Saturday, March 21, 2009

Seeing Obamessiah's victory through foreign eyes

Someone forwarded me an editorial purportedly published in the London Daily Mail about Obamessiah's victory. What I read mirrored my feelings and beliefs, but I couldn't indiscriminately send it on without checking out the source and verifying it was published in the Daily Mail. It wasn't. It was part of a column written by Canadian journalist, Michael Coren, for the Toronto Sun on November 8, 2008.

The text follows:

A young student friend e-mailed me on Tuesday night.

"Have locked myself in my room because the place is full of little idiots -- who cannot spell Barack Obama's name and could not name one of his foreign or domestic policies -- running around screaming obscenities about George Bush, conservatives and how Sarah Palin is a bitch. I love democracy!"

Even so, the people spoke. A victory for the hysterical Oprah Winfrey, the mad racist preacher Jeremiah Wright, the mainstream media who abandoned any sense of objectivity long ago, Europeans who despise America largely because they depend on her, comics who claim to be dangerous and fearless but would not dare attack genuinely powerful special interest groups. A victory for Obama-worshippers everywhere.

A victory for the cult of the cult. A man who has done little with his life but has written about his achievements as if he had found the cure for cancer in between winning a marathon and building a nuclear reactor with his teeth. Victory for style over substance, hyperbole over history, rabble-raising over reality.

A victory for Hollywood, the most dysfunctional community in the world. Victory for Streisand, Spielberg, Soros and Sarandon.

Victory for those who prefer welfare to will and interference to independence. For those who settle for group think and herd mentality rather than those who fight for individual initiative and the right to be out of step with meagre political fashion.

Victory for a man who is no friend of freedom. He and his people have already stated that media has to be controlled so as to be balanced, without realizing the extraordinary irony within that statement. Like most liberal zealots, the Obama worshippers constantly speak of Fox and Limbaugh, when the vast bulk of television stations and newspapers are drastically liberal and anti-conservative.

Senior Democrat Chuck Schumer said that just as pornography should be censored, so should talk radio. In other words, one of the few free and open means of popular expression may well be cornered and beaten by bullies who even in triumph cannot tolerate any criticism and opposition.


A victory for those who believe the state is better qualified to raise children than the family, for those who prefer teachers' unions to teaching and for those who are naively convinced that if the West is sufficiently weak towards its enemies, war and terror will dissolve as quickly as the tears on the face of a leftist celebrity.

A victory for social democracy even after most of Europe has come to the painful conclusion that social democracy leads to mediocrity, failure, unemployment, inflation, higher taxes and economic stagnation. A victory for intrusive lawyers, banal sentimentalists, social extremists and urban snobs.

Also a defeat for one of the weakest presidential candidates in living memory.

Why would anyone vote for a man who seemed incapable of outlining his policies and instead repeatedly emphasized a noble but, if we are candid, largely irrelevant war record?

He was joined by a woman who was defended so vehemently by her supporters when it was cuttingly evident that she is years away from being, and perhaps never will be, a serious candidate for senior national office.

Most of all it was a terrible defeat for democracy and the United States. A politician of nothing defeated a nothing politician and a credulous electorate screamed in adoration. I fear we will all suffer very much indeed.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Draining wealth and brains

Nothing like hard truth to put things into perspective and to make a lesson crystal clear.

My first solo novel comes out in July and I decided to get the jump on marketing. In order to put over a novel in this market, it takes work, hard work, and a lot of time (there goes my vacation) to talk to people, put together book signings, contests and products as a gift with purchase. I don't expect businesses to host a book signing for free, but I also do not have the money to pay for a lavish book launch, and neither does my publisher. At this time in this world the writer must not only write the books but promote and sell them as well, and that takes ingenuity, time and a lot of work, which brings me to the hard truth and the crystal clear lesson.

The new government is all about hope and change and that means attacking the people who are successful and work hard for their money. I know. It's easy to hate the rich, but not everyone who seems rich got that way by cheating people or manipulating money, stocks and politics. Some people actually worked hard for their money and they're entitled to enjoy it. Why? Because they earned it.

