Saturday, October 18, 2008

Big changes at the All Arkie Army!

As I've griped about several times on here over the past couple of months, I got dog sick and was unable to get a lot of things done.

I've pretty much kept up with my job, my primary blog -- The Natural State Hawg -- and have, sadly, not done much at all with The All Arkie Army. I put that one together a few months ago for the purpose of providing a place for Arkansas bloggers to promote their content. Of course, we've got some people on there with Arkansas ties, too.

I'm finally healthy again and find myself in the mood to pay some attention to the little blog that I've unfortunately neglected. To that end, we've got a few changes in store.

First of all, we're moving from simply posting links here and there to reproducing entire articles that have something to do with the Natural State or are just ones that participants happen to like. Some of that content will be original, whereas some will not be. Of course, people will still come in and link to their articles and that's just fine.

I'm not limiting what people can post at all. I suspect people will still simply use the All Arkie Army as a way to link to their blogs. That's just fine. I simply believe some Arkansas-specific content that's reproduced in full will be useful to all who visit.

Also, I had hoped to get the All Arkie Army listed on Entrecard, but the blog was rejected for want of original content. More original content should help us get around that problem and, thus, drive some more traffic to the blog. We'll just see how it works out over the next month or so.

Now, most of the great ideas I've come up with over the years have been stolen and I can't claim credit for this one. No, my friend Theresa Komor over at Eyebald and A Bumpy Path came up with the idea of having more original content on the All Arkie Army in hopes of having more of a magazine format. That was a great idea and I've shamelessly stolen it. That's pretty much par for the course.

Second, I have been inspired by the very kind ladies over at Margie and Edna's Basement. Not long ago, those nice ladies presented me with the Special Tea Award. That award was special because there were absolutely no strings attached. That's right -- I didn't have to pass it around or anything like that. It was a simple token of appreciation and I love that idea.

When you combine that concept with my desire to be a Kentucky Colonel, what do you get? That's right -- an award through which people will be named Captains in the All Arkie Army. The award is not meant to be passed on and will be awarded to bloggers out there that we just like. How cool is that? I hope it works out like that, at least.

So, there are big changes in store at the All Arkie Army -- some things I've been meaning to implement for some time but just haven't felt up to it. So, if you are an Arkansan or have ties to this wonderful state, please pay us a visit and think about applying for membership. Instructions on how to join can be found right here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A holiday of my very own

A couple of days ago, I was reading this post over at that fun Freaky Frugalite blog about National Grouch Day.

It's only fair to point out that the ladies over at Margie and Edna's basement wrote about the same holiday. At any rate, I ran across those posts around the same time someone else was talking about Wash Your Hands Day. Yes, it seems there's a whole holiday dedicated to spreading the message about the importance of washing one's hands.

That holiday may come hot on the heels of some other amazingly important holidays such as International Wipe Your Butt Day and World Don't Forget to Brush Your Teeth Day.

Anyway, that all got me thinking -- it seems like there are a lot of odd holidays showing up these days. So, I did a bit of research and found that there are all kinds of odd holidays and the United Nations has come up with its fair share of them. Just take a look at that list and you'll be amazed at how many international holidays are recognized by that do-nothing UN.

You've got everything from World Rabies Day to World Sleep Day on that list, leaving one to wonder just what the hell it is they do over at the UN.

Since everyone and their dog is coming up with a holiday, I have decided to come up with one of my own. I'll make my special holiday June 16, which is my birthday (and the day that follows World Blood Donor Day and precedes World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought).

What's my holiday? Why, it's Universal Send Cash to The Hawg Day! Now there's a holiday I can support and I sincerely hope that everyone observes it, has fun with it and sends cash over to your friend, The Hawg.

Now, the rules are simple. If you happen to live in the universe, then you are allowed to celebrate Universal Send Cash to The Hawg Day by, well, shipping a few bucks my way. And remember -- I'll accept cash only as the government can trace and tax everything else.

So, you're probably wondering why you should be bothered to celebrate Universal Send Cash to The Hawg Day. After all, you may be tired out from participating in World Blood Donor Day on June 14, not to mention being exhausted from all the frivolity that takes place on World Day Against Child Labor on June 12.

Ah, but my holiday is an essential one. Why? Because your cash could help me realize my dream of sitting on my front porch every morning, drinking coffee and waving at my neighbors as they head to work. I'm sure that's a cause the universe can get behind and support. I'm enthusiastic about it, at least.

