Archives For August 2011

Gambling or Not??

August 31, 2011

It seems that stock market trading is quite different from when I was dabbling in it in the past. In those days I studied several different parameter including the P/E ratios and such before deciding which company to invest in. And when I did buy a stock I held it for at least a couple of years. Now days trading in the stock market seems more like gambling at the roulette table than anything else.

The only way you seem to be able to make any money is to try to time when you sell back your stock. Now a long-term hold is defined in months if not weeks instead of years as they used to be.  The three major indexes gyrate wildly based on whether a dictator coughs or what particular word the federal bank guys choose to use in his latest speech.

As an experiment I put $4,000 into an Roth IRA for my wife in 1998. It is invested in a moderate stock fund of a very well known mutual fund company. As of today that $4,000 is now worth $4,400 so that makes in a total 1% return over an eleven year period. It has gone up quite a bit higher and lower over this period but the overall effect is one percent.  Since I have a rather sizable 401k (at least by my standards) sitting in a major mutual fund company I get frequent telephone calls from “investment experts” wanting to help me grow my money; of course they want a percentage of the total value for doing this. I can just imagine what is going on in the background when they call and I bet it is not much different from the cartoon above ;)

I admit that the 401k is rather conservatively invested but it has done quite a bit better than my wife’s IRA over the years. Should I give some thirty year old Wall Street jock control over my life savings? I don’t think so. I am not interested in leaving untold wealth for kids/grandkids even if I had them. Unearned income just seems to contaminate people rather than help them.

I am just not a gambler in the casinos or in the stock market….

Give them an “F”

August 29, 2011

Source: Column: Washington leadership’s grade is a solid F – USATODAY.com.

Cal: McConnell and Boehner, challenge the wealthy. The “rich” should be the model for reaching out and helping people so that we can have less government and lower taxes. Churches should be called upon, too. Those megachurches with ornate architecture and huge budgets? How about living up to your commission to help the poor?

BobYou’re right. Boehner and McConnell, when it comes to taxes, you are tone-deaf and cowering before the Tea Party and the bombastic my-way-or-the-highway Grover Norquist. You both know that the tax code needs to be changed to eliminate unnecessary deductions for wealthier Americans as well as to rid us of corporate welfare. Reform would lower rates and broaden the tax base — the very thing your party has wanted for decades — yet you show no backbone or leadership on this. We can’t get serious about tackling our long-term deficits without tax reform.

You know things are getting pretty serious when liberals and conservatives start agreeing on things. That is just what this article is about.  The above article is a weekly thing from two ideological opposites. Here is how they are described in the header :

Cal Thomas is a conservative columnist. Bob Beckel is a liberal Democratic strategist. But as longtime friends, they can often find common ground on issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot.

Right now almost everyone in congress gets an “F” for putting partisan politics above what is good for the country and yes I certainly include the three who represent me personally. When most of the votes fall strictly along party lines something is terribly wrong and that wrong might just result in a total breakdown of our legislative system in the not too distant future.

What do we as citizens do about this? If we go by history we will do nothing about it until it reaches a total crisis state. We have been fortunate in the past to always come back from the edge but those past events in no way guarantee we will to that this time.  What happens if we go over the cliff  this time around? What kind of life will that leave your children and grandchildren?

Cal certainly has a point that the rich should be a model for reaching out and if they fail this duty then they should pay for their government to do it for them . The same goes for churches and the religious establishment. They spend the vast majority of their wealth on themselves. This runs very counter to what most religions say they stand for.

Bob is right about how the Republicans are tone-deaf when it comes to taxes. When Warren Buffet stated that he pays the lowest tax rate of anyone in his office, even the one who empties his trash, something is very wrong with our tax system.  Further into the discussion Bob goes on to how the Democrats have to take their head out of the sand when it comes to needing some reform for social security and welfare systems. But reform doesn’t mean gutting these successful government programs as some in congress are advocating.

Let’s all listen to Bob and Cal and start agreeing that things have to change.  We seniors are known for our strong presence at the polls.  Let’s let them know that we want adults in congress and to put aside all this childish bickering and do what is good for the country. If they can’t do that then we should quickly replace them with someone who will.

