Another Rebel Yell From House Conservatives

Speaker of the House John Boehner has survived yet another coup attempt, led by his arch-rival and one of the leaders of the conservative rebels in the house, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).

One of Meadows’ rebel friends in Congress told me yesterday that the move was ill-fated from the start and would “set back” the cause of the small but growing group of conservative members who are trying to do what their voters back home sent them to do.  “I don’t know what Meadows was thinking,”  he said.

Republicans on the street (or should I say “former” Republicans, because almost nobody I know still claims the GOP) are livid at the leadership.  Conservative voters, still the largest ideological group, are furious that the Republican members have consistently legislated against their wishes since winning majorities in both houses.  Under Boehner and McConnell Congress has voted against defunding ObamaCare, voted in favor of giving Obama fast-track authority over trade deals, voted to raise the debt limit, and voted against reducing federal spending.  They allow Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty to continue and refuse to put an end to the flaunting of federal law by sanctuary cities.  They abdicated all foreign policy direction and oversight to a comicly inept administration and State Dept., resulting in Obama and Kerry’s disastrous nuclear proliferation agreement with Iran.  More examples abound.

Boehner claims to be a stellar leader, saying, “Under Republican leadership, Congress is getting things done.”  He’s right.  The problem is, everything they are getting done is exactly what the Democrats want, not what conservatives elected them to do.

Conservative Americans feel completely disenfranchised.  We find current Democrat policies and priorities wrongheaded and even repugnant. And the Republicans we elected to Congress seem unwilling or unable to stop even the most egregious actions of the left.  Even the obsolete, corrupt Export-Import Bank, thought to be dead and finally buried, was resurrected by McConnell.

Boehner and McConnell have no idea how upset the grassroots conservatives are, or how significant are our numbers.  GOP presidential hopefuls are starting to get it, especially seeing how even a clunky outsider like Donald Trump is hailed for giving voice to conservative values in public.

What was Congressman Meadows thinking?  Did he think maybe he could embarrass Boehner into stepping down?  Or did he hope that his fellow rebels would finally jump into the fight with guns blazing this time?

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideHe lives in his own heaven
Collects it to go from the seven eleven
Well he’s out all night to collect a fare
Just so long it don’t mess up his hair.

Rebel Yell – Billy Idol

 

Here’s Today’s News You Didn’t Get

latest news

As a democratic republic, it is our duty to know what’s going on in the world and to direct our government to protect our interests. Unfortunately, these days our leaders only give us the “mushroom management” treatment, and the news media follows in tow.  If you don’t know what “mushroom management” is, check here.

While we gnash our teeth over the latest headlines – who Donald Trump offended today, what flag is flying where, and whether we will be sued if our barbecue smoke wafts over the neighbor’s fence – there is real international news taking place about which we are kept clueless. Here’s a sampling of news items you did not hear about today:

In a recent three-week period the Shanghai composite stock market lost a third of its value, and after a short reprieve, it dropped another 8.5% yesterday, as China’s economy shudders through a slowdown and a crisis of investor confidence.  The 21-day loss in value exceeded four trillion dollars.  Meanwhile, we are fixated on Greece, whose entire annual GDP is around $200 billion.  If China’s economy craters, it could have a profound effect on our own economy.  Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody told us what’s going on?  Do we even have diplomatic relations with China?

According to a top Indian nuclear scientist, Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear weapons program in the world and expects to have 200 nuclear warheads by 2020. Most of them are aimed at neighboring India, and they have developed a serious stockpile of high-tech intermediate-range missiles. The BBC reported that Saudi Arabia intends to buy nuclear weapons from Pakistan. There is international concern that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could fall into the hands of terrorists. The Pakistanis also recently bought eight submarines from the Chinese.   When is the last time you heard anything about Pakistan?

Nigeria’s exports dropped 27% from the same period last year due to declining oil prices and the “unpredictable political environment.”  The Nigerian government continues to battle Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group, while simultaneously trying to restore its police services and pay its teachers for months of back wages.  Meanwhile, reports emerged that a former Nigerian minister stole $6 billion of public money.  Life in Nigeria is rough these days.

Russia’s arms manufacturers are enjoying rapidly growing revenues despite western sanctions and a weak economy. President Vladimir Putin’s drive to modernize his military and the booming trade in arms exports has provided a double-digit annual growth windfall for Russia’s defense industry.  Simultaneously, China continues to build military facilities and claim ever-greater chunks of the South China Sea for economic and military purposes.  While our adversaries expand their forces, the Obama administration announces further cuts in US military power.

