Thursday, November 6, 2008

Stock Market Psychiatry

I have an idea for what to do with some of the money from the bailout plan that's supposed to help fix the financial mess we're in. Congress should enact a law that provides money for mental health professionals to provide care for the folks on Wall Street.

I mean, every time I read something online or in the paper about the stock markets, I always see words associated with feelings. For example, today's paper had an article, "Post Election Slide" (Long Island Newsday, Combined News Services, 11/6/08) about yet another stock market tumble the day after the election. Words like, "jitters", "worries", "concerns", "nervous", and "loss of confidence" permeated the piece as they seem to do in every article about bad days on Wall Street. Good days reflect the "confidence" and "optimism" in the folks who buy and sell stocks and such.

I like to think of myself as a smart guy. I always did well in school, but Economics was never my forte. All of that supply and demand and stuff just confused the heck out of me! In my simple world, I know that as the stock market goes, so too does the rest of the economy. "Bad-feeling" days affect how much I'm paying for gas at the station and for cheese at Waldbaum's. Face it; we're at the mercy of people's emotions. People buy and sell because they're "jittery" or "nervous". They obviously need help, and we've got to get it for them.

That's why Congress needs to act now. Even with all the goodwill that's emanated from the election, these stock market speculators are still "worried." They obviously haven't shared in all the optimism that has come out of the events of the 4th. I think it would be a wise investment to provide them with the help they need. After all, $ 700 billion is a lot of money. When compared to what it's cost to bail out the banks, this venture would be miniscule in comparison.

And who knows? It just might do some good to get these people in touch with their feelings. Why do their feelings seem so manic? If these mental health professionals can break through with even some speculators, their rosier outlook might give them more confidence, causing the financial markets to go up, and everything would be alright.

So contact your local Congressman (or woman)...okay, Congressperson, today! Tell them how you feel. It's silly to even think that our pocketbooks are at the mercy of all such fluctuating "feelings". These people need help to reconcile their feelings, and get happy. Maybe then things'll get a little easier around here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fit to Print?

In the spring of 2006, I authored a research thesis on the media. “What Happened to the News?” received rave reviews from classmates and professors alike. Upon joining Associated Content, I decided to post this extensively researched piece in the hopes that it might garner some attention to my writing, a vocation I aspire to.
I’ve been interested in politics since the nineties, paying more and more attention to the bigger world around me each year. I feel blessed to be an American, a person who’s been fortunate to be born in a country where idealistically I have a right to participate, to have my voice be heard.

During the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the mid-nineties, I became aware of the role that a certain group of people played in shaping our nation in every way imaginable. And not for my benefit! Slowly the picture grew clearer and clearer. The events disseminated to us through what we refer to as the mass media dictate the discussion and as a result, much of the mindset of the populace. The situation came to the forefront during the turning-point election of 2000 and has eventually become the norm.

In my desire to write, I’ve wanted to develop an outlet for pointing out the injustice and wrongdoing out there in hopes of getting more people to pay attention. In February of 2007, I began a blog called “Rants”. To this day, I’m not sure exactly what I’ve wanted it to be, but this may turn out to be its next incarnation.

I live in Long Island, New York, and I feel that our daily periodical, Newsday, is respectable and well put-together. It provides me with my fodder for conversation in my daily life, as I’m sure other local newspapers are for millions of others. Newsday is the only newspaper I read regularly, so many of my views are skewed, to a degree, from my perspective here in NY. I suppose that it is probably a valid representative example of newspapers, and the media in general. So, take what you want from this…it’s just some of the world the way I see it.

What Happened in the News? Week of 10/20-10/25

Herein are some stories I found during the week’s news items. They were all presented in Long Island Newsday for the week ending October 25 and can be fully explored at

What the …?

Yankee Phenom’s DUI Story

Evidence of the news cancellation is easily observed by picking up any newspaper, most any day. Newspaper readers scan headlines to find stories of interest to them, so these headlines and where they’re placed have a lot to do with what they, the general media, want us to be talking about. For two days this week, Monday and Tuesday, the DUI arrest of Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain made the cover of Newsday. (“DUI Apology: Joba’s Sorry Scene” screamed the headline on Monday and “Inside Joba’s Wild Night” on Tuesday.)

Tuesday’s edition came with a page 2/3 spread that included a story on Joba’s blood alcohol level, another about witnesses to the bar scene before the arrest, a timeline of the evening, a synopsis of the DUI laws in both New York and Nebraska, where the incident occurred, the effects of impairment on the operation of a vehicle, and a map of the area. Pictures of the player and the two bars he visited rounded out the coverage. This treatment was additionally given pages and pages of coverage within the sports pages, where the whole thing belonged in the first place.

