Monday, December 26, 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Jenkies!  It hasn't been a good year for tyrannical despots, has it?  Ben Ali, bin Laden, Saleh, Mubarak, Gadhafi all deposed, dethroned, or dead.  And now Dear Leader has bitten the dust (and there's plenty of dust to bite in the DPRK).  Let's hope the trend continues. 

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things
Hennessy cognac, roast donkey, French jellies
A nation of children with grass in their bellies
Vintage fine wines fit for a king
These are a few of my favorite things

Ray-Ban sunglasses and a khaki pant suit
Those who oppose me will live under my jackboot
A joy brigade for my sexual cravings
These are a few of my favorite things

Elevator shoes and vertical hairdos
Rattling my saber whenever I choose
Nuclear destruction and firestorm warnings
These are a few of my favorite things

Daffy Duck, Rambo, and James Bond flicks
Shutting down the power every day at six
Indoctrinating the people with propaganda postings
These are a few of my favorite things

Holes in one, speed reading, breeding giant rabbits
Are just a few of my accomplished habits
My birth was divine or so the swallow sings
These are few of my favorite things

When the hunger still pangs
When the whip still stings
Recall with a tear all that you've seen
Simply remember my favorite things
And learn how deceived you've been
                                                                                                        -by Kim Jong Il

Let it play

Monday, December 19, 2011

Highway Traffic Act 167 Revisited

How long should the motorist in front of you be allowed to do nothing at an advanced green light until he/she hears the polite toot of your horn from behind? For me, it's the 2nd syllable of "Mississippi" in my 2nd "Mississippi". So, "one Mississippi, two Missis..." and then you'd better be rolling on through. I think that's more than enough time for the synapses in the brain to fire and take action.

I'm convinced that a great number of drivers have no clue what a flashing green light in their face means simply because so many do nothing until prompted from behind. To be clear, when you face a flashing green light or a left-pointing green arrow and a green light, you may turn left, go straight ahead or turn right from the proper lane. This is called an advanced green light because oncoming traffic still faces a red light. Ring a bell? What's even more inexplicable is when the first and second cars roll through and third still stops to assess the situation. By the time it's your "turn", the advanced green has ended and the opportunity is lost. Damnation, I hate lost opportunities.

I don't lay on my horn in these situations, although I'm not ashamed to admit that I've done so in others. A polite couple of taps on it will usually do the trick. It's what I call my "courtesy horn". Usually the driver ahead gets the message and darts on through quicker than normal. I assume they are trying to compensate for their earlier inaction.

Sometimes, however, you get that proud, righteous jag-off who takes your courtesy horn as an insult and either rolls through at a snail's pace, continues to do nothing, or worse.

Last summer, I got the "or worse". The driver ahead of me clearly had no intention of taking advantage of the advanced green. I tapped my horn twice and got nothing more than a long, menacing glower in the rearview mirror. He then slowly proceeded, turning left through the intersection with me right behind. When we were both through the intersection, he switched to the right lane allowing me to pull up beside him. Words were exchanged and he ended the discourse with, "Don't f*ck with me, dog!" I couldn't help myself and laughed out loud at the absurdity of the comment before he sped off.

In hindsight, it wasn't the wisest move considering my wife and children were in tow, but I remain unapologetic preferring instead to use a simple set of criteria to determine who gets the horn.  Here's a list of those who might deserve a second thought before using your courtesy horn, or may otherwise be immune to its effects:

1) Cops.  One short "beep" might be acceptable. Try two and you're really pushing it.

2) NRA or similar type bumper stickers. Dangerous. In contrast though, those with humorous bumper stickers (Jesus is Coming.  Look Busy! is my favorite) will typically give you a polite thank-you wave after a courtesy horn, so honk on.

3) Old, short men wearing hats. They're usually the ones driving an 80's model land yacht. Don't bother with the horn; they likely won't hear it and if they do, they're apt to swallow their teeth and you don't need that on your conscience.

4) Monster trucks. These slack-jawed quadrupeds have an image to maintain and aren't about to let you tarnish it. It's road rage waiting to happen, so holster your weapon.

