Friday, December 19, 2008

Go Now.

Americans who fled to small vehicles during $4-a-gallon gas are rushing back into the arms of sport-utility vehicles and light trucks, reversing a trend in which economy cars soared in popularity while consumers ditched brawny gas hounds. Recent data and interviews with local dealers show more U.S. consumers have bought SUVs and pickups of late than any other new vehicle, thanks to the free-fall of crude-oil prices and must-sell discounts that would make even Santa Claus seem like a cheapskate.
"Americans don't want to drive little cars," said Sophia Koropeckyj, a senior economist and auto-markets analyst with Moody's in West Chester. "They really prefer larger vehicles, and gas prices have receded more than half since the summer. That's the only conclusion there is."
Americans. Is there any term that signifies "gluttonous consumer" more than that? I say, no. I may have said it before, but ... we like our stuff. And we like big stuff.
The trouble with the four-dollar a gallon gasoline was that it didn't last long enough for people to make life-altering decisions. It lasted just long enough for wasteful people to complain, and that didn't solve anything.
So, now that gasoline is a-buck-fifty again, we're back to our wasteful ways. Regardless of the price of gasoline, waste is waste. The odd thing that people get into their heads is that it matters more when it's $4 a gallon than when it's $1.50. It ain't necessarily so.
We're a society that lives in "the now" and just like this ridiculous Christmas shopping season, we figure that the now is the place to be. "Less than two bucks a gallon?" Fill 'er up! Never mind that the price of gasoline won't last nearly as long as the loan you took to buy that house-sized vehicle. It's all about now. And now is good.
Later, is bad. No doubt, we'll be hearing from the short-sighted clowns who bought those Lincoln Navigator's at a steep discount in the summer when gasoline is back near $3 a gallon.
Live it up, assholes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I love my stuff.

"I don't care about losing all the money. It's losing all the stuff."
- Marie Kimball Johnson ("The Jerk")
WASHINGTON – Anxious to jolt the economy back to life, President-elect Barack Obama appears to be zeroing in on a stimulus package of about $850 billion, dwarfing last spring's tax rebates and rivaling drastic government actions to fight the Great Depression.
And we all know how successful last spring's tax rebates were, don't we? How much of your $600 do you have left?
I know the economy is in trouble because it's all I hear.
I guess they figure they'll do the same things that Roosevelt did during The Great Depression. But it has to be difficult for our government to compare, since almost nobody who was an adult then is alive now. All we know is what we read, and to me it seems different. That was when people stood in bread lines because they didn't have enough money for food. During The Great Depression:
13 million people became unemployed. (Approximately 11% of the U.S. population) By 1933, over 24% of Americans were unemployed.
Industrial production fell by nearly 45% between the years 1929 and 1932.
Home-building dropped by 80% between the years 1929 and 1932.
From the years 1929 to 1932, about 5,000 banks went out of business
We're not an industrial nation any more. Now, we're a service-based economy, so that's out. Unemployment is around 6.5% (roughly 10 million Americans) so people are still working. Most heavy industry takes place overseas. Home-building has been dropping for the past 5 years or so, and the banks ... well, there ya go.
Anyway, there are similarities for sure, but it seems that now, it's about The Stuff. We like our stuff. By comparison, there wasn't a lot of stuff to be had in the 1930s. You had a radio, and if you were lucky, you had a car. People didn't even bathe every day, so their stuff didn't smell very good, either.
In the 1930s, the hole was dug for us with the collapse of the financial system, stock market and industry. Now, we've dug our own hole with scads of personal debt.
We've cluttered our lives with stuff, and now that "the economy" is tough, we might have to give up some stuff - and we don't want to do that. Even Roosevelt didn't hand out stimulus checks. He built roads, bridges and buildings because that was "the stuff." Now, we need a check so we can buy the latest cellular phone, big-screen TV, personal computer or iPod because ... that stimulates "the economy."
But whom does it really stimulate?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stirring it up.

There's nothing worse than a shit stirrer. You know the type: People who do things that they know will draw attention to themselves, then get twisted up over the attention it draws to themselves. It's a form of mental illness. To wit:
EASTON, Pa. – The father of 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell, denied a birthday cake with the child's full name on it by one New Jersey supermarket, is asking for a little tolerance. Heath Campbell and his wife, Deborah, are upset not only with the decision made by the Greenwich ShopRite, but with an outpouring of angry Internet postings in response to a local newspaper article over the weekend on their flare-up over frosting.
The first thing happened three years ago when Mister and Missus dumbass named a kid Adolph Hitler Campbell. They're Americans, one presumes. Giving a child the middle name Hitler is questionable judgment at the least and at the most downright stupid. It's the same reason you wouldn't name him Dick Sucker Campbell or any sort of name that can either be shortened or changed in some way that simulates a bodily function. Mulva.
"I think people need to take their heads out of the cloud they've been in and start focusing on the future and not on the past," Heath Campbell said Tuesday in an interview conducted in Easton, on the other side of the Delaware River from where the family lives in Hunterdon County, N.J.
"There's a new president and he says it's time for a change; well, then it's time for a change," the 35-year-old continued. "They need to accept a name. A name's a name. The kid isn't going to grow up and do what (Hitler) did." Deborah Campbell, 25, said she phoned in her order last week to the Shop Rite. When she told the bakery department she wanted her son's name spelled out, she was told to talk to a supervisor, who denied the request
How do they know what the kid is going to grow up and do? Maybe the kid cures cancer. Then we have to say, "Adolph Hitler Campbell cured cancer." Maybe he develops a deep-rooted psychotic disorder and lives a life of isolation? Or maybe he joins the Klan? Who's to say?
The second thing that happened was that the parents specifically requested the child's full name be put on the cake. They only did that because the child's middle name was Hitler. That's called stirring. Who puts a kid's full name on a birthday cake? Happy Birthday Adolph would probably do the trick, since I doubt that there is more than one kid named Adolph at the party and there is no reason for the cake to be name-specific. It's a tactic to draw attention. Next, comes part three.
Heath Campbell said he named his son after Adolf Hitler because he liked the name and because "no one else in the world would have that name." He sounded surprised by all the controversy the dispute had generated.
That's the dumbass part. No two children in the world would be named Adolph Hitler because it's a shitty name for a kid and you might want to think about changing it before the kid is beaten senseless by people of all races, creeds and colors. Why invite trouble by intentionally naming the kid after a heartless man who presided over the systematic genocide of an estimated six million Jews and established a totalitarian and fascist dictatorship?
You could have named him George Walker Campbell.
Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Help me with this.

