Sunday, August 23, 2009

Quick Hits for August 23, 2009

* Headline: Taliban cut off fingers of Afghan voters. Wow, it sounds pretty scary. Their goal was to "disrupt" the elections. While I don't want to sound like I approve, because I don't, but doesn't this seem like oversensationalized reporting? I mean, out of millions of people, only TWO had their fingers cut off. It sounds like you almost lost a finger for voting if you read CNN's teasers and headlines. Yes, it sucked anyone got their finger cut off, but come on, this was a pretty major failure for the Taliban if the best disruption of an election they got was two fingers cut off.

* I gotta say this Miley thing is just over the top. The big story is she was "fully making out" with someone because they kissed and were romantic at an airport saying goodbye to him as he was getting on a plane. She is 16. I pretty much assumed she was "fully making out" and maybe more. Heck, I know most of my friends were when we were 16. Shouldn't it really be a story if she WASN'T making out with anyone by 16 as popular as she is? As is, I just don't see why it is news other than that people just need to stop paying so much attention to the lives of others and start designing their own lives so it is more entertaining and fun.

* Win or lose this fight over health care, Republicans are doing more long term damage to their brand because of the way they are doing it. The lies, the deliberate misrepresentations, and the red herrings continue to leave them as the "party of no" even if President Obama fails to get this passed. People will start looking to them for solutions and those solutions of simply limiting liability and savings accounts are old, wornout answers that no one really believes will solve anything except doctor and insurance company profits. They better find something for 2010 to run on other than "Just say no".

* I think it is almost time to venture into Youtube. Look for Plinking Reality to work on making videos of various kinds with the new digital video camera we got for this vacation when we get back. If you have any suggestions, let us know.

* I love Vonage even if I don't use it. My parents do, but we are on cellphones exclusively now. However, I just noticed they added all the long distance and local calls you can make to 60 countries for the same $25 a month. If only one of those 60 was the Philippines, we would have bought it when we get back from vacation. Yes, we use webcams and internet messenger services for it, but a phone would be nice too. I just don't understand why anyone uses a regular landline from say Verizon or ATT anymore.

* New credit card rules that are about to go into effect are helpful for consumers, but I know some of us have seen interest rate hikes, even with credit scores of over 700. That means, more than ever, it is important to start paying down credit cards because interest rates also tend to rise during an economic recovery. Use your cards for specific purposes, but now is the time to pay them down as far as you can.

* Only 2 days until vacation time. But I will still be here, just missing a few days here and there, but keep checking in. My facebook will have international pictures coming regularly right after we get the foreign internet connection set up.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Understanding the Key to our Economy: Demographics

Over time, I have heard numerous groupings that blame the economic downturn on specific instances, often because of partisan politics. Most of those reasons being blamed really are symptoms but don't explain the downturn. Similarly, we are now hearing of economic recovery but we are wondering where the jobs are, and what is causing the recovery. In both cases, no one really gets to the economic key that explains it: Demographics.

That seems rather simplistic, but let's take some time to explore it a little. We know that you will do certain things within certain ranges of your life. (admittedly, it is a generalization and like all generalizations, it has exceptions, but they generally hold true). For example, we know that when you get into your late teens to early 20s, you will probably drink and experiment with things like drugs. We know that you will start to settle in during your mid 20s and start to define goals and move towards them socially, economically, and so on. We know that around 30, you will start to move into economic positions where you will generally start to make money and you will start to strive to build your life. And so on.

Ok, so what does that have to do with the economy and what you are talking about? Well, as life goes on, we know that about age 44, you will peak in your home buying power and you will either stay in your home, sell for a same priced home, or sell down. At 44, you only have about 20 years to pay off a home if you plan to retire in your mid 60s, so it makes sense that you wouldn't be stretching it. That is, of course, unless you happen to become a CEO of a Fortune 100 company at 55, but that isn't most people. Why does this matter?

We know that there are two very large population groups in America. The Baby Boomers and the Echo Boomers, with a big dip in between where Generation X goes. The dip is the problem.

Everyone has heard of the Baby Boomers and their impact. Their desires have driven the agendas of President after President. In their 20s, Reagan gave them tax cuts to start businesses and live like 20 year olds. In their 30s, Clinton sold them on tax increases to lower the debt to make their mortgages cheaper. In their early 40s, President Bush sold them on tax cuts for capital gains so they would make more on their retirement portfolios. And now President Obama is trying to sell them on health care for the rest of their lives, when they are most worried about it (with mixed results).

Well, the peak of the Baby Boomer generation was 1961. That was the year where their numbers started to decline and fewer of them came after that. Those numbers didn't really jump back up until the Echo Boomers, but we will get to them in a minute. The peak of the Baby Boomers is what made the housing collapse predictable.

If we know that at age 44, people stop buying up and slow their buying totally, that means that 44 years after 1961, the housing market would start to decline. Why? Simple: less demand for the same supply. Now, if the population numbers were consistent, where we had people to replace them, then you wouldn't see the dip, but it isn't. There are a lot less people in Generation X to replace them. That means in 2005, the housing market should have started to decline, and guess what? It did.

Now, the subprime industry, easing of banking liquidity ratios, and more made it worse, but they didn't cause that decline. They simply were caught not paying attention to the inevitable decline coming. More on the subprime and liquidity ratios in another article, let's stick to demographics here.

We also know that at age 49, you will have what I call the "oh sh*t" day, whereby you realize you are about to hit 50, you realize you are close to retirement and you don't have nearly as much as you want to retire. Your 401k needs more money, your house needs more payments to pay it off on time, and you want to start to limit your expenses because you realize you will soon be on a limited income.

That means your wallet tightens and you move out of the major consumer markets. You shift your purchases from Pier One to Walmart and Target. You don't shop at Macys as much as you do at Walmart and Target, or JC Penney.

Now, for the Baby Boomers, that should have meant a decline in consumer spending in 2010, not 2008. However, because of the ripples of the housing market taking a while to spread throughout the economy, and the other economic factors to make it worse, 2008 saw those 47 year olds opening 401k statements where they were losing 30% to 50% of their value, while they saw their housing value decline. They simply had their "oh sh*t" moment early. That triggered the "collapse" of 2008. They simply stopped spending.

But what about the Echo Boomers? Well, their peak is still in high school, and thus, are a significant number of years away from replacing the Baby Boomers as property owners and big spenders, but they are coming and industry is studying them like no other generation in history. That means that while we may see some recovery, we simply don't have the consumers with our current industries to support more jobs. America has been the consumer capital of the world market for a generation and it is ending. It may rebound with the Echo Boomers, but that is still almost a decade away.

