Saturday, February 19, 2005

Saturday Puppy Pic

One of my favorite reads, Grouchy Old Cripple in Atlanta, does a Saturday Boobage post. I think you can guess the content of the pictures he posts. (I wish I had the money to buy some of those myself!) And another favorite, Florida Cracker, does a Wednesday Dwayne Allman post. They gave me the idea to do a Saturday Puppy Post featuring my favorite canine, Wyatt.

Look forward to pictures of Wyatt and the other kids, Dollie and Oliver, and maybe even some pictures of other dogs and cats I come across. And then there's our cruise photos!

What do you think? Is this size good? Would bigger be too much? If I make it much bigger, it will be lifesize and nearly fill the screen.'re gonna be so sorry I figured out how to post pictures!

Thrift Savings Plans - Do As I Say, Not What I Do.

This is a nifty little act created by Congress in 1986. It allows Federal employees to put pre-tax dollars into a TSP account, which they own and can invest in one of five low-cost, low-risk funds, from government securities to stock-index funds. This account is basically a 401(K)program. I have a payroll (not part of my pension fund) account into which I place pre-tax funds. The Florida Retirement System also allows employees to participate in a program which allows them to put a portion of their pension into a similar account. I mention this as my way of showing that I have some familiarity with this type of investment. And we've all heard about the Galveston Texas retirement system and the Chilean program.

I suggest that everyone whose congressman is against Social Security Personal Retirement Accounts, contact that congressman to ask if they are in the TSP. If they are, ask why these accounts are good enough for Federal employees, but not good enough for the citizens who pay their salaries and vote them into office. If they are a part of the TSP, and are against PRA, then they are hypocrites.

I'll be checking into what Senator Bill Nelson has to say about PRA. If he's against it, I'll ask my question. I'll also check up on Mel Martinez and Katherine Harris.

I dare you to check out your own congressmen.
The Constitution

I said in a previous post that The Constitution does not guarantee the right to vote to anyone. It doesn't. (If I missed it, please tell me where it is.) It does say in serveral places that certain people will not be denied the right to vote. That's a little different from guaranteeing the right to vote.

Let's look at the Amendments dealing with voting:

Amendment 9 Section 2

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age,* and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

States denying eligible male voters the right to vote will have their representation reduced in proportion to the entire male voting population of that state.

Amendment 15 Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude--

Former slaves can't be denied the right to vote. Nor can Asians or American Indians or even (blah!) the French if they are citizens of the US.

Amendment 19

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Women cannot be denied the right to vote because they are women.

Amendment 24 Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.

The right to vote cannot be denied because of failure to pay a tax.

Amendment 26 Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

Eighteen year olds can't be denied the right to vote.

I don't read any of these amendments stating that because you are a citizen of the US and at least 18 years of age you have the right to vote. They simply give the perameters of why you can't be denied the right to vote. I didn't see anywhere in the Constitution where it said that anyone and everyone is allowed to vote.

The Constitution doesn't give felons the right to vote. That's because it doesn't give anyone the right. That's a State's Right issue.

Amendment 10

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

A power not specifically delegated to the Federal government, or prohibited to the States by the Constitution, falls to the state or to the people.

So basically, a citizen of the US, male or female, 18 years of age or older, will not be denied the right to vote. If a person has been convicted of criminal activity may lose their right to vote because of state law. And they may apply to the state, not the Federal government, to have their civil rights restored.

Voting isn't just a right, it's a privilege. And some don't have the privilege or the right.
Voting Legislation

Senator Clinton is proposing legislation which would make Election Day a national holiday. Hmmm.. I suggested that in November. On reflection, I don't think it's a good idea for two reasons. The first is that I don't know that it would make for a larger voter turn-out. Those who want to vote find time to do so. Those who don't, won't. I have some concern that it would turn into a four day weekend for a lot of voters and cause an even lower voter turnout than we have now.

The second reason is one thing that Senator Clinton forgets: there is no national election day. Each state holds elections on specific dates. That all states holds national elections on the same day as their state elections is a matter of convenience. States cast their votes for president, but the popular vote doesn't really count. Our votes actually go toward the electoral votes cast by the Electoral College.

The Senator is also proposing that all felons be allowed to vote. I'm against that. Most (most, mind you, not all by any means) felons are poor and uneducated and mostly vote Democratic when they do vote. This is simply a ploy to get more Democratic voters into the mix.

