Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Healthcare and the big senate race

January 20, 2010

Well by the time you read this we’ll know who won the Massachusetts special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s seat.

I don’t get it.  Healthcare is broke.  Maybe not healthcare, but the way it is administered and paid for.  Personally, I believe that at a minimum we should have a public option.  I would really like to see universal coverage.  I think it would save money.  Imagine if all the the capital being drained out of the system by for-profit providers was instead funneled into patient care.

I hate insurance companies.  Do you think that a for-profit insurance company’s interests and your interests are congruent? I’d propose that they are not.  I’d like to see the profits used for care.  That’s just me though, evidently, as every time the Democrats try to address the issue, the other side, Republicans, are able to put the scare of change into American voters and derail change.

So I saw that Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown may pull out an upset victory for Ted Kennedy’s old seat over his rival  Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.  I don’t like either one of them.  I don’t think he is bright enough to be one of 100 in charge of such things as the tax code, making law and treaties and judicial appointments.  I think he is way over his head and not ready for prime time.  I also don’t like his stance on pot.  Brown thinks it should remain a Class D.  I think it should be legalized.  He is against gay marriage.  I couldn’t care less who gets married.  He doesn’t believe in providing basic human rights to those detained by the US Government.  I don’t like the precedent it sets and think everyone should have the right to confrontation, putting the burden on the state and  against cruel and unusual punishment.  As for Coakley I also see her as a lightweight, plus I didn’t like her involvement with a notorious Massachusetts court case that may have imprisoned an innocent man and sent a family through hell.

If Coakley, the Dem, wins the Dems retain control of the senate and Obama’s platform rolls on, for what that is worth.  If the Repub Brown wins than the Dems lose their filibuster proof majority and Obama’s healthcare plan has a tougher row to hoe.  Because this is an election with national implications, and I live in Massachusetts, I have received no fewer than 30 phone calls in the past few days.  Now I know how folks in Iowa and New Hampshire must feel.

So anyways, they expect the Republican to win.  Guess how the stock of health insurers reacted.  They went up.

Rising health care stocks led the market higher as the prospect of a logjam in Washington eased concerns that profits at companies like insurers and drug makers would suffer. Among health stocks, insurers Aetna Inc. rose $1.30, or 4.2 percent, to $32.66 and UnitedHealth Group Inc. rose $1.38, or 4.1 percent, to $35.13. Pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. advanced $1.15, or 2.9 percent, to $40.62 and was the biggest advancer among the 30 stocks that make up the Dow industrials.

So if I was writing copy, which I do no longer, I think I’d write something like: A vote for Republicans is a vote for Humana or Don’t let Cigna down vote for Brown . Do you like?  Can someone tell me what the Republican healthcare plan is?

Don’t be a tool for the health insurers.  They are middle men standing between providers of services and consumers of services.  Think for yourself.

And most of all GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!! I don’t care who you are, you have 15 minutes to spare to take a walk outside or sit under a tree and watch the clouds move across the sky.

Another abandoned ski area not too far from my house.  Massachusetts has hundreds of abandoned ski areas.  This one was called Cat Rock.  We already had a coating of snow and the other night we received an additional few inches.  A fresh coating means fresh tracks so I had to get out for an hour or two.  I grabbed my 30 year old Kniessel Red Stars and headed out.  To paraphrase Bob Marley, ‘my feet are my only chairlift.’  Yup, hike up, ski down, hike up, ski down, hike up, ski down.  Like chopping your own wood, hiking to make your own turns seems to feel better.  At least to me.

This is the main trail looking up.  I’d guess it’s maybe a few hundred yards long with a couple hundred feet of vertical.  It’s actually fairly steep.  Like I always say, much steeper than it looks.  You can see I got first tracks.  And uhh no it’s never groomed – rocks, grass, shrubs grow where they may.

This is the same trail looking down.  At least here it looks a little steeper.  Not ideal conditions because we did get some rain and than it froze. The snow was crusty.  Still I was able to carve huge beautiful arcing turns.  Great fun.  A couple of snowboarders did show up after a while.  There’s a little trail on the side of the main trail where the rope tow used to be.  If you don’t know what a rope tow is it is a loop of rope that runs up the hill.  These things used to run over car wheels hung from trees and were powered by old tractors or Chevrolets.  You grab onto the rope snaking up the hill at 15mph and it yanks your arm out of your socket and pulls you up the hill.  Due to liability issues, you don’t see rope tows any longer.   It used to be the ride up could be more fun than the ski down.  This trail where the rope tow was is maybe five feet wide.  That is a good ski down!!  If there ain’t trees and ice it ain’t New England.    New England skiing the way it was meant to be!!

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American economy

January 14, 2010

Been awhile.  If you are like me, most likely you don’t need anyone to tell you that the last decade from 2000-2009 was crap for the average man.  I don’t know if you saw the article in the Washington Post, Aughts were a lost decade for U.S. economy, workers.

The writer, Mr. Irwin reports that “There has been zero net job creation since December 1999. No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent.” Who among us either hasn’t been laid off or know someone who has been?

Tough to imagine digging out of this recession/depression/cycle when for the first time since they’ve been keeping track of such things that “Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999…”

The assets of the average man have also lost value.  Our houses are worth less now than just a few years ago.  If you bought real estate not too long ago than you are most likely under water too.  401Ks Hahaha!!  For all the public sparkle about the “Recovery” your stocks and mutual funds are also worth less.

I just read an article in Business Week The Disposable Worker.” The article laments that there are more of us working less full-time jobs that provides benefits.  One woman works as a customer service rep from her house.  She gets paid 25 cents a minute ($15hr) but only for the minutes she is actually taking a call and of course no benefits.  She is very grateful for the job.  Companies now hold all the cards and are trying to reposition payroll costs from the fixed to the variable cost category.  I work three jobs.  I’m not complaining.  I like it, but I work as a contract worker = no paid time off, no paid sick time, no paid vaca time, no pension nor 401k.  I have to pay my own taxes and both sides of FICA.  Then I also work as a part-time worker for a college.  Same deal.  No nothing.   It’s coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

It seems that most of the problems were due to easy credit.  Too much money available to build/buy too many unnecessary structures.  Up here in Massachusetts you can’t drive around without seeing dozens of signs for commercial office space.

And guess what, there are still dozens of projects in the pipeline.  In my town there is a new project that will create half a million feet of office space.  Right up the street there are 000’s of feet for rent.  Why in the world would anyone build commercial space when there are so many vacancies? I have  some friends in the trades.  People are still building brandy new houses.  Strange when I look in the paper everyday and see pages of foreclosures.

Don’t be lulled.  I think what you see is what you got – slow slide.   What I fear the most is likely to happen is an increase in energy prices.   For lots of people it may soon cost them more to get to work then they get once they are there.

It still is and always will be cheap as shit to GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!!

Just a nice little old cross country ski trail.  I ski down on the left side of the footpath and make as many turns as possible. Yeah, I’m pretty good.  Beautiful winter day about 30 degrees out.  The ski down was so much fun I hoofed back up it a couple of more times to ski back down.

Another nice trail.  Trust me.  They are much steeper than they look.

Health Insurance Inc.

August 20, 2009

On August 17, 2009 the DOW went down something like 180 points.  Most stocks tanked.  However some stocks performed pretty well that day.  People that are generally in favor of more competition.  Some people also think the government does a lousy job at most things.  I’m still amazed that I can send a letter from here to Alaska for 44 cents and that it will get there in a few days.

So Obama had a plan to allow the government to set up a health insurance program that could introduce some competition into the private marketplace.  In case you haven’t noticed there isn’t a whole lot of competition in the health insurance marketplace.  It’s basically run like an oligoply.  That is there are few players due to high barriers to entry.

So people that are generally in favor of competition and think the government does a sucky job are opposed to the government competing with private health insurers.

You can imagine how fearful private health insurance corporations are of the government offering services.  Just like drug dealers who don’t like other dealers trading on their turf, private health insurance corporations are deathly afraid of losing business to government.  They want to protect their own trade.  Remember private companies like Aetna, CIGNA and Humana care about profits before all other things.  Your health isn’t even a second though.  First thought is profits and the second thought is shareholders.

So on August 17, 2009 the market tanked.  It went down 2% or so.  This was also the day that Obama said he would take the public option (government offered insurance) off of the table, or so the rumor mill swirled.

