Monday, July 30, 2007

The End of the Harry Potter Series?

(My apologies, in advance, to those of you who don't give a rat's behind about the Harry Potter series).

I finished reading the final Harry Potter book last week. I highly recommend it, but anyone who is interested enough to hear me highly recommend it has probably already bought and read through it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows shows an improvement in the author's writing skills (which were woefully absent in the early books). However, one mistake is very apparent. While her young heroes go into hiding, she takes an interminably long time detailing it, boring the reader with small details which don't add to the plot, and taking up a vast number of pages to do it in. It's almost as if she felt that she needed to add a great number of pages in attempt to make the reader feel as if he's getting his money's worth.

Other than the rather dull middle, most of the book is an interesting read. When Rowling does crank it up, she can create an interesting environment worth reading about. And this particular book nicely ties up most of the loose ends. I guessed part of the outcome, and was pleasantly surprised by some things, too.

The ending is rather mundane, and is apparently Rowling's attempt to keep anyone from creating sequels involving a young Harry and his friends, but it leaves it wide open for so many spin-offs that I'm almost wondering if this is the point where Rowling will sit back on her laurels and allow ghost writers to take over.

Since the movies are two books behind, we have plenty of time to see what Hollywood and her publishers will cook up next. However, this brings me to a second point: Daniel Radcliff, the actor who's been playing Harry Potter, is really getting too old to continue to play him believably. The same can be said for the other actors who play his sidekicks. What will happen to the movies? Will new actors be chosen or are these actors so identifiable that we will have to suffer through the final two Harry Potters, watching adults pretend to be children?

And what will replace Harry Potter?

There is another magical children's book series by C.S. Lewis. The movie Narnia, which came out a couple of years ago, was an excellent summation of his first book. Perhaps it's time to dust off the other books and create a quality sequel.

Or how about the Oz series? There are oodles of books in that series, and plenty of room to create wonderful, magical worlds. One movie that was largely ignored was Return to Oz (1985). It's a pity that there weren't more movies to follow. Perhaps what killed that particular movie was the implication that Dorothy was insane and was being given shock treatments. I have to admit, it had a rather deadening effect on those of us who love fantasy.

Then there's the original Wizard of Earth series by Ursula Le Guin (Rowling came close to plagiarizing from her, and this was most apparently her source of inspiration). Le Guin did it better than Rowling, and won all sorts of awards and acclaim as a result of her efforts. I would dearly love to see such quality writing transformed onto the Big Screen. However, that would take Le Guin's agreement, and possibly she is careful about sharing such responsibility with others.

There are also other aspiring writers who are attempting to compete with the Harry Potter series. A relatively new Potter wannabe is Charlie Bone. Perhaps there's room for Charlie now that Harry has retired. The Lemony Snicket series seems to be rather prolific, as well.

One thing's for sure: Hollywood is always looking for new kid-themed material. I just hope they don't make us suffer with another version of the Care-Bears.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

At Last

Today is a Saturday that I have all to myself. No garage sales, nowhere to go, nothing to do, no obligations whatsoever!

...and I'm sick.

The universe has conspired against me to create a vast injustice.

After a shot of cold medicine, I am returning to bed. However, I hope that YOU guys will have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are and whatever you're doing.

Happy Weekend!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Geico's Cavemen to Debut in TV Show

In an either brilliant or idiotic move (only time will tell), Geico has decided to turn their cavemen's appeal into big bucks on the TV screen.

Some reporters are getting their jollies tearing it apart before it's even debuted. One reporter remarked snidely that it was ironic that a bunch of white men are trying to write a TV show about discrimination and questioned their ability to do so since they may have never encountered it themselves.

It makes you wonder how they made the movie Alien. Perhaps there's more to Ridley Scott than we know.

I am SO very tired of hearing that we can't identify with persecution or racism. Stop the printing presses everyone! Let's remove every book written in the female perspective by a male author. If he hasn't menstruated, he can't possibly understand the female psyche!


I despise reverse discrimination as much as I despise discrimination itself. I don't want to hear one more self-serving whiny moron complain that you can only understand "it" if you've lived "it". That destroys the years of hard work, genuine ethics, and any intelligence that people have displayed when they rise above themselves to help others.

As for the Geico Cavemen show, I think it will rise or fall on it's own merits although I have a hard time believing there's that much material out there.

I prefer to think of the cavemen leading rather ordinary lives, with occasional disruptions that are showcased in the Geico commercials. I would like a little left to my own imagination, please. What I'm afraid of is that they will be reduced to something less brilliantly ironic than they currently are.

