Monday, September 20, 2010

Appraisers and Fee Splitting with AMCs.

I just sent the letter below via snail mail to Sandra Braunstein, who is working with others in her department of the Federal Reserve Board considering the portion of the Dodd/Frank Financial Reform Legislation dealing with home appraisal fees. We'll see if I get any response and/or if any response I receive will be anything other than a form letter.

For non-appraisers looking this over, this likely makes little sense and, doubtless is of little concern to you. However, if anyone who reads this happens to be an appraiser, or is in some manner connected to the mortgage lending industry - including any working for appraisal management companies - I'd appreciate it if you would read this through and make any comments - pro or con - which you may have. Especially let me know if you disagree or find any egregious errors in my letter. I won't mind hearing from you if you agree either. :)

Also, I would encourage other appraisers to send letters off to Ms. Braunstein in the hope of strengthening our position as regards AMC fee splitting. I think it's well past the time when we should stop being given the shaft by AMCs. Note that I obtained Ms. Braunstein's name and mailing address from the latest on-line edition of Working RE.

Sandra Braunstein
Division of Consumer and
Community Affairs
Federal Reserve Board
1709 New York Avenue
Washington D.C. 20006

Ms. Braunstein:

I am writing this regarding the consideration currently being given to the portion of the Dodd/Frank Financial Reform Legislation concerning residential appraisal fees and the bill's language which indicates that those fees should be "customary and reasonable."

I agree with TAVMA (Title/Appraisal Vendor Management Association) that the language is vague. However, Appraisal Management Companies or AMCs are standing in opposition to any regulation or directives concerning appraisal fees.

First, a bit of history: AMCs are a relatively new phenomenon. They first appeared either in the late 1970s or sometime in the 1980s. They developed in response to changes in the mortgage lending industry - mainly its movement away from generally local and locally owned banks and other mortgage lenders to regional and national institutions. As it stands today, there are few local lending institutions. As this movement increased, it became less desirable for lenders to maintain local offices and staff and contacts with local appraisers. During the past 25 years or so, it gradually became more common for lenders to seek the services of AMCs from which to order appraisals. That, in and of itself, is fine.

However, in the early years, the change to AMCs was slow. Old habits die hard. It was often a hard sell. The chief problem was, of course, cost. Lenders did not want to pay any more for an appraisal ordered through an AMC than if they had contacted the appraiser directly. "No problem," said the AMCs. "We’ll simply take our portion out of the appraisal fees you are currently paying."

Observing this formula AMCs generally made contact with primarily younger or more accurately, less experienced appraisers who were perhaps having difficulty establishing a clientele. Many such appraisers were willing (if not happy) to accept lower fees in order to obtain work. More established appraisers were outraged at this. Fees for residential appraisals had developed over many years and were, for the most part, reflective of the time and expertise required to properly and professionally complete assignments. The lower fees being paid by AMCs were rightly seen as a threat to an appraiser's ability to be competitive, to continue to do professional quality work, and frankly, to make a living. This has been an ongoing fight within the appraisal industry for years.

The advent of the HVCC (the Home Valuation Code of Conduct) originally negotiated between Fannie Mae and the State of New York and then adopted nationwide, effectively mandated that lenders could no longer have direct contact with appraisers which then had the consequent effect of opening the flood gates for AMCs. When the HVCC officially went into effect in May of 2009, many appraisers literally lost all of their clientele overnight. They were left to scramble about, searching for and signing on with AMCs in the hope of getting work. Many gave it up and left the business entirely. There are today, fewer licensed or certified residential appraisers nationwide than at any time since the early days of nationally mandated licensing in the early 1990s.

What it comes down to is what constitutes "customary and reasonable" fees? Obviously, the AMCs want that figure to reflect what they generally pay appraisers for their work. The question then is: Why should the appraiser be expected to take less for the same work ordered by AMCs than he or she was normally receiving directly from lenders?

