rantings


My husband, the Early-Adopter-Apple-enthusiast, has been drooling over an iPhone ever since word spread about its development several years ago. However, we live in a large city in a small state where Verizon rules and AT&T has little or no presence. It didn’t make sense to get an iPhone and never be able to use the “phone” part.

But, with this new 3G iPhone just being released, he simply couldn’t contain himself any longer and reserved two of them for us to pick up when they are released this week. With the buzz increasing around these phones, he started to get e-mails from his company’s informal Mac User’s Group (MUG) – people questioning how others who have previous-gen iPhones like them, the service coverage in these parts, etc. Most of the responses were tepid at best, but this one really woke me up:

I’ve read a few of the many, many emails on the subject over the past few days. My wife’s iPhone started becoming a problem a few weeks ago. AT&T sent her one of the “you’re using roaming for data too often” letter and set her phone to show when it was roaming. Like everyone else it shows that it’s off the AT&T network frequently. In particular, it’s roaming now at our home where it used to be on AT&T’s network. We think that someone else boosted their signal or AT&T’s signal has weakened. That’s what pushed her phone into the excessive roaming world. I called to talk to AT&T a couple of times. They eventually agreed to give her pass for now, but warned if she didn’t start doing more none [sic] roaming they’d send another letter and then disable her roaming capability. They lied. Roaming was turned off a few days ago. Her phone is now useless. She can make a call if she is bound to an AT&T tower, but it will disconnect if the signal from someone else’s tower becomes stronger. That’s happening all over the place. Around Santa Fe. In Albuquerque. In Phoenix. Everywhere she goes. I suppose that it would work if she stood under an AT&T tower. She’s about to get a Blackberry from Verizon (and maybe an iPod Touch for fun.)

I’m sorry. But this is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. First, she pays a monthly fee for service that she doesn’t get from the company she is paying money to. Second, she has no control over when she is roaming or not roaming, but gets punished for (God forbid) using her phone in a location where the company that she is paying money to sucks. Third, she gets her roaming capability turned off, in an area where she is paying money to a company that is providing her with no service. Fourth, they blame her for it all in the form of a form letter and the cancellation of the only thing that was making her iPhone operational in the first place.

Wow. No thanks.

Steve Jobs really blew this one. Creating a very innovative gadget that loads of people could find useful, yet entering into an exclusive agreement with a service provider that does this to its customers. For a company that prides itself on usability, Apple should have thought this one through.

Until the iPhone is available on Verizon, I guess we will have to make do with the Blackberry and Pinkberry he and I (respectively) got this weekend. Ah, Progress. It is a wonderful thing.

Among the many things that bothered me about John McCain’s performance in last night’s debate was this exchange:

I voted for Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg. Not because I agreed with their ideology, but because I thought they were qualified and that elections have consequences when presidents are nominated. This is a very important issue we’re talking about.

Senator Obama voted against Justice Breyer and Justice Roberts on the grounds that they didn’t meet his ideological standards. That’s not the way we should judge these nominees. Elections have consequences. They should be judged on their qualifications. And so that’s what I will do.

I believe McCain was referring to Obama voting against Justice Alito (or was it Harriet Miers), because Obama was not an elected official in 1994 when Justice Breyer was nominated and could not have possibly voted against his appointment to the bench.

McCain has a history of misspeaking when he should be more thoughtful and deliberate (like when he mistakenly referred to Spain as a Latin American country).

He may know what he’s talking about and can’t express it accurately under pressure (a trait many share), but the job of President of the United States is a job rife with pressure.  If he can’t get the simplest facts straight when speaking to an American audience, how can I trust that he will get them right when negotiating with foreign countries or solving big problems?  His habit of speaking erroneously is not a trivial matter.

John McCain said something during last night’s debate that made my ears perk and my blood boil:

MCCAIN: Just again, the example of the eloquence of Senator Obama. He’s health for the mother. You know, that’s been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything.

That’s the extreme pro-abortion position, quote, ‘health.’

