Thursday, May 22, 2008

Too Good to not Pass Along...

I saw this post attached to an article written by Paul Farrell on MarketWatch.
It's just too good to not share with you, if you haven't already seen it!

545 People
- by Charlie Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them. Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does.
You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.
You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices - 545 human beings out of 300+ million - are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con-game regardless of party.
What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300+ million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts - of incompetence and irresponsibility.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.

If the Marines are in IRAQ , it's because they want them in IRAQ .

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.
There are no insolvable government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, to lobbyists, and regulators. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like 'the economy,' 'inflation' or 'politics' that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.
They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses - provided we voters have the gumption to manage our own employees.

Are you registered to vote this Fall?

Energy Illiteracy

Just when you thought Congress couldn’t be any stoopider, they have once again convened an Inquisition to grill the titans of the energy industry on why gasoline is costing north of $4/gal.

Sen. Richard Durban of Illinois was troubled that the CEO’s of Exxon, Shell, BP, et al, might not be troubled about high energy prices. "What have you done to us?" he squawked yesterday.

Perhaps Durban should be more troubled about what that his own colleagues have done to us—and domestic oil production—by imposing restrictions on the oil companies’ exploration efforts, and creating a regulatory morass that has hampered effective growth of refining capacity. Me thinks the Senator doth protest too much.

Their answers to higher gasoline prices?
Stop filling the strategic petroleum reserve.
Suspend fuel taxes between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Encourage the growth of corn for fuel instead of food.

Halting strategic petroleum reserve additions would only divert a 2-months’ supply of oil away from the storage facilities, and into the production pipeline. Suspending fuel taxes would create a domino-effect of economic horrors, resulting in higher unemployment, stimulate additional gasoline consumption, and stall vital maintenance to the national highway system. And growing corn for fuel has resulted in a pair of unintended consequences: Higher food prices borne from the scarcity of grain, and higher consumption of fuel because the ethanol-mixed stuff produces less energy than the real stuff.
Stoopid Stoopid Stoopid.

I spoke this week with Jane Van Ryan at the American Petroleum Institute, an organization unabashedly all about promoting the interests of the oil companies. (Don’t turn up your nose on that notion: this is not an us vs them issue. It’s a problem WE all must reckon with.)

Ms. Van Ryan correctly identified the primary culprit in all of these arguments, debates, and congressional hearings: Energy Illiteracy. Just as Literacy has been a core social issue in this country—if you cannot read or write, you are a burden to society—so is energy illiteracy a core economic issue.

My friend, Keith Fitz-Gerald, at Money-Morning, correctly identifies this as a Supply and Demand issue—meaning, there are things we should be doing on both sides of that equation.

Increase supply and diminish demand.
Seems simple enough.
Why can’t our national leadership ask those kinds of questions, instead of probing into how much money oil company CEO’s made last year?

Why can’t we create incentives for less consumption at the pump, instead of funding the diversion of food stock for fuel stock (thank you, Corn lobbyists)?

If Congress is so gung-ho to meddle in the oil business, why not place a moratorium on speculators driving up oil prices. What the flip does a company like Goldman Sachs have to do with holding oil futures? Last I checked, they didn’t have a refinery in the corporate parking garage. The point is, let the oil producers and refiners manage the supply of crude without interference from the money grubbers on Wall Street, who don’t have any skin in the game.

There are a lot of smart people in this country who could, with the proper funding and incentives, create doable, viable alternatives to lessen our dependence on imported oil.

Congress should get off their high horses and listen to what the oil companies have been telling them for years: Open more land to exploration and development, reduce demand by incentivizing conservation, and fund the researchers who can use their brain power to think our way out of this mess.
What's so hard to understand about that?


Contrary to the previous post, I am still looking for work.
Check me out on the link below.

View Brent Clanton's profile on LinkedIn

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A New Job!

Ten days after being “invited to leave” my former position with the BizRadio Network, I have a new job.
Oh, it’s not what you might think.
But it’s an important one.

Some of you may recall my enchantment with Home Owners Associations over the years. Recall the story about the 80+ year old woman who had her house sold out from under her by an over-zealous HOA, anxious to recover $800 in past due dues. That story did not end well for the HOA.