What stocks do you suppose did great on the day when most others fell, health insurers.  As soon as the public option was removed from consideration the health insurers rebounded because they know that they don’t have to compete.  Sorta like a drug dealer that caps his competition.  When everyone else tanked Aetna, CIGNA and Humana all had a banger of a day because competition was stifled.  Each of these stocks went up about 5% on a day that the broader market was hit by large declines.

Don’t be a tool of for profit health insurance corporations.

GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!! ©

I written about burdock a few times and explained the many medicinal uses of it so I figured I’d show a couple pics of second year plants in flower.

p1010002Do you recognize these burrs/  Have you pulled them off of your dog or yourself after a ramble in the woods?

p1010003Well now you can spot this plant and now you know that the roots from the first years plants and the young leaves are both edible.  So supermarkets even sell burdock root.  Also, burdock root is a major ingredient in may traditional Chinese medicines.

Oral surgeon and health insurance

August 12, 2009

So I had a root canal done a couple of months ago.  It really sucked.  I had some issue in my mouth so I go to the dentist.  They tried to cap one tooth on the top.  That didn’t work, but I still had to pay for it.  The cap wasn’t done right so it was banging into a tooth on the bottom of my mouth.  Each time the teeth clanged together it hurt like an SOB.  So I had to go back to the dentist again who now told me that the tooth on the bottom, the one below the new cap that she just put in, needed a root canal.  She sent me off to an oral surgeon.  BTW if you ever get a root canal done when you leave the surgeon’s office you’ll be feeling fine because of the Novocaine.  When that Novocaine wears off though you’ll be writhing in pain in the dark on your bed.  So on your way home from the surgeon, get your pain script filled and take the Vicodin or Percocet right away even though you feel fine.  Don’t wait for the pain before taking the Vicodin.

Off to the oral surgeon I go.  I had an initial consultation that cost $100.  Then two additional treatment visits were needed.  The first treatment visit they drill it out and put in a temp filling.  Then you come back a week later, and if everything looks ok, they take out the temp filling put in something more permanent and off you go.

So because I have dental insurance I had to pay something like $750 and the rest would be covered by the dental insurance. That is what I was told by the surgeon’s billing office.  As far I was concerned that was the deal I accepted.

The numbers: $100 for the initial consultation, then I paid $375 after I left the first treatment visit with the deal being I’d pay the second half, $375, after the final treatment visit.  The insurance company pays the balance of like $750, so the total surgeon’s charge is around $1,500.

About a month after I was treated I got a check in the mail from the surgeon’s office for $68.  It represented a refund of some overpayment.  That was more than two months ago.

Yesterday I get a call from the billing folks in the surgeon’s office, the dental insurance decided not to pay something and they want me to pay back the $68 that shouldn’t have been remitted to me.  They’re waiting to hear back from the insurance company about the rest of the money.  The billing person told me that the insurance payment can be yanked back and I may end up owing more money.

I told her that’s not the way it works.  I never agreed to an open ended contract and that I can’t agree to something if I don’t know what it is.  The most basic rule of contract formation is mutual assent.

So the billing lady tries to explain to me that if they hear back from the insurance that some of the root canal isn’t covered that I will be billed.  I told her again that’s not the way it works.  I paid my bill in full as required by their office policy at the time that the services are rendered.   I told her it’s not right that three months later they can bill me $100, $500 or $1,000.  I never agreed to that.

Imagine bringing your car to your mechanic or having a plumber out to your house.  They give you and estimate.  You look the estimate over and based upon their assurance say, ‘fine, complete the job.’ Then three months later you get a bill from your mechanic or plumber looking for an additional $500 or $1,000.  That’s not the way it works.  The only contract I know of that can be changed at the whim of one party are credit card contracts, but that’s because they are credit card bastards.

And that is why we need healthcare reform.  Has anyone else ever been given the run around by a health insurance company?

You know who is most against healthcare reform, health insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Don’t be a tool of their vested interests.

GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!! ©

I look out of a window at home to the backyard where the pool is and I see something or someone floating in it so I go to investigate.  I pull a lot of froggies out of the pool because we need to be careful with our amphibian friends.  Turns out it wasn’t a frog at all, but a….snapping turtle.  He must have made is way into the pool during the rain the night before.  Turtles can’t use pool ladders.  Eventually he would have tired out and drowned so I rescued him.

y6Here Mr. or Mrs. Turtle is in the recycle bin from the town.  The recycle bin is maybe two feet long so you can see that this was a good sized creature.  He was not too happy about being caught.  So I stuck a knife into his brain cavity, boiled him up and made some terrapin stew.  NO I DIDN’T.  JUST KIDDING.  Actually I dropped him off at the Terrapin Station to catch a lift home.  No, just kidding again.

I actually ran him up behind the house to a large vernal pool where he probably came from in the first place.  Here he is getting dumped on the ground, making one final hiss at me and slithering back into the water from whence he came.

y5You can see his open mouth hissing at me.  I think he was pretty old because his shell was covered in algae.  It felt good to save some little creature’s life.

Goldman Sachs & magic mushrooms

July 16, 2009

WTF.  Goldman Sachs is the poster kid of what is wrong with our country.  The blogosphere is alive with folks ranking on Goldman Sachs and with good reason.  First, you have the revolving door between industry and government where folks like Summers, Rubin, Geithner, Paulson, Neel Cash n’ Carry, et al work in private commerce, then they get jobs in the public sector where they change private commercial interests into  public policy then it’s back through the revolving door into private industry to rake in the big bucks.  Or as the NYT wrote, Government Sachs:

“While many Wall Streeters have made the trek to Washington, there is no question that the axis of power at the Treasury Department tilts toward Goldman. That has led some to assume that the interests of the bank, and Wall Street more broadly, are the first priority. There is also the question of whether the department’s actions benefit the personal finances of the former Goldman executives and their friends.”

So this private firm, Goldman Sachs, owned by private investors gets an enormous public bailout totaling BILLIONS of dollars in public funds.   Predictably Goldman Sachs stock goes up,  enriching each private investor.  This was an enormous transfer of wealth from the pockets of hairdressers, grocery baggers, carpenters, teachers, cops, doctors, pet groomers and lawyers into the pockets of the owners of Goldman Sachs.

“Goldman Sachs Group Inc executives sold almost $700 million worth of stock since the collapse of rival Lehman Brothers last year, the Financial Times said on Monday. The newspaper said that most of the stock sales took place while the biggest U.S. investment bank was bailed out by the government with $10 billion of taxpayer money, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

You got that?  Goldman Sachs was sucking because it overextended itself.  The taxpayers bailed it out.  Stock prices went up and executives sold, profited on the backs of taxpayers.

When my business went belly up.  I got no bailout.  I sold everything I had, barely held onto my house and paid the debt off.  In 2007 three bigshots at Goldman each took home more than $70,000,000 in pay EACH.  Then a year later they come to American wage earners with cup in hand.  Ska-Rew!!

So last year right around Thanksgiving Goldman was trading at $52.  Since then on the backs of wage earners it has tripled in value.  Who is getting the benefit of that gain?  It sure as hell isn’t the American wage earner taxpayer who generously contributed to bailing out Goldman.

And of course Goldman is back to paying out million dollar bonuses to the select few while the vast majority of Americans are still suffering through a personal financial crisis.

I’m really not qualified to write on Goldman, for that I turn to someone much better educated than me, Mike Morgan.  I strongly suggest reading Mr. Morgan on a regular basis.

“Shame on Meredith – Today she prostituted herself in her nauseating glowing remarks about Goldman Sachs. What Meredith failed to point out, was exactly how and where Goldman Sachs is making their money . . . on the backs of pension funds, endowments and other fiduciary money that they are manipulating and front running. I should also mention, Meredith has failed to even hint at the problems facing Goldman Sachs as a going concern.”

Then I hear that some trading software was stolen from Government Sachs and that this software would allow the owners to manipulate the marketplace“The 34-year-old prosecutor also dropped this bombshell: “The bank has raised the possibility that there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways.” So Goldman admits to having software that can manipulate markets. Let’s see what happens to them.

Make no mistake about it, there are a very few individuals at the top of the food chain who are running things for their benefitEverything else – Republican, Democrat, Palestinian, Israeli, white, black, gay, straight, pro-life, pro-choice is nothing but frosting.  The real nuts of the matter to the powerful few is the accumulation of wealth and power.

GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!! ©

Okay folks, any mushroom experts out there? I saw this pretty little mushroom so I figured I’d share it.  I think that it is amanita muscaria aka magic mushroom.  I’m not certain because I don’t see the rings around the stem, but I do think that I see the universal veil near the base of the cap, but no rings on the stem.  Any of you know for sure, or have a better educated guess than me?

