Posted on Leave a comment

Nobody knows what gas is worth

Same street corner. Intersection of Northshore and Morrell. The free market is confused.

  • Weigel’s: $3.489
  • Texaco: $3.459
  • Pilot:$3.399

I don’t know if it had anything to do with the price of gas or just being a Monday but Pilot’s parking lot was a clusterduck of activity and could barely fit any more vehicles. There was no order to it either. Looked like an intersection in Hanoi! The McDonald’s 18 wheeler was delivering supplies. The Waste Connections truck was picking up the dumpster. Landscapers were filling up their tanks. Between the huge trucks and trailers, cars were zigging and zagging and negotiating right of way by hand signals. And you know what! It worked. No accidents. No red light cameras. No traffic signals. Granted, it was just a parking lot.

Posted on 3 Comments

I Support the $700bn Bailout!

Dear Gov’ment, Barack, and John,
I think you are all doing a fine job! Please let the $700,000,000,000 bank bailout pass. You have my full support with one small request. Please ear mark a measly $250k, just a drop in the bucket, for me. My own $250k bank bailout will afford me to clear debts and invest in certain assets to be a far more productive citizen with a greater contribution to the GNP.
Thank you! And keep up the great work!

Posted on Leave a comment

Bank bailout unnecessary

The bank bailout is unnecessary is Naked Capitalism’s assessment of Bert Ely’s comments from an interview at Institutional Risk Analytics.

A banking industry expert, Bert Ely, who has a stellar track record in predicting crises and calling false alarms says that the banking industry can handle this mess internally and does not need subsidies. [Source, Naked Capitalism, Banking Expert: Bailout Not Necessary, Industry Can Take Losses]

Update: Bailout has been planned for months and The New York Times says the Issue Is Payback, Not Bailout.

How come he gets horsies?

Update 25Sept2008: Billionaire George Soros says Paulson cannot be allowed a blank check.
Update: Ron Paul lectures Bernanke on the flaws of the bailout plan and the hazard of the attempt to fix prices versus letting them correct naturally in the free market.
Update: Newscoma points to another billionaire, Mark Cuban, who is harsh on the bailout. "The bankers that we hope will reflate the economy with loans to the people and companies who need it ARE THE SAME BANKERS THAT GOT US INTO THIS MESS." Watch for comments at No Silence Here.

Posted on 4 Comments

Greenbacks or Gold?

Worried that the dollar might tank and that the paper in your wallet might be worth more keeping the house warm than spending? Are you thinking, "I really should have a pile of gold in the house in case the economy really gets horrible."? Think again. In 1933 Ol’ Delano took measures to make sure you didn’t have that concern.

From: President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt
To: The United States Congress
Dated: 5 April, 1933
Presidential Executive Order 6102

Forbidding the Hoarding of Gold Coin, Gold Bullion and Gold Certificates By virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 5(b) of the Act of October 6, 1917, as amended by Section 2 of the Act of March 9, 1933, entitled

An Act to provide relief in the existing national emergency in banking, and for other purposes

in which amendatory Act Congress declared that a serious emergency exists,

I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do declare that said national emergency still continues to exist and pursuant to said section to do hereby prohibit the hoarding gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States by individuals, partnerships, associations and corporations…

[Source, The Privateer Gold Pages, The Roosevelt Gold Confiscation Of April 5, 1933]

Posted on Leave a comment


[Source, ImageShack]

Commenter Horn56 keeps it real:

…Bush had nothing to do w/ bill that lead to the mortgage crisis and banks collapsing, but he’s not clean and innocent from this situation either.

To blame Clinton is to only look at date of who was in office. The bill was written by 3 republicans after 20 years and $300 million in lobbying, passed by the republican dominated congress and shoved into an “essential spending measure” Clinton had to sign. I believe only 6 democrats voted “yea” on this, and that was only after they added privacy stipulations to the sales of loans.

There was nothing in this that applied directly to how you can give a loan, it just made the banks feel more secure in giving loans to unqualified people thinking they now had a backing if the loan was not repaid. Of course with everything being sold on speculation now because of this change in laws, the money wasn’t really there to back anything. One deadbeat after another started to default on the loans they couldn’t afford and never should of been given, the backing was not really there…peace banks.

