Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday Night Food - A Weekly Event For Many

I am writing this on Friday afternoon and within the next couple of hours, thousands of people in my city will be heading out to their favorite restaurants to stand in line and wait to eat. Every city I’ve lived in has this “Friday Night Event”, so I am pretty sure that it happens nationwide. Six days per week it would be easy to visit any of these restaurants, walk in the front door, be seated immediately and get served food within a matter of minutes. Why is it that most families seem to eat out at restaurants more on Friday night that any other night of the week?

I believe some of it has to do with tradition. Families have followed this “end of the week” activity for many generations. I think it might go back to a time when most people performed jobs with their hands and the work they did on a daily basis was so tiring that all most of them wanted to do was get home after work. Monday-Thursday was built around keeps ones strength up so they could finish out their week at work, even though many of their bodies were telling them to stop. On Friday night, many people did not have to rise early the next morning for another day of hard work and giving themselves a special treat of a visit to a good restaurant on Friday night was something millions of people looked forward to all week.

Another reason restaurants are so busy on Friday nights have to do with the financial factor. I think most people are paid on Friday’s. I can’t prove this, but just from plain old ordinary observation, I have found that folks who are paid weekly or biweekly are most often paid on Friday. I think it makes sense for people to take a small amount of their earnings and reward themselves on payday. What better way to do that than to cash your paycheck and spend a little bit of that pay periods money on a good hot meal that no one living in you house had to prepare? Without some kind of “reward system”, some jobs can become almost unbearable over the years because of boredom.

Whatever the real reason why most people prefer to “eat out” more on Friday nights than any other night of the week, the restaurant owners don’t seem to mind. These huge Friday night crowds seem to allow them to hire additional workers for this one night per week, so their customers don’t have to wait too long, get discouraged and walk out the front door and go somewhere else. In the past three or four years there has been an explosion of new restaurants opening here in the Waco, Tx area. While our population is going up, it is not growing enough to support all these new national chain restaurants. It is nice, though, to have more rather than fewer choices when eating out.

I think locally here in Waco, many national restaurant chains first started noticing our city after President Bush was elected to office in 2000 and he started traveling to his home in Crawford, Tx many times during his two terms as President of the United States. There is no doubt that our small city of about 150,000 people does expand on the weekends when President Bush visits here and I worry sometimes if many of these new restaurant chains will go out of business once the President’s term in office is concluded in 2008? Well, I have no control over that and my wife and I are just going to enjoy all the new choices in dinning out in the mean time. However, when my wife and I eat out we try to buck the “Friday Night” trend. We much prefer some other night of the week when we don’t have to wait so long to be seated. I guess we are growing too impatient in our older years!

Related: Right Food Choices, Omega 3 Walnuts, Diet Reflects Attitude, Healthy Meal Choices, McDonalds Strip Search, Spare Tire Waistline, Healthy Food Kills, Tipping In Restaurants

Leaders Visit Graceland - Bush/Koizumi In Memphis

As President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi prepare for a trip to Memphis, Tennessee today for a private tour of the home of the late Elvis Presley, "Graceland"; let me just say they are in for one heck of a treat. In the summer of 2000, my wife and I traveled from our Central Texas home to Memphis, without any real travel itinerary except to visit "Graceland". The summer of 2000 was a very hot one and temperatures were in the mid 100 range when we took our tour. However, we along with thousands of other people, that day, stood in line and waited our turn to walk through a house which was much smaller than I had imaged, but none the less filled with more history than any place I had ever seen.

I usually don't get very excited about world leaders, but Prime Minister Koizumi is the exception. There is just something special about this man and I have never been able to put my finger on why I like him so much. I think his attitude about life and his "swashbuckling" style remind me more of an old settler from the US wild west, more so than the leader of a country like Japan. I read that in his home country he is not only respected by young people as a leader, but looked up to as an adult who has not totally sold out to the "stiff upper lip" crowd which often times are in leadership positions in Japan.

Thinking back on our trip to "Graceland", there were so many things to see which didn't even involve the actual tour of "Elvis' Home. I haven't heard if both leaders are going to visit the museums located across the street from this famous home or the two "jet aircraft" which were open to the public to see when we visited in the year 2000. The big news story I was following during that summer vacation mainly revolved around "Firestone Tires" and Ford Explorer SUV's. As I said previously, the weather was above average hot that year and people were dying on the nations highways because of tire blowouts which many experts were blaming on faulty tire construction.

When we visited Memphis Tennessee, my wife and I decided to get a hotel room in the near by community of Tunica, Mississippi. It was only about a ten-minute drive from Tunica to the Memphis City Limits. I remember being surprised at the low cost of our hotel room during that trip. We arrived on a Wednesday and stayed two nights at a very nice "casino hotel” which had a great view of the "Mississippi River" and the hotel rate was on $39 per night. While this rate was fantastic from my point of view, hotel management made it clear that we would have to check out before Friday afternoon to continue to get that great rate because their room rates increased to $150 per night on the weekends. I had no idea that the Memphis Tennessee area had so much to offer the vacationing public, but it certain was a memorable trip for us.

President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi are in for a "big treat" today when they visit the hometown of Elvis Presley. The surroundings and people of Memphis Tennessee are much different than the uptight folks in Washington, DC. There is so much to see in this city and while I doubt if the two leaders will venture outside of Memphis during this trip, there is one other thing I saw which made our trip more interesting. Between Memphis and Little Rock Arkansas, just off of I-40, there are some of the most beautiful acres of growing cotton I have even seen. The cotton we saw growing in that area was over five feet tall. Cotton plants this tall was something I had never seen before, even though I was raised as a "cotton farmers" son in the Texas panhandle in the 1970's.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

NYC Hurricane Fears - 'Big Apple' Direct Hit

Maybe it is just because of the recent flooding in the northeastern United States, but many folks were talking today about what could happen in New York City if a major hurricane hit our nations largest city. The truth is that no one really knows the answer, but one thing is for sure and that is a major hurricane in NYC would be a disaster which would make New Orleans look like “small potatoes” in comparison. The biggest potential problem is pretty evident to anyone who looks at the population make of up the “Big Apple”. There are millions more people who live in the New York City area than in New Orleans and the very make up of the NYC population base is much more different than that in New Orleans.

The biggest problem New York City would face would be in getting millions of people evacuated, quickly. Even on a good day, with no bad weather, it is tough for folks just to get to work, on time, in NYC and get home before it is time to go to bed. Millions of New York City residents live on an Island, which is only accessible via bridges, tunnels and for the fortunate few, helicopters. While very few will publicly admit this; hundreds of thousands of residents could be killed in a major hurricane if it took a direct hit on New York City. The problem is that too many people live in this huge urban metroplex and there is no way to get everyone out within the current time frame of hurricane predictions.

For millions of people there is a great sense of security living in a huge city with millions of other people. However, this personal security factor will work against residents in NYC if a hurricane is predicted to hit within a limited time window of say, 48 hours. There is no way any government could evacuate so many people in this short of a period of time. Last year when Hurricane Rita threatened a direct hit on the city of Houston; most people were able to get out of that city successfully within this short time window. However, the city of Houston is much different that New York City and its population is about 1/3 the size of “NYC”. The biggest difference though is that Houston Texas is filled with dozens of freeways leading in and out of the city and most importantly, it is “landlocked” which means their population isn’t limited to escaping via bridges or underground tunnels.

Another major issue, which is pretty much unique to NYC, is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people there don’t speak English and it is not just one “non English” language authorities would have to concern themselves with. Many residents of New York City speak one of more than a dozen languages. Also, while most residents in Houston Texas know how to drive a car, millions of New Yorkers don’t even have a driver’s license or access to an automobile. These folks would totally be at the mercy of local government officials and the New York City Transit System to escape a major approaching hurricane. There are very few good scenarios that face New York City if a major hurricane is heading their direction. However, major hurricanes have stuck this city in the past and they are most certainly going to strike it again in the future. The only real question is when it will happen and how much damage and death and destruction will remain once that storm finally occurs.

VA Laptop Recovered - SSN Numbers Compromised

There was some good news reported out of Washington today that a "stole laptop computer" which contained the names, social security numbers and dates of birth of millions of retired and active duty US military personnel had been recovered. FBI experts, who examined the computer hard drive are reporting that the critical information contained on that laptop computer had not been accessed since the date it was stolen. This is great news for millions of veterans who were concerned that their personal information could have been used to "steal their identities".

People who work for the US government need to take precautions to make sure something like this doesn't happen again. There were rules at the VA against taking this information off premises, but this employee broke the rules and took it home, anyway. I have yet to hear what kind of punishment, if any this employee will face after he or she put the personal credit of millions of veterans, who have defended this country, at risk. More than likely very little will be done to punish this person because they are probably covered under civil service protection. While there are good reasons for such rules, protecting someone who did something so wrong shouldn't be one of them.

