Saturday, June 30, 2012

Caption contest

Write a caption for this photo.  If you win you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're a Class A Smartass.  (Which is actually something to be very proud of.  ;)  Good luck!


Friday, June 29, 2012

Mixed signals

Does anyone understand basic economics these days?  I'm thinking "no".  Consider this:  People say they like the parts of Obamacare that eliminate the $1M lifetime cap on insurance company's liability, they like the part about removing pre-existing conditions as an excuse for denying coverage, they like the part about seniors saving on prescription drugs, they like being able to keep their kids on their policy until age 26....but they are vehemently opposed to the idea of requiring everyone to purchase health insurance (the individual mandate).  "It's just un-American.  The damn government has no business telling me what I have to do.  This is supposed to be a free country!"

How do people expect insurance companies to stay in business if they take on unlimited liability, cover all the sick and infirm, and give away Rx drugs if they don't take in a lot more money to cover these costs?  There are only 2 ways to get more money....raise premiums 300-400% (?) or broaden their base of insured by signing up all those healthy 20-somethings who think they're bullet-proof and don't need insurance.  

You know people aren't going to stand for dramatically higher insurance premiums, which leaves only the individual mandate as a viable way to increase cash flow.  You can't have the perks without paying for them.  There's no free lunch. This is NOT an endorsement of Obamacare per se, but it does at least start the discussion about what needs to be changed and how we're going to pay for it. 

You want to get health care costs down?  Try this....I guarantee it will work:  Repeal the Emergency Medical Treatment Act of 1986.  That's the law that requires hospitals to treat anyone who walks in for "emergency" care, whether they can pay for it or not.  Doing that would save BILLIONS (trillions?) of dollars.  I'd love to see a show of hands of all those who would turn away a mother with a sick child or the innocent victim of an accident or a violent crime.  You can't pick and choose between the truly needy and those who can afford insurance but are just having too much fun to bother buying it.  You're the "death squad".  Anyone....?


Thursday, June 28, 2012

I want a "do-over"

This has been one bear of a week.  And I don't mean a cute little cub rolling in the grass, but a big, nasty grizzly.  Hell-week actually began last Saturday when I woke up with a "crick" in my neck.  Is that just a southern term?  Anyway, it's just a stiff neck/pinched nerve caused by sleeping in an odd position.  

By Monday the pain had moved to the back of my left upper arm.  It's just a constant stabbing pain.  A "crick" is usually gone within a couple of days, but I'm beginning to think my body is rejecting my arm.  By Wednesday I threw in the towel and went to the doctor.  He gave me some codeine/acetaminophen to kill the pain, and some sort of muscle relaxer to relieve the pressure on the nerve.  The pain killer proved worthless, and so far the muscle relaxer hasn't done anything except relieve $$$ from my wallet.  

I think a bottle of scotch would have been more effective, and probably cheaper, too.  Plus, it's a steroid, which will no doubt disqualify me from participating in next month's Olympics.  Oh well, that's probably no big loss as I hadn't even begun training yet.   (I didn't want to peak too soon.) 

Want more?  On Monday I also had to pay the speeding ticket I got a couple lof weeks ago.  There goes the kid's inheritance!  Then I went to my car to go to work and found it had a dead battery.  By the time I got a jump, then drove to my mechanic's shop to get a new one (it still had some prorated warranty left) it was time to go home.  

Oh, and on Monday it was 106 degrees.  I used to say the day would come when I would be able to say adios to Texas' heat and move to cool, crisp Colorado.  Now my adopted next home state is on fire.  I guess my little nerve thing pales to what those people are going through.  Maybe I'd best just shut up and get on with it.  Y'all stay cool.  :)


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More insurance horror stories....

Ours was a "near miss".  In the spring of 2007 Kelly was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.  She had just started a new job, but her diagnosis came during the 90 day probationary period before her insurance became effective.  What to do?  Fortunately (?) she was a disabled veteran and was entitled to treatment through the VA.  To their credit, the Dallas VA immediately got her into surgery, then promptly  followed up with radiation and chemotherapy.  Their facilities are first class and the doctors are the residents and professors at the UT Southwestern Medical School.  She received excellent care, responded well, and is cancer-free today.  Without the VA we'd be many hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and probably bankrupt.  *whew*

Several weeks ago I was with K at the VA for her bi-annual check-up.  While she was being seen I began visiting with another veteran waiting his turn to see the oncologists.  He told me that he had been fighting cancer off-and-on for over 10 years.  He once owned a successful small business and had insurance for himself and his family.  When he was diagnosed with cancer he utilized his insurance for treatment.  Trouble was, his policy had the standard $1M lifetime policy limit.  Within just a few years he had maxed out his $1M limit and his insurer said, "No more.  Bye-bye."

