Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fall in Southern Indiana

Fall is here again, and with it, harvest time.

Farmers have been working overtime to get the crops in before bad weather. Our neighbor worked into the night to get his corn in yesterday.
Most of the beans are in, as is the corn. There are still a few fields left to pick, due to the combination of late planting and a very dry season. I haven't seen a year this dry in a long time. If we hadn't had a wet winter and spring, the yields would be much worse that what the farmers are getting now. Fall also gives us the opportunity to watch the colors change. Here's a few pics to show you how beautiful it is here. We don't have full color here yet, and may not get the full color, due to the unusually dry summer.

As you can see, we have some beautiful country around here. The leaves are just starting to turn, but because of the dry weather, we still have a lot of green on the trees. Pretty unusual for October. Won't be long til winter...oh, and by the way, the wooly worm I found recently was black, brown and black...hope it's not right. I hope we don't make up for the lack of rain by having a bunch of snow and bad weather. Guess we'll find out soon enough.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Baron's Vote

There's been talk in the media about the recent vote made by Baron Hill on the SCHIP bill (the State Children's Health Insurance Program). According to the Seymour Tribune:
In Indiana, SCHIP helps pay for Hoosier Healthwise, which enrolls about 75,000 Indiana children from families earning up to twice the federal poverty level, a floating scale that’s $41,300 for a family of four. The bill vetoed by Bush would raise eligibility nationwide to four times the poverty level.

The bill would pay for the SCHIP expansion by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents per pack to $1. That’s separate from the 44-cents-per-pack increase in Indiana’s cigarette tax to 99.5 cents per pack on July 1.
Baron's reason for voting against the bill was because he also represents tobacco farmers in this area. Baron said that the bill "...should not be financed entirely by tobacco." I believe he is right. Here's why:

1. Our district is, after all, a farming district, and the farmers have been forgotten in the past. Baron is a supporter of farming.
2. The way the bill is to be funded is the problem, not the bill itself. Baron saw that, and realizes that you have to have a better way to fund this kind of legislation. This is the great irony of this kind of legislation. Why should you have a good bill, which will help many children, fund it with money from sales of tobacco, and then turn around in the same breath and say, "We want everyone to quit smoking. It's bad for you, and should be stopped"? If everyone stopped smoking, where would the money come from?

It is ridiculous to fund a bill to help children, and then try to dry up the source. It seems like grandstanding to me by a bunch of politicians just looking to get elected. Voting on this bill put Baron in a bad spot. His political enemies will try to capitalize on this, even though their party is always the first to vote no on anything that will help children.

Baron would like to find a better way to fund this legislation than an unsure source. If it can be found, this would be a great help to children in need. I believe he was right to vote against it, and believe he will help find a better way to fund it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Don't Blame the Little Guy

Hi, folks. Been awhile since I've posted, due to other priorities in life (busy summer). I've had some thoughts rolling around in my head for awhile, and thought that I'd better get them written down while I have some time.

There's been a lot of talk in the media lately about the credit crunch. The housing market balloon has exploded, and has caused major troubles in the market. Lenders have failed, mortgage foreclosures have skyrocketed, and people with adjustable rate mortgages are in big trouble. Many lenders have been forced to try to find a way to get bailed out, such as Countrywide. The latest one was a British lender, Northern Rock, who had to go to the Bank of England for emergency credit. This was the first British bank to be affected by the credit problems at home, and has caused stock markets in England and Europe to shudder from this buyout.

I've heard a lot on the news about what caused this credit crunch, and each time I hear an analysis, I hear these pundits blame the homeowners who have failed to make their mortgage payments. Fair enough. If you can't make your payments, the bank will foreclose on your house. I'm sure that's the main reason why this all happened, but isn't there another reason why these people cannot make their mortgage payments? Maybe it's time we examined the reasons why things have gotten so bad.

First off, the majority of the people who are having trouble making their mortgage payments had A.R.M's, or adjustable rate mortgages. Many of these people bought these homes with the adjustable rates, thinking they would save a lot of money, and banked on the rate staying low. They were then able to buy houses that would normally be out of their reach. In some areas, it is common to have homes that start at $200,000 and go up from there. Now, I'm no banker, and I don't pretend to know much about interest rates and such, but to me, (1), buying a $200,000+ home sounds like a mansion, and (2), buying it on an adjustable rate sounds insane (all apologies to those who have done this - I'm simply stating my opinion). Where I live, a house in that range would be more than most people would need. Areas north and south of here have homes in that range.

