Marchbooks' Blog

May 5, 2010

Economic Survival by Elizabeth Marchand

It’s no secret that keeping your finances on an even keel in today’s economy is more challenging than it has ever been, short of the Great Depression. People are struggling, homes are being lost, people are finding themselves on the streets.

It should have come as no surprise. Things had been comfortable for a long time. If we know nothing else about the market and our economy, we know that it does not continue on a straight line – especially when that line is continually rising. There had to be an adjustment somewhere along the way. And so there was.

Now it is up to each of us, as individuals, to get our finances back on track. To do that, we may have to start thinking outside the box. The time has come to look for new, safer ways to grow and protect our money. Toward that end, I have included three videos that I have found particularly useful. I hope they help you in your quest to keep your finances strong and prosperous in these tough economic times.

November 26, 2009

Do We Need Our Own French Revolution? – Janus Kane

Filed under: In the News — marchbooks @ 12:23 am
Tags: , , , , ,
There has been a lot of debate over the state of the economy, high unemployment levels and what the source of the decline is. I think we all know that politicians are not helping the situation, but are they the only problem?
 I think that what we need is something akin to the French Revolution. As things stand right now, the big corporate CEOs are sitting in their ivory towers, thumbing their noses at us while spouting Marie Antoinette’s words – ‘let them eat cake’. Their greed is the thing that is undermining our economy. It is rampant in all areas; from bank executives stomping on struggling families and kicking them out onto the street as they write themselves another bonus check, large farming industries that torture and mutilate animals, in ungodly conditions, for profit and car makers who are so busy taking profits when times were good that they had nothing left for the leaner days.

If these big corporate gluttons would take their hands out of the till for one minute, maybe they could afford to make American products that could compete with what Asian markets are sending over. How any of these CEOs could consider (and could be allowed by their current banker – US) writing themselves another bonus check in these times is beyond comprehension.Shame on our politicians for handing over America’s hard-earned money to large corporations with no conditions or interest obligation – basically with no accountability at all. It is a case of the ‘haves’ giving to the ‘haves’ and leaving the ‘have nots’ to pick up the tab. 

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October 25, 2009

Can Positive Thought Be Harmful To Your Health?

I just read a curious article on The Perils of Positive Thought, If you are like me, you are going huh? and scratching your head right about now. Initially, I thought the title was just a hook or there must be some twist in the article, but it actually does argue that a positive attitude is harmful, and is even guilty of ‘undermining America’.

I would never argue that an opinion that is different from my own lacks credence just because I disagree. Obviously, the author of Bright Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, Barbara Ehrenreich, feels passionately about this issue, but I still feel compelled to point out some problems with her argument. The first principle that I take exception with is that ‘the opposite of positive is realist’. It must have happened when I wasn’t looking, but when did optimism and realism become mutually exclusive? Optimism vs Pessimism – at least that is how I learned it.

Having a positive attitude does not mean walking around like Polly Anna with blinders on. You can see the reality of a situation without giving in to despair about it. Trying to maintain a positive attitude (and I do say trying, because no one is successful at it all of the time) does not mean ignoring the negatives going on around you, turning a blind eye to them and just trying to wish them away with your positivity. To the contrary, I think that a positive attitude can give you more strength to deal with the negatives in your life because you can visualize a better day. For instance, if we truly believed that the American economy had no chance of rebounding from its current downturn, what incentive would most of us have to get up and go to work every morning?

The fact that the human condition is only a temporary one is what gives us the strength to see past negative trends and look forward to a better future. If we, as a people, truly believed that we were doomed and had no cause for anything but despair, how could we even propagate the race? Could we, with such a negative outlook, bring new lives into the world, knowing that our children would also be doomed? It is hope and optimism that keeps us getting out of bed every morning.

The author argues that ‘being consistently upbeat and optimistic has two downsides.  By refusing to look at potential negative consequences, we can delude ourselves about the harmfulness of our actions,’ and that it is a  potentially cruel burden to impose on others. I reiterate that having a positive outlook does not mean ignoring potentially negative consequences. As for imposing a cruel burden on others to be positive, I find that  a bit simplistic. She cites her own battle with cancer. I don’t want to minimize her experience in any way, but the last time I checked, this was a free society and most adults have free will. If she found it oppressive to be surrounded by positivity, she should have expressed that to the people in her life and they should have honored her feelings.

