6/30/2011

The Government Should Stop Wasting Money On Money

I can't believe the government is still trying to foist dollar coins on the American public. All of their PR and educational slant in trying to garner interest in the dollar coin has fallen flat on its face.

On more than one occasion I have bemoaned the doomed-to-fail attempts by the government to get us to switch over to the dollar coin from the paper dollar. But as long as the government keeps printing dollar bills, the coins will sit in bank vaults, unused.

So far the government has wasted billions minting coins that will never see the light of day because Congress is unwilling to act to end the printing of dollar bills and make the coins “the law of the land.” Vending machine companies say it will be too expensive to modify their machines in order to let them accept dollar coins. (I find that hard to believe considering they've been able to do it for machines in Canada, and for machines in the UK to accept the pound coin, and for machines in the rest of Europe to accept the euro coin. It's a specious argument about specie!)

Either the government should end the 'experiment' with the dollar coin and stop wasting money, or it should do away with the dollar bill...and stop wasting money. But by doing neither the government continues to waste money we can ill afford to waste.

6/29/2011

Savants Among Us

We've all heard of savants before, generally being people with amazing abilities that are otherwise mentally disabled. Dustin Hoffman played on in the movie Rainman. Their extraordinary abilities span a wide range, covering everything from mathematics to music.

In this case, 60 Minutes brought us the story of Derek Paravicini, a blind autistic man with the ability to play piano like no one I've ever seen before.

Rather than describing what makes him so incredible, better that you watch for yourself.



I have to say I liked the part where he transformed Beethoven's Fur Elise, making it sound as if Mozart had written it instead.

6/28/2011

Consumer Spending Falls...Again

Is this yet another bit of “unexpected” news?

Apparently consumer spending is down, again. It's at its lowest pace in two years and not getting any better.

While consumers haven't stopped spending, they are being more careful. They also have changed their spending habits, with more online spending and less in the way of trips to the mall. As one of Glenn Reynolds readers explained it:

I realize it is a cliche for a woman to say she has nothing to wear; but I have literally only bought one new item of apparel for myself in the past three years. I had a pair of shorts that was more patches than original cloth, so I determined I had to buy some new ones. But after three years of mall avoidance I found the idea of going to one to be impossibly fatiguing. So I checked Overstock and Landsend (sic) clearance and bought myself some new shorts for about $10 each.

But of course since I was online I just typed in women’s shorts and that’s all I bought. If I had been at a mall I would have found a cute top and an adorable little skirt and etc. etc. My shopping habits have been completely altered, and I think its a good thing.

I can't remember the last time I went to one of the malls to shop. It's either WalMart or online shopping for us here at The Manse. If I buy something, I know what it is I want, where I can buy it, and how much it costs. I know all of that before leaving The Manse (assuming I actually go to a store to buy what I need). Otherwise we buy it online.

One of the other things driving lower consumer spending is consumers paying off debt, getting those credit cards and car loans paid off. And when consumers do spend, they're paying cash or doing without. As Instapundit reader Robin Lyons writes:

Instead of spending, I have been taking all my disposable income and paying off debt. I have a good job and have disposable income every month. But I have decided that I am not buying anything not absolutely necessary in protest of the Obama economy. Not that my single participation makes any difference, but who knows how many of me there are out there?

We've had a tight budget here at The Manse over the past two years. After a mortgage refinance at a much lower interest rate, we're paying off all of our other debt and freeing up $1000 a month or more because we won't have those payments. Our mortgage payments will remain the same and that's the only debt we'll have, one we're willing to carry. From this point forward we'll be paying cash or doing without. We'll keep one credit card (the one with both the lowest credit limit and lowest interest rate).

Even though reducing the number of credit cards we have to one may adversely affect our credit rating, the missus and I much prefer to limit our exposure in the future rather than worry about what Experion and the others credit bureaus might have to say about us. Freeing up $12,000 of cash a year makes me feel a whole lot better than worrying about our credit rating dropping 50 points. It seems quite a few others are taking the same route we have, at least from what friends and acquaintances have been telling me.

So the fact that consumer spending has dropped isn't a surprise to me or anyone else paying attention to the Obama economy.

6/27/2011

Another Doctor Drops Out Of The Health Insurance Rat Race

I can see that we have yet another “I don't take any kind of health insurance” medical practice that appears to be doing well.

A doctor in Minnesota has borrowed a page from other doctors around the US that have abandoned the endlessly more complicated (and expensive) system of health insurance covered health care. Instead all she will accept is cash, checks, and foodstuffs.

It's amazing how much costs go down when you no longer have to deal with the paperwork and regulations imposed by health insurance companies and the government if a medical practice accepts health insurance (and particularly Medicare and Medicaid).

As Minnesota Public Radio reports, Dr. Susan Rutten Wasson finds she's doing just fine without all the extra dross that comes with accepting medical insurance.

It's more a scene from the days of frontier medicine than from the modern health care system. And that's because Rutten Wasson, 42, is a throwback to a time before HMOs, electronic health records and hospitals with fountains in their lobbies. She sees patients the same day they call if she's not booked up, spends at least a half-hour per visit — compared to the more typical 15 minutes — and usually charges only $50 for a consultation. She takes cash or check, but no insurance — and sometimes accepts gratuities of a dozen fresh eggs or a pie.

--snip--

In an era of high overhead, ever more byzantine regulations and payment models, cuts to Medicaid and Medicare benefits, and large medical systems swallowing independent practices, Rutten Wasson relishes her straight-forward manner of practicing. Since many federal health care reforms — such as those requiring electronic medical records — are tied to Medicare, they tend not to apply to her.

As she says, not having to deal with the insurance is a big time saver, allowing her more time to actually spend with patients, something that is becoming more important as even with more sophisticated medical technology at our beck and call, doctors still need to talk with patients and get to know them in order to do a better job diagnosing and treating them.

“Factory” medical clinics that so many of us go to are more like an assembly line, with doctors rushing about, seeing them for the minimum amount of time possible, before rushing out to see the next one. It isn't uncommon for some physicians to see as many as 40 patients in a day, meaning they can't possibly give the time and attention some patients need in order to be treated properly for their medical conditions. If you miss an appointment don't count on getting another one for months. I had to reschedule my annual physical due to a schedule conflict. That was three months ago and they still haven't been able to tell me when I'll be able to get another appointment. If I had to guess, it won't be until next year. And if I'm actually sick, they might be able to squeeze me in in two or three weeks.

Think I'm kidding?

After our return from a week's vacation in Florida two years ago, I came down with a bad case of bronchitis which swiftly turned into pneumonia. I called my doctor's office and they said they might be able to see me in week. It got so bad I ended up at our local hospital's ER. The physician there said I probably wouldn't have lasted long enough to see my own doctor. It took a lot of antibiotics and another week before I was well enough to return to work.

But if I had a doctor like Dr. Susan Rutten Wasson, chances are she would have come to my home, examined me, and written a prescription for what I needed, as well as make a follow up visit a couple of days later. I don't see anything like that happening under the present system or ObamaCare. Do you?

6/26/2011

Thoughts On A Sunday

The cool wet weather cycle continues, a repeat of a few summers ago. Should this weather pattern continue it's going to be a long miserable summer, much like a few summers ago. It also means that not having The Boat in the water may not be such a bad thing as the last time we went through a summer like this we didn't make it out onto the lake more than seven our eight times all season. It was usually too cold, too wet, or both.

Even BeezleBub is grousing about the weather. The conditions make working out in the fields miserable at best. It also has a negative effect on some of the crops they've planted.

We'll just have to wait and see how this summer's weather plays out.

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I had to go into work this morning to get a head start on finishing up calibrating some optical equipment. While I had estimated it would take all of a single day to complete the work, I was wrong, sort of.

