Free Markets, Free People

Culture

Is Obama disconnected from the reality of the nation’s plight?

Michael Goodwin, writing in the NY Post, has some observations about President Obama that strike me as pretty “right on”.  It’s something I’ve noticed too. 

But the debt debate made it clear that Obama’s idea shop is running on fumes. Like a broken record, he’s stuck on the same song — bigger government, higher taxes. No matter the circumstance, he repeats the mantra.

For such a smart guy, he’s proving to be a slow learner about what works, and doesn’t. He, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid had their unfettered way for two years, and they blew a giant hole in the budget without getting much bang for taxpayers’ bucks.

Unemployment is a staggering 9.2 percent and rising, and most economists believe the economy is in serious danger of a double-dip recession. Obama’s answer: Let’s do it all again.

He gives lip service to the pain of the unemployed and underemployed, then trots out the old ideas. Usually he doesn’t even bother to repackage them.

Absolutely on target.   The mantra never changes or deviates. Those old ideas are, as always, anchored in the left’s love for taxes and class warfare.  The premise is that all we suffer today can be put at the feet of a select group of scapegoats:

So we heard again that the evil "oil companies" and "billionaires" and the "wealthy" and "big corporations" need to "pay their fair share." Doesn’t he ever get tired of saying the same things?

I don’t know which is worse: That he really believes such drivel will help America, or that he’s cynically throwing red meat to the Bubbas of his far-left base. Either way, he needs new material.

He seems disconnected from reality.  He seems to think that the same old policies that have actually gotten us into this mess will somehow get us out.   Proof that it isn’t just “red meat” for the “Bubbas of his far left base” can be found in the budget the White House submitted to Congress.  It was a pre-recession budget that gave no hint of understanding where we were economically.  It didn’t garner a single vote in the Senate – not one from either a Republican or a Democrat.  Yet Obama continues to push this message even as the numbers get worse and worse.  It’s all the “corporate jet owners” fault for not paying their “fair share” yet not a single corporate jet owner has ever had the power to put spend a single penny toward the 14 plus trillion dollar debt we’ve piled up.

Maybe he hasn’t noticed or doesn’t care, but the country is giving up on him. The shellacking his party and policies took in the 2010 midterms would be repeated if there were an election today. He’s sinking, and his approval is now a woeful 40 percent — that’s Jimmy Carter territory.

Indeed.   In the meantime, as Jammie Wearing Fool notes, now that he has more money to spend, it’s party time.  Obama will use his executive jet to travel to Chicago to hold an fund raising event.  As usual the spectacle couldn’t be more poorly timed:

Obama’s fund-raising team is using his birthday to plan events across the nation designed to benefit his 2012 re-election bid — both to organize and to raise cash.

† About 1,500 donors are expected at the Aragon Ballroom in Uptown for a concert with Herbie Hancock, Jennifer Hudson and OK Go. The tab runs from $50 a person to $35,800, which includes a private dinner with Obama.

† There will be 1,167 house parties across the nation today, designed to help build the field operation and Obama will speak to them and take questions from backstage at the Aragon via a Web video conference.

† A team of surrogates is being deployed to events in seven cities.

We all know politicians have to fund raise, but a lavish fund raising gala after an increase in the debt ceiling that puts the nation even deeper in debt may not be the best “optics” right now.   But when you’re disconnected, you usually don’t notice things like that.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Is Atlas shrugging?

Of course what I’m about to cite is an anecdote.  It is hard to claim there’s a trend.   And we don’t even know if the threat was carried out.  On the other hand, we also don’t know how many times the thought process and decision voiced here have been silently made by people who have the ability to hire and expand, but just don’t see the hassle being worth it.   And, of course, it doesn’t help that what they’re trying to do is demonized at every step.

The story told below takes place in Birmingham, AL.  I love B’ham – spent years and years doing business there.  It’s like a second home.  Birmingham was once the “Pittsburg” of the South, with a huge and flourishing steel business.   Of course that’s gone now, at least most of it.   One of the reasons Birmingham was the Pittsburg of the South was because the state had both iron ore and coal deposits.   And one of the major coal mining regions is a county just north of Birmingham named Walker County.

Here, from the David McElroy blog (via The Conservatory) is Ronnie Bryant:

He operates coal mines in Alabama. I’d never heard of him until this morning, but after what I saw and heard from him, I’d say he’s a bit like a southern version of Ellis Wyatt from Ayn Rand’s novel. What I saw made an impression on me.

I was at a public hearing in an inner-city Birmingham neighborhood for various government officials to get public input on some local environmental issues. There are several hot topics, but one of the highest-profile disputes is over a proposal for a coal mine near a river that serves as a source of drinking water for parts of the Birmingham metro area. Mine operators and state environmental officials say the mine can be operated without threatening the water supply. Environmentalists claim it will be a threat.