HOA’s are only as good as their membership, I am learning.
Last night, our relatively tiny neighborhood (87 homes) held its annual HOA members meeting. Before we could have a quorum, we had to adjourn and reconvene three times to achieve a “declining quorum.” That’s a bit of procedural voodoo to allow those that did show up for the meeting to conduct the business at hand.

Out of 87-homeowners, less than 20 people darkened the door, including the two representatives from the management company that performs the nuts and bolts of our HOA’s business. So despite the negative press that some HOA’s have received, I remain convinced they’re only as good as the people who become involved in their community.

They tell me that last night’s meeting attendance was improved over previous years.
Apparently, even a teaser about next year’s assessment fee wasn’t enough to draw out enough numbers for a real quorum. There’s an important lesson here, as we head into a much more important season of choosing this Fall, and I’m a little chagrined over how it may turn out if more people don’t turn out.

Here’s how the meeting went down: There was one position on our HOA Board up for election. Three names were put forth for consideration.
One nominee was not present.
One nominee declined to accept.
One nominee stood before the group and promised to help out, whether or not he was chosen.
Yep. That was me.

Call me nuts, out of a job, and taking on that kind of responsibility.
But with one neighbor missing, and one declining to serve (for now), what was I going to do—stand there and say our little hamlet wasn’t worthy of my time (of which I seem to have plenty, for now)?

I bring this up not to shame my absentee neighbors, but to encourage us all: There’s a lot of complaining these days about the direction our country has taken. How many have really done anything about it—beyond standing on a stump and spewing platitudes?

Just as we need someone to get a handle on immigration reform, energy policy, and how to keep Social Security solvent long enough for you to collect on it, so do we also need folks to keep an eye on the electricity bill for the street lights on our block, see that the cul de sacs are watered and mowed, and make sure no one decides to put their ’86 LeBaron up on cinder blocks in their front yard.

...And take calls about the ducks.
Wonder if this job is what it’s quacked up to be?

Meanwhile, I am still looking for gainful employment.
Check me out here on Linked-in.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thankyou and Goodbye for Now

I want to take an eletronic moment express to all of you my sincere thanks for showing such loyal support for The BizRadio Network for the past three and a half years. As some of you have heard, I am no longer with BizRadio, but I feel I owe each of you a tremendous debt for helping sustain our project up to this point.
It was not an easy three years.

I actually created this financial talk format with Ed Shane of Shane Media Services, and Keith Rovell, one of his associates, along with broadcasting legend, Dickie Rosenfeld, in the Fall of 1999. They had the idea, and needed someone to weave the pieces together. That was my job. We weren't certain it would work, but we had a hunch that delivering useful information in an entertaining way would be a hit. It was.

The Radio establishment both cheered and jeered us.
Die-hard Radiophiles loved the revolutionary departure from the cookie-cutter formats that were, and still are predominant on both the AM and FM spectrum.

Love us as they might, the advertising community didn't quite know how to classify us, and the Arbitron Ratings people were totally clueless. No one we were targetting had the time of day to give call-out researchers, or were inclined to complete and return a listening diary. So they were coming up goose-eggs, while we were filling auditoriums.
But we forged on.

When one Radio operating company decided to swap our content for something a bit racier, one of my clients, Daniel Frishberg, immediately saw the opportunity to take the formatic ball and run with it someplace else. 6-months later, we were back on the air with a slightly altered, but definitely familiar flavor for listeners thirsting for intellectual stimulation.

That was over three years, two LMA's, and two pending station-purchases ago.
My how time flies.
Unfortunately, I will not be a part of any future chapters in BizRadio history. But I will continue to be proud of what I helped build, and of the people that made it such a terrific three years.

Check this space from time to time...and I'll let you know where I am. Hope to talk to you again, soon, on the Radio.

View Brent Clanton's profile on LinkedIn

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Counting Down to MoneyFair

(Ft. Worth)
The Will Rogers Memorial Convention Center is abuzz with activity. We're setting up for tomorrow's BizRadio MoneyFair, and our first "dress-rehearsal" broadcast went off without a hitch.
Never mind it's like broadcasting from a warehouse, with exhibitors setting up their presentations in the background.
Told you things we buzzin'.

Dan Cofall
, Pat Reddell, and Karl Eggerss fielded calls and faded heat from one another this afternoon from our broadcast position in the Hall.

Tomorrow morning, Mike Norman will launch a Parade of Prognosticators and purveyors of financial data, at 6:00am CDT.
I'll see you on the Radio at 9:00am.

