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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Teaching Lilly About the War on Terror

The War on Terror has been an enigma of sorts. It is has only loosely defined and grossly misinterpreted on both sides of the political aisle. Some say it’s a merely a Trojan horse for America to imperialize the Middle East and control the oil market while others are not nearly as cynical. These folks accept that the War on Terror is in fact the last great struggle for Western Civilization. It is as some have called it, the fourth great global war in history (for those that consider the Cold War the third great war.)

But despite all of these grand phrases and such, just what is the War on Terror? If you were to ask the average American in the street what he or she thought the War on Terror was, you would most definitely get a bevy of answers:

It’s a war against radical Islam.

It’s a war against Muslims.

It’s a war for oil.

It’s the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.

We’re at war?

And while there might be many answers to that simple question, I truly wonder if people really understand just what is the War on Terror and why does it look the way it does. Why does it feel the way it does? What’s different about this war than the battles of the past? It is easy to accept what our leaders tell us so that we don’t have to think too hard about it but the fact remains that after nearly 5 years of battling this elusive foe, many simply do not know what it is we are trying to do. Mind you, for that I blame our president but that is a column for another day.

We, the capitalist modern West, are fighting a combination of radical religious fundamentalism and Fascism, as purported by Arabs and Persians who dominate the oil rich Middle East of Eurasia. That’s the headline right there but even that doesn’t really begin to describe in detail to those that need a better explanation what the whole point of this conflict is. In fact, it is because most people don’t really understand the headline that the war has become as muddled and misunderstood by the masses

Now let me tell you about Lilly. Lilly is a 17-year-old Mexican-American recovering meth addict from rural parts in central Florida. A friend of the family in the trailer park she lived when she was a little girl raped Lilly. She had a history of violence toward others that would make Sabu blush. To say our girl Lilly was limited in her understanding of the world would be a rather gross understatement. After nearly a year in an inpatient rehabilitation facility the girl could barely even fill out a job application and did not understand the concept buying insurance for her car what exactly the point of insurance was.

Now here’s the rub; Lilly will be able to vote in the very near future. In fact, if the current political trends hold, every pandering politician this side of Cuba will seek after her vote. When I think of how the message of what it is to fight the War on Terror has been so badly communicated, I think of poor, feisty, barely literate Lilly because if grown adults whom actually follow politics really don’t understand what is going on, this kids got no chance in hell of figuring it out.

One day at work, Lilly came to me after group and asked if we were going to get bombed by Iran. She stated that she had seen something in the on-campus that school on TV that scared her half to death and made her wonder if she was at risk. That prompted me to have to boil down nearly every important historical even from World War I to the War on Terror to its lowest common denominator in order for this girl to understand the current Iranian nuclear showdown. After about an hour of me drawing boxes and arrows on a marker board to illustrate the finer points of global policy and war, low and behold this child that resembles more animal than girl in her behavior actually understood the complexity of the War on Terror. She had somewhat of a difficult time explaining it to her peers but regardless; I was like a proud father watching his daughter taking her first steps into a larger universe.

That is when it hit me. My social studies teacher once told me that when you teach somebody something, you own that information for life. Teaching Lilly about the War on Terror actually cleared up some of the problems I had understanding the war. First off, and I didn’t realize this until after we were with our impromptu tutoring session, most people don’t know the first thing about fighting a conventional war, never mind an ideological one.

War is simply one mans attempt to secure resources for his people. Land is where the resources are kept obviously so as Sepultura once said, we war for territory. It its most base form, you mass an army to control the enemy’s territory and then either take over or sever their supply lines. Once you’ve done that, it’s over. The war is done. Mission accomplished. All of the ballyhoo, pomp and circumstance that we’ve learned in countless history classes regarding battles and such were about nothing more than the acquisition of scarce resources by competitive peoples.

People are expendable, good soil and a dependable water supply isn’t. People are replaceable; coal, oil, uranium, gold and other precious metals aren’t. That’s been the driving force of war, to risk people in trade for goods you cannot find elsewhere or are running out of in your own territory.

However, scarcity of resources may be enough for individual men to send millions of his brethren to their doom, but for those on the death march, even the ancient version of warring for oil was not appealing. That is where ideology comes in.

Whether it is religion, patriotism, revenge or the love of a hot chick, to make men fight you must give them a reason they can buy into. Convincing them to hate total strangers who look different from them is a good start but anyone who has studied marketing knows, you need a common denominator for people unite under. Once you’ve got your us VS them ideology rolling it’s easy to make men grab resources for you. It’s easy to commit mass murder in the name of whatever boogeyman you’ve created to unite your army.

