Taxing Marijuana-cure for the US budget?

June 29th, 2009

News Story:

There are many people pointing to marijuana as a potential source of an enormous amount of tax revenue for the US government.  Legalizing, and taxing marijuana sales could bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue, potentially.  In Sacramento, CA, where medical marijuana is legal, $18 million in sales tax is collected on $200 million in sales of medical marijuana.  Supporters also point out that legalization would remove a huge burden from the penal system and from law enforcement, as so much is spent in enforcing laws making possession and sales of marijuana illegal.  Those who don’t support the plan point out that marijuana users are more likely to try harder drugs, and to not be productive members of society.

Commentary:

It’s funny that alcohol and tobacco are legal, yet marijuana is not.  If a large corporation such as Phillip Morris were interested in profiting from the sales of marijuana, I think the government would take the idea much more seriously.  It’s all a function of having a strong lobby in DC or not.   So much money is spent in the attempt to stop the use and sales of marijuana in the US, yet it doesn’t stop people from wanting it.  It’s funny that alcohol was once illegal too, and that law was overturned because the US needed more tax revenue…..

3200 Post offices in the US under review for closure

June 29th, 2009

News Story:

The US post office is reviewing a total of 3200 post offices nationwide for possible closure in the near future.  That amounts to nearly 10% of the total in the US.   The need for closures is due to a decrease in postal activity due to more internet use including internet bill payment.  The current recession has also resulted in a decrease in advertisment that is mailed as well.  A proposal has been made to only deliver mail 5 days per week instead of 6, eliminating Saturday delivery.  The proposed savings is $3.5 billion.

Commentary:

I think the majority of US citizens would not mind the loss of some post offices.  Most people rarely go to the post office as it is, unless they need stamps (which can be ordered via mail now) or need to pick up an undelivered package.  The loss of Saturday delivery also would barely affect most in the US.  The ability to handle so many things from the comfort of your home via the internent is making the post office as it is today obsolete.  Businesses like Fed Ex and UPS do the same job as the post office and in most cases do it better nowadays.

12 year old bull rider killed in Denver rodeo

June 29th, 2009

News Story:

A 12 year old boy who was a participant in a Little Britches Bull Riding competion in Denver County Colorado died after falling from the back of a bull he was riding.  The bull stepped on the boy’s chest , causing his heart to rupture resulting in the boy’s death.  The boy was wearing protective head gear, and a protective vest for the ride.  The boy’s younger brother also rides bulls competitively.  Children as young as 8 are permitted to compete.

Commentary:

The sport of bull riding is ridiculously dangerous for adults to participate in.  Allowing children as young as 8 to do this, and then saying that you can get hurt doing  just about anything, as some of the parents say, is completely outrageous.  I will never understand how parents can knowingly put their children into such dangerous situations and live with themselves.

Madoff sentenced to 150 years

June 29th, 2009

News Story:

Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for operating the biggest Ponzi scheme ever in Wall Street’s history.  His victims numbered in the thousands, and spanned the entire globe.  This is the maximum sentence allowed by law.

Commentary:

I’m glad the judge decided to send such a strong message in this case.  Hopefully the Madoff story will keep some people in the future from falling for  too good to be true investment schemes.

Obama promises to sign anti-smoking bill quickly

June 13th, 2009

News Story:

Legislation to severely crack down on tobacco makers and products is underway, and President Obama has promised to sign this legislation into law quickly.

Included in the legislation will be the ability for the FDA to have the ability to regulate what goes into tobacco products, to demand changes in additives and toxic substances in tobacco products and also to block the sale of new tobacco products.

Cigarettes will be required to have warning labels that cover 1/2 of the front and back of the packaging, tobacco sponsorships and advertisement will be strictly regulated, flavor additives will be restricted or banned, and a new user fee will be imposed on the tobacco industry.  Currently, assessments are $235 million a year and are expected to rise to $712 million in 2019.

Commentary:

I think that it is important to encourage young people not to begin smoking, but I think that responsibility should lie with the family, and with schools.  There are education programs, that my children have been a part of that are effective at telling kids the dangers of smoking and doing drugs.  My kids are the first to lecture their smoking grandparents on the dangers of smoking….

I don’t think that additional government regulation is the answer.  This is just another area that the current administration will throw the hard earned money of American citizens at, that won’t really stop those who are going to smoke from doing so.  Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, they’re going to do what they’re going to do no matter what legislation Obama signs into law.

