Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Simon Cowell Says OK To Another American Idol Season

The richest guy in America that no woman would want to take home to meet dear old dad, Simon Cowell, signed a new deal with Fox Television today which will put him front and center on the television show "American Idol" for the next five years. Let's be honest here, that show would not survive without him. No one goes to work the next day and talks about what Randy or Paula said, it's always talk about Simon said this and Simon said that. Cowell is the backbone of the show and the Fox Network knows it and was willing to open up their checkbook and extend his already generous contract with the show.

A television show like American Idol produces tremendous profits for the network because reality shows like this one don't cost near as much to produce as an hour long drama like ER or Law and Order. Rumor has it that American Idol will change their show dates from Tuesday and Wednesday to Wednesday and Thursday next season, which will make their advertising even more valuable to the people that want to reach young people with their commercial messages right before the weekend.

Thursday night has always been the night that advertisers have wanted to control because of the movie industry. Most major motion pictures are released on Friday, so the major studios want to get those TV commercials in front of young people the night before their big opening night. In the past ten years or so, NBC was able to get a large share of that revenue with shows like "Friends", but since that show was canceled, CBS has lead the night with winners like "CSI" and "Survivor".

I have little doubt that American Idol will chip away some of the audience from CBS, which could put large amounts of extra money in the Fox Networks bank account, even if the ratings are not as good as they would have been on Wednesday night. The only thing these type of advertisers are interested in is the young folks, 18-30 years old who like to go see movies on their opening weekend and to reach that age group, they will spend much more than the average cost per thousand they would be willing to pay for that small, but important group, any other night of the week.

I like American Idol and I'm 46 years old. I know the show is very popular with the younger folks, too. The program has a wide demographic which has to be wonderful for the advertising representatives at Fox. It's a winner and the main reason it's a winner in the guy everyone loves to hate, Simon Cowell. Man I wish I were in his shoes. You get to go to work a couple of days a week and tell folks exactly what you think of them and get paid millions to do it. Is this a dream job, or what? Most of us have to walk on egg shells at work and make sure we don't say anything wrong so we'll still have a job tomorrow. This guy has got it made. I hope he knows it.

Reality shows go and come all the time and most of us don't remember any of them the next week after they are canceled. "Survivor" has survived in this competitive field and so has "American Idol". Both shows have one thing in common you might have missed. Neither show is being pumped out week after week year round, so the audience doesn't get burned out on them. I use to watch "Who wants to be a millionaire", until ABC started putting the show on so much that I became sick of it. Too much of a good thing, isn't a good thing. I look forward to watching Randy, Paula and Simon on the next season of American Idol. Fox has the best reality show on television and I hope they keep it exciting and interesting each week like they have done in the past.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Internet Classified Ads Coming Soon

Are classified advertisements the next big thing to hit the Internet? I think the time might just be right for this national advertising venue to take it's place online. I remember as a small boy, sitting next to my grandfather at the barber shop waiting to get a haircut on Saturday morning and while we were waiting my grandfather would always be reading the classified advertisement in the local newspaper. He wasn't the only one, either.

Most people don't realize how much profit is involved at their local paper in these small, hard to read advertisements. It's huge when you add up what the newspaper charges per ad and then multiply that cost by the hundreds of advertisement on each page. Not only is this type of advertising profitable to the newspaper, but most people that buy these ads do see results which is the cornerstone of any advertising program. Major companies like Google and Yahoo are very interested in taping into this advertising market and if done right it could increase their bottom line considerably.

Just think for a minute about how many newspapers there are in the United States. Not just the big ones in major cities, but how many papers are large enough to include classified ads in their publications. There must be tens of thousands of them and the money produced by these small ads must be in the billions of dollars every month. Now think about a large search company like Yahoo or Google where they could set up a system where folks couple purchase classified ads online using a credit card and people that wanted to view ads could simply enter a city and state or zip code and pull up all classifieds in their area. It would be so simple for the consumer and best of all for a middle aged guy like me, it would make these advertisements easier to read. Yes, I do use a magnifying glass when reading them in the paper these days.

If I owned a large newspaper chain I would be contacting these large search engines right now trying to make a deal where people could purchase classified at the paper and get them seen online at the same time. I'm not talking about the newspaper web sites, which they all have and treat as some kind of step child to the main newspaper, but offering these ads to the major search engines as well. I really don't think these large publishing companies are going to do this. They have fought the Internet revolution at every step and I think they will fight this too and will be unsuccessful against these giant engines.

With the Internet so much a part of the lives of millions of people these days, offering classified advertising to folks that use the Internet anyway only makes sense. In our local newspaper there are ads for garage sales, used cars for sale, employment and many other things that could easily be offered to online companies and viewed for free by people that are interested in what they are offering for sale. Just like this is a major source of income to local newspapers across the country, it could be a literal bonanza to the bottom line of Internet Search Engines that can bring this low cost advertising to the average American. I believe the time has come for classified advertising to make this transition.

Gold Indicates Problems With U.S. Economy

As the price of Gold and other precious metals continue to rise in price, it spells potential problems for the economy of the United States and other countries around the world. Precious metal investment is where the smart money goes when there are signs of trouble in worldwide economies. While politicians put a happy face on everything so they can get reelected, the folks that really have the money are pretty smart on ways to keep it in their hands. That's why the rising price of Gold is something we should all keep a close eye on because a downward trend in world economies will effect everyone of us in the prices we pay for goods and services and in job security and retirement planning.

Most people in the world spend a great deal of time criticizing folks that have achieved financial success. However, if one wants to be successful it only makes sense that you, at least, take a look at how these people got to where they are and how they stay that way year after year. While I have no desire to be rich, I do want to provide a decent income and security for my family, so I do keep tabs on what the wealthy are doing with their money, because they have the resources to investigate and research what is really going on in the world.

This is why I am growing concerned about what's happening in the world right now. With the price of Gold over $500 per ounce and rising all the time, this is a prime indicator that the people with the money think something isn't right in the way the worldwide economy is progressing right now and they are taking bets against it by buying old fashion precious metals, like Gold. The last time I saw anything like this was when Jimmy Carter was President of the United States and inflation and interest rates were sky high. At one point before the world economy turned around the price of Gold was over $800 per ounce. I'm sure there are still some people that were late to this party that are still sitting on that Gold they bought for $800 per ounce back in the 1970's, hoping beyond hope that they could somehow at least break even someday. They might just get their wish.

I'm more knowledgeable about the U.S. economy than the rest of the world so I'll speak to that issue. No matter what anyone in Washington D.C. tries to tell you, the United States economy is in bad shape because our federal debt is out of control. I'm not talking about the yearly deficient that most in the new media focus on, I'm talking about the amount of total money that the United States owes to rich people and countries around that world that has to be paid back. It is sky high and getting larger every single day. The U.S. government really isn't that much different than the people that live here. They depend on credit everyday to pay the bills of this government and the folks that loan the money want to get paid back, with interest, someday on their investment.

When the people with the money get nervous, they start looking for other places to invest their money rather than in the debt of the United States of America. This is what's happening right now with the increased price of Gold and other precious metals. Basically, the people with the money are growing concerned that this country won't be able to pay back the money to them and could, lord forbid, default on all the loans that have been made against this countries future for years. The folks with the green are feeling pretty uncomfortable with the U.S. government right now and this spells trouble for all of us in the long run.

The only way out of this mess, is to clean it up right and clean it up for good. The federal government has not lived within it's means for decades and has relied on other peoples money to pay for social programs and wars which they can't sustain without borrowing. Just like the rest of us, there does come a moment of truth and that moment is drawing close. I have my doubts if anyone in the current leadership in D.C. will be able to have the political will to face this issue straight up and work toward a solution. Now days, the conventional wisdom is that we can just grow our economy and that will take care of these debt problems. I don't think it's going to work, but this feel good approach to solving financial issue like this is going to be too tempting for politicians that can't see past the next election.

Watch the price of Gold folks. It's the best barometer I can think of to let you know the truth about the worlds economy. If it keeps rising we are in real trouble in the United States. I hope that it will level off and start moving down, but I don't really thing that will happen until we get some new folks in D.C. that know how to budget and read a balance sheet.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Happy Sad People Walking Around Everywhere

While the title might seem a bit strange, I've noticed lately that the world seems to be filled with a bunch of happy, sad people. These are folks that walk around all day looking happy, but if you catch a peak at them when they think no one is watching, they are as sad and depressed as anyone you would ever want to meet. I call this the "fake it till you make it" type of attitude which many companies encourage by having cheerleader type session each day when their employees arrive on the job.

Maybe you've seen these type of companies in movies that have been produced. I believe the trend started in Japan and moved across the Pacific when Japanese companies started buying American ones. These companies require employees to dance around and sing and laugh to songs about how much they like their job and how happy they are to be there. This mind over matter approach to business is silly in my opinion. This is the same type of approach that has brainwashed some people into despicable behavior. While companies only wish to get the most out of their employees, it's short sighted to think that anyone can cure sadness with a bunch of happy talk and singing. Actually, all the company really is concerned about is the eight hours you spend working for them.

