Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Now Congress Wants Transparency

"Congress Moves to Crack Down on Bailout Recipients"

This is the title of an article today on the Fox News Website. The article goes on to inform us that there is no way for us to currently report on how the bailout money is being used (based on 4 questions previously asked to these institutions by the associated press). So that brings us to congress - now they wish to know where the money is going.

This is so painfully obviously something that they should have thought about LONG ago - like maybe BEFORE rushing this "bailout" through the senate the first time? Perhaps this is the reason it was not gaining steam - that is, until, as has been reported, congressmen were "bullied" into voting for the bailout on the second round of votes.

At any rate, this is something that should have ALWAYS been in place. How is it that the government thought it was a good idea to give free money to banks and institutions that have proved their greed in creating this mess to begin with? Of COURSE the greedy corporate fat cats would take their chunk and run with it - and do what they wish with it - lavish vacations, more homes for themselves, bigger and faster "corporate" jets! Yeah, good move by the government, and the very reason why I was against this bailout to begin with!

And NOW they decide "oh, we need transparency - we need to know where the cash is going" ... and all I can really say to that is DUH!!!! And all we can hope as the taxpayers - funding who knows exactly what - is that it isn't too late for the transparency to come to light; so we can finally, again see that these greedy fat cats are just a new wave of criminals.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Recession? What Recession?

Well, it's been a month since I last posted, so I figured I owed my readers something - unfortunately, there isn't much of significance.

Sure, I could post about the bailout of the auto industry - a bailout, that if you read any of my past posts, you would know, I do not support. If they truly had issues with running their company, they should do what the individuals in this economy are being forced to do - foreclose - file for bankruptcy protection and move on with their day. And sure, I could rant about their usage of private jets to fly to Washington D.C. to beg for the $25 billion they think is owed to them, but honestly, A) that's old news - it is reported they will drive the next time and B) what will my ranting do, except upset me?
Oh sure, Ford now says they can "manage" without the government bailout - all they'd ask is for $9 billion be "set aside" for them "just in case" they need the cash. I could easily write about how they came up with that dollar figure - I mean, honestly, 9 BILLION DOLLARS? What makes them think that is what they'll need - even though they "say" they can "manage without it?"

Yes, I could write about all of that, but instead, I will focus on something more broad - the economy as a whole - as you may have read or seen on television - we are now "officially" in a recession - a recession that started, or so they now say, a year ago.

The problem I have is with the "official" report, well, first off, individuals aren't in a recession unless their job has been lost or their mortgage payment has become unmanageable. It is a very sad fact, but also very true. For those that can make their mortgage payments and are currently still holding down jobs - well, for those people, there is no recession - and that has been made evident with the stronger than last year's (when the recession has now been said to have "officially" began) "Black Friday" sales numbers. I read that the "average" consumer on Black Friday has spent $372 on that day this year - which is up from last year. Leaving me to ask, what recession?

Secondly, why has it taken a full year for the government to finally report that, yes, we are in a recession? It seems the same thing they did with the mortgage crisis - ignore it, it will eventually go away; if not, well, we can always go back and say when the "real crisis" began at a previous date. Why is it they (the government officials) feel so compelled to lie to the American people about things such as this? Why not shoot the average person straight (we all know Cheney is a good shot anyway)? Those with half a brain can see the stock market (for whatever reason this is the benchmark most economist use to measure such things as a recession) is dropping - and that the economy, at the very least, is dropping - likely into recession-like-figures.

But then, I am reminded by my first paragraph - is it truly a recession unless you, or I, or Joe Average Citizen is in one individually? Does the whole of the economy really plunge us all into a recession if we can still afford our bills, and we still have jobs? Sure, we can feel fear at the prospect of losing our jobs; and we can even feel fear that we might not get that Christmas bonus or that raise this year - but we have jobs, and the price of food (or gas - trust me, it will go back up again) hasn't gone up nearly enough to devastate those that are fiscally responsible - and, of course, assuming they still have their jobs in place.

So where does that put us? Are we truly in the recession that is now "officially" being passed along to the citizens? Are all those people that have spent more freely this year over last on Black Friday increasing their credit card balances - hoping that all will work itself out if they just ignore it? - or are people truly spending more freely because they actually HAVE more free cash?

Perhaps they are simply ignoring the "economic indicators;" perhaps they all are now of the mentality that "it doesn't matter." After all, all their hard earned income - all of it is taxed - and those taxes are used to fund the crooks in the big business. Maybe, just maybe, the average citizen is deciding for once to live for today - to enjoy what they have now - before the government or the crooks of the big banks take everything they have once and for all.

Recession? We don't need no stinkin' recession!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Historical Day

Don't get me wrong, I don't like the way the media throws around the term "historical day" for every election, but today is certainly different.
Today we have a chance to dictate history through our election selection - whether it be the first black president or the first female vice president.
Whoever wins today's election will have a lot of work ahead of them in fixing the disaster that was the past eight years. Hopefully, we the people can elect the better leader, the leader that will implement change - someone that will bring back the stability that the American people have grown so fond of and have lacked dearly during the Bush administration.
Today is a historical day, indeed - but more than that, it's a vote to make a change in this country; a change this country badly needs right now in its time of uncertainty. Today is not about the history of the election, but about mending the future. Hopefully, the right candidate for the nation as a whole can come out victorious - for America needs some stability in the Commander in Chief and as a nation.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Reverse Robin Hood?

So I was reading this article the other day, and I have to wonder - are they stealing from the poor to pay the rich?
The premise of the article states that of the $125 billion of taxpayers money used for the bailout thus far - approximately $50 billion of that is being used for ... executive bonuses!!! Not creating new credit lines, not to those mortgages at high risk of foreclosure, and not for anyone that might, actually NEED the money - but for the executives - to, as far as I can tell, make sure they are still wholly compensated for their drowning business and sinking stock prices.
Which leads me to the point - is this the exact opposite of everything Robin Hood stood for? Think about you, we are all taxpayers, that's true, but why are the majority poor being forced to fund the minority rich in this nation? Oh, sure, the article argues (and quite satirically, I do assure you) that the executives surely cannot be forced to endure a life on a mere $80,000 per year, and thus require these additional fundings for their bonuses. Yeah right, tell that to the single mother of three that brings in $25,000 a year and is barely managing to keep food on the table. Yet, this mother of three is the one who is being forced to continually fund the extravagant lifestyles these highly overpaid executives have grown accustom too - and it is a true travesty that we, the "regular Joe's" (i.e. the MIDDLE CLASS and BELOW) must be the ones to fund these executives compensation packages, when in every one's estimation, they are the greedy individuals that prompt this "credit crisis" to begin with. It seems they robbed the poor to get rich by selling subprime mortgages, only to rob the poor to bailout "their company," or more plainly, to bailout their compensation as their stock portfolio's decline in value - and all thanks to these crooks. Glad the government is truly looking out for the people - oh wait, I'm sorry, they aren't, they are looking out for the next great paycheck themselves - the lobbyist. It's a shame.

And now, McCain has been bashing Obama for his alleged "socialist" views, but McCain supports action similar to what is being spoken about above. At least Obama wants to tax those wealthy individuals more and tax the MAJORITY poor less. Why that is not a good plan, is beyond me, but the Republican party has resorted to smear campaigning in calling Obama every name under the sun (socialist, Marxist, even Muslim and terrorist - see Bill Ayers, etc., etc.). Yet, all McCain wishes to do is give a free tax-ride to those who invest in the stock markets - so essentially, those already stealing so much from so many "regular" taxpayers will be able to continue stealing from those taxpayers, as their investments increase in value, and their tax bills diminish due to not having to pay a capital gains tax. Sounds fair to me? How about you? Obviously, I am being facetious, but honestly - we do need change, and I feel Obama may be able to provide such change.

It is a true shame that this bailout was essentially force fed to the American people - and to the senators and congressman that voted on the bill. No one had a choice but to pass the bill, and on the second vote no less - in the court systems, a second vote on matter of guilt or innocence is called double jeopardy, and it is illegal, yet in our highest office, it is, apparently, normal practice. And all for what? To bailout the rich, to keep them living the life they know and love - the majority poor in this nation would give anything for a chance to just not have to worry about where the next meal is coming from, but the executive crooks can't even bear the thought of giving up their private jets and champagne parties. A travesty that needs to be corrected.

