Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 292

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Last Saturday I watched much of Justice Scalia’s funeral. I’m amazed by the strength of his son – Paul, a Catholic priest – in leading service and delivering the homily at the funeral for his father. He brilliantly wove theology and life together … a WOW … what a beautiful church! (Click for Google Images.)

That once-every-four-years day is approaching. Here’s an explanation of why February gets the extra day in a leap year.

This blog passed on odd milestone earlier this week … 66,666 comments.

Here’s is your chance to make Cincinnati Chili.

Last weekend I saw a great video segment on HLN (CNN companion station) presenting both sides of the argument regarding Apple unlocking the iPhone of a deceased terrorist. Unfortunately, I can’t find it!

Last Friday I took my wife and her sister to the airport so they could begin their week of cruising for the fifth consecutive year. Yep – my Bachelor Week is nearing the end. For my week, I had three things to accomplish: 1) Takes them to the airport, 2) pick them up at the airport, and 3) have the house cleaned when they return.

Some wonder, want did you do? I ballroom danced, wrote a few blog posts, stayed up later but not sleeping as well, did my volunteering (dancing with seniors, dancing with Downs, and ESL tutoring), danced again, attended handbell rehearsal, had a dance lesson, participated in our Lenten journey small group, painted walls in one area, danced some more, attended a group dance class, did the usual Wednesday laundry, prepared the tax materials to our accountant (delivery is based on his schedule), cleaned the house, worked on designing a wall project, and squeezed in  some time to dance … so I can work on leading.

For Act 3: Yellow of Colors: The Musical, readers brought forth quite the array of over 30 songs! A tip of the cap to all! Special thanks to Dale for excellent Maitre D’ work … plus keep your eye on the Hear Ye page.

There will be an Explore this weekend about a person, place, or thing …

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Interesting time – Data out of California indicates a growing number of registered independents.

A question for Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT). How do you implement your vision if Republicans control one or both of the Capitol Hill chambers?

My post (On the Court) earlier in the week regarding a forthcoming nominee to the US Supreme Court created interesting comments – and some were very predictable. Therefore, I pose these questions: How different would my post have been if a conservative justice other than Justice Scalia died? How different would the post have been if a liberal justice died?

Whereas Republicans as Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) use past quotes by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Vice President Joe Biden (D-NY) to justify delaying the confirmation process of a Supreme Court nominee, these are prime examples of the positions politicians take is a matter, place, and convenience – thus they are willing to wear the others shoes when it fits the narrative that meets their needs at that time. I take the contrary view – I oppose McConnell and Grassley today as much as Schumer and Biden then. As a matter of fact, I can say they are flat-out wrong.

My senator (Rob Portman, R-OH)  responded to my contact with a form letter containing an unacceptable answer. Good job at working to lose a supporter during an election year.

The candidate from my state, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) , made a faux pas comment on the campaign trail this week. A big deal to some, no more than a blip for me. Personally, his signature to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio was much bigger news.

Although Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is declaring himself the alternative to Mr. Trump, his road to the nomination is the most difficult.

I enjoy when the morning news recaps comedic comments from the late-night hosts regarding the presidential candidates. After all, laughing is so important.

Although the Republican field is dwindling, one aspect that is important to me is noticing who supports each of the candidates … especially when the field was larger.

Oh my … The Onion reported a leather-clad Ted Cruz campaigned at a fetish club. (Beware of image)

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To lead you into your weekly dose of satire, The Onion provides timely tips for hosting an Oscars party.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)
Pizza slice has only one pepperoni
Caffeine bracelet acts as coffee substitute
Takeout burrito shielded from cold as though it were week-old newborn
Nation’s elderly hit hard by closing automatic doors
Vatican City residents rally to save St. Peter’s Basilica from development

Interesting Reads
Global smartphone ownership and Internet use
The GOP nomination and the party rules
Columnist David Ignatius on a high-tech military (Thanks Tim)
Another reason for the Easter Island mystery
Naming elements
Design plans after the Great Fire of 1666
(Pictures) Corners

It’s a 2-fer to send you into the weekend – a leftover from Act 3 and one with an appropriate title for the upcoming night to celebrate Oscar. Have a safe weekend and in the words of Garrison Keillor – Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On the U.S. Situation

I imagine most Americans are tired of the news about Congress and its antics regarding shutdown and sequester. I also imagine the rest of the world is a bit annoyed as well. Therefore, it’s time to do some basic informing.