Also, just think of the fun parents can have with their children. Yes, parents could encourage kids to save up their change all year long and send it to me every June 16. Such an exercise will prepare the young children for life. After all, what is paying taxes but sending your cash to someone you don't know and getting very little in return? Participating in Universal Send Cash to The Hawg Day would get those kids good and conditioned to assume their vital role as compliant taxpayers who don't complain about being robbed by the government. That's important stuff, folks.

So, how does one celebrate Universal Send Cash to The Hawg Day? Shoot off fireworks, sing songs about The Hawg's greatness, study up on the history of Arkansas, cook a huge dinner and invite the family over -- that's all up to you. Just so long as the ritual of sending cash to The Hawg is observed, you're free to do whatever you want on my esteemed holiday.

Sound good? I think so.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Arkansas Supreme Court keeps lottery on ballot

According to this story, the Arkansas Supreme Court has decided that we humble voters can decide whether to allow a statewide lottery.

Good for them, and phooey on the Arkansas Family Council for bringing a lawsuit and trying to keep the issue off the November ballot. It's typically a leftist move to run to the courts and try to keep people from voting on issues. The Arkansas Family Council -- a conservative group based in Little Rock -- ought to be ashamed of using leftie tactics to keep an issue from appearing before the voters.

Now, don't get me wrong. I hate the idea of an Arkansas lottery, but I'd rather have that issue presented to voters than letting the state Supreme Court take an active role in the legislative process. I'm a conservative and, as such, I have more faith in my fellow Arkansans than in the state's various institutions.

Why do I hate lotteries? More often than not, they are dreamed up by cowardly lawmakers who are afraid to push for tax increases. Also, the funds are fungible, meaning that the money that was once used to pay for the programs now financed by lotteries are moved to other things.

Arkansas Lieutenant Gov. Bill "Clintonista" Halter has claimed a lottery could raise $100 million for education. The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, meanwhile, estimates the lottery could raise $55 million. Whichever estimate is right, it's pretty clear that there would be a substantial sum to award in the form of academic scholarships in Arkansas.

But what of the money that's going toward scholarships now? Yes, that will quietly be tucked away in the general fund with absolutely no subsequent tax break for the tax-paying public. In other words, the state government that already has plenty of cash will just get more -- a fact that is not being disclosed at all by proponents of the lottery amendment.

Such trickery annoys me. Not long ago, for example, the sales tax on food was cut in Arkansas. That was wildly popular, of course, but the state government simply made up for the loss by taxing other things. It wasn't a tax cut at all.

Also, what happens to programs financed by the lottery should revenue come in at far less than expected? Hell, we've got Clintonista Halter saying this measure will bring in $100 million while the Department of Finance and Revenue estimates the program will net $55 million. That's a pretty big gulf, of course, leading one to suspect it's hard to project just how much revenue will be brought in by a lottery.

That's a major problem when it comes to budgeting. Let's say the lottery is wildly popular and routinely brings in $100 million. So, programs are put in place that are dependent on the lottery for revenue. What happens to that program when revenue drops to, say, $70 million? Are programs simply cut? Remember, we can't go back to the cash that is now paying for scholarships and grants -- that will be applied elsewhere.

One might argue that such uncertainty is typical as you get drops in tax revenue when the economy goes bad. However, bear in mind that this state is well financed and its budget surpluses aren't uncommon. In other words, programs that are paid for by honest-to-goodness taxes are based on a solid foundation as far as funding is concerned.

Finally, I have a major problem with all the hubbub over a statewide lottery because it takes the focus off the real problem in this state when it comes to college education. Namely, we're 49th in the country in terms of how many citizens hold at least a bachelor's degree. We're sending plenty of Arkansans to Arkansas, so what's happening to them?

A lot of them aren't staying here. My brother, for example, graduated first in his class with a bachelor's in chemical engineering that he earned at the University of Arkansas. He graduated second in his class with an optometry degree from Chicago. Where is he now? He's in North Carolina. Why? Because he couldn't find a job that paid well in Arkansas.

Most of my brother's friends who received degrees in engineering are out of states because they can't find jobs in Arkansas. Those backing the state lottery claim that offering more scholarships will ultimately result in a more educated workforce and that will boost the economy of the state.

History has shown, however, that plenty of Arkansas kids are earning degrees, but they're heading elsewhere. A lottery, then, is a terrible investment -- what we're asking Arkansas citizens to do is finance the educations of people who will wind up in California, North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere.

We can throw all the money at education we want, but until we figure out how to bring more jobs to this state it will all be for naught.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wordless Wednesday -- brand new AC/DC

Yeah, that's right. AC/DC has a new album, Black Ice, coming out on Monday, Oct. 20.

