Big Issue #3 – Investing in our Infrastructure

As a very positive sign, the President-elect has emphasized the need to reinvest in our infrastructure which is in need of repair. This is consistent with the plans that his opponent had envisioned and with policies that the current President has pleaded with Congress to do. It should be noted that this bipartisan desire echoes testimony by the leaders of the US Chamber of Commerce and Labor Unions who beseeched Congress to invest more in our infrastructure, and is reinforced by former Director of Transportation Ray LaHood and former PA Governor Ed Rendell.

These investments pay huge dividends beyond the repair, upgrade or rebuilding of our deteriorated assets of roads, highway bridges, railway bridges and lines, power grids, airports, cabling, etc. These investments create jobs. This is a key reason for Labor Union leaders backing the investment.

This is how we used to invest in our country, with government investment partnering with private investment to do things private investors could not do alone or where the ROI was insufficient for one entity. This history is well captured in a book by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum called “That Used to be Us: How America fell behind in the World it Created and How it can come back.” A new book by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson called “American Amnesia: How the War on Government led us to forget what made America Prosper” echoes this theme. We have forgotten what made us great.

Yet, we should not lose sight of the reluctance of Congress to part with the money because of our debt. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner greased the skids by getting some Highway Trust funding before he retired at the end of October 2015, but that is not near enough. An economist whose name escapes me said in an interview, borrowing to invest in an asset is different from borrowing to pay for operations and with interest rates so low, we are letting the ideal time pass to do this.

We should be concerned with our debt, but like corporations, while cutting in some areas are needed, we need to invest in our deteriorated assets. This is an area where some obvious funding could be created and aligned through an increase to our comparatively low gas tax. By increasing the federal gas tax by 35 cents per gallon, per the nonpartisan The Concord Coalition, it would raise $469 billion in revenue over ten years. Plus, it would provide further incentive to purchase better miles per gallon vehicles, which will help the environment.

Investing in our infrastructure is needed and we should begin discussions early in the term of our next President. It is long overdue and will get even more people back to work, especially in areas where underemployment is higher.

Car accidents do indeed happen


My previous post on a lizard being set free in my car promoted several comments about other creatures in readers’ cars. I began thinking of some of the car accidents I have been involved with which show our and my imperfections or just confirm being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the latter category, one of my unusual accidents happened when a deer bounced off my back right door, shook his head and then ran off. I was near several neighborhoods, but from some woods a couple of deer ran across the road in front of me. Then I hear this thump where I observed in my side view mirror the trailing deer, who fortunately hit the middle of the door which flexed leaving the deer stunned, but intact, with a compression dent in my car door.

An accident which was totally my fault can be summed up with this piece of advice – don’t do a three point turn near a fire hydrant. Not seeing said fire hydrant while realizing I missed my turn, my reversal of direction left a perfectly shaped indentation of a fire hydrant on my back bumper.

Another accident occurred in slow motion after I had just dropped my son off at school. The person in front of me yelled at a construction worker who had parked his truck too far out from the curb. When the construction worker yelled back with a colorful metaphor, the man in the truck in front of me backed up to confront the worker. It felt like slow motion as I screamed “no” as the truck proceeded to back into my front bumper. He immediately realized he had chosen poorly and came out of his vehicle with less bravado than his earlier language.

Lastly, the company I worked for leased space from a bank. The bank installed these steel reinforced concrete pylons that would emerge from the ground in front of the parking lot entrance beneath the tower. As I was pulling in, the guard accidentally raised the pylons into the bottom of my front bumper. Fortunately, it was not beneath my engine or gas line. I could not move until he lowered the pylons.

We have been lucky as every accident my family or I have been in, no one was hurt, even the deer. Those are good accidents. What are some of your good accident stories?

Have I told you about that lizard?


Some of the more creative commercials are the Farmers Insurance ones. They are running one now about a hamster that escapes from its cage in the father’s car as his son gets out for school. Unfortunately for the father, the hamster climbed up his pants leg and he caused a multi-car crash in the exit line from the school.

