The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...

The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...
He's thinking Classic. (click on photo)


Feb 17, 2009

How the stimulus bill affects you - MSN

I have been a recipient of state help. Unemployment, health care for my children, food stamps in the past, free/reduced school lunch. I am not ashamed to admit it. I do not have health insurance coverage right now because I can't afford it. The stimulus package may help with that but that still leaves costs at about $500/month. What normal single parent can afford that?

Regardless of the help I stand to gain, I read through this package and I still am sickened by how much this will put our country in to debt - especially in light of borrowing from other countries. Anyone with a creditor over their head knows how much power that gives an outside party over your life. As a recipient, I do not want to benefit at the risk of setting up our country for more hardship. My perspective on this situation is the American people like their comfortable lives and are too afraid, maybe a bit too soft at having to endure a hardship. But we would endure it. We would learn to lean on each other. It would build character. Life recenters itself and it's probably time. Regardless of the bailout - this country cannot continue to grow up & up & Up & up indefinitely. There has to be a stop at the cost of things and the income people take, or there will be 2 classes. Poor and wealthy. It was already headed that way.

Honestly, I don't know many people, other then investors or wealthy, that have money sitting around right now to put 20% down on a home purchase. I understand the reason for wanting to encourage first time home buyers but realistically - this is just like the mortgage companies that encouraged the no interest loans to drive purchases and prey on people with too little sense or experience to jump on a bad opportunity. Those that would be first time home buyers probably will struggle meeting the credit criteria and the down payment with the return to hard terms in mortgage financing. Right now, we don't know where the economy is going and if you'll have your job tomorrow. The thought of taking on a mortgage in the midst of all of this hoopla, seems like a poor choice at the moment. Seattle hasn't hit bottom yet and probably won't for a little while. Media - one article said January was on the upturn, 2 weeks later, they say Seattle saw the worst month ever for home purchases. Yes, by all means - run out & buy buy buy! (forgive my sarcasm).

I will be answering the question on MSN today "what will you do with your tax refund". Almost everyone I talk with is either paying off debt or putting it in to savings to prepare for the bottom when it finally gets here. With millions out of work, it's amazing to me that the government & media can even verbalize that people are running out and spending their refunds or stimulus checks on recreation and entertainment. Apparently they haven't been living in the trenches to realize how valuable a dollar is and that some of us, many of us, actually are a bit smarter than that.

Here is the MSN report on how the stimulus package will effect you.>1=33009

National debt
One thing about the president's $790 billion stimulus package is certain: It will jack up the federal debt.
Whether or not it succeeds in producing jobs and taming the recession, tomorrow's taxpayers will end up footing the bill.
Forecasters expect the 2009 deficit -- for the budget year that began Oct. 1, 2008 -- to hit $1.6 trillion, including new stimulus and bank-bailout spending. That's about three times last year's shortfall.
The torrents of red ink are being fed by rising federal spending and falling tax revenues from hard-hit businesses and individuals.
The national debt -- the sum of money owed by all levels of government -- stands at $10.7 trillion, or about $36,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S.
Interest payments alone on the national debt will near $500 billion this year. It's already the fourth-largest federal expenditure, after Medicare-Medicaid, Social Security and defense.

This will affect us all directly for years, as well as our children and possibly grandchildren, in higher taxes and probably reduced government services. It will also force continued government borrowing, increasingly from China, Japan, Britain, Saudi Arabia and other creditors.

The recovery package has tax breaks for families that send a child to college, purchase a new car, buy a first home or make the one they own more energy efficient.
Millions of workers can expect to see about $13 extra in their weekly paychecks, starting around June, from a new $400 tax credit to be doled out through the rest of the year. Couples would get up to $800. In 2010, the credit would be about $7.70 a week, if it is spread over the entire year.

A $1,000 child tax credit would be extended to more low-income families that don't make enough money to pay income taxes, and poor families with three or more children will get an expanded earned income tax credit.

Middle-income and wealthy taxpayers will be spared from paying the alternative minimum tax, which was designed 40 years ago to make sure wealthy taxpayers paid at least some tax but was never indexed for inflation. Congress fixes it each year, usually in the fall.

First-time homebuyers who purchase their homes before Dec. 1 will be eligible for an $8,000 tax credit, and people who buy new cars before the end of the year can write off the sales taxes.

Homeowners who add energy-efficient windows, furnaces and air conditioners can get a tax credit to cover 30% of the costs, up to a total of $1,500. College students -- or their parents -- are eligible for tax credits of up to $2,500 to help pay tuition and related expenses in 2009 and 2010.
Those receiving unemployment benefits this year won't owe federal income taxes on the first $2,400 they receive.

Health insurance
Many workers who lose their health insurance when they lose their jobs will find it cheaper to keep that coverage while they look for work.

Right now, most people who work for medium or large employers can continue their coverage for 18 months under the COBRA program (named for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) when they lose their jobs. The coverage is expensive, often more than $1,000 a month, because the newly unemployed pay the share of premiums once covered by their employer as well as their own share from the old group plan.

Under the stimulus package, the government will pick up 65% of the total cost of that premium for the first nine months.

Lawmakers initially proposed also helping workers from small companies who don't generally qualify for COBRA coverage. But that fell through. The idea was to have Washington pay to extend Medicaid to that group.

COBRA applies to group plans at companies employing at least 20 people. The subsidies will be offered to those who lost their jobs from Sept. 1, 2008, to the end of 2009.

