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Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Mosque at Ground Zero

I've been hearing bits and pieces lately about a group of Muslims who wish to build a huge Islamic center near the site of Ground Zero in New York City. Read that again. A Mosque at the site of one of the worst terrorist attacks in the history of the world, carried out by radical Muslims. Here's the worst part: There are actually supporters of this idea, including Anthony Cuomo, a Democratic Governor candidate for the state of New York, and also New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Their argument lies on the basis that America stands for freedom of religion, the freedom of speech and expression, and the tolerance our country has for immigrants from all over the world and the cultural and religious background from which they come. Ok, fine.

But we're talking about a site where Muslims crashed airplanes into large buildings and killing more than 3,000 Americans in one fell swoop. I understand that not all Muslims are terrorists, and in fact I have been friends with some throughout my life, however, the simple idea of constructing such an edifice near that site is a slap in the face to the friends and families of those who were lost on September 11, 2001. While it may be unfair, Muslims are probably more often than not stereotyped into being terrorists just because they wear a turban or speak in a language that we don't understand. It is no different than Mexicans or Latinos being targeted by the new law in Arizona, whether or not they are illegal aliens. Furthermore, I know that not every white person is a Neo-Nazi white supremacist.

On the other hand, I feel that allowing the building to be built is nothing more than laying down arms against the war on terror. Plain and simple, how do we know their actual intent? Freedom of Religion in the context of the Bill of Rights simply meant freedom from the mighty hammer of the Church of England. However, it was still written under the context that the religion being practiced would be some form of Christianity. If the Muslims we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan think we are infidels, how do we know the Muslims living in America don't feel the same way? Just recently there was a bombing attempt in Times Square. Just an "ordinary" Muslim who had a job and a family (and secret ties to Al-Qaeda). Who's to say the people building a Mosque on our sacred ground in NYC don't have a similar agenda? The fact is, we just don't know, and personally, I would rather err on the side of caution.

Again, I feel it is unfair to label all Muslims as "radical terrorists", however I had no problem with the Patriot Act, and would support another one if it were necessary. America is a melting pot, yes, but when we don't even care what ingredients we put in the pot is when disaster will strike. Remember, all of those responsible for 9/11 were allowed into the U.S. in the first place. If the intentions of those building the Islamic center were truly peaceful, they could just move it out of respect to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 and build it somewhere else. Why insist on placing it there? History shows that as the Muslims waged war in the crusades and throughout history, they erected Mosques on the site of their fallen enemies strongholds. Do not let them continue to wage this "holy war" on our soil, and please do not support the construction of such a building near the former World Trade Center site.

Stay vigilant, America.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Solution to the problem of Big Government

I got a letter in my email today. I have been pretty vocal lately about my inability to support our nation's congress when they care more about their political careers as opposed to their constituents. It has come to pass that people who serve in congress are judged more on the earmark spending they accumulate for their districts rather than what they accomplish as a whole in the House or Senate chambers. The partisanship in our country has reached a boiling point, with nothing but finger pointing and yelling on the daily minutes of congress. I have stressed this point to a number of people that I talk politics with and they are present me with a simple question: How do you fix it?

It seems nobody really wants to do what is necessary to fix the problem. Last time I checked, a member of the U.S. Senate raked in roughly $174,000 per year. So, a few senate terms later, and you may have accumulated well over a million dollars of taxpayer money. Every six years, they just have to stand up there on the pedestal and say how much of the federal budget they got allocated to build new schools and playgrounds in their respective states, and everybody says they are doing a great job, doesn't really pay much attention, and re-elects them for another term. I say, no more. It is time to take a stand against this abuse of the American system. Impose term limits for all elected members of congress, with maximum terms and service allowed. This would weed out the corrupt politicians who are only in office for themselves, and force the electorate to actually pay attention to what they are doing. A man or woman would take upon the burden of stepping up to serve their community and then step down when their task was done and go back to work.

This is just one stepping stone. I think to truly solve the issue we need to completely eliminate the term "career politician" from our vernacular. It was never intended that way by the founding fathers, and I am sure some of them are rolling in their grave right now. When James Madison drafted the edition of the Constitution that was eventually ratified, term limits were not included because a man of honor in that day and age knew when to step down. Washington did so at the end of his 8 years on his own, and all presidents (with the exception of FDR) did so as well. Only after FDR's record 4th election and subsequent passing was the two term limit imposed. If this rule can apply to the commander in chief as a system of checks and balances, why not to our senate and house of representatives?

