Friday, October 14, 2016

The Not So Great 2016 Election

A couple of days ago I got a call from my old friend, Pat. Pat wanted to know why I wasn't writing about these two morons that are running for President.

Honestly, they remind of the last two morons. And the two before that. And so on.

The democrats and their lap dog media must really be scared of losing. Every article in every mainstream media outlet is running Trump down- while ignoring Hillary's crimes. It smells of desperation. Even those fake polls.

Actually I can boil this election down to one topic. That's all there is. The rest of this election is noise. More on that in a bit.

I have a two part theory on why we get such horrible candidates every election cycle. It is actually pretty simple. Ego maniacs and power seekers run for office. Sometimes I think, they actually run for the money particularly in the rural areas. Candidates today do not run for office out of a sense of public service. In fact, the idea of running based on public service is a notion so archaic you will never even hear anyone state it. When was the last time you heard a candidate say they were running for office because they wanted to serve the public? Let me guess- never.

Politicians today don't even think about serving the public. Mostly, they just serve their selfish interests. That's true at every level of government on down to local governments.

Part two of my theory is that decent, non ego driven people simply don't run for office. The reason good people are good people is that they do not engage in occupations where they must lie, repay favors, get played in the local press, etc. Status or a a political resume is simply not important to them. Good people want absolutely none of that nonsense. That's why we get the shit bags that we get running for office. Obama hasn't had a real job during his entire life. Honestly, if that guy had to turn a wrench or lift a heavy object he'd probably dislocate something. You can bet those hands have never owned a callous or seen a blister.

So this election hinges on one thing. Obamacare. The "Affordable Health Care Act" which is one of the greatest lies ever perpetuated by government.

Trump says he'll get rid of it. Hillary will keep it. There you have it. The only reason to vote for either of these two. Obamacare is the only reason Obama is supporting Hillary- he knows his "legacy" will stay intact. That's why he hates Trump.

It's that simple. Hillary the criminal or Trump the ego maniac womanizer- it doesn't matter. People are going to vote based on their Obamacare pain. I will tell you this- millions upon millions of us are pissed off over the dump truck full of lies piled on us by this administration and the worst Congress ever. There is new evidence now that supports the suspicion that King Obama even influenced Justice Roberts to allow the ACA to clear the Supreme Court. All three branches of government failed us. Big time. And the shittiest law ever- lingers on. Check this out. The latest million people getting hosed.

Trump has a real shot. All you have to do is beat a criminal- and know there are about 100 million actual taxpayers with jobs who have been screwed over by the worst law ever.

One last thing. Have you noticed that Hillary is nothing but a power hungry elitist- catering to banks and the big war machine? She would be perfect sitting atop the GOP because there is nothing about this woman that is blue collar. I can't believe the alleged blue collar base of the democratic party, working stiffs, buys her bullshit- they might as well be voting for Romney sans all the criminal conduct.

Friday, October 7, 2016

When America Was Great- The Sunday Collage

I have not written in a long time. I'm an old man with a cheap laptop. My opinion means very little. My experiences are largely marginalized and useless, replaced by the grand philosophy that exists among the liberal elite of today. You only have a voice if you agree with them and they grant you permission to speak once in awhile. They are in charge. Pontificating without license. They will create a law soon.

The other great dilemma that so many of us face when we write- is that what we think is no longer credible. The only credible people it seems, are those that philosophize about how the rest of us should live. Many build shrines to convince the rest of us that we should listen to them. Interior walls with degrees, awards, writing achievements and credentials all accumulated while sitting in some temperature controlled environment. These are the people who speak on behalf of the rest of us- the uneducated and underachieving minions who have largely frittered our meaningless lives away. That's how they see us. I believe that in a very real, generalized way. .

So if those credentials, degrees, vast riches, and Hamptonian blue blood are so self empowering and coveted- so highly valued- where exactly is the payoff? How can we be at the societal and cultural cliff's edge laboring over a decision between two self absorbed narcissistic sociopaths for President? Where are these great minds when the saving time arrives? Do you have something useful to contribute? What was it that made America great?

Our country and people have always made mistakes. Sometimes we pretend they didn't happen and sometimes we actually learned something from mistakes. Some of our founding fathers were great visionaries, but they were just men. They made mistakes.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Thomas Jefferson wrote this phrase, arguably the most famous line from the  Declaration of Independence. This while owning slaves. Men and women who were not created equal.Note that our rights are given to us by the creator- not bestowed upon us by men.

We fought a great war in this country and we died for our beliefs. That is conviction. People on both sides took a stand. People died trying to make right with that old wrong. And it still isn't right- but you know- not once have I heard a member of the black community give thanks to those 400,000 or so dead union troops who tried to square that account. Not once.

So in America we once had courage and conviction. Do you see that level of courage today?

We were largely a Christian society with a huge majority of people practicing Christian beliefs and trying to be better, moral, and ethical human beings in the 18th and 19th centuries. God or no God, practicing the ten commandments and trying to be better neighbors did not hurt our culture. It didn't make us worse human beings. I can't make that same argument for those practicing non christian beliefs or atheism.

