When Math Meets Hope

September 9, 2011

President Obama has laid out his latest and greatest job saving plan that is sure to be even better than the last two.  Part of that plan is an extension and expansion of the current payroll tax cuts which will divert around $240B from the Social Security Trust fund into his $450B proposal.

An obvious question is whether or not the Social Security Trust Fund is an appropriate source of funding.  The short answer is no…hell no, but these are tax cuts not actual borrowing, right?  That’s the first failure in this predictably vague proposal.  The cuts are speculative in that nobody has seen an actual bill. They are gleened purely from the weakly worded but wonderfully delivered speech.  Still, let’s assume they are as predicted.

Social Security is running about $50B in the hole and is projected to level off around $20B in the red in 2012 before it goes on a terminal dive in 2015 that ends in 2036 according to the Social Security Administration Board of Trustee Report of May 2011.  The report includes projections that take into account the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and also cites concerns with the viability and projections of ObamaCare (see the second to last paragraph of the summary).  So, even WITH the added magic of the $1T ObamaCare package, the SSA Trustees have downgraded the insolvency of Social Security from 2037 to 2036 and Medicare is in even worse shape.  Funny how this does not make headlines.

Let’s do some simple math and see if President Obama has finaly taken the walk into La-La land.  Social Security is going to average around $30B in red spending until 2015 before diving even further into an ever increasing annual deficit.  If we add $240B to that right off the bat we get…oh yeah, MUCH WORSE!  I can’t wait to see the Trustee’s report in 2012.  It should go something like, “Why do we even bother?”

Before any of you go into a tizzy about how Social Security has a $2.6T surplus I am already aware of it as detailed by a Huffington Post letter provided by former Democrat  Senator Don Riegle who, incidentally, was formally reprimanded during his last term for “substantially and improperly interfering” with an investigation against a financial institution that cost the government over $3B when it collapsed.  Not exactly a fiscal genius.

That the $2.6T surplus has been borrowed by the government to offset its $13T deficit is a universally accepted fact.  What Mr. Riegle proposes, though, is that the loan is in such good faith that when Social Security needs to collect on it there will simply be a check written from the government…for itself…plus interest.  In fact the Board of Trustees believe the same thing in their report.  The burning question is:  If indebtedness to Social Security (once hailed as self sustaining thus unrelated to deficit spending) is now calculated as part of the national debt, then how can that money actually be paid back…PLUS INTEREST while we are in a deficit???  That’s like seriously saying you can be broke one month, but loan yourself money for your mortgage payment after borrowing money from other people for the rest of your bills, then pay yourself back in twenty years during which your budget is expected to get worse…PLUS COLLECT INTEREST!!!

What is not so universally accepted in the letter (but is gobbled up by SSA proponents galore) highlights typical agenda driven selective reasoning.  Mr. Riegle properly cites a 2010 SSA Board of Trustee report that details a surplus in funds forever and ever.  However, Mr. Riegle provides a graph that I have not found in the report.  Furthermore, the graph appears to be compiled from data in a table on page 194 of the report.  More specifically, the data is from the column representing “Low-Cost” projections which most certainly shows increasing surplus that seem to carry on without end.  Here’s the catch:  On page 7 of the report there are 3 “alternatives” for predicting the performance of the Social Security Trust Fund:  Intermediate, Low-cost, and High-Cost.  Intermediate is based on current information and trends (and is the one that predicts insolvency by 2036) while Low-Cost and High-Cost assume best case and worse case scenarios.  The table shows all three outcomes.  Mr. Riegle conveniently uses the Low-Cost, or “Best Case”, scenario to support his claim that Social Security is simply not in trouble and does not disclose that bit of information.  It is the only prediction that shows a sustainable surplus.

BTW, here’s a CBO report that shows transfers from the General Fund into Social Security through 2020.  They are called Intergovernmental Transfers to Trust Funds.  Even by 2020 they do not even closely match what is being loaned.  Also, Medicare has been and is projected to continue running increasingly in the red, which offsets the annual increases of the Transfers that might actually make a difference if we were just talking about Social Security.  This shows that Medicare is an inseparable problem with Social Security that is like an anchor that weighs more than the ship.  If I read the SSA Trustee report correctly ObamaCare is expected to create only a 25% improvement in Medicare fund performance (through decreased payment schedules for medical care) over a finite period of time.  Again, the projected decline in Medicare includes whatever benefits are assumed from ObamaCare.