We know that the news business is not what it used to be.  It is naive to think that anything other than the most salacious and shallow headlines will ever appear above the fold.  Nor can we expect our government to keep us enlightened.  A few of us are blessed with representatives who go out of their way to keep constituents informed and involved. Most federal officials are only concerned with their re-election and power, and our money.  So it’s all the more crucial that we make the extra effort, as citizens of the still-greatest nation on earth, to be informed about what’s happening in the world.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Daddy is a rare millionaire
I don’t care
Yeah you got the muscle
I got the news

I Got the News – Steely Dan

 

 

Republican Fears in 1936 Same As Today

image by rarenewspapers.com

image by rarenewspapers.com

My wife bought me a book of selected front pages from the New York Times, from 1920 to 1976, at a garage sale and it is a treasure.  It imparts some amazing insights into the news and the history of our nation.  I was astonished as I read this article from 1936.

THE TEXT OF THE PLATFORM – Cleveland, June 11

Following is the text of the party platform as adopted by the
Republican National Convention tonight:

America is in peril.  The welfare of American men and women and the future of our youth are at stake.  We dedicate ourselves to the preservation of their political liberty, their individual opportunity and their character as free citizens, which today for the first time are threatened by government itself.

For three long years the administration has dishonored American traditions and flagrantly betrayed the pledge upon which the Democratic party sought and received public support.

The powers of Congress have been usurped by the President.

The integrity and authority of the Supreme Court have been flaunted.

The rights and liberties of American citizens have been violated.

Regulated monopoly has displaced free enterprise.

The administration constantly seeks to usurp the rights reserved to the States and to the people.

It has insisted on passage of laws contrary to the Constitution.

It has intimidated witnesses and interfered with the right of petition.

It has dishonored our country by repudiating its most sacred obligations.

It has been guilty of frightful waste and extravagance, using public funds for partisan political purposes.

It has promoted investigations to harass and intimidate American citizens, at the same time denying investigations into its own improper expenditures.

It has created a vast multitude of new offices, filled them with its favorites, set up a centralized bureaucracy and sent out swarms of inspectors to harass our people.

It has bred fear and hesitation in commerce and industry, thus discouraging new enterprises, preventing employment, and prolonging the depression.

It secretly has made tariff agreements with outr foreign competitors, flooding our markets with foreign commodities.

It has coerced and intimidated voters by withholding relief to those opposing its tyrannical policies.

It has destroyed the morale of many of our people and made them dependent upon government.

Appeals to passion and class prejudice have replaced reason and tolerance.

To a free people, these actions are insufferable.  This campaign cannot be waged on the traditional differences between the Republican and Democratic parties.

The responsibility of this election transcends all previous political divisions.  We invite all Americans, irrespective of party, to join us in defense of American Institutions.

Alf Landon was unanimously accepted by the GOP as its candidate for president. He asked that two more planks be added to the platform before his nomination was final:  first, that sweatshops and unrestricted child labor be abolished and that laws be passed to regulate maximum hours, minimum wages, and working conditions for women and children; and second, that the US currency should be backed by a gold standard.

I find these old newspapers fascinating in so many ways.  The articles are written in clear but advanced language and style on the assumption that its readers were intelligent, informed, and educated – unlike today’s news which is written to a fifth-grade reading and comprehension level.

It’s very hard, if not impossible, to find a bias in these pages.  Even during the war years, events were described impartially.  The standard for journalists was: facts only, double- and triple-verified.  Political coverage was painstakingly even-handed and dispassionate.

All of the news on the Times front pages was real news – coverage of real events, with no fluff or pop culture.  A box in the top left corner promises “All the News That’s Fit to Print”.

In the 79 years since this front page of the Times was published, much has changed in the relationship between the media and the public.  Is news reporting dumbed-down because of us, or we because of it?  Do we tolerate biased reporting because we have no choice, or because we are able to choose news that fits our personal bias?  Either way, the loss of accurate, salient, unbiased news harms Americans and our progress as a nation.

The stories themselves remind me that ours is not the only time in history with grave challenges, conflict and tragedy.  Our parents and grandparents lived through a period of historic human suffering and heroism.  What must they think of our squabbles today over gender identity and political correctness?

