Today I read a lot of news headlines that read “Pentagon’s Chuck Hagel Plans to Downsize Military”, “Hagel’s Pentagon Cuts Target Top Brass”, and “Get real, Hagel tells nation in proposing military cuts.” All of these headlines put the emphasis and responsibility of the cuts on the man who came up with the plan. However, it should be noted that this plan is based on following the budget that was passed by our Federal government – and a president who was elected to a large part in reducing military action overseas. The military budget has become so large that it is considered by some to be dead-weight in moving forward with getting into a balanced budget scenario. Unfortunately for libertarian thinking folks government spending will not really go down, but will be shifted from military to social programs including Obamacare – the best result would be a reduction in spending in both categories.
Now, having discussed how Hagel is not responsible with having to do cuts, one should argue that Hagel IS responsible for how those cuts were allocated. He will be reducing the size of the military manpower while not really touching how much is spent on nuclear defence – although we have the nuclear capability to eliminate the entire planet, let alone any aggressor country. Hagel is eliminating the A10 and U2 programs, one which is a low altitude low speed highly durable plane that was introduced in the 1950′s which became known as the “Tank Killer”, while the other was the main plane used for high altitude surveillance over Russia during the Cold War.
I guess time will tell whether or not this military reduction will be a good thing or bad thing, however I am certain there will be folks that are incensed at reducing military size or strength (even though our military budget is HUGE).
You’ve head it before and today you hear it again – Crime Doesn’t Pay. Because it doesn’t! Today I read an article that seems as fake as flying frogs – a thug fired a shot at someone who was willingly giving up his possessions during a robbery and the bullet ricocheted of the crime victim’s face and hit and killed a criminal accomplice! Poetic justice at its finest. You can see the full story here.
Is it true that crime doesn’t pay? Or is it only true that stupid crime doesn’t pay? Take Bernie Madoff, for example – here is a man who was able to con some very rich and powerful folks into a pyramid scheme because he had confidence and had run his private company for 40 years before a large market crash exposed his lies and caused the stack of cards to tumble. Are there yet even more powerful players at play currently that are doing things that would be classified as crimes but don’t get caught because of their power or influence?
Today I encourage you all to think twice about how secure you think you are and be vigilant – not only against petty thugs who will rob you and shoot you while you are willingly giving away your possessions. Are you being robbed by folks you think you can trust? Think thoughtfully and carefully on this subject, leaving no stone unturned. You might have just saved yourself from being Madoff’ed!
I currently work in Malaysia and in my office there are small ants crawling around because sometimes food is left on tables etc. What I noticed one day was that there was a line of ants going up and into a neighbour’s laptop through the heatsink. The first thought that comes to mind is, they must have found a good place for a nest inside the running laptop. Then reality kicks in, no way the ants would get fried in there!
Today I read an article about ‘Crazy Ants’, that have been taking over in Texas as the head honcho based on their chemical excretions that neutralize fire ant poison that also double as a chemical weapon of their own. These ants, unlike fire ants, like to steal their homes rather than build them from scratch. In fact, they would prefer to fight and kill a colony of fire ants and steal their home than build their own. Another place they like to live, unlike fire ants, is in electronics or any man-made home. Additionally, I found that when these crazy ants get zapped by electronics they emit the ‘emergency’ chemical that signals to the other ants they are in trouble and need help. That brings the other ants over, and whala! My answer to why these ants at work are crawling into a hazardous heatsink of a computer is solved!
How do you deal with a genetically superior ant that is naturally from Brazil but wreaks havoc among Texas’s natural ecosystem? These crazy ants are taking food that would be traditionally eaten by bugs that birds enjoy eating – however birds understandably aren’t too keen on eating these smelly chemically laden ants that like zapping themselves in electronics. Fire ants, also from Brazil, are beginning to seem like old friends when it comes to these crazy ants. Perhaps the birds are just going to have to adapt to eating these smelly creatures.
