Miscellaneous Musings & Opinions - 2016
More recent 'Musings' postings can be found here.
Hot Rod Fridge: Just before Thanksgiving, I noticed that the refrigerator in our garage was getting ominously noisy. It's over 27 years-old. The almond-colored General Electric 16 cubic-foot fridge with top freezer resided in our kitchen until we remodeled in 2006 and replaced it with a trendy stainless-steel front Frigidare. The out-of-style GE was banished to our garage, where it has given yeoman service for the past 10 years.
We called a repair guy, who carefully examined the ol' General and said that, even if he could get a new compressor for the 29 year-old fridge, he couldn't replace the Freon coolant which is now banned. And, if he modified the cooling system to use the latest unicorn-friendly refrigerant, the cost would exceed that of a new refrigerator.
So, we began a hunt for a new fridge. My wife went online and found a Sears Kenmore model that she liked. But I'm nervous about Sears; I fear that they will go bankrupt any day now, given that they have to haul around that boat-anchor acquisition known as K-Mart. Once upon a time, Sears & Roebuck was a powerhouse in the retail trade. Sears captured the title of largest retailer in the United States shortly after World War II. And remained undefeated champion until 1989, when big-boxer Walmart captured the title. Sears was once a great draw as a mall anchor store; today, it has become has become an real anchor, pulling down a mall's rep. I've written about Sears' woes before.
We decided to check out some other brands before considering Sears. We found two Whirlpool dealers in the Vancouver area. We crossed one off the list because we don't like them anymore - they used to be our go-to appliance place but we didn't like the way the repair people treated us recently. We hadn't heard of the other dealer but the firm had a good online reputation and opened at 8:00 am. I tried to access the website but a haughty message informed me that my browser was too ancient. Bad sign, since my browser is younger than our newest appliance. We drove to the address listed and found ourselves in the midst of a residential neighborhood. My wife phoned and got a "please leave a message" recording. This is how foolish businesses lose prospective customers.
Off to nearby Lowe's we went. The store was light on help but we eventually found a guy who knew refrigerators and we were lead to a special deal on an 18 cubic-foot Frigidaire which had a stainless-steel front (inexplicably, it was $300 less than the same model with a white painted front) and a 'Made in America' sticker on the door.
We bought the Frigidare. I was disappointed that I didn't get a chance to demonstrate my manly refrigerator knowledge skills acquired 50-plus years ago selling, delivering and installing appliances at Fleck's TV & Appliances in Feasterville, PA when I was in college. But I realize that it's all obsolete now. No one cares about my old stories and antiquated, irrelevant opinions. So, I let the salesman go take care of another customer, rather than having to listen to my geezer rants about household appliances.
One benefit of the new stainless-steel fridge is that it has black sides, perfect for displaying my magnetic flames. I originally bought them to use on my '39 Plymouth but, after a while, the thrill was gone and I put some on my rolling tool box and the rest on the GE. The new refrigerator was delivered. Clark County Public Utilities picked up our old fridge (sans flames) and, will not only cart it away for free but also will give us a $20 credit on our utility bill.
Life is now good, refrigerator-wise, we thought. Then we realized that the freezer wasn't cooling properly. The temperature in the freezer compartment is too hot. A service tech came and said that he'd have to order a part. It may not come until next year. Uh-oh. Now the flames on the side are symbolic of the box's defectiveness. So much for the 'benefit' of that 'Made in America' sticker. (posted 12/20/16, permalink)
Killing Babies: At last week's presidential debate, Hillary Clinton - who claims to be almost as concerned about "the children" as Helen 'But What About The Children?' Lovejoy on 'The Simpsons', responded to a question about Supreme Court appointees by pivoting to her views on abortion, which can be summarized as Abortions For All, Anytime. Partial birth abortion? No problem.
When Roe-v-Wade became law 43 years ago, abortion was promoted as an answer to unfortunate and tragic circumstances (rape, mother's life jeopardized, pregnant, severely-retarded women and the like). And, the aborted tissue was presented as nothing more than a group of cells - almost like one's appendix. But legalized abortion quickly became a form of birth control for the lazy and the careless. Later, "partial birth abortions" took the spotlight. This barbarous practice appalled many moderates who were formerly pro-abortion.
Meanwhile, scientific advances have made many early-term fetuses viable. Medical technology has vastly improved since 1973 and fetuses can now survive as early as 20 weeks - less than five months into the pregnancy.
The use of ultrasound has shown the public that very young and tiny fetuses look like babies, not blobs of protoplasm. The current queasiness over abortion is not simply due to increased efforts by the pro-life movement. Rather, it is because ordinary people now realize that abortion has run amok and the "tissue samples" being destroyed are, in actuality, children. Or near-children.
Regardless of how you feel about early abortion, after five months, it's a baby. As liberals like to say about climate change: "The science is settled." And, as science gets better, the threshold of fetal survival will continue to drop.
Like many liberals, Hillary frames abortion as "a women's health issue." Baloney. In most cases, abortions are not performed for health reasons. They are done to remove an inconvenient child. And if that child is more than five months old, it's infanticide. Period. (posted 10/26/16, permalink)
The Price Of Fame: The McCallum Theatre of Palm Desert, CA just released its events of the 2016-17 season. Here are some observations:
• For $137 (best seats), you can be entertained by Bernadette Peters, Johnny Mathis or Itzhak Perlman. That seems pricey for Perlman, even though he is an accomplished violinist.
• $127 gets you seating for Michael Feinstein or The Beach Boys. For $10 less, you can witness a performance by Olivia Newton-John.
• For $125, you can see an ABBA tribute band ($125 a ticket for a #@$%&* tribute band?!?!) or have 'An Evening With Lucie Arnaz', whose main talent seems to be emerging from the right womb some 65 years ago. Well, she did appear in 'Fantasy Island' and 'Murder, She Wrote'. She apparently sings, dances and talks a lot about her mother, Lucille Ball.
