Saturday, March 19, 2005

Saturday Puppy Pic

This is Wyatt and Daddy taken just last month.

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I have one where Wyatt is twirling for me, but I can't find the disk!! wahhh!! He won't twirl anymore unless he gets a treat. My puppy is a capitalist. I'm so proud!
A Sad Ending

We were all hoping that a different ending could have been written, but our hopes crashed when the news came out this morning that the body of 9-year old Jessica Lunsford was found. John Couey, a 46-year old sex offender has admitted to the crime.

I wondered why an Amber Alert wasn't issued when Jessica disappeared. Apparently, there have to be some known facts: the child has been abducted, some idea of who abducted the child, and a description of the vehicle. I disagree with this procedure. I think that when a child has gone missing, an Amber Alert should be issued so that there are that many more eyes out there. It wouldn't have made a difference for Jessica. I think the police either knew that, or had a feeling that an Amber Alert would not help. It was the right decision. Of course, agreeing with it now is using 20-20 hindsight.

Couey came to light when the cops were following standard police procedure. They were interviewing all know sex offenders in the area. He came up missing after telling relatives that the cops would be looking for him. When I heard that, bells went off, but I also knew that the cops looking for him was obvious. He was a known sex offender and they would be looking to talk to him and he wanted to avoid the cops, not necessarily because he was involved, When you are a sex offender, and a child is missing, you become one of the people the cops talk to. Sort of damned if you do, damned if you don't. Of course, now we know the real reason he didn't want to talk to the cops. He knew he was guilty.

I go back and forth on the death penalty. I don't believe that it's a deterent to crime but I also believe that when you've taken a life, you must pay for it. It does keep the executed criminal from committing more crimes, but I don't believe that most criminals think about the possibility of being executed until they've been arrested and hear that the prosecutor is going to ask for it. Then there are cases like this. He executed her, perhaps without meaning to, but he took her life nonetheless. My idea of an appropriate penalty would be to execute him in the same manner that he executed Jessica. One night, on a date and time unknown to him, wake him from his sleep, remove him from his cell, and do to him what he did to her. With one exception. Don't kill him. Let him live so that he will remember the terror and horror she went through. And maybe repeat it now and again. I know, it's cruel and unusual punishment. It was cruel what he did to her.

As Sheriff Dawsy said, he's a piece of trash. I hope no one interfers with due process or screws up his civil rights. I want to be sure that there is no possibility of appeal because someone didn't collect evidence correctly, or prosecute or defend him properly, or that the judge made an error in the trial or whatever. I want him to have a fair trail (it would be even better if he pleaded guilty at arraignment), so that he will have nothing of merit to appeal. I want him to serve the maximum sentence he is given. And if that is death, I won't cry over him.

God forgive him. It's going to be a long time before I can.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Speaking of Social Security

Did anyone see this article? It's from House Speaker Dennis Hastert used a 1935 Ford three Window Coupe to illustrate that what worked in 1935 isn't necessarily going to work in 2005 much less in 2035. Is Social Security going bankrupt? I don't know. It seems like everyone has an opinion on this. One thing everyone seems to agree on is that it does need some work. Some say now, others say later. I've found that if you fix something now, it's a lot less expensive to fix than if you wait.

Let's fix Social Security now.

Thanks to GOPBloggers for the link.

And here is a link to Blogs For Bush. Matt Margolis did an interview with Stephen Moore, President of Free Enterprise Fund.

Mr. Moore brought up several points one of which I hadn't thought about.

"One of the misconceptions about personal accounts is that Social Security funds would be turned over to private Wall Street investment firms--this is the whole reasons Dems insist of calling personal accounts "privatization"--when people hear that word they think of corporate control. Personal accounts would be owned and controlled by individuals, who would be able to accumulate personal wealth. Moynihan used to say that personal accounts are about the doorman retiring wealthy, not just the people in the penthouse."

So, from this point on, in this Little Corner, PRA stands for Personal Retirement Accounts.

Another point brought out:

"The biggest misconception is that personal accounts are riskier than what we have now. What we've got now is a tax that goes directly from current workers to current retirees, and that just can't work when we have only 2 workers per retiree. This scheme is so risky that more young workers believe in UFOs than believe they will ever actually receive Social Security benefits. In the long-term, nothing is less risky than a diversified portfolio of equity investments. "

Social Security is a house of cards just waiting to fall down. I'll be writing to my congressional representatives telling them I want a Personal Retirement Account and I want it now. I want to know how they stand on it (and I'll include my spreadsheet to show I know what I'm talking about), and that unless they can prove to me that PRA's won't work, if they want my vote when they come up for re-election, they had better support and vote for PRA's.

In fact, I have another issue that goes hand-in-hand with this: Tax reform. It's a two-fer. Support and vote for both or I will not vote for you at the next election.

You really need to read the entire interview.

Go. Now. Read it!

And from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said “Either it’s going to happen in the next eight to nine months, or it won’t happen for the next eight to nine years.”

Let's hope it's in the next eight to nine months.

