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A Book Review On "American Exceptionalism" By Deborah L Madsen

Sunday, September 29, 2013


One can easily be attracted to this book by merely taking a look at the cover picture. The picture has been wisely chosen as it suits the topic under discussion very well. The picture shows an angel moving westward, therefore representing the Westward movement and the idea of Manifest Destiny which is inevitably bound to the idea of exceptionalism. She has got a wire in her hand which is attached to the telegraph posts on her right hand side. As she moves westward, she is bringing that wire, let's say modernity, to the left hand side where you can see the Native Americans and the wilderness.

This book is among a published series of books which are designed to help students of American Studies touch the key factor in this field. Madsen, a professor of English at South Bank University in London, provides those students with six chapters on exceptionalism each covering an important factor quickly. Besides, she has provided the reader with a paragraph at the beginning of each chapter in which she explains what the chapter is about and who the key writers of that period are.


The Introduction:

In introduction of the book it is said: "American exceptionalism permeates every period of American history and is the single most powerful agent in a series of arguments that have been fought down the centuries concerning the identity of America and Americans" (p. 1). The author outlines how exceptionalism has helped to the evolution of the US as both an ideological and geographical entity from 1620 to the present day.

Chapter 1:

In the first chapter, Madsen talks about the Puritan era and how they created a notion called exceptionalism. Roger Winthrop's idea of the colony as a "city upon a hill" was one of the early phrases which later helped the coinage of exceptionalism. These sentences in a report from Winthrop to a minister show how unique they thought this colony was: "...how evident it was, that God had chosen this country to plant his people in, and therefore how displeasing it would be to the Lord, and dangerous to himself, to hinder this work." (p. 19).She goes on talking about other famous people which were prominent at the time. One of those people was Benjamin Franklin who wrote in his `Information to Those Who Would Remove to America` (1784): "Hard work, industry, thrift, common sense, altruism, moral integrity and fair-mindedness - these are the qualities that will guarantee success in America."

Chapter 2:

The second chapter is mainly focusing on Native American's literature but the reader wonders how it can help to the contribution of the idea of exceptionalism. The last sentences of this chapter shows perfectly how the Native Americans felt towards the so-called American exceptionalism: "The apocalyptic culmination of American history envisioned by the Puritan colonists who attempted to create a perfect church-society becomes in the Native American imagination of Silko and Vizenor a punitive apocalypse where the arrogance, self-congratulation and self-interest that were the sins of the Founding Fathers are now visited upon the sons." (p. 68)

Chapter 3:

This chapter named "Exceptionalism in the Nineteenth Century" can be considered as the most important chapter of the book. It talks about important authors of the century such as Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Thoreau, Whitman and James Fenimore Cooper, the abolitionist movement and the idea of Manifest Destiny which led to the expansion of the United States.
The authors mentioned above believed in American exceptionalism to a degree. "Where their Puritan (intellectual) ancestors had anticipated an exceptional destiny based upon the perfection of ecclesiastical institutions, nineteenth century intellectuals anticipated the perfection of political, specifically democratic institutions." (p. 71)

It's also been mentioned here that as Americans mission was to move westward and civilize the wilderness, it was quite acceptable to destroy "everything that stood in the way of expanding the institutions and culture of American Democracy." (p.92) No matter that the obstacles are large herds of bison or Native Americans.

Chapter 4:

This chapter is titled "Chicano Responses to the Ideology of American Exceptionalism". It basically is talking about the expansion of the United States in1840s due to the doctrine of Manifest Destiny and how the Chicanos/Mexicans felt about this. Their feeling is represented in their writings and mostly talks about the loss of their homeland.

Chapter 5:

In the fifth chapter named, "Westerns and the Westward Expansion" Madsen firstly focuses on Turner Thesis: "In this statement, Turner defines the West not as a geographical place or region but as a process, a process that arises from and defines a unique American character." (p. 122) Then she continues by describing how the notion of frontier came into existence in western novels and films.

At the end of the chapter a witty comparison has been used between the cowboy hero and the USA which justifies all US military actions: "...this same nation supports one of the largest military establishments in history, its rate of violent crime is enormously high and it possesses the technological capacity to destroy the world. Perhaps one source of the cowboy hero's appeal is the way in which he resolves this ambiguity by giving a sense of moral significance and order to violence." (p. 143)

Chapter 6:

The last chapter of the book is called "Contemporary Interpretations of Exceptionalism". A lot of contemporary novels are introduced in this chapter which portray the idea of exceptionalism. Madsen also traces exceptionalism in dialogues which are uttered in Sylvester Stallone's Rambo movies.

At the end of this chapter, Madsen talks about the effect of exceptionalism on the Vietnam War, saying, "The Vietnamese landscape becomes comprehensible if seen to require a kind of redemption that can only come from God's chosen people, those whose historical mission is to save other nations from their own folly." (p.166)

She concludes this chapter by a daring statement: "Exceptionalism was the legacy of the Old World for the New, but exceptionalism is now the legacy of the United States for us all" (p. 166).

Suggestion for readers:

Although the purpose of this book is to help students touch the key elements in American studies, the author has gone so far through a lot of books that are not known to students. In other words, one may find himself hapless among the names of novels and writers. Well, at least, I do not suggest this book to students of North American Studies who are not living in the United States. To understand this book you need to know about important American writers and films. Furthermore, the fluency of the book is far from good, most probably because of different excerpts from different books.

American Exceptionalism

Format: Paperback

Author: Deborah L. Madsen

Publication: Edinburgh University Press

Date of Publication: 1998

ISBN: 1-57806-108-3

Pages: 186

Debt Consolidation Loans With Bad Credit: Clearing Debts With One Affordable Payment

Due to the current economic climate, the number of people with mounting debts and plummeting credit ratings is growing all the time. In fact, bad credit lending experts have never had it so busy. But what if the debt has become so much bankruptcy is looking attractive? Applying for debt consolidation loans, with bad credit a feature or not, is a popular solution.

The whole concept of consolidation is to provide a practical method of clearing debts immediately, leaving a clean slate from which to rebuild your credit reputation. But while this route is designed specifically for those in worsening financial situations, not everyone can qualify for consolidation.

Like all financial offers, there are conditions that must be satisfied first. However, with the right debt consolidation loans, with the correct loan terms secured, the chance of sustained financial recovery is very strong. That way, the same problems can be avoided.

What Is Debt Consolidation?

It might seem on the surface as though seeking a debt consolidation loan with bad credit is little more than taking on another loan. The fact that existing debts are proving too difficult to handle suggests securing any new loan would only be foolish.

But consolidation is not about taking on another debt – it is about replacing existing debt with a more manageable debt. Consolidation means clearing debts immediately, with a single loan and then repaying that loan in monthly sums that are significantly less than the original repayments.

For example, a debtor may have 5 loans with 5 different interest rates. The combined monthly repayments might add up to $1,000. However, through a debt consolidation loan, all of these loans are paid off, with the new loan requiring repayments of just $400 per month.

Benefits of Choosing Debt Consolidation

For those who successfully secure a debt consolidation loan with bad credit, the benefits are almost certain to ensure their return quickly to a strong financial position. However, it would be a mistake to think that the debt is simply gone. It is more accurate to say it is restructured.

It is true that clearing debts immediately has a definite positive effect on the financial situation, but more important is the potential long-term benefits that exist. For example, with each debt repaid, the credit report is updated, and the credit score is adjusted accordingly. With 4 or 5 loans cleared in one go, that means the credit score jumps significantly.

Another benefit is that extra cash becomes available. A single interest rate charged on the debt consolidation loan helps lower the expense, but through a longer repayment term (in some cases 30 years), the size of the repayment sum is much lower. Therefore, the repayment sum is much more affordable.

Qualifying For A Consolidation Program

But what is needed to qualify for a debt consolidation loan with bad credit? And how can an applicant be sure to secure the best possible program terms? The criteria are pretty basic, with applicants needing to be over 18, to have a reliable source of income, to be full-time employed for at least 6 months and be a US citizen.

Since clearing debts immediately is the purpose of the loan, there is little worry over debt-to-income ratios, but lenders will consider the degree of improvement consolidation will actually have. If the improvement is not much, then the application may be rejected. This, however, is extremely unlikely.

Finding a lender willing to grant debt consolidation loans is pretty simple too, but getting the best terms usually means looking online. There are also professional consolidation companies but they are more suited to clearing very large debts, and will charge a fee.

Real Estate Investing - How to Get Started

You've heard the stories about people making millions in real estate, so is it really any surprise why so many people view real estate as a serious investment vehicle? Real Estate investing offers more security than the stock market and provides returns of at least equal magnitude, coupled with attractive tax benefits. Apart from that it really does sounds cool to be 'in real estate'. Let's face it, anybody can trade stocks from their phone or home computer. Real estate investment, however, is a real head turner whenever it comes to tangible assets.

One of the greatest challenges in real estate investment is finding the money up front to acquire your first real estate investment property. Surprisingly, though, this is not your biggest obstacle. That's right! Finding the cash upfront is NOT the greatest obstacle to real estate investment. Facts are, hardly anyone who buys real estate has the money in their personal account to pay for it. And that's where your banker comes in. Let's face it, do you know anyone who owns their own home? I mean really owns it? Of course you'll know lots of people who have a property in their name they call their own. Take a look, however, into their personal finances and soon you'll discover who really owns their property. It's the bank, of course. Remember, your liability is your bank manager's asset. So if these people can use the bank's money to buy a property, then why can't you?

