Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sunday morning alcohol sales

Lansing is whiffing on another slow one.

The Legislature passed the law allowing Sunday morning liquor sales. And those merchants who want to get in on the action have to pony up an extra $160 for the license to sell during those extra hours.

The state needs the money. The merchants need the sales. The people don't want to wait until noon to complete their after-church shopping.

But it is not going to happen Dec. 1.

Meeting the rules and local compliance will drag it out until...likely the Sunday after New Year's Day.

Two wrongs make a class-action "right"

The biggest problem with a justice system based on class action lawsuits is that they often do not make sense.

Take the present Black farmer/Indian money compensation package that is moving through Congress.

I personally think that it is terrible that any black farmer was denied loans or other USDA assistance in the past. And it is equally terrible that American Indians were denied royalties they were owed.

But I did not practice discrimination and I did not benefit from either of these past egregious activities -- so why should I pay?

What is more, any government compensation for these past acts is paid by all taxpayers -- which includes blacks and Indians. How can that be fair?

Wouldn't it be more logical to track down those government officials and punish them form being racist or from illegally profiting from their government positions?

Yes, it would. But it would be much more difficult and there would be no money in it for the class-action lawyers because most of those people who committed the actual crimes are dead.

And that course of action violates the basic premise of class-action lawsuits -- don't waste time on those who have no money to pay.

So this solution, soak the taxpayers for something they did not do is a great example of class-action justice -- and how it is a good deal for just one group -- lawyers.

Monday, November 29, 2010

WikiLeaks not playing fair

WikiLeaks posts thousands of confidential documents -- US is embarrassed.

Let's be realistic about this. If some Army private could get this stuff, we have to imagine that the Russians, the Chinese, the Israelis and probably even the Bulgarians all had access to the same files long before WikiLeaks posted them.

US security was so lax that this guy took all these files on a thumb drive.

And no one in Washington was really concerned because if other countries' spies got this stuff, they would have the good manners not to blab it all over. And for all the world leaders who were frankly assessed in those memos, well they had to figure such things were being said, just not in public.

But then here comes WikiLeaks, which is not in the business of stealing secrets and keeping them relatively secret. It is in the business of making a big splash by telling everything it knows.

Welcome to the Internet. There are no secrets.

Fix the economy, stupid

The election is less than a month past, and already our lawmakers are back in Washington spinning the results to their political liking.

Well, here is a bit of advice to all of you in Congress -- Republicans and Democrats. If there is any message from the election, it is: Fix the bleeding economy.

All this dancing around about not reinstating the Bush-era tax cuts is just political posturing.

If Congress is foolish enough to turn this into some political standoff over how rich is rich, then there will be consequences -- and those paybacks likely will not wait until the next election.

Stop thinking like politicians and start thinking about the primary task. Raising taxes now for anyone will have a negative effect on the struggling US economy. What else is there to say?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bristol Palin in 3rd place

A reader called up to complain that The Oakland Press had put a photo of Bristol Palin on the top of the front page after she came in third in Dancing with the Stars. The caller said we should have reserved such treatment for the winner, not the loser.
I explained to the caller that Dancing with the Stars is not a true talent contest, and the winners and losers on the program are determined by the viewers, not by real judges.
What is more, the real winner in the case of Bristol Palin were the producers of the show, who had realized that, despite a lack of talent, Bristol would improve their ratings. And that, after all, is what the show is about.
The same is true for The OP. We are a newspaper and we follow the news. The news is that the daughter of a controversial American political celebrity was dancing a celebrity dance program, and that viewers were supporting her despite her lack of skills. Charges were flying that the Tea Party was organizing the the votes in her support.
The OP would not have put the winner of Dancing with the Stars on its front page if that person had been an ordinary contestant. This newspaper was following the controversy, not the talent.

