December 31, 2011

Another Year Older and Deeper In Debt

The year is over. I just had a birthday. That means it's time for quiet reflection and evaluation.

Or not.

With very little fanfare and an appalling lack of public awareness, let alone outrage, the public debt of the United States recently exceeded the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Let that sink in for a moment. The national debt is now larger than the value of every good and service produced in the nation.

Upset yet?

The President is about to ask the Congress to increase the U.S. debt limit by $1.2 trillion, raising the "limit" $16.4 trillion. Congress is expected to approve this increase. And even if in a rare spasm of fiscal sanity they vote down the increase, the President has the authority to veto their disapproval.

Angry yet?

The Socialist solution to this is to raise taxes on the wealthy. They argue that if the wealthy pay their "Fair Share" the problem will be solved. Not quite. If the federal government seized every penny of wealth from those on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans the $1.5 trillion they got would do little more than cover that debt limit increase.

Dismayed yet?

When Congress gets around to budget issues, this is how it goes. (I'm using made up numbers.) The left wants to increase spending by 6%. The right says "no way" and proposes increasing spending by only 3%. The left screams and howls about how the uncaring right is slashing government and how people will suffer. They then reach a bipartisan agreement to increase spending by 4.5% with a promise to reduce spending in the future. The right crows about how much they "saved" and the left continues to howl about how much people will suffer from the draconian spending cuts. THEY DO NOT CUT SPENDING. EVER.

Angry yet?

A debt is an obligation to pay. How are we going to pay back the $15 trillion we currently owe if we're about to up that limit to $16.4 trillion? The answer is we can't. Certainly not as long as we continue to pile up massive annual deficits. The only options we have are to massively inflate the currency and pay our creditors with worthless dollars, or just simply not pay. Cutting spending to a level at which we can begin to buy back the debt is not something we as a nation appear to be willing to contemplate.

Consider your own life. What would happen if you decided that you were going to pay your mortgage or your car loan with Monopoly money or just not pay at all. Your creditors would come after you and seize the assets. One of our largest foreign creditors is Communist China. A nuclear power that recently launched it's first aircraft carrier. We owe them $1.16 trillion. OPEC nations, on whom we remain dependent for energy, currently hold a combined $229.8 billion in U.S. government  securities. How do you think they will react when we stiff them on that debt?

Worried Yet?

As a nation we have been riding the gravy train of government social welfare systems for decades. We're quickly running out of track, and the derailment will not be pretty.

Do you care?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:36 AM | No Comments | Add Comment

December 17, 2011

Dim Bulbs Of Government

I have seen some celebration of the Congress passing an omnibus spending bill containing a rider which temporarily defunds enforcement of the lightbulb ban.

The passing of another stop-gap massive spending bill that probably no member of Congress knows the contents of us hardly a cause for any sort of celebration. If they had let the government shut down for a while, I would have drunk a toast in their honor. The fact that Congress is so inept and so incapable of legislating that they repeatedly find themselves in in these do or die legislative crises is beyond deplorable.

Regarding the light bulb situation, my response amounts to So F'n What.

Full disclosure I don't have any 100 watt lightbulbs in my house. Though I may still have a couple in the garage. They're great in that sort of utility situation but for general lighting in the house I'd rather use 2 or 3 60 watt bulbs than a single 100. You get as much or more light spread more evenly around the room. 

For me the issue is not about the practical impact of not having a particular light bulb on the market. It is about the fact that I am not free to make that choice. I am aware that there are compact florescent bulbs available for me to purchase. I know that even though they cost more they are allegedly more efficient and have a longer lifespan. Over time the savings on my electric bill should at least make up for the higher cost. Allegedly.

I have had some CFLs in the past. I dislike them immensely. I don't like waiting for them to come to full brightness and once they get there, the quality of the light is ugly. I have had them. I have used them. I do not like them.

Thus I choose to use incandescent bulbs. I choose them because I like them better. They come on at full strength and and, even if it's just from years of conditioning, I like the light they give off. They don't last as long but they are relatively inexpensive to replace.

The most meaningful phrase in all of that lighting discussion is "I choose to use." I am, for a little while longer apparently, free to choose what sort of lightbulb I use in my home.

If we accept as a matter of course the loss of the freedom to choose the lightbulb we wish to use, then where is the limit to how much liberty the government can take from us?

This temporary delay of the lightbulb ban is both meaningless and venal. Either the federal government has the authority to regulate and control our lives to the point where they are dictating what lightbulb we must use or they don't. Where are the members of Congress who will stand up for individual liberty and put a stop to this?

Congress achieved nothing with this stay of execution for the incandescent bulb. As usual the liberty and freedom of individual Americans was used as a political bargaining chip. We are supposed to be grateful to them for this temporary easing of the government boot to our necks. To hell with that. And to hell them.

And there's this.

