3/31/2013

Thoughts On A Sunday

It's Easter Sunday and this part of the WP clan will be heading over to the WP Parents for Easter dinner. The WP Sisters will also be in attendance. BeezleBub will be at Horse Girl's for Easter and Deb will be at work.

*************

The weather for Easter is great, warm and sunny. There's been lots of melting and bare ground is becoming more evident every day. The snow banks will take a few weeks longer to melt away, but they too are shrinking.

The ground is still too mushy and muddy to do much in the way of yard work – cleaning up winter debris, removing fallen tree limbs, or cutting back brush. That's going to have to wait a few more weeks until the ground dries out. This signifies that we have entered yet another of the 7 seasons we experience up here in New England, in this case Mud Season. While the calendar says we've entered Spring, it won't arrive here for at least another month or so. We still have Flood and Black Fly Seasons to get through before we get to Spring.

*************

One bit of winter damage that will require more than a little clean up is the driveway here at The Manse. It has taken a real beating over the past 12 winters and is looking pitiful.

When the contractor (who presently resides in prison) built this house, he cut corners in a few areas that he should not have. One of those areas was drainage, at least around the perimeter of the driveway and parking area next to the garage. The lack of good drainage has caused water to drain underneath the pavement which in turn has caused it to break up during the freeze/thaw cycles. There has also been some undermining causing depressions here and there. We have to be careful where we drive and where we park in order to minimize further damage to the pavement.

While we could have someone come in a lay down new pavement, that won't solve the problem. I have a feeling we'll be in for some excavation to ensure proper drainage.

Call this yet another joy of home ownership.

*************

Bogie tells us about her last sled (snowmobile) run of the winter, including some pictures.

With the sun and warm temps, most of the trails here in central and southern New Hampshire are in pretty rough shape. Most will be closed after this weekend. Those up north will still be passable for a while, but the state of New Hampshire will close them soon enough.

Ice fishing is also finished as all of the bob houses (ice fishing shacks) have to be off the lakes by sundown tomorrow (April 1).

*************

Call it an Easter miracle: Democrats realize their policies suck.

No kidding!

*************

I was happy to see that my home state of New Hampshire was named one of the top 5 most free states, finishing at the #4 spot.

My only concern is that in 2009 New Hampshire was rated #2, meaning the moves by the governor and dominated-at-times by the Democrat legislature have caused the state to slip two notches.

*************

Now the envirowackos are trying to ruin Easter.

I think what they're really trying to do is replace everyone else's faith with their own belief in Gaia, whether we want them to or not. Asking whether our chocolate bunnies are made from 'ethical' chocolate or our Easter eggs are 'sustainable'.

These folks need to get a real life and stop trying to make ours miserable in some attempt to assuage their guilt.

*************

It figures.

Why fire expensive executives when you can lay off inexpensive employees who actually do the work.

Wapo's problem is that they have too many chiefs and not enough Indians. But then that's the problem with a lot of businesses on their way to oblivion.

*************

I can see small modular reactors as being the answer to the nuclear power issue.

The various parts of the reactors will be factory built, trucked to the site, and installed. They're far less expensive to build, take much less time to build, will be identical to each other which makes both operating and maintaining them easier, and while not generating as much power as 'regular' nuclear plants, will be cheaper to build, something important to smaller utility companies.

There are also smaller self-contained reactors that have been proposed, plants that will generate between 30 and 50 megawatts, each is in its own 'capsule', a sealed vessel that contains the reactor, cooling systems, and generating equipment. It would be moved to a prepared site, off-loaded, hooked up to the electrical grid, and started up.

*************

By way of Glenn Reynolds comes this piece that explains why young voters vote for dependency on the state: It's all they've ever know.

The family is communist — from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs — and it takes a while to realize that the rest of the world doesn’t work that way, because only parents are willing to make that sort of sacrifice, and then only for their own kids.

They assume that what their parents did for them as they were growing up everyone else should do for them as well. It's that evil and false 'altruism' they insist everyone must feel in order to keep living in the style to which they've become accustomed. But it's not up to us to support them in such a fashion. It's up to them to support themselves, just as their parents did.

*************

And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the snow is disappearing, the lake is still forzen over from shore to shore, and where once again Monday has returned all too soon.

Jeff Gordon Test Drive

More fun from the Pepsi folks. While I have seen this on TV, this is the full 3+ minutes including some of the behind the scenes stuff.

3/29/2013

IRS Runaround

It being tax season, I feel I must relate a story that I have experience more than once in regards to the Infernal Revenue Service.

After selling our business 18 months ago our tax situation changed, leaving us with some tax liabilities. The sum owed wasn't overly large and we worked out a payment plan with the government to allow us to pay it off over a period rather than paying it in one lump sum. Any tax over-payments we made during the following tax year(s) would be applied to the balance we owed. So far so good.

Over the past few days both Deb and I have been trying to find out the balance of what we still owe and up to this point we've had no luck. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Between the two of us we've spent hours on the phone, being transferred from one IRS flunky to another, and on more than a few occasions, being 'accidentally' disconnected and having to start all over again.

Searching the IRS website has also been a frustrating and futile effort, with much of the information there pointing us to the very same phone numbers we already called.

What we're getting is a bureaucratic runaround.

This isn't the first time I've had to deal with this particular bureaucracy and I'm finding today's experience no different from the one I had some years ago.

Way back in the dark ages – 1996 – I left he company I'd worked for for almost 20 years, receiving a huge severance package. Because of the paperwork involved with this package, I wasn't able to file my 1996 taxes on time and filed for an extension. I also cut a check for an amount approximating what I believed I would owe to the IRS. Once I received the required paperwork in August I filed my taxes, including a check for the small balance I still owed – about $150 – and waited to hear back from the IRS, knowing I'd have to pay some interest on the last $150 I paid. And I waited...and waited.

Both the original check I'd sent in April and the one I sent in August had been cashed by the Treasury Department, meaning they'd received my return, yet I heard nothing from the IRS. Even inquiries I made got me no answers.

Four years passed...

...and I started receiving letters from the IRS asking why I hadn't filed my 1996 taxes. It was the beginning of a seven year battle with the IRS, with me proving I had filed my taxes, including copies of the extension I had filed, a copy of my return, and copies of the canceled checks. Then doing it again. And then again. And again, ad nauseum. Even the IRS taxpayer advocate couldn't understand why I was having problems as I had proof of filing.

