Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Is it a GOP comeback? Or lesser of two evils?

It's an interesting trend, but if people are merely voting against the Democrats by voting Republican, then the GOP had best not get over-confident, by trying to count their chickens before they've hatched:


G.O.P. Envisions Northeast Comeback
[...] The independents who swing New England elections abandoned the party as the Bush era drew to a close. They were in revolt over the war in Iraq, the struggling economy and the strong strain of Southern social conservatism that was dominating national Republican politics. It was crushing for the remaining Republicans in a section of the country that once saw itself as the foundation of the party.

But Republicans see Mr. Brown’s win — and an earlier victory in the New Jersey governor’s race — as evidence that independents are moving back their way, a possible harbinger of good things to come.

[...]

But they should not get too far ahead of themselves. They still face difficult challenges in most of those states, given Democratic demographic advantages. And off-year and special election Republican victories in Democratic territory offer no certainty of winning in the more heavily contested midterm elections, with their accompanying greater turnout. Also, ideological divisions being exhibited in primaries in Connecticut and New Hampshire in particular could ultimately cost Republicans.

Still, they have reason to be optimistic after being nearly wiped off New England’s political map. One reason is that the current national political fight is centering more on the economic issues that are part of the fabric of New England political ideology, rather than the divisive social issues that can drive less conservative Republicans away from the party.

“What’s fueling the resurgence of Northern Republicans is public anger over the economy and an impression among New England voters that ‘big government’ is back with a vengeance,” said Bob Stevenson, a former senior Senate Republican aide who has long worked in New England politics. “New Englanders tend to believe in fiscal restraint, self-rule and self-sufficiency.”

The addition of even a few moderate Republicans to the Senate could change the dynamic in that institution. Conservatives are so dominant now that Ms. Collins and Ms. Snowe face intense pressure to vote with their party, particularly after they broke ranks to provide the crucial votes to pass the economic stimulus measure early in 2009. Mr. Castle, should he prevail, would add another strong and experienced moderate voice.

The philosophical direction Mr. Brown intends to take remains to be seen, but even his fellow Republicans said he could not compile a heavily conservative voting record and expect to be re-elected in Massachusetts in 2012 when his partial term ends.

Ms. Snowe, typically a favorite target of Democrats as they try to build a 60-vote bloc to break filibusters, said that Republicans representing Democratic states — or vice versa — tend to push the debate toward the middle to appease their diverse political constituencies.

“Having those countervailing voices really creates the inclination and propensity for drafting centrist-based positions,” Ms. Snowe said. [...]

Maybe what we are seeing is a victory for centrists.

The Republicans have an opportunity here, but they could easily blow it, if they insist on making the Republican party a purist ideology, instead of using it as a political vehicle to be cooperatively used by a large diverse base, to achieve goals the members all have in common.

This means not kicking people out when they are not ideologically rigid, being flexible, letting states make their own choices about how they want their Republicans to be.

We don't need a GOP dominated by the South, or the North either. What good would it do to gain the North, but then lose the South? If we emphasize fiscal issues as our spearhead, and keep social issues, the culture wars, primarily fought in our culture more than our legislature, I think we have a good chance of a comeback. But if the Republicans continue to support big government, and continue to push legislation to control controversial social issues, then I doubt we stand a chance.

I've posted before in detail about the Death of Republicanism in New England. There are lessons to be learned from that. This potential Republican Revival we are seeing now will only succeed if the voters of each state can use the party as a political vehicle, instead of having to join an inflexible ideology.

There has been a lot of criticism by GOP Uber-conservatives of Republican Senators Snowe and Collins of Maine. I visited with family in Maine last year. I read in the newspaper there, in a political article, a comment by a voter addressing that criticism, who said: "We sent Snowe and Collins to Washington to represent the State of Maine, not the GOP". I think that is very true of the voters in Maine; they tend to not be rigidly partisan, and like their politicians to reflect that.

I think it's largely true for New England as whole; they expect their senators to be loyal to their state first, their party second. They are expected to compromise when necessary, to please the voters of their state.

Brown of Massachusetts knows this. If he turns into a GOP Uber-conservative, he will be toast. He won by listening to his constituents, not the GOP ideologues.

Here in Oregon, we had a wonderful GOP senator, Gordon Smith. But then the GOP ideologues began to complain he was a RINO, and undermined him, just enough to help the Democrats defeat him. Now we have two Democrat senators, and some of the highest income taxes in the nation, second only to NYC. Way to go... NOT!!!

I already am hearing the GOP Uber-conservatives complaining that Brown is a RINO, not good enough, not pure enough. Are we as a party going to shoot ourselves in the foot AGAIN, ending the Republican revival before it's begun?

If Democrats and Republicans keep sticking to ideological extremes, then perhaps a third party will have a good chance of forming. One that could attract independents, and both Republican and Democrat moderates might actually succeed, especially if WE continue to flail and fail.
     

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Oregon nears highest income tax in the nation

Taxpayer Ambush in Oregon
The public unions win in Portland.
It's not often that citizens vote for higher taxes, but 54% of Oregonians have done precisely that. In a rolling month-long referendum by mail that ended Tuesday, they approved some $700 million in tax hikes on business and wealthy residents.

The highest income tax rate in the state moves to 11% from 9%, which will give Oregon close to the highest rate in the nation. (New York City residents pay 12.6%.) This ballot outcome runs contrary to the current public mood about spending and taxes, so it's worth exploring how it happened.

First, a deluge of money. Local and national public employee unions bankrolled the "yes" campaign, with a $6.5 million blitz in TV and radio ads. That was $2 million more than the business community and taxpayer advocates raised. The cash helped the tax increase roll up a 71% margin in the liberal precincts in and around Portland, even as it lost in most of the rest of the state.

The union message was also as clever as it was disingenuous: All of these taxes will be paid by someone else, such as Wall Street bankers, out-of-state credit card companies, CEOs. Only the richest 2.5% will pay a little more in taxes, the unions also claimed.

The reality is that these taxes will be absorbed by employers who sign worker paychecks—from Nike Inc. to the corner grocer. Two-thirds of those hit with the new 11% tax rate are small and medium-sized business owners. Phil Knight of Nike dubbed the tax initiatives Oregon's "assisted suicide" for business. The real victims of these taxes won't be wealthy business owners, who can always move away or shelter income, but less mobile Oregonians who will find it harder to get or keep a job. [...]