Putting such a spotlight on an unfortunate story about a baseball player is absolutely ridiculous for a major newspaper. Regrettably, this sort of thing happens all too often, as sensationalism and entertainment have become the focus of newspapers and the rest of the media. Do we ask for it, or are we conditioned to yearn for it? I hope it’s the latter!

Put This in the Vault – Stories that Inform

GOP voter fraud alleged (Newsday, October 19, 2008)

“SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Dozens of newly minted Republican voters say they were duped into joining the party by a GOP contractor with a trail of fraud complaints stretching across the United States.” (BY EVAN HALPER AND MICHAEL ROTHFELD | originally printed in the Los Angeles Times)

A political firm hired by the California Republican Party to register new voters has been accused of duping dozens of voters into joining the Republican Party. Young Political Majors approached the voters with the premise of signing a petition for tougher penalties against child molesters. Instead, the constituents found themselves unwitting members of the Republican Party.

This story embodies the nefarious tactics we’ve come to expect from the Republicans in the past several years. With this year’s Presidential election looming as a major referendum on real change from the past eight years of disastrous policies, the dirty tricks seem to be all the Republicans have to grasp at any hopes of winning anything this November.

I think the majority of Americans have grown accustomed to these underhanded strategies, from the nasty “robo-calls” employed by Bush against McCain during the 2000 primaries to the phone jamming scheme in New Hampshire in 2004 to countless others. A story like this one is destined to backfire and will only serve to bolster the Democrats in races around the country.
(full story:,0,415274.story )

Powell chooses, defends Obama ((Newsday, October 20, 2008)

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press”, former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell broke with his party and endorsed Barak Obama for President. “I think we need a president who’s a generational change and that’s why I am supporting Barak Obama…” Powell maintains that he’s still a Republican, but he just doesn’t agree with the extreme rightward direction of the party of late.

Colin Powell is a well respected figure among Americans in general and his endorsement of Obama speaks volumes about the state of mind of the populace in general. We are in need of a change, and it seems to me that having John McCain as our next Commander in Chief just wouldn’t steer this country towards a better direction. It’s too bad, I think McCain would’ve been a better choice than what we ended up with in 2000!

(Note: Rush Limbaugh repeatedly referred to this story in a typically ugly talking-head manner this week, claiming in no uncertain terms this endorsement was based solely on race. Disgusting!)

Robbing Us

On Monday, three stories were published that deserved the type of coverage Joba got. (Newsday: Not Falling Fast Enough, Reid J. Epstein, October, 20, 2008 and High Prices Get Stuck that Way, Associated Press, page A8) The stories incensed me as they made me realize all of the reprehensible things going on out there that we just can’t control, yet are literally pulling the money straight from my pockets. New York Senator Charles Schumer “called it ‘shocking’ that crude oil has fallen 52 percent from a July high of $144 per barrel, but retail gasoline prices are down 20 percent and home heating oil costs are down 12 percent during the same time period.” Clearly, people somewhere between the oil fields and the gas tanks are committing robbery on all of us. You don’t need to be an economist to figure that one out.

The people within the oil industry aren’t the only ones pinching our pockets. “High Prices Get Stuck that Way” illustrates how retailers who’ve had to raise prices due to the rising price in gas haven’t adjusted their prices accordingly as the price of gasoline has come down. The effects of this condition can be seen at any supermarket across the country.

Stories like this should be shouted from the mountaintop, or at least given more attention to than the shenanigans of a major league baseball kid. When people are indifferent to anything politic, it’s because they’re not seeing the connection between the people that represent them in government (at any level) and their lives. Guess what, they do! If we all paid a little more attention to stories like these, maybe our lives would be a little better.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Eliminate Credit Card Debt

Today’s economy has put a major squeeze on the wallets of the middle class. Stagnant wages and rising prices have placed millions of Americans in a position of having very little disposable income. Monthly bills gobble up earnings and very little is left for non-essentials, like dining and entertainment. Unforeseeable expenditures, such as the breakdown of an automobile or household appliance, leave consumers with no choice but to employ the use of their credit cards to cover the cost. As a result, credit card debt adds up quickly, saddling the consumer with finance charges that further diminish the financial situations of many.

Once a person becomes burdened with high debt, there is no easy way to reduce or even eliminate the liability, but there are things a person can do to manage credit card debt and put themselves on a path towards eliminating it altogether.

Make Minimum Payments on Time

- Paying minimum monthly payments on time is critical to maintaining a good credit rating. Sustaining a superior rating is vital to managing credit card debt. High-quality credit ratings allow the consumer a wider choice of options, which translates to lower APR’s and faster diminishment of overall debt. With the deregulation of the financial industry in recent years, credit card companies have been afforded the option of assessing high fees and exorbitantly high interest rates, with little recourse for the consumer. Maintaining a good credit rating only gives consumers clout in any negotiations with banks, as these are the customers they desire.

