Fareed Zakaria's interview with James Dyson and Michael Spence

    Yes, we all know that Fareed and the "$250k+ people" like to talk about how better science/engineering education will redeem America.  This morning James Dyson, of vacum cleaner fame, added his sensibility to this restoration talking point.  However; after Fareed's next guest, Michael Spence, the Nobel Economist, spoke to America's "manufacturing wage disparity conundrum", the Dyson amplified education/invention prescription seemed to loose it's luster.

     Let's assume that somehow the US education systems is overhauled and the US is able to turn out large numbers of inventive technocrats, such that continuing and increasingly the "stuff" needed/desired by humanity is design emergent in the US.   So what?  Surely, Apple, GE, Northrop, etc. will not require multi-millions of these technocrats to explore/invent//design this awaiting  "stuff".  Indeed, we all know that in our "www.culture" the creative force is essentially free to Corporate Interests, who need only refine/optimize the ideas happening "out there in cyber space"  

    So, the inescapable catch is:  .... so what if we add a few million more technocrat elites to the Corporate Rosters, how the hell is this going to help the rest of our children who didn't  get a Masters from MIT.  American Corporations can only pay these new technocrats if they make a profit, which they can only achieve if they use cheap foreign labor to produce that which their "homie technocrats" claim they invented.  Anyway you cut it, it's better for Elites, but worse for Main Street .

    Fareed must of course know that this "science achievement strategy" is a "red herring" solution.  Michael Spence suggested to Fareed that perhaps the US government could ask, the Corporate  World to investigate if there were any products where that the wage disparity was relatively low, implying that perhaps the US Government might consider subsidizing some "least unattractive"  domestic production.  His inflection suggested that it would be a short list.  Otherwise he saw only the short term necessity  to extend/expand unemployment.

    I don't know Fareed's audience profile, except to note that today's presentation was apparently paid for by an Import/Infomercial Company selling foreign made pillows in four sizes.  Regardless, my sense is that not only Fareed's audience, but everyone out here on Main Street, already knows that it's about time to choose a new irreversible path.  The choices appear to be two.  First, we can accept the tide of Globalization, negotiate our wages down toward parity with the rest of the world labor pool, and start competing, even if "reduced living standards" are the consequence.  Or, second, we can lock our borders, both geographically and digitally, toward an experiment to prove that America is a sufficiently robust  "evolutionary space" that we can go "full isolation" and still prosper.  Either way, we will manifest more  John Wayne/ Galt self-satisfaction than by perpetuating this self deluding dream state we now embrace.



Branson's Great Southern Bank: A "Loan Standards" Case Study

     Finally, on November 14, 2011, my assigned Great Southern Bank, "Senior Loan Officer", Tenya Trivitt,  advised that, again, after the Bank's "Underwriting Department" had reviewed the additional documentation requested, the Bank would still not commit to fund my "Home Equity Loan" request.  Certainly, here in the Ozarks, we are Capitalist at heart and honor a private companies right to set whatever policies they choose, so long as the policy is legal.  As such Great Southern Bank was perfectly entitled in choosing not to make me a "Home Equity Loan".  Further, the Bank should be under no obligation to publicize their policies regarding "Loan Standards", if to not do so is in their best interest.       However, what should be so, in today's " digitally enhanced" free market economy, is that responsible consumers should make "open source" their good/bad encounters with businesses offering goods/services in their communities.       Angie's List is a notable ungrade from the tainted Better Business Bureau, and Facebook/Twitter offer enormeous potential for leveling the Business/Consumer playing field, but no channel will protect consumers who don't speak up and out.   It is with this motivate that I below share the essential elements of my unsuccessful request to obtain a $50,000 Home Equity Loan from Great Southern Bank:

  1. Location:  Branson, Missouri
  2. Years Home Owned:  5
  3. Owner Occupied:  Yes
  4. Purchase Price:  $180,000 (+$30,000 in upgrades)
  5. Present Mortgage:  None (paid cash)
  6. My Age:  58
  7. My Credit Score: 708
  8. My Assets:  $600,000  (Home plus "free & clear Rental Property & Equity in ALF Business)
  9. My Liabilities:  $28,000 (credit card debt/to have been retired with proceeds)
  10. My Income:  Year 2009/$65,000    Year 2010/$33000   Year 2011/$46000
  11. My Profession  Own/Operate an Assisted Living Facility in Branson
  12. My Education  BA, University of Kansas
  13. My Health:  Excellent
  14. My Civil Record:  Clear
  15. Reason for Loan:  Pay "High Interest Rate Credit Card Debt"/"Create Business Cash  Reserve" 
  16. Length of having been a Great Southern Bank Customer:  5 years
  17. Deposits to Great Southern Bank while a customer: $2,000,000 (including construction funding)
  18. Contingent Liabilities & Guarantees:  $6000  (sons car loan)

     OK, so why did the well paid Great Southern Bank "underwriter" reject the loan?  Because I had too much Credit Card Debt and because, although my prior year income was supported by Tax Returns, my 2011 year to date income was only supported by "unaudited financial statements" evidencing that I had received $46,000 in LLC Member Distributions for which I did not yet have K-1 Form evidence, nor had I completed my 2011 Tax Returns, neither of which could be prepared by my accountant until after December 31, 2011.   

     The logic seems absurd, but then again, I am not a well paid and experienced Loan Underwriter.  What I do know is that I should find a new bank, and that others within the Branson Community should consider that Great Southern Bank may well not have any strategic interest in Branson except to generate the greatest deposit balances with the least loan exposure to the local community.  Perhaps we can change this view by "making apparent policies public".  In fairness, Tenya Trivitt's supervisor, Mary Hogue, who represented that she was responsible for 26 Banks, in three states, did respond by phone to my complain.  She said that she would "look into it".  Isn't that what they always tell Anderson Cooper!



Get Ready China.....One-Third of America is Going on Disability!

    Back in the day, I owned  a Nursing Home in McCallen, Texas.  One Fall it came to my attention that every Tuesday night many of the Aide Staff were mysteriously absent, as were many of  the staff at other area Nursing Homes.  Nominal investigating revealed that a Non-Profit Community Improvement Organization was teaching a class at the local Junior High School on Tuesdays.  For twenty years, I have told the story, to mostly disbelieving friends who thought that the story was an " Urban Legend".  Actually it was true.  The class was offered to help Nursing Home Employees strategically "Slip & Fall" while at work.
     I no longer own Nursing Homes, and I no longer live in Rick Perry's Texas.  Perhaps today's methods of coping  in McCallen are not so jaded, but, I suspect not.  As I survey my current hometown, the TV Ads are uninterrupted "Disability Law Is All We Do" siren songs wooing the disenfranchised.  E-mail solicitations are even more blatant, culturing a naive audience to believe that a "free benefit evaluation" is much like playing Monopoly at Micky-D's; who knows, you might win big.  Sadly, here in the Ozarks, and I suspect virtually everywhere in Small Town, America, playing the "Disability Card" has turned into a "mid-life passion".  Culture pundits call it the "Disability by Design" phenomena.  We are on a fast track to an economy where one-third produce, one- third live entitled, and one-third supervise the entitled.
     You see, by 40, in Small Town, America, no less than one-third of the population have had 25 years of experience in coping with unemployment, alcohol, drugs, affairs, divorces, rehab, child support, restraining orders, Medicaid, and unending family fights.  Their teen/twenty "clone children" are now "partying hard", adding liabilities as well as varying configurations of "step-grandchildren" to their parents next to impossible lives.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, the "40 somethings" have usually wised up along the way and accordingly choose against coping by running-off with the next door neighbor, buying into a Tech-School Hustle, or aimlessly dreaming about winning the lottery.  
     For many the only sensible escape route with a semi-safe future is "Disability by Design".   In our compassion com modified culture, it turns out that this has an easy receipe. Add a Headaches, back-problem, chronic fatigue, rage episode, depression, or some combination of the above, fold in a few Medical Practioners compelled to provide patient validating free treatment, top off with legions of predatory Disability Lawyers  and shazam, $1500 a month for life...not Kardashian, but better than the alternative.
     In today's cyber world "Disability by Design" has clearly gone viral, putting the culture on a collision course with both solvency and sovereignty.  If there is a solution, it almost certainly will not be political.  It will, I suspect require a societal restructuring of epic proportion. What that might entail, I have no idea.  What I do know is, that in the near term, the Chinese had better bring their "A GAME", because we're gonna need all the fucking wealth that they can create.