That band hasn't changed in 30 years. Thank goodness for that. Why should AC/DC mess with the formula when the band's unique brand of kick-assery works so well? Here's the official video for "Rock N' Roll Train." Enjoy and make sure to visit the other Wordless Wednesday participants by clicking right here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What the hell happened to my party?

Democrat Barack Obama and John McCain, the apparent token Republican candidate this year, square off for their final debate on Wednesday and I don't give a damn.

Why? Because there's no conservative in this election. Hell, if Obama wasn't such a two-faced, lying, Marxist little bastard, I might consider voting for the man. Both the Democrats and Republicans have managed to put candidates out there who have fully embraced socialism, making this election possibly even more depressing than the last two.

My question is this -- what the hell happened to the Republican party that I enthusiastically supported for so many years? Why does it seem that the Republican National Committee (RNC) is run by morons who have no idea what a conservative is supposed to believe.

I wouldn't expect the current idiot in the White House to have any idea who Edmund Burke was or to understand why Adam Smith was a pivotal figure in modern economic thought, but I would at least expect that bonehead to know what conservatives have historically wanted -- low taxes and to be left the hell alone by the government. George H. Bush was a brainless fool and his idiot kid is, surprisingly, even worse.

I'm absolutely amazed that the aforementioned RNC has adopted the George W. Bush strategy of wandering around making decisions that don't appear based on any political philosophy at all. Hell, Bush and the gang that somehow grabbed control of the Republican party seem absolutely incapable of approaching anything with the clear, rational approach for which the pragmatists who ought to be in control of the RNC are known.

My Republican party is now overrun by bumbling morons who aren't conservatives at all. Here's what I mean -- conservatives have traditionally sought to keep government small, keep taxes low and weren't known for going off half-cocked and jumping into wars for the hell of it. If you don't believe me, bear in mind that the Republicans remained doggedly isolationist in World War II until the Japanese showed up and bombed Pearl Harbor.

Those radicals, indeed, tended to avoid advocating expensive, society-altering wars until it was in the nation's interest to do so. You wouldn't your traditional, isolationist Republicans running around in Iraq, Bosnia (i.e., Clinton's war that served no American interest at all) or throwing troops all over the globe for the sheer hell of it.

No, Republicans don't behave like conservatives anymore and that point was made completely obvious to anyone paying attention when both Bush and McCain were involved in that little pile of socialism that has been euphemistically described as a bailout. I'd expect Democrats to be chomping at the bit to have the government used borrowed money to take equity stakes in banks that deserve to fail, but Republicans?

I'd expect Democrats to talk about how the "free market is broken" and start figuring out ways to have the federal government wade into the financial world and make a bigger mess of things, but even I -- a man who thinks the Bush family should have stayed in Texas and left the rest of us alone -- was stunned to hear a Republican president utter those very words. Yes, Hillary Clinton tried to nationalize the medical industry back in the 1990s and was slapped down, yet Bush advocates the same kind of insane screwing around in the financial industry and people who claim to be Republicans nod their heads in agreement. What the hell is going on here?

It's like living in damned Bizzaro World. The party that's supposed to fight against such anti-capitalistic nonsense is joining the rest of the leftists to such a degree that it's getting hard to figure out who the Republicans and Democrats are anymore when it comes to economics.

Here's an example. Obama advocates every "the government will help you scheme" on the planet and is called a socialist by the right, yet McCain promises to have the government step in and help renegotiate mortgages for homeowners in trouble. What, exactly, is the difference? Does it seem disingenuous for a party that's advocating a bunch of government meddling to blast another party that's advocating, well, a bunch of government meddling?

Yes it does. And that's why McCain is about to get his ass handed to him by Obama. And, yes, Obama being in the highest office in the nation is a very bad thing. I don't give a damn how many position papers Obama has on file or how many times he swears his "help you out" programs will be paid for by closing up tax loopholes and hammering the rich. Someone's going to have to pay for all that altruistic crap and you can bet the middle class -- the same group that gets screwed to the wall with increased taxes whenever the stinking feds go on a spending spree -- will have the joy of paying for it all.

Obama is just another enemy of the working class and there's not a damned soul out there who has the ideological focus to stand against him. The Republican in the race, in fact, has already shown he loves burning through cash, too.

The Republicans have betrayed about 300 years of conservative thought and are drifting around like unfocused buffoons to such an extent that Obama's thread-worn, Marxist garbage has actually gained him a following. the Democrats are focused and they are honest-to-goodness liberals whereas the Republicans are simply drifting around aimlessly. When they aren't agreeing with the left, Republicans these days are busily finding their own ways to grow the government and waste money. It's incredible that a candidate who ought to adopt "from each according to his means, to each according to his needs" will likely win an election in the United States simply because there's no conservative in this election.