High tech criminals are getting smarter everyday and people in leadership of companies and government agencies who are in charge of maintaining the personal and private information of Americans, should be reminded, often, about these types of potential disasters. Some of these criminals are getting rich by ruining the credit history's of hundreds of thousands of people around the country and where better for these "crooks" to steal person information than from the federal government? For understandable reasons many government agencies maintain personal information on almost all American citizens.

In recent years, even young children are issued social security numbers to help the IRS make sure that separated or divorced parents are not both claiming the same children on their income tax forms. I have a terrible feeling that in the years to come, millions of kids who graduate from high school and apply for their first credit card or car loan will be in for a shock. After years of just being a kid they will find out, the hard way, that some stranger has been using their social security number to steal from companies for years. I know this has already happened a few times because I've seen it reported on the news. However, there is little doubt that the problem will get worse as more and more youngsters grow to adulthood.

I wrote the other day about my desire for the government to come up with a better form of identification for American citizens rather than using their social security number and date of birth. In the days before identity theft became a problem, these two forms of identification were more than adequate to protect citizens and their credit ratings. However, with the Internet and high tech folks who have little trouble breaking into computer networks and/or steal personal information from the computers of government employees; a newer and better system should be developed. Very few people use cash anymore with the development of ATM and Visa Check Cards, so this problem will most likely get worse unless something better is developed to protect the American people.

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

Israeli Soldier Killed - Hatred Dominates Middle East

Once again a short lived cease fire between Israel and Palestine has been broken and daily fighting and killing is starting to become the theme of the day in this embattled region of the world. The people of these two countries have been fighting and killing each other for thousands of years and all the people of the world should take a close look at what is happening between Palestine and Israel. Any nation who has a government who does not wish to compromise with people who are different in language, skin color or religion from their own; could face this same type of situation in their own future.

Without being too simplistic about war and peace issues, there are steps any nation could take to prevent an all out war, which lasts for hundreds of years. The most important step is not to bring you children up to hate others who are different from you. Unfortunately, homegrown hatred is at the root of what is wrong the Middle East. Millions of children from both Israel and Palestine have been taught that the other side in this century's old feuding war in evil and can’t be trusted. Then those kids grow up and spread the same message of hate to their children. It doesn’t take long to realize why the fighting has been going on for so long between Israel and the Palestinians.

This hatred has now spread to the US and if the American people are not careful we will fall into this same trap of teaching our kids that all Arabs are evil. It is easy to pass off these feelings to our children because they learn early on to believe not so much what we as parents say, but to view and judge us by our actions. In a way, hating another ethnic group of people is easier than finding a way to get along with each other. If someone hurts you or someone you know, the natural human instinct is to hate that person. However, most folks are less able to see when they have emotional hurt someone else or caused them misery in a round about way.

I have a feeling that the only way the world is even going to truly get along is if something, which is more important than hatred comes along to unite all nations in some type of common project for good. I don’t have a clue what that might be, but I cannot see anything else brining all sides together in compromise when there is so much hatred among various nations and cultures. A smart man told me once that it takes more internal energy to be angry than happy. That might be true, but when folks are unhappy; many find it easier to look for someone to blame than to look in the mirror for self-evaluation.

The world is in a dangerous place right now and most likely there will be more bad days to come because of century’s old conflicts, misunderstandings and down right hatred by people with different opinions of what this world should look like. We in the United States need to think long and hard before we start blaming all of the problems of this world on a particular race or religion. While this is very easy to do, it does contain a big downside, which is visible, every single day in Israel and Palestine.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Housing Market Cools - Is Recession Next?

Every month more evidence is showing up that the once booming US Housing Market is starting to cool down. If the only thing bad that happens is that home sales slow a little bit more each month, then that will be good news. Many people, like myself, are more concerned with an all out melt down in “housing” which could send the US economy into a recession. There have been so many signs in the housing market over the past couple of years, which remind me of the stock market in the late 1990’s. During that period of time most folks believed “the sky was the limit” when it came to high flying technology and Internet stock which mainly were found on the NASDAQ stock market. Billions of dollars of wealth were lost in only a few months period of time when that market “bubble” burst and some folks had to put off retirement because getting 100% plus returns on investment dollars was just too hard to pass up.

There are some signs that the current real estate market is going through a similar process where people have closed their eyes to any possible downside to investing in housing. It is very easy to get completely obsessed into a growing marketplace where the only thing people talk about is increasing prices and profits for investors. While there are very few investments, which will do better than real estate, in the long run, for most folks their idea of the long run is about twelve months. When you add to that type of thinking the fact that most people are buy real estate with borrowed money. Then everything needed is present for the housing market to possibly collapse one day and leave millions of people with no property and a huge mountain of debt they will never be able to pay off.

Some of the really big real estate "hot spots" like Miami and Las Vegas are building like there is no tomorrow and people are quickly gobbling up these new properties. Many folks who are investing in these fast growing real estate markets never intend to live in the properties they are buying, but rather they want to flip them as soon as possible for a quick profit. In my opinion this flipping idea is just as stupid as buying risky stocks on margin without totally realizing that there is no guarantee that any market will continue to grow in the future. Especially these two markets of Miami and Las Vegas give me the feeling I’m watching the NASDAQ happening all over again except this time it is happening with real estate, instead of stocks.

Since the beginning of time, average people have always wanted to find a way to “get rich quick” or find a guaranteed way to provide a large income for themselves and their family. However, the truth is that becoming successful at anything takes time and at least some hard work. Sure some folks are at the right place, at the right time, with the right idea, but that doesn’t happen that often in the world today. I am just afraid that millions of people are going to be financially ruined because of this latest rush to cash in on easy money in the real estate market. I could be wrong and that would not be a bad thing either. However, there will soon be an end to double digit increases in real estate prices because nothing can continue to go up forever at a rate higher than inflation or the amount the average persons income increases each year.

This isn’t rocket science, but just plain ordinary mathematics. The first rule of real estate investing should always be, "buyer beware".

Related: US Style Economy, Stock Market Declines

Housing Market Cools

Partisan News Coverage - FoxNews/CNN And MSNBC

It is becoming more difficult each passing day for me to watch cable news on any of the major cable news networks. In various ways, each tries to impose its political agenda on the audience and I don’t like anyone trying to tell me what I just saw and how to interpret events. The days of CNN just reporting the news are gone. Now, CNN and Fox News spend most of their time trying to put the day’s news into the political context of the networks own ideology. For years, this type of reporting was pretty easy to see on the Fox News Channel, but in some ways CNN is now worse than Fox News.

This is the reason I try to get most of my news updates on the Internet, now days. I never believe any one source for news anymore. Unless I see basically the same story on many different websites, reported the same way, I just chalk up that story to political propaganda. I think all of the major television news networks have turned into nothing more that “political spin machines” for the political party they have allegiance to. When a person is just trying to get the facts about something in the news they are interested in following, this kind of political slanting of the news creates anger in some folks who are not looking for political commentary on every story, but just the basic facts.

I’m leaving MSNBC out of this mix because I don’t think they know which side they are on. This doesn’t mean that they are the fairest cable network by any stretch of the imagination; MSNBC reminds me of a ship at sea without a compass. I did read recently that they hired Dan Abrams to run the network and maybe he will be able to give some much need direction to that network. It is really sad when a wonderful news organization like NBC News can’t seem to get their cable network interesting enough to attack even a million homes to most of their daily programming.

I see more and more people turning to the Internet for their basic news coverage because of the growing partisanship stands being made by CNN and Fox News. This is a free country and these network have every right to run their businesses the way they see fit. However, unless a person is a true political partisan; neither one of these networks will appeal to them. So that leaves this new tool called the Internet as one of the newest places to get the facts about breaking news. More than likely this is just another in a long series of changes which will effect how news is reported in the future.

There is one area where all three of the cable news networks excel in coverage and that is in live breaking news. No one else comes close to doing a better job than FOX, CNN or MSNBC at covering events like a “hostage standoff” or “police chase”. In the future, many people may get instant messages via cell phone or pager about breaking news stories and then turn on one of the cable news networks. Once that story is over and they go back to partisan reporting once again, folks can turn off their televisions and head back to their laptop computers for more news reading.

