Saturday, June 30, 2007

Garage Sales

Gadabout woke up this morning to find that the neighborhood was hosting a garage sale. The house next to mine is vacant awaiting renters, so at first glance I thought new neighbors were moving in. Not the case, the vacant driveway was being used as a staging area. Since Gadabout is not an active garage sale person, I took the opportunity to see what stuff people get rid of, profiles of buyers and what sells. It was all very enlightening. It was like an expedition.

Now, I should mention that I was a little late to the party since I made a Starbucks run first off and read the paper before making my rounds and asking questions. It was during my initial rounds that I was informed most of the action was over by 9 o’clock, so the vast majority of good selling items were already sold. Darn it!
Even though I was a bit late, I still was able to make keen observations. I noticed that people expose themselves at these sales. Lifetimes of memories are carelessly stacked along a driveway for all to see. What was personal and protected yesterday, is now discarded today. Soulless and now nearly homeless relics of a distant past rest in silent disgrace. Books once bought and read, discarded pictures that no longer decorate walls, cameras that once recorded family histories, televisions replaced by newer flat screen models, VCRs and VCR players, clothes, and snow skis can all be found at a garage sale. Sadness and loneliness.

What do people do with all the "gems" they pick up at these sales? Are they resold on ebay? Is there a trading marketplace that I am unaware of? Do buyers actually keep some items and use them in their homes? A surfboard sold for $75, and I thought that high. The televisions weren’t moving at all—not even for $10! I was informed that some clothes moved, and I personally saw some paperback books being bought for a nickel. The mystery remains.

Gadabout wasn’t just a few hours late to the garage sale, he was 40 years late. This is a slice of Americana that drifted by unnoticed to an uninterested eye for many years. Unrecognized in a similar fashion as when after 20 years of listening to a song on the radio, a sudden epiphany of the lyrics occurs and awareness is attained. Gadabout attained awareness this morning on another unique aspect of the American landscape. I am keeping my eyes wide open these days; capturing, seizing and understanding the fabric that binds us as a nation. I do this unselfishly for all of you.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Same-Sex Marriage

Gadabout, like all of you, has read the many news articles outlining the continued debate over Gender-Neutral Marriages. Massachusetts passed a same-sex marriage law and a few mayors and defiant clergy have chimed in allowing and performing “official” ceremonies. During camera worthy moments, these stories make the evening news and talk shows where extremists from both sides square off. It always makes for an interesting diversion. Add Ann Coulter to the mix, and you’ll be treated to a real circus.

Now, this issue is a hot button topic for a lot of players, and the legal implications appear far reaching. Far reaching in two general areas—financial effects (health care for partners, etc.) and religious values. Other factors relate to children and various legalities, but in the end it is really all about cash and God. Big players, indeed.

Gadabout doesn’t care either way, and I believe most of America doesn’t care much either. Simply put, I support marriage for all Americans. Hey, if a gay couple decides to get married and ruin a perfectly good relationship, so be it. Look, people tend to fall in love and when they do, society promotes the institution of marriage to legitimize cohabitation. Yes, the pressures of society have subsided over the past few decades, but marriage is still a firmly established dream for a lot of people, regardless of sexual orientation. It is my opinion that with growing trends towards toleration of non male/female relationships, then same-sex marriage is inevitable. And with that I would like to say good luck and welcome to the out of control marriage and divorce industry.

Half of all marriages end in divorce, and the other half in death. Either way, it is a giant money maker for the industry. The average cost of a wedding is $30,000. That’s enough for a 10% down payment on a sweet $300,000 home in the burbs. But our little princesses demand celebrity status for a day, and daddy is expected to pay. Most of you have an idea of the costs so we don’t need to labor over details. Four years later the lawyers, marriage counselors, real estate brokers and a laundry list of others rake it in during the divorce. The marriage industry is a $160 billion plus annually, and cost and heartache of divorce is greater. Gadabout speaks from experience here.

So, for all of you out there campaigning for same-sex weddings, welcome to the club of financial misery. The economy will be lifted to new highs with a fresh crop of customers! It is the American way! Open the champagne and pass the cigars!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Naval Aviation Inefficiencies—Part 1

Gadabout has seen much inefficiency in the military throughout his humble career, and since he is now retired he will share some of these issues with the reading public. Now realize that this is not whining on behalf of Gadabout, because he openly shared his views within the Navy while on active duty. Also realize that I firmly believe that the United States military establishment is first rate, the finest in the world and is tough as nails. The DOD is most likely the best run bureaucracy in the nation, but there is always room for improvement. Most of my observations will be naval aviation centric and will only lightly touch on the many unavoidable political pressures mounted by the legislative branch.

During this segment Gadabout addresses pilots, and how the navy has failed to fully optimize this segment of its manpower base. You must understand that it takes a rather large investment to train a pilot and it is even more expensive to train carrier based pilots. Of all the various aircraft the navy operates, TACAIR pilots require the most training and accordingly are the most expensive to train. The aircraft are expensive, maintenance requirements are extensive, replacement parts and engines are very high tech, and pilot training requirements are extreme. TACAIR pilots must be proficient in air-to-air, air-to-ground, close air support, in flight refueling, and carrier landings. Lots of stuff! Other carrier based aircraft usually have multiple crew members to divide workloads (E-2—5, EA-6—4, S-3—3) and have narrower mission areas. The F-18F has 2 crew members, one pilot and one naval flight officer, but most pilots are trained to flow back and forth between 1 seat and 2 seat variants.