I don’t think anyone with any economic sense believes best case scenarios are ever the ones to base economic policy on.  That is, of course, unless you campaign on “Hope”.  Welcome to La-La land.


A Musing On Killing

August 12, 2011

     Several months ago, I heard an interesting take on being a Soldier that is probably well known, but I hadn’t heard it before. Maybe I never bothered to pay attention until now. Basically, it’s the observation that what sets a Soldier apart from the average person is not that he is willing to die for is country. Anyone can do that. What makes a Soldier unique is that he is willing to kill for his country. Take a moment to ponder that. I’ve been doing it ever since I heard it and figure only now I could intelligently write on it.

     On the surface, this makes us look like glorified monsters. Somehow, we are stable enough to mingle with society, but we are messed up in the head enough that, given a simple set of circumstances, we would violently end another person’s life. There are layers of philosophical meadows to wander in with this discussion. What of the concept of patriotism, of defense of one’s family, or of the protection of a society’s ideals? All of that is interesting, but apparent clutter in the grand scheme of things. The cycle of life does not concern itself with politics, or bloodlines, or such subjective notions as religion. Life simply is or it isn’t and the general default human position is that it should be protected at all costs.

Consider the following marching cadence taught to us in Basic Training:

 

One and one

We’re havin’ some fun

Killin’ commies, commies

All day, all day

And all through the night

Hey, Hey!

 

Two and two

I’ll do it for you

(last 4 lines repeat with every verse)

 

Three and three

I’ll do it for free

 

Four and four

I’ll do it some more

 

Five and five

They won’t stay alive

 

Six and Six

I do it for kicks

 

Seven and seven

They won’t go to heaven

 

Eight and eight

Now don’t it feel great

 

Nine and nine

With gun or landmine

 

Ten and ten

Let’s do it again

(These days we say “terrorists” instead of “commies”)

 

     Freaky, right? By the day-to-day standards of society we are celebrating murder! How could we be so sociopathic?

     Having asked the question, there doesn’t seem to be a good direct response. “It’s not sociopathic” is simply not adequate. Life has two extremes with practically no transition (“brain-dead” might be the only example). As Soldiers, we are trained and paid to instantly arrange the extreme that is diametrically opposed to our regard for life.

Allow me to diverge for a moment…

     I spoke with a captain in the Air Force at the DFAC today. He was an A-10 pilot and our conversation started with how boring we thought the game of cricket that was being broadcast seemed to be. We talked about what each other did and I mentioned that I was in the unit that had lost two members in the chinook RPG assault. He expressed his condolences and I remarked that at least the attackers were found and killed. We both celebrated that fact. We talked for a few more minutes as we walked out of the DFAC. The rise in violence during Ramadan became the topic of discussion. As we parted he mentioned that he had killed two insurgents the day before.

     That last remark caused me a moment of pause (though I instantly said, “All right!”). Casually, though with obvious pride, this guy just stated to me that he recently and deliberately killed two people- perhaps less than 24 hours before I met him. An A-10 pilot probably does not leave much intact of his targets.

Back to the question at hand about being sociopathic.

     Clearly, we are cognisant that our existence is philosophically much more than just life and death. If that were not the case than we would be no better off than an amoeba. Though life itself is indifferent to human endeavors, the vast majority of us believe there is much more that we have relatively little comprehension of, but a strong sense for. Such things as peace, justice, balance, and the very notion of God challenge the strictly on or off nature of life. These aspects of our consciousness are not just random, irrational clutter. They are the very color of and, we hope at least, clues to the meaning of our existence.

     So passionate are we about these notions that we consider them our very identity. Both as individuals and as communities we see ourselves as much more than just another piece in the mechanism of life. We are part of the consciousness that moves it. As such, we perceive a responsibility to protect what we have determined to be the aspects that best contribute to that movement through the symbiosis of peace, justice, balance, and God.

     Though we as individuals have our own understanding of these aspects, we find commonalities as societies and identify ourselves through friendships, laws, and spirituality. Anything that threatens the aspects we have established to represent our society threatens the society as a whole. Often such threats are only perceived through ignorance, but there are those times when society determines the threat to be direct and real and mobilizes its defenses to protect itself. Thus, we find ourselves looking at life not just as an individual endowment, but also as a collective phenomenon. At this point we find that society determines the value of eliminating the threat to be in some way proportional to the life it threatens with relatively little regard to individual loss.

