Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Palestinian question

Usually I don’t ward into super contentious issues, but if you have been my blog follower, you have read about this too. Now the new twist in this is that the Palestinians want a member status in the United Nations and the only nations knowingly opposed to it are the U.S. and Israel. Now I am not in the shoes of the Palestinians and the Israelis about how they feel in their respective places but for the U.S. to keep on interfering in their matters when it is can be clearly seen that the U.S. is losing clout on both of them is a waste of time and effort on our part. It is a known fact by now that the U.S. will not let any resolution against Israel without vetoing it and the Palestinians will not get their way.

Since I was born I have been hearing about this conflict and frankly despite the best (or not) intensions of the U.S. nobody in this three way relationships will budge from its stance on issues that are near and dear to them. This issue has been going on so long and I don’t believe that it will be resolved soon or to any body’s complete satisfaction. Now with this membership bid at the United Nations, it also would not change a thing and life will go. I am not pessimistic but realistic about this issue. It is just a waste of time for the U.S. government to keep on pushing for something that is not achievable to everybody’s liking. We have many other solvable issues to deal with than to keep on solving this unsolvable issue.

Lender of the last resort-China?

Since the beginning of the European debt crisis, the Europeans solely are trying to stave off the contagion that will happen if Greece fails. Among other suggestions, one that is gaining somewhat support is to contact China and have it buy some heavily indebted European countries bonds. The Italians have already talked to them and the Chinese have obliged somewhat but nothing more. Now it is such an irony that China was sometimes called the Sick man of Asia and now it has the world’s biggest foreign currency reserves and clout to go with it and now the Sick man of Asia is being courted by the Sick people of Europe to save them from bankruptcy.

But as with other solutions, this will not materialize as the Chinese are too smart to start buying the European Debt without any substantial in return. Although Europe is one of their biggest markets and they don’t want to go down, but to invest in individual countries will not cut out for the Chinese. For one they are still classified as a developing country with millions of people under poverty (unlike Europe) and they don’t want to squander away their foreign reserves on bonds where they will get nothing in return. They may be the biggest foreign currency holders but they want to make sure that they invest it wisely in these uncertain times and right now Europe is not a good place to invest as it has now become the Sick man of Europe.

Europe in Debt Valley-2

Every day has become a nail bitter for Greece, Europe and the rest of the world as everybody is watching whether Greece will make it or default on its debt and leave the Euro to come back to its old currency. It just shows that nationalities trump the sense of belonging to one continent. Everybody jealously guards their own sovereignty and when it comes to making financial contributions, national pride trumps everything and old stereotypical attitudes comes to surface. If Greece was the only one, somehow or some way it could have been contained but with Ireland, Portugal, Spain and now Italy in the picture, it is harder to know how the Euro will be saved as you can only just have enough funds to save small countries but not Spain or Italy.

The infighting that is going on within Europe to find a cure for the Greek ills is still not finished as nobody wants to commit unlimited amount of funds (read: Debt) to fund a country which will not have the means to pay it back any time soon unless massive cuts in spending and increased tax collection takes place. European debt crisis is not going to go away soon as the markets and even politicians are now beginning to realize that in order to save the Euro, there will have to some sort of exit of some fiscally weak countries. Just like in order to save a life you have cut off the affected part, the same should be true of Europe.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Europe in Debt Valley

Ah the Great continent called Europe now in Debt valley and surviving day by day on crisis mode. What happened to this great continent where some of the world richest nations are? It is not hard to see that some nations were more equal than others and the massive welfare state that was being sustained was just a smoke screen for accumulating debt after debt and masking the true nature of debt which still is not known. Then the great idea came to integrate the currencies of European nations into one eliminating the old currencies and in effect the fiscal sovereignty of several nations without having a plan to deal with bankruptcy or worse exit of any nation in the European Union.

