Thursday, January 29, 2009

The "Stimulus" Package

If Republicans needed a rallying cry, an issue to bring the conservatives back together, this is it. This "stimulus" bill that President Obama is proposing is anything but stimulating. This is a package that contains pork and not the necessary provisions to really turning the economy around. Obama promised at least 40% of any stimulus package would go to real tax cuts. This bill only dedicates 33% to tax relief.

If Obama really cares about fixing the American economy, he would devote much, much more of the package to real tax relief for citizens. Cut capital gains taxes to encourage investment back into the stock market. Cut business taxes from the highest in the industrialized world to something reasonable that would promote business growth. Cut taxes across the board for all Americans to promote growth instead of just trying to give money back to people who don't even pay taxes. And make them real tax cuts, not one time cash injections. Quit punishing successful Americans and instead promote incentives for more Americans to become successful.

The continued punishment of the successful or "rich" is what is dragging down this economy. Why would anyone want to succeed in this environment that punishes success by allowing the government to literally steal your rewards? This stimulus continues the Democrat position of punishing those who attain the "American dream" while creating a permanent American under-class that relies solely on the government for their means to survive.

The other reason this stimulus should be rejected is the time in which it has taken to create. Why should we accept a bill that spends nearly $1 trillion dollars without adequate time to review and digest? Shouldn't the American people have access to where this money is going before our representatives vote yes or no? I would like to see what type of pork is being supported in this bill. It just doesn't make sense at this point to vote this through considering how poorly the last stimulus bill worked. And rushing this bill through just promotes more lost money and more waste. Why can't we wait a few weeks?

Obviously Obama has lost bipartisan support for a weak bill but that doesn't matter. Campaign rhetoric and real action are completely different things. If the Democrats pass this bill, the Republicans better make sure they are reminded of it non-stop in the next campaign cycle. It is destined to fail. And it may bring Republicans back to power. I would rather see a bill that really works for America but that's too much to ask from the controlling party.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Inadvertent Comedy

I was reading the Times-West Virginian today and the Reader's Write column left me chuckling for the inadvertent comedy...I give you the letter against "rock and roll":

Today I went to shop in a store in Middletown Mall. We passed through one store with attractive music that would encourage cus­tomers to stop by and browse. In another store, I intended to do a lot of looking around for things to buy. I had not been there in a while and hoped to find a number of things to purchase. The music was not very good, and then a repetitious and controlling rock and roll song came over the speakers.

I immediately looked for a worker whom I could ask to turn off the rock and roll. I found a middle-aged worker, who may have been a manager and asked if she could turn off the music while we were in the store. She asked me, “Why?”

The music was harsh enough that I assumed she would have understood. I explained that it was irritating and she said they had chosen that music for every­one in the store. I let her know that we were leaving because of the bad music. She could have at least turned it down for the short time that we would be shopping in their store.

On the way home, I told my daughter that I still had that bad song in my mind. She said that she did, too.

One would think that a store manager would know that the purpose of the music in a store is to soothe the customer and to encourage them to step into the store and buy something. This store was using their music to run off customers.

I am glad that we could at least give one manager two votes against rock and roll music. I hope that this letter will get the message across to other store and restaurant owners that many of us do not enjoy, or approve of, the words and music of rock and roll songs.

Who would have thought ten years ago that restaurants would be “smoke-free?” Maybe more establishments in the future will become “rock and roll free.”

Maybe it was some harsh thrash metal song or something new (and completely horrible like Nickleback) but I can't help but hope it was Elvis or The Beatles. Those kids and their dag-gone rock and roll music.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The "Nationalization" of Amerca

It starts out innocent enough. Investment in a bank. Investment in a business. Bailing out the car companies. But slowly we're working our way down a path to nationalization of America's biggest businesses. It's already started. Congress is demanding CEO capped salaries and ruffling feathers over the decorating of offices.

Obama has already showed his displeausre in the fact that Merrill Lynch used $1.2 million of TARP money to remodel an executive suite. Obviously, your reaction too would be of disdain if a company used taxpayer money to buy expensive trashcans. But dig a little deeper. What's the difference between Lynch using the money to remodel an office or loaning it to a company? To get out of this recession, are we not supposed to be spending money? What if Lynch decides to not purchase anything at all? Does that help their vendors or does it put more jobs at risk?

The bigger problem is the fact that the government is playing Big Brother to all these corporations. By determining what a company can and cannot do with their money is nataionalism. By freezing salaries or determining the costs of goods, the government is playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette with socialism that may not be able to be turned back.

Even more scary than the government playing this game is the words of Obama attempting to silence his critics. Obama wants no debate over the bailout and no debate on the next steps of the government intervention into this recession. By marginalizing and polarizing his opponents, Obama is attempting to silence free speech. His goal is to demonize anyone with an alternative point of view, thus creating no opposition for Democrats for years to come. This is completely unacceptable and inheritedly un-American.

