Monday, March 31, 2008

Hospitals Preparing For 'Baby Boom' Generation

The one place I try to stay away from as much as possible is a hospital. I have never liked going there either as a patient or a visitor. However, a good friend of mine is current in the hospital and after I learned that he not only had total renal failure, but a most likely malignant tumor on his lung - it was time for me to go see my old friend before he passes from this Earth. As I enter the hospital he is being treated at today, the first thing I noticed was that it was much bigger than the last time I visited there several years ago. In my estimation, his hospital was twice the size it was back in the year 2000 and it looked like they were getting ready to add-on again.

While I doubt that most Americans are more sick today than in previous years, the most likely reason that this hospital and another one in our city are growing by leaps and bounds is because the baby boom generation from the 1940's, 1950's and early 1960's is getting older and more hospital space and beds will be needed in the future simply because there will be more old people alive in the next ten years than ever before. I was born at the tail end of the baby boom generation back in 1958. From the end of World War II till the mid 1960's, the United States experience one of the biggest growth periods in our short nation's history. Now, all of us that are considered the baby boom generation are getting old, living longer and needing more advanced medical treatment to maintain our lives as long as possible.

While politicians are discussing how the country will pay for the increased medical needs of the baby boom generation, hospitals today are starting a building boom nationwide to try and catch up with what their future needs might be. While our local hospitals are doubling their room capacity's, more than like that will not be enough to take care of all of us baby bloomers as we get old and live much longer lives than our parents and grandparents. Just because people are living longer does not mean that they will not get sick and need top quality medical care as they enter their 'Golden Years'. Frankly, I was shocked at the advancement in medical technology at this one hospital I visited today. Not only had they doubled their bed space, but they also have created better hospital rooms in general that had more space than I had ever seen before.

This added space, especially in their ICU unit allowed medical services to come to my friends room instead of requiring him to be pushed thought the hospital for tests and in his case dialysis. The hospital room I saw today in the ICU unit was almost as big as a hotel room and it allowed friends and family the space they needed to be close to their loved one when they are ill. While I have railed here many times about the out-of-control increases in medical expense in the United States these days, I must admit that from what I saw today there is at least something positive been seen by these huge increases in medical spending. That said, something eventually will need to be done to bring medical expenses back down to Earth in the country - because there is no way that the medical community can continue to increase their cost of doing business at triple or more the rate of inflation and expect Americans to be able to bear the costs of that care.

Jessica Simpson Recovering From Kidney Infection

A couple of days ago I wrote about the numerous rumors in Hollywood about a potential secret wedding that might have taken place between Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo. Apparently, those rumors were untrue because it was reported today that Jessica Simpson has spent the past five days in an LA area hospital being treated for a kidney infection. The good news is that Jessica Simpson has been released from the hospital and is recovering quickly at her home. Most people have had a kidney infection at one time or another in their lifetime and for those people that have had one, they will never forget the pain that can be involved in a serious kidney infection.

It was several years ago when I had my last kidney infection, but I still remember the pain of that event well until a doctor prescribed antibiotic finally killed all those bad bacteria off inside my my kidney's. While I get kidney infection from time to time, my mother has suffered with persistent kidney infections for decades. While I can't prove it, I still believe that one of the main reasons why my mother continues to suffer with kidney infections is because of the long term use of antibiotic by her to kill the kidney bacteria that causes these types of infections. As we all know there are many stories in the news today about mutations in bacteria that get created that are antibiotic resistant. If a person takes too many antibiotics over the course of their lifetime, their chances are great of developing antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.

Jessica Simpson is lucky because at her young age, simple bacteria diseases like a kidney infection are much more easily treated than the same disease in people much older. Simpson is also lucky because in today's world, minor bacteria infections are left alone for the bodies own immune system to kill instead of taking a short cut with antibiotics which could lead to additional problems as the patient gets older. I am almost 50 years old and when I was a young boy, our family doctor prescribed antibiotics out of his office like candy. This doctor never really checked to see if my illness was bacterial or viral, but instead he just wrote out a prescription, more than likely to silence my mother who wanted her kids well as soon as possible. While antibiotics still work on me, I now must take ever stronger ones each time I get seriously ill.

Another step that I have taken is to add a good probiotic supplement to my daily diet. I have been adding this probiotic now for over a year and in that length of time I have only been sick one time from a bacteria related illness. Probiotic are good bacteria that live naturally in healthy individuals. However, every time a broad spectrum antibiotic is given to a person that antibiotic treatment kills all the bacteria in the host, even the good stuff. After the antibiotic treatment is finished a persons guts are wide open to become infested with all kind of bad bacteria because there is no good bacteria to keep them in check. My guess is that a healthy and rich young woman like Jessica Simpson has nutritional professionals in her life that understand how probiotic work and how they might lesson the odds of a recurrence of a painful kidney infection in her body.

Man Throws Dog From Bridge In Utah

Sometimes I wonder why God allows man to continue to dominate this planet when I hear stories like this one. Yesterday, in Salt Lake City Utah a young woman's dog by the name of 'Seven' somehow got out of the back yard and sometime later in the day a man in a red pickup truck was seen throwing 'Seven' off of a busy Interstate Highway overpass. What drives human being to be so cruel is something I have never understood. The fact that some humans can hate each other and do horrible things to one another is one thing, but why do some human beings feel the need to hurt defenseless animals in such a heartless manner? From my point of view there is a special place in hell for people like the man that threw this defenseless dog off of that Salt Lake City, Utah bridge.

The good news is that 'Seven' is expected to make a full recovery and he is once again reunited with his owner and under the care of a veterinarian for his severe injuries. When I first heard about this story of a man throwing a dog off of a bridge in Utah my first thoughts went back to the Michael Vick story where that once rich and famous NFL football quarterback was holding dog fighting contests when he was not playing football in the NFL. I sometimes wonder if there is not some kind of genetic mistake made in some human beings when they are still being formed in their mothers womb? How else can we explain how regular acting and looking people are able to not have the least bit of compassion for an animal that would love and adore them at the first opportunity?

More than likely the man that threw 'Seven' off of that Utah bridge will be caught and he will face justice in a court of law. However, American laws when it comes to cruelty to animals are a joke. Most people are able to abuse animals and even kill them and get off with s simple fine in most cases. I believe it is time for decent Americans to stand up and tell our elected leaders that we want more severe penalties for animal cruelty at both the state and federal level. There is no way that a simple fine would be a just punishment for this man that threw what is now referred to as 'Lucky Seven' off of that bridge. I believe the best judge of a society is the way in which they treat the weakest among their population. While dogs are not humans, they are living beings and do not deserve to be treated in such an evil way.

While there are many great things about this country, there is a dark side to every city both large and small where human degenerates like this man in the red truck from Utah hide out most of the time. Occasionally, these cruel abominations of nature stick their ugly head out of the shadows, go into the light and then look for weak people or animals to hurt and humiliate. The time has come for the United States of America as a group of citizens to stand up against animal cruelty once and for all. Whether it be dog fighting or the sub human activity of throwing a defenseless dog from a freeway overpass, that type of activity is grossly offensive to most Americans and the laws of our land need to better reflect the will of the people when it comes to protecting 'man's best friend' from the predators among us.

Dying Man Told No When Trying To Break Apartment Lease

Yesterday, I heard a story about a young man who was dying of cancer that was told no by his apartment complex when he asked to be excused from the final four months of his lease so he could move his wife and children closer to their family in Utah before his death. In a cold and heartless story similar to that of Ebenezer Scrooge, this man's apartment complex called 'The Mansions' at Stonebridge Ranch in McKinney, Texas is holding this dying man to the letter of his lease agreement. While from a legal standpoint, 'The Mansions' have every right to expect their lease contract to be fulfilled, in real life there are always going to be exceptions to the rule that need to be allow in extraordinary situations.

The story of this dying mans plight with his apartment complex have now gone worldwide as huge media companies like CNN have also called attention to this dying mans desire to free his family from thousands of extra dollars of post lease charges. While the most likely reason why this man's life is being held hostage by his McKinney, Texas apartment complex is a management with a bigger eye on the bottom line than doing the right thing, all of the bad publicity being generated against this apartment complex cannot be good for their own public relations and it will most definitely cost them much more than the few thousand dollars that this dying man first requested to be released from in his lease agreement. More than likely, 'The Mansions' at Stonebridge Ranch never envisioned this man's story getting so much worldwide attention, but because it has become a big story - this company is giving off the impression that they are heartless and without compassion.

While most businesses are open to negotiation when it comes to extenuating circumstance. Other businesses do not use compassions and simple human dignity in their business decisions and eventually that cold hearted approach to business will come back and haunt them. In my life I know many people that are in the real estate business in one way or another. Almost all of them have had to reach out to their bank and/or other investors to renegotiate agreements in order to stay solvent and to remain in business. While I don't personally know the owners and management of 'The Mansions' at Stonebridge, I would be very surprised if they too have not had to renegotiate financial agreements with banks and investors at some point in time. I wonder how they would feel if their investors and banks treated them in the same way they are treating this dying man?