And Blogs for Bush has an archive of Social Security posts.
The Eighth Wonder of the Modern World

Personally, I would rank it number one, but then there are those who think I'm too materialistic as it is. But let's face it. Money may not be the most important thing in the world, but it does make life a little easier.

What am I talking about? The Eighth Wonder obviously has something to do with money. Yep. It's central to every financial decision you'll ever make, whether you realize it or not. I'm talking about interest, specifically compound interest.

Interest is what you pay in return to a lender, in addition to the principal, to borrow their money. It can be a little rate, let's say, 2% or a high rate, of 21% or higher. We mostly think of interest when we purchase homes, cars, and get a credit card. That's when we pay out interest.

Interest can also work in our favor. Money markets, savings accounts, bonds, etc, all pay a certain rate of interest to us in return for the bank using our money. We usually pay them more on loans we take out than we ever receive on deposits we make to savings or investment accounts.

The wonder of compound interest is remarkable. I knew it was a wonder, but until I actually crunched some numbers the other evening, I didn't realize just what compounding interest could really mean.

Compounding interest means you deposit money in, say a bank. The bank pays you interest on that money because they use it while it's on deposit. If you leave that money there and never make additional deposits, it will still accrue interest. Let's use $100 and 10% interest. Ten percent is very high and we probably won't see that high an interest rate, but it makes this example easy to prove.

$100 x 10% = $10 interest added to the original $100 = $110.
$110 x 10% = $11 interest added to $110 = $121
$121 x 10% = $12.10 interest added to $121 = $133.10
and so on

In just a couple of deposit cycles you have added $33.10 to your original investment of $100. Take that out over years and you can have a very nice nestegg.

But what happens when you add additional deposits?

$100 x 10% = $10 interest added to the original $100 = $110
$110 + $100 = $210 x 10% = $21 plus $210 = $231
$231 + $100 = $331 x 10% = $33.10 plus $331 = $364.10
and so on

Do you see the difference after just three interest periods? $231.10? This is what I found when I started wondering how having a Private Retirement Account could effect me. I decided to add the extra $100 because I would be adding to the account every pay period.

I began crunching numbers when I began thinking about Private Retirement Accounts going hand in hand with Social Security. I have, at most, 12 years before I retire. I began wondering how much I could have if I put only $100 into an account bearing 3.5% interest (a little high for right now, but that's the figure I chose, so live with it) every two weeks (which is my pay schedule). I don't have the figures in front of me (my computer is in the shop) so I can't give exact time frames and numbers, but after a short period of time (weeks, a couple of months) the interest paid on principal was more than the deposit I would be making. After twelve years of making $100 deposits every two weeks, I would have $580,000 in the account (actually more, but I don't remember the exact numbers).

As I understand Bush's Social Security plan, you would put part of your Social Security payment into a PRA which would pay 3.5% (the amount I heard, but which could change as we all know. It could go up or down as do all interest rates) and would compound monthly. I also understand that the employee could put their full share into this account with the employer's contribution going into the traditional Social Security fund.

So I took the amount I pay into Social Security and started with January 2006. I was able to determine when my pay periods for 2006 through 2016 would be and using a spreadsheet (Excel) used the formula demonstrated above. The only difference was I totaled the deposits for each month and figured the interest on that month and added it to the amount deposited. Then, for the next month, I added that months deposits to the amount from the previous month and added the interest on the total amount for both months. And extrapolated the chart out through eleven years. At the end of the eleventh year, I had more than $700,000.

If I only live to 85 years of age, that would give me $35,000 per year plus it would continue to earn interest every month. I think I could live on that and the pension I will receive. Think of what someone just starting out could have at the end of thirty (or more) years in a private retirement account! I used Excel to do the calculations as I know my math could be off, so I eliminated that problem. Even if my numbers are off, wouldn't it be nice to have money that you have earned go into an account that you can leave to your heirs? With Social Security, you put in hundreds of thousand of dollars and then, when you die, the government keeps it. It's your money! It's money you earned, but the government keeps it! That's legalized theft and it's wrong. A better rate of return on my money is worth the change, but keeping that money is even more important to me.

, thanks to my other favorite reader, Doyle, is a link to a Social Security calculator. The numbers are rough, but not too far off.

Private Retirement Accounts? Bring 'em on!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Social Security

I didn't realize that 31 percent of Social Security payments go to the disabled and survivor children. Represenative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic whip said that cutting Social Security benefits to these two groups should be considered as options for improving the programs finances along with raising the current retirement age from 67 as well as the amount of income subject to taxation which is currently capped at $90,000.

This would directly effect me as my husband receives disability payments. His payments were cut last year when he became eligible for Medicare and that hurt us. Another cut in his benefits would hurt as well. I personally have no problem with raising the income cap. I don't know why it was capped at $90K. I'm not being argumentative or saying that the "evil rich" (a group to which I aspire) should pay more, I honestly don't know how that figure was chosen instead of, say $100K or $125K, $150K, or even $200K (I like round figures).

