The Last Black President

Last week, the media swooned once again at our president, who allowed a fake interview conducted with comedian Zach Galifianakis to help him hawk ObamaCare to young people. The interview was not funny, particularly when Galifianakis asked Mr. Obama how it felt to be “The last black president of America.”

For those of us who believed it was time to have a different American face in the White House, the question was rife with pain. Because I fear that this man has killed the chances of other black Americans to occupy the Oval Office for decades to come. And with them, chances for women, and for people with alternative lifestyles. Yeah, no chance of an openly gay president, no matter how qualified. This community organizer and charlatan has salted the well, as we like to say here in the mountains.

In a mere five years, this president has torn the nation in half over the issue of race, refused to uphold his oath of office, killed and embarrassed members of his own State Department and law enforcement agencies. He has claimed powers he does not have, used the powers of government to punish his opponents, and destroyed the US economy in a senseless effort to wrench the American people into a lunatic liberal agenda that not even he can make work. His own party is fleeing in horror.

I don’t vote for people by the color of their skin, or their gender, or their personal lifestyles. I grew up in a different world as a military dependent living overseas. In 1948, President Truman desegregated the military. Inter-racial dating in the Sixties was not only normal, it was necessary if you wanted a date for the Prom. The first time I ever heard the “N” word was when I went to college in 1969…and it was used by one black student to address another. I do not make friends easily, but count many gay and lesbian humans among them. As for women…well, I still struggle to figure them out, but always believed that we should have chosen Hillary over Obama in 2008.

The point is that none of this will make a difference. Hillary may as well save the effort and money in 2016. Forget the dozens of eminently qualified black men and women, or those who are G/B/L/T. Because they are so insufferably tied to left-wing lunatic politics they can no longer attract thinking people in the critical mid-range of the political spectrum. And that is strange, given that most of the people I know who are not like me (white, Viking, Scots-Irish, Southern Baptist, Wonder-Bread, breeder) are among the most perceptive, interesting, moderate, thoughtful and intelligent people I have ever met – those who lighten my soul and bring joy to my life. I would vote for any of them, even the most liberal ones. Because I trust them to do what is right for all Americans, and not just for their own race, gender or kind.

Mr. Obama will go on to be a statesman, no matter what his legacy. If he did not do it well, he still did it. And what he may have done badly will simply be overturned in the years to come. Nor can I say that everything he has done has been a mistake. I cheered today to see him award Medals of Honor to Jewish and Black heroes from the last century whose medals were denied due to prejudice. If I cannot respect the man, I can respect the office he has held. And his best intentions for the decisions he has made.

But Mr. Obama, you have done damage, sir. History will not be kind to you. You have hurt the veterans who gave all to this country, in order to get money for your party and your programs. You have hurt the disabled, and seniors, and those who want to work for a living as citizens of this country. You have hurt the middle class you swore to protect. And worst of all, you have turned people in America against one another, making it ever so difficult for us to work together even on topics we might agree upon.

For that, Mr. President, you may will be the last black…or female…or different person of any kind to occupy the White House for some time to come. Shame on you.

“Universal Remote” Is An Oxymoron

One of the more frustrating aspects of getting older and wiser is that I am having to give up some of my most cherished beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This week’s top five disappointments are:

  • Congress-critters really did steal all of the money from the Social Security Trust Fund to get themselves re-elected, and the whole pyramid scheme will collapse in the next few years. That’s why so many of them are retiring now rather than face the music.
  • Despite the hysterical rants of survivalists and others, there is no real shortage of ammunition, and the government is not buying it all up to keep it out of the hands of honest gun owners. Our local Walmart has plenty.
  • My editors have glommed onto the fact that I always turn in my articles two days late, and have simply adjusted their calendars to demand them two days earlier than they are really needed.
  • The new Twinkies don’t taste as good as the old ones. And let’s not even discuss Moon Pies.
  • There is no such thing as a “universal” remote for your television system.

Of these five, the last is the most vexing for an old geek like myself.

I’ve spent 40 years and untold hundreds of dollars buying “universal” remote controls that promise to run everything in my modest TV system (a television, Blu Ray player, DirecTV and a sound bar). I’ve fiddled, and tweaked, and made myself look like a complete idiot to friends and loved ones by insisting that there is, there must be, a programmable learning remote control that will actually enable me to get rid of the four remotes I have to use every time I want to turn my television on and watch anything. But there is not.

And the first person who suggests I buy yet another Logitech Harmony remote because it will do these things…well, remember that I have plenty of ammo from my local Walmart!

There are four major things going on here, all of which are worth noting before you make your next major technology investment for the living room.