05This is some summer raspberry growing near my house.

q6

Deflation my ass

June 25, 2009

Deflation my ass.  Yeah, I’ve heard how much the stock market and real estate and oil prices have fallen.  It’s all nonsense.  The value of what I may have in my 401k doesn’t matter until I go to sell it.  Sure, there may be a psychological shock when I see my holdings lose 30, 40 or 50% like last fall.  And no one likes to see the value of their house fall.

The way the Government measures inflation is a lie.  I don’t need the Government’s number crunchers and statistics to tell me what’s going on.  I know what’s going on.  I got the pocket book metric.  The prices of what I buy weekly though is not falling.  My grocery bill keeps going up.  The price of gas has increased every day for the past month or two.  Insurance is out of control. Even worse my property taxes seem to be increasing faster than bacteria in gelatin.

With the job market the way it is anyone is lucky to hold onto their present job.  I have three jobs now.  Seriously three jobs.  I know lots and lots of people who have been laid off.  I also know that many of them are having a real difficult time finding new work.  Some have been out of work for well over six months.  (Once their unemployment benefits expire they are no longer considered as unemployed in the eyes of the gubmint.)

So with things the way they are there are not too many employers that are increasing salaries.  Lots and lots of people have taken pay cuts in order to keep their jobs.  With such staples as food, gas and insurance going up every day it’s getting damn near impossible to keep up, forget about getting ahead.

The large fall in gas and oil prices since last summer is hiding the true inflation rateMy checking account can’t be fooled though.

And the conventional wisdom is that within the next six to 18 months inflation is going to come ROARING back. Prepare accordingly.  The days of buy and hold are over. IMHO tangibles are the way to go.  Over the past two years a can of soup, razors, TP have all been better investments than market indexed funds.  I think the same will hold true in the coming few years.

GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!

This is the crown of a burdock plant.  If you or your dog has come home with little burrs stuck to your clothes or your dog’s fur this is where they came from.

P1010018I think that this is a first year plant.  Oh, burdock is a biennial, which means the plant’s lifecycle last two years.  The first year of life it establishes itself with a big fat edible root and edible young leaves and the next year it sends up a huge flowerstock that makes those little burrs/seeds.  Pretty ingenious aye.  Those little seeds stick to creatures walking by and that is how burdock spreads itself.   Burdock also has a ton of medicinal uses and is greatly used in traditional Asian medicines.

p1010020If you don’t recognize this plant you are way behind where you should be.  This is obviously sassafras.  You can take the young leaves, dry them and crush them up and use it as a soup thickener.  This powder is known down in mosquito land as file (fillay) powder.  My swamp brothers use it to thicken their gumbos.  You can also take the roots, boil them and make a tasty tea.  I love cold, sweetened sassafras tea during the summer.  It really has a great taste.  You should try some.  Sassafras tea is also medicinally used for many things like gout, arthritis, colds, kidenys and fever.  The sassafras plant is easy to spot because of the shape of its leaves.  They look like mittens.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

June 3, 2009

If you’re curious enough to be reading my little blog, then you know that GM was dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average (“DJIA”) and replaced with Cisco Systems, Inc.  Well at least one company that made something is being replaced by another company that makes stuff.  Another component of the DJIA was dropped, Citigroup, Inc. and replaced by Travelers Insurance Co.  Replacing one money shuffling leech with another money shuffling leech.

So it got me to thinking how the makeup of the DJIA may have changed over the years so I did some light research.  October 1, 1928 is the first time that the DJIA was made up of thirty (30) companies.  Here they are:

October 1, 1928

Allied Chemical General Railway Signal * Sears Roebuck & Company
American Can Goodrich * Standard Oil (NJ) *
American Smelting International Harvester Texas Company
American Sugar International Nickel * Texas Gulf Sulphur *
American Tobacco B Mack Truck Union Carbide *
Atlantic Refining * Nash Motors * U.S. Steel
Bethlehem Steel * North American * Victor Talking Machine *
Chrysler * Paramount Publix (formerly Paramount Famous Lasky) Westinghouse Electric *
General Electric Company Postum Incorporated * Woolworth
General Motors Corporation Radio Corporation * Wright Aeronautical *

Look at what we got here – manufacturers, auto and truck manufacturers (3),  steel companies, GE, railways, rubber, commodities and an aircraft manufacturer.  Then you have three, what I would consider, consumer driven retail outlets – Sears, Woolworth and Victrola.  I don’t see one bank or insurance company.  All in all, the DJ Industrial Average, looks, well, Industrial95% of these companies seem like they made something.

Then as of the latest reshuffling:

June 1, 2009

3M Company Dupont Kraft Foods Inc.*
Alcoa Incorporated Exxon Mobil Corporation McDonald’s Corporation
American Express Company General Electric Company Merck & Company, Incorporated
AT&T Incorporated Cisco Systems, Inc.
Microsoft Corporation
Bank of America Corporation Hewlett-Packard Company Pfizer Incorporated
Boeing Corporation Home Depot Incorporated Procter & Gamble Company
Caterpillar Incorporated Intel Corporation United Technologies Corporation
Chevron Corporation International Business Machines Verizon Communications Inc.
Travelers Insurance Co.
Johnson & Johnson Wal-Mart Stores Incorporated
Coca-Cola Company J.P. Morgan Chase & Company Walt Disney Company

Now let’s look at what makes up the DJIA.  Well the first thing I notice is that auto/truck manufacturing is no longer represented.  The banks/insurers/money changers are well represented however with AmEx, BofA, J.P. Morgan and Travelers.  Then as far as consumer retail types I’d say we have Coke, Home Depot, McDonalds, Wal-Mart and Walt Disney and maybe even Johnson & Johnson, Kraft and Proctor & Gamble.  A couple of telecomms and electronic manufacturers.  It seems like a lot more useless junk in the latest DJIA then the original in 1928Now I only count seven companies that actually make something. And no, I don’t count Coca Cola as making anything other than cavities and obesity.

It’s no longer Industrial. So what’s it say about our country and what we’re making now.  We don’t seem to be making much now.  What’s that saying I heard about paying each other to do each other’s laundry.  To use the newest hyped vocabulary – It’s unsustainable.

I may be wrong, probably am, but I expect another leg down in the economy.  I don’t think nearly enough malls, stores, office parks, restaurants, mattress stores, cell phone stores and auto dealers need to close. I think we have many more great adjustments to suffer through.  Don’t let your guard down.

I live in the suburbs with the two lane divided roadway that is plastered with junky stores, big box stores, strip malls and restaurants.  It’s my belief, and I may be wrong, that one third of these will be closing over the coming years.  Next time you are driving around imagine one third of the crappy, little junk stores that get by on consumers spending their money closing.  Consumers are tightening their purses like a frog’s ass, and a frog’s ass is watertight.

GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!

memorial day 092Pretty cool picture, huh.  Unless you have allergies.  The reason you can see the web so well, and the reason the web looks kind of fuzzy, is because it is totally covered by a thick layer of pollen.  You can see Spidey waiting in the center for her next visitor.  Yum!

Don’t be lulled

May 12, 2009

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.  The way I figure, although it may feel like the eye of the storm, is that we haven’t even made it through the first half of the mutation and eventual evolution of our economic system.  Someone much smarter than me once wrote something like, ‘evolution depends on multiple spontaneous mutations’ – debt restructuring, currency devaluation, hyper-inflation, continued deflation, mass job loss, public protests, government takeover of private business, scarcity of goods, rationing, foreclosures, tax protests to name just a few.   I think that is what we are likely to see over the coming years.  What we are lucky, or unlucky depending upon how you look at it, to be living through is the total evolution of our economy.

The market has been doing very well the past couple of months, but as far as I am concerned the fundamentals still suck.  A leap frogging in technology is the only thing I think that has the most remote possibility of rescuing us from the economic mess.  I just don’t see it on the horizon, but hey I’m just a regular guy trying to keep my head above water.   Twenty years ago who thought that we’d all have a computer.  That’s the only type of thing that I think can reverse our destiny.  You all can argue how severe the deflation will be and then how severe the subsequent inflation will be.

The President, the Media, the MSNBCers and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be able to put it back together again.  Everything is going to change.  What we do for a living is going to change.  How we get around.  How we grow and get food is going to change.  What we expect of our government.   How we live together.  The things that we’ve grown to value over the past 30 years – play stations, flat screens, SUVs, McMansions, huge vacation homes, easy airfare, tropical fruit in the winter – are going to lose importance.

