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.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mortgage Crisis - and How to Fix It

Less taxes. It's that simple. However, this will never come to pass. The government is far too greedy, and in effect, they do require funding (as the dollar decreases in value, just like you and I, the government also needs increased cash flow to remain afloat, so they turn around and charge you and I more).
But let me get back on topic. Property tax is creating this mortgage crisis. Forget for a moment about the rogue brokers that practiced in the "subprime" lending, and turn to the concept of how that truly is affecting homeowners. If you bought one of these so called "subprime" loans, and your interest rate does, in fact, go up (assuming you bought into an ARM - an Adjustable Rate Mortgage), that hurts, and I understand that, as does the government, however, what I feel truly hurts the homeowner is the taxes applicable to the home on an annual basis.
The problem arises when you first consider buying a property that actually publishes the "current taxes." It could show the annual tax bill on the property as low as $500, and most people will think, "I can afford that," not realizing that tax is only for the CURRENT homeowner. The problems arise AFTER closing when the new assessed value of the home is used to calculate the taxes - which can double or triple the former tax bill (or worse). This is an expense that can become a third or more of the monthly mortgage payment (assuming the new purchaser set up an escrow account).
And then not only that, but now as home values are FALLING, what are tax bills doing? Rising . . . and my question to that is how and why? If our tax bills for our homes are assessed on an annual basis and if we have to pay this tax annually (I am still missing the logic as to why I need to pay taxes annually on something I bought YEARS ago) then why when home prices decrease, does the tax associated with that home not also decrease? Add in rising interest rates on ARMs and other subprime loans (interest only loans as another example) and the rising tax bills, and you create a crisis that is spinning out of control.
If the government truly wants to sell the "American Dream" I feel the government needs to step up to the plate and suspend the taxes on homes until this crisis has been averted. Otherwise, people are going to continue to fall into foreclosure and the dollar is going to continue to fall and the economy is going to continue to suffer.
If you want to fix a problem, I find the easiest way to fix that problem is to start with what you can control, and for the government, the one thing they can control is homeowners tax. Simply put, suspend the taxes for a year or two - or perhaps a better win-win solution for the government would be to suspend the reassessing of home values as a way to increase the tax on a continuous basis. This reassessment is certainly not fair to homeowners. I realize homeowners tax is used to fund such things as our public school system, but how about instead, include a new percentage increase in sales tax - if I don't buy it, I don't pay the tax, however, I have to BUY a product to be TAXED - not simply taxed annually for something that was actually purchased YEARS ago.
My point is simple, if property tax was not ballooning, I believe more families would be in a better position to pay the mortgage they agreed to - even if that mortgage term was one of a "subprime" lending practice, but to essentially be "triple dipped" on the increases - by the taxes, insurance, and interest rates - it is too great of a price for those with less to show for their money - as the dollar weakens, it buys less, and families suffer while the government laughs all the way to the bank - bailing out the lenders that began this mess to begin with.
It hardly seems fair, but such is life in the richest country in the world.

Note: I realize property tax is a localized tax - but if the federal government would step in, they can have the localized municipalities suspend this tax while the federal government steps in and subsidized the local governments.

MY religious symbol . . . and why it's rude

I realize this is my second consecutive post ranting about the rudeness of others, and I am sorry for this, but I feel compelled to write this blog; so onto it:
So, is it just me, or are people growing ruder and ruder as the days pass? Let me give you a quick example as to what I am referring too. I was in the restroom the other day where there are two sinks and only one paper towel dispenser. I was on the outermost sink, and another individual was washing in the sink nearest the paper towel dispenser. He lingered at the sink for a few minutes, which I really didn’t mind. Besides it gave me a chance to purge myself from the uncleanliness of the restroom for a greater period of time. However, not wanting to be rude myself and go around him I waited patiently for him to finish his business. When he finally turned off the water he moved towards the paper towel dispenser and pulled himself out a few towels to dry his hands. Now, this is where the individual becomes extremely rude because he does not back away from the dispenser (and trash) to dry his hands. He dries his hands in front of the dispenser, leaving me to drip dry my hands for another ten seconds until he was satisfied enough with his own dried hands to finally throw out his trash and move out of my way. To me, this was extremely rude. I felt it would have only be polite to either speed up his washing of his hands, or at the very least move back so I too could have access to the paper towel dispenser and we both could have dried our hands simultaneously.
This seems to be an epidemic that is not going away. The other day I also had someone comment on one of my tattoos on my leg. I have an Ohm on my leg – for those of you that do not know what it is, look it up – and an eastern-looking-man came up to me and exclaimed – without a single word of introduction – “why do you have my religious symbol on your leg?” I attempted to play it off, not wanting to reveal the inner-workings of my mind and my religious convictions – only for him to exclaim the same query again. My first thought, besides attempting to deflect something that was none of this unidentified man’s business – was “since when is Hinduism considered YOUR religion and YOURS alone” – but I refrained from such a statement. Finally, I told the man that I believe in the eastern philosophies (which I do and I believe many Americans could benefit from studying them), however, apparently I came off a little too brash in my wording because this unidentified man’s buddy said “I think he’s mad” just as the elevator doors opened and we all got into the crowded elevator. The subject was promptly dropped, but in my mind it remained – since when have people grown so unbearably rude? Yes, I may have come off rude myself when I finally answered, but the fact remained, why did he even feel the need to comment about something on MY body in the first place? And without any form of proper introduction from this individual? To me, it was completely rude, so after my deflection was denied by this individual, I would agree, my response was, in effect, rude, but it was that situation in which something about ME did not need to be revealed to this man of which I have zero affiliation with.
It is like my rant below about drivers – people are so rude that they can only be bothered with themselves even when driving what can easily become a deadly weapon, they only worry about their own little world and their own little circle, never once considering the feelings of others around them.
Maybe I am too sensitive to this matter, but I was raised better, and I was raised to be polite and empathetic – which you can define as “not being annoying and rude.” Others just seem way too rude to ever want to talk to and when they do talk they are abrasive and rude themselves; assuming their queries of “why do you have my religious symbol on your leg?” as being a valid inquiry – which it was, and remains, completely inappropriate. My religious affiliations are not your business, unless you want to use your dimwitted little mind to figure out that the reason it is there is because I, too, have a right at agreeing with the philosophies of “your” religion.

