Archive for Begging Bowl

They did the mash

Apparently it didn’t catch on in a flash:

Mashable, once a fast-growing digital publisher with big ambitions, has been sold at a fire sale price.

Ziff Davis, a digital media subsidiary of tech company J2, is buying Mashable for less than $50 million, according to people familiar with the transaction. In the spring of 2016, Time Warner’s Turner led a $15 million investment round that valued the company at $250 million.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that a deal was in the works.

Weird to see that description of Ziff Davis, which has been around for 90 years. During the 1970s they owned stuff like Car and Driver and Stereo Review, and they could afford not to do things like this:

Mashable’s new owners plan on keeping the site running but want to refocus the company on tech and tech-lifestyle content. That will mean laying off about 50 of the site’s employees and offering other Mashable employees jobs at other Ziff Davis publications, according to a source familiar with the company’s plans, who says founder Pete Cashmore will stay with the company.

Until he gets bored, I suspect.

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A decidedly cloudy forecast

Cumulus Media, which owns 446 radio stations in the US, has been in dire straits:

Atlanta-based radio giant Cumulus Media has filed to reorganize in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with $2.4 billion in debt. It has reached an agreement with 69% of its term loan holders.

Cumulus’ pre-packaged restructuring agreement with lenders will reduce the company’s debt by more than $1 billion. The filing took place at United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

Earlier this month, Cumulus defaulted on a nearly $24 million debt payment to its lenders. The stock will continue to trade on the OTC (over-the-counter) market, where it moved after being delisted at NASDAQ last week.

Shares in CMLS are selling for a very non-NASDAQy nine cents a share. And speaking of shares, the top-rated Cumulus station in Oklahoma City, the nation’s #50 market, is WWLS, the Sports Animal, which scored a 4 share, fifth among local stations.

Required management jargon:

Cumulus president/CEO Mary Berner insisted the company will turn its fortunes around in her press statement. “Over the last two years, we have focused on implementing a business plan to reverse the company’s multi-year ratings, revenue and EBITDA declines, create a culture that fosters motivated and engaged employees, and build an operational foundation to support the kind of performance we believe Cumulus is capable of delivering. This has resulted in increased ratings, revenue market share gains, improved employee satisfaction, reduced employee turnover and, over the last several quarters, our return to year-over-year EBITDA and revenue growth — demonstrating that turnaround has not only been successful, but is continuing. However, as we have noted consistently, the debt overhang left by previous years of underperformance remains a significant financial challenge that we must overcome for our operational turnaround to proceed.”

Short version: “Most of this crap happened before I got here.”

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It has come to this

The hardest of hard luck befalls some of us:

Melody was in a car accident. It was a hit and run. This is where she had to get a rod in her leg. When that failed, she had her leg amputated. With all the medical bills, she was left homeless. From here she got a flesh eating bacteria virus. She made it though, but after that she had to start getting dialysis every week. Her ports continued to get clogged, so she was always going through alot of surgeries and complications. She passed away from a massive heart attack. At this time we are unsure of the cause of this.

Any help would be great. Thank you.

Melody was a cousin of mine; her mom was my Aunt Nena. She was fifty years old, and that’s too early to say goodbye.

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The unsoaked rich

Colonel Bunny, on the subject of the one-percenters and how they stay there:

The mask has slipped in the last 25 years as the infection of high-speed trading on the stock market, the flood of insane derivatives, the chummy relationship of public employee unions and politicians, open borders, and massive money creation, among other things, have come to light. The result has been the enormous transfer of wealth to the richest 1% that has accompanied astronomical wage stagnation. This is parasitism.

No one’s been minding the store in the West for a long time. Almost all Western nations have flooded themselves with savages and run up massive debt and money supplies, all to satisfy, I presume, the moneyed interests and their lumpenproletariat clients on whom the former rely to deliver reliable votes for economic destruction and the slide into third-world grime and savagery. This has nothing to do with common sense or patriotism.

There’s scarcely any money worthy of the name down here in the old Teeming Milieu; at best, what we have turns out to be nothing more than positive ledger entries. The more pragmatic among us will note that this is better than negative ledger entries; but at any moment your personal balance may be confiscated at the whim of the State. And if they want you in red ink, in red ink you shall be.