Now, of all the mission areas mentioned above, carrier landings is the most critical. So critical, in fact, that a disproportionate amount of training and expense is dedicated to carrier landings. It makes sense, if you cannot land back at the ship at night, it doesn’t matter how many bridges you blow up or how many bad guys you shoot down. The aircraft must land safely! What is unfortunate is that many pilots do not make the grade with landings and are forced to leave their communities; most never to fly again. These lost souls are often referred to as “broken toys” and are branded as such for life. Sure, pilots “wash out” for other reasons too like being unsafe and reckless, personal problems, or failures in other mission areas. But most of them are still qualified pilots and can safely fly less challenging aircraft, but opportunities for transitions are limited. Why? Because other communities don’t want to accept failed pilots. Failed pilots moving to an “easier” aircraft sends a message to the “easier” community a negative message that their value is less than another’s. Simple.

Another barrier is that training tracks are so tightly controlled that there is little wiggle room to fit a broken toy into another airframe. If there is no room at the inn, then it is hit the road for the homeless pilot. It is simply too much trouble and interrupts planning cycles to re-detail them, so they either end up on an aircraft carrier serving in a meaningless billet until they can be processed for release from active duty or are simply discharged. These pilots, after millions of dollars of training, are tossed into the gutter year after year. Gadabout has seen this first hand many times.

My point is that many of these pilots could have made successful transitions to other aircraft (and in all fairness, some have), but timing, budgets and other concerns made it impossible to do so. Just because a pilot had problems landing on a carrier or fighting the jet under G doesn’t imply that they could not make it as a first rate patrol pilot. How about the Air Force? There are multiple aircraft that demand pilots, but there is no viable intra-service agreement in place for the Air Force to accept navy pilots in semi-awkward circumstances. In this sense, the navy seems to be expending manpower in wasteful fashion. Okay, break out the big guns and start shooting away at Gadabout!

Next segment: Aircraft Carrier Manning

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

World Oil Consumption Sham

Gadabout has been running the numbers on world oil consumption trends as related to population statistics, and the numbers tell a different tale than what we are led to believe. Americans have been labeled as oil abusers because we consume a disproportionate amount of the world’s oil supplies. This is a true fact when contrasting one country against the next using descriptive data, but the trends are shifting towards a leaner America.

First off, there are a few factors that should be noted concerning the USA before looking at consumption, production and import data. The USA is nearly 100 percent industrialized, meaning that we don’t use mules to plow fields and such. The USA is a rather large country with population centers established at great distances from each other, resulting in consumption patterns unlike smaller countries. Lastly, America is a wealthy country, and wealth engenders consumption beyond what is minimally required for national efficiencies; meaning that additional activities such as boating, flying, and lawn maintenance, ATVs skew the data. Skewed, because other countries are catching up with the USA in wasting oil at the same time the USA is scaling back. Other factors include tourism, domestic illegal immigration population, and guest workers and students; all of whom disproportionately consume American oil.

The United States is the number 3 oil producer in the world, behind number 1 Saudi Arabia and number 2 Russia. The USA produces roughly 7,000 thousand barrels (t/bs) daily, 3,000 less that Saudi Arabia; and consumes 20,000 t/bs daily. Proportionately, this equates to 24% of the world’s daily consumption. Wow, Gadabout uses about 18 gallons a week in his Chevy Trail Blazer!

“Okay, Gadabout, what is your point?” you say. Well let’s look at some facts:

USA oil consumption dropped 1.3 percent in 2006 from 2005. In fact the 20,589 t/bs a day was LESS than 2004. USA consumption has only increased by less than 1 % a year since 1996, while our annual population growth rate is nearly 2 %. Maybe Americans are beginning to conserve!

Let’s look at 2006 numbers and calculate national consumption rates per capita. For the USA we would divide 20,589 t/bs (20,589,000) by 301.1 million = 0.068 barrels per capita per day.

Daily Per Capita Consumption:

USA 0.068
Canada 0.067 (those silly Canadians)
Japan 0.041 (they are small people)
China 0.006 (they still use mules)
UK 0.029 (small country with nowhere to go)
Germany 0.032 (very efficient people)
Australia 0.042 (catching up)
South Korea 0.053 (how can this be?)
France 0.031 (probably lying)
Switzerland 0.036 (no opinion)

As you can see, America is not the oil bandit that the world makes us out to be, and with our per capita trend DECLINING the big picture is favorable for the future. China’s oil demand has increased 100% over the past 10 years compared to less than 10 % for the USA.

The USA will continue to show declines, and the declines may actually accelerate during the next 10 years. One of the USA’s biggest problems is the continued use of heating oil used in the northeastern area of the country. This consumption sump must trend downward through increased use of alternate sources. Noteworthy is the fact that Americans are driving more efficient cars, and with the explosion of hybrids and next generation diesel engines, we’ll likely see significant declines in per capita consumption. Our airlines are saving fuel (those full planes are a pain in the ass, but it is effective) too. Watch out world, once again the good ole US of A will be leading the charge on efficiency! Don’t let the pundits confuse you—Gadabout is here to dispel myths and uncover truths!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lower the Legal Drinking Age!

Gadabout has always taken interest in past adjustments to the legal drinking age. Our country has shifted from no drinking laws, to prohibition, to 21 years of age, to 18 years of age, and then progressively back to national mandates of 21 years. When Gadabout was 19 years old when the drinking age in Michigan changed from 18 to 21, leaving Gadabout a criminal if he was to partake of the forbidden fruit. Legal one day, illegal the next. Silly, really.

It is silly that a 20 year old bride cannot sip a glass of champagne on her wedding day. Even sillier that a soldier, returning from battles overseas can be tossed in jail for drinking a cold one on a Sunday afternoon. America has the highest legal drinking laws on the books throughout the entire WORLD. Most countries, if they have any laws whatsoever, are 18, and only a sprinkling at 19 and 20. Neo prohibitionists support a 21 year law, but the research does not appear to support their claims that actual consumption is reduced in either youths or adults.

