Monday, August 31, 2009

Did You Ever Do Something...

Just to see if you could?

Blogged from my pasture; I had a picture, but couldn't get it to load.

Michael H can blog from the Artic Circle (with pictures) and I can't blog from my back yard.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pop Psychology and Cars

One of the blogs I read consistently is Car Lust, and they have a post up asking readers to post about their favorite car that they have owned and driven.

I’m torn. I have had some great cars in my life; cars that struck me as exactly what I needed, the moment I first saw them.

The top 5: 1969 Thunderbird; 1965 Jaguar 3.8 S-Type; 1978 Cutlass; 1974 Monte Carlo and (horror of horrors) a 1977 Dodge Van. These are the cars I purchased on a first sight impulse, and then drove for years. Some were trouble free companions; others I spent almost as much time working on as I did driving. All have at least one story.

I may do a series of post on ‘Cars I have Known’, so I can do each of them justice to what they have meant to me. That may sound weird, but a car is an extension of self to some of us, and what we drive probably says more about us than anything else, as least to a car guy.

Some are easy. You know more about the idiot in the red BMW convertible than he would probably like you to know. Probably 30 or so, and not yet married. Has a job that will support a car or a family, and he chose the car. Self-centered, arrogant and thinks he is God’s gift to the world. If he is over 50 and drives the red convertible, he probably stills wears his gold disco chains, although he has lately started to button his shirt.

What about the 30 year old with a goatee and a 10 year old Cadillac? Another easy one. He needs the car for business. Midnight, street corner business, if you catch my drift. Black, late ‘70’s Trans Am? Easy. I bet he even has a mustache and a ‘Bandit’ jacket- Burt Reynolds wanna-be.

How about some harder ones? 40 year old man, no wedding ring in a clean mini-van? Divorced dad; weekend custody. Full size domestic pickup with huge tires, multi colored paint job and no mud on it? Suburban wanna-be redneck. You want to be real? Lose the paint and add mud, even if you have to run it through your carefully manicured front yard.

You see what I mean. Like it or not our transportation is an extension of us. Or, at least a public presentation. Most of the time that we are on public display is on the road. Most of us spend more time driving than walking or biking, so the only time the general public can get an impression of us is when we are behind the wheel. When I do my favorite cars posts I may add a little personal description of me at the time, so I can tie those posts to my theory.

What does driving a smart car say about you? That you deeply care about 'Green' issues; believe that humans are a stain on Gaia, but need a car because you are way too special for pulic transportation and too poor for cabs.

How to Spend a Fine Sunday Afternoon

It is real easy, especially since last November, to look at nothing but the downside and gloom and doom.

I am guilty of it myself. Most of my posts are about how bad things are, or will be, or could be.

Today I am in a different mood. Right now I am sitting on my back porch, feeling the gentle and slightly chilly morning breezes, drinking a cup of ice tea and watching my granddaughter ride her bike in the back yard. Over her laughter and questions about everything I can hear the birds singing in the woods; the rooster next door crowing his greeting to daybreak (4 hours late, but hey; I wanted to sleep in too) and over the hill, down by the river the faint horn of a freight train making the crossings. When things get real quiet I can hear the squirrels barking and causing the tree branches to dip and sway as they jump from branch to branch.

The Rose of Sharon is in bloom, but nothing else. I am a perennial gardener. I throw a perennial in the ground and I am done gardening. Since it is usually the annuals that still flower this time of year I have very little in bloom. But everything is still green and we are starting to get tomatoes. Three or four weeks late, but they are starting to come in. The grass is still growing, but only needs to be cut once a week, instead of twice.

Today is one of those special days we have so rarely; the days between running the air conditioner and running the furnace. I have things I need to do, but none that I have to do. I think that is one thing Franklin got wrong. He said the only two certainties in life were death and taxes. He forgot about the ‘To Do’ list. I always thought ole Ben was a lucky man. If I find out he never had a chores list I’m going to downright jealous.

