Monday, April 27, 2009

The Word on Monday - Gambling

Thanks to everyone that commented and congratulated Vicki and I on our birthdays.

As stated we did go on a trip to the mountains. This trip turned into a marathon gambling binge for us. We stayed till 3:00 AM on Saturday night and came back down to the valley and gambled away our winnings at Ft. McDowell Casino on the way to the house.

It was one of those once a year things that makes you sick of Casinos, slot machines, Elvis music (Indian Casinos are where Elvis music goes to die) and the whole money and greed thing. In other words it was a total ball. We actually won and enjoyed ourselves for almost the entire weekend. Only at the last did we tire of the fantasy and lose it back to the Native Americans. The whole amount of the winnings was just a couple hundred bucks, but it allowed us to pay our hotel room in cash and not charge it, pay for all the meals and still come home with a little cash.

Don't get me wrong; we weren't net winners. We took cash for expenses and gambling and it lasted the whole weekend with some left over. That's winning in our book.

And that brings us to today's word....GAMBLING

We budgeted for the loss, kept to the budget and enjoyed tempting the fates. We felt good when we won, played on the house's money for a while and then left before we went broke.

Wouldn't it have been nice if our financial geniuses had done the same? See, they gambled with our money, our kids' money and our grandkids' money and lost bigtime. Now we will be paying back that loss as a nation for a couple of generations. All because we allowed them to gamble with our future and our monetary resources.

And to make matters worse; most of them are more wealthy than ever. You won't be hearing about their suffering. That made theirs while the getting was good. It just wasn't any good at all for the rest of us.

Imagine if you will (picture Rod Serling talking now) that you are an inveterate gambler and you are given access to billions of dollars of other people's money. Can you see what might happen. That's essentially what happened with our financial institutions. They gambled away the worlds economic future.

All so they could make huge bonuses, get more stuff and drive a larger beemer.

There are two distinct types of gamblers: Recreational and Addictive. From my perspective it looks like the boys from Goldman Sachs et all are in the latter category. They won't stop risking our treasure till we take it back from them.

What do you think the chances of that happening are?

Here's a short article about what the Icelanders are doing. The great thing about the piece is what they did with pictures of Bankers.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wordzzle 60 - The start of a new decade

Get yourself on over to the Raven's Nest and visit the other writers, will ya?

This Week's Ten Word Challenge: preparation, tic-tac-toe, splurge, auction block, the bitter end, milk, papyrus, when the parade passes by, bill of lading, stone wall

Mini Challenge: polar bear, 20 seconds, get it together, spasmodic, antiquity

I am taking this week off. Not due to laziness, a spasmodic writing hand or lack of plot line. No, this week I turned 60 frigging years old. We are traveling to the mountains this weekend to (choke, stumble, gasp) celebrate this momentous occasion.

Since I am now officially on the path to personal antiquity, still crazy after all these years, and holding on to this thing I refer to as my life till the bitter end; I'm just chilling in my ancientness rather than thinking up stuff to write.
And due to my advanced age, (no, I didn't learn to write on papyrus) I require some preparation time in order to get it together for the coming weekend's outing.

Rather than put my guitar or golf clubs on E-bay, the virtual auction block, I've developed another strategy. I will be playing high stakes tic-tac-toe with the local elders to earn some extra spending money. These funds will be used to splurge on luxuries in our scenic mountain retreat. My hope is to hustle the old coots out of their cookies and milk money and then spend it on gambling and booze.
The biggest obstacle is overcoming my limited attention span which has decreased to about 20 seconds or so.

So have a great weekend, I'll catch up to you next week. In the meantime, my lovely wife (who also has a birthday this week) and I will be out of town when the parade passes by on Saturday. We'll be kicking back in the casino at night, hanging out at the Stone Wall saloon in between games to drink whiskey and smoke a cheroot or two (just me, not Vicki) and counting the mounted polar bear heads on the wall.

By way of an itinerary, the bill of lading for our adventure reads:

Destination: Payson, AZ
Origination: Phoenix, AZ

Method of Transport: Hot little Civic

Arrive: Saturday April, 25 2009

Contents: Old geezer and younger gorgeous wife

Warning: Contents are not fragile, but can be quite Cranky


PS - You can see a picture of some friends and family that gave me a Surprise party this last Sunday here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Feckless Friday - Financial Flourishes of Fantasy

Welcome to another edition of flailing fecklessness with yours truly, the father of all things feckless. This weeks attempts at understanding the current market, and especially the over blown financial stocks, has been a lesson in misery.

On the upside this week, I went to the VA to get a check-up and was offered a free colonoscopy. I declined, telling the Doctor that the market had been up my butt for over a month and pretty much cleaned everything out in there. So no need for tests.

I had a birthday yesterday and enjoyed the fact I have survived to 60 years of age. Maybe that's not seen as a great accomplishment by most readers, but considering the chances I've taken, the places I've been and the folks who have shot at me; I feel very fortunate indeed.

On another entirely unfeckless note, my wife and I are traveling to the mountains this weekend for some much needed R & R. We will be celebrating both our birthdays and having as much fun as possible and maybe more than is legal.

The news this week has been all about Torture and it's relative good and bad points. The good points mostly being highlighted by Faux News. I have learned how to tell when something stinks by their recommendations. In a small serious note here; this commentary on what is and isn't torture and the resulting action or lack thereof, is something of a test of our Democracy, our culture and our country's moral compass.

I hope we pass the test.

Have a great weekend.


Monday, April 20, 2009

The Word On Monday - Torture

Many of you might have thought that the worst form of torture was listening to GW Bush construct a sentence or explain a political or cultural concept. I still think some of his speeches, taped in loops at the good parts, (are there any others) blasted into the terrorist prisoner's cells, and alternated with women opera singers' solos would have done the trick.