The services provided by AMCs do nothing to enhance the appraiser's condition. The AMCs would argue that they provide a major work source. That is a strawman argument as, if AMCs did not exist, lenders would still require appraisals. The work would still be there.

The fact is that ALL of the benefits of services provided by AMCs accrue to the lender. Lenders using AMCs, both before and since the HVCC, were and are provided the convenience of using just one or perhaps two or three AMCs as sources for most or all of their appraisal needs rather than maintaining long lists of appraisers across the country. As time passed, the AMCs developed reviewing capabilities which had the effect of reducing the work load for lenders. They could either eliminate staff and/or redirect their efforts in other, perhaps more profitable, endeavors. Again, all of these and other services which AMCs provide benefit only the lender. Why then should the appraiser be expected to pay for these services out of his or her fee?

It should be noted that some AMCs often receive as much as 60% or more of the total fee collected from the lender for an appraisal leaving what is often far less than half of the fee for the appraiser - the individual who actually performs the work.

It is my opinion, and one that is, I believe, shared by many in the industry, that if lenders elect to use AMCs (and it is still technically an election, not a mandate) that any monies paid to AMCs should be a separate fee, not connected to the appraisal itself. It is the appraiser who performs the inspection, who performs the research, who completes the report, and who is primarily liable for its conclusions. The lender should pay for services received. The days of "fee splitting" should end.

I understand in your capacity your primary concern is rightly for consumers, with what is best for them, and perhaps, what is best for the housing and mortgage lending industry as a whole. I also understand that appraisal fees are of little concern to the average mortgagor except insofar as they are obligated to pay them. But, there are other considerations.

Recent surveys conducted by various appraisal organizations and publications, of which I expect you are aware, have found that many appraisers feel that quality and reliability of appraisals have declined since the implementation of the HVCC. This decline is largely owing to lower fees with AMCs often awarding assignments to the lowest bidder, coupled with pressures on appraisers brought to bear by AMCs for quick turn-arounds of reports. Completed reports are considered due often as little as 24 hours after the inspection which doesn't allow for careful consideration of assignments. Well considered and accurate appraisals are vital to the current and future health of the mortgage and housing industries. A bit of justice regarding appraisal fees could be a small, but not insignificant step toward that goal.



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Honey Nut Clusters - Redux!

As some may know, I have waged an on-going, and oft-times fruitless effort to find what has become my favorite breakfast food - General Mills' Honey Nut Clusters cereal. I have written, I think, at least three separate articles here in this regard. This, then may be number four.

Someone recently added a comment to one of my earlier "Clusters" posts stating that he (or she) had heard that GM had discontinued production of Honey Nut Clusters. Well, the latest information I received is that is NOT the case. I took it upon myself to once again contact GM and get the latest 'scoop' on Clusters.

According to the good folks at General Mills, they STILL make Honey Nut Clusters. I received essentially the same response to the same query a couple of years ago. They went on to say that shelf space in groceries is limited, and that the various grocery chains and individual stores must make the hard decisions as to what products they provide for sale. I find that a bit disingenuous in that the average cereal aisle in most of the larger grocery chains runs for about a city block with what seems literally hundreds of choices. It just seems that these stores could come up with the 8 or 9 inches needed to accommodate most cereal boxes for one little row of Clusters, but alas, apparently not. They have no trouble carrying volumes of "Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs," and their many variants which our increasingly pudgy and rotten toothed kids eat by the barrel full, much to the chagrin of nutritionists and dentists.

As I noted some time ago, I happened to find Honey Nut Clusters at a local Meijer store. I was thrilled and made periodic trips there usually buying 2 or 3 boxes at a time. No more. Meijer stopped carrying Clusters a few months back.

