December 16th, 2008

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Just desserts

I find that I have absolutely no sympathy when it comes to people who lost money in the latest Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. I usually have little sympathy to begin with, but it sinks to zero when I feel these idiots should have known better. It's just more proof and support for my longtime belief that stupid people should not be allowed to have money. Just think of things like this as a tax on the amazingly ignorant.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm hardly a financial genius. In fact, I probably know less about the nuts and bolts of financial voodoo than....I was about to say most people but then I realized that the average person is astoundingly ignorant. Lets just say that it's not my thing and I have no specialized knowledge. That being said, I think it was fairly obvious that there was something fishy going on in this case. I was listening to NPR yesterday and they said that the average returns for this fund was 12%. 12%! I spent a couple of hours researching the best CD return rates I could find recently and they topped out at at a little under 4%. These people were getting three times the amount that the large financial institutions were offering. That should have given someone a hint that there might be some out-sized risk somewhere. In addition to that, I heard in the report that the monthly statements for the fund looked like they were printed on an 80's dot matrix printer. Instead of all the numbers and information you would expect from something like this, the only thing provided was a type-written starting balance and a type-written ending balance on a white sheet of paper. WTF? I'd probably get a better receipt nowadays buying a dimebag of crack on the street corner.

The best schadenfreude aspect of this is that it's predominantly the rich who were targeted by this. There are reports of people offering up 72" plasma tv's and huge yachts to pawn shops, trying to get some liquidity. It also looks like some charities were hit and are going down, but they should have known better than to put all of their money into something this inherently risky. These people took a ridiculous gamble and lost. In the coming days we'll hear them bitching about how it wasn't their fault, or how the government should have protected them or how someone should bail them out. Bullcrap. They made shitty decisions and now they'll have to live with them. It's no different than someone who takes all the money they have and drops it on the roulette wheel. Try asking the casino for a do-over.
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The surgeon general says: Don't stick stuff in your ears

My mom is going in for surgery this morning. She's finally going to go and try to get her ear drum repaired after one failed surgical intervention decades ago. When she was a kid my uncle, her older brother, stuck a chopstick in her year and punctured the ear drum. Since then, she's had a significant bit of hearing loss in that ear. The more obnoxious issue is that she has to be really careful about water getting into the ear canal. Whenever any amount of water gets in there, it causes an ear infection which from what I hear is obnoxious and unpleasant. Most people would have had a doctor try to fix this a long time ago but my mom has always been one of those people who felt you shouldn't take pills (much less undergo surgery) if it weren't absolutely necessary. It was hard to even find aspirin in our house when I was a kid.

Anyway, I'm not sure what her doctor said to convince her this time, but she's decided to let him try to fix the damage. It won't restore any hearing but it should stop the whole water problem if it works. He cited her a success rate of something like 97%, which I think she's still a bit concerned over. I still remember how she just about freaked when I told her I had my eyes lasered while I was in Chicago. Even though the odds of something going wrong were incredibly small, the risk of something like blindness was just too horrible for her to contemplate.

I'm pretty sure there's no actual risk in today's procedure beyond the risk you normally take whenever you go under general anesthesia. Either they can craft a new eardrum out of one of the ear bones or they can't. Still, it's something to keep my fingers crossed over.
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