I just don’t think it can be disputed that positivity, humor and laughter are healing forces. The mind/body connection is hard to deny. Furthermore, I don’t believe that trying to support a loved one with positivity equates to ‘infantilizing’ them. I think that most of us would be grateful to have people in our lives that cared enough to go to such lengths, especially when it means subverting their own fears and insecurities.

Without bringing religion into the argument, it is my personal belief that there is a universal power and consciousness. I have found that tuning into and reflecting positive thoughts to the universe can be a very constructive exercise. Is it the equivalent of rubbing the genie out of a magic lamp – of course not. I think of it more in line with some conventions applied by 12 step programs. ‘Act As If’ and ‘Fake It Till You Make It’ are two such precept. No one feels positive all of the time and no one is successful at keeping their goals in sight 24/7. However, keeping a vision in your head of where you want to be or even imagining yourself already being there is a powerful tool. For my author friends; imagining the completion of the final page of a novel, envisioning yourself holding your new book in your hand or being seated at your first book signing can help you to focus your thoughts and energy on your long-term goal.

Imagine if you will, a scenario where you could get everyone in the world to project one single thought out to the universe at the same time. Imagine that thought as being infinitely simple yet so complex that man has been unable to grasp it for all of his existence. Imagine everyone envisioning world peace at the very same moment and projecting that thought into the universe. How powerful do you think that would be? I don’t know about you, but I hope we will find out some day.

Until next time,
M.J. Claire


October 10, 2009

Manipulating the Constitution by M.J. Claire

I don’t usually venture into the world of politics. I leave that task for Janus. But, this issue came to my attention because it is connected with an animal rights issue – the ‘sport’ of dog fighting (I will never cease to be amazed at the way people have managed to distort the meaning of such a simple word). Merriam-Webster defines sport as physical activity engaged in for pleasure. How is being a voyeur to the pain and suffering of animals a fit for that definition? I digress. But, actually I don’t.

The premise for this post is the repeated abuse and manipulation, by bureaucrats, law makers and politicians, of our Constitution. The Bill of Rights and the Constitution, although not simplistic documents, have a very simple purpose – to protect our democratic freedoms. They were written, and I believe intended, to protect our most fundamental and thus essential, rights as citizens of this country.

Unfortunately, certain factions and special interests have been wielding the Constitution like a hammer, using it to beat others down. Through the judicious use of semantics, this document is being compressed and stretched to the point of breaking. It should be recognized that the Constitution is not a piece of chewing gum. This gratuitous manipulation of the foundation of our government is abusive at best, criminal at worst. A perfect, and very unfortunate, example of this is the case of US v. Stevens. In this instance, the interested parties are trying to justify the filming of dog fighting as being protected by free speech. Stevens, who was convicted of distributing such videos, is claiming that his videos are for educational purposes and thus should be Constitutionally protected.

The question seems simple to me. Who orchestrated the dog fight? If the fights were staged, supported or in any way sponsored by the defendant, if he profited in any way from the sale of those videos, then he is guilty. This is not the case of a documentary filming of animals in nature, nor is it an undercover documentation of animal abuse in foreign countries or the feed animal industry. These scenarios, as I understand it, were orchestrated by people for the purpose of dissemination and profit and Stevens did profit from these videos.

The argument that this kind of video should be protected by the right to free speech is an incredible distortion of the First Amendment. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled that this kind of expression should be protected by this cherished freedom. I am given to understand that the argument went thus; ‘child pornography is “intrinsically related to the sexual abuse of children” and should be banned because the images will continue to harm children long after the abuse has occurred. “While animals . . . [are] worthy of human kindness and human care, one cannot seriously contend that the animals themselves suffer continuing harm by having their images out in the marketplace.”‘

It has to be recognized that, just as child pornography may cause an increase and foster child abuse, it is inarguable that the torture of animals is the first step in the creation of a serial killer. History has shown us numerous examples. But, beyond that, by allowing such content legal protection, we are effectively condoning it and turning a blind eye. What lesson are we teaching our children when we say that the torture of any living thing is acceptable entertainment? We are already doing such a good job of desensitizing these young minds. We are truly on our way to encouraging an ‘anything goes’ society and this is just another step along that unfortunate path.

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September 24, 2009

Even More Cause for Concern by Janus Kane

Filed under: In the News — marchbooks @ 11:36 am
Tags: , , ,

It is sad to see that conservatives are still resorting to propaganda and personal attacks on the President and his administration. They are playing on people’s fear and creating hysteria.