So a day before the election I call for change - who will stand with me?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Let's Spread the Wealth Around

This is the term that Senator Barack Obama was criticized by Senator John McCain for saying last night during the presidential debate. Read it again - Let's Spread the Wealth Around.
Senator John McCain is trying to spin this quote in a negative light, but let me examine this five-word phrase and break down exactly why McCain is wrong in his criticism.
For starters, and the most obvious, by McCain saying "this is the wrong way" sure sounds like McCain has an interest in NOT spreading the wealth of the American people around. Seems to me that Senator McCain thinks the wealth is right where it needs to be - with the wealthy. Obviously, if you look at McCain's position on taxes, well, he's looking to suspend capital gains tax (tax on gains in stocks by investors) and even to provide full write-offs for stocks that lose in today's economy. Sure sounds like he is looking to keep the rich, rich, while kicking the poor and middle class before they ever have a chance to catch up.
What Senator Obama is saying with his statement of "let's spread the wealth around" is exactly that - let us tax the wealthy (those making over $250,000 per year) more - and for anyone making less than that, tax them less - effectively creating a more balanced economy - the wealthy can afford more tax, the middle class and poor cannot. As Obama said last night, he will cut the taxes for 95% of the American workers - only those earning more than $250,000 will see their taxes increased - or 5% of workers - something tells me that 5% can afford it a slight increase in taxes.
So, to me, it makes only too much sense, and the fact that Senator McCain can go on national television and say something this absurd and to not be absolutely blasted and ridiculed for it, is ridiculous! He only wants to keep the wealth where it currently is - with the wealthy few - and he doesn't care at all about the "little guy" - the middle class.
I think Chris Rock said it best on Larry King Live - who are you going to trust to keep you in your home, the guy that doesn't even know how many homes he has, or the guy with one home? That answer should be clear.
I may not believe in everything Senator Barack Obama stands for, but I have to do what is best for me, and for me, I need to have more money in my pockets as the cost of living continues to rise exponentially - but I still cannot believe that Senator McCain can criticize Senator Obama for wanting to spread the wealth among the citizens of the United States and for no one to simply recognize his criticism for what it is - ludicrous.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Where Do the Motives Lie?

I am not a fan of the bank bailout, I believe that has been established. However, I believe I am even less of a fan of it now.

The problems run deep. First, when the government buys up shares (the government holding stake in any private company is enough to worry me, but more on that later) it will effectively inflate the share prices on the stocks they buy up. And then, of course, how long will they hold those shares for? And what happens when they do (if they do) finally sell them? Will they put a glut of shares back on the markets - thus causing the stock market to crash again - and what, maybe we can write up another bailout scheme?

But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. The question that remains is how are they going to buy these stocks? I'll tell you how, it's by printing more money - read this as: increasing the abundance of U.S. dollars in the world - and what does that do? It's simple, the dollar that has already grown so weak, becomes even weaker - with more money in print, it becomes worth less over the long haul. So then they do buy those shares back (at a time later to be detailed?) and fine, the dollar will go back up, but as I said previously, the stock market will crash again, so what came first here, the chicken or the egg? Somehow, some way, the government is doing the free market a disservice.

Let me forget about all those technicalities, however, and move into something much more frightening - the government is growing too powerful. It is no longer the voice of the people. Think about it, the government is buying shares of stocks in private companies - do you know what that equates to? It means the government, our United States government will have OWNERSHIP stake in these PRIVATE companies. What could be worse than that? Now there is talk of them potentially buying up shares of General Motors (GM) - and what will that do exactly? Fine, preserve jobs in America, yet, isn't the government a proponent of outsourcing? If they truly wanted to preserve American jobs - send the Mexicans and other illegal immigrants home - but of course, that would "cost too much" and is "impractical", right? Yeah, because $700 BILLION to bailout private companies is chump change.

Back on point - I read today on Yahoo Finance that $250 Billion is presently in the works to buy up shares of stock from leading banks, quoted as follows:

"Nine major banks will participate initially including all of the country's largest institutions, he announced, in a move that sent stocks soaring on Wall Street.
Some of the nation's largest banks had to be pressured to participate by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who wanted healthy institutions that did not necessarily need capital from the government to go first as a way of removing any stigma that might be associated with banks getting bailouts."

Stop and examine this quote for a moment and lets highlight some key phrases:

1) "Some of the nations largest bank's had to be pressured to participate" ... excuse me? So the government is pressuring banks to participate in this scheme, whether they want to or not? That seems to be adding more power to the government and the role that the government was supposed to play in this bailout.

2) Henry Paulson "wanted healthy institutions that did not necessarily need capital" - so now, not only is the government "bailing out" those banks that are nearing collapse (if not for the government intervention, as they'd like you to believe) but now they are buying shares (ownership) of "healthy" banks that don't "need capital"? Okay, you lost me again - if this bailout is supposed to be used to HELP those institutions from COLLAPSE - why pump the money into 9 of the largest banks who - by phrasing of this article - may not even NEED the MONEY? Seems again, the government is overstepping their boundaries - and increasing their power even further.

So naturally, what does this mean for us, the taxpayer? It is simple, there is nothing we can do about it. The government (the all-powerful wizard of Oz) has spoken, and we have no choice (in this democracy) but to accept the government's decisions that are meant to "help the average citizen," of which, I am still missing how this bailout helps the little guy, especially now that the taxpayer's money is going to "bailout" completely healthy institutions that aren't even in need of the capital injection.

When baseball players get "capital" injections it's called steroids, and it always comes with a side effect - I can only imagine the side effects we are going to feel from this bailout. Either the government will do more harm playing with the free market - or they will grow far too powerful, more powerful than our forefathers ever planned for the government to be. The process has started, I wish there was some call to action that could stop it now.

Friday, September 26, 2008

$20M for 17 days of work

Who wouldn't want to earn over one million dollars PER DAY? That's exactly what Alan H. Fishman, CEO of now seized bank conglomerate Washington Mutual has received for, well, doing nothing.

Fishman was brought in to run Washington Mutual exactly 17 days ago - or 17 days before their seizure by J.P. Morgan-Chase. 17 days ago, on September 8th, he received a hiring bonus of $7.5M - then upon his termination (you know, when the bank collapsed?) he was granted an "immediate" cash severance of $11.6M. Fishman also received a portion of his guaranteed annual bonus which was set at $1M - likely prorated out to the 17 days he actual worked - or almost $50,000. Include the 612,500 shares of stock Mr. Fishman was awarded - free of charge to him - by Washington Mutual on September 10th (per yahoo finance). These shares are likely to rebound, from the current price of $0.16, before all is said and done - and all thanks to the government's intervention we won't have to worry about Alan H. Fishman and his future.

And what happened before these 17 days? Who was CEO then? Well, none other than Kerry K. Killinger - who had been CEO from 2002-until 17 days ago. His compensation between 2002-2007 was $54M - but what about his severance package? Obviously, no one would ever be able to survive on the $54M earned in only 5 years - ah, but not to fret.

Mr. Killinger received a severance package worth $17.1M: a lump sum of $16.5M thanks to a clause in his employment agreement that promises him this lump sum (totaling 3 times his annual compensation) and $5.8M (worth of assets as priced at $13.61 per share) came from immediate vesting of restricted stock he had been awarded since 2002. Mr. Killinger currently owns 315,662 shares in Washington Mutual, and just like Mr. Fishman above, he will only benefit as the stock price rebounds.

I'm sure the government bailing out these corporations has good intentions, but I still can't help but feel like the rich are the only people that will benefit from the bailout. The rest of us will be left holding the bag - never mind that Mr. Fishman and Mr. Killinger combined can pay off approximately 185 - $200,000 mortgages with their severance packages alone. Mr. Fishman with the potential to pay off 100 of those mortgages by himself after only 17 days worth of work.

Suspend Capital Gains Tax to Help in Bailout?

So today I came across some rather shocking news, to say the least. Apparently, John McCain, who can't be bothered with a presidential debate while the economy is in "turmoil" (because we all know we want a president who will not multi-task), spoke up, mentioning a counter-proposal that had been offered up by some conservative House Republicans that would "suspend capital gains tax for two years and provide tax incentives to encourage firms that buy up bad debt," but McCain would not discuss specifics of the plan.

Excuse me? Suspend capital gains tax? For those of you that fail to understand what the capital gains tax is, let me spell this out for you - Warren Buffett (widely regarded as one of the premier investors of the world) bought up $5 BILLION worth of Goldman Sachs earlier this week - well, with the suspension of any kind of capital gains tax, if that Goldman Sachs stock goes up - say to a net of $6 Billion for Mr. Buffett - he could sell all his stock in the firm and earn ONE BILLION DOLLARS - TAX FREE! So basically, anything earned through investments (and keep in mind that, under current conditions, losses in investments can be offset with capital gains as well anyway - essentially, those gambling in the stock market can offset their losses and have the government pay for their losses in the markets, so long as they have capital gains to cover this loss) in the stock market will be FREE of government charge - completely TAX FREE! The absurdity of this concept cannot be understated.