I’m not going to take sides on that environmental issue, because I don’t know enough to stake out an informed opinion. (With most of the people I listened to today, facts didn’t seem to matter as much as emotional implications.) But Ronnie Bryant wasn’t there to talk about that particular mine. As a mine operator in a nearby area, he was attending the meeting to listen to what residents and government officials were saying. He listened to close to two hours of people trashing companies of all types and blaming pollution for random cases of cancer in their families. Several speakers clearly believe that all of the cancer and other deaths they see in their families and communities must be caused by pollution. Why? Who knows? Maybe just because it makes for an emotional story to blame big bad business. It’s hard to say.

After Bryant listened to all of the business-bashing, he finally stood to speak. He sounded a little bit shellshocked, a little bit angry — and a lot frustrated.

My name’s Ronnie Bryant, and I’m a mine operator…. I’ve been issued a [state] permit in the recent past for [waste water] discharge, and after standing in this room today listening to the comments being made by the people…. [pause] Nearly every day without fail — I have a different perspective — men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just … you know … what’s the use?

I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I don’t know. I mean, I see these guys — I see them with tears in their eyes — looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So as I stood against the wall here today, basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting.Thank you.

Whether Ronnie Bryant actually did what he said isn’t known – but his frustration is clear and his decision as stated, warranted.

The question is how many Ronnie Bryant’s are out there right now?   How many are tired of the demonization, the taxes, the hassles, the bars government and environmental groups erect that make business difficult if not impossible to conduct?  How many have faced men and women with tears in their eyes because they can’t pay the mortgage or feed their family, but know that hiring them would actually be more difficult and costly than just continuing as they are now, or, as Bryant claims, just decide not to open a business because of the intrusion, over-regulation, demonization and the increasing level of obstacles put in the way of business?

That story, at least to me, is a stunning and telling example of the anti-business culture that has been created and nurtured within this country.   This isn’t some apocryphal or fictional example to demonstrate a point.   This is a man listening and deciding that it just isn’t worth it to open a business that would bring in 125 jobs, consume 50 to 60 million in consumables a year (downstream jobs) and, of course, mean tax revenue to both the city, county and state. 

But coal is unpopular.  It is demon coal.   So an industry that powers the nation and generates the electricity that the complainers in the audience and the government bureaucrats there will use when they go home is trashed in a meeting along with business in general.  And a man who could offer something critically needed – jobs – makes the decision that in the climate he observed, it’s just not worth it to open a business up.

How many times in how many local meetings like the one described in Birmingham is there a Ronnie Bryant who just says, after listening to all the trash talk, ‘screw it, I’m not going to bother to open a business’?

Atlas Shrugging – something our lefty friends said was fiction.  

Given today’s business climate, it seems more like a self-fulfilling prophesy, doesn’t it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

The economy–between a rock and a hard place

The latest reports on the economy is due out this week and it doesn’t appear they will contain much good news:

Economists have been insisting for months that the economy is poised to lift off into a self-sustaining orbit, only to be forced to scrub the launch date several times.

Thus the repeated “unexpected”. 

The way the economy works is that it takes growth higher than a 3% rate before good things, like a sustained decline in unemployment, even start to happen. Anything in the 2.5%-to-3% range is just treading water.

Growth has averaged 2.8% over the past seven quarters. And at this point, economists would welcome a 2.5% growth rate.

Economists polled by MarketWatch now expect growth to actually decelerate to a 1.6% annual rate in the second quarter from a tepid 1.9% rate in the first quarter.

Those are some pretty shocking numbers when you consider all the political hype that’s been flying around lately about the “vastly improved” economy.   I’ve put in bold type the numbers you need to know to be able to analyze the numbers thrown around as these reports come out.   As you can tell, we’ve been in the treading water stage for quite some time.

We’ve covered many of the reasons.   One is the administration’s war on carbon-based fuels – an sector that could be creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, revenue and growth if not essentially shut down by bureaucratic foot-dragging and stifling regulation.  ObamaCare is another reason we see blamed because it has thrown thousands of new regulations about health care at businesses.

Those and other factors have led to extraordinary caution on the part of business about expansion and hiring.  So where are the profits these companies are enjoying coming from? 

The sluggish pace of hiring may be hobbling the US economy, but it’s not been holding back big US companies’ profits thanks to growth overseas and cost controls at home. And that’s bad news for the more than 14 million Americans without jobs.

Big businesses would normally be desperate for surging job growth as it would feed into domestic demand but these aren’t normal times. Massive growth opportunities overseas, especially in China and other buoyant Asian economies, have some of the largest American companies on track for record profits, even if they’re businesses are mostly treading water in the US.

The message last week from the chief financial officer of one of the nation’s industrial giants couldn’t be clearer.

