Thursday, March 2, 2017


Our family's unknown man is my Great, Grandfather Harris, he was killed in a coal mining accident in Illinois. He left a young wife and two little girls. Why was he in Illinois? He immigrated because the Welsh village he grew up was devastated by a mine explosion and collapse. Devastated to the point that the village ceased to exist. They called it a disaster and it was. Young Harris moved from one disaster zone to another. He survived the first, not the second.

Coal mining has always been a dirty, nasty job. If you weren't killed underground you died later of the effects of black lung or of the injuries connected to your job.

Our republican President has promised that coal is coning back, it isn't and now this has happened:

Almost 23,000 retired coal miners and their dependents on Wednesday received official notification that they could lose their health care benefits by April 30.
“This is causing tremendous mental and in some cases physical trauma to these senior citizens,” United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said Wednesday. “They will now have to begin contemplating whether to continue to get medicines and treatments they need to live or to buy groceries. They will now have to wonder if they can go see a doctor for chronic conditions like black lung or cancer or pay the mortgage.”
For the last year, U.S. senators representing Ohio and West Virginia have worked to preserve health care coverage and pensions for retired coal miners. Roberts and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the health care coverage was originally slated to expire at the end of 2016, but Congress passed a four-month extension at that time.

Then the turd in the punch bowl floated to the surface...

When KY Sen. Mitch McConnell strode into the Capitol for last month’s State of the Union speech, he took with him a guest whose presence was sure to be seen as a slap against the Obama administration and its policies on coal.

“I brought along this unemployed coal miner here,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said, gesturing to fourth-generation mineworker Howard Abshire, “to see the person who put him out of work.”
The Senate majority leader said he wanted to call attention to President Obama’s “heartless” regulations that he argues have devastated communities in Abshire’s native eastern Kentucky. Yet just weeks earlier, McConnell’s office had delivered its own blow to Appalachian coal towns: It blocked efforts to rescue health and pension funds on which thousands of retired and disabled miners rely.

A plan that would ensure the solvency of the funds nearly made it through Congress in December as part of the bipartisan budget deal that cleared both chambers. But the bailout attempt — backed by key lawmakers from both political parties — was excluded from the deal at McConnell’s request, according to four Senate officials directly familiar with the events.
McConnell’s spokesman does not dispute that telling of events. And McConnell has not publicly explained his opposition to the measure.

Add to that, deregulation of existing mines, (read that as lax safety standards) lowering of water standards and increased mountain top removal operations and you get not only a perfect recipe for disaster you get zero no jobs because there is NO MARKET for COAL.

I wish some country singer would pen a song about "Coal aunt Comin' Back" or "Piss off Mitch" rather than more nonsensical bullshit about pickup trucks, beer and country girls in Daisy Dukes.

Patti Loveless wrote one...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Thoughts and insight from the “New Career” files…

I have a friend who built a formidable fortune in the car business. He is still involved in selling cars via his auto auctions.

Here are some insights he gave me about the business.

“The biggest problem in the car business is poor management.”

“Dealers hate the manufacturers and the manufacturers hate the dealers.”

“Some dealers are afraid of the internet and some embrace it. If a customer shows up with a print out from a website, they’ve already bought the car, show it to them, test drive them and write the deal up.”

After 7 months selling cars (or as my sister says, “trying to prove something to Dad”) I have some thoughts as well.

Customers need to do the math. You can’t buy a $50,000 car for $400 a month unless you have a superb, paid for trade-in or are ready to put 30k down on the new car. The rough rule of thumb is $22. a thousand financed over 60 months or 220 a month for every ten thousand financed.

You won’t get a discount for cash. Paying cash for a car makes no difference. Yes, the dealer makes money on the financing from the bank, not a lot, but some.

Leasing makes sense if you drive 15k a year or less. You always have a fresh, up to date car and you only pay for your use of it. Research the residual value of cars you are interested in. For instance a Jeep Wrangler Sport has an extremely high residual and that has a huge effect on the lease payments.

If you finance a new car, know you are going to be “upside down” for a long time. Remember the bank always gets paid first. Essentially you are “buried” for the first 3 or 4 years in a long term auto loan.

Nobody is trying to “screw” you at a legitimate car store. It’s illegal and if a dealer does it, they get huge fines and can lose the right to business.

Buying a car is generally the 2nd largest purchase you’ll make, there are a lot of details to take care of, a lot of papers to sign and it takes time to do it right, Don’t rush it and ask questions if you don’t understand something. If there is something that needs attention, get it in writing and get it confirmed by management, before you sign off on the car.

