Saturday, December 13, 2014

Claude Monet


"I have painted the Seine throughout my life, at every hour, at every season. I have never tired of it: for me the Seine is always new." Claude Monet

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) has 50 paintings by Monet entitled "Monet and the Seine: Impressions of a River". And like Monet said above he never tired of it. To me Monet's paintings, usually of water lillies, were associated with places of pain. They were prolific on the walls in dentists and lawyers offices.

Before he became obsessed with water lillies he was enthalled with the river Seine and except for a brief period when he lived in London he lived the majority of his life on or close by this river. The exhibit at the MFAH emphasized his skill with light and weather. This I had never noticed in the 'places of pain'. So that's why I have changed my mind regarding his talent. He even goes back and forth between various styles. The most obvious are abstract to impression back to abstact.


Here is a similar style to one of Turner's paintings:



One of Monet early mentors, I forget who, tutored him on the skill of clould painting:


So here is mine:

Well, one can always change one's opinion and Monet's "Impression of a River" changed mine. I will keep this in mind the next time I see Monet's water lillies in 'places of pain".

Thursday, October 2, 2014

It's Not My Job

One of my friends is facing a serious medical crisis concerning her adult daughter and a friend of my cousin has taken his mother to the ER. The latter individual has observed several incidents among ER staff that impacted his mother's care. One of the observations was the "it's not my job" syndrome.

So whose job is it? It's YOUR job. Don't be a passive patient nor a passive observer. Raise hell. One of my sisters made a doctor cry over the care of our father. She is not a doctor, but like Supreme Court Justice Potter said in 1964, he can't intelligently define hard-core pornography, but he knows it when he sees it. Thus my sister could recognize gross medical incompetence. Also, if you are a medical professional you have an ethical obligation to confront and report incompetence.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This & That, August 6, 2014

HERE WE GO AGAIN?

I have blogged recently concerning the plethora of auto loans to unqualified persons. Now we learn the government is also becoming concerned.

Back tracking a bit to our recent past, do you remember these terms: subprime loans, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, too big to fail, and Troubled Asset Relief Program?

Here is how they were all connected:

  • Unqualified applicants were given loans at high interest to buy homes.
  • Banks mixed these high risk loans with good loans into something called Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO'S) and sold them to investors. The banks did not tell the investors that there were some very bad loans included in the CDO'S. 
  • Prudent investors bought insurance from insurance firms like American International Group (AIG). In exchange for premium payments to AIG they were insured against defaults on their CDO investments.  The insurance policy was something called a Credit Default Swap (CDS).
  • When the unqualified borrowers of  housing loans defaulted, so to did the CDO"S and because investors had insurance against such a failure they put in claims with AIG for full payment.
  • The defaults on the bad housing loans cascaded throughout the financial system and ended up with the federal government rescuing all parties considered too big to fail. This included the auto industry, Wall Street banking and investment firms and AIG. The final total of the rescue via the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) still doesn't have a bottom line, but it is in the trillions. 
Recently there is talk of the same thing happening in auto sales.


  • Unqualified applicants are being given loans at high interest to buy cars.
  • Banks are mixing these auto high risk loans with good auto loans. 
  • The new thing is that bank analysis, credit rating agencies and insurance companies are warning investors of the risk. That was not the case during the housing bubble.
  • Also the government is getting involved in investigating the auto loan business.
Still it is reported that, "This year, G.M. Financial sold investors a roughly $730 million bond made up of auto loans that carried an average annual interest rate of about 13 percent."

SOURCE:
NYT; Focusing on G.M. Unit, U.S. Starts Civil Inquiry of Subprime Car Lending, by Michael Corkey and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, August 4, 2014

THE RIGHT TO FARM

Well, I thought there was a right to farm, but not in Missouri according to a coalition of farm groups and agra corporations. The primary villain is the Humane Society of America.

Out of state funding from the Humane Society and others are lobbying state legislatures in various farm states to pass laws and/or give their agricultural regulators additional power to regulate, among other things, a minimum space between livestock and control genetically modified crops. 

To fight this, the coalition mentioned above, has put together an amendment to the state constitution:

While the amendment mentions possible litigation, there appears to be no conflict with existing federal agricultural laws or regulations. 

Voting begins today, August 5, 2014.

UPDATE ON VOTE:
August 6, 2014: OzarkFirst.com reports the Amendment won by 2500 votes. The Missouri Secretary of State will probably do a recount.

