Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK day. Wow... while I will work a normal workday today, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the significance of this day. Or more appropriately, the significance of the man. I have read a lot lately about "What Martin Luther King did.." and most of that has been incredibly lucid and insightful prose. But IMHO it has all fallen short. Martin Luther King was THE most influential human being of the 20th Century. I will pause a moment for yall to pick your jaws up off the floor. "How can you say that?" I hear people gasping. What about FDR? What about JFK? What about:  fill in your exceptional world leader here? Nope.. none of those people surpass what that man did. And here's why... Martin Luther King clearly did great things for black folk in America, and influenced the American  society to move forward from a dark and ugly time in its existence. But his influence was so much greater than that.

 Martin Luther King empowered the human rights movements around the world for the next 50 years and beyond. His movement, challenging America to live up to its stated ideals of freedom and equality of opportunity for all within its own borders, shamed the U.S. into working in earnest to gets its own house in order with regard to Civil Rights, racism, bigotry et al. Without this change, I have no doubt whatsoever that our desired influence which we have attempted to peddle around the world. Without Martin Luther King, our attempts to end apartheid in South Africa, while conducting our own apartheid here at home, likely never get anywhere. Without Martin Luther King, our attempts to hold ourselves up as a beacon of light for human rights all around the globe, while oppressing 10% of our population in a manner that Pol Pot would be proud of, get laughed out of the United Nations. Our righteously indignant decrying of Kim Jogn Il, Hugo Chavez, Mubharak, Ahmadenajad, Saddam Hussein, Moamar Ghadaffi, Castro, Putin, Gorbachev, the list goes on and on, all result in those people being able to simply hold up a mirror for us to look into if not for what Martin's movement forced us to do. I don't think that it is a stretch at all to proclaim that Martin Luther King's movement is responsible for the ability of this country to effectively exert its influence in the realm of human rights around the globe. As such Martin is responsible for more people being freed and ultimately not murdered by oppressive governments than any other person in human history - a number probably in the hundreds of millions.

Lastly, we would still be decades away from being enlightened enough to elect a black president were it not for Martin Luther King. And I sincerely doubt Mr. Obama is oblivious to that fact.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Shooting black kids is okay.. or America, we have a problem.

I couldn't settle on a catchy title and I really don't want to make this about George Zimmerman. This business of white adults shooting black teenagers for any reason that they see fit is getting out of hand.  The statistics say that black men are more likely to be killed by another black man  than a white man and I know America has other problems. However I am not interested in statistics and today the rest of America's problems can go to hell. This is about a Florida court finding it to be no big deal that a man with a gun stalked a young boy in his car, followed him through the streets, got out on foot to go hunting for him, and in the ensuing struggle became "fearful for his life" and killed that boy. That this is somehow plausible and even acceptable to so many, including apparently six jurors, sickens me. 

I have heard and read all I care to about "the facts" and "the evidence" and the prosecutors' witnesses. You know what? I don't care about any of those The only pertinent fact IMHO is that an adult who had a gun killed a kid who didn't have one even though the kid had committed no crime and was doing nothing more offensive than walking. . I know that a reasonable person placed in that situation does not kill that boy. I can say this because I have been in that situation MANY times in my life. When I have seen boys walking through my neighborhood who I knew didn't belong there, and whom I suspected might be up to no good. And I have yet to shoot any of them. Was it reasonable that Zimmerman wanted to keep tabs on Martin to make sure HE didn't break into anyone's home or what have you? Sure .. Was it reasonable that he would get out of his car and go hunting for him? Especially after being told by the police NOT to do so? This is where Zimmerman loses credibility with me. You already called the cops.. They are sending someone out.. Why are you still stalking this kid? People have argued that he is not a racist. To this I say bullshit. Here in America we are all racists. We all have views of other ethnic groups. Some positive, some negative, all based on race. So can we shitcan that argument for all time? Yes the more enlightened among us can rise above these prejudices and still  love and be fair to others not like ourselves, but that does not change the fact that we have those feelings? Not one iota. And frankly I have seen no evidence that George Zimmerman is particularly "enlightened." 

