Sunday, February 28, 2010

Scientific Hyperbole

Perhaps it is just erring on the side of caution... from The Detroit News:

This "erring on the side of caution" is the same argument those, like Al Gore, give as a reason for their wild-eyed predictions about global warming... reality be damned.

The only difference is that there is a real connection between earthqaukes and tsunamis... unlike CO2 and climate, so "erring on the side of caution" has some justification for the former.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, February 26, 2010

Politics, Principles, Or Being Practical


The Washington Post ran this today:

Political differences masquerading as philosophical ones


"There's a philosophical difference in how we do this," Sen. Tom Coburn said at the Blair House Summit. "It does have to do with the philosophical difference," Rep. Eric Cantor agreed. "There are very deep philosophical differences in how we approach health-care reform," Rep. Marsha Blackburn emphasized. "There really is a difference between us," explained Rep. Paul Ryan. "And it's basically this. We don't think the government should be in control of all of this."

Read more....

The argument was that the Republicans were grandstanding about principles when there were simply a few political differences that could have been addressed. Examples of Republican duplicity were given.

I think my wife made a good point of all of this:
Show me how Medicare and Medicaid which are going broke under government mandates and operation can be fixed... and fix it. Show me how the Veterans Administration system which has had a history of inefficiencies and poor treatment of soldiers can be fixed so that current and ex-soldiers demand to be treated there instead of civilian hospitals... and fix it. Show me how the government will protect doctors against trial lawyers so that they can afford to offer service to government-sponsored patients at government-set rates... and do it.

Then I might consider that the government should be in charge of a larger portion of American health care.
Call it politics or principles ... or just call it being practical. Oh, and reduce my overall costs... you know, premiums and taxes for health care.



Health Care Summit Results


Expectations were created; expectations were met. The Health Care Summit was boring theater.

One side wanted it all; the other side wanted less. In the end, it was all or nothing. Nothing won. Nothing changed.

This debate is beyond public opinion. The public had its chance in 2008. The Congress now can do as it wishes. Sure, the public will have its chance again in 2010. After that, certain member of Congress will not.



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Still Waiting For The Warming

Sure, it is winter, but this is Florida...

It won't take much to get re-acclimated.

Health Care Bills - It's In There

Watching the "Health Care Summit"....

... including more taxes... and maybe a little more cost.

... oh, and cost Medicare recipients $0.5 triilion in care.

... can we reconcile that?

It might take awhile to sift through this.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Toyota Sudden Acceleration

After listening to much discussion about Toyota's problems with sudden acceleration, it occurred to me that most drivers simply can't react to this situation because they have so little experience with unreliable vehicles.

That should be good news, but it means that the reaction training needed is missing. Having started driving in the late 1950s, I had all sorts of experience with vehicles that probably ... no, definitely ... should not have been on the road. Chronically leaking master brake cylinders were not that uncommon among the post-WWII junkers. The point was that you had to learn to adapt to serious mechanical troubles that not only could happen, but happened more than one would like to think.

Back to Toyota....

Every vehicle comes with a mechanical "emergency" brake. Now, engaging the emergency brake will probably not stop a vehicle with the accelerator jammed to the floor. Back when hardly anyone drove an automatic transmission, you knew to downshift to help slow down when the brakes didn't work. With automatic transmissions, that technique is a bit less effective.

But it seems to me that a quick shift into neutral followed by the application of the emergency brake is what should be done during these runaway conditions... especially if the normal brakes are not working as has been reported in some cases. Certainly, the engine could be damaged from over-revving, but if the emergency braking is successful, it would be worth the cost to avoid a high-speed disaster.

Perhaps someone could explain why this two-second maneuver should not be done or why it would not be effective. Otherwise, it would seem prudent to inform people that this option is available.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Honest Dealer Or Two


Sometimes automotive dealerships deserve a bad reputation. Sometimes it is due to their attitude... we're so big we don't need you...; sometimes it is due to their practices... sure these are extra fees, but that's how we operate.

Recently, my mother-in-law wanted to purchase her lease car. She has less than 13,000 miles on it after 3 years and the buyout price was below the market price... it was clearly marked on the lease contract. She went to the dealer and came back with a worksheet that was nearly $2,000 more than the lease contract buyout price. Of course, part of that was taxes, title, and license fees... but then there was about $1,000 in miscellaneous [no particular reason except profit-padding] dealer fees that were just tacked on.

