Tuesday, October 25, 2011

WWI Aviation and True Crime Research - Hitting on all Cylinders!

I have often contended that the researching for a non-fiction book is as enjoyable as writing it.  This is the case with a few projects that I have going right now. 

My evenings are spent corresponding with archives all over the planet, looking for precious little tid-bits to add color and detail to my books.  I meet a lot of neat people (virtually) and find the experiences to be very rewarding.  If nothing else it is a great diversion from the mental toils of my day job. 

First – my Bert Hall book project.  Bert Hall was the bad boy of the Lafayette Escadrille.  He was, essentially, kicked out of this illustrious unit, despite being one of the founding members.  Bert went on to serve in Romania and then later in China, heading up Nanking’s air force.  Bert was a mercenary of the highest order, selling arms (unsuccessfully) and brokering the sales of military aircraft.  I like Bert because he exemplifies the aerial mercenary image of Sky Captain in real-life. 

My work on my Bert Hall book has been a passion with me because he was such a braggart and liar – his autobiographies are riddled with Bert-isms; half truths or outright fabrications.  That means resorting to going to primary sources to get to the truth.  It is painstaking work but worth it – especially lately. 

In the last two weeks I have had two substantial breakthroughs in terms of research on this project.  Not only have I successful tracked down a copy of one of Bert’s on film but I have also managed to locate an audio recording of one of his many radio interviews.  I’m trying to see what I can do to get the rights for these so I can provide them to the WWI history community.  I realize that if you are not a WWI or aviation history buff, this sounds pretty boring, but trust me – this is substantial.  The film footage may very well show Bert flying a WWI aircraft – at least that is my hope. 

My new true crime book on the murder of Daisy Zick also scored some new information  that will give me a lot of new research material.  Daisy was brutally stabbed and beaten in 1963 and her death remains one of Michigan’s great unsolved crimes…if only because of the savage nature of her death.  I’ve been bounced around from one source to another but now I’ve hit a pile of material that even the original investigators in the crime have not looked at.  While it won’t break the case, so to speak, it will make this book much better.

In the meantime, I’m expecting to see the cover art on my book Secret Witness about the Nola Puyear bombing murder in Marshall Michigan in 1967.  The copy edit is under way too which will be fun to go through.  Once a book is in production, there are bursts of activity then long periods of simply waiting. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

If I were elected President...

Let me be clear, I don’t think I could ever be President…I’m just not comfortable with the lying required to get the position.  The job, as I see it, is mostly ceremonial anyway.  From my perspective I’d be spending a lot of my time getting Congress to work with itself.  I prefer to think of this job as the Adult-in-Chief and acting like a mature adult is something I don’t excel at.  I want a job that people respect while you’re doing it, not decades after you’re dead.  Realistically, the Presidency is probably not for me but if called upon, I will serve. 

The reason I won’t get elected is that I’m practical in my thinking.  I’m not a die-hard Republican or Democrat, Tea Party activist, or career politician; I’m an American.  As you will see by my campaign platform, America really isn’t ready for me - yet.

Having said that here’s my plans, if nominated and elected, for fixing this mess we find ourselves in:

First topic: who’s to blame for our current state of affairs?  Both political parties are guilty.  Case closed.  My fantasy administration will not spend time pointing the fingers at my predecessors.  That doesn’t fix anything. 

I will create financial disincentives for jobs leaving the US.  For a company to layoff hundreds or thousands of people and then outsource to some other country – with no financial ramifications, that’s just crazy.  If you outsource, co-source, or move a job to another country – you would be fined, you would also have to either compensate the person who is losing their job or pay to retrain them (two years of minimum, either way).  Why should taxpayers pay for unemployment your company causes? We've made it far too easy for companies to ship jobs overseas - the time has come to slow that down.

After the housing crisis we tightened up requirements for loans - the result, less new home buyers which means existing home owners have no one to sell to. I’m not sure I could have afforded a 20% down payment on our first home.  I don't want to return to those days of runaway housing value explosions, but we have to have some loans available for citizens that want to buy a house for the first time.  If you are in the military we would extend that loan out as interest-free for each year of service you provide.  God bless our veterans.  My plan will stimulate the housing market and will, in turn, given some relief to the building industry.

T
he government needs to get out of the car business. To do that we need to stimulate sales. I worked in the auto industry and I know if they do well, it keeps a lot of other people employed.  If we give people a hell of a tax break if they buy a car manufactured or assembled in the US, it will keep autoworkers working as well as the thousands of businesses that support them.