So what now? Well, the good news is this: The markets have probably bottomed, but they will probably stay somewhat flat for the short term. Where they go from there depends on the strategies being taken. Here is what needs to be done:

First, give tax incentives to industries that manufacture goods, especially domestically, that limit costs. What do I mean? Solar power for one. It may not solve all the world's problems, but if I am planning retirement, solar panels means I spend less on energy bills when I get on a limited income. Waterless hot water heaters to cut my power and water bills. Anything that starts to cut our monthly expenses and is cost effective should draw out the Baby Boomers' dollars.

Second, build exports. If we are low on consumers here, search out consumers around the globe. Given our pricing, it isn't that easy and we can't rely on selling food globally as the key either. The two largest emerging markets are China and India. Both need a lot of investment to develop and both plan to invest in development. The key area for them is rural power supplies. This is where the first step does double duty. Things like solar power, wind power, and cheap ways to apply that in microgeneration could be sold to these countries fairly easily if done in a form that could be used in villages.

Remember, one big advantage is China has a lot of dollars and not a lot of things to spend them on. This gives us a sort of captive consumer, almost like giving someone Disney dollars (back in the day when they had them). It isn't good outside Disneyland so use it or lose it. All they need is a reason that serves mutual interests, and microgeneration power supplies like solar or wind that functions in a village setting would work well for both interests.

Third, keep finding more ways to forgive student loans. Yes, the Echo Boomers are going to need to find ways to avoid the massive debt of college if you want them to have enough purchasing power to buy homes, even if it means they get an advantage their parents didn't get. But another reason for this is that a number of Generation Xers don't have enough available credit because of major student loan debt. There are programs for it now, but anything to ease that debt will help them buy homes and help out the housing markets.

While these steps won't solve everything, they will lay a foundation to allow us to boom earlier rather than later. Understanding basic demographics could have averted some of the problems we have today, and could set us up for tomorrow. But we must move past ideological differences to actually evaluate situations and create pragmatic policy solutions.

Quick Hits for August 22, 2009

* To gain some perspective, go find some place with a lot of people and just sit, watch, and listen to what goes on. Quietly walk around and observe and listen. I do these things periodically at the local Walmart or Target or the park or the shopping mall, and a few other places. You can find out some interesting things about people and human behavior, as well as attitudes.

* It dawns on me that if a nation that proclaims itself to be a Christian nation actually acted "Christian" then there would be no need for Social Security, Medicare, or Universal Health Care. However, the nation doesn't, and thus, creates the need for them. While some of my Christian friends are amazingly Christian, far too many people that I see proclaiming their Christianity really don't sound anything like what I read in the book of Matthew.

* 90% of life is reading or listening, and following directions while showing up. That solves most of life's problems. The other 10% is what separates the dreamers from the achievers: Making a plan, acting on that plan, observing results, and then making corrections and acting again. Too often we fail to show up, we fail to pay attention, and we fail to act. We can have the life we dream of if we would only think while we try.

* People on the left and right often complain about what government does or doesn't do, but the problems that government reacts to are often a result of what people do or don't do. Maybe if we thought out what we do instead of just acting, if we took responsibility instead of simply proclaiming our freedom, then the government wouldn't have to act the way it does. Taking a semi-automatic rifle to a political rally may be legal, but it really isn't a responsible thing to do. With great liberty comes great responsibility.

* People want others to follow the rules until the rules apply to them. Then, the rules generally don't make sense or aren't fair. I have watched people insist that people break the law to accommodate their wishes without concern for the consequences for the person breaking the law for them, and without remorse as they walk away.

* I can't really say I feel bad for the Memphis Tigers basketball program who just lost 38 games from their Final Four appearance and loss in the Finals to the National Champion Kansas Jayhawks because their starting point guard and team leader may have had someone else take his SAT for him to get into college. This isn't the first time for the coach there, but the coach hasn't taken a hit for having his second season in his career turn into a 0-fer, and the program probably made over a million dollars from the tournament.

* What people can do is amazing. What they actually do is often disappointing. People on the right don't trust President Obama, the first President I have ever seen actually not spend $250 billion because it wasn't necessary, but they trust GOP pundits who continually lie to them over and over and over again. I guess we create our own blinders and we focus on the Bill Clinton lie about an affair or ten, but the lie after lie of President GW Bush or the lies of those who make up fantasies about President Obama are credible in their eyes. Often we believe what we want to believe, not what is true.

* Reminder: Only a few more days until I go on vacation. I will keep up with blogs, but they may be a little more scarce because I am on vacation half way across the world.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Quick Hits for August 21, 2009

* Gotta admit it. I have no clue how releasing the Lockerbie Bomber makes any sense to anyone. As I got posted on the footer for Rick Sanchez on CNN, wouldn't a terminal bomber make a perfect suicide bomber? I understand the notions of compassion that Scotland has, but I think there needs to be a reasonable limit for it. This person is probably one that I wouldn't let go just because he could be a great suicide bomber and any number of people could die from such an attack.

* I am continually amazed at the difference in focus for the Obama Administration compared to the Bush Administration. Attacks in Pakistan or on Taliban groups are being kept very low profile by the Obama Administration, whereas every attack seemingly was a day of celebration for the Bush Administration. It is good to see the focus on the work to be done instead of the celebration of a first down instead of waiting for a touchdown or a victory.

* Tom DeLay's comment about wanting to see President Obama's birth certificate indicate a shift in the burden of proof, whereby President Obama is presumed to be guilty until he proves his innocence. Thus, if we flip this on DeLay, one could easy point to his political corruption until he opens up records and receipts for every receipt of money for himself, his campaigns, and for every other campaign he has been linked to. The point is that until there is a reason to shift guilt, there is no point to make either statement. If DeLay wanted to see President Obama's birth certificate, he could have easily googled it and found not only the copies of it but also official verifications of the document. I guess the birthers just want someone to spend the money to take the official birth certificate door to door nationwide to 300 million Americans. Yeah, that's a realistic expectation.

* The "moral" party on the right ought to be proud as they are starting to get Americans to believe lies and deceptions as truth. Looks like they sure showed real family values and respect for those Ten Commandments including the ones about telling the truth. Just one more example of hypocrisy on the right, which will yet again start to undermine their credibility over time with the electorate. Short term victory for long term failure, good trade off. God, we miss Ronald Reagan.

* Get ready for Tom Ridge to be crucified by the right as his book comes out that explains how the Bush Administration advisers pressured him to raise the alert levels prior to the 2004 election, which is one reason he resigned in 2004. Expect him to be treated like other local Republicans like Treasury Secretary O'Neil, and so on, that left the administration and told of their time there.

The news shouldn't be anything new after "Mission Accomplished," Bush photos in campaign material using 9/11 for political purposes, the putting of "Made in the USA" on boxes that were imported for a photo op, and so on. It was the ultimate political spectacle administration until the bottom fell out in 2005.

* While not a joyous announcement fo a $1.58 trillion dollar deficit, I think it is a positive sign of the Obama Administration when they tell us that they are pulling back on $262 billion in deficits because they simply don't believe they need to use the money allotted for the bailout.

