Friday, March 31, 2006

Religion/Politics Lead To Demise Of Conservatism

For many years, conservatives in the United States have dominated the Republican Party. This alliance has served the party well for many decades, but there are signs that this alliance will be broken in the near future and hopefully the Republican Party will move back toward the center politically and away from extremist on the political right. For many years I considered myself a conservative because I desired smaller government, lower taxes and the US not becoming involved in nation building efforts abroad. However, the current conservative Republican Party is not addressing these issues. So what is the new definition of being a conservative?

I believe it surrounds religion and not politics. The current Republican Party seems to be interested in stopping abortion at all costs and putting it’s nose into the business of the private lives of Americans and the people of other nations around the world. This attitude is similar to the actions of some religious groups who want to impose their views on the rest of the country. This new “Conservative Republican Party” shows little concern about living within its budget and it doesn’t seem to bother them that they are passing trillions of dollars of debt onto their own children and grandchildren. I guess it depends on how you define the meaning of conservative, but the current leadership in Washington doesn’t look that conservative to me, according to my definition.

Ronald Reagan must be turning over in his grave at what the conservative movement has become in the United States. The whole conservative movement has tuned into an extension of religion in the US rather than a political party. I believe in God and he has an important place in my life. However, I believe God should be worshipped in our homes and churches, not in the corridors of power in Washington. Every time though history when politics and religion meet, there are terrible consequences. While separation of church and state is not written into the US Constitution, our founding fathers knew over 200 years ago what harm mixing religion and politics into our Democracy would cause. There are many writings from the early days of the US from these men and most were in favor of freedom of religion, but they also believed that religion should not be practiced within the US government.

The good news is that the whole US system is designed to remove extremist from political power once their actions go beyond the mainstream of public thinking. I believe we are well on that road with the social conservative movement in the United States. While I still consider myself a Conservative Republican, most of the leadership in my party should be called “Social Conservative Republicans” because their brand of conservatism isn’t the same as mine and many others that knew a Republican Party before the religious right took over it’s leadership. There will be change either within the Republican Party or from a third party which will be created as a result of this “hard right move” within the party leadership structure. The same thing happened to Democrats when their leaders moved so far left that the country couldn’t stomach them anymore.

In the future there needs to be a clear distinction between “fiscal conservatives” and “social conservatives” because these two political forces are at odds with each other and in many ways will never be compatible within the same party structure.

Labor Unions Next Target Of Globalization

While everyone in the United States is effected in one way or another by globalization. Labor unions are going to be one of the biggest targets of large corporations. When moving their operations overseas isn’t practical, many companies will choose to either threaten bankruptcy or actually go through with it to break unions who have been associate with their workers, sometimes for over fifty years. No where are labor unions more integrated into the daily operations of a company than in the automobile and auto parts business. In some ways, this change has been going on for years, but in the past two years, I’ve notice it gathering momentum and look for it to increase in upcoming years.

Large companies have never liked the “labor movement” because it cuts into their potential profits. I too am not a big fan of the current labor movement because they have changed their original focus from worker safety and pay to working as political arms of politicians and parties trying to get pro-union candidates elected. In the early part of the last century, labor unions served a good purpose because millions of workers were being paid small amounts of money and suffered from terrible working conditions. Many in the labor movement paid for today’s benefits with their lives. Sometimes I think today’s workers don’t give enough credit to those that came before them in making their workplace a safer and more profitable place to be.

I’ve been doing some reading today about how labor unions are being cut out at Delphi Parts, which is an arm of General Motors. To me, this means that GM can’t be far behind in this effort and what was thought to be impossible a few years ago; removing unions from it’s business plan. Could happen at General Motors if it does decide to ultimately seek bankruptcy protection. If this effort is successful, look for other large companies which have had a union presents for decades to follow the lead of GM and use bankruptcy to get rid of their union obligations. It may very well be the case that unions have outlived their usefulness in the US, just like many other organizations before them. However, I never expected their demise to happen in this way.

While the UAW is getting all the attention right now because of the financial problems in the car business, major airlines have been breaking their unions in this same way for several years, while most people just stood by and watch without much protest. This is another reason I believe the growth and importance of unions is drawing to and end. Thirty or forty years ago, every union in the country would have been rushing to the aid of their “union brothers” at the airlines, but that didn’t happen this time. While it’s easy to condemn the current practices of labor unions, it’s important for those that are too young to remember when these unions were the only hope that most workers had for a decent income. To study this subject on the Internet or in your local library and find out what many workplaces in the US looked like before labor unions. I wasn’t a pretty site.

Tornado Season Approaches Texas/Oklahoma

In some parts of the US there are two words that are dreaded every year and those are, “tornado season”. I grew up in an area that is referred to as “tornado alley” because more tornadoes hit that area than almost any other part of the world. The reason I’m told this happens is because it’s in an area where cold dry air from the north collides with hot humid air from the Gulf of Mexico. This explanation always made sense to me.

All along the Oklahoma and Texas border, residents have learned to be on the alert during the late spring and early summer for storms that don’t look that sever to begin with, but can grow in intensity very quickly because this is one of the major areas of “tornado alley”. If you remember back a few weeks ago, this is the same area that has been effect by huge grass fires the past couple of months because of sever drought conditions. More than likely that drought will be broken within the next few weeks as tornado season begins.

As a youth growing up in this region we learned to always fear tornadoes because most of us saw first hand how these terrible storms could completely destroy a home and kill all of it’s residents in the blink of an eye. Anything that is this strong, you ignore at your own risk. I remember my parents waking my sister and I up in the middle of the night and then taking us to a storm cellar, which is very common in this part of the US. Where I lived, there were warning sirens that would blast a loud, continuous, sound for around three minutes.

When this happened we knew that a tornado warning had been issued for our small town and more than likely a weather spotter had seen a tornado on the ground and it was approaching. Mom and dad would get us up in our pajamas and we would go next door to a neighbor’s house that had a basement where we would be safe, if a tornado struck our neighborhood. During the 18 years I lived in “tornado alley” we were lucky because our home was always spared from a direct hit by a tornado.

Many other towns in this same area were not as lucky during this same time period. I remember when a big tornado hit near “Greenbelt Lake” and dozens of people were killed. I was in junior high school when that tornado struck and I guess because I was at such an impressionable age, it has really stuck in my mind ever since. Now when I hear a tornado warning issued, I take shelter immediately. My wife who grew up in Michigan, doesn’t worry as much about tornado warning as I do, more than likely because she was never awaken in the middle of the night to take shelter.

All I can say is that it’s important to listen to local weather reports and when the “National Weather Service” issues a tornado warning, take shelter. More than likely the tornado won’t effect your house, but every time one of these storms does hit a populated area there are deaths caused from flying debris and those deaths could have been prevented, if those people would have taken shelter as soon as they heard the warning.

Baseball Needs To Clean Up It's Act

When I heard today that the “Baseball Commissioner” was appointing former Senator George Mitchell to head up an investigation of “steroid use” among players, my first thought was “what took you so long”? There has been no attempt in the baseball world to try and clean up this sport from “performance enhancing drugs” for years and I have no reason to believe this latest attempt will prove to be any different. More than likely, the pressure from Congress is forcing the “commissioner” to do something and the appointment of George Mitchell is his latest answer to this problem. This is a terrible situation in so many ways.

The worst thing is that many of these players will be hurt for life because of their use of steroids. This is not some mild mannered drug, which can be consumed without long term consequences. There are major health risks in taking steroids or any other drug, which causes athletes muscles to grow in size without the benefit of exercise. For years, people have been looking for shortcuts to help in their athletic performance and while some of these drugs do help in the short run, there are long term health problems, which will occur whenever these drugs are abused. There is a bigger issue here than performance and that is money.

The main reason, “Major League Baseball” is ignoring this issues is because “big hitters” put butts in the stands and really that’s what being a baseball owner is all about these days. Most clubs don’t really care how their players achieve success, to them it’s just important that they do. The result of this attitude is drugged up baseball players who are admired by fans that love to follow a winner. The public has proven time and time again that they will continue to attend baseball games and watch them on television, no matter what players or owners do. This sad fact is more part of the problem than the solution.

There is so much money at stake here, not only for the team owners, but the players. The truth is just brushed aside in this debate because all cities want their Major League Baseball team to bring home the “Pennant” and they don’t really care what is done behind the scenes to assure that victory. Young boys are the ones that are at most risk here because they will grow up believing that the only way they can become a “big league” player is to cheat using steroids. This is not a good message to kids or anyone else that desires success in life.