Builders and developers took advantage of the housing boom in the last decade, and shot the price of the homes skyward. In turn, banks had to find attractive ways to convince people that they could afford them...even if they really couldn't. Lenders came up with A.R.M's, to entice people to buy the home with low interest. This sounded good when the rate was low. However, rates don't always stay low. This the lenders failed to warn them about...all they wanted to do was make a sale. The economy gets shaky, rates go up, people start to struggle with payments. Pretty soon, people start to default because they can't make their payment. The ground gets shaky, and the rates keep going up. More people default. It's a cascading effect, and it's effects are being felt right now.

Why is the economy shaky? Why are people unable to make their payments? One reason that no one wants to talk about is the one thing that is damaging this economy and many others...the subject our President and his buddies don't want to hear about....yes, you guessed it, high gas prices. I know this subject is taboo with this administration...heaven forbid we blame their blessed Big Oil for the problems we're having. Well, I'm going to give you an analysis as to why high gas prices are to blame for our problems.

When people took out these A.R.M.'s over the last decade, gasoline was less than $1.50/gal. The economy was humming along pretty good, till 9/11. Gas started to climb after that. We dealt with the price, and were able to withstand the rise. People still had money in their pocket. Along comes Katrina and Rita, and suddenly the price skyrockets. Futures traders panicked over concerns of loss of supply, which sent the price skyward. Gas continued rising through 2006 and 2007, with no relief in sight. People who used to have money in their pocket to pay for that adjustable mortgage suddenly didn't have it anymore. It went into the gas tank. They have no money to buy other things, so business starts to slow at retailers. Food prices rise, because the cost of transportation has to be passed on. More money out of the pocket. A family that once was able to afford a very nice home, several cars, etc., now has to start watching every dime they make to live from week to week.

As things continue, and the family continues getting squeezed, they fail to make their payments on time. Maybe they live an hour from work, and have to spend most of it on gas to get there, or they have to spend a larger chunk on food and clothing. There's not enough money to go around. The interest rate begins to climb on the A.R.M., which only makes things worse. They are still forking out a lot of money on gasoline, which they have to have in order to drive to work, but now their check is going mostly for gasoline to get there. They find themselves in a vicious cycle: it's too expensive to drive to work, but they can't afford not to go, for they must still eat. The cycle continues until they can no longer keep up the payments. The house is foreclosed on, and a family is forced to live on the street. The lender can't sell the house, because no one has the money to buy. Others follow suit, and the lenders are suddenly faced with a crisis: a lot of homes standing empty, with no one to buy them. The lender can't make any money, so they go bankrupt. This, in turn, causes ripples in the stock market, which begins to falter. The economy slows, jobs are lost, etc. Get the picture?

Now, before you go saying, "Well, these people have poor credit. What else would you expect from people like that?", think of this: the banks were loaning money right and left to people who had poor credit, all the while promising them blue skies. What they didn't warn them about was the storm on the horizon. Many people who did these A.R.M.'s had good credit to start with, but they fell for the hype about "borrow $300,000 for 3.6% interest", and when things went sour, they fell in the hole.

Before you blame the little guy for causing this crisis, take a look at what the big guys did to cause it. You can't expect someone to be able to make extravagant payments when they are paying $3.00/gal. for gas, and their income is not rising. Because of the greed of lenders, builders, and the oil companies, America is facing a housing crisis unlike anything seen since the Depression. People are losing their homes at an alarming rate, and the price of gasoline just keeps rising. Many more will lose their homes before this crisis is over. The only way to solve this crisis is not to blame the little guy, but to fix the problems that the big guys caused. The little guy is getting squeezed, and if we continue to squeeze him, the dream of home ownership will remain just that...a dream.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Daniels Refuses to Suspend Gas Tax

Well, folks, with gas at an all-time high, you would hope that somebody in our government would do something to ease the pain. Unfortunately, it won't be Gov. Daniels (surprise, surprise). According to the Indianapolis Star, Daniels doesn't think it would be "an effective or responsible thing to do." Read the article:
Gov. Mitch Daniels says record prices at the pump have not changed his mind about suspending the state’s 6-cent sales tax on gasoline, but his administration is trying to determine whether he could do that even if he wanted to.

Mark Massa, Daniels’ general counsel, said today that his legal interpretation of a 1981 law that former Gov. Frank O’Bannon used to temporarily suspend the tax in 2000 would not allow Daniels to do the same.
But the administration is researching whether a threshold for declaring an “energy emergency” under that 1981 law is being met now, and it has asked the attorney general’s office for a legal opinion on whether a governor can suspend the gas sales tax under that law.