Healthy debate needs to be had on the upcoming TRILLION dollar debacle. All points of view should be accounted for when talking about this sum of money. And there should be steps in place to relinquish control of the "bailed-out" banks and return to free market principles. Anything less means a poor future for the United States.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Race to Depression

With the economy racing downward (or so it would appear), the press is playing the depression game. Every media outlet it desperately hoping to be the first to declare the economic situation a second Great Depression but none are brave enough to ventue into that territory unilaterally. Instead, they ask questions like "A New Great Depression?," "What would a depression look like?," and "The Dawn of a New Depression?"

Which network will do it? Which major network will bite the bullet and open the floodgates? My money goes on NBC, especially with the liberal MSNBC out there. They seem to be most likely to declare this the second depression even though there are no factors that could possibly quantify it as such. Unemployment in the Great Depression was at 25% in 1933. Today it is high, at 7.2% Is that the factor? Does the spiraling stock market determine the depression? Between October 29, 1929 and July of 1932, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 89% of its value. To date, the Dow has lost nearly 45% from its high in October of 2007. Still a long way to go to 90%.

I can't say we're not facing some very difficult times ahead. But there's no way to say we're in the next Great Depression until history has had a chance to look back and make that determination. The rush to declare it as such only further fuels the paranoia and fears of the people who rely on the news networks for actual news. Perhaps we are heading into the next Great Depression. But I won't be relying on the news to tell me that. I will rely upon the facts and make the determination myself...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Obama Inauguration

The Obama Inauguration went about as well as any other inauguration. Other than a stumble in the wording of the oath of office, I thought the ceremony was well planned and executed. The parade started a little later than usual but there were some circumstances beyond anyone's control, like Ted Kennedy's issue. What I thought went poorly was the news coverage of the event. The over-the-top coverage and lavish words heaped upon the incoming president reeked of partisan hackery.

Perhaps the worst offender that I saw was none other than NBC's Tom Brokaw. In describing the jubilation of the crowd, Brokaw likened it to the fall of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. He quantified his remarks by saying that we weren't overthrowing a communist regime but an unpopular president was leaving office and "there's that same sense of joyfulness and possibility."

I took offense at Brokaw's comments. Sure, most would agree (including myself) that it is time for a new leader. And there should be jubilation at the change of power. But not because we are overthrowing some dictorial regime. Instead that jubilation should come from the fact that in the United State, the transfer of power is peaceful and respectful. Whether it is Obama or McCain or Bush or Clinton taking office, all Americans should celebrate the fact such changes in power can occur without bloodshed. I hardly believe that Brokaw would make such a comment if it were McCain taking office yesterday. Instead, he would be sure to point out an decisiveness that remained in the country.

All media coverage that I saw yesterday acted as though Obama is the candidate the entire nation wanted and everyone in America is happy to see him take the oath. Obviously, that is not true. There are nearly 50% of Americans who did not vote for Obama and believe that the direction in which he wants to lead is the wrong direction. But, once again, we do celebrate the fact that power changes hands in a democratic fashion. And I, who was not an Obama supporter, do hold hope that perhaps his plans will change the economic fortunes of this country in a positive manner. But to act as though Obama is the only voice for this country is deceiving and downright false. But I digress...

I did want to watch the full Inaugural Parade last evening but I couldn't stand watching because the commentators would not shutup for one minute. You couldn't hear the bands over the on-air personalities who believed they must fill every second of the broadcast with their mundane observations and perspectives on the events. They wanted to remind the viewers non-stop that they were witnessing history and then they wanted to put their perspective on history. If there were only one channel that would have broadcast the parade without commentary, that is certainly where my remote would have landed me. Instead, I watched the typical Seinfeld episodes that I would watch any other evening, apparenly missing history in the making.

And, now, just a few other observations:
  • BBC America may have had the best coverage. It was fair and interesting. I enjoyed the comparisons they made to our counterparts in Great Britain and the multiple traditions we inherited from our former Mother Country.
  • Al Roker attempting to get an interview with Obama was amusing.
  • The Carters and the Clinton snubbing one another may have been the highlight of all inaugural events. That, of course, followed the love-fest between Bill and George I in the hall.
  • I thought Rick Warren's invocation was very well written and delivered. All that outcry for nothing.
  • I'm about sick of the Lincoln / Obama comparisons. Those comparisons should only be made after Obama has actually performed some duty. To this point, he has made no official act as president and anyone proclaiming Obama a great president solely on his race is doing a disservice to everyone.

