Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Battle for Your Mind

Whether it's health care reform, stem-cell research or some other hot-button issue like immigration, many people don't realize that there is a battle waged all-day everyday for your mind (read "vote") in the media.  Remember when your TV only got three channels, there was no internet, the same newspaper arrived on your doorstep every day and everyone your age went to one of two schools?  In other words, everyone pretty much got the same education until age 18, and everyone pretty much was exposed to the same news every day.  Now we are bombarded daily, online and off, overtly and covertly, with so many news items from so many viewpoints that we tend to believe whatever supports our view of the world - which by definition over time skews our view of the world.  What is the answer?  Education.  But not just any education, an education which is: a) secular, and b) science- and math-based.  People need to be able to assess the news accurately and objectively so that the bullshit detectors (deelyboppers?) go off when they should.  Education doesn't cost a society, it pays - in informed decisions made by balanced minds.  Now, sorry, I gotta go - FOX news says my favorite militia unit is taking new recruits for the fight to defend intelligent design from aliens among us!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Financial Interviewee Schizophrenia (FIS)

Do you watch BNN, CNBC or Bloomberg financial channels?  Do the folks they interview make you feel schizophrenic because one guy says all is well, the market is going up - and the next gal says watch out, we're headed lower?  My solution to FIS is this: ask yourself who the interviewee works for.  Is he/she an independent newsletter writer/blogger/think tanker/economist?  Or is he/she a representative of an investment house/government/broker/company/bank/etc.?  This "vested interest" approach should be applied to any and all financial predictions.  Of course, everyone works for someone, so you may have to dig deeper to establish their paymaster but that's why we love this stuff, right?  (With apologies to the Federation International du Ski - the real FIS.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Grecian Formula - It's Just Esthetics

A very interesting post by Rebecca Wilder on last Friday set me to reading all the background articles she recommended over the weekend.  Despite my lack of understanding of every single detail, the gist of it all is that Greece may eventually need in the neighborhood of 75 billion Euros to avoid default on its sovereign debt - not the 25 billion semi-offered maybe perhaps last week (according to The Economist).  It seems to me that the mainstream press is being hornswoggled by EU press releases designed to do just that.  Obfuscate, that's the EU answer!  As an aside, Groggy Greenspan (who bears at least some responsibility for getting us into this mess) seems to be paying more attention these days, and agrees with Philip Manduca that the canary in the coal mine is the U.S. ten year treasury rate rising above 4%.  If it does, watchout below as folks desert the stock markets - where they have been forced to invest by low rates offered elsewhere.  I have more faith in Manduca needless to say, and again recommend you watch his YouTube interview on CNBC.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

From the Left: An Introduction to Loofasuitsu, aka Minister Sinister

The proprietor of Out Here has graciously invited me to guest on his blog. I am honoured to do so, and aspire to maintain the high level of discourse evidenced by his posts. First, some background.  Safe to say The Balf would describe my politics as, ahem, somewhat left of his.  I come by this honestly, having worked (in a teenager's way) on the provincial campaigns of at least 3 Progressive Conservative candidates in the '70's in Alberta: making coffee, pounding in signs, and as I got older, driving my elders to the polls, etc.  Initially finding traction as a Red Tory, I gradually discovered that I did not feel at home in the PC party, especially as the Lougheed PC's went from landslide to tsunami one election after the other, and as I became surer of my politics. I "came out' as a card-carrying socialist in the very early '80's.  I think The Balf and the rest of the family suspected the cause was a tumour ... or perhaps that it was the drugs. To which I can only respond, in the immortal words of the Governator, "It's not a tumour!"

