Tuesday, October 21, 2008

McCain and the Stupid Pill

I never consider anyone dumb. However I do recognize stupidity when I see it, having fallen victim to those kinds acts myself over the years. McCain's robocalls are stupid. Studies show people usually hang up within the first 3-5 seconds. Most of us have predisposed anger toward telemarketing. The message is offensive, while I do not like the liberalism the Democratic party tends to reflect they are not dumb. They would not have selected a terrorist or a Muslim. McCain recently called Obama an honorable man when his campaign rallies got racial and ugly.

I will still vote for McCain, but this is a stupid act that will backfire on him.

Unfortunately the message is finding takers. A person I work with who has a bachelor and master's degree recently told me she doesn't trust Obama because of the association with terrorists or he may be a closet Muslim. This is a highly educated person I respect a great deal for her courage to pull herself up from a background in poverty. There are probably others.

Win at all costs, I don't like it but it seems to be a political fact of life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Immortality?

A recent article on CNN medical has my mind speculating full time. The article concerned a research lab that had taken a rats heart, stripped it of all cellular material leaving a cellular matrix behind, then injected the matrix with cells from the rat's heart which then divided, grew and the heart started to beat again. Now there are all kinds of difficulties, for example they need to figure out how to install blood vessels and nerve endings to recreate the actual heart, but if they can achieve this step they can certainly figure out the rest.

Just think of the possibilities. Taking an organ from a deceased person, stripping that organ down, rebuilding it and transplanting it. If you used cells from the host organism there may be no rejection issues and you could resume a normal life with your immune system intact.

What about cancer, diabetes, congestive heart failure. Replace the organ with a good one. If cancer hasn't metastasized you might effect a cure and reduce or eliminate the risk of recurrence. What does that mean for gene replacement for people predisposed to breast cancer, colon cancer or even Alzheimer's.

A thousand years in the future there may be clinics where every 150 years or so you enter the clinic for a period of time and have your entire body rebuilt. Immortal, could be.

Think about the impact on organized religion. We would become one with God. If we were created in God's image would that not be possible? I wish I were going to be around the hear the debate that is going to take place as we progress towards that possibility. After all, once you've mastered immortality the universe is a piece of cake.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What will be the impact of race on the race?

I've said before if you are voting for Obama because he is black you are voting Obama for the wrong reason. Likewise if you are voting for McCain because Obama is black you are voting McCain for the wrong reason.

I do not know of any polls that indicate the impact of race. There is the Bradley effect, but I do not know of any statistics. However I've been an observer of people for many years because that is how I made my living. Social scientists say that Blacks and Latinos are more apt to act in concert as a member of a group than Caucasians. So in all likelihood blacks may end up pooling their votes for Obama.

However, racial feelings run deep. I've heard the talk. When the curtain on the voting booth closes who knows what happens but I am sure many will vote their heart. I do not think we have any measure of the extent racial hatred exists. Barry Goldwater said during his campaign many years ago that you cannot legislate love into a man's heart. I think we shall find out. Obviously we've come a long way toward honoring diversity, but is it lip service or have beliefs, prejudices and bias really changed?

I think if Obama has a significant lead we will see him win but by 5% lower than the polls predicted. I hope not, but I believe the possibility is real.

Employee Free Choice Act

There is an act that has successfully passed the House sitting on the democratic agenda waiting for the election Nov. 4. It is called the Employee Free Choice Act and on the surface sounds quite attractive. It has been developed by unions and their liberal supporters. What it refers to is a change to the current method used to determine whether or not employees desire union representation.

As of this writing unions wishing to try to organize a company will have representatives stand near company property, or meet with people they have contacted working for the company who may be sympathetic to the union message. A card is proffered and if signed represents the person interest in having an election for union representation. If 51 percent of the active employees request an election then there is a waiting period while the NLRB schedules an election. During this time the company may discuss the possibility of union representation with employees. They have the employees at work and can use work time for the discussion sessions. In addition companies hire firms to come in a survey all personnel to see if the main irritant of the employees can be discovered and remedied before an election takes place. The union is at somewhat of a disadvantage as they have to rely on public meetings or home visits to get their message out.