The Facts
1) According to the US Constitution, Congress (not the President/Executive Branch) is responsible for fiscal matters, including the budget. Because of the balance of powers in the Constitution, the President can sign or veto the budget bill passed by Congress.

2) According to the US Constitution, the government can operate at a debt, which it has been since the mid 1970s. This is something that many (if not most or even all) state and municipal constitutions do not allow. For the record, the biggest holder of US debt is the US Government itself – not China.

3) Debt and deficit are different, but related. The negative differential in one fiscal year between income and spending is the deficit, while the debt is the cumulative total of annual deficits.

4) Sequester was not a presidential mandate. As part of the Congress-passed, president-signed Budget Control Act of 2011, Congress agreed to form a Super Committee that would produce legislation to reduce the deficit by a fixed amount over ten years. Failure to reach an agreement would initiate pre-determined, automatic cuts known as sequestration.

5) The Super Committee failed in their task, and Congress continues to pass (and president signs) short-term legislation to delay sequestration and raising the debt ceiling – thus choosing to kick the can down the road rather than addressing the issue.

6) The debt ceiling allows government to pay for the bills for goods and services that the government has already authorized to spend. Because the government would still have income, failing to raise the debt ceiling forces the government to prioritize payments (as long as money exists to pay).

Commentary
Although polls have the darkest clouds hanging over Republicans, favorable ratings are not brightly shining on Democrats and President Obama. In the end, US lawmakers are skirting their responsibility of governing for the citizens in favor of the selfishness of their party and themselves. Members will evade, distort, deceive, intentionally misinform, and even lie to get their way. Each party targets certain budgetary items and protects others. Each party has its members firmly in line with a party-first mantra.

The Founding Fathers designed a system with differences from our European forefathers and one involving a separation of powers to prevent one-party domination. Although the majority rules in government, governing involves the majority giving something to the minority as part of the final deal – and that same minority willing to take what they can get.

Currently, this is unquestionably not happening. Partisan lawmakers believe all answers lie within their philosophy while the other party has nothing to offer. Creative problem solving that looks outside of both boxes has no chance.

I fret a future election cycle when one party controls the White House and both sides of Capitol Hill because the stage is set for a strong overreach that forces the party’s values upon all. Given the current climate, the question isn’t if, but when.

On a Pathetic Lot

Simply put – as a collective, those occupying the hallowed halls of the US Congress are, at best, a very pathetic lot. I’m not going to call them clowns because I recognize both the viciousness and the shrewdness involved, so pathetic remains a suitable adjective.

We elect members to the House of Representatives on two-year terms – thus they make selfish decisions in light of their upcoming re-election bid that is always just around the corner.

We elect members to Congress who make decisions based on their needs, their party’s needs, and their donor’s needs – with the country’s needs no more than a selective sound bite.

We elect members to Congress who get outstanding financial support from special interests, so the elected legislate to the needs of the donors. Open Secrets is a great resource about campaign donors, PACs, and lobbying.

We elect members to Congress who fail to accept responsibility – just listen to them for proof.

We elect members to Congress who use their position to secure their next job. Not all, after all, but this applies to too many.

We elect members to Congress who get favors from the law for which is illegal for private citizens – such as insider trading.

We elect members to Congress so they (as a body) can determine their leadership based on their fund-raising ability for the party.

We elect members to Congress who regularly speak to financial accountability but regard Congress’s own operating budget as a well-guarded secret.

We elect members to Congress who are not the problem because it’s those from the other districts and states.

Meanwhile, with most of 2012 lying ahead, do not expect much from Congress in 2012 for this reason – both parties are rolling the dice with hopes of gaining power from the November vote so they can drive their agenda. Yes, they are truly pathetic.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 124

On Politics
Rick Perry’s candidacy ended several days before I thought it would.

With all the Republicans rage able President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone Pipeline, why is the Republican governor of Nebraska wanting a re-route for he would approve?

Very interesting that instead of losing the Iowa caucus by 8 votes, Rick Santorum won by 32 votes. Better yet, where as the Iowa Republican Party previously declared Mitt Romney the winner, the party now calls it a virtual tie. Ah yes … consider this an example that the power is not in the voters, but with the ones counting the votes.

Governor Romney changing from declaring victory to promoting a virtual tie is another example of fuzzy math. No wonder he is reluctant to release his tax returns.

Yippee … Congress is back in session!

