Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mr. President - Hope Springs Eternal

It is interesting and maybe a little disturbing how the press falls all over any statement by the President as if it were a meaningful presentation of “new” information.

Today, President Obama stood before the microphones and announced a New Deal between the automakers, the autoworkers, the environmentalists, some portion of the elected officials and state governments. The historic compromise announced is an agreement on “tough” fuel economy rules, setting a standard of 35.5 miles per gallon. A change in the way business is done in Washington according to numerous news agencies.

The Obama administration will set regulations that will mandate a 5% annual increase in the fuel economy of new vehicles to 39 m.p.g. for cars and 30 m.p.g. for light trucks in model year 2016. In return, the auto industry will drop its lawsuits against California and 13 other states that had planned their own standards.

Yes, history in the making. But, is it really a big deal? Let’s see what is under the hood of this amazing story.

Well, two of the automakers, General Motors and Chrysler are now controlled by the President so I guess they would agree to any compromise he presented. Two of the other ten automakers, Toyota and Honda are presently producing the kind of cards the GM, Ford and Chrysler can only dream about, so for them … no big deal. Oh, did you read the end of the story where the House Democrats proposed to double up to $50 Billion to help the automakers actually produce the cars that are currently being produced by the Japanese, Korea and others. Of course, they were all smiling. The U.S. taxpayers will be sending them more money to do what they are already doing.

The autoworkers, how about them? These guys just want to be working right now so anything that says its okay to build cars is fine with them. But don’t forget, the UAW owes a big debt to the President of covering their butts with the GM / Chrysler bailout instead of letting the free market work and put them out on the street. So, autoworkers vote the way their benefactor points them.

The states why do the fall into line? Well, the largest state represented California already has stricter laws on its books so I guess Gov. Schwarzenegger could comprise on this one since he can’t get anyone in California to agree with him. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm left the White House shortly after the event … I think maybe because her stomach could not handle the “great victory” that still leaves her state with massive unemployment.

Legislators why are they so happy? Well, they know that any Presidential statement needs Congressional approval so the numbers are going to change. Remember the Congressional Democrats only take broad suggestions from the President not actual direction and certainly with no expectation that the President will get what he asks for, even when he asks nice.

The environmentalists … well, this is their President so whatever he says is fine with them. Ask them later in private if he will deliver.

Oh, what was not in the headlines … all cars will cost at least $1,300 more, thank you Mr. President. Of course, what everyone forgets is that Toyota just dropped its price on cars that exceed the President’s standard to compete with Honda’s cars that beat the standards which both cost less than any by GM, Ford or Chrysler. So, why the increase in cost when the technology is there already? Next, everyone knows that big SUV’s are on the way out so eliminate them from the equation and how big a jump is really?

Oh, did you read the end of the story where the House Democrats proposed to double up to $50 Billion to help the automakers actually produce the cars that are currently being produced by the Japanese, Korea and others. Of course, they were all smiling. The U.S. taxpayers will be sending them more money to do what they are already doing.

“Three or four other presidential administrations have tried to do this and weren’t successful,” Schwarzenegger said. “This president, after 120 days in office, has created the action that brought everyone together.” Oh Arnold, you must have forgot that when previous presidents actually said these kind of things that did not get done is because of that place call Congress. Yes, we have a big to-do, which still requires Congressional approval which will not take place until sometime next year which will be an election year so actual approval? So, add at least one more year to the actual goal.

In addition, the automakers will hire the numbers guys that are helping the banks to report high profits the first quarter of 2009 with any changes in their operations. The banks still maintain the subprime loans on their books that were causing them the huge losses only six months ago. Those guys will help the automakers meet the “government” standard without any significant change in the product being produced.

My suggestion, which has been stated clearly by others, is much simpler and cheaper on the American taxpayer. Increase the gasoline tax. Americans will reward the companies that produce better gas mileage cars by buying them. Net cost to the American taxpayer … increased income and no money to automakers. We win, we get better cars and during the interim money flows to Washington to cover their crazy spending.

Monday, May 18, 2009

So Predicatible

It concluded. Its over. Now the long summer, autumn and probably a significant part of winter. Yes, my friends ... Jack Bauer has completed another season of 24.

