January 2009


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided the best way to plug a $15 billion budget gap is to tax his city’s financially pressed residents by proposing a $900 million sales tax increase.

The city already has one of the nation’s highest sales taxes at 8.375 percent and under the Bloomberg proposal that would rise to 8.75 percent rivaling the highest taxes in California.

On top of the sales tax increase the mayor would also eliminate the $400 property tax rebate and renew his quest to get the state to impose a nickel a bag charge for plastic bags used at stores.

Last month Bloomberg raised property taxes to generate an extra $600 million and the elimination of the rebate will save an additional $250 million increasing the financial burden on New Yorkers.

The city’s Independent Budget Office estimated that the sales tax increase would cost an individual making $35,000 a year an extra $55 rising to $140 for someone earning $125,000.

These estimates will only hold up though if consumers don’t rein in their spending even more in the next year as the economy continues to contract so they are likely to miss the target amount.  Plus add in the increased property taxes and lower sales tax rates in New Jersey and the increase may actually turn into a net decrease for the city.

New York is like most cities that expanded their budget at a healthy clip when the economy was good, but now that times are tough they would rather burden the taxpayer rather than make the proper decision to cut the size of government to match the revenue that they are generating.

The economy will not recover as fast as elected officials hope if they keep turning to the tax man to solve the problem.  All that will do is choke off any recovery and prolong the misery.

House Republicans for the first time in recent memory banded together last night and voted against the Democratic stimulus bill backed by President Barack Obama.

Even though the passage of the bill was never in doubt with the Democrats firmly in control of the House, President Obama had hoped to obtain some support from the GOP. He even went as far as visiting Republican House and Senate leaders on Tuesday in a last ditch attempt to woo them in addition to keeping up his image of bipartisanship.

In the end though all 177 Republicans voted against the bill and brought 11 Democrats with them which only added insult to injury for Nancy Pelosi and the President.

Democrats weren’t very happy with the GOP’s resolve. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said of the Republicans “They repeatedly are slapping the outreached hand of Democrats who are attempting to work in a bipartisan way” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Exactly which Democrats are reaching out? Certainly not Speaker Pelosi who said on Tuesday that “We had an election which was about our differing views … the American people agreed with us”

Maybe Rep. Wasserman Schultz missed that meeting.

Barack Obama campaigned on the theme of hope and change. Instead the stimulus bill is just more of the same pork barrel spending that Democrats have been famous for. After all what kind of stimulus will be provided for by another $650 million in digital TV conversion coupons?

Regardless of the pork we are now halfway there. The bill passed last night carries a price tag of $819 billion; the Senate version is closer to $900 billion. Yet the Democrats paid little attention to a GOP alternative of approximately $475 billion.

History has shown that government spending to stimulate the economy will have little if any long term effect and will only saddle our children and grandchildren with an even larger debt burden that they can’t possibly hope to repay in their lifetimes.

For the Democrats at this point it’s all about making sure they maintain control and not what is best for the country.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is at it again using sexy ads to try and convince people that vegetarians attract sexier partners.

In this case the ads which feature women in sexy lingerie playing with various veggies was supposedly targeted for the Super Bowl this coming Sunday but was rejected by NBC for being too sexually explicit.

An NBC spokesperson told the Washington Post that the ad was rejected because it did not conform to their standards. Yet according to one source PETA apparently asked for the network to give them specific edits so the ad would conform to its standards.  NBC complied and PETA ignored them and then used the rejection to generate publicity for the ads.

With the cost of an ad on Sunday going for some $3 million, it is highly unlikely that PETA was serious about advertising during the Super Bowl.  According to their 2007 990 form filed with the IRS, PETA’s revenue was about $28 million and they  had a  $200,000 deficit that year.   Even with $16 million in net assets the cost of the ad is prohibitive especially in this economy.

It is interesting to note that PETA which rails against people who wear fur, eat meat etc… has had to resort to the exploitation of women to try and get their message across and they are unrepentant about it.

