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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Living Through Chaos

We’ve all been in situations when the unexpected forces us to change plans we’ve had in place for weeks or months. And when that happens, we’ve no choice but to make the best of it. Sometimes that’s hard to do; sometimes the repercussions are not what we had anticipated; sometimes, but not often, it all turns out much better than we expected; but always, we’re grateful when it is all over.

That is the sort of frustrating situation in which we found ourselves a couple weeks back for the Pecan Festival hosted by the city of Groves. Instead of the weekend being fun and relaxing, it became a hectic frenzy—not the festival itself, but the days leading up to it thanks to the unanticipated--and Mother Nature’s blessings.

We always try to attend the Pecan Festival with the grandkids, Mikey and Keegan. Now, we never attend opening day because it is too crowded. We usually opt for Saturday. This year, the festival’s dates fell on my grandson’s, Mikey, birthday.
Mikey's birthday party was Saturday at two.

Well, we talked about going Friday, but since Keegan was spending the night with us. We had planned to take him fishing at the rocks at Sabine Lake. Keegan is crazy about the place, and he’s turning into a good little fisherman.

Then things started going down hill.

Keegan was sent home from school ill. There went the fishing for when I picked him up, that little feller was as droopy as a wet noodle. Usually when he’s over, we jump in the pool, but all he felt like doing was lying around watching Spongebob Squarepants on TV.

I know, I know, erudite psychologists have claimed watching just nine minutes of Spongebob will turn a child into an idiot. In my years on this earth, I’ve not grown very smart, but I’m smart enough to know such conclusions are drawn only by idiots.

The same thing was said about the Three Stooges fifty years back, and while that might be the explanation for the idiocy of most of our current politicians, for the most part, American kids who enjoyed the Stooge’s silly antics turned out to be fine citizens.

But, back to the festival or actually the days leading up to it. We realized Sunday would have be our day at the fair. Open from 1-6, there was plenty of time for the boys to enjoy the rides and games.

I mentioned ‘frenzy’ earlier. Well, Keegan’s mom and dad worked Saturday, which meant we would also have his little sister, Kenli, who was almost one.

If you haven’t been around a one-year-old in a spell, I’ll tell you they are never still. She’s a climber and a crawler (though she is close to walking). As of this writing, I guess I could say she is walking for yesterday, she took about eight or ten wobbly little steps before plopping down on her plump little derriere.

Keegan still felt puny, so his folks decided he didn’t need to play in his peewee football game that Saturday morning, which was fine with me being the bus driver so to speak. But he also been invited to a couple birthday parties, Mikey’s being one of them.

Strange how a birthday invitation can perk a sick kid up. You ever noticed that?

Anyway, the first party was at Doornbos Park at eleven, and then his cousin’s, Mikey, at two.

Leaving Kenli with Gayle, Keegan and I headed for the first party.
Birthday parties aren’t like I remember with a handful of kids. Not only did youngsters show up, their parents were with them. I’d guess seventy or eighty folks altogether.

The hosts had a pony ride and petting zoo for the kids.

Great fun, great company, great people.

I lost track of the number of pony rides Keegan took, and his favorite animal in the zoo was an ancient turtle almost three feet long.

We didn’t want to leave, but we had to pick up Gayle and Kenli and head for Mikey’s shindig.

By then, Keegan was over whatever he’d had the day before. He hit the swimming pool with the others, and for three hours, the kids tried to drown each other.

Gayle and I were exhausted, but we still had the fair the next day.
That night, the drought around broke—big time.

We knew we were taking a chance of being soaked if we went to the fair. We were right. For the first hour, we huddled with thirty or forty others under a 20x20 pavilion out of the pouring rain witnessing a dog show.

Now I like dogs, but a dog show is not my idea of a fun time at the fair.

When the deluge finally slacked, we were all soaked, but we headed for the midway through ankle deep water with grim resolve to have fun despite the drizzle. Have fun or die-that was the motto we adopted.

The boys rode what rides were open, and we all took shelter under the canopies of game venues with each passing shower. The prizes they won probably cost all of five bucks althought we spent fifty to seventy on them, but it was worth it.

I kid you not, those three days, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday wore me to the proverbial nub. I even dozed through the Texans' football game.

That night, Gayle and I were asleep before our heads hit the pillows. I didn’t move a muscle.

How soccer moms do it, I’ll never know. My hat’s off to them.

Now, I’ve got to rest up for next year

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rick Perry and the Great Ponzi Scheme

Seems like some folks are upset about Rick Perry’s assertion that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme.

Now, I don’t know if I’m for Perry or not. I don’t trust him. He possesses many of the attributes of the consummate politician, both good or bad. That means nothing.
There are only a few politicians I trust, and most of them are local folks. Even among the locals, there are those who put their own agendas above those of the public.

So, when I say, let’s talk about his remarks, I’m not supporting him, although I believe if you look at his assertion with an open mind, you’ll be able to see his point.