Gadabout’s position is that alcohol should be kept out of the hands of school age youth. When the drinking age was 18, high school juniors and seniors would buy beer and booze in bulk and provide for 16 and 17 year olds. Today, those crafty high schoolers magically manage to score booze in great abundance—and other illegal substances to boot. This often results in binge drinking, leading to some ugly outcomes.

The solution? Gadabout proposes that the legal drinking age be lowered to 19 years. 19 years so as to keep legal drinking out of schools. Most would agree that students should be shielded from legal drinking. But I have a trick up my sleeve regarding a 19 year law, and that is that a 21 year law remain in place to purchase alcohol over the counter. That’s right, you would still need to be 21 to buy a 12 pack at the local convenience store. 19 and 20 year olds could drink legally, but only by servers who can check IDs and hopefully control bingeing behaviors. Reflect on this idea for a few moments and envision the compromises and possible positive outcomes. “Legality” under controlled conditions utilizing a buffer age period, while at the same time keeping alcohol out of high school. Drivers license laws have incorporated “buffer” time periods related to restrictions until certain milestones have lapsed. Why not alcohol consumption?

Gadabout believes that if an up and coming politician were to properly frame this alcohol drinking age debate, he or she might see an overwhelming showing at the polls. Regardless, it seems time to address the issue once again. Let the debates begin!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Term Limits--The Time Has Come

Gadabout has not read the volumes written by the “Founding Fathers” of this great nation, but has spent a few days while in graduate school looking over a speck of the works by Madison, Jefferson, Adams and a few others. Even though I freely admit not being a scholar of the “Founding Fathers” I cringe whenever I hear someone making an argument or stating opinion based upon the “Founding Fathers” motivations, since these self proclaimed knuckleheads have no scholarship in these historical matters whatsoever. Show me your law degree, supported by a master’s degree in American History and I’ll listen up. If you are simply coughing up unsupported facts collected from three hours of radio talk shows a day, then back to the books for you. Gadabout knows enough from formal schooling to know when to shut his pie hole, and so should most of America.

Okay, back to my point, term limits, and how Gadabout believes that our system is flawed. I don’t know what the Founding Fathers had in mind regarding term limits or lengths of terms for elected officials, and I don’t care, because I have devised a better system of governance than is in place today.

I am proposing an 18, 24, 12 plan for the House, Senate, and President respectively:

House of Representatives should be limited to 18 consecutive years of service. If so desired, a member of the House, after vacating a seat may be allowed to once again run and serve another 18 years if elected. But the string must be broken and the incumbent must yield his/her seat and reset the clock. The term length for a House member should be lengthened to 3 years so as to avoid the ridiculous every other year campaign cycles. These endless campaign cycles disrupt law making and promote inefficiencies. Let’s face it, House members, for the most part, are hacks and criminals, so limiting them to 18 years may not be such a bad idea. Giving them a shot at reelection after a break may be desirable for those proven worthy, and for those not worthy hopefully they’ll be canned for good. This limitation would not affect the member to run for a Senate seat or for the Presidency.

The Senate likes to hold onto seats of power for generations. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Robert Byrd (D-WV) have collectively served for 124 years. Enough is enough. Gadabout proposes 24 years (four 6 year terms) and then the incumbent must vacate his/her seat and reset the clock (as in the House as described above) before allowed to run for their seat again. This limitation would not affect the member to run for a House seat or for the Presidency.

The President should be allowed to run for a third term. President Roosevelt ran and won four terms. He died in office before completing his fourth term, but the country supported his leadership during a time of war, so he became the first President to hold office longer than 2 terms. This option of an additional term, during periods of national distress, should be allowed for under the constitution provided certain circumstances arise. Who would ever want that thankless job for longer than eight years is a mystery to me, but it should be an option. Under no circumstances should any one individual hold the office of President for longer than 12 collective years—period.

Gadabout is here, for all of you, promoting fresh ideas to lead the nation.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Identity Lost

Gadabout has noticed that the individualities of the states has been lost, or nearly so. After driving up and down the east coast, through Canada, and west to Detroit, it seems everywhere looks the same. Home Depots, MacDonald’s, 7-11, Olive Garden, Shell Oil and Chevrolet stand tall and greet you as you exit the highway. America, once held together with multiple fabrics of value and belief systems, baseball and free trade has now added corporate structures to our collective personalities. Barriers and aged distinctions that just 50 years ago would uniquely define someone from Pittsburg as compared to another from Hartford have eroded with time, television, and efficient corporate structures.

A Kroger grocery store in Pittsburg is nearly identical to one in Hartford. They will sell the same foods, offer similar benefits to their employees, train employees using the same rule book and so forth. After time, all Kroger employees communicate using corporate buzzwords, transfer to other locations as they climb the corporate ladder and lose some of their hometown uniqueness along the way. If one is to be a success in America, then in most circumstances one must move throughout America to effectively assimilate into corporate molds. All of this corporate influence has stirred our disparate personalities into a regressive shade of tasteless grey.

It is not just the corporations, and I am not suggesting that any of blending is necessarily a bad thing—it simply is what it is. Our government has increased in size and scope and behaves much like its cousin, the corporation. We identify with individual bureaucracies much like corporations. Some are good and some are evil. Wal-Mart is evil, and Apple Computers is good. The Department of Education is good, and the Department of Energy is evil. The FBI is secretive and first rate, but DOT is a group of bumbling idiots. You get the idea.

I am guessing that our national personality has been shifting and evolving since the beginning and that many professional scientists and educators have been studying these trends for years. What I am noting to all of you is that in my lifetime the shifting and blending has accelerated. Dialects have attenuated, centers of commerce have lost traces of individuality once reflective of a geographic locale, and all radio and television programming and advertisements are identical. Yes, differences between regions and states remain and all individuality has not been lost, but the gap is narrowing. It is a bit eerie, to be sure.