"We’ve driven all this cost out. Sales have come back, but people have not," said Greg Haynes, chief financial officer at United Technologies Corp. "It’s the structural cost reductions that we have done over the past few years that have allowed us to see strong bottom-line results."

The company, the world’s largest maker of air conditioners and elevators, said second-quarter profit rose 19 percent, and it is doing most of its hiring in emerging markets where demand for its products is growing fastest. It isn’t alone in seeing profits climb in the current earnings reporting season.

They’ve learned to do more with less, thus their cost cutting measures in the really bad times are now beginning to pay off.  The easiest and quickest way to cut costs, of course, is reduced headcount.  They’ve also identified new markets that aren’t as onerous or unsettled to do business in – so their hiring – what hiring they’re doing – is overseas.  And given all that, it’s unlikely to change anytime soon:

Employers added fewer jobs in June than at any time in the past nine months, and the jobless rate rose to 9.2 percent, higher than when the recession ended in early 2009.

"We’ve never seen the kind of shedding of jobs that we saw in this recession. America’s corporations have never been running so efficiently," said Ellen Zentner, senior US economist at Nomura Securities in New York.

An example of that is the car industry:

With the economy still struggling to regain momentum after the financial crisis of 2007-09 and 14 million Americans out of work, the planners at GM and a host of corporations across America are in no rush to make big new investments to ramp up output and hiring.

The world’s second-biggest carmaker has not re-opened its idled plants or built new ones as Americans rein in spending.

Like many US manufacturers, it is squeezing more from existing factories and using time-honoured efficiency boosts such as adding to overtime and eliminating plant bottlenecks.

‘Our manufacturing folks have been tremendous at squeaking out extra units through improving line rates, adding on extra shifts,’ GM’s US sales chief Don Johnson said.

That, of course, means a long recovery period for employment.   Here’s a rather startling “did you know” fact for you:

Has anyone in Washington noticed that 20% of American men are not working? That’s right. One out of five men in this country are collecting unemployment, in prison, on disability, operating in the underground economy, or getting by on the paychecks of wives or girlfriends or parents. The equivalent number in 1970, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, was 7%.

That’s neither a good cultural or economic trend and certainly not a trend that we want to see continued into the future.  It has a tendency to have a negative effect that can be profound.  It also tends to see incidents of criminal activity rise. 

So what is government to do?   Follow policies that will encourage businesses to expand and hire.   Exploit those sectors that have low hanging fruit like the carbon-based energy sector.

Instead, what do we get?  Thousands of pages of new regulations and laws.   More and more government intrusion.   A further and artificial stifling of the economy.

Result?

Well read those bold numbers again and ask yourself if that’s what you’re willing to live with – because as it is going now, despite its rhetoric to the contrary, it is that with which this administration seems to be content to live.

And that is unacceptable – or should be.  

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

I come to bury Caesar, not praise him

Conor Friedersdorf takes a look at an essay in Esquire that is simply astounding in its delusional aspects.  It is by Stephen Marche who seems to hav come untethered from reality.  The essay’s base question is:

"Before the policy choices have to be weighed and the hard decisions have to be made, can we just take a month or two to contemplate him the way we might contemplate a painting by Vermeer or a guitar lick by the early-seventies Rolling Stones or a Peyton Manning pass or any other astounding, ecstatic human achievement?" he writes. "Because twenty years from now, we’re going to look back on this time as a glorious idyll in American politics, with a confident, intelligent, fascinating president riding the surge of his prodigious talents from triumph to triumph."

“Glorious idyll in American politics”?  Where on earth has this man been for the past 3 years?  If this is glorious wouldn’t you hate to see terrible?

And correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve seen very little to indicate this president was the least bit fascinating or confident.  And while he may be intelligent, he’s certainly not led during his presidency.  In fact, if anything he’s been led.  And led badly. 

Friedersdorf correctly points out that Obama isn’t the first president to be so unabashedly, obsequiously and shamelessly worshiped, nor is that only a trait of the left.  But you have to wonder at what level Marche must set his own internal bar to find himself able to write that paragraph without upchucking on his keyboard.

Luckily we find out fairly quickly where he sets the bar:

"The turning point came that glorious week in the spring when, in the space of a few days, he released his long-form birth certificate, humiliated Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and assassinated Osama bin Laden," Marche writes. "The effortlessness of that political triptych — three linked masterpieces demonstrating his total command over intellectual argument, low comedy, and the spectacle of political violence — was so overwhelmingly impressive that it made political geniuses of the recent past like Reagan and Clinton seem ham-fisted."

Good lord … those are “triumphs”?  A “turning point”.  Highlights of his presidency?   He released a paper, ordered a monster assassinated (and had no real choice to do otherwise) and humiliated a political opponent who is roundly recognized by all as a dufus.

Wow.  Bow down, all ye mere mortals.