I decided to go back to the dealership and talk with the leasing manager. He mumbled and stumbled and then said he could discount some of the fees and maybe "pull out some equity from the lease" [no such thing], but he never backed off the worksheet numbers for the tacked on fees.

What isn't apparent is that the way this particular contract was structured, the purchase price was $500 more than the "residual" value and that is what the dealer receives for handling the transaction [in addition to the tax, title, and registration, but not including "delivery" or "document" fees. The other fees are "padding" not part of the original contract.

Because my mother-in-law had a month to decide, we went to a dealer from which she used to purchase her vehicles and explained that we were not happy with the present dealership [we indicated she changed dealerships after moving to a different part of the city, but we did not talk about the questionable fees] and wanted them to handle the buyout. Although this was not a normal transaction for her old dealership and the manager expressed some reluctance because of customary "boundaries" that held dealers within a certain distance of the leasing dealer would not handle each other's deals, the sales manager agreed to do it as a favor to this old customer.

After he worked up the transaction, the bottom line was about $1,000 less ... imagine that... than the other dealer was demanding. We then told him who the other dealer was, but did not mention the reasons for not buying through them.

I'll not divulge the name of the dealer who was practicing what I consider to be a "rip-off," but those of you who live in the Orlando area and are interested in Ford products, might want to consider Don Reid Ford. You can ask for the sales manager, David Rodriguez. You won't be unhappy. Thank also to Glen Sdao at Blackwell Ford in Plymouth, Michigan for his advice concerning normal business practices on these lease buyouts.



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Gettysburg Un-Address


The political situation in the U.S. has become almost comical if it were not so tragic. It appears that "representative" government has reached a crisis: it is simply not possible to represent 300+ million people with 500-600 representatives... especially when the population is so fragmented into so many groups that really have little interest in an "American values" government.

When our country was founded, government meant local and state. The federal government was intended to assist the states in providing military protection against foreign powers and resolving multi-state issues, but not be the source of direction to states, cities and individuals. The people elected a representative who was to deal with issues not specific to their state, but limited to the extent that local and state government was able to deal with the issues.

When you have a few million people and the representatives meet only occasionally and news and information travel slowly, the number of issues and the impact of the federal government was minuscule compared with today. Just counting the number of federal departments and agencies can keep you busier than you want to be.

Is it any wonder that the members of Congress don't even read the legislation before they vote on it? The government is no longer representative of anyone. It has become the private playground of special interest groups and sleezy power brokers. One must ask: how long will it be before the government simply ceases to pretend there is representation and openly declares itself in total charge of everything? The food you eat, the air you breathe, the home you live in, the work you do, what you can teach your children, with whom you can associate, what you can say, if you have rights, what products you can buy...?

And now our federal government wants to be in charge of your health decisions and what actions you can take to obtain care if you need it. You will not be asked to choose; you will be told what to do, how much to pay, and whether or not you qualify for the care you need. The federal government has now declared it's version of the Gettysburg Address that we are "the people of the government, by the government, and for the government."



Monday, February 22, 2010

Tea Party Strategy


The Tea Party has been fairly active in Michigan so I was surprised to hear my brother-in-law, whose business has been devastated by the economic collapse of Florida, to speak up so strongly against the Democratic Party stimulus plans.  In fact, he was quite vocal in support of the Tea Party fiscal conservative positions.

[one of many logos]

While there is plenty of blame to go around for our present economic problems, his perception is that the decades of social giveaways and business taxes has created an economic morass where producers are punished and non-contributors are rewarded with all manner of bureaucratic support.  He is a vocal Tea Party supporter, but he recognizes that the Tea Party can be its own worst enemy if it undercuts fiscally-conservative Republican candidates and results in the election of more free-spending representatives and senators.

He believes that the Tea Party should focus on any races where both Republican and Democratic parties offer up fiscally liberal candidates and run a fiscal conservative as an alternative.  He does not want to split the Republican party, but rather allow the Tea Party to provide voters with a real choice in such situations.  Therefore, he would have the Tea Party candidates run as Republicans if they garner more votes than the Republican candidate in the primary vote... assuming the Republican Party would agree to such a situation.  Furthermore, he would not want the Tea Party to have a candidate for president.  He believes the real power lies in Congress fiscally conservative members can apply the brakes to our runaway spending and debt.