And all of these blending trends are not stopping at the boarders. The world is trending towards centers of likenesses at a rapid rate. Ask the travelers; they’ll tell you of a world blending into one. The airline pilots, international bankers, military types, international relief organizations will tell stories of watching Survivor on the television while drinking a Coke and eating a Quarter Pounder with cheese while conducting business in Europe and Asia.

Gadabout believes that as our far-reaching corporate and governmental tentacles continue to reach out and touch globally, that these blending trends will continue. What the world will resemble is a mystery to me, but I am certain that it will be less distinctive than it is today. Observe and take notes.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pedophile Profiling

One of Gadabout's peers pointed out the fact that pedophiles all seem to drive like vehicles--pedophile vans. Whenever a child is abducted from a bus stop, playground or backyard, a "white van" is usually sited near the kidnapping scene. The van is not always white, but a van seems to be the vehicle of choice for child molesters. If this were the case, then it would seem logical to profile all van owners. Well, not all van owners. Not the soccer moms with their high-end cross over Lexus SUVs. The vans we are talking about are those Ford and Chevy 70's, 80's and 90's conversion vans that have faded paint and rusty fenders. They stick out like a sore thumb, and the only people that seem to own these clunkers are dudes that paint houses, engage in trafficking illegal aliens, deliver pizzas or run obscure home improvement businesses.

Nothing "good" is ever associated with a "pedophile van." When you see one in a parking lot, you would most likely not park next to one. If you happen to pass one on the highway and get a quick look in the side window, you'll most likely observe a shady looking driver and a passenger smoking a cigarette. They might even be drinking beers. Nope, like hanging out at a bar after midnight, nothing good ever comes about with pedophile vans.

When I read in the paper that a lowlife woman let some sleazebag abuse her daughters for a few bucks, I envision a pedophile van with a faded rebel flag bumper sticker. A news story about a couple keeping their son locked away like a dog in a cage for two years--you got it, a white van with dented bumpers. Since pedophile van owners transcend race, gender and religious boundaries, they are ripe for governmental profiling. It is time to be proactive. Let's catch evil before evil acts are committed. We are only a driveway away from preventing crime. Let's get busy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Toss the Cash

A Very Cute Home In Buffalo, NY

Gadabout has discovered, and recently reinforced, the fact that just about any obstacle can be overcome by throwing money at a problem. So, if you have enough money to toss about, you’ll enjoy a relatively trouble free life. I know what you are thinking, “money can’t buy you happiness, Gadabout.” True, but you can have a damn good time running like a rock star across the French Riviera during the summer, drinking and partying. An abundance of Euros can also be used to effectively payoff the policia in Spain, France and Italy. Gadabout knows this first hand—it is true, but that was a long time ago, so let’s fast forward to Buffalo, 2007.

A friend of mine has moved to Buffalo and purchased a home built in 1937. That’s an old house by Gadabout standards, and if you have ever owned a home that has been around the block a few times, then you have a good idea where I am going with all of this. Personally, I prefer to buy new, but if taken in on a dated property, then I insist on it already being refurbished. That is just my way—minimum headaches.

Now, my friend fell in love with her cute (Marcie, the real estate agent, liked to use “cute,” so let’s ride with it) cape cod near the university. It has 3 bedrooms, 1 and a half baths, hardwood throughout most and a “cute” yard. It is just plain “cute” all around. Certainly too cute to pass up! Gadabout, on the other hand, saw an aged roof, a falling apart garage, evidence of water damage, requirements of electrical upgrades and so forth. Yes, I also think the house is cute too, so don't get the wrong idea. I gave a thumb's up to the property.

Anyway, cash will fix anything! In just two days time the carpet was replaced on the stairs and in one of the bedrooms (carpeting the basement is delayed due to seeping water during the first thunderstorm), electrical updated (electrician has to return in two weeks for some other details), new appliances installed, roofing and gutter guy scheduled for tomorrow, and all utilities are turned on. This little place may be a bit of a money pit for now, but the almighty cashola is being thrown in the proper direction and it will be a great (cute) little place to live in a month’s time. Isn’t America great—toss the dollars and all works out in the end.

If it worked for Tom Hanks and Shelley long in 1986, then it can work for Gadabout and his special friend in 2007! Fingers are crossed.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Weight Loss

The Male Belly

Round and soft it grows
Chiseled by beer and pizza
A trophy of sorts

Gadabout is learning that staying fit and trim as he grows older is becoming harder and harder with each passing day. It used to be easy keeping the belly at bay, but now it has become a real challenge. Feasts of beer and pizza once had minimal effects on the body, but not today. A few miles of jogging and 2 or 3 trips to the gym were enough in my 20’s, but then the 30’s came around and I needed to increase the mileage and reduce caloric intake. Then the 40’s arrived and all hell broke out.

Once you reach the magical 40’s you cannot just add on a few extra jogging miles, bump up the number of sets in the gym, or add extra iron to the bench press; you need to make lifestyle changes. Fifteen miles of jogging and a few sit ups will simply not offset five pizzas, ten cheeseburgers and two cases of beer a week. Throw in a couple good glasses of whiskey, desserts and hotdogs at the ball park, and you’ll be in for a trip to the department store buying an entire new wardrobe. Keeping the lbs off has become a constant struggle, but I am keeping up the good fight.

We’ll label this fight the Gadabout Improvement Program (GIP) and it can work for you too. It is a simple program, so let’s take a closer look.

Walk. Let’s face it, the older you become, the less stress your knees and hips can tolerate. Substitute walking miles for jogging miles. It takes longer to walk a mile, but it burns the same amount of calories. Yes it looks silly, but so does a fat man trying to jog. The longer you are on the road, the less time you’ll have for eating cheeseburgers and drinking beer.

Weight Training. Forget the heavy weights (they hurt) and move over to the machines and lighten the load. Increase repetitions with light resistance. The women hang out in this area of the gym, so that is a special bonus.

