How will the Feds cut health care costs?

I just had to share this. And no, it’s not funny. Not when you consider I’ve been eligible for AARP for four years and am a year away from various senior citizens’ discounts everywhere.

My mom, who is older than I am (obviously!) sent this along via one of those Fw: emails, which I usually don’t mess with. But here it is.

Thanks, Mom. I think.

* * *

Just saying goodbye…

To help save the economy, the Government will announce
month that the Immigration Department will start
deporting seniors (instead of illegal’s) in order to lower
Social Security and Medicare costs.
Older people are easier to catch and will not
remember how to get back home.
I started to cry when I thought of you.
Then it dawned on me … oh, crap …
I’ll see you on the bus!

With Black Friday, it’s all in the planning

Shoppers approach your local Stuffmart for Black Friday. Or something.

They’re camping out in front of their destinations already, days in advance. They’re working in teams, with each person having his or her own role in the effort. Getaway drivers, the works.

Terrorists? No.

Bank robbers? No.

Occupiers gone bad? Again, no.

They’re shoppers, positioning themselves to get the most stuff and the sweetest deals for Black Friday.

Actually, now it’s Black Thursday, with store hours creeping back into Thanksgiving, one of the few real holidays we have left, thereby diluting the meaning even more. But that’s another rant for another day.

Out in my neck of the woods, the WalMart will open at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving, while Toys R Us throws its doors open an hour before that, ready to grab some of that Christmas mammon.

Retailers bank on a strong Black Friday. A solid one usually means a good Christmas shopping season. I don’t have any statistics to back me up (although everyone else just makes ’em up anyway), but a solid Christmas season often makes the difference between a profitable and an unprofitable year — especially these days, with the economy being so bad. So you can’t blame the retail industry for trying; those folks gotta eat too.

But every year there’s always one or two items that are heavily hyped, with a buzz that you can feel. There may even be a deep discount added (or not; good hype will often obscure the fact that something is vastly overpriced), and there you go. Although I pay attention to trends, I have no idea what the flagship toy is this year. It’s probably something electronic.

A few years ago, some friends and I plotted out our own Black Friday assault. It was all in fun and definitely fueled by an overdose of turkey and stuffing (deadly stuff, that tryptophan). But we had it all worked out:

  • Two or three mechanics fanning out in the store, working prearranged patterns.
  • I’d have the van running, circling the front half of the parking lot, pushing buggies out of the way if necessary.
  • Our communications guy, dressed in black, would ride shotgun and keep everything together via cell phone and radio.
  • Our tail gunner, also dressed in black, likewise in position. I had some reservations about this guy; he volunteered for the position and seemed just a little too eager.

The plans didn’t come off. It takes a lot more recon to work a proper Black Friday assault, and it helps to have a man on the inside.

Besides, I don’t do crowds. If I must operate in total chaos, let it be of my own making. I’ll do my shopping online, thank you.



Great jobs for …

This definitely makes for light bathroom reading.

I saw this in the carrel next to me today at the Trident Technical College library, the place which is also known as “my occasional office.”

Gutsy title for the book, “Great Jobs For Film Majors.” Uhh, last I looked, the so-called great jobs are the kind where you ask … c’mon, say it with me now … “Do you want fries with that?”

The book underneath, “Filmmakers and Financing,” is not a whole lot bigger, which may also say something.

Considering this tome was written in 2004 when times were relatively flush, and it likely carries its usual share of academic bloviation and horse dung, that’s still a mighty thin book.





Majority of mortgages are underwater in Vegas, other growth areas

Where are people losing their butts on their mortgages these days?

I found this in USA TODAY, and it shows that a tick more than 71 percent of the mortgages in Clark County, Nevada, are underwater. That means more is owed on the house than what the house is actually worth.
Clark County, where you’ll find places like Las Vegas and Laughlin, has also been one of the highest-growth areas of the country for at least the past decade.
Here is a partial list of counties where home buyers might do well to just junk the mortgage, take whatever lumps they get on their credit ratings, and walk away with what’s left of their posteriors:

Rank County State
Mortgages under water
1 Clark Nev.
2 Osceola Fla.
3 Merced Calif.
4 St Lucie Fla.
5 San Joaquin Calif.
6 Stanislaus Calif.
7 Clayton Ga.
8 Orange Fla.
9 Solano Calif.
10 Maricopa Ariz.
11 Washoe Nev.
12 Pinal Ariz.
13 Flagler Fla.
14 Pasco Fla.
15 Riverside Calif.

Interesting mix. A whole lot of Florida. Several counties in California — including Riverside County, where I grew up. Several Arizona counties, particularly around the population centers — Maricopa County is basically Phoenix.
And unless I’m mistaken, nearly every one of these counties has experienced off-the-charts population growth for about the past three decades. The Inland Empire, which encompasses Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, was THE high-growth capital in the nation before the Las Vegas metro area took over.
Coincidence? Forget it. There ain’t no such animal, you should know that.

