And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales

I had a nasty little head cold that seems to be wrapping itself up finally.  This time I went with Qin Chiao and Zicam.  I got the sore throat on Tuesday, naturally the DAY AFTER I gave blood so I had to call the blood bank and tell them that particular pint might not have been my best work.  Then I  spiraled downward Wednesday and Thursday.  Spent Friday down there and started working my way out on Saturday.  I’m not 100% but I’m almost out of the web.  Friday was the funeral for our friend.  I don’t believe there is much worse that watching a 22 year old kid get up in a chapel and say she’s going to miss her Daddy.  I wish I had put something together.  As it turned out, no one spoke for the title plant. Of course the title plant sat together in the back.  And went through a lot of Kleenex.  Between the cold and service I’m sure I was covered in snot and tears.  Friday was a rough day.  I left Old Republic in 1998.  They brought in a new plant manager who was such an idiot that I just couldn’t abide by that guy.  He was that special kind of corporate brownnoser that I so respect.  I spent the next 10 years having a great career until I ran into the Amateur Manager.  But we all pick back up like it was yesterday.  I had lunch with a couple of the guys afterward.  We just don’t miss a beat.

In other news, Bubba has blown his coat again.  He looks like an alien species.

He had a run of antibiotics for the abscess on his manhood.  I don’t know if that was a contributing factor.  I can’t remember how much I said about that, but he had something on his boyness.  The interns poked and prodded and squeezed and ultimately got a needle and aspirated it.  I stood over him repeating “I’m sorry little man”.  Little Bubba took it like a champ.  They gave me a run of antibiotics and it’s finally gone.

And in spite of lots of advice in the contrary, I planted peet pots and put tomatoes, jalapeños, habañeros and some of Rudy’s peppers in there.  Rudy’s seeds were 2 years old, but I got lucky and they sprouted anyway.  Everything came up except two of Rudy’s, so I’ve got four of them, 7 tomatoes, 2 jalapeños, and a habañero.

I’ve built a 4X4 raised bed for the peppers so that the soil will stay warmer.  They’ll go into the ground in the next couple of days depending on rain.  Somebody left a half of a squirrel on the back 40.  I discovered him yesterday.  I’m hoping the bird circling the yard really was a vulture and took care of the rest.  If not, I guess I have to bury half a squirrel later on today.  I don’t know who introduced him to his maker.  Rita got back there twice last week, but wouldn’t even pretend to venture back there yesterday when the gate was wide open.  I can’t’ imagine she wouldn’t have brought her prey back to me, but who knows with that dog.  She’s kind of sociopathic at times.  An owl or a bird of prey could have introduced him to his maker too.  That’s actually the way I’d like things to work around here.

They all drowned when the air turned blue

This would be a total drive by this morning if I didn’t have so many tasty little morsels.  First up, oopsey.  Bill Foley overcharging customers, imagine that?  And wait a minute boys, did you think the elimination of affirmative insurance for creditors rights was really going to slip by me?  It didn’t.  That was one of the good things in working for the Bloodless Empire.  Their National Underwriter (who is of course long since gone) actually understood creditor’s rights and because I was smart enough to pick his brain, so do I.  Just for the record, I really hate all the people out there who attempt to write about subjects that they don’t bother to research.  I may have an opinion, but at least it’s based in facts.  On to today’s “that’s going to leave a mark” segment Bank of America sues First American Insurance Corp for failing to provide proper title searches.  Did they finally read a title report?  Don’t get me going on banks and their procedures this morning.  I’d just love to run in to someone who knew how to negotiate properly.  That would be gold.  Compared to some corporate monkey who can’t do anything that isn’t filled out in a spreadsheet that they were handed the day they took their $22k a year job.  I realize on some levels this is a response to corruption, but at some point you need to give your people the freedom to do what’s right.  At the end of the day, more often than not, they will do the right thing and the organization will prosper.  Just sayin’.  And look who’s snuggled up with Satan Bill Gates.  I have so many different passwords for every freaking website I have to work with and all my banks and credit cards.  What was your first dog’s 2nd cousin’s middle name?  Uh Bert?  Uh Henry?  How the hell should I know?  What’s your favorite color?  Well, it depends if I’m in a black mood or feeling the green, sometimes I like yellow best.  The third letter of your eldest sibling’s third child?  Now we get Microsoft asking us “Are you sure you want to answer that you don’t have an eldest sibling and this phanthom sibling has no children?”  Yes, goddammit Bill Gates, I’m sure I want to do what I told you eight friggin’ times that I wanted to do it!  Now quit asking me inane questions.

