Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dog Day

Four appointments today. Spread out around the metro area. Equipped with printed mapquests, an aging and out of date GPS in the car, the sporadically functional Sprint navigation system on my Blackberry, a full tank of gas and a 12-pack of Diet Coke, I head out to earn my daily bread.

House calls. That's what's happening today. Meeting folks at their homes to close their loans. Generally it's OK. Today all the folks seemed nice on the phone, and I am on schedule, so things look good.

I'm leaving appointment number 2, driving and typing in my next destination on the GPS when - BAM! - I've hit some crazy huge pothole in the road. I feel like one of my tires is flat, and the road is windy and fast, so I vear into an uphill side street as the dashboard lights start to go crazy, and then pull into somebody's driveway.

I stop and catch my breath. Well! That was stressful. Now what?

I look at the house and it seems that nobody is home. Check out the car and sure enough, a back tire is cut and flat. F-word. What to do now?

I call my wife to come pick me up. She's not answering. I'm thinking I'll need to find a number for a tow truck. Obviously it has been a long time since I've had a flat tire and I'm not thinking clearly because it takes me a while to remember that cars come with a spare tire. An extra tire! Just for this situation!

This is the kind of realization that makes you feel stupid for not thinking of it sooner.

So my first step is to the glove compartment, to flip open the owner's manual and figure out where this spare tire might be. It's in the trunk! Finding it under the carpet back there, I reach in and grab it and give a mighty heave and . . . nothing. Try again. And again. It won't budge. Boy, I am really out of shape. Then I realize that the tire is screwed into place back there so it won't bounce around.

This is the kind of realization that . . . well, you know.

Eventually the tire is out, leaning against the back bumper, and the jack is affixed to the car and I am jacking away to lift the deceased tire off of the ground. Then suddenly I see a shadow move out of the corner of my eye, and thinking that someone has approached (perhaps a suspicious neighbor), I look up to see the spare tire rolling away down the hill of the street. By jacking the car up I've caused the spare tire to stand up as well. And it is doing what all tires are born to do - hit the open road.

Thinking quickly, I decide to panic. I run after the tire toward the fast windy road at the bottom of the hill, waving my arms ridiculously and yelling "look out!" Cars stop. The drivers are polite. No honking or glaring looks. I wave apologetically and retrieve the tire.

It's getting hot. I'm wishing I wasn't wearing a suit.

Back to business. I carefully place the spare tire along the side of the car this time, and return to jacking the car up. I successfully unscrew the flat tire and haul it around to the trunk, where I (FATAL MISTAKE ALERT!) proceed to heave it into the trunk. Then I proceed to push and pull the tire to get it into the trunk's special spare tire wheel well that hides under the carpet back there. As I'm pushing and pulling, suddenly space and time seem out of sorts and I think I might be dizzy, but a loud crashing sounds makes me suddenly realize that the car has been moving and has now fallen off of the jack and the car and the wheel hub are now lying flat on the ground.

Thinking quickly, I decide to flail my arms up and down and yell the F-word repeatedly. Then suddenly I see a shadow move out of the corner of my eye, and thinking that someone has approached (perhaps a good samaritan who will change the tire for me), I look up to see the the spare tire rolling down the hill AGAIN.

Feeling that fate is against me, I am even more panicked this time, and run down the hill once more. Arms flailing, yelling warnings, hoping that nobody gets hurt because I cannot change a tire properly. Rolling the spare tire up the hill, again, I wonder about how to get the car off the ground.

Amazingly, the jack still fits under the car even when it is flat on the ground. Maybe there really is something to that German engineering rep. I silently thank whoever designed the jack for doing a good job, and start cranking.

A short time later, I'm back on the road. I'm not even that dirty. I wonder if I have a road hazard warranty for the flat tire. The whole episode only lasted about an hour. Not so bad.

If I hurry I can get back on schedule. Here's another insight I'd learned and forgotten, when towns run into budget problems, like now, police seem to give out more tickets. Hurrying begets speeding which begets speeding tickets. So a nice police officer reminded me to drive safely by begiving me a ticket. I can't say I didn't deserve it.

Tomorrow I'll be more careful.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Good Deeds Punished

Are we a Nation of Nitwits? Or am I just stuck spending time with the wrong sorts?

These are the questions I ponder as I listen to the folks I meet throughout my days who feel quite comfortable in sharing snarky political opinions about President Obama. These folks really don't like Obama. And why should they? Him being a big government Socialist who caused the Great Recession and all. Except of course for those days when he is being a big government Fascist who caused the Great Recession. Or those days when he is a big government Muslim . . . well, you get the idea.