The fact that the main person that wrote this bill deregulating banks, who also wrote the legislation that deregulated energy and allowed oil to be sold the way it s now, was named as one of McCain’s top advisors… If McCain claims to not understand the economy, and the economic adviser he picked caused the problem, who exactly is going to fix it if he gets in?

[Source, ImageShack comment]

It’s still a very funny picture and caption!

Posted on Leave a comment

No more OPEC?!

Yesterday I was reading about OPEC wanting to cut production by 550 million550,00* barrels a day and wherever I was reading that commented that the cuts would amount to more oil than the US could produce if they drilled all US land and territories. Not sure if I believe that. But the point is that OPEC is powerful. Er, was.

Saudi Arabia walked out on OPEC yesterday. It said it would not honor the cartel’s production cut. It was tired of rants from Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and the well-dressed oil minister from Iran.

As the world’s largest crude exporter, the kingdom in the desert took its ball and went home.

OPEC has made no announcement to the effect that it is dissolving, but the process is already over.

[Source, MSN Money moneyBlog Top Stocks, The death of OPEC]

Of course, I’m not an economist so I have no idea if this is a good or bad thing.

Update: A friend explains that this is good for the United States in that gas prices will go down but bad for the world because greenhouse gases will go up.

Update: *Thanks to Brian Arner for the correction!

Posted on 4 Comments

2/3s of the way there!

I feel like a presidential candidate asking for 20 people to donate $5 each to send Cathy and Sarah to BlogHer Nashville. Some amazingly wonderful people have contributed to sending Cathy and Sarah to BlogHer! Sarah is thrilled! Cathy is so jazzed that she wants to be a panelist at BlogHer 2009. So if you are attending a BlogHer event, be sure to whisper loudly within earshot of the organizers, "Gee, I sure wish Cathy McCaughan of Domestic Psychology were speaking." Sarah and Cathy are going to come back with their blogs on fire like never before! We are a 7 person household and 6 of those people have blogs! (that doesn’t include Facebook and MySpace etc.) We are "The Family That Blogs Together." With 5 children in 5 different schools this year, such a trip would not be feasible without your help. Thank you!

Posted on 7 Comments

US Government Mob Style

Today the IRS chose to empty one of my bank accounts. Any funds I put in that account go straight to Uncle Sam. I apologize to anyone whose checks bounce (Knox County Schools) because of this but I have no control over my government that is so desperate to fund an illegal war that it is willing to starve a 7 person household and threaten to put them on the streets. And all of this over not filing taxes for one year that I didn’t make any money and another year that I barely made enough money to sustain myself. [Update: This may have less to do with unfiled taxes and more to do with a (once small) lingering tax debt that haunts me from an old business.Nope. This totally has to do with an unfiled tax return. Irony: Had I filed, I would have been due a refund! Yes, the IRS sent me letters and yes I was taking action to avert this. It still hit me out of the blue.]

For the record, they overdrew my account by $102 dollars. Not only does your government have the legal authority to financially ruin you, make you homeless, and starve you to death, they can withdrawal more money than you have resulting a huge number of bank fees.

People, always file your taxes!

More to come after I buy a lottery ticket and a bottle of scotch. I mean, after I make some phone calls.

The irony in this type of situation is that I should be working my tail off right now to be able to pay the debt but instead of working I have to spend the entire day on the phone with the IRS negotiating with a manager to suspend collections for one year (of course, the house will have a lien on it during that year) by sending them a good awful amount of paperwork via fax which is billed monthly to the account that no longer has money in it to pay for the fax service (of course I could go to Kinko’s and use my bank card to…oh right, no money in the faxing from Kinko’s). When not talking to the IRS I have to be trying to get a lawyer to talk to me "um, retainer? well, see, the IRS took all my money.."

Update: A barrage of emails sent re IRS. Now we wait on those while sending some faxes on an unrelated issue that has to be played out like a chess game. I get a bonus move on that one then its up to them again.

Update: The tension in my wife’s voice is killing me.

Update: Newscoma has some commenters on the topic. And Michael Silence noted it.