Just as Geico already destroyed their gecko by giving him a cockney accent, they are in jeapordy of destroying another brilliantly conceived marketing ploy. Sometimes too much of a thing is not a good thing. I suspect this is one of those instances.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Time to Move to Mexico

Click here for some helpful tips on moving to Mexico (a special "thank you" to Bryan for pointing me there).

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sex Abuser Ordered to Live With Victims

I want to say "Only in Florida." I want to, perhaps in the hopes that it's true. I certainly would hate to find that such miscarriages of justice and parenting couldn't exist in other parts of the country. However, I suspect that this is not the case, and what has happened in the Tampa Bay Area could and does happen elsewhere, too.

Recently, a 13 year old boy who sexually molested his 4 and 7-year-old brothers has been court-ordered to return home. As the St. Pete Times article stated:

When she balked, the mother said, protective investigators threatened to charge her with child abandonment if she didn't let him return.

Now her husband sleeps with the two younger children on a pallet of blankets in the living room to guard them at night.

How have we, as a society, come to THIS?

Now, I hasten to add that his mother is no angel. Both she and her ex-husband have abused and allowed abuse repeatedly in their home, as records show. As my grandmother always said, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Children are almost always a direct reflection of parenting.

However, we now have the opportunity to take the monster out of the home, or create even more victims. Why would we choose to put him back in that home?

The article also tells us that agencies are scrambling to find alternatives to get him out of there just as fast as he's been put back in. However, this should never have happened. There should have been an alternative from the beginning: No sane judge should have made such a ruling, and no well-structured, responsible society should tolerate it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Interesting, Breaking Stories

By now you may have heard that the 6 medics have been freed from Libya due to an "arrangement" made between Libay and the EU, which includes rebuilding a hospital for Libya. The medics now say that they were forced to confess due to torture, which had been suspected all along. The EU is sending the message that they WILL negotiate with terrorists.

The Bush administration is instructing Harriet Meiers to defy Congress and refuse to testify in upcoming hearings. Congress is threatening to take that to court, but the Bush administration remains unfazed, announcing that they will instruct the Attorney General to disregard Congress on this matter.

Some people are incensed about this, but others (including the Clintons' former legal counsel) reluctantly admit that Bush is completely in the right. For an excellent story on this, go to Salon's article on the pros and cons of this brouhaha. For the record, it makes me very uneasy to see this continued interpretation of the Presidency which places the President above all the other branches of government.

New York State has an interesting and terrible scandal at this moment. Democratic Gov. Spitzer's aides conspired with the state police to gather evidence in an attempt to destroy a Republican politician. Spitzer is now doing damage control.

But, does any of this really surprise us? No matter what party these politicians are from, the majority of them appear to be either corrupt or corruptible. As for police, the same statement may apply. That isn't to say that all police or politicians fall under that category, but temptations abound when you are in absolute power and have the capacity to wield it. It takes a strong and stellar individual to rise above such behavior, and there aren't many of those.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter

This was Harry Potter weekend for many of us. We went to see the newest Harry Potter movie, and I have to say that I think it was very good. The screen writers obviously took a very lonnnnng book and did their best to compile it in a short timespan of only a couple of hours. Given their limitations, they performed admirably.

Three of my favorite actors, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, and Emma Thompson, made a repeat performance but sadly none of them were given as much screen time as they should have been accorded. The newest addition to the ever-changing cast is Imelda Staunton, who also proves herself to be an adept actress. Bless her heart, she has taken on a formidable task and has now made enemies of every Harry Potter fan out there. However, she plays the character so beautifully, it is still a treat to watch.

Of course the latest (and supposedly last) book in the series came out this week, too. I have my copy and I'm faithfully tackling it, in between all the adult duties I must undertake. I wish I were simply a child out of school on summer break so that I could read it through in one sitting. And, ultimately, that is what Harry Potter is all about for those of us who are adults: We are recapturing our childhood throughout this wonderful series.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Garage Sale

I'm out in the muggy heat, battling mosquitoes and dealing with dumbasses for a measely 5 cents per item. See you guys later!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Florida's Car Insurance Crisis

On October 1st, Florida's requirement that all car drivers carry PIP (Personal Injury Protection) will expire. If that is allowed to happen, due to the way that Florida law is structured, NO driver will be required to own car insurance.

This will place us with only 2 other states who also don't require car insurance. However, we're not a little ma-and-pa state any more: We have the 3rd largest population of millionaires in the entire USA (most of them are on the east coast of Florida, which is opposite to the Tampa Bay Area).

We also have plenty of people who will quickly become uninsured motorists within a short amount of time. Currently, it is estimated that a full 1/3 of our population will abandon car insurance within 12-18 months after the requirements are dropped. (Many won't drop their insurance immediately because they won't realize that it's an option).

What does this mean?

