Saturday, January 31, 2009

Just Say It


There, it's been said, and no I don't feel better.

A friend from work said, "you know it's not such a bad thing". Really? Seems to be working so well for Europe.

Dreamy eyed American's still look at Europe as if it's a shining model of social and economic efficiency when nothing could be further from the truth. Italy, Spain, Britain, France as well as the Netherlands are watching their historic cultures drift away into the ether as non conforming Islamic enclaves carve up their cities and strain there social and political systems. The demographics of the native born European population is so bad we literally could be seeing the end of European Europe within the next fifty years. It's socialism that takes the fight out of them - they don't care to defend their own cultures. As unfortunate as it is only the aggressive survive. Multiculturalism and passivity are a cancer.

An economic model that confiscates a vast percentage of the individual's income in order to collectively "take care of" everyone from cradle to grave is unsustainable - it makes no sense. But what about the capitalist model? How's that been working out? Just 20 years after the communist model disintegrated with a whimper the global capitalist model is collapsing before our eyes. Was it inevitable? Yes, in that the very thing that doomed a communist utopia is dooming capitalism. Corruption is corruption and corruption destroys.

Corruption exists wherever humans exist, yes, including and especially in socialist countries. Whenever government and big business get into bed together under any political system corruption ensues. The American system was conceived with checks and balances and with an implicit transparency that was supposed to protect governed from an overreaching government. The rule of law, the power of regulatory oversight and a federalist system with the purview over interstate commerce helped keep private business in line. The semi-adversarial relationship between big business and government that developed a hundred years ago had some real benefits for the working man and society in general. Well, that's all gone now.

So yes, maybe we are a socialist country. That doesn't mean it's good. The unfortunate thing is that even though the right-wing dogma that free markets and private enterprise are the fuel that power the once great American dynamo is entirely correct... Sadly, unchecked corruption at all levels has destroyed it.

All this leads regular folks to believe socialism is the answer. It's not.

Is capitalism repairable? I once thought so. President Reagan made a valiant stab at it. Bush 43 sold capitalism down the river and Barack Obama has never been a fan of it. I wish I could be optimistic, but it looks like our once great country is following a path of multiculturalism, hyper-tolerance and lower standards that a dying Europe has blazed.

I hope I'm wrong.


Saturday, January 24, 2009


As hard as it is for me to freely admit it, President George W. Bush left office a failure. I wanted him to succeed just as I want President Obama to succeed - for the good of the country. Ultimately there is only one measure of a presidency's success or failure: did he leave the country in better shape than when he took over. By any objective measure the answer is no. Hell no.

I do think however, the deck was as stacked against Bush as it is for Obama today. The major media was suspicious of him from day one and any good will he enjoyed from the aftermath of 911 dissolved when he stood aboard that aircraft carrier in front of that mission accomplished sign.

The media actively campaigned against Bush in 2004 just as they actively campaigned (sickeningly so) for Obama in 2008. The bottom fell out when the media did a full court press on the Bush Administration in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was mostly bullshit, of course, but the visuals were so appalling it made for a perfect outrage they would gladly hurl against the President.

The hard core liberals had been suffering from BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) since the Supreme Court put a halt to the Florida fiasco in Bush v Gore. The major media, as mentioned, were completely against him after Katrina and he lost the GOP faithful with his ill considered comprehensive immigration reform.

The GOP had been beside themselves with Bush for a whole host of reasons not the least of which was McCain/Feingold Campaign Finance Reform. We all remember Harriet Miers... There was Medicaid Part D as well as a vetoless first term when the GOP controlled Congress went on a drunken pork barrel spending binge. Sure we loved the tax cuts and that famous Bush resolve in the War on Terror(ists). Still, more than once he he poked his finger in eye of those who stood by him and defended his foray into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein.

In the end the economy tanked in large part due to his inaction on the looming collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the whole "creative" mortgage backed securities charade. It's impossible to say right now if the emergency bailout of Wall Street and the big banks prevented a world wide financial system meltdown - we may never know. It seems unlikely that this "rescue plan" was a one time event. Are we now expecting the goverment to make everybody whole again? It's just such a bad precedent.

