Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bank Musical Chairs, and a recommendation (updated 8/1/08)

I'm sure we've all played musical chairs, wherein a group of people walk around a line of chairs while the music plays. When the music stops, each person sits down on the nearest chair. The trick is there is one less chair than the number of people. That last person, the chairless one, is now out of the game.

I don't know what kind of a coma I was in Friday night, but I didn't hear the news of two more banks failing until Saturday. As I was watching C-Span, someone asked Senator Dodd a question about the "two banks that failed Friday night". I sat bolt upright, and flew into my home office to check it out!

Since the FDIC does not publish their so-called "Troubled Bank List" (which has grown to 90 so far this year), customers do not find out if their bank is in trouble until it has actually failed (meaning federal regulators have seized their assets & closed the bank). A quick check of the confirmed the worst of my suspicions ... I have money in one of the failed banks!

There was a bit of panic (I was literally shaking) as I read through my options. Turns out for me, it's not too bad because: 1) these failed banks were sold to Mutual of Omaha Bank (they got into the banking business in 2007), and 2) my deposit does not exceed FDIC limits. But the specter of suddenly losing my own money, money that I put in a bank because I did not want or could not afford to risk it in the stock market or other investments, could have been disastrous! None of these entities are publically traded, so most depositors would not have known what was afoot beforehand.

Even though FDIC will not publish their "Troubled Bank List", they do list websites of private companies that rate safety and soundness of banking institutions. I STRONGLY recommend that you look at your bank's rating IMMEDIATELY! If I had been keeping closer track of my banks, I would not now be scrambling to make phone calls Monday morning attempting to waive withdrawal penalties so I can transfer MY OWN money into another bank. Don't forget to verify all your banks, even trustees of your retirement accounts (like IRA's).

The bank rating site I found easiest to use is They rate banks from 1 to 5 stars. A 3-star rating is "satisfactory". If your bank falls below 3-stars, it is in trouble. You can easily check your bank by name or state or zipcode. If you are looking for a good bank, you can select 4-star or 5-star rated banks in your state. I had gotten lax in looking up this critical information for banks I do business with, thinking a twice yearly check was good enough. WRONG! I will now be checking weekly! I recall that First National Bank of Nevada had fallen to 2-stars in June. I thought that was just a reflection of the poor Nevada economy. It did not occur to me that the bank was in trouble. As of today, it is rated 1-star (failed).

So .... yes, Mutual of Omaha Bank will assume the $3 billion in deposits of First National Bank (of Nevada, Las Vegas and Reno, and of Arizona, Phoenix and Scottsdale) and its affiliate, First Heritage Bank of Newport Beach CA. Characterized as "critically undercapitalized", these two banks had total assets of $3.5billion, but only about $3billion in deposits. Putting these two banks into federal receivership is costing $862million of the FDIC insurance fund. Mutual of Omaha will profit by this deal because: 1) they can now expand into NV, AZ & CA, 2) their bank will be greatly increased in size since they only had $750million in assets prior to this deal, and 3) the FDIC made them an offer they couldn't refuse (namely, some of the $862million the FDIC says this deal is costing will result in Mutual of Omaha having received assets for less than than they were listed on the day before federal regulators stepped in).

By contrast, the failure of IndyMac earlier this month is expected to deplete the FDIC insurance fund by $4billion to $8billion. The FDIC reserve is currently estimated to be $53Billion for apprx 8500 FDIC-insured institutions. Does anyone else smell a rat if there are too many more bank failures? How quickly can that $53billion be used up? What will happen to the first bank that fails after the fund is depleted? I'm picturing the banks slowly circling those musical chairs, shuffling zombie-like as the music drones on. Which bank will fail to find a chair after the music stops? What will happen to deposits of customers of that bank? This is why I say you should move your money if your bank falls below a 3-star bank rating!

And a final observation: these latest two failings make a total of seven FDIC-insured banks having been shut down so far this year. It's becoming somewhat of a Bush family tradition. There haven't been this many bank failures since Bush's dad was in office. Remember all the S&L's that collapsed from fraud and money laundering during Bush 41? I'm sure John McCain & Charles Keating (Lincoln S&L) remember them well. And don't forget the Silverado S&L collapse, starring George's brother, Neil Bush. It's kind of in their blood ... and once they smell blood, these guys usually go for the jugular.

