Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Hath They Wrought?

As expected, the $825,000,000,000 (give or take) American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1) passed the House today. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I think very little of this bill. And why is that?

Well, for starters...

  • $1 billion for Amtrak
  • $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts
  • $400 million for global warming research (no word on whether any of this will be directed to finding out why it snows every time Al Gore shows up to talk about climate change)
  • $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects
  • $150 million for the Smithsonian Institution
  • $6 billion for mass transit

That's all well and good, but how about...

  • $81 billion for Medicaid
  • $83 billion for Earned Income Credit payments
  • $66 billion for education (My guess: none of it will be spent to determine the efficacy of incredibly large federal block payments into state education programs. Actual truth: this money is prohibited from being used for vouchers.)
Are these new, incredibly large, payouts justified in any meaningful way?

Oh, and finally...
  • $30 billion for road/highway projects
  • $40 billion for other infrastructure projects
  • $20 billion for business tax cuts
And those three items are arguably the only payouts that will lead to any meaningful job creation. The rest seems like Democrats rewarding their donors to me.

(These are just a few of the items pointed out by the Wall Street Journal.)

Rather unexpectedly (at least to me), every Republican voted against this thing, including Michael McCaul and Lamar Smith (for people in my local area). Lloyd Doggett ignored my call pleading with him to vote against, unfortunately (but as I figured he would). Full rollcall vote is here.

My take on this bill: a disaster. I (like most of us, I would think) would like to see the economy improve, but I cannot believe that this bill will do it. I do, however, think that the Democrats will use this bill to take credit for the natural cycles that will turn this economy back into an upswing.

Unfairly Forgotten Song #4: Rush Hour by Jane Wiedlin

I still don't understand why some one-hit wonders get continual airplay ("Tainted Love", anyone?), while others are never heard again. Former Go-Go Jane Wiedlin falls into the latter category with her summer 1988 #9 hit, "Rush Hour".

I wonder if the song's lack of staying power had anything to do with the dolphin-heavy video seen here...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In Which I Eat a Mixture of Crow and My Own Words...To a Point

Recently a friend delivered a rebuke to me regarding my recent postings and their apparent discord. In my last two postings, I pretty much stated that President Obama benefits from a cult of personality, and then I said that I don't terribly appreciate the messages sent by several people (mostly the MSM) who said that we should all be not only happy about Obama's inauguration, but that there was basically no room for dissent. Like I said, President Bush had people protesting on his very first day. Whether that was a reaction to the lousy treatment some Republicans gave President Clinton or a boiling over of feelings about perceived injustices in the Florida debacle (and like my friend, I would prefer not to revisit that), it was nothing less than tacky.

So let's return to my friend's assertion. Is there a conflict in decrying boorish behavior from one side while pointing out what I believe to be a rather superficial reason why the leader of the other side inspires such loyalty? Perhaps, if my own behavior in doing so may be found to be boorish in and of itself, which makes the $64 question whether I was.

To be sure, many people were inspired by the optimism Barack Obama presented. I myself remarked on another forum in 2004 that Obama was like Bobby Kennedy in terms of his hopefulness. However, there are many people who never looked beyond his personality, or who went for Obama simply because Bush was blamed for everything that happened in the past eight years, deserved or not. It's those people to whom I referred with the video. These are people like Demi Moore, who said in this video, “I pledge to be a servant to our president and all mankind.” This type of sentiment was never directed toward President Bush, and to me it seems a little creepy. This movement appears to include a lot of people who posted on this site and told "the world" that those of us who thought Bush was a better president than Kerry would have been were, among other things, "witless", "bastards", "idiots", "blind", and much, much worse, and then tries to foment unity with those same people they slammed four years earlier. They came across as a movement which can't think for itself. Again, I don't refer to all Obama supporters in this manner, but a lot of them qualify. And yes, it ticks me off.

But was my referring to that movement as a cult of personality boorish and/or rude nonetheless? It probably was. Is it my place to repay rudeness in kind? I would hope not, but I did. The person I respect most once said, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." I definitely did not do that. Regardless of how I feel about it, it was not good form. So to my friend I say: do please accept my apologies for pretty much acting like a jerk. And call me on it again if it recurs. (And in addition, I will also acknowledge that a fair share of Sarah Palin's supporters belong to a similar cult of personality. In both cases, the actual policies of the cult's subject need to be examined; otherwise, you might be following the wrong person...)

With that said, what, then, should be the best way for me to act toward an administration with which I don't agree? Andy Levy has a pretty good list of how NOT to behave. The last item, I think, applies here:

DON’T use the fact that many on the left behaved abominably for the past eight years as an excuse to behave the same way. America needs adults. And if it bothered you when they did it, it’s a good sign that you shouldn’t do it.

Good grief, even I had a fairly good list of how to act in the current political climate. It's a pity I didn't follow my own advice.

