Friday, May 29, 2009
Nope... in case anyone's wondering, I haven't given up blogging - it's just that I've been real busy over the past week finalizing arrangements for Mary's and my upcoming vacation.
We leave Monday, June 1 for Seattle and hang there for three nights before heading over to Victoria, BC, on Thursday, June 4 to spend three nights there before returning the Seattle for our last night prior to flying home on Monday, June 8.
It's gonna be one hell of a vacation...!!!
Oh... and speaking of vacations... I just booked airfare for Mary's and my annual...
Drunk'n Couples' Eating, Drinking, Snorkeling, Spear Fishing, Swimming, Jet Skiing, Singing Loudly, Reading & Relax'n Key West Getaway
...with Ted and (his) Mary!
Yep... spending the money this year while it's still worth something!
The country may be slowly circling the drain, but as God is my witness... I'm going down swinging!
Anyway... expect my return to blogging on Tuesday, June 9th! Till then... cheers!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Pharmacies Plan to Translate Drug Instructions
Yep. That was the headline which appeared on page 35 of my local weekly, "The Photo News."
(It's actually an AP piece; here's a link to the actual story.)
Five major pharmacy chains agreed Tuesday to print drug instructions at their New York stores in five languages other than English and indicated that they plan to expand the option to other states.
The companies are Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, Duane Reade and A&P.
Hmm... mighty big companies. Deep pockets. Competitive advantage... theirs.
The agreements will also require the companies to provide oral assistance in more than 150 languages.
"...in more than 150 languages...?!?!" OK. How the heck that is gonna work in practice... search me?!
The companies, which together have 700 stores in New York state, agreed with state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to counsel and provide written translations in Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Russian and French.
The companies didn't agree to Polish translations, although other pharmacies agreed to that in previous deals with the attorney general.
Pharmacists in New York must personally provide information about prescription drugs to all patients, orally and in writing, and pharmacies are prohibited from conducting business in a way that discriminates against non-English speakers.
OK, folks... this is nuts. While I don't believe that the big box stores and chains operating in New York State... New York State, USA... should have to by law cater to non-English speakers, at least in theory they have the deep pockets and vast human resource pools to deal with such regulations. How'bout the little guys? How'bout the mom & pop pharmacies? How'bout the guy or gal who went to school and spent tens of thousands of dollars to become a pharmacist and whose dream it was to open his or her own pharmacy or perhaps go into partnership with a peer or peers? How are they supposed to bear the burden?
According to census data, more than a million New Yorkers do not speak English "well or at all."
Who the hell cares...?!?! Why is this my problem...??? Why should this be the problem of American pharmacists...?!?!
Hey... non-English speakers who live here in New York... LEARN ENGLISH! You wanna speak Spanish? Go live in Spain! Jeez... catering to you is NOT my responsibility nor should it be the responsibility of New York's pharmacists! Same with ALL non-English speakers. You wanna live here but you don't wanna learn English... face the consequences. Pay to have your drug instructions and related information translated! You want the info translated... YOU PAY FOR IT...!!!
Cuomo started investigating pharmacy policies and procedures after getting complaints from the organization Make the Road New York, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that supports New York City's low-income and immigrant population.
The investigation found that pharmacies routinely fail to advise non-English speaking customers in their own language about the purpose, dosage and side effects of their medications.
Hey... Cuomo... ya wanna know the reason pharmacies routinely fail to advise non-English customers in their own language...? It's because THIS IS AMERICA...!!! It's because English is our national language...!!! It's because no pharmacist speaks 150 languages and very few speak five!
My God... this is insane...!!! This is government run amok!
We're in trouble, folks... we're in deep, deep trouble.
From today's Wall Street Journal:
Last week, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform approved a bill to provide paid parental leave to federal workers and thus make government employment more attractive.
Great. Just frigg'n great. My business is shot all to hell, revenues are down 75% or more, and a majority of the Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government... er... Reform... want to take my money - all while borrowing more money from China and other foreign nations in my (our) name which ultimately it's my responsibility (and yours) to pay back... with interest - so as to make government "service" more attractive.
