Monday, December 22, 2008

Arnold Scharzenegger - the Al Gore of California

Sometimes you want to just take a politician, pick him up and shake him. That is how I felt when watching Arnold Schwarzenegger last night on 60 miutes trying to blame the wild fires in California with correspondent Scott Pelley on global warming.

The wildfires in California have nothing to do with global warming. It is just an excuse for Schwarzenegger to continue this road to perdition during the worst economic crisis in California since the Great Depression. 40 Billion dollars and counting. Why doesn't he defer to someone who knows what he is talking about like Dr. Bill Wattenburg who has been on the record that for years this was going to happen. How are we suppose to fix anything when no one looks at the real problem, and the myth of global warming is perpetuated. Scharwarzenegger compared global warming skeptics to flat earthers. Maybe its because the science doesn't support his preconceived notions.

October 12, 1999 (with edits on November 7, 2001)

by Dr. Bill Wattenburg

A portion of the article below was published in Science Magazine as a letter to the editor ('The Burning of Yellowstone—Another Perspective,' Science, 6 Nov 99, p1051). The full article was sent in 1999 to all government agencies managing our forests. They paid no attention. Unfortunately, we can now replace Yellowstone with Los Alamos.

A major focus of the environmental movement and ecology studies is supposed to be the preservation of our natural resources. But many self-proclaimed ecologists in high academic and government positions actively promote a policy of "let forest fires burn" which they know can result in the total incineration of many of our forests and all living things therein. When lightning strikes do not ignite sufficient wildfires, the fire-worshipping mangers of our national forests and parks now set what they call "controlled burns" during high fire season to make up for Nature's negligence. Many good scientists and experienced foresters who have seen the consequences consider these insane policies to be grossly irresponsible, if not often outright criminal, considering the explosive condition of our forests today which are totally incinerated once a fire rages through them.

Forest fires do promote forest renewal, but only when the fires do not destroy far more than can be renewed. There was a time when most of our forests were fire-tolerant. That is not the case today, as described below. The "let forest fires burn" dogma can at best be called a religion because there is not a shred of good science that says that a forest totally destroyed is better for the ecology long-term than a forest that continues to live.

The 1988 fire that destroyed almost 40 percent of the Yellowstone forest and its once rich ecology is a ghastly example of horrible judgment that the "let forest fires burn" promoters are still trying to rationalize (with tens of millions of dollars of scarce government research funds). The recent monstrous fires in Florida are another good example of what will eventually happen in all of our forested areas unless we mount a national campaign to clean up our forests and return them to fire safe conditions. The U.S. Interior Department has spent more money in the last ten years to rationalize what its National Park Service dogma of "let fires burn" did to Yellowstone in 1988 than would have been required to first construct protective fire breaks and only then conduct controlled burns that could have saved both the Yellowstone and Florida forests.

I am a scientist who grew up in our national forests. I have fought forest fires at dangerous times and help manage controlled burns at proper times for the last forty years. I was one of ten-thousand called upon, too late, to try to stop the burning of the Yellowstone forests in 1988. Defiant National Park Service bureaucrats, humming their religious "let it burn" mantra, ordered that hundreds of lightening fires be allowed to rage unchecked during the most dangerous fire season in decades. Experienced government firefighters and knowledgeable scientists alike pleaded with the park officials to stop these fires before they joined up and became an unstoppable fire storm. The park service officials wouldn't listen. They insisted that there was some divine difference between a fire started by a man-made match and a fire ignited by a lightening strike.

Any thinking person can easily understand and respect the vast difference between the "natural fires" of a hundred years ago and the all-consuming forest fires of today. When our forests were in fire equilibrium, frequent forest-cleansing ground fires (usually caused by lightening) reduced the combustible fuel load on the forest floor. Native Americans often torched brushy areas that Nature did not clean up in time. These natural fires periodically burned the brush, debris, and excessive numbers of small trees. This was mother nature's way of cleaning house—without burning down the house. Anyone who walks through an old-growth forest can see the burn marks on the lower trunks of many big trees as evidence that the natural fires of long ago seldom reached the lower limbs of big trees which would cause them to ignite and in turn create a fire storm that incinerates everything else in the forest. Unfortunately, a fire storm is what usually happens today in forest fires during summertime.

Very few natural fires can occur today because most of our forests are not in equilibrium. Man stopped most natural forest fires a hundred years ago. Incendiary conditions now prevail because of decades of accumulated brush, debris, and thickets of small trees on the forest floors. This unnatural fuel load creates intensely hot forest fires that ignite the big trees and destroy every living thing in the forest. Massive amounts of precious topsoil are then washed away from hillsides by rains before new root structure can save it. Failure to recognize this difference between the consequences of natural fires of a century ago and unchecked forest fires of today can be disastrous for our forests, as the 1988 Yellowstone fire demonstrated.

Nevertheless, officials in charge of our national parks and forests actually espouse the theory that there is something divine about lightening-caused fires as compared to man-caused fires. They approve stopping a runaway campfire, but won't allow firefighters to extinguish lightening fires. This is what happened in Yellowstone in the summer of 1988. Can anyone even suggest with a straight face that the progress of a raging forest fire is dictated by whether man or nature provided the first spark? There is not a shred of evidence that mother nature preferentially directs its lightening bolts at forested areas that deserve to be burned—as the "let fires burn" religion seems to believe.

The cruel irony is that any camper who lets an uncontrolled campfire burn even a few square meters of national forest will be charged with a criminal act. But a government agency that deliberately incinerated 320,000 hectares of our most beautiful national park is then allowed to spend tens of millions of dollars of scarce research funds to cover up its acts of horrendous negligence based on unforgivable ignorance of the consequences of inappropriately applying their "let forest fires burn" dogma. Anyone who doubts this should take a look at the forest of blackened carcasses and scorched landscape that still typifies most of the burned areas in Yellowstone today and assess for themselves whether what was done in 1988 by park officials was an act of divine wisdom—or an act of such incredibly low-grade stupidity that it must be covered up at all cost by National Park Service officials.

Many experienced foresters and scientists believe that a long-term program of constructing fire breaks and conducting controlled burns during off-peak fire season (late fall or early spring) is the only way we can clean up and protect our national forests and avoid their eventual destruction by "unnaturally" intense forest fires during peak fire season.