So, here were are in 2008 being taxed into oblivion and dealing a government that seems to grow exponentially intrusive, expensive and, well, nannyish with each passing year. And there doesn't seem to be a soul willing to stand up and do a thing about it.

I still maintain that McCain is the lesser of two evils here, but he's really not worth a damn. It's damned sad that we've gotten to the point in our history where these two clods are the best we can do.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A TV lawyer annoys The Hawg

So there I was, minding my own business and watching television last night when one of those damned lawyers appeared.

Now, I love fast forwarding through commercials with my DVR, but I was watching a "live" show so I had to sit through the sleazy lawyer ad. This particular lawyer was howling about bankruptcies and how they are a wonderful, pain free solution to whatever financial trouble is ailing you.

I, The Hawg, used to be a lawyer. Being a lawyer is kind of like being an alcoholic -- you might be in recovery, but you'll never quite live it down. As I result of being a recovering lawyer, I've come to view attorneys in a particular way. To be specific, I hate them.

How much do I hate them? I'm completely against socialism, but I might be tempted to cheer for any efforts on the part of the government to nationalize the legal profession and pay all attorneys about $40,000 a year (that's about $30,000 more than they're worth). I'd also love to see a Constitutional amendment that would prohibit anyone with a law degree from getting within 50 miles of Washington, D.C.

But I digress.

I don't hate all attorneys, of course. But I do despise about 90 percent of the sleazy, ambulance chasing, scum sucking weasels. That particularly loud, obnoxious attorney who was on television yelling about bankruptcies is one of the worst of the lot.

Why? Because he was lying more than most lawyers. He was swearing that a lot of clients who filed for bankruptcy actually reported improved credit scores (after a number of years). That's only true just as its true to say that eventually we'll all die. Yes, the chances are good that your credit score will improve quite a few years after a bankruptcy is filed, but those who file bankruptcies face from 7 to 10 years of rotten credit -- a period in which it will be difficult to get mortgages and consumer loans for items such as cars, and those loans will probably cost you a hell of a lot in interest if you've got a bankruptcy on your credit report.

The bankruptcy boy was also warning people against credit repair companies, claiming they probably can't help you and they work for the credit card companies, anyway. That's a half truth at best and an outright lie at worst.

If you were to get on the Internet and find some screwy, fly-by-night credit repair service, you're just asking to get robbed. However, there are a lot of nonprofit credit counseling groups that are very good. Here in Arkansas, one of the better ones around is Credit Counseling of Arkansas, a nonprofit organization that strives to help people make budgets and get the debts under control.

Credit Counseling of Arkansas has helped a lot of people in this state and it's one of those groups that I contacted regularly when I was a reporter to catch up on the latest scams, trends and etc. How do you know the good credit counseling groups from the bad ones? That's pretty easy, really -- make sure you're dealing with a local group that has honest-to-goodness offices, is a non-profit and isn't owned by a law firm. The chances are good there's a quality credit counseling that covers about every community in the nation. They're actually pretty easy to find, too.

When I was a lawyer, I filed a lot of bankruptcies. People would ask me what there best option for dealing with their credit problems was and -- believe it or not -- I almost always suggested a bankruptcy. What the hell else is a lawyer going to say? If you go to Best Buy and ask who has the best option when it comes to plasma televisions, you can probably guess what the answer is going to be. Go down to your local Ford lot and ask whether you'd be better served by a Ford F-150 or a Chevrolet Silverado. Get the idea?

It's a terrible idea to ask someone for financial advice when one of the options you're considering will financially benefit that individual. Lawyers love bankruptcy clients because they either pay up front or through a bankruptcy plan and they don't harp about shelling out the cash, either.

Yes, that's what I said -- people who are going through bankruptcy are clients who are motivated to pay their lawyers. Here's the thing about bankruptcies. Most people resent having to hand money to attorneys because they're going through something they don't believe is their fault. Yes, divorce clients are always victims, as are criminals, people going through custody battles and almost everything else. So, they resent having to pay a lawyer to represent them in a matter that was thrust upon them, see?

Ah, but bankruptcy clients are different. A lawyer can make those nasty letters and phone calls stop and can get rid of a heck of a lot of unsecured debt. Behind on your house? A Chapter 13 can get those past payments caught up through a bankruptcy plan. People who file bankruptcies tend to see the value of an lawyer's services and they don't mind paying for that.