Those who were put out of work after September but didn't elect to have COBRA coverage at the time will have 60 days to sign up.

The plan also offers $87 billion to help states administer Medicaid. That could slow or reverse some of the steps states have taken to cut the program.

Highways repaved for the first time in decades. Century-old waterlines dug up and replaced with new pipes. Aging bridges, stressed under the weight of today's SUVs, reinforced with fresh steel and concrete.

But the $90 billion is a mere down payment on what's needed to repair and improve the country's physical backbone. And not all economists agree it's an effective way to add jobs in the long term, or to stimulate the economy.

Homeowners looking to save energy, makers of solar panels and wind turbines, and companies hoping to bring the electric grid into the computer age all stand to reap major benefits.

The package contains more than $42 billion in energy-related investments, from tax credits for homeowners to loan guarantees for renewable energy projects and direct government grants for makers of wind turbines and next-generation batteries.

There's a 30% tax credit of up to $1,500 for the purchase of high-efficiency residential air conditioners, heat pumps and furnaces. The credit also can be used by homeowners to replace drafty windows or put more insulation into the attic. About $300 million would go for rebates to get people to buy more efficient appliances.
The package includes $20 billion aimed at "green" jobs to make wind turbines and solar panels and to improve energy efficiency in schools and federal buildings. It includes $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects, as well as tax breaks and direct grants covering 30% of wind and solar energy investments. An additional $5 billion is marked to help low-income homeowners make energy improvements.

About $11 billion goes to modernizing and expanding the nation's electric power grid and $2 billion to spur research into batteries for future electric cars.

A main goal of education spending in the stimulus bill is to help keep teachers on the job.
Nearly 600,000 jobs in elementary and secondary schools could be eliminated by state budget cuts over the next three years, according to a study released last week by the University of Washington. Fewer teachers mean bigger classes, something that districts are scrambling to prevent.
The stimulus sets up a $54 billion fund to help prevent or restore state budget cuts, of which $39 billion must go toward kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education. In addition, about $8 billion of the fund could be used for other priorities, including modernization and renovation of schools and colleges, though how much is unclear, because Congress decided not to specify a dollar figure.
The Education Department will distribute the money as quickly as it can over the next couple of years.
And it adds $25 billion extra to No Child Left Behind and special education programs, which help pay teacher salaries, among other things.
This money may go out much more slowly; states have five years to spend the dollars, and they have a history of spending them slowly. In fact, states don't spend all the money; they return nearly $100 million to the federal treasury every year.
The stimulus bill also includes more than $4 billion for Head Start early education programs and for child care programs.

The package includes $9.2 billion for environmental projects at the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The money would be used to shutter abandoned mines on public lands, help local governments protect drinking water supplies, and erect energy-efficient visitor centers at wildlife refuges and national parks.
The Interior Department estimates that its portion of the work would generate about 100,000 jobs in the next two years.
Yet the plan will make only a dent in the backlog of cleanup projects facing the EPA and in the long list of chores at the country's national parks, refuges and other public lands.
The plan sets aside $735 million for road repairs and maintenance at national parks. But that's just a fraction of the $9 billion worth of work waiting for funding.
At the EPA, the payout is $7.2 billion. The bulk of the money will help local communities and states repair and improve drinking water systems and fund projects that protect bays, rivers and other waterways used as sources of drinking water.
The rest of the EPA's cut -- $800 million -- will be used to clean up leaky gasoline storage tanks and the nation's hazardous waste sites.

The stimulus bill includes plenty of green for those wearing blue.
The compromise bill doles out more than $3.7 billion for police programs, much of which is set aside for hiring new officers.
The law allocates $2 billion for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, a program that has funded drug task forces and such things as prisoner-rehabilitation and after-school programs.
An additional $1 billion is set aside to hire local police under the Community Oriented Policing Services program.
Both programs had been eliminated during the Bush administration.
The bill also includes $225 million for general criminal justice grants for programs such as youth mentoring, $225 million for Indian tribe law enforcement, $125 million for police in rural areas, $100 million for victims of crimes, $50 million to fight Internet crimes against children and $40 million in grants for law enforcement along the Mexican border.

Higher education
The maximum Pell Grant, which helps the lowest-income students attend college, will increase from its current limit of $4,731 to $5,350 starting July 1 and to $5,550 in 2010-11. That ill cover three-quarters of the average cost of a four-year college. An additional 800,000 students, for a total of about 7 million, should now qualify for Pell funding.
The stimulus also increases the tuition tax credit to $2,500 and makes it 40% refundable, so families that don't earn enough to pay income tax can still get up to $1,000 in extra tuition help.
In addition, computer expenses will now be an allowable expense for 529 college savings plans.
The final package cut $6 billion the House wanted to spend to kick-start building projects on college campuses. But parts of the $54 billion state stabilization fund -- with $39 billion set aside for education -- can be used for modernizing those facilities.
There's also an estimated $15 billion for scientific research, much of which will go to universities. Funding for the National Institutes of Health includes $1.5 billion set aside for university research facilities.
Altogether, the package spends an estimated $32 billion on higher education.