This is a temporary uptick.  We are facing another leg down.

So take this temporary calm time to TCB.  Maybe there is dental work that you’ve been putting off.  You’ve seen the lists.  You know what to do.

Start with Getting Outside Everyday.

Went up to the Pine Tree State this past weekend and saw a bunch of birds.  You see those specks in the field?  Those are wild turkeys.  I’ve never had it, but I heard it’s real gamey.  So much so that you need to hang it outside for a few days to season it.  Wouldn’ mind giving  it  a try sometime with some bacon.  Bacon makes everything better.  Bacon and turkey are a natural combination, where the total is better than the sum of the parts.

p10And here’s another shot of these beautiful birds.  You need to click on these pictures so you can see the birds’ colors.

P1010016

Oath Keepers

April 9, 2009

There has been a lot of brouhahah about the  Oath Keepers.  For those of you not familiar with the Oath Keepers it is a group of:

“Military, Veterans, and peace officers who will honor their oaths to defend the Constitution, will NOT “just follow orders,” will stand for liberty, and will save the Republic, so help us God. Our motto is: “Not on Our Watch!”

So these brave folks have vowed to defend the Constitution even if it means disobeying orders from their superiors.

I don’t believe it.  Not that I don’t believe their good intentions, but no one knows how they will act when faced with the unknown.  Many a brave man turned tail and ran at the first shot fired.

Shall we look at some evidence and why I feel that the vow of the Oath Keepers can’t be relied upon?

So no, while I appreciate the Oath Keepers warm thoughts and well wishes I don’t believe that when push comes to shove they will disobey direct orders to do whatever is asked of them.  Talk is cheap.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful and I’m sure that the  Oath keepers are well intentioned, but based on the evidence – shooting unarmed people, shooting people in he back, wide spread beatings of citizens, seizure of legally owned firearms when people most need them taking pot away from dying people and on and on and on there is only one conclusion that any sane person can come to; that the authorities can’t be trusted.

And some news of the day – “The US government has admitted the nation’s power grid is vulnerable to cyber attack, following reports it has been infiltrated by foreign spies.” Are you prepping to live in the pre-industrial age?

And the Fed released the minutes from its last meeting, the economy is much worse than they let on and as you hopefully know the Fed downgraded its forecasts – “Sixty-three experts butted heads openly and were unable to decide whether the economy has just simply slowed more than expected, or is in the toilet — where it will remain for years to come.”

Don’t depend on anyone else to do what’s right.

Get outside everyday!!

An old stone dam built in the woods.

p1010063It’s difficult to get a sense of scale but I’d say it’s maybe 10-12 feet from the water to the top.

p1010065A nice piece of quartz sitting in the woods.

FASB 157

April 7, 2009

You may be wondering what this FASB thing is.  It’s a rule that accountants have to abide by.  Which because of a change by the folks who administer all of the rules means more dirt is swept under the rug.

You’ve probably heard the term, “mark to market.”  What it basically means is that the assets on the books of the banks have to be based upon what they are actually worth.   If you’ve bought or sold a house then you know the realtors look at comparable sales to figure out how much your house should be priced at.  Because the rule was changed banks don’t have to mark the assets on their balance sheets to what they are worth, but to some sort of mythological value what the asset may be worth in a perfect marketplace.

As an accountant and as an investor I don’t like it.  The banks are in the same shape now as before the rule change, yet the bank stocks go up.  It’s paper, not some positive increase based upon efficiency or operations.

Make no mistake, cash makes Washington, DC turn.

The FASB approval comes after an effective lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill by the American Bankers Association and other interest groups. Roughly 800 bankers gathered in Washington earlier this week, in part, to meet and press lawmakers to send a message to FASB that the accounting rules needed to change.

Jeesh man, first the congress people give the banks TARP then the bankers give money back to the congress people as campaign donations.   Then the banks are being weighed down by toxic debt and the bankers and their proxies basically go protest on the Hill and lo n’ behold the FASB rules get changed so the banks can mark the left side of their balance sheets to unrealistic values.This is getting truly bizarre.

Anyways, what’s left to do but,

GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!

p1010060Nice day, huh?  A week of rain is in the forecast now.  I planted Sunday to be sure to get the benefit of the rain.  I had black plastic down for a couple of weeks to warm the soil.  I planted radishes, mesclun mix, spinach, arugula and peas.  I’m a little later then I wanted.  The way I grow lettuce is to heavily plant a 3*3 square.  I can reach into it from all sides.  Then I cut the lettuce with a pair of scissors when its 3-4 inches tall.  I basically give it a haircut and eat the baby lettuce.  It’ll regrow.  A couple of weeks later I’ll plant another box.    My lettuce will bolt later in the season.  I’ll also work a little all purpose organic fertilizer into the top couple of inches of soil.  Happy growing.

They just don’t get it!!

March 27, 2009

Remember all the bitching last week from the ponies on the Hill saying, “how dare, how dare the banks give out bonuses?’  Do you remember all of the showmanship?  It makes me want to puke.  Well all of the banks that gave out bonuses to their overpaid executives also gave out campaign donations to the same actors on the Hill.

Our congress people take our money from US.     Then they give it to the bankers.  Then the bankers give the congresspeople kickbacks in the form of campaign donations.  What a piece of crap this is.

The people are going to rise up.  There will be one catalyst event that just pushes it over the edge, the stick that breaks the camel’s back sort to speak.

“…the political action committees of five big TARP recipients doled out $85,300 to members in the first two months of this year—with most of the cash going to those who serves on committees who oversee the TARP program. Among them: Bank of America (which got $15 billion in bailout money) sent out $24,500 in the first two months of 2009, including $1,500 to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and another $15,000 to members of the House and Senate banking panels. Citigroup ($25 billion) dished out $29,620, including $2,500 to House GOPWhip Eric Cantor, who also got $10,000 from UBS…”

They just don’t get it.

Other schtuff

March 26, 2009

Mike Morgan had an interesting post on his bog a few days ago Geithner’s Gift to Hedge Funds.  I strongly advise reading Mr. Morgan on a regular basis.

Market Update – The market is up 6% as I write this . . . and moving higher. We are short the markets and losing quite a bit of money today. Do we bail out? I think not. I think reality will set in. And if it doesn’t, money will not matter. We are just steps away from a complete break down in government. It may take weeks or months, but I still firmly believe the people will rise up in revolt before the end of this summer. Our financial system was all but eviscerated today when T3C decided to turn our fate over to the boys and girls that created the mess we are in. And I close with this . . . not even King Henry was prepared to pull this obscene maneuver. He knew it would end far worse than the 1930’s or Japan’s lost 20 years. T3C was out of bullets and desperate to make friends with someone.

If the plan holds up, our country will collapse. That might take a year or two, but it is inevitable. That is inevitable, as we are throwing our money at the men that created this disaster. If the plan is pulled, the markets will move lower and I would hope our government allows free markets to work, even if that means painful times. Because the pain we will suffer under the latest plan, is pain we cannot recover from withou grave social unrest.

Government needs to address the problems, not create more. Government needs to go after the Wall Street Crooks, not reward them. Government needs to claw back what they stole, put many of them in jail, regulate the conduct of business and to dish out consequences to those that created the mess . . . instead of the people that are at the wrong end of this social and economic disaster.

Get outside everyday!

When the world is collapsing around you, you can always find peace and serenity in nature and take comfort in the fact that each of our physical existences is but a temporary insignificant blip.  Went for a walk the other day.  You can see how nice a day it was.  Living in Mass. not too far from the ocean decided to take a walk along the shore.  Looks like the last of the snow is melting, huh?  That’s not snow though.

p1010002We have farms around here too.  We even have silos.  The guy that owns this land has a clam business.  His biggest problem is what to do with the shells.  So he uses them as pavement.  Imagine having so many clams that you can pave miles of road with the shells.  Thats a whole lot of shell!

p10100081That white stuff on the path is not snow.  It’s clam shells.  This is a good deer hunting area.  There was even a tree stand still in a tree left behind from the fall.

p10100101Here we walked down to a river.  This is a tidal river.  We’re just a few hundred yards from the Atlantic.

p10100071He has a bunch of clam shuckers working for him.

p1010016These are piles of clam shells.  The largest of them is maybe four feet tall.


Are you pissed yet?