The credit application has to be filled out correctly, no fudging on income, nothing can be crossed out and leave nothing essential blank. Never let the salesperson or manager fill anything in for you. Never! The credit application generates your car’s registration so it is doubly important.

You’ll never know what your payment is going to be until your credit is run. Payments are determined by the car you’re buying and your credit history. I will get you a ball park number if you know your credit score, not exact but close. Be aware the management hates it when I come in and ask them to run a number without a credit app. However, if you hand me a recent copy of your credit report it’s less of a hassle. Don’t ever go from dealer to dealer and let them run your credit. It’s dumb and it drives your score down.

I sell a lot of trucks. My clients buy trucks for many difference reasons. Here are a few truck tips, unless you drive over 17,000 miles a year don’t opt for the diesel engine, the fuel savings don’t add up. The more miles you drive the quicker the diesel pays off. The Cummins diesel option on the Ram 2500 costs almost 10k more than the V8, think about it. The diesel gets better mileage and has more power, but unless you drive a lot or tow heavy things around on a regular basis you are be spending money you don’t need to spend.

If you buy a truck to tow a boat or a trailer calculate the towing capability this way, use 70% of the towing capacity as the holy grail of towing. Here’s why, add up all the things you are going to be carrying in your trailer, fresh water, black water, food, ice, clothing, etc, etc. Now your 6,000 lb trailer weighs 7,000. Then add people to your truck, 4 people at 150 each. Now add coolers, luggage, bikes, tools, lawn chairs and your dog. Now you’ve added another 700 lbs to the load. If your truck is rated at 8500 lbs towing capacity you are pushing it. Be like a pilot and leave a large margin of error.

One last thing…

Buying a car is the balance between need and desire. That said, there is nothing like owning a car (or truck) that puts a smile on your face every time you start the engine.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Single handed

 I was 11 years old when I read Joshua Slocum’s “Sailing Around the World Alone”. I’ve read it at least 5 times since. I like to sail alone too. I’d like to sail around the world but it’s too late, at least I think it is.

Webb Chiles has sailed around the world 6 times, alone. One circumnavigation he didn’t finish, he quit in the Canary Islands. Chiles made that trip in an open 18 foot boat, San Diego to New Zealand to Africa to the Red Sea. Chiles was arrested in Saudi Arabia for being a “spy”. He spent two weeks in jail and his boat was confiscated. He got a new one and continued his trip only to have it end in the Canaries.

Later Chiles and his wife Jill left New Zealand, sailed around Cape Horn and up the South American coast to Montevideo, Uruguay. They continued on to Key West.  

In Key West Jill left him. Chiles continued his trip alone.

Off Fort Lauderdale, he made a decision. He opened the sea cocks on his 37 foot boat and sailed it until it sunk. At the last moment Chiles stepped off the boat and into the Gulf Stream wearing a tee shirt and shorts. He had committed himself to dying at sea. He took off his glasses. He unstrapped his watch and let it go into the water. It was 11 at night. The next morning he was still treading water. He made another decision, he started to swim, he swam all day and all night. 26 hours and 125 miles north of Fort Lauderdale he was rescued by two young fishermen.

Since then Chiles has married his 6th wife and circumnavigated once again in a Moore 24.

Webb Chiles is almost 75 years old, he listens to classical music, reads and enjoys his daily drink of scotch from a crystal high ball glass, whether ashore or at sea.

Chiles writes…

“Old men should be explorers.”  I first read that in a book by Jan de Hartog, but subsequently came across it in T. S. Eliot’s FOUR QUARTETS, which predates Hartog by several decades.”

A life well lived.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Deep Shit, a transition recap...

We are a day away from Donald J. Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States of America. Here is how the Make America Great Again team is doing so far..

Billionaire Betsy DeVos the nominee for Education Secretary has donated money to 10 of the 12 Republicans on the committee tasked to vet her for the job. That, not to mention she doesn’t know jack shit about education.

Dimwitted ex-Texas Governor Rick Perry, the guy who wanted to eliminate the Energy Department, will be replacing this guy, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize. Mr. Perry didn’t know that the Energy department is responsible for the maintenance and up grading of our nuclear arsenal. Perry thought he was going to be, in his words, “Ambassador of Oil and Gas.”

Health and Human Serves nominee Congressman Dr. Tom Price of Georgia has admitted to charges of insider trading on the stock of a medical device manufacturer.

I could go on and on but all you really need to know is this. Overall, out of 690 positions requiring Senate confirmation tracked by the Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, Trump has come up with only 28 people so far.