I watched a Youtube video yesterday on a military presence in Ohio. What it amounted to was roughly 5 minutes of footage watching soldiers directing traffic. There was no threatening action, no guns were drawn and no one was accosted. It seemed clear that these soldiers were just there to support local law enforcement (for whatever reason). Periodically, the videographer would insert hyperbole that implied the military was there to force people to get vaccinated, but there was no visual evidence of that. There was even mention of concentration camps.

I wish that the conservatives would see how these attempts to panic people are causing a huge rift between Americans. Trying to push your neighbor into hysteria is cruel and counterproductive. What I find most offensive are the attempts to draw parallels between Obama’s presidency and Hitler’s regime. Come on people. This man is an elected official. He has been working non-stop, since his inauguration, to cure the imbalance that is plaguing our economy. If Obama is guilty of anything, it is being overly ambitious. Perhaps he has tried to tackle too much at once – that remains to be seen, but at least he is taking action, something that the previous administration cannot say.

I would hope that the conservatives can put their anger aside and start working together. That is what this country is all about, isn’t it?

September 18, 2009

Cause for Concern, cont. by Janus Kane

Filed under: In the News — marchbooks @ 1:20 pm

I am just ruminating on why there is such a dramatic rift between Obama supporters and those who are against the Obama presidency. It seems to be a disturbing trend. More and more, these two camps are solidifying. On one side, you have the people who like Obama (but are no longer over the moon about him) and on the other side, you have the people who hate our new President. Yes, you heard me right. Those who are opposed to Obama seem to have developed a deep, seething hatred for our current President and his policies.

One good thing, perhaps the only good thing, about George Bush is that, by the end of his presidency, he had pretty much unified people in their discontent over his performance. Even hardcore Republicans were finding it hard to get enthusiastic about Bush’s presidency. I wouldn’t call people’s dislike passive, but everyone seemed to be very clear on Bush’s incompetence. People seemed to be resigned to the fact that the nightmare was almost over and that Bush was more of a pawn than a player.

Things are different with Obama. I’m not sure if it is racism, thinly disguised, religious fervor, or the result of the new President’s strong presence, but the rumor mill has been working overtime.

The pervasive attitude among the malcontents seems to be that Obama’s politics are malicious and filled with subterfuge. No one is questioning his competence, but adversaries seem to think that his presidency is calculated to undermine our government, our ideals and our basic way of life.

I am not sure if it is a ‘chicken or the egg’ dynamic but the prevailing Obama hatred seems to revolve around an ever growing supply of propaganda (at least I hope it is just propaganda) about the new presidency. The claims get more outrageous every day: Obama is not a US citizen, Obama’s new health care bill supports the murder of infants and the elderly, Obama is trying to set himself up as a dictator, Obama is unpatriotic and subversive. So far, I have not found any substance in these claims. There is no evidence that Obama’s new bill is advocating the euthanasia of 2 year old children with disabilities or the elderly. Although Obama admits to having several Czars in his administration (an unfortunate choice of terms, in my opinion), this is and has been, a common practice since Roosevelt. Bush also had ‘Czars’ but I don’t remember anyone holding his feet to the fire about it.

There is also much talk about how Obama hates America and is only interested in subverting our way of life. Again, there has been no substantiated evidence of this. I am, in fact, relieved that Obama has taken to the network to confront these allegations head-on. I can only hope that conservatives will open their ears, set aside their prejudices and actually listen to what he is saying. Conservatives are clamoring that the majority has spoken and Obama is acting counter to the majority vote. Well, the majority voted Obama into office. Now we need to give him the opportunity to do what we asked him to do, lead this country.

The task has fallen on Obama’s shoulders to guide this country through the most trying times we have seen in decades. He is trying to do that. Let’s give him the opportunity and the support to be successful.

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August 7, 2009

Cause For Concern by Janus Kane

Filed under: In the News — marchbooks @ 3:20 pm
Tags: , , , ,

First, the Disclaimer. I have been an Obama fan since he appeared on the scene. At first, it was just a matter of, ‘anyone but George Bush’. Then, I became entranced by his charisma, his enthusiasm and what I perceived to be his guileless manner. He certainly appeared, to me anyway, to be an ‘all cards on the table’ kind of guy. His presidency seems very transparent and open to public scrutiny. I found it refreshing.

With full acknowledgement that it was Bush who began the Bailout debacle, one has to wonder why Obama continues to chase his tail on this. I think it has become more than clear that the bailout methodology is a failure. How deep into debt must we dig ourselves before we realize that we are not curing the problem? I say ‘we’, but there is very little ‘we’ involved here. Our government continues to write checks, expecting us to cover them.

