Category Archives: IRS

budget-cuts

Common Cents: Prioritizing Cost Cuts

Until 6 years ago, Grandma P and I lived in a small Midwestern town with a population of approximately 10,000 people.  (If you followed the Midwest winter weather, you know why we moved South!)  Like every level of government, our small city was having a difficult time balancing their budget.

This city, like many small cities, televised their city council meetings.  Televising these meetings had both a positive and negative outcome.

The positive outcome was that it allowed everyone in the city to view exactly what the mayor and the five city council members were accomplishing for the benefit of the city.

The negative outcome was that it allowed everyone in the city to view exactly what the mayor and the five city council members were failing to accomplish to the detriment of the city.

Oh yeah.  Televising the city council meetings presented quite a double-edged sword.

The council and mayor were supported by the city staff.  They had a city administrator.  He was the full-time person responsible for everything going on in the city, including the budget.  This particular city administrator had his ‘pet’ projects.  The best way to address this particular city administrator’s fiscal philosophy is to say that ‘he had champagne taste on a beer budget.’  Spending the city taxpayers’ money, or more importantly, overspending the taxpayers money did not appear to present any roadblocks.

Which  services do you think are the most important provided by a city?  Police?  Garbage removal? Parks and recreation?  Fire protection?  City-owned telephone company?  This particular city did not have its own police department.  They contracted with the County Sheriff for police protection, as it was economical.

Now back to the show!  The mayor poses the request to the administrator, ” Next meeting, we would like a list of possible areas where we could reduce spending.”  Simple enough request.  The next meeting arrives.  The meeting agenda gets to the item about budget cuts.  The mayor looks at the city administrator and asks for his findings about reducing spending.  It becomes obvious that the city administrator did not prepare, as requested in the previous meeting, nor does he want budget cuts.  He wants tax increases!   His off-the-cuff and unfortunately serious response?  “We could eliminate the fire department.”  WHAT???   Are you freakin’ kidding me?  The only service that the community could not live without, and this idiot suggests we eliminate our volunteer fire department.  The entire fire department consisted of three full-time people and some volunteers.  The next available fire engine was at least 20-30 minutes away!

I did not have a personality issue with the city administrator, but I did question his fiscal policies.  I was confident that he met his Waterloo!  He was toast!  Make that burnt toast!  The people of our fair city would rise up and demand his head be displayed atop a fire ladder for such a stupid suggestion!

This was ten years ago.  The end result?  He is still the city administrator, and the same mayor is still in power.  This is after a failed, costly attempt at creating a city-owned telephone company, which makes it all that more unbelievable that either one is still in place. (David versus AT&T!)

Enough of the paltry local issues!  On to Washington, D.C, where the big dogs reside!

Are you concerned about the proposed down-sizing of the Army?

If you have not been following what is happening, the current proposal is to reduce the Army to its pre-WWII size.   That would mean that our current Army strength of 520,000 would be cut to 440,000- 450,000 soldiers.  If the sequestration cuts are not rescinded by Congress, this number could be reduced to 420,000.  This would all take place within the next four years.

In effect, the Army would lose six brigade combat teams by 2019, leaving only 28 brigade combat teams.   To put this into perspective, there would be less people in the entire Army, than we had in Iraq during the first Iraqi war.

Additionally, the National Guard would be trimmed by 20,000 and the Army Reserve by 10,000.  This would result in 335,000 in the National Guard and a mere 195,000 in the Army Reserve.

Here is the clincher.  The Pentagon realizes that this would not be enough soldiers to fight even one major ground war.  Really?  Then why do it.  Have we learned nothing from our past history?  Are you not watching what is happening in the Ukraine?  Do you think that North Korea has changed its national anthem to ‘kumbaya?’  We appear  willing to commit our military into every ‘who gives a   Crap-i-stan’ in the world.  And the scariest of all: have you not observed the increase in the Chinese military?  (The Chinese navy is now larger than our Navy.  It may not be as modern, but they are rapidly closing that gap.)

This concerns me on so many levels that I am sure I could write a book about it.  Let me preface this by saying I am a retired officer from the Army and Army National Guard.  Like most military men and women, I felt my branch was the best branch.  Even though we have inter-service rivalries, I reached a staff level which allowed me to appreciate that every branch is necessary for a good, combined, winning team.  Each branch has their strengths.