• Speaking of tribute bands, for $110, you can waste your money to see a fake Neil Diamond. The guy should be called Neil Zircon.
• For $107, you can be entertained by Jay Leno (I've seen him perform; he's great) or listen to the Irish Tenors.
• For $97, you can sit there and watch Suzanne Somers perform. The 69 year-old has beaten cancer and has some unconventional views on medical subjects. She was on 'Dancing With The Stars' last year, so prepare for some hoofing.
For the same price, you can attend 'An Evening With George Takei'. Personally, I think I'd rather pay $97 not to have to see George Takei. Or you can be entertained with an acoustic performance by Foreigner. Or listen to John Cleese, whose 2015 autobiography was stupefyingly dull.
Or enjoy the pounding of Celtic Thunder. Or, if you couldn't get enough of the famous parent/untalented child thing with Lucie Arnaz, there's always Lorna Luft, belting out the songs of her mom, Judy Garland.
• For $87, you can live it up with the very talented song-stylist Steve Tyrell (his rendition of 'Sunny Side of the Street' is unforgettable), or enjoy the very-funny Rita Rudner, or take a chance with The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
• $77, you'll enjoy Herb Albert and his wife, Lani Hall, who was the original lead singer of Brazil 66.
• For $67, you can see the mostly reconstituted New Christy Minstrels. Old Christy passed away some time ago.
• For $57, you can experience a performance by Asleep at the Wheel, a talented '40s-style Texas swing band.
To me, there doesn't seem to be a lot of correlation between ticket pricing and my idea of talent worth. I mean, for the price of an Itzhak Perlman performance, you could have two nights of entertainment: one with Asleep at the Wheel (I like them enough that I've got one of their albums), and another with Herb and Lani, two talented icons from the 1960s. And, instead of overpaying for faux ABBA, you can see the very real Rita Rudner and have a few cocktails afterward at a tony resort hotel bar. (posted 10/14/16, permalink)
Why Trump Might Win - In One Sentence: David P. Goldman wrote: "A very large portion of the electorate (how large a portion we will discover next month) believes that its government is no longer legitimate, and that it has become the instrument of an entrenched rent-seeking oligarchy."
Yes, and when we complain, elites like Hillary refer to us as "deplorables."
Lawrence Summers, Bill Clinton's former Secretary of the Treasury, explained Brexit and The Rise of Donald Trump thusly, "It can hardly come as a great surprise that when economic growth falls short year after year, and when its beneficiaries are a small subset of the population, electorates turn surly." Indeed.
The economy isn't good - growing far slower than it used to. Here's a dismal graph that explains why people feel poorer:
America's per-capita GDP growth has been anemic for the entire Obama administration. The Census Bureau reported that American's incomes have dropped in 2016.
"(T)he typical American household's real (inflation-adjusted) income has taken a turn for the worse during this election year. In December 2015, the real median household income was $57,701 (in seasonally adjusted, August 2016 dollars). Eight months later, in August 2016 (the most recent tally available), that figure has dropped to $57,380. That's a decline of $321 across eight months.
Real median household income is also down since January 2000, it's down since November 2008 (the month Obama was elected), and it's down since January 2009 (the month he took office)."
More from Mr. Goldman: "Whoever wins, a very large part of the electorate - perhaps more than a third - will believe that the government lacks legitimacy. We have not had circumstances like this since the Civil War. If Trump loses, his voters will blame a corrupt oligarchy and its allied media for electing a criminal to the White House; if Clinton loses, the minority constituencies of the Democratic Party will respond as if the Klu Klux Klan had taken over Washington.
There has never been anything like this in the past century and a half of American history, and it is thankless to predict the outcome. Nonetheless I will: Trump will crush it. Clinton, the major media, the pollsters, and the mainstream Republican Party have badly misread the insurrectionist mood of the electorate."
I'm cautiously optimistic about a Trump victory next month. (posted 10/12/16, permalink)
Systemic What?! I'm sick and tired of the Systemic Racism catchphrase - the one used by Hillary Clinton in the recent presidential debate. She said, "I want people, especially I want white people - I want white people to recognize that there is systemic racism."
Baloney. I would have responded, "Speak for yourself, toots. But count me out."
At The American Spectator, Daniel J. Flynn wrote about the shooting of gun-toting, black criminal Keith Scott in Charlotte. (Mr. Scott was no model citizen. He had a lengthy, violent criminal record with numerous charges and several convictions involving weapons offenses. These include an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon conviction in Texas that resulted in a prison sentence meted out in 2005 and completed in 2011. Furthermore, he was carrying a stolen gun when he was shot and killed during his confrontation with police. His wife had filed for a restraining order against him saying he was armed, violent and had threatened to kill her. He also hit her 8 year-old child several times with his fist.)
Flynn noted that "a black policeman working under a black police chief in a majority-minority city shot Keith Scott. Why blame whitey? Why not blame Zoroastrians or Aborigines or Legionnaires? This Rorschach test of a statement, seeing whites as the culprits in an event primarily involving two African Americans, surely says less about those spoken of than it does the speaker."
Of the ensuing multi-day Charlotte riots: "Cable networks show us scenes of young African-American males committing brutalities. They tell us, even after the mob knocked down a CNN correspondent on live TV and attempted to throw an unconscious WCNC photographer into a fire, that the troubles of these young African-American males stem from external forces (read: white people)."
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Republican whose district includes parts of Charlotte, was asked by the BBC what grievance the protesters have. He replied, "The grievance in their mind, the animus, the anger - they hate white people because white people are successful and they're not. It is a welfare state, we have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, but we've put people in bondage so that they can't be all that they're capable of being. America is a country of opportunity and freedom and liberty. It didn't become that way because of a great government who provided everything for everyone. No, the destiny of America, the freedom to come to this country - where they're still coming to our shores - is because they can take their work ethic, their hard effort and put up their capital and their risk and build out their lives."
