The Broad Brush
It's always important to realize that sometimes what we see or hear as representative of an entire country or people can in fact be a just small minority making many people look bad. Remember the addage "believe half of what you see and none of what you hear"? Don't paint all Iraqis with the same brush till you read what USA Today reports about interviews with Iraqis on the street in Baghdad when asked about events in Fallujah. Thanks for the point from Magpie.
David Blaine [5:07 PM]
If you haven't visited it yet, let me introduce "525 reasons to Dump Bush".
Although this sounds like it could be a lampoon page, it is actually quite articulate, and comments are starting to appear under the posts. I think it is interesting and hope you will like it. If Bush could address the matters brought up at this blog, he could probably get re elected. I don't think that is likely to happen though.
David Blaine [2:36 PM]
Murder in Tashkent
What do Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Madrid, Jakarta, Istanbul and New York have in common? Pollution? Maybe. Poverty? Perhaps. How about terrorism? Forty two people died in Tashkent the other day. Terrorists and their victims. After 9-11 some people had the audacity to suggest the U.S. had it coming. Now how does it feel when it is happening in other countries, including Moslem countries? The fact is that terrorists are murderers and good people everywhere have to be brave enough to stand up to them and call them what they are. There is a problem with that. Like protesters everywhere, these terrorists have grievances, and some of the grievances, maybe all of them, are legitimate. That doesn't justify what they are doing. When you condemn the acts of terrorists, some people will point the finger at you and brand you as a traitor. Don't be weak, don't be misled. You can support the cause but denounce the means. Those of you who read this and who aren't Americans, trust me. Some of us Americans know how you feel. When we speak against our president, which is our right here, we are treated the same way. We are denounced as un American, accused of treason.
When we were young we were taught some simple truths. I remember one, "there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything" In our church there is a saying, "if you want peace, work for justice". There is nothing in that slogan about fighting for your rights. I'm not religious, I hardly attend church any more, but I remember that the radical clerics in my church, the revolutionary theologians, were always denounced. There can be no tolerance of disrespect for life from any organization that claims to cherish and protect life. Many groups are struggling against such gross evil that at times it seems the ends justify the means, but that is another truism taught when we were young, "the ends never justify the means". Console one another, support one another. Commit a random act of kindness for no reason other than charity. Do not accept anything for it, stay as anonymous as possible. It will drive people crazy trying to figure out what you're up to.
Pax, Shalom, Peace.
David Blaine [8:16 PM]
Gotta Hemi in That?
Are you driving a sport utility vehicle or large pickup truck? Don't you love the almost $2 a gallon gas prices? Sorry, if you are in California, I know it's more than that in some towns. I was listening to the rhetoric about gas taxes on the television, you know, the Bush attack ads saying Kerry wants to raise gas taxes fifty cents a gallon, costing the average family over $600 a year in more taxes. Well Bush doesn't get it, because the idea of a gas tax is to cause people to buy less gasoline. If it accomplishes that goal, then the average family wouldn't pay more taxes. You would only pay more taxes if you continued to use the same amount of gasoline you always did.
I don't know if Kerry has proposed a gas tax as a way to curtail oil consumption or not, but as a country, we need to do something. Leadership is the difference between just trying something, like a heavy tax, and actually getting people to cut back our consumption. There are good reasons to use less gasoline, besides saving money at the pump. Oil production as we know it will not continue indefinitely. Experts don't agree but some believe that oil production has already peaked, and others think that the peak won't come for ten years or so. There is one indicator that is hard to argue with. No oil companies are building new refineries. A refinery is a heavy investment, one that doesn't pay anything back for twenty years. Oil companies don't expect to be refining enough oil to earn back the investment. So argue all you want, but by 2024, we will probably be driving something drastically different than what we own now. Perhaps we will have diesel engines burning soy oil, or hybrid electric or fuel cell cars.
Now back to the attack ads. If the gas tax isn't a good idea, what is Bush offering? I believe in a simple operating principal for these campaigns, put up or shut up.
See you at the gas station!
David Blaine [10:57 AM]
Smile At Me
I revamped the page title, if you didn't notice it you probably have a braille monitor. Each week I blog about U.S. politics, religion, world events, sports and what have you. I wanted to remind old visitors and inform new readers that the objective of this site has always been to forge friendships between diverse people. I started this blog right after the beginning of the war in Iraq. Although I don't always understand or agree with everyone who visits here, I do have respect for their views. From all of you I have received the benefit of new insight into many matters, and I appreciate that. Month end is a busy time at the dealership, but I'll rant about something really important (probably not!) very soon.
David Blaine [6:15 PM]
Reducing Unemployment in Michigan
Unemployment is a big problem in this state. Don't quote me but I think we're loosing something like 200 jobs a month overseas, or maybe it was 2000. But it won't matter because no one is going to stay in this state anyway, so unemployment numbers should go down drastically. The reason people, especially unemployed people, are going to leave is simple economics. The taxes in Michigan are so high no one would stay if there was another state to move to. Not all the taxes are visible at first glance, so let me show you a few revenue enhancers.