So we had ethics and morality instilled in us via christian teachings. Was that so bad? Do you possess your grandparents sense of right and wrong?

We had sound money. Our money was protected against degradation and counterfeiting with a gold standard. Many attempts to form a central bank were dispelled and rejected in the 1800's. Eventually in 1913, a group of international bankers via their proxies, manipulated a sneaky bill through a largely vacant Congress and the privately owned "Federal Reserve Bank" came into existence. It only took them 16 years to economically destroy this country in 1929. Four years later FDR seized personal gold without due process by executive order. We are still dealing with this non regulated, non audited, currency and inflation fabricator to this very day. That this central bank has the level of credibility that it has- has become the single greatest  unsolved mystery of my life. It really is a Wizard of Oz sort of fairy tale.

So we once had sound money and a sound economic system. How much interest are you making on your hard earned savings?

We were once a nation of laws. That meant that people had due process, trial by jury, constitutional protection, patent protection. People were free to engage in useful pursuits with the idea that they would have some protection against theft or other infringements. There would be a court system to settle disputes. There would not be a two tiered system of justice that allowed bankers and the elite to pass while the rest of us were subject to prosecution. We had an idea of fairness. That is not to say the system worked great, that it was fair and impartial, or that the victims were always restored. But it was better than the alternative and at the very least we believed the system tried to work correctly even when it failed. The rule of law has arguably been better than the arbitrary rule of man. The rule of man was the reason we had the Revolutionary War in the first place. We installed a rule of law which worked for better or worse for 230 years. The rule of man came to pass in 2008. Our President, the man in charge of enforcing the law, simply ignored the law and issued a pass to all of the systemic fraud committed by thousands of bankers- many of which gave him money to run for office.To date not one banker has ever gone to jail yet our government keeps fining them millions and billions every year. Instead of fearing jail- the greatest criminal conspiracy of my lifetime- simply pays the government off as a cost of doing business.

So we once had a rule of law that we all believed in.

Those were some of the things that made America great. We had great moral courage and conviction and we were willing to die for those beliefs. We tried to be ethically and morally correct and to try and raise our kids that way. We had tight knit communities where we all read from the same sheet of music. We tied God and country together and we recited the Pledge of Allegiance and if you wanted to be an atheist- that was ok but we weren't going to give you a platform to hate on Christians and marginalize us for our beliefs. We had sound money based on the scarcity of gold. Bankers were not allowed to lend make believe money that did not exist and inflate our savings away. And most importantly- we had a rule of law in our Republic. People were protected from others. Our rule of law had integrity. We had due process, trial by jury, and the bad guys felt shame and at the very least- resigned. Remember Nixon? You couldn't just simply ignore the rule of law back then. People like Hillary Clinton felt some degree of shame and were summarily canned and/or prosecuted for any number of the crimes that are easily investigated. Hillary Clinton, in my eyes, is the equivalent of Al Capone with federal protection.

And all that came to pass. I had to get right with the obvious.

We didn't become the greatest nation on earth by warehousing people in subsidized housing or offering FHA home loans. We didn't become great by providing unemployment for years, outsourcing jobs to foreign lands, displacing resident workers with temporary H1B replacements, or forcing people to buy horrible and cost prohibitive insurance. We became great because we fostered an environment of opportunity and competition where hard work paid off and the government was only minimally intrusive.

The America we once knew is never coming back because it can't come back. What happened in America was evolutionary. That is the way of the world. It changes, it progresses, it gets better and it gets worse. No egomaniac in a ball cap or corrupt little granny can change that, stop that, or hit system restore. It's a life cycle all of it's own and baby- this client is headed for the retirement home.

The next time you hear someone bitching about the state of affairs in our country remind them of this. That the best and brightest minds we have brought you the central bank, the banking crisis, zero interest rates, the tax code, the Pontiac Aztec, atheism, transvestite bathrooms, Obama, Clinton and Trump, affordable health care, and sprinkled in a few wars. Those are the guys with the shit hanging on their walls.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hot and Homeless in Tucson- The Sunday Collage

I love Tucson, Arizona. The people are friendly, the Mexican food is authentic, housing is cheap and so is gas. (currently about 1.79 a gal.) The mountains around Tucson provide a gorgeous skyline just before sunrise and just after sunset. The mountains are littered with giant saguaro cactus poking up everywhere. Tombstone and Bisbee are close by. If you're ever in this neck of the woods, Bisbee is worth the drive. Very unique place.

So in mid July, I sold my bungalow in Boise. It was going to be three weeks before my new home would be ready. That left me in the awkward position of being homeless for three weeks with nothing to do. I had narrowed the possibilities down to Saratoga, Del Mar, or Tucson. I love Saratoga Springs, NY. It is one of the coolest places in the U.S.- especially during the horse racing meet. But finding lodging anywhere near Saratoga or Del Mar (San Diego) is just insanely expensive. At over 200-300 bucks a day, three weeks in those places was going to run about 5k figuring in their sky high tax rates as well.

I could find places near L.A. for under 200 a day but that meant fighting Los Angeles traffic.