In full disclosure, it never once occurred to me that the CIA wouldn't do some form of torturing when they thought it necessary and vital. I still expect a so-called "wet" operative will and would do whatever it takes to get the job done. These guys kill people after all and that seems as bad as torture, don't you think?

So what I'm saying is that we've all known all along that we, in the form of our intelligence agency operatives and other surrogates' (such as foreign government operatives) will occasionally do some very nasty things to people in the attempt to gain information.

Think of all of this as the "Jack Bauer" syndrome. Just how much of that really ever comes into play is debatable. So the real issue here in my opinion is the actions of the previous White House to change or blur the laws (read Constitution) to legalize something we all know is happening, but clearly know it ain't right.

A group of lawyers have been put up as the goats in this. Imagine that, somebody thinks some lawyers did something wrong. Sarcastic cynicism aside, this group includes a fellow who is now a federal judge. Turns out he was the boss of the outfit charged with creating the bogus memos. Say hello to Federal Judge Bybee. I know one thing for sure, I don't ever want to go before this dude. See his office, under his leadership, with his authority and approval, told the CIA how many times a day a prisoner could be waterboarded, hit in the head, stripped naked, thrown against a wall and so forth ad nauseam.

Now I'm not saying the CIA didn't tell this guy what to write. One doubts that even lawyers have the necessary expertise to craft the memos without technical assistance. No, I believe he just wrote what he was told to write or more probably told his subordinates, say like a guy by the name of Woo (I'm not kidding you here, I've seen the man on TV defending his actions) to write what the CIA told them to. I have been around long enough to know that a lawyer will write just about anything you need them to for enough money. In this case I think it was capital of a more politcal sort that bought the opinions.

So now after approximately 7 years and about 7 months of torture we have decided not to do it anymore. At least we have publicly stated we won't do it anymore. (Wink, Wink, Wink) So it's all OK, right?

Well not exactly. Some purists party poopers want our government, the same one that allowed the torturing as a systematic operation, (instead of a person on the spot need to know thing) to prosecute itself, just because there are some new folks in the White House.

Not gonna happen. And here's why.

After 9/11 our country was wounded and confused. Why had these people attacked our financial center in New York? None of us thought about what the two towers represented to the Muslim world. Nor did we think about the Pentagon or the White House as symbols of American Imperialism. Our enemies did.

So we were willing to give the Bush administration carte blanche in fighting these people. Of course the Bushies had some other ideas about establishing a beachhead in the Middle East, about oil policy and instituting conservative geopolitics that let Bin Laden escape, but captured Saddam Hussein. So what, we were told, we'll fight them there instead of here. Really?

But I digress........

We're not going to prosecute the guys who enabled torture as a policy of our government, because the American people could care less what happens to or has happened to anyone involved in the terrorists attacks. This ignores the hundreds of innocents rounded up, interrogated, tortured and held for years without charges or evidence of misdeeds, but SO WHAT.

These fuckers had the audacity to attack our nation, to strike at the heart of our financial center, to hit the Pentagon and attempt to hit the White House. That's the subtext behind everything else that happened after. It's why we let BushCo loose on Iraq, why we re-elected him after he'd proven himself incompetent and why we stood by and watched the Federal Government abandon New Orleans after Katrina. We all bought into the fear mongering and outright bullshit spewed by our government.

Who really thinks that this government, regardless of it's leadership, will do anything substantial about torturing a few hundred terrorist suspects, when it's ignored the thousands killed needlessly in Iraq, the thousands upon thousands of still homeless on the gulf coast of our nation, and allowed the financial Oligarchy to cripple our economy while making itself richer and more powerful than ever.

I'd like to end this on an optimistic note. I'd also like to have a small villa on Lake Como and the time and money to use it. Nope, not gonna happen.


For two excellent movies that give different viewpoints on the Middle East and terrorism; I recommend "Traitor" starring Don Cheadle in a terrific performance and "Body of Lies" with Russel Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Worldzzle 59...You know you're old when you wish you could be 59 again

Check out the Raven's Nest for the particulars.

The Ten Word Challenge: prefix, art festival, income tax, chicken noodle soup, jump rope, Dutch Treat, flowering plum tree, bats in the belfry, diamond earrings, tigers

Mini Challenge: book club, organic tea, the cow jumped over the moon, paragon of virtue, wench

This Week's Episode: Ends; loose or not?

Charlotte looked at her new image in the mirror. Hair luxuriant and glossy, a shade lighter than before and sporting a natural wave. It hung in auburn beauty past her shoulders. She'd held one side back to showoff the stunning diamond earrings she'd purchased in Dubai. Her eyes appeared slightly wider apart now and the hazel coloring made them more startling than before her surgery. Eyebrows were kept full and cheekbones had been finely shaved and shaped to give her face the most pleasing and beautiful quality.

She'd applied lipstick the shade of her own estate's flowering plum tree to lips that were full, but not over done or gross. Where the previous Constance/Connie/Cathy had been a very attractive woman, the current Charlotte was a world class beauty. She had taken the opportunity to have Dr. Koodle take some years off her face as well.

Though Charlotte had always eaten well and healthy, she'd still felt the ravages of age. No amount of organic tea, homemade chicken noodle soup or natural spring water, could accomplish what an expert plastic surgeon could do. To the casual observer, Charlotte would be in her mid 30s, though in fact she was close to 50. Sure she'd continue to exercise religiously; running, taking a daily stint with the jump rope and lifting weights, but the surgeon's art had made her this new woman of youth and beauty.

It was only befitting that she make her debut at the art festival in her adopted town of Almond Bay, French Guiana. Here in her tidy social cocoon she would be viewed as a paragon of virtue. She'd host the book club for the local gentry's wives. When the need arose to venture into the states for the fait accompli she'd take a private jet. She yearned for one more time with Charles, he was a good lover, an above average business mind, and had been a great partner. Now that the plan was coming together he was more liability than asset. It was simple mathematics and she was very good at that.

