WC Varones

Don't lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools

California Beer - How Capitalism Provides

An ironic title but one that I will illustrates provides an appropriative narrative when describing how government regulation reduces choice and increases price. As I previously stated, I escaped California and moved to Pennsylvania last summer. Almost all of my costs went down except for one, alcohol. And since my alcohol of choice is beer, I am struggling. Well not really since I'm saving multiple times on everything else but I want to illustrate the impact of government limited supply on society.

Today was the annual release of Bell's Brewery's Hopslam Imperial IPA. This apparently is IPA ambrosia because it sold out of the Whole Foods near me in an hour, around mid-day. I have a job that's more than 10 minutes away so I missed out, and I was, was disappointed. Then I thought about it. These tools at Bell's are limiting supply in PA so to drive the price up. And it turns out a pizza bar across the street was purchasing the bottles at Whole Food's and then selling them for 3x the original cost. Good for them, I guess. But is Bell's any better than Dogfish Head's 90 Minute, Lagunitas Brewery's Maximus or Sucks, or Stone's Ruination? I have no idea because Bell's doesn't produce enough for me to try. But the response here in South Eastern PA is strange. Does any Imperial IPA deserve a 3x premium? I'm not sure. I mean the gold standard for Imperial IPA is Pliney the Elder from Russian River Brewery which is number 2 on Beer Advocate's Imperial rating, and yet that was available every Wednesday in California for just $4.50 a bottle. If they sold it hear at the extremely limited outlets I'm pretty sure it would command $10 a bottle because there are few vendors providing it. On the other hand Lagunitas Maximus and Dogfish Head 90 Minute are available every day of the year. So is Hopslam any better? I don't know because the snobs don't produce enough. But what strikes me as odd is the reaction here. Folks storming the Whole Foods for a mythical beer that one person of knowledge, having tasted it, says is totally not worth it. I wonder if we aren't seeing a glimpse of blue jeans demand in Czechoslovakia circa 1987? Are we witnessing a minor example of how government regulation creates absurd demand that enriches a few but otherwise doesn't supply the most profitable result? Isn't it ironic that in terms of fantastic beer sales, California, an otherwise socialist state, provides?

Who knows? But one thing is for sure, I have no interest in Bell's Hopslam or any Bell's beer. Their's is an exclusive crowd that is capable of shopping for beer at 1PM on a Thursday and I wish them all the best, and won't get in the way by purchasing any of their offerings going forward.

Obama announces plan to prey on the poor and stupid to fund his deficits

CNN Money:
President Obama on Tuesday offered up a new kind of "starter" retirement accounts aimed at employees of companies that don't offer such plans.

Obama is calling them the "MyRA" and said he would, by executive order, direct the Treasury Department to create them.
The idea is to create Roth IRA accounts that can hold only Treasury securities. News flash: people whose employers don't offer 401(k)s can already use Roth IRAs. And Roth IRA accounts can already hold Treasury securities. But only a moron would put his entire retirement into Treasury bonds yielding 2-4%.

Unfortunately, the poor and stupid don't have enough money to make a difference in the Treasury market, because, well, they're poor and stupid. But this is all part of a long-time dream of leftists to force Americans to finance the deficit by forcing them to hold Treasuries in their retirement accounts. Today, the poor. Tomorrow, the masses of 401(k) owners. Somebody's got to buy all those Treasuries after the Fed and China are done and the government still needs to fund monster deficits.

More at Reason and Sovereign Man. And Zero Hedge: "If you like your retirement account, you can keep your retirement account." And here's our friend Skeptical CPA writing about this more than five years ago.

Pennsylvania - Beer - Nanny State

Straight out of Beer with Demo's playbook we have a story about beer in our constantly more intrusive nanny state. Strangely though the nanny state of Pennsylvania is pretty long in the tooth with this one. It has to do with how they sell beer here.

Now say what you will about the socialistic leanings of California, but my goodness do they do beer well. There is even a brewery in Scotland that is trying to replicate Californian beer called Brew Dog. Now as an aside, I can't find anything on their website referencing this now but when I visited their brewpub in Camden, London, UK, the bartenders went on about their goal to replicate the brilliant beer being produced in California. So much was this the goal that the bottles they had for sale were from Stone, Anchor, Lagunitas, and Lost Coast, IN LONDON!

Anyway, having arrived in PA I've been shocked into a dark and miserable beer reality that is nanny state regulation of my beer pleasure. In PA the law is this: we have beer distributors that you can drive up to and buy a case of beer. ONLY A CASE of beer. No 22 oz. bottles, no 6 packs, no 4 packs of Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. You are only allowed to buy 24 bottles of beer at a time at these beer stores. The ONLY alternative to that is to buy beer from a bar. FROM A BAR MAN! Now you can imagine the cost because they charge you for 6 bottles of succulent Miller Lite what they charge for 1 bottle of Miller Lite x 6 in the bar. It is stupid.

