FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #42: “Romantics often don’t have a clue of what they romanticize about.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 30th, 2010

A Lady like Scarlet O’Hara no doubt Smelled of Ass and Armpit

Some people just don’t like modern times.  Like environmentalists.  Who say things were better before man industrialized everything.  Back before the big cities.  When things were quaint.  Like on that great plantation, Tara, in Gone with the Wind

Yes, things were simpler then.  And better.  There was no plastic.  Or glass and steel skyscrapers.  Or indoor plumbing.  If you had to poop during the night, you just squatted over a bowl.  That quaint, little chamber pot.  Which you either dumped out of your window.  Or left on the bureau until the following morning.

Of course, you didn’t shower every day back then.  Even the wealthy.  Even someone like Scarlet O’Hara.  Who no doubt smelled of ass and armpit.  But things were better back then.  Simpler.  And the environment was cleaner.

Once Upon a Time, Our streets were filled with Poop and Urine

Well, perhaps cleaner is not the word.  Let’s say more natural.  Back before polluting cars and that big-ass carbon footprint, the internal combustion engine, we used horses.  We rode them to get from here to there.  And we used them for work.  And there was no gasoline or polluting products of combustion.  Carbon monoxide.  A horse ate what grew naturally.  The way things should be.  And pooped and peed all over the place.

You ever go to a quaint touristy area with a historic part of town?  Where you can take a cozy moonlight ride in a horse-drawn carriage?  They try to be authentic.  But they throw in a few modern conveniences.  Like a poop bag under the horse’s butt.  To keep the street clean of horse poop.  And free of flies that are attracted to the horse poop. 

In the good old days, the streets were full of horses.  Horse poop.  Horse urine.  And flies.  A lady in here finest Sunday-go-to-meeting dress dragged her dress through those streets.  And the filth in them.  And if she walked on the sidewalks she probably dragged that dress through human poop and urine.  From all those chamber pots poured out from the windows above.  And the flies were everywhere.

To Protect Children in Africa from DDT, We let them Die from Malaria

Then man had to come along and ruin everything.  They took a plow to paradise and built cities.  They paved the streets.  After installing storm drains first.  Little creeks and wetlands disappeared.  As did malaria.

Say what you will about the cities, but a concrete jungle does not breed mosquitoes.  You know what does?  Jungles.  Swamps.  Wetlands.  And you know what mosquitoes breed?  Malaria.  But thanks to America’s concrete jungles (a.k.a., the big cities), we don’t have a malaria problem.

You know who does?  Africa.  Big time.  Because they’re still very much that pristine paradise the environmentalists pine for.  And a mosquito breeding ground.  There’s wholesale dying there because of these little buggers.  And what are we doing about it?  We’re sending them mosquito netting to sleep under.

There was a time, though, when we held the mosquitoes at bay in Africa.  We saved lives with DDT.  By killing mosquitoes wholesale.  But Rachel Carson wrote a book called Silent Spring.  And it did to DDT what the movie The China Syndrome did to nuclear power.  Some countries still use it (India, China and North Korea, for example).  But kids continue to die in Africa from malaria because of the ban of that nasty chemical DDT.

Plastic, Chemicals, Internal Combustion Engines, Glass and Steel save Lives

But there are still some of us that want to get away from it all.  Who eschew this modern world.  They want to get back to a simpler time.  And some do.  In retirement.  Move out to the country.  Away from the big noisy cities.  And away from those big city hospitals.

Not my dad, though.  Good for him, too.  For he had a couple of heart of attacks.  The paramedics were at the house in about 7 minutes.  They had him in the hospital emergency room about 20 minutes later.  They saved his life.  Twice.  With all those things of the modern world.  Plastic.  Chemicals.  The internal combustion engine.  And a glass and steel building in a concrete jungle.

George Washington lived in that environmental paradise some pine for.  He died in 1799.  From what started out as a sore throat.  Washington was the Father of our Country.  The truly indispensible one.  The most powerful man in America.  He could have been king.  It was there for the taking.  He was that loved.  But that didn’t matter in 1799.  In that quaint time, a sore throat could kill.

The Miserable Enjoy Smelling Ass and Armpit?

In our modern world, we use daily showers, deodorant, perfume, cologne and even bidets.  It has become a pleasant smelling world.  And anyone who has sat on a 14-hour flight in coach can really appreciate how nice that is.

I like my concrete jungle.  It’s nice to know that falling asleep with a body part outside a mosquito net won’t kill me.  And if I get sick, it’s comforting to know that I can receive emergency medical treatment within 7 minutes. 

I don’t think those who want to turn the hands of time back fully understand how disgusting and dangerous those times really were.  Or they’re just miserable and hate life.  And they can only find comfort in making everyone as miserable as they are.  Either that or they just enjoy smelling ass and armpit.

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Unions and Government Join Forces Against the American People

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 29th, 2010

The GM IPO Rewards the UAW and Screws the Stakeholders

What do unions and liberal Democrats have in common?  Elitism.  They think they are better than everyone else.  That they are above the law.  And that they should prosper at other’s expense.

The Obama bailout of GM illustrates this. For it wasn’t a bailout of GM as much as it was a bailout of the UAW (see GM’s union recovering after stock sale by Patrice Hill posted 11/25/2010 on The Washington Times.)

The boon for the union fits the pattern established when the White House pushed GM into bankruptcy and steered it through the courts in a way that consistently put the interests of the union ahead of many suppliers, dealers and investors — stakeholders that ordinarily would have fared as well or better under the bankruptcy laws.

“Priority one was serving the interests of the UAW” when the White House’s auto task force engineered the bankruptcy, said Glenn Reynolds, an analyst at CreditSights. The stock offering served to show once again how the White House has handsomely rewarded its political allies, he said.

