Friday, August 31, 2012

The Romney Alternative

Only a few more weeks and then we can get back to life without constant debates over who is the superior candidate, who will do 'more' for the American people and who will lead us back to the path to prosperity. No matter who you are choosing to support, you have to admit that the constant mudslinging is finally starting to wear a bit thin. Even if you aren't a supporter of seeing the Obama Administration carry on for another term, you have to admit that there has been little in the way of having hope for things improving if you vote, for 'the other guy'; in this case I'm referring to Mitt Romney. The Republican National Convention (RNC) came to a close this past week and it's "official" (as if it hadn't been until this very week) that Mitt Romney will be the Republican candidate for President.

He's definitely a different candidate than Obama and certainly different from John McCain, but one way in which I don't see any difference between him or any other candidate thus far is that they are so vague in terms of laying out their actual plans for helping our nation get better that I could honestly go up on a pulpit and do the same thing. Perhaps I'm not as photogenic or even as good a public speaker (but let's further be honest and admit that neither is Romney) but I know one thing from 'the real working world' that many candidates don't. Words are great, but facts and figures behind them can certainly make things more palatable. In my office (as I'm sure is the case in most offices around the world), you can draw a conclusion, but if you don't have evidence to back it up, it's a meaningless exercise.

Meaningless exercises are how I view much of the campaigning that has been going on thus far. Mitt Romney appears to be running on the hope that disenchanted Obama supporters (and of course Republicans) will vote for anyone (but hopefully him) as an alternative to having Obama in office for another four years. That's all well and good but having no other alternative isn't really a choice. To listen to plans and schemes being laid out during all the speeches at the RNC it would be apparent to even the most naive of persons that the Republicans have a plan to improve things; what we the people don't have are the details, and I fear that there really aren't any.

I understand that most candidates don't want to lay out their plans on the off chance that they get implemented by their opponent and thus end up helping the opposition win the election but I'm not looking for chapter and verse, I'm looking for supporting evidence. The plan to reduce fuel prices by drilling all over Alaska has been an option for years and while that's certainly going to make a difference, it wouldn't make a difference in the near term whatsoever. Do people, and even more so, the candidates themselves, honestly believe that just by mentioning drilling in Alaska that gas prices are going to come down? And what about the long term? Most candidates these days talk about looking to the future and preparing the world for our children; are they really going to make things better by continuing our reliance on fossil fuels? Do we really want to strip our planet to the bone just so that we don't have to worry about developing new means of generating power?

To me it's almost like the credit crisis. So many of us are in debt simply because we don't have readily available cash so we spend what we can on credit and we keep on doing it until such time as we are in a hole and we can't do anything else but blame the economy rather than ourselves. What about fostering development of these new technologies or capabilities? It's been attempted, but the reaction of most (especially those who have their pockets lined by oil companies here and abroad) is that it's a useless gesture. Drill here and dill now is their common refrain. And what about after it's finished here and abroad? Just wipe our hands clean of the situation?

That appears to be the attitude of a lot of people, especially the rich or those who claim to have a connection to 'the small businessman'. Let me say this; Mitt Romney definitely isn't the same as a small business man. Romney's company, Bain Capital, was not some mom and pop business that was his sole source of bread and butter. To hear Romney tell it during his acceptance speech at the RNC, he seemed to compare the ups and downs of his business to having an 'oopsy'. Never once did he say or even attempt to highlight that if his company had floundered (like so many do) that he would have been hard pressed to care for his family. He didn't say it because it obviously wasn't the case. For many of us who have struggled to keep a business afloat it really is a matter of whether you would be able to put food on the table or not. But Romney didn't put it that way. He made a joke about not wanting to 'go to Hell' if he had lost his church's pension fund. Really? That's your concern?

If you truly believe that your honest actions speak for you and not the reactions of your efforts, then what do you have to worry about? To me it was a selfish remark. Forget about losing other people's money, he seemed to care more about what would have happened to him after the fact. And this is the man people are considering for their President? Romney spoke at length about how his business experience positions him well to take over the leadership of our country and put us back on the path to prosperity. To me I feel he'd treat us just like he did the people who came to Bain Capital looking for help. That is to say, happily if it works out but a cold shoulder if it doesn't. I don't want to bet on the fact that maybe in his vague, ramblings he may actually have a viable plan and hopefully the American voter won't either.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Who's In Control?

