Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Scary


The candy is ready... what's left of it after my forays. It will be relatively mild. Hopefully, the children will have some fun with their costumes and treasure.

Halloween has been increasingly subdued in our neighborhood as most of the family have gotten older. We still have many residents of more than 25 years and their children have moved away with some now having children of their own.

Here's hoping you have fun with your family or just enjoying the little ones from other families as they enjoy the remnants of an old, scary Celtic holiday.


Michigan Scary


Right on cue, The Detroit News publishes this headline: "Chrysler to cut deeper - 1,000 managers targeted."

Now about that 5% budget cut for the state government....

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Michigan Service Tax - Calm Before The Storm


It's been strangely quiet since the lines have been drawn: expanding government on one side; shrinking economy on the other. A few editorials here and some baffling noises from politicians there. But I'd say that this is just the calm before the tax storm hits in Michigan.

Michigan's Democrat Governor Jennifer Granholm [who just endorsed Mrs. Clinton for president] and Democrat legislators have gotten their way and passed a tax on services in order to erase a budget deficit of about 5%. There is talk of some budget cuts [after the increase], but that's just talk so far.

Meanwhile, Michigan residents are tightening their belts. Some are trying desperately to get out of Michigan by selling their homes at 1990 prices. Others are simply walking away from what they can no longer afford. Business are folding their tents.

But Michigan Democrats are wringing their hands about a budget that is only expanding by a couple billion dollars. As I wrote on October 1:

It's difficult to find how the 2008 budget bottom line actually compares with the 2007 budgeted/actual spending [strangely, the budget numbers seem hard to find]. It looks as if the 2008 budget is $43.4 billion, but that could be changing minute-to-minute. Compare that with the $41.7 billion approved for the 10/2006 - 10/2007 period.
That works out to a year-to-year state budget increase of almost 4.1%.
Well, I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm predicting that 1) the Democrats will do everything they can to make sure the service tax sticks and 2) the service tax revenues will be far less than the Democrats predict which will bring them back to the trough for increases in other taxes. [It should be noted that the income tax is increasing, too].
The turnip is drying up and the Democrats are still trying to squeeze it.
Well, it's just a tax on business... not on people.
And what runs those businesses and what do those businesses employ and from what does the state receive income and profit taxes now?
It's time government does what businesses do when faced with very difficult situations: cut back... significantly.
There have been enough examples of waste identified and processes so inefficient and unresponsive that a flat 5% cut... across the board for every single program... should be enacted.
Sure, the reaction is "We can't do that. [Fill in the blank] can't survive with a 5% cut in the [fill in the blank] program."
Yes [fill in the blank] can survive with 5% less state involvement. Has anyone wondered how much Ford, GM and Chrysler's budgets have been cut over the past few years so that they can survive?
That still leaves 95%... which is still higher than many people can budget for themselves versus a year or two ago.
And about all of those new programs... to give away those service tax dollars....
What do you think will happen when the expanding Democrat government comes back for more taxes to balance their expanding budget?
Don't stand in front of the fan.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Housing Bust


We have reached a point in our economy where numbers are deceiving us.

  • The stock market is near record levels
  • Inflation is low despite record oil prices
  • National unemployment is low
But underneath this veneer of prosperity is a crumbling economic framework caused by a housing bust that is ripping apart the lives of millions of people.
The latest information says that we now have a record number of homes standing vacant... homes where the owner has simply had to leave after a fruitless effort to sell the property. Home prices have dropped 10-15% in some markets... and few are finding buyers.
While the situation is not uniform throughout the U.S., there is enough evidence to show that unless the housing market is repaired quickly, this can become a very bad recession for the U.S.
In Michigan, about 10% of the real estate agents have left the business. One could argue that there were too many in the business to begin with, but the drop is still significant.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve's singular focus on inflation makes it blind to other economic issues. High paying jobs are disappearing so fast that people are taking any job with a paycheck, accumulated wealth is disappearing, and federal and state governments respond by keeping borrowing costs high and raising taxes .
Hold on to your hats and wallets!
See this previous post for more.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Culture and Confusion


Yesterday, I wrote about cultural relativism. [I encourage you to read that post and... above all else... view the video]

The idea of culture is varied... broad... and is often confused with what is fashionable or trendy. But let's look at what the online dictionary defines as culture and then narrow it down a bit:

Main Entry:
Middle English, cultivated land, cultivation, from Anglo-French, from Latin cultura, from cultus, past participle
15th century
1: cultivation, tillage

: the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education

: expert care and training culture

4 a: enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training.... b: acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills

5 a: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
.... b: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time [popular culture] [southern culture].... c: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization culture focused on the bottom line.... d: the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic — Peggy O'Mara>

6: the act or process of cultivating living material (as bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient media; also a product of such cultivation.
When I write of culture, it is with 5 above in mind. When I write of inferior cultures, I write of those that have significant flaws in 5 as measured by 2.