So I settled on Tucson. I turned the high speed Elantra toward Vegas. I spent a couple of nights at Sam's Town before reaching Tucson.

Nothing too eventful happened until I arrived in Tucson. I booked a room at an extended stay hotel. The last time I stayed here, the hotel was brand new and nice. Not so much anymore. I switched rooms to a quiet corner after spending a night underneath some tweakers who apparently stomp around on the floor all night and never sleep.. The hotel is already starting to show signs of being run down. But it's nice enough for my purposes. It's very easy in Tucson to find a decent hotel/motel for around 50 bucks and there are plenty of alternatives.

The only other knock on Tucson is the heat here in the summer. It's smoking hot. On consecutive days, the thermometer in my car showed 109 degrees. I happen to be one of those people who can handle temperature extremes pretty well so I don't even turn on the a/c until somewhere after 90.

The food here has been fantastic. There is an In and Out Burger near me. I found an Italian restaurant called Ragazzi and had the sea bass. It was excellent. I found a few authentic Mexican restaurants and the truth is- they are all good. For breakfast I found a place called the Baja Cafe. I have eaten there at least 7 times. The food is very good and every dish is under 10 bucks. The staff are friendly and they are very efficient.

They have a couple of Indian casinos with live entertainment on the outskirts of Tucson. The other night I listened to a band that only plays Bob Seger music- it was fun hanging out with the 50+ crowd. There were quite a few young folks there too, because the truth is- their generational music really does suck.

Driving in Tucson is strange. There are many people here who actually obey the speed limit.

The Elantra is hard to see out of. So I've managed to bang a few things including the trash cans at my house. I have also lost the use of one eye, on and off for a year now, and I've noticed my rear bumper cover has taken it's share of abuse during that period. When you lose an eye, you lose depth perception or the ability to triangulate between 3 points. At any rate, my rear bumper cover is banged up and I have already replaced it once so I am simply gonna wait until I sell the car to buy a new one. (On line covers are only 90 bucks compared to the 650 that I paid the body shop to fix the last one.)

The day before yesterday, the cops had a robbery and shoot out with a bad guy who is now with St Peter. They closed the highway to Nogales and this caused me to seek an alternative route to the casino. Traffic was backed up and very snarled as people tried to find ways around the closure. I was stopped at a stop light and suddenly felt a thud and lurched forward as some gal rear ended me with her Subaru. Her bumper matched mine pretty well and she put another crease into my already beat up bumper cover. She was about 70 and very apologetic. I looked at her grill, my bumper cover, and announced no damage. She thanked me. When I got to the casino, I reached up and inside with a screwdriver handle and pushed the crease out.

I made some dough when I sold my house so losing a grand or so would not be a life shattering event. Yesterday, I would get it all back and then some. It's funny how things happen.

Bad beat jackpots for poker started in California many years ago. Casinos take an extra dollar from every pot won and use it to build jackpots. They are generally awarded when aces full of something is beaten by a higher aces full of something, four of a kind, or a straight flush including a royal flush. Having your aces full of jacks full house beaten by a larger hand is a pretty rare event. So these jackpots generally build over time and some get quite large. In Kansas City, four of a kind must beat 4 of a kind. That jackpot is always at 100,000 dollars plus- although I have not seen it for many years.

Generally speaking, nearly half of the jackpot is awarded to the losing hand, about 25% percent goes to the hand that won, and the remaining 25% is usually divided among the players at the table where the bad beat happens.

In my 35 years of playing, I have only seen four of a kind beaten twice. I witnessed it when a man flopped four sixes and was beaten by a straight flush. That happened 30 years ago in Vegas before I had even heard of a "bad beat" jackpot. The only other time I have seen four of a kind beaten happened last night. The jackpot was 50 thousand.

I got into the game around 8 pm. It was a small 3-6 limit game. The players were pretty tough and the pots were small. I had decided to play until the band started at 9 pm. By 9, my cards were running pretty good and I was up a hundred or so and the poker room also had a promotional drawing for a 100 bucks every hour or so which I had qualified for. So I decided to play some more. I teased the dealer and asked her if she had ever dealt a jackpot and if so I inquired- did she have proof? About 15 minutes later, there were two players left in a hand. An older gal on my right and this crazy looking long haired guy on my left. There had been some betting and calling and after the last card had been dealt- the two people left in the hand become embroiled in a "raise war." Each of them would raise, the other one would raise back, and I actually heard both of them ask the dealer if they could raise again. The board had two kings and two nines on it. I'm not sure what the other card was. After 4 or 5 raises, I think most of the players like myself thought they each had a king and would split the pot. But generally speaking, and this has been my experience, common sense minded players will quit raising when they figure out that their opponent has the same hand. These two did not do that- because both of them knew they could not have the same hand. Unbelievably, the gal with four kings was the one who quit raising. She turned her hand over. Then the guy with four nines turned his hand over. A roar went up from the table as we realized what had just happened. Players from surrounding games scrambled over to see what had happened.