The poor
More than 37 million Americans live in poverty, and the vast majority of the poor are in line for extra help under the giant stimulus package. Millions more could be kept from slipping into poverty by the economic lifeline.
People who get food stamps -- 30 million and growing -- will get more. People drawing unemployment checks -- nearly 5 million and growing -- would get an extra $25, and keep those checks coming longer. People who get Supplemental Security Income -- 7 million poor Americans who are elderly, blind or disabled -- would get a one-time extra payment of $250.

Many low-income Americans also are likely to benefit from a trifecta of tax credits: expansions to the existing child tax credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, and a new refundable tax credit for workers. Taken together, the three credits are expected to keep more than 2 million Americans from falling into poverty, including more than 800,000 children, according to the private Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The package also includes a $3 billion emergency fund to provide temporary assistance to needy families. In addition, cash-strapped states will get an infusion of $87 billion for Medicaid, the government health program for poor people, which should help avoid cuts to benefits for the needy.

Feb 16, 2009

Why the 2010 Census Stirs Up Partisan Politics,8599,1879667,00.html

When Republican Senator Judd Gregg announced on Thursday that he no longer wished to be the Commerce Secretary nominee, he said that the decision was based in part on serious disagreements with the Obama White House over the 2010 census. That night on Fox News, Sean Hannity called Obama's plans for the census process "the biggest White House power grab ever," as his guest Karl Rove voiced agreement. The same day, House Republicans declared that the White House had "an unprecedented plan" for the census that "will taint results and open doors to massive waste of taxpayer funds."

It may sound surprising to those who don't consider the decennial headcount a red-hot political matter, but the census has become the controversial subject of an ongoing power struggle between Democrats and Republicans. And since the 2010 census will be the first in 30 years to be taken under a Democratic administration, the stakes are particularly high this time around. (See behind-the-scenes pictures of Obama's Inauguration.)

The latest problem arose when Obama nominated Gregg to head the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau. Local Democratic officials and advocates for minority groups protested the nomination because they feared Gregg would not support efforts such as sampling that they think will result in a more accurate census count. The White House responded by publicly promising that the census director would "work closely with White House senior management."

It was a simple restatement of existing practice. But it was heralded by some liberals as a change in policy. The Huffington Post ran an article headlined: "Democrats, Minority Groups Relieved That Gregg Won't Oversee Census." Those reports, in turn, disturbed conservative activists who immediately condemned the White House "power grab." By Thursday, when Gregg bowed out, the GOP had launched a coordinated assault on the "politicization of the census." The White House was forced to issue a written clarification, noting that "this administration has not proposed removing the Census from the Department of Commerce."

Why does it matter who oversees the census? In very general terms, Republicans would prefer to err on the side of undercounting and Democrats would prefer to err on the side of overcounting. The options can yield very different numbers for demographic groups and localities — and they have significant political and policy implications. This most recent skirmish is more manufactured than real, the result of willful misunderstandings. But it has its roots in an ongoing battle over whom the census counts — and how.

As mandated by the Constitution, a census has been taken by the government every 10 years since 1790 in an effort to count every person living in the United States, both citizens and non-citizens. In recent times, the Census Bureau has arrived at a final count by relying on people to mail back surveys and then sending out census takers to go door-to-door in an attempt to fill in the gaps. Those census takers not only visit homes that have not returned the survey, but also seek to count those with no fixed address and those who live in nursing homes, prisons, shelters and other non-standard housing.

The problem is that it is not easy to count every person in the United States, and some communities are disproportionately left out of the total. The 1990 census missed an estimated 8 million people — mostly immigrants and urban minorities — and it managed to double-count 4 million white Americans. Recent or illegal immigrants are often reluctant to answer questions in a government survey, and many experts fear that concerns about government misuse of personal data post-9/11 could hamper participation in the 2010 census as well. Children have also traditionally been underincluded in census totals.

It's possible to use statistical modeling and sampling methods to supplement the census in order to arrive at estimated counts of various demographic groups. But there is fierce debate about whether these methods correct or distort the census count. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that sampling could not be used for the purposes of reapportioning congressional seats, and the Bush Administration chose not to use sampling to fill in the gaps of the 2000 census.

The battle over how to count people only makes sense when you look at what is at stake. The redistricting of local districts and reapportionment of congressional seats is based on census counts — a state could gain or lose seats based on its population, and shifts within a state determine plans for redrawing political boundaries. The redistricting that took place in Texas at Tom DeLay's urging following the 2000 census — which swung six congressional seats to the GOP — is just one example of how dramatically political fortunes can shift based on the use of those crucial numbers.

Census counts are also used to determine how many federal dollars may flow to a city or state based on grants and other outlays. Democrats have long charged that the undercounting of minorities and poor Americans prevents federal funding from reaching strapped communities. Meanwhile, Republicans argue that Democrats seek to boost numbers in order to create extra congressional districts in urban areas and to bring in more federal money for their constituencies. They charge that sampling — which Democrats support because it provides estimates for communities that can be hard to track accurately — is unconstitutional because the Constitution calls for an "actual enumeration" of the population.

It seems fairly certain that the White House did not anticipate census politics to play into its nomination of Gregg to the Commerce post. And Gregg himself backed off the issue in a news conference after he announced his withdrawal, insisting that his concerns over the census were "slight" and refusing to address it further. Nonetheless, the experience has reminded partisans on the left and the right of their investment in the census. The fight to determine how it happens and what the consequences will be has only just begun.

Dems Downplay Obama's Plan to Oversee 2010 Census

With Republicans increasingly critical of President Obama's decision to step up White House oversight of next year's census, some Democrats are downplaying the move, saying it is not even official yet.

