The Curmudgeon's Corner - February / March 2012

2011 Unfinished Business

So in the rush to get to press for the holiday issue, I neglected to give my recommended list of gift books for other “curious” Curmudgeons. However, it’s not too early for the 2012 special days with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, and then we have anniversaries, birthdays and of course Father’s Day in June.

“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt

1. “The East India Company” by Brian Gardner is a fascinating read of the other trading company (not the Hudson Bay Company) also owned by business men. “It ruled over nearly one-fifth of the world’s population, possessed its own army and navy, its own civil service, church and had the most powerful military force in Asia and revenue greater than Britain.”

2. “The Imperial Cruise” by James Bradley (son of John Bradley, one of the men that raised the flag on Iwo Jima) now this book is really scary when you realize that in 1905 our president, Teddy Roosevelt sent the Secretary of War, William Howard Taft (next POTUS) to negotiate secret and illicit “pacts” (unconstitutional) that would result in war for our generation. Also, you will learn of the racial bigotry and prejudice that carried over to our generation. NOTE: You need a strong stomach for this one!

3. “The Big Burn” by Timothy Egan, “On the afternoon of August 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved through the droughtstricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana……..”, This wonderful read is full of cowards, heroes, greed and sacrifice, and the firsthand accounts of the worst fire of the 20th century.

4. “We Meant Well, How I helped lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraq people” by Peter Van Buren. Van Buren is a State Department insider that writes a first person account of our blundering efforts to rebuild Iraq and squandering (again) hard earned taxpayer dollars. You will laugh and cry with this book and conclude (again) that “The road to hell is paved with taxpayer dollars…..”. NOTE: You will be furious!

“Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that
curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.”
-Arnold Edinborough

So I was at the pub engaged in conversation with other “intellectual giants” on the subject of Congress’ performance in 2011 and the current poll showing approval rating at 5 percent. We conducted our own poll and determined that 5 percent was much too high. About this time one guy shared a joke from an article by Edward Luce in the January 2012 issue of Newsmax.

“A driver is stuck in a jam in Washington, D.C. A man knocks on his window saying, Terrorists have kidnapped Congress, and they’re asking for $100 million; otherwise they will burn them with gasoline. We’re going from car to car asking for donations.”

“What are people giving on average?” asks the driver. “Oh, about a gallon,” is the reply.

Well, after the laughter died down there followed some serious discussion on the actual performance (or lack of) for which this institution can take credit and to no one’s surprise, it was a very short list. Further, we reviewed the multiple government agencies that intrude on our lives and the impediment in conducting any type of commerce. Now most of the guy’s at the pub own their small businesses or were CEO’s or senior management in companies during their careers so responsibility, performance and accountability is part of their DNA.

“The general tendency of things throughout the world is to
render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.”
-John Stuart Mill

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us.
Pigs treat us as equals.”
-Winston Churchill

Now a quick summary of Congress’ “accomplishments” and that of government bureaucrats; no budget for 3 years, passed a healthcare bill no one read, Justice Department sues two states for doing what the federal government doesn’t (is that taxpayer dollars suing taxpayers that must defend themselves?), passes five (or seven?) continuing resolutions to keep the government running with many un-wanted and duplicated programs, appoints a “deficit reduction committee (Simpson-Bowles)” and doesn’t follow the recommendations, appoints another “super committee” for the same purpose and they can’t do the job, “invests” $500 million of our money in Solyndra which goes bankrupt, grants tax credit of $7500 (our money) for an electric car no one wants and most can’t afford (average buyer’s household income $160K), grants first time home buyers credit of $8500 (our money), runs supposed sting operation with sale of guns to Mexican drug cartels and loses track of the guns, then conducts three year study on safety of oil pipeline from Canada and will “make decision after next election” and of course we have Mike and Chantell Sackett from Idaho that the EPA says they cannot build their home on their ½ acre lot because it’s designated wet lands . Oh, and let us not forget the Boeing plant in South Carolina and the NLRB suit against the company for what any business would do. Well, you get the idea of government performance, so do you want to make a donation (see joke above)?