If I am successful in selling lots of books and building a fan base that will keep buying books, then I will end up with a good sum of money, enough money to quit working as a wage slave and work full time as writer. If I'm very successful marketing and promoting my books and gain some name recognition, then I will have earned every single dollar I make, so why would I want to let the government have it to redistribute it to people who don't care enough about themselves or have something to sell, people who will not and do not want to work as hard as I did? Why? Suddenly, I understand what it's like to work hard and become successful just to have the government come along and take away what I worked so hard to earn.

America is a wonderful country full of opportunities to build wealth -- if you're willing to work hard for it. I'm not talking about real estate schemes or pyramid schemes or Ponzis or selling something for nothing, like junk bonds. I'm talking about a real product with real worth, like a book or an electric car or new kind of motor or something tangible. Since the 1960s with the expansion of welfare and food stamps and other government entitlement programs people have expected the government to take care of them instead of working hard and finding their own way to make money. And everyone wants to be rich quick, and you can bet they will hang onto their money as if their lives depended upon it. Wealth looks very different from the other side.

If the current trend to rape and pillage the wealthy in the name of equalization of opportunity and redistribution of wealth continues, America is going to see the world that John Galt created and the brain drain will become a reality here as it is elsewhere in the world were brains and opportunity are just another way for government to rape and pillage their greatest and most prolific resource. No one wants to work hard and watch someone else take their hard work and earnings and give it away to some lazy schlub that would rather be a parasite on someone else's backside than work. Why work when the government will hand it over to you because you need it more? Where's the incentive to work, to earn, to become something more?

I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to damning the wealthy. I've looked at someone with more than I have who can go out for a meal in a nice restaurant or go on a nice vacation or buy what they want without juggling the budget. And it's not just money or a house or things that I wish I had that someone else didn't, sometimes it's more personal. Why them and not me? It's my fault. I chose to accept less and not to strive for more because -- and here come the excuses, all of which boil down to one thing: because I didn't want it enough.

It's easy to want what someone else has and hard to get off the couch, stop whining and complaining and go get your own. Not everyone who has made a success of their lives and has some money is a greedy parasite out to cheat people out of their money. Some people worked hard for what they have and they shouldn't have to defend it or apologize for it. I see that now as I spend hours on the phone talking to business owners and companies in order to get their cooperation in promoting my books. The long hours of planning and research that go into marketing and promoting a book that isn't even available yet, finding someone to create a stunning book trailer and going over my budget to see how much money I can free up and what I can afford to buy and give away in order to entice people to buy my books take time and effort and brains, and it is a lot of hard and grueling work for someone like me who just wants to write. Every dime I make I will have earned the hard way and the only reason for working so hard is because I want my books to be successful.

The hope is that when all is said and done I will be financially stable and free to quit a job I tolerate to do a job I love. If all this work and effort makes me successful and I become wealthy, why should I be willing to let the government -- or anyone -- tell me I have to share it with people who aren't so fortunate? Yes, it's selfish. Yes, it's self serving. And I do not care.

Those people who aren't so fortunate have the same chances that I do to dig in, work hard and become successful and wealthy, or at least comfortable, but first they have to stop blaming the wealthy for their problems and get off their dead hind ends and work for it. The majority of the wealthy who didn't inherit their wealth or steal it by shady deals and con games are decent people who worked long and hard. They're decent people who put themselves first and did whatever the work required to become successful. They should be treated as heroes, as evidence that hard work pays off, not as marks or private ATMs for the lazy and shiftless parasites that expect something for nothing. They should be respected and honored and held up as examples of what is possible, not envied and hated.

When -- not if -- my success comes, if the government decides to redistribute my wealth, they will find me gone. Maybe to Ireland where artists and writers pay no income tax or to a country where hard work and wealth are no longer a crime. I'm selfish. I intend to keep what I earn.

We don't need your permission

Is anyone else bothered by the news that Congress voted itself an 11% raise while the military got only a 2.9% raise?

Only in Congress do the workers determine their own wages without asking their employers first. It doesn't work the same way in the private sector.

Oh, yes, I forgot. It does in some businesses where labor unions decide how much work will be done at what rate and for what pay with what benefits without the sanction of the employer. No wonder there are so many liberals in Congress right now. It all begins to make sense.