So Clever!

Yesterday's experience was pretty typical. I was dealing with an elderly couple who were, of all things, refinancing their home mortgage. They were very old to be doing this, which brings to mind a few questions about personal responsibility and the virtue of thrift. But, thanks to Fannie Mae, such concerns can be set aside because our federal government has allowed folks like them to get a brand new mortgage loan on their home at 4.5% interest, which they are scheduled to payoff in full at the age of 114.

No wonder they have such negative feelings about the government.

These folks are supported by government welfare payments called Old Age Insurance Benefits or Retirement Insurance Benefits. This "insurance" apparently is designed to provide protection against the risk of becoming old or becoming retired. Go figure.

Old Age Benefits come from the federal government's Social Security Administration, which sounds suspiciously socialist to me. So we can all understand why these oldsters would be hostile to these Big Government programs. And much to what I am sure is their chagrin, the oldsters are also forced to get socialized medical insurance through Medicare, yet another government scheme to destroy Capitalism and redistribute wealth.
With all of this government intrusion into their lives, no wonder they feel resentful about it.

Of course like most of the folks I deal with who are over 65, they wanted to know if they needed to renew their exemption from paying school taxes. That's right, here in Georgia schools are funded through property taxes. But if you are over 65, you are exempt from this. This may seem shameful to people who care about things like children, or their country, but it was the only way that the people of Georgia who do care about education could get the oldsters to vote to fund the schools. It was a deal.

As one elder put it to me, "We want to make sure we get that exemption, especially since our kids are out of school now." Of course this is a perfectly sensible and self interested view. If you assume that self interest is perfectly sensible.
This is the Republican Party view of good democracy in a Capitalist America. If everybody votes for their own self interest, then that will translate into better results for all of us, and the country as a whole. It seems to sound OK. The fact that it doesn't really work, and that we all really know this, hasn't dampened our collective enthusiasm for repeating it as a sort of conservative mantra.
Like the senior citizens I met yesterday, most of the old folks I deal with don't like President Obama. Maybe because I'm a middle aged white guy, they assume I share their "Fox & Friends" worldview, and they feel free to share the Fox-ignorant-talking-point-of-the-day with me. Usually I say something non-committal, like, "We'll see what happens" or "I hadn't heard that." There really isn't much that can be said that would make a difference. Folks like this don't do much actual thinking for themselves. They listen to what fits into the established mail slots of their brains, and things that don't fit simply don't register, and fall by the wayside. They sit in front of their televisions nodding along with Glen Beck and sharing his frustration at how the federal government and unions and liberals are ruining the country, in complete self-denial that they themselves are living on the dole.

"Fair & Balanced" - and Friendly!

But of course the real frustration on my side of the fence is that they are us. These are Americans. It is embarrassing to realize that this is true. Their muddled mind mush of beliefs that our country was founded on principles of Capitalism, but also Christianity, while failing to take note of the inherent conflicts this implies, or what this means to us today, really brings up the word "stupid." That all of these folks at the bottom of the economic food chain love Capitalism so much is testament to the power of repeated suggestion. I doubt whether 99% of these folks know a true capitalist who would accept their call. And I doubt whether half of them actually know what a capitalist is.

So how do Fox and Rush and Hannity get away with selling such obvious baloney to our citizens? And why are we as a people still so gullible in such large numbers? Here's one explanation from a long ago anti-communist that still rings true,

". . . because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying."

Karl Rove could not have said it better.

For a better written take on Fox News, check out an interesting take by Deepak Chopra by clicking HERE.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Coming Back to Normalcy

Miscellanous Idiotic Ravings

Like a lot of folks, I've been busy freaking out about the recession. Like totally, as the kids say.

But lately, as the Dow Jones indexes go back up without me, many of us seem to share a feeling that things are at least stabilizing, even if they are not actually getting better. My brain doesn't really believe this, that things are stabilizing, because there is too much quantitative evidence that, economics-wise, we are maybe not even half way down the cliff yet. But my heart is feeling less panic, and so I want to make this positive feeling real by giving it a name. And so does everyone on the tv financial channels. I'm going with "stabilization." The tv people are going with "recovery." But of course, we are all just fooling ourselves to varying degrees.

So why feeling better? The USA lost half a million jobs last month. For anyone who doesn't know, that's a really really lot. But it is less than we've lost in a single month compared to the prior six months. (Maybe more. As I said, I've been busy.) So, the question is begged: is this good news?

