For all the anti-immigration, anti-Islam, and fear of terrorism being preached across the US, another round of school killings emphasizes that the most dangerous threat to Americans remains themselves. While many people do not agree with some of the backwards social policies that govern places like Saudi Arabia where rape victims are treated as the culprits, or the mass killings that ravage civil strife torn regions of Africa, it still remains astonishing the type of senseless killings that litter the landscape of a country with so much prosperity and opportunity.
I was alarmed at the breaking of the news to find myself somewhat unsurprised. Reflecting on this thought, I am saddened that it is possible that I and many others could one day become desensitized to such events. Every life means something dear to me though I may not know the names and faces. Every life means a new opportunity to change so much. Every life means a society rich in diversity and culture. I don't know what drove the hooter to do what he did, but I wonder if his life and those that died mean something to you.
I really hope one day America learns to part with its love of the gun. I hope that anti-islamist start to shift their focus to anti-senseless violence rants instead. I hope that those who dismiss this post as a bleeding heart liberals wasted words, think for one moment about each and every person they know at an elementary, middle, high school, or college, and one day getting a call that him or her is no longer with us. If the prospect of a call like that still does not sway you, then I have very good cause to be alarmed at the internal threats to America.
Having trouble sticking to that New Year's Resloution? Well try monetizing the incentive to complete it. A new site stickK helps you to reach goals by contracting you to a monetary commitment for failing to meet your objectives.
Say for instance you have a goal to lose 50 lbs. Well, you go to stickK.comand sign a contract that states that if you fail to lose that weight by a specified period you will have to fork over a specified sum of money to a charity of your choosing or one of stickK.com's choosing.
To be sure, make the financial pain of failing something you know you will really feel. Hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for not meeting a goal is a sizable obligation that will make most meet their targets. For even more motivation, strike up a contract with a friend with one paying the other person for not meeting the goal.
On the cusp of the coming Super Tuesday primaries, I want to take the time to clear the air on who I support and will be voting for in the Georgia Primary and hopefully in the upcoming Presidential election. I am lending my full support and vote to the Junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.
I must say that I enjoyed the Clinton years, scandals aside, but feel it is time for change. It is change on many levels that I seek. Change from the same old staple of senior white male leaders. Change from the politics of fear. Change from partisan bickering. Change in fiscal policy. Change in our outlook in tomorrow, a vision of cooperative development and positive international influence.
America has become fat, complacent, backwards thinking, and xenophobic. People want us to return to gleaming prominence, but want someone else to do the work without impacting their ability to live without consequence. Many believe us to be the greatest nation in the world, but forget that greatest does not come with out hard work, and it cannot be maintained without humility and respect for those who could knock you off while you sleep.
To rise to glory, America will need a uniter, motivator, and change agent, that holds accountable for what we want and do and bring back compassion and free thought to the people. Barack Obama is that man, like Kennedy, like Lincoln, and like Clinton once was. I will leave those of you with doubt in Barack's message. One of my favorite quotes and a mantra I try to live by. "All things change in a dynamic environment, your effort to remain what you are is what limits you." - Motoko Kusanagi
I think it is safe to posit the idea that America is a full fledged service economy. Moreover, I believe it safe to wager that the American consumer and American services are closely tied to the global economy. It has been mentioned time and again how critical the American consumer's spending is to the Global economy in media such as The Economist. At the same time, Americans forgo a healthy level of restraint in spending, save less than 5% of household incomes, and maintain a huge deficit financed by foreign nations.
I feel that this scenario resembles too much in the way of an imbalanced equation and that the overall health of the American economy will suffer if a change in perspective does not make way.
It goes without saying that consumption will never go away (at least not in the near future), what we buy how ever will change. This past Christmas financial experts everywhere sat listlessly waiting on retail sales returns to make sure Americans bought lots of little and big boxes of stuff they may or may not need from big box retailers. The American consumer delivered, but not enough to stave off recession talks. Imagine a Christmas with boxes filled with certificates for services and not just flashy wares from low production cost nations. The us economy would not suffer because we did not buy a lot of pre-manufactured goods, if anything it would be bolstered by the fact that our native product, services, would become a main stay. Also we could build an export surplus by way of services.
Actually, let me define what I mean by services. When I say services I mean anything that is not a physical product handed over at time of purchase. A service could be a painting job, manicure, financial work, legal services, etc.. As long as you are paying someone else for a skill or craft. I say let everyone else have the goods as we are now the current leader in services worldwide and should build and maintain that brain trust.
