Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Suddenly, We're Connected" and Connecting the Dots

In a govenment program announced in June, we give away free cell phones and 68 minutes a month to just about anyone who gets a federal handout of some kind. This program is called Safelink.

From the Trac Phone press release:
"By approving the SafeLink Wireless program, the FCC took action to enhance its Lifeline program and keep the right to communicate (emphasis mine)in pace with technology." I didn't know we had this unalienable right. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and communications" is not how I remember it from school. Can't find it in the Bill of Rights, either.

But, according to the release, taxpayers don't pay for this boondoggle. No, that becomes the curse of the taxpaying cell phone users. Ever wonder what the "Universal Service Charge" is that appears on your monthly cell phone bill? That's it, plus a kick in from the cell phone provider. Bet they don't pass that cost on to us paying customers. Right.

TracPhone, a subsidiary of a Mexican based company, (nope - sorry, a US company wasn't the beneficiary of this new FCC enhanced program) gives the phones for free to the poor people. Surely none of them are using up all of the free 68 minutes. Surely none of the poor people are buying additional minutes for as much as $33.3 cents a minute. The cheapest rate, assuming a poor person has $79.99 is $17.7 cents a minute. Me thinks I would give them a free phone in order to get that lucrative revenue. I bet most of their sales are the $9.99 for 30 minutes plan. The company has enormous gross margins of about 68%. I am a small business person. I love large gross margins. But not on the back of a poor person and not hyped as a "free government program" to help the poor.

This program looks to me like a taxpayer-funded bonanza to a foreign corporation. Question: Who snuck this bill in the budget and can we take a look to see if a lobbyist from TracPhone paid him or her a visit beforehand?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Americans For Prosperity

Last night I attended a local Americans For Prosperity (AFP) meeting and I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

So far, I have been a solo worker bee and traveled independently to the Tax Day Tea Party in DC and the September 12th March on Washington. But earlier in the week, I signed up for a Defending the American Dream Summit in DC sponsored by AFP on October 2-3. This time I would be traveling with this local group, so I thought it would be good to see who they were.

Turns out they were just like me: concerned citizens who are deeply worried about the direction this country is heading in and the massive deficit spending that may well bankrupt our country.

They weren't kooks or crackpots. I didn't hear people bemoaning the president; rather they bitched about the waste and spending from both parties. These were just ordinary folks who gave up an evening with the family to see what they could do to help get this country back on the track intended by our forefathers. I left the meeting impressed with the group and its sincere efforts to make a difference, and am glad to be riding on the bus with them for the summit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Americans Take to the Streets: The Real Picture

I received an email that I thought you'd find interesting:
MORE DC Tea Party pictures not seen on national news

Be sure to also check out a UK write up on the number of protesters...not bad for a self-described liberal writer. I like that he also made note that this was a more gentle crowd than he is used to seeing at protests he covers. Too bad most US media downplayed the story.

"This is the first great conservative anti-status manifestation in American history. The conservative movement, which developed in the post-WWII, Cold War environment has now fully matured into the most significant political movement of the 21st century. I believe that this day could be referred to in the not too distant future as the day that changed America. This was the day the great silent conservative majority finally found its voice.

Many of the attendees were quite meek and timid and were unsure of exactly what to expect, this being the first time in their lives they’d been involved in a protest movement. Their fears evaporated early in the day and I saw people reveling in the camaraderie , the joy and sheer civility that was exhibited at the entire event. Chants of “Freedom, freedom, freedom”, “No more czars! No more czars!” carried through the air without the slightest hint of rancor or incivility which is the norm at the leftist rallies I have photographed over the years.

The two photos above show a tiny fraction of the two million ABC estimates attended. I saw signs and heard lots of comments comparing this event to Woodstock. At the time this photo was taken, around 1:00 p.m., Pennsylvania Avenue was still jammed completely, and the mall was packed from the Capitol Building past the Washington Monument. See aerial photos here.

Protesters came from every state in the union. This man came from San Antonio, TX. He said that he was really sorry he hadn’t brought his family. He stated that being a black conservative he was afraid to expose his children to what he expected would be a lot of liberal abuse. He was thrilled with the tenor of the event and the fact that no liberals were present to harass him. He spoke about how incredibly intolerant the left is to black individuals who don’t bow to the party line.

The commentary continues. Email me for photos and complete essay.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Health Care Reform: What's the hurry and why all at once?

I have two questions about the Health Care reform debate: why the rush and why does it have to be in one massive bill?

There have been numerous breakdowns of the reported 47 million uninsured, most narrow down the actual number of American citizens needing help at about 12 million. Why can't we simply help these folks now so we can take our time to get health care reform right? If 80% of us are happy with our insurance, why do we have to upend the entire system?

Why can't we tackle reform one piece at a time so that everyone has a chance to read and understand what is being proposed instead of these massive 1000+ page bills?

Tort reform is an obvious place to start. Is the fact that so many trial lawyers supported candidate Obama make him hesitant to add tort reform in the reform bill? Is the fact that most legislators are lawyers another obstacle?

