Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Independent By Choice

"They [political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community"

This quote from none other than George Washington perfectly summarizes my opinions of political parties. They are by nature divisive and self serving, which is why I refuse to join any. As I've stated before, for almost 25 years I've registered to vote as an independent, or as California puts it, "Decline to State." This does not mean I won't vote for anyone who is not running as an independent. I've crossed party lines more often than not, basing my vote on the candidate. And if in a particular race I do not care for any of the candidates, I'll write in "None of the above."

If political parties must exist, I would prefer to see three viable parties instead of the current morass of only two. With three parties of more or less equal representation, there would have to be compromise, statesmanship, and negotiation to get things done. With only two parties, it is too easy for one or the other to gain too much power and shut the other one out. This is what happened with the Republicans under George Bush, and now the Democrats are looking for payback. And who suffers? The American people.

The economy is a disaster, and the poorly thought out, pork ridden stimulus package is not the answer. I can speak as a government employee for 34 years, that depending on the government to solve our problems is not a good idea. While the vast majority of government workers are intelligent and dedicated, they have the luxury of knowing most of what they do will be funded, and their paychecks will always be there no matter what. This is why I always set artificial deadlines to keep myself motivated. If I missed one there would have been few consequences. But that went against all my ethics.

But for almost every other citizen, there is the pressure of if their business or employers do not do well, there are no paychecks. Period. That unfortunately still hasn't stopped greedy CEO's from raking in millions as their companies lay off thousands of employees. For the rest, who do not have golden parachutes, there is the fear of if they'll even have a job the next week.

So what is the answer? I honestly don't know. Stricter government oversight to regulate predatory loan policies would help, though it's a little late now. Helping those truly in need, for example, someone recently laid off from work who is falling behind on their mortgage, (fixed rate only, anyone who took out an ARM gets what they deserve), is a good start. Regulating lending practices is another thing that should be done. Loans for energy research and production is another worthy goal, but for energy production that actually works. Solar and wind are expensive, inefficient and impractical on a large scale. France generates 76% of their electricity from nuclear plants with an excellent safety record. Granted more research needs to be done on handling nuclear waste, but the French realize that and are doing much in that regard.

But dumping $781 billion dollars that must be borrowed from not always friendly foreign nations on questionable projects? That brings out the cynic and skeptic in me. President Obama is understandably under tremendous pressure to do something. But I would prefer a more cautious approach.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Domestic doings

Summer in south Texas is comparable to the third circle of Hades, a delight if you are in air conditioner sales, but sucks if you are outside otherwise in the middle of the day. Coming from the temperate Bay Area, this coming summer will be a major adjustment for me. One thing in my favor is having lived through several summers in Washington, DC, another place where you wonder if from June through September there is a living creature outdoors. DC doesn't get quite as hot as the Houston area, but the humidity is as miserable.

Fortunately, Fall, winter and Spring are generally pleasant down here, and you take advantage of the nice weather whenever possible. So Sunday morning my wife and I decided to do some gardening. Our back yard has a sound wall with sod planted up to the wall itself. My wife, who has a green thumb, (mine is only green if I'm getting sloppy with a project involving green paint), laid down several rolls of a special paper that will smother a strip of grass before the wall, then we dumped pine bark mulch on top. She had already planted several bushes, one grape vine, (my idea, CalTex Vineyards has to start somewhere), and a Crepe Myrtle.

For a border, we decided to used the leftover stones used for part of the facing on the house. The builders left these stacked in the garage where they were just taking up space. Jayne unfortunately tweaked her back pretty badly, so it was my job to handle the stones. Fortunately we have a rolling cart the stones could be piled in. Unfortunately, they weigh a ton... each. But I finally got them out, and arranged, trying not to have a tantrum when Jayne wanted a few moved to make the arrangement more symmetrical.

The result is terrific though. But I was having a flashback, wondering if in a previous life I was a laborer building one of the great Pyramids. I had a brief vision of Charlton Heston saying, "I may only be a slave now, but my God will rescue his people and smite thee, then He will part the Red Sea and let us escape, then make the sea drown Pharaoh's warriors. And it will be written I will win an Academy Award, then become head of the NRA and pray at the altar of Smith and Wesson."