That doesn't seem so "wild-eyed" to me.



Sunday, February 21, 2010

And No One Could See This Coming


From The New York Times...

A New Scarcity of Jobs

Some labor experts say the basic functioning of the American economy has changed in ways that make jobs scarce — particularly for older, less-educated people like Ms. Eisen, who has only a high school diploma.

Large companies are increasingly owned by institutional investors who crave swift profits, a feat often achieved by cutting payroll. The declining influence of unions has made it easier for employers to shift work to part-time and temporary employees. Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 — the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks.  Read more....
 And no one could see this coming?



Orlando Florida Stuck In Neutral


On a recent trip to San Francisco, I wrote about the poor traffic management in the urban area.  In the more distant past, I have written about the poor traffic management in Orlando, Florida.  Nothing has changed there.

[Google Maps]

With all of the federal government propaganda about CO2 and oil and air pollution and the need for the EPA regulating our every action, how is it that cities such as Orlando and San Francisco can continue to get away with such extraordinarily poor traffic management?  The prime example in Orlando is the main east-west non-toll road, Highway 50 aka Colonial Drive.  This route is a masterpiece of poor traffic management with the three lanes each way having perfect asynchronicity.   This is something that could only be achieved by a central bureaucrat

I am speculating here, but I believe that the motivation for this gasoline-gulping, CO2-spewing route is to drive traffic to the East-West toll road which parallels Highway 50.  The toll road was widened recently and the rates were increased about 33%.  There may be some coffers that require filling and some payments to be made... so more people have to be encouraged to use the toll road.

Perhaps what should be encouraged are the state/city traffic departments by having federal funds withheld for road improvements until traffic management systems are improved.  An incentive is an incentive....



Saturday, February 20, 2010

Testing BlogPress and Photo Uploading

This is an old oak floor that is nailed down in a most unusual way.

Here is a close-up.

Notice the nailing through the wood?

This seems to be one way to get blog posts with images from an iPhone, but it loses some of the standard sections of regular posts. I'll have to see if there are some work-arounds.

Traveling With The iPhone


in a pinch, I can stumble along with my iPhone to do the things I would normally do with my computer such as this post. I still find the touch pad a really difficult way to type, and the fact that the iPhone does not let me use the Flash features for creating posts. Maybe someone can tell me how to upload an image when the icon to do so is unresponsive.

That said, I learned of a couple of nice, free apps for the older 3G version. One is camera plus that digitally zooms and brightens indoor or dark pictures and the other is Video Genius that lets you make short video clips. You can share the video clips by going into the Camera Roll and pressing on the video clip thumbnail until the copy function shows. After selecting copy, you can paste it into your email. That's a shortcoming of the app since an share option should be built in, but it's "better than nothing."

A Bluetooth keyboard for the iPhone would be "most excellent."



Friday, February 19, 2010

Cold Comfort


A lot of attention has been paid to the winter in Washington DC which has created a prolonged snow-bound situation. Here in central Florida, the effects of winter are a little less severe, but evident nonetheless.

A series of frosts/freezes has played havoc with the local greenery. Many cold-sensitive plants have simply withered and disappeared as brown husks. Of course, not all of the effects are bad. Reports of invasive Asian pythons dying off due to the cold have been greeted with general approval.

For the "snowbirds" who seek refuge from the cold of northern states during the winter, there has been a sense of disappointment as recent temperatures dipped into the 30s and low 40s. It's great to wake up to the sunshine streaming into the room, but when you step outside in a light jacket or sweatshirt to begin a day of outside adventure, the first reaction is "whoa! This is not what I expected." Still, by early afternoon, the temperature has risen to the upper 50s or lower 60s and all is well.

... unless you are trying to play golf on one of the local courses. Then you see the effects of this severe winter. No, the colors in this photograph are correct. The putting greens are indeed a grayish-brown and the fairways are a mixture of thinning grass and sand. To say that the courses are fast is unnecessary. It's like playing on the floor of your local WalMart. The good news is that you can forget about chipping to the greens. Simply putt from 20 yards out on the fairway.