No longer able to work and completely uninsurable he went through his savings and eventually sold (or lost) his home, and he and his wife began living in a small motor home.   His wife worked but on one income they barely got by.  Being a veteran and now destitute he went to the VA for help, which is where I met up with him.  

I think it's safe to say that his story could be anyone in middle class America today.  You can have a good job, insurance, savings, and do all the right things, but a single catastrophic illness or accident can immediately and permanently condem you to poverty.  That's why I say something MUST be done to address problems like this.  I don't have an answer, but we must all pull our heads out of our asses the sand and face it. 

Here's an idea:  You've heard of not-for-profit hospitals?  Why not have not-for-profit insurance companies...sort of like co-ops?  They could be in the market along side traditional insurance companies just like member-owned credit unions compete with banks.  Does anything like that exist today?


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Healthcare talk

Any day now the U S Supreme Court will hand down their decision declaring all or parts of "Obamacare" to be unconstitutional or allowing it to stand as-is.  Regardless of the ruling, about 1/2 of the people are going to be unhappy.  Me?....I'm somewhere right in the middle.  I don't think the system we have now is working well enough to remain unchallenged, but I don't have an alternative to offer, either.  If you don't have insurance or can't get it, you know how dire the situation is.  If you're one of the lucky few who have insurance AND deep enough pockets that would enable you to absorb any after-insurance expenses, you obviously don't see the problem, but you should never forget.....things can change in a hurry.  

I have a friend who at age 61 had double-bypass surgery.  He had insurance and could easily handle the co-pay, but the next year he was laid off his upper management job of 25+ years, with his termination package giving him just one more year of company insurance after that.  (His deep suspicion was his company wanted him gone due to his health liability.)  With his medical and family history he couldn't buy health insurance on the open market.  He bought into a state "last-resort" policy, but that soon proved unaffordable so he went "naked" until Medicare kicked in at age 65.  Every ache and pain sent him into panic mode.  He never thought he'd find himself in that position.

On the other hand I don't have confidence in our government to manage much of anything efficiently.  The Obamacare bill is...what...2,700 pages long?  Can anyone really, REALLY understand it?  I know the UK, Canada, Australia, and some others have universal government-run programs that seem to have a lot of good points, but they also have some well-documented problems, too, such as the fact they're breaking the bank. 

Then there's the matter of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986.  This law requires almost all hospitals to treat anyone walking in seeking medical attention.  It was meant to cover true emergencies, but now is being used to treat colds, the flu, etc.  Hospitals and doctors have billions of dollars in un-collectable write-offs.  Did you know that >60% of bankruptcies are due to medical bills people can't pay?  And that 78% of those are by people who had insurance but couldn't pay for all those things not covered by their insurance?  And besides the obvious hit to doctors and hospitals, bankruptcy is a drain on our economy in a bigger sense, too.  Those who have gone through it find it difficult or impossible to buy a house, a car....pretty much anything that requires credit.  These are potential big-ticket consumers who will NOT be helping grow our economy.

Just some thoughts for you to consider.  IMO, regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, SOMETHING needs to be done about healthcare in America.  I wish there was a simple answer.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fun weekend...

Saturday morning K & I took Luke to a pet expo at Fair Park in Dallas.  There were agility demos, obedience trainers, different breed rescue organizations, and lots more.  Luke did well considering he was by far the smallest dog there.  He stood his ground most of the time, except when he went nose-to-nose with a giant Bernese Mountain Dog.  It was hard to get a good photo of him as he was moving so fast:

" big chance!  I can sneak up on these two babes and get a sniff and they'll never even know I was there."

We left there and went by the big Farmers Market in downtown Dallas where I bought some locally grown cantelopes, tomatoes, and a watermelon.  I don't remember fruit and tomatoes ever tasting this sweet!  