But let's not leave out the Sanford Police Department's role in this travesty. THEY are the ones who basically brought Zimmerman in for a "chat" and let him go without due diligence. Even if George Zimmerman is not a racist, the officers who performed the initial investigation most certainly are. How else do you explain their behavior? A 17 year old kid lying dead and you just "question" the guy who killed him? You just accept his story that the kid was beating his ass and that he, being a good citizen, was initially perfectly willing to accept said ass whuppin but later changed his mind and shot the kid? And even though he had the gun the whole time, he waited until there was an altercation to reveal that fact? Had not identified himself to the kid at all? And basically it takes weeks of public pressure for anything substantive to be done? The biggest light of shame in this absolutely must fall on George Zimmerman, but let us not leave out the cops who botched this thing from the git go. And no one will convince me that Trayvon Martin wasn't unimportant to them because he was JADN (just another dead nigger.) People will take offense at this characterization. Too bad. All too often, we've seen the courts and law enforcement treat the death of a young black person as if it was of little more importance than a cat being stuck in a tree.

Which brings me back to my original point. America has a serious problem in this area. It's a recurring theme in our history. And a message that keeps being repeated. "Killing black people is okay..." Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and now this Jordan Davis kid. People are really quick to buy these "plausible explanations" for why these people got shot. Again I must remind that I am fully aware of the statistics for black on black crime and that many more black people are killed by other black people than by white folks.  But here's where I part ways with the "facts." Generally, these other homicides have a "reason" behind them. Women are killed by exes, people, both perps and robbery victims, are killed in robberies. Gang violence claims a huge number as does drug related crime. But tragic as any of those circumstances may be, and they ARE tragic, "walking through the neighborhood" or "playing music too loud" should not be on any list of reasons to be killed. But if you are a young black male, that is very much the reality. And that shit has to stop. I don't do drugs and I haven't committed any robberies lately. But I walk through the neighborhood and play my music loud several times a week. To think that I am putting my life at risk every time I engage in those two activities (at least I would be if I lived in Florida)!?!? Boggles my mind!!! 

So this has really been a long winded rant leading up to a very simple plea. If you are a transit cop, or a beat cop, or a neighborhood watch wanna be cop, or just a random dude pumping gas, STOP SHOOTING BLACK PEOPLE. I appeal upon anybody who reads this who knows someone who fits the George Zimmerman "profile" .. talk to them.. let the know that if they kill somebody you will testify against their asses. Let them know that taking another human life is not an acceptable way to deal with anything. Remind them that these people that they harbor this hatred for are still human beings. They are somebody's son husband father daughter mother wife. They have every right to life that you do. Even if they are the biggest scumbags on Earth.. you have no right to execute them. We have a judicial system that is supposed to handle that. Though at this point who trusts that beast? I sure as hell don't. We've all heard the reports that Trayvon Martin was a "thug" and a "troubled kid." So f-in what? This is the same "blame the victim" defense that rapists use to justify rape. "She was dressed provocatively" and "she was asking for it!" Trayvon Martin was a kid who no doubt had done plenty of stupid things in his young life. Maybe more than some of us, but probably less than others. To my knowledge he had done nothing that warranted killing him.  Period.

The media has been blamed for leaping to conclusions on any number of these cases and in some ways I guess it has. But frankly these stories need to get out. They need to spark dialog. And they need to spark action. The George Zimmerman's and Michael Dunn's of this world need to be outed. We as a society need to place a scarlet letter on them so that everybody who comes in contact with them knows what's in their hearts right up front. As long as they stay hidden from view, events like this will keep happening and everyone will keep acting surprised and outraged. The fact is racism, bigotry and hatred are alive and well in our country. We need to accept that fact and deal with it head on. The first step is talking it out. Face to face, man to man, woman to woman. whatever. Not talking head style on CNN or Fox News. I mean real people talking real issues. Agree, disagree, argue.. whatever.. but for the love of God.. talk.. get to an understanding. Even if you agree to disagree, I have often  found that you can learn more from talking with people who disagree with you.than from affirming yourself with those of like mind. It's more enriching to be challenged than to hear "you're right" all the time. Though clearly in this instance, I am obviously "right." 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What about a single 6 year term for POTUS?

I have had this thought many times over the years and have discussed it with a number of my friends in that time. Now I want to know what the WORLD thinks about it. 

