02 June, 2009

Incorporate California Today!

California needs to become a corporation, fast!  I think it may be the only way to save the State.  Think about it.  If we incorporated, we could be the largest employer in the United States.  Of course, all businesses chartered in the State would become subsidiaries of California Inc.

Why the hell would I suggest this radical course of action?  Bailout money.  California, as a corporation, would be too big to fail and the Federal Government would print money faster than Limbaugh can deliver the smackdown to a dissenting Republicant.

Think of the press conferences!  Geithner and Obama telling us how important we are to the Nation.  Media outlets burning through hours of programming talking about all the superficial and unimportant details of the "painful" reorganization.  Our former State representatives jockeying for a prime spot in the new management team.  

Of course, our CEO would have to be let go as a sacrifice to the pissed off taxpayers.  I wouldn't feel too bad.  If Gray Davis was kicked to the curb over the VLF, Schwarzenegger should have seen this coming from a mile away.

Argh, I can't keep this up.  It's too depressing.


30 May, 2009

Darwin's Taxi - The Evolution of Dry Earth Community Transit

Designs and work photos of the 2009 Mutant Vehicle, "Darwin's Taxi - The Evolution of Dry Earth Community Transit". It's taking shape. The frame is very solid and safe. We are all very excited to get to the "art" part of making and Art Car soon.

For questions or comments, please call T.R. Lingly @ (TBD).

05 April, 2009

Election Integrity - Best Vision I've Seen Yet

By James Strait via Mark Crispin Miller.

Machines, software, and all esoteric voting methods and procedures are forever incompatible with transparency of process. Transparency being defined as a process where the average literate voting citizen may be randomly culled from the population and then be able to perform any function within the elections process.

That is my standard…and it is a hard sell because it is simple. Modern people have come to believe that sophisticated equals complex and shiny, when in reality elegant processes are always a function of accomplishing specified work with the fewest actions.

Jim James Strait


As a consultant who does process redesign for a living, I couldn't agree more.

03 April, 2009

Alright People - What are We Going to Do About This?

I am disturbed thinking about what this means:
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - A gunman barricaded the back door of a community center with his car and then opened fire on a room full of immigrants taking a citizenship class Friday, killing 13 people before apparently committing suicide, officials said.

Investigators said they had yet to establish a motive for the massacre, which was
at least the fifth deadly mass shooting in the U.S. in the past month alone(emphasis mine).
The 5th? Really? I am so angry at such a wide swath of people for inciting such violence. The political parties have gotten so mean and vile (and I *do* blame the Republicans more than the Democrats on this one), calling each other traitors, communists, evil-doers, and generally whipping their "followers" into hate-filled frenzies. Some of Palin's crap in that last election is unforgivable.
  • I am angry with the greedy bastards who pillaged the country for as much money as they could get their filthy little hands on, which has caused so much hardship for so many people.
  • I am angry that people suffering from the resulting hardship are looking for easy blame, rather than trying to genuinely understand what happened, and prevent it going forward.
  • I am angry at politicians and media organizations who hope to get benefits, ratings, and votes from dumbing-down their rhetoric and giving people easy, largely false answers.
  • I am angry with spineless Democrats who are more interested in their own stupid careers, than making the hard choices that might make a difference.
  • And finally, I am angry that people see violence as a way out. What the hell is happening out there that murder and death seem preferable to any kind of life? Have we been that desensitized to violence or have we, as a society, just ceased to give our citizens anything to live for?
I hate to feel this way. We have to fix it.

21 February, 2009

Nothing but the Bill

Housing rescue plans are ridiculous.  I’m pissed off.  We saw this problem coming.  We planned for it.  Now, all the people in the tank are getting a bailout, and I’ll get nothing but the bill.  There!  It’s in black and white digital ink and now maybe I can unload this seething, consuming anger.  I’m pissed that I played by the rules and got burned.


Maybe if I let a little of my reasoning spill upon the backlit page, I can start to let go of some of this rage.  So here it is.


We purchased a condo in 2002.  We borrowed the down payment from family to avoid mortgage insurance.  Thank you family!!!  The mortgage was an 80/10/10.  That means for the purchase price of $327,000.00, we were financing 90% of the home.  The 80% was a fixed rate 30-year loan.  The 10% loan was a 5 year variable.  Each month, we paid something extra on the variable rate loan.  I hated variable rate loans.


In 2005, we started to become nervous.  Reports of potential problems with interest only mortgages began leaking into the public consciousness.  Delving into a multitude of articles, we enlightened ourselves about the problem.  Not all at once, but over time.  Slowly, a very scary picture began to emerge.  Living on the cutting edge of East Oakland gentrification, we began to realize that there could be a high rate of interest only loans within our community.  All this time, we made good salaries and couldn’t figure out how our neighbors were affording their units.  People were flipping their units constantly.


We made the decision to get out.  Why?  Because we didn’t want to be tied to property that could backslide into disrepair, or own in a development that would become a haven for foreclosures and desperate owners renting their losing investments.