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But hey, it’s not a tax

“We didn’t come to the State Capitol to start raising taxes.”

Um, there’s a budget hole you could steer an aircraft carrier through, and the state constitution forbids deficit spending.

“Listen up, goddamn it. We didn’t come to the State Capitol to start raising taxes.”

And so it came to pass that this came to pass:

Letter from Child Support Services announcing a new fee

After all, those custodial parents are just rolling in extra cash these days.

Aren’t they?

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House of no blue lights

Number of K mart SuperCenters remaining in 2017: one.

That would be this one, #4939 in Warren, Ohio:

About 600 non-Super K mart stores remain, in 49 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam. That store in Guam is the largest K mart of them all.

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Some people will defend this

What they can’t defend is how various governmental entities can slap nearly four dollars in taxes on a $6 carton of Sprite, and yet said governmental entities are utterly broke.

“But that stuff is not good for you” will not wash as a justification, either, unless you plan to tax Chicago residents based upon their home addresses.

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Almost entirely vapor by now

Set the time machine for 2014, and consider that perhaps it was never meant to be:

I dreamed about how much money driving an Elio would save me. My Subaru WRX STi gets approximately 20 miles per gallon and uses premium, non-ethanol gas (the expensive stuff). The Elio’s light body and small build make it four times as efficient, claiming 84 miles per gallon. Using 2014 gas prices and assuming I would drive to work every single day, I estimated yearly gasoline savings of more than $1,700 a year — and this was before I re-enrolled in college. A round trip to OU from my house is 90 miles. In 2016 I drove to school and back twice a week for 32 weeks — that’s an additional 5,760 miles! I’m no math major, but it seemed to me this car was going to pay itself in savings alone very quickly.

Three years later, and the Elio hasn’t saved me a dime. In fact, I’m still $100 in the hole.

What went wrong?

The future of Elio depends on where you get your information. ElioMotors.com claims that the Elio is “U.S. made by American workers at the former GM plant in Shreveport, Louisiana” … but the reality is, Elio hasn’t made any cars at the Shreveport plant, or anywhere else. In fact, the company is struggling to pay rent. According to Jalopnik.com, “since last October, Elio hasn’t paid their monthly tab to RACER Trust — which provided a $23 million loan to facilitate its move to a shuttered General Motors plant in town. As a result, Elio currently owes more than $1.7 million in back payments to RACER Trust. While the default interest rate of 18% will continue to add up until payments resume, the company now has another year to pay back the principal on the loan.”

You have to figure that the Lending Community didn’t think much of Elio’s chances, if they’re having to fork out 18 percent.

What to do?

Let me save you $100.

I love the idea of an Elio. I can’t imagine anything cooler than driving to work, school, or cross-country in a three-wheeled vehicle that feels like a car — a car that gets twice the miles per gallon my last motorcycle got and that I can drive year round. The backseat has enough room to take a kid to the bus stop or a suitcase full of clothes for a road trip. The dual front-wheel-drive tires are designed to pull the Elio through snow and ice like a futuristic sled. With hybrid and electronic cars still in their infancy, I feel like the Elio is a way to lower my carbon footprint, just a little bit.

The only problem with the Elio, as far as I can tell, is that they’re never going to build them.

It’s probably time for The Truth About Cars to start an Elio Motors Death Watch.

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If you build it, they will [redacted]

Warren Meyer, spring 2015:

For some reason, it appears that building hotels next to city convention centers is a honey pot for politicians. I am not sure why, but my guess is that they spend hundreds of millions or billions on a convention center based on some visitation promises. When those promises don’t pan out, politicians blame it on the lack of a hotel, and then use public money for a hotel. When that does not pan out, I am not sure what is next. Probably a sports stadium. Then light rail. Then, ? It just keeps going and going.

Warren Meyer, summer 2017:

Finally, we may be at an end, though politicians are still hoping for some sort of solution that better hides what a sorry expenditure of tax money this really was.

What he means by “this”:

Phoenix has entered into exclusive negotiations to sell the city-owned Sheraton Grand Phoenix downtown hotel — the largest hotel in Arizona — for $255 million.

