31 July 2009
First is the report that the President asked for a hundred million in cuts, and they found a hundred and two.
The cuts were realized by such things as using both sides of paper when copying documents, deleting unused email accounts, and not repainting white government vehicles.
As Chris points out, these are things that should have been done ages ago, but as a former member of the US Government I can point to just one thing that would realize immediate significant savings.
Every year we would go through the same old thing where we would fly a lot at the end of each quarter to burn up our fuel funds and everyone would get new furniture. The deal is that if you don't use all the money up your next year's budget is decreased by the amount that is left over. Obviously this does not lead to frugality, in fact we would usually run over and have to dip into the next quarter's money to make up the difference.
The clear answer, and also one that should have been implemented ages ago, is to not penalize frugality. Award the individual commands a percentage of the moneys not spent for their welfare and rec (party) fund, and continue to fund them at the same levels (adjusted for inflation) for the next fiscal year. That way if the money is needed it is there, and if not a majority of it is returned to the coffers to be used next year. This would encourage frugality, which is now not the case.
The next topic is the clunker buy-back program that the .gov was so proud of. Seems like it was so popular that the billion dollars allocated to the fund is about used up, and it's only been a week. Since the program requires the dealers to award and honor the certificates right away and be reimbursed later, many dealers are looking at some pretty serious losses.
My major complaint with the cash for clunkers program is that one of the program requirements is that the motors on the old cars have to be deliberately destroyed. No part of the motor or drivetrain can be sold, according to the program rules (this link goes to cars.gov but does not require you to log into the system).
That means that if you have one of the same models of car that you decided to keep (because for instance you figured out that you wouldn't be able to afford the payments even with the buy-back cash, or you haven't seen a car that you want to own worse than your old one, or maybe just that your old car is a pretty good one and you still have need of it) the used parts market for it outside of body panels or interior pieces is effectively dried up. If you were hoping to score some motor parts or a complete motor or transmission, well let's just say there's an acronym that describes your position. SOL.
The only entities that profit from this boondoggle is the scrap metals market. China should be pleased, since they are the largest buyer of scrap metal. Auto salvage yards, on the other hand, not so much.
Good thing for me that none of my cars qualify. They are either too old or they get good enough mileage that they don't fall under the 18 MPG rule. That means that I should be able to get parts far into the foreseeable future.
That's a good thing, too, because the way things are going it looks like I might want to hold on to the old cars for a while. And who knows, maybe one day one of them will be a classic and be worth more than I paid for all of them. Look at what happened to the Edsel, for instance.
A guy can dream, anyway.
UPDATE: This made me cringe:
"Nick Clites, who is in charge of used cars for the dealership, was prepping a 1988 BMW 535IS, with 214,000 miles on the odometer, for its death. He drained the oil, then donned a silky blue protective suit, goggles and gloves and poured a sodium silicate solution into the engine. He revved the car, and within a few seconds, the solution hardened into a glass-like substance, the engine seized up and the car was dead."
Let's look at that again. 1988 BMW 535 IS, that the dealer had to fork over 4500 clams for, engine totally destroyed. If you even have a passing appreciation for fine German automobiles you should be at least wincing right now. Kelley Blue Book has the base model 535 priced at $3650 for an 89 model, so not only is the used car market going to be taking a hit but now you can't even get parts. It's enough to make a car guy scream.
No, I didn't miss the point of the article, which was to warn those who log in to the cars.gov system that "all ur computurz r belong to us."
UPDATE II: Velociman adds his two shekels as only the Velociman can. Yeah, what he said.
29 July 2009
Recent events in Cambridge Mass. have proven this assumption to be in error.
Also since the election of BHO there seems to have been a great misapprehension in certain quarters that America is now ready to embrace full on socialism.
There are cracks in that facade as well.
I was reading over at The Gunslinger's Journal about Oklahoma being the latest state to sign into law a resolution affirming the Tenth Amendment, and a line that she wrote prompted a cascade of thoughts.
Her post was concerning the individual States who are now beginning to stand up in opposition to the monster that our Federal Government has become, and opined that the end result may be another round of secession.
"This time" she writes, "the Union can keep the slaves."