This is why we are seeing so many happy, sad people walking around today. Many of these folks are suffering from depression and other illnesses and they are encouraged by their employers to just suck it up, act happy and get your work done, rather than the employers actually being concerned for their well being and looking for ways to help them in the long run. I know companies are only suppose to be interested in the bottom line, but their employees are part of that bottom line and they will work better if you fix their problems the right way rather than just putting a band-aid over the problem and acting like it doesn't exist anymore.

The holiday season creates a bunch of stress on people that are already at their limit and some will find the added problems and stress that go along with the holiday season will push them over the edge and cause many to have breakdowns and others to just check out of life entirely. There is a big difference between what is legal and what is moral and in the world today it seems that anything goes as long as there is not some kind of law against it. However, when people and businesses forget that there is an underlying moral law, which can't really be written into legislation goes unfollowed, all kinds of problems will happened.

If all companies and people would just focus on the "Golden Rule" and have the courage and strength to follow it day in and day out, the world and their life would be filled with lasting happiness and satisfaction. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". A simple yet powerful way to approach all things in life. The unfortunate truth is that many people have created their own "Golden Rule" which says, "do unto others before they have a chance to do unto you". That kind of thinking will lead to internal self destruction and you don't have to look far to see it, first hand.

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

Latest Holiday Diet Craze Approaches

Every year after the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holiday period ends, someone will come out with the latest diet craze either in a book or video. Sometimes they just appear on late night infomercials, but rest assured while you and I are pilling on the pounds the next three or four weeks, someone else is looking for ways to help us part with those extra inches by selling us on their latest diet craze.

I've been trying to figure out which one will be, what I call, the diet of the year. I haven't quite got a grip on it yet, but someone will come out the winner before we flip the calendar over to February. There's really no one to blame for this yearly ritual except ourselves. Most of us want to have our cake and eat it to, so we over eat during the holiday's and then look for a quick fix to get off that extra weight when they are over. Some do this every year. Some like me, don't do it and just get fatter every year!

Rather than looking for the latest diet craze, some folks will turn to exercise books and DVD's in an effort to work the extra weight off their bodies. I'm a big believer in exercise and in the long run a good diet and exercise is the way to not only lower your weight, but improve many different aspects of ones overall health. The problem with exercise books and videos are that people don't usually stick with them. We all get excited when we first get the information and for a couple of weeks we do everything they say, we drop a few pounds and then we go right back to our old habits.

Why? It's really very simple. Change is hard. It takes a lot work and a strong interstrength to change behaviors that we have learned over a lifetime. I've been trying to make some changes in my life recently and just like I did when I quit smoking, I keep failing until I finally succeed. This is the only way I've found that I can make changes in my life without slipping back into old patterns.

It would be great if I could just make up my mind to do something and then wake up the next morning and it be done. No such luck, at least with me. Change is the hardest thing I've ever done and it doesn't seem to get easier as I get older, it's harder and it takes longer to accomplish.

Like many of you, I have been drawn into the latest diet and exercise crazes over the years. I have never tried one program that worked in the long run and I'm pretty sure it's because I'm trying to use someone else's idea to succeed. The only time I've lost considerable weight and kept it off is when I came up with my own program and did it my way. My programs were based on low calorie meals and a bunch of exercise. Maybe I'm just too stubborn to follow someone else's program, but what I think the real reason was that I succeed on my own diet program is because I built it around foods that I already liked and eat everyday anyway and the exercise program involves something I enjoy which is taking a walk a couple of times a day.

Between now and sometime next summer someone will become very rich off of their new diet book or video and next summer they will be sitting on the yaught, sipping champagne and giving thanks for the folks that just had to have their latest weight loss book on their shelves.

Is Joe Biden An Honest Senator?

Anytime Senator Joe Biden of Delaware is asked if he is going to run for President he gives the same answer. I will if I can raise enough money. In all the time I've watched long time public officials his answer to that question is the most honest I've ever heard. I don't think I would support him either with money or my vote for President, but I do admire the way he tells the truth instead of hinting around and giving a smile and wink to reporters when asked.

Joe Biden isn't a wimp and he's not an antiwar activist. Right now, along with just about everyone else in this country he has concerns about what's happening in Iraq and he wants the administration to come forward with some kind of time estimate of when we can start bring our troops home. Heck, most people in the Republican party want to know the same thing and the President is going to have to have a chat with the American people and spell what it's going to take to get our troops home as soon as possible.

Another senator I respect, John Warner of Virginia said today that he thought the President should have a fireside chat with the American people about the war and remind everyone why we are there, why it's important and what signs to look for when the war is nearing an end. Senator Warner is right and hopefully President Bush will listen to his advice and start talking about goals instead of just blaming Democrats for losing public support for the war. He's definitely giving the Democrats more credit than they deserve. I think the America people are asking these questions on their own without any opposition support.

The main reason for this post was to call attention to Senator Joe Biden and to say, "way to go", in his straight forward answers to reporters questions as to whether he will run for President or not. Who knows, maybe this honest approach will catch on there in D.C.!

Used Car Prices Are Lower Than Ever

While looking at a few used car lots the other day, I couldn't believe how cheap used car prices are compared to new ones. The prices I saw were not even negotiated, but what was printed on the vehicle. I'm sure the vehicles could be purchased for much less. My guess is that used car prices are much lower than they use to be because of the drastic price cutting by the new car manufacturers. Makes sense when you think about it.

I would assume that if a dealer wants to sell used cars, they are going to have to make them considerable cheaper than new cars, or everyone will just buy new. Sound logical? I've only bought a used car a couple of times in my life and for the last several purchases, I've just stuck to the new ones. I guess I'm just lazy because I don't like to spend a bunch of time in the repair shop, even if I could save a lot of money on the purchase. However, I may rethink that strategy now that I've seen just how cheap one to two year old cars can be.

One thing I did notice was that domestic used cars are much lower priced than imports like Honda and Toyota. I've been told that imports tend to hold resell value better than domestic vehicles and this may be the reason there is not as big of a difference in their used versus new car prices. This is all just guessing on my part.

If you haven't been to a used car lot lately you might want to check out one before you buy a new car. I'm still not sure I want to take the risk on a used car when I don't have to and you might feel the same way. However, I've heard that on newer used cars a warrantee can be purchased for a few hundred dollars which might set my mind at ease. Of course, that would depend on what the warrantee covered and where I could take the car if it needed to be repaired.

I do have a terrible feeling about what these low prices have done to my current cars trade-in value. I'm sure it's going to be pretty low considering what the used cars I looked at today were priced at full retail. Sometimes I think the whole car business is a racket, but then I see something I want and my whole attitude changes. Anyway, I just thought I mention what I found out about used car prices. Check around if you think a used vehicle might suit you better than new.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I-35 Truck Accident - Surviving Holiday Travel

I just turned off the ten o'clock news and there was a report of a terrible accident on I-35 in Hillsboro, Texas which closed down both sides of the Interstate. Apparently, a major accident between two 18 wheelers and other vehicles cause a huge fire and many deaths are expected to be discovered when the fire is out and rescue workers are able to access the scene. It's clear that many innocent people lost their lives tonight because someone wasn't paying attention to what they were doing.

I'm so glad that my wife and I decided to stay home this holiday season. If a person takes to the roads during these peak driving periods, in a nut shell, they are taking their lives into their own hands and some folks will not make it back home alive after the holiday's. There are people in this world that still believe they drive better when they are drunk rather than when they are sober. I know this is hard to believe, but these type of brain damaged people do exist and they do take to the nations highways while drinking or worse totally drunk.

I have no current information on that accident tonight on Interstate 35 that alcohol was involved, but in most cases these days, it is a contributing if not the outright cause of major accidents like these. I've talked to folks that have served on juries where people were killed by drunk drivers and many of these people have been more sympathetic to the drunk driver than to the victims of this crime. Maybe it's because many of them have climbed behind the wheel themselves after having too many at their local bar or pub before or they just think that this isn't a severe enough crime to punished with a stiff jail sentence.

However, they look at it, most of the time repeat offenders just keep getting off and they are not learning anything from their mistakes because the first thing they do after getting out of court is to get a couple of drinks and get back on the nations highways, again. I do like to drink beer, at home when I'm not driving, so I don't understand how anyone would think that drinking doesn't effect their ability behind the wheel. I know it would effect me after several beers, that's why if I'm going to drink more than a couple of beers. I just stay home and away from my three thousand pound weapon called a car which is parked in the driveway.

