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Whenever you are talking to someone about politics, pay attention to what they mean – not what they say.

Modern day liberals claim to want people to have equal opportunities as everyone else, but typically they want to use the power of government to make this come about. Government by it’s nature is force. Why do you need to use force to give everyone opportunity?

One reason is because one person (Person A) is in a position to deny another person (Person B) to take advantage of opportunity. That is all well and good, but unless A actually denies B his liberty, then A has done nothing wrong. To bring sanction against A preemptively is an over-reach of force (government). If A actively denies B of his liberties, then A should be stopped and punitively damaged so as to set precedent to discourage similar future acts by A and anyone else who decides that what A did was a good idea. Otherwise, let people have freedom of association and deal with each other on the merits of their own situation. Punish the bad guys who do bad things, but leave the good guys alone. Also, assume everybody is a good guy until they prove themselves otherwise. Innocent until proven guilty, and all, ya know.
The modern day liberal is against this idea. The modern day liberal wants to convict you because of where you ARE, ignoring what you did to get there. Because of what you HAVE, ignoring how you got it. Because of what you take, ignoring what you give.

If you have more than they think you should have, they want to use force to take it and transfer it to those who have less. Forget all the physical or mental work you did to get it, there are people out there who need it and you have more than what they determine you need. Bring in the guys with the guns.

If you have plenty, should you, by some moral compass, decide you should give to those who don’t? Sure, but YOU are the one who knows what you need and what you want to give and who you want to give it to. The modern liberal doesn’t trust YOU to do with what you have earned what they want you to do with it. They only trust the people who can lie well enough to the requisite number of people in order to get the sanction of the populace to use force to hopefully do what they want. See, a modern liberal DEPENDS on forcing others to do what they want done. They’ll condemn you for not “giving to the less-fortunate” then take your money so you can’t. They depend on force; not freedom, not choice not compassion. They want you to do what THEY want, not what you or somebody else wants. So they co-opt the only legal use of force available – government.

Many modern day conservatives do the same thing. Where the liberal wants the state to enforce his fluid definition of right and wrong, the theological conservative thinks he has God on his side and wants the state to enforce his idea of what God says is right and wrong. Both sides have lost sight of the fact that it is not a legitimate function of government to determine morality. The only legitimate function of force is to prevent or punish illegitimate force. In other words, government is supposed to protect the citizens’ rights to life, liberty, and property.

Determining who a citizen freely gives property to is not a protection of liberties. Determining if one citizen owes another property by contract IS a protection of liberties. By the way, Property = Time, Labor, Money, Goods, and/or Services.

Determining what one citizen charges another for goods or services provided is not a protection of liberties. But making sure one person delivers what they promised for what they charged IS a protection of liberties.

Telling one citizen that he cannot freely choose who he associates with in commerce or trade is NOT a protection of the freedom of association. Making sure one or more people do not interfere with the ability of someone else to freely associate with whom they choose, IS a protection of the freedom of association.

Preventing a person from expressing religious beliefs or mandating that religious beliefs be expressed is not a protection of religious freedom. Preventing someone from mandating or suppressing the free expression of religious beliefs IS a protection of religious freedom.

Mandating who one person can or cannot marry just flies in the face of freedom on every level. I have no idea what the anti-gay marriage folks think they’re doing to further freedom by trying to prevent two people who want to get married from getting married. That being said, it shouldn’t matter to the government whether you are married or not. In a legitimate government, what business of theirs is it if you claim to be married or not?

Mandating what a person chooses to ingest, drink, smoke, or whatever is not a protection of freedom. Preventing an intoxicated person from presenting an unreasonable risk to others IS an protection of freedom.  Also, determining which days or times a person may purchase or indulge in those behaviors falls right in there with the rest of it.

It is natural to want to prevent people from doing what you think is wrong. But before you get on some bandwagon and start calling for a use of force against that person for their choices, ask yourself, “Does his choice present an unreasonable danger to the rights of anyone else? Is he engaging in a fraud that will cost someone else their time, labor, or property without some agreed upon recompense?” If the answer is “No”, then feel free to speak out against what that person is doing. Criticize him and ostracize him if you will, but don’t fall back on the use of force to stop him.

Because pretty soon, he and a bunch of like minded people could possibly gain political power and bring sanction against you for doing things you do that doesn’t hurt anyone but that they don’t like. And they will use the precedent YOU set against you.

The Obama administration. What are ya gonna do?

I’ve been quiet for a good while but I think I’m at a place where I can start updating this little corner of the interwebs again on a somewhat regular basis, so let’s give this a shot…

I ran across a story on the web tonight that kinda hit a chord with me. Seems The Brilliant One is once again showing his lack of understanding of the free market. He basically told the automakers they had to double their CAFE standards by 2025 or, of course, they would run afoul of the laws set in this land of the free, home of the brave and junk.

Basically, the Obama Administration had already announced they wanted the Average MPG for vehicles to go from what they are today – 2011 (30.2 for cars and 24.1 for light trucks) to 39 MPG for cars and 30 MPG for trucks by 2016. Now they want 56.2 MPG in 2025. How that number is derived is a complicated mess of bureaucratic clusterfuckation.

He wants to pass down an edict that would not only determine what vehicles are MADE, but what vehicles us “free” citizens choose to buy. You see, when the All Powerful Protector Of Our Liberty says the average miles per gallon of vehicles sold in a year have to be “X”, it doesn’t matter what the great unwashed masses WANT to buy, it only matters what they DO buy. In theory, a car maker could offer 10 models that get 100 miles to the gallon and only one that gets 20 miles to the gallon, and if they sell 10 low mileage cars (@ 20 MPG), they would have to sell nine high mileage cars to make 56 MPG average. So, in essence, you would have to have half your market want a ridiculous little tin can, and the other half want a substantial vehicle.

I just had a kid turn 16. When we were looking for a vehicle for her, the main thing we were looking for was safety and efficiency. I don’t give a damn if she burns a lot of gas, I want her to live through an accident. We bought her a used midsize SUV that gets pretty good mileage but that has traction control and enough heft to get her through most accidents if the traction control isn’t enough. One thing we DIDN’T look at was the over all mileage the vehicle got. Of course, we didn’t put her in a Sherman tank, but we damn sure didn’t put her in a cute little rice-burner, either. I’m guessing her vehicle gets over 20 MPG but if it doesn’t, I really don’t care. Her safety and ability to move about is my primary concern – not the overall mileage of the vehicles sold by a particular car company in a particular year. See where this is going? The national government has put the incentive of the producer at odds with the incentive of the buyer. The buyer wants X, the producer wants HAS to supply Y. Damn what you want to buy, and damn what they want to sell. This is what the government wants to happen. In the land of the free, home of the brave.

“If you look at the ‘56-by-2025’ standard, you can save about $6,000 per vehicle because of the dramatic reduction in the cost of fuel for that vehicle,” (Jack Gillis of the Consumer Federation of America) said. “If you force the market to implement certain technologies, they will figure out a way how to do it. And they’ll figure out a way how to do it efficiently and effectively.” (Emphasis mine)

Note the use of the word “force”. This is what government is – force. Note the words “choose”, “choice”, or anything else of the sort is not used. This is not free market stuff – this is centralized planning. A little bit, sure, but every little bit helps the centralized planners.