Thursday morning I heard Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) explain (regarding SOPA) that the legislation will likely not proceed as quickly because “it is important for us to get it right.” Sorry Senator, that’s what I always expect and have no confidence in Capitol Hill to do that on any issue.

State of the Union is next week and a great chance for our senators and representatives to make asses of themselves on national television. Try sitting and listening for a change without partisan interruptions you jackwagons.

On Headlines from The Onion
Mischievous Raccoon Wreaks Havoc on International Space Station
Pervert Thinks You Seem Tense
Supreme Court Overturns Right v. Wrong
Poll Finds Americans Open to Third Type of Screwdriver
Local Woman Dies of Lost Cell Phone
Justin Timberlake Wins Golden Globe for Funniest Goofball at His Table

Special Edition: On Political Headlines from The Onion
President Obama Wonders Why He Always has to Initiate Phone Call with NCAA Champions
Minnesota Braces for Return of Bachmann’s Full Attention
Tentacle Quickly Smooths Romney’s Hair
Grover Norquist Admits Engaging in Week-Long Drug-Fueled Orgy with Corporate Income Taxes
Critics Slam Obama for “Just Standing There” during Photo Op
Congress Gets 12 Solid Hours of Gridlock before Calling it a Day

On Potpourri
We have our first nominee for 2012 Dolt of the Year – Costa Concordia Captain Francisco Schettino.

Last Monday, many commented that they still enjoy holding a book. In a similar thought, I still enjoy holding a newspaper. Unfortunately, many newspapers are a mere shell of their past. On the plus side, the Internet allows many news outlets to be a click away. Because I still have the urge to hold a good newspaper and with the Cincinnati Enquirer continually getting smaller and smaller, I have purchased the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal.

The work project his hitting the fan, thus will be demanding many hours for a few months. So far, I’ve been able to keep up with posts, replying to comments has been slow, and visiting others has been minimal. Starting next week, I will cut back to three posts per week. Thanks for everyone’s patience and understanding.

In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On Clarifying the Line

I admittedly get caught up in the rhetoric coming from the mouths in Congress, so I keep reminding myself that some it is simply the political gamesmanship. I recall Senator Orin Hatch telling the story of the late Senator Ted Kennedy (and his close friend) coming to him after a rousing Senate floor speech and asking, “How did I do?”

Although the Tea Party folks, Jimmy Hoffa (on Labor Day), and other partisans spew their side through red-meat diatribes, I continue to maintain that elected officials should be above the fray. There is a fine line between playing politics and being obnoxious and unnecessary or even worse – disrespectful. It wasn’t long after President Obama took office that Republican Senator Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated (and repeated several times since) that he would do everything he could to limit President Obama to one-term. No, not gamesmanship. No, not disrespectful – but yes, obnoxious and unnecessary.

For examples of disrespectful we can look to elected officials as Rep Joe Walsh (R-IL) for calling President Obama an idiot; or to Rep Joe Wilson (R-SC) for his “you lie” outburst during the State of the Union; or to Rep Paul Broun (R-GA) calling President Obama a socialist. Yes, I called out Rep Maxine Waters (D-CA) for her go-to-hell comment, and I am sure anyone can find disrespectful comments made about President Bush by an elected Democrat.

Meanwhile, I did not have any problem with Vice President Biden’s comment at an organized labor event on Labor Day in Cincinnati when he said, “You (union members) are the only folks keeping the barbarians at the gate.”

Nor did I have issue with this response by local Rep Steve Chabot (R-OH), “The Vice President was here in Cincinnati Monday to address the AFL-CIO at their annual Labor Day Picnic. His contribution to civility was referring to Republicans as barbarians at the gate. Now I’m not sure if the Vice President was comparing us poor conservatives to Huns, Mongols, Visigoths, Vandals, or which specific barbarians, but I’m quite sure he didn’t mean it as a compliment.”

I continue to believe that elected leaders should be above the fray, thus disrespectful comments have no place at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. While disagreements and gaming are part of their culture and process, the infusion of reality-show-in-your-face mentality is not an example of patriotism, but simply one example of our lost national sensibility and vanishing sense of humanity. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Avenue will continue to do their thing while also wondering why people have so little confidence in the economy.

On Some Economic Questions

The US economy is mired in a slump, the European economic crisis add to the woes, and Americans are wondering, “Jobs, jobs, jobs – where art thou job.” Americans have lost over 8 million jobs, yet the economy has created on 2.5 million since the upturn.