It is a real tragedy and I can say arrogance on the part of the European Union to assume that every nation will be equal in the union without taking into account the different histories, languages, cultures, animosities and financial realities that goes with it. Even if all Europeans think that they are alike based on their shared religion, this economic crisis has exposed the truth that ethnicity plays in people lives every day (for a comparison see the Arab nation divided into 22 countries based on one religion). The Greek government’s financials are in shambles and every few months they have to cut some of their budget in order to qualify for a few billion dollars while the Germans and other rich nations accuse them of deceit and laziness.

And the Salaries remain sluggish

A few days ago, another price hit was given to us commuters who commute from New Jersey to New York, an increase in the transit and bridges toll. And this will not be end of it since they plan to increase every year for the next four years. They want it to be used for the World Trade Center constructions and also some for the maintenance of the roads, transit and bridges. My question is everything is going up except the salaries of the people who ride on these transit systems and roads. I know the economy is tough and I am thankful that I have a job, but the cost of living keeps on increasing without any corresponding increase in salaries or at least some other supplemental income to help with these costs.

While keeping these modes of transportation should be the utmost priority but what about the people who will have to pay for these costs. It is becoming increasingly expensive to live now in the Northeast of the U.S. as the costs of going to the city keeps on increasing. And then the politicians and economists keep on saying that our economy is sluggish and people are not spending enough money to spur the economy. Well if you keep on increasing the costs of reaching your work to earn a living, how will people spend somewhere else when there is so much uncertainty out there? It is nice to lament the lack luster economy but practical solutions to jump start it is hard to come by except increase the cost of living while leaving people to deal with the ever decreasing value of the dollar.

Running out of ideas on economy-2

And what does the government do change this, another stimulus package (which has slim chances of passing the debt weary Congress). This time it is tax, cut and spend (not the usual Tax and spend), but again the Republicans and not ready to come to grips with the tax and spend policy, although they are ready with the cut phase of the stimulus). And the FED is also trying to jump in the ship with its own stimulus because they are concerned with the sluggish pace of job growth. But we have been all through this before and we have not seen any noticeable impact on the job market. Although it is not going to happen but the overburdened regulation and sluggish demand is what is holding back the economy this time around.

The world has moved on to better things but we are still stuck with burdening our businesses with more regulation. To comply with this is more expense rather than income and the businesses don’t want extra employee to have more regulation to comply with if they can make do with the one they have now. Labor costs due to overregulation is high as compared to other countries and if we want to compete, we would either have to have reduced regulation or lower standard of living since all the companies are doing now is to outsource their business or lower the salaries of their entry level employees. As many have seen the government have run out of ideas to stimulate the economy and we should not expect much from them in the coming months or years as overregulated businesses and heavily indebted individuals hold tight the money they can get their hands on.

Running out of ideas on economy

As anybody who is a least bit of interested in the economy of the U.S. or the world seems to come to a conclusion that even after throwing everything at the economy to spur it to move and grow, the economy seems to be stuck in glue like situation. I am saying this because the government pushes through some stimulus package and it sticks for a while but when the impact is finished, the economy comes unglued. This is what is happening to the U.S. economy right now. More and more money (or rather I should say “stimulus”) is being put into place and when it is gone, we will be back to square one. You are essentially training people to wait to respond to some stimulus and when it comes, it is a “aha” situation that without the government providing stimulus, the economy would stay the same.

I don’t know if it is the right or the wrong approach. But to put it bluntly, it is the wrong approach since the money being spent is being funded by more debt but the end result is still the high unemployment rate. The people who are feeling the impact of this sluggish economy will tell you that the economy never came out of recession (no matter what the economists say otherwise). You just have to read the newspapers and surf the internet to find out how the economy is affecting people of all classes, that the economy is not creating enough jobs to support the ever increasing population.

The unemployment curse

Since I have been two bouts of unemployment I know how difficult it is to be unemployed for long or any period of time. You may have all the time in the world but that is in it a curse since you don’t have the money to spend in that “leisure time”. Then if you have a family, you have to answer or at least avoid looking into the eyes of your significant other that you have sent out resume or at least contacted some companies. You really do feel a lowly person when you are out of a job. Although it is not your fault but the fact is if you are not working it may seem that it is your fault that you are even unable to secure the minimum wage job (not that I am looking down on this categories of employees) but if you are unable to land a minimum wage job, you really feel that you have let yourself and your loved ones down (no matter how bad the economy is).