So I'll say it again, excuse me? How is suspending the capital gains tax going to help ANYONE in America that is middle class and losing their homes? So is this yet another case of the rich getting richer? I cannot imagine the rationale behind this concept as incentive to help the economy - you know, all the little people that are struggling to just get by.

And it leads me back, again, to what I feel the absolute best scenario is - suspend taxes for ALL - suspend the taxes on the homes that people are fighting to continue to afford (thanks to the increases in property taxes due to the over-inflation of home values). This way, everyone benefits, not just the corporate fat cats of Wall Street. (see my earlier blog on the subject here:

If the government truly desires to help, they certainly need to do something that will benefit everyone - not just those that created this mess. No sense in letting them continue to lead extravagant lifestyles while the rest of us suffer. Some things just aren't fair - and if the government passes a bill suspending capital gains tax, then we have seriously been let down by our government - doing nothing for the people.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Homeland Security

I was watching the news yesterday when I heard about "Operation Virtual Shield" for the first time. For those of you that do not know what this is, it is to be a comprehensive surveillance system spanning Chicago in efforts to "protect against crime and terrorist attacks." These cameras are going to be linked to all cameras of the city - and they will be able to do such things such as being able to identify gun shots, change trajectory to get an image of where the shots came from, and alert 9-1-1.
Of course, the obvious question arises - what about the average individual's privacy? Sure, if you aren't doing anything wrong, then you don't have "any problem." The only issue I have with that argument, however, is prove it. Prove to me that just because I'm walking, going about my business as usual that I won't be harmed. Better yet, why does the government need to know that I'm walking down Madison Avenue? What does it matter to them if I pass Clark Street? Who is to say they aren't watching at all times? Who is to say they are not being voyeuristic with these new cameras?
Then, if that weren't enough, on today there is another article that claims "Homeland Security Detects Terrorist Threats by Reading Your Mind." The article goes on to say that "MALINTENT (which is the name of this new system), the brainchild of the cutting-edge Human Factors division in Homeland Security's directorate for Science and Technology, searches your body for non-verbal cues that predict whether you mean harm to your fellow passengers" (passengers, I'm assuming because this technology is to be used in airports). The article goes on to say that it will possess a series of sensors and imagers that read your body temperature, heart rate, and respiration for unconscious tells that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. It claims these "tells" are signals that terrorists and criminals may display prior to their crimes.
My thought on the matter is - what about those that might just have a fast heart rate? Or those that perspire because they are nervous by nature? Or what about those that have grown so paranoid to the Big Brother nature of the United States government that they display all these "symptoms of crime"? Does the government then stop this individual to interrogate him or her only to not deem their answers unacceptable and detain them? Talk about a paranoia dream come true.
And what if, for a minute we go back to Chicago and they initiate this new technology of MALINTENT into Operation Virtual Shield? What if someone is walking a great distance on a hot, humid day - and what if, that individual had just been reading something causing them to act "out of character" (like the fact their every movement is being scrutinized by the government) - will the Virtual Shield camera system focus on this individual who is perspiring with a greater heart rate - and will the police be dispatched to "further question" this individual that just so happens to be going about his daily business?
I really wish I had an answer - I really wish the government were not taking control of everything, but what I wish and what is becoming reality are two drastically different things ... frightening things, actually.

Financial Bailout

SEVEN HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS - For those that may not quite grasp this - it is $700,000,000,000, and that's a lot of zeros.

So it will take $700B of taxpayers money to "bailout" the institutions that began this entire financial crisis to begin with, and exactly how is this fair?

Here is the rub, you and I are taxpayers - we go to work only to have our income taxes taken out of the wages we earn honestly, we go home to our homes that we are taxed on, and we go buy things with our discretionary income that are accompanied with sales tax. Then, if we get into trouble with our finances, we have to file for bankruptcy (or worse) and no one cares to help the individual. But now, all the taxes we pay is going to help the big business. It's that simple. The problem is our taxes are essentially being used to, yet again, make the rich, richer.
Martin Sullivan, former CEO of American International Group (AIG) resigned from the company in June of this year, after all of the "subprime" loans had already been issued - and what did he receive for his trouble? Nothing short of criminal - a $47 MILLION severance package. Excuse me? Here is one of the men that - at least - helped facilitate the subprime mess - and the ensuing financial collapse and bailout, and he received FORTY-SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS in an exit package to quit the company .... why are we not using his wealth to serve as means to help ease the financial burden proposed to the taxpayers?
October, 2007 - Merrill Lynch posts an eight-billion dollar loss and subsequently, CEO Stan O'Neal decides it is time to resign, himself. For all his efforts, which included the 8 billion dollar quarterly loss (quarterly loss projected out over a full year would have meant a loss of about $32 billion for the firm that year - if all held true) -so for Mr. O'Neal efforts, he was rewarded a 159 MILLION DOLLARS to leave the firm. Again, where is the outrage and why are the feds not looking at Stan O'Neal to help ease the American financial crisis?
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, you ask? Well, we all know their part in this debacle, but how about those CEO's that did nothing to quash the crisis at hand? Well, Dan Mudd, CEO of Fannie Mae, received $9.3 million for destroying his company - and Richard Syron, CEO of Freddie Mac, received $14.1 million - because he (deceptively I'm sure) renegotiated a clause to his contract two months prior to the collapse, knowing the company was headed for disaster ... and again, all of this is perfectly LEGAL and often practiced in the firms of Wall Street. Yet again, instead of the feds going after those who initiated and created the mortgage crisis to benefit their personal bottom lines, the taxpayer - who had little choice in the mortgage fiasco and none of the profits - are left holding the bag.

I mentioned in a July post, The Mortgage Crisis - and How to Fix It, that maybe the federal government should subsidize the local municipalities - in essence, eliminating the property tax on the public's private residencies. My plan, however, I figured would not be prudent because of the sheer amount of government spending that would be needed to subsidize such municipalities. However, in light of the proposed 700 BILLION DOLLAR bailout, I no longer think eliminating (or simply suspending - or even just easing the increases) property tax is such an absurd solution.
In my plan, everyone would benefit. Think about it - Joe Neighbor would be able to keep his home - because he could afford the mortgage all along, just not the increase of taxes (and for those that CAN'T afford the mortgage readjustment - that solution is so easy I feel stupid even needing to voice it - DON'T INCREASE IT - the bank will get the interest of the rate agreed upon, and Joe Neighbor still keeps his home). So we have Joe Neighbor benefiting from a "no-property-tax-clause", but so to will the banks - because they won't have an over-abundance of foreclosed upon homes - and they will still receive all the interest from the current homes on the market. Seems like a win-win. Also, the taxpayers will not feel as if they are "bailing out" the financial institutions that began this mess - they'll feel much better knowing their tax money is being used to HELP THEM - you know, the way the government SHOULD help the people - after all, it is a government FOR THE PEOPLE still, right?
$700,000,000,000 could be far reaching if the government used this money where it should go - to help the average person (** see below note). The bailout will do nothing but keep the wealthy, well, wealthy - and create an even bigger divide between rich and poor. Just because the banks are bailed out, that does nothing for Joe Neighbor who has lost everything (home included) due to his increase in interest rate and home property taxes - which all began because big business was greedy and told Joe Neighbor that he could afford a loan that he obviously couldn't. Sure, Joe Neighbor is partially to blame, but so are the financial institutions, and if they are going to be bailed out, then why is our friend Joe Neighbor now homeless and without a job? How is this a viable solution to a horrendous problem?
Even if you have little sympathy for Joe Neighbor, you should have less sympathy for those "smarter than that" that created this issue - the financial institutions that knowingly pushed risky loans (including such a thing as NINJA loans - No Income, No Assets, No Problem - loans). So now, instead of resetting Joe Neighbor's interest to something manageable, they (the financial institutions) have an over abundance of homes on the market and all the money in the bank. Meanwhile, even if you've made all your home payments and taxes payments on time - well, sorry for you because even you have suffered while the rich get richer - because now your home value is worth much, much less than when you purchased it. No worries though, the bank will hold your money (thanks to the government for keeping them so liquid) until you decided to sell, then they'll take your money to make up the shortfall you'll likely have when the time does come for you to sell your home.
Indeed don't worry - the rich have taken their payouts, they have sold their souls, and they have the government backing them in their endeavor - just in time to keep the rich living handsomely. We The People of the United States of America should be outraged - but instead, most are accepting the proposed bailout as the "only way." But if they weren't so greedy to begin with, none of this fiasco would have ever happened, and we'd all be living just fine in a home that is, not only cheaper (thanks to the subprime lending not inflating the value on homes), but that carries less taxes due to its cheaper state - seems the government turned a blind eye to the banks to drive home prices up, thus pushing up the taxes for many homeowners - just in time to turn around and return the favor by scratching the financial institutions backs.
I, for one, am outraged and see a more win-win-win solution if the government truly wants to step in and help, but the problem is, they need their corporate cash, and thus the every day American just trying to manage a living are forced to suffer through life - meanwhile funding the bailout that has paid ex-CEO's MILLIONS to run their company into the ground.
It must be the American dream!

