Monday, April 25, 2016

Pssst, buddy. Want a great deal? Huh?

I get tickled every time I see a certain home improvement referral service advertised on TV.  They tout how they do all the vetting for you and can without hesitation say their select tradesmen are the best...AND THEIR REFERRAL SERVICE IS ALWAYS FREE!  

Free, huh?  So who is paying for all those TV ads that air every 10 minutes?

Here's the truth:  In virtually* every transaction, only ONE participant is paying money....the buyer.  The seller is receiving money.  No doubt the service provider is paying the referral service a fee, which is rolled into the price they are quoting you.  YOU are paying for the referral service, I don't care what the ad says.  It is NOT free!

The same for an electric service provider in my area who advertises "free night and weekend electricity" for people who sign up for this special program.  My advice:  Quietly back yourself into a corner and hold on to your wallet.  They just coincidentally fail to mention that the per-kilowat-hour-price for the hours they DO charge for is twice as high as their normal rate.

How about the furniture company who says if you buy this weekend they will pay your sales tax!  Sweet, huh?  And people no doubt camp out all night in order to be the first in line to get cheap furniture while the retailer PAYS the sales tax for them.

Remember, only one party in a transaction is PAYING....the buyer.  Anything the seller is "giving" you for free or "paying for" on your behalf is figured back into the deal as a "cost of doing business", just like rent and insurance and payroll.

I have a challenge for medical science:  Will someone please look into this phenomenon and figure out what happened to our common sense gene?  I'm pretty sure we all used to have one, but for some reason most of us have lost ours.

*  The exception to the "only the buyer pays in a transaction" statement is a true distress sale, and they are rare.  The perpetual "going out of business" sale does not qualify.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Screwed again!

I think Donald Trump has stumbled on to something.  His current heartburn is that, according to him, he's getting screwed out of his rightful Republican presidential nomination.  Practically speaking, he's right.  Technically speaking, he just got snookered.

The Donald is pissed because he has won the popular vote hands down, yet because of the way each state Republican Party writes their rules...and they are all different...they can award him fewer convention delegates than his popular vote count would suggest he should receive. 

Ted Cruz, evil as I believe him to be, is NOT stupid.  He knows how to play the game to get what he wants.  And it's this corrupt game that Donald Trump has exposed.

Us common folks have naively believed until now that the majority ruled, that our elections were based on "one man, one vote".  But now we find out that party nominating processes are not "elections" in the proper, legal sense, but are just a game a bunch of powerful, rich (mostly white) guys play to further feather their nests.  They can legally do this because they say the state primaries/caucuses/conventions are NOT elections.  The rules of fair play only apply to the official election on the second Tuesday in November.  Donald Trump obviously didn't read that memo.

They will NOT give us a candidate we want*, but only the one they want us to haveTrump has exposed how the Republicans operate, but the Democrats no doubt have things rigged, too.  (Do "Super Delegates" sound fair to you?  It's just their way of denying The People's Candidate if they feel they can't control him/her.)

So why can't we just tell both parties to go f--k themselves and then nominate someone as a third party candidate who will truly represent us?  Because again, they have rigged the system and made it virtually impossible for a third party candidate to get their name on the ballot in all 50 states.  They have a monopoly, and they intend to keep it that way.  All the hoops a third party candidate would have to jump through, with each state (controlled by one or the other of the established parties) setting their own rules, is by their design impossibly Byzantine.

The parties only want to nominate candidates they feel are "one of them".  But this year, thanks to Donald Trump and to a lesser extent Bernie Sanders, outsiders are threatening their privileged positions, and both parties are out of desperation exposing their sly little built-in "fail safes".

Our Founding Fathers are no doubt looking down on us and thinking all their brilliant work is now officially down the drain.  And they would be right!


* Hypothetically speaking.  I am in no way intending to endorse Donald Trump.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter everyone

 We all seem to "talk the talk" on Easter,
now let's try "walking the walk" the rest of the year.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Easy LIfe

I catch a lot of hell for being a long-time homebuilder who lives in an apartment.  Why would I do that?  "Practice what you preach" they say.  