But that is the law in PA. If you want to run a store that sells beer you can only sell cases at a time. But if you are a bar you can sell other denominations, but you are a bar so you might sell at bar prices. Thanks goodness Whole Foods and Wegmans have some clever folks on hand. They get around this, and provide my basic need of a sublime Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, by opening legal bars within their confines.

Whole Foods in Devon has a pub legally separate from the store called the Mile Post Pub. They have a very good selection of beer matching their offerings in CA but they are also a legal bar selling glasses of wine and beer as well as growlers. So far so good. But a problem remains, Wegmans and Whole Food ARE THE ONLY folks that have figured this out. What that leaves is prices like this:

So while I can still get my Stone fix, the cost is most disappointing.

There is a movement to free this up called Free My Beer but it actually depresses me. There is nothing to be gained by the state to reduce beer sales other than possibly prevent dangerous alkies from getting their fix. But really, dangerous alkies will get their fix regardless. So PA loses tax revenue to Delaware and New Jersey for people who say no and deprives me of Stone's latest Enjoy By because vendors don't have an incentive to provide a competitive variety because their competition is so limited. And yet this law does not get overturned in an instance. Why? Well I suppose that when you have a state that protects child molesters so they can have a good university football team then common sense is probably not something you can expect from this lot.

Oh well, Delaware is about 40 miles away and they have no sales tax. I'll be heading there and stocking up once the weather get warmer.

I do thank Whole Foods, who have an excellent staff in Devon, and Wegmans, who not-so-much because they scan every single drivers license to confirm the 60 year old standing in front of them is 60, for setting up shop to provide the micro-brew offerings. At the same time I do miss my local Shell selling a 22oz bottle of Lagunitas IPA for me to easily pick up when I fill my tank. Oh well, I suppose it is the price I pay for getting my house for 60% less than I would pay in the East Bay....

Things to do in Austin when you're bored

Mortgage Qualification -- American = Crook

Hi folks, NL here, it's been a while. Where have I been? Well I've left the communist confines of California and relocated my family to the Philadelphia area. Why? Hmmmm, I don’t make 7 figures so I can’t live comfortably in CA. I also want my kids to have a good education, I can’t afford private school and I would prefer a student teacher ratio that is less than 40. But I can comment on this topic more in the future.

Tonight I want post a comment on the absurdity of mortgage qualification. Since I’ve moved to PA I can suddenly afford to buy my first home. In the Bay Area this was impossible with my low 6 figure salary, but my God have I found the promised land! I’m going to close on my first home on .7 acres with a 2300 square foot house in a lovely area known as the Mainline. This property would literally cost 1.2+ million in Walnut Creek, CA. Here we are south of half a mil and the people in my neighborhood tell me that our 10 out 10 rated school with an average class size of 17 is the best in the state. Of course I’ve found out there are 8 school districts here where people claim the same but whatever, it’s better than what we were looking at in CA.

So I am about to become landed gentry and I’m trying to finalize the loan. The only debt I have is a car payment for my VW Golf (base model) and my credit score is 800. Yet I’m being treated as a common drug-money launderer by the banks that would provide me a loan. (BTW, I haven’t applied to HSBC and their not-even-alleged drug money laundering, but I hate them so much so I haven’t even tried. Maybe that's my mistake). So I’m left to fend for myself and I want to post exactly what I’m hearing back about some foreign cash I have.

My wife is from the foreign land of samba and football, but she speaks perfect English having studied English and American literature in college. We visit her foreign land almost every other year. My brother-in-law is one of the most generous, wonderful human beings on the planet and last time we visited he put our hotel and car rental bills on his credit card because he works for a huge firm that gets great discounts. So at the end of the vacation I handed him a wad of foreign land cash to cover our costs and thanked him greatly for helping us. He took the money and replied "no problem." When we returned from the foreign land I opened one of my bags to find an envelope that had written on it ‘You’re Welcome’. And in the envelope was that wad of cash, 3000 real units of his country’s currency, which equates to about $1500. The generous saint wanted to provide his sister with a vacation present. Awesome dude.

Fast forward to this week and my hassle in getting approved for a loan. Many of my deposits of legal US currency have been questioned and I’m being asked to provide bank statements of those that provided me these legal US currency gifts over the holiday period. I have resisted stating that their business has nothing to do with me and I will not ask those generous relatives for their bank statements just because they are old school Chicago and like to deal in cash. The response has been that this is Fannie Mae rules, the Government OWNED entity that contributed to the almost immediate, and certainly long term, destruction of this nation.