Ride a Bike. Pull the old two wheeler out of the basement and take it for a spin in the evening or morning hours. Riding, in conjunction with jogging and weightlifting is cross training, and experts acknowledge that this is a good thing.

Alcohol. Buy the most expensive beer, booze and wine available. This will keep you from drinking like a college student, and keep the pounds off.

Food. Instead of eating an entire pizza, try reducing your intake to three-quarters. The same goes with Super Sizing (always drink Diet Coke). Eat slower. Psychologists have uncovered a nifty fact that the brain takes 20 minutes to realize that the stomach is full. Pull away from the feeding trough and wait a bit before making a second trip the buffet.

Tanning. Tan as much as possible. Yes, there are harmful effects from the sun, like cancer, but tan fat looks like muscle. You make the call.

Gadabout is working the GIP hard, and realizes that the war will not be won overnight. He is going to stay the course, not giving an inch, until the final inches are lost. Are you with me? Fat men unite!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Subprime Lending Mess Good for America

Gadabout has been keeping his eye on the subprime leading headlines, and posits a polemic position on the matter. Okay, first, what is a subprime? Well, it is essentially lending to individuals with less than desirable credit ratings at higher interest rates under less than optimal terms. In the mortgage business, it is all about closing a deal, and making a killing with fees and so forth. Everyone makes a buck when a real estate deal is closed; real estate brokers and agents, attorneys, surveyors, title insurance companies and home inspectors. Since so much cash is distributed in the name of the buyer, it is important for the housing industry to keep the machine turning. And it turned so wonderfully from 2001-2006.

Subprime lending accounts for about 12 percent of the big picture in mortgages and the default rate (2.5 %) for these loans is 10 times the prime rate lending industry. Ten times the prime rate sounds scary, but in the big picture it is a relatively small segment of ownership. Sure, a few homeowners will default and lose their homes, but savvy investors are waiting in the shadows to gobble up these prizes and generate a profit. Who loses in this horse trading? The owners who default ruin their credit scores, and the lender will most likely lose a bit too.

Let’s look at an example:

Earl and Betty buy a $200,000 home with a zero dollar down payment. They take a teaser low interest rate ARM and after a couple of years the interest rate climbs from 4 % to 6.5 %. Tax assessments increase also so their initial monthly payment jumps from $1,200 to $1,800, and they start falling behind. Oh, don’t forget that they dumped several grand for furniture, landscaping and new curtains, so the credit cards are maxed out too. Anyway, they default and an investor picks up the property for $155,000, and flips it for a profit at a final sale price of $182,000. Every group makes money again through fees and taxes!

The final point is that the lower selling price helped BRING DOWN inflation, thus offering first time homeowners more choices and lower prices. Subprime lending is a small portion of the mortgage industry and regardless of the fact that lives are temporarily ruined, lots of others make a killing off these serial closings and turnovers.

Gadabout does agree that the housing market has taken a downturn and in some areas, like Las Vegas, prices have crumbled. There are problems out there and some people are hurt and will face a serious hit in the future, but the "bubble" never "popped." It may have deflated a bit, but it remains a bubble. And with the national unemployment rate at 4.5%, the country still has steam. As always, be cautious, read the fine print, and don't live beyond your means.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Nukes and Going Green

Gadabout remembers the “disaster” of Three Mile Island (nuke plant in Middletown, PA) in the late 1970’s. Even though failures occurred in the proper operation of the plant’s cooling system, it did not result in a core meltdown and the generation plant retained its integrity. The incident caused quite a scare in the public and nuclear power became under fire from public policy organizations. No new nuclear power plants have been constructed in America since that incident. “Nuclear power is bad, dangerous and harmful to the ecology.” This rhythmic mantra successfully continued throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, but anti-nuke power organizations have found themselves in a tight bind in the new millennium. The bind is labeled “global warming.”

Global warming trends have, as most of you are aware, created strong core action groups that advocate reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These harmful emissions are generated in mass by coal burning power generation systems, internal combustion engines (in our cars), and are exasperated by fewer natural offsets resulting from deforestation. What is the answer? Well, nuclear power, of course! Nukes don’t generate those nasty greenhouse gas emissions! Darn it, all those successful demonstrations against a nuclear future may have had the unintended consequence of destroying the planet. Ah, shucks, all the protest signs need to be changed, again.

Gadabout’s point with this shift in political posturing is that when taking action based upon emotional beliefs does not always produce the best long term solution. In less than 30 years, the anti-nuke caucuses have found themselves jammed into a corner, forced to support an energy source it once firmly opposed. All those 20 and 30 something protesters from the 70’s are now 50 and 60 years old and are carrying signs demanding reductions in greenhouse emissions—read that pro-nuke. Sort of embarrassing since they may have very well created the global warming trends by demanding an end to nuclear power generation. Getting your way does not always make you right!

Making emotional decisions should be a warning to what actions should be taken with global warming. Going off half cocked may result in further damage to the environment and waste resources. Gadabout is not arguing that the planet may be warming since published descriptive data supports an upward trend, but has learned that haste often results in waste. Let’s learn from our past mistakes, make good decisions and work together in a constructive manner before declaring the sky is falling.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

War Deaths--Degrees of Magnitude

A Portrait of Evil


A Portrait of Evil

Gadabout is searching for answers on how opponents of the war in Iraq have successfully framed an argument based upon casualties. Before we move on, please let me make crystal clear that this discussion is based on the magnitude of war deaths compared to historical conflicts, and associated degree of “worthiness” associated with said conflict. I am not going to dive into any discussion of WMDs, Al-Qaeda, Humvee armor, UN resolutions, or any other rhetoric related to congressional or executive decision making.

