Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Life's Little Instructions

The following is a wonderful little piece written by H. Jackson Brown Jr. I can guarantee if you follow these instructions, life will be much sweeter and more fulfilling.

Life's Little Instructions

Sing in the shower. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated. Watch a sunrise at least once a year. Leave the toilet seat in the down position. Never refuse homemade brownies. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Plant a tree on your birthday. Learn 3 clean jokes. Return borrowed vehicles with the gas tank full. Compliment 3 people every day. Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them. Leave everything a little better than you found it. Keep it simple. Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know. Floss your teeth. Ask for a raise when you think you've earned it. Overtip breakfast waitresses. Be forgiving of yourself and others. Say, "Thank you" a lot. Say, "Please" a lot. Avoid negative people. Buy whatever kids are selling on card tables in their front yards. Wear polished shoes. Remember other people's birthdays. Commit yourself to constant improvement. Carry jumper cables in your truck. Have a firm handshake. Send lots of Valentine cards. Sign them, "Someone who thinks you're terrific." Look people in the eye. Be the first to say hello. Use the good silver. Return all things you borrow. Make new friends, but cherish the old ones. Keep a few secrets. Sing in a choir. Plant flowers every spring. Have a dog. Or cat :) Always accept an outstretched hand. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life. Wave at kids on school buses. Be there when people need you. Feed a stranger's expired parking meter. Don't expect life to be fair. Never underestimate the power of love. Drink champagne for no reason at all. Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation. Don't be afraid to say, "I made a mistake." Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know." Compliment even small improvements. Keep your promises no matter what. Marry for love. Rekindle old friendships. Count your blessings. Call your mother.
by H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Which is it???

On AOL and other liberal news reporting centers (Yahoo, Google, MSN), there are two different stories in the news.

On the one hand, there is a story about how our coastlines will be under water soon, due to global warming.

In the next story, they say it will cost more to heat our homes this year, partly due to a winter that is expected to be colder. And I quote, "Any forecast for winter heating costs is subject to weather. Neil Gamson, analyst at the federal government's Energy Information Administration (EIA), says weather forecasts so far point to a colder winter than last year, suggesting higher bills may be in store."

It would be easier to believe these people if they could tell the same story twice in a row. After all, it is a bit confusing that "global warming" is causing colder weather!

And did you see that news story on Neptune? Scientists say the temp at the south pole of Neptune has risen 18 degrees, because of Neptune's "wobbly axis", which has put the south pole closer to the sun for 40 years (which is the normal way of things). But don't tell Al Gore - he may try to go there and sell his "carbon credits", all the while ranting about Neptune's own global warming.

Come to think of it, yes. Please DO tell Al...

Freedom of Speech?

Well, that little weasel - you know, the "President of Iran" - was invited to speak at Columbia University today. And there was such an outcry. On one side, people were saying that a terrorist should not be given a public forum for spewing his hatred and propaganda. On the other side, many argued that in America we have the right of free speech. So, what is right?

Here is how I see it. The Constitution does enumerate certain rights granted to us by God ("We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights...", Declaration of Independence), and freedom of speech certainly is one of them. But...

With any freedom comes responsibility. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to preserve and protect our freedoms, but to never ABUSE them. Every freedom has its limitations - limits determined by sanity and reason. For example, it is illegal to yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater. By the same token, inviting a madman and terrorist to openly speak to impressionable minds may not be the wisest, sanest or most reasonable example of exercising free speech. It strikes me to be a lot like yelling FIRE in a crowded theater.

Certainly, his speaking engagement has helped to prove to us all that he is, indeed, a monster, so in that respect, it is not a total loss. But at what cost? How many impressionable kids were taken in by this demon? How many "Adam Gadahn's", the American traitor and spokesman for bin Laden, did this exposure start to create? How many innocent people will eventually suffer because of our unreasonable tolerance for such people?