Then there is the health insurance reform. I am told that this is an 11 pound document. It is inconceivable that a group of lawmakers will be able to argue and agree on each article. I would question whether many of them have even been able to read through it. The potential for abuse here is mind-boggling. Every day, bills are passed that carry unrelated and unwelcome addendums. Can anyone out there venture a guess at the number of potential landmines that might be disguised in the pages of an 11 pound document?

People who do not support Obama are starting to panic and the propaganda is beginning to spread. I have heard it suggested that this bill is being used to broaden the scope of the abortion law. The proposed change, I am told, will allow aborting a child up to two years after birth if they are physically or mentally impaired.  It is an insane concept which should make one laugh, but do we really know? With so much out of our control, can any one of us say with conviction that this is an impossibility? It has also been alleged that the bill includes provisions for senior patients to visit with their doctors, on a regular basis, to discuss continued life choices. WHAT! Has the law prohibiting euthanasia been revised when I wasn’t looking? If it hasn’t, what is there to discuss?

Then there are the other disturbing rumors. The ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program seems to be a  big success. So much so that it had to be refunded. I’m all for it – in theory. But, there are two major flaws. The first is that there has been no pressure put on the auto makers to provide cars that are more fuel efficient. The best we can do is 28 miles per gallon, and there are only a handful of those models available. So, we are flooding the roads with vehicles that are only marginally better than their predecessors. Which leads to the  second problem; where are all of these clunkers going? One would assume, since this is environmental reform, that these vehicles are being recycled. But, there is no evidence of that. It seems inconceivable that we will just be cramming our landfills with these vehicles, but I see no evidence that this is not the case. So what is this really? On the face of it, maybe we are looking at just another way to bolster up the floundering automobile industry. As my grandmother used to say – ‘if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…’ If this is the case, shame on Obama. I, for one, expected better.

Other rumors abound: bailout money being used to bolster the pornography industry, Michelle Obama using taxpayer money for their trip to Paris and that Obama is simply unpatriotic. It has even been suggested that he is manipulating himself into a dictatorial position. As far fetched as some of this sounds, the proponents are adamant and I cannot completely refute it because there is just not enough information. I have not read the health care bill and until I see it in black and white, I refuse to believe that our president is advocating the murder of our elderly and infirm, BUT…Help us out here Mr. President. Please give us something besides hope and logic to base our arguments on and don’t expect sanity to come out of 11 pounds of legalese. Let’s have some laws and language that are forward looking yet intelligible to the common man. A good plan does not mean a convoluted plan. Obama can truly make this one of the most open and progressive presidencies we have seen in recent years, but is going to take more than legal jargon and subterfuge.

To Be Released in August 2009

To Be Released in August 2009

June 21, 2009

Twitter on the Evening News by Janus Kane

Filed under: In the News — marchbooks @ 8:22 pm
Tags: , ,

I enjoy Twitter. It is a great resource and I have met some interesting people there. Without question, Twitter has found a place in today’s society. Having said that, I have to ask – am I the only one who is a bit concerned at the fact that television news seems to be doing some of their story research on Twitter?

I am not talking about the constant references to Twitter as a social networking site. No, what I’m referring to is the actual citing of Twitter Tweets as news. I was stunned to see the evening news, last night, reference the Tweets of opposing parties in their report of the Tehran conflict. Seriously, is this what news reporting in our country has come to?

For some time now, news disseminators  have been getting their story ideas from the Internet, but now it seems that they are getting the story itself there. Has the Internet become one-stop-shopping for reporters? Will television and newspaper reporting agencies now be satisfied with regurgitating the same information we can find on our laptops?

I think my biggest problem with this, besides the duplicity of it, is the question of credibility. How easily could a twitter account, or many other Internet sources for that matter, be pirated, hacked or just plain manipulated to provide false information. Call me crazy, but when I tune into the nightly ‘news’ I would at least like to preserve the illusion that the stories I am hearing about have been researched and verified by a news reporting agency that I can trust.

I realize that news reporting, like so many things in today’s society, must change in the face of the Internet age. This change, however, does not seem to be progress.

The Little Insanity

May 9, 2009

The Squirrel And The Grasshopper by Janus Kane

Filed under: In the News — marchbooks @ 8:39 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Most of us are familiar with the fable; the tireless squirrel works through the summer to store nuts and fortify his home while the grasshopper laughs and relaxes in the tall grass. Eventually, winter comes and finds the grasshopper, literally, out in the cold.