Also notice the faith in “…the market” to “…figure out a way to do it.” Oh! So the Market can figure out HOW to do something, as long as the All Powerful Elite tells it WHAT to figure out! What would we do without them?

So they FORCE us to do something and we FIGURE OUT how to do it. Kinda like you do with slaves – You give them some unreasonable demand and it is up to them to figure out how to fulfill it. If they can do it and survive, that’s good. You can just put more demands on them. If they can’t do it and die, Oh, well, maybe somebody else will come in and do what you want.

This, folks, is why I always put the word “federal” in quotation marks when talking about our present national government (look up the difference between “federal” and “national” if you need to) and I mock the phrase, as it’s used today, “The home of the free, land of the brave”. We are told what to do, when and how to do it, and if we don’t WANT to do it, they pass laws that tell us we HAVE to do it. But hey! If we don’t have the money to do what they want, they give it to us to do it with and point to that as proof that we want to do it.

Proof of what I say above? You want proof? OK, how about this?

  • Healthcare – We’ll tell you what kind of “insurance” you have to buy. You’ll buy it or pay a fine (or tax, whatever we need to call it to get it through the courts). If you cannot afford that insurance, it will be provided for you (by your fellow taxpayer through force , if necessary). The “insurance” will cover what we determine you need, not what you determine you need. You are free to vote for WHO determines your needs, but have no say in WHAT determines your needs – leave that up to us; we’re the government and we know best.
  • Cash For Clunkers – Even though you can’t afford a new car, we want you to buy one. We won’t force you to buy one but if you do, we will pay you up to $4500 dollars (taken from your fellow taxpayers with force, if necessary)to buy one off the list we think you should have. We require you give us your previous vehicle and we will destroy it and any value it once had. See, we are government – We don’t create wealth or value, we either transfer it or destroy it. No skin off our backs, it ain’t coming out of our pockets.
  • Bank bailout (This was a Bush administration dealio, but still a big government liberal. Obama was ALL for it, BTW)- We told the banks to give you money whether you could pay it back or not. Told them we would come down hard on them if they didn’t but then we told them if they did, we’d take the risks off their hands through some NGO’s like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This started a market for sub-prime loans and some greedy bastards tried to cut in on our action. So our executives took 8 and 9 figure bonuses and then ran our NGO’s into the dirt. It’s OK, we’ll blame the greedy bastards that were making 4,5 and 6 figure deals. Meanwhile, we’ll let the big evil corporations get to the breaking point and then come in with your fellow taxpayers’ money (get it by force, if necessary – you know the drill) and decide which ones we like, and which ones we don’t.  We’ll save the guys we like with “loans” and let the others go away. (C ya, hate ta B ya!!) Then we’ll tell those we made the “loans” to when and how to pay the “loans” back. Of course, even after they give us the money we used (but didn’t earn) to prop up the ones most guilty of riding the government gravy train, we’ll still lambast them for NOT doing EXACTLY what they did to get themselves into this mess in the first place – make loans to people who can’t pay them back. But, the people will hate them for ‘taking” all the money we forced on them and not blame us so no biggie! 🙂

It goes on and on. They fund “studies” we can absolutely live without. Medicare fraud is rampant. Food stamp fraud is rampant. Yet they can’t find anywhere to cut entitlements of social programs. If you think they’re doing this to help you, you’re wrong. They’re doing it to exercise power over you. They are convinced they know best and you just need to do what they say and if it works out, whoopie. If not, they’ll always have someone else to blame it on.

OK, lemme get this straight. The Wreckonsiliation vote the Dems plan is limited in scope. Due to rules set forth decades ago, reconciliation can only be used in budgetary matters. Taxation is a budgetary matter. So, the taxation part of Obamacare is mainly what came through the Senate. Remember, the taxes start immediately while the benefits don’t start for four years. Anyway, the Senate bill before the House right now is basically the tax and spend portion of the bill – not the “insurance companies gotta cover this and that and you go to jail if you don’t dot the I’s and cross the tees” sort of stuff.

Now we have the Slaughter Solution. This is a procedure that is also know and “Deem and Pass”. In essence, it means that the House takes the Senate bill and does NOT vote on it but “deems” it to pass. Kinda like if a governor doesn’t sign or veto a bill for three days it becomes law anyway. So in for all intents and purposes, the House just “decides” this bill passes without the REPRESENTATIVES voting on it. And if this bill institutes taxation without the REPRESENTATIVES voting on it, somebody tell me how that upholds the concept of  “No taxation without representation” that WE FOUGHT A FRIGGIN’ WAR OVER!!!

Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe that something is a little fact like this shit will not stand up in court. But then again, I have this weird idea that the court is there to uphold the Constitution which, in Article 1, Section 7 says:

(I kinda added some emphasis to the part I think is a little bit important)

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

So, am I missing something?

P.S. I don’t want to hear “Well the same thing happened under Booosh!” , “The Republicans did it, too!”. That is Soooo bullshit. They did. But it was used for stuff like extending the debt ceiling and Welfare Reform – not instituting new taxes. And I’m not supporting them even using it for that but Art.1 Sec. 7 is specifically referring to “All bills for raising Revenue…”. No getting around that.

I have spoken against arbitrary government powers at length. I feel like expounding upon that a little. I think I can better get the point across using some hypothetical scenarios. Here lately, I have noticed the Left attacking hypothetical scenarios as “Straw Man Arguments”. That’s fine and even warranted sometimes, but I want to couch these arguments in different terms. I want Dear Reader to use his judgment and experience to make the argument for me.

I will ask you if certain circumstances arise, what you think may happen. What may or may not be possible. It is up to you to decide from there.

As I have explained before on many occasions, I do not identify with Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, independent or partisan. I am a non-statist. Many times, this puts me on the side of the Republicans but I am anything but a Republican. Sometimes the Republicans are 180 degrees against what I believe and stand for. But more often, the Democrats are. The very few things the Democrats stand for that I agree with are nowhere near enough for me to support them because the vast majority of their platform is antithetical to my beliefs and convictions. Neither the Republicans nor Democrats are sufficiently non-statist for me so I am neither. I do believe, however, that the Republicans stand a better chance of becoming more of what I want in power than the Democrats, but that is an argument of possibilities, right now. Not probabilities.

I believe, and you must agree, that no matter who is in power at any given time, the opposite party will re-group and regain power in the future. I also believe, and you must agree, that whoever is in control of the exclusive right to use force to accomplish their political goals (running the government), will use any power given to them to accomplish their political goals. Therefore, I believe that any power given to the government can, and eventually will be, used against those who ceded the power in the first place.

I am neither an anarchist nor anti-government. I believe the government must have certain powers to insure and protect the rights of the individual. But I make a clear distinction between what is a right of the people and what is a power of the government. Any right of the people given up to the government, becomes an ability to use force against the individual by the government to deny that right. In short, what you would otherwise be able to do for yourself as a right, if you give power to the government to do on your behalf, the government can then refuse to do and forbid you from doing. You are effectively transforming an option of yours into an option of the government. You lose the ability to do for yourself and if the government decides not to do it for you, it just doesn’t get done.

