Who Is The Baddest President?

He’s rude.  He’s crude.  People question his temperament and fitness to be president. He scares the bejeebers out of Europe’s wimpy leaders.  He even called our own President Obama a “son of a bitch”. 

Phillipine President Rodrigo Duterte

No, it’s not Donald Trump.  It’s Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, and the baddest president on the block, at least for now.  Duterte was elected last June by a landslide and commands a 76% positive performance rating.

Duterte campaigned on a platform of law and order, specifically the elimination of illicit drug trafficking and abuse.  The Philippines has struggled in recent years with meth addiction, particularly among its growing numbers of poor and unemployed.  As president, Duterte assumed the role of judge, jury and executioner, and has given orders for police and military personnel to kill anyone they suspect of selling drugs.  The death toll is estimated at 4,000 and counting, and Philippine prisons are overstuffed with drug addicts who turned themselves in.  The president has even invited the general public to join in the bloody anti-drug crusade, and has ordered 26,000 Sig Sauer rifles from the USA, over the objections of Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), who voiced human rights concerns.

Many Americans think our current president and president-elect are both endowed with ample egos.  But when it comes to self-confidence, Obama and Trump are not in Duterte’s league.  Responding to criticism from EU leaders, Duterte said, “I’ve read the European Union’s condemnation against me.  I tell them f*** you!”, flipping the bird for emphasis.

Duterte has waffled on his relationship with the USA.  Angered at Obama’s censure of his brutal policies, he called for the ouster of all American military operations in the Philippines, but later backed down, acknowledging that his nation would need US aid managing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.  And after President Obama cancelled a meeting with Duterte, the Philippine president apologized for his potty-mouthed attack.  The two quietly met later before a regional summit meeting dinner in Laos.

It remains to be seen if Duterte will have a more amiable relationship with America’s new president, Donald Trump.  After Trump’s election, Duterte offered congratulations and observed that “we both like to swear.”  Trump holds all the cards, as the Philippines is reliant on American trade and military support.

For some time now many global leaders have demurred to their softer, more nurturing tendencies – at least publicly.  Russian president Putin rode bare-chested and bareback in his bid for the title of manliest man-in-charge.  Obama’s skinny jeans were an immediate disqualifier, not to mention his penchant for retreating from every foreign-policy challenge.  Trump, on the other hand, showed machismo on his way to winning the presidency.

But for now, all eyes are on Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte.  He’s bad.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

We going downtown in the middle of the night
We laughing and I’m jokin’ and we feelin’ alright.
Oh I’m bad, I’m nationwide.
Yes I’m bad, I’m nationwide

I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide – ZZ Top

 

Pretty good little three piece band there – git you some Top today.

 

Will Companies Like Dell Help Make America Great Again?

dell_headquarters_wide

 

If there is one slogan that really resonated with Americans in the election, it was this:

“Let’s make America great again.”

Donald Trump was elected because voters don’t feel the pride and confidence in our nation that we once did.  Our economy is stagnant at best, our middle class is dwindling, and real wages haven’t improved in decades.  Our political leaders in recent years seem to care more about the well-being of people in other nations than our own. We know we can do better, because we’ve done it before.  But we can’t expect the President to wave a magic wand and restore our greatness on his own.

A couple of months ago my computer assumed room temperature – dead as a doornail, without so much as a blink or a beep.  I am highly dependent on my computer, so I immediately got on Dell’s website, found the system I wanted on sale, and clicked on “add to cart”.  The order errored out, igniting an ordeal that consumed the rest of the day on Dell chat screens and phones with a series of Indian customer service people who kept saying “It” won’t let them do this or that.

Finally, an Indian supervisor got my order placed and confirmed by email, to be shipped in seven to ten days.

I will spare you the sordid intermediate details, but after six weeks I got a phone call from another Indian Dell representative who spoke with such a heavy accent that I could barely understand him.  He told me “It” says my order had been cancelled and I will have to reorder.  “It” can’t tell him what happened.  “It” doesn’t know when or whether a new order would be filled.  No apology.  No alternative.  Just start over and hope for better results than last time.

I gave up and ordered a Lenovo with the same specifications.  My computer arrived in two days in perfect order and cost about a hundred bucks less.

Because I had tried to buy a Dell computer, I have been receiving a dozen targeted Dell ads every day.  Today I commented on a Facebook ad that readers should avoid buying a Dell computer for Christmas, citing the horrible experience I had been through.  My post received an immediate response from an Indian Dell employee who wrote in broken English that Dell is so sorry, but they just can’t keep up with the crushing demand for their wonderful products.  A flurry of back and forth posts followed.  Dell didn’t give a rip about me when I was trying to get my order, but they sure were concerned about me when I posted my bad experience on social media.

