Curb My Enthusiasm

A blog about the daily idiosyncrasies of life that irk us all.

Time for Journalists to Switch Gears

On the very first day of journalism school, we were told the first rule in journalism: always remain neutral.

While it may seem like a simple axiom to follow, it is one that has been completely abandoned by most reporters and news organizations as they have shifted straight out of neutral and right into fifth gear in their attempt to garner as many viewers as possible.

Not only are these outlets responding to alleged incidents, ones coming from “anonymous” sources, but they are backing up these “breaking news” reports with comments from completely biased sources who have no inside knowledge of the supposed occurences.

A great example is the Today Show’s report this morning on a so-called US State Department “cover up” of officials leaving their posts to solicit prostitution and under-age women.

Instead of getting the story corroborated by multiple sources, this popular morning news show simply reported on it with anyonymous quotes and exerpts highlighted from unknown sources and documents.

Apparently, Matt Lauer and staff need to rent All the President’s Men.

To make matters worst, instead of going to someone in the Obama Administration, the State Department, or anybody in between who might have the slightest salient understanding of the situation, guess who they decide to interview?

Bill O’Reilly.

A right-winged, biased, conservative talk show host who knows absolutely nothing about what happened. So, thanks to the great reporting by NBC, viewers were treated to an open-mic rant by someone who makes money off attacking all things to his left.

As if that wasn’t enough to strike a death-blow to the first rule in journalism, the final dagger in the back came when nobody else was allowed to refute his dogmatic point of view.

Nobody. After the Obama bashing it was straight to the weather.

Whatever you want to call it, sensational or yellow journalism, this type of one-sided, opinionated reporting of “news” is giving the industry a black eye.

Woodward and Bernstein would have loved being newspaper reporters today. Forget spending stressful days in dark, scary parking garages trying to track down a second reliable source – all you need these days is someone with an opinion and a grudge and you can report the next Watergate from your own garage.

It has come to the point where some people have just stopped watching the “news.” After all, how do we separate a real story from simple speculation?

We can’t.

And because of that, it’s time to send all reporters – and their producers – back to journalism school. The first rule in journalism only takes a few moments to learn, but hopefully it’s enough to stop them from creating the news and return to simply reporting it.

To all the journalists out there trying to drive stories and ratings – it’s time to slow down, switch gears, and put the news van back in neutral.

Americans Have Pride – Hands Down

These days it appears people feel more compelled to point out other people’s potential misconducts than to focus on their own conduct and feelings.

Perhaps the economic times and political divides have made us a bit more sensitive and self-righteous. Whatever the reasons, it’s important to realize we are all united as Americans and we all show our love for this great country in vastly different ways.

National Anthem

For many of us, it comes in a simple, quiet, inner feeling of pride and affection. Others like to be more public about it by flying a flag from their house on a year-round basis or placing a “God Bless America” bumper sticker on their car.

While the overt showings are nice to see and fantastic signs of allegiance to this country, it is important to remember that patriotism runs deep in everyone’s heart with or without reminders and rituals.

While a basic truth, it is one that many people seem to forget – or tend to ignore.

Case in point, putting one’s hand over his or her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance – and now the National Anthem.

While very few have recited the pledge since elementary school, the hand-over-heart routine is now being applied to the National Anthem. In fact, it has gotten to the point that if one doesn’t partake in this particular practice, he or she is looked upon as doing something very un-American.

“Hey! You really should put your hand over your heart,” said someone standing next to me at a recent sporting event while choir members belted out the official country song.

It was not a point to sound glib – or be confrontational – but I responded the only way I thought appropriate: “Why?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do,” he retorted.

The initial comebacks that popped into my head were “Says who?” and “Stop bothering me and let me enjoy the song, buddy!” Instead, I opted to remain quiet. Half-way through the national anthem and right before America’s national pastime was about to begin was probably not the best time or place to start a debate.

Thus, I just turned back to look at the flag flying above center field.