Well, here's one reason.  We've had several damaging hail storms in the DFW area in the past few weeks, the most recent being just last night, and it was a doozie!

From about 8pm on the only thing on local TV was storm coverage.  North Dallas and the northern suburbs received golf ball-to-baseball sized hail.  In many areas the ground was inches deep in looked like an ice storm in the middle of winter, yet it was in the 80's just hours earlier.

Skylights are tougher than they look, but they DO have their limits.  When they break, it's time to call the fire department for help.  (Thank God for our firefighters, but honestly it wouldn't have dawned on me to call the fire department after a hail storm.)

Now many people will be consumed for the next three or four months calling and being put on hold for hours at a time dealing with their insurance company, arguing with the adjuster, finding (and waiting in line) for a reputable roofer to put things back right, then having to deal with the mortgage lien holder (the bank) to get their check released.  The same goes with damage to autos, dealing with insurance and then body shops.  Ugh!  What a hassle.  Been there, done that!

Living simple has it's advantages I'm tellin' ya.  My cars were safe in a parking garage when the storm hit, and our roof, if it was damaged, isn't my roof.  Let management deal with it. They deal with the landscape maintenance, the pool, the elevator and fire sprinkler inspections, and the painting, etc, too.  I just write a check.  :)

I'll take "The Easy Life" for $500, Alex.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Do as I say, not as I do

Surely there must be a special place in hell for those who hold up a Bible in one hand, quote Scripture, and then proceed to rip people off.  Christians seem to be especially susceptible to the theatrics the TV-evangelist-types use to gain our trust.

Here's a little tip....don't just listen to what they say, but WATCH WHAT THEY DO.

I mean, how could anyone doubt the sincerity of someone who quotes the Bible?

Surely they wouldn't lie to us, right? 
*love the tears, Tammy*

Which brings us to....

Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is running a hell-of-a-race (pun intended) to become the next President of the United States.  I've watched him rise up (pun intended) as a political creature and take him very seriously.  He's extremely smart, cunning, ruthless, focused, a champion debater, and a master of theatrics.  Half truths spew out of his mouth.

He is the son of a Cuban immigrant who has become in some quarters a prominent Christian evangelist, and he lets us know about it every chance he can. 

Cruz has studied the Tea Party from its inception, has identified their hot buttons, and has used them brilliantly as his vehicle to power.  Of all the original Tea Party candidates, he's the last one standing.  His road map to the White House was to sweep the deep South, rich with evangelicals, and ride that momentum onward and upward.  (They saw right through him, however, causing a major hiccup to his plans. Oops!  Desperate times now call for desperate measures.)

I've watched Ted Cruz for a few years now and found that his sleazy actions don't match his pious words. When he ran for the Senate he won by picking opponent after another, his final victim being the sitting Lt. Governor of Texas.  When caught red-handed he will launch into typical politician double-speak, praising God all the while.  A politician lying is pretty much a non-event these days...we almost expect it, actually...but most don't masquerade behind a Bible, quoting Scripture the whole time.

Case in point:  Several months ago on the day of the Iowa caucus the Cruz campaign spread the rumor that Dr. Ben Carson was dropping out, and asked his supporters to switch their support to Cruz.  Later, of course, Cruz said it was just a boo-boo by one of his staffers and apologized.  Trouble is, by all accounts Cruz is a micro-manager.  No detail gets past him.  

He also sent out a very official looking mailer, so official looking the Iowa Secretary of State had to publicly declare it was NOT from his office, pointing out by name on a precinct-by-precinct basis (which means it was meticulously planned) who had a poor voting record.  To make amends, Cruz shamed many of them into caucusing for him.  Were these dirty tricks enough to give him his slim Iowa victory?  We'll never know.

