New Goal: Limit Time On The Internet

That’s right, friends; I’m gonna try to limit my time on the internet to an hour a day, two hours a day on weekends.

It’s quite simple: One hour should be enough to look up my pages and do a small bit of looking. I can also take care of business during that time (I believe), so there should be no reason to do more than that a night.

I‘ve got a timer (tried out a couple, actually) that does a very good job of doing what I want. It counts down the time, it stays where I want it to stay, and other things don’t change (or change back to “default”). If you got a Mac, download this; eventually you’ll probably donate to the guy as well.

Anyway, I’m planning to limit my forays onto the internet to an hour or so each day. That should be enough to do what I need to do.

Wish me luck.

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On Tuesday Obama Takes the Oath of Office

On Tuesday the 20th, Barack Obama becomes President of the United States of America. Some will have a sexless orgasm, others will fear for the(ir) future.

Me…I’m cautiously optimistic.

After all, I remember 1992 really well. I drove a cab around the Lansing-East Lansing area, and had some decent days off (Thursday-Friday) to take care of stuff. That also allowed me to take in some sights and sounds that I still remember clearly today.

I remember watching Perot give a speech at the State Capitol Building hours before he temporarily threw in the towel at Capitol City Airport in Lansing, Michigan (The taped “X” where he stomped off was a sort of tourist spot for the locals for a while) and remembered how it seemed he needed an extreme amount of approval for his actions. I drove some of the Clinton people from the Airport to the hall where they were doing the East Lansing debate on October 19th, 1992. It was a wonderfully warm day, and the students were up and down Farm Lane near the Wharton Center, watching everyone come in. Friends were commenting on the news coverage and other things. And after I got up early and voted, I drove around and would see lots of people holding signs for their favorite candidate at various places. And finally, the candidate I voted for won the election.

And what happened? After two years of fighting windmills for minuscule gains the Republicans took over the Congress and Senate, and Clinton was left to be the punchline for the remaining six years. While things didn’t fall apart the way they did during Shrub Jr’s eight years in office, that’s only because everything pretty much stayed the same. Worse, the Social Conservatives were emboldened enough to cause the president to be Impeached (Impeachment means the officeholder is being brought to trial by his peers (the House in the case of President Clinton), a Conviction is the trial itself.) for the “crime” of lying about one’s sex life. The saddest thing about that was that it was only oral; there was no true “consummation” to his dalliance.

Clinton had become a figurehead by that time. I remember my vote for 1996 because I was in the hospital for pneumonia and I had to vote with an emergency absentee ballot. I’m not sure they even counted my vote (as they didn’t need to, Michigan was securely Democratic for that election).

In comparison, George W. Bush was able to remain powerful until two weeks before Obama’s Inauguration. Two weeks being the time it’s taken him to say “goodbye.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Now that we’re looking forward to the new president (some with fear and loathing, others with joy and celebration), I must admit that I had hope for George W’s presidency at its start.

If you’re going to go in with fear and loathing about your president at the start, you’d better be prepared for four years of ugliness shading your mind and soul.

Honestly, I remember HATING Carter when he first took office. And while much of the ugliness that went on in my life during that time had nothing to do with him, I can’t help but wonder how much better things would have gone had I actually started with a happier view at the start of the Carter presidency (but then I have to admit that my total impression — that of a man who had taken an office above what he should have taken — has proven correct, to his benefit as he has gone on to have as good a post-presidential life as any president could claim).

Since then, I’ve taken on a hopeful view with every new president we’ve had. Reagan (of course, since I was a Social Conservative then and still find the beliefs strike chords in my being), George H.W. Bush (although I was one of two people to chant “Four More Years” in a sad, mocking way at the MSU Union Building after Bush was declared the winner), Clinton, even George W. Bush (for which I got some sharp words from a couple of friends). I don’t have to stay hopeful, after all, especially when the guy ends up being an utter bastard (as George W. Bush proved himself with his 50+1 strategy; I wonder if the Republicans would still be in control if they didn’t try to make Democrats an unneeded presence during much of his tenure?).

But for all the people thinking that a New Era of Government Power For The People I got this to say: I felt the same way for Clinton, and look what we got: Eight More Years of Neocon victories. Not only that, but Social Conservatives tend to be more active and gain more victories during the early parts of Democratic Presidential periods simply because it’s during those times that they go out and force governments to do stuff.

An example, on the Abortion issue: I listen to Revelant Radio (amongst other radio stations), and have noticed that they’ve changed their tack on the reproduction rights/duties issue. Now, instead of talking about it and wondering how they can jerri-rig their reasoning for the supreme court for their benefit, they’ve started calling campaigns and pickets. Similar stuff happened during the Clinton administration, and it was during this time that the “Absolute Right to Abortion” had various limits put on it. These limits pretty much stayed pretty much where they were during Shrub Jr’s tenure, but now…even with the democratic majorities, I would not be surprised to see a sudden uptick in limits and de facto bans on abortion. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the Supreme Court would turn around and declare the human fetus a human being.