Friedersdorf:

This is how little we now expect of our leaders. A man showed his birth certificate to scattered kooks, and the release of that bureaucratic form is deemed "a masterpiece." As is humiliating Donald Trump — a man who is perhaps the easiest to mock of all the reality TV stars!

Exactly.  So how does someone find those events so compelling and enthralling that he writes an essay extolling them?  Well I’m as clueless as you are on that front.   But to be honest, when it comes to this president and his sycophants, nothing much surprises me any more (see Nobel Peace Prize).  Well, almost nothing:

"In 2011, it is possible to be a levelheaded, warmhearted, cold-blooded killer who can crack a joke and write a book for his daughters. It is possible to be many things at once. And even more miraculous, it is possible for that man to be the president of the United States. Barack Obama is developing into what Hegel called a ‘world-historical soul,’ an embodiment of the spirit of the times. He is what we hope we can be."

You have to check numerous times while reading dreck like this to be sure that you haven’t really linked to the Onion.  You keep peeking at different parts of the page hoping you finally spot that which will let you know this is a joke piece.  But you never find it.

Is “a levelheaded, warmhearted, cold-blooded killer who can crack a joke and write a book for his daughters” really the “embodiment of the spirit of the times” and what “we hope we can be”?  Really?  Or does it sound like a character from a Brad Thor novel?

Friedersdorf does a credible job of destroying Marche’s premise with facts.  A terrible thing in the fantasy world Marche has constructed.  Friedersdorf makes it clear that Obama is just another of many ordinary politicians that have come to power and we shouldn’t glorify him (or them).  He ends his fisking with:

This is no time to enjoy Obama, as the Esquire writer asserts, or to treat him deferentially, as if he has earned our trust.

In all administrations, Congress is a necessary check, as is the Fourth Estate, as are the people. Our current Congress is failing spectacularly. It is filled with Republicans who’ve no idea how to govern and Democrats whose civil liberties bona fides evaporated as soon as their party came into power.

Thus a greater burden is imposed on the media and the people. To cast Obama as the living embodiment of the zeitgeist is as absurd as imagining him to be a shadow outsider who hates America. He is a normal politician, one whose behavior in office often times conflicts with the ideals that put him there. What we ought to do, insofar as it’s possible, is be skeptical, vigilant and demand better.

Although Friedersdorf might disagree with me, I contend that the media too is “failing spectacularly” – at least the establishment media.  And the Esquire piece is simply the visible tip of a very large media iceberg that first came to the public’s attention during the 2008 presidential election when many in the media gave up all pretense of objectivity or being unbiased.   It was particularly shameful, and for the most part, hasn’t changed. It is one of the reasons someone like Marche feels comfortable penning this absurdly silly essay.  What was left of the media’s credibility went the way of the Dodo after that performance and they haven’t yet regained it.

That’s left it up to the people as the final check.  The people, who are now routinely attacked and dissed by both politicians and the elite media.  The one “check” on this runaway freight train of government power is the most powerless and confused.  If one want’s a reason for the 3 past wave elections we’ve had, the confusion and dissatisfaction of the electorate is the answer.   And that hasn’t changed a bit, despite Marche’s paean to his political god.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Happy Independence Day–apparently it’s punch a Republican day too

I’m always amused when the left gets a little frustrated.  Somewhere in the “dance” that takes place with the give and take they often let their mask slip and let the inner beast out.

Many times its just a result of not getting their way.  For instance, New Jersey.  Known for its hardball politics, when the Democratic President of the Senate didn’t get consulted by the governor concerning the budget after claiming to have worked with Governor Christie on the parts of the budget together (obviously expecting political payback for doing so) the Governor apparently held to principle and using the power vested in him by the NJ Constitution used the line item veto to further “prune” the state budget.  Obviously his pruning took out some of the funding for programs that Sen. Sweeney felt he’d saved by cooperating previously.  Since that wasn’t the case, Sweeney lost his cool, went personal and launched a full ad hominem attack.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney went to bed furious Thursday night after reviewing the governor’s line-item veto of the state budget.

He woke up Friday morning even angrier.

"This is all about him being a bully and a punk," he said in an interview Friday.

"I wanted to punch him in his head."

I’ve always been of the opinion that the punk is the one who ends up attacking like that, suggesting violence, etc.  Now obviously you can argue that the politics of the past gave Sweeney the impression that cooperation would yield compromise.  Give a little on his side, get a little for his side.  But the belief that he’d get that was just that – a belief.  Obviously Christie felt he’d been clear about what his goals were and how he planned on accomplishing them.  Sweeney just as obviously thought he’d gotten around that by early cooperation. 

We often hear it said of Barack Obama that he is doing exactly what he said he’d do and we shouldn’t be surprised.  Apparently that argument is void in New Jersey.  Senate President Sweeney expects the old way of doing things – you know the way that has them in deep financial trouble – to prevail over the new way, i.e. a principled approach to running government and paying off the debt.  Obviously the guy who is doing what he said he’d do doesn’t agree with Sweeney. 