If everything had gone as planned, it would have been done on Friday. But as is always the case, Murphy's Law raised its ugly head and we had to do some of the calibration a second time.

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Scary Yankee Chick tells us about going through the process of trying to get her concealed carry permit in New York State.

Thank goodness I live in New Hampshire where getting a CCW permit is relatively easy. And I don't even need a permit to carry openly.

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Labrat over at Atomic Nerds comments about Sarah Palin, the media, and her bus tour.

He also comments about and links to stuff about Gordon Ramsay (Hell's Kitchen) and Dustin Diamond (Saved By The Bell)in the same post.

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I guess we can now say our worst fears are confirmed now that Timothy Geitner has said government must raise taxes on small businesses, those that create most of the jobs, in order to prevent the government from shrinking. Never mind that those taxes may end up killing some of those businesses (and the jobs they provide) that are just barely hanging on during this never-ending government-driven recession.

Now we know Obama and his cronies really have no interest in curing this recession because it gives them more power over more aspects of our lives. It doesn't matter to them that they are less competent to run our lives than we are.

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Apparently it's not only the University of New Hampshire seeing a double-digit tuition increase. Add the University of Tennessee to list, with the UT board okaying a 12% tuition increase. That's about the same, percentage wise, as the expected increase for UNH, but smaller dollar wise as tuition at UNH is already one of the highest of any public university. Tuition and fees will be about $8000 at UT versus $12,060 just for tuition at UNH.

Both states are having to deal with cuts in state funding as the effects of the continuing recession seriously affect their ability to fund state operations. New Hampshire's state budget is 12% smaller than the previous biennial budget (New Hampshire runs a 2-year budget cycle), with the legislature taking heed of the taxpayer's concerns about rapidly growing state spending with no corresponding increase in revenue.

As Glenn Reynolds writes, “...it does mean that students, since they’re footing the bill (often with borrowed money), need to be sure that they’re getting their money’s worth.”

Far too often these days, they aren't.

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Oh, no! Now global warming is causing a chair shortage! (Scroll down to the June 22nd entry.)

(H/T Maggie's Farm)

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A major pet peeve of mine is the broadcast media's improper use of English. There are times when it drives me to shut the TV or radio off because I can't stand to listen to it. This evening's news on the local TV station almost had me throwing the remote at the TV because of the poor phrasing being used by reporters, anchors, and weather guys.

Some examples of a few of the most annoying:

Once the accident scene was cleared the road opened back up.” I'm sorry, but shouldn't that be “reopened”? How does something “open back up”? Does that mean it was opened, and then someone backed up? (I've actually written to the news editors at the TV station about this one and for a while “re-open” replaced “open back up”, but now that hated phrase has returned with a vengeance.)

As we approach evening, the clouds will melt apart.” Hmm. I've heard of things melting together and melting away, but not melting “apart”.

And two of my all time favorites, “gonna” instead of “going to” and “ta” instead of “to”. The last is something I hear President Obama say all the time and I find it quite annoying. But then I find almost everything he says these days quite annoying.

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Legal Insurrection asks the question “Can any Republican presidential candidate withstand being Palinized?” I'm beginning to think the only one can withstand being Palinized is Sarah Palin.

(H/T Pirate's Cove)

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At least someone in Pittsburgh is willing to call Obama's economic policy what it is: an (e)con job.

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At least Subaru knows how to keep the union thugs from their doors: Zero layoffs. Zero strikes. Zero health care premiums. Zero pay cuts.

The unions can't even come close to matching that. Historically, the unions tend to have just the opposite effect, and Subaru employees know it.

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As the Left here in the US is still trying to ram multi-culturalism down the throats of Americans, the Netherlands has abandoned it wholesale as a miserable failure that has done nothing but weaken Dutch culture and allowed cultural barbarians unwilling to assimilate to run rampant through their society. All multi-culturalism has done for the Netherlands is increase violent crime, create greater intolerance by Third World immigrants for traditional Dutch culture and traditions, and created a wide swath of second class citizens (by their own choice).

As far as I've been able to determine, multi-culturalism by edict has never worked and has always weakened the society trying to live by it, if not destroyed it outright.

Maybe the purveyors of multiculturalism in the US should take note.

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Has Obama's stimulus managed to stimulate anything other than more government jobs and a lot of rhetoric from Democrats? It certainly hasn't had the effect he claimed it would, in effect pulling more money out of the economy needed to help it recover and using for things that did nothing to stimulate it at all. An analogy presented in the piece linked above explains it quite well.

Analogy time. Consider a robber who steals a purse containing $500, who then uses the money to buy himself a new TV. It is categorically undeniable that the theft has created a sale for the TV store. Conservatives who pretend the stimulus has not created any jobs whatsoever stand in the position of an observer trying to deny the TV has been sold.

Yet the liberal analysis lacks any recognition that the purse owner now has $500 less to spend on the laptop computer she was going to buy. The theft has generated one sale only by destroying another.

The first effect is easily seen. The second is not. But only the economically illiterate would conclude that just the first effect occurred, and that therefore the way to increase consumption is to encourage more purse-stealing. So in addition to looking at the number of jobs created or saved by the stimulus, shouldn’t we also consider the number of jobs destroyed or forestalled?

And that's the problem. Neither Obama or Congressional Democrats see the second effect, or choose to ignore it. On top of that we also must recognize that the government is the thief, and before it spends the money taken, it assesses a handling fee. Using the analogy above, that means of the $500 taken away, only $460 is actually spent 'stimulating' the economy (assuming a 10% 'handling' fee). So by taking that money from the taxpayer, they have decreased the buying power of of the dollars taken to only 90% as compared if the taxpayer had been allowed to keep it and use it for themselves. How is this supposed to stimulate the economy?

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where we're finally getting a break in the weather, the first full weekend of summer is coming to a close, and where our boat still isn't in the water and not likely to be any time this summer.

6/25/2011

Bilingual Cat

Here it is, I thought that only Miley – our three-legged cat - was the only bilingual feline around. It turns out I was wrong, as this video proves.



At least Miley doesn't mind showing she's bilingual, unlike the character in the video above. As one commenter put it, “He does it so people will post noise complaints about the neighbor's dog.”

6/23/2011

This Is Known As "Bad Luck"

Though the link to this piece appeared over at Instapundit a few days ago, I hadn't read it until yesterday. If nothing else it proves that Robert Heinlein was right when he wrote:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

All we need to do is look at Pakistan to see how Heinlein's observation is true.

As Anglo-Indians were driven out of Pakistan, its society and economy started to deteriorate. Those actually producing the wealth, running the bureaucracies, the courts, the hospitals, the police, the railroads, the schools were driven out and bad things started happening. As Masood Hasan writes in the Pakistan's international edition of The News:

It is hard to believe that Pakistan was once a gentle country. It is even harder to believe that some of the most wonderful people lived here. All that seems like a misty memory which has little relevance as you face the day’s first rude slaps. A friend passed me an interesting short article about the Anglo-Indians who lived and worked in what is now India and Pakistan. The Anglos are long gone swallowed up by the mists of time, driven out from here to fend for themselves. But in their extinction lies a bigger tragedy.

The Anglo Indians were fun people. But more than the singular expertise they brought to the jobs that became traditionally their forte, they added a swing, vibrancy and a sheer joy of living spirit to our society that in many ways epitomised the new, fresh spirit that was Pakistan. That was then. Now it’s a fading sepia tone picture. Those of us who grew up with them, watched with considerable sadness as family after family left this country to go and live in alien climes. There was nothing left for them. They were wise in retrospect. Look at our bestiality towards our minorities. But while the Anglo Indians were here, they gave us a unique gift. The joy of living and of being alive.