Another issue with steroid use is today’s players are breaking records of past champions that were not drugged when those records were first set. This is just flat wrong to have these current players go down in history as something special when all they did was endanger their health so they could beat a record that was earned the old fashion way; through hard work. It’s not right to reward cheating, whether it puts butts in the seats or not. There are big issues with denial in all aspects of “Major League Baseball” and the sooner they come clean and get clean, the better the sport will be for everyone involved.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Hate Kills Republican Party - Immigration Reform

Republicans in the US House of Representatives are in the process of finishing off what’s left of the Republican Party with there out right hatred of illegal immigrants from Mexico. President Bush knew down deep in his heart what was going to happen when this whole immigration reform issue came up for discussion in the Congress this week. While many, life long, Republicans like myself have been moving away from the party leadership for the past year, others will now follow because of what the Republican members of the “House” are doing and saying right now.

Rather than having a civil discussion on this issue, like President Bush recommended, many House of Representatives members seem all to eager to put people that try to immigrate to the United States into prison as felons. Some were even saying today that we could have prisoners do the dirty work that is now done by immigrants on the farms and in the harvest fields of our country. What a shameful attitude some in the Congress have about this issue. What exactly are they suggesting? That the US first imprison these immigrants for breaking the law and then force them to work in the fields without pay?

Maybe this isn’t what they mean, but it darn sure sounds like it. I’m so ashamed of what these House members are saying right now that I can’t express myself in the proper words. Any hope the Republican Party had at outreach to Latino voters is now dead for decades. There was room for compromise on this issue so all parties could have walked away feeling like winners, but the language of the Republican members of the “US House” is disgusting to me and I’m a white man that has always lived in this country. Where do these folks get off talking like this about fellow human beings?

Yes, there does need to be immigration reform, but not in this way and not from a group of people that make it sound like we are at war with immigrants from Mexico. Some of what is driving this movement is nothing less than racism on the part of some white Americans that believe their country is being overrun by people from Mexico. I’m no big fan of President Bush, but he’s right that there are some jobs that Americans won’t do and we all depend on those jobs for the very food we purchase at grocery stores all over the country.

Between the stupid decision of the Congress and President to get involved in the Terri Schiavo case last year. Then the huge budget deficits which have been run up under a Republican controlled government and now these “bigoted” comments by Republicans in the House of Representative, the Republican Party is finished being the majority party in the United States for awhile. My party needs new leaders that can compromise instead of being ideologues who will never compromise on anything. The Democrats have their problems with extremist too. However, they are lucky to not be in power at this time because they are about to win a huge victory, in the Congress, for no other reason than they are not Republicans.

Related: Local Immigration Laws

Hate Kills Party

Vacation Travel Costs Increase With Gas Price Jump

In the next two months, folks will be starting their annual summer travel season by gassing up the car and heading out on vacation. From the looks of gas prices, they are going to be high again this summer. Here in Texas, we’ve seen prices of regular unleaded gasoline rise twenty cents per gallon in just the past couple of weeks. I don’t see how the US economy can continue to improve when so much of our wealth is being pumped into vehicles and much of that profit is being sent to other nations in the Middle East and South America.

These high prices must be a concern for communities that derive most of their income from the tourism business. I saw research the other day that stated most people are going to be traveling fewer miles this summer because of higher gas prices. If a community is located in a rural area that is hundreds of miles away from a major populated city, these tourist destinations could be hurt badly by this latest increase in gas prices. There are some beautiful areas in the US that fit this description. Just think about all the wonderful regions of Montana and Wyoming, which depend on tourists driving hundreds of miles just to get to their location.

Most of the people I know here in Central Texas are planning on taking their vacation in either Corpus Christi or San Antonio Texas. Many have told me they usually go to Colorado because of the cool summer weather there, but this year they just can’t afford the gas for that kind of long trip. While one or two people will not make or break a tourist destination; when you start adding up all the people who are not going to travel far from home this summer, it could hurt some of these regions badly. It’s not uncommon for gas prices to increase during the summer months, but when they start rising in Mid-March something doesn’t seem right about that picture.

My concern is that the price increases we’ve seen in gas the past couple of weeks are just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to what will happen as the summer gets closer. There are also the news predictions of more and stronger hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico this season and we all know what happened to gas prices last year after Hurricane’s Katrina and Rita. I’m so thankful that I only live a mile or so away from where I work. One of my coworkers lives 60 miles away. She was telling me that two years ago it cost her $300 per month for gas. Now she says that figure is closer to $700 per month.

There are so many potentially huge issues facing politicians this election year. However, if gas prices stay high, it’s going to be hard for them to get the voters to focus on little else, but the major pocketbook issue of gas prices and what they are doing to the monthly budgets of the average American family.

Angry Lou Dobbs Over UAE Ports Deal

I remember back in the late 1980’s when Lou Dobbs was a financial news anchor with CNN. Back then I would tune in each night and watch Lou because the financial markets were big news, especially after 1987 stock market crash. Lou Dobbs was a fixture in my house for daily viewing. Until recently, I had not watched Lou on CNN for many years. Then one night late, I tuned to CNN and saw a repeat of his earlier live show called “Lou Dobbs Tonight”. Wow, his show isn’t a financial daily update program anymore.

The night I tuned in was during the middle of the UAE ports sale debate. For a minute or two I thought I was watching “The Bill O’Reilly Show” on Fox News. There wasn’t any financial news the night I watched, just a bunch of opinions by Lou about his feelings about the UAE ports deal. I was frankly shocked because I always viewed Mr. Dobbs as a professional financial reporter, not some “shout it from the hilltops” opinionated commentator. I guess things have changed at CNN.

I don’t have any problem with folks on television giving their opinions about political subjects. Heck, I do the same thing here every single day. I was just surprised as who the messenger was because of my previous experience watching him on CNN. Since that first experience, I’ve started watching Lou’s new show several times and it’s really pretty good, except I think he carries this “angry man” routine a bit to far. A couple of weeks ago he had a roundtable discussion about something and when one of his guests tried to talk, Lou insulted him with some kind of sharp comment.

I guess I’m old fashion in the respect that you don’t invite someone on your program only to insult him or her. This was in bad taste and I hope Lou has apologized to this man. If I want to see people talked down to and insulted, I’ll watch Bill O’Reilly. I just expected more out of Lou Dobbs because I’ve grown to respect him over the years. That said, most of the stories Lou covers each night are things I am interested in hearing about and unlike O’Reilly, I tend to agree with Lou’s opinions most of the time. I guess what’s happening here is just the ever-changing landscape of cable news programming.

Maybe nice guys finish last in this medium and that’s why Lou Dobb’s changed the format of his show. My guess in that he’s still a pretty nice guy down deep inside, but for the sake of ratings and survival he must play a tough guy in order to compete with the other networks.

Husband Living On Roof In Michigan

This has to be one of the silliest stories I’ve heard in a long time. A Michigan man, James Wilson, has gone on strike against his family because his wife isn’t giving him enough attention in the bedroom. Wilson has decided to stay on the roof of his house until his wife stops letting their kids sleep in their marital bed. While this man might have a point, he certainly is making a spectacle out of himself with this action and I noticed he waited until springtime to go on strike. It can get pretty cold in Michigan during the winter.

My guess is that for some reason this whole family desires to have their “15 minutes of fame” at this point in time and that’s why this man has climbed up on his roof for this silly protest. I remember watching the TV show “Cops” once when a man was so mad at his neighbor he decided to burn his own furniture in the front yard. He didn’t burn the furniture of the man he was angry with, but he burned his own furniture to punish the other guy. I never could understand this line of thinking and perhaps that’s a good thing.

This is just another example of why it’s fun to live in the United States. Just when we can’t take another negative story about corrupt politicians or the rising crime rate, someone comes along and gives us a bit of comedy relief to help get us through the day. When my wife and I first heard this story, we were discussing some important issues and when this news came on the television about a man going on strike by sitting on his roof, we both laughed and forgot about our problems for awhile.

I didn’t have a chance to watch “Leno” or “Letterman” last night, but this kind of story should have been right up their alley for their nightly monologue. I don’t think this man is actually going to stay on the roof for that long. If he is truly that upset about not being able to spend time in bed with his wife now. Certain things will only get worse with time and I don’t think he will find a solution to his problem, “up-on-the-roof”.

I would have believed the sincerity of this guy more if he would have made this stand in January or February because it would have been tough to survive on that roof in the wintertime. This is just a stunt and there’s nothing wrong with that because it does cause people to focus on something silly for awhile and have a laugh about someone who seems to have problems greater than our own. More than likely a movie deal will be in the works for this family. From all the remake movies that have been produced in Hollywood recently, at least this idea would be something original.

I predict this guy will be up on his roof for less than a week. Maybe I should check the “Vegas Odds” and see if they are taking bets on this one yet!

GM Struggling Hard - Selling Isuzu Motors

General Motors (GM) announced today that they would be selling their stake in Isuzu Motors to raise money to help it restructure its North America operations. In reality what’s going on here is GM is trying to raise as much money as possible to fight off bankruptcy. To me it’s sad watching one of the largest corporations in the world struggle just to survive. At the end of the day, I don’t think GM will survive in its current form without the assistance of bankruptcy protection. Delphi, the parts arm of General Motors, has already gone into bankruptcy, which doesn’t make GM’s ultimate prospects look that good. In some ways, when Americans look at the problems at General Motors, we are looking, in the mirror, at our own lives and what might be happening to us somewhere down the road.