I know many people would say that if it is law that the government should provide an entitlement, then they must. But the problem is the government is run by political people and political people can not only change the specifics of what they choose to provide, but they can change the definition of “provide” itself! Not only that, when you give up a right, the politicians use that abrogation as precedence to go even further than even the proponents of the original idea had in the first place.

Another thing to consider is that regardless of what side you come down on in political ideology, you are naïve to believe that if your guys are in power, they always will be. It is a fact of life that the parties in charge change. So whatever power you want to give to your political allies, you are also giving to your future political and philosophical foes.

If you are on the left and you want the government to “provide” healthcare, you must be content that the right wing will get their hands on that power one day and do with it what they want. If you are one of the ones that believe the right is full of racists, homophobes, unscrupulous profiteers and religious zealots, do you really want them to hold the power of what medical procedures you have access to? And if you are on the right and you are convinced the left is full of terrorist loving, illegal alien coddling, UN worshipping, tree hugging Communists, do you really want those guys in control of deciding what books you read are “immoral” and what laws are “morally justified”?

Now I, personally, don’t think the right nor left is full of the people mentioned above but I do believe that all successful stereotypes are formed around a kernel of truth. There are some of those people in power or soon to be so. And I don’t want either side deciding what I can do with my body nor what books or movies or anything else I can expose myself to.

This is why the Constitution of the United States was written the way it was. It was written to form a government that would protect the rights of the individual to do for himself – not to form a government that would directly provide for the individual. The framers knew that what the government gives, the government can take away. The framers trusted people to want to provide what is best for themselves and their families. They did NOT trust any men in power to care as much for you as you do for yourself. The framers were very smart in that way.

I think it is disingenuous for anyone that supports what the government is trying to do right now with healthcare, banking, insurance, the automakers, et al to really believe that they will be happy when someone like Dick Cheney is deciding which companies get bailouts and which ones don’t.  But if they think it is right for the government to pick winners and losers now, they will have to be happy with the government picking them when the other political ideology is in charge. You and I both know they won’t be. Even now, whenever any company that has taken a dime of federal money pays its executives anything over minimum wage, the same people that raised immortal hell to give that company that money, act like they are astounded that that company would unwisely spend some of that money. One the one hand, they want to prop up companies that were fiscally irresponsible in some way, but they are surprised that the company is fiscally irresponsible.

Anyway, I can assure you that if it were a Republican statist giving out billions of dollars willy nilly all over the place, the left would be apoplectic in their assertions that the money was only given to prop up the fat cat donors to the Republican party. Kinda like the right claims the unions are the ultimate beneficiaries of the “stimulus” money being broadcast across the fruited plains, now. I will predict this: Whenever the Republicans are in charge and another financial hardship hits, if the Repubs decide the market should run its course and decide the winners and losers, the left will have a fit that the government isn’t out there writing checks left and right. And when the Republicans cave (as they ALWAYS do) and start writing checks, the left will watch every penny for evidence it is being passed out for political payoffs.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The problem is, it will never occur to most people to even question whether it is right for the government to be in the business of bailing out businesses in the first place.

In today’s world, the exception to the rule is more important than the rule. Political expediency takes precedence over right and wrong. And while this is nothing new, it is much more ambiguous than it ever has been.  Sadly, the ideals are philosophies that made this country the greatest force for good and liberty in the history of mankind, will likely be “excepted” to a state of impotence until this wonderful experiment is relegated to the dust bin of history.

Ya know, it’s high time I “got my write on”.  For those who care but don’t know ( as opposed to those who know but don’t care – a much larger group, I’m sure), I have been on “assignment” for over a month. I’ve been living in a motel about 250 miles from home, working on a project that I have been involved with for about two years.  It’s been fun and a constant mental exercise so I have had precious little time to blawg. Even before I came up here, I had a lot of preparation to do for this job.  I had to study a lot of things and go back and dig up past experiences so I could look like I’m as smart as the guy who writes the check expects me to be for the invoice I send him. That’s pretty tough when you have a lot of other stuff going on but it’s just one of those things you gotta do.

I know I have been vague about the project to those who have asked and that is not only intentional, but for good reason. The Customer is writing a big check to a lot of people in hopes he can have a machine to do what very few people in the world are doing. He has lined up many resources to make this happen. I am not privy to his marketing plans as that is none of my business. Suffice it to say, what ever they are, I have hooked my wagon to his horse and it is in my best interest that his horse runs right where he wants it to. If he wants the world to know what he’s doing – he’ll tell them. I am just a cog in the machine, so to speak, so it is not up to me to release that information.

But relax, regardless of what he decides to do, this is not earth shaking stuff to very many people. You will not see anything about it on the news. If you did, you wouldn’t care. But to me and the customer, this is a big deal and we are very proud of what we are doing. We are trying our damnedest to make something work for our own benefit. As a by-product of our selfish greed, there will probably be openings for two or three more jobs in Customer’s plant. Jobs that flat out DO NOT EXIST right now.  Somebody, somewhere, is sitting at home right now with no job that will be working in the coming months because of what I, along with MANY people much smarter than me, have been working on for a couple of years. The people who will find new jobs because of this may not even work in the plant this machine is in. Probably not for the same company. But the people hired to work on this new line and work because of this new line will not be among those taking other jobs they might otherwise have taken. That will leave a vacancy in those jobs that others will have to fill. In other words, the guys that will work on this line I’m helping build would have had a job regardless because they are going to be better than average people. The other jobs they DO NOT have to occupy that they otherwise would have, have to be filled by someone and that someone is probably sitting at home praying for a job right now. Does this make me a soldier of the Lord? Maybe so, but if so, it is because I like the money I’m making right now doing what I’m doing. Truth is, I like what I’m doing and would, given the opportunity, do it for free. But SWMBO would not be pleased and so that is all academic. Also, I like the bucks.

While the unemployment rate dropping by 3 people will not make the news, nor will the couple million dollar addition to GDP for the US, it is undoubtedly going to lend a positive bias to the employment and productivity numbers of the present economy. This is misleading because this thing has been in the works for over two years. No recent program or policy made this project happen. It was mainly inertia of past policies and the influence of recent and, hopefully, present market conditions that made this happen. I can assure you that no “stimulus” money played into this. And there was not a damned nickle of Cash For Clunkers ever even SAT next to a reason for it.  But those in power will take all the credit and none of the blame for what happens regardless. The “buck” no longer “stops here” – it stopped with the last guy that was here. There are very few, if any, presidents or other gov’t officials who accept responsibility for their policies any more – just a bunch of  “we inherited  the worst economy in {fill in the blank} years {or decades or centuries, blah, blah, blah}. In other words, The buck stops somewhere else, “…don’t blame us and also don’t blame us if we totally screw you up in our desperate attempt to fix what we know JACK SHIT about. It’s the other guy’s fault so leave us be.”

Tangent. I got off on a tangent. Who saw that comin’?