The south coast voted against the taxes, but as usual, the densely populated Portland metropolitan area carried the state. This won't create jobs any more than the White House's "stimulus" plan did. It will do quite the opposite, in fact:

Oregon; following California's example?

Will Oregon voters learn to connect the dots, before it's too late?

     

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oregon; following California's example?

Sure looks it. Wealth envy wins, jobs creation loses:

Oregon voters pass tax increasing measures by big margin
Oregon voters bucked decades of anti-tax and anti-Salem sentiment Tuesday, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to prevent further erosion of public schools and other state services.

The tax measures passed easily, with late returns showing a 54 percent to 46 percent ratio. Measure 66 raises taxes on households with taxable income above $250,000, and Measure 67 sets higher minimum taxes on corporations and increases the tax rate on upper-level profits.

[...]

The double-barreled victory is the first voter-approved statewide income tax increase since the 1930s. Other states, facing similar budget woes, are watching the outcome closely because Oregon, after all, is a state that capped property taxes and locked a surplus tax rebate program into the constitution.

[...]

Overall statewide turnout was expected to be around 60 percent of Oregon's 2 million voters.

Tuesday's strong support also validated a strategy by Democratic lawmakers to single out the rich and corporations for targeted tax increases.

Campaign ads by supporters highlighted banks and credit card companies and showed images of well-dressed people stepping off private jets. They also hammered on the $10 minimum tax that most corporations have paid since its inception in 1931.

Those messages helped counter warnings by opponents that the taxes would lead to job losses, worsening the state's 11 percent unemployment rate, and prompt wealthy residents to move elsewhere.

"They did a great job of pounding, 'It's only $10,'" said Bob Tiernan, chairman of the state Republican Party. "We got swamped by the union money."

Supporters spent at least $6.9 million, most of it coming from teacher and public employee unions. Opponents, led by a coalition of business organizations, spent at least $4.6 million, donated by wealthy entrepreneurs such as Nike's Phil Knight and Columbia Sportswear's Tim Boyle. Opponents who gathered at the Grand Hotel in Salem were optimistic early, but as the results came in, the mood quickly darkened.

"It's disappointing and discouraging," said Pat McCormick, spokesman for Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes. "The tone and tenor was often venomous, trying to pit the haves against the have-nots."

He said the business community now must figure out "how to participate in a system that's largely disconnected from us."

[...]

Lawmakers, who are scheduled to convene Monday in Salem for a monthlong session, are expected to move onto other issues, such as tackling Oregon's unique "kicker" law that rebates revenue surpluses to taxpayers and reining in rapidly expanding tax credits for green energy companies.

They also may be looking to repair a broadening rift between the state's business leaders and Democrats who control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor's office. [...]

When Democrats control everything, they raise taxes. California kept raising taxes till jobs and investors left the state in droves. I don't see how this is going to bode well for Oregon unemployment. Other than creating more government jobs.

It's how California got in the mess they're in. The article claims other states are watching Oregon, so they can follow our example. Is the whole nation going to follow the California example?
     

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How many people are fiscally conservative, but socially liberal? Nearly 60% - the Majority?


How Many Libertarian Voters Are There?
In our new study, David Kirby and I round up various estimates on the number of libertarian-leaning voters. Our own calculation, 14 percent, is actually the lowest estimate.

We use three questions on political values from the generally acknowledged gold standard of public opinion data, the surveys of the American National Election Studies, and find that 14 percent of respondents gave libertarian answers to all three questions. But other researchers have used somewhat looser criteria and found larger numbers of libertarians: [...]

One can split hairs over the definition of "Libertarian", but most people seem to relate to the idea of fiscal conservatism combined with social liberalism, which goes against both the politically ideological Left and Right. In other words, most people are in the moderate, non-ideological center.

For too long this majority has been battered between two extremes. Both Left and Right has been pushing for bigger government to enforce their ideology. Now, it's time to do something about it.

     

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The Swiss, and their Guns

I got a link to this in my email recently. The email was titled "Why nobody invades Switzerland":



In school, I had learned that nobody invaded Switzerland, because it was surrounded by mountains. But I'm sure that being heavily armed and well-trained in the use of their guns also had something to do with it.
     

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Social Media Dangers in our Brave New World

Creepy Ways Your Social Media Data Can Be Used
People who use social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are not known for their reticence -- many put just about any personal information imaginable out there.

The risks to such openness are clear -- from inviting tailored phishing attacks to appalling potential employers with one's late-night party habits -- but many users who are tech-savvy appear willing to brave them. The risks they don't know about though, however, are a different matter.

Increasingly, there are signs that companies -- from financial service firms to affiliate marketers -- are targeting social media for new purposes. Roger Thompson, chief research scientist with AVG, for example, believes his credit card company has incorporated data from his Facebook account into his credit card file. He told of an incident in which he had to verify information about himself for security purposes, and one of the questions was about his daughter-in-law -- information that the bank didn't get from him and is only publicly available on Facebook, he wrote in a blog post.

Some credit card companies and financial service companies reportedly are developing algorithms based on an account applicant's online friends -- the theory being that deadbeats tend to associate with one another. Other stories focus on shady affiliate marketers weaseling their way onto a member's account and then sending sales pitches and product recommendations to their networks, supposedly from them.

These practices are not necessarily mainstream -- but the general trend is clear: Companies are recognizing the treasure trove of data sitting on social networks, and are beginning to experiment with it.

"2009 was a watershed year for social networks, with the numbers of people joining or expanding their use of these sites," Dallas Lawrence, chair of the digital and social media practice group at Levick Strategic Communications, told the E-Commerce Times.

"The next stage, I believe, will be companies taking all this information [and] combining it with new search tools in order to sort through the trillions of data points available," Lawrence said. [...]

The article goes on to discuss how such data may be used, the legal implications, and consumer rights.

The blog post by Roger Thompson, linked to above, was especially creepy. I don't use Facebook or Myspace, but after reading this, I can only wonder, who is "harvesting" what from sites like Blogger.com, or any sites and forums where a person posts with their real name? And what are they using the data for?