All countries have some cultural flaws. But those cultures with the most significant flaws are those where the culture itself inhibits/prohibits its own development of intellectual and moral faculties especially by education.
Those societies that are locked into traditional and religious customs and laws that allow or even encourage abuse of women, or those that encourage the murder or enslavement of those who will not profess specific religious beliefs, are flawed beyond redemption.
What I find particularly strange is that so many who would defend the rights of women or religious or political freedom will not condemn cultures that are the antithesis of those rights. Rather, they seem intent on opposing those who would condemn such cultures and the ongoing results of those cultures.
Can it be that those who are so concerned about "intellectual and personal freedom" have lost the ability to discriminate intellectually between that which is constructive and creative and that which is destructive to the human spirit?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cultural Relativism


For those who question the right of the U.S. or European countries to claim other cultures are lacking in ... well cultural development... perhaps this is an example of why such distinctions can be made.

When a culture is so repressive against women that it prefers them to die rather than cause embarrassment to a man, that is an example of an inferior culture. It certainly can't be considered civilized in any advanced sense of that word.

I guess it does qualify for... oh, a 7th century level of culture... a gathering of the cruel and ignorant and superstitious.
It reminds me of this and this.
But if that is not enough to convince you...


Friday, October 26, 2007

U.S. Energy Policy or Lack Thereof


Yesterday, I happen to watch CSPAN as Rep. John Peterson from Pennsylvania was giving a presentation concerning the coming energy crisis.

This was the last item of business for the House of Representatives and Mr. Peterson was speaking for the record since virtually all of the other representatives had left for the traditional 3-day weekend.

From what I could see, Mr. Peterson may have had a few slides that were previously shown, but these pictures taken of my TV screen give a pretty good idea of what he was saying. You can click on any image to see a much larger and clearer picture.

He was listing the shortcomings of the present energy bill before Congress:
  • Prevents access to 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the U.S.
  • Prevents access to 18% of onshore natural gas in the U.S.
  • Prevents access to 2 trillion barrels of shale oil in the U.S. [Mr. Peterson noted that the Canadians were extracting 1-2 million barrels daily from tar sands using technology that would be similar for extracting oil from shale]
  • Prevents access to 10 billion barrels of oil from the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska
  • Attempts to breach existing, legal offshore energy contracts
  • Increases taxes by $15 billion on energy companies [which get passed along in the price of energy products purchased by business and consumers in the U.S.]
  • Ignores proven coal-to-gas technology which has been proven since WWII
  • Raising expectations that 15% of U.S. energy needs can be produced from renewable resources

The chart below shows what our energy sources are. Wind and solar energy are a minuscule fraction of our total requirements.

The largest danger is the petroleum products of which more than 60% are presently imported. Mr. Peterson noted that oil is now $90+ per barrel under the best of conditions. Should storms or significant political upheaval affect our supplying nations, that price could easily reach $125 per barrel.

In addition to our tenuous oil supplies, we are facing critical shortages of natural gas.

Failure to access enormous supplies of domestic natural gas has resulted in the U.S. paying some of the highest natural gas prices in the world. This not only affects the cost of NG used for heating, but the many products derived from NG.

Among the many items produced from natural gas, fertilizer is one. Mr. Peterson noted that because of the dramatically rising NG prices, the cost of fertilizer has doubled and that cost now appears in our food supply.

Mr. Peterson is co-sponsoring legislation [some good graphics] to expand our nations natural gas supply. The following chart shows estimates of the revenue that will come from expanding natural gas leases.

What Mr. Peterson has done is outline the impact of the anti-energy political elements in the U.S. and the economic danger in which those elements have placed the U.S. He is proposing action that, if taken today, may lessen that danger in 10 years... not today since that opportunity passed 10 years ago.

While wind farms may sound wonderful, the reality is that with the U.S. population growing by millions each year [joining the millions who sneak into the country], we cannot afford to place our future in the hands of "if-come" technology... not when proven techonology and proven resources are awaiting our use.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Federal Reserve and Housing


On July 29, 2006, I wrote:

Here's what is not being said: the existing home market is far worse than the new home market. People who have lost some of those 1.2 million jobs can't sell their homes and can't pay for them. Watch for an avalanche of repossessions and then see what happens to the housing market.

Once again - Ben Bernanke, you have screwed the pooch!
Yesterday, wrote:

NEW YORK ( -- Existing home sales sank 8 percent last month, to the lowest pace on record, according to the latest reading on the state of the battered real estate market released Wednesday.

Sales of existing homes slowed to an annual pace of 5.04 million in September, compared with a revised 5.48 million sales pace in August, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Last month's decline marks the largest since the current measure of existing home sales - which includes multiple-family dwellings - began in 1999.

On September 18, 2007, I wrote:
As expected, the Federal Reserve cut its funds rate to 4.75%.
While this give a psychological boost to Wall Street, the fundamental problems in the housing and credit markets remain. This may help some with adjustable rate mortgages or home equity lines of credit, but the new and used home sales will not miraculously respond with significantly greater activity.
It's the right direction, but as I said previously, I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.

