Sunday, November 30, 2008

Post-Thanksgiving Turkiness

Novembers are known for food and friends and being the gateway to the holidays in the US. At The Clanton Hacienda, Thanksgivings are somewhat notorious for other things, like the replacement of major appliances and household systems that run amok at the worst possible time.

The electric cooktop that died as we were cooking the side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner--that one was fairly easily remedied by a trip to the closest home improvement center, with all merchandise already on sale for Santa.

One year it was the electric built-in oven, a double-decker, which decided to die the week of Thanksgiving, knowing full-well we needed both ovens to accomplish the food preparations planned for the entire family coming to dine. I ended up with an extra, new toy that year—a shiny Black & Decker skill saw needed to re-cut the cabinet opening to accommodate the newer, larger oven.

Then there was the year that the turkey was in the oven, side dishes were simmering along on the range…and the turkey drippings over flowed the pan, setting the oven ablaze. Never a dull moment in La Cocina de Clanton.

This year, Thanksgiving was an “away” event, handled graciously by in-laws out of town. I did not attend, dealing with that other event that November is famous for—flu and cold season. So we got through this Thanksgiving without turkey’s exploding, cook tops sparking, or anything else to diminish the festivities.

My Nyquil-induced Sunday afternoon nap was interrupted by the voice of my bride gently telling me there was water gushing from beneath the kitchen sink. The inner workings of one of those fancy, Euro-looking faucets had succumbed to two years’ hard labor over the twin water basins, and were now flooding the cabinetry beneath.

We shut off the water supply, sopped up the excess with a dozen thirsty towels, and called the handyman who’d installed the faucet and sink set. There are some things that you might be able to do yourself, but time and energies are better spent having more proficient people nearby.

Thanksgiving is for the little things, too!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oxymoron: Government Accountability

A troubling story this morning from the Government Accountability Office (which is not an oxymoron): The owner of a sports team, some residents of Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia, and a financial firm executive are among over 2,700 millionaires receiving Farm Subsidies benefits over a three year period.

Two questions immediately pop up: How and Who?

The problem arose because the Agriculture Dept. was unable to verify income from the IRS… Hmmm…never heard of that problem before—one part of the Government not speaking with another part of the Government.

That gaffe cost you and I, as taxpayers, $49-million.
There’s an easy solution to this—and it goes hand-in-hand with what’s happening right now with the disbursement of part of the $700-billion bailout fund: Who’s getting the government cheese?
The story written by the Associated Press didn't disclose who were the recipients of the Farm Subsidies.
Why not?

The government has been reluctant to let on which of the nation’s banks are tapping into the funds…which would address two problems: Accountability and transparency. If it were your money going somewhere, wouldn’t you want to know where?

Same thing with those playing fast and loose with Farm Subsidies.
Let’s name names.
Let us know who is benefitting—rightly or wrongly—from the loop holes in the law. I would like to know which banks are getting in on the federal fund feeding frenzy. I’d like to know who’s getting a break in their taxes, too, because one man’s tax break is another taxpayer’s increased burden.

That’s a key to turning around the crisis of confidence in this country: remove the veils, and make things as transparent as possible. We’re all in this mess together; makes no sense to have secrets about it at this point.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Does Obamian = Clintonian?

President-elect Barak Obama’s picks for top economic advisers include the following Clintonian luminaries: Timothy F. Geithner as Treasury secretary, Lawrence H. Summers as senior White House economics adviser, and Peter Orszag as budget director — all past protégés of former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who happened to hold two of those jobs under President Bill Clinton.
Is this the change we can believe in?

The New York Times this morning notes that "even the headhunters for Mr. Obama have Rubinian ties: Michael Froman, Mr. Rubin’s chief of staff in the Treasury Department who followed him to Citigroup, and James P. Rubin, Mr. Rubin’s son.

“All three advisers — whom Mr. Obama will officially name today and tomorrow — have been followers of the economic formula that came to be called Rubinomics: balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation, a combination that was credited with fueling the prosperity of the 1990s.”

The Citi connection is particularly troubling, given the government bail out of the company Mr. Rubin the Elder helped navigate as Director.

Here’s a question I’d like to know the answer to: What happens to the 8% divedend the Government’s going to get in return for bailing out the Bank? If, as it appears, our Government is now going to be in the business of making a slightly usurious profit on the bargain, to which bottom line will the money flow?