There was a time in the United States when neighbors and local business leaders looked after their own when a major illness hit a family. For the most part, I still believe that attitude is alive and well in most parts of the country - but there will always be exceptions to that rule and this dying mans story is one of those exceptions. In so many ways, this one apartment complex in McKinney, Texas has hurt their long term business success by not showing compassion and understanding to this young family that is going to, soon, lose a father and husband. I certainly hope that in the upcoming days this apartment complex will rethink it decision to hold this dying mans family to the letter of their lease agreement and finally do the right thing and let his family leave in peace. My heart hopes that somewhere at the top of this company a CEO is just now finding out for the first time what some of his employees have been up to and he will soon step in and do the right thing.

When Term Ends, Bush Will Be Dumped By GOP

For the past few years, most leaders in the Republican party have been quick to rush to the defense of President Bush and his failing Iraq War policy. However, the minute after President Bush leaves office, hundreds if not thousands of mainstream Republicans will abandon their former leader and start saying negative things about him and his administration. Party loyalty is a very important thing in both the Republican and Democratic Party's, but once a President is out of office then they become fair game for party leaders that have disagreed with them for years in private. President Bush is going to go down in history as one of the biggest failures as President because while most Republicans were left blowing in the wind when it came to his policies, he turned a deaf ear to other members of the Republican Party and just hunkered down and did whatever the heck he wanted to do in the first place.

Former top Bush adviser Karl Rove pretty much has admitted that President Bush told his top aides to ignore the news of the day and focus only on the administrations plan when it came to the War in Iraq. While President Bush continued his administration line of stay the course, month after month, in Iraq - fellow GOP lawmakers were being voted out of office because they decided to stick with their leader, President Bush. In the end, it has become clear to both Republicans and Democrats that President Bush does not know how to end the War in Iraq, but he also does not give a darn about what other people in the Republican Party think about his approach to war and saving the ever failing US economy.

Unfortunately, President Bush is an ideologue when it comes to leadership which means that he is not open to new ideas when it comes to leading this great country. Whether a President's ideology comes from the far right or the far left does not really matter in the end. What really matters is whether a President can lead the United States using the will of the people or not. President Bush long ago quit thinking about what most Americans thought about his failed policies regarding the War in Iraq and he instead decided to hunker down and just do whatever he wanted to do when it came to waging that war. Of course, President Bush would not have been successful with that attitude without the willing support of GOP Members of Congress who blindly followed President Bush into the Abyss. This same kind of situation happened in the Republican Party when Richard Nixon served as our President.

The damage that has been done to the Republican Party under the leadership of President Bush will take decades to repair. From misguided war policies to a dysfunctional administration when it comes to providing fiscal discipline to government spending, President Bush has failed on all fronts. Rather than being a President that followed in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan, President Bush has acted in a reckless manner as our commander-in-chief and he has made it more difficult for the conservative principles offered up by former President Reagan to gain traction in the future. While some conservatives like Rush Limbaugh continue to support President Bush in most of his hair brained ideas, regular rank and file Republicans have left the side of our President with the hope that better leadership will be found in the first term of our next President.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

'The Eye' With Jessica Alba Was Good, But Not Great

This afternoon my wife and I ventured out to our local dollar theater to watch the newest movie starting Jessica Alba called, 'The Eye'. While my expectations were low going into this movie it turned out to be the right mood when watching this flick. If I would have entered the movie house today with high expectations of a good script and fantastic acting then I would have most certainly left disappointed. However, the script was not half bad and while I have seen Jessica Alba preform better in other movies, her performance in 'The Eye' was OK. The story behind this movie is a simple one where a young woman that was blinded at age 5 is given another change to see in her early adulthood thanks to advances using stem cell research.

While this movie leaves many holes in the life of Jessica Alba's character during her young adult life as a blind women, that is easily enough explained to any reasonable thinking movie goer. Most of 'The Eye' is based around a cornea eye transplant that Jessica Alba's character receives when she is a young adult women. Soon after receiving that transplant, her character starts to see strange things and to also somehow have the ability to know when other people are about to die. As this movies drags through the first 45 minutes, the old Hollywood story of a women seeing things and no one believing her goes a bit too far as first her doctor and then her sister seem to be totally oblivious to what is happening in her life.

Eventually, her doctor decides to help her find out who donated the eyes that were transplanted into her body. Of course, there was the normal, 'this could end my career' discussion between Alba's doctor and herself before he decides that he must find out who donated Jessica Alba's characters eyes just to end her torment. It turns out that Jessica Alba's characters eyes were donated by a young woman that had committed suicide in Mexico. Soon after her doctor found out who the donor was, he headed to Mexico with Alba's character to find out more about the dead girl whose eye's were donated upon her death. Once in Mexico the two found out that the eye donor had a God given talent of being able to see the shadows of 'ghosts' right before a person was about to die.

'The Eye' starring Jessica Alba was OK, but not great and would be a good rent when it is released on DVD sometime in April. Most of the time I do not like to give away too much of a movie plot when I write about them here because I want people to experience the movie first hand for themselves. However, 'The Eye' is so predictable and so easy to follow even by watching the short movie trailers that I felt it was alright to discuss this movies plot in more detail. While no awards will be coming the way of 'The Eye' or it's star Jessica Alba, this movie is worth seeing on DVD because while it is predictable in the way it was written, it is none the less a decent movie to watch on a late Saturday night after a few glasses of strong wine.

Hard Task Of Getting Hillary Clinton To Quit

While the odds of victory are clearly stacked against Hillary Clinton in the democratic race for the White House in 2008, it is beginning to seem difficult for party leaders to find a way to get her to bow out gracefully from the race. It's hard to blame Hillary Clinton for wanting to stay in the democratic race considering she is still very close to Barack Obama in the latest delegate count, but the reality of her almost impossible chances of winning will eventually dawn on her and she will do the right thing, get out of the race and then full heartedly support Barack Obama.

I believe that ever since her husband, Bill Clinton, surrendered the White House to George W. bush in 2000, Hillary Clinton has had her eyes squarely on the 2008 race for the White House and if it were not for the charismatic candidacy of Barack Obama she would currently be sitting as the Democrat's choice as the nominee. In politics, just like in life, events and goals don't always turn out as planned and that is exactly what has happened to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton in the 2008 race for the White House. Out of nowhere, Barack Obama shot onto the political stage and in short order he took down Hillary Clinton at every turn.

Another event that could not have been foreseen by Hillary Clinton when she first started her campaign for President was the strong showing that Barack Obama has had in states that conduct caucuses instead of secret ballot voting. In every contest that I can remember, Barack Obama has prevailed in states that elect delegates based on a statewide caucus while Hillary Clinton has won in states that hold a more general election type of voting system. Whether future democratic races for the White House will change based on the current caucus system in some states will most likely be determined by which democratic candidate is eventually successful. Also most states will be reluctant to change their voting procedures away from a caucus system because it cost less money to hold statewide caucuses than it does to hold a secret ballot election.

It is hard to see how Hillary Clinton will be persuaded to leave the democratic race for the White House before the last votes are counted in the primaries. However, I have been surprised many times before in this wild ride called the 2008 democratic race for the White House. Bill Clinton said yesterday that his family is not known for quitting and that statement appeared to come from the former President's heart. It just seems impossible for me to comprehend that Hillary Clinton would drop out of the 2008 democratic race when she is so close in the delegate count of Senator Barack Obama. The only event that I see which would cause Hillary Clinton to drop out of this race is if the Superdelegates got together and in one voice threw their support behind Barack Obama. However, I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Current Health Care System Bankrupting Patients

In the United States we have the best health care system that money can buy. Rich millionaires and billionaires from around the world travel to the US to take advantage of the US health care system because they can afford the best and they know where to find it. Right now there is a big debate going on in the United States between keeping the current health care system the way it is or should it be changed in order to reduce the cost of medical treatment for the millions of Americans that cannot afford to pay or who are uninsured or under insured at their place of employment. There are good arguments that are made on both sides of this debate, but in the end neither the current system of health care in the US will remain in tact forever, nor should a totally run government health care system take it's place.

Pure conservatives want to keep the US heath care system just the way it is right now, while pure liberals want to let the government take over the system. Neither of those ideas is the right one, but both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have good ideas about this subject that need to be discussed in a rational and honest way. What both Clinton and Obama are proposing is a mandatory health insurance system where the poorest of Americans are able to purchase health insurance with the help of the federal government and for those that can afford health insurance, but refuse to buy it - they will either be forced to purchase their own health insurance or the government will do it for them and stick them with the bill. The very idea of the federal government forcing US citizens into anything is something that goes against my beliefs, but if something reasonable like the Hillary Clinton and/or Barack Obama health care changes are not enacted, then socialized medicine will soon be a reality in the United States of America.

