Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Ask not what your country can do for you......
Great quote! One of my favorites. And no one pays any attention to what he meant by that line anymore. No one seems to care about what one can do to help his country because most people are more concerned with getting something for nothing from his country. What can America do for me? Why should I pledge allegiance to this country, it isn't giving me what I need? Me, me me. Crap!
America owes no one anything! More specifically, our government owes no one anything! Why has this gimme attitude developed so strongly in the land of freedom and opportunity? When did the JFK attitude get buried? I have some guesses.
I think the change in people's attitude about what they think the government should be doing began in the early 1900s. The elimination of the appointment of Senators by the individual states and the switch to general elections by the people is one prong. This took away the representation of the states in our federal system and replaced it with the whims of the voters. At about the same time the Federal Government instituted the Income Tax, which gave them an amazing way to generate revenue and fund their ideas on how the Federal Government should control things.
A brief attempt to control the country's morals occurred with Prohibition but thankfully the outrage never died down and wiser minds repealed that failed attempt. It did lead to an organized crime scene that has hampered law enforcement ever since, however. Then came the Great Depression and Franklin Roosevelte. And with his leadership came the onslaught of demands of the government to protect its people's livelihoods and put in place a social safety net. Social Security, TVA projects, various forms of welfare and much of the control and responsibilty people used to assume for their lives became the domain of our protectorate government.
Even so, JFK made his statement in the early 1960s and the meaning actually resonated with the nation at the time. It had a foothold in our mentality but his death seemed to end all of that kind of thought. Lyndon Johnson followed behind him with his Great Society and huge increases in federal spending for all sorts of social projects. And I think it has been all downhill since then.
When I hear a person at, say a town hall meeting, ask the president of the United States why he can't lower the price of gasoline because it is hurting American's pocketbooks, I cringe. It is the mentality leading to the assumption that the government can and should do something about gas prices that makes me queasy. We seem to want to become a Nanny-State. Picture the lady who told Mr. Bush that she really didn't want to have to worry about her retirement. She wanted the government to just take care of that annoyance for her. It is beneath her to plan for her future retirement needs. Just give me what I need when I need it.
People are amazing! I have a theory I'm working on about how this country is destroying itself because our citizens are becoming increasingly stupid. We breed stupidity and encourage it daily. We don't encourage rational, independent thought, we encourage dependence on some agency of the government to handle all problems for us. We want what we want when we want it and we refuse to take responsibilty for creating the proper environment for it or doing the correct actions to make happen a certain outcome that we desire. It's not my fault.
How many times have I heard that excuse? It's not my fault. I didn't mean to jump on that girl from the stairway and kill her. I was just acting out like a professional wrestler does. I didn't know I would hurt her. It's not my fault. They should tell us that acting like a wrestler with a 5 year old girl would be harmful to her. How was I supposed to know that if the government didn't tell me?
Lack of responsibilty. A major, major problem in this country. A major problem throughout the civilized world, I venture, but it is this country I care about. Blaming someone else for your mistakes is so childish and so obviously wrong that I can't understand how this approach became so popular. It makes no sense to me. And I'm the one who came to the common sense scene later in life. I have never had a problem with taking responsibility for my actions. My parents raised me better than that.
So please don't tell me what you want from our government. Unless what you want is less government and less intrusion, I don't care. I can take care of myself and if I don't do a very good job, then I will take the blame for failing and suffer accordingly. No man is an island, he is a peninsula. We need the aid and comfort of our friends and family. We don't need no stinking Nanny-State. We need to make it on our own without asking for government help.
Is that asking too much?
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Good Drugs, Bad Drugs
I've got one thing to say about good and bad drugs; it's is all relative. When you hear the word drug, what immediately comes to your mind? Do you think of simple, everyday drugs, such as aspirin or tylenol or do you leap to the hideous, vile illegal drugs like marijuana or cocaine? Does the word drug conjure up some evil thoughts about wicked dealers having a shootout in the streets? Or do you associate the word with arthritis relief or back pain or maybe just a simple, good night's sleep?
See what I mean? It's all relative. There are times when a drug is the best thing in a person's life. Anytime you have pain, really unbearable pain, you would do anything to end that pain. Enter drugs. A drug is not good or bad in and of itself. It is only good or bad relative to its' use. And when you need a drug to ease the pain or promote good cholesterol or help you out in any way, then that drug is a good drug. We each can decide that for ourselves with a little knowledge.
Why do we then allow, in fact, pressure, our government to draw the line between good and bad drugs? Why do we think that a group of politicians has any more knowledge about drugs than any of the rest of us? They don't. We have simply become lazy and would prefer to let our government take care of us and use their best judgment to make the choices that we don't feel like making.
Much of the argument against the use of what are classified as illegal drugs stems from moral issues. You can't make a blanket statement that all drugs are good or bad. As I've said before, that is relative. A drug is a drug is a drug. But a moral argument against the use of drugs is not an argument that our government can justly be involved in. Morals are not legislated. We do not get our morals from our government. We each develop them in our own unique ways.
