Saturday, March 26, 2011

Should Parents Be Prosecuted If Their Kids Break Laws?

Today, I found that I was compelled to call into a radio talk show. There was a guest host on Carl Brizzi's Crime beat. I normally don't listen to this show, but was out meeting a client and was driving quite a while today. The topic was the shooting at the Middle School in Martinsville, IN yesterday, and if the shooter's parents should be criminally charged for the kid having access to a gun. The overt stupidity of most of the callers enraged me.

Even the so called supporters of gun rights, and personal accountability of the kid, were easily led to a point of prosecuting his parents by the host. It was as if even as a voice over the radio they were terrified of not being politically correct.

First of all, I want to be clear that I do not know the details of this shooting. From what I have heard on the news clips I have heard that a 15 year old boy shot a schoolmate over an ongoing argument. From what I have heard is we don't know for sure where the gun came from. We have heard that another student went to the principle of the school a few days ago warning of talk of this action by the shooter, but was ignored. We have heard that Martinsville School System was made aware of the threat on Facebook, but took steps to protect the High School but not the Jr. High. Who knows which, or if any of this is accurate.

This shooting, just like any, is tragic and frightening to anyone who has kids in school. This blog is in no way diminishing this act of violence. However, the questions being asked and fingers of blame are being directed in the wrong direction.
When I called in my comment was to even discuss charges against the parents is absurd, unless his parents gave him the gun and a pep-talk on attacking another student, they had nothing to do with a willful act by this 15 year old kid.

If you are to hold them accountable for his actions with a gun taken from his parents without permission or their knowledge, then what would we have to do if the weapon of choice was a steak knife out of the kitchen drawer, or a hammer, an awl, or a hand axe out of the garage tool box? The gun is a tool, no different that the above it is the use there of that makes all the difference.

Of course those who want to strip Americans of their 2nd Amendment Rights always parasite onto sad stories like this to try to move their agenda forward. They see these children, both shooter and victim, as pawns to be played to get their way.

Wouldn't it make more sense to look to why the kid devalued human life so that he thought he could resolve their teen issues by killing his rival? Shouldn't we ask the principle if in fact she was warned of this a few days ago and just thought it was kids being kids saying silly stuff? Granted how many of us haven't used the words, "I'm going to kill" so and so? However, in her job of leading a school, it would make sense to call the child who was accused of making such statements and asking some questions at least to find out if he seemed fine and in control of his emotions and thoughts and was just spouting off.

Maybe we should look at our society's constant erosion on the sanctity of human life. Roe v Wade started a slippery slope were human life becomes expendable to convenience. There was another caller who spoke of Mike Pence running for governor of Indiana, but disqualified him by making fun of Mike's belief in a God Created world. Once again, there is a difference when we believe that everyone we look at is one of God's children created in His image, or just an accident of nature of slime morphing into monkeys into your classmate.

John Adams said that our system of government is designed for a religious and moral people, it is completely inadequate for any other kind.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

History Repeating?

We have lost seven trillion dollars of value in our nation's real estate values in the last three years. Banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions have had to be propped up with tax payer money as their portfolios have taken the value hits. Yet we have had 347 banks close since 2008 with 700 more at high risk, while only 11 failed from 2002-2007.

Why? Is it all because people were allowed to buy houses they couldn't afford? Yes and No. Yes, that is what lit the fire, but that was just the kindling, the fire is an accounting system put in place by Congress in 2007 called Mark to Market. In my opinion it took a bubble burst that should have set us back for maybe an eighteen month mild recession and created the second great Depression economically.

It artificially deflated values and continues to drive them down further and further. This started with the foreclosure rates going up 100% due to sub-prime loans. However, keep in mind that 100% represented changing our normal foreclosure rate of 2.5% to 5%. How can an extra 2.5% foreclosure rate create a complete crash of our economy? It was due to Mark to Market that pretends that a financial institution's assets are valued at what they could sell them for that day. When a new price comes in that becomes the new standard. Let's say you live in a stable neighborhood that all homes are valued about 400,000.00 but a neighbor has a gambling problem takes out a 125% mortgage on his home and then blows it in Vegas. The home sells at Sheriff sale for 200,000.00, in the real world it would be an anomaly and no factor in how other homes were valued, but in a Mark to Market world it would set all the others at 200k, at least in the bank's portfolio.

This artificial devaluation is what caused the Toxic Asset cancer that destroyed banks and insurance companies. They have to keep a prescribed balance between outstanding loans, assets, and cash on hand, if they get out of balance the Feds shut them down. Once their asset column took an artificial hit they had to add cash on hand to stay open. At first banks would sell their assets at even further reduced rates to other banks trying to raise cash. Then, because of Mark to Market that new lower price reduced the assets of both banks by setting it as the new mark. Thus Toxic Assets. This caused banks to quit buying each other's assets, shutting down trade. The TARP money that we wondered why the banks were not lending was used to build up their cash on hand to keep the Feds from closing them. The sad part is this was all make believe numbers.