There remains only one store anywhere in the Indianapolis market where I can still get a fix for my Clusters 'Jones;' that being the Safeway store at 56th St. & Illinois on the north side of Indy. As it happens, I am a real estate appraiser, and I drive all around central Indiana about everyday. I find myself near the Safeway store probably a couple times a month. Other Clusters aficionados may not be so fortunate. If any other stores around here carry Clusters, I haven't found it or them. I even tried another Meijer store to no avail. I also filled out a product request card  at our local Kroger store, which is where we normally shop, but never received a reply - and NO Honey Nut Clusters on the shelf! I recently filled out another such card. We shall see. Just as a suggestion, some of you Clusters junkies might try bugging your local grocer - fill out a few of those cards or whatever. You might have more luck at an independent or small chain store than at one of the gargantuan monolithic monster chains.

I believe Honey Nut Clusters can be purchased on-line through Amazon and perhaps other sites, but you must purchase an entire case at a cost of around $65. for what I believe is a dozen boxes. That comes down to $5.41 a box plus shipping. I think I pay around $4.75 per box at Safeway. They are, in any event, kinda pricey. But, hey, who cares when it comes to eating all that crunchy, honey, nutty, flakey goodness, right?

One not initiated to the wonders of Honey Nut Clusters might deservedly wonder what all the fuss is about? Well, just let me tell you...uh, not much really. There is really nothing particularly spectacular about Honey Nut Clusters. Yet, they are like anything people get a hankering for. For some it's beer - perhaps a certain brand of beer. For others, maybe it's some kind of chips, or chocolate, say specifically Godiva, or maybe just a good old Snickers bar. I'm not much of a beer drinker, but I certainly can joyously eat most any kind of chips and most any kind of chocolate. Yet none of that comes down to a specific item for me. Nothing does, but Honey Nut Clusters. Go figure. :)


Monday, August 30, 2010

Hooray for Poetry and Hooray for My Son

Some of you few who venture here may have noticed the cellpoems link I have provided on the right side of this blog page. cellpoems is a web site dedicated to publishing short poems - poems limited to the number of characters one can use in a single "Twitter" submission. The site has a steadily growing membership and has received submissions from a number of well known poets including Billy Collins, the former US Poet Laureate among many others.

cellpoems recently was the recipient of a $2500 grant from the National Book Foundation. A goodly  portion of this grant has gone into a redesign of the site which is still underway, plus the addition of more efficient means by which poems can be received and distributed to the site's members. (All of this is free BTW.)

cellpoems is the brainchild of my younger son, Chris and submissions are evaluated by him and other poets. They are pretty tough to please.

A couple of weeks ago Chris received word that he has been chosen one of five winners of the Ruth Lilly  Prize for Poetry given yearly to young poets across the country. The award is sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and its publication, Poetry Magazine. The prize includes a fellowship award of $15000. The poems submitted by Chris and the four other winners will be published in the November issue of Poetry Magazine. There were more than a thousand entrants. The submissions were evaluated by a group of esteemed poets, professors, etc. blindly - that is no names were attached to the works they judged so that only the poems and not the poets were being evaluated.

Ruth Lilly, a member of the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical family, passed away a few years ago leaving the Poetry Foundation and Poetry Magazine two hundred million dollars through her will. This gift raised a number of eyebrows at the time, but poetry was, perhaps her main love in life. Ironically, Ms. Lilly submitted a number of poems to the magazine over the years, none of which were published.

The four other winners include Brooklyn Copeland (also) of Indianapolis, Miriam Bird Greenburg of rural Texas, Nate King of Wellesley, MA, and Dora Malech of Maryland.

Note that a lifetime poetry award which includes a $100,000 prize was awarded to 94 year old Eleanor Ross Taylor of Charlottesville, VA

Kudos and WOOHOOs! to Chris and all of the other winners.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Karaoke Night Out

As this is the first time in 3 or 4 years all four Shannons have been together, we celebrated last nite by hitting a bit of the karaoke circuit. We kinda did two extremes: First, we hit Marty's at Carson Square. Low key. Kinda redneck. Lotta Country.  Preferring to keep things at a highbrow level, I started off with Jim Croce's "Workin at the Car Wash Blues" Chris followed with Rod Stewart's version of "Reason to Believe." I came back with Jimmy Buffet's "Come Monday," a song I quickly realized I didn't know so well as I thought. Nick wrapped up our adventure at Marty's with a kick ass rendition of John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." Sadly, we could not prevail upon Jo to give it a whirl.