It took them two and a half hours to pay us. The casino checks video to see who was in the game and that no cheating occurred, employees prepares IRS forms for every player, the room manager counts the deck down to make sure all the cards are there, and then employees obtain 50 thousand in one hundred dollar bills from the casino cage. The gal with the 4 kings received 10,001 dollars, the guy with the four nines received 20,001 dollars, and each of the rest of us in the game received 1669 dollars. The rest was split among the players in the other games.

While we were waiting to get paid, they called my name for the drawing. I won 100 dollars more. The older gal who won the hand- drank 6 Black Russians while we waited to get paid. We became friends, yakking away. After we got the dough I kissed her and thanked her for not "mucking" or discarding those kings. She was pretty drunk by that time and I'm not sure her husband appreciated me kissing her but it wasn't like I was looking to run off with her. After 40 years of marriage... well let's just say I know a few men who wouldn't have minded too much but from the look on this guy's face... he might not have been one of those.

We tipped the dealer nearly 3000 dollars. Not bad for a night's work.

Homeless in Tucson. Not the worst place to spend your summer vacation.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

My Last Day in Boise

Some things, perhaps all things, must run their course.

Seven years ago, this month in fact, I moved to Boise. I found a nice condo near Vista and Overland. Two years later I bought my bungalow on the bench.

Boise is a nice town. There is a tug of war here.  A lot of liberal California attitudes in the north and the east side of town. The rest it seems, lean conservative. I used to see Ron Paul bumper stickers up here on the Bench so I must have been in the right part of town.

Idaho legalized your right to carry concealed guns this year. This was always your right although most states think their laws trump the Constitution. So now, we can carry guns concealed without a note from our parents. For violent criminals- this might not be the best place to practice your trade.

Idaho did away with live horse racing a few months ago. While undoubtedly saving me a considerable amount of money- horse racing was one of the big reasons I moved to Boise. Last year during the live race meet, I had one losing day out of 15. It was like handing out free money. I found the races, the trainers, and one excellent female jockey to be quite predictable. It was a very good year. In nine months, racing was gone.

So today I sit among the spartan ruins of my home, doing last minute fixes and cleaning before the new owners arrive. The bungalows sits on a large corner lot with mature landscaping and gobs of parking. It was the lot that attracted me here 5 years ago. Tomorrow, we close the deal and I will be officially homeless. My new home in Twin Falls will be occupied until the first week of August. Oddly, that home has mature landscaping and gobs of parking.

So I am in the process of figuring out what to do and where to go for the next three weeks.

I have never been to Del Mar during the live race meet. The Del Mar meeting starts Friday. Maybe I'll just throw a bunch of clothes in the car and head to San Diego. Maybe if I get to Del Mar, I'll post up some pictures. Take the surf train up the coast- best kept secret in America. I don't know what I'm gonna do yet but I have 3 weeks to sort it out.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

It Was Never Comey's Call To Begin With- The Sunday Collage

James Comey offered another government whitewash on Jul. 5 when he declined to "pursue" the case against Hillary Clinton. That's what our government does best. They lie. And in a moment, I'll offer proof of a cover up by way of procedure.

First of all I'd like to say-  James Comey was never a cop. He is a lawyer and a political appointee. The FBI's top cop? Let me explain. The best cops in this country aren't pussies and they sure as hell don't behave like compromised political prisoners. I detest people like Comey. I always have. They are nothing but political whores- unprincipled and always for sale. Oh sure they'll prosecute some minor league player who can't hurt them, but when real danger comes calling they try to find ways to circumvent the law. Doing the right thing is never selfless. These guys always think about themselves first. In fact,  they believe that's all that matters. They never put it on the line because they are cowards. That's how folks like Comey find those lofty perches. Real cops ruffle feathers and piss people off. Real cops never make it to the top rungs because they have ethics and principles and they will enforce the law regardless of who it is that is breaking it. Their careers get derailed and so be it.

Guys like Comey are a dime a dozen.They go to school, make the right connections, spend their lives at cocktail parties, write resumes' and kiss ass. Then they spend a lifetime trying to convince the rest of us how special they are.

Now I promised you proof of deception. Comey has spent a lifetime on the law enforcement side of the law. He is a prosecutor, ugh lawyer. It pains me to say he is Irish. Probably from the north side of the isle.

Many years ago, I responded to a stabbing call. It was two Mexican males. One of them had beat the other's boy and during the heated debate that of them had pulled out a knife and stabbed the other one in the shoulder blade. The victim was taken to the hospital and via an interpreter, the victim told me that he deserved the stabbing and did not want to pursue charges. He was an illegal alien and that complicated things a bit. But he was adamant that he would not testify against his attacker.

Knowing all of this, I decided not to arrest the suspect. I mean, what's the point?

The point is- is that the State of Idaho considers felonies such as aggravated battery- a crime against the citizens of the State of Idaho. The law doesn't care what I think. My job was to gather evidence and bring the suspect before a higher authority. Prosecutors and courts adjudicate cases- not cops. My boss arrested the suspect the following day and ultimately the prosecutor dismissed the case. We had done our jobs. I had learned a valuable lesson which I pass along here.