So she'd make her debut here in this outworld, seeming the true reclusive aristocrat. Some of the locals had rumored the woman was not all there; had bats in the belfry or some such malaise. Others thought the wealthy woman was perhaps a tax exile running from her native country's oppressive income tax. Regardless of the local gossip, all were glad to have her in their town. She'd donated generously to the local community. One old swag even went so far as to comment "just what the old town needs, a beautiful rich wench to look at and talk about." In a South American town that would never see real Tigers, this meek financial Tigress from the European continent was a blessing.

Charlotte's coming out event was a total success and she reveled in the admiration and attention of the townspeople. What she didn't take note of was the presence of a French policeman, who just happened to be on Holiday in French Guiana. The coincidence was completely overlooked.

Back in L.A., Charles had received the reply to his email. It was the final details to the plan for the new investment firm. Charlotte had held this information tightly to avoid security leaks and preemptive moves by the competition. In addition, the routing and account numbers to fund the company had been held back till the last minute. She'd always wanted that control he thought to himself, but who cared. He'd be so rich in the coming year that no petty details would ever bother him again. In this instance, Charles let his greed and avarice overtake his logic and reasoning. This was his biggest fault, his major weakness and ready to be exploited by his partner.

A few hundred miles to the east on the banks of the Colorado River, Jean was on the phone with her grandkids in Oklahoma. This was the set farthest away and the ones born by her middle daughter Janice. Jean's grandson Tyler was telling her how he had learned to change the meanings of words by using a prefix. He patiently explained to his grandmother that septic, like in septic tank and antiseptic, like in medicine were made to be opposites by using a prefix. Jean listened in wonder and thanked Tyler for clearing that up for her.

What fun it was to be 7 years old and learning about the whole world she thought as he said goodbye and handed the phone to her Granddaughter Bonnie. Bonnie was 3 years younger than Tyler. She'd recently learned the rhyme " Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon. The little dog laughed to see such fun And the dish ran away with the spoon!" "Granma, Daddy says a Cow could never jump over the moon and that's just a fairy tale" the little girl added. "You tell your Dad that magical Cows can do anything, even give milkshakes and ice cream instead of just milk" Jean answered. "Let her son-in-law deal with that" she smirked to herself.

Jean hung up with the Grandkids in time to see McCool approaching. They'd made it easy on each other during this trip. She hung out by the pool during the day while he worked and he joined her there in the afternoon. Later they had dinner, "Dutch treat"; she called it because she had all their money and he paid with what she gave him. The casinos had not been too kind to the pair and they spent more of their evenings watching shows and talking about the case than gambling.

"I sent Lara that picture of the Connie Liplin woman today" said Jean. "You really think you know this woman" he asked. "Maybe Thomas, I'm not sure, but Lara has the old high school yearbook and she'll look through that" Jean replied. "Well, at this point I'd take any help we can get." "Everything points to the body in the Tahoe being Connie Liplin, except we still have no DNA or dental records to match against." "Maybe it's nothing, but I'd like to be sure about this as soon as possible" he sighed. "I can't get by the feeling that something is going on here that we're missing" he finished.

In Washington, D.C. Sgt Johnson had just gotten a call from his counterpart at Interpol. The French police had followed a lead to French Guiana but came away without a suspect. At the present they were stymied. The two men agreed to stay in touch and rung off. Johnson had built his career on understanding serial killers and their MOs. He still believed the killings with the internal mutilations were related. Could it be possible that more than one person would kill in this highly unusual and grotesque fashion?

One of the vital lessons he'd learned in his career was to never underestimate his gut feelings. In this case his intuition told him the murders were related. Now he needed to find out why. They already knew the how, the when, the where, and the what. Would knowing the "why" lead him to the "Who?"


Friday, April 17, 2009

Feckless Friday

In another example of my own fecklessness, I attempted to re-enter the market this week with a couple of stock plays on financial ETFs. It was an unrewarding experience and somewhat costly.

I managed to be on the wrong side of the market no matter if financials went up or down. What a joke. Luckily for me I held tight stops and minimized the pain and loss.
I made an attempt at trading these highly volatile instruments that represent leveraged sector gains and losses and missed the trend going either way. Wow, I had to work extra hard to accomplish that.

The truly ironic thing about all this is I know the banks are lying about their holdings and their value. I know they're in worse shape than they're letting on and I know eventually they will go back down and end up needing more taxpayer money. But for now they're showing some made-up profits and the guys who really control the market are making money; right up to the point when they dump the crappy bank stops and the fecal matter hits the fan again.

On other Feckless fronts, the second largest holder of Mall Properties in the U.S. went bankrupt today. Not because their Malls are worthless, but because the debt that had accrued in buying Malls could not be refinanced under current conditions. The banks that we've given billions of taxpayer money to wouldn't lend them any more money. Go figure.

During the Teabaggery of this weeks Faux News and Conservative think tank funded and inspired protests the Governor of Texas brought up the idea of secession. Go for it Dude. That way we can charge duties on all the bullshit that comes out of the state/country. In addition, it would mean no more dickhead politicians from the Lone Star running for President. Works for me.

The current president backed up on the domestic spying front and did not stop NSA from viewing our emails and listening to our cell phone calls. No doubt some one gave him good reason. I'm thinking he was shown intel picked up that stopped a domestic terrorists attack or something like that. Even if that is the case: He should stop our intelligence agencies from spying on us. It's a much scarier prospect than the deficit or taxes.

