Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trauma Center

Nightline just ran a story about Memorial Hermann, the busiest trauma center in the country. It's unbelievable to me that patients are being sent 120 miles away to places like Beaumont even though Memorial Hermann is smack dab in the largest medical center in the world. I appreciate the folks at Texas Children's and M.D. Anderson and what they've done/are doing for our family, but there's something amiss if someone in Texas City has to be flown to Beaumont after being injured in an auto accident. How many people are dying because of a lack of capacity in our trauma centers?

Weng Weng

I don't know what to say.

White House beer summit

Joe had a good time.

Why do so many dream of retiring to a place inhabited by a bunch of old farts?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Rust Belt

A common misperception is that US manufacturing has been declining only since the 1980s, when we allowed the evil Japs to sell us their cars and cameras. In fact, US manufacturing has been in decline for more than 60 years.

You want evidence? New England residents can see the hundreds of mill towns that used to line the rivers throughout the region. Connecticut residents can visit armpits like Bridgeport and Waterbury. These places didn't decline due to foreign trade, they declined due to changing demand, new technologies, and companies/employees/local governments refusing to embrace reality.

Some of these New England mill towns are fortunate enough to exist in scenic settings and have been rescued by monied residents of Boston and New York. The rest of these towns are dead or will be soon. See Berlin, NH for an example.

We still manufacture stuff in this country. To succeed on a large scale again we need to dump the rigid, counterproductive union work rules and strive for better employee/employer relations. Companies dumping their medical insurance liabilities on the Federal government will also help manufacturing.

We're doomed.

Nearly one-out-of-two U.S. voters (49%) now say the nation’s best days are in the past, a five-point jump from last month and the highest level of pessimism on this question in a year.
Count me in the 51%.

Update: Nevermind. We're all doomed (1 MB PDF file). On the other hand, it could be worse. We could be Spanish residents.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Walking away from that Option ARM

Over at Calculated Risk there's a post about the impending Option ARM crisis.
The good news, according to a Barclays Capital report, is not as many Option ARMs will recast in 2011 as forecast earlier by Credit Suisse.

The bad news is borrowers are defaulting en masse before the recast.
Of course they are. These stupid loans are washing out long before they are due to re-set. As I pointed out last year, why continue paying on a $400k mortgage when the underlying asset is only worth $200k? I consider myself an ethical person, but if I was in that situation I'd bail.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cecil Adams has penis envy

Cecil spent an inordinate amount of time last week defending Chicago against the "charge" that Houston will soon be the larger city. He seems very insecure and defensive about Chicago's size, and poo-pooh's the idea that Houston will ever be larger than Chicago because of gas prices and trains, as if the majority of Windy City residents commute by public transit. (Hint: They don't. The vast majority of Chicagoland residents commute by car.)

I bet there were Cecil's in Chicago circa 1955 who said the same thing about LA. Can't happen. Chicago will always be the Second City.

Hey, Houston is hot and flat. Chicago is also flat. But you know what? Winter weather sucks ass, and while you're shivering in January I'm out riding my bike. And I pay a lot less for a comparable lifestyle.

Web of Deception

If you haven't seen it and you have some time to kill next weekend, go to Web of Deception. All the dirt on public figures you'll ever want, and much of it is very interesting. I just wish the website was formatted in a coherent fashion.

Scrolling down I see that Harvard hit the jackpot on that house William Louis Gates lives in, and Lou Dobbs owns hundreds of acres of land in New Jersey and pays almost no property taxes. For 15 of those acres within spitting distance of the Vernon Valley resort his annual tax bill is $26.03. Sweet!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It takes a village.

Update: A reader spots an important press release (small PDF file).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Who knew?

I am re-upping some old videos circa 2006. I took these down when I had my personal crisis in June 2008. When the politicians and grotesquely-overpaid assholes on Wall Street say "Who knew this would happen?" it pays to keep in mind that they knew it would happen. A peon like me with a lowly bachelor's degree from a medium-sized Texas public university knew it would happen. If these hotshot Yale and Harvard grads really didn't know it would happen they are idiots. You decide.

What Ever Happened to California?