“We want to find out what the options are first,” said Daniels’ spokeswoman Jane Jankowski.

The steps follow the latest round of requests for the Republican governor to temporarily suspend the tax. Some lawmakers made the same request when prices spiked in summer 2005 and last summer.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in Indiana hit a record $3.348 on Monday, according to AAA Hoosier Motor Club. Former U.S. Rep. Jill Long Thompson, who plans to announce her intentions to seek the Democratic nomination for governor this summer, issued a news release Monday asking Daniels to suspend the tax.

Indiana House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, sent Daniels a letter Tuesday asking him to do the same.

“Once again, the state’s treasury is gaining from the pain faced by families in Indiana, thanks to the windfall from the sales tax that is being added on top of the exorbitant prices charged to motorists in our state,” Bauer wrote.

Daniels said Monday that he would “never say never” to the possibility of suspending the tax, which would save motorists about 16 cents per gallon if the price was $3.

But he said right now it would not be an effective or responsible thing to do, in part because he was still trying to restore the fiscal strength of state government and suspending the tax would be a step backward. He also said the tax relief would fall on the rich and poor alike, and he knows no way to target the relief to those who need it most.

O’Bannon suspended the tax in July 2000 when gasoline prices hit about $1.80 per gallon, which was considered expensive then. Republicans claimed it was an election-year ploy, but O’Bannon said it was needed to help working families and keep Indiana businesses competitive.

O’Bannon extended the initial 60-day suspension into September, then lifted it.

He relied on the 1981 state law that allows a governor to declare an energy emergency. That’s defined as an “existing or projected shortfall of at least 8 percent of motor fuel or other energy sources that threatens to seriously disrupt energy supplies or diminish energy supplies to the extent that life, health or property may be jeopardized.”

The law says if that threshold is met and an emergency declared, the governor can implement programs, controls, quotas or curtailments to affect the conservation or consumption of energy. O’Bannon relied on language that said a governor also could “suspend the provisions of any state statute regulating transportation ....”

When O’Bannon suspended the tax, his deputy press secretary — Cheryl Reed — acknowledged that the emergency order had never been used and therefore had not been interpreted by the courts. But she said the governor’s legal staff had thoroughly reviewed the law and believed the action was proper.

She said according to the Federal Energy Information Administration, which monitors gasoline inventories, those in the Midwest were 13 percent below the five-year average for that time of year — and the administration was satisfied that the 8 percent shortfall threshold had been met.

At the time, then Senate Finance Chairman Larry Borst, R-Greenwood, suggested that O’Bannon was skirting the law. He said the Legislature enacted it in 1981 because the state was running out of fuel at the time and it was felt that a governor should have some emergency powers to order conservation.

“There was never anything in there about prices,” Borst said then.

Massa said in his legal judgment, the law’s provision allowing a governor to suspend any state statute regulating transportation “doesn’t give you authority to waive a tax statute.” But he said the administration still wants further legal guidance from the attorney general’s office.

This is the same governor who closed half the license branches in the state, sold the Indiana toll road to a foreign company, rammed Daylight Savings time down our throats, and on and on. Oh, wait a minute...losing the sales tax would cost the state money. That's all Daniels has thought about since the beginning. He said during his campaign that he would run the state like a business...yeah, he being the CEO and the rest of us peons to make money for the state, while he rides around in a state-sponsored RV, paid for and fueled with state money. All the while, the rest of us have to suffer. He is really one to talk about "effective and responsible" actions. The only things Daniels sees as responsible are actions that bring in money to the state treasury.

Frank O'Bannon, rest his soul, went out on a limb when he suspended the tax. Maybe the words "excessive prices" weren't there, but Frank did the right thing because he cared about working Hoosiers. To paraphrase Daniels' quote, Frank thought it was "the effective and responsible thing to do" because he was concerned about us...he put our needs above the needs of the state. That's what a governor should do...govern the state and his constituents, not act like a CEO giving orders to his workers. Frank had a heart...Daniels does not.

It's time to do the "effective and responsible thing". Governor Daniels should suspend the 6% sales tax, at least temporarily. He should give us a chance to breathe a bit easier, because we are all suffering from this.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Greensburg, Kansas

I can't help but express my utter shock over the tornado that hit Greensburg, Kansas on Friday, May 4th. We in Indiana also live in fear of tornadoes, and have seen our share. However, I don't remember when we have seen a tornado of this magnitude obliterate an entire town. The devastation is beyond words. We also have a town called Greensburg here, famous for its tree growing in the courthouse tower. Greensburg, Indiana narrowly missed getting destroyed in 1974, during the Super Outbreak.