Saturday Night at Home on the Range

We spent last evening with old (but younger than us) friends at their ranch.  Barn built in 1908 and still fully functional, the flats out front a former ranchers' polo pitch, the ranch house full of (real) western culture - you get the picture.  Our very gracious hosts brought us up to date on the state of the industry, under attack from a variety of factors including environmentalists, government bureaucracy, BSE, world trade problems, and wolves.  This is obviously not an industry for the faint-hearted or dull-witted.  It was great to see how western tradition is kept alive and blended with the modernization necessary (at great expense) to make a living out there.  These folks depend on the environment and know it.  They treasure the native grass on the place, the river nearby, and the importance of weather.  With all the pressures these folks face it's hard to imagine ranching as they practise it being around in a hundred years, but we sure hope it is.  As far as I'm concerned the ranching culture of the West represents the very best of what people around the world today call our western culture.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Garlic Bubble in China?

Just what we need - another financial bubble forming!  Speculation in China has driven the wholesale price of garlic up 605% to US $1200 per metric tonne in one year.  GARLIC WAS THE BEST PERFORMING COMMODITY IN CHINA IN 2009 - AND IS SET FOR A REPEAT PERFORMANCE IN 2010.    China is the world's #1 supplier of garlic, and U.S.-grown garlic has appreciated 70% in the last 12 months due to the pricing pressure (upward!) from China.  Who knew?  (Apparently Confucius originally extolled the virtues of garlic in Shih Ching, the oldest anthology of Chinese poetry.)  There is no futures market in garlic however,so we're hooped as investors.  Watch for the Chinese government to clamp down hard on the garlic speculators.  (Fortune/CNN)  What next, a tulip bulb bubble?

Friday, March 26, 2010

What was that?

Yesterday everything was going swimmingly until ten minutes before the close, then the markets unravelled and the VIX spiked.  Watch out below, I say.  Read/watch very sage Philip Manduca's interview with Maria Bartiroma yesterday on CNBC by clicking this link for more.

Word For The Day: teetotalism

Continuing our theme for this week, teetotalism is the practice of, or promotion of, complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages.  We all know that - but what a strange word!  Etymology: either from an 1832 or 1833 meeting of the Preston Temperance Society, wherein member Dicky Turner (who had a "stammer") said in a speech that nothing would do except "tee-tee-total abstinence", or (more likely) from England about the same time, when "T-total" was used in other contexts as an emphasized form of total.  Apparently it is unlikely that the term is simply derived from some misspelling of "tea" in combination with "total" which your humble scribe has always erroneously assumed.  Nephalism is a synonym for teetotalism (no, we're not going there today).  As an aside, "on the wagon" ("not drinking alcohol these days") is an abbreviation of "on the water wagon", another revelation to yours truly - because I had always thought people just fell "off the wagon" because they were too inebriated to hang on to the wagon.  Now the question is, should California legalize, regulate and tax marijuana to eliminate its sovereign-nation-like debt and fund things like healthcare?  Take the poll at the bottom of the page.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

John Maynard Keynes Speaks

"The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent."

"Hair O' the Dog"

Ever been advised to have a drink the day after the night before to relieve symptoms of a hangover (as in "here, have a bit of the hair o' the dog that bit you last night")?  First of all, let me be quite clear: there is no scientific basis for said practice - it can only make your hangover worse.  That said, variations of not only the saying but also the practice are numerous, widespread and ancient.  The origin of the phrase comes literally from a (useless) folklore practice of trying to cure a rabid dog bite by placing hair from the same dog in the wound.  It's metaphorical use in the treatment of a hangover in the English language was popularized by the Scots (surprise, surprise!): "if this dog do you bite, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail the next day".  Note here that the Scot has bitten the dog, not the reverse.  (For a scary similarity see my bizarre-labeled post of several weeks ago - yikes, my Scottish genes express themselves!)  Etymology: the idea of "like cures like" (Latin: similia similibus curantur) can be traced back to Hippocrates, the seminal ancient Greek physician.  The phrase "hair of the dog" thus appears in Greek literature, notably in a poem by Aristophanes.  The Greeks may not be good at budgeting but we should remember their many other contributions to mankind.  Anyone out there got a hangover cure that works?  Not for me, you understand.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

