Letter to the Editor
Submitted August 30, 2007
Thank you for publishing the commentary by Ruben Navarrette, “Gonzales bows out gracefully”
I have always held Alberto Gonzales in highest esteem as a decent, extraordinarily bright, accomplished, yet modest person, having risen from a poor Hispanic family to one of the highest positions in government.
Unfortunately, he came under the hatchet of vicious politicians, intent on dismembering the entire Bush administration under the guise of oversight.
On the firing of US attorneys, for example, the judiciary committee attacked Gonzales on process and not substance. He had the right to fire them without giving a reason. But the detractors zeroed in on the process, demanding who did what, when, where. This is a perfect perjury trap used effectively by unconscionable lawyers.
Fearing the hatchet, and endless hearings distracting from their jobs, good people are leaving the Bush administration. However, the Gonzales case is particularly sad because we lost a particularly good person
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Letter to the Editor
Thursday, August 23, 2007
As I read the Op-Ed piece introduced below I did so without first noticing who the author was. As I read each line the ideas resonated within me and I was impressed with the caliber of the writing. When I got to the bottom and saw that the author is none other than Ross Terrill, I thought "of course, who else."
I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Terrill here in Austin a couple of years ago in a small gathering of Taiwanese students and professionals to which he introduced his new book about which he graciously fielded questions. I have read his book, The New Chinese Empire: And What it Means for the United States, from cover to cover. The book is a must read for anyone remotely interested in China.
I have found memories of that time with Dr. Terrill.
August 22, 2007
In Beijing, Orwell Goes to the Olympics
By ROSS TERRILL
IN China, language has long been a test of political orthodoxy. In Mao Zedong’s era, to confuse evil “bourgeois” with virtuous “proletarian” was to face a prison cell. Write the Chinese character for a leader’s name at a wrong angle and you were a class enemy. Now, as Beijing begins the final year of its preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games, a mistake with an English word is taboo.
Some lapses are harmless. “Don’t Bother” as a privacy request on a hotel door, for example, or “Chop the Strange Fish” on a restaurant menu. Others could lead to minor trouble. “Please take advantage of the chambermaids,” says a resort brochure.Click here to read the rest of the story.
Monday, August 20, 2007
The Role of Fiscal Conservatives
By Randy A. Samuelson
In today’s world, there is a perpetual conflict between individuals and government. This is mostly espoused in the terms of taxes and services provided. Typically, conservatives push for smaller government, lower taxes, and less intrusion by the government on the individual. Liberals generally push for increased government services which results in higher taxes and more government regulation of our everyday lives. The general population, which is politically apathetic, tends to look to government for solutions to their problems which allows the liberals to control the debate and our pocketbooks. Conservatives need to attack the problem of big government on multiple fronts, but mostly, in the minds of the average person.
Because the average person looks to government for services, there will always be an increasing need for more bureaucracy, more government workers, more government spending, and more taxes/fees/bonds/debt. One key point to remember is that the government does not create wealth within the economy. The government can only provide services by taking existing wealth from the economy in the form of taxes and redistributing this wealth in the form of services. To combat this problem, fiscal conservatives must be willing to create alternatives to government services either in the form of non-profit charities or businesses that can provide the services better. This is a daunting task, but the only way to prove to the average citizen that the free market works better is provide cheaper alternatives to government services that actually work to grow the overall economy. The individual entrepreneur is and always has been more creative than the bureaucrat.
Fiscal conservatives must also work within government to hold bureaucracies accountable with their spending practices. The average person will be surprised to find that nearly 25% of government spending for the fiscal year is done in the last 10% of the respective state, local, or federal fiscal year. This is because each appropriation must be spent at the end of each fiscal year to balance, or zero, the bureaucracy’s budget. Any money “left over” at the end of the fiscal year must be spent. Taxpayers do not receive this money back nor do they receive the benefits of the services that the money is spent on. The majority of this money is spent on equipment that the management teams think necessary to carry out the “mission” of the bureaucracy. Many companies know that a large portion of government funds are spent at the end of the fiscal year and will send their sales reps to government offices to showcase new equipment and to offer special pricing for end of the fiscal year purchases. In other words, these bureaucracies are over-funded by the taxpayers each year by probably 10% of their overall budget. Conservatives must stay in management positions in these bureaucracies to ensure that the initial budget estimates are created appropriately so that tax money does not go to waste on new toys for bureaucrats at the end of fiscal year.