The world is changing fast with cheap products and services arriving in the United States by the day. I remember in the days after September 11th, the Congress and President Bush rushed to try and sure up the domestic automobile companies along with the airlines to prevent a full blown recession. Now, the economy is better and these large corporations which employ hundreds of thousands of people are now on their own to “sink or swim”. I think most of them will sink and then what are the American people going to be left with? I guess someone will step in and provide the automobiles and airline services we all need and more than likely this will be a company that is based outside the US.

It seems like every single day I hear of another company that is laying-off workers whose jobs can be done better and cheaper by someone in another country. I hear politician’s talk about retraining, which will provide a better-educated workforce in the United States. However, I wonder if there will be enough of these new jobs to fill the ones that are lost to other countries because their workers are willing to do a job for less money? It’s too bad that most Americans don’t seem to worry about this problem as long as it doesn’t effect them. I guess we all live in our own world, to one extent or another, but unfortunately everyone will be eventually effected by these types of corporate decisions. However, when the "pink slip" knocks on your door, don’t expect any more sympathy that you gave others who traveled down this road before you.

I hope by some miracle, GM will find a way to survive without going into bankruptcy. Mainly because there are retired employees who depend on a pension they earned through years of service with the company. While many people in my age bracket, the mid-40s, don’t hold out much hope for pensions or social security. People that grew up after the depression stuck with jobs they hated, many times, because of that employers promise of a retirement pension. To take it away from them now would be wrong and I hope GM and/or the government find away to keep the promises that were made to folks that trusted GM during their working years.

My wife has an uncle who is retired from GM. He and his wife live a simple life that is paid for with a monthly UAW retirement check, which is funded by General Motors. In addition to this pension, he has excellent medical benefits, which were part of his retirement package. From what I’ve read these could be in jeopardy, if GM goes into bankruptcy. I don’t think it’s right to ask him to go back to work when he did his part to help build GM into a giant corporation when he worked there years ago. He told me there were many days when he wanted to quit his job, but he hung in there because of the pension. I doubt if he’s the only one that stuck with a boring job at GM because of their good retirement program.

While the world is changing fast, it’s important that GM and the federal government keep the promises they made to people years ago. It’s not their fault that the world is moving toward globalization. Most of these retirees just hope that promises that were made will be kept in the future.

Daily Archives: | 02, 04, 07, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

For Me, Coffee Is Good First Thing In The Morning

The first thing I do when I wake up is push the start button on my coffee maker. It makes no difference what shift I’m working or whether it’s during the day or night. I still head for the coffeepot before anything else. I’m pretty sure I’m “hooked” on coffee or at least it’s main ingredient, “caffeine”. While I don’t drink coffee at all during the workday like some folks, I do need it badly when I first wake up or I just can’t get going, mentally. I’ve known a few people that have completely given up “caffeine”, but every time I try to do that, I can not focus at work and sometimes I get terrible headaches a few days after I give up the “Java”.

Coffee is a normal part of my waking up process and while it may be addictive, I’m not going to worry too much about that, as long as the government doesn’t outlaw it. More than likely, everyone is addicted to something in this world and if my weakness is “caffeine” then that’s ok with me. I tried to be strong one week and give up all caffeine, even the kind in soft drinks and chocolate. I found out that I only thought I was strong because after a few days, my body was begging for chocolate, cola or my good friend, a cup of coffee. There has been tons of research done on coffee and most of it proves that we are not killing ourselves when we drink it.

Most of the research I’ve read actually says there is a benefit to coffee if it is consumed in moderation. There’s that word, “moderation” you see me write about so much. This whole world is full of wonderful things we can enjoy if practiced in moderation. I guess one cup of coffee in the morning is moderate. However, for those that like to drink several pots of coffee per day I wonder if that is being moderate? That’s not for me to judge! Our bodies have some kind of internal body clock, which causes us to desire sleep at night. Folks like myself that work at night are told that when we sleep during the day, we should make our bedroom as dark as possible. Then when we work, our workplace should be as bright as possible so our natural body clock will function properly.

I wonder when people don’t follow this advice, if that causes their bodies to crave more coffee? It makes sense to me because since I’ve been on the night shift, I’ve seen some people down caffeine in coffee or some other form from the time they get to work until they clock out. This might have some kind of ripple effect, which will cause them not to sleep well when they get home. Then this process repeats itself day after day. I’ve seen some people that look asleep when they are wide-awake. I think this has something to do with the part of the brain that controls sleep versus the part that helps maintain focus.

I hope they never prove that coffee bad for people. If they do, I’m in for a big problem because I don’t know how I’m going to enjoy my day, without that first cup of coffee in the morning. I was late to this morning coffee routine. I didn’t start drinking it in the morning until I was over 30 years old. However, before that time I did drink colas, which probably gave me my “caffeine rush” instead of coffee. I feel confident that coffee is hear to stay because the productivity of the United States would drop to zero if folks didn’t have their morning cup of coffee. I certainly wouldn’t want my airline pilot to be suffering from “caffeine withdrawal” the next time I catch a flight!

Loneliness In People Increases Internet Dating Web Sites

Every now and then I meet someone that is living alone and suffering from loneliness. Some of these folks are young and some old, but the empty feeling of living alone is bad at any age. I’ve been fortunate in my life to be blessed with a wonderful wife who fills my days and nights with happiness. I use to think most lonely people were old and had this condition because their lifelong companion had died or their children had all grown up and moved away. However, I’m starting to see more young people that seem to be living a life that is lonely. Let’s face it some folks have a hard time meeting friends and finding good relationships.

Another sign that loneliness doesn’t just effect the elderly is the ever-increasing number of Internet dating sites for people to help them find a companion who they are compatible with. In many ways this type of dating makes more sense than the old “pick up line” in a bar, but it’s still just a hit and miss game at best. I’ve notice that in real life, most people are attracted to someone that is totally opposite of them in almost every way. For example, if one person in a relationship likes to talk a lot, they are usually attracted to someone who is quite. Unfortunately, dating services and people that are always trying to “fix someone up” on a date, seem to look for people with similar interest. Could this be why most of these “blind date” situations, fail? Who knows?

Being lonely isn’t just a situation of not having a life partner. Many people are happy not being involved in a regular relationship, but most of them have a good group of friends and family that help complete their lives. The people I most worry about are the ones that don’t have a life partner or a group of friends in their life. Many of these lonely folks spend their daytime hours working and their nighttime hours sitting at home watching television with very little outside human contact. Medical evidence proves that lack of companionship leads to health problems. I’ve known people from work that don’t seem to have many friends and over time they do look like they age quicker than folks who have relationships or a circle of friends who help complete their lives.

I guess it takes all kinds of people to make this world go round and I don’t have an answer for people who are suffering from loneliness. The easy answer is, “get out, meet some people and have some fun”. However, if it were that easy, there would be no lonely people in the world today. One thing I’ve tried to do is to take the time to sit down and listen to folks who seem lonely. Not talk, just listen. It’s amazing how much they have to talk about and how much better they feel once someone takes the time to listen to them. This is something you might try to do sometime and see if it works for you, too. You might find yourself with a new friend in the process. No one what’s to be lonely, it’s just that some folks don’t know how to effectively communicate with others.

Job Security Issues Hurt The Bush Administration

Most of the news coming out of Washington about the economy recently has been pretty good. However, the Bush administration doesn’t seem to be getting much credit for this good news and this fact is driving Republican partisans crazy. When President Clinton successfully ran against the first President Bush, his entire political team had a saying they stuck with through that entire campaign. “It’s the economy stupid” was their battle cry and it worked to defeat a sitting President of the United States and give the Democratic Party a much desired victory in the nations highest office.

The reason I believe President George W. Bush isn’t getting a bigger boost from the good economic numbers that have been posted recently is because most people are concerned about their jobs. Many people are wondering if they are going to be the next person that is laid-off as a result of “globalization”. Recently, when President Bush traveled to India, he made matters worse by telling the people of that country that “globalization” was a good thing for India and the United States. The average person in the United States is concerned when our own President is saying that it’s good for the US economy when good jobs in the US are shipped overseas.

When looked at from a pro-business point of view, it makes sense when President Bush makes a positive statement about globalization. However, to the regular, blue collar, employee that has worked hard for years at the same company, this positive attitude about “globalization” potentially eliminating their job isn’t a good thing at all. It’s hard to be positive about the US economy when we hear about hundreds of thousands of jobs being eliminated at GM and Ford, too. When I was growing up in the 1960’s, my father was fond of saying that General Motors was a direct reflection of how well the US economy was doing. Right now, GM’s financial situation is terrible and there is even talk they might have to go into bankruptcy at some point in the near future.