Wait a minute.  Did I hear this right?  Concern about the health and safety of a woman is “extremist”?  Since when is that “pro-life”?  Since Senator McCain and the rest of his followers who claim to be pro-life really don’t know the meaning of either “pro” or “life”, let me set them straight.  Real Pro-Lifers are:

  • for protecting the lives of a women, not just the unborn, because women are alive now.
  • against the death penalty, because prisoners are alive now, too.
  • environmentalists, because clean air and clean water are the foundations of a healthy and safe life.
  • anti-war, because war kills life.
  • pro-gun control, because guns threaten life.
  • for mandated health care programs, because the poor and the not-so-rich deserve healthy and disease-free life.
  • for good and well-funded education, because living a good life requires the tools and the knowledge to sustain that life.
  • for good and well-funded social services, because abuse, rape, and violence threaten life and the path to a safe life .  (Aside:  If we had more “pro-lifers” in congress, we wouldn’t need services like CASA.)

So, why don’t we all just drop the “Pro-Life” moniker and call it what it is – Pro-Birth.  Because, these Pro-Birthers really could give a damn about what happens post-birth.

Lots of talk of change in the air.  The Santa Fe weather has finally decided to turn into Fall.  In the last month, I have officially submitted my resignation from law school, performed as the lead singer of a band at a Santa Fe nightclub (a feat I swore I would never attempt), and I turned down what otherwise might have been a lucrative, stable job offer to open my own business and succeed or fail on my own terms.  All things to be talked about in another post on another day.

No, it is difficult to go on as usual without acknowledging the real economic problems we face this morning and the Chicken Littles who are determined to make everyone feel like the Apocalypse is just around the bend.  Talk of The Great Depression and “bank runs” and “global meltdowns” do seem dire, but we must remember the sources of all of these  – both the actual events and the people determined to remind us (wrongly) of them.

There is a building I walk through each day whose lobby is populated by a large security station and a very large flat panel television that is alternately tuned to Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, depending on tastes of the guards on duty.  As I walked past yesterday, a voice caught my attention.  Lou Dobbs, CNN.  The market closed below 8600 points, and he was berating other financial experts on other channels who recommend that people hold steady in the market and ride out the storm.   “These people are insane!” he screamed. “It’s absolutely irresponsible!” he cried.  Frozen in my tracks, I watched this rant, mouth agape, for about 5 minutes.  He was advocating people panic, pull their money out of the markets, and then panic again, in that order.  I got mad.  This guy doesn’t get it, and he’s spreading his fear and ignorance to his viewing audience when he should be spreading information so that people can decide what to do for themselves.  So, let me fill in the blanks that Mr. Dobbs so effortlessly neglected to mention.

This Week’s Stock Market Crash in Real Terms, Part 1

Many people hear the cry of the NYSE trading at 8500 points and panic.  It was trading at 14000 points in January and now it’s lost over 5000 points!  But let’s look at what that means in real terms.

The stock market was trading at 8500 points in 2003.  2003.  5 years ago.  Not 20 years ago, or 50 years ago, but 5 years ago.  What I make of that is (A) 5 years ago wasn’t so long ago, and I’m still alive, so 8500 points isn’t the death knell that it is being made out to be, and (B) perhaps the 14000 point level was artificially high – pushed by the housing boom and easy credit – and we just experienced an unsustainable bubble, much like the bubble we reached in 2000 at the end of the tech boom.  People who “played” the markets then won big or lost big.  But those of us sitting on 401(k)s until retirement 30+ years in the future didn’t lose a thing.  It was Play Money to begin with.

The Lesson: Unsustainable increases (and decreases) in market values tend to self-correct over time.  This is not a cause for panic.  Consider it comfort for what is to come.

This Week’s Stock Market Crash in Real Terms, Part 2

As of this morning, I have lost 38.8% of the value of my 401(k) since Jan. 1st of this year.  It will likely go lower today.  But let’s look at how my 401(k), which is probably much like your’s, breaks down.