     Soldiers do not determine that value, save for the occasional coup (a very dangerous situation as this essay inadvertently highlights). As a volunteer Army, we are among those who have embraced the aspects of our society to such an extent that we present ourselves as defenders of it. We have accepted the value of the collective and pledge to preserve it in the manner consistent with the wishes of our society. If society determines that war and the death we must inflict in it is the best course of action, then we accept that it is correct and worthy of setting aside our initial notions of life for a larger purpose. We pledge not to question it and to commit to action.

     For this, we as Soldiers accept that our cause is good and our actions are just. I realized after a few moments of pondering that the reason I paused on the pilot’s comment was because I did not know the circumstances around which two people died by his hand. Such is the way our society is wired through its values. We default to our basic notion of life and the value we place on it. After a while, I concluded that I had no place to even falter on the justness of his killing. That had already been done when society sent him to war.

     So, if we are to question the mental stability of a Soldier who is willing to kill we would more effectively spend our time questioning the stability of the society that sent him on his task. It all boils down to faith. Faith in our values, faith in the strength of our society, and faith in the fidelity of our Soldiers’ commitment to our society and everything it represents. Such faith does not and should not come lightly. So long as Soldiers commit to fight honorably for what is believed to be the greater good that they are sent to defend, then they certainly do set themselves apart for they are the warrior ambassadors to something valued more than themselves.


The Return of Our Fallen Soldiers: Another Obama Photo Op?

August 11, 2011

Media coverage of the arrival of our fallen Soldiers was banned to respect the wishes of bereaving families. President Obama chose to not only take official photographs despite other U.S. dignitaries excluding their staff photographers, but also distributed a photo of him saluting the caskets to the media. I don’t think I am politicizing by pointing out the disrespect and narcissism of this decision.

Just so I am clear, I would have understood had this picture been used strictly for White House releases. But to take the deliberate step to distribute to the media is beneath a Commander in Chief. He owes an apology to the families of the fallen.


Rest In Peace Soldiers of B Co, 2-135th GSAB

August 8, 2011

Since the media can’t shake it’s fixation on the Special Operations Soldiers we tragically lost on the Chinook that was shot down on 06 Aug 2011, I am reposting something from “medicbear” at another forum. There were 5 Army National Guard crewmembers (two pilots and 3 door gunners) who bravely flew that bird into a hot LZ in order to insert the Spec Ops Soldiers for assistance to the Rangers who were pinned down. Medicbear says it well:

“The real flight crew. RIP CW4 David Carter and SGT Patrick Hamburger 2-135 Aviation Regiment CO and NE Guard. CW2 Bryan Nichols, SPC Alexander Bennett, and SPC Spencer Duncan 7-158 Aviation Regiment, USAR from Kansas. Assigned to my BDE.”

May they rest in peace.


Pay Attention and Stop Sitting On Your Ass!!!

May 29, 2011

 

If every year you adjust your home budget higher so that you can borrow more merely to cover the payments of your loans and you keep opening lines of credit to buy more things would you consider your household finances in good order?  Would you be even remotely responsible?  Would you be a good parent for forcing your children and grand children to pay for your debts on a vast list of unnecessary bills?  This is what we are letting our government do in trillions of dollars.  Why the hell are people so…gullible (trying to not be inflamatory) that they actually believe our economy is improving in any meaningful way?  I’m going to war to protect this country yet all the while politicians are destroying it with their stupidity through the inattention and “gimme what I want” attitude of the American people. 

You may not be inclined to serve your country in the same capacity, but YOU CAN SERVE YOUR COUNTRY.  Don’t just listen/read the news.  Pay attention to the message and the underlying problem.  THINK and ask your own questions.  Then, find the answers- stop waiting for “experts” to spoon feed you the answers because most have their own agenda.  DO NOT seek an agenda while you look for your answers.  Seek the TRUTH, then communicate your results and listen to those willing to communicate back intelligently.

Communication is the very drive of freedom.  Don’t confuse communication with talking.  Talking is what the prettified, corporate paid heads do on broadcasts.  If we do not communicate, we will lose the spirit of freedom and subject ourselves to the whims of those who understand this power, but wield it for their own purposes.  Slaves are not allowed to speak their mind, but too many Americans actually CHOOSE to not speak.  Does this make them lower than slaves? 

***It most certainly will***

Here is a link to the Debt Clock: http://www.usdebtclock.org/ .  It’s a good place to start.  Our GDP is $14.7 trillion.  We have a national debt that is almost past it.  This means we will soon produce less than we borrow.  This is insanity no matter how you try to justify government entitlement programs and runaway spending whether it’s on nationalized healthcare or even bloated military programs.  Look at every number and it’s title.  Among the scariest are the Unfunded Liabilities as compared to our National Assets.  If we sold everything the US owns we would still be on the hook for $40 trillion worth of promises by our esteemed politicians.  UNACCEPTABLE!!!