Unless the bottom end of the housing chain can purchase homes, the rest of the chain will stay slack... and that will continue to be a major drag on the economy.
So the only question is how long will it be before I will be able to write:
"The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
Oh, it will get there, but the Fed will try taking it in chunks.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

California Fires


If it hasn't been written, it will be written: global warming caused the fires in California and President George Bush is responsible for not putting the fires out.
Now, back to reality. Fires in scrub land and western forest have been around as long as the brush and trees have existed there. What is the problem is that the California state and local governments have let politics supplant common sense.
  1. People are allowed to build homes in areas prone to wildfires with no real local resources to control wildfires and, more importantly,
  2. People are not allowed to clear "safe zones" around those homes to act as fire breaks because California has aligned itself with those who call themselves environmentalists who want those homeowners treated as intruders on the land the state allowed them to buy
California wants the tax revenues from those expensive properties; California does not seem to care if its policies put those properties and the owners of those properties in danger.
Blame it on Bush.
A forest fire can occur anyplace where conditions are right. If, however, history shows that particular areas have those conditions on a regular basis, it is pure negligence on the part of the state, county, and local governments to allow building homes within those areas.
These fires are being fanned by so-called unusual Santa Ana winds.
Perhaps, but as far back as 1968 I remember seeing the hills over Lompoc burning and people shrugging that off as just a normal occurrence.

As I was driving this afternoon, I heard that one of the reasons for this fire is global warming [as is alcoholism and erosion]. Also heard that Diane Feinstein was wondering why communities allowed people to build in fire-prone areas [see answer above].

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

False Alarm?


August 9, 2007 — NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center today released its update to the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, maintaining its expectations for an above-normal season.

As we enter the peak months (August through October) of the Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA scientists are predicting an 85 percent chance of an above-normal season, with the likelihood of 13 to 16 named storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes, of which three to five could become major hurricanes (Category 3 strength or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale). (Click NOAA image for larger view of NOAA’s 2007 Atlantic hurricane season update. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)
October 23, 2007... just forget what we said....
Too bad. Georgia and Florida could have used some of those hurricane rains.
Hey, the weather is difficult to predict. It wasn't really a false alarm... maybe just an alarm that was a little teensy bit too loud. It could have happened....

But we have a much higher confidence that global warming is occurring based on temperatures we have tracked for a century. Of course, we've had to make a few statistical adjustments [maybe a lot of adjustments] to support that. And maybe our equipment isn't as accurate or placed as well as it should be.
Of course, that's not as bad as those who publish papers and then refuse to share the data they used in order to allow others to verify the conclusions.
Well, maybe we didn't exactly share all of our information without a lot of prodding... but we had to protect you from those who might disagree with us.

Trust us. We would never tell you inconvenient truths.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Michigan Autumn


Yesterday, I took some autumn pictures at our lake cottage, located about 45 minutes north of Detroit, and thought you might enjoy them, too.

While Michigan has it's problems right now, weather is not one of them. Four real seasons and all of them with something to offer. You might not like the winter cold [but skiers and snowmobilers do], but you don't have to suffer with sub-tropical heat and humidity or desert baking or water shortages.

Home prices are really affordable [too cheap really] and most education is top-notch.
So, for those of you who left for "greener pastures," you may want to rethink your decision.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Choosing The Ideal President


I enjoy the political banter on television, radio, and the internet... especially concerning the selection of the next President of the United States.

In keeping with the tradition of selecting and electing the best possible person for that position, I have created the list of "must haves" for the ideal choice:

  • Must be open and honest, but keep secrets to protect us
  • Willing to work with adversaries to get things done, but stands firm on principles
  • Defends the morality of our nation, but never abridges the rights of individual's choices
  • Is logical and doesn't succumb to emotion, but has strong feelings for those he represents
  • Seeks to provide a government responsive to all the needs of its people, but believes in free enterprise and individual responsibility
  • Favors helping our impoverished neighbors, but will strengthen our borders against illegal immigrants
  • Will seek to expand free trade, but is an absolute defender of U.S. businesses and working people
  • Will avoid international conflicts, but use our military to protect us from all enemies
  • Will consult with Congress to achieve unity, but will do what is necessary to make sure our interests are protected on a timely basis
  • Defends our history and traditions, but feels we must change with the times
  • Is supported by Stephen Colbert, but is adored by Dennis Miller [you have to know comedians to understand this one]
  • Is a favorite of James Dobson and the Rainbow Coalition
  • Is young and energetic to stand the rigors of the presidency, but is mature and experienced to provide great leadership.
So, our obvious choice for president is... that's still pending. But Governor Granholm of Michigan [see Michigan Service Tax on the right sidebar] has just endorsed Hillary Clinton. The "Michigan Model" fits her well.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dogma* Sports


I'm not certain if suicide bombing is a radical Islamic approach to population control or just a sport like rugby gotten out of hand.

From Yahoo News:

KARACHI, Pakistan - Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, her return from exile shattered by a suicide attack that killed up to 136 people, blamed militants Friday for trying to kill her and said she would not "surrender our great nation" to them.

Bhutto said there were two attackers in the deadly bombing, and that her security guards found a third man armed with a pistol and another with a suicide vest. Ahead of her arrival, she said, she was warned suicide squads were dispatched to kill her.

"There was one suicide squad from the Taliban elements, one suicide squad from al-Qaida, one suicide squad from Pakistani Taliban and a fourth — a group — I believe from Karachi," she said.

It could also be just a big reality show as proposed by Wiley Miller:

* a bitch that's a real mutha

Friday, October 19, 2007

China Replacing The U.S.