And now there are only three...Trump, Cruz, and Kasich.  It's crunch time, winner take all, and I look for Cruz to dig ever deeper into his bag of dirty tricks.  No lie will be too outlandish, no slander will be too wrong.  

With most candidates you know exactly what you're getting.  When they turn out to be crooks, we barely even give it a yawn.  Not so with Ted Cruz.  He is NOT what he professes to be.  Watch him.  Don't "TrustTed".  He's dangerous.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Turn out the lights, the party's over....

Watching our government operate these days is like watching a slow-motion train wreck.

Ever since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away the Republicans and Democrats have been dragging up old videos of each other saying they would not have hearings or take a vote on any Supreme Court nominee until after the next election.  One side hopes their party will gain control of the White House and they can fill the vacancy with one of "their own", and the party in power wants to confirm one of "their own" to the court in case they lose the White House in the next election.  What a bunch of CRAP!

Did you ever see a statue of Lady Justice?  She is supposed to personify the moral force in our judicial system.   Her attributes are a blindfold, a balance, and a sword. 

Why can't our political parties understand that Supreme Court Justices are NOT supposed to be Left or Right leaning?  There should be no "litmus tests" to see if they are pro or anti anything.  Justice should be blind, hence Lady Justice's blindfold.  She/they should make a decision based solely on the facts presented, without bias.  No exceptions.

I know nothing about the candidate President Obama has nominated to replace Justice Scalia, but from what I've heard and read he seems to be a widely respected judicial scholar....until now.  Now the Republicans are saying they want to wait until their man (Big Donnie Trump?) is elected so they can put another conservative on the High Court.  They don't want "blind" justice, or "fair" justice, they want "their" justice.

Our Congress betrayed us years ago, the office of the President is about to be perverted, and now the Supreme Court is slowly but surely becoming hopelessly partisan, too.  Thanks Founding Fathers....we've had a nice run, but I'm afraid I hear the Fat Lady singing.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My home town

OK, so I'm not fan of the NFL, aka The National Felon League.  *heehee*


If you were to try and give a prospective new resident to your town/city some idea of what to expect, what would you tell them?  Here's what I would tell people about Dallas:

First of all, when someone (me) says "Dallas", they usually mean Dallas and Ft Worth and suburbs....and there are LOTS of suburbs.  They total about 6.5 million people, and when you try to drive across it, you'll find it's just one large mass, generally with no open spaces between cities.  Because of all the open acreage in every direction, I think we invented "urban sprawl".  The area really began to boom back in the 1980's when the old, cold northern states seemed to hit an economic wall and packed up and moved south.  Because of this sudden influx of humanity, and the building boom necessary to accommodate them, most of north Texas is new and modern and very clean.  

Cities seem to grow north, and we're no exception.  The area south of downtown Dallas is generally old, not very affluent, and minority.  There is little new growth there, and unemployment and crime are above average.  North Dallas (including suburbs), is just the opposite.  Fair?  No, but it is what it is.

Our economy has become very diversified in recent years...we're no longer dependent on the oil industry.  We do still have a large presence of petroleum industry headquarters/offices, but only a little natural gas drilling, and no oil drilling in our immediate area.  Basically we're a region of paper pushers...we have very little blue-collar manufacturing.

We do have LOTS of intermodal transportation and warehousing as we are right on the prime route into the US from Mexico and South/Latin America.  This, along with construction and burger flipping, provides jobs for the less well educated.

Basically we've become a magnet for high tech industry and money.  For example, Texas Instruments is HUGE here, along with an incredible number of companies who hire boatloads of techie types and scientists.  We also have lots of banker crooks, insurance companies, telecommunications, a large medical science industry, and aerospace.  And shopping...we put up retail centers and high-end malls like some cities put up gas stations.  Oh, oh...and restaurants.  No one here can cook, but we are great at making reservations.  I've heard it said we have four times as many restaurants per capita than does New York City.

Our cities have done a fairly good job of staying ahead of the growth, constantly building new highways.  Our mass transit system is expanding, but is still fairly modest compared to congested northern and European cities systems.

