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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Here's To Democracy

I agree with Christian Trejbal, Roanoke Times:
Republicans must wait until November

On June 9, Virginia Democrats will elect candidates to run for governor and lieutenant governor in November. Republicans, however, do not want their voters to have a say in those decisions.

When party leaders worry that the rank and file might not vote for the anointed candidate, they convene a state convention to select a nominee. Technically just about anyone may attend, but in practice, only dedicated insiders show up. The difference is a couple of thousand loyalists at a convention or 150,000 or more voters in a primary.

This year, Democrats went with a primary.

Republicans were less democratic (small-d) and went with a convention.

Pick your hackneyed metaphor. Primaries are the crucible that leaves only the candidate who burns brightest and longest. Primaries are a Petri dish in which candidates fight for survival like so many protozoa. Primaries are natural selection at work, the fittest candidate emerging victorious to confront the other party's nominee and any third-party upstarts.

Primaries give Virginians a chance to shape the general election and have a greater voice in Richmond. Granted, turnout is often minuscule, but it is still larger and a bit more diverse than attendance at a party convention. [link]
I'm not a Republican so I can't say whether this was an attempt on the part of the state GOP to keep Democrats from crossing over and choosing Republican candidates for high office (how is Emmett Hanger doing these days, by the way?) or simply a cost-saving measure. But it's not as democratic ("small-d") as I'd like to see.

Again, I have no rooster in this fight. So do what you're going to do. It just seems that there's a principle at stake here, one that's being dumped on.

Good Thoughts On a Terrible Idea

The Roanoke Times comes out this morning in opposition to an Obama administration tax increase proposal. Pinch me; I must be dreaming:
Health care's taxing subtext
editorial

Talk of health care reform could turn to talk of tax reform in Washington as policymakers consider how to pay for broadly expanded coverage from a budget already gushing red ink.

And, surprisingly, talk of tax reform could turn to talk of a valued-added tax -- surprisingly, because a VAT is a consumption tax, built into the price of goods and services. As such, it is regressive. It falls harder on the poor than the wealthy as a percentage of income.

That's a political taboo, and quite properly so. [link]
I don't know about it being a political taboo anymore. If it were the case, Democrats in Obama's administration wouldn't be talking so openly - and enthusiastically - about it.

But the Times is right. The VAT is as regressive a tax as there has ever been devised (except maybe for cigarette taxes). Even worse, it is a crushing tax on production. Which makes it a monstrous tax on consumers.

Here's how it works.

Unlike a simple national sales tax (which I support in lieu of the personal income tax, the alternative minimum tax, corporate income taxes, capital gains taxes, payroll taxes, including Social Security and Medicare taxes, luxury taxes, estate taxes, etc.), a one-time tax that is levied "at the cash register," the Value-Added Tax is levied at each stage of manufacture and distribution.

The Times mentions a gallon of milk. Try to imagine the dairy farmer who's in the milk business. He buys grain for his cows. That grain has been VAT taxed. His electricity has been VAT taxed. The equipment he uses. Taxed. The fuel he expends. The food he consumes. Tools. Clothing.

Then he sells his milk to a distributor. That transaction is VAT taxed.

The distributor sells the milk to your local Citgo. Another Vat tax.

Citgo sells it to you. And you pay a VAT tax.

And a Vat tax. And a Vat tax. And a Vat tax. And a Vat tax. And a Vat tax. And ...

Remember too, this is in addition to all the taxes you're currently paying.

The best argument against it? Parts of Europe adopted the VAT years ago, and Europe, through VAT refunds and a recent decision to lower the VAT with regard to certain products and materials, is rapidly backing away from it.

Take a moment and look at an endangered species here in the USA - the manufacturer (think of the manufacturer in the labor-intensive tent manufacturing business just up the road). As if those who build things in this country don't have enough problems. A crushing tax on all phases of production? Say hello to the new Chinese tent builder, folks.

So. Obama will need to find a different way of taxing us into oblivion.

And I'm sure he'll find it. Regardless of his empty campaign promises.