Ironically, many national groups that call themselves environmentalists opposed a bill in congress that would thin the forest and build large fire breaks in national forests in northern California. This plan is called the Quincy Library Group plan. It was formulated by local environmentalists, experienced U.S. Forest Service officials, and lumber industry representatives meeting in Quincy, California, over several years. A bill to implement this plan was approved overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives by both parties. In press reports, then President Clinton praised the plan as an example of what he wanted when he asked for compromise, not confrontation over the issue of managing our national forests.

Nevertheless, national environmental groups such as the Sierra Club lobbied selected U.S. Senators such as Barbara Boxer from California to stop the bill in the Senate because these groups claim that approval of any activity by man in our national forests will lead automatically to expanded exploitation of the forests. But they, the self-styled environmentalists, are quite willing to watch these same forests go up in smoke! They know that all our forests, even the few remaining old growth forests that they claim they are protecting, eventually will be burned to blackened stumps if there is no way to stop unnatural forest fires or at least limit their extent during peak fire season.

To protect our national forests and parks until they can be returned to fire equilibrium, firefighters must have defensive fire breaks. Adequate fire breaks require only thinning excessive numbers of small trees and removing the brush, not removing the big trees, just as nature once did with natural forest fires. Then controlled burns can be safely attempted in isolated sections and lightening fires can be allowed to burn in off-peak times because they will be limited in area by the surrounding fire breaks. Eventually, large areas of the entire forest become fire breaks because they have been returned to fire equilibrium. This is the only sensible and sane "let forest fires burn" policy that congress should allow. This is the Quincy Library Group plan.

The Quincy Library Group plan was finally approved by in the Senate in the fall of 1998 and signed by then President Clinton. It is called the Feinstein-Herger bill (full name: The Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act). However, after signing the bill, there were soon indications that the Clinton White House would buckle [see fifth paragraph in previous link] under to the power-hungry, so-called environmental organizations, such as the Sierra Club, and resist implementation of the law, as it soon did [see letter from the House to Dan Glickman]. The Sierra Club headquarters has vehemently opposed the Quincy Library Group plan, even though local Sierra Club members helped formulate the plan. The Sierra Club officially insists that all human activity in our forests is bad. According to them, any logging, even to thin the forests and build firebreaks, will lead to the cutting of all the trees. They advocate that only "natural fires" can cleanse our forests and renew them.

The opposition groups and officials who call themselves "environmentalists" have not told the public or the press that most western lumber mills have retooled their machinery to process small trees and make good lumber out of the small trees that are needlessly burned and wasted by the governments' insane "controlled burn only" projects. Allowing private companies to salvage this resource for our economy also provides the money to clean our forests and return them to healthy fire-tolerant condition for our future generations—instead of officially burning them to the ground as Nero fiddled over Rome.

Then Vice-President Al Gore was given charge over all environmental policy in the Clinton Administration. He consistently enforced the radical policies demanded by the so-called environmental groups such as the Sierra Club. The heads of the Dept. of Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service are all adherents to the Sierra Club official policy of eliminating all man and machine operations in our national forests and closing all access roads in our forests. This will lead to the destruction of all of our major forests that are not in fire equilibrium, including the last stands of old-growth forest and wilderness areas that are the most explosive and inaccessible. Lightning alone will eventually set fires in all these forests. Firefighters and equipment must be able to reach any fire that breaks out during high fire season. Otherwise, massive crowning wildfires will quickly spread out of control and totally destroy the entire ecology as happened in Yellowstone.

The present government policies on forest management will guarantee that there will be many more Yellowstones in the next three to five years. The next ones will likely be highly populated areas such as the Tahoe Basin where the forest around the lake is clogged with tens of thousands of dead trees due to the recent seven-year drought. Hundreds if not thousands of homes and businesses will be destroyed here and in other dry forested areas in the west when lightning fires are allowed to burn—or stupid summertime "controlled burns" deliberately set by government agents get out of hand.

There is a precedent to this official stupidity. Congress in 1995 ordered that the massive number of dead trees in our western forests be removed and salvaged for good lumber before they rot and become nothing more than massive torches that will feed wildfires. The previous seven-year drought produced ten times more dead trees than normal in healthy forests. Salvaging these dead big trees decreases the cutting of green trees in other national forests to meet our nation's requirements for lumber. However, the Sierra Club and other so-called environmental groups immediately filed protests and legal appeals that have stopped all removal of the dead trees for five years now. The trees are now standing rotten in our forests and of no value as lumber. No lumber company will buy them. The taxpayers must now pay to remove them. (Bill Clinton and Al Gore appeared at Lake Tahoe in 1999 to announce the spending of a hundred million dollars to "clean up the forests" and save the ecology of Lake Tahoe. They now propose to do exactly what they stopped at a time when the government would have been paid millions for the dead trees.)

After the Clinton signed the timber salvage bill, the White House environmental staff under Al Gore actually notified the regional U.S. Forest Service rangers to drag their feet and delay granting contracts to lumber companies to remove and salvage the hundreds of thousands of big dead trees in our western forests. Both the Clinton White House and the so-called environmental organizations that have taken over government policy know what they have done. They have acknowledged that their opposition to salvaging the dead trees has forced the cutting of hundreds of thousands of green trees on other forests to supply the lumber needed by this nation to build the homes for our next generation. The Sierra Club insists that this is better than "allowing greedy lumber companies back into our forests". They and other so-called environmental groups insist that fire, natural or manmade, is the only force that can restore our forests. This is insane, a deliberate waste of our most precious, renewable natural public resources to satisfy the political paranoia of the ignorant and incompetent who claim to be the saviors of our environment.

The public will only rebel against this gross mismanagement of our forests after more of our national monuments and most beautiful forests are totally incinerated and destroyed by massive wildfires that could have been prevented with sensible thinning and firebreak construction like the Quincy Library Plan. Government officials are now promoting exactly the opposite. They are diverting most of the taxpayers' money that was allocated for forest improvement and sensible management into insane "controlled burning" projects during high fire season and the deliberate removal of thousands of miles of roads built by the taxpayers to protect our forests. The official policy now is that roads bring in people who will destroy the forests and wildlands. Local forest rangers and national park managers are struggling to "get with the program" and demonstrate to their superiors in Washington how they are using fire to "cleanse and rescue" the forest ecology. They often throw caution to the winds in order to show their visiting superiors that they have dutifully applied God's fire to the forest—even on the hottest day in summer.

"Fire Scientists?"