Branson Heart Center's Appointment Challenge

     Now that the Skaggs Hospital's new Medical Complex over on Highway 248 is finished and occupied, the Tenant Doctors are busy taking care of Branson's sick.........well at least  they are caring for those who are well enough to navigate their "pre-appointment/patient screening" protocol.   Perhaps, if my medical issue is a gout flare up or a painful knee, I can fit myself into the appointment schedule optimized for the doctors, but what if I sense that I am having a "heart problem".  I now know that my choices are to rub some dirt on and tough it out, or take my chances with an overworked and non-specialized Skaggs ER doctor, or I can call Cardiology Consultants at their shinny new offices  over on Highway248, with ambition to see a Board Certified Cardiologist for a comprehensive evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment..  I have tried all three, and while my heart is  still beating, I am offering up my Angie's List Feedback.  Best Choice: tough it out; it's free and you won't be misdiagnosed  Worse Choice: Skaggs ER, you almost certainly will be misdiagnosed and it will cost you about a $1000.  Most Unresponsive Choice:  Call The Branson Heart Center at  417-348-8290 and visit with a cheerful young "Care Consultant" who will explain to you that your symptoms will be pertinent only at a later time after you have provided a mailing address to which they will mail a "Medical Records Release Request Form" which, when, as, and if filled out properly and returned to The Branson Heart Center will be filed as a precondition to The Heart Centers mailing requests to all identified providers.  If you are precise in your undertaking of the "Appointment Challenge", Julie, or Michael, or Jennie will confirm that no appointment can be made to see a doctor, until all of the solicited records have been received and reviewed.  If you would like an estimate as to the average wait time for the records to be returned or the then subsequent wait time for the actual appointment to be made, the pleasant young voice will steadfast hold to their position that they have no idea.  How long does it actually take?  I don't know, I am still waiting for the call.  PS:  If the though has occurred to you that you might be able to game the Appointment Challenge by going to the Clinic Manager to complain, forget about it.  Darrell, the Clinic Managers hands are tied.  He and what minimal clinical staff is available to him operate at the pleasure of Skaggs Hospital which means that, like all Skaggs Hospital Groups, they operate in a "constructive bankruptcy nighmare".  Indeed most of his energy is probably spent  patronizing Skagg's need for cash, not worrying about heart attacks..    Perhaps your best choice will be a direct Lax/Bankok flight with a waiting car to carry you to a new state of the art diagnostic center  staffed by well trained people who have not yet figured out how to replicate America's "fucked up" health care system.


"It's not that hard".........Howard Schultz

     Each time I hear Howard Schultz, the Starbuck's guy, voicing  his view that  politics is ruining the economy and thereby the nation, a flicker of hope wells up in my gut.  His candid, reasoned, and grounded dialogue is encouraging.  For me however there is a "credibility gap".  Given Schultz's prominence, and his Democratic leaning, why has he not had a a "sit down" with Obama to find out directly why  he and the President are so out of sync. Surly these guy talk.  A public reconciling would be informative.  That this conversation is not out there, either first hand or recounted, is perplexing and perhaps even suspect.