The city signed a letter of intent with TLG Phoenix LLC, an investment company based in Florida, to accept the offer and negotiate a purchase contract, city officials announced Tuesday evening.

But the deal faces criticism from some council members concerned about the loss to taxpayers. The city also attempted, unsuccessfully, to sell the hotel to the same buyer for a higher price last year.

If Phoenix ultimately takes the offer, the city’s total losses on the taxpayer-funded Sheraton could exceed $100 million.

The city still owes $306 million on the hotel and likely would have to pay that off, even after a sale. That would come on top of about $47 million the city has sunk into the hotel, largely when bookings dropped due to the recession.

Now how did the city of Phoenix end up owning a hotel?

When Phoenix leaders opened the Sheraton in 2008, they proclaimed it would be a cornerstone of downtown’s comeback. They had one goal in mind: lure big conventions and tourism dollars. Officials argued the city needed the extra hotel beds to support its massive taxpayer-funded convention center a block away.

Fortunately, that can’t possibly happen here.

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To know a veil

In 1933, Alfred Angelo Piccione and his lovely bride Edythe Vincent Piccione set up a shop catering to other lovely brides. You have to figure, given the American tendency to spend like crazy on weddings, that this business would be as recession-proof as you could possibly imagine.

And today it’s dead. Sixty-two Alfred Angelo stores nationwide, including one just up the street from me, were shuttered today, and the scene at the corporate office in Florida was pretty much an evacuation. No mention of it on the company web site, though.

At the Oklahoma City store, employees were telling customers to come pick up their orders before 8 pm. Similar stories are being reported nationwide.

And elsewhere? Wednesday this episode of Undercover Boss USA aired on a British TV channel:

Paul Quentel, president of Alfred Angelo, the second largest bridal retailer in the United States, goes undercover to solve any problems as quickly as possible. Posing as a contestant on a reality TV competition, he works among his own staff.

You just might have been a little bit late on that, Paul.

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And they’re still broke

The Illinois Seventh District state representative:

If you thought your tax bill was going up from $1000 to $1012, you deserve this guy.

A resident of the state is displeased to correct his misfiguring:

My late brother, who spent a fair amount of time as a drunken sailor, would have objected strenuously to this characterization.

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Try not to notice the interest rate

The Venezuelan government certainly isn’t going out of its way to brag:

The government raised $865 million cash by selling $2.8 billion in previously untapped PDVSA bonds held by the Central Bank. The central bank got just 31 cents on the dollar for the bonds from Goldman Sachs’s asset management arm.

Bonds generally sell at a discount, but not this big a discount:

In return for $865 million now, the government committed to dishing out a total of $3.65 billion through 2022, split between $2.8 billion in principal and $756 million in interest. It’s unbelievable. The government now has to fork up the $865 million three times over by 2022 to make good on the $2.8 billion in bonds — and has to pay a crippling $756 million interest on top of that.

It’s like ripping out the electric wiring from the walls of your own house to sell the copper and get your next crystal meth fix.

The deal has an “internal rate of return” of 48%. That means this is equivalent to taking out a loan at 48% interest … in dollars!

Venezuela might have a chance of paying this off, should the price of oil rise to $110 or so. It’s less than half that now.

(Via Fausta’s blog.)

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I will close four hundred stores

And then I’ll close four hundred more.

Last month, Payless ShoeSource filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and immediately announced a list of 400 stores on the chopping block, including the one closest to me.

But that was last month. Now the company has asked the court for permission to shut down 408 more.

The first round included 12 Oklahoma stores; the second adds (or, technically, subtracts) six more. Will we lose all eighteen? Maybe, maybe not:

Keep in mind that this isn’t a final list of stores that will be closing. It’s a list of stores where the company hasn’t been able to negotiate a good enough rent concession, and it’s asking for permission to close these stores if the retailer and its landlords can’t negotiate a rent that both parties are happy with. There will be a hearing on this motion, among others, on June 8.

Payless has just over 4000 stores — for the moment.