Drugs do serve a purpose. All drugs serve a purpose. Just watch the TV advertising and see how many purposes we have found for drugs in our society. It is a massive industry and drugs help many people live and do things they would not otherwise have been able to experience. We discover or invent new drugs everyday.
So the seemingly arbitrary classification of certain drugs as bad for people and bad for society does not make any real sense. Well, there could be some sense in it if we look at the effects of classifying a popular drug as illegal. Take marijuana, for instance. Take some and pass it around, please. This is a plant that grows wild all over the world. No one needs to put it through any kind of process before it is used. It comes out of the ground and goes into our lungs without having additives or any kind of special process to go through before it is used. Just burn it.
But it is a bad drug. Why? There was a time when marijuana was legal. In the 1930s there was a campaign led by the rope and fabric industry to paint marijuana as an evil, wicked, horrible drug that would lead to phychoses and drive people insane with just a few puffs from a cigarette. It worked. People in this country in the 1930s were in a bad state of mind. Depression was in full force and work was scarce and people were begging for the government to bail us out of the bad economy.
Well, anything that could cause teenagers to go insane should be banned. We need to protect our children. I think that argument started back then. Because of the children. So without consideration for the people in this country who can think for themselves, marijuana was made illegal. Most of the other currently illegal drugs followed shortly afterwards and eventually our government got into a full-scale war on drugs that costs our economy a fortune.
People associate crime, robbery, burglary, muggings, street shootouts with illegal drugs. This is a natural fact but only because of their illegality in the first place. Think like this, why do people get into the business of transporting, growing or selling illegal drugs? Profits! Huge, huge profits! Unbelievable profits! Profits so large that make the lure of breaking the law irresistable. Why are the profits so high in drugs deals? Because they are illegal. Simple solution, make them legal and there will be no inflated profits anymore. Let the free-market economy regulate the cost of drugs and there are no more huge profits to be made. The drug trade will dry up and be left to the real entrepreneurs who can run a business efficiently and turn a profit legally. Supply and demand is a natural law that always brings things to a stasis. Why don't we let it work with drugs?
Do we really want to continue a police state that punishes a person for using a a drug that does no one but himself any possible harm? Do we want to put a person in jail because he tried to feel good in his own home? Just because the way he was trying to feel good was with a drug that our government has determined is bad? Don't we have better things to do with our police? With our time? If someone harms someone else while using a drug, punish him for harming the person. But not for taking a drug.
Everyone still deserves the right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness as long as their pursuit does not infringe upon the life, liberty or property of someone else. Drugs are not good or bad. Drugs are good and bad. you decide. But keep an eye out over your shoulder for Big Brother. We have brought him to life and let him take on a presence all his own. He scares me. I like my brothers to be honest and straightforward and intelligent and reasonable, like my real-life brother.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Birthdays and Friends
As for my outlook toward my own birthday these days, I don't share that same enthusiasm for the additional year. I don't really dread the birthday either. Not since I turned 30 have I really paid much attention to my birthday. Turning 30 bothered me. I guess I realized that year what getting older meant and I didn't want to think about it anymore.
These days I have simply come to think of it as just another day in my life, not really different than any other day. I am quite happy to be approaching 54 and still in very good health despite having once been a smoker for 15 years, a heavy drinker for 20 years and a poor eater for about as long. I do exercise, practice yoga and breathing and try to pay attention to what my body tells me when it feels wrong. That has to help.
But what I think may help more than any of those things are the non-physical things; a positive attitude, open-minded thinking, self-confidence and finding a few very special friends to surround yourself with, people you can open up to and who can open up to you as well, without questions, trustworthy and loyal. Sharing has its' own special healing power. The intangible things have a strong impact on a person's well-being. I am blessed with such friends in my life and I count myself lucky.
I had a successful surgery on Thursday. Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery. I woke up groggy, of course, and with a headache. But a little hydrocodone and that went away. Bleeding is slow but not bad. No real hangover from the general anesthesia either. It was actually a pretty easy experience.
I firmly believe my positive attitude going into the surgery, some earlier visulaizations of how I thought it would go and how I would feel fine afterwards, and the support from my close friends made it all go so easy. We all share some kind of unknown bond, a spiritual or ethereal connection with one another. That may not be a scientific fact but it is a firm belief of mine. And it is a belief of many religions and cultures throughout the world. Whether it be through prayer or meditation or a hands-on-healing experience, there is a powerful positive force in friendship and in love.
Support from friends comes directly through encouraging words; a hug, a smile, a knowing look, a kiss on the cheek, a pat on the back, an e-mail, a phone call, an unselfish act of kindness. It can also come through the ether, through the thoughtwaves or the airwaves or the spiritual waves. The bonds between people , the spiritual connections of closeness and support and caring can occur at long distances, without words or touch or sight, when the bonds between them are strong and positive and good. You can feel the presence of another close by, even if that person is far away, if you share that special bond. It is a wonderful feeling.