Well, maybe. Maybe losing these jobs is like losing weight when you're sick, and we had too much fat in our banking and retail and carmaking booties anyway, so shedding these jobs is like shedding unhealthy excess mass so our body economic can use it's calories to build muscular work forces in green tech and health care and education and other long neglected systems. So maybe the recession is like a rough fever that will burn out the sicknesses that plague us.

Or, maybe losing these jobs is like losing blood and we are running out of life force, and our economy will begin a domino-like series of system failures as the inability of different segments to pay their bills leads to further weakening of other markets, until we are all in an economic coma wondering why we ever thought money was worth any more than the paper it's printed on. And even though I'm kind of curious about how that scenario might turn out, I don't think anybody who's not a crazed western hating Muslim wants to risk it for a real tryout. So we are all crossing our fingers real hard and hoping that our houses will somehow become overvalued again. Because that paper money value is real. It really really is. It just has to be. And someday if we hold on long enough it will all come back.

But I am just tired of worrying about it. So screw it. I'm done worrying about money and the news and the daily issues of worry. Whatever happens I'll just have to find a way to keep my family just fine. What can happen? The Taliban takes over Pakistan . . . , so what? It's Pakistan! All the smart people who were there moved here to manage gas stations and not clean the restrooms. I'll bet their nukes don't even work anymore.

What other bad things might happen? Gay marriage? All the homos get married and become DINK's. Sales of hybrids go sky high, and William Sonoma rakes it in. Florida condominium sales stage a huge comeback as Judith Martin is crowned Queen of Miami Beach. Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts declare that only Subarus are allowed in the carpool lanes. Wolves will dwell with wolves and leopards will lie down with leopards. The Great Plaid Debate rages on Sunday morning tv. Who are the idiots who are worried about that?

Chrysler and GM go bankrupt and consumers might stop buying their cars. Guess what? We've been slowly stopping buying their cars for years. Know why? Their cars suck. Even the people who buy them know it. They just buy them because they're cheap. Every time I buy an "American" car I regret it. But if a Tahoe costs $10,000 less than a Land Cruiser, then I'll be giving it some serious thought. The carmakers going bankrupt won't make a dime's worth of difference to consumers. Their cars will still suck, but some people will still buy them because they are cheap.

Budget deficits. Obama's a socialist. Terrorists are bad. Wall Street is greedy. China is big. Manny's on steroids. And the Asian kids are taking all of the Ivy League spots.

Oh noooooooooo!

So, what to do in times like this? One thing I've started doing is really more like stopping. I've stopped paying so much attention to the news. Oh I know things are happening all the time. But stop paying attention all of the time and it just doesn't seem like it matters very much. It's like being away for a few months and coming back and seeing tv again. It all seems pretty silly what folks are in an uproar about. You can get the same effect by simply turning off the tv for a week, then watching Fox. The ridiculousness of it all suddenly becomes striking. Glen Beck? O'Reilly? Sean Hannity? For Pete's sake.

So, in response to the recession I've stopped losing money as much as I can and started doing odd jobs for cash. In my particular professional parlance this picking up of available work is called "practicing law." But as a business model it's pretty similar to plumbing or housebuilding. All the jobs are temporary and last as long as you're needed. And you might not get paid if you're not careful. So far I've managed to keep paying the bills, but work is harder to find than it used to be. And I'm getting pretty bored.

It's not just me. Lot's of guys my age (a youthful beginning of middle age) are re-engineering their careers to find some way to make some money in this climate. And most of us are pretty happy to be making less than we used to as long as we are making anything. This makes talking to people who have been largely unaffected by the recession an annoying undertaking. These are people who have regular jobs. They "have talked to lots of guys who are struggling." Stupid job people.

I kind of wish I had a job. But then I think about how it would totally screw up my vacation habits. I like to go on vacation when I want. In my family, we go on pretty standard vacations. Nothing too fancy. But we go fairly often. We like vacations. So we go. But not now.

Now summer is here and like most of America, where we live has pretty much all the amenities of any vacation spot. That's one of the reasons why we moved here. We like it here. It looks like it's going to be a nice summer here at home for this typical American family. And I am really looking forward to it. Just a regular low stress summer at home. Beer and burgers on the grill in the backyard. Yeah, Baby.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

When the Cat's Away . . .

Dad is home alone this weekend due to a remote family bash and work conflicts. So let's get this party started!

First off, dinner! A fine meal of Tostitos, cheese and crackers, Hershey's Kisses, and beer. Mmm, mm, mmm. Not just delicious but vegetarian to boot. So it must be healthy.

Next, dogwalk. The pooch is still in training, so kudos to the little furball for keeping a clean floor while left alone. So, outside to "walk" with plastic bags and reward treats in hand. Mission accomplished. All systems are go.