Oh Brave New World...
     

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

FireFox 3.6 update is now available


Firefox 3.6 is officially out; go get it
Firefox 3.6 has officially been released by Mozilla for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The latest version of the world's 2nd most popular browser is expected to hold over power users until the release of Firefox 4.0 (since 3.7 has officially been taken off the roadmap). The release is considered to be more of a major step forward, rather than an incremental change. A lot has been tweaked and added under the hood. Unfortunately, Electrolysis (process separation) will still have to wait until the next update.

Here are some of the new features:

* Personas - hover over themes to see what they'd look like and apply them to your browser

* Out-of-date plugin notifier - tells you when a plugin, such as Flash, is out of date and directs you to an update source

* Full-screen video - if you are using HTML 5 to view embedded Ogg videos, you can now view them in full screen

* Web open font format - allows for smaller-sized font formats, allowing sites to load fatster, with the intended fonts

* Desktop Orientation Sensors - allows your browser to know when your computer is being moved and can adjust the picture accordingly

* Speed - the browser, as a whole, is 20% faster than Firefox 3.5.x, making it the 2nd fastest browser, behind Chrome (source: Lifehacker)
[...]

The full article has a link at the end of the post to a video about FF 3.6.

The graphic I copied from somewhere else, I forget where, but I thought it was funny and have been waiting for an excuse to use it ;-). To be fair, I have not tried IE 8 yet. There is a 64 bit version of IE with Windows 7, I'm looking forward to trying it out when I have a chance.

UPDATE:

I'm posting the video here, it's just over two minutes, and it gives a quick summary of new features.



     

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British Conservatives: where are the real ones?

Where Have All the Conservatives Gone?
Britain will hold a general election within the next five months. And after more than a decade of the Leftwing Labour party, the Conservatives are expected to win. Party leader David Cameron is a likeable if nondescript man, in sync with the fashionable concerns of the media, and out of touch with the electorate.

Labour is loathed in Britain. So much so that there has even been talk of it being cast into the political “wilderness” for a decade, if not of its total destruction. It’s not difficult to grasp why. In the last decade Labour has encouraged uncontrolled immigration, in an attempt to change the country once and for all. It has presided over the growth of radical Islam. It has surrendered British sovereignty to the EU without so much as giving the people a vote on the matter. And, perhaps, most importantly, it has made political correctness the norm, stifling dissent, and silencing even the most reasonable objections to its project. Only “extremists” and “racists” would worry about such things, has been the message given out at every opportunity.

In the 2009 EU elections Labour came third, behind the Conservatives and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). The latter wants to withdraw from the EU, and under its new leader, Lord Pearson, it will also tackle radical Islam. [...]

The article goes on to explain why there is very little difference between Britain's Labor Party and Conservative Party. Have the real conservatives gone over to the UKIP? Many of the Thatcherites have. UKIP and it's leader, Lord Pearson, may become a force to be reckoned with. It will be interesting to see how this all develops.
     

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America and Europe: the religious divide

American and European attitudes toward religion differ quite a lot. The following article examines, in depth, many of the factors that account for this:

Religious Divide Across The Atlantic
[...] In Europe, for many centuries, the nexus of religion with political power was very strong. The Catholic Church preached not liberty but authority and obedience. Calvinism, which preached equality and individuality, had quickly degenerated into theocracy where it could acquire political power. And revolutionary Lutheranism, which had opposed papal power, soon turned into a state religion that sanctified secular power in Germany and Scandinavia. It is only in the last century that full rights of citizenship have become independent from belonging to the ‘correct’ faith in much of Europe. Just like secular ideologies try to cling to political power today, following the Treaty of Augsburg (1555) churches accommodated themselves to the supremacy of Kings and aristocracies, and they traded the granting of the ‘divine right’ to rulers for many privileges (regarding land, taxes, etc…). Therefore, whoever wanted to attack authority in Europe had to attack the churches, and while these churches might have been different among individual countries, within countries usually one church had a near-monopoly on faith. Revolutions on the European Continent thus became as much anti-clerical as anti-royal (or anti-prince), and the common denominator of the civil faiths that arose in the 18th and 19th centuries – liberalism, socialism and communism – was anti-clericalism. Also in the 20th century, fascism and nazism saw churches as rivals for power and effectively ‘nationalized’ them (like Lenin/Stalin did before, and Putin does today). To this very day, to be a “progressive” in Europe requires to be a-religious (and often anti-religious), and hence there is the mistaken belief that modernity necessarily leads to (or requires) secularization.

The American experience has been very different, and there never existed a significant split between anti-clericalism and clericalism in the United States like it did in Europe. The Founders of the American Republic were on the whole very religious people, and they did not have to burn down churches and murder priests to establish their republic, like they did in France. Already de Tocqueville had pointed to the paradox that by establishing a rigorous separation of church and state (through the rejection of the concept of a state religion) the Founding Fathers had actually strengthened the role of religion in general in the United States. Faith (in its myriad forms) was viewed as the friend of freedom, not its enemy, and it was not despised or derided as an enemy of the Enligthenment in America. The contemporary Joffe points to another factor, namely that the protestants who settled America spoke largely English, not French. That means that they had benefited from the Scottish-English Enligthenment which was already a hundred years old at the time of the French Revolution. The latter was marked by Danton’s and Robespierre’s “deadly hatred of all things Deist”. By contrast, the great minds of the earlier Scottish-English Enlightenment - Berkely, Hume, Locke, Hutchinson – had no problem with God. And neither did the American offspring of that Enlightenment. They saw “natural law” and “natural rights” as transcending man-made laws, and Berkeley’s empiricism required God as ultimate proof of reality.

So, in short, because religion had been part of an oppressive state in Europe, it was later banned from the public sphere. Europe’s buildings, cathedrals, art, etc…attest to it having been a great Christian civilization in the past, but a visitor there today will not find much God in the public space. In America, the same visitor can easily encounter God in a football stadium, or at the end of a speech by…President Obama. And the essential reasons for that are (a) the early separation of church and state in America’s original 18th century Constitution, which has stood the test of time more than any other to this day, as well as (b) the non-denominational character of God in America. In America religion was never politically as powerful as it has been in Europe, but its influence has proven to be more lasting because it has relied on its own resources and thus remained in control of its own principles/message or, if you will, free from state control. [...]