I am young and I invest aggressively.  I am in 100% stocks spread evenly over foreign, contra, and large/mid/small cap domestic funds.  I have 12% of my paycheck deducted pre-tax and shoved into my retirement fund, my employer matches up to 6% of my salary.  Over the years and as my account grows (or doesn’t), I get all sorts of bonuses – growth of the shares I own, dividends that are reinvested, interest, the works.  So, I figure that my current fund is now comprised of about 60% my money, 30% my employer’s money, and 10% “other” from the reinvestments.  In this light, if I have “lost” 38.8% of my account’s value, then I am still playing with someone else’s money – a combo of my employers and dividend money.  My own contributions, so far, have remained untouched.

But then let’s look at the number of shares I own.  At the start of Jan. 2008 (End of Quarter 4, 2007), I owned a combined total of 195.071 shares in my various fund groups.  At the end of Sept. 2008 (Quarter 3, 2008), I owned 588.999 shares.  With this current market sell off, I will own more.  Granted, I will own more shares of stock that is worth less than it used to, but when the stock market kicks into gear again (oh, and it will, believe me), I will be well positioned to make a small killing.  Buy low, sell high.  Those people who are pulling out of the market (and are many years away from withdrawing the money) are engaging in the equivalent of buying a house at the peak of the housing market, watching house prices fall, panicking, and selling their house when the market is the lowest.  It makes bad financial sense.

The Lesson: If you are many years from retirement, sit on your hands and do not touch your retirement accounts (except to go “riskier” and reap the benefits a few years from now).  If you are close to retirement, you should not have had your life savings in the stock market to begin with.  Pull out now and put it into cash and low interest bonds until things start settling down.

The Current Market Crash and the Great Depression

Comparing the current market crash to the Great Depression is my favorite scare tactic of the current popular press.  Most of us learned about the Great Depression through our history classes, through iconic images of men in suits standing in bread lines and women sweeping porches of ramshackle homes on the cover of Life magazine, and through the lovely writings of John Steinbeck.

What did you learn about the causes?  Do you remember?  Probably something about a stock market crash in 1929 putting an end to the flapper era and everyone losing their jobs.  Oh yeah – and WWII got us out of the Great Depression.  Stock market = bad.  War = good.  Right?  Am I close?  If I am, it’s because these are the lessons that I remember, too.  That is, until I did some investigating into the causes of the Great Depression when the 9/11 attacks were threatening another Great Depression.  This is what I learned:

  • The Great Depression was caused by an awful lot of factors – corporate greed, government incompetence, public panic, large personal and commercial debt as a result of free access to easy and abundant credit.  Sounds similar to now.
  • The US economy was primarily a farming (commodities) and manufacturing economy in the early 20th century.  These two sectors rely on massive reserves of human capital (i.e. labor).  When these sectors are hit, they lay off a lot of people.  During the height of the Great Depression, unemployment was about 30%, made up mostly of laborers.
  • US farming was hit by a massive Dust Bowl era, brought on by a drought (though no more severe than was typical for the region) and poor farming and land management practices.
  • The US economy operated on a gold standard, which severely limited the ability of money to change hands and to compound.
  • As a response to the economic downturn and resulting belt-tightening across the nation, the government instituted a number of disastrous reactions, which included (among others) placing higher tariffs on exports, resulting in a backlash of foreign country-raised tariffs on US goods.  This served to slow both international trade and the potential for the US to sustain the flush of international money it enjoyed during the Industrial Revolution.

My conclusion was and is that the conditions that created the Great Depression of the 1930’s simply are not evident today.  Our economy is more diverse (including the advent of the “knowledge worker”); technology and industrial diversity has lessened the effect of any one industry’s collapse on national unemployment rates; and regulations and programs put in place after the Great Depression (i.e., Social Security, unemployment benefits, and Welfare), though imperfect, ensure that a great many out-of-work citizens continue to have a certain amount of buying power that slows, but not halts, the economy.

Under these circumstances, the cry of the next Great Depression is greatly exaggerated.  I’m not saying that another Great Depression couldn’t happen in some other fashion, but current comparisons of our current situation to that which happened almost 80 years ago is disingenuous at best, and fear mongering at worst.