              As the 2012 election draws near I find I am completely turned off by the thought of my president wasting his time on something as trivial as "campaigning" or as pointless as "debating." I find myself asking.. Did Al Qaida take time  off to watch the debates? Are Hamas and Hezbollah observing the elections with bated breath? Are the Chinese taking a break from trying to destroy our economy while we figure out that whole president thing?  Did the election influence Hurricane Sandy one iota?  The answer to all these questions of course is not just no but HELL NO!

           Simply put, there is WAY too much going on in the world that requires the attention of the POTUS for him to be engaged in this nonsense. I have always believed that it basically takes even the brightest presidents two years to figure out how to do that job. That means by the time the guy gets his legs under him, we get a good year out of him and he's off to the campaign trail. If he's a little slower it takes him closer to three years to figure the job out and we get nothing from him before he starts re-interviewing for the job.  Now I know he isn't campaigning 24x7 but he IS the president 24x7. Hence ANY time spent doing the former takes away from the latter. 

          That brings me to my proposal.. ONE six year term. And get out. Good or bad, thank you for your service, now go home.  If he did a great job, you find a way for him to advise the next guy. Be part of his transition team, cabinet, whatever. If he stunk it up, give him his gold watch, his secret service detail and his library and send him packing.

        If I apply this to presidents that I remember from my lifetime.. Here's what it would look like.. The first election I really remember was Nixon in '68. Nixon was a pretty good president. Without the '72 election there is no stain of Watergate on our country's history and Nixon, who got us out of Viet Nam and put the brakes on OPEC when they were about to spin out of control, could have focused on just being president until '74. In '74 I don't know if Carter was ready to make his run but let's say he was.. He's in office until '80 and if he DOES lead us into a period of 18% mortgages etc, he's gone..

 Enter Reagan.. whose first two years could only objectively be described as abysmal. But by year three he'd gotten things figured out and things went swimmingly after that. In '86 Bush I takes over.. Not as charismatic as Reagan he's unable to sustain the momentum of Reagan's programs and on top of that ends up with Gulf War I in his lap. Gas prices spiral out of control, the economy tanks. 

Enter Clinton in '92.. Again.. first two years a struggle.. but then four years of really good stuff.. A scandal here and there, impeachment, yadda yadda yadda, but al in all by any objective measure an effective presidency.. But outta there in '98 BEFORE things started to go south.. 

Enter Bush II.. Is there any doubt that if THIS guy is brought intel that Bin Ladin, the man responsible for the USS Cole, The first WTC bombing and the marine barracks attack can be taken out he says "Hell yeah!" No Bin Ladin.. no 9/11 and the multi-trillion dollar impact on our economy. No Gulf War II.. No excuse for Iraq II. Maybe Bush, being a little slower, takes three years to get it figured out, we still get 3 years of effective presidency and he's gone in '04. At that point  Obama is a first term senator.. So he's not in the picture there.. So in '04 you would have to conclude that Kerry probably beats McCain. Hard for me to imagine John Kerry being a great leader or anything.. but again applying the 2 year rule, by '07 I think he steadies the economy gets a handle on the mortgage mess, because he can do so without the distraction of the Gulf Wars that never happened. Of course by 2010 if the economy is stable, is America READY to turn to a black man as its savior? If a Democrat (Kerry) has led us for the last 6 years and things are not markedly better than they were when Bush II left office, do we suppose Romney would look better by comparison to an inexperienced senator from Illinois instead of an incumbent president?

Yeah.. that's a lotta dominoes aint it?  And I never even played Bones in college. But it's an interesting exercise. At least is is for me. What about you?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Cheap Guy Volume 2. - GasBuddy

For those of you who don't have smart phones, you may stop reading now. Gasbuddy is an app that runs on smart phones which provides prices and location information for gas in and around your current location. Where I live, there is as much as a 40 cents per gallon spread between the lowest and highest prices. I drive a Suburban to work. It has a 42 gallon gas tank. I fill it up every other week. That 40 cent swing represents $16.80 per tankful saved. Multiplied by 26 that's $436.80 a year. More if I have to do extra driving and use more gas. That's basically 3 free tankfuls of of gas each year. $873 over the course of two years, which would basically buy me a new set of very good quality tires.