I’m likely not going to get a loan because of this though I am doing nothing illegal; I’m transacting in the legal currency of this country and I’m a super credit candidate. So I pitched to the lender the foreign currency scenario I mentioned above to find out if I could convert that into USD and use it, just for kicks. This was the response:
"My processor said it could possibly fly with a letter of explanation, the documentation of the exchange and evidence of your trip last year, i.e. passport, or other."
That is hilarious. I received cash gifts from relatives over the holiday because they wanted to help me finally cross the home ownership finish line. Now I’m required to provide my relatives' bank statements, which I will not be providing. BUT if I happen to acquire foreign currency all I need do is supply a letter and port of entry stamp.

The moral of the story, I don’t know, avoid fiat currency banana republics like the USA? Or one might suggest that if someone provides you cash, leave the country, convert the cash into a foreign currency then write a nice letter and show your passport with proof you left the country, and deposit the funds. One used to maybe consider this very suspect, but ironically no. It’s suspect to deposit large sums of US currency. Only criminals would do that. Depositing sums of foreign currency, well, as long as you write a nice letter…

As a footnote, I’m not going to convert that foreign currency into USD because we are going to head back there next year and I’m just going to use it then. Instead I’m going to look into alternative loan options that don’t involve organizations that have direct access to the overnight Fed lending window. They will only have indirect access but hey, one level removed is still something.

Remember folks Americans are money laundering terrorist until proven not, over and over and over again. Now get back in line at the airport you scumbags....

Greenspan's Body Count: Jennifer Berman, Alexander Berman, Jacqueline Berman

It's hard to believe that Alan Greenspan is still killing, years after the housing crash and after his successor Zimbabwe Ben has re-inflated the housing bubble.  But the Maestro works in mysterious ways.

Today's episode of Greenspan's Body Count comes from the wealthy town of West Palm Beach.
By 6 p.m. city police confirmed Alexander Berman, 16, and his sister, Jacqueline, 15, had been found dead in the pink house with the basketball net out front. The body of a woman, who police identified as Richard Berman’s ex-wife, was also found in the home.

The three appear to have died from gun shots in a murder-suicide.

“I can’t believe this could happen in our neighborhood, but I guess it could happen anywhere,” said Rod Tinson, a neighbor. “It’s a shame. It’s sickening to hear the teenage kids, too.”

The teens’ mother, Jennifer Berman, 48, sent emails to Richard Berman, her ex-husband and father of the children, and to other members of their family Monday morning, saying she was going to harm either herself or other family members, said Sgt. David Lefont, a city police spokesman.

[...]

The home, which records still list the two as owning, has been in the process of foreclosure since 2010. It originally belonged to Jennifer Berman’s mother, according to court records, and had recently been sold. The mother and children were to move out in February.
Zillow shows the home having been sold in 2004 at the deeply discounted price of $101,000. That's likely the family deal purchase from Jennifer Berman's mother or her estate. But the family must have hit the home ATM a little too hard with the value soaring to over $1 million at the peak of Greenspan's bubble.

Greenspan's Body Count stands at 250.

The brighter side of Obamacare

Though the most visible effects of Obamacare are millions of Americans losing their health insurance and higher health care costs for almost everyone else, it's important to remember that there are some people who are actually helped by Obamacare.

One such person is a Facebook friend of mine. "Sue" is not old enough for Medicare, but old enough to be in the deep end of the risk pool. She didn't have insurance prior to Obamacare because it was simply too expensive in the individual market. Under Obamacare, she has been able to purchase a heavily subsidized plan that costs her very little. Here is Sue's story :
WC, I couldn't afford coverage. [Husband] "Bob" had it through Veterans, as he's a Vietnam Vet. I was able to get subsidized Healthcare through CoveredCA.com. California had a better system than Healthcare.gov. My first appointment is Jan. 7. I was able to get a primary care physician here in Encinitas. My doctor is on El Camino Real. I had a small glitch because I switched to her from another doctor in Oceanside. I got to request a woman doctor, and there were several under HealthNet, my new insurance provider.

My daughter, who was insured through her and her husband's private corporation, which later went public, was dropped by her insurance carrier for various reasons, but mostly because she got thyroid cancer; her cancer was diagnosed and removed, but then she had to get a different, much more expensive insurance company and they would not pay for anything related to her pre-existing condition. Fortunately, "LeeAnn" has been in remission for more than five years. However, both my daughters are glad I'm now covered, and will be getting a check-up, at long last.

I was surprised I got an appointment so quickly, but I really worked at signing up in a timely manner. I did have to wait on hold for over 10 minutes a couple of times.

Our next door neighbor, who works, but not enough hours to be covered through her jobs, I think, was able to qualify for subsidized healthcare premiums of only $41 per month. She and her boyfriend/now husband are very glad for this opportunity, as am I.
Observations:

1) So far, so good.

2) This anecdote supports the proposition that older and/or sicker people are much more highly motivated to sign up than the young and healthy, especially with the program subsidizing the old and overcharging the young. The one young uninsured fellow I know hasn't bothered to sign up and is offended by the whole program.

