Archive for February, 2010

February 28, 2010

Theory Of Relativity: Andrew Koenig’s Suicide

by Ben Hoffman

On February 25th, actor Andrew Koenig hung himself. On the surface, he had everything going for him. He was a child star and regular on the TV sitcom Growing Pains. His father was Walter Koenig who played Chekov in Star Trek, which gave him an easy entry into an acting career. He never knew what it was like to struggle to become an actor, much less to earn a living.

To most of us, we have to work to better ourselves and with each accomplishment, our sense of self-worth increases. Each failure gives us the opportunity to work harder or try something else. But it is a struggle. Dealing with the tedium and drudgery of a regular job is tough.

Most of us would give anything to walk in Andrew Koenig’s shoes. To be born into wealth would be a dream. How nice it would be not to have to worry about earning a living. We could dedicate our days to hobbies and just have a good ol’ time every day. It would be a permanent vacation.

In an old Twilight Zone episode, the main character was a heavy gambler, pool hustler, drinker, womanizer… He is killed and finds himself in what he initially believes to be heaven. He wins all his bets, his pool games, and gets away with all his nefarious activities. Winning all the time takes away the thrill of facing danger, though, which takes away the excitement and makes it boring. It turns out, he had not gone to heaven but to a highly personalized hell. Winning means nothing if there’s no chance of losing.

It could be, with people like Andrew Koenig, who was born wealthy and had everything handed to him, they face their own personal hell by not having to struggle to achieve anything. In life, everything is relative.

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February 24, 2010

This Country Is So Screwed

by Ben Hoffman

We don’t have a government of, by, or for the people. We have a government for special interests and big business. The majority of people want health insurance reform including the public option, but it looks like that is going to fall by the wayside. Obviously the banking sector needs to be regulated, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Because of the Bush and Reagan tax cuts for the wealthy, we’re in debt up to our eyeballs, but there’s no way taxes are going to be raised on the wealthy when politicians are financed by the wealthy. The recent credit card legislation will do little to reign in abuses by the credit card industry. It had to be watered down to garner enough votes to pass. And with all the voting irregularities of the past decade, where’s election reform?

When we elected Obama in 2008, we thought we were voting for pragmatism. Instead, what we got was conservative lite. After all this time, Obama still thinks he can compromise with Republicans to get things done. And why the hell does Timothy Geithner still have a job. It’s pathetic.

February 22, 2010

Whining About Being Unemployed

by Ben Hoffman

An article in the Denver Post this morning — Minority leaders call for response to racial disparity in unemployment rate — got me thinking about the times I’ve been unemployed. I don’t think there was ever a time when I wasn’t working. There were just times when I wasn’t getting paid for the work I was doing.

Times of unemployment are opportunities to learn new skills or improve on existing ones. When the economy is in a slump, those are good times to go back to school. While college is expensive, there are grants and scholarships that can help pay tuition. And a college degree is an investment will almost always yield positive returns.

I was talking to an unemployed young man a few days ago who asked me if I had any work that he could do. He complained that there were no jobs out there. I am looking for help, but as an owner of a small business, I can’t just hire people for the hell of it. I needed highly skilled people and he didn’t have any marketable skills. So I just wished him luck. Luck is the only thing that is going to get an unskilled person a job in this economy. People with marketable skills can find work if they try hard enough.

But back to the Denver Post article…

“The times require that the federal government step in and provide temporary employment opportunities,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus’ jobs task force. “Not Social Security payments, not one-time checks, but jobs where people get up in the morning and go to work.”

It’s that kind of attitude that gives government a bad name. The government can’t and shouldn’t just create jobs out of thin air. There is work that needs to be performed by the government, but most work is done by private companies. Most government projects use private companies to do the actual work.

“We can’t just go back to the economy of three to four years ago when African-Americans suffered perennial unemployment rates that were consistently twice that of whites,” said Ben Jealous, chief executive of the NAACP.

Why has black unemployment been so much higher than that of whites? One of the main reasons is education. Especially in this information age, unless you have a college degree, you’re probably not going to be able to find a decent paying job, if you can find one at all. And there’s a huge disparity between whites and blacks when it comes to higher education.

Westminster resident Sydney Hobbs, who is black, lost his job working at a Goodwill warehouse in November. He has put out several dozen resumes for warehouse jobs and electrician apprenticeships but hasn’t gotten any responses. In recent weeks, he visited the Denver Workforce Center on Speer Boulevard downtown, which helps people search for jobs.

“Companies aren’t hiring, but they say, ‘Send in a resume,’ ” said Hobbs, 50, who is married with two children. “Hopefully, things will get better soon.”

Hobbs is considering renewing his lapsed commercial driver’s license and looking for work driving a delivery truck. He’s worried about losing his family’s apartment.

Hobbs is just “considering” renewing his commercial driver’s license? What the hell is he waiting for? To find work, you have to be proactive. You have to make your own luck, which means getting marketable skills, going to school, learning a trade, finding out what skills are in demand…

“We are calling for the government to create jobs for Latinos, but the policies enacted so far have not done enough to help these workers,” Janet Murgía, chief executive of the National Council of La Raza, said during a teleconference on Friday.

If you go into almost any motor vehicle bureau in the Denver area, you’d be hard pressed to find a white person working there. The government often uses affirmative action hiring to help minorities, as do many large corporations that receive government contracts. There is also financial aid available to minorities that are not dependent on income, meaning middle class blacks or Hispanics can get financial aid not available to poor whites.

“It’s a really hard economy and really hard market right now,” said Smith-Duran, who has a master’s degree in social work. “I was in tears for a bit after losing that job, but I was able to regroup and go on.”

A master’s degree in social work? Basically, that’s a degree to help poor people, and there’s not a whole lot of money or career opportunities in that field other than teaching or working for the government.

People who feel victimized by society are always going to be left behind. They feel helpless to do anything about their problems and therefore, don’t even try. After all, it’s not their fault. More than anything, it’s that attitude that needs to change.

Read the full article here.

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February 10, 2010

Taking a Break From Blogging Politics

by Ben Hoffman

I have too much going on with work these days (which is good) so I need to take a break for a few weeks. But I’ll be back. 🙂

February 4, 2010

Democrat’s Loss Of Super-Majority Causes Dow To Fall 268 Points!

by Ben Hoffman

With the swearing in of Scott Brown today, panic swept through America and people sold their stocks, fearing the worst. Democrats no longer have the super-majority needed to pass even the most trivial of legislation.

Our country is in serious trouble. Just to keep running, the government needs to borrow $14.3 trillion dollars. The federal debt is now at over $12 trillion, thanks to the irresponsible tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, the two wars, and high unemployment that has greatly reduced revenues, not to mention the over $400 billion dollars a year we pay to interest on the debt.

When Bush’s first fiscal year began on Oct. 1, 2001, the federal debt was $5.8 trillion. At the end of his final fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2009, the debt was $11.9 trillion. He increased the federal debt by some $6.1 trillion, more than doubling our debt.

Of course, the Republicans have a history of radical fiscal policies. Reagan more than tripled the debt. It went from a modest $900 billion to $2.8 trillion during his tenure.

So it’s understandable that people would be concerned about the economy with another Republican in Congress. This might be a good time to go short in the market.

Note: the European debt problems and worse than expected jobs report may also have contributed to the stock market drop today.

February 3, 2010

New Slide At Water World

by Ben Hoffman

It looks like fun.