Obama's plan to have the Census director report to the White House in addition to the Commerce Department has sparked protest from some Republicans, who accuse the president of a political power grab. One GOP lawmaker is pushing for an investigation into the planned move.

"I think this is way too premature," said Democratic consultant Dan Gerstein, claiming that this was all started by an "unnamed White House source saying they may do this" and that no announcement has been made.

In fact, Congressional Quarterly first reported Obama's plan last week and the White House issued a statement shortly afterward, saying the president planned to follow a historical precedent of having the director of census work closely with White House senior management.

A White House official on Wednesday declined to comment on Rep. Marsha Blackburn's call for an investigation but provided with a statement noting Obama has not proposed removing the census from the Commerce Department and that the same congressional committees that had oversight during the previous administration will retain that authority.

"The president recognizes the importance of ensuring that the Census Bureau conducts a complete and accurate count through a process that is free from politicization, and he looks forward to working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and Secretary-designate [Judd] Gregg to achieve that goal," the statement said.

"As they have in the past, White House senior management will work closely with the census director given the number of decisions that will need to reach the president's desk," the statement added.

Blackburn, R-Tenn, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to committee leaders requesting a hearing. All 20 Republicans on the committee signed the letter, obtained by

"We believe this change in management, if adopted, may jeopardize the important and nonpartisan work product of a sensitive administrative agency, and potentially disrupt completion of a competent, reliable 2010 census," the letter reads.

Blackburn went on to praise Obama's nomination of Republican Sen. Gregg of New Hampshire to lead the Commerce Department, saying it promotes bipartisanship.

"Yet the administration's Census Bureau announcement indicates that a bipartisan opportunity may be thwarted by a partisan attempt to remove the potential secretary's control of a critical Commerce agency," the letter said.

It isn't clear yet whether the committee will hold a hearing.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent Obama a letter Wednesday asking him to "reconsider and reverse" his plan.

"The Obama administration's recent actions regarding the census are outrageous and unprecedented," Issa said in a statement.

"Commanding the census director to report directly to the White House is a naked political power grab and transparently partisan," he added. "The need for an independent Census Bureau is recognized by Republicans and Democrats alike -- and every living former census director is on record supporting an independent Census Bureau."

Gerstein said the Obama administration has to be concerned about political accusations.

"This was a trial balloon, not an announcement," Gerstein told FOX News. "And before people jump up and down about it, let's see what actually happens. Because I've got to think that if this actually bubbles up, they won't do it."

The Constitution requires a census of the U.S. population every 10 years. Disentangling politics from the process can prove difficult, if not impossible, because demographic changes can shift billions of dollars in federal funding for, among other things, schools, roads and job training. The census also determines the number of representatives each state sends to Congress, the composition of the Electoral College and how congressional lines are drawn.

Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute and director of the U.S. Census Bureau in the 1980s, told FOX News that he disagrees with Obama's plan to bring the census in-house, saying that census data could be "manipulated."

"It's a very bad idea to bring it into the White House," he said.

Seven former Census directors, serving every president from Nixon to George W. Bush, signed a letter last year supporting a bill to turn the Census Bureau into an independent agency after the 2010 Census.

"It is vitally important that the American public have confidence that the census results have been produced by an independent, non-partisan, apolitical, and scientific Census Bureau," it read.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., would take effect in January 2012.

Feb 13, 2009

Is Manliniss Obsolete

From: The Art of Manliness
Author: This is a guest post from Will Briggs. Will frequents the AoM forum and from what I can tell, is one of the nicest and most sincere gentlemen around.

Some years ago I read a book (Manhood in the Making, by David Gilmore) which surveyed the concept of masculinity in civilizations all over the world. The author found that almost everywhere you went, people had the same expectations: a man should be brave, economically successful, responsible, generous, sexually capable, procreative, and sociable with other men.

I commented on this remarkable similarity of ideas (from such different people as Spaniards and New Guinea highlanders), and a friend said, “Fortunately, we’re in the modern world, so we can get rid of the whole silly idea.”

Was she right? Is manliness old-fashioned and silly, best replaced with a new post-masculine ideal, in which we don’t admire courage, procreation, or the old manly ways?

It’s an easy question to answer, isn’t it? Reverse the list of manly qualities above, and ask yourself: would the human race be better off if each man were an irresponsible, impotent, stingy coward who couldn’t hold down a job or keep a friend? We can tinker with the ideal of manhood, but throwing it out entirely would be a disaster.

But let’s look further anyway. To keep it short, let’s consider one example each from three classes of manly virtues: those that only men can do; those that either sex can do equally; and those that either can do, but are more characteristically male.

Men Only: Fatherhood

Consider where the new post-masculine man has really caught on, at least in regard to procreation: Europe, and blue-state centers like Greenwich Village — that is, in certain rich locations that people imagine are the future of the world.

But they aren’t the future, and here’s why: those post-manly men aren’t fathering many children. A society without fatherhood has no future, because its members die without being replaced.

I don’t have birth rates for Greenwich Village, but you can get them for Europe. They’re crashing. Greece, for example, has a replacement rate of about 1.29; on average, if this continues, population will nearly halve each generation. Spain’s and Italy’s are about the same. The future belongs to nobody — except possibly immigrants, who will bring a different perspective on fatherhood with them, or they’ll disappear as well. Either way, this particular aspect of post-manliness has no future.