  • Home entertainment companies are in a complete and panicked meltdown over the current recession, because consumers are not buying new stuff. Consumers are making do with the old, and when they do buy their decisions are based more on price than anything else. This means that manufacturers who want to keep their assembly lines running have to cut corners wherever they can. And one big way to do this is to use non-standard, throw-away codes to control their equipment with their own remotes. They don’t use an easily-duplicated set of control codes to save a buck on the cost of the unit.
  • Makers of the primary systems (Comcast for cable, for example, or DirecTV for satellite) could care less if you can use their remotes to control anything else. They make their units do a good job with their own set-top boxes…but making it easy for you to use a DVD player or Blu Ray device just reduces the revenue they can nail you for in pay-per-view movies.
  • Creating a true “universal” remote is a waste of time, since most consumers won’t shell out the additional $25 for one, and even if they did would find programming the darned thing to be about two geek levels above their abilities.
  • No matter what you do or wish for, your basic “universal” remote will only do about half of the things that the dedicated remote for a given device can do.

This presents some challenges for geeks and ordinary homeowners alike, because it likely means that there are a few things that you simply won’t be able to do without using multiple remotes. But there are some things worth trying:

  • Go basic. Buy a smart TV with many of the applications built in. If you buy a TV with SRS Tru-sound and Tru-volume or other similar capabilities, you can ditch your subwoofer and surround sound system, including the sound bar.
  • If you buy a basic PC and hook it into the second HDMI port on the TV, you can use it as a media center, dvd player and burner, blu ray player and burner, and Internet browser.
  • A different option is to buy a game station – PS3 and Xbox both do well for this. They will play blu-ray and dvd files, not to mention NetFlix and YouTube. They can be had used for as little as $150…and you can play games.

The point is that we keep looking for universal remote controls to manage all of the peripheral stuff we attach to our basic television system…when we should in fact be turn the proposition on its head by buying a device that multi-tasks and then working the remote into the mix to handle both.

I doubt that I will give up my search for a true universal remote. I am, after all, a geek on a mission. But there is no reason why everyone else should suffer, waiting on my results. Or trying to figure out why pushing “menu” on the remote requires a trip to the emergency room in a full-blown anxiety attack.

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Why a Minimum Wage Hike is a Bad Idea

The President of the United States, our champion of income equality, has once again called on Congress to raise the minimum wage from its present level of $7.25 per hour up to $10.10 per hour, a salary increase of just under 39 percent.

The logic is this: minimum wage is not a living wage. Figuring that a single minimum wage worker logs up to 1,950 hours of work per year (50 weeks at 39 hours per week) and will earn an annual income of roughly $14,137.50 – an amount above the federal poverty level of $11,480 per year, but hardly enough to live well on.

Let’s sidestep the issue of why a person with minimum education, minimum skills, minimum ambition and minimum goals should only earn a minimum wage. And sidestep the questions of “fairness,” “equality,” and other moral imperatives. Instead, let’s just look at the real impact of raising the minimum wage in terms of dollars and common sense. Here are the things you need to consider:

The single minimum wage worker (let’s just call him or her the SMWW) currently pays taxes on $4,137.50, after a personal deduction of $3,900 and a standard deduction of $6,100. That puts SMWW in the 10 percent tax bracket, paying about $413.75 in taxes (plus small amounts for things like FICA and Social Security). But even without children, the Earned Income Tax Credit of $496 (for a single person with no children) means the SMWW will pay nothing in taxes. With children and a spouse, the worker actually gets more money back.

But what happens when this same wage goes to $10.10 per hour?

Now the worker is making $19,695 per year (which is nearly what a soldier with four years of service in the Army makes for putting his or her life on the line). With the same deductions, that means a taxable income of $9,595, which boosts our worker into the 15 percent tax bracket. Oops. That means they will pay more than $1,000 in taxes and fees. A hike in the minimum wage is therefore just a new tax on poor workers.

(Increase in minimum wage of $5,560 is now worth only $4,560, in rough numbers).

But it gets worse. Because the cost of nearly everything will increase.

Consider that the average fast food operation, according to national franchise records, generates sales of about $800,000 in a good year, which after taxes nets a profit to the franchise operator of $66,000, according to the Franchise Business Review. Yes, some kinds of franchises earn more, some less. We’ll just stick with the average.

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 means that the cost of a 10 person shift for 20 hours per day (convenience store, fast food place, hotel, etc.) would increase the labor costs by more than $208,000 per year (10 persons x 20 hours per day x 365 days per year x $2.85 per hour increase in minimum wage – $208,050). To make up this cost, you would need an average across-the-board increase in prices of 26 percent. Since this applies to virtually all purchases by companies that use minimum wage workers, the result would be an annual increase in prices of $5,120 for minimum wage workers. Actually, these are just rough numbers. Figure in corporate taxes on gross income, and the total goes higher.

(Increase in minimum wage now results in a net loss of income to the worker of $560 per year.)

Some employers will also make up this difference by cutting hours or the number of employees, so that minimum wage workers earn even less each year.