In addition to the need for all Americans to be covered with some type of health insurance, laws must be passed to slow down the ever increasing cost of health care in the United States. Right now, a family friend is in the hospital fighting for his life after his kidney's failed a few days ago. More than likely this friend will not win his current fight against renal failure because of his advanced age and poor health. However, whether he lives or dies will not matter because soon after his release from the hospital his family will start receiving bills from doctors and the hospital that will more resemble the US national debt than anything they could ever hope to pay for. His family has insurance so most of his care will be paid by that insurance coverage. However, there will most likely be thousands of dollars worth of medical treatment that his insurance company will refuse to pay in the end.

For anyone that is uninsured or under insured, even a short stay in the hospital could bankrupt a family once the medical bills start to arrive. I have grown tired of conservatives like Rush Limbaugh touting the fact that no American is ever turned away from treatment at US hospitals because of their inability to pay. While that fact is true, being turned away and having your family forced into bankruptcy because of sky high medical expenses are two different things entirely. The very idea that anyone should be forced into bankruptcy just because they desire medical treatment for survival is flat wrong and completely un American. While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's ideas to improve the US health care system are far from perfect, they are a good first step in helping Americans keep their good financial name even if an illness forces them to seek outrageously high medical treatment.

Chinese Olympic Games, Big Success Or Failure?

In a few months, the 2008 summer Olympic games will take place in China. In recent weeks angry citizens of Tibet have used the upcoming Olympic Games to protest the treatment of their citizens by mainland China. While I will try and keep the politics out of this post as much as possible, it is impossible to discuss China without some mention of their dysfunctional system of government where on one hand they give their citizens the right to earn money and better their lives while at the same time clamping down hard on anyone that disagrees with their communist form of government. It is hard to know how the 2008 Summer Olympic Games will come across to most US viewers, but my guess is that this years games could be a very low rated television event in the United States.

Back in the 1970's when I was growing up, watching the summer and winter Olympic games was just something that everyone in my small Texas panhandle town did. Maybe it was because there was a lack of good entertainment available or the fact that we only received three television channels (ABC,CBS,NBC) back during that time period. Years ago I left that small Texas town and moved to a bigger city with many more television channels to watch as well as live entertainment available seven days per week if I wanted to take advantage of it. Also over the years most Americans have become wired into the digital age and they are now spending more and more time on the Internet. These are some of the reasons why I believe television ratings for the Olympic games have suffered in recent years.

Another reason that Americans are tuning out rather than tuning in to the Olympic games is because of the events that are presented. While there are some sports like basketball that most Americans can relate to, many of the other sports at the Olympic games are not closely follow by most Americans or for that matter most other citizens of the world. In the United States, both NFL Football and Major League Baseball are much more popular than any sport that will take place at the 2008 Olympic Games in China. Another problem with this years summer games from China will be the big difference in time between the time the events take place and when they are seen by US viewers. While there will be a blackout on live television pictures from those events, winners and losers will be known hours before the actual competition will be seen on American television.

In my view it is time for the Olympic games to be changed to better reflect the worldwide interest in games that people of the world are already willing to spend money to go see. There is no doubt than many of the swimming competitions at this years Olympic games will show the stamina of the various contestants, but do most Americans look at swimming as a sport and do they rather look at it as something we all enjoy doing on a long hot summer afternoon? I doubt if I will watch much of the Olympic games from China this year and if the past two or three summer Olympic games are any example of what is to come from China in 2008, few Americans will be tuning their television sets to the Olympic games this summer when they return home from a long hard day at the office.

Paul Potts Does It Again For Me

I remember coming home from work late one night last summer feeling tired and a bit depressed after standing on my feet all day. As was my custom at the time, I went to MSNBC.com and watched the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams on my computer to get caught up on the latest news of the day. That summer night, Brian Williams had a story on his broadcast about a shy mobile phone salesman from the U.K. that had just won a competition called 'Britain's Got Talent'. That night I went to YouTube and for the first time I heard Paul Potts sing. Mind you, I have never been a big fan of Opera, in fact I was no fan of that kind of music at all until I heard Paul Potts wonderful voice via my desktop computer. For the next two weeks I must have downloaded and listened to Paul Potts sing via YouTube hundreds of times and while it might sound strange to some of you, I never got tired of listened to Paul Potts sing what turned out to be all time classic Opera songs.

This past week was tough on both my wife and I as stress at work and a family illness dominated most of our time. Last night while reading the latest bad news from the War in Iraq something inside of me said that I should go to YouTube once again and listen to Paul Potts sing. Like magic, my mood went from somber and blue to my having feeling of hope after listening to Paul Potts wonderful voice once again. For the life of me I do not understand how a person that I have never met can help elevate my mood so quickly? However, there is something in the power of Paul Potts voice and most likely in the story of his success that has the ability to raise my mood level and get on with the business of the day. There were several new video's available on YouTube including Paul's outstanding performance before the Queen. I am amazed at how fast and how high Paul Potts career has risen in less than a year.

I was so thankful when my wife bought me a copy of Paul Potts CD 'One Chance' for my birthday last December. While I have listened to all the songs on 'One Chance' many times since then, I still like to watch Paul when he is singing those wonderful songs on YouTube. Since Paul Potts won the 'Britain's Got Talent' competition last summer, his CD has sold more than two million copies and it has also risen to number one on the album charts in 15 different nations. Most people, self included, love the idea of a real life rags to riches story and Paul Potts plays that role perfectly. Surely at some point in time a movie producer will write and produce the story of Paul Potts life because there are bound to be millions of people, just like me, that would love to learn more about this shy man with an amazing talent.

So, if you ever have a bad week like my family just had - maybe going to your computer and watching Paul Potts preform might help your mood as well? I have always heard that certain foods are considered 'mood foods' that can help settle a disturbed soul. Maybe, Paul Potts has the ability to elevate the mood of millions of people by just opening his mouth to sing? Whatever the real reason that Paul Potts elevates my mood does not matter because his voice is effective at raising my spirits, even on my most low spirited days.

Positive Effects Of High Gas/Oil Prices

Very few things in life are either all bad or all good. Most of the time there is a trade off where when something bad happens to one person, at the same time something good happens to another. That is the case right now with high crude oil prices and gasoline selling for almost $4 per gallon. If I went out into the street and asked Americans what they thought was the upside to high gas and oil prices, most people would probably tell me, there is no upside. However, they would be wrong because at this very minute - all around the world - people are searching for alternative forms of energy that would never be viable options to America's energy needs with crude oil selling for $10 per barrel. In a strange sort of way, the American free economic system is working it's magic once again as high crude oil prices are forcing the smartest people among us to find alternatives to fossil fuels.

For a long time, the powers that be in the Middle East have feared allowing the price of crude oil to rise too quickly and to maintain that high price for several years. While it might make sense from a short term business perspective to make as much money as you can today, in the long run Middle East oil executives know that continued high prices for crude oil will spur innovation into other energy sources that they do not control. So the upside to today's high energy prices is the great likelihood that new, cleaner and home grown energy alternatives will become a reality sooner rather than later in the United States. From a purely business standpoint, most Americans are very short sighted. Most people live from paycheck to paycheck no matter how large or small that check might be. However, there are long range visionaries among us that are able to see past tomorrow and some of those people are working on the newest ideas for alternative energy production.

Don't get me wrong, I hate high oil and gas prices as much as the next person. However, I do not see a possibility for the world to break free from crude oil addiction without first suffering the withdrawal pains of high gas prices. As long as crude oil was selling for $10 per barrel and gas prices lingered below $1 per gallon, there was little to no incentive for companies to search for and develop alternative types of energy. If we just stop and think about it for a minute, there a boundless supplies of energy all around us that could be tapped to meet our long term needs. No where can that boundless source of energy be seen more than in the sky during daylight hours. The Sun is nothing but energy and without our Sun life on Earth could not even exist. Put simply, there is more energy produced from the Sun in one minute than all the other sources of energy on Earth have provided over our lifetime.

The very building blocks that create the Universe contain the secrets to our long range energy needs. However, until recently mankind was not smart enough to unlock many of those potential sources of energy, but more knowledge is being gathered each and ever day and at some point in the future the burning of fossil fuels will be taught in history classes in the same way people today look back at life a hundred years ago when fire was our number one source of energy and the horse was our main method of transportation. While the high price of crude oil and gasoline are hurting the bottom line of many businesses and individuals today, it is a price that will pay huge dividends down the road when new forms of energy are discovered that would not have been discovered without these current high energy prices. The world will continue to move on and future generations will benefit from the pain that current residents of planet Earth are suffering through today.

