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Friday, October 24, 2008

Random Thoughts

I have not written in a while, and I am tired of the political and election stuff - SO, here are some random thoughts. (if this seems disjointed a bit, I did it over two days - sorry) I was thinking about the differences in everyday life today versus when I was a teenager. (yeah, old people reminisce more - it's that rear-view mirror line again) I mentioned in an earlier post about the "tub-o-soda" I get for lunch most days. That is one BIG (pun intended) change. When I was starting out my working career, I was in fast food management - Burger King, McDonald's, Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips, and Hardee's to be precise. Even Hardee's (which was the last and latest), who helped pioneer the "tub" size drinks with 7-11 (Moose cup and Big Gulp respectively) only had a 20 oz drink as a large. At BK, McD, and AT we only had a 16 oz as a large. That is a small now! I understand why (partially due to my training at Whopper College and Hamburger University!), the drink costs less than the cup and the labor for most soft drinks. So, they can sell you twenty more ounces of drink for more money = more profit. But, even though I get these things often, I know they are ridiculous! (don't even get me started on the cup holder vs cup battle that rages in industrial design studios around the world!) But, even though they represent the greatest profit for the seller, they represent the greatest value to us, the consumers. Bring on the "tub-o-soda"! Can I get some wheels with that? Another HUGE change is in communication. Cellphones, text messaging, computers, email, and IMs have revolutionized the interaction and dialogue (or lack thereof) between people. Now, although an improvement from my mother's days where if the person you wanted to talk to did not live in the cave next door or the signal fire wood was wet, you couldn't communicate with them until they came by - we did have phones.....period. They were black rotary dial devices with CORDS (shudder) that we had to be tethered to while we tried to reach another similarly tethered individual at a specific location. No voice mail or even answering machines (WHAT!!), if they were not there you left a message with the evil younger sibling that promptly forgot you called (possibly on purpose if they did not like you); or you had to talk to their Mom for twenty minutes about how school was or how your last doctor visit went. We all had meeting places. That took the place of cellphone/text message communication. If your friend was not home, there were two or three places you had to drive to. In our town it was the Tastee-Freeze first, or the drug store (afternoons). Now, people expect to be able to communicate with anyone they know anywhere, anytime. During the summer when I was young, we would frequently go months without talking to or communicating with a good friend. When you said goodbye on the last day of school, for a lot of those people it was literally goodbye until school cranked up again in the fall. Now, I can be in Denver and take a call someone in Virginia or Florida that has no idea where I am. My daughter sometimes feels offended when she sends a text message to a friend and does not get an answer in twenty seconds! Speaking of communicating - how about the handwritten (or even typed) letter? Even I, in my day, wrote letters to people. Now we do what I am doing - type on a computer and hit "send". I remember getting out paper (we would even buy stationery to write on!) and pen, sitting at my desk and writing people. I cannot remember the last time I wrote a handwritten letter and mailed it. When I need to contact people now I email them or call them (expecting an immediate pickup). Senators, businesses, friends, etc. all get emails now. The post office is reduced to junk mail, periodicals, and bills. (a sub-plot of this one is stamps - no stamp lickum anymore!?!) As I was afraid, I lost my train of thought here on the second sitting. I will return to this subject at a later date. Remember, if you vote for a democrat for a national office this election - you are an idiot! If that offends anyone - at least I hope it makes you research and think about what you are doing. Peace and Love. (used to end letters that way in the day)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

SWEET!! (or NOT)