Many people miss the point and think all drinking is bad. I don't believe that. Drinking is bad when you lose the ability to see reason and good common sense and take to the highways in a drunken condition. Most people that drink don't get behind the wheel and put others in danger, but those few that do cause most of the accidents and many people might be surprised how many repeated accidents are caused by the same drunks that have been charged and convicted before. The law needs to take a stronger stand against repeat offenders and the regular folks that sit on juries need to separate an occasion lapse of judgment on their own part from the man or woman that repeated gets behind the wheel while drunk and somehow believes they are a better driver while drinking that when sober.

We are in the middle of the holiday season right now and this is prime time for repeat DUI/DWI offenders. There may be no way we can stop them from getting on the road and endangering other peoples lives, but we can make a stand the next time we're on a jury and some bozo that has been charged dozens of times before for the same offense comes to court crying and begging us for forgiveness. There are laws against driving while drunk and trial juries around that country are responsible for telling the difference between some person that screws up once and a habitual criminal that is so self center that they somehow believe that they did the right thing when driving drunk.

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

Saving The Trees In New Paperless World

Depending on the type of work you do, you might have noticed that the world is become more paperless with the invention and perfection of imaging and scanning machines. Many major companies are now scanning all of their important documents into computer data files which can be saved forever and utilized in offices nationwide. More than likely your bank or credit union no longer returns checks with your monthly statement. For years, my bank has returned images of my checks which are just as legally valid as the checks themselves.

Our office copier also has a permeate scanning feature where we can put commonly used forms into memory and scan from it rather than a hard copy. From the standpoint of the environment, I think this new trend is a good thing and I'm starting to get use getting copies of important documents from digital photos rather than the original. I think this new memory copying trend will continue to grow and I can see all kinds of new businesses popping up in support of this new imaging technology.

In some states, they are including all kinds of information into the metallic strip on the back of drivers licenses. Stuff like, hunting and fishing permits along with the other stuff like corrective lenses and other driving restrictions. Many times when you buy these permits, you do the whole transaction including your signature on a computer screen. Then when a police officer or game warden checks your id information, they only need to scan the back of your license into a hand held computer and they have all your information including your signature.

In the future I can see new businesses starting up like off-site digital storage companies where copies of important data can be stored securely, just like there use to be secure locations where businesses and government could store old paper files. Unlike, looking for an old paper file, with digital technology and instant copy can be retrieved without all the old fashion leg work. If a person has a criminal mind, this new type of record keeping isn't going to make their activities as easy as they once were. However, I feel criminals will find ways to forge documents in a digital format rather than change their activities.

The next time you do business somewhere, just take a look around and see how many times your documents and signature are scanned into computers. Welcome to the new way of life in America. Hello computers, scanners and image machines, good-bye excessively killing trees and old filing cabinets for paper storage.

Indianapolis Colts - Seattle Seahawks Superbowl?

Is it going to be an Indianapolis versus Seattle Superbowl this year? It very likely could be and if this happens it would be an interesting game with teams you don't see that often in the playoffs much less the big Superbowl game. Currently, Indianapolis is leading the AFC with an unbeaten record of 10-0 while Seattle leads the NFC with 8 wins and 2 loses.

It's a long time until the big Superbowl game and a bunch of tough match ups will occur during the playoff games in both the NFC and AFC, but I give this scenario at least a 50/50 change of happening and if it does I think the game will create a bunch of attention because people like to see teams that don't attend the big game that often get their change of being a national champion. It's called the underdog effect and it does create a bunch of media attention and excitement in the cities where these teams play.

I can't even imagine the excitement in Indianapolis. Their team has not even been located in that city for very long and now they have an unbeaten record and could very likely be in the Superbowl early next year. When people say the "Colts" I still think of Baltimore, but I'm getting old and change does take me a little bit of time to get use to. Aren't the "Rams" still in LA?

Most of you know that I'm a Dallas Cowboy fan and I watched the "Seahawks" play the "Cowboys" a few weeks ago and they have a great team, too. I'm sure the folks in Seattle would like to see their team get to the big game and win it, too. I'm an underdog fan too and if my Dallas Cowboys don't make it to the big Superbowl game, I would love to see an Indianapolis Colt - Seattle Seahawk match up.

Feel free to email me with your Superbowl picks this year. I love talking about football this time of year. It's so exciting.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Is Cindy Sheehan Losing Popular Appeal?

I've noticed that very little news is coming out this weekend from the latest Cindy Sheehan protest at President Bush's Crawford Ranch. I believe the reason there have been less than 200 protesters for this event is that Cindy Sheehan now comes across less like a concerned mother of a killed solider in Iraq than a left wing extremist that is pushing an antiwar agenda and now on top of everything else she has written a book she is trying to promote with this latest protest.

I've written before about how a good person can get completely courpted when they hook up with extremist from either the far right or left. It happens over and over again through history and Sheehan is just the latest example of how these extremist groups will use up a persons good will and publicity for their own selfish cause and then move on to someone else when they are of no benefit to them anymore. Cindy Sheehan helped the hype of this left wing movement and now she's damaged goods, so I predict the antiwar movement will move quickly away from her and in six months or so no one will even remember her name.

When a person makes a strong stand on principle in this country, they must stay strong and stay focused on what their real cause is all about. If they don't, extremist groups which are very well organized, will come into your space, make you feel wonderful about what you're fighting for and then over time corupt what you really stand for and promote their own agenda at the expense of your own.

From what I've read, Cindy Sheehan has lost the support of most of her family and long time friends, so once these so called new friends abandon her she will be left all alone to deal with the loss of her son. I really believe that when she first came to Crawford in August she was really fighting for something she believed in. However, now it appears that she is just another person looking for ways to promote a new book.

People in the center of the political spectrum in this war debate will still be looking for answers from the Bush administration on what their exit plan is going to be. However, we will not sell out to either political extreme while trying to acheive that goal.

Iraqi War Debate Drags On In America

Nothing will cause disagreement among people more than a discussion about war and peace issues. The war in Iraq is no exception and the longer this conflict goes on the more the various sides in the debate will dig in and become unmoveable in their position. The main issue in this debate is whether the United States should have gone to war with Iraq in the first place and even if we should have, when should we be bringing our troops home?

President Bush has said that the troops will come home when the job is finished. However, most people don't have a clue what that means and what signs they should look for that will show progress toward this goal. The President needs to go on national television and outline what he means by the troops will come home when the job is finished.

At work, when my boss says that bonuses will be handed out when our job is finished, everyone know exactly when the job is over, it's not open ended like this Iraqi war situation. The administration has made a mistake by not outlining a definite strategy the American people can hold on to. Without this vision people will make up their own minds when the mission is accomplished and that thinking will be greatly influenced by the constant suicide bombing attacks that we witness on the news everyday.

I'm not sure why the administration is so reluctant to discuss an exit strategy for the U.S. military in Iraq. Many of us are old enough to remember that this same kind of attitude is what cause tremendous problems during the war in Vietnam. Those that do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.

The American people do not like open ended wars. We've never liked them and after Vietnam most people won't put up with it anymore. The Powell Doctrine should have been followed in this war because it mandates an visible exit strategy. However, the folks in control of this administration don't like Colin Powell, so they just did things their own way and now look what a mess they have gotten themselves and the country into.

Many of us old line Republicans have lost faith in this administration for various reason, but until recently I still supported the President in regards to the Iraqi war. While I think it would be wrong to cut and run at this stage, the President MUST outline some kind of exit strategy or he's going to lose the backing even from his core supporters.

Continuing to say that the troops will come home when the job is finished isn't going to work anymore without some kind of outline of what he thinks a completed job will look like. He may know exactly what he means when he makes these statement and if he does then he needs to define the mission for the American people so we will all know what accomplishments need to be met so we can get our brave men and women home.

Related: Troops Remain Positive

Iraqi War Debate

Holiday Shopping Hype - First Bad, Then Good

Yesterday, all the national news networks were preaching the latest holiday hype of how great this shopping season was going to be for retailers and the U.S. economy. Just one week earlier these same news channels were on the air talking about what a terrible Christmas this was going to be for the merchants. What's the truth? No one really knows, so like they do too many times these days, they just make things up as they go along and if a special interest group puts out a so called expert, they just jump on the story like a bunch of wild animals on raw meat and run with it like it's fact.

For the sake of the U.S. economy I hope this will be a good year for retail merchants, but I agree with the first round of reports that stated that high fuel prices along with a national savings rate of less than zero percent will cause overall retail sales to fall short of last years total. If it were not for credit cards, the economy of this country would already be in a depression. Most people don't save any money at all, so there would be nothing left for Christmas spending without credit.

In the days before credit cards, people didn't line up at retail stores on "Black Friday", ready to fight over products they will discard at garage sales within the next year. During those times, when a family didn't have enough money for Christmas gifts they just made their own gifts out of what ever they had available.