If anything, this winter has been amply evidence that so-call global warming has paused... part of a 15-year "pause." Those of you who are concerned about the effects of a slightly warmer climate should look around you. If this is "pausing," there is much to fear from "cooling."

Meanwhile, our government continues to blithely ignore all of the new evidence that so-called global warming has been nothing more that a giant hoax played by those who want to siphon off billions of dollars for their personal gain. This to be followed by the next logical step: Cap and Scam.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Would Tiger Do?


In the spirit of Tiger Woods getting back to golf ... that's the only part ... I arranged a tee time for mid-morning. Let's hope that the temperature goes up a bit. That's about a dozen degrees warmer than what we left behind.

What would Tiger do? Yeah, I'll probably find some way to keep warm, too.



Enough Winter


Traveling inconvenience is a bit overhyped for the most part. The biggest issue is getting through secvurity... especially the way my wife packs. Of course, I have to admit that putting 2 dozen golf balls into the carry on makes the guy scanning the bag a bit surprised. He wanted to know if we could verify that the bag had golf balls, food, and dominos. Dominos? No, not the last one. So they had to take the bag aside for a special check. No dominos and a wipedown showed no traces of explosives residue. So we cleared security and headed to the gate... more than 2 hours early as usual. My wife is a "professional worrier" so we always have to arrive at our airport prior to our plane leaving the other airport.

The first order of business is to check out the restrooms and then the sundries shop for water and then the restaurants for the food menu. Low carb only, of course. Good luck with that.

We always overpack. I take my golf clubs if the destination is warm. Otherwise, my laptop is an essential and then about 1-1/2" of clothes in our shared suitcase. My wife gets the other 10-12" of space. We try to stay under the 50-lbs. limit. 5 lbs. for me and 45 lbs. for her. That includes about 25 lbs. of books. I often wonder if my wife actually sees anything on our trips. She is either reading blogs on Google Reader or reading her romance paperbacks. I fit my blog posts inbetween rounds of golf and anything else we do. By writing to Notepad first, I write whatever I want offline and then transfer it to Blogger later. There's probably a more efficient way, but I haven't found it yet. I could use Word, by I don't like all of the extra code that goes along with it.

It's good to get away from Michigan in the winter, but this winter seems to be cold all over the U.S. except for the West Coast. My elderly mother in Florida is complaining about the extended cold period they are experiencing. Highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s is not what she bargained for in Florida. It's still better than highs in the 30s and lows in the teens... and a driveway full of snow. But I've learned to take my lightweight fleece jacket with me anyway.

While I prefer driving, being on the road in the middle of winter... especially this winter... seems fraught with potential problems. So, we get on the plane with dozens of our closest friends and spend several hours trying not to move too much. 4 0z. of soft drink and an ounce of peanuts and we are magically transported to our destination. It pretty much shoots the day, but a day is saved going and returning. A friendly house and an available car makes the whole adventure inexpensive... except for the massive amount of food my wife will buy at Costco.

Most importantly, my golf bag and clubs made it through.



Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Not To Fight A War


Why bother?

From The Washington Post:

Obama's War

Obama's War

Combating Extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan | Full Coverage

U.S. curtails use of airstrikes in assault on Marja

Working in partnership with Afghan soldiers, U.S. Marines are undertaking a major operation to flush out insurgents and allow the Afghan government to reassert control over an area in southern Afghanistan called Marja.

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran Tuesday, February 16, 2010

MARJA, AFGHANISTAN -- To the Marines of Bravo Company, the black-and-white video footage from a surveillance drone seemed to present the perfect shot: more than a dozen armed insurgents exiting a building and heading to positions to attack U.S. and Afghan forces seeking to wrest control of this Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan.

Facing stiff resistance from Taliban fighters, the Marines radioed for permission to call in an airstrike on the insurgents at midday Monday. It appeared to be the sort of clear opportunity that would have prompted a rapidly executed bombing run during the Iraq war, or even in the first seven years of this conflict.

But not anymore: Officers at the Marine headquarters deemed the insurgents to be too close to a set of houses. In the new way the United States and its NATO allies are waging the Afghan war, dropping a bomb on or near a house is forbidden unless troops are in imminent danger of being overrun, or they can prove that no civilians are inside. [Is that done with a special UN delegation?]

Read more....