The problem we’ve come to since the end of War World II is that somewhere along the way the ideology that makes men fight seemed to have surpassed the quest for resources that is the reason men are made to fight. The Cold War was absolutely about acquiring more resources or retaining the ones you had but those resources were for the first time in history actual people. Capitalist need people to buy their wares and Communists need people to man supply lines and make widgets. If either side had killed too many people then the whole point of the war would have been lost. After all, you can’t rule a country of corpses, until you are Tim Burton (cue rim shot).

The War on Terror is an extension of the Cold War. If you were to look at the possible endgame for the radical Muslims, what you would get is a world full of fellow believers whose sole purpose is to keep this ideology alive. Islam, like all belief systems feeds on humans willing to drink Kool-Aid. That’s it, that is all there is to it. I’m not even sure if Bin Laden and company has thought far enough in advanced to what they’d do with a world where Mohammed wasn’t threatened naked white chicks and newspaper cartoons.

That in a nutshell is why this is such a hard war to fight. If killing people were the way to win then the Muslims would have already lost, just ask the Japanese what I’m talking about. But that isn’t it. Even taking territory such as in Iraq and Afghanistan does next to nothing for us in the grand scheme of things because having control over those places doesn’t cut the average Muslims steady supply of blind faith.

However, not fighting is an even worse option than fighting badly. Because just as we cannot cut their supply of faith, it is that endless supply of faith that keeps them in the quest for the resources they seek. And that resource is us.

Somewhere in Central Florida a 17-year-old Mexican-American girl came away from a rehab understanding why we fight. Only 300 million more left to go.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Things I Still or Will Do...

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

This was "borrowed" by my Deputy Chief of Staff, Halden Johnson. It's a nice companion piece to my bit on being Forever Youngish

So apparently MSN’s Men’s Lifestyle has some tips for those unfortunate souls that are 30 and up. The list details 59 things a man should NOT do past the age of 30, many of which I still or would very likely still do.

1. Coin his own nickname.
4. Hacky sack.
8. Ask a policeman, "You ever shoot anybody with that thing?"
13. Tap on the glass.
14. Shout out a response to "Are you ready to rock?"
18. Jokingly flash gang signs while posing for wedding photos.
19. Give shout-outs.
20. Use numbers in place of words or locations, such as "the 411" for information, or "the 313" for Detroit.
24. Compare the trajectory of his life with those of the characters in Billy Joel's "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant."
26. Air drum.
28. Eat Oreo cookies in stages.
30. Sleep on a bare mattress.
31. End a conversation with "later skater."
32. Hold his lighter up at a concert.
33. Publicly greet friends by shouting, "What's up, you whore?"
34. Wear Converse All Stars with a tuxedo.
37. Call "shotgun" before getting in a car.
38. Dispute someone else's call of "shotgun."
40. Mist up during Aerosmith's "Dream On."
41. Purchase fireworks.
42. Google the word vagina.
46. Organize a party bus.
47. Say "two points" every time he throws something in the trash.
48. Buy a novelty postcard in another country of topless women on a beach and write, "Wish you were here" on it.
49. Keg stands.
51. The John Travolta point-to-the-ceiling-point-to-the-floor dance move; also that one from Pulp Fiction.
52. Put less than ten dollars' worth of gas in the tank.
54. Read The Fountainhead.
55. Watch the Pink Floyd laser light show at a planetarium.
56. Refer to his girlfriend's breasts as "the twins."
58. Whippits.
59. Say goodbye to anyone by tapping his chest and even so much as whispering, "Peace out."

Monday, April 24, 2006

Gas Prices Too High?

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

I, like you, have noticed gas prices going up. I, also like you, have also read a number of chain letters and MySpace bulletins containing idiotic idea after idiotic idea about how we can "fight the power" by boycotting big oil, or only shopping at certain gas stations on one day and not shopping there on certain days, and so on.

Now, maybe I'm too cynical for my own good, but I think that's all a bunch of poppy cock. The only way to get the oil companies to lower prices is to threaten them with legislation. That's where Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) comes in, who recently supported a windfall profits tax, along with measures to stem concentration of market power among a few select oil companies, to offer relief to consumers hurting at the gas pump (click here for more).