Anyway, I am home right now for Thanksgiving and have enjoyed being with my family. We put the tree up today and, as is tradition, went through about two or three bags of pork rinds in the process. Nothing says Christmas like fried pig fat with artificial Bar-B-Q seasoning. How that tradition got started is a WAAY more boring story than you might think it is, but suffice it to say, it got started. We always get the tree down on what many might call “Black Friday” because we are at home and might as well put up the tree that day. SWMBO used to go shopping with my mom on that day before we had kids but that tradition gave way to common sense and they both stopped doing it long ago. Now, the closest thing to a line we stand in is waiting for the page to load at amazon.com.

Amazon has a wing named after me – I just know they do. I first started shopping Amazon when few people had ever heard of it. It was an online book store with a great selection and great prices. Books. That was it. Then they started selling music. Then clothes. Pretty soon, they were doing it all. I remember when they teamed up with Target to have a ‘brick and mortar” presence. I remember how relieved I was they had done that. They wanted to focus on what they did good and partner with someone else to do what they did good. It’s a little trick in business that often works out well. It lets you know the guys at the top of that company are taking a long term view of things. How? Well, look at it this way: Amazon wanted to sell what Target was selling. Target would like to get a big internet presence. Amazon would like to have the ability to sell an item and let the customer pick it up at his leisure. So, either Amazon throws out tons of money to have a brick and mortar presence that will never come close to the market penetration of Target or Wal-Mart, or they partner with someone who already has that presence. Why not Wal-Mart? Wal-Mart has proven itself to be dedicated to one thing and one thing only – low prices. Low prices mean lower margins but volume makes up for that if the margin is steady. WalMart will throw it’s vendors under any bus to shave a nickel off the price. I’m not criticizing Wal Mart here because sometimes I take advantage of that low price commitment. But if you are a company looking to maintain as high a margin as possible and make your name in service over price, you are better off partnering with a company that shares those values. Target and Amazon were a perfect fit.

Can you get stuff cheaper than at Amazon? Yep, everyday. Not a lot cheaper but it’s not hard to shave a nickel off their price. Can you get better customer service than you get at Amazon? Maybe, I don’t know. But I can tell you that anytime I have ever contacted Amazon about an issue on a purchase I made, it was resolved in no time with no problem. Not only that, whether I called or communicated via email, I communicated with a real live Homo Sapien (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I knew a long time ago that Amazon would be the future of retail. With the hassle of crowds at retail outlets and the marked lack of customer service after you have traveled to a store to spend your money, it is no surprise that many brick and mortar stores are having increasing difficulty staying viable. Sure, some retail outlets will always be there. There are the places that sell items you just have to touch, feel, try out, etc. There are some places that rely primarily on the personal retail experience to sell their wares. There are some places that cannot be done over distance. But many typical retail stores are in more trouble than they may want to believe. The times, they are a changing and though old habits die hard, they do die.

How long ago do you think it was when people were thinking that people would ALWAYS have to go to the bank? And not just go to it, but go INTO it.  Then, in Atlanta, at least, came Tilly the All Time Teller. Along with ATM’s came direct deposit, online banking, debit cards, added to drive through windows and when is the last time you went into the bank? Do you think you go into a bank half as much as your parents or grandparents did? Banks offer a lot of services they didn’t 30 years ago but my guess is there are less than half as many “feet on the floor” per branch as then. Sometimes you have to go into a branch but with technology making it easier to stay out, why go in unless you have to? True, there are some who are set in the old ways. They go in and probably always will. I, myself, who likes to think of himself as an eager adopter of technology in all areas where it increases efficiency have used ATM’s for about 30 years but have yet to make a deposit in one. It just never got that necessary to me. But I probably will one day, if I ever get a check and can’t get to a drive-through window in a reasonable amount of time.

My point is, retailer beware. If you want to buck the “Virtual” trend, you better have a hook; an angle that makes people WANT to come into your store – almost NEED to. Otherwise, the customer will be at your competitors website, spending money galore and all the pretty decorating schemes in the world won’t get a nickel out of them. You sell clothes and think people will never go to buying clothes without trying them on or touching and feeling them? You may be right. They will come to your store and touch and feel and try on your inventory, and then go home and buy it. They may buy some from you, but they will look at a lot more than they plan to buy from you and order the balance from your online presence or competitor in a heartbeat. And remember, some people WILL buy clothes without laying eye nor hand on it ahead of time. As people get used to buying everything else sight unseen, they’ll have very little problem doing clothes the same way.

OK, tangent #2 I guess but the whole point of this post was to let you folks know I didn’t die or drop the blawg or anything. I’ll be here and hopefully with more frequent updates.

See ya later!!!

I got this email from a friend and thought it would make a good post. It’s long, but it backs up my Soap Opera Theory to a certain extent in so much as it demonstrates how a diatribe by one person can be adopted by many others unquestioningly due to his reputation. When you look into it and forget who wrote it, it loses a lot of its bite and looks like the ranting of just another dissatisfied soul. Not that there is anything wrong with people expressing their dissatisfaction with the state of things, but they really ought to have something besides reputation to back it up. Like logic and evidence, if at all possible.

I checked on the authenticity of the quotes attributed to Iacocca in this email and they are right out of the book. I noticed, however, there had been some pretty heavy editing as far as deleting some of the sentences and paragraphs. I do not have the book, but have read an unedited excerpt of the portion cited. I don’t think anything in here misrepresents Mr. Iacocca’s viewpoint but if anyone can find something in here that does take his comments out of context, I’ll be happy to correct the post. I included the email as I got it so anything in bold italics is not mine and should be considered the property of Lee Iacocca or whoever holds the rights to his book.

Since this post hits on so many subjects and is already over 3200 words, I can’t link to citations and post graphs and stuff, but a lot of this is covered in other posts or will be soon.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy!

The text from the email is in bold italics. My comments are just regular old plain font.

Remember Lee Iacocca, the man who rescued Chrysler Corporation from its death throes?  He’s now 82 years old and has a new book, ‘Where Have All The Leaders Gone?’.

(Actually, it’s not new – it came out in 2007)

Lee Iacocca Says:

‘Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder! We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, ‘Stay the course..’

(I find it funny that in 07, Iacocca was lamenting the fact that we couldn’t build a hybrid car but in 09 about a quarter of the cars I get behind are hybrid. Could it be that this “captain of industry” has forgotten that WE can build what there is a market for? When people expressed an interest in buying hybrids, people started building them.  It is usually when government wants us to have something, that it doesn’t get doesn’t because just because government WANTS there to be a demand for something, that doesn’t mean there will be. Let customers start asking for something, and viola! There it is.

Also, he rails about “corporate gangsters stealing us blind” while he doesn’t say a thing about the level of taxation in this country. We are paying $1.235 billion dollars a day on INTEREST payments alone for the federal debt and that is for FY 2008 – it’s going WAY up from there. And Iacocca says the CORPORATE gangsters are stealing us blind? What about the GOVERNMENT gangsters stealing us AND our kids blind? There are 13 million companies in the US,  around 15,000 of those are public. So you have some pretty bad apples in some of those but the vast majority of them are good guys out there doing the best they can to make enough money to make a profit and keep the majority of the people in this country employed. Put the bad guys in jail but don’t act like the few bad apples in the private sector is costing us (robbing us blind) anywhere NEAR what the government is.)

Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America , not the damned, ‘Titanic’. I’ll give you a sound bite: ‘Throw all the bums out!’

(Hey, Lee, we did. It got worse.)

You might think I’m getting senile, that I’ve gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore..

The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs.. While we’re fiddling in Iraq , the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving ‘pom-poms’ instead of asking hard questions.. That’s not the promise of the ‘ America ‘ my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?

(The most famous postal workers are the ones that took a gun to work and shot the place up, too, Lee. So are you saying the Post office is slap full of homicidal maniacs? The most famous employees of colleges and universities are football coaches, too, does that negate the research and innovation going on in the labs and the classrooms?  That was obviously a statement made by a person losing touch with reality. Like I said before, the US is full of business leaders out there innovating day in and day out. The I-phone didn’t come from a Congressional committee. Nor did my GPS navigation device or microwave oven or satellite radio. There are new and wonderful things coming out every day but because it doesn’t lead the news he thinks it is less significant? What a populist!

As for Iraq, he is just repeating fallacies that got traction in the aftermath of the start of the war. We didn’t go there because of 9/11. We were at war with them since August 2, 1990. We initiated a cease fire on February 28, 1991 contingent on certain conditions. Iraq did not live up to those conditions. The UN issued numerous resolutions devised to get Iraq to comply. They didn’t comply and we decided to resume hostilities in order to back up the assertions of the resolutions instead of just sitting back with our feet on the desk talking theory. )

I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged. This is a fight I’m ready and willing to have. The Biggest ‘C’ is Crisis! (Iacocca elaborates on nine C’s of leadership, with crisis being the first.)

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It’s easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else’s kids off to war when you’ve never seen a battlefield yourself. It’s another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. A hell of a mess, so here’s where we stand.

We’re immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving.

(It was a lot bloodier for the enemy than us, but this was true at one time. The truth is, that instead of “staying the course” that he claims we were doing, we changed tactics and strategy and won the war in Iraq. At the time, however, the debate was between changing the strategy  and cutting and running – leaving Iraq to become a cesspool of corruption and terrorism. Iacocca’s side wanted to walk away – good thing his side lost the debate.)

We’re running the biggest deficit in the history of the country.

(That, also, was true then. But it’s been turbocharged since we ‘threw the bums out’ like he wanted.)

We’re losing the manufacturing edge to Asia , while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs.

(For every job we “lose” in manufacturing to Asia, we gain more than one in other industries.  With all that said, we still make more than any other country on earth – by far! See my post “Do we really make anything over here?”. When Thomas Jefferson was a running around out there, we had a society that focused on growing food. I’m sure he would be dismayed that we are buying so much food from overseas today but we switched from an agrarian society to a manufacturing society when manufacturing was cutting edge. When Iacocca was running around out there, we were a manufacturing society. That is changing. Now we have millions of people employed in the Information Technology industry that didn’t even exist 50 years ago. Before this recession, the unemployment rate was around 4.8% which is about as low as it’s going to get. If we were shipping so many critical jobs overseas, what the hell were all those workers doing? We have jobs over here. It is the government that makes them so hard to KEEP here. With one of the highest corporate taxation rates in the world, you are going to lose some businesses to other countries. But the same politicians who run the corporations out of the US sit there and call them “Benedict Arnold” corporations. We know who the real Benedict Arnolds are, though, don’t we?

As for “our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs”, he is mainly talking about the car companies that are bent over a barrel by the unions to provide unsustainable benefits for many “workers” who are not even working. And a lot of the health care costs being pushed onto the private sector is because the government plans like Medicare and Medicaid pay less than costs for services and the providers have to make that money up against the private industry. So when you get an aspirin for $50 at a hospital, you can thank Medicare for stiffing the hospital to the point where they have to get you to make up the costs of treating someone else. )

Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble.

(There was a coherent energy policy. It was “Get more energy”. But some people in power didn’t like that. They wanted to force the populace to demand less energy from available sources and increase demand for energy from unproven and undeveloped sources. When the government tries to outsmart the market, it makes everyone look dumb. )

Our borders are like sieves.

(I agree, but the consideration of having all these illegal aliens voting for one party or the other over-ruled the principle of the rule of law. This is an example of having all the necessary laws on the books but them being made impotent by a lack of will to enforce them. I never liked the idea of Congress trying to figure out what to do about illegal immigration, it had already been figured out. All they needed to do was tell the enforcement arms to enforce the damn laws. New laws that won’t be enforced are no better than old laws that won’t be enforced. WTF?)

The middle class is being squeezed every which way.

(Being squeezed by whom, Lee? By the government with its confiscatory tax rates. And not just the tax rates on this ill-defined “middle class”. When they raise the tax rates on a guy who might hire you or pay you more, THEY get the money – not you. So all these populists say they are taxing the “rich” more so you don’t have to pay more, but since you are being cut out before you could get the money to pay the taxes with, it’s kind of a moot point, huh? “Rich” people either buy stuff or invest their money. If they buy stuff, you make it and get the bucks. If they invest it, it goes to a bank to be loaned to the company you work for to buy more stuff for you to make. Somehow, people have been convinced that rich people tuck all that money in a mattress and take it out of circulation. Government takes it out of market directed circulation and puts it into government directed circulation. This only works out for you if you are in a favored class by the government in charge at the time. Forget tomorrow, it’ll change.)

These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you’ve got to ask: ‘Where have all the leaders gone?’ Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

(Hey, Lee, those people are at WORK! They are making things work out there all day – every day. Are you upset because they’re not sitting up there in New York talking to Geraldo or Anderson? This is sheer elitism. The country is led from other places than Washington D.C and New York. The nation is supposed to be led by the people – you know, all that “by the people, for the people” stuff. Or is that just an arcane notion to you and your “preferred class”?)

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo?

(They are out there, but they are ignored in the name of “fairness” and “diversity”. In other words, you took the security from the private sector and gave it to the government, and now you bitch that it’s being run like a government agency. Be careful what you ask for.)

We’ve spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

(A lesson to be learned there – maybe a “huge new bureaucracy” is not the answer. So quit asking for it.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm.

(See, Iacocca’s answer to pretty much everything is “Congress”. I can name some people who COULD have emerged as leaders after Katrina – Nagin, Landrieu, Blanco. But they punted to the federal government and escaped most of the richly deserved blame that should have been theirs.  I can tell you that when New York was hit by two terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan, Giuliani “emerged” as a leader because he didn’t sit on his ass and wonder what Bush was gonna do to fix it. And he didn’t see those planes coming for three or four days before they hit, either. That was leadership that couldn’t be faked.)

Everyone’s hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn’t happen again. Now, that’s just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you’re going to do the next time.

(Right! That is the job of the people on the ground. Sitting there in your own community HOPING somebody 1000 miles away has a plan is no plan at all. Put the blame and responsibility where the blame and responsibility belongs.)

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when ‘The Big Three’ referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it?