In a world where government programs often use the money for fear of losing it in the next year's budget, often wasting billions, it is great to see a President who says "we asked for what we thought we needed. We don't think we need $250 billion, so we simply aren't going to spend it to save taxpayer dollars." It is a wonderful change of pace from asking for a budget, then asking for supplement after supplement to create hidden excesses and higher deficits. This is one more reason why I trust President Obama far more than his predecessors who never sent back unused money that Congress allocated.

* While I will still be blogging, but less consistently, I will be on an overseas vacation for almost four weeks starting on August 25th. Keep checking in.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quick Hits for August 20, 2009

* Rush Limbaugh apparently indicted Barney Frank's arguments by referencing his homosexuality. Maybe it is me, but if we are looking at credibility based on behaviors alone, I will take the credibility of a homosexual over a drug addict any time. At some point, maybe he should take on Frank's arguments instead of his sexuality. And considering the argument was Frank taking on someone calling President Obama's health care reform plan as a Nazi plan implying the whole death panel garbage again, I probably side with Frank: The Nazi reference is just way over the top. Maybe she should have shouted it louder and carried a gun on her back. Or not. Bad argument is just bad argument.

* I was listening to a "best of Laura Ingram" while driving this evening and it reminded me why I think PETA has a legitimate argument to an extent, and why PETA also shows how taking yourself too far can make you look utterly idiotic. IT IS TRUE that eating less meat is better for maintaining our food chain, preserving resources, and improving our health. IT IS TRUE that abuses at slaughter houses are bad, mainly because it is unnecessary abuse, studies indicate abuse of animals may lead to violence against humans, and it shows emotional unprofessionalism that should hint at other potential problems for running a meat farm.

Having said that, expecting people to give up eating all meat eating is unrealistic and over the top. Proclaiming a protection of all living things while eating vegetables which are alive (yes, plants are alive) is contradictory and selective views of what is alive at best. Expecting people to let all the animals run wild probably gets them killed just as fast considering how domesticated they are. They take a reasonable argument about limiting meat and properly regulating facilities, and jump the shark making themselves sound like nutcases.

* I gotta give it to Chris Matthews tonight. While I don't agree with his gun views, when he was interviewing a 2nd Amendment extremist, he pulled a Laura Ingram and asked him his views on the "birther" controversy. The man's refusal to answer said it all, leaving himself left to look like a birther nutcase, and done by his own choosing. There are legitimate Second Amendment issues, but there are also limits as was written by Scalia in a majority opinion last year. The Second Amendment is not unlimited, just as the First Amendment is not. You don't have a right to own a rocket launcher.

Don't be mistaken about my gun views. I am not a gun control guy generally speaking, but I don't think they belong at a political rally because it is an attempt to intimidate people because you can't debate the argument. Things that create a "chilling effect" should not be allowed at these kinds of events. Not because it is illegal, but because event organizers choose to not let them in for being counterproductive to the purpose of the event.

* Republican pundits should be careful about their pushing of buttons and prodding their followers with views that President Obama isn't an American, that he is pushing for "Death Panels," pushing the race buttons very subtly, and the gun buttons. All it takes is for one nutcase to take it too far (which isn't a major leap at all), and we will have President Biden and his entire agenda will pass within 12 months similar to the way President Kennedy's agenda was passed. The assassination of President Obama by just one of these "nuts" would sink the right for at least a decade to come and put them back farther than FDR ever could have.

* Maybe the easiest option for the health care debate is to simply create a Medicare buy in, whereby Medicare's services are priced on the open market, then cut based on the lack of advertising and profit margin, and it creates a premium. In the workforce, an employer pays about 2/3 of the costs and the employee pays about 1/3 the cost. Create the same pricing with people being able to buy in to Medicare at a 1/3 premium and take the rest of it out of the Pelosi museums, the roads to no where, the Defense pork, etc. It is incredibly simple to create and run with the framework already there. If it is horrible, it will be a boom to private insurance. If it does well, then it is an incentive to private companies to get it in gear. But it won't happen because it is too obvious and easy; and because about 1/2 of Congress has their hand in the medical industry cookie jar.

* I keep feeling embarrassed for Republicans as I hear them saying the "stimulus failed". Whether it succeeded or failed is really yet to be determined. As any economist will tell you, that kind of stimulus will take nine to fifteen months to filter through the economy and show its ripples. To realistically evaluate it now, five months later, may be politically fun for pundits, but it shows a real lack of understanding of economics and risks their own credibility on the topic.

* I miss the days of Robert Novak, Ronald Reagan, and other intellectual Republicans that understood an underlying philosophy and how the world worked within it. They weren't simply talking points, but actually had a view of the world and could envision it. Today's conservatives can't envision their worldview, they can only recite the talking points that Rush or Hannity gave them this morning. They don't know what they are working towards like Reagan did. It makes me sad, because there actually was a sound philosophy behind it, even if I didn't agree with it all. Too bad today it is "just deny the Dems and vote Republican."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Quick Hits for August 19, 2009

* I think Brett Favre is a great quarterback, but in all honesty, I would never want him on my football team. The constant drama of will he come back each year is just not something you build a team around. And while he has had many great moments, he has also thrown away enough bad passes that have cost games that it may offset. I just don't understand this move by Minnesota.

* I am starting to think that the left should start to utilize its own 2nd Amendment rights and see just how comfortable the right feels with armed protesters at their events for their Congresspeople. The problem with that logic is that political debate should NOT be about intimidation but rather the marketplace of ideas whereby the best ideas win the day for the betterment of society. Too bad that some on the right think the 2nd Amendment was about intimidation instead of being about a right to protection.

* I keep hearing questions about health care rationing, but honestly, I don't see how we aren't having it rationed now by the private companies. You can only have so many tests before they just let it drop. You can only have so much to spend before your policy cap sets in. I am not sure how that is not already rationing. Only now, you have an actual vote in how it is run and you can do something about it instead of sit there and do nothing while they profit off of you.

* I have many friends who keep asking me, "how did you learn to cook" and I keep telling them the same thing: Go find something you like, and ask for the recipe. Then replicate it. Once you do it a few times, you can tweak it to your specific tastes but that is it. No great secret. And in this day and age, if you want to learn to cook there is one simple secret: All you have to do is search for what sorts of things you want, find the 5 star recipes, read some reviews for any "tweaks" and cook. Follow the easy recipes. It isn't rocket science, it is food.

* I don't know what good health care reform is without a public option. Simply re-organizing the private sector is little more than re-dressing the status quo. Sure, some changes will happen such as dealing with pre-existing conditions, but in general, without a public option, there is no real reform.

* Look for a new section where we focus on doing things to improve energy use in the home. I am not sure what form it will take, but I am doing research on ways to save energy in the home from the most simple of behaviors to trying to do more complex things. It may become a segment depending on how it works out. Send me your ideas to guide this area.

