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Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving THANKS (for bankruptcy)

I am an optimist at heart. Senator McCain was ridiculed during the campaign for saying the fundamentals of our economy are strong (there is another post a ways back about that, so read it if you care). They are. When allowed to function, the free market economy is the best system devised. Are there inequalities? - Yes. Are there people that will go broke? - Yes. But, if left to be truly free, there will be a much larger number of people that accumulate more wealth. Our problem now is we are being led into a disastrous economic situation by people that think the down times and the "losers" in a capitalistic system can be turned around and/or saved. That is insanity. There can be no good without bad. There can be no winner without losers. To appreciate the light, one must experience darkness. The "feel-good" notion that we can bail out all the downtrodden and speculators that lost, is not only wrong - it is suicidal to our economy. Here is a blog by a business reporter. It is OK, read it if you like. I am putting this link here specifically for you to listen and watch the first two video clips linked on her blog. Mr. Rogers (no sweaters or slippers here) is one of the most successful investors ever. He knows economies and business. His comments are chilling. The second two - not so much. Watch them if you like. http://glickreport.blogs.foxbusiness.com/2008/11/25/jim-rogers-citi-should-have-been-let-to-fail/ I truly feel that if left alone, and if the weak are allowed to fail; our nation and its economy will roar back with a vengeance. I also am beginning to feel that with all the bail outs and money being thrown around - we may be in a LOT of trouble. I took an economics course in the late 70s. We were taught that an unemployment rate of about 6% was the absolute minimum that a healthy economy could achieve. We are just now at 6.5% nationally. The 6% floor was said to be the bottom due to the fact that there are many people that just do not want to work! Oh they may go to job interviews or even take jobs, but they are very happy just getting by on charity or government handouts. To try to make these folks a permanent part of the work force was considered to expensive. Also, when the unemployment went too low, the cost of filling new jobs was too high for growing companies -ie there was way too much competition for the available good employees and wages went to a prohibitive level. We have been under 6% now for the better part of 15 years! We were under 5% for a large portion of that! Here are some famous (and not so) companies that have filed for bankruptcy. Yes, some went out of business. But, some are still around, some were bought out by successful businesses, and some morphed into something else entirely. But, they used bankruptcy to help when they got in bad shape financially. Here is the list: Aladdin Gaming, LLC (Las Vegas Hotel Casino) (2001) ABB Lummus Global, Inc. (Petroleum Refining) (2006) Aloha Airlines, Inc. Allegiant Air, Inc. American Banknote Corporation (1999) American Federation of Television and Radio Artists / AFTRA (1982) America Online Latin America, Inc. (2005) American Restaurant Group, Inc. (2004) Ameridebt (2004) AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc. (2001) AtA Airlines (2008) Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. (2005) Baldwin Piano & Organ Company (2001) Bally total fitness holding Corporation Beliefnet, Inc. Ben Franklin Retail Store, Inc. Bethlehem Steel Corporation (2001) Big Buck Brewery & Steakhouse, Inc. (2004) Birch Telecom, Inc. (2005) The Bombay Company, Inc. Bugle Boy industries Burlington Industries Inc. (2001) Carolco Pictures Inc. (1995) Casual Male Corp. CD Warehouse, Inc. Champion Parts, Inc. Chiquita Brands International Inc. (2001) Clothestime Stores, Inc. Color Tile, Inc Continental Airlines Inc. (1967 & 1984) Converse Inc. (2001) Cosmetic Center, Inc. County Seat Stores, Inc (1996,1999) Dairy Mart Convenience Stores Inc. (2001) Death Row Records (2006) Delphi Corporation (2005) Delta Airlines Inc. (2005) Diamond brands inc. Dow Corning Corporation (1995) Drug Emporium, Inc. (2001,2003) Eastern Airlines Inc. (1991) Easyriders, Inc. Edwards Theatres Circuit, Inc. Einstein/Noah Bagel Corp. Enron Corporations (2001) eToys Inc. (2001) Excite@Home (2001) Factory 2-U Stores, Inc. Family Golf centers, Inc. Farm Fresh, Inc. First City Banc. Of Texas Fitzgeralds Gaming Corp. Flooring America, Inc. Frank’s Nursery & Crafts, Inc. (2004) Frederick's of Hollywood Inc. (2000) Fresh Choice, inc Friedmans Inc. (2005, 2008) Furrs Restaurant Group, Inc. Fruit of the Loom Inc. (1999) G. Heileman Brewing Co., Inc. Gadzooks, Inc. (2004) Garden