I've noticed over the years that those special hand made gifts have great sentimental value to the people that received them. Many of these hand made gifts are brought out of storage year after year and put on display during the holiday season. I doubt if any of the so called, must have gifts, that people lined up to purchase at 5am on Black Friday will even be around come March, so what does that say about all the retail hype that now surrounds Christmas?

To me, it means that we have all been tricked by the retail establishment to part with our credit card limits so they can make a bunch of money during the holiday season. I've heard people for years talking about how the true meaning of Christmas has been forgotten and they are right. The true meaning of Christmas is not the accumulation of material items that, we think, we must have today and won't care about tomorrow. It's about friends and family getting together as a unit and being thankful for what God has given them. Have you ever noticed that the people with the least amount of material things are the folks that seem to be the most thankful and grateful for what they do have?

In the old days, greed was something people stayed about from because they knew from their upbringing it was wrong. People are not raised like that anymore, so what we have now in the U.S. is a bunch of greedy folks that are willing to hurt others to get what they want. However, getting material things will not satisfy them over the long run so they end of wanting more and when that doesn't satisfy them, they eventually end up broke and depressed.

The holiday season is not the happy time of year it should be for some people. They find themselves depressed and just want the whole thing to go away. These folks are not depressed because they are celebrating the true meaning of Christmas, they are unhappy because this whole holiday season has changed from being a time to celebrate peace on earth and good will towards men, to some kind a retail reality show where they must win at all costs by getting all the material items people say they must have to be happy.

Nothing I write here will change anything, but if you're reading this and you're unhappy, maybe think about the priorities that I've written about here. What do you have to lose? You will definitely end up with more money after the holidays and most importantly, you might find the true meaning of Christmas in your home and in your heart.

Fear Of Success Holds Many People Back

Someone I know was talking about one of his friends the other day when he said the strangest thing to me. This person said that he believes his friend is afraid of success. I've heard people say this before, but I wasn't really sure what they meant by that statement, so I did a little research and found out that this is a mental health term and it does exist.

From what I understand as a layman, there are things in everyone's life which they are extremely afraid of. Some people fear failure while others fear success. These thoughts go back to childhood and how a person was taught, by their parents, to view different people and situations.

If the parent had an attitude that all rich people were somehow bad or corrupt, that opinion was sometimes passed on to their child which can manifest itself into a fear of success. At the root of this issue isn't really success, but the feeling that successful or rich people are somehow bad individuals. This subliminal thinking can really handicap a person when they are required to make choices in life which might change their income and/or standard of living.

If they believe the person they really are, at the core of the being, is going to change into something bad if they become financially successful, many people will subconsciously make decisions and choices that will sabotage that success in order to protect themselves from the danger of becoming a bad person.

If you really think about it, this makes perfect sense. I remember as a child my father was always talking bad about door to door salesman. He hated them and thought they were the worst kind of people on earth. When I was older I had a chance to go into this type of work because an aptitude test said I would be a natural. However, I ran from that career opportunity as fast as I could because in my subconscious I still remembered what my father always told me about what terrible people salesmen were.

Later in life I went into the sales field and became very successful and my father was proud of my accomplishments. What should I learn from this example? I believe that my father didn't like salesmen because he had a hard time saying no to them, so he demonized them as a group because of his own weaknesses. Once I became a successful salesman, I was making him proud as a father and most importantly I wasn't trying to sell him anything.

I believe the fear of success is a very valid illness and unfortunately most people that suffer from this illness don't even know they have it. They are just victims of their upbringing and those opinions are not even correct if challenged as an adult.

One last point on this subject, when I first met my wife she thought all people that attended a certain University were snobs. Why? Because it cost a lot of money to attend this school and since she was raised up in a family with limited financial resources where attending this University was impossible, she created a wall against every student at that University because she felt like they were somehow superior to her.

In a strange twist of fate, her adult sister decided to go back to college when she was 40 years old. The school she picked was this same University that my wife thought was so bad. I remember asking her years later if she thought everyone that attended that school were still snobs. She smiled and said yes, all but one of them!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Happy Relaxing Day With NO Shopping

Millions of holiday shoppers headed for the discount stores and malls today looking for great deals on those perfect Christmas gifts for friends and family. While this was going on, I performed my normal after Thanksgiving tradition of sleeping in and NOT participating in this national tradition. I slept great after yesterdays calorie feast and I'm so glad I stayed out of the shoppers war zone today.

I woke up an hour ago and filled my cup with some hot coffee, sat down and turned on the television. The first story I saw was about some folks getting trampled at a store when everyone tried to rush the door when it opened at 5am. I have never understood how people can enjoy fighting with one another over retail items on the day after Thanksgiving, but apparently they do because they keep repeating this same behavior year after year.

I just filled my coffee cup, again and now I'm eating some left over pumpkin pie. Have you ever noticed that pumpkin pie tastes better the day after Thanksgiving? I'm not sure why, but it does. My better half is out shopping with the crazy folks right now, so it's just my trusted four legged, rat terrier, friend and I around the house today and it's very relaxing now because I've turned off the television. I think I'll play some Christmas CD's and take a nap this afternoon.

Everyone has a tradition for "Black Friday" and mine is to rest and enjoy my day. I'm going to need to rest because when my wife gets home she is going to need a back rub to relax after fighting with the local shopping crowds. Staying home and relaxing on the Friday after Thanksgiving is a tough job, but someone has to do it. I have no problem volunteering for this terrible job, every year!

Surviving The Sadness Of Holiday Divorce

I talked to a couple of people recently that were going through a divorce this holiday season. I really feel for these folks because I've been there and done that myself. It was in the year 1988 when my first wife decided that she wanted out of our nine year marriage. I guess I wasn't paying attention because I didn't see this divorce coming, so it hit me like a freight train hitting a cement wall. I remember feeling so angry, hurt, betrayed and depressed all at the same time.

The fact that this all happened during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday, it made things much worse for me. We had an eight year old daughter and I felt like I was losing my entire family structure and I felt like my life was completely lost and out of control. I didn't know it at the time, but I had a condition called "codependency" which added to the emotional pain I was suffering from. Before you say that I'm only talking about myself, let me point out that my ex-wife and daughter went through a hard time during this period, too. However, in a situation like this I can only speak for my own feelings and not those of others.

Considering the U.S. divorce rate, there must be millions of people going though these feelings during this holiday season and in my heart I feel for each and every one of them. It's extremely important that people who are in good relationships during the Christmas season reach out and include friends and family members that are going through divorce in traditional holiday events like parties and social gatherings. The worst thing for me, during my divorce, was that all my friends were couple friends that liked both of us. I didn't realize until after my separation that I didn't have any friends that were just mine and the folks that were couple friends kind of turned a cold shoulder to both my ex-wife and myself when we split up.

People that are happily married don't feel comfortable with couples that are separating, which now with hindsight makes perfect sense to me. However, during this time it just added to my anger and depression. I remember spending the entire month of December in 1988 in an old hotel room that I paid for by the week. Talk about a depressing and degrading situation, that was the worst thing having to stay in that dumpy hotel. If you know people in this situation right now, please reach out to them because they need someone to care about about their feelings during this trying time in their life and mainly just to help them get through the holiday season without falling apart.

I'm not a mental health expert, but I do know something about human nature. You could very well be saving a depressed persons life by reaching out and including them in your holiday plans. Believe me when I say that this very same thing could happen to anyone of you because no one can control the actions of another, even a spouse you've been married to for years.

If you work with or know someone that is going through a divorce or separation this Christmas season, please reach out to them and provide some kind of place to call home during the holiday season. You will be doing the right thing and this season is built on giving and helping others in need and a friend or family member that is losing their family needs all the help they can get.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Nick - Jessica Finally Split Up/Divorce

They say they really mean it this time, so I guess we can believe the story that Nick and Jessica have separated because both their agents are now confirming the story after a month of denying the rumors to anyone that would listen in the news media. Anyone that believes a publicist in Hollywood about anything should have their head examined. I do feel for this young couple. Their marriage is ending up like so many others these days, in divorce court.

This is one thing I have in common with Nick and Jessica. I also married early in life and my first marriage didn't make it either. This announcement will produce a bunch of material for the late night comedians, but no matter what anyone says, I know first hand that breaking up IS very hard to do and it takes months, if not years to get over the emotion impact of such an event at such an early age.

They will bounce back and be stronger than ever, but I can't image what it must be like to break up with everyone in the world watching your every move. I guess it just goes with the territory of being a celebrity these days, but I'm sure both Nick and Jessica would much prefer to get on with their lives without the media spotlight. However, there's no chance of that happening. I'm sure thousands of poperotzi are already staking out any possible locations they might show up at hoping to get an embarrassing picture of either of these young people.

I've mentioned before that I never watch MTV, but I did watch the Nick and Jessica Show and it made me laugh. I remember one show when Nick was getting a pin ball machine deliver to the house and there was no way to get it upstairs to their game room, so they hired a lift operator to bring in though an upstairs door from outside the house. That episode still cracks me up and the expressions on Nick's face when Jessica would come home from shopping after spending thousands of dollars on cloths and shoes. I know that look, I've seen it in the mirror many times, myself.