I know 'owning' your own home may sound like the obvious way to go, but if you really want to get on the first rung of the real estate investment ladder, then this is the best way to get started in real estate investment. Why then is this first step completely overlooked by many people? Just take a look at how many are still renting instead of buying property. Now of course the relationship between rented and private housing prices varies from country to country and even from area to area. But wherever you go you will still find many people renting, simply because in their minds "they don't have enough money to buy a house." In reality, though, it would be much cheaper for them to buy!

When you rent, you are more or less throwing good money down the drain. Of course you have the pleasure of a home, but from the point of view of real estate investing, you are not actually building for the long term. Remember, every dollar you spend on rent is a dollar you will never see again. Whereas if you own your own home, instead of paying rent you are paying your mortgage. And even though there's such a variance in terms of what mortgage deals are on offer across the market, the basics of mortgages are more or less the same. Every month you make a payment which consists of two parts: interest and principle. You might compare the interest part to rent. These dollars are gone once they're paid, however, the part of the payment that goes to the principle is money you keep. Every dollar that is used to pay off the principal is a dollar in YOUR own pocket.

So if you're thinking about getting started in real estate and you don't yet 'own' your own home, now's the time to take your first step towards building capital with your own real estate investment. Financially, it makes sense because the real estate investment vehicle also supplies greater opportunity for building your net worth. Simply put, when real estate prices go up, so does the value of property. Conversely, the money you owe at the bank -- your mortgage -- remains the same. Compare this to the financial reality of those people who continue paying rent. Their net worth remains the same. However, their landlord's net worth is doing very nicely, thank you, and their landlord is happy for the status quo to continue. So if you would rather build your own capital, then consider buying your own home!

Many home owners accumulate more money through appreciation of their property assets than they do working a full time job. Be warned, though, this is not always the case. As you know, the price of real estate can go down as well as up. If for some reason you have to sell your home in a down market, it can be a costly venture. In fact, you wouldn't be the first to end up with a house worth considerably less than the mortgage resting on it. So make sure you don't overstretch yourself financially by taking on too much. In the long run real estate prices have risen, but in any cycle there are down periods. By staying within your limits and being patient, you'll be able to sit tight through the hard times yet profit from the long term upwards trend in real estate investing.

Best Vacation In Peru

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Peru is a country in South America, situated on the western side of that continent,
facing the South Pacific Ocean and straddling part of the Andes mountain range that runs the length of South America. Peru is bordered by Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south. Peru is a country that has a diversity and wealth little common in the world. The main attractions are their archaeological patrimony (pre-Columbian cultures), their gastronomy (the fifth most important one of the world), their colonial architecture (has imposing colonial constructions) and their natural resources (a paradise for the ecological tourism).

Peru had a rich cultural life thousands of years before Pizarro turned up in funny clothing. Wander around colonial cities that echo the legacy of Spanish conquistadors, explore the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, visit the lost city of Machu Picchu and ponder the enigma of the Nazca Lines.

Peru also boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in South America. The beautiful Peruvian Andes issue a siren's call to top-class trekkers. These mountains are also home to squillions of indigenous highlanders, who still speak the ancient tongue of Quechua and live a traditional way of life.

Peru's climate can be divided into two seasons - wet and dry - though this can vary depending on the region. Temperature is mostly influenced by elevation: the higher you climb, the cooler it becomes.

Peru's peak tourist season is from June to August, which is the dry season in the
Andean highlands. It's also the best time to go if you're interested in hiking or mountain climbing. While travelers visit the highlands year-round, the wettest months, December to March, make trekking a muddy proposition. Many of the major fiestas occur around this time and continue undiminished in spite of heavy rain.

On the coast, Peruvians visit the beach during the sunny, humid months from late December through March. The rest of the year, the coast is clothed in mist. In the eastern rain forests, it naturally rains a lot. The wettest months are December to May, but travelers visit year-round; it rarely rains for more than a few hours at a time and there's plenty of sunshine to enjoy.

All are set in stunning landscapes, whether parched desert costa (coast), soaring sierra (mountains) or remote selva (rainforest) overflowing with wildlife. Such a diverse landscape generates diverse pleasures; the visitor can hike through snowy peaks one day, and relax on the beach the next; paddle a dugout through lowland rainforest or hop on a traditional reed boat on some of the world's highest lakes.

On the way to the low jungle in the Amazon Basin, some tourists will find that the high jungle plateau is a good place for them. Especially since it can tend to have a slightly lower humidity level than the low jungle areas. Tarapoto is the most important city in the area, and it is the trade center for the District of San Martin. Tourists aren't croweded into Tarapoto and surrounding cities as might be found in some other locales in Peru, but they are generally treated very well by the locals who welcome their business.

For meat eaters Peruvian cuisine is among the most varied in the world. Not only does the country grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, but it does so throughout the year. Peruvian geography offers at least 8 different climates (desert along the coast, steep and high mountains, the Amazon basin). In Lima, due to its history as an important Spanish colonial port, the dishes are a mixture of amerindian, spaniard, african, asian and even italian influences that contribute to the ever changing platos creolos (creole dishes). Rice is the staple foodstuff, and expect many dishes to include rice, in the Siera it's corn and potatoes, and in the Jungle yuca. Meat is traditionally included in most Peruvian dishes. Chicken (pollo), pork, sheep and beef are common. Alpacas are actually kept for wool, not for meat. Mostly, you will find that alpaca meat is rather tough. An Andean delicacy is guinea pig (cuy).

Peruvian cuisine includes dishes which use various organs, including anticuchos, a kebab made from a very marinated and spicy cow's heart, and cau-cau (sounds like cow-cow), made from the stomach of the cow served in a yellow sauce with potatoes. Anticuchos are a standard street stall food, be careful with it.

Pop Quiz Commercial Real Estate Investing

I read once that if you took all the real estate lawyers in Illinois and laid them end to end along the equator - it would be a good idea to leave them there. That's what I read. What do you suppose that means?

I have written before about the need to exercise due diligence when purchasing commercial real estate. The need to investigate, before Closing, every significant aspect of the property you are acquiring. The importance of evaluating each commercial real estate transaction with a mindset that once the Closing occurs, there is no going back. The Seller has your money and is gone. If post-Closing problems arise, Seller's contract representations and warranties will, at best, mean expensive litigation. CAVEAT EMPTOR! "Let the buyer beware!"

Paying extra attention at the beginning of a commercial real estate transaction to "get it right" can save tens of thousands of dollars when the deal goes bad. It's like the old Fram® oil filter slogan during the 1970's: "You can pay me now - or pay me later". In commercial real estate, however, "later" may be too late.

Buying commercial real estate is NOT like buying a home. It is not. It is not. It is NOT.

In Illinois, and many other states, virtually every residential real estate closing requires a lawyer for the buyer and a lawyer for the seller. This is probably smart. It is good consumer protection.

The "problem" this causes, however, is that every lawyer handling residential real estate transactions considers himself or herself a "real estate lawyer", capable of handling any real estate transaction that may arise.

We learned in law school that there are only two kinds of property: real estate and personal property. Therefore - we intuit - if we are competent to handle a residential real estate closing, we must be competent to handle a commercial real estate closing. They are each "real estate", right?

ANSWER: Yes, they are each real estate. No, they are not the same.

The legal issues and risks in a commercial real estate transaction are remarkably different from the legal issues and risks in a residential real estate transaction. Most are not even remotely similar. Attorneys concentrating their practice handling residential real estate closings do not face the same issues as attorneys concentrating their practice in commercial real estate.

It is a matter of experience. You either know the issues and risks inherent in commercial real estate transactions - and know how to deal with them - or you don't.

A key point to remember is that the myriad consumer protection laws that protect residential home buyers have no application to - and provide no protection for - buyers of commercial real estate.

Competent commercial real estate practice requires focused and concentrated investigation of all issues material to the transaction by someone who knows what they are looking for. In short, it requires the exercise of "due diligence".

I admit - the exercise of due diligence is not cheap, but the failure to exercise due diligence can create a financial disaster for the commercial real estate investor. Don't be "penny wise and pound foolish".

If you are buying a home, hire an attorney who regularly represents home buyers. If you are buying commercial real estate, hire an attorney who regularly represents commercial real estate buyers.

Years ago I stopped handling residential real estate transactions. As an active commercial real estate attorney, even I hire residential real estate counsel for my own home purchases. I do that because residential real estate practice is fundamentally different from commercial real estate.

Maybe I do "harp" on the need for competent counsel experienced in commercial real estate transactions. I genuinely believe it. I believe it is essential. I believe if you are going to invest in commercial real estate, you must apply your critical thinking skills and be smart.

POP QUIZ: Here's is a simple test of YOUR critical thinking skills:

Please read the following Scenarios and answer the questions TRUE or FALSE:

Scenario No. 1: It's Valentine's Day. You are in hot pursuit of the love of your life. A few weeks ago, she confided in you that all she ever dreamed of for Valentine's Day was that her lover would show up at her door, dressed in a white tuxedo with tails and a top hat, and present her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. You've rented the tuxedo, but now you are concerned about how much money you are spending.