(Ya know, Lee, not every industry leader is a household name. Not every company does what you do and sits on their ass and wants Washington D. C. to pull their ass out of a fire. Those guys are out there because, despite what you might believe, a bunch of industry leaders out there are not sitting on $100 million contracts. Some of them have to maintain their edge to maintain their livelihoods. I know it’s happening, Lee, because not every industry out there is being dictated to by the unions how to run their business like yours was. What did you do to stop that? Apparently, not enough. Easier to sit with your feet up and write a book about what everybody else isn’t doing, huh?)

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debit, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

(Your problem is you ALWAYS look to the government.  You used to not be like that, Lee. Tell you what, name me a government leader that could create and fight for the Mustang. Anybody, Lee? No, that’s because the government didn’t come up with the Mustang – Shelby did and you raised hell until Ford built it. How many billions of dollars have been transacted because of what you and Shelby did? How many thousands of jobs were created? How much freaking government was involved in that, Lee? Remember, government doesn’t have to do it all. As a matter of fact, had government been involved, you KNOW the Mustang would never have been built. You and Shelby and the Market built it, Lee. But the market and private enterprise isn’t good enough for you anymore, is it? You got yours, let everybody else figure out theirs while you sit up there and bitch.)

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn’t elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bonehead on NBC news or CNN news will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don’t you guys show some spine for a change?

(What do you want Congress to do? Pass more impotent laws or pass more effective laws? After 200 years, don’t you think we have enough laws? Maybe tweak some to fit into the new technology but, damn! I’d rather have Congress do nothing than keep pissing in the pool like they usually do. Just another example of Iacocca looking to D.C. for all the answers.)

Had Enough? Hey, I’m not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here.  I’m trying to light a fire. I’m speaking out because I have hope – I believe in America . In my lifetime, I’ve had the privilege of living through some of   America ‘s greatest moments. I’ve also experienced some of our worst crises: The ‘Great Depression,’ ‘World War  II,’ the ‘Korean War,’ the ‘Kennedy Assassination,’ the ‘Vietnam War,’ the 1970’s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11.

(You only believe in American government, Lee, not America. Those terms are not interchangeable. America has proven that it can do anything and do it better than anyone else. American government has proven the opposite. Look at it this way, the more government involvement we have in the rest of America, the less America gets done. But you want more of the productivity killer that is government so you can bitch about the death of productivity. Once again, WTF?)

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: ‘You don’t get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it’s building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That’s the challenge I’m raising in this book. It’s a “Call to Action” for people who, like me, believe in America ‘. It’s not too late, but it’s getting pretty close. So let’s shake off the crap and go to work. Let’s tell ’em all we’ve had ‘enough.’

(When a mechanic has a child on the operating table, he accomplishes nothing by pushing the surgeon out of the way to do the procedure himself. Right, doing nothing is bad. But the wrong person trying to do the right thing is often times worse. Quit expecting bureaucrats to solve all the problems. Put them back in their place and out of the way of the people who can get the job done. Only then will you get anywhere.)

Make your own contribution by sending this to everyone you know and care about. It’s our country, folks, and it’s our future. Our future is at stake!!

Yeah, whatever…

Updated with a link to a trailer to my movie at the bottom. <We call this a “teaser’ in the biz.>

I’ve never made a movie. I’ve never been in a movie. I have a cousin that was in a movie once and I have seen several movies. I have some really kickass ideas for making a great movie – romance, car chases, explosions, special effects, aliens – the works. And I think we could make this movie for a couple hundred bucks by promising the actors and all the others who work on the movie larger royalty cuts. Also, we could hire homeless guys to play all the roles and just Photoshop the heads of big named actors over their unkempt mugs in post-production. Dub in the dialogue in post-production, too, like those Hitler videos on YouTube. For the car chases and crashes, we use a bunch of those cars that were rendered useless for Cash For Clunkers and just pull them with tractors – maybe “stop-action” animation – I dunno, special effects or something. Anyway, as you can see, I have the ultimate blockbuster movie all figured out.

Darrel Oscar Award

So go ahead and nominate me for an Academy Award. Go ahead, I have the POTENTIAL to make a great movie. In case you haven’t heard, the paradigm has shifted, folks, and accomplishments mean nothing compared to “the promise” of success. It would also help if everybody reading this has “hope” that I can make a good movie. I might have to go around and make some speeches talking about the “need” for more great movies and how I’m “for” making great movies. If so, I’ll make that sacrifice of my time to do so. Because, after all, really great movies aren’t made unless someone talks about making them ad nauseum.

I believe that if I were to be awarded an Academy Award, I would consider it as a “call to action” to make a great movie. I promise to make a good movie if I win – what more do you want?

Trailer: Show me da movie!

Cross posted to Direction For America

A dear friend of mine commented on a previous post where I bitched about people raising all manner of hell about stores not using the word “Christmas” anymore. She tied it to schools doing away with “Christmas” about the same time the stores did. She was against it, for the most part. I am for it, for the most part. Her comment spurred an idea for this post. Here it tis…

Quick question: Do you REALLY want the schools to teach your child the “Government Approved” version of your religion?

Readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic.  It started out being about that. You send your kid to school, and you want them to learn to live in the real world. They have to know how to read, write and do math. We added on some other academic areas to that some time in the past – Science, Geography, Government, Music, Art, et al. For those areas, we found teachers who specialized in them, somewhat, at least.

And then the government came into the picture. They had to make sure the people who were teaching these things were teaching them correctly. They had to “standardize”, don’t cha know. And the easiest way to standardize is not to raise the bottom to the top, but to cut the top to the middle.

This next part may get pretty close to my pine tree post, but it’s my blawg – don’t judge me.

Think about caring for your lawn. You want it to look all nice and even, don’t you? You have a little bit of tall, green, healthy grass. A lot of mediocre grass, and a little bit of scrub grass – hugging the ground and looking all like shit. What’s the easiest thing to do? Do you fertilize the whole yard trying to get it up to the level of the good stuff? No, way too much time, trouble, and money. Do you kill it all back to the scrub level? Not right now, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could? Just basically pave over the yard and paint the concrete green. But not right away, that’d be too obvious.

The obvious solution to the problem is to take everything to the middle – the median, if you will. If most of your grass is 2 inches high and a little is 3 inches high, it would be easier to cut the 3 inch stuff to 2 inches and fertilize the 1 inch stuff. So you set the blade to 2 inches, bag the clippings, and dump them on the short grass to try to get them up to speed. No shame in that, you’re doing what’s good for the lawn. Not so much for the high grass, that is, but your goal is to bring up the whole yard and if you have to take down some of the better stuff to help the lesser stuff, that’s what has to be done. Now the grass blades themselves, see it differently. The tall ones are not happy, but they are a minority so who cares? Some of the medium blades got clipped – but not too much. They figure they were only a ¼ to ½ inch too high and they lost very little in relation to their height so who cares? The grass that’s a little bit below medium is happy cause now there’s not as much difference between them and the highest blades. And the scrub grass is happy because it gets all the good stuff taken from the highest blades.