Fiscal conservatives must also stay involved in the public policy debate and stay in tune to politics. There is no better way to hold a politician’s feet to the fire than to show up at government meetings and ask the question, “What are you doing to lower my taxes today?” If the answer is not satisfactory to you, challenge the politician in the next election. Only by staying involved in the political process and reminding your elected officials of the fact that they work for the taxpayers (and not vice-versa) will they even attempt to remain accountable. In the same sense, conservatives must also work with their local elected officials to promote accountability and transparency of government spending, alternatives to government bureaucracies, and the elimination of wasteful redundant bureaucracies.
Fiscal conservatives tend to allow others to take the lead on these issues while they are making money in private industry. That needs to change because each of us, as a conservative, needs to do our part in ensuring that our government does not encroach on our liberties and will effectively and efficiently provide the necessary public services and not all of the special interest services. If we cannot accomplish this, our future generations will continue to see their government grow, their taxes increase, and their government continue to fail to provide the quality of service they claim to provide.
Posted by Randy A. Samuelson at 8:15 AM
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Every day the plot thickens regarding the poisonous path China's products have taken. For background information see the following related blog posts and the stories linked thereto:
From Poisioning Pets to Poisioning People: Will "China's Rise" Be Our Demise? (May 8, 2007)
China Complains of Perported American Invaders (June 14, 2007)
Update on China's Poisoning of the Food Supply (June 21, 2007)
China's Scariest Weapon (July 15, 2007)
China's Latest Scapegoat (July 19, 2007)
Being a communist country, with only an illusion of free market capitalism, it is not unexpected that Chinese apologists are downplaying the problem of poisonous and otherwise dangerous food and products and are trying to get the world to look the other way.
Johin Carey of Peace and Freedom blog posted this the following story about one such apologist:
China's Very Own Reality: Scandals "Politically motivated, unfair, biased and poisoned by jealousy"
By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
August 20, 2007
Tainted seafood. Poisoned toothpaste. Cough Syrup that may have killed over 100 in Panama. Even toys with lead-based paint. Why? “Politically motivated, unfair, biased and poisoned by jealousy,” says China’s director of product safety, the Most Honorable Li Changjiang.
Just when you think China will come clean and admit that there were real tangible problems, the running back dodges a tackler and runs toward the goal posts.
China lives on denials, lies, suppression of news and obfuscation.And in this run up to the Beijing Summer Olympics, words from Chinese officials are less reliable than ever.
Have you noticed that all China’s factory workers wear hats or hair nets? You’ll never find a hair painted into a child’s toy from China but the paint might be lead-based, which is poisonous.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, at the height of the seafood problems, China’s “farm-fed” seafood came packed with antibiotics. That’s because they are fed on human excrement. If you soak your Chinese shrimp too long in warm water, the “pink” runs out. It is dye: there to make the seafood look more appealing.
The Chinese answer to all of this, weaving back and forth from near truth to outright ridiculous lies, includes this mystically Chinese answer given on China’s state TV network yesterday: “It’s not a severe winter, but there is a cold wind blowing,” the Most Honorable Li Changjiang said.
“This cold wind has been a big trial for the industry … But I think most of our companies can endure this test. Why do I say this? Because our exports keep going up.”
“More than 99 percent of our goods meet standards,” he added. “Demonizing Chinese products, or talking of the Chinese product threat, I think is simply a new kind of trade protectionism.”
It is all “politically motivated, unfair, biased and poisoned by jealousy.”
Forget O.J. Simpson. There is an entire government above 1.3 billion people that has mastered “spin” better than anyone: China.
On August 5, 2007, deputy head of the State Food and Drug Administration, Hui Lusheng, said, “At present, the food safety situation has improved, yet is still serious.”
“Since last year reports of ‘red-yolk duck eggs’ and so on have often caused wide concern in society about food safety, and warned us that our country is in a period of high risk,” Hui said, referring to a contaminated egg scare.
“Dealing with and preventing food safety risks is a long-term, arduous and complicated project, which needs society to work together and comprehensive prevention,” she added.
So on the one hand we have, “long-term, arduous and complicated.”
On the other hand, from a more senior person and less than a month later, we have, “Politically motivated, unfair, biased and poisoned by jealousy.”