And wipe your shoes before you enter a house... and no spitting... ever.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

AT&T Is Not Your Telephone Company Anymore


Occasionally, when I travel, I find myself someplace without a cable or wifi connection, but there is that telephone on the table. That has never been a problem in the past. All of my prior ISPs have provided the alternative of using local access telephone numbers to get internet access through my laptop's internal modem when traveling and wifi was not available... all, apparently, except my present provider AT&T.

Having just returned from some travel, I thought I'd check in with AT&T to see if I was missing this dial-up access information. What follows is the transcript from my online chat:

System: Welcome Mr. Bruce Hall.
System: Connecting to server. Please wait...
System: Connection with server established.
You: Technical Support Topic: U-verse Other
System: (RODERICK) has joined this session!
System: Connected with (RODERICK)
(RODERICK): Thank you for contacting AT&T. You’ve reached U-Verse Support. This is Roderick . To provide you with excellent service today, may I please have the name and the telephone number associated with this account?
You: I am interested in knowing whether ATT provides a list of internet local access dial-up numbers for use when traveling and no wifi connections are available.
You: Bruce Hall xxx-xxx-xxxx
(RODERICK): Thank you for that information. Let me just pull up your account.
(RODERICK): And am I chatting with the account holder?
You: Yes, this is Bruce
(RODERICK): And by the way Bruce, the phone number you just gave me would that be a good call back number in case I need to follow up on something?
You: Yes
(RODERICK): Thank you for that information.
(RODERICK): Actually Bruce we don't have the list of Internet local access, but it is available on all hot spot areas to connect wirelessly.

[just a comment here... the help person, RODERICK, is not actually saying that AT&T is providing internet access... just that if you find a free wifi spot you can access the internet]

(RODERICK): You can also call AT&T Wi-Fi's Technical Operations Center toll-free at 888-888-7520 or email for technical support.
You: Let me understand: I need a wifi connection to access the internet because a telephone company does not have local access telephone lines?
(RODERICK): Wi-fi connection is applicable on hot spot areas.
You: And when there is no wifi available?
(RODERICK): Then it will be applicable for you laptop to connect.
You: I'm sorry I did not understand your answer. When no wifi is available, how do I use ATT to connect to the internet?
(RODERICK): Let me explain that to you further.

[this was the good part]

(RODERICK): For you to connect wirelessly you should be on a hot spot area. But if that area has no WI-FI connections then you cannot connect your Internet.
You: Okay, so ATT does not offer dial-up access to the internet as an alternative to wifi when I am traveling.
(RODERICK): Let me double check that for you.
(RODERICK): Kindly give me 3-4 minutes here in my end. As far as I know we have an Aircard.
(RODERICK): Thank you for patiently waiting Bruce.
(RODERICK): For you to avail that Aircard to you need to go to the nearest AT&T store.
You: And I must buy the Aircard? Will I have to buy minutes or is this part of my normal internet access?
(RODERICK): Or log in to the website which is at:
(RODERICK): I do apologize but that is what am I not sure of if its a prepaid or plan.
(RODERICK): I suggest to go to the nearest AT&T to verify that.
You: Okay, and thank you. This has been most enlightening.
(RODERICK): I appreciate that. And is there anything else that I can help you with?
You: No, thank you and goodbye.
(RODERICK): And by the way...
(RODERICK): I want to inform you that, you will receive an email inquiring as to whether you were Very Satisfied with the kind of service you received from me today. And when you receive that email, would you say that you were Very Satisfied?
You: Yes, I was quite satisfied with your effort.
(RODERICK): Please let me know on how can I make you a Very Satisfied customer?
You: At this point, you have done everything possible. Thanks, again, and goodbye.
So, for those of you who associated AT&T with "telephone company," you may want to rethink your association. Perhaps that is why it is now AT&T instead of American Telephone & Telegraph.

By the way, I did find this through a search.



Monday, February 15, 2010

Dutch Redefine Freedom Of Speech - Verse 2


From Al Fin:

Geert Wilders Interviewed in Netherlands Court: Bruce Bawer

Here's the rub: Europeans experienced the hatred and intolerance of Adolph Hitler, so they regard anyone who speaks out against an ethnic group or religion with extreme wariness and skepticism.

