Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Joys of Homeownership


Lots of people are stuck in homes they no longer want to live in.

From the NY Times: “You hear a lot about foreclosure and the thousands of families who are being forced out,” said Joseph S. Tracy, director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “But that is swamped by the number of people who want to sell their homes and can’t."

It is starting to have an effect on worker mobility and people are now turning down promotions and job transfers.

The United States is a very mobile society. Our economic success has been, in part, attributed to the fact that workers and entrepreneurs strike out for a new start, often in a new place. The current housing problem has slowed that down drastically and that has a ripple effect on various other segments of our economy.

Home prices have risen too fast in most markets and now the inevitable correction is happening. But, may homeowners are resisting, refusing to sell at the market price because they "think" their homes should be worth more. It's time for people to come to grips with the fact that their homes just aren't worth what they thought they were.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Girls Gone Wild

I read that Ashley Alexandra Dupre, the call girl who dallied with New York Governor Elliott Spitzer, is now suing the founder of "Girls Gone Wild". She claims that she was too young (17 at the time) to have entered into an agreement with the company that distributed 7 full length tapes which Ms. Dupre spent a week filming back in 2003.

All this activity springs from the fact that "Girls Gone Wild" rescinded their $1 million offer to film and promote Ms. Dupre after they found they already had footage of her. Hence, her suit. She's trying to cash in on her 15 minutes of fame.

What amazed me about the whole thing was that the "Girls Gone Wild" people (Mantra Films, Inc.) could pony up $1 million. I have seen their ads on late night TV, so I knew about the phenomena. What I didn't know was that it is a $100 million per year organization (Wikipedia).

Won't the girls that participated by stripping for the camera be proud when they are 40 and their videos are still out in the marketplace? Whatever will they tell their kids?

We're doomed.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sickness in Austria (this time)

Not that I required any further evidence, but this latest story of the 73 year old man in Austria convinces me that people should have to obtain a license before having kids. The guy kept his daughter locked in a secret room for 24 years and fathered 7 children with her! How did he keep this a secret from his wife, living in the same home, for 24 years? Surely she had to suspect something was odd about his "secret" room.

I wonder about the supposed maternal or paternal instinct when I read stories like this. When I read about families in Thailand that sell their daughters to pimps I was just amazed. There are plenty of additional stories right here in the Chicago area too. I guess "family values" means different things to different folks.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Good Spring Thunderstorm

The weather forecast calls for a strong thunderstorm today. I must confess that a really good storm scares me and fascinates me at the same time. I will often go out on the screen porch to watch a storm. Here in Illinois you can see them coming for quite a while and then when it finally arrives right over us - wow!

I read somewhere, years ago, that wasps are awakened from their winter hibernation by spring thunderstorms. That's how they know it's time to get out there and pollinate. Isn't that just amazing?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ford - $100 Million Profit

Ford announced a $100 million profit for the first quarter of 2008. It's nice to read some good news about the American economy. Apple had a great first quarter too. There is so much negative news in the media that if you focus on that exclusively, you will not have a good day. There are problems of course: the real estate meltdown, the credit crunch, a stagnant stock marker. But, we're pretty smart when we put our minds to a problem and we can work hard to produce a positive outcome.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How Long Can it Last?


I read a couple of statistics the other day:

1. Corporations pay only about 10% of all federal tax receipts. In 2003, they contributed only 7.4%! The rest comes from individuals.

2. Only 33% of the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the measure we use to determine the state of our economy, comes from corporations. The rest comes from individual's spending, quite a bit of it on products produced in places other than the United States.

How long can this continue? How long can our society function when the entities with the most money fail to contribute in proportion to what they take? It wasn't always this way, of course. In the supposed "golden age" of the 1950s corporations had a more patriotic attitude and did not set up offshore entities (just a post office box on an island in the Carribean) to avoid taxes. The government did not shower them with massive tax subsidies for moving jobs overseas. Corporations invested in manufacturing and research facilities here in the United States as opposed to overseas, thereby making a healthy contribution to our GDP and creating jobs. Beginning primarily in the 80s, they began investing much of their money in lower-cost locations - not in the United States, so other countries benefit.

The individual cannot sustain an economy and government that has grown so large. The people's capacity to carry debt will dry up at some point and the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.

We need corporations to pay their fair share - both in taxes and activity here in the United States. They incorporate here because the United States has stability, laws and an environment that allows them to make money and keep most of it. They are getting the benefits of this, without paying for it. Loopholes should be closed. Offshore entities that are an obvious tax dodge should not be allowed. Corporations should not get tax subsidies for investing outside of the country.

In addition, it's time they pick up their spending here in the US - recycle some of the profits here instead of overseas. The consumer cannot continue to provide 66% of the GDP of this nation by buying stuff produced elsewhere. Common sense tells us that this can't continue for very long.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wasting Time


My productivity has slacked off lately. I'm not writing anything (look at the last time I wrote a post). I am not getting much programming work done (I hope my business partner isn't reading this).

There's probably some deep psychological problem causing my slacking output, but there's also some external time wasters that I know of: reading internet "news", chat and TV.

If I sign on to My Yahoo or iGoogle, inevitably some news item will catch my eye. Of course, most of these stories have links to other things and before I know it, time has flown by. The worst thing is that the news is usually trivial, stupid stuff.

If I see friends on chat and get started I can lose hours. Sometimes I chat with multiple people. While it's nice to catch up, I have not mastered the art of multitasking such that I can get any work done.

Lastly, TV can take up most of my evenings if I'm not careful, and I rarely am careful. I'll turn on the tube at 6 and usually around 11ish I'll notice that 5 hours have gone by and I have no recollection of what I just watched. My mind turned to mush around 9ish and I realize I'm dead tired and should have gone to sleep right around the time my mind turned to mush. Last night I got home from work around 9:40 and ended up watching a movie about Rubin Hurricane Carter until 12 AM at which point I remembered I had a DVR which could record the remainder of the movie. What a waste.