I had a further thought on the practical implications of the postponement of the the lightbulb ban but since I really wanted to frame the issue in terms of government eliminating our freedom to make even the most basic choices in our lives I'm putting it in the extended entry below.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:10 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

December 11, 2011

How Not to Solve a Government Created Problem

Why is it that whenever the government creates a problem their solution always involves more government?

The answer is really very simply and really quite monstrous in its evil. The more they can inject government into your life the more deeply and thoroughly they can control your life.

Recently at New York's Kennedy Airport an 85 year old woman was subject to what amounts to a strip search. This is the result of a "security" system that treats everyone as an equally dangerous potential terrorist threat. Personally I wouldn't feel the least bit threatened if airport security wave 85 year old Alice Zimmerman through the least stringent security possible and offered her a cup of tea.

But in the interest of appearing politically correct any person traveling through an airport is treated as equally suspect. The result is intrusive searches of senior citizens and pat-downs of small children.

But have no fear. Two brave public servants have stepped forward with a proposal to deal with this scourge. And their solution to an out of control trampling on individual liberty and dignity government agency? You guessed it. More Government.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and state Sen. Michael Gianaris of Queens want the Transportation Security Administration to create the position at all airports.

Great idea. Instead of doing anything about the problem let's create yet another layer of government to act as a go between and protect the public from the previous failed level of government.

Sometimes they make it really hard to be an optimist.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:28 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

December 10, 2011

Primary Redundancy

I didn't do a search, so I can't provide links to back up this assertion, but I have a sense that I have written the same post in some form during every other presidential primary season or election since I started this blog on August 30, 2003

The essence of the thought can be captured in the expression "None of The Above."

There is not a single person currently running for the office of President about whom I could say, "I want that person to be President."

There is absolutely no one in the GOP Primary that I am rooting for to win. I think every one of them would probably suck at being President and in the end if they accomplished anything it would still be in doing more harm than good.

That said, I think all of them would suck less than the current office holder simply because it is impossible to conceive of a president more inimicable to the idea of individual liberty, free markets and limited government. Any of the GOP candidates would probably have a better harm to good ratio. But if that doesn't sound like a glowing endorsement that's because it wasn't meant to be.

There is no way out. There is no viable political alternative. We as a nation, at least those who bother to participate, will have to choose between The One and whomever the GOP chooses to nominate. Current polling shows relatively close races between The One and the two leading GOP contenders. When the sitting president has polling numbers for approval and job performance that are worse than those of Jimmy Carter and the best the opposition front runners can manage is close to a statistical tie that says a lot about the quality of the opposition candidates.

The election of The One as the first black U.S. President (OK half back but I'll give it to him) was indeed a historic event. History will no doubt also record him as one of the biggest Oval Office failures in the nation. The GOP primary this year should basically be a contest to see who replaces The One. That it looks like there will be a significant electoral contest in the general election is beyond disappointing. It's disgusting.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:58 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

December 08, 2011

OMFG NOOoooooo

Do you get a queezy uneasy feeling when you contemplate a GOP choice between Gingrich and Romney? Then here's a thought that should send you screaming into the night.

Gingrich has said he would consider Romney on his short list for possible V.P.

There are not words adequate to describe how awful an idea that would be.

Via: Hot Air

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:39 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

December 03, 2011

A Race to the Race

Congratulations to Telefonica for their victory in the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Also to the Camper team for second, and even the Groupama Team for finishing third. They didn't have the best race and they are probably thinking to themselves that they got third by simply being one of the three boats that managed to finish the race. But that is part of sailboat racing. Your boat actually has to make it to the finish.

Six boats crossed the starting line in Alicante Spain on November 5 racing for a finish line in Cape Town, South Africa, by way of a turning mark at the island of Fernando de Noronha off the coast of Brazil. 7,480 miles of pushing a boat to it's limits.

Shortly after the start Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing lost their mast in heavy wind and they turned back to the starting point to install their spare mast. Once they had the mast in the boat a couple of days later they took off racing again. But not having had enough time to thoroughly test the new rig, having no chance of finishing better than last, and not being sure they could make it in time to start the next leg, they decided before they had made it out of the Mediteranian that their best option was to retire from the leg and ship the boat to South Africa and be tested and ready to go for leg two.

There's was not the only disaster in the early days of the race. Team Sanya struck something in the water during the first night of racing resulting in a large hole in the bow of the boat. A watertight bulkhead kept the boat from sinking and they were able limp to the nearest port. And for them leg one became a race of logistics. A ship was secured to transport the damaged boat to South Africa. In the mean time, a team of boat building specialists flew into Cape Town and began building a new bow section for the boat. Their goal was to build a section of hull bigger than the area damaged on the boat so that when it arrived they could cut away the damage and have enough new hull to make the repair.

This is project that would normally take weeks. When Sanya arrived in Cape Town they had eight days. They are working night and day and expect they will have the boat repaired and in the water in time to race.

Ordinarily, that would seem like a heroic accomplishment of management, logistics and hard work. But then there's the Puma story.