There Ought to be a Loud Law

... against boosting the volume every time an advertisement interrupts a TV program!  Now, I'm not a big TV fan (I'd much rather read something - almost a lost art, I fear) but certain documentaries, sports events, newscasts, dramas, etc. usually draw me to spend an hour or two in front of the one-eyed monster every evening.  (Okay, I'm asking you to ignore the financial channels which run in the background all day everyday and are necessary for my stock market addiction.)  The Canadian Radio and Television Commission must surely be aware of this disgusting practice.  What happened to my inalienable right to fall asleep in front of the TV?  Gone!  Out the window!  Now, I'm rudely awakened by any number of As Seen On TV ads running at ear-splitting volume every thirteen minutes.  In fact, the volume increases so drastically during advertisements that it makes me wonder if there aren't dire medical consequences for some elderly viewers - at least those who aren't deaf.  With all of the weighty matters the CRTC has to deal with I'm sure they don't need another one, but they could sure be crowd-pleasers on this issue.  How about a stiff fine for any network or advertiser who boosts the volume of their ad?  Hit 'em where it hurts!  Bastards!

Water Shortage 2025

Excellent CBC program last night.  Droughts throughout the world (that I was largely unaware of) plus global warming have illucidated several water issues in our fast-approaching future.  The problem is not water per se, but a lack of fresh water.  We are all aware of the bushfire problems in recent years in Australia, California, and the devastating fire a few years back in Kelowna, B.C.  As droughts persist this fire problem will only get worse.  A threat I wasn't aware of was that of African-based locusts which, when physically crowded due to lack of food, undergo a physical change that causes them to swarm.  It is projected that as northern Africa increasingly can't support these eating machines swarms of many billions of them may be blown across the Mediterranean into Europe, with devastating consequences.  Drought has already caused a huge dust storm problem in Asia which is only going to get worse.  As desertification progresses, of course, there will be human migrations of immense proportions - probably exacerbated by the concomitant flooding of coastal cities due to icecap meltwater and more powerful storms, both due to climate change.  Geopolitical fights over water resources complete the rosy outlook.  So, how to invest in water?  Bottled water isn't a great bet in my estimation, but companies that design, build and operate water pipelines, components and facilities should do increasingly well.  This may be an area - like rare earths - that will suddenly enter the investing public's consciousness in a big way, so be prepared.  W.C. Fields would rollover in his grave.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thoughts on World Water Day

"Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink."  Remember the Rime of the Ancient Mariner?  Canada, I believe, has more freshwater than any other country on earth - an enviable position to be in.  Yet people died drinking the water in Walkerton.  Think about your water.  Where does it come from?  Are you sure?  What is upstream from your water source?  Do you trust it right out of the tap or do you have one of those tap attachments?  Do you only drink bottled water?  Did you know that a certain bottler of water in Calgary uses 2.5 litres of tap water to produce 1 litre of bottled water?  Seeing as how Calgary's tap water meets all standards for drinking water, should they pay more for the "raw material" because they're wasting it?  In many parts of the world almost anything is safer to drink than water - think about that.  (W.C. Fields famously preferred alcohol to water, leading to a rather pithy quote about the latter - something about fish copulation as I recall.)  And what about irrigation water loss?  How many times have you seen those automated irrigation pivots squandering water all over some nearby road or ditch in addition to watering the crop?  Finally, if we're wasting so much water when the rest of the world is so short of it, should we be investing in water equities?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Italian Food

I like Italian food.  As previously noted, I consider pizza to be nature's perfect dish.  (I'd love to dwell on that some more, but I have too much respect for my readers.  Just send me a large #8 with extra pepperoni.)  But why is it that I like all Italian food?  I've never been there.  Perhaps that's a good thing - wouldn't want my idyllic view of the place spoiled by reality!  I'm sure it can't have anything to do with the fact that the vast majority of the Durham wheat used in Italy for pasta is imported from the prairies of Canada, said pasta then (you guessed it) profitably exported back to Canada.  Or that my wife is of Italian ancestry.  And surely it can't be some subliminal attachment the red and white checkered "oil cloth" my mother used for every family picnic when I was growing up back in the 1950's.  What then?  Perhaps its by default - the Danish/Scottish alternatives being rollmops and haggis!  Buddha knows they don't hold a candle to Italian food. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Quadruple Witching Day