It does raise interesting questions, however. The first of which is does any of it really matter? Is the person who puts his hand over his heart and fervently scans the crowd looking for “hand-less hearts” more appropriate behavior than someone who stands with hands at his side staring up at the Stars and Stripes?

Is President Obama, who was supposedly pictured reciting the country’s pledge with his hands clasped at his waist, any less passionate about this country than Bill Richardson or Hillary Clinton who stood next to him apparently following the appropriate American cultural protocol?

While biased, futile screams from the right will try to make people think otherwise, the answer to these questions is “No.”

Nearly everyone loves this country and we all get goosebumps and smiles when the national anthem is sung in arenas, stadiums, and amphitheaters across the United States.

Unfortunately, many get too caught up in the pomp and circumstance involved with certain events and forget about what truly matters. By constantly being proper protocol cops, they are robbing others from enjoying these special moments in their own special way.

For anybody who feels the need, or better yet the personal desire, to put a hand over his or her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, by all means do it. It is a nice way to show one’s allegiance to this great country.

Just keep in mind, however, that we all show our love for the USA in vastly different ways – and it’s not what you put over your heart, it’s what lies in it.

Why the Right Message is Wrong

Barack Obama is an intelligent, upstanding citizen of the United States. While many may have issues with that statement simply because of political differences, it’s the right deduction.

The Obamas

Despite this fundamental truth, conservatives seem obsessed with questioning the president’s character. Instead of fact-based points highlighting the pros and cons of specific issues, the digital buzz of late is more focused on spreading falsified accounts of certain unethical and immoral actions.

In the past two weeks alone, there have been emails circulating in and out of inboxes regarding Obama’s true African birthplace, ties to the Muslim faith, connections to shadowy acquaintances, and his unscrupulous days as a lawyer.

Instead of talking about why they don’t like the new health care legislation, why the creation of a huge pipeline running through the center of the country is needed, or why two people of the same sex can’t legally represent their love for one another, the discussion centers on fabricated personality flaws.

The latest email propaganda to be sent around cyberspace by right-wing enthusiasts is one that states the president – and the first lady – opted to give up their law licenses in Illinois rather than face a potential investigation into illegal activity. Michelle Obama apparently under a “Voluntary Surrender,” before the state began an investigation and Barack in order to stave off an investigation into a lie on his Harvard application.

The family friend who introduced this “factoid” to our little email group strenuously claimed the contents were true and to continue spreading “the truth” about the current president. These were the same instructions given a few years ago in an email that unequivocally linked Obama to Al Qaeda.

That one had a bit more urgency to it, however, as an election was looming and for the safety of the country, we needed to act right away to ensure the next leader of the free world wasn’t a real-life “Manchurian Candidate.”

Forget, for a minute, that the emails are completely false. Forget, for a minute, that they are so ridiculous, they are laughable. When did the discussion veer away from what really matters to uncalled-for character assassination?

When did we stop talking intelligently about the important issues facing this country and instead start trying to garner support for our preferred candidate through juvenile personal attacks?

If Barack Obama supported pro-life, tax breaks for the wealthy, and more oil exploration and production despite the real threats of global warming, there would be zero questions about his integrity. There would be no mention of inactive law licenses or attempts to trace his birth location past the Hawaiian islands to continental Africa.

But that’s not the case – and as a result some conservatives have decided to take action by creating libelous emails purposely misconstruing facts around trivial personal matters all with the hopes of stopping the president from being voted in for a second term.

While the emails are immature and inaccurate, their whole existence – and the requests to keep forwarding them – is just plain wrong. And anyone who complies by continuing the flow of misinformation under the veil of legitimacy need to realize they are breaking one of the Ten Commandments, thou shalt not bear false witness, which most Republicans religiously swear to uphold.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “a typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on the issues.” He was referring to fellow politicians, but perhaps it’s time we all stop with the personal attacks and get back to what really matters.

While many people may not like President Barack Obama simply because he has different political viewpoints, he is nonetheless an intelligent, upstanding citizen of the United States.