I would reform…no, throw out the tax code. Start from scratch with a national sales tax and a moderate tax rate based on your income. The only people that have to fill out tax forms at all are those that want exemptions. You pay your tax rate and a national sales tax and that is it. I know we will all be upset at this, but we will be able to do away with lot of IRS auditors - the only negative to my overall jobs plan. Somehow I don’t picture a lot of people crying over these people joining the ranks of the unemployed. 

America is no longer known as a manufacturing country. We need to preserve and build our intellectual capital. Companies that send employees to training outside of their organization get significant tax breaks.   This will help spur jobs in training, colleges, and universities too.  Oh, I’d explore bringing an end to NAFTA.  This agreement caused us to send jobs out of the country.  It’s time to stop the hemorrhaging of our work force. 

We need to get more students motivated to go onto college or trade school and yet be able to pay off their student loans. Since we don't make things anymore in this country, our intellectual capital is more important than ever. When a student completes a degree, they should get a year exception on federal taxes. Hopefully that will incent companies to hire them and will give them more money to spend in the economy and pay off their student loans.

Part of what makes our country great is entrepreneurs. Under my fictitious administration, if you start a business and employee at least five full time employees for more than six months - you are except from federal taxes for the first year and are eligible for an interest-free loan for start-up.  Small businesses are the cornerstone of our economy.  Let’s encourage more startups. 

For existing businesses, for every 20 full-time employees you add to your overall headcount of staff you get a percentage off on your taxes.  The more you add, the bigger the break.   

One of my very few public works programs is to fix Air Traffic Control in this country. Hell, even Mussolini got the trains to run on time. After over a hundred flights in that corridor I can count on one hand the number of times my flights between Newark and Washington DC have actually flown on time. I don't care if you leave the gate on time, I only care if I arrive on time. There would be a lot of changes to the airline industry if I were President.  Airline industry, consider yourself forewarned!

I will stop extensions of unemployment.  Unpopular – yes.  I’m not killing unemployment, just not extending it any further.  When you pay people to not work you know what you get?  More people not working.   Sorry folks, everyone needs an incentive.  If there are no jobs in your area I will have some money available to help you move to where you can get work.  Heck, that should create some jobs all on its own.

Our borders need to be secure. It is pathetic that, in this age of terrorism, our borders are so open that millions of people have come across them.  This would be a federal jobs program to build the necessary barriers, electronic or otherwise, and patrol our borders. Part of our border protection is enforcement of our existing laws. I would staff a policing force out there to enforce our current immigration laws, specifically targeting employers that may hire illegal aliens.

While I'm on the subject of people in this country illegally, here's my thinking: First, if you enlist and complete four years of military service, you qualify for a fast-track to automatic citizenship. Second, if you are here illegally - you have two years to apply to be citizens or you will be expelled from the country. We need to make it faster to become a citizen as part of this.  My thinking here is simple:  Get these people legal and get them paying taxes ASAP or get them sent home.  Third, if you hire illegal aliens you will get fined so heavily that you won't even want to consider breaking the law. Our new national ID system (see below) will ensure only legal immigrants to this country get work.  This is not being racist, I don't care what country you come from. I can't just waltz into your home country without following the laws and you can't do it here either.

Our infrastructure is a problem in this country. One, we need to try and mitigate the damage to our roads and bridges. I will propose a sweeping American Teleworkers Bill which will provide businesses huge incentives to have employees work at home rather than drive to work every day. Trust me, this will create technology jobs - beefing up our internet and wireless capability.  At the end of my administration, America will be known as a technological giant once more. 

Shifting us over the next few year to a teleworking infrastructure and mindset won't do it all. We need to repair the infrastructure but we need a plan to do it - duh. Just throwing money out there is ignorant. My administration will have a 10 year plan targeting priority projects - not crap that is "shovel ready." The companies that get this business will have to commit to adding to their headcount too. I don't want to spend money that doesn't get people jobs.

My form of economic stimulus is to give every taxpayer some cash to spend; I think $2000.00 should just about do it.  I would make it $5000.00 if you are a member of the military.  Not some damn rebate on taxes I’ve already paid.  I mean a non-taxed check.  The key here, you have to be up to date with your taxes to qualify. People will get the money and buy things – that’s stimulating the economy – that helps.  It’s sure better than letting Congress determine who gets the cash.  Oh, and Congress and my staff would be exempt from this program. 