There was a time when Dell was a proud, strong American innovator, manufacturer, employer, and retailer.  Now it is an international company, manufacturing and selling its products all over the world.  But most of its computers are still bought by American companies and consumers.

I’m not so naïve as to think that we can or should suppress global trade.  I just hate to see what has happened to our American companies.  American consumers are too often reduced to dealing with poorly-trained and inarticulate foreign employees who either work in offshore call-centers or were imported to the USA with H1B visas, whose authority is restricted to what “It” displays on their screens.  Meanwhile our own American-born skilled customer service people work two part-time convenience store jobs for $8 an hour.  Dell may be bigger than it was, but it is not better.  It’s not a better corporate citizen, and it’s not a better sales organization.  Dell was once a smart and proud group of high-achieving Americans.  Now Dell is an “It”.

Not all American companies have sunk to this level of cold, multi-national mediocrity.  In addition to Lenovo, I have received over-the-top customer service recently from the Carolina Panthers, Chamberlain Garage Door group, State Farm Insurance, and many others.  But it seems for every Chick-Fil-A there is a Wells Fargo.

Our president-elect promises to protect domestic jobs by welcoming American companies back to our shores with lower corporate tax rates and free repatriation of profits from foreign operations.  And he wants to take a fresh look at trade policies that have pushed investment and employment out of our country.

If we are going to “Make America Great Again” we can’t expect our president to do it alone.  We citizens will have to step up our games. And our American companies need to get on board.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

So take these words and sing out loud
‘Cause everyone is forgiven now
‘Cause tonight’s the night the world begins again

Better Days – Goo Goo Dolls

 

Hey America, Here Comes the Sun!

buh-byeBUH-BYE Sanctuary Cities.
BUH-BYE Political Correctness.
BUH-BYE Corrupt DOJ and Loretta Lynch.
BUH-BYE ObamaCare.
BUH-BYE Gay takeover of the military.
BUH-BYE Radical Muslim immigrants.
BUH-BYE Planned Parenthood money from taxpayers.
BUH-BYE Iran nuclear program.
BUH-BYE Jay Z and Miley Cyrus.
BUH-BYE Trans-Pacific Partnership and NAFTA.
BUH-BYE Black Lives Matter.
BUH-BYE Global Warming Scams.
BUH-BYE Export-Import Bank.
BUH-BYE Bushes.
BUH-BYE Clintons.
BUH-BYE Obamas.
BUH-BYE Huma, Podesta, Brazile, Warren, Jarrett, Wasserman-Schultz.
BUH-BYE Steve Deace, Erick Erickson, Glenn Beck, Michael Medved.
BUH-BYE Fake endangered species scams.
BUH-BYE College Safe Rooms.
BUH-BYE Wall Street Cronies.
BUH-BYE Koskinen and IRS Abuse.
BUH-BYE Late-term abortions.
BUH-BYE Lying mainstream media.
BUH-BYE Ridiculous government spending and debt.
BUH-BYE Identity politics and race-baiting.
BUH-BYE United Nations stomping on our sovereignty.
BUH-BYE Welfare and food stamp abuse.
BUH-BYE Pampered athletes and entertainers who abuse our flag.
BUH-BYE Liberal judges.

HELLO Merry Christmas.
HELLO Regular Budget Process.
HELLO New small businesses.
HELLO Energy independence and industry.
HELLO GDP growth.
HELLO Border security.
HELLO Safe and appreciated Police.
HELLO Real business men and women who will straighten out the mess in DC.
HELLO Separate boys and girls bathrooms and locker rooms.
HELLO Jobs.
HELLO Inner cities that won’t look like a permanent war zone.
HELLO Constitution.
HELLO Soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen and women who can wear the uniform proudly again.
HELLO Educators who have been hiding in fear of politically-correct peers.
HELLO Respect from other nations and their leaders.

THANK YOU Original Tea Party founders and members who started the fire.
THANK YOU Union guys who finally said enough is enough.
THANK YOU Black and Hispanic voters who had the courage to break out.
THANK YOU Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
THANK YOU James O’Keefe.
THANK YOU Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Gen. Flynn, Newt Gingrich, Dr. Ben Carson.
THANK YOU Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mike Gallagher, Laura Ingraham, Larry Elder, Lou Dobbs.
THANK YOU Heritage Action, AFP, Tea Party Patriots, Freedom Works, and conservative groups.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

LiRockin' On the Right Sidettle darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right!
Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right!