Even if you trying to help your significant other by doing other chores like grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning around the house, lawn mowing, picking up kids, helping them with their homework, taking out garbage, etc., your family may rather see you working and bringing home the income than doing the other “chores”. If you are out of work for a long time (like more than six months or so), you try to avoid your relatives and your in laws lest the topics turn to “did you find a job”? It is not a pretty situation and believe me I really hate people who come back from vacation and say that it was too short. Would they want to trade in for a uncertain long term vacation?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Death is not easy

We always see or read or know somebody who have died and don’t know how it feels to die. Because of course unless somebody experiences death or death like experience, other people would just see the end result that is the death. I have experiences two near death experiences and believe me folks it is no laughing matter. Both times I almost drowned in water. One was in a lake and once in a pool. But the most vivid one I remember is the lake one. When I was drowning and trying to escape death and my friend was trying to save me, I was struggling to get out of the clutches of death. I just felt somebody sucking the life out of my body, inch by inch, piece by piece. It was not a good feeling because it really takes some extraordinary strength to take a soul from somebody.

There is also no such thing as white light that is depicted in countless movies and books. You just see darkness around you and the only thing you have in your mind (if it is working ) is how to survive because if it is not your time to go, then you will succeed and if it is your time then no power or circumstances can prevent that from happening. So next you see somebody in a dying state, just try to think that for you it may be just another some painful event, but for the person enduring that death, it is the end of life.

Extreme jobs situations

I have been reading an interesting article (aren’t they all are) regarding how this economy has made ordinary folks go to extreme lengths to find jobs or earn money. There was one father who had to go to Iraq to fire fighting. And then there was another person who goes out at night to scavenge food with his son in the garbage pile of restaurants. And the most extreme one is about a lawyer who lost her job and had to go topless in order to pay the bills. I am just discussing this to show that these are unusual times and unusual times call for unusual ways to earn money and support your family. These are only people who have decided to come forward and tell their stories, there may be more even hundreds of thousands who are living this kind of life style and trying to put food on the table in unusual ways.

In other ways there are situations where people have to go to work in other states or even have to commute hours to reach their work. Unless you are in their shoes, you would not know how hard it is for them to do this. It is a failure of our government that the jobs are disappearing and there is no credible policy to arrest this decline. We are constantly buying stuff on credit and spending billions on the military while the people of this country are trying to find whatever ways they can to keep their head above water. It is really a shame and you can read it all over the internet the struggles people are enduring every day just to survive in this unforgiving economy.

The 10th Anniversary of 9/11

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 came and went by smoothly. Although there were unconfirmed reports about some terror plot and police and other law enforcement agencies were on high alert but everything went by without a hitch. The 9/11 memorial has been opened to the public and constructions is still going on strong on the World Trade Center site. It has been 10 years to that fateful day when terror hit the United States in unspeakable ways. I still remember that I was working midtown when the first plane hit. First it was thought of as an accident, but when the second plane hit, it dawned on everybody that it was no accident but a deliberate attack on the U.S. We were glued to the radios and also TV and then we were asked by the building management to immediately evacuate the building and thus I went downstairs and then I went up a few blocks to the Borders store and nearby I saw the TV showing the attacks on the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

All through this time, we have invaded Afghanistan and also Iraq and have spent trillions of dollars on this so called “War on Terror” and I believe we will be constantly on high alert. Our security forces have done a commendable job keeping America safe and secure and constantly thwarting any terror plot since we should never let our guard down to the threats that are constantly emanating from within the U.S. and without.

On the lighter side-Movies- The Maze (2010)

Why I watch stupid horror movies is one question I don’t seem to have an answer for. I love horror movies but some movies which are billed as horror is more like suspense with a good measure of gore thrown to disguise it as a horror movie. This is one kind of movie that you should avoid it if you can. Stretching this movie to 90 minutes was a big crime as it should have done with in less than an hour. Low budget movie which could have been made in any maze and maybe during the day would have made me watch not as intensely as it is hard to watch it in dark. It is about five friends who crash into an abandon and closed corn maze and lo and behold encounter their deaths at the hands of a serial killer. Nothing surprising here. Not recommended for anybody.