Pensions for senators and congressmen would have to be dramatically cut in my administration.  So, let me get this straight - these bozos work for a few years (of which they get extended time off I might add) and they get big fat pensions for life?  I don't think so in the Pardoe Administration.  You get a year's worth of pension for every year you serve.  Stop whining Congress, you're almost all lawyers and will land on your feet.  We can no longer afford a free ride for people in this country.  Their "perks" such as a health care club would be shut down - let them spend money in the local economy to get healthy.  And Congress comes to Washington and works year round, just like I have to.  Oh, I would propose term limits on these ding-dongs too. 

Revamping our legal system.  Five words:  Casey Anthony and OJ Simpson.  Let's be honest, the legal system in this country is broken.  Court cases take too long and with jury selection turned into a behavioral sciences experiment, it's no wonder killers walk free.  The era of jury rigging through selection is over under my administration.  Also I will double the number of judges so there are no big long dockets.  I want swift justice to return to our nation. 

I will end "No Child Left Behind."  In the real world, when something fails, we stop doing it.  In government, we just keep it around.  The concept and intention was good, the execution sucked.  Time to kill this program.  Take the money tied up in it and give it to the teachers. 

My administration will create National Emergency Centers.  I'm no scientist but even I know that earthquakes will happen in California and hurricanes will devastate the gulf coast from time-to-time.  We need places to relocate people to en masse during times of national emergency.  I suggest we convert 3-4 of our old military bases into centers where we can do just that.  Next time Katrina happens, no FEMA trailers - you can bunk down in a barracks until you get back on your feet (no more than nine months though).  The communities that suffered when these bases were shut down will get new life, new jobs, etc.. 

My administration would not spend money in other countries at the expense of America.  The new Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington DC was carved in China.  What in the hell is that about?  Not under my watch folks.  You’re telling me you couldn’t find a sculptor in our nation to do this?  Yes, this will tick off other countries.  I refuse to apologize.  There are times in every nation’s history where the government must be returned to the people.  My fake administration would do just that. 

My plan for addressing health care hits on a few key points.  First, it's time to cure cancer.  Just like the race to the moon, this will require the government (sans influence from the medical and pharmaceutical communities) to drive to cure cancer.  I'm talking a massive national effort.  This will mean building new research centers (creating jobs), and staffing them (creating jobs), and a serious national effort on the scale of the space program to make it happen.  Curing cancer would free up health care workers in a profession that is starving for qualified people.  In ten years we need to have early detection and outright cures for cancer.  It's possible people, but we need to make it a real national focus. 

My second plank of health care reformation is simple:  I would repeal Obama-care.  The government already runs Medicare and the VA Hospitals and does a crappy job of that - why would we want them involved in day-to-day healthcare?   I would give some incentives to the health care providers that would drive down costs substantially (without sacrificing quality).  Beyond that, the federal government is the last entity I want involved with my health and well-being. 

National identity cards would be part of my administration too.  Oh, don’t throw up your argument about Nazi Germany doing this.  The Germans built the first modern highway system and I didn't hear anybody whining about that when we put in our interstates - grow up people!  We need to have a way to identify citizens.  These cards would be able to tie in and be your debit and credit cards, your driver’s license, and everything else you need it to be.  With biometric security systems – it would be both convenient and practical.  By the way, implementing this will create jobs.

Campaign finance reform would be addressed as well.  My approach here is simple:  I propose to do away with funding candidates, period.  The old-school thinking is a candidate needs this to be on balance if another candidate has deep pockets.  Hell…they all have deep pockets!  Why spend millions to get a handful of people new jobs…and most of them lawyers to boot?  Sorry, you want to run for office, you foot your own bill - that's the American way. 

In my imaginary administration I would push for energy independence.  Now, this is going to be hard.  It means we need to develop alternatives to oil and increase our own drilling and refining capabilities.  I'm not talking about tearing up the environment, I'm talking about making the oil companies that have raped us all with their price gouging either finding alternatives or getting taxed into oblivion as punishment.  There's oil aplenty out there right now, we need to incent the companies to start pumping it.  The Department of Energy would have to be restructured to be focused on R&D to develop and enhance alternatives.  You can’t tell me we can’t get solar power to be more efficient or can perfect using hydrogen as a fuel source.  We have a lot of bright people in this country – we need to get them on board with this   

On foreign affairs, we will be cutting our spending aboard every year of my administration.  We keep propping up the wrong kind of people around the world.  We should cut our spending by 10% the first year and increase that to 50% by the end of my first term (see, I’m even sounding Presidential, already planting the seeds about a second term).  Those cuts will go to paying down the deficit.    For a while, America needs to take care of our own needs first. 