This reminds me of an incident with a lizard my fourth grade son was taking to school. As we ease up in the drop off line at the school, I hear my son say “uh-oh.” Now you have to remember this followed earlier instruction not to pull the lizard out of the cage in the car. The uh-oh meant just what you think it meant. So, unfortunately my son had to go into class “sans lizard.” He would be over said tragedy pretty quickly.

Yet, as I drove off, I envisioned happening what the Farmers Insurance hamster did. Or, I pictured the lizard climbing on my ear or head as I drove. As I was riding down a four lane road, I looked down and the renegade lizard was between my seat and the driver side car door.

So, I reached down and grabbed the lizard  by my left hand. Picture one hand on the steering wheel and one with a lizard. At the next traffic light, my car was blessedly detained long enough for me to grab the cage and repatriate the lizard to his home.

The moral of the story is to remind your fourth grader multiple times not to pull the lizard or animal from its cage. I was lucky on this occasion, but I could have easily been filing an unusual insurance claim and not with GEICO, who has a gecko lizard for a spokes icon.

Walking, Water and Weighing

Since we are the most obese country in the world per the World Health Organization, I was seeking some alliteration to serve as a reminder of three things we each could do. Walking, Water and Weighing. Each of these things would not be difficult to do, but could make a difference.

Walking to better health has been discussed for years. As a former jogger with an up and down history of such, I have resorted to walking and hiking. It is far easier on the joints and can accomplish  many of the same benefits – weight loss, cardio-vascular work, better digestion and improved psyche by being outdoors. And, when you miss walking for a few days, it is much easier to pick back up than jogging.

Drinking more water is the one of the best diet techniques around. I am not advocating drinking water all the time, but try to drink at least a couple of glasses a day. In addition to zero calories, drinking water helps flush out your kidneys and lessens the risk of kidney stones. Plus, staying hydrated is beneficial to good health. Lastly, if you are on a budget, drinking water in restaurants and fast food places is a big saver.

Finally, know your numbers, a key one of which is weight. Weighing once a week is good to know your progress and will encourage you to get that extra walk in or avoid more fried food, bread or desserts the next week. Yet, weighing is a metaphor for knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol counts. These are two examples that can be treated with prescription drugs and better regimen.

I recognize these three things are not earth shattering revelations. But, they are three habits that can easily be implemented and will provide some benefit. Please check with your doctor, if you feel you must, and start slow with the walking.

 

 

 

 

Something interesting is going on

Several of my well respected blogging friends have done a lion’s share of work around the need to audit the 2016 Presidential election results. There have been countless concerns expressed in academia that the very surprising result should be verified. Plus, there has been enough noise around hacking threats following the alleged Russian involvement in the email hacking, that verification is essential.

Well, thanks to Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, there will be a review of the election results in three key battleground states that surprisingly went to Donald Trump, the President-elect – Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has notified the states that she will have legal representation during the process given its importance.

This news does not sit well with the President-elect, nor does the news that he has lost the popular election by over 2 million votes. He has claimed that the general election result includes millions of undocumented aliens offering no evidence. One of the conservative websites that is long on wind, but short on substance, has said something similar, so in Trump’s mind it must be true if it is on the internet. But, this claim has been noted as unproven.

Yet, what is interesting is Trump is now claiming that there is voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California, again without evidence. Why would he do that? The simplest explanation is distraction, a technique which he used throughout the campaign. If a news items looks, feels or could be bad, distract the audience with a sleight of hand. In other words, if there are problems here, then they should look over there and why isn’t anyone reporting on it, as if it is a conspiracy?

If he feels there is a problem in those three states, he can file a claim to have the votes recounted. To me, he fears there maybe some bad news in the three states in which Stein has raised an issue, where the vote differences are less than 120,000 votes in total. I would welcome any recounts, where concerns exist.

I am not here to say there is definitely a problem, but I do feel the results should be audited. My reason is the Russians have influenced other elections and went to great trouble to hack two separate email systems releasing the emails to the public through WikiLeaks. And, per a news report from several security experts on PBS Newshour a few months ago, they firmly believe the Russians would alter some emails, as well before release.