We left Marty's with our thanks and headed north, passing downtown Indy, and winding up on Illinois St at Downtown Olley's. Olley's is very Gay. It was also really fun. There was a much longer list of singers signed up, and we waited some time before our turns came along. Showing my age, I led off with Buddy Holly's "That'll Be The Day" which garnered about as much approbation as anyone else's efforts to that point. But then Nick and Chris absolutely nailed Elton John's "Rocket Man" passing the lyrics back and forth and achieving some great harmonies. Comparatively speaking, it brought the house down. I loved it.
Once again, Joan demurred at the prospect of taking the mike. Maybe another time.
We then drove back to our humble domicile and had a late nite snack of homemade cherry cobbler (Jo made with cherries from our own tree) and ice cream and topped off the late evening by watching a couple of season one episodes of  "The Wire."  Good times.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Is Obama Imploding?

A note of explanation: This is a comment I wrote in response to an article in the Politics section of Blogcritics Magazine entitled "And So It Goes: The Implosion of the Obama Presidency" written by one Joseph Cotto. The people I refer to - namely Arch and Baronius  - are others who commented and, obviously, with whom I disagree. There was much discussion back and forth - this comment was #101.

This discussion is, as usual, going nowhere. Neither side is going to convince the other of anything they don't already embrace.

While it is de regueur of the right to denigrate the left and to dismiss any and all who stand with Obama as delirious fools,it is, however, my view that those such as Arch and Baronius among many others who are suffering from short sightedness and the aforementioned delirium. They have totally unrealistic expectations of government.

I have lived through several recessions in my 60+ years - none of them as bad as the current one. Yet, in no instance did the recovery take less than 2 or 3 years, often longer. A note to those pointing impatient fingers at Obama: Your naivete is showing.

If it were your guy (or gal) in the WH, you'd be doing just as Glenn, myself and a few others who comment here: You'd be telling their detractors that these things take time. And they do. Either Arch or Bar suggested above that no president nor administration can turn these things on a dime via their own efforts. This economy will recover in its own time. Obama, his administration and Congress can, if they show the insight and will, can nudge things along. It is clear to me that Obama has done his utmost to do just that.

Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans and even a few recalcitrant Dems from time to time have chosen to block virtually every effort to such an end. They claim ideology and care and concern for this country's fair citizenry, but it is, in the main, political.

Another level of naivete displayed by people on both sides of the coin is a belief that government should not be beholden to special interests. It is the nature of the beast. Many claim that government is evil by its very nature. Yet, humanity has, if reluctantly at times, come to the realization that we cannot behave ourselves. We must have overseers. Even moreso in a capitalist economy. Ironically, the ONLY societal construct which would allow for minimal or perhaps even no formal government would be a perfect socialist order. Alas, perfection is beyond us. Capitalism and its ties to the profit motive insures that a government must be in place to curb greed and its attendant abuses. We are incapable of conducting ourselves and, more to the point, our business, without regulation and oversight. A lack of government is by definition anarchy. Libertarianism is basically just one step removed.

It can be said that the gloves have come off. What passes for political posturing today is more akin to the harrowing days of the Adams/Jefferson campaign and the Alien and Sedition Act.

At no time in our history, save perhaps the era leading up to the Civil War, has politics been so heated and potentially violent. Every side believes it is situated upon the high ground. However, it is primarily the rhetoric and sound bites coming from the right which vehemently claims its opposition is willfully destroying the country. This hyperbolic drivel is, unfortunately, being taken to heart by many. This is sadly, becoming  a more and more dangerous time to be alive.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Republicans - Tea Parties - Poor Losers - Violence

The last time I looked, the current administration was elected by a strong majority of the voting public. The main thing one can take from the response since is that Republicans are perhaps the poorest losers in American history, or at least since the end of the "war of northern aggression."