Lobbyists will hate it when I’m elected to the Presidency.  First off, their records will be subject to public scrutiny.  Every lunch, every dollar and perk spent or offered will be made public.  We will publish lists of where that money goes, to whom. Since they are attempting to influence government, they would have term limits as well.   If they want to influence the government, they should be publically accountable.  Voters, you’ll decide then if you still want your politicians in office or not. 

Social Security won’t be cut during my administration but Americans are going to have to come to grips with the reality that the system was never designed to be your only income in your retirement years.  It was intended to supplement what you saved and invested in.  It is wrong of you to expect the government and the government alone to foot the bill of your retirement.  This is going to take two decades to change (getting people to change their thinking about this as a sole source of income) and may mean that we raise the retirement age.    No matter what, we have to fix this and part of that is helping people plan (and save) for retirement when they are young.  Under the Pardoe Administration, the era of infinite government entitlements would come to an end which is bound to make me one of the more unpopular presidents. 

In terms of other domestic policies – English will be the official language of the United States of America.  You will need to demonstrate a basic understanding of it to become a citizen.  This means new jobs doing night classes to teach immigrants how to speak American-English.  If you want to live here you’ll learn it. 

My opinion of the affairs of the Middle East is that there is little we can say or do to influence either side of this argument – an argument I might add that dates back centuries.  You can’t force people to want peace. 

I don’t trust North Korea.  I know that’s not much of a foreign policy, but I want them to know I’m keeping my eye on them.   The same applies to Iraq and Pakistan.  Somalia…well, don’t get me started there.  Here’s the deal guys, if I feel like you are a threat to world stability, as the President, I reserve the right to take action.   If you want our trust start by being friendly to us.  You’ll find that the United States is a good friend to have. 

Oh, and if you harbor terrorists who threaten us, we will come after them.  I realize this violates your sovereignty.  My job is President is to protect American lives.  I’ll try and handle this without invading you, but no promises. 

I deeply respect our military men and women and they will be a priority during my administration. 

To round things out – I will make decisions that many of you won’t agree with.  It’s called Leadership people – get used to it and start expecting it from your government.  I won’t knowingly lie to you.  I will make mistakes and will own up to them.  If my people screw up, they will be fired.  The late night comedians will make fun of me, I’m okay with that.  I have a pretty good sense of humor so they should be prepared for a verbal counterattack.  My focus will not be on carving my place in US history but helping you achieve your place in our history. 

Both political parties will hate me and paint me as loon – to which I say kiss my butt.  If either party had their act together it wouldn’t be necessary for me to be President.  It’s a sad state of affairs when I have to step up to this job. 

I won’t do campaigning when I’m on the payroll for you, the American people.  I will take vacations with my family and the folks on Fox and MSNBC will chide me for it.  I will have a normal American family join mine once a week for dinner just so that I can stay in touch with real people. There are times I will be politically incorrect…I’m not doing it to be mean, I’m doing it to make a point. I won’t hold press conferences to screw up your TV viewing unless it’s important to you (not to me.) 

Finally; I believe our best days are not behind us, but are yet to come.  I’m proud of our country.  Every generation of Americans is "the greatest generation," we just haven't given them a chance to prove it yet.     

Pundits and non-believers will tear this apart.  They will point out that I am na├»ve and ignorant of the law.  Others will slam my thoughts as being too idealistic or outright impractical.  Some will point out that the economics of my ideas are unsound.  I’ll save you time from posting your rebuttals; you’re right!  I took three economy classes in college and hated all of them.  And yes, I’m a dreamer.  Of course I’m not factoring in the politics of all of this. 

It is easy to take shots at the ideas of others.  At least I’m trying – I’m putting my thoughts down. Stick your rebuttals where the sun doesn’t shine.  I’m non-apologetic about my feelings or my alleged ignorance. 

I invite you to share this with others if you feel the same.  Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense to spark a revolution in this country.  I doubt I’ll have that impact.  But ideas are powerful things that are nearly impossible to stop.  Spread the word…