Any real scientist should take great offense to the self-proclaimed "fire scientists" who insist that they are the only ones who have mastered the mysteries of fire and know when and how it should be applied. Typically, they can be identified as the first screaming scorched asses running from the out-of-control "controlled burn" that their childish computer models predicted would never happen (as happened in the Lassen National Forest this year). The tens of millions of dollars given to them by the Dept. of Interior, National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service to pay for air-conditioned offices and computer toys they don't understand must be returned to experienced, professional foresters who actually work in the forest and know the consequences of their actions. Many academic "fire experts" still struggle to rationalize the senseless burning of Yellowstone to please their funding agencies. Any thinking person, scientist for sure, can easily understand what little deep science there is to this subject and the consequences of a wildfire in our tinderbox forests today. Letting forest fires burn, or setting fires during high fire season with the present incendiary conditions of our forests is as stupid and irresponsible as teaching boy scouts to build campfires next to the gas pumps at service stations.

  1. Bill Wattenburg is a Research Scientist with The Research Foundation, California State University Chico (Chico, CA 95929). His scientific accomplishments are documented on a website, He grew up in the Sierra and worked as a logger and firefighter before being appointed to the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley and working in the Physics Division at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in nuclear weapons design. He still fights wildfires every summer as a bulldozer operator for the U.S. Forest Service.
  2. Bill Wattenburg has been a strong supporter of the Quincy Library Group plan for forest management. This plan was forged by local environmentalists, experienced U.S Forest Service officials,  and the lumber industry to manage the Plumas and Tahoe National Forests in northern California by thinning the overgrown forest and building large firebreaks. The plan prohibits the cutting of large trees. However, the millions of small trees that must be thinned and removed will provide an enormous volume of lumber for our country and sustain the local economies.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Congratulations Jacque

Congratulations Jacque

You had many tragedies befall in your short life. Today you passed the nursing boards. You have overcome those obstacles. You did it! Click on the link to see your RN number. Your parents must be proud. Monique would be proud. I am proud.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Throwing pancakes at the wall Bernanke style

"I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system"

President George W. Bush

"Obama's stimulus plan makes as much sense as paying my wife and kids to work for me to increase the cash flow in our household"

A reader from the wall street journal


Isn't that an astounding admission from a President of the United States? In other words, we have turned to socialism to save the free-market. Sounds like a bunch of bull crap to me. The reader of the Wall Street Journal also has it right. Bush is the next Hoover trying to fix this economic mess and in the process, he only makes it worse. Obama is going to be the next Roosevelt whose ideas so far are only going to compound the problem. Obama wants to spend more money with his huge so-called stimulus plan. The government cannot spend money to create jobs without first removing the money from the economy. The government doesn't create GDP, it reduces it. What is it these two doofuses don't understand?

Even Europe is beginning to understand socialism is not the answer.

Bernanke has been throwing pancakes at the wall to see which one will stick, but none are sticking, they keep falling to the ground. Each economic policy Bernanke struggles to implement is like the pancake with its farinaceous sticky mass, not quite done, that is hurled in the air. It binds to the wall - the stock market goes up, but then the pancake struggles to cling to the wall. Strands of the sticky substance are formed and stretched. The pancake can no longer hold on to the wall – it struggles but to no avail. The pancake slowly falls to the floor like the stock market dropping when investors realize that the Fed implemented just another stupid economic policy that will not work.

The Fed is now giving out free money - how is that for liquidity? The Fed has been adding reserves to the banking system beyond what is necessary to keep the rate at its target as explained by Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab. Interest rates are now virtually -0- - Free money. So, if you have a money market fund invested in treasuries, you could essentially have a negative yield since there is still an expense the company charges you for the privilege of having the money market fund. But that is not all; The Fed is now implementing a strategy it calls "quantitative easing." Since interest rates are now at 0, the Fed can't do anything with interest rates, therefore it is now flooding the banking system with money by purchasing securities supplying the banks with more liquidity and printing more money "quantitative easing." This is unprecedented and it has never been done before. This world has gone completely insane.

So what will this do to your savings? It is nothing more than the government robbing you blind. Injecting so much liquidity will only lead to inflation possibly hyperinflation which in essence is a hidden tax - so much for the mantra, "No new taxes!"

The Fed however is missing the point altogether. This crisis is not due to a lack of liquidity, it is due to a lack of confidence. No one wants to spend. Everyone is saving their money because no one trusts the government or where they will be six months from now. Consumers are deleveraging (paying credit down) instead of spending on other things. As the Wall Street Journal points out, a major tax cut is what needs to happen to spur the economy, but Obama is focused on spending, so he will only increase the deficit, and devalue the dollar. Democrats always think we can spend our way out of an economic crisis, and lately Bush thinks that way too. Obama's spending proposals will not solve this economic crisis.

If Obama were serious about reviving the economy, he would create jobs by drilling offshore and building nuclear power plants, but I am not holding my breath.

I wish Obama the best, but it simply does not look hopeful.

Kudos to Obama for allowing Rick Warren to say the invocation at the inauguration and not bowing to pressure groups.

And why is everyone so worried about Caroline Kennedy's lack of experience? We have a president-elect with no experience. So, what's the beef?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

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Not another Christmas newsletter

Christmas 1964
This year passed by all too quickly. We have seven in school now and it really doesn't seem possible. Marjorie is a freshman in High School, Cathy in eighth, Andy in seventh, Mark and Matthew in fifth, Christopher in second, and Cecilia in first. They are enrolled in four different schools, but all leave approximately the same time every morning…..

That was the first paragraph of my mother's second annual Christmas newsletter. I have no idea what happened to the first one. It is probably hidden in some archive somewhere in the annals of time never to be found. In any event, so began the annual newsletter tradition of the Dias clan. For the next 20 or so years, my mother would faithfully sit at the kitchen table and with her manual antiquated Royal typewriter she purchased for my dad, she would write her newsletter recounting in minute detail every incident that transpired over the course of the year in the Dias household. If you went on a trip, it was in the Dias Christmas letter. If you made a new friend it was in the Dias Christmas letter. If you stubbed your toe, it was in the Dias Christmas letter. Even with the advent of the computer, my mother still used that old Royal typewriter. New technology didn't matter to my mother - that Royal typewriter became her faithful companion. With great anticipation, friends and relatives awaited the annual news of the Dias clan. These newsletters are now a part of the historical record of who the Dias' are as a family.

Many members of the family continue the tradition, because everyone remembers the newsletters my mother wrote. Copies have been made of them, and most in the family have a set. It is the history of our youth.