Note: As of July 1, 2007 the Census Bureau estimates the total number of homes in the United States as being 127,901,934 - of which I will round up to 128 million homes. Given this, I will assume each pays taxes to a local municipality - and if the $700 billion were used to subsidize the local municipalities (based on what the municipality would receive from the property tax) then the government could pay $5,500 PER HOME in the U.S. to the local municipalities to help ease the burden on the individual tax payers that are being priced out of their homes due to the absurd nature of the property tax.
So again, if we suspend this tax, it is the best win-win situation - the homeowner (and tax payer) feels justified that their taxes and their government is helping them - and the mortgage loans on the financial institution books will continue to be paid (thanks to the homeowner having more money in their pockets to actually make their mortgage payements). I realize this may be a short term solution, but if you truly think more foreclosures won't follow due to the current proposed bailout, then I believe you to be naive - and no one can truly say if the bailout of the institutions will only turn into a short-term solution as well. But if given a one year suspension on property taxes, more people will find a way to make the mortgage payments and thus spur the economy - and those that have not been affected will have an extra (on average) $5,500 in their pockets to also put back into the economy. I don't see why the individual homeowner is being forgotten by the government during their time of need - only to watch the rich and greedy (likely borderline criminal) benefit from the financial crisis.

Side Note: So Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned today, as he attempted to get this bailout plan passed, saying that lawmakers risk a recession with higher unemployment and increased home foreclosures if they fail to pass the proposed plan.
Well, my question is, how is bailing out the LENDER going to help prevent the BORROWER from foreclosing? Think about that one and please let me know if this logic in any way makes sense because I'll be honest with you, I miss the point on this one. If people are going to foreclose, it doesn't matter if the financial institute has money or not, the end user (the home buyer) won't have any money to pay their mortgage with or without the financial institutions being bailed out.
Granted, it if the institutions fail, there will be increased unemployment (as those people lose their jobs - but there is no guarantee for a loss of their jobs anyway) and there will be an increase (likely) from these individuals foreclosing, but again, it doesn't help the public as a whole. And besides, some of the people within the companies that will benefit from such a bailout, are likely those same individuals that pushed the "subprime" loans - do they really deserve to be bailed out? It seems to me like more political propoganda put on by the government - everything sounds good on paper, but in reality does nothing to help the average American citizen.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Candid Moment, or General Politicking?

On the St. Petersburg Times' website today, there is an article in regards to Palin's daughter, Piper - age 7 - licking her hand to smooth down her brother's, Trig's, hair. The article claims:
"During Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's speech, cameras cut to her 6-year-old daughter flattening Trig's hair, oblivious that America was watching. It was a taste of legitimacy buried in weeks of rehearsed politicking, and we ate it up."

You can view the entire article here:

It shows a youtube clip of this moment where Piper was "oblivious that America was watching" ... did anyone at the St. Petersburg Times stop to wonder A) why there was a camera on Piper to begin with and B) that just maybe this "taste of legitimacy" was merely part of the "rehearsed politicking" put on by a politician to show just how "wonderful" her family is?
Honestly, it seems to me to be politicking at its best. I would hope the only people that seem to think this was a "taste of legitimacy" are the people at the St. Petersburg Times - and hopefully they are the only people that "ate it up."
Shameful really. Although I'm sure the St. Petersburg Times has their reasoning for politicking as well. Everyone has something to gain with this - oh-so-touching - moment, but it seems it does little for the American people. Honestly, if a girl the age of 7 truly was oblivious of the camera sat out before her, does it really change your mind on how you think her mother will represent the American people as Vice President of the United States?
If it does change your opinion about Governor Sarah Palin, then America has a long way to go before they realize a legitimate president again - since seemingly the search criteria most Americans use has nothing to do with how a government official will actually represent the general public, but more to do with how well they can dupe the voters with painfully obvious "candid" moments.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Political Strife

So I was reading today that apparently, Elizabeth Edwards is being "blasted" for keeping her husband, John Edward's affair "secret," and I have to wonder why that is.
First of all, as Elizabeth Edwards states in her blog, she kept the very non-public affair story private because it was "so painful" and she didn't want it played out on the "public stage." And who among us can argue with that sentiment? It's not hard to decode right where private matters should remain (and I don't care who you are).
Some are saying that John and Elizabeth Edwards are no longer capable of handling public matters due to this indiscretion, and as they perceive it, subsequent cover up. Yet, can these people not see the difference between a private matter versus matters dealing with the public? It seems obvious to me. After all, we already had one president not only commit adultery, but also perjure himself to get out of the hot water - and the American public was fine after that - even with that president remaining in office.
I do not condone the actions of Bill Clinton, but his private matters should have remained as such - but once he decided to commit perjury, that is where the true issue should have lied. Same can be said for John Edwards - the affair is a private matter - thus, it does nothing to say how the man will act when given the chance to lead the nation - and lest we forget, he has already lost his parties nomination twice, so anything he could possibly hope to amount to politically is even less than that of the former president Clinton.
And as for Elizabeth Edwards, she chose to keep her private matter to herself, and yet there are those faulting her for it. Even if she kept it quiet only to help push forth her husband's political career, what does it truly matter? Are there truly any among us that do not think politicians lie, cheat, and steal all the time? What difference would it make if John Edwards were a current presidential candidate? The only difference would be that his lying and cheating should be played out on the public stage, even though his actions were private in nature. Please, explain that rationale to me because I certainly do not understand it.
President Bush lies to get us into a war, and that is seemingly forgiven, but if one lies to his wife (quite inexcusable in its own right, but certainly not the concern of the public) then we now have to not only persecute the man in question, but also the wife that chose to keep her private life exactly that, private.
Are we, as a nation, that voyeuristic that we expect everyone to air out their dirty laundry all the time? Unfortunately, in times like these, it sure seems like that is the case.

Olympic Coverage

Well, the Olympics are over, and so I think it is finally time to add my thoughts on the matter. There were quite a few things I liked about the coverage, but at the same time, far too much I did not like.
I enjoyed the events. I did not enjoy the coverage.
When I learned that NBC would show coverage of the events online, I was excited. Come to find out, live events were only shown online when they were not going to be aired in prime time. This left a bad taste in my mouth.
Then, when it was time for the prime time coverage, it became evident the Olympics were all about money - at least to the executives of NBC. It was hard to watch a single event without interruption of commercials. How hard would it be to show a ten-minute medley relay in the pool uninterrupted? For the NBC executives, apparently, that was too hard of a task to master. Same thing goes for the volleyball, instead of showing uninterrupted coverage of a set, we had to take commercial breaks in and around the set, only to return to the game eight points unseen; just in time for a timeout and more commercial breaks.
The amount of commercialization is simply absurd. I don't know when product placement has become such a big industry, or when commercials dominated our society, but it is all too true of a fact. The commercials are fine (honestly, I do believe in advertising) when in tune with the programming, and even would have been fine for the Olympics, but why interrupt an event in progress for the endorsements? There existed plenty of opportunities to have words from the sponsors, but not during an event - a likely taped event at that which could have been edited if you MUST place the ads, but, for the most part, were not.
The coverage could have been so much more, but when I was already able to read the results of the events before seeing the coverage (because online content was unavailable) it certainly left a lot to be desired. If only the forum on the internet had lived up to its billing, perhaps this would not have been such a great issue in my eyes, but the fact that I was forced to endure tape delayed coverage, only to have that coverage interrupted every few minutes for commercials is beyond absurd. Surely, there exists a better way to get the sponsors names out to the public without breaking from the only medium that was offered to view some of the events.
More than once I stopped watching an event due to the absurd ratio of event coverage vs. commercial breaks, and this is truly unacceptable.

