Waxingandwayneing’s Weblog

October 24, 2008

Proposition 8

Filed under: Ramblings — waxingandwayneing @ 4:20 pm

A few weeks ago, I met a couple of young adults who were canvassing the neighborhood to determine how people would vote on California’s Proposition 8, the “California Marriage Protection Act”. I freely explained that I was in favor of Proposition 8–not because I would ever discriminate against gays or lesbians–but because I felt it was time to say No to the re-defining of marriage.

I would never support discriminating against gays and lesbians in the workplace.  Nor would I ever condone the denial of visitation rights in the hospital by a partner.  Contract law fully allows acquiring property, etc.  These should all be protected and provided for under the law.

When Proposition 22, a ballot measure defining marriage in California as between one man and one woman came up for a vote, It passed with 61% percent of the vote.  This past May, California’s Supreme Court overturned this voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, saying gay and lesbian couples could not be denied marriage licenses.

The action of the Supreme Court to reverse the will of the people angered many and caused the current Proposition 8 to be placed on the ballot in November.  This in turn has outraged the gay and lesbian community, who are attacking Proposition 8 as the first proposition in California to remove civil rights.  All Proposition 8 attempts to do is place the decision back into the hands of the voters.  Shouldn’t the people be allowed to make decisions like these?

I was asked by some of the supporters of Proposition 8 to allow them to film me for a You Tube video on the proposition.  If you would like to see it, here is the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Qb1BWRoP2Q

The last thing I would want to do is be portrayed at being unfair or discriminatory.  I feel that matter is rather simple.  Let’s have the courage to say “No” to certain things, even at the risk of offending certain people.  For too long, we have said “Yes” to everything, so we would avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.  We have built a society defending the rights of the “last American”.

Another good argument for the Pro-8 position involves the importance of legal definitions.  If you want to sell wine called “Champagne”, you have to comply with the rules.  The grapes must come from the Champagne region of France, in accordance with the Appellation d’origine contrôlée certification.  If you decide to not comply with the rules of making champagne, you cannot call it Champagne; you have to call it something else.

Dictionary.com defines marriage as “the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.”  If you want to change the definition of marriage, it is not longer “marriage”.  Call it something else.  It’s that simple.

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October 16, 2008

A Toe in the Water

Filed under: The Economy — waxingandwayneing @ 8:09 pm

You would have to be near dead to be unaware of the wild fluctuations in the stock market over the last two weeks.  From the session high to the low, the major indices have seen unprecedented movement on intraday activity.  Fundamentally, how could a 1,000 point swing be justified in one day?  What news could possibly spark a recovery from a huge loss in the same day?  “Oh, we meant to say our sales were UP 50% not down 50%….sorry!”

I think someone is messing with us.  Or several someones.  Clearly there is money to be made in the recent market declines, but when do you get in?  When do you even dip a “toe in the water”.  I almost did last Monday.  I thought the market had bottomed and was ready to rise.  In fact, Monday showed nice gains and the turn looked strong.  But then Tuesday was weak, followed by a an even more dismal Wednesday.  Now today, the market is up 401 with another large intraday swing.  What gives?

The bottom line is that no one really knows.  The financial news hacks are trying to sound smart, which daily proves to be difficult.  The technicians try to argue for support at various trend lines, but have difficulty trying to advise in a market unconcerned about charting.  After all, the entire system is collapsing!  This week, earnings once again became a basis to measure stock value.  Go figure!  The optimists who tried to drive the market up earlier were met with the reality of corporate performance in the presence of a recession.  (You mean, we now have to be concerned with how these companies actually performed?)

This is no market for the timid.  I do know that there are bargains out there to be had.  Many company have been unfairly hammered.  But, just when I think it is time to allocate funds back into the market, the market falters.  With the beta as high as it is now, waiting is prudent.

With the FDIC insurance now at a higher level of $250,000, our cash is safe.  Please don’t be one of those imbeciles who withdraws your cash because you think there will be a bank run.  Measure your risks based on facts, not on illusion.