So we can all get back to the real issues at hand, let’s hope that soon becomes the right’s deduction as well.

Internet Offers sad Commentary of Life

When it comes to reading comments posted after most online articles, the character Oddball from the movie Kelly’s Heroes comes to mind. Not only are a majority of them completely off subject, but with all the intense pessimism and acrimony involved, one can’t help but think  ”there they go again with the negative waves.”

At the end of many articles on the Internet, a majority of websites offer a comment area for readers to post any thoughts they may have. It’s a nice, interactive, real-time way to engage the audience and create a forum-type atmosphere for everyone to share opinions.

Problem is, no matter what the topic is about, many of the comments will be harsh attacks on the story, the author, and even other commentators. Some laced with curse words and immature personal insults.

Whether it’s an article about who might win the next presidential election or a heartwarming story about a young girl’s battle against a rare flesh-eating virus, eventually several mean-spirited, back-and-forth battles will ensue. (Although more so on anything politically related.)

As a psychological test of Internet behavior, I decided to read several articles on and post my own comments. In an effort to gauge just how negative and cynical people can get in this world wide web of our’s, I made sure every comment was as supportive and up-beat as possible.

It didn’t matter if I was defending Mitt Romney, President Obama, John Edwards, Chris Matthews, Cyndi Lauper, or the Catholic Church – each comment garnered at least one reply that criticized my viewpoint or my intelligence.

In 10 comments, I received 12 thumbs down, two thumbs up, one positive statement, one neutral, and several harsh attacks.

In my defense of Chris Matthews’ apparent horrible performance on celebrity jeopardy, after I wrote the talk show host did a good job trying to answer convoluted questions under intense pressure, I was called a “dumb ass.”

It ended with an “LMAO!”

Considering I had to look that acronym up, maybe I’m no Einstein (or just not a texting teenager). But I kind of figure I’m a tad smarter than your average, run-of-the-mill donkey. Chris Matthews certainly is, so maybe I should feel proud to also have been called as “moronic as Matthews.”

The test I conducted was far from scientific and greatly lacked any statistical conclusions. Thus, I won’t be sending in my results to Nature or the American Journal of Psychology any time soon. It does, however, make you wonder.

Is the animosity one sees from readers online a true barometer of what exists on the streets of everyday life? Does the fact that people post anonymously, from the comforts and obscurity of their home, make them a bit more prone to go the extra cantankerous and salacious yard in order to prove a point?

It certainly is easier to call someone a “dumb ass” through the interface of a computer than it is face-to-face.

It takes motivation to go out of your way to sign-in and post a comment. After reading an article, particularly a political one, that usually comes in the form of emotion.

If it’s a positive emotion that is generated, most probably go about their day feeling good and don’t feel compelled to comment. If it’s negative, we want to get rid of it right away; we want to get it off our chest. The best way to do that is to vent and let the world know how we feel. So, we hit the keyboard and type a scathing remark in that little comment box.

Perhaps that in and of itself is why the commentary meter tilts heavily toward the negative side. FWIW, if people are laughing their asses off while also making belittling and nasty comments, maybe there are just a lot of oddballs out there.

Whatever the reasons, maybe one day soon the rhetoric will calm down and people, including Moriarty,  will “start saying things a little more righteous and hopeful for a change.”

ESPN Home to the Popular OpinionCenter

While most avid viewers still scratch their heads as to what the “E” stands for, ESPN is known as “the total sports network.” Its flagship program, SportsCenter, debuted in 1979 and is now one of the most watched sports shows in the world.

With nothing but coverage of the latest news and highlights of national and global action, SportsCenter is an exciting, popular show for sports fans everywhere. For some reason, however, that has changed recently, leaving fans scratching their heads as to why it is now a “total talking network.”

Instead of letting athletes do the talking (i.e. showing highlights), viewers are forced to listen to the “experts” tell them what happened and why.

Case in point was the day after Ohio State beat Syracuse during March Madness to advance to the Final Four of NCAA’s collegiate basketball tournament.  Billed as the “greatest tournament” in American sports, one would expect countless highlights of the game.