On September 12, I wrote about the issue of "why is China subsidizing the U.S.":

I believe that the Chinese government's goal is to be the dominant nation in the world by the end of the 21st century... economically and militarily... so that it will have priority access to the rest of the world's resources.
Think not? Read on....
Benny Peiser reports:
For the first time in modern history, China will next year contribute more to global economic growth than the United States. As the IMF points out in its biannual report, the US and western European economies are facing a major slowdown. The IMF said yesterday it was beginning a major study into the economics of global warming.
--Edmund Conway, The Daily Telegraph, 18 October 2007
The New York Times reports:
BAGHDAD, Oct. 17 — Iraq has agreed to award $1.1 billion in contracts to Iranian and Chinese companies to build a pair of enormous power plants, the Iraqi electricity minister said Tuesday. Word of the project prompted serious concerns among American military officials, who fear that Iranian commercial investments can mask military activities at a time of heightened tension with Iran.
The Heritage Foundation reports:
In recent years, Beijing has identified the African continent as an area of significant economic and stra­tegic interest. America and its allies and friends are finding that their vision of a prosperous Africa gov­erned by democracies that respect human rights and the rule of law and that embrace free markets is being challenged by the escalating Chinese influence in Africa.
As part of the September 12 post, I developed the graphic below:



Thursday, October 18, 2007

Social Security Funding


Social security is going broke by 2041 unless we do something. What can we do? We're doomed to die alone in the woods devoured by coyotes [that's a long story].

Well, irrational fears aside, the funding issue for social security can be resolved in short order without raising taxes. First let's have a brief history lesson.

From Wikipedia:

The original 1935 statute paid retirement benefits only to the primary worker. Many types of people were excluded, mainly farm workers, the self-employed, and anyone employed by an employer of fewer than ten people. These limitations, intended to exclude those from whom it would be difficult to monitor compliance, covered approximately half of the civilian labor force in the United States.

The 1935 Act also contained the first national unemployment-compensation program, aid to the states for various health and welfare programs, and the Aid to Dependent Children program. The initial tax rate was 2.0% of the first $3,000 of the employee's earnings, shared equally between the employee and the employer. The tax rate has been raised several times over the years, beginning in 1950, when it was raised to 3.0%. [9]

A poster for the expansion of the Social Security Act
A poster for the expansion of the Social Security Act

In 1939, the 1937 Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax was amended in three important ways:

  • The widowed, nonworking spouse of a someone entitled to an old-age benefit also became entitled to an old-age benefit.
  • Survivors (widows and orphans) became eligible for a benefit.
  • Retirees who had never paid any FICA taxes became eligible for old-age benefits. This feature was very popular among the millions of elderly Americans hard hit by the Great Depression, and fatefully decoupled benefits eligibility from work history.

In 1956, the tax rate was raised to 4.0% (2.0% for the employer, 2.0% for the employee) and disability benefits were added. Also in 1956, women were allowed to retire at age 62 with reduced benefits (70%). In 1961, retirement at age 62 was extended to men, and the tax rate was increased to 6.0%.

Medicare was added in 1965 by the Social Security Act of 1965, part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" program. (See List of Social Security legislation (United States).) Social Security was changed to withdraw funds from the independent "Trust" and put it into the General fund for additional congressional revenue.

Automatic annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), not requiring legislation, began in 1975.[10]

During the Carter administration, immigrants who had never paid into the system became eligible for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits when they reached age 65. SSI is not a Social Security benefit, but a welfare program, because the elderly and disabled poor are entitled to SSI regardless of work history. Likewise, SSI is not an entitlement, because there is no right to SSI payments.

The 1983 amendments to the SSA, resulting from the 1982 report of the Greenspan Commission[citation needed] empaneled to investigate the long-run solvency of Social Security, taxed Social Security benefits for the first time: benefits in excess of a household income threshold, generally $25,000 for singles and $32,000 for couples (the precise formula computes and compares three different measures) became taxable. The amendments also gradually increased the age of eligibility for full old-age benefits, from 65 to 67 for those born after 1959.

In 1940, benefits paid totaled $35 million. These rose to $961 million in 1950, $11.2 billion in 1960, $31.9 billion in 1970, $120.5 billion in 1980, and $247.8 billion in 1990 (all figures in nominal dollars, not adjusted for inflation). In 2004, $492 billion of benefits were paid to 47.5 million beneficiaries.

One other piece of information is needed before the solution is revealed.
A preliminary report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) based on national statistics for 2005 puts life expectancy in the US at 78 years, a figure that has been increasing steadily over the last 50 years. In 1995 life expectancy in the US was 76 years and in 1955 it was 70 years. Racial and gender differences in life expectancy are also reducing.
The simple solution:
  • Increase the early eligibility age from 62 to 66 and the full retirement benefits age from the current 67 to 70.
  • Make mandatory retirement illegal before age 72 to ensure no one is forced to leave a job before retirement benefits are available
  • Require legal residence/citizenship for eligibility
The reasons this would work:
  • The funding problem is an actuarial issue, not a cash input one
  • Eligibility has been expanded beyond manageable limits or reasonable limits
This would place any hardship on the aging population as opposed to those who receive benefits from ancillary programs attached to Social Security. Those could and should be reviewed separately.
Just one other thought: delaying the time that social security benefits are available would serve as an incentive to 1) delay starting a working career to 2) become skilled/educated in something that they really want to do for a long time or 3) move to a country that offers nationalized everything like Britain (where you are granted all kinds of benefits, but you have to pull your own teeth to get them).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Michigan Service Tax - What's Next?