My brother and I went to the movie theater on July 19th around 6PM to watch a marathon leading up to the midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises". We hadn't gone for a midnight premiere together in years and we were looking forward to seeing all three films in the trilogy on the big screen. We got home around 3:15 AM and promptly went off to sleep. Our family told us about the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado the next morning when we woke up. I couldn't help but think that it could very well have been any movie theater in which the shooting could have occurred. There could have been any number of the movie-going audience that was with us that could have been feeling 'a bit disturbed' and could have decided to open fire, blow up a bomb, or just randomly start killing the people around him. We were fortunate that everyone we went to see the film with was there for the same purpose, to have a good time and see a great movie.

But in the wake of the shootings in Colorado we again hear the familiar refrains regarding the arguments for gun control and mental illness. Anti-gun control supporters will tell you that had we had less stringent open carry laws, a potential shooter would know that anyone else in the theater could likely be carrying so they would likely choose not to open fire. That's a compelling argument but then I ask these same people what they would do if they suddenly found themselves facing an AR-15 in the middle of a movie theater. For those that don't know, the AR-15 is an assault rifle in civilian form; it's similar to what the Army issues our troops. A handgun, which most normal people purchase and would carry when they want to open carry a gun, would probably pale in comparison to that. So then the argument becomes one of escalation. If people are going to open fire using semi-automatic weapons then we should all be allowed to carry them in self-defense.

That's our right as Americans, the second amendment guarantees that; but then what puzzles me about people who strongly feel that way is why they have such low opinions of countries where that has been the norm for centuries. Many of these same people will talk about the nations of the Middle East where carrying weapons is a sign of respect as if it is a backwards and primitive culture. So what would we become if we were allowed to carry weapons around like we were back in the Wild West? Perhaps they feel that isn't the argument that they are making but one of simple protection. If we didn't have such easy access to weapons (and believe me, it's easier than many people think) then we would have to worry less about such incidents.

I won't be naive and assume that banning guns would mean no more guns would be in unauthorized hands but rather I believe in limiting the types of weapons we have access to. Home protection can likely be done using a handgun or a shotgun. The sound of a shotgun being chambered is likely to scare off anyone who hears it. And last I checked, we don't live in a wild and lawless land. Sure there are problems on the Mexican border in places but rare is the time that we would need an assault rifle pointed towards the border between the states. We aren't living in colonial times where defense against foreign nations was a true and real threat. I have faith in our country to know that in the event of such an unthinkable occurrence, our armed forces would lend a hand and defend our country.

People who advocate the Second Amendment often say that they have the right to collect guns, they have the right to own any type of weapon that they want. I collect comics so suppose I can understand that mindset. I mean I suppose I wouldn't want anyone to tell me I couldn't collect old issues of "Superman" or "Batman". Similarly if a gun-nut wants to own an AK-47 he should definitely have that right then. By the same token then, shouldn't a fan of nuclear fission be allowed to have equal access to nuclear materials in his home (and I don't mean for bomb-making)? When faced with such questions, anti-gun control people rear up and state that that's not the same thing. It isn't? Maybe the nuclear fission fan wants to develop a new source of energy to stop our dependence on foreign oil. But I guess if his name happens to be anything other than Smith or Jones I suppose it would be viewed with much more suspicion, which gun nuts would then say proves the need to have machine guns.

We need to use common sense. We have two hands, at any given time we'd only ever be able to use two guns at once, so why would a single person need an arsenal? We have background checks in place to supposedly help prevent mentally disturbed people get their hands on guns, but if people haven't done anything bad yet (like shoot up a movie theater) then what's to prevent them from getting guns to then do so? Not much as it turns out. If you want to own a gun, by all means buy one and sleep soundly at night, just don't tell me that you need to have an assault rifle to feel that same level of safety; we live in America, not a war torn country.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Family Ties and Support

It's been a long while since I wrote on this blog. Life tends to creep up on you and finding that balance can take a bit of time. Suffice it to say that while I don't know if I'll be as regular in putting up posts as I once was I am making an effort to be a little more regular in my postings. I was pleasantly surprised to find that despite the fact that it's been quite a while since I wrote up a new post, I still managed a steady stream of visitors who happened upon this page due to their interest in some topic or the other that I've written about in the past. To those of you who have checked in periodically to see if I've been around, I appreciate your perseverance;to those who are coming around for the first time, I welcome you.

So many people who have read my posts in the past know that I generally chime in when something piques my interest or I feel I have something to say (which is why my blog is titled, "Your Blog Title Goes Here" as I have a tendency to write on many different things). So recently my iPod finally gave out after six years of dedicated companionship. I absolutely have to have music with me when I drive and given my commute times it's not really that surprising. So for the week that I was without my iPod I did something I hadn't done in a very long time... listen to the radio.