But most people don't drive SUVs with these gas prices. So let's examine a "typical" car scenario.

A standard mid-size car has about a 20 gallon gas tank. So that driver saves $8.00 per fill-up. Now because I drive a Suburban I don't drive as many miles as most people do. I do less than 10,000 miles a year. Most drivers will do close to double that. But let's use the old mark of 15,000 miles per year. If that car gets 25 mpg ( I know what the EPA ratings say but most of us know that in reality cars seldom get the mileage they put on those damn stickers.) that driver will burn through 600 gallons of gas in a year which means they save $240 a year. Over a 5 year span that's $1200. Again, if you are independently wealthy, this is no big deal to you. The rest of us like saving money.

How to get it: Go to your provider's app store/marketplace and search for gasbuddy. Download it and install it.

How it works: It's pretty simple, you launch the app, it asks if it can use location services, you answer yes and it comes back with a screen showing a list of the closest gas stations to your location complete with the most recently reported pricing. If you find that price to be inaccurate, there's an easy interface for you to update the current price. You can sort by price or distance. You can also tap on the station you want to go and get directions from your current location. You may also see a map of all the nearby stations. That way you can determine if it's much out of your way to go save that extra 5-10 cents per gallon or if you don't need gas right this second, you can plan to hit the absolute cheapest station when you're heading in that direction.

What it costs: My favorite price in the world.. Free!!

So go get this thing.

Happy New Year!! And Stay Cheap!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Cheap Guy Volume 1. - Costco Electronics

I talked about this on Facebook a few days ago but finally got around to be taking the time to blog about this deals. This will hopefully only be the first in a long line of posts where I try to inform my friends and family and anyone else who might be paying attention of what I believe are truly great deals for consumers. Being the holiday season, when all of us will be spending a lot of money, I thought this would be an excellent time to kick it off.

I recently purchased a Panasonic 50 inch plasma television at Costco. If you know me, you know I spent months researching this purchase both in terms of reading up on it and in going into various stores to see what was out there. I have a subscription to Consumer Reports online which always helps. But truth be told the TV itself is not the issue here. It's Costco. If you are already a member then you know that they provide tremendous customer service, are wonderful about returns and all that. You also probably know that Costco is currently offering to automatically double the manufacturer's warranty on most electronics including TVs. As most TVs come with your standard 1 year warranty, you get a 2nd year without doing anything. Costco's prices are nearly always competitive with any store you go to and in most cases the others stores' "We'll match any price" guarantees come with fine print that excludes matching Costco.

Costco is also currently offering to extend the warranties to an additional 3 years for what amount to about 10% of the purchase price. So by purchasing your new entertainment centerpiece is now covered for 5 full years. Virtually all stores offer this kind of warranty extension but to get 5 years of coverage generally cost 3-4 times as much. For example, my Panasonic 50 inch cost me $599 and I purchased the 3 year extension for $59. At Costco. I looked at the exact same TV at another store which shall remain nameless, for $699 and in order to get a TWO year warranty extension I would have had to pay $110. And that two year extension is no extension at all as this warranty runs concurrent to the manufacturer's warranty, which means what you would really be doing is paying $110 for basically ONE additional year.

So in summary:

Panasonic 50 inch plasma TV

At Costco - $599 + $59 with 5 year warranty = $658
At _____ - $699 + $110 with 2 year warranty = $809

So as I said on Facebook, you would have to be an idiot NOT to take the Costco deal. Even if you're not a member, it will cost you $50 to join and you can STILL make out cheaper if you never set foot inside Costco again. If warehouse shopping aint your thing give the membership as a Christmas gift!

Until next time.. The Cheap Guy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Tebow Effect - quantified?

Yeah yeah yeah I know, Tebow has been talked about more than any mediocre quarterback in the history of the game so why do you care what Ronnie T. has to say about him? Well listen up there dudes and dudettes and I'll tellya why..