TRUE OR FALSE: Since flowers are pretty much all the same, it is OK for you to skip the roses and show up with a bouquet of fresh yellow dandelions.

Scenario No. 2: For several years you eyesight deteriorated to the point where you can barely see your alarm clock. You are now considering corrective eye surgery so you won't need glasses. Your sister-in-law had corrective eye surgery and has had spectacular results. She recommends her eye surgeon, but mentions the cost is about $5,700 for both eyes and that the surgery is not covered by insurance. A few years ago, you had surgery to correct your hemorrhoids and it cost you only eight hundred bucks.

TRUE OR FALSE: Since surgeons all went to medical school and are all medical doctors, you are being frugal and wise by asking the surgeon who performed your hemorrhoid surgery to perform your corrective eye surgery.

Scenario No. 3: Several years ago, when you first got married, you asked a former classmate who is a lawyer to represent you in the purchase of your townhome. The cost was only $375. A year later, you started a family and decided you needed a Will. The same attorney prepared Wills for you and your wife for a total cost of $700. You started your own business and your attorney friend formed a corporation for you and charged you only $600 plus the cost of the corporate minute book. Years later, when your son was arrested for misdemeanor reckless driving, your attorney friend handled the criminal case and got your son off with supervision for only $1,500.

Your business has been successful and you have built a pretty sizable nest egg, but you are tired of working for every dime and want to try investing in real estate. You have your eye on a strip shopping center. It includes a grocery store, bank, hardware store, dry cleaners (on a month to month tenancy), a couple of fast food restaurants, a gift shop, dental office, bowling alley (with a lease about to expire), and wraps behind a gas station/mini-mart on the corner. The purchase price is $8,000,000, but the net operating income looks pretty good. You figure if you turn the bowling alley into a full service restaurant/banquet facility, and convert the dry cleaners into a 24-hour coin laundry, the net operating income will increase and the shopping center will turn into a spectacular investment. You plan to pull together much of your life savings and put down $2,000,000 to buy this strip shopping center, borrowing the balance of $6,000,000. You remember that your lawyer friend handled the purchase of your home several years ago, so you know he handles real estate.

TRUE OR FALSE: Commercial real estate is the same as residential real estate [Hey, its all dirt, isn't it (?)], so you are being a shrewd businessman by hiring your lawyer friend who will charge much less than a lawyer who handles shopping center purchases several time a year. [What is this "due diligence" stuff anyway?]


If you answered "TRUE" for any of the foregoing Scenarios


The Quiz is over.

Please find a quite place to reflect upon your life and consider whether the decisions you make consistently give you the results you desire.

If, on the other hand, you understand that the answer to each of the foregoing questions is FALSE, I am available to help you in Scenario No. 3.

For Scenario No. 2, you should follow your sister-in-law's suggestion and contact her eye surgeon, or some other eye surgeon with equal skill.

For Scenario No. 1, you are on your own. [But, if you answered TRUE for Scenario No. 1, you may be FOREVER on you own.]

Investing in commercial real estate can be profitable and rewarding - but it requires good critical thinking skills and competent counsel.

You have a have a brain. It is strongly recommended that you use it.

Advice On Getting An Excellent Payroll Service

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Outsourcing payroll to a different company has been a common practice among business nowadays. This is not surprising at all considering the fact that one of every three companies handling their payroll on their own are usually punished by the IRS. The biggest reasons for outsourcing payroll is that it allows for just few errors and better productivity in the human resources department of a company. While it may seem favorable that there are a number of payroll companies out there today, this actually makes it a bit trickier to choose the right one. Below are some of the things you should remember when choosing a good payroll company.

1. Evaluate and Compare Your Company’s Needs

You can start by making a list of everything you are expecting to get from a payroll outsourcing company. There are various things that such companies may offer, so it is naturally important that you first figure out exactly what services you need. Basic or ordinary payroll services normally include basic calculations for salary and tax for every employee, delivery and check printing or even direct deposit, as well as regular reports. If these basic services are not offered by the company you are considering working with, you may as well look for another firm.

2. Take a Look at Their Special Features

Outstanding payroll service companies normally come with features that are beyond the basics. Many of these special features also have proven to be really beneficial to companies. Some of the great features you may want to find are integration to the HR software you are using, 401k plan management, and others. In short, there are just so many things that payroll companies can do for your own company, so you have to make sure that you can capitalize them.

3. Fees

While you may say that price isn’t the only thing that matters, it still needs to be taken into consideration. After you have figured out all of the services the payroll company may offer you, you need to determine if they are asking for something reasonable and fair. Be careful also with the hidden charges or fees that some payroll companies try to charge their clients. There could be different ways that companies charge their clients, so you need to understand first what you’ll need to pay for eventually.

4. Access to Information

You need to have access to the payroll information from your service provider. How easy it will be to do this is what you should look into as well. For instance, there are some payroll companies that allow their clients to log into an account online where all the necessary payroll information can be viewed and accessed.

5. Customer Service

Just like getting any other type of services, clients or customers are always looking for great customer service. As you will be needing their assistance even after you have hired them, you would want them to attend to your needs promptly and always be around to offer you help in any issues regarding your company payroll.

Investing In Real Estate In Up And Down Markets

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Some people who doubt that there is a right time to get started in real estate investing worry that there are too many people buying houses to find a deal. Competition is everywhere. If you can't understand - that in business, competition is normal - then real estate investing is not for you. Just take a look at the marketplace in companies such as Coke and Pepsi, Nike and Reebok, McDonalds and Burger King, and a million other services and products out in the marketplace. So if you see a lot of investors competing against you then know that it's a rewarding business to be in because you are not the only one that sees the potential for profit. Plus, there are more than enough deals to make everyone rich, in due time. At any given time there are hundreds of properties for sale in your own local market niches, enough for each investor looking for them.

Some investors know that events such as the September 11th tragedy, the huge number of job layoffs and the decline in the stock market will kill the economy, and anything they buy will go down in value. But, once again, this need not be the time to fold-up your tent and quit before you get started. In order to be successful in investing, learn how to make money in "up" and "down" markets. Have strategies to utilize in both "up" and "down" markets to survive when the economy is bad or thrive when the economy is booming. And if everyone else is forecasting "doom & gloom" it only clears out the competition as you have more market share to profit from, as this is a good thing!

Ask yourself: "When do I want to make money?" And the answer is usually right now!

Thus, go out and get your investing business going, right now! And not base your actions on what others are saying because the majority of the population is not rich, only those few who dare to take the right risks and take the necessary steps to be successful.

Stay in 'the Game,' and stay 'the Course' (persist)

One of the major disappointments of the conventional, 'rental real estate' approach is there's just no money in it NOW, only after a long period of ownership. There's not enough spread between the income realized from rent - versus - the expenses of mortgage payments and repairs for the investor to make any money today. You barely get by in the early years of your property's ownership. You've got to have other income to support your lifestyle. You can't just count on the rentals to support you.

Most likely, in the beginning you'll be supporting your properties with your other income if you bought via the traditional way. That's not too attractive. A lot of investors don't have the stomach to endure the rough and tough financial stresses of the rental business. Even more so - people just don't have the desire to hang in there to make it work, in due time. Thus, if you persist you will outpace your competition because they will no longer be in the business, and you will have "no competition". This business is a long-term commitment and over 80% of real estate investors - who have been in the business for that long, go on to become millionaires. What I'm saying to you is this: Stay the course, and you will beat most all of your competitors because you can ride the ups and downs of the market in the Real Estate Game, in due time.

Opportunity is everywhere

This is 'NOT' a common statement I hear from new investors. True, it may work differently in some markets than in others, but there are investors making money in every city (large or small, metro-area or the rural-areas), every day of the week. You have to learn your market: the rents, the trends, the local customs, the lenders, the title companies, etc.

Then, learn the techniques and adapt them to your market. One thing is for sure, everyone needs a roof to live under, either renting or owning. People need to live somewhere. So study your market carefully, because there are tons of opportunities in every marketplace. You just have to learn your market and be able to service your market accordingly. If you don't believe this, simply read the 'Success Stories' of all my students achieving financial independence and earning big profits using my field-tested and perfected real estate investing system.

Typically, the main argument of real estate "Nay-Sayers" is by associating real estate with toilets, bad tenants, property damages, tenant evictions, etc. - all the bad tasting things that may happen to an investor getting ready to jump into the real estate game.

For somebody who believes the only thing to real estate is getting a loan and buying a run-down duplex, in a bad part of town, entering the real estate game most certainly could turn into a major nightmare very quickly. However, an individual open to possibilities and who is willing to learn various techniques and strategies - will very quickly discover that's this methodology is not the most profitable way to be transacting real estate deals.

A True Wealth Builder

Well, if you shudder at the very thought of spending your nights and weekends unstopping troubled toilets, painting scarred up walls, and pacifying angry/upset tenants, you are in good company. I have no interest in dealing with ill-affecting and time consuming renter-problems or their negative attitudes. When you follow a systematic approach to investing, you won't have to deal with negative outcomes!! There are other creative ways to manage properties that involve no hassles and no headaches whatsoever, such programs exist in our "Automated Management System" which take away those ownership nightmares.