What a punch in the head, huh?

The other example is sort of just the mask slipping all by itself.  A self-inflicted wound so to speak  -and many times it’s on Twitter *cough*Wienergate*cough*.  For instance the Communications Director for the Wisconsin Democratic Party supposedly celebrating, one assumes, the “birthday” of Medicare.

Now there are a number of ways one could do that in 142 characters.   And an abundance of them would be perfectly acceptable, show one’s support for the program (if one supports it) and relay why the person writing the Tweet supports said program.  That’s if you’re not an idiot.   And that’s exactly what Graeme Zielinski comes across as in his Tweet:

 

a-july-4-message-from-dems

 

Nice to see Democrats in such fine form in the “civility” department.  Perhaps now we can see a cessation of all the hypocritical and condescending lectures from them about the need for civility in politics, huh?

Nah.

Happy 4th.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Chicago lawyer amazingly claims Boeing’s move to South will net workers with "poor skills"

Honest to goodness, if this doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will.

Yet the Boeing case has a scarier aspect missed by conservatives: Why is Boeing, one of our few real global champions in beefing up exports, moving work on the Dreamliner from a high-skill work force ($28 an hour on average) to a much lower-wage work force ($14 an hour starting wage)? Nothing could be a bigger threat to the economic security of this country.

We should be aghast that Boeing is sending a big fat market signal that it wants a less-skilled, lower-quality work force. This country is in a debt crisis because we buy abroad much more than we sell. Alas, because of this trade deficit, foreign creditors have the country in their clutches. That’s not because of our labor costs—in that respect, we can undersell most of our high-wage, unionized rivals like Germany. It’s because we have too many poorly educated and low-skilled workers that are simply unable to compete.

We depend on Boeing to out-compete Airbus, its European rival. But when major firms move South, it is usually a harbinger of quality decline.

Wow … really?  So all those F-35s being built in Ft. Worth, and all those C-130s and F-22 Raptors being built in Marietta, GA, not to mention the myriad of car manufacturing plants, specialty steel plants, hi-tech industries, etc. all have seen ‘quality declines’ because they’re located in the South?

Good grief, my guess is this guy hasn’t been out of Chicago since 1970?  You’ve got to love the correlation he tries to draw between “high-skill” and $28 bucks an hour with “low-skill” and $14 bucks an hour.  Yeah, that works, doesn’t it?   It’s a bit like saying a guy who opens and closes a blast furnace door at $28 bucks an hour is a “high-skilled” worker.   Doesn’t correlate at all does it?  But that was an actual wage for an actual job at a steel plant before it went out of business because it was uncompetitive, thanks to unions, years ago.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the guy writing this is a labor union lawyer and he thinks everyone who reads the Wall Street Journal is an idiot.

Here’s his one and only example of why he thinks he’s got this all figured out.  As he says, he “represented the workers” in the first plant.  He’s speaking of Outboard Marine Corp:

In the 1990s the company went from the high wage union North to the low wage South and was bankrupt by 2000. There are reasons workers in the North get $28 an hour while down in the South they get $14 or even $10. Adam Smith could explain it: "productivity," "skill level," "quality."

Of course the reason it went bankrupt might have absolutely nothing to do with any of that.  It might be because the corporation was uncompetitive well before the move and the move was a last ditch effort to save itself.  But we don’t know, and this yahoo decides it is “productivity”, “skill level” and “quality” which were the problem.  Of course BMW’s plant in SC doesn’t suffer from any of those problems does it?  In fact one of the reasons the Germans are making their cars there is because of the productivity they achieve there.  Same with all the car plants across the south to include those opened fairly recently by Honda, Kia, Hyundai, BMW, and Mercedes – in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for heaven sake.  The reason they’re in the South is they get more “productivity”, “skill” and “quality” for the wage than they do in the North.

But to admit that would be to admit that perhaps the problem is unions, not Southerners.

However, our clueless lawyer isn’t done:

Here is yet another American firm seeking to ruin its reputation for quality. Why? To save $14 an hour! Seriously: Is that going to help sell the Dreamliner? In terms of the finished product, the labor cost is minuscule: $14 in hourly wage, at most. It’s incredible that conservatives claim such small differences in labor cost would be life or death to Boeing. It’s not labor cost but labor skill that is life or death to the survival of Boeing, never mind pilots and passengers.

If the history of runaway shops proves anything, it’s that many go "South" in more than one sense of the word. If that sounds unfair to the South, it is union busting that has inflicted the real unfairness in the region: income inequality and inferior schools.

Yessiree – those airplanes they’ve been building in Marietta GA and Ft. Worth TX have just been falling out of the sky because of all that income inequality and those inferior schools.  What, no “redneck”, “hillbilly” or “barely in shoes” included?  No NASCAR jokes?  Remarks about family trees that don’t fork? Dueling banjoes?  He missed his chance, didn’t he? 