During the 1960’s and 70’s Gadabout was deeply embroiled with his primary and secondary education in the Detroit public school system, and within those hallowed halls of learning he was taught that the atrocities of World War II, with its millions of civilian war deaths under the fist of Hitler could never again be possible because of the new world order. We, as a nation and a world, were deeply committed to never again allow an evil dictator to upset the gentle balance of peace and be allowed to engage in genocide. Boy, was I taken for a ride! It is estimated that 60 million died during WWII; 20 million military and 40 million civilian. 5.1 million deaths are attributed to the Holocaust. These numbers are debatable, but the degree of magnitude is what is important here.

Estimates on deaths related to the war on terrorism (primarily for Afghanistan and Iraq) are a bit tricky and smarter people than me are compiling the data, but the high side is around 1 million total deaths. The numbers that are concrete is the total coalition death count, which is roughly 3,700. But let’s not forget the 2,974 murders that occurred on September 11th. I’ll take a moment to inform the readership that nearly 3,000 murders is, in my opinion, reason enough to take the fight oversees and destroy those Islamic bastards who believe they can commit unchecked genocide on American soil.

Saddam Hussein killed up to 200,000 Kurds in the 1980’s. In 1994, the Rwandan Genocide between Hutu and Tutsi resulted in over a million horrific deaths. Some estimates of the death toll in Darfur exceed 400,000. These are just a handful of examples of genocide in our day. Americans are only informed on events in Darfur by a few television commercials and scant reports in a handful of the largest media outlets. Yep, “we’ll never allow evil governments to commit acts of genocide ever again—we learned our lesson with Hitler.”

During the Civil War, 700,000 soldiers died to preserve a nation. During World War II, over 400,000 American soldiers died to contain Japan and Germany (Germany never attacked the United States—should we have fought in Europe?). Over 60,000 died in Vietnam. Now, with the global balance of power in play with characters like Chavez, Ahmadinejad, and a laundry list of up and comers; atomic weapons procurement; genocide in Darfur and elsewhere, Americans are shouting for a complete withdrawal from Iraq. That would have wonderful results—regional and global destabilization and possible world war. Not a viable option, in my opinion.

More Americans died in one hour of fighting during the Battle of Shiloh than have died while defending our country overseas in our current war on terrorism. 16,000 Americans are murdered every year, and 40,000 highway fatalities occur every year in this country. These are just numbers, but numbers are often helpful in making decisions and understanding a degree of magnitude related to death and destruction, and whether a commitment of blood is worthy or not worthy. I wish we lived in a world where no Americans died in 9-11, but they did die. I pray for a day when our soldiers, marines, sailors and airman are out of harms way; but I don’t think that day is here.

Evil is lurking, and I am taking the position that Hitler was one of them and we should never allow genocide to ever flourish again. I believe our finest moment is at hand, and unfortunately the cost of success will be counted and documented with the dried ink of blood and misery. Gadabout will not sit back and chant peace, when a call for peace will cause further death and destruction. We were right to topple Saddam with our invasion, let us not label our decisions with shame.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gadabout is an Election Official

Gadabout is to report for election official duty at 0500 tomorrow morning for the Virginia 83 District Republican Primary. I feel that it is my civic duty to assist in fair and efficient voting in our mighty Commonwealth. It will be a 15 hour day and I'll be remunerated $60 for my efforts and sacrifices. This adventure will be reported back to all of you in due time, but Gadabout has bigger fish to fry related to the war in Iraq and other environs in the near term. This exploration into the polls is new and should prove informative. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Campfires, Wine and Friends

Gadabout spent the weekend in Kitty Hawk, NC, with friends who own a 125 year old farm house nestled deep on a 3 acre waterfront wooded lot. It was not the first time I had been invited to visit and enjoy the great outdoors and take advantage of admiring the calm waters of the inland water way, but it was the most rememberable. Elayne and Hugo’s house is indeed special; and during this particular trip we were treated to turtles, woodpeckers, rabbits, dragonflies, snakes, egrets and many more varieties of nature. Above all, though, we capped off the night with our usual after dinner campfire, and it was delightful.

Campfires are uniquely special for city dwellers, such as Gadabout, because fire has a hypnotic effect on the human condition unlike any other sensually aided diversion of everyday life. Campfires, alcohol and friends go together like corvettes, dry roads and cheap gas. It is not often we are afforded campfire opportunities, and when they do arrive it is a period of bliss and reflection. Stories are told by campfires, stories that are long forgotten and rekindled by heat, smoke and flames. Moments of silence are acceptable by a fire. Fire silence is not an uneasy period as in an urban dinner setting when a group has lost its way. No, it is a time when everyone is remembering and embracing a past memory and each person is individually cherishing that memory. Perhaps the passing reflection will be shared, or possibly it will simply be smiled upon and neatly placed back in memory. People smile to themselves around a fire.

If it has been over a year since your last campfire, then you are depriving your soul of a special gift from the creator. If you have made it to the end of this short note, then you have by now reflected on past campfire experiences and are longing for your next opportunity. Campfires are good, bring you closer to god and make a great setting for sipping wine. What are you waiting for? Get out there and start playing with matches!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Space Shuttle Atlantis Lifts Off—Yawn!

Gadabout was informed this morning that NASA launched Space Shuttle Atlantis yesterday evening with a full payload and a 7 man crew to rendezvous with the International Space Station. It was the first launch of a Space Shuttle this year, and the event was marked with, well, with just about nothing. I learned of the launch a few minutes ago while looking through Yahoo news online after my routine morning trip to Starbucks to sip coffee and read the morning paper. Nope, nothing in the Virginia Pilot (our local rag) was mentioned about the launch. I looked through yesterday’s paper to see if the scheduled launch was mentioned—negative, Houston. The morning paper did mention Michael Vick’s dog fighting woes with the Feds, Paris Hilton, trash on Mount Fuji, passport restrictions, global warming and a nifty hand written note by A. Lincoln.