Meanwhile, the list of names being added to the growing list of Obamalites is looking conspicuously like a return to the Clintonista White House…so the Change We Can Believe In becomes the Change we remembered from the last time we changed to change things we could believe in…I believe.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving for Helping Hands

"Never hesitate to hold out your hand…never hesitate to accept the outstretched hand of another."
--Pope John XXIII

As we begin to wind-down the year, and especially this short work-week in anticipation of Thanksgiving, it is important to recognize the need for a sense of balance in all things, including some matters we take for granted.

On Wednesday, most of you are going to blow out of the office mid-afternoon, and be on your way, over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house…or as some of you in my age group are discovering, they’re coming over the river and through the woods to your house.
Welcome to reality, grand-daddy!

We are taught to be thankful for the things that we have, the blessings we have received, and to become more aware of those around us who are in need.

We are all in need, truth be told.

For every person living under a bridge, in a pasteboard carton, or at a shelter, there is a social counterpart living in a warm, dry house, a comfortable apartment, or among a loving family and friends.

For every person in need, there is somebody—hopefully many somebodies—who are in need of giving help.
People need to be able to give.

Yes we all need to be thankful…but we who can, also need to be allowed to help.

There are some this Thanksgiving that may be too ashamed to ask for assistance; too proud to acknowledge that this year didn’t go as well as you thought that it would. This year has been tough…but even among the survivors, there are other needs to be addressesd--including the need to contribute, to give assistance, to shoulder the load for others.

Let them.

If a friend offers you a helping hand, take it; for it is true that it is more blessed to give than to receive. You who are in need of help can also be a help by allowing help to be given to you.

It makes the giver a stronger individual…and it allows a blessing to be bestowed. Accepting help from another does not necessarily create an obligation from you to them; because those who are well-off are obligated by virtue of their prosperity to share with others. That’s what makes the fabric of our society strong… and our strength is greatest when we can do this unbidden, without government edict, from the goodness and the plenty of our hearts.

And isn't that what thanks-giving and thanks-getting is all about?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Positive Reinforcement

"Do something for somebody every day for which you do not get paid."
--Albert Schweitzer

It’s so easy to be caught up in the day to day rat race of chasing the dollar, looking out for The Man, and making sure you're taking care of yourself and your family. That’s a natural mode to be in, as the economy continues to challenge all of us.

This week we’ve visited with such optimists as Rich DeVos and Steven Covey, and the prevailing theme has been that no matter how tough things get, you can get through it. You will do so, in part, with help from others around you…and that dynamic feeds upon itself.

As you are given help, support, encouragement, and forward momentum, pass that along up or down the line…because it is in that multiplication of mutual assistance that we will find the level of confidence that we’re all looking for. As long as you're breathing and haven’t reached room temperature, you’ve got the spark to continue onward.

Be creative, be innovative, and be positive--because we’re all in this together, and moods and attitudes are contagious!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Automakers: "Do As I Say, Not As I Do"

The top bananas from the Big Three automakers went to Washington D. C. to tell congress they’re running out of money and running out of time, and would law makers please give them a slice or two of Government cheese, in the form of $25-billion from the $700-billion bail out fund.

The only problem is, these knuckleheads flew to Washington in private Gulfstream G-4 jets, at a cost of $20,000 round-trip.

Hmmm…let’s see, Northwest Airlines flies from Detroit to Washington, D.C. First Class tickets are only $837 roundtrip, and if you really want to prove to Congress you're serious about trimming expenses during Survival Mode, you can squeak by for $288 Coach-class.

If these guys really wanted to prove they were serious about making substantive operational and cultural changes in the way their companies are run, you think they might have re-thought their travel plans?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Auto Makers: Telling It Like It Is?

General Motors has published a full-page ad in most of today’s newspapers, promising dire results for the rest of us if their demands for a piece of the Federal Bailout Pie are not met.

The ad is entitled “Telling it Like it Is,” with a six-degrees of separation angle explaining one in ten Americans are employed in endeavors related to the automobile industry…and if the Big Three are allowed to succumb to their own poor management, other suppliers, stores, restaurants and hot dog vendors will go the way of the Edsel.

Let me tell you how it is, GM, Ford, and Chrysler:
You’re fat.
You need to get a grip on reality.
People don’t want to buy what you’ve been telling us we want.