In an Election Year, Anything Goes

The House is palavering over the pro’s and con’s of a housing package that Politicians want you to believe has a little something for everyone.
In truth, it does have something for everyone, but not what you might think…not in a positive way.

The proposal would get the government—translation: You and me--to guarantee loans for homeowners who have one foot on the front porch and the other in foreclosure.

As you might imagine, not a lot of Republican support for this gambit, and for good reason. If the loan is at risk of foreclosure, either do a work out with the people, or pull the trigger. I have no interest in guaranteeing a shaky deal, knowing food and gasoline prices are going to continue to rise for the foreseeable future. When it’s a choice between feeding a family and making the house payment, guess who comes in second?

The bill is sponsored by the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, good ol’ Barney Frank, and it would call for the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insure up to $300 billion in new loans over four years.The caveat is, lenders must agree to reduce the mortgage principal.

To qualify, the lender would have to cut the debt to no more than 85% of a home's appraised value. If the FHA-refinanced loans went into default, the FHA would pay the lender the remaining principal owed.

Let’s think this through: If the outstanding debt is reduced 15%, who’s eating the equity? Take it a step further: If the appraisal comes back lower than the original review (and with housing in the crapper, it will) then the new valuation is going to create a ripple effect in those communities who depend upon real estate taxes—based upon valuation—to fund schools, police, fire, and other public services.

Barney Frank
is opening a pandora’s box of demons that will actually extend the pain from the private sector into the public sector…and cause untold damage to city, county, and state operating budgets from the inevitable shortfall of revenues.

Oh, but we’re only walking about 1.4- million loans that might be eligible for such a program. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates we’d end up insuring a half-million borrowers at a cost of $2.7 billion over 5 years. That may seem like a fraction of a fraction of the home oans that are out there—and it is. However, you know as well as I that once home values start to decline, like one bad apple in the barrel, one repo’d house in a neighborhood, the rest of the block suffers, too.

The package also includes elements that would "modernize" the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and tighter oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Barney’s Bill includes another measure the White House wants: the issuance by states of another $10 billion in tax-free municipal bonds, the proceeds from which could be used to subsidize mortgage refinancing for subprime borrowers. The way it works now, state and local housing agencies are only allowed to issue tax-free bonds to help subsidize mortgages for first-time home buyers or those purchasing property in distressed areas.

Why do we need to subsidize those who cannot otherwise accomplish a home purchase? Are we not just buying them a peck of trouble? We’ve been “subsidizing” shaky borrowers all along, which is why we’re where we are right now, and the Politicians are playing this to the hilt:

We’re the Government.
We’re here to help.
It’s an election year.
Here, let me forestall the inevitable, and lower your loan amount. Never mind you’re still not going to be able to pay for it by Christmas…

By then, of course, the elections will be past.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Buzzing on Woody's BBQ

(Centerville) The last time I was here, you may recall the BizRadio Network Orchestra got into a spot of trouble.
Woody's BBQ.

Arguably one of the best stopping places you can hit on any trip up and down I-45, between Dallas and Houston. If it's within two-hours of mealtime when I come to Centerville, I just pull off the highway and coast into the parking lot for killer ribs, and a new culinary delight: Fresh Fudge.

Woody's is unpretentious.
At Woody's you eat on butcher paper lining a plastic cafeteria tray.
With a pound of BBQ you get free sides and a big ol' ice tea.
The seating consists of old-school picnic tables and benches, clean, and worn smooth by butt cheeks polishing the planks as customers slide in and out with trays of steaming, succulent BBQ.

There are home-made pies--pecan is my weakness.
And if you spend $25 on BBQ, they'll throw in a loaf of fresh bread.
Lady in front of me scored that kill, just returning from out of town.
Saved her a side trip to the grocery.

In the glass counter, next to the register, are plates and plates of fresh fudge in all manner of combinations: Raspberry- chocolate, chocolate- vanilla, maple- nut, and the more avant-garde versions that include healthy doses of Reese's Peanutbutter cups, M&M's, and Butterfinger bars. That might be standard fare for a franchise place like the Dairy Queen across the freeway, but this is Woody's, and it's all made from scratch in the back.