I was a Cold War soldier.  Most of the war plans were for the defense of Western Europe from the invading Communist hoard.  The Cold War got pretty hot!  But I am intelligent enough to know that things drastically changed after September 11, 2001.  The face of the enemy has changed.  The battlefield has changed.  It does not mean that all our enemies have evaporated and disappeared.

How does this segue into my story about my former hometown?  Like the city administrator wanting to eliminate the fire department, our federal government is willing to reduce our Army to the brink of ineffectiveness.  I consider the fire department vital to the city and I wholeheartedly recognize the Army being vital to our national defense.  After all, our federal government was formed for two reasons, national defense and foreign trade.  It was not formed for the Departments of Education or Energy.  All those other expensive departments were later add-ons.

Here is the breakdown of the monies received by the three principle branches of the military.  Care to make a guess which branch gets the most?  Well, at number three on the list is the Army. They receive about $130 billion.  Next, at number two would be the Army Air Corps, today known as the Air Force. (I could not resist this jab at my zoomie friends!)  They receive $144 billion.  The number one service branch is the Navy with a budget of $156 billion.

I am a firm believer that there are many other advantages in maintaining a strong defense other than the obvious role of protecting our country.

The military has provided a springboard for aliens that have wanted to become American citizens.  I know some of these people.  They served in the military and obtained their citizenship.  They are some of the most dedicated, patriotic, productive American citizens that I know.  (Of course, this was some time ago.  Today we let illegal aliens invade our country, vote, and take advantage of our generosity, ie. welfare, Medicaid, scholarships, etc., without contributing anything to our country.)

Not all young people have the maturity to decide what they want from life immediately after they graduate from high school.  Many young people have matured, learned, and accepted responsibility while serving in the military.  I had plenty of young soldiers serve with me who absolutely loved the regimentation they had in the military.  They knew when they would eat, do P.T, sit in class, or perform their duties.  They loved it because it was contrary to the ‘hippy commune’ unregimented lifestyle that they had at home.  Strange, but true.

Many young people learn a marketable skill while in the military.  Once they are out, they can find gainful employment.  In the same vein, some choose to go to college or vocational schools with the assistance of any GI benefits that they may have earned.  They, too, become productive, contributing Americans.

I have often thought that ‘mandatory military’ would not be such a bad thing in our country.  Many countries have it.  Switzerland and Israel are the two prime examples.  Need proof?  Ask any military veteran if they were better off or worse off after being in the military.  I will guarantee you that 99% will say that they benefitted from their military experience.  They may not want to repeat the military, but most will admit that it made them a better person.

(It is difficult not to respect and salute our flag after having served under it.  Even though I enjoy the show Duck Dynasty, I get upset when I see Willy Robertson using a flag for a sweat band.!)

So how do we fund the Army specifically or our military in general so we can put a halt to the downsizing?

Well, the Department of Agriculture has a budget of $146 billion!  That’s larger than the Army budget!  Of course, $80 billion goes to the bloated food stamp program and much of the balance goes to farm subsidies.

We could eliminate the Department of Energy and save $33 billion.  The bulk of that budget is for alternate energy resources development. I view that as being the responsibility of private industry.  If there is money to be made, they will do it.

The Department of Education swallows $57 billion.

But most people do not realize that the budget for the Treasury Department is $500 billion!  That is more than the three principle service branches combined!  You are familiar with the Treasury Department.  They are responsible for paying the interest on our national debt.  This year, that interest on our debt amounts to $195 billion!   They are also the kind folks that fund the IRS Army!  The IRS Army cost the United States about the same amount as the US Army!  Holy Crap!

While the US Army was fighting terrorists on foreign soil, the IRS Army was fighting the Tea Party on American soil.  What is wrong with that picture?

The lesson to be learned?  The next time we have a conflict on foreign soil, send the IRS Army!  They may be bigger than the US Army after the proposed troop reductions.

We need to get our priorities in order and our spending in check!

Political-Planks

The ‘Grass Roots’ Political Process – Don’t Walk on the Grass!

Can you name the Governor of your state?

Do you know the name of even one of your US Senators?

Your US Representative?

Who is the United States Secretary of State?

Can you name the Vice President of the United States?

For extra credit, can you name the second US Senator representing your state?

Admittedly, most of the people that will ever read this blog will know the answers to the posed questions.  But let us take this one step further.