March 23, 2009

As many as 50 people a week arrive at the tent city and the authorities estimate it is now home to more than 1,200 people.

tentcityI generally don’t like using profanity because it doesn’t lend much to one’s argument, but WTF is wrong with our country?  I mean really what is wrong with US when we can print up Billions and Billions and Billions and yet we have people living out of tents like a third world nana republic. PD*27349658

It’s mind boggling to me.  Don’t bother with your high and mightiness holier than thou either.  If you don’t realize that it can happen to anyone at the drop of just about anything, you soon will.

Cut the size of the freaking military by 80%, let’s move out from 120 of the 132 countries that the US has military bases in and let’s allocate some funds to getting this country up and working again.    I believe in the goodness of humankind.  I believe that most folks want to work.   My issue is that I believe if the military is too large that we will be more likely to use it.

To demonstrate how the system is rigged against the lunchbox and 401k crowd, I was watching CNBC on March 19, 2009, Rick Santelli was remarking about the Fed’s announcement that it would buy US Treasuries.  Santelli said that about an hour before the Fed’s strategy was made public that folks started buying boatloads of options.  Do you get that – stop – about an hour before the Fed made the announcement some special folks who were in the know, who had advance notice of the Fed’s move, the Chosen Ones started buying options on the bonds.   Santelli also said he couldn’t figure out what he missed that made it apparent to some other folks that buying the options on the Treasuries made sense.  In other words some people were given a heads up and acted on it.

This is the link – go to about 6:50 in the video.

Look at the video.  It’s rigged man and we are all being ripped off.

Due to computerized trading it would be easier to track down the culprits than it would be to make a pie crust.  Think it will happen?  Not on your life!!  Why?  Because if you are tied in tight enough to get advance notice of what the Fed is going to do than the Government has no interet in tracking you down and holding you accountable.  If you are in the publicly traded markets make sure you look at it no differently than going to the casino or the track.

The markets are rigged and fixed.  If you aren’t in the know you are nothing more than a rube strolling the games at a traveling carnival show.

And as you toil away to bail out the banks the banks are sticking it to you mister.  Imagine that,  they need help from US to stay afloat and what do they continue to do, nickle and dime everyone of us to death.  They must have whole departments whose sole job is to come up with ever new and inventive fees.   The banks  come to you with their hands held out and then they have the balls to charge you late fees, over balance fees, statement fees and ever fees to pay by phone.  They are leeches.  Let them die on black top in the hot sun.

If you aren’t already mad enough as is, have you guys seen this, “At least 13 companies receiving billions of dollars in bailout money owe more than $220 million in unpaid federal taxes, a lawmaker said Thursday.”  Don’t you know only the Little People the Lunchbox and 401k crowd has to pay taxes?

Met a guy in Walmart at the ammo cabinet.  We were both waiting for the clerk to come and unlock it so we could get our goodies.  As we’re standing around this absolute stranger to me says, ‘People are nervous.   Everyone is buying ammo.  They’re expecting riots.‘ This is where we are at today.  Plan for it.  In addition to brass I got toilet paper and plastic cups.

Get outside everyday and you will be blessed with discovering new things.  I was out walking and we saw this little guy hard at work.

p10100051Kinda cute, aya?  He had no fear of me or my dog, but we do come in peace…..for now.

p1010008This guy was industrious and had no time to spare for even a small howdy do.

Protests

March 21, 2009

Hoo boy.

Just as winter falls down to spring things are heating up, figuratively as well.  Did you see or hear that farmers in Connecticut were out protesting the economic fallout on them?

farmers2

And come they did. Farmers left their spring chores, and vocational agricultural schools sent busloads of youngsters, to form a crowd of more than 100 (plus one cow) on the Capitol steps.

“Do you want a sticker,” called Hillary Woronik, a teenager from Lebanon, and a proud member of Future Farmers of America, as she waved a stack of green stickers at new arrivals. “Keep farms local.”

“Among the legislative proposals being protested is a bill that would eliminate the farm sales tax exemption and farm fuel tax exemption. The end to the tax exemptions is being proposed to help close a massive state budget gap, but farmers say it would put many of them out of business because their profit margins are so low.”

Protests are breaking out all over.  The pot on the stove is covered for now, but it is coming up from a simmer to a boil.  The bankers and government types are the frogs in the pot of cold water.  They don’t feel the temperature of the water that is surrounding them getting warmer.

That pot is going to boil over.  Groups in Massachusetts had protests the other day.  There were protests in a dozen communities.

boston

“Nearly a dozen protests occurred in Massachusetts alone, including in Worcester, Lawrence, and Andover.  Harris Gruman, executive director of the SEIU Massachusetts State Council, said his organization is hoping to push Congress to take action against companies like AIG, while also working to “restore middle-class purchasing power.” “We want Congress to build a recovery for everybody, and not just banks – especially after they have misused the money they were given,” Gruman said. Caraballo, the janitor and a member of SEIU Local 615, marched, in part, to represent several colleagues who had been laid off recently.”They lost their jobs, their healthcare,” Caraballo said, blaming Wall Street’s risky decisions that have hurt the economy. “That angers me.”

I don’t understand why poor and middle-class folks hate unions so much.  If you are poor or middle-class and you hate unions, you’ve been fooled by Republicans and charlatans like Limbaugh.

aigprotestpink__1237521674_8885

Gallery of some pictures of the protests in Boston.

I wish I heard about the protests in advance.  I’m surprised I did not.  There are few things I enjoy more than Civil Disobedience.   Engaging in Civil Disobedience isn’t only your right, it’s also your obligation.  It’s part of the advance payment each of us needs to make in order to live in an ostensibly free society.  Remember the First Amendment, MEMORIZE IT. Now this is from my memory, “the right of the people to peacefully assemble and petition the government for a redress of their grievances shall not be abridged.” I just checked.  I was admirably close, but I’ll keep it the way I wrote it rather than the actual words written because I like my ending more.

I expect we will be seeing many more protests over the coming months.  I also expect that the protests and marches will attract larger and larger crowds.  I wonder what will happen when the police or protesters get carried away and some people are bloodied, seriously injured or worse.  I wonder what may happen when people get really angry and resort to the destruction of private property, Molotov cocktails or toss newspaper machines through banks’ windows.

Imagine some economy related protest.  A window is broken.  A pregnant woman gets pushed to the ground.  The police are blamed.  The police call in backups in riot gear.  The clubs and gas come out.  Maybe the rubber bullets and tear gas balls.  The protesters start overturning cars and throwing things at the police.  A cop is hurt.  Maybe a group of cops are cornered by the crowd.  The cops end up using deadly force.  Maybe someone in the crowd is armed shoots at the cops.  Imagine seeing on the news and cell phone video a bunch of citizens getting shot by the authorities. “What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground? How can you run when you know?

How’s that quote go about the tree of liberty  needing to be refreshed from time to time?  BTW I know it, I’m hoping you know the quote too.

Another day I’ll write an entry about my experiences with civil disobedience.

Anyways, Get Outside Everyday! I thought the following two pictures were pretty nice.  Nothing special.  You do know what these are, right!?!?

p1010001It was a little muddy, but still this must have been a heavy creature to leave such deep prints.

Here’s another cool picture.

p1010007Look at the color of this blue jay feather.  It is so blue.  Amazing.  Proof of God?

Misc.

March 11, 2009

We got some snow last week so I went back to that abandoned ski area that is not too far away from my house.  I hiked up and skied down eight times.  I was beat.  One trail is through this awe inspiring birch forest.

sk2This place is like magic.  If I was to die here and be buried amongst these trees that would be ok.

It was most likely the last day it was possible to go out skiing for me so I wanted to be sure to take advantage of it.  Here is the trail through the birch.

skYou can see the huge office buildings in the background.  This a heavily populated area a couple of minutes off of a major highway. You wanna know what I don’t get?  I was hiking/skiing for maybe two hours and I didn’t see another soul.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, the first warm day since November and I didn’t see another person enjoying the out of doors.  People – you need to GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!

Here’s another trail I was skiing down.  I’m telling you that I was pushing it by squeezing out one more day skiing.

sk3You can see my tracks on the right hand side of the trail looking up.  If you aren’t familiar with snow you can see that you really don’t need very much in order to slide stuff (skis, sleds and goods) over it.  And sliding stuff is much better than carrying stuff.  You can see it was another beautiful day spent outside doing stuff and getting exercise.  You figure that exercise is a form of prepping?