My rather regular grinds up and down the Interstate between Texas' two largest Metropoli have been moderated on recent trips by eschewing the mainlanes for the less-crowded, old US-75. The two lane strip of asphalt flirts alternatively on either side of the Superslab between Huntsville and Streetman.

The towns along the way, like Madisonville, Leona, Centerville, Fairfield, Corinth, and Buffalo, provide a more relaxed, scenic route, with cheaper fuel prices than you'll find along the Interstate.
The bathrooms are cleaner, and the people friendlier when you stop. And on those occasions when an accident or holiday surge has stacked-up traffic on the freeway, US-75 is my secret alternative with less stress and more charm.

I hesitate to tell you this, but you'll know what I mean if you try it.
Just don't tell your friends, or we'll ruin it for everyone.

Monday, May 05, 2008

What Would Warren Do?

Remember those “What Would Jesus Do” braclets?
People wear those to remind themselves what’s really important when there are life-altering decisions to be made, especially kids.

Go out carousing with your friends?
Psst—wanna smoke some pot?

I’ve got no problem with that, because kids need any help they can get to keep their moral compass pointed North.
Grown-ups do, too.

Investors need a compass, too—and many like to look at what Warren Buffet does at Berkshire Hathaway. Wonder if anyone’s come out with WWWD bracelets—“What Would Warren Do?”

Over the weekend the Woodstock for Investors was held in Omaha, where Buffet and Berkshire are based. What will Warren be doing in the future? Investing in businesses that earn their money in the euro, or in companies that derive their earnings in Germany, or from the UK Sterling. Buffet doesn’t feel that those currencies are going to depreciate in a big way against the dollar. One Berkshire unit is reportedly close to buying a midsize company in the U.K., and later this month, Mr. Buffett will be touring five European cities, sniffing out more buying opportunities.

What wouldn’t Warren do?
Repeat the past.

Buffet told investors, "anyone who expects us to come close to replicating the past should sell their stock. It's not gonna happen," he said. "You may have something better to do with your money than buy Berkshire."

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Feliz de Cinco de Mayo!

This was sent to me by a friend who is a bit of a history buff:

Most people don't know that back in 1912, Hellmann's mayonnaise was manufactured in England. In fact, the Titanic was carrying 12,000 jars of the condiment scheduled for delivery in Vera Cruz, Mexico, which was to be the next port of call for the great ship after its stop in NewYork.

This would have been the largest single shipment of mayonnaise ever delivered to Mexico. But as we know, the great ship did not make it to New York. The ship hit an iceberg and sank, and the cargo was forever lost.

The people of Mexico, who were crazy about mayonnaise, and were eagerly awaiting its delivery, were disconsolate at the loss. Their anguish was so great, that they declared a National Day of Mourning, which they still observe to this day.

The National Day of Mourning occurs each year on May 5th and is known, of course, as Sinko De Mayo.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Energy, Economics and World Domination

I am pleased to announce that since my hair grows at a rate of about one-centimeter a month, I do not have a recession in my hairline.
Well, if that logic works for the Government, why not my stylish coif?

There are three major problems facing America, and they couldn’t occur at a worse time because the country is without any real leadership—no direction is being applied—as the current administration enters its final months. These issues all basically turn on with how we deal with people—how we treat each other:

Lack of Energy Policy
Lack of trust in Financial sector leading to a lack of stability in the Real Estate sector
Lack of a reasonable Immigration/National Security plan

Our economy is in the crapper because we have relied for too long upon foreign sources of energy, our financial whiz kids got too smart for themselves, and built a house of cards that is falling, and the big, white elephant in the room is actually brown, primarily speaks Spanish, and has been the bedrock of the regional economy in the southwest for generations.

We're also up to our gills in bovine effluent because the people on both coasts believe they're better than the rest of the country with regards to land use; our financial whiz kids got too smart for themselves (repetition intentional), and we've forgotten some basics of hospitality.

You’re not going to hear this addressed on the campaign trail, in the Fed boardroom, or anywhere else people charged with the responsibility of guiding our nation into the second decade of this millennium are meeting and making decisions. The mainstream Media would rather fret over lapel pins and imaginary dates with dead presidents.