- - -

* As a side note, the Roanoke Times seems to take for granted the notion that the government will need to raise taxes in order to reduce health care costs. Take a moment and think that through. The feds need a trillion of our dollars in order to save us ... something less than a trillion dollars. Hello? I say: Beware the fool who believes the government has ever saved itself or anyone else one red cent.

- - -

** For everything you'll ever want to know about the VAT tax, go to The Heritage Foundation.

As It Should Be

There should be a rule. The Wings should be in every Stanley Cup final. It's just the way things oughta be.

2009: The way things oughta be.

Whopper Of The Day

I love reading the New York Times. The dripping hypocrisy just makes my day.

On the editorial page this morning, "Judging Sonia Sotomayor," an editorial:

"Clearly, conservative groups and Republican elected officials see this nomination as a way to score points off wedge issues that excite their base. It diminishes everyone when a nomination process deteriorates into character assassination and ethnic intolerance." [my emphasis]

Really.

This from the same New York Times that, not long ago, gave us "For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk":

"Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But ... "

And who can forget this, from "Palin Disclosures Raise Questions on Vetting":

"A series of disclosures about Gov. Sarah Palin, Senator John McCain’s choice as running mate, called into question on Monday how thoroughly Mr. McCain had examined her background before putting her on the Republican presidential ticket.

"On Monday morning, Ms. Palin and her husband, Todd, issued a statement saying that their 17-year-old unmarried daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant and that she intended to marry the father.

"While there was no sign that her formal nomination this week was in jeopardy, the questions swirling around Ms. Palin on the first day of the Republican National Convention, already disrupted by Hurricane Gustav, brought anxiety to Republicans who worried that Democrats would use the selection of Ms. Palin to question Mr. McCain’s judgment and his ability to make crucial decisions."

Yeah, we can't be having any of that character assassination.

These guys crack me up.

And While We're On The Subject ...

... how about this for jaw-dropping hypocrisy?
Obama Cautions Against 'Political Games' With Court Pick
By Michael D. Shear, Washington Post

President Obama warned yesterday against "attempting to draw old battle lines and playing the usual political games" during the consideration of his nominee to the Supreme Court, and he urged senators to get to work on the nomination without delay.

"What I hope is that we can avoid the political posturing and ideological brinksmanship that has bogged down this process, and Congress, in the past." [link]
Well, let's look at Congress in the recent past:
First President in US History to Have Voted to Filibuster a Supreme Court Nominee Now Hopes for Clean Process
By Jake Tapper, ABC News

President Obama's expressed hope today in his weekly address "that we can avoid the political posturing and ideological brinksmanship that has bogged down this (Supreme Court nomination) process, and Congress, in the past" runs against another historical first for the 44th president: his unique role in history as the first US President to have ever voted to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee.

In January 2006, then-Sen. Obama joined 24 colleagues in a futile effort led by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of now-Justice Samuel Alito. [link]
Utterly hypocritical. Utterly pathetic.

This Is Cool

I hope we never take Weather.com for granted. It is a wonder of modern technology, worthy of our undying praise.

Just a few clicks of the mouse and ...

Just a few short years ago we had to look outside at the horizon to know what was in store for us in the way of storms. Now we can easily prepare.

An incredible advancement.

Here's to ingenuity.

* Click on the image to enlarge it.

In Perpetuity

How much are we willing to dump down the Government Motors rat hole just to keep overpaid workers employed?

Here's the latest estimate on GM's prospects. And they aren't good:
Industry Fears U.S. May Quit New Car Habit
By Micheline Maynard, New York Times

The Treasury Department’s advisers, who initially expected auto sales to pick up late next year, now foresee no jump in demand this year or in 2010. And even five years out, they expect annual sales to be about 15 million, still well below the peaks of this decade.

Making predictions is tricky in this economy. The market has grown more bleak, and worst-case scenarios drafted only months ago are becoming reality.