On the sign-up process, choices available, and costs:
Yes, one could choose between bronze, silver and gold, bronze being the least expensive. But because Bob and I are both retired now, and on a low fixed income (Bob recently turned 65 and is now also on Medicare, so he doesn't need to sign up for this coverage).

But the years between 60 and 65 are considered high risk by insurance companies, and those are the folks that get charged the highest premiums. Depending on what plan I selected, I had to pay for a "Silver" HMO coverage up to $91 per month. I signed with HealthNet, for the lowest amount, but I am not affiliated with Scripps hospitals. I'd rather not say exactly how much I pay, but it's less than my neighbor, at $41. Remember, this is for one person's coverage, only, not family. The government is paying the insurance company around $600 per month! What is outrageous, to me, is that the insurance companies are making so much on this deal. I say it's a far better arrangement for them than Medicare or MediCal [California's Medicaid]. We would not have qualified for MediCal, in any case. If someone is indigent, say homeless, that person could get MediCal, already. But those people usually wouldn't sign up, and would be "processed" through emergency rooms, the most expensive type of treatment. I have an office Copay of $15 and an Emergency Room Copay of $75. That is very reasonable, I know.
Observations:

3) Probably a correct observation that Obamacare is a much better deal for the insurance companies than Medicare or Medicaid. That was the plan all along to get insurers on-board to help pass Obamacare.

Post-appointment report:
WC, I was super disappointed because although my (previous) doctor here, in Encinitas, takes Healthnet HMO, her office manager told me there was a mistake. They don't take Healthnet HMO through Covered California. So I sat there like a dummy, for over an hour, because Bob had dropped me off half an hour early, to fill out forms, as it was to be my initial appointment (he had errands to do, so we thought it would save car trips). I feel like filling out a grievance with our State Insurance Commissioner, because I don't think it's right that a doctor's office or clinic, which accepts a particular insurance can cherry pick it and say, but not if it's affordable healthcare, fully subsidized through an HMO by that same insurance provider. But another friend had told me that it's hard to find doctors that accept new patients on Medicare, as well. My point is, there are a lot of politicians, as well as health care providers, who don't WANT the affordable healthcare act to work.

I came back home and called up Healthnet, had to wait only a few minutes this time, on hold less than five minutes, to speak to a rep. I have now changed my Primary Care provider to a doctor in Oceanside. I tried to call her office, to make another initial appointment, which the Healthnet rep had said I could, but when I called the doctor, her intake lady explained I'm not in the system yet. So once again, I called back Healthnet, and was then told it could take five to seven days for my change in primary care provider (they call it PCP, ha ha) to show up in the system, for the doctor's office to verify. In other words, I'm going to wait until a week from today, and call for another appointment.

I checked out the doctor, and she got good reviews online. Originally, I hadn't wanted to be associated with Tri-City Medical Center, but someone told me they are good, too. The issues they have had, in the news, have been political or administrative, not anything to do with the quality of the physicians. I am willing to wait, as I don't have an emergency, but the system I am disappointed in is the system of capitalism that puts the monetary bottom line of greatest profit as the overriding priority.
Observations:

4) Not surprising about the appointment SNAFU -- that's not just a government health care thing but this kind of thing happened often with our byzantine pre-Obamacare health insurance system.

5) Interesting that Obamacare patients are relegated to a lesser list of providers even within the same insurance company. Tri-City Medical Center is not only 15 miles away with ancient facilities, it's also the kind of place that sees a lot of gunshot wounds and stabbings, if you know what I mean. Was Obamacare intended to be second-class health care? It certainly wasn't advertised that way.

Sue is certainly better off under Obamacare than without insurance, and possible better off than she'll be on Medicare.  But if the best thing that can be said about Obamacare is that some people are better off after being given heavy subsidies, that's damningly faint praise indeed.

Now we know why they got along so well

Are the Koch brothers the Left's new Emmanuel Goldstein?

I've known about the Koch brothers, Charles and David, for decades. The billionaire owners of Koch Industries have for years publicly supported free-market think tanks and liberty-oriented causes. Until recently, such civic engagement was considered patriotic.

But as George Orwell so brilliantly illustrated in 1984, hatred against some other is an invaluable tool for an authoritarian regime to control the masses. 1984's bogeyman was Emmanuel Goldstein, a traitor possibly invented by the regime, a face toward which the enslaved populace could direct their anger.

Ask any leftist you know these days about the "Koch brothers," and you're likely to provoke a look of disgust. Leftist political organizations and their acolytes in the media have turned "Koch brothers" into a dirty word, along with "Citizens United" and "corporation."

Watch MSNBC personality Rachel Maddow completely make up an entire news segment claiming the Koch brothers were behind a push to drug-test welfare recipients, an issue the Kochs had absolutely nothing to do with.
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