Obviously not every aspect of this presidency was a loss. No point in going into that now, I have written in praise of and in defense of President Bush many times on this blog. History may see things differently than we see things in the here and the now. There is a huge silver lining for President George W. Bush. Iraq. Yes, Iraq, the very thing that defined his presidency could be the the very thing that rescues it for posterity...

Twenty or thirty years from now if - and that's a big if - a free and democratic Iraq plays a role in transforming Mesopotamia and the rest of Arabia into functioning, modern, thriving and freer nations then the world will look back on the man who put these things into motion quite differently than we do today.

Godspeed President Bush.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inauguration... Redux

Second time is the charm!

Well, President Obama you wanted it and you got it. I would guess that shortly after your election victory the briefings started and you began to understand the breadth and depth of what George W. Bush has been dealing with. When
asked if he took all the nasty things you said about him during the campaign personally, he said no. He said you would understand him better once you stood where he stood. By the fact that you have mostly toned down your rhetoric and retained some of his key personnel it seems the truth is the great leveler.

I wish you success, maybe not in your more "socialist" agenda items, but in general. I accept that you love our country and will work as hard as President Bush to protect it from attack. I know you desire to change, or as you say remake America, however it is not so much America that needs remaking it is the government that needs to change. Government is too big and too inefficient and frankly too inept. Fix that and you will have my undying gratitude and possibly my vote in four years.

Take heart, you have some things going for you that should make your job so much easier than your predesessor's was. You have an adoring press that won't be opposing you at every turn whether your actions are righteous or not. The second thing you've got going for you is that you are not George Bush. I doubt you will be compared to Hitler on a daily basis...

Good luck Mr. President, you'll need it.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Winter Wonders

I awoke Sunday and stumbled into the bathroom to take care of nature's calling when I spied activity in my neighbor's driveway. At first I thought it was one of my neighbor's many cats. It seemed too big. I ran to get my glasses, but even then the blur of my morning eyes played tricks on me. I called my wife in from the other room and she confirmed what I thought I was seeing. It was a Great Horned Owl (in broad daylight) eating a dead rabbit.

Yesterday we saw Ginny, the neighbor, with a shovel scraping a dead critter off the driveway. Being the naturalist she is she simply tossed the dead rabbit aside so it wasn't in the middle of the driveway and let nature take its course. My wife said that she had seen the neighborhood crows fighting over it earlier this morning and they had dragged it back out on the driveway. Somewhere along the line the owl drove the crows off the quarry and claimed it for itself. The crows, none too happy, sat up in the trees letting the owl know of their displeasure.

Eventually something startled the owl. It flew into a nearby tree with an escort of angry crows hot on its tail. This went on for a awhile until the owl had enough and he flew off dodging and weaving as the crows dove in and out hassling him all the way.

All in all it was quite a start to my morning.

Over the years we have been avid bird watchers and have enjoyed the antics of the chickadees, cardinals, sparrows and juncos. We always have a bird feeder out and so do most of the neighbors. Once in a while something like this happens that makes us glad we always have our eyes glancing out the windows... I would have hated to miss this!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Change: Then and Now

There used to be a mantra that stated "what's good for General Motors is good for America".

My how things have changed in my life time. But then change is what its all about - change is good - or so they say. My dear Grandma was 98 years old when she died in the early 1990's. If we think about what life was like in the 1890's when she was born we'd have to say change was good! Back then indoor plumbing, telephones and electricity were the exception for most people in the western world. Cars were rare and airplanes didn't exist. No radio, no TV, no air conditioning - none of the modern conveniences that were taken for granted by the 1950's.

Born in 1961 I am approaching my 50th year on this Earth. While many things have changed since Kennedy was the President I don't think daily life is as different for me now as it was for my Grandma in the 1950's compared to her childhood years. I get up to the alarm clock, make toast in the toaster, take a hot shower, get in my car and commute to my job, go home at 5PM have dinner and maybe watch a little TV or read a book before bed. Not really that much different than the generation that preceded me. Try to imagine life for the generation that preceded my Grandma...

Many believe that change is "quickening". Yet, the daily routine of millions in the western world has really not changed all that much in the past 40 or 50 years. Instead of punching a clock at the factory and putting in 8 to 10 hours of back breaking work we sit at computers (sit and sit and sit) and ply our brains on difficult tasks that make us just as tired at the end of the day. For many doing mindless assembly on the production line is not really all that different from rote numbers crunching or code writing. Our modern work may not hash our bodies like the work of the past generation, but it can and does hash our spirit.