Every time I thought it was all settled I would get another dunning letter from yet another IRS office warning me I hadn't filed my 1996 tax return, to contact them or face dire consequences, starting the whole thing again.

It took seven years to straighten out the mess and in the end I owed something like $1.37 in interest to the government. Needless to say I have little faith in the bureaucracy that is the IRS.


3/28/2013

Red States Rising

It's ironic that at the federal level we are struggling with a moribund economy due to heavy handed regulations, enormous fees, mandates, and always increasing taxes, while at the same time a number of states are bucking that trend in spite of the federal economic wet blanket.

Blue states are suffering as demands upon their financial resources increase even as their ability to meet them dwindles. Red states, on the other hand, are seeing their economies grow as an influx of new businesses and hard-working residents that have fled the crushing anti-business atmospheres of the blue states.

Red states are rising. But blue states, shackled with exorbitant union demands and pension obligations, high taxes and anti-fossil-fuel policies, are sinking. Americans are fleeing these Democratic bastions, uprooting their families and resettling in areas with economic opportunity.

Folks are voting with their feet to live in areas that are low-tax, pro-business and allow job-producing fossil-fuel production. The Census shows that from 2000 to 2010,Americans fled Democratic-controlled East Coast, West Coast and Great Lakes states.

The population shift continues, and the biggest population losers are New York, California and Illinois.The eight states where the most Americans are choosing to relocate are Florida, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Tennessee. All have GOP governors.

I wish I could say that my home state of New Hampshire were among those red states. However, with democrat governor and a Democrat majority House, it is likely we will see a return to the tax-and-spend days that led to our little state to have an $800 million structural budget deficit a few years ago. The only thing that kept it from growing worse was a blowout during the 2010 mid-term elections that saw the GOP take a super-majority in the New Hampshire House, Senate, and Executive Council. During the two years the GOP held the legislature, budget cuts and reality-based revenue projections brought the state budget back into balance. A number of punitive fees and taxes laid upon small businesses during the recession were repealed. All of this led to a small but noticeable recovery of our economy. Too bad the Democrats rode Obama's coattails back into power, at least in the New Hampshire House.

Our governor, Maggie Hassan, proposed a budget that included revenues from a non-existent source, that being $80 million in licensing fees from a new casino to be built in southern New Hampshire. The only problem with those projected revenues is that casino gambling isn't legal in New Hampshire, at least not yet. Call it typical blue-state economic arrogance that it is assumed the legislature will roll over and give the governor what she wants. And while it looked like she might get their way, the enabling legislation is in trouble and might not pass during this session. So how does the legislature make up the $80 million revenue shortfall? Will they cut spending by that much or will they raise other taxes and fees to make up for it? If I had to guess, they'll raise taxes and fees elsewhere.

OK, enough of my home state-centric rant.

The blue state governments are trapped into a thought mode that ignores economic realities such as believing the taxpayers are a bottomless supply of money that can be tapped at will without there being any economic repercussions. But as we have been seeing over the past few years, that isn't true. As the blue states squeeze businesses and individuals for more revenue and lay heavier regulatory burdens on business, people are voting with their feet, moving to states with friendlier business climes and lower tax burdens. That leaves an even larger revenue shortfall which in turn causes the state government to lay a heavier burden on those remaining. They're trying to take more from shrinking pie. It's a vicious cycle.

Red state governments realize the folly of excessive taxation and regulation, understanding the negative effects of those factors on the health of their economies. That also understand that tax revenues climb as the economy expands, a fact that seems to elude the political class in blue states. We can only hope they'll learn that lesson before their fiscal house of cards collapses...but somehow I doubt they will.

3/27/2013

Chopsticks To China?

While this may help the trade deficit we have with China, you have to wonder how bad it's getting when China has to import chopsticks from the US.

With 1.4 billion people ploughing through 80 billion pairs of throwaway chopsticks each year, China has admitted its forests can no longer provide enough cutlery for its dinner tables.

Today...China is chopping down 20 million mature trees a year to feed its disposable chopstick habit.

Nor can China find enough wood in its own forests. China is now the world's largest importer of wood and even imports chopsticks from America.

Maybe it's time for them to switch over to forks and knives. At least they can be used again and again.

Until then, we'll keep supplying them with chopsticks and provide jobs to Americans at the same time.

3/26/2013

Uncle Drew - Part 2

Here's another chapter in the “Uncle Drew” story.

3/24/2013

Thoughts On A Sunday

It's been a relatively quiet weekend here at The Manse. The most exciting thing I had to do this weekend was make a trip to the dump. (I'm not complaining. A quiet weekend now and then is a good thing.) I also cleared away some of the snow from our last storm, something that took me all of 5 minutes to accomplish.

BeezleBub had to deal with the births of 3 new calves at the farm, something Farmer Andy hadn't told him was imminent.

*************

The local TV station news had segment about the upcoming changes we'll see as more portions of ObamaCare kick in. From what I could see, neither the host or the state insurance commissioner were enthusiastic about those changes. I know most Americans aren't.

*************

It seems the Lame Stream Media is finally gigging to the fact that ObamaCare is a job killer.

Too bad it took them three years to figure that out. The rest of us knew that from the beginning.

*************

Terrible country, America. You wouldn't like it here.

Trust me, you folks around the world who want to sneak into the USA. We are an evil, Capitalist, heartless, war-mongering, carbon-spewing, gun-shooting, drug-abusing, poverty-ridden, sex-obsessed, Big Gulp-drinking, obese, poorly-educated, sexist, racist and zenophobic (sic) country that nobody would want to be a part of. There are no jobs here, and the place is crawling with Jesus Freaks, drunk cowboys with guns, communists, weird transgender people and weird mass-murderers armed with AK-47s and bombs. Don't believe the marketing hype about freedom and opportunity, because they are disappearing fast.

Just ask any American college professor how bad we are, and how unfair and harsh life is here.

Despite this 'truth', millions want to immigrate to the US.

*************

Assistant Village Idiot gives us a brief history of coffee, specifically buying cups of coffee while on the road. He reminds us how bad it really was...until places like Dunkin' Donuts came along.

*************

Gay Patriot gives is a view into the misadventures in multicultural indoctrination studies.