Much more profitable strategies exist if you are open to 'non-traditional' ways of investing in real estate. For example, in our System approach, there are "Rent Credits" used to maximize your time, while minimizing your overall risks, while creating positive cash flow versus, living with negative cash flow and tenant-troubles. There is a better way!! Your properties will be beautifully managed and maintained. Your Tenant-Buyers will be happy, you will pocket plenty of positive cash flow and you'll be able to spend your free time locating additional real estate investments, doing the things you love and have passion for doing, which is the very point of becoming a professional real estate investor in the first place!!

If you really are serious about real estate investing and do extensive research into the real estate business, constantly learning and improving your knowledge level you will realize that your risks are minimal when compared to other business models.

If you talk to any knowledgeable real estate investor and compare the cost of starting a real estate investing company versus some other type of business, you'll see that a real estate business has far less risks. I like to be upfront with you that you will need some marketing dollars at the least to launch your real estate business. You also need to have a long term vision of this venture and at least give it at least a good 6-12 months to make it work. Otherwise, your money (marketing budget) and time will be a waste.

I know this but most people don't know that it takes at least some money initially to make money as a real estate investor. I don't mean to scare anyone away but let's compare a real estate investing business to a restaurant/carryout business. I know these types of businesses very well because relatives of mine own restaurants/carryouts, so even though I never owned a restaurant, my relatives have taught me the inner workings of that business and what it takes to sustain it to be profitable.

First, for a regular restaurant it takes $30K in gross sales just to break even each month. And this does not include the 15 hour days, and six days per week, and the initial investment of $120K down payment with great credit for a bank to even lend you the money needed to open it. You also have to have years of knowledge and experience before you invest your life savings to start a restaurant business. Then, it usually takes about 1-3 years until the profits really come in, thus, this is only if you can survive to stay in business that long. My father-in-law is currently running a carryout and he has had over seventeen years experience and he tells me how fed up he is with the restaurant business. That is why he's also getting started as a real estate investor and he's asked me to invest some of his money into our rehab properties. He sees the huge rewards and minimal risk involved in real estate compared to his restaurant business or other businesses he has been in. And he is seriously considering selling his business to do real estate investing full-time.

When you compare risks in real estate investing versus investing in other business avenues and/or endeavors, as you can come to your own conclusion: real estate investing is the 'Best Game' in town, when it comes to generating great wealth, while achieving your American Dream for financial independence.

Real estate investing has cycles just like any other business

The stock market has it's cycles. We experienced that after the September 11th Tragedy. Only less than two years prior, we saw a peak in the stock market with high tech stocks soaring and making stock market investors 'paper rich.' The stock market has it's 'ups' and it's 'downs.'

Modern real estate thrives on doing things smarter, wiser, strategically - not harder, more time consuming, with profit-eating outcomes. At the end of the day, the key to success is to focus on being a 'great entrepreneur.' I asked an experience investor (he owned about a quarter of Blacksburg, Virginia) what his specialty was in real estate investing and his response was not that he was good at Lease Options, Wholesaling, Short Sales, REOs, Rehabs, Notes, Residential, Land Developments, or Commercial real estate. But he said he was an 'expert at making money.' We both laughed at that but I will never forget that conversation. You need to know about the marketplace and technical factors involved in a deal, but your main duty whenever you are investing is always to make money. Thus, at the end of the day, your job is to make money in 'up' as well as 'down' markets. And if you focus on being a 'great entrepreneur,' you'll be able to make money with many techniques, strategies, and skill sets to be successful in any market.

A Utopian Vision of the World

Monday, September 23, 2013


"Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it."

Indeed, throughout human history, we've learned about the fall of mighty empires like the Romans, Mongols, Aztecs, etc. We've also learned about the Bubonic Plague and how it wiped out 1/3 of Europe's population. More recently, we've witnessed the Great Depression which plunged America into a world of high unemployment and desperation, Hitler's regime nearly conquering Europe and consequently then the world, and the Vietnam War which put a heavy toll on American lives as well as its economics.

I'm sure these are events that most of us would like to never see again.

But with today's issues like Global Warming and Climate Change, the Credit Bubble Bursting and the Global Financial meltdown, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and the oil shock, you get the feeling we haven't learned from our past mistakes and have been condemned to repeat them over and over again.

We can see that Global Warming and Climate Change is a more insidious consequence of human-based activities not unlike how the Bubonic Plague wiped out Europe due to poor disposal of waste or how the deforestation of Italy might have led to the downfall of the Roman Empire. We can see how the combination of greed and the corporate-government collusion resulted in the Global Financial meltdown that is putting America and the world on a path similar to that of the Great Depression (which itself was caused by similar acts of greed and government-big business greed). We can also see how the Iraq War strained America's resources and reputation while its motivation for oil by a few are highly questionable; much the same way the Vietnam War divided America and was based on some dubious anti-communist ideologies perpetuated by a vocal minority.

Indeed, the world would be a much better place if the resources we depended on were better shared and managed. And the only way that's going to happen is if we have a world that's more sustainable from the way we live to the way we procure the planet's resources to the way we support governments that uphold these principles.

But how do we go about doing this?

Clearly, people have different ideas on what their ideal world would be. And not all of these ideas are mutually agreed upon because there's bound to be winners and losers no matter which scheme you pick.

But that's where we have to dig deep and identify what it is that all of us value in life and try to work from there as the foundation that drives our actions and policies.

So what makes us qualified to offer up an opinion of what a utopian world we ought to achieve should look like?

Well we've spent several years getting out in the field for the pleasure of getting back into nature and using waterfalls as the motivation to go to different places. This has allowed us to observe many things firsthand that television, radio, newspapers, books, websites, and world-of-mouth simply can't provide. More importantly, learning about the world firsthand is far more persuasive than getting your information exclusively from the media (in addition to being less prone to propaganda and brainwashing). And with these observations, we wondered how and why things became the way they are and always kept a healthy curiosity (and skepticism) about everything.

So with our years of experiences, our searching for answers whenever we wondered about something, and processing all this information, we're in a position to propose a world that's more sustainable, fair, allows us to pursue the very things we value most, and reasonable to achieve with a modest amount of sacrifice from the unsustainable status quo of today.

While we know such ideas require an open mind and it's easy to lose someone on a nuance or detail, we ask you to try to get the big picture (even if you disagree with some or all of what's contained here). The purpose here is to try to spur more discussion and thought about how we can go from abstract ideologies to real world actions that will make this greater vision of a better world happen. For without that vision, as stated earlier, we can't see the forest for the trees.

So we've stated earlier that we need to identify core values that most of us can agree on before implementing the steps to leverage these values and improve our world. But just what exactly are these core values anyway?


What is it that we want to get out of life? What makes life "fulfilling"?

I'm sure you'll get varying responses to this question depending on who you talk to, and it's easy to get off on a tangent and discuss ethereal and abstract ideologies that are nothing more than pipe dreams.

If you're a biologist (or of a truly scientific mind), you'll probably say we're here to reproduce, period.

But, really. What is it that drives us to want to earn more money, go traveling, collect more possessions (whether it's the latest and greatest cars, TVs, real estate, furnishings, clothing, jewelry, electronics, etc.), learn more about the world, make friends, reproduce, raise a family, grow old, etc.?

I think you can pin that answer down to two basic principles (or values).

  1. A life of variety (i.e. "Variety is the spice of life")
  2. Leaving a legacy that lives on (e.g. passing on our DNA, sharing our experiences with others, teaching others or our young ones, ensuring our children live better lives than we do, etc.)

Why discuss these values?

Because I think at their very heart, these principles are what all of us strive for to some degree or another. And if these are values that the majority of us can agree on, then these principles ought to be the guidelines (or tests) in which our grand vision of the better world ought to fulfill, right?

After all, failure to minimize the amount of losers in any scheme will result in a growing class of disenfranchised and desperate people willing to follow any strong leader promising to pull them out of their rut regardless of whether that leader's means are agreeable or not. In other words, this becomes the fodder for organizations like:

  • Hitler's Third Reich - to pull people out of the post WWI mess that Germany was in
  • Al Qaeda - for those disenfranchised people in the Middle East who won't stand for the Western exploitation of their land and people for the corrupt few
  • The Taliban - who are offering up a militaristic as well as a thriving poppie-growing means of pulling the poor out of their desperate situations
  • The Khmer Rouge - who offered a radical means of eradicating the more influential Chinese who themselves were becoming more influential in government at the expense of the rest of the people
  • ...and the list goes on and on...

Indeed, any successful world order must strive to uphold the values that the majority of the world can agree upon or at least tolerate.

So let's elaborate a little more about these principles.

First, the variety principle.

I've learned that a fulfilling life can be defined as a life where the individual has experienced as many different things as possible over the sum of that finite lifetime. Now what those different things are will differ from one individual to the next. For example, one might acquire a life of variety through travel while another might find the experiences involved in raising a family (and its associated ups and downs) a different yet no-less-fulfilling form of variety. Maybe someone might think having a large collection of possessions or friends can provide the variety in life that is desired.

Regardless of what manifestations a desirable variety of experiences entails, I think we can agree that living a life filled with different experiences from traveling the world is more fulfilling than a life devoted to a monotonous routine of working a dead-end job all day long, watching TV or being on the computer in the evenings, and then sleeping at night only to repeat the cycle the next day. I admit the latter sounds like my rat-race existence, which is why I strive to go traveling to get away from it all whenever I can.