Speaking of President Obama, he went to Mexico this week and assured the Mexican president we would step up cooperation in fighting the drug lords. Good luck on that. Without s serious effort to reform our drug and gun policies it's more of a token measure than real help. We've had a couple of decades or more of crummy and ineffective drug policy both domestically and internationally. I've yet to hear anything out of the white house that addresses real reform and new initiatives with meaning.

Measuring a perfect 10 on the Feckless Scale, the legislature of our state (Arizona) continues to struggle with a 3 billion $ deficit. The state announced layoffs of over 4,000 school teachers today. We are 47th out of 50 in the nation on Education; wonder why, huh? These guys are opposed to any taxes of any sort and are insisting on more business and corporate tax decreases at a time the state needs revenue desperately. Have you heard the saying "Can't get blood out of a turnip?"

Finally, if you didn't believe eating at McDonalds could kill you, then think again. An elderly couple at a Mickie Dees on the Res was hospitalized after the Golden Arches was blown over by high winds yesterday crushing their car. One of them remains in critical condition. The picture of their car flattened under the famous symbol says it all.

This week flew by and was moderately weird. Hope yours was much less Feckless.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Transparent Tea-Bagging

Some folks in the hood and elsewhere had some good points to make about today's astro-turf events. I'll give you the links in a sec.

First, I have a little something to add. I'm glad that activism is in fashion again. I miss the 60s protests. Those events featured good music, some political ranting, (sprinkled with truth and relevance), a number of flavors of boon's farm apple wine and reasonably good weed.

I can't remember leaving one unhappy. (OK, I can't remember leaving a lot of them, but I know I did, cause I'm here now)

Anyway... If these folks ending up feeling better after going out today to speak their piece; great! I think they're almost completely misguided and clueless, but our parents felt the same way about us in the 60s.

I'm going to have to look at TeaBagging (tell me, how fucking clueless do you have to be to not know what this means?) the same way I look at gay-marriage. It won't effect me one bit.

It is of course somewhat ironic ( insert under-stated smirk) that these folks are not protesting the bank bailouts, AIG bonuses, or the pass we've given the filthy and now even filthier rich the last few decades, but I digress. I mean, I mean, (Alice's restaurant now playing in the background) I mean... if you want to protest taxes. I mean really protest taxes, not just carry around a sign and yell shit at nobody in particular, shouldn't you at least NOT PAY your taxes.

In the sixties (I know you're getting sick about hearing about this era) women burnt their bras and guys burnt their draft cards. Lots of folks went to Canada. Hey, that's the ticket. I got it. I recommend that the teabaggers (Beavis and Butthead chuckle) move to Canada. They can go about preaching the gospel of conservathink to the Canucks. That'll work for sure.

There, solved that. Oh, check out Jay, Dianne and Matt-Man for their take on the Teabaggers. OK, I didn't giggle this time. If you say it ten times it gets less funny, honest. Try it.

Teabaggers, Teabaggers, Teabaggers....


Seat him already, will ya?

Listen, I never thought Al Franken was all that funny. He was too much to the point politically and really went after republican bullshit. It wasn't all that funny, but it was true. That I liked.

But somehow he managed to screw up in Minnesota and miss out on Obama's coat tails. If he had campaigned in a better fashion, laid off Coleman's wife, and stuck to idea that Republicans had bad ideas that cost this country so many things, he would have done better.

Even so, he has now legally won the race for the Senate in Minnesota. The state Supreme Court has ruled and re-ruled. We all know the minority party is stalling to help them screw up any legislation coming through the Senate. They want to add tax cuts, help the rich and screw the middle class as much as they can get away with and they need all the leverage they can get. So far the majority party has obliged them and really been a bunch of pussies about sticking to their guns.

In fairness, I must add that members of the majority party in both the House and the Senate have also gone along with the Republicans out of self interest and favor giving to the special interests that fund their campaigns. So much in Washington runs on money and so many of the fuckers we need to get after have so much money that there's a super-natural conflict of interest.

I once heard someone say that all good politicians either came from money or could care less about it; the ones in between were the ones that got bought. It may still be that way, but maybe having 59 Dems in the Senate will help move this president's agenda forward in a more meaningful and efficient way.

The Repubs need to step off! They had 8 years to screw up this thing we call our country. Now it's time to let someone else have a decent chance to fix it.

So....Seat him already!


Monday, April 13, 2009

The Word on Monday .... Pirates

Unless you've been in a coma for the last few days you're aware that an American Merchant Marine Captain was being held by pirates off the coast of Somalia.

He was freed in a Navy operation on Sunday. Captain Richard Phillips is now safe. I am much relieved.

Now let's address today's word: Pirates. I grew up when piracy was romanticized by film and famous actors like Errol Flynn. While they might have all been the good guys in movies, it turns out they're not nearly so sweet in real life.

The pirates from Somalia are an offshoot of the lawlessness and the warlord culture prevalent in the failed African nation. You might remember we attempted to deal with them in Mogadishu some time back and got our butts kicked out of town. We lost several soldiers, inspiring the very dark and unhappy film, Blackhawk Down.

For a look at the reason Somalia got the way it is, take a look here.

These people found a weak spot in the shipping lanes and exported their brand of violence and lawlessness to the high seas. For a while they kept within a hundred miles of their shoreline. This recent attack took place a couple more hundreds of miles out to sea. That's a big problem. If shipping cannot be assured of getting around them the choices become more costly and more risky.

Should ships stop transiting the horn of Africa altogether? Should shipping lines hire their own security staff, (this is my personal favorite) or should NATO Navies get tough and start blowing these bastards out of the water? (another favorite)

Sunday's action by the US Navy makes it clear we are not the folks you want to challenge on the High Seas. We ought not to be. We have spent billions on our Navy. I would have been happy to see more action on the mother ships and other pirates. Perhaps that will happen.