If you read the whole article, it's rather long, but there is lots of meat to chew on. It is, to me, a very interesting topic.
     

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Haiti and the Dominican Republic: the Divide


Two countries that share the same Island (Hispaniola), yet they are so different. Here is a recent TIME article that looks at the history, geography and politics of the two countries. It's a short article, but also an interesting synopsis.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic: A Tale of Two Countries
[...] Much of this difference is geographic. The mountains that lie across the island can cut off Haiti's rainfall. The northeast trade winds, and so the rain, blow in the Dominican Republic's favor. Haiti's semiarid climate makes cultivation more challenging. Deforestation - a major problem in Haiti, but not in its neighbor - has only exacerbated the problem. Other differences are a result of Hispaniola's long and often-violent history - even TIME called it a "forlorn, hate-filled little Caribbean island" in 1965. On the eastern part of Hispaniola, you'll probably speak Spanish; in the west, it's more likely to be French or Creole, a division that's the result of centuries of European colonization and numerous power struggles. (Not to mention the decimation of Hispaniola's indigenous Taino people - who, of course, spoke neither.)

When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492, he named the land La Isla EspaÑola; it served as a Spanish colony and base for the empire's further conquests, though was never particularly profitable. In 1697 the Spanish formally ceded the western third of it to the French, already present and more heavily invested. The Hispaniolan outposts of both empires imported African slaves, though the latter did so to a much greater extent. The colonies - Santo Domingo and Saint-Domingue, respectively - subsequently developed vastly different demographics. According to a study by the American Library of Congress, by the end of the 18th Century there were about 40,000 white landowners, 25,000 black or interracial freedmen, and 60,000 slaves in the Spanish colony, compared with approximately 30,000 whites, 27,000 freedmen, and at least 500,000 black slaves in its French counterpart.

As revolution raged in France in the 1790s, its colonial slaves in Hispaniola revolted; in 1804, they declared independence, and Haiti, which was named after the Taino word for "land of mountains," became the world's first sovereign black republic. The Dominican Republic wasn't established until 1844, after not just European rule but also 22 years of Haitian occupation. Strife between (as well as within) the neighbors, rooted in deep class, racial, and cultural differences, was constant. Interference by foreign powers was often the norm. [...]

What a fascinating history. Read the whole thing.
     

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Scott Brown Achieves Victory in Massachusetts


Brown Scores Upset Victory Over Coakley in Massachusetts Senate Race
In a victory few thought possible just a month ago, Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley Tuesday in the race for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy -- a win that could grind President Obama's agenda to a halt and portend unexpected losses for Democrats in the November midterms.

Washington was waking up Wednesday to a new Senate make-up, one featuring Republican Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown, who defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in a victory few thought possible just a month ago.

The race for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by the late Ted Kennedy is a win that could grind President Obama's agenda to a halt and portend unexpected losses for Democrats in the November midterms.

In his victory speech, Brown declared that he had "defied the odds and the pundits," and said he would try to be a "worthy successor" to Kennedy.

"Tonight, the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken," Brown said. "This Senate seat belongs to no one person, no one political party. ... This is the people's seat."

With nearly all precincts reporting, returns showed Brown leading Coakley 52-47 percent, by a margin of 120,000 votes. Independent candidate Joseph Kennedy was pulling 1 percent.

The victory marks a stunning upset in a race thought to be safe for Democrats until Brown's campaign began to surge just weeks ago. Even Brown appeared a bit in shock by his victory. Visibly giddy during his remarks, Brown went script and at one point offering up his daughters to the dating circuit -- and later he earned supporters' laughter by flubbing his campaign pitch line, "I'm Scott Brown. I'm from Wrentham. And I drive a truck."

Brown's victory has powerful ramifications for Obama's agenda. The GOP state senator, once sworn in, will break the Democrats' 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority in Washington. This creates problems for proposed legislation ranging from financial regulatory reform to cap-and-trade.

But most immediately the win sends Democrats into a scramble to pass health care reform before Brown arrives in Washington. Democrats were already weighing options for how to fast-track the bill before polls closed Tuesday.

Brown blasted the health care bill in his victory speech and urged the Senate to seat him as soon as possible. But a schedule for Brown's swearing-in was up in the air on Tuesday night.

"The people of Massachusetts have spoken. We welcome Scott Brown to the Senate and will move to seat him as soon as the proper paperwork has been received," said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said he would notify the Senate on Wednesday that Brown had been elected.

[...]

Considering how much was on the line, Brown's late-in-the-game surge commanded the attention of the Democratic Party establishment, which dispatched top officials over the past week to try to keep the seat formerly held by Kennedy in Democratic hands. Voter interest in the race for U.S. Senate also seemed high throughout the day. Poll workers reported a steady stream of voters at the ballot box despite the snow.

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin was predicting turnout could be as high as 50 percent.

Brown's campaign marked an upset just by being as competitive as it was against Coakley's.

Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-1 in the state -- 37 percent of registered voters are Democrats, 12 percent are Republicans and 51 percent are unaffiliated. Obama won the state by 26 percentage points in the 2008 presidential election. [...]

"Tonight, the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken". I like that!
     

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Haitian Bank Employee Rescued

After being buried alive for six days:



Her hand was caught between slabs. Firefighters from Los Angeles freed her. As they are pulling her out, she thanks God, and begins to sing!
     

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Ham Radio assistance for Haiti repelled

Radio hams flee Haiti after convoy fired on
Eight radio amateurs from Radio Club Dominicano (RCD) who were operating under the callsign HI8RCD/HH have had to abort their operations after the convoy they were travelling in was fired on.

EB9GF, who is integrated in the Spanish Red Cross contingent, was able to contact the colleagues from the Radio Club Dominicano (RCD).

The RCD has currently two VHF repeaters in use for operations:

- 146.970 (-600), CTCSS 100 Hz. Placed in the Dominican Republic.

Please note that the old frequency 147.970 seems to be wrong.