Here's the short take. I know evil when I see it. Ahmadinijad is pure, unadulterated evil in its raw form. The only platform he should be given is the one on the gallows. He should not be allowed to address Americans directly; he should not be allowed to address the UN; he should not be allowed to enter our country.

As the Bible says, "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out". If you do not remove an infected part, the infection will spread.

Terrorism is an infection, and this madman is the head of the snake. I do not think we should abuse our rights to the point where we invite the snake into our home, then allow - nay, encourage - the snake to strike us dead.

Dead folks have no use for Constitutional rights.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Breaking the Language Barrier

I spend too much time watching the news! But in doing so, I notice that many of the world's troubles are exacerbated - even created - due to language barriers. Whether it is an American trying to communicate with immigrants (or vice versa), or traveling to foreign countries, language barriers are a huge factor, and the cause of much frustration. Sometimes you cannot even communicate with the people on your own street.

And I can't help but think that there is an incredibly simple solution.

Every child in the world, regardless of their mother tongue, should be required to learn basic sign language. If this were done, within two generations anyone, from anywhere, could communicate effectively with anyone. We could come to understand one another more easily. Tensions would ease. People need not feel intimidated when away from their homeland.

And signing is much easier to learn than most languages - even I was able to pick it up.

Think about it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Neptune and Nature

Yesterday, a news item caught my interest. The south pole of Neptune is currently running 18 degrees warmer than the rest of the planet. The reason? Planets do not rotate evenly through their journey around the sun. Planets wobble. This wobble has placed Neptune's south pole a wee bit closer to the sun, as has done so for 40 years. Eventually, the wobble will cause the south pole to be further from the sun, and therefore cooler.

So, here is food for thought:

Our own planet Earth also wobbles. We all know that "magnetic north" moves around, ever-changing as the Earth wobbles its way along its orbit. That being the case, there are extended periods when our own poles get closer or farther from the sun. When the north pole is closer to the sun, the ice melts. When it gets farther, it freezes.

Global warming afficionados would have you believe that this warming of the north pole is caused by Man, and is a "permanent" and disastrous occurence. What they are not telling you is that the south pole is getting colder, and the ice is building. And they do not tell you that the natural wobble of the Earth causes periods of warming and cooling that are quite natural - and temporary.

The mean temperature of the Earth in the 1930's was warmer than today -m abnormally so. And the mean temperature in the 1970's was abnormally cooler. And now, right on schedule, it is warmer once again.

In short, it is a natural cycle. Yes, there is global warming, but by and large it is not caused by the meager efforts of Man (though I do believe we need to mature, and stop polluting the Earth). More important, it is a temporary situation. Soon enough, the cooling will begin once again, and all those scientists will pull the alarm about the "coming ice age", which they did in the '70's.

So, why do many people cause unnecessary alarm about global warming?

Three reasons (if you are one of them, simply choose which reason is yours):

1) Money. Scientists live by grants. Grants are only given in order to solve problems. The worse the problem, the more money you get. So, sound the alarm...

2) Power. Unscrupulous politicians see the issue of global warming as a political platform from which to snatch votes by instilling fear in people.

3) Sucker. A lot of people, many of whom are naive, and the rest "sheep", will blindly follow people in the above categories. And many will latch on to any "cause" that comes their way.

That is my take on global warming. It's real. It's a natural cycle. It's temporary. Pardon the pun, but don't sweat it!

Shutting the Gate

The following came to me in an email, and I found it insightful:

Catchin' Wild Pigs (It's true)

There was a Chemistry professor in a large college that had some Exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab the Prof noticed one young man (exchange student) who kept rubbing his back And stretching as if his back hurt. The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country's government and install a new communist government. In the midst of his story he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked, ' Do you know how to catch wild pigs?'

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said this was no joke.

'You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in The last side. The pigs, who are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat, you slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening to America. The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare, medicine, drugs, etc. while we continually lose our freedoms- just a little at a time.

One should always remember 'There is no such thing as a free Lunch! Also, 'You can never hire someone to provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself.

