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Obama's budget is a very broad package of ideas. There's an emphasis on higher education, health care reform, and to attach global warming by encouraging new technologies and using penalties and incentives to business. Subsidies for farmers would be cut (primarily because large corporate farms take the most of this money and taxes on the wealthy will be raised, if Obama gets his way.

For those who were hoping for more change from Obama with the stimulus, for those who thought that it didn't go far enough, should look to the budget. This is where the president is making his case for his campaign promises.

The budget couldn't be more different from those put out by George W Bush, well, except for the large budget deficit, of course. Still, there's actual cuts in some programs - something that the deficit ignoring Bushies never made much of an effort to do - and there's a new transparency at least in one realm. Obama actually puts the cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars in the budget. A cost that had always been handled off budget as to not offend the American public.

Basically the Obama Administration is looking to make a fundamental change of direction in the budget, one that throws out thirty years of Reaganomics and harkens back to a more FDR route. There's an emphasis on government taking a larger role and using more money from the rich to fund projects to benefit the greater whole. Some call it "Robin Hood" others will label it socialist, or worse.

Of course many who shout such things don't truly know the meaning of the word socialist, and lack understanding that we have been a socialist nation, albeit less so than many other Western nations, for a long, long time.

Many look to change the problems of economic inequality that have continued to grow over the last 30 years, much of it increased to nearly a breaking point in the last eight. From this I seem to get the idea that Obama and company understand that a strong middle class is key to America's future, but I worry about trying to restructure and pay for so much directly from government programs, entitlements and subsidies. I look for smart spending and directed payments, not a general doling out of money.

I understand taking advantage of our current economic despair to make large, sweeping changes and to pull up the middle class. It's time to encourage better salaries and I'm even for government taking over healthcare from employers, something that we know is currently preventing employers from hiring and having them cut salaries and benefits. The private sector's backs are eventually going to break. I'm just not sure our government is up to the task.

What I'm hoping, and I'm likely naive about this, is that President Obama is just taking his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel's quote about not letting a serious crisis go to waste to heart and trying to put everything on the table so it can be discussed and likely whittled down. He went for middle ground on the stimulus, but decided to shoot for the moon on the budget knowing that he would get only part of what he actually wants to accomplish. The proof will be how hard he pushes his agenda, and what he stumps for.

Now we will get to see if Congress is serious about fiscal responsibility or if they go back to their ways for the last eight years. What congressperson will say no to earmarks, and who will look to control entitlement spending? We can expect Republican's make a big stand and say no to everything, but will they actually bring anything to the table? Can they work with the president without just being obstructionist? We know that the Democrats could push much of the Agenda through without a single Republican vote if necessary, so it behooves the two groups to actually work together.

The Republican's have little to stand on after the spending binge they went on over the last eight years, but if they want to remake their party, now is the time.

There's smart ways to work with the president and try to be responsible with the people's money. The Obama administration has apparently put it thin Congress' court now. We know what Obama's goals are, but what are the priorities of Congress?

At least it's out there on paper, what the agenda is, at least fiscally. We know where Obama is heading but we need to know if the efforts to reduce the deficit spending over the next four years are going to work, we need to know what will be change and possibly cut in entitlements where we don't end up prolonging this economic crisis. We need to know more about the plans for healthcare and the details of rescuing banks that currently are "too big to fail". The devil is in the details.

Now we wait for the debate to ramp up. If you thought the stimulus package fight was nasty, you haven't seen nothing yet. Obama won't get everything he asks for, presidents rarely do, but perhaps it is shooting for the moon to get more than he bargained for.

Out To Sea?

Dec. 8th, 2008 08:48 am
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I know that everyone is concerned about money, and with the holidays here, it's even more on our minds, ours too. Chris and I are thinking about taking another cruise vacation. We haven't booked it yet, but I've already got the time off from work and we are thinking about going for it.

Like our cruise to Alaska last year, it's another Lazy Bear sponsored RSVP all-gay cruise, so there should be a good contingent of bears along with the rest of the crowd. This one is going down the Mexican Pacific Coast (or Mexican Rivera, as one who is trying to sell the cruise may say). The dates are April 18-25 leaving from and returning to Los Angeles.

Now Chris has been on this particular cruise before, and he enjoyed it. It was on a different ship, though. This one's on an NCL ship and is supposed to be top notch. What would really seal the deal for us is if we could gat a few friends to go with. Is anyone interested?
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● Chris and I like the Austin City Limits Festival so much that we have already bought tickets for 2009. They went on sale yesterday for those on the mailing list. Here’s hoping there’s some great acts next year, but it’s always a good excuse to get away to Austin. I hope more people will join us!

