Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We've Come To This

Dr. Seuss said "Getting old ain't for sissies." So true. We all hope the quality of life today is better than it was in years past. But I wonder? Especially when I see grannies robbing banks.

This brings to mind the old Monty Python show and their sketch on Bands of Roving Grannies.

(from Hell's Grannies)
First interview:
The whole problem of these senile delinquents lies in their complete rejection of the values of contemporary society. They've seen their children grow up and become accountants, stockbrokers and even sociologists, and they begin to wonder if it is all really...(disappears downwards rapidly) arggh!

Second interview:
Oh well we sometimes feel we're to blame in some way for what our gran's become. I mean she used to be happy here until she, she started on the crochet.

Reporter: Crochet?

Yeah. Now she can't do without it. Twenty balls of wool a day, sometimes. If she can't get the wool she gets violent. What can we do about it?

This used to be funny, but here's a recent bank surviellance picture. This lady has recently held up two area banks.

It's a shame we've evolved to the point where old ladies have to rob banks to live.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Those Greedy Bastiges

Be sure to thank the greedy bastiges that consider themselves masters of the universe for the current economic mess that is affecting us all and cause our government to bail them out.

Greed, avarice, usury and other corruptions promoted by a handful of men and women have lead the United States and the rest of the world into a monetary debacle. Most people that have planned and saved for retirement are seeing the savings plummet by thousands of dollars. Yet fools like Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Mortgage...

... and Alan Greenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve,
Franklin Raines, Treasurer and chief book-cooker at Fannie Mae, David Moffit of Freddie Mac, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg of AIG, who was investigated for fraud in 2000...

...and Martin Sullivan and Roger B Willumstad who both succeeded Greenberg, but apparently didn’t learn any lessons from his misdeeds.

Unfortunately Lehman Brother and Merrill Lynch did not follow basic investor advice to diversify and both got stuck holding too much of their assets in subprime debt.

For the unfamiliar, a subprime mortgage is what all those #$^* # folks that call your home during dinner time to convince you to refinance your home are trying to sell you. You let them know your credit is perhaps somewhat questionable and they say, “No worries. For you such a deal I have.” This is an adjustable rate mortgage. The first year is a mere 3%. They downplay that with points, fees, closing costs it is going to cost you plenty. Then of course it adjusts up to several points above prime each year or perhaps more often. Alan Greenspan thought this was a lovely idea, since it stimulated the economy and created more home ownership. At least until the money dried up.

We’ve been down this road before. In the greater Cincinnati area many folks were duped by the CEO of Lincoln Savings and Loan Charles Keating. This
savings and loan associations and others had been deregulated in the early 1980s, allowing them the opportunity to make highly risky investments with their depositors’ money, an opportunity of which Keating took advantage.

Some regulators noted the danger posed by these deregulations and pushed for more oversight, but Congress refused. This may be due, in part, to the Keating Five, five SenatorsDennis DeConcini, Alan Cranston, John Glenn, Don Riegle and John McCain who had received, for both themselves and for groups they supported, well over $1 million from Keating in the 1980s as favors and political contributions. They later met twice with regulators who were investigating American Continental Corporation, in an attempt to end the investigation. (In 1991, they would be rebuked to various degrees by the Senate Ethics Committee.)

In 1985, Keating hired Alan Greenspan (sound familiar) as an economic consultant, in an unsuccessful effort to convince an oversight agency to exempt Lincoln Savings from certain regulations. Greenspan delivered a favorable report, writing that Lincoln Savings was “a financially strong institution that presents no foreseeable risk to depositors or the government.” (Greenspan produced similar favorable reports on numerous other banks that also failed soon after.)

In 1989, American Continental Corporation, the parent of Lincoln Savings, went bankrupt. More than 21,000 investors, most of them elderly, lost their life savings (in total about $285 million.) This occurred largely because they held securities backed by the parent company rather than deposits in the federally-insured institution — a distinction apparently lost on many if not most depositors until it was too late. The federal government covered almost $3 billion of Lincoln’s losses when it seized the institution. Many creditors were made whole, and the government then attempted to liquidate the seized assets through its
Resolution Trust Corporation, often at pennies on the dollar compared to what the property had allegedly been worth and the valuation at which loans against it had been made.

In 1989, Keating was subpoenaed to testify before the House Banking Committee, but refused to answer questions, invoking his right against self-incrimination under the
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Keating served 4 years in a federal prison and lost most of his holdings, but was allowed to maintain a large ranch in Florida. The rich get richer and the poor get children.