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On not blaming the Chinese

Jack Baruth quotes a couple of bicycle prices, and then shows you why they matter to us non-cyclists:

The Tomasso Corvo costs $1,699 through the direct sales channel, although it periodically goes on sale for $1,499. The 1987 Cannondale SR500 sold at a bike shop for full MSRP of $599. That’s $1,282 in today’s money. To put this in an automotive context: In 1987, a Honda Accord DX sedan sold for $11,174, which adjusts to $23,933. The 2017 Accord LX costs $22,455. In both cases, final assembly and much of the component production was done in Marysville, Ohio. And if you’re reading this site, chances are that you know enough about cars to understand the vast gap in power, capability, and equipment between a 1987 Accord and a 2017 Accord.

Which leads to a legitimate question: If Honda can make a better car for less money without moving production out of the United States, why have bike makers raised prices after moving everything to China, where costs are supposed to be lower? How do you manage to drop the labor rate from $25/hour to a fraction of that and still charge more for the product?

It turns out that Chinese labor isn’t as cheap as it used to be. Which leads to a frightening conclusion: Cannondale et al aren’t making bikes in China because it’s cheaper. It isn’t cheaper. Instead, they are making bikes in China because they’ve forgotten how to make them in the United States. This isn’t just true for bicycles. In every industry you can imagine, from watchmaking to commercial-vehicle production, Americans have simply let multiple generations’ worth of knowledge and expertise disappear. While we were all busy watching “peak TV” and selling each other real estate, the entire industrial base of this country was donated to the Pacific Rim. They now have an effective monopoly on many products and processes. And because they are intelligent, resourceful people, they are taking full advantage of it.

I wasn’t always a non-cyclist, of course; I ran up some serious miles on some low-end (by comparison) Schwinns, which ended when I got my hands on a similarly low-end Chevrolet. What happened to Schwinn? What do you think?

In September 2001, the Schwinn Company, its assets, and the rights to the brand, together with that of the GT Bicycle, was purchased at a bankruptcy auction by Pacific Cycle, a company previously known for mass-market brands owned by Wind Point Partners. In 2004, Pacific Cycle was in turn acquired by Dorel Industries. Once America’s preeminent bicycle manufacturer, the Schwinn brand was now affixed to bicycles fabricated entirely in China, fueling most of its corporate parent’s growth.

Dorel Industries, incidentally, is headquartered in Montréal, and as of 2008 is the owner of Cannondale.

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Expensive Staff Promptly Negated

But not enough to do any good:

If ESPN is bleeding money from subscriber losses, they need to offset the damage by making cuts elsewhere in the company. That doesn’t, though, really follow, mathematically. Look at the people who have been laid off. Sure, it’s possible that veterans like McManus and Stark and Ed Werder were carrying hefty salaries, but no amount of fired reporters and columnists is going to put even the tiniest dent in ESPN’s rights fees. Add up all the salaries of the people who lost their jobs, and how much of a single Monday Night Football broadcast does it buy? Ten minutes? Fifteen?

So, then, what was the point? The memo released by ESPN president John Skipper is instructive. It was hollow and buzzword-laden in the precise way that is meant to speak to Disney investors who want to be assured that ESPN is still capable of “navigating changes in technology and fan behavior in order to continue to deliver quality, breakthrough content.”

I think we can safely say that this is now a Rule of Media: Anyone in the media who thinks what they do is “delivering content” should be delivering something else entirely — maybe pizza. And investors who buy these buzzwords are probably dumb enough to support a 120-percent tax on ordinary dividends.

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Penney’s for your thoughts

JCPenney has now issued its list of store closings, numbering 138, including four in Oklahoma. The Penn Square store in Oklahoma City, rumored to be on the chopping block, survives this round.

The closings in Soonerland will be in Altus, Claremore, Ponca City and Stillwater. This is the statistic that startles me:

The closings will save $200 million per year, the company said.

This works out to nearly $1.5 million per store.

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Cash issue

The C in JCPenney stands for “Cash,” that being Mr. Penney’s middle name. (For you completeness-seekers: the founder of the store chain was James Cash Penney, Jr.) Penney’s first store was opened in Kemmerer, Wyoming in 1902. A hundred fifteen years later, JCP is cutting back:

JCPenney recently announced that it would close 130 to 140 stores in the next couple of months because of slowing traffic and sales.

The department-store chain hasn’t yet released a list of which stores it will close, but Morningstar Credit Ratings has identified 39 stores most at risk of closing, based on the stores’ sales data.

