Monthly Archives: January 2011

Weekly Meditation

For this week’s meditation I return to a lesser known work of spiritual wisdom: The Gospel of Thomas. The Gospel of Thomas is one of the oldest known gospels and many historians believe it is the closest thing we are going to get to actual words of the real Rabbi known as Jesus of Nazareth…or at least until someone finds a copy of the Q document.

I’m going to pull one of my favorite quotes, verse 77:

Jesus said: “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up a stone, and you will find me there.”

This line has no counterpart in the four Gospels adopted by the early church, which is very sad because of the beauty and truth suggested in this line.

If you look you can see God in everything. If you look you can see God in nothing. It’s a matter of faith. But what isn’t necessarily faith is the willingness to look for God in everything. Life to a great degree isn’t about outside circumstances it’s about attitude and choice. Happiness isn’t a reaction to outside events, it’s a choice. Bad things can happen to happy people and they are happy. Good things can happen to miserable people and they are miserable. It’s a choice not a reaction. And one of the easiest ways to make this choice is to look for the good, to look for God, in everything—it’s there if you want to see it, and not if you don’t.

This week’s meditation is again not one to be done in a lotus position while trying to focus on one thing (although doing that daily never hurts). This week you should look for the good, the light, God, in everything. You hate your job? Is this the universe trying to push you to something better? Something not go your way? Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned. Look for the good, and you will find it. See how that changes your mood, and maybe even your life.

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Presidential Candidates: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Part III: The Ugly

We’ve gone over the good and the bad….now for the Ugly…and that is a list of one:

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Presidential Candidates: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Part II: The Bad

Dear God help the Republican Party if it is dumb enough to elect any of the following losers and frontrunners as its candidates.Let’s go down this list of losers and dimwits.

Mitt Romney:

A successful businessman who mainly made money off investments and buyout—i.e. “in other words, you don’t do anything, you don’t make anything” (without any of the redeeming qualities from the movie I pulled that quote from).He managed one of the most corrupt Olympics after scandal broke and didn’t let it go completely to hell…which qualifies him as a good detail oriented kind of person…history tells me that detail oriented people made terrible presidents.They try to get into the details of everything and accomplish nothing.The only model that ever works is a president who has 1). Vision and principles and 2). selects competent detail oriented people below them to whom they can give orders of “Get this or that accomplished, I don’t care how.”

But Romney supporters then like to pull out his governorship of Massachusetts.What gets called Republican in Mass. generally qualifies for the definition of socialism anywhere else in the world.Second what was his big accomplishment in that office?  Health Care that was used as the model for ObameCare (and we as conservatives all just love that little piece of legislation don’t we).He also presided in Massachusetts over an increase in capital gains taxes (because I’m sure that always stimulates an economy).He also proposed indexing the minimum wage tax to the inflation rates—I’d be hard pressed to come up with a more astounding idiotic idea.

When it comes to Romney he’s a liberal and that’s all there is to say about that.I can’t image how conservatives think that putting this bleeding heart in the White House will in any way shape or form help the country.

>Ron Paul

You know on some domestic ideas I agree with Paul (although if I had to make a choice I prefer his son).The problem is that despite having a clearly rational economic policy his foreign policy…well…sucks doesn’t quite cover it.Basically he’s an isolationist.He doesn’t understand that the American is now and forever will be intractably tied to the economies of the world from now on.Just as no state’s economy is separated from the U.S. economy, the U.S. economy is equally inseparable from the rest of the world.And Paul doesn’t get this.And tied to that he doesn’t get that it’s not only practical policy to take out tyranny and support the world over it is a moral imperative.

I like having Paul in the House.He belongs in a legislative body to provide it with correct economic vision.But he has no conceivable place in the White House.

Sarah Palin.

She’s a hypocrite, a demagogue, and completely without morals or standards.She will sell out any idea if she feels it will get her political gain.The only difference between her and other politicians isn’t intelligence, it’s that she’s a better showman and can sell her con better.

Mike Huckabee

This guy is all but a liberal in economics.No thank you.

Jim DeMint, Rick Santorum

On most issues I don’t necessarily disagree with these guys in the broad strokes (broad strokes, both have done things I can’t begin to condone in policy).The problem is that both don’t see reducing the size of government, improving the economy, and blowing up terrorists as the three primary issues for this nation.They would prefer to focus on things that don’t even make my top million things to deal with.DeMint is boycotting CPAC because he thinks it’s too “gay” and “libertarian.”Santorum is on the record as being equally concerned with using the government to regulate our private lives.These two should never be allowed near the White House.And again I will repeat my previous statement DeMint needs to shut his mouth.

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In defense of Bachman or Prove to me you’re not sexist

So I was going to spend time today going over the Republican candidates I can’t stand and wouldn’t vote for if you lobotomized me (Romney, Palin, Huckabee, DeMint, and Santorum). However, after my last blog I got a bit of an unexpected (although disturbingly familiar response).

I will support (in order from those I support most to least) Giuliani, Christie, Gingrich, Bachman, and Pawlenty… do you want to guess who I got the most flack over? Michelle Bachman.
This strikes me as odd. Granted she’s not a great public speaker. And that rebuttal clearly needed a better production team (who know where to put the teleprompter). But we’re Republicans; we don’t necessarily trust good speakers. Good public speakers are demagogues and 9 times out of 10 out for themselves or for an ideology that can’t be won with reason and need charisma to make it popular (Hitler, Lenin, Mao are of course all famous examples). Further most of the problems from last night’s rebuttal that were her fault seem to come from nervousness (probably because it is her first true national speech).

However, nothing she said was out of line with conservative beliefs…Nothing! The words, the ideas, the images could have just as easily come from Goldwater or Reagan. Yet I got from conservatives that “she’s crazy”, “I’m a moron” and the like. Now as far as I know Michelle Bachman has said nothing and done nothing to put her out of line with traditional Goldwater/Reagan conservatism. Certainly she’s out of step with the wimpy middle ground of the GOP that would like to make deals with the Dems and sell out our conservative beliefs for good PR, best exemplified by McCain and anyone named Bush. ….And I would like to make this very clear, if you can show me where she is out of line with this line of traditionally rational, fact based, and patriotic thought, I will withdraw my support of her and agree with you that she needs to be booted out. However I am aware of no such position, statement, or action.