A smart man told me once that during the “Great Depression” there was just as much money in the United States as there was before it happened. I never really thought about that fact until he mentioned it in that way. The only difference between a depression and a booming national economy is that the money is in fewer hands during a depression. During great economic periods, like we saw in the late 1990’s, the money is spread out more evenly among all the people. This is why I believe the economy is doing well right now in the US, but many people don’t feel the benefit from it.

The rich are getting richer and the middle class is just holding on for dear life hoping that the good job they have earned with hard work over the years, doesn’t disappear and go to India or China because of lower wages. A strong world economy is good for large corporations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for American workers or their families.

Older People Understand The Importance Of Sleep

There’s a new study, which we can add to the growing list of research we’ll hear today and forget tomorrow. This research study was conducted to see if people are getting up earlier in the morning than they use to. They found that many people are getting up earlier, some before 5:00am and these folks are even proud and bragging about how little sleep they are getting each night. I use to think it was cool to get as little as three hours of sleep per night and then be able to work a full day without many side effects. Of course, when I did this I was in my early twenty’s and had energy to spare. If I tried such a thing now in my mid-forties, I think I would collapse before noon.

I don’t understand why folks believe it’s so important to get less sleep. Medical research has proven year after year that people do NOT perform in their jobs or their social life as well when they don’t get enough sleep. In fact, the brain will function at less than half its potential without sufficient sleep, not to mention the long-term health problems that will come along if this sleep depravation is followed for many years. In the corporate world it is considered “macho” to get only a few hours sleep per night so you can put all your time and energy in with the company. However, the truth is that most people would do better and faster work if they worked eight hours per day and got eight hours of sleep per night, instead of trying to work a twelve to fourteen hour day with only three or four hours of sleep.

While some folks are true workaholics, most people that follow this lifestyle are encouraged at the corporate level to put in these kinds of hours for their company. While employers may not mandate it, there are little hints about how proud the company is of someone that puts in these kinds of hours without complaining. Most intelligent employees will pick up on these hints and adjust their schedules accordingly. From all research, this kind of corporate attitude is self-destructive not only to the productivity of their employees, but to their health as well. This is why so many company executives suffer from “burn out” early in their careers.

There are also huge health consequences when a person doesn’t get enough sleep. A research study I read once said that the only time when the body’s immune system was able to effectively fight illness was when a person was asleep. This might explain why workaholics are sick most of the time and why they take longer to get well after being infected with various sicknesses that are going around the office. There is a natural reason why most people want to stay in bed all day when they are sick. It so the bodies own immune system can fight off these sickness in the fastest possible way. When we force ourselves out of bed when we are sick and go to work anyway, we are only delaying the healing process and worst of all spreading our illness around to everyone else.

Hopefully, the next generation will look at sleep as an investment, rather than something to be avoided. There is no better investment we can make in our own lives than a steady eight hours of sleep every single night. Don’t be “macho” and don’t fall for the corporate propaganda that will lead you to short term happiness at the expense of your long-term health.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Honor To Graceland And Elvis Pesley's Mansion

Six years ago my wife and I visited Memphis Tennessee and while there we took a tour of Elvis Presley’s mansion called “Graceland”. We both grew up listening to Elvis Presley music so there was little doubt we would take a tour of his famous house while we were in Memphis on vacation. What I remember most about that tour was how much smaller the mansion was than what I expected. Yes, it’s a large house, but television and photographs caused me think it was much bigger than it actually turned out to be.

When we took our tour, people were not allowed to visit the second floor. I don’t know if this has changed over the years, but it would have been nice to see what was upstairs. My memories of this tour included being amazed at how this old mansion reminded me of the home I grew up in. Yes, it was much larger than my childhood home, but the appliances and furniture were the same as our home in the 1970’s. Every generation has something, which makes it unique to others, and when looking at “Graceland”, the furnishings were definitely a blend of the 70’s.

Once we toured the house, our guide took us to the back yard where there was an office and a huge field where Elvis and his friends would ride horses. There was also a shrine, which included all the gold records that Elvis made during his short but impressive singing career. I had no idea until we took that tour of “Graceland” just how many hit songs, "the king”, recorded in his short career. He truly was a “superstar”, but many people like myself who listened to his music felt like he was more of a regular everyday fellow that was singing just for us. The final part of the tour was to his grave marker in the back part of the home. The day we visited it was over 100 degrees, but hundreds of people were standing in the sun for a long time, just looking at his grave and reflecting on how his music touched their lives.

There is much more to the “Graceland” experience than just the mansion. Across the street is a museum that contains many items of memorabilia that spans the career of Elvis Presley. However, the part of the tour that I enjoyed the most was going aboard the two jet aircraft, which Elvis used to travel around the world. One was small and the other was large. Going inside these jet aircraft was very exciting to me and once onboard it was like walking into a flying home. There were not rolls of seats like on the airlines most of us fly, but couches, a bedroom and even a boardroom with a large table and chairs so members of his traveling party could meet and talk. I remember also seeing a telephone that looked very old fashioned. However, during that time period having a jet and a telephone for air to ground communication was pretty unique.

Now that “Graceland” has been named a “National Historic Landmark” generations to come will be able to visit the home of Elvis Presley and learn, first hand, how important his music and life were to the people of his generation. We may never visit “Graceland” again, but I’m oh so glad that we took the time to see, touch and hear a genuine piece of American history.

Singer Buck Owens Country Music Tribute

Sometimes when I hear an old country song on the radio, I think back to the 1960’s and 1970’s when I was growing up in a small Texas Panhandle town. We had one radio station and it was AM and only broadcast during the day, because it had to sign-off at night because it was on the same frequency as a 50,000 watt powerhouse that reached most of the country during the evening hours. In those days, FM was something that resembles elevator music you might hear today. Buck Owens was one of the biggest stars on country radio back then and I still remember hearing his songs all the time while growing up during this time period.

It was impossible to confuse Buck Owen with any other country music performer because his voice was always unique and to a certain extent the melodies of his songs all pretty much had the same beat. This was back during a time when some people called country music, “crying in your beer” tunes. Most of the lyrics were filled with songs about folks that cheated and lost their one true love or songs about hard working people that lost everything because of too much drinking. Basically, country music during that time period was like a “soap opera”, but played out on the radio instead of daytime television.

During this same period of time someone came up with a crazy idea to produce a syndicated television show that featured a couple of country music stars and mixed them with stupid red neck humor and pretty young girls that didn’t wear many cloths. This show was called “Hee Haw” and it starred Buck Owens and Roy Clark. To be honest, this was the dumbest show I ever saw on television, but very few weeks went by that our whole family didn’t watch in on Saturday night. Have you ever heard the saying that, “it’s so stupid you have to watch it”? Well, that’s exactly how I would sum up “Hee Haw” and while it probably didn’t get great ratings in New York and LA, it was a big hit in the heartland of American.

Buck Owens is going to be missed by millions of folks around the country, including myself. I had not heard much from him the past 20 years, but when I heard of his passing a few days ago it made me sad and brought to my mind how little time any of us have on this Earth. To millions of us, Buck reflects a long lost time in our lives that we miss and sometimes wish to see again.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mexico Border Fence Like Great Wall Of China?

Included in the US House of Representatives proposal for immigration reform is language, which would provide money to build a huge fence that would run the borderline with Mexico. Is this really the best way to stop illegal immigration from Mexico? I’m not sure, but when I think of a tall large border fence, I think of the “Great Wall of China”. Then I think of how much China is out of touch with the rest of the world in many political areas, including human rights for its citizens. I’m sort of old fashion in a modern world. When growing up I always looked at the United States as a country of immigrants where people were welcome to start a new life.

Everyone in the US is an immigrant in one way or another and while we do need to set some type of boundaries on immigrations, the last thing in the world we should do is try and stop all people from immigrating to the United States. The worst part about having an immigration discussion in the Congress is that surely it will bring out those few people that deep down inside are racists who want to seal up our borders because they don’t like the color of the skin of those who are immigrating. I know these kinds of folks are out there and I spend most of my time trying to avoid seeing or hearing them in my daily life. However, it’s going to be hard to avoid them the next few weeks because immigration reform will be all over the news media.

The main reason so many people are coming to the US illegally is because in almost every way, this country is still the land of opportunity for people that live in other nations who have no chance of providing a better life for their families. While many of us spend a great deal of time criticizing what’s wrong in the US, it’s important to remember what is available to the vast majority of people who live in other countries. It’s not a pretty sight. Actually, the people from Mexico have a better life than some immigrants from other nations. Their main objective is to get into the United States, work hard and send money back to the rest of their family in Mexico.

These workers take risks every single day of their life that most people here in the US would never take. First they risk possible death in entering the United States. Sometimes people who are called “coyotes” will take their money and kill them instead of moving them across the border. Once in the United States these immigrants must find employment, which will be back breaking labor with very little pay. All this is happening with the ever present thought in the back of their mind that the INS could show up at any moment and send them back to Mexico. I’m not saying we need to feel sorry for people that have broken our laws in the United States. However, we should not view immigrants in the same way we would other criminals who rob banks or little old ladies to support a drug habit.