Of course not every man needs to be a father, and moderation has its place here. But if this particular manly virtue disappears entirely, so does civilization.

For Both Sexes: Responsibility

Consider a world in which males don’t take responsibility. They don’t commit to women; they father children but don’t take care of them; they have high-flown dreams but lack the discipline to carry them out. What kind of world would it be?
A poor one, for one thing, and there are parts of the First World that work that way. They’re the underclass neighborhoods where most children don’t have fathers at home or have a series of “fathers” who come and go. Theodore Dalrymple (Our Culture: What’s Left of It, Life at the Bottom: the World View that Makes the Underclass) writes about a nightmare society in Britain that works like this. Unfortunately, it’s nonfiction.

There’s also a modern glorification of never growing up (see, among others, The Sibling Society by Robert Bly). Underclass or rich, we can put off indefinitely trying to make the world a better place, turning to entertainments and drugs to occupy ourselves. But why should a man occupy himself in a less than perfect world? When there are children to mentor and causes to champion, why spend all your time
playing Halo 3? Is being comfortable all there is to life?

Obviously responsibility is a virtue women can embody as well as men. But ask the women in your life if they want the men around to take less responsibility. If they’re in a good mood, they’ll laugh at you. If not, they’ll regale you with stories of the One That, Thank God, Got Away. Life isn’t so easy that half the human race can remain forever children. Men have to shoulder adult responsibilities, too.

Especially for Men: Physical Bravery

Bravery can mean daring to open up to a friend or sweetheart. (We need more of this kind of bravery.) But there is also the bravery of facing physical danger. Maybe that’s the part that’s obsolete, no longer needed in the modern world?
Maybe. If you are in a rich, civilized country, nobody is likely attacking you; you aren’t in a high-crime area; there is no natural disaster; someone else is a soldier so you don’t have to be; someone else is a policeman so you don’t have to be; someone else is a fireman so you don’t have to be; that is, if you’re very lucky, you will never have to confront physical danger. In that case, you won’t need to be physically brave in order for you and yours to survive.

So if we’re really lucky (and many of us are now, most of the time, thanks to the bravery of others), we’ll only need this manly characteristic

…for ourselves; we have a need to face danger.

…for our sons and male mentees; they need it too.

…and for our romantic attachments. Women want to date men, not aging boys.

It’s a paradox: women don’t want the men they love to kill themselves on motorcycles, but they still don’t find cowardice in men attractive. (Neither do men, for that matter.) And it’s not symmetric. I don’t know many men who would say, “I think a woman should be strong and brave, to protect the man she loves.” Or women who hope for the relationship to go that way, either.

But it doesn’t matter. Eventually, our luck will run out, and we’ll need physical bravery for physical danger again.


To sum up: why do we need manly virtues?

It goes with who we are physically. Men are bigger and stronger; it makes more sense to have them bursting through the doors and carrying unconscious smoke-inhalation victims out of the fire, because they can actually pick those victims up. (I say “they” because I’d have a tough time picking up a 180-lb. man — but there are plenty who wouldn’t!)

It goes with who we are mentally. Think about the difference in flavors of honesty. Women can be blunt and artless with the truth — but they’re often more nuanced, using more diplomacy and more we’re-a-team thinking. Men can be diplomatic, but we’re usually more apt to just say it. Both ways are useful — but although working on our weaknesses makes sense, it also makes sense to use our strengths.
It delights us. Birds gotta fly; fish gotta swim; men gotta do manly stuff. Look what happens on the forum part of this site: men come so they can revel in manly stuff, from barbecuing to power tools to cars, because it’s fun. That ought to be enough reason.

It delights women, too. To be blunt: if you say manliness is obsolete and we’re all just a mix of feminine and masculine, it probably won’t hurt you much socially with the ladies. But if you act on it — if you become that irresponsible, impotent, stingy coward who can’t hold down a job; or if you drop the symbols of manliness for a more feminine style, plucking your eyebrows and wearing a tastefully lacy dress (!) — it won’t just be other men who shudder and look away; it’ll be the women too.
But the ultimate reason to embrace manly virtues is that they are virtues. Being the best man you can be is a calling. The world may not thank us if we follow it, but thanks isn’t what we’re after. Excellence is, and charity.

Feb 12, 2009

25 jobs at $25/hour today:

If you work a salaried position, the numbers you're most familiar with are probably the ones that show up in your bank account. When you're used to getting paid a certain amount of money every year, it's unlikely that you've boiled your compensation down to what you're earning per hour.

The national mean average salary is $42,504, according to the National Compensation Survey. That boils down to $3,269.54 per month and $817.38 per week*. Divide that by the standard 40-hour workweek and you're making $20.43 per hour. Not too shabby, eh?
If you think $20 an hour is good, what about making $25 an hour? If you work the standard 40-hour workweek for all 52 weeks of the year, that puts your earnings around $52,000 per year, which is well above the national average.