And the story above, contrasting Republicans and Democrats, reminds me that some things haven’t changed much.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

And you may ask yourself
Am I right?  Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself
My God, what have I done?
Same as it ever was . . . same as it ever was . . .
Same as it ever was . . . same as it ever was . . .

Once In A Lifetime – Talking Heads

I’m About To Give You All My Money, Give Me Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Government_spending2What does government do?  What CAN government do?

In a nutshell, the only thing government can do is spend our money.  Period.  That’s all, folks.

Our governments – city, county, state, federal – pass bills that spend our money.  Whatever they do, it involves spending our money.  If they are doing more, that means they are spending more money.  The more they do, the more they spend.  If we criticize them for not doing enough, that means we think they are not spending enough of our money.

Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Greenie Meanie Weenie, it doesn’t matter.  The only reason any politician exists is to spend our money.

The longer a politician is in office, the more money he/she has spent.  In fact, those elected officials who rise to the top of the food chain find themselves in position to spend even more money than everybody else. They get re-elected by promising to spend more of our money.  Two of the most powerful people in Congress are the heads of the Appropriations Committees.  In the Senate, that would be Thad Cochran (R-MS) – whose last election is legendary in the annals of dirty and criminal political maneuvers.  In the House, it would be Hal Rogers (R-KY), known as the “Prince of Pork”.

Thinking Americans have come to realize that more government, bigger government, more spending has not solved our problems as a nation.  Big government has only funneled money from some of us to others of us, but has not improved the standard of living for all of us.  Those with government connections continue to thrive while the middle class has all but disappeared and the growing underclass has become hopelessly dependent on government programs.

It took a few hundred years, but today’s politicians have figured it out – election and re-election can be easily won by buying votes with somebody else’s money.

If this sounds cynical, I’m sorry.  Tell me where I’m wrong.

But there is good news.  We can get out of this mess, and it’s an easy fix.  All we have to do is ask every candidate for public office one simple question:  Will you reduce the size and cost of government?

If the answer is yes, give that person money and vote for him or her.  If the answer is no, run like hell.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

I’m about to give you all of my money
And all I’m askin’ is for a little respect
When I come home.
Hey, hey, hey!

Respect – Otis Redding

 

You thought I was giving you a song by ARETHA didn’t ya!  Otis Redding wrote and recorded Respect in 1965.  Aretha Franklin covered it two years later, and it became a classic – one of the rare instances where the cover beats the original.  I do this song every weekend with my family band Caution! Blind Driver, and our audiences are always surprised when I sing it instead of our female vocalist, my daughter Jenny.  Here is a video of Otis singing this R&B standard on Dec. 9, 1967.  Sadly, he was killed the next day in a plane crash.

Big Brother Takes Aim At Salaries

Big_brother_is_watching_youThe message addressed to “friend” in my inbox from Barack Obama paints a grim picture of life for a large class of working Americans:

“When a working parent needs to put in more than 40 hours a week, that time can be measured in family dinners, tee-ball games, and ballet recitals missed — and too often, that worker isn’t even being paid fairly for the extra work.”

Obama lays the blame for this alleged worker abuse at the feet of business owners.  “Right now,” he continues, “there are employers skirting even basic overtime laws, adding “manager” to somebody’s job title solely to avoid paying workers what they’ve earned. Those workers are being cheated today, and this new step fixes that.  The rule I’ve proposed will expand overtime eligibility to nearly five million workers. It’s one of the fastest ways we can help expand opportunity for all Americans.”

The Obama administration, invigorated by a string of recent policy victories that expand federal authority over personal and business interests, now seeks greater control of private employee compensation rates and methods.   The Dept. of Labor has proposed revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that would further restrict employers from exempting some employees from overtime rules.  Under current FLSA regulations, an employee is exempt from the 40-hour overtime rule if he or she earns over $23,660 per year and performs certain “white-collar duties”.

Last week President Obama wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post, taking several victory laps to celebrate the baffling Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage and Obamacare, the passage of new trade agreement authority, and “America’s steady progress” under his guidance.  And he proposed that the income threshold for exempt employees should be doubled to $50,400.  If unchallenged, the revision would take place in September.

This move is consistent with the administration’s ongoing battle against free-market principles.  While the President focuses on “fairness”, his policies totally disregard the timeless and proven practices that made American commerce and our standard of living the envy of the world:  innovation and progress through competition, operational freedom, and the right to earn and keep profit and property.