How many people that vote can answer the posed questions?  I very much doubt that half of our voting public could answer these questions.  My estimation would be that approximately one-third of our citizens could answer these questions correctly.  This is strictly my personal estimation.  But yet these same uninformed people are electing our representatives at every level of government.  Never mind that I did not pose any questions about the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.  What percentage of people in the United States would have read either document?  I am concerned that some of our federally elected representatives may not have read either document, and yet they are sworn to protect and uphold them.

We could attempt to require all voters to take a simple exam such as mine before they are given the right to cast a ballot.  Call it a poll tax for idiocy.

Or, we could implore people to become more informed before casting their ballots.

Let me tell you what Grandma P and I did in 2004.  2004 was a presidential election year, with George ‘Dubya’ Bush running for reelection against John Kerry.

We decided to get involved with politics at the ‘grass roots’ level, so we attended our precinct caucus.  This is the lowest level of political participation at the smallest form of government.  Our precinct had approximately 2,000 voters.  About 30 attended the caucus for the Republican Party.  The Democratic caucuses were being conducted on the same nights.

Our precinct caucus had an auspicious beginning, as the moderator conducting the meeting wore a huge belt buckle with Darth Vader on it.  It was weird, but he was competent.  At this caucus, we were presented with a list of items that were proposed for inclusion on the ‘party plank.’  This is not a piece of building material, but a list of goals and beliefs that are to be the foundation of your political party.  We read this list, which, if I remember correctly, was about 50 items long.  We were then asked if we wanted to make any amendments, changes or additions to the ‘party plank.’  This promoted some excellent discussion. After about two hours, Darth adjourned the meeting and we were allowed to return to the Death Star, alias our home.  We were informed that the next level of caucus was the county caucus which was to be held about two weeks later.  We were encouraged to attend.

Two weeks later, we attended the two-day county caucus held in a school auditorium in our county seat.  It was a rainy weekend, and there was nothing better to do.  This is where politics got interesting.  All of the local precinct caucuses had now submitted their ‘party plank’ items.  These items were massaged to form a new party plank of one hundred items.  We each got a copy of that party plank.  Grandma P and I looked over and cogitated on all of these items and decided we agreed with 96 of the 100 items.  (Later, we saw the Democratic party plank and agreed with four of the 100 items.)  We heard some excellent speeches by local and state politicians.  The most important event was the election of delegates to the state political convention.  Grandma P was her personable self and got elected as one of the 53 delegates.  I was my usual crotchety self and got selected as an alternate delegate.  The state Republican Convention was to take place in about four weeks.

We attended the two day State Republican Convention in our State Capitol.  Because we lived in a Midwestern state and the weather had just gotten somewhat ‘summery’, only about 40 of the 53 appointed delegates attended.  As I was one of the approximately 10 alternates, we all became ‘voting’ delegates.  Sadly, between delegates and alternates, we did not fill our 53 person allotment of delegates.  Nice weather after a long winter proved to be more captivating than speeches conducted indoor.

This convention was held in mid-June.  Ronald Reagan had just died on June 5.  I am pleased to report that a ten minute montage of Reagan giving speeches was shown as a tribute to that fine president.  The ‘Millennials, Gen X and Gen Y’ers’ will never know firsthand the unbelievable speech- making capability of Ronald W. Reagan.  It was awe-inspiring, especially compared to the speech- making capabilities of our current POTUS.  He was truly amazing.  He was the President responsible for the US winning the longest and, financially, costliest war in US history, the Cold War.  I digress.

Lo and behold, we now were presented with the latest version of the ‘Republican Party Plank’ after all the county planks were massaged.  Except for a little terminology and some massaging, this state plank for our political party looked almost identical to the county plank.  We heard speeches by our state officials, including our Governor.  It was all very exciting, but most importantly, it was very, very informative.  We got to observe the ‘grass roots’ political process from the local precinct to the state party convention.