If we were to believe all the newsletters we receive each year, we would begin to think that nothing ever bad happens in the world anymore. In years past, as the annual newsletters would arrive in the mailbox, I would pile them up on the table sometimes without reading them because the letters would contain the same hackneyed and staid material about which everyone writes – only the names and places would changed. The letters would continue the same braggadocio about how well so and so's kid's are doing, and the great things accomplished in the year. For a long time I did not participate in the traditional sending of Christmas letters, because I did not want my letters to sound like the letters I dreaded receiving. After all, Christmas newsletters are expensive to send. I am well known for my parsimony, so I wanted to be different. I was not going to send something that most people probably would not read anyway. If I were to send Christmas letters, I was going to write them differently.

I wanted the Christmas newsletter to be like a résumé. A résumé needs to stand out from the rest. An employer goes through hundreds of résumés in a particular job search. A résumé needs to stop the employer in his tracks. It needs to cause the employer to stop, pick up the phone and give the prospective employee a call. This is what I wanted my newsletter to do. I wanted it to be different from the run-of-the-mill newsletter. I wanted people to want to read it. I wanted readers to look forward to the next newsletter, and miss it if I didn't write one.

The newsletter does a couple of things. It maintains your network with people to whom you would not normally write, and most importantly it keeps your address book up to date. But because of the fact I don't keep in touch with a lot of these people, why would they want to know every facet of my life. In most cases, they wouldn't and the newsletter ends up where all the other mass mailings end up, in the circular file.

My newsletter has evolved over the years. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I am going to write. I do several rewrites. I write it not just fact based, but with literary style. I try to use descriptive adjectives, and I try to describe scenes. I want the reader to be able to feel what I write. If I can evoke an emotion, I have accomplished my goal.

The Christmas newsletter tradition I don't believe even exists in other countries. I also translate my newsletter in Spanish, and my readers appreciate it. I send them to relatives on my wife's side of that family and other friends of Hispanic origin we have met through the years, and I presume it is probably the only newsletter they receive. The translation takes awhile. It takes a long time to transfer the same meaning from English to Spanish, and translating humor can sometimes be a daunting task. American humor can sometimes be quite different if it is translatable at all. My wife edits the letter. I have a friend in Segovia, Spain who sent out an email telling about her family one year. She said it was my newsletter that prompted her to do it. So maybe I started a new tradition in another country.

The Christmas newsletter has its place in American society. Before the Internet age, it was almost the only way we used to connect with family and friends. Some use the Internet to send their newsletter now, but that seems somewhat tacky to me. I prefer mailing it out. This year however I also posted my newsletter on my blog. Years from now, when my children have grown, my Christmas newsletters may turn out to be a treasure trove of historical significance to members of my own family. This has been the case with my mother's newsletters. My mother has died, but her newsletters have left a little bit of her personality behind. My mother's newsletters bring us back to our youth. It gives us memories we might not otherwise have. And, maybe someday when we are long gone, someone else, perhaps a great-great-grandchild may find these letters and it may give him/her a little more insight into who he/she is and where he/she comes from. Now, wouldn't that be cool.

P.S.: For all my readers out there who send me Christmas letters, I do read them - really.

Here is a good website on Christmas newsletters which may be of interest.

Spanish Newsletter

English Newsletter

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Severance rewards lack of integrity

This is the editorial written by my brother Andy Dias, a teacher in the Alum Rock School district, to the San Jose Mercury and published in the Sunday paper December 15, 2008. Andy's editorial was in response to a $294,000 severance package plus benefits negotiated by Norma Martinez with the Alum Rock School District Board and reported by the San Jose Mercury on December 03. The San Jose Mercury's story is below in Italics.

As a teacher in Alum Rock, I just wanted to express my dismay and anger at the recent give-away package to outgoing Superintendent Norma Martinez. Normally when someone quits, there is no severance package. Martinez is shirking her responsibilities, and we are rewarding her for a lack of integrity. Worse still is the slap in the face that this severance package comes in the wake of the worst budget crisis in 50 years. Anticipating the budget crisis, Martinez is jumping ship before she has to deal with the hard financial decisions. Whatever happened to the captain who committed to being the last to leave the ship? If Martinez has any sense of civic responsibility, she will refuse the gifted monies and acknowledge that the Alum Rock students deserve better.

Andy Dias

San Jose

The San Jose Mercury reported the following:

Days before a shake-up on the school board, Alum Rock School District Superintendent Norma Martinez has worked out a deal to resign from the struggling East San Jose district with about $294,000 in severance pay plus benefits.

In a hastily called meeting Tuesday, the board voted 3-1 to release Martinez — at her request — effective Dec. 31. But before that, the board arranged to pay her 18 months of her salary to walk out the door. Her contract, however, allows only 12 months of severance if she were fired without cause — and none if she resigned.

The board's move outraged critics who have clashed with Martinez, particularly over her resistance to fully embrace charter and small schools. Many expected a deal was in the works after voters in November replaced a Martinez-friendly majority with two new members

Severance rewards lack of integrity

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The Mortgage Crisis Keeps on Coming

Watch CBS Videos Online

Everyone should have watched the second segment of 60 minutes last night. If you missed it, you have a chance to see it by clicking on the above embedded link.

I have been following Whitney Tilson for some time now. He is one of the few analysts that had this subprime mortgage crisis right. In my posting Fixing the Financial mess in four easy steps, I quote Whitney Tilson of Tilson Funds from an email he sent me:

We've been very bearish on housing for a number of years, but after all of the recent terrible news, we had thought that we might be in the 6th or 7th inning of this unfolding debacle and perhaps it might be time to start buying some of the stocks that have been obliterated, in anticipation of a bottom and then recovery. But then we were introduced recently to the CEO of Amherst Securities Group L.P. Sean Dobson, who has collected extensive data on every mortgage that was securitized in the United States this decade. He was kind enough to share some of his data with us, which shows that we are still in the early innings of the bursting of the housing bubble. Believe it or not, as bad as things have been to date, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg: an enormous wave of defaults, foreclosures and auctions is about the hit the United States. We believe it will get so bad that large-scale federal government intervention is likely.

Tilson made this prediction before all the talk of government bailouts.