If sales do not recover, the Treasury will have to provide more financial support for G.M. and for Chrysler, which has received about $10 billion in federal aid, before they can stand on their own and the government can divest its shares. [link]
The article addresses the notion that Americans may not wish to buy new cars in numbers that traditionally kept all the manufacturers afloat. But the bigger question is: Will Americans be willing to buy a GM or Chrysler vehicle in the future - what with the mess they've created for themselves - as opposed to Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, or Nissan, which (along with GM) ruled the world before the collapse hit?

I think we know the answer.

So we now find ourselves in possession of a rat hole. What's to be done with it?

Whereas The Press Once Covered The News ...

... now it covers what it wants to cover.

Three questions:

How many taxpayer tea parties have been held in recent months around the country?

How many of them drew hundreds of participants?

How many of them made the national wire services?

The answers:

Hundreds.

Hundreds.

And zero.

But let "hundreds" of gay people get together and protest and, by God, it's national news!
Hundreds March for Gay Marriage in Central Calif.
By the Associated Press

Fresno, Calif. (AP) -- Hundreds of same-sex couples and their supporters marched Saturday through dusty California farm towns, pushing for gay marriage in the state's conservative center.

Just days after the state's highest court upheld a ban on gay marriage, advocates said they wouldn't be dissuaded, and vowed to win the hearts and minds of those who reject their unions.

Hundreds of spirited marchers were escorted by the California Highway Patrol along an aging highway to Fresno, a city ... [link]
"Hundreds." There were that many in Abingdon alone last month. But did the press care?

No. Those in attendance weren't oppressed minorities. They were just oppressed taxpayers. So, to hell with them.

On a related note, I hear the press is dying ...

An American Perspective

From P.J. O'Rourke:
I don’t believe the pointy-heads give a damn about climate change or gas mileage, much less about whether I survive a head-on with one of their tax-sucking mass-transit projects. All they want to is to make me hate my car.

The American automobile is—that is, was—never a product of Japanese-style industrialism. America’s steel, coal, beer, beaver pelts and PCs may have come from our business plutocracy, but American cars have been manufactured mostly by romantic fools. David Buick, Ransom E. Olds, Louis Chevrolet, Robert and Louis Hupp of the Hupmobile, the Dodge brothers, the Studebaker brothers, the Packard brothers, the Duesenberg brothers, Charles W. Nash, E. L. Cord, John North Willys, Preston Tucker and William H. Murphy, whose Cadillac cars were designed by the young Henry Ford, all went broke making cars.

America’s romantic foolishness with cars is finished, however, or nearly so. In the far boondocks a few good old boys haven’t got the memo and still tear up the back roads. Doubtless the Obama administration’s Department of Transportation is even now calculating a way to tap federal stimulus funds for mandatory OnStar installations to locate and subdue these reprobates. [link]
Alas. They say it all has to come to an end. The end of an era. The American era.

What will the next era bring?

Why SotoMayor Needs To Be Denounced

If we are ever going to "get beyond race," we must call out those who live by it:
Sotomayor’s focus on race issues may be hurdle
By David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times

Washington - The selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court has opened a new battle in the fight over affirmative action and other race-conscious remedies for patterns of inequality, with each side invoking the election of the first black president in support of its cause.

Judge Sotomayor, whose parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico, has championed the importance of considering race and ethnicity in admissions, hiring and even judicial selection at almost every stage of her career — as a student activist at Princeton and at Yale Law School, as a board member of left-leaning Hispanic advocacy groups and as a federal judge arguing for diversity on the bench.

Now conservatives say her strong identification with such race-based approaches to the law is perhaps the strongest argument against her confirmation, contending that her views put her outside an evolving consensus that such race-conscious public policy is growing obsolete. [link]
I don't know how affirmative action got into this discussion. Although the possibility certainly exists, I haven't seen or read of anyone bringing it up in recent weeks. The point is, we don't need to be promoting anyone in this day and age whose thinking is blinded by skin color.

A famous American said this:

"There is not a black America and a white America... . There’s the United States of America.”

And then that same famous American nominates Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

It looks like it was all about race all along.