ESPN showed one – a dunk by the Buckeyes big man Jared Sullinger. It flashed the final score and then quickly jumped to an in-studio discussion of the game by a panel of former coaches and players.

Apparently, the producers thought hearing from past athletes was better than seeing current ones.

Just the other morning, despite a slew of NBA games and four NHL playoff games the night before, the one-hour SportsCenter show was filled with people talking about the latest action on the court, field, and rink. Here’s just a few who graced viewers with their presence: Tim Legler, Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Steven A. Jackson, and Mark Schwartz.

They were followed by “On The Clock,” a segment dedicated to hearing the opinions of Trent Dilfer, Chris Mortenson, and Mel Kiper (again) regarding different NFL scenarios. If that weren’t enough, along came a roundtable discussion regarding the NBA with Magic Johnson, Mike Wilbon, and Jon Barry.

In between not one highlight.

No offense to any of the aforementioned players as most of them were fantastic in their respective sport, but who wants to watch former players opine behind a desk in suits and ties when there is plenty of real sports out there to view first-hand?

Sure there are events, such as the NFL Draft, that require an expert’s analysis and a thorough breakdown to get the audience ready for what will soon transpire, but when it comes to actual games, viewers want to see what happens before some talking-head tells us.

There is an old adage in the writing industry that states: “Show, don’t tell.”

While most of us scratch our heads on exactly how to do just that in our work,  it is definitely something that can be applied to the broadcast industry as well.

And as long as ESPN continues to air opinions and analysis over real-life action, it’s pretty evident the “E” stands for “exasperating.”

Yesterday’s News is ‘Today’

Despite the fact that Matt Lauer says he will be staying at “The Today Show” for a long time, we’ll be saying goodbye to him tomorrow.

After 19-plus years of waking up to the morning news show, it’s time for a (channel) change.

As one prepares for work each day, it’s imperative to get top headlines, weather, traffic, and a quick sports update if possible. While Katie Couric, Bryant Gumbel, Al Roker and Matt Lauer  - occasionally Ann Curry – have been entertaining hosts over the years, there is far too much entertainment.

Somewhere along the timeline, “The Today Show” became less of its former self and more of an Access Hollywood. There is only so much Sarah Palin, Lindsey Lohan, Ann Coulter, Snookie, and other self-absorbed, self-making celebrities one can take in the morning.

A perfect example of this is the popular NBC show’s obsession with the Duggar family.

My wife and I were first introduced to the ever-growing Arkansas clan several years ago when all its members stood inside Studio 1A to announce the arrival of its 16th member. Like clockwork, the over-exuberant group returned each year to unveil #17, #18, and, yes, #19.

For whatever reason, the producers at “Today” decided to extend the family’s 15 minutes of fame by a minute for four consecutive years.

If having to sit through such trivial reports on national television weren’t enough to force someone to leave for work a little earlier than normal, the blatant glamorization by a network on how absurdly large a family can get, most certainly was.

Instead of doing an in-depth story on the countless couples in the world who can not conceive, those in charge of the number-one rated morning show would rather subject its viewers to shallow updates on two self-absorbed parents who can’t help but show the world how extremely efficient they are at baby-making.

The check-ins became much more frequent, and much more solemn, after it was announced the mother had a miscarriage. In the weeks after, there were a number of segments informing the public as to how Michele Duggar was coping with the loss.

While indeed tragic, there was no mention of the 19 beautiful souls she had by her side to help comfort her – 19 more than millions of other couples out there who have gone through the same heartbreaking event.

Which is why, unlike the Duggars, we have decided to call it quits after 19. As of tomorrow, there will be no more “Today,”

SPAM: Stop Politically Absurd Messages

They say in politics, stupidity is not a handicap.

While a bit harsh, even to the occasional “potatoe” head who gets appointed or elected to a federal government position, when it comes to sending completely biased, nonsensical political emails, that statement certainly rings true.