And where are the feminist groups that continually rail about using women as sex objects?  They are staying quiet because except for the ads they agree politically with PETA.

Just one more example of left wing hypocrisy.


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President Barack Obama may be a great orator, but as the new president he still has a lot to learn.

On Friday in an effort to win bipartisan support for his $825 billion stimulus package he met with GOP leaders at the White House and then promptly told them that “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done,” which may have been in response to Limbaugh’s declaration that he wanted to see the president fail.

Obama also reminded the legislators that he won and that “I will trump you on that.” in reference to his stimulus package.

As you can imagine the remarks hit the news fast and furious and forced the White House to defend them by stating the president was being taken out of context and was trying to make a larger point.

What larger point? That he won the presidency and that his party holds such a commanding majority in the House and Senate that the GOP shouldn’t bother trying to defeat his legislative agenda? Or that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t truly represent mainstream America and taking his advice would be disastrous for the GOP?

Instead of coming across as someone who is seriously interested in reaching across the aisle Obama appears arrogant and smug, even elitist to some. That is not the image he needs if he plans to succeed over the next four years.

And why attack Limbaugh? Rush may be the number one talk radio host in America, but he is certainly no threat to Obama’s agenda. If he had the influence that the Democrats think he does, McCain would be in the White House and not Obama and the GOP would have regained their majority status instead of being pushed to the brink of obscurity.

Even worse for the White House is that by going after Limbaugh, he has given him plenty of material for his show for days if not weeks to come and will only bring more scrutiny of his suspect stimulus proposal.

Score this one Rush 1 Obama 0.

According to a report in the Washington Times CIA director-designate Leon Panetta  served as White House chief of staff during the time the Clinton administration accelerated a practice of kidnapping terrorist suspects and sending them to countries with records of torturing prisoners.

 

Panetta faces questions from Republicans on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about what, if any, role he played in shaping the policy commonly known as “extraordinary” rendition.

 

The practice involves seizing a terrorist suspect in one country and then transporting him to another without formal judicial proceedings was used under the George H.W. Bush administration.  A former Bush administration official claims that the practice began before the Reagan administration but former Clinton counter terrorism czar Richard Clarke says that it began under Bush.

 

Yet while the left howls at such practices when Republicans are in office little is said during Democratic administrations.

 

For example under Clinton, Talaat Fuad Qassim, a leader of al-Gamaa Islamaya, the Egyptian jihadist group led by al Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri  in the 1990’s was abducted in Bosnia and after being questioned by the Navy was sent to an Egyptian prison.

 

In 1998 five suspected Albanian terrorists were snatched and sent to Egypt for questioning according to a Human Rights Watch report issued in 2005 leading to accusations of torture by the U.S. State Department and other Human rights groups.

 

Joanne Mariner, counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch told the Times that the Clinton policy was in effect torture which former Clinton administration officials vehemently deny, lest they be seen as being no different than the Republicans they vilify for using this procedure.

 

It is hard to believe that while serving as the White House Chief of Staff that Panetta had no knowledge of the tactics that the Clinton administration was using, but with Democrats firmly in control of the Senate there is no doubt that questions to this effect will be very limited.

 

In selecting Panetta, Obama had hoped to avoid any controversy surrounding intelligence community tactics that have so riled the left over the last eight years, but his ties to the Clinton years and lack of intelligence experience could severely hamper our efforts to combat terrorism.


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For most of my life I have been bombarded with advertising on tv, radio and in the newspapers urging me and my family to buy American made products.

As a child of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s that was still possible. Clothing, cars, appliances etc… were mostly still manufactured in the U.S. Electronics though were making a strong shift to overseas production. I can still remember my family’s RCA television, but by the time I was a young adult all we had were Sony’s, Sharp’s and Mitsubishi’s.