- 145.350 (-600), CTCSS 100 Hz. New repeater active near the border with Haiti.

RCD initially reported that their team crossed the Haitian border at 10:50 hours Haitian time arriving at the Dominican Embassy in Haiti at 14:29 hours when they started installing and testing their equipment.

Within a few hours though, reports via the RCD Facebook page confirmed by a long telephone conversation between Hugo Ramón HI8VRS and Ramon Sanyoyo V, XE1KK reported that the HI8RCD team of eight amateurs, were back in the border town of Jimani (Dominican Republic).

Their convoy, which included other non related Dominicans, was assaulted and one person reported dead.

The Radio Amateurs were uninjured but decided to leave the capital for safety and return to the border unescorted. They report the situation as extremely unsafe and scary.

The repeaters they have installed remain in service linking the Haitian and Dominican capitals, and are being used by the Red Cross and Civil Defense since there is no other way to communicate. The station at the Embassy in Haiti could not be activated though.

To confirm, all members of the HCD team are safe and have returned to Jimanji in the Dominican Republic.

In other reports, John Henault HH6JH who is engaged in Missionary work with homeless children in Port au Prince continues to make contacts on 20m using power from a neighbour's generator and very pleased that amateur radio enabled him to let his friends in the USA know he was alive.

Another radio amateur in the country, Pierre Petry HH2/HB9AMO who works for the UN food program is also safe. However nothing is known at this stage of about another ten hams in Haiti.

Thanks to Ismael EA4FSI, Cesar HR2P and Jim VK3PC for their reports.

IARU Region 1 website
http://www.iaru-r1.org/

Haiti - Radio Club Dominicano Facebook Group
http://www.southgatearc.org/news/jan...n_response.htm

     

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When Disaster Help isn't Helpful

Learning lessons from past disasters
[...] I don't want to send the wrong message: In many ways, reconstruction after the tsunami has been a huge success. Many charities did great good.

Yet it is also true that if improperly managed, the surge of international donations into a disaster zone can do great harm.

The international humanitarian community has learned important lessons from the tsunami -- and you should too. [...]

The author lists four "lessons" we need to learn, if we are to really help Haiti and the Haitians. I'm afraid it's lesson number 4 that our current Administration is most likely to get wrong.
     

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Funnies: "Maxine" does the Economy

The "Maxine" comic is a popular one in emails, usually regarding issues humorous to seniors, but sometimes other things too. Recently I got these in my email:


















     

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Special tax exempt status for Union members?

Our constitution says that all citizens are to be treated equally under the law. But are some people now "more equal" than others?

EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW?

Well, there's one American concept that certainly doesn't hold water with the Obama crowd. The idea our founding fathers had was pretty solid. The law would apply equally to every person in this country - rich or poor, weak or strong. There would be no privileged classes in this country to who the law would not apply.

That's not the way it is with the Democrats and Obama.

Have you heard about the deal The Community Organizer reached with his union supporters last night? Look ... I've been telling you that this was on the way for three days. You could search high and low in the newspapers and on line and find very little to suggest what was going to happen ... but if you were listening to this show and reading my blog, you saw it coming.

The unions were at the White House telling Obama that they weren't going to support his health care takeover. And why not? Because Obama was going to pay for part of his takeover with a tax on what we're calling "Cadillac" health insurance plans. These are health insurance plans that go past the usual coverage by providing such things as dental and vision coverage.

Something had to be done to keep the unions on board. The Democrats are already facing a rough time in this year's elections and they certainly didn't need union members sitting on their hands on election day. So a deal had to be made. If it meant violating the concept of equal protection under the law ... well then, you do what you have to do; expecially if you're Barack Obama and you believe that your whole presidency rests on your ability to achieve the lifelong Democrat dream of seizing control of the American health care system.

Here's the deal they reached last night. If you're an ordinary citizen who has one of these "Cadillac" health care plan you will pay an excise tax on the plan. If you're an ordinary citizen who has a "Cadillac" plan, but you happen to be a union member, you will NOT pay the tax.

Can you believe this is happening in our country? The government tells you that you're going to have to pay a special tax on your health insurance plan .. unless, that is, you happen to be a union member - or if you happen to work for city or state government. Then you won't have to pay the tax.

I'll try to make this a bit more clear. You live at 123 Main Street. Your neighbor lives at 125 Main street. You're big pals. You drive a truck for one trucking company, your pal drives a similar truck for another company. Your families vacation together. Your kids play together every afternoon. Both of you earn pretty much the same salary and live in houses that are worth the same. You drive cars of equal value. You have similar dreams and aspirations for your two families. Both of you earn some pretty good bucks and you both have comprehensive health care plans - health care plans that the Democrats would call "Cadillac" plans. There is only one difference between you and your bud. The company you work for is not unionized. Your pal is a member of the Teamster's Union. So ... if Obama has his way with his so-called health insurance reform you will end up paying a tax on your health care plan. Your pal won't.

Is that the way you believe America should work? Should a politician come up with a new tax plan to generate some more revenue, and then chose some favored constituencies to be exempt from that plan?

Some idiot on Fox News this morning said that the union workers who are getting the break deserve the break because they have "high risk jobs." This girl worked for something called the Roosevelt Institute and had to be one of the most insiplidly ignorant people I've ever seen trying to fake intelligence in my life.

Elections have consequences. The election Tuesday in Massachusetts will have consequences. We really need to start paying attention.

I want our politicians to uphold the American Constitution... or be replaced.

This video is making the rounds in email:



I really can't say who they will vote for, but it's not impossible for Massachusetts to vote for a Republican. In my experience, the citizens of that state can be very... unpredictable. To outsiders, seemingly contradictory at times. But not to themselves; they have their own internal, Massachusetts-centric logic to guide them. Just when you think you've got them figured out... surprise!
     

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti: This Year's January Catastrophe

It seems like there is at least one major disaster at the begining of every year, and this year its:

EARTHQUAKE IN HAITI
And a devastating one at that. High casualty numbers are expected. So, what happens next? America comes to the rescue, that's what. American taxpayers will spend tens of millions of dollars helping the people of Haiti. The American military will soon be involved. The U.S. Southern Command was gearing up for a relief effort within hours after the earthquake. Why? Well .. because that's just what we do, that's why. Frankly I would rather see the money spent to help the innocent victims of an earthquake in a neighboring country than on enabling single mothers, drunks and druggies in this country. You see pictures of the children trapped in the rubble in Haiti and you can't help but want the do something. Not only American government, but American relief agencies will be stepping forward.

