This Page

has been moved to new address

Wide White

Sorry for inconvenience...

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
Wide White: April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Forgive me for my lack of sympathy

I feel bad for people who have lost jobs and can't afford their modest living. But there are a few examples in this story that bring no tears to my eyes.
Americans unload prized belongings to make ends meet
Struggling with mounting debt and rising prices, faced with the toughest economic times since the early 1990s, Americans are selling prized possessions online and at flea markets at alarming rates.
"This is not about downsizing. It's about needing gas money," said Nancy Baughman, founder of eBizAuctions, an online auction service she runs out of her garage in Raleigh, N.C. One former affluent customer is now unemployed and had to unload Hermes leather jackets and Versace jeans and silk shirts.
Wait a minute, this isn't about downsizing, but a "former affluent customer" has to unload Hermes jackets and Versace jeans? And we're supposed to feel bad?

I feel worse for this woman.
In Daleville, Ala., Ellona Bateman-Lee has turned to eBay and flea markets to empty her three-bedroom mobile home of DVDs, VCRs, stereos and televisions.

She said she needs the cash to help pay for soaring food and utility bills and mounting health care expenses since her husband, Bob, suffered an electric shock on the job as a dump truck driver in 2006 and is now disabled.
However, you still have to admit that if our society valued OWNING things rather than using credit for everything, even losing a job wouldn't always have the same impact that it does (unless it puts you below the ability to pay rent, utilities, etc.). In other words (without knowing the entire background of this person), if the money that went to the "DVDs, VCRs, stereos and televisions" (notice that all of those words are plural) went towards paying down debt instead, is it possible she'd be in a better situation? I would sure think so.

Here's another example that I just can't sympathize with.
Christine Hadley, a 53-year-old registered nurse from Reading, Pa., says she used to be "a clotheshorse," splurging on pricey Dooney & Bourke handbags. But her live-in boyfriend left last year, and she has had trouble finding a job.

Piles of unpaid bills forced her to sell more than 80 items, including the handbags, which went for more than $1,000 on a site called Now, except for some artwork and threadbare furniture, her house is looking sparse.

"I need the money for essentials — to pay my bills and to eat," Hadley said.
I'm not even going to comment on that one.

I have friends who have lost jobs or have been looking for jobs for a while. It's no fun. But those who are weathering the storm well are the ones who didn't bury themselves in debt. It's a way of living more Americans should adopt.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I still like the Tar Heels

...but this is unfortunate...
Play of the Day: Obama shoots hoops with Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - For all his basketball skills, Barack Obama was out of his league.

The Democratic presidential candidate played hoops with the University of North Carolina team on Tuesday, a Final Four squad that cut the 46-year-old some slack.
...The Illinois senator is a workout enthusiast, and basketball is his chosen game. He decided to open his day with the Tar Heels, including star Tyler Hansbrough, a 6-foot-9 All-American who spent part of his morning guarding Obama.
Is that their punishment for losing the Final Four?

I wonder how much college players really enjoy the public grandstanding that comes with a leading presidential candidate coming to shoot hoops.

I have to say I'd rather play with Barack than with Hillary or McCain. Can you imagine what either alternative would look like?

Monday, April 28, 2008

MN joins WI in teen driving restrictions

Wisconsin's laws took effect the year I began driving. Sure, it's a pain to deal with, but it lasts less than a year and with the distractions that exist in driving (many of which aren't recognized or acknowledged as existing by teens), I this is great and I hope it passes.
Minnesota Senate OKs restrictions on teen drivers

To reduce teen traffic deaths, the Minnesota Senate today joined a drive to restrict the times teens can drive and the number of passengers they can ferry.
The Senate gave preliminary approval to legislation that would bar teen drivers from getting behind the wheel between midnight and 5 a.m. during the first six months they have their licenses, except to go to work or school or when accompanied by an adult driver. They also couldn't give rides to more than one teenage passenger who is not a sibling.

For the next six months, they couldn't transport more than three teenagers who are not family members.

The bill appears likely to become law. The House passed similar legislation last week, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty supports it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

As the gas prices go... goes mass transit ridership.
1st-quarter Metro Transit use is up 7.2%

Riders boarded Metro Transit buses and trains 19.2 million times in the first three months of the year, the highest January-March total for the Twin Cities system since 1984, transit officials reported Wednesday.