I'd like to add that I don't think this connection is limited to humans. I think it can also apply to a human and his pet. It supersedes species. I have a dog, Luna, who is closer to me than I would have ever thought possible. She knows how I feel, I can see it in her eyes and sense it through her very being. She comforts me when I'm down and I comfort her when she's down. There is a special bond between us and I am happy to share with her.
I have a lot to be thankful for in my life. I think I have had some influence on making good things happen but some of it is luck or fate or chance. And I think a lot of luck or fate or chance has to do with good friends and good relations and good karma. And good karma is easy when you have good friends. I thank all of my friends for being my friends from the bottom of my humble, grateful heart.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
How New Dishes Led to a $17,000 Home Remodeling Project
Not knowing much about dishes, I asked my friend Karen for her advice on what kind to get. She brought me a Christmas present the next day, a 4-place setting of see-thru blue Corel dishes. How very nice of her to do this for me. My daughter, Venus, bought me another 4-place setting so I had a complete set of brand new, nice matching dishes. I put all the dishes through the dishwasher first and then realized that I really had to clean out my kitchen cabinets before I put my new dishes away. 3 hours later the cupboards were cleaned out completely, washed down, old stuff thrown in the trash and my new dishes were stored neatly in my clean cupboards.
Then I opened up the pantry and decided I needed to clean that, too. Once clean I realized that the shelf paper was really dirty and should be replaced. The next day I had new shelf paper and the pantry was looking really nice. I was so proud of myself I decided I should thoroughly clean my entire house, something I hadn't done in literally years. I am a batchelor, you know.
Karen told me I could wash my hats in the dishwasher. I don't own a clothes washer. I have about 60 hats and have them hanging on the walls. I ran them all through the dishwasher. I put the vertical blinds from the living room through the dishwasher also. They all came out really clean and nice looking. Good job. There are closets and drawers in my house that I haven't cleaned out since I've lived there. 18 years of buildup and accumulation. Lots of cleaning and lots of stuff hauled out to the trash. I was simplifying my life. I love it!
I received a flier in the mail from Mid Florida Heating and Air advertising good prices for air conditioners and heaters. Well, I had been wanting central heat and air for years but had decided to wait until my house was completely paid for. That being the case now I gave them a call and they sent out a guy out to give me an estimate. $7,400 for a brand new install with duct work and an electrical upgrade. OK, I was expecting something close to that so I signed on the dotted line.
WOW! Central heat and air is amazing! Once installed and running it changed the atmosphere in my house completely. It felt so nice in there, the same temperature everywhere, no hot or cold spots and all with the touch of a little button. I had come into the 20th century finally in 2005. It felt really good. I looked at the carpet in my bedroom. Another item I had been wanting to replace for years. No better time to do that then now. I would get new carpet in my bedroom.
Of course, if I'm getting new carpet, I need to paint the rooms before the carpet is laid. Don't want to spill paint on new carpet. Time to get busy. Luckily for me at this time I was taking steroids, prednisone, due to some polyps that formed in my sinuses from allergies. Steroids give me lots of energy and I needed lots of energy for what was coming.
I looked at the carpet in the living room and said to myself, this needs to be replaced, too. OK, why not. Well, I may as well extend it down the hallway and into the computer room as well. It all could use a new look. What's a few more dollars? Well, looking at the floors in my bathrooms I saw how bad they getting and decided that perhaps tile floors would be a good thing to do for them. May as well go ahead and do that now also. Just a few more bucks. Got to go buy more paint as well. More rooms to cover.
Oh, and since I was getting a house full of new carpet, I probably need to upgrade my poor, worn-out vacuum cleaner also. A trip to the Vacuum Store led me to a quality, commercial-style, stainless steel upright unit that glides over the carpet like a dream. So easy to use and I simply love how it works. Just another $350.
There were problems underneath my hall bathroom floor. The wood was rotting from a slow leak underneath the toilet and needed new replacement struts and reinforced flooring before the tile could be laid. OK, it's all good. Only a few more dollars. It all looks really nice once it's all put down and I'm quite pleased with the new look. The price swelled to $4,000 but it's all good. However, my furniture is looking pretty sad now. Maybe it's time I bought some real furniture and got rid of the mish-mash of used and eclectic furniture I had. I hopped on the internet and used Froogle to start looking. What a good service this is.
I found a cool apothecary coffee table with a matching apothecary end table. I ordered one of each and later on ordered another end table to have a matched pair. Each piece had to be assembled, a fact I didn't realize at order time, but I managed to get them all put together eventually. It took almost a full day to do this but they look really nice in my living room. Homevisions.com is a nice store.
I love to watch Cardinals baseball and I subscribed to the Fox Regional Sports Channels on my big dish satellite so I could watch lots of games. No longer. Fox Sports left the big dish and is only availble on the small dishes now. OK, time to leave the big dish and go to a small one I guess. I chose Dish Network because they carry the local channels for the Gainesville area. This is actually pretty cool. 4 rooms of Tvs, each can have a different channel and two rooms have a built-in DVD Recorder, like Tivo. This is an amazing invention! Pause live TV! So cool! I still have 5 months left on my subscriptions for the big dish but what the hell. I'll just have both available for awhile. Just a few more dollars.