As a note, there were caucuses at the regional level which corresponded to the legislative districts.  We did not attend, as we were already delegates to the state convention.   There were delegates selected at the state convention to attend the Republican Party National Convention.  These delegates are the same people you see on TV wearing stupid plastic hats (that are supposed to look like straw hats) and waving all kinds of banners.  That year, they all had the distinction of attending the national convention in New York City, at an out-of-pocket expense of about $7500 per person for four days.  For that kind of money, they could have rented a cruise ship and sailed for two weeks, enjoying the endless bacon offered on the breakfast buffet.  We would have never opted to go to that convention, but we did see our first case of ‘railroading’ at any of our political caucuses.  The slate for the attendees to the national convention was lead by the Governor of our state and was predetermined before we set foot in the convention center.  We basically had the choice to vote for the popular Governor of our state and his hand-selected cronies or for no one else.  We opted for the unanimous vote.  Did I mention that the weather was very nice that day?

The purpose of relating all of this?

This is a very important mid-term election year.  The party plank is the basis for the issues and beliefs of the party.  We need to begin electing officials at all levels of government because of their capabilities, and their ability to deal or legislate the issues found in the party plank.

We need to quit electing officials because of appearance (Clinton vs. Dole, Obama vs. McCain), race (Both Obama elections), gender (Hillary vs. ?), or any other reason that is not based upon qualification.

We need to inform people of exactly what it is that the two major parties are representing.  I would challenge any media source to publish each party plank side-by-side.   I would challenge them for two reasons: Firstly, it would probably scare the hell out of most voters that work for a living.  Secondly, it would indicate how far from the party plank this socialistic administration has strayed in attempting to totally socialize this country.

As this is the caucus season, I can emphatically endorse the need for each person to attend their local precinct caucuses and their county caucuses.  Make your wishes and concerns known to your elected officials.

But here is the real clincher.  It has been determined that about 40% of this country is Liberal and 40% is Conservative.  It is the 20% in the middle that the party pollsters are attempting to persuade.  It is this 20% that determines who wins our elections!

So here is my Grandpa T common sense advice to all you ‘independents.’  Your Independent candidate is not going to win!  History indicates a vote for the Independent candidate ia usually a wasted vote.  There is no room for grey in politics, choose the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate.  It’s black or white, and no, I am not talking about race.   If you want to remain Independent, Libertarian, Tea Party or whatever— please take the time to read the planks of each major political party!  Do this before you vote.  You may not get 100% of what you want, but 90% is better than nothing.  Every vote counts, but not every voter can count.  Add up the candidates’ goals and beliefs.  Vote for the candidate that most closely matches your own vision for the future.  Don’t waste your precious vote on a dreamer that will not make it to the finish line.

Obamacare or no Obamacare?

Downsize the Military?

Terrorism?

Budget Deficit?

Taxes?

Federal involvement with education?

National Debt?

Legalized abortion?

IRS targeting scandal?

These issues should concern you! Take the time to acquaint yourself with each political party’s position before you vote.  It is your right, responsibility and privilege as a citizen of the United States.

phil-robertson

Who Gives a Duck?

Can you believe the media sensation surrounding one redneck from Louisiana?  (I am not talking about Drew Brees or the Bayou Mauler!)

Of course, I am talking about Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame..  Phil, much like Paula Deen before him, is being castigated in the media because of his interview with GQ magazine.   The interviewer asked very pointed questions of Phil.  These questions centered on his Christian faith and his family values.  In the event that you have been living under a rock these last few days, I will tell you that Phil said that homosexuals, as well as those engaging in other behaviors frowned upon in the Bible, are not going to inherit the Kingdom of God.  Phil was trying to be nice in saying that people practicing these behaviors were ‘going to hell.’

Can you believe it?  People practicing these behaviors took exception to his comments!

Because GQ is also media, the magazine just could not resist creating interest in their upcoming January issue, all in the hope of selling more magazines.  They did this by releasing the contents of the interview with Phil.  Thus the media storm.

I have never watched a Paula Deen program.  I have watched most of the Duck Dynasty programs. Why?  Both Grandma P and I like to be entertained without the excessive use of foul language, blatant sex, violence or gore.  Such offensive programs were not prevalent in our formative years, but they monopolize the programming today.  Along came Duck Dynasty.  A program not afraid to illustrate people who openly and proudly practice their Christian faith.  A family that is not ashamed of demonstrating their family values.  A zany cast of characters, some with beards and camouflage clothing, that appears to be having a really good time.  It provides good entertainment.  The family dynamics are amusing.

Phil Robertson is the patriarch of the family.  He is devoutly Christian.  He is honest.  He is rich.  He is a target.  He is a target because he speaks what is on his mind and when he does, he can get himself into trouble.  The ‘politically correct’ disagree with his life philosophies.  More on that later.

