Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Thrill of a Lifetime

Somewhere amongst everything that happened this week....there was a short announcement of the President now set to get a daily economic briefing from top advisers. Of course, its modeled after the daily intelligence briefing that he currently gets from the CIA. What little is said in the press about this...is that the deepening recession is as serious as the military threat to America...which most would readily agree to the basic idea here.

The sad thing is that involves an economic expert of some type....well versed in the 500-odd economic principals that exist...a graduate of Harvard or Yale...and likely prepared to drop 10-pound anvil-like words on the President to test his listening ability.

On the President's side...he has to sit there five times a week...at least twenty minutes at a whack and gratefully receive this dumping of economic data. For most of us....at ninety-five percent...this would be verbal torture to know that each day you had to listen to some guy dump sixteen slides of economic data on you, and you had to grasp what each meant and what he had to react to.

If Burger King and McDonalds suddenly show a 20-25 percent drop in sales...should you react, or wait a month?

If Pepsi suddenly has misfortune and loses eight percent of its sales to Coke...is it enough to trigger a meeting between Pepsi and Coke...to work out a deal?

If a rich but possibly corrupt Mexican business man suddenly shows up to buy the New York Times...is this a serious economic problem or simply the way that things are slated to go?

If the IHOP folks suddenly find breakfast sales are lagging...should the President declare a national breakfast emergency and offer Fed coupons?

Personally, I'd have to have this briefing around early morning hours, when I was fresh. If this were a 2PM briefing...I'd be in serious trouble and sipping a big cup of coffee prior to the briefing.

Does it help? This is a long moment of pondering. He might get smarter and more capable of answering media questions. He might be able to grasp very difficult economic ideas more easily after six months. He might eventually realize that some programs he wants to push...aren't worth pushing.

Presently, I'm hoping that this is it for daily briefings. If things got bad enough...and the Pentagon demanded a daily brief...the global warming crew demanded to give their daily brief....and the Homeland Security guy demanded that he give a brief...then this would really tear out a major portion of your day, and probably trigger a guy to get all stressed out by lunch.

Hometown Corruption

There has been a federal case brewing in my hometown (in Bama). I will leave out the name of the town, and the names of the players involved, but its a fascinating bit of corruption.

Farmer Joe got ahead in life...made some money. Farmer Joe eventually discovered that he could buy small tracts of property (in the boonies of Bama), but near significant towns. So he'd buy a 20-acre tract cheaply, pull a dozer in, and clear up timber and make it attractive. Then Joe would turn around quickly and sell this in two or three acre tracts...making 50 percent profit over his investment. In the beginning, this worked fine using his own money for the first purchase or two.

The Joe got to thinking big and needed more money, so he borrowed....repeating the same tactic....buy cheap property, dozer and clean it, and resell quickly.

No one knows when or how....but Joe eventually got to a point where he didn't sell as fast, and he had to sell for less.

At some point, Joe lost serious money.

So Joe was at a point of quitting (least he'd like to make us think that), when someone came up from the Bama teacher's credit union....and figured out a scheme to arrange for loans to occur....for very short periods....and no real checking on Joe's background or the deal involved. An insider was involved, of course.

So Joe continued on...and got deeper into debt.

The day came when an audit finally occurred at this branch of the savings and loan, and the Fed's got called. The loan approval officer and Joe got called in.

Charges were drawn up. Basically, Joe had lost around $6 million for the savings and loan. He had some property in his hand....and I'm assuming that they somehow took control of that....but I seriously doubt that it was worth even half of the $6 million.

Joe was sorry.

This week, the Fed case occurred in Decatur, Alabama. It was a jury episode. Somehow, Joe was declared innocent at the end. Even my brother shook his head at this innocence. Its likely that no one in the community believes this guy's innocence at all...and I would guess that most agree that he ought to do some time (not twenty years of course, but some time).

Whats left? I would guess that the credit union will sue him for personal damages and try to seize as much as they can from his personal property. They are out this cash to some degree, but they won't admit in public what the number is.

The mere idea to me...of some local guy...going and getting $6 million in loans to buy property...is the amusing part of this story. I could understand half a million for a farm but this was pure land speculation. So its just another day in the heartland, with corruption reaching down into the weeds.

The Rocky Start

Rather than move on and get projects started and progressing...Friday had a nifty episode where Republicans were warned by President Obama that they need to quit listening to Rush Limbaugh...as if it really mattered. Well over half of the Republican public or conservative side of America today...don't listen to Rush, period. Of the remaining half...a fair portion simply view this as "entertainment" and little else. This "warning" is apparently an effort to get the Republican side in line with the Democrat side.

"You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," President Obama spoke as he chatted over the $1 trillion stimulus package.

To counter some Republic critic in the room.....he gave a quick comment to make his point. "I won," he said, according to aides who were briefed on the meeting. "I will trump you on that." As the months go by and the Republicans counter the White House efforts on several projects....you can already guess their comeback...."We won...we trumped you on that."

Simply dragging Rush Limbaugh's name out...to "scare" folks...won't do alot of positive things. Remember, we've gone through eight years of Clinton and eight years of Bush.

The best advice here...move on with projects and simply start showing reward for effort. Blaming things or trying to scare folks with the name of Rush Limbaugh....isn't making any positive traction. I'm hoping a month or two down the road...things improve, and we are simply looking at a rocky first week start. If this is the trend for the next four years...then we've got major issues.