Pakistan is a shadow if its former self. Where once everyone could walk the streets safely, one now puts one's life in jeopardy, particularly if you aren't Pakistani. The government is corrupt, the military is rife with religious fundamentalists who see Wahabbi-perverted jihad as a good thing, and it's once thriving economy and society is a shambles.

The 1972 laws enforced by ZAB to please the fundos broke the spirit of all of us, particularly the Anglo Indians. Bars, discos, clubs all shut down in fear. Suddenly hosts of musicians and other artists had no livelihood. ‘Tolerance went up in smoke,’ recalls one sad person. Came 1979 and the evil Zia and the coup de grace forced the Anglos to escape, migrate anywhere they could go. They left by the droves, never to come back. The clubs died, the dance floors uprooted, the many services they offered fell by the wayside. In driving out this small community, we dug our own graves. We rapidly became soulless, grey, hypocritical and boring. With them gone, an integral part of decent civilian life was snuffed out. Guns replaced guitars. The scorched landscape that we inherited, now mocks us. Laughter has changed to anguish. Pakistan may be a ‘hard country’, but it is also a barren and desolate land. One gentleman of the fabled 60s sums it all up in one line: ‘Those days are gone. They will not come back.’ Quite an epitaph wouldn’t you agree?

What's telling are the comments from those who remember the days before everything started coming apart and their lament at what their home country has become.

The Power Of Music

World War II veteran Jack Leroy Tueller tells his story about how music changed the the heart and mind of a German sniper after D-Day.



(H/T Facebook – Thanks, Deb!)

6/22/2011

Obama - Closet Luddite?

As I wrote in my previous post about Obama's Afghanistan speech, I don't believe he knows what he's doing. This is particularly true when it comes to economics. There's certainly been plenty of evidence that drives me to make this claim, but this one takes the cake: Obama believes technology leads to job losses. It's such an old saw that has been disproven again and again, but he's trying to sell it as the reason the American job market is in such dire straits.

"There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers," he said. "You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don't go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you're using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate."

The president calls this a structural issue—we usually call it progress. And it isn't exactly a new phenomenon. It's been going on for centuries, and its pace has accelerated over the past 50 years. Businesses relentlessly look for ways to replace workers with machines. The machines get better and smarter. We go from spoons to shovels to excavators, not the other way around.

I get the feeling he'd like to see us go backwards, reducing productivity, increasing the costs of goods, and making even more American jobs disappear to other countries that haven't deluded themselves that technology costs jobs and that increased productivity is a bad thing.

I hate to say this, but what he put forward almost sounded like it came right out of Atlas Shrugged, with the government forcing producers to use less efficient production methods as a means to 'create' more jobs. Of course it won't work out that way and they'll end up with even fewer jobs as they price themselves right out of the market.

And so it goes with One-Term Wonder, a master of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

6/21/2011

Small Town Democracy In Action

I've just returned from an exercise in small town democracy.


While most of our town's deliberations and voting on spending for municipal functions and education take place in February and March, an education issue going back to the March voting has come to a head and our school board decided it had to meet this head on rather than continuing an ongoing fight in the local papers, with heated point/counterpoint letters to the editor creating some of the best local gossip seen around here in some time.


It all came down to what is called a petition warrant article, in this case dealing with one specific petition warrant article that was aimed at eliminating an administrative position the petitioners believed was never authorized when our school district broke away from a larger school administrative unit (or SAU) 13 years ago. The warrant article passed by a 2 to 1 margin, but the school board ignored it, claiming it was “advisory only.” That didn't sit well with a lot of folks in our town.


On top of that, the school board announced the day before the vote in March that they had hired a replacement to fill administrative position being vacated due to the retirement of the person occupying that position. Quite a few people saw that as a slap in the face, taking it as arrogance on the part of board by flaunting their decision ahead of the vote as if to say “We don't care what you want, we going to do it our way.”


But was it arrogance? Or was it poor timing on their part? It doesn't matter, the reason being that perception is reality. (If the voters see it as arrogance then it is arrogance, motives not withstanding.)


A lot of people showed up for this 'special' school board meeting, held at the our high school auditorium, and a lot of people spoke up, not pleased with the way the board handled the matter. There had been a lot of name calling in the letters to the editor published in our two local papers. Some of the anger displayed in those letters was evident at the meeting as person after person took the opportunity to address their comments and questions to the board. There was plenty of fancy footwork (figuratively speaking) displayed by the board and the school district's attorney. A lot of people left the meeting feeling nothing had been accomplished.


Some questions did get answered. The one I asked dealt with what criteria is used to determine whether a petition warrant article is advisory or binding. (If the petition deals with a specific action, such as adding or cutting funding for a specific purpose, such as a job or activity within the town or school district, then it's binding. If it doesn't address a specific action, then it's advisory.)


One thing is certain, the people got involved in how our school board is performing its function. Another thing that's certain is that a number of school board members will be seeing some serious competition come the next election in March.


And so it goes in small town New Hampshire.

6/19/2011

Thoughts On A Sunday

We celebrated BeezleBub's 17th birthday yesterday (it was actually last Wednesday), along with some of his friends from school. BK, Slick Nick, Monkey Girl (I gave her that sobriquet because she's an accomplished sidecar motorcycle racer...at 15 years old!), KG, and Snooky (called that because she resembles Snooky from Jersey Shore, minus the orange spray-on tan and French manicure) attended. Between snacks, burgers and dogs, worm cake, a 'story circle', and watching some World's Dumbest videos, I think we can say everyone had a good time.

While low key as birthday celebrations go, I think next year's will be a big blowout when he turns 18.

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Now a quick shift over to a little economic news, specifically the housing market and unemployment, at least here in New Hampshire.

May's home sales here in the Granite State actually looked pretty good, with numbers close to what would normally be seen in May: 951 homes sold. The downside being the median price was lower than compared to last year ($210,000 versus $220,000), though last year's numbers were probably skewed due to the first time homebuyer's tax credit. Even with those sales numbers, it has to be understood there is a large unsold inventory of homes on the market as well as some shadow inventory (bank-owned homes) not presently on the market.

May's unemployment numbers looked better, with an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent this year versus 6.1 percent in May 2010. However I have to cast a skeptical eye at the numbers considering they do not include those who have dropped off the unemployment roles because they've stopped looking for work or have taken seasonal jobs outside their usual occupation.

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It appears the trend of “reshoring”, meaning returning jobs from overseas to the US, is picking up.

This trend of reshoring or insourcing is likely to grow in the coming years, as the cost gap between building overseas and building at home narrows. It's an encouraging sign in a job market where hiring has stalled in recent months.

--snip--

Greater quality was the major factor cited by Carbonite for moving back jobs to the U.S. as well. The company's call center in New Delhi, India was having turnover of 100% or more each year, said Tom Murray, the company's vice president of marketing.

I've seen other companies also returning operations to US soil, with some citing the increased manufacturing costs overseas as well as the rising costs of shipping products to the US.

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Alexandra Cahill describes how she survived four years of liberal indoctrination at Wellesley College and remained a conservative.

Some of the comments are telling, showing how some liberals are still close-minded bigots incapable of independent thought outside of their indoctrination.

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Peter Heck tells us about the sorry state of liberal compassion.

In effect, they have none...unless they want to spend someone else's money to deal with something they see as a problem, whether it really is or not. But don't look for them to spend their own money on their causes unless they expect some kind of a payback from the powers-that-be.

(H/T Maggie's Farm)

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Bogie has pictures and observations from Bike Week, which ended today.

The roar of motorcycles has been fading away throughout the day as we bid farewell to the 88th annual Laconia Motorcycle Rally.