Personally, I think the progressive push to accept everyone else's cultures while rejecting our own illustrate the hatred Progressives have for Western Civilization. Somehow accepting everyone else's beliefs as superior to our own is supposed to make us better? Yeah, that's worked out so well in other places like Europe.

*************

We already know New York's gun laws are insane, but now we have further proof they've become as bad and as tyrannical as Britain's when a New York homeowner defending his home with a handgun is likely to get more time in prison than a child molester. The homeowner in question did not shoot the intruder that broke into his home, all he did was brandish it inside his home.

I guess the powers that be in New York still have no understanding of the Second Amendment or the implications of Heller versus DC. Then again, I didn't expect them to.

*************

The liberal double standard is being applied to Fox News again, this time for revealing the name of the 16-year old rape victim in Steubenville, Ohio.

Did Fox News screw up? Absolutely. But the thing about this is that CNN, MSNBC, and a local CBS affiliate did exactly the same thing a day before Fox News did, yet there's nary a peep from those same outraged Media types.

*************

As if we need yet another in a long list of examples how decades long Democratic rule in some cities have brought them to their knees, there's the latest news from Chicago. In that long-oppressed city, the city government has announced it will be closing 54 public schools in an effort to deal with a $1 billion deficit. That's on top of the approximately100 schools closed since 2001.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the Democrat political machine that has been running Chicago for decades has finally run out of other people's money. It doesn't help that the unions also have a stranglehold on the city, making it difficult to make the changes needed to bring spending (and taxes) under control.

*************

Talk about a small world.

I was down at our local laundromat drying the clothes I had washed in the Official Weekend Pundit Washing Machine earlier in the day (our clothes dryer is kaput).

While waiting for our clothes to dry I struck up a conversation with an attractive woman I hadn't seen there before. I immediately noticed her southern accent and asked where she was from. She told me she was from Shreveport, Louisiana and that she was up visiting her daughter who was due to deliver her second child any day.

As we conversed a niggling little idea kept trying to make it's way into my thoughts and eventually I asked her, “You're daughter's name wouldn't happen to be Kelly, would it?” Her jaw dropped open for a moment and she finally asked me how I knew.

It turns out I had worked with her daughter a few years ago and I finally remembered that she said she'd moved up to New Hampshire from Shreveport. My subconscious kept bugging me until I made the connection, hence the question. From that point on it was like Old Home Day at the laundromat.

*************

And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the perfect conditions for sugaring continue, thoughts of summer boating intrude, and reality insinuates itself when we see the snowbanks along the sides of the road.

3/22/2013

Progressive Taxes Are Hurting The Economy

It appears the Left has yet to learn the lesson about 'progressive' taxes and their effect on the economy. Only in their minds does stripping away increasing amounts of money from those who earn it magically help the economy to recover. There's plenty of historical evidence that contradicts their beliefs but that hasn't stopped them from wanting to keep raising taxes in anticipation that revenues will increase, ignoring the fact that people will modify their plans in order to reduce their tax liabilities.

So as the Senate and House take up competing budgets this week, President Obama and his congressional allies have renewed their demands for more revenue. The claim is that taxes remain far below historical norms, despite the recent rise in tax rates.

Well, yes, federal revenues have averaged only 15.3% of GDP over the past four years, the lowest share in 60 years. But that did not happen because tax rates are too low. Federal revenues are down because economic growth is too slow.

So what's the Left's answer? Raise taxes even higher. But that will not generate the revenues they expect because yet another increase in taxes will slow economic growth even more as money that would have been used by taxpayers to buy goods or services or to invest will be taken from them to be spent on activities that do nothing to bolster the economy. One of those activities: paying the interest on monies already borrowed (and spent). That does little to stimulate the economy.

Another downside to raising taxes? Even more dependence of high income taxpayers, a formula for disaster.

By consistently pushing for higher tax rates on top earners, and tax credits and lower rates for lower- and middle-income earners, Democratic tax policies have unintentionally left the government dependent on the prosperity of upper-income taxpayers. Since the current recovery is so dismal, revenues have tanked.

We've seen this on a smaller scale in California, whose tax burden has fallen upon high income earners at a time when many of them aren't making as much money as the were before or have found ways to defer their income, in turn decreasing their tax burden and the revenues collected by the state. This has left California with yet another problem with revenue shortfalls even as they boost taxes across the board. This places a bigger burden on those who don't have the means to defer or shelter their income, meaning mainly the middle class. The poorer citizens of California will also see their tax burdens increase, taking a disproportionate toll on their discretionary income. I doubt this was the intent of the “Let's tax the hell out of the rich” Left. Call it yet another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Somewhat off topic, I am becoming more convinced it's time to take away the ability to tax income at the federal level. It's too easy to insert exemptions and tax breaks for favored industries, groups of individuals, or causes. This means the rest of us have to make up the difference. It also makes the tax code a morass of contradictory, arcane, or totally indecipherable tax regulations. When even the IRS doesn't understand the tax code, how can the rest of us have any hope of doing so?

It's time to do away with the federal income tax and change over to a consumption tax – a sales tax – that everyone pays. There should be certain items that should not be taxed, like food, clothing, shoes, and other staples. This would ensure the poor aren't unnecessarily burdened by such a tax, an argument always put forward by the same “Let's tax the hell out of the rich” Left. This would eliminate most of the tax paperwork we have to deal with every year. It also automatically scales, meaning the more you buy, the more you pay. A national consumption tax would also spur savings, because unlike today, interest earned on savings wouldn't be taxed. Neither would capital gains.

All I know for sure is that our tax code is seriously broken, our federal government is spending money it doesn't have (and never will), and they will soon run into the Thatcher Limit (Socialism works until you run out of other people's money).

3/20/2013

The Depositor's Tax And The Law Of Unintended Consequences

Seeing the debacle of the proposed 'bank depositor's' tax in Cyprus makes me wonder how the Powers-That-Be in the EU thought it was such a good idea. While it would have raised a bunch of one-time revenue, it would have ruined what was left of the Cypriot banks when depositors withdrew all of their cash after the one-time charge in order to prevent the government from taking even more of their money. Considering depositors had already paid taxes on that money it was stupid to think they would stand for such shenanigans. Call it yet another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

If that were tried here in the US I would expect as much outrage, if not more, as well as runs on bank deposits that would cause hundreds, if not thousands of banks to fail. If you need an example of what such a bank run looks like in the 21st Century, all one has to do is look what happened at the Indy Mac Bank after Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made the suggestion that it might be in trouble. In a matter of a couple of days depositors withdrew over $3 billion in cash, causing the bank to fail. But loudmouth Chuck was wrong. The bank didn't have any issues that might have caused problems until Chuck Schumer's injudicious words triggered the run on the bank. In other words it was Chuck who caused an otherwise healthy bank to fail.