So the big picture vision of the world ought to support these values. It can't have you stuck in a mundane existence unless you choose to do it that way. More importantly, all infrastructure, commerce, and laws need to support this principle of variety since it's something I think most of us can agree on.

Second, the legacy principle.

I think we're pre-programmed (and by "we" I mean every organism on earth) to want to reproduce and pass on our DNA to future generations. If you think about it, this is why we're more energetic in our youth, more attractive, more durable, and more physically capable. This tends to last until we're no longer reproductively capable anymore.

By that time, we can see that we age, become more fragile, become more prone to cancers and diseases, etc. (though we are more experienced and wiser).

Indeed, it seems Mother Nature has started its own rat race by letting the various organisms compete with each other for limited resources to see who can adapt, pass on their genes, survive, and keep the species going.

But if this process is left unchecked, it's conceivable that the majority of species (if not all) experiences boom and bust cycles where the overall population reduces (maybe by overpopulation-related problems like starvation, disease, or some other depletion of resources) or even declines completely (in which case they become extinct). Clearly, the bust cycle is a frightening prospect for the human race, and this is the very reason why it's desirable to find a happy medium between population growth and sustainability. That way, down at the individual level, we can raise a family, teach our kids, and watch them grow up into individuals without worrying as much about competing for scarce resources to survive. Meanwhile on the macro scale, we are less concerned about living beyond our means and worrying about our own future as well as that of our kids.

And even if you're not into raising a family, I think there's a deep desire for us to leave a legacy behind that somehow makes a positive contribution to the world (something to be remembered by rather than be that someone everyone has forgotten about). For example, it could be solving a difficult problem that ends up being a breakthrough in science, or it could be being remembered for actively trying to help people by improving their living conditions, or it could even be setting a good example for others (whether in the family and friends circle or complete strangers) to follow.

Regardless of how we leave our legacy, I'd argue it's desirable to leave a future in which our children can enjoy a similar type of variety of experiences that we ourselves have enjoyed (if not better) while leaving our mark on the world.

But in order to ensure that noble goal is achieved, we have to keep our individualistic desires for variety needs to be checked. For failure to uphold the value of legacy yields the problems you read about in the headlines like Global Warming and Climate Change, Overpopulation, Unsustainable Status Quo, Politics, Wars, etc.

And it's with this in mind that the big picture vision of the world ought to support both of the variety and legacy principles simultaneously.

And it turns out that the vision I'm talking about manifests itself in what I'm calling the sustainable paradigm.


A sustainable paradigm is a world system in which all goods and services, laws, desires, infrastructure, habits, etc. all support the values that most of us can agree on (which I argued were the principles of variety and legacy).

It's basically a system where all energy, transport, reproductive tendencies, and food procurement are done sustainably by minimizing resource depletion, pollution, overdevelopment, etc. while maximizing biodiversity, our own survivability, and the sharing of resources amongst not only different peoples but other organisms as well. Such a system supports the legacy principle as it assures the world is sustainable for the enjoyment of future generations. Moreover, by focusing on the sustainability challenges, we put our energies into working on meaningful problems to drive our economics while learning more about the world.

Meanwhile, we'd still like to experience a variety of things so the sustainable paradigm must also support the consumption of goods and services that allows us to travel, develop hobbies, meet people, raise a family, etc. But we must do so without trashing the planet.

When you add these things together, you can see the principles come full circle in that energy is required to make these desires happen, but that energy generation and consumption must be sustainable in order to fulfill the legacy principle.

That's why I think harnessing the "free" energies available to us while minimizing their detrimental effects is paramount to supporting the sustainable paradigm. Thus, solar energy, wind energy, wave energy, and geothermal (and maybe nuclear fusion if they ever get there) energy needs to be the exclusive means of procurement of energy since they minimize pollution, deterioration of natural resources, and loss of biodiversity while meeting the needs of our energy consumption. These are things that fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas), hydroelectricity, nuclear, and the vast majority of biofuels will never be able to fulfill.

Thus, you need homes that can generate their own electricity through solar and wind with an energy storage device (like a battery) to smooth out nature's intermittences. You also need an energy grid whose energy is exclusively procured from the aforementioned clean renewable energies. And leverage that grid to drive electrically powered machines, vehicles, computers, etc.

Now we know nothing's perfect and the manufacture of goods and technologies to allow such a paradigm to occur must also minimize the degradation of our natural resources and not be subject to resource scarcity. This, by the way, is the crux of why such a paradigm is difficult to achieve (but clearly not impossible and certainly far better than anything fossil-fuel-based for even a compromised solution!).

As for the procurement of food and fresh water, they must also be done by sustainable means. Therefore, we need desalinization plants to procure freshwater. Such plants must leverage a combination of solar concentrators and a green grid for places that are currently diverting or blocking a disproportionate amount of water from freshwater river systems. Plus, individual households ought to have rain catchments as well to tend to landscaping, drinking water, and small-scale water usage at the individual level.

Now procuring food might be more difficult since this involves irrigation (thus water diversion) and land clearing. Something has to give here, but there needs to be a cap on the mass production of food that ultimately leads to waste and pollution. That means more organic products, smaller scale production, and the minimization of chemicals and/or preservatives applied to them. Basically, we ought to eat locally and limit the amount of travel the foods must make unless the means of travel of that food is via purely green means.

Speaking of transport, we need to have something to the effect of solar electric vehicles where the car can be charged by being in the sun or being plugged in to a green grid (at home, in an office, in a parking lot, etc.). For more powerful applications, you could leverage biodiesel (generated from photosynthetic sludge cultured from solar energy and not food) or some form of yet-to-be-developed hydrogen fuel cell or carbon sponge technology to power airplanes or even ocean vessels. Meanwhile, every city should rely on public transportation systems powered by a green grid while discouraging urban and suburban sprawl.

As for waste management, there can be some significant improvement here in terms of minimizing the amount of runoff that ends up getting dumped into our oceans. If we keep treating the ocean like our toilet, then the life so vital to all life on land is sure to decline in a type of mass extinction that has been shown to have occurred in the past (and wiped out over 90% of all life). So here, we can minimize the runoff by using our compost as fertilizer, minimizing the amount of bulk waste generated in both industry and our day-to-day lives, and even using some of the methane emissions in landfills to supplement the grid power. Whatever the case, the economic system needs to penalize polluters and use those penalties to subsidize the maintenance and development of the sustainable paradigm.

As for an agreeable means of consumption, there are numerous applications of the sustainable paradigm to a variety of industries. I'll single out sustainable travel since I think it should be one of the most important industries driving economies around the world. OK ok, sure I'm biased about this particular topic, but can you name another industry that helps the locals' economy, harbors a desire to share rather than take away, encourage conservation and preservation, and meets our individual desires to experience variety?

Here, you could stress natural and historical features where investment must be made to conserve and preserve while the features themselves should attract paying customers. Locals ought to be enthusiastic about their culture and heritage and be willing to share their homeland with the world. Meanwhile, transport is (as mentioned previously) by sustainable means by electric vehicles, or sustainable biofuel, or some other yet-to-be-developed hydrogen-fuel-cell or cabon-sponge storage and energy-conversion system. Moreover, locals should be able to benefit from the injection of money into the economy, running tours, etc.

As for population control, you don't have to be as drastic as China's one-child policy, but there ought to be taxes (as opposed to tax breaks) against each dependent (since they're consuming resources) and to utilize that income to offset the inevitable resource consumption and disorder generated by those individuals. And this tariff should persist until the individual is able to give back to the system. This would provide economic incentive to reproduce responsibly and leave the decision up to the couple who must weigh the cost of raising more children at the expense of their own ability to survive and live comfortably.

Indeed, these are merely just a few things that come to mind that a sustainable paradigm would feature. I'm sure there are other topics I haven't even mentioned (like medical practices, working class support and incentives, etc.) that could be discussed in the context of the big picture. But realize that this is merely my opinion and I'm sure there are other differing ideas on what the sustainable paradigm ought to be.

The bottom line is that you can see that if all of our thoughts, actions, means of making money, and laws supported a sustainable paradigm, we should be able to support the principles of variety and legacy for not just the human race but the vast majority of other surviving species on earth itself!

But is the sustainable paradigm unrealistic?

Personally, I don't think so. All it takes is a willingness to take action in manageable steps now. So what are these steps to transition from the status quo to a better world?


So with all the ideas mentioned above to support a sustainable paradigm, it might seem like an unrealistic dream.

But is it really?

Believe it or not, there are actually things that can be done now or technologies that already exist to allow the sustainable paradigm to occur.

And while it might be expensive and relatively painful for the upfront investment necessary to implement these sustainable measures, governments can provide rebates, tax breaks, jobs, and laws to establish such infrastructure that will pay dividends in the long run.

So let's look at the specifics of what these measures are and how they can be implemented given the current status quo while examining their pros and cons.

First, let's start with energy.