The pussy willows are blooming.  sk7And I saw so many deer rubbings.

sk4How many deer rubbings do can you count in each of these pictures?

sk5Then not too far from my house is a local farm where they grow their own grass fed beef.  I don’t know about any of you, but grass fed beef in New England isn’t too common a sight.  This beef is so good.  It’s some of the best that I’ve ever had. Plus I’m able to shop locally.  You need to shop locally whenever it makes sense and you can.  Get to know the farm stands in your area. Believe me you don’t want the Super Walmart to be the only source of food in you area.  You need to give the little guy the business.  Join the local chapter of the organic farmer’s association in your area.

The beef is a bit more money, but it goes right into the hands of a family that lives near me and it is a great product.  These guys taste great.  Thank you cows.

sk11I get to see my food and watch it eat.  I like that.  No ugly feed lots or slaughter yards.  Doesn’t my food look content?  Thank you guys.  I really appreciate your sacrifice.  The family also sells maple syrup that they boil themselves.  I can’t stand fake maple syrup like Mrs. Butterworth’s.  That’s not maple syrup.   It’s corn syrup.    Don’t be a rube spring for the good stuff.  It lasts forever.

Things are breaking down in Russia.  I saw an article in Newsweek about it.

“Now serious unrest seems imminent despite those autocratic moves. “We are expecting mass unemployment and mass riots,” says Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB colonel and current chairman of the Duma’s Security Committee. “There will be not enough police to stop people’s protests by force.”  The Kremlin evidently sees worse trouble ahead. In December it shelved plans to retire 280,000 Army officers (part of a sweeping military reform). A long-expected reduction in the number of Interior Ministry troops was also abruptly canceled. At the same time, the Interior Ministry set up a special command center in Moscow, packed with surveillance equipment designed to deal with street unrest. The Duma, on Kremlin instructions, added seven new articles to the criminal code. One expands the definition of high treason and espionage to include advisory “and other” assistance to foreign and international organizations; another makes “participating in mass disorders” such as the one in Vladivostok a “crime against the state.” More sinister still, defendants accused of the new crimes can only be tried by a special court of three judges, not by a jury—a system reminiscent of the Stalin-era troika courts that sent millions to the Gulag.

And like the bailouts in the US that favor wealth holders more than wage earners, “major beneficiaries of both handouts include oligarchs like MMK’s owner, Victor Rashnikov, and Russia’s current No. 1 billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, owner of the AvtoVaz auto plant.”

The PTB better realize that using the poor and bail out the insanely wealthy is a recipe for social collapse.

School bus

March 5, 2009

It seems like whenever I drive in the morning or the afternoon I get stuck behind a school bus.  You know that feeling when you’re in a hurry and you get stuck behind the bus for what seems like three miles and 20 stops?  Why don’t kids have to walk to school anymore?  When I was in elementary school I walked 1.25 miles each way to school.  I was 6 or 7 years old and I was walking both ways to school.  Even in the winter.  When is the last time one of your lazy ass kids walked a mile?  I remember we used to try and take an unauthorized shortcut.  Even back then I hated the System and still do to this day.   It even made no sense to a six year old kid to have to take the long way. If Katie the Crossing Guard caught us taking the shorter unauthorized way there was Hell to pay.

These days you never see kids walking to school, except kids in the city.  Now it seems like every kid gets to take the bus, has a car or get his parents to chauffeur him.  What’s the problem with young Americans?  No wonder kids are so fat these days.  Walking to school is good for kids.  Kids don’t get nearly enough fresh air either today.  And not only does each kid get to take the bus, but the bus stops at the end of every kid’s driveway too.  In middle school I got to take the bus.  I hated it the whole time.  We even had to walk to the bus stop.

Which reminds me, you don’t see kids playing outside anymore either.    Sure you may see kids if they’re playing some organized sport like baseball or soccer, but I never see kids playing street hockey or capture the flag.  This isn’t good either.  My parents couldn’t drag us in from outside.

We have lost our pioneer spirit.  What lazy ass, fat, dumb American now has the guts to head out on a trip like Lewis & Clark? I read we knew more about the moon prior to Armstrong setting foot on it than Lewis & Clark knew about there destination.

We deserve what we reap.

I don’t like the whole school choice thing either.  Stop wasting money on shuttling every kid from one end of town to the other and spend the money on teachers, books and technology.   All cities and towns are poor enough, end school choice.  Even beyond the transportation issue though I don’t like school choice.  Kids should go to schools in their neighborhood.  If the local school sucks than fix it.

Stop driving your kids and make them walk or ride their bikes.    In the long run you’ll be doing your spoiled little darlings a favor.

So Bernanke comes out a week or so ago and says that the economy should turn around later this year then the Fed releases a report saying that the economy is worsening and the recession is deepening. Bernanke obviously has no idea what he is doing.  He isn’t even cognizant of what his own team is doing.  Is he tripping?

The weekly unemployment claims figure just came out – initial claims are still over 600,000 and continued claims are still over 5,000,000.  We’re supposed to be happy because they both dropped by a little bit.  Santelli had an interesting comment that although claims are the highest since 1981 (or something like that) that the workforce is much larger now than it was then.  I feel like asking him is the way we calculate unemployment the same?  No it isn’t.  The government massages the numbers down.  The good folks at Shadow Stats calculate an unemployment rate of near 18%.

My wife works with maybe eight other women.  Over the past year the husband or boyfriend of every single one of them has lost his job at some point.  Ask your own friends, family and neighbors and than let me know if you believe the BS government pablum about unemployment being at 7%.

If you’ve been paying any attention at all, which mean more attention than our Fed chairman, you know things are bad and getting worse.  Act appropriately:

  • Cut your expenses where you can
  • Diversify your income
  • Buy extra non-perishables every week – food, water, candles, razors, shaving cream, toothpaste, TP, etc.
  • Stock up a bit on imported things that you buy (which means just about everything) – nothing wrong with having an extra pair or two of jeans, sneakers, boots, BVDs and jackets.
  • Get a firearm and learn how to use it
  • Learn some new skills
  • Get some camping equipment – stove, sleeping bags, tent, cookware, lantern, knives, axe, sleeping pads
  • Have an escape plan – local, state and out of state – make sure your family is in on it and knows what to do.
  • Have battery powered radio/tv/walkie talkies/flashlights and a bunch of batteries
  • Do some Internet research on Get Home Bags and Bug Out Bags.
  • Buy some extra propane or charcoal if that’s what your grill uses.
  • Get Outside Everyday!

Get out everyday!  This is the good and the ugly.

m1Here is the good.  Beautiful sunny, blue sky day.  I was skiing down this trail.  It looks steep, but it is twice as steep as it looks.  I took a good face plant.  Oh well, no falls no balls.  Believe me it was a trudge skiing to the top of the hill.  Although it was maybe 28 degrees out because the high March sun was shining the snow was sticking to the bottom of my skis.  The trail going down is on the northside so it was still fast.

This is the ugly.

m4Had to go into the city yesterday and I saw this smokestack spewing death.  The plume was blowing towards a residential area where poorer people live.  There are many three families and small apartment buildings right downwind of this balck crap.  If you want to talk about survival and you live near where something like this spews poison on you 24/7 move, at least move someplace upwind.  Forget about your survival kit and move someplace safer.

Drought

March 1, 2009

You guys following what’s happening in Cal-eye-forn-eye-aye?  There’s been this ongoing three year drought that’s battering California.  Making a living off the land has always been a tough way to survive.   It seems you either have too much water or not enough water.  I’m happy to be living where I do where lack of water is not an issue.   Water is our lifeblood.  Without abundant fresh water you die and then I take your stuff.   “Economists at the University of California Davis estimate that the drought could cost 95,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in revenue this year. Much of the pain is centered in the San Joaquin Valley, where idle fields idle workers.

20090220__droughtphotos3_gallery

This area of the San Luis Reservoir near Gustine was previously underwater but was dried out in January because of drought conditions. (Patrick Tehan / Mercury News)

Because so much food is grown in California on top of everything else, you can expect higher prices for produce in the supermarkets.  “Last year, during the second year of the drought, more than 100,000 acres of the 4.7 million in the valley were left unplanted, and experts predict that number could soar to nearly 850,000 acres this year.  All of which could mean shorter supplies and higher prices in produce aisles – California is the nation’s biggest producer of tomatoes, almonds, avocados, grapes, artichokes, onions, lettuce, olives and dozens of other crops…

drought_t3501

Docks at Lake Pillsbury, north of Santa Rosa, sat high and dry in late January because of below-average rainfall. (Associated Press file) -

These pictures are reminiscent of the old black and white pictures from the Dust Bowl years.  This is the result of too many people placing unreasonable demands on nature.   How many swimming pools you figure there are in California?  At a time when food crops are drying and dying could there be a bigger waste of water than all the swimming pools in Southern California?  In the coming years as there are more people and more swimming pools you can expect the water problems out in the Western US to escalate.  I mean look at Vegas too.  There are too many people living in too dry an area to be sustainable.  I wouldn’t ca_dmwant to own property in Nevada.