The stores that made the list have weaker sales per square foot than JCPenney’s average.

One of those stores is in Oklahoma City’s Penn Square Mall. OKC is the only city in the state with two JCP stores; the other is in Quail Springs Mall, five miles northwest. The ‘burbs, meanwhile, have three more.

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Five rings to bankrupt them all

The Olympic Games are so devastating a money pit that even cities that don’t get to hold them end up paying through the nose:

Chicago was one of the candidates for the 2016 games, with then-President Barack Obama flying to Denmark in 2009 for the final IOC vote as a show of support. The IOC showed itself a little smarter than the national Democratic Party and recognized that while Mr. Obama was pretty fabulous at getting people to support himself, he was not so great a help for someone else. Chicago went out in the first round of voting, much to the surprise of CNN, which had a nice fancy countdown graphic set up and preparation for a whole morning of voting coverage.

In order to fund that bid, Chicago did things like rent its parking meters to a group of private companies. For seventy-five years. In order to lose in the first round of Olympic voting, the city gave up its share of parking revenues until the 100th anniversary of the Games of the XXIII Olympiad in 2084. The city used public funds to buy a hospital complex as a site for the Olympic Village — land which is now valued at about 15% of the cost Chicago taxpayers laid out for it. But at least that’ll be paid off 60 years before the city gets its parking meters back.

It doesn’t help that Chicago is in Illinois, a state whose budgetary woes are legendary.

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Return on disinvestment

For a mall that isn’t quite dead yet, this is an astonishing statistic:

A Pennsylvania mall that was foreclosed on after its owners failed to repay $143 million has been auctioned off for $100.

Wells Fargo Bank was owed the money from a 2006 loan and submitted the winning bid for the 1.1 million-square-foot Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills on Wednesday. The bank was acting as trustee for MSCI 2007 HQ11, the trust that bought the mall in suburban Frazer Township.

Wells Fargo foreclosed last year on the mall, which opened in 2005. The mall once was worth $190 million but recently was appraised at just $11 million and is slightly more than half occupied. Pittsburgh Mills Limited Partnership defaulted on the loan.

In its day, the mall was notable enough to have a Wikipedia entry.

(Via Fark.)

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Russian unleaded

Vladimir Putin has a shot at rather a lot of American petroleum-refining capacity:

A Delaware Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filing against Citgo parent PDV Holding, Inc. on November 30 reveals that Venezuela has secretly mortgaged their Citgo refineries in the United States to Russia’s state-controlled oil company Rosneft.

Redd Intelligence uncovered the UCC filing and broke the news.

PDV Holding Inc., owned by Venezuela state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), owns Citgo Holding Inc., which in turn, owns Citgo Petroleum Corporation, which has 3 refineries and pipelines throughout the United States.

The lien means that should Citgo or PDVSA default, Russia’s state controlled oil company Rosneft could end up owning strategically important oil refineries and pipelines in the United States.

Citgo owns oil and gas pipelines throughout the country as well as oil refineries in Corpus Christi, Texas; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Lemont, Illinois (outside of Chicago). Citgo’s refineries can refine 749,000 barrels per day and the Lake Charles refinery is the sixth-largest refining facility in the U.S.

Rosneft, it appears, cut PDVSA a check for $1.5 billion against 49.9 percent of Citgo. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, except for this minor detail:

In October, in addition to a 20% bonus, PDVSA used 50.1% of Citgo Holding Inc. as collateral to induce $2.8 billion of holders of PDVSA debt maturing within the year to extend into a new 4 year amortizing bond. As a result, should PDVSA default, the holders of the new $3.4 billion PDVSA 8.5% of 2020 would be able to take 50.1% of Citgo Holding Inc.

So 100 percent of Citgo is now in hock. This does not strike me as a Good Sign.

(Via Fausta Wertz.)

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Go home, guys, you’re tronc

It has apparently come to this:

Nancy Friedman calls this what it is:

This is not as offensive as, say, investing employees’ 401(k) funds in the company à la Enron, but it doesn’t at all speak well of the guys in the corner offices.

