People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

So Take Care of It, Vic

This takes a whole lot of nerve.
Mexico's Fox toughens talk on U.S. immigration law

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Vicente Fox called recent U.S. measures to stem illegal immigration a step back for bilateral relations on Friday and said Mexican migrants do jobs "that not even blacks want to do."

In comments likely to raise the temperature of the immigration debate, Fox defended the role of undocumented Mexican workers in the United States to a group of Texas business people meeting in Mexico.

"There is no doubt that Mexicans, filled with dignity, willingness and ability to work are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there in the United States," he said in a speech broadcast in part on local radio and reported on newspaper web sites.

Fox said recent, tougher measures against immigrants do not represent "the road we should be building between friends and partners." (link)
I find it mind-boggling that Fox has a bigger problem with our wanting to prevent illegal immigration than he does with his own government operating so poorly as to be unable to provide a future for those who are are fleeing - by the millions - from Mexico.

My suggestion to SeƱor Fox is to spend less time worrying about the laws of the USA and more time working toward raising the wretched standard of living of his people.

You don't want to make us mad, compadre. We'll send Condoleezza down there to perform a little smack down.

The Paradigm Shift Begins

What do we do with Granny?

How best to deal with the elderly among us has been an issue confronting young people throughout the ages.

The social order we have developed - compassionately - involving the treatment - and maintenance - of our parents and grandparents when they get too old to take care of themselves came about only in the 20th century. Prior to the 1930's it was expected that the elderly were to be supported by family members. Or, in many cases where relatives were not there to assist, the elderly lived in abject poverty until they died - often in the local "poor house." You can look it up.

Social Security and Medicare were launched in those years - the 1930's to the 1960's - when the general perception of the American people was that we could - and should - redistribute the wealth generated by the rich (and eventually the not so rich) and by America's corporations in order to secure a decent lifestyle for those unable (and, for a time, those unwilling) to fend for themselves. At the same time, pensions for hourly workers ballooned to a point where many retirees could expect to live off of an income nearly equal to that which they had brought in prior to retirement. Many too could plan on "20 years and out." They could put in their twenty years and start drawing retirement at the age of forty.

For the first time in the history of mankind, the American elderly population became our most affluent age group - with young adults being the poorest.

Researchers, actuaries, social scientists, and a few brave (or suicidal) politicians, Daniel Patrick Moynihan comes to mind, have been warning for years that the system we've created to take care of our elderly citizens would collapse of its own weight. As the population aged, there wouldn't be enough taxpayers to support tax dollar recipients. Despite the talk, there has been no action.

You can write this in your history books: The paradigm officially started to change last week.

A shudder went through the entire business community on May 5 when
Standard and Poor's reduced General Motors' and Ford's bond rating to "junk" status. Though not a total surprise, the action, resulting from an insurmountable problem relating to future obligations, frightened many experts beyond words. Their problem? Of their many problems, the most troublesome has to do with the staggering amount of cash that will be required in order to satisfy pension and retiree healthcare commitments. GM alone will have to cough up $5 billion in order to meet current and (anticipated) future responsibilities.

They do not - and will not - have the money.

The next blow to our confidence in the current paradigm came this week when a federal judge agreed with United Airlines that, in order for the Chicago-based company to be able to work its way out of bankruptcy,
United could abandon its pension obligation to its current and past employees. Those employees are now hoping that the government will be able to take up their case and to make up a portion of that which had been promised, in happier times, to airline personnel. It is guaranteed that other corporations are going to follow suit and shed, through the bankruptcy process in many cases, their lucrative and burdonsome pension plans.

With regard to Social Security and Medicare, our professional politicians have been maneuvering for advantage for many years, producing dire warnings about the potential insolvency of both and then attacking anyone from the opposing party who was foolish enough to propose a solution to problems that all agree must be solved. Both social welfare programs for the elderly are on their way to collapse. The two parties bicker over the date when the Social Security Trust Fund and Medicare will go into default, but all know it is on the horizon.