Now given that things like XM Radio and the like are available I'm sure plenty of people will likely wonder why I bothered listening to the radio. Firstly, I've never really been sold on satellite radio. perhaps I'm a bit old fashioned but I prefer to believe it's because my music 'mood' is totally dependent on my actual mood. But be that as it may, I was listening to the radio for the first time in a long time and I quickly realized why it was that I had stopped in the first place. I know that the state of the nation isn't the greatest at the moment and though we are undoubtedly still not back in the best of times, I don't believe we're in the worst of times either. No matter what the situation in the nation is at any given time, I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't agree that things could be better.

But to listen to many people on the radio a lot of radio talk shows, one of the common signs that our nation is in complete turmoil is the fact that so many kids are moving back home with their parents. Now this simple fact is something that has left me a little confused. Now a lot of my friends either moved out on their own right after high school while others moved to college and from there into the real world as soon as they were able to do so. I took advantage of the fact that my college campus was so close to my home. But even more so, my parents were gracious enough to allow me to stay there. While I'm sure they (and many other parents) would argue that it wasn't graciousness but the simple fact that they wanted to continue to support their kids until we could get out on our own.

Now that isn't presumption on my part, I've had conversations with my parents on this fact and they (and others) have said that as parents, it's their duty to take care of their kids. Some parents take the opposite tact and say that as soon as a kid is old enough they should no longer be a parent's responsibility. That may be but isn't that setting them up for potential failure? When I graduated college, the job market at the time wasn't all that it was cracked up to be either. Though we were still experiencing a budget surplus (and 9/11 and the subsequent recession had yet to happen), I still struggled to get my foot in the door and get my first job. During that whole period I was fortunate to be staying at home. My parents allowed me to stay in my room and continue living as I had when I was still in high school.

Even after starting work, I did stay at home for a few more years. Many people probably look at that as a sign of me 'taking advantage' of my parents and being an undue burden on them but on the flip side, by continuing to do my part in taking care of the house (pretty much doing the chores and tasks I had been doing since childhood) I was able to save up enough that I eventually was able to get my own home. I could very well have moved into an apartment right from the time I got my first job but economically speaking it made more sense to purchase a home and that too one that I was able to afford. It helped me get a leg up and I have always been appreciative of that fact.

So it puzzles me when so many people talk about how kids moving back home is a sign that the situation in the job market is terrible. It's the way it's always been but I think people now have the expectation that the job market should be the way it was in years past, where college graduation was a guarantee of a job and that too at a certain income level. That's not the case and I think while it's not unreasonable to expect to get a job at a decent pay level (especially after going for higher and higher levels of education) we should also look at the current situation and take that into consideration. If a parent can do their part and help their kids get a little more time to establish themselves before entering the 'real world' isn't that a true family value?

It's one thing to talk about family values but its quite another to put it into actual practice. Taking care of your family is one of the most important family values out there and it has nothing to do with religion or culture but simply your belief in family. Not everyone is fortunate to have a good family to help them get established but many of us are and if that's the case, we should embrace that rather than worrying about the social stigma associated with living with your parents until you can get your situation straightened out.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Who Needs Security? You Do Stupid

As we approach Thanksgiving, typically one of the heaviest travel days of the year here in the United States, we're again starting to see a lot of public backlash about the lengths to which people are willing to go through in order to prove a point about security. That is to say, to prove that all the security measures we go through are a pain in the rear. Now I agree, I don't enjoy having to show up three hours early for a flight so that I can be sure to process through security in time, but I do understand that it's for my safety.

Most security measures that are in place today are meant for our safety but there are people out there who believe that it's being done because the Transportation Security Agency is full of perverts who enjoy feeling up passengers or viewing (supposedly) almost-nude video of people passing through their system. If you're that bashful (or vain) to believe that the TSA is going to suddenly post photos of you on the internet then I think you really need to come back to reality and realize that you aren't as great looking as you believe yourself to be. Nor are you appealing enough that a TSA agent would be willing to give you a pat down search if he or she really didn't need to.

While I understand that many seasoned travelers are a bit tired of having to go through security measures that often add hours to their business trips, surprisingly it isn't they who are raising the biggest stink; rather it's those clueless souls who show up at airports and expect to be treated like royalty on their yearly trip to Tallahassee to see Grandma. If you don't fly that often, I would think that you aren't dense enough to have missed all the news bulletins and talk about increased airport security measures. If you are then even after you get to the airport there are plenty of notices that warn you of the security measures that you will have to go through. If you're still caught unawares then that's your own fault.