So who's earning more than $20 per hour? Here are 25 jobs that pay $25 or more per hour and that are predicted to have high job growth through 2016**:

1. Loan officer
What they do: Authorize commercial, real estate and/or personal credit loans.
Hourly wage: $25/hour
Mean annual salary: $51,601
Job outlook: Average job growth at 11 percent ***

2. Self-enrichment education teacher
What they do: Teach nonacademic courses like self-improvement, which don't lead to a job or degree.
Hourly wage: $25.07/hour
Mean annual salary: $42,476
Job outlook: Much faster than average job growth at 23 percent

3. Forensic science technician
What they do: Collect and analyze physical evidence on weapons and substances to help criminal investigations.
Hourly wage: $25.28/hour
Mean annual salary: $52,576
Job outlook: Much faster than average job growth at 31 percent

4. Writer and editor
What they do: Write and/or edit scripts, stories, publications, advertisements and other materials.
Hourly wage: $25.46/hour
Mean annual salary: $53,000
Job outlook: Average job growth at 10 percent

5. Radiologic technologist and technician
What they do: Take X-rays and CAT scans; inject nonradioactive materials in patients' bloodstreams for analysis.
Hourly wage: $25.57/hour
Mean annual salary: $52,416
Job outlook: Faster than average job growth at 15 percent

6. Medical scientist
What they do: Research human disease and how to improve overall human health; they often conduct clinical trials and investigations.
Hourly wage: $25.64/hour
Mean annual salary: $53,331
Job outlook: Faster than average job growth at 20 percent

7. Producer and director
What they do: Make all creative decisions involved in producing and/or directing movies, TV shows, plays, commercials or other productions.
Hourly wage: $25.66/hour
Mean annual salary: $53,381
Job outlook: Average job growth at 11 percent

8. Detective and criminal investigator
What they do: Carry out investigations related to suspected or known violations of Federal, state and local laws.
Hourly wage: $25.86/hour
Mean annual salary: $53,787
Job outlook: Faster than average job growth at 18 percent

9. Accountant and auditor
What they do: Analyze financial and accounting records for individuals and businesses; prepare tax statements.
Hourly wage: $26.06/hour
Mean annual salary: $54,020
Job outlook: Faster than average job growth at 18 percent

10. Adult literacy, remedial education and GED teacher and instructor
What they do: Educate adults and out-of-school children on remedial education courses like literacy and language; teach preparation courses for the General Education Development test.
Hourly wage: $26.19/hour
Mean annual salary: $43,742
Job outlook: Faster than average job growth at 14 percent

11. Training and development manager
What they do: Plan and direct growth and training activities for staffs of organizations.
Hourly wage: $26.32/hour
Mean annual salary: $54,746
Job outlook: Faster than average job growth at 16 percent

12. Curator
What they do: Manage educational and public museum activities, conduct research programs.
Hourly wage: $26.49/hour
Mean annual salary: $53,561
Job outlook: Faster than average job growth at 18 percent

13. Aircraft mechanic and service technician
What they do: Find and fix mechanical problems in aircraft engines and parts.
Hourly wage: $26.74/hour
Mean annual salary: $56,035
Job outlook: Average job growth at 11 percent

14. Audiologist
What they do: Evaluate and treat individuals with hearing and related disorders.
Hourly wage: $27.27/hour
Mean annual salary: $48,047
Job outlook: Average job growth at 10 percent

15. Art director
What they do: Create designs and presentations; oversee workers involved in art work, layout design and copy writing for visual media like magazines, books and newspapers.
Hourly wage: $27.35/hour
Mean annual salary: $56,882
Job outlook: Average job growth at 9 percent

16. Budget analyst
What they do: Analyze budgets to make sure they are accurate, complete and comply with regulations; examine budget and accounting reports to control expenditures.
Hourly wage: $27.39/hour
Mean annual salary: $56,233
Job outlook: Average job growth at 7 percent

17. Auto damage insurance appraiser
What they do: Assess the costs of vehicle damage to determine insurance claim settlements.
Hourly wage: $27.75/hour
Mean annual salary: $57,200
Job outlook: Average job growth at 13 percent

18. Economist
What they do: Research, plan and strategize solutions to economic problems.
Hourly wage: $27.77/hour
Mean annual salary: $65,957
Job outlook: Average job growth at 7 percent

19. Environmental engineering technician
What they do: Develop ways to prevent, control and correct environmental problems like pollution and waste treatment.
Hourly wage: $28.79/hour
Mean annual salary: $71,157
Job outlook: Much faster than average job growth at 25 percent

20. Architects, except landscape and naval
What they do: Design various types of structures, including but not limited to houses, office buildings and factories.
Hourly wage: $28.85/hour
Mean annual salary: $62,828
Job outlook: Faster than average job growth at 18 percent

21. Health educator
What they do: Teach healthy programs and behaviors to individuals and communities to promote an overall healthy lifestyle.
Hourly wage: $29.11/hour
Mean annual salary: $58,768
Job outlook: Much faster than average job growth at 26 percent

22. Surveyor
What they do: Establish property boundaries; take exact measurements of all aspects of a piece of land for engineering, construction and mapmaking purposes.
Hourly wage: $29.20/hour
Mean annual salary: $60,736
Job outlook: Much faster than average job growth at 24 percent

23. Occupational therapist
What they do: Implement rehabilitative programs to disabled people to teach them homemaking, vocational and daily living skills.
Hourly wage: $29.57/hour
Mean annual salary: $58,590
Job outlook: Much faster than average job growth at 23 percent

24. Financial analyst and adviser
What they do: Advise public and private institutions on their investment programs.
Hourly wage: $29.66/hour
Mean annual salary: $60,659
Job outlook: Much faster than average job growth at 37 percent

25. Instructional coordinator
What they do: Formulate instructional material and coordinate educational content to develop curricula and conducting courses for educators in specialized fields.
Hourly wage: $29.76/hour
Mean annual salary: $54,001
Job outlook: Much faster than average job growth at 22 percent

*Averages were found by dividing the annual salary by 52 weeks (in the year).
**Salary information according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hourly wages and annual salaries were computed based on mean number of hours worked each week and year, which vary per occupation.
***The average growth rate for jobs is 7 to 13 percent through 2016, according to the BLS.

Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Feb 11, 2009

Loss of standards

Someone awhile ago, who was of an older generation, mentioned how much he liked it when women used to wear hats. It was part of the female closet & get up.

I often think and come to appreciate old rituals, if you will, that our generation has lost.

Like, a man opening a door for a woman. I haven't had that before. Matt has always done that. He will go out of his way to unlock and open my door. I have always poo poo'd those types of things as so old fashioned & ridiculous in the past but now, I love it! I feel special when he does it. I think I want to start teaching my son some male manners but not sure females would appreciate it.

What do you think? Log on to my blog and leave me your comments!

Feb 9, 2009

MSN - Why gas prices will soar again

Remember how outraged we were when oil soared and oil companies posted record profits? It will happen again. Cash in on it this time around.

If your wallet is feeling fatter with gas prices stuck around $2 a gallon, here's a little tip:

Take some of the money you're saving and shove it into oil investments.

To the long list of stock sectors huddling in the market's cold bargain basement, add the oil patch. Prices of petroleum and natural gas have plunged from nearly twice what most observers regard as reasonable to nearly half.

Energy stocks have fallen right along with them. And though some have started to rebound, they're still well below the levels they hit when gas was $4 a gallon.

It's pretty much a sure bet that fuel prices will rise again and that energy companies will cash in again. Oil has fallen from more than $147 a barrel to below $41 today, and few, if any, analysts think that will last long term.

"The secular bull market (in energy) is intact," says Tim Guinness, the lead manager of the Guinness Atkinson Global Energy Fund (GAGEX). "There will be a breathing space over the next three years . . . where oil trades between $60 and $80. It's not going over $100 for three years, at least, but go above $100 it will."

You'll recall that oil companies posted record profits when gas prices were soaring. Consumers and politicians were outraged, but nothing changed. It will happen again, and you and I might as well get a piece of the action.

No end to demand

One reason energy prices will rise is that the ambitious plans of President Barack Obama and other world leaders to develop alternatives to fossil fuels will take decades to have an effect.

Meanwhile, consumers of energy are proving more sensitive to price than to the recession. Oil consumption has been declining, but the pace of the decline has slowed as prices have come down. MasterCard reports that year-over-year declines in gasoline purchases sank 3% in December, down sharply from a drop of 7.6% two months earlier. The International Energy Agency forecasts that global consumption, which declined in 2008 for the first time since 1983, will grow by a half-million barrels a day this year, though many independent analysts believe this estimate is too high.

Advocates of alternative sources of energy, meanwhile, acknowledge theirs will be a lengthy quest. If the United States reaches the goal of having 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2013, they will still account for only 0.4% of the total number of cars. Wind farms and, especially, solar power for electricity generation could garner a greater market share than that, but it will still be measured in low percentages for at least a generation.

And China's policies in coming years could put as many as 600 million more cars on the roads -- 20 times as many as the country has now and more than twice as many cars as are on U.S. roads today.

That all adds up to a huge increase in demand for limited supply. And makes higher energy prices one of the safer bets in the market today.

The perfect vehicle for this ride is a broad-based energy or natural-resources mutual fund, such as such as Vanguard Energy (VGENX), or a similar exchange-traded fund. Pockets of the energy group, notably exploration, production and oil-field services, are likely to lag the commodity as integrated oil giants slash expenses to ride out the recession. But the major oil companies will outperform the commodity in the end because they reap outsize profits from marginal increases in price.

A troublesome market

Of course, fossil fuels are a messy business. Control resides only partly in the free market. Much of the production comes from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, a price-fixing organization that would be illegal in the developed world -- but OPEC nations are largely undeveloped and ruled by quixotic dictators.

OPEC is also far from homogeneous. At least two of its members, Iran and Venezuela, are fiercely anti-Western. Venezuela, Mexico and, to a growing extent, Russia are so mismanaged that oil production was falling even as the price was peaking last summer.

So, though OPEC has an announced goal of cutting production by 2.5 million barrels a day, to bring supplies closer to demand and again raise the price, the market doesn't care. The spot price fell more than 25% in the two weeks after this decision was announced in mid-December.

Further overhanging the energy marketplace is the forward trading of speculators, both those inside the industry, such as oil companies, and outsiders, referred to as noncommercial interests. Noncommercial open contracts on the Nymex soared to 65,000 at the end of December from 2,000 at the beginning of the month.

Fund manager Guinness, who is based in London, notes that this level of interest among traders rivals the most recent high, reached last March. "When these long positions unwind, they can put significant downward pressure on the spot price," he says.

What that means to most investors is that oil prices -- and stocks that are basically pegged to them -- can be full of surprises. But since markets are forward-looking, so many of them are already anticipated and written into the stock prices that they don't matter.

Oil and stocks underpriced

That means that worries about consumption, Obama and OPEC are reflected in the current prices for both oil and the companies married to it. The price range Guinness expects for oil -- around $75 a barrel -- would represent a near doubling of the current price, which closed at $40.08 on Feb. 2.