Two very interesting people passed on to the great beyond this week.  Wilma Mankiller was only 64.  She lived about six lives stuffed into one.  It took pancreatic cancer to take her down.  NPR played part of an interview with her from 2003 where she spoke about surviving a head on collision.  She talked about looking at death essentially straight in the eye and not being afraid.  And about the nurse straddling her in the ambulance yelling at her to stay here.  Malcolm McLaren lost his battle with cancer yesterday.  Love him or hate him or both, which seemed to be the case, he was interesting and changed the landscape of music.

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In other news, Bubba had a re-check this week for his gut.  [back story here for newbies]  He was out of Prednisone and they wanted to look at him before I got any more steroids for my dog.  For some reason unknown to me, I thought it was a good idea to wean him off of the pred as I got to the end of the prescription.  So I went to a half a pill and then a half a pill every other day, then every third day and then there were none.  He did ok but I got scared and took him in for the re-check anyway.  Dr. Johnson checked him out and said that he was going to give him some but he wanted me to wean him off of them.  Uh, I already did that.  Encina is a teaching hospital so he had two very eager little interns running around.  I mentioned that Bubba also had a, we’ll call it a “thing” on the end of his manlihood.  Maybe a pimple, maybe a little abscess, but bad enough that I figured since we were there they should look at it.  Poor Bubba.  The interns poked and prodded and then decided to aspirate it, take a smear and check out the slide.  Bubba showed what a great dog he is by just laying there (on the people couch) and letting them assault his maleness.  It’s nothing so a short run of antibiotics so it doesn’t get anywhere else it should be and he’ll be back in the saddle so to speak.

And if you had any questions as to why I change clothes the minute I walk into the house, this should clear that up.

Housekeeping note: The data base update left funky symbols in some of the older posts.  Since there is around 1200 posts on this blog and WordPress doesn’t seem to have a suitable work around I’ll be slowly going through the archives and getting the funky symbols out of there.  Do not adjust your dial.  It’s mySql acting an ass, nothing wrong with your machine.

I guess my race is run

Miss me?  Yeah, I know.  I suck.  Actually, you have no idea how much I suck.

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After the BMW blew up in Pittsburg and I got railroaded by the Authorities a few other choice events occurred, I got myself into a First Class nosedive.  I was in a flat spin heading out to sea.  I mean seriously, you can fight the Man for so long and then be Alfred E. Neuman for so long and then all of the sudden some SOB comes along and blows down your house of cards.  Well.  There you have it.  I did everything I could think of to shake off the funk but it would not go away.  I even considered going to work for someone.  And then it hit me, like a hot kiss at the end of a cold fist.  Actually, I slipped off a curb, rolled my ankle and ended up on my ass.  Yep.  Flat broke ass splat on the pavement.  As I picked myself up I was thankful that nothing seemed broken, because I can’t afford to go see a Dr.  If it was broke, it was going to stay broke.  I had no choice.  But then something strange happened.  It was like the universe was done screwing with me and once I picked myself up, it was all over with.  I was hurt, but out of my funk.  My right knee and my right elbow are pretty swollen, but they’re going to be alright.  And I’m back to my usual obnoxious self.  And I own those bitches dammit.  So, without further ado, a letter to Bill Foley.