Unfortunately there a number of ships and close to 200 human hostages still being held in Somalia. These folks and the ships are in continuing peril. One wouldn't think it will get any better for them now.

When faced with the kind of ignorance, greed and outlawry of the Somalians we need to shut this crap down sooner rather than later. We've already waited too long in my opinion. This is clearly a case where focused and limited military action can make the world a better place and stop this acute regional criminality.

So...from my perspective; screw the damn pirates. Take what ever action necessary to remove them from the shipping lanes and bring some security and law back to the horn of Africa.

What's your opinion on Pirates?


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Funnies - Easter Edition

At times it is important to leave special messages to very thoughtful and intelligent people.

With that in mind, I give you the Easter Edition of the Sunday funnies.

Happy Easter


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wordzzle 58 - Careful if you have Triskaidekaphobia

It all starts at the Raven's Nest. Take a gander at her site and you'll be in the know, with the program, in the groove, out in front of the herd, behind the curtains pulling the strings, strung out on words... anyway you get the picture.

The Ten Word Challenge: acrobat; grocery store; ceiling fan; dandelion; bumble bee; alabaster; scissors; chartreuse; strenuously; cube

Mini Challenge: iPod; poison ivy; computer; interpreter; optometrist

For any new readers, I do what's called a mega-wordzzle and each week is a new episode of a continuing series.

This week's episode: Identity

The rest of the drive to Laughlin for Thomas and Jean was uneventful, though they did get to see snow on the small section of I-40 they traversed before making the downhill finish to their destination. McCool loved the sweeping corners and vistas that greeted the traveler on the drive down into the Colorado River valley. He pushed the little civic through the corners like Mario Andretti, always sure to keep power to the wheels, never over steering or getting out of shape. When he went too fast Jean tapped him on the arm and reminded him of his promise to “Drive it like you own it" not like you stole it.

They had made reservations at a condo across the river from Laughlin in Bullhead City. After stopping at the local grocery store for provisions, they unpacked and settled in. Thomas left Jean at the community pool and headed over to the Laughlin PD. He'd phoned Dan and they'd agreed to meet there.

"Thomas, this is Captain Jenkins" Dan said as they stepped into the Captain's office. "Nice to meet you McCool" the captain stated as his shook Thomas's hand. "Likewise Captain, and I'm glad to be meeting the local constabulary as a consultant and not a customer" McCool grinned at the cop.
"How much has Dan filled you in on the case?" the captain inquired. "Enough that I made some calls to a friend of mine in the Bureau before accepting the job" replied Thomas. "On a strictly unofficial basis" McCool added.

McCool went on to tell the captain that Sgt Johnson had special knowledge of national serial killer MOs and open cases. He added that there was one interesting facet of the undisclosed details that his friend at the FBI had seen on a few unsolved cases, but they were spread throughout the country from North Dakota to New Jersey and points in between. "The internal mutilation is quite unique and matches what happened here. McCool stated. "What is really fascinating is that Interpol reported a case of apparent drowning in France in the last couple of days, that under further investigation during the autopsy, showed the same internal damage" he said as they took seats around the Captain's conference table.

"Are you saying that what we have here may be part of an international serial killer's doing?" the Captain asked. "I'm certainly not qualified to be an expert interpreter of this data" McCool answered, "but Sgt Johnson is and he thinks it's worth investigating." "It looks like you're going to get FBI help whether you want it or not" he concluded.

"Working with the FBI is like stepping into poison ivy; you don't know how bad it is till you start to itch" the Captain explained.
The group huddled beneath the ceiling fan and laid out the investigative schedule. McCool would act as liaison to his friend at the bureau, while also looking into the last victim, Connie Liplin, and her past. He would be looking for any inconsistency or oddity in her murder. The Captain strenuously maintained that he wanted all hands on board with the local investigation.

The town council, through the auspices of the Casinos, had allocated funds for Dan and Thomas as consultants on the case. Now they wanted results and they wanted them yesterday. Both the consultants were given their own workspace, nothing more than the standard 3 sided cube, in the headquarters building and they got to work.

Meanwhile, in the Hoover Building in Washington, D.C. a very special "special agent" was looking into the complaint of one Jesus Hermado Valenezuala. Mr Valenezuala had asserted that he had never purchased a home in Laughlin, Nevada and certainly didn't owe the now defunct bank, IndieMac, $483,000. The deal had been done by Liplin Realtors in Laughlin with the backing of a brokerage in California. Nothing uncommon about this, except at the time of the alleged transaction, Mr. Valenezuala was incarcerated in Lompoc prison.

Now special agent Rodgers was no scam virgin, no alabaster white angel riding in to save the downtrodden. Agent Rodgers had been brought in to investigate mortgage fraud because he was an expert in the field. He was given the choice of 10 years imprisonment or provide complete restitution of funds and work for the fraud squad. In what seemed like the most impossible of outcomes, he took the opportunity to apply his knowledge to uncovering the many scams that sprung up during the housing bubble.

It didn't take the ex-conman long to find a list of fraudulent loans connected to the Connie Liplin Real Estate agency and the L.A. based mortgage company, Homeshares, Inc. It would be one of the big ironies of the times that a self confessed swindler would uncover the tip of the iceberg a massive fraud for the government. He sat at his computer in a tiny little office with barely enough light and watched the name of Connie Liplin come up as deceased. Quite recently deceased in fact. Rodgers picked up his phone and hit the extension for his boss. She would want to know about this right away.

An ocean away, the quickly healing and newly transformed Charlotte Vignoire was unaware of the nosey inspections of the federal government. It wouldn’t matter anyway since one of her previous identities was responsible for the mess. She laid back on the lounge by the pool in the back yard of her replica of a French country manse on the outskirts of town, watched a bumblebee alight on a dandelion and sipped her wine cooler.

