Monday, December 29, 2008

Can You DIg It?

On Saturday afternoon, my willfulness and stubborness reached its choking point, and I decided that I would dig my car out of the snow.

It was parked about two blocks away from my house.

"Enoough," I grumbled in my best Type A voice, as I set out with two shovels and steely determination.


It only took half an hour and some nifty raised-on-the-prairies-nothing's-gonna-stop-me driving, but I did it.

Of course. Always knew I would, so there. Ha!

Swung onto the ruts of the street, promptly turned right up the next street so that I could then turn back down to the main road and go about my terribly important business. (I had to return three videos to a store many K. away.)

In less than a third of the way up the second street, I stalled and stuck.

My '93 Mazda, trusty as it is, has a low undercarriage and I was basically riding the snow tracks.

More shovelling, help from a stranger who lived on the street and half an hour later, nothing.


So I walked back towards my house, knowing that I had now effectively blocked a residential street entirely and that if I phoned BCAA and if I ever got through, the wait would be about five hours.


What do I find in the alleyway just a moment later?

But an entire family digging our their van.


So I'll help you dig if you'll help me push.

Done and done.

But just as we start to push my car back, another five or six people come along and join in the fun.

Missions accomplished.

After I returned the videos and got some groceries, I headed back to the hood.

My car is now parked on a busy thoroughfare. I am hoping that it isn't snowplowed in this morning.

It was lovely to see people helping each other in these maddening conditions.

A World Gone Mad

In Victoria, the geniuses who oversee drug addiction problems have struck real gold.

For absurdity and sickness, that is.

Seems they had to close down their site for free needle exchanges for heroin addicts.

So for some time now they've been operating a mobile service.

i.e., Don't worry, Doper. We bring the needles to you.

Small problem.

That leaves thousands of dirty needles unaccounted for.

Which means that the very people who are charged with helping the situation are, in fact, making it worse.

But consider this more fundamental issue.

A man or woman who sincerely believes in his or her own little utterly misguided heart that he/she is doing some good in the world spends his/her day dashing about the city streets on foot or on bicycle trying to find an addict to whom he/she can give a clean needle.

Imagine instead that this same poor fool was scooping addicts off the street to take them to a clean and sober rehab environment.

Oh, what ever is the matter with me?

I forgot.

We don't want to do that.

We want to help people stay stupid and hopeless.

We have a name for this that make it an honorable approach. Harm reduction.

How sick is the delusional person who has this "job?"

The Wise Investor

“Prognostications 2009"

For Immediate Release

Vancouver, BC (December 29, 2009):

It’s time to dust off the crystal ball prognostications for 2009. None are for sure, but here are a few to contemplate:
  • The global recession will continue in all corners of the world. Even China can slide into a rough patch. Commodity prices, like oil, will gravitate to lower lows. Hefty corporate losses will continue.
  • President elect, Barak Obama will inherit a mess. The expectations of him and his team are beyond reach. His approach will be different. Look for the “Obama bounce” in the markets. Reality will set in when investors realize he can only deliver partially.
  • Lower prices and interest rates won’t be sufficient temptation for cashless consumers to loosen their purse strings and incur more debt. Big ticket items, like autos, will struggle heavily. Keep a keen eye on the viability of commercial real estate.
  • Governments will spend more taxpayer money they don’t have on additional wasteful workouts, bailouts and other projects. Government deficits will balloon trying to shore up disappearing jobs.
  • Get used to shrunken automakers. Before they do, they will ask for more assistance. Nobody should be surprised that the loans they’re getting won’t come back to taxpayer coffers.
  • Corporate earnings will soften. The spectre of more layoffs, mortgage defaults, foreclosures and bankruptcies will fuel added turmoil. Weak US financials will continue on the ropes. Finding new capital to replenish their balance sheets will be job one.
  • Conventional wisdom has the second half of 2009 getting better, but it may take longer. While stocks seem like screaming buys, cheap doesn’t always equal value. Watch for market rallies that don’t stick. Not everything is a golden opportunity.
  • There is always an optimistic side to economics. For instance, housing affordability will continue to improve. At least, that will help first time buyers. Another is more responsible lending practises.
Bottom Line. The economic landscape will keep shrinking. Consumers will hang on to their wallets. Follow what’s best for the personal situation. Don’t jump willy nilly onto hot bandwagons du jour.

Stay simple. Cash will be king. Allocate it slowly and methodically within your well-designed game plan. Make decisions based on fact and reason. Never on emotion.

No investing strategy I know has you making all your moves in one year. So, keep your priorities straight. Remember that your investing is a marathon, not a sprint. Slow and steady gets you there.

Be on the lookout for market sentiment to change one day. I can’t tell when, but until then, tread carefully. Very carefully.

Your comments are welcome.

Adrian Mastracci
Portfolio Manager, R.F.P.

KCM Wealth Management Inc.
Fee-Only" Portfolio Managers & Financial Advisors
Suite 1500, Box 1078, 885 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6C 3E8
Tel: (604) 739-4500 Fax: (604) 739-0234
E-mail: Website:

Voices From the American Front Lines

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The following is taken from "Crooks & Liars," a website which I peruse every morning. The text itself originated on a blog...follow the trail here...

I do not live or work in the USA.

I have had a ringside seat to the economic downturn this year. It is not an abstraction to me. The folks at the bottom are always the first to feel the pinch, when it comes. Clients of the agency I work at come through our doors every day requesting assistance with basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter and medications. As the year has progressed and New York State has chosen to repeatedly victimize its most vulnerable citizens, it has become more difficult to help people meet these needs. I have visited food banks with empty shelves, been told clients were ineligible for help when I knew they were and had to challenge these decisions. I have sat with clients while their applications for public assistance were reviewed by fraud investigators at social services. Our local social services department actually hired fraud investigators at the same time that it was laying off child protective workers demonstrating conclusively where our values lie and how genuinely mean spirited we are as a people. At the federal level Social Security routinely denies people eligible for benefits in the hopes that they will not reapply. Many people who receive benefits must hire a lawyer before social security will concede that they are indeed eligible. As the resources have become more limited, the level of scrutiny and inhumanity has risen accordingly.

I have, of course read about the rising unemployment numbers and the ensuing uptick in applicants for public assistance and food stamps nationwide like everyone else. It seems the chickens of Bill Clinton's (Best moderate Republican president ever)welfare reform are finally coming home to roost. We always knew that the flaw of his plan was an economy without jobs and here we are. The reform has no provision for an unemployment rate like we are experiencing now. Once again, our policy in practice serves to punish most harshly children and the elderly. Perhaps, it is time to repeal the child labor laws and begin allowing them to work 12 hour days again.

For nearly 30 years we have done our best to dismantle the safety net for the poor and struggling among us. I keep praying that we have reached the end of this folly. At 42, these policies are what I have known my entire work life. I dream about social service programs and rules that would treat people like human beings, rather than as an undesirable applicant to be culled out. I want so badly for us as a nation to stop punishing people for being poor, or elderly or a child of poor people. This holiday season was hellish as I watched scores of our clients navigate the realities of a holiday with nothing but further grinding poverty. Some days I am just weary from the strain of witnessing the suffering that goes on around me. It takes a toll that is more than physical, it eats away at the soul to see people ask for so little and receive far less.

As I contemplate how to pry a few dollars from these systems designed to humiliate and degrade my clients, already struggling with being social outcasts, chronic illness, drug addiction and mental illness I sigh audibly. I read of billion dollar bailouts and disappearing pallettes of cash as I ponder how to help a family with $400.00 so they will not be homeless in three days. I am so very tired.