Dear Bill you rat bastard Mr. Foley,

How dare you!  You have just cut staff again and you have just reduced their pay again.  All in service to your Wall Street gods.  Shame on you!  Right now most of the poor schmucks staff that work for you are making about the same as a clerk at Trader Joe’s, which isn’t even a union shop.   So they aren’t making dick.  Your marketing bullshit says that your staff “”takes pride in title and escrow services that meet customer demands for efficient and timely processing and quality products.”  No they don’t.  They’re fighting for their lives.  They can’t make their house payments, they can’t pay their bills and with the bump in insurance they can’t insure their families.  They are over worked and woefully underpaid.  Enough.  To quote one of your County Managers “He’s sitting up there overlooking his vineyards sipping on his wine while everybody down here is struggling”.  Yes Bill, I know you said “profits are at 1993 levels so pay will be at 1993 levels”.  OK, why don’t you call up the assholes at Exxon and have them drop the price of gas to 1993 levels.  And then when you’re done with that roll back my mortgage to 1993 levels.  I was paying $800 a month for housing in 1993, that ought to work for me today.  How about that dumbass?  And while we’re at it, let’s roll back your compensation to 1993 levels.  How do you like me now eh?  You disgust me Mr. Foley.   And that is why I boycott your wine and that is why I advocate the boycott of your wine to the wine community.  One day they’ll understand, but for now, you are a rank bastard who single handedly ruined an honorable profession.  Shame on you.

Just think what he’ll do to the wine business, another honorable profession that he’s got his slimy fingers in.  Boycott Foley Family Wines

Forget the hearst ’cause I never die

It’s probably not a great idea to taunt hackers, but really?  My programming skills are rudimentary.  If I can find the offending code in my header in 15 minutes, you suck.  You’re not even a good hacker.  You’re just a prepubescent twit who should turn off the computer and go take your bath so you’re not late to school tomorrow.

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There’s four minutes of your life you’ll never get back.  You’re welcome.  I was actually looking for the mailbag bit, but after the eskimo midgets and the chinese trapeze uh, artists, well, I had no choice but to go with Dobermans and Saran Wrap.

Actually, maybe the Burgermeister had me hacked.  Or some guy from their tech department.  It really was a low quality hack and if you’ve ever used Simon, you’ll know why I think it could be their IT department.  Earnings came out on Wednesday and as I suspected they reported a $69.3 million dollar profit.  Translation 30 cents per share beating the street by 8 cents per share.  Trailing EPS of .61 cents. Then they announced a 15 cent per share dividend for Q4.  Hopefully some of those employees who were laid off in January own some stock.  It rose 6 cents per share in late trading.  I don’t know what the ex date is.  Now why are you drinking this guy’s juice?

Old Repulsive brought in revenue of $3.8 billion, up 2%.  Total Q4 loss of $.15 per share.  They paid a dividend of $.17 per share.  Beating the street by $.10 per share.  And they still have employees that have been with the company for over 20 years.

The Bloodless Empire doesn’t report until February 25th.  I’ve got to wonder, what are they hiding?  Oh what the hell?


Dinty Moore reports on February 18th and I know what they are hiding.  Their balance sheet looks like Mr. White, Mr. Brown, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink and Mr. Blonde stopped by.

I think the Little Engine That Could is printing money at night up at the Sierra Lodge.  I don’t know how else they’re doing it.

I’ve got to do a security upgrade over the weekend so if my usual drivel is missing, don’t depair, I’ll be back as soon as I figure out what I did with the content files.

I’ve stared straight into the sun

File this under “That’s going to leave a mark” in the “Reasons why the Wine Dog is a Wise Dog” file.  The PR Newswire blares “Fidelity National Financial, Inc. Issues Statement Refuting Significant Inaccuracies and the Omission of Important Facts in New York Time Article“.   What New York Times article you say?  Click here for hanky panky and shenanigans.  Stuff like this is what’s wrong with business in America.  Just a reminder, of the 20-40% cuts in wages the employees of FNF received over the last three years, no one’s salary has been restored.  No one’s commission structure has been reinstated.  And Bill posted $.62 3rd Quarter EPS to Wall Street.  His corporate gods have been satisfied on the backs of his workers once again.  Winos, this man should not be allowed in the wine business.  You are laying down with the Devil and bad things are going to happen.  Mark my words.  Boycott Foley Family Wines.  Be careful, we’re not talking about Robert Foley Vineyards.   Robert Foley is truly family owned and he may very well be the God of Cabernet.  Personally I really like his Charbono too.  Enjoy Robert Foley wines all day long, boycott Foley Family Wines.

robert foley

It’s a damned fine Charbono.  I wrote about this last year, but we had this with NY strip steaks with a bit of roquefort on top and a red wine reduction.  It was a perfect pairing.