Perhaps you feel that it isn't fair for you to be subjected to pat downs or full body scans and I would agree. It isn't a pleasant thing but it's a momentary break in your travel that is meant to keep you safe. To tell you the truth, it's not that big a deal unless you choose to make it that big a deal. If you've never been anywhere outside of the United States perhaps you don't realize that most of this type of security screening has been going on for years all over Europe and in parts of Asia. Why do terrorists then keep trying to do their evil actions on US flights? Probably because they know that if they raise enough of a stink ahead of time then they could conceivably exempt themselves from having to go through security.

If you don't feel it right to have to go through security meant to weed out potential terrorists then perhaps you should stick to the roads and drive yourself to where you need to go. If you feel that only people of certain.... racial type need to be screened then I would simply remind you that we still live in a country where no race is discriminated against... at least the last time I looked. Given my complexion, I am often pulled aside for extra screening; I don't mind it and I don't care that I get the occasional looks from fellow passengers wondering if I'm a miscreant. All I care is that I have nothing to hide and that the TSA is doing their job to keep us safe. So why not let them do their jobs? They're doing it over their Thanksgiving holiday to keep you safe.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Protecting the Sanctity of Sesame Street?

So the bloggers of the Internet can sometimes be very quick to judge and in my opinion, very hypocritical. What do I mean? Well you have probably heard by now that 25-year-old singer Katy Perry was set to appear on an upcoming episode of the children's education program "Sesame Street". If you heard that you probably also heard that she wouldn't be making that appearance due to the number of complaints that the show received about early footage of Perry singing her popular song "Hot 'n Cold" alongside perennial "Sesame Street" star Elmo. In the piece, Perry prances and dances alongside the Muppet while seemingly doing nothing more than simply running around cartoon backgrounds. I say 'seemingly' because apparently I'm too stupid to understand the 'offensive' part of her performance.

Look up any article on the situation and you'll undoubtedly find a lot of the popular opinion on the matter being bandied about in the comments section. Now if there's one thing I dislike about the comments section on many internet pages it's that there's seldom any accountability. I could go onto a website and spout rhetoric about why "Star Wars" is and always will be superior to "Star Trek" and I could sign my name William Shatner and no one would know the difference. Of course I'm not William Shatner but such a posting would undoubtedly bring Trekkers out of the internet woodwork to defend their beloved show. So why am I bringing this up? Because apparently the popular opinion against the Katy Perry segment on "Sesame Street" gained a lot of traction when it was first posted on YouTube.

If you read a lot of what people are saying out there I would say that it's quite hypocritical. I say this because we as a society often seem to apply morals to situation that don't even require us to do such a thing. While I would contend that Katy Perry probably isn't the most wholesome or pure person to have ever appeared on television let alone on "Sesame Street" I think her appearance had more to do with the fact that she liked the show as a kid and wanted to make an appearance on it now that she had finally become a star. I don't find anything offensive in her dance with Elmo and I have faith in the powers that be in charge of "Sesame Street" that they'd have enough judgment to know what was acceptable on the show and what wouldn't be.

If we don't believe them to have that much common sense then what else are they 'allowing' our children to see? If everything else the producers and creators of the show is passed through without anyone else in the general public (and internet public) making a comment on it then why is this one particular piece getting so much bad press? Is it because we think Katy Perry isn't a good person or because we like to believe that we are so much more conservative? I call this type of attitude hypocritical because it has often been the more conservative sections of our society who have stepped out to call something offensive and when you dig a little deeper you find that they themselves are guilty of similar actions. So what does that mean? While they find Katy Perry's dance sequence "offensive" I'm sure they have done something similar (if not worse) in their own lives but I guess pointing it out in regards to someone else gives them a feeling of superiority. I find it to be a shame that a show that was a large part of my youth is treated so shoddily these days by conservative members of the public. Kids are innocent in their outlook. They would see the dance for what it is which is a dance; don't try to look beyond that simple fact to find offense.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Even If It's Our Right; Is It Right?

This Saturday marks the ninth anniversary of the terrible events of 9/11. It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a decade since that day given how much has happened since then and how much continues to happen as a result. However, not everyone is using the day to reflect on the tragic events of nine years prior. Well... not in exactly the way one would expect. Apparently the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida is planning on staging a protest of Islam which isn't unusual in and of itself but it's the fact that they are promoting their event as 'National Burn a Koran Day' that is garnering the most attention and not for all the best reasons.