We will come out of this mess. However it is my hope that those who are responsible will be punished.

Yeah! Like that would ever happen.

President Bush held a White House conference this past week to set up a bail out of the nation's financial institutions. The Dems accuse the Republicans of stalling because the Democrats want more coverage of the little guy. The Republicans accuse the Dems of wanting to throw money at everything and want to know where this money is going to come from. The Republicans want the financial institutions to be more transparent and carry more insurance to cover themselves in the event the financial companies and banks get their arses in a sling like this again.

Meanwhile one of the nation's largest consumer deposit banks, Washington Mutual, has a bank run paying out almost $17 billion to frightened west coast depositors in a week. The bank runs out of assets and is taken over by the FDIC and then a tenative purchase agreement is reached by JPMorgan Chase.

It is a scary time in our country. There is plenty of people that should step up and take responsibility, but that ain't going to happen.

You know what? I have plenty of problems. I was hoping that by age 56 I would be debt free. But that is not the way the economy is set up. And I have yet to have anyone offer to bail me out of debt.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Blustery Day

After Winnie the Pooh was abducted by Walt Disney, the folks at his art factory churned out a cartoon called Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. It was based on a chapter from a story book written by A.A. Milne

And though I sincerely hope the Milne family eventually gets safe return of the Bear, I have to say that Winnie the Pooh's Blustery Day ain't got nothin' on the collective experience of the folks in the greater Cincinnati area last Sunday.

There are some poor souls without electric or water as of this writing.

I was composing my thoughts on this very blog last Sunday afternoon when the power went out. My wife and I hoped for a brief interruption, however we were without electric service for Sunday and the next two days.

For those of you that long for the good ol' days, you can have 'em. I would rather not do what needs to be done in the bathroom by candlelight. Cold showers are also not pleasant.

Last Sunday the remants of Hurricane Ike came our way beating the town much like it's namesake used to bitch-slap Tina Turner.
The winds were clocked at 75 mph at the local airport.

In fact the control tower had to be evacuated and flights diverted. Ancient tree's snapped like tooth picks. Power lines and poles tumbled down. And then we all went back to the dark ages.

Except for the Cincinnati Bengals. Duke Energy had priorities and the NFL overrides the rest of humanity. The Bengals got their butts kicked despite of having power, water and lights.

I had to throw out all the food in my refrigerator. The local gas stations showed their compassion by raising gas prices to $4.59 a gallon. It was $3.69 the week before since crude oil had dropped.

Duke Energy has already issued a statement saying, "This is costing us big bucks folks. So open up your wallets because you are footin' the bill. "

Kentucky's governor flew in from Frankfort last Monday to pose for pictures and make a brief speech letting us all know he would take care of us. He then flew away home.

We haven't heard a peep from him since.

Photos used are posted in Cincinnati.com where you can see more.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tough Love vs Spanking

Most of America's populace think it improper to spank children, so I have tried other methods to control my kids when they have one of 'those moments.'
One that I found effective is for me to just take the child for a car ride and talk.

Some say it's the vibration from the car, others say it's the time away from any distractions such as TV, Video Games, Computer, IPod, etc.

Either way, my kids usually calm down and stop misbehaving after our car ride together.

I've included a photo below of one of my sessions with my son, in case you would like to use the technique'

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Mad Magazine proclaims 1961 to be the first upside down year.

I was nine years old and in Miss Cormac's third grade glass reading all about those crazy kids, Dick, Jane and Sally. My grandmother, who I called Dandy, spent a lot of time at our house this year.

This was a presidential inauguration year. Folks were running scared that a...Catholic...was to become president. Life as we had known it would be forever lost, the nuns from outer space would invade and we would be herded off to colonies under the iron rule of the Pope.

They were partially correct. Life as we knew it did indeed change. On the other hand, the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, had lost the 1960election. He won the election in 1968 and again in 1972.

We know what happened. Nixon lied about involvement with the Watergate Hotel break in to the Democratic offices. We know that sitting presidents have lied to the public in the past, but Nixon was the first to be caught in the act. He was forced to resign. Before Nixon the public had faith in it's leaders. After Nixon there was not only instense public distrust, but this also lead to media scrutiny.

However getting back to the topic at hand 1961, it was apparent in the 1960 presidential race we had the same candidates as we are offered now, a ferret versus a weasel.