You guys all know (I think) that I was on the Atkins diet a ways back. The Atkins people are big supporters of the Sucralose/Splenda sweetener. This sweetener is now in a LOT of food and drink. I used quite a bit of it, and we still have it in the house and I use it occasionally. However, those of you that see me regularly also know I do NOT use it for most of my sweetener needs. I did some research on it and was convinced it was not good for humans, especially in any quantities. I came across this today. It is a study from Duke University that shows that the sweetener is NOT healthy. You folks that know me also know that I have strong feelings about health, supplements and foods. I will not be using Splenda any longer at all, when given a choice (it is in so much of the diet foods and drinks, I do not know if I can avoid it totally). I would advise you to do the same. As for what you should be using, who knows. It may be that in small amounts sugar (cane, not fructose or corn syrup) is the best. I will use the pink packets, and maybe stevia. Here is the study info: This study, from Duke University, isn't the first warning that heavy intake of sucralose (better known by the brand name Splenda) may be linked to health problems. Several years ago an HSI member wrote to ask if sucralose was as bad as other artificial sweeteners. In response, HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., noted that any claim about sucralose being "natural," is naturally false. Dr. Spreen: "The stuff is patented and involves taking sugar molecules and treating them with (ulp) chlorine. "The argument is that the chlorine is not absorbed at all, so therefore the agent is harmless. There have since been reports of up to 30% being absorbed and symptoms being caused. I don't really know what percentage, if any, is absorbed (though I bet it's higher than zero). However, I don't trust the stuff, though it may have less after-taste than stevia." According to the sucralose "Final Rule" issued by the FDA, the body may absorb from 11 to 27 percent of ingested sucralose. But research from the Japanese Food Sanitation Council doesn't agree, estimating that as much as 40 percent is absorbed. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Cake & coffee ------------------------------------------------------------------ How chlorine absorption from sucralose affects us isn't clear. But something in the sweetener appears to prompt stomach pains and gas pains – the two primary complaints about sucralose. This new study may explain the indigestion discomfort, while also raising the possibility of greater harm. For 12 weeks, Duke researchers fed varying amounts of sucralose to rats. Fecal samples were examined weekly. Analysis showed that sucralose altered pH balance in the intestines and prompted weight gain. But two additional results were quite worrying: Good bacteria in the intestines were dramatically reduced – by 50 percent! – while P-glycoproteins were increased – a condition that limits the absorption of oral drugs. According to James Turner, chairman of the consumer advocacy group Citizens for Health, just two slices of sucrose-sweetened cake and two cups of coffee with Splenda might be enough to affect P-glycoproteins and compromise drug absorption – a potentially devastating situation for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Mr. Turner has called on the FDA to insist that Splenda products carry a warning label to caution patients on medications and those with gastrointestinal issues. Of course, more research will be needed to confirm these findings. But anyone following the Atkins diet should know that most of the Atkins snack and dessert products are sweetened with Splenda. In keeping with the Atkins diet, Splenda use avoids blood sugar spikes that lay the groundwork for type 2 diabetes – a benefit that may come packaged with potential risks.

