American Dream - A Scam

Moreover, Altucher says the notion that buying a home is a ticket to financial security is a "scam" perpetrated on the American people by corporations seeking to keep us in debt, less mobile and with the storage to purchase all sorts of needless consumer goods.
James Altucher of Formula Capital

The discussion was about the investment return of a home. Since 1929, on average, a home has returned  0.4% per year. Compare that with stocks at roughly 8%, including the latest nasty downturn.

 There are so many other expenses involved with a house that you would not spend if you were renting:

  • Insurance premium.
  • Property taxes (which usually offset any tax deduction you get from your mortgage interest).
  • Maintenance (pipes break, electricity problems, etc.).
  • Remodeling costs.
  • Utilities (utilities and maintenance for renters is often reflected in the rental price, but it's not reflected in a mortgage when you own).
  • Yard work, pest control, etc. (again, rents usually have this built into the price, but mortgages don't).

Many people say - "But, you have to live somewhere..." - true. But, you could rent, save a ton of money, and buy something else with all that money. A boat for instance. Or a RV. A house is so stationary. It doesn't do anything. I know some people like putzing with a house - home improvements, the garden; some even like repairs. Not me.

Now, with high unemployment, the stupidity of owning a home becomes especially clearer. In this economy, you can't just pick up and go where the jobs are. You can't unload the house. That's its largest flaw as an investment. It's not liquid - and it's not liquid at the most important time: when its value is tanking.

New Blog

I've decided to devote this site to my web design and web writing work. So, I will be changing it in the new year. If you still are interested in reading my ramblings and fiction work I've set up a new site:

http://www.voiceofdoomandgloom.com/

Hope to see you there.

American Competitiveness: An Educated Work Force

It takes three components to make a country competitive in the world economy: an educated work force, a sound infrastructure, and pro-business policies. I wish to address the make up of the work force.

The nation needs a workforce with a range of capabilities, but there are minimum standards that should be attained when a person graduates high school. Everyone should be able to read a newspaper and comprehend what was written. Everyone should be able to read and understand instructions for the common things they will encounter in their lives: cars, refrigerators, computers… They must have a basic understanding of math. Arithmetic should be second nature, with the ability to spot an obvious mistake. Everyone should have some grounding in algebra and geometry. Some understanding of statistics is important, at least so they can understand what they read, hear and see  in the media. They should be able to speak and write grammatically correct English. Lastly, they must be as comfortable with computers as possible. This is the minimum necessary for economic competitiveness; I do feel more is necessary to make people good citizens – but not much more.

Post-high-school education should consist of two tracks. One track should teach the technical skills necessary to teach people how to grow, make and fix things. The other track (which today seems like the only track, or the only “desirable” track) should train people for the professions: engineering, law, medicine… As I’ve said in many other posts, we need more people who can figure out how to grow things, make things and move things than we do MBAs, lawyers, game programmers, YouTube video contributors, and – dare I say it – creative writers.

However, education is not the silver bullet to increasing American competitiveness. It is necessary, but not sufficient. Other countries have plenty of smart people – and in the case of China and India, way more of them.

Next post: American Competitiveness: A Sound Infrastructure

Town considers eyeing crime from the sky -- chicagotribune.com

I read this article today: Town considers eyeing crime from the sky -- chicagotribune.com

The concept is that there will be an aircraft (I couldn't tell from the article if this was a drone or a manned aircraft) filming virtually everything in the town - 24 / 7. Is this what we are moving to? Is this what we want? Our every move monitored? Our cell phones can track our movements. Our iPass can record where we've been and how fast we got there. Our credit and debit card transactions leave a trail of our whereabouts and actions. And now, we're being filmed from the sky. If this becomes the norm, will this still be the "the land of the free and the home of the brave"?