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I had the opportunity to commiserate with some bikers up from Ocean City, Maryland as we ate breakfast at the Olde Bay Diner in Alton Bay.

One observation they made: There are a lot of independent diners throughout New Hampshire, unlike the various franchises, chain restaurants, and fast food joints back where they reside. All in all, they liked the atmosphere and the food at the diners far more than the chain restaurants. They were also surprised to see the owners greeting their 'regulars' like family and newcomers like friends.

There's something to be said for some of the old fashioned ways of doing things.

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Ann Althouse quotes two possible strategies for the unions to follow in regards to the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision upholding the state legislatures passage of a bill stripping the public unions of collective bargaining rights for benefits and pensions.

But the real action is in the comments to Ann's post, where it is obvious that at least a few union supporters have a very skewed idea about the integrity of unions and the tactics they would use to take back control of the taxpayer's wallets.

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the rumble of thousands of motorcycles has faded away, the weather is becoming more summer-like, and where thoughts of days at the beach intrude.

6/18/2011

Federal & State Spending, Debt, And Taxes

For anyone who's been paying attention for even the past 6 months, it's obvious that our country has a major problem: debt.

While this is not a new problem, it is the magnitude of our national debt that has become quite worrisome. On top of that we have a Congress (or at least one chamber of Congress) that seems incapable of dealing with this problem. Rather than dealing with it, they seem fine with staying the course they set over four years ago. It doesn't help that the President seems hellbent on allowing them to continue their profligate ways, all while trying to stymie the Republican opposition trying to deal with it buy doing what needs to be done.

While the Democrats are convinced this country has a major revenue problem, just about everyone else knows what we have is a spending problem, and that we've managed to dig what John Stossel is calling The Money Hole.

While part of Congress and the President seem unwilling to do something to fix the problem, there are a number of other chief executives at the state level who have similar problems and met them head on. One in particular stands above all the others.

Some governors have shown the way. You know about Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Rick Scott, John Kasich, etc. But you probably don't know about Luis Fortuno.

Fortuno is governor of Puerto Rico. Two years ago, he fired 17,000 government workers. No state governor did anything like that. He cut spending much more than Walker did in Wisconsin. In return, thousands of union members demonstrated against Fortuno for days. They clashed with police. They called him a fascist. (Gee, that seems to be the accusuation du jour, as a union leader called Chris Christie a Nazi, too. -ed.)

Fortuno said he had to make the cuts because Puerto Rico's economy was a mess.

"Not just a mess. We didn't have enough money to meet our first payroll."

Fortuno's predecessors had grown Puerto Rico's government to the point that the state employed one out of every three workers. By the time he was elected, Puerto Rico was broke. So the new conservative majority, the first in Puerto Rico in 40 years, shrank the government.

What did Fortuno cut? Believe it or not, everything, including his own salary. Nothing was immune from his budget ax. As he said, raising taxes wasn't going to happen because they were already too high. And he didn't waste time doing it, either.

Fortuno's advice for leaders who want to shrink the state: "Do what you need to do quickly, swiftly, like when you take off a Band-Aid. Just do it. And move on to better things."

The longer the delay, the less likely it will get done to the level needed in order to turn things around.

Many of our states are in a similar bind.

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey has been fighting this battle from the day he took office. And while he hasn't been gentle in dealing with the Garden State's abysmal financial conditions, he has been straightforward dealing with them. He hasn't pulled punches. He hasn't apologized. And he hasn't taken crap from state employees or teachers who feel they are entitled to plunder New Jersey taxpayer's wallets. He's told it like it is and the taxpayers of New Jersey appear to like what he's been saying.

My home state of New Hampshire, while not in the dire financial straits seen in New Jersey, California, Michigan, and a whole host of other states, has still had to deal with the aftereffects of a four year spending spree by legislative Democrats that started in 2007.

Normally a frugal state, New Hampshire legislative Democrats and the governor opened up the floodgates for state spending, increasing the state budget by over 30% in four years. The only problem was that they used overly optimistic revenue projections to justify it. Their projections were wrong and they left the state with an $800 million+ deficit, something illegal under the state constitution. They attempted to plug the deficit by boosting business taxes during a deep recession and seizing surplus funds from a state-chartered (but not state-funded) medical malpractice insurance agency, just to name two instances where they tried to use un-New Hampshire-like tactics to refill state coffers. Both failed, the first when voters revolted and threw the Democrats out, and the second when malpractice policyholders sued the state in court and won a decision that banned it from 'appropriating' private funds to which the it had no claim.

This year the Republican-dominated legislature cut the budget by 10%, though the Democrat governor may veto it as it stands. (The GOP has a supermajority, meaning they can override the veto should the governor do so.)

It's not just the states that have had to bite the bullet to fix government overspending.

Our neighbor to the north found itself in a similar position to where we are today, but they didn't hesitate when it came time to put their financial house in order.

When I think Canada, I think big government. I'm embarrassed that I didn't know that in the mid-'90s, Canada shrank its government. It had to. Its debt level was as bad as ours is today, almost 70 percent of the economy. Canada's finance minister said: "We are in debt up to our eyeballs. That can't be sustained."

--snip--

The problem, he added, was that Canada had a government safety net that was more like a hammock.

So in 1995 Canadian leaders cut unemployment benefits and other programs. It happened quietly because it was a liberal government, and liberals didn't want to criticize their own. The result was that Canada's debt stopped increasing. As the government ran budget surpluses, the debt went down.

--snip--

Canada fired government workers, but unemployment didn't increase. In fact, it fell from 12 percent to 6 percent. Canadian unemployment is still well below ours. And the Canadian dollar rose from just 72 American cents to $1.02 today.

That means that laid off government workers got new jobs elsewhere and became productive citizens rather than a drain on the taxpayer's wallets and the Canadian economy. Isn't it likely the same thing will happen here as well? Or are our gummint employees only competent enough to work for the government? (Unfortunately that might indeed be the case, as sad as that sounds.)

So the question is whether or not Congress will tackle the fiscal mess they helped create? Or will they continue along the path of least resistance (and the least amount of work) and not address the problem until they have no other choice, like when we're coming after them with pitchforks, torches, and a lot of rope?

6/17/2011

Taxation - A Thought Experiment

As a comment made to a link within my previous post, this little “thought experiment” in regards to taxation puts the effects of taxes on businesses and individuals into easily understandable terms.

A thought experiment suggested by Mr. Rich Karlgaard writing for Forbes.

Imagine your tax rates for a week’s work:

0% on Monday
25% on Tuesday
50% on Wednesday
75% on Thursday
100% on Friday

Would you work on Friday? Not many would.

Reading the comments following this one the consensus was that no one would work on Friday and quite a few would also forgo working on Thursday as well. One wouldn't even work past Tuesday because as he wrote “...I've received 70% of my potential net income for the week. I think I call it quits at that point and go fishing for the next five days.”

As another commenter opined “No industry will even bother to open from Wed[nesday] to Friday.”

This thought experiment is a perfect illustration how what seems to be a reasonable policy to those making it would have a devastating effect on the economy, with businesses closed for 4 or 5 days out of seven because they can't get anyone to work past the first two or three days. There's no incentive to do so. In fact, there's plenty of incentive not to. The theoretical policy makers overlooked one very important factor that would greatly change the outcome: human nature.

The tax policy in the experiment assumed everyone would work all 5 days of the week because it would be for the good of all. But it wouldn't happen because, quite frankly, we humans aren't all that altruistic. Once the disincentive to work outweighs the difficult-to-find altruism, people will stop working.