Bush Wants To Increase Power Of Regulators

President Bush has completed plans to overhaul the US government system of regulating private and public businesses. In my opinion, this increased regulation is long over due and this should be just the first step to better control private business when it comes to consumer protection. We have all heard about the sub-prime leading crisis, but most people do not realize that most of these bad mortgage loans could have been prevented if the companies involved in making the loans used a little common sense. While most of these private companies that are now facing huge losses or worse should have known better than to make home loans to people that did not have the ability to pay back the loan, government regulators should have done more to stop the practice of by some mortgage brokers of reaping huge short term commissions while ignoring the long term risk if the sub-prime leading market.

Now the entire US economy is suffering because of the greed of a few people in the mortgage loan business. Many of these same business people are now hoping that the US government will bail them out of their troubles with the tax dollars of average Americans who were taken advantage of in the first place. For the federal government to take such a step would be a big mistake because if they bail out these large mortgage companies with the tax dollars of everyone, in effect the government will be rewarding these businesses for doing the wrong thing. Even to the untrained eye, it became clear a couple of years ago that the US mortgage market was going to implode, soon. I remember hearing ads on the radio blasting out the news that xyz mortgage company did not care about past credit problems and they were happy to make home loans to just about anyone that applied.

The minute some mortgage companies starting offering home loans to anyone despite their credit score or ranking, the federal government should have smelled a rat and stepped in to control the situation before it drug the entire US economy down with it. However, that did not happen and the Bush administration is to blame for letting the US mortgage crisis grow to such a bad level. In my view, President Bush has focused on little else but the War in Iraq the past few years while letting events right here in the US slip out of control. Now that the US economy is almost in recession, President Bush is riding to the recuse of our battered economy, once again a day late and a dollar short. Don't get me wrong, the changes in regulatory law that President Bush has proposed are a good idea, but these changes should have been made years ago before the sub-prime leading market imploded.

Time and time again the US capitalistic system of free markets have been tested and at the end of the day our economic systems will once again be saved from itself. While free markets are the best way to grow an economy, without strong government controls to stop the misdeeds of some people toward consumers, the whole system eventually falls apart and millions of average Americans are financially damaged for years. It would be a mistake for the federal government to reward the bad behavior of some companies that allowed greed to override their own common sense. Without having a system of punishment in place for wrong doing, the US capitalistic system of commerce will completely fall apart over the long run. Bad companies must be allowed to fail so stronger companies can take their place.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Simpson/Romo Marriage Rumors Abound

Not long ago, Jessica Simpson's mother joked to a member of the paparazzi that her daughter and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had been married in a secret ceremony. Of course, most non tabloid types chalked up Jessica Simpson's mother's comments to just joking around, but some people are now questioning whether or not this marriage rumor is a joke or could it be real? I don't believe that Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson got married because that kind of action does not fit either one of their personalities. At the end of last years NFL season, Jessica Simpson become the butt of many jokes because she was perceived as negatively effecting the on field play of Dallas Cowboys' starting quarterback Tony Romo.

Considering the pressure that was put on their relationship after Tony Romo played one of the worst games of his career after word slipped out that he was dating Jessica Simpson, the fact that Romo and Simpson are still seriously dating might mean that this relationship is the real deal. Tony Romo has been known to date some of the hottest women in Hollywood. From short flings with Paris Hilton to a longer more friendship type of relationship with Carrie Underwood, Tony Romo is considered one to the top male catches in the US right now. If Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson do decide to get married, there will instantly be stories written about his future ability to lead the Dallas Cowboys' as their starting quarterback.

Those kind of stories while fun to read will mainly be written by people that share a great deal of NFL superstition. NFL football fans are always worrying about the latest issues that might effect their favorite team through it's starting players. Last year, the Dallas Cowboys' were riding high and winning most of their games until Jessica Simpson came into Tony Romo's life. For any rational person the idea that Jessica Simpson would have enough power over Tony Romo to effect his football play on the field is just down right silly. That said, some people really did believe that Jessica Simpson was the reason that the Dallas Cowboy's tanked at the end of last season.

While I know more about Tony Romo than Jessica Simpson simply because I am a Dallas Cowboys football fan, I do know of her and I did watch her old reality TV show with her ex-husband on MTV a few times. Jessica Simpson seems like a good girl that has made a bunch of money by acting like a stupid young blonde. While other blonde women probably don't like the image she portrays toward other blonde women, for Jessica Simpson she has laughed all the way to the bank by portraying the perfect dumb blonde act. Put simply, while Jessica Simpson does not seem like the type of date a person would want to go out with to talk about the latest issues of the day, she certainly is easy on the eyes and it is understandable why Tony Romo seems to like her a great deal. Whether Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson are really married right now is beside the point, because I think that their marriage will happen before long, if it has not already happened in private.

North Nevada Gold Mine Boom

American history is littered with stories of boom and then bust in the Gold mining industry. Now as Gold prices continue to increase to record levels, average Americans are feeling that need to search for or work in the Gold mine industry once again. Not long ago I wrote about how the old practice of 'panning for Gold' in Alaska was once again drawing hundreds of modern day prospectors to that state to find their fortune in Gold. Along with Alaska, northern Nevada is seeing resurgence in it's own Gold mining operations as hard to find jobs in rural Nevada are being replaced with 100K plus jobs in the Gold mining business.

Of course, we all know how this story is going to end because we have seen it in countless western movies over the years. First there is a Gold boom and then shortly thereafter the bust sets back in and traps thousands of people that uprooted their families in search of Gold and a more stable financial future. Even Mr. Conservative me has felt the urge, from time to time, in my life to pick up the family and go in search of Gold. Of course, I never followed through on those urges - but countless other people do.

In the end, the Gold business is a hard and sometimes backbreaking job where paydays could take months to be seen. Like with so many other businesses, the idea of striking it rich by discovering a huge Gold vein is usually accomplished by businesses with deep pockets and dozens of pieces of heavy equipment. That said, there is something very exciting about going out in search of Gold because American history is filled with characters that found their dreams of fame and fortune after discovering that illusive large vein of pure Gold bullion.

I have visited northern Nevada on several occasions and with the exception of gambling in cities like Elko, there seems to be very few employment opportunities with the exception of the Gold mining industry. On my last visit to Elko, Nevada - I rented a car and drove up into the mountains that surround this northern Nevada town. The breath taking view from the top of those mountain peaks is amazing and more than likely those are the very mountains where new supplies of Gold will be found in upcoming years. While no one knows exactly how long the Gold Rush of 2008 will last, we can all be sure that there will not be a shortage of Americans both old and young that will seek out and hopefully find their fortune in Gold.

Will There Ever Be Real Peace In Iraq?

For years, the US military has played a 'cat and mouse game' with terrorist and insurgents in Iraq with little to no progress to show for the blood and money spent in that conflict. Before September 11th, 2001, President Bush made his feelings known that he did not want to get involved in the Israeli and Palestinian peace talk negations because he did not think real peace was possible between these two enemies at this period of time. Then came the attack on America on September 11th, 2001 that lead the US to invade Afghanistan and then later Iraq. In both Afghanistan and Iraq there are lingering issues that have prevented these two countries from proceeding into the future in a peaceful way. While these issues are not exactly the same as those faced by Israel and Palestine, there are similarity between the two which might mean that a real, long and lasting, peace in Iraq may be just as hard as finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli and Palestinian problems.

As the battles in Iraq have continue to move from Baghdad to the northern part of the country and now to the south, it is becoming clear to me that as long as Iraq does not have a strong central government, there will be no long and lasting peace in that country. For decades the only thing that kept Iraq from falling into civil war was the strong and ruthless leadership of Saddam Husein. Different religious secs in Iraq have hated each other for generations. This hate is similar to the hatred that exist between Israel and Palestine. A weak and barely glued together central government in Iraq is not going to be able to keep the peace long enough for there to be a real and lasting peace. Unlike the dispute between Israel and Palestine, President Bush seems to believe that he can push a square peg down a round hole in Iraq while at the same time believing that such a move is not possible in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine.

The biggest issue facing President Bush right now is how his administration will be remembered by historians long after he has left the White House. Most people assume that history will look unfavorably upon President Bush because the War in Iraq is not popular at present with most Americans. However, history has a funny way of putting events and wars into perspective long after the last gun shots have been fired. That said, I believe it will be difficult for historians to review President Bush's handling of the Iraq War in a positive way, if the country slides into a never ending battle among extreme religious secs over the next few decades. The truth of whether lifelong enemies in Iraq will be able to forgive and forget is something no one really knows right now, but if the history of the Israeli and Palestinian situation is any example - different secs in Iraq will still be killing each other hundreds of years from now long after American soldiers have left that country.

