Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 208

On Politics
In today’s polarized political atmosphere, I imagine one’s satisfaction and dissatisfaction with government is highly correlated with one’s political party and the party in power. Here’s a recent Gallup poll about Americans satisfaction with government.

Some like to complain about spending by the Department of Defense (DoD). As with any government agency, the DoD is subject to inefficiency. However, as it continues to trim its budget, the lawmakers inflate DoD spending by appropriating for equipment that the DoD doesn’t want. Here’s an interesting article.

In a response to what I wrote in last week’s OITS about Gov. Christie’s (R-NJ) situation, I appreciate this comment from Cayman (@Drinks Well With Others): “As much as I like the guy, the Governor cannot claim the buck stops here on the one hand and then play this off as someone else’s doing on the other. Not when these geniuses were hand-picked by him, he can’t.”

Politicians love pointing the finger elsewhere, thus one reason why I enjoyed this column about accountability by columnist Ruth Marcus

The warped nature of political philosophy continues to creep into daily life as the other day I heard a radio ad for Conservative Tours dot com. Sounds like the perfect tour for someone needing to be told what they want to hear.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Inclement weather prevents liar from getting to work
Report: Lake ice grows safer to venture out on with each beer consumed
Hundreds feared dead in Coors Light Party Train crash
Sports media unsure how to fit Super Bowl coverage into two weeks
Beauty industry announces new initiative to make women self-conscious about their palms

Interesting Reads
Columnist David Ignatius on Benghazi
For the investors, here’s an interesting chart about the performance of different assets
Deaths and antibody resistance
Leadership and infrastructure
An interview by Forbes with the writer of the Evolution Basics series (I love the Forbes title)

On Potpourri
The curtain closed on the successful run of Time: The Musical. After the regimented nature of the previous acts, it seems my wide-open closing requirement surprised some readers – so the producer will be receiving a medical evaluation. I hope to unveil the next musical right here in the OITS: Vol. 209.

Except for a few minor notes, our home did well with the buyer’s inspector, thus things continue to progress in a positive direction. Meanwhile, it’s time for the bitter cold to get out-of-town!

Sorry, but because of time demands, Saturday Morning Cartoons continues its hiatus until further notice.

From the Who-Cares file, is anyone surprised about the trouble finding Justin Bieber? Why are Jon and Kate Gosselin still in the news?

Here are your weekend celebrations

  • (Fri) Beer Can Appreciation Day, Compliment Day, Peanut Butter Day, Eskimo Pie Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day, Speak Up and Succeed Day
  • (Sat) Irish Coffee Day, Seed Swap day, Visit Your Local Quilt Shop Day
  • (Sun) Peanut Brittle Day, Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement, Australia Day, India Day

Let’s use a dose of my high school days to send everyone into the weekend. It’s one of my all-time favorite songs, so cheers to The Stampeders from Canada with Sweet City Woman. Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 164

On Politics
Cheers to this comment by Bruce at Moe’s: It would be nice if the anti-Obama right would settle on if the President is a flaming secularist, or a hidden Muslim. At least he can’t be both.

With the movie Lincoln getting much press, here are two interesting reads relating Lincoln to the current situation: from a University of Cincinnati professor and columnist Ruth Marcus.

For continued buffoonery in Washington, take your pick: comments about Ambassador Rice or comments about the fiscal cliff. Love the ones saying everything is on the table – then followed with a string of “but” qualifiers.

Two interesting reads about the fiscal cliff:
Economist Bruce Bartlett (with a great opening pic)
Confessions for a deficit denier

Regarding government spending, here is something that neither party can boast: The best time to cut spending and reduce debt is during periods of strong revenue.

