Monday, December 26, 2005

Excessive Spending - Wasting Fuel Reprise

On September 11, I began a series of comments about the problems of signal progression on major roads in the Detroit area and used problems on Telegraph Road as an example. I received this letter a few days ago.

Click on letter to see larger image (you may have to zoom in to see actual letter size); then hit BACK to return.

It appears that the response to my August 7 letter was written on August 26 and mailed on December 21.

Sequencing events seems to be a problem... whether it is signal progression or mailing letters.

Oh, well.... What is interesting is that supposedly the signals on Telegraph Road are computer controlled... but the controls are not integrated... and the timing "drifts"!!! Kind of like an orchestra with multiple conductors playing different scores at the same time.

Meanwhile, ladies and gentlemen, start and stop your vehicles!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Ethnic Divisiveness - The Grinch

As the Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas and the Jews prepare to celebrate Hanukkah tomorrow, it seems that some in the Middle East are preparing to celebrate Ramadama-Dingdongs.

Peace On Earth - Goodwill To Men

Friday, December 23, 2005

Environmental Extremism - Half Way There

I came across a couple of interesting articles regarding Ford Motor Company.

Ford goes green in report on emissions

Jeff Plungis / Detroit News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON-- Ford Motor Co. released a report on global climate change Tuesday, the first time an automaker has formally addressed the business implications of greenhouse gas emissions.

Ford said the report was a response to concerns raised by a shareholder resolution in November 2004. Ford officials said the report would serve to start a dialogue about steps the auto industry and society as a whole could take to reduce emissions.
later in the article...
But critics said Ford was not making any meaningful commitments, especially on improving fuel economy.

The Sierra Club faulted Ford for adopting an image of corporate responsibility on global warming while suing to stop California's efforts to adopt state greenhouse-gas emissions regulations to address climate change.

"Ford can't have it both ways on global warming, claiming to be responsible while acting irresponsibly," said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program. "Ford is a big part of the global warming problem, but they have failed to adopt more than token solutions."

TRUCK OF THE YEAR: Ford improves iconic Explorer with better mileage, shiny grille
The new Explorer's virtues are much more than skin deep.

Fuel economy is up, emissions are down, and the interior is vastly better. It's always tricky replacing an icon, and Ford concentrated on improving the previous Explorer's weaknesses with the all-new 2006 model....

The new V8 engine, mated to a smooth six-speed automatic transmission, produces 53 more horsepower but 10% better fuel economy than the previous model. The base V6 engine's emissions are down an amazing 74% from the 2005 model and are certified to the same federal standard as Ford's gasoline-electric Escape hybrid SUV.
Okay, the Explorer is not a 2-seater getting 50 mpg and that irritates the Sierra Club. But it seems to me that reducing emissions by 74% for one engine and improving gas mileage 10% for another is not "irresponsible."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Excessive Spending - Oil Boom

Energy costs have certainly been the story of 2005.

Energy costs and their impact on consumer spending will probably be the story of 2006... once the first big home heating bills hit.

Interestingly, energy prices have been declining, but don't expect that to be reflected in your bills the first of the year. Retailers should expect to see a drop in first quarter sales versus 2005... probably 3-5%... which should be enough to trash the stock market... and hopefully give the Federal Reserve pause in its quest to quash the economy with interest rate increases.

Energy Prices
Nymex Crude Future57.33-.73-1.2612/19
IPE Crude Future56.11-1.02-1.7914:53
Dated Brent Spot55.21-1.38-2.4414:52
WTI Cushing Spot57.15-.91-1.5714:46
Nymex Heating Oil Future170.33-2.87-1.6612/19
Nymex Gasoline Future152.69-4.20-2.6812/19

Friday, December 16, 2005

Excessive Litigation - Sex and Business

Ford Motor Company and the Catholic Church.

It seems that when you get involved with mixing business and sex, you really set yourself up for the stuff hitting the fan.

Ford Motor Company, in an effort to be everything to everyone, has touted itself as eco-friendly and diversity-friendly. The eco-friendly part has drawn the ire of several eco-warrior groups and that was expected given the big SUVs and trucks that Ford sells in abundance. Still, Ford is really making an effort to reposition its product mix toward high-mileage, low-emission vehicles, so the eco-warriors need to be a little patient.