Also, if you see that all of this wonderful government 'help' is a problem confronting the future of democracy in America, you might want to send this on to your friends. If you think the free ride is essential to your way of life then you will probably delete this email, but God help you when the gate slams shut!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tired of the Liberal Methodology

When I was young (don't ask!), the two political sides would enter into political intercourse, debating issues, presenting the facts that held up their beliefs, and in so doing would try to convince John Q Public to vote this way or that.

But I have seen a very nasty shift since the early 90's. It seems that liberals no longer want to debate issues or present facts. Now, before you go off half-cocked on me, I would urge you to test this for yourself.

Don't get me wrong - I am all for a two-party system that debates issues honestly. But that is no longer what we have.

Here are some methods used by today's liberals:

* Do not answer a question directly if your answer cannot be supported by the facts. For example, when asked if they support MoveOn.orgs ad about Petraeus, most democrats respond not by answering the question, but by saying something like, "Well, the REAL question is whether or not the war in Iraq...". They simply do not answer the question. Why? Because even they know that their position is not defensible. If they say "I agree with the ad", even many democrats would scatter. And if they say they disagree, they lose the millions of dollars that MoveOn.org provides to their campaigns.

* Do not debate if your issue is all political hype, and not supported by facts. Example, Barry Manilow refused to go on "The View" because the producers refused his request to not be interviewed by the shows only conservative - he stated he only wanted to discuss things with the three liberals on the show. In other words, he wanted only to "preach to the choir" so his agenda would not be questioned.

* Use name-calling if all else fails. Things like "General Betray Us" come to mind. This methodology is childish and unwarranted.

* Re-tool the English language, to try and put an issue into a more favorable light by word association. Those who favor abortion are not anti-life. They are pro-choice. On the other hand, those who are against abortion are not pro-life, but are anti-choice. And illegal immigrants are "undocumented workers". And oral sex isn't sex at all. By relabeling and using politically correct language to remove the true meaning of an issue, they lessen the issue.

These are just a few of the dishonest methods used by many of today's liberals. And if you do not think it permeates the left, all you have to do is tune in to a station such as Fox News and keep an open mind. Then, listen to the actual questions and the actual answers. You will see, if you pay attention and are honest with yourself, that liberals rarely answer any question directly, because they do not want their answer to come back and bite them in the you-know-what. And listen to the new terms they invent, to put an unsavory issue into a better light: undocumented; pro-choice; weight challenged; and on and on.

But perhaps the worst tactic they use is their uncanny ability to insult us, and have it look like they are apologizing for getting caught. Like when John Kerry insulted our troops. When there was an uproar, his "apology" was simply, "I am sorry that so many people were upset by my comments." By using the words "I am sorry", it SOUNDS like an apology. But if you look at what was said, he was not apologizing for what he said - he was apologizing for US for being too thin-skinned. In other words, he was apologizing for us, not to us. He was insulting us yet again, and he never did apologize for his comments about the troops. His "apology" was not an apology at all - it was just another insult. The next time a liberal "apologizes", look it over carefully and chances are you will discover that they are not apologizing at all - once again, they are twisting words to make it appear they are apologizing, when they really are not.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dumb Arguments (reprint by popular request)

Dumb Argument: "We cannot detain, arrest or deport illegals because it breaks up families."

If we cannot arrest or detain people who break the law simply because it would break up families, then we cannot arrest or detain the guy who knocks over a liquor store, or sells drugs - not if he has a family.

Because arrest would break up a family is no excuse to allow lawbreakers to go free.

Dumb Argument: "I don't have to change my lifestyle - I buy carbon offsets."

So, if everyone were to buy carbon offsets so they would not have to change their carbon emissions, just how does that reduce carbon emissions? (Although I do see how it would make certain liberal groups who sell the offsets very wealthy)

Dumb Argument: "We must stop using the phrase "Global war on terror" because it infers that there is a serious crisis."