The total for the first quarter of the year is also an increase of 7.2 percent, or 1.3 million rides, over last year.

Light rail fueled the increased ridership rate, with a one-year jump in the quarter of 16.4 percent (2.1 million rides). It's the first time light-rail ridership has topped 2 million.

In 2007, Metro Transit had its highest annual ridership in 25 years, with more than 77 million rides.
Those are some pretty impressive numbers. I take the bus to and from work every day. When I need to get to a baseball game in St. Paul (I work in Minneapolis), I take a bus, and it's rare that those buses aren't full.

I hope more people in metropolitan areas pick up on the trend.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An utter lack of legislative insight

My state senator, John Doll, recently published an article giving all of the reasons that we should be happy to be paying taxes and about how much they impact the common good and how all of us are contributing to our greater well-being.

He's right on some of these points. Taxes are necessary.

However, he is grossly misleading with this paragraph:
I also hear that if we don’t cut taxes, businesses will flee the state. Yet, did you know that Minnesota has more Fortune 500 companies per capita headquartered here than any other state in the union? Good businesses thrive in Minnesota due to the quality of our human capital, our educated workforce. Thank your public school system for decades of economic prosperity in our state. Once again our tax dollars are helping build a better Minnesota.
What taxes is he talking about? "Taxes" means a whole lot of things, and lately, if we aren't currently being taxed on it our legislators are trying to find a way to tax us.

The fact that we have Fortune 500 companies has little - if anything - to do with our taxes. In fact, high taxes are a huge reason that many companies flee from one state to another (or in some cases, go overseas). To indicate that our high tax rate is the direct reason for our educational opportunities, which in turn is why we have such great companies in the Twin Cities, is extremely misleading and deceptive.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Correcting the county

I recently posted on my meeting with our county tax assessor to figure out why they had our house assessed at about $25,000 over what we paid for it.

I got a call from the assessor today. They dropped their assessment by around $20,000. Since closing costs were wrapped into our loan, it's now assessed at less than what our loan was for (though around $4,600 more than what we technically paid for the house itself).

I'm happy. The market may be depressed, but we did get a good deal.

Lesson learned: if you think the government is wrong, you're probably right, and if you call them out on it, chances are you just might win. After all, it may be the government, but it is run by real people...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cut the cable

After flirting with the idea of canceling cable TV for a while, we finally did it this week. We just didn't watch enough of it to make it worth it. ESPN and HGTV - in all of their due glory - just don't warrant the $50 a month.

While we didn't watch a lot of TV in the first place, it's interesting to see what taking away the OPTION of watching TV does with your time prioritization. I like it.

Next time there's a good game on ESPN, you'll likely find me at Buffalo Wild Wings with a few friends rather than alone in my basement. Not only is it cheaper, but I think that's a much better use of that time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A tax increase I can support

Tax increases are rarely good, but here's one I support.
A long-running argument over whether Lakeville and Farmington residents should pay more in property taxes for park-and-ride lots — like those in neighboring cities — is again inching its way through the Minnesota Legislature.

The measure would force the two cities, among others, to join the metropolitan transit taxing district.

The push to include Lakeville and Farmington began after the cities' riders started crowding park-and-ride facilities in other communities to use the bus service. South metro cities currently taxed in the district include Burnsville, Eagan, Apple Valley, Rosemount and Savage.

"It's time to do the right thing, which is to expand that district," said Sen. John Doll, DFL-Burnsville, the bill's chief author along with Rep. Shelley Madore, DFL-Apple Valley.
I don't often find myself agreeing with my state senator, but I do on this one.

Why? Because they're using services that we're paying for.

A license plate survey conducted two years ago by the transit authority found that out of 635 vehicles parked in the Apple Valley station and on the street, 41 percent belonged to residents in the taxing district and 59 percent belonged to those outside the district.

About 74 percent of those riders came from Lakeville and Farmington.
So, 44% of all riders using Apple Valley's park and ride (not to mention Burnsville's) are from Lakeville or Farmington, but somehow they shouldn't have to pay the taxes we're paying to support it?

