I have been concerned for a long time that the biggest threat to our nation is our increasing national debt and that was even before Obama ratcheted it to new heights. It doesn't take a scholar to figure out that the spending track that we are on is unsustainable. I gave Mitch Daniels a lot of credit for calling our debt crisis the New Red Menace.
If you think about how many times we have been encouraged to save for the long haul to put the magic of compounding interest to work for us, then you also have to be concerned that the magic of compounding interest works against you when you pile up debt that becomes impossible to pay down.
That is where we are headed. If we don't stop spending money that we don't have, then in a matter of a decades every single dollar of public funding will be required for interest payments on our national debt. That means there will be no money left for public programs, Social Security, Medicare, and so on, not even for our national defense in an every increasingly dangerous world. In that situation our nation as we know it cannot survive.
So now when even the New York Times starts to beat the drum that we need to start paying the tab, I am not sure how to feel. Do I rejoice because even a bastion of liberalism is waking up to the crisis? Or do I despair because when even the New York Times starts to catch on it is probably already too late?
I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did. - Benjamin Harrison
I don't recall the exact year but I remember being shocked when I found out one summer that over 10% of the boys in attendance at our local Boy Scout Summer Camp were on medications, many for behavioral problems such as ADD. I am not sure when ADD was replaced by ADHD in normal conversation but this was before those days.
My thought then was that it is not possible that so many of our boys are disabled in that sense and need to be on such powerful medications. I was stunned and found this so hard to believe that I have since wondered if the medical and educational establishments are over-referring, over-diagnosing, and over-medicating our youth, especially boys.
When I was young, I remember adults speaking about boys who couldn't sit still. Adults thought these boys were fine but they were just being boys. Today I fear that boys who can't sit still are taken to a doctor who prescribes some very powerful medications, often in cases where it is not necessary or warranted and might even do damage because that is easier than working with the boys to help them to learn how to control their impulses.
This Boston Globe editorial raises another factor of which I had no knowledge. Our government provides a financial incentive that might often be abused simply to gain government benefits.
I had no idea this incentive was in place so it is no wonder that I hear about parents who virtually demand referrals from schools to doctors who are then pressured to make the expected diagnosis placing their son on Ritalin or whatever. I hope this is very, very rare but I'm concerned it might be far too common.
The Kansas City Star makes an interesting point that we in the USA have a "military tribe" that bears a heavy burden in military casualties, much heavier than the 1% of our population that they represent. For the most part the elites on both sides of the political spectrum escape this burden. But this group of our citizenry where military service is a tradition continues to serve our country in our armed forces. They deserve our gratitude and admiration.
This should be very welcome news to everyone except those who think we should not develop our own energy resources and instead should continue to send dollars we don't have overseas to buy oil from regimes who hate us and who finance our enemies.
I wonder how many people know how our government is understating inflation compared to how it had been measured historically? Inflation is a hidden tax that eats away at everything in our economy. I remember double-digit inflation in the days of President Carter (worst president in my lifetime so far) and I don't want to go back there, but it appears maybe that we already are there and our government is hiding that fact from us.
Many economists have been warning for decades that the only way to avoid bankrupting our government is to either get government spending under control (and Democrats are showing once again that they are not even remotely serious about that) or by printing so many dollars created out of thin air to pay our debt down in cheaper dollars (and that is exactly what the Fed has been doing).
It is hard to be optimistic about the electorate in this nation being intelligent enough to understand what is at stake and why we need to do something about it now rather than later. The longer we wait to start getting a handle on government debt, the day of reckoning will be worse when it comes and it will come.
Calling Obama's policy toward Israel a disappointment is an understatement. Is Obama just simply unaware of why the US historically has had Israel, the only Mideast democracy, as an ally and why it is so important to continue to support them? Or is Obama so slanted to Arabs and Muslims and so slanted against Israel and Jews that he simply thinks that we need to align ourselves with Arabs and Muslims to the detriment of Israel?
Either way I fear this change in US policy against Israel makes another Mideast war more likely. If the Arab nations again attack Israel to start another Mideast war, I wonder if Obama would assist Israel or simply leave them to defend themselves. If I am pondering that question, I am sure the terrorist leaders of many Arab nations are pondering it as well.
I also fear that if Israel was pushed to the wall and faced surrender or annihilation (which are the same in their case), they would not hesitate to use the nuclear weapons we all believe that they possess to defend themselves. I pray there is no chance of this happening, but my belief is that Obama's misguided Mideast policy is raising the chances of such a doomsday scenario.
I remember well this horrific crime when it occurred in 2008. I could tell from the debate even then that it was going to be difficult to obtain justice for this poor mother and father who lost their twins in this double-murder. After all they weren't born yet so in the eyes of many they simply didn't count.
I admit to having difficulty understanding the thought processes of many of those in the legal community who bend over backward to find all kinds of justification to minimize the actions and resulting consequences of so many criminals.
