Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Debunking the rumor that the Community Reinvestment Act caused the subprime lending failure

I've heard countless times during the election cycle that our financial woes are all rooted in the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). http://www.fdic.gov/regulations/laws/rules/6500-2515.html

It is my position that this is not the case. The CRA while providing a requirement for regulated financial institutions to provide it's services (including credit) to the communities in which they are chartered to do business. NOWHERE in the CRA does it mandate making irresponsible loans.

First off, have you actually read the CRA?. It repeatedly mentions that the regulated institutions make the loans within the bounds of "consistent with the safe and sound operation" of said institution.

Nowhere does it suggest that loans be given to those who are unable to pay, or that loans should be made beyond the means of the applicant. The purpose was to give those poorer communities the same opportunity as those in more affluent regions. This stemmed from a practice called "redlining" that was popular in the 60s and 70s. (Redlining is the practice of denying or increasing the cost of services such as banking, insurance, access to jobs, access to health care, or even supermarkets to residents in certain often racially determined areas. )

In SEC. 802:
"It is the purpose of this title to require each appropriate Federal financial supervisory agency to use its authority when examining financial institutions, to encourage such institutions to help meet the credit needs of the local communities in which they are chartered consistent with the safe and sound operation of such institutions."

In SEC 804:
"SEC. 804. (a) IN GENERAL.--In connection with its examination of a financial institution, the appropriate Federal financial supervisory agency shall-- (1) assess the institution's record of meeting the credit needs of its entire community, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, consistent with the safe and sound operation of such institution; and "

Second, the CRA specifically targets "regulated financial institutions", which by definition in the act are "insured depository institutions"; ie: those commercial banks covered by FDIC.
This holds no bearing on the non-bank mortgage companies, which aren't regulated under the CRA. Yet these non-bank mortgages account for a significant percentage of all of the failed sub-prime loans.

Ultimately, the law isn't what made the institutions give out these loans, it was generated from profit motive. Greed is what drove the problem, pure and simple. Now, with the bailout, we've given Wall Street greed yet another bonus check with tax-payer sponsored Wall Street Welfare.

Nice try Mr. Conservative. Next time, try checking your facts.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Offshore Windfarms at Last

Looks like somebody is actually listening about the cry for US Energy Independence. It's the first step down a long road, but seems a sound idea.

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/03/new-jersey-approves-offshore-wind-farm/index.html?hp

For those of us who are land locked, look at the Pickens Plan.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What Becomes a Leader Most?

I read the following letter to the editor in Time Magazine print edition, then went and found it online to get the text. (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1838755,00.html)

David Von Drehle's cover story "The Five Faces of Barack Obama" assured me that Obama would be a good choice for President [Sept. 1]. The reason: he has the curiosity to look deeply into controversial issues. I am 80 years old and was raised in Wisconsin, where folks rarely considered other perspectives. I opted to live in Alaska from 1949 and on into statehood. I can well appreciate Obama's ability to examine an idea or policy that has been suitable and decide to move on if it no longer fits. This ability escapes most Americans. Sadly, the very positive attributes Obama possesses appear to be fodder for voters to doubt his abilities. The only salvation I can see, if any, will be when the older folks die off and the young realize our mistakes and embrace a candidate like Barack Obama. Rita Ihly, BELLINGHAM, WASH.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Shallow Grave (no dead people)

What a day it's been. Woke up the morning as usual and hit the shower. When I got out and saw Raine, I knew something was wrong. She told me Ricky the goat was dead. He's been sick for a couple of weeks and we couldn't get him to shake it off. So Josh and I got to dig a grave before work/school. Of course, we didn't have a shovel, so we had to find one to borrow first.

Two hours late to work and sore from the digging, but at least the day is back on track. Four PM rolls around and I got a call that Josh had fallen and hurt his ankle... they thought it was broken. So I took off work and came home. It looked bad, so I took him to the ER. Sure enough, broken fibula. Could require surgery, but they want him to see a specialist for further diagnosis.

While there, I saw some unique small town character.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Where else do they get their medical cabinets at Sears? Notice the two rolls of "guaze" on the cabinet?

So all in all, a crazy day, but at least there will be another one tomorrow.... and did I mention 3 day weekend?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

CNG - a month's view

Well, I'm home, I've got the truck, and it runs fine. Looks like eBay came through this time. I'm still a bit leary about making eBay purchases though. Now, what about this crazy CNG thing?