The Lesson: People who try to scare you want something from you – your viewing time, your vote, your money.  Be smart.  The internet is a wonderful tool for finding truth.  If something doesn’t sound right (or is morbidly calamitous), let your fingers do the walking and find out the real truth for yourself.

We all need to remember to breathe.  While it may seem that the sky is falling, look up, trust your eyes, see that it is still blue up there, and take a deep breath.  Altogether, now:  Inhale.  Exhale.

It’s been two days and I am still pissed off at Sarah Palin.  So when I found this story about the rehabilitation of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs (all of them pit bulls) at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah (one example of community organization), I couldn’t help but notice the absurd division of political rhetoric from reality.  Palin’s self-styled “Pit Bull with Lipstick” doesn’t quite fit in this context.  Pit bulls are too honorable and more redeemable than Sarah Palin.

On the other hand, maybe Vick’s dogs can be an example for Sarah.  Maybe with a little patience and kindness, and some dog treats and toys and a few scratches behind her ears, Sarah Palin can reconnect with her true pit bull nature and stop attacking citizen-led organizations that are accomplishing the things of which elected officials are incapable.

So, Sarah, with all due respect afforded to someone of such high position and stature — bite me.

I just got finished watching Sarah Palin’s speech at the RNC convention and the following is my visceral reaction (with limited editing).

“Community Organizing” v. “Executive Experience”

She seethed at the prospect that running a town as a mayor and running a state as governor was somehow better or more responsibility-laden than being a “community organizer.”

Coming from a “community organizing” background, I know a little bit about this topic. Community organizing is not about ordering people around, telling them what to do.  Laying down directives and threatening people with their jobs if they don’t do what she says.

Community organizing is about inspiring people to uplift themselves.  Finding a way to collaborate with people to get work done.  Community organizing is just that – ORGANIZING! – which entails working with people from diverse backgrounds and different attitudes, raising money from the people who have it and putting it to good use to solve the problems in the community, no matter the size or nature of that community.

Clearly, Governor Palin, within the borders of her small and insulated state, has absolutely no idea what “working with other people” actually means.  I was not wrong before when I criticized her inexperience as a small town mayor and small state governor.  This woman has never faced any REAL problems within her administrations that posed impossible answers to very difficult questions.  Her state is small and homogenous, and it is a lot easier to get an 88% approval rating in a state where everyone thinks the same way than it is when you have large populations of different ethnicities and backgrounds, dealing with gender issues and racial issues and immigration and poverty and hunger and violence and crime.  To the likes of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin, every problem is a nail because all they have in the toolbox is a sledgehammer.

There is more to fighting for your country than fighting it on a battlefield.  If you are willing to put your life on the line, then you should also be willing to put your ass on the line and help get your country back on track by helping your community get back on track.  If you are willing to fight for the safety and security of this country, then you’d better fight to make sure that captured terrorists are treated appropriately and humanely under, at the very least, the terms of the Geneva Convention.  If you are so secure in your position and your character, and you seek public office, then you should not be afraid of a diverse media digging around in your past and challenging you on your record.

How dare these people talk about tax cuts and then cut public funding to the local homeless shelter or domestic violence center.  How dare these people talk about character and then essentially spit at the feet of those who are trying to actually effect change – not just fear the neighborhoods and retreat to their gated communities and suburbs.   How dare they talk about God on Sunday mornings in churches across this land, and then sneer at community organizers who are actually doing something to uplift the poor and the meek that Jesus Christ talked about in the New Testament.  And how dare these people claim to love this country, yet are willing to dig the United States Constitution into the mud (along with our national reputation as the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free) with this line of “terrorists are waiting to attack America, and our opponent is worried that they aren’t being read their rights.” (Probably not a direct quote, but I don’t have a transcript in front of me.)

Hypocrites.  Every last damned one of them.

Sarah Palin is now the poster child for what has been wrong in this country for the past 8 years.  Leadership that is more about power and control than it is about selfless service to the nation.  She has inspired something in me that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were not able to accomplish.  Tomorrow, I am going to contact the Obama for New Mexico campaign and volunteer to my dying breath to make sure that this woman never sees any more of the White House than what any common tourist could see from a White House tour.