And this is where the arguments I had (several abusive email included) drive me insane. They were vitriolic and hateful. Yes I often insult the intelligence, the patriotism, the character, and quality of lots of people. Often I will use purely derogatory insults. But when I do, it is an aspect of emotional pathos to punctuate an overly long and dull argument. I need to keep the emotional argument as well as the intellectual one. And I don’t think I’ve ever given an insult I can’t back up with facts…
…Facts that were oddly lacking in the arguments against Bachman.

And these arguments seemed familiar. I remember them against Palin in the days before she showed herself to be utterly without standard or character and nothing more than an opportunist demagogue. I remember these arguments made by liberals against Hillary when she was running against Obama. No reason, no facts, just vitriol. Hmmm… what do Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, and Hillary Clinton all have in common? I wonder. It sure as hell ain’t politics. It’s not quality of character. The only thing I can see is gender. It seems to be from both sides. Both liberals and conservatives seem to despise her in equal degree yet I know of no policy reason for this. Same toward Hillary. Liberals and conservatives both seemed to be more opposed to a moderate like Clinton than toward a radical like Obama. It makes no rational sense to me.

This sadly reinforces a deep belief of mine that America still has some very big problems with sexism and misogynism. I’m not saying that that everyone who attacks these politicians is sexist, but I argue that society as a whole still has this problem and it’s bigger than most think…
Or prove me wrong. Prove to me that Bachman isn’t in line with Goldwater/Reagan conservatism. Prove to me that she has no skill in an executive position (difficult given her skill in raising money).

Bachman is not my first choice; Giuliani is and always will be. However, I have seen nothing to say that she does not believe and support the ideas and policies I think are important. But I am a reasonable person, open to facts and reason. I have often gone back and changed these blogs when people have proved to me that my ideas won’t work. I ask you, the people who seem to know more about Bachman than I do, prove to me her ideas and/or actions are something a conservative as myself should not support.

Otherwise concede that you don’t have facts but that you may want to search your soul for some traces of bias against women.

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Presidential Candidates: The Good. The Bad. And the Ugly. Part I: The Good


So this last weekend there was a straw poll in New Hampshire for Republican Candidates.Now this is in no way scientific (we can only hope) but it does show who the elites (read “morons who got us in the position we’re in”) are wanting to back for the GOP nomination.

Here are the highlights

Mitt Romney 39%

Ron Paul 11%

Tim Pawlenty 8%

Sarah Palin 7%

Michele Bachman 5%

Jim DeMint 5%

Herman Cain 4%

Chris Christie 3%

Rick Santorum 3%

Mitch Daniels 3%

Newt Gingrich 3%

Mike Huckabee 3%

Mike Pence 3%

Rudy Giuliani 2%

Now clearly the Republican Party has lost its mind if it thinks a bleeding heart Massachusetts liberal like Mitt Romney should be their candidate.However there are some other terrible choices in there.

Cain, Daniels, and Pence I don’t know enough about to have an informed opinion on.

Romney, Paul, Palin, DeMint, Santorum, or Huckabee would be the worst thing the GOP could do to the country since Gerry Ford (although to be fair, Ford was probably better than those six losers or McCain)

But the bad will have to wait until tomorrow.Today is about the good.

Giuliani, Bachman, Christie, Gingrich, and Pawlenty.

Each of these names I can live with.

Now I don’t agree with Gingrich on everything, and I’m not sure I’ve seen enough of Pawlenty to be sure of him—and of course Christie says he will not run.But these five have a clear vision of the priorities of America.Cutting the size of government, cutting spending, cutting federal power, building a capitalistic economy, and of course blowing up terrorists in the most cost efficient way possible.Each of these five want cut, cut, cut not with a pen knife but more with a knife like a thick butcher’s cleaver (probably a machete is really called for, but I’m willing to take baby steps on this one so long as I get actual movement toward eliminating the debt).And I have never heard anything from any of these five that would make me think they believe that appeasement of evil is ever a practical solution to the problem of tyranny.

With the exception of Bachman these five have experience in executive positions that is not a disgrace (like say running Massachusetts into massive debt…I wonder who helped do that?) For Giuliani keep in mind that being mayor of New York City probably takes more executive skill than being Governor for some states.And Gingrich engineered one of the largest party takeovers in history and kept his people in line quite well for a couple of years.Bachman also is beginning to demonstrate that kind of executive quality that Gingrich had in her role as the head of the Tea Party in the House.Further, what shows Bachman has the strength to be in this kind of executive position is that while she is not backing down (her own rebuttal to the joke that was the President’s State of the Union) she was not willing to drag her party down to satisfy her own ego (when she stepped aside and did not run for one of the House leadership position).

And most important, all five of these people have been rather detested in the press and their own part and stood their ground.Unlike the weak will of most Republicans they seem to not care about what pollsters and the press corps say, but rather base their judgments on minor things like facts, reason, and ethics.

I could go over these candidates more, but right now I’ll let them duke it out and praise the one who comes out on top.However, tomorrow let’s move onto the bad.The ones who unlike these five show no signs of intelligence or character or sanity (or all three).