Recycling and littering

Today is garbage pickup day and -- as is usual when it is windy -- the neighborhood is littered with milk jugs, water bottles and paper.
The litter is a direct result of the requirement by Allied Waste, the monopoly garbage service in our area, that recyclables be placed not in bags but in open recycling bins. The results, on a windy day, are predictable.
Isn't it odd that procedures that a politically correct are totally above reproach. Why doesn't anyone complain that the procedures need to be changed? What is more, no one -- not the recycling homeowners nor the garbage company -- takes the responsibility to pick up the litter. Some of it eventually blows into the undeveloped lots and eventually gets buried under the leaves.
But hey, we are recycling. Sort of.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankful for not flying this week

I am eternally grateful that I will not be flying this week when the #TSA airport security groping protest meets one of the worst air travel times of the year.
Unfortunately, my wife is not so lucky.
She is scheduled to fly in on Wednesday evening, and already we have been emailing various plans back and forth in anticipation of a major snarl that night which will likely delay her flight to Detroit.
Already started last week, the protests are growing about the TSA's new more aggressive approach to discovering what might be hidden in travelers' underwear. Those include a radioactive scan that shows what is beneath travelers' clothes. And, the alternative, an intense body pat-down by TSA workers.
And, what can we expect in this age of cell-phone videos and cameras? Why the Internet is alive with videos, photos and interviews of people who are being treated badly. Nuns being patted down. Elderly women being patted on the behind by male TSA workers. A boy, 8, without his shirt being frisked. A story about a cancer survivor with a urine bag that got squeezed during a search and having to fly soaked in his own urine. And on and on.
This is the point where someone in authority should step in and do something to stop the madness. I am thinking President Obama -- this would be a great opportunity to exhibit leadership.
And finally, there are two reasons why terrorism has impact. The first is obvious, to strike terror by succeeding or nearly succeeding in an attack. The second is when a terrorist attack succeeds in changing the social climate of the target and making that entire population the victims of fear and bureaucratic overreaction.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Medical pot

Mass pre-exams today for those 20 people arrested in Oakland County's recent crackdown on medical marijuana growers and dispensaries.

It is interesting that the opposition in this county is so strong against a measure passed by Michigan voters. However, it is easy to argue with the vague language of the law. And, of course, there is still the disparity between state and federal law regarding the legality of pot.

Still, one wonders what is the point of spending so much tax money to fight something that is inevitable. Why are we spending so much on a "crime" that is so mild?

Of all of the substance that can possibly abused by my children, I would have to say that pot would do them the least harm.

For that reason, I am surprised by the recent denial in the California vote to legalize pot. Lots of views out there on why that went down. The most telling was that those under 30 supported it, those over 60 opposed it. The split recalls the old hippy saying, "Don't trust anyone over 30."

I will go along with that. There is a lot of money being made because pot is illegal. Legalization would drive down the price. How much of that illegal money went into the anti-Prop 19 ad campaign? Got to figure that those in favor of keeping it illegal and profitable are all over 30.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Learning from the election?

Anybody in Washington learn anything from the election?
Not much indication that they did.
Some Senate Dems still holding out for their cherished earmarks. In most other countries, this practice -- and the lobby dollars that support it -- would be considered bribery. I think American voters agree.
The Dems re-elected Nancy Pelosi. What more can I say?
The House Ethics Committee chief counsel recommending censure for Charles Rangel. Which some in Washington might consider harsh, but I don't think most voters would agree. America wants Congress to clean up its act.
I would say it still stinks in D.C.
When is the next election?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A good injury -- man sues over flying jar lid

DelMonte and Kroger offer to settle a lawsuit by a Southfield man who was struck in the eye by a fruit jar lid that he was attempting to loosen by striking it with a screwdriver. Guy's lawyers say $150,000 is not enough because victim has eye damage.

In the litigation biz, this is called "a good injury." Meaning it is good for the injured party and his lawyers because it will likely elicit sympathy from a jury.

And, like all litigation, it meets the requirement that the targets of the suit have the money to pay.

This is what is wrong with this country -- we spend so much of our resources on the litigation lottery and justify it by saying that the people or companies being sued must be punished.

First of all, it is not punishment. Those who pay generally do it with insurance money. And that money comes from all of us. It is the reason our insurance costs so much.

Second, much of the money goes to the lawyers.

Third, we are teaching our entire society that whatever they do, they are not responsible.

Did you hit the jar with a screwdriver? Yes, but it is the fault of the grocer and the jar manufacturer that the lid went flying and hit me in the eye.