I don’t live in suburbia. I have visited there once or twice, and don’t think I could live there. My backyard is fairly private. Not running through it buck-nekkid at noon private, but probably running through it buck-nekkid at midnight private (how’s that for a mental image?). I don’t have a homeowners association ‘requesting’ I trim a bush or weed a flower bed. If I want to let the weeds grow another week, I can. If I want to not run the weedeater along the front wall, I can let it go. The Missus may object, but at least she won’t send me a nasty letter. She’ll tell me about in person. At least twice.

I may make today a Manana Day. A no requirements day. One where I can just eat and nap, or do exactly what I want, and not what somebody else wants me to do. I need a day like that every so often, and today I feel like I’ve earned one.

What should I do with Manana Day? A little web surfing? Maybe a post or too. I am behind in my posting, but there I no REQUIREMENT that I post anything, so I can do that today. I do need to get my son’s car up in the air and see what that noise is coming from the rear end. But I don’t have to today. But, getting dirty under an old car is something I like to do, so I may do it anyway. I’ll just have to require somebody else to do the hard work. Like putting it up on jackstands.

The grass doesn’t need cutting, but I may do it anyway, just for the exercise. I also have a half-hours work to finish up my back porch. I may do that too. Not because I have to, but because I want to, and I’ll enjoy doing it.

But right now, it’s off to do a little surfing. If I find anything interesting I’ll let you know.

Friday, August 28, 2009

More on Teddy Kennedy

One of the blogs I follow has a Teddy Kennedy post up.

I don't have but a minute, but this is great stuff. RCOcean does a lot of historical posting, and this post starts with a memo from the KGB files about Teddy.

The money quote is further down, in another post:

I’m starting to think that Dean Wormer was wrong. Apparently fat, drunk, and stupid IS the way to go through life.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

RIP Edward Kennedy

Ted Kennedy died today, and I am not sure how to feel about it.

He was one of probably millions to lay down his mortal burdens in the last 24 hours, but the only one to really get any press, and to be eulogized by the President of the USA.

My religious training tells me that the loss of every individual is a tragedy in God’s eyes. I also want to express my sympathies to his family. He was, after all, a father, uncle, grandfather and husband. All else aside, the private mourners have my sincerest, deepest sympathy.

But, we also have to deal with the public Teddy Kennedy, and there I am rejoicing. It took death to relieve the Senate of Teddy Kennedy, but finally we have relief. Do you realize there are children in Massachusetts who have never known a day without Kennedy in the Senate? Children? Hell, there are parents who have never know the day. Probably even grandparents, who can’t remember his first election, and great-grandparents who probably cannot remember a Massachusetts ballot without his name on it.

How much more does it take to explain what is wrong with this country than to say Ted Kennedy spent 47 years in the Senate?

And not just him; Byrd and McConnell are problems too, and every other SOB who has been elected more than twice.

47 Years. He was 30 when first elected. Never held a job. Never lived under any of the laws he passed; never paid a dime into Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or any other government program he so proudly foisted on the rest of us.

And the overlords wonder why the natives are restless. They fail to take the Tea Parties and Townhall gatherings seriously, at least on the surface, but underneath, are they getting the message?

I am real interested in the outcome of the race to replace Teddy. What are the odds that a Republican can take that seat? I think I’d be forced to dance a public jig if that happened!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I am Doing a Little Traveling

I just got back to my hotel and had a few minutes before my next appointment and wanted to get a post up while I had a chance.

I am in Denver this weekend- the Mountains are the view from my hotel- and the other shot is from where we had lunch. And no, I did not have the 7 pound Breakfast burrito, although I was nominated for the opportunity, I had to respectfully decline. I was in this club last night and the music gave me a headache, and left my stomach a little queasy. At least that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

I did have a Meatlover’s Taco Salad that was fantastic and almost 7 pounds in itself. Jack and Grill serves a hamburger (a single mind you) that could have fed some families for a week- absolutely huge. I am definitely marking this place down for a return visit, next time I am in Denver. Which will probably be August of next year.

I am here on business, and the news is mixed. Some of the housing industry soothsayers are predicting the foreclosure boom to continue well in 2011, maybe 2012, and the attendant housing price drop to continue as well. Great news for the foreclosure industry; bad news for the country’s economy.

There also seems to be a lot of cash available for housing buyers all around the country. One man I talked to told he is seeing a lot of cash sales in Southern California in the $750,000 range, and all of the buyers were Oriental. Possibly some Chinese cash coming back?