Concern, confusion, and anger all describe the reaction of Michigan residents to their state's new service tax. Relief is not a typical reaction.

The tax, which is supposed to go into effect on December 1 or January 1 depending on where you read accounts, remains a mystery to most people and businesses. A tentative list of affected business categories has been published, but no real insight regarding the way the system is to work.

Will this be a simple extension of the sales tax system or will there be another entirely new administrative maze to wander?

Since the service tax involves business-to-business transactions... including sub-contractors and sub-sub-contractors... the issue of being taxed versus tax exempt becomes a nightmare for businesses.
If you have someone help you on a project where their work is integrated into a product you are selling, then you pay a tax for the service and pass the cost on to the customer who is buying your product. Currently, if that customer is another business who will sell your product as a retail item, then he is exempt from the sales tax, but ends up paying it as a hidden service tax.
The state effectively revokes the sales tax exemption and makes the product cost 6% more from a Michigan retailer than a retailer in another state.
Will lawmakers then say this is not what they intended and have the retailer send in a form with an accounting of all of his purchases to get a service tax rebate?
  • Or will the state tell the wholesaler to eat the cost so that the retailer will buy from him instead of the company in Indiana?

  • Or will businesses and taxpayers start recalling legislators who voted for this mess?

  • Or will legislators see the writing on the wall and repeal this mess?

  • Or will the governor simply lecture the residents of Michigan about the fact that the money they earn shouldn't be considered theirs, but rather an investment in expanding the state government?

Fire, ready, aim... good job Michigan government! Your present and future tax dollars in action.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Climate of Change


Yesterday, Anthony Watts discussed the possibility that there may be global cooling if current sunspot inactivity continues. This is in stark contrast to predictions that global warming accelerates in 2009.

The present condition of climatic science reminds me of the story about blind men describing an elephant... trunk is a snake, tail is a rope, etc. Land use, CO2, sunspots, La Nina/El Nino, Pacific oscillations....
I am certain of one thing: winter in the north will bring cold weather and more disease killing more people with that combination than summer kills with heat stroke and summer diseases. Warmth is the natural human environment; cold is an environment to which we have adapted or used our technology to survive.
So, if Mr. Watts is correct, our lives will be a little less pleasant than if Mr. Gore is correct.
My perspective is that climate oscillations from a variety of factors are just one of those naturally occurring phenomenon we will learn to accept rather than control.
Sure, we do affect our local weather by cutting down forests or draining swamps or burning prairies, but the larger global climate goes well beyond our ability to alter significantly.
Once the present hyperbole about climate change becomes passé, the discussion will return to matters that can be controlled or managed such as water management or land use or energy sources or pollution... since those matters are really what the red herring of climate change is all about anyway.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Military Deaths


I knew that military deaths in from the war in Iraq were a major political issue, but this really surprised me.


Agriculture and Climate


I was surprised to see this article in the FloridAgriculture magazine.

What the Florida scientists have discovered is apparently a regional phenomenon. Examinations of temperature data from stations in Georgia and Alabama have revealed the same distinction between rural and urban areas.

The one exception to this regional pattern appears in the Everglades Agricultural Area. There, draining of land over the past century left dry, black soil that absorbs much more heat than the rest of Florida’s farm acreage.

James W. Jones, also a scientist in the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, said, “Any of the places that have pastures or forests or citrus trees would certainly help to prevent temperature increase from occurring, relative to cities. The greenery and the fact that plants are using water prevent the soil from absorbing as much heat.”

More information about climate change and temperature variability is available at the COAPS Internet address ( as well as the Southeast Climate Consortium’s Internet address.
To those who read Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr.'s blog, Climate Science [unfortunately no longer active], this might be familiar information. It should be gratifying to him that more people are beginning to understand the correlation of land use changes to regional climate changes... a correlation that is far stronger than CO2 to climate change in general.
While Florida scientists may think they discovered this regional phenomenon, they are only confirming earlier work.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Canada South Of U.S.


One of the oddities of the Detroit area is that part of the city of Detroit is actually north of the Canadian city of Windsor.

There is another small area of Canada that has an island south of the northern-most point in Washington. That's because when the 49th parallel was selected for the western part of the border, it just happened to include the lower part of this piece of land that put a few square miles in the U.S.

Point Roberts is a little piece of land that can only be reached by boat directly from another point in the U.S. Otherwise, you have to drive through Canada to get there.

Then there is one little strip of land between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie where Canada meanders a little south of U.S. territory.

So, this little bit of esoteric geography is brought to you with the hope that someday you can find the opportunity to bet someone that Canada is south of the U.S. (excluding Alaska) and win [yeah, it's a technicality, but so what?].


Saturday, October 13, 2007

September Weather


NOAA published September statistics for the U.S. weather extremes.

Nevada keeps showing up with local [not state] record high extremes while a neighboring state comes up with record lows for the second straight month. Just an oddity.