It is not Comey's job to whitewash a case. It is his job to gather evidence and to present the case to Loretta Lynch. It is Lynch's job to prosecute, decline it, or appoint a special prosecutor to white wash the whole ordeal since she is compromised and quite honestly could be called as a WITNESS as a result of her meeting with Bill Clinton. Think about that for a second! We all know that Comey and Lynch are Obama appointees, we know Bill Clinton secretly met with Lynch days before Comey made his announcement. We don't need a road map to find the corner grocery store.

Comey knows what his job is. He has been a prosecutor his whole life. He does not have the right or the authority to decline to pursue a case. That is Lynch's job. In fact Comey not only pretended that it was his call in that Jul 5 press circus- he could only do so with the blessing of Lynch and Obama himself. Because guys like Comey advance and protect their careers. They don't take chances when it comes to their image and future. They certainly do not go on national television without the full consent and knowledge of their superiors.

Comey was bought and paid for by this administration long ago. With an overwhelming amount of evidence, as well as the vast destruction of evidence that Hillary Clinton did to that email server (not to mention her lies about Benghazi) smacks of a complete cover-up and that stretches right to President Obama himself.

Declining to pursue the case against Hillary Clinton was never Comey's call. Any cop with two years on the job knows that. Richard Nixon would be proud of this bunch.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Want a Return on Your Money? Try Silver, Gold, and Platinum This Year

First a little background. 

My state run retirement system, which is in the top 10% in terms of funding, is on track to either lose 1% this year or break even. It's fiscal year ends Jun 30.

Most state run retirement funds are based on actuarial returns of 8% annually. This is not net of a true inflation rate which is running right around 9%. The government's wholly fictitious Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publications which include the monthly PPI and CPI manipulations are some of the finest accounting gimmickry ever produced. They do this to keep inflation "contained" and to keep cost of living increases for SSI down to next to nothing. State retirement systems love the BLS- they cite their ridiculous numbers every year while screwing plan particpants out of cost of living allowances. Last year my state system gave out nothing- unless you had been retired for at least 5 years. They gave those people 1%.

They are bankers. They know their actuarial rates are ridiculously overstated and un-achievable. Just like this year's return. Wait until markets turn down. I can hear the howls from here.
If you want a true inflation picture, click here.

If you think your private or state run retirement system is secure- think again. I am seriously concerned about Idaho's and we are one of the best. Not only have these systems over stated actual returns- we haven't seen a bear market since Mar. of 09. Bond yields are negative in Europe and headed that way here. Retirement systems look for yield. They can't get it. Ultimately they are going to have to ask participants to contribute more. The stock market has run out of gas, PE multiples are sky high and earnings are flat. Without another round of QE- the market can only go sideways or down. If the market is ever allowed to trade without Federal Reserve intervention- the ensuing shit storm will wreak havoc on all investment classes, retirement systems, the worthless US dollar, and your savings- whatever they might be.

If you need further confirmation of just how shaky things are, read this.

After the January 2016 bottom in precious metals- and 4 years of bear market manipulation- the precious metals sector has returned from the dead. I know a couple of authors who honestly don't believe commodity desks at investment banks are engaged in market manipulation. That level of naivete' is awesome. Banks have been caught manipulating every market from oil to libor, including silver. They have admitted as much. On Friday, I closed out one position on a gold and silver miner for a 130% gain in 5 months. Every one of my 100 screened metals miners is hitting one year highs or are higher than that in multiples. Gold has rallied 30% on the year, silver has rallied a stunning 40% after Fridays spectacular close, and even platinum has rallied 100 bucks. Platinum is where I am currently focused. Platinum is a screaming buy- I just can't see any scenario where platinum gets left behind as precious metals rally. It is sub 1100 now and I have plans to buy some this week.

An ounce of platinum is trading 300 dollars less than an oz. of gold. That disparity is enormous. Platinum and gold swap positions during times of uncertainty. Platinum, because of it's scarcity and utility, generally trades at a premium to gold. Central banks don't horde platinum. Platinum is used primarily in the auto industry for catalytic converters. If anyone has seen film of Beijing's air pollution- the potential market for platinum begins to take shape. It is expensive to mine and the vast majority of platinum comes from South Africa. In the United States, Stillwater Mining (SWC) is the only platinum producing mine and it's not too far from Billings, Mt. That stock is up with significant upside still. Platinum closed Friday up 33 bucks an ounce at 1054. SWC is trading at 12.25. A 25 year chart of SWC shows that it once traded for 50 bucks a share- 15 years ago.

I own some silver and gold and I've started to add platinum. I also own shares in a South African miner, Platinum Group, or PLG. PLG was up 16% on Friday to 3.96. 

This stock has been so out of favor for so long- it's remarkable. People whine about it on the message boards because they aren't making the money they think they should. Platinum Group has some interesting property and they are within 6 months of full scale production. They did a "10 for 1" reverse split earlier this year. The base price of this stock (it traded sideways for months)- is about 3.10 a share. At 3.96, you have not missed the boat. I can easily see this at 10.00 a share before I die of old age. I am going to load up on this one if I can find a pullback point soon. My favorite gold play is up next.