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After watching a news clip reporting on the news that CVS will cease tobacco sales in October and doing a bit of searching on social media for folks’ reaction I have come to my own conclusion on the subject. I am perfectly fine with the news, in fact if I was living in the US I would frequent CVS more often because of their decision. It is not a slap in the face of the free market, it is the essence of the free market. I’m glad it didn’t take Federal intervention to get them to do this, they did it of their own accord and the free market will judge whether or not it was the right move.
About 20% of Americans smoke, so CVS will lose out not only on cigarette sales but also on other items smokers buy when they stop in to buy a pack or two – looking at the stock market I see CVS is down about 1.5% while Walgreens is up around 1% on the news. On the other hand, CVS can definitely use this decision to further cement the idea that they are a company interested in the well-being of customers instead of selling medicine on one side while selling poison on the other.
While some folks are criticizing Walgreens for not pushing their idea further and banning alcohol and unhealthy food sales, I think that what CVS has done is a reasonable step in the right direction.
On most subjects I am a free market proponent, but when it comes to the environment and things that obviously ruin the environment for folks I am a proponent of controls. The planet’s ecosystem has been durable for the larger part of human residency but given the massive quantity of humans and the large footprint that follows their activities have started to hurt themselves and folks thousands of miles away from them. The extinction of honeybees, the shortening lifespans in Asia, and the melting of the polar caps are just three of many consequences of human activity that will surely cause pain in suffering to none other than other humans. From an American perspective, that means the some peoples’ right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is being denied by others who may or may not have a choice in the environmental harm they commit.
Looking at the lives of people living in heavily polluted cities, such as the ones in China where pollution levels have reached twenty times the dangerous amount and simply breathing in the air is like constantly smoking I would pay thousands of dollars and forgo earning tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to not threaten my health with such hazards. Unfortunately the people there don’t have a choice, and the coal power plants along with auto-mobile pollution and factory pollution make this a daily routine. Even though the capital city Beijing has tried to clean up the factories in their city, the change does little as factories dot the surrounding cities and is carried and hovers over the area. Only time will tell how bad this has been on the people but even now medical experts are claiming living in these areas will reduce the average life expectancy around 15 years!
The problem isn’t population per say, as India’s cities are more densely populated than the polluted ones in China, it is the way economic growth has been archived. The United States and especially England went though this period during the industrial revolution and also had massive pollution. This was to a smaller scale, however, since it was between 250 and 150 years ago when populations were smaller and most pollution was isolated to coal powered steam factories and coal power plants. Will the earth ever recover its lost glaciers and reclaim polar ice land area, or will we continue to see a gradual progression to a more arid world with less protection from solar flares and more solar radiation along with conventional pollution?
There are folks out there that seriously don’t care about the environment, they are just trying to get by economically. However, I argue that the same argument can be made from someone stealing bread from another person – the economic gains made through sacrificing the environment impose harsh penalties on others who want to live in a clean world free from newly created environmental hazards they may not be able to afford to protect themselves from.
Using data provided by Payscale.com, the following chart defines how much better off the average student is in 30 years financially by getting a degree. As you can see, the most lucrative schools based on wage premiums are private engineering schools. The next few dots you see are state engineering, private research, and ivy league degrees. The dots below the ascending black line indicate schools whose tuition cost more than the wage premiums would gain the student in 30 years. Those dots represent folks that would have probably been better off financially by not going to school. The point I’m trying to make is that if you are planning on going to college, the best bet for you (if you are willing and or capable) is to enter engineering. For most folks, in 30 years, college will have paid for their tuition many times over so generally speaking the answer to the post is yes.