Let's think this through logically: If 1/3 of the population won't have car insurance, how will this affect the remaining 2/3 that do?

1. Whenever an unisured motorist is involved in an accident, both parties will end up in court. The court system will be overwhelmed with accident claims, because there will no longer be insurance companies to work it out for us.

2. In order to protect themselves, the remaining 2/3 who own car insurance will now have to add an additional policy rider for uninsured motorists, thus raising their rates considerably.

3. Car insurance companies will be casting about for ways to save their profits. It will only make sense for them to raise the rates on the remaining 2/3 in order to make up for their loss of the 1/3. This will put an increasingly large financial burden on the majority of the drivers.

4. Uninsured motorists will not be required to have a certain amount of money tucked away if they drive without insurance. That means that when (not if) a poor, uninsured motorist causes a terrible accident, he will not be able to pay for the medical bills and damage to the other car. Who will pay? Well, you can't get blood out of a stone, as my mother always says. So, the victim will have to either attempt to get money from her own car or health insurance company. The problem is that her insurance companies may refuse to pay under such circumstances or they'll pay and her rates will skyrocket as a result of it!

Currently, Florida's Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Alex Sink is begging the Governor and legislature to put a temporary halt on everything for two years, until they have time to educate themselves on the ramifications of this. Many insurance groups are doing the same, which may be self-serving but is still, in actuality, correct because it will affect us all. Terribly.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My Mosquito-Ridden Life

I just won a big argument on Ebay. Someone had stolen a couple of the pictures I'd taken (I do take excellent pics worthy of being stolen). I had a fit, contacted Ebay, and demanded that they be taken down. They agreed, and the pics were removed. I gather this happens all the time, so it's really not worthy of notice except to seque into the topic of mosquitoes in Florida.

I am outdoors often. Although I usually work from home, there are reasons to be out and about. For one thing, I am always taking those pictures that I mentioned. To take a really GREAT picture (not merely a good one), you need full-blown, high wattage sunlight.

So in the summer, the dedicated outdoor photographer has runnels of sweat cascading down her back and pooling in her bra, back cramps from bending over, and mosquito bites. Lots of them.

No matter how much insect repellant you've sprayed on yourself, or how many times you repeat it, some mosquitoes have apparently built up an immunity. These b*tches (the only mosquitoes that bite are female) seem to feel that it's worth biting you anyway, poison-be-damned. I can only hope that their offspring mutates in an undesirable way, but it's more likely that they're building up a tolerance and passing that on to the next generation.

Even worse, any trips in or outside will bring at least one mosquito indoors. They are prolific breeders, and this is the time of year when they're swarming. They swarm more than paparrazzi, and are more annoying than those horrid Las Vegas radio commercials that make you want to turn your engine off and use your keys to gouge your eardrums out. (What, they don't make you want to do that? Then I'm betting that you haven't heard Tanya Roberts' grating and patronizing tones).

This is why it's truly funny to see an article today giving us advice on how to minimize mosquito bites.

One suggestion is to wear light-colored clothing. Puhleeze! We've all tried that. This is supposed to alert you when there is a mosquito landing on you so that you have time enough to swat her. The problem is that the moment that you are out the door, you are set upon by so many mosquitos that you could potentially be carried off, as the little flying monkeys carried Dorothy off to visit with the Wicked Witch of the West.

Another suggestion mentions that we should use repellant that contains DEET. My mosquitoes aren't phased by DEET. They drink it as a shot, followed by a chaser of blood. In fact, I rather suspect they'd be sorely disappointed if I were missing the delightful tang of DEET.

I'll certainly agree that standing water needs to be eliminated, but what do we do when we have moronic neighbors who don't do it? I admit I've been tempted to lob bug bombs over the fence, but it certainly won't help neighborly relations, will it?

What happened to those good old-fashioned mosquito trucks that would silently travel through town in the middle of the night, spraying toxic fumes into the air? Is this just one more example of something that has died out due to political correctness? Were people complaining that it wasn't healthy? I'll tell you what isn't healthy: Mosquitoes. And right now, there are no good solutions to the problem.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Kibbles n' Bits

Brit Buys Pup

Today's title is in honor of Britney Spears, who recently walked into a pet store and plunked down $3K for a puppy. Some society representing pound dogs is having a fit, saying that pound dogs are every bit as good as any other dog. Well, no: They aren't. I own a purebred poodle and a malti-poo and I can actually breathe because I spent the extra money to get dogs I'm not allergic to. Yorkies are also hypoallergenic. So, although I'm not a Britney fan, I see this as a shameless publicity ploy on the part of [insert society name here].


Currently there is a Democratic attempt to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or Schip. Schip is a program that provides health insurance to children from families that are poor, but not so poor that they qualify for Medicaid. Republicans are scrambling to see if they can beat the Dems at their own game by devising their OWN version.