Bontanika, Inc. General homes Corporation Gibraltar Financial Corp. Greyhound Lines, Inc. Gulf States Steel, Inc. Happy Kids, Inc. (2005) Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. Hispanic Television Network, Inc. Hollywood Casino Shreveport (2004) Homes.com,LLC Homeseekers.com,Inc. Houlihans Restaurants, Inc. Huffy Corporation Imperial Sugar Company Just For Feet, Inc. KB Toys, Inc. (2004) Kmart Corporation (2002) L.A.Gear, Inc Laidlaw, Inc. Lionel Corporation (1967 & 1984) Loan Fabrics Corporation Loehmann’s, Inc. Loews Cineplex Entertainment, Inc. (2000) Logix Communications enterprises, Inc London Fog Group, Inc. Maidenform Inc. (1997) Mars Music, Inc. Marvel Entertainment Group (1996) Mercury finance Company Midway airlines Corp Montgomery Ward Inc (1997 & 2000) Mortgage Lenders Network USA, Inc. Moto Photo, Inc. Motor City Five/MC5 rock group of the 1960s (1970) Musicland Holding Corp. (2006) Napster, Inc. NextCard, Inc. Northwest Airlines (2005) Onieda Ltd. Orion Pictures Corporation (1992) Outboard Marine Corp. Owens Corning Corporation (2000) Pan Am Corporation (1998) Payless Cashways, Inc. (1997,2001) Planet Hollywood International Inc.(1999 & 2001) Polaroid Corporation (2001) Purina Mills Inc. (1999) Quality Home Loans, Inc. Quebecor World (USA), Inc. Rand McNally & Company Regal Cinemas Inc. (2001) Reliant Energy Channelview LP Resorts International Inc. (1994) Roadhouse Grill, Inc. (2002,2007) Ronco Corporation Safety-Kleen Corporation Samuels Jewelers, Inc. Schlotzskys Inc. (2004) Schwinn/GT Corp Service Merchandise Company, Inc. Seven Up/RC Bottling Company of So. CA,Inc. Sharper Image Corporation Shuttle America Corp. Silicon Graphics, Inc. (2006) Singer Company (1999) Sizzler International (1996) Smith Corona Corporation (1995) Southland Corporation (7-11 stores) (1990) Spiegel, Inc. Stan Lee Media, Inc. Standard Automotive Corp. Star Telecommunications. Inc. State Line casino Stratosphere Corporation Strouds, Inc. Sun Country Airlines, Inc. Sunbeam Corporation (2001) Swissair Group Inc. (2001) SyQuest Technology, Inc. Talkpoint Communications, Inc. Talon Automotive Group, Inc. Texaco Texas American Bancshares Texas Commercial Energy, LLC Texas Equipment Corp. Texas International Co. Texas Petrochemicals LP The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon (2004) Thinkpath Inc. Thomaston Mills, Inc. Todays man, Inc. Top-Flite Golf Company Tower Automotive, Inc. Toysmart.com (2000) TLC rock group (1995) Trans World Airlines Inc. /TWA (1995 & 2000) Trans Texas Gas Corp. Tristar Corp. Trump Hotel & Casino Resorts, Inc. Twinlab Corporation Ultra Stores,Inc. United Artists Theatre Co. United Petroleum Corp. United States Leather, Inc. US Airways Group, Inc. (2004) USA Commercial Mortgage Company US Office Products Company (mail boxes etc. stores) (2001) U.S. Wireless Corp. Vangaurd Airlines, Inc Venture Stores, Inc Vlasic Foods International Inc. (2001) Western Union Corporation (1993) Wherehouse Entertainment, Inc. Wickes Furniture Company, Inc. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. (2005) WorldCom, Inc XO Communications, Inc. Zany Brainy Zenith Electronics Corporation (1999) One of the reasons that the car companies (and some others like airlines) are NOT being allowed to declare bankruptcy is the unions. Now unions are the subject of a whole other blog for later (and I have done some - look back). The bailout for the car makers should be seen as a bailout for the unions. The unions got Obama and the democrats elected this time. Their payoff is to protect and grow union jobs. The only thing that will save American car companies long term is to eliminate or radically change the union contracts they have today. THAT is one of the purposes of bankruptcy - to cancel contracts and leases that are not in the best interest of a continuing business. So, now we have to give a TAXPAYER bailout to the car companies so the unions can keep their contracts in place. These contracts amount to thousands per car overhead that GM, Ford, and to some extent Chrysler pays per car that Toyota, Nissan, etc. do not. It is really amazing that Detroit has survived at all. Give them a level playing field and they will not just compete, they will win. The problem with "government" bailouts is - (all together now) THERE IS NO GOVERNMENT MONEY!! The only money a government has is from its governed. Any money given to banks, car companies, airlines, mortgage lenders, hot dog vendors, etc - is FROM US! The government is taking money from those that are successful and good at managing their money and giving it to those that have proven they are not! That is a recipe for disaster. Failed businesses and people must be allowed to fail. People that cannot pay their mortgage, must be allowed to lose their homes. Companies