Today was just a lazy one, spending all our time indoors because the temps broke into triple digits.  We had lunch at Jason's Deli, then stopped in to REI to see what was new there.  I found my kayak:

Look....a seat.  A REAL SEAT!!  I would have bought it except for 3 things; no way to get it home, no place to store it if I got it home, and they kept pestering me for $1,000.  :(

Now we're back home, probably in for the day.  I can see some sangria in my future, but besides that....?  Hope you had a good weekend, too.  :)


Friday, June 22, 2012

The perfect storm

As we've already established in my last post, the financiers (da banks) had been given the government go-ahead to essentially do whatever they wanted, with the regulators asleep at the wheel.  Here's where the plot thickens:

For years prospective homebuyers went to a mortgage originator in their area for a loan, typically a small independent storefront operation or a bank or Savings and Loan.  The loan was made to a credit-worthy buyer, the loan company made a fee for their service rendered, and the loan was sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.  (These were government spin-off companies who had implied government backing.)  Fannie/Freddie would in turn pay back the local mortgage originator who would loan it again, make another fee, and sell it, too, to Fannie/Freddie, on and on. Fannie/Freddie would bundle these and sell them to investors world-wide who were anxious to own rock-solid investments in the can't-lose American housing market.

By the early 90's there arose a scheme by Fannie/Freddie and the politicians (of BOTH parties) to expand the number of people who owned a piece of "The American Dream". The financiers made money off the deal, and the politicians gained votes back home, claiming they were the ones who were bettering peoples lives.  Now given a regulatory green-light, the banks wanted in too.  (Fannie/Freddie had limits on the dollar value of the homes they could buy.  The banks didn't.)  The word went out to the loan originators to make more loans and the banks would buy them.  Before long all credit-worthy people who wanted a house had a house, so they lowered the qualifications for credit, income, etc to bring more buyers in. The loan originators pretty much looked the other way on everything because they made lots of up-front money to get loans signed and on to the banks.  They didn't care if the loans were no good because by the time the buyers defaulted they were way down the line and were somebody else's problem.

At the same time the bankers were hiring brilliant mathematicians to play with the numbers.  Instead of packaging and selling 100 homes to investors, why not slice each home loan into a thousand pieces, then sell each investor 1% of 10,000 houses from all over the country?  Investors love diversification.  It also made it easier to slip in some of those sub-prime loans (buyers with poorer quality credit).  Actually a lot of those sub-prime loans. Heck, why not bundle home loans with some commercial business loans, too.  More diversification...yea!  Everything was bundled with everything...the banks became very creative!  Foreign banks saw what was going on and jumped in, too.  Ireland, the UK, and Spain among others had large property bubbles also.  Things just took off.

But to make this work investors wanted assurance that these extremely difficult to understand CDO's (Collateralized Debt Obligations, the homes being the collateral) were as safe as they sounded.  The banks took each new bundle (called a tranche) they put together to the rating agencies, primarily Standard and Poors, Moody's, and Fitch, and had them look them over.  Problem was, this was a new concept and there was no historical data to refer to, so the raters made up new, and as it turned out flawed, mathematical formulas.  They forgot to include the possibility the value of homes might actually go down.  Oops!  And there was massive conflict of interest, too.  The ratings agencies were paid by the banks whose CDO's they were rating (standard practice), and there were lots of CDO's.  With millions of dollars in fees on the line, the raters pretty much said whatever the banks wanted them to say.  Virtually everything was rated "investment grade".

We now have irrefutable evidence that the bankers knew they were peddling investments destined to fail.  But as they were making hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars in fees for their banks and hundreds of millions of dollars in commissions for themselves, they weren't about to stop.  Greed rules!  Eventually homeowners began defaulting in droves, things began to fall apart, and investors stopped buying new CDO's.  Banks were caught holding hundreds of billions of dollars worth of flawed (fraudlent?) loans not yet sliced, diced, repackaged, and sold off.  Many were broke and were forced by the government almost at gunpoint to merge with other banks that were only slightly better off themselves.  To shore things up the government stepped in and "loaned" them hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to tide them over.  The mess is still being unwound today.

There was taxpayer outrage of course, so Congress feigned innocence and vowed to slap down the bad 'ol bankers (but of course they still take their calls and their campaign contributions).  Investigations were done, new laws have been written, and the bankers are working their lobbyists overtime right now to shoot the new laws full of loopholes.  Not a lot has actually changed.  Crazy speculation is still going on as evidenced by the failure of MF Global last year and JP Morgan Chase's loss of billions of dollars just last month.  We never seem to learn.


