Monday, September 21, 2009

Faith No More?

A troubling element of our country’s political discourse has increasingly piqued my interest as of late. And on Tuesday, last week, it seemed to have trembled to a denouement in my mind.
Our lame-duck former President, Jimmy Carter, took it upon himself to address our national yellow streak in matters of pervasive (or perhaps only perceived) racial tension.

His comments were directed at a portion of the populace that he believes, from his own experience, to be a racist contingent that only recently began to voice “intensely demonstrated animosity” toward President Obama, a man who is bi-racial. His reasoning comes on the heels of Rep. Joe Wilson’s decorum-busting outburst during the President’s recent televised address to Congress.

Carter’s personal experience of the South does indeed justify his acknowledgment of existing racism; and some elements of a rancorous populous may in fact continue to harbor such bigoted personal views. But his comments directly singled out a certain protest movement, popularly known as the Tea Parties, though sometimes childishly derided as “tea-baggers”.

This grass-roots organized movement literally began when CNBC’s Rick Santelli floated the idea of a July 4th tea party on Lake Superior to protest government bailouts for homeowners with underwater mortgages. It was fueled further by Dr. Bob Basso’s YouTube video portraying a Thomas Paine-like patriot calling for Americans to stand up to the Washington elitists who were passing the trillion-dollar buck while at the same time calling them “cowards”. The protests got a head start by staging rallies around the country on the IRS’s April 15th filing deadline, and so have also been referred to as tax protests. The demonstrations have rallied further with “Town Hall” meetings hosted by constituents’ Congressional Representatives, focused on the debate over proposals for Health Care/Insurance reform that, if instituted haphazardly, would likely add more government bureaucracy and result in higher taxes to fund it.

But all of that couldn’t possibly matter due to the fact that our Nation’s 44th president is “a black man”.

Now I’ve thought of this myself, hoping to live up to Attorney General Eric Holder’s expectations for brave citizenship, and to not cower down by sweeping under the rug any possible racially-motivated misgivings. Problem is I still have trouble doing that. You see, I actually pay attention to campaign rhetoric and the vetting of candidates running for office. I know that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, to a mother and father of dissimilar ethnicity. And that he spent time as a young boy in Indonesia. And that he went to Columbia University, home turf of radical Marxist William Ayers.

I also know that he is a husband, and a father of two young girls.

He, like the vast majority of the American public, whether protesting or not, has greater interests at heart than what color he or they or you or I are. He is a family man, and by all accounts, an American. I may disagree with his words and actions while he is representing our nation’s interests, but I am only doing so because he is the Head of State. I would not venture argument in regard to his family’s home life, as I would not expect argument to my own.

This is the difference between what Rep. Joe Wilson, the Tea Parties, and the Town Hall protesters endeavor to debate, and what true racists would use to disparage the man himself. Those who would follow the latter course are detestable, and it is not cowardly to marginalize them and deny them the satisfaction of their prejudice.

Unfortunately, I find it troubling that the leadership of the Democrat Party, from Secretary of State Hillary “it takes a village” Clinton to Rep. Nancy “for the children” Pelosi to Sen. Barbara “don’t call me Ma’am” Boxer to President Barack “teachable moment” Obama have repeatedly demonstrated a fundamental condescension towards the ability of average Americans to carry out spirited debate over national issues, and a lack of faith in our ability to conduct our personal and economic affairs. This lack of faith in the republic is untenable and in no way does it honor the intentions of this nation’s founders. It is primarily the republic’s responsibility to ensure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare, and it is secondarily the government’s responsibility to assist.