Monday, August 25, 2008


I am having a hard time grasping one concept that seems to be running deep in America - a sense of entitlement. It seems more and more people are entitled to things that others before us never were entitled to. Problem is, most people feel so much entitlement that they don't care about the ramifications of their actions, and, for the most part, they get away with their actions because no one ever seems to hold them accountable. And all this does is add to their overwhelming sense of that entitlement.
So, whatever came of hard work? It seems any longer people simply 'expect' things to be done for them. The way they drive? Who cares? They are entitled to drive, thus they do as they please. That job they take advantage of? Well, honestly, who needs to work, the guy next to them will do it, right? And so it becomes a generation (read into this however you please, but I am not defining which generation I speak of because I do not believe this is 'generation specific' but more an overwhelming sense of the word) of those that expect someone else to do something for them. Plain and simple. More and more people are expecting others to watch out for them, and I honestly don't understand the trend. But it seems more and more people lack any sort of accountability for their actions, and due to this, they will continue in their downward spiral.
Late to work (or taking that extra half hour of lunch)? They don't care because they make a set salary, but, of course, they'll be damned if they don't leave promptly at their scheduled quitting time. Heck, it won't matter, since they get paid the same - and their employer surely doesn't say anything about it, so who is it hurting? Well, if these people had any self-pride, it should hurt them, but I guess if they feel it's okay to float through life without being held accountable (whether by others or themselves) then by all means, they should continue to live their lives as loafers. Besides, they're probably too stupid to realize they are doing anything wrong anyway, so in all honesty, the only person they are hurting are those more intelligent than they are - because they sit back and wonder where this entitlement, of far too many people, has come from. And it's the intelligent people (who can hold themselves accountable for their actions) that have to suffer and pick up the pieces when those entitled individuals can't be bothered to work, or bothered to pay attention on the roadways. But I'm sure they don't care because they are getting everything they have ever wanted - they amaze me how entitled they truly are.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Racial Profiling

So yesterday I was on my way home from work with my wife, and we got pulled over - for driving while white.
You might be thinking right now, that's impossible, but hear me out. We work in downtown Chicago and take the interstate home, often times, the interstate is backed up, and so we, not wanting to sit in traffic, have found alternative means to get home, and this sometimes entails driving through the neighborhoods that are predominantly black. I'm not going to call the area "the ghetto" or "the hood" because I don't feel like these people are out to do harm (the only person that has ever disturbed us driving through this area has been a white, homeless man), they are simply less fortunate and thus live within their means - which just might not be as much as we have, and there is no shame in that.
So we were driving down a street through one of these neighborhoods and we came to a stop sign. At the adjacent stop sign sat the Chicago Police. Since they had arrived at the sign first, naturally, they went before us. But what they did, as they pulled slowly through the intersection, was stare; without a single attempt to hide this fact. My wife and I began to talk about it jokingly with one another since we knew we were the "white people" and they were checking us out. Turns out, they wanted to investigate even further, for when we turned behind the officers (2 officers were in their vehicle) they promptly pulled over to allow us around, only to pull directly back into the street behind us. We instantly thought, "we've seen this on Cops - they want to check us out," but they did not readily pull us over (because we came to another light). When that light turned green, we pulled onto the main artery only to hear and see the familiar "bloop" of the car behind us and the blue lights flashing.
When the officer walked to the driver's side door (with the other officer flanking the passenger side of the vehicle), he didn't utter a single word of "I pulled you over because . . .," nor did he ask us "do you know why I pulled you over?" Instead, he cut to the chase with, "why were you driving down Wentworth (the name of the street we were on)?" Considering it was rush hour in Chicago, chances are we were headed home, and thus, that was the answer we provided. Next, he asked, "where is home?" And so we told him. So then he asked "where are you coming from?" So naturally, again, being rush hour, we answer simply "work." Of course, that is never enough, so he asked, "where is work located?" - which is downtown. The only way from downtown to our home is on the interstate - and then through what some can perceive as "the hood."
So finally, the officer takes my wife's license, only to return a few minutes later with words of caution of, "be careful driving through there."
What a nice guy. He was only concerned with our well-being that entire time. Never mind the fact he had absolutely no reason to actually pull us over, except for the fact we were driving through "the hood" while being white. It was racial profiling at its finest. We were white, therefore, we surely have "no business" being in "the hood," now do we? Of course, forget the fact that the interstate is exactly one block away from the street in question, and we obviously should never use that road when exiting the interstate to head home, right?
So it appears, we were being singled out for being the "white people" in a predominantly black neighborhood. Obviously, or so the officers seemed to think, the only reason we could be there was with criminal intent. And of course, being white, once they realized we had done nothing but drive down a public road, we should "be careful" when driving through "the hood" in broad daylight during rush hour, right?
Now, I do not necessarily feel we have been discriminated against. Yes, I know the reason we were pulled over, and it had nothing to do with traffic violations or impairments on our vehicle - it was only because we were white. Their rationale, I'm sure, was to see if we were in "the hood" to buy or sell drugs - despite the fact we had done nothing wrong, unless it is now a crime to drive on a public street. And so this raises the question, why were we singled out, and I think the reason is that, yes, racial profiling does very much exists.
We are white, and thus had "no business" in "the hood" other than that of criminal intent, but wait, no, it is a public road, so why were we pulled over for that? My wife and I got a kick out of being "profiled" because we have seen instances similar to this on the television program Cops, but what about those who truly are innocent? What about the black population that is singled out on a daily basis for doing absolutely nothing wrong?
I'll be honest with you, if the cops would have asked us to get out of the car, I would have become worried. I would have likely become defensive, and I would have wondered "what are they going to plant on us?" Of course, we are white, so we were left with a simple warning of "be careful driving through there," but what if my wife and I had been black? Would we have been handled much more harshly? Sadly, I cannot say, but if I was worried about being asked to step out of the car (and what they could possibly put on the scene to make us appear guilty) then I know I cannot imagine how a black individual must feel every single time they are pulled over - whether the reasoning for them being pulled over is justified or not. In our case, there was no justification made for pulling us over - not a single word as to why they felt the need to single us out.
Yet, we are white, and thus we had no "real" worries. Had the color of our skin been different, would I be here today able to blog about this incident? Unfortunately, I cannot say. If I was worried, I cannot imagine the feeling if I were a person of color, and that is truly unfair - and it goes a long way in defining our law enforcement agencies. Do they serve and protect, or are they too busy racially profiling individuals to serve or protect anyone effectively?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Spell Check?

Time magazine has an article entitled "Making an Arguement [sic] for Misspelling" (and if you were to go to the link, you can see that 'arguement' is actually misspelled for the article, which I cannot say if it is done on purpose since it is not mentioned at all in the text). The point of the article essentially asks if we should consider changing the spelling of words to suit those who make errors.
For instances, the article states that words like truly are often misspelled (as is the word misspelled - as 'mispelled') as 'truely' and since these misspellings are a frequent occurrence, perhaps, just maybe, we should consider changing the English language to accommodate these oft misspelled words as a "variant spelling" of whatever word is in question.
Now if anyone wants to talk about dumbing down of America, now would be a prime time to begin just such a discussion - even if the English language is not the sole property of Americans, it would seem most Americans would happily accept such a change to the language for their own lazy reasoning (lazy in that they do not wish to learn how to actually spell a word).
Not to mention the computer age and the glorious usage of spell checker to correct all our little mishaps. Think about how many times the spell checker will change your words FOR YOU, unbeknown to you as a writer. You misspell the word opportunity, and BAM, it's fixed for you, so every time you type 'oppertunity' it changes magically to 'opportunity' - go ahead, go to Microsoft Word and give it a shot, I promise you the word corrects on its own. And this is just one example of such a feat. How many other words are people constantly misspelling that spell check simply changes for them? Sure makes life easier going through it spelling words incorrectly every time, just to have the word processor do the correction for you. After all, your time is likely too precious to take the time to A) know you made an error and B) to find the proper spelling of said error.
It seems almost daily I come across a posting on an article where someone is spelling 'loose' for the word 'lose.' Now I understand this is a common error that one can make when typing and doing so quickly, but the poster often uses the term 3 or 4 times in their post, only to use the term 'loose' each and every time - in the context of "the Red Sox loose the game" ... huh? How exactly does one loose a game? On the same posts, there will be someone specifically telling the individual that types 'loose' to learn 'grammer' ... errr, did you mean they need to learn GRAMMAR? Yeah, thought so. And 'grammer' is another word that should never be 'accepted as a variant spelling.' It would be a travesty if it came to such.
But this Ken Smith (senior lecturer in criminology at Bucks New University in Buckinghamshire, England) seems to think that "oft made errors should just become a variant spelling," but I ask, what about my case above? Loose is the oft made error for lose - but if we now accept 'loose' as a variant spelling, then how are we now supposed to accept the actual word 'loose' when used properly?
I will admit, I am not the best speller ever, but I have worked hard on this aspect of the English language to where now I have become a much, much better speller. And if I can't spell a word, I look it up, or have spell check do it for me - once my spell check shows me the correct spelling, I take the time to learn it before moving on - that way, I don't waste my time again and again trying to figure out the spelling of every word I use, and I certainly don't expect anyone to change the grammatically accepted (not 'excepted') principals to suit my too-lazy-to-find-the-correct-spelling needs.
Now, the language is just fine as is, and besides, if it is now 'exceptable' (I'm making a point here) to 'mispell' (same point) words, then how can I tell who the morons of the world 'truely' (again, same point) are? Oh yeah, it'll be easy because I still know the proper spelling and usage of words. At least I'll know I'm not a moron.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Time to Lower the Drinking Age?