Unions claim the companies have an unfair advantage and will use any tactic they can including threats and purges to insure the defeat of the proposal. On the other hand the union makes all kinds of outrageous claims, we'll double your wages, you won't have to pay for health benefits, we'll double your vacation time, etc. Do abuses occur, sure. I've been through a unionization attempt at a plant that reported to me in Lexington, TN. The abusive situation that arose concerning the anti-union sentiment came from the community, not the company. I found out what the problem was and took care of it. The problem disappeared.

However, union representatives do misrepresent their claims, continuously. After all, would you listen to a person asking you to support a unionization attempt who said, I'm not sure I can increase your wages or improve your health benefits, but we'll have strength in numbers and I want 3 hours of your pay monthly for dues.

The new law would make the signing of the cards the vote. In other words, there wouldbe no waiting time to present sides or for a company response. If the union representative convinced you to sign the card with whatever sales pitch he/she made the card would represent a vote. If 51 percent of the vote was for, a union would be recognized by the NLRB.

This is a bad law. Perhaps there could be some negotiation. Perhaps the company and union representatives could state publicly to one and all their positions and then see if a vote should go forward. To deny the company time to rebut the proposal and to deny a secret ballot is not the way to go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Obama's Economic Recovery Plan

Senator Obama has five new ideas in and article on CNN Money this morning. Some aren't too bad. Here is my opinion:

Relax rules on emergency withdrawals from retirement funds.

A plant in our area pays its workers extremely well. The average production worker can make over $70,000 annually and with overtime it is not unusual for workers to make in excess of $100,000 a year. Yet, every three months their pay system has one week where the hours of work on the pay check are 36 instead of 48. When that happens there is a rush to the personnel department to borrow against their 401(k). My point is I'm not sure if people would use the money to stave off the wolf from the door or it would be just a means of sustaining a life style they shouldn't be at anyway. It probably won't be repaid, plus the tax liability will be foregone and Uncle Sam will be down in tax receipts. I do not think this is a good idea unless they could come up with a method of proving need, for example to be applied against a mortgage payment, or in an unemployed situation.

Give Seniors a break in a bad market.

While this won't effect me, I agree with this position. Why penalize a person's IRA with a withdrawal made when the market was high. This economic difficulty should not penalize those who saved and developed enough savings or investments on their own that they wish to protect. The article goes on to say that in this instance, Obama agrees with McCain's idea. Hmm!

Have the federal government finance state and local governments.

I don't know about this one. Some of those governments are in areas that went through an inflated economic real estate boom that has turned out to be more speculative that real. Yesterday I hear the mayor of San Diego say that his city has simply lived beyond its means. Departments that may not be needed have been created, services that are nice to have may have been created, perhaps there should be some real retrenching before we finance overspending at the local and state level.

Encourage job creation

On the surface it sounds good. However, it is the usual liberal ploy that won't work. They would give a $3-5000 tax credit to companies for every full-time job they create. It doesn't work that way. What you are really telling businesses to do is create jobs when they are not needed. Business operates in a competitive, fairly free market condition. They are not going to add jobs simply for the sake of a tax credit. The tax credit does not even come close to offsetting the cost of a new job creation. This is a stupid idea. Better to resurrect the public works programs FDR created back in the 30's to get income into the hands of people. At least you would get some work done, and the program could be phased out as the economy recovers.

Extend unemployment benefits for 13 weeks beyond the 24 week period.

As much as I do not like something for nothing, this may have to be done. However, I like the idea of redistributing the money through public works. There are a lot of roads and trash that need picking up. There are public areas that need to be refurbished. How about the idea of getting something instead of just giving money away so a guy can go fishing every day.

In general I don't think Obama's plan will be implemented in time to do much good. I question what good it will do. There are a couple of items that I think will have to be implemented, however one of them appears to be an idea put forth by John McCain. So where is the change, the new ideas in this proposal. Many of these ideas are old hack ideas that have surface and been implemented in past years. Nothing new here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Knee jerk politics

One of the reasons I don't mind grid-lock in our national legislative process is that it prevents knee-jerk politics. What do I mean knee-jerk politics? How about the time Congress was going to pass a law making the public destruction of our flag a federal crime. I do not like seeing our flag burned as a protest to events taking place in America, but it seems to me that taking that step of outlawing that form of protest is taking a step down the road of becoming a police state. I served in the U.S. Army for four years back in the 60's and while I hate that form of protest I do not think it should be outlawed.