I think that's all I can think of at the moment. Basically, I was just highly disappointed with the coverage. Maybe Fox's coverage was better but I can't get Fox in high-definition. CBS and ABC seemed lost. I don't get CNN in high-def but I can't stand CNN anyway so it didn't matter. We'll see how things look a week, month and year from now. Hopefully all the celebrations are still going on...but I somehow doubt it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Super Bowl

Well, it's Arizona vs. Pittsburgh. So, I was wr-wr-wr -- I was mistaken when I said it would be Philadelphia and Baltimore. Those things happen. I would much rather see a Pittsburgh / Philadelphia matchup because I think Arizona is playing really good football. The key to the Super Bowl will be pressure that Pittsburgh can get on Kurt Warner, or the lack thereof. More information on that as the game approaches.

For now, I'm going to watch news coverage of the coming of the Messiah. Oh wait, again I'm's actually the swearing in of President Barack Obama. Given the way the media is gushing and acting, I would have thought it would be much more. I could go on and on about the over-the-top coverage but I'm sure there will be plenty of other people parsing the extremely partisan coverage. Listening to Tom Brokaw compare the new regime to a changing of the regime in a communist Checkoslvakia nearly made me turn off the coverage completely but then I remembered it's Tom Brokaw and NBC...what should I really expect?

I'm sure I'll have more to say about the Inaugural coverage soon. And I have some comments regarding Joe Manchin's Inaugural Address. All that and more (or less) soon.

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's So Cold...

It's so cold that I went out and looked for jokes about how cold it was...and, here goes (some are funnier than others...none are really funny):
  • It was so cold today that I saw a dog stuck to a telephone pole.
  • It was so cold that O.J. led an armed raid to retrieve his stolen space heater.
  • It was so cold that I saw a politician with his hand in his own pocket.
  • It was so cold that Britney Spears made sure she had underwear on before she went out.
  • It was so cold that down at the city morgue, you couldn't tell the stiffs from the guys who worked there.
  • It was so cold that Richard Simmons started wearing pants.
  • It's so cold, even the Good Humour Man is in a bad mood.
  • It's so cold that instead of the finger, New Yorkers are giving each other the mitten.
  • It was so cold, I saw an Amish guy buying an electric blanket.

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week. Be sure to tip your waiter.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Down to Four

Only 4 teams remain in the hunt for Lombardi Trophy. I still stand by my prediction of a Baltimore/Philadelphia matchup...but there could be a developing chink in that matchup. Namely, the emergence of a Steelers offense.

Biggest surprise of the playoffs has to be the Arizona Cardinals. I never really believed Carolina was a Super Bowl caliber team but the meltdown of Jake Delhomme was nothing short of amazing. Five interceptions and a fumble put the Panthers in a hole that no team can easily escape. If Arizona gets Anquan Boldin back before Sunday, they could give the Eagles a real fit. The Eagles defense remained stout against the Giants but it would be very difficult to cover both Fitzgerald and Boldin with Warner throwing the ball. I will still give the edge to Philly, though. In a close one.

On the AFC side, well, it should be interesting. I have given the Baltimore defense a lot of credit but I can't say I was overly impressed with their effort against the Titans. Tennessee moved the ball but they couldn't finish a drive. The Baltimore offense wasn't that great because Tennessee lined up against the run. I would expect more Flacco passes this week. On the other side, Pittsburgh annihilated San Diego. The defense played well but the amazing part was the newly discovered offense. Parker ran the ball like you would expect, the offensive line played well and Roethlisberger didn't make any dumb mistakes. His passes were crisp and on target.

This game could be a battle for the ages. The two best defenses in the league should make this very interesting. If Roethlisberger and the offensive line play as well as they did against the Chargers, Pittsburgh can score on the Raven defense. The key is minimizing mistakes. Beating a team three times in a season is a tough order and Pittsburgh is going to have to do just that to make it to another Super Bowl. I hope Pittsburgh wins but I've already made my Super Bowl pick and the Steelers weren't there. So, I go with an amazing game.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Decline of Civilization

It's tough to say that there is a decline of civilization based solely upon what is on television but I believe there may be some correlation. Today, simply looking for something to wither away a few hours, I ran across a show entitled "Bulging Brides." As the title might suggest, this is a show about women hoping to slim down before their big day. Really? This is the type of show that passes now?

To continue on the same lines, there's a show called "Parking Wars" about meter maids and people who tow vehicles. There was the show about airport workers. There's a mulititude of shows about people purchasing, selling or remodeling homes. And don't get me started on the VH1 shows trying to hookup has-been stars with girlfriends/boyfriends or both.

Reality television has gone overboard. Survivor and Amazing Race at least had a purpose. Shows like The Bachelor started a downward trend that now ends with showing overweight brides trying to squeeze into a too-small wedding dress.