Finally, a word on the Pension that a senator obtains for his "service" in the senate. They way I read it, their retirement benefit increases based on years of service. From www.senate.gov:

Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. They are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80 percent of his or her final salary. As of October 1, 2000, the average annual pension for members of Congress who have retired under CSRS is $52,464, and $46,932 for retirees under FERS-only or both FERS/CSRS.
Just another incentive to stay in office as long as possible. Here is the letter I received in my email this afternoon. It's a bit redundant, but I think the message is clear.


I am sending this to virtually everybody on my e-mail list and that includes conservatives, liberals, and everybody in between. Even though we disagree on a number of issues, I count all of you as friends..  My friend and neighbor
wants to promote a "Congressional Reform Act of 2010". It would contain eight provisions, all of which would probably be strongly endorsed by those who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
I know many of you will say, "this is impossible".  Let me remind you, Congress has the lowest approval of any entity in Government, now is the time when Americans will join together to reform Congress - the entity that represents us.
We need to get a Senator to introduce this bill in the US Senate and a Representative to introduce a similar bill in the US House.  These people will become American heroes

Thanks,
A Fellow American

****************************** *****
Congressional Reform Act of 2010

1. Term Limits: 12 years only, one of the possible options below.

A. Two Six year Senate terms
B. Six Two year House terms
C. One Six year Senate term and three Two Year House terms
Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers
envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to
work.


2.  No Tenure / No Pension:
A congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when
they are out of office.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers
envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to
work.


3.  Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security:

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund moves to the Social
Security system immediately.  All future funds flow into the Social Security
system, Congress participates with the American people.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers
envisioned citizen legislators, server your term(s), then go home and back to
work.

 
4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan just as all Americans.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers
envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to
work.


5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.  Congressional pay
    will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers
envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to
work.


6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the
    same health care system as the American people.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers
envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to
work.


7. Congress must equally abide in all laws they impose on the American
    people.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers
envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to
work.  Or go to jail, if appropriate.

8. All contracts with past and present congressmen are void effective 1/1/11.


The American people did not make this contract with congressmen,
congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers
envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to
work.


If you agree with the above, pass it on to all in your address list. 

                                            
Forwarded by

Dan Sorkin
www.stumps.org
Chief Stump

Until next time.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Arizona Immigration Law

Starting today, parts of the now infamous SB 1070 Immigration law take effect in the state of Arizona. I say parts, because a federal judge has prohibited some of the provisions from becoming law. Namely, the most controversial aspect that a police officer could stop someone they thought was an illegal alien and ask to see their identification. It will still be illegal for employers to hire day laborers and pay them cash. While many people do not agree with this law, at the same time they realize that something needs to be done about the immigration problem in this country. So, how best to enforce it?

First of all, I think it is important to understand why illegal immigration is a problem. To understand the problem would help to bring about the necessary support for a firm resolution. So, what does it mean to be an illegal immigrant? It could be one of a few things. First, you entered this country illegally. That means with no visa or passport or any other documentation permitting entry. These are the people you see running across the border. Second, Visa overstay. These are people who are permitted entry but remain past their allowed access. This used to be the main cause of illegal immigration, but is now second to illegal entry. Finally, there can also be visa fraud. These are the people who marry solely for the purpose of obtaining a green card, the act of which is illegal in the United States.

So now you know how people can get into this country illegally. As mentioned, border crossing is the new number one cause of immigration, and, according to the U.S. Center of Immigration Studies, approximately 57% of all illegal immigrants are from Mexico. It is no surprise then, that Arizona is trying to take matters into their own hands after a failure of enforcement by the United States Border Patrol and the federal government. But why is this so bad for our country? According to another study conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies, in 2002, households headed by an illegal alien caused the government to spend over $26.3 billion dollars, while only taking in around $16.4 billion, creating an annual deficit of around $10 billion dollars, or broken down, about $2,700 per illegal household. However, the report also indicates that this is caused by their typically low level of education, which results in lower paying jobs and thus, less taxes owed. While these numbers seem huge, the study also confirms that the amount per household is typically less than half that of other households who apply for government benefits, including Medicaid, medical treatment for the uninsured, food assistance programs, the federal prison and court systems, and federal aid to schools.