Fun Camping Trips - Great Weekend Adventure

As I approach the ripe old age of 50, my mind keeps thinking back to the days when I was a young man. In my 20’s, one of the things I enjoyed the most was packing up the car with some food, a tent and a few fishing poles; then heading out for a weekend camping trip on a near by lake. I’m not sure when or why I stopped taking this weekend trips, but as the years went by, they became less frequent and eventually faded away entirely. Now all I have are memories of how much fun these weekend camping trips were and while I could pack up my car this weekend and go somewhere and do the same thing. Most likely I won’t do that because my life is much different today than it was 30 years ago.

In the days when I took these weekend camping trips, I was working much harder, manual labor wise, than I am today. I think camping has a way of helping a person who works hard get back in touch with his or her own inter-spirit. I remember Friday afternoon's well when I would be so excited to see the end of the workday come so I could head to the lake and “wet a hook”. At least that is what we called fishing back then and I still hear some folks use that term even today. In reality, fishing has never been about success or failure on a fish trip, but the actually experience. Fishing is a spiritual experience for me and whether or not many fish are caught, is not the real point.

Another memorable part of these weekend camping trips is the smell of fresh coffee cooking on a campfire. When I use to camp, there was nothing modern like an automatic coffee maker. We used an old iron coffee percolator, which made coffee the old fashion way by boiling it. Someone told me the other day that in the UK, most people still make their coffee that way, even today. While the coffee might not have the same flavor it has today, it sure was good on a cold morning. However, the best thing about cooking coffee this way is the huge coffee smell, which is generated over the campfire. No matter how tired I was in the morning, that coffee smell could get me out of my sleeping bag ready for a good taste of “Java”.

Over that same campfire, we would cook bacon and eggs in an old cast iron skillet and while there is no doubt the cholesterol rating from that kind of breakfast would send most doctors into cardiac arrest. The food was really good and it helped get our day started in a positive, if not totally healthy, way. Now that I think back on it, those weekend camping trips all revolved around that single campfire. I really had never thought about that until just now. However, that same campfire was the place where we sang songs and told stories at night before we headed back to our tent to get some sleep. These were truly fun and relaxing times during my younger years.

Maybe most of us are not meant to continue taking weekend camping trips our entire lives? Maybe we take these trips when we are young to buildup good memories for our older years and to give our mind some positive to think about from that time period, other than all the real life problems most of us faced with money and raising a family. No matter what the real reason, it is nice to remember a time when camping was an important part of my life and even though so much has changed over the past 30 years, those memories and experiences will stay with me, forever.

Cell Phone Research - Use Excites The Brain

New research from Italy is showing that cell phone use, excites the brain, in folks who talk on these portable devices. Researchers are not sure whether this is good or bad but the will continue to study the issue. Just for the sake of argument, lets say that talking on a cell phone is good and the more a person talks on their cell phone the better they feel. Can you imagine what the world will be like in years to come when people start to claim they must talk on their cell phone just to feel normal?

The human brain is made up of complex electrical connections and it has been proven that many aliments, such as depression, are caused when these brain electrical impulses are not working correctly. Could it be that the reason some folks feel better after talking on their cell phone is because the actual phone signal is stimulating their brains rather than the person on the other end of the line? With all the advancements in medical research, there is still so much to learn about how our brains work and what causes us to either feel happy or sad.

I have a cell phone, but I don’t use it very much. Like many men, I don’t enjoy talking on the telephone. However, there could be something to this new research information because I have noticed, especially teenagers, talk on their cell phones all the time. Before I read this new information, I just thought it was another, modern day, social must for youngsters so they could better fit it to their world of big peer pressures and games. I guess it is possible that the actual use of a cell phone is somehow causing pleasure and a sense of belonging in a person and not the human feedback they are getting from the person who they are talking to.

I look forward to learning more about this new research and I am eager to find out if other researchers around the world are going to follow up on this Italian discovery. Most likely, there will now be many research studies done on this issue. There are groups around the world that spend all of their time trying to prove that cell phone usage is bad and some claim that prolonged exposure to cell phones could raise the risk of cancer in people who use them a bunch. It might turn out, at the end of the day, that even though talking on the cell phone does excite our brains and make us feel better; that feeling will be short lived and eventually cause long-term health problems.

In any event, this new study does give everyone something, potentially, positive to think about when they place or receive a call on their cell phone. Too many times in the world today, these new devices, which make our lives easier, are eventually proven to be bad for our health. While I don’t talk on my cell phone as much as other folks, I certainly wouldn’t want to travel this world without it anymore. To me and many others, having a cell phone is just another layer of security in a dangerous world and I certainly hope that it is never proven that all of us have been somehow killing ourselves by just using one of these wonderful devices.

Latinos Get Angry Over Texas Redistricting Plan

The US Supreme Court upheld most aspects of the Texas Congressional-redistricting plan today, with one small exception. The justices said that the plan did hurt traditional “Latino” voters and while this map will be redrawn to reflect this court ruling. The Republican Party has once again “shot itself in the foot” with the largest growing group of minority voters in the country.

President Bush has worked overtime trying to win back Latino voters to the Republican Party after Governor Pete Wilson, of California, caused millions of Latinos not to trust the Republican Party, anymore. However, this “High Court” ruling in the Texas redistricting plan will be remember for a long time by members of the Latino community as another attempt by the Republican Party to limit their voice in US politics.

Being “short-sighted” is just how politics work in the US House of Representatives because all members of that legislative body must face reelection every two years. However, this type of short-term thinking does lead to problems which may not of even occurred to them when certain ideas are first proposed. I live in Texas and the main reason Governor Rick Perry and then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay wanted to redraw the Congressional districts in Texas was simply to assure a “House” Republican victory in 2004.

There is no doubt that Congressional redistricting accomplished its short-term goal, but at what cost to the future of the Republican Party? Now the fastest growing minority block of voters has another reason NOT to trust the Republican Party and these feelings of mistrust will last far longer than one election cycle. Most of the time when elected officials use tricks to stay in political office, they end up with other problems, which will eventually cause their own demise. I think this redistricting plan in Texas, while initially successful for the Republican Party will, in the long run, cause more damage than good for the politicans who first proposed the idea.

This same type of “short-sighted” thinking is what got the Republican Party in trouble with “African-American” voters many years ago. Young people don’t even realize the “African-Americans” use to support Republicans more than Democrats in the United States. In fact, Abraham Lincoln was a Republican President who stopped slavery in the US and that act brought great, African-American, respect to the Republican Party until new party leaders destroy that trust years later when Republican leaders tried to stop civil rights legislation from being passed in the Congress.

Now Republican Congressional leaders are working hard to destroy trust in the party from another group of “minority voters” against the wishes of another Republican President. There were already hurt feelings between the Latino community and the Republican Party over “hard-handed” immigration reform ideas. However, this new revelation from the “US Supreme Court” that the Republican lead congressional redistricting plan in Texas discriminated against Latino voters, will be a much bigger problem for the Republican Party for years to come and it will most likely lead to a “second class” party status for generations.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hate Flag Burning - Constitutional Amendment Fails

No one on earth becomes angrier than I do when I see someone burning the US Flag. I don’t know why it makes me so angry, but it does. Today, a measure in the US Senate failed by one vote to proceed with a Constitutional Amendment to forbid burning the American Flag in protest. Burning old and worn out Americans Flags is consider the right thing to do and that fitting end to a US Flag was not effect by this proposed Amendment to the US Constitution. While I hate flag burning, I hate even more politicians who only bring up important issues like this in an election year to try and get more voters from their political party to show up at the polls.

Someone told me once and they were right, that the American people get exactly what they deserve in elected officials because the average American doesn’t take the time to really look at their elected officials voting records in non election years. All of the officials in the US Senate who were so passionate the past few days about this Constitutional Amendment were no where to be found the past year and a half on this issue. This idea was only brought back up to inspire conservative voters to get angry at Democrats so they would get off their butts and vote Republican in November.

It doesn’t surprise me anymore when politicians are so blatantly political about issues like “flag burning” and “border control” during election years. The reason they take this approach is because it works and it has been proven successful for many years. The reason it works is because of the apathy of most of the American people about elected politicians and the day in and day out issues which they barely take the time to even examine when it is not an election year. The idea of banning flag burning is a good one, even when politicians are not up for reelection and need to prod the party faithful to the polls.

With the exception of a very few folks, most Americans think it is very disrespectful for people to burn the American Flag in protest. I have heard all the arguments from the other side about free speech and I totally agree with freedom of speech for anyone who wishes to express displeasure with the US government. However, there must be some kind of rules, even in a free country and even when it comes to free speech. I personally draw that line at “flag burning” because destroying the American Flag in this manner is so hurtful to families who have lost loved ones in war defended that same flag.