Frankly I think the judge's finding that the criminal's prior record of only a couple misdemeanors as justification for not imposing a maximum sentence in this case is ludicrous.
I am a father of four adult children including one set of twins. I cannot imagine how hard it would have been to continue on with my life if our twins had been murdered while still in the womb.
In cases like this, I think it is appropriate to put myself in the shoes of others to test what I think and feel. If I put myself in the shoes of the criminal and then put myself in the shoes of the father of those twins, I don't have any difficulty determining where my sympathies lie. As far as I am concerned, locking this guy up for life and throwing away the key is too good for him.
"I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying."
Joan of Arc 1412-1431, 15th century saint and French heroine
I would never expect Gene Simmons of KISS (born Chaim Witz in Haifa, Israel) to be at a loss for words so I am not surprised that he makes crystal clear what he thinks about Obama. I just didn't expect that he would be able to make it this clear on CNBC.
I think Simmons is suffering from a common frustration trying to understand why liberals like Obama make decisions based on what they think the world should be instead of dealing in reality and making decisions based on what conditions really are in the real world.
Please check out No Way to Pick a President by Andrea Neal that I found on Angry White Boy. It raises a number of interesting questions. I don't think anyone can seriously argue that the electoral process we have now provides us with the best presidential candidates and ultimately the best president for our country.
The current process requires someone who has some of the least desirable personality characteristics which are typically mutually exclusive of the characteristics that we most need and desire in our presidential candidates. And so it is that a man like Mitch Daniels, who is a serious candidate in the opinion of most pundits whether or not they agree with his policies, falls to the wayside without ever having put his hat in the ring.
Whether he could have won or not is immaterial. What does matter is that our country is worse off because he is not running.
My wife is retiring from her teaching career next month so she will want a laptop to replace the old, decrepit one she has from her employer. Fortunately she won a $500 gift card from a well-known retailer several months ago and she has often asked me what we should spend it on. (I love the use of the word “we” in that context.)
We have a four-year old but very adequate desktop where she does most of her computing at home yet I knew that she would appreciate a laptop if she had one that was technologically up-to-date.
Late last week I got an email advance copy of the retailer’s Sunday newspaper ad and it included a laptop from a top PC manufacturer with exactly the right configuration for my wife. Although the featured laptop retails for almost $700 the sale price including rebate brings the cost to less than the $500 gift card. I will still have to buy her a backpack or some other type of carrier for the laptop but I don’t need that right now.
Although I don’t work in PC Support, I do work in IT so I think I am computer literate and I have my own plan about how I am going to configure this new laptop for my wife. I didn’t keep count but I think that the number of times that I had to decline the retailer’s extended warranty plan was somewhere between more than five and less than or equal to ten. I am not going to knock every such warranty plan, but this made no sense for me in this case. I was paying less than $500 for a new laptop or less than $700 in retail value. It comes with a one-year warranty. I could buy a two-year warranty for $160 or a three-year warranty for $240. Why? Well, as they said, in case anything happens like we drop it, the battery dies, the dog chews it up, etc. etc. etc.
And, yes, it’s okay if it only has a trial version of MS Office. We don’t use MS Office at home anyway. We use Open Office and I am using Google Docs for more of my files too. And don’t worry, I’ll get my own free firewall and virus protection too after I wipe off all the crapware that usually comes loaded on the hard drive of a new PC.
So if the battery fails to hold a charge, we will buy a new battery. If we drop the laptop and break it, we will fix it, replace it, or do without. But I am going to rely on the new laptop to serve us as we expect in return for the money we paid. I don’t expect it to last forever, but I do expect that we will get a good return on the investment of the $500 gift card. That is the way such purchases are supposed to work and that is all that I am asking.
US businesses reluctant to open in Mexico appeared in Sunday’s Journal-Gazette but I didn't need to read it again since I had seen it already from Yahoo Finance a week ago. The story struck a chord with me because I work for a corporation that has operations world-wide including a large Mexican operation. I also think the article is interesting because Power Wheels was founded in Fort Wayne where the product was developed and manufactured until the operation was sold to Mattel and eventually moved to Mexico.
Our Mexican operation is not in a border town but in a province that is mentioned in the story. It has not escaped the escalating lawlessness in Mexico. Early in 2011 our corporate communications quarterly asked our CEO if there are any concerns about security with our Mexican operations. He stated that investment decisions will be affected if these security concerns are not addressed by Mexican authorities.
I am not aware of any instances where any of our employees have been harmed. However our main product involves a precious metal commodity and I have heard that we have had at least one truckload of product hijacked. I think everyone is rather tight-lipped about such instances so maybe there have been more.