This is the aim, if not the result, of the government. It is to standardize. Regardless of what the definition of that word is, the practice of standardization is to raise the low spots to the middle and take the high spots down. That’s great if you are the one standardizing but not so much if you are the one getting standardized. Especially if you are one of the high, healthy blades. See, the aspiration of the individual blades takes a backseat to the aspirations of the manager of the lawn. This is what the founders of the U.S. were trying to avoid when they wrote the Constitution.

Alas, when Government gets involved in any social experiments, this is what you get. So government schools are basically microcosms of society in that they generally shoot for the middle.  So, they have to teach math, literature (or reading), science, “social studies”(I hate that name – another post), and the sort.

Tell me, people, why would you want them to teach or have ANY type of influence on how your kid worships? It’s funny to me that the very people that do not think that schools are qualified to teach sex education are the ones most likely to be upset that they’re not teaching some religious courses. Isn’t religion more complex than just sexual stuff? You don’t want them to even mention sex or the biology related to it but you want them to uphold your particular denomination of your religion? How the hell can they be smart enough to know the intricacies of any particular religion, when they’re not qualified to speak one word of sex, which practically everybody engages in.

OK, I’m beating a dead horse here, but let me put it this way: If you are religious, what you teach your kid about sex will be heavily influenced by your LIFETIME experiences in your particular religion. You want to make sure the kid isn’t confused by being told one thing at school and something else at home. Besides, who knows if these teachers are pervs or not and God knows what they’ll teach them. Flip the page over, and you are lamenting the fact that “they are taking God out of schools”. So, you want them to include religion in school EXCEPT the whole sex and morality part?

I’m an all or nothing kind of guy. I want the schools to teach my kids biology and botany. If they’re going to tell my kid about the pollen and pistils, or pistols and stamens in plants, I want the sperm and eggs, and penis and vagina in animals covered, too. Man is an animal. Pretty straight forward stuff. It’s science. See, I don’t have a problem with that. Even teach how sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted. But stay out of the morality of sex and the whole sexual preference thingy. You teach my kid to read. Does that mean I want you to tell him what newspapers and blogs and books to read? No. Sure, “…everybody read Billy Budd – there will be a test next Tuesday” is OK. But don’t try to tell my kid what he should or shouldn’t LIKE to read. Or whom to screw. REAL simple. I’ll handle that part.

Kinda like buying a Weed Eater from Home Depot and being pissed because they won’t come cut your grass for you. Let them do what they do, you do what you do. Like I said, do you REALLY want the schools to teach a “Government Approved” version of your religion?

Look, folks, the way the government screws things up, don’t you think it’s a lot better that they not screw up God? This is not about separation of church and state. It’s about you taking the most precious thing you will ever have – your child – and having full control over the most important thing you can teach them – your religion. I don’t want a teacher, who I may or may not know, influencing my child’s morality or sexual proclivities, or respect for others, or religion. I’ll handle that. I’m a good enough parent to give my kid all the instruction in that that they need. Are you? Do you REALLY want some bastardized government version of Christmas promoted in the schools? Do you want some teacher to promote a particular sexual proclivity that they have? Do you really want the freaking government to do everything for you?  Can you not handle some things for yourself?

Let’s just call it “Winter Break”, OK? Not Ramadan, or Chanukah, or Christmas, or The Feast Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster or anything. In the grand scheme of things, who gives a damn WHAT the government calls it. When your kid gets off the bus, tell him Merr-appy ChristmaHanuKwanzica for all I care. Really folks, find something that matters to focus your energy on.

I want moral men and women in government but I’ll be damned if I want government based on some other person’s morality. Schools, too.

Since it will probably be referenced in future posts, I’ll go ahead and spell out my Soap Opera Theory here. I’ll probably link to this post when it’s mentioned in the future as an explanation of it.

People today, especially in the developed world, have 1/100th of the things to worry about than people living in grass huts in the Kalahari do. For that matter, an American middle class person has a lot less to worry about in 1979 or 2009 than a comparable person had to worry about in 1879 or 1909. Seeing how this is a relatively recent phenomenon (not worrying about lions eating you, Polio, the Common Cold killing you, a broken arm could get infected and kill you, pumping water from a well, NO hot water, washing clothes on a rock in a stream, outhouses, etc.), it is the human condition to have something to worry about. If a man is deprived of something to worry about, he’ll find something – even if it has to be fabricated, he’ll find it.

Before wide-spread utilities delivery, there were no electric or gas stoves, washing machines, dryers, water heaters, TV, light bulbs, refrigerated pre-cut meats and canned veggies from a store – many things like this. A man went to work in the fields or at a factory or something and a woman stayed home and worked her tail slap off. Chopping wood for the stove, hauling water to heat for washing and bathing, washing clothes by hand, sweeping, collecting eggs, butchering chickens or sides of stored beef or pork, emptying and washing “slop jars”, just an ungodly assortment of things to do. Men worked their tails off to afford just the necessities of life. Food used to consume 30% to 50% of the average household income. Supplies to repair the house and whatever else were in constant need (remember, before Duramax paint and things like it you can get down at Lowe’s or the hardware store, people whitewashed raw wood and felt lucky if it last 4 or 5 years – the WOOD, I mean, not the whitewash.) It was a struggle just to survive, being “comfortable” was not usually an option.

So fast forward 100 years and you have indoor plumbing, running hot and cold water, electricity, natural gas, all the appliances made possible because of these wonderful things, cars to get to the once non-existent stores to buy stuff you used to have to make, store bought clothes with UV resistant fabric, denim, just a million things to make life easier. Now, we find many instances of men working outside the home and women staying home and keeping the kids and house. With all these modern conveniences, the home maker had a little free time on her hands. Also, kid gets sick, take him to the doctor and an antibiotic would fix him right up. I know it’s still hard to run a household, but it’s one helluva lot easier than it used to be. So these women had time on their hands to at least watch a 30 minute or one hour TV show and soap operas were born.  Housewives everywhere latched onto them. It was like a romance novel you didn’t have to read. But I noticed with my mom and grandmothers and aunts and all, that they would get terribly upset about some of the goings on in the soap operas. Cry, even. Then they’d get on the phone and talk about what a bad guy some guy was on the show or how they felt sorry for some chick that was being cheated on and good Lord! I mean they got into it. It occurred to me the people in those shows had WAY more problems than normal people did. And that was the point – they had worries, normal folks didn’t. Soap operas were a way for people that didn’t have much to worry about to have something to worry about! Eureka! It was an outlet for people to get upset about something to alleviate the boredom induced by not having a whole lot to get upset about.

So the “Soap Opera” theory states: “When one has little or nothing to be worried, angry, or upset about, one will find something to fill that need. Man, in his natural state, must have problems to solve or injustices to rail against. In the absence of these things, substitutes must be searched for or fabricated.”

Hollywood is a good example of this. The insanely rich, spoiled, has everything handed to them set of people have to have a “Cause”. If things are too easy, they feel a diminished sense of self-worth. And to show that they are just like “normal people”, they make a caricature of a “normal” or “poor” person in their minds, and fight for what they believe that person needs or wants. They get all bent out of shape about these things for the same reason housewives cry about “Amanda having that baby and that no-good Richard is cheating on her with that floozy nurse at the hospital…”

So, that’s my Soap Opera Theory based on my years as a student of human nature.