Of course the reason Boeing is opening a plant in SC has nothing to do with wages per se.  His point is correct as far as it goes.  The plant is opening so Boeing and its customers aren’t held hostage to the work stoppages that are normal fare in the union plant in Washington.  And it is hard to blame them for doing that, isn’t it?

Of course pig-headed ignorance about an area like this simply has to be seen to be believed and he proves himself as the poster boy for that.  If abject and unqualified ignorance is bliss, this is one happy, happy labor lawyer.

Wow … 2011 and you find something like this in the Wall Street Journal.  Who said their editors don’t have a wicked sense of humor?

Give ‘em enough rope …

[HT: J.E. Dyer]

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Just not good enough for their neighborhood (update–progress)

John Gonsalves, who runs one of the most awesome charities I know of, Homes for Our Troops, has a problem.  And its one that will make your blood boil.

Gonsalves and his folks build specially built homes for disabled war veterans who have special needs.  Such as SFC Sean Gittens.

Army SFC Sean Gittens was left paralyzed and unable to speak or communicate as a result of a battle related traumatic brain injury. Deployed for the third time in his career, SFC Gittens suffered multiple concussive traumas throughout his year-long deployment to Iraq from April 2007-April 2008. Upon returning home, suffering from headaches and other head-injury related symptoms, SFC Gittens suffered an aneurism in his brain and a subsequent stroke which left him with paralyzed and non-communicative. Treated at multiple hospitals, both military and civilian, SFC Gittens now receives care from trained medical personnel in his home.

Homes for Our Troops identified a place for the home they wanted to build SFC Gittens and his family and went to work getting buying the property and getting the necessary approvals.

Building on the 2700 square foot home was to begin this Friday. Homes for Our Troops purchased the land in December and preparations for building the home have been ongoing over the past month. These homes are a reflection of the gratitude of the community and are given mortgage free to the veterans once complete.

Homes for Our Troops received building permits for the project and has been working closely with the Knob Hill Board of Directors, making multiple changes to the plans for the home as requested. The written approval came from Knob Hill BOD President Rick Trump on June 2nd.

Everything is cool, no?

No.

Late last week, a lawyer for the HOA served the contractors on site with a cease and desist letter to stop the preparation of the build site. Facing strong opposition from the Property Owners Association, the Knob Hill Board of Directors and the Property Owners Association met again on June 20th, just four days before the planned kickoff of the home build. Homes for Our Troops was then notified that the house plans do not meet the Knob Hill standards and the original approval was thus rescinded. Homes for Our Troops has now been told that it must begin anew the entire approval process and that the house needs to be at least 3400 square feet and multi-level to even be considered.

"Shockingly, it appears that the Knob Hill community has decided it does not want to welcome SFC Gittens and his family, as we were previously told," said Homes for Our Troops Founder John Gonsalves. "Despite our working closely with the Knob Hill Property Owners Association over the past four months, we find ourselves in an untenable situation. We cannot afford to add 700 square feet to the house, particularly under our special adaptive plans. And our experience in building over 100 homes dictates that severely injured veterans need a specially adapted single level home. Frankly, this late action begun by the Knob Hill Property Owners means we must suspend working on the home. The Knob Hill Property Owners Association has now assured that SFC Gittens and his family will not be able to have the home they so desperately need. We have done everything in our power to try to resolve this situation, but it appears that the community is not willing to accept this home, and SFC Gittens and his family into the community."

According to Gonsalves, the Knob Hill neighborhood covenants state that the minimum size for a house in the subdivision is 2,700 sq ft (see Fox News clip).  He also points out that there are many 2,700 square foot homes in that subdivision.  And, as you might imagine, given that’s the minimum size the covenants allow, that is the size of the proposed Gittens home.   In other words, the Knob Hill Property Owners Association (Evans, GA) are not following their own covenants.  Gonsalves was told the home was “too small” and “didn’t fit in” to the surrounding neighborhood (with some homes as large as 5,000 sq. ft).

I’m sympathetic to property owners rights 99% of the time.  But this is that 1% where I’m totally against them.  And that’s because they’re attempting to void their own covenants and not abide by them. Remember, these are their PUBLISHED covenants.  These are the minimum standards they AGREED too when they built their homes in that subdivision.  It is the document they’d certainly use to legally enforce the standards therein if it was necessary.  But now they simply want to ignore the document and impose arbitrary new standards that simply don’t exist other than in their demands.

I think the Knob Hill Property Owners Association needs to rethink this entire thing, don’t you?  If you’d like to share your opinion concerning their denial of a disabled vet’s opportunity to live in a home that meets all the standards of their covenants you may want to drop them a line.