Reducing administration costs by having a single form that all insurance companies use would also save countless dollars. This is an easy no-brainer. Why can't this be done immediately while the harder issues are worked out?

I just get the sinking feeling that the health care reform bill is going to be another hack job to help special interests at the expense of the taxpayer. Only this time, it may make America too sick to resuscitate.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Turnabout on Anti-Ballistic Program: Will Poland and Czech Republic go ballistic?

Obama's dramatic about face on our long-range anti-ballistic program yesterday hopefully is the right thing for the USA. No doubt Poland and the Czech Republic are having a few twitches and are wondering if we are abandoning them in capitulation to the Russians.

In ironically unfortunate timing, the announcement was made on the 70th anniversary of Russia's invasion of Poland.

I have to believe that Defense Secretary Gates, who while under Bush supported the previous program, is correct in saying that the facts have changed and that Iran's greater threat is short and mid range missiles which are better thwarted by this new program.

Question: President Obama meets with Russian president Medvedev next week. Russia had vocally opposed our previous plan. If the decision was already made to switch strategies, why not use this as a negotiating tool next week in order to get Russian support on deflecting the Iranian threat? Seems like we threw Russia a bone, buried our allies, and could have tweaked the timing of the announcement just a tad.

Postscript 9-18-09 12:30pm Just read this column in the WSJ. If the writer is correct and Obama worked up an argument to complement his pre-ordained conclusion, I cannot print the words I feel.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why Doesn't the President Shun ACORN and SEIU?

Since ACORN emerged into our national consciousness last year during the presidential election, smarmy stories continue to erupt, most recently the videos of a "pimp and prostitute" seeking a low interest housing loan for their brothel from assorted ACORN offices.

Earlier this year, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., concerned about all of the corruption within ACORN, called for hearings, but by his own admission, he was told to back off by the "powers that be"...that ACORN was untouchable. After being questioned as to who were these powers, the White House, Pelosi, contributors...he said he was refering to himself. Right.

ACORN and the SEIU are two peas in a pod, with cross polinating management.

The SEIU apparently uses a mobster mentality in its search for more members -- more members equals more money. If they run into any problems trying to unionize a company, they have boasted that they will destroy the company.

President Obama, proud of his community organizing background with ACORN, promised after the election that ACORN would help shape his agenda. He was a keynote speaker at the SEIU 2008 convention after securing the Democratic nomination and gave them credit for his nomination.

The current expression in vogue is to throw someone "under the bus" when repudiating a connection to a person or organization. With all that is now known about these two groups, why hasn't our President thrown them under the bus and disowned them as he did his long-term preacher Jeremiah Wright after his radical racist views and hatred of America became common knowledge? The silence is deafening.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Grassroots Effort to Pass a Constitutional Amendment

Scanning my niece's Social Studies text last weekend, I came across a heartening section. It seems the 27th Amendment was passed in large part because of the efforts by a University of Texas student by the name of Gregory Watson.

In 1982, Watson was doing research on the ERA when he came upon the proposed amendment from 1789 that some states had already ratified. Some 202 years later, his grassroots letter writing campaign helped pass this amendment to help keep corruption from our legislative branch.

Despite the lengthy delay in ratification, legislators did not want to be on the wrong side of the fence on voting for their own pay come the next election.

Perhaps that's what will be the motivation for our politicians to vote for the proposed 28th Amendment to prohibit them from excluding themselves from any mandate they require for the rest of us Americans.

The petition is gaining momemtum, with signatures from one out of every five states so far. Please consider signing it if you haven't already, and encourage others to do so.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Can You Hear Us Now?

I am proud to have been a part of the March on DC on September 12th. Those "tens of thousands" were actually hundreds of some reports even over a million.

We knew it was going to be big when we got to the Metro station to catch a train to the Capital. A passing 'blue' line, taking the longer north route passed us by and it was packed like a can of tuna with people holding their signs. My 'yellow' line train required a change and it was all we could do to squeeze in. One poor guy who got out on an earlier stop managed to get his body out of the crowded train, but his arm got stuck in the door, so he had to leave his bag behind.

Exiting the Metro was interesting. We had to shuffle along because there were simply too many people. Everyone was polite and orderly...not exactly an 'angry mob'. Once up the escalator, we exited the station and were shocked. Even though we were there an hour before the march was due to start, we discovered that they had to start it earlier because there simply wasn't enough room for all of the people.

When we joined the march, people already filled up and down Pennsylvania Avenue(a mile's worth) and into the Capital lawn. There were people of all ages, from infants to elderly, and abilities, from severely handicapped to fit military (not in uniform) there to protest excessive government spending and intervention into our lives.

I would describe the mood as jubilant, not angry. We all seemed to be glad that we weren't the only ones feeling betrayed by our government. I must confess that we weren't the best 'protesters', as we weren't very good at chanting. However, when someone started singing the national anthem, the crowd did a fine rendition, and those sitting stood and sang as well.