Hey... as a taxpayer and citizen, aren't I a "stakeholder" with regard to government? Don't these people working for government work for... er... me? (Me and you?)
News flash: I don't want to provide "my" employees PAID "parental leave." I don't want to pay them to NOT work! Call me cheap... call me mean spirited... but I've got a better idea for "my" government employees:
OPEN SAVINGS ACCOUNTS!!!
SAVE SOME FRIGG'N MONEY!!!
Take SOME responsibility for YOUR OWN LIVES...!!!
My God... this is insanity. Government spending is running at huge - with no end in sight - deficits, debt is piled upon debt, future liabilities are unsustainable... yet what the hell... pile on more spending! Take the money from me... give it to someone else. Doesn't matter if that "someone else" makes more a year than I do... has better benefits than I do... gets more paid vacation and a superior retirement plan... apparently none of this matters.
Another news flash: Government "service" is popular enough already without offering further... er... inducements. While private sector job losses for April totaled some 611,000 jobs, government went on a hiring spree, hiring 66,000 people.
God help us... God help us... God help us... God help us...
Thursday, May 7, 2009
...you should start.
I never listened to Beck's radio show; I still don't. (Hey... there are only so many hours in a day... so much time I can devote to news, political, economic, and social analysis, etc.)
Still... I've been watching Beck's TV show on Fox News since it premiered back on January 19th of this year.
Prior to joining Fox, Beck had his own show on CNN. Now just to anticipate the "gotcha" question of, "Hey, Bill, any reason you didn't watch Beck on CNN but watch him on Fox?," allow me to proactively answer:
"CNN Beck" was "pre-Bill's-DVR."
Beck's CNN show was on at an inconvenient time. That's why I didn't watch it. Same deal to an extent with Beck's radio show.
Beck's Fox show is also on at an inconvenient time... 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. weekdays. But here's where my "new" DVR comes in. I simply record Beck and watch him at my leisure, fast forwarding right through the commercials.
Listen. To those of you who have never given Beck a chance... I hear ya! Again... to reiterate... I've only been a fan since January of this year! But the reason I'm a fan... it's because I've been watching him!
Beck is not O'Reilly. Yes, I watch O'Reilly... but O'Reilly is 50% or more "entertainment" and while I agree with O'Reilly probably 70% of the time or so... a good 20% of the time he's way off base and 10% of the time - whether I'm in agreement or disagreement with his position - it's clear O'Reilly has merely stumbled upon the truth and doesn't really understand the intellectual and real world factual underpinnings of why his position is... er... his position.
Sure... with O'Reilly you'll learn some things you wouldn't if you limited yourself to network news and even most cable news... but with Beck...
Beck highlights the type of factual information and analysis that I do here at Usually Right.
Beck has a firm grip on our nation's history and has a sophisticated understanding of economic reality. For those who don't read the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Invester's Business Daily and so on and so forth on a daily or near-daily basis... Beck's show is a "MUST WATCH!"
Yes. Beck does impressions. He makes funny faces and rants and rambles and often incorporates sound effects - silly sounds and voices - into his his hyperactive slapstick delivery. Don't be fooled by his presentation style, though... pay attention to what he's imparting.
You folks know how I incorporate (*SMILE*) (*SHRUG*) (*HUGE FRIGG'N GRIN*) and all the rest into my blogging style, right...??? What Beck does is the equivalent.
Those of you who know me in person... imagine what the Bill Barker Show would be like.
(I know... scary!) (*GRIN*)
Where I'd be ranting and raving, yelling, banging on the desk, perhaps shooting paintballs into the ceiling, Glen Beck employs biting sarcasm to the nth degree.
Anyway... no need to take my word that Beck is worth watching. DVR a week's worth of shows. Check him out for yourself. I'm telling you folks... I wouldn't be recommending Beck's show if I weren't confident you'd benefit from it.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Folks... it's a nightmare... a frigg'n nightmare...