Nick and Jessica have made me laugh and that isn't easy to do. I know neither one of them is laughing right now, but they will in the future and I honestly do wish both of them well in their new life.

More FEMA News - Looking For Right Director

Isn't there anyone in the United States that can head up FEMA and do the job right? Again today, there was a story on NBC that said that Fannie Mae had offered 1500 houses to FEMA, rent free for three month, but no one at FEMA had taken them up on their offer. What's wrong up there in Washington with these guys? On the 15th of this month FEMA announced they were going to stop paying for hotel rooms for evacuees of Katria on December 1st, but after a public uproar, they change that date to around the first of the year.

Now, they had a chance to do something that wouldn't cost them anything and they do nothing to take advantage of this generous offer. After FEMA found out that NBC was doing this story today, they got into gear and said that they would go ahead and take Fanie Mae up on the free offer. If this wasn't such a serious matter it would almost seem like some kind of TV comedy, featuring folks that couldn't make the right decision even when it was stairing them in the face.

While the Bush administration is worrying about what the Democrats are saying about them in D.C., I believe the country is more concerned about these hurricane victims and they are watching closely how the administration is handling the aftermath of this storm. You absolutely have to hold the Bush administration responsible for these missteps because they are in control of FEMA and the director there is answerable to the President of the United States.

President Bush is back at his Crawford ranch for Thanksgiving and it's kind of ironic to me that he was at his ranch when Katrina hit and wasn't aware for days that there were major problems in New Orleans until one of his aids made him watch a DVD about how the media was covering the story. Surely, he's keeping up with events closer than he was back in August, but there's no way to know for sure.

I'm praying for these folks that lost everything and hoping that our government doesn't continue to let them down. If it wasn't for the diligent work of the news media, I feel like the government via FEMA would just forget all about them. I usually don't have many kind words to say about the national news media, but when it comes to follow up on this story they have done a great job and should be commended.

Friday After Thanksgiving Is Busiest Shopping Day

Tomorrow is the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States and everyone except me and a couple of other folks will be hitting the stores and malls around the country looking for great deals. I've been watching the television commercials for the past couple of days talking about which stores are opening as early as 5am on Friday. Do people really get up that early just to go shopping? My wife informs me that yes they do and she will be one of them.

I never really understood what all the fuss was about, really, because people have 365 days per year to get their Christmas shopping done. Why do they wait and all go at the same time on the day after Thanksgiving? Are the prices really all that much better than any other day? I'm told they are, but from what I've seen you take your life in your own hands when you try to buy those specials when someone else thinks they have beat you to them.

Also, the traffic must be a nightmare that day. Crowded parking lots, busy stores and thousands of unfriendly people is not my idea of a great day out of the house. However, women don't seem to mind the crowds and the traffic and even if they come back home in a bad mood, they seem to feel personally satisfied that they found and purchased what they were looking for. I'm so glad I have a women around that likes to do this kind of thing or it wouldn't get done at all.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and make sure to go back for seconds because you're going to need those extra calories, tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Protesters Are Back At President's Crawford Ranch

Protesters have started arriving in Crawford Texas to welcome President George W. Bush home for the Thanksgiving holiday. There are new county laws here that have been passed since the first protest in August. These new laws prevent protesters from camping on the side of the narrow country road that leads to the Bush Crawford ranch. Today, some folks decided they didn't want to obey the law, so they refused to leave when ordered to do so by the McLennan County Sheriffs office, so they were arrested and carried off to jail.

It's kind of cold down here in Texas right now, so the folks arrested might have just wanted to make a statement and then get a warm place to sleep and a hot meal to eat for Thanksgiving at the county jail. The weather is certainly much different than it was in August when Cindy Sheehan started her first protest here in the Waco area. In fact, I don't think Sheehan is even going to show up until Friday at the earliest, so what we had today is the opening act before the real show starts this weekend.

I think the folks that come in early to these type of protests are professional protesters that are willing to travel and demonstrate against just about anything. They are like sports fans that don't care about the sport or the players, they just want to be in the game, any game, anywhere. After these folks leave Waco, I doubt if many will go back to work. Most likely we will see them on television soon in another state protesting something else.

There was a lawsuit filed a couple of days ago in Federal Court here in Waco to declare the new county law of not allowing camping on the side of the road unconstitutional, but a federal judge here refused to issue a stay which would have allowed folks to camp where they wanted. For those that don't know, there is a large track of land that has been donated by a local resident to the folks that want to demonstrate and that land is closer to the Bush ranch than the old side of the road spot they use in August.

Local residents were concerned about safety since they have to travel these roads to go to work and after a crazy incident in August where some nut drove his truck though wooden white crosses placed in honor of soldiers killed in the Iraqi war. Something needed to be done so no one got hurt during these demonstrations. This being Texas and the home state of President Bush, emotions among his supporters was running high in August when folks from all over the country came in to criticize his decisions about the war in Iraq.

If there's anything new to report, I'll post it in a couple of days. However, I don't see much new happening out there at the ranch in Crawford. Just a bunch of wet, cold protesters looking for a place to get warm.

Suicide By Cop A Growing Phenomenon

Have you heard about this phenomenon? It's seems to be growing year after year and it's not only taking the lives of people that do it, but police officers that are forced to shoot and kill people are suffering from depression and feelings of guilt. If you're not aware of what suicide by cop really is, it's when a person deliberately forces a police officer to shoot them because they want to commit suicide and can't or won't do the job themselves.

Suicide is a selfish act and for many their last act of selfishness is to force someone they don't even know to kill them. Police officers are just regular folks in uniforms and they have the same feelings as everyone else. Just image how you would feel if someone manipulated you into killing them? I can only image how I would feel. If I had a gun and my family was threatened by a person and if I had to make a choice of whether to kill the person threatening them or save my family, I would defend my family and shoot the person, no question about it.

I can only image the second guessing that would go through in my mind the rest of my life. I believe this same type of thing is happening to police officers that have to kill suspects engaged in suicide by cop. Many police departments are just now starting to understand how a officer involved shooting like this is much different from a police officer shooting a suspect in a bank robbery or some other criminal act. I believe the problem stems from the officer being manipulated, against their will, to do something they have been trained not to do unless there is no other choice.

While watching the news today, there was a story of a depressed and drunken man that apparently wanted to die because when he was pulled over by a police officer, this man got out of his truck and pointed a rifle at the officer that stopped him. The man didn't say anything, he just kept walking toward the officer with his rifle pointed at the patrolman and eventually the officer had no choice but to shoot and kill the man. This story made the news because there was video from the police officers video camera, but I'm sure this happens many times everyday, nationwide.

Somehow police departments need to come up with some other non lethal force to deal with this new kind of selfish act. Suicide by cop not only takes the life of the mentally ill person that is shot, but it causes countless depression issues in the police officers that are forced to take a life because they were manipulated to do so.

Mariah Carey's Double Trouble On AMA Show

I was talking on the telephone to a family member last night when Mariah Carey came out to accept an award on the AMA show. I almost dropped the telephone. There was no need for sound, let's just say the television was full of double trouble in the form of her boobs. I don't think I've ever seen a dress like that before and my wife, who was sitting beside me said she hoped she would never see a dress like that EVER again!

I've got to admit that it certainly did catch my attention and I completely forgot what I was talking about on the telephone for a few minutes. You know we men have a hard time multitasking and something like this will make it darn near impossible. All jokes aside, the dress was pretty tasteless and I wonder just how far these folks are going to be able to go before the TV censors and the public start saying enough is enough. I'm pretty sure that line is different for men than it is for women.

For me there is a difference in sleazy and sexy and this Mariah Carey dress wasn't that sexy so I guess you know what I really think of it. You have to leave something to the imagination for something to be sexy and I don't think leaving things to the imagine was what she has in mind when she chose this dress.

Every award show has something built into it that will keep folks taking for days at the water cooler, in the break room and this time over Thanksgiving dinner. It's too bad that the conversation can't be about the music and the singers and groups that won awards. This years AMA awards will be remembered for Mariah Carey and her boob display which is unfortunate because many great artist were recognized and won awards which they earned by making great music, not putting on some obscene publicity stunt.

Are Courts Fair When Dealing With Female Teachers?

Yesterday, a Florida teacher who admitted having sex with some of her teenage boy students, plead guilty in a plea bargain with prosecutors which will keep her from serving any jail time. There is no doubt that if she wasn't a beautiful blond female that there would have been a different outcome in this case. I use to think this was a male versus female issue of justice, but now I'm beginning to wonder if it's more an attractive versus unattractive one.