Too bad Congress doesn't go on strike. We could use the break.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Redistribute the wealth the right way

The more I read and hear about the way Washington is handling the economic crisis and what's been going on that Congress has done behind the scenes, the more I realize we need a fresh voice to set things right. I am not an economist, but I do know you can't pay off a debt by borrowing more money and shutting down the people that bring in the goods. I have an alternative plan.

First of all, not everyone who makes over $200,000 a year is wealthy. With inflation, that's middle class at best, but the people at the bottom of the middle class and edging into the lower class are furious that some people are making more money than they are. I have news for you. If you want more money, get a better job, go to college, work your butt off and ask for more money when you get the job and prove you have the goods to back up your attitude. Increasing taxes on people who make over $200K is not going to help the economy and it's going to piss off a lot of people. It seems like these people are wealthy because they make in one month what it takes the average American to make in a year, but most of these people have worked long and hard and earned what they're getting.

It's time to step back, check the facts and come up with a better plan, so let's start at the top.

1. All congressmen and senators will no longer be able to vote themselves a raise if the economy is in a slump. If they want a raise, they will have to go to the people who pay the bills, the taxpayers, and let them vote on whether or not a raise is in order.

2. Terms in office will be limited to two. After that, you're out. Pick up your last paycheck and go home, and it will be your last paycheck. The government gravy train is now closed for business. You will also have to pay for your own health care (you make enough money, so stop taking the food out of the taxpayers' mouths and the money out of their wallets). You will no longer get a pension. What you made during your time is office is all you get. There ain't no more. Like I said, the government gravy train is closed. You will be paid during your term in office and not beyond. That also goes for presidents and vice-presidents. Secret service will continue to watch over you for two years after you've stepped down from office. You will make enough from speaking engagements, whatever job you go back to and what you managed to save from your salary while in office to pay for your own security after that. Besides, since you no longer hold office, you won't be a target. Presidents and vice-presidents will also pay for their own health care since their salaries are sufficient to take care of themselves and their families. If your salary isn't enough to afford health care, then maybe it's time to fix the system we have so it works for everyone and not just for you.

3. All businesses knowingly employing illegal aliens will be taxed at a higher rate. E-Check is available to make sure the people you hire have valid social security numbers, so use it, or lost a bigger chunk of your profits.

4. All business and corporations that outsource their jobs and business will be taxed at a higher rate. Tax breaks will be given to those businesses that bring the jobs home and pay decent wages for their people.

5. Illegal aliens must learn to speak English or they will not be eligible for a green card or citizenship or a job. Since most illegal aliens send money back to their home countries, all foreign aid to those countries will cease. Since America is already funding their economy and there will be no more double dipping.

6. Small business owners who make more than $200K a year will be given access to loans and tax breaks to increase their business and hire more employees. All loans will be granted with a low interest rate and will be reviewed annually. Successful businesses will be extended further credit to expand and hire more employees and businesses that fail will be investigated to find out why. Business owners found to have been cheating their customers or running a shell game to get government money will have their loans revoked, all assets seized and be given a government job building roads or making license plates.

7. Individuals who make more than $200K will not be taxed at a higher rate, but individuals who make over $400K a year will be taxed at a slightly higher rate if their income does not derive from their own business. Investment bankers, stock brokers, politicians and corporate execs of businesses being run into the ground and found to be responsible for the failures will be taxed at the higher rate. If they cannot pay the higher rate, their assets will be seized and sold to pay their debt.

8. Military personnel and their families and teachers will be paid at a living wage commensurate with their background, skills and education. No longer will a teacher or military family be forced to live on food stamps. These people are the backbone of this country and will be honored and paid accordingly. Since congressional members will no longer get free health insurance, exorbitant pay raises and live at the taxpayers' for decades, there will be more than enough money to take care of the military and teachers.

