Forget NYC 2030, What About SanFran ’07?

Well San Francisco did it again. They beat New York at its own game. With NYC 2030 in the works, San Francisco shows Mayor Bloomberg and all of New York that they won’t wait until 2030 to start saving the planet.

San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsom has said no to bottle water. Citing that bottled water is a burden on the city and on the environment, Mayor Newsom has issued an executive order banning all city departments from purchasing bottled water, effective July 1st. As of December 1st, 2007, they can’t even buy bottled water for water coolers.

As you know, plastic is like the Terminator, it’ll always be back. In fact, it never goes away. Plastic doesn’t deteriorate, and thus disposing of it is a very expensive process. From the making of plastic, transporting it and disposing of it, plastic is just a strain on the environment. By Mayor Newsom getting rid of plastic in San Francisco, there environment will be just that much better. Over a billion plastic bottles go to California’s landfills each year.

Have you seen the commercial where the team of business people is on a mountain lift tow and their cart gets stuck in mid air, hundreds of feet above the ground? One guy starts yammering about how if everyone should think good thoughts and the lift will just to work itself out in a matter of time. Of course nothing happens. And then one of the other guys finds an emergency start button, and it works.

Well, Mayor Newsom pressed the emergency start button, and Mayor Bloomberg apparently likes to think good thoughts. And while I applaud the idea of NYC 2030, I would much rather see NYC 2007, and then NYC 2008, and then NYC 2009. I know governments and businesses like to see the big picture and look years down the road, but if we don’t start taking care of the environment now, there might not be an NYC to save in 2015, 2020 or 2030.

Gas and Energy on the Rise

Well, here we go again. Another month and another rise in the Consumer Price Index. It rose 0.7% in May, along with the Core Rate of Inflation going up 0.1%. And while the Core Rate really didn’t rise that much, it’s still pretty indicative of the rising prices in America, in that it doesn’t take into account food and energy, which are the significant factors in the rise within the Consumer Price Index.

With food and energy (i.e. gas) prices going up, that meant many nonmanagement employees had to take pay cuts. This caused the average weekly earnings for this group to fall for the second straight month.

So this is great, huh? Food and gas are going up, and earnings are going down. This would all make sense if we lived in a Bizzaro economy.

What it’s basically coming down to is that people can’t afford to do and buy other things. Afterall, people have to eat and they have to go to work. And in places and societies where stealing food and walking to work aren’t options, people are going to fork over the money they need to do those two things.

It would be nice if the Federal government would lower interest rates, but the small increase in the Core Rate will give them just enough reason to not have to do that. This means that the people on Wall Street will continue to celebrate, while the banks join along in harmonious song titled, “I’m Collecting All Your Money.”

A lot of the inflation, which annualized at 2.7% in May, can be attributed to housing cost. Paying the gas bill is obviously a large part of that, and the 3-5% increases in beef, poultry and pork aren’t helping consumer costs either. So what will the government do?

Nothing. Not yet. Obviously, it’s too early to say whether inflation is or is not an issue in the market, and so the government can’t really fix this one. At least not as long as an increase in food and energy costs don’t spill over into other parts of the economy. So the government will sit back and slowly analyze what’s going on. In the meantime, let investors continue to cheer as stocks and bonds go on the rise, along with their hit single.

Chart provided by the NY-Times.

Universities Royally Screwing Students In The A**

As a U.S. college graduate, I can attest to one thing that many of us have in common…

I hate student loans!

Granted, I was assisted by several scholarships and grants throughout my undergraduate career, but needless to say, those barely covered my ass. I’m now in debt up to my eyeballs, and if I were to make the standard payment on my loans from here on out, I might be done before social security….maybe!

But more outrageous than my own student loan debt, is the way that universities have been playing with the lives of precious undergrads across this nation. For years, universities have been royally screwing students in the ass. They have been accepting gifts, everything from shares of stock to travel and entertainment tangibles, from banks, and other student loan lenders, and then in turn they offer these gift-giving lenders’ loans to students with no other options.

Talk about taking advantage of our youth. These universities that are supposed to be educating us, teaching us lessons and preparing us for the real world, are selling our debt, 25 years worth of debt for some, directly to the devil. But I guess getting sold out is a lesson everyone should know, so who better to teach to our youth than a prestigious university?

Thank God though that the United States finally decided to step in and do something about this. Although it’s entirely too late, considering this issue came up in Congress in 1995, it’s great to see that the U.S. will put limits on university ties to student loan companies and banks.

These new limitations will prevent universities from accepting “gifts” (a term that is not clearly defined in the new legislation) from lenders, and also requires that they offer at least 3 different lending institutions when communicating with potential student borrowers.