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Laws the GOP Should Pass #10:

Now usually I try to point out areas where the government is over regulating, over taxing, over intruding into our lives. But government does serve a positive function. It does have a responsibility to protect you from harm caused by others (it has no responsibility to protect you from yourself, and it should really learn to mind its own business in that case). So, just to switch things up, and maybe get a lot of you yelling at me, I present the following wacky off the wall idea:
You know those breathalyzer devices that people with DUI’s get put into their cars? The ones that if you have even a small amount of liquor in your system the car won’t start? Congress should pass a law that all new cars need to be made with these devices and all older cars need to have them put in within three years.
You’re probably wondering if I’ve lost my mind, but hear me out. First off you’re probably thinking that you have a presumption of innocence that you shouldn’t have to prove you’re sober to drive. Sorry. We all admit we don’t have an inherent right to drive on public roads. That’s why we get licenses to drive. That’s why we are forced to get insurance. That’s why police can set up sobriety check-points and test everyone without question or cause (and the courts uphold those checkpoints). We have to submit to all of this because we don’t have an inherent right to drive on public roads. We might have a right to drive on our own property (but really that defeats the whole point of a car). So really this is only hindering your conditional right to drive with a license if and only if you’re drunk. Certainly you don’t have a right to drive drunk. And as the government is charged with protecting us from other people this would certainly stop drunk drivers from getting onto the roads. Now the only difference between the machines that get put in cars now and what I’m proposing is that, under the current system there is a computer that can record if a person attempted to start the car while drunk. Under my proposal the government would not keep or be entitled to that information (not only is this a protection of your privacy, but there is going to be a great secondary benefit to this coming up).

So your rights aren’t violated and I’ve just stopped a third of all deaths on the road. It seems all good. But you complain, as we all learned in SuperFreakanomics that walking drunk is more dangerous than driving drunk which actually means the number of deaths will go up since many of those drunks, unable to start their cars will now go stumbling into the streets and get their boozed asses run over. Boo hoo! The true tragedy of most drunk driving fatalities is that the drunk lives (after all they’re so relaxed that the crash has next to no effect on them) and they kill other people. So I’ve shifted the deaths from the innocent to those who had a choice not to get themselves three sheets to the wind drunk. Somehow there seems more justice in this even if I haven’t really lowered the death toll (although I figure one drunk vs. a whole family in a car might actually mean in the end fewer people will die).

Now your next logical objection is that these machines are expensive. Putting them in every car in America is going to raise the price of a car. Wrong! One, I believe the main reason those machines are expensive is because of a little thing called the economies of scale. As it is now those machines only have to be produced for a rather small portion of the population who have them put in their cars after a DUI. If you put them in every car I feel the per unit cost will go down as the economies of scale dictates. So probably the price of your average car is going to go up by about $100. Not that much for the kind of added protection this law gives. But it gets better, if there are no drunks on the road, then not only are vehicular deaths going to go down, but accidents in general. And if accidents in general go down, then insurance companies are paying for fewer accidents. Which means that their profits go up, and I figure for every 2% their profits go up, then our insurance rates will go down by about 1% (competition will force them to cut their rates because there will always be one company willing to cut its rates if it feels it will get more customers). So probably you’ll actually come out ahead when the system finally balances out and you’re paying less in car insurance.
But it gets better. Since more of these machines are being made, then that means the industry that makes them will have to expand. More jobs. The economic benefits of that are self explanatory.
But it gets better still. If there are no drunks on the road, then cops can actually focus more time on violent crime and other traffic violations (the kind that come with a better per incident fundraising). Oh and traffic court has just taken a huge cut. I can’t imagine the thousands upon thousands of dollars saved in court time, public defenders, cops having to take time to go to court for DUI cases. It’s not hard to imagine that this could help the budget of almost every city in America.
Sure shyster lawyers who make a living defending in DUI cases will be hurt…but I hardly feel this is something any human cares about. Laws the GOP Should Pass #10:

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Meditation of the week


So last week I pulled a line from
A Course in Miracles, which everyone should read, but as a New Ager I find truth in almost all of the world’s religions (I say almost all because generally speaking a belief like Satanism or anything that demands you submit your free will to some petty deity can hardly be called a religion that any sane or rational being would follow) I thought it best to pull a few thoughts to meditate on from a hodgepodge of different texts. This week I’ll go with something a little more familiar to modern American culture (no offense to my overseas readers intended).

“Love God and love they neighbor as yourself.” Not the exact wording of the biblical passage (Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 6: Matthew 22:36 and Luke 10:27) but certainly the sentiment of those lines. It’s quoted a lot. Yet somehow, these verses which were selected out as the two most important commands in the WHOLE Bible seem to be understood very little.

Let’s take the first part. “Love God.” Nobody seems to get this. I’m sure you’re having a moment of shock at what I just said. But think about this. Have you ever heard someone very religious as a “God-fearing person?” You probably have. Odds are you’ve probably used some variant of it yourself at some point or another. Doesn’t that seem odd? When we go to put the fear of God into someone, isn’t that in direct violation, at least philosophically, of this command. Love God. Fear is the opposite of love. You can’t love what you fear. You can’t fear what you love. These are diametrically opposed ideas that should not have anything to do with one another. Granted humans often seem to have a bizarre comingling of these ideas in their lives—sometimes even disturbingly mistaking one for the other—but make no mistake they can’t rationally coexist. You can either fear God or love God. It’s one or the other. And since we’re commanded to love God, if this is a rational command, then there can be nothing to fear in God.

Run that idea through you head over and over again over the next week. Watch how ideas of original sin, purgatory and hell, divine punishment, wrath and vengeance and a million other negative human qualities that people have attributed to God seem less and less logical. If we are to love God how can there be anything to fear.

And the second part of that command “love your neighbor as yourself.” That second part gets dropped a lot. The self-hating, self-sacrificing, self-abasing portion of humanity has made much of love thy neighbor without including the second part. They’ve used it to justify hatred of money and success (a symbol of the work and innovation you have put into life), a hatred of comfort and leisure (acts of loving and caring for yourself), a hatred of the individual (because if you love an individual, any human individual, in their twisted logic it means you are stealing from the love that your neighbor seems to have some kind of right to) and a hatred of a host of other things we do for ourselves. (Notice these people who hate the best within us tend to be the God-fearing sort). The problem is that if you read the line it puts love of yourself on par with the love of everyone else. You=The Whole World. Yes be kind and loving to everyone you meet, but certainly not at the expense of yourself. Modern society has made the love of the self some kind of sin, but this makes no sense. If you are a child of god you must be loveable. After all if you aren’t why should anyone else be. The love of your neighbor is predicated on the love of yourself. So the question becomes are your own actions self-loving or self-hating? It’s important because you can’t love anyone else until you can love yourself.

Think about it for the next week….