My advice is to stay liquid for awhile longer.  I would want to see an established recovery in the Dow showing at least 5 up days.  If you feel that toe is getting dry and needs to be dipped in the water, then invest slowly and knowledgeably.  Earning 3% on your cash is a lot better than losing half of it on a stock play.

October 13, 2008

Tightening the Belt

Filed under: The Economy — waxingandwayneing @ 2:50 pm

With the economic news getting worse by the day, most Americans have finally realized that the “Buy Buy” days of yesterday have now gone “Bye Bye”.  Fueled by unrealistic liquidity over the past several years, the American consumer has been on an artificial shopping spree, accumulating merchandise they didn’t really need or certainly couldn’t afford.  It now looks like the party is over.  Hallelujah!

Last week, Stephanie Rosenbloom of the New York Times reported that, “Sales at some of the nation’s best-known retailers fell by double digits in September, highlighting the rapid deterioration of the economy and raising fresh questions about how many of those chains can survive.  Retail analysts and executives said they had not seen such a rapid slowdown in consumer spending since the nation’s last deep recession, in the early 1980s.”

If it takes a recession to sober up the American consumers from their drunken buying binge, then so be it.  No longer able to borrow on their home equity lines or credit cards, and worried about losing their jobs, consumers are starting to adopt responsible spending habits, e.g., “Can i really afford that?” or “Do I really need that?”  Go figure!

Jan Hoffman wrote a nice piece for yesterday’s Sunday New York Times entitled, “The Frugal Teenager, Ready or Not”.  She discusses the shock to teenagers being forced to do without all the luxuries they grew up with.

“When Wendy Postle’s two children were younger, saying “yes” gave her great joy. Yes to all those toys. The music lessons. The blowout birthday parties. But as her son and daughter approached adolescence, yes turned into a weary default. “Sometimes it was just easier to say, ‘O.K., whatever,’ than to have the battle of ‘no,’ ” said Mrs. Postle, a working mother who lives in Hilliard, Ohio, a middle-class suburb of Columbus.  This year her husband’s 401(k) savings are evaporating. Medical bills are nipping at the couple’s heels. Gas prices are still taking a toll. Mrs. Postle recently decided that although she and her husband had always sacrificed their own luxuries for Zach, 13, and Kaitlyn, 15, the teenagers would now have to cut back as well.”

Ms. Hoffman writes about the indulgent behavior of parents…eager to please their children and avoid arguing.  So many kids “were raised in comparatively flush times by parents who believed that keeping children happy, stimulated and successful, no matter the cost, was an unassailable virtue. A 2007 study by the Harrison Group, a market research firm in Waterbury, Conn., found that nearly 75 percent of parents caved in to their children’s nagging for new video games, half within two weeks.”

So, having raised a generation of adolescents trained to get whatever they want, whenever they demand it, we are now having to turn to these kids and say, “No”.  Cutting back is not only prudent, it is imperative.  Mom and Dad simply do not have the money.  Shocking or not, you had better tighten your belts.

What will be most interesting with this economic diet is to see the impact on personal identity of children, as well as adults.  No longer able to afford that designer handbag, sports car, or the week-long rental in St. Barts, consumer will start to suffer from luxury withdrawals, followed by deflation of the ego.  Having previously identified themselves from material goods, people will struggle to define themselves in the absence of these possesions.

It will probably shock many consumers that their personalities are vapid without toys.  What else is there to talk about?  For others, the cutting back mode might yield interesting personas, able to relate to others on a deeper level.  The optimist in me imagines more people reading thought-provoking books, listening to NPR, attending a lecture at the local community college, or volunteering time at a local non-profit.  There are so many things to do that do not involve spending money, but that do yield meaningful enhancement to the person and contributions to society.

The next few months (or years) are going to be tough for so many.  As you tighten that belt to the next hole, take a deep breath, realize you are not alone, and seize the chance to be a better person.

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