Honestly, I believe President Bush stepped in it, 'big time', when he pushed the United States into war against Iraq. Yes, he was able to unseat Saddam Hussein from power and eventually see him executed by a new Iraq government, but in the end what else has President Bush really accomplished by sending American troops to fight in Iraq? Is the world a safer place because US armed forced invaded Iraq? Some people say yes and some people say no while the real answer is no one really knows right now. I do know that US taxpayers have spent billions of dollars in order to see a two bit dictator removed and then executed while at the same time over four thousand families have laid their young sons and daughters to rest after they were killed in Iraqi War fighting. At present, only President Bush and the most conservative hawks in the Republican Party believe that it was a good idea to invade Iraq, while most Americans believe that the price in blood and money has been much too high.

Using Food As Fuel A Mixed Blessing

Like most people, when the idea of using corn to produce fuel first came along I thought it was a neat idea because not only could the US reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but at the same time we would clean up the air around us. Now that corn is being used in the US and Mexico as the primary crop to produce ethanol, the price of corn based products has shot ever higher to where now many poor families in Mexico are looking for other cheap foods to feed their families. In Mexico, the corn tortilla is the primary food staple for most families because for generations it has been cheap to purchase while at the same time having good nutritional values.

Anytime something major changes there are always unintended consequences that were not foreseen at the outset. When it comes to ethanol produced from corn, the unintended consequence involved hurting poor families by pushing corn prices ever higher. Rather than being a win/win situation when it was first proposed, the unintended consequences of using corn to produce ethanol is turn out to be a disaster for millions of poor families around the world. While most people do not want to suffer the downside of drilling for more oil in the United States, in reality that is the best option for Americans that want to free themselves from the control of importing expensive crude oil from the Middle East.

Unlike the US and Mexico, in Brazil the government there has been using sugar as the primary ingredient for their nations ethanol program. While sugar is a product that most people use everyday, it is not a basic food staple that is needed by poor families in order to raise their families in a healthy way. Of course, sugar does not grow in as large of a quantity in the US as it does in Brazil, but there are other sugar products that can be grown in the United States, like sugar beets, that can be refined into pure sugar and then converted into ethanol. I grew up in the Texas panhandle not from from the small town of Hereford, Texas which had a sugar beet refining plant.

While there might be additional ethanol fuel options that could help America's ever growing energy shortage, in reality there will be unintended consequences in using any food based product to create the energy we need. To me, it makes more sense to spend our nations resources to find new sources of petroleum energy and burn it in a more clean manner than it does to take much needed cheap food out of the mouths of poor people in countries like Mexico. The polarization among energy hawks and totally green extremist are at an all time high in the US and the dialoge has gone from bad to worse among these groups over the past ten years. America's energy needs will not be solved by extremest from either side of this argument and the sooner an acceptable moderate position is found, the sooner this nation can get back to finding and burning fossil fuels in the cleanest way possible.

New 'Grand Ole Opry' Member Carrie Underwood

Regular readers know that when it comes to country music, my favorite artist is Carrie Underwood. Recently, Carrie was surprised on stage at the 'Grand Ole Opry' by country music legend Randy Travis and asked if she would like to become the next member of the Grand Ole Opry'? Of course, she accepted this great honor with the same dignity and grace as every other award and accolade that has come her way since winning the American Idol competition a few years ago. Young fans of Carrie Underwood may not understand the importance in country music of being asked to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, but older folks like me know that the tears that Carrie Underwood shed when being asked to become a member by Randy Travis were not only real, but honestly heart felt by Carrie Underwood.

On May 10th, 2008 - Carrie Underwood will become the next member of the Grand Ole Opry and join other legends in that most historic country music location. I remember years ago watching the story of Loretta Lynn in the form of a movie called 'A Coal Miners Daughter'. During Loretta Lynn's young life, nothing was a bigger honor for a country music singer than to be asked to sing at the Grand Ole Opry and nothing would tell a singer that he or she had really made it in the country music world than to be asked by the management of the Grand Ole Opry to become a member of that organization. Now Carrie Underwood has been asked to join Loretta Lynn and hundreds of other legendary country music entertainers as a members of the Grand Ole Opry.

Of course, I think that the Grand Ole Opry is getting themselves one heck of a good new member in the person of Carrie Underwood. I have not made a secret of expressing my thoughts that Carrie Underwood was not only at the right place at the right time when she won the American Idol competition, but the American people are benefiting from not only her brand of music - but even more so from the positive role model effect she has on young women. It seems like everyday the American mainstream press is turning from serious news to tabloid driven gossip about young women falling victim to a life of all night partying and drug abuse. While some people might think that seeing other young women mentally fall apart might discourage young people from following in their footsteps, in reality the opposite is true.

I am so happy that Carrie Underwood will become the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry and I look forward to May 10th when she officially becomes that organizations newest member. In recent months, life has been very hard on some Americans as they have found themselves facing financial hardships for the first time. While most people choose to check out of reality by watching the latest exploits of Paris Hilton, Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan - I believe a much better way to check out of reality for awhile is listening to Carrie Underwood sing and to watch her music videos on YouTube. When times are bad and negative thoughts fill my mind, nothing relieves those feelings of the blues or depression faster than a few minutes of music from soon to be 'Grand Ole Opry' member - Carrie Underwood.

Democratic Leaders Say 'Goodbye Hillary Clinton'

There is an ever increasing drumbeat among democratic leaders. The punchline of all their words always ends by them saying that it is time for Hillary Clinton to exit the democratic nomination race and conceded the race to Senator Barack Obama. While DNC Chairman Howard Dean has not gone that far, yet - he has told democratic 'Superdelegates' that they need to pledge their support for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama no later than July 1st, 2008. DNC Chairman Howard Dean and other party leaders are concerned that the never ending campaign between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will hurt the party's chances of winning against Senator John McCain in the fall.

On that point I totally agree with Howard Dean and recent polling data seems to confirm that thinking as well. In two recent polls, Senator John McCain has pulled into a comfortable lead against both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama which was not the case a few months ago. Actually, if Hillary Clinton does not pull out of the nomination race soon, it might be impossible for Barack Obama to catch back up with McCain before the general election in November. When there is an unpopular war, started by a Republican President, and an ever slowing economy being blasted in the news headlines daily while at the same time another Republican presidential hopeful is leading in the polls there is most definitely a serious problem within the democratic party.

The narcissism of Bill and Hillary Clinton has been well known among Republicans for a long time now, but only recently have die-hard Democrats started to see how Bill and Hillary Clinton always put their own personal goals and desires above those of the political party they are apart of. As the delegate math has continued to work against a possible victory for Hilary Clinton in the democratic party, she continues to fight on like she really has a chance to still win the democratic party nomination. Most experts at counting delegate and Superdelegate possibilities have been saying for weeks now that it is next to impossible for Hillary Clinton to win enough delegate votes to become the democratic nominee for President in 2008.

Within a six month period of time, Senator Hillary Clinton has gone from the presumptive nominee in the democratic party to being seen as not having a chance to win her party's nomination at their convention this summer. Now, Senator Clinton is beginning to look like a 'spoiler' in her own party because she will not exit the race and throw her support behind Senator Barack Obama. While I think Hillary Clinton is making a poor choice by staying in the democratic race when her chances of victory are nil, it is her decision to make and from all outward appearances she shows no signs of conceding the race to Barack Obama any time soon.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cash Is King In Tightening Credit Markets

It has been a long time since most Americans have seen the US credit market so tight. Traditionally, during tight credit markets - businesses and individuals that have large supplies of cash do much better than their competition that has large amounts of debt. The credit crisis of 2008 will be no different as large companies that have stashed away a bunch of cash will be in a strong position to take over other companies that face closure because of slower retail sales and mounting credit obligations. While the recession of 2008 will be painful for most, not everyone will suffer as gas prices rise and real estate values and stock prices continue their decline.

I remember when I was a young boy growing up in the Texas panhandle when the decision was made by the military to close the Amarillo Air Force Base. At the time, thousands of Air Force personnel and their families were forced to sell their homes and relocate to different locations around the world. For the City of Amarillo, the decision to close that cities Air Force Base was a big blow to the local economy. As the day grew closer to the closure of that Amarillo base, local businessmen, that had a large amount of cash, were able to buy hundreds of homes for pennies on the dollar from US Air Force personnel that had to sell their property for prices that the local market would bear.

It took many years for the Amarillo, Texas economy to turn positive once again, but it did turn around. When it did, those few businessmen that had cash available and a long term vision of investments were able to turn their original real estate investments into millions of dollars worth of profit. Once again in 2008, similar businessmen and companies will take advantage of the ever slowing US economy by taking their large cash positions and buying other businesses and property at pennies on the dollar. At some point in time, the US economy will turn around once again and these few people that had the cash available to take personal advantage of this upcoming recession, will reap large rewards because of their savings discipline.