Pretium is probably the single greatest gold find in the world. It's in British Columbia, it has been permitted, and they are constructing the mine. A neighboring property (Seabridge gold) trades at 15 up 350%!! Pretium (PVG) has been on fire this year. They had a secondary offering of shares at 4.50 and they are up a stunning 150% to 11.69. They have an experienced CEO in Robert Quartermain who is well respected in the industry. The breath taking part about Pretium is the assayed amounts of gold on the property. You have to do your own due diligence here. Compare proven amounts to other profitable mines and you'll get an idea of what this property holds. The only knock is the amount of over burden- but given the price of gold, the amount of gold at the mine, and future demand- I easily see PVG trading at 25. In fact, after doing a little math on proven and prove able reserves, 25 might be too low.

Endeavor, (EXK) Tahoe Resources, (TAHO) and McEwen Mining (MUX)  are three silver plays. I have owned these in the past and I still think Tahoe is the pre-eminent silver producer right now- it should benefit greatly from a recent acquisition, rising gold and silver prices, and decreasing overhead. 

Owning bullion doesn't hurt either. There is so much uncertainty in the world right now between Brexit, negative yields on bonds in the eurozone, collapsing currencies and central banks flooding countries with liquidity- not to mention the two nitwits running for President in the U.S.-  

I have sell targets too. The last time I sold silver it was at 40 bucks an oz. I sold 10 ounces. My next target would be 60 or so. We all have a buying plan- you should also have a selling plan. In fact, I hit my target price for Tahoe at 15.50 on Friday and sold that position.

You simply cannot afford to be 45-65 years old right now in this country and hope that everything is going to go well. If your income is tied up in retirement systems that need 8% annual returns- you are already in trouble. Social Security is a ponzi scheme as well. They will eventually ask plan participants for more money, reduce monthly benefits, or collapse into insolvency. The entire retirement industry in the United States is based on equity markets. People who don't see the utility in investing outside of equity markets may watch all of their acquired wealth vanish. At 45-65 years of age, with diminishing returns and a not so bright future, buying precious metals this year- even after the recent run up- is a no brainer. Protect yourself.

Or, you can always buy near the all time high of an 8 year bull market in equities and hope for the best. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Essential Uber Driver

In January of this year, my friend Jon talked me into driving for the ride sharing service, Uber. Jon had made nearly 600 bucks in three days, half of which he made on New Year's Eve. That sounded like a pretty good deal to me. So I set about the task of trying to investigate Uber online. All I could find were a couple of cheer leading pieces telling me how lucrative Uber driving was. I suspected if people were making 50, 75, and 100k a year as some posts claimed- everyone would be driving for Uber. So I knew that was bullshit. I also found some disgruntled comments here and there. What I wasn't able to find was a comprehensive "pros and cons" type of piece written by an actual driver and not some company stooge or displaced taxi cab driver.

For the record, I am a retired police officer from small town America. Driving people around in cars comes pretty natural to me, although in the case of Uber- it's the rider's choice to take a ride rather than my decision to give them one. I like people, tolerate drunks well, and I can talk to anyone-so I thought Uber would be a strong fit for me. I decided to give it a try.


Uber requires that at a minimum, prospective drivers have at least a 2006 model, four door vehicle. You must provide registration and proof of insurance. You must also have a driver's license with a fairly clean record and prospective drivers must submit to a background check. Your car also has to be inspected by a local shop which you will pay for- usually about 20 bucks. All communication with Uber is done using your camera phone and email. You will never talk to a human being in the Uber hierarchy- they see no utility in that. Drivers take pictures of themselves- pictures which are furnished to riders. You must have a fairly current smart phone to receive calls and map directions. I am currently using a Samsung Galaxy 4. It is easy to burn through a stock battery in just a few trips so I bought a huge battery pack which tripled my storage capacity. I still use a car charger as well. I have a three pronged set-up for passengers to use. You'd be surprised how many passengers have dead phones.

It takes 3-7 days to get through Uber's application process. There are a couple of online tutorials that will help you and give you some tips. Tips like buying passengers water- which I found to be a complete waste of time and money. If you really want to provide something passengers use- try gum instead. More on that later.

Once you are approved- you can go online.  My first call was a young gal at the airport. Drivers have 15 seconds to accept a ride. You simply touch your phone screen and then google maps locates you and gives you directions to your passenger. Once you accept a ride you can actually call or text your passenger. I use this feature quite a bit at the airport or when a passenger keeps me waiting curbside.

Google's mapping feature is far from precise. I have had five different addresses offered for the Boise Airport. Sometimes you can be an entire block off- meaning the customer is actually a block in front of or behind the given destination. Sometimes riders screw up the address when requesting a ride. Finding people in crowds is also very hard or in wide open spaces like giant apartment complexes and malls. In those types of environments, you must rely on the pin on the map which is the customer's GPS. Sometimes I use two navigation devices.

Uber does not let drivers see the trip length in advance. After arrival at a pick up point, you must swipe the "start trip" screen before you can see the destination- provided the rider has bothered to put it in. That way, drivers cannot decline a trip based on trip length.