The third Friday of March (today), June, September, and December is known as "Quadruple Witching Day", a reference to the fact that on those days four major types of contracts (stock index futures, stock index options, stock options, and single stock futures) all expire.  Trading is known to be more volatile on such days, especially the "Quadruple Witching Hour" - the last hour before the markets close.  The reason?  Active traders want to unwind their interests in futures and options contracts before said contracts expire - and then replace or repurchase them.  All this trading results in increased trading volume and, as a result, increased volatility.  Options volatility is measured by the VIX.  As an aside, yesterday saw a large amount of VIX call options bought (options on a derivative that is itself derived from options on equities!), suggesting some people expect volatility to spike during the next month.  It remains to be seen whether such a spike might be caused by a slide in stocks or geopolitical event - if it happens at all!  Long-term investors need not worry about "witching days" and should probably avoid trading on them.  The rest of us need to grab our best broom!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Streamlining the U.S. Political System

Seems to me that the U.S. political system could use some streamlining, not only to enhance practicality and decrease gridlock but also to save money (remember that, saving money?).  Here are my suggestions:  1) Get rid of the 3-month "lame duck" period between the November election and the January inauguration.  Just take a week or ten days after the election to consider and appoint a cabinet - and then get to work.  2) Get rid of mid-term elections.  How can anything important get done when half of congress is always posing for the cameras?  3) Don't elect judges.  They shouldn't be compromised by having to please those who supported them in their last successful election campaign.  4) Try a multi-party system.  Surely there is room for other opinions on the American political spectrum.  In short, I believe that everything in the U.S. has become so politicized (read polarized) that a few changes might be needed to get things back on track.  (Before you can save the world you have to save yourselves from your system of government.)  Look, your founding fathers were bright, motivated guys, but nobody gets it perfect the first time and the system has deteriorated since then.  And finally, don't elect your dog-catchers - is that really necessary?

Patio Furniture Irish and stays out all night!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's Irish and Stays Out All Night?

Answer tomorrow.  Happy St, Patrick's Day!

A New Take on an Old Problem

As all active investors know, emotion is huge in making financial decisions.  Fear and Greed are credited with causing investors to make and/or lose money everyday, and if you can get those two emotions under control you've got it made in the shade.  But what about love and hate?  Just the other day, two active investors and yours truly admitted to each other that there are some stocks we would never buy because we have been treated shabbily as consumers by them (Telus, Bell, and Direct Energy were mentioned) - and that our reticence to buy them has hurt our portfolio.  (That's okay, we showed 'em!)  The three of us also admitted buying shares of companies we "like" for no other reason than we like them, often incurring a loss.  (Does this contradict Warren Buffett's credo that you should only buy companies you like?)  So whether you're a believer in fundamental analysis or technical analysis, don't just get fear and greed under control - ignore love and hate too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Anemic at Best

I can't think of a better description for the markets lately.  Low volume, no excitement after the first hour until the last five minutes of trading - boring!  Other words that come to mind: stalled, stagnant, nervous, cautious, precarious, ambivalent, tentative, you get the picture.  Help me out here, how would you describe the equity markets at present?  Here's another thought: perhaps main street retail investors have permanently abandoned the stock market.