We don’t want vehicles that come with their own zipcodes, and require a signature loan to fill up. Okay, that’s excessive hyperbole, but this is not:

Total compensation per hour for the big-three carmakers is $73.20. That’s a 52% differential from Toyota’s $48/hour compensation, which includes wages and health and retirement benefits. What's the difference? Toyota's factories aren't shackled to the UAW.

In fact, the oversized UAW-driven pay package for Detroit is 132% higher than that of the entire manufacturing sector of the U.S., which comes in at $31.59/hour.
You tell me where the problem is.

To allow the U.S. Automobile manufacturing sector to implode would be devastating, no doubt. But the Big Three—and the unions who are sucking them dry—are going to have to show substantive changes in the way they operate and by whom they are managed.

Come to think of it, that’s what we’re all having to do to survive right now.
So why should Detroit get any special favors from the rest of us?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Review: Quantum of Solace

"Quantum of Solace" raked in $70-million in its first weekend on the big screen—nearly double the take of the last Bond films, “Casino Royale” and “Die Another Day.” Daniel Craig earned his pay, doing many of his own stunts, which frankly made my palms sweat.

This movie is being criticized by some—including former Bond-man Roger Moore—as being too violent. Like listening to rock music—if it’s too loud, you’re too old.

Other critics are harping on the female lead, Olga Kurykenko—not enough sparks with Bond, or portraying her culture in an unflattering way.

I’ll tell who I’d like to see as the next Bond Girl---Alicia Keys—who’s the featured co-vocalist on this edition’s opening theme song.
Keys is already out in a film this month, “The Secret Life of Bees…” that look she can throw you should be licensed by Her Majesty’s Secret Service as a weapon in its own right.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

...Lest Ye Be Judged

Over the weekend I had the occasion to rub elbows with one of Harris County’s newly-minted Judges…and a Criminal Defense attorney who works in the Harris County courthouses, making sure there is "equal justice for all, "as he told me.

Both jurists agreed that there should be no political distinction made when it comes to putting judges on the bench in Harris County…or in any other jurisdiction, for that matter. The law is the law, and should be enforced by all regardless of political stripe.

The defense attorney made an interesting observation that the Harris County Court System is a training ground for young lawyers in love (with the law): those wishing to advance their law careers cut their eye teeth prosecuting defendants. Behavior that might result in a misdemeanor or a warning to a first time offender in any other Texas counties is rewarded with a trip through the Harris County court system’s meat grinder, so that these ambitious attorneys can have a go at a case or two, perhaps in the hope of becoming the next Racehorse Haynes or Randy Hardin.

Interestingly, the Houston Chronicle yesterday launched a three day feature on how illegal immigrants are cycling through the criminal justice system like a revolving door in Harris County.

According to the report, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials failed to file paperwork to detain 75% percent of more than 3,500 inmates who told jailers during the booking process that they were in the U.S. illegally. While most of the inmates released from custody "were accused of minor crimes, hundreds of convicted felons — including child molesters, rapists and drug dealers — also managed to avoid deportation after serving time in Harris County's jails," according to the report, which is based on documents filed over a period of eight months starting in June 2007.

Of 177 cases reviewed by the Chronicle, those illegals who were released from jail were later charged with additional crimes, more than half of which were felonies, including aggravated sexual assault of a child and capital murder.

The report also revealed nearly 11% of the inmates in the review (3,500) had three or more prior convictions in Harris County, and had repeatedly "cycled through the system despite a history of violence and, in some cases, outstanding deportation orders."

Perhaps instead of spending time, energy and finances to fund partisan elections for judges, the counties could better apply those assets to plugging the holes and filling the deficiencies that allow this dangerous situation in to continue.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bank Regulators to Banks: "Bite Me"

From the “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” department:
A rare, joint request by banks and consumer advocates for a program to let lenders forgive huge portions of credit card debt is being rejected by the Federales.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency essentially said, "bite me."

Okay, so maybe he said, "bite the bullet," but the bottom line is the OCC nixed the request for foregiveness up to 40% of credit card debt for consumers who don't qualify for existing repayment plans.