The idea of a Constitutional Amendment to prevent flag burning is a good idea which most likely will never actually happen because it is now just a political stunt to get conservative voters to the polls in November. This idea might have a chance at passage, if it were proposed in a non election year, but I’m not going to hold my breath expecting that to actually happen.

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

Second Hand Smoke Dangerous To People

The lead story on most network newscast tonight was about the new warning from the US Surgeon General about new research studies which confirm that second hand smoke is dangerous to people. To be honest, I thought this had been decided years ago, but I must have been mistaken. My guess is that communities all around the US will now pass new laws, which will further restrict where and when smokers can light up. The big story behind the story here is what is going to be happening in family courts now when one parent smokes and the other one does not.

In most cities, Child Protective Services (CPS) is already taxed beyond their limits trying to keep the children in their community living in a safe environment. Most likely now this important agency will be brought into an entirely new issue when it comes to the safety of children and that is the future health consequences of children living in a home where one or more of their parents smoke inside the home. While this new issue might be important, I would be surprised if local and state leaders are going to be willing to increase the funding of CPS to cover all the additional calls and complaints which are going to be filed in their offices because of second hand smoke issues.

I also believe that family courts will start giving preferences in child custody matters to parents who do not smoke. Courts are charged with placing children, of a divorce, into an environment, which is in the “best interest of the child”. Now with the top US government medical official saying that second hand smoke is deadly, then parents who smoke are going to be at a big disadvantage when it comes to deciding which parent will be the primary custodian of the children. This will also effect the non-custodial parent when it comes to smoking when the children are making weekend and summer visits to that parent as well.

As if matters are not already bad in family courts around the country, this new decision about second hand smoke will further congest the court system with complaints from feuding parents over their children after divorce. Most likely, many lawyers are already preparing statements to the court about a parent who smokes and the dangers they are presenting to their own children because of second hand smoke. I’m not saying that courts should not consider this issue when deciding child custody matters; I’m just saying that the whole system will now move slower than it already has been in the past few years because of this new issue which will effect millions of Americans and their children.

In life, nothing raises the blood pressure and anger level of regular everyday folks more than divorce and child custody issues. Unfortunately, there will now be another big issue for courts to consider when deciding which home will be best for the children after a divorce. The days of the simple decision where the kids always went to live with the mother, after divorce, have come and gone. In the future many different arguments will be presented in court and the newest one started today with this new research announcement that second hand smoke is dangerous.

DUI Deaths Up - Local Police Crackdown

Across the country many state and local police departments have been cracking down on people who are driving under the influence of alcohol or some other mind altering drug. These DUI crackdowns have been going on for several years now, in some states and experts say that all of these resources by law enforcement personal and the millions of dollars spent to try and solve this problem are not working as well as were anticipated. When these DUI programs were first launch there were high hopes that law enforcement would be able to reduce the death rate on the nations highways caused by folks who drink and then drive.

It is difficult to control the behavior of people, which are many times, “hooked” on either alcohol or other medications. After a period of time, these drugs begin to effect the personal responsibly part of the brain and at some point they lose the ability to realize they are putting the lives of others at risk each time they get behind of wheel of their vehicle. This is another example of how, “getting tough on law breakers” does not work all the time and when it comes to folks who are “hooked” on drugs it very seldom works at all.

It is hard to blame family members who have lost loved ones in car accidents because of the poor choices of people who continue to drink too much and then get behind the wheel of a car for wanting justice. These relatives are rightly angry and want these folks somehow punished for causing the death of their family member. The problem is that many people who are repeat offenders of DUI laws, really don’t care what law enforcement or the general public think, because they have convinced themselves that they drive better drunk than when sober and no one is going to convince them otherwise.

There were some old laws on the books 20 or 30 years ago that mandated repeat DUI offenders install “breathalyzers” into their automobiles. Once installed, the car wouldn’t start until the person’s blood alcohol level was below the legal limit. I'm not sure why these devices are not used anymore, but most likely some ACLU attorney went to court and said it violated the rights of some repeat DUI offender. While this type of device will not stop people who are under the influences of a drug other than alcohol, it might have a positive effect on the vast majority of deaths cause by driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The sad truth is that most chronic alcoholics who drive after consuming too much alcohol are going to continue this practice no matter what laws are put on the books to stop them. The reason I believe this to be the case is based on the tremendous number of people who have caused the deaths of others and after they have served their time in jail, immediately return to drinking and driving once again. I wish I could offer a good solution to this problem, but I can’t. The best most of us can do is just be very careful when we drive our cars and always be on the alert for people driving who have no business being behind the wheel.

Criminals Get Smarter - Computers Instead Of Guns

In the old days, criminals who needed money would stop by their local convenience store with a gun and pick up a little extra cash. However, today the smart criminals are finding ways to steal other peoples money without even leaving their home. Of course, I'm talking about the new criminals who use computers and the Internet to steal the identities of other people right from the comfort of their own homes. In the early days of identity theft, criminals would hire people who worked at restaurants to swipe the magnetic strip of credit cards of customers into a special reader which gave them access to that persons card number and expiration date.

These days the criminals are much smarter and more efficient than that, now days they steal entire CD's containing millions the social security numbers and dates of birth of millions of people from employees on the inside of business or government. Then they make out like "high tech" bandits with vital and very personal information. If this present trend of identity theft continues to grow, it is hard to imagine anyone escaping this problem. Also, if business and government leaders don't come up with a better way to protect a person’s identity than just their social security number and date of birth, the damage to the US economy could be catastrophic.

In recent weeks the problem has gotten even worse because now criminals are breaking into regional offices of major companies who maintain large amounts of data on customers. These new criminals are stealing the entire computer servers of these companies, which would contain millions of small bytes of information on anyone that had done business with in the past. Just imagine how much information would be contained on an insurance company server? Even people who never did business with that company, might have applied for insurance or other services at one time or another and that data could be taken by a criminal and used to steal that person’s identity.

The old way of doing business must change if the average consumer is to be protected against this new type of crime. It is just too easy for smart criminals to get their hands on the personal information of millions of people and then use that information to become very wealthy. I believe this problem is worse than most people are willing to admit because there is so much information stored on computers systems around the world, which are tied together by business servers that talk to each other all the time. From what I've read if a persons identity is stolen, it can take up to a year before their good credit rating is reestablish. In the mean time they will find it difficult to get credit for automobile purchases and home mortgages because someone they didn’t even know, ruined their personal credit without their knowledge.

I don't have an answer for this problem, but surely large companies are looking into better ways to identify their customers other than the time tested current way of using their social security number, date of birth and mothers maiden name. With computers and the Internet everywhere these day, big business and government must step up to the plate and come up with better ideas to protect their customers information and credit ratings. There will always be those who will try and manipulate the system and find temporary ways to rip that system off. However, there has been a huge wake up call going out to businesses now for years and their response so far has been less than reassuring.

Stupid Anti Tobacco Ads On Television

In my part of the country, television is filled with various anti-tobacco advertisements all the time. While teaching our kids not to smoke is a very important goal, some of these "wacko" groups seem to be wasting valuable resources because the message they are sending out is, well, pretty stupid. The “State of Texas” produced a new anti-tobacco ad I saw several times this past weekend. One part of the message had some tough looking “biker guy” saying that he saw a person once try to sell cigarettes to a kid and he didn't think that was right, so he wasn't going to let that happen.

The message I got out of this ad was that people should cause trouble at stores if they suspect a clerk of selling cigarettes to a minor. First off, if people really try to interject their anti-tobacco thinking into retail establishments around the country there is going to be trouble and violence and most likely the customer who is causing the trouble is going to jail. To me, an advertisement like this is very wrong and just plain stupid. I'm not really sure exactly how these nationwide lawsuits were settled almost ten years ago against the tobacco industry, but apparently some of that settlement money was distributed into anti-smoking advertisements and some folks that got money to spend are not that smart.

Another one of these anti-tobacco ads that just driven me nuts is the one with a guy who has a really crazy hairstyle and he goes around repeating ridicules things which were said by tobacco company executives over the years. Such as, "the government should ban sleep because more people died in their sleep" and stupid stuff like that. The mistakes I see in these types of messages are that they are clearly produced by "wacko" groups who probably got a cut of money from anti-smoking lawsuits and they must find a way to spend it. This appears to be more a case of money looking for a message rather than a message needing to get out to the general public.