No real pattern discernible here.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Michigan Service Tax Anger


In today's Detroit Free Press website, Tom Walsh posted an article implying that people were over-reacting to the new service tax and taxes in general for Michigan.

One of those "over-reacting" readers wrote the following:


Mr. Walsh appears to be incredulous as to why we are so angry with regard to having our taxes increased at a time when this state has the highest unemployment in the nation.

Well Mr. Walsh here are a few reasons.

Commie Granholm said we have not had a tax increase in over 12 years and we taxpayers have little patience for a LIAR!

Michigan has had 12 years of tax cuts------------------------FALSE
Michigan’s income tax was 4.6% before----------------------TRUE
Michigan’s income tax is now 3.9%-----------------------------TRUE

When Michigan voters lowered income tax from 4.6% to 3.9% Sales tax was 4%-------------TRUE
Prior to Michigan lowering income tax to 3.9% there was no 8.6% real estate transfer tax—TRUE

After Michigan lowered income tax, sales tax was raised to 6%--------------------------------------TRUE
After Michigan lowered income tax, new transfer tax was created------------------------------------TRUE

With Michigan lowering income tax and raising sales tax and transfer tax, the States revenue was the same meaning the lower income tax was offset by the increase in the other two taxes. -----------------TRUE

Now Michigan is the ONLY state to have both a service tax and a transfer tax in the nation. ------TRUE

Don’t believe me, listen to Granholm grudgingly acknowledge it on audio.

Here is the web site to the Frank Beckman show:

Also listen near the end of the clip where commie Granholm claims she never made a pledge to not raise taxes and then listen to Frank Beckman play the clip where in fact she did state that.

On October 16th 2006 during the third debate. Channel 7 reporter asked Granholm if she would raise taxes. Her answer: "NO"

Or maybe the taxpayers are upset that the Governor who claims to feel our pain doesn’t give us a break at the gas pump.

the figures below were based on 80 cents a gallon so triple the states take of over $1.29 a gallon times the number of average gallons in a car of say 18 equals $23.22 cents a fillup we are paying to the state.

• Federal Tax 18.3
• State Excise Tax 19
• State Sales tax 6%
In Michigan the sales tax is applied to the actual sales cost + Federal Tax. So Michigan not only is taxing gasoline for non-road use (the sales tax revenue goes to the general fund - not roads) but also is taxing a tax.
Total taxes per gallon assuming a sale price of 80 cents per gallon is ((80 + 18.3) * .06) + 18.3 + 19 = 43 cents per gallon.

Or just maybe the taxpayers of this state do not like a commie at the helm who truly thinks our money is HER money to spend as she please with whom she pleases.


"It's not just about me, me, me. It's about investing in Michigan," she said. "Where's the notion of the common good? It's been lost over decades because there's been ... this idea that it's your money, it's your money.
Yeah, that's a little anger.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Choosing A President


The Christian Science Monitor ran an article describing the dilemma of Christian conservatives with regard to Rudy Giuliani and the selection of a Republican candidate for president.

"We are struggling about what to do in a very difficult election cycle," said Gary Bauer, president of American Values, at a Monitor breakfast Wednesday. The nonprofit group describes itself as "defending life and traditional marriage" as well as standing against "liberal education and cultural forces."
Mr. Giuliani is one of the front-runners in the pre-primary scramble for the Republican Party's nomination to be their candidate in the 2008 election. His sticking point with these Christian conservatives is his "liberal" stance on abortion... pretty much willing to let things stand as they are. Despite Giuliani's positions on social issues,
"If you look at regular church attendees across the country, Giuliani has a clear plurality of those voters," Bauer said. He added, "Now there could be a number of reasons for that. One is they don't fully realize his position on the social issues. The other possibility, though, is that some of these voters have decided that defending Western civilization is a moral issue, too."
One doesn't have to be Christian or Christian conservative to feel that abortion is a most unfortunate, if not immoral, action.
On the other hand, I haven't seen that much evidence that the Christian conservatives are willing to do much more than preach morality when it comes to dealing with the issue of poor, abused, turn-them-into-uneducated-criminals children who are born to women clearly unable or unwilling to accept the responsibility of parenthood.

How many of those children who end up in the "social services" system receive support or acceptance or adoption from those same Christian conservatives?
Guiliani doesn't have the "personal credentials" to make him the ideal Christian conservative candidate. On the other hand, most Christian conservative public leaders would make really bad presidents with their "my way or the highway" approach to life.
Guiliani has demonstrated his effectiveness and principled nature in public service. One must ask if having integrity and being effective is less important in the selection of a presidential candidate than adhering to the beliefs of a specific religious group.
I don't know if Mr. Guiliani is the best person to lead this country, but so far I haven't seen anything related to public service issues that are anywhere near as negative as some of his potential opponents.
And the fact that he won't change his positions to placate a special interest group seems a rather large positive to me. He certainly hasn't shown a willingness to accept funding from shady sources or gained a reputation as one who places personal power above public good.
We'll see if the Christian conservative coalition gets both their defender of the faith as well as one who is an effective defender of this nation. I can live with the latter.


Spelling Opshunul


Appearing in The Detroit News....