These security analysts also reported that some entity has been probing various voting machines over the past many months, mostly unsuccessfully. Yet, while one source could not change every machine, due to the distributive nature of the process, an entity could affect select voting machines. So, my thesis is why would the Russians be satisfied with just hacking and changing emails?

Will this change the outcome of the election? I don’t know. But, I do think the American people are owed a clean and fair election, regardless of the outcome. So, I support an audit, as should any candidate. Yet, I do think it is interesting that the so-called winner is using his distraction techniques at this juncture, as if he suspects something is amiss himself. To be frank, nothing seems to surprise me about this election, as everything has been surprising. This could be just one more thing.

 

 

Movies I must admit I like

People who read my posts or comments know I like to quote movie lines. They also know I have written several posts about favorite movies or movie quotes.

Taking a different approach, I want to mention a few movies I should not like as the plot is very thin, but I do.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – This movie is about as stupid as they come, but I cannot help liking it. It mixes interesting historical characters in a silly setting with the classic advice from two non-studious high schoolers, “Be excellent to one another and party on dude,” words even Abraham Lincoln repeated.

The Inlaws – Starring Peter Falk and Alan Arkin this movie will leave you in stitches with some of its inane scenes mixed around an unbelievable espionage story. Richard Libertini, who passed away earlier this year, plays a hilarious over-the-top dictator. The funniest part involves the proper way to evade bullet fire, even after you successfully do so – “serpentine!”

Zombieland – My boys wanted to see this comedy movie about zombies starring Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone. Seeing everyone was turning into zombies, they referred to each by where they were from. Harrelson’s character was Tallahassee, eg. The best scenes are during an extended cameo by Bill Murray, who pretended to be a zombie.

50 First Dates – Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore star in a second movie that qualifies for this list along with The Wedding Singer. Sandler must make Barrymore fall in love with him each day, as her short term memory goes away each night. Dan Akyroyd, Sean Astin and Rob Schneider add additional color with their characters.

The Wedding Singer – Sandler and Barrymore star in this one as well, which immortalizes a Spandau Ballet song and makes Billy Idol a hero in the end. Sandler, the wedding singer, falls in love with the bride-to-be Barrymore, who is maltreated by her jerky groom-to-be. Seeing the hip-hop granny in the credits is worth the wait.

Major League – Tom Berenger plays a washed up catcher, Charlie Sheen a wild pitcher who can’t see very well, and Wesley Snipes, plays a base stealing wizard who can’t hit, who all make the team so that they finish dead last. With that failure the new owner can move the team to Miami (the movie was made before a franchise was placed there). It has a predictable plot, but the characters make it fun. Baseball announcer, Bob Uecker, is a key addition to the movie with calls like “Ball Twelve,” after Sheen walks three batters in a row.

So, I Married an Axe Murderer – Mike Myers and Nancy Travis star in this movie about a couple falling in love and getting married. The groom finds out the bride’s previous husbands have left her mysteriously. Charles Grodin does a deadpan cameo where he refuses to yield his car to a police officer, Anthony LaPaglia, in chase. Myers also plays several relatives of Scottish descent which add to the hilarity.

There are too many to choose from, so I left off several questionable favorites. Many romantic comedies don’t dive too deep on plot, so you have to sit back and enjoy the hilarity, no matter how inane.

What are some of your favorite movies that you don’t like to brag about? Any reactions to my list above?

 

 

 

The best way to save

I could not think of a better day to state the obvious way to save money. Don’t spend it. There, now it is out in the open.

Being a retired old fart on a fixed income, I have learned that I don’t need the latest and greatest thing, if what I have is working just fine. I also don’t value my worth by what I own.

Yes, my IPhone is four years old, the same age as my laptop. They are working fine for my purposes. Yes, I am driving the same car for over nine years and will keep it longer, as will my wife with hers. And, no I don’t want to sell my house, even though I get requests from realtors monthly to do so. Nor do I need another credit card.

I recognize people want our money. They will market consistently, often aggressively, and sometimes fraudulently to get me to buy something. Yet, we can choose not to give it to them.

So, on this Black Friday, choose not to spend. If you must, consider this option. Move Christmas back a week and buy after Christmas when retailers are looking to unload inventory.

Shop wisely, or not at all. Happy holidays.