On the lighter side-Movies- Hunt to Kill

Stone cold Steve Austin Stars in this action packed movie regarding a US border patrol who has relocated to Montana along with his rebellious daughter to start anew, but come face to face with a ruthless brand of killers looking for stolen money and forcefully kidnaps his daughter and him to track their betrayed friend and recovered the loot. As you know that Steve Austin was a one time World Wrestling champion and now uses his muscles to make hit or miss action oriented B movies. Along with Gary Daniels, this is a time killer with somewhat patchy action in between. Recommended if you are fan, otherwise avoid it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The very small business

Everybody is talking about the small business nowadays. But the definition of the small business I believe is a little misleading any business with less than 500 employees is considered a small business. If it is in my case it would be like less than 50 employees not 500. Anyway, the talk of small business shed light on these people who hire more people than they previously have. But what about the businesses that have less than 10 people or even less than 5 people as their employees. Nobody talks about them since their hiring capacity is so low as not to affect the unemployment rate. Nowadays it is very hard for these very small businesses to raise money, expand their business and even hire people when there is so much uncertainty out their regarding demand, health care laws, taxes etc.

I believe that more attention should be given to these small businesses as they can really ramp up hiring of people if the right conditions are there to support their effort. Although the sole proprietorship are many in numbers but once their business outgrow beyond their capacity to manage it individually then they try to expand and then find out that they cannot due to financial constraints. Now more than ever, these small businesses should courted aggressively and given priority in loans and credit since they have more in stake for the success of their business than business having more than 50 or more people as employees.

Monday, September 12, 2011

On the lighter side-Movies- MacGruber (2010)

Will forte stars as the indestructible MacGruber (based on a character in the Saturday Night Live show also a parody of the hit TV series MacGyver), brought out of retirement to fight his nemesis Val Kilmer who had previously killed his wife. Gross out comedy with some nude scenes and sexual situations thrown in to shore up the movie. It also stars Power Booths and Ryan Phillipe. Although it has some comedy scenes, but that does not hold up the movie very well. Recommended if you like nudity and sexual situations to hold the movie together otherwise stay away from it. Absolutely not recommended for children.

On the lighter side-Movies-Black Death (2010)

Black Death refers to the bubonic plague that swept Europe in the 14th century and killed millions. This is one of the fictional accounts of one such mission by an emissary of the bishop of England to a remote village where there are reports of the dead coming back to life and there is no plague. It stars Sean Bean as one of the emissary who gets the help of a young monk to travel to that place and bring those people back to the teachings of the Church. A little bit bloody with dreary atmosphere to give it an authentic look. But it is not that great of a movie and it is just a time killer. But even if you have to time to kill, use it for some other movie worth your time and attention and satisfaction. Not Recommended.

The economy going nowhere

Every month, usually the economists and politicians get excited or disappointed by the unemployment numbers and they base their analysis with how much the economy is going to improve. But as many people have experienced it, the economy is at a standstill and whatever excitement the unemployment generates, it is not going to erase the fact that the general public is broke and getter more so every day. Most of the people were underwater already with their mortgages and the hurricane made their biggest investment-the house literally under water. So now the people are battling not only market forces but also natural forces. Their biggest ATM has just been gutted to the ground.

The same ATM that was used some years ago to get anywhere from home equity line of credit to spend it on vacations, college education, cars, renovation, investment property is now completely drained of superficial money. Maxed out of credit card and under water houses, car payments and grocery bills, people are really stressed out and under huge amount of debt and there is no way in sight if it is going to end before the next elections. So whatever the incentive to reduce taxes and other monetary benefits that the government may or may not dole out in future, it is all going to either reduce the debt or increase the savings in these uncertain times. So from here on , experts advice on the economy should be taken with a grain of salt if it is too optimistic because for a few years, the economy is not going anywhere and staying put.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