You say who cares? Well, then go back to watching your basketball championship, look forward to your baseball playoff, your preseason football and your football season and in between don't forget your fantasy pretend make believe sports. You probably watch an occasional hockey or golf when you feel the lack of sports.

Well for those of us that would rather watch a man routinely torture and maim the enemies and an occasional friend of this country it was a sad evening. The final two hours of the really longest day.

Of course it had a predictable ending which I will not share with you in case you are a loyalist but had to Tivo or DVR the episode but there were minimal questions remaining and yet ... you might have predicted the outcome maybe four or five weeks ago.

Leave it to say, the highlight may have been Chloe attempting to give Janis (Janeane Garofalo) a compliment. Wow, you almost see Chloe smile. It was an amazing moment.

Of course, we are left with what could next season possibly bring that could top this last seventh season or the prior six seasons. I ask this because, using another author's convention, my wife felt the need to own all of the prior seasons on DVD so we can watch and rewatch and rewatch them over and over to make sure we do not miss even one small clue of Jack Bauer's quest to save the world.

Let's see ... 24 predicted a black man as president ... and we have Obama ... of course the 24 black president gets assassinated. 24 brings us a woman president ... well if and I am not advocating this but if the president, vice president, speaker of the house, and I thing some one else gets put out of the way ... we could have President Woman (Hillary). You thing far fetched ... I don't know Bill really wants back in the White House ... so ...

Well, lets leave it say Jack saved the world for now, left us with a potential future conspiracy ... and may have given us a future team member who understands that torture is only torture if its being done to your guys.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Why Do We Do It Time and Time Again

They tell you ... and by they you know who they are ... they say that exercise is good for you. They tell you that you should get out in the fresh air, out from behind the computer screen. It is better for you. Who says this? The people sitting at their computer screens writing "how to live a better life" articles for other people who are locked to their computer screens waiting for the "experts" to tell you how to live a better life.

What they forget to tell you is that participating in those outdoor athletics can confront you with a serious problem. Serious is the time you are participating and they begin to keep score. Keeping score is the evil devil that accompanies sports.

Now I am not talking about professional sports where scores are merely the ways the bookies can tell you how much money you lost when you misunderstood "the spread". Or fantasy sports where you make up a team that does not exist to compete against another person's pretend team in a contest that only takes place in the netherworld of the internet. Fantasy sports was developed by professional sports empire as another way to suck you into their pretend it is important world ... the world for the bored sports nuts who can not figure out any more sports to follow while sitting in front of their computer.

Okay ... old man get to the point already.

Went golfing this afternoon. A pleasant sport. You only compete against yourself. Who said you are your own best friend? I can tell you that the person espousing this insane philosophy was obviously sitting in front of his/her computer screen and not doing anything physical other than typing.

You stand there ... towering over a little ball ... usually white but can come in cute pink, yellow or other cute colors ... with cute dimples ... you have that long metal stick with a club the size of a huge hitting area ... and there in front of you is a big wide open green field. Take the club head back straight, bring it back to where you started and hit that dam white dimpled ball. Where did it go? In the woods, in the sand, in the water ... yes, anywhere but that big wide open field.

Well, enough ... you are not your own best friend because your best friend would let you win occasionally ... would let you feel good about yourself.

Simple ... golf is an easy way to prove to yourself that you are less than ... and that little white dimpled ball ... its laughing at you except when you hit in the water to make it stop giggling. But, I will be back tomorrow and I will strike that dam ball and make it my servant ... or I will hide my head once again.

Life Of an Old Man

Some of you may be aware that recently, this Old Rambling Man turned another year older. It was an auspicious event, when of those birth year anniversaries that are divisible by 5 or -0-. So, a couple of thoughts on aging.

1. It beats the alternative, yes getting older is better than thinking ... oh he would have been 525 years old today.

2. All your jokes about getting older. Well, think about this young whipper snappers, age is relative. When I was your age, my age was near very old. Today, my age is the time when you can begin to enjoy yourself. You get grandchildren which are the best, you can ignore who you want and you can spend all your time embarrassing your children.

3. People ask you if you feel older. No, today is just about the same as yesterday. I did not want to walk around the block yesterday and surprising, I do not want to really walk around the block today.