The landscape took on an almost chartreuse hue during this time of the day.
Funny that she would remember that color’s name. It had been the color of her hated high school basketball team’s jerseys. As she recalled she’d taken a pair of scissors to her uniform, cut it into shreds, and then burned it.

Back in Laughlin, at poolside herself, Jean was looking at a picture of the deceased Connie Liplin from the local paper. Something seemed familiar about her face. She supposed she’d need to go see the optometrist when they got back to Phoenix, if every face she saw started looking familiar. Still she thought the face looked like an athlete from back in school. Maybe the dead lady just resembled some acrobat or volleyball player from her long past high school days. “”God”, she thought, “Thomas is turning 60 this month and I’m just two years behind.” “What happened to all that time?”

Jean put the earpieces from her iPod back in her ears and reclined on her chaise. If it started driving her crazy about the woman’s image she’d send the picture to her youngest sister Lara and let her take a look. For now she would enjoy the sun and some Carrie Underwood.

In L.A., Charles Hollingsworth was putting together the final paperwork for the new firm to participate in the PPIP program. If this worked out right he would go from relative obscurity to one of the richest men in world, surely in the top ten. Along with Cathy/Charlotte, he stood to make upwards of 50 billion in profit, no matter how long the recovery took. And if the new president’s plans actually worked, they could double that. Charles touched the flame of his custom butane lighter to his real Cuban Cohiba cigar. He sat back in the fine leather office chair of his den, clicked on e-mail and started a message. “Dear Charlotte, ....wish you were here.”


Friday, April 10, 2009

Feckless Friday....Well, not really

Today is of course Good Friday. So my weekly rant on fecklessness will be tempered and I will leave any deep and serious discussion of the meaning of today to others more suited to the task.

Plus, the Stock Market is closed today, because even Wall Street Weasels are afraid of God.

If one were to believe the recent uptick in the Dow (for which one should be soundly bitch-slapped) you'd think all was well with our financial industry and we were well on the way to recovery.

That unfortunately requires that you ignore reality, bend to perception as the only truth, and blindly spend your money and invest like a drunken sailor.

I sincerely hope you are not among those who are doing that. While there
certainly was money to be made in the recent rally, the odds are that it is of a very temporary nature. The profit taking will most likely be horrific and sudden.

Things will eventually get better. Today's celebration is a good example. The crucifixion of Christ was certainly a downer for the fledgling Christian faith and his resurrection was a tremendous sign of better things to come. (apologies to Christians for the understatement)

Let's hope that when the sacrificial lambs of this latest rally get slaughtered that there will be a true resurrection of our economic system at some point thereafter. I remain hopeful.

Have a great weekend, a very, very Good Friday and a wonderful Easter.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mother Nature gave me the bird

I enjoy the community in which we live. Sun Lakes sits on the southern border of Maricopa county, with easy access to Phoenix and easier access to the open desert.

As I sit at my desk in my office a daily parade of birds passes the window. The Quail delight with their nervous walk and funny little protuberance above their beaks. Smaller birds in several species come to pick up seeds and scuttle under the front bushes. At our old house we had the privilege of daily visits from a roadrunner as he made his way down our street. So it should be known from the start that I appreciate birds in general.

I do however have a problem with a specific bird. Not since we made the mistake of baby sitting an African Grey parrot for two weeks for a neighbor have I had this much trouble with a fowl. Indeed the African Grey, named Norman, who had the ability to imitate any noise and possessed a prodigious vocabulary was my last experience with a foul fowl.

Good ole Norman had been kept by the owner's son and roommate for a while and had learned some very bad habits. It seemed the roommate and Norman didn't hit it off and the parrot constantly woke the roommate up with a perfectly replicated imitation of the young man's car alarm. I don't have a clue how the bird knew this or learned it's importance; I just relate the story as told to me. Anyway...after one such instance the young man returned to the second floor apartment and said to Norman "Fuck you Norman."

This became Norman's most often used phrase and as you might guess; it can get old quickly. Still, I could have lived with that. Norman was a cool bird. I took him out on our deck and let him walk the railing. He climbed onto my shoulder and chucked ( a sort of parrot purring) in my ear. He had the ability to be sweet and lovable. He was also much akin to the little girl with a curl.

In his case, he developed the ability to understand that a certain racial slur he uttered offended my deeply. In order to get my attention he uttered this word more and more frequently as his stay with us went on. I finally took him back over the night before the couple returned and had the last of him. I later learned that an African Grey can obtain the vocabulary of a 5 year old human and is much like a child in other ways as well. I do not miss Norman. now you might be wondering about my current bird troubles. We have a bird, quite a songster it seems, that is singing at midnight. After doing the requisite research, I've found this fowl to be a male Mockingbird who is without a mate. It looks as though we will be getting these midnight serenades till the young man gets laid or more correctly gets a mate. The site I found on the web about this issue recommends making changes in my lifestyle, where I sleep, closing the windows, turning on the A/C and many other things. It does not recommend my initial inclination; which is to borrow my Father-in-Law's pellet gun and shoot the damn thing.

Lucky for the bird the temperature here today may require turning on the A/C this evening. Temperatures are predicted to be in the low 90s today.

I just hope the bird get's lucky and fast.


Monday, April 6, 2009

The Word on Monday

Today's word is Triskaidekaphobia, which I am sure you are aware, is the fear of the number 13.

Note that it does not say the irrational fear of the number 13. It does however refer to this fear as a superstition and notes it's relationship to the fear of Friday the 13th. (the day, not the movie)

I was once again reminded of this while working on next weeks 58th Wordzzle. The sum of eight and five making 13, I thought it would be cute to remind the reader to be wary if they were so inclined. This of course dictated that I actually look up how to spell the word and look into it's origin and meaning in more detail. I'm sorry, but that's the way I'm built.