On This Week’s Headlines from The Onion
Turkey Pardon Mishap Results in Accidental Release of Serial Rapist
20,000 Sacrificed in Annual Blood Offering to Corporate America
BP CEO: “We deeply regret the tragic loss of $4.5 million.”
Nation’s Moms Demand Christmas List
US Government to Save Billions by Cutting Wasteful Senator Program

Interesting Reads
Atheism and Science (the conclusion is interesting)
A sequel to the movie Casablanca?
A success of the unorthodox Finnish educational system
Historical infographic of financial deregulation in the US 
Laughing and your health
Seinfeld and double dipping

On Potpourri
Sad to report that I didn’t win the huge Powerball drawing – but I enjoyed this pre-drawing report about lottery officials losing the balls.

Congratulations to Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani on winning Dancing with the Stars. Especially for pro Tony, who has toiled every season (14) to finally triumph.

As one who appreciates wine, here are two reads from the Wall Street Journal: Tips from a master sommelier and wine-food pairing.

Speaking of wine, Wine Enthusiast just released their Top 100 wines – and #41 is a $9 red wine – Folonari Chianti 2010.

Started by a candle maker and a soap maker who married sisters, Cincinnati-based, consumer-product giant Procter & Gamble celebrated its 175th anniversary in early November. Here is a page with some than a few interesting articles about P&G, including this fun product quiz.

This answers why the chicken crossed the road!

Something to ponder: Would a claustrophobic barophobe be willing to serve on the international space station?

I planned a Saturday morning classic cartoon post for the weekend, but then I realized something very important to me. In other words, there will be a post, but not about cartoons.

Our handbell choir will play for the Sunday school teachers, students, and parents – and I think this version of Fum Fum Fum will create a few smiles. Have a good weekend! In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 111

On Politics
Here’s my advice to the Capitol Hill representatives squawking about their pay – Don’t run for re-election!

I know that budgeting for FEMA regarding unpredictable natural disasters is a blind wild guess. On the other hand, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) says that additional funding for disaster relief for Americans must come from cuts elsewhere in the budget. To Mr. Cantor I ask, Are you treating the expenditures $10 billion dollars per month for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with the same lens? Of course, not, so stop being an ideological twit.

This troubles me: The number of people believing that each state (recently Missouri, Vermont, etc) is responsible for their own disaster relief, thus nothing coming from Feds.

President Obama announced that his upcoming jobs proposal will have bipartisan appeal. I say Good luck with that because the Republican pattern is to disagree with him after he uses one of their ideas.

I’ve been saying for some time that Gov. Romney was only the GOP front-runner because Republicans didn’t have many alternatives, thus view him in a similar light as John McCain. Meanwhile, the current polls with Gov. Perry in the field is bearing that out — well, at least for now.

Recent Quinnipiac Poll: favorable, unfavorable, haven’t heard enough

  • Rick Perry: 22%, 23%, 55%
  • Mitt Romney: 36%, 27%, 35%
  • Michele Bachmann: 26%, 36%, 37%

Partisan wrangling and gridlock has been part of Washington for a long, long, time. What is new is the public’s awareness through the availability of information.

I remind Speaker Boehner that it is Week 34 of the Boehner-led House without a jobs bill. To quote Speaker Boehner, “Where are the jobs?”

Interesting Reads
Kathleen Parker on Rick Perry
Star Tribune (Twin Cities) on Michelle Bachmann
Kathleen Parker on a Political Diva
Relating Neanderthal Sex and the Immune System

Interesting Headlines I Saw this Week on The Onion
Failing US Economy No Reason to Stop Investing in Print Media, All Experts Agree
Charman Introduces New Disposable Toilet Paper
Neurosurgeon Gets Heckled from Observation Deck
Small Town UFO Scare Revealed to be Alien Hoax
Enraged Man Fails to Destroy TV

Other Real Headlines of Note
City Pays Band not to Perform
Man had Sex with Inflatable Pool Raft

On Potpourri
Thoughts and prayers to all those affected by Hurricane Irene.

Last weekend at the driving range, I used all my clubs to hit about 100 balls. My shoulder feels good enough that I can play. Unfortunately, my work project has extended through September. Well, subject to change.