Let me start with the one shortcoming I've found. I was semi-aware of this from my research, but after actually living with it, I think it's a reasonable trade-off for the advantages.

The big thing is getting "enough" CNG. To explain this, you have to understand the fueling process. CNG tanks are high-pressure systems. The tank is pressurized to 3600 PSI (full). Natural Gas as its is transmitted to homes/etc is relatively low pressure (150 PSI I think). There-in lies the problem. You can't pressurize a 150 PSI feed directly to 3600 PSI (the pipe can't keep up), so you have to pre-fill a large storage tank at the fill station. Compressors take it off the pipeline and pressurize this big tank to 3600. The fueling pumps then fill your vehicle from this storage tank.

The problem is that when you have vehicle after vehicle filling up, the use the pressure in the tank faster than the compressors can replentish it. So the 3rd or 4th or 10th vehicles get progressively less pressure at fill-up. I've gotten fills as low as 1800 PSI. (3-4 gge). This leaves me sitting with around 1/2 a tank and the pump won't dispense more. More typical is to get around 2300-2500 PSI. The end result is that if I don't leave Tulsa with at least a 2300 PSI fill, I probably won't have enough CNG to get all the way back to the station. There have been a few mornings where about the time I get to Sand Springs, it cuts over to regular gasoline.

Still, I'm saving money. I've used 1 filled up with regular gas once since I've been home from the trip (a bit over a month), and am averaging about $5.50/day on CNG. I've still got 3/4 a tank of regular gas since that fillup. My estimation is that I'll use 1 tank of gasoline a month. Sure beats the heck out of 2 tanks a week!

My savings won't be quite what I expected if I'm forced to use regular gas, but the other benefits are worth consideration too. I'm not putting money in OPECs pocket at nearly the rate I was... my money is staying in Oklahoma. I've got a truck, which means I'm not dependent upon other people to haul stuff for me. I'm contributing to a cleaner environment as well.

Overall, I'm happy with the choice. If I had NG available at my land, I'd seriously look into one of those home filling systems, and would never burn a drop of regular gas unless I was going out of state.

Take a look at this site

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Our Western Journey

The trip started with a rocky bump. Friday afternoon, Chris picked me up from work and took me to the airport to pick up the rental car for the trip to OKC. Alamo told me that in order to drop the car off in OKC, there would be an additional charge of $177 (above the $46 we'd already paid). Priceline refused to help work the problem out. Eventually Raine was able to get them to issue a refund, but left me stranded at Tulsa International. Budget rent a car to the rescue. For $68 total, I was able to get a Mercury Grand Marquis one way to OKC.

Saturday morning, 5am, we are on the road to the aiport. Catch the plane and Josh gets his first flight. Now he's considering becoming a pilot. Finally in Arizona an hour late after delay in Salt Lake, we meet the seller and the transfer of the truck goes smoothly. Check it over and it looks like we made a good buy. Off to the CNG station to fill up for the trip. Strike One, Strike Two, Strike Three, we're out. All of the CNG stations we found were behind security gates. So we finally head off to California burning our $76.00 worth of regular gasoline purchased in Phoenix. A few hours later, we're in Indio, CA, where we find our first public accessable CNG. We made it to Disneyland on CNG from there. Truck is still running great. By the time we got there and checked in, the guy was there with our Disney tickets, then off to bed.
Sunday morning, off to the beach in the morning for a quick swim, then off to Disney for the rest of the day. The boys loved the beach. Then we got to Disney, What an experience! The place really brings out the child in you. We had a great time, and to top it all off, we met Kerry King, one of the founding members of Slayer. I was completely blown away by how cool he was. We ended up closing the park down and were one of the last people out. I'd recommend a trip to Disney, regardless of your age.
PICS:

Monday, we hit the beach again, then made our way to Vegas. The goal was to get there after dark, so the boys first impression would be of the lights. It worked, 30 miles from town, we could see light in the sky. It looked like the sun was rising in the distance. Finally got there and found the Excalibur. Wasn't hard to get to at all, and the place was amazing! I was blown away that we got the room as cheap as we did.
PICS:
Tuesday morning, it's up and off to explore Vegas. Tried to find the CNG station, and the directions I had were horrible. I stopped at a 7-11 where I was actually given the line "You can't get there from here"... Sent me down the road a few miles, and directions from there.... so, didn't I really get there from here? Anyway, those directions were totally bogus, so stopped at another store... the guy who worked there used to drive a taxi, so he finally got me off in the right direction. Found the address, only to find it was security gated. Frustration begins... buy regular gasoline and headed back to the hotel. That night it's off to explore the strip.

