Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Liver and Onions - the Story of My Life

When I went away to college, the dining hall was run by a company known as Saga Foods. Palatable, but not special (except for my dining companions). Except on Saturday night. Saturday was steak* night. Saga Bill would stand outside all afternoon in the Northern Illinois cold grilling steaks over several charcoal grills. Several times I noticed a phenomenon. Just when I got to the point in the serving-line where one would normally be handed their steak on a plate, they ran out. Boom. That's it. I got the alternative choice which no one had taken - Liver and Onions. Now, I like onions well enough, but I never developed a taste for liver. As a matter of fact, I couldn't abide it at all. It was not that I hadn't tried. But the important thing was that the change-over came just when I got there.

Several years later, when I went into the Army it happened every time I turned around. I waited my turn and when it got to me to be my turn, the whole game changed. When I was inducted, the rest of the guys boarded an airplane to fly off to basic training. I was unceremoniously abandoned to fend for myself. In WOCS (Warrant Officer Candidate School) we were hazed constantly by upperclassmen. The practice stopped when my cohort became upperclassmen. When I got to Vietnam, all the others were assigned leaving me standing by myself.

Now, It is about to happen to me again. I have lived my life pretty much by the rules. Behaved myself. Gotten myself out of all debt. Stayed with my job for 25 years. And I am getting toward the portion of the line where they serve the steak - retirement. I never expected much. Just enough to get by on. That miscellaneous cut of meat that is tough, but tastes good enough. But I expected to have some rest (and escape from the ingrateful complaining people adults and children who make up most of our educational system). But as I approach that point in the line, I see the steaks dwindling. The Politicians, the media people, and their cronies have taken the biggest ones for themselves; and more important than that, they are throwing the rest in the trash. They are debasing our currency to buy themselves one more election cycle. They are going to loot our retirements directly by taxation and indirectly by debt so they can get votes and contributions (read bribes) from groups like the UAW and others. They are going to prolong the agony of that meltdown at the expense of my future.

It's not just the stock market, but that doesn't help. That was just a place where people and retirment systems could store their wealth. With everyone trying to escape from being stuck when Obama and the Democrats (in particular, but no exclusively) raise capital gains taxes, no one is buying, so the price goes down and wealth just evaporates.

It is the money itself. Whether the bailout comes from loans from the Chinese ( interest is the largest item in the Federal Budget) or from printing and circulating unbacked currency, our National Treasury is being depleted and our money is not worth as much, will not buy as much, will not support us as much or as long as we planned.
It will not repay our sacrifice in scrimping and saving to accumulate it. And we at retirement will never be able to rebuild our individual wealth.

Whatever I have saved, What ever I have put away, Whatever retirement I have accrued, is about to be liver-and-onions. Just so the politicians can have one election cycle. Just so the UAW can have its overpaid and under-worked jobs for another three months. Just so the executives at AIG can have one more banquet.

And, don't get me started on that line over there for Medical care. Good Medical care is about to run out too. Just wait until the Politicians fix that one.

*Steak in the sense that they were once beef from real cows. The cut of meat wasn't really a good one, and they were tough, but they had sat in the juices and tasted good enough.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Archway Cookies - a Christmas Miracle

I just found out that Archway Cookies shut its doors about six weeks ago and that Lance Cookies has bought the remains and is going to reopen it. But more important, they sent a Christmas present to all the employees who had been dismissed - a $1500 prepaid debit card.

I cannot help but think that the fact that Lance is from Charlotte, North Carolina, has something to do with it. I could do one of my essays about the illogical and stingy things that are bringing us to this point, but I will do that in a separate essay, so as not to steal the thunder of Lance's good deed. Let me just say that as a transplanted Yankee who has lived in the South for many years, that these people, Southern United States citizens, so maligned by the media and the people of the Coast-wise Megalopolises as rubes and bigots are truly the salt of the earth.

For now, I am going to buy and share more Lance crackers and cookies.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On Party Loyalty

It is always the politicians of our own party that become the biggest disappointment -- whichever party that is, particularly in a one party {state|county|city} where there is no competition to keep them honest. In Chicago it is the Democrats who abuse the system, because they can. In the suburbs it is the Republicans. A particularly vicious case are the ones who change party to match whichever party has been winning the most elections recently -- they can generally be counted on to be corrupt, for they stand for nothing really but themselves.
We need to keep them unsure of their tenure, so they stay on their best behavior. And when we treat parties with unquestioning loyalty we get what we deserve.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sea of Tranquility

Sea of Tranquility
Originally photographed by Christopher Ness
Yesterday was the full moon while the moon was at it perigee or closet point to the Earth by nearly 16,000 miles. It is also within ten days of its furthest track north on its annual migration, making for it appearing nearly 14% larger angularly.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Time Has Come

The nights are starting to be below freezing.
Christmas is coming.

Time for the TV News to start pouring out for display its shows of compassion.
It is time to collect toys for the children of crack ho's rather than taking custody of the children.

And it is time for the supreme show of compassion. It is time for the homeless shelter stories -- pictures of suburban white housewives volunteering, putting sheets and blankets on the beds at the shelter while the future beneficiary of that indoor bed stands impatiently waiting. A homeless person so pitiful that he can't even make his own bed.

As my friend Eddie once told me "the poor are different than you or me, they are poor." To which I responded, "at what income level do you wipe you face?"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bailout the Big Three? Or the UAW?

Normally, when I give Ford or GM money, I get a car in return. The union guys go in and take the stockholders tools and materials and make me a car. I have always heard how lazy they are, how everything is "not my job" and "union rules won't allow that." I have also heard of them getting paid for make-work and getting 95% pay for lay-offs.
This seems to be the ultimate destination of the game. Now we just send them money and they do not have to do anything. They have to make no cars. They just get my money. That's it - the whole transaction is "Give me your money or else". I feel like I am being robbed at gunpoint, hands in the air.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Big Three Bailout

Congress is considering bailing out the "Big Three" automakers -- GM, Chrysler, and Ford. The amount is 35 Billion dollars. But no one, no newscaster, no politician, not even any talk radio hosts are bringing that down to what it really means. 35 billion dollars is $35,000,000,000 and would buy 1.75 million twenty-thousand dollar ($20,000) cars or nearly three million Saturns!

But that is only part of the story. "Would buy" means the gross amount, but that is not profit or even the net amount of profit and retained earnings that the companies would keep, which is the real equivalent. That is -- money which would go directly into the accounts of the automakers themselves. This amount is typically 8 to 10 percent of the cost to the dealers. But for simplicity, we will use 10% of gross which is far more than the actual amount and will make my estimate come out low. But using that 10% figure, this is the amount that is paid to the shareholders, the research and development expense, and management expense that would be banked selling 17.5 million $20,000 cars.

To give that some perspective, it has taken GM eleven years to sell three million "Certified Pre-Owned" cars"*. And in the first quarter of 2007, GM sold 2.26 million vehicles and reported net income of $62 million or only thirty dollars per vehicle.**

In any event, this is money removed from the pockets of the very people who would use this same money to buy cars from these companies. So we see what is in it for the "Big Three", what do we get for our money this way?