My wife is a Red Cross volunteer ... If she wasn't involved in another project she would have been packing her bags last night. Americans will step forward .. and the world knows it and expects it. Can't help but wonder, though, what Hugo Chavez will be doing. How much aid will be coming from Fidel Castro and Venezuela's socialist whack job? Token help, at best. And what about the United Nations? Care to guess whether or not the wonderful U.N.'s efforts will exceed that done by the people of America. Right. Didn't think so. And the aftermath? Chavez and his ilk will continue to preach their anti-American rhetoric and Central American will continue to bask in its hatred of the United States. The United Nations will continue to work day-after-day on its anti-American agenda. Then ... the next time a disaster strikes ... we'll be there, as usual.

This CNN link lists resources you can use to help the people of Haiti. I urge you to chose agencies that are identified with the people of America rather than agencies affiliated with the UN. We can help without strengthening those who revile us.

Follow the link for video footage. In photos and video, I'm seeing LOTS of concrete slab structures collapsed, which means lots of people crushed and trapped. The Dominican Republic, on the same island, did not suffer nearly as much damage. That might be explained by differences in building codes, but perhaps also Haiti's proximity to the quake's epicenter.

     

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A Tea Party Convention Warning for Sarah?

I’m Afraid Sarah Palin Might Be Ruining Herself Unintentionally
[...] I have much good to say about groups like Tea Party Patriots, but I think this national tea party convention smells scammy.

Let me be blunt: charging people $500.00 plus the costs of travel and lodging to go to a “National Tea Party Convention” run by a for profit group no one has ever heard of sounds as credible as an email from Nigeria promising me a million bucks if I fork over my bank account number.

I am led to believe a number of the sponsors who lent their names early on have grown wary of the event. That lines up with what I am hearing.

The tea party movement was always about the unorganized masses of concerned, passionate Americans uniting together with a common voice to protest the direction of the country. From that passion, others have sought to make money off the tea party movement. Some have done it for good. Many have not.

[...]

The tea party “leaders”, if there are any, are actively at work in their home towns changing things one letter to the editor, one contribution to a candidate, and one protest at a time. They are not on bus tours profiting off the hard work and sometimes the names of others (some also on the bus with no pay) headed to Nashville licking their lips at the $500.00 per person payments coming in to their for profit company.

Sarah Palin is certainly giving the National Tea Party Convention legitimacy. But at what cost? I am fearful this thing will blow up and harm her. I am more fearful that a bunch of well meaning people from across the nation are going to show up, expect more, and then grow disaffected or burn out when the deliverables they expect do not come in. [...]

The convention sounds fishy to me. Is Sarah about to step in it?

     

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Will California become the next Amsterdam?

Is California about to go beyond "Medical" Marijuana?

Assembly Plants Seed for Legal Pot in California
The first step to legalize marijuana in California is on a roll.

Lawmakers on Tuesday approved Assembly Bill 390 -- legislation to tax and regulate marijuana. The Assembly's Public Safety Committee voted 4-3 on bill at a hearing in Sacramento. The bill will now be passed to the full Assembly on Friday for consideration.

The bill, authored by San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, would essentially treat pot the same way alcohol is treated under the law and would allow adults over 21 to possess, smoke and grow marijuana.

The law would also call for a fee of $50 per ounce sold and would help fund drug eradication and awareness programs. It could help pull California out of debt, supporters say, raising up to $990 million from the fees.

[...]

"The mere fact that there will be votes in the Assembly to regulate and control the sale and distribution of marijuana would have been unthinkable even one year ago." Retired Orange County California Supreme Court Judge Jim Gray said via a statement from the group. "And if the bill doesn't pass this year, it will soon. Or, the bill will be irrelevant because the voters will have passed the measure to regulate and tax marijuana that will be on the ballot this November." [...]

Read the whole thing. There are law enforcement groups backing this legislation, I don't think it's just some nutty California fluke. People with real influence are backing this. In it's struggle to cope with it's budget crisis, will California become itself into the "Amsterdam" of North America?
     

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bi-sacksual struggles with social networking

I got this in my email recently:

Story of a Challenged Senior...

I thought about the 30 year business I ran with 1800 employees, all without a Blackberry that played music, took videos, pictures and communicated with Facebook and Twitter.

I signed up under duress for Twitter and Facebook, so my seven kids, their spouses, 13 grandkids and 2 great grand kids could communicate with me in the modern way. I figured I could handle something as simple as Twitter with only 140 characters of space.

That was before one of my grandkids hooked me up for Tweeter, Tweetree, Twhirl, Twitterfon, Tweetie and Twittererific Tweetdeck, Twitpix and something that sends every message to my cell phone and every other program within the texting world.

My phone was beeping every three minutes with the details of everything except the bowel movements of the entire next generation. I am not ready to live like this. I keep my cell phone in the garage in my golf bag.

The kids bought me a GPS for my last birthday because they say I get lost every now and then going over to the grocery store or library. I keep that in a box under my tool bench with the Blue tooth [it's red] phone I am supposed to use when I drive. I wore it once and was standing in line at Barnes and Noble talking to my wife as everyone in the nearest 50 yards was glaring at me. Seems I have to take my hearing aid out to use it and I got a little loud.

I mean the GPS looked pretty smart on my dash board, but the lady inside was the most annoying, rudest person I had run into in a long time. Every 10 minutes, she would sarcastically say, "Re-calc-ul-ating". You would think that she could be nicer. It was like she could barely tolerate me. She would let go with a deep sigh and then tell me to make a U-turn at the next light. Then when I would make a right turn instead, it was not good.

When I get really lost now, I call my wife and tell her the name of the cross streets and while she is starting to develop the same tone as Gypsy, the GPS lady, at least she loves me.

To be perfectly frank, I am still trying to learn how to use the cordless phones in our house. We have had them for 4 years, but I still haven't figured out how I can lose three phones, all at once, and have to run around digging under chair cushions and checking bathrooms and the dirty laundry baskets when the phone rings.