I’m not trying to change your mind. Most of you are too wise for that, but I just want to explain his point-of-view.

First, just what is a Ponzi Scheme?

It is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to investors, not from actual profits earned, but from money paid by subsequent investors.

The scheme draws new investors by offering returns other companies can’t guarantee. These returns are short term and offer abnormal and consistent returns. When other investors see that old Joe Moneybags’ investment with ‘Pie in the Sky Mutuals’ is drawing twenty percent, they fall all over their own greed to get in on the action.
The only way for the scheme to continue is to entice new investors--continually--as in day after day—to feed on itself.

Most of you have heard of Bernie Madoff who scored billions off a long running Ponzi Scheme.

A la Perry, let’s compare his plan to our Social Security system, shall we?

Bernie: took money from investors with the promise that the money will be invested and made available to them later.

Social Security: Takes money from wage earners with the promise that the money will be invested in a ‘Trust Fund’ and made available later.

Bernie: Instead of investing the money, old Bernie spent it on nice homes and yachts.

Social Security: After depositing money in a ‘Trust Fund’, politicians borrowed from it to supplant monies for the General Revenue Fund, using it for general spending and vote buying.

Bernie: When the time came to pay the investors back, Bernie simply used funds from new investors to pay the older investors.

Social Security: When benefits for the older investors became due, politicians paid the old codgers with money taken from younger and newer wage earners.

Bernie: When Bernie’s scheme was discovered, you-know-what hit the fan. New investors scattered like quail. Money dried up.

Social Security: When Social Security runs out of money, politicians try to force taxpayers to send them more or they cancel or pare down benefits to all those who paid into it.

Now, there you have it. That’s the point Perry is trying to make.

If you can see a difference in a Ponzi Scheme and Social Security, I’d appreciate you let me know. I’ll even print your response (as long as it is printable).

Now the old boy in my high school chat group who put me on to this comparison added one more comparison.

I think it is interesting enough to repeat here.

Today, Bernie Madoff is in jail.

Today, politicians remain in Washington with fat medical and retirement benefits or have retired to bask in the fact they are rich as Croesus and have federal buildings and libraries named after them.

Does Madoff deserve prison?

Definitely! His actions were deliberate, bringing about devastating ruin to hundreds of lives.

What about the politicians who’ve taken from Social Security?

I don’t know about you, but I see a double standard here that has no place in our country.

What to do about it?

Term limits.

House members-three terms; Senate-two terms.

A keenly perceptive activist in the intellectual life of our country, Milton Friedman, once remarked. “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years, there would be a shortage of sand.

Ain’t it the truth.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Way Out of This Mess

No one disputes the chilling fact that our country is $14 trillion plus in debt. No one can dispute that when Clinton left office, we had a surplus. No one can dispute the debt started under Bush and escalated under Obama.

Today, we stand here like dummies staring at a stack of thousand dollar bills 945 miles (miles, not feet) high. Nine hundred and forty five. That’s a greater distance than from Orange, Texas to El Paso.

Even such a simple explanation of the enormity of the debt is still almost too confounding for me.

Nine hundred and forty-five! Why that’s almost as many miles as your teenager puts on his car over the weekend, right?

Fourteen trillion, and now the administration wants and half trillion to do the same thing all over again.

Remember Einstein’s definition of insanity- doing the same thing and expecting different results.

How did this all happen?

Most of us know exactly how it came about because unfortunately, the same thing has happened to many of us. We’re rocking along, holding our own, and than bingo, we’re broke. How?

Well, it’s a lot of little things we overlook.

But then someone shouts. Hold on! We’ve been fighting wars for ten years now. Them wars ain’t little things.

And he’s right. The Iraq and Afghan wars aren’t little things.

So, let’s talk about them. How much have we spent?

No one really knows.

Believe that? You should. We’re talking about Congress here, folks, not forthright, plain-speaking Americans.

You see, Congress has allotted the Defense Department $1.3 trillion for the wars through this fiscal year. President Obama said the wars cost about $1 trillion.

But those numbers are incomplete. In addition to that which Congress appropriated, the Pentagon spent an additional unknown amount from its $5.2 trillion base budget over the same period. According to a recent Brown University study, the wars and their ripple effects has cost the U.S. $3.7 trillion--over $12,000 bucks per person, even for the newest little guy or gal to pop into this world.

Other reports put it over $5 trillion, others a tad under, but I figure if we set the monetary cost at $4 trillion, we’d probably be in the ballpark.

I was no math whiz in school, but even I can subtract, and $4 trillion from $14 trillion still leaves $10 big T’s.

Though many disagree with the war, everyone can see where those funds went. What about the others? The $10 trillion?

There are the entitlements, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and others, all of which were designed to support those citizens who had fallen on hard times.
What about those who discovered the loopholes in the system? The illegals? How much do they cost us?