The UAW didn’t invest in GM.  They did not buy any stock.  They didn’t buy any bonds.  When any other company goes bankrupt, the courts don’t place their employees ahead of the stakeholders.  But not at GM.

Banks loan people money to buy a house.  They take that chance because those borrowing offer the house as collateral.  If they can’t make their payments, the bank can sell the house to recover some of its investment.  That’s a binding legal agreement.  When people cannot pay their mortgage, no bankruptcy judge will award them the house free and clear and screw the bank.  If that happened, no bank would loan money.  And why are banks protected by binding legal contracts?  Because home owners are not protected by unions.

The union’s health care and pension trust fund earned $3.4 billion through the sale of one-third of its shares in GM last week. Analysts estimate that it would break even if it sells the remaining two-thirds of its shares at an average price of $36 — close to where the stock traded shortly after the offering hit the market. GM shares closed at $33.45 on Wednesday.

For taxpayers to break even, by contrast, the stock would have to rise to at least $52 and by some estimates as high as $103 — levels that would take years to achieve.

Not only are the UAW and the Obama administration screwing stakeholders, but they are also screwing the American taxpayers.

The generous share of GM stock given to the union trust fund under the White House deal puts it not only ahead of the Treasury but on a par with secured creditors such as banks, which normally receive the most favorable treatment from bankruptcy courts.

Borrowing from banks is cheapest because they are typically first in line during bankruptcy.  That’s why their borrowing costs are so low.  They have a better chance of getting their money back.  Bondholders take a greater risk.  So they get a higher interest rate.  They’re close to the front of the line during a bankruptcy.  As long the government does not nullify legal binding contracts, that is.

“It gives outraged flashbacks to the old GM bondholders,” who remain mired in the bankruptcy proceedings and are unlikely to recover more than 30 percent of their investments, Mr. Reynolds said.

He compared the deal to the corrupt crony capitalism in Russia under President Vladimir Putin.

And who are these bondholders?  They can be anyone.  Even a retiree who has invested his retirement nest egg in ‘safe’ bond.  Like GM debt used to be.

Craig Coffey, a retiree in Nevada who invested $55,000 in bonds in the old GM that are now worthless, was outraged that the union is on its way to recovering all its money before investors get even a cent of compensation

The Rule of Law and Contracts are Merely Suggestions

Unions and the Obama administration take care of each other.  And screw everyone else.  Banks.  Stockholders.  Bondholders.  And the American people. 

To them the Rule of Law and contracts are merely suggestions.  Mild inconveniences in their pursuit of power and privilege.  The elite take care of their own.  And if you can’t help them win elections, or give them fat benefits, they will walk all over your rights.

You know, Ford didn’t take any bailout money from the government.  Remember that the next time you shop for a car.

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Major Automakers Feeling the Pressure to try and Sell Electric Cars

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 28th, 2010

Electric Trains Don’t Use Batteries

Electric trains are powerful.  Provide fast acceleration.  And are very efficient in converting electrical power into forward motion.  And yet the majority of trains are diesel electric.  Why?

Cost.  Diesel electric trains use a diesel engine to power an electric generator that drives electric traction motors.  And a diesel electric train can carry its own diesel fuel to produce its own electrical power.  So when you build track infrastructure for diesel electric trains, that’s all you have to build.  Track.

Electric trains, on the other hand, require a whole lot more infrastructure.  For every mile of track there has to be a mile of electrical power distribution.  In subways this is usually an electrified third rail.  In above ground trains, this is usually overhead wires.  And this electrical power infrastructure is costly.  So costly that few trains are electrified.

(For more information on electric trains, see Electric locomotive on Wikipedia).

And Cars Shouldn’t Use Batteries Either

Now, do you know why they build this very costly electrical power distribution infrastructure for these electric trains?  Because they can’t run on batteries.  Battery-power would not let these trains travel the distances they need to travel.  And so it is with cars (see Major automakers zipping electric cars into showrooms soon by Jerry Hirsch and Tiffany Hsu posted 11/27/2010 on The Washington Post).

Because it relies solely on battery power, the [Nissan] Leaf has a range limited to about 100 miles – maybe more if driven conservatively in cool weather and definitely less if the engine is revved up with the air conditioning running on a hot day.

The [Chevy] Volt can go a lot farther, primarily because it is technically a hybrid rather than a pure electric vehicle. It goes about 40 miles on a single charge. When the juice runs out, a four-cylinder gas engine kicks in as a generator and powers the electric drive train, extending the car’s range by about 300 miles.

I don’t know about you, but the commute on my last job was about 50 miles – one way.  And I drove a lot of that in the dark.  In cold weather.  You ever leave your headlights on accidentally? 

When I was in college, my car’s headlight control was a little loose.  When I slammed the car door it turned my dome light on.  Some 6 hours later, I found that my dome light had drained my battery.  And that was just the dome light.  Imagine if it was the headlights.  Or an electric heater plugged into the cigarette lighter.

You can go Further on a Full Tank of Gas than on a Fully Charged Battery.  And that’s while Using the Headlights and the Heater.

Those rosy mileage estimates are all well and good as long as you are driving in the daytime, during warm weather and going downhill both to and from work. 

You have a digital camera?  If so, tell me how much longer your battery lasts when you don’t use the flash?  You see, that’s the dirty little secret about these electric cars.  Unless you put a nuclear reactor under your hood, you’re not going to have the range to go anywhere but to the corner grocery store.

And speaking of digital cameras, how long does it take to recharge your battery?  I mean, can you put it in the charger and then take it right out and start using it?  Is it like going to a gas station?  Where you stop to fill up your gasoline tank and then drive away minutes later?  Or do you carry around extra batteries because it takes too long to recharge a discharged battery?