Here Comes the Sun – George Harrison (with Paul Simon)

 

 

TPP Walks, Talks Like A Lame Duck

tpp-countries-mapDonald Trump is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Bigly.

Hillary Clinton is also against it.  But she was for it before she was against it.  Trump says Hillary is still for it, quoting her claim that the TPP is “the gold standard of trade agreements.”  And according to a recent WikiLeaks leak, she actually is still for it, but she’s upset that the people who were assured she was against it have learned that she is secretly still for it, even though she says she’s against it.

Whew!

Most Americans don’t have a clue what the TPP is, and Clinton’s flip-flops on the issue don’t help matters.  The TPP is only one part of a bigger policy issue: the importance of free and fair international trade to our economy.  So let me try to sort this thing out, as best I can, in layman’s terms.

The TPP is a multi-national trade agreement that was intended to counterbalance China’s dominance in world trade.  About six years ago, a dozen Asian and Pacific nations (see map above) starting working on a plan that would eliminate tariffs on most trade between the partners, and would make doing business with each other smoother and easier.  Sounds good, right?  What could be wrong with easier trade between a bunch of countries who, for the most part, get along with each other pretty well?

As you might expect, things got complicated in a hurry, and this perfectly illustrates why trying to bring a bunch of countries together for any group activity is like herding cats.  Everybody will try to protect his own interests and maximize his own profits.  And nice guys finish last.

There is no such thing as a simple agreement between twelve nations, especially when some want to force others to do things they don’t want to do.  Right from the start there was disagreement over whether and how the pact should include measures to address concerns about global warming (aka climate change).  There were issues about nation-of-origin labeling, and workers’ rights, and enforcement of patents, trademarks, and intellectual property rights.  The lines of authority between government and big multi-national corporations were blurred, including who could sue whom, in what courts, in case somebody’s underwear should get in a knot.  Some governments subsidize certain industries and agriculture; others do not. And a major concern was whether and how workers would be allowed to move between member nations.

Donald Trump says his top priority is to put “America First” in every international policy decision.  Clearly, complex, multilateral trade negotiations will not ordinarily result in our interests being placed above all the other partners.  He is alarmed that our balance of trade has been so profoundly negative for so long.  He worries that we are losing jobs to other countries, and opening our borders to foreign workers would not help.  So his opposition to the TPP makes sense in the context of Trump’s defense of American interests.

Hillary, on the other hand, is a victim of the very “divide and conquer” strategy she and the Democrat party have favored for decades.  She panders to dozens of small groups of constituencies who, over the long haul, are just another herd of cats all going in different directions.  Her union constituency is opposed to the TPP, fearing loss of jobs.  Some of her environmentalist constituency favors it, assuming the USA would have to accede to the liberal environmental policies espoused by many of the partners; others fear the TPP would not be stringent enough. Hillary has said that she dreams of a “hemispheric common market with open trade.”

President Obama, with help from Republican speaker of the house Paul Ryan, passed a fast-track provision for the TPP last year.  And U.S. trade representative Michael Froman said this week he thinks the TPP has enough congressional support to pass in the lame duck session after next week’s election.

As for me, I’m with Trump.  Shouldn’t we just negotiate trade agreements with each nation individually? And negotiate from a position of relative strength, taking advantage of the many perks we offer our friends – like military protection, for instance?

At the very least, let’s not pass this thing in the lame duck session, when Congress is least accountable for their actions.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

All of a sudden I began to change
I was on the dance floor acting strange
FlCapping my arms I began to cluck
Look at me . . . I’m the disco duck!

Disco Duck – Rick Dees

 

Believe it or not, this song was the big hit of the year when my daughter was born (1976).  I’m pretty sure this is what started the “Disco Sucks” movement, and the genre mercifully died in 1979.

Obamacare for Dummies

aca-for-dummies

 

The Affordable Health Care Act

History

In March of 2010 the Affordable Health Care Act (ObamaCare) became law.  The bill passed the House by a vote of 206 – 212, and the Senate by 60 – 39.  Not one Republican congressman or senator voted for ObamaCare.  70% of Americans were opposed to the new law.  But hey, the Democrats are smarter than everybody else.  They know what’s best for us.