The condo was sold in January 2006.  We sold at the top of our local market.  Did we have special inside information?  No.  In fact, I had tried to convince a friend in the real estate business to sell.  He calmed me down and, for a time, I decided to stay put.  Then he sold a couple of weeks later.  That was the final straw.


People thought we were completely nuts when we sold.  They practically wanted to commit us when we told them our next move was to rent for a while.  They said we would forever be out of the housing market if we didn’t “upgrade” to a house.  Instead, we paid the loans from our families, paid off all student loans, sold our gas-guzzling van and bought a new fuel-efficient VW with cash, and went on a 10th anniversary vacation.  It was great.  We had a great apartment, no debt, and money in the bank waiting for housing to return to a reasonable level.


Enough background.  This is where I get angry.  You see, this was our plan.  We could see that the market was inflated.  IT WAS OBVIOUS!  All we had to do was weather the ridicule until the market declined to a reasonable level and purchase the home of our dreams.  It’s not going to happen.  Not with the “solutions” to the foreclosure crisis being floated by the government and pundits on the right and left.  The rules are being changed all around us and not necessarily for the better.


Now I do not want to be just your average complainer.  I’m not a Republican representative or radio host after all.  So now that I got some whining out of the way, here is my suggestion for getting us out of this screwed up mess.


Home foreclosures should continue as the terms dictate.  That’s right, you’re still going to get dinged for your involvement.  Here is the fun part.  You will not have to move out when the foreclosure is complete.  The people living in the house have the option of moving out, or stay for market-rate rent.


At this point, the title-holder will have the opportunity to sell the property for current market value.  They will have six months to sell the property.  This will force the title-holder to market the property and not play games with the housing market; holding on to properties for years while neighborhoods deteriorate. 


What happens next is downright fun.  If the title-holder does not sell the property within six months, eminent domain becomes an option.  That’s right.  The government can take the property.  Cry me a river for the financial institutions on this one.  I doubt many will listen, but Californians will be appreciative for the extra water.


That takes care of the title-holders.  What about the families who are being “robbed” of the American Dream?  Oh, please.  Like I really want them thrown out into the evil American Dream crushing rental market.  Let’s call the current occupants, The Trumps.  So, The Trumps would have a first right of refusal on the fair market offer.  John and Bob VarsityFootbalStar put an offer on this foreclosed home.  The title-holder determines it is acceptable.  The title-holder would then make this same offer to the Trumps.


Now remember, the Trumps credit has been ruined by the foreclosure.  Wait!  What’s that glint on the horizon?  It’s coming closer.  Ah!  It’s an armored car with government plates and a big dollar sign on the side.  That’s right kids!  It’s government bailout money.  You probably didn’t recognize it.  There was a trail of money spilling out the back until January 20, 2009.  That made it very recognizable.  At least the new administration seems to know how to close the back door.


Anyway, the Trumps would qualify for a government loan.  It would be a 30-year fixed-rate loan, with an attractive rate, and since they were the “victims” of the foreclosure crisis, they would qualify immediately.  If the Trumps decide not to take it, they’ll move out, and Mr. and Mr. VarsityFootballStar get the house.


See how well this works?  The icing on the big stimulus cake is that we would have to employ a lot of people to administer the program.  Can you say win-win?  Probably not.  I know I’m still kinda pissed, but I’m sure I’ll get over it when the housing prices come down and some new regulation gets enacted.

23 January, 2009

Is Healthcare an Issue of Freedom?

Purely Personal Anecdote to Follow...

We are all afraid for our jobs. I am lucky to have had (and hope to continue to have) a job with very good benefits for the last 8 years. It's a tough job. Long hours, travel, high stress, constant reinvention and learning. Weirdly, though, I like it. I like new projects, new people, learning.

However, it's been made tougher by the fact that I am also battling an autoimmune liver disease (
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC)). Suffice to say, my liver is dying. I will need a new one. A transplant costs about half a million dollars, all totaled. When will this happen? No one knows. My doctors keep an eye on it. It could be required next year or 10 years from now. Bottom line - I need to stay insured through an employer-based group plan. I am completely un-insurable on the individual market.

So how does this relate to freedom? Well, leaving aside my very real fear of being "separated" from my job at any minute... What if the long hours and travel were finally getting to me - making my disease worse from all the stress?
  • Could I quit and do freelance writing? No.
  • Could I quit and move to another job that has a plan that doesn't cover my doctors - Maybe, but it would seriously disrupt my treatment to change doctors, hospitals, care plans, etc.
  • Could I start a new small business of my own (that bugaboo Repubs always dangle in front of us as the backbone of the economy) - No.
  • Could I die in my 40s without insurance - Yes.

So there you have it. Single-payer, universal healthcare would provide me the freedom to do all kinds of things that would be good for society: Start a small business, have time to volunteer, continue to contribute my share of taxes well into my 60s. Without it, I may end up being one of the hundreds of thousands of new Medicaid registrants that are signing up these days - straining the system, and using your tax dollars anyway. You might as well pay them up front to keep me well - it would probably be cheaper. :)