Pay More and Get Less when Choosing Electric over Gasoline

People know these electric cars will only provide a fraction of the range, reliability, comfort and safety of a gasoline powered car.  And to add insult to injury, you have to pay more to get less.  People aren’t stupid.  So to get people to pay more for less, the government has to subsidize these lemons.  I mean, cars.

The Volt will start at $41,000. The similar-size Chevrolet Cruze LTZ sedan with an automatic transmission, navigation and other bells and whistles is about $26,000.

Nissan’s Leaf hatchback starts at $32,780. A similarly equipped conventional gasoline Versa hatchback from Nissan starts at less than $17,000.

A $7,500 federal tax credit designed to accelerate entry of electric vehicles into the marketplace will reduce the cost of both vehicles.

These cars are almost twice the cost of their gasoline cousins.  And they can only go a fraction of the same distance on a charge.  The ‘backup’ gasoline power plant on the Volt has 650% more range than the battery.  And you know what?  If you run low on gasoline you can top off you tank and go another 300 miles.  With a dead battery.

Bribing People to Risk their Lives in Battery Deathtraps

Unless you’re taking stupid pills, I can’t see why anyone would pay more for less.  I mean, there’s a reason why the majority of trains are diesel electric even when electric trains are more efficient.  Because they can’t run on batteries.  And electrical power distribution systems are just too costly.

If batteries were viable the government wouldn’t have to bribe people to risk their lives.  And they are.  Risking their lives when they drive these cars.  To get what little range they can out of these, they’re going to be tiny little cars.  And light.  To get as much out of that battery as possible. 

But, to save the environment, we have to sacrifice people.  It’s either us or it.  Think about this when your daughter drives off to college or her job. And what she’s going to do if her charge runs out in a bad part of town.

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Government and Unions can Take a Bad Situation and Make it Worse

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 27th, 2010

If you Think TSA is Dysfunctional and Unpopular Now, Wait Until it Unionizes

Question:  How do you make a bad situation worse?  Simple.  Add more government.  Or a union.  And if you really want to make things worse, add a government union.

The TSA is not very popular these days.  What with their nude imaging leering and their groping of our naughty bits.  They say it’s for our security.  But it feels more like we’re living in a police state.  But at least we can fire those who cross the line and enjoy these sexual assaults a little too much.  Well, for now, at least (see How to Make Air Travel More Infuriating by John Fund posted on 11/26/2010 on The Wall Street Journal).

But if you think TSA is dysfunctional and unpopular now, wait until it unionizes. This month, the Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled that 50,000 TSA personnel will be allowed to vote on whether or not to join a union with full collective bargaining rights…

Imagine if every change in procedures had to be cleared with union shop stewards. While it is not easy to fire TSA personnel now, just think how difficult it will be to remove bad employees if they are covered by union job protection agreements.

I think I see something questionable in your groin, ma’am.  By the power invested in me, I will need to take a closer look.  We have no female agents available, so I will have to insert my man-hands into your panties and feel around in the name of national security.  But you can trust me.  I work for the TSA.  And if you have a problem with this, tough.  I’m union protected.

If You’ve been Sexually Assaulted, it’s Best that You don’t Wear Pantyliners During TSA Security Screening

Sure, I’m being silly.  I mean, what could be suspicious in a woman’s panties (see Sanitary Towel Prompts TSA To Grope Sexual Assault Victim by Steve Watson posted on 11/25/2010 on Prisonplanet.com)?

I recently traveled via air, and was subjected to that new scanning device. “No problem,” I thought. I was wearing jeans and a linen tanktop, bra, panties, and one camouflage pantyliner.

No doubt common for women to wear bras and panties.  And pantyliners.  Should be no big deal.

These new scans are so horrible that if you are wearing something unusual (like a piece of cloth on your panties) then you will be subjected to a search where a woman repeatedly has to check your “groin” while another woman watches on….

Well, I guess in the name of security we must make some women uncomfortable.  What’s the worst that can happen?  A mild case of embarrassment?

But what ultimately happened is that I was subjected to search so invasive that I was left crying and dealing with memories that I thought had been dealt with years ago of prior sexual assaults.

Oh.  It can be that much worse.  We can traumatize a woman by invoking memories of a sexual assault.  Maybe we should revisit TSA screening procedures.  Come up with something that won’t traumatize people.  Maybe look for bombers instead of just bombs.  Use psychological behavior to narrow down the number of invasive bodily searches.  You know, as long as the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t object, of course.

Doctors to Save Medicare by being Screwed by Government

All right, we know what a train wreck the TSA is.  Surely there are things that government does well, aren’t there?  Well, let’s take a look at a big government program.  Medicare.  The government is cutting Medicare payments to doctors.  The program’s spending is so out of control that these cuts are pretty steep.  How steep?  Enough to make doctors drop Medicare patients (see Doctors say Medicare cuts force painful decision about elderly patients by N.C. Aizenman posted 11/26/2010 on The Washington Post).

Doctors across the country describe similar decisions, complaining that they’ve been forced to shift away from Medicare toward higher-paying, privately insured or self-paying patients in response to years of penny-pinching by Congress.

Not only that, but the system is forcing doctors into specialties, depleting the ranks of the primary-care doctors.

On average, primary-care doctors make about $190,000 a year, kidney specialists $300,000, and radiologists close to $500,000, figures that reflect the income doctors receive from both Medicare and non-Medicare patients. The disparity has prompted concern that Medicare is contributing to a growing shortage of primary doctors.

But can you blame them for going into specialties?  Being a doctor is hard.  All that schooling.  Long hours during residency.  And they’re saving lives.  For which they get paid Bupkis.  Shouldn’t we pay them well after they go through all that hell?