And so it is with the proposed changes in the tax code. All they will be is a big disincentive for a lot of people who would otherwise work hard and make more money. If the only thing they're going to get out of that hard work is even higher taxes and less take home pay, they won't bother putting in the effort. Why should they? After all they aren't really being compensated for all that extra effort and are, in fact, being punished for it. That's one hell of an incentive to keep their income to a level where they can pay their bills with a little bit left over, and screw the rest. In turn, the government won't raise the revenue they think they will and the economy will continue it's slide to the bottom.

One other thing the proposed high taxes will allow? It will grant those in Congress the power to grant favors by creating all kinds of loopholes and tax shelters for those who will support them in their bids for re-election.

But wait, isn't this where we came in, when tax rates in the past were very high but the effective tax rate was low for the top earners because of the thousands of favors and exemptions granted by Congress? It looks like it to me.

6/16/2011

Yet Another Democrat Attempt To Kill The US Economy

If we need any more proof of the axiom “Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results this time”, then here it is:

Democrats want to go back to the bad old days of dozens of income tax rates, with the highest being 49% (though some are suggesting 70%), figuring they'll collect billions more in tax revenues. However, history shows the won't collect all that much more and in fact will collect even less than they do now.

The intelligentsia of the Democratic Party is growing increasingly enthusiastic about raising the highest federal income tax rates to 70% or more. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich took the lead in February, proposing on his blog "a 70 percent marginal tax rate on the rich." After all, he noted, "between the late 1940s and 1980 America's highest marginal rate averaged above 70 percent. Under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Not until the 1980s did Ronald Reagan slash it to 28 percent."

--snip--

All this nostalgia about the good old days of 70% tax rates makes it sound as though only the highest incomes would face higher tax rates. In reality, there were a dozen tax rates between 48% and 70% during the 1970s. Moreover—and this is what Mr. Reich and his friends always fail to mention—the individual income tax actually brought in less revenue when the highest tax rate was 70% to 91% than it did when the highest tax rate was 28%.

All this will do is narrow the tax base even farther than it already has been, placing an even greater burden on upper income Americans. The so-called Fairness in Taxation Act will be anything but. The Democrats seem to worry the rich aren't paying their “fair” share. Never mind that they already pay a very large majority of income taxes. Never mind that just under half of American wage earners already pay no income tax at all. How is that not fair? Oh, yeah, I forgot. To tax-and-spend Democrats, a fair share is always defined as “more than they pay now.”

They've chosen to ignore the effects such tax rates will have on the economy, that being that it will kill off any recovery there may have been as investment capital flees the country, meaning businesses won't be able to expand and jobs these businesses might have been able to provide won't be created. All they have to do to see what the effects of a return to those draconian tax rates is look at what the US economy was like back in the 1970's.

For those of you who have forgotten (or weren't born yet), the economy sucked. Unemployment skyrocketed. Inflation reached staggering rates, as did interest rates. Now these know-nothings want to take our already shaky economy and create an even bigger recession when they kill off any incentive to invest, to expand, to do better. Haven't they learned that if you punish people for succeeding all they will get is failure and a shrinking economy, along with plummeting tax revenues? Obviously not.

Need another example? How about the UK during the same time? They greatly increased income taxes across the board, with the top tax rate reaching 98%. As soon as the government imposed those taxes, the British economy collapsed as wealth and investment capital fled for more friendly environments. It wasn't until the 80's when Maggie Thatcher became Prime Minister and drove Parliament to end such insanity that the British economy recovered.

Yet here we have another bunch of economic morons within Congress who want to do the same thing, figuring it will have little if any effect on the economy. They have chosen to ignore history, and are thereby doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately it will be We The People who will pay the price for such stupidity and arrogance.

Concealed Carry Permit

Received via e-mail:

An Arizona Department of Safety officer pulled over the driver of a pick-up truck for a faulty taillight. When the officer approached the driver, the man behind the wheel handed the officer his driver's license, insurance card, truck registration, and a concealed weapon carry permit.

The officer took all the documents, looked them over and said to the driver, “Mr. Smith, I see you have a CCP. Do you have any weapons with you?”

The driver replied, " Yes sir, I have a .357 handgun in a hip holster, a .45 in the glove box and a .22 derringer in my boot."

The officer looked at the driver and asked, "Anything else?"

"Yes sir, I have a Mossberg 500 12 gauge and an AR-15 behind the seat."

The officer asked if the man was driving to or from a shooting range and the man said he wasn't, so the officer bent over and looked into the driver's face and said "Mr. Smith, you're carrying quite a few guns. May I ask what you are afraid of?”

Mr. Smith locked eyes with the officer and calmly answered, “Not a damn thing!”

Indeed.

6/15/2011

The Bruins Win!

The Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks to take the Stanley Cup! Woo-hoo!!

Solar Scientists Predicting Lower Solar Activity

After reading this, I think we should pray there is some anthropogenic global warming coming our way, otherwise it might get a bit chilly here on Earth...and the other planets as well.

If the solar scientists are right, we might be seeing decades of much lower solar activity after the peak of this rather anemic sunspot cycle.

Scientists have studied sunspots and the sun's 11-year activity cycle for 400 years, and they're getting increasingly savvy about spotting the harbingers of "space weather" years in advance, just as meteorologists can figure out what's coming after the next storm.

Storms from the sun are expected to build to a peak in 2013 or so, but after that, the long-range indicators are pointing to an extended period of low activity — or even hibernation.

The previous two periods of low solar activity, the Maunder and Dalton Minimums, led us the what is called the Little Ice Age. It wasn't until the early 1800's that solar activity picked up again and ended the Little Ice Age. These types of solar minimums have created havoc worldwide and one such minimum that ended the Medieval Warm Period may have helped usher in the Black Plague in Europe which wiped out from one-third to one-half of the population. Agriculture suffered and previously habitable lands became too cold to grow crops or raise livestock, like Greenland or Newfoundland. (Yes, Greenland was once green. The Vikings had settled, farmed, and thrived there for over 400 years before the Little Ice Age made it impossible for them to survive there.)

Somehow the AGW folks have convinced themselves we'd be better off with a colder world despite having not one shred of evidence to support their beliefs and plenty of evidence to the contrary. They can choose to ignore the possibility that a warmer world would be better, with the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods giving us a good indication of that.

The peak of present sunspot cycle - Cycle 24 - is expected in 2013, and it's expected to be a particularly weak one. But wait, there's more!

All these signs suggest that the current solar cycle, Cycle 24, "may be the last one for quite some time," Hill said. The next upswing in solar storms, Cycle 25, may be "very much delayed ... very weak, or may not happen at all."

The solar activity upswing at the start of Cycle 24 was almost 2 years late, and what activity we have seen is far below that seen in Cycles 23, 22, and 21, with Cycle 23 having been one of the most energetic in centuries. Is it a coincidence that Earth's climate warmed during that period? Is it a coincidence that the climate on Mars, and Jupiter's and Saturn's moons also warmed during that same period?

Not likely.

6/13/2011

The Housing Market Hasn't Bottomed Out Yet

Is it any surprise that economist Robert Shiller believes housing prices will continue to decline over the next 5 years? Not to me.

With the still large shadow inventory of foreclosed homes waiting to go on the market, prices can't help but fall. Shiller predicts prices will fall an additional 10 to 25 percent before they stabilize. That's on top of the price decline we've already seen.

U.S. home prices plunged 33 percent in 20 cities through March from their 2006 peak, reaching their lowest level since 2003, according to a Case-Shiller report on May 31. The decline signaled a “double dip” as the index fell below its previous post-housing-bubble low set in April 2009. Prices more than doubled from 2000 to July 2006.

It took six years for prices to double and will take eleven years for prices to fall back to their 2000 level, assuming the economy continues on it's bumpy path along the bottom. And should the housing market recover we can only hope we won't fall into the trap created by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with 'easy money' for mortgages on homes the borrowers cannot possibly afford to pay for.