The world is just getting too complex for me. They even mess me up every time I go to the grocery store. You would think they could settle on something themselves but this sudden "Paper or Plastic?" every time I check out just knocks me for a loop.

I bought some of those cloth reusable bags to avoid looking confused but I never remember to take them in with me.

Now I toss it back to them. When they ask me, "Paper or Plastic?" I just say, "Doesn't matter to me. I am bi-sacksual." Then it's their turn to stare at me with a blank look.

Is the human race evolving into something Borg-like, where we are always wired into some social networking hive?

I enjoy the internet. I enjoy email. I appreciate the convenience of my cell phone. I enjoy technology... but not ALL the time. Who wants to be constantly inundated with all that stuff?

I remember when I worked in some Law Offices, I think it was 1994. There was a new technology that allowed mobile faxing. You could send or receive a fax from anywhere... even the beach! Some people in the office thought that was wonderful. Some people, like myself, thought it was awful. When asked why, I didn't have to think twice, when I replied, "I go to the beach to get AWAY from things like fax machines!"

I like technology. I don't mind the ability to send a fax from the beach, if it's absolutely necessary. But just because we can, doesn't mean we should.

Even if you think all this social networking technology is good, isn't there still such a thing as too much of a good thing?
     

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

We Must Dump the Republican Baggage

I'm sorry if the truth hurts, but the Republicans must own up to this, so they can then dump it and change course. IF they want their credibility back.

Karl Rove’s Hypocritical Call for Fiscal Rectitude
[...] I’m a big fan of condemning Obama’s big-government schemes, but Rove is the last person in the world who should be complaining about too much wasteful spending. After all, he was the top adviser to President Bush and the federal budget exploded during Bush’s eight years, climbing from $1.8 trillion to more than $3.5 trillion. More specifically, Rove was a leading proponent of the proposals that dramatically expanded the size and scope of the federal government, including the no-bureaucrat-left-behind education bill, the two corrupt farm bills, the two pork-filled transportation bills, and the grossly irresponsible new Medicare entitlement program.

Not surprisingly, Rove even tries to blame Obama for some of Bush’s overspending, writing that “…discretionary domestic spending now stands at $536 billion, up nearly 24% from President George W. Bush’s last full year budget in fiscal 2008 of $433.6 billion. That’s a huge spending surge, even for a profligate liberal like Mr. Obama.” This passage leads the reader to assume that Obama should be blamed for what happened in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, but as I’ve already explained, the 2009 fiscal year started about four months before Obama took office and 96 percent of the spending can be attributed to Bush’s fiscal profligacy. Yes, Obama is now making a bad situation worse by further increasing spending, but he should be criticized for continuing Bush’s mistakes.

Rove then has the gall to complain that Obama is “…growing the federal government’s share of GDP from its historic post-World War II average of roughly 20% to the target Mr. Obama laid out in his budget blueprint last February of 24%.” Yet a quick look at the budget data shows that the burden of federal spending jumped from 18.4 percent of GDP when Bush took office to more than 25 percent of economic output when he left office. Even if the (hopefully) temporary bailout costs are not counted, Bush and Rove are the ones who deserve most of the blame for today’s much larger burden of government. It should be noted, by the way, that none of the new spending under Bush was imposed over his objection. He did not veto any legislation because of excessive spending. [...]

Read the whole thing, for the embedded links.

In 2000, for the first time since I became and eligible voter, I did not vote in the presidential election. Both choices seemed equally awful. I'm sure I was not the only one who felt that way, which is why I think the election was so close.

In 2004, I nearly didn't vote again, for the reasons mentioned in the above article. But John Kerry seemed possibly worse, so I held my nose and voted for George Bush. I hoped, in vain, that W would embrace fiscal conservatism. It was not to be.

Republicans really need to dump this baggage they've collected. If they hang on to it, I'm not sure I can be bothered to vote anymore.
     

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Napolitano should step down ... now


From Neal Boortz: THE REPORT
[...] After much delay, Barack Obama finally made his speech on the crotch bomber and the failure of our intelligence community to stop him from boarding a plane to the United States. If you would like to read the report in its entirety, you can click here. After reading the report, it seems to boil down to this: We had the intelligence, but we got lazy. Or comfortable. Whatever adjective you want to use, the fact is that we had the information but no one put it together.

Actually ... I really think Obama has paid heed to his wakeup call. He's serious about this. Health care is one thing .. but negligently allowing a terrorist attack on our soil would do much more to doom his presidency than would the failure of ObamaCare. He's not yet at the point where he's willing to abandon a lot of the political correctness that goes hand-in-hand with our anti-terrorism efforts (at least not in the open) but hopefully that will come.

Are you upset that no heads rolled yesterday? Yeah .. me too. But in retrospect maybe it is a good idea to concentrate on the mission right now and deal with those not mission-capable down the road. Just bypass them for the time being. My guess is that Napolitano's influence as Homeland Security Director is quite a bit less than it was .. and that she's brushing up her resume as we speak.

You did hear what she said yesterday, didn't you? She said that she was really surprised by the dedication of these Islamic terrorists .. and then she indicated her surprise that they were using individual operatives in their efforts to kill non-believers. Come on now. That guy in the dump truck who cut you off this morning knew this ... and our Homeland Security Director is surprised?

This particularly Obama appointment could cost American lives. She needs to go .. as soon as possible.

Bold emphasis mine. I have to agree. The more Napolitano speaks, the more incompetent she sounds. Keeping her there will only make things worse.
     

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Farm Report: "Chickenblogging" disappointment

When I bought my DV movie camera, I had high hopes of making short videos about life on the farm, and putting them on my blog. It hasn't worked out too well, for a variety of reasons.

My Brilliant Career as a Chickenblogger - NOT

Mostly, it's been too time consuming. I have to film the footage, transfer it to the computers hard drive, edit it, then save it in a format that can be uploaded to the blog or to Youtube.