What worries a lot of us, and we don't know exactly why, is the sense that we as a society don't build or make things anymore. While this is not entirely true we can sense that the work and workers who built the society we inherited are going away and with it a huge part of who and what we are. There is just something disconcerting about it, especially in light of the condition of the American auto companies in the year 2009.

Look at the chart below. The two tables compare the top 10 American businesses in 1960 and 2008.

In 1960 the Big Three auto companies were represented. By 2008 only Ford is still there. Ford, like GM and Chrysler is waning and will be looking to the government for help. None of the steel companies are listed in 2008. The steel industry is a shell of its former self even after years of government protection via import tariffs. The oil companies have merged with each other and and still dominate the list, Exxon with Mobil, Connoco with Phillips. Texaco and Gulf are now part of Chevron. Here again, the energy companies have all benefited from government largess in the form of massive tax breaks. Financial companies now take up where steel has faltered. However, the financial system is in major trouble and has taken billions upon billions in government money (a government that has none) just to prevent a catastrophic collapse. General Electric appears to be holding it's own, but upon examination one finds billions in sales to the government and the military.

Then there's Walmart...

What can you say about Walmart? It is genuine American success story. However, I view Walmart as Cain and Able, God and the devil, sweet nectar and poison. Walmart has revolutionized retail and has introduced many processes into the procurement, inventory and distribution (among others) of product that creates efficiencies never before seen in any business anywhere. Their famous low prices also allow low income folks to afford more. This is good. What is less good - or evil - if you will, is the destruction of American manufacturing as Walmart forces factories pull up stakes for China. The mere presence of Walmart nearby sees the Mom and Pop shops on Main St. close their doors. You can argue that union wages in those factories is inefficient and unsustainable. You can point out that Mom and Pop stores are charging too much for too little. You might as well say small town America is worthless. For Walmart there is no happy medium. Who, you might ask, is paying the price for the displaced who can't make the trip to China with their job? The government.

You might be inclined to think that government is the savior based on these facts. You'd be wrong. In many cases government meddling has caused the problems. Taxes that are too high on business big and small, over regulation in some cases, under regulation in others. There are insane laws and tax codes that reward companies for taking jobs overseas. Many of our politicans set themselves up for a sweet life after they have help ruin the lives of others through terrible and destructive legislation. The real change is that they have no shame about it as they poke us in the eye these days.

What is to become of America? Can we "change" and still be a rich and proud nation? Can we?


Friday, January 09, 2009

Are We All to Blame?

Where we are as a culture is at the very heart of the mess we are in today. While I personally am turned off by much of what is called popular culture you must concede the same rot that is being fed to our youth profoundly affects the political and business culture in America and all around the world. There is absolutely no sense of shame anymore - anywhere. It's not moralistic, puritanical constraints I want to see imposed on society but perhaps a return to a sense of some degree of shame when someone commits a crime or cheats under the mantra of "everyone is doing it".

F.Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby,” remarked on the corruption of morality that comes with unrestrained greed and materialism. “Gatsby” was actually a defense of a traditional American value (hard work, thrift, living within your means) in that, America in the 1920s, had been perverted by a form of capitalism unmoored from a moral foundation. During the roaring 20's the bored mega-rich, unhinged from traditional American values, end up destroying everything they touch, never having pay for it. Is that so different from today? Millions of Americans today live far beyond their means, and are enabled by private enterprise and government. This while businessmen and politicians feathered their own nests, often flaunting it as they rubbed it in our faces.

Lately I keep reading opinions about the current financial crisis that claim “we are all to blame.” We somehow all share a collective guilt because of our greed and arrogance. But not everyone did it. Not everyone has blood on their hands just by being an American. Isn't the whole “We’re all to Blame” angle just a ploy to get us ALL to pay for it. A huge percentage of us don’t have a jumbo sub-prime mortgage. We didn’t squander everyone's money they entrusted in us in a fraudulent hedge fund scheme. It may be right to say that "everyone” is not to blame, but literally millions of Americans are. Sadly it seems much of America has lost sight of important values.