We've seen the value of our home skyrocket by 25% in a year and then roll back until it is worth 16% less than we paid for it. That's a 41% swing in value over a period of 6 years. Others have seen a worse reversal, buying at the peak of the market in 2006 and now seeing their homes being under water, worth considerably less than the mortgage on it.

6/12/2011

Thoughts On A Sunday

The weather hasn't been conducive to getting any of the outside work done around The Manse. BeezleBub worked at the farm in the rain for most of the day, something that is rarely enjoyable. Deb was on a girl's weekend getaway to the Maine Coast with one of her friends, but the wet weather changed some of their plans (no hanging out on the beach in chaise lounges).

All in all, the weekend has been a washout, weatherwise.

***********

Bike Week has returned to New Hampshire. Motorcycle enthusiasts started arriving here in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire this past Friday, though most won't start getting here in large numbers until this coming Thursday. By then the weather will have cleared (it's expected to be cool and wet through Tuesday).

Bike Week is usually a decent indicator of how our summer tourist season will go. Low turnouts tend to point to a disappointing summer season while high turnouts tend to carry through all the way to the end of August.

***********

Could this be why MSM and the Left are scared to death of Sarah Palin?

***********

While this doesn't surprise me I will say I'm disappointed some of my home state's ratings weren't better: New Hampshire rated No. 1 in the Mercatus Center's list of Freedom in the 50 States.

New Hampshire is, by our count, the freest state in the country. Depending on weights, however, it really shares the slot with South Dakota. New Hampshire does much better on economic than personal freedom and on fiscal than regulatory policy.

I wish our personal freedom and fiscal ratings were higher, but then I'm not sure the rating system used by Mercatus is the same I would use. While they stated our government debt went down slightly, I'd say it hasn't, though the New Hampshire House and Senate are working hard to bring the Democrat-created deficit under control.

***********

Getting back to Sarah Palin for a moment, Jeff reveals the “9 Most Shocking Revelations From The Palin E-mails!”

On the other hand, here's the 'spin' I expected from the MSM, with the LA Times trying to portray Sarah as divisive rather than someone keeping her campaign promises, keeping an eye on the day-to-day state operations and cleaning house in the State of Alaska.

That didn't take long.

***********

As more than one blogger has noted over the past year or so, it seems the new buzz word when it comes to financial or employment news released by the government is “unexpectedly”. Why is it it is only the government that did not expect poor economic performance while the rest of us pretty much knew first hand that things were not getting better, but worse? Where does the Obama Administration come up with their projections? They sure as heck aren't asking the proverbial man-on-the-street, who seems to be far more knowledgeable about the state of the economy and the jobs situation than the folks in Washington DC.

***********

I have to agree with David Starr on this one: If Congressional Republicans are going to increase the national debt ceiling, they should get something in return for doing so. David has a number of suggestions of what they should ask for.

***********

Scary Yankee Chick has photos of one of the feline members of her household wearing a Kitty Holster, a product I mentioned last week.

I know of at least one of our seven indoor cats that would not like it at all as it would not allow anyone to see just how fluffy she is. (We have one outdoor cat – Bagheera – the 'old man' of our menagerie.)

***********

It appears that not even the Leftist British MSM can get it right in regards to Sarah Palin or former Prime Minster Lady Margaret Thatcher.

(H/T Pirate's Cove)

***********

New York State is hard up for revenues. They are so short on cash that they have no problems taxing non-residents as if they lived in New York even though they don't work there. All you need to do is have a minimally occupied vacation home and you are considered a year-round resident and therefore subject to New York income tax.

Telecommuters get no break either because the state of New York doesn't care of you didn't work in New York on your telecommute days. If you work for a New York employer you pay New York income taxes.

I figure it's just a matter of time before they start taxing your income even if your just passing through on your way to some place else.

***********

And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the weekend weather wasn't all that great, the rumble of motorcycles will be heard for the next week, and where I still don't have my boat in the water.

6/11/2011

Palin E-mails Released - Media Insanity Follows

Now that the media has entered into a feeding frenzy over yesterday's release of 25,000 pages of Sarah Palin's e-mails sent and received during her time in the Governor's office, I expect them to be reading all kinds of nuances and dark motives into trivial and meaningless bits and pieces that would otherwise be ignored, and ignoring things that paint her in a positive light.

I have to hand it to the state government folks in Alaska. While they made most of Palin's e-mails available (some weren't covered under the Freedom of Information Act because they were exempt under attorney-client privilege or revealed non-public deliberations not normally covered under FOIA), they didn't make it easy. All 25,000 pages were in hardcopy (no electronic versions were released) and those wanting them had to come pick them up in person (they wouldn't ship them).

Being in hardcopy meant there would be no easy way to search the documents. All 25,000 pages would need to be read by human beings in order find anything. (I'm sure somebody somewhere will scan them using OCR software and make them searchable, but even that will take a lot of time.) Both the Washington Post and the New York Times have asked readers for help delving through the thousands of pages of e-mails in search of dirt.

So far, the MSM has come up with...nothing. Or at least nothing they could use to discredit her in the eyes of the public.

Is this episode of media infected with PDS (Palin Derangement Syndrome) going to prove their undoing while boosting Palin's reputation and bona fides? So far it's looking that way.

A number of issues the MSM used to hammer Palin both during and after the 2008 elections have turned out to be much ado about nothing, with those already revealed showing Palin had been truthful about them all along. Among them Troopergate, predator reduction (the so-called 'hunting from helicopters' non-scandal), the media harassment of her family during the Presidential campaign (an unwritten rule that a candidate's family is off-limits the MSM chose to ignore this time around), ethics investigations, the oil and gas industry, and a whole host of other issues the media tried to turn into a scandal. But it turns out there was no “there” there.

Already some backpedaling has occurred with HuffPo opining "Like many other organizations that cover politics, we at The Huffington Post have made our arrangements to obtain the emails, have handed out assignments to reporters and are hopeful that a crowdsource army will help to pick up the slack. What are we expecting to find? Who knows? Maybe a lot of Comic Sans. Maybe some penetrating new story about Palin's Alaska reign. Maybe it will be a hot pile of nothing! Yeah, that's right: One possible outcome of this exercise is that it will be a complete bust." As their headline put it, “Sarah Palin Shall Have Her Revenge On The Mainstream Media.” Indeed.

But even with all of these e-mails now made public and the truth being revealed, the Left will still do everything in its power to destroy this woman of whom they are so terrified.

Let the games begin!

6/10/2011

She Really Likes Cats

This is supposedly an eHarmony bio video. Watch it and you decide: Real, or fake?



I have to admit that I kind of feel the same way she does about kitties (though may not quite so intensely). After all, we have eight cats here!

6/09/2011

"Loser Pays" To Become Law In Texas?

Once again it seems Texas is leading the way.

The Texas legislature passed a “loser pays” bill that, if signed by Governor Rick Perry, will change the nature of lawsuits within the Lone Star State. (Yes, I know I'm a few days behind the news on this one, but I've been busy, OK?)

Essentially, if you bring a lawsuit in Texas and the jury finds against you, you pay the other side’s costs (and attorney’s fees I assume). If you bring a law suit and win, the defense pays your costs. The goal is to end frivolous lawsuits, and encourage more people to settle short of trial. Both are excellent goals IMO.

Many may argue that this kind of tort reform will do nothing but hurt the little guy. But far too often the little guy gets screwed even if he wins because it is his lawyer who will reap a large payoff. (Many tort lawyers take on clients on a contingency basis, meaning they get a percentage of any money the court awards the complainant, usually a large percentage.)