Oklahoma, Alaska, Idaho, both Dakotas, and Tennessee have so far passed resolutions supporting the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, with several more considering such moves.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has made statements that could be construed as secessionist, a question that had been thought rather thoroughly settled since 1865. There are rumblings all throughout the right leaning blogosphere concerning the three boxes (soap box, ballot box, cartridge box).
As expected, these things are being used by opponents to demonstrate how rabid crazy those gun-toting bible-thumping bitter racists clingers on the right are. The supporters simply repeat their call to arms. I don't know if violence is eminent or not, but I have always been an optimist. I think this country can still be saved through judicious use of the first two boxes without having to resort to the third.
With that being said, however, I have been more than a little discouraged and disgusted with those who purport to be my fellow countrymen. Everywhere you turn it seems that there is another street-corner evangelist preaching the gospel of government control, and they always seem to have a crowd around them.
It is human nature to seek the most gain from minimum effort, and nothing can be more minimum than having someone else do it for you. These are the people who turn to Mommy Government to solve all of their ills.
In 1865 the country climbed out from under a civil war. Freed slaves reveled in new found freedom.
They soon found out, however, that freedom has it's cost. Slavery is safe, because someone takes care of you. It may be only a minimum level of care, barely enough for sustenance, but it is provided to you. Food, clothing and shelter, the first three items on the hierarchy of needs, are given free of monetary cost. The only thing you pay for these things is your soul.
Freedom, however, means that you are left to fend for yourself. Being responsible for yourself means that you must provide for your own food, clothing and shelter. No one is waiting to pick you up when you fall, you live or die by your own actions and decisions. You own yourself, body and soul.
Freedom is scary.
This is why so many people opt for any kind of soft slavery rather than hard freedom. This is the reason the serfs in the former Soviet Union bemoaned the loss of their masters. This is the reason that so many in this country are willing to sell themselves for the promise of free health care and social security for all. This is why so many will be the willing slaves of whatever master will have them.
They are willing to sell all that they are for the cost of a few coins dribbled their way. What happens to them when the coins finally dry up, as they must?
The flip side of this coin, so to speak, is the people who go out and exert maximum effort in a bid to capture maximum gain. These are the people who lead, who innovate, who move the economy; these are the people who control the world. Let us speak of them for a moment.
It has not escaped my notice how popular Ayn Rand's classic "Atlas Shrugged" has gotten to be in recent times. It's a hard read in many spots, Rand has an unfortunate tendency to beat her readers to death to make a point sometimes (as an example, John Galt's radio address). The points are well made, however, and ominously prescient.
I am of the opinion that we don't need a John Galt, at least not yet. What we need is more Hank Reardens, men and women who will stand up and say "I see what you are doing, and I'm not going to play along." (For the record, I am more of an Eddie Willers type myself.)
John Galt was an organizer, if you will. But in order for a John Galt to be effective, he must have people who are of like mind to organize with. Such a man is not truly a leader as such, he is merely chief among equals. Those who would be willing to be led are plentiful, those who must be convinced are the ones we need right now.
We need an Ellis Wyatt to point out the facts that the US Government makes more money from a gallon of gasoline than the oil companies do and that the US Government has blocked domestic energy production, thereby forcing us to go overseas for our oil. This puts us at the mercy of foreign nations.
We need a Midas Mulligan to point out that Government interference in the real estate market led to the housing bubble, which led to our present ills, and that the supposed stimulus packages that were foisted on us without benefit of being read have only widened and deepened the problems. Other governmental interferences in other areas of the economy and financial markets have produced similar ills.
We need a Lawrence Hammond to point out that the same Government that could not profitably run a brothel (last link NSFW) * with an established reputation and clientele cannot possibly run an auto company, much less two. This Government had neither the Constitutional authority nor the wisdom to involve themselves with the day to day running of businesses, much less their bankruptcy proceedings. The President certainly did not have the authority to call for the firing of GM's head exec. It can only end in disaster, for GM, for Chrysler, and for the American taxpayer.
We need a Doctor Hendricks who will make the same case for health care. We need a Judge Narragansett who will bang the gavel in support of freedom and individual responsibility. We need a Quentin Daniels who will counter the James Hansons with facts, and do so with as much vigor and volume as they do.