Our hearts go out to the folks in Kansas who have loved ones in or near that area. We cannot imagine the loss you are suffering at this time. Just know that God is near, and you can find comfort in Him.

I am also concerned about the lack of equipment available to the National Guard...most of it is in Iraq now. This creates a great problem for the cleanup effort. They need as much equipment as necessary to clear away the debris, and begin the rebuilding effort.

I wonder how much help the federal government will give these people. They seem to be able to talk a good game, but they did the same during Katrina...and we all know how that turned out. Let's hope that this time FEMA and the other agencies involved get the needed supplies and equipment to this area quickly. I would hope that we don't find out in the coming months that nothing has changed, and that the government dropped the ball again.

As far as help from the National Guard, how about help from other states? Could our Governor, or maybe one from a neighboring state, or both, send some equipment to help with the cleanup? I would hope that someone could do this, as this is far worse damage than we have seen in a long time. Governor Daniels, in the spirit of cooperation and goodwill, please do something that will help them. If we had a disaster of this magnitude, I'm sure we'd be asking for outside help.

Again, to the folks in Kansas, our thoughts and prayers are with you. We pray that you will look to God in the days ahead, as He will give you the strength to carry on.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Gas Prices Rise Again

Excuse me for the rant, folks, but I'm rather fed up with it all.

I'm sure all of you by now are getting a bit tired of the rapid rise of the price of gasoline. It hit $3.19 a gallon here today, much to my shock. The results of this are already evident at the grocery store, as in $3.37/gal. for milk, and so on. This is putting a strain on everyone, especially the working poor, who sometimes have to travel many miles to work, only to spend most of their paycheck on fuel. By the time they get done paying for the fuel, they don't have enough left to buy the groceries they need, let alone pay bills. Some will say, "Well, that's their fault. They should work closer or spend less." Many people don't have a choice where they work...they're lucky to have a job, even if it's $8-9 an hour. At these wages, which by the way, aren't rising, it's a wonder they can afford to eat, let alone keep a roof over their head. I consider myself lucky, in that I do make more than that. It's hard enough for us to keep up with everything, let alone what those poor people have to put up with.

This madness must stop! If this keeps up, people won't be able to afford to go to work, let alone pay their bills. It appears that the oil companies are back to their old tricks, raising the prices at every little problem that comes around. The price had dropped close to $2/gal, before it suddenly started rising again, all because of "supply problems", "world crises", etc. Seems like they just couldn't stand to lose money, so they found an excuse to raise it out of sight. Not to mention that the man in the White House could care less about whether we have to pay more or not (he is an oil man, after all, so why would he stop the price from rising?).

Yes, I'll admit, there are many reasons for supply problems, and sometimes a rise is justified (supply and demand). However, why is it that the gasoline that was delivered on Monday for $2.45/gal can be raised the next day by 20 to 30 cents per gallon when it is the same gasoline in the tank? Other commodities don't work this way, so why should gasoline? Maybe I just don't understand how it works, or maybe it's just gouging...pure and simple.

I sincerely hope that Congress can finally find the time to look into this, when they can get out of investigating all the things that Bush and the Repubs have them tied up in. The Repubs seem to be trying to keep them occupied on other matters, in order to keep them from doing what is best for the American people. This Congress inherited a mess - a corrupt administration, a President who listens only to himself, and a war that has kept the Congress occupied for most of it's first few months. With a mess like that, it's no wonder they can't find time to fix the problem.

As I said, excuse me for the rant. I just want to see things improve for everybody.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Shame on the Media

After all the families and friends of the victims of the terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech have gone through this week, now the media decides to air footage of the killer explaining why he did it! This was totally uncalled for! Shame on NBC for airing the footage to start with, and shame on the other media outlets to follow suit, just to increase their ratings! This should not have been broadcast, especially not now, with the families still trying to cope with this tragedy. Airing footage like this at this time would be the equivalent to allowing the public to view the cockpit tapes of the Challenger or Columbia as it broke apart! Maybe at some point, the families themselves could have been allowed to view it, as long as they were in agreement on it. Maybe it should never have been shown at all. By showing it, they did exactly what the killer spread even more pain and hurt.

When will the media, and the public who craves these things, learn that there are some things that just shouldn't be shown? I'm not talking about censorship, just using discretion and common sense when something like this comes along. This kind of message does not deserve to be on the airwaves. It just causes more pain to everyone. How many children might have been exposed to this tirade? How many kids will go to sleep tonight, only to wake up with nightmares because of what they saw? I'm glad my children have not seen it...I would have a mess on my hands.

