Starbucks moving to AT&T for wireless; free access?

It might not seem like it, but Starbucks is dying. Starbucks has something like 8000 stores worldwide, most of which are in the U.S. Plans to expand to up to 40,000 stores have been scaled back because of lackluster sales. That’s why I was surprised by this announcement in the Seattle PI that Starbucks will begin offering wireless (possibly even free wireless) through AT&T instead of T-Blow-mobile.

Starbucks has lost its soul. Their espresso drinks aren’t even made by hand anymore. They need to do something, and free wireless is just the tip of the iceberg.

I know in other parts of the world, free wireless is not the norm. Just try finding a free wifi spot in Germany for example, it’s nearly impossible. T-Mobile has a complete stranglehold on that place. I don’t understand why independent cafes, coffee shops and bars across Europe don’t offer free access, but that’s another thread.

In most cities and towns across the U.S., free access is the rule not the exception. Starbucks needs to embrace this or continue to decline in market relevance. I hope their move to AT&T signals a step in the right direction.

If Countrywide goes bankrupt…

…do I still have to make my mortgage payment?

I should get a break given the performance of my real estate equity funds. My positions there have lost so much value they’re going to have negative value soon. They’ll be beyond red.

It’s good to know that the fund managers were well-rewarded this year.

Aid for sub-prime borrowers?

I’m confused. Today, Bush is proposing aid for people who took advantage of sub-prime lending by freezing sub-prime rates for five years.

People were greedy. They borrowed more money than they could afford so they could buy a McMansion with 4000 square feet of entirely unnecessary space. Why should we bail them out? Isn’t this what got us into this predicament in the first place – extending credit to people who don’t have the credentials to qualify for it?

Likewise, banks and hedge funds who stand to profit the most from rising interest rates shouldn’t be insulated. Sure, it’s great to keep people in their homes. But doing so also ensures that the banks and hedge fund managers will continue to reap their huge year-end bonuses. They’re being rewarded for propagating the sub-prime market. They gambled. They lost and they should lose.

Meanwhile people who borrowed conservatively at standard prime+ rates should be rewarded, with an immediate tax rebate and reduction of interest rate. That will infuse necessary cash into the economy and perhaps allow me to buy that chair at DWR I’ve always wanted.

The sliding dollar and our democracy-loving allies

With OPEC now in discussions to switch base currencies away from the sliding dollar, it’s yet another serious sign of just how far our country itself has slipped during the Bush admini-castration.

Environmental degradation, wedging Americans against each other on every petty issue for the sake of a vote, religious pandering, torture, and cronyism aside, it’s downright depressing. But I take heart: you know when friends who are extremely to the right of the political spectrum, say “I can’t stand Bush”. Perhaps not all Americans have bags over their heads like the infamous photos from Abu Ghraib.

For Americans that don’t believe the declining stature of the U.S., try leaving your Sprawlmart cocoon packed full of worthless crap made in China and go overseas. See what sort of reception you receive. It was okay for us to be the world’s bullies as long as our currency held up. Walking around Europe these days is like walking around New York with a fistful of Sucres.

And it’s a scary day when the nutcase Ahmadinjad from Iran actually makes a cogent point, stating that the dollar is “a worthless piece of paper”. Ouch. If we can’t be proud of the dollar, what do we have?

Our love for democracy and freedom, right? Well, take a look at one of our staunchest allies in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, a bright, shining example of human rights and democracy.

Just today, a woman was sentenced to 200 lashes (lashes? what century is this?) and 6 months in prison for speaking to the media about her original trial of being gang-raped. Her lawyer was dis-barred. Lovely country, really.