Features

  • If you like your insurance plan, you can keep your insurance plan.
    • Well, maybe not.  But you will have many good plans to choose from.
      • Unless the exchanges collapse because the insurers are bleeding money from mandated cost items. Actually, you will probably get stuck with very few plan choices from very few (maybe only one) insurance company.
  • If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.
    • But that’s only if your doctor chooses to accept your new insurance plan that pays him a lot less money and puts all kinds of requirements and restrictions on him.  It’s pretty unlikely.
  • Insurance premiums will go down $2500 per year
    • And then they will go way, way up.  Because
      • kids stay on your policy until age 26
      • people with expensive pre-existing conditions are welcomed to the pool
      • plans are required to provide more benefits, many of them for “free”
      • competition is reduced because only a few very large companies can manage the complexity and cost of implementing the government plans
      • new people on the plans, especially those plugged into Medicaid, will have much higher claims experience
      • oh, by the way, deductibles and co-pays will go crazy.  You may have to pay the first $14,000 of medical bills.
  • There will be no tax increases due to ObamaCare
    • The only way citizens can afford ObamaCare is if the government pays a huge portion of the sky-high premiums as a subsidy.  So the cost to the taxpayers is enormous.
      • But who cares?  The government doesn’t have to raise taxes.  They can just print more money and add to the national debt.
      • Oh, and if you don’t have insurance, you will have to pay a penalty.  But that’s not a tax.  Even though it is in the tax code, assessed and collected by the IRS.  The Supreme Court said so – it must be true.
  • ObamaCare will not add to the national deficit or debt
    • Umm, well.  Sorry.  That’s a fib.  See above.
  • There will be very few Americans who do not have health insurance
    • Unless healthy young people decide they can’t or don’t want to pay for ObamaCare and decide to just pay the fine.  Or not pay the fine.  Whatever.
    • And then there are the people who find enrollment in ObamaCare so complex they don’t even try.
  • ObamaCare will not be given to illegal immigrants at taxpayer expense
    • The government will, however, provide free ObamaCare to undocumented Democrat voters.

Conversion to HillaryCare in November 2016

  • The government tried, but ObamaCare didn’t work very well, so they are going to put you all on single-payer national health insurance like Canada.  They didn’t intend for this to happen. Really. It’s just one of those things.  But Hillary has a great new plan:
    • Long waiting lists for care.  This has been perfected by the VA Hospitals.  You may have to wait a year or so for that procedure.  This reduces cost because after a year many patients have assumed room temperature and no longer need care.
    • Your doctor will be a kid from Bangladesh who came here on an H1B visa.  He speaks English, but you still won’t understand a word he says.  This reduces cost because he will work for $20k per year, and you will give up trying to get well because you won’t know what’s wrong with you.
    • 80% of hospital wards will be converted to maternity units.  Our new undocumented Democrats do tend to have a lot of babies.

Quiz (True or False)

  1. Adding eight years of children’s coverage to a health care plan will reduce plan costs.
  2. Allowing people with pre-existing conditions to join a health care plan at the same premium level will reduce plan costs.
  3. Anything the government does will cost less and work better than it does in the private sector.
  4. Doctors don’t mind making less money or being told what to do.
  5. It doesn’t matter if premiums go way up as long as the government is paying for most of the cost (after all, if the government is paying for it, it’s free).

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

 

Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard!

 

 

 

School Choice – The Free Market Solution

Most Americans now accept and believe that school choice is a good thing.  But the largest teachers’ union, the NEA, still adamantly opposes allowing public funds to follow the student to the school of his choice.  And the political clout of the teachers’ union remains the biggest impediment to improvement in education.

I am a disciple of free-market economics.  Economics steers every human undertaking.  It is ubiquitous in every aspect of our daily lives and has been since the dawn of man.  Every adult on Earth awakens each day and sets out to improve the standard of living for himself and his family.  Nothing is more basic and necessary to our sustained well-being than knowledge of the economic forces that create wealth.

The law of supply and demand is as universally accepted as the law of gravity.  When the supply of something is scarce, it is more valuable.  And when something is valuable and in high demand, more of it will be produced.  In a true free market consumers will always choose the product that best meets their needs at the lowest price, and the profit motive for meeting this demand guarantees the continuous improvement of products.  Free competition for that profit completes the equation.

Free-market supply and demand has brought us smart phones, better cars, nicer homes – comfort, safety and wealth.  In a free market profits and wealth are generated as the quality of products improve and prices go down.  So why hasn’t the quality of education improved in our country, the epicenter of the free market, despite massive spending?  Clearly it’s because education has been removed from the free market.

When a purchase decision is made by someone other than the consumer, the product is unlikely to be what the consumer wants and needs.  Inevitably, educational decisions made by government officials, rather than parents, will not yield optimal results.  Our nation’s educational system is not keeping pace with other countries, and our employers say they can’t find enough employees with basic literacy and math skills.  Most fingers point the blame at our traditional (non-choice) schools.