Duh! We are fighting (war) people who want to kill us in any way they can (terrorists), and we are fighting them here and abroad (the world). Sounds like a "global war on terror" to me.

Dumb Argument: "Religious people should keep their religious beliefs and opinions private because it is not right to impose your beliefs on others."

Sounds like the person who said this (Mary Shanks) is trying to impose her beliefs on others. The surest way to kill any belief is to not share it. It is the duty of every religious person to "spread the word." In the 1800's, there were religious sects that did not permit sex. Since there were no children, once the adults died, there was no one left to keep the religion alive, and the sects died out (see "Osgoodites"). In order to survive, religions must spread the word.

Dumb Argument: "Don't waste time trying to change the world - the world is too big, and you are too small."

Tell that to Jesus, Muhammad, Alexander the Great, Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King.

Dumb Argument: "It is OK for those illegal immigrants to burn the U.S. flag because the Supreme Court says flag burning is protected speech."

But the flags they burned belonged to other people! And they were still attached to someone's house! Such acts are NOT protected free speech. It is legal to strip a car, too. But not if it's someone else's car.

Dumb Argument: "Global warming is a serious problem because all the scientists say so."

First, fewer than half of all climatologists agree that global warming is a real threat. Second, most of those who claim it is a threat are doing so because it is the only way they can get federal funding for their pet projects (scientists live by grants). You can't get funding if you claim your research is not very important. Third, "all scientists" once believed the Earth was flat, and that the Sun revolved around the Earth. Back in the 1970's, they believed we were on the verge of an ice age. Throughout history, "all the scientists" have been wrong at least as often as they have been right.

Dumb Argument: "Women should have the right to choose because it is their body."

OK. So how come we do not have this "freedom of choice" in matters of seatbelts, helmets or other personal choice issues? After all, it's our bodies. And whatever happened to the choices they made before they got pregnant - the choice to say no, or the choice to use protection? Choice is good. Giving people the right to escape the responsibility for choices already made is not good.

Dumb Argument: "The mother should get custody because she carried the child and has a special bond."

Giving birth is a physical act that any fertile female can do, regardless of emotional or mental stability. A mother can be a bad parent, too. Custody should be granted according to which parent is the best choice for raising the child, regardless of who carried the baby for 9 months.

Dumb Argument: "Islam is a religion of peace."

And that is why muslims around the world kill one another - and others - in the name of their religion. And that is why no muslims - not even the self-proclaimed "moderates" - are standing up and taking the fight back to the "radicals". No muslims are raising up against the jihadists. This is because Islam is a religion of peace.

Dumb Argument: "We should place our health in the hands of doctors, hospitals and drug companies."

So, we should trust those people with our health even though they only profit when we stay ill. Do you really think they want us all to be healthy? If we were, they would all have to become plumbers and bookkeepers.

Dumb Argument: "We need to reform pedophiles, not punish them."

This, in spite of the fact that reformation of pedophiles has never been successful, and the rate of recitavism is nearly 100%.

Dumb Argument: "Gun laws reduce crime."

Statistics have shown that communities and states with the toughest gun laws tend to have the most crime. Let's see - a criminal knows community A has guns, and community B does not. Where do you suppose he will go?

Dumb Argument: "We should sit down and talk with the terrorist states because diplomacy is the answer."

Diplomacy would be the answer if the folks on the other side were sane and reasonable, and willing to enter into an honest discussion. But the fact remains that terrorist states have an agenda, and have no intention of changing their beliefs. It's like asking a priest to stop praying, or trying to pacify a hungry lion with words. In the '30's, everyone tried to pacify Hitler with diplomatic efforts and appeasement. See how well it worked?

Dumb Argument: "We must be politically correct to avoid hurting people's sensitivities."