Now, in all fairness to the media, I never turned on the television yesterday evening, so I may have missed something there, but I doubt it. You see, we are only informed about NASA’s shortcomings. Shortcomings like when a female astronaut goes bonkers over a failed love affair, when a rocket blows up or when the administrator challenges global warming theories. 7 U.S. Astronauts are orbiting the earth at this very moment, preparing to dock with the International Space Station, and the country yawns. Gadabout doesn’t yawn because I am keenly aware of the sacrifices, extreme level of training required and risks that our astronauts assume to serve our country. I am proud of all of them and will always afford them my greatest respect for their unselfish service.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Home Runs and Barry Bonds

King and Queen of America

Barry and Paris
Intriguing your games and play
Fame fades over time

Home runs matter in baseball and Barry Bonds is only 10 dingers from taking the honor of home run king away from Hank Aaron. Critics, including Aaron, denounce Bonds for his possible steroid use and bad form with reporters and fans. Gadabout cringes when he watches Bonds on TV, whining about the press, his injuries and life in general. He is not the man most fans identify with as the supreme ruler of the most coveted record in baseball. But so what? He is going to earn the record soon, and whether you are a fan or not, Bonds will be king. Being king will not be easy for Barry. His has a sorted history with the game, the commissioner has been walking a tightrope over alleged steroid use and Aaron doesn’t seem to like him much. It is not easy living at the top, just ask President Bush, he’ll tell you.

Bonds will achieve his goal very soon, but his reign will likely be short lived since there are a few active players nipping at his heels. Most notably is Alex Rodriguez. A Rod is only 32 years old, and if he plays through his 43 year like Bonds (maybe longer, perhaps 46), he’ll most likely shatter the record book. He already has 486 homers in his career and has chalked up 22 this year alone. If he can average just 30 a year, he’ll surpass Bonds by the 2017 season. 30 home runs a year is conservative, so look for A Rod grabbing the record by 2014.

Ken Griffey Jr. is often discounted in his quest to take the record, especially since he has been plagued by injuries since arriving in Cincinnati. But a critical look at the numbers shows that he has a shot. At 37, Griffey might have another 7 seasons left in his knees, and with 576 homers to his name, the goal is achievable. It would be a close call, so we’ll just have to keep an eye on his health and productivity. He has already hit 13 this year, so it is not unreasonable to assume he can produce 33 plus HRs a year in the near term.

It is easy to hate Barry Bonds, almost as easy as hating Paris Hilton. Both seem to have dodged our laws governing society and good order by way of their celebrity status. Bonds has posted the numbers through his God given talents, aided perhaps by modern science; and Paris, by birthright, seems to be above the law. No matter to either. Bonds will be king of baseball, and Paris will stay out of jail and remain the Queen of sex, drugs and bad behavior.

Bonds' glory will fade as others march up the record books, and Paris will gain weight and wrinkle. New kings and queens will replace them both over time. But for now their money and talent walk the talk, and most of us have neither, so let’s just sit back and enjoy the headlines.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Adult Kickball

Gadabout with teammates Rachel and Bobo

Gadabout calls an undisputed out

Hottie chick kicks a single

Gadabout has discovered that the game of kickball has made a powerful comeback in America. Yep, you heard it right, kickball, the game you played with vigor as a third grader. I guess it is not surprising that sports like kickball and dodgeball have made a resurgence since they were a blast to play as kids, and as adults we still enjoy the air of competition and beaning someone attempting to run home with a 10 inch rubber ball (hitting above the shoulders is against the rules).

Most leagues are coed, which is perhaps why so many single people are attracted to the sport. Kickball is a great venue to check out the available talent, and play sports at the same time. With a burgeoning population tossed back into the recycling bin after bitter divorces, and a growing distaste for a saloon-centric lifestyle, adults are flocking to alternatives for meeting "friends." Kickball seems to fill this void, and the numbers support this opinion. After only a few years since the sport became organized, hundreds of leagues have sprouted up. Virginia Beach is dominated by the WAAR (World Association of Adult Recreation) organization and boasts 42 teams on its roster. Not bad for its third year since inception, and the numbers keep charging upward.

Gadabout has embraced kickball for all it offers; athlethics, beer and women. I have been filling the role as league vice president and head referree, but the true pleasure flows from the delightful opportunity to enjoy and partake of sport. Who would have ever thought kickball would find its way back into our cultural landscape? Wonders never cease.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A New, Darker Foundation for Iraq

It appears, by all accounts, that the status quo of nation building is failing due to fundamental differences between deep rooted religious divides between Sunni and Shiite factions. Power struggles between loosely controlled, quasi-independent warfighting entities continue to pepper Iraq with tragic bombings and overt acts of defiance under an infant government. Plenty of smart people are scratching their heads trying to figure this out and offer solutions. I guess there wasn’t a book titled “How to Successfully Overthrow a Large Sized Country Controlled by an Islamic Dictatorship and Subsequently Build a New Democratic Government Capable of Establishing Lasting Peace and Harmony.” Someone should have written that book BEFORE we went in with guns blazing—it certainly would have saved a great deal of human life, resources and misery. Monday morning quarterbacking!

Gadabout has briefly and superficially examined the situation and has noticed a form of governance that is missing in Iraq—Organized Crime. That’s right, the Mob. Iraq is in desperate need for its citizens to discover and embrace addictions to alcohol, tobacco, drugs and prostitution. Gadabout is not making a joke here. Iraq’s underground is based on religious fundamentalism and control of territory along religious boarders. If a second, equally strong entity existed, then competition over control of territories would not be divisive solely on Islamic disagreements.