In any case, Senator Clinton can only present Federal legislation. She has no right or authority to present legislation that effects (affects?) individual states. This is a state's rights issue, not a Federal issue. It's the individual states that allow citizens to vote, not Federal law. Amendment 10 states The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. Since there is no place in the Constitution that gives anyone the "right" to vote, it becomes a state's right.

She is joined in this legislation by Senator John Kerry, Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and Senator Barbara Boxer. Senator Kerry made a point of saying "This has nothing to do with me," said Kerry. "It is not partisan, or shouldn't be." Funny, the four supporting this legislation are all Democrats. If that's not partisan, I don't know what is.

In addition to creating a federal holiday for voting, the bill would:
_Require paper receipts for votes.
_Authorize $500 million to help states make the changes in voting systems and equipment.
_Allow ex-felons to vote. Currently an estimated 4.7 million Americans are barred from voting because of their criminal records.
_Require adoption of the changes in time for the 2006 election.

I have no problem with requiring a paper trail at the polling place. If she wants a paper receipt to go to each voter, I don't see the point, unless it allows the voter to review their vote. This would cause longer waits at the polls as each person reviews their vote. Some will decide they voted incorrectly and need to revote. If one person has to vote twice, that makes one other person wait longer. Too many voting twice may cripple the lines. A paper receipt can lead to fraudulent voting. Say an unscrupulous person creates, say, 100 fraudulent receipts and gives them to more unscrupulous people. These people can go to the polling place and say they voted incorrectly and want to re-vote. They may not have voted in the first place, but because they have a receipt, they may be allowed to vote "again." Measures would have to be in place to keep this from happening.

Where is the $500 million dollars coming from?

Felons who want to vote can petition the appropriate jurisdictions in their states to request to have their rights restored. It's not a difficult process and if it is, maybe that should be revisited. To give all felons the right to vote is absurd. It's akin to allowing all illegal aliens amnesty. It's not a good thing.

The only way this legislation could change state law is by Constitutional amendment. That takes 3/4 of the states to ratify the amendment and could take up to seven years to do so. Senator Clinton wants it passed by 2006.

Boxer said the bill "is meant to ensure the election debacle of 2000, and the serious election irregularities of 2004, never ever happen again."

Both parties have called for changes to ensure a more accurate vote count. Republican efforts have centered on reducing voter fraud, while Democrats have called for making access to the ballot box easier and simpler.

More accurate voter count? Is that to be sure that more people vote Democrat or more Democrat votes are counted? I agree with having a more accurate count. I hate the count and recount and recount that we've gone through the last two election cycles. I also agree that making access to the ballot box easier and simpler. But I don't agree that everyone should be allowed to vote.

The Democrats want to be sure that all votes count. How about military votes? They aren't saying much about those. I don't think they will since the military usually votes Republican. The Democrats aren't interested in making access to the ballot box easier and simpler for everyone. Just those who will more probably vote Democratic.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Saturday Ramblings

Computer woes: Well, poo! We have the new wireless equipment....still in the box. And now my computer seems to be suffering a power problem. Problem is, when I turn it on, it doesn't. I think it's a power supply problem. Dale says it could be any number of things. I say let's try a new power supply and see what happens. He says....well, it doesn't really matter. I'll just take the dang thing in and have it checked out and find out what the problem is. And if it turns out to be the power supply his standing as resident computer guru will be shaky. I had been hoping to be able to blog daily starting this weekend, but looks like that won't be happening. Actually, it could be cause I'll be on vacation (vacation - it's a good thing!) all this week. And since I don't stay up until all hours and so sleep most of the day, I should be able to blog everyday if I choose.

Voice Mail: My office has finally come into the 20th (yes, I do mean 20th) century. We now have voice mail! We've had the capability for some time, but we were told a memo would be forthcoming explaining how to set it up and so forth. Well, the memo never came. I guess someone higher up that me (and that could be almost anyone) starting asking questions. Or my old friend Hilliard found out that we have been waiting and took matters into his own hands. He's my go-to guy for anything to do with computers, telephone, and fax machine. Hilliard is an old and good friend of mine. I've known him for about 20 years. Anyway, I got a call from him Thursday when he gave me the instructions for setting up the system. I got mine set up and then typed out the instructions and gave a set to the rest of the office. So now, we all have voice mail. No more answering telephones for other people! Well, if they ask me to, of course I will. But it's no longer a necessity. No more chewing out from the captain when I don't answer the lieutenant's phone. Let me 'splain that.