Ol' Remus at The Woodpile Report concluded, "What's going on here is obvious, even to blacks. Whites just plain don't give a damn about their alleged problems any more. Hispanics and Asians never did. It's over. Expect outrage."
Here's my take: America is, indeed, a land of opportunity. But it's not my fault that three generations of African-Americans have failed to take advantage of it. There used to be many black entrepreneurs and black business owners, but their number slowed to a trickle in the 1970s. Business owners in black neighborhoods saw conditions deteriorating and crime on the rise. Those with reasonably portable businesses moved away. Other storefront retailers either closed up shop or sold their companies. Local blacks were unable or unwilling to buy these establishments, so hard-working Asians - mostly Koreans - moved in. Blacks grumbled and cursed.
Small mom-and-pop motels were purchased on the cheap by East Asians (mostly Indians and Pakistanis). Entire families worked hard at such places, keeping them tidy, functional and profitable. Neighborhood blacks were resentful but had a more than equal opportunity to buy such properties, given the widely-available Small Business Administration minority preference loan programss.
In Portland, Oregon, boat people (Vietnam refugees who fled communism after the war), went into low-investment, labor-intensive businesses such as janitorial services. I know of a local black-owned janitorial business which had gotten fat and lazy from Minority Preference jobs offered by federal and state agencies. Soon the Vietnamese businesses discovered the Minority Preference clause and beat the slothful black business at its own game. HA! Who knew irony carried a mop and bucket?
Roger Simon wrote that Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs "convinced, and then reassured, black people that they were victims, taught them that being a victim and playing a victim was the way to go always and forever. And then it repeated the point ad infinitum from its debut in 1964 until now - a conveniently easy to compute fifty years - as it all became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Great Society and similar policies screwed black people to the wall. It was racist to the core without knowing it." But they did get free Obamaphones.
This great rip in the nation's social fabric was initiated by Lyndon B. Johnson when he decided that the governmint should "help the poor." Black economics professor Walter Williams has written, "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do. And that is to destroy the black family." Which destroyed black motivation.
Over fifty years ago, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan issued an alarming report on the breakdown of the black family in urban ghettos. Recently, black conservative Thomas Sowell wrote that there is a general assumption that "whatever social problems exist in ghetto communities as being caused by the sins or negligence of whites, whether racism in general or a "legacy of slavery" in particular. Like most emotionally powerful visions, it is seldom, if ever, subjected to the test of evidence."
There is little if any systemic racism among white people. We're just tired of blacks blaming whites for self-created problems. (posted 9/28/16, permalink)
Science Is All Wet: An article in The Daily Mail proclaimed that all those warnings to "keep hydrated" are "hogwash."
"Chivvied by preachy reminders, millions of us are now paranoid about suffering a plague of ills if we don't carry extortionately priced bottles of water at all times. You see the results of this mania every day in streets, shops, offices and on public transport.
Adults are dutifully sipping from plastic bottles with stoppers that resemble baby bottle teats. Since the turn of the millennium, bottled water consumption in the UK has doubled."
"Yet much of the so-called scientific evidence about the dreadful effects of thirst derives from research funded by bottled water companies.
Over the past four years, studies in the respected scientific journals the Journal of Nutrition, the British Journal of Nutrition and PLoS One have reported being dehydrated by 2% or less can make people tired, confused, irritable, less intelligent and more prone to pain.
All these studies were widely described as 'independent', but they were paid for by Danone, the French food products corporation that makes Evian, Volvic and Badoit."
I've written about thirst before. And, I've also noted that some conditions, such as cancer treatment can cause dehydration. But most people are fine drinking tap water when their bodies tell them to.
Before 1977, most Americans drank tap water. Then Perrier launched a $5 million U.S. marketing campaign for its imported bottled water. Perrier's timing was perfect; it took advantage of growing pollution concerns and the emergence of brand-conscious Yuppie consumers who loved expensive, ordinary things with European (or European-sounding) names.
Today, 20% of all Americans refuse to drink tap water at all, sticking with brands like Evian, which is Naive spelled backwards. (posted 9/14/16, permalink)
People Will Buy Any Kind Of Crap: Consider this bobble head of Amelia Earhart, the aviation pioneer who perished in 1937 when her Lockheed Model 10 Electra went down in the central Pacific during an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe.
It seems disrespectful to me, kinda like a snow globe souvenir from Auschwitz. There is also a Marie Curie bobble head as well. She's another pioneer who gave her life in the pursuit of science. (posted 9/8/16, permalink)
Post-Industrial Job Woes: An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, profiles Philadelphia's current jobs picture, suggesting that is reflective of many large American cities, struggling in a post-industrial environment. Once prosperous factory towns are now desolate and half-abandoned. Two examples: Detroit, MI and Camden, NJ.
"Overall, Philadelphia, the nation's fifth-most-populous city, notched a 14.3% decline in median income from 2000 to 2014 on an inflation-adjusted basis, a drop that exceeded the 10.4% nationwide decrease." Any income gains in Philadelphia over the past 15 years have clustered around the flourishing, trendy parts of center city.
As with other metro areas, "Philadelphia's job mix has changed since 2000. Manufacturing accounts for less than 4% of jobs, down from 7%, and government positions make up 14% of the total, down from 16%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The largely low-wage hospitality sector accounts for 9.4%, up from 7.7%. Education and health have grown from about 25% of city jobs to about 31%. The professional and business services sector including law firms has edged up as well."
In the Oxford Circle section of Northeast Philly, there is the large Cardone Industries plant, where workers earn $15 to $20 per hourly plus benefits remanufacturing used auto parts. Cardone is a rare and admirable Philadelphia success story in the manufacturing sector. It was started by Michael Cardone, Jr. in 1970, remanufacturing windshield wiper motors with six employees. The closely-held company has grown into the largest privately-held automotive parts remanufacturer in the world. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Cardone now employs over 5,000 employees with additional facilities in California, Texas, Mexico and Canada.