Am I Superior?

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean in the realm of all things, but I mean merely, in driving, am I superior? I would like to think that I am not superior, and that driving a vehicle is not comparable to being a rocket scientist, however, if you've been on the road lately, you will realize that this might actually be true.
Many of you are either agreeing with me right now, or feeling as if I am being blasphemist about the subject. If you do not agree with me, then it is my contention that you are probably one of the many drivers as to why I am writing this blog. If you agree with me, then please continue; if you do not agree, please, also continue to read - hopefully you can learn something.
Cell phones. What is the point? Anyone driving while on the phone, I ask you, why? What is so important that it can't wait? And if the conversation truly cannot wait, then try a new tactic, pull off on the shoulder and hold your conversation - believe me, it would be much appreciated by me that you are no longer pulling (unnoticed to you, I'm sure since you cannot be bothered by me and my vehicle while you are on the phone) into my lane, only to flip me off when I honk the horn at you - for your obliviousness.
While I'm on the subject, since when does everyone feel so entitled? Since when has driving become a RIGHT and not a PRIVILEGE? Since when has driving become the inconvenience it seems to be to so many people on the road? Obviously our lives our busy, and I am not an exception to this notion, however, I do value my life, and a vehicle can easily become a deadly weapon - when that vehicle is not respected. Now, you may not value YOUR life, but please, out of courteous to me and all those that DO value their lives, if you cannot focus on DRIVING, then get off the road, and stay off if you cannot be inconvenienced to actually PAY ATTENTION when on the road.
You will be doing us all a great service to heed my advice. Otherwise, I ask, am I superior to you since driving has seemingly become rocket science to perform?

America Divided

So I read the other day how Bill Clinton thinks America has “become divided,” and my response to that is simple – absolutely she is divided. The problem, however, doesn’t lie within politics as much as it does the politicians. The problem is that the politicians are divided from what most American's truly want and truly need.
Let me explain this to you. Most of us are in the 99th percentile of income earners. The politicians, however, are in that top tier, the top 1 percentile. They are wealthy and disconnected to what it truly means to be an American.
Not only that, or maybe more because of it, they do what they need to in order to become even more wealthy. Seemingly, to continue the lavish lifestyles they know they take handouts – from big business. Where does this help the average American? It’s simple, it doesn’t. Big business gets tax breaks (in a peace offering in hopes the business continue to lobby – AKA fund – the government). Oh sure, on paper it sounds good – with the companies receiving the tax break, they can now hire even more workers – and (the theory goes) thus, more Americans will find themselves having jobs and earning a living. Problem is, even if those Americans are hired, they now have to pay a considerable amount on taxes themselves – which, by working, you are merely funding the government, and hardly making enough to truly get by.
How is it that inflation can continue to increase, yet the tax brackets remain the same? Think about that one. Your dollar can now buy less, yet the tax bracket on your dollar remains the exact same. So now, the dollar that already buys you so little, is worth even less because the government is taking it from you.
American has become divided indeed Mr. Bill Clinton, but the problem is not the American people, but the politicians we are granted the pleasure of “choosing” between. Until there exists a politician that has earned a true, fair, honest living, then this crisis will not be averted. And sadly, America will continue to be divided by the line of American working class versus the American politicians. Indeed American is divided.