OK. A fat person is weight challenged and an illegal immigrant is "undocumented". And when you say that, they know you are calling them fat or illegal. Just because you use different words, the meaning - and the truth - remain the same. Hence, being politically correct does nothing more than draw attention to an issue, making it even more hurtful. But it allows the liberal elites to be even more smug, as they wrongly believe they have eliminated a stigma simply by changing the language. It's like carbon offsets - it's just a "feel good" thing that has no substance.

Dumb Argument: "Girls under 18 should be able to get an abortion without their parents knowledge."

But she cannot legally buy a beer, smoke, vote, or get into an "R" rated movie. Is this what you might call a part-time adult? Is there such a thing?

Dumb Argument: "The Menorah may be displayed on public property, but not the Cross or Nativity, because the Menorah is not a religious icon. Christians may display a tree."

FACT: The Menorah is one of the most revered religious symbols of Judaism, whereas the "Christmas tree" has absolutely no religious significance whatever. But let's not confuse idiots with facts.

Dumb Argument: "Illegal immigrants should have all the same rights as any American citizen because they are human beings."

With that logic, every person in the world should have those rights, and they should all be entitled to our entitlements. Can we afford to support 6 billion people? That said, with American rights come American responsibilities - one of which is adherence to our laws. Their very first act in this country is illegal - coming across without permission. Their second act is illegal - using false identities and documentation. Not a very good start...

Dumb Argument: "Ballots should be in various languages to accommodate non-English speaking voters."

Since our naturalization laws require a person to learn English before becoming a citizen, there are no "non-English speaking voters." If they cannot speak English, they cannot be a naturalized citizen, and therefore cannot vote.

Dumb Argument: "We need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions because it is a pollutant causing global warming." (that noted group of climatologists who sit on the Supreme Court :o)

First, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant - it is, and always has been an essential, major atmospheric gas (one of three - oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen), and is what all plants breathe. Reduce carbon dioxide and you reduce the amount of breathable air for all plants, which then reduces the source of food for all higher animals - including us. Second, there is no scientific evidence to prove carbon dioxide contributes significantly to any warming. Third, there is no proof - only speculation - that global warming is even ocurring. Finally, the justices of the Supreme Court are discussing a topic which none of them even understands or has any substantial knowledge, so they really need to butt out.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Reverse Mortgages

You have probably seen the TV commercials about reverse mortgages for retired persons who need more income. But what you may not know is that I "invented" the reverse mortgage in 1989 - years before banks started offering it. In my book, "The Simple Man's Guide to Real Estate", it was aptly named the "Golden Years" method. And it has some serious advantages over the model that banks use.

Some major differences include:

*Reverse mortgages offered by a bank results in the equity in the home being transferred outside the family. This is not necessarily true with the Goilden Years strategy

* Reverse mortgages offered by banks tend to include high fees and expenses. With the Golden Years method, fees and expenses can be nearly eliminated

* Reverse mortgages offered by banks are limited in maximum dollar amounts, determined by the age of the homeowner. With Golden Years, there are no dollar limits, regardless of age

Our "Golden Years" method is the very same reverse mortgage, but it need not have any of the drawbacks that are listed above.

More important, a personal RM (ala Golden Years) can have substantial tax advantages. For example, if you use this method on your parents home, you transfer money to them, they transfer the home to you (upon their passing) without any gift tax problems. And, by transferring the equity to you, they can drastically reduce estate tax. And any fees or expenses incurred in using the Golden Years strategy are deductible.

Also, when the loan is repaid, your parents (or their estate) can take a nice deduction on the accumulated interest that is paid to you.

A note of caution: if you offer a reverse mortgage to a family member, be sure it is an "arm's length" transaction. In short, you must charge market interest rates (or close to it), and the contract must be legally enforceable.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Nothing Is What It Seems

The title of this article also happens to be a very old saying. And old sayings get to be old because they are usually true.

Take failure, for example. To most people, failure is a bad thing. And when the person fails, they often allow that failure to hurt them. People who fail often may very well give up.