On the other hand, both Ford and the Catholic Church are embroiled in homosexual politics. Someone at Ford sold the top executives on the idea that "don't ask, don't tell" was not a good idea and that a better idea was "actively embrace". So, Ford started both internal programs and external business actions designed to show the homosexual communities and the rest of the world that it was really a very open-minded company.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has taken the public position that homosexual people are inherently perverse, immoral and spiritually deficient. Homosexual priests are not welcome, thank you. After all, boys and husbands must be protected from those priests.

The trouble is, neither Ford nor the Church are experiencing the positive results from these efforts that their respective leadership expected. The American Family Association views Ford's approach to homosexuals as antithecal to the American family and has boycotted Ford products. Homosexual groups, in response to Ford saying it would not advertise in homosexual-oriented magazines, threatened to boycott Ford. Meanwhile, American Catholics are split between those who believe the church is upholding the moral fiber of its parishes and those who ask "what would Jesus do?"

Moral of the story: "don't ask, don't tell".

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Environmental Extremism - SUV Time

My youngest son took delivery of a new Explorer 4WD SUV today.

He was driving his older brother's Mazda and while he was grateful for the use of the car and the fuel economy of a 4-speed manual transmission and 4-cylinder engine, he was also grateful to exchange it for something that he had greater confidence driving in weather like this.

His Explorer might not make sense in some areas like metropolitan Orlando, but on a dirt, snow-covered road in Michigan....

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Excessive Litigation - Ohh-kayyy....

In about 3 minutes of browsing the local newspaper (hardcopy), I ran across these gems:

  • Religious freedom and Detroit's knife law come into conflict in Wayne State student's case.

    Sukhpreet Singh Garcha, a 23-year-old senior [at Wayne State University], was arrested on campus in August for carrying a 10-inch knife on his hip and was charged with violating a city ordinance that prohibits carrying knives with blades longer than 3 inches. Garcha, a practicing Sikh, said the knife was a tenet of Sikhism -- a religion founded in India.

    The charge was later dropped, but the American Civil Liberties Union and the United Sikhs have rallied around the student, claiming the arrest violated Garcha's religious rights.His lawyers have asked 36th District Court Judge Rudy Serra to clarify the city's knife ordinance. Serra is expected to issue an opinion as soon as today that will likely exempt kirpans from the city's knife ordinance

    Now that makes sense to a lot of people. I know some people who belong to the Seefore religion which has been around for thousands of minutes. Their religion does not allow them to go into public without wearing their C4 and detonators. We need to have a federal exemption for them here in the U.S. Meanwhile, keep those manger scenes off the streets. Also, the Howitsgoing monks are required to travel with Howitzers. Many of these monks feel persecuted in public places such as universities... just like this poor student.

  • Women having sex with boys: Is it child abuse? N.Y. judge calls one woman's behavior unacceptable, but adds teen was not victimized by her.

    When Sandra Beth Geisel, a former Catholic schoolteacher, was sentenced to six months in jail last month for having sex with a 16-year-old student, she received sympathy from a surprising source.

    Judge Stephen Herrick of Albany County Court in New York told her she had "crossed the line" into "totally unacceptable" behavior. But, he added, the teenager was a victim in only the strictly legal sense. "He was certainly not victimized by you in any other sense of the word," the judge said.

    Well of course he wasn't harmed. Sandra was a real looker! Oh, wait. That's not a good reason. Right, the judge is a guy who remembers what he spent all of his time thinking about when he was 16! Regardless, we can't have a bunch of over-sexed, child-bearing women trying to get our boys in trouble. You should have heard that poor kid screaming.
  • Evolution fight puts suburb in spotlight. The evolution controversy in this comfortable Atlanta suburb began with one boy's fascination with dinosaurs.

    "He was really into 'Jurassic Park,' " his mother recalled. The trouble was, "we kept reading over and over that 'millions and millions of years ago, dinosaurs roamed the Earth,' " Marjorie Rogers continued. "And that's where I said, 'Hmm -- wait a second.' 

    " Like others who adhere to a literal reading of the Book of Genesis, Rogers, a lawyer, believes that the Earth is several thousand years old, while most scientists, basing their estimates on the radioactive decay of rock samples, say the planet is billions of years old.