It's true that Republicans are usually the last to tax rich business tycoons, but even my more liberal friends consider Sen. Specter to be one of the last voices of reason and rationality in Washington. When you consider that he's also the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and, like it or not (and I don't care if you do or don't), the Republicans still control everything (for the time being at least), Specter could very well get something done if he gets enough support. He already sponsored bi-partisan legislation on Monday to reduce fuel costs.

So instead of sending out another e-mail that your friends are going to forward to their friends without even reading it themselves in the first place, write to your local congressman (you'll have to look that up yourselves), or write to Senator Spector and let him know you're behind him, or even how the higher gas prices are starting to effect you and your family (especially if they go up to $4 or $5 a gallon, as some a predicting).

Sen. Arlen Specter
711 Hart Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: 202-224-4254
(Click here for e-mail)

If you roll with the Dems and would prefer to get behind one of your own, Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have also been vocal against the rumored "price gouging." See how to get in touch with them.

And as a side note, I'm sure there are more than a few of you who think writing to your elected official is as big of a waste of time as hitting the forward button on your e-mail. All I can say is that I felt the same way. Then my mother wrote to our local Congressman when the insurance companies were harassing her for money we didn't owe them. We got a letter back that he (or someone from his office) was going to look into it. She stopped getting harassed.

Democracy does work once in a while.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

My Ten Commandments

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

I'm usually Mr. Happy Go Lucky, but much like all of you, there are a number of things people do that piss me off. So a while back I had posted my Three Commandments. From there it grew to five. Now, there are ten. And since I've grown tired of the news and have nothing else grinding my gears, I share them with you now...

(There were fifteen, but Moses dropped the tablet that had 11-15 chiseled on them.)

*I reserve the right to make exceptions depending on how cute she is

1. Me having a cell phone does not put me at your beck and call. I'll answer it when I'm free and available to talk.

2. If I want your opinion on how I'm supposed to think and/or live my life, I will ask you for it.

3. Being my friend does not grant you unfettered access to my personal life. If I don't want to talk aboot it, so it is written.

4. If the group is doing something I deem to be boring or suck, I reserve the right not to do it.

5. If I ask a yes or no question, I expect a yes or no answer. Not an excuse or a dissertation.

6. It is okay to listen to Fall Out Boy. It is NOT OKAY to look like you listen to Fall Out Boy.

7. There are two types of people in this world: people who like a strong cup of coffee, and people who should just switch to decaf and stop complaining when I make the coffee too strong.

8. If I'm at the gym and have my headphones on, don't start a conversation with me.

9. The Good Lord gives us twenty four perfectly good hours a day, and unless you've got company, why waste them in bed?

10. Be excellent to each other.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Forever Youngish

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

"Soon I'll be thirty. I don't want to be thirty." - Moxy Fruvous

The wee younglings I work with at the mall are often surprised when they discover that I'm, shall we say, approaching the second anniversary of my 29th birthday. One them talks about me to his friends, about how I still find dick and fart jokes funny, and uses me as an example for how's there's hope for them all. They all refer to me as "that guy." And it's not just me. A lot of the "older" crew that I run with is the same way.

I remember when I was a wee one myself, I'd wonder at what point I was going to cut the hair, stop listening to the Metal, stop watching the wrestling, etc. The hair may have been cut (since even though I still live in my parents basement, I don't want to look like I still live in my parents basement), but the heavy metal and the wrestling are still there. There was never a point when I stopped watching cartoons, and may even watch more now than I did then.

I'm often amazed at how none of us have, for lack of a better term, "grown up." I was even more amazed to see the topic as the cover story for New York Magazine. So sayeth the authors:

"It's more interesting as evidence of the slow erosion of the long-held idea that in some fundamental way, you cross through a portal when you become an adult, a portal inscribed with the biblical imperative "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: But when I became a man, I put away childish things." This cohort is not interested in putting away childish things. They are a generation or two of affluent, urban adults who are now happily sailing through their thirties and forties, and even fifties, clad in beat-up sneakers and cashmere hoodies, content that they can enjoy all the good parts of being a grown-up (a real paycheck, a family, the warm touch of cashmere) with none of the bad parts (Dockers, management seminars, indentured servitude at the local Gymboree). It's about a brave new world whose citizens are radically rethinking what it means to be a grown-up and whether being a grown-up still requires, you know, actually growing up."

Now, there was a bit of psychobabble in the article, and definitely some mocking. There was also the indignity of using a Star Trek reference, "Grupps," to label our kind. Personally, I always dug the label Generation X, but so be it. The article as a whole was still what a number of friends and I have commented on recently - about how we may take on adult responsibilities, we don't actually grow up -and it doesn't matter if we're budding rockstars, struggling entrepreneurs, or simply two dudes looking to conquer the world one blog post at a time.