Here's the irony: Geert Wilders is speaking out against immigrant Muslims and Islam precisely because many Muslims and their religion have a cultural and philosophical intolerance of those who are not part of their culture and religion. Thus, Wilders points out that in order for a tolerant society to be free and survive, it must be intolerant of the intolerance of the Muslims and Islam.
Translation: we welcome you into our society, but with one provision: you must abandon the intolerance of your original culture and religion and agree to "live and let live." Otherwise, please go elsewhere.
Geert Wilders is being persecuted because he is warning those who fear intolerance that they have a fifth column of intolerance invading their society... and they will use the the Dutch intolerance of their own intolerance to allow the invading intolerance to thrive.

This could be called an inherently or internally conflicting proposition. The resolution must conflict with the stated principles.

Also see: Dutch Redefine Freedom Of Speech



Sunday, February 14, 2010

Who Dat Make Me Climate Scientist?


When I wrote that the climate debate is [not] over, I was a crank "skeptic." Now I presume I am a renown climate scientist:

Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995

By Jonathan Petre
Last updated at 1:51 PM on 14th February 2010

  • Data for vital 'hockey stick graph' has gone missing
  • There has been no global warming since 1995
  • Warming periods have happened before - but NOT due to man-made changes
Professor Phil Jones

Data: Professor Phil Jones admitted his record keeping is 'not as good as it should be'

The academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.

Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers.

Professor Jones told the BBC yesterday there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organisational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is ‘not as good as it should be’.

The data is crucial to the famous ‘hockey stick graph’ used by climate change advocates to support the theory.

Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.

And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.

All one needed to do was look at the data....



Mayor Bing Says Detroit Must Downsize


There is "downsizing" and there is "downsizing." It was not obvious from the article that appeared in The Detroit News electronic edition, just what the mayor meant.

[click image for larger view]

Mayor Bing could have meant that Detroit government had to become smaller and more efficient. He could have meant that services had to become fewer and more selective. Or he could be recognizing that 800,000 people scattered among the remains of a city that expanded to hold 2,000,000 meant the city had to downsize geographically.



Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Future As Seen From The Past


From American Power blog:

'In Order to Gain Domestic Power'

Stop what you are doing. Take a few moments. A brilliant film.



IPCC: The Obvious Becomes Apparent


As cited in Watts Up With That?

From the Australian, news on that IPCC “overhaul” in Nature:

Scientists say IPCC should be overhauled or scrapped

INTERNATIONAL scientists have called for the world’s peak climate change body to be revamped or scrapped after damaging controversies that have dogged the expert panel in recent months.

The scientists suggest a range of options, from tightening the selection of lead authors and contributors to the International Panel on Climate Change, to dumping it in favour of a small permanent body, or even turning the whole climate science assessment process into a moderated “living” Wikipedia-IPCC.

I'm glad to see that the obvious is becoming apparent to the experts. Read this: Pachauri Only Part Of The Problem.



Friday, February 12, 2010

Michigan Service Tax Resurrection


Appearing in the electronic version of The Detroit News:

We went through this once before... so I'll make it easy for you.

One major change from the last round:
The tax would not apply to health care, education, construction, real estate com­missions, insurance premiums or busi­ness-to-business transactions, but it would boost the number of consumer services that would be affected from 27 to about 150. If approved by the Legislature it would cost the average family with $50,000 in­come about $140 a year, state Treasurer Bob Kleine said.
In the last go-round, the business-to-business taxes acted as a Value Added Tax and became a big problem. Now it is only a very costly proposal for the businesses and customers involved. Of course, accountants will love this.



Baby Care Union


Interesting "logic" in play here. Michigan's far left governor's administration is at it again. If this doesn't upset you, nothing will.


MIDLAND — In a new Mackinac Center video, key members of a Michigan House appropriations subcommittee question how a controversial state agency critical to the purported unionization of home-based day care providers continues to operate after the Michigan Legislature eliminated the agency’s funding from the fiscal 2010 budget. The three-minute video explores how the Michigan Home Based Child Care Council, created by the Michigan Department of Human Services and Mott Community College, appears to be active, even as the Governor’s Office, the DHS and the MHBCCC refuse to explain how.