I don't think there is a person alive on planet earth that doesn't already know that smoking is bad for their health. These new TV ads are not doing anything to reduce smoking. Most of the ads I'm seeing are just produced to make the tobacco industry look bad and that is wrong because the last time I checked it is still legal for an adult to purchase and use tobacco products. If this industry and product are so terrible, why hasn't the government banned its use? We all know the answer to that question, which is huge tax revenue potential. Every time a state or local government needs some extra money for their general fund or special programs, they just add another tax to the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

I wish these stupid anti-tobacco ads would stop running on television all the time. However, I don't see that happening until whoever is controlling the money to produce and run these ads, turns off the financing. Many of these current, "stop smoking" advertisements are not working and are basically a waste of time and money. If there really is that much money available to spend on anti-smoking ad campaigns, then the "money folks" need to find better advertising agencies to present that message.

Checks And Balances In The War Against Terrorism

With the latest revelation, by the New York Times, of the Bush administration tracking money being transferred around the world in an attempt to find terrorist, once again the two major US political parties are playing games with the national security of the United States. The whole success of the US form of government has been based on having three branches of government where no one branch has absolute power. However, since 911, the Congress has been unwilling to step up to their responsibilities and do their oversight properly of the "Executive Branch" and in many of these controversial decisions the "Judicial Branch" in no where to be found.

The Democrats are trying to make the President the "bad guy" in this situation, but in reality he is just trying to do his job to the best of his ability using outdated laws which need to be undated. However, it is not his responsibility to update them, it is the responsibility of the US Congress who is completely "asleep at the wheel" when it comes to fulfilling their reason ability in the US government. Since 911, there has been little effort made by the US Congress to do their job and provide oversight into what the "Executive Branch" of government as been doing to protect the United States.

When one branch of government in the form of the US Congress refuses to do their job, the other two branches shouldn't just shut down until they decide to get with the program. After all there is a nation of almost 300 million people who are at war with terrorist who wish to destroy out way of life. While the Bush administration may have made mistakes in how they have used intelligence, at least they are doing something to protect the American people. The Congress has done little but play political games and try to enrich themselves with "fat cat" lobbyist the past two or three years.

Now some Members of Congress want the Justice Department to prosecute the New York Times for reporting national security secrets to the US public. While I disagree with what the "Times" has done in this particular case. The nerve of some of these Congressmen wanting to prosecute reporters for telling the truth is ridicules when you consider how little these same Congressmen have done to update laws and make sure that the US system of "checks and balances" is maintained well into the future. This "do nothing Congress" makes me so mad sometimes because they are always showing up at the party late and then trying to express their outrage at things they should have been following in the first place.

Many Members of the US Congress will be up for reelection in November and I hope the public takes a good hard look at what they have been doing or not doing the past few years while they have been in control of the "Legislative Branch" of government. There seem to be little "forward thinking" going on in the halls of Congress. The only thing I have seen recently are a bunch of reactionary politicians there who are not paying attention to what is going on within the US government, until they are informed by a major newspaper like, "The New York Times". Then when they are embarrassed that a newspaper knows more then they do about national security matters, they want to have another branch of government prosecute the newspaper for doing their job.

The only group of people in this situation who are not doing their job is the US Congress. I hope for some kind of change in November because our country can not run properly without all three branches of government doing their part to protect the rights and freedoms of the American people.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Rain Pounds Washington D.C. - Where's My Boat?

I just finished watching some amazing pictures on television from the Washington, DC area. Tremendous rainfall has been hitting that region for the past few days and flooding is everywhere in the nation’s capital. With the exception of "war and peace" issues, the biggest thing most people in the US talk about on a daily basis is the weather. Here in Central Texas the talk, this time of year is about the heat. While talking about the weather doesn't cause it to change, I guess from a mental health standpoint it does help we human beings to express our displeasure about something we have absolutely no control over and that is the weather.

While the Washington, DC area is flooding. Firefighters in Arizona are still fighting fires because of dry conditions and the lack of rainfall this season. The US is a huge country and it is not uncommon for some parts of this great nation to be flooding while at the same time other sections of the country are burning because of lack of rain. News reports have claimed that so much rain has fallen in the nations capital today that the famous "beltway highway" has been flooded in some sections.

Compared to years past, the weather here in Central Texas this summer has been hot, but mixed with rainfall every couple of weeks or so. This type of weather creates a beautiful environment to look at because the grass is green and the flowers are blooming a little bit more each day. In the past few years, we have experience dry summers which lead to an ugly looking environment and potential wildfires at every turn because of careless people throwing cigarettes and burning matches out of the windows of their cars and trucks.

As we all approach the 4th of July holiday, it is important to remember that brush and wildfires can start almost anywhere, with the possible exception of Washington DC this year. In the southern part of the US people loves to take to the outdoors during the 4th of July and that involves camping and barbque cooking. There is always a danger with campfires and barbque grills that some careless person will not keep a close eye on their fire and disaster could strike in many out of the way areas and cause wildfires. Also, fireworks are a big deal down here in Texas and even though it is illegal to set them off in the city limits of most towns. It is still legal to fire them in rural areas and this is where most fireworks related wildfires get started this time of year.

I'm glad we don't need a boat in Central Texas during the 4th of July holiday this year like the residents of Washington DC. However, I am glad that we have had enough rainfall this season to at least reduce the risk of wildfires. I hope everyone enjoys celebrating the 4th of July and I hope you have a safe holiday.

Pray For Astronauts Flying 20 Year Old Ship

NASA has decided to launch the Space Shuttle once again on July 1st, despite dire warnings of potential danger from NASA’s own engineers. I have written again and again here about my concerns that NASA will not stop flying a defective space shuttle, which is over 20 years old, because they don't want to lose federal funding. There is a major difference with this upcoming mission on July 1st, from other missions, and that is the astronauts are well aware of the misgivings of NASA engineers and they have agreed to, risk their lives and make this trip anyway.

I love the whole idea of the exploration of space, but I don't like men and women who work as astronauts for NASA being put in harms way, unnecessarily. NASA management has costs the lives of two shuttle crews in the past when they ignored advice from their own engineers and allowed the shuttle to fly, anyway. On both of those occasions the astronauts on board these flights died in a most horrible way. I pray that these latest astronauts don't face a similar fate as they take to the sky on July 1st, but I must admit I don't have a good feeling about this flight.

Most of the experts agree that NASA has not solved the insulation on the main fuel tank flying off during lift off problem. The good news is that this shuttle mission is already headed to the International Space Station, so if the heat shields of the shuttle are damaged once again by falling insulation. This group of astronauts could stay at the space station until some way is found to repair the shuttle before their return to earth. This thinking is wise, but it doesn't solve my main issue with the Space Shuttle and that is the age of the spacecraft.

NASA should have moved on to newer technology years ago, but they have failed to do so, in my opinion, because they have already received billions of dollars in future funding from the Congress to complete the US portion of the International Space Station. In most other aspects of NASA the agency has changed and moved on to cheaper and less risky unmanned flights to other planets like Mars, which have yielded wonderful results from a scientific point of view. There is no way to take all risk out of human space travel and I understand that risk must be taken, sometimes, to further our knowledge about the universe.

I don't, however, believe that people should be put at unnecessary risk and that is what I believe is happen with shuttle astronauts, today at NASA. I respect the men and women are willing to risk their lives in the ongoing exploration of space. However, if there is another shuttle disaster, the public is more likely to demand less human exploration of space rather than more, which could cause federal funding to dry up for future, needed, NASA programs. Please pray for our astronauts who will be flying the space shuttle on July 1st that they return home safely to their families and the planet, Earth.

On The Edge Of New Middle East War

It looks like a full-blown resumption of fighting between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians could resume at any time. Over the past few weeks, slowly but surely there have been outbreaks of fighting and now the Palestinians have taken an Israeli soldier captive. I don't see Israel sitting by while one of their military men is held by the new Hamas lead government in Palestine. Some of the smartest people in the world have devoted their lives trying to find a solution to the killing between these two nations and to date nothing has worked to prevent the bloodshed.

The hatred between these two nations go back thousands of years and most likely there are few people in either country who realize why they are still fighting at all. They just know this is how it is and they just keep right on following old patterns of hatred, which have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people over the centuries. What is going on between Israel and Palestine could happen elsewhere in the world as people on both sides of religious issues, dig in their heals, and become more unmovable in their positions as time goes by.

No religion was ever created to cause the death of people who don't agree with it. However, in this modern world, too many times differences over religion lead to the killing others. In recent days I have heard murderers in Iraq use the name of God when reporting the murder of people who they have taken hostage. I'm a Christian and no where in the bible does God talk about there being a responsibility for people of faith to take up arms and kill non-believers. To the contrary, the "Holy Bible" talks about spreading the word, but if people refuse to listen, it instructs people to brush the dust off their shoes and move on.