The pup has been a huge addition to the family. Huge. Even though he himself is quite small. His arrival was anticipated for years by Mom and Dad, and for months by his two human brothers. Once the announcement was made, a flurry of little boy discussion followed, along with a surprisingly long series of dog movie picks for Friday night movie night. Dog movies are very funny. They really are.

Next up for Dad, work! There's a recession on you know, so working hard is very in vogue. Natch I accomplish about 20% of what I had hoped to get done. Because now the dog is throwing up. Uh oh.

I see what appears to be "not food." Don't know if this is good or bad. Thinking quickly and without any knowledge or expertise whatsoever, I act decisively. I give him water. Then, off on another dog walk. Things continue with the doggie illness for awhile but then calm down. We clean up everything, run laundry and settle down with another beer and some tv.
Remember that old Springsteen song, 57 Channels And Nothing On. I don't even know how many channels we have now, but the Friday night pickings were pathetic. Even CNBC and C-Span were showing infomercials. Made me wish I had some actual human friends in the area. There were ads for "live chat" with young ladies who were just waiting for my call. Frankly the ads are not very alluring. But I suddenly and sadly realize that I have become their target audience. All dressed up and no place to go. Except I'm in pajamas.
Only two friends in town, a dog and a tv, and one is throwing up and the other is boring me to tears. I briefly wonder how much the chat costs.


Maybe I should go out? I somehow have the feeling that I'm not allowed. There is a new movie theater up the road, but that's about the extent of my options. My brain is too tired to work. And I'm afraid to leave the dog. So it's off to bed with my Churchill book. Ah, Winston, my perfect bedmate. And I mean that literarily.

Saturday! Let's party! Except I have to finish the work that didn't get done yesterday and fedex it by noon. Crapola, because I am not a morning person. But . . . type, fill out forms, make copies, drive around . . . all done! The dog seems better, too.

OK, let the weekend bachelor fun start now! There's still lots of time and fun stuff to do. Like, uh, mowing the lawn, which has weeds up as high as my knees. First time this year, so dig out the lawn mower. Natch there's no gas, so off to the BP. Four hours later the lawn looks better and I am a middle aged hunk of hay fever. Achoooo! So, taking whatever meds happen to be in the house, it's dogwalk time again. This turns out to be the high point of my weekend. We do 2 miles, which is real exercise for me. I feel good about that. Feeling good can spread, so I decide no more tv for the weekend. This means that I eat dinner (ham & cheese sandwich) outside instead of in front of the boob tube. Man it is really nice out! Spring is here, birds are chirping, sun is going down, stars are coming out. This is actually better than tv! I talk to my neighbors, who are putting in a little garden wall. Human contact. Thanks goodness. I soak it up like a dry sponge.

It's nighttime and the dog wants to watch tv. This is his normal time at the end of the day with Mom when he gets to climb all over the furniture. It's hard to say no to a puppy, so we watch The Daily Show while he crawls all over me. Then it's another dogwalk and off to bed for both of us.

I really can't wait for my family to come home.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Worldview Word of the Week


We haven't had a word of the week in a long time. So this week our word is actually 2 words! I considered calling this the "term" of the week, but that just sounds lame, and confusing.

AND, because there are boatloads of folks who know tons about Toxic Assets, we are going to engage in a process called "punting." Punting means giving up on doing a job yourself and leave it for others to deal with. And it's going to work great here. So here is intrepid reporter Paddy Hirsch with a pretty good report on what a toxic asset is.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lost in Wal-Mart

8:00 AM Saturday morning and I'm standing in the cake mix aisle at Wal-Mart, staring at Bisquick. Bisquick is Betty Crocker's recipe for pancakes and what we used to call "drop biscuits." I've been instructed to buy pancake mix that only requires water to be added. Bisquick ain't it. Bisquick needs eggs to make pancakes. I look around the aisle, and not seeing any other pancake mix, begin to feel inner tension gather.

I almost feel dizzy. I wonder what the hell is wrong with me. Did I not drink any water this morning and am dehydrated? No, what I sense is that low level panic that comes from realizing that you are lost. I'm lost. But I know exactly where I am. The problem is that I don't know where I'm supposed to go. I realize that this is also a new kind of lost sensation for me. My usual problem is that I know where I'm supposed to be, but I'm someplace else. Where I want to be right now is back in bed.
Right about now I realize that I'm just confusing myself with these thoughts and so I reach into my pocket to call my wife and ask her what exactly I'm supposed to be looking for. No cell phone. This is what happens when you get up too early on Saturday. You forget your stuff and get lost and don't know where you're supposed to go.