As always, factual constructive criticism would be appreciated. If I've erred on something please speak up.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bidness History 101

Not that I expect anyone to actually read this....

Here's how our economy went over the cliff:  Historically banking was a fairly mundane business.  Banks paid depositors a small percentage interest, charged borrowers a higher rate of interest, and the gap in the middle was their profit.  They matched up those who had an excess of money (depositors) with those who needed money (borrowers).  It was called 3-6-3 banking...they paid depositors 3%, charged borrowers 6%, and were on the golf course by 3pm.  Every small town had their own bank and everyone knew the banker and the banker knew all the townspeople.  They knew who was a good credit risk and who wasn't.  They thought long term, hopeing to help you start and grow a business and become your banker for life.  Banking was NOT a "get rich quick" profession.

Occasionally they strayed and began bankrolling speculators in exchange for higher returns for themselves, but things usually ended badly.  (Think:  The Great Depression)  After that fiasco the government passed all kinds of new laws hopeing to prevent a recurrence, the big one being the Glass-Steagall Act.  It said commercial banks (the ones where you put your paycheck) were given FDIC protection, but were limited to the very mundane types of banking ONLY (see above).  Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, etc were NOT given FDIC protection, but were allowed to gamble with their "investors" money with the hope of hitting a home run....higher risks, higher returns.  Brokerage firms could buy and sell securities, but could not do what commercial or investment banks could.  These firewalls kept our financial system out of serious trouble for the next 50 years.

With the wave of deregulation begun by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan these various types of financial service companies began eyeing and envying the others.  The firewalls began to spring leaks.  Commercial banks wanted to be able to gamble like the investment banks hopeing for a home run for themselves.  The investment banks thought if they had the HUGE piles of depositor's money to play with like the commercial banks did they could before long own the world.  With individual investors, mutual funds, and pension funds, etc, seeing the potential for nice returns on Wall Street, the volume of stocks traded went from a few million to eventually several billion a day.  And remember, brokerages are paid by the number of shares traded, NOT whether the market goes up or down.  The banks wanted some of that, too.

Little by little they were allowed to stray a bit farther from their roots.  The small town banks were largely bought up by the regional "downtown" banks, who were in turn absorbed by the "money center" banks such as Citi and Bank of America.  Their power became enormous and they learned how to exchange "campaign contributions" for Washington favor.  Finally, in 1999, Congress passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which killed off Glass-Steagall.  The firewalls were removed.  Banking became a highly desirable "get-rich-quick" profession.  Banks became less focused on helping their neighbors establish and grow businesses and more focused on devising new products to sell (such as "derivatives") which could generate almost unimaginable profits for their stockholders and immense commissions for themselves.  There was little reason to make "prudent" loans (well, they had to look prudent at least long enough to sell them) as the risk was passed on to those who eventually bought these new financial products.  

Greed ruled.  And then the wheels came off.  Some other time I'll explain what happened next.


NOTE:  I would welcome any feedback correcting this post if I have gotten something wrong.  Factual constructive criticism would be appreciated.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Election? I don't need no stinkin' election

(It's actually a pretty good likeness.)

First, I'd call a joint session of (the former) Congress, then lock the doors and change the name out front  to "Cell Block A".

Then I would invite all the Big Bank CEO's and their top lieutenants to an "All You Can Steal" buffet at the Fed, then lock the doors (I'm seeing a theme here) and let Elizabeth Warren have her way with them. 

All government bureaucrats would spontaneously combust. 

All mean people would have to report for "re-education".

Shorts would henceforth be considered proper business attire.

Football season would be expanded to year-round.

The cop who gave me a ticket last week would be banished to Cleveland.

Any requests?  


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The bigger they come, the harder they fall

I would imagine major bank CEO's everywhere are holding their heads in their hands, wondering how things had gone so wrong.  Four years ago American banks hit the wall, essentially going bust, being saved at the last minute by the taxpayers.  Now the European banks are finding they have no place left to hide and it looks like we're in for Round II.  

As I've said for years, banks can't be trusted.  They shoveled money as fast as they could to European countries, raking off HUGE profits and instant commissions for themselves in the process.  Now the sovereign debtor nations can't pay back their lenders, the lenders can't afford to write it all off, and the EU probably can't afford to bail everyone out.  It's OH SHIT time!