You might be wondering why the president of the United States, his financial advisors, and Democrats in general would push a phony pay raise that actually increases price and taxes on middle and lower class workers. Can’t they understand that the math does not work for anyone?

Of course. They are simply pandering to a working class that does not have the education or skills to do the math, but still vote. They are hoping to salvage a disastrous policy year by dangling pretty baubles before their entrenched but poor voter base.

So if we wanted to help low-income workers, what could we do? After all, we’ve spent $15 trillion dollars on the “War on Poverty” over the past 50 years, enough to have given every person living in poverty $100 million each in cash – and poverty has increased. We have raised the minimum wage 23 times since it was initiated in 1947, and more people live in poverty than ever before. So what is the answer?

Here are my three thoughts:

  • Provide more food stamp benefits (SNAP, EBT, etc.). Yes, there are examples of abuse – using food stamps to buy alcohol, gamble, buy drugs, etc. But the reality is that such abuse is minimal and is generally caused by bad policies and inept bureaucrats. Fire the worst of them, prosecute the offenders, and put more money into the programs to keep families and children eating. Working families need a helping hand, and this one should be expanded. We only spend about $80 billion a year on the whole program – about 2 percent of the total federal budget, and about twice what we give in aid to other countries.
  • Invest in skills training. Politicians are slobbering all over themselves to promote a new “information economy,” pushing kids to go deeply in debt to get college degrees to take jobs that don’t exist. Meanwhile, our manufacturing and service industries are dying for lack of trained welders, equipment operators, machinists and electricians. Put money into the trades, encourage basic skills, and get vocational-tech training back into our schools. Especially into our inner-city schools.
  • Tighten up immigration policies. It is impossible to raise the American worker to a higher level when we face untold millions of unskilled laborers pouring across our borders to take all of the entry-level jobs. I don’t advocate closing the borders, but I do advocate a better process to allow people into the country. They should, if they come here, have skills we need. They should not displace citizens of this country who need work. They should not be permitted favorable status – or any status – in receiving job and life support benefits if they are not here legally. We simply do not have the resources to care for the entire world to the detriment of our own poor.

 

 

 

Big Data, Big Lie

 

They say that the reputation of Target may never recover from the company’s massive data breach in December. As one of their victims, I fervently hope that is true, and that the management and marketing staffs of that retail operation are brought up on charges for criminal greed and stupidity. Or at least tarred and feathered. For two reasons:

  1. This was not a breach of data from “holiday shoppers,” but rather of data that Target has been collecting, using and selling for years. I got one of their letters indicating my debit card data was taken, and I wasn’t anywhere near a Target store for the holidays.
  2. This is not a failure of data security alone. Rather, it is part of a massive invasion of privacy and collection of data that Target simply did not need in order to sell its merchandise.

To put this another way, everyone is so busy feeling bad for Target and its victimhood that no one has asked the real relevant question – why did Target have the data to begin with? The answer, simply put, is that they were taking your data and selling it.

In truth, if you use a debit or credit card to make a purchase, that store has every right to hold that data until the transaction clears. After that, they have no legitimate purpose for the information.

Beginning in 1998, with the rise of electronic commerce, companies discovered a basic fact: personal information, not money, would become the new currency of the Internet. Suddenly, you could not read a headline on a web site or buy anything in a store without giving up every personal, intimate detail of your life. Address. Phone Number. Email Address. Social Security Number. Bank account details, including pins and security codes.

Today, they have a new term for it: “Big Data.” Taking all your personal information, rolling it into massive databases, and then using that data to somehow find you and convince you to give even more current data so they can re-sell it.

Marketers nationwide assured consumers that this “big data” was needed in order to “enhance the shopping experience.” That somehow by collecting all of our data, they could tailor advertising to only the things we were truly interested in. Which was, of course, nothing more than a blatant lie. Over the following decade, marketers learned the second great truth – it didn’t matter what cheap, Chinese merchandise they slopped out to consumers, or even if they made a profit on it. What mattered was getting their grubby, greedy hands on our personal data. They also swore a pinkie-promise that they would never, never use personally identifiable information of yours.

They lied through their teeth, laughing all the way to the bank. They still do today.

Nor is it just retail stores. Grocery stores, cable services, churches, schools, and government agencies like the DMV – they all are in the business of selling consumers down the river.

In 1998, I shared a ride with the vice president of one of the “big data” companies, who told me bluntly that with just my first name, hair color and zip code, she could tell me what brand of toothpaste I use. She meant it.

It’s more serious now, because this data is falling into the hands of identity thieves, and last year alone nearly twelve million Americans suffered financial losses to the thieves. And it can only get worse going forward, unless something changes.