Following Directions: The 20 Item or Less Line

I don't know how long I will keep this part up, but every time I find myself scratching my head over people following directions, I think I may post something about it. I decided to give it a separate section or title after today.

I went to the store to get an itunes gift card for my niece for her birthday and while I was walking up to the line for 20 items or less with my card and gift card, I realized there were three carts in front of me. I wasn't in any real hurry, and the other lines were longer, so I got in line.

I decided that with little to do while waiting in line, and my Twitter caught up, I would count their items for my own entertainment. The three carts in the 20 items or less line had orders of between 40 and 50 items. It was clear that none of them either observed the clearly obvious 20 or less items sign, or they simply didn't care (believing they were special enough that they should be waited on no matter what the conditions).

What made it even more entertaining was that right in front of me were two teachers from a local junior high (I gathered this from their conversation, not from any previous knowledge. Yeah, I know, I am nosy), who were complaining about how their students couldn't follow simple directions anymore making life so much harder for them. I couldn't help but think of how ironic it was when they took their 48 items up to the cashier who didn't have much bagging room and was struggling while they sat their chatting away, not lifting a finger to help him.

I guess we all feel that what we are doing is of the utmost importance, but it shouldn't be that hard to follow simple directions. It isn't like the 20 items or under line is new, or the signs are hidden from view, or there is no consistent location for the signs. Just one more indicator that ability to read and follow directions may just be one of the most important skills on a resume.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Relationship Rule #2: Listen AND Talk

Whenever people have talked to me about their relationships and the problems they have, I often ask them if they have told their significant other about this problem. Most of the time, they tell me that "they wouldn't listen or care if I told them." But that seems to be the problem, they didn't give them a chance to listen or respond. It also indicates that too often, we fail to listen to our partner.

When I have worked with Urban Debate students, the new students express the same problem: frustration that no one listens. They like debate because someone is forced to listen to them, and they can talk about what matters to them in a way. The same is true of relationships. People want someone to listen to them and care about what they say.

The same happens when people get mad and get into fights. Sure, everyone has ways to express it, and people should be mad sometimes in a normal relationship, but there is a point where people have a choice: Walk out or work it out. That is really the only two choices. The failure they often make is to work it out to an unsatisfactory solution and then they revisit the problem over and over and over again.

What should you do in a relationship?

First, set clear expectations as you go. For example, my wife and I set up Rule #1 before we got married but after we were in a relationship and agreed upon it. It doesn't mean anyone will be perfect in the relationship, but it gives you some place to start in building a working framework.

Second, as problems arise, talk about them. No one ever sets perfect expectations or expectations for every area, so there is always going to be a time to go back and revisit and revise those expectations. Realize up front that relationships are always a work in progress, whereby there are "negotiated" changes in expectations and agreements all the time.

Third, as problems arise, don't forget, feelings will be hurt and people will get upset. It is okay that people get upset. Some yell, others get quiet. At some point, calmer discussions must prevail if the relationship is to continue. Don't shy away from those talks. Don't shy away from topics, the honesty in those discussions are important to making sure you two will find an acceptable solution.

Finally, find ways to show you are listening and working at listening. Buy gifts or do things that they wanted or wanted done but that they wouldn't normally expect you to notice. Bring up subjects in conversation that they might not have thought that you heard.

There are also little helpful ways to find out information. Remember, the salesperson who showed her the jewelry, and return to them to ask for the specific items she was looking at. Use text messaging or notepad on your cellphone to remember things when she isn't looking. Use things like Outlook to give you early reminders of important events like anniversaries, birthdays, or other important days.

No one says anyone has to be perfect, but most of the time what is wanted is the effort. Don't lie about using helpful tips or what you are doing, working to listen and talk better in and about your relationship. The deception would probably cause some irritation and feelings of being manipulated. Whereas, the truth about working on listening and talking to make them happy will make your significant other feel better that you care about them enough to work that hard for them.

The effort is the key. Don't be afraid to give the effort.

Quick Hits: August 18, 2009

* Who would have thought that 90% of all bills would have traces of cocaine on them? I never would have thought it. Granted, it can happen in a lot of ways, but it seems like maybe drug problems are more sizable than we want to admit. Given that cocaine is considered a white, upper middle class drug, is it any surprise that it is the overlooked drug problem in America? I guess the sniffing dogs are suffering the consequences now.

* Can anyone else see how these "open carrying" "protestors" could escalate to something else far worse? It seems to me that it is more of an intimidation tactic than anything else, trying to keep liberals from counter-protesting or challenging them. But what happens when the left starts showing up with open guns? Is the right trying to provoke a civil war over President Obama? Or do they just think the war metaphors they are using are just good rallying cries and are just ignorant of its implications?

* I am starting to believe the health care debate isn't about health care at all. The right isn't even engaging in a debate per se as much as a line of constant distortion. I am starting to think it is all about "taking down Obama" and not in a good way, which is greatly concerning to me. I think the radical racial and anti-government elements are taking over in a way that it wouldn't surprise me to see an attempt on the President's life this year. I pray not, but look at where the anti-Obama hate rhetoric is coming from: the South and the Plains states; the place where race and anti-government militias thrive. And that worries me because of the potential for things to spiral out of control, if they haven't already. Let's pray cooler heads prevail.

* If you aren't working to cut your costs, to limit your credit cards, and to build up your savings, through smart investments in your home, car, etc., then you aren't learning from the recession. Look for tax credits and rebates for things like waterless water heaters, solar panels for your home, and more that will cut your costs in the long run. The economy needs consumer spending but it needs to be smart consumer spending, not spending for the sake of spending. Make your dollars more efficient.

* More and more, I am becoming shocked by the number of people who can't follow basic directions. I went to send money the other day and a person couldn't figure out a basic moneygram form. It was pretty complex, being labeled and all. People simply don't want to take the time to read directions anymore. I guess that puts me as a good hire for a new job because I can actually read a set of directions and follow them. That's pretty sad if that is a key criteria for being hired instead of just an expectation of the entire workforce.

* Today, I emailed and wrote letters to my Congressman and Senators on Health Care, worked on a presentation for Wednesday night, and prepared for my vacation in seven days. What actions did you take to make the world or your life more like you want? We must act each and every day to make the world and our lives the way we want it. What will you do today? What will you do tomorrow? Design your life, and then take an action.

Tonight: Relationship Rule #2

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Case for a Public Option: Take Action Today, Demand Action

Today's health care system is broken. It is designed such that at least 15,000,000 Americans will be without health care, even at its best. Today, we know that number to be more like 47,000,000 Americans and rising. That number was calculated when unemployment was at 5%, not at 9.5%. It is surely much higher now.

Some can find excuses for why that number is so high, but they do not deny the number itself. And they do not deny it is rising.