Anyway, I certainly got my workout, and the amount and weight of the stones I moved will of course be growing the more I talk about it. But next weekend, no moving of anything, except for ourselves to the airport. We're going to Florida for a couple of days, so I can meet more members of Jayne's family. She has an aunt and uncle there she is close to, plus her parents will be there. I am glad this is not hurricane season, as Georges chased me out of Florida in 1998. But I am checking the forecasts from the National Hurricane Center just to be safe.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What He Wishes He Could Say

I caught part of President Obama's press conference tonight. Part of it was pushing his stimulus plan, (something that could smother us with all the pork written in). He was then asked about talks with Iran. This of course is a country run by narrow minded religious zealots with their loudmouth puppet President, Ahmadinejad being their public face. I was surprised at Obama's answer. Not so much what he said, but how he seemed lost as to what to say and was far from articulate. That had me wondering, he may have been trying to sound diplomatic, something a President must strive towards, and was afraid of saying the wrong thing. So just for fun, I imagined a press conference where the President is allowed to say what he really feels:

Mr. President, what do you intend to do about Iran? Will you still talk to them?
First we'll nuke them back to the Stone Age, then convert the survivors to Scientology. After that we can have a little chat with them.
Mr. President, when the Republicans had the majority in the House and Senate, and controlled the White House, there were many complaints about partisanship. Now that the Democrats are in charge, will there be a change to bipartisanship?
Paybacks a bitch, isn't it?
Mr. President, how well are you working with Nancy Pelosi?
And they called Bush dumb?
What will you do about global warming, sir?
Folks in the Midwest want it to hurry up and get here.
Mr. President, how would you view our relationship with the press so far?
Next question, jackass.
Mr. President, your brother-in-law is the men's basketball coach at Oregon State. Any chance the two of you could play a little one on one at halftime of a game?
Sure, just as soon as I can convince him Kobe Bryant and Lebron James really are part of my Secret Service detail and have to be on the court with me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bit Of A Political Rant

I have to give President Obama credit for admitting he "screwed up" in not forcing Tom Daschle to withdraw his bid to be secretary of Health and Human Services. But it was bothersome Obama kept saying beforehand that he "absolutely stood by" Daschle despite his serious tax evasion issues. Loyalty is a commendable attribute. Daschle has long been an Obama supporter, and Obama felt he owed support in turn to his friend. However, to be President also means there are times feelings of loyalty must be set aside, and without reservation.

This was an issue during the campaign when Obama waited a very long time before distancing himself from his hate spewing minister Jeremiah Wright. As President one has to be ruthless and make hard decisions without being afraid of offending someone, even someone who has been a loyal associate for a long time. Perhaps Obama can learn when he needs to be ruthless, but I'm afraid he is too nice for his own good.

In an earlier blog, I wrote how I wrote in "None of the Above" as my choice for President during the last election. I saw John McCain as a man who had served his country well and honorably, who was perfectly suited for the Senate, but not inspiring the confidence of leadership I want in a President. Obama came off as also perfectly suited for the Senate, and the type of guy you'd love for a next door neighbor. But his lack of decisiveness in the Jeremiah Wright case took him out of the running in my book.

I am registered as an Independent, and have been so for the last twenty five years. I rarely vote for the major parties as they are both incompetent and corrupt to the core. Unfortunately, the political system in this country makes it nearly impossible for a viable third party, preferably one close to the center instead of liberal or conservative, can exist. This means many of my votes are protest votes, something that I will continue.

Obama may learn on the job and be an effective leader, but he is handicapped by an economy in freefall, and having to deal with some of the well entrenched characters in Washington. At the top of that list is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. To say she's as dumb as a box of rocks means feeling obliged to apologize to every rock I see. My favorite sayings of hers are how we need to "Use more natural gas and get off fossil fuels," (hey doofus, natural gas IS a fossil fuel), and how she wants her congressional committees to have "More women and minorities." So whatever happened to just selecting the best people no matter their race or gender? I have reservations over some of Obama's appointees, but he has selected some good ones, and without regard for filling some type of feel good quota.

It's going to be an interesting four years.