Follow Up

I have been told that I have offended some with my last post. I am glad there were people to offend. That being said, I thought a bit of follow up and explanation was in order. First, I do not think being a democrat makes you inherently any worse or any better than being a republican or an independent (of which I am one). In fact, the current republicans are not much (if any) better in practice than the democrats. Given the history of control (see the last post for details) where the democrats have controlled Congress for the vast majority of the post WWII era, I do feel the democrats and their core beliefs to be flawed greatly. Some current commentary - see this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MGT_cSi7Rs The democrats are going on and on about how the George Bush policies of deregulation caused the financial mess we are in. - B.S. The problem has been of "half ways". The financial sector (like the airline and transportation sectors, and others) have never been "deregulated". In fact, one could argue that there are more regulations now for all areas of our economy and business than ever before. The problem was lack of enforcement, and possibly oversight. Just like with illegal aliens - (I love when this is called an "immigration problem" - I have said here before - calling the illegal aliens an immigration problem is like called bank robbery a withdrawal problem!) - and gun control - there are too many laws on the books not too few. There is no will to enforce the laws. Banks and other mortgage institutions were made to write loans to people that had no business getting them. These were people that were turned down for loans under normal circumstances. I hear people say this was caused by greed. How is it greedy to loan money to a person that you know cannot pay you back? Banks and lending institutions loan money to be paid back with a profit. That is what they do. That is what their shareholders and owners require them to do. The government and local activist organizations made them out to be benevolent societies - doing "good" for the undeserving vs doing their best for the investors. As for the democrats, the video above shows how THEY kept the regulators from being appointed to give the oversight to the lenders. Now, on taxes (I have a LOT of old post here, so read them if you want a more thorough picture) - Obama and the democrats say they want to tax corporations and "windfall profits". Read this carefully - CORPORATIONS DO NOT PAY TAXES - they collect taxes and pass them on to the government. YOU PAY corporate taxes. If the taxes on a company go up by ten percent, they raise their prices by ten percent - or cut their payroll by ten percent, OR GO OVERSEAS! Our corporate tax rates are some of the highest in the world. That, combined with labor unions that outlived their purpose thirty or more years ago, is the reason that companies are moving overseas. Remember, corporations have a legal duty to make money for their shareholders. If they cannot make a profit here due to high taxes and/or high salaries - they are mandated to adjust to make a return. Corporations do NOT exist to pay salaries, or to pay taxes, or to build pension funds - they exist to MAKE MONEY! If the ability to make money is taken away - they will go away. Then, NO JOBS! As for the rest of the tax story - read the old posts. One last comment on the above - If you are upset at the money a corporation is making - BUY IT! That's right, buy it. Almost every well known corporation is a publicly traded on one or more stock markets. Buy some stock. Share the wealth. You will then get a piece of the profits they earn (and maybe have a greater understanding of why corporate taxes are bad, when your shares fall due to lower earnings caused by a high tax burden). A lot of people have whined about the oil companies of late and their grossly inflated profits. Buy stock! You will share the profits. Of course, the years and years that the oil companies do NOT make those high profits (which are numerous - the oil companies are one of the LOWEST in profits over the long haul historically) you will not either. If you don't like the money Wal-Mart makes - BUY STOCK! If you had bought stock in Wal-Mart when you first heard of it, you would have made one of the best returns on your investment that you can make. Instead, people would rather lament how Wal-Mart takes away from the Mom and Pop stores and ruins small towns. (all while shopping there - more people shop at Wal-Mart than any other store - and on the subject of Wal-Mart - they are blasted for selling more Chinese made goods than any other retailer. That is true - but did you know they sell more American/U.S. made goods than any other retailer? True - THEY ARE THE LARGEST RETAILER IN THE WORLD BY A HUGE MARGIN - they sell more of ALL types of goods than almost anyone else) I am rambling now. Not even sure I made my point. Just watch the video, read the older posts. and do NOT vote for a democrat for any national office. Change is voting the democrats OUT.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