Consolidate Credit Card Debt to Lower Interest Accounts

- Lower interest rates mean smaller finance charges. The intent is consolidating your credit card balances to the lowest possible APR available in order to pay down those balances.

- Credit consolidation offers generally come in two forms:

o A balance transfer offer from an existing credit card company, with which the consumer already does business, or

o Offers/invites to apply for a new account

- In reviewing balance transfer offers, it is critical to read the fine print and the disclosures carefully. Balance transfer offers usually come with a fee of 3-5% of the amount transferred. In addition, most offers stipulate that future payments are applied primarily to these transferred balances, further cementing the debt that’s already carried at the previous, higher APR. Taking these two factors into consideration, only you should be able to determine whether or not these conditions will help or hinder your goal of reducing your finance charges and therefore your overall debt.

- Another important consideration in analyzing consolidation offers is the length of time offered at the lower rate. Many agreements offer a choice of either a super low rate (sometimes even 0%) for a limited time or a slightly higher one that will be in effect until the balance is paid off. The lower, limited rate can be tempting, but should only be chosen if it will help remedy the specific financial situation of the borrower in the long run. Oftentimes, the low rate offer for the longer period is more beneficial.

Seek Professional Advice

-One benefit to arise out of the debt crisis has been the advent of debt counseling services. The notion of debt counseling, as opposed to debt consolidation, is providing people to manage their debt without ascertaining new debt. Quality debt advisement businesses offer a wide range of services to help consumers manage their debt. Such services include, but are not limited to:

o Offering budgeting advice to consumers who have difficulty managing their expenditures.

o Negotiating with credit card companies on their behalf, to help alleviate the burden of high payments as well as finance charges, in some cases. In most cases, multiple monthly payments can be consolidated into one, more manageable sum.

o Professional analysis of one’s overall financial situation to determine the best options for you.

- As with any other business service in the market, many predatory businesses exist within this booming industry. They offer promises to those in need, preying on those who could least afford to be victimized by such actions. It is vital to perform some thorough research in finding a valid credit counseling service. Determining the legitimacy of any debt counseling company will only serve to benefit you in your search for some valid help. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling ( is a nonprofit agency that provides links to all sorts of services related to credit counseling.

Cut Back on Spending and Cut into Your Debt with a Small Daily Expenditure that You Can Afford

- Have you ever heard the quote, “Pay yourself first?” A couple of years ago, renowned financial advisor Suzy Ormon was on the Oprah Winfrey show giving tips on financial health. During the show, she suggested taking a small sum of money that you might spend needlessly on a daily basis, such as for lunch or coffee and putting it into a savings account. Ten dollars was her recommended amount. With this measure, a person would save $3650 in just one year without putting too much of a strain on their wallet. For people heavily in debt, this is surely a beneficial way to chip away at that large stone of debt, whether it’s ten dollars daily or even five.

Clearly, credit card debt is a major issue in the lives of millions of Americans. There is no magic pill for eliminating it all at once, but there are several options to help you effectively manage that credit card debt and make your way towards financial freedom. Above all, it is important to take a step back and explore all options thoroughly and decide on a plan that’s best for you.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Push and Pull


Like many who came before
From distant corners of the globe
Pushed from home
Fleeing calamity
Hunger, Poverty, War

The United States
Land of Dreams
Pulling those seeking a better life
Offering hope and optimism
To the downtrodden, the desperate

They’ve come to this New World
For several hundred years now
In crashing waves from different places at different times
Only to face new struggles
In a new land

“They’re taking our jobs.”
“They’re stealing our money.”
“They don’t want to speak English.”
“Send them all back to where they came from.”
They’ve all taken turns bearing the brunt

Eventually each group melds into the giant pot
Becoming a part of a new America
Time and time again
And the wave we have crashing over our shores now
Will, too

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Quick Fix Rebate Joke

The economy seems is in a shambles. The housing market is faltering badly, financial markets are falling, and the price of consumer goods has risen drastically. And what have our leaders, in a 'bi-partisan' manner, proposed to fix it? A tax rebate. That's right, our President seems to think that giving us a check (anywhere from $300 to $800 for an individual, double that for a family) will miraculously pull us away from the impending recession that we all already feel. It's a joke that I don't see as being funny.

Politicians like those who serve us presently have become so out of touch with the pulse of America. They think in simple, traditionalistic terms. They wish to appear like the great old uncle or grandpa, throwing his change at us when we were kids. This action of handing out a paltry sum of money will elevate their status in the public eye. They still believe we're the largely apathetic populace we've been for the past seven years. But, hope has come. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. Most of us have finally caught on to these shenanigans and won't be fooled by this disengenuous gesture.

Since Bush became President, money has been no object. The recession of 2001 brought us all a $300 rebate. Defense spending skyrocketed, even before September 11th. We've wasted billions and billions of dollars on wasteful endeavors, such as the war in Iraq (www.nationalpriorities,org/costofwar_home )and record pork barrel spending that's plagued Congress for the past decade or so.