Please be polite and respectful, but feel free to make your feelings clear about their actions.  Also remember that, per Homes for Our Troops, not all the people living in that subdivision agree with the board’s decision.  The email address for the board is -  bod@knobhill.org

This is not how America should treat its disabled vets.

UPDATE: Just in (1:20 pm).

The president of the Knob Hill Property Owner’s Association says plans are moving forward for the construction of a home for Sgt. First Class Sean Gittens.

The homeowners association and Homes For Our Troops have been talking. A list of items Knob Hill requires is being provided to Homes For Our Troops.

Both organizations said they hope to make a joint announcement on Monday, June 27, in regards to moving forward with the plans.

Keep the pressure on, but please, be polite and respectful.

[HT: upinak]

 

~McQ

Twitter: McQandO

The democratization of publishing

I love stories like this because the demonstrate the momentous changes that have been introduced by technology which has democratized publishing and not just opened the gates to everyone, but flat torn the gates down:

John Locke, 60, who publishes and promotes his own work, enjoys sales figures close to such literary luminaries as Stieg Larsson, James Patterson and Michael Connelly.

But unlike these heavyweights of the writing world, he has achieved it without the help of an agent or publicist – and with virtually no marketing budget.

Instead the DIY novelist has relied on word of mouth and a growing army of fans of his crime and western novellas that he has built up online thanks to a website and twitter account.

His remarkable achievement is being hailed as a milestone of the internet age and the beginning of a revolution in the way that books are sold.

His achievement is doubly impressive because of the way he accomplished this:

He saw that many successful authors were charging almost $10 (£6) for a book and decided that he would undercut them – selling his own efforts for 99 cents (60 pence).

"I’ve been in commission sales all my life, and when I learned Kindle and the other e-book platforms offered a royalty of 35 per cent on books priced at 99 cents, I couldn’t believe it," he said.

"To most people, 35 cents doesn’t sound like much. To me, it seemed like a license to print money.

"With the most famous authors in the world charging $9.95 for e-books, I saw an opportunity to compete, and so I put them in the position of having to prove their books were 10 times better than mine.

"Figuring that was a battle I could win, I decided right then and there to become the bestselling author in the world, a buck at a time."

Or, he figured that the opportunity of self-publishing allowed him the freedom to decide how much to charge and take advantage of the royalty being paid a lower price.  Obviously you have to have something worth selling, but he’s figured out that formula as well – what most of us would consider “pulp fiction” with mass appeal:

His books – which centre around characters such as Donovan Creed, a former CIA assassin "with a weakness for easy women" and Emmett Love, a former gunslinger – are unlikely to trouble the Booker Prize judges.

But nevertheless they are immensely popular among the new e-Book fraternity, selling a copy every seven seconds and making him only the eighth author in history to sell a million copies on Amazon’s Kindle – a milestone he passed this week.

Phenomenal.  Kudos to Locke … John Locke, that is.   Great name.

The gate no longer exists and that has to make publishers as nervous as the news media is anymore.  Anyone can publish just about anything and, unlike before, the market gets to decide what is or isn’t worth the money and reward – directly – those who manage to give it what it wants.

What’s not to like (our own Martin McPhillips may be able to give us a little insight into this phenomenon – and it will give him a chance to plug his book)?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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US in worse shape than Greece

I’m not sure how many times we or our politicians have to hear this, but to this point, it hasn’t made the impression it should:

Much of the public focus is on the nation’s public debt, which is $14.3 trillion. But that doesn’t include money guaranteed for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which comes to close to $50 trillion, according to government figures.

The government also is on the hook for other debts such as the programs related to the bailout of the financial system following the crisis of 2008 and 2009, government figures show.

Taken together, Gross puts the total at "nearly $100 trillion," that while perhaps a bit on the high side, places the country in a highly unenviable fiscal position that he said won’t find a solution overnight.

Bill Gross runs Pimco, a based in Newport Beach, Calif., manages more than $1.2 trillion in assets and runs the largest bond fund in the world.  Gross went on to say:

"To think that we can reduce that within the space of a year or two is not a realistic assumption," Gross said in a live interview. "That’s much more than Greece, that’s much more than almost any other developed country. We’ve got a problem and we have to get after it quickly."

[…]

"We’ve always wondered who will buy Treasuries" after the Federal Reserve purchases the last of its $600 billion to end the second leg of its quantitative easing program later this month, Gross said. "It’s certainly not Pimco and it’s probably not the bond funds of the world."

Now whether you realize it or not, that’s a good share of the bond market saying, "yeah, you know, not interested". That’s scary. And with China recently unloading some of its US debt notes, it’s not a happy picture for the US, fiscally. As Gross points out, in overall financial condition, we’re worse off than the basket case of Europe – Greece.