Back to business, I ran across this youtube which was part of the Leading@Google series.  The speaker is Bill George.  He spoke on October 22, 2008.  Before the Presidential election.  It’s an hour long but I high recommend getting a cuppa joe and listening to the whole thing.  And yes, FNF is hierarchtical.

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That is pouring like an avalanche, coming down the mountain

Love the inbox.  OTG send me this link.  I promise you, underwriting at title companies have come to a stand still while title officers argue the esoteric nuances of this decision.  Sadly, they’re the only ones that care.

The structures were built landward of the mean-high-water line (that is, were built lawfully, and on the homeowners’ own land), but because of continuing erosion the structures in part came to lie waterward of the “theoretical” mean-high-water line—waterward, that is, as that line would have existed had there not been those structures.

This is why I find that interesting.  See where the tide is marked on that map?  Does that decision mean the Feds own the Embarcadero Center?  And 101 California and everything on California street all the way to just past Sansome.  Surf’s up Bra.


Doesn’t seem to be a particularly well thought out decision, especially from a federal court. The ensuing gnashing of teeth should be interesting.  Talk amongst yourselves.

But first, a quick moment of lunacy.

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Well there was mutiny in Lagos, aboard the mean ship Skondi

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I did a lot of work for these guys in Oakland. They made a positive difference in some very rough neighborhoods. The talking heads at Fox disgust me. I just want to grab them by the scruff of their necks and rub their noses in it. Turn off Fox. I don’t watch their news, I don’t watch their shows and I don’t watch their football games. Just because you say the same thing over and over again doesn’t make it true. It just makes you a moron.

Did you know Rachel Maddow was from Castro Valley? Yup.


Check out this blow by blow coverage of the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Ponzi Scheme. I’ve read some very interesting stuff about how Paulson handled the distribution of the TARP money. Here’s Teddy’s letter to Paulson. Asshat. And now all that’s left is a bitter pill.  I’m shocked that anyone associated with LandAmerica would name a company BackInTheBlack.  Seriously.  It ought to be called BetterDeadThanRed.  So whoever UnitedTech is, they just got the Default Services and BackInTheBlack.  I call bullshit.

There is a lot of speculation about the shadow inventory. Some folks don’t even believe it exists. Here’s some helpful hints:

  1. You can’t modify a loan if there isn’t enough income to qualify for it
  2. The banks aren’t taking property back right now
  3. is wrong.

Why aren’t the banks taking property back? Simple. They can’t post a loss and keep the Federal Government off their asses. So they don’t take back the properties. If they don’t take it back they don’t have to post the loss on that asset. No loss equals no loss. Equals big bonuses can flow to executives, the Government leaves them alone and it’s business as usual. Keep in mind, Paulson forced nine banks to take TARP money. Those guys paid it back as quickly as they could because no one wanted to end up like Rick Wagoner. It has nothing to do with anything more than a bunch of spoiled brats trying to hang on to the corporate teat that they suckle from. Showing any more loss this year will send up the red flags, so these guys are leaving these assets out there. Every day I hear another story about a guy who’s been living in a house and hasn’t made a payment in a year, two years, 18 months. There’s a ton of them. In the last two days I heard about two in Alamo. One each day. Really. It’s that bad.

What’s that smell?  Dinty Moore.  Holy crap they stunk up the place.  How much longer can they bleed money like this?  $23.7 million dollar loss.  Ouch mon.  Over at the Bloodless Empire, they posted profits of $.59 per share.  Nice work if you can get it.  Poor Parker Kennedy had to deal with those pesky employee separation and lease termination costs of $4 million.  Yup.  One made money the other didn’t.

But we all live with the scars we choose

We’re all singing “Happy Days are here again” right? Everyone has had their salaries restored to pre-mortgage meltdown rates, right? Your bonuses and commissions have all been restored by Mr. Foley right? Everybody is holding hands and singing “We are the World” at the Evil Empire, right? Oh let’s just quote the earnings call. During the earnings call Al Stinson said:

Open order counts continue to accelerate in October, as we averaged nearly 10,000 open orders for the first two weeks of October. We focused on moderate head count reductions during much of the third quarter eliminating about 850 positions. Despite a 16% sequential drop in closed orders and $101 million or 7% reduction in total title revenue, we were still able to generate pretax title profits that only decline about $13 million and an 8.9% pretax margin that was only a 30 basis points or 3% sequential decline from the second quarter.