“The argument that doctors literally can’t afford to feed their kids [if they take Medicare’s rates] is absurd,” said [Robert] Berenson [a Commissioner of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent congressional agency]. “It’s just that doctors have gotten used to a certain income and lifestyle.”

Easy for a government bureaucrat to say.  But look at the life of a doctor.

But, “the whole system would need to change. … I graduated medical school $100,000 in debt. I worked 110 hours a week during my residency for $30,000 a year and sacrificed all through my 20s. And even now, you’re still seeing people all day, with meetings and paperwork at night, on top of the emotional side of worrying when the patients you care for aren’t doing well. This is life-and-death stuff. And I feel like that should be compensated.”

This doctor failed to mention the lawyers constantly nipping at the heels of doctors.  And malpractice insurance ain’t cheap.

Doctors are Paid too Much?!?  Have you seen what Members of Congress Pay Themselves?

All right, let’s take a closer look at some of these doctors’ critics.  Members of Congress pay themselves pretty damn well.  And they don’t save lives.  Or work hard.  They get a lot of time off.  Lots of travel.  Lots of perks.  We can describe doctors as angels of mercy.  We describe a lot of these politicians, though, as scum of the earth.   And look at their salaries (see Boehner under fire: First cut should be lawmakers’ salaries by Jordy Yager posted on 11/5/2010 on The Hill).

The base pay for House and Senate lawmakers is $174,000, while majority and minority leaders each make $193,400 per year.

A run of the mill member of Congress makes almost as much as a doctor.  Considering what little a member of Congress does for that paycheck, who out there can say this is fair?

Unions and Government

The problem with unions and government?  They make life for the average Joe that much harder.  They protect their own.  And force others to pay for their elevated lifestyles.  And they abuse their power.  Always have.  And always will.  At least nothing in history has suggested otherwise.   

It sure gives you a warm fuzzy when you think about Obamacare coming down the pike, doesn’t it?

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LESSONS LEARNED #41: “The want of unearned money is the root of most evil.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 26th, 2010

Money is a Temporary Storage of Wealth that Makes Trade Efficient

People don’t want money.  They want what money can buy.  A dump truck full of money is useless when there is nothing to buy with it.  For money is nothing more than a temporary storage of wealth.

We make or do creative things.  Things or services that people want.  There is a world full of people making goods or providing services other people want.  Some people make cellular phones.  Some people make microwave ovens.  Others provide landscaping services.  And these are the things we want.  Not money.

Money is a tool.  We use it to make trading with each other easier.  People who make cellular phones don’t need to find someone who makes microwave ovens to trade with.  Instead, they receive money for the cellular phones they make.  And the microwave oven makers receive money for the microwaves they make.  Then the cellular phone makers and microwave oven makers can take that money and trade it for what they want.

Our Human Capital Determines the Size of our Paycheck

We call the skills we accrue over time that lets us make or do things that other people want ‘human capital’.  People that have human capital have jobs.  Employers hire them because they have valuable human capital. 

Some people have so much human capital that they start a business.  They’re very good at bringing together an idea, people and resources to make valuable things or services that other people want to buy.

People with human capital are traders.  Just like in ancient Mesopotamia.  Nothing has changed.  Except that we trade more efficiently these days because of money.

It’s Easier to Steal Money than Televisions and Mansions

Not everyone traded.  Some people stole.  Some fought.  When peoples came into contact with each other, they often fought each other.  And the winner took the spoils.

Not much has changed today.  There are people who still steal.  And they are peoples who still conquer.  The only difference really is the efficiency of some theft.  Again, this is due to money.  It is more difficult to steal a 42″ plasma television than it is to steal $750 (which they can use to buy a 42″ plasma television). 

Likewise, it is more difficult for a politician to steal a million dollar mansion than it is to steal money.  Either as bribes from some special interest.  Or from taxpayers.

Unearned – Evil; Earned – Good

Those who steal typically have little human capital.  But because they still want those nice things they steal money.  The problem with theft, though, is that stolen money is transitory.  If you have human capital, you get a recurring paycheck.  Once you spend stolen money, it’s gone.  And you have to steal again.

This want of unearned money is the root of most evil.

People who earn their money with their human capital improve the lives of others.  The more they buy, the more others sell.  And the more jobs these others create.  And these jobs allow other people to use their human capital to buy other things.  Or even make charitable donations.

This want of earned money is the root of most good.

Rockefeller and Carnegie Made and Gave Away Fortunes

John D. Rockefeller made a fortune with Standard Oil.  He was ruthlessly efficient.  No one could refine, transport and sell petroleum products cheaper than he could.  People benefitted from affordable petroleum products.  And after he retired, he gave away vast portions of his wealth to charitable causes.

Andrew Carnegie made a fortune from steel.  Like Rockefeller, he was efficient.  No one could produce quality steel at a lower price than he could.  His steel built the skyscrapers and railroads of America.  He made a fortune.  And gave most of it away to charitable causes.

Most of the politicians that make it to Washington leave Washington as millionaires.  They sell themselves to special interests.  Raise our taxes so they can buy political favor.  And their policies are notorious for the unintended consequences that destroy (e.g., Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) destroyed black families). 

High Taxes and Lottery Tickets Punish the Poor

The federal government has created such an entitlement mentality that some people can’t survive without government assistance.  To fund their destructive policies, they’ve raised taxes on the wealthy.  And impoverished the poor.

With taxes so high, charitable contributions have declined.  Sin taxes (on cigarettes and liquor) have hit the poor especially hard (as they have less disposable income).  Which makes the poor more dependent on government.