Because of their reality show on A & E, we know quite a bit about Phil and the entire Robertson family.  He frankly admits that he was both an alcoholic and a womanizer until he found faith.  Not too many people would fess up to that, but Phil does.  As a child of the 60s, he has stated that early life was ‘sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.’  That is totally understandable to me as I am a child of the 60s.  The temptations were there.  Life choices are a bit blurry when you are subjected to so many temptations as a teenager.

But enough about Phil.  After all, he is what he is.  He is the patriarch of a family that has the most popular show on cable television.

What I find most interesting, is  A & E’s initial response to Phil’s interview:

‘We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty.  His personal view in no way reflects those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community.  The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.’

Champions of the LGBT community?  That indicates to me that A & E are supporters of that lifestyle, and embrace it as being more important than any other lifestyle.  When you champion a cause, is that not what is meant?  I could be in trouble!  On all these forms that I have filled out over the years asking sexual preference, I have always  answered ‘flaming heterosexual.’   Admittedly, the writer of the A & E response is gay.

A & E, do you really believe his personal beliefs are not reflected in the Duck Dynasty program?  Do you ever watch what you televise?  His beliefs are everywhere in that program!  Look at his sons.  Are they not a reflection of his beliefs?  Alan is a minister.  Look at Phil’s daughters- in-laws and grandkids.  Phil’s imprint is everywhere!  Have you not seen them closing each show with a prayer at a family dinner?  It is usually at Phil’s house.

I am not an advocate of gun control, but maybe we need to revisit that issue when it comes to stupidity.  A & E has the most popular cable television program ever, and then someone decides to shoot themselves and the network in the foot with that stupid response.  Thus the gun control for stupidity.  I am sure Phil would lend a shotgun to the A & E writer of the response.  He would likely throw in the ammo.  What makes this all the more amazing is that A & E receives royalties for all things Duck Dynasty!  Bring extra ammo, Phil!  (Duck Commander and Buck Commander are strictly the Robertson family.)

What are some smart responses?

Under Armour,  the maker of all that fine Duck Dynasty camouflage clothing and hunting gear responded: “We are obviously aware of the situation, and his comments are not indicative of Under Armour’s views.  We have no plans to change our current relationship.”  Short and sweet.

The Walmart comment was that it would have ‘no comment.’  I find that interesting as they were one of the first companies to dump Paula Deen during her media crisis.  All in the name of political correctness. (It is also interesting to know that you can still buy Paula Deen items on the Walmart website.)  Maybe capitalism is winning over ‘political correctness.’

Duck Dynasty is another animal.  (Pardon the pun.)  The latest Wall Street estimates are that Duck Dynasty has created over $400 million in merchandise and clothing sales.  Walmart is estimated to be responsible for half of that total.  By far, the most popular line of clothing sold in Walmart is anything that has to do with our favorite bearded, camouflaged family.  That is for both men’s and women’s clothing!  That’s not chicken feed!

Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, said it best, “The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with.”

I could not agree more.  As I have mentioned in numerous posts, I am tolerant until someone engraves their cause on a Louisville Slugger, and hits me between the eyes.  I had to look up what LGBT meant.  I am more than tired of the media attention given to states that are allowing same-sex marriages.  In Minneapolis, the mayor married 50 same-sex couples in city hall the day the law went into effect.  Am I becoming homophobic, or are these people attempting to impose their lifestyle on our society?  In referring to the A & E response about being ‘champions of the LGBT community,’ I think the Louisville Slugger has been swung.  And we now know in which direction they swing.

Why is Phil the target of so much venom by the ‘politically correct?’  Short answer: He is a Christian and he believes in the Bible.  In essence, he swung his bat, and the ‘politically correct’ don’t like it.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of Phil Robertson’s beliefs, but I do support his right to state his beliefs.  After all, we are subjected every week to brainless comments made by athletes, entertainers, and politicians.  If they can get the podium, Phil should get it, too. (Charlie Sheen, the epitome of virtuous lifestyle, has jumped on the Phil bashing bandwagon.  Need I say more?)

Here are the repercussions of Phil’s interview.  Firstly, prominent people have risen to his defense.  Too many to mention.  Secondly, the Duck Dynasty merchandise is flying off the shelves in support of Phil.  Many of the Walmart stores have run out of the DD merchandise.  Thirdly, the silent majority has become very verbal in their defense of Phil.