Yep, Bill lopped off another 850 heads and turned in Q3 EPS of .32 per share to the Captains of Industry. Nice job asshat.

The Evil Empire continues to balance the books and bring profits to his Wall Street lords on the backs of the employees. Splendid. Restore your staff’s salaries, commissions and bonuses and THEN post profits for Wall Street. Any question that Bill Foley is a reprehensible character? Any question about his morally bankrupt business practices? Ask one of his employees, they’ll tell you.

You see a little bit of a food fight broke out when my pals over at AWB picked up on my pounding of the drums. They get why I have called for a boycott of Foley Wine Group. But they took it on the chin because the wine consuming public, or maybe it’s just a couple of morons that commented over there, don’t get why Bill Foley must be stopped. The thing in the Wine Spectator article that just jumps out at me is how Bill never said “I bought Sebastiani because I wanted to preserve a 104 year old tradition.” Nothing like that. He bought Sebastiani so that he would have more control over distribution. He never said and doesn’t give a crap about what kind of wine they make or the people who make it. It’s about distribution. So when some little wanker says “Oh he saved Sebastiani”, I say get a clue. Sebastiani’s time had run. Businesses have a life, and maybe Sebastiani was at the end of it’s life and needed to be laid to rest. Not to be further bastardized by a corporate raider. Mark my words, if he’s not stopped by the consumers, he will irrevocably change the wine industry forever, but not for the better.

Old Repulsive released earnings last week too. Well, earnings isn’t really the right word. The loss per share after an accounting adjustment was .20. They paid a .17 cent dividend per share so essentially they’re pretty close to stopping the bleeding. More importantly, they laid off less staff and retained more long term employees than any of the other title companies. They acted as if they knew business was cyclical and they had saved for that rainy day. They continue to behave in a much more admirable manner than any of their competitors. They have their problems, that’s for sure, but they don’t seem to bow to their Wall Street gods like Bill and Parker Kennedy do and here at PBE that’s a good thing.

The Bloodless Empire and Dinty Moore will be reporting on Thursday of this week. I will guess that one posts earnings the other doesn’t. Anyone want to venture a guess? I know, that was a softball. Speaking of softballs, this guy was truly the diameter of a softball. I saw him walking across the street, couldn’t believe it so I pulled over and snapped a picture, since I was up in Round Hill Country Club checking on one of our listings anyway and had the camera.


I killed the Czar and his ministers

PBE is like the Post Office. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…” PBE delivers.  Just the other day Doctor Capone asked about the Mercury/Alliance debacle.  This morning, I look in my inbox and POOF!

10-20-09mercury letter

The operative word in the letter is “might”.  Most of the Alliance, Mercury, and Financial folks will remember that David Balter is the attorney for the State of California Labor Commission.  He was on this like a duck on a junebug back in 2007.  Mr. Balter really cares about the folks who got caught in Jerry & Patty’s scheme.  This is about recovering the lost wages, vacation pay stolen by Jerry Hauptman and Patty Hauptman when the companies failed. You know, 10 minutes after they both took their own salaries and skulked off to their mountain home.  Apparently these days Patty Hauptman is billing herself as an “Independent Management Consulting Professional“.  Apparently because she did such a professional job of managing Mercury Companies…nevermind.  You’ll be pleased to know that Jerry Hauptman is a “Management Consultant” at…yep, the Evil Empire.  I’m going to change my LinkedIn profile to simply read “Her Satanic Majesty”.

And remember, don’t buy Bill’s plonk.  The wine industry needs to say “no” to Bill Foley.  Leave it on the shelf.  The title insurance community has learned the hard way why Bill Foley is bad for business, and we all know why he’s bad for the consumer.  Don’t let the Burgermeister do to the wine industry what he did to the title industry.

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Howling at all this corrosion

The best part about this website to me is the input I get from y’all. I get emails with subject suggestions and as I’ve mentioned before, I love the peanut gallery (comment section). And no, I’m not painting the house fire engine red. The front door, yes. The house no.