“We did defund the council,” Rep. Dudley Spade, D-Tipton, told Mackinac Center Communications Specialist Kathy Hoekstra, who produced the video. “We cut the entire amount of the funding.” Spade is chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Services, which oversees the DHS and the MHBCCC.

Hoekstra also interviewed Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, vice chair of the subcommittee. Agema said of the MHBCCC, “If it’s still operating, I want to know why, how, and where it gets its money from.”

Both Spade and Agema have in fact sought an answer to this simple question, as shown in a remarkable video clip posted today on the Web site of Michigan Capitol Confidential, a publication of the Mackinac Center. In the clip, a top DHS official repeatedly refuses to answer Rep. Spade’s questions about the funding source for the MHBCCC, citing “pending litigation” — presumably a Mackinac Center lawsuit concerning the DHS’ withholding of so-called union dues from checks sent to home-based day care providers. But in a related Michigan Capitol Confidential article, “Axed State Agency Mysteriously Operational,” Rep. Agema responded to that concern, telling reporter Tom Gantert, “The question asked is totally different than the lawsuit.”

The MHBCCC has been designated the “employer” of 40,000 to 70,000 home-based child care providers, thereby giving Child Care Providers Together Michigan — a government employee union that claims to represent them — a convenient entity to organize against. The resulting “collective bargaining” contract allows the union to collect millions of dollars in “dues” from these home-based contractors and employers.

The sleeze runs deep in Michigan's Democratic Party.



Wrong Number Stupid Debt Collector


Don't you just love getting calls first thing in the morning when you go to bed after 1:00 am? [no need for a lot of sympathy here... that's rhetorical].

Having a common name can be a problem at times... especially when someone else with your name has some bill paying problems. Then a company like MRS Associates springs into action to start harassing you for payment.

I called the number that appeared on my handset and after identifying myself, a "Mrs. Jackson" wanted to talked to me about a Visa account [which I don't have]. After stating such, she asked if I was born in 19XX [no] and if the last four of my Social Security was [XXXX... no, I'm not putting that here]. I was then informed I would not be called again.

We'll see. MRS doesn't seem to have the best track record when it comes to following the law ... or reason ... when it comes to trying to collect debts ... real or imaginary.

Meanwhile, I'm awake and grumpy, sleepy, and not too happy.



That Cool Feeling You Have Is Not Global Warming


Joe D'Aleo at Icecap has some interesting observations on the "it's getting colder with more snow so it must be global warming...."


The 2009 U.S. Climate Impacts Report found that large-scale cold-weather storm systems have gradually tracked to the north in the U.S. over the past 50 years. This year we have had snow as far south as Miami and Naples Florida with snow possible Friday and again next week in the Gulf States down to the Florida panhandle. More Florida freezes are likely through early last week, where the January cold set records for duration and did serious damage to the citrus (worst freeze damage since 1989).

They also stated the warming would be greatest in higher latitudes. Actually that would decrease the contrast in temperatures north to south, which is what feeds the mid-latitude storms. They should grow weaker not stronger and with warming and the jet stream retreating north not south, global warming would not suggest snow to the Gulf of Mexico.

Cooling is what produces clouds and precipitation. The earth is cooling, the folks in the Mid-Atlantic and southeast will attest to that. No media spin to the contrary or data manipulation by NOAA, NASA can convince them otherwise. Read more here.

And read Joe's whole post here.



Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Really Good Magazine Cover


Take a look at this Sports Illustrated cover and what do you see?

Besides the football hero and the celebration and the obvious father's love for his son?

I see a really, really smart father and mother. Take a closer look. See it now? The ear protectors on the young boy! Of course, my oldest son is a safety engineering consultant so my focus might be a bit biased. But still....



Let It Snow


I have a sister-in-law who lives in Reston, VA and is lamenting the fact that she just purchased a front-wheel drive vehicle instead of an all-wheel drive tank-like vehicle. I can sympathize somewhat after clearing 7" or 8" of the white stuff today. So, don't try to tell her that global warming is causing her snowy problems.

[Google Maps}

Weather is not climate, but.... Marc Morano sent a link to a recent Time article that claimed that the big storms in the Washington DC area were a function of the great Satan... global warming.