During a robust economy, most investors believe that having cash on hand is the wrong thing to do and maybe they are right. However, while most American investors follow the trends of the day and earn a small return on their investment dollars. A few investors take a different road to financial success and swim upstream instead of going with the flow. To those few investors that look at 'cash as king', the next few years will be the point in time that they stake out long term investment positions, ride out the storm and at the end of this recession cycle they will sell those investments and become very wealthy. We have all heard the term buy low and sell high. Only a few people actually have the guts to do such a thing because their choices leave them standing alone most of the time. However, there are a few people that always seem to financially succeed and the first level of that success is already starting to take place right now as people with strong cash positions are making the purchases today that will eventually lead to their investment exit during the next big US boom cycle.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

FRB Power Play, As Economy Slows Down

When the big news was breaking last week about the Federal Reserve lead JP Morgan Chase take over of Bear Stearns, a little known fact was making news with Wall Street insiders and stockholder activist groups. That issue revolved around the US government, in the form of the US Federal Reserve (FRB) working with a private company JP Morgan Chase to take over another private company, Bear Stearns, in a hostile take over. Since most Americans do not understand the laws on the books that public companies entering into merger agreements must follow, here is a brief explanation of how the FRB sidestepped laws in order to save Bear Stearns from itself and to prevent a further decline in the US economy.

Public companies in the United States are owned by the people that buy stock in that business. When JP Morgan Chase changed their purchase price from $2 per share to $10 per share, that decision was not placed before the shareholders for a vote before it was rushed into place by the Bear Stearns board of directors. Under normal circumstances the board of directors at Bear Stearns could face legal consequences for making a decision to change the selling price of their company without putting that change up for a vote to the companies shareholders. While this Federal Reserve move was taken under unusual circumstances in an effort to spare the US economy from further damage, it does none the less provide a precedent for future government action against public companies that might not be in danger of implosion.

While scores of lawsuits have already been filed as a result of the JP Morgan Chase take over of Bear Stearns, I doubt if these lawsuits will make that big of a difference in the overall structure of this Federal Reserve lead hostile take over of that company. What concerns me the most is the way in which the federal government sidestepped the laws of the land in order to quickly take over Bear Stearns, by JP Morgan/Chase proxy, in the first place. The United States is a government of laws which must be followed by government and private citizens alike. This hostile take over of Bear Stearns by the FRB and JP Morgan Chase should send chills down the spine of regular Americans who have their savings and retirement dollars invested in stocks.

While the takeover of Bear Stearns can be explained and probably justified by the federal government, there will come a time when this new found power of the Federal Reserve Bank (FRB) will be used in a not so justified way. When that happens, American investors will look back on the JP Morgan Chase deal to take over Bear Stearns and see the mistakes that were made in that transaction and ask themselves why no one objected to that much government intervention when it happened. The truth is that Americans in the public, private and government sectors of the US economy are so afraid of an economic collapse, that they are forgetting how the capitalist US system is set up and also forgetting that when the economy does unravel it will be worse because of their short sighted actions, instead of better.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ford Sells Jaguar/Land Rover To India's Tata

With a need to raise ever more cash, Ford Motor Company (F) announced the sale today of it's stake in Jaguar and Land Rover to the new and growing automobile company, Tata Motors of India. With a selling price of 2.3 billion dollars, Tata Motors has taken it's company, which to date has been known for it's new $2000 car the Nano, to the luxury end of the worldwide automobile market. What is great news of Tata is not so good news for Ford Motor Company as this once giant of worldwide business continues to reform and redesign itself into a more 'lean and mean' business and hopefully restore it's brand image back to the one Henry Ford created generations ago.

I have owned Ford cars, off and on, over my lifetime. While some of these cars were little more than 'junk on wheels', in recent years the quality of Ford cars and trucks has increased to where today I spend very little time in the repair shop with my 2004 Ford Taurus. All American car companies seem to have 'one foot in the grave' right now as they try and find ways to regain consumer confidence by improving the quality of American made automobiles. That job would be easier without strong competition which is not the case as Toyota and Honda both continue to build quality automobiles. For a long time I have felt that the long term future of both Ford and GM will most likely be tied to a merger with either Toyota, Honda or a combination of the two.

American automobile companies are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to consumer confidence in their products. Back in the 1970's, when I first started driving, there were old timers that had names for both Ford and General Motors products that were not something a PR firm would think up in a conference room somewhere. With Ford I remember GM fans telling me when I was a teenager that Ford stood for: 'fix or repair daily', while at the same time Ford lovers use to say that GM stood for 'great maintenance'. While these product nicknames were in good clean fun decades ago, today I look back on those old jokes and realize that those comments were driven by a lack of consumer confidence in the quality of American made vehicles.

In the years to come, I believe India's Tata Motors might become a household name in the same way GM and Ford is known worldwide by billions of consumers. The only other big question is will Tata Motors join GM and Ford in this positive branding or will they replace Ford and GM and become the next new standard that quality automobiles are judged by? Right now the outlook for American made cars does not look good and the fact that both Ford and GM are facing uphill battles with long term pension contracts which drive up their bottom line costs, it is more likely that Tata Motors will replace both Ford and GM as household names in the future and if that happens another part American history will be lost forever.

Democratic Party Collapse Almost Complete

As the never ending race for the democratic nomination continues, everyday more and more democratic voters are turning against either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Only a couple of months ago, most democratic voters told pollsters that they would be equally happy with either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton as their party's candidate in the fall general election. However, 'Happy Days Are Not Here Again'- for democratic voters as now 22% of Hillary Clinton supporters and the same percentage number for Barack Obama supporters do not like the other democratic candidate in the race.

This never ending democratic race for the White House is causing rank and file Democrats to line up against each other at the very time they should be uniting in a common purpose to defeat John McCain in November. It does not help matters either when the democratic convention will take place so late in the year and when it finally concludes it will be September and only one month away from general election day. From my point of view, Hillary Clinton should have already exited this race and it may now be too late to repair the damage when Barack Obama finally wins the democratic nomination.

Both Bill and Hillary Clinton are stubborn political ideologues that have always put their own narcissistic needs ahead of what is in the best interest of the democratic party. Now at the end of this campaign season Bill and Hillary Clinton are going to come out of her campaign as damaged goods to some Democrats which will further tarnish the legacy of former President Clinton. Less than a month ago I thought it would be impossible for John McCain to win the general election in November. However, with each passing day his odds of success increase because of that old familiar habit of Democrats to self destruct as election day approaches.

In 2008, it is clear to see which candidate in the democratic party is to blame for this latest round of political self destruction. Mathematically, it has been next to impossible for Hillary Clinton to win the nomination this year for weeks. However, Hillary Clinton is fighting on and by continuing that fight she is dooming the chances of Barack Obama against John McCain in November. Another problem has occurred with this never ending democratic race for the nomination and that revolves around a possible Obama/Clinton ticket in November. I thought, at one time, it was likely that these two powerhouse candidates might hookup as running mates in November. However, now there is so much bad blood between them that such a hookup is less likely today than it was a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Home Prices Continue Slide As Recession Nears

For most Americans, their home is not only their biggest investment - but the equity in that home is their biggest safety net when it comes to a family financial crisis. Once again today, it was reported by the federal government that average home prices have continued to drop this year, which means that hundreds of thousands of homeowners around the nation are seeing their biggest investment and family savings account both dropping each month. While some expects are claiming that the US will fall into recession later this year, my view is that we are already in that recession and it will only grow worse as gas and diesel prices continue to climb ever higher and the cost of retail products increase as well.

Today, the government reported that consumer confidence was sharply lower which is no surprise to anyone that has picked up a newspaper or watched the news on television. Millions of Americans are not only concerned about the price of their homes decreasing while interest rates are pushing their mortgage payment ever higher, but they are also concerned about what this recession could do to their company and their own future job prospects within that company. In a few months, the federal government will be sending out rebate checks to most Americans. This 'free money' will help the US economy in the short run - but in the long run the problems that have got us into this mess in the first place must be corrected or nothing will change.

Outright greed caused the mortgage loan crisis and the federal government did nothing to stop some businesses from losing their minds and offering loans to people that had no business obtaining a mortgage in the first place from mortgage brokers that did not care if those mortgages were ever paid back to investors. Right now some of the biggest financial businesses in the United States are struggling just to keep their heads above water. Household names like Citibank, JP Morgan Chase and former giant Bear Stearns are financially bleeding badly because of their poor choices when making sub-prime mortgage loans.

Now as Wall Street CEO's are lobbying Members of Congress for a bail out program to save their companies from bankruptcy, some politicians are asking why the same kind of program is not available for homeowners that are also trapped in this loan crisis? The truth is that it is easier for politicians to ignore individual homeowners because they do not have a business with thousands of employees. If a huge business like Bear Stearns was allowed to fail, thousands of people around the country would lose their job and that would lead to even a more severe recession than what we are already experiencing. Just like in times past, the very people that caused this recession in the first place will not be held accountable for their poor business choices and they will be bailed out by the federal government while regular Americans are forced first into foreclosure and then bankruptcy court.