Now, the "bail out" bill is being rethought. First of all it won't be implemented immediately. There are some columnists that are commenting that by the time the "bail out" bill is implemented the crisis will be over. Now Paulsen wants to rethink the use of the funds, perhaps taking ownership in banks by the purchase of equity will be best. Hell, we didn't know how to the attack the problem in the first place. Yes, the adjustment may be massive and ugly, but our economy was built on too large of a credit base. It has to be reigned in.

The price of gas.

The price per gallon for gas has dropped in our area to below $3 a gallon. I wondered this morning if American consumers are so short sighted that there will now be an increase in auto sales, specifically SUV's and trucks. I would be so disappointed in the collective mind set of our society if that were to happen. That would certainly reinforce the concept that we are not a whole lot above cows being lead to slaughter.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

McCain's in trouble

I did not watch much of the 2nd debate. I still believe they are all liars. However the little I did see McCain looked old, hell he is. Unfortunately his limited arm movement makes him look somewhat handicapped. This bullshit of "my friends" is bogus. His style is stiff and he just comes across as cold and unyielding. Obama isn't a lot better. He is charming and smart. But I am really afraid of a power shift that may spell trouble for the country. There seems to be a backlash against the Republicans. Several traditional Republican seats in the both Senate and House were lost to Democrats in the last year or so. The sentiment against Bush is heavy and I don't think he could carry a jockstrap now.

The conservative wing of the Republican party seems to be inflexible and I do not understand that. What scares me is that there will be a Democratic majority that will be so strong that liberal laws will be passed that will create more national debt, will create more people in our society dependent upon public support and eventually increase the tax burden on all of us. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid at not wise political leaders but have an extreme liberal agenda. We can't afford for the rail to socialism to be greased.

A Contradiction

Today I had to go pay my local taxes. No problem. However I began to ponder the mindset of people. I stopped by to assess for 2008, I was already assessed. The lady at the counter was quite heavy set. She was wearing a dress that was fairly low cut exposing some substantial cleavage. She had a light sweater on and then kept pulling the sweater over her cleavage, unsuccessfully I might add. It made me think, why would a person dress in a fashion designed to emphasize something and then use something else to hide it. Would it not be more natural to simply make your statement without embarrassment. And for my daughters who may read this, I did not stare, I did not drool, I observed her action while waiting on someone else. I just wonder why people wear what might be considered provocative clothing to then try to hide the exposure.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Health Update

In two days it will have been 21 months since I had bowel resection surgery. A rough time line goes something like this: Jan, 2007 Bowel resection surgery, February 2007 irregular heartbeat becomes noticeable, March 2007 hospitalized for an Afib episode, August 2007 irregular heartbeat becomes so noticeable that a Holter monitor is prescribed for a 24 hour period, at the same time I start to encounter gall stone attacks, November 2007 gall bladder surgery, June 2008 small bowel obstruction. Whew!

I have had almost 5 months of peace. My irregular heartbeat still exists, however the sensation has almost slipped below consciousness. The gas attack episodes I was having due to the gall bladder removal have become very mild and almost not noticeable. I still am not used to the bowel activity and variation I run into, however I am sensing a pattern and am relieved at that.

From a psychological stand point I believe I am now getting some stability. When I had bowel resection surgery and realized my brush with cancer I have had to deal with mortality issues all over again. I am older now, time is passing rapidly and I don't want it to. My work years are dwindling down, I still haven't made up my mind when I shall retire however retirement does not seem like vacation to me. It seems more like a recognition of the end.