A Song Still In Us??….

August 28, 2011


Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

Henry David Thoreau

These are words written by Thoreau in his famous book Walden Pond.  Anybody who has read any of Thoreau knows that he was a guy who marched to his own drummer. That alone makes him one of my heroes. Although he died at the age of forty-four he left us with many things to think about. All of us seniors need to quietly contemplate this most famous quote.

Will you go to your grave with the song still in you?

If this doesn’t make you a little uneasy then maybe you should just skip the post. I truly believe that even though there are almost seven billion of us currently living on this earth that God made each one of us unique with special talents and gifts. No two of us are the same in that regard.  Most of us spend our lives in the rat race of life and chasing its definition of what it means to be successful. If, while doing that, we  fail to understand and fulfill our dreams  we might just die with that talent or gift still in us.  What a waste that would be!

Our senior years give us time to sit back and contemplate these types of things. For the most part we are no longer in the rat race of life so that pressure is off of us. We are now capable of more thoroughly searching ourselves to determine if we have found those things that make us unique. For some of us the answer to that question is an emphatic yes we have, but for many of us those talents and dreams may still be within us. We owe it to ourselves and to our Maker to end our lives with our song thoroughly displayed to humanity.

Don’t go to your grave with your song still in you……

P.S. if you have a Kindle and are interested in reading about Thoreau, Amazon has many of his works including his most famous two (Walden, and Civil Disobedience) for free. You can’t beat that cost ;) 

Be An Attentive Idler…..

August 27, 2011

A Quaker friend recently introduced me to the concept of attentive idling. The concept is so thought provoking I want to pass it on to all you seniors out there.  The idea behind these words is that all of us need to occasionally shut down our iPods, smart phones, PDA, and the like and just listen and observe things around us.  The last ten years or so has given us devices that make it possible to go through an entire day constantly being bombarded by artificial stimulus. When that happens it drowns out the things of nature and of God.

Attentive Idling is about pulling the iPod out of your ears during a walk and just listening to nature. It means shutting down your smart phone and stopping to realize just what is around you including friends that sit across from you while you chat with someone at a remote distance. It means looking up once in a while to enjoy the birds flying overhead instead of focusing on your iPad.

So, here is a suggestion to all you seniors out there. Try to practice attentive idling for at least a few minutes sometime during this day.  I know it is against our nature now days to just sit back and do nothing but you will be amazed at what you accomplish by doing just that.

Source: http://www.quakerquaker.org/profiles/blogs/attentive-idling?xg_source=activity

Let me bring up the same Lincoln quote that I used yesterday but this time for another purpose:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Abraham Lincoln

I can say that more often than not this quote is applicable to people especially politicians.  But one case where it is not true is with President Obama. When he was campaigning in 2008 his speeches gave me such a reason for hope that I regularly supported him in seeking the presidency. When he opened his mouth he inspired me. I dreamed that he would be a strong and forceful president who shared many of my ideals. Unfortunately his actions have not began to live up to his words.

Yes, he did get a fragment of his universal healthcare through congress but what passed is so watered down it hardly resembles anything but a mandate to buy private insurance. For that reason I will not be surprised if it is eventually deemed unconstitutional by our radical right Supreme Court. President Obama is just long on words but seemingly short on action. He did start out drawing some compassionate lines in the sand but he then very quickly rubbed out that line backed up several steps and drew another line. This process repeated itself until his opponents eventually get what they wanted. Yes, I understand that the almost totally vitriol atmosphere in Washington these days stymied his attempts but I would like to have seen him not cave in under the pressure so much. Sometimes it is better to take a stand and lose rather than give up your principles. Maybe I am being unduly harsh of the president but that is only because I expected so much from him that I hold him to a higher standard.

These experiences have almost totally turned me off to politics. I no longer even watch the daily news. I am now a believer in the old saying “No news is good news”. I just want to live the remainder of my life with as little politics as possible. I will likely give a tepid support for our president in the next election but that is mainly because whoever will be running against him will likely be the opposite of what I would want in the leader of the free world. I want a president who is compassionate and actually acts on that compassion by doing whatever it takes. Too bad the Obama of 2008 can’t run against the Obama of 2011.