This one gets political - even if you get bored read to the bottom

So much to say, so much to comment on, WOW! Here we go... A few weeks ago John McCain was made a laughing stock by most of the media for saying the fundamentals of the U.S. economy were strong. The ridicule dished out was so great that he wimped out and started explaining that he meant something different than what was reported. (some stuff about how he was commenting on the American worker and population). The whole problem I have with this scenario is - HE WAS RIGHT! The fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong. We still have an economy that is the envy of the world. Are there problems now, yes. Are the fundamentals (American Heritage dictionary says fundamentals are - 1) Of or relating to the foundation or base; elementary: the fundamental laws of the universe. 2) Forming or serving as an essential component of a system or structure; central: an example that was fundamental to the argument. So, our fundamentals are: Freedom, democracy, free markets, equality, etc. All still pretty sound, if you ask me.) of our economy sound - I say again, YES! Now for some comments on our current situation(s). The "mortgage crisis" - Did you realize that as of August less than 2% of all personal mortgages were in default? Did anyone report that? Did you know that at the same period, less than 6% of personal mortgages were in arrears (late)? Now, there are areas of the country with much higher percentages, this is the national average. There are also lenders with MUCH higher percentages, but it is of their own doing! One problem I have here is, now that Americans have been told that the government is going to "bail out" bad mortgages, the default rates will skyrocket. Why pay when the good ole government is going to take care of it. REMEMBER - THERE IS NO GOVERNMENT MONEY!! JUST TAX DOLLARS!! Wall Street problems - Today, 10/7/08 - The stock market took another large drop. (yesterday it was up, but that did not make the news - another problem I have) Headlines read - "2 Trillion Gone from Nest Eggs!" Sensationalism. Yes, if you went to sell your stocks, cash out your stock or mutual fund based retirement plans, there would be 2 trillion less than in July. What percentage are going to cash out now, CLOSE TO ZERO! Apocalyptic headlines make news. The stock market has been going up and down for the history of people buying and selling stocks. A big part of this problem is a LOT of current investors are young enough to have never seen the market drop. They thought stocks always went up. (actually in the long run, most do) Unless you are in a position to have to take your money out of a retirement plan now, all is fine. Look back on this in two or three years and all the value will be back, probably plus some. Government bailout(s) - You can read my last post on this. I have a REAL problem with our tax dollars being used to cover poor financial decisions. If the government has that kind of money, we are paying too much in taxes. If you want to know a GREAT reason for tax cuts - this is it. The government can't spend what they don't have.... Oh yeah, they can - THEY'RE THE GOVERNMENT! But it makes it harder. Speaking of TAX CUTS - Tax cuts always benefit the people that pay the taxes. (I have a post on this as well back a ways - read it for details.) I am soooooo tired of that class warfare B.S. put out about the rich getting the tax breaks. Since the "Tax Breaks" of the early 2000s, the "rich" are paying a higher percentage (and many more dollars) of taxes than before. Here are the breakdowns - The top 1% of population ranked by income make 19% of the income and pay 37% if the income taxes The top 5% of population ranked by income make 33% if the income and pay 57% of the taxes. The top 10% of population ranked by income make 44% of the income and pay 68% of the taxes. The top 25% of the population ranked by income make 66% of the income and pay 85% of the taxes. The bottom 50% of the population effectively pay NO INCOME TAXES! (after tax credits, etc) So, of course tax cuts go to the rich - THEY PAY THE TAXES!! And, even after the latest tax cuts they pay more! and the "Kicker" - POLITICS - I am going to make a flat statement - If you vote for a Democrat for any national office (local, even state - if they are the better candidate - go for it) - you are an idiot! The national democrats are so invested in winning this election that they are willing to destroy the country to do it! The reporting and sound bites coming out of this "crisis" is more than half the problem. The people in Washington know that most of the voters are so ignorant of how things really work that they can say George Bush and his administration "caused" the current problems and people will believe it. They know that to get Obama and a larger majority in Congress elected, they have to terrify people and make them believe the Republican did it. Here are some facts - Since World War II (1945) through the current one, there have been 30 Congress -es seated. The Republicans have controlled 6 of them (12 years). The Democrats have controlled 20 of them (40 years). I define control here by having a majority in BOTH houses of Congress. So, for the remaining years there was a Republican Senate and a Democrat House (interestingly there has not been a Republican House without a Republican Senate). The Constitution of the U.S. mandates that ALL spending bills be created and approved in the House of Representatives. This includes budgets and TAXES! The Democrats have had total control of spending and taxes for 40 years out of the last 60, and control of the House for another 8, for effective spending control for 48 of the last 60 years! How the hell can they blame ANYTHING on ANYONE else!! So, I say again - If you vote for ANY democrat for a national office - you are an idiot! The reason this economy is in "CRISIS" is THEM! A LOT of it is pure contrived b.s., but it is affecting our lives anyway. And for President - regardless of any policies - to vote for a guy for President who only has 150 days as a Senator as his experience is insane! I am not a John McCain supporter in a big way, but I don't think that on the job training is appropriate for a president of this country. (I don't understand how Democrats and voters can blast Palin for her lack of experience to be VP! Her experience as a mayor and a governor are much more relevant to be VP than Obama's experience is to be president!) Lastly, if you are in N.C. - vote for Elizabeth Dole. It is rare that we ask someone in national office for a personal intervention. My wife and I asked Senator Dole's office (and Richard Burr, but he is not up for e\re-election) to intercede on her behalf to get her disability approved. After being told the decision was going before a judge and would not be heard for three or four months; three or four WEEKS after contacting the Senator we got an approval. We got follow up calls from her office and a letter from her following up. She did her job, I feel she earned my endorsement. I am asking anyone that can legally vote for her to do so.