The false promise of more pay for the same or less work might appeal to the short-sighted.  But history proves that those who wish to achieve and succeed don’t want government-proscribed limits on their ability to earn.  Measuring a key employee’s worth by hours of attendance only – disregarding talent, knowledge, creativity and other qualities –  is shallow, if not condescending.     Raising the exemption threshold will undoubtedly push wages downward and restrict upward mobility for entry-level employees.  It is disingenuous to suggest that such a move will put more money in any employee’s wallet.  Employers, mostly small businesses, will not be able to absorb the estimated $9.5 billion annual cost without defensive strategies.

To win and keep customers, businesses must be competitive.  Those who provide the best products and value for their customers, and make an acceptable profit, are the winners.   These companies know that they can’t execute a winning strategy without top-quality employees, and they aggressively compete for the best.  If they fail to acquire and retain quality employees, they will rapidly drop out of the market.  Just as employers compete for the best employees, workers compete for jobs from the best employers.  It is a self-correcting system.

The traditional American business model is a win-win-win.   Well-run companies enjoy growing market share.  Their customers get the products and services they want at the best prices.  And their employees are fairly compensated and fulfilled.  Any attempt by government to mess up that formula is at best naive, and at worst manipulative pandering.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Hey big brother, I know you’re out there somewhere
If we don’t get our thing together, big brother will be watching us
He ain’t gonna get me, are you gonna let him get you?
He’ll never get me, he’ll never get me, no!

Hey Big Brother – Rare Earth

 

Check out this AWESOME video of a great and somewhat forgotten 70s jam band – RARE EARTH – in concert before a humungous crowd at Ontario Motor Speedway in 1974.

Greece, Hot Fudge Sundaes, Boehner/McConnell, and Junior-High Economics

hot fudge sundaeIn 1966 I was a junior high kid in small-town Montana when I got my first – and maybe most important – lesson in economics and personal finance.

That year was a whirlwind of change for me.  I had just left city life in the projects with my welfare mom to live with my dad, a hard-working small-business owner.  Everything was new – the small-town culture where people are accepting but demand responsibility; the freedom and fresh air walking through the woods and fishing in the beautiful mountain streams; the first exposure to the working world where one gets only what he earns; the little family luxuries like having clean clothes to wear and breakfast on the table every day.

But back to my economics lesson.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the crabby old guy who owned the local drug store was actually on a one-man mission to teach economic responsibility to the local youth.  Allen’s Drug Store featured an old-fashioned soda fountain, and old-man Allen served up a world-class hot fudge sundae:  whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry on top.  For a quarter!

Like most small-town kids at the time, I was doing odd jobs and making a buck here and there.   I also got an allowance of fifty cents per week, which seemed like a fortune to me.   A quarter for a hot fudge sundae at the drug store was well spent, and I had bought a few for cash before I learned from my older sister that Mr. Allen would actually let you “charge” the cost of a sundae, and you could pay him later.

I ran right down to Allen’s and ordered up my hot fudge sundae.  “Can I charge it?” I asked.  “Sure,” Mr. Allen said.  I felt like a big shot.

The next day I was back at the drug store, charging another sundae.  It just doesn’t get better than this!  And within another day or so I was back again.  And again.

One day Mr. Allen went to his little box of index cards, picked out mine, and saw that I owed him for a half-dozen sundaes.  “I’m afraid this is the last one, until you pay your bill,” he said.  I was a little bit ticked off, because I had already spent all my money on Mad magazines, baseball cards, and other important stuff.  But then I started thinking about the whole “charge account” thing, and it started to make sense.  Mr. Allen couldn’t just give me free sundaes forever.  And I couldn’t eat sundaes every day when I was only bringing in fifty cents a week.

So I went without sundaes for a while and saved enough money to pay my bill.  My sundae consumption went way down.  I found that they actually tasted a lot better on the rare occasion when I decided to buy one – for cash.

Thanks for the lesson, Mr. Allen.

Today the nation of Greece defaulted on its IMF loans.  Banks put limits on withdrawals.  Stock markets tumbled worldwide.  It’s not that Greece’s economic collapse is, on its own, that big a deal – their GDP is only about equal to that of Louisiana.  What really scares thoughtful people is that other European nations – and the United States, the world’s largest economy – are following the same path as the Greeks.