9. All politicians at all levels will return all campaign or other funds received from businesses the government has been forced to bail out and all bonuses, regardless of previous contractual commitments, will cease. This includes Senator McCain, certain representatives and other senators in Congress, the Vice President and the current President of the United State who all received in excess of $100K from AIG and other businesses and banks that received bailout money. Effective immediately. There is no reason for any of these people to posture and act indignant when they are just as guilty as executives who received billions in bonuses for doing a lousy job and running businesses into the ground to fund their greed. All monies will be returned to the bailed out businesses, banks, etc. immediately and will be done publicly.

Now that is how you redistribute the wealth.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Life in three dimensions

It's a struggle whether or not to talk about the fire yesterday at the 7-Eleven just a few blocks from here and the young girl who died or find something more positive. It's always hard to deal with a young person's death, so much possibility and promise gone in a flash, but to know that I heard the sirens and was so intent on work that I didn't even blink is a little surprising to me. I don't chase ambulances or fire trucks, but they have become so commonplace since I moved to the city that it's like a callus worn over tender flesh. It's hard to feel through it. I'm sad for the girl's family and for her friends, but unfortunately -- or fortunately -- it's all part of life. To dwell on it is to miss the best part of life and that's living. Does that sound callous? It's not meant to be.

So many times I get lost in the day to day minutiae of cooking, cleaning, dishes, eating, work and the usual round of chores, so much so that I forget to step outside and just breathe, drink in the sunshine and languish to the sound of birds and children playing. Yesterday when I went out to check the mail, a group of children were sitting on the school steps, on the ground and a couple in chairs and on the short retaining wall with big sketch pads on their laps. Some faced each other, but most of them faced my cottage, sketching like mad, recording the scenes in front of them, freezing a moment or a feeling or both in time and they made me long for a sketch pad and charcoal or pencil or pastels and to just sit in the warm sunshine and feel the flow of nature in my fingers as I sketched and shaded and drew.

I miss drawing. I miss being able to pick up a pencil and catching the expression on an interesting face or feeling a brush moving across a canvas leaving a trail of color, light and shadow behind as details coalesce and become more real, more there, just more. I used to spend hours painting and drawing, lost in a world of color, light and darkness where everything made sense. A line became a curve and a curve defined a face or a momentary smile. There was a sense of order, a cause and effect that resonated. Even a chance drip of paint or a shaky line became part of the whole, a quirk of imagination that lent subtle charm and depth to what could have been a wooden, static representation, and the faces that emerged on the page or the canvas were more than just pictures, they were the essence hiding in the eyes and behind the sardonic smile. They were three-dimensional. Eyes followed and smiles changed from moment to moment. They breathed.

And I wonder if somewhere in an obligatory art class the girl who died in the fire yesterday is captured on paper or canvas where she too breathes and lives.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Excess and eccentricity

One of the best parts about being a book reviewer is being surprised by what books arrive in the mail. One of the worst parts about being a book reviewer is being surprised by what books arrive in the mail.

One of the books I got this time around was purportedly a humorous memoir. It was also a Christian memoir overflowing with Bible verses, half pages of verses and citations and prayers and, even though some of the prayers were funny, most of them were tedious. Every chapter contained some heavy-handed Christian dogma and, while I understand and appreciate religious zealotry, it was also also a bit much.

At times like these, I focus on the story and the tale being told. I don't share the author's beliefs or his way of looking at and dealing with things, but I respect his right to do so. I'm a reviewer. I don't have to believe or even share a writer's faith, just critique how well he writes and gets his point across. Sometimes it's hard to do, but that's why I get paid the big bucks.

I have to admit there were times I laughed out loud, but Southern writers are all about excess and eccentricity and they put their madness right out on the front porch in the rocking chair with a pitcher of sweet tea close to hand. Southerners are proud of their loony relatives, not like the rest of the country who hide their mad relatives in the attic or in nursing homes and sanitariums, although nowadays they call them spas or treatment centers.

They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick is as Southern and funny as it gets and in that respect Todd Starnes did a good job. It's a Christian book and that should guide every reader's decision. If you don't mind the constant references to church brothers, sisters and families or Bible verses or the Christian agenda, plow ahead and enjoy yourself. There is a lot to like and Todd's story is an amazing journey from the abyss looking at death to running a New York marathon, a journey that covers the loss of 150 pounds and of both of his parents as he turns his life around, but refuses to give up BBQs and all things pig.