that cannot compete must be allowed to reorganize (that's what bankruptcy is for) and restart, or fail. The weak, dumb, poorly financed, badly conceived, ineptly managed, and uncompetitive must not be preserved. That weakens us all. Here is what we all MUST do - (I have and do often) Write your congressman and senator. Write our new savior Obama. Call neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Tell the government to STOP giving away your money to failures. GM and/or Citibank declaring bankruptcy will NOT take down this country. Allowing them to continue with failed policies and management with our money may. If you wanted a feel good piece about Thanksgiving - go to last year's post. I was in a better mood.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Perspective is key

I have written one post that included some thoughts about perspective. Here's another - I was just reading a book that takes place in Russia. The time frame is after the fall of the Soviet Union, but one gets the feeling that it is not that long after. One of the chapters in the book goes to a elementary school classroom to a history lesson. A question in asked of one of the little girls in the class - "Who was Abraham Lincoln?" Now, we all know Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the U.S. He freed the slaves, wrote the Gettysburg address on an envelope, and preserved the union of the states with his action in and surrounding the Civil War. We also know he was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth. The answer given by a Soviet school educated child was - "Abraham Lincoln was a president of the United States. He led a bloody suppression of a revolt by the southern states of the U.S. seeking freedom." How about that for perspective? I was then thinking about how perspective would apply to other historical figures and heroes in history. How about these? - George Washington to an English child in the early 1800's would have been - "a rebel leader that led a bloody revolt against the King. He was later selected as the first leader of this breakaway colony." This same type of description can be given to most of the American leaders of the revolution. Christopher Columbus to a Spanish child in the 1490s might have been - "an explorer that failed to find a passage to India and the far east." Ponce de Leon to a native American child in the early 1500s could have been - "a murderous invader that led the occupation of our great land." You can see where I am going - How about some of your FAMOUS/HISTORICAL PEOPLE IN PERSPECTIVE? Write 'em down and I will post them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's the thought that counts

11/26 - I wondered why no one had commented on this one. I forgot to post it. I did it a few days ago. Here you go - I was sitting and talking with my wife and considering what to give folks for Christmas this year. I love to make things. (no really I do) I have made some stuff in the past, but it rarely comes out as I envisioned. I have also had things that did not come out at all. With six kids around the house in earlier years, sometimes NOTHING came out at all except destruction and aggravation. (love ya kids, mean it) I was thinking for the last few years that I wanted to make people wind chimes. Homemade and handmade wind chimes. I have been working with the design in my head now for at least two years. I thought this might be the year I would actually do them. So, I talked it over with my wife, who tactfully agreed. (knowing that disagreement would do nothing) I have done some research online at various places about wind chimes that are available and their costs. I have gotten some great ideas, and an idea of what I could get one commercially for. Now, I am a realist. I know that although sometimes handmade/homemade items can be cheaper than factory produced units; the real benefit is in the fact that someone made the item for you. I can get some outstanding wind chimes off the internet for $19 - $25 ea. There are some higher and some lower, but that seems to be the "sweet spot" of wind chime-dom. I started doing some more detailed planning on the actual production of the wind chimes. I had a basic idea and design, but I knew I needed a more specific one to get the tools, equipment, and materials I needed to get them into production. This brought up the first "issue" to address in the making of wind chimes (or other handmade items), tools. With the design I was going to use I would need a better, easier cutting device than a twenty year old rusted hacksaw with a missing blade. I first considered just buying a new blade (or blades) for the device, but it has definitely seen better days. I then considered the fact that if I was going to do the number of wind chimes I planned, I would be