"This year, the closely-held company said its brakes division will move to Mexico, claiming 1,350 of the facility's roughly 2,200 jobs by May 2018. Spokesman Kevin Feeley said the company must compete with rivals and expects to add hundreds of higher-paying jobs locally in its electronics division over time."
The Journal article taps into two populist truths:
1. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As to the rich get richer part, a different Wall Street Journal article proclaims that there are now 2,475 billionaires in the world.
But, as newly-created jobs are touted by politicians and government PR types, the fact is too many are "low-wage hospitality sector" jobs such as housekeepers, busboys, clerks and the like. There are a select number of legal and accounting white collar jobs that are growing. Unfortunately, everything in between is shrinking, leading to the "shrinking middle class" meme.
2. Manufacturing is departing to lower wage countries. Cardone is simply one of many examples. Consider this:
In the 1950s, iron and steel were the biggest industries in Pennsylvania, followed by industrial and electrical machinery (think of Westinghouse making all those big electrical transformers used worldwide). Also mentioned - and Philadelphia was a big contributor - were shipbuilding, hatmaking, textiles and the brewing of beer.
Today, Pennsylvania's largest employer is Wal-Mart, followed by the U.S. Postal Service, the City of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia.
Bob Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council said that, over a recent five-year period, the U.S. has lost 5.2 million manufacturing jobs - down from 17.9 million to 12.7 million. Of 5.2 million jobs lost, 800,000 were held by engineers and scientists - people critical to innovation and new product development.
Furthermore, it should be noted that imports from China - mostly manufactured goods - have increased from $15.2 billion in 1990 to $483,2 billion in 2015.
With proper incentivization, I believe that jobs can be brought back to the U.S. Let's make America great again. (posted 8/24/16, permalink)
See EU Later: Great Britain's voters firmly demanded that the country divorce itself from the European Union last week. Prime Minister David Cameron, who vigorously supported staying in the EU, announced his intention to resign. The UK will use the $16.3 billion it's been giving away to the Boys in Belgium each year to fund its own social and economic programs. The UK will take control of its own affairs.
James Lileks wrote, "In case you're wondering, I would have voted to Leave, based on a superficial analysis from the other side of the globe. It's the idea of being a nation that answers to itself. I can understand wanting to join a common economic community. But when people you didn't elect pass a law affecting the strength of your hairdryer to lessen energy consumption and prevent the planet from having a mean temperature of 156 degrees C by 3047, and there's nothing you can do, people get peeved. Of course nationalism has its excesses. But the excesses of transnationalism are accumulated incrementally and smother all differences, and for people who are constantly droning on about diversity they seem dreadfully keen to impose a bland uniformity of laws. Culture survives for a while, but eventually the laws are your culture."
||Fear not - the high-speed-Eurostar Chunnel train - shown here at London's Waterloo Station in 2001 - will still connect England and France.
The basis for the European Union began almost 50 years ago as a way to eliminate trade tariffs and simplify border crossings. But it ballooned into a bureaucratic nightmare with elite EU overlords imposing unreasonable regulations, especially ones about social, safety and energy-efficiency matters. And, lately, laws demanding that member nations accept large numbers of dirt-poor, unskilled, non-assimilating immigrants. How did this simple concept turn into an unchecked, out-of-control regime? Too many people read Isaac Asimov's 'Foundation', I suppose, and actually believed in all that Galactic Empire crap.
As a nation, the Brits have a long tradition of freedom and individual rights for its citizens. Parliament's origins date back to 1707 and the Magna Carta was drafted in 1215.
Other countries in the EU are becoming disillusioned; there are murmurs about France and Sweden doing their own exit referendums, as their populace demands the same chance to vote on their future. I'm not sure there will be a European Union in 10 years. Or less.
Melissa Francis of Fox Business noted that the much-derided bureaucrats of the EU recently passed new rules - Eco Design Restrictions - mandating that all small appliances, including electric tea kettles and toasters, be far more energy-efficient. She posited that those regulations were the straw that broke the camel's back for Brits: "What is this person from Brussels doing in my kitchen? Who are they to take away my tea kettle?"
You don't mess with the Brits' tea and toast. (posted 6/27/16, permalink)
Them Versus Us: Do you get the feeling that, more than ever, we're in a 'them vs. us' nation?
Recently, the Zman wrote, "Thirty years ago, most Americans felt they could, to some degree, relate to the people who ruled over them. The politicians did not tool around in armored vehicles or have armed men in mirrored sunglasses guarding them. The so-called “public servants” were not highly compensated, even if they did not work very hard. The members of the commentariat were few in number and they worked hard to present themselves as normal people. There was a gap, for sure, but it did not feel like a huge gap."
Then the Clintons showed up and, as Donald Trump said, they "turned the politics of personal enrichment into an art form for themselves. They've made hundreds of millions of dollars selling access, selling favors, selling government contracts, and I mean hundreds of millions of dollars."
The Clinton Foundation is a money exchange where wealthy foreigners can use their currency to buy influence. Now you know why Hillary has giant, Captain Kangaroo-like pockets sewed on the jackets of her pantsuits. They're full of five-hundred euro notes.
"A lot has changed and today it feels to most people like we have been colonized by pod people from another planet. They sort of look like us and make familiar noises, but they are not us. They are alien. Every day they say things that suggest they are just visiting our planet. President Obama makes the sort of "gaffes" a person makes when they have been trained to sound like a person, but maybe did not pay strict attention in human class. Hillary Clinton often sounds like a stroke victim learning to talk again."
Ya know, maybe the reason Hillary wears such awful clothes is that people won't think she looks so bad in an orange jumpsuit. As to Obama, those who watch television quickly realized that, without his teleprompter, he stammers like a second grader. This is the end result of affirmative action.