How about $340.000,000,000.00 a year? If you’re like me and all those zeroes confuse you, the figure is three hundred and forty billion a year. A year!

Cut that out, and in three years, we’d have a trillion cut off the debt.
Don’t believe the figures?

According to FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national, nonprofit, public-interest organization that believes our nation's immigration policies must be reformed to serve the national interest stated that every year up to $22 billion is spent on welfare for illegal aliens. Another $22 B is spent on assistance programs such as WIC, free school breakfast and lunches, and food stamps.

Two and a half billion is spent on Medicaid while $12 billion is spent on public schools for illegals who cannot speak a word of English.

Seventeen billion is spent annually on the education of anchor babies, the children of illegals.

Three million a DAY is spent incarcerating illegal aliens who comprise 30% of all federal inmates.

American taxpayers spend ninety billion annually on social services for illegal aliens.

Two hundred billion a year in suppressed American wages are the result of illegal aliens, and to add insult to injury, $45 billion a year is remitted to their countries of origin.

And every day, every year, our Congress sits on its thumbs seeing who can one-up each other.

It’s time for term limits on those jokers.

Right now, the Democrats and Republicans are playing footsy with each other--business as usual while trying to make it look as if they’re governing.

Ask any individual who has pulled himself out of bankruptcy or overwhelming debt, and he will admit he had to make some tough decisions.

It is time for Congress to do the same thing.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rick Perry Revisited

A couple weeks back, a gentleman stopped me in front of the post office and questioned me about an article I’d written about Rick Perry. He had considered voting for Perry until he read the article. Now, he had questions.

Well, we all do, and I hastened to explain that while I had strong reservations about our governor, what I considered his negative aspects no way precluded my voting either for or against him.

I was just stating facts. And I could name more issues such as the birther stuff, seceding from the U.S., and his penchant to be a bedfellows with Cintra, a Spanish-based toll-road developer/operator and Texas-based Zachry Construction

But then, you and I could take each candidate and find a list of negatives as long as your arm.

Perry’s a farm boy. He was an Eagle scout, A&M graduate, and an Air Force pilot.

He started out in politics as a democrat, but along the way switched sides. Much is made of the fact he has never lost an election, although in 2006 he won only by a plurality over Chris Bell, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Kinky Friedman, a Libertarian candidate, and a write-in independent.

Perry polled 39 percent; Bell 29.8 percent; Strayhorn 18 percent, and Friedman 12.6 percent. The Libertarian and the write-in polled 0.6 percent.

It is interesting to note that less than 40 percent of registered voters participated in the election. So, out of approximately 10.5 million registered voters, he receive 1.7 million votes.

Put another way, he was elected by 17-18% of Texas citizens. Certainly not a majority choice. Perhaps just the lesser of six evils, huh?

He became only the third governor in state history elected by a plurality of less than 40 percent of votes cast.

Other elections, he solidly defeated his opponent.

It is true during his tenure, almost half of the new jobs in the country have been created here in our state. How much credit he should get, I don’t know. I do know he used taxpayer money to entice companies to create jobs in the state, but then, isn’t a governor supposed to take steps to help his state prosper?

Texas is a right-to-work state, meaning we’re not at the mercy of unions (although in their way, they do good). We have no state income tax nor state tax on capital gains, all choice plums for businesses looking to relocate or start up. You can’t give him credit for that. We had that before him.

This last legislative session, he tried, but failed to ban sanctuary cities-those that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by now allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status. I applaud him for the effort.

Austin, Baytown, Brownsville, Channelview, Denton, Dallas, El Cenizo, Fort Worth, Houston, Katy, Laredo, League City, McAllen, Port Arthur, and San Antonio are all considered sanctuary cities. That means illegals can live there without fear of arrest and deportation while at the same time milking cities of funds designed to support legal citizens of need. Those city officials should be real proud of themselves.

In 2003, Perry managed to get tort reform, which means he put caps on non-monetary medical malpractice damages. Such legislation was instrumental in bringing more doctors into the state.

Texas has always been a litigious state, with Jefferson County having one of the most favorable environments for trial attorneys. This last session, Perry signed a ‘loser pays’ bill, which, depending on the situation, makes a losing plaintiff liable for the other party’s attorney fees.

On the flip side of this legislation is the concern that the poor will not pursue legitimate claims out of fear of losing.

He signed the voter I.D. bill, which is designed to prevent fraud at the ballot box.
Would I vote for him?

To the gentleman in front of the post office, I’ll admit I’m not sure. Besides, we’ve a long way to go. I can’t help thinking that someone who packs a .380 magnum while jogging could very well shoot himself in the foot.

The gentleman with whom I spoke is like most us, desperate to get the country going again. Many probably share his feeling when he said, ‘if the election was between Mortimer Snerd and Obama, I’d vote for Mortimer.’

What if it were between Perry and Mortimer?

You call it.