Friday, August 29, 2008

Joe Six-pack Versus Congress on the Iraq War

You know, there are so many smug anti-war people out there. Bush lied, war for oil.......... Yet I seem to recall quite a bit of support for the war back in 2003. And knowing that the liberal media had ample opportunity to launch investigative reports for the build-up, I think everyone had a different impression about what we were getting into, including Bush. Once we are there, now you have to deal with the situation on the ground, regardless of the reason. Here, Bush made several years of mistakes, but we have it right now. We need to hold course Iraq and see it through.
That all being said, I encounter so many anti-war people, I wish I could pull up a voting record on them to see if they would have voted for the war. Luckily, we can do this for congressmen, so they can be quasi-accountable. Day after motor mouths just run their mouth.

Stocks Fall and Rise

I'm not an investor and don't claim to be one. One thing that I always find interesting is how the stock market seems to rise one day and fall the next day based solely on the news. I can understand how this would work regarding the future's market, but not stock. Stock is a portion of ownership in a corporation. The value of that stock is determined by the market demand for the portion of ownership in the company. Market demand is determined based on the current financials of the corporation, such as profit and margin, earnings per share, as well as the future projections. What does the daily fluctuation in jobless claims, personal income, and misery index have to do with my choice in investing in a company. If I am smart, I research the company itself before I buy or sell, not wait for the latest fluctuation in news.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

National Sales Tax - Minimum Wage

It is not new to know that I support a National Sales Tax. And it certainly should not be new to know that I support the elimination of minimum wage. There are so many benefits to doing both that I will only hit on the high points before I get to the new angle I thought of yesterday.

A National Sales Tax is the fairest tax there can be, it taxes everyone, including illegal immigrants. And if you really like to stick it to the rich, the more you spend the more taxes you pay. There are no filings, no bloated IRS, no returns or penalties, no intrusion into your life, and no need for cumbersome payroll filings that will be important for my later point.

If you have ever read my blog, you will know the countless reasons for eliminating minimum wage. It will increase employment by decreasing the incentive for illegal immigrations, it will decrease inflation (is it any wonder that once minimum wage went up so did inflation), and it will allow companies to pay people any amount of money to do any task for which the market will demand.

Getting rid of payroll taxes and the paperwork needed to hire a new person along with allowing the market to dictate a wage is the crux of my point. I had my Newton apple on the head moment when I was driving home from work. I saw two people in a succession that made me think of this. First, I saw a homeless guy holding a sign asking for money. Then, I saw a guy standing outside of Little Caesar's holding a sign for their Hot 'N Ready Pizzas, something they do every evening. I thought how silly it is to have to pay this guy full wages to stand outside and hold a sign when he could be inside helping to make the pizzas. Then I thought (and I'm not trying to be crass), why not walk down and ask the homeless guy that is begging for money to hold your Little Caesar's sign in the evening for an hourly wage to be negotiated. He might even be able to still hold his sign asking for money at the same time. It's a win win. And if you can do that for holding a sign, that same principle could be applied, legally, to any number of situations. Any business could hire any person to meet any short term need without worrying about documentation and reporting earnings.

You see Little Caesar's can't take the time to fill out the paper work, get legal approval, cut payroll checks, withhold FICA and all the other taxes, and then pay the large amount of 6.75 just to hold a sign, so they don't. The result is a lose lose scenario.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Good News: A Child's Questions Answered.

"Mom, what happens when you die?"

"Well, you go to heaven to be with the people that you love."

"Does that mean that everyone goes to heaven?"

"No, of course not. Bad people don't go to heaven."

"Where do bad people go?"

"They go to a place that is unimaginably bad for punishment."

"How do you know if you have been good enough to go to heaven?"

"I suppose that if you have lived a mostly good life, learned from your mistakes, and helped people out that you will go to heaven."

"What is mostly good?"

"Mostly good is where a majority of the choices you have made have been good ones."

"But how do I know which ones are good and which ones are bad?"

"You shouldn't murder or steal or kill or cheat on your spouse, you should do good to people in need."

"But is there anything else, how do I know that is the whole list, what if something is missing?"

"I think that capture's the big things."

"How do you know those are the big things? Where did you get that list?"

"It comes from common sense son. You can tell that those are the good things and things to not do because that is what most of the laws are all about."

"What if I don't pay my taxes or what if speed. There are laws about those too."

"Son, you will know in your heart."

"So you are telling me that as long as in my heart I am making the best or right choice, then I go to heaven?"

"Yeah, I think that is it."

"So if I am insane or depraved, and I go and kill and rape people, in my heart I think that is the best choice. Or if I think that my baby will have too hard of a life because I don't make enough money and I kill it, in my heart that is the best choice. Or if I am hungry and I have no money so I steal from Wal-Mart, in my heart it was the best choice."

"Don't be ridiculous, of course it is not like that."

"But Mom, it sounds like it is all up to me on whether or not I think I made the right choice or not."

"Not at all, it is up to God."