The Zman noted, "A normal person at a Trump rally is set upon by a mob and our so-called betters howl with approval. All those lectures we used to hear from the ruling class about free speech and protest being the highest form of patriotism suddenly ring a little hollow. So-called conservatives care more about democracy in Iraq than in America. The liberals care more about the foreign invaders than the safety of Americans."
"This great divide that has opened up between the ruling classes and the people is largely the result of globalism. The source of the great fortunes is no longer tied to countries or cultures. Global money bankrolls government and the petty royalty that lives off government. The result is the people in charge have divorced themselves from the people over whom they rule. The Cloud People define themselves by their opposition to and essential difference from the Dirt People."
What - you don't think the government sees the public as Dirt People? Then please explain how the State Department gets the idea that it can announce that it will take 75 years to review and release the documents related to Hillary's e-mail abuse. The bureaucrats truly think we're slack-jawed, drooling morons.
"Over the last few decades as this has evolved, it was one big party for the government class. No matter which party won the election, the money still poured into the Imperial Capital to finance the petty royalty that lives in the suburbs around the city. Six of the ten richest counties in America are connected to DC. Two are outside the financial capital of the world, New York City. Good times or bad, the last three decades has seen their wealth and prosperity grow.
For the people in charge, particularly the commentariat, the American people have become the Umman Manda. These were people who poured south into Mesopotamia in the second century BC. The name, depending upon the source, means "the horde from who knows where" or, and my favorite, "the scourge of the gods." To the people peeking at us through the windows of their car services and telescopes, the public is just a formless mass of savages that threaten the established order. It's why they hate what's happening. It's why they will stop at nothing to end it."
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have tapped into the 'them vs. us' anger. Visit D.C. and, when you're not in the 'dangerous don't go out at night' part of the city, you see the elite, living in gated norther Virginia compounds or in protected city high rises, feeding at the trough of the gummint and transported here-and-about in fancy armored vehicles. (posted 6/15/16, permalink)
What Washington Needs Is Bernie Goetz, Not Bernie Sanders: There are roving gangs of rapists and other bad guys taking over the Washington Metro Subway System in Washington DC. Almost all are black. Cue up the Obama 'If I had a Son' meme.
Jack Baruth wrote that "this series of unfortunate events adroitly demonstrates the primary issues with mass transit.
Issue the First: Once you agree to get rid of your car or motorcycle and become part of the "mass transit solution," you have all the rights and clout of a sheep in the abattoir. By its very definition and nature, government-controlled mass transit is a monopoly. You have two choices: like it, or lump it. That's how you get things like a "maintenance surge" in place of an intelligently conceived longevity plan. By all accounts, WMATA is half make-work project for otherwise unemployable idiots and half utter catastrophe - and that was before SafeTrack.
Issue the Second is that you're simply not safe in the DC subway. The District Of Columbia bans the public possession of most weapons, right down to "knives of three inches or above." Gun law in DC could be the subject of an entire War and Peace-sized book but it's fair to say that where possible the powers that be in the District will aggressively prosecute, not to say persecute, anybody who dares to defend themselves with a pistol. The end result, perhaps the intended result, of this legal climate is to make it impossible for law-abiding, employed, tax-paying citizens to use anything but hands and feet in self-defense. This is awesome news if you're Steven Seagal circa 1985. It's less awesome if you're under six-five and/or not able to fight off three full-grown men at the same time."
In October 2004, we visited DC and found that everyone in Washington was friendly and helpful, including the Metro people. We used the Metro rail system to go everywhere even at night. It was fast and convenient. The cars and stations were clean and we felt quite safe. But that was then; this is now. (posted 6/9/16, permalink)
Unfunded Mandates & The Abuse Of Power: Barry O. though his sycophant Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, "has sent a letter to every public school district in the country telling them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their chosen gender identity, as opposed to their birth certificate."
Don't forget that, the word in Title IX (cited as the source for the mandate) is sex, not "gender identity." Sex is a physical, immutable characteristic.
William Katz of Urgent Agenda wrote: "There is, of course, no public input permitted. This is dictatorial government, seeking to impose an ideological solution consistent with the agenda of the hard left. The public be damned. Women who innocently walk into restrooms be damned. This is the way you will live your lives, peasants!
It is frightening. It is things like this that partially explain the rise of Donald Trump." Speaking of regulations ...
Back in 2007, I was volunteering at the local chapter of a nonprofit. We received the following communication from the organization's headquarters:
"As a recipient of Federal financial assistance, per the Executive Order 13166 entitled, "Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency", (your chapter) must take reasonable steps to ensure that qualified individuals with limited English proficiency have meaningful access to programs, services and information that (your chapter) provides. These individuals may request language assistance services (with a two-week advance notice) from (your chapter) if their lack of English fluency prevents them from benefiting from (your chapter's) programs or services."
This is a typical unfunded mandate ... we had almost no one proficient in foreign languages. We had always been chronically underfunded and have no spare money to hire translators. The only way we could do so would be to cut services.
I did a little research and found that these demands were some bureaucrat's interpretation of an order signed by Bill Clinton in 2000.
The Executive Order covers all "federally conducted programs and activities." Anything a federal agency does falls within the scope of federally conducted programs or activities. All of the over ninety agencies are responsible for developing and implementing "federally conducted plans" to ensure that persons who are LEP (Limited English Proficiency) have meaningful access to federal programs and activities."
We were not a federal agency, rather, a nonprofit corporation. Nevertheless, some unidentified mid-level drone at DOJ has since decided that this order will now apply to us.
In 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a Policy Guidance Document, 'Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - National Origin Discrimination Against Persons With Limited English Proficiency'. This LEP Guidance sets forth the compliance standards that "recipients of Federal financial assistance must follow to ensure that their programs and activities normally provided in English are accessible to LEP persons and thus do not discriminate on the basis of national origin in violation of Title VI's prohibition against national origin discrimination."