We've established earlier that a decentralized energy procurement infrastructure as well as an exclusively green grid is the most desirable way to meet the energy needs of a modern world. And you do this through heavily leveraging solar and wind energy while supplementing them with energy from wave, geothermal, waste, etc. But in order to make it happen, we need to impose taxes and penalties on all polluting, resource-depleting fossil-fuel based forms and industries. Then, use those taxes and penalties to subsidize clean solar cell photovoltaics or other green technologies. That way, some of the record profits from oil companies can be given back to more meaningful developments rather than buying back their own stocks or looking for new places to drill.

Imagine if every home, street light, traffic light, rail station, office building, etc. had solar panels on them. It's not so far fetched and it would certainly get rid of our oil addiction, wouldn't it?

Really, the only thing holding this back are status quo proponents protecting their profits, jobs, and position of power.

Along those lines, governments need to remove coal and oil subsidies as well as subsidies for biofuels that result in land clearing and competition for food resources. That way, the true cost of these dirty energies are reflected and they won't look so cheap compared to renewables. Thus, you have a more level playing field amongst the various options of energy procurement and consumption. Like I said earlier, these dirty forms of energy ought to be taxed and a carbon cap trading scheme is merely one step in this direction. And once again, the proceeds should subsidize cleaner procurement thereby rewarding companies innovative enough to pull it off while discouraging polluters and resource hogs.

Second, let's look at managing waste and recycling.

Governments can easily increase redemption values (or CRVs) for plastics and aluminum cans to 25% or more of the retail price. Currently, we have examples of CRVs of only a few pennies for a can of soda that costs $1.00 USD a can. If that CRV value became 25 cents (something I know bottling and soft drink companies will vehemently protest), then you can bet people will be more willing to recycle to get back some of that money. Meanwhile, the upfront proceeds can maintain and build processing facilities (and hire employees) so the recycling system becomes self sufficient. All this has the effect of reducing landfill waste while reusing materials that can easily become scarce if not recycled.

Moreover, plastic bags (the type you get in retail stores, supermarkets, etc.) should be charged. If each plastic bag cost a dollar, then you can bet consumers will remember to bring in their own re-usable bags to hold their goods. Ultimately, that'll keep us from continuing to fill our landfills with these disposable bags that end up trashing our environment.

Third, let's look at transportation and travel.

This is along the lines of energy consumption argued earlier, but let's look much closer at how to improve transportation and travel since we all have somewhere to go, right? So here's where governments can pour more money into building up public transportation where the trains and trams are powered by an exclusively green grid. This should take care of travel expenses necessary to commute to and from work as well as just getting around town.

As for long distance travel, we know it might be a while before a cleaner fuel enjoys widespread use. However, we can limit the use of gas-electric hybrids or SUVs to rental cars for holidays requiring lots of driving. This can be achieved by making anything gas-powered to be prohibitively expensive leaving on those few able to afford it or business in the travel industry renting out such cars. Moreover, if you absolutely must self-drive to work or around town, then they must be electric vehicles. Recall in the early 1990s, General Motors (GM) came out with the EV before destroying them. So we know the technology's already there. We just have to keep the human greed and corrupt politics out of it (something us voters can sway).

As for air travel, biodiesels developed from photosynthetic sludge should be the norm for commercial airplanes unless there's something more powerful and less resource intensive.

And where compromised measures involving some form of fossil-fuels are involved, they should be phased out in the long run while development continues for truly clean, renewable fuels.

Fourth, let's look at food procurement.

Governments can help here by implementing laws that make meats more expensive via taxes or penalties. Why are we singling out meats? Because they involve plenty of resources from maintaining the farm animals, providing feed, transporting the products, clearing land for grazing, etc. On top of that, the methane emissions are serious contributors to the greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere.

Now I know this is painful because I'm a meat eater myself and I'm sure this applies to most other people as well. Besides, many agro-business proponents probably want to kill me for suggesting this.

Nonetheless, by making a financial deterrent for consuming meat, this should lessen the demand for the very things that destroy our environment. Plus, I'd imagine we'd have a healthier population since it becomes very expensive to overeat.

The same goes for processed foods or manufacture of foods that tend to pollute the environment. These should be more taxed and penalized to try to force companies to be more responsible, find a better way to manufacture their goods, and ultimately make it more expensive to eat in an unhealthy way (thereby taxing our medical system).

Again, foods that require lots of transportation, pesticides, etc. should be made more expensive through taxes and penalties. This should spur more local businesses and only export and expand their product lines when it's sustainably responsible to do so.

Fifth, let's look at freshwater procurement.

Currently, we've got lots of hydroelectric dams and water diversion to supply both energy and nurture agro-business. But we can eliminate hydroelectricity (or drastically reduce their usage while destroying the unnecessary ones) by procuring clear, renewable energy via measures mentioned above. As for water diversion, we can eliminate or drastically reduce this by desalinizing ocean water if the cities happen to be near the ocean. While desalinization takes energy, a mass-rollout of a green grid should be able to help fill this need, while solar concentrators can focus the sun's energy on hastening the evaporation of the water to make freshwater for delivery to the rest of the city or for further inland.

While some water diversion from freshwater streams is inevitable, we can certainly reduce this practice so our forests can better thrive and scrub the air of carbon dioxide while keeping moisture in the local microclimate.

So you see, all of the above measures are very achievable - not in the future, but now! And I'm sure there are plenty of other measures I haven't mentioned that could be implemented (e.g. overhauling the medical and pharmaceutical system, books vs. e-books, reducing urban sprawl and prohibiting overdevelopment, etc.). All it takes is a referee (i.e. a government or regulatory body) that ensures people play within these rules while mediating conflicts while upholding the sustainability principle. And the way this is achieved is by voting in people who are serious about implementing these principles.

Meanwhile, at the individual level, we can change or implement habits that allow us to be less wasteful, teach others about the virtues of protecting our resources and living within our means, and not cave in to special interests (even if these interests are our own) when they go against the sustainability paradigm (thereby violating the values of legacy and variety). Actually, if the above measures about transitioning to sustainability are implemented, then the responsible decisions made at the individual level will be automatic because it would hurt us in the wallet if we were being wasteful.

If enough people and eventually nations cooperate in upholding sustainability principles, then they should be more enforceable, result in fewer resource conflicts, and help poorer countries catch up to a more acceptable standard of living.


Well if you're open-minded and patient enough to read this far, I ask this question once again: Is the sustainable paradigm utopia?

Well it might seem like utopia if you see how far we have to go from the status quo. But after seeing that there are indeed realistic small steps we as a society can take to propel the sustainability paradigm, this better world we're striving for doesn't seem so much like an unrealistic pipe dream, doesn't it?

Besides, to cast off the struggle for a sustainable paradigm as a utopian pipe dream and not take any steps in the direction for improvement is really a cop out. It's not only lazy and defeatist, but it'll violate the legacy principle, which is one of the principles I argued we all can agree on trying to achieve and get out of life. And by violating the legacy principle, we end up passing on a trashed planet as our legacy to our children and their children (assuming the human race can survive that long).

So with that, I think the sustainable paradigm might seem like utopia right now, but it's totally achievable if we want it to happen.

Indeed, our survivability depends on our desire to make a change for the better so that alone should motivate us to take action now - whether it's by improving our lifestyles, voting for proponents of sustainability, shunning unsustainable products, etc. Heck, even encouraging discussion about this topic (the whole purpose of this article in the first place) is a step in the right direction.

Are you up for the challenge?

The Differences Between Using an Insurance Agency As Opposed to Direct Carriers

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Most agencies embrace a simple approach that involves hearing out their client's needs and then finding the most creative solution available through the access they provide to numerous markets. They work in the interest of the people as opposed to working for one company directly. A direct insurance company can only provide the product they sell, meaning they cannot offer you any comparisons because they do not have access to any markets for insurance other than their own. Consumers do not realize how much competition there is for insurance products such as car insurance, homeowners insurance and commercial insurance. The competition is fierce especially in California due to the Department of Insurance maintaining open markets for everyone.

A lot of insurance agencies do not attempt to be all things to clients, just because they might not offer business products, but only auto insurance. Their success has been earned by consistently delivering quality service and excellent results. They understand each opportunity to represent their partners is a commitment that puts their interests first. A reliable insurance agency will recommend you to top companies who can help you with any of your needs if they cannot provide the service themselves.

In addition, if an insurance producer's expertise is evident in many ways, you will experience the advantage from the very beginning. From the way they ask questions, to clear and simple presentation of documents and coverage. They will offer you different options but never force you to buy something you refuse to obtain. This will assure the best available coverage as well as pricing.

Most successful and educated insurance professionals will offer exclusive insurance policies that take most of the worries out of your concerns. Many insurance companies give a mistaken impression that a very legit exposure will be covered by your insurance policy that is already in place, when in fact; you do not have the coverage you may require. When in question, simply ask. There should be no maybe's or uncertainty. This is insurance- plain and simple.

Some exclusive insurance agencies have appointments with extremely competitive companies that provide broad coverage, flexible underwriting and proven expertise. With these types of companies, no other company can touch your rate. There is no competition because this is as broad as it gets. What that specific carrier specializes in is pretty much what their main focus is on so no other company can compete with. These are just some of the positive sides of using a full service insurance agency as opposed to sticking with one direct carrier.