doing a LOT of cutting of tubing. So, some type of power cutting device would be nice. Cost - $50 - $100 (or more). Now, to use a power saw of any design, you need another device to hold what you are sawing. With a 2" x 4" you can use your free hand and a bit of body weight. With a length of copper pipe, one would need a clamping device of some sort. I was looking at a vise or table clamp. Cost - $25 - $50 (or more). I knew I would need to drill holes in the cut lengths of pipe. Now one of the few things I have accumulated over the years is a couple of good drills - cordless and plug-in. But, the drill bits I have left are weak and spartan to say the least. I never seem to have the right drill bit when I go to sink a hole in something. I usually use the next smaller and "route it out" a bit with the old circular motion on the drill. I can usually go up a size or two with this highly developed technique. For this much precision drilling, I knew I would need a drill bit or two. Might as well get a whole set - cost - $20 - $50 (or more). I took stock of the other items I would need - fishing line (don't fish, so none here), some sort of material to make the top hangy thing (I hate to go all wind chime technical on you, but you can tell I have done extensive research) that supports the whole contraption. Now, round this all up with at LEAST three to four shopping trips to multiple stores, because I NEVER, EVER get everything I need for any project I have done until at LEAST three trips have occurred; and the labor. I enjoy doing things with my hands. I am fairly proficient with my hands. Once I get the tools (or even if I don't have all the right tools - For my father who was in a wheelchair, I once built a twenty foot long ramp with a three foot drop with nothing but a hammer, cordless drill/screwdriver, level, tape measure, a skillsaw, and a small handsaw) I can usually do a job in a reasonable amount of time. However, reasonablity is measured relatively. It almost always takes me twice as long as I originally planned, some of which is eaten up by repeated trips to various stores and hours looking for the missing and misplaced tools (where is that level? I left it right here). I was looking at making seven or eight wind chimes. I did the math this morning and determined they would cost me about $75 - $100 each with labor figured in at a reasonable rate. Remember, it's the thought that counts........ Now, if I could only remember those websites with the coolest wind chimes.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Price is Right and a cool link

Those of you that know me well know that for 15+ years I did not miss a Price is Right Show. I recorded them every day and watched them at night or on the weekends. I love(d) that show...farewell Bob. Here is a link to a video of one of the current Price is Right shows that went pretty well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpMuiYNa3Xo If you want to see excitement and what a good day is - watch. I also just found out that the Time/Life people are putting their 150 years of photographs on the web - with FREE public access through Google Images. I have only started to look, but saw some great photos of the Civil War. These are some of the first photographs taken, and look amazing. They are categorized by decade. They have from the 1860s through the 1970s now. Take a look. If you are a history buff or a photography buff, this is great. Here is a link: http://images.google.com/hosted/life I was going to continue with my theme of change; commenting on the changes in society, culture, people, and events in my lifetime. I will postpone the additional comments to let you check these two links out. (I will just say that one of my thoughts was on the availability of information - the internet has changed information accessibility in a way that is immeasurable. These two links, and especially the photos, are a great example. In my youth, if we had to do a report we had to go to the library or an encyclopedia. In our case the encyclopedia was a bit dated. If you looked up "Rocket" it referenced Chinese fireworks. No, in reality it did show a black and white photo of Werner Von Braun by a derrick looking thing with a pointy device on top of it. The caption was something like "Dr. Von Braun doing experimental work with new devices to rocket into space." True story) More later. Enjoy.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Infinite Monkeys/Chimps - aka Million Monkeys