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Taking in boarders

One of the genuine assets held by Sears Holdings is the real estate occupied by many Sears stores. How to get more out of it? Shrink some stores:

Sears Holdings Corp. said its Oak Brook [Illinois] store is among a dozen stores nationwide set to be reduced by half with their auto centers eliminated or changed into just appliance stores by 2018.

The Sears store and its Sears Auto Center in Oakbrook Center, along with 11 others, were sold to the GGP-Seritage Growth Partners Joint Venture last year.

The nature of the shrinkage:

After the footprint is changed, the Sears store will remain on the entire lower level and continue to serve our (customers) by operating in a smaller, more efficient space that will include home appliances, mattresses, household goods, sporting goods, tools and a targeted assortment of apparel.

One of the dozen stores marked for diminution is at the east end of Sooner Fashion Mall in Norman, Oklahoma.

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Flosses mounting

As was announced online several weeks back, mental_floss has ceased print publication: the November/December issue was the last. Says executive editor Foster Kamer:

Shit happens. Doesn’t mean print’s dead, or mental_floss is, either. Magazines come and go. Christ, they re-launched Radar like fifteen times, and Tablet — which launched a print mag after seven years of being digital-only — is putting out one of the best print publications I’ve ever seen, and those guys only have four issues out the door.

Perhaps ironically, the death of the dead-tree edition might actually mean fewer trees:

Since Felix Dennis’ death in 2014, Dennis Publishing has been owned by the Heart of England Forest Charity, a charity set up by Felix Dennis with the mission of “the plantation, re-plantation, conservation and establishment of trees for the benefit of the public, together with the education of the public by the promulgation of knowledge and the appreciation of trees”.

And in lieu of a further year and a half of mental_floss, I will have a couple of months of The Week, a magazine founded by, yes, Felix Dennis, added on to my subscription. At some point I figure there will be only one print magazine left, and its subscriber base will be in the tens of millions from having absorbed all those other magazines.

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Hyperoverextended

Yahoo! Answers is good for at least half a dozen of these a week:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: If I am stuck in a car loan and can't afford the payments how can I get out of the loan early?

The gory details:

I have a 2014 mustang and the payments are 400 a month. I owe around 19000 on it. I need help finding a way to get rid of it as soon as possible. Thanks

If he’s lucky, he might get $14,000 for it, in which case he needs to scrape up $5000, sell the ‘Stang, and turn over the proceeds to the lender. Problem solved. It’s not the solution he wants, but it’s the solution that actually works.

Of course, there’s always Chapter 7, which has, shall we say, certain disadvantages.

But what bothers me is the blithe assumption that there’s some way to “get out of the loan early” without serious consequences. Life doesn’t work quite that way. (At least, it never has for me, and I admit to occasional bouts of presumptuousness.) Unfortunately, a substantial sector of automotive retailing is reliant upon luring people with no money into the showrooms.

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The A word

That word is “affordable,” and as usual, it doesn’t mean what everyone was taught it meant:

Health insurance premiums will likely increase by an average of 76 percent for Oklahomans who buy individual coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace. The increases for individual market plans range from 58 percent to 96 percent.

“These jaw-dropping increases make it clear that Oklahoma’s exchange is on life support,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “Health insurers are losing massive amounts of money. If they don’t raise rates they’ll go out of business. This system has been doomed from the beginning.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, the only health insurer offering plans on the federal exchange in 2017, submitted the increases to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS will determine if the increases are reasonable. The increase requests follow many insurers reporting significant losses, lower than expected enrollment by the younger population and new customers being sicker than expected. ACA-compliant off-exchange individual plans sold by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma will see the same increases as plans sold on the exchange.

UnitedHealthcare, which was on the exchange last year, has withdrawn.

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A shock to the system

All of a sudden, falling on my sword looks like a good option again.

Something called Tiger Neurophysiology P.C., having collected nothing from my health insurance, evidently refiled; 90 days after the date of alleged services, CFI Care (not its real initials) has decided that these are really legitimate expenses after all, but Tiger is out of network, so I have to pay the entire $7300 and change.

Apart from the fact that I don’t have $7300 and change, I don’t understand this at all. So far as I can tell, Tiger works out of Teaneck, New Jersey. I can think of no reason why they’d be here in the 405. (Duplicate names? Possible, but hardly likely.) The EOB includes five separate entries for “Diag. Medical Exam,” which would seem useless, since I was already in the hospital on the day in question, scheduled for surgery.