At the beginning it was the sub-prime loans that shouldn't have been made that started it. However, today, that is long past. It is good solid loans that are falling due to the borrowers loss of jobs, loss of equity, loss of incomes even if they still have a job. We are dealing with a real unemployment rate of about 18% when you factor in the number of people who have been unemployed so long as to no longer qualify for unemployment checks. Today, the loss of jobs and loss of equity are what is holding us down.

Since we are in the situation we are in today from our government following the pattern that Franklin Roosevelt used to drive us into a deeper and longer Depression, why not continue to follow his idea of removing us from Mark to Market as he did in 1938 when he came to realize that it was a major factor in the Great Depression and holding us in it. Yes, the last time we used Mark to Market was from the late 20s through 1938, ironic isn't it?

How about this, why not change to a Rolling 5 year average as our mandated accounting system for our financial systems where short term anomalies will not create free falls in the banks? Why are we not at least looking into this?

For more on Mark to Market this is a blog I wrote a couple years ago.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Life Is Too Short To Live Without Passion.

What are you passionate about? Can you define your dream in a sentence? Do you know why you are doing what you are doing every day? Are you excited about what your day holds? Or are you going through the motions, working for Friday, watching the clock, and just working for a paycheck?

Are you working your job or business, or Chasing your Dream? The difference in the two is the magic of life.

Our Creator designed us to be dreamers, "Without a Dream my people perish."

It has always been that most people do not have a dream, or purpose to their lives. Ben Franklin once said that "Most men die at 25 only to be buried at 65." Thoreau said, "Most men live lives of quiet desperation." Most people long ago gave up on their dreams of childhood, maybe because so many people told them to grow up.

I was thinking of this the other day in a conversation with a friend who was talking about trying to find the passion in her kids, trying to find that thing that would light them up. Wanting to get them around other kids of passion who they could feed off of to keep their own fires burning. Of course this makes sense, but as we were speaking the question is don't adults need this association with winners every bit as much? At what age are we no longer influenced positively or negatively by those we associate? As Zig Ziglar calls it SNIOPed, "Susceptible to the Negative Influences of Other People." Of course that answer is we never grow out of this, we are always influenced by those we choose to hang around.

This became even more clear to me as I am rereading "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. While it is a political thriller, that clearly shows the dangers of an overarching government, and a compliant population, it also shows the distinction from the dreamers and drones.

We may believe that we can lift them out of negativity, and into our passion, but in most cases unless you have others who share your passion you will see your own diminish rather than lift the others up.

One log doesn't make a fire. If you take one log and try to light it, you won't have much success. If you build a stack of logs and then build a fire even the biggest log will burn. Once you have a hot fire you can even put a wet log and it will dry and catch fire. However, if you take a log that is burning red hot and take it out of the fire to let it burn by itself it will soon go out.

Find a Dream, find a passion, then nurture it. Find others who are following a similar passion and feed off each other. In the economic climate we have been experiencing far too many people and companies are imitating the turtle pulling back into their shells trying to ride out the danger. They are hunkering down, holding back, hanging on, surviving, hiding in fear, not attacking with passion. It can very much become a habit, how many times have you heard sports analogies where they question if a team can "turn it on," after a lackluster performance.
Zig Ziglar speaks of a lesson he learned as a kid when he went to the neighbor's to see if he could get something to eat from their family's cook. When she brought the pan of biscuits out of the oven they were all flat and burnt. He asked her what happened, her response was "It looks like they squatted to rise, then got cooked in the squat." How many of our friends and associates are those biscuits?

My own journey through this economic malaise was dealing with company after company that was hanging on, some surviving, some not. But there was no talk of "not participating" in the recession. There was no thought of how to thrive instead of just survive. I hated every second of it. That has never been my way of thinking.

When my current employer contacted me, we sat down for lunch, his timing was terrible from a financial point of view. He was offering much less in the short term than where I was, and that was still much less than I was used to, or needed. However, I accepted immediately because it was the first time I had heard someone with a dream, a passion, and a plan in years. I had been telling everyone that there was a historic opportunity available to someone who had the vision and willingness to take the risk. His dream was that very opportunity I had been speaking of for three years. Now once again I can say without hesitation that I am chasing my Dream, and not working my business.

There is nothing more exciting than spending every day seeking those who get excited about getting better, chasing their own visions, being part of a bonfire of passion, and helping them lay out plans to achieve this. This is now my daily world, I can truly say I never work but chase my dream of helping other chase theirs!

Find yours, find like minded people, build a fire of passion in your life and chase that Dream. If you are in a place where dreams have died around you, start looking for an escape. You can do it, you can live the dream.