I would say that 80% of the signs were directed against our government as a whole, not just Obama, and for the most part were in good taste. I would guess that less than 5% were borderline tasteful, but I saw none that crossed the line. Most of the signs were hand-made and not pre-printed. Deficit spending was the major concern, along with a US shift towards socialism, especially with Health Care.

I met people from all across the country who traveled on their own nickel (as I did) to attend. Several I met flew in from CA, and the couple in front of me drove non-stop from TX. There was a man wearing a surgeon's coat that I met while waiting for a porta-toilet. He was trying to find someone from each state to sign his coat. By 11am, when we met, he'd already filled up most of his coat with signatures. I heard that 450 buses were chartered, which means that about 23,000 people came by bus. The rest of us, the vast majority, came there on our own. I don't think it gets any more grass roots than that.

While most people I met were republican or independant, I did meet some democrats. There were some people of color, but frankly not many I am sad to say. A black man walked against the crowd in the march taunting us with, "white hoods for $2". He just didn't get it that this movement has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with liberty. His and mine.

I imagine the politicians were shocked at the size of the crowd. Here's a link to some photos. Hopefully our efforts will not be in vain.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who knew?

When I sent out the email blast to my contact list about the petition I was starting, I was well aware that easily half of my friends were on the opposite side of the political spectrum than myself. I was frankly worried that they would think that I was trying to impose my political beliefs on them, and I didn't want to offend them.

Was I ever wrong! If my friends are any indication, both Democrats and Republicans are fed up with the ever growing weight of our federal government. So it turns out we do indeed have common ground, probably more than we realize. We might be a little right or left of center, but we mostly seem to believe in the same general goals for our country.

The consensus I am seeing from the petition is that we want the government to listen to us and not dictate to us. And we want them to be on the same playing field as us.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Yes We Can

Where did I hear that slogan before? Oh, right: last year's election. But you know what? He was right, "Yes We Can".

I am a quiet little property manager in Eastern NC. I have zero political clout. I have no friends in high places. All I've got going for me is that I believe in the republic that is America. I believe that most of us believe in the American Dream and the tenets our forefathers espoused. I have also come to believe in the power of the internet to level the playing field for those of us without clout.

Two days ago I had the crazy idea of starting a petition to hold our politicians accountable. I sent an email to that effect to my email contacts. They sent it to their email contacts, and now my inbox is flooded with emails from complete strangers who also believe in what I hold dear... fellow Americans who believe that we need to yank the chain of our federal goverment (and our state governments, too, but that's another petition!).

In just two days, over 20% of the states have had at least one patriot sign the petition. Individually we may have no clout. But together we can form our own special interest group -- one that is looking our for the well-being of the average taxpaying American who is deeply concerned about politicians who seem to care only about themselves and doing right by the special interest groups that fund their re-elections.

So individually we may not be able to get through to them, but I have no doubt that together, Yes We Can.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where's the Beef?

Maybe I missed it, but I haven't seen much ink on taking personal responsibility for one's health. Don't get me wrong: if you want to eat a 3/4 pounder double bacon cheeseburger, I certainly don't want to take that pleasure away from you. But for those of you that do so daily, should the folks that take that same lunch hour to go to the gym be paying for your excessive health care costs?

An article in today's New York Times talks about how one reason our health care costs are so much higher than other countries is because we are fat. My neighbor, a refugee from Serajevo, said his family was shocked when they arrived in America. In movies, everyone was thin and there is no doubt that here in Eastern NC, we are a large lot.

I personally believe that in order for us to reduce health care costs, people need a combo carrot and stick approach. You get a better rate for certain behavioral activities like working out or maintaining a decent cholesterol, etc., and maybe a higher copayment if you smoke.

The fact of the matter is that we cannot afford to give everyone all of the health care they want, and hard choices have to be made. A free market system is, in my mind the way to go, but perhaps we can add some personal accountability to the equation.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hold Them Accountable

Yesterday while working, I was thinking about how our Senators and Congressmen these days seem to hold themselves up on an elevated level above other Americans.

They routinely vote themselves nice perks and pensions, and now as they debate the most important bill in our lifetime, the Health Care Reform Bill, most have decided that they will not vote to forgo the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program that so richly covers them and their families and instead join the plan they deem good enough for us taxpayers. THIS IS WRONG! They should live under the same standards that they hold us accountable to and live under any mandates that they dictate for us.

I propose that Americans petition our Senators and Congressmen to add a 28th Amendment to our Constitution that reads:

"Senators and Congressmen must include themselves in any mandate required of American citizens."

Those of you that agree, I encourage you to sign a petition I've started stating:

I want my federal representatives to pass a Constitutional Amendment that ensures that Senators and Congressmen must include themselves in any mandate required of American citizens. I commit that I will not vote to elect or re-elect any member who refuses to support such an amendment.

Here's the link to the webpage I set up. Sign it and send the link to all of your email contacts and ask them to consider signing it. Let's use the power of the internet to raise our collective voices to corral our politicians and make them accountable to us.

When I was in college, my professor said that the "Sleeping Giant" was China. He was wrong. It is the American People and we are starting to wake up.