I left an email for the insurance guys. But I tell you, I can’t take stuff like this; all by itself, this incident has put me perilously close to suicide watch. And a life that is constantly interrupted by traumatic incidents is not, to me, a life I want to live.

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We got your free health care right here

However, you probably won’t like it much:

No incubators, and no cribs, in this hospital; the newborns are sleeping in cardboard boxes.

And as seemingly always with Venezuela these days, it’s actually worse than it looks:

Experts say hospitals in the cash-strapped country, which is suffering from a shortage of food and fuel, are being starved of resources.

Douglas Leon, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation (FMV), claimed some hospitals are working with just five percent of the medical equipment that they need.

The world’s tenth-largest (as of 2014, anyway) oil producer is suffering from a shortage of fuel. How bad is it? They’re having to buy oil from those horrible Americans.

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They never saw it coming

And really, if you think about it, they should have:

Irish Psychics broke

This happened a couple of years back:

A liquidator has been appointed to the firm behind Irish Psychics Live, which was founded by former journalist Tom Higgins.

A document lodged with the Companies Office confirms that Eamon Leahy of Leahy & Company, Fairview, Dublin has been appointed as liquidator arising from a resolution of the members of Realm Communications Limited.

The liquidation of the firm follows eight months after the company, which was behind what was Ireland’s most high profile and controversial premium phone line service, ceased trading.

The appointment of Mr Leahy also follows a Revenue Commissioner’s notice in January confirming it had petitioned the High Court to wind up Realm Communications Ltd.

The premium phone line business was established in 1998 and built up a large cash pile over the years before Mr Higgins and his wife Theresa Dunne cashed out in 2009, sharing a dividend payout of €9 million.

(From Bad Newspaper via Miss Cellania.)

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On the table

About the time this goes live, I’ll be on the operating table, getting my nerves realigned. (Literally. Look up “spinal stenosis.”) I have been given no reason to think this is a particularly complicated procedure, and I expect to come out of it no worse than I went in.

Saturday I sprung this idea:

I still hate the idea. Then again, I’ve burned up the last of my paid days at work as of this afternoon, so “subsequent expenses” are still something of a worry. (I have, I think, enough on hand to cover the annual out-of-pocket on my gold silver bronze zinc health-insurance plan.) I don’t plan a formal fundraiser or anything like that, largely because this requires setting an official goal, which sort of rubs me the wrong way. (If you’re curious, I was thinking in terms of $4,000.) That said, I would be grateful for anything anyone feels like stashing into my PayPal account (chaz -at- dustbury.com).

Any posts I have in the can will be dribbled out over the next day or two. I expect to be released Tuesday, maybe Wednesday at the latest.

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The incredible shrinking paper

It wasn’t that long ago that the Oklahoman decided to leave the Black Tower on the Broadway Distention to the printers and move the actual news-gathering operations downtown.

Evidently the printers weren’t far enough away to suit the publisher:

The Oklahoman will outsource its printing and packaging operations to the Tulsa World beginning in September, announced Chris Reen, publisher of The Oklahoman and President of The Oklahoman Media Group. The Oklahoman will close its printing and packaging facility at Britton and Broadway.

“We’re fortunate to have newer and more modern presses as close as Tulsa with ownership like Berkshire Hathaway who has a great deal of experience with these sorts of arrangements around the country. The move will create significant cost savings while not sacrificing quality,” Reen said.

Except, of course, for adding a minimum of two hours’ worth of lead time:

Reen said in order to ensure the same timely morning delivery of the newspaper, there will be earlier press times which will impact some late-night news stories and sports scores.

“Timely” is in the eye of the beholder, or maybe the subscriber. I consider delivery after 6:30 am (as it was yesterday) to be excessively late. (I am an afternoon-paper kind of person, but not the sort of afternoon paper that’s spent 11 hours turning yellow in the summer sun.)

Not mentioned in that NewsOK reveal:

I note for reference that GateHouse, under its post-bankruptcy name New Media Investment Group, bought the Dolan Company at the end of 2015, which owned, among other things, the Journal Record.

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