The small bowel obstruction scared the hell out of me. At the time it was very painful and I was as sick as I ever have been. I thought perhaps ulcer, some sort of rupture, then when I learned obstruction I thought a recurrence of cancer. It all worked out very well, but the Dr. told me that I might have another occurrence in a week, thirty days, a year, thirty years or never again. The not knowing was hard on me. Every time I had a gas pain, did not have a BM for a day or so, or just felt a little bloated I worried about an obstruction. I am now worrying less, but it was such a painful, unpleasant experience that I do not want it to come back, ever.

One of the things that seems to be important in my digestive tract activity is drinking water. Soda, coffee and other liquids all contain water, but my system seems to want a pretty good dose of water.

I am more at peace now. I am able to plan for the future better than a year ago. I have bought some "boy toys" like a tractor with a front end loader, I bought a new air rifle to do some squirrel hunting, Terry and I have some plans for landscaping. My mind is reaching out further and the end of time is moving out away from me again. However, 30 years ago time was like a grand ocean to me, I could not see across it. Now, I can see the distant shore and the outline of trees, but I still cannot see an individual tree, but the far shore is now visible. Perhaps being closer to an end will make life that much sweeter to me. We shall see.

Right now, I feel fine, I exercise. I am having difficulty keeping me weight down and have to work at that. Work is interesting, however working around the house is becoming more pleasurable. Maybe I am in mental transition from work to retirement.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Some thoughts on the upcoming election

I was emailed an article in the NY Times recently. It was a story about the roots of the credit problem in the U.S. From the article Congress is to blame. However, in addition to Congress we can find the roots of the problem in the Clinton administration. You see, in the late 80's the Attorney General Janet Reno began pushing Fannie Mae to take on loans from people who were less that adequate credit risks. This was a public push to get lower income families into home ownership. At the same time congressmen were calling Fannie Mae urging them to take on riskier loans because their constituents financial needs. In fact, one of the congressmen urging Fannie Mae to take on high risk loans was Barney Franks, the same chairman of the Banking committee pushing hard on the bailout bill. I guess the democrats will take every opportunity to piss away our tax dollars.

One democratic senator is quoted in the article about Fannie Mae taking action because the cost of homes was doubling every 6-7 years yet income was only going up about 1% a year. Now it seems to me that simple logic tells you that at some point in time there will be a problem. How about requiring classes for people on financial responsibility.

The article pointed out that Senator McClain had a premonition of the trouble we were headed for and asked for oversight back in the 90's. Maybe if some fiscally responsible congressmen stood up and quit excusing the plight of the poor we would be a stronger country instead of being built on a revolving line of credit.

Here we are heading for a strong democratic congress, and perhaps a liberal democratic President. Heaven help us! Since when did owning a home become an entitlement or a right instead of a privilege. Since when did sitting home on your ass collecting a "crazy kids" checks or a check for aid to dependent children become a means for steady income. We are destroying people's incentive to work by providing them with money that is not founded on effort or skill but condition. There are people who need help, but there a many that milk the system and it is job security for those agencies providing the aid. Ken Hamblin makes a good point on the "brood mares" sustaining their economic condition by having foals.

Well, guess I'll end here this has the making of an out of control diatribe. We've survived for 200 plus years through a variety of political powers. However, with retirement so close I end up personally concerned for the ever increasing government incursion into areas it is incapable of handling effectively and efficiently.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Credit Crunch

My nephew sent me an article in the NY Times about Fannie Mae. The reason he sent the article was because he works for Fannie Mae. This is the quasi-government corporation that specialized in buying and selling bundles of mortgages with a guaranteed buy back on risky mortgages. Sounds like a deal too good to be true.

The article goes on to discuss the tremendous pressure Congress exerted on FM back in the Clinton era and since to expand their portfolio to take in riskier and riskier stocks. Large financial firms got in on the deal by buying bundled securities directly from lenders and bypassing FM. The competitive pressure and Congressional pressure grew to enormous proportions. In addition FM was guilty of using tactics to prod Congressmen into exerting pressure. The senior executives of FM were also awash in riches and the races was on. The loser is the consumer and other high flying companies.

Frankly I think the government should reach back at least 5 years and require CEO's to give up their golden parachutes. I think that the market should not be propped up but allowed to sink to a sustainable level. Home prices are out of whack now because of the rampant rush to sell a mortgage. Home flipping became a speculative market that was like a pyramid scheme, eventually someone was going to be left holding the over valued property. Why should we bail them out?