I’ve been hard on President Bush the past year because I think he’s made some wrong decisions in his administration. However, when it comes to the importance of the Congress to have a civil debate about immigration reform, the President is speaking the truth and folks in the House of Representatives and Senate should follow his advice. We do need to control immigration into the United States, but it’s arrogant and totally selfish to try and close our borders to all immigration. We are all immigrants in this nation and we should not try and lock the door on what our forefathers built though the process of immigration over the past 200 years.

Daily Archives: | 02, 04, 07, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Islam/Christianity And Democracy In Afghanistan

The Bush administration has dodged a big issue with the potential execution of a person in Afghanistan because he converted from Islam to Christianity. The Afghanistan government has decided to release the man, under strong protest from “Muslim Clerics” in that country that wanted the man, beheaded. While this one case has gone away the problem will present itself again, unless counties in the Muslim world take these kinds of laws off the books. I can’t think of an issue that would effect the social conservative political base’s opinion of President Bush more than someone being executed because of their faith in Christianity.

What kind of countries are we building here when our own hard work and soldiers blood doesn’t change arcane laws which allow for the beheading of people that wish to change their religion? There is something fundamentally wrong with what’s going on in Afghanistan and Iraq. If our government doesn’t set down some kind of basic moral principles for these governments, old religious bigotry, which got these countries into problems in the first place, will continue and discriminate against folks that choose a different path or religion in their life. People being executed for changing their religion from Islam to Christianity isn’t acceptable and the US government needs to let these new governments in Afghanistan and Iraq know that this practice is not going to be allowed.

When it comes to elections, the US should butt out. However, when it comes to old laws that allow execution for religious beliefs, that practice should not be allowed under any Constitution in the world, especially one that the US government helped write. If the American people don’t make a stand with these kinds of laws in Afghanistan and Iraq, when are we going to make a stand? We are spilling the blood of our young soldiers in an effort to help folks in these countries build a better life. While we want democracy to flourish, we can’t allow a government that was changed because of our own military intervention to be just as bad or worse than the one before.

In some ways we are dealing with centuries of hatred to other religions in this part of the world. If the US government doesn’t lead by example, then who will? The fact this one man isn’t going to be executed doesn’t solve the problem, because the law that allows this to even be considered is still on the books in Afghanistan. Whether a person believes in God or not, they certainly believe that a person has a right to their own person religious beliefs. Executing someone for not following the government-sanctioned religion of a nation is not acceptable in Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere else in the civilized world.

VA Hospital's Show Gains In Most Cities

A couple of weeks ago, I watched a news report about the VA Hospital system in the US. When the network first promoted this story I was expecting more bad news from a hospital system that has been plagued with problems for generations. Much to my surprise their in-depth report was not designed to condemn these medical facilities, but to praise the improvements made in VA Hospitals around the country. They reported from several facilities and while watching this report I thought they must have been talking about a major for profit hospital in New York or Los Angeles.

For many veterans, the VA Hospital system is their only alternative when they need long term treatment for illness or mental problems, which sometimes present themselves years after a war is over. There have been so many bad reports and experiences with the VA; it was nice hearing some good news for a change. Everyone in the United States owes these brave men and women a lifetime of good health benefits because of the sacrifices they made for this country. There has been much talk about us loosing our VA Hospital here in Waco, Texas. Our VA facility is designed to treat veterans that are suffering from mental health issues.

To give you some idea of how much improvement has been made at VA Hospitals around the country; here are just a few examples I saw in this news report. The biggest improvement is in their computer system. Now when a veteran shows up for treatment at any VA Hospital around the country, all of their medical records including x-rays, MRI’s and blood tests are instantly available on that hospitals computer for doctors to see in real time. Also VA Hospitals have updated their lab department to be the most up-to-date in the country. This is such good news for veterans.

Another huge change in the system is that all patients now have their own doctor who can follow their treatment more closely. In the past, the VA system was plagued with a revolving doctor system. Now doctors and patients can get to know each other on a more personal basis, which should improve the quality of care for all patients. Sometimes I wish I could see the same doctor when I visit a local medical center. Only time will tell if the national VA leadership will continue to make updates to their system or allow it to fall into disrepair like has happened many times before.

I welcome any comments or feedback from veterans about the new VA Hospital System. If I’m wrong about these improvements, please let me know. However, if you do see positive changes in the system, please let me know that, too. We owe all veterans decent healthcare and I hope the VA system will continue to make positive changes in the years to come.

Mary Winkler's Motive For Killing Preacher Husband

I’ve been scratching my head the past couple of days trying to figure out why Mary Winkler would shoot her preacher husband in the back, load up her three children and drive hundreds of miles away. There have been some strange murder cases in the news the past few years, but this one is stranger than most. The Winkler’s live in a small Tennessee town where he was a Church of Christ preacher. I’ve listen to church members on television for days now talking about how loving and happy this family was and expressing their shock at the turn of events that lead to Matthew Winkler’s murder.

Mary Winkler has allegedly confessed to shooting her husband in the back, but police are not saying if they have a motive in this case. However, they have charged Winkler with “first degree murder” which requires premeditation in the State of Tennessee. My guess is the Winkler family was living a double life. This is not uncommon for families that are high profile in a small community. Ministers and their families are expected to act in a certain way anytime they are in public, but as the old song goes, “no one knows what goes on behind closed doors”. There must have been big secrets in this family and over time they will become public.

When I was growing up in a small town, the children of preachers were the worst kids in town. While adults can fake being happy and positive most of the time, young children are not that good at putting on a front for all to see. Eventually, the kids just crack under the pressure and start rebelling against their parents and sometimes their own faith. In my gut, I think Mary Winkler had some kind of mental breakdown and without realizing that she needed professional help, her husband probably though he could treat her himself. I have no way of knowing if this is true, but many men of faith believe that prayer can solve all problems. Also, if Mrs. Winkler went for professional treatment or counseling it would be found out quickly in a small town and that would definitely hurt Mr. Winkler’s position with his church.

It’s sad that in this day and age people are unable to get professional help with mental issues without the distinct possibility of discrimination from people who refuse to see mental issues as a real illness. This whole situation with Mary Winkler was probably building for months or even years, but getting treatment for a family in this type of profession, in a small town, probably was out of the question if Matthew Winkler wanted to keep his ministry. All of these opinions are mine and are purely speculative because I don’t know this family. However, I do have experience with small town life and I’ve observed what kind of pressures that can put on a minister and his family.

Too many times, problems are dealt with in the family and never spoken of to the outside world. Whatever the reason Mary Winkler choose to shoot her husband, now the three children in this family will be forced to grow up without a father and a mother in their lives. That’s saddest part of this story.

Related: Mary Winkler Trial, Mary Winkler Bail, Understanding Women Killers, Women More Violent

Mary Winkler Motive

Tiger Woods' Dad More Important To Him Than Golf

I didn’t think it was possible for me to gain greater respect for Tiger Woods, but last week proved me wrong. He took a day off the Professional Golf Tour to fly six thousand miles to see his father who has been fighting cancer for a long time. For a young man of Tiger’s age to already have his priorities in line is truly a wonderful thing, indeed. Of course, Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer in the world right now because of his father, Earl. While most kids were playing childhood games, Tiger was learning the various techniques of golf under the tutelage of his dad. Watching these two men on the golf course, it’s easy to see how close of a bond they have and what a terrible blow it’s going to be for Tiger once he dad passes away.

Cancer takes a divesting toll on patients and families. Tiger is leaning at an early age a powerful lesson about life and that is dealing with the sickness and eventual death of a parent. I remember when my father died from cancer; I didn’t even grieve at the time because I was so tired from helping mom take care of him in his final days. It sounds cruel, but most of my family members were just glad when the end finally came because my fathers’ suffering was finally over. There were days when I prayed for the quick death of my father while feeling bad about praying such a prayer. There are few things in life that will make a person question their faith in God more than watching a loved one die slowly from cancer.

I saw Tiger Woods interviewed a few days ago and he made it crystal clear that his family is going to always come before golf on his priority list. He and his wife plan to have children soon and he said that he would be missing golf tournaments as they grow up because he wants his children to know their father. It’s easy sometimes to look at young people and think the world isn’t heading in the right direction because they are doing things most of us older folks don’t agree with. However, Tiger is just one of many young people that do have a good priority system, it’s just the good kids don’t get any attention because people in the media choose to only report bad things.

Very few things give me as much pleasure on Sunday afternoon than watching Tiger Woods play golf on television. I have probably spent hundreds of hours watching this young man play this game better than anyone else in the world. When watching a great player, like Tiger, people that have never picked up a golf club might think the game is easy. However, all good sportsman make the sport they play look easy because of the hard work and discipline they put into perfecting their technique. There are reports that Tiger might miss the Masters Tournament this year, which would be a great tragedy for that weekend. However, he has more important things to take care of these days and I’m so proud of the way Tiger is handling his life and providing a great role model for millions of young men worldwide.