With the rise of overseas manufacturing it didn’t take long before clothing, toys, appliances, you name it were being made in China, Thailand, Korea and India to name but a few countries.

The biggest change came with auto manufacturing. Yes the Big 3 was still selling cars but a wave of imports mainly from Japan were gaining market share at a rapid rate. Today foreign manufacturers represent about 55% of the U.S. car market and are growing while the Big 3 keeps sliding towards oblivion.

That brings me to my current situation.

Two months ago I was involved in an auto accident where my car was hit, t-boned actually by another driver. Unfortunately for me the car was a total loss. Now having received a settlement from my insurance company I need to purchase another vehicle.

In searching for a new car, I am going by my experience of growing up with a Corvair (the car that made Ralph Nader famous)  then a Pontiac LeMans, Olds Cutlass Salon and Ciera and last but not least a Ford Taurus.  In addition to those cars I owned a Camaro when I was in high school and college and a Ford Tempo when I was married and a Ford Taurus station wagon as my family grew. They were all decent cars and served my family well, but cost a small fortune to maintain.

For the last 6 years I have owned two Hondas and a Lexus that I inherited from my father. Unfortunately it was the Lexus that was totaled in the accident. By the way it was 8 years old with 150,000 miles on it and probably would have lasted another 25,000 miles at least. How many American cars are likely to last that long without a major overhaul?

My main expenses on these cars have been for routine maintenance and some minor repairs making the cost of ownership over the life of the cars very reasonable especially when compared to my American made cars.

I will probably pay more for buying a Japanese car, but I will receive in return more comfort, better styling and a higher resale value. Even with all the wear and tear on my wrecked car after 8 years I still received over $8,000 from the insurance company. Can someone please name an American car with the same age and miles that would also warrant that type of settlement?

For the government the auto industry is sacrosanct and must be saved at any cost. Yet with all the money taxpayers are dumping to “save” the Big 3 we still won’t get what we need which are reliable cars that hold their value and look good to boot. The industry is still mired in decades long manufacturing processes that makes them anti-competitive and more costly to own than their Japanese and German counterparts.

The bailout will only be a temporary reprieve. Detroit won’t solve its problems until they can lure buyers like myself back to their showrooms and at the pace they are going it won’t happen in my lifetime.

For reatively new Twitter users such as myself one of the most vexing questions has been to figure out what is the protocol for following someone who is following you.

In an excellent article on Mashable, Atherton Bartelby has posted the top reasons he won’t follow and I think they are right on target.

Here is a qucik review with my own thoughts;

  • No avatar-  How difficult is it to find a picture or graphic?  No avatar, no follow back.
  • No location, bio, website- How can anyone decide to follow back when they don’t know anything about you?
  • Website is MySpace- What serious Twitter user would be caught dead using MySpace as their website?
  • Following far more than you follow and no updates- This looks both predatory and stupid.  The whole point of having followers is to update them.
  • Profile refers to “internet expert”- I see way too many of these and based on their tweets they are lying for the most part.
  • Updates pushing products-  Very annoying.  We want a community not another bunch of hucksters.
  • Poorly constructed auto DM’s- I find the auto DM”s annoying, plus many of them run up my text charges and are very impersonable.
  • Updates harp on adding more followers- Guilty as charged.  Every once in awhile as I am about to hit another follower mark, 500, 600 etc… I tweet about it.  I realize that some feel that this is not a great way to use Twitter, but frankly it works.  Just don’t do it all the time.
  • Arguing- I’ll pass on this since I haven’t seen much evidence of this.
  • Not engaging followers- I have had some great “conversations’ on Twitter with my followers, but the more followers you have the harder it will be to engage a significant number.  Stay on topic and try not to bore people and you will be fine.
  • Updates Locked-  This one is mine.  If I can’t see what you tweet about I won’t follow.

As with anything in the social networking sphere there will be varying viewpoints, but overall I think Bartleby has done a great job of summarizing some of the biggest dilemmas Twitter users face.

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