It appears this new genre of odd reality shows are here to stay. The budgets for a reality show are a fraction of a fully developed show and there's hardly the same overhead should the show fail. A production staff exists but not the myriad of actors, writers and editors that would exist in your normal prime-time show like Law & Order. It'll be interesting what they do next. I imagine Dog Lives - The secrets of what your dog does while you're at work can't be too far off. Shoot, they probably already make it...just tune into Animal Planet.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Dick Vitale Announces an NBA Game!

Have we really sunk so low in marketing that ESPN was actually hyping that Dick Vitale was leaving the college ranks to announce one NBA game? Have we reached a point where ESPN personalities become more important to the game than the actual contest itself? Instead of hyping a contest between Denver and Miami or between Carmello Anthony and Dwayne Wade, ESPN hyped the announcing of Vitale. What a said state of affairs!

Needless to say, I did not watch the game as Vitale's schtick doesn't cut it for me. He shows a great passion for the college game but ESPN has turned him into a caricature. He has become a mere vessel for catchphrases like "awesome, baby" and "PTP-er." And every game he looks for ways to throw in the phrases for which he can accredit his fame.

ESPN has created a cast of characters to broadcast games. From Berman's "back, back, back" to Corso's "not so fast, my friend," ESPN has dumbed down their sporting news to the point that it is nearly intolerable. Unfortunately, decent reporters get lost in the mix at ESPN because they don't "draw a crowd."

Regardless, you know there's some amiss with the entire venture when a broadcasting personality is expected to draw a bigger crowd than the actual game itself. It's hard to tell whether it is truly an issue with the NBA or with ESPN. Either way, I would be quite offended if I were a Denver or Miami fan.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My Investments

For some reason I decided to watch Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel last evening and was subjected to Gumbel bloviating about his journalistic conquests. In the course of his self-aggrandizing, he showed an interview with Bill Parcells. Parcells was at the track and I was wondering whether Parcells owned a portion of the track. Which naturally led me to think about the investments people make and about my own investments to this point in my life.

I have a few safe investments made: a retirement fund, a money market. Not a whole lot but something thatI can collect a little interest on and hope that it leads to the path of retirement. But upon further contemplation, I realized that my primary investment is actually in people. That may sound a bit odd but when looking at the true financial investments I have made, it pales in comparision to the financial and emotional investments I have made in the people who are friends and family.

An investment in individuals can pay great dividends. There's not any true financial gain but the return on investment can be many times that of money. When a person you're invested in succeeds or accomplishes goals, you feel good too. Not necesarily a windfall profit but something that goes deeper. But the losses you can sustain are greater than any stock market crash. When an investment in a friend goes bust, the cost cannot be measured on any ledger book. And the writeoff isn't nearly as easy as selling a simple stock.

I've seen my investments gain and lose value over the years. I've seen some investments rise beyond the level of Exxon only to fall below GM. But most seem to gain value over the course of time, even when amount of trading falls. And there are some which I can't forecast what rate they may be trading a month from now. But, all in all, the investments I choose to make remain sound and I hope that they are not misplaced. Only time can tell whether my investments are wise or not. I know the risks...and yet I'll continue to stay in the market.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Obama Coins

I'm sure you've seen the commercials. Heck, I'm sure you've even bought a few. I give you the official Obama coins:

Yes, this coin can be yours for only $9.95 or $19.95 or whatever you want to pay. What a deal! Just visit or (which has more awesome coins) to get your exclusive deal. Just look at that coin and tell me you don't feel inspired. Recession, depression, whatever comes, I can look at my coin and feel the audacity of hope. Order now as supplies are limited.

Technical Documents

I hate technical documents. There cannot be anything more boring in this world than to read white papers or best practices papers. They are dry. They are overly wordy. And they are boring. I literally read 2 sentences of Microsoft's "Using Microsoft Technologies to Empower Law Firms" before trying desparately to find something else to do. I would much rather do actual work than read this drivvel.

Anyway, I was rather disappointed in the Texas/Ohio State outcome last evening. I believed Ohio State would finally fling the monkey from their back and win a big football game. I was incorrect. But Texas hardly was the offensive juggernaut that many had claimed. So the question begs: Are Big 12 offenses that good or Big 12 defenses just not that good? Ohio State is hardly an offensive power and Texas Tech losing to Ole Miss proved more to me than the OSU game. It's up to Florida to expose the Big 12 for the conference I believe they are this year. And I believe they will. Tebow is a better field general than Sam Bradford. No doubt.

Lastly, as for the NFL, I still stand by my Baltimore/Philadephia pick. Baltimore may truly be the best team in the AFC. Philly is probably not the best in the NFC but they just need a couple decent games from McNabb to end up in the Super Bowl. If the Ravens can score, they can't be beat. And it looks like they've finally found a way to score. A boring Super Bowl? Yes. But that's probably what it's going to be.