I’ve seen how the phalanx of conservatism works. Since Reagan, the economic conservatives (rob the poor for the sake of the rich) have had consistent and regular movement (although with the occasional crumb-throwing that happens every so often), the Social movements have had their biggest victories during the Pseudo-Liberal period of Clinton and the Libertarians have had the pleasure of watching the Left tear itself in pieces every chance it’s gotten. Don’t be surprised if Obama ends up presiding over the banning of abortion, the institution of a regressive tax system (where the poor are indeed and explicitly taxed at legally higher rates than the rich) and the de facto revocation of the 13th amendment (with rules that allow whites to be owned by blacks, per Civil Rights laws).

But I’m hopeful. If nothing else, everyone’s busy focusing on the economy so we’ll be focused on that for the next couple of years. That will be a major portion of his legacy, so we’ll be able to see how he does with that.

And again: I’m cautiously optomistic. Hopeful, to the point. Hopeful that history won’t go out of its way to repeat (or rhyme, for that matter).

Our Housing Woes, and What The Rich (and their allies) Want Us To Forget

So now the word has come from the corporatistas and the rich, via their mouths in Libertariana: The Government, and Clinton Above All, Is Responsible For Our Housing Bust:

First, from a Libertarian Blog
And now, from the Pseudo-Liberal media

The idea being, of course, that the Government is the Pied Piper who picks the tune and everyone marches in lock-step, unable to do anything other than blindly follow.

Now I’m willing to state that governmental actions affect personal actions (state, not admit; after all I’ve believed this since before the Forerunner, paper mouthpiece of the Maranatha Christian Fellowship, stated this fact in an anti-Abortion article). However, I didn’t see a government force people into crappy loans for overpriced, underbuilt houses in the hope that some other fool would want to further overpay them for said privilege a few years later.

Think of it:

  • All the purchases were to some degree voluntary. Even for people who had to relocate due to job concerns, you have to choose to buy a home to buy a home. Anyone willing to look at how things were going could see that houses were getting very overvalued. When people could honestly say that they can rent to save money to buy a house (under normal conditions, where people usually have to save money to buy a house DESPITE renting), the housing market had entered its bubble phase.
  • Housing prices were exploding even though wages had stagnated or were falling. You can’t have this split without a developing drop in ownership levels. Since taxes and other costs tend to rise when housing prices rise, it takes more to own a house (and more to rent, obviously). Eventually people have to move to smaller digs, or turn to renting when the housing stock is unable to include them.
  • Banks were jumping all over themselves to loan people money for the houses. Libertarians take note: The bankers, who historically have had to take the risk for home loans, figured out ways to shift the risk elsewhere while profiting now. That governing entities were willing pawns in this (I thought the ranking companies were independent entities, not puppets of the government) and the regulations against this stuff disappeared (in part thanks to Clinton) does not shift away from the fact that banks and other loaning entities were busy loaning like there was no such thing as a day of reckoning. For proof of this, look at the smaller towns which still have banks; those places tended to stay away from the wild loans the other places were foisting on needy homeowner-wannabees.
  • People were trying like mad to buy these overpriced, underbuilt houses. Let’s not forget this. Lots of people were buying these homes. Some bought them to try and flip them, some tried renting their way to ownership, some felt they could refinance to a better loan in due time (these people REALLY woke up hard to reality), and some just bought what they were told to want. No matter what, a lot of people were trying to join the “Ownership Society.”
  • A lot of other entities were working to make people want the homes. Ever wonder why many governmental agencies were overly eager to get rid of the “Projects?” I personally think they were trying to hotwire the housing market with millions of consumers who under normal conditions would have rented long enough to get around to buying houses on their own. Think of it: The projects get destroyed, the residents spread out to other places, people are either displaced or move out on their own find they have to pay more for halfway decent housing, eventually someone who may have wanted to rent for a few more years (or figured renting was better for them) find themselves out of their league and buying too much house for themselves.

Now it’s obvious that Government had a hand in this. They wanted more homeowners. Can’t blame them for this.

After all, if you had to live in a neighborhood, would you rather live around renters or owners? Owners are more stable, more concerned about their property and surroundings, and are usually plain richer than your average renter. Even a single sight of the neighborhoods show this out.

But you can’t blame government without laying blame on everyone else. After all, there’s a lot of people who didn’t go for the chincy stuff, and a lot of people who tried to buy sensibly.

Fears For The New Year

So I passed the new year driving around, taking people to and from their parties and profiting from it. My last customer was a drunk guy who said he ran a hundred million in investments. It turned out we saw and agreed on many things, although our viewpoint differed on some things (I defended the UAW, he wished it would die an ugly death).

As I drove back home, I thought about the past year. I expected fuel prices to rise to $4.50/gallon in Northwest Indiana, and while they made $4.25, they never rose to my estimated price, preferring to use the $4.00 level as their base over the summer. What I didn’t see was the fuel prices dropping to the $1.50-1.60 range for much of the fall and into December…but then, I remember saying that I had no idea what would go on after the $4.50, so I can say there was no falsehood going on here.