My inbox has been hammered on this subject and I just haven’t had a moment to read through everything and put together a thoughtful rant post. It’s time.

AB957 passed. It passed in spite of Ticor’s attempting to black ball Property ID. It passed in spite of all the opposition from the banking industry. It passed because it was good and right. Unfortunately, it got neutered along the way. Some of the well written articles in support of AB957 can be found here and here. And of course in the PBE archives.

Like anything else, if people would act right there would be no need for legislation. But when an industry bullies the consuming public, they get the white hot light of the legislature shining up their ass. And in this case, rightly so. This is the same industry who has been foreclosing on peoples homes while simultaneously doing a “work out” in their short sale or loan mod department. An industry so out of control and morally reprehensible that they can’t even bother to properly staff these departments to assure some sort of communication between the two divisions, and ultimately ensure that they’ve done the best job that they could for their customers. They deserve the white hot light of the legislature up their ass. Actually they deserve a red hot poker up their ass.

Unfortunately some wording was added to Ms Galgiani’s bill that will allow the slippery snake oil salesman of the title and banking industries to worm their way around AB957. Now buyers are required to fill out this form with every offer:


The Buyer has the right to make an independent selection of the entity that will provide the title insurance covering the property and/or escrow agent used in connection with the sale of the property.

Buyer also has the right to agree to accept the services of a title insurer and/or an escrow agent recommended by the seller, if written notice of the right to make an independent selection of those services is provided by the seller to the buyer.

Buyer acknowledges he/she received prior notice of his/her right to make an independent selection of the entity that will provide the title insurance covering the property and/or escrow agent used in connection with the property sale.

Buyer: ___________________________ Date: _____________

Buyer: ___________________________ Date: _____________

That ought to do it eh? Not so fast Sparky. That has to be filled out and submitted with the offer.  Because the seller can choose any offer they want, they’ll just choose the offer that allows them to drive the title and escrow while making the buyer’s pay that company’s exorbitant fees.  Yeah, exorbitant.  I’ve heard a ton of arguments about these so called “deep discounts” and “bulk pricing” that are supposedly being offered by these REO units.  Bullshit.  The last one I priced out was over $500 more at the Evil Empire than if I had sent the same transaction to Old Repulsive.  On a $120k condo.  That’s obscene.  I’m sure the moment it was clear that Schwarzenegger was going to sign that bitch the title companies and the banks were on the phone to each other trying to work out a way to get around it.  Shame on both of you.  If you would act honorably none of this would be necessary in the first place.

Speaking of doing business in an honorable way, Schwarenegger signed a total seven bills into law the other day.  All aimed directly at the banking, mortgage and title industry.  Knowing what a lot of us know about how those industries behaved in the last 10 years, they deserve every one of them.  AB 260 says that mortgage brokers can’t steer borrowers to risky, high interest rate loans when they qualify for better loans.  You’d think that it would be a simple matter of morals, you put your borrower in the best product for them, but not the slimeballs who were in the mortgage industry in the last 10 years, they steered their client towards the product with the highest rip.  That practice has been illegal in the securities industry for years.  It’s about time the mortgage industry caught up.  Kudos to Ted Lieu for bringing it to the legislature and kudos to the Govenator for signing it.  AB 260 also outlaws neg-am loans, essentially the product that Herb Sandler made his fortune on.  Now let’s get after Herb with a red hot poker.

SB 36 (Calderon) says that all residential loan originators have to be licensed.  We all know what was happening and what this now means.  Thanks to Mike Feuer, it’s now a felony to commit fraud on a residential loan application. (AB239) The most bizarre is AB1160 requiring mortgage loan documents to be written in the same language that the verbal negotiations were conducted in.  So are we now printing loan docs in Farsi, Mandarin, Hindi, Khmer, Vietnamese and Tagalog?  Or does it mean that the negotiations will now all occur in English?  I understand the need, I just question how well thought out this one was.  Still Schwarenegger stood up for the people of the State of California, and that’s his job.  And while he gets a lot of well deserved criticism, he does try to do what’s best for the State.  And at PBE, that’s worth something.