In the US those of us who actually save our money are already penalized by taxes upon any interest earned on our savings. Again, this is money on which we have already paid taxes. The tax laws penalize savings which in turn has caused the amount of savings to plummet. Should some idiot like Chuck Schumer decide slapping a 10% tax on bank deposits would be a great way to raise revenue, we would see an economic collapse to rival that of the Great Depression. Banks would fail and there's no way the FDIC could possibly meet its obligations. Why would anyone put money in a bank knowing the government could seize some portion of it in order to pay its bills? It would be safer burying it out in the back yard.

3/19/2013

Last Snowstorm Of The Winter - Some Observations

We had a full blown snowstorm up here in New England today, the last full day of winter. To watch some of the folks out driving during the storm you would have thought they'd never driven in snow before. I wasn't more than quarter mile from The Manse when I had my first run in with a clueless driver.

One of my putative neighbors backed his Prius out of his driveway, stopped, turned his wheel and tried to go forward...and got nowhere. First, he was in six inches of snow. Second, he was trying to go up hill. Third, he had the stock 'all season' tires on his car. Fourth, he tended to be a bit heavy on the accelerator pedal, meaning he spun his tires as he tried to accelerate as if he were on dry pavement.

I didn't mind the fact that he was clueless about driving his car in snow or that he should have had real snow tires rather than the all season baloney skins. What I did mind was that his car was blocking the road, leaving no space to get around him.

Realizing he wasn't going to be going anywhere any time soon, I put the trusty F150 into reverse and carefully backed down the road, figuring I would use one of the cross streets to get out to the main road. Unfortunately my neighbor noticed what I was doing and apparently decided he would do likewise, cutting his wheel, putting his car in reverse, and starting down the hill towards me. The problem?

He was backing down the hill at a much higher speed than was prudent even during good conditions.

When I saw he was moving down the hill very quickly I realized there was no way he was going to be able to stop in time without backing into the trusty F150. A quick shift into drive and a hard turn to the right got me into the side street just as he sailed by with all four wheels locked up, missing the rear of the F150 by mere inches.

I wish I could say that I did the neighborly thing – stopping and helping him out of his predicament – but I have to admit to feeling peeved that he would do something so stupid and so dangerous, so I left him to his own devices. (I also have to admit that I know the fellow. He is one of the most disagreeable, opinionated, and arrogant flatlanders I have ever come across, so I felt little guilt at letting him get himself out of trouble.)

It all went down hill from there. (No pun intended.)

To me it appeared everyone was in one hell of a hurry to get wherever it was they were trying to go. The roads were very slick, traction was minimal, yet folks were driving at the speed limit as if the roads were dry. I witnessed more than a few vehicles lose traction, fishtail as the drivers brought them back under control, and then accelerate away as if nothing had happened.

One fellow was tailgating me on the local bypass, his truck swaying back and forth as he lost and regained traction. He darn near rear-ended me when I took my exit off the bypass because he decided it was a perfectly good time to pull out his cell and make a call. He didn't notice me slowing down to take the off-ramp until the last second, swerved to go around me, and did a 360ยบ spin right there in the middle of the bypass. He was lucky there wasn't traffic in the oncoming lane at the time or it could have ruined his whole day.

Some of my co-workers reported the same kind of insanity, with one telling me she had someone pass her on the bypass, fishtailing as he/she passed her and almost forcing her off the road.

What the hell is wrong with these people?

3/17/2013

Thoughts On A Sunday

The March weather is continuing its schizophrenic pattern, with days of well above freezing days followed by a batch of below freezing days, thrown in with snow that falls during both the above freezing and below freezing days.

I woke yesterday morning to find a half inch of snow had fallen overnight. I thought it would melt off pretty quickly...but it didn't. The day-time temps barely broke 32 degrees and even the tire tracks on the driveway from the trusty F150 merely darkened but didn't really melt away. It's supposed to be in the upper 30's today which should help with more melting, but we have more snowfall forecast to start some time late Monday. The forecasters are saying we'll see 6 inches of heavy wet snow in this area, with a potential for up to a foot by the time the snow winds down some time Tuesday.

I have to admit that I'm just waiting for spring to arrive as I have run out of tolerance for more snow, at least for snow that heavy and deep. While the Official Weekend Pundit Snowblower is more than capable of taking care of it, I'd be happy if we didn't see any more of the heavy stuff until next winter.

*************

We finally joined the 21st Century by subscribing to Netflix. While I am not unfamiliar with the use of streaming video (I have used Hulu for some time now to catch up on past episodes of some of my favorite shows as well as some of their original series offerings) I haven't used a pay service.

What prompted us to join was the built-in Netflix app on Official Weekend Pundit HDTV Deb gave me for Christmas. I have wasted no time making use of its search function and adding a bunch of movies and TV shows to my queue. I've watched some classic movies like Strategic Air Command and The Glenn Miller Story with Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson; a1980 sci-fi flick called The Final Countdown with Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen. (If you're not familiar with it, it posits the question “What would happen if the modern aircraft carrier USS Nimitz were to be whisked through a time portal ending up a couple of hundred miles to the west of Hawaii on December 6, 1941?”; and I also caught Atlas Shrugged Part 1. (I have to confess that was the very first movie I watched after subscribing to Netflix. I liked it and am looking forward to Part 2.)

I have a feeling we'll become big fans of Netflix. I also have a better understanding of why more people are 'pulling the plug' on traditional cable TV.

*************

The New York Times spin machine is hard at work trying paint the pending takeover of bankrupt and politically corrupt Detroit by the state of Michigan as a racist plot by “mostly white Republicans.” There's nary a word about the five decades of Democrat rule that has been a showcase of political corruption, cronyism, and union thuggery and extortion that led Detroit to become a shell of its former self. (Remember, Detroit has less than a third of the population it did at its peak, with approximately 600,000 people there compared to the 2.1 million it used to have.) Somehow it's all the fault of the GOP?