Do you know what the top five headlines are on the website this morning?
Barbara Walters had an affair with a US Senator (eww, thanks for that visual)
Miley Cyrus is cancelling her Florida tour (is she grounded?)
The D.C. Madam has been found dead (wonder if she knew the same Senator as Babwa Wawa?)
Some Poll has calculated 71% of respondents disapprove of President Bush; this is news?
The ex-nanny of Rob Lowe and his wife is countersuing the couple. Gadzooks, the future of the entire planet must be at stake!

So I guess it’s up to you and me.

Here’s my three-step plan for economic stability, domestic tranquility, and world domination:

Effective immediately, the east and west coasts are open for exploration, drilling and production of oil and gas deposits. Start up the mud pumps, grease up the drill pipes, and string some seismic cable.

Concurrently, populated areas with the density of Corsicana or greater will immediately be fair game for building a local gasoline refinery. The more refineries we have, the less of a bottleneck in our supply. The closer you live to a refinery, the less expensive it becomes to transport fuel for sale at retail.

We will develop regional energy sectors which are responsible for supplying fuel to their own. A side-benefit of this activity will be additional jobs created in these areas for the next few years while the refineries are being built. By the time they’re finished, some of those new oil wells in Maine and Oregon will have come on line for rendering.

Recognizing that this new found oil isn’t going to last forever, effective immediately, we’re going to impose a Lay-by-in-Store Energy Fee to fund the development of solar, wind and bio-alternatives for replacing the fossil fuels we lose. It will be a consumption fee with no exemptions, even by governments.
We’re all in this together.

Effective immediately, there will be a moratorium on trading fossil energy commodities by non-developers and non-end-users of the products. Hedge Funds and institutional investors hoping to cash in on the energy plays in oil and gas may not do so for a one year period, so as to eliminate the additional price volatility such speculative trading causes.

Oil is no longer a luxury, it is a strategic element crucial to our national and economic security.
Stop screwing with it.

Effective immediately, banks will begin making loans.
I realize that’s a novel idea, but that’s why they were invented in the first place. Loans will be scrutinized by a computer scoring system to get the log jam cleared, but each lender will have a compliance officer review the loans to make sure the borrower can make the payments and that the value of the collateral exists and is reasonable.
Another novel approach, I am sure.

Lenders’ fees will be built into the rate of interest they charge, but performance bonuses will be based upon the performance of the loan portfolios, not the gross business generated. You make good loans, your delinquency rate is low, you get a good bonus. You make stinky loans, you don’t get a bonus.
It’s that simple.

Additionally, if your financial lending and portfolio repackaging plan can’t pass muster on “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader,” go back to square one and begin again.

Effective immediately, all Americans will deposit 1% of their income into a savings account. Not the Social Security system, or any other account that the weasels in Washington can get their hands on.
A savings account.
Make it ING, if you want, but the point is to
a.) increase the real savings rate of the American public, and
b.) create cash reserves in the banking system from which to lend.
Voila! Instant liquidity.

Finally, and also effective immediately, all foreigners living in the US who are not citizens of this country and who wish to remain here must do the following:
a.) Learn to read and speak English fluently; that's how we communicate best here
b.) Apply for and receive a social security card
c.) Complete the process of becoming a US citizen

Caveat number one: if you’re busted for any crime before you’re “legal,” you’re immediately invited to leave.
Caveat number two: if you can’t get this done within the next 12 months, “adios,” “auf wiedersehen,” “au revoir.”

Frankly, it matters not that someone has been here illegally for the past 20-years and has procreated their own, mini-dynasty of “natural-born” American kids.

There’s a parable in the Bible about a man who owned a vineyard and needed workers and went out in the morning and hired a bunch of guys for a set wage. At midday, he needed more people, and hired them for the same daily wage. Later in the afternoon, with still more work to be done, the vineyard owner hired a third set of people, promising the same daily wage.

As you might imagine, the group that was hired in the morning, and paid the same wage as the group hired in the afternoon, were not that happy about the outcome.

The point of the parable is that the rewards for working in that vineyard are the same for everyone, regardless of when they start working.

Bending the principal ever so slightly, two contemporary applications can be made:
1.) There’s plenty of work to be done in this country;
2.) If you’ve been living and working here already, regardless of when you got here, citizenship should still be the ultimate goal.
If it's not, please leave.

That’s pretty amazing, we just solved three of the biggest problems we’re facing, and no one got red-faced, indicted, or voted out of office.
Just a little common sense.

And that world-domination thing I just threw in to get your attention.
Relax, China.