You robs the joint, you takes your chances: Part II

Some folks are never satisfied at their pay after a hard day’s work:

Unhappy robber: Gunman calls restaurant to gripe |

A man who robbed a Wendy’s at gunpoint Saturday night apparently was so upset with his haul that he twice called the restaurant to complain, Atlanta police said.

“Next time there better be more than $586,” he said during one call. He made “a similar threat” in the second call, police said.

My first thought is, why is there so much cash in the till? Most stores have a policy where employees regularly drop any extra cash in the safe.
At least the guy didn’t come by to complain, especially while the police were there.

So you think your day sucks?

These folks in Guatemala … now they’re having a real bad day.

This jumbo sinkhole opened up in Guatemala City after the area got drenched by Tropical Storm Agatha. OK, the area’s cruddy drainage system didn’t help much, but you get the idea.

This big hole is about 30 meters across, 60 meters deep, and reportedly ate a three-story building.



Making a living in ObamaNation

Like it or not, Obamacare is the law of the land. The chances of having it declared unconstitutional are only enough to hang a prayer on, and the chances of it being repealed are nonexistent.
OK. I wasn’t planning to debate that piece of legislation again; y’all should know by now what I think of it. But Obamacare ushers in a whole different world, and it’s especially noticeable if you like to eat, and if you work to keep beans on the table.
Not long ago I was drawing unemployment, and looking for work. I was thinking, anything that moved was subject to my attention, and if it didn’t move I’d kick it a few times and make it move. But the job market is, well, pretty slim.
Enter Obamacare. Now, people who hire others are taking a long hard look at whether they can afford to do that. It’s bad enough with a tanked economy, but now that the federal government is requiring health care besides? That just kicked any possibility of recovery right between the eyes.
It’s a real bad time to look for work.
A few weeks ago I said that one is foolish to depend on one source of income, what with the uncertain economy. Let’s amend that. Now, anyone who works for another person in a typical employer-employee relationship faces a bigger disadvantage than ever before.
Welcome to the new world. The independent contactor is king. Instead of punching a clock, getting paid by the hour and banking on those cool benefits, the jobs scenario has people getting paid by the job and seeing to his own benefits.
I’m no stranger to this. For years I worked as a taxi driver and as a freelance journalist. Although the taxi company often played it fast and loose with independent contractor law, it was a pretty good way to work. Call my own hours. If I’m not making money it’s my own issue. If I have a problem with the boss, then it’s time for some serious therapy.
Now, I’m doing it again. I pretty much gave up on finding actual work for someone else, but am throwing my resources into working for myself. A bit of a high-wire act, admittedly, but it’s starting to pay off. I have a couple of income sources for writing Web content, and am making moves toward hire-out writing and editing.
It’s a tough go. My biggest hurdle is personal. While it’s true that a person with ADHD always has several things in the pot (I’m making no admissions here), focus is my biggest issue. I’m working on that, and making small gains. Except for that, there is really nothing standing in the way.
Meanwhile, I’m making a little hay:

  • Got my high-speed Internet up. This in itself is huge. I don’t have to run out with laptop and capture a wireless signal; I can work from home.
  • Getting my routine together. A few hours in the morning writing and editing today’s copy, a bicycle ride in the afternoon (I wrote this column while riding back home from the bank), digging up a little more work, and things like that.
  • Working, as I mentioned, on focus. I checked out the “Pomodoro technique,” which is nothing but a fancy name for setting a kitchen timer while you work and taking regular breaks. I do my best work in short bursts, living in a bubble of kick-butt for a half-hour at a time.
Meanwhile, I have a to-do list for the next few weeks:

  • Continue getting my groove on, fine-tune the routine.
  • Get a wireless router. Currently my desktop computer is hooked up to my high-speed Internet, and I do most of my writing on my netbook, outdoors. I move files back and forth with a thumb drive, an inelegant solution. I’ve priced routers, and I should have one within two or three weeks.
  • Start looking at upgrading equipment. My desktop computer is the bottleneck in the system. It’s probably 10 years old, and it hesitates a lot when I’m doing high-speed online stuff. I’ve gutted the operating system and am running one that’s little more than a browser and text editor, but it’s still the thing that slows me down.
  • Dedicate part of my work day to what lawyers call “rainmaking,” hitting the wires hot and heavy to drum up some more work.
It’s coming together. It’s a whole new workaday world out there, and I’m ready for it.