Most media types are trying to get ratings or sell ad space.. so they go after the low hanging fruit when discussing not only Tim Tebow but really any topic. As I fancy myself a little more of a thinking man's sports fan, I wanted to take a deeper look into things. I have kicked this topic around in various forums.. but I really wanted, needed to just take some time and do my own analysis of "The Tebow Effect" or as I am now going to call it the "

First and foremost, let me begin by saying I don't think Tim Tebow is a "great quarterback" or is on his way to the Hall of Fame or anything. He's a 2nd year player trying to learn how to play in the NFL. Frankly the hype surrounding him is just plain stupid. But it exists so deal with it. As such I am compelled to analyze Tebow from a football standpoint. I don't care about his religious beliefs, though I share them and admire his dedication to them. What I am interested in, and what most who examine his play and his impact on his team and on the game of football should be interested in, should be football stuff. Period.

So let's get to it.. The first aspect of the Tebow Effect (
TTE) is obviously on his offense. The most obvious of which is on the running game. Denver was 24th or 25th in the NFL in rushing offense through 5 games. Now they are number one. and while it's easy to say "Well they run it a lot more often now because Tebow can't throw." That assessment would be short sighted. Not only do they run it more.. They also run it BETTER. Willis McGahee was averaging about 4.5 yards per carry through game 5, which is a nice average. In games with Tebow as a starter his average was 5.5 yards per carry heading into the Bears game. And that includes the KC game when he got hurt and Jets game where he played essentially on one leg and had 18 yards on 12 carries. The fact that defenses are having to account for Tebow has caused linebackers to have one more guy to be on the lookout for as a ballcarrier. It causes the defensive ends to play more disciplined because if they come crashing in looking for a sack Tebow escapes contain and makes them pay. McGahee averaged 17 carries and 76.8 yards per carry with Kyle Orton. He has averaged 14.2 carries and 67 yards per game since Tebow took over. So the argument that "Willis McGahee is carrying Tebow holds no water." Tebow has won games in which McGahee has had 17, 18 and 33 yards rushing. That's not to dismiss the importance of McGahee and the threat he poses to a defense but Tebow clearly has been a benefit to him as well. Had he not had the two injury marred games against KC and the Jets, he'd already be well over 1000 yards on the season. Take away the two one legged games in the middle there and McGahee 98 carries for 501 yards a Jim Brown like 5.1 yards per carry with Tebow as his QB.

Then there is
TTE on the defense. Denver's offense went from just over 27 minutes time of possession per game with Orton to over 34 minutes time of possession with Tebow. In short, the defense now spends a good 7 minutes per game MORE standing on the sideline drinking Gatorade, looking at pictures of the opponents formations, making adjustments etc, since Tebow took the reigns. It may be a novel idea to some but I hear rested players play better. TTE also means fewer turnovers. 2 interceptions and 3 fumbles in 8 and a half games (he played most of the second half of the first meeting with San Diego) is remarkable for any quarterback but it's tremendous for a quarterback who still hasn't started a full season's worth of games in the NFL. Kyle Orton's Broncos committed 12 turnovers in 4 and a half games. Tebow's Broncos have committed 9 turnovers in 8 and a half games. So Tebow keeps it at about a turnover a game while Orton flirted with 3 a game. There is nothing more demoralizing for a defense than to force a team to punt, head over to the sideline and before you can get your first swig o Gatorade, the coaches are calling you back out onto the field because the friggin offense already gave it back to the other team. Tebow doesn't do that.. Credit his coaches for keeping the offense on a level he can handle at this stage of the game but if you think running the read option is easy for the QB, go pick up some tape on the Oklahoma and Nebraska teams of the 70's and 80's .. and look up their fumble numbers.