There is plenty of blame to go around. In fact, at least seven groups of people are responsible for this deplorable and nearly-preventable crime wave:

  1. The identity thieves themselves. Unlikely to be caught in the first place by our law enforcement agencies, if a thief is actually ever caught he or she will either get a slap on the wrist – or a lucrative contract as a “security consultant.” They need to be sent to prison for life, with no possibility of parole.
  2. Marketers. They created identity theft, arranged for the sale of the data, and encouraged their managers to participate in this wholesale theft – yet pay no penalty at all for their actions. Being drummed out of their profession is the least that should happen.
  3. Government agencies. The Internal Revenue Service prints your social security number on correspondence. The DMV openly sells your registration and license information. Virtually every government database rates a failing grade for basic security. As of last year, 11 of the 13 major federal agencies could not pass a basic security audit. Your information is there for the taking. And the new ObamaCare site has been described as an “identity thief’s paradise” it is so insecure.
  4. The credit card companies. In Europe and elsewhere, credit card identity theft has been substantially reduced by replacing the insecure “strip” on the back of the card with an encrypted micro-chip inside the card. In order to use the card, you must have a card-reader for the implant, and those are carefully regulated. In the US, credit card companies have weaseled their way out of any such requirements because it would cost a few billion dollars to implement. They would rather we lost millions of dollars each year than upgrade their technology.
  5. Congress. Members of Congress could easily pass regulations requiring security of personal data and the implementation of new security technologies, but they simply don’t care. Their focus is on taking contributions from the marketers who sell your data so they can get themselves elected for life. It is a shame, but with few exceptions it is true.
  6. Software publishing and distribution companies. Why is it that every publisher of crippled, useless applications…games…and utilities…feel it is perfectly okay to bundle their software with ad-ware, mal-ware and viruses. Hunt these companies down and put them out of business. You could start with Oracle and its vile Java products.
  7. Us consumers. Americans (and Canadians and Britons) are known worldwide for our willingness to give up the most personal details of our lives to save a dollar on a trinket. Case in point are the number of people who gleefully “Like” a promotion on Facebook without reading the fine print that says they not only agree to give up their own data, but all of the data of everyone on their “friends list.”

How do you protect yourself in a nation gone rogue with identity theft? It is not easy, but here are some basics:

  1. Make all of your purchases in cash, and refuse to give up any personal information whatsoever to make a simple purchase. Marketers be damned.
  2. For online purchases, use a third-party payment system. I like PayPal, but there are others.
  3. Refuse to give your Social Security number to anyone other than the Social Security Administration, and never over the phone or on a document. Bet you did not know it is against federal regulations for them to even ask for your SSAN. Not even the IRS is supposed to do that.
  4. Pass tougher privacy laws. If any member of Congress refuses to vote for them, put them out of office. In the rest of the world, privacy is a guaranteed right. It should be here, as well.
  5. Stop being stupid. If it seems too good to be true, it is. There is nothing for free on the Internet that is worth having. Web sites are not your friend. And stop looking at porn sites unless you really want your identity stolen.

I know it seems harsh, but the fact is that most people who are victimized by identity theft are set up by their own poor computing habits…sold down the river by marketers…and left unprotected by our government.

These things have to change.

Thanks for your service…now please die. Or just go away.

As I write this, the US House of Representatives has passed a new budget that will slash the military retirements of millions of people who served or are serving our nation. At this hour, military families and veterans organizations are meeting to wonder how they will survive this latest effort to crush them in the name of budget compromise.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the architect of this scheme, believes that the budget should be balanced on the backs of our military. Not cutting the out-of-control federal spending. Not by rooting out corruption and graft. Simply by taking away the retirements of people who have served 30 years or more on the front lines of the war that continues twelve years after 9-11. And all of the earlier wars for which we volunteered or were forcibly drafted into by our government. He is joined in this effort by Sen. Patty Murray, Democrat from the state of Washington.

I am deeply ashamed to admit that Bob Goodlatte, our own representative in Congress, voted to approve this bill without a single word about opposing the damage it will do to military families and veterans. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia has said nothing on this. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia snuffled about how it will hurt military people, but is proud that it will protect federal employees and contractors. Really. While I believe all three to be honorable men, they have today failed our nation’s heroes.

The Senate will vote to pass this bill next week.

Current military people are outraged at this travesty, but those of us who served in the Vietnam years are little surprised. The moment this nation decides they no longer need the fighting man and woman, they break every promise made and begin to skimp on the rights we were given under contract with the Congress of the United States. That includes health care through the Veteran’s Administration, and other VA benefits. The problem is that when our nation is again attacked and needs a strong military, they can only hope that their lies and shoddy treatment of veterans will be forgotten.

