Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I think part of the problem in our world is that there is too much money chasing too little worthwhile stuff. The people with money now use it to play games – to see how much more money they can make. Many, particularly on Wall Street, no longer invest money in productive enterprises that supply us with shelter, food, transportation – the things most of us need to live. Instead, out of boredom maybe, they have invented increasingly obscure and complex derivative financial instruments that border on gambling games – to amuse and enrich themselves. They have way more money than they know what to do with, but they are hooked on making more and more – and good old fashioned investments like steel mills, transportation, agriculture is just not exciting or lucrative enough.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It was as Far as I Could Go (Fiction)

It was as far as I could go. Every man has his breaking point.

We were about 40 miles west of Los Alamos, New Mexico. We had driven for hours in the pouring rain. The sky was dark gray at noon. The 30 mile an hour gusts shoved my rig toward the gravel shoulder of the road. The drive required my constant attention and I was bone tired.

I was driving with Moira, a woman I met at a bar in Austin called Jake’s. She seemed like she was in trouble and I was always a sucker for a great looking woman with a bowie knife strapped to her leg. She asked me for a ride and I said yes. It didn’t seem to matter too much which direction I was headed.

The cab was cozy, bathed in gentle light from the monitors. Moria had her reading light on. She had laid her book on her lap and I could see an inverted pentagram on the worn leather cover. I would never have guessed she was into that sort of thing – crystals and witchcraft. But, I was often misled by first impressions.

“I can influence the weather,” Moira said.

“I wish you’d hurry up and get around to it then. I could use a break from this wind,” I replied, “According to my weather radar I should be clear of this storm…well…never.” Weather was just one of the things that had turned odd since the Takeover.

“Thanks for taking the back roads. I know you’d have an easier time on the toll roads,” she said.

“I got the impression at Jake’s that you were in some sort of trouble.” All the toll roads were privately owned now, and heavily monitored. We were on the old state roads – two lanes, narrow, not the best choice for a rig this size.

I looked over at her, but she was staring out the window, looking out at the gray, barren New Mexico high desert. “It might help if I knew what kind of trouble.”

I had to strain to hear her response over the soft piano of Thelonius Monk. “I saw something and I shouldn’t have.”

A gust hit the rig hard and almost blew me into the gravel shoulder. I fought the wheel and brought it back into the road. Normally I would stop in these driving conditions, nap in the bunk in the back and wait out a storm like this. But, my gut told me I had better keep moving.

“And now… you’re on the run? From who?”

“I’m not sure. Sometimes I’m sure I’ve lost them, but they seem to always find me.”

“Maybe I should have asked a few more questions before agreeing to haul you west.”

I saw her smile reflected in her window. I also noticed headlights in the passenger side mirror. Out of habit, I reached down on my left and felt the comfort of cold steel. Be prepared – I learned that as a scout. And, if there’s trouble coming, a Mossberg 590 Persuader is pretty good preparation.

Sunday Morning Walk

It was a beautiful fall morning in the Fox Valley.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Capitalism Wall Street Style

Here's the problem with the way capitalism has recently worked in the financial arena: the gains go disproportionally to a very small group, but the losses go to everyone.

When I first started investing in mutual funds, the mantra was "more risk, more reward". If you had an appetite for risk, you could invest in a more aggressive mutual fund and possibly reap greater rewards. Of course, you also had to be aware that you could lose more when things turn bad. I understood that.

Now, fast forward 30 years. I no longer have the same appetite for risk and have invested less aggressively. However, it hardly mattered. Because others chose to take on enormous risk, my accounts suffered an almost 50% decline when those esoteric derivative investments tanked! I didn't sign up for that risk! But I sure participated in the losses.Did I receive the enormous gains when those derivatives were doing well? Some may argue I was a beneficiary of the good times, but not to the extent I declined when things turned bad. A relative handful of people made huge profits (plus the bankers who made millions in bonuses), but all of us suffered when those same investments turned bad.

The administration is trying to set compensation rules to restrict pay in the financial sector to reduce the incentive to take such outsized risks. Philosophically, I'm against government getting this involved in business. But, I sure would like to see them find a way to restrict the losses inherent in such risky ventures to the people that knowingly signed up for that amount of risk. Privatized gains; socialized losses - it's just not fair.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Morning Drive on a Beautiful Fall Day

I really do love fall. Fall shows off crisp weather, beautiful blue skies, gorgeous trees and football. What's not to like? Lots of people focus on winter's onset, but I enjoy the fall for what it is. I took a drive this morning to enjoy the sun we haven't seen for a few days. I took some pictures of the countryside.

Beautiful Fall Day

It's a beautiful fall day here in Illinois. Seen on the Fox River Trail