But the ultimate insult to the poor has got to be the lottery.  The government entices the poor with illusions of getting rich quick.  And this want of unearned money causes the poor to spend large chunks of their small paychecks or government benefits (that they can’t afford) on lotto tickets.  Hoping to win the big one.  With some of the worse odds in the history of gambling.  (People have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than winning the lotto.  And few people believe that they will ever be hit by lightning.  But they’ll keep buying those lotto tickets.)

But whether a thief, a politician or the poor, the end result is the same.  The want of unearned money makes people make bad choices.  And people suffer because of those choices.

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Happy Thanksgiving (Once we Pass through the TSA, of course)

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 25th, 2010

When You want to Hire the Best

The TSA and their nude imaging and handsy pat-downs are big news this holiday season.  But it’s all for our own good.  To make air travel safer.  Nay, to make all Americans safer. 

So when you travel this holiday season, rest comfortably knowing that America’s best are standing on the last line of defense before you board that aircraft. 

We know this because of the selective recruiting program used by the TSA.  They choose only the best of the best for their intensive training program.  Because our safety is serious business.

I don’t know what that training program is.  But I know where it starts.  On a pizza box (see TSA using pizza boxes to recruit new workers by Ed O’Keefe posted 7/14/2010 on The Washington Post).

“A Career Where X-Ray Vision and Federal Benefits Come Standard,” reads a TSA ad appearing on pizza boxes across the Washington region.

“Washington Reagan National Airport and Washington-Dulles International Airport are now hiring Transportation Security Officers,” the ad said. “See yourself in a vital role for Homeland Security. Be part of a dynamic security team protecting airports and skies as you proudly secure your future.”

But isn’t that limiting your reach for the best of the best?  I mean, what about the ones that don’t eat pizza?

The boxed ad campaign was developed last year in an effort to reach a broader applicant pool, according to TSA spokesman Greg Soule. The agency routinely uses ad space on Metro trains, at gas stations and in newspapers or buys ad time during movie previews.

I can remember the days when recruiters came to college campuses.  But you know the kind of weirdoes you can find there.  No.  It’s better to advertise on a pizza box. 

Besides, if they’re eating a pizza, chances are someone delivered that pizza.  That means they know how to read (a menu).  And can operate sensitive electronic equipment (a telephone).  And who says the TSA isn’t brilliant?

I wonder if this is how the bad guys recruit suicide terrorist bombers.

Be Thankful for our Military.  And Family.

While we suffer the indignities of the TSA this holiday season, take a moment to think about those who can’t.  And thank them.  Our men and women serving in the armed services away from home.  In harm’s way.  Keeping the fight away from our borders.  Making America safe.  So safe that the only one violating us these days is our own TSA.

Please do what you can for those serving in our military.  And their families.  They’re sacrificing so much for us.  Show them how much we appreciate them.  And how anxious we are for them to rejoin their families.  So they can enjoy what we are enjoying this holiday season.  Family.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #41: “The want of unearned money is the root of most evil.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 24th, 2010

Survival of the Fittest is not a Pleasant Way to Live

Whoever said that ‘money is the root of all evil’ got it wrong.  Money gives us peace.  It gives us safe societies to live in.  It’s money that has civilized us.  Differentiated us from the animals. 

Which kingdom is crueler to live in?  The animal kingdom?  Or the human kingdom?  Most will say the human kingdom.  They will point to the Nazis and World War II.  The death camps.  The horrors of the Eastern Front as the Soviets and the Germans waged perhaps the cruelest war of attrition known to history.  And then say check and mate.  Man is worse than animals when it comes to acts of cruelty.  As World War II so clearly demonstrates.

Well, yes, World War II is probably the greatest tragedy man has ever perpetrated against his fellow man.  But a lot of those who suffered and perished were doing so to end the tyranny of fanatical state socialism (Italy’s Fascists, Germany’s National Socialists and Japan’s militarists).  It was a struggle of good versus evil.  Where the evil were behaving like animals.  Using military power, ideology and cruelty in a pure Darwinian survival of the fittest.

Welcome to the Animal Kingdom where the Lame and Young are Eaten

Yeah, you didn’t see that coming, did you?  Only man sacrifices for the good of others.  Animals don’t do that.  That’s why they have so many babies.  Because animals prey on the most defenseless.  They don’t help them.  Babies are easy food.  So they have a lot of babies because so few make it to adulthood.  Because others eat them. 

When a soldier falls in combat, others will risk their own life to drag him to safety.  So many do this.  And the few we see we recognize for this extraordinary act of bravery that is above and beyond the call of duty.

Our nation recently awarded Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta the Medal of Honor.  Our highest decoration.  While serving in Afghanistan.  He is the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.  This is what men do.  Perform selfless acts of bravery to help others.  And people like Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta make the world a better place.

You know what a hurt animal is?  Easier food.  While the other animals run away, predators eat the slower and lame.  Another reason why animals have so many babies.  They’re still food as they grow up.  And they never stop being food.  This is the animal kingdom.

We Used our Brains more than our Brawn

Say what you want about the cruelty of man, but we don’t eat our babies.  Or our lame.  Most of us live out of the elements.  Many in a warm and cozy house.  The necessities of life come rather easy for most.  Whereas lots of animals perish from the lack of food and water, in America even the poor are obese.

So how did this happen?  How did life get so easy for man compared to the animals?  Yes, our opposable thumbs helped.  And our big brains.  But even with these we were still hunters and gatherers.  And when you hunt and gather, you need a lot of land to hunt and gather on.  Because food just isn’t that plentiful in convenient small areas.  So they traveled.  And came into contact with other hunter and gatherers.  Who they then fought for the limited food supply to survive.