Tilson says there is a second mortgage shock coming. Tilson has teamed up with Amherst Securities. Amherst Securities ran the numbers on higher quality mortgages, and it is not a pretty pictures. Tilson believes we are only half way through this crisis, and the more exotic mortgages such as Alt-A and option arms will begin to reset. Option arms lured investors in with ultra low interest rates as low as 1%, and when these reset, individuals may see their mortgages rise from a possible 800 dollars to 1,500 dollars. According to Tilson, 50% of these mortgages will default, and many will default even before they reset. "The defaults are incredibly high right now, and there is no evidence they are tapering off." Stated Wilson. Tilson believes it will take 3, 4, or 5 years to work itself out. This does not take into account commercial real estate, credit cards, and the like.

The irony is the preceding segment on 60 minutes was about the charlatan, Barney Frank who should be in jail not leading the bailout charge. 60 minutes called him, "the smartest man in congress". Frank says by the end of 2009, the economy will be back on track (paraphrased.) Seems to me, he said the same thing about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before they tanked. 60 minutes showed Barney Frank running around with his shoes untied in an effort to demonstrate he was so busy working for the American people he didn't have time to tie his shoes. I don't know about anyone else, but Barney Frank running around with his shoes untied does not instill confidence.

Tilson also stated we may be half way through this mortgage bubble but we may be only through the third inning of the real estate bubble. We will continue to see blows in the financial system. So, fasten your seatbelts. I sure hope those in power know what they are doing. Somehow, I doubt it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bailout killed – It’s about time!!

Lie of the day: "I dread looking at Wall Street," "It's not going to be a pleasant sight." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Does anyone really think Harry Reid cares what the stock market does? I don't. The stock market was down several hundred points in the morning, but has recovered substantially since. Even the market realizes this isn't the end of the world. The automakers should go into bankruptcy reorganization like the airline industry did, and other industries that have failed. When an industry becomes non-competitive because of onerous unions and lousy management, it's time to start over. Reorganization will make the automakers come out stronger in the end. Isn't this exactly what chapter 11 reorganization for?

The Democrats are all about saving the unions. It is not about saving the auto industry.

Instead, our socialist president Bush wants to bailout the auto industry too. "The current weakened state of the economy is such that it could not withstand a body blow like a disorderly bankruptcy in the auto industry," said White House press secretary Dana Perino. And, now they want to use part of the 700 billion dollar package as a loan to the auto industry. If congress won't approve a bailout, let's go through the backdoor. How does this happen? Congress says "no" to the bailout and Bush goes ahead and does the bailout anyway. Did someone annoint him king?

I wonder if I borrow a lot of money, fail to pay it back if the government will bail me out.

I just purchased treasury inflation protected securities, (TIPS), because with all this money the government is printing, 7 trillion dollars and counting, we are sure to end up with hyperinflation in the same way Argentina and The Weimar Republic did. In the Weimar Republic the exchange rate for the German mark was 4.2 to 1 dollar at the outset of World War 1. By August 1923, it was 1 million to 1. How is that for inflation? In Argentina, From March 1989 to March 1990, inflation reached over 20,000 per cent. Citizens ran to buy their groceries in the morning trampling down neighbors and friends because in the evening the prices would triple. Are we headed in the same direction? You often hear that we are in a deflationary cycle, but printing money is inflationary, so we will see inflation return with a vengeance if we do not soak up all this excess liquidity in the marketplace. I predict TIPS could yield 8% in the next couple of years.

We need to get our act together or this economy is doomed.


A Christmas Newsletter - Christmas 2008

(English Version) Part 1 is a reprint of Black Friday. If you read part 1, skip to part 2.

Part 1 – Black Friday

I told myself I was not going to do it. I was going to stay home and sit back and avoid the throngs of people at the malls. I was going to avoid the meandering circuitously through parking lot after parking lot searching for that one elusive parking space. I was not going to engage in the lunacy of Black Friday, the day that marks the start of the Christmas buying season, that day after Thanksgiving where hordes of crazed people get up at 4:00 a.m. in the morning to brave a world gone mad where everyone searches for goodies at some deep discount. This is the day of the year when the world puts aside sanity and reason for that one special day of the year where discounts or perceived discounts reign. I had even told the kids we were going to tighten our belts because of the economic crisis, and not buy a lot of stuff. But I too was infected with this lunacy.

At four in the morning, I hear taps on our bedroom door – short taps in rapid succession. This was not Hillary Clinton's 3 AM call; it was my 18 year old daughter Raeann waiting to hit the mall. She wanted to buy a classy pink camera which she saw in the previous day's newspaper. I was not about to get up – I wanted to sleep. I pulled the warm blanket over my head but the taps on the door became increasingly louder. My wife was the one elected to go with my daughter. When my daughter and wife finally returned home later that morning around 8:00, I decided to go with them to Costco. So off we went to Costco – but only to watch others shop – not to shop ourselves.

We walked thru the entrance of Costco, showed the clerk our Costco card, and continued on. And, what did our eyes behold - 37" LCD High Definition televisions flying off the shelves for 499 dollars apiece (after a 100 dollar coupon.) There were only two left. I grabbed one of the two remaining – come on - it was on sale. "Ka Ching", I continued to look around Costco. Every other shopping basket had a 37" LCD high definition television. I asked myself "Where is this economic slowdown?" We walked a little further; a blue ray disc DVD player caught the corner of my eye. It was 90 dollars off the original price – a mere 189 dollars after the discount. That would go well with my 37" LCD High Definition television, "Ka Ching." We left Costco.

As we arrived home, I left the television set and DVD player in their original packaging for my son to install when he arrived home from work. My son came home, and he began installing the television and blue ray DVD player, but he noticed he couldn't install the surround sound system because the receiver I was using was twenty years old and I needed a receiver that was capable of using fiber optic cables. So, it was off to Circuit City (you know that bankrupt chain of stores) to buy a receiver 30% off the original price, 399 dollars and I also needed to buy two fiber optic cables for 26.98 each. "Ka Ching", "Ka Ching", "Ka Ching". I think I was finally done.

My Black Friday shopping was now done. The total 1,235 dollars (taxes included) Ka Ka Ching, So much for my low-key, not spending, stay at home, take it easy Black Friday. I now only had one problem. How was I going to tell my kids we needed to cut down this Christmas because of the economy?