Natalee Holloway Buried Somewhere In Aruba?

In many ways the probably death of Natalee Holloway in Aruba is moving from dumb, to ridicules and now preposterous. What’s happening here is a tabloid media in the US that is completely out of control and a police force in the nation of Aruba that is putting out any kind of story that might lead to this case going away for good. Let’s face it all the folks that are covering this story on a daily basis have something to gain financially from it. Aruba has the most to gain in solving this mystery disappearance because there are millions of dollars at stake in their tourism business. The latest news from Aruba is they now believe that Natalee died of an alcohol and drug overdoes while in the company of the three suspects that lived there. They also believe that after Natalee’s death, these three buried her body and then the next day someone dug up her body and reburied it in another location where is was unlikely to be found.

Only in the US news media would this kind of story make any sense and the only reason anyone is giving it any coverage is because there have been no new leads out of Aruba for months. This whole situation is starting to sound like something from an Oliver Stone movie about conspiracy. I think there is a good chance that Natalee’s body will never be found which in so many ways is a bad thing. If her body isn’t found, it’s especially bad for her family because there will always be those lingering doubts as the whether she is really dead or held captive in some other land. It’s also bad for Aruba because their law enforcement officials don’t seem to know how to solve complex murder case and that will hurt tourism in Aruba for decades to come.

There are those that think the perfect crime was committed against Natalee Holloway, but I don’t see it in that way. I believe there were clues and evidence that could have been found the first few days after her disappearance, but the authorities in Aruba choose to not follow up on those leads in an effort to protect their lucrative tourism industry. Now those missteps and bad judgment calls in the first few days after Natalee’s disappearance are coming back to haunt the government of Aruba. Nothing they could have found initially in their investigation could have been worse than month after month of bad media attention toward their nation in the United States. This is yet another example of how the cover-up is worse than the crime.

I’ve settled myself to the belief that nothing I hear out of Aruba or from US sources is going to be correct until Natalee’s body is recovered. No one is talking in a way that makes sense down there right now and when there isn’t real evidence, unfortunately folks just start making things up. There were mistakes made by Natalee’s family and US authorities in the first few weeks after her disappearance as well. In some ways, both parties came across as condescending to local police officials, which I’m sure caused them to not work as hard as they should have to find and develop leads in this case. I’m sure many of these statements were made out of frustration, but non the less if you want someone to help you, the worst thing you can do is talk down to them like they are stupid.

While this story will continue to be interesting to some people, I think it’s time most folks move on with their lives because there is a good chance that this mystery will never be solved and no one will ever be put on trial for the death of Natalee Holloway. Sure we can all keep an eye on the case, but as new information comes out, it’s important to take anything we hear with a “grain of salt” until there is some kind of real evidence or the body of Natalee Holloway is found.

Lady Baylor Bears Lose To Maryland In Playoffs

It was a tough game for a Baylor Lady Bears fan to watch last night, but I hung in there until almost the end of the game. Missed shot after missed shot just about drove me crazy as the Baylor University “Lady Bears” went down to defeat against Maryland. I’m not taking anything away from the Maryland team because they played to win and that’s exactly what they did. When a person lives in Waco, Texas like I do, it’s hard to support local sports teams because usually they don’t win. Last year, the “Lady Bears” made it to the big NCAA Championship Game and brought home the winning trophy. I still remember that feeling and I was so hoping for a repeat this year, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Just getting into Championship Games is something total new for Waco residents and alumni of Baylor University. For a long time we watched our teams go down to defeat at the hands of much larger schools with better players and coaches. However, last year the “Baylor Lady Bears” made us all proud to live in Waco and to support Baylor athletics. While last night’s game was hard to watch, it will make the next National Championship that much sweeter when it eventually does come. Now everyone that follows women’s college basketball in Waco knows that it’s not only possible for our team to get to a National Championship, but to win it. It won’t be long until next year and I believe we will be back in the race for a national title at that time.

The Baylor coaching staff has been working hard to recruit the right players for the future and when you combine the players who graduated last year with the tremendous loss of Emile Newman, it’s really amazing the team progressed as far as it did in the NCAA Final Four. I wish I knew more about the departure of Newman, but the University and coaching staff have remained “tight limped” when it comes to the circumstances behind her departure from the team. It was easy to see how her presents last night, with important three point plays, could have made the difference in the game against Maryland. To me, she was the star of last year’s playoff series and her presents this year would have made a big difference.

From what I’ve read in newspapers and heard on ESPN, the Baylor Lady Bears have a good group of freshmen coming in next year and that’s a great sign for the future growth of the women’s basketball program at the University. While I’m disappointed in their loss last night, I know there are brighter days ahead for this team and I know it won’t be long before we all see them in another championship game where they will be victorious once again.

Impeach President Bush - History Repeating Itself?

I’m starting to hear a light but increasing clamor among liberal democrats who wish to impeach President Bush. There is no political will in either party to do such a thing and the only reason some wish to try and impeach the President is because they have disagreed with his policies from day one of his administration. This attitude reminds me of how conservatives wanted President Clinton impeached during his administration because of his moral failings. They too hated his policies from day one and were all too eager to try and impeach him at the first sign of trouble. This just proves that extremist from either side of the spectrum are not interested in the best interest of the country, if they don’t support the person delivering the message.

There are some Congressional districts and states around the US where talking about impeaching President Bush will bring a candidate votes. However, these are few and far between. The news media loves to pick-up on this kind of talk because it fuels controversy, which is the driving force behind getting better ratings. While there were those on the political right that believed they were justified in their attempt to impeach President Clinton, their efforts were not successful because the American people felt like this attempt was just more partisan games by Republicans. I believe this effort by Democrats will fail for the same reason. They are not concerned about what President Bush did as much as their desire to see him out-of-office as quickly as possible.

I hope for more moderate candidate victories this November because this is the only way I can see the country breaking this pattern of extremist running the show in Washington. There are already rumblings around the country that Democrats will try to impeach President Bush if they are successful in winning control of the US House of Representatives and Senate in November. I do think there should be a change in the Congress, but I’m hoping it will result in more moderate politicians getting elected and I don’t care which party they come from. If the Democrats try to impeach President Bush, they will be unsuccessful and look even more out of touch with the average American than they already do.

There may come a time when moderates in the US will have to look for a third party to find candidates who are not ideologically driven either to the extreme right or left. The reason so many extremists are in office is because of the primary system in the United States. These primaries don’t draw many voters, but the ones that do show up are very ideological and they will only vote for extreme candidates who concur with their political attitudes. This is the reason why both Republican and Democratic Party leaders are dominated by ideologues either from the extreme right or left. Moderates would find it easy to win in the general election if they could just find a way to get past the highly partisan primary elections in both major parties.

Starting a viable third party won’t be easy and I don’t see how it could be done without some major moderates from the Republican and Democratic Party revolting from their parties to get it started. The problem with revolution is that the folks that start it never seem to be around when it’s over. Just look at history and see how the people that took the initial chance to start something new are treated. Most of the time it’s not in a positive way, even though later on historians might view them as trendsetters. I love to watch politics and the way people get elected and how they government. Someday, a nationally known and respected person will break free from their party establishment and start a new political party for moderates in the US.

Until that day, I guess we’ll just have to watch these extremist politicians try and impeach the other parties’ leader every time a new President is elected to office. There are so many big issues that need to be tackled by the President and Members of Congress. However, most of the time they end up fighting each other over petty differences because their, rank and file, members have such a narrow view of the world and this country. Most political leaders want us to take one side or the other in this political discourse, but that’s not the right move to make. Don’t encourage them to do more of the same. Just be patient and wait for the right kind of leader which will come along eventually. Our country is full of these kinds of patriots and I believe real help will be on the way, soon.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Investment Changes - Stock Market Making New Gains

The past couple of weeks, the stock market has been making new gains and then news yesterday came that home sales are starting to slump. For years, I’ve followed these two indicators because they hold the key to where the really big money players in the world put most of their investment dollars. For many years, these financial players have been investing in real estate because it has been relatively easy to get double-digit gains. I could almost predict that national housing sales were going down, this month, because the stock market has been gaining so much the past three weeks.

While I’ve never had big money, it’s still easy to see what the big players do with their investment dollars. No two investments on Earth have been proven winners more than the US stock market and real estate. It appears that there is some reason why both don’t seem to do well at the same time, but I can’t put my finger on it. However, it’s no surprise that the housing market took off after the stock market meltdown in 2000 and has been on fire ever since. In this world, nothing stays on top forever and it looks like the major money folks now believe that there will be a big slow down in the housing market, so they are moving back to stocks.