As originally written, national origin discrimination meant that you can't discriminate against Poles, Irish, Mexicans, etc. Sounds reasonable. But it has been reinterpreted to mean that you cannot give preference to, say, a Mexican proficient in English over one who speaks only Spanish. That's just nuts.
I have written before that the United States has too many laws/rules/orders. Everyone who owns a small business already knows this. The solution to this problem does not lie with Republicans or Democrats; both have an abysmal record on this score.
We need a hero - a political leader who will step up to the plate and ruthlessly simplify and streamline our government. Maybe someone with the initials DT. (posted 5/17/16, permalink)
Disappointing News: Not giving a rat's patootie about what the people want, the UK's Natural Environment Research Council announced that its new polar research ship will be named after BBC broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough even though the name 'Boaty McBoatface' won a voter poll.
Boaty McBoatface decisively won the poll gaining 124,109 votes while the name Sir David Attenborough received a mere 11,000 votes.
I liked Boaty. It was the people's choice and, if Pee-wee's Playhouse had a yacht, it would have been named Boaty McBoatface.
Speaking of Pee-wee, have you ever wondered if Greg Gutfeld is his older brother?
If you don't think Boaty McBoatface is a sufficiently classy name for a ship, just close your eyes and imagine Thurston Howell III saying it. (posted 5/11/16, permalink)
Je Suis ... tired of the inaction, the political correctness and the fear of 'offending' Muslims. After 9/11, outraged Americans donned 'Never forget' magnets and ribbons on our cars and lapels after 9/11. I must admit that I wore an American flag on my lapel, even though I felt that true patriotism was merited by actions rather than tchotchkes.
Michelle Malkin wrote that "after 15 years of hapless homeland security theater and bipartisan pandering to terror-coddling "Islamophobia" shriekers, I'm so, so sick of noble gesture paraphernalia. I'm sick of preening celebrities who tell me to "PrayForTheWorld" and celebrate diversity while indiscriminate floods of Muslim refugees across Europe and America corrode the pillars of peace and freedom.
I'm sick of Silicon Valley moguls who pretend to champion free speech while muzzling the speech of those who use the Internet to criticize the very open door immigration policies that fertilized European and American soil for jihadists."
Me, too. Let's do whatever it takes to kill ISIS or any other radical Islamic group - bombing, waterboarding, you name it. I'm tired of seeing us play by the rules of political correctness. Look what that did for Belgium, which - because of its open borders policy and generous welfare for the 'downtrodden' - now has a population with 25% unassimilated, pissed-off and disaffected Muslims.
And while I'm on the subject of inappropriate memorialization, I am offended by the use (misuse) of teddy bears and other stuffed animals as Universal Grieving Appliances.
An article written many years ago by Matt Taibbi of the NY Press, there were some memorable quotes:
"It can be exhausting at times, following these endless, media-fueled orgies of adult grief that surround whichever gruesome random catastrophe is currently dominating the headlines."
"None of this resembles the behavior of people with either real problems or real interests in life. It may be that life in America has become so grim and constricting and sexually repressed that mawkish public displays of canned grief are the only socially acceptable avenues people have left for acting out - so that when the opportunity arises for people to weep on camera or erect garish public shrines of rainbow balloons and plush animals, they jump on it, like a newly-released convict on an unlucky call girl."
"A real victim in all of this has been the teddy bear, which has been forced into the role of the national symbol of this madness. Teddy bears didn't deserve this."
Then there are those roadside shrines found at the scene of fatal vehicular accidents around here. Woe betide you if someone happens to expire on or near your property. Your front lawn will be hijacked by mourners who build makeshift shrines to the deceased, always involving items like Mylar balloons, heart-shaped trinkets, stuffed animals and other carnival-like, tasteless crap.
Ironically, since most of these accidents involve alcohol, one would expect these shrines to include altars made of empty wine bottles, or photos of the deceased mounted on discarded point-of-purchase displays for malt liquors or a smattering of various Budweiser souvenirs spelling out something maudlin like: We Luv U. "But noooooooooo," to quote the late John Belushi.
Memorials belong in cemeteries. If you felt strongly about someone who died, take up a collection to buy them a nice headstone, instead of invading personal property to construct some insipid cenotaph from detritus. (posted 3/28/16, permalink)
Another Reason Why Trump Is Popular: The prospects of America's middle class have dimmed noticeably since the 2008 financial crisis. For the first time since the Great Depression, Americans are losing ground that they cannot seem to regain. Median household income fell by nearly 10% from 1999 through 2011 and remains far below previous peaks. Home ownership is down from 69% in 2008 to just 64%. The rate of participation in the labor force has fallen from 66% before the crisis to just 62%, the lowest since the 1970s. A generation of young people has graduated from college with mediocre earnings prospects and mountains of student debt.
The last two generations of American entrepreneurs the dot.com bubblers of the 1990s and the mortgage manipulators of the 2000s got carried out in body bags. The great mortgage scam sucked tens of millions of Americans into the bubble. Late entrants lost their homes, with 4 million homes under foreclosure by 2012 and another 6 million at risk. It's not just that Americans are earning less, but that their path back to financial security is cut off.
"Free Trade did more to kill off manufacturing in the USA than any other single thing. Whole major cities have been decimated. (Detroit anyone?) Remember that the Rust Belt used to be the manufacturing engine of the world before "Free Trade." Patent protection and Walmatization of the economy also helped kill the American entrepreneur and the American innovator."
Donald Trump understands this and is against free trade when the deck is stacked against America. He wants fairer trade and so do I. Trump calls it Smart Trade.