This is a topic that is scattered about the news today, and it is one that really doesn't take an Einstein to figure out:

Are 18 year old individuals immature? Possibly, but so are 21 year old adults, and so if that is the only argument one can make to keep the "legal" age at 21, then that is an absurd notion.
And at any rate, the facts are much simpler than that - at 18 you are considered an "adult" in that you are now able to vote for elected officials. But what is more convincing is the simple fact that at the age of eighteen men and woman are allowed to serve in the military - and sometimes, tragically, die in the military. Why is it that you can serve your nation and die for your country when you cannot even celebrate the fact that you are doing your country proud with a beer in hand?
Seems like a double-standard to me. You can sacrifice your life to fight for your freedom (the extent of our freedoms is not the debate here) yet you cannot have a beer? Seems kind of a moot point when you look at it in those terms, doesn't it? Tragic really.
So let's make this an easy debate and lower the drinking age to be more in line with when young men and woman are considered "adults" in the eyes of the government (for both voting and the age one can enter into the military). If you are able to serve and die for your nation, then the least you should be allowed is to have a drink from time to time.
Those in favor of lowering the drinking age want to make it more about effectively stopping the binges on college campuses, but again, in all honesty, it is much, much simpler - if you are old enough to die in combat, you should be considered old enough to have a beer.
It's really not a hard concept to grasp, and for eighteen year old men and women, that beer shouldn't be hard (or illegal) to grasp either.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Privilege vs. Right II

I still feel there may be some confusion as to my ranting about right vs. privilege, and I want to ensure that this is absolutely clear so that what I am talking about is understood. The best place to go when wanting to understand something more in depth is the dictionary; so I pulled these definitions from the Merriam Webster dictionary:

Right - The power in which one is justly entitled

Privilege - An immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor

Read these definitions as:

A right is something we are all entitled too - thanks to a document called the Constituiton of the United States

A Privilege is something that one alleges is a right, but the benefits are not widespread in the realm of every day life.

Examples of these are thus:

Your privilege of smoking should be limited to your own homes and/or vehicles. You smoking in public does not benefit me - the non-smoker. Just like you talking on the phone in your car does not benefit me either - especially if you run me off the road. Thus these perceived "rights" - read as privileges (as talking on the phone is also a privilege we have) can and should be banned by law when administered in a way that could cause other's harm (i.e. driving while on the phone could potentially cause an accident).

A right is something we have the expectation of as citiziens of the United States of America to be upheld. Our privacy is a right that we have the reasonable expectiation of being sustained. This is a right that all American citizens can benefit from - just like you have the right to smoke within the confines of your own home - I choose to not accept that right. You have the right to smoke at home, but not in my face (thus the ban on public smoking).

I hope that helps if there had been any confusion within my previous posts.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Privilege vs. Right

I noticed within my writings that I tend to have two major undertones (at least up until this point) and that is of our freedoms as Americans being taken from us and about issues that need to be outlawed. However, I have noticed what can be viewed as hypocrisy within my own posts, so I want to go back and explain my positioning and why I still stand behind the words I have written.
The thing I feel we have the RIGHT to is being free. By that, I mean if my actions (or anyone else's actions) are not harmful to OTHERS, then they should not be dictated by the government if I can do them or not. For instance, if I want to eat fast food daily and die of clogged arteries, that is MY business. It may put a "strain" on the health care system (which is another topic altogether) but it shouldn't. The "strain" added to the health care system due to obesity (both directly and indirectly caused by fast food) should be PAID for by THOSE that are obese. I, as a fairly healthy person, should not have my RIGHT to eat fast food taken from me because others cannot control their appetites.
The same thing goes with having a chip added to my driver's license. If someone thinks it is a wonderful idea to have this chip (likely with countless pieces of private information attached to them) then they should be able to have it, but I do not want to be FORCED to have this chip. I value my freedom a little too much. It is like the on-star technology I spoke of - I had the RIGHT to deny the invasion (hopefully having the satellite linked to my vehicle is not being watched anyway) - but when it comes to a chip on all driver's license, I do not have a choice, and I feel that should be spoken out about.
On the flip side, any "right" (perceived right) that can cause damage and harm to others should be outlawed. It is that simple. Driving while texting makes you a nuisance on the road - and you can potentially KILL someone because of it. In my opinion this is when it becomes a necessity for the government to step up to the plate and initiate laws. If your actions could kill me, then I'm not happy about it, and thus I disagree with your views as this being your "right." Rights versus privileges are two very distinctly different things, and far too many people need to wake up and realize the differences.
That is where my argument arises as to what I mean when I say freedoms are being stripped. I don't think stripping our privileges is an abomination, but stripping our rights definitely is. I updated on Fast Choices to included a blurb about how I feel it's wrong that Drug Stores in San Francisco will no longer be allowed to sell cigarettes even though I am a non-smoker. On the same token, earlier this year the state of Illinois instituted (finally) a "no smoking in public places" ban - and I absolutely agree with this bill. So what's the difference? You buying cigarettes will not kill me, but you smoking in my presence (with disregard to my right to fresh air) could potentially do harm to my body by way of second hand smoke - and THAT is the difference between a right and a privilege.
And I hope that provides some clarification as to why I can say "we are being stripped of rights" only to turn around and say "they need to ban . . .," it's because whatever can do harm to OTHERS should be banned, anything that does no harm but takes away civil liberties need not be banned (and I realize fast food can do "harm" but only in excess - as can cigarettes and alcohol, but they aren't banned in this day and age, and they provide the same "stain" on the health care system).
The underlying tone of this blog so far is that the government cannot control every aspect of our lives - or else we cannot be called a free nation - and I hope that is conveyed in my writings. Rights and Privileges are two separate issues, and need to be dealt with accordingly. If your action can kill me (or cause other bodily harm) then it needs to be banned, and that is the absolute truth.

Is Big Brother Watching?

So how much is Big Brother really watching you? I'm sure you think you are secure in your own little world, don't you? Believe me, you might be, but don't fool yourself - if the government wants to find you, they will. They have all the tools in place that hide behind how great the service is for YOU, when in reality it can be used to easily, and quickly track you down. Technology is moving forward faster than any of us know, and it can all be used to find you.
Let's start with the obvious - your home satellite feed. Go to Google Maps right now and I guarantee you that you can type in your home address only to see a satellite feed of your home. As far as how often this is updated, I cannot say, but your name is linked to your address (through purchasing or renting) and I'm sure if the government needed you, the same satellite would move over your home and take pictures - without your knowledge or consent. Obviously, there exists pictures of your property on the website already, and without your consent, so when will it stop? Next will they show off their newest technology by looking inside your home with one of these satellites? And at what point is a live, real time feed of your home provided for the world to see? And again, all without your consent.
Then, there is the introduction of V-Chips - both on our driver's license and for medical purposes. First off, there are the medical chips that will provide you with "better medical care" given that all your records will be on this chip implanted within your body. Sounds good on the surface? I think not. Please, explain to me how having your medical records recorded on your body will provide better medical CARE? The doctor I see will provide the care, not a chip on my body. Are you naive enough to think this chip will not be used to follow your every move?
And even if the medical chip was introduced with the best intentions and remain on the market for ONLY what they were presented for, there remains a more devastating "chip" soon to be released in mass marketing, and this "chip" we will have no choice BUT having if we wish to drive a vehicle - and that is a chip on your driver's license. Now, who among us does not take our license with us EVERYWHERE? What exactly is the point of having a chip on MY driver's license? I tell you, I've been getting along just fine without a chip on my license for years - and it's not likely to change. I don't see the benefit behind the chip on the license - the only thing about that is it is a way for you to be tracked EVERYWHERE you go, since most of us grab our wallets or purses on our way out the door - meaning your license will be with you 100% of the time, and thus, your whereabouts will be known at all times! Let that sink for a minute. Now, for those of you saying how great this would be since you aren't "doing anything wrong" let me tell you, that isn't the point. THEY are doing something wrong, and that's where the issue lies. It is your freedom being stripped from you, but either you don't care, or you're too stupid to realize it.
Recently I bought a vehicle with on-star, but I did not have it activated. The reason I chose to not activate it is I don't need someone knowing where my vehicle is at all times. Fine, it gets stolen and I can get it back - but honestly, that's what insurance is for (without having to have my privacy invaded). I figure anything that is smarter than I am cannot be good for me. I was told with on-star all I would have to do is push a button and I will be connected to them - after this connection the employee of on-star will, not only know my location, but can also tell me what is wrong with my vehicle - or unlock my doors, if the keys are inside - again, hiding behind some "great ideas" in order to KNOW YOUR LOCATION! GPS is the same thing. If a GPS system can tell you where you are going, where to turn, and "what steak to order" - then I don't need it; besides, that's what a map is for, and as for the steak, I'll order what I LIKE - I don't need a computer to think for me.
It's bad enough I can be "watched" on the Internet - but if I am going about my daily business as a FREE citizen of the United States, then I do not need to be watched constantly, and it's only going to get worse. Cameras are going up everywhere in name of safety and security, but then I get a ticket for "running a red light" when I was at the point of no return when approaching the intersection all because a camera took my picture. When will it end? And when will my freedoms be restored? It likely will not happen, and we are just going to have to find a way to co-exist with Big Brother.
Big Brother is indeed watching.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The New Drunk Driving