Reinventing Real Estate, Part 2: Online and Empowered Consumers Are Taking Charge and Paying Less

Demanding consumers

"Internet buyers tend to be better informed on market conditions and better prepared to act on the home they want when they start working with a realtor. Luckily for realtors, these changes don't necessarily hurt, as long as they are able to adjust to the new relationship and realize that the new-style buyers value speed and efficiency over guidance when finding a home."

- E-marketer, Internet Home Buyers Changing the House Rules

Thanks to the Internet and other technological innovations, more real estate information is freely available than ever before. As a result, consumers are demanding new choices, improved services, faster transactions and lower prices. According to a recent NAR survey, the number of sellers stating that they didn't want to pay a sales commission fee rose from 46 percent in 2003 to 61 percent in 2004. In 2004, 23 percent of Florida home sellers opted to sell independently without an agent, up from 14 percent in 2003 and nearly double the 14 percent national average, according to Planet Realtor.

And Web-enabled consumers are demanding a high digital IQ when working with real estate professionals. In addition to being well-versed on their own industry-specific technology, real estate professionals now are expected to utilize laptops, mobile phones, digital cameras, personal digital assistants and global positioning systems to keep pace with Internet buyers and sellers.

Downward pressure

"If consumers are going to do their own home-shopping online, they expect to save some money, just as they would for using the self-service lane. That's why they are susceptible to online discount brokers and the new affinity companies that are promoting lower commissions if only the consumers will use their agents. These business models promote the idea to consumers that they ought to be paying less money in commissions."

Realty Times Columnist Blanche Evans

Traditional real estate commissions, typically around six percent of a home's selling price, are facing downward pressure from consumers and competition. Some consumers claim traditional real estate commissions don't reflect:

- Today's home prices. Years ago, when median-priced homes sold for $25,000, real estate commissions were typically five percent, or $1,250. Today, with South Florida median home prices around $300,000, the cost of a six percent full-service real estate commission becomes $18,000. Some brokers even charge additional fees to cover administrative costs. When you consider that today's average homeowner sells a home every five to seven years, real estate commissions can dramatically impact your personal savings and net worth.

- Owner equity. When selling properties, most homeowners calculate the cost of selling as a portion of sales price, though the commissions are paid out of owner equity. (Equity is the difference between the value of your property and amount of mortgages owed.) Consider this example: You decide to sell a property for $250,000 in which you hold 10 percent equity, or $25,000. After paying a six percent commission of $15,000, you are left with $10,000 before any applicable closing costs. In this example, the $15,000 commission is six percent of the selling price, but 60 percent of the $25,000 equity.

- Services performed. Under today's commission structure, selling a $100,000 house at six percent typically costs $6,000, while selling a $500,000 house costs $30,000. Does selling the more expensive home really require five times more effort? Your cost is the same whether the agent spends one hour or 100 hours marketing your home. This is one reason many real estate consumers find fee-for-service real estate so appealing.
Developing alternatives

"Consumers want what they want, when they want it and will gravitate to the most cost-effective source to obtain it. Why? Because our "one-size-fits-all" approach to working with sellers and buyers is archaic and won't allow consumers to access various segments of help they need in a timely fashion. That's why .com Web start-ups are finding a receptive audience in real estate consumers and why for-sale-by-owners are burgeoning."

Julie Garton-Good, Author of "Real Estate a la Carte: Selecting the Services You Need, Paying What They're Worth"

Until recently, you have had few practical alternatives to the traditional full-service, full-commission real estate transaction with a broker. Most sellers paid a single commission fee for a full range of real estate services, whether they needed them or not. Now traditional real estate agencies face the challenge of identifying new services that have value to today's sophisticated online and empowered consumers.

One result is an "unbundling" of traditional one-size-fits-all real estate services for consumers who want more control over real estate transactions and their associated costs. If you're willing to take on some tasks traditionally performed by agents and brokers, you could receive lower transaction costs. You might benefit from the following emerging alternatives:


"Consumers want assistance from real estate professionals, but don't want to pay for it in the form of traditional commissions," says a la Carte real estate Pioneer Julie Garton-Good. Garton-Good has been preaching the fee-for-services gospel for more than 20 years. As the name implies, you can choose which tasks you feel comfortable performing and hire qualified real estate professionals to do the rest. Many traditional real estate brokerages are beginning to offer a more menu-based service plan. For example, you may not mind listing your home and holding open houses, but you may want assistance with contracts and closings.

One-stop shopping

In response to dwindling margins and the rising costs of technology and lead generation, some real estate companies are attempting to combine traditional and Web-based services to provide consumers a single source for all their real estate needs. One-stop shopping sites generally provide or partner with lenders, insurers, title companies, real estate attorneys and others to facilitate all aspects of buying and selling. In addition, some sites are adding home-improvement and related services to stay in touch with consumers between buying and selling transactions.

Web-based discounters

Although many Web-based real estate companies flamed out in the dotcom era, scores of new companies have emerged to take their place. By offering targeted services such as flat-fee MLS listings, buyer rebates and AVM tools, these sites are appealing to independent buyers and sellers who prefer to take a more active role in transactions. In addition to listings, some sites also offer how-to articles and advice for those who choose to go it alone.
Tradition + technology + turbulence = opportunities

So, given the trends, changes and ongoing industry evolution, what can independent buyers, sellers and investors expect in this new era of real estate?

o The Web and other technologies will continue to evolve and transform the $1.3 trillion real-estate industry. Technology will continue to reduce the time, expense and complexity of manual processes, and increasingly sophisticated search and valuation tools will play a more strategic role.

o Free and low-cost real estate resources will continue to be available and even multiply on the Web. In real estate, knowledge truly is power. Consumers will try to use their power to gain more control of the real estate process and subsequently expect to be compensated in the form of reduced and fee-for-service commissions.

o The role of traditional real estate brokerages will evolve as Web-enabled consumers become more knowledgeable. This likely will trigger some restructuring and consolidation of traditional brokerages, but will also drive the development of innovative new practices targeting online and empowered consumers. Real estate professionals will focus more on promoting their local knowledge and industry expertise, while consumers will perform some buying and selling tasks on their own.

o Traditional real estate commissions and profitability levels will continue to face downward pressure from various sources. The future will be profitable for brokerages that are able to extend their core expertise of neighborhood and industry knowledge into flexible new consumer-centric offerings.

o The traditional high-touch, full-service real estate agency is evolving, not disappearing. Real estate professionals who provide exceptional service and value to their customers will always be in demand.

You now can find more real estate knowledge, tools and resources on the Web than ever before, enabling you to buy and sell with increased confidence. For real estate professionals, reinventing the industry means making hard decisions, changing processes and managing new opportunities. But for consumers, reinvention in real estate is a winner, hands-down.

Learn more at http://www.homekeys.net

Forts and Palaces Are Incredible Attractions of a Rajasthan Heritage Tour

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rajasthan is the heritage land where one can witness the legacy of royal saga scattered around in the form of battle scarred forts, royal palaces, exotic wildlife sanctuaries, heritage hotels, adventure sports activities and beauty of desert landscapes. It is the land of Kings and Queens where one can experience the charm and glory of feudal traditions which is still prevalent amidst forts and palaces.

Scores of tourists prefer Rajasthan Heritage Tour Packages so that they can witness the best of royal legacies leftover by royal dynasties. Rajasthan Heritage Tours give tourists an opportunity to witness some of the best of Rajasthan attractions. Some of the world renowned attractions of Rajasthan Tour Packages are:

Rajasthan Forts:

Forts of Rajasthan are one of the best ways to experience the royalty of this place. It is the land of highest numbers of forts in the world which can be seen round the state. These forts are known for their architectural beauty which not only served as royal residence but also a protected many kingdoms from invaders and attackers. The Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur is among the finest forts famous for its imposing structure over 125 meters above rocky cliffs. It is spread over an area of 5 sq. km and can be accessed through seven gates. The Chittaurgarh Fort is among the other well-known forts of Rajasthan which is situated on a 180 meter high hill in the Chittor District. This fort is known for its majestic construction and is an architectural wonder that captivates visitor's attentions. Some of the other well-known Rajasthan Forts are Amber, Jaigarh Fort, Junagadh (Bikaner) and Taragarh.

Rajasthan Palaces:

Rajasthan palaces are renowned worldwide for their magnificent construction, elegant interiors, beautiful sculptures and intricate design. Most of the palaces in Rajasthan were built inside the forts complexes but some are also made out the forts. These palaces are the example of royal comforts and eloquence of luxury of the royal dynasties. The Lake Palace is among the most beautiful and romantic palaces in the world arising out of the azure waters of the Pichola Lake. This palace is famous for its 83 luxury rooms known for its design and decorations. The other renowned palace is Hawa Mahal known for its five storied pyramid-shaped facade. This palace has 953 small windows, popularly known as "Jharokha" which are decorated with tiny lattice work. Some of the other famous palaces in Rajasthan are City Palace (Udaipur), Umaid Bhavan Palace (Jodhpur), City Palace (Jaipur) and City Palace (Jaipur).