In the meantime, millions of Americans live in poverty and millions more struggle from paycheck to paycheck, week to week. Our children are being left behind, doomed to failure as school districts are forced to follow mandates without the requisite funding. Our infrastructure is in serious need of repair. New Orleans has become a symbol of the disgraceful manner in which we take care of our own.

$275 million a day is spent on the war in Iraq (see National There are much better uses for our collective money. 301 million people live in the United States. That's not even a day and a half of war. Imagine the boost to the economy if every citizen received a million dollar rebate. That would surely be a remedy for the economic state we're in. Yet, we continue to spend all of this money over there when we need it so badly over here.

Mr. President, you can keep your $300. It wouldn't even last me a day with my bills. Just do me a favor...stay out of it!

Friday, January 11, 2008

The State of Our Union

The state of our union is at once both regretful and promising. What once seemed like the highest of highs in the nineties crashed and burned early this century. The past seven-plus years have greatly diminished our relationship with the world and each other. But with the record length of a presidential campaign coming towards a foreseeable end, hope looms on the horizon.

Without question, the nineties will be remembered as a time of prosperity and good times. The economy was performing well, people were working, and home sales soared to record numbers. The nineties weren’t all that rosy, however. The popularity of a President incited a wave of hatred towards him and all he represented, and that abhorrence came to a head in the election of 2000.

I hadn’t realized the hate I’d developed towards the other side until the day after results of the election were finally confirmed. I was so angry at the time; I spent several hours putting all my frustrations on to twelve pages of paper, only to be ripped into pieces in the frustration of the helplessness I felt. Although the country had been experiencing good times, there was a certain group of people bonded together to start a movement, playing on the sentiments that would divide the masses by appealing to a segment of the population motivated by the distractive issues that had nothing to do with the nation as a whole, but issues that affected the liberties of the individual. Pundits and politicians alike played on moral issues to divide and conquer. From big-time radio pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, to the rising political players in the ‘neo-con’ movement, the American people flocked towards opposite ends of the spectrum, separating us into the red and the blue. In the moments of haphazard penning, I realized that this marked a turning point in our history. It was an event that would change the way we existed as a nation. The goal of dividing the country in two had been successful.

With the endowment of the presidency to George Bush by the Supreme Court in 2000, the lines had been drawn. Left-Leaning Americans were left in a state of shock as the Bush era forged ahead reversing an agenda that was the complete opposite from anything Clinton had done. At first, it seemed innocuous. The most egregious offense committed by Bush during the first nine months of his presidency was his record length of vacation time. That is, until September 11th.

At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the country became as united as never before. I recall being moved to tears as I witnessed the displays of unity all around me. Flags and banners hung on highway overpasses, the glances of solidarity towards fellow Americans became a source of comfort, and candlelight vigils outside my home with all my neighbors present all gave me the feeling of intense nationalism. I was overwhelmed with love and pride for my country.

In the aftermath, the President had the support of the nation and the world. He had been given the opportunity to take his place among the great leaders in history, to harness the collective energy of a grieving nation to face adversity in the eye and overcome it. Indeed, the world would have been behind him had he’d made the right decisions in achieving justice for what had been done.

Instead, September 11th, 2001 has become a point in time from whence our great United States became disjointed. Far too many controversial and decisive issues have been brought to the forefront to discuss in detail here, but needless to say, the country has been longing for something, or someone, to come along, to take us away from all this madness and bring us together as a country again.

The present campaign for the Presidential election of 2008 began in November 2004. Never before in our history has there been such an eagerness for change so early on in an administration. As we begin 2008 with the knowledge that change is on the horizon, people seem to be getting a little excited, and that’s a good thing. Clearly, the Democratic Party, the party that’s been suppressed for the past twenty-plus years is finally regaining the confidence it needs to right the ship. We have been presented with a group of talented people who all have the ability to right the ship, and we are fortunate to be given the chance to choose from among them. Every candidate on the Democratic side possesses the ability to steer the country back towards unity and prosperity.

In this campaign cycle, we are presented with two clear choices: a group of candidates who promise a redirection from the regretful course we’ve taken, and those who would continue to play on our fears and our divisions to their own ends, leading us further towards the demise of our great society. I am confident that the choice has already been made. The only question left is which person will be chosen to take the lead.

There is a light on the horizon. There is hope that Americans will finally see through all that’s happened the past seven years and look towards the future once again with hope, hope that our time as a beacon for democracy and a champion for human rights has not ended. Of course, not everyone shares this optimism. There are still those out there who wish to continue the great divide for whatever reason. But for the first time in a long time, there is hopefulness. And come November 4th, the outlook is surely promising. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll become the “United” States of America once again.