Thoughts on the Canadian Healthcare System

The current healthcare debate in the U.S. is interesting in many respects, not the least of which is the rabid anti-"public option" position of some.  Glued to American financial channels as I am daily I am incredulous at some of the rhetoric spewed thereon about Canada's healthcare system - a system I am intimately aware of as a healthcare professional with close ties to the medical community.  There is a lot of carping about healthcare by Canadians on a provincial and national level.  Yet the system works.  A local rancher diagnosed with a coronary artery blockage ten days ago requiring immediate admission to the local ICU, etc., bumped into me yesterday at the post office seemingly hale and hearty, after a coronary stent was placed at a Calgary hospital.  I was flabbergasted at the speed and quality of this man's care - and proud of our Canadian healthcare system.  Yes, you may not get that hip transplant as soon as you would in the U.S. private system, but if you have a life-threatening issue it will be dealt with immediately - even "out here"!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Financial Regulatory Reform

As far as I'm concerned the financial meltdown in the U.S. which nearly brought down the global financial system was the result of five factors: 1) U.S. bank deregulation by congress, 2) a political push to increase home ownership, 3) ridiculous mortgage standards, 4) low interest rates, and 5) a Wall Street culture that embraced compensation structures that rewarded too much risk.  In other words: 1) policy failure, 2) policy failure, 3) regulatory failure, 4) policy failure, and 5) greed.  So, despite my urge to round up all the Wall Street wunderkinds who invented, sold and re-sold undecipherable exotic derivative products for their personal gain into paddy-wagons to be locked up until they fork over every cent (I consider them guilty until proven innocent), it probably wouldn't do much practical good.  And unfortunately policy failures based on political ideology will continue to happen - the nature of the beast, so to speak.  Which leaves us the regulatory reform of mortgage standards and Wall Street compensation to deal with - although the SEC could also use a good swift kick in the ass.  The trick going forward, as I see it, is to reform regulations without driving honest financial innovation offshore (read Singapore).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Citizenship in a Republic

"It is not the critic who counts nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."  Theodore Roosevelt, April 1910.

Word For The Day: publicipig

publicipig - noun. pub-bliss-ipigg - 1. pathological publicity hog, 2. nut case, especially one seeking fame via outrageous claims or behaviour that would be comical if it wasn't dangerous/ridiculous/pathetic:  "The child's parents, consummate publicipigs, hid him in an attic and claimed to the police that he was in a runaway hot air balloon."  Etymology: balfourainian, southwestern Alberta.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Confronting Our Own Mortality

In the last six months it seems there has been an acceleration of events destined to make me confront my own mortality.  Although I've been pronounced healthy (a relative term, surely), a good number of those around me have been afflicted with various and sundry disorders, culminating in our attendance yesterday at a funeral - something I haven't been at for several years.  (As you can tell I'm not a "frequent funeral-goer" - I can always get an egg salad sandwich at home.  Also, in high school I worked part-time at a funeral "parlour" which gives one a unique perspective on such rites, I suppose.)  Apart from the intended purpose of supporting the bereaved, I found it surprisingly beneficial to me personally in that I came to realize that in my sixth decade perhaps I should think about the aftermath of my own future demise.  Not my last will and testament, which was updated just a couple of years ago, but what sort of funeral (if any) might be appropriate, what happens to all the "stuff", and even how I might reach back from the grave to cheer people up - assuming they miss me in the first place.  (A former Mayor of our town wrote an epistle to be read at his own memorial service famously exhorting those present to "never buy a car from WC Motors"!  And a dear friend of ours dictated that a party be held at her house the night of her funeral, which by all accounts went very well.)  So there you have it, a cosmic wake-up call or merely preparing for the worst case scenario?

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Entropy, the Second Law of Thermodynamics (a basic tenet of physical chemistry) basically says that all matter in the universe naturally progresses from a higher state of energy and organization to a lower state of energy and disorganization.  (In other words, that back fence of yours will chip, peel, rot, and eventually fall down unless you put more energy into it periodically in the form of sanding, painting, etc.)  I can't help the feeling that the U.S. financial regulatory system is a victim of entropy caused by long-term neglect.  And the only reason the U.S. financial system also, in fact, hasn't totally collapsed is the incredible injection of money (not to mention blood, sweat and tears) by Uncle Sam's minions.  However, we all know that if you don't maintain that back fence in the right way - with the right materials (do I use galvanized nails or not?) and at the right time - that you end up "patching" instead of properly "maintaining".  And don't forget, regular maintenance costs money - and lack of maintenance costs you even more in the end.  Has the U.S. done enough to thwart the Second Law?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Word For The Day: indubitably

indubitably - adj. in-doo-bit-ahblee - 1. undoubtedly, 2. unquestionably:  Skier A: "Castle Mountain just got a foot of new powder snow, are you going skiing?"  Skier B: "Indubitably!"  Etymology: middle English, from the Latin indubitabilis.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Optimism, Pessimism & The Worst Case Scenario