We also know that about 50,000,000 more are underinsured. That means that their insurance does not cover many illnesses that they will need it for, and it does not cover their care adequately in an affordable way. In other words, some may risk home, retirement, and any chance to live above the poverty level to simply stay alive.

None of that even begins to deal with the tens of millions of Americans who lose their health insurance when they lose their job, whether due to job loss, job change, or simply because illness won't let them work anymore, nor having the insurance company drop them or their company due to having too many illnesses.

My brother in law may very well be one of the fully insured that loses his insurance due to an illness that costs him his job. What are these people to do when not only they, but their entire families lose their insurance because of an illness like cancer or worse?

The question on health care is not whether or not there should be a public option. There is no doubt that it MUST have a public option to offset the "Death Panels" of private insurance that deny even evaluation testing as "too expensive" when they know there already exists a potentially deadly illness, but determine it is too expensive to find out what it is, or to even begin to attempt to cure it. We have already put a price on a life, and it is through companies like Aetna and their "bottom line."

The question is what is driving so many to avoid a public option. For some, it may be some fear of a mythical socialism, a line that we long ago passed when we started using government contracts to subsidies every major industry that exists in America today. We will not ever find our way to communism, it would be a folly to try. And it is a folly to dictate all possible market answers. But in some cases, it is vital that we do as a nation.

We owe a lot not just to ourselves for getting here, but to everyone here who has come before us, and to those who come along side us, and to those who will come after us. We owe it to our society to maintain ourselves, but also to maintain each other. We cannot support each and every part of every person's life, but we must maintain the hope, the possibility, and the practicality of the American Dream.

That means we must insure that every American has the possibility of a world class education, not simply the language of one without the backing of actual funding and proclaiming manipulated tests show we have improved while we have enormous drop out rates to boost average scores.

That means we must insure that every American has the possibility of the world class health care system that has been financed on the backs of taxpayers through tax credits and direct financing of those medical industries such as pharmaceuticals. We have already paid for the best medical technology in the world, the question is when will we receive its care?

It is true, we must pay for it. And we must do things like cut token, pet projects that allow members of Congress to be remembered forever because they financed a building in their own names; or obscure museums; or roads to no where; or defense projects that are so beyond wasteful that it should make us cry. That is not to say there is not legitimate government spending on the arts, or important building needs, or specific highways, or key defense projects; there are absolutely legitimate projects. However, there is no doubt that there are hundreds of billions of wasted funds in a three trillion dollar federal budget.

We owe it to ourselves to insist that we get what we deserve, what we paid for: a public option to health care for all Americans. Write your Congressman and Senators daily. Write them in emails, in letters, and give them calls. Don't just do it once or twice, do it every single day until we receive it. Demand, whether they are Republican or Democrat, that they give you a public option for health care.

Our lives depend on it. The American Dream depends on it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quick Hits: August 16, 2009

* President Obama went after Republicans for dishonest debate on health care, but it is pretty clear that people get to these "deception" tactics because they don't have an argument. If you have a good argument for your position, you don't need to lie, you don't need to deceive, you don't need to misrepresent your opponent because you have truth on your side. The lie is the first sign of having lost the debate.

* If you really want to end the debate with your friends on health care, find another of your friends that is in trouble and that has no health care answer. For example, as I have written about, my brother in law has a major insurance carrier who won't finish the diagnosis with what could be a life ending illness. At some point, he may not be able to work, and will probably lose his health care, leaving his family bankrupt. What Republican Health Care answer helps this family? Better yet, what policy that President Bush and his Republican Congress addresses this family's problems? The party of NO!

* The Philadelphia Eagles made an interesting move with Michael Vick, and prognosticators seem to believe Vick will be the back up Quarterback. Vick wasn't that great a QB, so I don't know why anyone would want him as a QB. I think it is more likely we will see him on the field in various other positions, while telling him he is also Donovan's back up. Donovan is a good passer, Vick isn't; but Vick has great legs and great moves. Expect Vick to be all over the place, but not behind center unless McNabb gets injured.

* I will have to write an article explaining why demographics have been key to our recession, making it inevitable; and why they explain how the next ten years will be great IF we build an export market largely around third world development technologies such as alternative energies, and projects that eliminate many monthly bills for things such as energy, giving Americans more to spend money on than a power bill. Then, in about ten years, watch the economy boom to a new economic golden age in America if the groundwork has been laid in the last ten, and to last another twenty five years. It is all demographics.

* If you haven't been paying down your credit cards and eliminating your monthly bills for the last 18 months, then you haven't been paying attention. Americans must learn to manage their credit better, including deliberate debt and elimination of debt. People using credit cards for daily purchases or to "get by" need to re-evaluate bills and cut expenses to kill debt. That isn't to say all debt is bad, but it must be used strategically or else they are in over their heads and will inevitably have their finances collapse in on them.

* Why is it that every time I hear how great America's innovation is, I look at my Blackberry and realize it is only about four generations behind the technology of Japan's cellphones? We do a lot for innovation, but one of our greatest flaws is that we give ourselves too many pats on the back, and we get too stuck in what we have, instead of continuing to push the envelope, and we end up falling behind. It is time to push forward yet again, instead of resting on the 20th century if we intend to maintain our economic position for another century.

* If you aren't where you want to be in your life, stop. Ask yourself where you want to be. Envision what you want your world to look like in say, 10 years. Then work your way backward. Figure out how you get there. Then, take an action to get there each and every single day. Honestly evaluate the impact of your actions, and then adjust your actions to get where you want. You choose whether or not you achieve your dreams, your dreams don't choose you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tony's Home Economics Rule #3: Learning To Shop

In tough economic times, people often have their financial weaknesses exposed whether they like it or not. Sometimes it is the bad mortgage choice, or the ill advised car purchase, or the vacation that we couldn't afford, or even the credit cards we ran up. It is easy to focus on the large things because they get our attention more than the small things. However, in my younger years, a gentleman once told me something about running a business that applies to personal finances: "Watch your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves."

What he was trying to say was it is the little things that make a big difference in your bottom line. It is the extra half a percent off your mortgage interest rate, or the no fee credit card, and so on. That same line of thought matters when it comes to our individual shopping habits. We don't realize it generally, but our grocery choices can make a huge difference. And in today's day and age of technology, it doesn't have to be a difficult thing.

If you are unsure of what it costs you for groceries, toilet paper, toiletries, paper towels, and so on, try keeping a running tab on your grocery shopping for a given month. I know it shocked me how much my wife and I spent the first time I tracked it. They are things we don't think about, we just buy them and assume we need them and we just get to choose out of what is there. We often think that we either can't get it cheaper or that it is too much work to do it.