The lieutenant has his phone ring set very low to start with. When I'm at the copy machine I can't hear his phone ring. I don't hear it in my office either. Unless you are in his office, you don't hear it ring. And he doesn't remember to forward his phone when he leaves, and I might not see him leave to know to listen for it. So the captain calls, it's not answered, and then he calls my extension to chew me out because I didn't answer. I quit trying to explain that I didn't hear it ring, it's not a sufficient enough excuse. I'm suppose to sit at my desk watching the phone so that when the lieutenant's phone starts ringing, I can see the light on my phone light up and answer it. Can't do anything else, just wait for that dang light to light up.

The advent of voice mail has taken care of that problem.

From the Don't You Hate It One of the sergeants came into my office yesterday. Said "I have a problem." I hate it when they start out like that. It usually means, that they have a problem you have to fix, or a problem they think you caused. In this case, a mid-level person in Tallahassee wrote an email that tried to throw me under the bus. I won't say she lied, but she was trying to cover her own posterior in any case. He read the email to me and I was able to refute it by relaying the entire conversation, not verbatim, but enough of the gist of the conversation that the bus bypassed me and swerved right back into her path. I didn't lie, prevaricate, or twist the truth. Didn't have to, I told the truth. We had the conversation she stated, but she didn't give me the dates she said she did. No dates were mentioned, in fact she said she would call back and talk to the person she needed to talk to after I relayed the information I was asked to give her. Not only did she not give me the dates she said she did, turns out she doesn't have the authority to set these dates. She can only relate a time frame to other parties who then set the dates. I hate when people can't admit that they messed up. It's so much easier to say, "Geeze Louise, I made a mistake. I'm sorry, I'll try to keep that from happening again". I have now lost all respect for this woman and I've had only two telephone conversations with her. I'm not going to lie to people I have to work with everyday (or to anyone else for that matter); I need them to know that my word is good and can be trusted.

Voice mail has also taken care of that problem.

I like Voice Mail. It's my friend!

21st Century Contract With America: Newt Gingrich is offering a new Contract With America that is worth reading. I agree with most of it. I admit that I have a problem with the religious aspect of it. I am concerned that because sections of it are God-centered (and I personally don't have a problem with that), that it will be tossed out because of it. Here is a little test to see where you stand on the gap between traditional American values and the secularism of the left. Wow! I knew I was a traditionalist, I just never thought about how much I revere traditional American values. More in a longer post.

Red, White, and Blue - Gang Colors? I missed this story when it erupted last month. Raven Furbert made a necklace of red, white, and blue beads to show her patriotism and to honor her uncle's service in Iraq. The problem? She was asked to remove them because red and blue are colors associated with gangs. This is true. But, when paired with white, you get the colors of our flag. You get the colors of the school this little girl goes to. You get the colors that her uncle is serving to protect in Iraq. Has the school changed it's school colors? Has the school removed the flag? Has the school banned the wearing of red and blue completely? Has the school gone to black and white uniforms? I understand that schools are trying to crack down on gang behavior, but you can't ban colors! And, the school district has said they have had no trouble with gang activity.

Her family has hired an attorney who has filed a Federal lawsuit against the school district. And now, this child who went through school without incident is now serving frequent in-school detention and other (unnamed) discipinary measures. And faces suspension if she continues to wear the beads.

Let's get real people. Just because someone wears red or blue doesn't mean they are flying gang colors.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Breaking News

FOX News is reporting a shooting in the Hudson Valley Mall in Ulster Co, New York. The mall is in lockdown, meaning no one is going in or out without being vetted by police. This sounds pretty standard. The cops want to be sure that whoever is leaving is not one of the bad guys. One in custody, one and maybe two are on the loose, hence the lockdown. I would speculate that the cops will go store to store and as they clear the store, will have any customers escorted out so that they will be out of harm's way and the cops have that fewer number of people to worry about becoming hostages or victims..

One victim has been airlifted out. First reports had machine guns being used; a witness speaking to Fox said she saw one gunman with a handgun. Some speculation on Fox is that it's gang related. Since there is no information about the why's and wherefore's, Fox admits this is speculation. One man who is an expert on this type of situation is saying that it could be a lover's quarrel, a disgruntled employee situation, or a gang shootout.