Our leaders - and it can be demonstrated that Republicans, Democrats and unelected bureaucrats are really no different - have failed us in profound and devastating ways.

I don't think it can be denied that our government not only condones unethical, morally bankrupt behavior described above, they promote it. That’s really the issue and everyone knows it. Capitalists are opportunists, while not defending what they've done in many circumstances, it's their nature to exploit every possible angle for gain. In their world, if you don’t get caught it’s not cheating - so you might as well try - the rewards are so great and penalties so laughable, you’d be a fool not to try. But our elected leaders and trusted civil servants should (and do) know better. In order to feather their own nests or retain absolute power the termites get in bed with the cockroaches - and we the people pay.

Obviously we live in a complicated and ever changing world. Fifty years ago when the rest of the world was rebuilding after a devastating war America cranked up a production based society unseen in human history. There was no one else even close until Japan emerged as a major player in the 1980's. They were in many respects better than America at the production game. Today the Asian giants are building production machines with nearly unlimited labor resources and on a scale that dwarfs our dwindling manufacturing base. So then, we must consider the role competition from abroad, namely London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing play in making our government officials behave the way that they do. Free trade, fair trade, subsidies, tariffs all play a role in our lawmaking and business decisions. We always hear how much market share we lose if we do not lighten up on regulation or cut labor costs. Regardless, instead of stooping to the level of our less than scrupulous economic rivals America should have led the world by example. Naive as I am I always believed many honorable people populated the boardrooms and legislative halls across America. I am not so sure anymore.

Today the world's financial system is now so intertwined that it basically succumbs to the butterfly effect everyday. The butterfly with the largest wings is still in America, for now.

The big butterfly's flapping has caused a economic crisis the world over.

When legislatures, presidents and Federal Reserve officials through their actions or lack of action allow the abdication of long standing lending standards along with ultra-low interest rates creating an unsustainable Lend-to-Securitize business model of sub-prime mortgage originators,then we get a housing boom and bust. The housing value collapse sent a shudder through Wall Street and eventually Main Street. The icing on the cake was a Bush appointee, Mr. Christopher Cox, an absolute stumblebum of an SEC Chair. He eliminated the so-called uptick rule, removing a key restraint on shorting just as the credit crunch was getting started. The market peaked shortly afterward, and began heading south — with no uptick rule to prevent indiscriminate short selling. To add injury to insult in September 2008, with the crisis in full bloom, he made shorting financial stocks illegal. Was he unaware that rapid market sell-offs are often slowed by short sellers covering their positions (to lock in profits on their bearish bets)? Without any short-sellers in the market, the downturn became even worse.

To say the GSE's, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, were among the principal culprits of the housing crisis is not framing it right. Fannie and Freddie were cogs in the giant mortgage machine, but they actually had nothing to do with the abdication of lending standards from 1994-07. They did however cook the books repeatedly to benefit their upper management bonuses and were continually protected by Democrats in Congress from taking the heat or being forced to change dangerous practices. And yet GOP controlled Congress from 1994-2006, including the first 6 years of the Bush Presidency. If the President and the Republicans really wanted to rein in the GSE's, they needed only make it a major priority. They didn't.

Plenty of blame to go around.

I hold out zero hope that the new government under Barack Obama will be any different. It could even be worse. I hope I am wrong. I don't want to see our country collapse financially - and the world with it. I don't know what I can do exactly. Living within my means is a place to start.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Buy It Forward: Update

I solicited comments on the "Buy It Forward" concept and you did not disappoint. Thanks to all of you who wrote me back.

As I anticipated most of you see the glaring flaw in institutionalizing something like this: abuse. People are slime aren't they?

Greed and self-interest rules the human spirit in this day and age. The real point of exploring this was to foster a shift from the self serving to the altruistic within the bounds of the consumption-based system we live in. Yes, I was looking for a glint of man's better nature. Naive yes, pointless no. What we can do is support the local food shelves (my grocery store makes this very easy by pre-packaging donations for you) and of course, giving to the Salvation Army and other top-notch charities.

Please peruse these excellent comments. Again thank you all for taking the time to think about it.