The baby boomers among us, including myself, have come to understand that the assistance that is currently afforded our parents will not be available to us. There are just too many of us in order for the numbers to work. But I don't think anyone expected the well to run dry this quickly. The changes that United Airlines has made and those that GM will have to make are affecting current retirees; not just those of us who will be retiring years from now.

The day when we can no longer afford to provide a large percentage of our Gross Domestic Product to the elderly is here.

Where is this going to end? What hardships are we about to create for those who have already given up gainful employment, expecting there to be a comfortable retirement income awaiting them? It'll take a smarter person than me to predict the outcome.

What I know is that there will be millions of people, particularly those old enough to know better, who will be screaming bloody murder that (a) they worked for that pension, (b) Social Security is nothing more than a fund into which they'd been investing their income and, by damn, they expect to withdraw same - with interest, and (c) it's all their politicians' fault for not fixing the programs when they could have been fixed.

What those same millions didn't realize was that the redistribution of wealth that they thought was such a neat idea over the years was actually involving them the whole time. There is no Social Security Trust Fund. What money went into it was spent by our government long ago. It was simply an income tax with a different name.

So. Strap yourselves in, folks. America as we know it is in the beginning stages of profound change. Prepare financially as best you can for yourself and your loved ones. Or bitch about your plight. Either way, the train has left the station.

This Is Not an Inviting Image

Several United Airlines flight attendants have posed semi-nude for a calendar. That in itself should be against the law. To know that all of them are between 55 and 64 years of age is something Quentin Tarantino should make a movie out of.

United Attendants Pose for Risque Calendar
By DAVE CARPENTER, AP Business Writer

CHICAGO (AP) -- While some United Airlines employees are using placards and pamphlets to protest the loss of their pensions, a group of flight attendants is taking a more risque tack - showing some skin to publicize their plight.

The five women, ranging in age from 55 to 64, posed for a 2006 calendar that depicts them in various states of undress in front of a vintage plane, on a park bench and on a plane's wing, among other locations.

Reflecting a mix of humor and anger, it was released to coincide with a bankruptcy court's approval this week of United's plan to terminate $9.8 billion in employee pension obligations. (link)

I am an expert when it comes to rating the relative attractiveness of flight attendants. Excluding male attendants (they're cute but gay, a disqualifer), I put the major airlines in the following order;
  • Delta
  • American
  • US Air
  • United
  • Continental
  • Northwest

The most fun? Horizon (I know it's not a major airline but it should be). If you refuse to drink their in-flight micro-brewed beer or locally produced wine, they beat you with your personal floatation device. I always enjoy flying Horizon Air.

Where Is The Sierra Club?

How would you like to be given the job of fishing condoms out of a sewer pipe before they wash into Lake Michigan? All day. Every day.

I'm not sure what to make of this (from the Associated Press).
Milwaukee Making Progress on Stray Condoms

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- After spending more than $1.8 million for a temporary system to catch stray condoms slipping through a sewage treatment plant, a Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District spokesman says officials are fairly confident a majority of condoms are now being caught before they can reach Lake Michigan.

Bill Graffin commented Thursday, more than two years after a fisherman reported seeing what he called a slick of thousands of condoms floating in the lake following a heavy rainstorm in April of 2003.

Initially, a single laborer armed with a swimming pool skimmer was posted at the chlorine tanks at the Jones Island treatment plant to capture condoms that survived earlier phases of screening at the plant.

The manual scooping was supplemented during the summers of 2003 and 2004, when MMSD also had the crew of the district's 43-foot research boat fishing for condoms that made it through the plant and into the harbor. (link)
A slick of thousands of condoms floating across Lake Michigan. Hmm. Now I've been in Wisconsin in the dead of winter, when there is absolutely nothing to do other than drink lots of Old Milwaukee and watch the snow fall. It sounds, though, like the natives there have found other ways to while away the time.