The quote is attributed to George Washington: “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”

One may believe that, with the current national tide of support for our military, those men and women are being adequately cared for when they come back from war. They are not. Here are just a few examples of what is going seriously wrong:

  • The current version of the budget, as passed by the House, would cut military retirements by $6 billion over the next 10 years. The House’s version of a compromise budget plan decreases the annual cost-of-living adjustment for military retirees under age 62 equal to inflation minus 1 percent. The change would be phased in over the next two years starting in December 2014. One might be inclined to say, “Well, everyone is losing their retirements. Union members. Enron employees. Anyone who works for the hundred or more local governments that are going broke.” But there is a major difference – our retirements, our benefits, are only granted in recognition of the poor pay, poor housing, poor equipment and poor policy management we suffer when we go into combat. Firefighters and police officers understand this, but they at least have a union to fight for them as they put their lives on the line.
  • The Veteran’s Administration is killing veterans through lack of care. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of a CNN investigative report you can find here. The upshot is this – shoddy service and long waits are allowing veterans to die in order to save money for the Veterans Administration. Needed medical care is delayed, sometimes for years. Current medical technologies are not adopted, drug regimens are based on cost rather than outcome, and needed tests are put off – sometimes for years.
  • Returning vets can’t get jobs. While the national unemployment rate runs about 7 percent, the rate for returning vets is almost double that. Worse yet, the programs that were designed to help ease these heroes back into American society…end in two weeks. A 2-year-old federal program that retrains veterans and offers tax breaks to businesses that hire veterans — the VOW to Hire Heroes Act — is set to expire at the end of the year. And no one cares.
  • And Congress is cutting the military family safety net. Also, Congress has slashed a social safety net that provides food stamps to feed more than 900,000 veterans and their families. You may not be aware that the pay of enlisted military people and families of veterans is so poor that many exist below the poverty line, and their families rely on food stamps just to subsist. Those who live on or near a military base can get a small break by shopping at a military commissary, but guess what? Yup, Congress wants to do away with them as well.
  • And then there is the “go to the nearest emergency room” game. If you are a vet, chances are that the nearest Veteran’s Administration hospital is up to several hours away. If you are a vet and call one of those hospitals, you will be told that if you have a life-threatening emergency, you should go to the nearest emergency room. But here is the sleazy game they are playing – if you actually go to the nearest emergency room, the VA will deny payment for your life-saving treatment because you failed to go to the nearest VA hospital. Save your life, or your family. Your choice.

Veterans know this game well. If you suddenly fall to your knees with a heart attack, the Veteran’s Administration will give you a simple choice: call 911, take an ambulance to the nearest emergency room, get admitted to the nearest cardiac ICU that can save your life…and thus bankrupt your family and destroy everything you have worked for all of your life. Or simply die, and take the option for a cheap burial in a veteran’s graveyard, if there is any room left in any of them.

I’ve logged more than my share of hours in VA hospitals in the last couple of years, and have never found the people there to be less than superlative. From the janitors to the heads of medical departments, they believe in their mission and fight for the health of “their” vets. They are as frustrated as we are by the bureaucracy in Washington and the follies of Congress. They are professional, caring and fighting for us. But they don’t control the purse strings, and that is the key to this.

Just for the record, we could have funded everything our military and our veterans need for one tiny slice of what we spent in crony investments in failed “green technologies.” We could have more than covered the full retirements of our military people for the next ten years for half of the money we gave to the corrupt government of Afghanistan.

Our government will continue to do everything in its power to renege on its written, legal commitments to its military people and its veterans, in the belief that the American people will not hold them accountable. We are, after all, only one percent of the US population. And if the experience of the Vietnam Era Vets holds true, the American people will indeed throw us under the bus to save a few bucks. It’s the 21st-Century equivalent of spitting on us as we return home from the war.

Thank you for your service, indeed.

Obama and Me

Some people who read my posts have somehow come to the conclusion that I hate Barack Obama, or that I am some right-wing, bomb-throwing anarchist Tea-Partier who is a closet racist at heart.

But people who believe that do not know me, or my life.  They are not paying attention, are not reading the news, and are not thinking. They have not read Mr. Obama’s books, as I have. They have not lived through eleven presidents, as I have. And they completely ignore the mounting disenchantment and panic among even his most staunch supporters in the face of the escalating scandals within his administration.

For the record, I have nothing personal against the man or his family. And I certainly don’t care what race, religion or creed he endorses as an individual. Heck, I’m a part-Sioux Scottish Baptist Buddhist hippie conservative myself.  I do believe that President Obama holds seriously misguided beliefs that affect his ability to govern the nation. I believe that he is beholden to all the wrong people for his election. And I do believe that he is staggeringly incompetent for the job of chief executive of the greatest nation on earth.

I like the man, and hate his policies.

Note that in my posts I don’t pass along the hysterical rants of the lunatic right, nor do I swallow the poisoned Kool-Aid of “hope and change.” I don’t repost the doctored pictures, even if they are funny. I fact check the posts I send along to others against as many sources as I can. I don’t care that he plays golf, or goes on vacation – he has a tough job and needs some relief. I don’t rant against his family for taking vacations – they have to deal with the stress as well. I don’t call him personal names, or engage in personal invective. I don’t care that he smoked marijuana with his friends while in high school – everyone has a life with mistakes in it.