Take our own American Mobsters as an example. Peace was maintained through a network of competing families in the larger cities of Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo and New York. The sanctioned government structures worked informally with these families to bring a delicate and fragile peace while allowing vices to be enjoyed by the masses—alcohol, tobacco, drugs and prostitution. I am guessing that if a radical group tried to establish themselves in Chicago by blowing up a car outside of Wrigley Field, they might get away with it ONCE. Both the cops and the mob would be taking care of eliminating the outsiders.

Iraq’s Mobs are not driven by profits and power; they are driven by religion and power. It is unlikely that an average Sunni and an average Shiite will ever find middle ground between their deep rooted belief and value systems based upon religion, but they might negotiate over the safe and lucrative transport of a truckload of Johnny Walker Black Label across and through the other’s territory at a cost. And, given enough power, these two average Iraqis may not tolerate the blowing up of an open market where both have financial stakes. This may sound frightening to some, but perhaps a third party needs to enter the ranks of power to establish a balance, even if that balance is dark and harmful. If the choice is between alcoholism, gang style justice, and drug abuse, in opposition to continued open warfare, some might choose the former.

Alcohol is not allowed to be consumed by U.S. troops in Iraq. The directive that denies alcohol consumption is called General Order Number 1, and it is strictly enforced. Talk about keeping the troops on the ground bummed out! No wonder they are angry and go off half-cocked at times—they are frustrated! Compounding the problem is that sexual relationships between members of the armed forces are a big no-no. Drugs? Forget that! Most every movie Gadabout has ever watched on WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam included alcohol, tobacco and women. Not in Iraq, though, because we don’t want to upset the population and leadership seeks absolute control of the military. No wonder we are losing.

If Amir were to drink a couple too many cocktails the night before his suicide attack, he might just wake up late with a hangover and not make it on time to blow up a security check point. Think about that. Maybe, if he met some hot chick and hung out for the weekend partying and having a good time, he might just lose interest in listening to radical clerics.

Yep, Gadabout believes that our forces need to loosen up on the rules and stop declaring democracy as an ultimate prize for this young nation. Maybe a little fun is the prescription needed to stabilize the population. Add in a third party of power, and we might just see some progress. “Bartender, another round, please!”

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A Curious and Disturbing Trend

Gadabout has noticed an unusual trend in television advertising, a trend that features men as bumbling idiots and women as the clear thinking problem solvers. In most cases, white men demonstrate caveman qualities, but not always. In some scenarios men of multiple races are targeted as fools, but in these few contained cases the purpose appears to elevate their female counterpart’s intelligence and superior value in decision making.

Don’t believe Gadabout? Well, pay attention to commercials in between your favorite television programs! Put down the pizza and Budweiser, and make a few mental notes. If you do you might notice a dunderhead blowing up his outdoor gas grill, while his size 4, hottie wife demonstrates her wisdom in selecting new Pella blinds for the sunroom. Maybe you’ll catch the long distance service promoted by a frustrated wife with her childish husband plays the air guitar in the background. Our bumbling musician is of little use in making difficult financial decisions. A new commercial shows a family man standing next to his recently installed high efficiency heating and cooling system. He is speechless and bewildered as to its many secrets leading to its extreme value, and so is his neighbor who offers his own Neanderthal like gaze.

Women are shown as the doctors, lawyers and power brokers. They are always patient, well dressed and intelligent. Men fumble, while women succeed. Keep a keen lookout for this ongoing brainwashing of American society. Silly? You decide.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Waitress—a critical film review

Gadabout recently viewed “Waitress,” a somewhat independent film by the late Adrienne Shelly. Shelly, who was tragically murdered in her Manhattan apartment in 2006, brings to the screen a southern romantic drama about a confused, lonely and strikingly beautiful waitress and culinary pie baking genius, Jenna, played by Keri Russell. Jenna, stuck in a dead end marriage with Earl, a self possessed, unstable man-boy who is incapable and unwilling to engage in an adult and meaningful relationship. Earl is an abusive thug, and Jenna dreams of an escape from her uncalculated and empty marriage through day dreams and visions of future pie projects as related to her immediate life’s situation. Pies are given names like “my horrible day being married to Earl pie.” Complicating matters for Jenna is her unplanned and untimely pregnancy with Earl’s child—a pregnancy that results “from a night of drinking.” Let all teenagers be aware of this overt connection to alcohol, choosing a mate at an early age, unhappiness, depression and dead end avenues in life.

Jenna is a master of pies, and spends her few happy hours of life working as a waitress with two fellow women who also live lives of desperation, but between the three of them they enjoy a world of happiness and understanding. All three are beautiful, caring and supportive—enough so to make life bearable.

Opposite to Earl’s protagonist role are two central characters that offer hope and wisdom. DR. Pomatter, the somewhat shy gynecologist new to the small town immediately falls in love with Jenna and a dangerous affair ensues. DR. Pomatter, who is always refereed to as such, represents hope and a meaningful future for Jenna. The crusty and aging owner of the diner, played by Andy Griffith, takes a liking to Jenna for her beauty, insight and compatibility for a younger Andy. Both characters love Jenna, but compete for her spirit at disparate, yet equal degrees of eagerness.

Waitress is a story of friendship, life’s decisions and pleasant outcomes. Earl’s efforts to control Jenna tire throughout the film, despite Jenna’s lake of eagerness to actively take any positive steps of accountability to control of her unguided and miserable marriage. True friendships that blossom across the entire crew at the diner offer pleasant moments and that brighter days are always possible, even in the face of poverty, abuse and self doubt. The positive aspects of good judgment and self control are displayed by Jenna’s decisions concerning her adulterous relationship, and her new found courage when confronting Earl.

The audience will enjoy Shelly’s film as both a comedy and a drama. Brief periods of uncertainty, abuse and despair are always short lived and are expertly balanced with scenes of happiness, personal growth and friendship. Take time out of your daily grind and hunt down Waitress. You’ll become a better person for doing so.