Maybe they should be issued biodegradable condoms. Problem solved.

My Wife Needs Intervention

This (from the Associated Press) is what my destiny has in store, I'm afraid.

165 Pets Taken From Calif. Ex-Mayor's Home

RIALTO, Calif. (AP) -- Responding to neighbor complaints about a home's stench, authorities removed 135 dogs and 30 cats from a urine- and feces-soaked home where a rotting Great Dane was found earlier in a malfunctioning freezer.

Charlotte Spadaro, a former mayor of Beverly Hills, had been rescuing animals for three years and kept them at her South Acacia Avenue home. Authorities monitoring the residence since discovering the Great Dane in January finally got a search warrant to remove the animals Thursday.

"I think the city is out to have them massacred," Spadaro said.

But police Lt. Joe Cirilo said the house was a health hazard for its occupants, neighbors and the animals. After a neighbor complained months ago about the smell and noise at the house, officials found the decomposing corpse of a Great Dane in a malfunctioning freezer. (link)
Paula and I now have so many formerly abandoned animals, all neutered and spayed at great expense, in (and around) our house that, if she added a few more, I wouldn't even take notice. Based on the churning mass I saw in the kitchen at 4:30 this morning at feeding time (oh yeah, they all get meat), we must have hundreds of cats.

Well, ten anyway. But we have so few not because Paula isn't trying to amass a herd.

We've had some painters working on the homestead the last several days. One of them looked at my wife, after having seen cats peering out from every window of the house, and asked, "Ma'am, if you don't mind me asking, how many cats do you own?" With the way everyone around here knows everyone else's business, Paula is about to become famous as the Bland Cat Lady.

Good Lord.

Pity Our Judges

Why on earth would I ask that you take pity on our judges, you ask? Because, even when they come down with a ruling with which most Americans would agree, they do it for the wrong reasons.

In the case of a new building going up to house county government in North Carolina in which the phrase, "In God We Trust" is going to be prominently displayed on the facade, the court ruled that the use of the phrase is acceptable (thank you so much) because "the phrase has come to have a secular meaning as a 'patriotic or ceremonial motto.'"

Right decision. Wrong reason.

Court OKs 'God' on government building
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The phrase "In God We Trust" can appear on a new county government center in North Carolina, the Richmond-based federal appellate court said yesterday.

Two lawyers in Lexington, N.C., the county seat of Davidson County, filed suit alleging that the inscription of the phrase on the facade of the center violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The trial judge considered whether the display has no legitimate secular purpose, whether it endorses religion, and whether it results in an excessive entanglement of government and religion. His answer to each question of the three-part test established by the U.S. Supreme Court was no.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

Writing for the full court, Judge Robert B. King of Charleston, W.Va., said the phrase has come to have a secular meaning as a "patriotic or ceremonial motto" that appears on coins and currency and in such public places as the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. (link)
When the day comes that the words "In God We Trust" are perceived as being only ceremonial, that is the day we should obliterate the slogan forever. Judge King, we love ya, man. But such contortions are not necessary. The use of the phrase "In God We Trust" is acceptable on government buildings because:

(1) The American people, in overwhelming numbers, trust in God. And government buildings belong to the people.

(2) The American people live their faith, and want that faith represented - proclaimed - on the buildings they share with one another.

(3) The "separation of church and state" penumbra is used as a red herring by those who simply deny the existence of God. It cannot be found in the Constitution and was never intended to be the law of the land by those who wrote it. A tiny minority - the godless - have forced the faithful to abandon that faith when dealing with governmental issues. No longer. It is our government to do with as we see fit. It's time we forced that issue. You don't agree? Let's vote on it, the way the founding fathers decided we would settle disputes.

