Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Baptist Pastor Prays for Obama to Die & Go To Hell

There are very disturbing people in America today. Hate groups are on the rise. I thought we had gotten past most of this type of behavior. I am a strong advocate of free speech and the First Amendment, but this type of extremism could lead us to violence by inciting those on the edge of sanity to return us to an era of assassinations like in the 1960s. Even these type of lunatics have rabid followers. This man has very serious issues.

If I may quote from the book this man purports to teach:

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence."

1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NKJV)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cash For Clunkers - A Bad Idea

I will admit that I am not an economist, so those far wiser than me can likely refute some of what I say here. Still, with the CARS program, commonly known as "Cash for Clunkers", ending today, it seems a good time to reflect on this government stimulus plan.

When the government bailout of General Motors and Chrysler Corporation took place, I was skeptical. After all, these are companies that had failed for a variety of reasons, most of them self-inflicted. So while I understood the need to try to save jobs, why reward these firms from the public till, for poor management decisions? We had already bailed out the banks, who turned around and rewarded their executive teams with big bonuses from the emergency taxpayer monies. Now we repeat the bailouts for GM & Chrysler?

Then there is the fact that even if these companies survive in the short term, what will change in the long term? What would they do differently than what they had done to arrive at such a sorry state of affairs? The real problem is people are not buying their products in sufficient quantities to sustain their businesses. With unemployment soaring, even if people want to purchase one of their cars, how can they do so? It is a bigger problem than paying the current bills coming due.

So now we come to the CARS program. I understand the desire of the government to get us all into more fuel efficient automobiles. I also understand the fact that this program creates a short-term spike in demand, which is good for the economy in general, and for the automakers specifically. It also is one stimulus plan that actually addresses the demand side of the equation and does something for the average person. But at what cost?

As a matter of principle, I am opposed to taking tax money from all of us to subsidize the purchase of new cars for a few. Why should any of us pay for our neighbor's new vehicle?

I also believe that the program is flawed in that it doesn't have any requirement that the rebates apply only to cars manufactured in the United States. We need to stimulate the economy at home before sending the tax monies to companies in Japan, Korea, and Europe. Sure, our economies are all interconnected, but for our public tax dollars, let's make sure they go to work at home before sending them with an express ticket to Tokyo.

Another issue is that many of the cars deemed to be "clunkers" are perfectly serviceable autos that are much better than many folks can afford to purchase. It seems extremely wasteful to purposefully destroy a perfectly good car that could help someone get to their job. It would be better if these vehicles were donated to charity rather than ruining their engines and crushing them. Sure, it doesn't get them off the road, but they won't last forever anyway. In the meantime, they could do much good.

And what about the parts market that will be negatively impacted by this destruction? Used replacement parts are one way that families can save money on repairs. Is this right to destroy what may be difficult to locate parts? This can conceivably create price inflation for those parts as a function of a more limited supply.

It isn't the proverbial bed of roses for those taking advantage of the program either. In hard economic times, how many people who have their cars already paid for, will rush out to buy a new one under this program, only to lose their jobs and be left without any car at all. Even if they don't become unemployed, a big downside to this is that instead of having a perfectly good auto with no payments and lots of good miles left in them, people now have locked themselves into a new monthly payment.

Then there is the fact that while the program was running, there was an expected spike in demand. But this is just a temporary spike. If someone was going to buy, they would likely do it during the program, and not wait until it expires. Artificially induced demand dries up once the stimulus for the demand ceases to exist. Will people also hold back on purchases waiting for an encore of the program?

Overall, I have come to the conclusion that this is a misguided program that likely began with good intentions, but the net result is not worth the cost.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

How Long Would YOU Survive?

How long could you survive after punching a bear in the balls?

Created by The Oatmeal

Microwave-Free Zone

The title of this post in no way means I believe there is anywhere not being bombarded by radio frequencies. The entire universe is awash in radio waves in a variety of lengths from natural sources. Here on earth, radio waves do everything from track our airplanes to hooking us to the Internet via wi-fi. No, instead I am speaking of cooking with a microwave oven. Or not.

The Lovely Spouse and I moved into this house about 16 months ago. There was not a built-in microwave oven, unlike the past places we have lived for years. We have actually had a microwave oven in our homes since the early 1980s. So our initial thought was to buy one. At first we thought of buying a counter top oven, but then considered that maybe we should just purchase one to mount under the counter over the stove. In the meantime, as we wrestled with this dilemma, we continued to cook, and found out that we were doing okay for now, so the purchase could wait. As time moved on, we realized two things. One, we were doing fine without one; and two, the food we prepared by more conventional means was better!

With the Lovely Spouse, it became a contest to see how long could we hold out buying a microwave oven. As it turns out, indefinitely. And then there's the quality of the food. Meat reheated in a microwave tends to get overdone and dry. Potatoes don't have the same consistency as conventional oven-baked ones. As I am writing this, I am eating some delicious tamales I bought frozen. In the past, I would have popped them in to the microwave for about 3 minutes and eaten them. Instead, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil, topped it with a covered steamer with the tamales inside for about 25 minutes. I can attest, the steaming produces a moist, tasty and hot product; whereas microwaving them would have made them hot, but less evenly heated and much drier.

There are many times that we would have used the microwave in the past that we now use the toaster oven. Quick and efficient! Between that applicance, the stove and the regular oven, we are doing great. One of my sons was over shortly after we moved in, and he asked? "Where's your microwave?" In my best hillbilly voice, I replied, "Don't got one!". His reply was priceless. "How do you cook?" What he was trying to do was heat some water. We introduced him to the good old tea kettle.

Are there times I miss having a microwave oven? Sure. But only occasionally. Most of the time, I don't care anymore. The food is tastier, and it doesn't take long to fix either. If you preplan just a little bit, you will enjoy flavorful, moist meals with little fuss. Now the question is do we go even further with the retro lifestyle? Do we dump satellite TV for over the air broadcasts? Do we kill the cell phones and just use the home line? In these hard economic times, maybe this is all part of a simpler, more frugal lifestyle.