Instead of graciously admitting defeat, licking their wounds and regrouping for the future, they opted to become totally obnoxious obstructionists whose only goals were to discredit Obama and bully their way back to power. If that "bullying" sparks some violence, so be it.

Republicans and the likes of Palin and other tea party leaders purposely use the language of violence in their speeches and comments claiming they are merely metaphors, but knowing full well that there are in fact those on the fringe who would love nothing more than to respond in the literal sense.

Should that happen, should there be another "Oklahoma City," or should some of the threats against Democrats or other liberal voices come to fruition, the Reps and tea partiers who used incendiary language can just shrug their shoulders, disavowing any responsibility - even so far as publicly condemning such actions - while privately smiling in satisfaction to themselves and each other.

The same thing happened after the last abortion doctor killing. The killer got tacit approval from much of the supposed "moral" right. Hell, FOX's Bill O'Reilly came out after the fact and openly said that the doctor had it coming.

I don't care how one characterizes the tea party movement. In large part, most of the people involved are just along for the ride. It's fun. It gets the blood flowing. Unfortunately, the blood may ultimately be flowing in the streets, not just in their veins.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Off-Spring Images

Just a little proud papa stuff. My older son is an opera singer. These are just a couple of his promotional photos taken recently in a Berlin attic:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Republicans: The Party of No? Oh, Yes!

The Republicans are truly "The Party of No." They have invoked the 60 vote majority rule in the Senate more times during this session than any Congress in history. Their hypocrisy is highlighted by the fact that many of the very people invoking it were, just a few years ago, campaigning in earnest to do away with it to thwart Democratic opposition.

They now claim that they are dutifully blocking bad legislation, when the truth is they are "blocking" President Obama. It is their obvious goal to completely block the Obama Administration from accomplishing anything. Additionally, they have blocked more than 60 Obama appointees which further ham-strings the administration forcing many agencies to operate without proper leadership including the Transportion Security Administration or TSA.

This is ALL political. The Republicans see this as being to their advantage come the mid-term elections, and perhaps beyond to 2012. How cynical is that? It has NOTHING to do with what is or is not good for the country. They are lying through their dazzling white teeth and chemically induced tans when they claim anything different.

The most maddening thing is that Obama and many Democrats are still talking about creating a dialogue, about fostering bipartisanship, about working together with Republicans on health care reform and other legislation.

That ship sailed months ago. The Republicans claim that it has been Obama and the Democrats who were/are unwilling to negotiate, but it is plain that the GOP had no intention of working with Obama even before he took the oath.

It has been Republican lies that fostered the advent of the tea-baggers – lies about T.A.R.P., lies about the stimulus, lies about health care reform and so on. Republicans claimed that the stimulus, which they ALL voted against, would produce NO jobs, and yet they fall all over themselves to make it to ribbon cuttings wearing big shit-eating grins back at the home front, taking credit when projects funded by the stimulus start turning over dirt.

The tea-baggers are largely either poorly educated and/or poorly informed, mostly older "moral majority" types who have been led by the nose into believing all the lying crap the Republicans have spewed over the past several months. Many still believe in "death panels" and the impending, untimely end to grandma. Many still harp on Obama's citizenship, and believe he is some kind of evil communist/fascist. Some believe he is the Antichrist. Some are just flat-out racists. All are bent on "taking back" their country when in fact, nothing has been taken from them.

On the whole, they are mindless dupes – just as were the Christian fundamentalists who were cajoled into backing Bush in 2000 and again in 2004. Most of them got nothing for their trouble except dismissal and derision from the Bush administration once the votes were counted.

The Republicans have no interests beyond their own political survival. That survival, as they see it, necessitates that they toe the line set down by the banks and mega corporations who fill their campaign coffers.