We need men and women in positions of influence and authority who will not blindly bow down to the authoritarian state.
Then, and only then, will a John Galt do any good.
And if the cartridge box becomes the only option, then the Union can keep the slaves.
*It comes to my attention that, although the IRS did indeed intend to continue to operate the brothel, they were so incompetent that they could not persuade a federal judge to allow them to assume the business license. In other words, they failed to run a brothel. So, while the story is actually an urban legend, the lesson still remains.
24 July 2009
The countries I traveled to were considered stable and civilized for the most part, but even in these countries there are reminders that things were not always so.
In France, for instance, one can still find the burned out buildings and shelled walls from two world wars.
In Sigonella, Sicily there is an American air base. Just outside that base is a building that bears the pockmarks from artillery.
If one traverses the Suez Canal one can see the burned carcasses of trucks and other vehicles stranded on the Sinai side where Israeli air forces turned this area into a slaughterhouse as Egyptian forces attempted to cross the canal back into Egypt.
Wherever you are, the situations can turn from peaceful to not-so-peaceful in the blink of an eye.
This website gives you some pointers on how to deal with it.
HT: The Smallest Minority
Yes, this is an extreme case. So what.
Pay particular attention to the part that says "But because of an old federal law called the Feres Doctrine, Read, his wife, and his family members can't sue the military over what happened to him."
Count on that doctrine to be part and parcel of Government paid health care.
You have been warned.
HT: The Smallest Minority
UPDATE: Apparently the Republicans have been told not to call it "government run healthcare" in correspondence to their constituents if they want to use their franking privileges. They must instead call it a "public option health care plan." Because socialism is such an ugly word.
HT: Ace Of Spades HQ
(The part in bold italics means, do the curtains match the carpet?)
The answer is simple. Because all men are pigs, that's why.
23 July 2009
They were up front with us over the scheduling things, and we grumbled about it but since they were honest it was easier to take. This round they aren't playing things so straight.
We get annual raises and also quarterly and annual bonuses depending on how production has gone. We have gotten bonuses for the last 2 years that I have worked here. Now they are cutting the annual raises.
They tried to sell this as a positive thing, saying they were going to put the money they would have spent on raises into the bonus pool, so the bonuses will roughly double. For someone who got an $800 bonus last year, the bonuses will be $1600 instead.
This sounds good on the surface, but for someone making $11.00 an hour (their mythical figure) the expected raise would equal $1500 over the course of the year. They point out that this hypothetical employee will end up netting an extra Benjamin out of the deal.
What they conveniently leave out (and what they expect the employee base to be too stupid to figure out on their own, apparently) is that this hypothetical employee could have figured on an extra $2300.00 in their paychecks over the course of the year when you add the pay hike plus the old bonus figure of $800. Instead of netting an extra hundred, this poor hypothetical sap is getting played to the tune of 7 bills or more (considering that bonuses are tied to production goals, which the average working stiff has little to do with).
What bothers me is the fact they are trying to sell this crap as chocolate ice cream. If they had just said "Here's a crap sandwich, everyone gets to take a bite" it may have been easier to take. They played straight with us at first, and they should have kept on that line. They chose not to do that this time.
This mirrors the current situation with legislative actions such as cap and tax, health care, and the proposed second stimulus. The Congress and the President is hoping that we are too stupid to figure out these things will end up costing us all dearly in the end.
At least the Congress and the current administration never tried playing it straight first.
22 July 2009
A Game of Thrones, a novel by George RR Martin, is set to begin filming in October. The first season will encompass the first of seven planned novels.
This means old George had best get off of his ass and finish the last three novels.
More details here.
15 July 2009
Unlike many other fund drives, you get stuff when you donate to DBD, so it's more of a sale than a drive.
The more you donate, the more stuff you get. All cashy money is used to support DBD and, incidentally, keep us all in teh funneh.
You go there now.
11 July 2009
Now MSN wants to get into the act. They decry the fad of large Stupid Useless Vehicles driven by women and girly-men sucking down large amounts of carbon-based fuel poisoning Mother Gaia.