And, of course, there are times when bankruptcies are necessary. But, for God's sake, don't go visit an attorney and ask that individual whether there's a good alternative to filing a bankruptcy. The chances are good that lawyer -- thinking about a fee -- will tell you that a bankruptcy is the only way to go.

Go visit with a credit counseling agency first and don't wait until things get out of hand. If you're on the verge of a foreclosure or the repo man is lurking around trying to take possession of your vehicle, then you've let things go to far. Be honest with yourself. Recognize a bad situation before it gets out of control and explore your options before its too late.

Oh, of course, I'd caution against calling an attorney you see advertising on national television. If you've got to hire an attorney, find someone local and do so only after getting some recommendations from friends and family.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Raising kids confuses The Hawg

My wife is better than me at many things and is undoubtedly superior when it comes to raising children.

We've got two of the little darlings -- an 11-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. My wife is simply better than me when it comes to dealing with them.

Why do I lack such skill when it comes to raising kids? I lack patience when it comes to the kids and I tend to put them up to things that I think are funny but that other people might think are terrible and corrupting. My wife does none of that.

Here are a couple of examples:

Case Study #1 -- The Boy

My son is in middle school and he typically calls my wife when he gets home in the afternoon. For the past week, however, he's had to call me at work because my wife has jury duty.

The following is a transcript of a conversation I had with my son on Thursday. I originally related all this in a comment to this post at Crotchety Old Man Yells at Cars. A fellow Arkie, Paul over at Paul's Health Blog, saw my comment and suggested I make a whole post out of it.

Here's the thing -- one of the primary rules around my home is don't piss off daddy. My son got close to violating that rule when he called me at work the other day and I had the following conversation with him:

"Hey, dad."
"Hey, boy."
"My leg hurts."
"My leg hurts. It really hurts. My leg. You know my leg? It hurts."
"How did you hurt your leg?"
"I don't know. It just hurts. My leg. You know my leg? It hurts."
"Where does it hurt?"
"In the leg! I just told you that. My leg. You know my leg? It hurts."
"But, where does your leg hurt?"
"The whole thing hurts. It hurts on the inside, you know? Not on the outside like a bruise or anything. It hurts on the inside. And it hurts. My leg hurts on the inside. Not the outside. It really hurts. My leg. It hurts."
"Son, is there anything you can do to make it feel better?"
"I don't think so. It just hurts. Oh, my leg! It hurts!"
"OK, is there anything I can do to make your leg feel better?"
"I don't think so."
"Then why are you calling me?"
"Just to tell you that my leg hurts. My leg. You know my leg? It hurts."
"I'm starting to get mad as hell, son."
"Bye, dad..."

I figured my son pulled the whole "my leg hurts" mess just to torment me. I figured I made him mad and didn't know it. He was just trying to get back at me for something I'd done, see?

So I talked to my wife later that day and told her about it. I asked her if he always carried on like that when he called her or if he was just doing special to me. Now, get this. She told me that he's always carrying on like that. That he's typically rambling on about something somewhat mundane and complaining about one thing or another.

The difference, however, is that I get annoyed by it all and she has the patience to put up with it. That all simply baffles me.

Case Study #2 -- The Girl

After demonstrating how I lack patience, I shall now demonstrate how my odd sense of humor has the potential to warp my kids.

My daughter is in the Brownies and, of course, they run around selling things. The most popular things they sell are Girl Scouts cookies, but they also run around all fall selling magazines, candy and nuts.

I figured that my daughter needed that edge to sell more products. So I instructed her to go door to door around town, look sad and say, "My daddy says if I don't sell a lot of stuff, I won't have a Christmas."

My wife dismissed that idea almost immediately, claiming that people would think I was terrible and that Brenda would learn a completely incorrect life lesson out of it all. I didn't think that far ahead and was just trying to come up with a sure fire way for my kid to sell plenty of items.

In retrospect, my wife was right.

Here's another story about my daughter showing how I've had a negative impact on her. When she was three-years-old, we were listening to Sirius satellite radio. LL Cool J's hit, "Mama Said Knock You Out" started playing.

My daughter and I developed a game in which she'd yell, "Mama said knock you out!" She'd then clobber me and I'd play dead. Great fun, yeah?

The next day, my wife went to pick our daughter up from preschool. One of the teachers came up to her and said, "I don't know what got into Brenda. She went up to this little boy, said 'Mama said knock you out!' and then hit him."

And I'm the one who got in trouble.


See what I mean? Parenting confuses me and I'm terrible at it. Thank God my kids have their mother around to help offset the damage I unwittingly do.