I know that I'll catch hell if I bring home the Bisquick even if I get the eggs, too. That will be a failed assignment. "You idiot," I imagine she'll be thinking as she tells me it's just fine, "You can't find pancake mix in the supermarket?"

So, spinning around one more time, I decide to "walk the aisles." This is how I usually shop in the supermarket. I walk through the entire store and buy whatever I think I might want to eat in the near future. I'm not a shopping list person. Impulse is my game. I'm a supermarketer's dream consumer. I look at everything. Too bad for them I usually have a good idea of what to buy, I'm kind of cheap, and I have this quirk where I hate to waste food. It's like a thing with me. A pet peeve, a turn-off, etc. You know.

Wandering aimlessly through the bountiful aisles of low priced food, I'm nevertheless in an emotionally empty desert, thirsting for relief from the stress of impending failure and embarrassment. Turning a blind corner I am irrationally heartened by the sight of . . . grits. Instant grits. It's not pancake mix, but I sense that I have stumbled into the right neighborhood.
Then, next to the grits, oatmeal. Quaker Oats oatmeal. Next to that I see the instant oatmeal, which should indicate that I'm getting even warmer. But the surge of hope I felt from seeing the grits has soothed my emotional unease, relaxing my mind which now begins to wander. I'm not "staying on task" as my wife would say. I wonder about the actual Quakers and how you never hear about the Quakers complaining about how their image being used on the oatmeal is disrespectful. If there's a more boring food than oatmeal, I can't think of it, and this is what the Quakers get associated with. I wonder if there are even any Quakers around anymore. I once heard that Richard Nixon was a Quaker so he could have gotten out of serving in the military in WW II, but he volunteered anyway. And he never seemed to wear the Quaker hat. I realize that I have never met a live Quaker.
Then suddenly there it is. Pancake mix. Aisles and aisles away from the Betty Crocker's egg-requiring Bisquick sits Aunt Jemima's "just add water" instant pancake mix. Jemima seems to have lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw her. Ditto the head scarf. And while Betty can bake a mean cake, Jemima's my gal today. She's going home with me.
I am found. All I needed was to know what to do and where to go and my mind was at ease.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sexting, Internet Porn, & Girls

So apparently the teens are out there sending naked pictures of themselves to each other on their cell phones. This is called sexting. Get it? Like texting with sex! Oh, there's nothing like a good pun.

Oh, brother.

I'm reminded of a half-remembered piece of wisdom along the lines of, "Before we invite people to do as they please, we should determine what it pleases them to do." The "sexual revolution" of the 60's and 70's upended some accepted standards of behavior. But what are the standards now? The situation is complex and there are no simple answers.

So, now there are lots (and lots) of stories of teenage regret about naked pictures being sent "privately" to a "boyfriend" that have "somehow" been received by everyone in your local high school. Oops. Those darned teenage boyfriends! Who could have predicted they'd turn out to be indiscreet?

Now, before we all articulate our brain stem's autoresponse, "Duh!", let's reflect on a few things.

First, people do stupid things all the time. If I can keep my stupid decisions down to 1 per day, I feel I'm doing pretty well. As we become adults, we become better at avoiding some, and talking our way out of others, but still nobody's perfect. And teenagers are still kids inside, no matter how big they look. So they make a lot of mistakes.

Second, some good news. When these kids are in their "middle age" they are going to be happy to have these pictures. Believe me kids, your 40 something body will not look like what you have now. And you'll be glad to have some proof that you used to be good looking.

WV as a young man.

Third, a lot of your classmates will end up seeing you naked at some time or other anyway. Do you all still have to shower after PE? So, unless you are doing something really weird in the pictures, no big whoop.

And fourth, there is already so much nudity out on the internet that the current interest in your own personal picture will probably pass fairly quickly. So just lay low for a couple of weeks. You are just today's story in a short news cycle, and soon your classmates will find somebody else to gossip about. Did you hear the latest about Bristol Palin breaking off her engagement?
For Parents, here is link with some good thoughts on this:

So, let's stress that sexting is not a good idea. While it might seem "flirty and fun!" most people will view it as kind of trashy behavior. Around here, in the South, girls or women who give themselves up too easily are considered to have low self-esteem. And as Mrs. Lovett taught us in third grade, "No one will respect you if you don't respect yourself." Mrs. Lovett taught in the North, btw, where I grew up. She was one of many great teachers who formed the village that raised me. But the message, whether called self-respect or self-esteem, is the same. Each of us can decide how much we value ourselves, and demand to be treated with respect.