● Chris is going to Anaheim today to enjoy Miley Cyrus' big birthday bash at Disney. My travel budget is already shot for the year, and I already was close to Miley this year when I was in New York. I don't think I could take any more excitement like that. I was already at Disneyland this year too, but not with the 30,000 gays they are predicting for this weekend. Maybe next year, if everything is good, I might get to go.

● I’d like to give a shout out to Salon.com and the column/blog How the World Works by Andrew Leonard for keeping me informed about the financial credit crisis. Although I work in the financial world (at an extremely low level), I'm not a business major, economist or even an accountant, I have a large learning curve on some of the issues. I was warned about the mortgage crisis a long time ago (a hat tip goes to Trey ([livejournal.com profile] arkanjil), and I even had to learn about mortgage-backed securities and selling short when taking my licensing tests, but it’s been getting the broader picture, on how this has swelled into a lending crisis that’s hurting businesses that’s been the education lately.

● Again, I’m lucky to work for a company that’s financially strong, but since we aren’t a bank, and our retirement accounts are mostly annuities, not brokerage accounts, we have many callers who are concerned since we’re not FDIC or SPIC insured. Luckily since we’re a not for-profit company, we aren’t leveraged to the hilt. It's tough to re-assure people when their account balances are falling. Still, people don’t understand, even if they have been trough recessions before, that investment in the stock market can and will go down at times. Investment involves risk, plain and simple.

● Even though the House may vote for the $700 billion bailout bill today, that will be just a band-aid for what the economy is going through at this time. Even with the ability for banks to place bad loans at the feet of the US government, there’s severe trouble in lending right now that’s affecting businesses and consumers. Just like the gas shortages in the Southeast, we are a society that is so used to “just-in-time” logistics and deliveries, so when those deliveries don’t come, there’s no inventory to rely on. Many companies now take short term loans to help them meet payroll and purchase equipment, etc. This is done on a very short time table, rather than having a long term financial plan for financing, especially for small employers. When they can’t get the credit, or the small loans they require, business ends up having to curtail growth, laying-off workers and stopping production.

It’s going to be a while before money is flowing as freely as credit has been, if it ever does again. Many banks were far out-leveraging themselves to make these loans happen, and now with fewer big players, and the specter of more regulation on the horizon, both businesses and consumers are going to have to take a hard look at how they spend, and how much credit they will be able to access.

The biggest problem is that American’s have been made to consume everything at a rapid, get it today pace that really shouldn't be allowed. The desire to live beyond your means has been encouraged not only by big business, but by the Bush administration as well, and blame needs to be laid there on his feet. It’s this administration’s effort to not have any American have to sacrifice that has led to big deficits and an economy that was unable to sustain itself as there was no fundamentally sound underpinning. I wonder if Bush was just hoping to get out of office before the bubble burst. He sure looks like he’s just waiting for the bell to ring in January.

I’m wondering how the American people are going to take to a message of tighten your belts when we’ve been coddled so long by a system that says if you want it, get it, damn the future.

What’s interesting is hearing about the far flung suburbs, especially places like the inland Empire in California where tons of expensive McMansions were built and sold for inflated prices to people who couldn’t afford the mortgage payments and now can’t afford the gas prices to commute to and from them, so the houses are foreclosed, the people abandon the homes, and leave all their possessions creating ghost towns out of these suburbs as no one wants to buy them, even at bargain prices. I’m surprised we don’t see more of that in Texas where it seems the cities have grown so far out from the city core, that it’s created more, smaller city cores to compensate, but is that enough to justify driving for miles for everything?

The next president, who ever he, or perhaps she given some odd twist of fate, is, will have the very difficult task of having to pull us along through an economic crisis that may resemble the 1970’s. There’s likely to be some comparisons to Jimmy Carter, who inherited the spiraling inflation, high unemployment and stagnant economy from Nixon/Ford, and he found it very difficult to find a way out of it. Something tells me that no matter whom the president is, 2012 will be a big election year as well.

● Funny thing is that today at work they are feeding us, and passed out a slip of paper with a picture of a baked potato on it that we are to redeem for our lunch. Some people have said that one potato will not be enough, and others have said we should copy the paper in order to get two potatoes. With that there has been talk that we would just create a crisis if there were more slips of paper than potatoes and that the value of the slip of paper would fall as there was no promise of a potato backing the value of these “potato-based securities.” We’ve been having fun with talk of the failure of the potato market and since the delivery of potatoes hasn’t come in yet, the fact that the slips are based on nothing but the full faith that potatoes will appear. There’s also been word of a modern “potato famine” here in the office, but we are waiting for a bailout from management. It’s a funny way to apply the economic lessons we’ve learned these past few weeks.
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Today is my 5th LJ Anniversary. Although my blogging, with long, windy posts, had diminished quite a bit over the last year, i still find LJ to be a wonderful community and I'm very happy of the connections I've made here.