The divide between the left and right has always been a fairly wide center, but somewhere along the line it has eroded into a Grade Canyon-type abyss. Every day on television, the radio, and the Internet we are hearing extremely harsh, noxious discourse.

Detroit - Not Quite Dead and Derelict

The general public is now following suit in large numbers. For those that don’t think this is the case, just go to any message board or forum after any political online story and randomly read a few of the comments.

It doesn’t matter if the story is a fun one about top holiday recipes of US Senators or a heart-warming update on the recovery of former Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords, a high percentage of comments will veer off topic and turn to ignorant statements about socialism or how President Obama is to blame for the country’s ills.

This is no more evident than in the ridiculous emails that continuously get sent to family and friends.

What compels intelligent people to send outrageously false propaganda? The goal of convincing someone to vote their way in the next election, apparently, offsets any embarrassment they may feel for sending such rubbish.

It worked for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth many years ago as they attacked John Kerry in his bid for the presidency, so I guess others feel it might be worth a shot. (Ironically, while the organization claims to seek out the truth, “swiftboating” became an official word meaning “an unfair or untrue political attack.”)

Despite that fact, people must feel it’s OK to spread obvious misinformation just as long as they get what they want because the number of ludicrous political emails continues to go up.

The one that claims Barack Obama is actually a member of Al Qaeda may be the best.

The viral email was first seen about four years ago as Obama was running against John McCain and it stated if elected he was going to help the terrorist network destroy America. To further try to make his or her point, the author “mistakenly” referred to the current president as Barack Osama throughout the message.

If it wasn’t so sad that people were actually forwarding blatant Manchurian Candidate plagiarism in the hopes of scaring a few votes the Republican’s way, it would be rather comical.

The latest attempt at attacking the president, and more so liberal members of the US government, is an account of how the welfare system is destroying the country. While there may be some sound, reasonable arguments behind abolishing or restructuring the system, it’s far from supported in this popular, yet foolish electronic mail.

In a comparison of two cities in completely different countries, Hiroshima is depicted as a sprawling hub of booming commerce and technology, while Detroit is nothing but a dying, decaying ghost town. The reason for this: the US welfare system.

Through a few photos – professional still shots of Hiroshima and amateur, grainy photos of Detroit – it concludes that the federal government has done much more damage here at home in the past 65 years than an Atomic Bomb did abroad so long ago.

The account is reminiscent of a late-night “info-mercial” that shows “before” and “after” photos in an attempt to get people to buy beauty products. The advertisements always have the person looking disheveled, haggard and sad in the first close-up, while the “after” depicts a happy, smiling consumer in a professionally air-brushed, soft-lit photo.

All pictures aside, the email completely fails to make a case as to why welfare is to blame – and it jumps a Grand Canyon-type abyss in assumptions and conclusions. Yet, like thousands of other politically asinine messages, it successfully continues to make its way around cyberspace to millions of inboxes across the country.

The simple reason – people put the goal of the message ahead of the message itself. While they are smart individuals, they opt to forward puerile, illogical emails to their friends and family members rather than doing the sensible thing, which is to send to the trash.

Stupidity may not be a handicap in politics, but when it comes to forwarding absurd political emails it certainly comes in handy.

Don’t Bail Simply Because You’re ‘Underwater’

As the old saying goes – “home is where the heart is.”

With millions of Americans thinking about walking away from their houses simply because they are worth less now than when they were purchased, there is apparently a lot of heartless people out there.

While it is disheartening to know the monthly mortgage payments are higher than what they would be for the same house in the current market, when did it become more of an investment and less of a home?

“We just got some really bad news,” a family member told me the other day in a very solemn voice. “We had our home appraised and it is much less than what we thought it would be. We’re not sure what we’re going to do now.”

That is not news anybody wants to hear, obviously, but considering how much her family loves the home and the neighborhood – not to mention the school district for her children – I wasn’t sure how to respond. I mean she plans to be there for many years to come, so is the fact that her home is “underwater”  really “bad” news?