I think it's time to admit the Anglo-American freewheeling form of banking/capitalism has flaws.  They (the financiers) are like little kids:  Left unchecked, they'll gorge themselves at the dessert buffet until they explode.  They need adult supervision, someone responsible enough to say "No".  I understand why they fight regulation at every turn...they don't like being told "No".  Most little kids don't.  

It's time to spank the little ruffians, ground them, send them to their rooms, no TV, no video games, and no cell phones.  Break up the banks and regulate and supervise their surviving parts....not just wink and nod but sternly supervise their activities.  Prosecute individuals who played games with their depositors and the taxpayers money, claw back their ill-gotten gains, and confiscate their properties like you would a common mafiosi.  That should put bankers world-wide on notice.  Enough!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Hey man, gimme a case of that baby soap...

This is odd:  It was reported on the news this morning that authorities are investigating several brands of baby soap because they will supposedly cause baby's blood tests to show positive for marijuana use.  All have been traced back to the Cheech and Chong's Good Times Soap Company.  (Actually the last part I made up, but the investigation is legitimate.)

In a nearby town thieves broke into a self-storage unit and stole 85 military-style rifles and pistols.  The owner said his family had been collecting them for over 30 years, hopeing to one day open a gun store.  I don't buy it.  I don't think any gun store owner would be dumb enough to store $150K worth of guns in a mini-warehouse secured only by a padlock.  Automatic rifles are worth their weight in gold.  I'm guessing there's a lot more to this story that we know right now.

When you open the shades first thing in the morning and see the sun instead of clouds do you feel pressure to get going and be super productive?  I do.  Conversely, when it's gray and overcast it's almost an invitation to cruise.  Maybe that's why I like a cloudy, rainy day once in a while.  Plus it makes the air smell good and greens things up.  I wish today was one of those days, but it's not.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Doing the Father's Day thing....

Today we're driving to Foat Wuth to pay our respects to K's dad.  He's in his mid-70's and his strenuous 25 years in the Marine Corps have brought him considerable medical ailments later in life.  Still, he keeps bouncing back from surgeries and rehab that would have laid me out long ago.  He's a pretty amazing guy.

Later this evening we're being treated by my daughters to a nice meal out at Anamia's, my current favorite restaurant.  Mmmmm!  I'm so looking forward to seeing all my kids and grand kids.  :)

As for my dad...he went to a better place back in 2004.  Of course selfishly I miss him, but at the same time I'm happy for him.  I have no doubt that right now he's getting that "I love you Dad" vibe, just like I hope he does the other 364 days a year except maybe just a little more intense today. 


Friday, June 15, 2012

"Call me right now and get what you DESERVE!"

That was the pitch of the law firm spokesman on TV offering to sue whoever cut me off on I-35 so I can get "what I deserve".  The counselors at Begg, Barrow, and Steele will, for a not-so-small fee, hold up my foe by his ankles and shake out his pockets because, you know, I deserve satisfaction...and all his money.  And next came a home improvement store ad offering high-end fixtures at cheap prices so I can have the luxury lifestyle I deserve at a price I can afford.  WooHoo!

So what exactly do I deserve?  I'm hoping it's a Maserati or maybe a European vacation, but I've read the Magna (or was it Publisher's Clearing House?) and all it said I deserved was "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness".  It said I could pursue a Maserati.  It didn't say I was going to catch it.  I think that's deceptive advertising.  I'm calling Begg, Barrow, and Steele RIGHT NOW!  

Ha!  Take that John Hancock.  ;)


Thursday, June 14, 2012

America's pastime

I don't understand baseball.  The TV just showed a SF Giants pitcher who threw a perfect game.  The stadium was going wild, the dugout emptied as they rushed the mound to congratulate the pitcher for his great accomplishment, etc.  Not one of the opponents even made it to first base.  That would be like the defense in a football game holding the other team to no first downs.  *Yawn*  If you had a football game where the final score was 3-0, the stands would have been emptied by the start of the fourth quarter.  That would be one B O R I N G game.