From the NYT piece:

For decades, a variety of methods – from oversight boards to appointed receivers – have been used in cases where cities have fallen into financial disarray, but the arrangements are often controversial, stirring up political struggles.

In Detroit, a mostly black city led mainly by Democrats, the intervention by the state, mostly white and led by Republicans, has been viewed by some as a needless and undemocratic seizure of control.

That Detroit has been able to stay out of receivership as long as it has has been a surprise, considering that cities in California that have gone into bankruptcy were nowhere near as in a dire condition as Detroit is today. I'd say they've been given more than enough leeway and time to put their fiscal house in order and have failed miserably. The entrenched interests have made it impossible to rein in wasteful spending, patronage, and cronyism. If the city can't fix itself then someone from the outside has to, otherwise we might as well just shut off all the lights, turn off the water and sewer, and tell everyone still left in the city to get out.

This isn't a race issue, it's a systemic corruption issue that won't be solved by maintaining the status quo, no matter how much the NYT bitches about it.

If nothing else Detroit stands as an object lesson and a warning that Ayn Rand was right.

*************

While Google's claimed motto is “Do no evil”, their actions are proving to us that they aren't living by that motto. The latest egregious move that shows their hypocrisy?

Removing our downgrading links from searches they find either politically or ideologically 'objectionable'...to them.

This was seen when Doc Mercury did a search on Google for "your breath is a toxic gas epa". The first link that actually had any relation to the search showed up on link #137. The first link that showed any criticism for the EPA's ruling was link #228. Assuming the default 10 links per page, this link wouldn't have appeared until you hit the twenty-third page. When he did the same search on Bing, three of the links in the first ten were directly related to the search.

You cannot tell me there hasn't been some hanky-panky involved with Google's search algorithm that downplays links in searches for subjects Google considers offensive to their sensibilities.

*************

I think that most of us in the know understand that Democrat/Leftist tolerance is nothing but a word in their dictionary that has nothing to do with actual tolerance, particularly if you disagree with them. Instead, it is you that has to tolerate them without reciprocal tolerance, which isn't really tolerance.

*************

And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the temps have gotten colder, the sap in the sugra maples is running well, and where we're expecting more snow.

3/16/2013

More Physicians Abandoning Insurance And Going Cash-Only

It's been no secret that medical professionals have nothing good to say about ObamaCare, knowing it for the inertia-laden anti-medical care bureaucracy that it is. Is it any wonder more doctors are abandoning medical practices that take insurance and switching over to cash-only direct primary care medical practices?

Direct primary care is part of a larger trend of physician-entrepreneurs all across the country fighting to bring transparent prices and market forces back to health care. This is happening just as the federal government is poised to interfere with the health care market in many new and profoundly destructive ways.

There are a number of advantages to such practices, the biggest being the elimination of all of the bureaucratic paperwork that adds tremendously to the cost providing care and tends to make it nearly impossible to know the actual cost of providing care. Without that kind of information there's no 'market' feedback and costs spiral. Even routine care costs are far above the actual cost to provide that care. It also tends to drive practices to push physicians to see as many patients as is possible in the shortest amount of time, meaning doctors can't take the time to spend with patients needed to properly diagnose and treat illnesses. It all become about process, not unlike a factory. This is no way to practice medicine.

Dr. Lisa Davidson had 8 years of frustration while running a successful traditional practice in Denver, Colorado. She had 6,000 patients when she decided to stop taking insurance and adopt the same business model as [other cash-only practices]. Her patient list has dropped to about 2,000. She used to spend about 15 minutes with each patient and now it's more like 45 minutes. "We're on track to make more money and take better care of our patients," says Davidson. "It's a win-win all around."

Before adopting direct primary care, Davidson was unhappy working at the practice she had built because the insurance system imposed a way of doing business that resembled an assembly line. "It's true that in 2014, many more people will have insurance, so there will be a profound need for primary care doctors," says Davidson. "You might say I've done a disservice by dramatically cutting the size of my practice. However, if we make it desirable again to be a primary care physician more people will want to do it."

If we need any any proof that cash-only practices are less expensive than traditional practices that take insurance, there are two specialties that aren't usually covered by medical insurance because almost all of the procedures they perform are elective: cosmetic surgery and LASIK.

Cosmetic surgery is almost always elective, the exception being post-trauma or post-cancer reconstructive surgery. Because plastic surgeons must compete for patients they try to keep their costs as low as is practical, otherwise they can price themselves right out of the market.

LASIK is also elective, a surgical procedure used to correct vision and eliminate or reduce the need for wearing glasses or contact lenses. Again, surgeons performing this procedure must keep their costs in line otherwise they will lose patients to other less expensive practices.

If you need proof that they are market driven, consider the fact that the costs of both have been dropping while costs of other medical specialties have skyrocketed.

And then, there's this:


It goes to show that unlike many other industries, there is no incentive for hospitals and large medical practices to be efficient because they can jack up the price of what they'll charge to the insurance companies. ObamaCare will only make this worse.

3/15/2013

Matt Ridley Exposes Inconvenient Truths About CO2

Matt Ridley discusses the inconvenient truths that watermelon environmentalists are ignoring in regards to the use of fossil fuels, two of the biggest being that increased greening across the world and the huge decrease in the amount of land required to produce food (~65%!).

Matt Ridley, author of The Red Queen, Genome, The Rational Optimist and other books, dropped by Reason’s studio in Los Angeles last month to talk about a curious global trend that is just starting to receive attention. Over the past three decades, our planet has gotten greener!

Even stranger, the greening of the planet in recent decades appears to be happening because of, not despite, our reliance on fossil fuels. While environmentalists often talk about how bad stuff like CO2 causes bad things to happen like global warming, it turns out that the plants aren’t complaining.


Some of the more rabid (and less informed) members of the Humans-Are-All-Evil environmental groups chose to ignore the increase in plant growth and the rebound of animal species across the globe. It doesn't fit in with their narrative. (Remember the controversial “polar bears falling from the sky and dying because we use fossil fuels” commercial?) Because we no longer need to harvest native plants and animals to meet the needs of the human populace, those species are recovering. Reforestation is occurring, meaning forests are growing back in places that had been cleared hundreds of years ago for farming. (Here in New England it used to be that 70% of the land was cleared, used for farming. Now forests cover 70% of the land. Here in New Hampshire forests now cover 85% of the land, a reversal from the the peak farm land a little over 100 years ago.) And we musn't forget that because of the higher CO2 in the atmosphere, plants are growing faster while needing less water to do so, a win-win for both natural and agricultural plant growth.

