing couldn’t easily be read, it was an automatic zero and couldn’t be made up. Sure, typewriters were available, but most of us high school students didn’t know how to use one.
We were tracked back then. My high school had four tracks: general, business, scientific, and college prep. Actually, both of the last two were for college preparation; they just had slightly different base subjects. I was in the college prep track. The problem was I was male. Most college prep students, and all male ones, could not opt to take a typing class.
Even though I didn’t know how to “touch type,” my folks bought me a typewriter for Christmas one year and then I pecked out papers. Sometimes I thought handwriting was faster. In either case, making a mistake was just painful. Unless one had a very good eraser, an error resulted in starting over. What a pain when an error came at the end. At least with a typewriter, multi-page papers only needed the one with the error redone. I hadn’t heard of a correction ribbon.
That all meant that virtually every week in high school I turned out 500 word essays. One very notable exception was the senior comparative essay. In at least two thousand words we had to compare three novels by one author. I completed the assignment on time and received an “A” with a very nice comment from the teacher. I’ll never forget it. It was probably 15 or 20 years later before I read the three books.
Somehow I never imagined back in those formative years that over a half century later I’d still be writing little essays. There is one huge difference between now and then, though, instead of mostly once a week during the school year, I’m trying to write something six times a week all year. Incidentally, for any of you trying to keep count, I have now reached that magic word number 500 right here. I sure wish I had a computer and a word processor back in high school. And college, for that matter.
There are topics I could have mentioned this morning. Gov. Baldacci delivered his State of the State address to the Maine Legislature last night. I didn’t watch it and I haven’t read enough yet to honestly make comments. The federal Omnibus bill with its 9000 earmarks passed. Surprise! Surprise! There as many Republican earmarks in it as Democrat; in fact, six of the biggest ten spenders all have R’s after their names.
And the bailouts and spending packages passed by Congress since Jan. 20th haven’t all been spent yet and we haven’t seen any great results so far, so what does House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want? Yep. More spending packages. It isn’t going to stop until the country is totally broke. We’re going to be paying for this disaster long past my being on Earth.
And, of course, there’s always the weather. Today’s is rather lousy. Rain here along the Maine coast, but not too far inland there’s some sleet and freezing rain. Some places have even had snow. We’re already above the freezing mark, so we’ll stay in the rain for much of the day.
I guess if I had worked at it a little harder, I would have come up with something to say; but, you know, sometimes it’s just as much fun saying nothing. Many times I think I do a better job at that.
GiM (Oh, in case you’re interested, this ended up being a total of 763 words.)
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
There was some ice there but I can park right next to the door so I went in. Normally, as you know, I don’t venture out on ice, but there were only a couple steps this morning, so off I went. By the time I left, though, the sun had come out and all the ice had been melted.
The Republican Party appears to be going through a redefinition process, both in Maine and in the nation. I wouldn’t be surprised if other state parties are also taking a close look at themselves.
The examination of the Maine GOP probably began shortly after the elections in November. The Republicans didn’t fare too well. There were Republicans contesting several races, both for national offices and state and local ones. They didn’t do too well in any of the efforts, either.
At the top of the ticket was Sen. Susan Collins who sought and won her third term. There were also candidates for both the First and Second Congressional Districts. She’s a registered Republican but there are many Mainers questioning her party loyalty. In fact, many of us thought she was running as an Independent in the last election rather than as a Republican, a name often left out of her campaigning.
A conservative Republican ran against incumbent Democrat incumbent in the Second District, while a near-moderate Republican ran against a very liberal Democrat in the First District. They were hoping to claim the seat being vacated by the incumbent Democrat. I wouldn’t be too surprised in the seed for change wasn’t planted during the Republican Primary last June. That’s when the moderate candidate beat a conservative for the Republican First District nomination. Both Republicans lost in the general election.
Please note here that I’m not an insider in the Republican Party. In fact, I’m probably as far out as one can get. Therefore, all my comments and observations are the result of opinions formed through reading and listening. I just wanted to get that disclaimer in before anyone takes my thoughts as total fact. (They may be, though.)
Now the Maine Republican Party appears to be splintered. That conservative I mentioned a moment ago, his name is Dean Scontras, incidentally, has formed a group he calls The Republican Project. Its goal is to get Republicans, primarily conservative Republicans, elected to various offices.
The state party, the official one, has elected a new leader, one that many people believe has the ability to bring the party together once again. He has already begun that task by getting several prominent Republicans to join his cause. The big question is whether the party will remain splintered or can the two groups come together.
There may be a third, unorganized splintered group and those people consist of many Maine Republicans who are angry with our two Senators, two of only three Republicans in Congress to support the massive spending package of President Obama. They also have their supporters, both within the party and primarily in the Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, the National party is under fire as well; and, like in Maine, both from within and without. It is fascinating that a comment by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is the center of that controversy. Limbaugh said he hoped President Obama’s Socialist Agenda would fail. The main stream news media has reported only “Rush Limbaugh hopes President Obama will fail” without including the specific area mentioned.
The Democrats have lashed onto that statement calling for an apology from Limbaugh. Fox News yesterday brought out an old FoxNews/Opinion Dynamics poll from 2006 Guess what that poll showed. The liberal Democrats hoped President Bush would not succeed. Oh, my! I guess they don’t like the shoe on the other foot.
Nevertheless, as a result of all hoopla, the news media and Congressional Democrats are calling Limbaugh the titular head of the Republican Party. Limbaugh calls himself an entertainer and, even though he delivered what conservatives acclaim as a great speech at a conservative convention last earlier this month, points out he isn’t even an elected official. I don’t know of any Republicans who have elevated him to the leadership position.