Unemployment and Bunning’s TS card: More than the money

Talk that the federal government may not afford paying out more unemployment benefits may leave me in a financial pickle, but more importantly it leaves me with one of those thorny moral dilemmas.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R, KY) is staging a one-man blockade to shut down any expansion of unemployment benefits. Later, Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) joined him on this, saying the federal government needs to figure out a way to pay for additional benefits first.

“Congress just passed the so-called pay-go legislation which is supposed to require that we find offsets or other savings if we are going to spend money,” Kyl said. “So what’s the first thing we do? We exempt this bill from it.”

Bunning, the baseball Hall Of Famer, laid what older military veterans may call a “T.S. card” on a $10 billion Senate plan to extend unemployment benefits. (Those who didn’t hear Bunning’s actual comments will probably still get the drift without a lot of explanation.)

While the Senate bill stalls, there’s the spectre that benefits may terminate this month for more than 1.1 million former workers. At least, that’s what the Democrats are saying, and most of those cats in the halls of Congress are real good at dealing out the exaggerated numbers and scare tactics.

Meanwhile, I will find out fairly quickly what happens next. I get inside information on this kind of news in my mailbox every week. See, with the exception of whatever writing income I scratch out, I’ve been living on unemployment. And hating it.

While some folks can carve a whole lifestyle out of waiting for that gummint check, I’m not one of those. It goes against everything I believe, everything that’s important to me. Plus, it doesn’t mesh with my personal style. I’m an action type, and not having a regular job leaves me all jacked up and no place to go. In short, it turns me into Beelzebub.

To be honest, I’m not sure where this unemployment compensation comes from. Well, I kind of do. It’s funny money, surgically removed from working people and business owners or, failing that, printed up as needed by the federal government.

OK, here’s the moral dilemma. Those who know me through this space have probably figured by now that I’m not big on government assistance. Shoot, I’m not big on government anything. I’d rather have a battery acid enema than deal with all these civil service types. A friend suggested I might consider trying for food stamps. I politely told her no, and the politeness was only because she’s such a dear friend. But I’m not hurting. I can do great things with beans, rice, and hamburger. Even with my most expensive grocery item (premium coffee) my food bill is practically zip.

But you see what’s going on. I’m writing about these conservative/libertarian principles, and I try to live in a manner that’s at least somewhat consistent with what I write. My views have not changed, and don’t expect me to start pounding a share-the-wealth message any time soon. I don’t roll that way.

See the dilemma here? While some may suggest I just get what I can, shut up, and hang my convictions, I’m just not that type of person.

Strategy time, from my personal notes: I’m still looking for work, but have widened my options. Part time would be wonderful; in fact that’s the best scenario I can think of. It was less than two months ago that I started freelance writing in earnest, so I’m just scratching the surface there. Right now, as long as it’s legal I don’t really care what the part time job is; it’s not like I’m going to be married to it or anything. I have three (or four, depending on how you count them) paid writing gigs going on right now, and already at this early stage they amount to half a paycheck. A part-time gig, paying about what I’m making now in unemployment, would be gravy.

Entrepreneurs and high-level economists are smart enough to know that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. But with this economy being what it is, that truth has filtered down to the average folks, those who punch a clock every day. The economy is so uncertain that if you’re depending on just one income source for your daily bread, you’re inviting trouble.

While some do quite nicely for themselves while waiting for that gummint cheese, I don’t see how they do it.


Manufacturer to leave USA, blames anti-business climate

Emerson Electric, the nation’s largest manufacturer of electronic devices, is considering leaving the country.

Although the recession is a partial reason, Emerson CEO David Farr blames high taxes and regulation in the United States.

The federal government is “doing everything in [its] manpower [and] capability to destroy U.S. manufacturing,” Farr said at the recent Baird 2009 Industrial Conference in Chicago.

In comments reported by Bloomberg, Farr added that companies will continue adding jobs in China and India because they are “places where people want the products and where the governments welcome you to actually do something. I am not going to hire anybody in the United States. I’m moving. They are doing everything possible to destroy jobs.”

Interesting … very interesting. We’ve seen companies pulling up stakes for several years, outsourcing their work out to some third-world country where someone will bust his tail for less than a buck an hour. We’ve bemoaned all the layoffs that have slashed companies since the economy went into the toilet a year ago, and we’ve heard a passel of excuses. But what we’re hearing from Farr is pretty much the straight stuff.

Want to kill a business? It’s easy if you’re in power. Regulate them like crazy, and tax them buttless. They’ll get the hint and go to friendlier surroundings soon enough, taking their jobs and tax revenue with them.

Emerson’s no lightweight in the industrial world. In 2007, the St. Louis-based corporation reported revenues of $22.5 billion, making it the 111th largest company in the United States and easily pacing the home-grown electronics industry. The closest competitor in electronics is Whirlpool, the country’s 127th largest company with revenues of $19.4 billion.