Why do I say that considering President Kennedy was a very popular president and was remembered for only his virtues and good deeds for those of us that recall his tragic assassination in November of 1963. Perhaps the term ferret may seem objectionable. But as was later discovered, Kennedy was a womanizer and adulterer. His wealthy father had funded his election and enlisted the support of his mafia connections, especially in the state of Illinois in order assure a presidential victory for his son. There is some that believe that after Kennedy became President, his stand against organized crime was what did him in. We may never know.

Kennedy had visited Newport, Kentucky during his campaign and visited Cote Brilliante Elementary School and shook hands with a little red-haired girl that would become my wife.

So the Kennedy family entered the White House and became the first celebrity president.

Men quit wearing hats, since Kennedy never wore one.

Everyone liked Mrs. Kennedy. Women wanted to be her. Men thought she was a hottie. Women started wearing pill box hats, since that's what Jackie wore. The first lady had started a fashion trend. In one of the most viewed TV shows of the year, Mrs. Kennedy took the public on a televised tour of the White House. Of course this was in black and white, since no one owned color TV's in 1961.

  • 1961 was the year that President Kennedy sent 18000 Military Advisors to South Viet Nam.
  • Fidel Castro declares Cuba, a nation that is only 90 miles from the border of the USA, to be a Communist nation and learns that fist shaking is an effective public speaking technique.
  • Barbie gets a boyfriend when the Mattel Toy company creates Ken.
  • The Secretary General of the UN, Dag Hamerskjold is killed in an airplane crash this year.
  • The United Nations General Assembly elects a new Secretary General with the world's shortest first name. U Thant. If you have forgotten or did not know, U was pronounced ooh.
  • Neil Armstrong set a flight speed record in an experimental jet called the X-15.
  • The Space-Race was all the talk of 1961. The Russians sent a doggie into space. America this year was sending a chimpanzee into space. The chimp's name was Ham. Yes, HAM IN SPACE, probably lead to the Muppet Show's drama, PIGS IN SPACE. Well it might of.
  • Surprisingly to all of us, the Viet Nam War starts and America participates for a long drawn out process. How fortuitous of Kennedy to send those 18,000 Military Advisors just 6 months earlier this year.
  • There was always talk on the news about The Iron Curtain. This was hard for a nine year old boy with a vivid imagination to understand this allegory. I thought that somewhere there existed this incredibly huge and rusty Iron Curtain.
  • This was doubly hard for me to understand, since during August of 1961 the commies of East Berlin constructed an actual brick and barbed wire wall dubbed the Berlin Wall.
  • Paris, which is said to be beautiful in the springtime but revolting the rest of the year, massacred it's citizens this year during a massive revolt called the Paris Massacre of 1961. 30,000 citizens aggressively protested against a curfew that was aimed at only the Allgerian population.
  • Ernest Hemmingway commits suicide and leaving many, many six-toed cats behind.
  • A Russian nuclear powered submarine crashes in the ocean and the reactor leaks. This is possibly the cause of a new breed of fish called Tialapia that becomes a big hit in restaurants 45 years later.
  • Charlie Brown finally is able to fly a kite without the tree eating it, but still can't kick the football.
  • Allen Shepard is the first man in space.
  • This same year Gus Grisom becomes the second man in space.
  • The American Civil Rights Movement which had already begun meets to form the Congress of Racial Equality.
  • Out of this movement they make headlines later in the year when a bus carrying members called Freedom Riders is firebombed in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • In the next few months the Freedom Riders are arrested for disturbing the peace in Jackson, Mississippi.
  • Race riots break out in Alabama and the governor declares martial law.
  • President Kennedy meets with Charles DeGaulle, the president of France and Nikita Khruschev, the president of Russia this year.
  • Stalin's body is removed from the Lenin Mausoleum (perhaps there was a mix up).
  • Roger Marris hits his 61st homerun beating Babe Ruth's record.
  • Adolph Eichman is found guilty of crimes against humanity by an Israeli court.
  • Kennedy sends in secret operatives that were former Cuban exciles to Cuba in a disasterous failed plot to overthrow the Castro government called The Bay of Pigs.

I vividly recall some of these events and some of them I remember, but did not understand at the time. My prime concern in 1961 was getting out of Miss Cormac's Red Bird reading group and moving up to the Blue Bird group, when was the clock going to say 2:30 so I could go home and watch TV or play with my friends, how come I had to do 3 pages of math homework, when was Daddy coming home tonight, would summer coming soon or would we be off tomorrow because of all the snow so I could sled ride on the gulf course.