However, you chose to view the situation, there is no way the current system of punishing child molesters is fair. Men have been more severely punished for their crimes than women and beautiful women don't seem to get punished at all. This may not be totally the fault of prosecutors because if taken to trial they must prove to a jury that a person deserves to be in jail and in the culture we live in it's got to be a more difficult legal case to make against an attractive person than someone less attractive. Talk about a slippery slope of justice folks.

It may come as news to some, but attractive people commit crimes, too and the folks that sit on juries understand this as well as anyone else. Anyone remember Ted Bundy? Just look at what he was able to get away with just because he was an attractive man. Old stereotypes need to be kicked out of our minds because they should not apply to criminal cases. In the same way you can't assume that a person is guilty based on their physical appearance, being attractive doesn't mean a person is innocent, either.

There is still a double standard when applied to men and women on this issue as well. However, that situation is more the fault of prosecutors rather than juries. Either from a career standpoint or ego, prosecutors will not take strong cases to court unless they are almost guaranteed a victory. If they think for a minute that a jury will be influenced by gender or appearance in a way that might be negative to their case, I believe they will be more interested in settling the case rather than going the distance in the courtroom. This is sad and it's wrong, but that's just how things work in our court system these days.

There should be a better system of judging the success of prosecutor than their win/loss record. The way the system is set up now, it's easier to convict a poor, ugly person than a rich, attractive one. This isn't fair and I'm sure most prosecutors agree. We as jurors need to do our part to make sure that our criminal justice system is fair to everyone by not assuming that people are guilty or innocent based on their physical appearance in court. If we don't then justice can't and won't be served, fairly.

Pass The Cup To Help Failing Auto Companies

Ford chairman, Bill Ford Jr. has started what will become an avalanche of request from Detroit's big three auto makers for government money and tax credits to save these companies from financial ruin and more than likely the government will bail them out because 2006 is an important Congressional election year and politicians want to get reelected.

This action will further increase the federal deficit and turn what was a budget surplus only five or six years ago into one of the worse fiscal crises in our countries history. With increased spending for the war in Iraq, billions needed to rebuilt the south after Hurricane Katrina and large tax cuts continuing, this automobile bail out might just be the very event that pushes the country into a recession or worse a depression in the next couple of years.

I don't think the major three automobile companies in the United States deserve to be bailed out by the government because the problems they have are of their own making and why should the taxpayer have to pay the price for their bad business decisions? The automobile leaders have taken the stance that only this month counts and the hell with next month for so long that the big bill they have run up against future business is finally coming due and they know that the government won't have a choice, but to say yes when it comes time to bail them out because politicians need the votes of their millions of workers and the folks in other industries that depend on their business to stay alive.

What we are about to witness here is the worst part of U.S. capitalism. Dumb business executive will get to keep their million dollar jobs even after they have run their companies into the ground through short sighted decisions because the government won't let them fail because it will danger their reelection chances and damage the nations economy. At the very least ALL executive that are responsible for the decisions that ruined these companies should be fired, without any golden parachute as protection. Only in America do we reward bad business decisions by giving the folks that made them a raise in pay.

Isn't it funny that Honda, Toyota and other import auto makers are not experiencing these same problems? They compete in the same marketplace and under the same rules as the big three. The reason is they don't have a big daddy Congress hanging around to bail them out if they do something wrong. They have to do their job right, or it's good-bye and no severance for you, buddy. Wall Street has created a bunch of con artist, called CEO's, that have found a way to succeed if they make money and succeed if they lose money, too. It's a no lose game for these executives, so there is no incentive for them to do the job right.

Yes, some CEO's are ending up in jail right now, but there are plenty of less outrageous CEO examples that are still running public U.S. companies. No CEO or CFO should be allowed to keep their job IF they request a taxpayer bail out. However, that's exactly what's going to happen when the government bails out these companies. They will continue to draw their salaries and bonuses, but at the same time the average Joe that just did his job everyday for years will be out on the streets in some new cost cutting measure because his boss couldn't or wouldn't make sound business decisions.

If this country is going to survive in the long run we have to start holding company executives responsible for their decisions and stop hurting other people when they make the wrong ones. The person that makes the decisions needs to be held accountable and not allowed to continue to profit from public companies when their decisions caused that company to fail.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

VP Dick Cheney's Big X On CNN

Sometimes the news can be rather silly, like the story Matt Drudge has been posting about CNN running a subliminal letter "X" over the face of Vice-President Dick Cheney when he was making a speech they were carrying live a few days ago. This is so silly it's funny. Can't anyone in politics take a joke anymore?

Matt made such a sink about this happening that supposedly CNN went into a full scale internal investigation to find out how and why it happened and if there was any ill intent involved in the incident. Apparently, it was an accident in the queuing machine that contains the CNN graphics. Ok, no big deal. Some folks act like everything that happens in Washington D.C. needs to be investigated when honest mistakes can and do happen all the time.

I thought it was funny and rest assured no one is going to change their mind about how they feel about Dick Cheney because some cable news network accidentally or on purpose put an X over his face. If something like this did anything it would help the VP because regular folks would think CNN was picking on him, just like people supported Bill Clinton when they perceived that the media was taking unfair pot shots at him.

The big bold headline about this story and a picture of Dick Cheney with an "X" across his face ran on the Drudge Report for at least 12 hours. Don't you think in a world of billions of people something really important happened in that 12 hour period of time? Matt has every right to put anything he wants on his website, I'm just giving my opinion that a story like this doesn't live up to the real news I've found there in the past.

Of course, this is a holiday week and real news is kind of hard to come by unless you want to do hourly traffic reports or airline delay stories. Even the president is out of D.C. and spending Thanksgiving here in the Waco area with his friends, family and Cindy Sheehan. Well, Cindy is going to be here, but I don't think he'll be carving any turkey wings for her.

After last Fridays spectacle in the House of Representative we could all use a break from partisan politics and maybe, just maybe we will be able to get that turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie down without an Pepto Bismol chaser.

Sober-Y Virus Attack Computers Worldwide

I had a pretty good idea that something was up computer virus wise today when my McAfee antivirus software went to downloading an update which required a reboot of my computer. Usually, they update virus definitions on Wednesday, so anytime they do this early it's a sign to me that something bad is happening with a virus somewhere.

I just finished reading a story about the "Sober-Y" virus which is making it's rounds around the world right now. Email filtering companies have reported stopping millions of email messages containing this virus today alone. This new virus is a knock off of an earlier virus which infected computers around the world. These infected computers laid dormant until today when they unleashed this new virus on the Internet community via email.

What's making this new virus so bad is the attachments that are used to spread the virus claim to be from the FBI and other government agencies accusing the recipient of illegal computer activity such as music downloading and look very legitimate. However, people need to know that if the FBI wants to talk to you, they will show up in person, not send an email.

This new virus is also written in two different languages, English and German and will try to determine which language the computer uses and change the message accordingly. In the U.S. the message may claim to be from the FBI, while in Germany it will present itself as from a government agency there.

It's important for everyone to update their virus definitions today, or as soon possible. All major antivirus companies have updated their virus definitions now and they are ready to download if you can get through to their servers. I'm sure they are quite busy with activity right now, so you might have to try several times before the download is complete.

After you download these new definitions, take the time tonight to run a full virus scan on your computer to see if you have this or the previous version of the Sober-Y virus. Let's stop this thing before Thanksgiving folks.

Holiday Shopping Increase Good News For Retailers

Experts are now saying they believe holiday shopping will increase since the price of gasoline has dropped considerably. However, I still have my doubts unless folks are just going to continue to charge up their credit cards. Just a few days ago there was a report on how the U.S. savings rate had drop to a negative percentage for the first time since the great depression.

The average person now has 9,000 dollars in credit card debt and it goes up each year. The major card companies just keep raising credit lines and people just keep right on charging. The big difference this year from previous ones is that many people are using credit to purchase expendable items like food and gas which is an indication that their wages are not keeping up with their lifestyles.

Experts recommend people only have one credit card and that they use that card only when they absolutely have to. I've been hearing this advice since the 1970 when Mastercard, called Mastercharge at that time, started gaining nationwide acceptance. People have never followed that advice because they make spending money so easy. One of the credit card companies is even waving late charges now if you make a charge to your card at least once per month.

I might be wrong and holiday retail sales will increase like the experts now claim. However, we'll just have to see. It hasn't been that long since gas prices were at three dollars per gallon, so people might still be a little concerned that they will increase again and they might want to keep that credit line available, just in case.

You can bet if retail sales are going to increase, it will be most evident at discount retailers like Wal-Mart. People may be warming up to spending money this season, but I don't think they are ready to start paying more than they have to on the holidays. If I believed this new good news and wanted to invest in a company that might benefit, I think that company would be Wal-Mart. Sure there is tons of bad news about them these days, but they always seem to be at the top of the pack when it comes to turning a profit.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Much Better Manners Toward John Murtha

What a difference a weekend can make in the manners that the Republican leadership in Washington are showing to war hero Congressman John Murtha. The language they used to describe this man on Friday was way below the belt. Sometimes I wonder if these folks are so isolated from reality that they believe that their opinions and decisions are above being criticized? Last time I checked we are still living in a democracy and anyone should be able to criticize their leaders. In fact, this disagreement is built into and encouraged by the system.