If you live in California I don’t know what to tell you.  Maybe move someplace there is more water more consistently.

I was out walking the other day and stumbled upon this old piece of what I think is animal hide nailed into a tree.  At first I thought it was a fish, but it looks like deer spine.  That’s what that white thing at the top of the picture is white spine bone.  Not sure what it comes from or why someone would nail it to a tree though.  a17

Does anyone know what this is?

BHO

February 25, 2009

Short post today.  Saw the president last night.  I generally like the guy even though I didn’t vote for him.  I mean it’s nice to have someone young in the office.  It’s nice to have someone who has traveled internationally and lived overseas in the office.  It’s nice to have someone smart, who doesn’t weed the opposition out of his public appearances, can address doubters and can speak off the cuff on most issues.

That being said WTF was the point of the big speech last night.  It was a bunch of nothing.  More platitudes and more hollow slogans and empty words.

I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I’d expect the market to go down like 100 points today.  That’s just my feeling based upon the fact that I think the market movers and shakers were looking for a whole lot more and got nothing from BHO other than more grand and flowery oratory.

At some point you gotta stop talking about swimming and dive in the pool and get wet.

Bits n’ pieces

February 21, 2009

I’m sure everyone has already heard that Obama throws $75 billion lifeline to homeowners with our tax dollars. I don’t like the bailout of homeowners.  I feel bad for them.   I really do.   If your house went down in value and now you owe more than the house is worth, well that’s the market trying to reach its equilibrium.  You bought at the wrong time or borrowed too much.  If you took out a home equity loan to buy toys and electronics and now can’t meet your obligation that’s not my problem . People need to be held accountable for bad decisions that they made so economic evolution can be allowed to run its course.  There shouldn’t be any general bailout for homeowners who got in over their heads. Homeowners should declare bankruptcy and try to get a workout.  Bankruptcy judges should be allowed to reduce the debt as I believe they can generally with any debt during a bankruptcy.  If some lenders broke the law or acted unfairly then punish the lender.  I don’t like the idea that people who bought houses they couldn’t afford may be able to keep them even though they still can’t afford them while I’ve done the right thing and bought a smaller house that I can afford.

And since we’re talking about tax dollars being spent how about some more corporate welfare for KBR so the can deliver poisoned food and water to our guys and gals overseas? WTF is wrong with our government. Is slopping the war profiteers more important than the safety of our own family members?    “Saying they want more answers, U.S. Sens. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., on Wednesday said Houston-based contractor KBR Inc. allowed soldiers to be exposed to the chemical for more than two months even though KBR knew the site was contaminated, according to The Associate Press.” Bastards all of them.  Is this the best we can do for our military? Piss me off.

I saw a good article in Newsweek that reflected what I’ve always said, ‘That the myth of upward mobility is just that, a myth.’  Mr. Kotkin writes a good opinion piece.

But from the 1940s to the 1970s, the American middle class enjoyed steadily increasing incomes that stayed on a par with those in the upper classes. Since then, wages for most workers have lagged behind. This disparity is strikingly evident in income data compiled by Citigroup, which shows that the top 1 percent of U.S. households now account for as much of the nation’s total wealth—7 percent—as they did in 1913, when monopolistic business practices were the order of the day.  Their net worth is now greater than that of the bottom 90 percent of the nation’s households combined. The top 20 percent of taxpayers realized nearly three quarters of all income gains from 1979 to 2000.Even getting a college degree no longer guarantees upward mobility. The implicit American contract has always been that with education and hard work, anyone can get ahead. But since 2000, young people with college educations—except those who go to elite colleges and graduate schools—have seen their wages decline.

And why when I point out the fact that government policies have lead to these disparities am I accused of waging class warfare?  I’d say the 1% of the folks who have 90% of the income are the ones waging class warfare, not the folks losing their jobs, homes, cars and health insurance.   WAKE UP PEOPLE!

Smart little kid developed a survival shelter made from packing peanuts, plastic sheeting, tubes and special connectors.  It snaps togethere like an erector set.  This kid won $10,000 for his design.  He wants to grow up to be a biomechanical engineer or a geriatric psychiatrist.  Me too.

iglooObviously shaped like a geodesic dome.  Here’s the link to the newspaper article survival shelter.

Not sure if you heard, but there are some economic related riots in Russia.  It seems that used car salemen import used Japanese cars.  Well the Kremlin didn’t like this so they slapped down some steep tariffs on therussia3_190 imports.   The Russian used car salesmen, seeing how their livelihoods were threatened organized protests.  The Kremlin responded with force.  This picture is the shape of things to come in the US. Prepare yourself to lay low and become anonymous.  Don’t be a big mouth or the government will push you to the ground and drive your face into the pavement with its knee.

BTW the 7.62 * 39 ammo that I was paying $4.99 a box for has jumped up to $6.95.  That’s a 20% increase!!

What do you folks think of this cartoon?

deadmonkeyI don’t think it’s racist.  Just me though and I’m not black.  If anything I think that I’m more sensitive than most about diversity and what not.  When I saw this cartoon I thought the artist was saying that the stimulus bill is so bad it was written by a monkey(s).  I thought that the tshirt with a monkey on it that said Obama 08′ was in terrible taste and was racist.  This cartoon, nope.  What do you think?

And an interesting op-ed on unchecked military spending.  We are all now reaping the rewards of the confluence of the mlitary, private industry, government and Big M Media.  Big M Media gets you right where they want you with shows like: The Unit, 24 and now Homeland Security.  It’s all BS.  It all boils down to getting money out of our pockets and abrogate our constitutional rights.  We have too many foreign bases.  Our fingers are in too many cookie jars.  Our military is too large.  Being the biggest on the block makes us a target, makes us more likely to resort to military force and drains our coffers.

And  what’s up with Republicans who voted 100% against the stimulus bill now touting the $’s that will be delivered to their home districts.  This is just degenerate politics.

Went skiing.  It was a beautiful day.  It usually is when you get to ski.

w4Ski trail.  Nice huh?  It was a warm day so the snow was soft and squishy like mashed potatoes.  The trail in the top picture is actually really steep, could be a 30+ degree grade.  When the snow is soft though it’s real slow so you have to ski the steepest trails going.  I had so much fun going down this trail I think I skied back up another one or two times.

w5This is looking up another nice hill that’s great to ski down.  It was the same warm day so it’s possible to steer around the trees.  Both of these slopes face more or less north or northeast so they tend to have snow on them more consistently.

Unemployment

February 19, 2009

Okay, let’s say the Boss came into your office or asks you to come into hers and she says, ‘Well, times have been real bad.  We’ve all had to make cutbacks.’   BTW if the Boss ever shows up with someone from Human Resources don’t even wait for them to speak.  Just start packing up.

What do you do next?

I’ve been laid off a number of times.  I hate to say you get used to it.  You don’t.  It’s never easy, but there is something to be said for not being too vested in your job.   There’s also something to be said to burning bridges sometimes.  I mean who would want the bastard to have a way to get over to you.  Some bridges are best burned.  That’s just me though.  And I know it’s bad advice.

I can really feel for people, getting laid off is as shocking to a family as a death or divorce.   If you’ve been working the same job for 15, 20 or 30 years what else do you know.  You’d be like a prisoner who spent his entire adult life in prison and then upon his release steals a pack of gum to get sent back.  If you’ve been somewhere for 15+ years what else do you know?  Then if you have kids and get laid off…

Well what do you do now that you’re driving home and wondering how to tell your husband, wife, parents, girlfriend, boyfriend or roommates? Well in no particular order: collect unemployment, stay positive, assess the situation, network, budget/debt management, look for jobsdevelop a cash business, keep a schedule and exercise.

