Saturday, August 27, 2011

What a Week

First, for “all” those who missed me, I’m back.  I learned yesterday that Blogger had shut me down for “suspicious” activity.  What it was, I don’t know.  There is a series of links you can use to verify yourself and get the lights turned back on.  I did and here I am, back in business, so to speak.

Second, in my spare time, over lunch on Tuesday, I bought a condo.  I suppose that’s a bit impulsive; but, I am now experiencing the wonders of the “short sale” process.

I had dinner last Saturday with friends, one of whom is a real estate agent.  We talked about short sales and he mentioned that he knew of several potentially good deals in the area.  I looked at one of them on Sunday but it turned out to be under contract.  I looked at another, over the lunch hour Tuesday.  The dollars were so compelling, I made an offer.  After some back and forth about details, the offer was “accepted” yesterday, kinda.

In a short sale, there are a bunch of people who have a say.  Me and the unfortunate seller of course.  The lender, the servicing bank and the mortgage insurance company.   Everyone has to say yes and everyone but me and the seller have a stack of folders that represent houses on which they’ve lost money on their desks.  They are overworked and unhappy.

Right now they are all tentatively on board; but, they have two weeks to back out, we’ll see.

Third, in the world of computers, phones and internet, none of the players like me.  Google, as noted above, burped and shut me down.  It’s Gmail service which I use with Android on my phone quit working, sometimes, other times working just fine.  The fix, I was told by the nice lady at T-Mobile was a “factory reset.”  Liar.  I still have the problem and between T-Mobile and Google, I can’t reload some of the apps.

Not to be outdone, AT&T has been flaky at the office for some time.  The decision was finally made to switch to Comcast which will happen on Monday.  AT&T’s DSL, apparently sensing the rejection has been even more flaky, shutting down, reappearing, shutting down, repeat constantly.

Fourth, for me, I’m working a lot amidst all of these distractions.  I’m going to have to do something about that.

How was your week?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Did al Qaeda actually win?

The United States has spent something just short of $8 trillion on security (military, homeland security and Iraq and Afghanistan) since 2001.  The increase in the deficit during that period?  About $8.2 trillion.

Factor in the Wall Street/Bank bailout a few years ago and spending for every thing else actually went down.

Gotta watch those welfare moms, the lazy unemployed, shiftless Medicaid recipients and illegal aliens sucking up all our tax dollars.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Old Number 6

The Atlanta Braves are retiring Bobby Cox's number tonight.  This is a slightly revised re-run of a post I did last September:

Bobby Cox was the manager of the Atlanta Braves, a position he held from 1990 to 2010 (after stints as manager and general manager with the Braves and another team). He’s won just a couple more than 2,500 games, fourteen Division Titles (in fifteen years, the missing year, baseball went on strike) and a World Series (making it to a few more).  But those aren’t the important things.

Bobby is the ultimate manager. No one in baseball has a bad thing to say about him. He’s universally praised by executives, managers, coaches and players.

He’s been second-guessed by fans and reporters. He leaves players in too long. He goes with veterans too long. Great season record, playoffs not so much. All true to an extent.

He’s been thrown out of more than 150 games, a world record (he is said to have written a check for $10K at one point and sent it with a note to let him know when it ran out). You see, he’d rather pay the fine and spend a few innings in the clubhouse, keeping the arguing player, that he stepped in front of, in the game, to get a hit or make a catch.

He never says much of any significance to the press, and what he says is always positive about his players (even though he and everyone else knows he’s blowing smoke). They know he’s got their backs. (He mentioned to a reporter who was questioning a young player’s abysmal offense that the player had a swing like Stan Musial. The player started swinging like the legend.)

He doesn’t have many rules. Show up. Play hard. Don’t show off. Play for the team, not yourself. Break those rules enough and you’re gone, no matter how great your potential or your performance (See e.g., Kenny Lofton, Gary Sheffield, David Justice, most recently, Yunel Escobar). Follow those rules and you have a home for as long as your ability lasts (Chipper Jones, Greg Norton, Brian McCann, Javy Lopez, Eddie Perez – now a coach).

He treats players like adults and expects them to act that way. And they do. When was the last time you heard of a Braves player arrested or involved in a scandal? They’re very, very few and very, very far between. He gets the most out of his players, last year’s team, with injury after injury is a perfect example.

Any one out there that runs a company or teaches business? Bobby Cox would be the perfect case study for a course in how to manage people.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Roger Ebert is wrong

I agree with the wisdom of almost every thing that Ebert says in this article; but, he's missing a piece of the First Amendment and is confused about another piece. 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  U.S. Constitution.

