Clever Convicts

Haven’t people in the Vermont prison system watched The Shawshank Redemption?

In Vermont, prisoners are responsible for producing the decals that are attached to the sides of the patrol cars.  The decals include some snow-capped mountains, a cow, and a pine tree, among other items — about what you would expect for Vermont.

One enterprising prisoner — perhaps named Andy? — decided it might be a good jest to tinker with the design.  So, he went into the computer file from which the decals were printed and changed one of the cow’s spots to give it a distinctly porcine appearance, no doubt humming Piggies from the Beatles’ White Album as he did so.  The State Police used the cars with the decals for months before somebody noticed the unwanted modification.

In view of this incident, the Vermont prison system might want to check to be sure that no prisoners are performing bookkeeping services for wardens or asking for a rock hammer and posters of Rita Hayworth and Raquel Welch.

Financial Armageddon – Reader Discretion is Advised

In August of last year I read an interesting book called The Great Depression Ahead by Harry Dent and posted the following blog. Dent’s book summarized that demographic changes and technology cycles predict business and economic trends and that between now and 2014 the stock market will correct to around 3,500 (the market today is trading at around 12,900).

A patron told me about another book called Aftershock, written by three economists, David Wiedemer, Robert Wiedemer and Cindy Spitzer who had correctly predicted much of what happened during the financial downturn of 2008 in their first book, America’s Bubble Economy – Profit When it Pops.

In Aftershock, these economists estimate that the United States governments credit limit is between $15 to $20 trillion (currently we owe $15 trillion) and that once the we reach our credit limit foreign investors will stop or dramatically begin to reduce their lending to us causing failed treasury auctions.

The authors seem to think that this may happen sometime around 2013 or 2014 which tracks closely to what Mr. Dent is predicting. When this happens they expect a “triple double digit economy” with double digit unemployment (they mention it could be as high as 40%), double digit inflation and double digit interest rates. Gas prices will soar, government services will need to be cut, real estate will go much lower and the stock market will tank.

Is it just a coincidence that the Federal Reserve has announced that they will be keeping interest rates at almost zero until the end of 2014 ? I recall Ron Paul saying in one of the Republican debates that “the Federal Reserve must really be worried about something to be keeping rates this low for this long”.

The authors suggest that there is very little that can be done to avoid what’s about to happen because political leaders don’t have the willpower to do something until it is too late. They recommend lightening up significantly on stocks, buying gold and keeping a lot of cash on hand.

Of course no one can predict the future and hopefully what’s mentioned above doesn’t occur, but it might be worth taking some precautions just in case.

Dodging A Late-Night Bullet

I hate college basketball games that start at 9 p.m.  After last night’s close shave against the Purdue Boilermakers, I’m guessing the Ohio State Buckeyes feel the same way.  The Buckeyes barely pulled out a win, 87-84, to keep their home court winning streak alive and stay atop the Big Ten.

After a series of games in which they shut down their opponents, the Buckeyes were porous indeed against Purdue. The Boilermakers’ fine coach, Matt Painter, figured out a high ball screen approach that consistently got Purdue players opportunities for easy layups and dunks or open three-pointers, and his players executed.  D.J. Byrd and Kelsey Barlow, in particular, seemed unstoppable — but the Buckeyes also seemed to be confused and a step behind on defense.

Offensively, the Buckeyes played a good game, ran well-designed set plays, and crashed the boards to get second-chance points.  With Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft on the bench with foul trouble, the Buckeyes rode senior William Buford, and he carried them to victory with 29 points.  Equally important, the Buckeyes performed under pressure in a close game, sank free throws when they needed to, and executed with less than two minutes to go — which was a good thing, because Purdue continued to drain three-pointers until the very end.

The college basketball season is a long one.  As it progresses, teams can improve or regress, or be distracted by looking around at how others are doing.  Lots of Ohio State fans and TV commentators have talked recently about how the Buckeyes stack up against other highly ranked teams. Last night’s game just shows that such talk is pointless.  Ohio State doesn’t have Kentucky or Syracuse on its schedule. Instead, it’s only going to be playing Big Ten teams for a while — and as last night’s great Purdue performance showed, the Big Ten teams present plenty of challenges.

I’m sure Coach Thad Matta will be talking to the Buckeyes about learning from last night’s close call, redoubling their efforts on defense, and focusing exclusively on their next Big Ten game and giving a better performance.  And a better performance will be needed, too, because the Michigan State Spartans, who are battling the Buckeyes for the Big Ten lead, are coming to town on Saturday.

What To Do With A Road Rage Warning?

The most recent edition of This Week New Albany — our local suburban newspaper — has a story about a road rage incident in our community and a warning from the police.

The incident involved two cars stopped at an intersection.  The drivers exchanged words — the police don’t know exactly what was said — then one of the drivers showed the other a gun.  When the threatened driver backed up, the driver with the gun leaned out of his car window and fired a shot.  Fortunately, he missed.

The article states that the police “cautioned people to be aware of letting verbal altercations escalate.”  No kidding!  But isn’t the big challenge of a road rage incident that you are dealing with a driver who is enraged and not thinking clearly?  No rational person would respond to any comment by a stranger in a nearby car by firing a shot.  How can you possibly predict whether the person who cut you off, or who you honked your horn at because he hasn’t moved after the light turns green, has just lost his job, broken up with his girlfriend, or experienced some other action that has driven him over the edge of reason?

I don’t argue with other drivers, and I try to avoid eye contact with people I think are driving erratically.  However, you can’t drive safely without interacting to some extent with other cars — and their potentially unbalanced drivers.  You just have to keep your fingers crossed and hope that you don’t run across someone who has lost it, is armed, and is ready to act out his frustrations.

The Leading Republican Blandidate

Reeling now from three losses in the Minnesota, Missouri and the Colorado primaries it will be interesting to see how and if Mitt Romney can re-invent himself before he faces the president in November as the nominee.

Last night’s results showed that Romney is getting less of the vote in 2012 than he did in 2008 when he ran against John McCain and as high as 40% of those voting would like to see another candidate enter the race.

It’s not hard to understand why, bank accounts in Switzerland, the Caymen Islands and Bermuda, paying a tax rate of 14%, a $10,000 bet, a Massachusetts job creation ranking of forty seventh, a suspect job creation record at Bain Capital (does anyone really believe that Bain was trying to create jobs ?), expunged records while governor not to mention misconstrued verbal gaffes about firing people and the poor that make him seem heartless, insensitive and out of touch.

With the Republican primary only a month away the last poll Real Clear Politics showed for Ohio had Gringrich at 26%, Romney at 25%, Santorum at 22% and Paul at 11%. Santorum will most likely get more notice after his wins last night. An even more alarming statistic for his campaign is his favorable rating in Ohio stands at 28% and his unfavorable rating is 60%. I’m sure that his prior comments about the auto industry haven’t helped him much in that regard.

The next four weeks will be very interesting indeed, not to mention the next nine months. He’s still not told me what he’s for and he’s got some explaining to do if he’s going to get my vote !