Although some of my development projects are specifically for our Mexican operation, I have never been required to travel there but many of my co-workers have through the last several years and still do so regularly. One co-worker told me a few years ago even then that when he arrived at the airport local to our Mexican operation that the airport had Mexican police or military stationed in the airport at given distances apart who were armed with machine guns not over their shoulders but ready to fire. He was picked up by a driver waiting for him with a sign with his name so he would recognize his driver who would take him to our operation or his hotel depending on the time of his arrival.
With the growing lawlessness manifested in murders and kidnappings I wondered how you would really know if that is really your driver holding a sign with your name on it. What if your driver had been paid off or even murdered and the person holding that sign is part of a kidnapping ring?
With things deteriorating as they have I can fully understand why an employee would decline a business trip to our operation in Mexico. Someone might say that is too cautious or not realistic since it really doesn't happen that much, but that wouldn't do much to comfort me. I recognize that I could be fatally injured driving to work in the morning, but I think that is a much smaller and much more acceptable risk than a trip to Mexico at this time.
It will be interesting to see how this scenario plays out over the next several years, for better or worse, and how business and investment decisions are made taking all into account.
On May 19 Anthony Juliano (@ajuliano) tweeted the question "Anybody else remember when the maximum length for a file name was 8 characters?" and got me thinking of how far we have come.
In the late 1960s I entered college for the first time resulting in a degree in Mathematics. I also completed several courses in Computer Science during those years in college. The question on Twitter got me thinking again about how far we have come all the way back to my very first day in my first Computer Science class where I was going to learn to program in the language Fortran 4 (or Fortran IV if you prefer).
After taking attendance the first time our professor (I'll leave his name out) gave us his first piece of advice. He told us that he was only going to go over this once but we best take his advice and, if we did, we would be forever grateful to him.
His advice simply was "Sequence your cards." It was very good advice. Remember these were the days of the keypunch machine. We would write our program on paper work sheets that resembled the IBM 80 column punched card. Then we would take our written program to a keypunch machine and type our program in line by line, one card per line, and the keypunch machine would punch out the cards in the code corresponding to what we typed.
Here is an image of such a card and some related information about the process.
Essentially the computer would read the punched cards, compile our program, and execute it with the data on the cards at the bottom of the deck. But the computer really only read columns 1 through 72. The last eight columns 73-80 were not used so that made them available to the programmer for any purpose we wished. Our professor recommended we sequence the cards. Why?
Well, let's just think of crunch time when a programming project is almost due and the computer lab is very busy. There are limited resources in terms of keypunch machines and there is only one computer card reader so only one program is going to be processed at a time. And as your turn in line comes you hurry up to the computer card reader and your deck of punched cards which might number in the hundreds is dropped to the floor. No problem, right, because you sequenced your cards.
What? You didn't sequence your cards. Oh no!!!!
This did happen. I witnessed it more than once. Here is the key sentence from the link above.
Sometimes the ignored positions 73–80 were used to contain a sequence number in a deck of cards, so they could be resorted back to the right order in case they were dropped.
I always sequenced my cards. I guess this was at least one way that I was a conformist while earning my first degree in college. The other interesting thing I noticed is that the ones who learned the lesson the hard way were always guys. The co-eds who had card decks hit the floor always had their cards sequenced. I'll leave that to others to explain why that was and what that says about those guys like me who also sequenced our cards.
Anyway, this might be filed as another example of how the good old days weren't always.
This blog post Suddenly One Day by Amber Recker made me reflect on the last few years of my life because what is written within is so true and time marches on without mercy. Our parents are still with us in their 80s but now in a diminished capacity. I am the oldest of four brothers but only two of us are local.
We began to note that Dad was beginning to have some problems several years ago beginning with episodes of getting lost while driving. There was no need to panic or make drastic changes at that time but that was our first warning of what was to come. We simply continued to monitor Mom and Dad to see how we could help when needed. But we knew that we had to start taking steps when Dad lost their checkbook three times during February 2008. Fortunately we found it each time, the last time in Mom's bread maker.
We found an elder care attorney with whom Mom and Dad felt comfortable so we were able to update all the necessary legal documents including making me, the oldest of four boys, their legal and medical power of attorney before it was too late. From that point on, I gradually took over all their financial affairs and began going to all their doctor appointments with them.
We had already found out that it was always necessary to go with them from past experience because whether it was a medical issue from a doctor appointment or a financial question after a trip to the bank, neither Mom or Dad would have any understanding of what happened or what was said or what they needed to do. In most respects the modern-day world had already passed them by because they were pretty much always confused about every decision they had to make.
Dad was diagnosed formally with Alzheimer's Disease in early 2008 simply confirming what we already knew. Throughout that year we were continually frustrated by Mom's unwillingness or inability to help Dad remember to take his medications and other help he needed through each day. Then during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas of 2008 we became increasingly concerned about problems that Mom was having with preparing meals, buying groceries, and helping Dad. Then in May 2009 our worst fears were confirmed when she too was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.