Our service economy allows for many creature comforts in that service sector jobs usually mean higher pay. But we dole out our private incomes on goods and products that we hardly ever need as opposed to reinforcing what brought us that disposable cash in the first place. There used be a time that people made goods in their country and bought and sold them from one another. That model has gone away in the world economy; but Americans could buy and sell services to one another and ship them abroad at the same time. We will still buy our goods here and there but the cash flow would stay predominantly in the US as opposed to flowing out. I believe as countries develop, emerging economies will buy plenty of goods for everyone as will China for that matter.
All this is fine, but it must be added that increased savings must go hand in hand with the transfer of the consumer focus. The American consumer is a spendthrift at best. This poor fiscal policy starts with the government. Whom, if the government was a private citizen it would have been brought to collections a long time ago, or at least there spending limit would have been cut off.
The benefits of savings on the dollar and US consumer by transitioning to a services based economy and increasing savings, go without saying. We would finance our own spending by fattening our own pockets. Loosening our dependance on oil or foreign power of any sort would not hurt either. I believe wholly in a world economy, I just don't think that the trade of goods and services goes one way. Financial Analyst and Economist should be concerned with what the worldwide consumer will do at Christmas and not just Americans. At this time, I can only be concerned with how we get our own house in order.
Over the years of living in Atlanta I have gotten to use the Metro Atlanta Rail and Transit Authorities services a few times. Like most everyone else I have a hand full of complaints but I also have a great deal of ideas that I think could help improve the system. Are roads are becoming ever more packed everyday and air pollution in the city is sad at best. There is resistance to mass transit becoming a main stay here, with reasons rooted in base racial prejudices and a deep rooted love among Atlantans (save Americans as a whole) for their automobiles.
Rather than harp on so many frustrations and complaints about commuting in Atlanta and MARTA, I would like to take the time to post some ideas here and hope that the administration on Lindbergh and Piedmont can somehow come across these ideas and weigh in on using them. I have broken my ideas up into 4 main areas of improvement:
Pace and Scheduling
These ideas are mostly from the user perspective so I am not fully aware of the overall business impact it will have but at the end of the day the user is the most important part of Marta. Some if the suggestions have already been implemented, which shows that the MARTA administration is trying to improve the system.
Pace and Scheduling
Implement a High-speed Rail System. The cost is high but the idea of being able to get from Alpharetta to the Airport in 15 minutes would pay for itself.
Introduce smaller & faster buses. The big lumbering brutes hogging the streets now are outdated. The type of high efficiency buses used by the BUC are ideal for getting smaller groups to their destination faster. Trying to carry the whole world to one station takes forever and makes the system inefficient.
Switch to shorter and tighter bus looping routes. Bus should loop between two close stations and not take routes that traverse 6 or more miles. Passengers should be riding to the nearest station by train and then a short bus ride to within a block of their destination.
Keep the intervals to one bus or train every 15 minutes during rush hour (6:00 - 9:00 am & 4:00 - 7:00 pm) and every 30 minutes otherwise, every 5 for special events (i.e. Falcon's or Braves Games, Conventions etc...).
Introduce a trolley system in the Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead areas. The Peachtree Corridor is almost 14 miles in length and receive probably the highest levels of foot traffic of all the areas in Metro Atlanta. We can get people out of their cars and on to Trolleys heading up and down Peachtree to their destinations.
Go to a 24 Hour, Seven Day a week operation for all bus and train routes. Atlanta is becoming like a New York or a San Francisco and should start to operate like a city that does not sleep. We are not go go go all the time yet but are headed there and it would pay to be proactive.
Add diagonal rail lines and a matching I-285 perimeter rail loop line. The idea that people only need to go North, South, East, West is crazy. Atlanta is a sprawling array of suburbs and counties. Someone in southeast Fulton should be able to get to Gwinnett with a direct line or loop that does not make their trip 1-2 hours, but more like 30 minutes.
Marta should introduce a new bigger brighter road side sign system. The current signs only show a picture of a bus to indicate that this is a stop. Ideally they should show the route of that particular bus, a place marker where the user is and highlight the next closest stations.
The new mapping system should better emphasize key landmarks and tourist information as well as marking the station that one should go to to get to said land marks.
MARTA needs to freshen up its TV advertising/Paper/Partnerships to more emphasize real world examples of how to use the system and not just selling it. The thing I see the most with people when they get on is just that they don't understand it at all, because when they do arrive the only thing they know about MARTA is that it is supposed to be SMARTA. People should see examples on TV of someone going from Alpharetta to the World Congress Center or returning from the Airport to Gwinnett or Cobb.