And when Americans are patronized as “cowards” for not furthering the bitterness of the past, or branded racists for speaking out against encroaching legislation and expansion of government powers, then the image in my mind of Uncle Sam is no longer one of him pointing at me, personally, entreating me to stand and do my part. It is of a castigating disciplinarian wagging a chastising finger in my face.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

May Posterity

The first time I had the pleasure of camping at McGee Creek in the Eastern Sierra’s Owens Valley was in 1992. I was fifteen years old, and I sneaked my first beer from an unsupervised ice chest.
My father and I had traveled south with another Northern Californian down Highway 395 to meet the group that makes the yearly migration north from Bakersfield to Crowley Lake for the opening weeks of trout season. The traditional campground is at McGee Creek R.V. Park located just off the highway. McGee Creek flows down from the craggy peaks of the John Muir Wilderness and into Crowley Lake, which pools primarily from the Owens River running north to south. Other nearby lakes include beautiful Rock Creek Lake and Convict Lake, and a little further north is the June Lake Loop near Mammoth, California. The entire region is a trout fishing Mecca that yearly draws anglers from as far away as Los Angeles.

Since then, my Dad and I have been trying to schedule the trip every year when possible. We look forward to it like little kids anticipating Christmas morning. Now that he’s retired, he has no problem, and I make it a point every year to save my vacation hours specifically for the first of May.
Dad’s youngest brother, my uncle Kevin, tries each year to rally his Bakersfield coaching buddies to join the group of old-timers that have traditionally made the trip to Crowley. The normal weekend choice is the first in May, which is a week after Opening Day. The end of April is pretty busy and too crowded with competitive fishermen.
This year, however, we delayed the trip until the middle of May. The R.V. hookups were mostly booked for the normal weekend, and some of the old-timers were scattered elsewhere in the west. What a difference two weeks make! The weather was in the 80’s instead of the 50’s, and the sun was beating down as we set up our campsite. Usually it is cold, and blustery with wind the first weekend in May. This time we were in shorts and sandals by the middle of the first day.

Some of the finest memories I have of our trip to McGee is the food. When the larger group convenes, there is a coin toss to decide which night to have the barbeque spare ribs, and which night for the Tri-Tip! A large BBQ grill is hauled up, and others pitch in with potato salad, French bread, and 24-hour beans that once ended up as 48-hour beans due to the elevation and improper plans for soaking…
One year, we even had the fixings for fajitas as it was a Saturday Cinqo de Mayo. Perfect fare for lunchtime in the high Sierra. So on this year’s outing my uncle pulled out all the stops to meet expectations despite our dwindled numbers. He hauled up enough food to feed a small battalion. True to form, we ate like kings.

Uncle Kevin’s son, Austin, and our other cousin Jason were a welcome addition to the fishcamp this year. Austin had rarely been able to join us, and Jason had been absent for several years. So it would just be the five of us this year, all family. Until, that is, when sitting down to BBQ ribs that rivaled my grandpa’s, our campsite neighbor ambled over and sat down at our table. It was Rick, one of the old-timers who my uncle knew from many past outings. My uncle paused to reflect on how Rick’s son was here with sons of his own, and how they were the same size as Rick’s son was when Kevin first came to McGee! This was truly a multi-generational gathering place steeped in tradition. I then remembered how the previous year I had been sitting by the fire with another old-timer, Mike, who said that the first time he had camped up here was in 1966. Forty-two years of Crowley fishing trips!

After supper on both nights, we all stood around the fire and recalled various books and authors we enjoyed, and the philosophies embraced. We talked about faith, and the debate over Man’s place in the world. My uncle was especially pleased with the conversations; taking notice of how we discussed topics of higher worth rather than the typical mangathering’s frivolous jabbering about women and sin. This was something I hoped to look back upon with fondness years from now.

As the obsidian sky unfolded above us, my cousins Jason and Austin marveled at the stars, and the clarity of the nighttime heavens. The city lights and smog of Bakersfield hampers stargazing, and the contrast is awe-inspiring. We all agreed to make every effort to meet here again each year, and we look forward to one day bringing our own children with us to keep the tradition going.

For travel info and reservations contact:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Mechanics of the Meltdown

Guest Commentary for all the Faithful Federalists out there...