And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that. We all have jobs. Some of us have homes and spouses and children. We even have more "mature" interests. We just haven't let go off our "less mature" ones. I enjoy watching Sen. John McCain interview on Meet the Press the same way I enjoy Mick Foley cutting a promo on RAW. The Complete West Wing DVD sits right next to the Complete G.I. Joe. My MP3 player has Zeppelin and Taking Back Sunday, Prince and Kanye, Kenny Rogers and Big and Rich. We all do.

I don't know where I'm going with this. I'm not even sure I was going anywhere in the first place. I was just amused to see an something that amuses me about my friends and I on the cover or New York Magazine.

Xenu Be Damned!!!

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

Kyle: Do you have any idea how retarded that sounds?
Mr. Connelly: Is it any more retarded than the idea of God sending his son to die for our sins? Is it any more retarded than Buddha sitting beneath a tree for twenty years?
Stan: Yes. It's way more retarded.
A snippet of dialogue from South Park that may or may not be a reference to Scientology…)

Strange things are a foot in South Park. It started last season when they aired an episode called "Trapped in the Closet" that made fun of Tom Cruise and Scientology (which can be viewed here).

Then Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef and a Scientonologist) suddenly left the show citing the shows "growing insensitivity towards personal spiritual beliefs."

Then "Trapped" episode was scheduled to re-air on March 15, but at the last minute Comedy Central pulled the episode, amidst reports that Tom Cruise had leaned on Paramount Pictures (the studio owned by Viacom, which also owns Comedy Central and has the Cruise-starring "Mission: Impossible III" coming out this spring) to have the episode yanked from broadcast.

Most recently, South Park "killed" off Chef in "The Return of Chef" (clips of which can be viewed here), and issued the following statement regarding the "Trapped" episode being pulled off the air...

"So, Scientology, you have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for Earth has just begun. Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!"

Now, why Hayes is suddenly offended by "spiritual insensitivity" (when he didn't mind them satirizing everyone else's spiritual beliefs) is anybody's guess. What cracks me up is, don't they realize that by getting upset at South Park, it's just going to make things worse? Trey Parker had even said in a recent Time Magazine interview that they've "...created a brand for ourselves, so that now people can't get mad at what we do, because then they're just making fun of themselves."

So by Isaac Hayes quitting and Tom Cruise being...well, being Tom Cruise, all they did was guarantee that ten times more people are going to download "Trapped" than would have ever considered watching it before, and there are going to be digs at Cruise and Scientologist on every other episode of South Park. They even started by having the "destroyed" Chef rebuilt ala Darth Vader.

Scientology: 0
Fans of South Park: 3 (and counting)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Black White Nonsense

I don’t watch much TV these days. Some wrestling here and there, the occasional cop drama (The Shield, The Wire, etc.) and that’s really it. When I can watch TV I usually just watch the news and typically I settle for the most entertaining of the bunch, Fox News.

Wait; come back, my story gets better!

However, last week I had to travel to NY for some personal business and by late Saturday night, I was so worn out that I ended up watching the first show that even looked remotely interesting. That show happened to be FX’s new reality show “Black White” which is produced by rapper turned actor extraordinaire Ice Cube.

The premise of the show is that we have two families, one black and one white, whom will live together in a house for a certain period of time and will be made to look like the opposite of their race; the black family will be turned white and the white family turned black, through the magic of Hollywood makeup. Then, once each family member has been altered, they are to go out and experience the world as a new race and report back to the producers, hilarity ensues.

Just from the previews, I thought this show looked ridiculous but you’d be surprised what you’ll watch when you are dog-tired and TNA Impact isn’t on for another hour. As I watched the plot for this episode unfold I had an epiphany based on the behavior of the players in this reality drama. When it comes to race relations, black people in general have the personality of a victim borderline personality disorder.

That’s right, I said it, black people in general, when the issue of race comes seem to act like they have borderline personality disorder.

Now just what the heck is borderline personality disorder, you are asking?

A person with a borderline personality disorder often experiences a repetitive pattern of disorganization and instability in self-image, mood, behavior and close personal relationships. This can cause significant distress or impairment in friendships and work. A person with this disorder can often be bright and intelligent, and appear warm, friendly and competent. They sometimes can maintain this appearance for a number of years until their defense structure crumbles, usually around a stressful situation like the breakup of a romantic relationship or the death of a parent.