Frank Miele wrote, "There will no doubt be a big payday for someone down the road, but in case you missed the news corporate America doesn't exist any more. What we have now is corporate globalism, and all those new jobs that are being created are just as likely to be going to Mexico, Australia, Chile, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam or one of the other 11 likely partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Indeed, they are more than likely to be going in that direction. What multinational corporations want is cheap labor, and they are much more likely to find that in Vietnam than in America."
In the first 3 months of 2015, we had an almost $13 billion trade deficit with our NAFTA 'partner' Mexico - at a rate of over $50 billion annually. Our trade deficit with China is projected to exceed $330 billion dollars. And our chief export to China is used cardboard. For every dollar exported to our new 'pal', Vietnam, we import over five bucks.
Many - including me - hope President Trump will make it stop. (posted 3/24/16, permalink)
A Brief History Of Unpopular Presidential Candidates: There is a great deal of weeping and gnashing of teeth in the clubby, tassel-loafered GOP Establishment over the seeming unstoppable juggernaut known as Donald Trump. There are now numerous apoplectic pundits who are openly dissing The Donald. For example, "In order to defeat Donald Trump, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol admits he is prepared to hand Hillary Clinton the Oval Office."
This is a despicable and stupid position for a conservative to take. There are many kinds of conservatives; Kristol is obviously a Kamikaze Conservative. As is Ben Stein, who has stated that he would vote for Clinton over Trump.
Then there's Mitt Romney who delivered a passionate anti-Trump rant last week. Seeing a photo of them together in 2012, when Romney not only accepted Donald Trump's endorsement but he happily took The Donald's campaign donations as well, made me think of the phrase 'daydream believer and a homecoming queen'. No more - now Trump is "a phony and a fraud," according to Romney. If only the Mittster had been this passionate when he was running for president in 2012, instead of being a polite, smiling wannabe Brylcream model. So, does all this rhetoric mean that Mitt would rather have fraudulent and phony Hillary as president? Nuts.
Once-upon-a-time neocon David Frum said, "Trump is an American Mussolini, who must be stopped at all costs, but the alternative could not be Cruz because, well, he's annoying." On the positive side, maybe Trump will get Amtrack to run on time.
Mention the T-word in the sacred hallways of 'The Weekly Standard' or 'National Review' and you can practically hear the echoing soft crinkle of multiple pairs of panties getting bunched up.
Dennis Miller quipped, "If only the GOP had gone after Obama like they're going after Trump!" As part of the 'Stop Trump' movement, Republican PACs are sponsoring anti-Trump television ads, shooting their own putative party in the foot. But the bellowing from conservative media over Trump is backfiring. Ordinary people - nominal Republicans and right-leaning Independents - are angry at the Republican Party elite for their treachery. They won't listen to the party's propaganda machine. They won't be lectured on the need to be loyal to 'approved' candidates (anyone but Trump ... or Cruz, apparently).
Sadly, such backstabbing is nothing new in presidential politics. There are numerous precedents:
• In 1948, feisty, give-em-hell Harry Truman - a sitting president - ran against the slick, insufferably arrogant Wall-Street-backed New Yorker, Thomas Dewey. Truman's famous coarseness, his popularity in fly-over country, even the parallels between Trump's bankruptcies and the "failed haberdasher" have made for interesting comparisons by historians.
Furthermore, Truman was pitted against his embittered, left-wing Democrat Henry Wallace (whom Roosevelt replaced with Truman as Vice-President in 1944) for his own party's nomination. Meanwhile several Southern states stormed out of the Democratic convention over civil rights issues and formed their own party - the Dixiecrat Party, with stormy young, South Carolina segregationist Strom Thurmond as presidential candidate. Harry Truman won anyway.
• In 1952, the GOP was tearing itself to pieces over presidential defeats in both 1944 and 1948 with Dewey. Then a man with successful credentials stepped in. Dwight Eisenhower was the architect of victory in World War II in Europe. But he was not a "true Republican" and had been courted by the Democrats for a presidential run in 1948. Ike had baggage, having once suggested that price inflation could be solved by taxing corporate profits at a rate of 100% and that the proceeds be used to "bring down the prices of products by force of government" - a very socialist, possibly Communist position. But he won two presidential elections in a row and is considered by most historians to have been a pretty good chief executive.
• In 1968, the Democratic convention in Chicago was beset by street violence outside the hall. And chaos inside the hall. It was a time of great turmoil in America. Richard Nixon, a washed-up Republican political has-been and the subject of many jokes and much loathing, handily beat Democrat Hubert Humphrey, who was Lyndon Johnson's vice president.
• In 1980, Ronald Reagan was characterized as "that crazy cowboy" who would probably "start a nuclear war." He was despised by the Republican establishment, which feared he might actually do something as president. They tried to force former President Gerald Ford on him as vice president, promoting the proposed ticket as a co-presidency, wherein Ford would be the reasonable go-along guy and Reagan would be the whacko who'd be restrained and used as photogenic window dressing. Reagan went on to become a great president. No crazy cowboy was he.
The only group who can stop Donald Trump - or Ted Cruz ... or anyone else - is the electorate. The Republican Establishment is more reviled by the people than ever. And, if you're a Republican and you decide to stay home on election day because you hate Trump, that's your right. But it's my right to blame you for putting the despicable Hillary Rodham Clinton in office.
When there were 17 Republican candidates in the race, I said that I could vote for any of them. Because ... ABH - Anybody But Hillary. I still feel the same way. (posted 3/7/16, permalink)
Immigration Scam: Jack Baruth has written an interesting article which covers two different but somewhat-related themes - the duplicity and soft racism of Facebook's Mark Zukerberg (despite all his Black Lives Matter rhetoric, only 1% of Facebook's employees are black) and the H-1B Visa scam.
As so many bloggers often write: Read the whole thing.