Sorry, A & E, I do not see Duck Dynasty continuing without Phil.  They have enough money.  You need them more than they need you.  Good luck in negotiating further contracts with the Robertson family.  How many major networks do you think have contacted the Robertsons?

Aha!  I finished this article, and while the Bayou Mauler was editing it, lo and behold, the A & E network released a statement:

“After discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A & E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family”

Well isn’t that just ducky?

The network has put aside their moral dilemma to keep their ducks afloat.  They’ve been offended, but not so offended they would completely abandon the Number 1 series on cable TV.  To completely ruin their alliance with the merchandising phenomenon would be a bad call – a bad duck call, that is.

Epilog

December 28 is the one year anniversary of Common Sense by Grandpa T.  We have received over 43,000 hits on the blog site, about 40,000 more than I thought we would get.  I have enjoyed writing it and hope you have enjoyed reading it.  My thanks to Grandma P, Houston Nefoo, and my hotshot proof reader, Bayou Mauler, a proud Christian and Louisiana gal.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Grandpa T

Lip-Stick-On-Pig-Obama

Cruising, Bacon, and Obamacare.

Grandma P and I have just returned from a 28 day Pacific cruise.  It was wonderful.  We visited four of the Hawaiin Islands, three islands in French Polynesia,  American Samoa and Western Samoa.  I am firm in my belief that ‘being retired is tiring!’  Thus the cruise.

As a result of this adventure, I am going to discuss dining on a Princess Cruise ship as well as the limited access to both news and live sporting events on such cruises.  (Before you tune out this blog, those who know me personally, please know this is not going to be a mere travel log.  Rest assured,  I will weave my political wit throughout the piece!)

Let us start with a question that has political/social ramifications that are earthshaking.  How many days can one man eat bacon at a breakfast buffet on a twenty-eight day cruise?

Before I answer, I would like to point out that a woman will spend two minutes attempting to separate two slices of bacon from a ten-pound mound of bacon that is stuck together.  Of course, this is all done in front of an extensive line of hungry men.  When I finally got to the awaited mound, my only concern was whether or not I could get the 6″ tongs to spread open to 8″.  Over the length of the cruise, I did coerce those tongs to accommodate manly servings, lest I feel shortchanged.

To answer the question.  A mound it was, and a smaller mound it shall be!   I ate bacon 27 of my 28 days onboard!  I decided one morning, on the 21st day, that I should experiment with some of the other fine cuisine offered at the breakfast buffet.  As a result, I climbed out onto the epicurean limb and had pork link sausages.  The last seven days were again devoted to bacon.  Old habits are hard to break!  To support my bacon habit, I am now convinced that Princess Cruise Lines has a hog slaughtering operation somewhere in the bowels of that ship.  Thank you Princess Cruise Line!

Despite all the many advantages, entertainment and adventures available on a cruise ship, there are, inevitably, some disadvantages.  On a 28-day cruise, we had nine ports of call.  The remaining days were spent at sea.  You have to be able to find your own, comfortable entertainment on these ‘sea days.’  Grandma P worked on crafts.  I read 11 books and played trivia twice a day. (I’m not bragging, but our team bested 30 other teams 10 times on 35 occasions.  OK, I’m bragging.  Get over it.)    Even though every cabin has a TV, you are at the mercy of satellite reception for programming, news and sports.  Most of the time, we did receive the BBC news channel.  The BBC will tell you everything you want to know about what is happening in India, Pakistan, Indonesia.  On occasion, we received the Fox News Channel.  This news was closer to home and certainly with a keener eye on American happenings.  MSNBC was available about half the time.  Nothing is more relaxing than to be on a vacation and watch your portfolio tank.

Any contact by computer was also reliant upon satellite reception.  Sometimes it was good and at other times, it was miserable.  We went two to three days at a time without computers.  It was impossible to open or send an email.   This has its advantages and disadvantages.  That did not bode well for information junkies. (I want to point out that it is not the fault of the ship.  At times, we were 2000 miles from anywhere.  Draw a line from Tahiti to Los Angeles, and you will see we crossed about 4000 miles of nothing.  Our safety was in the hands of the vaunted Mexican Coast Guard!  Never heard of them?  Neither have I.)

The three biggest news stories during our cruise?