Update 8/28/2008: What a great day!

Posted on 28 Comments

Don’t Do Business With Jack Butturini

Don’t do business with Jack Butturini of Martial Arts America or any other karate studio/instructor that requires you to sign a 3 year contract. Think about the length of time you are asking your child to commit to a specific interest! My 12 year old has spent nearly ¼ of his life practicing karate two and three times a week. Interests wane for children. A responsible parent should encourage the child to explore different interests, and yes, a responsible parent should encourage commitment but within reason.

My son started taking karate in the summer of 2005 (earliest post). He is burned out and hasn’t gone to a single lesson for the past 3 months. He achieved his black belt and is done. He lost his motivation before the black belt testing but showed great resolve in completing the task he had begun and I found that both honorable and mature.

Today I asked Jack Butturini to absolve me of the remaining time on our contract as I find spending $175 a month to receive no services in return a little ludicrous. His studio has moved 3 times since we started with Martial Arts America (formerly Jack Butturini Karate) each time becoming further away and more inconvenient and he is now preparing for a move to his fifth building. One of the moves was damage control to remove his name from the studio after a party at the Butturini household was busted with minors allegedly being provided alcohol by the adults (see also and commentary at Dr. Helen). While others badmouthed him, I stood up for his character and the philosophies the school taught. People were unquestionably released from contracts but we stuck with him. Today, as he laid his inability to release me from a contract on the shoulders of the owner of a billing company (SEP) which will have me dishing out another $1925 for no services rendered, I decided I could no longer give the same character reference. As such, I officially retract any supportive commentary I have given Jack Butturini and Martial Arts America.

I also admonish the karate industry itself as a thieving, conniving, bunch of unscrupulous bloodsuckers who under the guise of "character development" seek to empty your wallets in contracts and testing fees. I make that statement after talking to parents of students in a variety of karate studios around town all of which ultimately seem more interested in selling uniforms, testing fees, and locking you into a monthly fee and contract comparable to leasing a car than they are in your child’s development as a martial artist.

I think karate and the other martial arts are wonderful for children. I think it develops discipline, agility, grace, balance, and muscles. I do not think parents should be baited into a long term serious economic commitment by stringing a child along for 30, 60 or 90 days then dashing their hopes "unless mommy and daddy sign this piece of paper." If you cannot find a studio with shorter commitments such as quarterly or monthly, then give up on karate and do something longer lasting such as Boy Scouts. Now if you excuse me, I have to go close a bank account and prepare to be sued. [Update: Readers request clarification of this statement. That was snarky. Although I considered it for one angry moment, I would not close that account.]

Update: Paula is happy with Eun’s Martial Arts Center, 11110 Kingston Pke, Knoxville, TN (865) 675-2255 who offers 1 year contracts.

Update: Stormare Mackee recommends Wheeler’s Karate in Powell off of exit 112 who has 6 month contracts at roughly $80 per month.

Update: To be more clear on the figures, Noah has not attended a class for 3 months, 3 x $175 = $525, so the total I will end up paying out is $2450 to not attend his school and this is why you should never attend a single day at any studio which requires a long term contract. If you get rooked into a trial period, the child will be hurt; see paula’s comment: "…The kid was devastated…"

Update: Be sure to read Toni McSorley’s comment! Sounds like a school doing the right thing!

Update: I received an email asking if my statement that "I have to go close a bank account and prepare to be sued" meant I don’t plan on honoring my contract with Jack Butturini. To clarify, that was a snarky comment made in jest. I admit I considered it but doing so would be against my nature. I asked the billing company to move the bill date from the 20th to the 5th of the month. They increased my bill from $175 to $190(They adjusted it back down to $175), that account is open, and as long as the IRS has not seized it, they’ll get their hard earned money. There is a medical clause which applies to my son that allows exiting of the contract but based on Jack Butturini’s comments I really don’t expect him to be open to that. My motive of this post? Simply to warn other parents to be cautious of placing their young children into such lengthy contracts. Think about the last time you joined a gym and later found yourself paying monthly fees and not going. This is the same thing.