It could work, but it would take careful vetting and require a very clean administrative staff-something difficult to maintain if it really took off. You may want to ask somebody with a reputation for absolute trustworthiness to help run it once it took off-maybe a group like the Salvation Army? The Knights of Columbus? This is a variation on the charitable works of such groups, after all. The people who are asking for items would have to be vetted to avoid freeloaders (and they`ll come from every crack in the wall) plus you would probably need a
way to get receipts to the donars for tax purposes.

Hmmm. Interesting concept. I`ll think on this a bit more.

I find the idea compelling and full of hope! The details are the tricky part. I have lost a little faith in my fellow man after the last election. Electing Obama is one thing, maybe he will be the next great American president, for all of our sakes I really hope so. It's the Franken election that really scares me. Anyone who takes even a minute to look at this guy sees how disingenuous he is, and yet half of the people around me voted for the man. I want to believe the best about everyone, but as time goes on it is becoming more difficult. I like your idea, I'm not sure how to put it in place. Maybe start by looking at something like freecycle or other similar websites. They have their flaws but the idea is similar

love you dad! : )

I think this is a good idea. I think that you're right though - it could easily be taken advantage of. Maybe instead of institutionalizing it in churches and community organizations to prevent corruption, it could just be a personal philosophy - i.e. everyone could be their own judges of who is worthy to be helped in this way. I mean, Pay It Forward is spread by individuals. I'm sure there are plenty of people that we come into contact with every day who could use a little help. Either way, our country could use a little social consciousness - especially lately.

As you pointed out yourself, the big challenge would be to keep the crooked people from taking advantage of the system, sad but true. You always amaze me Mr. Craig. So I take it then that YOU are the originator of the present "Craiglist" all makes sense now! :) Good thoughts.
Cool idea, Craig. I believe the biggest challenges would be fraud.

Next steps?
The concept reminds me a bit of how some business was conducted the the movie "The Godfather", but it is an interesting thought. What do you think? Is it possible in a small/big scale, or does it just invite too much corruption? Or is this just the role that the Salvation Army fills and other non-profits that are also in trouble?
I like the concept. It serves an altruistic end as well as providing a highly efficient way of directing economic resources into goods and services that make lives better by actually being put to a useful purpose.

Unfortunately, institutionalizing the process (i.e "craigs list-type" mechanism) risks the intent by exposing it to the unscrupulous, or bogging it down with a burdensome "grant request" kind of process. Either outcome could kill it.

Finding a way to promote the "personal" search for deserving opportunities to "buy it forward" has a better chance of success. The bounds of both the scope and criteria are set by the individual giving, which avoids the need to establish any form of structure to what is inherently un-structureable. Make the focus on the "giving" as a broad based ideal, while minimizing the aspect of "deserving" , which is an intensely individual concept at best.

I like it.

More comments to follow as they come in! Be sure to read my brother Tom's long and spirited comment on the original post.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Bitter Economic Pill has (good) Side Effects

There might just be one or two good things
that come out of a substantial global economic recession. So, you're looking for a silver lining amongst all the doom and gloom? A couple of topics that have piqued my attention recently might just qualify.

One that comes to mind immediately is the about face some leftists are doing on CAGW or Catastrophic Anthropologic Global Warming. Now that their guy has won and the Dems firmly control the Congress this club they use to beat conservatives over the head with is no longer necessary. The fact that the world actually seems to be getting colder since the 1998 peak and all the other evidence that is piling up against the Gorbots and the rest of the alarmists might have something to do with it. Or that they realize that their guy will get the blame if the civilization killing measures they propose were actually employed (not that they ever really supported Kyoto or any number of goofy plans anyway). Harold Ambler over at the Huffington Post is waiting for his apology from Al Gore - its actually quite a good read.

The second thing that an economic downturn will do is help defund the terror masters due to lower oil prices. We have been beating ourselves in the GWOT by funding both sides. Funneling billions into Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as Russia for their oil while spending billions monthly to fight terrorists seemed counterproductive to most of us. Lower demand and OPEC's inability to truely cut production without its members cheating is having a devastating effect on the terror masters in Iran. Michael Ledeen has a great piece on the situation in Iran that truely is a must read. He is perhaps the most insightful commentator on Iran's war against the civilized world in the all the Western media.