The last and perhaps most profound effect Tebow is having on his team is sort of danced around but not truly delved into as much as I think it should. "Ronnie you said you were going to focus on the football stuff. What does his faith have to do with anything?" Again allow me to educate you. Clearly he is a man of faith.. Now that doesn't mean God is reaching down and pushing Marion Barber out of bounds or causing kickers on other teams to miss field goals.. What it DOES mean is that Tim Tebow doesn't get down. Watch him on the sideline the next time you have occasion to watch one of his games. It doesn't matter how bad things are going, the kid remains as calm as if he was sitting in church on Sunday listening to the Pastor read scriptures. After Charles Tillman made an amazing interception against him last game Tebow went up and congratulated him on a great play. Who does that? His receivers have dropped a ton of passes on him this year, 6 on Sunday, and I have not seen a single instance where he has yelled at them, or called attention to the drop in any way shape or form. All he does is encourage and uplift them. Even salty veterans on the team have taken note of that aspect of his personality.. And you don't think that doesn't resonate with his teammates? You don't think his teammates aren't sitting there watching him handle the mounting pressure on him, watching him continually play his absolute best when things look bleakest and aren't thinking: "Maybe there is something to this whole faith thing? Maybe I should examine my own faith and relationship with God in search of that calm that Tebow has? So that I can be at my best when it matters most. So that I can handle adversity... deal with bad plays., bad calls, bad breaks, what have you with the same serenity that Tebow does, and still have the strength and the focus to take advantage of my opportunity to help the team win when it presents. "

To me this is
why TTE is good for football.. Good for sports really. What he and his teammates have been able to accomplish is proving once again the power of the team greatly outweighing the power of the individual star. As an old school sports fan I have long been turned off by "me" players in all sports. Guys who place their personal glory above the good of the team. Let that not be confused with my not liking guys who demand the ball or believe they can be a difference maker in helping their teams win. I LOVE those guys.. But I don't care for guys who dance after scoring a TD to cut their team's deficit to 35 points. I also don't much care for guys who feel the need to disrespect other team logos, flip the ball back to other players or to coaches standing on the sidelines or stand over another player after a tackle screaming like a moron. Celebrations of great plays made are fine. Antagonizing other players? Getting in their face? Spiking the ball at their feet? Taunting in any way.. Why? I get that football is an emotional game and outbursts of exuberance are to be expected. But there are places where some of the disrespect some players show their opponents would get them shot.

Let me close by saying I am not a Tebow apologist by any stretch though it may appear that way reading this. I think he has a LONG way to go to prove himself as a legitimate NFL starting quality QB. I do think he is hamstrung to some extent by the conservative playcalling John Fox favors early in games but many a young QB has been brought along in similar fashion simply because they're not ready to execute an NFL playbook in its entirety. In that regard Tim Tebow is no different from just about every other young QB that has come into the league over the past 40 years. The biggest difference I see is that for whatever reason some fans and some mediots and even a well known team vice president, aren't willing to afford him that same luxury that has been afforded those other young quarterbacks. Time to grow. Tebow has had to earn that right by winning games. If the Broncos had continued to flounder with him under center the Tim Tebow story would already be over. If they were 2-6 with him instead of 7-1 Brady Quinn would be starting these last few games of the season and the talk would be about which of the stud young QBs in the draft Denver should target. And they still might draft one.. But whoever that kid is, he certainly has to know that he's not going to be handed Tim Tebow's job and even if does get it, the bar has been set pretty high in terms of winning with that team. Because the cat's out of the bag. If the team can go .800 with Tebow at QB. They're not going to accept 3-13 while YOU figure things out when the other guy already seems to be there. That probably goes double for the veterans on the team.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Who is to blame for the economy? It's all of us, stupid!

I recently got into an impassioned Facebook discussion with a good FB buddy on the "blame game" being played by those in power for our country's economic woes. She was in the "It's the GOP and the Tea Partier" camp while I was in the "Nah, it's all politicians and beltway insiders, not just those on the other team" camp. As I began to try to illuminate why I felt this way, it became apparent to me that it was time to visit the Blog again. The topic was too huge to be covered in Facebook. So here goes.

I begin by outlining what I believe to be the main reasons for our current economic condition. The problem most people have who talk about this issue is that they are looking for a single throat to choke. One person, or group, or action that they can blame for all our problems. Thing is, our economy is VERY complex, as are its problems. As such, so too will be the solutions. But before looking forward, let's take a moment to look back. Not in the interest of playing the blame game, but in the interest of analyzing REASONS for what we have experienced. Here, in no particular order, are what I consider to be the main reasons for our current economic woes.