Opponents of this have a good argument.
"You will never be able to push that [tax district] line far enough to capture everyone that is riding on the bus," Mielke said. Along with Lakeville riders, he said, commuters from cities such as Owatonna and Northfield also crowd the park-and-rides.
But come on, when close to half of all riders are coming from your cities, it's time to contribute. We can have a separate argument about whether this taxing district should exist in the first place, but it does exist and if it's going to exist, then those districts with the most residents using it should contribute.

That includes you too, Lakeville and Farmington.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

McCain a conservative?

Not quite a full-blown conservative, but this story supports what I'd said back when the primary was still tight. John McCain isn't as far off from the conservative base as many of us make him out to be.
McCain more conservative than his image

WASHINGTON - The independent label sticks to John McCain because he antagonizes fellow Republicans and likes to work with Democrats.

But a different label applies to his actual record: conservative.

The likely Republican presidential nominee is much more conservative than voters appear to realize. McCain leans to the right on issue after issue, not just on the Iraq war but also on abortion, gay rights, gun control and other issues that matter to his party's social conservatives.
The article goes on to cite examples of his conservatism, but notes his appeal to the middle as well.

In a national Pew survey earlier this year, voters placed McCain in the middle, where they placed themselves, when asked to judge the ideology of Bush and the presidential candidates. They placed Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama far to the left.

And voters who back Clinton and Obama are open to McCain.

Nearly a third of Clinton supporters said they would back McCain if Obama becomes the Democratic nominee, and more than a quarter of Obama supporters said they would back McCain over Clinton, according to Associated Press-Ipsos polling released Thursday.
While he has some solid conservative credentials, I'm the first to admit he has his leftist streaks. But that's McCain. It comes with the territory.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Why the light blogging?

Work has been crazy, so I haven't had time to post there (I'm still here...). By the time I get home, I'd rather just hang out with my wife than feed the internet with more regurgitated information.

You might hear from me this weekend when I'm not working from home. Or I just might keep hanging out with my wife...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Players of the week

Most of you probably don't care. But one or two of you might. And I do, and it's my blog, so I'm posting it.

Bo, you'd better be reading.

Xavier Nady is on my fantasy baseball team. He was last week's National League Player of the Week.

A.J. Pierzynski is on my fantasy baseball team. He was last week's American League Player of the Week.

First place by 10 points in my league. Hey, fantasy baseball is a marathon and we've only run a mile, but it's always good to be doing well early!

Monday, April 07, 2008

China gets torched

It's rare that I'm on the same page as rioting French protesters. Granted, I'm more concerned with China's dismal human rights record overall than I am their position on Tibet. But still, it's good to see the international embarrassment this is bringing China.
Officials put out Olympic torch 3 times

PARIS - Security officials extinguished the Olympic torch three times Monday as protests against China's human rights record turned a relay through Paris into a chaotic series of stops and starts.

Despite massive security, at least two activists got within almost an arm's length of the flame before they were grabbed by police. Officers tackled many protesters and carried off some of them. A protester threw water at the torch but failed to extinguish it and was also taken away.
Some 3,000 officers were deployed on motorcycles, in jogging gear and using inline roller skates. Still, police barely stopped the second rush at the torch, and the attempt to extinguish it with water. Other demonstrators scaled the Eiffel Tower and hung a banner depicting the Olympic rings as handcuffs.
The propaganda coming from Chinese authorities is laughable.
"The act of defiance from this small group of people is not popular," said Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organizing committee. "It will definitely be criticized by people who love peace and adore the Olympic spirit. Their attempt is doomed to failure."
Doomed to failure? Who says that anymore? And I think it takes more than a "small group of people" to get past 3,000 officers!

The protesters have been effective in canceling torch relays.
Olympic torch relay cancelled amid protests

PARIS (Reuters) - A relay of the Olympic torch through Paris was cancelled on Monday and the flame was put on a bus at the request of Chinese officials after pro-Tibetan protesters repeatedly snarled its progress, police said.

The Chinese authorities organizing the five-hour passage of the torch decided to give up the road relay after human rights demonstrations in front of parliament and opted instead to speed the flame through the streets on a bus.

Shortly before, the Chinese cancelled a planned reception for the torch at Paris city hall at the last minute after a banner supporting human rights was hung from the facade of the building, mayor Bernard Delanoe told reporters.