Perhaps it is spell-checking that is optional. Nice use of color for emphasis.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Inconvenient To Tell The Truth


Climate change... global warming... record temperatures... icecaps melting... cities and bears drowning... malaria everywhere... no air conditioning... the world a swamp of squalor... Canadians dying of heat stroke in December [I just threw that in].

No these are just political statements according to a British court.

Is this court just another part of the "denier" conspiracy? Can courts really understand science? Will this spoil Al Gore's chances for a Nobel Peace Prize? What will Michael Moore show in his next documentary? Inquiring minds want to know!

Before everyone's shorts get in a wad, the court was simply pointing out that there were one or two... okay nine... major factual errors or misrepresentations in Mr. Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth. The problem is that those who have endeavored to challenge the film and the resulting rush to spend trillions of dollars to save the world from the fates depicted in the film, have been vilified as worse than Nazis by those who defended the films premises.

The debate was declare over. Deniers were liars. Temperature histories were manipulated and adjusted to support the film's contentions. Weather records were "restricted."
Perhaps now is the time for the real scientists using the real scientific method and publishing documents using real peer reviewers to reexamine what is really known about earth's climate system. Let's use those trillions of dollars to ... lower taxes? improve health care? improve our cities? educate some new scientists and politicians?


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hot Time Cools Down


It was unusually hot in the north and east yesterday. Temperatures hovered around 90° in the Detroit area. This was just 4° below the Michigan record for October of 94° set back in 1922 at St. Joseph. Yes, it was hot yesterday and hot 85 years ago.

Today is supposed to be about 15° cooler and tomorrow another 15° cooler than today. By Thursdays, we'll be about 10° cooler than normal.

Sunday, I was on the lake in shorts. Yesterday, I cut the grass in shorts. Today I will golf in shorts. Tomorrow I'll be scrounging around for my sweaters.

Hey, it's fall in Michigan. Weather changes.


Monday, October 08, 2007

More Climate Data Cherrypicking


On September 28, I talked about data manipulation and "cherrypicking"... using only data that supports a biased contention and ignoring other data that do not support the bias.

In an admittedly technical post, Steve McIntyre takes the issue one step farther... rather than not picking certain data, now data will be "restricted" so that anyone who doubts proclamations based on those data will not be able to independently analyze them.

That's taking "Trust Us" to a whole new level.
Since when are weather data confidential?
Since global warming analysis moved from the scientific to the political arena.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Closing Shop Because Of The Michigan Service Tax


If you read my profile on the sidebar, you will see that I'm retired and running a small business in Michigan.

The state's economy has badly affected the business climate and now our governor and legislators have enacted an onerous business service tax that has me seriously thinking about shutting our business down. After 25 years, it just doesn't seem worth the time or effort to be a Michigan business anymore.
That's unfortunate because those clients we serve will lose a significant opportunity to earn money from their investments, we'll lose the extra income... and Michigan will lose taxes from our income and our clients' income. This is just one small example of how short-sighted the government's approach is in their "investment" in Michigan marketing spin.
Our decision isn't final yet and I don't want to make it out of anger toward politicians, but let's just say that the outcome is very likely going to be lose-lose-lose. Well, there is always social security... maybe.

Friday, October 05, 2007

NASA's Other Explanation For Arctic Ice Loss


Some of you may have been skeptical [I hate to abuse that word too much] about my last post regarding the cause of Arctic ice reduction.

Obviously trying to deflect a Congressional investigation about the correlation between the cumulative number of satellites launched and the increase in global average temperatures after the 1960s, NASA has come up with another far-fetched explanation... it's the wind.
Well, who's gonna believe that?!


NASA Space Program Causes Global Warming


NASA and NOAA have shown that earth is warming rapidly since the 1960s.

They have been trying desperately to convince us that the cause of this warming is a carbon dioxide blanket that doesn't let heat escape.

I suspect that this is a ruse to hide the fact that NASA's own satellites have been to blame as they secretly focus sunlight on the Arctic ice floes.

When one compares the number of satellites launched to the increase in earth's temperature, the correlation becomes obvious.

Little wonder that NASA and NOAA have been trying to deflect blame for melting ice on CO2.

It is obvious that as those hockey sticks get hotter, the ice will melt totally over the north pole. Then, it is only time before the ice will melt over the south pole... once the satellites have been repositioned.

Another incomprehensible truth.


Nonagenarian And Still Going


The posts are a little light this week while my 90-year old mother is in town for a visit.

She gets around a little slower each year, but is surprisingly well and independent. I can only hope for the same. My wife's 85-year old mother was here for part of the time, but had to leave a couple of days earlier than expected.

Life's a little cruel when the body begins to fail while the mind remains nimble. But there's not much in the way of alternatives.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Spreading Manure


Six of us took a little day trip to Michigan's "thumb"... the area about 100-150 miles directly north of Detroit. Unlike the Detroit area, the "thumb" appears to be doing fairly well economically. Of course, this is primarily farming area so the population is sparse in comparison.

Part of the trip was to Frankenmuth, a town settled by Germans in the mid-1800s and making a living as a faux-Bavarian village. Lots of "family style" restaurants and chocolate shops. Very clean; very touristy.