You rarely see this, but an alliance of the Financial Services Roundtable and the Consumer Federation of America made the pitch to the Treasury Department last month, which underscores the urgency of the situation as our economy worsens: When consumers with strong credit records are defaulting at high levels on their credit cards, and the banks that encouraged the phenomenal growth of credit are now bloodied by tens of billions in losses, hmmm...maybe there's a problem here.

Not enough for the Bankanistas, which object to allowing banks to defer losses for several years on the forgiven debt, an accounting gimmick they'd have to use to keep everything straight.

Here’s what’s going to happen: People will just stop paying.
What’s the difference between a legal bankruptcy and an informal bankruptcy?
As far as the creditors are concerned, nothing.
They’re not going to get paid, regardless.

People are going to go into turtle-mode at some point, hoarding what little cash that remains, and paying for the essentials: food and gasoline. The guys making the rules and calling the shots are doing so in a vacuum of ignorance, and they’d be better served formalizing what’s happening anyway—and protecting their interests—than not, and risk losing control of the situation…as if they had any.

What’s the solution?
--don’t buy what you can’t afford.
--use credit as a tool, not an antidote for your cravings
--learn to defer

Practices we could all profit from--individually, and Federally.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Survivor: Wall Street

The world has gone mad.

You and I—those of us who have played by the rules, who have worked hard, spent frugally, paid our mortgages and car payments on time, paid our taxes--are now the schmucks, apparently.

How can it be that the cheaters and beaters of the system are now being coddled and cradled by the rest of us through an unbelievable turn of events:

The Markets have tanked because no one in the financial sector trusts one another…and the captains of those institutions have threatened to crash our economic system if they’re not propped up by a bailout that continues to spiral out of control.

Banks who don’t even need the money are scrambling to line up at the door of the US Treasury… and you’ve got companies like American Express now morphing into a bank holding company so that they, too, can dip their snouts into the public trough.

AIG has snarffed up $150-billion of this $700-billion slush fund, and is still defending its on going practice of sending its executives to posh resorts for “training,” according to its CEO.

Now the automobile manufacturers want in on the action, after years of cranking out crap that they told us we wanted to buy, built by over-paid workers sucking on the corporate teat, backed by union goons threatening to shut down the car makers if they didn’t cave to demands for outrageous compensation packages.

Where does it end?

We just elected a socialist to occupy the White House for the next four years, a man sympathetic to Unions, and an encourager of labor organizers. President-elect Obama has already promised to bankrupt the coal industry, and according to some news reports, would have the airlines filing for court protection—again—if the Unions succeed in repealing pay and benefit cuts.

The Unions figure that with lower fuel prices, airlines are in a position to turn a profit for the first time in years, and they want their piece of the action. It’s a short-sighted move, with long term consequences, because low jet fuel prices are only a temporary phenomenon. Ironically, the bailouts were to be a temporary fix until companies--the banks--could find their footing again.

But just as Wall Street behaved with the intoxication of obscene profits during the mortgage bubble, now other companies are seeking to become drunk on the government dole. Like you must with any addict, perhaps it's time for everyone to go cold turkey, and let the chips fall where they may. At least the weakest would be shaken out, and perhaps our confidence could be genuinely restored in the remaining survivors.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bailout Obama

Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to spend someone else’s money? When you’re not footing the bill for something, how painful can it be?

First the Congress decided that despite egregious greed and unconscionable sloth in the lending industry, the Financial sector really was too important to the functioning of the country to allow it to implode. There is some merit to that position, and so, $700-billion dollars—your tax dollars—were dedicated to bailing out the banks.

Not all the banks, mind you—because in our newly-emerging post-election Orwellian world, some banks are more equal than others…or maybe they were just less egregious.

The Madame Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, over the weekend proposed extending the bailout to include the automakers—which I find hysterically ironic: From the state the brought you “Save the Whales” now comes the mantra of “Save the Cars." The ironic part is that California is poised to impose more extreme emission restrictions on automobiles operating in that state.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Pelosi wrote a letter to Treasury Sec’y Hank Paulson, imploring inclusion of the auto industry in the $700-billion package because they are convinced that tens of thousands of American manufacturing jobs are at risk.