College football starts this weekend – and schools continue to demonstrate (in a variety of ways) that it is all about dollars! Meanwhile, I’m hoping at least one of my schools will have a winning record – but that could be a long shot.

Earlier this week I saw an image that amazed me – an aerial view of rice fields in China’s Yunnan province. Check out this Google Images search result.

Using headlines from last week about the new Martin Luther King Memorial, the following words touch me: Mountain, justice, equality, freedoms, respect, hope, quality, transcending, compassion, dignity, and rights.

I appreciate this closing statement from EJ Dionne:
We have rendered Dr. King safe so we can honor him. But we should honor him because he did not play it safe. He urged us to break loose from “the paralyzing chains of conformity.” Good advice in every generation — and hard advice, too.

In the words of Garrison Keillor: Be well, do good works, and stay in touch.

On a Philosophical Washington

With the recent budget discussion in our rear-view mirror and with seemingly more difficult budget discussions in the days ahead, political pundits on both sides are making their case about who won the last round, who has the upper hand for future discussion, and so on.

Hmmm. President Obama appoints a budget commission that releases a report that he neither endorsed or condemned. Then, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) releases a budget that is probably from a conservative think-tank that promotes the GOP. Of course, we also have the Gang of Six believing they can develop a compromising budget in a partisan atmosphere.

President Obama wants Congress to raise the debt ceiling, something that he voted against as a senator. As the GOP continues to portray itself as budget hawks, they continue to fail to accept the responsibility for the 2000-2006 deficit growth. Yet the Democrats attempt to be rational cutters while failing to own up to their spending habits.

I say – blah, blah, blah. As Washington attempts to give the public the impression they are working toward finding a solution, let us remember that their primary concern is their re-election bids and their party’s bankroll.  The majority of Americans want our national government to seek meaningful solution, yet Washington continues to be all about the party  – thus delivering the message that playing politics is paramount to delivering solution.

What if they made an effort to think, discuss, listen, and work toward meaningful solutions? What if Washington took a philosopher’s approach to problem solving? Then again, just as in this gathering of famous philosophers, the outcome still produced winners, losers, and disputes.

On Federal Employment

Federal employment has received considerable attention of late, so now is a good time for this post.

In an August David Broder (Washington Post) (a columnist I appreciate) stated the DoD Secretary Robert Gates’ and his plan to trim department spending would trickle down through other departments. In this time of a soaring Washington deficit, political campaigns are full of the popular rhetoric to reduce spending and the deficit. Even the Republican’s Pledge to America promotes imposing a net hiring freeze on non-security federal employees.

Let me be the first to reminder everyone that we have heard this before; and, many of those spouting this philosophy are the very incumbents causing the problem. Nonetheless, the issue of federal employment is worth examining.

I have always said that inefficient government has one big advantage – employment. The U.S. government employees over 2 million people, so just think how many people would be unemployed if government was more efficient. Like many issues, one can find the “rest of the story” and potential answers in the demographics.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management publishes The Fact Book: Federal Civilian Workforce Statistics (last published in 2007). Here are two prominent numbers about the Federal workforce: Average age is in the mid-40s, and over 70% of Federal employees are over 40. In other words, the Federal workforce is an old lot … and all this with 2006 employment numbers.

First, the GOP pledge’s “a net hiring freeze.” In other words, no new workers in new positions, but, replace the ones who retire. How is that going to reduce spending?

Second, whether Secretary Gates or any other department/agency head, are they going to lay off workers as they approach retirement?

Third, with the sudden “concern” about the deficit, federal employment is being scrutinized. With so man impending retirements, is this a good time to freeze employment?

Pragmatists (as me) see numbers are in place for a natural reduction in force across the federal government. For example, as personnel retire over the next 10 years, all departments will replace three retirees with two replacements – so plan accordingly. Heck, maybe having fewer workers would force the Feds to become more efficient.

Who is making the most sense? What do you think?