Most of the banks and big corporate interests look upon Obama as a wrench in their gears. The Republicans have been instructed to block Obama at every turn. If Obama praised "Mom and Apple Pie" the Reps would oppose it.

Unless and until the Dems grow a backbone, which doesn't seem likely, the Obama Administration will doubtless continue to go down in flames. The only hope I can see is that this all-out stonewalling of Obama could have unintended consequences as more of the voting public recognizes just how craven the Republicans are, and how this is far more hurtful to the interests of the country than anything coming out of the Obama White House.

The best thing that can be said for most congressional Republicans is that compared to many Democrats, they have far better haircuts and wear better suits. Basically, most fabrics tend to drape better over a tight ass


Sunday, January 31, 2010

In Defense

As I've noted, I write and comment from time to time on Blog Critics Magazine.
The following is a response to an article and comments to same posted there concerning Obama's State of the Union address and his presidency in general. While the article avidly supports Obama nearly to the point of mindless adoration, most of the comments are negative in the extreme. Another commenter, who remains in support of Obama wrote that she thought all the negativity came from greed and fear. I wrote what follows - with just a few tweaks here and there for this venue:

"No, I don't think it's either greed or fear. Well, I suppose we all are subject to fear at some level. There is much we don't understand.

I think much of their rhetoric is, as I suggested above [in a prior comment], born of cynicism. I think we should be cynical to a point. Many people lie behind a smile and a handshake.

I don't, nor did I ever believe that Barack Obama was or is our deliverance. However, I look upon him as a source of some change. Not wholesale change. Not dramatic change, but change nonetheless, and for the better. It is likely to be incremental.

The nihilists who spread their messages of gloom and doom amongst the pages at Blog Critics and elsewhere feel - honestly, I presume - that pretty much all is lost - that this country of ours is, in a word, doomed. That the only means of saving it is to bring it down.

It is they who are naive. They believe their cynicism renders them superior and makes them wise. They are naive to believe that great changes can come somehow peacefully, or even relatively so. Or if not naive, then they are romantics who have watched far too many doomsday movies and/or played too many such video games, and who fancy themselves as the invincible hero in some dark soul blasting hell war.

In this, naivete once again rears its garish head, as they believe that such a purge would have the effect of some magical cleansing that would perhaps, if justice prevails, leave the world at the mercy of their wisened hands that will bring about peace and prosperity for all in a capitalist utopia.

Well, that's a load of crap. Wake up and smell the manure that emanates from your minds, down through your fingers and on to cyber world. You are the very soul of the worst of the conspiracy theorists who see bogeymen around every corner, behind every piller and post, and you are the source of mass negative energy that serves no useful purpose other than to massage your own egos. Enough!"

Now, I suppose my comments are a bit overblown and perhaps qualify as purple prose to some extent, but sometimes you must say what you feel. It's good for the soul. No?


Sunday, January 24, 2010



Monday, January 18, 2010

Peyton Manning And The Fleeting Nature of Sports Excellence

The city of Indianapolis has enjoyed a decade of excellence. The Indianapolis Colts have put together an unprecedented 10 years of superior football. To one degree or another, so too have Boston and Pittsburgh. In years past Dallas, San Francisco and Pittsburgh (again) were also the beneficiaries of a prolonged period of excellence from their respective NFL franchises.

In other major league team sports there have been franchises which managed to play at the highest level of their particular sport for extended periods: the Boston Celtics, LA Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, and of course the Chicago Bulls in basketball. In baseball various teams have produced long runs at or near the top of their leagues - LA Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers and almost perennially, the NY Yankees among others.

I don't follow the NHL, but I'm sure the same applies to some of their franchises.

In the case of the Colts, I won't argue regarding which of the teams mentioned above during the past decade has been better. While the Colts have more regular season wins during the last decade than any other NFL team, their postseason record is rather lackluster. The obvious winner in that regard would be the Patriots with the Steelers running a close second.