The markets continue to rise, albeit on very thin volume.  Are you bullish or bearish?  I think the markets are headed for a BIG correction (Larry Kudlow notwithstanding) and have structured my portfolio accordingly.  Which raises the question: what is the difference between being overly pessimistic and merely preparing for the worst case scenario?  I suppose the threshold of each is different for everyone.  I'm an eternal optimist (ask my wife!) but I also find myself a fan of Roubini, Rosenberg, Rogers & Faber (Marc, that is).  Time will tell, but I'm "optimistically preparing for the worst".  How about you?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Word For The Day: sheeple

sheeple - noun. shee-pull - 1. those who blindly follow others without question: "Despite personal misgivings, Zeke decided to get a diamond stud in his ear like the other sheeple in his bible class."  Etymology: Cranbrookian: south-central British Columbia.  Other contextual examples invited.

Monday, March 8, 2010

U.S. Wins WWII Single-handedly!

Okay, here's something that's been picking my ass for awhile.  Lately I've been hearing a lot of American commentators referring to how the U.S. "won WWII" virtually single-handedly and saved the rest of the world from the Axis powers.  Don't get me wrong, I fully realize the important, pivotal role the U.S. played in this regard.  However, a little modesty might be in order, Uncle Sam.  WWII began on September 1, 1939, with Germany invading Poland after nearly a decade of very obvious persecution of minorities within Germany proper.  France and the whole British Commonwealth immediately declared war on Germany.  The U.S. did not enter WWII until December 7, 1941.  America fiddled while Europe burned for over two years.  Yes, the U.S. tipped the balance of WWII, but you were also last in.

Larry Kudlow of CNBS

BNN is a great business channel if you're a Canadian because it's often difficult to get info on Canadian stocks on any other channel, and also because Francis H. is one of the most intelligent analysts on TV anywhere.  Before BNN starts broadcasting I like Bloomberg for my early morning impression of the markets because of the news in the lower left-hand corner and the great international coverage.  However, for minute-to-minute coverage once the market opens you can't beat CNBC, even though I sometimes refer to it as "CNBS" because of Larry Kudlow's rants.  (Kudlow was asked to run for office in Connecticut, I believe, and I wish he would - I still can't stand listening to him at length, and I consider myself right wing of Attila the Hun).  And, of course, Fast Money is a great show on CNBC, despite the demise of Dylan Ratigan.  Where is he now, anyway?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Nature's Perfect Food

What has each of the following food groups in a single dish: bread group, dairy group, fruit and vegetable group, meat group?  What food can be eaten hot, warm, or even cold (the latter usually for breakfast) without the need for cutlery?   What food is inexpensive even when delivered across the city, and is international in character?  What food allows endless combinations of ingredients, and can be created in a variety of shapes?  The answer: pizza, nature's perfect food.  I'd say Buddha's favorite food but my wife would say that's why Buddha looks the way he does!  I challenge anyone to nominate a more complete item of sustenance!

Using a Virtual Stoploss & Trailing Market Stoploss

Ever get the feeling that just as soon as you place a "stoploss" on one of your positions it gets activated by who knows what and "you're out" with a loss - after which the stock inevitably recovers back to and beyond where you bought in?  The most common reason for this is placing stops that are too tight, setting you up for a trigger during the midday sag that occurs with all but the hottest stocks.  My stops trigger on average at about a 10% loss from the highest price achieved by employing a Trailing Market Stop.  After all, what you're really trying to prevent is a catastrophic loss of capital due to a market meltdown.  However, I also always determine a "virtual stoploss" for every stock I own, always tighter than the TMS I placed.  I keep track of both on a spreadsheet and sell if my virtual stoploss is violated.  That way I'm protected both from a breakdown through the support level and any market meltdown.  How do you work your stops?