Then it was on to the Deckerville area. This area received notoriety several years ago when the Nichols brothers dominated national news related to the Oklahoma federal building bombing. There was no lingering remnant of that anywhere. Instead, one found large, well-managed farms with thousands of acres of corn and soybeans spread across land that is so flat you don't need a level to build something.

One of these farms belongs to my sister-in-law's parents. This farm has been around for well over a century and three generations work on it with a fourth beginning their lives there.

It's not an easy life. Work starts well before dawn when over 100 cows have to be milked. Then there are countless jobs around the farm during the day which change depending on the time of year. It's corn harvesting time now.
The most obvious task occurring during our visit was announced by the pungent odor of manure... everywhere.
It used to be that when farmers cleaned out the barn, they would stack up the manure and then spread it around the field for fertilizer every so often. They can't do that anymore.

Now the manure has to be stored in deep, clay-lined pits. When the pit is full, the farmer calls in the pumper who has an enormous tanker truck with tractor-like tires. The slurry is pumped out of the pit and the tanker heads for the fields where it is sprayed over the ground [these are empty fields... not those with standing crops].

It's what the farmers used to do in smaller batches, but the government forces them to do in large doses... and pay someone else to do it.
I suppose that is for the environmental best... but somehow turning a few square miles into the aroma of an outhouse doesn't seem that beneficial.

We spent our time visiting indoors and moved quickly to our vehicles when we left. This wasn't quite what we had in mind when we planned our little autumn tour of the "thumb."

Today, we'll try a cider mill. We know that has a different aroma.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Michigan Service Tax Confusion


Michigan has become the poster child for government that believes all good things comes from taxing its citizens.

When things are bad, make them worse.
It's amazing that so many people... and government officials(?)... believe that just the state government must continue to expand while the economy of the state shrinks. By some strange accounting logic, a $2 billion increase in the budget offset by a $440 million cost reduction is considered good management... and a reduction in government.
What seems to be the case is that some believe a reduction in the rate of increase is a reduction. What taxpayers want is an absolute year-to-year reduction in government spending. Cut the damn budget by 5% and learn to live with it.
That's not going to happen in our lifetimes, however. So we get more taxes. The income tax may be burdensome, but it is understandable and relatively simple. The new service tax will be a source of anger, confusion, and [probably] avoidance.
The service tax problem is two-fold:
  • Many highly visible "services" are exempt.
  • Unlike retail sales taxes which can be legally exempted between businesses as part of the final retail sales chain [manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer], business-to-business service [consulting or subcontracting] transactions apparently will be charged at every step of the way... taxing taxes so to speak. This aspect of the service tax has to be eliminated before the tax goes into effect or it will drive significant business out of Michigan.
When will Michigan government realize that taxes are real costs to real people and real businesses... not simply revenue enhancements to the state coffers?


Monday, October 01, 2007

Michigan Taxpayers To Receive More... Taxes


Surprise! Michigan legislators decided that maybe it was okay to dump more burden on an already down-and-out state economy. Was it any surprise that the vote was pretty much along party lines? From the Detroit Free Press:

Here's how the Michigan House and Senate voted on key bills before them Sunday night and this morning:


The House passed the income tax measure 57-52. Democrats hold a 58-52 edge in the House, but three Democrats — Martin Griffin and Michael Simpson of the Jackson area and Lisa Wojno of Warren — voted against it. Two Republicans, Chris Ward of Brighton and Ed Gaffney of Grosse Pointe Farms, voted in favor of the proposal.


The vote was 19-19, and Lt. Gov. John Cherry broke the tie. Four Republicans voted for the higher income tax — Patricia Birkholz of Saugatuck, Tom George of Portage, Ron Jelinek of Three Oaks and Gerald Van Woerkom of Norton Shores. Democrats Glenn Anderson of Westland and Dennis Olshove of Warren voted against the tax increase.


No House Republicans voted for the bill placing the sales tax on services — a proposal stiffly opposed by the business community. All Democrats did, except for Reps. Marc Corriveau of Northville and Kate Ebli of Monroe, who voted no. The final vote was xxx to xxx. [sic]


The final tally was 19-19, with Lt. Gov. John Cherry again casting the tie-breaking vote. Three Republicans voted for it -- Wayne Kuipers of Holland, Roh Jelinek of Three Oaks and Valde Garcia of Howell. One Democratic -- Glenn Anderson of Westland -- voted against it.

Let's summarize:
Taxpayers situation
  • Foreclosure rates 3rd highest in nation
  • Unemployment the highest in the nation
Michigan budget situation
  • ???
It's difficult to find how the 2008 budget bottom line actually compares with the 2007 budgeted/actual spending [strangely, the budget numbers seem hard to find]. It looks as if the 2008 budget is $43.4 billion, but that could be changing minute-to-minute. Compare that with the $41.7 billion approved for the 10/2006 - 10/2007 period.
That works out to a year-to-year state budget increase of almost 4.1%.
That giant sucking sound you hear is the state government vacuuming out your savings account... or food budget.


Can"t Find It?

Use the SEARCH BLOG feature at the upper left. For example, try "Global Warming".

You can also use the "LABELS" below or at the end of each post to find related posts.

Blog Archive

Cost of Gasoline - Enter Your Zipcode or Click on Map

CO2 Cap and Trade

There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

My photo
Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)