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Birthers are stupid

Granted that title is kind of a self-evident truth, but regrettably they’re going to come back into the news. (The situation is more complicated than what I’m about to explain, but this is the story you would get from reading headlines, which is sadly all most people do anymore). Apparently the new Governor of Hawaii opened up Pandora’s Box when he went to look for Obama’s birth certificate and couldn’t find it. The government of Hawaii says it’s buried somewhere in mountains of paperwork and it’s just that they can’t track it down this very minute. I’m sure they’re right and it is just buried in a box somewhere. But I’m sure you know as well as I do that those idiot birthers are going to come back that this is a major conspiracy.
However, while reason, facts, and argument are not going to penetrate the thick skulls of these people I am going to provide you with an argument that will leave them stuttering and sputtering to try and come up with a comeback. So while it won’t lead to them seeing truth, it will allow you to enjoy watching them suffer if you have the misfortune of getting into an argument with one of these idiots.
For a thought experiment let’s say Barrack Obama wasn’t born in the US. Hell let’s say he wasn’t even born in Kenya. Let’s say, for the purposes of this thought experiment that he was born on ….….Mars. Let’s say it was a fact that he was born on Mars. Guess what? He’s still a natural born U.S. citizen. Do you know why? Because his mother was a U.S. citizen and so her son is from birth a U.S. citizen (there’s a legal disclaimer about him needing to touch U.S. soil by a certain date…but we have enough pictures of him growing up in Hawaii and Chicago to have that covered). Barrack could have been born in Hawaii, Kenya, Chicago, the Andromeda galaxy, all make him equally a natural born U.S. citizen because his mother was a U.S. citizen.
Watching a birther try to make a comeback to that is actually kind of funny.

Nonetheless they will eventually still try and comeback with “Why doesn’t he release his birth certificate then?” And the answer will be “Because it keeps idiots like you busy and makes it appear anyone who is opposed to Obama is a crackpot.” When you think about it, not releasing his birth certificate was a genius move of misdirection. Rather than have people pour over legislation or moves of the federal bureaucracy or whatever obsessive compulsive government nuts pour over, he has them focused on something that is utterly irrelevant and not, you know, something that might actually piss off the whole of the American public….like say all of his crappy legislation and executive orders.
I will oppose just about everything Barrack Obama does (unless he actually does make a desperate jump to center-right) but please, birthers, shut up. You’re idiots.

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Filed under Obama, People Are Stupid

Repeal Obamacare

So, supposedly the Republicans are going to bring up Obamacare Repeal in the House this week. It will either die in the Senate (and thus guarantee Republicans take the Senate in 2012) or socialist-in-chief Obama will veto it (giving the GOP the White House, I’d prefer both out comes, but I can live with either). However, Republican politicians do not have a great track record for holding the line, so you might want to get your Congressman’s number and be sure to make it clear to them the House makes this symbolic stand against encroaching tyranny, or in two years we’ll find someone else who will make that stand. Doubly important if you live in a Democratic district that you flood their switchboard with constant calls (I recommend you be very polite, but relentless in your calling until they give up and start swearing at you, I then recommend you record it and send the recording to a major media outlet).

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Laws the GOP should pass #9: Tort Reform