Times have changed.  Technology has largely eliminated the challenges of distance and time that established the traditional school model primarily still in use today.  As traditional brick-and-mortar neighborhood schools slide toward obsolescence, the ultimate free-market school choice, home schooling, shows rapid growth.  For-profit and non-profit alternative and technical schools are in such demand that exotic lottery algorithms are used to determine which families will win admission.  Private schools enjoy continued enrollment growth.  The traditional government school is now the last resort for most families.

While the concept of school choice is broadly supported by parents, progress in changing the way education is funded has been slow.  In most states home-school and private-school families must still pay taxes for traditional schools that they do not use.  States and districts that support school choice generally fund them with tax dollars through direct allocation, vouchers or scholarships, although at lower rates than they fund traditional schools.  The majority of states and districts still fund only traditional public schools.

Education cannot be removed from economic reality.  The most reliable and quickest tools for process improvement in education are the same time-tested economic incentives that drive the entire world to higher standards of living every day.  The consumers of the education system, parents, must be trusted to make the right purchasing decision for education, the same way they are trusted to buy the right vegetables or the right car to suit their needs.

Until the NEA and the political leaders they financially support agree to allow school funding to travel (or stay home) with the student, education will remain outside the free market, in denial of the proven economic leverage that improves results, lowers costs, and increases standards of living.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

I study nuclear science
I love my classes
I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades

The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades) – Timbuk 3

The “Unsung Heroes” Help Poor and Minorities – Hillary Calls Them “Deplorables”

hvac%20contractorI was visiting with my young HVAC guy after he installed a new air conditioner in one of my rental houses.  Actually, it was more like negotiating than visiting.  He said he gave me a good deal, and I chuckled,  “I know you did, but I have to go through the routine.”  I was happy to write the check – he more than earned it.

Then he said something that gave me pause.  “I know you guys can afford to pay me, but you know a lot of the people I work for can’t.”

We live in South Carolina.  It’s hot.  Air conditioning is not a luxury, it is a necessity of life.  I know people lived in the South before air conditioning, but honest to God, I don’t know how.  We moved here from Montana where we built a new log home and didn’t even consider putting in air conditioning.  This is different.  In South Carolina I would put air conditioning right up there with food and shelter.

He told me about a service call he made last month to repair an air conditioner for an African American grandmother with five kids in her house that belong to her daughter, who is a heroin addict. “She told me about her utility bills, and other bills, and taking care of the kids, and doing it all on $500 a month from the county plus food stamps.  It was 96 degrees.  I knew she couldn’t afford to pay me, so I just ‘ate’ the bill. ”

I have not felt very good about my country lately.  There’s a lot of ugly stuff going on.  But this young man did a lot to restore my confidence in our future.

“I usually don’t charge somebody like that,” he said.   “I mean, you see what’s going on, and you just have to do what you can, you know?  I don’t mind giving up my labor, I can always just work harder.  But the cost of parts keeps going up and up.  I have hundreds of dollars in parts in these repair jobs.”

My HVAC guy is your average American small business owner.  He works long, hard hours.  He invests most of his profits in tools, a truck, paying his help, and keeping up his education and certification.  In the hot summer he works around the clock.  If somebody needs help at 9:00 pm, he answers the phone.   He didn’t go to college.  He goes to church every Sunday, but half the time he is on a service call that afternoon.  His kids don’t have fancy tennis shoes, and he can’t afford the time or cost of a Disney cruise.  Yet he is one of the “Deplorables” Hillary Clinton looks down on.  Even worse, he owns a business – which, to Democrats, makes him a greedy, selfish racist who got rich on the backs of the poor.  He’s the guy Obama sneered at:  “You didn’t build that business.”

The truth is, he DID build that business, and he cares a hell of a lot more for the poor, and minorities, than Hillary Clinton does, or Barack Obama, or anybody who votes for them and their Democrat friends.

And yes, he said, “I am going to vote for Donald Trump.”  He told me he had not voted for years, but this time he has to.  “The first thing I heard Trump say was, ‘I am paying for my own campaign, nobody bought me, and I can’t be bribed.’  That was all I needed to hear.”  And that certifies his status as one of Hillary’s “Deplorables”.

The sad thing is, the grandmother whose air conditioning repair bill he ‘ate’, and the addicted mother, and most of their friends and relatives, and all of the liberals who pretend to care about them but never do anything about it, are going to vote for Hillary and the Democrats.

The Deplorables out there doing real acts of charity and love every day, and not asking for anything in return – they are the unsung heroes.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

While others long to steal the spotlight
You work your magic quietly
‘Cause your not in it for the glory
The love you give comes naturally

Unsung Heroes – Terri Clark

Here’s one of my favorite country artists, Terri Clark from Medicine Hat, Albera.  Give a listen.