1. Collect unemployment – first things first.  Get in touch with your state’s department of employment assistance or transitional assistance or whatever government name they have for it and open a file.  if you can do it on-line then do it on-line.  If you need to do it by phone then make sure that your portable phone is fully charged before you call.  Use a speakerphone so that you can do other stuff while you wait on hold for an hour.  If they call, return their phone calls.   If you need to fill out a form or take a class then do it as fast as possible.  Keep track of who you speak with and what was said. You have time now.  If you need to keep a log of your job search then do it.   You’ll need to update your claim every week.  Make sure that you do it.  Otherwise your claim will be closed and you’ll have to start from scratch again.   Don’t ever lie to the unemployment people.  It’s a serious offense and even with everything they got going on now they like nothing better than to screw with you.  Don’t lie to them.  They have secret Government ways of finding out.  So treat collecting unemployment as a job.  You’re lucky to be getting it so make sure you do what they ask of you.  Check out what option you have for health insurance.  Maybe it’s COBRA or some state policy.

2. Stay positive – Tough to do when you’re worrying about your next meal, paying the rent or getting necessary medicine, but you have to do your best.  Maybe it’s going to church, temple or the mosque.  For me it’s walking my dog and spending time outside.  I’ve found over my short life that some people, places, events and things are energy vacuums.  You need to avoid energy vacuums.  If you know a particular person is going to give you hard time about something then avoid them.  If your mother or your ex always dumps on you then don’t give them the opportunity.  You don’t want to be sitting around all day with other unemployed people who are negative.  If they are positive and doing and going and making things happy or happening then that’s another story.  Avoid the energy sucks in your life.  You know who or what they are.

3. Assess the situation – Spend some time just figuring out where you are at and how you got there.    Where did you think you would be at this point in your life and where you are at.  What’s changed and what hasn’t.  Should you consider moving someplace different to increase your chance of finding work?  Go to school?  The state may pay.  Get some retraining or learn a new skill maybe.  Maybe you need to change your living arrangements or sell the boat and jet skis.  Don’t become an unwitting observer of your own life.

4. Network – Now is time to get out there.  Have any favors that people owe you or friends in position to hire you?  You need to speak with everyone you meet.  You never know where one simple hello may lead.  The more you do the more people you meet, so do more.  Just because you are unemployed it doesn’t mean that you should sit at home.  Volunteer at the town kennel or the senior center.  The Internet, Facebook and Myspace are great to network.    If you belong to any organizations or associations like the VFW, AmVets, Italian American Club, Masons or Order of the Arrow than work it.  Check on your fraternity brothers or sorority sisters.  Now isn’t the time to be hiding out in your mountain top bunker by yourself.

5. Budget/debt management – You have to try and get your finances in as best shape as possible.  If you have the where with all to write out a budget then do it.  Get an understanding of how much income you are taking in every month and what your monthly expenses are.  If you need to, for a week keep track of every cent you spend and write it down in a little notebook.  Set priorities for your bills and debts.  Make sure you put unsecured creditors last.  That’d be like credit card companies.  Try and figure out where you can cut back.  Forget about the coffee out everyday.   It’s bad for the environment anyways.  Forget about the lottery or going out to eat.  Only you know where you can cut back. Don’t ever go shopping without a listUse coupons if you have the patience.  Make shopping lists.  Sell your junk that is in your shed or closet.    Have a yard sale or post crap on E-Bay.

6. Look for jobs – Personally, I never like job fairs.  It’s like ants at a picnic.  Use the Internet and sites like Craigslist.org.  If you went to college check with the alumni folks at your alma mater.  Check USAjobs.gov.  Most states and municipalities are hurting, but they’re still hiring who they need.  Consider part-time work or a few part-time jobs.  I like the idea of having a number of part-time jobs, diversification of your income is good.    Looking for a job is a job.    You really should try and spend an two or three hours at least five days a week looking for a job.  It takes a lot of time and it sucks.

7. Develop cash business – If you’ve always wanted to “follow your heart” or try something different and never had the balls to actually do it, now may be the time.   I believe just about anyone can accomplish just about anything they set their mind to.  You can too.  If you’ve always wanted to write a book, become a taxidermist or whatever else it is, then think about turning it into a business.  Turn your hobbies into a business.  In our New Economy v.2 having an independent income stream will be a very good thing indeed.   Don’t get all crazy though and start spending a bunch of money you don’t have to make money.  If you plan on “investing” in tools, equipment or such for a new business, don’t do it without first developing a detailed business plan.  That said though, look around your house, you already have the tools for your hobbies, sports and recreational activities.  Teach people to tie flies.  Put in vegetable gardens for people.   Fix bicycles.  Tutor someone’s kids.   Babysit or take care of someone’s elderly parents.  Maybe run errands or clean houses.  Fix cars for folks.  Cook meals for working people so when they get home from work dinner is already made.  Specialize in small engine repair.  Catch fish and sell em to your neighbors.  Set up your own little farm stand or sell bouquets of flowers.  Maybe learn how to homebrew beer and wine.  Mow lawns or trim hedges.  Your imagination and other people’s doubts are your only limitations.  If you’ve had a desk job your whole adult life you’ll be pleasantly surprised how nice it is to do something different and maybe move around for a change.

8. Keep a schedule – You can’t be sleeping all day.  You may not have a paying job, but you can still be useful and contribute.  Try to wake up and go to bed the same times each day.  Don’t stay up all night playing video games.  Make Mondays be a drag and look forward to Fridays.  Clean the house.  Cook meals.  Go to the library.  Get out.    Keep busy and make your unemployment be like a job.  Make a schedule so you get out of the house everyday to get the newspaper, look for jobs or walk the neighborhood.  Make a list of things that need to be done around your home – filing, painting, cleaning, snaking the drains.   Have meals at regular times.  Set your alarm clock, wake up, shower and shave.  You too ladies.  You can’t start living like a pirate now, no matter how nice it sounds.  Unless of course it’s a pirate you want to be then be the best damn pirate you can, be the captain of other pirates and be a pirate’s pirate.  Anyways…

9. Exercise – This is a biggie.  You have to get some exercise everyday.  You have the time now so there is no excuse.  Exercise will relieve stress, help you sleep better and keep you healthy.  Ideally, You Get Outside Every Day so you get some fresh air and sunshine.  Walking is great exercise.  Explore trails near your house.  Do stuff around your yard.  If you are lying awake in bed at night worrying you aren’t exercising enough.

If you are not laid off yet: don’t get your personal identity from your job, arrive early, don’t surf the Net at work.  Start saving a little cash every pay period.  Pay down your secured debt as much as possible.  Whatever your job is, keep current on new trends or breakthroughs.  Take classes.  Start buying some extra food and other non-perishables like toilet paper, toothpaste, laundry detergent and so on to store.  If you are working and having a tough time meeting your bills then make some changes while you still have steady income.  I’m not telling you what to do, but if you are still contributing to a 401k or 403b really think about what you are doing.  Especially if you are like me and don’t know what you are doing.  The days of buying and holding are behind us.

Get outside everyday!

I was out skiing.  There really isn’t much snow left but I know the last places that melt.

v3

Look how blue that sky is and the way the blue changes from kind of white near the horizon to bright blue of the heavens.  Crazy.  Anyways, this big field is actually sort of a bowl.  It doesn’t look very steep, but I guarantee if you aren’t a good cross country skier you will fall.  So when I ski this area I kind of follow the tree line on the left down to the bottom of the little slope.  At the bottom of this little hill is a good size pond.  It’s out of the picture to the right.  Then I ski back up and ski down again a bunch of times.

So at the bottom of the hill lo n’ behold what do I see………………but a………………

v5Chicken of the Woods! I don’t eat the stuff, but it is a good find nonetheless.  Believe me, what I eat is directly related to my level of hunger.  No offense, but I would eat you too if I was hungry enough.  And I would expect no less from you.  Anyways, Chicken of the Woods is pretty unique looking as far as wild edible mushrooms go.  I’m not one to collect mushrooms, but there really isn’t anything else that looks like this that is poisonous.   They grow on trees, even dead trees.  They’re orange and yellow.  They don’t have gills.  They’re best to eat when young.  You can cut the edges off of them.  That’s where the best taste is.  I read that you should avoid the ones that grow on conifers.  As with all wild edibles, test them first before eating in quantities.

YOU GOTTA DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH though until you are comfortable with what you know.  Don’t Eff around with mushrooms.  You have to put in the research time or you could die, and then what good will all those high capacity magazines do for you? Just kidding.  You  can keep them ………..for now.

v7Here’s another picture.  You’ve seen these haven’t you?  Google Chicken of the Woods and then commit it to memory.