While the frequency of storms in the middle latitudes has decreased as the climate has warmed, the intensity of those storms has increased. That's in part because of global warming — hotter air can hold more moisture, so when a storm gathers it can unleash massive amounts of snow.
That might be true... if there is global warming and if there is a close relationship to temperature changes and snowfall. Over the past few years, there has been increasing reason to doubt the hysteria associated with those who want you to believe that the world is experiencing accelerated global warming and that the consequences are imminent and dire. Since the number of new high temperature records has fallen off [statewide, not micro climate/badly situated stations] and the only 2009 all-time extreme statewide record was for Maine... a new minimum of -50°F in January... the forces of alarm and hysteria now want everyone to subscribe to the notion that cold is hot.

NOAA has tracked snowfall records for over 100 years in the Washington DC area.
The biggest unofficial snow (before official records began) was in January 1772 when as much as 36 inches (3 feet) may have fallen in the Washington DC-Baltimore area. It has been called the Washington-Jefferson snowstorm because it was recorded in both of their diaries. [note: this was during a particularly cold period]
28" Jan 1922 26.8" Feb 2003 24.6" Jan 1996
20" Feb 13+14 1899 26.6" Jan 1996 22.8" Feb 1983
18.7" Feb 1979 26.5" Jan 1922 21.7" Feb 2003
17.3" Jan 1996 22.8" Feb 1983 19.3" Dec 2009
16.6" Feb 1983 22.0" Mar 1942 16.3" Feb 1979
16.4" Dec 2009 21.3" Feb 1899 14.1" Mar 1993
16.4" Feb 2003 21.0" Dec 2009 12.1" Dec 1979
15.0" Jan 1918 20.0" Feb 1979 12.0" Feb 1987
14.4" Feb 1958 15.5" Feb 1958 11.8" Feb 1967
14.4" Feb 1936 14.9" Jan 2000 11.6" Feb 1972
14.3" Feb 1900 14.3" Jan 1928 11.4" Dec 1967
13.8" Jan 1966 14.1" Dec 1960 11.1" Jan 1987
12.7" Feb 5-7, 1899 13.1" Feb 2006 10.6" Dec 1982
Gee, prior to this year, the early part of the 20th century seemed to be when the big snowfalls occurred [note that the Dulles airport may not have been recording much in 1899]. About 25" fell in Washington DC on Feb. 5-6.

[click image for larger view]

Maybe the stories of global warming are a bit overblown? Or maybe the Time argument is specious? Or maybe big snowstorms happen for other reasons?
" means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary." George Orwell - "1984"
Don't you just love data that has not been altered and manipulated and algorithmed?



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sears Inefficiencies


It's not always government that is inefficient.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to purchase an item through Sears' parts and accessories subordinate website...

I spoke with a helpful young man and explained that I had an older product that had been replaced by a newer one. The newer product was functionally and mechanically identical except for minor cosmetic changes. The newer product also had an optional item that I wanted to purchase for my older product.

The parts rep requested the model number which I provided from my old service manual. He couldn't find the accessory item I wanted and I explained that it was an item for another model for which I did not have the number, but which appeared on the website. That was a problem....

The parts support area does not have access to the sales product information. So, I went to the website and found the sales item number and model number for the product. That simply would not do; the sales model number is different from the parts and service model number. I asked to be transferred to a sales representative from

I explained what I wanted to the sales rep and gave her the item number from the website for the newer model product. After several minutes, she was able to provide me with a parts and service model number for the product and transfer me back to With the additional information, the parts rep was able to identify the service part number for the accessory item I wanted and order it. Of course, I had to listen to three separate sales pitches for items that I did not want or need while she was processing the order.

Total time to place the order... about 45 minutes. Total order amount... about $22.

The Sears people were really very pleasant and did the best with what they had, but the system begs for improvement. If I had not had the old owners manual, I would not have been able to identify the model because the product tag had long since worn down to a shiny, reflective surface... it was placed in a position that begged for wear. The websites were virtually useless because an item identified on the sales site could not be identified correspondingly on the parts and service site.

Having worked in parts and service logistics as part of my automotive career, I recognize that it was common for sales and service to have a large, brick wall separating operations and thought processes. But in the age of websites and massive databases, there is really no excuse for simply computerizing the inefficiencies of the past... and preventing customers from using a website in a way that is beneficial to the customer and the company.

It shows in the results:

Someone from Sears can contact me if they want advice.



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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

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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)