On the lighter side-Movies-Mirrors 2

Mirrors 2 is a direct to video horror movie which has slight comparison to the original one. In it a security guard who had a terrible accident in which his fiancé was killed, as a favor starts working in a soon to be opening departmental store and start seeing image of a girl in the mirror and decides to help her find her killer. Not a great movie to boost about although the effects are a little graphic. Not recommended

On the lighter side-Movies- The Keeper

When I was young, I used to watch Steven Seagal movies and enjoyed it. But now I am not sure about it, although he has been making movies right and left but all of them are ending in direct to video with limited shelf life. This is one of his latest movies in which he plays a cop who is doubled crossed by his partner and he kills him and escape to the south to help his buddy baby sit for his daughter. The usual gun and fist fights, but now he seems like a bit tired and heavy set. Anyway, if you have the time to kill watch it but don’t sweat on finding it. Not recommended.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The storm that was the story

This past week northeast U.S. got hit by hurricane Irene with all the assorted winds and rains accompanying it. My house was luckily enough not much affected except I had water in the basement like 2 inches which had to be drained about. It took I and my wife almost six hours to drain the water out, because every time we thought the basement got dry, the water came coming back. This maybe because New Jersey got hit by unusual amount of rain this summer and the ground was saturated and the water had no where to go, so it kept on seeping in thru the walls. But thankfully there were no power outages so that we were able to clean the basement without being in the dark. But not all of the people were lucky; some had their basement flooded out and no power for several days.

Cleaning up is still going on and the rivers that dot New Jersey are still rising making one miserable summer for some people whose houses were completely taken over by swollen rivers. As I have pointed out before, that it is nice to live near the river with views of tranquil water flowing towards the sea but you just need to have one heavy rainfall to ruin your house and then you have to do evacuations and salvage your belongings. I don’t know how people do it some year in and year out but apart from the financial loses the emotional and physical toll it brings on people can only be felt by those affected by it. Anyway people are trying to get back to their normal lives after these devastating hurricanes.

The irritating, turnoffs, annoyances and the obnoxious Behavior-2

I am sure everybody has their turnoffs behaviors too. For example, if you are snoring and the other person does not or is trying to go to sleep then it becomes a little bit more than annoying, it becomes obnoxious and inconsiderate behavior. I know that sometimes people cannot control their snores but what fault is of the other person who has to suffer such agony. Another one is when you are in a public place and people after doing their stuff in the restroom don’t wash their hands and just leave. It is clearly unhygienic and inconsiderate on the part of that person. Oh, the best one is when a person is flipping pages and every time he (or she) moist their finger to flip a page. It is highly annoying and irritating behavior.
I don’t know about you but another one is the law where you have to clean after your dog. It is a highly gross out behavior, picking the crap of your dog by your hand. Most of the people due this diligently and have an ingrained habit built into them, but it becomes really gross when the snow falls and the dogs do their stuff and some people cover it up with snow. So when the snow melts then you see the crap all over your place. I can just keep on going about all the annoying behavior that people indulge in that makes me stay away from those people if I have a choice but sometimes you don’t and you have to share this world with time. I wish people can realize what they are doing and avoid embarrassing themselves and other people.

The irritating, turnoffs, annoyances and the obnoxious

I believe that everybody must have encountered one of two of the above in your life time. Most of you may also have it in recurring times at different places and it is not a happy face when you see one. For example I have my all time top of the list is the playing loud music when you have a head phone on. When I travel the subway, sometimes I hear a loud music from somebody’s ears and it annoy the heck out of me. There was this one time, not to long ago that in a pin drop train silence, out came a loud music from a person who was in his old world. Everybody was trying to find out who he was and on top of that he was playing the same music again and again. I guess some people are not considerate about others and they will get theirs in the end.

Other one is of the person who drives the slowest in the fastest lane and sometimes they are on the phone. If you want to be on the phone drive at the right side and not on the left. I guess there the people forget that they are really driving. Other one is the person who is picking up his nose in front of everybody oblivious of his surroundings and then pretends that nothing happened. How much irritating and annoying behavior is that is beyond me?