While “Loser Pays” will likely reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits, it will also see the “shotgun” approach to lawsuits disappear as well. A shotgun suit lists everyone even remotely connected to the case as a respondent based on the idea that some will settle out of court rather spend the money to defend themselves even though they have no real liability. An example: A consumer is injured by a defective product made by the ABC Company. The injured party sues ABC Company and anyone even remotely having anything to do with ABC Company, including XYZ Freight Trucking Inc. All XYZ did was haul ABC Company's product from a warehouse to a number of retail establishments. XYZ didn't design the product. XYZ didn't make the product. XYZ neither sold or marketed the product. All they did was what they were contracted to do – pick up boxes of the product at a warehouse and deliver it to stores someplace else. Yet somehow the complainant's lawyer figures they have as much culpability as ABC Company, so names them as a co-respondent in the injury suit.

As ludicrous as that scenario sounds, it has actually happened and a trucking company was found to be liable for some of the damages even though all they were hired to do was deliver the goods. They had no way of knowing those goods would hurt anyone, nor should they have had to know. But with Loser Pays, such shotgun approaches will be too risky because even if the complainant wins against one respondent, they could lose against the others and have to pay their legal fees, possibly wiping out any awards made by the court.

That works for me.

6/08/2011

Job Training Not The Answer To Our Economic Malaise

I find it interesting that President Obama spent time touting the need for a better trained workforce in order to compete for manufacturing jobs in the future.

That sounds just great. Great. Yeah. The future. Uh-huh.

But what about the present?

What good will all that training do if there are no jobs to be had? It seems he's putting the cart before the horse, expecting more job training to be the answer to our economic woes.

The problem with our economy is not the major lack of workers needed to fill vacant jobs. It's that there are no jobs to be had in the first place. To put it in simpler terms, it's not a supply problem, but a demand problem. There is an ample supply of workers to fill jobs. There's just no demand for them by business.

To what can we attribute this lack of demand? President Obama.

His economic policies have been a disaster. They appear to be based upon wishful thinking rather than sound economic principles. For one thing one does not shepherd an economic economy by sucking so much capital out of the economy that there's less of it for investing to create new jobs. One does not foster economic recovery by laying more intrusive and draconian regulations on the engine of economic recovery, namely businesses large and small. One does not 'fix' the economy by making investment risky by constantly changing the rules, making it impossible for anyone to figure out whether investing is worth the risk or not (with the answer increasingly becoming “no”).

All job training will do at this point is make sure we have an increasingly well-trained workforce still looking for work where none exists.

6/06/2011

Saving Detroit By Destroying It

Can Mayor Dave Bing turn Detroit around? (This isn't the first time I've asked this question.)

Maybe. He has a long way to go before anyone can say Detroit has been saved.

He is doing one thing long overdue for his blighted and ever shrinking city: tearing down abandoned homes that have become nothing more than shelter for the homeless or hideouts for drug dealers, rapists, and other criminals preying upon the rest of Detroit's citizens. Some of those dilapidated homes are too dangerous to be occupied even by the criminals or the homeless.

I think I can safely say many of us have seen video or photos of what's left of Detroit's once vibrant neighborhoods, with many of them looking like something out of a zombie-apocalypse movie thriller. Most of the homes and buildings in those areas aren't worth rehabilitating or renovating, leaving block after block after block of decaying homes and businesses empty and soulless.

One of the more interesting parts in the article linked above are the thoughts of those actually performing the demolitions. You wouldn't think that tearing down abandoned homes would be an emotional trial for the wreckers, but for many of them it is.

Wreckers hide it, but when you spend weeks with them, riding in their trucks, sitting in their machines, trailing them all over their job sites right out to the dump where they'll deposit the remains of a house, it becomes clear that they're a reflective and empathetic group. They're raconteurs and historians. They want you to know what they've seen in this city. They want to take you there. They believe it'll help.

Mark Sherman insists on driving me down a street called Robinwood, a few blocks from Adamo's home base. "This one," he says, "breaks me up every time I'm on it." The stretch is so blighted it seems haunted. Somehow it's totally devoid of color. All the Craftsman-style homes, with their tapered support columns and stonework porches, are empty. "You can see," says Mark, tugging on the brim of his black John Deere cap, "these were really beautiful. Unique." And he's right. They're exactly the kinds of homes young families in Portland and Los Angeles line up to live in. "This is the perfect example," he continues, "of what can happen in two years. Two years ago, this street was mostly full. This is what happens when nobody cares."

They try not to think of the people who used to live in those homes. Those who worked hard, raised families, took pride in their homes, now long gone, leaving echoes of what used to be behind them.

I'm not sure I could do their job and not feel what they do. But they know it's a necessary job, so-called creative destruction, where the only way to rebuild Detroit is to remove those homes and other buildings that are now a blight infesting their city.

Will it work?

Only time will tell.

6/05/2011

Thoughts On A Sunday

Another weekend almost gone and still we don't have our boat in the water. I have to admit to frustration borne of the inability to find some of the simplest information I need in order to put things to rights. The most vexing? The initial setting for the idle mixture screw. It needs to be adjusted because The Boat's idle is rough, telling me the mixture is most likely too rich.

Sounds simple, right? No way. I can find the information for every carburetor/engine combination both prior to and after that of my 1993 powertrain. But not for 1993!!

Now I'm working my way through the boating forums, hoping to find someone who can tell me what the initial setting is for the mixture screw.

***********

I saw this over at Scary Yankee Chick.

I'm sure all eight feline members of our family here at The Manse will love the Kitty Holster.

I have to admit that before I headed over to the Kitty Holster website I had visions of something that would allow our cats to carry their own firearms, though probably nothing bigger than a .22 or .25, and even then something semi-automatic because a revolver would be too lumpy.

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If you need more evidence that Obama's economic 'recovery' plans are having just the opposite effect, all one need do is look for the reasons why companies here in the US aren't hiring, relocating manufacturing to other states, or worse, to other countries.

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It looks like Texas is leading the way again, making sure that home bakers and small farm operations (i.e. family farms) are allowed to make and sell their own baked goods without the need to make them in a certified commercial kitchen.

As Kathleen comments, “The [Texas Cottage Food] bill passed both houses in a bi-partisan way, because Texas Democrats understand the ever growing menace of government.” (emphasis added)

That certainly makes them far less statist than Democrats in other states.

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Bogie has become a victim (again) of a thief. As she relates it, things have gone missing with no rhyme or reason over the past few years, from a pair of emerald earrings to one of her bathmats.

Either it's a kleptomaniac ghost or a human thief with really bad decision making skills. After all, who steals a bathmat?

***********

BeezleBub was off to the WP In-Laws to pick up a boat.

His grandfather has a small aluminum fishing boat (about 12 feet long) that he hasn't used in years and BeezleBub inquired about it the other day. (It might have had something to do with his getting his New Hampshire Boating Certificate this past Thursday.)

He took one of his girl friends from school along with him for the ride. (Let's call her BK, short for Beautiful Klutz, for she is both. Oh, and if you're wondering about Twirl Girl, she and BeezleBub have gone their separate ways as she's off to college in August.)

With he being off with BK for most of the day, that left all of the yard work to yours truly. At least I managed to mow the lawn (what we have of one) and weed around the front of The Manse.

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Talk about chipping away at personal freedoms and subverting the Fair Use provisions of copyright laws!

If Senate Bill 978 becomes law, anyone embedding a copyrighted YouTube video on their website will be charged with a felony.

The reach of this law is so broad that even if you embed a video with the creator's permission, you could still be charged with a felony. And as this is just the first step, I have no doubt that even linking to the video or other copyrighted material will become a crime.

If enacted, this law will go one step further and turn people who embed a copyrighted video into criminals. It will also set the stage to criminalize linking to copyrighted information — like corporate media news sources — and shut down the alternative media.