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in
which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted' for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

(signed) G. Washington

This Should Surprise Noone

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is a despicable human being, and he's the leader of the Democrats in the United States Senate. That pretty much sums up the quality and character of the membership in the minority party in the upper chamber of Congress.
GOP Decries 'Stunt' By Reid
By Charles Hurt, The Washington Times

Republicans charged yesterday that Minority Leader Harry Reid was wrong to mention on the Senate floor "a problem" he said is in a Bush nominee's "confidential report from the FBI" as grounds for keeping him off the federal bench.

"He shouldn't be pulling this kind of stunt," said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican. "It is not civil, it is unfair, it is hitting below the belt, and it does ultimately show how desperate the democratic leadership is in the United State Senate."

The imbroglio began Thursday when Mr. Reid said Michigan Appeals Court Judge Henry Saad, nominated by President Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, would be filibustered under any circumstances.

"All you need to do is have a member go upstairs and look at his confidential report from the FBI, and I think we would all agree that there is a problem there," Mr. Reid said, referring to the FBI file generated from the routine background investigations all judicial nominees must go through.

Colleagues of Judge Saad, as well as Republicans on Capitol Hill, were outraged and accused Mr. Reid of violating Senate rules to smear the nominee. (link)
I should have made clear that the number of Democrats in the senate is 45 ... which is a drop from 55 ... on its way to 35 ... if the party doesn't turn itself around.

Wendy's Chilifinger Owner Found

The most pressing question of 2005 finally has an answer. The owner of the finger that Anna Ayala (allegedly) placed in her Wendy's chili in order to rip off the company has been found.

Fingertip found in Wendy's chili traced to man in industrial accident
By Greg Sandoval / Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The mysterious finger that a woman claimed to have found in a bowl of Wendy's chili came from an associate of her husband who lost the finger in an industrial accident, police said Friday.

"The jig is up. The puzzle pieces are beginning to fall into place, and the truth is being exposed," Police Chief Rob Davis said.

The discovery of the finger's owner marks a significant break in a case that has confounded authorities for nearly two months, ever since Anna Ayala claimed she bit down on the well-manicured, 1 1/2 -inch finger in a mouthful of her steamy chili.

The owner was traced through a tip made to a Wendy's hot line, Davis said. He said the man lost the finger in December, and authorities "positively confirmed that this subject was in fact the source of the fingertip." The nature of the industrial accident was not disclosed.

Davis said the Nevada man, whose name was not released, is cooperating. The police chief would not say if the man was in on the alleged hoax.

Police believe the man gave the finger fragment to Ayala's husband, Jaime Plascencia, who was arrested this month on identity-theft charges unrelated to the Wendy's case. (link)

I hear the finger actually added flavor to the chili. I wonder if the police could persuade the donor to shed a few more digits.

Another Cowardly Republican

By now you are all aware of Senator George Voinovich's antics the other day - in front of the cameras - involving his feigning shock and disgust at U.N. ambassor nominee John Bolton's being a tough boss. I was going to let my shock and disgust pass without mention here, until I read John Podhoretz' take on the matter. It was good enough to pass on.

The nominees are often stand-ins for the administration whom the senators wish to bloody — as is the case with John Bolton and the Democrats.

Other times, a nominee becomes an occasion for a senator to perform a holier-than-thou tap-dance. Such was the case yesterday with John Bolton and the Republican senator from Ohio, George Voinovich, who insulted and attacked Bolton without ever having bothered to attend one of the committee hearings in which Bolton testified.

It was comic to hear Voinovich describe Bolton as a "bully" yesterday, because the only bullying in sight was being done by Voinovich — attacking somebody who can't attack back.

And Voinovich himself knows something about bullying. In 1995, when he was governor of Ohio, he had a temper tantrum at an airport because his plane was kept on the ground while Air Force One was in the sky.

He ordered his pilot to take off, screaming at air traffic controllers all the while and daring them to "shoot us down." In an unprecedented act, Voinovich was actually fined by the Federal Aviation Administration for his behavior. He's still at it in the United States Senate. And why not? The Senate is paradise for bullies. (link)

What a hypocrite.