I'll have more time to get my thought together this week and maybe do a more detailed post later in the week.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Have You Ever Used the NEXT BLOG Button?

I just did.

I couldn't read any of them. They were in Greek, French, Farsi (I think) and a couple of other languages I couldn't even begin to identify.

I also just found out that the 'Next Blog' button goes to a different blog each time. Press 'Next Blog', go back and press 'Next Blog' again.

What a world!

Does EVERYBODY have a flippin' BLOG!?!?!?!?

We Need a Way Out- Cash for Clunkers

I forgot to mention in the post below about how Cash for Clunkers fits in.

Well, it should be obvious. They are removing around three quarters of a million cars from the road, not only immediately increasing the demand for new cars, but also taking these vehicles from the used car pool, lowering the supply of used cars and again increasing the demand for new cars, especially the fuel efficient ones.

Japan has had a device for years to get their older cars off the road and spur demand for new ones. It is called Sha’ken, a process of inspection that gets increasingly more expensive as a car gets older. If you think about not just the automobile manufacturers, but all of their suppliers as well, and the suppliers to the suppliers and the service industry that surrounds all of this, you can see how car sales are a serious economic engine, and why the push to make cars disposable, especially in this country. There are almost 251 million vehicles in this country. Can you imagine the economic impact if we replaces just 10 percent of them a year?

Thank God for the British Press

And not just for the page two girls; if you know what I mean.

They tend to report things still.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

We Need a Way Out

A few years ago I read an article about the causes of war, and the author boiled it down to one basic issue: over capacity.

The cause of the Great Depression was a world-wide excess capacity; there were more goods and more labor than anybody needed. Goods were not sold and people were out of work. WWII came along and production soared, as every industrialized nation made things for the sole purpose of destroying them, and destroyed a huge chunk of the labor force as well. After the war it took probably 10 years for that excess capacity to reemerge, and by then we were fighting the Cold War. We weren’t actively blowing things up, but the rapid technological advances made weapons systems obsolete before they were used up, demanding replacement.

The conflicts in Korea and Vietnam (which basically kept us in an active shooting war for much of the 1960’s) didn’t hurt on the excess capacity front either.

It was also in the 1960’s that government started its massive expansion with LBJ’s Great Society, using government to expand the demand for labor, trying to control the unemployment rate through government spending. Nixon, Ford and Carter kept the program, as did Reagan, although Reagan also added military spending, increasing the growth rate of the deficit at the same time. Bush, Clinton and Bush also kept increasing the size of government, at all levels, keeping unemployment low and absorbing the increasing amount of women entering the workforce, as two income families became the norm instead of the exception, to deal with the higher levels of taxation.

Three things I could go into right now are how Reagan’s defeat of the Soviet Union decreased the risk of all out war, especially a war that we would have spent generations recovering from, instead of a decade. And why the Chinese (and other countries) are so readily buying our debt- it’s to keep the American consumer buying and the world production going. The third thing is the irreparability of modern goods; it also keeps over capacity down as more goods are made to replace goods that have ceased to function. Think about too, why we have gotten away from returnable bottles- because more labor is required to recycle and reproduce a bottle than is required to wash and reuse one, again reducing over-capacity by requiring more labor and production for the same end result.

This also lead to governments trying to limit manufacturing, usually through environmental laws, and in the US we saw a push towards a service economy, as government tried to push us out of manufacturing completely. This made us even more dependent on consumer spending as our sole economic engine; and right now the engine is sputtering.

Here is the crux of the matter: it has always been war that has dissipated the excess capacity, and we are suffering now from a world-wide excess capacity, particularly as military spending falls. How can we dissipate the excess capacity without a war?

Think about it this way. The manufacture of a plane or tank for the sole purpose of having it destroyed is a waste. It also eases over capacity. So, we need more waste in the system in order to dissipate over capacity, which means more government involvement. More regulation in manufacturing and service professions; more Federal and State regulations that will need individuals at each employer to assure compliance, and more federal employees to monitor the regulations. This is how we have been dealing with excess capability for 50 years.