And, as my list says, I do believe that policies and programs may be opposed, but Obama is my president. Romans 13:1-7 says "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." Does it mean I fall into lockstep with him? Of course not. But it does mean he deserves the honor of the office, whether or not somebody else (or, say, a whole group of somebodies) refused to give Bush similar treatment.

To expand on this: "submit" is not the same as "obey". Not all leaders deserve to be obeyed, certainly. (Robert Mugabe, for instance.) A rethinking of the Christian response to civil government may be found here. It's worth pondering.

In the meantime, it is time that I started doing a bit more measuring of my own words. And it is time to be more responsible--not because of Obama, because God expects it of me.

(All biblical quotations are taken from the NIV. All copyrights acknowledged.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Eight Years Ago...

Whatever happened to "dissent is patriotic"? Look, I don't agree with his policies, and I will speak out about them if I believe they are leading the country in the wrong direction.

I assume all these people wanting everyone to be all sunshiny happy about today would also have told off these people on 1/20/01:
George W. Bush's motorcade lurched through the largest inaugural protests since Richard Nixon on Saturday, enduring thousands of protesters who hurled insults, bottles, tomatoes and an egg.

(source: "Inaugural protests biggest since 1973", Tulsa World, January 21, 2001)

Yes, he is my president. Yes, I'm praying for him, and for this country. No, I'm not terribly thrilled at present.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dave Ramsey on GMA

Good Morning America featured Dave Ramsey this morning talking about getting out of debt. The video is currently featuring on the GMA home page. Go check it out.

Update 2/26/09: For more Dave Ramsey on GMA, look here.

Follow My Progress at NCN

As I continue to catch up on all the stuff I haven't been posting recently (darn that day job), I have some happy news...I've joined the No Credit Needed Network, a site where people can post their progress at either saving money or eliminating debt. Being myself basically in Dave Ramsey's Baby Step Two, I get to track my debt payoff. You can see it in the pie chart at right (presently 60.94% paid off).

Better still, head over to NCN and check it out for yourself. Go subscribe to the NCN blog. Start your own chart and get yourself out of debt, or save up for retirement (really, do you think Social Security will still be around? I don't.).

For me, the biggest upside at this point is that I am not nearly as concerned about the current recession as a lot of people. My budget is in balance, I'm still getting debt paid off, and that particular stress is gone from the Snowed family's marriage.

A Guess As To Who Won't Be Buying the Statesman

A few months ago, I had seen comments (as this entry states) at from people who expressed hope that McClatchy would buy the American-Statesman from Cox. At this point, I'm ready to say that I don't believe that this will happen.

McClatchy (per 2008 up-and-coming blog finalist McClatchy Watch) apparently has its own problems at present. First of all, it is selling a large daily (the Miami Herald) itself, with similar results as Cox has had. The Herald just raised its prices in an effort to stay afloat, but there is speculation that it will eventually be merged into another paper.

In the meantime, in an era when many conservatives, right or wrong (and I believe they're mostly right) are seeing a lot of biased media*, one McClatchy paper, the Anchorage Daily News, has spent way too much time and resources trying to paint Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in the least favorable light possible. McClatchy Watch links to a couple of e-mail exchanges that the ADN editor decided to make public, and the comments appear to support him overwhelmingly. With that said, I believe most of the comments are by rabid liberals parroting the same talking points over and over (to which I say: Sarah Palin is not a moron, and she is not a bimbo. Is she perfect? No, and I haven't forgotten my promise to Mike "M1EK" Dahmus that I intend to write in depth about her at some point. But in the meantime, note that almost none (if any) of the commenters bother to debate actual policies.)

My point in all this: McClatchy is hemorrhaging subscribers, as are a lot of newspapers. They are not going to be the saviors of the Statesman.

*Sure, dissenters, use Fox News as your counterargument. I'll concede it to a point. Does it really cancel out every other form of media? Its bias doesn't even match that of MSNBC at this point.

Time Warner Cable Expects Loss

The Austin Business Journal reports that Time Warner Cable Inc. plans to write off $15 billion in charges related to franchise fees, which will result in a loss for 2008. A few commenters at the site wonder if this will lead to yet another Time Warner price hike for Austin subscribers. I know basic rates just went up in November, but it does not appear that digital did. Could a digital rate increase be on the horizon?

A telling paragraph from the ABJ article:
Time Warner Cable two months ago projected its third quarter was stronger than expected, adding that revenue growth in 2008 would be slightly less than forecast because fewer customers were signing up for the company’s services.
One wonders whether this has anything to do with their PR nightmare of a last year.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Dear Crockett HS Parents...

I think the family members of most Crockett High School students are pretty good drivers. However, with that said, there are definitely exceptions, and to those people, I offer this free advice:

Manchaca Road is a really bad place to stop to let off your kid. This is especially true when the school zone is not in operation. You may have noticed that there are convenient parking lots located directly off Manchaca into which you may turn. Please avail yourself of the opportunity to do so.

Your fellow drivers would appreciate it.