Vice-President Dick Cheney, while continuing to disagree with Congressman Murtha, called him a great American today and praised his service to the United States via his three decades of military service. John Murtha mentioned last week that he didn't think it was wise for a man who has taken five deferments from military service, to criticize a man that has not only talked the talk, but walked the walk in service to his country. Cheney took five deferments from military service when he was young and never served in the military.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing last week in the U.S. House of Representatives and from the White House when they were talking about this man like he was some kind of traitor. He's only a traitor to the Republican agenda, to his country he is a hero to many people that believe that the Bush administration has not managed the aftermath of the war in Iraq very well. Congressman Murtha is only the latest person to express these feelings and his comments would have died down quickly if the Republican party leadership had not have turned him into a martyr for the antiwar movement.

In a way, maybe the Republican leaders did the country a great service because the Democrats didn't have a strong voice until John Murtha. They were just up there being against everything that the Republicans wanted and most folks just ignored their rantings. However, when you turn a hero like Congressman John Murtha into a martyr you change the whole debate and give your opposition a strong voice to use against your goals.

I'm glad the Vice-President changed his tone when describing the Congressman. This man is a hero and the more you try to villainize a hero, the more you destroy yourself and the case you're trying to make.

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Pink Slip Christmas At General Motors

General Motors (GM) announced today that they are closing several production plants and laying off tens of thousands employees. Most experts have seen this coming for months, but no one was really sure when it would happen. Since before 9/11, the three major U.S. automobile companies having been trading future customers in exchange for immediate business.

What I mean by that statement is, they continue to offer incentives that encourage folks to purchase vehicles before their normal buying cycle. This works well until you've taken all your future automobile buyers out of the market which leaves you with nothing. That's what's happening right now at GM, Ford and Chrysler.

The new "red tag" pricing has to be the dumbest idea yet. People have seen car dealers use red tags for years as weekend and holiday promotions. Consumers pay about as much attention to red tag prices as they do to window sticker pricing. Customers just ignore the price and negotiate as normal. This type of one price system has been tried with Saturn and it has been a failure because most people WANT to negotiate on a vehicle, even if they tell survey companies they don't.

I've see some car dealers offering free gas for as long as you own your new car. My wife was saying tonight that she thought that was a good idea. However, what most people are not thinking about is that if an automobile manufacture goes into bankruptcy, they don't have to honor that commitment and dozens of analyst believe that bankruptcy is in the future of GM and Ford. Their company bonds which use to have great ratings are now rated by S&P at junk bond status. That's not good.

In my view, the major airlines are just a couple of years ahead of the automobile manufactures in losing so much money that they will eventually have to seek bankruptcy protection. The terrible underlying story with bankruptcy is what it will do to folks that have retired from the big three auto companies. Once this happens some judge will make decisions on what kind of pention benefits they receive in the years to come and it's certain that these benefits will be less than what they currently receive.

The United States has a bunch of financial time bombs and the airlines and big three auto manufactures are just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortuntaly, U.S. business has been more concerned with making investors happy each quarter than with the long term financial health of their companies. While this will create some feel good times in the short term for investors, it will be a disaster for their business and the United States ecomomy for decades to come.

Simple Life Desired By Some Americans

Have you ever wanted to go back in time to a place where life wasn't so complicated? I think about this from time to time especially when I watch an old TV program like, "Father Knows Best" or "The Dick Van Dyke Show". Then I think to myself that life wasn't really like that back then. It was a television mirage of what people wanted their life to be like.

Oh, the good old days were not that good when you look at the history books. There were lots of problems and the world was definitely not a fair or just place for everyone. Remember the old "Saturday Night Live" shows where Dana Carvey dressed up like an old man and coined the saying "In my day" we did this or that. It was so funny to watch because like just about everyone else 40 years or older, I remember my dad talking about walking to school in the snow and being grateful he had to do it. From his description the good old days didn't seem that good to me.

We make our past either good or bad depending on how we want to see it. Many folks look at their childhood and see only the good things that happened to them, while other are only able to remember bad events and experiences. So really, the good old days are what we choose to keep in our memories. They are not based on fact, they are more like dreams.

Keeping that in mind, I wonder if it's possible to do the same thing with the present? Could we create our own good old days in the present and choose to only concentrate on the good parts of the day and forget the rest? I'm not sure this is possible because the brain needs time to put everything that happens to us in it's proper prospective. If my mother heard me talking like this she would say I'm just trying to bury my head in the sand and be a Pollyanna!

I guess I'm a positive thinker because I don't have any regrets from my childhood. Most of the things I remember were good and when I think back on them I laugh and appreciate where I came from. I'm sure there were plenty of bad times and experience, but I don't remember them or I've just decided not to think about them anymore. I've read that depression is anger turn inward, so if a person could redirect those feelings out of their life, could they improve their depressed feeling? Probably so, but it certainly wouldn't be easy. Real change is very hard.

So, the good old days are not reality, but the experiences we choose to remember. That's the way I see it and when looked at in this way, it does give us some control over how we feel about our past so we can more forward into a brighter future.

Dallas Cowboys Looking Good This Year

The Dallas Cowboys won again yesterday against the Detroit Lions in a game their head coach, Bill Parcells, was worry about because he has coached teams before that started looking ahead instead of taking each game, one at a time. The Cowboys play the Denver Broncos on Thanksgiving day and I plan on watching that game with a turkey leg in one hand and pumpkin pie in the other. I guess I'll have to put my beer between my legs!

The Cowboys have made a dramatic turn around since they hired Bill Parcells and brought him to Dallas to rebuild the team affectionately called "Americas Team", by it's many fans worldwide. His first couple of years were not what I had hoped, but remember we professional football fans are not known for our patience. We want a winner right now. Rebuilding a team is for someone else.

There is an excellent chance that the Dallas Cowboys will make it to the playoffs this year, in fact there's a very good chance they might even win the NFC eastern division which hasn't happen in a long time. Somehow Jerry Jones has managed to keep his nose out of coaching for the most part the past couple of years. I really don't know how he's been able to manage this without some kind of twelve step program, but he has and this has given Parcells a change to do his magic with the team.

What I like about the new Cowboy team is that there are a bunch of good players on this team, but not that many great, or should I say marquee names. Sure it's fun to watch an Emmitt Smith or Roger Staubach play, but if you want to have a winning team these days, you need a group of really good players instead of a couple of great players. You create a team of good players with a great coach and then you might just have a Superbowl ring in your future.

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells brother died about one week ago and after burying his brother he had to coach the Cowboys the same night in a football game. I can't even image what that must have felt like, but he did it and they won the game. Down here in Texas there are a bunch of red necks that don't like New England folks very much. However, Bill Parcells may be changing a few minds here in the Lone Star State. Everyone likes a winner and if things continue to go as planned there should be some good years ahead for Coach Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys!

Savings Account Closed For Most Americans

The latest information from the government shows that Americans are not saving at all. In fact, the U.S. savings rate is now at a negative 1%. That's right the average American is spending more money than they are earning each month and making up the difference with credit cards. This is creating a terrible mess for the U.S. economy and disaster can't be far behind.

The talking head experts on television claim that this situation is due to the fact that Americans just can't control their spending habits and want to live beyond their means. While that is true in some cases, I believe at the heart of this problem there are people that can't keep up with the rising cost of necessities anymore because their wages are not increasing enough to keep up with price increases.

Just look at what has happened to the price of gasoline and heating oil. Sure they have come down over the past few weeks, but they are still much higher than they were last year. Millions of Americans don't have health insurance because they can't afford the high premiums. If these folks need to go to the doctor they will spend at least $100 out of their own pocket, just for a five minute visit. This doesn't include the cost of a prescription which could be a bunch of money if there is no generic available for the prescribed medication. Also, many companies won't pay them if they are sick and miss work, so they lose wages on top of everything else.

The price of housing or rent is going up all the time and have you checked out the price of a new car lately? Sure there are advertisements all over the place about how cheap it is to buy a new car right now, but the actual cost of the car goes up all the time. How about your insurance premiums? Are going up at about the same rate as you wage increases? Of course not, they always go up faster than wages and it's just something we don't pay attention to anymore because we've grown to expect it for so long.

The biggest problem here is that prices on items and services that we MUST have go up faster than wages. The only thing that seems to not increase faster are the items and services that we can chose to purchase or not. So what's a family of moderate income suppose to do? They pull out the old credit card each month and pray that somehow they will be able to pay back their large balance someday.