Tort Reform

I’ve mentioned tort reform before. The reason this keeps coming up is that it is probably one of the five most important internal policies for the United States. The problem is that most people don’t know what tort reform is. Hell, most probably don’t even know what a tort is. A tort is something you do that is wrong and makes you responsible for those actions, but this action is not necessarily illegal. How do we deal with torts? We sue people. Lawsuits are one of the great advancements of English common law. The problem is that as with just about anything involving lawyers the system has been corrupted.
Right now in America we are an obscenely litigious society. We sue over everything. Everything! Spill hot coffee on your lap because you clearly have the intelligence of a turnip. Well that’s McDonald’s fault. Smoke all your life and get lung disease, because you didn’t grasp what has been known since about 1700 that smoking is bad for you. Well that’s the fault of Phillip Morris. You’re fat. McDonald’s fault. Get shot. Gun manufacturer’s fault. Basically if you win a Darwin Award, it’s everybody’s fault except your own. And they should pay. They should pay a lot.
Think I’m exaggerating. Read the warning on your standard clothes iron. It actually says “Do not iron clothes while wearing them.” There is no reason for that to be there unless some idiot not only did that, but then sued because of it. … I also like the warning on some Christmas lights “For indoor and outdoor use only”—I’m torn between asking what other kind of use some idiot who sued found…and being very disturbed by the answer.
You don’t think this has anything to do with you other than the fact that these are the same idiots who are cutting you off in traffic. Well think again. Every one of those multimillion dollar lawsuits has a payout. And with a payout a company loses money. Guess how they get back the money they’ve lost? They raise the cost of what they charge you for their product or services. The estimated cost per person is about $834 in 2008 (http://www.sickoflawsuits.org/threats/CosttoConsumers.cfm) and that’s not fully counting personal injury lawsuits costs. You want to know why medical costs are so high…well to a great degree it’s because doctors are sued by people so often. People don’t get better from this or that, or they aren’t diagnosed quickly enough to catch a problem, or something goes wrong during recovery. And so they sue the doctor, the hospital and everyone else involved in your medical treatment. Why because apparently medicine is an exact science where everything always goes perfectly if it weren’t for the doctor’s malicious nature. Oh wait, medicine is about as in-exact a science as you can get as that works it on the single most complex machine known to existence, the human body. Now, yes I will never defend a doctor’s incompetence, depraved indifference, or unquestionable unprofessional behavior (but those do not make up the bulk of medical lawsuits…the bulk of medical lawsuits are ambulance chasers with clients who would probably spill coffee in their laps if you didn’t tell them it was hot).
There are a lot of problems. Most of them have some fairly simple solutions. All these solutions have been and will continue to be opposed by trial lawyers (next to the Teachers Union they’re the most corrupt and influential campaign contributor there is). If the GOP is serious about reform and earning the trust of the America people they have to take an attitude somewhere between “Screw them all” and a line from Shakespeare’s Henry IV (you know which one I mean).
Tort Reform Part 1:
Limits must be placed on pain and suffering awards. Further damages payment must be realistic. If a 50 year old blue collar worker gets injured because of negligence on his employer’s part…he wasn’t going to earn $50 million in his remaining years before retirement. Pay all his medical costs, insurance costs, and lost pay plus maybe 10% to be on the safe side, but no more of these ridiculous sums. A million dollar cap on pain and suffering awards should be more than sufficient if damages payments are all taken care of.
Tort Reform Part 2:
Loser pays the bills.
The fact of the matter is that so many of these ludicrous lawsuits come about because there is no disincentive to not file. You sue McDonald’s for making you fat; the worst that can happen right now for the plaintiff or their soulless attorney is that it is thrown out of court. Thus filing an obscene amount of crazy lawsuits with the same attitude similar to that of seeing if spaghetti is cooked, see what sticks to the wall, is good business for unethical lawyers. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And the lawyers of these big corporations aren’t opposed to this either. As defending their clients against quacks is the only way to rack up thousands of billable hours. And you and I as consumers get to pay for all those legal fees.
To put an end to this reckless system of litigiousness is put in a simple rule of the loser will have to pay the winner’s legal fees. Thus you’re not going to sue a big company unless you 1) have a slam dunk case or 2) are Don Quixote and believe in your case. Ambulance chasers that bring frivolous lawsuits are under neither category. Yeah is this going to be hard on those few poor people who have legitimate complaints but can’t compete with legal team from the darkest depths of a Grisham novel and end up not only bankrupt, but millions in debt? Yes. But as you’ll have far fewer lawsuits, you’ll have far fewer lawyers in the system. It’s a worthy trade off.
Tort Reform 3:
Judges need to be given more authority to throw out cases.
I don’t know if you need to have a three judge panel go over every perspective case and two have to agree to keep it, or just rewrite the laws of what standard a judge has to hold a case to for a prima fascia burden, but judges need to be throwing out a lot more cases. Let’s be honest here would you take this case: “So let me get this straight, you were told since early age that smoking was addictive, as this is a fact that’s been known for well over a hundred years. Your first reaction to your first cigarette was to hack up a lung. You noticed early on both a need to smoke and that you had less breath. You were warned for the last 50 years that smoking was bad for you. But only recently because you came down with lung cancer did you want to stop. And it’s the cigarette company who’s to blame? Not you, you have no responsibility for this at all. All the conglomerate tobacco, that’s to blame. Did they stick a gun to your head and tell you to smoke?” Would you take that case? I wouldn’t. And whoever the judge (judges?) was who allowed that case to ever get to a jury, let alone a settlement should be disbarred and executed for gross incompetence.
Tort Reform 4:
There needs to be some kind of scoring system put into place. If you’re a lawyer that brings more than 10 frivolous lawsuits in the course of your career, you shouldn’t be allowed to practice law. Now I’ll admit you’ll have to hammer out a pretty clear definition of frivolous as opposed to no chance you can win against the evil law firm held on retainer, but these psycho ambulance chasers need to be put out of business.

Tort Reform 5:
Malicious intent needs to be proved. Raise your hand if you’ve seen commercials looking for anyone who has ever had contact with asbestos. Because apparently it was in high use back when we didn’t realize how dangerous it was. So the companies that made asbestos, without knowing how dangerous it was should all be sued. And that goes for drug companies that create drugs that are designed to help people but eventually they find unexpected side effects that hurt a small group of people because they are to blame for those unintended side effects. Are you kidding me? A lot of companies hide dangerous effects of their products and dump poisons into the environment, sue their asses off, I don’t care. But if a drug company pulls a drug the minute they find out about that side effect, it’s not like they put it on the market to hurt people. They put it on the market to help people (and make a little money) they aren’t to blame for the unforeseen. The problem is that people need to admit that shit happens sometimes and no one is to blame. There are terrible things that happen, doctors made the wrong call in good faith, machine are sometimes lemons even though the manufacturer tries to maintain high quality, things just go wrong. Shit happens. And sometimes no one is to blame. Unless you can legally prove malicious intent or depraved indifference, no one is to blame, and no one should be sued. (You pass this one and watch your medical bill drop like a rock).
I understand that often there is a psychological need to blame someone for the terrible things that happen in life. But as a society we need to grow up and understand that sometimes things just happen.
Tort Reform 6:
Eliminate the practice of contingency payment. A lot of greedy lawyers take cases on contingency, that is, they will get paid a percentage of the settlement in addition to their fees and costs. This basically creates a massive incentive to sue large companies for large settlements and hope they’ll just pay you off quickly so you can move onto your next BS case. Hmm, I wonder, is creating an incentive for frivolous lawsuits a good thing? Let me think…no. It’s about the dumbest idea I can possibly think of. This tied to reform #2. If the loser is going to pay, then you still have an incentive to take on clients who may not be able to pay your bills (you’ll just make sure that they actually have a case). All you have to do is submit a bill for the number of hours at the last hourly price you billed for before that case and the court will make sure you get paid. If losers have to pay, then there is no need for contingency fees. And if there are no more contingency fees than the chief incentive for all these preposterous lawsuits go right out the window.

Now I would love to see all of these passed. But any combination of at least 3 of these being passed will lower costs for businesses and consumers, raise incentives to build and expand businesses, improve the economy, and drive many lawyers to ruin and bankruptcy. Win-win for everyone who has a soul.

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Some Random Thoughts

Involuntary Commitment: What should we take away from last week’s shooting in Arizona? That we need to revise some of the laws in this country that deal with involuntary commitment in mental institutions and legally requiring people who are not of sound mind to be forced, by law, to take their medication. More gun laws probably would not have helped stop this situation. Law requiring an educational professional to report possible mental issues and then force institutionalization when it is deemed to be in the best interest of the patient might have stopped this.
At least I’m not the only person thinking about this:

http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/ggutfeld/2011/01/11/rather-than-restricting-speech-lets-help-people-we-know-are-crazy/

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/loughner-and-how-america-treats-its-mentally-ill/

Gun Control
There has been a lot of stupid things said about gun control. The only intelligent things said this past week dealt with not letting those mentally unstable buy a gun (see the above paragraph) and Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) suggestion that in addition to a background check you need to take a drug test to get a gun. Gun rights advocate that I am, I have no problem with this. I also read that the assault weapons ban expired a couple of years ago. What the Hell?! I believe everyone has a right to, and probably should own a hand gun, a rifle and/or a shotgun. But nobody needs an M16 for private use.
…Now if can only get Senator Schumer to also agree to drug testing for all entitlement spending.