Even junior high kids can understand that spending more than one earns is a recipe for disaster.  Our Federal Reserve, and the European central banks, held interest rates to zero for many years so that our governments could borrow and spend (pandering for votes) to the point that repayment of the debt is metaphysically impossible.  In addition to the federal insolvency, local and state governments have promised pensions and benefits to their employees (again, pandering for votes and union support) that citizens will never be able to afford.

It is embarrassingly simple.   If we don’t elect conservative officials with at least junior-high level economic skills, and if we don’t allow them to restrict government growth and spending, there will be no more hot fudge sundaes.  Try telling that to your grandkids.

Boehner and McConnell have to go.  So do the many representatives whose sole interest is holding on to their positions and power. Our only hope is to support and grow the Freedom Caucus, Congress’ conservative wing and the only antidote to the liberal Republican leadership.  And we must elect a president who understands economic reality.  At least at the junior-high level.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Got to pay your dues
If you wanna sing the blues,
And you know it don’t come easy!

It Don’t Come Easy – Ringo Starr

 

A fun little romp with George and Ringo!

Pro Athletes, Show Some Respect!

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a big sports fan.  And a big patriot.

I know not everybody thinks it is necessary, or even appropriate, to ask thousands of fans to stand and honor the flag and our nation before a sporting event.  I have mixed emotions about it myself.   A while back I asked why US sports venues so frequently play the Canadian national anthem before an event in our country, yet you will never hear the Star Spangled Banner before a CFL (Canadian Football League) game even though many of the players (all of the best ones) are from the United States.

This week the Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA championship series.  Before each game – like every professional sports event in the United States –  there was the singing of our national anthem.  I really enjoyed this year’s NBA Finals anthem presentations.  Carlos Santana played a beautiful rendition on his PRS guitar, albeit patiently condoning his wife’s pathetic attempt to accompany him on drums. The two Metallica guitarists shredded a heavy-metal version of the SSB and it was surprisingly authentic, rich, patriotic and satisfying. Marlana VanHoose, a blind and palsied 19-year old singer captivated the audience with her powerful rendition of the national anthem.

Still, I am disappointed every time I attend or watch an NBA game when most of the players look down at their shoes, showing either indifference, disrespect, or perhaps contempt for the flag, our anthem, and the nation that made each of them fabulously wealthy.  Who knows what the motivation is – they may be making a political statement, or they may just be getting focused on the game ahead.  Regardless, would it be so hard to at least look up at the flag?

The photo above is a typical NBA pre-game presentation.  My review of a different photograph taken before game 5 showed two of the twelve Golden State Warriors, David Lee and Draymond Green, standing at attention during the national anthem.  A third, James Michael McAdoo, who was brought up from the D-league and did not even get on the floor during the finals, actually placed his hand over his heart.  The other nine players stared at the floor and shuffled.

Here are the guaranteed contracts of these nine players:

  • Klay Thompson – $72 million
  • Andrew Bogut – $36 million
  • Andre Igoudala – $35 million
  • Stephen Curry – $34 million
  • Shaun Livingston – $14 million
  • Harrison Barnes – $7 million
  • Mareese Speights – $4 million
  • Festus Ezeli – $3 million
  • Leandro Barbosa – $1.5 million

Yes, I have mixed emotions about the coerced patriotism at every major league sporting event.  I question whether it is sincere patriotism or pandering.  Especially after learning that NFL teams, despite the outrageous money players and owners make, actually charged taxpayers millions of dollars for the “privilege” of having our service branches perform flag ceremonies before games.

The decision whether to present a patriotic moment before a game is, to my thinking, up to the home team and the league.  If they wish to do so, based on honest intentions, I’m good with that.  If not, I have no complaint.

The NBA has chosen to have a patriotic ceremony before each game.  And it seems to me that the nine employees listed above, and the hundreds or thousands of other professional athletes who earn millions of dollars playing a game they love in front of people who pay their salaries and pay for their arenas with tax dollars, could at least show a little respect to the country to whom they owe their success.

James Michael McAdoo, you didn’t even get to touch the game ball in the finals.  But I salute you, above and beyond all the other NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.  By showing respect to our country, you are more than just a Warrior – you are a Patriot.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me!
R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Take care, TCB!

Respect – Aretha Franklin

A young and slender Aretha belts it out!

And here is my very own cover!

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