Yet, everything from our personal meal choices, to whether or not we use coupons, or price match, or use advertisements, all have an impact on the costs we pay. To make it easier, let me start by saying with little effort, you can cut your costs dramatically by using two websites:

Grocery Game. Grocery game is a well known website that has been publicized on CNN and other shows. It probably does the most work of any site out there for you, but it has its cost. All you have to do is to get your Sunday Newspaper, and potentially some online coupons, print out your selected stores spreadsheet, choose what you want to buy, and buy it using their method. One trick is that you stock up when it is on sale with coupons and it takes a little organizational work, but most of it is done for you. This is one of the places I learned to be very efficient with my shopping and if you do it well, you can cut your costs in half or more.

It's Hip to Save is a relatively new version of grocery game. It isn't as well organized and all pre-done for you, but it is FREE of charge at this point. It tells you how to save and where to save, keeping basic stores updated and giving you free promotions.

I will tell you that I currently don't use either website, but rather use what I have learned from them and I will occasionally check some of the latter site's information. Once you get good at it, you can figure out how they do it and save the money you pay them. You learn your own shopping habits and you learn how things tend to work out.

Currently, I use advertisements that come out in the Wednesday paper locally and get coupons out of the Sunday paper. Together, we save 30 to 50% of our monthly shopping bill without doing a ton of work and without paying of these sources a dime.

Part of shopping is making smart decisions. For us, we use meal planning and using left overs by making larger meals to save money. Making more of something often makes it cheaper, especially when you get it on sale. For example, right now, we have a freezer full of chicken tenderloin that we got at a great sale price. We have several different chicken recipes, so we make two of them a week. Then to dress them up, we may have a salad of some kind with chicken on top; or we may have rice, a vegetable, and chicken that goes with it; or many other variations, but to have bought and cooked in bulk saves both time and money.

In each case, it will take some time up front to learn the systems. It takes time to learn how to plan things you haven't planned before such as shopping and meal planning, but just like any other planning you learn, over time it takes less time and less effort to do it.

In a recession, cutting your grocery shopping in half can save a family hundreds of dollars a month without having to give up quality of food, and it can be a teaching lesson for kids to help them grow up with a better understanding of how to save money.

In good economic times, it can mean more money saved for a rainy day, or for a family vacation, or for something like a new laptop, a field trip for children, and much more.

Any way you look at it, people probably will enjoy spending money on those things they want to do than to spend it on shopping for groceries, soaps, toothpastes, etc. Learn to shop with websites like these and shore up your home economics.

Relationship Rule #1: Put Them First

I have found over the years that people often talk about relationship problems, and since I tend to listen a lot, I get to hear the problems. They range from "they never listen to me" or "they don't care about what is important to me" or about a million other reasons. The result is a divorce rate around 50% or higher in America. Now, I am not a marriage expert, and I don't have 50 years of marriage under my belt, but some have said they think these ideas should be published for others to read.

To that end, here is Rule #1 of a relationship: Make your focus to make your significant other happy.

Too often, we are focused on ourselves and rarely do we focus on whether our significant other is happy or what it takes to make our significant other happy. This causes problems:

First, it means that we focus on what is not being done for us, which makes us unhappy and keeps us focused on ourselves.

Second, when you are focused on yourself, it can often lead the other person to feel left out. If they are focused on trying to meet your needs but feel you aren't focused on theirs, they will often leave the relationship or be unhappy in it. And in many relationships, if one is unhappy, it spreads so both are. Keep in mind, if both people are focused on themselves, odds are good the relationship will fail at some point.

Third, when we focus on ourselves, we fail to see the easy and obvious ways to make our significant others happy. For example, how hard is it to simply make a mental note that your wife was looking at a certain pair of earrings to come back and get it later?

When two people focus on the happiness of the other, then both feel wanted, both feel cared about, and both feel more understood because you have to pay attention to the other person.

Let's take it a step further. We all have insecurities. Whether it is from being burned from a cheating other in a previous relationship, our own looks, our weight, our income, or anything else, we all share that one thing: We all have an insecurity of some sort, no matter how hard we try to hide it.

If we spend our time focusing on making the other happy, we do two things:

First, we make sure to give reinforcement that helps shore up those insecurities so that people don't feel insecure in that area. Statements like, "we are so lucky to have what we have," can help ease income insecurities.

Second, work to prevent situations which may trigger insecurities. Take your husband to the club with you and your girlfriends so he doesn't feel like the club is a threat. It also integrates him into your girlfriend circles and makes him feel like he is an important part of your life, even if he spends most of the time sitting and talking to other husbands.

Now, keep in mind, no one can make someone happy who doesn't want to be happy. As one ex-girlfriend told me over fifteen years ago, "no one can make you happy until you are happy with yourself." That holds true. You can't make your significant other happy if they aren't happy or willing to be happy with themselves. But you can help by showing you care.

Also remember that some things should not be part of this focus. Being a punching bag for your other, and you shouldn't become a sex slave or prostitute for their fetish, or any number of other really unhealthy behaviors. There are always limits to these things, and maybe the guiding principle should be a combination of "don't do anything illegal" and "is this something I would do if they hadn't been forceful in asking?" There is a line between trying something different such as dressing up for a night for your husband, and becoming a prostitute or punching bag or needing to be tied up and abused by others. You shouldn't have to cross that line.

Having said that, in a healthy relationship, I believe it is a positive thing for both people to focus their efforts on making the other happy. As a basic framework, it can help improve the relationship. But remember, if your significant other is doing this and you aren't, it will catch up to you eventually.

Remember, when you said your vows, you made promises to take care and care for each other, not to be willing to let them take care of you. Remember your vows: It is about them, not you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Response to Medved's Stance on talking about Protestors

A Response to Medved's Stance on talking about Protestors

Driving today, I caught the early segment of Michael Medved's radio show. I tend to listen to some conservative talk radio because I like to understand the other side of the aisle, and because I live in Texas, there is a lot of it. As I was listening, he started his segment blaming "liberals" as trying to group anyone opposed to the Obama health care plan as one of three things: 1) Racists or Nazis; 2) Extremists like birthers, gun tooters, etc.; or 3) Bought by corporations in opposition to health care changes. While it is clearly an attempt to make people feel better about their opposition, it really places an unrealistic standard on reporting that even Medved doesn't adhere to: Insisting upon qualifiers of every story that border on the legalese of absurdity.

There is no denying the truth: Some of the most visible and vocal people that these pundits have spurred on to actions ARE making racial and Nazi references (as evidenced by their own actions including a swastica on a sign); some of these people ARE bringing guns and knives to events like the President's; some of these people ARE the very same people who are the birthers shouting at even Republican Town Hall Meetings about the President not being an American citizen; and some of these people ARE also organized and paid by corporations to try to intimidate the Democrats, just as Dick Morris has said they should if they want to stop health care reform. Dick's comment on Fox was that they should "terrorize" the Democrats. So when your pundits are pushing for and spurring on these actions, the cries that the reporting brush is too broad is really the fault of your own pundits more than reporters.