I know little about the Muslim faith, but from what I have heard on news reports, it too is a religion of peace where a few folks have taken its passages and twisted them around to suit their own murderous lifestyles. One of the big issues between the Israeli's and the Palestinians is the difference in lifestyle between these two nations who live so close together. The average Israeli has a pretty good life from a financial point of view, while their neighbors the Palestinians mostly live in poverty. The Israelis are not to blame for this poverty; it is the leadership structure of that country which has forced its population to live in such a poor manner.

I personally don't understand the unwillingness of rich Arab counties like Saudi Arabia not providing more financial assistance to their neighbors in Palestine. There seems to be an abundance of talk in the Arab world about the plight of the Palestinian people, but very little money is provided by other Arab nations to improve the living conditions in this small nation. I'm not an exert on middle eastern issues, but I do believe in the old saying that "charity begins at home" and rich Arab nations should take the lead and making sure the people of Palestine don't live in poverty.

It's hard to see how anyone one person or nation will ever be able to stop the killing long enough between Israel and Palestine for a feeling of peace to come over the people of both nations. However, it would be wrong not to try even if the prospects for success are slim, at best.

World Full Of Hate - Worried About Future

Sometimes it is difficult not to worry about the future of this world when there are so many people who can't find a way to get along with each other. People are so filled with hate and dislike for people who are different from them either in class, religion or skin color. I believe all people have good and evil in their soul and it is the proportion of that mix, which determines what kind of a person they become in life. In recent years I have seen that mix of good and evil start turning more to the evil side as people lose patients with folks who have a different belief system from their own.

The US terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 did more than just kill a bunch of innocent people, they exposed this growing tread in many people to have their own way when it comes to the manner in which a society lives. If others don't follow their lead, then these other folks some how don't have a right to live and breathe the same air as they do. I can't think of any other way to describe this situation as "evil" taking over the thought processes of too many people. Money always has an effect in these types of situations, whether it is given as a reason or not.

People, who have little in the way of financial resources, sometimes strike out at those who have more than they do in the way of money. This attitude is nothing new and with many people in the US leaving the middle class and joining the poor, this class distinction will get worse in the years ahead as globalization gets worse. In many nations around the world, dictators have lead their countries by keeping the average person down, from a financial point of view and many of these folks are angry and need someone to blame for their bad lot in life. Too many times religious leaders have found a way of blaming the US for these folks problems and from a financial standpoint it is pretty easy to do considering how wealthy the average American is compared to the average citizen of most middle eastern countries.

In recent history some nations have experimented with socialism and in almost every case that system of government has proven to be a failure in every sense of the word. The big problem with socialism is that there is no incentive for people to work harder and do a better job because the lazy person is rewarded just as much as the hard working individual. While a capitalist system is much better than a socialistic one, it does have its problems as well because the distribution of wealth is based too much on how intelligent a person is at "working the system" for their personal financial benefit. In a capitalist system the only thing that really counts is wealth building, which means that jobs will be sacrificed just to increase profits. This type of system while better than socialism is in no way a perfect system of government, either.

The truth is that a good mixture of socialism and capitalism is probably the best way to go in the world today. However, the world has become so extreme with liberals still believing in a socialist system while conservative see nothing wrong with total capitalism. In the world today, moderation and compromise are considered "four letter words" in the political proccess. I'm a recovering conservative who has scene some of the injustices of the capitalist way of life, but rather than be a "political extreme jumper" and go over to the liberal side, which isn't any better. I hope for a more moderate way of distributing wealth in the near future which rewards those that work hard, but at the same time doesn't leave people who are not as well educated living in poverty and unable to support their families.

War Divides Nation - Memories Of Vietnam

Millions of Americans are too young to remember how much the protracted war in Vietnam divided the American people in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. However, people who are too young to remember much about the Vietnam war are starting to see what happens in a large democracy when troops are put into a long, drawn out war situation. While Iraq most certainly dose not mirror Vietnam in the way the US government is fighting and handling the internal government situation, it does have one important thing in common.

The war is taking a long time to complete and there are many casualties happening along the way. Also, the American people did not see a clear plan of action in Vietnam and I believe most Americans don’t see a clear plan for victory and withdrawal from Iraq, either. The American people have never been in favor of long drawn out conflicts where victory is not achieved in a short period of time. Let’s face it, the American people are inpatient for the most part and want victory in all aspects of their lives, sooner rather than later.

I think the Bush administration is making a big mistake in not better defining a victory plan to the American people. When President Bush says we will bring our troops home when the job is complete, that is too open ended for most Americans to trust. While it would be wrong to give an exact date and time for troop withdrawal, the US government should have a good outline the American people can follow to judge progress toward that ultimate goal. Right now, many Americans feel like our nation and military are caught in some kind of “limbo” which has no end date in sight.

Can you image how dumb it would be to start construction on a new home and to tell your contractor just to do the best he can and you will quit paying him money to build that home when the job is completed? In a way, the US government response to the Iraqi government is similar to this type of thinking. Without placing a deadline on people, I have found that nothing ever really gets finished because people have the natural tendency to put things off until the last minute. I don’t think it is wrong to place some kind of deadline on the new Iraqi government to take over control of their own country.

While President Bush doesn’t want to play into the hands of the insurgents and terrorist who are trying to undermine the US policy. Behind the scenes the State Department must make it clear to the Iraqi government that they are not operating without time restrictions and with a “blank check” from the US government when it comes to their future. More than likely, these kinds of discussions are going on with the new Iraqi government, but the Bush administration is not conveying that strategy to the American people because of a fear that the enemy in Iraq will use that deadline against us.

The biggest problem the Bush administration has is they are terrible at giving the American people the information they need to be more supportive of the administration’s policies in Iraq. There is a deep desire, which was present even before September 11th, 2001, for secrecy about all decisions in the Bush administration and that obsession for secrecy is causing problems for the administration with the media and the American people in the prosecution of this war in Iraq. While most Americans do still like President Bush as a man, the problem for many people is that he doesn’t give them enough information to be supportive of his policies because the president has such a desire for secrecy in his administration.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Defining Real Success Does Not Involve Money

Do you remember the old song called, “money can’t buy you love”? I do and I would like to add another sentence to that song and say that, “money can’t buy you happiness either”. Most of us are taught as young children, by our parents, that if we achieve financial success in our lives that we will live happy and comfortable lives. For the most part, I would consider that type of advice, wrong-headed. Some of the most unhappy people I have met in my 47 years on this earth have been people who are financially secure and in no real money crisis. I’m not sure why parents put such a high value on financial success in the US, but they do.

Parents start out at an early age, with their children, talking about financial success and the need to get the best education possible so their future financial needs will be met. Unfortunately, parents talk little about social skills which are necessary to build life long friendships, which will yield greater internal satisfaction than a job with a huge paycheck. What is it about the US population and this internal need to be more successful than your neighbor? Speaking of songs, I remember a good one from the 70’s which talked about a “four car garage and still building on”, as one family tried to keep up with the Jones’s. This is not something new with Americans; it has been going on my entire life. Parents have some kind of inbred desire to make sure their kids are more financially successful than they were.

Don’t get me wrong, a good education and a great job are things everyone should aspire to accomplish. However, these two things are not what is really required to make your child happy, instead this kind of pressure on children to only think in financial terms could be one of the worst things you could teach your kids about this world. Most people in the United States profess to have a belief in God. In the bible, Jesus never talked about financial matters, except to condemn the over eagerness in some people to accumulate great wealth. However, families who are church going Christians seem to forget this very important part of the bible and continue to push their children to accumulate as much wealth as possible during their working lifetime.

I see so many unhappy successful people today and I wonder in the back of my mind if many of these folks just got bad advice from their parents on what it takes to live a happy and successful life in the world today. Money may not be the “root of all evil”, but this never ending quest for it does create a sense of frustration and sometimes depression in children who do not believe they are sufficiently living up to the expectations placed on them by their parents. Many parents place pressure on their children to achieve greater success, than they did, during their working years. I don’t think parents cause these problems intentionally, but society and peer pressure do have a definite impact on what children deem to be important and not important in their lives. When achieving financial success is more important than helping out a neighbor in need, then people need to reevaluate the signals and messages they are sending their children.

Crazy Amnesty Idea Proposed In Iraq

The new government in Iraq is proposing a general amnesty for citizens of that country who have committed murder during the aftermath of the Iraqi war. Some of these people who will be given amnesty by this new proposal are insurgents who have blown up US and coalition soldiers with roadside bombs now for almost three years. Has the world gone completely mad these days? I’m beginning to wonder because in Iraq and right here in the United States, government official seems to think the way to solve old problems is to give people a pass who have violated the law. At least in the US the discussion revolves around people who have entered the country illegally. However, in Iraq, this amnesty offer will be given even to people who have murdered US soldiers and civilians who were kidnapped and even beheaded on television.