Colleges in the U.S. with tremendous endowment funds raise their tuition at will. College student debt is enormous with young people coming into the labor market owing tens of thousands of dollars for their education. Credit card debt is over extended. Our economy is propped up by debt which is hard to value. A home mortgage is secured by real estate, a college loan and credit card debt is unsecured. When will that devil come to bite us.

The democrats are basically to blame with their loosen the purse strings attitude in the 1980's. I believe that Congress will reflect a backlash against the Republican party, Much in part to the religious right and their "my way or the highway" mentality. My fear is that we will have a powerful democratic congress with a liberal democratic president and the door will be open to all kinds of excesses. I do not trust Obama, I believe he has an agenda that is not necessarily in the best interest of all Americans. At least with government gridlock the harm that will be done by the expediency of our legislative and executive branch is blunted. If we end up with a democratic congress and a democratic president we shall indeed be on a slippery slope.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Harvesting Cotton in Missouri's Bootheel

While I live in Arkansas and work in Arkansas the easiest way for me to get to work is through Missouri. I live in northeastern Arkansas just west of the Bootheel of Missouri. Blytheville, AR where I work is southeast of Paragould. The route that is most time efficient is to go through the Bootheel to I-55, then south five miles to Blytheville. As a result I go through some of the best agricultural land in the Mississippi delta. Huge fields dominate the scene and rice, cotton and soybeans are the most often planted crops. About this time of year harvest is in full swing. The equipment used is massive and fields are cleared in hours not days.

Cotton pickers pick six rows at a time. They have tapered cones that guide the plant into two rotating drums that have rubber fingers that strip the cotton bolls from the plant. Then a suction system takes the boll up to a cage that traps the cotton. When the cage is full a tractor pulling a large cotton wagon comes along side the picker and the cage elevates and tips so the cotton is dumped into the cotton wagon. The picker resumes picking and the cotton wagon transports the cotton to a cotton module compress. The compress has two hydraulic rams and a large bar that goes back and forth in the module compress and packs the cotton into a module. The cotton module is about 30 feet long, 8 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide. A module holds about 13 to 17 500 lb ginned cotton bales.

The process is very efficient, however in the last two years J I Case, my former company and John Deere have improved the process even further. Case makes a cotton picker that compacts its own module. The module is about half the size of a module but a transport truck can handle two modules so the weight is about the same as a full sized module. The Deere picker rolls the cotton into a large round bale similar to a very large hay bale. The pickers are huge to accommodate the compacting system. The cost runs almost $500,000. However it eliminates the need for a cotton wagon and a module maker plus the attendants. So it is a little more cost effective.

I have attached a video I shot near what is known as Cotton Plant Corner just north of Hornersville, MO. I go past these fields every trip to Blytheville so when I came along Wednesday morning I stopped and shot some video. I hope you enjoy the brief amateur video, but it does show cotton picking in full swing. video video

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Be Sure to VOTE!

If you are voting for McCain because Obama is black you are voting McCain for the wrong reason. If you are voting Obama because Pallin is a woman, you are voting Obama for the wrong reason. If you are voting for Obama because he is black then you are voting Obama for the wrong reason. If you are voting for McCain because Pallin is a woman then you are voting McCain for the wrong reason.

However, if you are voting Obama because his past actions most express your values then you are voting Obama for the right reason. If you are voting for McCain because your values are best expressed by his past actions then you are voting McCain for the right reason.

However, If you are voting for Obama or McCain based on what they are saying right now during the campaign, you will be voting ignorance because they are all lying. There is only one thing we have to learn that we don't already know. Is Sarah Pallin capable of presenting her credentials in a meaningful, articulate way? We don't really know that yet. She has faced interviews by folks trying to trip her up rather than explore her knowledge. She has been kept under wraps from the prying questions of the press. In addition she is stonewalling an investigation that may have political motivations rather than a search for the truth. So that is one question we don't have answered. Hopefully we will become knowledgeable before the election.