Turns out that we blame the fear of 13 on Hammurabi because some later translation omitted the 13th article. Ironically the original codes were not numbered at all and other translations include a 13th article: so..... so much for that load of crap.

Still, Christian lore has it that the 13th person to sit at the table with Jesus during the last supper was Judas and therefore 13 is an extremely unlucky number.

Vikings have also been connected with our fear of 13. Something to do with their God Loki, the murder of Baldr and the thirteenth person to arrive at his funeral.

There are other cultural aversions to the odious number as well.

The most interesting and obvious in our culture is the absence of the 13th floor in most tall buildings. It seems architects are the most superstitious of the educated class. That being said; How many people do you know that would want to work on the 13th floor?

Then finally a group of folks came together to put a stop to this superstition, states wikipedia

"In 1881, an influential group of New Yorkers led by U.S. Civil War veteran Captain William Fowler came together to put an end to this and other superstitions. They formed a dinner cabaret club, which they called the Thirteen Club. At the first meeting, on Friday 13 January 1881 at 8:13 p.m., 13 people sat down to dine in room 13 of the venue. The guests walked under a ladder to enter the room and were seated among piles of spilled salt. All of the guests survived. Thirteen Clubs sprang up all over North America for the next 40 years. Their activities were regularly reported in leading newspapers, and their numbers included five future U.S. presidents, from Chester A. Arthur to Theodore Roosevelt. Thirteen Clubs had various imitators, but they all gradually faded from interest as people became less superstitious."

Maybe we are less superstitious now, I'm not sure, but today's word got me to thinking about phobias and their origins.

What phobias and their attendant words are likely to come from our current financial fiasco?

Here are some I thought of:

Bankerripmeoffandstealmyhomeaphobia... You can figure out the cause of this

Bailoutabankruptiaphobia .. the rational fear of rewarding rich risk takers with more money

Financiafracascamaphobia ... fear of getting the short end of the stick no matter what

Recessiaunemploymentahomelessaphobia ... I'm hoping we can seriously reduce the number of folks with this one.

Any ideas for words?


This just in: Dr. John added a word concerning the movie Friday the 13th. .....
Moviesthatripyourwalletaphobia - I guess that's the fear of paying too much to much to see a scary movie or some such thing

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Funnies - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Another week of spontaneity and laughable posturings of the ponderous pundits of the minority party and radical conservatives in general. Some intensely humorous spoutings include the passing of a bill sponsored by Senators Kyl and Linclon a pair of Republicans, that aids the top .02% of the wealthiest people in our country. Of course many dim-witted Dems voted for it as well. What a hoot.

Ted Stevens, disgraced ex-senator from Alaska, had charges dropped by the new AG and an investigation into Bush's Justice Dept is forthcoming. HeHeHe
As a follow-up one-liner: Palin thinks there should now be a do-over on the Senate election!

These of course are just teasers: here's the goods for this week.

THE GOOD: If you didn't have a chance to see Michael J. Fox's appearance on Letterman, then you missed something really special. Check out a couple of minutes of it here.
The interview went on for the whole show and showed Mr. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, to be well spoken and still incredibly funny.

It also showed the heart of the man. He went to Bhutan for his special on Optimism. It was interesting and uplifting to find out that a country has a minister in charge of Gross Domestic Happiness. Their decisions in this agrarian realm in the Himalayas are based on what will make the people happy. What a concept.

And of course the guy showed tremendous class, humility and just plain nice guyness.

THE BAD: Two Congressmen of the Republican flavor introduced their party's budget proposal this week. This was of course Boner and Cantor, the Laurel and Hardy of the accounting world. Whew, was this something. First they handed out one without numbers. I am not kidding here folks, a budget without numbers. Har De Har Har Har

Then after being scorned and ridiculed by everyone who read the thing, they came back a few days later with another with numbers. The bottom line on their proposal was a spending freeze for 5 years, a tax cut of 10% for the most wealthy folks in the country and a growing deficit each year. Lots of yucks for the bucks on this one.

THE UGLY: Last and most certainly least. And only because this person's venality, lack of class and general meanness contrasts so strongly with Michael J. Fox's sterling public persona, am I including this person. El-Rushbo slunk to new lows this week in spouting locker room humor on the airwaves concerning the Prime minister of England and our president. I detest this a-hole, but even for him this is a new low. The reason I chose him for this piece is because he made fun of Michael Fox's disease and went so far as to claim it was just a fake. It is the height of irony that a good person like Fox should be dissed by a cretin the likes of el toilet mouth. It is proof positive that we remain the nation of extreme highs and lows. Funny, isn't it?


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wordzzle ain't about Heaven

Do yourself a favor and stop by the Raven's Nest, will ya? You're sure to find all the scoop on Wordzzling.

This Week's Ten Word Challenge: apoplexy, doctor, hummingbird, shallow end of the pool, brigadier general, mustard, greed, parallelogram, slumber party, casual

Mini Challenge: Mount Olympus, arsonist, portraits, birch trees, "that car needs a new muffler"

The Week's Episode: Road Trip

The drive to Laughlin could be interesting, tedious, scary or educational. For Thomas and Jean McCool driving always made them both philosophical and misanthropic at the same time.
Heading up I-10 into Phoenix, Jean noted an extraordinarily loud car belching smoke. "That car needs a new muffler" she stated. "And some valves too" chimed in Thomas.

In Thomas's opinion there was no excuse for the stupid moves made by some drivers. As he put it "These folks come from the shallow end of the pool, the gene pool that is." Jean cautioned him to avoid the bouts of apoplexy he had experienced in his youth. He deferred to her by treating other motorists like they had the plague; he stayed as far from them as he could.
"This trip is just what the doctor ordered" he said as they got off onto Grand Avenue and headed into downtown Phoenix. If they stayed on this road all the way to Hwy 93 it would add another hour to their drive and take them past the Sun City complexes. These were adult retirement housing communities filled with thousands upon thousands of old folks.