And now that method is starting to fail. Debt has increased to a point where it is unsustainable, and borders on unrepayable. Governments cannot increase in size anymore, as the funds are starting to dry up that were used to pay the workforce. What options do we have left?

It was inevitable that we would reach this point. No one has dealt with the excess capacity issue in 50 years. We just kept kicking the can 4 years further down the road. Although I do think some attempts were made to burn off our excess without the world-wide war it took to solve the problem in 1915 and 1945. The reunification of Germany was one attempt, and a percentage of world product went into bringing the former East Germany up to Western standards. The first gulf war was another, as large portions of production went to rebuild Kuwait. Now we are burning excess capacity in Iraq, and maybe Iran soon.

We aren’t so much destroying goods as we are rebuilding the world to modern standards, one country at a time; kind of like we used the Marshall Plan in Europe in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s. Will it be successful?

Maybe, if we can get the government out of the process. If we can get Iraq (and Afghanistan) rebuilt without too much additional government debt it may work. The secret is not taking funds out of the economy that individuals can use to restart the consumption engine. As long as government is confiscating wealth, both through excessive taxes and excessive debt, then the individual doesn’t have the wherewithal to become a consumer.

I for one hope we can do what every other generation has failed to do; find a way to reduce over capacity without a world-wide devastating war. History doesn’t show us a way; we have always fought our way out of a depression. So although I hope we can do it this time, I’m not holding my breath.

ADDED- I hope this doesn't come off as some tinfoil hat conspiracy post, but think about this. Which would you prefer: that I am a tinfoil hat idiot, or that the world leaders ARE working together to avoid another world war?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cash for Clunker's Nonsense, Part II

I saw the Department of Transportation list of the ten top selling cars during the Cash for Clunkers week, and thought it was a little strange. I saw this website today and thought the Edmunds method made more sense.

Here is the DOT list:

Rank DOT
1. Toyota Corolla
2. Ford Focus
3. Honda Civic
4. Toyota Prius
5. Toyota Camry
6. Hyundai Elantra
7. Ford Escape (FWD)
8. Dodge Caliber
9. Honda Fit
10. Chevrolet Cobalt

But I particularly like a couple of points in the Edmunds' list:

Rank Edmunds
1. Ford Escape
2. Ford Focus
3. Jeep Patriot
4. Dodge Caliber
5. Ford F-150
6. Honda Civic
7. Chevrolet Silverado
8. Chevrolet Cobalt
9. Toyota Corolla
10. Ford Fusion

Notice the Edmunds list has four Fords, two Chevolets and two Chryslers? And one of the Chevys is the Silverado, and one of the Chryslers is a Jeep!

The DOT list is dominated by the Japanese (5 to 4 American, to one Korean); yet the Edmunds list is American dominated (8, to two Japanese). Just so you know, I'm not an idiot; I know the name on the bumper has very little, if anything, to do with where the car is made, but I still like to think of Japanese cars as imports, even though a Toyota Camary is more American than a Pontiac G8, which in itself is a sorry state of affairs.

I also like the fact that the redheaded stepchild of American Auto Manufacturers dominated the Edmunds list, holding three of the top five spots. And where are the darlings of the Greens, the Prius and the Fit, on the Edmunds List?

Here's the question; were the DOT stats honest reporting of their interprtation of the sales numbers, or were they cooking the books to show the results they wanted?

Based on everything else this administration has done, I'm falling on the Cook the Books side.

Hell, even CNN thinks the DOT made a hash of it.

I guess even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in awhile.

Interesting What Editing Can Do, Ain't It?

I don't know if any of you have heard about the SEIU altercation the other night in St. Louis, but I'll assume you have, and seen the video.

Have you seen this video? The SEIU response?

Just in case you haven't seen the original video, here it is. Listen carefully to the first minute or so.

Now let me ask; how much of this 'Creative Editing' we have been subjected to in the last 40 years?

Do you really want to know?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What To Do When the Oil is Gone?

I was reading an article in Reader’s Digest the other day entitled "Time to Turn Off the Synfuels Tap”, explaining the high cost of making and using synthetic fuels, and how the Federal Government is picking up the tab for most of the excessive costs.