I would like to add that I have seen the H-1B visa scam in practice. In 90% of cases, it is simply away to get educated foreign workers who will work for lower wages then their American counterparts. Many of these 'temporary' foreign workers (who can stay here for up to six years) live in one-bedroom apartments converted into dorms for 6 or 8 and subsist on Ramen and similar cheapie meals.
All the money they save is sent back to their home countries. So, when one of these workers comes to the U.S., they not only rob a job from a qualified but more-costly American but they don't even help our economy by spending their disposable income in the States.
There are currently close to one million H-1B workers in the U.S. Jack wrote, "Now let's speak plainly: The entire purpose of the H-1B program is to cut salaries and keep American tech workers desperate. There is no other purpose. There's no true "tech shortage" in this country, particularly if you consider that this isn't the world of 'Logan's Run' and contrary to the belief in Silicon Valley people don't simply disappear into the ether on their thirtieth birthday." I know of one ex-HP tech engineer who is presently working in Amsterdam because he couldn't find suitable IT work in the U.S.
Baruth proposes to "levy a 30% "opportunity tax" against every H1-B job. In other words, if Facebook hires an H-1B and pays the "pimp" or consulting company $100,000 a year for that person, they would have to pay a $30,000 opportunity tax. Using the most conservative number of possible H-1B workers in the country - about 850,000 - and using the average salary of $78,000 - and using the 40% bump paid to most consulting companies, and saying that half of the H1-Bs are through a recruiting firm - we come up with a total outbound H-1B cost of $79,560,000,000.
That figure - seventy-nine billion dollars - is what we pay foreigners to work here in high-skill jobs. My "opportunity tax" would therefore raise as much as $23.87 billion dollars per year. Now, some corporations would choose to fire their H1-B visa holders and employ Americans instead. That's totally fine with me. Let's say that one-third of them do that. So we've "found" 240,000 new middle-class jobs for Americans, and we continue to raise $15.75 billion."
This is a great idea and should be incorporated into any Immigration Reform program. (posted 3/4/16, permalink)
Italian To Go: Olive Garden saw a 1% sales increase in its most recent quarter - the fifth straight quarter of sales growth. Profit rose 12% in the Olive Garden segment, higher total sales, higher prices as well as cost-cutting measures.
"Among the improvements, Olive Garden has been investing in expanding its carryout business, known as 'OG to go', in a bid to better compete with the fast-casual chains for diners who are in a hurry. Carryout sales were up 17% compared to the same quarter last year."
It used to be easy to mock the Olive Garden chain. Just as Domino's and Pizza Hut once blanderized the pizza pie in an effort to offend no one in Iowa or South Dakota, Olive Garden once specialized in inoffensive and forgettable dishes approved by focus-groups somewhere in the U.S. where the Italian demographic was low.
Several years ago, the Darden Restaurants empire, owner of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse and other chains, wised up, redecorated its restaurants and substantially improved the menu, as well as the dining staff, now comprised of post-teen, responsible folks.
We like OG's takeout. Portions are generous and the food is tasty, even as next-day reheated leftovers.
In the 1950s and '60s, there were thousands of wonderful mom-and-pop Italian eateries (mostly in the Northeast and West Coasts plus Chicago), ranging from plain Jane places with linoleum-topped tables to fancier establishments with indirect lighting and wall murals showing Venetian gondolas and Tuscan hill towns. All offered wonderful Italian food. But the owners got old and wanted to retire.
Unfortunately, their children - having gone to college and now working in high-paying, dress-up desk jobs - had no interest in slaving over a hot kitchen stove. Most of these neighborhood establishments closed. And Olive Garden moved in. It has finally become a dependable choice for good Italian food. (posted 1/11/16, permalink)
2016 CES: Several news sources have declared with the Voice of Authority that the Consumer Electronics Show "is now a car show." Huh? There have been cars at CES for a long time. Back in the early-1980s at the CES, I saw the mega-hyped Vector W2 mid-engined supercar, with its twin-turbocharged, 600 horsepower V8 motor on display. Top speed was claimed to be 242 mph. In my opinion, the Vector was the Tucker of the late 20th Century.
Perhaps this year's Faraday Future will be the Tucker of the 21st Century.
The 2016 show is full of drones (including a $40 mini-drone from Mota which is no bigger than a large paperclip), 3D printers, robots, virtual reality devices and more smart devices than in a 2050 Sharper Image catalog. The show covers 2.4 million square feet of space across several convention centers, including the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo. The Consumer Technology Association hosts CES and its members represent $285 billion in U.S. industry revenue.
There are nine car makers at CES, some of them introducing driverless cars and electric vehicles. Only nine? So much for CES turning into a car show. Of course, consolidation means there are fewer auto makers these days; DeSoto, Mercury and Pontiac don't have booths here. But McLaren was there showing its electronic goodies at JVC/Kenwood's stand. One of the exhibitors, Mercedes-Benz, is supposedly developing four Tesla fighters, all of which ride on a new EVA platform. Two sedans and two crossovers will begin arriving in 2018.
Mercedes also unveiled the cockpit of the 2017 E-Class at the show. It "heralds an all new era in digitalization with high-resolution visualizations and animations, touch-sensitive control and also smartphone integration with capacitive aerial coupling and wireless charging." Does that "aerial coupling" thing make you a member of the Mile High Club?
It could easily be called an appliance show: Samsung is peddling a $5,000 smart fridge. It comes "complete with sensors, cameras, smart capabilities and a huge touch screen display. It also takes a picture of what's inside your fridge every time you close the door - meaning you'll always be up to date on how much milk and bread you have left."
Or, you could just keep your existing refrigerator and use a pencil and paper to make a supermarket shopping list, a proven system which has worked for almost 100 years.
Last year, tech giant Apple announced that it might begin producing cars in 2019. My grandmother used to keep apples in her refrigerator. Circle of Life. (posted 1/8/16, permalink)
More 'Musings' can be found here.
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copyright 2016 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved
The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.
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If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.
If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.
Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.