It's interesting that I was finally coming out five years ago, in my first "adult" job (ie, not retail), and living alone. Now I'm partnered, in a job that might be called "adult", but certainly not run by any and pretty much out, if a bit reclusive at times.

The nature of LJ has changed, people have come and gone, and what was a very small bear community in 2002 where you could know all the LJ Bears, is now huge. Except in Tulsa. It's not just LJ, but the internet as a social device that has really changed life for people, especially a minority group like ours, scattered across the country. It's pretty fascinating.

I haven't had too much time to think about this...and hopefully it will spur me on to plan even more, but here's a few things I'd like to set as goals for the future.

Within One Year:
Get a new job - whether it be in a different division of the company I work for, or with a new company.
Purchase a new desktop computer (Apple, of course)
Lose another 20 pounds or so and tone up the muscles.

Within Five Years:
Get Lasik before you have to get reading glasses
Buy a more fuel efficient car
Eliminate Credit Card Debt
Be able to help Chris pay for home improvements

Within Ten Years:
Travel outside North America - maybe twice!
Finish seeing all of the Major League Baseball stadiums
Live somewhere other than Texas (I'd do this earlier, but Chris has a good job)

We'll see how it goes.Certainly life has changed a lot in the last five, moving away from family and college buddies and into a new phase of life, but I still feel like this phase has only begun. We'll see how it goes.
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Chris and I have been packing for our trip that starts on Thursday. There's still a lot of things to get ready. I personally am trying not to overpack, but with 11 days to account for and the possibility of several costume changes (it is a gay cruise, after all), it's hard not to want to bring the entire wardrobe.

We're on the ms Amsterdam. We start in Seattle, then head up to Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan before returning to Victoria and Seattle. I wish we were visiting Vancouver instead of Victoria, but you go where the ship goes. We're heading out to a Mariners game in Seattle with some friends before we go back home.

Now this I hear is true with any cruise, the evening wear, and what you wear to dinner is somewhat controlled on the ship. A guide book I picked up talks about casual, informal and formal dress. I do not own a tux, so I'm bringing the "shiny suit", but that only covers a night or two. There's the informal, which can be anything from polo's to sportcoats, and then casual, but casual can only be worn on board until 6pm PDT (9 eastern). After that time, you should no longer be wearing jeans or shorts. Whatever.

I've never had to plan my wardrobe so much, and that's not including the colder weather and rain.

There's also theme parties on this ship, and due to the nature of this cruse, they have miner and lumber "jock" themes. That will go over well with the lesbians, Im sure. There's also a costume party. I know it's cliche, but unless we get a better idea in the next two day, we're going as Mario and Luigi. It gives me a chance to wear the overalls.

I guess I'm feeling some anxiety about the trip because it's all new, not so much the trip to Alaska, but the way were going. I'm having to learn the rules of the ship, when to be on, when I can go off, what facilities there are, and when to use them, but we also have a whole ship full of men, gay men, in all shapes and sizes. I've seen one website where you can check out some of the people who will be on board, and yep - I'm one of the biggest guys, pound per pound, that will be on board. I'm having some trouble with like wanting to go to the pool, and using the gym, and not feeling like I'm the most out of shape undesirable guy there. Hopefully that won't be the case, and I can just learn to relax and not worry about it.

We've invested a lot of money into this trip, probably the most expensive trip I've ever taken - but hey, I travel cheap. we don't have money left over for the excursions, so we'll be doing it our way. So glaciers, we'll see you from afar. Same goes for you, wildlife. Still, we may get into a town and see something the others don't. Who knows. I just want to feel like my money is well spent.

Oh, speaking of money well spent. I did buy something frivolous this weekend that I'm taking on the trip. Let's just say there's a leather party on the ship. See it behind the cut. )
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People keep talking about peak oil, that sometime, maybe soon, maybe a few years down the road we will find that the cost of getting oil will increase sharply as we run out of easy to recover fuel. Everytime I hear about it it's always mentioned along with the price of gas. Even so, I think there's one other cost to us that they don't mention...plastics.