Best Way To Lose An Election, Tell The Truth

In most ways, the whole and absolute truth in all statements is the best way I know of for a politician to lose 'big time' on election day. Americans are fond of saying that all they really want in political leaders is for them to be honest and to tell the truth at all times. However, in reality, the whole truth is something most people only think they want to hear. In a court of law, when a person is called to testify they are sworn in and are commanded to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth or face court sanctions known as perjury.

In political life the whole truth will often times find a politician in the 'dog house' with voters back home because no two people really think exactly alike when it comes to the truth. Some people only tell the whole truth when they are caught doing something wrong and no amount of lying will get them out of trouble. An example of that way of thinking can be found in the behavior of former Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York and his hypocritical conduct of putting people in jail for soliciting prostitution during the day while he visited the same kind of seedy locations at night.

While nearly every American proclaims that they always want to hear the whole truth when it comes to politics, in reality the best way to lose an election is to tell the whole truth to voters. I remember when Walter Mondale was running against Ronald Reagan several decades ago. In one of their general election run up debates, Senator Mondale said that both he and Ronald Reagan would raise taxes on the American people, but only he - Mondale - would tell the American people the truth and admit it. Walter Mondale's honesty not only cost him that election, but he also lost in one of the biggest landslide elections in generations.

The next time you hear a politician talking out of both sides of his or her mouth, try and remember that most Americans only want to hear the truth when that truth benefits them personally. Good politicians have mastered 'double speak' where they can completely contradict themselves from one sentence to the next without the general public thinking they have lost their minds. In many ways, politicians are exactly like the people they represent. They want to be honest in all things, but at the end of the day if that honesty does not benefit them directly - they fall back on an endless supply of excuses as to why they did not do their job correctly and more importantly tell the truth in the first place.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Media Obsession With Iraq War Death Toll

The past few days, the US news media has been obsessed with the number 4000, that number representing the number of America soldiers that have been killed during the five years that US troops have been fighting the war. While every American death is a sad and tragic event, the US news media blows everything completely out of proportion when it comes to reporting anything these days and this latest obsession with the number 4000 is just the latest example. Was killed soldier 3999 any less important than number 4000? Of course not, but the mainstream news media could not operate today without the shameless need to take round numbers and made a liberal point with them.

I remember back a few years ago when the Iraqi death toll hit 1000. For days, the major US television networks blasted across television sets, nationwide in a huge font, the number 1000 and even some major newspapers thought it would be a good idea to highlight that death of these brave soldiers by printing a picture and a short bio of each of them in the paper. The pictures and and information of these dead soldiers in the newspaper was a good idea, in my opinion, because it showed the actual cost of war in human terms. The sad fact of the way some newspapers, like the New York Times, covered that 1000 soldiers dead in Iraq story was completely from an anti-war perspective which denigrated their sacrifice to this country instead of elevating them to the true patriot status that they deserved.

Now the major news media is once again obsessed with a round number of dead American soldiers in Iraq. While that number is huge by anyone's measurement and the lives that have been lost will effect their families for a lifetime, only recently have the number of US troops killed in Iraq surpassed the number of Americans that were killed within a one hour time period on September 11th, 2001. No intelligent or half way competent person likes the idea of war and the countless deaths that go along with it. However, there does come a point in time when issues are important enough and the stakes are high enough to warrant the use of military force against another country or a group of terrorist.

The question of whether the US should have gone to war in Iraq, in the first place, is the main reason why Americans are so divided when it comes to the subject of the War in Iraq. While that division of American opinions is healthy in a free society, it is critically important to have a defining line in the sand that does not get crossed between political leaders that sent soldiers to Iraq and the brave Americans that saluted and did their patriotic duty. The US news media is crossing that line in the sand when they use the death of brave Americans, using big round numbers, to make their anti-war case. Many soldiers in Iraq may also have anti-war feelings, but they keep those opinions to themselves because they have a job to do and in my opinion they are doing it well.

Wall Street Roller Coaster Ride Continues

To me, nothing is more fun when visiting an amusement park than a big roller coaster. However, investing in US stocks has also had that same feeling recently and unless you are a futures or options trader, the present volatility of the US stock market will most likely make you sick to your stomach. Today, stock prices are sharply higher, but no one knows what will happen tomorrow because with an never ending supply of bad news about the US economy, the stock market could turn around and trade sharply lower tomorrow. Most Americans are invested in the US stock market in one way for another.

From individual investors that use a traditional broker to people that use services like Etrade to people that own shares in a mutual fund, millions of Americans financial future is tied directly to the success or failure of the US stock market. That is why the current roller coaster ride in US stock prices is driving so many Americans nuts. Frankly, many people I have talked to lately are scared to death that the US stock market will crash the way it did back during the Great Depression. While I do not think that will happen, I do think this current roller coaster ride in US stock prices is likely to continue for awhile longer.

Making matters worse, for some Americans, is the stark reality that the book value of their home has either stayed the same over the past year or in some areas it has dropped. When falling homes prices are added to an already dysfunctional stock market, some Americans are in fear of what would happen if both their home equity and stock market investments ended up in the cellar at the same time? That financial fear could become a reality for some as the US nears a recession later this year. For millions of young people, they have never witnessed first hand the financial terror of a severe recession.

The only positive aspect of a recession is to teach young people that while it is fun to watch ones investments go up year after year, there is a downside to the US economy that can be very painful when a recession sets in for a long haul. Recessions have a way of balancing out young investors by showing them that the sky is not always the limit when it comes to investing in the stock market or in real estate. Older Americans have seen many recessions in their lifetime and the smart ones always come up with a plan to better weather the next recession when it comes along. Both real estate and long term stock investment is a proven way to achieve long term financial success, but in the short run they can burn people that have not been invested over the course of several decades.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Are Most Wars Fought Over Religion?

When I was just a little tot back in the 1960's, my grandfather told me that most wars were fought over or better stated in the name of religion. As I have grown older, I believe my grandfather was right as daily killings continue in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. Even the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the United States were conducted with religious overtones and the resulting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are publicly being conducted as wars against radical Islam. In the words of Rodney King, 'why can't we just all get along'? My opinions about this subject are different from most people that live either in the United States or in some far away Muslim country.

To me there is a huge difference between a persons belief in God and organized religion. Years ago, the faith that I was born into, Baptist, turned me off of that religion because of their never ending need to control the lives not only of other members of the church, but also the lives of people in other counties that did not share the same belief system. When Ronald Reagan become the first conservative and religious leaning President of the United States - at first I thought that having a US government that was based on Christian principles would be a good thing. In hind sight I was completely wrong. Most organized religions are completely based on controlling the behavior of others and in the end all of the worlds major religions have at one time or another consider killing as a justifiable means to a religious end.

Do I believe in God? Most certainly yes. Do I believe that most of the worlds major religions serve God? Most definitely no. Maybe it has always been this way and the United States is just now seeing the world from the eyes of people that do not share our same Christian belief system? From my years of watching people from all religious backgrounds justify sinful behavior in order to advance a religious cause, I have started to see organized religion is a completely different way. Whether a person be a Baptist, like me, or following another mainstream religion - all of us are in one way or another controlled into believing that our religion had all the right answers while other religions were completely off base.

Even during the early days of the United States of America - our founding fathers knew what a state sponsored religion could do to citizens that did not agree with it. While the separation of church and state is not written into our nations original documents, there is no doubt that even hundreds of years ago our founding fathers also knew the dark side of organized religion within a free government structure. As the old biblical saying goes, 'there will always be wars and rumors of wars' in the world. The sad truth is that the very words of God are sometimes used by man to force control on other people that do not see religion in the same way as the majority.

Barack Obama's Church Could Derail His Campaign

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has hit a few 'bumps in the road' recently in his bid to win his party's nomination for President. However, none of these 'bumps' has hurt him more than the revelation that his former pastor preaches words of hate in his Chicago church and the fact that Obama refuses to distance himself further from his controversial former pastor is starting to hurt Senator Obama's support among white Democrats. While it is true that white people, like myself, do not understand the true meaning of words spoken by preachers in predominately African-American churches - the words of Pastor Jeremiah Wright were not only insulting to white Americans, but they bordered on a complete lack of patriotism and respect for the United States of America.

In Barack Obama's Philadelphia speech a few days ago, I heard words from him that I had never heard from any politician before of any race. While I listened to Obama's speech completely and live on cable television, I found myself agreeing with not only his opinion about his former pastor, but also about the state of race relations in America in general. The problem is that only a handful of people, like myself, heard the entire speech of Barack Obama in Philadelphia and the major American news media missed all the important aspects of what Senator Obama was trying to say.