The baseball games I've been to were very relaxed events.  People just wander around, visiting at length with familiar faces who regularly sit nearby, they take forever to go get a hot dog and a beer....just a very slow moving, relaxed affair.  It's almost as if the game itself is a side note.  I guess to hard core fans that's the beauty of it.  Good for 'em I suppose.  I just prefer a little more adrenaline in my sports.  :)


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Let the debate rage on

I see there is an effort underway to mandate the use of laser-engraved firing pins on all new guns.  The idea is that when fired, the firing pin would leave an individual microscopic mark on the shell casings, usually found all over the ground at a crime scene.  The police could then examine the marks on the casings and know which gun fired the shots and who owns it even if the gun itself was never found.  Cops 1; Bad Guys 0.  Sounds like a good idea...on paper.

But nothing in the real world is ever that easy.  First flaw in the plan:  Revolvers don't eject their shell casings.  Only semi-automatics do that.  Second, just as people buy and sell things like TVs and iPhones and computers (think Craig's List and eBay), they buy and sell guns, too.  Even if there was an ironclad way to document every free-market gun sale the problem of gun violence would still exist.  That's because bad guys steal guns or buy them from other bad guys (who probably stole them themselves). They're not too concerned with "paper trails". 

Knowing who owned a gun 5 years ago and who used it in a crime yesterday are two very different things.  I myself have sold several guns over the years.  I was very careful who I sold them to, of course.  Most recently when I moved into an apartment I sold several to a Plano police detective.  The thought of having to defend myself in court against a crime one of those guns was somehow later involved in sounds very unappealing.  And expensive and time consuming, too.

All such a law would do is drive up the price of pre-engraved-era guns on the black market.  Naturally the gun-control groups are all for this proposal, and the NRA-types are all against it.  While something needs to be done to get guns out of the hands of bad guys, I don't think this is the right plan.  Nice try.

Any suggestions on what would work?


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Easier said than done

I read where there is a fledgling movement underway in North Dakota to entirely do away with property taxes.  'Course, the pesky 'ol issue of how to replace the loss of revenue remains (and no, they haven't found THAT much oil!).  One quote I heard did make sense, however.  A guy said. "Even if my house were paid for, I'd still have those taxes.  We're always renters, never homeowners."

Interesting...  Case in point, my brother has a large house, a true McMansion, and his monthly taxes are more than my rent.  True, he and his wife have 5-times the space to ramble around in than K and I do, but so what?  How much space to you need to eat, sleep, read the paper, and watch TV?  I can understand a bit larger home during those years you're raising a family, but those years do have an expiration date.  

We as a society seem intent on living in larger and larger houses, I guess because we need the space for the more and more stuff we buy.  It's just a vicious circle.  And if we one day decide we'll "downsize", that's when we realize all that stuff we've spent a lifetime collecting will have to be discarded, something most of us are unwilling to do.  

My advice?  Learn early on to buck the trend and live modest.  Instead of impressing your friends with your "stuff", impress them with photos of your world travels for example.  Travels you could afford because you didn't buy all that "stuff".

You'll now excuse me while I leave my Apple computer, turn off my big screen TV, and go sit in my overstuffed leather chair and read my Kindle.  Have a good day everyone.  ;)


Monday, June 11, 2012

Let the bitchin' begin

Our forecast for Dallas today was 97 degrees w/ a heat index of 105. I'm sure we comfortably hit those numbers. By late July I might be acclimated to this, but not this early. By late afternoon I felt nauseous. I've come to absolutely detest Texas from June through September. Hell itself could not be any less hospitable. Any of you yankees want to swap places for the next 4 months?


Sunday, June 10, 2012


This morning K said she wanted some donuts.  As it's been years since we had any, I was all for it.  She said there is a place not far away called Kolache Heaven everyone raves about.  I found it, but all they have are kolaches.  When I was a kid we called 'em "pigs in a blanket".  They were nothing special then and they're still nothing special today.  There's a Dunkin Donuts not far away, but they make pretty crappy donuts IMO, plus now that Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones has bought up all the DD franchises around here, that's just another reason to keep on driving.  

I was looking for a ask him where to get good donuts, but I couldn't find one.  I finally stumbled across a little hole-in-the-wall place in old downtown Frisco run by Orientals.  Not to sound racist, but if you want good donuts, find a donut place run by Orientals.  They make the BEST!  See....

Friday, June 8, 2012


That pretty well describes what's wrong with our government today.  Consider this:

Between 1985 and 1992, over 2,000 banks failed, the consequence of deregulation, mismanagement, and fraud.  They had largely been overseen by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.  In response to this crisis the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enhancement Act of 1989 abolished the obviously broken FHLBB and replaced it with the Office of Thrift Supervision.  President George H.W. Bush said at the time, "This....will safeguard and stabilize America's financial system and put in place permanent reforms so these problems will never happen again."