We have been getting these warning for literally decades.  We’ve done absolutely nothing substantial to mitigate them.  In fact, we added more to the pile (Medicare D and ObamaCare).   We’re going to crash.   It is time for a huge reality check, gut check or whatever you want to call it.  But like the shopping addicted, we have got to cut up the credit cards, cut spending to the bone, get government out of areas it has no business and take as much power of the purse away from the Fed as we can.  

This is beyond absurd.  And the time to address it is now (if it’s not already too late).

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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“Fearmongering” has become a competitive enterprise

A year or so ago I wrote an post asking “Are we needlessly scaring ourselves to death”?  My feeling was that we do indeed needlessly scare ourselves to death by not putting threats into perspective.  Used in the post were statistics about terrorist attacks via airlines and the likelihood of actually being a victim of terrorism in such a situation.  As you might imagine, given the number of passengers, flights and miles traveled, the risk per se is statistically miniscule.  But that doesn’t keep the population at large from being “scared” of the threat or condoning limits on liberty to hopefully prevent even that tiny percent of successful attacks.

That brings me to a larger point.  The evolution of  “scaremongering”.  Frank Furedi hits on the issue I’ve observed over the years since technology and the internet have given communication a rocket boost that we apparently haven’t quite adapted too.  Scaremongering has become a competitive growth industry:

[T]he massive growth of fearmongering campaigns and crusades over the past quarter of a century has been unprecedented. Fear-fuelled grandstanding becomes most extravagant in relation to the very big catastrophic hazards that apparently threaten the survival of the planet itself. The list of potential planetary disasters is growing all the time. International terrorism, climate change, influenza-type pandemic, the AIDS epidemic, overpopulation, obesity, disastrous technological accidents – these are only some of the many mega-hazards that are said to confront humanity today.

Scaremongering also has a powerful impact in the arena of individual health. Health scares targeting women and children in particular have become a flourishing enterprise in recent years. Health scares are often linked to anxieties about food or the alleged side effects of drugs, pollution and new technologies. Personal security is another important area for fearmongering. Anxieties about crime, immigration and anti-social behaviour are regularly promoted by law-and-order groups. The environment, of course, is now treated as a potentially huge problem in it own right. Anything that has an impact on nature is said to store up big disasters for the future.

With so much to fear, it’s not surprising that there is now an intense level of competition to grab the attention of the public. Scaremongering has become a highly competitive enterprise; contemporary public debate often takes the form of countering one hysterical plea with another.

He’s right.  And the result is a confused public and a debate that spirals out of control with little of substance being offered in the way of constructive dialog and argument.  It is instead replaced by competing attempts to scare the public to one side or the other.  We see it everyday in the so-called political debate.  In many cases as debate about any issue is reduced to scaremongering.  And while many of us may understand that, there are even more that don’t. 

Complex issues are reduced to tag lines and sound bites.  “Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan will kill old people”.  Bumper-sticker scaremongering which opponents to such a plan consider successful if it goes viral and becomes the conventional wisdom.  And those who throw things out like that know, for the most part, that the average American isn’t going to take the time or make the effort to research the plan and attempt to understand it.  He who gets the first meme to go viral out there wins, even if it is blatant nonsense.

And the Democrats or left aren’t the only side which does that (although I’m of the opinion that it is something the left does more than the right based on my observations).   Looking at many of the social con arguments on the right examples can be found that point to the fact that they’re not at all averse to a little scaremongering to advance their agendas.

The result, however, is ironic.  In an era in which unprecedented information on just about any subject or issue are available to just about everyone, we find narratives and memes created by scaremongering to still be accepted at face value by majorities of people.   And that sort of success – scaremongering – breeds imitation.  If it works for side A, side B certainly isn’t going to eschew it.

Consequently, as Furedi points out, scaremongering has become highly a competitive enterprise of claim and counter-claim.

The problem, of course, is the fact that there are things we should be very concerned about, but we have difficulty breaking them out of the clutter of issues being fearmongered.   We also have a tendency to dismiss legitimate claims out of hand, if they sound like fearmongering, because so many of the hyped up issues turn out to be so much nonsense.

Information and perspective are two very important tools in the war against scaremongering.  In my estimation, the battle against the scaremongering alarmists of AGW is a case study in how such scaremongering should be countered.

But there are so many things these days, as Furedi points out, that are being given that treatment that it is not only exasperating but somewhat depressing.   We can’t make rational decision based in irrational and over-hyped issues, but we do it all the time.   Look at what Germany just did with its nuclear power based on the experience of a island nation hit by a tsunami.  That’s likely to happen there, right?  Pure fear expertly exploited.

Fearmongering is something which has to be guarded against and fought.  One of the best ways to do so is obviously through offering facts and perspective instead of a counter claim based in fear.  Unfortunately, for the most part, it seems the sides prefer fear to facts, and that does us all a huge disservice and can be potentially – and I say this advisedly so as not to be branded a “fearmonger” – catastrophic if the wrong policies are implemented as a result.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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