    Rogers soon began a quest to challenge what she sees as educators' blind faith in evolution. It evoked a groundswell of support from other residents of this affluent suburb of high-tech office parks and shopping malls, and it pushed the county school board to put warning labels on biology textbooks saying that evolution "is a theory, not a fact."
    You know, I've been looking for a good lawyer....
Remember, if your TV breaks, there is plenty of good entertainment at your local courthouse.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Excessive Spending - Not!

It's been a bit of a break since my last posting. There's a lot to do before Christmas.

Yes, I've been shopping... which has always gone against my grain since it seemed as if I was just doing more work after I got out of work. Now it's not so bad. My wife has been conditioned to believe that I won't behave myself if I go shopping with her. So now it is amazement and awe when I just amble along the aisles and look over all of the stuff I won't buy. She just has this big grin when we leave a store.

I've also kept busy making homemade pastries that my Armenian grandmother taught me when I had first started dating my wife about 40 years ago. We make it now to send to the rest of the family. My sons show up to help me... but I think the eating part is the primary motivator. It's a pretty simple recipe: dough the thickness of a sheet of paper, melted butter, chopped walnuts all crumpled up like an accordian and baked to a light brown color and then topped with honey. Who needs shopping?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Excessive Spending - How Big is BIG?

The Congressional Budget Office provides information about the Budget Deficit (we haven't seen a surplus for awhile).

Update from CBO's October 6, 2005, Monthly Budget Review:

The federal budget deficit totaled about $317 billion in fiscal year 2005, CBO estimates, $96 billion less than the shortfall recorded in 2004. Relative to the size of the economy, that deficit is equal to about 2.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), down from 3.6 percent in 2004. Growth in revenues--from 16.3 percent of GDP in 2004 to about 17.5 percent in 2005--accounted for the improvement. Federal spending was approximately 20 percent of GDP in 2005, slightly higher than the corresponding percentages in 2003 and 2004. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had relatively little effect on the 2005 budget results because they occurred so late in the fiscal year.
Projections have the deficit declining to 0.3% of GDP by 2015... with individual income taxes rising from 7.6% to 10.3% of GDP, while corporate taxes decline from 2.2% to 1.5% of GDP.

So, let's get this straight; during the time that the budget is projected to grow from $2.1 trillion to $3.8 trillion:
  • Individual income taxes as a portion of GDP will increase almost 36% while corporate taxes will drop by 1/3
  • Discretionary spending will decline; mandatory spending and interest will increase
  • Debt will increase by about 50%
Let's hope there are enough lettuce picking jobs available to generate all of that individual tax revenue in the budget since we plan to ship our manufacturing jobs overseas.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Excessive Spending - Just Mix and Match

Two articles from the Christian Science Monitor:

  • A drought of farm labor - California and Arizona farmers - producers of half the nation's citrus and 90 percent of its vegetables and nuts - are struggling with an acute labor shortage. The situation, worsened by crackdowns on illegal immigration since 9/11, also extends to other states and is no longer just a matter of possible price increases on lettuce, oranges, or almonds, farmers say. Rather, it is a turning point in the nation's ability to produce its own food - and possibly the loss of major parts of its agriculture industry.
  • Outsourcing moves closer to home - Touting Central America as the "new Asia," pro-business and investment organizations across the region are all talking about the benefits of "nearsourcing." It's the same thing as outsourcing - that is, sending jobs to lower cost locations outside the US - but closer to home: It's South rather than East, near rather than far. And it's increasingly attractive to US firms.
Okay, so here's a simple solution: get those newly out-of-work manufacturing workers to go pick apples and lettuce... problem solved! I love it when a plan comes together.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Excessive Litigation - Sony Is Really Asking For It

Sony shot itself in the foot when it added some malicious software to some CDs, including the latest Neil Diamond effort. Sony is now recalling all of the CDs and is being sued by Texas and probably some other states.

But here's something you might not have noticed on the CD... look closely near the bottom left...

What's that American flag doing UPSIDE DOWN!

Sure, it's a "logo"... and the term "Japs" is one of endearment. What a way to run a company.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Excessive Spending - Plenty of Jobs Out There

I guess I was wrong about the loss of manufacturing jobs being a bad thing. It appears that there are plenty of jobs still available... even here in Michigan.

Seems like those executives who lead companies into bankruptcy are doing everyone a big favor in the long run and deserve those multi-million dollar bonuses.

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)