Nothing irks me more than riders who cancel the ride after you are halfway there or riders who leave you waiting by the curb. I wait 6 minutes for riders and then I promptly leave. That happened today. I suspect she did it because the price was surging and paying the nominal 5 dollar no show fee (after a driver waits 5 mins) was cheaper than taking the ride to where ever it was that she was going. Which brings me to a few passenger tips and the two way rating system.

Anytime you have trouble with a passenger before the trip starts- especially if you are new to Uber- you are far better off canceling the trip than trying to salvage it. You can cancel as often as you like. Uber likes to call us "sub contractors" rather than employees. A huge benefit to having that designation is that you are the Captain of your ship. Anytime a passenger makes you wait too long, over stuffs your car with 5 or more passengers, tries to smoke, vape, or smuggle in drinks, asks you to haul muddy pets, or anything else you don't like- you are better off canceling the trip. Those types of trips tend to degrade and you can't stop the impending bad rating anyway- if your passenger doesn't like you at the beginning they will not like you at the end. Cancel those types of passengers. Save yourself the grief and a bad rating.

I've had people spit chew down the door, spill drinks on the seat and floor, been an unwitting party to a drug deal, and even witnessed a gal give a guy a hand job in the backseat. Check your backseats frequently. Lost cell phones and other items are common. Had I checked my back seat one night, I might have been able to mop up a rum and coke stain on my backseat before it became permanent.


Let's talk about Uber's rating system. I personally believe that rating passengers after a trip is a waste of time because the data is simply not relevant. Bad passengers get us the same money as the good ones. I see no utility in giving a rider a bad rating. That's part of the job. Uber lets passengers get away with a lot. I have hauled passengers with low ratings and some deserved worse. In my 600 plus trips- I have never given any rider anything other than 5 stars. Uber doesn't care about rider ratings and even if they do- they sure don't communicate that to drivers. If you do see a ride pop up and the user has a low rating, you can choose to not take the trip. That has been the only saving grace to rider ratings.

Riders can see previous trips and the driver's photo on their application which is a nice feature. Drivers must remember names- I have a few "stand outs" which I remember- one who likes to vape in my car (vaping leaves a sticky film on your windows) and the other which used the service (and my car) to complete a drug deal including two trips to the same house and an atm. After tying up the car and being a general creep- I dropped him back off where we started from- a strip club. He immediately gave me the only bad rating I had that week. He was just a scumbag- there really is no other way of describing him, his appearance, or his demeanor. I immediately committed his name to my "no fly" list.

Riders issuing bad ratings to drivers works differently. Uber can and will shut your app down if a driver rating falls below 4.6. Drivers then have to pay for an online course and complete it before they can continue to drive. I get the whole accountability piece but the part that irritates me about the rating system is that any angry, drunk, surly, depressed, or entitled prince or princess can give you a bad rating for no other reason than they are just miserable people. Short of a functioning crystal ball, drivers can't avoid these people. A few days ago, I picked up a snotty gal who barked orders at me the entire trip. I tried to be nice to her but she ignored me while staring at her phone. I tend to remember people like "Charla."  Those types of trips can never get over fast enough- I wanted to hit the NOS. I thanked her despite her crappy attitude and waited for the inevitable bad rating which oddly, showed up a day or two later. Charla, I can guarantee you, will never ride in my car again.

When riders rate you poorly- they tend to do it right away. It will show up quickly. My personal experience is that about 1 person out of 20 will rate you poorly no matter what you do. Decent people are far more forgiving. Boise's best drivers sport a 4.88 rating. Mine is a little higher. One of the best things about driving for Uber, and one of the few reasons that I continued to drive for Uber as long as I have is that the vast majority of people are decent, interesting, and some are really fun to cart around. You are working in close quarters with strangers. I like people and Uber is a fantastic way of meeting them. Unfortunately, Uber is becoming the Walmart of transportation- enriching itself at the expense of their drivers.


I started driving for Uber in January. They had minimum hourly guarantees, rates of 9 and 14 depending on the time of day. We also had higher base fares and we received an additional dollar a ride.

By March, Uber had slashed the base fares some 35%. They did away with hourly guarantees. They also phased out the additional dollar a trip. Now we receive a base rate of 2 dollars, 1 dollar per mile, and .15 cents a minute for the time that the car is tied up. There is no additional fee for 2-4 riders- this is a fact not lost on partying college kids.

A very typical 3 mile trip in Boise will gross 6 bucks. Uber swipes 25% off the top, leaving you with about 4.50.

The average trip for a driver goes something like this. The pick up is 2.5 miles away. You take the customer 3 miles and your return trip home is 3.5 miles. You have driven 9 miles for a trip that will net you 4 bucks and change. If that sounds like a formula for financial success, Uber is looking for you.

Uber employs a strategy called "surge" pricing wherein they charge riders more at peak travel times. Surge pricing, a novelty really, has added about 400 dollars or less than 10% to my gross earnings. Most potential riders just wait 10 or 15 minutes until the rates return to normal before requesting a ride. In fact, I used to use surge times for breaks to go to the store and get gas because people just wait out surge pricing or take a cab instead.