This all changed when we used our brains more than our brawn.  Instead of gathering food, we farmed.  Instead of hunting, we raised cows, pigs, chickens, etc.  As our food supply became steadier, we could do other things besides tending to our food supply.  We thought.  We innovated.  We improved.  We created.

The Barter System was Good but Inefficient

Of course, we were able to do these other things why?  Because not everyone had to be farmers.  But these people still needed food.  So what did they do to get food?  Steal it at every opportunity like in the animal kingdom? 

No.  In the beginning, they traded for food.  A tool maker traded his tools to a farmer for some of his food.  We call this kind of trading the barter system.  It’s an improvement over stealing what you want but it has its problems.  What if the tool maker only makes one kind of tool?  And the farmer already has three?

This is the big downfall of the barter system.  Searching for someone that has something you want AND wants what you have.  The longer it took to find these people to trade with the more time you spent searching than making something.  These ‘search costs’ became costly and made barter inefficient. 

If only we could find something that would make this trading process more efficient.  Something that would allow me to spend less time searching and more time making things.  Something that could temporarily hold value that I can trade for.  That I then could trade with other people for what I wanted.

Money Made Trade Efficient.  And Allowed us to Live Together in Peace and Harmony

We call that ‘something’ money.  And it has exploded the efficiency of trade.  It made it very easy to buy the things you wanted by using the money you made selling the things you made.  Markets where all this buying and selling took place became cities.  Living standards increased.  We were able to live in peace and harmony with each other like never before.

It is our creativity and the things we make or do that allowed this to happen.  Money just made this ‘human capital’ more efficient.  And the more money we accumulated from our human capital, the better everyone lived.  Because we produced more things that people wanted.

But there are those without this human capital.  The lazy.  The shiftless.  Criminals.  Lawyers.  And politicians.  They don’t create anything.  They just want to profit from the human capital of others.  To steal, if you will.  And it is this want of unearned money that is the root of most evil.

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North Korea Speaks Loudly but Hits with a Small Stick. So Far.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 23rd, 2010

FDR Gave Joseph Stalin Eastern Europe

How did we get this North Korean problem?

After World War II, the Soviets tried to spread communism.  And Roosevelt helped.  He gave Joseph Stalin Eastern Europe.  The German capital, Berlin, was inside East Germany.  The Allies partitioned it.  The United States, Great Britain and France split the West side.  The Soviets took the East.  And West Berlin was a thorn in Stalin’s side.  It was a gateway to the West for those oppressed under Soviet Communism in the East.

FDR liked Uncle Joe Stalin.  Both were Progressives.  And Stalin did Progressivism in a grand way.  The only problem was that the people didn’t want it.  They tried to escape from the heavy hand of Soviet rule.  So Stalin built a wall in Berlin.

Then, to seal the deal, he cut the rail lines into West Berlin.  He was going to starve the West Berliners into submission.  The West initiated the Berlin Airlift to relieve the besieged Berliners.  Stalin relented.  He restored rail service.  And the West checked the spread of communism in Europe.

The Soviets tried to expand into Greece, Turkey and Iran

The Soviets changed tactics.  They tried to entice Western nations into the Soviet Sphere.  To check the spread of Communism into Greece and Turkey, President Truman kept them into the Western sphere with generous U.S. aid.

During World War II, American aid for the Soviets fighting the Nazis came through Iran.  When the war ended, the Soviets didn’t want to leave Iran.  They wanted those warm water ports.  And that land in between those ports and the Soviet Union.  American support and aid to Iran eventually forced the Soviets to leave Iran.

Rebuffed in Iran, the Soviets found success in China.  And North Korea.  Truman implemented his Truman Doctrine to contain any further Soviet/communist expansion.  And, in 1950, this turned into a shooting war on the Korean peninsula.

The Cold War Heats Up

We call the standoff between East and West the Cold War.  The Soviet Union tried to spread communism.  The West tried to contain communism.  And the Cold War heated up on the Korean Peninsula.

The North Koreans invaded South Korea.  The United Nations fought back.  With General MacArthur in command, he pushed the North Koreans out of South Korea.  And he kept on going.  Pushed them all the way back to the Yalu River (the border with China).

And then the Chinese entered the war.  They poured over the border and pushed the U.N. force back.  Eventually, the front ended up about where it started.  At the 38th parallel, the military demarcation line to this day between the North and South.  There was an armistice to halt combat operations.  But no formal peace treaty.

The North Korean Ruling Elite Didn’t Lose, but their People Did

South Korea remained in the Western Sphere and prospered.  North Korea remained in the Soviet Sphere and stagnated.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea suffered from energy shortages and recurring famine.  The country is a mess.  The ruling elite have food.  But millions of North Koreans have starved to death over the years.

North Korea is a closed and isolated nation.  With a strict censorship of all media, the people know only the ruling party propaganda.  The ruling elite told great lies to the people to keep them from rising up.  They flipped the truth.  North Korea was rich and prosperous.  The United States was oppressing her people, starving them, invading other countries, etc.  A lot of North Koreans fear the United States.  And will suffer great deprivations to support their leader.

Which brings us to today.  With no one to turn to and being incapable of providing for their own people, they need Western aid.  But that often comes with conditions.  Such as lightening up on the human rights violations.  Which they are none too keen on.  If the people in North Korea do not live in fear and intimidation, they may threaten the ruling elite’s power hold.  So they have to find ingenious ways of getting the West to provide aid with fewer conditions.

North Korea Speaks Loudly but Hits with a Small Stick

North Korea likes to cause trouble.  Be provocative.  Threaten the West with annihilation.  Shoot people.  Blow things up.  Anything to get the attention of the West.  So the West will give them stuff to calm them down.  The latest provocative action involved the shelling of a South Korean island (see North Korea fires artillery barrage on South by Jung Ha-Won, Agence France Presse, posted 11/23/2010 on Yahoo! News).