I’m a small business owner. The small business I own deals in manufacturing, mostly. I don’t manufacture anything but I work for those businesses that do. I’m an industrial contractor which means I fix things that make things. I also build things and design things and consult on the design, building and fixing of things that make things. I work across industries in plastics, recycling, machine parts, etc. I have been in the manufacturing environment for about 15 years and my father and his father and his father were in it for long before that. I know a little about American manufacturing.

It’s funny, I go in a manufacturing plant and talk to the people and hear a lot of the same things from them. I hear about how the US isn’t “making” anything anymore. How the Chinese “make” everything nowadays and how this is the “exact thing” that will spell the downfall of the US. This used to concern me because when unemployment was around 4% I wondered if 96% of 300 million people are either working or being supported by someone who IS working in the US, and few of these people are “making” things, what is the root of the wealth creation that fuels our paychecks? I’m a curious guy so I decided to look into it. Something seemed not to be adding up.

I once heard that if you have a question that seemingly cannot be answered, examine your premises – at least one of them have to be wrong. I have also come to the realization that since most premises are based on “conventional wisdom”, and since there are so many things out there that just do not make sense, that the premises, and therefore the ‘conventional wisdom” is usually wrong. My experience is that about 90% of conventional wisdom is wrong.

So I start out with these premises: 1) Us manufacturing is declining. 2) The US doesn’t make much of anything anymore. 3) The “Sweat Shop” nations are making almost everything now. 4) The “Sweat Shop” nations exploit their people to make stuff by paying substandard wages to decrease production costs. 5) Foreign countries “subsidize” their manufacturers to further defeat our pricing structure.

The first premise; ” Us manufacturing is declining”. I go to the Institute For Supply Management Manufacturing Report On Business ® and download their historical data (in Excel format) since Jan 1948. I use Jan ’48 as a baseline and assign it a value of 100.  I put in a formula that adds the current month’s increase or decrease to the aggregate total. For instance: 1/48 = 100. Manufacturing shrank by a factor of 2 in 2/48 so 2/48=98. Then in 3/48, it dropped another 10 so 3/48 = 88. And so on. I then charted these values. Where the line goes up, manufacturing is expanding. Where it goes down, it is contracting. This is the chart I came up with.

I truly apologize for the freaky looking window thingy. You might have to scroll to the side to get it all. WordPress will not let you just insert a graph into a document. It’s either a link to the graph file or this Scribd whatchamacallit.

Anyway, you’ll notice the overall upward trend of the line. This means that with some dips and jumps, US manufacturing has pretty much been increasing steadily for the last 60 odd years. Yes, we’ve had some declines but we are far from declining.

So, first premise is wrong.

Second premise: “The US doesn’t make much of anything anymore”. We go to Nationmaster.com for this. Really neat graphical representations. I’m not gonna try to put it in here so go look for yourself. It is set to open in another window. What it shows is that the US accounts for 22.4% of the worlds value added manufacturing. That puts us at #1 with Japan in second with 13.9%. So we are far and away the biggest manufacturer in the world. Maybe we don’t make tee shirts as much as we used to, but we can make a helluva jet engine. I like jet engines – they’re cool.

So the second premise is flawed, also. I’m starting to see why so many things don’t make sense.

Premise #3: “The “Sweat Shop” nations are making almost everything now”. Again, look at the link above – it’s not happening.

Premise #4: “The “Sweat Shop” nations exploit their people to make stuff by paying substandard wages to decrease production costs”.  This is a complicated one to noodle out. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics “International Labor Comparisons” (new window, again), manufacturers in some of the countries like Vietnam and Thailand do pay what would be a substandard wage if paid over here. But look at it from the point of view of the manufacturer and the worker. If the prevailing wage in an area is $1.00/hr. and a new plant opens up and offers $1.25, that’s a good deal to the potential worker.  Of course, it’s a good deal to the manufacturer, too, but the next manufacturer to come into the area is going to have to offer $1.35 or so to attract workers. Now, if Acme Manuf. is already there paying $1.00 and Widget Manuf. comes in with $1.25, Acme is either going to lose workers or have to raise it’s wages. Most of these places have super high unemployment so until the potential workforce is more fully employed, wages will be low. When those manufacturers have to compete with one another to get workers, the checkbooks will come out. Until then, as far as the worker is concerned, a $1.25/hr. job is better than no job at all. And in many of those places, a guy can live a much better than substandard life on $50 or $60 a week.

We could make the same comparison state-to-state as we do nation-to-nation. In New York City, a secretary may make $100,000 a year while her equal in Mississippi may make $35,000 a year. That secretary is also paying about $2500 per month for an apartment while the Mississippi one is renting a house for $500 per month. The point is, you have to figure the standard of living and not just look at wages in a vacuum.

So premise #4, while not dispelled, seems to be something of a red-herring. Yes, the effect of low foreign wages on the US worker is negative in the aggregate, but that guy over there is not building jet engines while the guy over here very well could get a job doing so. The lesson to take away from this is, don’t bet your nice suburban lifestyle on a job in manufacturing that can easily be given to a guy that can’t write his name. And if you see your industry trending to overseas outsourcing, consider a new industry and picking up some new skills. I know even a lot of higher value jobs are moving overseas, also, but they are often connected to lower value products and services where the whole organization is moving operations over seas. Raytheon will not move a jet engine plant to Thailand just to get cheaper engineers and then have to deal with production guys who can’t build jet engines. But Hanes will move a tee shirt plant over there to get cheaper production guys and they’ll make do with the engineers they can get or transfer some from here.

Premise #5 has always amused me. “Foreign countries “subsidize” their manufacturers to further defeat our pricing structure”.

So let us say that without these “subsidies”, a tee shirt from China will cost $5.00 to produce and not the $3.00 the China based manufacturer is selling it for. The shirt comes here and Mr. Wal Mart sells it to me for $7.00 instead of the $9.00 he would have to charge for the same profit without the subsidy. Then this means that the Chinese government is helping ME buy my underwear. They are ultimately subsidizing the consumer by lowering the production costs of the manufacturer. I pay no Chinese taxes. I am indebted to the Chinese government as an American tax payer who funds the debt service on the bond instruments they hold against out foreign debt, but that won’t change depending on their subsidies to their own countrymen. So basically, the Chinese government is allowing me to keep $2.00 in my pocket funded by what I owe them. I just don’t see that as a bad thing. It is the money we send them coming BACK HERE. It all boils down to the fact that if a tax subsidy is the deciding factor in moving a plant from here to there and our wages are going up while their’s stay flat, that plant will move soon with or without the subsidy. Maybe next year or two years from now but it is as good as gone. You don’t want to work there.

There is a lot of manufacturing that is leaving the US that I really hate to see go, but in the long run, this is the human condition. If you fight it, it is like trying to catch the wind. You can thwart market forces for a certain amount of time, but the time spent fighting them is used by the market to build up momentum to knock you on your ass that much harder when it overpowers your attempts to reign it in. As a farmer, you can curse the changing of the seasons, or you can learn to plant cold weather vegetables. Which choice to you think will work out best in the long run?

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