Word For The Day: pooterscootin'

pooterscootin' - verb. pooter-skootn; 1. to head out on the town for a little innocent flirtatious fun with the opposite sex: "There's a great little band at Casey's Bar, let's head down there and do some pooterscootin', eh?".  ("Eh" is optional unless you're in Canada, while the "dropped "g" is never an option wherever you are.)  Etymology: probably Montanan.  Other contextual examples invited.

When "It's Like You Never Left"

An old friend phoned from afar about a month ago to say he'd be in town, would I like to meet him for lunch?  Of course I would, and did.  No question, slam dunk.  He's a prince of a guy, always enlightening to be around, one of those few who has both his head and his heart in the right place.  We had a very pleasant reunion, caught up on each other's kids, and had a few laughs.  The neat thing was that, even though I hadn't seen him for probably two years plus, I knew that when we got together it would be just like old times.  (Which reminded me of the 1970's Dave Mason album in today's title.  I tried to find it in the basement but couldn't - damn, we've gotta clean out that subterranean repository of junk this spring!)  Why is it that some old friends you run into barely give you the time of day and others are like this fellow?  I wish I knew.  Perhaps a cosmic bond like mutual respect.  Any ideas?

Word For The Day: esthete

esthete (aesthete) - noun. 'es-theet; 1. one who is sensitive to the beautiful, especially in art.  "As an esthete, he was constantly perusing art galleries."  Etymology: Latin, from "esthetic".  Other contextual examples invited.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Two U.S. Problems Solved At Once

Here's a thought.  There were 3 million U.S. house foreclosures in 2009, another 10.7 million mortgages were "underwater" (the owner owes more than the house is worth) at the end of the year, and 2010 foreclosures are expected to be around 2.8 million.  The glut of foreclosed, empty houses is a huge problem which depresses the value of every house in America.  There are also estimated to be roughly 11 million illegal aliens in the U.S. (not all adults) right now, and who knows how many more on the waiting list to enter the country legally.  Why not give every mother, illegally in the U.S. or on the waiting list (mothers are proven to be more responsible in such matters) immediate citizenship and a house for her family, assuming they are determined not to be undesirables or terrorists?  We know these people are hard workers, often taking jobs other Americans won't.  Furthermore we know they are a huge burden on Medicaid.  Why not turn them into tax-paying citizens and get rid of the housing glut at the same time?  One proviso in order for this to be a one-time fix: a) for the illegal alien problem you'd have to effectively (finally!) seal U.S. borders and control (finally!) legal immigration in the future, and b) you'd have to fix the Wall Street wunderkinds, incompetent mortgage brokers, and asleep-at-the-wheel regulators in order to prevent another housing bubble.  How about jail?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The "Tea Party" Movement

Ya gotta love the Excited States of America.  As if the Bush/Cheney/McCain/Palin Republicans weren't right wing enough, now the so-called Tea Party movement is everywhere, or so it seems.  (I consider myself right wing of Attila the Hun, although probably the most right-wing Canadian is left of a U.S. Democrat.)  Even though I think the T Partyers (Partiers, both are apparently correct) are slightly off-base, I believe this could be a useful turning point for American politics.  The current congressional legislative gridlock could use a wrench thrown into the works - that's right, a third official political party!  (Why should Canada have all the fun with 4 or 5 of them?)  The only problem is: if the TP's became the right wing, the Republicans would claim the center, just like our NDP makes the Liberal Party of Canada look centrist.  Okay, forget it.  What Canada needs is a Tea Party party to make our PC's look like the perfectly angelic middle-of-the-roaders that we obviously are.  Waddya say T Partyers?