Our schools are generally suburban schools are sprouting like weeds.  Our public inner-city schools are actually pretty good, too, their abysmal test scores more due to lack of parental involvement and encouragement at home than poor educators in the classroom.  For higher education we offer SMU and TCU (both very pricey), the Universities of Texas at Dallas and Arlington, and North Texas (reasonably priced state universities), several other smaller, excellent private colleges, and a thriving community college system.

We're a populace who is very adept at conspicuous consumption (and maxing out credit cards)...big cars, big trucks, big houses, and big hair everywhere.  If it wasn't for pickup trucks and big SUV's, Chevy and Ford dealers would close shop.  By contrast, Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi dealers are thriving.  Thank Gawd for 96 month financing!  *wink*  And of course, I've managed to put food on the table for many years now by building McMansions, so thank you Big Spenders!

Yes, you can still see a few people walking around wearing cowboy boots and hats, much more so towards Ft Worth (which still touts their "Cowtown" heritage), but we've overwhelmingly embraced the 21st Century.  

Country music still reigns, but we also have a thriving Arts District.  

Not surprisingly considering our location, we have a large Hispanic population who IMO are by-and-large decent, hard working people.  Race relations are sometimes tense, but not explosive, in a 3-way power share between the Hispanics, African Americans, and Whites.  We also have many Asians and Indians who staff many of our high-tech companies.  I'm increasingly amazed to hear so many foreign languages spoken here...we've become quite cosmopolitan.

Our weather is great, or it sucks, depending on your point of view.  For those Yankees who have no use for cold weather and think "the hotter the better", Dallas is your place.  For this native Texian, hot sucks!  Our winters are mild (we don't have to shovel sunshine), and our spring and fall seasons are spectacular, but our summers are to be only tolerated, preferably while indoors.

We're very child oriented here.  Our kids are all heavily involved in sports, and our autos get lots of miles ferrying chirren back and forth to one practice or game after another, year 'round.  Been there, done that!  Here FOOTBALL RULES, with those other games that require balls *snicker* down the popularity list.  

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with our Dallas Cowboys...we love the home town team, but detest the ownership.

To see any pretty scenery you'll have to make your way to DFW International Airport, get on a plane, and go elsewhere.  Beaches or mountains are a days drive away, at least.  It's a great place to make money, but not so great for enjoying the outdoors.  It's so flat here you can watch your dog crawl under the fence and run away...for days.  

We have some nice recreational lakes, but they can get pretty crowded on weekends.  We have the usual NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL teams, all in some spectacular venues.  Just be sure to bring a sack full of large denomination bills if you want to buy a beer or a pizza.  OK, slight exaggeration.  For now at least, our cost of living is slightly below the national average.

Other miscellany:  Yes, we have lots of guns.  No, I haven't seen any open-carry of firearms yet.  Yes, the women are beautiful.  Yes, our Tex-Mex cuisine is the best.  It should be...we invented it!  Ditto for steak houses...we're big-time carnivores.  Our seafood is...meh.  Its freshness depends solely on how fast the truck can make the 300 mile drive north from the Gulf Coast. 

Yes, we are very polite and friendly...we still open doors for ladies, say please and thank you, sir and ma'am, and greet strangers we meet with a smile and a hello.  (Don't worry new Yankee residents, we aren't setting you up for a mugging.)  

Yes, you can still see cattle grazing on land worth $$$$$ per acre in the shadow of tall buildings.  That's so land owners can qualify for an agricultural tax exemption which can dramatically reduce property taxes.  No, we don't have a state income tax, but we do have steep property taxes, sales taxes, etc, and LOTS of "fees".   (Since our Tea Party politicians are loath to do anything but lower taxes, when they need more money they just tap into our wallets and call it a "fee".)  And no, I don't exaggerate when I write about our World-Class sleazy politicians.  I'm sure the ghost of LBJ is looking up and smiling.  :)

Now you know.  Welcome!