Unions
What did the Department of Justice focus on this week? Focus on how a lunatic got hold of a gun? No. Focus on where the holes in system were for FBI background checks that let a nut job get a gun? No. Track down Islamofacists? No. Prosecute Black Panther members who intimidate voters? Nope. Help tighten our borders? Again a no.

They sent letters to states telling them that the right to a secret ballot for unionization is against federal law. Ignoring that the very idea of a closed shop is at best unethical, and at worst unconstitutional, they want to garner more power for the unions by taking away the right to a secret ballot in states. Because card checks will never encourage intimidation and fraud…you know the reasons that we made public elections secret ballots. That’s what the DOJ did this week, it helped out Obama’s campaign contributors once again infringe upon your rights. Thank you Eric Holder. (I eagerly look forward to Holder’s vast corruption trial that will one day come.).

Decline of Freedom

A minor story went almost unreported this week. Freedom House, which tracks level of liberty in all countries around the nation, states that “A total of 25 countries showed significant declines in 2010, more than double the 11 countries exhibiting noteworthy gains[.]” Apparently there is less freedom the world over. Minor story, nothing to worry about. This is certainly not the kind of thing that will come back to bite this nation in the ass when it gets to be a massive problem. No, not at all. After all I’m sure we’ll have peace in our time.

Poor Leadership

For the most part I’m not going to comment on that memorial service in Arizona. However, once again, Obama lost a great opportunity to show he was more than an egotistical prick. He could have at some point said to the crowd, “I know you want to show your support for the ideas I’m proposing, but in deference to those who we are here to honor, I don’t think applause is appropriate. I know those of you in the audience meant no disrespect, but please I ask you to not applaud” or something to that effect. But no, which makes me wonder how much the event was about him or about the dead in his mind.

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Best Movies of 2010

So it’s a little late but here are my Top Ten Movies of 2010 (Because art is an important part of life and it’s necessary to take a break from the purely serious every so often). (It’s a little late because it took a while for me to finally see The Fighter and The King’s Speech and just from the preview I knew they’d be on this list…and this didn’t seem the best thing to publish last Sunday).

So let us begin with the review of 2010…a year of mostly crap, a few enjoyable films and five truly great movies.

Up first
Honorable Mentions (Because I just can’t bring myself to put them in a top ten no matter how hard I try, they’re good but they’re not great):

Alice in Wonderland: Tim Burton’s fun little romp through our childhood favorite walked a very thin line: it stayed true to the original content of Lewis Carroll’s work while still making it an original work. The visuals were typical Burton, but as with most Burton films plot and the human soul are not left behind. That and I’m a sucker for a strong female character.

Morning Glory: Enjoyable little film that has no deep meaning but was fun. And it’s nice to know that Harrison Ford is finally acting his age after a decade of trying to deny that he’s not Han Solo anymore.

The A-Team: How can you not enjoy this movie? Certainly not great cinema, but it was very fun. I really hope that there will be a sequel.

Valentine’s Day: A fun little compilation of love stories. It was a cute date film. Its greatest flaw was that it was trying to be He’s Just Not That Into You and failed (which is made slightly worse by the fact that He’s Just Not That Into You was trying to be Love Actually and failed).

And now the Top Ten:

#10 & 9. I really don’t have a 10 and 9. (It wasn’t a great year for film). But I hear good things about Secretariat and Toy Story 3 even thought I haven’t seen them. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

#8 The Next Three Days: The story of this thriller kept the tension and suspense constantly building and kept me guessing. It wasn’t Hitchcock, but it was well done. And the hero is an English teacher which always makes me happy.

#7 Red: Bruce Willis never ceases to surprise me in how well he can constantly come up with new loveable and badass characters. It is sad that a man who can do comedy, action and drama so well is not more appreciated in Hollywood. This movie is just yet another fun example of how good an actor he really is.

#6 Hereafter: As I’ve stated in a previous blog, this was a great movie, but it is very anticlimactic because people will go looking for answers that aren’t readily there (unless you have faith). Also, as good as it is, the fact is that Eastwood has done much better.

And now the top five…it would be rare for a single movie of the caliber of the next five to appear in any year. The fact that we had five movies of extraordinary caliber in a single year makes this a great year for movies despite the lack of overall quantity.

#5 Waiting for Superman: Probably the first documentary I would consider to be more than just interesting and actually a great movie. Not only is its message desperately important issues (the need for school choice and the need for the annihilation of the teacher’s union) it is exceptionally well produced, providing the kind of drama that usually only comes from fiction.

#4 The Fighter: I’m usually not a fan of boxing (along with football, I find it just a bit too violent for a civilized society) but movies about boxing can be surprising well made. This movie did an exceptional job of showing how an individual can rise above the circumstances in which they find themselves or which they place themselves. It shows that redemption is possible and that in reality people can truly achieve their dreams and the happiness that comes with it.

On a side note Christian Bale should get every award there is for best supporting actor as he almost stole the film with his performance.

#3 The King’s Speech: These last three were hard to put in order as they are all exceptional films. The King’s Speech is a beautiful work of art of one man dealing with the pressures of a job probably none of us would ever want if we really thought about it, and his rising to the occasion when it was called for. If it has a flaw it is the slight historical whitewash of how George VI first supported Chamberlain’s appeasement policy and how much his brother was involved with the Nazi’s—but sometimes art is there to show us the best in human nature and not just what happened, which this movie does quite well.

# 2 The Town: In this touching story of redemption, Ben Affleck not only proved that he is a great actor if he has a good script, but that he is a better writer/director than he is an actor. Honestly, I would prefer to see him behind the camera than in front of it from now on.