And they are:
-Jobs in which wages and benefits have been fattened beyond reason by the Unions
-Jobs in which products were manufactured that contributed to our dependence upon foreign sources of energy by virtue of their inefficiency
-Jobs in which products were produced that were generally inferior to foreign manufacturers'

Those jobs are in jeopardy, and well they should be.
Instead of bailing out The Big Three, which, in their arrogance ignored the storm warnings of higher fuel prices and short supplies of gasoline, tell them to shut down and don’t open until they can produce a line of vehicles that gets 40-mpg, runs like the wind, and lasts like leather.
And it better be pretty.

This happened once before, remember?
Automakers got sloppy, built junk, and lost market share to foreign makers building lighter, less expensive, more reliable cars. The foreign cars emerged as more desirable to American consumers, because we were tired of paying through the nose for something that needed replacing in two years.

This is part of a cycle that perhaps should be allowed to continue through its course, because when it does, the products the domestic car makers turn out will be what you and I want to buy. The only reason they have not done so up to this point is because as automobile consumers, we haven’t demanded it—or at least, not up until about a year ago.

It was ludicrous for Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler to continue to build 12-mpg land yachts when gasoline was marching towards $4/gal, and Japan and Germany were cranking out small, light, efficient production models (that would have sold like hot cakes here, were they allowed to bring them into the country.)

So The Big Three missed the call—they guessed wrong—they made colossal mistakes, and now they want you and me to bail them out with our tax dollars.

What a great country we live in. Here we not only have the opportunity to succeed beyond our wildest dreams, but if we fail, no worries: Uncle Obama and Auntie Pelosie will bail us out.

Hey, what about your industry, or mine?
Let’s see…the Communications Industry needs a bailout, now.
Too many Air Personalities being fired.
You see, once upon a time, the broadcast operating companies became the darlings of the investment banks, when it was discovered how Radio was making good money selling air.

Congress allowed station operators to monopolize by owning multiple stations in each market, and the bankers were all too willing to lend them the money to buy those stations up. Guess what—as the buying frenzie escalated, and the prices for stations went up and up, companies like Clear Channel and CBS and Cox found themselves holding title to broadcast facilities that couldn’t cash flow revenue to service the debt.

Now you’ve got these companies trying to sell off “under-performing” assets, so designated because they can’t make their bottom line numbers work, because the debt service is too high.

Nancy, when are you going to bail us out?
The Radio business is so vital, there’s even a federal agency just for keeping track of the licenses—the FCC.
You can’t let us all fail?

Do you see where this is going?
Past U.S. Presidents have all left a legacy:
-FDR’s was the New Deal.
-Kennedy’s was Space Exploration.
-Johnson’s greatest legacy was Civil Rights.
-Reagan was the slayer of the Communist dragon of the Soviet Union…

Will the 44th President of the United States be known to historians as Bailout Obama?

Here's a notion: Why don't you eggheads in Washington come up with not a bail-out but a build-up of the petroleum refinery industry:Dedicate some of that $700-billion pie to build more capacity to process the petroleum we're needing now, thereby buying some time to create and produce alternative sources of energy, thereby reducing our dependence on foreign sources?
It's not a rhetorical question.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Music of Your Life

Remember when you were 18 or 20, and you’d get on an elevator and hear that annoying, saccharine music playing on a tinny speaker in the ceiling, and you’d wonder—what is that noise?

If you had any musical proclivities, you’d at least be able to discern a basic melody and rhythm pattern. You could find the down beat.
That was Muzak.

Instrumental versions of the “hits” that all sounded alike by the time their neutered musicologists had wrung all the soul and passion from tunes made popular by Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, and Henry Mancini.

You know you’ve been around a while when you step on an elevator—or walk into a public space with piped-in music--and can not only discern the melody, but also be able to chime-in on the harmony as the lyrics scroll through your mind, word for word.

Frank Sinatra and Henry Mancini tunes have given way to Frank Zappa and Hank Williams compositions. I kid you not—I heard a Muzak-treatment of a Led Zeppelin classic not long ago: “Stairway to Heaven” rendered impotent as I rode along an escalator in a department store.
Yes, I caught the irony.

I refuse to acknowledge I am “old” just because I know the words to what is now being passed off as “elevator music.” In fact, there’s big money in it for some promoters.

I notice the Houston Symphony is staging a concert November 14th with “The Music of The Eagles.” Tickets start at $25—which is less than you would’ve paid to hear the real thing, with words and music—when the Band was touring over a generation ago.