Instead they would take a couple of shortcuts to avoid the traffic and congestion. Jean settled back in her seat after putting disc #1 of the new Eagles double album on and enjoyed the city scenery.
Both had been feeling the need to travel. Thomas missed the pines and birch trees of the high country. There would be the opportunity to detour into Flagstaff on the way back and see some old friends. Jean just wanted to get out of Dodge for a few days and enjoy another road trip with Thomas. Their entire life together seemed like myriad and plentiful excursions stitched together with new homes, new towns and periods (not too long) of being settled down and comfy.

They made it out of town and stopped in Wickenburg for lunch. McCool chose a real restaurant instead of a Mickey Dees for the meal. They were rewarded for this choice by being given a show of a rather large male hummingbird protecting his territory around an Ocotillo plant in full crimson bloom. This native desert plant occupied the small island twixt the parking lot and the front door of the Wickenburg Inn, a rather territorial looking local eatery. The outside was slump block and tile roof, while the interior was dark and cool with walls featuring portraits of famous Arizonans. The striking visage of Carl Hayden greeted them on the wall behind the receiving desk.

Service was good though somewhat casual and Thomas ended up getting the mustard for his corned beef sandwich from another table. The food was hot where it was supposed to be and the drinks were cold. The items looked and tasted like the ones advertised on the menu and the prices were decent. The waitress looked a little as if she'd just come from a slumber party, but the couple ignored her disheveled appearance and made sure to tip a little extra.
It seemed the hard times of the recession had hit the small town of Wickenburg in a big way.

Folks weren't going to gamble away their money like they used to and stops along the way were feeling it. Even the retirees that had started to move out of Phoenix to the more idyllic setting of a small town had stopped coming. The greed of Wall Street had reached all the way to a desert burg in Arizona and stole the heart of the town. Thomas wondered if Wickenburg was doomed to go the way of Winslow and Holbrook. In another century those cities had been booming.

They left Wickenburg with Thomas wondering if the arsonists that set the global economy on fire would now be able to extinguish the flames of world wide recession before it consumed towns large and small on many continents.

In Cape Town South Africa, Cathy was coming out of surgery with a comforting buzz in her head and not a few tingles in her face. The surgeon assured her that they had taken extra precautions to precisely calculate the symmetry of her face, going so far as to use an optical parallelogram projected onto her skin to assure precise alignment of eyebrows, nose, mouth and ears. She would indeed retain her beauty, but in a visibly different way. No one who saw her now would recognize her as Cathy or any of her other previous identities. Of this the surgeon was positive.

Dr. Hans Koolde loved these new ID jobs. He was given free rein to create a brand new visual persona. It allowed him to be both artist and craftsman. He was very good at his work. Luminaries as wealthy as Jackie O and as venal as Brigadier General Mugabe had utilized his skills. He knew enough not to ask why his current patient wanted to exchange her charmingly beautiful face for another. Instead, he concentrated on creating one even more becoming than the original.
He could not have cared less that his new creation would allow his patient to ascend to the heights of Mt Olympus in her greed, lust and malevolence.

For her part, Cathy was anxious to get back to her new home in French Guiana. The healing would be expedited there by another doctor who would know her as Charlotte Vignoire and no other. Her triumphant return to America would follow soon thereafter. The flight back was uneventful until she dozed off.

The scene in her dream replayed itself for the hundredth time. She hadn't had the nightmare for some time though the consequences of the event had changed her life and forged her destiny. Perhaps is was the leftover anesthesia or the aftereffect on some other medication, but she fell into a deep sleep.

She was back in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in High School. Her family had just moved there from New Jersey. She'd excelled in sports at her old school and made the team in her new one. Her dream took place in the girl's locker room after basketball practice. It had started out as harmless hazing, but then the team captain had taken offense at the new girl, Constance Lawler, and her arrogant attitude.

To teach the upstart newcomer a lesson, the group had serviced Constance with a plumber's plunger. Not only had this broken the girl's hymen and literally busted her cherry, but one overzealous teammate had managed to damage Connie internally, forever preventing her from bearing children. The combination of the laughing girls, the intense pain and the humiliation of being gang raped by her teammates changed the impressionable Constance forever. There would never be the slumber parties and casual girlfriends for her.

She woke up in a cold sweat, feeling as though she'd been violated all over again. She choked back the impulse to vomit and wiped her brow with a handkerchief. The passenger across the aisle had taken notice of her fitful sleep and now smiled at Cathy/Charlotte. The look on her face sent a shiver down the man's spine. He returned to his book and didn’t look in her direction for the rest of the flight. He wanted no part of whatever had put that amount of evil into the woman across the aisle.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Feckless Friday

Well, well, well. I did it. Yes I finally did it. My minuscule trading account is now $64 dollars and change richer than when I made the initial deposit back in November of 2008.

After all the ups and downs. After the countless mornings getting up early to watch the premarket and selling, selling, selling to save my ass. After all the days and nights berating myself for missing out on making real money instead of chump change or losing money. After watching screens, diagrams, charts, and graphs for days, weeks and months on end. And after reading thousands upon thousands of words on the markets, stocks, companies, fiscal policy, trends, and why oil will be $100 a barrel again within 12 months.

After all that I have a profit of $64.36. This is the perfect definition of Feckless.

Even so, I will be celebrating tonight with an adult beverage and an average cigar, that I managed to make up a 48% deficit from February.

I now await the next downturn (oh, it's coming baby) and then it will be back to the market; albeit a little wiser than before.

Wish me luck.