Although the Wall Street Journal calls this "stealthy, slow-motion socialism", I beg to differ. We became a socialistic nation many years ago, beginning with Roosevelt's New Deal.

This reminds me of the old joke from my grandparents' time: A wealthy man met a lovely young girl of loose morals during an elegant dinner party. She flirted with him wildly, encouraging his attentions, until he was emboldened enough to ask her if she'd sleep with him for a million dollars. She grinned and said that for such a sum of money, perhaps something could be arranged.

"Well then," asked the man, "Would you sleep with me for a dollar?"

The girl gasped. "What kind of a girl do you think I AM?" she demanded.

"We've already established THAT," replied her suitor. "NOW we're just haggling on the price."

The United States already IS a socialist nation. We're just trying to figure out how far we want to go.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Largo Commissioners Handing Citizens Tax Money Over to Private Corporations

As I wrote before, Florida is famous for it's Corporate Welfare. Once again, in a small story hidden in a local Tampa Bay area mullet wrapper, we are informed that:

Secretive Telemarketing Firm Seeking Tax Refunds

The (Largo) city commission has proposed a $90,000 tax refund over the next six years for an unidentified firm that has promised to create 300 new jobs in the city paying more than 115 percent of the average income of Pinellas County residents.

City Community Development Director Michael Staffopoulos said Pinellas County would match that sum, giving the new company $180,000 in refunds.

The city planner said the company is exempt from state public records laws to protect business secrets from their competition.

How do you like THAT sweetheart of a deal? And there's no way the local citizens can even find out the name of this company in order to keep them accountable. What sort of assurances are being made? And what happens if or when the company DOESN'T come through with their promise? No one is saying.


Why is it that this company and the Largo commissioners can't keep their hands out of the citizen's pockets? And aren't the citizens entitled to know where their hard-earned tax dollars are going? Those 300 jobs will hardly benefit everyone, and it's likely that their impact will be almost unnoticeable.

Meanwhile, small businesses that are struggling to make it are picking up the tab for the large businesses that are able to successfully wrangle a deal out of our gullible governments.

Welcome to Florida: Home of the Corporate Welfare State.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


I am beat. I got back into town last night and am so happy to be back. I've been snoozing on and off all morning. I'll write more tomorrow.

However, I find today's article in the St. Pete Times on Paula White to be of great interest. From personal experience which I won't detail, I know that she is a fraud. However, I never thought that this belief would turn out to be widespread. I'm not up on the latest scandals, and am not very familiar with White, since I don't run in the charasmatic circles that follow this sort of a sensationalist preacher/speaker.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Shipwreck Laws Challenged by Spain

One of our local companies is taking on the government of Spain. I'm going to quote excerpts of the article but you can read the original story here.

A Tampa company and the Kingdom of Spain have been duking it out over treasures from a sunken shipwreck for weeks.

Thursday, Spain made a bold move. The country's government boarded and seized one of the company's ships off the coast of Gibraltar. The company insisted the vessel, called the "Ocean Alert," was in international waters, but Spain apparently believed otherwise.

The trouble started with the money -- tubs and tubs of gold and silver coins from the bottom of the ocean.

The Tampa-based company Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. found the booty back in May and scored the richest shipwreck-find ever -- $500 million worth of old money. The company said their submarine robot found the wreck in international waters. Days later, the Kingdom of Spain fought that claim and began filing lawsuits of its own, saying the treasure belonged to the E.U. country.

James Goold, the legal counsel for the Kingdom of Spain, explained in May, "if the ship were carrying property of the Kingdom of Spain that property would remain the property of Spain."

Since then, the debate has been raging.

Interesting, isn't it? Shipwreck / scavenging law has always boiled down to "finders, keepers / losers, weepers." And yet, Spain makes an interesting argument - it was theirs at one time, after all. Still, I doubt if their case will stand. After all, other government ships have gone down and been subsequently pilfered without a peep from their original owners.

If Spain wins this one, every shipwreck discovery will be challenged by survivors, heirs, and distant relatives until our heads swim from it all. Needless to say, all shipwreck discoveries would stop.

I'm also interested in seeing Spain prove that the scavengers had strayed into their waters. Obviously it's in Spain's best interest to try to bully the scavengers into stopping, but they certainly can't violate international law in order to do it or they're no better than Iran.

I'm going out of town for two days on business. I'll resume posting on Sunday, in all probability. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Trip to the Vet's

This morning my mom called to ask for my help in dragging her latest dog (affectionately nicknamed Dogzilla) to the veterinarian's. Dad had a doctor's appointment himself, and couldn't go. Mom was afraid that Dogzilla would overwhelm her, since she's a very muscular dog.