My dislike of the President is not a matter of race, though that issue is often invoked by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and a gaggle of rap artists you have never heard of. It is not a matter of Democrat versus Republican, though this President is fiercely partisan in his actions. It is not even a matter of socialist versus conservative. It is not, except in general terms, about the massive failure that is ObamaCare. It is a matter of personal integrity, of paranoid secrecy, and of intentions.

I have always had reservations about the President’s ability to represent this nation or govern it, and those reservations have only grown as he staggers through his second term. [Historical note: No president survives a second term without some damage, even if they are very capable. Lincoln did not. Woodrow Wilson did not. Reagan did not. Clinton did not. Bush did not.] But I believe that President Obama will not be treated kindly by history, and his legacy will be a string of non-accomplishments in the face of his broken promises.

No matter what your political orientation, any thinking person would have to question the problems that are inherent with the Obama administration. Here are the 10 things I personally find most disquieting:

  • He claims that he will make things right, but he doesn’t. No one in his administration is ever held accountable for anything, including the President himself. Obama clearly and repeatedly lied to sell his major policies, yet is unapologetic. And though he has stated he will find and hold accountable the persons responsible for the scandals on his watch, he has yet to fire any of them.
  • Wherever possible, he blames his predecessor or the opposition party. To hear him tell it, he has never made a mistake in his life – which is a frightening trait in a senior executive in any endeavor. That might have been credible in the first two years of his administration, but the things going wrong today are directly the result of the President’s own policies. In the real world, we acknowledge our mistakes, rectify them where we can, and move on. The President seems incapable of apologizing, fixing his own mistakes or moving on.
  • His foreign policy is incoherent, and could lead us into another global conflict. The President has snubbed our allies, apologized to our enemies, and endorsed policies and agreements (Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq) that place our nation at direct risk. His latest move to enable Iran to continue building nuclear weapons is particularly frightening.  This inability to manage our global presence has left much of the world to conclude that we are weak, vulnerable, and without the resolve to defend ourselves if attacked. And that doesn’t even touch on the failed arms deal that led to the slaughter in Benghazi. What kind of Commander-In-Chief would refuse to send aid to Americans dying on the field of battle? And then try to cover it up?
  • His domestic policies are even worse. The nation has no energy policy beyond consumers paying more for every form of energy while the nation wastes trillions of dollars investing in alternatives already known not to work. Our environmental policies continue to chant the mantra of global warming, even as evidence for human-caused climate change dissipates in the face of real and credible research. His communications and Internet policies imploded under the sheer weight of hypocrisy and greed. His Justice Department is the butt of jokes the world over, thanks to debacles such as Fast and Furious and its pursuit of lop-sided racial priorities. And let’s not even discuss the Treasury Department’s policies of printing and borrowing money that we can’t afford. Or the IRS, which uses its position to blackmail and obstruct the President’s political opponents. And then, to further use his office to score cheap political points against his opponents, the President goes to ridiculous lengths to make the government shutdown as painful as possible to working Americans – by shutting down things that were not even funded by the government, and denying death benefits to the families of fallen servicemen. What kind of leader would do that?
  • He fights the wrong battles, and does the wrong things. He couldn’t attend the ceremony for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, but had time to go on a multi-day fundraising trip to the west coast. He inserted the Office of the President into not only the Trayvon Martin affair, but in other racial matters as well, such as the Gates arrest controversy. The list doesn’t stop there. There was the rush to tie the Sandy Hook shootings to his agenda for a failing gun control initiative. And his endorsement of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Wikipedia has a list of 36 such scandals of the Obama Administration that are worth reading.  A more experienced leader might have waited for the facts before rushing in.
  • He has surrounded himself with the wrong people. His handlers make poor choices while striving to keep him isolated; his cabinet does not advise. He has no real relationship with Congress, not even with the members of his own party. This has led to charges that he is aloof, arrogant and not receptive to input from others. It is believable, in such an environment, to think that he does not know what is going on in his administration with respect to its many, many scandals. The question, however, is whether America can afford a chief executive so out of touch with his own government? And that does not begin to address his poor political appointments to positions of power (John Kerry for State Department, Sibelius at HEW, tax-dodger Timothy Geithner at Treasury, and dozens of “czars” who make policy but are not accountable to anyone).
  • His administration is secretive and closed. Forget his campaign promise to be “the most open and transparent administration in history.” President Obama has mounted a war on privacy, and a war on whistle-blowers. He has held meetings behind closed doors, including secret meetings with lobbyists that he later denied knowing. (Note: Every president has to authorize secret meetings in order to conduct the nation’s business, but this administration is closed to friend and foe alike, except for those mentioned in #8, below.) Holding few press Q&A sessions, refusing to answer questions, even refusing to allow press photographers to take pictures of him. And let’s not forget the refusal to open either his birth records or college applications, which would have immediately cleared up any controversy over these two issues. Much of this is the due to the incompetence of his staff (see item #6, above), but the president picked the staff and keeps them in power.
  • He’ll do anything to raise money. Cozying up to any group willing to fork over $1,000 per plate for dinner. Selling nights in the Lincoln bedroom. Passing favors to his campaign contributors (this has always been done, but the current President has raised it to a fine art). Even his supporters have begun to wonder why he has plenty of time for fundraising, but little or none to govern the nation. The problem isn’t that he is an effective fund-raiser. It is who he raises money from. Wall Street, which has profited greatly from his failed economic policies. The Health Care Industry, whose profits rose 37 percent this year as ObamaCare was implemented. And the environmental industry, which takes billion after billion from hard-working Americans, then fold and sell their assets to China.  One has to wonder when the needs of the many will outweigh the financial desires of the President.
  • His appointments are, politically, far to the left of most of America. That is understandable. Obama was raised up and funded by the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party in order to smash Hillary Clinton’s chances to become President and keep a woman out of the White House. The left wing of the party feared that Hillary would “rule from the center,” taking the same moderate path that her husband had so successfully taken in the Nineties to become a respected and valued former chief executive. But in order to get him elected, it was necessary to portray Obama the candidate as a reasonable person who would strive to bring the nation together and work well with other nations. Unfortunately, these campaign promises used to keep Ms. Clinton out of the White House backfired. In order to please his contributors, he has had to break most of the promises he made in order to appear conciliatory and middle of the road. This is not typical of presidents – at least, not of the 11 I have seen in my lifetime.
  • His administration is fundamentally corrupt. I can’t begin to recite the hundreds of examples, but Dan From Squirrel Hill has compiled a rather good list. On one hand, some of the problems that occur also might have happened in another administration. On the other, many of the excesses have been created by his administration or dismissed/hidden/ignored by it. This is stunningly bad policy on the part of the President, and does not bode well for the next three years.