Maybe I was just naive, but growing up I don’t remember my parents ever talking about our house in monetary terms. I’m sure they may have always kept an eye on the market, but the goal was to simply find a nice community and place to raise five rambunctious kids.

Basically, over the next 25 years, the house was praised – not appraised.

Today, however, there seems to be a different mentality. For some reason, people are less concerned about living the “American Dream” and more concerned about their potential “Underwater Nightmare.”

Of course in many cases this is warranted. There are those who have lost their jobs or for whatever reason can no longer pay their mortgage. For them, foreclosure and walking away may be the only unfortunate solution.

For people, such as one particular member of my family, who are thinking of leaving their submerged homes in the hands of the banker despite the fact they can still afford them, it may be time for a change of heart.

In the end, it’s important to remember that while an investor may claim it is of less value than you want it to be, when it comes to raising a family, a home is priceless.

As the saying goes “home, the spot of earth extremely blest. A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.”

The Mystifying Rise of ‘Tebowing’

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has become a huge phenomenon recently not only for his late-game heroics, but also for the specific prayer ritual he conducts during football games. The religious faction of the world has become so enamored with the praying motion, in which he drops to one knee and lowers his head, that it has garnered its own name: “Tebowing.”

Tim Tebow

While it may be nice to see a celebrity openly share his spiritual communion with God, before people start regularly kneeling down to emulate him, it might be nice to first find out what it all truly stands for.

The frenzy surrounding Tebow has been astonishing. Yet, while the fourth-quarter comebacks are thrilling, it’s just as much the overpowering Denver defense and the play of others as it is the quarterback. While kudos are certainly due, no other one player in recent memory has received so much credit for leading his team to victory than Tebow has.

After the win against the Chicago Bears, despite the fact that the 59-yard field goal was much longer than Tebow’s “pivotal game-winning drive,” the media thrust all responsibility for the outcome onto the quarterback’s shoulders.

The praise is like no other seen in the National Football League (NFL). Not even experienced veterans such as Peyton Manning or Tom Brady have received such lofty acclaim for a successful outcome without mention of other teammate’s valuable contributions.

One of the reasons for the extraordinary attention may be because many pundits have called Tebow a sub-par thrower at best and, thus, the outcomes have them scratching their heads and eating their words. The NFL, however, is filled with excellent quarterbacks, past and present, whose skill sets out of college were never expected to garner them an iota of success at the professional level.

In the end, it is his success coupled with his public devotion to God that has “Tebow Mania” firing on all cylinders. Since his actions and feelings are extremely popular in an overly pious world, the media knows it can exploit this and greatly raise ratings by expanding into an otherwise untapped viewership.

The networks are businesses, so the constant mention on the radio, television, and online is understandable. What is extremely perplexing, however, is how the world has responded. All because a young football player likes to stop, drop, and have a quick one-way converstation with God, he has become beloved by the masses.

“I really like Tebow,” said one of my friends during the recent Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game. “All the experts wrote him off and I like a good underdog story. Plus, the NFL is filled with thugs, it’s about time a good guy got some attention.”

When I inquired as to why he believes Tebow is any better of a person than all the other guys playing professional football, he quickly and excitedly retorted: “Come on! He prays! Of course he’s better!…What a ridiculous question.”

While the energetic reply was surprising, the statement was anything but as it is the same feeling shared by millions of others worldwide. Despite not knowing much about him or what he’s requesting of God each time he drops to one knee, viewers are enraptured by him simply because he’s taking the time to request it.

When Tim is “Tebowing” as Matt Prater lines up for a potential game-winning field goal, is he asking the Almighty for world peace or to help end world hunger? Or is he requesting his aid in the hopes that a tiny oblong “pigskin” soars through two yellow posts down field?

Since we’ve seen him jump to his feet all smiles and full of joy after the football sails over the 10-foot cross bar and in between the 18 1/2-foot separated uprights, the answer is most likely the latter. Even though people continue to struggle to make ends meet and others are dying of starvation, cold, disease, and at the hands of evil despots across the globe every day, Tebow is begging the Lord for his help in a little old game of American football.