We speculate that Dogzilla is a cross between a scottie and a bulldog. She has the looks of a scottie, but is packed with solid muscle and bone, with wide, gaping jaws and sharp teeth. She's actually a very sweet dog by nature, but mom and dad are older and she is still young and plays hard. Additionally, she hates the vet with a passion.

When we got to the vet's, Dogzilla was intially fine. But when we went into the actual room, she grew nervous. And when the nurse decided to take her temperature, Dogzilla went into action. It took three of us to try to hold her down, she was howling as if she were being tortured... and the nurse hadn't even begun to insert the thermometer.

By the time it was over, Dogzilla was muzzled, the nurse decided to forget about the stool sample and temperature, and after tremendous struggle and plaintive howling, blood was drawn and two injections were given.

As we were getting ready to leave, my mom asked "If this is how bad it is at the vet's, how will we ever get her groomed?" I turned to the vet and asked that he provide some tranquilizers to get Dogzilla through such an ordeal. He agreed to write up a prescription right away, as he wiped the sweat off his brow. I told mom that I was taking Dogzilla outside while she paid the bill.

While we waited, I told myself to make sure mom didn't leave without those precious tranquilizers, since Dogzilla is due to be groomed this week. When mom finally walked up to us, I asked "Did you get the tranquilizers?"

"Yes," said mom. "And he gave me some for Dogzilla, too."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pope Declares Catholicism is "IT"

The press is apparently shocked to hear that the Pope thinks that Catholicism is the only true church and no one else is entitled to call themselves much of anything. Well of course he does! How silly for this to even make news: It's the same stance the Popes have had since they broke off from mainstream Christianity to start their own sect in the first couple hundred years A.D.

Before we go further, let's do a quick synopsis of the history of early Christianity:

Many different Christian sects and beliefs developed between 30 - 300 A.D. But by 313 A.D. the Roman Catholic church was formed due to the new Roman Emperor Constantine, who declared that everyone HAD to become Christian.

Constantine then sent out an invitation to all Christian leaders to come forward and become a part of this vast network. The ones who stepped forward were absorbed into a new conglomerate: The Roman Catholic Church. Those who refused, continued to practice their Christian beliefs outside of this new organization. (Incidentally, the Greek Orthodox Church was a schism of the RC Church, which happened in the first couple hundred years of the initial incorporation).

The Roman Catholic Church became the dominant church, in part due to clever alignment with those in power and the willingness to torture and kill any who disagreed with their interpretation of the Bible.

Although they no longer torture or kill those who disagree, the Popes could hardly say that all religions are the same. That's like the head of Burger King saying "All fast food restaurants are the same. Heck, if there's a McDonald's closer to you, try what THEY have!" After all, the RC Church wants your money just as Burger King does. It's hardly good business to send anyone to the competition.

Some may ask: If the Pope is saying that no other religions can call themselves a "church", what does he mean? In the Bible, the church is defined as the Christian believers that are going to heaven. So, the Pope is saying "if you're not a Roman Catholic, you're going to hell." Give it to this latest Pope: At least he's staying consistent.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My Life / Your Life

Isn't it funny how easy it is to conceal all the problems that are going on in our own lives? I can focus on just a small portion of what interests me, write about it, and readers assume that all is well. I don't mention the hectic days, sleepless nights, and juggling of different tasks and responsibilities.

I know of a brilliant blogger who always writes strong, in-your-face commentaries. I was recently very surprised to see her reveal that she is going through some serious personal distress. It's appallingly easy it is to put up a front without our even intending to.

That's why I was shocked to get an email yesterday that was grossly unfair.

About a year ago, I had been asked to have breakfast with an older couple and give them advice on website design. My son had been invited, too. When we sat down and discussed their situation, we gave them some pointers and ideas.

During the meeting, they asked us to create the site for them. I hemmed and hawed, and pointed out that I had two businesses (I now have three) and that we would look it over and give them some recommendations but couldn't guarantee anything else.

After the meeting, we sent them a couple more emails with observations on their current site and the recommendation to find another design company. We realized if we tackled the chore, we'd be in over our heads: My son is with me only part of the time, and when we're together we want to be able to make time to play together (we get so little of that!). After all, he's very busy too, since he's prepping for college next year.

Time went by and we never heard from them again. We figured they were as busy as WE were, and after a while we forgot about them entirely. During that time, one of my best friends found out that she has bone cancer and has been given two years to live, another friend struggled with drug addiction, another friend went into deep depression and threatened suicide, another friend had a messy divorce, another friend found out her husband was molesting her daughter, my father had health problems, I got very involved in some charity work, and life churned on even busier than before.