The problem, I find out later, with Fox Sports on Dish Network, is they can target who gets blacked out from certain programming easier then was possible on the big dish, so every Cardinals game is blacked out in my area. So much for the reason I switched to the samll dish to begin with. I still can't see the Cardinals. Oh well, it was just a few dollars more. Actually, the DVD is enough of a reason to have made the switch but I didn't know that until I switched. It's all good.
Anyway, as I dismantled my waterbed to make room for the carpet installation, I poked a hole through the mattress. You cannot buy waterbed mattresses in the city of Gainesville anywhere. I looked and it isn't possible. I get back on Froogle and order one. Just a few more dollars.
Well, new furniture in the living room is fine but what about my bedroom. I want to keep the old-fashioned waterbed, I still like them this way. But my dresser and end table are trash. Froogle to the rescue. Also found a neat personal locker that holds a few hanging items and stores my pocket stuff and has a couple drawers as well. Nice piece of furniture. All of these had to be assembled, too. I'm getting better at this but it is time-consuming. Just a few more dollars. Thank you Homevisions.com.
Well, with 4 rooms of Dish Network and only 2 televisions, I had to do something. Froogle again and I found a really cool 17 inch, wide-screen, LCD, HD-ready TV that can be used as a computer monitor and only weighs 19 pounds. $529 and well worth the cost. That goes in the computer room. I can watch TV while I surf the web. Too cool.
So now I decide it must be time for a big screen TV in the living room, too. Froogle shows me a 46 inch, LCD that only weighs 69 pounds. Most prices are around $2500 but Froogle shows me one for $1685 plus $200 shipping. Sounds like a deal to me, so I order it. Add a matching TV stand for $300 and life is good. The stand takes extra long to arrive and when it comes, it has to be assembled, too. What fun. They look really nice in between the matching apothecary tables sitting on new carpet, especially from my brand new massage recliner.
Yeah, the old chair needed an upgrade, too. I moved it to the bedroom and for only $650 including shipping, I have a nice rocking recliner which has a built-in massage unit. This is luxury! I love that massage feeling. The Life of Riley indeed! The chair came in two pieces but it was really easy to snap together. Thank god! Homevisions.com again.
OK, now I have 4 TVs so I put the oldest, a 27 inch that used to be in my bedroom on the screen porch. Luckily I had cleaned off the screen porch and painted the floor the year before, so it really didn't need a thorough cleaning. Thank goodness! The entertainment center and TV from my bedroom go to the porch. It looks nice out there. I can watch TV or listen to satellite radio while I barbecue or just sit out there and relax.
The problem with sitting out there is the exposure to the neighbors. I needed blinds to cover the north and south sides. Froogle again to the rescue. Home Depot had the size I need and it's only a few more dollars. They look really good hanging out there and are a nice privacy addition.
All the curtains in my house came from my mom when I first moved into it. Probably time to replace those also. Why not? Just a few dollars more. Karen helps me pick out curtains for every room. They cost more than I thought but that's OK. I'm remodeling. Blinds are also a good addition to windows, I added those everywhere as well.
Oh, and I can't forget that Luna needed a new fence to keep her in the yard. A neighbor was complaining about her being out and roaming the neighborhood, so just a few more dollars to fix that problem. Except just one side of the yard didn't fix it. She found out she could get out over the back fence into the old goat pasture as well. Lovely! Another 100 feet of fence ought to fix that problem as well. Just a few more dollars.
So it's well into May now and my new dishes are working out well. I love them. And I love my central heat/air, new TVs, new carpet, new furniture, new tile floors, new curtains and new blinds. It's almost like I have a new house. Not really, though, but I like the newness of it all. I feel like I've completely grown up, domestically, anyway. It is nice. And it all started with a new set of dishes. Who knew that such a simple thing as dishes could lead to $17,000 in remodelling expenses. You gotta love it! I surely do.
Pictures are here.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
I Remember 1968 When I Was Naive
MLK was assassinated first that spring. It was quite a shock to me that this important civil rights figure was gunned down in a southern town. I was a naive teenager. I believed the best about everyone and everything and was always shocked when bad things like this happened for no apparent reason that I could see. Yes, I knew there were major changes happening throughout the country in regards to race relations and civil rights but having lived in Illinois all my life at that point, I had never experienced such intense hatred of a person just because of skin color. Naive.
I was following the Democratic Presidential Campaign and rooting for my favorite, Bobby Kennedy by the end of the school year. Another shock. Bobby was shot at close range, kind of like Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. Why would anyone want to kill this honorable man? Naive. I expected Bobby to cruise to the presidency and then he would finish the work that his brother had started before he was gunned down by an assassin in Dallas. Naive.