Unfortunately, for Barack Obama - most Americans only hear short sound bites of what the presidential candidates say, unless they visit a campaign event and listen to the whole speech. While I consider Barack Obama's Philadelphia speech as good as or better than most delivered in my lifetime, 99% of Americans did not hear the words that Barack Obama said in Philadelphia nor will they ever. The only thing most Americans know about Barack Obama's former pastor is that he was seen on video - blasting white America and belittling all of us as a group of people. That was a wrong thing for Pastor Wright to do and Senator Obama is paying a huge political price for that mistake.

In reality, the past seven days have been the worst week for Democrats in a generation. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in their blind ambition to become the next President of the United States have turn mainstream America against both of their campaigns. The only real winner during the past seven days has been Senator John McCain and for Democrats that is a real shame. Whether or not Barack Obama's preacher will be responsible for dooming his campaign is yet to be known. However, there is no doubt that right now Senator Barack Obama is damaged goods with many mainstream moderate to liberal white Americans and he needs to do more if he wants to become the first African-American President of the United States.

Price Of Diesel Averages Over $4 Per Gallon

While most Americans have watched the average price of gas rise to over $3.50 per gallon, the price of diesel has gone up even higher to where now the average price of diesel fuel is well over $4 per gallon. I am old enough to remember when diesel fuel sold for only a few cents per gallon back in the early 1970's. At that time, I was a young kid growing up on a farm where our annual cotton crop would have been impossible to grow and harvest without the aide of tractors fueled by diesel. How today's farmers are able to turn a profit when their tractors are running on $4 per gallon diesel fuel is hard to comprehend.

In addition to diesel fuel, some of our old farm tractors ran on a product called butane which sold for around 3 cents per gallon back in the 1970's. Butane along with propane were considered a junk waste by product back then and for years it was just burned off into the atmosphere until the oil companies found a way to make extra money off of them. Now, butane, propane and diesel fuel are more expensive than regular unleaded gas and why this change has taken place is something I do not understand. My guess is that federal regulations are somehow responsible for turning these fuels into giant money makers for major oil companies.

In addition to farm tractors and some automobiles, diesel fuel is used mainly in big rig trucks or what some people call 18 wheelers. The very lifeline of most retail business in the United States would be helpless without these big rig trucks on the road delivering food and retail products to stores and supermarkets. Now, every week when my wife goes to the supermarket, she comes home all upset because the prices are going up every week while our family net income is staying the same. I'm sure almost everyone in the United States has felt the same stress and pressure that my own wife has faced as she tries to make her grocery dollars go as far as possible.

In my opinion, the rising price of diesel is the main reason that the US in facing a recession in 2008. Yes, gas has gone up too - but not as much as diesel has gone up and with all big rig trucks running on diesel fuel, there is no choice but for those drivers and the companies that employ them to pass along the higher cost of diesel fuel to the retail customer. In reality, if the federal government does not get it's financial house in order, fuel prices will continue to go up while at the same time retail spending will be going down dramatically. While some believe the price of gas will rise to $5 per gallon by summer, there is little doubt in anyones mind that the price of diesel will exceed $5 per gallon months earlier than it's petroleum counterpart gasoline.

Some Men/Women Never Grow Up

Have you ever heard the saying that some people never grow up? I have and I believe that saying, too. While some people think that some folks just stay young and naive because of the pressures of a grown up world, I believe there is something genetic about this issue – but I cannot prove it. Personally, I think I have matured alright, but down deep inside I love the think like and sometimes act like a young man instead of a mature almost 50 year old.

There is another issue that I would like to express here and that revolves around the fact that most people never change. In a strange way, our brains are wired to keep doing the same behavior over and over again while at the same time expecting a different result. Everyone has known a person that has these attributes and they have watched in amazement as people continue to make mistakes over and over again because they refuse to change their behavior.

The ability to learn from ones mistakes and make lifestyle changes to stop bad behavior may not be as easy for some people as it is for others. That is the area of human behavior that I believe revolves around genetic development. For me, change is one of the hardest things to ever master in life, but I do understand that if I have certain personality traits that are self destructive, I must change in order to survive and to be happy. I do not believe that all people view this issue in the same way and that is why they continue to make bad choices that always bring them back to a messed up life and a feeling of being out-of-control.

As children, we are all a blank slate when it come to experiences in life. Even in our first few years of life, we must challenge authority in order to learn valuable lessons to be used later on. All children were told by their parents not to touch a hot stove, but most children touched it anyway because of this internal need to rebel against authority. At some point in life, most people understand that the people in authority are just trying to help us to not get hurt and slowly they begin to mold into the mainstream of life.

However, there are always the few among us that never accept authority as trying to help and the rebellion inside of these people continues for the rest of their life. This genetic trait is the same one that causes adults to keep doing the same bad behavior over and over again and expecting a different result. There are smart people that are doing research into this area of the brain and I look forward to reading about their research at some future date. Until then, I will just accept that some people will never change for the better and I will also try and stay as far away from them as possible because I prefer a happy consistent life, rather than one filled with never ending disappointment due to an inability of the brain to adjust in order to correct bad behavior.

Passport Story Leaves Me Confused About Outrage

A few days ago, it was discovered that Senator Barack Obama's passport file had been accessed on three different occasions at the US State Department. Shortly thereafter, it was also reveled by the State Department that both Hillary Clinton and John McCain's passport records were improperly reviewed as well. While breaches of this kind are wrong and should not be conducted at a US agency like the State Department, I am a little bit confused about the level of outrage express by all three major candidates running for President of the United States in 2008.

First, when I high profile figure like John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama travels outside the United States – it is well known not only where they have gone, but the reason for their trip is usually well documented among the mainstream media which reports those trips to the public. Most likely, the level of outrage express by all three candidates is to hopefully head off future investigations by members of their opponents dirty tricks department hoping to dig up dirt as this years campaign moves forward.

It has long been known to people that are responsible for keeping American secrets that the US State Department often times is responsible for reveling our secrets to both friend and foe alike. The US State Department is filled with career diplomats that sometimes use their own judgment on what should be released to the public instead of following the law. In this case it does appear that some civilian contractors and one State Department employee did access sensitive information in an unlawful manner. The civilian contractors have been fired by their company and the State Department employee has been reprimanded for wrongly pulling up Hillary Clinton's passport file while conducting a State Department training class.

Most conservative Americans, like myself, worry more about intrusions from an ever growing government complex much more than anything else. It is in the very nature of most Americans to not trust their government and the bureaucrats that do the tedious work directed toward them by the Congress and President of the United States. There are few things that most Americans fear more than a lifelong bureaucrat taking a look into their background information and using that data to cause problems for the person involved. There are strict rules in place to allow as few people as possible, in government, from having access to the private records of Americans.

Once again the State Department has messed up and let low level employees and non employees see information on American citizens that was not allowed by law. Hopefully, this latest passport mess will be fixed by getting the State Department to update their procedures as to why and how people are given access to this most sensitive of information.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wall Street Welfare As Recession Nears

There is increasing talk from brokers and companies on Wall Street about the possibility of the federal government bailing out large companies in order to keep them from going out of business and laying off thousands of employees. In effect, Bear Stearns was the first Wall Street company, in a long time, to be bailed out by the federal reserve and JP Morgan Chase. While JP Morgan Chase has been reportedly able to buy Bears Stearns at a fire sale price, in fact what JP Morgan Chase got when they took over Bear Stearns, might be a boat load of problems coming back to bite them some time down the road.

The free market system only works if there is a legitimate fear that if businesses do their jobs wrong, then they get eliminated and go out of business. Without that fear of failure element, businesses will not have the fear necessary to do the right thing and even more bad business decisions will be made down the road. Unfortunately, there are Washington politicians that run this country from a purely short sighted point of view. Anything that might happen after the next election is not important to them, so more than likely Members of Congress and President Bush will most likely take our tax dollars and bail out for profit companies as the economy continues to slide.

Another bad aspect of bailing out huge companies is that these decisions will not be based on fairness, but instead on how many jobs will be lost if a particular company goes belly up. While thousands of smaller companies will be allowed to fail, some of the nations biggest companies will be bailed out when in fact those big businesses were the cause of the problems that put the little guys out of business. I call these types of bail outs, rewarding bad business, and when that is done it encourages more big companies not to act in a responsible way either.

Most of the time it is wrong for politics to mix with business. However, in today's economy with globalization the biggest buzz word of the day, politicians and corporate CEO's are working close together which will lead to more problems down the road. For many years, large public companies have rewarded their CEO's with multi million dollar severance packages even after they lost their stockholders millions of dollars. While good and honest people end up losing their jobs when their companies make bad choices, the entire capitalistic system of the United States will fall apart if bad companies are not allowed to fail.
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