Now perchance anyone thinks only the Federal Government has a corner on the market of stupidity, waste and incompetence, one of the guys in the pub related the following; his wife was involved in a fender-bender (she was not at fault) the other driver was cited in the incident. The damage was limited to fender and bumper of her 2003 automobile and not only was it drivable and safe but there was no damage to any system such as lights, turn indicators, steering or any other part of the car. They got an estimate for repairs from the body shop and notified their insurance company. Next they received a check from the insurance company advising them that the repairs exceeded the value of the car therefore it was declared “totaled” and the company notified DMV. Now they were notified by DMV that as the vehicle was “totaled” the registration was cancelled. The rest of the story is a bureaucratic nightmare but stamped on their DMV registration is the word “SALVAGE”!!

Oh and let’s not forget the wonderful waterfront development project with the new marina, university expansion and all of the multiuse space and let’s not forget the new jobs and tourism dollars coming into the community! How’s that working for us? How many years has it been now, 3 or 4? My wife and I recall admiring the beautiful artist’s rendering and discussing with one of the port Commissioner’s the proposed project and what a great benefit this would be for the city. We were so much younger then!!

“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrat’s procedure are everything and outcomes are nothing”.
- Thomas Sowell

Now it was “happy hour” at the pub and there was about 25 guys there (not so happy), so “The Greedy SOB Investment Group” members passed out a cocktail napkin to everyone and asked them to list what government departments, programs and dollars they would eliminate from the budget. WOW, what an exercise that was! These guy’s should be in congress and get those fools out! First no one used the entire “happy hour” and most of them never got to a second round before completing their list. This was no time for women or children to be present for there was lots of profanity, yelling and table thumping. Many asked for a second or third napkin to write on. Now the President and other elected officials have frequently used the term “scalpel” in referring to the instrument to be used on trimming the federal budget. However, most of the guy’s at the pub are more familiar with “chain saws” so that was the tool of choice in budget reduction. The outcome was a blizzard of paper and we were ankle deep in the stuff. Some guy’s used Sen. Paul Ryan’s(WI) budget and cut 4 trillion in ten years, others followed Rep. Ron Paul’s (TX) and cut 1 trillion in the first year and the most aggressive budget cutters used Sen. Tom Coburn (OK) 9 trillion plan. (Do a word search on each plan and decide which makes sense)

Now with each budget cut proposal, the critics have come out of the woodwork stating “they hate women, children and old folks” or “they don’t care” or ( fill in the blank). I recall the same critics said the same thing when there was debate on welfare reform during the Clinton administration, demonizing anyone that proposed cutting any government program or subsidy to anyone for anything!

“You cannot build character and courage by taking away
a man’s initiative and independence.”
- Abraham Lincoln

“It is error alone which needs the support of government.
Truth can stand by itself.”
-Thomas Jefferson

So here we are just weeks away from the April 15th filing date that we all look forward to like getting root canal work and we will all scream and cuss in our effort to AVOID PAYING TAXES! Yes, I said avoid and I know that sounds crazy but there is no other explanation for the abundance of tax attorneys, CPA’s, tax preparation companies and tax software programs. There cannot be another explanation for all the Canadian license plates here, the Washington plates in Oregon and Sen. John Kerry (MA) parking his 7 million dollar sail boat, “Isabel” in Rhode Island where he avoids $437,000 in sales tax and $70,000 in annual excise tax from his own state. Now several political candidates have made tax reform proposals from Herman Cain’s 9-9-9-plan to the many that have proposed a ”flat tax” and Donald Trump’s “1-5-10-15 income tax plan”. And in each case the critics have said “we can’t do that because (fill in the blank)”. So the conclusion is we can’t cut the federal budget, cut any programs or reform the tax code, reform immigration, education system, drug policy or anything else.

“We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable.”
-Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Well, before I go out Valentine’s Day shopping for my “Satin Doll” I need to update you on my “Bucket List” progress (see www.Grand- which takes in five south western states. So far I have seen most of Arizona, some of Nevada and Utah (which I need to finish) and then Colorado and New Mexico remain. That should take me another couple of years at the pace I’m going. You should check out the article on Henderson, Nevada as you can drive to the Grand Canyon in 3 ½ hours, Zion National Park in 2, Valley of Fire in 1, well, you get the idea and no snow to shovel!

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