I was a naive kid for a long time, well into my 20s. My mom used to tell me that I had no common sense. I never understood that because if it was "common", I must have it. And if I didn't have it, then maybe this sense she talked about wasn't really common after all. Naive. I remember having a hang up about the phrase "You can't have your cake and eat it, too". Really! What good is cake if you cannot eat it, is what I would say. It's a stupid saying, useless. These days I understand what the saying is trying to imply but I still think it is a stupid saying. The point, though, is that I had a naive point of view about the world. I am not that way anymore, but maturity came late for me. Naive.
So in 1968 I was struggling to understand the world around me and not having a very easy time of it. It's only natural, I know now, to have doubts and negative feelings about the world and my place in it. Wondering how I was supposed to fit my round ideas into the square world gave me nightmares. Surely I wouldn't be ready to face the world on my own when I graduated from high school in a year. What would I do? How would I live? Naive.
Obviously I managed to get through the teenage years and eventually I grew into a pretty responsible, mature adult with sharp cognitive skills and I lost my naivete. It happens to almost everyone, I guess. Sometimes I wonder how I got my common sense. Why did it take me so long to acquire common sense? And why do I now give credence to the existence of "common sense" anyway? I guess I finally decided that mom knew what she was talking about after all.
Somehow that which is common found its' way to me and grabbed hold of me. I hope it doesn't go away now. At this point in my life I can already visualize the day when I am old and gray and feeble-minded and wondering what all the fuss is about common sense anyway. It took me too long to acquire common sense. I don't want to lose it again when I grow old. Is that being naive?
Monday, May 16, 2005
"Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government." -- James Madison
Now charity is a wonderful thing. It makes the giver feel good even as it helps the receiver. It's a win-win situation. It should be practiced regularly. From my point of view, a charitable act creates "good karma" for the giver and I am a firm believer in the old adage that "What goes around comes around". Or "Ye shall reap that which ye sew". I think the Beatles said it best, perhaps, with "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make". Practice good deeds and you will likely receive good deeds in return. Practice selfish deeds and you will likely be repaid with bad events.
However you look at it, charity is a noble act and the highest form of charity is to be charitable to someone without the recipient even knowing who you are. No thanks can be given because the receiver does not know who gave. You are simply generous because you want to be generous. It is an easy act and anyone in the country can practice it and build up their good karma.
When charity goes wrong is when the government gets involved. Our government has very good intentions in trying to help people create a sort of financial safety net for their retirement years or for tough employment times or for severe medical problems. But "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". It is very easy to be generous with someone else's money. And someone else's money is the only money that government has. Government's income comes from its' citizen's income in the many forms of taxes.
Remember the story of Robin Hood and his band of merry men in Sherwood Forest. Often times I hear someone, typically a liberal, say that Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. They hold him up as a model for our government. They urge our government to take more from the evil rich and give it to the poor poor. They got it totally wrong. Robin Hood did not steal from the rich. He stole from the government. More precisely, he stole from the tax collector. He stole from the tax collector to give to the poor because the taxes were too odious for the common person to bear. The rich are not the evil in this story, the government is the evil. This is usually the case.
Now if the government found a way to perhaps invest some of its' fortunes and actually create income on its' own, then I would have no problem with that money being used to fund charitable acts, to help people out of bad situations. But it doesn't work this way. The purpose of government is to provide a level playing field of sorts; to provide for defense of our nation at home and our interests around the world, to protect our borders and to maintain a justice system with equal protection for all citizens. There is nothing in our Constitution that says anything at all about helping people who need help for whatever reason. That is a function that is best kept for churches and other charitable organizations.
Why have we forgotten this basic concept? What makes Americans today think it is the government's responsibility to keep us fed, to give us cheap gas prices, to provide for our retirement, to pay for our college education, to aid farmers, to fund the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to pay for our medical expenses, to fund stem cell research, to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa, to give a home-owner's land to WalMart to build a store to generate higher tax revenues for the community? Why are we expecting so much from government when government gets all its' power from the people? Senseless.
There seems to be a mind set in today's world that there is a limited amount of wealth in the world and that the rich have too much of it. They seem to think the solution to the inequitable distribution of weath is to redistribute it, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. This should theoretically even things up, right? No Way!
Wealth is created every day all over the world. There is an unlimited amount of weath potential in the world. There is not a finite amount that needs to be divvied up among us, we can simply create more wealth at any time. Have a good idea, turn it into a capitalistic endeavor and let others benefit from your invention while you generate wealth for yourself and for other involved in the venture. We never need to divide up the wealth, it is too easy to create more.
Years ago the countries in Europe decided to go the socialistic route. Shorter work weeks, universal health care, lots of vacation time and time off for family, government benefits from cradle to grave. I say let them do it if that's what they desire from their government. We have started down this road in our country as well but from the United States government, we should expect much less. Less intrusion, less taxes, less control over our everyday lives, less red tape, less laws and less interference. Leave us alone. Get out of the way and watch us shine.
I believe our country became great because of its' people. I do not believe for a second that our people become great because of our government. EVER. If you want to be a giving person great! Wonderful! Do it! Everyone who can give should give. It feels good to help someone and I highly recommend it. Just don't get that "all holier than thou" attitude and enlist the government to do your giving for you. That just isn't the same thing. And it never will be.