Time Magazine has a special issue about what went wrong in the once Golden State.
Its gross product was larger than all but five countries; were California an independent nation, its per capita income would have been the world's highest. Yet, statistics aside, something was wrong.
As the article points out, California is in deep trouble and like the rest of America it is doomed.

Thomas Friedman estate

From NRO, here's a picture of concerned carbon-fighter Thomas Friedman's modest house.
Barbra Streisand has a low carbon footprint.
Al Gore's little house in Nashville means that the Gore household pumps fewer filthy pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere than you do. And hats off to Al for buying a fleet of American SUV's.

Update: Chickenlittle calls them "Carbon Indulgences."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blind Date

I saw Kids in the Hall in 2000 when they played the Verizon Theater. They frequently totally broke from script and improvised with help from the audience. One of the best shows I've seen. Wish I had been there last year when they came back into town.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nightline continues with the hard news

Nightline continues their fine tradition of important investigative reporting. On the program right now: Police raid the Houston offices of Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's personal Dr. Nick.

Time to load up on the S&P!

CalPERS and CalSTRS. Based upon their track record it may pay to do the opposite.
Both funds have altered their portfolios somewhat in recent months. For instance, both are pouring less money into the stock market in favor of private equity and other investments.

Online Dating Annoyances

Lou's top online dating annoyances:
  • The photo of that tattoo you got after the divorce "because it's something I always wanted to do for myself." Well, it's ugly and now you're stuck with it forever.
  • The unimaginative profiles that show interests as exciting as "I like long walks on the beach and margaritas."

  • Inappropriate screen names.
  • The photo of you doing your first and only tandem skydive to show everyone that you're adventurous. Hint: Most divorced women do this.
  • A picture of the dolphin you swam with for 5 minutes at the Mexican resort. Did you know that this is unnatural for the dolphin and the creature really didn't enjoy it?
  • Pictures of your dog. If you say you like poodles, great. We don't need a photo of one.
  • "Winks" from women in China and Russia desperate to improve their lot in life.

  • My top annoyance: Profile photos taken with your girlfriends that leave the viewer guessing which one you are.

Manhattan Airport Foundation

This is an impressive parody.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Schultz is full of crap

The kOOk blogs like Prison Planet and Rense are panting over Harry Schultz.
In its current issue, HSL reports rumors that "Some U.S. embassies worldwide are being advised to purchase massive amounts of local currencies; enough to last them a year. Some embassies are being sent enormous amounts of U.S. cash to purchase currencies from those governments, quietly. But not pound sterling. Inside the State Dept., there is a sense of sadness and foreboding that 'something' is about to happen ... within 180 days, but could be 120-150 days."
Two points. Such enormous news would have surely "leaked" by now to someone besides Schultz, and I challenge you to cite another source for Harry's blather. Second point, isn't this a pretty stupid way to purchase currency? I envision dark-coated spOOks emerging from the gates of these embassies late at night for secret rendezvous with shady bankers.

And why is Schultz being touted as a financial whiz?
The Harry Schultz Letter (HSL) was my pick for Letter of the Year in 2008 because it really did predict what it rightly called a coming "financial tsunami."
BFD. I saw this shitstorm brewing years ago, as did countless bloggers on places like CR and Mish.
And over the past 10 years, the letter still shows an annualized gain of 3.65%, against negative 0.86% annualized for the total return Wilshire.
Fact: You could have met that or beat it by parking your money in treasuries and CD's.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tobias Stretch

This stop motion animation is amazing. I think Toby Stretch will be famous soon.

Tobias Stretch Reel I from Tobias Stretch on Vimeo.

Ron Paul lingers with Brüno

Brüno was very funny. Ron Paul has a great cameo.

Ron lingered in that hotel room for a long time! He was clearly looking for hidden cameras. You or I would be out of there in two seconds, but not Dr. Ron. I think he was curious and only left because he spotted the camera.

I don't know why Austrians are upset about this movie. Gays should be disturbed because it reinforces every stereotype those of us in the straight world have about gays. Most of all, Hollywood morons should be upset about this movie. Madonna and Paula Abdul may never appear in public again.


What were those mysterious small orbs falling from the sky last night?

No segue. My favorite album during my senior year in high school. Every single remaining 60s Brit pop band became a parody of itself during the 1980s (including the Stones), then The Kinks come along and release an album that sounds fresh and vibrant.