The new laws will stop students from being steered like cattle into the hands of bribing lending institutions, but it still won’t ensure that students are going with the lender that best fits their needs. Not to mention the new legislation only applies to federally backed student loans. This means, that the underhandedness and “wink-wink,” “nod-nodding” will still play a part in the $85 billion student loan industry.

And while the U.S. still plans to further put an end to this, I cannot ignore the fact that they have a long way to go regulating the student loan industry. New York’s Attorney General, Andrew M. Cuomo, uncovered several undisclosed relationships between lenders and universities. And complaints about such relationships have gone relatively ignored by Congress.

Now, I’m not against the loan industry. Afterall, they make education possible for millions of students. But there is a big problem when borrowing funds for your education becomes a lot like asking a loan shark for loan money. Students should not be steered into lenders by educational officials who are supposed to be a part of a higher learning experience. Universities already sell their souls to publishers, alumni donators, technology companies and potential advertisers.

How about selling their souls to the people who purchase them with their future and years and years of debt?

The students!

Top 5 Reasons The Soprano’s Ending Was Horrible

What in the hell was with that ending? David Chase, creator of HBO’s “The Sopranos,” took one of the most hyped series finales in the history of television and came out looking like more of a whimpering buffoon than Tony Soprano’s son, AJ!

Here’s why that ending was one of the worst ever:

5. BAD TIMING – The series ending episode of “The Sopranos” competed with 2 other highly valued television programs. Game 2 of the NBA Finals aired concurrently with the Soprano’s, and last year’s Game 2 garnered over 12 million viewers. The Tony Awards also aired Sunday night, after having an audience of just over 7 million viewers last year. The Soprano’s are averaging just over 8 million viewers per episode this year, and if they wanted to return to its peak viewer-ship of 11 million (in 2002) for its final episode, it definitely could have picked a better night.

Side-note: It probably helped Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, of the San Antonio Spurs, quickly dismantled Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

4. GUTLESSNESS – There are two kinds of leaders. There’s the one that takes responsibility for everything, good or bad. And then there is the type of leader that picks and chooses where he takes the blame, but then goes ahead and takes all the credit. David Chase is clearly the latter. He created a great series and delivered a final season that had built up tremendous tension, monumentous momentum and intellectual intrigue into the series’ final episode. And to end the show, he took the route that was the most cowardly, he let the viewers decide the ending because he couldn’t take the pressure of being critiqued if his ending wasn’t well received.

3. NEW PLOT TWISTS – While some may see the insertion of new plot twists into the last episode as creative and new, I think it was rather misplaced. The FBI agents issue with his “woman,” the possible indictment, Janice coming after Uncle Junior’s money and several other things, were all unresolved and quite misplaced. They were interesting, but the whole time I was watching them, I was thinking “Okay, what’s the deal with Tony?”

2. TOO MUCH SENTIMENTAL BULL – Nobody watches The Sopranos for its lovey-dovey nature. While Tony Soprano’s soft side and faults are contributing factors to the show’s success, if he was just a nice guy, we wouldn’t care about all of that. But throughout the final episode, Tony is either getting sappy with Uncle Jr., reminiscing with Janice or giving into AJ. Tony doesn’t choke anybody, order a hit, and he barely even curses. We don’t even get his reaction to Phil’s death. Technically, we don’t even know that Tony ordered the hit; for all we know, it could have been insinuated that the New York mafia should take out Phil themselves during the sit down they had with Tony and Little Carmine.

1. TOSSING TONY – Why didn’t David Chase just have James Gandolfini sit this last episode out? Other than the first couple of minutes and the sit down with the NY family, Tony’s character was nothing more than a supporting role. And then in the end, when David could have turned all that around, he hides Tony’s relevance in a sea of ambiguity. In the final scene in the diner, we see Tony reaching for his gun (maybe), and watching his surroundings. The scene, however, is more about what’s going on around him than it is himself. I understand what Chase was saying about the meaning of life and how no matter what walk of life you come from, it’s all about being with the ones you love, eating good food, playing sports, talking and “focus on the good times,” but come on! There’s no conclusion with Tony at all. Not one! Yeah, he realized the aforementioned motto, but he’s come to that conclusion before. Are we supposed to assume he’s settled on smelling the roses for the rest of his life?

Come on Mr. David Chase, you could’ve done a little better. I know it’s hard, and I know you probably would’ve gotten ripped no matter what you did, but at least if you brought a conclusion to Tony’s character, you would have went out with some dignity, instead of going out like Pussy…”Big Pussy” Bonpensiero that is.