The only thing I could get enthusiastic about in the political arena is if we as a people can send a very clear message, I mean a crystal clear one, that we are utterly tired of what they have been doing the last few years. It seems the only way we can get that message across is to vote ALL of the current crop of politicians out of office. Anything short of that would probably not get their attention.  But, since we are so divided as a citizenry, maybe this is a chicken/egg type thing, I doubt  we could ever come together with even that message.

But what do I know…

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Abraham Lincoln

I haven’t put up a Lincoln quote in quite a while so here is one that interlaces with what Will Rogers also said. And it seems very appropriate to the current crop of presidential wanna-bes out there. The one who keeps his/her mouth shut long enough will become the nominee :)

source: GOP ignores growth despite ’90s tax hikes – USATODAY.com.

As I have mentioned several times before I am a history buff and have been for more than fifty years now.  So, I am a believer in the saying “Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it“. With that in mind here is a quote from the above article (click on the link above to see the whole article):

Early in his first term, President Clinton raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and the increase was met by doomsday predictions from Republicans — similar to the right-wing clamor of today. Despite the dire claims, the economy prospered for nearly a decade. 

By comparison, while the Bush-era tax cuts have been in place for a decade, private-sector job growth has been stagnant and the nation’s debt has exploded. After 10 years of this failed approach, Boehner and Cantor are now recommending more of the same.

It seems those yahoos who are currently in charge of the Republican party have very short memories and they are counting on all of us to have the same. I hope there are a lot of history buffs like me around to remind them of the facts at next years election. Now I am not saying that the Democrats are doing a super job with handling all our messes but at least they won’t make it worse by ignoring history.

Let’s finish up this post with a quote from one of my heroes, Will Rogers:

The whole trouble with the Republicans is their fear of an increase in income tax, especially on higher incomes. -February 27, 1931

Get over it my Republican friends. Trickle down didn’t work when it was invented by you guys almost thirty years ago and it absolutely doesn’t work now.

 

As promised here is another mural found on the side of a building during our recent visit to  Old Town Quebec.

Source:  Golden decade is ending for defense industry, and stocks – USATODAY.com.


The article above is about how our defense budgets and prosperity of the our military contractors might be taking a hit in the coming years of apparent austerity (that is except for the richest of us). It mentions that military budgets might be trimmed as much as 10% in the coming years, especially if the super committee in congress can’t re-direct the cuts to other areas. Here is a quote from the article; just click on the link above to see the whole article:

The U.S. spent $1.3 trillion in the ten years following the attacks chasing al-Qaida and fighting two wars. That was on top of baseline military spending in excess of $4 trillion.

So in the last ten years we have spent over $5 trillion on our wars and the machinery to support them and this doesn’t include the huge tax breaks that we give our military contractors. This comes out to somewhere around $50,000 per U.S. household! So for the last ten years I have been paying $100/week to fight our wars. Or actually in reality it is more likely a very big chunk of our national debt has been accumulated for this purpose.

As I have mentioned here several times we in the U.S. spend about forty times more per citizen on our military than any other country in the world and of course by our national debt it shows.  So, when it comes to the super committee I certainly hope someone points this disparity out to them. We could  cut our debt in half very quickly by just downsizing our military and still we could maintain our super power status that seems to be so important to many of us (but certainly not to me).

I look at the war of my generation which was Vietnam and see how futile it was and how expensive is was in terms of  my friends lives and our tax dollars. We basically asked (or maybe told as the draft was in effect at the time) over 50,000 of our young men to forfeit their lives because we did not like the form of government that Vietnam chose. Of course now as is most often the case Vietnam, even though they still cling to a form of government form we opposed,  is one of our friends who make much of the goods we now purchase.  In the coming years we will realize that it was impossible to “make” a country such as Iran or Iraq a democratic republic. The only way that can happen is how it happened to us, by a deep commitment by its citizens not from an outside invasion.

But what do I know…..