SOURCE:



Sunday, August 3, 2014

This & That, August 3, 2014

WAIT … WHAT?

On April 15, 1963, Anna Marie Yocum was murdered at her home. Robert John Dowlut, age 17, was tried and convicted for second degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. On April 1, 1968 he was release on orders of the Indiana Supreme Court, and a new trial was ordered. This new trial never took place.
Mr. Dowlut went on to become the general counsel for the National Rifle Association and a respected advocate for the expansion of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

In 1931, Harlon Carter, age 17, shot and killed 15 year old Ramon Casiano, a Mexican-American in Laredo, Texas. That case was overturned by the Texas Court of Appeals.
Mr. Harlon, later came to be the Chief Executive Officer for the National Rifle Association from 1977 to 1985 and a respected advocate for the expansion of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

There are extenuating circumstances (serious ones) regarding the two killings. And you can read them in the sources noted. I just thought it was an interesting footnote to two very competent and successful advocates for the expansion of Second Amendment rights for individuals.

Most recently a decision was made to allow citizens to carry guns outside their homes in Washington D.C.. The justice in this case said that previous higher court decisions supported his decision. Much of these previous judgements were directly or indirectly due to the efforts of Robert Dowlut and Harlon Carter.

Sources:

Mother Jones; The NRA'S Murder Mystery: One Court Sent Him To Prison For Shooting A Woman, Another Set Him Free Over Bad Police Work. Was The NRA'S Top Lawyer Railroaded-Or  A "Bad Guy With A Gun?", by Dave Gilson

Wikipedia; Harlon Carter

Syracuse.com; Syracuse senior federal judge tosses DC ban on carrying handguns in public, away from home, by Catie O'Toole, July 27, 2014



AND THEY WALK AMONG US

I don't want to diminish this by editing of paraphrasing and possibly water down the comments so:


"KKK joins immigration debate with calls for "corpses" on the border
With thousands of undocumented children amassing at the U.S. border, Robert Jones, Imperial Wizard of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, doesn’t want amnesty. He wants “corpses” on the border. “If we can’t turn them back, I think if we pop a couple of them off and leave their corpses laying at the border maybe they’ll see we’re serious about stopping immigration,” Jones said."

Photo: Al Jazeera America
(Notice the agency that took the photo? This should impress are friends and enemies abroad)


SOURCE:
Southern Poverty Law Center, August 1, 2014. 




THE SPACE BETWEEN

Hypothermia it seems, can save you as well as kill you. There appears to be a space in between that is neither life as we define it and death as we define it.

We're not talking here about cryonics. If you have opted for cryonics, then sweetheart, you are graveyard dead. 

No, we are looking at the space in between. It's a space doctors have known for years. They have used this space for people in cardiac arrest. And if you get knifed or shot in Pittsburgh, there is a doctor there that plans to drain all your blood and replace it with saltwater. 

So, tell me , if you could be put in suspended animation when would you want to be walking around again? What do you foresee the downside might be if you returned 50 to 100 years from today? Would you be alone? If you are a senior citizen now, how would 'those people' treat you?

I personally want to go back in time, not forward.  Unfortunately that is not an option yet.



SOURCE:
New Republic; Science Is Changing What It Means to be Dead: If you could freeze yourself until a future age, are you sure you'd want to?, by Judith Shulevitz, July 24, 2014


AMERICA LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT

Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein are the chief executives for JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs respectively. Both of these men are making big bucks for their companies and shareholders and themselves by actively helping American corporations renounce their American citizenship for lower tax bills abroad. You may have read about this increasingly new scheme called 'inversion'. It appears to be a win-win-win for firms like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, corporations, and shareholders. The only losers are you and me.

Guess what, it's legal. The brouhaha is over money, especially corporate taxes that will no longer go into the United States Treasury. There are attempts in Congress to stop inversions and to even make the prohibition retroactive. My take is that any attempt to thwart inversions by legal means will fail. I can't see lower courts upholding these legislative prohibitions and certainly not the Supreme Court.

Possibly, a change in tax laws will slow down the process, but that may involve reducing corporate tax loopholes and corporate subsidies. Oh, and yes both JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs were bailed out by you.


SOURCE
New York Times; Banks Cash In on Inversions Deals Intended to Elude Taxes, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, July 28, 2014.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"I'M FAMOUS Y'ALL"

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. The other day he wrote an article about the ubiquitousness of narcissism. A little over the top since a narcissistic personality disorder is much more serious than the examples Mr. Pitts discusses. Nonetheless, he addresses some minor but serious trending behavior globally.