By Marilyn Barnewall

To whom should we listen about banking, the stock market, the economy? There are so many differing analyses right now, it is difficult to know.
One opinion is that Wall Street is sitting on $50 plus trillion in leveraged assets and the United States government has a $5 to $6 trillion gross domestic product (GDP). There is, this opinion says, no way to avoid a total meltdown.
Today I read an analysis by Stratfor, whose opinion I respect tremendously. Stratfor says we must focus on the political realities, not the economy. Using this strategy, Stratfor had been correct in predicting many things Wall Street, the Treasury, the Fed, and economists around the world have missed. Stratfor says we will have an ugly, painful recession, but the “fall of the housing markets will be trumped by the size of the American economy.” They see the core problem as the fall of the housing markets and approach problem resolution from that perspective.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Immodest Proposals

Congress is actively debating solutions to shoring up Social Security, while at the same time juggling solutions to the frozen credit markets and Wall Street’s adventurous experiments with leveraged liquidity. Among several presented solutions is a bold proposal for a short-term fix that would significantly alter the American public’s savings structure, and that lays out a radically different strategy of Promoting the General Welfare.

Here is how James Pethokoukis writing for US News described it:

“House Democrats recently invited Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor at the New School of Social Research, to testify before a subcommittee on her idea to eliminate the preferential tax treatment of the popular retirement plans. In place of 401(k) plans, she would have workers transfer their dough into government-created "guaranteed retirement accounts" for every worker. The government would deposit $600 (inflation indexed) every year into the GRAs. Each worker would also have to save 5 percent of pay into the accounts, to which the government would pay a measly 3 percent return. Rep. Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Washington and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, said that since "the savings rate isn't going up for the investment of $80 billion [in 401(k) tax breaks], we have to start to think about whether or not we want to continue to invest that $80 billion for a policy that's not generating what we now say it should.”

A mild argument to this strange and frightening proposal is that this was only one of several solutions floated about in the House of Representatives. But what cannot be discounted is the fact that it was taken seriously by at least one Democrat representative, Jim McDermott, who seems to be convinced that a government “investment” of $80 billion is not an effective policy towards increasing the savings rate of the American people. So convinced, despite referencing rate figures that flatly discount the accumulative growth of those same tax-deferred savings.

And here is a summary of the recent testimony Ms. Ghilarducci gave before the House Committee on Education and Labor.

“On Oct. 7, they heard testimony from Teresa Ghilarducci, an economics professor from The New School for Social Research in New York. She proposed a radical, short-term fix, where 401(k) plans would be turned over to a guaranteed retirement account composed of government bonds earning a 3 percent annual return, adjusted for inflation.

When workers begin collecting Social Security, the account would pay them an inflation-adjusted annuity, based on the accumulated funds. For example, a 55-year-old worker with $50,000 in a 401(k) account in August would swap out the $50,000 for a guarantee of $500 per month in retirement.”

And what about a long-term solution?

“Ghilarducci proposed the creation of universal guaranteed retirement accounts in which the federal government invests $600 for every worker. Workers would put 5 percent of their pay in and the account would earn a guaranteed 3 percent rate of return, plus inflation. The cost of this plan would be offset by doing away with most tax breaks currently offered on 401(k) accounts, so the government wouldn't have to pay any more than it does now. The accounts would be safer and guarantee all workers an income during retirement.”

One can only assume that for this solution to work, if backed by the public, it would necessitate the complete removal of the 401(k) stipulation in the tax code, eliminating the most common vehicle for the accumulation of private savings and wealth, and essentially replacing it with a mandated “universal” retirement tax. All this on top of income tax, and Social Security. And you can bet your (literally) bottom dollar that there would be no survivorship to these accounts, nor liquidity access, nor any other freedom of asset management, despite being required to fund them with 5% of your hard-earned wages.

That’s socialism. But it’s all okay because “the government wouldn’t have to pay any more than it does now.” Did everyone get that? By not taxing a portion of a person’s income that is set aside for future, private capital, as is the current 401(k) system, the government is consequently unable to spend it, which according to the government translates to paying us. So I guess it’s all a matter of what kind of socialism we prefer.

Or semantics.

But what may be most frightening of all is the evident support among the constituency.