I'm not here to say that illegal immigrants are bad people. I'm just trying to point out some facts about why they are not good for our country. There is a fantastic report on the entire spectrum of how this impacts our nation over at US Illegal Aliens. One thing I want to really stress here however is how this negatively affects our nation's economy. In this time of recession, it is important to understand how illegal immigration has a profound impact in our country. Many people who cross the border from Mexico do so for financial reasons. Mexico is a poor country. Most people work there for roughly $5 a day. It is easy to see why coming to the United States would look attractive. Many of us complain about an $8/hr salary at our first jobs. But what we don't see is that these immigrants are making all of the money here and then sending it back home to Mexico. Mexico, then, does not want to do anything to stop the immigration because of that influx of money into their system. And we're talking nearly $45 billion dollars in 2006, which probably has only increased since then due to the higher population of immigrants. That alone is the third largest money-making system in Mexico after the exportation of oil and the tourism industry. That is also $45b that will not be spent in American businesses, on American services or kept in American banks. So just there we've already uncovered how the United States could save $55 billion a year by solving this problem. That may not seem like a lot, but it would at least provide some better funding for our wars or other government programs in an attempt to erase the record deficit that our current president is busy creating.

The report I linked to also lists various other factors of how this is killing our country, such as crime, traffic accidents/volume, diseases, loss of jobs (a big one, even though most Americans think that illegal immigrants do the jobs that Americans "don't want"), and potentially, terrorism. Does that sound good for our country? I didn't think so. While I lean left in the political spectrum, this is one issue that I think right or left we can all agree needs to be addressed by the federal government and taken care of. Post your thoughts in the comments below.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2011 Ford Explorer




Just yesterday, Ford Motor Company unveiled the next generation of the ever-popular Ford Explorer. I am both intrigued and puzzled at the new direction this vehicle has taken. It looks like a mix between the current Ford Edge and the new Ford Taurus. The styling is decent, I suppose. I think it is a look that will have to "grow" on me. It is supposed to feature a new line of engines that are more fuel efficient, yet they do not have the towing capacity of the previous model, nor do they continue to offer a traditional 4x4 drivetrain, instead opting to move entirely into those electronic controlled All Wheel Drive systems. It seems like it would be fine for that inch of snow that a typical grocery-getter might encounter here in the northeast, but will that turn the wheels through the deep slop we got this past winter? I really wouldn't be too sure. 15 inches of snow is no joke. I can tell you one thing for sure: my Mustang certainly didn't do so well. This new Explorer also features some cool new electronics including the Sync system and a host of safety features including inflatable seat belts (!). Ford also claims a reported 30% increase in fuel economy over previous iterations. Not too shabby.

What do you think of this new Explorer? Awesome innovation or epic fail? Will you be saving your pennies this summer?

The Adventure Begins...

Hey Everybody.

I thought it time to start a blog that covers everything. I know, you're thinking that's much too vague. Sure, it is. But it also lets us talk about anything we want here. Some breaking financial news? Check. How to make a better steak? Check. Some thoughts on that movie I saw last night? Check. Whether or not we should allow illegal immigrants in our country? Check. I'm serious. We are going to discuss everything here.

Let's face it, life is too dynamic to blog about anything too specific without having a number of personal blogs. Some of my favorites are highly specific: they might be solely about audio products or personal finance tips. They make for good reading, but then I have to bookmark so many sites to read all the advice and stories that day. I want one central, generalized blog (and maybe you do too) that I can visit, where any topic whatsoever is fair game, an intelligent post and discussion takes place, and then the next post is about something entirely different. Wouldn't that be just a little more entertaining? I thought so too.

So a little about myself. I'm 24, live in south-central Pennsylvania, and work as a 911 Dispatcher in the area. Talk about a job where anything can happen. I like sports, politics, world news, video games, movies, music, history, literature, electronics and gadgets, other technology, science, home theater, cars, and being an American. Needless to say (once again) we will be talking about a wide range of awesome stuff, and of course those little life adventures that are never foreseen and are always a good laugh later on down the road.

So sit back and prepare to have a little fun, and with any luck, hopefully you'll learn something as well. Remember, the best way to learn something is to have fun while doing it. Please, always feel free to comment and I absolutely encourage discussion on ANYTHING here. Lets just keep it clean and insult-free. See you guys soon.