You all have probably heard the "million monkey theory" (or actually the infinite monkey theory) - If a million (infinite number) of monkeys (chimpanzees) were put in a room with an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite amount of time - they would produce the complete works of Shakespeare. I was thinking about this this morning (I think about "stuff" like this) with some of my weirdness taking over. Some thoughts - First, how can an infinite number of anything fit into a room. You would have to have an infinite space. But, that is nit-picking. Then again lower primate societies are built on nitpicking!?! I just read a study (yes, I read weird stuff too!) that showed that chimps "hold grudges" based on grooming (or true nitpicking). If one chimp groomed another and then the nitpicking was not reciprocated, the first chimp would "shun" the non-groomer and attempt to get others to do the same. So, if you put an infinite number of chimps in a room (ignoring the above space restraints) for an infinite time with an infinite number of combs and brushes - would they invent new hair styles? My guess is they would stick combs and brushes in orifices of the non-groomers. But, theoretically... Vidal Baboon. If an infinite number of chimpanzees were put in a room with an infinite amount of U-238 for an infinite amount of time - would they produce a bomb? Again, I doubt it. More likely they would die of radiation poisoning. OR, maybe mutate from the radiation into different life forms like writers and go looking for infinite numbers of typewriters. How would one monitor infinite chimps? How would one know if they had produced the works of Shakespeare? You would need an infinite number of monitors/observers. (this "room" is getting crowded). What about the food, water, infinite amount of poop? If an infinite number of chimps were put in a room with an infinite amount of poop, water, and pipes; would they invent sanitary sewers and plumbing? (wow - an infinite number of butt cracks!) Would they show up infinitely late? If an infinite number of chimps were put in a room with an infinite number of buns, beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions; would they invent a Big Mac? If an infinite number of chimps were put in a room with an infinite number of hammers, nails, and lumber; would they build a house? More likely just bludgeon each other an infinite number of times. The non-groomers would go first. I wonder. Later. Gotta do more research.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Back in the USSA - part 2

Well, I guess there are a LOT of idiots out there! This is one time that I hope I am wrong , VERY wrong. Because I feel we just took our great country down a path that we will have a hard time getting back from. If you read these posts regularly, you should have seen one titled "Back in the USSA". I wrote it the day after our government started a socialist approach to banking and business. Our government now owns a sizable percentage of each of the top banks in the country - socialism. I have seen articles where the government is proposing "buying" sizable chunks of other industries, in the form of loans for equity swaps - socialism. Now we have elected a president that has socialist tendencies and a definite support for socialism in his past. Socialism DOES NOT WORK! I agree in theory it is a wonderful and compelling ideology. Spread the wealth. Take from the rich and give to the poor. Share and share alike. From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need. If you don't recognize it that last one is directly from the guru of socialism - Karl Marx. The problem with the ideal of share and share alike is human nature. Why would the hard working people that do overtime now and work two jobs do so in an environment where any excess they make is put into a "pot" to go to all equally? Why would the lazy work at all, knowing the "pot" it there for them to get their needs met? Capitalism is NOT a dirty work. Free enterprise is the fuel that has built this nation into the greatest nation on earth. The problem with capitalism in its present form is that it is no longer FREE. We already have enough socialistic tendencies in our government/laws/regulations to hamper the results. The top producers in this country already pay all the income taxes. The bottom 40% of wage earners PAY NONE! This cannot stand. If you love this country and you want your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to do as well as most Americans have historically, you must pay attention. Fight big government and the politicians that try to make it bigger. We need fewer laws, less regulation, smaller government, and much less government waste! Get involved. Write your elected officials and tell them you want smaller government. Tell them you want less taxes (FOR ALL). Read, learn, and study the Constitution and ideals that this government was founded on. Don't fall for the hype. Just because the media and/or government says you are doing badly, you aren't. Just because they say you are doing well, that doesn't mean you are.