The point, though, is when looking over the breadth of American major league team sports, the franchises which have performed at the highest level for an extended period of time are relatively few. It is a luxury.

NFL fans in Indy, Boston, and Pittsburgh have lived high over much of the past decade having understandably high expectations of their teams come each September. More often than not, they haven't been disappointed.

The fall from grace is usually a hard one. Most sports franchises can look back and point to one or more "glory year" periods (excepting perhaps the Detroit Lions, who have never been glorious in the Super Bowl Era). However, the level of play for most teams before and after those 'up' years was, more often than not, mediocre at best, and at times dreadful.

The current run of the Colts at or near the top of the league over the past decade is owing first and foremost to the presence of Peyton Manning, and almost equally to the team management which is the product of the efforts and the vision of owner Jim Irsay, president Bill Polian and the coaching staff, at least since their hiring of Tony Dungy and now his successor, Jim Caldwell. Much the same can be said for other long term successful sports franchises. The Colts have been so good for so long that we just expect them to win week after week. We expect the offense to score on virtually every series, and are dismayed when they don't.

Up until a few years ago, the Indiana Pacers was looked upon as a model NBA franchise. For several years — mainly during the Reggie Miller era — the Pacers managed to be one of the most competitive teams in the NBA, which, unfortunately, coincided with the glory years of one Michael Jordan. (Remember him?) Nevertheless, the Pacers were looked upon as a solid franchise from ownership and management to coaching and players. It appeared to be a well run machine. Then came the brawl in Detroit. It all went south for the Pacers from that moment onward, and they have yet to show any significant signs of recovery.

It can be assumed that whenever Manning hangs up his flack jacket that the fortunes of the Indianapolis Colts will at best be questionable. You just don't go out and seamlessly replace a Peyton Manning, or a Michael Jordan.

The lesson here, I believe, is for fans of great teams in whatever sport to savor the moments. They are ultimately fleeting.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Pretty much no one is happy about the current health care legislation. The Reps don't want it - regardless of their protestations to the contrary, IMO, most want nothing to do with any of it. They much prefer the status quo. After all, Rush informed us after his hospital stay in Hawaii, that our current health care system is just hunky dory. It is good to know that if you happen to make 33 million dollars a year, our health care system is working just fine.

The left doesn't like the legislation - especially the Senate version - because so much was given away as regards single payer or public options among other things. Some, from all over the political map, don't like it owing to abortion and/or immigration issues. There is significant anger at the apparent sweetheart deals gained by pharma and insurance providers.

There is no doubt that it is a watered down, bastardized, overblown pile of legislative dreck.

And I think it imperative that it becomes law.

Should this health care legislation fail to pass and be signed by President Obama, that is where any attempts at health care reform will end, probably for at least a generation. No president, regardless of party, will consider hanging his or her administration's hat on health care reform. It will be avoided like the plague. No one in Congress will bet their seat on any significant health care legislation. No one will touch it.

The calls by Reps and some left wingers for the current legislation to be trashed in order to start over are at best disingenuous. Obama has been attacked for pushing too hard, too fast on health care reform. Yet it is Obama who fully understands the reality: If it doesn't get done now, it will not get done. There will be no enthusiasm in Congress to take up health care reform again, especially as this is an election year. The fact is, if it fails, it will die. Again, most Reps would say Good! and good riddance! It should also be pointed out that the bill's failure would serve as a major nail in Obama's political coffin. There are those for whom that is more important than any health care reform. More than a few Republicans have stated as much.

Flawed as it is, getting this bill passed into law will at least make some positive changes - making health care more affordable and accessible to more Americans, among other things. It will at the least set the stage enabling further changes down the road. Hopefully, some if not all, of the crap in the current bill will get wrung out of it in the coming years.

Again, if it fails, its dead - for a long time.


Monday, January 4, 2010

New York, New York II

Empire State Building from "Top of the Rock."
See the Reindeer?