Shooting at holocaust museum

June 10th, 2009

News Story:

A man with a very strong anti-Semitic past opened fire in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, killing one guard and then being shot  himself by law enforcement officers.  The shooter is 88 years old and was the writer of an anti-Semitic book entitiled “Kill the Best Gentile.”  He also runs a racist, anti-Semitic website.  He has a criminal record of attempting to kidnap Federal Reserve Board members as well.  The museum is located mere blocks from the White House in Washington DC, and generally has strong security including metal detectors.  The President expressed sadness at the occurrence of this incident.

Commentary:

This type of bigotry is the source of so much violence and strife in the world.  It is very sad and disheartening to see that this line of thought still exists in the US today.

Top 10 companies voted worst for customer service

June 10th, 2009

News Story:

A recent Zogby poll asked consumers to rate companies from best to worst in regard to customer service.  Out of a total of 145 companies included in the poll the following were rated the 10 worst:

1. AOL

2. Comcast

3. Sprint Nextel

4. Capital One

5. Time Warner Cable

6. HSBC

7. Qwest

8. Abercrombie & Fitch

9. Bank of America

10. Citigroup

Commentary:

These companies should put their customers where they should be: top priority.  In today’s economy, people won’t spend their precious dollars on companies that treat them like garbage.

I have personally had multiple issues with Comcast, and their presence on the list does not surprise me.  I’m currently considering switching to sattelite television, and if DSL becomes available in my area, I would dump Comcast internet in a heartbeat.  The presence of so many banks on the list is no surprise either.  They have gotten carried away with so many extra charges for service.  I can’t say that I’m a regular shopper at Abercrombie & Fitch, but I did get good service on the occassions that I did shop there.

Colorado, NY representatives look to regulate gas “fracking”

June 4th, 2009

News Story:

There is a push to begin government regulation of a procedure known as “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing used by oil and gas producing companies.  The process involves injecting chemicals, sand, and liquids underground to force open channels in formations of rock and sand so that gas and oil will flow to be extracted from the ground.  There is concern that the process could potentially cause environmental concerns such as contamination of ground water supplies.

The oil industry insists that the process is both clean and safe for the environment.  Detractors call the lack of regulation of the process the “Halliburton loophole,” as Halliburton, and oil services company was the pioneer of the process of hydraulic fracturing.  9 out of 10 wells in the US currently are fracked.  There have been reports of people with health concerns allegedly arising from contact with chemicals and materials used in the fracking process.  The industry does not disclose what it uses in the process of fracking for a new well.

Commentary:

This sounds like yet another abuse of power by both Halliburton, and the Bush administration, potentially at the expense and safety of US citizens, and in this case, the environment as well.  The US really needs to develop and use some other form of energy other than fossil fuels.

Obama outlines plan to have health insurance for all

June 3rd, 2009

News Story:

President Obama gave details on how he would like to reshape the healthcare system in the US.  He would like to give all Americans the option to buy into a government insurance plan, while still allowing them the choice to purchase private insurance as well.

There is pressure for Obama to push to require that all Americans have some form of health insurance, possibly providing a waiver based on income or some sort of  subsidies to help the poor purchase coverage.  Cost of this type of program is a huge issue, and Obama is already talking about making huge cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, in the amount of about $300 billion over 10 years.  He cites waste in unecessary tests, and hospital readmissions and would like to see more of a focus on managing chronic diseases.

All plans should have a basic coverage package, and none will be allowed to turn down those with pre-existing conditions for coverage.

Republicans and Insurance companies oppose the plan, as they say it would drive insurers out of business by artificially deflating the cost of coverage.

Commentary:

I agree that providing affordable healthcare for all US citizens is important.  Insurance companies have become so greedy, especially in their compensation of executives in these companies, and are not concerned with customer service.  They will give patients the run around and deny coverage with their profitability being their only concern.

A public coverage option will force insurance companies to differentiate themselves from a government run program, and service may be the way they can do that.

US Border traffic moves smoothly with new ID requirements

June 1st, 2009

News Story:

June 1st was the first day that more stringent identification requirements for crossing the US border went into effect.  It was feared the the new requirements would lead to major delays in commerce and travel over the border.  Those fears were not realized.  It is projected that 90-95% of those crossing the border came prepared with their passports as required by the new laws.  Those who didn’t meet the new requirements, but had documentation that met the old requirements were allowed to cross the border with a warning.

Commentary:

I’m amazed that these new requirements weren’t instituted sooner with all of the concerns about national security that we’ve been hearing about for the last 8 years…