I was glad that Dandy was staying at our house. I loved her.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Things I Do Not Understand

I guess I am becoming an old curmudgeon but there are some things that I just do not get. Here is the short list:

Nasal Jewelry - Nose jewelry is mentioned in the Bible. Check out Song of Solomon. Old Schlomo seems to dig the nose ring his sweetie is wearing. I just don't get it. Yessir, there's nothing more beautiful than a girl with a big ol' silver ring dangling from her nose holes.

It brings to mind Elsie the Cow.

The subdued version is the little diamond thingy that young ladies stick on the side of their schnoz. "Excuse me Miss, you have something on your nose. Here's a tissue. Oh, I'm sorry. You say that's jewelry. It looked like you had a bugg...well nevermind."

BTW, are those jewel things stick-on or do you have to have actually drill a hole into your nose? I have enough problems with allergies and am curious if that would leak out the side when your nose was runny.

Earrings on guys - When I was in my 20's I worked with a guy that was formerly a Merchant Marine. He wore a small circular gold earring. This was a sign that he sailed through the Panama Canal. I'm OK with that.

Now it is uncommon to see young boys without some sort of aural decorations. I've seen some young guys with the same earrings I gave my dear old Auntie for Christmas one year.

I'm wonder in the not-to-distant future, wil men have jewelry parties, where they can get together with the guys, gnosh on some chips and taco dip, drink a cold one and try out the latest in ear-wear? I wonder?

Neck tattoos - A girl that I worked with had some sort of Chinese neck art that resembled a UPC code. I was curious what would happen if she got scanned at the grocery store.

TV Commercials for Laxatives and Fiber Products

Some nights I can hardly wait for my favorite TV show to be interrupted so I can see the commercial with Jamie Lee Curtis talking to her new friend about how excited they both are because the new friend now poops on a regular basis.

The friend, don't ya' know, was all bound up until she tried new Fiber-Con. Now she wants the whole world to know she poos every day right on schedule. I'm glad.

Cat ladies Several times a year there are news stories about women that are living with 100 or more kitties. Why cats? You never hear about Dog ladies or Weasel ladies or Bunny ladies?

Guitar face - I play guitar. When I first started I had an old Harmony Patrician with strings that were about an inch above the neck. The only strings available locally were Black Diamond strings. These came in one extremely thick heavy gauge. It hurt to play that guitar. I don't recall if I made faces when I tried to play a bar chord on that guitar, but I had every right to.

Now days guitar strings come in light gauge, ultra light gauge, micro-light gauge and gossimer gauge. Computer controlled machinery makes even the crappiest guitar easy to play. But there are more guitar faces on folks strumming a big D chord than ever. It ain't that hard and it don't hurt folks.

The 1930 through 1950's Movie Actresses that had that sort-of-English-but-not-quite accent - When I was young I watched Father Knows Best and some other TV shows and movies. The leading women all spoke with this unusual speech affliction. "Oh Dah-row-thee, please do be cah-ro-fall not to step on any of the preh-she-ous munch-kans." My Mom grew up in that era. So did all my Aunts and none of them spoke like that. No one talks like that any longer.

I'm glad. Rah-eelee Ah'm gah-lad.

Beer - A cold beer tastes pretty good occasionally. I don't often drink beer. I used to sell a lot of beer. I recall folks that bought a 24 pack of beer on a daily basis.

Do the math. 24 twelve ounce cans of liquid is 288 ounces.

A gallon of milk is 128 ounces.

I doubt if I could down a gallon of water every day. I could not conceive of drinking 2 gallons of water unless I was a horse. 2 gallons is 256 ounces. But there are plenty of people that consume 288 ounces of beer a day and then complain about gas prices.

Railroad Cars with Gang Graffiti - I was watching a movie called Wyatt Earp last weekend. Back in 1867 the surviving Earp brothers had just put their family on a train and were in a scene where they were standing around the boxcars. I sensed something wrong.

The boxcars did not have any gang tags spray painted on them. I guess the Clanton brothers, the Earp's nemesis, just hadn't gotten around to painting their gang marks on those boxcars. You just don't see trains go by without seeing a lot of strange squiggles and box letters spray painted on them.

I wonder if my cousin Eddie puts gang graffiti on his model railroad boxcars. He really ought to.