Now before some of you jump up on your soapboxes and start shouting to me the fact that this is a right given to us by the Constitution, I would simply ask you to sit down and shut up. I'm well aware of the fact that this is a right guaranteed to us by the First Amendment. It's that same right that allows me to express my rights in such a free and open manner on the internet for the entire world to see. Therefore, seeing as how I know what that right allows me to do, please allow me to continue what my thoughts on the matter are. While I understand the rationale behind the group wanting to protest Islam and their view of it, doing so by desecrating the writings of another religion isn't the way to go about it.

Sure you can argue that they have no respect for any other religion either. You can argue that it is simply a matter of retaliating for all the mistreatment Muslims have inflicted on the peoples of other religions around the world (but more specifically in the Middle East). You could even call it a culmination of all the frustration and anger that so many are feeling towards the religion behind many of the terrorist organizations in the world. You could say all those things and more, but is it really enough to justify the burning of their holy texts? I'm not a Muslim and I don't have Muslim tendencies or leanings. I'm a patriotic American who loves the country of my birth as much as any other American. However I don't want my country to be associated with the type of religious intolerance that this event seems to convey.

Do groups such as the Dove World Outreach Center really believe that this will have some positive effect on the world but in particular, for Americans? If you read the news you'll find that most terrorist groups out there believe that America's efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq were not motivated by the fact that we were after terrorists but rather after exterminating Islam itself. Our government and our leaders staunchly claim that this is not the case but when a group like the Dove World Outreach Center (which frankly doesn't seem to be doing anything towards living up to their name) decides to declare a 'National Burn a Koran Day'. Seeing as how it is a right protected by the Constitution, I can't say that it shouldn't be done, but what I do feel is that it is only going to serve to inspire other groups to do the same thing, and then the ultimate irony is that we will eventually be doing what the terrorists accuse us of wanting to do in the first place, which is not declare war on terrorists but on Islam itself. Is this what the Dove World Outreach Center parishioners want? Do they really want the terrorists to be right?

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Housing Market in DC

So everyone in the news has been talking about how the latest numbers indicate that new home sales in the country have been on the decline and this is an indicator that the economic recovery of our nation is stalling. I don't know where many of these people come up with their ideas but one thing I can say for certain is that they likely drive around their areas wearing blinders because if they could only open their eyes and see, they'd immediately understand the reason why new home sales are declining and I am pretty certain it's something much simpler than what the media is making it out to be. Drive practically anywhere west on the Dulles Toll Road and you'll end up running into numerous signs that advertise new developments and neighborhoods that have model homes now open. If one ventures into that area they will find endless streets of new homes (townhomes, condos, etc.) vying for space in a fast disappearing landscape.

Why the reason for all the building? Likely because of the false buyers market that was created a few years ago when our government leaders urged everyone to invest in real estate because that was a sure sign of prosperity. Never mind that unlike in years past, homeowners actually had to cough up a lot of money for a downpayment and had to have firmly established credit to get a mortgage to help pay for a home, a few years ago you pretty much needed a face and you could get a mortgage. If you had a job (even if it only paid $10,000 a year) it seemed you could easily get approved to get a loan to buy a home worth millions rather than what you actually could afford. The end result was that people were buying homes left and right and figured that they could make money flipping properties even though they didn't really understand what flipping properties meant.

What this meant to developers and builders was that there was a clear demand for housing so they just went on a building spree and now it's almost as if the market continues to thrive because I've spoken with individuals who work for the counties in Northern Virginia where building was most rampant and they have indicated that building permits are continuously sought because builders still want to build more homes for a market that is saturated to the breaking point. While I understand the desire to continue building is likely helping keep a lot of people employed, don't these people (any of them) realize that they are not helping the market but rather hurting it? If I lived in the Ashburn area and decided to sell my two year old home, I would likely get little to nothing for it (relatively speaking) because there was brand new construction for a comparable price just a few feet away.

People aren't going to buy houses for some time to come and it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that the new homeowner tax credit is no longer in effect. It has to do with the fact that there are too many homes and not enough buyers. And it's likely that this fact will continue until such a point that the counties and developers realize that there isn't much point in continuing to create new housing if no one is going to buy it. I personally don't think the market will improve much until the building stabilizes (and eventually stops) and prices come down to more realistic levels. I mean while houses beyond Ashburn are certainly nice, I don't think I'd like to spend that much and drive fifty miles one way just to get to work. I don't think a lot of other people would either which is why houses out there aren't selling thus leading 'experts' to believe that the economic recovery is beginning to collapse.