**********Update 8/01/08: Another Friday ... another failed bank. This time it is First Priority Bank of Florida, closed by federal regulators late Friday so customers can spend the weekend worrying. FDIC agreed to let SunTrust Bank of Georgia assume the FDIC-insured deposits. But there is a twist this time for deposits which exceeded FDIC limits. FDIC will pay 50% of the uninsured amounts directly to depositors. This is getting scary.

**********Update 8/02/08: FDIC has just released a list of banks that they issued "final order enforcement actions" to in June. These orders are generally given prior to a "cease and desist". You should inspect this list closely. If your bank is one of these 28 banks, you may want to consider changing banks. It is the first hint of which banks might be on the infamous "Troubled Bank List" (rumored to number 90 banks) that the FDIC has said they will never publish.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Close Encounters of the Third Term

*** There is a line I like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's when the government has put out the phoney story of airborne poison in order to keep people away from the scene of anticipated alien contact. Even though they are all dressed in hazmat suits, Richard Dreyfuss doesn't believe them. He rips off his gas mask and defiantly states, "the only bad air here is you guys farting around".

By any measure, this has not been a good month for McCrusty in his quest for the presidency. His gaffes are becoming legendary. But gaffes can have a funny quality, and there is nothing funny in what McC's gaffes are revealing. His latest supersurgifragilistic explanation is ... atrocious! It's like he thinks no one remembers the sequence of events in the latter half of 2006. Gee, Johnny, it wasn't that long ago....

In November 2006, we had what's known as a mid-term election, wherein the overriding message from the voters was GET OUT OF IRAQ. This so threw President Bush offbalance that he immediately got rid of Defensive Secretary Rumsfeld. He publically humiliated KKKarl and busied himself with various other household chores (like sending Scotty on down the road to supposedly await a front-porch rocking chair visit). But what to do, what to do .... the voters said GET OUT OF IRAQ ... but Bush can NEVER leave Iraq, so to buy time, he set up an Iraq Study Group, known as Baker Hamilton, to recommend what to do in light of the voter's message to GET OUT OF IRAQ. That bought him about a month.

In the meantime, we all sat around our wintery fireplaces and wondered 1) if Baker-Hamilton would be able to recognize that it's time to GET OUT OF IRAQ, and 2) would Bush listen if they did. Surprise, surprise! Bush managed to cherry-pick out of the Baker-Hamilton Report the idea that perhaps the voters weren't exactly saying it's time to GET OUT OF IRAQ .... perhaps what they were really saying was IT'S TIME TO CHANGE COURSE IN IRAQ. When Baker-Hamilton pointed out that doesn't sound right, Bush had Gen Petraeus back him up! Neither Baker nor Hamilton would argue with a goddamn genuine General.

A plan for a surge of tens of thousands of additional combat troops was announced (whatever the original number was, it was later revealed to be more than doubled by the necessary support troops). Voters were confused ... that didn't seem much like a GET OUT OF IRAQ plan. Many democrats and even some republican turncoats were skeptical 1) that this was what the voters voted for, and 2) if such a surge would help or hurt the clusterfuck in Iraq. But one old fellow, the senior Senator Statesmen McCrusty, stood up among the confused elected officials, brushed back his plastered-down strands of hair, opened his corn kernal toothed mouth and proclaimed: My frends, if we want to win in Iraq, why stop at a few thousand surging troops? Why not send in 100,000, or 500,000 or even 1,000,000 surgers? (note this is all my own personal memory, not colored by or watered down by subsequent news coverage) ...

Well by now, we are all familiar with McC's gift for exageration. 100K, 500K, or 1 Million ... they're all just numbers to him. 1-yr, 10-yrs, 100-yrs, 1000-yrs ... time is just another number to him. Economics, inflation, failing banks, home mortgage fiasco ... oh my, ho-hum, more numbers .... BORING. Social Security? He recently admitted he isn't completely clear what Social Security does, but called its premise an "absolute disgrace". Ah, but tax cuts for the wealthy, now those are some serious numbers that McC understands and will fight for.

To me, the gaffes McC makes are worrying symptoms. Very simply, he seems UNFIT TO COMMAND, UNFIT TO LEAD!

A President needs to understand many things. He needs to honestly assess situations and provide thoughtful solutions. For instance, he can't be misunderstanding what constitutes a "surge" (hint: think of a storm surge which rises up & then abates, that is the essence of a surge ... it does NOT stay at flood height forever, it surges & then recedes). He can't be unclear and incoherent about something as serious as war. He can't be implying that if the surge isn't working we need to keep doing it, and if it is working, we need to keep doing it. And furthermore, he can't be saying we began a super-secret surge before the surge (which he mistakenly calls a counterinsurgency, as if by saying a word with surge in it, it means is the same thing).