This is today’s communist China. China lives on denials, lies, suppression of news and obfuscation.
Nobody should be fooled.
China: You Won’t Get The Truth
China: At Long Last Admits Food Safety Clean Up Will Be “Arduous,” Long Term
Thursday, August 9, 2007
MARK STRAMA DISTRICT 50
July 31, 2007
Thank you for your correspondence during the legislative session regarding stem cell research. I appreciate you taking the time to share your views on this issue with me.
I support stem cell research. It is an emerging medical technology that has many possibilities to benefit the citizens of Texas. While stem cell research, specifically embryonic stem cell research, is a contentious issue, the medical benefits this research has already shown to provide include possible cures for diabetes, reforming damaged nerve terminals, and rehabilitating people with multiple sclerosis. I believe the lives of the millions of Texans and their families who suffer from these diseases deserve our investment in this promising and competitive field of medicine.
Thank you again for writing to me about this important issue. If my office can be of assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us at 463-0821.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
AP News Story:
Reports indicate that after the recent tragedy involving the collapse of the IH-35 Bridge will result in higher taxes to fund more government. The government is trying to make a profit over a tragic event by raising the gas tax! After Congress and State Legislatures have increased the size of government exponentially over the past two decades, the essential government services, like public infrastructure, are seemingly left in ill-repair. If the size of government, the cost of government, and the amount of taxes has increased so much, why do the taxpayers receive less in terms of service and results?
Government bureaucracies have become black holes for our tax dollars. The essential government services are ill-funded at the local, state, and federal level, while social spending on non-essential services or services that can be met better through private industry, receive more funding. For example, the gas tax is a tax that was created as a dedicated tax to fund highway construction and maintenance. Currently, this tax is not used for this purpose at any level of government. In Texas, the State Legislature has decided to use 65% of this dedicated fund for highway maintenance and the other 35% of this dedicated tax to fund everything from public education to county courthouse renovations to public art projects. The federal government is probably even looser in its spending of a dedicated tax.
The slapstick reaction by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats and Congress to the tragedy in Minneapolis is to increase the gas tax. Increasing a tax in the name of public safety is just another scam perpetuated by our elected officials who are attempting to control our pocket books. The government already makes over 10 times more profit on a gallon of gasoline through the gas tax than Exxon/Mobile does in gas sales! Why should we allow the government to increase their profit margin when we, the taxpayer, do not even know where the existing money is being spent?
If you remember after the September 11 tragedy, there were many local gas stations that hiked their gas prices 3-fold due to uncertainty of supply. Many of these local gas stations were charged with price-gouging and there was significant public outrage.
Today, the federal government is attempting to increase their profit margin to increase the funds of unaccountable bureaucracies that have historically given us fewer results. The public should be outraged over the attempt at our government and its elected officials to price-gouge the American taxpayer. Instead, the taxpayers should be asking Congress to stop the frivolous spending and irresponsible earmarks and fund the necessary functions of government. What have these bureaucracies done to prove to the taxpayers that their money will be used efficiently? As long as the American people look to the government for response to problems, the more they will raise our taxes.
Posted by Randy A. Samuelson at 6:02 PM
Saturday, August 4, 2007
(Quoted from Moneynews.com newsletter)
Foreign Money Props U.S. Economy
Even as the Dow neared its all-time high this July of 14,000, it was really only worth 9,730!
It’s true, as the Europeans perceive the value.
The dollar has depreciated so dramatically in the past seven years that essentially Europeans are buying into the Dow and other U.S. capital markets at incredibly cheap prices.
Consider back in October 2000 when the dollar was at a high and the euro was worth just 82 cents for every greenback.
Since then — and largely due to massive inflation of the U.S. currency — the dollar has fallen some 39 percent. Today it takes $1.36 to buy a single euro.
WHAT THIS MEANS, in my view:
Assuming a steady drop of the dollar over seven years, there is a hidden, annual 7.5% tax on all purchases due to inflation.
VIZ: (1.36/.82) exp (1/7) – 1 = .0749 =>7.5% per year
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Published on Taipei Times
House votes for top-level Taiwan visits
DIPLOMATIC ALLY: A bill called for high-level exchanges at the Cabinet level and for the Bush administration to drop its insulting policy toward a democratic friend
By Charles Snyder
STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON
Wednesday, Aug 01, 2007, Page 1
The US House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution urging the administration of President George W. Bush to allow top Taiwanese officials to visit Washington freely in order to enhance bilateral communications.