Posted on 5 Comments

Costco coming to Knoxville

Costco will be tearing down the old BeltsBelz Outlet Mall across from Cotton Eyed Joe off of Lovell Road and building in its location. That’s a little off the beaten path. I didn’t think Costco’s and Sam’s existed in the same markets. It’ll be interesting to see if Knoxville can support Sam’s, Walmart and two BestBuy’s in close proximity. Yes, if you haven’t heard, Turkey Creek is getting a BestBuy. Personally I cannot see the BestBuy on Town and Country Circle surviving.

Little nostalgia. I remember the BeltsBelz Outlet Mall on its last dying legs. Walking through it was almost spooky. It was like the ghost mall. Then years after it was closed, I returned to it with several scouts to help package gifts for Angel Tree children. The moldy, rotting building accentuated the somberness as an Angel Tree volunteer called out the shortages in gifts and donations. Many empty bags were left "organized" on the floor with hopes that gifts would be scrounged for those children. None-the-less, the scouts running about and feeling good that they had helped someone that day reflected echoes of the energetic activity the mall had once known in its halls and particularly in its food court (as the old food court is where the bulk of the Angel Tree activity happened).

Old haunts go to make room for new haunts. I look forward to seeing what Costco brings to Knoxville.

Update 8/13/2008: Belts corrected to Belz thanks to JMT and hiknapster on
Update 1/14/10: I don’t know the status of this project but it may have gone to North Georgia- "Costco identified in secret Catoosa project"
Update 1/21/2011: WATE reports that Costco is still trying to enter the Knoxville market and is considering property at Kingston Pike and Lovell Rd.

…6 News has learned Costco is looking at a potential site at the intersection of Lovell Road and Kingston Pike in West Knox County. … A Costco senior vice president says the discount chain has been interested in the Knoxville market for years, but could never find the right site. He can’t confirm anything until a deal has been signed, but he says they’re getting very close. [Source, WATE, Is Costco coming to Knoxville?]

Posted on Leave a comment

Bin Laden, Mission Accomplished

Bin Laden wanted oil to be $144 a barrel instead of $11 a barrel.

In a 1998 interview, Osama bin Laden — the terrorist organizer of 9/11 who still roams free — listed as one of his many grievances against the U.S. that Americans "have stolen $36 trillion from Muslims" by purchasing oil from Persian Gulf countries at low prices. The real price of a barrel of oil should be $144, bin Laden demanded. [Source, Think Progress, FLASHBACK: Ten Years Ago, Bin Laden Demanded Barrel Of Oil Should Cost $144]

Seen on Knoxviews.

Posted on Leave a comment

IR pain in the S

You know, I used to be the model citizen. I kept immaculate records. Had a petty cash box in the house and an account in Quicken for balancing the petty cash. I tracked every expenditure and literally knew how much money I had down to the penny. Ok, that was a little Monk but I never missed or was late on a bill, I kept balances on my credit cards and always paid at least double the minimum, and I planned my taxes such that my return would be close to zero. I always filed early or on time. When my first business along with my first marriage collapsed, I slipped. I lost the will to do much of anything. When tax season came around my affairs were in such a confused state that I needed an accountant to straighten things out. Instead I simply didn’t file. The following year I had my act back together but assumed that since I didn’t file the previous year, I couldn’t file the consecutive year (a wrong assumption!). That was an expensive choice! And one I took a lesson from "always file even if the numbers are wrong or you can’t pay" As it turns out, had I filed those years I would have received some much needed relief both times. Now, the penalties on that first year alone will have me in a bind for the next couple of decades.

I’m back on the bandwagon. I don’t have a petty cash fund setup in my accounting software but order has been restored to the accounting side of my life. I finished my taxes on March 28 but waited to e-file until this Monday which was a mistake. So far my e-file has been rejected 3 times. The latest was that my adjusted gross income did not match last year’s return. After a lengthy stay on hold and some investigation, a nice IRS agent informed me that they never received my 2006 return! As it turns out, I tried to e-file last year and apparently was rejected (probably for some similar reasons this year had problems). I suppose in 3-5 years the IRS would have contacted me to explain that they did my 2006 taxes for me and that I owed $xx,xxx dollars. There has to be a better system than this!