Rajasthan Wildlife Sanctuaries:

Rajasthan is known for its vivid and vibrant wildlife sanctuaries which nurture some of the exotic and rarest breed of flora and fauna. Scores of tourists prefers wildlife tour so that they can witness the captivating beauty of wild species. The Ranthambore National Park located in the Sawai Madhopur District is known for the high-density of Royal Bengal Tigers and several species of wild animals. Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is an avifauna sanctuary which lures scores of nature as well as bird lovers from various parts of the globe. Because of its exotic and vibrant collection of 230 bird species this place is declared as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Some of the other famous wildlife sanctuaries and national parks are Sariska National Park, Sajjangarh, Kumbhalgarh and Mount Abu Sanctuary.

Commercial Real Estate

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The commercial real estate business is definitely picking up, and now may be a good time to invest. In 2004, prices of commercial real estate properties rose exponentially - 26 percent for apartment complexes, 21 percent for industrial properties, 14 percent for retail properties and six percent for office buildings.

If you're thinking about investing in commercial real estate, but you don't know where to start -- read on for some guidelines.

Commercial real estate defined

The first step to buying commercial real estate property is knowing what you are buying. Commercial real estate refers to any real property, excluding a dwelling, or property with one to four dwelling units used for residential purposes. The phrase "commercial real estate"" consists of (but is not limited to) properties used for industrial, commercial, medical or educational purposes, and properties with four or more units used for residential purposes.

Find help buying commercial real estate properties

Buying commercial real estate can get very tricky, if you are not well versed in the real estate business. Do no t attempt to do it by yourself - seek the help of professionals who can help you through the process of finding the perfect property, taking care of the paperwork and closing the deal.

A professional commercial real estate brokers are specially trained to handle commercial real estate transactions that are very different from regular real estate deals. A professional commercial real estate broker can also inform you of prime commercial real estate that are for sale. Institutional and private investors often 'secretly' sell off parts of their commercial property portfolios, and a commercial property broker can let you in on this insider information.

How Lukewarm Insurance Professionals Can Take The Social Media Plunge

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The insurance industry is finally warming up to social media. Many agencies, companies, and insurance professionals have already established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. They are engaging their target markets while growing their follower, fan, and connection counts.

Facebook seems to be the favorite for many major insurance carriers. According to the Customer Respect Group's SocialEyes report, USAA has more than 137,000 Facebook fans. Farmers Insurance is the runner-up with 129,000 fans, and Geico has just under 100,000 fans. Additionally, New York Life recently expanded its networks on both Twitter and Facebook after focusing expressly on social media marketing.

Furthermore, social media and its uses are evolving. It's no longer just about marketing, it's now also used within underwriting and claims processes. Underwriters use social media to learn more about prospective policyholders. Claims professionals check social networking sites to monitor claimant social activity and uncover potential fraud. And for companies with local branches, there's Hearsay Social - a new social media platform that is helping big brands such as Farmers Insurance manage and monitor customer communications on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Despite the insurance industry warm-up, some insurance organizations have yet to integrate social media into their marketing mix. Some don't have the time or budget for it and others don't believe posting or tweeting will boost their insurance business.

Should you take the social media plunge?

I believe you should get your feet wet because social media is too big of a trend to ignore any longer. However, you probably won't see measurable ROI for a while, so don't divert insurance marketing dollars from proven lead generation activities. Fortunately, you can test the waters without spending a lot of money. If you're an agency serving local clients, Facebook is a great medium for promoting community events and sponsorships. All types of insurance organizations should consider LinkedIn. With more than 100 million users, LinkedIn is a great way to build business and branding through connections.

Get started by joining LinkedIn and setting up your profile, making sure to complete as many fields as possible. If you're not sure what to say, browse other profiles of like-minded professionals or use the services of an insurance copywriter. Then, start joining LinkedIn Insurance Groups to initiate and participate in discussions. You can even create a LinkedIn company page to showcase your insurance products, services, and associated recommendations.

Real Estate Agents Prosper With a Virtual Assistant On-Board

Monday, September 16, 2013

In the field of real estate, many agents find themselves so busy showing properties that they are unable to devote attention to the small details of their businesses.

While showing properties is the primary way of selling a property, all real estate agents know the need for high quality "behind the scenes" organization. Without this aspect of a real estate agent's business, profits will not reach their full potential.

With a virtual real estate assistant, many of these smaller items are taken care of with efficient precision. Real estate agents can relax knowing that their businesses are running smoothly while they are away from their desks showing property.

In fact, with the help of a virtual real estate assistant, real estate agents will be able to show even more properties and generate more income.

A virtual real estate agent will promote one of the most important aspects of business: customer service. Many real estate agents intend to send thank you cards to customers, open house attendees, holiday cards and follow-up emails to potential clients. However, their busy schedules do not allow for such add-ons that make for a prosperous business.

Other customer and employee service needs that can be handled by a virtual real estate assistant are purchasing and sending closing gifts, creating and mailing Just Listed and Just Sold postcards, creating CD tours for listings and planning events for an office or team yearly meeting.

Virtual real estate assistants can also help with the organizational side of the real estate business. There are many tasks such as scheduling appointments and showings, general bookkeeping, transaction coordinating and creating an automated feedback system for showing agents that are crucial to a real estate agent.

More organizational tasks that can be handled by a virtual real estate agent are updating and making changes to web sites, creating monthly Market Absorption Reports for listing appointments and creating monthly CMAs on current listings.

If someone such as a qualified virtual real estate assistant is on staff, the real estate agent is free to build his or her business in other ways. Also, many real estate agents are not comfortable with the organizational side of their businesses and feel more relaxed knowing these important tasks are being attended to.

All of the above-mentioned tasks are indeed crucial to the success of a real estate agent. Therefore, a real estate agent must know that his or her virtual real estate assistant is qualified to handle these important duties.

When looking for a virtual real estate assistant, it is important to discover the number of years a potential assistant has worked for top producing real estate agents. Also, if a virtual real estate assistant is going to handle event planning, he or she needs to have expertise and experience in that area as well.

Virtual real estate assistants should also have multimedia experience and training, including a working knowledge of Microsoft Office software. Other computer skills should include Adobe Photo Shop, Paint Shop Pro and web site updating.

Of course, checking references is imperative when hiring a virtual real estate assistant. Knowing a real estate agent that a potential assistant has served is always a bonus. Knowing the person giving the reference can give a real estate agent peace of mind when hiring a virtual real estate assistant.

A virtual real estate assistant who is efficient and self-motivated is a priceless tool for a real estate agent. Knowing that customer service and organization are in top order allows a real estate agent to focus on selling properties rather than worrying about the condition of business while away from the office.

Nemours Mansion and Gardens - Wilmington, Delaware

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Just outside Wilmington, Delaware, lies the largest mansion every built in the state. Nemours Mansion and Gardens, residence of the DuPont family, contains five floors of living space. At more than 47,000 square feet, the residence is a acre in size just under its roof. Adding to the beauty and size of Nemours are its grounds, extending another 220 acres, which feature a formal French garden modeled after Versailles.

Nemours Mansion

Following a $39 million restoration completed in early 2008, the Nemours Mansion and Gardens has been restored to its original glory, a mansion in the style of a Louis XVI French chateau. Originally the design of Carrere and Hastings (architects famed for the Frick Mansion in New York, as well as the New York Public Library) and built by Smyth and Son of Wilmington, Delaware, in 1909-1910, the Nemours Mansion's 102 rooms are filled with French furnishings from the 18th century, as well as a stunning collection of artwork.

Included among those artists on exhibit at Nemours are British artist J.M.W. Turner and American artist James Peale, as well as American sculptor Frederick Remington. Other art objects at Nemours include work by Tiffany and Limoges. Added to these treasures are many more tapestries, statues, paintings (some dating back as far as the 15th century), and oriental carpets, which are incorporated into the mansion to give it the feel of a home, not a gallery.

Nemours Grounds

With the largest French-styled gardens in the United States, Nemours is a very special place. Following from le Petit Trianon design (the gardens at Versailles beloved by Marie Antoinette), the Nemours Gardens may be even more beloved than the mansion. Dominating the garden is the statue "Achievement," which rises over the gardens' maze. Designed by Henri Crenier and covered in gold leaf, this sparkling statue draws the eye to the gardens' center.

Another dazzling spot in the gardens comes from the reflecting pool, set amidst the gardens' lush landscaping. Beyond the formal French gardens lie the Brandywine Valley woodlands, with indigenous wildlife including red-tailed hawks, white-tailed deer, and fox. The original Nemours Mansion and Gardens was run to be self-sufficient, with its own orchards, kitchen garden, greenhouses, and cattle.

Legacy of Alfred I. DuPont

Nemours Mansion and Gardens was part of the legacy of Alfred I. DuPont (creator of what is today known as the DuPont Company), who named it for the town in France where his great, great grandfather lived. In addition to the Nemours Mansion and Gardens in Delaware, DuPont left a generously endowed Nemours Foundation, which focuses on children's health and includes the nearby Alfred I. DuPont Hospital (a working children's hospital). Upholding his belief that, "it is the duty of everyone in the world to do what is in his power to alleviate human suffering," the charitable Nemours Foundation today works toward the goal of improving the lives of children.

Touring Nemours Mansion and Garden

Today, the only way to visit the mansion and its grounds are via guided tours, which run May through October (as well as some special holiday tours on a very limited basis in November and December). Tours of the mansion last about two hours and are followed by a bus tour of the gardens. Visitors are expected to arrive at the Visitor Center fifteen minutes before the tours begin.


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