There have been definite signs of problems in the real estate market the past year or so. I remember reading a story in our local newspaper about high rise condos that were being built in the Miami area, which no one ever occupied. They are just bought and sold by investors because real estate values were going up fast enough to make this practice possible. When folks start doing stupid things for a “quick buck”, it usually means that a market is at it’s peak. There’s little chance the housing market will just slow gradually because it didn’t got up in small increments during its boom years. Just like the NASDAQ, when the bottom drops out of the housing market it’s going to be a big deal and hurt regular people for years to come.

People that have these huge investment dollars are rich for a reason. They know how to time markets pretty well and put their money in places where it will grow quickly. Then when a market is tapped out, they move on to something else. There was a line in the movie, “Wall Street” where the star Michael Douglas told his protégé not to get emotional about stocks. That’s good advice in the housing market as well. Don’t fall in love too much with a house. Remember that it may have sentimental value to you, but to everyone else it’s just a piece of property to be bought and sold. Experts at these types of investments don’t love anything that can’t love them back.

It’s probably a good time to start looking at stock investments again. There are many good companies that are selling at great prices. The best thing about getting in on investments before they have a massive run up in price is that you can buy “name brand” companies at a discount. Don’t wait until the end of a “bull market” and start chasing “penny stocks” like most other folks do. If you do that, you will find yourself on the wrong end of the profit picture every time you try that old “sucker move”. Buy big companies now and hold them for the long term. I really believe there will be another huge stock market advance in the next couple of years and it will happen at the expense of the real estate market.

As the housing market continues downward, there will be all kinds of pitch men on television trying to tell you that now is the best time to buy real estate while the price is low. They will promise huge profits and appeal to your ego saying you are smart to buy when the market is priced just right. Don’t fall for this old game, they are just helping rich people dump their investments on someone else so they can move on to better profits elsewhere. If anyone ever told you that financial markets were fair, then they lied to you. The process is survival of the fittest and knowing where and when to do business. When the big pitch guys come out on television, the market run is already over.

This whole process repeats itself over and over, generation after generation because it works to keep the rich wealthy at the expense of the poor. Someone told me once that if all the money in the world was confiscated and divided equally between all people, within a couple of months the rich would be rich again and the poor would have lost all their financial gains. I believe that statement is correct and it should give everyone some idea of what is happening in the investment world whether that is stocks or real estate.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Immigration Reform On Congress' Agenda Next Week

Next week will prove to be a very interesting week in the US Congress because for the first time in years they will debate and discuss immigration reform in the United States. President Bush said today that he hopes there will be a “civil discussion" about this issue, but I see little chance of that happening in this election year. While President Bush is calling for calm and reason when it comes to the subject of immigration reform, it’s his own administrations lack of concern about this issue that has caused the current volatile environment to develop in the first place.

People that live in Border States have been writing and calling the White House and their elected representatives for years complaining about the out-of-control border situation with Mexico. Until recently, no one was listening to these concerns because the Bush administration has followed a “hands-off” policy when it comes to immigration issues with President Fox of Mexico. Just like anything else, the government can only ignore an issue so long before the public becomes disgusted with their lack of action and demands change. That’s exactly what’s happening right now in this congressional election year.

There are so many contradictions in the Bush administration when it comes to international politics and border security issues, that I don’t have time to list them all. However, this issue with illegal immigration with Mexico shouldn’t take the Bush administration by surprise because their rank and file voters have been talking about it for years. I think some in the Bush administration have a vision of what happened to Governor Pete Wilson in California when he tried to control immigration several years ago. He not destroyed his personal political career, but also set Republican Party growth efforts, in California, back decades.

What the Bush administration is missing here is the tone and manner in which this subject is dealt with. Gov. Pete Wilson was viewed as some kind of “bigot” who was pandering to far right conservatives who wanted to close US borders to everyone. The problem with the Bush administrations position on this issue is that they are taking the complete opposite approach to Gov. Wilson, which will create the same kind of problem, but with another group of Republican voters. Legal Mexican residents in the United States are no different than anyone else when it comes to what's right and what’s wrong. Pandering to them about the issue of immigration reform isn’t going to work and it isn’t going to help Republican candidates.

In so many ways, the Bush administration’s approach to immigration is completely contrary to their “war on terrorism” stand about other international issues. There needs to be a frank and open discussion in the US Congress about immigration reform because the Bush administration has not taken the lead on this important issue, which has caused the Republican rank and file to do it for them. Members of Congress are not stupid when it comes to getting reelected and the reason this issue is coming, “front and center” at this time is because the folks back home are demanding it. This is exactly how things are supposed to work in a democracy.

As President Bush says often, “we are a nation at war” which makes border control issues a great concern to most Americans. I have no idea what is going to come out of the Congress, but more money for border patrol agents and other INS functions should be the very least the American people should expect from Congress. Just like so many other issues, President Bush’s view of immigration reform is “black and white”, which it is not in reality. There are many areas where all parties involved can agree and the US Congress next week should explore these possible areas of agreement. I look forward to this debate with great interest.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

New Supreme Court With Roberts/Alito On Bench

As time goes by, people have lost interest in the new US Supreme Court after the nomination and confirmation of it’s latest two justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. The attention span of many Americans is so short that what seemed like a “life or death” battle a couple of months ago, is hardly even given a second thought today. Unlike most folks, I’m still watching the Supreme Court for signs as to which direction is will go in the future on important issues like “civil liberties” and “abortion”. From what I’ve seen and read so far, it looks like the US Supreme Court for all the chatter during the nomination process is going to look pretty much the same after these two latest justices were confirmed.

The biggest question mark in the future direction of the court was with Samuel Alito. I was pretty sure that John Roberts was going to be a hard right conservative, just like William Rehnquist before him. Now from the first few decisions made by Justice Alito, it appears he is going to be a centrist just like Sandra O’Connor before him. The old say of, “the more things change the more they remain the same” comes to mind when thinking about the high court. To me, any type of government change is like turning an aircraft carrier around in the open ocean. It takes a lot of time and space for it to happen. The same holds true for major political change in a huge democracy like the United States.

Social conservatives who had a temper tantrum about the nomination of Harriet Miers should look at this situation closely the next time they try and micromanage presidential decisions. There is little doubt that Miers was a social conservative who shared their extreme ideology. However, most were so concerned that President Bush would repeat the mistakes of his father and nominate a moderate or liberal justice, they wanted to be sure of the persons credentials before giving their stamp of approval. Samuel Alito had those credentials and from all appearances he is going to be even more moderate than O’Connor on the Supreme Court.

This is good news for the country because it’s not good when either political extreme has a monopoly on the nations highest court. Extremism is what got us into this mess to begin with when the US Supreme Court made its judgment on Roe V. Wade. Ever since that decision, the far right has made it their mission in life to change the high court to a bench that is more to its liking. This attitude has stirred up the far left and caused many aspects of the US Court System to appear as a single minded system, which only cares about one issue. There are thousands of real problems in the country that need to be address by the US Supreme Court. However, to extremist there is only one big issue and that is abortion.

I think the social conservative movement has had it’s day in the spotlight of American politics and has no where to go but down from this point forward. This movement has worked hard for over 20 years to get their kind of politicians elected to public office for the main purpose of getting Roe V. Wade overturned in the Supreme Court. It’s too early to know for sure if all this hard work on their behalf will eventually pay off with a reversal of this controversial decision. However, my gut feeling is that these latest two Supreme Court justices will not change previous court rulings in regard to abortion. So all this hard work will have been for nothing in the social conservative movement.

There is a powerful lesson to be learned when it comes to any movement that wishes to impose its view of morality on other people. Don’t do it. It won’t work in the long run because no one wish to have others tell them what is right and wrong when it comes to moral values. The best any of us can do, is try and live our own lives in a fair and honest way and leave other people alone to make their own decisions. No one has all the answers when it comes to being a just and moral person and if judgments need to be made against others, it’s always best to leave those decisions to a higher power.

Concerns Grow About Russian Leader Putin

President Bush has said on many occasions that Russia is our friend and that he has great respect and trust for Russian President Putin. However, as time goes by, I wonder if President Bush should rethink this faith and trust in a man that seems to always be on the wrong side of the US and most other free nations? While almost everyone in the world is concerned about nuclear proliferation in Iran, Russia is working with this rouge nation to expand its nuclear program. Russian leader Putin says one thing to the United States and then turns around and does something completely different. There is a definite credibility problem with Putin and I don’t know if he’s just devious or he’s playing some kind of game with the US. Either way, it makes it hard for most Americans to trust him.

I was telling a friend the other day that modern day Russia reminds me of Chicago during “prohibition”. The whole nation seems to act more like a bunch of mobsters and corrupt law enforcement officials than the blossoming new democracy the Bush administration would like for us to picture. In this same context, President Putin reminds me more of Al Capone than a president of a huge country. If I’m correct and modern day Russia has similarities to the old Chicago mobster days, then the US government should be very careful when it comes to making agreements with Russia. Also, I hope we are not sharing secrets with Putin, who will more than likely take that act of kindness and repay it by using our own secrets against us, someday.