Fables always carry an inescapable grain of truth, but rarely do we see them come to life before our very eyes as this one is now doing. Our current recession is having far reaching effects, not the least of which is the seperation of the squirrels from the grasshoppers.

We had a long summer. American businesses thrived, the stock market hit ever increasing highs and the housing market boomed, resulting in many good years for everyone involved in real estate and the construction business. During that time, the grasshoppers among us lived for the day, spending their gains as soon as the checks cleared. Big screen tvs, luxury cars and fancy boats were the order of the day for many. Those with more moderate means were still lured by the siren song of affluence. They eagerly stepped up to the loan officer’s desk and signed paperwork for homes on nothing but a wing and a prayer. Get it now, pay for it later became the tune on everyone’s lips. Well, I’m afraid that the tab has come due.

People that lived for the day, never giving a thought to tomorrow. People who were too eager to spend each and every dime that passed through their hands. Those grasshoppers are now paying the price. Only they are not, we all are.

Although I support Barack Obama and recognize the huge effort that he has put forth during his short time in office, I think that beating the drum for more consumerism is a miscalculation. Without some kind of a savings philosophy, we will all be out in the cold once winter comes. The concept of saving is something that we should be instilling in our youth, but we cannot do that until we start practicing it ourselves. Is it really going to take another Great Depression to remind us that a little bit of money in the bank is not a bad thing?

What will it take to make us realize that living the good life on credit alone comes at a high price, too high a price for our limited coffers? The thought that we can spend and spend, as long as our plastic holds out, is a fallacy of epic proportions. It is basic Economics 101 – a house of cards (credit cards) that is destined to come crashing down on us. When that happens, it will be the squirrels who survive the devastation, as they smugly reap the rewards of their planning and foresight. Hopefully, the grasshoppers will not take us all down with them.

To Be Released in August 2009

April 15, 2009

Who’s Protecting Us – Janus Kane

Filed under: In the News — marchbooks @ 10:13 pm
Tags: , , ,

On the news the other night, there was a short segment on Caller-ID Spoofing. I had never heard of it. For those of you in the same boat, I’ll paraphrase based on my interpretation. Apparently, there are now companies on the internet that offer an interesting new service. It is called spoofing and it allows the user to make a call that shows up on the recipient’s caller-id as having been placed from another source.

My understanding is that it works like this; you log into one of these services and pay, then you enter the number you would like to call followed by the number that you would like to show up on their caller-id (it seems that this could be anything from your favorite actor to the IRS), there is also a feature that allows callers to mask their voice so that a man can sound like a woman or visa versa.

I think it comes as little surprise that this new technology is being utilized in a nefarious way. Callers are representing themselves as reputable businesses in order to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting people. Yet another caution for anyone trying to protect themselves against identity theft.

It is not the idea of this that surprises me. Technology is moving at lightning speed and man’s ability to utilize this technology to bilk their neighbors out of a buck never ceases to astound me. What does amaze me is this – apparently, only one state has chosen to make this practice illegal. According to this news program, other states were holding back on legislating against this practice at all whereas some wanted to limit their legislation to usage that was meant to defraud.

Hmmmmm, maybe I am missing something, but what other application could this have? I had to check to confirm it, but true to my recollection, the definition of spoof is to deceive.

I try not to form party affiliations. Liberal, conservative, middle of the road, I try to judge each issue on its merits rather than on where it falls in the party line. But, in this instance, I am afraid that I will come down squarely in the conservative camp. When is our government going to start exhibiting a greater level of care for the average, law-abiding citizen than it does for the criminal?

This seems to be yet another example of government doing back bends in an attempt to protect those who should not be protected. 
When are we going to stop protecting criminal behavior? If you took the time to watch the above video, you will see argument for the one possible acceptable use of this service; for those in battered women’s shelters. That seems to be an odd, double-edged sword to me. I would have to believe that there are more abusive husbands making use of this technology than battered wives. Furthermore, there are other ways of disguising your location or identity (such as prepaid cell phones) without doing it fraudulently. In any case, it seems that the legislature could handle this situation with an exclusion of some sort rather than just ignoring the problem. With millions of cases of identity theft, does it really make sense not to address this situation head on?

The bottom line is that this is a service that is based on deceit and has fraud built into its very nature. The fact that our legislative body has to even debate whether this activity should be made illegal is cause for concern. I think it should make us wonder how far off course our moral compass has fallen. Technology is a wonderful thing, but if we are going to sit back and let it rule our lives and dictate our morals, we are in for a bumpy ride my friends.



The Little Insanity

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