Recently my son landed a fantastic job as a writer (he will be getting paid a significant amount for his articles) and I sent out an email to some family and friends to announce it.

The email I got back from the couple floored me. It was written by the wife, who was very bitter. Perhaps she was always that way, I wouldn't know: I'd only met her that one time. She accused us both of being selfish (since we wouldn't tackle the website, I assume) and whined about how my son never acknowleged a small gift they'd given him at the time (in actuality, he wrote them a thank you email). She was unnecessarily very vicious in her attack.

Needless to say, I was floored! She doesn't know us and didn't care enough to ask US what was going on - she preferred to make assumptions. Her husband had recently been through heart surgery, and she was merely lashing out at people that she thought (or hoped) were more privileged and thus deserving of a good whipping.

I can only give her sympathy to a certain point. I know many good men and women who face adversity in their lives and continue to plod on, treating others with respect and doing the right thing even when it's difficult. I am one of them. Apparently, she chooses a different path.

What was most striking to me was how little she knows me. And, how little we all know each other.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The L.A. Mayorial Sex Scandal

The Los Angeles Mayor is in hot water. Antonio Villaraigosa is breaking up with his wife, whom he has left for a sleezy reporter. Ironically, this reporter broke the story on Villaraigosa's breakup before it was revealed that she was the cause of it. She is now on paid leave.

This story has been going on for a couple of days and I've been watching it in interest, because while at one time the press would ignore such behavior, the story has been fueled by a prominent blogger there. Additionally, the classically liberal press is bemoaning the fact that such behavior is being covered.

As the L.A. Times writes, "Villaraigosa's personal connection with Salinas is a private issue that legitimately concerns only the two of them and their families. No one else has a moral or rhetorical right to an opinion on that aspect of their conduct. However, the fact that Salinas continued to report on the mayor while they were involved in this fashion is a public issue."

How nicely they segue an anti-moral stance to a quasi-moral one. Never the less, the problem remains: What gives the press the right to declare that personal misbehavior is off-limits when it comes to public figures?

Personal misbehavior most definately is telling. If someone is willing to treat their loved ones badly, how trustworthy are they? Additionally, people who tend to do wrong things behind closed doors are also people who can be more easily manipulated, either due to their weaker character or because they're vulnerable to blackmail.

To try to seperate serious personal missteps from the person who is making them is to make excuses for someone who doesn't deserve any.

Those of us who work hard on our character, our lives, our relationships, and our business obligations have every right to demand that others do the same. If there is no moral standard, then there is no measure any longer.

As my mother has always said, common sense is not so common. When will the American press begin to grow a backbone and get some common sense once more? Thank goodness for bloggers, who are keeping the press responsible to a certain extent.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Fraudulent Ebay Scam

As some of you do, I sell occasionally on Ebay. I recently ran across what I believe to be a scam, and I thought I'd share it with you.

I sold a pair of brand-new, high dollar Maui Jim sunglasses in perfect condition. They were shipped off to the buyer in another state. A couple days later, I received an email from him. It was a very nasty one, obviously designed to put me "off kilter", probably with the hope that I would want to give in to his demands in order to pacify him.

In the email, the buyer claimed that I had send the glasses scratched, and he demanded to return them immediately and get full payment.

I knew that they'd been in perfect condition! So, what was going on here?!

I suddenly realized that the guy very likely already owned the same pair of Maui Jims, but that they were in poor condition. This was his way of exchanging them AND getting his money back, leaving me high and dry - without glasses OR money.

I escalated the claim immediately with PayPal, asking them to rule. It's been a couple of weeks, and PayPal continues to drag their feet. In the meantime, as is their custom, they've frozen my funds while the dispute continues.

This is an example of why it is impossible to have Ebay or PayPal get involved in seller-buyer disputes. If it can be proven that an item has actually arrived, it can not be up to Ebay or PayPal to rule if it is in acceptable condition. All they can do is insist that a transaction takes place.

I don't know how other auction sites handle such problems, but surely there are better solutions? What have YOUR experiences been?

Friday, July 06, 2007


I'm sorry, but I'm apparently sick with a mild case of the flu. I'll resume posting tomorrow. ;o)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Children Learn in the Home

A recent study has come to the conclusion that no matter how many programs the government throws at children extolling the virtues of healthy living and eating, there is no discernible change in the eating habits of our increasingly fat kids.


Because no matter how much the government, liberals, and our school system would like it to be otherwise; children are still more influenced by their parents and families than anything else.

Obviously, this is not always good. However, it also shows that education needs to begin with adults, and adults are the ones which must be held accountable for their childrens' behavior. This includes eating as well as disciplinary issues.

To some extent, we are all to blame. The American public has lowered its standards. We no longer care to compete with the Jones' next door. We aren't interested in what others think. Instead of having good old-fashioned shame to curb our behaviors, we are defensive: It's our right to "act the fool"!