If you care at all about this country then there are three simple steps you must take:  THINK, COMMUNICATE, VOTE!  Part of this is to not be afraid to talk about difficult subjects and to accept that you might well be personally affected by the reforms necessary to put this country on the right track.  STOP WHINING ABOUT IT because it’s not your money you’re saving- its your children and grand children’s money and they are looking up to us with desperate eyes to make the right choices because they don’t have a voice to scream their desperation!

 


Islam and the West: Oil and Water II

April 4, 2011

My blood is boiling.  Thank God I had some time to mull over what I had read earlier in the day because I would likely have been quite vulgar in this post.  Let me start with the only vulgarity I intend to include:

FUCK YOU, KARZAI!

With that said, here is the article that prompted my anger.  Just who does President Karzai think he is to dare suggest he has any authority to impose ANY demands regarding whatever twisted sense of justice he’s got going on in his pathetic skull regarding the behavior of American citizens on American soil?!?!

(please refer back to stated vulgarity)!!!

Who does Karzai think he is to INITIATE the release of the information that the Quran was burned by our arguably nuts pastor and then start pointing fingers at OUR CITIZEN for the mindless killings that ensued 10,000 miles away???  Either he is too stupid to know he himself incited the violence in his country or he is playing extremely dangerous political/religious games while our Soldiers risk life and limb on a daily basis to help his countrymen.  I’m going to take this a leap further, Karzai knew damn well that releasing the news of the Quran burning would lead to violent unrest.  He could have kept quiet until someone else released the info and THEN condemn it.  Hell, he could have discretely passed the information on to his own press and THEN condemn it after it was broadcast.  Oh no, Karzai takes a mighty swing at us and PERSONALLY releases the information right before an anticipated cycle of insurgent uprising!  What more could he have done short of declaring a Holy War?

(please refer back to stated vulgarity)!!!

Does Karzai condemn the killings in his country?  No, no, no…how silly would that be?  He “expresses regret” over them.  -NOT EVEN AN APOLOGY to the several nations represented in those murders!

(please refer back to stated vulgarity)!!!

So…(breathe)…about that whole Oil and Water thing.  If Islam is such a peaceful religion why on Earth has the president of an Islamic nation not condemned the killings in his own country?  Sort of flies in the face of President Obama’s assertion that no religion tolerates “the slaughter and beheading of innocent people” regarding this very situation doesn’t it?  Either that, or our President has finally admitted in the best way he can that Islam is not a peaceful religion…hmmmm.  I don’t think so. 

What sort of punishment is Karzai suggesting for our citizen exercising his right to freedom of speech, anyway?  Sharia Law would certainly be a logical start- get out your very own copy of the Quran to see what the punishment for blasphemy is or just look here.  The religion of peace suggests such things as cutting off opposite hands and feet or crucifixion among other varieties of punishment depending on the peace-du-jour.  I guess when our military was ordered to burn Bibles in Afghanistan we were just practicing for the day we got to burn the Quran according to Karzai.

I am ever closer to believing in my heart that Islam is a truly violent religion.  BUT, wether it’s the whole religion or the increasingly remote chance all the violence around the world associated with Islam is somehow perpetuated by a few craaaazy radicals:

Know thine enemy.

Watch thine enemy.


Islam and the West: Oil and Water

April 3, 2011

 

Here we are, yet again, dealing with what I can only call stupidity and the continued, horrific violence  that is largely associated with Islam.  Yet, while we struggle to deal with the extreme unruliness of the Middle East notion of spirituality in Islam we are constantly told as Westerners that we must simply exercise more “tolerance” for Islam.

Really? 

Tell that to the 7 dead (two were beheaded) U.N. workers in Afghanistan because some idiot in a tiny church in Florida claimed to have burned a copy of the Quran in his church on March 20, which is what prompted the storming of the U.N. compound and chants of “Death to America”.

So, for the single instance of the burning of the “holiest of books”- an act overwhelmingly condemned by the U.S.- and the most distant of associations 7 people were killed in the name of Allah and Muslims are being rallied to wage Jihad on the entire U.S.  I don’t know about you, but I refuse to tolerate violent stupidity- especially when it directly threatens the lives of my family and my country.