Here’s a reader’s talkback post from the above U.S. News article.

Solves social security meltdown
In a sense, this plan is brilliant. At 3% return for the defined benefit program, the Obama administration can move inflation up to 10-12% and eliminate the future social security meltdown problem. Of course, we have to get rid of the cost-of-living adjustments for social security (one of which just kicked in giving rich elderly a 5% bonus while they performed no work, while most American workers are lucky to see a 1-2% wage adjustment annually).
I'm encouraged that Obama will make our senior citizens earn their paychecks. Michelle spoke at length that people will be made to work and there will be no shortages of volunteering opportunities. Let's clean up our streets, get seniors out raking leaves, picking up trash, cleaning up dog droppings in our parks, mowing city property, mentoring children in the schools and serving other useful functions. Every government dollar provided should be met with enthusiastic joy and reciprocity by the receiving citizen. An idle citizen is an unappreciated citizen.
redherkey of NE
Oct 23, 2008 14:22:17 PM [permalink] [report comment]

Friday, October 17, 2008

Senator Feinstein's Reply

Dear Mr. Sneed:

Thank you for your letter expressing concern about Congress' recent consideration of a plan to meet our Nation's credit crisis with financial help from the Federal Government.

This is a difficult situation for which there are no perfect solutions, and I would like to share my thoughts and concerns with you. Please find attached two statements that I have given on the Senate floor detailing my reasons for supporting the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-343), which the President signed into law on October 3, 2008.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Government Of The People, For The People, And By The People

Here's a letter I sent to my distinguished U.S. Senator from California:

Feel free to copy it and send it along to the other 99 tools in Washington....

Sen. Diane Feinstein October 2, 2008
331 Hart Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Senator Feinstein, how DARE you!

You’ve just been quoted as having said the following:

“I’ve received calls and e-mails from 91,000 Californians, and 85,000 of them were opposed to this measure. There’s a lot of confusion out there, people aren’t understanding this…”

The only people who take the time to actually call and e-mail you are the ones who do understand, confusion notwithstanding. I guarantee you that the people who truly don’t understand these economic events and circumstances, despite being the same people who have entrusted you with their representation, are in fact the ones who will not take the time, or have the impetus to contact you. And you, I am sure, are quite aware of this. They may feel powerless or lazy or both; nevertheless, it is your DUTY to represent them with clear and reasoned statesmanship. And for those that do take the initiative to contact you, you have an even greater duty to heed their wishes!

85,000 opposed, eh? And you still voted "yes".

So I ask again, HOW DARE YOU?!?

Your lack of leadership is the reason why you’ve only received 91,000 phone calls and e-mails, instead of 91 MILLION. But please do not waste any more time dithering words and insulting that first tenth of 1%. For if you do, then you are going to see a lot of people making it their personal mission in life to RUIN your career. From San Diego to Crescent City, and from Hollywood all the way up the northern Bible belt to Redding, you will be hearing a clamor such as has never been heard before in the Great State of California. Is that understood? Or is that too vague and confusing for a Senator?

Now if you are not happy about being unable to garner the co-operation from the Representatives of California in that lower little house of Congress, and thereby secure as much unnecessary pork as possible for all the lobbyists who you mistakenly believe assisted in getting you elected, then why don’t you just stop, and instead offer some leadership that will inspire confidence, not apathy, in our Republic? If you truly believe that 93.5% of constituents who contact you are “confused”, then why don’t you let us know that this tax-payer bailout, er,.. “rescue plan” will do the following things that are necessary and needed, and not institute statist initiatives that will forever tarnish the Constitution, and drain what’s left of our nation’s wealth?

Note the following DEMANDS.


1. Rescind the Community Reinvestment Act - this is a huge contributing factor to the FMAC and FNMA meltdown, brought on by pressure from all sides to increase the number of affordable (adjustable) home loans, while at the same time endeavoring to prop up the non-sustainable demand for the increased supply of the home construction industry.