I don’t see how the Bush administration is going to sell this idea to the American people and what kind of explanation could they offer to the families of people who were kidnapped and murdered on television by these crazy insurgents? Just a few weeks ago, I along with many others in the US had high hopes that this new Iraqi government would help speed the process of returning US soldiers to the United States. Now with crazy ideas like amnesty for murderers on the agenda, I wonder if we are ever going to be able to get our troop back to the US. I think this amnesty idea is terrible and hopefully it will die a quick death once exposed to the light of day.

Iraqi government supporters have been on television this weekend talking about how amnesty has always been a part of the recovery processes of war in previous generations. However, this war in Iraq is a “whole different animal” in my view and there is no way in which average Americans are going to sit quietly by and watch the killers of their family members obtain a “get of jail free card" when this war is finally over. I’ve heard some bad ideas comes out of Iraq the past few years, but this latest proposal has to take the cake for the most unreasonable one yet. I wonder if this idea of amnesty for murder is going to find its way to the United States? More than likely some smart defense attorney will try a new kind of defense for some killer in the US and use the Iraqi government model to make his case.

Without the rule of law the world would drift in total anarchy and when criminals, who pose as “freedom fighters” are allowed to get away with murder in a new democracy. What kind of signal does that send to other nations around the world about the true values of a democratic nation? Another thing to think about is this, several US Marines will soon go on trial and face the death penalty for murdering civilians in Iraq. What is the US going to do about that situation? Put these US troops on trial and execute them when at the same time the enemy they were fighting in Iraq is allowed to murder US Marines and other troops and get amnesty for their crimes? This new Iraqi idea makes no sense and when something this dumb comes along, it must be shot down by the highest levels of government in the US who still maintain an sizable army in the nation of Iraq.

Warren Buffett Donates Fortune To Bill Gates' Charity

In recent days, the two richest men in the world have decided to devote most of their personal wealth to charitable causes. The latest billionaire to make news by giving away most of his personal fortune is Warren Buffett. Known as the “Oracle of Omaha” and the second richest man in the world, Buffett has decided to give away 85% of his personal wealth of 44 billion dollars to charitable causes. Less than one month ago, Bill Gates, decided to semi-retire from his position as chairman of the board of Microsoft in order to have more time to devote to charitable causes which he has championed along with his wife, for years.

In the early days of the United States, self-made men were not as generous at distributing their great wealth back into the country through charitable causes. Most times, these older multimillionaires made the choice to “will” their personal wealth to their children. Many times the children of these American business tycoons were not well equipped to handle such large estates and in some instances they ruined their lives without the tutelage of their father’s to guide future financial decisions. This new giving spirit of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates will set a new example of what is the “right thing to do” with huge amounts of wealth which were generated because of the business freedom climate of the United States.

While many things have changed in the United States over the years, one thing hasn’t changed and that is; an ordinary person can still make a fortune and truly write their own “rags to riches” story. I think this new idea of giving the bulk of huge wealth back to world in the form of charitable contributions is the wave of the future. The great benefit of these new type of mega charitable organizations are that they will be run more like a business and less like the charities of the past in the US. A true business leader like Bill Gates will make sure that the money in his charity will go to worthwhile causes instead of crazy fund raising practices, which many times charge charities up to 80% of the money accumulated in fund raising costs.

I wish to "tip my hat" to Bill Gates and now Warren Buffett on their decision to give away most of their money before the end of their life. There is only so much money that any one person needs and both of these men are by any standard of the definition, “set for life”. On a news program tonight they made a comment that Warren Buffets personal fortune amounted to (2) years of the city budget of Houston Texas, which is a city of almost five million people. That news report put into context, for me, the tremendous amount 44 billion dollars really is and how much good that money could do in the right hands, helping out the less fortunate people on this earth.

Zap Away Migraines With Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

In the future, migraine headache suffers may reach for a new mechanical device rather than a bottle of pills for fast relief from this painful problem. This new device is called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and it works by stopping the over activity of electrical impulses in the brain. Doctors and researchers believe these impulses are at the root of what brings on migraine headaches in the first place. In test subjects, over 80% of people tested said this device stopped their migraine headaches within one hour, if used immediately when the migraine headache is first noticed. It would be great news for frequent migraine headache suffers if this new device did indeed work as stated.

I’ve been blessed not to suffer from migraine headache problems, but many people have not been so lucky. A person who suffers from these types of headaches on a regular basis will tell you that the experience is “pure hell”. Many folks become disoriented, light headed and some even become nauseated and vomit because of the symptoms of a migraine headache. This new device is being developed at the Medical Center of Ohio State University.

I’m glad some researchers are exploring new treatments for this and other ailments, which don’t involve the use of narcotic medications. Sure, many of these strong drugs do offer temporary relief of symptoms, but there is a risk of dependence if they are over used or abused by patients. For too long, doctors have relied on pain killers to provide patients relief, rather than taking the extra time needed to work on solving the root cause of migraine headaches.

Doctors have known that electrical impulses in the brain have caused other problems, like depression, for a long time now. It only makes logical sense that some type of electrical impulse problem is the cause of migraine headaches, as well. I don’t think the average person realizes that their brain in made up of electrical charges, similar to electronics, which enable many of their household appliances or home computers to operate. We all know what happens when one of these appliances has an electrical problem; it quits working properly and has to be repaired. This new TMS device works on the same “repair” type of approach, except it works directly on the brain.

My hope is that in the future other researchers will take the extra time needed to find cures for the “root cause” of problems, rather than just developing newer and stronger pain killers for problems like migraine headaches. Much medical research is done at major Universities around the US and most likely these schools will be on the cutting edge of the development of these new devices. Pharmaceutical companies, which do medical research, are more interested in developing medications which treat symptoms and not the root causes of problems. The truth is that there will be more profit earned by these companies if the aliment isn’t cured because treating symptoms could go on forever and lead to greater sales and profits for new medications that they develop.

Shotgun Wedding Plans For Pregnant Teenagers

I guess I’m an old fart compared to some of you who read this blog, but back in my day when two young people went all the way and got into trouble; a “shotgun wedding” was sure to follow within the next few months. My wife works with a young girl who is 19 years old and this girl announced to the office the other day that she was pregnant and that she would be marrying the father of her, soon to be, child within the next month. I must admit that the current generation handles these types of "surprise events” better than the generations before them. I think the young people of today are more in touch with the real world than my generation was back in the 1970’s. Back when I was a teenager, getting a girl pregnant was worse than murder in my small west Texas hometown.

The term “shotgun wedding” got its start in the old west when a father found out that his sweet daughter had become pregnant out of wedlock. When such things occurred back then, the father would grab his shotgun, head to the guilty mans home and demand that this young man marry his daughter to save his families name and dignity. While very few fathers run to the closet, these days, to get a shotgun and chase down the man who impregnated their daughter. Some families still feel a “sense of shame” when one of their daughters becomes pregnant before she gets married and most of these families feel that the only way dignity can be reestablished within their family, is by the daughter marrying the father of the unborn child.

The young lady my wife works with has this kind of family. Apparently, they are very religious at their core and they worried when their daughter went off to college in a far away city that something like this would happen. However, once their daughter did become pregnant at college, they were mad for a few days and then rallied around their daughter and her soon to be husband. These same kind of family stories have been happening for hundreds of years and most of the time they all end up the same way. At first the parents are very upset, but then quickly they start thinking about their future grandchild and that anger fades with the thought of a blessed event which will be happening in only nine months.

This lady my wife works with experienced this same type of attitude from her parents. At first they were in shock and wanted to disown her. However, that attitude faded within a week and in a strange sort of way this young woman is more close to her parents today, than she ever was before. Also, the parents hated her boyfriend before they found out she was pregnant by him, but now they have welcomed this young man into their family and at least act like they love him.

I guess the moral of this story is; don’t get pregnant out of wedlock, but if you do the world is not over. Stand up for your rights and the rights of your spouse and future offspring. Then eventually, the world will right itself with the benefit of time and love.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Line Item Veto - Election Year Politics

It is pretty easy to see that 2006 is an election year because “out of the blue”, President George W. Bush proclaimed today that he wishes to have a “line item veto” over legislation sent to him by the US Congress. Maybe I am being too cynical, but my thinking is, why would President Bush want a “line item veto” when he has failed to use his Constitutional power to veto excessive government spending one time during his two terms in office? This latest action by President Bush appears to be another election year “stunt” to try and rally conservative voters to the polls in November to prevent a Democratic “route” of Republicans in the US House of Representatives and US Senate.