Friday, May 13, 2005
A Bicycle and an EKG
My other excitement for the day was a pre-surgery consultation and an EKG. EKG came out excellent. The surgery is for removing the polyps from my left sinuses. Finally I'll be able to breathe again through both nostrils. Polyps in your nose is not a fun thing. I can't wait to feel better again. This one-hour surgery is costing $8668! WOW! Glad I have health insurance. I have to pay only $200.
Monday, May 09, 2005
I Love Golf
Yesterday in Gainesville, Florida the temperatures were in the mid 80s and the sky was mostly sunny and there was a slight breeze blowing. It was a beautiful day in paradise. When I lived in Hawaii, there was a phrase the locals would use which makes absolutely no sense to people who do not or have not lived on the islands. The overused phrase was, "It's another shitty day in paradise!" Great weather in Hawaii is so commonplace that one had to basically lie to describe it.
Great weather in Florida is pretty common, too, but the humidity here makes the paradise moniker not quite so realistic. Hawaii has the Tradewinds blowing almost non-stop. Florida drips with moisture. I lived in Wahiawa, in the center portion of Oahu, for over 3 years. I closed our windows exactly one night, I think the temperature fell to 49 degrees. Brrrr! I turned on our window air conditioner exactly one day, when I was trying to get some daytime sleep while my company was out sightseeing. Hawaii truly is paradise and Florida simply aspires to be.
But I digress. Back to golf. I love golf because it gives me a chance to know the simpler things about whoever I am playing the round with. I like the casual relations that form on a golf course. I love the feel of a gentle breeze blowing, giving me a little chill even as the sweat drips down my back. I adore the sound of a cleanly hit drive and I love to admire the long, rising and falling arc of a golf ball as it travels 200 plus yards straight down a lush, green fairway. Heaven is on a golf course. I shot a 94 yesterday. I was happy. I hadn't played since last August but it didn't feel like it.
Recently a few of us hardier souls from work tried playing basketball. Now, I am 53 years old and I thought I could run with the younger guys, in their 40s. I was wrong again. I was about to collapse after about 4 or 5 minutes. What a physically demanding sport. Art, a friend who is 47, I think, put us all to shame. He plays the game like a 30 year old. I admire someone in such great shape. I thought I was in good shape, at least. I am not. Basketball humbled me big time. I have a new respect for all basketball players.
Golf, on the other hand, is not a physically demanding sport. Golf is, however, a mentally demanding sport. This is one game where your frame of mind is more important than the fundamentals of hitting the ball. Get your head into the game and it will improve. My head was in the right place yesterday. It's hard to keep my head in the right place for very long. It seems it has a mind of its' own. :<)
Seriously, I could play golf every day and not get tired of the game. It really doesn't matter that I'll never be good enough to go on tour. Not many people are. I simply enjoy the game. I hope I will be able to continue to enjoy the game for many, many more years. After all, I still haven't achieved the ultimate goal in golf; a hole-in-one.
I will always dream of making a hole-in-one but I realize that the odds are not in my favor, aside from the putt-putt courses. But I always sense the chance whenever I tee up on a par 3 hole. Shit happens, they say. Anyway, I think my odds are better of getting a hole-in-one before I die than of winning a lottery. Especially since I don't even play the lottery.
Friday, May 06, 2005
If I were King....
1. Immediately institute the Fair Tax which includes abolishing the IRS.
2. Stop the ridiculous and hopeless War on Drugs. Legalize and regulate them instead.
3. Abolish the National Education Administration, leave school choices up to the states.
4. Phase out Social Security entirely. We are NOT a Socialist country!
5. Lock down our borders and stop the flood of illegal immigration. We have a perfectly viable legal immigration system, let's use it as it was intended.
These are the areas I would concentrate my efforts if I were king.
1. The Income Tax is a despicable tax which is used more for social enginerring, to get people to behave in ways the government thinks they should behave, than to collect revenue to fund government operations. The Income Tax also is progressive, which means it is collected unevenly, with the philosophy that the more you make, the more we take. It is a negative incentive to individuals to earn more because each additional dollar earned is taxed at a higher rate.
The Income Tax is so laden with special provisions that it is simply a nightmare for compliance and has created an entire industry of specialists to legally avoid compliance and a real burden on everyone to prove they are compliant. Income Taxes are always held up in Congress as a means to illicit certain behaviors, such as the preference for home ownership or charitable contributions. Congress has no reason or right to attempt to influence people's behaviors based on tax breaks. This needs to stop.
Sales Taxes are already collected fairly simply at the state level and the system works. Why not fund Federal operations the simple way, at the retail cash registers? We know it works, it is difficult to avoid compliance. We know millions of dollars of uncollectable taxes are lost due to the lack of reporting income properly, by illegal aliens and others being paid in cash, by outlaws who never report illegally earned income, they can't avoid the cash register, and by special provisions in the Tax Code that allow all manner of deductions. This all needs to stop.