Relationships with others are intense but stormy and unstable with marked shifts of feelings and difficulties in maintaining intimate, close connections. The person may manipulate others and often has difficulty with trusting others. There is also emotional instability with marked and frequent shifts to an empty lonely depression or to irritability and anxiety. There may be unpredictable and impulsive behavior which might include excessive spending, promiscuity, gambling, drug or alcohol abuse, shoplifting, overeating or physically self-damaging actions such as suicide gestures. The person may show inappropriate and intense anger or rage with temper tantrums, constant brooding and resentment, feelings of deprivation, and a loss of control or fear of loss of control over angry feelings. There are also identity disturbances with confusion and uncertainty about self-identity, sexuality, life goals and values, career choices, friendships. There is a deep-seated feeling that one is flawed, defective, damaged or bad in some way, with a tendency to go to extremes in thinking, feeling or behavior. Under extreme stress or in severe cases there can be brief psychotic episodes with loss of contact with reality or bizarre behavior or symptoms. Even in less severe instances, there is often significant disruption of relationships and work performance. The depression which accompanies this disorder can cause much suffering and can lead to serious suicide attempts.

One of the main elements of recognizing someone with BPD is projection of feelings onto others. What the BPD person will typically do, and what I saw the black folks in this show do is ascribe particularly intense and negative emotions to their white counterparts, when they themselves were the ones feeling those emotions. In other words, the black family kept insinuating that the white family was racist or that everything they did was a subtle knock on the black race when in fact it was the black family that continually displayed intolerance.

The first example started right at the beginning of the show. The two moms are sitting with their dialect coach to learn how to speak with the inflection of the race they are playing. On the practice sheet in front of them are a list of words, one of which is “bitch.” The white mom then says in what was obviously a playful manner, “Yo bitch!” Now I’m not saying the white woman made the best choice there but haven’t we all made a wet-fart-in-church type joke that we thought was in the spirit of the moment and it turned out not to be so funny. You can accuse her of being a dork and little on the stupid side but she wasn’t being a racist by any stretch of the imagination.

However, the black mother of course goes right off the deep end. At that moment and for the majority of the episode, the black mother goes on and on and on and on and on and on about this woman is a racist and nobody calls a black a bitch and blah blah blah. The white practically begs for forgiveness and explains quite clearly that it was an innocent remark bred in naïve stupidity. Not having says the black mother, clearly the white woman is racist in the mind of the black woman.

But that’s not all that happened.

Now the white woman is in her black person makeup and the two women are shopping the black part of town at a street market. Mind you, the whole purpose of being there is to shop where black people, for what black people might buy. They walk into a clothing store and one of the wares being sold is a dashiki. Granted you don’t see too many average black people donning the dashiki at the mall but at least some do wear them or the shopkeeper wouldn’t be selling them. The white woman sees one she likes and buys it. Of course the black woman sees this yet again as example of racism and that the white has gone “too far.”

There were a few more examples where the same thing happens. The white folks try in earnest to experience life as black people and the blacks folks in turn call them racist. That is when it hit me, it isn’t that the while folks on the show hate blacks at all; the black folks hate white people and apparently are uncomfortable saying so out loud. So, like a client with BPD, they project their own feelings of hate and anger on to white people, crying racism at every turn.

It isn’t just on “Black White” that I’ve noticed this pattern. I’ve worked with black families, from all different strata’s of life and this pattern has repeated itself . Any challenge or feeling of unease that a black person is made to endure, that would be typical among any other combination of races seems to be met with cries of racism. It is obvious to me that the reason is, deep down, on some level, their exists to this day, a seething hatred of the white race in black people that no matter what happens, will always show itself in times of stress. And as evidenced by the characters on “Black White” this hatred will typically be projected on whites that have long ago learned to accept black people as their brothers and sisters.

To paraphrase Dennis Miller, but that’s just my opinion, I could be a racist myself.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Stock Tips are Like Assholes...

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

I've been playing the market as of late. This is the first time in a few years that I have a steady job and am making a few sheckles, plus in order for me to fully embrace conservatism I really should have a stock portfolio.

It's also something I've wanted to do for a while. One of my regrets was that I didn't invest in my old company when it was at $.12 a share. I could have gotten 1,000 for $120. If they went bankrupt, BFD? It's only $120, and I would be more concerned trying to find a new job (which I wound up being anyway). If it hit, I could make some decent money. But I got scared since my few of the market is people jumping off of buildings when they lose. The company, when it was taken off the market, was at $9.76 a share. Do the math.