"When did God come into all of this? How do I know what he does or does not want for me to do to be able to go into heaven? Don't tell me that it is the best choice, generally good, or from my heart again either, because if it is really like that, then everyone would go to heaven because everyone can justify why they make a mistake."

"Mom, if there is an afterlife and there is a Heaven, I don't think I want to have it be so vague as to how I get there. I want to go to Heaven and I want all the people I love to go to Heaven. I know there is a God and there is a Heaven, but I don't know how to get there."

"If stealing is bad, what if I steal once or just a couple of times? What is the magic number of times that it takes for me to steal before I can't get into heaven? Is it the number of times I steal or is it the monetary value of what I steal? What if I do some good deeds to offset the bad ones. Is there a ratio of good to bad that does the trick"

"Do you see where I am getting at. God will know who exactly goes to Heaven and Hell. There is some trigger that tells him how to divide us up."

"I suppose I haven't really thought about that deeply."

"So many of us don't. Really we all want to believe we will all go to Heaven and that everyone we know will go to Heaven. If we get to determine whether we go to Heaven or Hell, then what is the purpose of our life here. Regardless of what we do, the end result is eternity in Heaven. I supppose we could also believe there is no God and that our purpose on this planet is no more significant that an ants."

"I do believe in God, and I have to believe that the briliance that created the universe, would not allow us to linger in doubt and self discovery. God created us out of love, and it is out of love that God would want us to be with him in Heaven. But God did not create robots. God gave us free will. Free will allows us to respond in love to God or to turn away from God."

"So how do you know whether or not you are going to heaven?"

"God loves us so he dispelled with all the ambiguity. He elimated the need to calculate a good to bad ratio, and the need to know which sins are the mortal ones. God gave us the Word, the Holy Bible. And in that Word, God tells us about how he sent His Son to die for our sins. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that for who so ever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life(John 3:16). There is no amount of good deeds that can cover your sin. You can't pray yourself or others into heaven. There is no 12 step process. God wants us to know exactly what to do. He eliminated the interprutation and rationalization of man or man's law. Christ came and fulfilled the law."

"Mom, this gift is free, and it is not refundable. You just have to choose to accept Christ into your heart as your Lord and Savior. I made the choice and the fog lifted from my eyes and my heart. I finally feel at peace, but I want to share this gift which is why I am telling you the Good News."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Overhead Anxiety: Check Your Bag

I have done some traveling over the last couple of weeks, boarding airplanes six times. During this time I experienced a new mental condition. I hadn't realized what to call it until I was on my final leg home. I call this condition Overhead Anxiety. There are 2 factors that have contributed to this phenomenon. The first is that the price of oil has caused airlines to cut back on flights, which means that those flights that are left are generally at full capacity. The second factor is that airlines have begun charging for the 1st checked bag (also because of oil). Therefore, to avoid the charge, more people are squeezing bags into the overhead compartment that they would have been happy to check otherwise . What this means is all out war for overhead space.

I fly Southwest or United. Each of these airlines has a different approach to seating. Southwest seats you based on when you confirmed your flight. You are assigned a number to wait in line for boarding. United, your seats are assigned. When they do their boarding, it is based on seat location, window seats first, followed by middle with aisle seats last. With Southwest, the main race is to confirm your flight so that you will be front in line with overhead space available. With United, if you chose an aisle seat for the room, you are screwed.

As they call each seating, your heart begins to beat faster and sweat flows under your arms. People begin to inch closer and closer to the gate, despite it not being their seating time. And though you are blocking the flow for the rest of the airport, you won't move for fear of losing your position. Once on the plane you look left and right, up and down. "Here's a spot, " you say, but nope, it is just looks that way. As you gaze at the lack of space, you then begin to scrutinize the items that are stowed away. You see computer bags and purses and small bags, all the things the Airline staff begged you to keep under your seat to save space. But those that boarded the plane first only see the feast of space and shove everything they can think of up above. The anxiety has taken over.

Overhead Anxiety works like a type of auto-immune disease. The first time you are exposed, the effects are small. "I can get through this" you say to yourself. But now that you have been exposed, you have created Anxiety antibodies. Future exposure becomes worse and worse and your anxiety attacks your brain. Soon, merely walking in the airport will cause this anxiety to come over you. By the time you are at the gate you are in a frenzy. You can't relax and read a book and wait for your group to be called. The anxiety causes you to size up the people around you, look for open seats closer to the gate, until it eventually culminates with you standing up with bags in hand the second you see your plane pull in. Now you work on jockeying for position with the other Overhead Anxiety sufferers. Full blown Overhead Anxiety could lead to Checked Bag Expense or the even more severe, On Plane Bag Check. Both of which could cause you to pass out.

My advise is to check-in early on Southwest, you can do this 24 hours before your flight, so that you get a good position. You still experience anxiety as you continually refresh your web page at exactly 24 hours so that you can get the best number, but at least you get to do it from home or the office. For United Airlines I suggest a window seat, you will be a little more cramped, but no Overhead Anxiety. You might even find pleasure at watching people go through it. And since you are amongst the first to board, go ahead and put your purse and computer bag up there. There is plenty of room