One was the shooting of the TSA agent at Los Angeles.  Since our ship departed from Los Angeles, there was much interest about that event.  Most everyone on our ship was going to be flying out of LAX upon our return.  We were worried about how difficult it would be to get through security and make our flights upon disembarking.  (No problem.)

The second was the typhoon that devastated the southernmost islands of the Philippines.

The third news story, 24/7 was the exasperating rollout of the Affordable Health Care Plan, alias Obamacare.  We saw Congressional investigations being conducted, politicians scrambling to propose modifying legislation, rhetoric about the advantages and disadvantages of the program – all of this absolutely dominating any US new coverage.

My question is this.  How long does it take to realize that when you put lipstick on a pig, you still only have a pig?  (I bet you did not see that segue coming!)  Common sense indicates that most people would realize that a pig with lipstick is still just that—a pig.  But Congress is not that astute.  Congress passed a law which they did not read, thereby instituting a program they had no idea how to manage, yet they are surprised that the American public disapproves.  It appears many Americans are being harmed by Obamacare, because they have lost their former insurance policies!

It has become evident that this program was predicated on the establishment of another ‘pyramid’ scheme.  (Social security being the other.)  Pyramid schemes work wonderfully if you have enough people to feed the bottom of the pyramid.  In Social Security, the one-time bottom baby boomers have now moved to the top of the pyramid.   Problem is, there are not as many workers to feed the bottom.  In Obamacare, the younger, healthier people the 20s, 30s and young 40-somethings are not buying the program at all.  Their logic?  Why should I fund the insurance program for old farts that have not taken care of themselves, drink too much, eat too much and smoke too much, when I can obtain private health insurance cheaper.   I would have felt the very same way when I was in my 20s!  And now, finally, the normally quiet younger generations are contacting their legislators about this program.  The older Americans, after losing their coverage and realizing the increased Obamacare costs, are howling to their legislators!  It is obvious that some of the Liberals are jumping ship on this program!  (Just don’t take the bacon from my ship!)

One day, when reception was excellent, I watched two Congressional committees grilling the people responsible for rolling out the Obamacare website.  The House was conducting one session, but the Senate grilling session was the most interesting.  One senator on the panel asked one of the responsible techies if they had done a ‘total system’ test before making the website available to the public.  The techie responded, “What do you mean by total system test?”  I thought that senator, whose name I have forgotten, was going to have a televised coronary.  It brought back memories of Clinton’s response about, “It depends on what the definition of is is.”  My first reaction was, “Who are these techies?  Where did they get this bunch of supposedly competent smart people to construct this website?”  I flipped to the House panel.  It was going in the same direction.  The all-too-common responses to the very pointed questions were:  I don’t know, I had no idea, That was not my responsibility…….Are you seeing a common theme?  Have you heard these responses before?  My second reaction from watching these two panels was, “Are they contractors or government employees?”  My third reaction was, “Are we going to pay these guys for something so dysfunctional?”  But my fourth, and most important reaction was, “Who hired this bunch of incompetents?”

Is anyone going to be held accountable for this disaster?  Will anyone in this administration be held accountable for anything during this President’s term in office?  IRS targeting?  Obamacare?  Obamacare roll-out?  Benghazi?

Here is my Grandpa T  Common Sense Solution for the Affordable Health Care Act.  Repeal it.  It is a pig.  The lipstick, all the changes being proposed, are not making it look any better.  If the people of America want a comprehensive health care program, enact a program that is comprehensible, fundable, realistic – one that contains medical malpractice liability limitations.  My advice?  Balance an over-inflated budget first.  Our need-to-have programs are much more important than our want-to- have programs.  Federalized health care falls into the second category.  The ‘want-to-have’ programs are typically put in place to purchase votes.  Do your jobs!   Enough is enough!

Note:  Enough is enough – unless you are talking about the amount of bacon on a breakfast buffet on a cruise ship.  Princess Cruise Line is our cruise line of choice.  Grandma P and I have been fortunate to be on their ships over 112 days in the last 42 months.  We have enjoyed each cruise immensely.  I want to thank my six-person trivia team.  It amazes me that five normal people could have so much useless crap in their minds!  ‘Grandma and the boys’ were a great team.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  I was a sophomore in high school sitting in math class when the announcement was made.  It was the equivalent to the baby boomer ‘Pearl Harbor.’  I will never forget it.