So for the past few months I've been garnishing some of my weekly wages, putting them in an investment account, and set forth to make my fortune. My first fiscal quarter is almost over, and I am happy to announce that I'm up 4.4%! Go me. A few of my friends have been asking me about it, so I thought I'd share a little of what I did and learned thus far.

I'm not an expert. I don't even play one on TV. And as a matter of full disclosure, my holdings are Marvel Entertainment (MVL), Lion's Gate Films (LGF), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Nokia (NOK), Hasbro (HAS), and Activision (ATVI). Apparently when you write about stocks you're supposed to disclose your holdings, so I thought I'd do it all at once.

I take 10% of my monthly salary and invest it. It's just like putting the money in a savings account, only with a risk. Plus on an average, stocks yield 11% in interest, so it's a good risk. I chose Schwab.com to open my account. I saw a bunch of commercials for different sites, but Schwab was the easiest for me to figure out plus the others usually had an minimum account balance you needed to keep.

I also take another 10% and opened an ING Direct account, just because having a cash account makes sense too. Things might be a little tight this year, but after living paycheck to paycheck since...well, since I ever started working in the first place, another year won't kill me to make sure I never have to do that again.

There are two websites I go to. One is Finance@yahoo.com, and the other is TheStreet.com. Both are free, and both have invaluable advice. The Street (owned by CNBC's Jim Cramer) sends me a newsletter everyday that collects the different articles on the site. The finance page at yahoo lets you create your own watch list, and collects relevant articles from all over cyberspace.

Bookwise, I started with "Make More Money Now" by John Bradshaw Layfield. Yes, THAT John Bradshaw Layfield. My thinking was that it'd be a good read for someone like me, without having do gram one of the "Dummies" or "Complete Idiot's" books. I've just started reading Cramer's "Sane Investing in an Insane World."

Then you have television. CNBC is great, particularly Jim Cramer's "Mad Money." He's insane, and he makes investing seem fun. You also have the Saturday morning finance shows on Fox News. Yes, we all know Fox News is evil and totally biased towards conservatives. I mean, when all other networks have the President's approval rating at 33%, Fox has it at 39%! Totally scandalous! But seriously folks, I'm not endorsing drilling in Alaska or cutting Justice David Souter's brakes. These (the analysts on Fox) are simply people who have been very successful making a lot of money in the stock market, and they bring up interesting points. One of them is even Wayne Rogers from M*A*S*H. How can you not trust Trapper John McIntyre?

You'll be surprised what some of the research might uncover. I was avoiding WWE, mainly because as a wrestling fan, the product bores the hell out of me and I don't see it reaching another high peak like it did a few years ago. Yet, it was always a highly rated stock and I couldn't find out why. Once I read how hot digital media is going to be in the future (they have their own channel), and reminding myself how well their international business does, I decided to go for it. My stock is up 11% since investing.

1. Oil prices go up, stock prices go down. I don't know why.

2. When a company announces it's earning before trading starts, that's generally good news. When they announce them and the end of the day, that's generally bad news.

My mom keeps telling me about how she and my dad invested when they were told it was a good time to do so, and lost all the money they invested. Here's the thing. She doesn't even remember what they invested in. That's the wrong way to do it, plus there's no excuse these days when you have a wealth of information and research at your fingertips.

I chose Marvel because I know Marvel. They were the fastest growing New York Company in 2005. They just signed a licensing deal with Hasbro, and starting in 2007 will license their characters for new action figure, video games, and anything else Hasbro wants to do with them. They've got three movies coming out in '07 (Ghost Rider, Spider Man 2, and Fantastic Four 2) plus a little movie coming out in May called X-Men. This was a no brainer for me, and my stock is up 14%.

Conversely, I had invested in a company called JDS Uniphase (JDSU). I know nothing aboot fiber optics, but Cramer highly suggested it and I got in when it was $3.07 a share. Their most recent earnings weren't as high as expected, I had read a number of experts start to sour on tech. I didn't know what that meant and realized that I know nothing about fiber optics, so I got scared and got out when shares dipped to $2.94.

They closed Friday at $3.70. Do the math there.

That's been my journey thus far. I started with a $150 and it's basically just been a lot of reading and a lot of checking Yahoo Finance ever five minutes to make sure that the market hasn't crashed. It hasn't so far. :-)