In the meantime I’m watching the apparent decline of the Republicans and the Democrats ready to “take charge.” Meanwhile the economy seems to have stopped everything but the absolutely necessary stuff; even the medical community is suffering. My dentist is offering discounts for visits; I wonder about my masseuse.

And I have a few concerns:

  • Will Obama’s coming stimuli work?
    The issue behind this question is of where the money is going? Used to be you gave a thousand dollars to an American and while much of the money would make its way back into the Government’s coffers the money would circulate in the American economy, making work and products before its eventual swallow-up by Uncle Sam and his little sisters (The states and other units). Now you give that American the same thousand dollars, and much of the money will end up in the hands of China, some shipping magnate and/or other foreign entities. The money drains faster and ends up helping fewer Americans because the necessary jobs ain’t here anymore.

    Now we still have a lot of heavy industry (Car and Farm Implement production counts as such) but there’s little or no consumer production. Only American Apparel makes their stuff here, and they’re specialty clothiers for young anorexic hotties of all genders to flaunt their bodies with. As for other toys and doodads, they’re all imported – why else would we now worry about our toys poisoning our children nowadays?

    Fact is, that money would have put Americans to work in years past and made any recession/depression weaker just by being around. It’s also the reason why the debt load in the United States Government stayed steady during the construction of the Interstate System, Vietnam and the Carter years – that money stuck around. Now it may not, the debt may end up funding the Chinese stimulus instead by bankrupting ourselves.

  • Will Obama be able to even do a stimulus package?
    The Radical Right has activated itself. There’s two (three?) senate seats empty — senate seats that would be filled by Democrats under normal times. Maybe the Republicans can filibuster long enough for the Chinese, Russians and Arabs to buy up everything and force us to redeem the bonds we sold them. Add into that the Toxic Bonds we sold everyone based on our building boom (buying other people’s debt – talk about utter stupidity) and we may find ourselves unable to even repair what needs repairing, never mind all the stuff out there waiting for $$$ for building.
  • Can Hyperinflation happen without wages rising?
    Think of it this way: the hyperinflation bouts we know about happened because the people got paid rising wages to go along with the rising prices. However, there have been times when prices have increased and the wages held still. What happens?

    Ask the Thais. When you find yourself unable to eat, you sell off your girls. Yes, girls. And yes, things got so bad that their pay couldn’t cover what it cost to eat.

    Now consider: What happens when the Chinese and Arabs and Russians buy up everything and it becomes illegal for anyone (outside the military, taking their training in Iraq and Afghanistan home with them to practice on us) to get raises? Prices for everything (including food) shoot up, and our jobs MIGHT cover a day’s eating.

    Will part of my job be the shipping of four-year old girls from Northwest Indiana to newly founded brothels west and south of the loop? And what happens to debts when I have to decide between paying off the Student Loan or eating for that day? Does the 13th Amendment become moot (the debts were entered into voluntarily, even though refusal of them meant “the imminent death of their future,” so the 13th Amendment doesn’t apply)?

  • Will we be able (or allowed to) prepare for the next energy crunch?
    This last summer I saw mopeds out almost every day from early Spring till mid Fall, and loved it. What happens if this present price regime stands up long enough to make Mopeds look stupid again? And what will happen when, the next time, we’re unable to even make things because we’ve gutted our futures for a parade of todays?

I have no prediction over the next year, but to say prepare for the future which you cannot like.

Finally, Immortality . . . shudder

So the Detroit Puddytats have finally gone 0-16. Perfection, of the worst sort.

And yes, I rooted for it. One shouldn’t root for 0-16, but then one shouldn’t be put into the position of choosing whether to root for or against 0-16 in the first place.

And we’re talking about a sports team that has been pretty much been run in place for years. A championship calibur team became a second-to-legend team (Green Bay Packers) became a decent team that couldn’t beat an upstart (Minnesota Vikings) that became a middle-of-the-pack team with problems dealing with Tampa Bay that became a team that teased (yes, Barry was THAT GOOD!) to a bottom-feeder. We take good players and turn them to rejects, we take coaches and turn them into rejects, we take schemes and prove their flaws for the rest of the NFL to see and profit from.

During the second world war, Detroit and three other teams (one a combination of two others) went winless in the next two years; three other teams (two of them expansion teams) went winless between then and now. Of these winless teams, only the Saints could be said to have been habitually bad.

Meanwhile the Cardinals have made it to the Playoffs. Whether they end up winning any games or not, they will for a moment be able to separate themselves from the curse of being the team that’s gone longest without a championship (if nothing else, because they still have a chance).

As for the issue of the Bobby Layne Curse, even if said curse is over it’s going to take time for things to change. In a team that isn’t an expansion team or decimated by war, we’re talking about what can amount to intentional badness (They don’t mean to be bad, but their actions seem to add up to said badness). Even if they were to change things around, it would take time for the team, its management and the fans to understand and root for a team that had become good after years of active sucking.

So…I’ll celebrate the badness. I might as well celebrate SOMETHING.