Can we learn from Fort Hood tragedy?

Mark Ames writing for AlterNet gets it right as he addresses the tragic shooting at Fort Hood, Texas just two days ago.  To focus on Major Hasan's ethnicity or religion only masks deeper issues the armed forces is dealing with.  From objections to war to the many suicides that go unreported, from soldiers that go AWOL to the huge increase in soldier divorce rates and domestic violence cases, many that lead to assault, battery and murder.

The issue shouldn't be that Nadal Hasan was a Muslim — he was a solider, and one uniquely trained to listen to the problems and issues faced by his fellow soldiers as they returned back from the horrors of the wars we're battling.  Hasan had to relieve these men and women of their mental stresses, listening and empathizing and helping them cope.  But who helped him cope?  He is a sick individual, no less sick than the George Hennard Jr. who in 1991, at a Killeen, Texas diner, drove his truck through the window of the cafe and started shooting — killing 23 people before taking his own life.  Hasan was no less sick than Virgina Tech grad student Seung-Hui Cho, who in 2007 shot and killed 33 fellow students.  I can go on, listing names and incidents of people who are sick, people who snap — and who simply go off hurting others in ways that make us gasp.  It's disturbing and it's frustrating, and it sickens us — how can there be so much evil living and lurking among us?

Hennard snapped during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings at the point of an Anita Hill interview — he shouted racist epithets and ran out like a loon that night and committed his killing spree the next day.  Cho was weak, lonely young man who was bullied his entire life.  We didn't jump to conclusions about white or Asian Christian men, lumping them all together as bad and evil terror mongers.  We shouldn't draw any conclusions about Arabs or Muslims because of Hasan's background.

We need to consider that there are so many more sick people in our midst, and they're old, young, black, white, brown and yellow.  They're husbands, wives, and some are even heads of communities — even clergy at the local church.  They're sick people who need help and we need to address the fact that they exist and not continue to sweep many of our social ills under the carpet.  If we don't learn from this tragedy, then 13 lives will have been lost in vain and we will have let this sick man off the hook.  We'll look at him and say he killed because he was a Muslim and we'll move on until next week or next month, and something bad will happen again, and we'll find a new excuse.

Mommy Dearest

Saw it again this morning after picking up my morning McCafe (that's a simple cup of the fine McDonald's coffee — two cream, no sugar) — an adult driving with a child in the car, the window cracked about an inch and holding a cigarette by the open window.  I see this quite a bit on the roads while people watching in traffic and oddly enough, it is usually a woman driver.  Aside from my simple, unscientific 'gender' observation, I'm struck by the sheer stupidity of these parents.Smoking in car

I'm sure you can already guess my stance on smoking in general, if not, here it is:  it's stupid.  I think it's a vice for weak people and with what we know today about the dangers of inhaling smoke, it's downright moronic to continue to do so.  But for an adult to smoke in a closed-in space such as the confines of a vehicle — a parent with his or her child present, no less — well that borders on criminal.  As bad as certain habits are (whether we're talking about smoking, gambling, or picking one's nose!), society is pretty tolerant when the habit is difficult to break and the only one affected is the person with the habit.  But what is mom thinking when she takes junior to school and has a couple of smokes along the way?  

Yes, junior gets to school smelling like he was used to wipe out the bottom of an ashtray, and other than that slight wheezing he's picked up recently — he'll be just fine.  But somewhere down the road that kid will pick up an awful disease, he'll have to bury mom before her years and he'll likely be a smoker himself thanks to the wonderful example set by his folks.

Ontario, Canada got it right earlier this year when they created the Smoke-Free Ontario Act which went into effect in January.  There is a section that bans smoking in cars when there is a child less than 16 years of age in the car:

9.2(1) No person shall smoke tobacco or have lighted tobacco in a motor vehicle while another person who is less than 16 years old is present in the vehicle.

Pretty simple language.  As we trudge through reforming our health care system, we should make sure this sort of thinking is prevalent at a national level so that we don't harm another generation of youth.  (Preachy?  Sure.  But I turned 50 yesterday and I have 4 kids of my own and I get that way sometime.  Deal with it.)

I don't have the balls to pull up next to someone in stopped traffic and tell them they shouldn't smoke in a car with their kids present — but if I had a badge and the law on my side …..

C’mon, bring on 51!

50th Now I understand when it is said that 50 is the new 30.  That's right bitches, you won't get it until you get here. 

Today is a great day and if I'm lucky enough, the next 25 years will be is amazing as the last 25.

An amazing wife, 4 beautiful children.  I get up in the morning and can see my hands in front of my face.  Both feet touch the ground.  I'm mobile and in relatively good health.  I am truly blessed so what more can I ask for?  Nothing more to say except for "Thank God" and thanks to my legions of followers on this site.  (All six of you!)

Cut up the plastic

Read another inaccurate article yesterday on Yahoo Finance about credit cards, entitled "5 Evil Things Credit Card Companies Can (Still) Do."  Yes, I know, it's a long title.  But the goofy title alone told me this would be an eye-roller, and it didn't disappoint.

The title by itself is the first thing that got me going.  There are no such things as credit card companies.  What does that mean anyway?  Credit cards can only be issues by banks and credit unions.  So for example, Visa does not issue a credit card.  Nor does MasterCard.  An organization must be a financial institution in order to issue a credit card, Visa and MasterCard are companies that 'co-brand' credit cards along with banks and credit unions.  Get it?  (If you don't get it, then just stop reading here and go back to bed.)

We allowed the government to get involved in legislating what card issuers (banks and credit unions, remember?) can and cannot do in terms of collecting certain revenues.  So let's make sure we keep this straight — the body of government that took their eye of the banking ball for the past 20 years, which culminated in the greatest financial industry melt down in our history — and we've given them the mandate to dictate what banks and credit unions will do as it relates to about 5% of their overall loan programs.  (Yes, a credit card is a loan to you, and therefore part of a financial institutions loan portfolio just like auto loans and home mortgages.  Of course but credit card is 'unsecured' lending as there is nothing to repossess.  Still with me?).  Allowing the federal government to rush these consumer protection laws into practice was a big mistake.  So they make the laws then they try to build an agency to oversee the right of the consumer.  Does anyone else see this as being backward?

Here's another learning opportunity.  Although credit card outstanding represents about 5% to 10% of a financial institutions loan portfolio, the revenues generated represent from 25% to 40% overall.  That's what we call SWEET.

Now back to the bankers.  The assholes that are in charge of these programs sense their revenue stream shrinking, they kick into another gear. The new laws take away their ability to collect over limit fees or to rape consumers with penalty fees that are often double or more than the original APR — many as high at 35%.  Even being late and collect that fee will be impacted as issuers will have to wait two cycles and then notify the consumer before attempting to collect a late fee.  It's a big mess.  And yes, many are ruthless assholes.

The way banks screwed consumers has been a problem and needed to be addressed, but the government chose to paint all financial institutions with a broad brush as though all were guilty of mismanagement.  Truth is, it was the large bank issuers that caused the problem, and it certainly wasn't all of them.  So my issue is that our brilliant congressmen and senators stumble all over themselves to get these regulations changed and end up punishing the entire credit card industry rather than addressing the few bankers guilty of consumer abuse.