It's the last step that has proven to be the most frustrating. I can save it to a format that looks good, but then I can't upload it because... I'm not sure why. All the formats I've been able to use to upload to blogger or to Youtube are of inferior quality. If I try to upload the better quality ones I get "error" messages. This one below is the best I've been able to manage for Youtube:




It's not absolutely awful, but I'm not satisfied with the quality. If it isn't excellent, then I can't be bothered with it, it seems like a lot of work for nothing.

The other problem is, the subject matter itself. This video was taken in October. While I was waiting to find the time to transfer and edit the video, the chicks continued to grow very fast. And "things" happened. Two of the female chicks drowned in the duckpond. One of the male chicks hurt his leg, and had to be... "harvested" (turned into dog food).

So six of the chicks have survived, and are almost grown up now. Two are hens, and four are roosters. Three of the four roosters are most likely destined to become dog food, because we can't keep a lot of roosters. Not the happiest ending to the story. And video wise, I haven't been able to keep up with the story, and I'm not sure I even want to.

It looks like my career as a chickenblogger has ended before it's begun.


The Egg Report

I didn't get to any reports for the past three months, so here they are now.

October: 25 pullet eggs, 78 Bantam eggs, for a total of 103

November: 14 pullet eggs, 14 Bantam eggs, for a total of 28

December: 19 pullet eggs, 16 Bantam eggs, for a total of 35

Totals for the year: 568 pullet eggs, 895 Bantam eggs.

Combined grand total of 1,463 eggs in 2009.


I'm using the term "pullet" loosely, because most of our full sized hens are no longer young. At the height of Winter, we usually don't get any eggs, but this year has been different. Our youngest full-sized chicken is an Orpington, which are known for laying eggs all year-round. And the Bantams that are laying eggs now are the Bantam-Cochin hybrid hens. I would like to cross breed them with the Orpington. The hybrid roosters fancy her, so we will see how that goes.

Here is a pic of the hybrid family while they were still living in the nursery:




The two baby hens are sitting under their mother. The photo was taken at the end of October; they are all much bigger now, nearly full grown. I was going to move them out the nursery at Christmas, by removing the perch so they would have to join the rest of the general population. But before I could do that, their mom did it. She just went and sat with the rest of the birds, and her children followed her. She's been using the babies to climb the social ladder in the coup, literally. She is trying to force her way to the top perch, but their has been resistance from the pecking order.

The two girls still stick close to their mother, but the boys have become much more independent. A bit like juvenile delinquents. Typical roosters.

In other coup news... you may remember the hen called Freezerburn, a brown hybrid hen from the first batch, with a white face that looked like a freezerburn? Well she had her first molt this year, and when she did all her face feathers grew in brown instead of white, and now she is a much sought after "babe":




In fact, she and the Alpha rooster in the coup have become an "item"; they often hang out together, and he looks after her as one of his favorites. At last, some happy news in the coup. They are hand-tamed, and two of my favorites. I'm hoping they make some babies in the spring.

End of Farm Report!

     

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Miss Retro Modern looks at the "Atomic" interior decorating designs of the 50's and early 60's.

I love the modern furnishing styles of the 50's and early 60's, which often looked simple yet comfortable and cheerful. Here are some samples:

From Miss Retro Modern's Atomic Decorating collection:














And the sensible pastel colored kitchens with all the counter space:







Homes in the 50's and early sixties looked very... comfortable, and easy on the eyes. But then, about the mid 60's into the 70's, a lot of bold experimentation started, with wild colors and crazy patterns. Sometimes the results were shockingly hideous:




I've previously posted about some of the weird, horrible, and sometimes wonderful decorating experiments of the groovy 60's and swingin' 70's:

Groovy Interior Decorating of the 70's

Amusing Interior Designs of the 60's and 70's

You have to wonder, what exactly happened to the collective human consciousness in those 20 years? Drugs, I think, were a large part of it. Of course it wasn't all bad either, I feel quite nostalgic for some of it. Go visit Miss Retro Modern's 60's and 70's pages and see for yourself:

Your Swingin' Pad

Many of the photos are shocking, but you are also bound to find something you like. And be sure to scroll down below each picture to read the comments left by MRM and her visitors. Some of them are very entertaining and hilarious.

Miss Retro Modern also has other numerous collections of vintage photographs on an assortment of subjects, if you care to check them out:

Miss Retro Modern's photostream
     

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Welcome New Year 2010!

This past year I spend a lot of time blogging about politics. But enough is enough. I said most of what I had to say before the election in November 2008, as a warning. Now I am watching most of it come to pass. I spent too much of 2009 repeating myself. Most of my political posts don't get widely read, so I'm not going to waste my time on them anymore. I have lots of things I want to read, and lots of things I want to do. I will spend more time doing that.

When the Democrats got elected, I knew they would start doing Democrat things that I would not like. I expect that from them, it's no surprise. To whine about every little thing they do is pointless; I'll choose my battles carefully.

I think far too much emphasis is put on Obama as president as being the main problem. The problem is not Obama especially; the Democrat party leadership is the problem, and they would be doing all these things no matter who the Democrat president is. The actual problem is that the Democrats have too much power right now, and are thus pulling things way out of balance.

Conservatives seem to be taking comfort in the fact that Obama's approval rating keeps dropping. But perhaps they are too eager. They should consider that many of the people who are disapproving of Obama's performance are Hardcore Leftists, who feel he isn't pushing the country Left far enough or fast enough.

That to me, is frightening. It has caused me to moderate my criticism of Obama somewhat, and not jump on him for every little thing I don't like. I'm not giving up criticizing; this current Administration certainly needs a strong opposition to oppose it. But I do want to be more thoughtful about how and where I direct criticism, and be more pro-active rather than reactive. I won't sweat the small stuff; it's the price we pay for losing an election. We just have to deal with it, and support alternatives.

And, where possible this year, I want to "accentuate the positive". Blogging, for me, needs to be about things I'm interested in, things I enjoy, things that give me hope, or important information that I feel needs to be disseminated. For me it HAS to be more than just a place to gripe about what I don't like. No doubt there will be some of that too, but not too much. I have lots of other enjoyable, meaningful things to attend to in my busy, wonderful life, things I wish to make progress with, and I intend to do just that.

Best Wishes to Everyone for a Happy, Healthy and Wealthy New Year. May we all do our part to help make it so.
     

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