I remember when I was a kid, most of my early toys were made out of wood. I had wooden blocks and wooden fisher price toys that might have some plastic accents. It was only later when we get into GI Joes (the ones that could mess Ken's shit up, not the small ones) and eventually Star Wars action figures where toys really became plastic, so that was in the mid to late 70's.

Heck, my first computer was a metal-framed Commodore PET. My Atari 2600 was the first plastic coated silicon chip box I owned, and that even has faux wood paneling stickers on it because people weren't used to seeing an all plastic box next to their console television.

In the last ten years glass bottles have been put on the endangered species list. It's odd since there's so much more sand available for glass than there is oil, so we're told. When the price of oil jumps, will we go back to having ketchup in glass?

While there's a growing number of experiments being put on the road to deal with the loss of gasoline, more fuel efficient cars, bio diesel and ethanol, hybrid and electric and eventually fuel cells, has someone been making plastics out of corn?

Unlike wooden blocks, the plastic ones don't have the tough edges that hurt when you fall down on them...well, i take that back. Legos do.

What isn't made out of plastic these days? Will the price of packaging for these items increase as well with the end of peak oil?



Damn, I'm to tired from being out in a pool all day (with plastic rafts and floats) to make any sense tonight.
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Yes, I am that person. I waited a few hours, and picked up...an iPhone.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a big Apple fan, and I certainly was looking forward to picking up the new phone. I even held off replacing my 3 and a half year old phone for months waiting for this day to arrive. My old phone barely holds a charge anymore.

Well, it's also an Apple gadget. As someone who bought the first 5GB iPod the first week it was on sale, I'm willing to be the guy who buys a first generation product from the company from Cupertino - and to pay the high retail price to do so.

I got up at 4:30am and went into work extra early this morning, shocking the earlybird group. I kept up with the Mac forums that were relaying the steadily rising crowds at the Apple stores. I was getting worried that I wouldn't be able to get a phone since I couldn't get off until 3:30 and would take another 30 minutes to drive to my chosen AT&T store.

I didn't want to join in the craziness of the Apple stores. The Apple Stores were selling 2 phones per person while the AT&T would only let you get one, so I thought I'd have a much better chance there.

I drive down to the AT&T store that I scoped out a week ago. They couldn't give me any information then of how everything would go down. When I got there there was a line that was already going around one side of the free-standing building. Many people had brought collapsable chairs and were shooting the breeze. I had been told the people in the front of the line camped out overnight for their spot. They had brought a party tent with them.

There were about 40 of us in line. I got there at 4:00 and the line slowly continued to build. Plenty of people drove by to see what it was all about. People were good natured, and allowed people to run over to Starbucks to get refreshments and use the restroom without screaming at their getting out of line.

In front of me was one guy who was getting paid $200 by a company to buy a phone. his boss was mightily upset that it was one phone per person, so he called to have some other guys stand in line as well. I'm hoping that no one feels the need to buy these phones on Ebay. It just isn't worth paying more than it already costs! The stand-in was good to look at though. Cute and cubby, but wearing a Christian Tee.

Also in front of me was Justin and his mother. Justin is 12, and said he had been saving for a year for this. Justin was loud, obnoxious and lacking in manners, as you might expect from a 12 year old waiting in a line for 4 hours. He seemed ready to call all of his freinds and gloat that he was getting an iPhone (much like I am by writing to my LJ about it, no?). He did seem rather mad at the AT&T folks that they couldn't just open up for him and get it all done with now.

Justin was mad when I told him he'd have to take it home and sync it with his computer, and add all his phone contacts before he could actually use the phone. He wanted to open it up then and there, drop in the SIM card from his own phone and have instant gloatification. He started begging his mom for them to go home instead of a planned trip to their lakehouse, or he wouldn't get to use the phone all weekend. knowing what us line folks know of Justin's mom, he'll likely get his way.

No one else in line seemed to have a problem with the unusual setup, or having to wait in the well-mannered group. No problems, no dustups about place or anything. The AT&T people seemed to be a little grouchy about not being able to buy a phone themselves as several of them mentioned this, but they handled things very orderly.

Thirty minutes before sales were to start, people took their chairs back to their cars and the AT&T people took down our names for the line order, along with information about our wireless plan and phone number we wished to transfer to make it go faster. At six they took the first seven buyers in, as that was all the stations they had available. it took about 15 minutes for the first person to come out with their newly purchased sale.

Justin became more and more revved up as we slowly moved towards our destination. He was calling people on his old phone telling them loudly that he was getting an iPhone, all the time worried that there would not be enough stock. I told him, "they are just going to tell us thanks for standing in the iQueue, there are no iPhones, it was all an experiment to see how gullible you people are." His mom appreciated the humor, but not him.