--snip--

So-called “secondary copyright liability” will be used to criminalize what is now routine behavior on the internet. It will also be used by the political establishment to eliminate the internet activity – primarily in the form of alternative media – of those who oppose what is shaping up to be a totalitarian state.

You know the old media must be getting desperate if they need to rent-seek to protect what they see as their sole domain. Of course it also gives the government extraordinary control over the Internet, something every totalitarian government seeks to do. We already know from both his words and actions that Obama is trying his hardest to control every aspect of our lives. If that doesn't describe a nascent totalitarian, I don't know what does.

(H/T Maggie's Farm)

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I've written before about how Gurkha's are probably the toughest soldiers on the face of the planet. If we need any more proof of that, then here's the story of another Gurkha who singlehandedly fought off a Taliban attack and killed 30 of them. The only reason he didn't kill more? He was out of ammo and didn't have his kukri knife with him.

In total he fired off 250 general purpose machine gun rounds, 180 SA80 rounds, six phosphorus grenades, six normal grenades, five underslung grenade launcher rounds and one claymore mine.

All of that, 30 enemy killed, and he had not a scratch on him.

Gurkha's rule!

(H/T Pirate's Cove)

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At first I had a hard time believing it, but it turns out it's true.

After Bank of America tried to foreclose on a home for which the owners owed no money (they had paid cash), the homeowners took them to court and won. The judge awarded the homeowners $2534 in legal fees. Bank of America didn't pay up, so the homeowners had their attorney foreclose on the Bank of America. The Sheriff served the bank with foreclosure papers and all the bank branch's assets were seized, including the cash in the tellers' drawers, furniture, computers, and filing cabinets.

You've gotta love it when the little guy sticks it to the incompetent (or criminally negligent) big guy.

This sounds like yet another episode of robo-signing gone wrong.

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You know the job recovery in this recession is in trouble when almost half of the jobs created last month came from one company: McDonald's.

I'm not sure, but is this the “Hope” or the “Change” Obama promised?

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And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the lake has been quiet, the summerfolk have not, and where I hope we can finally get our boat into the water.

6/04/2011

Some Schools Rolling Back On Zero Tolerance Polices

My opinion of zero-tolerance policies has always been low, seeing them as the last refuge of the incompetent, lazy, or lawsuit-shy school administrators.

Now it appears that after over 10 years of increasingly draconian zero tolerance polices, the trend is reversing itself, with schools loosening their policies or abandoning them all together. Some of the reasons for this are easy to figure out, with the main one being the policies have hurt far more students than they have ever helped. It could also be the lawsuits, investigations, and ridicule being heaped upon those who created and enforced those policies over the years. But it can all be boiled down this: They. Don't. Work.

The American Psychological Association reported in a 2008 journal article that research has found no evidence that zero-tolerance policies have a deterrent effect or keep schools safer.

Over the years, “zero-tolerance” has described discipline policies that impose automatic consequences for offenses, regardless of context. The term also has come to refer to severe punishments for relatively minor infractions. Some schools boast of using zero-tolerance; others insist that they do nothing of the sort.

It would be great if all school systems were dialing back the use of zero tolerance policies, but that isn't the case. Instead, some are becoming even harsher, creating even more backlash and more discipline problems. It sounds almost like the old saw, “Beatings will continue until morale improves!”

Some school systems zero tolerance policies have devastating effects on students caught up in them, damaging or destroying otherwise good kids in the name of discipline. In some cases, those closed-minded policies have killed, with students taking their own lives after being run through the ringer for what would otherwise be a minor infraction.

Fairfax [Virginia] parents tell stories of going into the process without an attorney and finding their children under fire at adversarial hearings. These families contend there is no impartial judge but instead a presumption of guilt. They say there is little discussion of a student's well-being, psychological state or the cause of the misconduct.

"The parents feel very often that they are in the middle of criminal prosecution - that there is no balance or context and the facts are skewed to the negative," said Bill Reichhardt, a Fairfax lawyer whose firm has handled more than 100 school discipline hearings in Virginia.

It sounds more a like kangaroo court, where even if you should happen to be innocent, you are still guilty. Can there be any question whether these policies do far more harm that good? Who are these policies supposed to be helping – the administrators? Or the students? It certainly appears from here the answer is the former, with the latter relegated to scholastic (and social) purgatory.

Is it any wonder more parents might want to send their kids to private schools or home school them so they won't have to subject them to such a nightmarish code of discipline? (I guess I must also conclude they'll also do so to ensure their kids also get a decent education, something these zero tolerance policies do not guarantee, but you get my point...I hope.)

It's time to end the reign of zero tolerance policies for they serve no one well, claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

6/02/2011

Palin Is Giving The "Lamestream Media" Ulcers

Whether or not Sarah Palin decides to run for president the one thing I have to say she's got going for her is her disdain for the traditional courtship of the media. Even the liberal LA Times recognizes the fact and points out that it may actually work for her.

There is nothing the U.S. media wants more than something it thinks it can't have. Hence the power of news leaks that manipulate the thrust of their initial presentation. Hard-to-get is a rigid rule of human behavior. Ask any teenage boy or girl.

And there are few things more sweet to Palin and her fervent supporters cheering their TV sets this week than the image of a hungry know-it-all "lamestream media" caravan of 15 or more vehicles traipsing along behind her red-white-and-blue bus enroute to they-know-not-where to do they-know-not-what.

If nothing else this “I don't care what you want” attitude of Palin's towards the media is driving them to distraction and frustrating them to no end. Her refusal to play by their rules has them unable to function in their usual manner and they're confused (and perhaps not a little frightened) by the prospect that she will be but the first to find that she really doesn't need them to get her message out. She can bypass their “helpful” filtering and make appeals directly to the public without the media interpreting her utterances into something that in no way resembles what it she actually said (as compared to what they want her to have said). They will be relegated to actually reporting the news rather than creating it or disguising their not unbiased opinions as 'news'.

To read some of those commenting on the Times piece, Palin should be held responsible for the extra work the media will have to do and the higher risk they'll be taking to keep up with her. That's right, the higher risk.

She's an irresponsible, egotistical woman who gives no thought as to how she could be endangering others through her actions. The article mentions the media caravan, but doesn't talk about the chaos created, as in Philadelphia, when the reporters don't know where she's going to show up and run madly about trying to find her. If someone gets hurt, guess who's going to deny she's responsible for any of it and cast aspersions on anyone who tries to say she is--just as she did when Kathy Gifford was shot. Such behavior would not be entirely surprising from an immature, aspiring Hollywood star; it is disturbing from someone who makes any pretense of aspiring to a responsible position.

This California asshat has it exactly backwards. How is it she can in any way be held responsible for the actions of what are, to all intents and purposes, paparazzi? If she chooses not to clue them in as to her plans, it's her right to do so. The poor endangered media types don't have to follow her around, do they?

Too many of the other asshats who commented wondered why the media bothers giving Palin any coverage, and then they complain when the media has a more difficult time covering Palin. So I have to ask this question: Which one is it you really want – media coverage to report her every gaffe, real or perceived, or for the media to ignore her entirely? It has to be one or the other. You can't have both.

Of course we really know the answer to that question, don't we? Without Palin, the Left would have no one to complain about or to excoriate. I guess it must make them feel better to denigrate someone who refuses to fill the role they have decided she must play. Too bad for them.

And what would happen if she decides to run in 2012 and again chooses her own way of doing things without bothering to ask the media for their input, such as it is? I expect heads would explode in newsrooms around the country and the all-so-learned talking heads would be struck dumb by her unwillingness to consult with them.

One can only hope.

6/01/2011

You'll Get No Argument From Me...

Nothing more need be said about this one.