I know of several industries that have need of these large trucks, the construction and farming industries to name two. Other than that, the ownership of these (actually very useful) vehicles doesn't make much sense, especially the four-wheel drive varieties that very rarely, if ever, saw any time off-road, or even in rough weather. Their road presence greatly expanded when Federal mandates on fuel economy made cars smaller and less safe, and since the station wagon was so last-century the "SUV" was born.
Interesting side story, one winter during a snowstorm I was driving doctors back and forth from home to hospital in my little Chevy Cavalier. One doc had two of these SUVs, one a BMW and the other an H2, both 4WD. He looked disdainfully at my beat up Chevy and declared we would never make it to the hospital. I told him either drive one of his own vehicles or STFU. We made it, of course.
In other words, the SUV "fad" only stopped making sense when Yuppies got involved, as is usually the case. The Chevy Suburban has been on the market since 1935, the GMC version only slightly less longer (it showed up around 1937), so the ownership of these vehicles are by no means new, trendy, or faddish.
The only difference is that now women and girly-men drive them, and car-makers like Cadillac and BMW have their names on them.
PS: I feel as if I must clarify the above. My issue is not with the vehicles themselves, which are actually quite useful and much safer than the econoboxes that presently occupy most of the road space in the US today. My issue is with the term "SUV".
If you drive an "SUV" you are either a woman or a girly man. Real men drive trucks, and we're not ashamed of it.
Worse now is the new term on the block, XUV, which apparently means "Station wagon all jacked up on a tall frame to look like a real truck."
My apologies to any girly men who are offended. Please submit the complaint form found here to the appropriate authorities. The complaint officer here at the Last Refuge of a Scoundrel is Helen Waite. Please take all of your problems to Helen Waite.
10 July 2009
The CBO said in February that the economic porkulus bill would harm more than it would help.
They said in January that the economy would recover by the end of 2009, providing the government did nothing at all to "help."
From the report: "In preparing its economic forecast, CBO assumes that current laws and policies governing federal spending and taxes do not change. This forecast, therefore, does not include the effects of a possible fiscal stimulus package."
08 July 2009
This does not bode well for those of us designated as extremists by the DHS. From the report entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," the following groups were determined to be "extremists:"
"Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."
Another piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Hastings is HR 645, National Emergency Centers Establishment Act. This bill directs DHS to establish emergency centers on military installations for the following purposes:
(1) to provide temporary housing, medical, and humanitarian assistance to individuals and families dislocated due to an emergency or major disaster;
(2) to provide centralized locations for the purposes of training and ensuring the coordination of Federal, State, and local first responders;
(3) to provide centralized locations to improve the coordination of preparedness, response, and recovery efforts of government, private, and not-for-profit entities and faith-based organizations; and
(4) to meet other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.Purposes 1-3 seem benign enough, but 4 leaves a lot of wiggle room. Political strategist Mike Baker likens them to concentration camps, and asks "Why aren't the news media covering this story? Could it be because they fear being the first occupants of these so-called emergency installations? Where is the outrage by our nation's Fourth Estate?"
Hastings was removed from the bench by the US House of Representatives for bribery and perjury, was subsequently elected to the same US House of Representatives, and currently serves as a ranking member on the Homeland Security Subcommittee.
HT to Momma, an Ace Of Spades HQ commenter.
UPDATE: More here and here.
04 July 2009
What does it mean exactly?
I don't know.
Maybe she's just sick of the BS. Lord knows she's had her share.
Maybe she's sick of being attacked.
Maybe she's tired of having her family, her children, in the crosshairs.
Maybe she wants to concentrate on bigger and better things.
I don't know.
One thing I do know is that she galvanizes the base.
Her political opponents know that she's not the type to do the expected.
Whatever is in store for her future, I wish her the best. I don't think we have seen the last of her.
I'll be watching, and supporting.
UPDATE: It looks like I'm not alone in my analysis and conclusions.
Russ from Winterset at Ace O' Spades HQ has this to say, followed by this.
More here from Manly Rash and here from Conservatives4Palin.
And of course, no wrap-up would be complete without the skinny from He Whom Allah Hateth.