I would also be effected if the retirement age were raised. I've discussed this before, but because of rules of the Florida Retirement System, I have to decide within the next seven years whether I will retire under the DROP (deferred retirement option) or not. If I chose to "DROP", I can work for another 5 years with my retirement pay going into a special account where it will accumulate interest. I will have approximately (depending on interest rates) $115K in that account which I will gain control of when I terminate the DROP after five years. So, you bet I will "DROP" unless I win the lottery in the meantime, that is. But since I don't remember to buy lottery tickets, I guess I can't depend on that option.

As it stands now, I will have five years between retirement from my job and being able to collect whatever Social Security payment I am due. If the retirement age is raised, that will add more years. I am anticipating taking a part-time job after retirement simply because I have a need to have periodic human contact. Any extra money would be nice, but I would rather work because I need it emotionally or mentally rather that needing it to live on. And no, I don't want to count on Social Security, but I am of the generation that was encouraged to max out credit cards. And I always was an overacheiver in some respects. My husband and I both made poor choice and we are paying for it now. The money that would have been invested for retirement is now going to pay off those "tools of the devil."

I did some number crunching the other day, and if I could put my Social Security into a private account that compounded monthly at 3.5% (not sure where I got that interest rate) and got some very nice figures for the next 12 years. I won't reveal what the figures are (mainly because I am sure that I must have made a mistake somewhere!), but they are very nice. If they are anywhere near correct, Dale and I could live very nicely for many years on just my Social Security payments.

Private accounts? Bring 'em on!
Jeb Bush for......

Many want to see Jeb run for President in 2008. There are others who think he should take the VP spot in 2008. While I would love to see Jeb in the White House, I have to agree that it might be too soon for another Bush campaign as either president or VP.

How about Jeb running for the Senate in 2006? Spend a few years in Washington making contacts and seeing how Congress runs. I know, lots of governors, including his big brother went from the Governor's mansion to the White House in one jump. And Jeb has White House credentials that few others have. But I don't think it's a good idea.

Another Bush running for the White House in 2008 would, in my opinion, virtually assure the Democrats the White House for at least the next two terms. I'd like to see Jeb in a Senate seat making those contacts and getting his feet wet in the Washington pool. Then, in 2012 or 2016 make a White House run.

If Jeb runs in 2008, for either of the top two positions, can't you just hear the Bush haters screaming? Jeb will be a figurehead for George! and Karl Rove will be the puppetmaster pulling Jeb's strings just like he pulls George's! and the like and even worse.

No, let the Bush haters cool off for awhile. Let Jeb do good things in Washington, then make his run. But I think Jeb is the same type of man his brother is. A man who says what he means and means what he says. And Jeb is saying he won't run for POTUS. I can't blame him, seeing what his brother went through in the last two campaigns.

And America will be the less for losing the abilities of a good leader just because his last name is Bush.
A Point of Contention

The contention is within me, I guess. Ever since the news came out that Brian Nichols was able to disable Cynthia Hall, a female deputy, I've felt an irritation gnawing at me. I am not a feminist, not by any means. I will however, stand on the side of the woman if that is the side of right. If it's the side of right, I'd stand on that side whether we're talking man or woman.

I've read several posts and heard various talking heads on Fox questioning whether a woman should have been escorting this particular inmate. Geraldo Rivera on more than one occasion referred to her as a "grandma." I have no idea whether the 51-year old deputy was in fact a grandmother or not. Whether she is or not has no point in her ability and training as a deputy sheriff and I am offended that he consistently referred to her in this manner. When I first heard this description, I thought of a an elderly, frail, white-haired, cookie-baking grandma. That being said, I have also known grandmas who could have taken this guy down and not broken a sweat. Cynthia Hall was, or should have been, a highly trained deputy sheriff. Her age and gender should not come into the discussion at all unless she could not do the job she was given. I heard on Fox this morning that the altercation between Nichols and Hall lasted two and half to three minutes. That's a very long time when you are being beaten and fighting for your weapon and your very life. I don't know what mistakes, if any, Deputy Hall made that allowed Nichols the opportunity he took. I have a feeling that she made mistakes too. Did she deserve the beating she took? No. Nichols made his choices despite any mistakes or procedural breakdowns made by others.

Would Geraldo have referred to a male deputy as a grandpa? I sincerely doubt it. And, I never heard any question of Hall's abilities until it was revealed that the deputy was a woman. I'm not sure that given his size, and his desperation, two or three big, beefy, testosterone-filled male deputies could have controlled Nichols.

When you have manpower problems, you have to be all that more aware of the personnel you have to work with and go with your strengths and the strengths and abilities of your staff. I'm reminded that we had a male juvenile officer in our facility who was placed in the control room. He was specifically not placed in a cellblock with the youths because we knew that he could not physically control any of the youths. He was older, his build was slight, and he was not in the physical shape to get into an altercation with any of the youths. So, in order to keep liability off the Sheriff, he worked in a position that did not require him to have face-to-face contact with the youths we house. Was he good in this position? One of the best. Again, you go with the strengths and abilities of your staff.

Fulton County made their (first) mistake (of many) when they paired a 6'1" 240 pound ex-football player with a history of violent tendencies with a deputy who was a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter. There are a lot of places that Fulton County needs to look at in their courthouse security. The age and gender of the deputies are not necessarily part of the problem.