Then The Kinks became big on MTV and quickly melted down into a state of wretched patheticness, a bunch of 40+ year-old guys striving to sound relevant in a new age.

Hey, that sounds sorta like us bloggers!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Duluth police search for rubber ball fetish burglar

I thought that I had heard it all. Guess not!
A Duluth man with a history of burglary to satisfy a self-professed sexual fetish for slashing large rubber exercise balls has been at it again, according to a complaint made public on Thursday.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apollo 11

It launched 40 years ago today. I wish I could have seen an Apollo launch. Well, since we're wasting billions hand over fist, there's one Saturn V left at JSC. Maybe NASA can refurbish that sucker and launch it so we can all watch it in HD with really bass-heavy stereo. Sure it's a waste, but I'd rather have my money go for that than to pay bonuses to Goldman Sachs execs.

Photoshop expert needed in Toronto

From the National Post,
The smiling, ethnically diverse family featured on the cover of Toronto's latest edition of its summer Fun Guide was digitally altered to make the photo more "inclusive," which city officials say is in keeping with a policy to reflect diversity.

A spokesman for the department that publishes the guide listing recreation activities confirmed the publication was doctored to insert the face of a different father.

"He superimposed the African-Canadian person onto the family cluster in the original photo. It was two photographs and one head was superimposed over the original family photo," said John Gosgnach, communications director for the social development division.

"The goal was to depict the diversity of Toronto and its residents."
Diversity is nice and everything when people get along, but this is just silly. How much money did they spend printing these when the first thing anyone thinks of when seeing the cover is, "whoa, that looks really fake"?

It's still there on the City of Toronto website. And here's an old Onion piece.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Michael Jackson's hair was on fire in 1984.

Nightline: Right now they are focusing like a laser beam on Michael Jackson's hair catching on fire in 1984. This is the important news.

Well, the news cycle is slow right now. It's not like there is anything of historic significance going on in Washington right now that will utterly change the way you and I live.

Nick on Meredith Whitney

Definitions for newbies:

U1: Percentage of labor force unemployed 15 weeks or longer.
U2: Percentage of labor force who lost jobs or completed temporary work.
U3: Official unemployment rate per ILO definition.
U4: U3 + “discouraged workers”, or those who have stopped looking for work because current economic conditions make them believe that no work is available for them.
U5: U4 + other “marginally attached workers”, or “loosely attached workers”, or those who “would like” and are able to work, but have not looked for work recently.
U6: U5 + Part time workers who want to work full time, but cannot due to economic reasons.

The demise of Twitter

Beating a dead horse, but I keep pointing out that Twitter is the modern equivalent of the CB radio. In case you didn't see it, this has been confirmed by the Financial Times:
A research note written by a 15-year-old, who was not born when former UK chancellor Nigel Lawson dismissed London analysts as “teenage scribblers”, has become the talk of middle-aged media executives and investors.

“Teenagers do not use Twitter,” he pronounced. Updating the micro-blogging service from mobile phones costs valuable credit, he wrote, and “they realise that no one is viewing their profile, so their tweets are pointless”.
Twitter is pointless. It has some value, but how can you run a business based upon the occasional riot in Tehran or plane crash in the Hudson?

Hey John. I asked you this more than a year ago. Where's the revenue? Show me the money.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I have no words

California arsonists

It's brush fire time in southern California, and the arsonists are busy. (1) (2)

Sometimes when I hear these types of stories I have cynical thoughts. Such as... I wonder who would benefit from these brush fires at a time when there are budget cuts in the pipeline?

Just sayin'.

Ted Kennedy receives million dollar bribe

Ted's rolling in the dough.
At a time when publishers are scrambling to keep customers willing to pay $26 for a hardcover book instead of $9.99 for an electronic version, the publisher of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s forthcoming memoir is going in the opposite direction - issuing a limited edition it plans to sell for $1,000 a copy.
Sounds like a Jim Wright book deal. K Street lobbyists will be fighting over the copies.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Honey, I blew up the office!

From the Financial Times,

Workers at a failed French car parts supplier are threatening to blow up their factory unless the company's two biggest clients - Renault and PSA Peugeot -Citroën - stump up extra compensation.