"The Chinese officials decided they would not stop here because they were put out by Parisian citizens expressing their support for human rights. It is their responsibility," he said.
If the French can do anything, they can protest!

San Francisco seems to have had a protesting bug for a number of years as well. I can't wait to see what happens when the torch lands there...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I agree with Nancy Pelosi...

...sort of.

She's calling on Bush to possibly boycott the opening ceremonies of the Chinese Olympics.
Pelosi suggests Bush skip Olympic opener

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that President Bush should consider boycotting the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics following China's crackdown on protesters in Tibet.

"I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table," Pelosi, D-Calif., said in an interview taped for airing Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "I think the president might want to rethink this later, depending on what other heads of state do."
While I don't necessarily think we need to wait on other world leaders before making a decision, as she suggests, I think there is strong reason (and not just because of the Tibetan violence of late) to boycott not only the opening ceremonies, but the entire Olympics.
The White House has said Bush would not boycott the Beijing Olympics, which begin Aug. 8, because of the crackdown, arguing that the games are an event that are supposed to be about the athletes, not politics.
"I don't agree with the perception that is out there that the Olympic Games are this great, unifying, human rights-advocating organization. ... It's a sporting event and it should proceed," she [Pelosi] said.
Sorry, but the Olympics are NOT just a sporting event. They're much, much more than that and were intended to be much more than that.

If we're going to look to other world leaders, a few are already stirring.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the first European leader to suggest a boycott of the opening ceremony to protest China's handling of the unrest in Tibet. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is skipping the Olympics.
China's iron fist has only been squeezing harder and tighter since they won the Olympics. This is the greatest stage in the last 50 years for publicly opposing their horrendous human rights record. While I don't think it will happen, I hope and pray that President Bush stands up for what's right.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I'm angry too

The military rules on accepting gifts are extremely vague and undefined. How many free meals are against the supposed regulations too? This is asinine.

(You can watch the excellent story at CNN here.)
Marine Faces Disciplinary Action For Accepting Gift

HIALEAH, Fla. -- A Hialeah military officer who served 18 years in the United States Marine Corps has been relieved of duty and could face court-martial after receiving a gift from a local businessman.

First Sgt. William Barnes and his wife, Tammie, were guests aboard a luxury yacht last December. South Florida businessman Tom Gonzalez and Local 10's Care Force invited Barnes and three other Marines for an evening to show appreciation for their service.

Gonzalez said he wanted to do something fun for the Marines.

"I think they contribute so much to our country and our freedom and, for us, it feels good," Gonzalez said at the event.

Barnes and the other Marines had no idea that in addition to being guests on a $35 million yacht, the Allure owner had even more plans in store for them.

After a gourmet dinner and dancing under the stars, Gonzalez and his wife, Kimberly, invited the Marines to the main deck for one more surprise.

Gonzalez told them to reach in a bag and pick a prize. Barnes reached in and pulled out several $100 bills, which ended up totaling a $10,000 prize.

Barnes and his wife used the money to pay off some bills and to cover the funeral costs for Barnes' father, who died last year.

But no one told Barnes that taking the money was against policy. A few weeks ago, he learned he was under investigation for violating policy on the acceptance of gifts. He was relieved of duty Wednesday, pending the outcome of the investigation.

The Marine Corps has policies on gift giving, and the rules vary depending on a Marine's rank and assignment, but Barnes said he wasn't aware that accepting the gift was illegal.

"For 18 years he has an outstanding record," Tammy Barnes told Local 10. "He's never done anything wrong. Had he known that it was wrong, he would never have taken it."

Gonzalez said he notified the Marine Corps in advance about the gift the Marines were going to receive.

"It was my company who actually gave up their bonuses to actually donate the money, so it wasn't me as an individual," Gonzalez told Local 10. "It was the company that did it."

Barnes has served three tours of duty in Iraq and received a bronze star. His wife said she couldn't believe it's now all on the line.

"I'm very angry," Tammy Barnes said. "I'm very angry."

Gonzalez said he thought it was the right thing to do.

"I think it's just a tragedy," Gonzalez said. "I think that what they've gone through is enough. I'm outraged."