The bus covered shelter stops should be the standard everywhere for all bus stops. People should have the conveyance of not being stuck in the rain or hot Georgia summer sun on their heads. Also, these stops should be more spread apart. Right now the stops are almost 2 - 3 quarter mile. The buses are stopping almost every 100 feet to pick someone up, slowing down the route and irritating drivers behind them. When you use mass transit you should be expected to put in a little effort like walking 1/4 or 1/2 a mile to a bus stop.
MARTA should introduce day fare system. By day fare I mean you buy 1 ticket that gets you anywhere on MARTA all day long. I have seen the frustration on peoples faces when they are using MARTA when from out of town and do not know how many fares to buy or which ones. A reasonably priced fare that you can use all day for one day would ease a lot of visitors minds. The price of this fare should be 1/2 between two round trip tickets.
I had planned to mention doing away with tokens but MARTA has done that and I like their Breeze card system.
I would like to see Wi-Fi on buses, on trains, and in stations. We are in a digital age and should have access to broadband while on trains, buses, or in stations. This can be a paid or free service with advertisements, as long as the service is there.
MARTA should offer paid public lockers in larger stations like in European style mass transit stations.
Finally, there should be TV's on buses, on trains, and in stations providing up to date information on routes, delays, weather, and of course news/advertisements.
Ultimately, changing MARTA is the job of all citizens of Atlanta in all the major counties. If we do not think like one great forward thinking city we will have the pain of on disjointed and sprawling behemoth who can not pick itself up to get running. To be fair, I drive my car most everyday, but only have a 6 mile round trip commute up and down Peachtree. I would like to stop this driving, however, and grab a 10-15 trolley ride to work. We'll see if that ever happens.
It is my strong belief and hope that CitiBank acquire Wachovia. At present no such buy out could take place because CitiBank's total US deposits holdings would have to drop below 10%, which is not set to happen soon. If it did, however, such a merger would have many benefits to the companies and their customers.
• The acquisition would put Citigroup firmly in nearly every corner of the US. Wachovia has a very strong presence in the southeast where Citi does not. Moreover, Wachovia recently expanded out west with recent acquisitions, which would only solidify Citi's already prominent presence in the West.
• Wachovia customers would experience the benefit of a national bank with the true retail banking outlets that they are used to. Wachovia customers would also see the addition of many services that Wachovia had not been able to provide like International banking.
• Both Wachovia and CitiBank would enjoy the merger of their knowledge base and resources particularly in the Mortgage Financing and Investment Banking.
• Finally, Citi would see its bottom line bolstered in a time when it has seen short comings in its quarterly reports.
Much of this is wishful thinking; but I think that I should put it down and get it out there for hopes sake.
This college football season seems to have produce one overwhelming cry for a playoff. Publicized murders of Hawaii and Illinois, ideas of second round match ups between USC and UGA, and poor performances by OSU and Oklahoma all under scored what most College football fans really want. A simple knock out tournament to produce a clear cut champion. Some suggest a plus one system, some suggest a plus two, and some suggest an 8 team playoff. All the ideas are fair but I would like to throw my own into the hat. So here is how I would fix the BCS system.
Reduce the regular season to ten games for every team across the country.
Run the season from the first week in September through the last week November.
Each team would have two bye weeks, one random and the other during Thanksgiving week.
Get rid of all Conference Championship games.
At the end of the season take the BCS rankings for the top 16, which would be compiled on a formula of 25% coaches poll, 25% AP poll, %25 Las Vegas poll, %25 BCS/Computer rankings/formula.
The top 16 would play in a single elimination tournament starting with the first weekend in December for 3 weeks.
The 14 losing teams would be eligible to play in the 7 classic bowl games on New Year's day (Cotton, Sugar, Rose, Citrus, Orange, Fiesta, and Gator Bowls). This would keep the bowl organizers happy and keep fans of eliminated teams something to go into next season with.
The final two teams would play the following night in the BCS Championship game.
I believe this system would be great and not still make plenty of money for everyone. As it is now most schools already play 12-13 regular season games and more if they have a conference championship. Also teams play well into December as it is now. We would be able to keep the bowl games and have a clear cut national champion every year. Also, more fans would probably travel to the playoff games knowing what was at stake for their teams. Anyway, that is my two cents on college football, inspired by the debacle of the 2007 season. Congratulations to LSU and thank you for punishing the annoying sweater warriors.
I hope to bring some bit of updates to this site over the year. I plan to include a link to my formal endorsement of a presidential candidate, regular events and news updates, and plenty of pictures as always.