Whatever happened to learning from your mistakes? Note to self: Don't hit jar lids with screwdriver.

Reminds me of that Christmas movie -- which portrays another time and another mindset. Everyone warned Ralphy that a BB-gun would bring him harm. But when he did almost shoot his eye out, their first response was NOT to say, "Let's sue the gun manufacturer." Ralphy figured he was to blame.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Airport searches -- Indignity without reason

Every time there is an attempted or real terrorist attack, the governments around the world respond with new rules that irritate millions without actually doing much good.

The reason? Terrorists do not use the same methods after those methods are attempted and exposed.

The latest to cause traveler distress is the unsuccessful underwear bombing attempt on the flight approach to Detroit.

How do airport security folks detect explosives hidden in passenger underwear? Well, the patdowns get much more personal and the new body scanners can look beneath passenger clothing.

I don't know if the most recent outrage is the cumulative effect of too many such after-the-event airport security procedures or that the latest are getting too close for comfort.

Having just flown internationally, I have experienced searches around the world. I am not particularly bothered by pat downs (I think this varies greatly from person to person) and am not concerned at all if some security person sees a fuzzy image of the me beneath my clothes. I put it all down to life in the new terrorist age.

However, I do not believe that any of this does much good.

Terrorists study our security and look for gaps, they do not repeat what has succeeded or almost succeeded in the past.

So I would say that our governments should take a tip from the terrorists and look for the gaps. I would feel more secure traveling if governments did more to prevent the next attack, and did less reacting to past security lapses.

Teachers teaching

When is a teacher not a teacher?

For Detroit public schools, it is apparently when the teacher is not paid enough.

The head of the Detroit Federation of Teachers is telling substitue teachers to stop writing lesson plans, grading students and attending parent-teacher conferences. The reason? Because the subs are paid $115 a day, which amounts to almost $30,000 if worked full-time, rather than the $39,000 that regular teachers get at starting.

The union's interest is, of course, that subs are being used instead of regular teachers by the cash-strapped DPS. It is requesting a pay level for substitutes of $28,000 plus benefits. The difference is the benefits.

It may be correct for the union to protest the amount of pay and perks, but taking out those differences on the students is not acceptable.

This sort of action by the union adds to the public perception that the teachers are not focused on students first. It directly contradicts the union's recent PR campaign that trumpets the teachers' dedication to students.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Obama on India and Pakistan

I am not in the habit of agreeing with President Obama, but I think he is correct on his comments about Pakistan while visiting India.
The Indian media has made a great fuss about his lack of criticism of Pakistan during his recent India visit, and when he reluctantly did speak, he indicated that the U.S. would not be drawn into a role of fully controlling Pakistan.
Perhaps the more accurate phrase would be "could not."
If the U.S. were to chastise Pakistan to the extent that would appease the Indians, the U.S. would have no role whatsoever in Pakistan. China would be more than happy to fill any void created by a U.S. exit.
Still, there are many in the U.S. and in India who would say that that role accomplishes very little -- and they are correct.
But no role at all would not remove Pakistan from India's border, nor would it take away the Pakistani nuclear weapons, nor would it solve the problems of terrorist elements operating in Pakistan.
India should take the president's visit for what it is worth. He is recognizing India and he did not include Pakistan in his stops. (Politics aside, just imagine the security that would have been involved in a visit to Islamabad.)
Why did he make such a visit -- to both the Indian leaders and the people? Because India is a rapidly growing economy -- No. 4 in the world and gaining on Japan to take over as No. 3. It is the world's largest democracy. And it holds an increasingly important role on the world stage.
But as a growing world power, Indians also cannot expect others to solve the problems that exist on their doorstep.
Welcome to the top of the pile.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Good time for Obama to visit Mumbai