Employees of the engine parts maker New Fabris have rigged up gas canisters inside a factory workshop, which they say will be detonated on July 31 if the two carmakers fail to pay €30,000 (£26,000) to each of the 366 workers facing unemployment.

From AsiaOneNews,

The deadly violence in Xinjiang has refocused attention on a toy factory brawl in southern China last month that left two Uighurs dead, highlighting the tensions stoked by mass migration.

The clash between Han Chinese and Uighur workers on June 25 at the Xuri factory in the southern province of Guangdong left 118 injured, 14 of them seriously, state media reported.

From AFP,

Thousands of garment workers near the Bangladeshi capital on Monday stormed a factory and torched it in a third day of violent protests over pay cuts and outstanding salary payments.

About 20,000 workers, some armed with sticks and stones, were protesting on the streets of Ashulia, 30 kilometres (19 miles) outside Dhaka, when some set fire to a factory, assistant police commissioner Nur Ahmed told AFP.

Also from the Financial Times,

Senior Democrat senators said on Wednesday they would change a provision that imposes carbon taxes on imports following warnings that the clause in the House’s cap-and-trade bill could spark a global trade war.

The House’s bill contained tough provisions to impose carbon tariffs, aimed at protecting American companies’ competitiveness against imports from countries without equivalent carbon emission controls to those in the US.

The mad dash to export US manufacturing jobs has stepped up a notch. How long before we see violence at the remaining US factories?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

True Stories

Yes, that's pretty much Texas. Hot, flat, building up fast. I still like the movie, even though David Byrne is a really bad actor.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Milk is $2.00/gallon at HEB. This time last year it was nearing $4.00. Bread's a lot cheaper as well. I like Triscuits and go through a box a week. Last summer they were $2.00/box, then they went to $3.00. Now they're back at $2.00. Utility bills are noticeably lower, even with the current heat wave. You know what's happened to housing costs.

My medical insurance premiums continue to skyrocket and I don't want to think about college tuition for my kids. Those are the two remaining bubbles left to pop, and when they do it will be spectacular.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Boone craps out

T. Boone "$200 oil" Pickens gave up on his windfarm. He blames it on the credit market. I blame it on market forces. A collapse in energy prices will put the kibosh on schemes that demand taxpayers fund projects that should be paid for by the private sector.

An old video of mine:

What California government workers think of you taxpayers

Comments on the SacBee,

To all state employee haters:

Stop wasting time and go back to flipping burgers!

Class dismissed!
State workers are the backbone of all Californians. No furloughs, no pay cuts, or layoffs. Give us all raises and we will all start putting are money back into the economy and everyone will be happy.
But, obviously you hate state workers, probably because you could not pass the entrance exam to get a job. Can I have a Big Mac, fries, and a medium coke please? Have a nice day.
Do you know for a fact, what will happen if you lay-off 100,000 State employees?

Here is an answer to your statement. Half the businesses in the private sector will fold, and the other half that remain open, will not be open for long.
How is laying off thousands of state workers going to help the economy? You want to help the economy, TELL THE PRIVATE SECTOR TO STOPPPPPPP RIPPING OFF THE STATE!!!!! AND WASTING MY TAX DOLLARS BY CHARGING THE STATE TWICE AS MUCH FOR THE SAME SERVICE!!!!! Go take a math class
California budget growth over the past 10 years:

The current deficit is $24 billion, which works out to about $2600 per family of four. (Is my math right?) Don't know about you, but if I got an additional tax bill of $2600 each year on top of what is already being confiscated I think I'd consider hauling butt.

But maybe the public employee unions are right. Shut your mouths and pay up, burger-flippers.

(Thanks for the Instalanche, Glenn. And let me add that I find it interesting that so many California public employees denigrate fast food workers. I don't know why. Flipping burgers is honest work, it's tough work, and it's something (raises hand) that many of us have had to do at one point in our lives in order to pay the bills.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Goodbye, Alamo Village

This sucks, but I can't say that it's unexpected. Alamo Village has closed.

I drove past the signs on US 90 for years, and this past March I finally visited the place. Even during a beautiful spring break Saturday there very few visitors, and I knew the place would be closing soon.

The Shahan family made a good effort, but Alamo Village is way too remote and let's face it, westerns aren't exactly popular nowadays.