Here's what really happened according to reporter Chanda Joffe-Walt: 

"I talked to several people who worked for that predecessor agency....and they describe that on that day, the day the OTS was created, they left the office, these agency employees, and they walked across the street to a hotel.  They turned on the TV and watched the President sign the bill that established the OTS.  Then they left the hotel, crossed the street, and went back to work.  Pretty soon someone came by and changed the sign to "The Office of Thrift Supervision."

The OTS was one of several regulators who were asleep at the wheel, allowing the banking bubble to build, and eventually burst, in 2008.  It was disbanded in October, 2011 and replaced by yet another alphabet regulator.  You think anything has changed this time?  Oh, and it gets no government funding, but is paid for by fees from the financial institutions they oversee!  And very well paid they are, too.

"Sleep well....your Government is on guard."


Source:  13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown by Simon Johnson and James Kwak

Next week, something more fun to read, I promise.  :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The times, they are a changin'

I see that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has kept his job, defeating a recall election spearheaded by unions and others upset with him because he took away teachers and civil servants collective bargaining rights.  As I understand it that effectively limits their ability to get pay raises and more benefits.  What I didn't know until this morning is that there were also successful referendums in San Diego and San Jose, CA to roll back retirement benefits for civil servants there.  Will this become a nationwide trend?

I think people are just now realizing how generous civil servants pay and benefits are.  I've read that government employee's pay and benefit packages together give them about 25-33% more buying power than those in the private sector doing the same type job.  For example, it is common for them to get 3 weeks vacation their first year on the job, not after 5 years as is standard practice in the private sector.  Are they more productive?  Do they deserve more than the rest of us?  And just this morning on the local news they reported that the Dallas ISD is now paying their Communications Director $180K (+ benefits), at the same time they're laying off classroom teachers.  Hmmmm.....  

The times, they are a changin'.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Have we opened Pandora's Box?

The Libertarians among us....heck, pretty much everyone I know of any political party....are aghast at the move begun in NYC and now spreading to ban sales of "super-sized" soft drinks or to impose an additional tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.  "The government is butting into my life!  It's none of their business what I eat or drink!"  Add to this government rules mandating motorcyclists and bike riders wear helmets, motorists wear seat belts, kids be in car seats, etc. and they seem to have a valid concern.

Here's where things get tricky.  As long as we as a society agree to treat anyone who walks into a hospital emergency room with an ailment or injury, regardless of whether they can pay or not, lifestyle regulation IS the government's business.  How can you ask the taxpayers to foot the bill for treatment of obesity, reckless behavior, etc, and not put some requirements on people to do their part in exchange for potentially free (to them individually at least) medical care?

This isn't an Obamacare issue.  This is something that has been going on for decades, ever since our national sense of decency and compassion dictated that we not let people suffer.  The idea of putting demands on people to eat and drink and act responsibly in exchange for agreeing to foot the medical bills for those who can't/won't pay for it themselves suddenly doesn't sound so intrusive.  We just can't go around giving out blank checks.  If we do, where is the incentive for those of us who CAN afford it to keep paying our insurance premiums?

Much as my knee-jerk reaction is to condemn even more government intervention in our lives, it does make sense in this case.  Problem is, where is it going to stop?  Do we want to be compassionate, or do we want to "live free"?  Is there a third option?  I sometimes feel like we've opened Pandora's Box.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cars & Coffee, June 2012

Per my ritual I met friends Neil and Ken this morning at 07:30 for our monthly Cars and Coffee.  Cars of interest this month:

Still my current favorite Lust-mobile....a Maserati GT.

And as always, if there's an Alfa Romeo there, it will be on my short list.

I'll need to do my homework on this one, but for now we'll just call it a vintage Ferrari....VERY well done!

Glow-in-the-dark-orange Lamborghini....for the narcissist in us all.

Something fun AND affordable....a Porsche 914

The classic Corvette of all time....a split window '63....the original Sting Ray.

I haven't seen an American Motors AMX in....well, I can't remember the last time.  Quite rare.

Concours quality '59 (?) Corvette.

My vote for "Best Sense of Humor".

Well done, Cars and Coffee organizers!