CNN had Deputy Fire Chief Wayne Platt, who was in the mall, on the phone who reported what sounded like automatic weapons. He said police told him that there are three shooters. A local news reporter is reporting on CNN that there are unsubstantiated reports that the police are looking for one shooter with an automatic machine gun.

Only knowing what's been said so far, I'll speculate and say it's a robbery gone sour, gang-related, a drug deal gone bad, or a random shooting where someone just decided to go out and shoot people.

UPDATE: Reports were wrong about the number of shooters, it was only one. But it appears that I was right (with the number of scenarios I gave, how could I be wrong?) when I speculated it was someone who just decided to go out shoot people.
Sunday Ramblings

Lowlife of the Week Award: If you live in Chicago, this is a lawyer to avoid, especially if you love your dog. He did nothing less than try to steal a dog from a little boy. It took his law firm insisting that he return the dog for him to do so. If he worked for me, he wouldn't be now. Jerk.

UN Peacekeepers: In Saturday's Ramblings, I mentioned that UN Peacekeepers have been banned from having sex with the locals in the Congo. I knew, but failed to mention, that one UN official, Didier Bourguet, is accused of running an Internet pedophile ring from the Congo. Claude de Boosere-Lepidi, Bourguet's attorney, said last week in court, that "there was a network of U.N. personnel who had sex with underage girls." He also said that "Bourguet had engaged in similar activity in a previous U.N. posting in the Central African Republic." A report from the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) says, its "investigation into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of local Congolese women and girls found that the problem was serious and ongoing. Equally disturbing was the lack of a protection and deterrence program." Lack of a protection and deterrence program? Is this anything like the UN not knowing about the Oil for Food Scandal? Somebody needs to get their head of out their butt and start overseeing the UN.

Links found at ABC News and the Washington Times.

Iraqi Elections: The tally is finally in and apparently the Shiites won nearly half the votes cast with the Kurds coming in second. Now they can go on with the next part: choosing national leaders and drafting a constitution. It's an amazing time in history. But of course, there are some who say that because there were no UN or international observers, the results are suspect. Give me a break!

Going Wireless: We got our "refund" check Friday, so Dale went and bought the equipment we need to network our computers wirelessly. I can't wait! My computer has been offline for months. I've been using Dale's for Internet and it's a bear! I can only use it when he's not, and it's not always convenient for me to wait, or for him to let me use it. I don't want to download anything on his so that's been annoying. But as soon as he gets it up and running, I'll be off and running, so to speak. I wanted to go wireless a year ago, but Dale didn't think it was a good idea. But since he's had to share, it's become a good idea. Go figure!

Phising: If you don't know, this is email that looks authentic but is not from the company it proports to be from (eBay, PayPal, Citibank, Wachovia, Wells Fargo for just a few examples). They usually say something along the lines of, your account has been compromised, or, we need to verify certain information. They may even say not to reply to this email, but to click on the link which will take you to a secure site. Sure, it's secure - for them. It's not part of the authentic company. Do not click on the link. If you feel you want to check it out, leave the email and go to the actual online site. If you click on the link, you will be asked for information that will allow them to steal from you. No reputable online company will ever ask for information this way.

If you are savvy enough to be reading this, you probably know this is a scam. If you are a relative newbie who's just stumbled here (and welcome! by the way) do not click on any links in the email. The originator is trying to get information from you so they can steal from you. A new twist on the scam is email regarding Tsunami relief.

I recently got two emails from "PayPal". One said that an address had been added to my account and was this correct? It wasn't. The other was a verification for a $279 charge. I hadn't, but I closed out the email account and went to check my PayPal account at PayPal. The address was not listed and the charge didn't exist. I went back to the email account and forwarded the emails to I got a response that said neither email was from PayPal. I forwarded them because I wanted PayPal to have any information they could get from the email to find the person or persons who had tried to scam me.

Just be careful and be suspicious. You are responsible for your own financial security. If you give personal information out because you got an email, you have no one to blame but yourself. Be proactive and just assume that any email like this is bogus until you prove it's authentic. Make a phone call to the bank. It's cheaper to pay for a long distance call than to lose your life savings.