Somewhere in the middle of the South Atlantic The Puma team also suffered a broken mast. Unlike the Abu Dhabi team, they were more than a 1,000 miles from the nearest port. They jerry rigged some sails on what left of the mast and started up the onboard diesel - very slowly. These boats carry just enough fuel to power the generator and keep their batteries charged for the expected length of the race. They didn't really have enough fuel to go very far.

But the shore team was fast into action. They made contact with a freighter that was "nearby" and would divert their course to meet Puma and supply them with the fuel they needed. As the Puma boat bobbed alongside the freighter at what they hoped was a safe enough distance to keep from being crushed, 10 gallon cans of diesel were passed back and forth on a series or ropes between the two vessels.

Fully stocked with fuel they shifted the engine into high and headed for inhabited land, the Island of Tristan De Cunha. Tristan is the most remote inhabited place on the planet and has a population of 262. The shore team was busily arranging for a freighter with an onboard crane to meet Puma at the island, hoist the boat on board and take it and the team to Cape Town. Simultaneously the team's spare mast was prepped and flown from Newport R.I.

The first ship didn't work out. I never caught the reason but they just couldn't make it. So second ship was contracted. It left from Dhurban for Cape Town to pick up the cradle for the boat then proceeded on to Tristan Cunha.

Tristan does not really have a protected harbor. They do have a break water that would not, however, accommodate the freighter. The task of lifting the boat out of the water onto the ship would have to happen in open ocean. It was only going to be possible if the wind and waves cooperated. A carbon fiber sailboat hull does not respond well to crashing into the steel hull of the freighter.

The freighter, the Teem Bremen, arrived a Tristan and they were able to load the Puma boat without incident and they got underway. If the weather cooperates the Team Bremen will arrive in Cape Town on Tuesday. The new mast transported by truck from Johannesburg arrived at the team's dock on Saturday after multiple truck breakdowns.

The in port race portion of the event is scheduled to take place next Saturday. There is a pro-am race on Friday but I don't think that counts in the points standings. The Start for leg 2, Cape Town to Abu Dhabi (5, 430  nautical miles) is Sunday, December 11. If Team Puma is on the starting line for those races it will be an astounding convergence of hard work and amazing luck.

I am once again participating in the Virtual Volvo Ocean Race and finished leg 1 in a disappointing 14,594th out of 121,060 boats. I was at one point just under 4,000 but made a couple of unfortunate tactical decisions that put me on the wrong side of a couple of weather systems. Actually it was one decision that put me on the wrong side of a weather system that left me on the wring side of the next weather system, and the next… I entered with zero expectation of winning because doing so requires and investment of time I'm not willing to make even though the winner gets a nice new Volvo SUV! I'll consider myself satisfied if I finish a leg in the top 10%, happy if I finish in the top 10,000, beside myself giddy if I finish in the top 5,000. I'll keep you posted!

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:00 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

No Dog in THis Fight

A while back I started writing a series of posts on the GOP primary candidates, offering my entirely unsolicited opinion and advice to my GOP friends. I've done Romney and Cain (and I know two posts does not a series make so I have some work to do on that score) because they were the top dogs at the time. Now the newest leader of the pack is Newt F'n Gingrich.

Are you kidding me?

When I suggested the GOP nominate anyone but Romney, Newt was somewhere around 7% support in the polls.  I seriously didn't think the GOP could possibly be that stupid. I guess I should have learned my lesson last year when I hoped the Democrats would nominate anyone but Hillary Clinton.

That Gingrich wasn't laughed out of the race within two days of filing the paperwork says something about the GOP. That he is currently the front runner for the nomination says something even more frightening. If it's a choice between Romney and Gingrich the GOP might as well draft John Boehner or Olympia Snowe.

At this point GOP voters should stop worrying about finding a candidate with solid conservative principles and just try to find one with any principles at all.

I think I'm kind of done offering these people the benefit of my wisdom. I'm normally fond of tilting at windmills but all of this shouting into a gale force wind of electoral stupidity is getting tiring.

There are many reasons I am registered to vote as an Independent. The biggest one is that the GOP does things like make Gingrich or Romney their most likely nominees and I want no part of it. There may be some of you wondering "why not get involved and try to change things?" Well, it never changes, for one thing. For another, I live in the very small, very blue state of Connecticut. There is a Republican party here but it is about as effective and relevant as the Libertarian Party of Saudi Arabia.

In the end I will probably wind up in a voting booth in November of 2012 holding my nose and casting symbolic vote for whomever the GOP sends up against The One. That The One will walk away with Connecticut's electoral votes without even bother to campaign in the state is a given. And I'll cast a token vote for the Republican sacrificial lamb in Connecticut's Congressional contests. And I will go home feeling like I need an intellectual and moral shower with the only solace available being the end of The One's socialist reign and the return to GOP socialism lite.

Would it be too much to ask that they make it at least a little fun? Could they, just for a while, make Ron Paul the front runner?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:09 AM | No Comments | Add Comment

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