2. Draft responsible trade legislation so that concrete and construction jobs are not the only available labor industry for thousands of people in any given region. And “green” jobs will not fill the void, either, so stop selling the fantasy.

3. Require that sound accounting principles for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae be instituted immediately. Ginny Mae, too. Or is Ginny something we should even be worried about? Please let us know.

4. Require that sound regulation/auditing processes be instituted immediately for Freddie and Fannie.

5. Institute a contemporary of the Glass-Steagall Act, so that Wall Street and Main Street are not keeping all their eggs in the same basket, and letting their eggs multiply like rabbits meant for dinner…

6. Allow ZERO campaign contributions to ANY political party from quasi-governmental entities, in order to avoid a conflict of interest. Prosecute such past dalliances.

7. Any and all possible net gains, or interest accrued from any government purchase of mortgage backed securities shall be used to retire debt. It SHALL NOT be used for funding NEW entitlement programs.

8. No earmarks in any “rescue” bill. Nothing for ACORN, LaRaza, or any other "nonprofit organizaiton." This also is not the time nor place for Energy legislation that would have been well debated if not for Nancy Pelosi turning off the cameras and turning out the lights. And no surprise tax cuts for Indian reservations, either. They have casinos, now.

9. The Secretary of the Treasury is not to be given unconstitutional powers, as this position is a political appointee who is not elected and accountable to the U.S. taxpayer beyond the current Administration. Period. End of story. (Thank you for not budging on this one, btw)

10. Exhibit leadership by demanding from the American People (yourselves included), more than just tax dollars. Demand that we work not just from the top down to solve this crisis, but also from the bottom up, so that we may meet in the middle. Let us know how we can save our money and accrue less debt, while still supporting business, and growth. Tell us what we can do, not what you keep failing to do.

If there is more understanding necessary from the citizens of the United States, then it is up to you to better inform the media, your colleagues, and yourself of the great and tumultuous issues facing our economy and our way of life. Admittedly, there are many who will not care to hear or be required to endure these hard truths. But it is nevertheless your DUTY to heed and respect the wishes of those you govern, regardless of state-wide comprehension. By disparaging the principles of Democracy for the convenience of appeasing the oligarchy, you tread a dangerous path, Senator.


Jared E. Sneed
Citizen and Resident, California, U.S.A.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Re-Assurances From The Obama Campaign

So it was today on The Jerry Doyle show that I heard of the Obama campaign's latest attempts to mainstream and move to the center...,

by issuing some statements including this gem:

"(the campaign) strongly supports a woman's decision to bring her pregnancy to full-term."

Now, is this a simple matter of political ineptitude and thoughtless campaigning? Or is it something much more sinister? Maybe a bit of both? Any way you look at it, it smells...

Admittedly, it is unfortunate that statements such as this come about due to platform issues and the divide of ideology among the two camps - left/right Democrat/Republican....

Nevertheless, I find it astonishing that this kind of statement could ever be uttered without at least having been immediately clarified or retracted.

Seriously, does the Obama campaign actually think that by claiming to support something that should not require or ever even be addressed by Government, or those seeking office, that it will soften its image among centrist and right-wing voters?

It sounds like they're trying to make people feel bad about not agreeing with the "right to choose" platform, via the back door of claiming that as far as the Government is concerned, your decision to not end a pregnancy by killing a fetus and instead bringing a child into the family is "supported". As if this kind of life-choice were something quaint, and traditional. Something to inspire an "awwww..." and "how cute, the little people deciding to take the more difficult path and raise a child.."

Jesus, I want to vomit.

It's true that people who either agree or disagree with abortion in general vote, sometimes even early, and often! (in Illinois)

But no matter what our views on the sticky legality-mixed-with-morality abortion debate, We The People, and prospective parents, specifically, neither ask for nor should we ever need to ask for Government's "support" based on one or any ideological position. period.

And once we do need to ask, then all will have been lost.... How nice of the Obama campaign to re-assure us that abortion is not yet a requirement or even an expectation!

-YARK- ... erp.

Now you'll have to excuse me. I need to brush my teeth.