Which brings me to the very uncomfortable subject of internet porn.

(With all of these sex related keywords, this post will probably set a record for hits on this blog. Sorry to disappoint you newcomers with the lack of prurient content.)

You may not have realized this, but the internet is chock full of pornography! It's true. You can look for yourself. This then begs the question, "What's up with that?" (space for obvious joke here.)

A more innocent time.

Having grown up in the "let's steal my Dad's Playboy" days of pornography, I am astounded by the vastness of the growth of the internet based pornography industry. But things have changed. Playboy in the 60's had a theme that "the girl next door" was sexy, and that sex was OK. It seemed like a wholesome recognition of reality, and a welcome counter-balance to the heavy handed Catholic anti-sex lectures I heard while trying to get some action with the girls. But that's not how it is now. Take a look at the Playboy channel on tv today. It's just another skanky hard-core porn site. Yuck.

Frankly, the presence of pornography in various media that is piped right into our houses has gotten way out of hand. My kids are on the internet right now, on a Disney sponsored game site. But how long will it be before they find themselves staring at some stranger's high definition privates?

Well, I for one think that we need to make it a lot more difficult to access pornography than it is. And I'm pretty sure that our Constitution and First Amendment writing Founding Fathers would be fine with some limitations on this. Except maybe Jefferson, who I still have serious doubts about.

Jefferson - known Rascal

I mention this because I remember the debate over requiring V-Chips in our tv sets. They all have them now. I use it all the time to regulate what shows can be watched without an access code. So my kids can watch tv without my having to make sure they haven't changed the channel to something I don't want them watching. But back in the 90's the tv networks and the ACLU fought against them, saying they violated tv producer's first amendment rights. What? Their first amendment rights to get at my kids? Thankfully this bullshit failed to carry the day.

So I'm calling for restrictions on internet porn! Yes, a daring and courageous stand, but someone needs to be the voice in the wilderness. I'm also a big supporter of baseball and hot dogs. So I guess I'm now on the same side as the late Jerry Falwell on something. I've looked for an internet service that would only allow "G" rated stuff that I can sign my kids up for, but haven't found one. This seems like a project Tipper Gore might want to take on.

Tipper, we need you!

But, while I worry about my own two boys, I'm also concerned about the girls in the porn. Where do they come from? Is porn becoming an acceptable job among our young people? How did they end up there? Did they get recruited at the high school job fair? Or did they get started the old fashioned way by running away from home and getting picked up by chickenhawks at the bus station?

We've made a mistake here. We've let our tolerance for vice turn into an full fledged acceptance of vice as just another business. Whether you like to look at nekkid wimmin or not, there is definitely something degrading happening to a woman, or girl, who appears in porn. The men, too, I suppose, but I really don't have any sympathy for them, though I'm hard put to explain the difference. I just don't.

Anyway, allowances for vice should be contained (meaning limited) in a civilized society. And allowances for discrete practices should not be turned into social approval. I fear that this is what is happening here, to the detriment of our children and our country. Porn is a vice. It's naughty. Just because we don't put people into prison for it doesn't mean it's good.

This is a tough subject to discuss, so my apologies for rambling.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rainy Saturday Random Thoughts

Does anybody really care if Jim Cramer recommended buying Bear Stearns? Has anybody really come forward to claim they bet their life savings on a single stock that was recommended on tv? By Jim Cramer? Cramer should come clean, but I'm having trouble caring too much about this one.


Is PETA pro-life? I'm just wondering.

I'm suddenly craving a steak.

And what is the significance of calling someone a "pumpkin eater?"

I think Michelle Obama's arms look great. Who are these people who complain about these things?


More and more of my age peers are on Facebook. I think it's impinging my blog traffic.

Bob Herbert is right about Chicago needing a third airport. I actually fly into Milwaukee and drive down I-94 just to avoid using O'Hare. Milwaukee's Billy Mitchell Airport is great. Atlanta also needs another airport.

Dick Cheney assassination squads? Holy cow, I can't wait! I assume Mike Meyers is already planning a movie.

Somehow nobody is surprised.

There's something funny about spelling "assassin."

The gay teen, Spencer, got booted off "Survivor" after discussing on camera, ad nauseam, his decision not to let anybody know he's gay. Sssshhhh! Such angst! Well, guess what? Now my nine year old (and the rest of the Survivor world) knows that Spencer's gay, and he wants to know what that means. Thanks a lot, Jeff.

Just some dudes raising a pole.