She and her lot are a danger to this country and I am not going to just sit on my ass and bitch about it on a blog.

The Democratic National Convention was last week, as was the announcement of John McCain’s female (not “woman”) Veep candidate.  We just passed the 88th year “since the 19th amendment struck down that restrictive rule,”  so I thought it appropriate to conduct a Week in Review of the three major female news makers of last week.

Michelle Obama

The DNC convention began with a controlled and groomed speech by Michelle Obama.  She was smart.  She was adoring of her husband.  She was a devoted family woman.  She performed as she was trained to.  However, because of her over-scripted performance, I really felt like something in her personality was lacking.

Then I read a blog post that summarized for me what I couldn’t quite express about Mrs. Obama’s speech: “We want the spouses of our Presidents to be smart, but not too smart.  Passionate, but not too passionate.  And to have opinions but not come across as opinionated.”  I, too, felt there was something of an emptiness in her words or delivery that seemed just a bit too “pleasing” and not entirely genuine.  This is how the game is played, however, and I guess she needed to play it safe.

By the way, cute outfit, but did anyone notice her traps?  Holy lord!  That woman works out!

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

I have to admit.  I’m a Hillary Clinton fan, but I would not necessarily have voted for her because there were other candidates she was competing against whose politics I related with more (particularly concerning the War to Nowhere).  After the video tribute introducing her to the stage, however, a slow burn came over me.

Damn it!

The country and, later Barack Obama, made a huge mistake by not putting her name on the ticket.  I stayed mad for days – well, at least until I Obama’s speech Thursday night.  Hillary Clinton was the best hope to get a Vagina-American into the White House.  So frustrating. So disappointing. So close. . .

Governor Sarah Palin

I awoke Friday morning to the anticipatory drone of Veep buzz.  An early report that someone name Sarah Palin was going to be McCain’s choice. Apparently, I am not alone in not having a clue who she is – the news media seemed baffled and scrambled to wikpedia and the Anchorage Daily News to explain this unusual choice.

The first thing I felt at the announcement of Gov. Palin’s selection for McCain’s VP was panic.  The Republicans did what the Democrats failed to do.  Hillary supporters now have an iron-clad reason to vote for McCain.

Then I stopped.  I started researching Gov. Palin and found the following facts:

  • She is a 20-month governor of Alaska – a state with 670,053 people.  In comparison, New Mexico has almost 2 million and the greater Sacramento area has approximately 2.1 million.
  • 2 years ago, she was the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 8,471.
  • She supports gun rights.
  • She is against a woman’s right to choose.
  • She believes that global warming is not a man-made phenomenon.
  • She is for more domestic oil drilling, particularly in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Now, the last four bullets are typically conservative.  Little shock there.  But when I look at the first two points on her resume – the less-then-half-term Governor of a state smaller in population than most major US cities and mayor of a very small town – I wonder what McCain is thinking.  Surely, Gov. Palin has not encountered the kind of major decisions that most elected officials grapple with daily, and her simple lack of time on the job makes me wonder what she could possibly bring to a VP position.

With all of the Republican women that McCain could have chosen from (Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Sen. Olympia Snowe, etc.), why Gov. Palin?  With all due respect to Gov. Palin, who I am sure is a very strong and capable woman, the last thing women need is some old man throwing a token female into the Second Most Powerful Position in the Country who is not qualified for the job and has a higher probability of failure should he die in office and she become the President.

So let’s see.  Pick an unqualified woman for the role, ignore all of the other possible female choices, and put her into a position with a high likelihood of disaster (i.e. setting her up for failure).  The only conclusion to make is that McCain thinks that we women (and most especially Hillary voters) will vote for anyone with a woman on the ticket regardless of her beliefs or experience.  And that, my friends, is an insult.

Good for Sarah Palin.  She is living the quintessential definition of having a “meteoric rise” to success. But shame on John McCain (A) for throwing away his opportunity to have a qualified Republican woman at his side, and (B) for thinking that “an ol’ woman will do” when it comes to luring away voters for Sen. Clinton.  It just demonstrates what little respect he actually has for women in this country.

Next Page »