If you are unsure of the punditry going on, listen to Rush, listen to Hannity, look up Sarah "Quitter" Palin's "death panel" comments before she calls for "civility", look up Dick Morris' suggestions that Democrats be "terrorized", and several other Congresspeople's comments on the right to attempt to incite this. Then ask yourself, if you are anywhere but the right, how would you view the antics going on? Any rational answer would assume that this would be what Murray Edelman referred to as the "Political Spectacle", something that is manufactured to create attention and try to shape perception. It isn't something unique to the right at all, but what we are seeing surely looks that way, especially when the right is going on the air with what sounds like pre-prepared talking points that sound identical from show to show within hours of the first town hall disruption.

What Medved seems to want is something that no pundit on the right, including himself, would do: create a legalese section in every report that borders on the absurd. It would sound something like this:

"While this action was perpetrated by these people, it should in no way be understood to apply to all other opposition to this bill, which should be considered to be rational people with a valid point that should be heard."

Or something similar. Imagine the stories in the Medved world:

"A caucasion male was seen running down the street after robbing a bank. It should be noted that this individual does not represent all white men with his actions, nor do all white men rob banks, nor do all white men run, nor are all white men seen on the street. The sentence starting this paragraph should not be viewed in a racial context in any way other than to simply describe the individual man running down the street."

Could anyone imagine reporting in that world? And could anyone find that reporting currently on the right or even on Medved's show? Of course not, though Medved would probably insist he wasn't a reporter, just someone who has an opinion, and as such, does not need to qualify his statements in the same way.

There are people who do oppose the President's health care plan as socialist or big government spending. Ironically, many of them are also on Social Security and Medicare. If they reject socialist, big government spending, and deficits, maybe they should opt out of Social Security and Medicare. I doubt they will though.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Quick Hits for August 11, 2009

Quick Hits for August 11th, 2009

* Reports by several agencies of major disruptions of town hall meetings shows a few things: First, that the GOP doesn't have ideas and they are trying to hide that fact. Why? Because if they had ideas, they wouldn't want to drown out the Dems, they would want to have their ideas heard. Second, the Fairness Doctrine has very real consequences when it was removed, as now we have propagandist talking heads responsible to no one as long as they can manipulate their audiences, and doing so is dangerous for all sides. Third, this could get very dangerous and Republicans know it as Sarah Quitter walks away from her "evil" comments about "death panels" to talk about civility after a North Carolina Representative Miller received a death threat, and reports of guns falling out of clothing at meetings start to show up. It makes you wonder if Republicans want to win an argument or believe this is a war and Democrats are terrorists to be fought and eventually killed at all costs.

* President Clinton was impressive as a diplomat, but it also shows the problems that women face in today's society whereby the male gets the glory and the woman is left in his shadow. Sexism hasn't ended in society and can still be seen at the highest levels. Has it come a long way? Yes. It still has along way to go though.

* I still hear too many Republicans speaking of deficit worries, but it just rings hollow considering they ignored them and spoke of sustainable debt for the previous eight years. President Obama's deficit growth projection over 10 years is lower than the 8 year results or projections of Presidents Reagan, Bush 41, and GW Bush, only beaten by Clinton's 8 years in office, but we need to worry about President Obama? It smells more of partisianship than actual concern about budget deficits.

* The difference in foreign policy between President Bush's "humble" overstated announcements of "Mission Accomplished" with shows of landing on a carrier or shows of UAV missile shots to turn everything into a circus and President Obama's almost nonstatements about the killing the Taliban leader in Pakistan speaks volumes about them, and their views of style versus substance.

* I thought the foreign aid costs to America were laid to rest years ago, until I actually heard someone shouting that we could solve all the world's problems if we just stopped sending foreign aid to other nations. Do they realize that our whole foreign aid budget might be 20 to 25 billion dollars? That won't do anything in terms of a federal budget of over 3 trillion dollars. It never ceases to amaze me now people can turn small things into major red herrings.

* America reaches another peak as it is the first nation to reach over 100,000,000 obese people in the world, or about 35% of our population. What a proud moment in American history. Thankfully, we can fight to ensure our kids have access to coke machines, twinkees, cup cakes, and all of the really good things that got us to be so damn fat. I think I will spend an extra 20 minutes on my Wii Fit or the treadmill to try to reverse that trend.

* While I never find myself on the cutting edge of technology, I often find out later that I am still usually ahead of 80% or more of the population, which both scares me that they are so far behind the technology curve, and also makes me wonder if life is better in a more simple time. I remember a time of watching television where that is what we did. Today, watching television also has me typing this blog, checking my Twitter, tracking facebook, reading financial news, and talking on at least one messenger program. I get more done now, but I think I enjoyed it more then.

Why Washington Needs a Health Care Answer

In all of the disrupted town hall meetings, and all of the distortions from people like Sarah Palin discussing "death panels" or the 48 point GOP email full of more distortions or flat out lies, and even the policy wonk's focus on statistics, we often lose track of the real impact: The people. I want to share an illustration of one such person that is close to me.

A family member of mine, let's call him Robert (for his privacy), is a 35 year old professional who works for a good company and has for years. He makes just above the average income, has above average benefits, three children and a wife. He is an amazing guy who gives of his heart to people far beyond 98% of the people I know. He has one of the better medical insurance companies covering him with solid coverage. So why talk about Robert when he has such good coverage?

A few months ago, Robert hurt his back. He went to the doctor and the doctor noticed something that pointed to his brain. They did an MRI on his brain and found four spots in his brain in a very serious area. The doctors had to fight to get an MRI on his spine with the insurance company (talk about rationing of care?) and when they got one, they found a spot in his spine. The doctors don't believe that this is where these spots started, but they can't get the insurance company to cover an MRI on the rest of the body to find out where it originated. At this point, we still don't have a diagnosis three or so months later.

The location of the spots means that they can't simply do a biopsy to find out what the spots are because they are in the center of the brain and in the spine. What makes the rationing of care even more unnerving is that Robert had a benign tumor removed in the lower part of his body less than a decade ago, but the insurance company won't cover any scans to look for more. Now, there are other details but the point is the care is rationed in the private sector without any real recourse.

Now, to take this a step further, while there is no diagnosis at this point, let's assume a very bad case scenario, that this is a tumor that has spread to his brain and his spine. Robert is the breadwinner for his family and while his wife does work, she was planning to start school to become an RN, a multi-year endeavor that may or may not be on the back burner. They own their own house and have two car payments and the kids. So the question becomes, what happens to Jamie's health care when things get worse?

It won't be surprising if Robert can't work at some point, which would mean his employer may have to lay him off when his leave time runs out. That leaves Jamie with two choices: COBRA insurance or no insurance. COBRA only lasts for a relatively short time and leaves the individual paying both their part of the premium and most of the company's part. That means they will lose their primary income AND increase their bills just to make sure he has care.