# Inception: This movie deserves a full blog in and of itself (and one day it will get it). Action, tension, drama, a little comedy, redemption, philosophy, psychology all in perfect balance for a wonderful cathartic emotional experience and an even greater philosophical ground of questions. And I still, and will forever maintain that it wobbled.

Worst movie of the year: Again so many choices. Clash of the Titans for its’ useless use of special effects? Skyline for no plot, no acting, no logical sense of events? Iron Man 2 for having the best scene in the movie not be in the movie but somehow be in the trailer? No, I’m going to have to go with The Last Air Bender. Do you remember when M. Night could make movies and write dialogue? I do. Which makes this movie all the sadder. If there was a writing, plot, direction, cinematography, music, acting, dialogue, or any other kind of movie making call, the wrong call was made while making this movie. I could watch that movie a million times over and find a new thing wrong with it every time I saw…but I’m not going to do that because I’m not a masochist. Even as a children’s film this movie sucks. Between this and The Happening, Shyamalan has whipped out any credit he should get from his first five films (great works of art that they are). If anyone ever allows him near a camera again (and I’m not sure they should) he had better pull out of his tail spin dive soon or he will be remembered as one of the worst writer/directors of all time.

 

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Law the Gop Should Pass #8: An Ideal Tax Policy Part II

So last time I proposed flat taxes on individual and corporate income. This has the advantage of making sure that when taxes are raised it can’t be claimed to be on one less than popular group or another (which hides the reality that a tax increase on anyone is pretty much in the end is going to be a price increase on what we all pay for, thus it’s a tax increase on all of us). But just flattening taxes on income isn’t enough. Those sneaky bastards will come up with lots of other things to tax and tariff, fee and surcharges. So how on earth do we stop them from hiding taxes, keeping income at a level that will allow the government to function, and making every tax equally apparent to everyone—notice I do not say equally a burden, as all taxes are already equally a burden on everyone since any tax on any group has a way through economics of slowing down the economic flow for the rest of us.

And the easy answer is that they can only tax one thing and one thing only. Sounds kind of like a no brainer doesn’t it (and yes I realize for this to have real force I’m not suggesting a law but a full on Constitutional change). And bear with me for a minute because I can almost guarantee you’re going to have a very quick knee-jerk reaction against this, but I’m pretty sure that on reflection you’ll be more open to this.

(Also please remember that last week I predicated all of this on the idea the Congress gets its spending problem under control, I’ll fully admit this will not work without A). Some kind of balanced budget amendment or at least agreement and B). Major cuts in all those unquestionably stupid and evil entitlement programs like welfare, social security, Medicaid and Medicare.)

We eliminate all federal taxes and replace them with a 10% sales tax. (I’ll give you a moment to stop screaming at me for being insane).

Okay, now let’s go over why this will not only work, it will work really, really well.

First, when I say a sales tax I mean on everything. Everything you buy (including food), gas, liquor, movie tickets, soda, your car, you new computer, and every service, the electric bill, the water bill, the telephone bill, the oil change at the dealership, hiring a maid, hiring an outside company to do a service for your company, any sale of stock. Everything. Every item sold, every service sold. (The salaries of employees are not counted in this).
You will recall that I suggested last week that everybody’s income tax or corporate tax go to 10% so if you spend pretty much all of your money on goods and services your income has roughly changed by nothing. So this change should not become a burden to anyone.
However, psychologically it will make a huge difference. If the tax burden is right there for people to see every time they make a purchase you will see people spend less and save more. In the long term people will have more saved up, thus making the need for social security less required. If it is purchases and not earnings that are taxed people will have more incentive to earn and incentive to spend. Granted this will have some ripple effect in our very consumer based economy but they will likely be for the good.
One of these effects is that you will likely see people become more self sufficient. Rather than pay 10% sales tax on every item of food it’s better to pay it on some seeds and grow your own food. Further you will likely see people barter more and spend less, a system that requires people interact with each other, which counters a lot of the isolation that modern society is bringing. And with greater social interaction you will find society not becoming so dependent on the government.
This law needs to be made that while it cannot go above the 10% limits (except in time of war) that if the government actually has a surplus then the next fiscal year’s tax rate goes down by a percent to 9%…two years of surplus goes down to 8% so on and so forth. What this point will do is it will encourage everyone to demand that government cut back on all of its useless spending. Right now you don’t really see an effect if government cuts back on this or that…if you had actual incentive to demand that the government cut back its spending because it will make an actual difference on all your bills, trust me people will demand for less and less government spending.
I figure after a couple of decades of this the actual tax rate will settle down around 7% and the government will be kept in check by a constant stream of people who do not want their bill to get too high.
Now you might wonder what about the money we made from corporate taxes. Well they’re still paying taxes, but only on the things they buy, thus encouraging companies themselves to become more self-sufficient, which means there will be a check against almost every corporation outsourcing its accounting to Arthur Anderson (or whatever replaced that corrupt institution to have to offer a much better, and certainly more honest, product).
Won’t a 10% tax on every stock trade hurt the stock market? Nope. It will actually cut down on the insanity of day trading, cut down on the exuberance that creates bubbles and it will encourage much more long term trading because if you’re going to pay 10% right at the start of you purchase of a stock you’re going to make damn sure the sale will pay for itself over the long run. (Consider that almost all capital gains taxes right now are at 10% so this really is actually going to encourage more investment, not deter it).
I can see that there might be a lot of other objections to this, and I’m not saying there won’t need to be little adjustments needed to a plan that is more or less given in outline here, but I believe this plan, in the long run, would be the most beneficial and logical for an economy.

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The Right Has Nothing to Apologize For.*


A Congress Woman was shot yesterday. Many people were killed. It is unquestionably a tragedy. However the Left just looked at is a way to hit the Right.