And what fools there are!

We have kids who are undisciplined in the home, and subsequently ungovernable in the schools. We have kids who eat Twinkies for dinner and sugary cereal for breakfast, so is it any wonder that they eat crap at lunchtime, too?

In August of 2006, I reported on our local school system's Cupcake Controversy. Once it was declared that schools could no longer serve cakes or cupcakes more than 3 times a year, many parents were up in arms! Why? Because these are the same parents who are overweight and undernourished, and they inflict this abuse on their kids, too. Perhaps they see no wrong in this, but I believe that they do! And in order to justify such lax behavior, they are insistent on seeing it sanctioned in the schools, as well.

Perhaps it shocks you to hear that I believe that such parents know that they are being bad parents, but persist in such behavior anyway. But look into the depths of your own soul and ask yourself about the time that YOU did something wrong, knew it was wrong, and were willing to go to the mat to defend it so that you wouldn't have to directly face it yourself. If you're honest with yourself, you'll admit to such a time. I know that I've had to!

The truth is that there are parents who are behaving badly. They are not enforcing discipline in their homes. They have subrogated their duties to the schools and the community. Their kids grow up to be badly behaved and/or, in increasing amounts, obese as well.

How do we stop a parent from behaving badly? By forcing them to, whenever possible. That means fines if their children are playing hooky or behaving badly. But how do we tackle obesity?

We have become a nation that is so bent on being politically correct that we make more mistakes than ever before. The illegal immigrant problem could be solved by enforcing the laws, but those of us who cry for legal redress are accused of being racist.

We need to keep stronger tabs on the Muslim community: After all, the vast majority of all terrorist attacks come from middle eastern Muslim males. However, when we suggest the logical, we are accused of being prejudiced.

We suggest that parents be held accountable for kids' behaviors: Then we see the crying mom on television who insists that she could have won Mother of the Year and that she doesn't know why little Johnny brought the gun to school and killed three classmates. We don't hear the reporters question her truthfulness! No! Instead we hear them murmur something sympathetic, like "It is CERTAINLY not YOUR fault!" Perhaps investigative and probing journalism is merely a thing of the past.

But WE, as the American public, need to start asking questions again.

Yes, we've all heard that overweight kids need good self-esteem: A recent movie (Hairspray) actually promotes this. However, there are times and situations in which self-esteem should NOT be encouraged.

I know it's politically correct to pretend that fat is as equally acceptable as thin. But if Halle Barry or Nicole Kidman (who could use a sandwich, herself) suddenly put on 200 pounds, do you think they'd be landing all the movie roles that they're landing now? Fat is simply not attractive to most Americans. Nor is it HEALTHY.

I am not insensitive: I'm simply realistic. Many of my friends are fat. But their fat (like the majority of Americans) is due to poor eating habits, not glandular or health problems. So (although I love them dearly) I must be honest here: Their fat is due to poor self-control.

How do we teach our kids such self-control? Obviously, their parents aren't doing it.


Because their parents don't care.

And if WE truly care about these children, we may need to seek more drastic measures in the schools such as weighing them, giving them weight loss goals, and making physical education mandatory once more.

If we don't, who will?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

The 4th of July is a holiday which celebrates our country's independence from the British rule. Although the war lasted a long time, we chose July 4th as a significant date, as this is the day that the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress.

One of the things that inflamed us then was taxation without representation. We felt it was terribly unfair that a distant government was able to impose taxes without our input into the matter.

Sound familiar?

If anyone is rolling in their graves right now, it's our founding fathers, and they're whirling dervishes.

Our country has grown woefully away from the message of the founding fathers, which was basically that government needed to be minimal and relatively weak. Over the years we've evolved into something monstrous and almost Orwellian. It's only a few more steps to Big Brother.

So America parties and celebrates, paying no attention to the man behind the curtain. We have gone from being passionately involved in politics to being distracted from it.

Voter turnout for Presidential elections continues to decline. The educated voter knows know that ultimately the electoral college is really the only force that decides upon our Presidents. After all, the possibility of faithless electors is always present! And the uneducated voter is more worried about voting on American Idol.

I no longer know if American is politically self-aware: We'll know more when the next Presidential election comes. But I'm hopeful that this 4th of July will still be one of many Independence Days, and that we won't forget where we've come from or where we should be headed.

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Presidential Pardons

The President's power to pardon is a guaranteed right under the U.S. Constitution. Many of us wish it weren't so.