2. Abolish the War on Drugs! It is usefless. It can never be won. Why are we fighting a war that cannot be won? We tried this in this country once before in the 1920s. It was called Prohibition. And it didn't work. In fact, it led to the creation of powerful, illegal groups, like the Mafia, to provide the contraband alcohol that people still craved. Why didn't we learn our lesson after this failed experiment?
There will always be people who want to use drugs. Hell, we encourage the use of drugs, but only certain drugs. Who is deciding what is a good drug and what is a bad drug? The government has no more superior knowledge on this subject than anyone else. It is approached as a moral issue and morals cannot be legislated. Let people decide for themselves if they want to use what we now call illegal drugs. We let people decide if they want to use legal drugs. I see no difference. People cannot be protected from themselves. If someone's life, liberty or property is harmed by someone using drugs, make them pay for the harm caused by their actions. Using a drug is not in and of itself a reason to put someone in jail.
Among the most powerful lobby groups for illegalizing marijuana were the rope and clothes lobbies. They were afraid that hemp products would ruin their sweet profits and lobbied hard to make sure that couldn't happen. The Federal Government should not be using its' power to protect certain business interests. They should all be allowed to fail or succeed on their own merits and public acceptance.
3. Jimmy Carter pushed to add the Cabinet level position for National Education. Up until then, it was the province of state and local governments to administer their educational system. If we intend to have a government-run educational system at all, it should be run by local and state governments not on a national scale. Nothing the Federal Government does is cheap or efficient. It also doesn't take into account the difference in cultures in different parts of the country. Stop sending funds up to Washington where the beaurocrats play around with the money and send some back as they decide. Put it all back to local control.
4. Phase out the pyramid scheme called Social Security. This plan would be illegal in all 50 states, yet supporters call it the most successful program in government history. Its' only success is that it gives politicians a real tool in manipulating public opinion. How can one claim success for a system that simply takes money from Peter to pay Paul without planning for future payments to Peter. Current recipients and people close to retirement must still receive their payments as promised but the system is so out of balance and inherently unfair, that it needs to eventually be abolished completely.
Americans must plan for and secure their own retirement income. There is nothing special about being old. It doesn't mean you need to be treated with kid gloves. Remember the story about the ant and the grasshopper? The ant works hard all summer to prepare for the long winter while the grasshopper merrily lives for today with no thought about the winter months. When winter comes, the grasshopper goes begging to the ant to help him out as he is in an unfortunate state and cannot find food. We need more ants in this country and fewer grasshoppers.
5. I have completely reversed my thoughts about this issue over the past several years. Particularly after 9/11. There is no reason we should continue to allow massive illegal immigration into our country. It is estimated there are over 11 million illegals in this country at present. We need to stem this tide and we need to return all illegals to where they came.
I heard one person exclaim that we can track a cow from its' birth to the stall it is currently occupying. Remember the Mad Cow scares? If we can do this, we can surely find a good percentage of the 11 million illegal people currently here. This person suggested we give every illegal alien a cow to make it easier to find them.
But what do we do instead? We give them driver licenses. We educate their children for free, We allow them to work, often off the tax rolls, and then send their income back to their families in their home country. We give them free health care. And we often give them other forms of welfare, too. When we catch them coming across the southern border, we either ignore them or we send them home at our expense. When they apply for a job, we give it to them, then pay them under the table so they avoid income taxes and payroll taxes.
This is America and it is the greatest country in the history of the world. It will not always be the greatest country if we take it lightly and refuse to see the damaging effects our Federal Government allows to go on unchecked. I have offered my suggestions for fixing some of it. I am not overly optimistic about any of these suggestions actually occuring, at least in my lifetime, except for the Fair Tax.
I think a vast majority of Americans would agree with the Fair Tax plan if they knew all the details about it.(http://www.fairtax.org) This fuels my optimism. I have watched several people become convinced that this is the best plan available after having initial reservations about it. The main obstacle I see in its' implementaion is that people are so pessimistic when it comes to government reform, that they think a change this vast and far-reaching has a snowball's chance in hell of surviving. Just because something is hard to do, doesn't mean it isn't worth doing. Getting the Income Tax passed in the first place was a hard task, but look how it worked out.
That's my nickel for the day.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Taxes and US
But the estate tax is only one form of taxation that we must endure. The most pervasive of taxes is the income tax. It is also the most perverse of the taxes. Originally the Federal Income Tax was sold to the American public as a means to get revenue from the stinking rich people to fund government operations. Originally it was levied at 2 1/2 percent of income and only on the highest incomes. My how times changed in the 20th century. Politicians realized what a gold mine they had and they took full advantage of it. By the 1960s the highest tax rate was around 90%! Ninety Percent! Talk about destroying incentive to produce!
No one wants to pay taxes. Of any kind. But most everyone agrees that some form of revenue is necessary to fund government operations. So if the income tax rate were still at a modest 2 1/2 percent, I doubt that there would be any uproar at all over paying it. I certainly wouldn't object to that. What has happened, however, is the government, and by that I mean the Federal government has become so widespread and involved in so many aspects of our daily lives that they continue to need more and more revenue to operate.