For starters, the private sector (not the public sector) is the main job source in a capitalist economy. No matter if consumers are individuals or corporate, increased consumer demand for goods and services is the main fuel for hiring and investment. In other words, regardless of all the partisan talk, government can only do so much. Therefore, it is time to ask some questions.

Reducing payroll taxes for employees increases the money available to workers, but what if workers save more because of the uncertainties in their life?

Tax credits to companies hiring those unemployed for 6 months is a noble thought, but this would primarily fill a vacant existing position – thus not a new job. Do you think any company would create a steady stream of hire-to-fire so can get more credits?

Why should a company expand payroll if their demand for the good or service has not increased?

With demand driving growth, how do reduced regulations increase demand?

Companies are achieving more with less, and are using offshore workers to lower costs. Even with the GOP talking points of lower taxes, less regulations, loosened lending practices, and increased demand, what guarantee do the taxpayers have that the companies will invest in American workers?

A strong financial sector is the foundation for a capitalist economy. With a large reason for our economic troubles directly aimed at the roulette nature of the financial industry and their pseudo-promotion of the housing industry, how can returning to the less-regulated casino environment be good for the economy?

If the housing/building industry drives the demand for much of the economy, what is the plan to stimulate this industry?

Taxes decreases must increase revenue to federal, state, and local governments. What if they don’t?

Infrastructure projects increase the demand for materials while putting more people to work, which also returns money in the form of tax withholdings. However, where/what is the funding source for this investment – and at the expense of doing without what?

Do our leaders construct trade agreements to increase demand?

We have a federal government struggling with the opposing forces of deficit reduction and stimulating demand by providing aid to financially struggling public sectors in order to help local public workers keep their job. Of course, one’s position directly correlates with a concern about the next election.

Meanwhile, as consumers drive demand, three main factors act as significant forces acting on their psychology: high unemployment, a depressed housing market, and a political atmosphere consuming all the oxygen in the room with their battle between the inept, the misguided, and the knowledgeable choosing to be inept or misguided.

With another round of budget ideology ahead of a September 30th deadline, count on Washington lowering not only consumer confidence, but the confidence of the business and banking sectors, thus promoting consumers, businesses, and lending institutions to keep more money on the sidelines.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 79

On the BCS
The BCS announced their bowl pairings, and the non-BCS affiliated bowls did the same. Blah blah blah. Regardless what BSC head Bill Hancock states, the BCS system has little to nothing to do with determining a national champion, and everything to do with revenue. The BCS is a cartel working to protect the financial interest of its members by locking in a significant portion of the bowl venue to the members. It is that simple.

On the Palin Wonder
Part of me has always thought that Sarah Palin stays in the news because of the money gained – thus nothing to do with running for the White House. Now that Kate + 8 Gosslin is to appear on the TLC show, that helps solidify that thought – thus Mama Grizzly and all her anger continue to smile all the way to the bank.

On Capitol Hill Shorts

  • Congress is currently in their lame duck session. At least in January they can return to just lame.
  • Alas – the Republicans extending unemployment benefits must mean they are socialists.
  • Speaking of the latest news from Washington, I appreciate this New York Times article.

On the Latest Theme Park
The Cincinnati area had Big Butter Jesus, which burnt to the ground in minutes after a lightning strike; BUT the church will replace it with something bigger. (My take on the burning.) On the other side of the Ohio River offers the Creation Museum, whose parent organization recently announced its intention to build a creation theme park with a huge ark. Oh boy … and in the spirit of Sonny and Cher, the beat goes on.

An addendum: Just discovered this free program at Evolutionary Christianity.

On Just Imagine
This past Wednesday marked the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. Wow – to think he would now be 70. I invite you to stimulate your brain with this post by Al at 2012.

On a Classic Exit
Thank you Elizabeth Edwards for showing death with dignity – and you are at peace.

On a Simple Gifts of Handbells
Many of us associated Simple Gifts, the classic Shaker tune, with the current holiday season. Obviously, many arrangements exist Here is the one our handbell choir is playing this weekend, which includes a lively section.

On a Classic Angle
I must admit that one of my secret dreams is to be a traffic cop at a grocery store. Oh no, not in the parking lot, but inside the store because too many shoppers do not know how to operate a shopping card! Since this is the shopping season, this archived post is about a trip to the grocery store.

Have a safe weekend!