More at the Chron.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ronulan sues the TSA

I hope he wins.
A lawsuit filed Thursday against the Transportation Security Administration alleges a Ron Paul supporter was unreasonably detained at the St. Louis airport because he was carrying about $4,700 in cash...

Bierfeldt said he refused to answer when a TSA official asked what was in the box. Another TSA official arrived, and Bierfeldt was taken into a separate room where he used an iPhone in his jacket pocket to record the officials' questioning.

An audio clip provided by the ACLU includes repeated questions from a TSA official about why Bierfeldt was carrying so much money, and his repeated refusal to answer. On one occasion, the questioner swears and asks, "Is there any reason you're not answering questions?"

Bierfeldt answers, "Am I legally required to answer the question?"
The recording is here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Volatile Swings for Price of Oil About to Hobble Speculators

It's back!
Volatile Swings for Price of Oil Hobble Industry

The extreme volatility that has gripped oil markets for the last 18 months has shown no signs of slowing down, with oil prices more than doubling since the beginning of the year despite an exceptionally weak economy.
Some like to blame Goldman Sachs. (I am not a fan, but the Rolling Stone article reaks of Protocols paranoia.) Dumber people still believe in peak oil. The reality is nothing more than speculation, and a bunch of dumbasses are about to get burned.

Hey, don't get wrong. From a selfish "I wish my house could appreciate like crazy" standpoint, high oil prices are great. But the facts are we are awash in crude stockpiles that are still building.

America's horniest city: Houston

And now, the important news.
Houston, you are one horny town.

At least according to a highly scientific survey done for Trojan condoms. Um, make that a semi-demi-scientific survey.

A polling company invited people to take an online survey and compiled 1,000 responses; the results: Houstonians can certainly bone it like they own it.

The survey says we have sex 101 times a year; people in the hellhole of Dallas-Fort Worth make it only 73 times a year. San Francisco is allegedly just sixty times a year.
More here. People and Boston and San Francisco aren't very busy, if you know what I mean.

This "study" is about as valid as the "America's largest/fattest/smelliest/hairiest city" studies. A company wants some free PR, they gin up a study that prominently ranks where their products aren't selling and the press dutifully reports it as news. But you knew that.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Your elected officials on their vacation

More about these congressional retreats here.

Road trip

Last time I was on I-10 heading west I seem to recall a Buc-ee's billboard that even made me do a double-take. It was a beaver entendre.

Trees in Columbus, Texas. Beats cutting them down!

The next bubble

Some believe the next bubble is in alternative energy, or government bonds. I think the next bubble is in free-range goats.
Free-Range Goats Promise 12% Private-Equity Gains in Australia

July 3 (Bloomberg) -- Free-range goat farming in rural Australia is a low-cost investment that may offer annual returns of as much as 12 percent, said Peter Hannen, chairman of private-equity firm MG Capital Plc.
Remember emu ranches? Watch for a repeat as newly wealthy stock-optioned city folk head for the country to try and raise goats and then go broke.

The problem with modern architecture

The problem with most modern architecture is 30-40 years on it ends up looking like this.
"What has been gained is a notable achievement in the creation and control of urban space, and in the uses of monumentality and humanity in the best pattern of great city building. Old and New Boston are joined through an act of urban design that relates directly to the quality of the city and its life." - Ada Louise Huxtable
Sorry, Ada. Your word salad aside, Boston City Hall is a monument to ugliness. It is perhaps the most outstanding civic eyesore in the United States. How could the citizens of Boston blight their attractive downtown with this architectural boil?

Shanghai building collapse

In the weekend’s bizarrest news, a nearly finished, newly constructed building in Shanghai toppled over, killing one worker. As can be seen in the photo below, the 13-story apartment building collapsed with just enough room to escape what would have been a far more destructive domino effect involving other structures in the 11-building complex.
Photos here.

I guess the moral is the Chinese can build rugged structures, but they don't know jack about foundations. It looks like one side of the foundation was built upon muddy goo, and the building just sort of slowly leaned over.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

California: Blue state welfare queen

Comment on Calculated Risk:
Its also the other way around. A lot of California's revenue goes to prop up the "red states"
Name one.

Have a great Independence Day!