As noted in today's WSJ:
Everyone knows how loose mortgage underwriting led to the go-go days of multitrillion-dollar subprime lending. What isn't well known is that a parallel subprime market has emerged over the past year -- all made possible by the Federal Housing Administration. This also won't end happily for taxpayers or the housing market.
Hey... don't say you haven't been warned!
Last year banks issued $180 billion of new mortgages insured by the FHA, which means they carry a 100% taxpayer guarantee. Many of these have the same characteristics as subprime loans: low downpayment requirements, high-risk borrowers, and in many cases shady mortgage originators. FHA now insures nearly one of every three new mortgages, up from 2% in 2006.
To reiterate: ONE out of THREE new mortgages... up from 2% in 2006.
Hmm... 2006... wasn't that the last year Republicans controlled Congress...???
According to Mortgage Bankers Association data, more than one in eight FHA loans is now delinquent....Another 7.5% of recent FHA loans are in "serious delinquency," which means at least three months overdue.
Great. Just frigg'n wonderful!
The FHA is almost certainly going to need a taxpayer bailout in the months ahead. The only debate is how much it will cost. By law FHA must carry a 2% reserve (or a 50 to 1 leverage rate), and it is now 3% and falling. Some experts see bailout costs from $50 billion to $100 billion or more, depending on how long the recession lasts.
Hey... it's only money, right...??? We can always print more! (Could someone PLEASE get me that drink...?!?!)
Oh... and again to reiterate... a FIFTY to ONE leverage rate... that's the law of the land in the age of Obama, Pelosi, and Reid. Don't blame the bankers. Don't blame Wall Street. That's the law!
How did this happen? The FHA was created during the Depression to help moderate-income and first time homebuyers obtain a mortgage. However, as subprime lending took off, banks fled from the FHA and its business fell by almost 80%. Under the Bush Administration, the FHA then began a bizarre initiative to "regain its market share." And beginning in 2007, the Bush FHA, Congress, the homebuilders and Realtors teamed up to expand the agency's role.
Yep. The Bush FHA. No evasion. No equivocation. Bush was a moron. Yet... 2007... weren't the Democrats in control of BOTH Houses of Congress in 2007....??? So... er... this was a bipartisan decision, huh? Bush... Pelosi, Reid, and the Democrats... homebuilders and realtors who no doubt showered more than generous donations upon both Democrats and Republicans...
The bill that passed last summer more than doubled the maximum loan amount that FHA can insure - to $719,000 from $362,500 in high-priced markets. Congress evidently believes that a moderate-income buyer can afford a $719,000 house....The higher FHA loan ceiling was also supposed to be temporary, but this year Congress made it permanent.
(Where the heck is that drink...?!?!)
Hmm... last summer...? 2008, right? Democrats firmly in control of both Houses of Congress. This year (that would be 2009 - correct?)... we're talking Democrats controlling both Houses of Congress with not George W. Bush in the White House, but rather... oh, what's his name... oh, yes... President Barak Obama occupying the Oval Office.
Great! Change we can believe in! Yep... "compassionate conservatism" to the tune of subsidizing and serving the "needs" of folks in the market for a $362,500 mortgage wasn't enough for Obama, Pelosi, and Reid... no... as the "Party of the Working Class," Democrats obviously saw it as their duty to double down (using our money of course) and support those poor, disadvantaged folk forced to shelter themselves in... er... $719,000 homes.
Folks. You can't make this up! The Wall Street Journal isn't making this up! This is America in the Age of Obama.
When FHA opened in the 1930s, the downpayment minimum was 20%; it fell to 10% in the 1960s, and then 3% in 1978. Last year the Senate wisely insisted on raising the downpayment to 3.5%, but that is still far too low to reduce delinquencies in a falling market.
Great. 3.5%. I'd call this "Change We Can Laugh At" if it wasn't so damned infuriating and depressing. Heck... let's call it "Change We Can Cry At." We should go back to the 20% down payment standard. Period.
Anyway... the link to the full editorial is provided up above. Click and read. Then... make yourself a drink.
God help this once great nation...