Part 2 – All the other stuff

For years Jonathan, my son (the one with a lead foot when he drives), has wanted to buy a motorcycle. One day, as we headed for our morning repast at the local diner, he posed the question, "Do you mind if I buy a motorcycle?" Since he was now older, I said, "No, I do not mind." I surmised he couldn't afford this machine anyway – this vehicle of death - since he still owed money on his credit cards. I was wrong. For several days, he perused newspapers, the Internet, and magazines looking for that one special motorcycle that would say, "This is me." He found it, a Buell made by Harley Davidson. It sat in our garage for a couple of months until he was able to take a class to teach him how to drive it. I suggested that he take the class in 2011 – that way he wouldn't drive it for a few years, but with a bemused smile he said, "I don't think so." Jonathan did promise he would not drive on the freeway for a year – a promise he kept hmmm let's see, about a week. Now he drives his motorcycle everywhere, and I guess the one pro is it is a lot cheaper on gasoline.

"Oh the travails of learning to drive!" ponders Raeann as she unknowingly changes lanes in the middle of the intersection without realizing it. Raeann believes it is time to break away from daddy and mommy and loosen the ties that bind her. This was the year Raeann turned 18, and at her birthday party, Raeann asked a series of questions to see how well party-goers knew her. One question was, "how many pillows does Raeann need under her when she drives?" Answer: one. What happened to those all too innocent years about the age of two or three when Raeann pulled around her tiny toy shopping cart, and muttered in somewhat unintelligible sounds, "I'm going shopping." Now she really does go shopping, and she loves to spend, and she brings home a special friend we shall call Alex. We will not call him boyfriend because that would mean I have to face facts and realize she really is growing up. Life is just going way too fast. And, I just want it to stop.

Jeanine and I are beginning to feel those aches and pains we tend to all feel as we slip into those obscure years we no longer want to count (anything after the age of 29.) One day last year, I woke up unable to move my arm in any direction and with excruciating pain. I went to the doctor and he told me I had "frozen shoulder" and that it lasts for six months to two years "WHAT?" I thought to myself, "What the &*^% is that? For six months, my right arm was useless, unable to move, couldn't type, and couldn't sleep except in a vertical position. I didn't think anyone could sleep vertically unless you were some sort of blood sucking bat. Again, I was wrong. I iced my arm, I heated it, I exercised it, and I went to physical therapy. I discovered that 2% of people over 40 get this condition, but after I had it, I started discovering people coming out of the woodwork who also had it – go figure. I now await the next ailment to befall me. Jeanine also has arthritis in the shoulder and carpel tunnel on the right hand, but life goes on.

And so ends another year, another economic crisis (well maybe not yet), and another election cycle. Hope all is well with everyone, and hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas


Mark, Jeanine, Jonathan and Raeann

Jonathan and his Buell

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dong Yun Yoon

I can't even imagine

Send Donations to

Dong Yun Yoon
c/o Rev. Kevin Lee
Korean United Methodist Church
3520 Mount Acadia Blvd
San Diego, CA 92111

Una Carta Navideña - Navidad 2008

Navidad 2008 (versión en español)

Cada año, escribo una tarjeta navideña y se la mando a todos mis parientes y amigos y amigos de antaño para mantenerme siempre en contacto. Ésta es una tradición americana que a veces hacemos en vez de sólo mandar una sencilla tarjeta de navidad. La carta que sigue es la carta que yo mandé

Parte 1 – El Viernes Negro

Me dije que no iba a ir de compras. Me iba a quedar en casa y descansar eludiendo a la muchedumbre en los centros comerciales. Iba a evitar el tortuoso deambular por estacionamiento tras estacionamiento buscando en vano aquel lugar para aparcar. No iba a participar en el bullicio, en la locura del Viernes Negro, ese día que da inicio a la temporada de compras navideñas después del Día de Acción de Gracias, el día en el cual miles de personas enloquecidas madrugan a las 4 a.m. con los ojos entreabiertos para afrontar a un mundo vuelto loco que va en pos de cosas en rebaja. Éste es el día cuando el mundo pierde la razón y la cordura; es un día en donde reina el descuento. Les dije a mis hijos que no íbamos a gastar tanto para navidad este año debido a la crisis económica. Pero, también a mí me contagió la locura del Viernes Negro.

A las cuatro de la mañana del Viernes Negro, la hora cuando todas las tiendas adelantan su hora de apertura, alguien llama a la puerta de nuestro dormitorio – unas rápidas sucesiones de toques cortos en la puerta. No era la llamada de Hillary Clinton a las tres de la mañana; era mi hija Raeann, la que tiene 18 años de edad. Ella se ilusionaba con ir a las tiendas. Quería reponer su cámara con una cámara con estilo y de color rosado. La había visto en un anuncio del periódico el día anterior. Yo no me iba a levantar. Quería dormir. Jalé la colcha y me abrigué porque la colcha estaba bien calientita. Mi hija seguía tocando a la puerta cartera en mano en ristre, dispuesto a buscar esa cámara que la esperaba. Finalmente, mi esposa decidió ir con ella. Cuando regresaron a casa, como a eso de las 8, fuimos todos a Costco, porque allí es donde a mí me gusta ir de compras – pero sólo fuimos de escaparates o así lo pensamos.

Pasamos por la entrada de Costco, enseñamos nuestro carné de socio, (en Costco se requiere un carné de socio), y seguimos. De repente, vimos con el rabillo del ojo unos televisores 37" LCD de alta definición volando de sus escaparates por los ávidos compradores que los compraban porque a sólo 499 dólares (con un cupón de 100 dólares) era una verdadera ganga. Cogí uno de los dos que quedaban – ¡vaya! – estaba de venta. Seguí mirando a mi alrededor – vi que de cada dos carritos de compras uno llevaba un televisor. Me pregunté, "¿Qué pasó con esta ralentización económica?" Caminamos un poco más y vimos un reproductor de DVD, 90 dólares de descuento – apenas 189 dólares después del descuento. Ése iría bien con mi televisor 37" LCD de alta definición. Salimos de Costco.

Al llegar a la casa, dejé el televisor y el reproductor de DVD en su embalaje original. Cuando mi hijo llegó del trabajo, instaló el televisor y el reproductor de DVD Blue-Ray, pero se dio cuenta que no pudo instalar el sistema surround-sound porque el amplificador que uso para conectar todo tenía sus veinte años. Necesito un amplificador que use cables de fibra óptica. Así pues, salimos para Circuit City (tú sabes – esa cadena de tiendas que ahora está en bancarrota) para comprar uno a 30% de descuento del precio original. También tenía que comprar dos cables de fibra óptica por $26.98 cada uno. Creo que finalmente había terminado mis compras.