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What I Do

Web Design

The internet has now become the 21st century version of the phonebook. More and more people now turn to the internet first to find information on local businesses: location, directions, phone numbers, hours and product information. According to recent surveys conducted by Webvisible and AC Nielsen, 63% of consumers and small business owners turn to the internet first for information on local businesses. And, this trend is accelerating.
Your web presence does not have to be a traditional custom coded website. Other alternatives are: social network pages (blogs, Facebook), YouTube videos, or existing online marketplaces. One of these alternatives, or some combination of these and a custom website, may be perfect for your needs. We’ll talk about your vision for your business / organization and arrive at an appropriate strategy.
I offer an affordable web presence for small businesses / organizations
  • Custom websites
  • Social Network consulting and setup assistance
  • Existing online marketplace consulting and setup assistance
  • My web projects are search engine optimized from the very beginning

Search Engine Optimization

It’s not rocket science! Using the Google Webmaster Guidelines, I will examine your existing site and make recommendations. Often times we only need to change page titles, URLs, HTML tags, and some content changes to utilize the relevant keywords for your business or organization.
  • I offer a thorough Keyword Analysis and provide detailed recommendations

Writing / Editing

There are lots of websites out there, a lot of competition. It is very important to present clear and compelling copy to promote your business or organization.
  • I can research and write keyword-rich copy for your site or social network application
  • I can proofread and edit your content prior to posting it online

References

Blog Marketing

I strongly believe in the power of social networking for small business. I think blogs are the cornerstone of a social networking strategy. They're personal, informative, and visually appealing. However, they do take effort and time to become a source of new customers for your business. I ran across this while trolling online for information on blog marketing:

Be ready for a long term commitment


Tactics = fast, strategy = slow

If you’re able to execute on something that resonates, engaging in the social web with the goal of generating PR can see results fast. But don’t make the mistake of thinking a single tactical success is all it takes to see sustainable growth. You need to engage in continued tactics over a long period of time – and the truth is as many of them will fail as will succeed. But if your strategy is sound, in time, it will pay off and provide increasing returns.

Need to become referential

A social media PR strategy needs to be designed to position the company a referential brand. When the brand or company identity becomes referential, your work will start to get easier. As you contribute more, people will start to notice and your content will spawn organic reactions and discussions external of the original source. Additionally, the industry will start to recognize you as a go-to source, and you’ll start to get referenced by virtue of your presence. Find a way to become referential and your efforts will multiply themselves.

Push through “the dip”

To get to the point of seeing PR returns at scale for your social web participation, you’ll need to push through “the dip”. In other words, outlast others who aren’t as serious or committed as you are. I’m still relatively new to the TopRank team, but am honored to publish content at Online Marketing Blog, where the first post dates back to 2003. Well over 2,000 posts have been made here, consistently, and that commitment has paid off: This blog generates 10-20+ organic PR placements each month (equal to about a $10K/month PR budget). Reaching the point where publicity is generated as a by-product of participation should be an end objective of social media for PR.
There is more valuable information in this post. If you want to read the entire article, here's the link: http://www.toprankblog.com/2009/11/how-to-social-media-pr/

Manufacturing in America: A National Catastrophe

I read an editorial in the NY Times by Bob Herbert (11/21/2009 edition) recently that echoes a theme I’ve posted here many times: too many of our best and brightest have been making up exotic financial instruments rather than making things people really need.  Today’s Chicago Tribune also had an article about manufacturing’s decline in our country. Lastly, 60 Minutes recently had a piece on cyber-terrorism. Part of the piece was about how generators could be destroyed through hacking into the software that controls them. As creepy as that is, I was even more bothered by the fact that NO electrical generation turbines are made in the US anymore. The same country that might be committing the terrorism (China was suspected) might also be the country we have to turn to for replacements. We are so short-sighted, so foolish.
From the article:
Detroit was the arsenal of democracy in World War II and the incubator of the American middle class. It was the city that taught mass production to the rest of the world. It was a place that made cars, trucks and other tangible products, not derivatives.
“We’ve been living with the illusion that manufacturing — making things — is so 20th century,” said Mr. Shaiken, “and that we could succeed by concentrating, for example, on complex financial instruments while abandoning the industrial base that sustained so many American families.”
I can hear my friends on the right now: government should not be picking winners and losers, BUT we need a industrial policy in this country that promotes making things here over shipping jobs and manufacturing expertise overseas. Perhaps we can start by NOT giving corporations tax breaks to open up shop in foreign countries. Give us something to keep, and create, jobs here.