Thankfully the rest of the gay Survivor contestants, as well as the heteros, have other things to talk about. Like how to win Survivor. Fretting about one's secret gayness hasn't proved to be a winning strategy. Didn't this kid watch the Richard Hatch season one victory? It was Hatch's bold and daring FNF strategy that carried the day. There are no closets on Survivor.

On the news front, all of the Major Dailies seem to be going kaput. (Full disclosure: I don't really know what "kaput" means.) This is a major concern for all of the luddites who still buy paper papers. I never buy a paper paper anymore. I read them online like everybody else. If they're free. Our inkstained friends will need to turn their heads around from telling us what happened yesterday and try to see tomorrow. Paperless news is not only a foregone conclusion, it's already here and well established. Adapt or perish.

Speaking of old news, we also have broadcast tv news on the decline. The tv broadcast news folks will tell you that this is just terrible for our society. Huh? I'm always puzzled when tv people act like Jon Stewart or Colbert or even Cramer are in the minor leagues because they are on cable channels. Well, from this viewer's perspective you are all on cable channels. Am I supposed to think that a tv show on Fox is somehow more prestigious than one on CNBC or MSNBC? Why would I think that? The cable people are just better to watch than Katie or Brian or whoever is anchoring ABC News.

Which brings me to this whole HD broadcast brouhaha. I had no idea that you could still get tv without cable! I don't know a single person who does that. Though, technically, I have satellite tv, not cable. But the point is that to me it makes absolutely no difference. It's just tv. I don't care how it works. The milkman could bring it to the house in a bottle for all I care, as long as The Daily Show comes on when I want to watch it. But if I can get HD tv shows without shelling out $125 a month to Dish Network, then I'm in. This reminds me of my old man up on a ladder strapping a big antenna to our chimney. How retro! Getting broadcast tv is going to become Recession Chic. You'll hear it at parties, "And I don't pay a dime." Look for me on the roof with a wrench and a big old box from RadioShack.

The 70's really are back.

Movie recommendations!

Movies you may have assumed, or heard, would suck, but don't - Family Films Category - you know, for the kids.

City of Ember

    Hero kids.

A Lobster Tale

Dad & son reunion.

Paul Blart, Mall Cop

Funny & sweet.

Hotel For Dogs

Dogs & kids

SPECIAL MESSAGE TO BLOGGER - The formatting problems are a real pain.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

For Tymmy, Our Nurse

called me in morning
and asked me
would I do good
for him alone
without reputation.

- Florence Nightingale

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Save Detroit

Poor Bobby Jiindal. He really does seem like a nice guy. But the country just can't afford any more nonsensical ninnies right now. Giving the Republican Response to President Obama's non State of the Union speech, Bobby was clearly and pitifully out of his league. The faux pas were many. His problem didn't seem to be that he sounded like he was telling an inspiring story to his 5 year old, but that he offered absolutely zero ideas on how to go forward and quickly address our nation's economic crisis.

Following in W's Footsteps

This is of course not just Bobby's incompetence. It is the actual Republican strategy. By being unhelpful naysayers, they will feel entitled to complain about anything that doesn't seem to be working exactly as hoped, and complain that the President's plans that do work didn't work as well as claimed, or really just slowed down a recovery that would have happened anyway. They really do think that we are a mob of idiots. And why shouldn't they? Until this past year, we've proved them right in 5 of the past 7 Presidential elections.

But that's not putting country first. Which of course is the point. The Republican's successful strategy is to get the labor class to unite with the moneyed class against the interest of the middle class, by baffling the uneducated buffoons with bullshit. And it usually has worked, as it has for centuries, since the middle class came into existence.

So, I'm loving the public ridicule that Bobby is so deservedly catching for his performance. But he'll be back. Rascals and con men have a shameless way of coming back to life.

Meanwhile, "conundrum" seems to be the word of the week, as non-economists realize that an economy based on the circulation of wealth is really tricky to mess with. Any solution to one problem creates a new imbalance somewhere else. It's a lot like trying to re-start a jet engine in flight without blowing it up. It's harder than it sounds.

Take our friends in Detroit. Despite decades of selling us clinking, clanking lead sleds through sleezy sales methods, they are now in need of public assistance. No crime there. Everybody needs a break now and then. But what's the problem? And what's the solution?

Our newsie friends give us the impression that Detroit needs money. Well, sure. Not having money is a problem. So is the solution to give them some? Well, not so fast.

The "Big 3" don't have any money because sales are down. Ford, which is the best condition of the three, has sales down about 2 million cars per year. That's a lot of cars. And a lot of jobs. So maybe the real need isn't money, but sales.

So here's an idea. Let's increase sales. That would give Detroit more money without just handing over a big old bag o' cash.