Within minutes I saw blogs and facebook posts from liberals railing against the “tyranny” of Republicans in Arizona of how “vitriolic speech” of the Right was responsible for this. I saw rather vitriolic rants against Beck, Limbaugh, Savage, Coulter and the like. And I didn’t think these people who exemplified the very sin they were ranting against with gusto were representative of everyone who identifies themselves as a Democrat, but I did find it annoying. These remarks came almost instantly after the shooting, at which point no one knew what the motive was. I understand people get frustrated by, but to attack the people you don’t like as opposed to those responsible, it helps no one. I thought, won’t these people be embarrassed if the motive turns out to have nothing to do with Republicans and Democrats.

I apparently was giving these people too much credit. Because when this idiot Laughner’s identity was released we find that he has posted one his favorite books is Mein Kampf (not exactly high on the list of Tea Party or Conservative reading). Hmmm, Neo-Nazi shoots Jewish Congresswoman. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the motive didn’t have anything to do with her being a Democrat and was more rooted in this little shit being an anti-Semite. (But America has and always has had this problem with condemning anti-Semitism, but that’s a problem that the Right and the Left have to own up to.) Further this piece of scum also lists The Communist Manifesto as another of his favorite books—I guarantee you nobody on the Right lists that as their favorite book.


It is disgusting and intellectually dishonest to blame modern politics for this shooting. This is the fault of anti-Semitism which to this day is still one of the greatest threats to peace in the world. But I doubt either side (Right or Left) will place the blame where it should be placed. Let me try a little hateful speech some say incorrectly say is responsible for this event–Every last anti-Semite on this planet should be hunted down, tried, convicted and (I’d say shot, but I don’t believe in the death penalty) put in a dark hole for the rest of their sad existence. Please, tell me my vitriol is inappropriate.

[Update: Okay as new information came out, it appears even the motives I was attributing to this guy are not accurate. He’s just batshit insane. However, my point that neither liberal nor conservative rhetoric is to blame still stands…and I’m not going to really change this because even if this guy isn’t a good example of it, anti-Semitism is still a major problem in the world and I just can’t bang that drum enough.]

But even though, this seems to me to be more motivated by anti-Semitism than conservative beliefs, let’s go on a thought experiment. What if he had been a conservative? Would those on the Left who critiqued the Right for it polemics and vitriol for what they honestly believe are socialist incursions on our freedoms have been justified? Well, by using the standards of the Left, no they would not. Why? Because I can’t complain that the Koran is a hate filled book without being called a racist and being told that the Koran preaches peace and that there are only a few people who misinterpret its’ words that are to blame. So taking that line of logic, even if this psycho had thought he was a conservative, would the logical extension be to assume that he misinterpreted conservatism and that conservatism is a philosophy which preaches forceful, energetic and sincere but nonviolent opposition to government and the left (which it does) because you can’t blame a belief that has one crazy psycho and 50 million peaceful people to be bad. That would be the line of logic. But apparently if you subjugate women for 1500 years, preach anti-Semitism, wage unending war on Israel, and commit the worst acts of terrorism (on a near daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan), you’re a religion of peace.. meanwhile a psycho every couple of years (and completely ignoring that there are psychos on the left too) then you’re a political belief of hatred….yeah no hypocrisy or illogical stances there. None at all.

This guy was a nuts. Republicans had nothing to do with that. We’re not the party that acts like you need government help (through affirmative action, or any of a dozen entitlement programs) to make it in life if you’re a minority. We’re not the party that wants to keep the pseudo slave class of illegal immigrants in this country as a group to be exploited. Now liberals don’t see those programs that way, even though that is the effect. And Liberals had nothing to do with this sick excuse for a human being either.

As to the vitriol of Republican rhetoric contributing to this…Bull shit! No commentary on the right I know advocates violence. We may be passionate and we may demonize the policies of the left and those who advocate it, but it is because we really believe that there are infringements being made upon our liberties. Exactly what tone would be appropriate for infringements on freedoms? Perhaps rioting at World Trade conferences or burning effigies of the president at anti-war rallies. No. While that is usually within the realm of free speech (which I’ll defend except for the violent part) we on the right aren’t really crazy, we just apparently cry a lot when we think about this country.

In the end could we take a breath? Blame the crazy people who need to be blamed (and locked up for their whole life), and maybe stop being such hypocrites (the Right does it too, I’ll admit).

*(Actually the Right has a lot to apologize for: Bush’s prescription drugs expansion, TARP, the lack of a long term plan in Iraq and Afghanistan, both Bush’s, being cowards, thinking abortion and gay rights are not even vaguely issues the government should be getting into…but in the incidents of this weekend the Right has no blame in this.)

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Books for New Agers: Evidence of the Afterlife by Jeffrey Long, MD

You should read Evidence of the Afterlife by Jeffrey Long, MD
If you’ve ever doubted that there is life after death, this is a good book to help quell those doubts. Fair warning, this is not great literature nor spectacular prose, but the information is quite interesting. The book examines the results of a massive study of near-death experiences and has truly fascinating insights. I’d recommend getting it because I’m always supportive of authors getting paid, but I will let you know some of the more interesting points, that I dare skeptics to refute.

1. 10-20 seconds after the heart stops electrical signals in the brain stops. Exactly how would the brain encode new memories with no electrical signals? And yet those near death experiences come from somewhere, just apparently not from the brain.
2.Many near-death experiences occur under anesthetics, yet near-death experiences are very lucid…which is in direct contradiction to what anesthetics do to the brain.
3. (And probably my favorite point because, I naturally have a skeptical side that likes to at least consider objections and I can’t even come up with a bullshit explanation for this) People who have been blind since birth, who don’t even dream visual impressions, describe visual experiences in near-death experiences. And their visual descriptions are accurate descriptions of the surrounding events.
4. We all know that people see dead relatives when they cross over…but apparently people who hallucinate often see people who are alive (proximity in their memories and all) so if near-death experiences are only hallucinations, as skeptics claim, how does the brain know to pick dead people?
5.Children, even at very young ages, have the same near death experience as adults (tunnel of light, out of body, dead people, angels, etc.)….so it can’t be society’s ideas put into people’s heads as they’re too young to have been exposed to such ideas. (Oh, and they’re consistent across cultures too).
And so really, without simply assuming the author of the book or the people involved are lying, I would love somebody to give me an explanation that isn’t bullshit other than the fact that there must be something after death.

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