And the world loves him for it.

There is probably little doubt that Tim Tebow is a good-hearted person. His track record of charitable work throughout his young life is most likely reason enough to root for him. It is also refreshing to hear and see someone without barbed wire tattoos all over his body clearly put together a non-selfish interview without the use of curse words or double negatives.

While everyone has favorite sports players and we’ll all continue to root for them, to support someone emphatically simply because he prays may be more “ridiculous” than my initial inquiry.

The bottom line is before people start having regular conversations with God by “tebowing,” it’s important to first take a stand on what really matters in life.

The ‘Frosty’ Truth About Housing Crisis

To ensure Americans follow a brighter, sunnier economic path in the future, perhaps we need a little Frost.

In his famous poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost writes about an autumn traveler who comes to a fork in a path and has to decide which one to take. While a meaningful and metaphoric poem regarding life and the path we all choose to follow in it, it could easily apply to our modern-day housing situation as well.

“I blame Bill Clinton and Janet Reno for this whole mess,” a friend of mine blurted out the other night as we talked about all the foreclosed homes in his neighborhood.

When asked why, the reply was: “They set the ill-guided policies that led people to get in over their heads.”

In times of incredible wealth and profit, it is the duty of our leaders to make sure all Americans have the opportunity to share in the economic gain. It is what separates the great United States of America from your common oligarchy.

The bottom line is we the people care less about polices that will help us 10 or 20 years from now and more about what will help us in the here and now. After all, it’s all we know – it’s what’s real and tangible.

Policies that seem ideal for today may actually prove otherwise come tomorrow. It’s just the nature of the financial game all our experts play, conservative or liberal, which we all hope balances out to economic growth in the end.

In terms of the current housing crisis, for argument’s sake, let’s say everything my friend said is true. In their grand desire to help every citizen share in the American dream, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Janet Reno were the ring leaders who paved the way for the creation of private financial institutions that ultimately allowed unqualified individuals to buy homes they can’t afford.

Are they still to blame? Are polices that make it much easier to qualify for a home loan really the core issue of the current housing crisis?

The answer is no.

As Gordon Gecko states in “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps: “It’s greed that makes my bartender buy three houses he can’t afford with no money down. And it’s greed that makes your parents refinance their two hundred thousand dollar house for two fifty. Then they take that extra fifty and go down to the mall.”

While technically it does boil down to greed, it’s also a power issue – a “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that is intrinsically woven into our fibers. Thus, before my friend and others start pointing their angry fingers at our past leaders, they need to point them at the nearest mirror.

And I at my own mirror.

About 12 years ago, I received daily calls from another friend of mine. The call always came in soon after the stock market closed. The conversation was usually quick, he would update me on how much he made as a day-trader, then hang up. I remember one day in particular because it was the day I opened up my own E-trade account. The excitement he displayed after announcing he had “earned” $8,000 was the final straw that broke my back.

Over the course of the next several years, as I followed his tips on “dot coms” I never heard of and nobody else ever will as they all folded, I lost close to $40,000. I was, to put it mildly,  ”upside down” on my investments. Yet, these were investments I could not simply walk away from. The money was gone and not coming back.

In my effort to keep up with the Joneses, or the Dougs to be more specific, I lost almost my entire life savings.

When it comes to the current housing situation, perhaps it’s true our past leaders set “ill-guided” policies. Yet, simply because the credit authorities allow us to buy a second home, a boat, several plasma TVs, etc., doesn’t mean we should.

In the end, our own common sense needs to prevail and we need to realize our income coming in has to equal – or be greater than – our expenses going out. That $400,000 house that was supposed to be flipped for $600,000 but is now worth just $250,000, is not the fault of Carter, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, or our good friend – it’s the man or woman in the mirror.

As I told my friend the other night, just because a path is smooth and worn down by much use, it sometimes pays to take “the one less traveled by.”

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