In spite of this, I don’t blame the President himself. Few politicians – or humans – if offered the most powerful position on the planet, would have the honesty to say, “I am not qualified to do that.” And every politician has had to cater to the whims of the money people who got him or her elected. Nor can I blame him for the campaign promises that turned out to be untrue. Had you been paying attention, you would have read what he said in his books and when he was not before the cameras, and known exactly how he would rule the country.

I do blame the people who elected him. The mindless, thoughtless, majority who either did not vote, or voted for him for all of the wrong reasons. Some were so enamored of the idea of electing a black man as president that they never stopped to consider what kind of man he was, or who was manipulating him. Some were so believing of the media that they failed to even once ask if the drivel they were being spoon-fed was the truth. Some simply liked him because he is a charismatic and intelligent man, without ever enquiring if he was an honest and capable man. Some voted because they believed in the message he communicated. Some voted for him because he promised them trinkets like free cell phones and easier access to food stamps. And finally, some voted for him because they are left-wing loonies who wanted someone to transform America into France.

I blame them, because at the root of all of the lies, and secrecy, and corruption in this administration is the 51 percent of Americans who didn’t bother to vote.  And the 25 percent who wanted it this way. Just as 51 percent of the colonists believed they would be better off being loyal to the despot George III than supporting the rebellious Founding Fathers in 1776. I can understand that…

But I won’t accept it. I will oppose these people, and their candidates, in order to elect more reasonable members of government who will cut back on government excesses, lower the national debt, restore our national standing with our allies, put fear in the hearts of our enemies, and give back to the people their right to their own destinies.

Which, I guess, aligns me after all with the stated goals of the Tea Party candidates.

There ya go, bucky!

Confederate Cooking, Part Two

No good deed goes unpunished.

No sooner did I post my “Confederate Yankee Cooks” list of Thanksgiving recipes than I was inundated with complaints from fellow Southerners that my recipes were too Yankee-fied. That I had, somehow, missed some essential Southern favorites.

Fair ’nuffm bless your heart. Herewith is my list of essential recipes from the country side of the country. Just like grandma used to make.

To get in the mood, music-wise, try this or this by George Strait, or the duet here, or our own Patsy Cline here. If you don’t like the music, you prob’ly won’t like the food, either…

Turkey Giblet Stuffing

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 sack giblets from one turkey, or extra if preferred
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 8 cups dry bread cubes
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Chop giblets and cook in butter in a skillet over medium heat for two minutes. Stir in celery and onion and cook until tender, but not brown. Remove from heat and stir in salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Place bread crumbs in a large bowl. Toss with giblet mixture and enough broth to lightly moisten the bread. Use stuffing to stuff an 18 pound turkey, or bake separately, in a 2 quart dish, covered, 40 to 45 minutes in a 375 degree F oven.