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about cell phone usage while driving, however, I believe I failed to mention the greatest danger to anyone in a vehicle - text messaging.
This epidemic seems more widespread (and more harmful) than driving while on the phone. Anyone can hold a conversation while driving (and those that are all for cell phone usage while driving will cite that anyone with a passenger is "just as distracted" as they will be on their phone).
However, no one SHOULD text while driving (or dial their phone). The simple fact that you must take your eyes off the road in order to text is appalling. Sure, those "all for" the "right" to text while driving will also cite those who change the radio station or briefly look at a passenger when conversing with them - but the amount of time it takes to write a single text message is more than either of those scenarios. Then, what about the return text message? Absolutely, the texter will have to read the response to their own message that couldn't wait ten minutes until the driver pulled over. And all this leads to a major problem.
Without eyes on the road the likelihood of an accident is increased by an unmeasurable degree. Not only that, but the drivers that text often times swerve unbeknown to them as a motorist. They drive slow, mistaking their slower speed as caution, and cause traffic problems for those with places to go - and possibly text messages to send when the opportunity is SAFE to do so.
Which leads me to my point, is everyone that drives while texting a moron? Did you really want to risk your life to send off your latest "LOL" to your boyfriend or girlfriend? What does it matter? And why can it not wait?
It is really an easy solution, and that is - IT CAN WAIT! But those who partake in this practice tend to think they are the center of the world, otherwise, why would they put their life and the lives of those they do not even know into jeopardy?
The same can be said for drunk drivers, but at least they have a purpose - the bar closed, I have to get home - texting while driving has become an even greater epidemic because it is much more widespread, and all it accomplishes, other than the witty "LOL" texts, is a multitude of headaches for all the rest of us on the road.
Drunk driving can at least be understood, but the level of stupidity behind texting while driving is far beyond my scope of reasoning.
Update - Monday, August 18, 2008
I took this article from the Fox News Website:
Authorities say a 16-year-old girl who died after losing control of her car had been texting on her cell phone moments before the accident.
Kayla Preuss, of Highland, was driving on the Interstate 10 Freeway in Redlands when she lost control of her car and crashed. She died of head injuries. Phone records show Preuss was texting just before the accident. Her cell phone, which was flipped open, was found resting on the floorboard by her feet.
Preuss' mother Kelly said she hopes the accident will make other people think before texting and driving.

Hands, Feet, and Daffodils

This is a short story I wrote about a year ago. The link can be found to the right under "short stories" and will always be up.

Hands, Feet, and Daffodils

The thought had occurred to me precisely one week ago today. The date, as it so happened to be, was Friday, June 13th, 1888. My wife, though she knew not, was the one to instill the first glimmer of such a thought upon my mind.
We were sitting upon our vast gardens in front of our manor in a section we refer to as our Rose Garden, and she, looking as radiant as ever, looked up upon our mansion, which, as fortune had struck upon us, stood four glorious stories high. She examined the architectural beauty for quite some time before I pressed her as to her thoughts. She smiled, a lovely smile that I believed my wife was the only person capable of, and asked me in her sweetest voice if she thought our estate was more than we needed as two people. She went on to ask what we needed such a large manor for, and why we needed to flaunt our own power and fortune.
I sat in a trance, unsure how to respond to such a query. As I sat, I thought of her words, but I saw them quite differently than she. For what I saw within her words was one word, the word of ‘power’, and that was when the thought had first come to me. I was, in that moment in time, indeed powerful, and I had just the idea to prove it, if not only to myself.
My intention was simple, I would kill a man; commit the most violent of acts. In that small act, I would prove my true power in taking another’s life, a life that, as it would show, I value lesser than that of my own. But I am sure you ask, sir, or madam, or whomever has the decided misfortune of currently reading my memoir, how, exactly would a cowardly act such as murder show my true power? But I answer, the true beauty within the act would be the part that showed truly how powerful I was, in the simple, yet wonderful fact that I would truly get away with it.
Each night the thought consumed me. I would watch my wife sleep, watch the rise and fall of her chest beneath our bedding, and I would dwell upon the thought of how I would commit such an act. To kill, the action had to be most perfect; the victim chosen specifically for the task at hand. I watched my wife, with such vigorous hate, such terrible loathing, yet I loved her for numerous other reasons: for one, she had given me the thought to kill, to take the life of someone innocent, and show my power by getting away with the act of murder.
The thought stayed with me and I laid awake at night for one, two, three, for six total nights I laid awake devising my plan filled with hate and love and worst of all, insomnia. Then, upon the sixth night, I knew I had all the tools to set my plan into motion, and just as God had rested upon that seventh day, just as he had finished completing the creation of the universe, I, upon the seventh day, would have my plan in full order, and I would prove to the world my powers, just as God had done, and I would do it on the seventh day.
The seventh day was upon me. I woke early and exited my estate as if I was on a mission, yet no one, not the maids, nor the butler, nor lest of all, my wife, had any inkling of what I was about to accomplish. The garden boy, I do not remember his name for it was never important to me, was to be a major player if my plan were to succeed, and I knew he would be arriving for his work for the day early, and thus, that is why I exited the mansion as early as possible, leaving my wife behind to sleep.
I went into the barn; there I would wait for our garden boy. He would undoubtedly enter the premise upon his arrival, and I would be there, lurking, awaiting him. I did not have to wait long to be satisfied; within moments the garden boy arrived and my most clever plan sprang into action.
I leapt out from behind the door as he entered, as stealthily as a cheetah. He scarcely noticed me before I snatched his head, pulling back hard upon him, exposing his young neck, and with his own cleaver I slit his throat. It was quicker than I had thought. His body instantly became lifeless as he collapsed upon the sandy floor of the barn.
I quickly closed the doors behind me in effort to hide my criminal, yet brilliant, act of murder. Then, unbeknown to me, for reasons to this day I cannot fully explain, I cut off the young man’s, the garden boy’s, hands and feet. I dragged his remaining torso behind the barn where I buried it quickly, in hopes it should never be found, then I shuffled the dirt floor about within the barn, covering the blood stains left behind with additional soil, until finally, it was covered to the max, and the evidence of blood would never be seen again.
Lastly, I took the hands and feet, and I buried them along the four corners of the vast gardens in front of my manor. My intention was simple, the garden boy had spent many years in his young life caring for my gardens, and thus, I felt, even within his death, he would still be able to care for the gardens, however, instead of tending to them on a daily basis, he would instead become the ultimate fertilizer, and so that is what I did.
I buried one hand just below my wife and I’s bedroom balcony, just near enough the daffodils that my wife enjoyed so much. The other hand I buried near the other side of the manor, near the rose garden, the very garden in which my wife and I had been on that fateful day when she put the idea of murder into my mind. The feet, I buried near the front of the entire estate, towards our gate and stone wall. Each would serve, not only as a reminder of what I had accomplished, with such ease I might add, but also, as I said, to become the ultimate fertilizer. Even in his death, the garden boy had value.
The next day my wife rose before I. I, however, heard her rise as she walked towards the very balcony that looked down upon the gardens and the daffodils. I rose onto one arm within my quarters and looked at her as she looked out upon our gardens. Now, the time had come for me to cover my own tracks, for she would undoubtedly notice the absence of the garden boy, so I asked her simply, “Have you seen the garden boy? I need a word with him?”
She turned to look at me, a look of true evil within her eyes. The look surprised me; I feared she had known, but then, her voice was just as sweet as ever, “What do you need with our garden boy? You have never spoken two words to him since his employment upon the grounds.”
“I,” I began calmly, “assure you, it is a matter of the daffodils - they are looking sickly, and I hope to have him thrust more attention upon them.”
I had said the first thing that came to my mind, for the burial of his hand near the daffodils was still at the forefront of my thoughts. My wife, however, did not seem convinced, instead she turned her back upon me and looked down, presumably at the very daffodils in which I spoke. Her voice was calm as she looked down upon the gardens, “I do not see anything wrong with our beautiful daffodils.”
I did not think, but I reacted. I rose quickly from my bed and sprinted towards her. She suspected nothing for she was still looking down upon the grounds. I grabbed her, one ankle in each hand, and dumped her body over the fourth story balcony. The sound of her body hitting the hard soil below caused me to know that she too now found herself lifeless. I stood, rooted to the spot briefly and looked upon her fallen body. Indeed, she appeared lifeless. I quickly sprang into action.
I ran down the stairs in search of the first person I could find, a butler or a maid, and I was not disappointed in quickly finding our butler. I hastily told him what had just occurred, and he quickly ran to my fallen wife’s aid.
It wasn’t long after that the police arrived at my manor. They began asking me questions, and I played it cool, answering them calmly, yet not too calmly, for I was to play the part of the grieving husband. I conveyed to them that we were talking about the daffodils when she leaned over the balcony to get a better look, and she slipped and fell, to what appeared to be her death.
The officers continued to question me, and I, as cool and collected as I could, given the circumstances, continued to answer each query posed to me. After a great while, they seemed to finally have been satisfied with my demeanor. They made to clean up the body, at which time, they all, in turn, consoled me for my loss, offering their deepest sympathy.
I was inching ever closer to not only getting away with the murder of the garden boy, but as an added bonus, I also had found myself blessed by killing my wife. All was falling into place; my power, even if only to myself, was nearing confirmation.
The daffodils, however, did not provide me with cover for my story. One of the officers noticed it first. The soil was disturbed near the daffodils. He asked if I minded if he were to dig at that very spot, to see why the disturbance was present. In my haste to cooperate with the authorities I ran and got him a spade so he could dig up whatever treasures lay under the disturbed soil.
As he dug, I knew what he would find, the hand, which I had buried there just the previous day – the hand of the garden boy. It wasn’t long that they found the other hand and the two feet. It took them quite a bit longer to find the rest of his body and head, but soon, they had all the garden boy’s pieces in place.
Not long after their stark discovery, I was arrested as the prime suspect; the only suspect. The story the authorities concocted to explain what had occurred was simple, they said my wife was having an affair with the garden boy, and that was why I had felt the burning desire to murder them both. It was a good theory, but quite incorrect. The truth of the matter, as it happened to be, was much simpler than that.
The truth is, and I believe that you, sir or madam, would readily agree, that I am, and forever will remain, quite mad.