The truth is that most won't be able to pay back these extra credit card charges because their future income won't do any better than their past at keeping up with increasing necessity charges. When the government conducts their surveys on the current inflation rate they always include everything possible into the figure. However, if this information was broken down into necessity versus optional services, there would be a big difference in the rate of inflation and most folks would be pretty much stunned at how much more the average person is paying each year.

It's no wonder the United States savings rate is so low.

Ariel Sharon Shows Real Israeli Leadership

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to ask the Israeli president to dissolve parliament and call new elections in Israel within the next 90 days. Sharon will announce this week that he is leaving the Likud party which he founded decades ago and will run for Prime Minister under a new centralist party they he is going to form with members of various other parties in Israel.

In my opinion what we are seeing in Israel by this move is exactly what we will and need to see happen in the United States government and hopefully it will happen within the next few months. Both U.S. political parties have lost their way and have become puppets of the far right and left. A more central government is bound to be on the way here, it's just a matter of who is going to take the risk, like Sharon did in Israel and get the ball rolling.

People all around the world are hungry for real moderate leadership and all it takes is a large political figure to start what could be the next big political movement. Sharon may not win this new election in Israel, but that's not the point when looking at the much larger picture. Someone has to take a chance, stand up and do what they feel is right.

Last Friday, the United States House of Representatives hit a new low in my opinion, when they tried to embarrass a war hero because he spoke out against the administrations handling of the Iraqi war. The time is right for a moderate leader to step forward and lead our country out of this mess we're are in now. I don't know who it will be or which political party they will come from, but it is needed so badly.

The United States system is different than Israel, so it's not possible to get a potential quick fix like Sharon is attempting, but I believe that changes will happen from the grass roots level in the U.S. House of Representative when someone important breaks with party and starts saying what most Americans are feeling. The U.S. Senate might be the location of this future leader, but I don't hold out much hope for them because they always seem to get themselves tied up in various rules which won't allow anyone to step out and lead in the way that's going to be necessary for this third party to emerge.

It's important that all of us keep a close eye on Ariel Sharon over the next few months because what we will see happening in Israel is very likely the same think that will happen in the United States over the next twelve months.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

John Murtha Is Right About Iraqi Deadlines

Congressman John Murtha said today that he believes that U.S. forces will be out of Iraq within the time table he laid out last week. When he made the call for U.S. forces to get out of Iraq within the next six months, you would have thought the world was coming to an end listening to Republican leaders and spokesmen for the Bush administration. However, he's just saying what they are thinking anyway and they don't like someone beating them to the announcement.

There was a poll conducted recently and released today that stated that 80% of the Iraqi population wanted troops out of Iraq ASAP. The president may say that he wants troops out of Iraq when the job is done, but he's the one that has to say when that job is accomplished. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said today that troop will come out of Iraq when the commanders on the ground say it's time.

What? The troops should come out of the country, just like they went into the country when the commander and chief says it's time. Since when did we give this much power to field commanders? I don't think for a minute that Rumsfeld or the President of the United States has given this much power to military commanders. If they have then they have made a terrible mistake. This statement by him on television today just can't be true.

The latest administration position is that we went into Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people, so if they stick to this position, when 80% of the population says it's time for us to go, then we should honor their wishes. I sure hope they don't change the military mission again. Remember, we first went into Iraq because there were weapons of mass destruction that could be used by terrorist to attack the free world. When they didn't find those weapons, then they changed the mission to liberating the Iraqi people. Could there be even another change with this latest Iraqi public opinion poll? Only time will tell.

I don't think before last week I had even heard the name, John Murtha, but I have a feeling we're going to be hearing it a lot more in the days and weeks to come. This country was built by people of courage, and to me this guy has the right stuff.

Where's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Body?

While switching around the channels on television today there was breaking news on several of the cable networks that said that the worlds second biggest terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi might have been killed in a United States raid in the town of Mosul Iraq. I've heard these reports before in the media and I'm not going to believe anything they say in the future about this subject unless they can show me a body.

The news media has become so competitive that they just break into programming with rumor and treat it as fact until proven otherwise. I'm beginning to wonder if these folks have even attended journalism school and learned the basics of what it takes to be a good reporter? They probably have, but once they go to work for a major news organization all those rules fly out the window and the only thing that matters is getting the story first. The heck with getting it right.

When growing up I learned early that it was much easier to ask for forgiveness than it was to ask for permission and that's what all the cable networks are doing right now. However, I don't hear any of them asking for forgiveness when they get something wrong, anymore. They just move on and act like the thing never happened in the first place.

Late today, the U.S. government announced that it was unlikely that al-Zarqawi was killed in the raid, which was treated as a footnote on one of the cable news channels I was watched later. We've seen these kinds of problems at major newspapers, too. The need to be first is almost like an addiction and the public doesn't really care who got the story first, it's the major media organizations that turn this thing into a competition like some kind of frat house game.

It's lucky for these media organizations that most of the public not only doesn't know who was first, they have no idea who was wrong either, so they can just keep on making these mistakes and no one except the few of us that keep up on this kind of stuff will really know the truth.

When Saddam Hussein's two sons were killed early in the war, the U.S. military put their bodies on public display so everyone would believe that they were really dead. This might be something the Iraqi people can teach their American counter parts. Don't believe what you see on the television unless you can see the bodies for yourself. It's terrible that we have degraded to this point, but I'll believe al-Zarqawi is dead when they show his body on CNN.

Are The Militia Group Minutemen Terrorist?

Many on the far left believe that the militia group called Minutemen are a terrorist organization. I don't think I would go that far and they are fighting to get the U.S. border with Mexico under control. However, their methods are more in tune with radicals rather than freedom fighters.

I believe in a democracy that change must be made from the political level and if someone isn't happy with what the Congress or President does they must work within the system to effect change.

The truth is that the Minutemen organization can't sell their ideas to government leaders and they have no chance of getting folks elected that will follow their lead, so they have taken up arms and decided to take the law into their own hands.

This is where they cross the line and why their organization isn't going to be successful even though I believe their cause is just. There are a bunch of things I don't approve of in this country, but it's my job to work and get public opinion on my side to effect political change. If I can't, then I have to be a man and accept that my will is not what the public wants or is willing to accept.

There are too many people in this country that have decided that they know best and even if most people won't follow them, they must somehow force change to match their own beliefs. This is the definition of an ideologue and they will not be successful and could very easily start disobeying the law out of frustration.

I think a majority of the America people do think the government should do more to stop illegal immigration from Mexico, but regular folks taking up arms and defending the boarder isn't the right solution for the problem. I hope something bad doesn't happen with all these people running around the boarder of Texas, Arizona and California with guns. More than likely this whole Minutemen movement will end with some kind of terrible accident where scores of innocent people will be killed.

Related: Local Immigration Laws

Are Minutemen Terrorist?

Dealing With Fathers Death From Pancreatic Cancer

My brother-in-laws father is in the hospital and is near death. His dad is 92 years old and has lived a very good life. The past couple of days his father hasn't been able to sleep and seems to be hallucinating and talking to people that have preceded him in death. I'm no expert, but this does seem like a natural path for someone to follow when they are in their final days.

About five years ago I learned first hand what my brother-in-law is going through when my father was dying of pancreatic cancer. My dad only lived three months after his diagnosis, but during those three months I learned a lifetime worth of knowledge from hospice workers who not only took care of my fathers pain, but offered counseling to him and the rest of the family on what to expect during the final days of a persons life.

The mind does goes through changes in preparation for death as the entire body goes through the dying process. I found out that just like the act of living is a process, the act of dying also has a rhythm to it and most people exhibit these same signs as they approach death. The first time I heard about these steps of dying, I didn't really want to deal with it because all I could think about was the fact that my father was going to die and I didn't want it to happen.

However, with time I found myself reading the hospice material and I discovered and finally accepted that the act of dying is the most natural process on this earth. Since all of us are going to die someday, I did take a keen interest in the hospice material and sure enough the steps that my father took towards his day with death were remarkably similar to the ones outline in the book provided to us by the hospice organization.

During my dads final couple of days, he was not able to talk or express feelings because his pain was so bad we had to install a morphine pump which kept him unconscious all of the time. However, his body did go through the same death steps, just like I read about in the book. Some of the things we were taught to watch for, in the final stages of life, were the bodies extremities changing color which I believe they referred to as "the body forming".

During this final stage of life, the body will stop the blood flow to the fingers and toes in an effort to preserve vitals organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys and lungs. While this is going to be a losing battle, the body never-the-less will try to stay alive until the last possible minute. Once this forming begins, usually death happens within a few hours. This time period does allow the family to all gather and say their final farewells all at once, which for us was a wonderful emotional experience.

We all were able to say good-bye and be to be there when dad took his last breath. When he took that last breath it was not a bad or sad thing like I expected. It was natural and the entire family knew what to expect. If anyone has to go through this same type of experience I would recommend reading the hospice material even if you don't need their pain management service. This organization has more heart than you can image.

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