And yet he is saying all those things ... and more!

We do not need another incoherent president. Eight-years of Bush is enough already! If ever the phrase "No Third Term" applies, it is now! Another Neo-Con at the helm would be crazy!

McCrusty's flatulent proclamations should be met with the same disbelief as Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

*** Any resemblance between McC and E.T. is intentional. "E.T. McC go Home!" -- back to your cushy senate cell chamber, thickly padded with 24-yrs of congressional cotton. ps, Watch TV coverage of Obama in Europe today and compare to Senator CheeseDick.

Monday, July 14, 2008

One True Thing

Now I know rumors and disinformation are a staple of politics, but I think The New Yorker Magazine reached a new low in their cover cartoon of Barack & Michelle Obama, which I'm sure we've all seen by now. Since there's been endless analysis of this all day, I'd only like to point out that a simple caption would've saved this liberal much angst .... something like "Are Americans Really Dumb Enough to Believe this Shit?" comes to mind.

So many false rumors about Obama are being widely circulated in America, I have to think the good old fear card is alive and well and being played endlessly in hopes that somewhere amongst all the crap being flung, each voter will find something that just absolutely convinces them to not vote for Obama, thus ensuring that John McCain ends up as our next president.

I guess nothing should surprise me anymore, but I do find it difficult to believe that many Americans could swallow that “Barack Obama, born in Africa, is a possibly gay muslim secret-zionist ultra-double-secret-terrorist racist who refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and wants to raise your taxes so he can keep our troops in Iraq”? Can we really be that dumb?

Welcome to the Silly Season of Presidential Politics in America! This is the time when I generally tune out the He-Said-No-HE-Said and try to remember what each candidate actually said when they were speaking from the heart, back before the inevitable run-to-the-center-because-that-is-what-it-takes-to-get-elected BS. I like to remember that we are all products of our life experiences .... that the way we have dealt with challenges and eventually found our voices is part of our very core essences .... our one true thing.

I know the candidate biography specials will be starting soon. Honestly, I have seen McCain's bio featured quite a few times already. I would've thought an updated Obama biography would've surfaced on TV by now, but if it has, I haven't seen it. So below, I am posting the A&E Biography of Obama produced in 2007. YouTube has broken it up into 9 parts. Each part is about 5-minutes. I don't expect anyone to watch them all at once, but if they interest you, maybe you'll keep them in mind for whenever you have a spare 5-minutes.

Our Lives are Our History. This is Obama's Life, warts and all .... his one true thing ....

Part 1 of 9:

Part 2 of 9:

Part 3 of 9
Part 4 of 9
Part 5 of 9
Part 6 of 9
Part 7 of 9
Part 8 of 9
Part 9 of 9

The Green Lantern?

I admit, I was more hoping for The Green Hornet, so I could pal around with Kato. But I'm OK with this, green being my favorite color ... plus The Green Lantern has a cool power ring.

SuperHero Personality Test

D.K.'s results: I am THE GREEN LANTERN ...
I am hot-headed. I have strong
will power and a good imagination.

80% The Green Lantern
70% Spiderman
55% Robin (uh-oh)
55% The Flash
50% Wonder Woman
50% Iron Man
45% Superman
45% Supergirl
40% Hulk
40% Catwoman
5 % Batman (not much of a Batman, am I)

The Green Lantern Code:

"In brightest day, in darkest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power...Green Lantern's light!"

CLICK HERE to find out which Comic SuperHero you are!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Kolob Day

Here They Come ... Closer and Closer ... AAACCCKKKK!!!! ATTACK OF THE KILLER SHEEP !!!... with mystical blue markings on their backs whose significance is known only to their steely-eyed Centaur Escorts.


Contented cows peacefully grazing in open meadows with streams and shade, blissfully unaware of their less fortunate feedlot cousins...Herds of horses running free as horses were intended to run, unlike their race track cousins who risk broken legs & death in their quest for speed assisted by little humans attached to their backs whipping them on so other humans can win (or lose) great quantities of worthless money ... note: these are not miniature horses; click to enlarge as this pic was taken from a great distance; the rear horses kicking up dust was how I even noticed them ... Fields of Alpine Wildflowers
at 8100-ft elevation ...