This is not normal, this is not the way things work. This is not draining the swamp.

The Obama administration has prepared thousands of briefing papers for the new administration; Team Trump has not acknowledged their receipt. This is not normal or in the best interests of our country.

Trump is taking the weekend off after he’s sworn in, he’ll probably go to Mar a Lago or back to Trump Tower after showing up at a few parties. He says he’ll get to work on Monday. What if something happens?

This is not normal, this not the way things work, this is not draining the swamp and this is not “Make(ing) America Great” again.

Remember the hullabaloo about Hillary giving speeches to Goldman Sachs executives? It was an OMG situation. Bill O’Reilly looked like he was going to stroke out. Bill doesn’t seem the least bit concerned that 6 Goldman Sachs executives have joined the new Trump administration…6 of the bastards.

We are in deep shit kids…

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Lunch at the Garden Club with Milt....

At the first of our lunches, I ate my clam chowder and listened to Milt, here's some of what he said.

"For so many years the league and the teams ignored American plyers, living here I went to a lot of college games and I knew there were American kids who could play in the NHL."

"I was 17, lived in a boarding house in Brookline, took the trolley to the Garden for practice. Wore a suit, a white shirt and tie everyday."

"The big road trip was out to Chicago on the train. On the way back we'd play the Wings and the Leafs. Sometimes we'd play Montreal too, then back to Boston."

"6 teams, 48 game season, played each other 8 times a year, 4 and 4."

"Montreal, it was always Montreal, still is isn't it?"

"We played a lot of cards on the train."

"I think Frankie Brimsek was the first American I had as a team mate. Frankie was a great goal tender. When he came up from the Reds in in 38-39 he had 6 shut outs in his first 7 games, if I remember correctly there were 3 or 4 players that made the NFL from Eveleth at that time."

Milt was the center on the Bruins' "Kraut Line" with wingers Bobby Bauer and Woody Dumart. All three of them grew up together in Kitchener, Ontario. They won two Stanley Cups together, After winning the cup in 40-41 they all joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and served for the duration of WWII.

"Woody, Bobby and I finished 1-2-3 in scoring in 39 and we won the Stanley Cup. The Bruins wanted to cut our salaries from $4100 to $3700 for the next season."

I was introduced to Milt Schmidt in 1979. Milt died the other day at 98, the oldest living NHL player. Milt was the only player to Captain his team, coach his team and become the General Manager of his team. Milt had an incredible career,
  • Stanley Cup champion - all with Boston (1939 and 1941 as a player), (1970 and 1972 as general manager)
  • Finished his career with 229 goals and 346 assists for 575 points in 776 games.
  • At the time of his retirement, was fourth in NHL history in points scored and third in assists.
  • Named to the NHL First All-Star Team in 1940, 1947 and 1951.
  • Named to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1952.
  • Played in NHL All-Star Game in 1947, 1948, 1951 and 1952.
  • Won the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in 1996.
  • Was the last active NHL player who played during the 1930s.
  • In 1998, he was ranked number 27 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players.
  • Won the Hart Trophy in 1951
  • NHL Scoring Champion in 1940

  • Milt was one of the two greatest Bruins of all time. Milt said the greatest is Bobby Orr, Bobby says the greatest is Milt.

    Here they are being honored at a Bruins game, the 80th anniversary of Milt becoming a Bruin and Bobby's 50th. (Milt first noticed Bobby when he was 12 and took a personal interest in his development as a young player)

    I cherish the time I spent with Milt, I know you're skating again like you did when you were a 17 year old kid with the Bruins. It was an honor to get to know you.

    Thursday, November 17, 2016

    Wide Awake at 2:30

     It cold in SoCal, in the 40’s, when the sun goes down it gets cold fast. I feel the cold more because of the damned warfarin I take every day, blood thinner makes you feel cold. Cold enough to build a fire in the wood stove then warm enough to fall asleep on the sofa a little past ten and wake up at 2 in the morning.

    A few minutes ago I read about the big winter storm in the midwest and the northeast. In quick succession I thought about the night in Cambridge when the January wind was blowing so damn hard the hanging traffic signal over Memorial Drive was sticking straight out, the storm when I was a kid when the intersection of highway 2 and 81 was so deep in snow the traffic signal was laying on its side, the buried traffic signal in the Back Bay, it’s lights showing “Walk-Don’t Walk” through the snow bank. Not that anyone in Boston pays attention to traffic signals, buried in snow or not.