Así fue nuestro Viernes Negro. El total incluyendo impuestos ascendió a $1,235.00. Ese día sólo iba a descansar, relajarme, quedarme en casa y no gastar – pues nada – en todo fallé. Ahora me quedaba un problema, cómo decirles a mis hijos que no "íbamos a gastar tanto para navidad este año debido a la crisis económica."

Parte 2 – Todo lo demás

Hace muchos años que mi hijo, Jonathan (él que tiene un pie de plomo cuando maneja su automóvil) quiere comprar una motocicleta. Un día rumbo al restaurante donde solemos desayunar, me hace la pregunta, "¿Te molestaría si compro una moto?" Ya que es mayor de edad, le dije que "No, no me molestaría." Confiaba en mi sabiduría infinita porque creía que Jonathan no tenía suficiente dinero para comprarla ya que todavía tenía unas deudas. Me había equivocado. Durante varios días, Jonathan escudriñaba los periódicos, el Internet, y las revistas buscando esa "moto" que decía "¡soy yo!" Después de una semana, la encontró, una Buell hecha por Harley Davidson, y fue a comprarla. Después de comprarla, la moto quedaba en el garaje por dos meses mientras esperaba tomar una clase para aprender a conducirla. Le sugerí que tomara la clase en 2011 – Así no la manejaría por varios años, pero con una sonrisa desconcertada, dijo, "¡No te creas!" Prometió no ir a las autopistas durante un año, una promesa que había cumplido ummm, vamos a ver, apenas una semana. Ahora, conduce su motocicleta por todas partes. Lo bueno a su favor es que el combustible es más barato.

"¡anda, las tribulaciones de aprender a manejar (conducir para los españoles)!" reflexiona Raeann mientras cambia de carril en medio de la intersección sin darse cuenta (algo ilegal). Raeann cree que es hora de salir del nido. Éste es el año que Raeann cumplió los 18 años, y en su fiesta de cumpleaños, Raeann hizo varias preguntas a los asistentes a su fiesta para saber cuánto sabían de ella (un juego típico en fiestas así). Una pregunta era, "En Cuántas almohadas se sienta Raeann cuando maneja. Contestación: una. ¿Qué pasó con esos años tan inocentes cuando a los dos o tres años de edad, Raeann jalaba su pequeño carrito de compras de juguete y farfullaba con sonidos casi inteligibles, "voy de compras." Ahora, va de compras pero de verdad, y le gusta gastar, y lleva a la casa un amigo especial que llamaremos Alejandro. No lo llamaremos novio, porque eso querrá decir que tendría yo que aceptar la realidad que Raeann se ha convertido a una mujer. La vida va demasiado rápido y sólo quiero que se pare.

Jeanine y yo estamos empezando a sentir esos achaques que vienen que todos tendemos a sentir al entrar en aquellos años oscuros que ya ni queremos contar (todos los años después de los 29.) Un día a principios del año, me desperté muy adolorido del brazo derecho. Fui al doctor, y me dijo que tenía algo que se llama "hombro congelado" y que puede durar entre seis meses hasta dos años - ¿Qué? me
dije a mí mismo, "¿hasta dos años?" Durante seis meses, mi brazo era inútil; no lo podía mover sin dolor, no podía escribir a máquina, y no podía dormir a no ser que fuera en una posición vertical. Yo creía que era imposible dormir verticalmente a menos que fueras uno de esos murciélagos hematófagos que pasan la vida chupando sangre. Otra vez, me había equivocado. Para aliviar el dolor, me congelé el brazo, me lo calenté. Hice ejercicios de estiramiento. Fui a terapia física. Al fin y al cabo, casi me he repuesto de ese "hombro congelado", y ahora sólo espero la próxima dolencia. Jeanine tiene artritis en el hombro y túnel de carpelo en la mano derecha, y así sigue la vida.

Y ahora termina otro año, otra crisis económica (pues, tal vez todavía no), y otro ciclo de elecciones. Esperamos que todos estén bien, y esperamos que todos tengan una muy feliz navidad y próspero año nuevo.

Mark, Jeanine, Jonathan y Raeann

Jonathan y su moto

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Peter Schiff on the economy

I wonder if this is how Jesus felt? This is Peter Schiff on the economy before the subprime meltdown. Picked this up from Peter was laughed off the stage from every roundtable he was on, but he proved to be quite prescient in his predictions.

This is a must watch video.

Monday, December 8, 2008

La Purísima / La Gritería, Nicaragua

A Spanish reporter during la Griteria in Leon Nicaragua
Video part 1
Part 2 Below / Parte 2 abajo

Yesterday, December the 7th was the celebration of La Gritería in Nicaragua. I wrote the following several years ago when I attended this unique celebration throughout Nicuaragua. The First is in English, the Second in Spanish.


The firecrackers went off at 6:00 p.m. in the afternoon. For a few moments the Nicaraguan sky was lit up. For the next six hours sporadic firecrackers and fireworks were heard throughout the streets of Managua. If you didn't realize you were witnessing a Nicaraguan tradition that occurs every December 7th at the same time, you would think you were in the middle of a civil war.

La Purísima is one tradition that is uniquely Nicaraguan. No other country has this tradition. The firecrackers announce the start of La Purísima at 6:00 p.m. and it lasts until Midnight. Groups, which include both adults and children, go from house to house shouting what is known as La Griteria "¿Quién causa tanta alegría? Who causes so much joy? And the response, "La Concepción de María" "The Virgin Mary". This is all done in front of self-erected altars built by the occupants of the homes. After La Griteria, the group sings songs to the Virgin Mary from booklets that are purchased for a couple córdobas each. This prompts the occupants of the house to distribute various types of fruit, sugar cane, and other trinkets. At the house where we were staying, over 900 items were given away. This means there were more than 900 people who shouted and sang in front of the altar. I had never seen so many people as I did that night; it was actually quite a spectacle. Many of these altars were elaborately built and it was also evident that there was lot of money spent on the distributed food and trinkets. The Nicaraguan people kept their tradition alive in spite of the economic crisis that currently pervades the Nicaraguan community.


Los cohetes reventaron a las seis en punto de la tarde, Por unos instantes, el cielo de Nicaragua brilló Durante las próximas seis horas, los cohetes esporádicos y los fuegos artificiales se escuchaban por todas las calles de Managua. Si usted no se diera cuenta de que atestiguaba una tradición nicaragüense que ocurre cada siete de diciembre a la misma hora, usted hubiera pensado que estaba en medio de una guerra civil.