On Double Standards and Deficits

Presumably, our elected representations are facing voter anger. Presumably, American voters are tired of Washington’s inability to reduce the federal deficit. With the possibility of majority changes in one or both Capitol Hill chambers, the news is running rampant with various polls regarding the upcoming election. My take – what a bunch of crap!

All of the House of Representatives’ 435 seats are on the upcoming ballot. As analysts focus on the 100 or so seats that are up for grabs, 335 are safe. On the Senate side, voters will determine the fate of 37 seats; the majority of incumbents are safe. If voters are angry and fed up with our elected representation, why will the majority of incumbents get re-elected? Obviously, voters must be fed up with others representatives rather than their own.

Deficits, a 40-year trend, occur when expenses exceed income. I firmly believe that voters believe that our elected officials need to get control on the spending. The real point of contention is finding agreement of where to cut the expenses while determining how much. Even without special interest influence, what is good for some is probably bad for others. In other words, who is to sacrifice?

As extending the Bush tax cuts remains a current debate, one fact remains fixed: taxes are the major source of government income. Republicans love the cut taxes mantra, but would you go to your boss asking for a cut in pay if you were operating a personal deficit?

Interesting, conservatives are now Great Britain’s party in power. Although they do not have a majority, conservative leadership is approaching their deficit with a novel two-prong approach: cut expenses and raise taxes. Besides these recent columns by Ruth Marcus and David Broder, seems I mentioned this approach in October 2008 in relationship to the Obama-McCain campaigns. Thus, I continue to maintain that much of America wants leadership capable of making tough decisions that are contrary to campaign rhetoric and party ideology.

On Economic Shorts

On the Budget Debt
Basic economics teaches that an important role of government is to stimulate the economy during down times through investment. Although this ideal supports the current approach by the Democratic Congress and President Obama, the fact that the previous administration and a Congress (controlled by both parties during that time) miserably failed to control spending; thus creating our current quagmire. Thank you Washington! As all of you point fingers to each other, don’t forget about the three fingers pointing to yourself.

On the Global Financial Crises
David Brooks has an interesting perspective on the current economic/financial situation.

On the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
Both parties cite CBO statistics to make their point. Since they cite the same source and even the same report, isn’t the misleading nature of selective use of numbers obvious? Nonetheless, I’ve added a CBO link to the sidebar Resources so you can check for yourself.

On Congress & AIG
In reaction to the public outrage against recent AIG bonuses, the House of Representatives grandstands by passing a retroactive bill aimed at reclaiming much of the money. Regardless of its constitutionality, how would the public respond to retroactive tax increases? Nonetheless, the reactionary nature of the House continues as a demonstration of their ineptness. Columnist Thomas Friedman provides a good read.

On “I Quit”
For anyone who hasn’t seen this, here’s the resignation letter from an AIG executive.

On Linking Bailouts and Education
This is a brilliant letter to the editor from the 3/21/09 Cincinnati Enquirer.

I saw this bailout mania germinating years ago when schools became academies of collectivism and reward our little darlings regardless of how they actually performed. Effort was equated to excellence, and self-esteem was deemed a more important educational end point than achievement.
After a few decades of crowding the workplace with this faulty ethos, it should no one that bailouts are the best solution. They tried their best, just as we taught them; so let’s grade them an “A” for effort and “B” for bailout. Paul B

On a Final Thought
Economic turnarounds are naturally slow, thus not as easy as using a light switch. In the shadow of continued economic struggles, Congress will begin budget debates very soon. Odds are the following will happen:

  • Democrats and Republicans won’t agree
  • Moderates will be dodging bullets from the left, the right, the progressives, the pragmatics, and whatever the labels
  • Partisan posturing gets the priority over searching for meaningful solutions 

The most toxic assests in Washington remains to be the members of Congress and the special-interest conglomerates known as the Democratic and Republican Parties. By seeking and practicing party-first solutions, Congress continues to emulate Nero playing the fiddle while the fire rages across our country instead of Rome.