Unusual views of Zion from the plateau ABOVE the canyons, rather than the usual views seen from the bottom of the canyons (in the center is "The White Throne") ... THESE PASTORAL SCENES BROUGHT TO YOU BY:... where we spent a nice day escaping the desert heat. Nature is the only reward for this drive. We spotted many trails along the rim & look forward to hiking a few in the early fall before the winter snows begin. The area is known as The Kolob Reservoir.

The concept of "Kolob" is a bit strange. The Mormons think it is a very bright star near the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, which they feel is near the throne of God. That would put it near Sagittarius A, rotating closely around our densely packed galactic center, a very bright (and a very compact) source of radio waves. Residing at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy is thought to be a massive black hole. In fact, black holes are thought to be at the center of all spiral arm galaxies. Kind of gives black holes a divinity, eh?

The word "Kolob" might be derived from the common Semitic root QLB, which has the basic meaning of "heart, center, middle" (Arabic qalb "heart, center"; Hebrew qereb "middle, midst", qarab "to draw near"; Egyptian m-q3b "in the midst of"). In fact, qalb forms part of the Arabic names of several of the brightest stars in the sky. The plural of "qalb" is "qulob".

It has also been suggested that Kolob derives from the Hebrew word for "dog", thus "The Dog Star," i.e., Sirius, the brightest star visible to the naked eye (which makes sense to the DOG vs GOD crowd)!

There are some very odd websites which address the weird UFO aspect of Kolob which you can google search if you're interested. I'm not linking them as they seem conspiracy-oriented (to say the least).

Or click here for the much saner, but no less weird, Wikipedia link.

ps, Blogger says this is my 101st post. I never thought I'd make it this far!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Brain Freeze for the Fourth

If you're wondering why D.K. has not been blogging much lately (or even if you weren't), it is because I have brain freeze. Initially produced by a close contact with a large slice of corporate bullshit, my brain now feels all knotty and squishy. But never fear, I am slowly working my way out of the corporate tax dungeon. Might take a few more weeks. Bureaucracy at its finest! Tons of fun!

It's not that I haven't had blog thoughts recently. Oh no, I've had many. But I'm just questioning how original they are. Because here's a strange thing: I found if I just ignored *my* thoughts, I could read them expressed in many other places, often (mostly!) far more insightfully & eloquently than I ever could.

So how about instead of summarizing my unoriginal thoughts, I post a doggie update? The D.K. house is in temporary custody of this little fellow (shown here chewing a bacon-flavored corn cob toy). He is my Nephew's dog, Ark. We used to dogsit him all the time in California, but since we moved to UT, we've only seen him a couple times. We have him temporarily because he was involved in an altercation with a pitbull. He is here healing with us while that situation is being resolved. Ark is the type of dog who manages to fit right in no matter where he is.

This photo is Ark fitting in with one of our old dogs. They used to play together, both of them tearing after balls, up and down steep hillsides, indefatigable. But now she is old and her playing days are over. I think they both look like they realize something is not the same as before. Ark wonders why that once strong muscular bitch can only barely hobble around. And I think our old girl noticed that Ark is wounded, and so she quietly lays next to him in a comforting manner. He is hiding his neck wounds in both of the photos.

In other news: we attended a Unite for Obama rally last weekend. The theme was "Change Utah Can Believe In". It drew a crowd of about 100-150 which is quite large, considering it was 106-degrees and there just aren't that many democrats here. See the uncomfortable Redhead listening intently to a local democratic candidate who believes the Winds of Change can even sweep through Utah this year. I do live in hope.

Trying to escape the heat ourselves, we drove up the nearest 10,000-ft mountain. Pretty cool. At 6500-ft is a little town called Pine Valley with a little church called Pine Valley Chapel. It has an interesting history, built in 1868 by a shipbuilder named Ebenezer Bryce. When he was commissioned to build this church, Bryce protested that he didn't know how, but finally agreed to do it using his shipbuilding skills in the interior, apparently constructing it in the manner of an upside down ship! Unfortunately, tours were over by the time we arrived, but it is something I look forward to viewing on some other hot summer day. Click here to see Eric Dowdle's folkart painting of Pine Valley & see if you can spot the chapel.