30 year average wage premium
A lessor known fact for folks that invest in retirement accounts such as IRA’s or 401(k)’s is that you will be forced to withdraw a certain percentage of your retirement accounts when you reach 70 and a half years old. Starting at a bit less than 4% the first year and reaching 15% per year by the time you reach 100. At 115 the minimum is more than 52%, since statistically most people do not make it that long. While this might not seem like a huge deal, it IS when you start to consider how many people are nearing that age – the folks referred to as “Baby Boomers”. Considering much of their money is tied up in these accounts they will most definitely be starting to withdraw this decade as the first of them hit their 70′s. This will put some negative pressure on the stock market, and definitely won’t be a positive thing for younger investors who invest in the stock market as a whole. My suggestion is to then plan on this situation accordingly, invest in solid companies that will continue to outperform as a huge number of people retire – and diversify your investments. Check out some of my other investing related posts for help on doing this.
2013 will have to go down as one of the most important, if not the most important, year in my life. Early in the year I was in St. Paul finishing up a temporary work assignment there hammering out some outstanding production support tasks for my job, all the while not knowing whether I would be returning full time to Atlanta or not. Soon after wrapping that up, I got word that I had gotten a move opportunity to go to Helena, MT. for which I was elated for since I’d always wanted to live somewhere with less people and more mountains. While in Helena I was visited by my family for a few days and we got to go sapphire hunting which was quite interesting. After working in Helena a short while I got yet another opportunity to move to Asia and work which I couldn’t refuse as it would put me within hours of my at the time girlfriend of 5 years. In late April I landed in Malaysia and started working. In June I got married to my beautiful wife Zhenzhen and spent a month with her and her family enjoying the wonders of mother nature in the United States, particularly Yellowstone National Park. I had the unfortunate experience of having a birthday alone this year, the first time ever – but had an excellent trip to Laos in late November. The second highlight of my year was when Zhenzhen visited me in December and spent Christmas and New Years with me.
While I try not to include too many personal details in this blog, I guess once a year can’t hurt.
Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, you name it, is not a new phenomenon. It is, however, being used by a much older population and taken much more seriously that it has in the past. In essence it has become the show and tell for all of your friends and relatives and possibly co-workers to see what you are up to and when. I can’t count how many times people have lost their jobs for posting politically charged or reputable information on their personal social media page – but couldn’t name a single case of this happening back in the early to late 90′s when MySpace was the place for social media, if not yahoo! Social Media has become less of a easy-going tool for friends to hang out and share experiences and/or feelings and more of how people want others to perceive their personal lives.
Social media is not only expected but sometimes required for a job – those without a Facebook account will be labelled as suspicious by some employers. Obviously, in some peoples’ minds, those without a Facebook account have something to hide. You might abandon Facebook thinking it will protect you, but the very fact that such a overarching medium for expression exists demands an impact on your person from social media. Answer to the post – yes.
There are certain things people can do to maximize their expected retirement income while protecting themselves from utter destitution. The first step, invest early. A early portfolio means years of compounding and appreciation which resembles the following curve over time given a starting amount of $1.00 over 40 years.
This interactive chart displays the progression of $1 through 50 years of compounding at a modest 10% per year, around what the historical average return of the stock market is. As you can see the first few years are unimpressive, but eventually the savings grows past what you would have made investing $1 per year without interest! So instead of spending a dollar every year to save $100 in a non-interest account the one dollar invested in the stock market would equate to twice a yearly non-interest savings contribution.
The second point I would like to make is that as you reach retirement age your investments should become more conservative – after all, I am assuming you are using this money to retire on and another point to make is no one lives forever. It is suggested that younger folks should invest most if not all their money in equities while those approaching retirement should go more heavily on bonds, in the 60 to 100% range.
If you’ve been lucky enough to save more than enough for retirement, it might be worthwhile to invest in your children or grandchildren’s education – dependant of how magnanimous you are or how well they treated you. Other fine options include starting an expensive hobby such as sword collecting or medieval smithing, surprisingly enough Chrome spell-check doesn’t even know what the word smithing is or how to spell it so there is another great reason to take on that hobby.