5) Student drivers. Yikes!!! An unexpected honk from behind may cause Junior to reverse into you. The cop won't understand and you'll just ruin everyone's day. Save it.

6) Pimped rides with tinted windows. You never know how many thuggy little wannabes are going to spill out of these things.  Usually not worth the risk.

All others, and there are many, get the horn.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Occupy Grandpa's House!

A recent report from the US Department of Commerce paints a sad, sad picture of the wealth gap in America.  As those learned folks representing OWS have told us, the young are getting by with less-and-less.  And is it the greedy, corrupt 1 percent who have absconded with the nation's wealth who are to blame?  Nope. The same report from the Commerce Department indicates that households headed by those 65 and older have on average 47 times the net worth of those headed by people 35 and younger.

This should come as no surprise.  Our parents and their parents were much better savers and typically bought only that which they could afford.  Of course, one could argue that there was nowhere near the amount of temptation then as there is today to fuel a consumer-driven economy and certainly not the ease of access to the great enabler--easy credit--to make it all happen.

Nowadays, the average-income, thirty-something North American walks about with a credit card that could buy them a mid-sized car.  And when those who are tempted have the means to act upon it, the results could be tragic, as housing bubbles and stock market corrections have so eloquently shown.

Assuming our brains are wired to be defenceless against resisting temptation (cue Genesis, chapter 3) and we cannot remove that which tempts us, it would stand to reason that a suitable solution would be to remove access to credit. Many of those "occupiers" living in tents on parkland in [insert you favorite metropolitan City here] are staring at 50K college tuition loan paybacks that they perhaps should have never received in the first place.

Governments look good making and guaranteeing college loans to all and everyone associated with that gets a warm fuzzy feeling; that needs to stop. Raising interest rates over time is critical, too.  This will make saving more attractive and consuming, less so.  There's a reason grandpa is sitting on a fortune and it's not by living a consumption lifestyle.

So, let's give the 99 percent a hand up by helping them go through life debt free. This starts by eliminating the access to cheap and easy credit for the masses.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Frank Talk On Bank Squawk

The North American banking collective is an ingenious marketeer.  Its members have spent the last generation offering cozy little advertising campaigns featuring toothy, neatly coiffed individuals thoroughly enjoying their banking experience. Those who greet us behind desks and counters at banks now often look like us, dress like us, and act like us.  The banks have done an A+ job at convincing us that they are our friends.

How else could you explain the palpable outrage expressed when some banks recently raised service fees by a few dollars/month?  Friends don't screw over friends this way, hence the squawking.   When insurance companies increase rates by much more significant amounts, there isn't a reflex to publicly condemn them.  The difference of course is conventional wisdom dictates that insurance companies are scoundrelly scum who won't pass up an opportunity to bend us over.  We expect this from those who are not our friends unlike the swell folks down at the bank.

The simple truth is, clever marketing aside, the banks are not our friends.  They are in the money lending and subsequent interest levying business.  Most of use will, at one time or another, require funds from a bank.  The most common requirement would be a mortgage to purchase a home or other property.  As long as we jump through a few hoops, the bank will be more than happy to oblige.  Of course, for every dollar we borrow from the bank, something greater than a dollar is owed back.   If ever there was a simpler business model, I've yet to hear it. What's even more brilliant is that the money the banks lend to us is, you guessed it, our money that they hold as account deposits.

It's fruitless to fret about how the banks conduct their business.  They are heavily regulated in this part of the world.  But your uncle, your neighbor and I can participate in these phenomenal businesses simply by owning them.  No, you can't start a bank, but most of them (and all of the good ones) are public companies meaning almost anyone can own a share of them.  In any 10-year period over the last century the average annualized return on North American banks has been greater than 14%.  It's hard not to be impressed and that rate sure beats the snot out of the near-zero return you get by being the banks' customer, rather than a shareholder, doesn't it?  Perhaps the most sublime aspect of the banking business is that you and I can own a piece.

So give up complaining about alleged corporate misconduct, rallying against the new 60-story glass tower, or protesting about a $5 service fee increase.  Raging against the machine gets you nowhere.  If you can't beat 'em, own 'em.