* * * * * * * * * *
Tonight, we endured the annual bombardment of Fourth of July fireworks. Since 2003, I cannot help but think of Shock'n'Awe during these displays. Yes, on a vastly smaller scale, and of course our fireworks are not particularly dangerous to those viewing them, but I think there is a certain similarity ... boom, BOOM, B-O-O-M!!!
I've always loved this Margaret Bourke-White photo which appears to be looking up Lady Liberty's skirts! To me it captures the sheer power and force of an idea. The Statue of Liberty is a potent symbol providing hope for generations of newly arrived immigrants as well as ongoing inspiration for freedom-seekers around the world. This July 4th, during our 6th year at war in Iraq (notice I do not say at war with Iraq, for we are not now nor have we ever been at war with Iraq, we are simply using their country as a stage for war), I am once again questioning the nobility of spreading freedom by war. There's nothing glorious or patriotic about warfare. Stripped of flags, fanfare, speeches & propaganda, war is simply the result of a series of failures. Sadly, the price of these failures is born almost exclusively by simple, ordinary people.

Well, OK, so those are the disjointed thoughts of the brain-frozen D.K. To unfreeze my brain, perhaps I should take a stroll in The Neural Forest: The above is an actual dye image of some neural paths in your brain which I find absolutely compelling. Doesn't it look like a forest of tall skinny aspens & birches that have dropped a lot of leaves to mulch the ground? This beautiful forest is in your brain! The brain has tons of nerve cells called neurons. In fact, there are more neurons in the brain than there are stars in The Milky Way Galaxy. Good thing, too -- I think I may have burned out quite a few of them lately!

One last strange tidbit ... if you missed the Aztec Death Whistles story this week, be sure to listen to them by clicking here. If death has a sound, this is it. Some of them are ghastly shrieking horrors, others are peaceful birds and frogs. I know which I would prefer at the end ... and what I'll be purchasing for next Dia De Los Muertos.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Arte y Pico Award

OK, Doc, see it goes like this. A wonderful blogger named Jamie at Duward Discussion was tagged for an Arte y Pico award by Linda of Are We There Yet. Jamie in turn passed it on to EProf who passed it on to Border Explorer who passed it on to DivaJood of Journeys with Jood. For reasons unfathomable to me, DivaJood has now presented the award to my humble blog, and one does NOT argue with a Diva, it simply won't do. Besides, I believe that smokey blue gown will be the perfect attire to wear on my Virgin Galactic trip to Mars with Sir Richard Branson.

I wonder if the CDC is aware of this award and its possible ramifications as a blogger contagion. Symptoms include a need to find some beauty in your life and a desire for harmonious surroundings since the award started out by honoring those whose hand crafts were posted on blogs. The award now goes to bloggers in a wide variety of areas with an emphasis on contributions to the blogger community, of which there must be several million members at least. What d'ya say, Doc?

Doc says while the award may be contagious, it is the good kind of contagious, kind of like the good kind of cholesterol. The lovely statue award is given to bloggers who inspire others with their creative energy and talents no matter whether it be in the form of writing, artwork, design, interesting material, or contributions to the blogger community. When a blogger receives this award, it is considered a special honor and, once presented to you, it is to be passed on to 5 other bloggers who meet the criteria.

These are the rules for keeping the nominations going forward. The newest recipient must:
1) Do a post naming 5 blogs for this award with a link to each blog;
2) Notify each blog you awarded by leaving them a comment;
3) Each award-winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award;
4) The award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the original link of "Arte y Pico" blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award; and,
5) Do a blog post showing these rules.

Trying not to repeat previous nominations, here are my 5 nominees:

Fran of Ramblings blog reflects her passion for politics, her disgust with corpotocracy and war, as well as her excellent artistic taste. While she is currently touring the Giant Redwoods, she has been teasing us about an art piece she is working on that will be posted when complete.

Enigma of Watergate Summer is a muse of rare sensitivity whose blog promotes thoughtful discussion of ways we can mend our world and real life observations of our broken political system -- all that and great musical choices, too!

Mary of Get Your Own has been learning new ceramic techniques and posting the results. Also visit her beautiful My Mosiacs blog (her backsplash Tree-Of-Life is a true back-breaking wonder), and you will not fail to be inspired.

MauiGirl's Meanderings is wonderfully eclectic, with recent posts of a Cape Cod vacation as pondered by Baxter the Cat and his favorite nemesis, a certain family member of the pitbull persuasion. Someday, they will all get to Maui.

Ingrid who posts on Blogger Round Table is a blogger I've only lately come to know and appreciate. She is smart and funny and has traveled and lived around the world, from the Netherlands to Saudi Arabia, to her current life in Austin TX.

There ya go! And may I say, you all look FAAAHBYOOOLUSSS in those gowns, gloves and wings!