Take it Easy.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama Nation

We begin today after an extraordinary night of history-making events. The 44th President of the United States of America will be Barack Obama, who now must continue to guide his political machine to be all-inclusive in engineering the changes he promised to bring to the country.

The realities are that few of the proposals made in the heat of a contentious campaign can ever be met as-described…the process of governing will prove to be quite different from the process of galvanizing the electorate with rhetoric and oratory…and the mantle of responsibility to produce the changes promised now weighs heavy on the former junior Senator from Illinois.

I am proud that America once again has stepped out in front of the rest of the world in proving the power of Democracy, and demonstrating that our country continues to be the land of promise in which anything is possible—including the amazing path of Barack Obama from food stamps to leader of the free world.

I am proud of the grace and dignity with which Sen. John McCain conceded his loss in the Presidential race, and he showed his character and true colors in his congratulatory remarks. Even in defeat, McCain showed class.

I am hopeful that President-elect Obama will be able to forge a bond between Americans who now believe they are empowered to achieve their dreams…and those who might somehow still believe their dreams were dashed with last night’s Democratic shift of power.

We all have dreams, we all have expectations…but with those come responsibilities, and we are all beholden to one another make this next era of American history one that is as profitable as it is full of promise, and more productive than just politically expedient.

It’s going to be an interesting time to be an American. We’ve witnessed history in the making with the election of a black man to the highest office in the land…and now we must work and contribute to the legacy in the making that will belong to us all, as we show the rest of the world how we govern and grow in the next four years.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Change You Must Believe In

There are several things you can deduce about the Markets, based upon a Democratic President being in Office. According to the 2009 Stock Trader’s Almanac, market performance in post-election years have been better when the Democrats are in charge. But don't ignore what the GOP will be doing. In fact, here are some ideas that may pay off as you watch what the Republicans do:

Invest in Comfort Food: Chocolate, Ice Cream, and Peanut Butter. There will be lots of that stuff sold in the Red states…starting Friday. Buy Hershey’s, Unilever (Ben & Jerry’s), and Con-Agra Foods (Peter Pan.)

Invest in alternative power technologies: Wind, Solar, and nuclear. General Electric, certainly. Don’t discount Exxon-Mobile and Chevron-Texaco’s abilities to produce. Westinghouse Electric is also a company to watch.

Invest in tax preparation services companies, and CPA Firms. Lord knows, we’re going to need them. Intuit makes TurboTax and Quickbooks. PriceWaterhouseCoopers or Deloitte will be helpful in making sense of it all.

Insurance companies. The reason I think they’ll do well: The markets perform better when Democrats are in power. Insurance companies rely in part upon their market investments in order to operate profitably. And as the government transitions towards a more socialized healthcare system, the companies that are in the business of doing business in healthcare will come to the forefront.

I know.
That seems awfully simplistic.
Here, have another bowl of Hot Chocolate Blue Bell.

Reckoning Day

"Every now and then a man's mind is stretched by a new idea . . . and never shrinks back to its former dimensions."

--Oliver Wendell Holmes

Today is our long-awaited Day of Reckoning for the political stripes of our nation. Tonight perhaps, certainly by tomorrow, we will have a clearer picture of what the next four years hold in store for us.

Which ever party “wins” tonight, the weight of the world will be upon their shoulders: the mantle of leadership will pass on January 20, and then the posturing and pontificating must be replaced by leadership and resolve.

It’s always interesting—and a little terrifying—to observe the transformation from academic theory to cold reality, and see how little margin for error there is—because you’re talking about plans and policies that affect people’s lives and futures.

I have hopes for who will occupy the Oval office.
I have fears about who might fill the role of "President."

Either way, after the final vote is cast this evening, and the results of the race are mercifully known, it will be time to put down our differences and become once again one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

For some that may be a stretch…but for the stretching, our minds will acquire new dimensions.

Reputation Make-over

"Don't flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become."
--Oliver Wendell Holmes

Have you noticed that?
Why is it that the closer we become with friends and business associates, the more we take the relationship for granted? Late for an appointment or lunch with a new business prospect—you’ll call to let them know you’re running behind, right?

But late for lunch with a friend—eh, they can wait.
We’re friends.

That’s wrong-headed.
Both relationships are important, but because we’re “friends” with someone, somehow we think it’s okay to slight them in that way.
Why is that?