Not counting their clear economic problems, this is a scenario that the GOP doesn't have a health care answer to. Some of it may be covered by disability and coverage, but still will leave them falling short. It also doesn't answer the question: What about medical insurance for the children and the mother now that his job coverage is gone?

This is the average family that has paid for their health insurance for years and now when there is a major problem, it looks like their health care is both rationed and potentially unable to cover the whole family over the time of the crisis. If you want to know why I am so hard on the Republican Party over health care at this point in time, the answer is simple: They offer nothing for the problem of Robert and his family other than to suck it up and beg the church for money.

It is up to President Obama and the Democrats to create the leadership that will help Robert and his family. Without their leadership, this is one family that may fall by the wayside, and one of the most giving people I have ever met that may have to suffer and watch his family suffer. That should never be allowed to happen.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Quick Hits for August 9, 2009

Quick Hits for August 9, 2009

* Today's shock of shocks was to see Ann Coulter's editorial calling "birthers" conspiracy nuts. Sure, she went on to call something like all Democrats conspiracy nuts even worse than birthers, but she admitted both that President Obama is a citizen and the birthers are conspiracy nuts. Given that I think Ann Coulter has about as little credibility as anyone in the nation and she will say just about anything for partisan propaganda, it is a pretty big leap for her to actually say it. I also caught Michael Medved's radio show saying the same on conspiracy friday. Good to see that they are starting to see the nuttiness of it.

* While I have heard Republican after Republican say they have a health care answer, I have yet to actually hear what it is. Is there any wonder Americans perceive them as the party of "no" and the Democrats as the party of ideas at this point? Heck, Gallop even did a poll and for the first time in a very long time, TEXAS has more people identifying as Democrats than Republicans. There are still a lot of "independents" who will vote Republican, so don't think the state has turned, but it says something about the branding going on.

* The whole townhall disruption strategy of the GOP will backfire in one way or another. Either, it will create an eruption of violence in a clash which will turn ugly; or they will be viewed as the party of the uncivilized savages, who need someone to moderate them, losing the middle for the 30% of the right that still approved of GW when he left office. Either way, the strategy doesn't turn out well for the GOP.

* The GOP hasn't figured out the politics of distortion will fail them. This "list" of health care bill problems is a sham that is being exposed as just that. My Republican friends who started to talk that smack early on are now hiding, realizing it was all a lie. There are no "suicide boards" in the bill and if you think there are, I have a bridge to sell you. If you can't debate a bill on its merits or lack thereof without such grand distortions, then in time you will lose the debate. It is why GW had no credibility at the end and why the moderates continue to gradually lose faith in the GOP: they can't tell the truth. Heck, they are worse than Bill Clinton answering an intern question.

* I just don't get the GOP strategy on Sotomayor. It made no sense to go after her "identity" if you were going to oppose her. This going after her "story" and "latina" statements was silly and bad politics. It is one thing to say "activist judge" and go after her decisions, heck, what judge doesn't have a decision or two after enough years to go after; but it made no sense to go after her heritage and identity as a latina given the growing influence of hispanics and especially hispanic women in the nation today. Who is mapping these strategies? A blind man throwing darts?

* If you haven't seen the "48 things to know about Obama's health care plan" email going around, you should. It is pretty damn funny and shows just how badly the right will distort the health care debate. Apparently, they believe ACORN is now going to become a medical group; that telemedicine will replace all care meaning if you can't do it over the phone, you don't get health care; that when the government says you need to die, you will be killed; and health care will result in Logan's Run all over again, killing us all at the magical age of 35. And they call Democrats gullible.

* The unemployment rate drops from 9.5% to 9.4%. Doesn't mean that we should be celebrating with champaigne or running naked in the streets, but it is a positive sign of turn around. While we still lost jobs, if you look at the job loss charts, it is the lowest in about a year or so, and part of a shift towards lower losses since January. Some of that is attributed to the bottom being found, the work of the Bush Administration to stop the financial bleeding, the flooding of money into the system by the fed, and the increased business confidence in the new administration. The good news is that it takes about 9 to 12 months for stimulus to enter the system, which means there is more to come and it explains why many are predicting a turn around next year. It will only be effective if consumers have learned their lessons.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Quick Hits: August 1, 2009

Quick Hits for August 1, 2009

* Renaming Sarah: Sarah Palin quit as Governor of Alaska a year before finishing her term in office explaining that she didn't want to waste her time as a lame duck. Apparently, finishing the job is someone else's job. After a Twitter flooding of posts by Palin, apparently her Twitter has gone dark as she has quit. This has brought some to call her a "Twitter Quitter" and one even called her Sarah Quitter, pointing out that she may be becoming a cautionary tale to children about the need to actually finish something you start (credit sidunn on Twitter for this).

* Cash for Clunkers has turned out to be a great success. First, it just unclogged some inventories of automakers giving them room for new cars by moving over a quarter million cars in six days. That means new cars, jobs, and more. Second, we know that we can raise the CAFE results and environmental impact of cars by simply shifting from the lowest performing gas mileage cars to higher mileage cars, even in the same class of cars, and do it with more impact by focusing on the bottom than raising the top. This did that for a lot of people. Third, it created a reason for people to spend money. Most of economics is dealing with the consumer's psychology. Getting them from afraid of spending to make a longer term spending commitment is a good sign for consumer confidence. Maybe a few more billion in cash for clunkers should be authorized, regardless of the recycling impact.

* Moving to the Basement? Is it just me, or did Lou Dobbs go from poor journalist to national media laughing stock over the "birther's" stuff almost overnight? CNN should be embarrassed if they want to keep any reputation as a reputable news agency keeping the likes of Dobbs on the air after this.

* Dumb Move of the Week: Does anyone really think the apartment company that sued for a Twitter post saying they didn't mind the mold in their apartments had their image improved or hurt by their lawsuit? My guess is that more people think of them as slumlords now than after the Twitter post because of their lawsuit.

* I am not sure what to think of e-books at this point. @sidunn on Twitter keeps talking about e-books and trying to publish himself after writing several real books, but there is just a quality to a book. Then again, e-books do take down the prices and the elitism that keeps many good stories from being published. Yet again, it also means anyone can publish which means lots of bad stories too. Maybe we need more e-book reviewers. Should I volunteer and what should I charge?

* I have to admit I am much more excited about the NBA this year now that the Lakers re-signed Lamar Odom, further proving his desire to win and the Buss family's commitment to winning as they take the luxury tax hit for a 5 year run at NBA titles. The trade for Artest made it clear that is where they are going, a three to five year commitment, and then see where we are at. Only KU basketball makes me as excited. Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!

* I just checked Fox's headlines and saw a picture of Ann Coulter. I could be wrong, but she seems to be moving to the realm of Fred Phelps, meaning more extreme just to get attention. I am thankful that no one has tried to call her a credible source in years.