In retrospect I am so grateful that we were able to get the legal steps taken before it was too late, but even with that being done the last few years have been very difficult and stressful. I couldn't imagine how much worse it would have been if I had not had the legal authority required to make the decisions and to take the steps to care for our parents properly.
As I reflect on the last few years I can't say that I ever was really prepared for the role reversal. It is not natural and it is not comfortable. I just think of all the days I went through one day at a time stressed out wondering if that was the day something really bad might happen.
We already had taken his car keys away from Dad in 2008 so he wasn't driving and we were going to have to do the same with Mom if we didn't get them moved first. That was the most difficult decision of all. Mom and Dad had lived in their home for sixty years and they weren't moving. Despite that my brother and I visited memory care facilities and selected one that we felt would be best for Mom and Dad. On September 1, 2009 (the worst day of my life) we had them moved against their wishes so they have been where they are well cared for now for twenty months.
Dad is now in the advanced stage of Alzheimer's Disease with the disease even affecting him physically now as he is becoming more frail. Mom is in the moderate phase of the disease and still unhappy about not returning home so she is always asking and planning how she could get that done despite being in a secure memory care facility.
I suppose with time the Role Reversal gets more comfortable but only because you just do what has to be done to take care of your parents as they deserve in the best way that you can. That doesn't make it any easier and I wouldn't compare myself to any other caregiver's situation but getting good medical, legal, and geriatric care advice is invaluable along with doing all that you can to educate yourself about every single factor affecting your family situation.
Stop Pretending Pakistan Is Our Friend by Jack Kelly raises some serious questions about Pakistan in the wake of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. It seems possible that we continue to send billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan who is not really our ally but rather our enemy.
It has been speculated for years that the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency, is assisting Al Qaeda. It has been reported that the ISI was instrumental in founding and supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. So it is fair to ask whose side are they on? And Jack Kelly asks questions that I haven't seen asked before. Is the ISI itself a terrorist organization? Is Al Qaeda financed and supported logistically by ISI? These are serious and difficult questions to which we might never have answers but the US had best figure out who is on our side and who is not and act accordingly.
The entire equation is complicated by our need for the Pakistani route to supply our troops in Afganistan as long as they are there and by Pakistan's status as a nuclear power that could fall to Islamists who make it clear that they will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons against us if they had them.
Whatever the outcome of this analysis by our national leaders, I am reminded of this famous quote from the ancient Chinese military strategist, Sun Tsu.
"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
On April 21, 2011 The News-Sentinel published a letter to the editor from Charles McGregor regarding our need for a realistic national energy policy. I agree with much of what he says. I think our national security, the strength of our US dollar as a currency, our economic recovery from recession, employment growth, and needed government revenues all depend upon us getting real about developing our energy resources without unrealistic and unnecessary restrictions.
My sense of horror and sadness from the Holocaust was renewed by watching the video Never Again, Never Again from My Two Cents Worth. How do your really mentally process the fact that six million people were systematically murdered? I cannot comprehend how a government program, even of a dictatorial tyrant, seeks to exterminate an entire people resulting in the deaths of six million people.
Other despots like Stalin might have been responsible for the deaths of more people than the Nazis. And Stalin's quote that "One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic." might indicate how such a horror can happen. Once you remove the value as a unique person from an individual and just categorize him or her as part of a group based on race, religion, or some other factor, I guess it makes it possible for those carrying it out to rationalize it. The very thought is sickening. Clearly the Nazis were able to dehumanize their victims so they could carry out the demonic orders.
The video brings home the individual tragedies as you look at each face. Each one of those six million victims was an individual with a life, hopes, dreams, and his or her own story just like every other one of us. Each was loved by his or her own family and friends. Each was valuable as an individual entitled to the right to live a life to its fullest and that basic right was denied by a nation that determined that all members of a given people were not entitled to any rights, not even the right to life.
Each of us is valuable as an individual human being because of who we are, not because we are a member of a certain race or religion or any other group with which we identify. It is our own uniqueness as a human being, that very individuality, that makes each of us worthy to be valued.
May 1, 2011 will go down as another day that I will be able to remember exactly what I was doing when I heard about a historic event. I first got the news that Bin Laden had been killed when I was reading email and following my timeline in Twitter when I first saw the rumors.
Like many such historic moments we will learn more specifics of the event as time goes on. And there might well be some aspects that those of us in the general public will never know. But all the unique circumstances and intrigue already lead to a lot of analysis and speculation.
Christopher Hitchens is still with us and in Death of a Madman for Slate he raises more questions than answers about why the US continues to send billions of dollars to a Pakistani regime about which he states "If you tell me that you are staying in a rather nice walled compound in Abbottabad, I can tell you in return that you are the honored guest of a military establishment that annually consumes several billion dollars of American aid."