And another note about those business meetings and making appointments to make plans and conduct transactions: When did we become such a rude and thoughtless society that returning phone calls and replying to e-mails became optional?

I could show you a list of the phone calls I have made in the past week to some pretty reputable companies, to some reputably responsible people, who have administrative assistants and secretaries and staffers to help them through what must be hellishly-busy days, because they cannot seem to find the time to return a phone call, respond to a message slip, or reply to an e-mail.
I am so glad their businesses are flourishing.

So do your friends a favor—let ‘em know where you are.
Give your reputation a make-over and answer messages, return phone calls, and respond to e-mails.

Who knows?
You might pick up on a piece of information that could make your week!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Too Close to Call

T-minus 23-hours and 55-minutes before the Polls officially open in our corner of the world for Election Day. It’s been an interesting campaign, and this morning, depending upon which source you believe, both presidential candidates are separated by the slimmest of margins, and the category of undecided voters has both camps pretty nervous on election day eve.

Investor's Business Daily (IBD) and the TechnoMetrica Institute of Policy and Politics (TIPP) have been watching the race since mid-October, issuing weekly updates on their polling of the electorate. According to their latest responses, the race has tightened over the weekend, as independents who'd been leaning to Sen. Barack Obama shifted to Sen. John McCain to leave that key group a toss-up. McCain also pulled even in the Midwest, moved back into the lead with men, padded his gains among Protestants and Catholics, and is favored for the first time by high school graduates.

Here's the question the survey posed: "If the 2008 election for U.S. president were held today and the following were candidates, for whom would you vote? Would you say Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain?" Pretty simple.

What is the clincher-issue for you this election?
What is the one thing that will determine your vote, depending upon how the candidates stand?
Economic Crisis Relief or Energy?
Taxes or Health Insurance?
Education or Abortion?
Social Security or the War in the Middle East?

Interestingly, Immigration and NAFTA aren't even showing up on most voters' radar screens. Those were the hot-button issues when the campaigns were still young.

Might your decision be made based upon which Vice-Presidential candidate you’re most comfortable having “one heart-beat away” from the Presidency?

Whomever wins the election on Tuesday, your life will be changed.
It must.

Our nation cannot continue on its present course: Both candidates voted for the recent Wall Street Bailout. Barack Obama would impose more government controls; John McCain would promote market-based solutions. Obama’s plan would cost $60-billion to start, and $175-billion over time. McCain’s solutions would total nearly $60-billion.

Neither candidate has a clear solution for Social Security. Obama has made noises about nationalizing retirement 401-K’s, while McCain would push for privatization retirement funding.

Health Insurance would be given the party treatment by the candidates, with McCain relying upon market competition, and Obama boosting payroll taxes. Neither candidate has a good plan, in my opinion.

Neither man has a credible plan for solving our energy crisis. Obama has relented on offshore drilling, and McCain has become more amenable to alternative sources of energy, and funding their development. Obama foolishly wants to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to control prices (that's not what it's for)…while you and I have proven over the past 60-days that they best way to control prices at the pump is by throttling back our usage and demand.

I’m not going to get into the Abortion issue here—I am pro life, and believe that only in the most dire emergencies would such a procedure be called for. That one is, however, a litmus test for vote casting for some.

The abortion issue is joined at the hip with our Education crisis. McCain wants more accountability for the dollars spent on education; Obama just wants to throw more money at the problem. The bottom line is the United States is falling behind as a competitive power, because we’re falling behind in the classroom, and it is going to cost all of us more money to fund teachers and curriculums that are competitive with the rest of the world.

That takes taxes—which is another talking-point that’s been over-engineered on the campaign trail, and it is very clear that under a Obama Presidency, there would be significant changes in the way the business of government is funded: He would raise taxes on those of you making over $250,000 and provide a tax break to the middle class—which he has failed to define. McCain would cut taxes across the board, which would benefit all income classes, including the rich, who pay an inordinately larger share of the tax burden. Here is a truth that neither party can afford to ignore: No republic ever taxed its way into prosperity.

So those are your choices:
You want more government intervention and higher taxes, Vote for the man who is promising to impose both. You want a market-based solution to many of our challenges, and less money being taken out of your paycheck by the government, vote for the man who is promising that scenario. The choice is yours.

There are no necessarily wrong answers…save one—and that is not participating in the election. Vote Tomorrow.