North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island on Tuesday, killing one person, setting homes ablaze and triggering an exchange of fire as the South’s military went on top alert.

Which was more bad news upon previous bad news.

The firing came after North Korea’s disclosure of an apparently operational uranium enrichment programme — a second potential way of building a nuclear bomb — which is causing serious alarm for the United States and its allies.

Which was upon previous bad news.

Tensions have been acute since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which Seoul says was the result of a North Korean torpedo attack. Pyongyang has rejected the charge.

Russia and China Grow Uneasy with North Korea’s Provocations

Even past Cold War allies are not happy with this latest action (see World edgy on Korea, Russia sees “colossal danger” by Peter Apps, London, posted 11/23/2010 on Reuters).

“It is necessary to immediately end all strikes,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters during a visit to the Belarusian capital Minsk. “There is a colossal danger which must be avoided. Tensions in the region are growing.”

China, the impoverished North’s only powerful ally, was careful to avoid taking sides, calling on both Koreas to “do more to contribute to peace.

And why is China being so careful (see The Next Korean War? by Leslie H. Gelb posted 11/23/201 on The Daily Beast).

Beijing simply won’t take a stance against the North, no matter what it does, for fear that this Communist regime will collapse and leave China to pick up the pieces.

The North Korean Problem

North Korea is a problem.  It’s a little like slavery in 19th century America.  There’s tragic human suffering.  And no easy solution to the problem.  If the current regime falls, some nation (or nations) will have to absorb the huge costs of reincorporating the North Korean people into an open society.  Feed them.  Deprogram them.  Prevent them from devolving into civil war (the oppressed versus the ruling elite and their huge standing army). 

The costs will be staggering.  So great that maintaining the status quo is the easy option.  Even though it condemns the North Korean people.  And leaves a ruling elite in power that may go rogue and do something nuclear.

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Stupid Republicans Help Smart Democrats Lose Elections

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 22nd, 2010

Figures don’t Lie, but Liars Figure

Is a 70 degree Fahrenheit a warm day?  Or a cold day?  It depends on your perspective.  If you’re from Norilsk, Russia, you’d probably say it’s warm.  If you’re from Al’Azizyah, Libya, you’d probably say it’s cold.  70 degree Fahrenheit is a fact.  But it means different things to different people.  And neither the Russian nor the Libyan is wrong.  Weather is relative.

The Republicans won control of the House of Representatives, a majority of the state governorships and a majority of the state legislatures in the 2010 midterm elections (see Election 2010 posted on The New York Times for election results).  Some say this is a rejection of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid agenda.  Some say the Democrats lost so much because the Obama/Pelosi/Reid agenda did not go far enough.

Interesting, huh?  The same data reviewed by different people who then reach such different conclusions.  Are the election results as relative as the weather?  Or is Mark Twain closer to the truth?  “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” 

Old, Stupid White Men Vote Republican?

There is a political divide across the country.  You can see it when you look at the election map.  The nation is mostly red.  With some blue on the coasts.  And around the big cities in between.  I look at that and I have an idea why it looks like that.  The Washington Post, on the other hand, has a different interpretation (see Political divide between coasts and Midwest deepening, midterm election analysis shows by T.W. Farnam, Washington Post Staff Writer, posted 11/21/2010 on The Washington Post).

The Republican Party’s big gains in the House came largely from districts that were older, less diverse and less educated than the nation as a whole. Democrats kept their big majorities in the cities.

Translation?  Old, stupid white men vote Republican.  I see it differently.  What are big cities full of?  Poor people.  And welfare.  Big city governments.  With big union pay and benefits.  Big bureaucracies that employ the unemployable and increase the costs of doing business.  Big universities.  University professors.  University students.  Art museums.  Theatres.  A liberal and libertine party atmosphere (which draws the young).  Teen pregnancy.  Abortions.  STDs.  Drug addicts.  Prostitutes.  Etc.

The Obama coalition remained intact. Democrats remained strong in areas with the party’s core of minorities and higher-educated whites. But movement of white working-class voters away from the party is a concern for Democrats, especially because of President Obama’s traditional weakness with those voters.

Higher-educated whites?  Yeah, right.  A lot of those degrees are from the big universities in the big cities.  Women’s studies.  Art History.  Philosophy.  American Studies.  English Lit.  Communications.  Poetry.  And, of course, Law.  Very popular with the anti-business crowd.  And, as it turns out, very unpopular with actual businesses. 

Higher educated, perhaps.  But an education that has little market value.  So they end up working for a nonprofit dependent on government funding.  Or work as another piece of deadwood in a bloated government bureaucracy.  Or file frivolous lawsuits and are dependent on government NOT to reform tort law.

“There’s definitely been a hardening of Democratic support along the coasts since 1994,” said James Gimpel, a political scientist at the University of Maryland.

New York City, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Coastal cities.  Homes of the uber liberal.  Here they sip their lattes and look down their noses at flyover country. They’re only 20% of the population.  But when you concentrate 20% of the population in these small geographical areas, those areas will have liberal majorities.  While at the same time if you pull that 20% out of the rest of the country, that big geographical area they call flyover country is left conservative.

The Poor, Unemployable and Irresponsible Vote Democrat

It’s not that Republicans are old, stupid white men.  Democrats have lost so much of the country because they and their agenda don’t appeal to people who have jobs.  So who do they appeal to?  The poor, unemployable and irresponsible.  And lawyers.  Who all tend to be anti-business.  Like the Democrat Party.