Oil analysts were forecasting exactly this price in November 2007, when oil was trading above $90 and I wrote a column titled "Cash in your oil profits now."
Since it was published, one of the purest plays in the sector, Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE, news, msgs), had tumbled 35.8%, as of the Jan. 28 close.

By way of comparison, the natural-resources ETF that I own and recommend, iShares S&P North American Natural Resources Index (IGE), had plunged 42.5% in the same period, principally because it diversifies about 15% of its assets into other natural resources, including metals and timber. They've been whacked even harder than oil.

(Both ETFs, and most resources mutual funds, pack their largest allocation of assets in the integrated majors such as Exxon Mobil (XOM, news, msgs), Chevron (CVX, news, msgs) and ConocoPhillips (COP, news, msgs).)

For the benefits of diversification, the iShares ETF is the resources investment I would recommend going forward. Non-energy natural resources are more sensitive to recession than oil; that's why they're down more. But what lies ahead of us right now is recovery from recession. So while both members of the team should outperform the market over the next 18 months, this minority member should slightly outperform its companion.

Similarly, I own a broadly diversified natural-resources mutual fund, T. Rowe Price New Era (PRNEX), rather than an energy-only fund.

"New Era" in this fund's name has significance now. Launched in 1969, the new era of those years was a regime of rising and ultimately crippling inflation. Resources such as oil, gold and timber have built-in inflation protection. And we're going to need it. Congress is larding the so-called economic stimulus package with so many permanent spending increases, and so few corresponding tax increases to pay for them, that the federal deficit is expected to top 100% of gross domestic product within two years.

That would put us on a par as a debtor nation with Italy, which surrendered world leadership nearly 2,000 years ago. Today's Italy, bound to the euro, cannot inflate its way out of recession. The United States can and will.

Recovery runs on oil

The global economy will recover, probably beginning in the second half of this year. Energy will literally fuel this recovery and nowhere more so than in the rapidly developing nations of Asia, notably China. The great bulk of their populations have not yet benefited from globalization, but the benefits have rained down so close that they are keenly aware of them, envy them bitterly and are beginning to demand a share of them aggressively. Political leaders who don't deliver won't survive.

Portfolios light on resources like oil and gas won't deliver either. Recoveries need fuel. In the words of an old Exxon slogan, put a tiger in your tank.

Feb 4, 2009

Valentine's Day...

Well, this is not one of my favorite annual holidays. I know, I'm female and I'm supposed to be in to this right? I do love & melt at my sweetie buying me the greatest card or sending me the gooey text but regarding this upcoming day, I've decided two things as a partnered female and a mother -

1) if I am happy and fulfilled in my relationship, I don't need a national holiday for my husband to tell me he loves me (& spend more of our money on things marketing advertisers have deemed necessary on Feb. 14th). Any other day of the year would be just fine.

2) It grates on me to spend money on valentines to send to school with the kids, that will be in the garbage by the end of the day. Why not just take the money, tear it up & throw it directly in the trash? Especially in light of our failing economy and struggling country. Let's not go into the whole marketing of this day, just to relieve the American population of their hard earned dollars. Do they not realize, we realize, flower prices go up astronomically for that particular day????

I have a saying I heard somewhere.... "Just say NO" to the bleeding of American pockets. Do we need to talk about the 3 million dollars spent on 30 second spots during the Superbowl? It has nothing to do with Valentine's Day but it goes along with the continued marketing to our brains that we need this stuff, we need to spend this money, give it to them! ;)

Have a wonderful day and if you haven't taken your honey out in awhile, do it on today! tomorrow! the 12th, 13th, 15th and every month afterwards. Don't save it for Feb 14th!!! Matt & I may be sitting in The Purple Cafe, sipping some good wine and having a fabulous dessert. Hey! We would go on any other day, if it was offered then!

Happy Valentine's Day today, hehe :)

Feb 2, 2009

Friend or foe?

I say "okay, honey, 10 lbs by our reunion date. We can do it".

He sweetly chuckles, smiles and says "okay. Sounds good".

Leaves the room..

Returns, quadruple scoop vanilla ice cream with caramel swirl, covered in Hot fudge and Hot caramel, topped with whip cream & pecans - TWO spoons.

Mouth watering I spit out "you are evil" and dig in.

Okay, maybe next month....

Feb 1, 2009

"Stud" is old school

On our way home from church this morning, my daughter (13) was talking about the boys at school, wearing their pants down so low their boxers show and the teachers have to ask them to pull up their pants. Thinking I'm going to make a good parental point, turn around and say "So, those boys with their pants falling down & underwear showing, do they appear more "studly" to you girls"?

Expecting this resounding no, I look at blank faces. Eyebrows knit together, "huh?"... I say "what do you mean huh?". The girls say "what does that mean?". I think, they are playing a joke on me. Everyone knows what the term Stud means. They say "you mean retarded?" Well I guess that would suffice for wearing your pants half off & having to walk around holding them with one hand. But not what I meant. I say "you know, that guy's a stud". My daughter turns to her friend, then back to me. Reaching up & tugging on her ear - "you mean, like an earring?". Completely serious. I laugh and say "Seriously! Like, um, hot, cool, a dude". They look at each other, roll their eyes, "no, mom, we've never heard that word". Unbelievable!

It was the first blinding sign that I, my generation (read that YOU) have become old school.

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