The lead of the article concerns a teenage girl who took a cheerful selfie of herself in front of the entrance to Auschwitz. As Mr. Pitts notes, Ms. Mitchell is not alone in disconnecting between a horrible, bloody event and her current if fleeting fame. Indeed the President himself has been photograph with his smiley face on at a memorial service for Nelson Madella. "First lady Michelle Obama sits apart from them wearing a somber, funeral-appropriate expression that says clearly, “I don’t know these people.”

As I write this, I am saying to myself, 'Get over it'. But, like Pitts, it's irritating.
Good Times At Austwitz 


Thursday, July 24, 2014

What's The News Across The Nation(s), July 24, 2014

ONCE A SUCKER …

Did you know that the best targets for scams are persons who have been scammed in the past. It sure surprised me upon reading Susan Antilla's article in the New York Times today. She talks about 'Sucker Lists' in their various forms. Probably the most nefarious of these lists are compilations of previous 'suckers' who suffer from 'illnesses like Alzheimer's'.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Then there's this. Someone is leaking or is hacking the profiles of immigrant children being held in detention to con artist. The con artist uses this information to contact relatives living in the U.S. and posing as immigration specialists elicits fees to speed up processing for release of the children to the relative.


HI THERE, I WANT TO DISCONNECT MY SERVICE




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What The News Across The Nation(s), July 22, 2014

RODNEY DURHAM SAYS HE IS,  NOT SURE HOW I GOT THE LOAN 



Stop me if you heard this story before.

Guy goes to a used car dealer to buy a car. He hasn't worked since 1991 and he has filed bankruptcy in the past. No problem says the salesman, "I can put you in that baby right over there for $$$$. Now sign right here."

Several months later, the guy's car is repoed by the bank partner of the used car dealer. The bank, you see, has an arrangement whereby they assume the loan (Interest on the loan is maybe 23/24%). These high risk loans have been bundled into tranches sold to investors like your pension fund or your mutual fund or insurance companies, heck maybe even the city you live in bought some. The problem is this is the same game played with sub-prime mortages and lead to the 2008 financial crises and the 'too big to fail' bail out.

New York Times reporters, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery note that big investors buy these tranches which contain some toxic sub-prime loans because of the high returns on their investment. The higher the risk, the higher the payoff. But not to worry as the movers and shakers assure us, "... that the risks are not great, saying that they have indeed heeded the lessons from the mortgage crisis. Losses on securities made up of auto loans, they add, have historically been lo
w, even during the crisis."

Finally, remember when people were losing their homes and sleeping in their car? Well, "In the case 
of Marcelina Mojica and her husband, Jonathan", they are keeping their car and sleeping in a homeless shelter.

Again, stop me if you have heard this story before.


Owning People

There is a company out in California called Fantex that sells stock in professional athletes. It's just getting off the ground and so far has sold stock in two professional football players. I don't know much about this, but it's kind of a bet on future earnings of the athlete. These future earnings include salary, memoirs, movies, etc.

BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN OF WALL STREET

So two things are going on that the general public is not aware of and if they were aware, would have a difficult time in connecting what happens on Wall Street with the price of their can of corn.

Currently there is a coerced trend among firms to force employees into mandatory arbitration.  A recent and well covered case concerns the extensive and long history of sexual harassment by Dov Charney, CEO of American Apparel. Arthur Bryant reports on the case on the ACS blog article American Apparel Hides Sexual Harassment and More through Mandatory Arbitration. Mr. Bryant quotes Stephen Davidoff Soloman of the New York Times, "Corporate America has been ably aided by the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly upheld the right of companies to enforce arbitration agreements…".  It appears that while the Supreme Court may be leaning towards mandatory arbitration decisions to trump a person's day in court I can't tell if it is a settled question by the Court. The article by Mr. Soloman goes into much more detail than does Mr. Bryant's article regarding the sexual harassment history of Dov Charney.

The other new thing is a push by Wall Street firms to inhibit or stop whistle blowers from blowing the whistle.  The Dodd-Frank Bill encourages whistle blowing with monetary rewards should whistle blowers information prove corporate wrongdoing . Countermeasures being initiated by Wall Street firms include mandatory confidentiality agreements. So far as I know none of these mandatory confidentiality agreements that pertain to whistleblowing are being honored by the SEC. And I know of no specific court cases. However, the proliferation of such confidentiality agreements seems to indicate some emiment legal action.