The Founding Fathers had an idea that in peaceful times, the Federal Government would account for roughly 5-10% of total government and the majority, 90-95% of government operations would be state and local. During war times the scenario would be much different with Federal Government accounting for the bulk of government but most of the day-to-day government functions would be decided locally, funded locally and managed locally. The Federal Income Tax changed that equation. We now look at the Feds as the all-encompassing, all-seeing, all-knowing protectors of our country. And since they are all-everything to us these days, they obviously need much more money than ever before to fund the many and massive programs they have put together for the benefit of us all.
Horse-shit! They are creating and maintaining programs not for the benefit of us all, but for the benefit of a few groups, lobbyists, politicians and other self-sustaining interests. Government has become not a protector of individual rights, but a protector of group rights at the expense of all of us. It is not a government function to help the needy people in this country. Never has been. Churches, religious institutions and charities take up the task to provide for needy people. Or what is wrong with an individual simply helping someone as he/she so chooses. We don't need no more stinking government programs to suck up our money and garner votes for politicians!
Income tax as a source of government revenue is a lousy idea to begin with. Especially the progressive tax system that we have now. Earn more and pay a higher rate. That simply stifles productivity, causes smart, innovative, resourceful people to try a little bit less to be more productive. When you reward a behavior, you get more of that behavior. When you punish a behavior, you get less. Higher, progressive taxes on income is a negative deterrent to higher productivity. Make more money and have even more taxes levied so that you end up with even less money than if you had actually made far less. It's a certain disincentive to making more. We need more productivity not less. Quit taxing exceptional performance!
A much evener method of collecting revenue for government operations is a sales tax. A National Retail Sales Tax. The Fair Tax even. For all the details on this incredibly well-thought out plan, a plan which has been in the works for over a decade, check out http://www.fairtax.org
I'm just a regular guy writing a self-indulgent blog so I'm not going into any details about how the Fair Tax works, but it is a superior method of taxation. A method which actually allows every person to decide how much they will be paying to the Federal Government in taxes by what and how they purchase things. Taxation on the demand side, buying stuff, is much more equitable than taxation on supply side, producing stuff.
I have read all the details about the Fair Tax plan and I have heard most of the arguments against it. I cannot see a downside to this plan. This economy would explode if this system were implemented. The United States would become a haven for businesses world-wide. Our Federal Government would have as much revenue as they have today without stifling productivity. Every economist I have heard discussing this plan agrees that it would be a huge boon for our nation and our businesses and our quality of life.
What I hear most often, however, is the nay-sayers expressing every reason under the sun why this Fair Tax Plan will not work. Or why we cannot possibly change our current tax system because it is too ingrained in our way of life. And often I hear someone reporting the facts of the Fair Tax Plan incorrectly, whether knowingly or not. It does no good to criticize something without understanding completely what you are criticizing. Negativity everwhere! I am positive we can change the tax system.
How about some help here? Let's find a way to make it work. Let's try to change people's misguided perceptions about the plan and show some confidence that we can actually change something as huge and pervasive as the Federal Tax Code that is broken and does not work well at all, and replace it with a simple, elegant plan that actually does what it says it will and works.
The simplest solution is always the best solution. The Fair Tax Plan is the simplest solution. If I were king, the current system would be reaplaced with the Fair Tax tomorrow. And I would cut back the size of the Federal Government to about 1/10 of its' present size. I still believe he governs best, who governs least.
Monday, May 02, 2005
Curtains and Blinds and Bedroom Furniture
Every room in my house now, except the livingroom, has new curtains and they all have a personality. Karen helped me pick out the curtains, she has impeccable taste and is definitely on the high side of life. We found most of what I needed at Linens n Things at the Oaks Mall in Gainesville. Spent more than I thought I would ever spend on curatins but boy do they look nice now that they are up.
The blinds for the porch were a bit harder to install. Luckily the previous owner had a similar idea so there are wooden pieces running between the aluminum posts on the porch that made it easy to mount the brackets to hang the blinds. They really give the porch a different personality. Now I guess I really need to replace the screens out there since they are coming loose in several places, too. Home ownership is always fun! There's always something else to do.
My bedroom furniture came surprisingly fast. I dreaded puting the dresser, end table and personal locker together but once I got started, it went pretty quickly. My right hand shows the pressure of a screwdriver twisting in my palm. The skin is falling off and the hand muscles are sore from turning but inside I feel good because I put each piece together correctly the first time and didn't have to redo anything. That may be a first for me. Usually it takes two times to get it put together right.
Anyway, the house is really shaping up now. Just a few more things to buy and a few more things to do and I will be finished remodeling for this year at least. The stand for the 46 inch livingroom TV is to be delivered this afternoon. This is good because now I will be able to watch it easily. The TV Sitting on the floor makes it too difficult to see, so I haven't really had much chance to enjoy the massage recliner yet. And the massage chair feels simply heavenly!
That's my comments for today. Nothing in the news has my ire and the week has started off easily at work, too.