Did I mention this edition of RD is from August, 1985? You know, back when it was still small pages and worth reading?

Yes friends, we have been dumping our tax dollars down the Synfuels rathole for over 30 years now. The article references that the program was setup during the Carter Administration; had already spent $2.5 billion dollars (back when a billion dollars still meant something), and was scheduled to spend another $8 billion in the coming 7 years.

And we still don’t have a legitimate program that will lower the cost of ‘fossil’ fuels. I say ‘fossil’ because there is growing evidence that oil is not dead dinosaurs. Here ( is a great explanation of the idea that oil is not a depletable resource, but a constantly renewed one by natural processes. But, I digress.

The point is we have spent billions of dollars over a generation trying to eliminate oil as a commodity and have come up with squat, unless you count the idea that the cost of Fritos is now going through the roof so we can burn our food instead of eating it.

Why the push for a Synfuel anyway? We already know man-caused global warming is a crock, used mainly to separate us from our means of production. Hell, if the Green nuts were serious about stopping the burning they would be all over nuclear power like bugs on a bumper.

First, do we need to end our dependence on oil? Maybe not. Experts have been predicting the end of oil since the 1920’s. Yet today we have more proven reserves of oil than we burned between Edwin Drake's first well and the 1920’s. But let’s assume oil will run out someday. I think we could keep going without skipping a beat with a few years planning.

The internal combustion engine would cease production, but with nuclear power and advances in battery technology the electric car would take its place. How long do we have to convert? One estimate I saw ( says 79 years, but has no real confidence that that figure is correct, and is probably wildly conservative, as oil production estimates are usually well under actual production. The site talks about how more oil is now estimated to be left in the North Sea fields that was originally estimated to be there, after 40 years of pumping and the removal of twice as much oil as was originally estimated to be there.

Say we do have just 80 years until the oil runs out. How long does it take to build 2 or 3 hundred nuclear plants? Maybe it’s time to get started?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cash for Clunker's Nonsense

Among the many things I don’t understand, here is the latest.

Cash For Clunkers ran through a BILLION DOLLARS in a WEEK!!!!

Doing the math, if every clunker got the full $4,500, then last week US auto Dealers sold almost a quarter of a million cars. 222,222.22 to be exact. Assuming we have a population of 228 million adults, that is one new car for one out of every 1026 of us.

And Congress is ready to vote another 2 billion to the program. Again assuming every clunker gets the $4500, that will be another 444,444 card sold, for a grand total of 666,666 (a somewhat appropriate number I think) new cars in a month, provided the pace holds up, or one new car sold or leased for one out of 342 adults in the USA., an almost a two -thirds of 2008 ‘Big 3” passenger car production, by my estimated figures.

Wikipedia ( )(yeah, not reliable source, but Hell, blogs aren’t exactly peer reviewed publications, now are they?) says that in 2008 a little over 8.6 million motor vehicles were produced in the United States. They have the figures by manufacturer for 2005, but not later. The motor vehicle numbers include heavy trucks and buses, as well as light trucks and passenger cars. In 2005 5.2 million passenger cars were manufactured in the US, a little under half (2.3 million) by the “Big 3”. American automakers used to lead the world, and now we can’t even win in our own country. Unbelievable. But, I digress.

Assuming the split between trucks and passenger cars remains the same, in 2008 US manufactures built 3, 775,500 cars, of which the “Big 3” may have built around 1 million.

If we use a figure of $3500 (the minimum rebate) we have almost 286,000 cars per billion dollars; over 857,000 new cars in a month. One adult in every 266 will have purchased a new car and dumped their clunker.

Yep; the cars are flying off the lots. Will we continue to sell new cars at this pace after Cash for Clunkers is gone? Or do you think the demand has met its peak, and anybody who planned on a new car sometime in the next 12 months has just bought one?

Gotta take advantage of that FREE MONEY, right?

Here’s my point; remember Y2K? Anybody in the computer biz will recall the fat times of 1999. And the lean times of 2000- 2002. Congress has just Y2Ked the automobile industry. Fat times for August; lean times until these cars become clunkers themselves.

And here is the worst part.

Congress and Obama did it all with borrowed money.

That FREE MONEY is really going to be very, very costly.