4. What was #4.

5. People give you better liquor as presents. I am now the proud owner of a bottle that I only have to get those special people who like a tar, fishy, excessively peaty tasting liquid here to drink with me. I mean how can you not like something with this description:

Appearance: Full, rich amber.Nose: Big and rounded. At first, richly sweet: soft toffee, crème brulée, dried fig. Just keeps growing in the glass. Behind, fragrant natural oils, beeswax, polished oak furniture. Then, citrussy wood smoke with freshly ground peppercorns, burnt sugar, treacle toffee. Becomes increasingly maritime: wet-suit, iodine. Then exotic, concentrated, musky. With water, not so heavy, herbal, with more tar, like a herb-based cough medicine.
Palate: Great maturity. Wonderful thick mouth feel at full strength: fine structure, with enormous authority. Oily. Nutty. Sesame oil? Sweet and rich, with a fascinating battle between sweet and salty underneath and rich, peppery, wood smoke. Stem ginger. Hugely complex and deep. With water, smoother, sweeter (dried fruit) saltier (brine) and smokier (smoked beef). Silky yet firm.
Finish: Dark, richly smoky and urbane, long into the night. Complex mix of pepper, rancio, peat and new leather.

6. Earlier on you got to embarrass your kids only to their local friends. Now with the internet, you can embarrass them in front of the entire world. Well, maybe that is not a good think but it is interesting to imagine.

7. Your gut is now not such a big thing, all you have to do is hang around guts who have been working on theirs for longer.

Oh My You Could Imagine

For all you "hope and changelings" these are the best of times and the worst of times. For those who understand history it is certainly not the best of times, but fortunately for you its the best of times. Can you spell socialism? Unless of course you are paying attention to the drift away from those wonderful campaign promises.

Early on we had the ... we will not torture ... quietly though ... we will create a commission to study how to torture within the law.

Who can forget those wonderful words ... we will close Gitmo in twelve months. Right after we first have to figure out where to put the bad guys. Europe who complained about Bush, now says ... we do not want those bad people. Don't worry Congress ... particularly the Democrats want to close that bad place. Surprise, every Congressman and Senator has said ... sure do it ... just don't put them in my backyard. Liberal outrage against the injustice is not as loud as "I need to get reelected so don't upset my voters".

This administration will be open and transparent. The loud public announcement, we will hand out those gruesome pictures to satiate the ACLU's lust for torture victims pictures. Except, oh, maybe not because it might endanger our troops. You say thoughtful, I say a year ago, you were yelling at the Bush Administration for blocking the public's right to see all.

Of course, we can not forget the "I am a friend of Israel without question" that was such a wonderful campaign tune. It only runs on conflict with "I want the Muslim world to love me like no other". Well, when Bibi comes to town on Monday, Obama can make a long list of what Israel must do for peace. Then when Abbas and the other Arab leaders come in the following weeks, Obama can tell them what Israel will do and wait for their thank you because we know there will be no similar demands upon them because "what can you expect from Arabs?"

And of course, we can all remember, the fiscal discipline promise. California's pay attention. California about to go bankrupt structures a deal to balance the $42B deficit caused by Republicans spending when they said they would save. Okay, they are politicians. So, among their cuts is $74M in compensation to the home health care workers. Imagine that cutting compensation! Well, the home health care workers union remembered the campaign promises of the man they helped get elected. So, they make a phone call to the White House outlining their problem. So, without hesitation, the White House hung up the phone and called the Terminator. See Mr. Terminator, we know you have a fiscal crisis on your hands. We know you are asking everyone to sacrifice. You are raising taxes and cutting spending. It is a novel idea that cutting spending. How did you ever think up the idea of raising taxes on all citizens and not just the excessively wealthy? Well, we salute your efforts. Oh by the way, if you do not give our friends back their $74M we will be forced by the laws of one hand washing the other to not give you that check for $6.8B in stimulus money we promised you.

And of course, there were all those Bush era threats to do harm to their enemies. Well, Obama is not about to let that philosophy be discontinued. Seems the hedge fund guys did not like the Chrysler deal. Seems hard as it is to imagine, that the deal favored the UAW over all other creditors. So, the hedge fund guys tried to hold up the deal. Well, the White House made a call to those bad people and said ... go along or we will destroy you!

Imagine that from the Hope and Change Guys!