When he finally went in, those of us near him gave a sigh of relief. I confirmed with a few others that they thought allowing a 12 year old, who had just dropped his old phone on the ground before us, to get at $600 phone was pretty silly. We give his phone 6 months, tops.

When I entered the store, it finally started to rain, hard. it had been threatening for some time, and we've had rain everyday for weeks now. Thunder and lightning and all. I was glad to be in the store. The salesgirl grabbed my 8GB phone, quickly took me by the accessory wall (I declined, i'll wait to see what comes out in the next few weeks... how do you make an accessory for something you haven't seen?) and checked me out. One empty wallet later, I was on my way home with my treasure.

I got it to sync up pretty quickly, and easily, dropping a few photos on there that come out stunningly beautiful on the screen, and loading some songs and podcasts. yes, I've already listened to BTalk on the iPhone. We opened up the phone to our wi-fi at the house, and there its very speedy getting web pages pulled up and viewing You Tube videos. I'll be happy when they get more of the videos up for iPhone viewing because it doesn't use Flash to view them, and not all of them are in the new format.

The data network AT&T uses, EDGE is pokey, but not as bad as first thought. it's said that they boosted it's speed tremendously last night.

It's a really cool device, and there's going to be a lot to play with for the next few days getting used to it. typing is a bit of a problem for my fat fingers, but I did seem to get better at it. We'll see what else we can do with it.

So Chris and I went out to dinner and he had a lot of fun testing it out as well. Since he needs a Trio for work, and iPhone isn't for him right now. I enjoyed showing off the iPhone to a nearby table of women on their night out. They were all excited about seeing one in the wild.

Tomorrow I'll take it in to work to show what I came in so early for, and then over to Zeus to show Richard who sounds interested in seeing it. It's oh so much fun to get attention for having the big, new gadget. Yes, I'm silly that way.

So, that's the birthday present for myself.

Well, I've been up for hours, and as much as i'd like to keep playing with the new toy, I'll have to wait until tomorrow. I should be in bed.
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I realized a couple of weeks ago, sometime after my birthday, that I'm a grown up. How do i know that? This year none of my family gave me cash in a birthday card. It's the first time it's ever happened. I guess as I'm now with my own relationship away from the parents, they didn't think I needed such little things.

My grandparents were usually the givers of such gifts for years and year. I could rack up an easy $100 between the two grandmothers, of course this was after the years where I still got toys and clothes for school. Always a problem with an August birthday, it's all about back-to-school shopping.

When my grandmothers passed a few years ago, the parents kept giving, but that normally wouldn't be more than $25. About the price of most of a tank of gas today, or the price of a Starbucks cup of coffee - yet it can feed an African Village!.

An aside. No one has ever bought me a "donation" as a present. Not that I want anyone to start. I'll be completely greedy and take that iTunes gift certificate over helping the Barton Springs Salamander any day.

So this year's card from my parents was just a card with my mother writing about all the fun medical problems they are going through (Dad - Prostate Cancer, Mom - Breast Cancer and she thinks she might have a colon thing. all new stuff to bring up with the doctor tomorrow for "family history"). It was bizarre.

I would have loved the cash, just as a little money that I didn't have to worry about, or budget, and it would be helpful on the trip, but hey, I'm making my own way now, right?

Other Things:

Chris worked so much over the last couple of weeks that his overtime allowed him to buy a new Xbox 360. He's been playing the Dawn of the Dead game, whatever it's called. Zombies in a Mall? I guess he'll now have something to do while I'm gone for a week. In hi-def, even.

I guess he'll have finished the game by the time I get back, so I have to decide whether to get him another game for his birthday, or re-take the TV from him.

Lastly...

So the biggest surprise in the news today was that they arrested someone for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. What the hell? They were still working on this case? I was thinking it had gone the way of OJ Simpson looking for the real killers. Apparently they needed something for the next episode of CBS's Cold Case.

I'm firmly of the belief that the parents at least had something to do with it, even if it was just to introduce their daughter to this schoolteacher guy who ran away to Thailand. Thailand? Isn't that where lecherous men have sex with underage kids?

Still, why would a relative stranger come in, kill a kid in the basement, and run off - pretty much unnoticed, and run off to Thailand? Is there a motive? Sadly the media loves this case - more than missing blonde girls in Aruba, so expect to be hearing about this for weeks.

Still, what it says to criminals everywhere is don't mess with our nation's precious, precious prosti-tots and expect to get away with it!

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