It's enough to make a warmist's head explode.

(H/T WUWT)

3/13/2013

AWD, Not AGW

I could have written about the election of the new pope, Pope Frances, but that subject will be covered by others better qualified to comment upon his elevation to leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

I could have written about the evils of ethanol in gasoline, but I've covered that more than once, as have others.

I could have written about Obama and his efforts to make Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged become reality, but I and thousands of others have already beaten that subject to death.

I could have slammed the AGW faithful for their belief in seriously flawed computer models and falsified data.

So what will I be commenting upon that's so earth shattering that I have ignored the big stories of the day?

All Wheel Drive.

While it has become far more common over the years, being used in everything from every day cars (Subaru comes to mind) to high performance road machines (Audi & Porsche, just to name two), it isn't always what it's cracked up to be.

It does help with traction and handling, but not when it comes to the type of inclement winter weather we experience here in the northern climes. Frankly, a good set of snow tires will help more during winter weather than AWD. I know this from first had experience as I've seen (and owned) more than a few good front-wheel drive cars that were better in winter weather than many of the AWD vehicles because they were shod with honest to goodness snow tires (usually Nokian Haakapilittas), and not all-season radials like many AWD cars and SUVs. One of the biggest problems with AWD during bad weather? Driver overconfidence.

However, my experience—hard-earned from wrecking more than one AWD vehicle during snow-handling tests for a tire company—is that AWD is counter-productive when the roads are slick. At the same time AWD doesn't improve your handling, it does offer an overly optimistic sense of available traction, and it provides the potential to be going so much faster when you need to stop. (Note to those from warm climes: Snowbanks are not puffy and cushiony.) The laws of physics mean a vehicle's cornering power is the job of the tires and suspension.

One thing that many drivers of AWD vehicles forget is that while AWD may help them to get moving, it won't necessarily help them turn any better and it won't help with braking at all. (Inertia is a bitch!)

The trusty F150 is Four Wheel Drive, an entirely different animal than AWD. AWD can generally be used all the time while 4WD cannot. Four wheel drive is for use on and off-road where traction conditions are marginal at best, and is engaged by use of a switch on the dashboard or a second shift lever on the transmission hump. (The F150 uses the second shift lever, just like a 4WD truck should.) I also use decent snow tires on the F150 as well, maximizing traction in the snow. I also have a set of tire chains should I need to venture out onto ice-covered roads. But for all of that, 4WD can also give drivers overconfidence as to the traction they have. (I try very hard to not get that way when I'm out on the roads and the conditions require me to drop the trusty F150 into 4WD.) An old saying the applies to 4WD, and to a lesser amount to AWD: “All 4WD means is that you get stuck deeper in the woods.”

Think about it.

3/10/2013

Thoughts On A Sunday

The weather has been quite good here in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, sunny and temps in the 50's. There's a lot of melting going on and the snow on roofs has all but disappeared.

We fired up the Official Weekend Pundit Gas Grill late yesterday and BeezleBub cooked up over 3 pounds of sirloin tips for dinner. I plan to cook some burgers on it later today. While this isn't the earliest we've ever used it (we did use it starting one January a few years ago) it's still nice to get a jump on the grilling season.

I haven't had to use the Official Weekend Pundit Woodstove this weekend and unless the daytime temps fall below freezing again, it's unlikely we will.

*************

Just when I thought they couldn't get any stupider: School confiscates cupcakes decorated with toy soldiers.

These people need to be fired. We don't want people that stupid and that indoctrinated to be teaching our children.

*************

I was perusing one of the local real estate glossies and was surprised to see what some of the higher end properties are listing for these days. Some of the nicer ones with mountain and lake views are listing for less than what we paid for The Manse. (Fortunately we haven't lost much equity in The Manse, at least with what it's assessed value is today, and we've seen similar places list for what The Manse is supposedly worth.)

If I wasn't so adverse to the idea of moving (and could actually get a mortgage) I would consider making an offer on one or two of the places I saw.

What I find ironic is that I remember what some of the homes in the glossy sold for a short 6 years ago and now they're listing for far less than they did back then, in a few cases for half what they sold for back then.

You can't tell me the housing market has recovered when prices have plummeted and homes are on the market for over a year before they're sold.

*************

Bogie reminds us of all the snow we've had over the past 6 weeks or so, including some photos from around her domicile showing the effects of all those storms. Even with the melting that has taken place over the past few days there's still a lot of snow on the ground.

*************

It's Liberals versus Reality. In the end, reality always wins. No amount of wishful thinking can change that.

*************

Cap'n Teach tells us that now the AGW faithful are saying even tweets are causing Hotcoldwetdry!

Is there nothing not causing Hotcoldwetdry these days? I guess not.

*************

Something I saw here at The Manse just before it got too dark: a beaver making its way across the snow and down to the lower part of our property, stopping at a number of smaller maples to chew on them for a few minutes. At one maple he/she climbed up to one of the lower set of branches (it was a very small tree) as if it were making itself comfortable for the night.

I have never seen a beaver up in this part of town before. While there are a few small brooks that run down the side of the hill where The Manse perches, I wouldn't think there were any with enough relatively flat land that would enable beavers to build a dam. Then again, maybe the beaver came up hill to find some sufficiently tender saplings to drag down to its pond.

*************

Watts Up With That provides an object lesson about global warming and how cold it was in Alaska.

As Willis writes:

...don’t bother telling me that weather is not climate … because that’s exactly what I’m pointing out, isn’t it. My main issue is that if January 2012 in Alaska had been 14°F above the average, we’d never have heard the end of it … but 14°F below average attracted little notice at all.

Ah, yes, the old double standard being applied yet again.

*************

Could it be human generated CO2 is preventing the Fallen Angels scenario?

If I had to bet, I'd have to say the answer is yes.