In some ways I just hate election years in the United States because people who are normally of sound mind, lose that sense of reality and start acting differently in order to get their base voters out to the polls. It is no secret that Republicans in the Congress are in big trouble this election year and the big question is, will these normal tactics of getting out the base voters work this year? I have written many times here about my doubts as to whether the Republican Party can get enough social conservatives to the polls in November to defeat the Democrats.

Regular Republicans, like myself, who are more fiscally minded, are not inclined to vote this time in the hope that more moderate leaders will emerge within the party once the social conservatives are thrown out of office. Moderate Republicans who believe in the US government living within its means and not getting involved in “nation building” efforts have been ignored time and time again by the Bush administration and our Member of Congress. Many of us will not be voting in November for the first time, so for the current group of conservative Republicans to be successful in November, they must get a larger than normal amount of social conservatives to go to the polls and vote for them.

The announcement yesterday by President Bush was designed to win back favor from fiscal conservatives to the Republican Party, but from where I stand it is, “too little and too late”. Fiscal conservatives have been ignored for too long now, while social conservatives have been favored at every step in this new Republican Party created by President Bush. I don’t personally dislike the President, but his inability to stand up to social conservative leaders does make me doubt his true credentials as a “big tent” Republican for the entire party establishment.

I have been a Republican for a long time and it doesn’t come naturally for me to hope for the defeat of my own party in this November’s elections. However, there is no way for average Republicans to get new leaders without turning out the old ones first. New Republican leaders will only emerge when the current leaders are no longer able to manipulate the election system from their entrenched positions of power. Unfortunately, traditional Republicans will be forced to live with Democratic leadership for a few years in order to get control of our party back to some kind of “mainstream thinking”. It’s way too much to expect that Republicans will vote for Democrats in the November elections, but if they just stay home and don’t vote, this time. It could be the start of a new beginning for the Republican Party.

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Saturday Night Cops Is Light Hearted Entertainment

Most of the time during the week, I deal with people who are very professional both in talk and dress code. However, on the weekends I like to “dumb myself down” and watch television shows and movies, which require little thought or concentration. With that thought in mind, I want to talk about a television show that I enjoy watching on Saturday night called, “Cops”. I know this show isn’t intellectually stimulating, but that is exactly what I like about this show.

The mentality of the average criminal is such that it is almost impossible for me not to watch this television show every Saturday night just for the entertainment impact. I just love the theme song about, “Bad Boy, Bad Boy” and while the police officers always appear so professional, the criminals are anything but intelligent in how they try to get away with committing crimes. It is so funny listening to the police officers from around the country get out of their squad cars and yell out the same thing, “get on the ground”, as they chase down the bad guys who don’t want to get arrested.

There is one episode of “Cops” which is a classic and I always enjoy watching it, again in reruns. In that episode, a police officer pulls up at the house of a man who has his entire front yard filled with furniture that is on fire. What the police officers ask the man why this furniture is on fire, the man says that he got mad at his friend, so he decided to take his furniture outside and burn it. At first the police officer believed, as I did, that this man was burning his friend’s furniture. However, as the man explained the situation further, it became clear that the man burned his own furniture because he was mad at his friend. That mentality just “cracks me up”.

There have also been several episodes of “Cops” when criminals have been accused of “shoplifting” and continue to proclaim their innocent’s, even when confronted with video tape evidence that shows them stealing the goods only a few minutes earlier. It’s even more humorous to me when even after watching the video tape of their crime and then the police officer finding the stolen goods in their pockets, they still keep right on saying they are not guilty of doing anything wrong. When these “Cops” eventually do catch their man, it is almost like a movie script as these criminals always say that they didn’t do anything wrong, even after a long chase, before they are eventually capture by police.

There is plenty of time to play businessman from Monday until Friday. On the weekends I like to watch shows like “Cops” and see first hand how the other half lives their life. Dealing with some of these folks day in and day out must take a toll on police officers that must tract them down, make an arreest and then listen to them lie all the way back to the police station. Watching shows like “Cops” allows me to have a greater respect for men and women who wear a police officers uniform because I see first hand, every week, what kinds of people they are forced to deal with on a daily basis.

Patsy Ramsey Death Before Daughter's Killer Caught

Patsy Ramsey died today at the age of 49 years old from cancer. This unlikely person became a household name about 10 years ago because her young daughter, JonBenet, was found murdered in the basement of their Boulder Colorado home. For years both Patsy and her husband John Ramsey were suspected in the death of their daughter but no charges were ever filed against the couple or anyone else in this senseless murder of a young child. Patsy Ramsey had been fighting cancer for a long time and up until about three years ago her cancer had been in remission. However, when it came back doctors were unable to save her life for a second time. Mrs. Ramsey is just the latest example of how cancer can ruin a person’s life at a very young age and no amount of money can save a person from this terrible disease.

I remember when I first heard about the death of young JonBenet Ramsey. It was right after Christmas time and the circumstances of her murder always looked suspicion and the “bungling” of the Boulder Police Department in investigating this murder forever allowed her killer to get away with murder. The fact that the Ramsey’s had substantial wealth most likely hindered, rather than helped this investigation. If JonBenet’s parents did have something to do with her murder, then a terrible miscarriage of justice happened that Christmas evening in Colorado. However, if an intruder did take JonBenet’s life, then a crime was commited against her parents who were put on trial in the court of public opinion for years.

As this story took on a life of its own, I always had a feeling down deep inside that JonBenet’s death was some kind of family accident and in a panic the parents tried to cover it up. In hind site, it would make sense just to come clean with what happened rather than constructing a crime that did not happen. Many people still believe that an intruder enter the Ramsey home through a basement window, went upstairs to JonBenet’s room and murdered her. Even though the Ramsey house was very big, I still find it unlikely that this occurred, but in reality no one will ever know what happened that cold night in Boulder Colorado.

Now Patsy Ramsey is dead from a disease, which takes too many victims each year before their time on this earth should be up. I can’t help but wonder what must be going through John Ramsey's mind today after the loss of his wife. More than likely the death of their child, JonBenet, pulled their marriage apart in some ways as these kinds of traumatic events have a way of doing. No parent should have to bury a child, it’s just not natural and when a parent does bury one of their children it forever changes the way the act and react to the world around them. I have great sadness for John Ramsey today and the pain he must be going through.

Compromise Is Good In The Modern World

Like many other people around the world, I enjoy the study of history. Without taking the time to learn from the mistakes of others, I believe we are destined to repeat those mistakes over and over again. The more I study the history of our planet earth the more I realize that the human race may be “short timers” on the earth. Why? Because there is evidence everywhere that other species and civilizations have populated this planet over the centuries and for some reason they are not around anymore.

It is difficult to imagine a world with no human beings because to do so would mean that “our kind” are not as important as we would like to believe. Of course, we all know that dinosaurs once ruled this earth and during their time as “masters of the planet” no human beings were around. Most experts believe that the dinosaurs were all killed off after a comet or asteroid hit the planet and block the sun's light to the earth’s surface for dozens of years.

The question I keep asking myself is, can the human race learn enough from the mistakes of the past to prevent our own future extinction? While there was nothing the dinosaurs could have done to stop a huge asteroid from hitting the earth and causing their extinction. I’m sure there were other species, which once dominated this planet, which could have prolonged their existence, if they knew better how to protect to this planet.

Everyone knows that it is important to protect our environment, but unfortunately the environmental debate of today has evolved into the “gloom and doom” crowd on the left that can only see a world of no modernization. Mixed in with the folks on the right that doesn’t believe “mother nature” can be harmed, so why not just keep modernizing the planet and not worry about future problems? The current problems and potential solutions should not be viewed in an “all or nothing” framework, but that is exactly what is currently happening in the world today.

I’m truly concerned about the world we are living in. Not so much from an environmental standpoint, but because there are so many people who refuse to look at life with a moderate point of view when it comes to issues. I’ve seen this “taking sides” problem growing in politics around the globe and now it is spreading to other issues like the environment and potential extinction problems like “global warming”. Neither side in this debate or as I like to call them, “extreme” is 100% correct. However, no side will even consider the positive points of the other, so the world just moves along with nothing happening to fix some real problems.

If the human race is to survive over the “long haul” then people with differing points of view must come together and look for “common ground” to build upon in the future. This “my way or the highway” attitude is leading to nothing but gridlock and while some gridlock in politics might be a good thing, it is terrible when trying to deal with complex problems around the world. Not too many years ago, most members of the US Republican and Democratic Party’s were moderates and folks worked together for the common good. However, in the past few decades extremist have taken power in both political party’s which means that nothing really important gets done because extremist don’t believe in compromise on important issues.

Related: Where Are Moderates?

Compromise Is Good