Grabbed tickets for "The Duece" (doubledecker bus) and headed down the strip for downtown. The Freemont street experience is pretty cool. Its a pedestrian mall in downtown with a twist... it's got the worlds largest video screen. OVERHEAD. The sucker is HUGE... 30-40 feet wide (however wide the street is) and several blocks long. Cut a small video of it over here: Freemont Street Experience . By the time were done there, it was late and we headed back to the hotel.
PICS:
Wednesday morning, it's on the road again. Made a quick call to Haycock Petroleum (the CNG vendor) and found out that the address listed is their office, and the public pump is actually around the corner on another street. Drive back over there (it's actually only 3 miles from the hotel) and got filled up with CNG. Now, it's off to Hoover Dam. Pretty amazing feat of engineering. You can't imagine how TALL the sucker is until you actually see it. Next, on the road again, destination Grand Canyon. Drive a long time and finally get there, just a short time before sunset (perfect timing). We spent some time there and were absolutely astonished by the beauty of the place. Let me tell you that EVERYTHING you've ever heard about the canyon won't prepare you for actually standing there. It really gives you a sense of how insignificant you are in the whole scope of things. There just aren't words to describe how BIG it is. Or how amazing the colors are. I took a ton of pictures, but they really don't do it justice. If you are ever out that way, you owe it to yourself to see this amazing place. By now, the sun has set, and it's off to Flagstaff to find the hotel. A totally non-impressive hotel, but it was a place to sleep... ironically, it was our most expensive hotel room on the whole trip ($73).
PICS:
Up and at it early again, destination Meteor Crater then on to Winslow Az. and finally Santa Fe (and eventually up to Taos).
The meteor crater is very cool. It's hard to imagine, that a meteor roughly 150' in diameter (1/2 the length of a football field) made such a big crater. Really makes you think about those meteor movies. The sucker is 4100 feet across and nearly 600' deep!
Well I'm standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona
And such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford
Slowing down to take a look at me


PICS:
Next, off to Santa Fe, then up to Taos, where we check into our vacation home rental LATE. It's after midnight by the time we find the place. Can you say disappointment? The place was nice, but there was no air conditioning. We were somewhat miserable that night, but made the best of it. Up the next morning early, and its off to Bandelier National Monument. Another amazing day spent hiking. This is home of the Ancestral Pueblo Indians. They lived in the caves in the side of the hills. We had a great day hike that culminated with a climb to the Ceremonial Cave, a 140' ascention up 4 ladders. What a view that provided!
All too soon, it was back down the trail and off to the house again. Another night in NO-AC. At least it cools off quickly in the mountains at night. With windows open and fans blowing, it wasn't too bad. If we'd had to stay there during the day though, it would have been miserable. OH well, at least it made it easy to get on the road early the next morning... Homeward bound at last. We'd had a great week, but were ready to get home or bust. Did I mention Taos > home is a LONG drive? We finally climbed into bed around 4am. Vacation done, tired and looking at one day to recoup before back to the grindstone.
PICS:
Would I do it again? You bet!, in a new york minute. Would I change anything??? Who knows, it was all so fun, but I think I might cut some out, so we didn't feel so rushed at every destination.
So long for now.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Google Maps vs Mapquest

As we are finalizing the travel arrangements for the last leg of our trip, I find myself weighing the two tools. It started with a discussion of the route we'd take home from Taos, NM. Raine kept mentioning driving through the Oklahoma panhandle. I google mapped it and sure enough, it said go back to I-40. Raine said mapquest it, so I did. Sure enough, it maps it out going up through Oklahoma panhandle. 96 miles shorter!

So now, I have to know if MQ is actually smarter than Google...

Everything in me prefers Google. The user interface is so much easier to use, from the ability to scroll in/out on the map with the scroll wheel to it's visual intuitiveness.