*************

There is a marked difference in the way Americans and Brits show respect to their military personnel. In the US they are treated with respect, with many civilians taking time away from their families to greet them at various airports as they head to or from deployment, no matter the time of day. Airline passengers have given up their seats on flights to help a serviceman or woman get home for leave. Passengers have remained quietly on their flights in their seats as a fallen hero's casket was loaded on board their flight for their final trip home.

On British airlines they're told they have to remove their uniforms in case they they might offend fellow passengers.

*************

And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where the weather has been warm and sunny, gas grills have been running, and where thoughts of the upcoming boating season are starting to make themselves known.

3/09/2013

The Housing Bubble In China Is Ready To Burst And It's Going To Be Worse Than The One In The US

During the housing bubble that started deflating in 2007, there was too much easy money chasing overpriced real estate. Mortgages were practically being thrown at anyone wanting one even if they really couldn't afford the property were going buy. When the end came, foreclosures skyrocketed as people couldn't make their mortgage payments and couldn't sell the property they'd bought because it was worth less than what they'd paid for it.

New homes went unsold and entire neighborhoods of empty and unsellable homes became ghost towns. Developments that had been in progress came to a halt and the unfinished homes remained that way. Billions of dollars of foreclosed homes were held by banks, with some being sold off for a little at a time for a fraction of their original selling price. Many are still waiting to be sold but haven't yet been placed on the market for fear of damaging a still fragile housing market. In some extreme cases entire developments were bulldozed because they were too expensive to maintain weren't likely to be sold any time soon.

As bad as the housing market has become here in the US, it's going to be far worse in China.

While the conditions are different, meaning that mortgages haven't been thrown at anyone that would sign the paperwork, that doesn't mean that the Chinese housing bubble isn't going to devastate their economy.

Many people in China have sunk their entire life savings and those of other family members into buying homes that are overpriced and, craziest of all, aren't being occupied by their owners. Many of them sit empty. What's even worse is that many of these properties are located in cities that are modern day ghost towns. Entire new cities capable of housing a million or more people are made up of empty apartment buildings, shops, and malls...and they're likely to stay that way.



While I've seen plenty of pictures of these empty cities, seeing the this report makes them seem even eerier than I thought possible.

At least if Hollywood ever needs to shoot a movie in a deserted city all they have to do is go to China and they'll have quite a few to choose from. They'll probably be able to rent one for a small nominal fee.

3/05/2013

Now Congress Gets Serious About Wasteful Spending?

Why is it that it isn't until something like the sequester kicks in that Congress decides it needs to do something about wasteful and/or duplicative government spending? Well, I guess better late than never.

At least one New Hampshire Congresscritter, Anne Kuster (D-NH2), has signed on to a bipartisan effort to identify and eliminate such spending. I wish I could say my own representative-in-name-only, Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH1) would do likewise. But then she's never seen any government spending she didn't like. (In case you're wondering why I state she is my ' representative-in-name-only', it's because she doesn't see me or any of the other non-Democrats in her Congressional district as constituents, a position her staff made quite clear to me and other non-Democrats more than once during her first term in office.)

This is something Congress should have been doing all along as it's been no secret that government wastes billions, if not hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on things no one needs, wants, or is being done by other government agencies or programs. The $85 billion in sequester cuts is a mere drop in the bucket compared to cuts that could be made by eliminating exorbitantly wasteful spending that the federal government is so very good at doing. Wouldn't you agree?

3/03/2013

Thoughts On A Sunday

We had quite a bit of melting over the past two days which helped clean up the remains of the last heavy, wet snowfall we experienced a few days ago. However this morning we woke to an inch of new snow, though it is lighter this time around, something cleaned up with a broom rather than a shovel or snowblower.

*************

I had hopes that New Hampshire's new governor, Maggie Hassan, would follow more closely in the footsteps of her predecessor, John Lynch, keeping an eye on both state expenditures and revenues. (Not that Lynch did all that great a job of it.) Those hopes were dashed when she submitted a budget that included $80 million of revenues from casino licensing fees. The only problem? New Hampshire law does not allow casino gambling. The second problem? Even if gambling were expanded by the legislature during this session, it's highly likely those revenues would not be seen until the next budget cycle two years from now.

So like her history in the state senate, she is pushing for spending based upon revenues that don't exist. The last time this happened the state ended up with an $800 million structural deficit because the then Democrat majority House and Senate based their spending upon unrealistic and overly optimistic revenue projections. Fortunately this time around the state Senate is held by Republicans and they've already stated they won't let this budget go through as written. There's also been push back in the Democrat majority House, meaning the budget proposal is in trouble, and rightfully so.

*************

Has Bob Woodward's characterization as a Beltway villain merely the first crack in the veneer of the infallible and unquestionable White House (or should we say of the fellow presently residing there)?

Once the President loses his in-the-pocket MSM, he's toast. The efforts of his staff to keep the media in line are now showing themselves for the bullying and threatening tactics they are. No president since Nixon has tried that and it didn't work then. (You have to remember it was Woodward and Bernstein who brought down Nixon, forcing him to resign.) With all of the new media outlets out there, it's less likely to work this time because there are too many eyes and ears that cannot be controlled by the White House thugs. This shows the President is following the Chicago Politics Playbook...and failing.

It's about frickin' time.

*************

Glenn Reynolds has more on the Bob Woodward story and the White House attempt to silence dissent.

*************

Bogie links to some posts that explain why gas prices jumped up so much over the past month or so...and it's not because of the “greedy oil companies.” Instead, you can lay the blame on a number of government agencies and union-friendly laws that severely limit shipping capacity.

*************

Fifty signs the US health care system is about to collapse.

Frankly, we'd be better off if we limited health insurance to cover catastrophic health care and return the routine medical care to cash only. Costs for most health care would plummet because it would get both the government and the insurance companies out of the way, eliminate the need to do all the paperwork that goes with it.

(H/T Viking Pundit)

*************

David Starr writes about a proposes gas tax hike here in New Hampshire, the funds to be used to widen sections of Interstate 93 and to repair a number of bridges on the state's Red List.

If the problem was that the present gas tax didn't provide enough money for the state Highway Fund to do these things, I would have no issue with raising the tax. It's understood that gas tax revenues have actually fallen off as people drive vehicles that have better fuel economy and drive less because of high gas prices. But the real problem is that the state legislature has been raiding the Highway Fund to pay for non-highway costs.