Saying the reason why you lose elections is because the electorate is stupid is figuring with facts.  The facts say otherwise.  Besides, when the young is a strong demographic for you, you kind of lose that argument.  Young people are uneducated and inexperienced.  Young people fill our Colleges.  And they’re going there not because they’re smart.  They’re there going to get ‘smart’.

Meanwhile, the higher educated liberals often have those useless degrees.  Because they care about people, not profits.  So they don’t do anything so coarse as to get a degree that might help a business earn a profit.  Instead, they’ll subsist off of government funding.  Or by suing businesses for unearned wealth.

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Big Government is Bankrupting and Oppressing Us

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 21st, 2010

Rich Democrats Profit from Big Government

Do you know what the problem with the idle rich is?  They sometimes use their idle time to think (see Millionaires to Obama: Tax us by Rachel Rose Hartman posted 11/19/2010 on Yahoo! News blog The Ticket).

More than 40 of the nation’s millionaires have joined Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength to ask President Obama to discontinue the tax breaks established for them during the Bush administration, as Salon reports.

And who are these millionaires?

The group includes many big-time Democratic donors such as Gail Furman, trial lawyer Guy Saperstein and Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (pictured). The list remains open to millionaires who want to sign on.

One thing we’ve learned from government.  The rich never pay their fair share of taxes.  Neither will these Democrat supporters.  I mean, if you’re so patriotic and loyal then just give your money to the government without the tax law forcing you.  Like J.P. Morgan did during the Panic of 1907.  (He used his own wealth to help shore up the banking system during a liquidity crisis).  But they don’t.  Why?  (That’s not a rhetorical ‘why’.  I would really love to hear them answer that question.)

But the key here is that they’re Democrat supporters.  Supporters of Big Government.  Who either profit from government (by preventing any tort reform so lawyers can continue to enrich themselves with frivolous lawsuits brought against corporate America (News Flash:  McDonald’s hot coffee is hot)).  Or are a bunch of rich coots that get off on telling other people how to live.

A Bankrupt City Pleads for Churches, Schools and a Hospital to Help Pay their Union Costs

And speaking of charitable contributions to the government, here’s a city government asking for just that (see Debt Rising, a City Seeks Donations in Michigan by Nick Bunkley posted 11/19/2010 on The New York Times). 

A Michigan city is pleading with churches, schools and a hospital for donations to help cover its staggering budget deficit.

Gail Furman, Guy Saperstein and Ben Cohen ought to throw some of their wealth over to Mount Clemens.  They could feel patriotic and loyal.  And the city could really use their help.  For they’ve done everything they can already.

[The Mount Clemens mayor] said the city has already drastically cut its expenses, having disbanded the police department six years ago, but still faces a $960,000 deficit that is projected to reach $1.5 million next year.

It’s always the police and fire departments that get chopped first.  Not the real things bankrupting the city.  Which, interestingly, they note (probably unintentionally) in the last paragraph.

The city asked its retirees to increase their health insurance deductibles, [the mayor] said, and 8 or 10 did so or switched to their spouse’s plan, saving $192,000.

It’s the same thing that’s bankrupting cities in all of ‘blue’ America.  Fat union payrolls and fat union benefits for city employees.  But they get rid of cops and fire fighters first because it’s a good scare tactic that usually works at the polls when trying to renew or increase a millage.

High Union Pay and Benefits do not Make NYC’s Trains any Safer

But we have to provide those fat pay and fat benefits to attract quality people to these jobs.  Don’t we?  You decide.  Here’s yet another example of what we get for these high pay and benefits (see Subway Signal Inspections Found to Be Falsified by Michael M. Grynbaum posted 11/19/2010 on The New York Times).

Safety workers at New York City Transit falsified thousands of inspections of the track signals that direct trains in the subway system, deeming the signals safe even though those inspections had never taken place, according to an investigation by the inspector general of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Train tracks are broken down into ‘blocks’.  These signals are green when a block is empty.  They’re red when a train is in that block.  These block signals are what keep trains from crashing into each other.  So they’re kind of important.  For safety.

Real railroad personnel would never do this.  They take their work too seriously and have far too much pride to endanger people on their tracks.  But unionized city workers are another story.  It’s not about the love of railroading.  But living better than other people. 

Is this only an isolated incident?

It is not the first time that safety workers in the subway have been found to have falsified such inspections. A nearly identical situation was revealed by the inspector general in 2000.

Apparently not.

The TSA:  Submit to Our Awesome Powers or We Will Destroy You

So government employees are bankrupting our nation with their fat pay and fat benefits.  And they’re endangering our lives with their poor work ethic.  Can it get worse?  Yes.  If we give them unfettered power over us (see $11,000 fine, arrest possible for some who refuse airport scans and pat downs by John Lantigua, Palm Beach Post, posted 11/20/2010 on the Sun Sentinel). 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is warning that any would-be commercial airline passenger who enters an airport checkpoint and then refuses to undergo the method of inspection designated by TSA will not be allowed to fly and also will not be permitted to simply leave the airport.

Welcome to airport security.  By entering our line you forfeit all Fourth Amendment rights.  Please remove your shoes, your belts and lift up your dresses and drop your panties.  It’s all in the name of national security.  Yeah, it’s good to be an ineffective bloated government bureaucracy.  Power to the state, baby.  The state rules!

No wonder the Nazis went from state socialism to maniacal oppressive dictatorship.  It’s a rush for the corrupt in power.  No doubt that if some TSA gropers are brought up on criminal charges for ‘crossing the line’ they will follow suit.  I can hear them now.  “I was just following orders.”

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.  And Brings Down Superpowers

Those rich Democrat millionaires got it wrong.  We shouldn’t be giving government more money.  Or more power.  That wasn’t the formula we used to become a superpower.  But it is the formula that has brought down every superpower to date.

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