1) The subprime mortgage mess - The relaxing of lending standards was one of the major players in how we ended up where we are. Lending hundreds of thousands of dollars to people who hadn't a prayer of being able to pay it back was a recipe for disaster from the start. Congress talked about it and talked about for years but only acted to curtail it long after the damage was done. This practice allowed too many Americans to emulate the federal government and live light years beyond our means. Eventually, the bills come due. Years of explosive real estate growth caused too many to believe that day would never come, including the banks, who resisted these loans at first but eventually acquiesced after the Feds threatened them for not writing them AND offered to back them up with federal dollars. Once the housing boom subsided and all those equity loans based on unrealistic valuations of homes and incomes came due, a major crash was inevitable.

2) The Dot.Com boom - and the subsequent, inevitable bust. When I worked for Sun Microsystems, one of our "mottos" was "We're the DOT in DOT.COM." Cute, catchy and stupid. I became aware that Sun was issuing multi-million dollar lines of credit to startups who had no product and no prospect of having a product for 5-6 years. Sun was not alone in this practice of course. What this betting on "vaporware," which is what we in the computer business call products that don't exist, did is made paper millionaires of a lot of people. Many of those people went out and traded on that wealth and bought multi-million dollar mansions, expensive cars and all in all lived "The life" until the boom went bust and all that came tumbling down. What was left was a lot of people with massive tax bills from trading monstrous amounts of stock options, against stock that had great value at one time, but became worthless almost overnight. They also had now a mortgage that was three income brackets beyond where they could afford to be. Yeah, that was good for America.

3) 9-11-2001 - Not only did nearly 4000 American lose their lives this day but America lost her innocence with respect to terrorism. The years that have followed have exacted a cost which could easily be put above a trillion dollars domestically and double or triple that worldwide. Think about all the air travel not taken over the next several years. Our airline industry has never truly recovered from that. Then factor in the impact this new uncertainty in the Middle East has had on the oil industry and gas prices worldwide which of course impact the price of virtually everything else in every economy in the world. Except of course the middle east. People like to cite the amount of money we have spent on "Bush's Wars" as the reason for this mess. I say bullsh*t. I don't know what the numbers are on the military cost. I remember it being about $75 billion a year during the peak and I assume somewhere in the $40 - $50 billion a year in the draw down years. I won't be mad if someone has different numbers but the point is, it's a fraction of the total cost of what Al Quaida did to us that day.

4) Lack of Wall Street Oversight - From insider trading, to the energy speculation issues with ENRON, to the rampant gambling with other people's money in the banking industry, particularly in the buying and selling of mortgages, right up to the flat out criminal misrepresentation of some hedge funds, Wall Street has been in rare form the past decade. But I don't blame Wall Street. Wall Street millionaires are greedy. They are driven by greed.. They are the proverbial lion who if you put your head in its mouth you cannot be mad at if he bites down. This is why we have oversight of Wall Street built into our system. The problem is, recently there has been far too much movement of personnel back and forth between Wall Street and Capitol Hill for that oversight to have any teeth. Head of Merrill Lynch one week, a cabinet position the next. Too many of the people who are supposed to be monitoring Wall Street ARE Wall Street so to speak. The result has been rampant abuses and trillions of dollars.. lost forever.

5) Big Government - Yes I am a conservative so you could have predicted I would come here. But one of the first things you learn in Economics 10 (or Economics 101 for other schools) is "The law of diminishing marginal return." This principle simply states that in any endeavor, there is a point of growth where the return on having "more" benefits you less and less until at some point the benefits go negative. As in you have too much of a good thing and it starts to get worse for you if you have more of it. I think our government crossed that boundary years ago. We have a Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a Department of Energy and an "Energy CZAR." Or is it TSAR? In any case, there are examples of overlap and redundancy all over our government. Simply put, our government can hardly get out of its own way and I don't think giving them MORE money to waste is any way shape or form a solution for anything. Every one of us knows areas where our government is wasting tons and tons of our money. Even you liberals have to admit that. If you don't then I will outright accuse you of being intellectually dishonest. I would never call you stupid.. I don't have stupid friends. :-)

So those are my top five reasons why were are where we are. Notice I don't point the finger at any one person, or party or program. Next chance I get, after I've had some time to think about it.. I will consider some solutions. The fact of the matter is life is hard.. solving these problems will be hard.. and there are no magic pills. Any politician in any party representing that there is, should be booed off the podium.