If you REALLY want to go country, remember that oysters used to be considered a poor man’s food, and was a high-country food, until it was “discovered” by the Yankees. Go ahead and substitute a dozen oysters for the giblets.

Mashed Potatoes

Seriously. You need instructions to boil potatoes then mash them? Okay, go buy two boxes of…oh, never mind y’all.  Betty Crocker will help you here.  Or for a better experience, just follow this recipe:

  • 2 1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 5 pounds russet or Yukon gold potatoes
  • One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • Or 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 4-quart baking dish. Peel and cut the potatoes into 1″ chunks. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Salt generously. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a large colander. Place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape before adding in all the other ingredients. Turn off the heat and add 2 sticks butter, the cream cheese or sour cream, heavy cream, salt and pepper. Mash to combine. Spread the potatoes in the 4-quart baking dish. Throw pats of the remaining butter onto the top of the potatoes and bake until the butter is melted and the potatoes are warmed through, 20 to 30 minutes.

Southern Fried Cabbage

  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped and fried
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, divided
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 large head of cabbage, chopped in 1″ squares
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • Dash dried red pepper flakes, optional

Chop the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered. Add 2 tTbs of the butter and the onion and saute about 4 minutes. Add 3 Tbs of apple cider vinegar to the bottom of the skillet to deglaze the browned bits in the bottom. Add half the cabbage, salt, and pepper. Add the remaining cabbage, stir, reduce to a low simmer, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, or until cabbage reaches the desired consistency. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the red pepper flakes if preferred. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Home-Made Cranberry Sauce

This version leaves in the berries. If you can’t deal with berries, go buy the canned stuff.   Just say’in.

  • 1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest of one orange
  • Juice of one orange (well, the same one you vested, above)
  • Salt and pepper, if you like

Empty the cranberries into a saucepan. Add sugar, orange zest and juice to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, about 12 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add additional sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and then serve.

Sweet Potato Pie

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, baked until soft, skinned and mashed
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 unbaked pie crust

In a medium bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Add evaporated milk and stir mixture into sweet potatoes. Beat together with mixer until smooth and pour into an unbaked pie shell. Bake on bottom rack of oven for 1 hour or until center of pie is firm. Serve warm. Add dollop of whipped cream if desired.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

  • 4 strips thick-cut bacon
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned and cut in half
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy. In same pan with bacon fat, add butter and then the onions and Brussels sprouts. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sprouts are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce to taste, then add bacon back into pan.

Country Green Beans

Country people in general do not eat the “green bean casserole” that Yankees grew up on. For that recipe, see http://www.campbellskitchen.com/recipes/green-bean-casserole-27303?fm=internal_search. Or for a more sophisticated version, the recipe at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/not-your-mamas-green-bean-casserole-recipe/index.html.

Most country folk grew up on this:

  • 20 slices bacon, chopped
  • 3 cans (14.5 oz.) whole green beans–do not drain liquid
  • 1/4 of a medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 4 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

In a two quart sauce pan on medium heat, cook bacon until lightly brown but not crisp. When bacon has browned, add green beans and liquid. Add salt, sugar, pepper and vinegar, mixing well. Place onion on top of green beans; cover with a lid and bring to a light boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer beans for 45 minutes. Cooking the green beans for hours on a very low simmer will blend the flavors — but add water if needed to keep beans from drying out. As an option, you may add small, peeled potatoes or turnip cut in small cubes to the green beans, and cook them covered on low until tender.

Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 stick butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 can Cheddar Cheese soup
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Boil the macaroni in a 2 quart saucepan in plenty of salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain. In a medium saucepan, mix butter, Worcestershire and 2 cups cheese, stirring until the cheese melts. Add drained macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 9×13″ pan. Sprinkle last cup of cheese on top. Bake at 350 F degrees for 45 minutes.

Roasted Winter Vegetables

  • 12 cups vegetables (potatoes, onions, parsnips, turnips, sweet peppers, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, pumpkin, celery, or carrots), sliced into 1″ cubes
  • 5 oz. Olive oil
  • ¼ stick butter
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Put sliced vegetables in 9×13″ dish. Cover with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Bake at 350F for 1 hour. Take from oven, slice in butter, stir to coat. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Broccoli Salad

  • 2 heads broccoli, trimmed into small florets
  • 12 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 lb shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place broccoli in a large bowl. Add the crumbled bacon, onion, raisins and cheese. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, stirring well. Add to broccoli mixture and toss gently. Chill thoroughly. A more ambitious version adds sliced cherry tomatoes, slivered red and green peppers, green olives, carrot slivers and even almonds to the blend. Another uses ranch dressing instead of mayonnaise.

Cooked Okra

If you are not from Louisiana and making gumbo, why on earth would you want to prepare this? It is slimy, disgusting, and flavored obnoxiously. This may be just my Yankee side expressing an opinion.