La Purísima es una tradición que es únicamente nicaragüense. Ningún otro país tiene esta tradición. La pólvora anuncia el comienzo de la Purísimia a las seis de la tarde y dura hasta la medianoche. Los grupos que incluyen ambos adultos y niños, van de casa en casa gritando lo que se conoce como La Gritería, "¿Quien causa tanta alegría? Y la respuesta "La concepción de María". Todo esto se hace en frente de los altares a la virgen erigidos por los inquilinos de las casas. Después, los grupos cantan canciones a la Virgen María de unos libritos que se compran por 2 o 3 córdobas cada uno. Los inquilinos regalan a los cantantes productos típicos como matracas, indios, cañas, limones, pitos, y otras cositas. En la casa en donde nosotros estábamos, 900 cosas fueron regaladas. Esto quiere decir que había más de 900 personas que gritaron y cantaron delante del altar. Nunca había visto tanta gente como esa noche. Era realmente un espectáculo. Muchos de estos altares fueron elaboradamente construidos y era evidente también que se gastó mucho dinero en comida y chunches para regalar. La crisis económica no menguó la celebración de La Gritería .

video part 2

Friday, December 5, 2008

Justice Served

Isn't Karma sweet. No amount of whining will help now.

After hearing a statement of remorse from Simpson, whose voice quavered as he spoke, District Judge Jackie Glass imposed a sentence that will keep the former football star behind bars between nine and 33 years.

“I’m not here to try and cause any retribution or any payback for anything else,” the judge told the packed courtroom before announcing her decision. “I want that to be perfectly clear to everyone.”

Simpson, 61, and co-defendant Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, 54, were convicted in October of all counts in the robbery case. Immediately after the verdicts were read, Simpson and Stewart were handcuffed and taken into custody to await today’s hearing.

Glass sentenced Stewart this morning to between 7 1/2 and 27 years.

Do we feel safe now?

This should give everyone pause. John Brennan, ex-CIA director withdrew his name from consideration as CIA director. Brennan stated:

    "It has been immaterial to the critics that I have been a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration, such as the preemptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics, to include     waterboarding," Brennan said, referring to a widely condemned interrogation method in which a detainee is made to feel he is drowning"


Obama is bowing to liberal pressure groups. After the terror attacks in Mumbai, India, you would have thought Obama would have reconsidered his position on the way to conduct the war on terror. I have actually liked many of the cabinet positions Obama has made including his treasury secretary. I even agreed with the appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, but Obama's inane position of no waterboarding and closing Gitmo, is just that inane. Gitmos houses some of the worst terrorists this country has known. The terrorist's countries of origin won't even take them back. Maybe we should set them up next to many of these liberals who want to close Gitmo.

Gitmo will be closed, and CIA operatives will be prosecuted for yelling at the terrorists. No CIA director would want to be director under these circumstances. If we had another terrorist attack in the vein of Mumbai or worse, would we want to play patty-cakes with these terrorists. I wonder how the lone gunman of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai is being treated. Do you think he is being interviewed for a job or is he being tortured? We don't have to torture, but we need to use tough interrogation tactics to extract the information we need to save American lives.

If you think the economy is bad now, wait for a terrorist attack.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In Defense of Harry Reid

Geez, I can't believe I am doing this. The other day Harry Reid made a comment about white house tourists. He said the following:

"My staff tells me not to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway," said Reid in his remarks. "In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. It may be descriptive but it's true."

Right wing pundits have been crying "foul" over this. We know that Harry Reid is a "nut." He is pure fodder for talk show radio, because everything that comes out of his mouth is in a word just plain "stupid." But this isn't it.

Reid was making a joke albeit a bad joke. The summer is hot and humid in DC during the time the public is visiting the White House. He was simply making a reference to people who sweat and who have been walking and after touring for a long while, sweat. Yes - it was a bad joke, but get over it.

It was nothing to write home about.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Friday

I told myself I was not going to do it. I was going to stay home and sit back and avoid the throngs of people at the malls. I was going to avoid the meandering circuitously through parking lot after parking lot searching for that one elusive parking space. I was not going to engage in the lunacy of Black Friday, that day after Thanksgiving where hordes of crazed people get up at 4:00 in the morning to brave a world gone mad where everyone searches for goodies at some deep discount. This is the day of the year when the world puts aside sanity and reason for that one special day of the year where discounts or perceived discounts reign. I had even told the kids we were going to tighten our belts because of the economic crisis, and not buy a lot of stuff. But I too was infected with this lunacy.

At four in the morning, I hear taps on our bedroom door – short taps in rapid succession. This was not Hillary Clinton's 3 AM call, it was my 18 year old daughter waiting to hit the mall. She wanted to buy a classy pink camera which she saw in the previous day's newspaper. I was not about to get up – I wanted to sleep. But my wife did go. When my daughter and wife finally returned home later that morning around 8:00, I decided to go with them to Costco. So off we went to Costco – but only to watch others shop – not to shop ourselves.

We walked to the entrance of Costco, showed the clerk our Costco card, and continued on. And, what did our eyes behold - 37" LCD High Definition televisions flying off the shelves for 499 dollars (with a 100 dollar coupon.) There were only two left. I grabbed one of the two remaining – come on - it was a sale. "Ka Ching", I continued to look around Costco. Every other shopping basket had a 37" LCD high definition television. I asked myself "Where is this economic slowdown?" We walked a little further; a blue ray disc DVD player caught the corner of my eye. It was 90 dollars off the original price – a mere 189 dollars after the discount. That would go well with my 37" LCD High Definition television, "Ka Ching." We finally left Costco.

As we arrived home, I left the television set and DVD player in their original packaging for my son to install when he arrived home from work. My son came home, and he began installing the television and blue ray DVD player, but he noticed he couldn't install the surround sound system because the receiver I was using was twenty years old and I needed a receiver that was capable of using fiber optic cables. So, it was off to Circuit City (you know that bankrupt chain of stores) to buy a receiver 30% off the original price, 399 dollars and I also needed to buy two fiber optic cables for 26.98 each. "Ka Ching", "Ka Ching", "Ka Ching". I think I was finally done.

My Black Friday shopping was now done. The total 1,235 dollars (taxes included) Ka Ka Ching, So much for my low-key, not spending, stay at home, take it easy Black Friday. I now have one problem. How am I going to tell my kids we need to cut down this Christmas because of the economy?

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