US President Obama's visit in India is drawing the sort of Indian criticism that used to be reserved for George W. Bush's forays into Asia.
Credential requests for the highest officials in India are sparking cries of outrage and threats of snubbing the presidential visit. I put it down to an inexperienced staff and the recent change in staff leadership. Where are you Rahm, now that he needs you?
Still, the comparisons are surprising since Bush did cold sholder the world after 9/11 and Obama has gone out of his way to present an opposite image.
And it seems that many Indians, involved as they are the height of the Divali weekend, are mostly curious about why he is here. That is a topic at Divali parties.
The answer is obvious. The president and his staff knew this past sumer that without a miracle The Democrats and the invincible Obama image would take a beating in this election. So they made plans in advance to get clear of Washington after the election.
Prior to the vote, the president's path is clear. He sets a yeoman's pace of get-out-the-vote rallys around the country.
But why would he wait around after the dismal returns come in? So he could answer a lot of embarassing questions about what is wrong with his policies?
Much better to get on Air Force One and tour Asia for a while.
But wait a minute, who is paying for this entourage of 3,000 and elaborate security? Why that would be us, the taxpayers.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Obama arrives, no paper

I was looking forward to the next installment of the Obama in India saga, and no newspapers arrived today.
They did not publish overnight because of the Divali holiday.
I must say that I was a little peeved, especially because the Oakland Press still publishes on the Christmas holiday -- and every other day of the year. Seemed a bit lax.
Well, any coverage that would have been printed in today's newspapers would have been the preview. Obama is to arrive in India on the 6th, the day after the big Divali night. However, there are reports that celebrations in Mumbai were muted by the thousands of US and India Security personnel deployed to secure the American president's safety.
What a nightmare job for them, trying to uncover any suspicious activitiy in a city of 14 million residents -- many of whom are spending the night lighting off an endless string of "crackers."
I spend the night in the relative calm of Nagpur, a city of 2.5 million, and the explosions went on until well into the morning. Just a walk on the street around our neighborhood gave us a display that rivaled any I have seen in American Fourth of July festivities.
I wonder if the Obama security crew took all this explosive festivity into account when they arranged the visit?

The lesson for the victors

The landslide shift in U.S. and Michigan political power occurred more or less as predicted.
Gridlock is predicted next and I fear those predictions also will come true.
That would be a shame for both the suffering taxpayers and for the newly elected and re-elected politicians.
For the taxpayers, it would be a shame that those politicians cannot find bipartisan and constructive ways out of the economic crises, because we really need new thinking and new solutions and new direction.
For the politicians it would be a shame because if they do not learn to work together and do something for the people -- as opposed to doing something for the party or for themselves -- they will be out in the next election.
So to avoid those predictions, Michigan politicians have to reduce spending to bring it into line with our growing and robust competitors. Countries like China and India, are burdened with legacies of enormous poverty and not enough infrastructure.
They will be forced to spend more.
But those countries are also the compeitors for the manufacturing industries that we are attempting to buy back (with tax dollars) into Michigan. We cannot affort to give huge tax incentives to businesses to stay in Michigan and employ Michiganders, and still maintain our level of social spending. Who will end up paying the double load? The taxpayers.
The states that are winning that struggle with the third world are those with the lowest tax and reulatory burden. Just compare the growth rate of Texas over the last decade with the decline rate of Michigan.
The same is true for the housing crisis -- until this is fixed -- the U.S. economy will stagnate. The newly elected must waste not time coming up with programs that work, which do not add to the already enormous debt and which turn the trend in prices upward.
I would highly recommend privatizing anti-capitalistic Freddie and Fannie, dropping failed government policies of trying to play god (and doing a poor job of it) over the economy, breaking up fiancial institutions that are too big to fail, and finally by recognizing that when America recovers it will be though the efforts of entrepreneurs and small businesses that discover a new way.
And that is where government should invest its aid dollars.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Obama in India

How fortunate that President Obama will visit India while I am visiting the country.
I can say without hesitation that I am glad that I passed through Mumbai a week before the presidential visit. The planes to India, and the local connector flights were already full because of Diwali travelers, and the presidential visit is likely going to make transit through that city even more difficult.
But it is also apparent that the Obama visit is drawing attention in this country. The visit, directly after the election, will be even more interesting in India because of the country's history of fascination with America, even though the reasons for that fascination are changing.
It used to be that Indians wanted to get to America for jobs.
Now, with the Indian economy booming -- in part because of American jobs outsourced to India -- that fascination has shifted to the source of a growing market for India's burgeoning high tech sector.
I will be watching the Indian media and the reaction here from ndians to see what they have to say about Obama.