Lastly, for the first time in years illegal immigration from south of the border is down - significantly so. Most people site the economic woes in the U.S. for this and its hard to argue when jobs are disappearing by the 10's of thousands every month. When coupled with a real step up in enforcement in the last few years the effect is noticeable. If it weren't for the disastrous reform legislation that turned many in his own party against him the President would have gotten high marks for these real accomplishments down at our southern border.

Even before amnesty bill was defeated in June 2007, the Bush administration was doing much more to enforce the laws already on the books - although he never will receive any credit for it. The fenced portion of the U.S. border has increased significantly in the last 18 months. Worksite enforcement has really been beefed up in recent years, with the number of criminal and administrative arrests increasing more than five-fold since earlier in Bushs' first term. The number of Border Patrol agents has more than doubled to over 16,500. In 2007, 285,000 aliens were removed, almost doubling the number in 2002. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) is likely to match its 2007 total again in 2008.

Not much consolation for these terrible economic times but it's something. Whose to say that once things turn around that these things won't rear their ugly heads again...


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Grand Opening: The Ghostown Mall

I preface this piece with this anecdote - my son and I went to the famous Mall of America in Bloomington Minnesota on Friday Jan 2nd and literally found the very last parking spot in the second of two massive parking ramps. Retail isn't dead, just yet...

Yes, indeed, they'll be one opening in every major suburb in America. The only thing one has to wonder is how it took this long.

A few years ago I spent some time in Scottsdale Arizona and came away almost disgusted by the sheer magnitude of retail shopping outlets. In the area encompassed by Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd on the north and Scottsdale Blvd on the west down to Shea Blvd the number of stores and restaurants was nearly overwhelming. A few years later I am struck by suburbs on either side of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul - namely Woodbury and Maple Grove - that look exactly like Scottsdale. I keep thinking who is shopping in all these flipping stores???

Apparently no one. (see the list below)

So are we in for a natural correction or a complete meltdown? As an inner city resident (by choice) I have to wonder if any of the stores we have lost to the suburbs will come back to the neighborhoods that are now underserved. Frankly I doubt it. There are several of the older strip malls or business districts that were completely abandoned when it was all the rage to run out to the suburbs (all the suburbs) and open mega stores. It forced us city dwellers to drive to the suburbs to do all our specialty shopping. Oh well, at least there was a mall in every conceivable direction.

The malls that grew and prospered during the past 20 years have been profiting from the unhindered credit card spending of Americans. If not credit cards then home equity lines of credit. Yes, even I got a little caught up in it. Thankfully I saw the light a few years back and have worked my way out of all my non-mortgage debt - how many Americans can say that?

There are those who see this as more than a correction in retail store saturation. Me, I'm a true believer in the market system but I bristle at the conspicuous consumption I have witnessed during the "boom years". It's legitimate to ask if this stab at the heart of the profit-seeking jones we've acquired over the last half century is really a blessing in disguise? I don't know the answer. We can't honestly go on the way we have been...

Here's a list I gathered doing an Internet search of stores that will be or have already closed. Welcome to Ghostown Mall.

Ann Taylor (117)
Movie Gallery (378)
Sprint/Nextel (125)
Ethan Allen (12)
Dell (140)
Friedmans (120)
Pier 1 (25)
Sigrid Olsen (54)
Talbots Kids/Mens (78)
Home Depot (15)
Eddie Bauer (29)
GAP (85)
Footlocker (140)
Bombay (all 384 stores)
Disney (98)
Macy's (11)
JC Penney (scaling back)
Lowes (scaling back)
Sharper Image (184)
Wilson Leather (160)
Pep Boys (31)
Pacific Sunwear / PacSun (154 Demo stores)
Zales (105)
Cache (20)
Lane Bryant (40)
KB Toys (356)
Dillards (26)
Fashion Bug (100)
CompUSA (all stores)
Linens 'N Things (all 371 stores)
Mervyn's (all 149 stores)
Club Libby Lu (Saks owned) (all 78 stores)
Steve & Barry's (all 173 stores)
Sergio Rossi (all standalone US stores)
Office Depot (126 stores)
Rite Aid (181 stores)

You can add my Michaels Arts and Craft store. So it's off to the suburbs to get my paints and canvases.