I myself was fortunate not to have viewed the videotape, being that I was at work. I read enough in the news on the internet to make me couldn't bring up a news page without seeing something about it. I have no desire to see the tape...I am disgusted enough already.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tragedy in Virginia

Hello, folks! I've been on hiatus for a while now, and while I have a few posts in process, I must weigh in on a subject that I feel strongly about. In the wake of yesterday's tragedy at Virginia Tech, I know that the gun control debate will be reopened again. This was a terrible tragedy, committed by a sick individual. My heart goes out to the families and loved ones who are left behind. I cannot possibly imagine their grief and sadness after this despicable tragedy. I can only say that I am a father and parent also. I would not want to go through this with my children. To the families and friends affected, may the mercy and kindness of God be with you in the days and weeks ahead, as you turn to Him for solace and comfort.

When a tragedy like this occurs, the gun control advocates come out of the woodwork. Although the time for debate is not now, I must clarify my position on this issue. I do not believe in gun control, as it has not worked in the past, and will not work in the future. Notice the weapon was a pistol? Note to those who wanted assault weapons banned: it stopped him from using an automatic weapon, so he just used something else. My point is this: The young man was bent on killing as many people as possible. If there had not been a pistol available, or other gun of some kind, he could have just as easily planted bombs, or became a suicide bomber to accomplish what he wanted to do. This does not condone the use of a pistol or other gun in any way to harm someone; however, as tragic and terrible as this event was, a bomb would have been far worse, with possibly hundreds killed. Ask those in Baghdad, who deal with suicide bombers every day, about this reality.

My point: If someone like this is bent on killing people, they will find a way to do it, whether it be with a pistol, knife, bomb, or whatever. Banning guns is not the answer. In fact, by removing the right to carry guns, we may have inadvertently allowed this tragedy to happen. In an article in the American Spectator, John Tabin writes about "A Disarmed Campus", in which he tells how a bill that would have allowed students to carry concealed weapons in places such as Virginia Tech, failed to pass the legislature:

"In January 2006, Virginia Delegate Todd Gilbert introduced House Bill 1572, which was meant to guarantee, with a few exceptions, that students with concealed handgun permits would be allowed to carry guns on college campuses. The bill died in subcommittee later that month. Like many schools, Virginia Tech had a policy prohibiting guns on campus, and Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker expressed pleasure at the bill's defeat. "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions," said Hincker, "because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus." "

Ironic, isn't it? Tabin makes the point that "...the gun ban didn't ensure safety. Virginia Tech was the site of the worst shooting spree in American history...Mightn't a law-abiding armed student have stopped the spree in its tracks? We'll never know." "

As I stated, don't jump to the conclusion that banning guns will prevent this from happening again. If a sick, twisted individual is determined to do this, they will try with any means possible, whether it be a gun, a bomb, a car, or whatever. The only way to stop them is for those around them to recognize the signs of trouble. From what I have heard this afternoon, the young man had raised alarm with faculty members who read his creative writings. That should have been enough of a sign of trouble to cause someone to either get the young man to counseling, or call the authorities to intervene. It obviously didn't happen, and now we have a terrible tragedy on our hands. Intervention by schools, family, friends, or the authorities, is the only way to prevent such a tragedy before it happens. Banning guns is not the answer.

Again, my heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims of this terrible tragedy. May God wrap you in His arms, and may you find comfort and solace there in the days ahead.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

On Temporary Hiatus

Hi folks! Sorry there hasn't been a post for awhile, but it's been pretty busy here lately. I don't have much time to blog right now. I'm going to go on hiatus for awhile, but I will still post here from time to time.

I do need to mention the new Congress. So far it looks very promising. Let's hope they can fix some of the problems we're facing, and keep the President in check. He still continues to operate thinking that he has the exclusive right to make decisions on Iraq and everything else, and that he doesn't have to answer to anyone. Looks like he and Cheney made the rounds today, letting everyone know that he was right, and he'd do whatever he wanted, regardless of what Congress and the American people want. Obviously, he must live in a vacuum, because the last election should have shown him that the American people are sick of him acting like a king, with no one to account for. This guy just doesn't get it. So much for the spirit of cooperation.

Anyway, as I said, I'm going to go on temporary hiatus for awhile, but will still post occasionally, especially when something important must be said.

Thanks for reading the posts, and see you soon.