“There are not two sides to the separation of Church and State. There is only this: They must be separated for the health of our democracy.”  Roger Ebert.

“Separation of Church and State” is a legal construct that is intended to ensure that government doesn’t get into the religious favoritism and anti-religion business.  In the meantime, people, under the “freedom” clause get to say and do pretty much what they like, including advocating an establishment of religion or trying to convince people that they have the one true religion and other contenders should be stomped.

Governor Perry, the other headliners and the 30,000 people that showed up at the “Response” rally on Saturday are a perfect example of how the First Amendment works.  They, not a government, organized it.  They assembled, spoke and prayed to their hearts content.  They may have petitioned the government.  The “press” rallied round them or against them, including Mr. Ebert.  No laws were passed.  No government did anything, just people.

The “Response” rally and how everyone reacted to it, is exactly how things in this country should go.  Are they right as to what they want?  If their God can help, great, though I don’t think our country’s political disputes are high on the celestial to do list.

The Poker Party

So we now have the debt ceiling debacle and its unfolding consequences.

Here’s the Cliff Notes version of how we got to where we are, based on no research and a hazy memory of who did what, when and why.

We’ve been raising the debt ceiling since the 1930’s, early on to pay for WWII, and since, for a wide variety of things that most people thought were good things.

There have been so many “good things” over the decades that we now spend about forty cents of every dollar that the federal government takes in on paying interest on the money borrowed to pay for the “good things.”

Both Democrats and Republicans for the most part are complicit in what could be described as our national financial Ponzi scheme.  (Too harsh?  We give out goodies now with the price for them passed down the years to the schmucks who didn’t get out of the game in time – that’s a Ponzi scheme.)

From what I’ve read, the old guard of both parties intended to stay the spending and borrowing course, giving lip service to their constituents by decrying the other side’s programs.  No new taxes!  (Fees and service related charges are okay though.)  You can’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class!  (Making states pay for federal mandates with the result that they cut services is okay though.)

Then came the 2010 mid-term election.  A bunch of wild-eyed newcomers had made a bunch of promises that, as it happened, appealed to the anti-tax crowd and it worked..  But what to do when faced with the reality of actual governance – especially when they were only a part of a majority, in only half the Congress?

Poker was the answer.  Table stakes poker with a choice of economic stability or crisis as the prize.

Never mind that any rational person knew that the debt ceiling was going to be raised, let’s get whatever political currency we can out of the process.  That doing so will do nothing meaningful in the way of what we say our goal is?  Elections are fast approaching, this crisis is butchered red meat for our base.

The last paragraph isn’t directed solely to the Tea Party folks – the far left wants an unsustainable social structure to remain in place just as long as it can manage.  No spending cuts, no reform of social welfare structures, no nothing.  Raise “revenue” (notice the left never uses the word tax?).

There are two parties of “no” “working” in Washington, D.C.  Why?  It seems to work in what our political life has become.  Damn liberals, they’ll take and take and take.  Life sucking conservatives, they’d throw grandma out on the curb if it means more money for them in their gated communities.  And we listen to it all, bitch, moan and groan, and then vote for the politician that seems to identify with our bias.

As I type, the Dow is down a little more than 2.5%.  But the people sponsoring the poker game aren’t too worried I bet.  (You do understand what, not who, I mean by people don’t you?  Google Citizens United if you need a refresher course in power politics.)  They’ll get their “rake” from the poker players no matter who “wins” any particular poker game.

Does government spending need to be cut?  Yep.  Does it have to be done without putting grandma out on the curb?  Yep.  Does that mean that some group of grown-ups needs to find out what cuts and what structural reforms can be made and make up the difference with some extra taxes on some of us?  Yep.

Any of that going to happen?  Nope.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Spam comment detection comes just in time...

for the slow death of the blog.  To explain the title, I haven't been here for just over two weeks.  Blogger tells me I now have automatic spam detection enabled.  Not that I've written much, I haven't had a comment on anything I've written in awhile, though since I cross-post on Facebook, people do occasionally say something there.

The sub-title of the blog says "Comments, and on my pretentious days, essays, on what on a given day interests, amuses, annoys or outrages me."  Stuff still interests, amuses, annoys and, not so much, outrages me.  The comments are on Facebook and I'm too busy and a bit too burned out to write essays these days.

I just took a look at the "Blogs" sub-folder in my Favorites.  There are only three people in it that are still writing with any regularity:  Thomas, Jeni and Curmudgeon (the latter, I'm being kind, you're great but you aren't prodigious anymore).

I'd announce the end of Rather Than Working; but, that seems way too final, and unnecessary.  If and when it ends, I hope that it will finally answer that question about "if a tree falls in the forest...."