The Crusades: I received an email from Conservative promoting a new book called A Concise History of the Crusades (link in the sidebar). It's been a long time since history class, and while I knew about the Crusades, I had forgotten the history. When I read the blurb about the book, I was struck by the similiarity between then and now. According to the description, the Crusades have been generally portrayed as an unprovoked "series of unholy wars against Islam." The West was greedy and wanted to colonize the Muslim world.

The description of the book continues: "Thomas F. Madden sets the record straight. The Crusades, he shows, were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam."

I think I will be doing some research to fill in some blanks here. There's been a lot of talk about the Muslims striking back in retailiation for the Crusades. The little bit I've read about the book draws an interesting parallel between the time of the Crusades and today.
Reforming Social Security - Part 5

This is only part of the article. For the full article you will have to subscribe the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal's Political Diary. (emphasis below are mine)

Bush Steals His Best Idea from a Democrat

Republican members of Congress have a ready response for Democrats crying foul over President Bush's constant references to Franklin Roosevelt and other icons of liberalism to bolster his call for Social Security reform.

They note that in an address to Congress on January 17, 1935, President Roosevelt foresaw the need to move beyond the pay-as-you-go financing of the current Social Security system. "For perhaps 30 years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions," the president allowed. But after that, he explained, it would be necessary to move to what he called "voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age." In other words, his call for the establishment of Social Security directly anticipated today's reform agenda: "It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans," FDR explained.

"What Roosevelt was talking about is the need to update Social Security sometime around 1965 with what today we would call personal accounts," says one top GOP member of the Ways and Means Committee. "By my reckoning we are only about 40 years late in addressing his concerns on how make Social Security solvent."

When Social Security was started, it was introduced to the public as a government program that would help the elderly to survive during the Great Depression. I know this to be the truth because my parents were there. They were both teenagers in the 30's and remembered what was said and how it was presented. Later on, officials said it was only intended as a supplement to whatever other pension or savings was held when the retiree was eligible for SS benefits. Back in the 30's when SS was introduced, there were 16 (I've heard figures up to 32) people working and contributing to SS to pay benefits for every person receiving benefits. I've heard that only two people are contributing for every pensioner receiving benefits today.

What we have here is a gigantic Ponzi scheme, also known as a pyramid scheme. A pyramid scheme is where the initial investors receive payments from people coming in under them. This is illegal, people! If you or I were offering a scheme like this, we'd be arrested! I don't want to get into a lot of metaphors and cliches, but this is a house of cards getting ready to tumble down on top of a lot of people who need those benefits.

FDR, who was the designer of the Social Security program saw that this system was good for about 30 years but would have to be changed somewhere down the road. And there are some politicians out there who think it's fine for another 50 years.

I can see three reasons these politicians have their heads in the sand:

1 - They want their constitutents to continue to be afraid that the big, bad Republicans will take their money away from them. If the politicians can keep their constitutents afraid, they will be able to keep their seats in Congress. Some are calling this political slavery. I call it abuse. It's nothing more than an abusive husband telling his wife that she can't survive without him. And if their constitutents find out they've been lied to by their Congressional reps all these years, someone's head is going to be on the block. And they are afraid it will be theirs.

2. They are afraid that if they take a good look at it, they will find out that the "lockbox", which doesn't exist in the first place, is full of IOU's from both the Republicans and Democrats who have been using SS money for other programs over the years.

3. If they admit that SS is in trouble, they also have to admit that Bush is right. And, by God and by everything that they hold dearly, they could never admit that Bush is right about anything!

I'm not sure they aren't most afraid of #3.

And the voters haven't been much better. Too many of us had our heads in the sand as well. If we can't see the problem, well, then it must not exist. Too many listened to the Democrats and were afraid that our elderly would lose the benefits that they need to survive their "golden years." Too many listened to the Democrats and believed that the evil Republicans wanted to rob us of the benefits we worked for all our lives. And too many believed that there was no problem at all.

If Congress had heeded FDR's advice, we wouldn't be having this discussion now. Yeah, you're going to say that it was fixed in 1965 or thereabouts. Uh-huh, it wasn't fixed. It was just tinkered with. If Congress had listened to FDR, we would have personal savings accounts in SS right now and everyone would be a lot better off.

Look at Chile and Galveston Texas for models of a good Social Security plan. It's never too late to change a system that was never a good system in the first place, to a system that will work for future generations.