Meanwhile, there has been some from within the national party for the chairman to step down. So the drama continues. When it all shakes out, many of us long time Republicans, even those of us who don’t really get involved in party politics, hope the trend will be toward a more conservative ideals for the party.
I’d even go so far as to say that probably people like me should stop sitting back complaining and join the fray for what we would consider positive change.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Sunday wasn’t too shabby, either. We didn’t hit 60 but it did reach 55. There was some wind, however, and that made it feel a little colder. We were told this morning we’ll get back into a brief period of reality, unfortunately. A little snow is moving into the Greater Portland area, but not much, perhaps a couple of inches, is expected. We’re still in the winter season as spring doesn’t arrive until next week.
Last night was one of the three traditional ones in the Gator family. I’m not really sure how it all started, but way back when our kids were very young, we started the tradition of the birthday person choosing a restaurant for the celebration. The tradition has continued all through the years and yesterday was another turn for me. The meal met my expectations to a tee. The reaction from Gator Wife and Gator Daughter hinted they weren’t unhappy, either.
Since GD left the nest many years ago, she has baked a birthday cake for her mother or me on our birthdays. We cheat. We buy one for her at a local bakery. But after the meal, we came home to our house for the blowing out of the candles. Except we don’t have any candles. In my case, I’m not sure enough would fit on the cake anyway.
That mini celebration capped off one of the best weekends we’ve had in our family and on the Gator ranch (Do gators live on ranches??) in many years.
Some interesting comments yesterday on the TV talking head shows. President Obama’s people were urging the passage of the supplemental budget which is absolutely laden with pork, i.e., special interest group spending. Candidate Obama had told us that part of the “change” we could get if we elected him would be the ending of pork.
He got elected, but not just because of that statement. So what did his huge spending package he said would lead to economic recovery contain? Billions of dollars in pork. Then the House passed a spending bill to get the Federal Government to the next fiscal year. More pork. The bill is still being debated in the Senate and was stopped once by a Republican filibuster.
That led to the talk shows. We were promised that if Congress passes that supplemental spending bill, the administration will concentrate on keeping pork out of the next budget. I doubt the Republicans will believe him, but it won’t really matter. We must remember that even the GOP has a lot of pork in the bill and they won’t want it cut. Ultimately, the supplemental budget will probably pass.
The President’s word has taken other hits as well, especially his telling us another “change” would be that no lobbyist or a person with a questionable background would receive a presidential appointment. Just look at the record of many, most?, of his appointments so far. So much for “change.”
“Some banks must be allowed to fail,” said Republicans on their Sunday appearances. They pointed out that the Feds simply cannot continue bailouts. Several smaller banks have already gone under, but the Republicans yesterday were hitting on some of the big ones. Citibank was prominent among the ones mentioned to let fail.
The Democrats countered with such failure wouldn’t affect just the banks, but several thousands of depositors and generally innocently involved bank customers would also be forced to suffer. They don’t want that to happen.
I haven’t heard or read enough argument to form an opinion on this one. I think I’m teetering on the fence here, at least until I learn more about it. I agree that because of their practices perhaps we taxpayers shouldn’t help. But then there’s a good argument about innocent people getting ruined, too. Since much of the problem was caused by Congress in the first place, this is a tough one.
The administration says the answer to the banks’ problems is lending more money and that was a purpose of the bank bailout plan, even though we haven’t seen the plan or how it will be watched. I’m not sure many banks have yet to follow the plan.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
There just a small chance I won’t be up at that hour and I’d bet most of you won’t be, either.
Gator Golden will be confused at the time changes. Her new eating time, although the same on our adjusted clock, won’t be the same for her. I have no way to spring her system forward that hour. We go through this confusion twice each year. She absolutely knows when it’s eating time and it will probably take a couple of weeks for her system to adjust.
While you’re at it, I hope you have also established the habit of changing the batteries in your smoke and CO2 detectors. If you are among the many these days with home alarm systems, you probably have other batteries that should be replaced, too. Not changing your clocks can mostly lead just to an embarrassment. Not changing the batteries in those other devices could lead you on a journey you’re probably not ready to take.
The weather people tell us that Saturday will be one mighty fine day. Temperatures in our neighborhood could hit or cross into the fifties. I know our daughter and her dog will take advantage of the nice weather and pay us a visit. Her dog and ours will have an absolute blast and the two ladies probably will spend some time either outside or in our breezeway in full sight of the dogs.
Edited about 2 PM Saturday: We have gotten a nice surprise. We did indeed make it easily into the 50s, and now even into the 60s. It hasn't been this nice here for a long time. End of edit.
As long as they can see their mommy people, they’ll be having a blast romping and playing in the back yard.
Those same weather people tell us we could see some precipitation come in overnight Saturday. Because of the forecast temperatures, it will probably be rain here. We won’t know until Sunday if GW and I will be alone or if we’ll have our family visitors here. The forecast Saturday morning called for developing sunshine Sunday.
There’s still too much snow on the ground outside for GW and GD to make any rounds to pick up any winter-fallen sticks. Or other stuff that may have fallen out of the animals. There will be a lot of heavy looking out there and the planning for the spring will begin. And it’s only about two and a half weeks away.
My Fearless Friend has sent me an e-mail from his Florida abode. Reading between the lines, I think he’s missing Maine. He wrote about near 80 degree weather and how he was suffering so much he was forced to sit on his screened in porch in a t-shirt and shorts. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had to take a walk around a lake across the street from his home just to cool off. Poor guy. I feel so sorry for FF. And, can you believe he has to suffer through freshly picked fruits and vegetables? He’s probably counting the days until he can back to beautiful Maine living.
You enjoy your weekend and we’ll be back with you on Monday.