    When I tell my SoCal friends about winter storms their eyes bug out and jaws go slack, just like mine do when they tell me about the Northridge Earthquake. We’ve all bumped up against some shit a time or two.

    Coldest I’ve ever been was a night on a sailboat crossing from Florida to the Bahamas in a Northeast gale, 20-25 foot seas and winds gusting to 55 knots, I don’t know what the air temperature was during the crossing, but I had on fleece longies, a heavy fleece jacket and full foul weather gear and I was still freezing my ass of while driving the boat, it was a long night. It was 33 degrees in West End, coldest it had been in the Bahamas in almost 100 years. You haven't lived until you're served a drink at an out door bar in Freeport by a bartender in a red ski jacket and gloves.Two days later it was in the high 70’s and not a breath of wind. We motored back to Florida.

    I went out with the dog a few minutes ago, we both peed up against a tree, usually he likes to sniff around, not tonight. Anze trotted right back to the door while I zipped up. It’s windy outside, maybe 10-15kts, the oaks are moving around pretty good.

    I’m going to Topanga in the morning and get a load of stove wood, then I’m going to clear out the washes, move some pots around for Cakes. Moving pots sounds easy, not these, the pots are huge, cast concrete bastards. They were cast years ago for the grounds of the Beverley Hills Hotel and somehow they ended up in our yard. I also need to get a pin for the latch on the front gate and I just noticed we’re out of orange juice.

    To hell with this, I’m going to grab my Kindle and try to finish Paul Beatty’s “The Sellout” hopefully I’ll fall back asleep…

    Thursday, November 10, 2016

    Observations from a Blue State

    Two guys waiting to pick up their cars from service:

    Guy 1: “If a cop arrests you, you’re guilty of something.”

    Guy 2. “Shouldn’t waste money on trials, let the cops take care of it right there.”

    Guy 1. “It’s the fucking lawyers.”

    Guy 2. “When they go to trial they always get off.”

    Guy 1. “Trump will take care of that.”

    After Tuesday’s election it feels like just under half of Americans would be willing to toss the constitution to allay their perceived fears.

    Trump has made it okay to go beyond the normal conservative dog whistles, check out what happened in schools the day after the elections. Jr. High kids taunting Latino kids telling them to go back to where they came from,

    Football games now featuring racial chants

    “Niggers get out” spray painted in school bathrooms.

    Will we have open season on anyone who is perceived as not American and you can read that as white American.

    I am sick and tired of hearing about how tough things are in parts of America, no jobs, no money. I get that it’s tough to have a factory move to a non-union state (that’s where most of the jobs have gone) or overseas. I understand that. What I don’t understand is why, the whiny little bitches, don’t do something about it.

    Being a coal miner has always sucked, it has been a nasty, dangerous job since the first mine was dug. What I don’t get is why the miners blame the government for their plight. The mine operators are the culprits, google Don Blankenship when you get a moment, he’s a piece of work. If I was a miner in West Virginia I’d burn his hilltop mansion down. The government is trying to protect them from the mine owner who could care if you lived or died.

    Coal is not coming back, no matter what Trump says. Do they believe we’ll have steam locomotives and coal burning furnaces again?

    Michigan went for Trump, he got the union vote. Do they believe he’d have done the auto industry bailout that President Obama did? GM and Chrysler are alive and thriving today (and they paid back the money) because of the loans. He wouldn’t have.

    Check out the great economic miracle in Kansas, slash taxes, slash the budgets on everything that makes life worthwhile…Kansas is a large pile of horseshit and Republicans still believe there is a pony in there somewhere. Sorry it’s just a pile of horseshit.

    Compare Republican Wisconsin to Liberal Minnesota, they share a border. Minnesota is on fire economically, Wisconsin is on a downward spiral.

    Why don’t these angry voters take a look at their state and compare it to the thriving “Blue” states and note the differences? Do you know what the difference is? The “Blue” states don’t have wingnuts running them. They don’t have politicians play the race card and turning the citizens into them and us adversaries.

    Value voters in the south would be amazed at the difference in the divorce rate between Massachusetts and Mississippi. (Mass has the lowest in the nation) The difference in the teen pregnancy rates in states with solid, science based sex education compared to states with mumbo-jumbo sex ed is amazing.

    I could go on, but I’m tired of conservatives, evangelicals, right to lifers, trickle-down economics, misogyny, racists and ignorance.

    You have your country back for the next for years and whatever happens it’s all on you and we’ll have to fix it again. When we do, I’d like you to shut the fuck up and get to work on yourself.