The action, which now sends the bill to the Senate, was taken via a voice vote under rules that allow bill to be expedited, avoiding normal legislative delays. The bill was approved by the House Foreign Affairs committee last month, with the support of Democratic chairman Tom Lantos and ranking Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
It was sponsored by Congressional Taiwan Caucus co-chairman Steve Chabot, and had attracted 46 co-sponsors by the time it reached the House floor.
The bill expresses the "sense of Congress" that "restrictions on visits to the US by high-level elected and appointed officials of Taiwan, including the democratically elected President of Taiwan, should be lifted."
Those curbs have been in effect since 1979, after the Carter administration switched diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing.
The bill also urges direct high-level exchanges at the Cabinet level in order to strengthen policy dialogue, saying "it is in the interest of the United States" to strengthen links between the US and elected Taiwan officials.
"Our insulting policy toward our democratic friend and ally should be cast aside to reflect the reality of our strong relationship with Taiwan," Chabot said in remarks prepared for delivery on the floor (he was unable to attend the meeting because of air transportation delays).
"Taiwan is a model for young democracies and a great friend to the United States. We should recognize that friendship by abandoning our insulting policy on high-level visits and welcoming our Taiwanese friends with open arms. It is the right thing to do," he said.
The House action came a week after several congressmen voiced strong support for such high-level visits during a visit to Washington by Democratic Progressive Party presidential hopeful Frank Hsieh (謝長廷).
Chabot cited the visit in his prepared comment to the House, noting the irony that if Hsieh wins the presidency, he would "no longer be able to come to visit with his friends in Washington, DC."
Ros-Lehtinen, in her comments, said: "The leaders and people of Taiwan have been among the most steadfast friends of the United States from the Pacific region."
Calling the current curbs on visits a "self-inflicted wound," she said that ever since the 1950s "the people of Taiwan and the people of the United States have stood together against the threat of communist tyranny. It is only natural to warmly welcome the leaders of such close friends to Washington."
Delegate Eni Faleomavega of American Samoa, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee's Asia subcommittee, said that the "ill-considered policy" stems from the fact that "the policymakers in the White House and State Department cringe in fear that Beijing or the People's Republic of China would be upset if we welcome Taiwan's leaders to our nation.
"To say that that is wrong-headed is an understatement," he said.
Calling Taiwan a "thriving and energetic democracy that is a shining beacon for human rights all over the Asia-Pacific region," Faleomavega emphasized the need for leaders of both countries to talk about common issues to boost bilateral ties and advance the cause of peace in the region.
"Our outdated policy is profoundly disrespectful to the leadership of a democratic friend of the United States," he said.
This year marks the first time that legislation requiring high-level interchanges has gone so far in Congress.
Similar resolutions introduced by Chabot in 2004 and last year went nowhere.
In 2004, the legislation did not make it out of the then-named International Relations Committee, and last year similar bills in both the House and Senate did not make it out of committee.
The Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), Taiwan's main congressional lobbying organization in Washington, credited a strong grassroots lobbying campaign for helping push the bill through the House.
The organization earlier put the high-level visits at the top of its lobbying agenda for the 110th Congress, association president C.T. Lee said.
"For the past few months, we have mobilized all of our 56 chapters, urging them to contact their members of Congress," Lee said.
The bill is the second pro-Taiwan bill to be passed by the House this year.
In June, the House added an amendment to a US State Department funding bill that aimed to eliminate a set of departmental guidelines that severely restrict the way US and Taiwanese officials communicate in Washington and elsewhere. The amendment was approved by unanimous consent.
However, the Senate Appropriations Committee stripped that and other provisions from the funding bill, and its fate in the upper chamber is still unclear.
In Taipei, the Presidential Office commended the US House of Representatives yesterday for passing the resolution.
"We welcome the passage of the resolution," said Presidential Office spokesman David Lee (李南陽). "As it has positive impact on the Taiwan-US relations, we hope the US government will soon put it into practice."
While President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is scheduled to attend a summit with leaders of the nation's diplomatic allies in Central and South America lasterr this month, Lee said that it was unlikely Chen would visit Washington because the resolution still required the approval of the Senate.
Additional reporting by Ko Shu-ling
Posted by Freedom Ain't Free at 2:47 PM