How? Incentives! Tax cuts! Republicans have to love this idea. And it sort of makes sense. And not just tax cuts, but tax credits. A tax credit is a dollar for dollar discount off of your tax bill for evey dollar that you spend on a BRAND NEW CAR! (Use Monty Hall voice.)

So, we give a big tax credit to everybody who buys a brand new car. I know that I would love a new car. Who wouldn't?

But Worldview, won't that flood the car market with used cars that will compete with new cars for overall car sales?

Well, yes, of course! That's the conundrum part. So, what to do? Export them! How? Tax credits again! Give dollar for dollar tax credits to folks who donate their used cars to overseas charities. This will not only help overseas charities, which is good, but also deplete the stock of available cars for sale, thus helping demand for cars recover. Hah. That wasn't so hard.

In the meantime, how about regulating these doofuses into building something that makes sense for our future. Just selling "what the market wants" is a crack dealers ethic. It doesn't stand up to scrutiny and should not be incorporated into public policy. And cars sales has now become a part of public policy whether you like it or not.

Now that's a car.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The world economy is bad. Know why? Here are some popular guesses:

Bad mortgages?

Conflict of interest of rating agencies?


Structured Finance?

Collateralized Debt Obligations? Whatever they are?

E-Z Credit?

House flippers?

Alan Greenspan for not reigning in credit availability?

Sub-prime credit?

Barney Frank for pushing easy mortgage credit?

Oil speculators?

Phil Gramm for pushing repeal of Glass-Steagal?

Well, it beats the hell out of me. But it seems that everyone agrees we have a big problem.

Asking what the solution is gets a lot of talk and a lot of plans, but not any real explanation of why The System can't absorb these credit failures without completely breaking down. It's all about confidence, say our experts. Confidence? What happened to rationality? Remember the rationality of the markets? Just last year our good Republican leaders were telling us that markets were soooo rational that we should, as a society, allow The Market to determine healthcare and education policies.

At least we are having a better day that Sir Allen Stanford whose stock appears to be falling in the market of public opinion.

Among other things I don't understand is why gold is so grand these days. Why are yellow rocks that we can dig out of the ground any better money than papers with Presidents? Well, many people believe in gold (idolatry!) and think that the yellow brick road to the gold standard is the best way back to confidence.

But I doubt it. Confidence is just a stepping stone to what we really need, which is spending! And the best way to get people to spend today instead of save is good old fashioned inflation. Inflation also has the benefit of being selective, which allows today's inflated markets, like housing, to stay flat while other prices in the consumer's basket rise.

So let's go back to those pre-Volcker days and pump up the money supply. Size matters and we need a big fat M1 for a de facto devaluation. I'm telling you, it's the cure.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

PDS - Pick, Dust, Start

This is the song President Obama referenced in his Inauguration Speech. I learned it as a child, when my Grandparents and their generation of Aunts and Uncles would sing it to us.

Click the PLAY arrow

So, tonight I'm back in Vegas, starting all over again.

Things are starting off unevenly. My flight got moved to a different concourse, and nobody told me. I made it, and sat next to some very enthusiastic cowboys. They were a chatty bunch. I still managed to sleep about half of the 4 1/2 hour flight.

Vegas has a long cab line at the airport. I was assigned spot number 13. 13? In Vegas? I can't believe they even use that number here. Not the good omen I was hoping for.

At the hotel the countergirl gives me a room on the second floor. Why not just write "low roller" on my forehead? I briefly wonder if I inadvertently offended her.

But, I must say, my room is fantastic! They've completely made over this place, and they did a great job. It's funny how a nice room can pick up your spirits. And when I say "your spirits" of course I really mean my spirits.

Natch I've only packed one pair of pants when I thought I had two. I hope I don't spill anything! No red sauce tonight. The conference is about to start, so I'm showered and dressed and ready to schmooze. Let's see what opportunities we can dig up.

America. Still the land of opportunity.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Looking on the Bright Side

Go ahead and play it for old times sake.

I see skies of blue . . .

Just kidding! Enough with the old music!

But seriously, aren't there some macro indicators that call for a little bit of optimism?

We have a new President. And he's not stupid!

Oil prices are way down. And OPEC (a/k/a NAMBLA) can't get the price to go back up!

Interest rates are way down. This has to be good for somebody!

The Iraq War or whatever it is has an agreement in place for American troops to come home. The troops gotta love that and it should save our government a boatload of money! Which we can give to our insolvent banks instead!

And a tax cut to boot!

It all sounds like a recipe for recovery to me. Let's bake this cake!