People in the United States have reason for concern when it comes to Russia and the way it’s doing business inside it’s own borders. When the Soviet Union collapsed there were such high hopes of what Russia could become, if only democracy could take hold in that country. To begin with, everything seemed to be on track and moving forward, then came Putin. Putin is the former head of the KGB and when I look at this man I still see the head of an intelligence service, not the President of the country. Not long after he won election and took over the government, bad things started happening to businesses in Russia. The biggest was the government take over of most of the nations oil industry. In fact, one oil company CEO was even jailed by the Russian government.

Another huge change that has taken place since Putin became President of Russia is freedom of the press and news media has pretty much been taken away. While competition in the news business flourished before Putin took office, now it looks like its days are numbered, as well. I can’t help but think that President Putin is moving Russia backward in time to the days when the Soviet Union was in a cold war with the United States. Anyone that has studied history remembers what “fair weather” allies the Soviets were during World War II and what happened in Europe after that war was over. It didn’t take long for the Soviets and the US to become enemies and engage in a cold war, which lasted for decades and cost trillions of dollars.

The US would be wise to keep a close eye on President Putin and double and even triple check everything he says before we start giving this guy too much aid or intelligence information. Maybe I’m wrong, but he doesn’t appear like that good of a friend to the United States right now.

Family Values Debate Alive Among GOP Candidates

Since 2006 is a Congressional election year, I thought now might be a good time to discuss a topic all the candidates will be talking about in the next six months. The topic is, “family values” in America. While most politicians don’t really care that much about people’s values, except when it matters to a large number of their voters. Most elections in the past ten years or so have in one way or another evolved around this touchy and highly personal subject. The reason it’s such a sensitive subject is because no two people in the US consider “family values” in the same way.

Conduct, which might seem perfectly OK to one family, is totally wrong to another. Ever since Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, values have been a hot political issue. I think the reason family values became a political issue in the first place was because of the moral divergence that occurred in the 1960’s and 1970’s because of the Vietnam War. During that long conflict, millions of Americans began to look at the values they had always held dear and started questioning them in the face of daily death reports on the evening news broadcasts from Vietnam. This is also the same time period when young people broke from generations past and started conducting their lives in a way that was considered wrong by their elders.

Then came Roe V. Wade, which made abortion legal in the United States. All these things taken together were like an earthquake in the United States between younger and more liberal thinking people versus folks with more traditional values which had been passed down from generation to generation. These two different schools of thought are not compatible and it was just a matter of time before voters started making candidates choose which side they were on in this debate about values. I believe “family values” are not set in stone where there are definite right and wrong rules. They are more a set of broad standards, which most people can agree with, most of the time.

The belief that people should hold themselves to a high standard of values is a good thing. However, just like anything else, when extremist get into the mix there are going to be problems. By extremist I mean folks that believe their set of “family values” are superior to others and work via their elected leaders to impose their opinions on everyone else. Let’s face it, no one wants to be told what to do and the folks that are trying to impose their will on others would be the first ones to fight back, if others tried to control them. That’s why I write here so often about how important it is for all of us to mind our own business, unless someone is directly threatening us.

I don’t believe there is one, “set in stone” list of family values that everyone would agree with, nor should there be. Our genetics and the way we were taught as children influence us all. To expect people to change once they become adults and follow people who wish to impose their views on them is not only unrealistic, but also wrong-headed. We should embrace differences in people, rather than trying to change them to something more to our liking. If we would just look at our relationships and see how most people are attracted to a person completely opposite of themselves, it will give us all new insight into how sad this world would be if we were all of the same mind and viewpoints.

It is better to just love a person for who they are and not try and impose our own “family values” onto them. I know we’re all in for a bunch of political talk the next few months from politicians who will try and convince folks that their idea of values are the right ones. However, just remember that just because they are talking doesn't mean we have to be listening!

Microsoft Windows Vista Release Being Delayed

The news today that Microsoft will delay release of it’s much anticipated “Vista Operating System” must have been very depressing news to software geeks around the world. It seems like I’ve been hearing about this new system for years. If memory serves me right, the beta version of “Vista” was something called “Longhorn”. I may be wrong about that, but I seem to remember hearing the name “Longhorn” when this whole process started. Most experts thought “Vista” would be released in time for this years holiday season. While the business version of this operating system will be available by Christmas, the version, which will be sold to consumers, won’t be for sale until the first quarter of 2007.

In my younger years, I was always eager to get to the software store to buy new products, which would make using my computer more enjoyable and faster. However, as the years have gone by, I prefer to wait a couple of years after new software is release because I don’t have the patience I once had with the many “software bugs” that plague new software programs and operating systems. From the information I’ve read so far, this delay in the release of “Vista” is directly tied to bugs in the operating system which are taking longer to fix than originally anticipated. I wonder if Microsoft thinks it’s OK to release an operating system with “bugs” to businesses? I sure hope not.

I’m an old guy that goes all the way back to Windows 3.1 and before that I had an old 386 system which was totally DOS based. In the days of DOS and Windows 3.1, I was an eager young man that loved software and computers. I was like a kid with a new toy. I can’t remember how many times I crashed my computer system because I installed software that didn’t work the way it was advertised. However, back then I viewed these issues more as challenges rather than real problems. There’s nothing more satisfying to a young person who loves computers than to work all weekend and find a solution to a computer problem.

As the years have gone by, I now prefer to have a computer which works most of the time, without the hassle of installing programs that may or may not work. I no longer find it fun to install software and work endless hours on the weekend trying to fix bugs in the program. While Microsoft is still a company where having fun, while working is encouraged, they have a great deal of money and reputation riding on the release of “Vista”. So waiting is a prudent move, even though it’s going to drive computer folks, nuts.

There are still rumors all over the place about Google, Inc. developing their own operating system. The more they deny it, the more some people believe it will happen. While the rest of us speculate about Google’s possible entry into the operating system business, you can bet that Microsoft has a good idea what their number one potential competitor is planning. While all companies do their best to keep their future plans a secret, most are usually very unsuccessful because people just can’t keep their mouth shut when they are working on something exciting and potentially groundbreaking.

I’m looking forward to seeing exactly what Microsoft’s “Vista” OS has to offer. I will not purchase this new operating system though, until I’m sure it will work consistently. I hate to admit this, but I’m still using Windows 98se for my personal use. Our computers at the office run on XP and I don’t like that OS as well as Windows 98se, so I just never upgraded my home computer. It’s best to let young people that have the patience to work around bugs and glitches to have the first shot at these new operating systems. I’m sure they will be all over “Vista” and will find out what works and what doesn’t in the first few hours after it’s release early next year.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Religious Freedom Issues Debated In Afghanistan Government

There is a terrible story emerging out of Afghanistan about a man that is facing a death sentence just because he converted from Islam to Christianity. It’s unbelievable that in the modern world of today, some people are still subject to death for their religious beliefs. Even more troubling is the fact that this is happening in Afghanistan where US soldiers fought and died to rid that country of the Taliban and offer freedom to it’s citizens. The worldwide community, including President Bush are condemning the possibility of this man actually being executed because of his religious convictions.

We hear stories all the time about how much progress the new government in Afghanistan is making in rebuilding that country. President Bush and the “First Lady” have spoken on many occasions about how women, for the first time, have rights there and girl children are attending school, just like boys. Now, this news of a man possibility facing death because he desires to change religions seems to contradict all the positive news that has been coming out of this war torn country. If this man is convicted and ultimately is put to death, the American people will not stand for our country supporting Afghanistan, anymore.

The very thought that American soldiers died in that country in an effort to remove a terrible dictatorship that was killing people for no reason at all; now rebuilds their country and keeps arcane laws which demand loyalty to only one religion. History is littered with these kinds of laws, which require loyalty to only one religion. I remember reading about such practices during the “Spanish Inquisitions” where people were told to convert or die. Those were their two choices. Now we’re seeing the exact same thing in countries like Afghanistan. Too many people have died in this world, over the centuries, just because they held different religious beliefs than the majority of a countries population.

Most people don’t believe this death sentence will be carried out in Afghanistan, but what’s troubling is the fact that such a law is still on the books there. These types of religious laws need to be repealed in all nations around the world. People that care about human rights must require such changes before they offer any type of assistance or aid to countries. Hopefully, the world community is tiring of these extremist nations who want to promote their religion in this way. It’s important that all nations speak out about these types of laws, which require loyalty to only one religion.

Throughout history, most wars have been fought over the issue of religion and it appears to me that every time people take one step forward in changing this issue, some folks take two steps backward to prevent progress. I don’t think the founding fathers of the United States had some of these religious extremist in mind when they provided blanket religious freedom to the people. Yes, we are so lucky to have religious freedom and I’m glad it’s written into our Constitution. However, there are those who will create a religion, in the US, just to avoid legislation and taxation of their business interests.

When I wake up and read stories about people being put on trial and possibly sentenced to death because of a religious conversion, I see just how far the world must still go to rid itself of religious extremism.
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