But to a wise person, failure is one of our greatest allies. The only way we learn anything is by failure - ours, or someone else's. And the only way we can succeed with any regularity is by learning. So, if failure is our greatest teacher, it is also necessary for success. Without failing, there can be little learning, and without learning, there can be little success.

Thomas Edison put it well when he said he had "failed his way to success". He learned what gases WOULD light a bulb only by eliminating, through trial and error, all those that would not work. He had to fail a thousand times before he found success.

Life is by trial and error. Therefore, failure is our friend. It only becomes our enemy when we allow it to stop us.

Another example is pain. Ask 100 people on the street if pain is good or bad, 99 will probably say it is bad. But a wise man knows better. Without pain, we would never know when something is wrong. We would not seek medical attention. We would not survive. Pain is to the body what a smoke detector is to a fire-prone tenement in the Bronx. It is a warning system, designed to protect us, and help us survive. In my book, that makes it a friend.

So, the next time something happens and you believe it to be a "bad" thing, take a closer look. You just may discover the silver lining - which will bring you closer to success in life.

And that is what this blog is all about.

Should we worry?

To listen to the news, everyone would believe that this country - and real estate investors in particular - should be scared to death because of "all the foreclosures" that are pending, and that they will decimate the economy. But should we really worry?

I don't, and I will tell you why. But first let me remind you that I have been investing successfully in real estate for nearly 40 years. I've seen a lot of so-called trends.

Yes, there are a lot of foreclosures now. But before we panick, we need to take a closer look. Most of those foreclosures are people who bought above their means, using sub-prime mortgages that, until a few years ago, were not ever made available. Greedy lenders, preying on people who were eager to start out at the top with executive homes, made loans they should never have made.

What I am saying is this - the bulk of the foreclosures are due to sub-prime loans. And the important point to remember is that, among "normal" mortgages, the foreclosure rate has not changed. So, it is not the economy that is causing the high foreclosure rate. It is greed and foolishness.

If we remove the unnecessary sub-prime foreclosures that are artifically inflating the foreclosure rate, we find that the economy is quite normal.

Certainly, all those foreclosures will still affect the economy, much as any other abnormal occurence will change things temporarily. It is a lot like a nor'easter: when one rolls in, it causes quite a bit of damage for a day or two. But in no time, it is gone, and there is no sign that it ever happened.

Not to worry about all those foreclosures - at least not over the long term. It is temporary, and its effects will be limited. Unless, of course, you grabbed one of those sub-prime mortgages...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

That Vacation Home

I just rented a vacation home in the woods of Bartlett, NH for a weekend getaway with the little woman. And it "only" cost $325 per night. Imagine!

The home is valued at just over $200K. It is close to shopping, skiing, lakes etc. A decent vacation area. The lady who owns it says it is rented nearly 48 weeks per year.

Now, I'm not a math wizard, but you don't need to be in order to figure that comes to over $100K per year in income. After subtracting costs (PITI, cleaning expenses, advertising, utilities etc.) her annual net profit on this ONE HOUSE runs about $80,000 per year!

Think about that. She is getting the house, in a desireable location, absolutely free, and is netting $80,000/year to boot. On just ONE house.

I have rental homes, for sure. But nothing that even comes close to that house of hers. But I gotta tell you, come spring I will have at least three places like hers.

Home Office

If you have a business in your home, or use part of your home as an extension office for any business, you are probably aware of the home office deduction, which can save a bundle on your taxes. But did you know there are alternate methods for computing the deduction?

Most people know they can take the deduction based on square footage. For example, if your office is 200 square feet of a 2000 square foot home, your deduction is 10%. But the IRS code also allows you to choose any other reasonable method for determining the deduction, including the number of rooms. In the same 2000 square foot home with a total of 8 rooms, if your office is one room you could deduct 12.5% because it is one room of eight. If you use two rooms for office, your deduction could be 25%. And that sure beats the heck out of 10%!

So, before you settle for a square footage deduction, check to see if another method will give you a bigger deduction.