The New Hampshire state constitution mandates that all funds from gas taxes, registration and licensing fees must go into the Highway Fund and that the fund must be used for building and maintaining the state's highways and bridges and for patrolling and law enforcement by the State Police. But the legislature has decided that all kinds of state functions that have nothing to do with our highways somehow fall under the umbrella of the intent of the Highway Fund and have used up to 40% of the money in the fund to pay for them. (I don't see how Family Court falls under coverage of the Highway Fund and no one has been able to explain it to me.)

If the legislature would stop violating the intent of the Highway Fund amendment of the state constitution there would be more than enough money available to fund the projects needed to upgrade and maintain our highways. But we know that won't happen.

*************

Here's a chart that explains the sequestration in easy to understand graphic.

*************

Like this is going to make anyone want to let their kids go to a public school.

A teen in Florida was suspended from school because he disarmed another student who was pointing a loaded gun at a schoolmate.

I suppose he should have let the kid shoot instead.

As one commenter to the story posted:

His crimes are obvious:
1) he stopped a shooting
2) He saved a kid from being killed.

Liberals love shootings and dead kids. It helps them push their political agenda forward.

I'd say that about sums it up.

*************

In this piece about the gullibility of some of the American people, particularly in regards to the sequester, there's this gem that is something we should be repeating to ourselves over and over again like a mantra:

Democrats like to pretend that every last penny of government spending is wise, benevolent, and essential. My guess is that perhaps 15 percent of discretionary spending meets all three of those criteria, but we’ll never know, because government programs are rarely evaluated for effectiveness, efficiency, or necessity.

At the federal level there are so many programs and agencies that provide duplicate services that it can't help but to waste taxpayer money. Redundancy is fine for critical systems that do things like keep airplanes and spacecraft flying, but not for government.

As I like to remind people that seem to have way too much faith in the government, government is neither smart enough or wise enough to run our lives. It is, after all, made up of people with the same flaws, problems, and idiosyncrasies as the rest of us. They are neither more competent or 'caring' than everyone else. In some cases, they are less so which is why the have government jobs to begin with.

*************

And that's the news from Lake Winnipesaukee, where sugaring is running in earnest, the weather is a bit schizophrenic, and where Daylight Savings Time is just around the corner.

3/02/2013

Detroit One Step Closer To Its Fall

Detroit has moved one step closer to Chapter 9 bankruptcy with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's declaration that Detroit is in a fiscal emergency. Efforts by the present city administration, including Mayor David Bing, have proven ineffective. It's not surprising considering the inertia the mayor has had to deal with while trying to get his city's fiscal house in order.

Detroit has faced the steepest population decline of any American city in recent decades. Once the fifth largest U.S. city — the proud birthplace of the U.S. automotive industry and Motown music — it now ranks 18th with about 700,000 people after suffering a 25 percent decline in population between 2000 and 2010.

With the exodus of residents and jobs as the auto industry contracted, the city has suffered from declining tax revenue and rising crime while saddled with the infrastructure and labor costs of a bygone era.

It is this last factor – labor costs of a bygone era – that has crippled many of the efforts to turn Detroit around. With deeply entrenched unions acting as an immovable object, unwilling to give an inch on pay or benefits, or give up any of their power, it's understandable reform has been almost impossible. Decades of blue-model rule has reduced Detroit to the level of many Third World countries.

Block after block of abandoned homes and commercial buildings, failing infrastructure, labors costs that are extortionate, and a decades long love affair with tax-and-spend fiscal policies have shown how the blue-model fails.

If Detroit falls, it might shake loose the almost fanatical beliefs of many that government can do it all. The question is will it change enough beliefs or will those firmly set Leftist economic beliefs merely put blindfolds over their eyes and cover their ears, shrieking “La-la-la-la-la! I'm not listening! I'm not listening!” and continue their efforts to lead the rest of down that same road to ruin? If I had to guess, I'd say it will be more of the latter rather than the former.

Stirring The First (And Second) Amendment Pot

A Merrimack, New Hampshire gun shop owner decided he would exercise both his First and Second Amendment rights by naming President Barack Obama “Firearms Salesman of the Year” and posting the acclamation in one of the windows fronting his shop.

Store owner Keith Cox said it's all about freedom of speech, noting he's been getting words of support from customers ever since he put up the sign.

Beside the image of Obama are the images of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, above the statement, "All experts agree gun control works."

While some people have found the sign offensive and want Cox to take it down, we must remind them that there is no right to not be offended in either the US or New Hampshire constitutions. If they're so offended, then they do not need to buy anything from his shop, do they? (It's likely the same folks offended by the sign also believe that disarming law abiding citizens is the path to safety from gun wielding criminals, and therefore wouldn't be patronizing Cox's gun shop anyways.)

3/01/2013

Economic Ignorance Endangers Us All

I must say, sadly, that the level of economic ignorance I've seen in a goodly portion of the American populace is mind boggling. What's worse is that some of that ignorance is willful, meaning the ignorant want to be that way. Why bother to learn how things really work when one can stick by long discredited and disproven talking points in regards to economics? There's no need to think, no need to question. And that's a shame.

This same ignorance must also apply to basic arithmetic skills. How else can we possibly explain the doomsday scenarios portrayed by the White House, the usual Democrat suspects in Congress, and the Lame Stream Media in regards to the sequestration? The same sequestration put forth by the very same president who is now condemning it?

I don't know how many harebrained 'explanations' I've listened to or read in newspapers or in the various blogs or forums on the 'net about how taxing the hell out of people will somehow save the economy. They really don't get it, really don't understand that when you pull increasing amounts of capital out of the economy in the form of taxes, the economy suffers. They really don't understand that greatly increasing government spending, particularly when you borrow the money to pay for that spending, is a no-win situation for everybody. Eventually the bill must be paid or the flow of money disappears. The really don't understand that spending cuts and decreasing the rate of increased spending aren't the same thing at all. They really don't understand that $85 billion is a very small percentage of the money the government spends, about 2.3 percent of all government expenditures. They don't understand that a reduction in the expanded government spending by that same 2.3% is a drop in the bucket. But to listen to some folks, it's the END OF THE WORLD!!!

It's amazing what the gullible and willfully ignorant will believe, especially when it comes from the Empty Suit/Used Car Salesman sitting in the Oval Office. It disgusts me.