Criss Angel

Today on live television Criss Angel is going to attempt an escape out of a building that is minutes away from implosion. If he does not make it out in time, the implosion will go on as scheduled and Criss will die.
Like him or hate him, I'm sure everyone has the same idea regarding this stunt - he will make it out alive, but does anyone ever really stop to think about the magnitude of such a trick?
First, Criss will be handcuffed and shackled - and while I'm sure no one is under the delusion that he will not have the key (somewhere) he still has to get to that key (or get it out of whatever orifice he keeps it in on his body) and then while cuffed unlock his hands and feet.
After that, he is (I believe) three stories below the roof of the building - behind three more locked doors. Again, I'm sure he will have a key, or at the very least something he can use to pick the locks, but he is under a time constraint now, and if he did not escape the cuffs and shackles in a timely manner, he will need to begin to rush here. If he presses too hard, it just might slow him down even further.
An article on the St. Petersburg Times' website (since the stunt is taking place in Clearwater, Florida) states that once Criss reaches the roof of the building - he will have to grab hold of a ladder dangling from a hovering helicopter above. If he does do this, the article continues, he will need a good minute or two for the helicopter to be able to pull him far enough from the implosion to avoid being hit with debris. The article expresses that Criss will have approximately a three and a half minute window in which to escape the handcuffs, shackles, the locks of the doors (and the stairs that ensue to reach the roof), and grab the ladder so he can be pulled to safety with enough time to spare to avoid the imploding building. Criss mentions in the article that he hopes to accomplish his task in two and a half minutes - "just to be safe."
My question is not in Criss' ability, but more about what happens when something goes wrong? I, and this is only my opinion, believe Criss will not reach the ladder in time. However, I feel this will be "part of the act" and he will appear somewhere else (possibly IN the helicopter?) in a "how did he do that?" type tactic. But what happens when Criss does not show up? Obviously, the man is only human. So what happens when something goes terribly wrong? What happens when he is stuck fighting that first lock? What happens if the building's implosion occurs with Criss still inside? Does our live feed television program break off into "technical difficulties?" or does A&E simply move on to their next scheduled program (since this stunt is to take place in the waining minutes of the live episode)? Does the all-mighty dollar win out when we, as the viewer at home, are sent to commercial during a tragedy, or will the sympathies of the executives of A&E win out, so we, as viewers at home, are able to learn what happened, if (and this is only for argument's sake) Criss does not make it out alive?
Criss Angel does not deny that he continues to push the envelope much like his idol - Harry Houdini - but we all know Houdini died in a stunt gone wrong, and who out there truly doesn't think that can happen today with Criss Angel on live television? I will admit, I don't expect him to NOT dazzle the audience tonight (as I said, I am sure he will not reach the ladder, but will show off in that "how did he do that" type way), but in the off-chance that he does not escape, it would be interesting to see how the executives of A&E respond; if human emotion takes over, or if they pursue the next commercial or program; thus showing what truly is important.
So what wins over? Human life or the all-mighty dollar? I hope we do not find out tonight.
Good luck, Criss, and I guess only one question remains: "Are you ready?"

Update - Thursday, July 31st:
The stunt is over, and I am assuming it was a success for Criss Angel and his team. However, I was less than satisfied. I will admit there was a time where I wondered if he would make it out alive - but as time was waining down for him to reach the ladder, the host (I do not know who this was) did not panic enough. I believe the host needed to play his part to a greater extent and exhibit more genuine panic. Given his reaction (or lack thereof), I knew Criss had not gone down with the buliding (and at the time I was still holding on to my beleif written above that he would not make it to the ladder anyway).
So all in all, the stunt was a success, but I was not dazzled as expected. To see Criss simply walk away from the rubble left something to be desired. At least for Criss and his team the stunt went over without a hitch.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fast Choices

So today I read that the Los Angeles City Council is planning on voting on banning fast food from the city stating that their city has an "extreme shortage of quality food."
Now, I realize fast food is not a healthy option. Maybe that is the difference between myself and Obese America; that is that I DO know what fast food is and isn't. Fast food is convenient and above all, fast, but I know exactly what I'm getting into even when I buy the "healthy alternative" salad - it's still extremely high in calories. Even that "grilled" chicken isn't half as healthy as you think it is. But again, that is the problem, I realize fast food is not a good choice when considering my health, and I tend to lean away from fast food - and really any eating out - if I can. (Or another alternative that Americans seem to miss - PORTION CONTROL - just because it comes on your plate does not mean it has to be eaten).
However, many Americans miss the point when it comes to deciding what is best for themselves, and what we are left with is forcing city councils to make the choice for us. Land of the free? How free will you feel if you cannot even CHOOSE what food you desire to eat? Again, I know the difference between fast food and a freshly made home meal - but sadly too many Americans seem to miss this point.
Last week I read New York has begun to include the calorie content of all items ordered in restaurants on the menu - and my thought was - that's a great idea. Then I read the article regarding this fantastic idea, and those quoted in the article were not happy with this development. Some of the people were asking for the OLD menus (those without the calorie content) so they could order their meal "guilt free." It is people like this that force city councils to interfere with our freedoms. If we lose the right to choose, what is the point of being an American? We might as well become communist since far too many people hide behind the notion that the America government should dictate what they do. If it isn't illegal, many seem to think, then it can't be bad for you.
Sadly, I will lose my right at choosing a fast, hot meal on the go once a month because of people that fail to make choices for themselves. And I have to wonder, when will it stop?

Additional (relevant) thought:
Another thing I don't like is the reduction of "trans fat" in all my foods. The fact that companies that make potato chips (a notoriously unhealthy snack) has gone to healthy, vegetable oil for it's cooking is killing the taste. Again, I can choose to have a smaller sized snack to satisfy my craving, but when made in the new oil, I have a less superior snack that does not satisfy my craving, leaving me to desire more. If people could, again, make their own choices, then I could have my delicious snack instead of some watered down version of what I formerly loved. If people would choose to eat less of what is good, then we would not be forced to be regulated to the extreme on everything. Again, are we the land of the free or a communist tyranny?

Update: Today (July 30th, 2008) San Francisco has initiated a ban on cigarettes being sold in Drug Stores. While I am not a smoker, the fact remains, all our choices are being stripped from us.