License Plates. Ordinarily due on your birthday, miss the due date pay a $15 fine, or maybe it's a penalty, but I call it a tax. If you have a vehicle you don't drive all year you still need to buy the tags by your birthday or pay the extra fee when you do want to plate it. It's a big deal if you don't keep insurance on the car when it's in storage, because you will have to show proof of insurance to buy the plate. And that leads us to the next issue.
Car Insurance. We are one of the few states in the nation that says, if you get hurt in a car, you get your medical needs met for the rest of your life. Since that tends to get pretty exorbitant, a special fund is set up for the state to help insurers with this responsibility. Each car insured in this state will get an extra $112 assessment annually starting....now.
It will come on your car insurance bill, but I call it a tax, because if you lived in Ohio or Indiana you wouldn't be paying it.
How about your drivers license? Well they raised the price of those but I can't tell you how much unless we find out how many points are on your driving record. Maybe it's fair that people who drive poorly pay more, but it's new, it costs more than it did last year, so it's a tax. Yup, instead of $12 it is now $18 to renew your license, and that's for a clear record. If you have points it could cost hundreds ($100+) more dollars for you. And they doubled the points for some tickets to insure they get the money.
You can get more than points for some tickets. Driving without insurance is a crime in Michigan, and it should be. Driving without proof of insurance is a crime too, but you used to be able to show the court your proof of insurance later to get the ticket thrown out. Now the fine is $300. Even if you had insurance and just forgot to put the card in your glovebox. The legislature said that's not how the law was intended to work, but until they get it fixed, the state is collecting the fines hand over fist. They flat out need the money, any way they can grab it.
Do you smoke while you drive, or while you do anything else? We will soon have the highest tax on cigarettes in the nation. The governor wants to raise taxes by 75 cents a pack, which I think will bring the tax to over $2 per pack A lot of folks are rolling cigarettes to save money, and some Native American made cigarettes are sold over the internet without tax, legally or illegally, to try to skirt this. I don't smoke, soon smokers will leave Michigan too. Wait, maybe that's a good thing. Anyway...
I do drink, occasionally, but not while I drive. Taxes on alcohol will be going up too, increase the sin taxes. Doesn't matter how you dice it up, the money has to come from someplace.
We voluntarily raised our sales tax from 4% to 6% a few years ago in exchange for a deep cut in property taxes. Property taxes really suck. If you own your home free and clear then you still have to rent it from the state each year or they can kick you out of something you paid for your whole life. That's what I equate property tax to, rent on something you already bought and paid for. So whats the deal now? In Michigan those are the taxes that schools operate on, and schools have their backs to the wall, so they are asking people to vote to go back to paying the old property tax levels, but of course without rolling the sales tax back to the lower level. If people wanted to do this it would be one thing. But when the proposals fail the schools spin a story of gloom and put the issue on the next ballot. So far I don't think anyone has passed it, but if you whine long enough and put the issue out long enough, and if you have the teachers indoctrinate their pupils to whine to their parents about needing new band uniforms, a better auditorium, etc. etc., then eventually some will be coerced into voting yes just to shut everyone up.
And sales tax? Well that is paid on specific goods in this state. Food and medicine are exempt right now, but attempts have been made to impose tax on medicine. Luckily the senior citizens are a tough lobby. But up until now services have been exempt. If I build you a dog house with $12 worth of lumber, charge you $25 for the materials and $50 for the labor, you don't pay tax on $75, just on the $25. Now they want to tax labor. It would bring a huge increase into the state's coffers. Think about it this way, forget the dog house, what if it was your house? Seeing big numbers yet?
You are reading this online, ever shop online? Yeah, if they could figure out how to do it, they would tax that too. So far lawmakers haven't seen fit to burden e tailers with collecting sales tax for 50 different states at 50 different rates, but common sense usually doesn't win out with lawmakers, so lets see how long that lasts. There are still goods and service taxes in Michigan. That's where you voluntarily admit you bought something out of state or though the mail, online, etc. and you didn't pay sales tax, so you add 6% of the price to your Michigan income tax on the honor system, there is a line for it on the form. As you can guess, this isn't a big money maker for the state. Some kind of amnesia takes over when you fill out that form!
Alright, enough bitching, time to offer a solution. Don't give us what we don't pay for. Eight little words that make a lot of sense to me. It works like that in homes across the state, if you can't afford it you don't buy it. It works like that in private enterprises too. Look at it this way. If I have a small restaurant with a decent business and I'm doing OK, I could add real table cloths, linen napkins, lead crystal stemware and imported china. I could buy better cuts of meat. And I could raise my prices 30% to cover the costs of those things. Maybe it would bring in more clientele, or different clientele. But if it drove business away, I'd have to lower my prices and cut the services accordingly. If I didn't my customers would start eating someplace else. Then I could bitch about how bad my business was, right up until the day I went bankrupt, or I could change the way I did business and continue making my living. Now the state will say there are no frills to cut. If forced to, the state will possibly, probably, cut the most essential services first, like police protection, to strongarm us into "continuing to eat here or else". But of course we could always move to another state.
David Blaine [7:36 AM]