People tip infrequently but I usually make something in tips. Maybe 5 bucks a day averaged over time. I use tips to buy gum. Many of my riders are hung over, trying to get back to their cars and homes on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Hardly anyone turns down gum and it cures cottonmouth. It doesn't hurt your rating either.

Uber it seems, can change your pay rate any time they choose with little notice. Under normal working conditions, employees in virtually any other job in this country are given a pre- determined and agreed upon wage which generally cannot go down. Apparently Uber thinks it does not have to adhere to that custom and so far- at least in Boise- they have proven that.

I have talked to other drivers from other locales. Where there is competition, Uber cannot afford to lose drivers. In places like Salt Lake City and San Francisco, drivers are still making decent money because Uber can't find a way to scalp employees and keep competitive in those markets. Here in Boise, many of us are simply quitting. About the time the competing Lyft service gets here, Uber will start paying drivers again. Given a choice, I hope Boise drivers remember what Uber did here.


You will need a cellphone, a data plan, a car, insurance, gas, brakes, tires, and oil. Uber does not re-imburse any of that. Writing it off on your taxes is tricky business and all costs are certainly not recoverable. Uber with holds nothing so you'll be on the hook for the additional tax bite.

The wear and tear on my car has been significant. I smoked a clutch hauling 4 of the biggest human beings ever stuffed into an Elantra. I was the small guy at 260. The clutch repair cost me 700 and two weeks of downtime. I had a tire blow up in front of me on the interstate and as I was dodging airborne parts of truck/trailer tire, I rolled over a piece which slapped up and damaged my rear bumper cover. I've also had two near collisions which brings me to a point that all drivers really need to consider.

If your insurance company finds out you are driving commercially- they will cancel you. They will not pay claims. That leaves you high and dry. Oddly, I cannot find policy terms for James River Insurance which is on the waybill as Uber's insurance carrier. My gut tells me that Uber probably insures themselves against losses incurred by drivers or passengers (liability) but I doubt that loss coverage is extended to drivers. If you were to get in a significant injury accident you would be in serious trouble- particularly if you were at fault. Brokering a commercial policy is expensive and probably the best way to go- this is something Uber should be doing. How they've managed to avoid this boggles my mind. If cities in America required Uber to adequately and commercially insure their drivers- they could probably run them out of business.


Uber is a great idea and probably the best thing that ever happened in the passenger hauling space. Riders love Uber. It is a car on demand anytime you need one. You know who is coming to get you, what they will be driving, how long it will take, and you can even watch them on the screen. The car is dedicated to the requesting party and cannot be hailed by anyone else. The entire trip from request to finish is logged even when a driver forgets to start the trip. The cars are generally nicer and the drivers speak fluid English. Uber costs one half of what a taxi might cost in our market although I cannot speak for other markets. No cash changes hands.

I like Uber a lot. It works. The problem is that Uber, like so many other greedy corporations, has found a way of exploiting drivers and cars. The result of this will be a thinning of the driver gene pool, so to speak. Cars and drivers will only meet the minimum standards. Intelligent drivers will quit because the math doesn't work. The workforce will become transitory, new drivers will come and go. It's a shame really because Uber is such a good idea. Eventually, the market will push back and the novelty of ride sharing will wear off. I don't think the barriers to market entry are all that great and one day I envision- an efficient and improved peer to peer application- (not unlike Tinder) may just take the place of a corporate entity skimming proceeds off the top of the ride sharing biz..

Today is my last day of Uber driving. The risk-reward ratio is just too far out of balance for me to continue. I have made 600 trips and I have only managed to gross 4200 bucks this year- about 7 bucks a trip. That total includes money from the old, attractive pricing structures, long trips, and surge pricing. Boise has two larger problems- a lack of long rides and excessive downtime between ride requests. I can't even make it pencil by only working peak times.

So it boils down to this. Find a value for your time, your car (cost), insurance, gas and oil, wear and tear, which I have priced at .90 cents a mile. (.60 for car, .30 a min. for labor or 18.00 an hr) Find your average trip length, let's say 9 miles round trip. If you didn't make 8.10 on that trip, you lost money. Uber would have paid you 4.50, before taxes. They do not count your time and mileage to the trip nor your time and mileage to return.

That as they say is the bottom line. In the end, market forces will determine what drivers make. With a current glut of math challenged drivers and no ride sharing competition- Uber is sweeping every last crumb off the table while they can in Boise. The truth is- Uber would do away with human drivers if they could. Read this piece on "driverless" cars. That makes me laugh. Some riders would still find something to whine about.

Years ago when I was a kid, I got ripped off by an unscrupulous radio station that promised to pay me mileage and a dollar per delivery for coupon books they were selling. They never paid me a dime. I never forgot that lesson. They beat Uber to this punch bowl by some 40 years.

Hopefully I've been able to write the sort of comprehensive, "here's the pros and cons, this was my experience" sort of piece that I was searching for back in January. I know it leans a little harsh against driving for Uber but I think the information is generally accurate and universal. It might help people make informed decisions and perform a little due diligence on their own. Markets are different and Uber prices markets differently. Any potential driver can sort out his or her city's pricing structure. Uber up a ride and ask the driver a few questions. That's the best and most accurate information that you are likely to get.