On the other hand, I've always hated mapquest. The visual appearance of the site makes my stomach churn. Ok, maybe not quite that bad, but it's painful to use. Some of the specific things I found and didn't like:
* No memory for autocomplete of previously used destinations.
* The over/under layout of the map vs the directions. Side by Side FTW!
* If you build a map with the routes turned off (so it doesn't show detailed driving directions), the time/mileage estimation is WAY off.
* TOO much advertising. None is much better than lots.
* The real deal killer for me is the max 10 stops on a trip. I couldn't map my entire trip out in one map. I had to split it up into 2 maps, then combine them for an overall trip plan. That's completely lame.

End Result for the entire Trip:
Google Map
2,268 miles - 1 day, 13 hours

Mapquest
2,172.39 miles - 1 day 11 hours 56 minutes.

Mapquest wins the mathmatical analysis with a savings of 96 miles and an hour.

In the frustration category, Google wins hands down. I plotted the trip out in about 5 minutes. MQ on the other hand, either map took me 10+ minutes to plot.

Other than the one 96 mile difference on Taos home, they ended up with the same travel route.

The final decision was based on economics. Take the I-40 route, and I'll be back on CNG in Elk City, most if not all the way home. Google still wins for me but I'm glad Raine will be doublechecking me on MQ. End result, I'll save money taking the low road.

Monday, June 30, 2008

CNG Video from MSN

Closing the Barn Door

Unfortunately, the cows already got out. To be more specific, I installed an electric fence past weekend. It started a few weeks ago, our goats learned to escape the fence. As a solution, we bought an electric fence charger and accessories. It sat in the utility room for a week, waiting for the weekend. We've had escapes in the past, but it was never a concern, as they stayed nearby. The biggest disaster was that they ate Raine's rosebush.

Imagine the regret when I opened the door saturday morning to see a goat standing on the hood of the car... and it's a borrowed car at that. Chased him off the hood only to turn around in time to watch another one jump up there. I don't know what it is about a Ford Escort that makes it appealing to climb on, but none of the other vehicles made the attraction. Needless to say, Dad's hood is a bit scuffed up, but I think rubbing compound will take care of it.

The electric fence works good and the goats aren't even considering the fence as an escape route anymore.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I bought an alternative fuel vehicle


It was a hot wednesday afternoon, and gasoline was $3.79 per gallon, so I bought a CNG Ford F-150. It's a 2002 model, and I bought it on eBay. Here's the auction. I'm not sure how long the link will actually work, but it's here for now. http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWAX%3AIT&viewitem=&item=200232166474

Actually, this is something that we've been looking at for some time, and as gasoline prices continue to skyrocket, it seems more and more like the right decision. Currently, CNG is $0.91 (that's right, ninety-one cents) per gallon.

With a 42.5 mile one-way commute, my Saturn Vue was using 3.4 gallons of gas per day minimum. That's $12.89 per day or $65 per week. The truck will use less than $25 per week. That's a savings of over $2000.00 per year! This will pay for the additional cost of the CNG system in very short order.

Did I mention the truck is in Phoenix, Az? We're jumping on a plane on 7/12 and flying out to pick it up. We're going to turn it into a regular vacation extravaganza. :) From Phoenix, we're going to head west to Anaheim. We'll spend the night sightseeing, and the following morning (Sunday), it's off to Disneyland for the day. We'll spend a 2nd night there and depart the following morning for Las Vegas. A night on the town there, probably just walking the strip and seeing the sights, and taking advantage of the cheap meals.

The next morning (tuesday), it's off to Hoover Dam for a quick look-see. Once we know it's a bunch of concrete and water (that will be WAY cool to see), it's back to Phoenix as our base of operations. We'll visit the Grand Canyon on wednesday and whatever else suits our fancy while we are there. Once we're Phoenix'd out, it's time to tank up the CNG and head east. Did I mention I'm glad the truck is a bi-fuel? That means when I run out of CNG (nearly 1000 miles of desert with no CNG coming up), I just flip a switch on the dash and I'm burning regular gasoline until Oklahoma.

Next stop, Winslow, Az. How can we pass up the chance to stand on the street corner. Maybe a girl in a flatbed ford will slow down to take a look at us. A few photos and it's off to run as far as our rear-ends can stand. Once we hit Albuquerque, we know it's just over 10 hours till home. We'll go as far as we can after that and find a hotel. Friday morning (7/18), it's time to make the last leg home.

So begins the mighty CNG adventure...

to be continued


A map of our proposed trip

u2b

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