I'm no economist, so there are a lot of things that don't make sense to me. Consider this:
...with uncertainty about the auto sector, the Fed's policy meeting on Monday and Tuesday will also remain in focus. The central bank is expected to lower its benchmark fed funds rate by a half-percentage point to 0.5 percent.
That's great for people with adjustable-rate mortgages, since their payments will go just about as low as they can. Meanwhile, credit card interest rates are still in the 15 to 22 percent range. Why? What it tells me is that our government is in the back pocket of the credit card companies. If not, then how can you explain the fact that the Fed is lending money out at almost zero percent and Citibank and your local department store are charging 18 percent? I can't be the only one who wonders about stuff like that.
Our government is in a big hurry (supposedly) to help banks and auto makers, but the real catastrophe is going on with people paying 20 percent on their credit cards. It seems to me that a great way to stimulate the economy would be to lower the rates that people are paying on the money they've borrowed. You can't stimulate spending if people are still paying interest on their debt. Those 600-dollar checks that went out earlier this year evaporated in the heat of the interest that consumers were paying. It never had a chance.
I'd think that the best way to help put the economy back on its feet is to get the banks off our backs.
I remember seeing an investment guru on CNBC several years ago, explaining what great investments banks were. When asked why, he said, "What other business do you know that can pay 2 percent interest and charge 20?" That's an instant 18-percent margin for doing nothing but processing paperwork.
There's a lot of teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing going on over companies like Ford and General Motors who can't find their ass with both hands, while consumers are buried in debt that nobody seems willing to help them with. That's bad sentence structure, but it's even worse economics.
But I'm no economist.
Those are the guys who helped get us in this mess.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Season finale - Showtime 9:00pm.
I'm happy and sad at the same time.
The best show on TV.

Stubbed in the hub fo shizzle.

"break it down like i'm stupid."
- Kimmyk

When I was young (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) if I wanted tickets to a big event like an Emerson, Lake and Palmer concert, I'd drive to the local record store early in the morning and stand in line until the mall opened. Then, a few hundred of us would run in to the store and wait in another line. After the cashier ran off about 20 tickets for his friends, we would get a shot. They were general admission shows back then, and unless it was sold out, you were guaranteed to get in. That led to another series of line-standing and running-in at the show, but that's another story.
Now, the Internet rules, and tickets are a commodity like pork bellies or barrels of oil. They are bought and sold for a profit by big companies like StubHub (which was acquired by eBay in 2007). Because of a vagary in the law, scalping tickets off-site is not illegal, but selling them at the event is - ticket scalping has become a cottage industry. So much so that the teams themselves are partnered with StubHub to help season ticket holders unload their unwanted tickets for a profit. Check any team's web site and you'll find a StubHub link. They're the "official fan-to-fan marketplace." Really.
The Boston Red Sox play in tiny Fenway Park and all of their games are sell-out's. Yesterday, about a dozen early-season games went on sale. I decided to see if I could pick up a couple of seats to unload them for a little profit. Playing the game, as it were.
Since I no longer have to drive to a record store to buy tickets, I can let the computer stand in line for me. This "Virtual Waiting Room" ran non-stop from 10am until 12:15am Sunday, when I was finally admitted. I wound up with two center field tickets to the May 6 game against the Cleveland Indians. They cost $40 for the pair. Similar seats are currently selling for between $33 and $140 each on StubHub.
If anyone from the Boston area is reading this, I'll let them go for $100 and you can save me the time of listing them - free shipping.
The amazing part of all this is that my computer sat in the waiting room for 14 hours, refreshing the screen every 30 seconds. If I was a fan, I'd be pissed. As it was, I got crappy seats that I'll probably be lucky to unload for a tiny profit. Fortunately, I was able to get a full day's worth of activities in while all this was going on.
What it says, more than anything, is what a racket the ticket-buying procedure has become. I've written about it a couple of times already. By the time midnight rolled around, all that were left for the other games were "obstructed view" tickets (there are poles and all sorts of obstructions in Fenway) and standing-room tickets, which oddly cost as much as my bleacher seats.
You'll see the good seats up on StubHub. There are already 344 listings for the May 6 game. As for me, I didn't get out of the waiting room early enough to get tickets to more than one game, and the tickets I got aren't very good, so the grand experiment could be said to be a wash.
Being the cynic that I am, I'd bet there is a scam going on that gets people through that waiting room business quicker than normal. Just like the cashier at the record store, only at home in their pajamas.