Even some of the founding fathers (including Alexander Hamilton) argued against giving the President the power to pardon because it so easily bypasses the justice system. On the other hand, as others argued during the framing of the Constitution, there may be miscarriages of justice, political favors which are in America's best interest, and perhaps certain lackeys or spies that would need to be protected by the President (this argument was made by James Iredell, a contemporary of Alexander Hamilton's).* Certainly Scooter Libby falls under the latter category with President Bush's latest pardon.

It is rare that I agree with President Bush, but I think that he owed this commutation (a watered down version of a pardon) to Scooter Libby. Interestingly, it seems that the vast majority of the editorials out there are in agreement with me.

For those of you whose memory may be a little fuzzy on the matter, let me refresh your memory:

Libby was accused of lying to investigators and obstructing the probe into a leak. There had been a newspaper article written, naming a woman who was married to a small-time ambassador. The point of the article was to discredit the ambassador as unimportant but filled with self-importance: A man who received favors and appointments at the behest of his well-connected wife who worked for the CIA.

When the article hit the newstands, the ambassador and his wife hit the fan. They saw their chance for their 15 minutes of fame, and immediately began to wail that the wife had been "outed" as a spy. When all the facts came out, this claim became ludicrous. The ambassador was fond of introducing his wife at cocktail parties as a CIA operative, and they had never made it a secret before. She was, in fact, merely something clerical: Just a small cog amidst the vast gears, wheels, and pulleys that make up the CIA machine.

Eventually no one got into trouble over "leaking" the already repeatedly "leaked" information. What Scooter Libby did next was the real problem: When the investigation began, Libby stood in the way.

I am in agreement with Timothy Noah of Slate, who writes:

"I don't take lightly the fact that Libby lied to federal prosecutors about his role in unmasking Valerie Plame as a covert CIA employee. The underlying offense probably wasn't illegal... but it was nonetheless disgraceful. Libby understood that, and that's why he committed perjury. His prosecution was appropriate because Bush administration officials need to know that they are not above the law. Libby's trial and conviction, I hope, got that message across to at least some of them.

But Judge Reggie Walton went overboard in sentencing Libby to 30 months. This was about
twice as long as the prison term recommended by the court's probation office, and if Libby hadn't been a high-ranking government official, there's a decent chance he would have gotten off with probation, a stiff fine, and likely disbarment. Walton gave Libby 30 months and a $250,000 fine, then further twisted the knife by denying Libby's routine request to delay the sentence while his lawyers appealed it."

However, it would be wise to recollect Pres. Bush's former pardons. In December 2002, he pardoned numerous small-time criminals (one was accused of tampering with an odometer, another accused of a theft of copper wire, etc.). To justify such pardons, White House spokesman Ken Lesaius stated, "What each case has in common is that each pardon request was from someone who committed a relatively minor offense many years ago. Each has stayed out of any real trouble with the law since then and has gone on to live an exemplary life and become a positive force in their respective communities."

This could hardly be said of Scooter Libby, whose crime is fresh and prominent. On the other hand, Pres. Bush could have pardoned Libby immediately. Instead, he let Libby go through the subsequent trial and sentencing before he pardoned him.

Bush has made similar stands before, both as the Governor of Texas and as President. He seems to believe that a criminal needs to pay in some way, so rather than give Libby an instant pardon (as Ford did for Nixon), he forced him to go through the system first. On the other hand, this seems to be a bit hypocrital, since Libby was attempting to shield both Karl Rove and the Vice President.

But let us not forget the foul series of pardons that Bill Clinton handed out before he stepped down in 1999. These pardons included 16 terrorists from the Puerto Rican group FALN, who were "convicted for conspiracies to commit robbery, bomb-making, and sedition, as well as for firearms and explosives violations." He also pardoned many criminals who had done things far worse and much more evil than the criminals that Pres. Bush has pardoned. And, Clinton additionally pardoned his crony Susan McDougal. Ah yes, there is the parallel: Scooter Libby and Susan McDougal are two peas in a pod.

Ultimately, Pres. Bush has been far more honorable than Bill Clinton was in issuing pardons. However, the real problem is the concept of the Presidential pardon. Assuming that a President is a clean, upstanding, and virtuous politician, we have nothing to worry about.

But, lately we are all coming to believe that such a President is at best an endangered species. At worst, such a President may be extinct.

*There is a very informative article which was written by Daniel T. Kobil who was a Professor of Law at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, when he stood before Congress to testify on the Constitutionality of Presidential pardons in regards to Bill Clinton's highly controversial pardoning of terrorists, among others. To read his statements, go here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Bush Putin

And now for something completely immature.

I took off this weekend on a shopping trip for my business. I roamed down the west coast of Florida, stopping in little towns on the way. Here's a headline I couldn't resist getting a picture of:

If Bush getting caught putin makes big news, imagine what size the headlines will be if he ever pulls a vomit session like his dad did!