Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bob and Weave

I’m not talking hair styles.

I’m a few days late on this, but it’s worth pointing out that any competent investigator or interrogator interviews subjects or sources separately and apart, and schedules interviews so respondents don’t have time to compare notes and learn to repeat one another’s lies, deceptions and distortions. The time tested technique is to get each person to commit to his or her story, and then come back at them later with the inconsistencies between answers, particularly when the truth is unknown and there has already been an effort to deceive.  That’s how to drill down to reality.

So, was the Hillary and Barack interview, joint at their insistence and limited to a half hour, really about showing their love and mutual respect?  Not in the least.  It was about washing and cleansing themselves of a spotty record and, more importantly, a scandal in a forum where Steve Kroft had absolutely zero chance to get at the truth. The "state run media" interview was theater.  There was no truth seeking – not in Washington.

We didn’t know what happened leading up to, during or after the administration’s whitewashing of the events in Benghazi.  We still don’t know.  And we never will.

Forget the Paper Clips

Self defense courtesy of the Obama administration -- if a gunman has you in his sights, go for the scissors.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Baby Boomer Time Bomb

     Earlier today, the Department of Commerce released the 2012 Quarter 4 GDP report. GDP showed a decline in economic output driven primarily by a 22 percent annualized decrease in defense spending. Despite sharp decreases in defense expenditures, new revenues accruing from a return to economic growth and the revenue effect of tax hikes that went into effect on January 1, the 2013 Federal deficit will nudge up against a trillion dollars, reflecting the immense burden of entitlement spending.
     Social Security and Medicare are the most expensive entitlements. Because the first baby boomers turned 65 in only 2011, Social Security and Medicare spending have just begun to surge. As the immense baby boomer cohort ages (5-year cohorts grow from around 10 million to near 20 million, see table below) retirements will cause massive increases in the number of beneficiaries on the Medicare and Social Security rolls. 
     There is no avoiding the entitlement tsunami. But you don’t care and the President you elected doesn’t care. You want to pass these costs along to your children until they finally wake up to reality and rebel. Party on seniors and enjoy the munificence while the getting is good.

US Population By Age 2011
Source:  US Census Bureau

AgeBoth sexes
All ages306,110100.0
   .Under 5 years21,2656.9
   .5 to 9 years20,8706.8
   .10 to 14 years20,0206.5
   .15 to 19 years20,8866.8
   .20 to 24 years21,5257.0
   .25 to 29 years21,3827.0
   .30 to 34 years20,2026.6
   .35 to 39 years19,2556.3
   .40 to 44 years20,5876.7
   .45 to 49 years21,9897.2
   .50 to 54 years21,9657.2
   .55 to 59 years19,5546.4
   .60 to 64 years17,4305.7
   .65 to 69 years12,1604.0
   .70 to 74 years9,2543.0
   .75 to 79 years7,0882.3
   .80 to 84 years5,7191.9
   .85 years and over4,9571.6

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

To Beach a Whale

I was proud.  After dropping out of the lap swimming fraternity for fifteen years and packing on the pounds, I jumped back in the pool when the November snows came.   Purchasing a quarterly pass at Bozeman Swim Center I became a morning regular and met Leonard, who swims Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  He is 84 years young, a great guy and an old track athlete who swims a mile.  I started at about 800 yards, gradually increased to 1,000, then 1,200 and up to 1,400 yards.   Then one day last week I pushed ahead to 1,800 yards.  I swam a mile!  How about that?

In the locker room I was still huffing and puffing.  Leonard inquired of my workout.  I told him it went well, I had made the mile.  “Congratulations” he said.  The Aquatics Director walked in and asked “How are you doing?”  “Great” I said, “Just swam a mile!”  Maybe I can celebrate a little tonight I thought.  The Director went on, “I don’t know how to ask this, but we need someone who is really big to drill lifesaving techniques.  Could you stay after the public swim one day next week and let my lifeguards practice rescuing you?  I could give put an extra month or two on your swim pass.”   I said, “Oh yes I’ll be happy to.”  After thinking for a moment I continued, “And my goal is a year from now I won’t be big enough to suit your needs.”

Networkiing on the Other Side of the Divide

I'll take a Big Mac with my IPad Mini.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jon Tester Supports Truck Control

Washington DC (PC) - Noting recurrent fatal wrecks and serious injuries involving Ford F150, F250 and F350 pickup trucks on Montana roads, Senator Jon Tester (D - MT) announced today that he will introduce truck control legislation restricting ownership and operation of heavy duty personal transport vehicles.  Tester, a self-described third generation dirt farmer, says our country has seen enough needless carnage.  He was especially critical of trucks with extended cabs which are known to transport innocent children.   Tester said,

“Kids should be able to ride safely.  I know from my own experience, you don’t need a pickup truck to drive a child to school or to go out for an ice cream cone.  This is reasonable regulation.  Pickup trucks need a single seat, maybe two – no more.  I don’t aim to prohibit Ford F Series trucks altogether.  I realize farmers, ranchers and contractors have legitimate uses for these machines.   But it’s time to put an end to urban cowboys, socialite soccer moms, Republicans from Massachusetts and would be gentleman farmers recklessly endangering the public with big, powerful, multi-passenger pickup trucks.  Leave powerful pickups to us. “

Tester continued,

“General Motors and Chrysler Corporation are model corporate citizens entering their fifth year of unquestionably yielding to urgent public policy imperatives.  It’s time Allen Mullaly and his crew over at Ford Motor Corporation gets on board.  The truck control crisis creates an opportunity to infuse much needed balance into the auto industry.”                     

Tester signaled the legislation will exempt landholders owning or leasing ten or more acres, farmers or ranchers who drive 100 hp or larger tractors, contractors who operate a backhoe, bulldozer or front end loader, and entities at all levels of government.  To limit impulsive purchases, there will be a two week cooling off period when pickup trucks cannot be purchased before Christmas.  Acknowledging the importance of forestry interests to the Montana state economy, Tester has asked the lumber industry for input on what legitimate interests might be served by allowing it to continue to use pickup trucks.  Some truck control activists, who refused to be identified by name because of the sensitivity of the matter, acknowledge they would be open to limiting restrictions to trucks equipped with automatic transmissions, which are known to permit poorly trained drivers to gun the engines and accelerate rapidly.

Senator Tester’s legislation closes the notorious Penny Saver loophole.  Non-dealer pickup owners would no longer be able to advertise trucks for sale in unregulated markets.  Owners may, however, turn pickup trucks in to local police departments or other designated law enforcement agencies without fear of prosecution.   The law expands the duties of and renames the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, as the Bureau of Stuff That Uppity Progressives Insist Desist (STUPID).   After opportunities for public input, STUPID will publish the rules and regulations it has already written defining what Ford F-Series pickup trucks are covered by the legislation.

A coalition of vehicle manufacturers including Subaru USA, Volkswagen USA, BMW USA, Mercedes USA and Hyundai USA, has come out in favor of the Tester bill.  To build support for the legislation, they launched the website 

Jon Tester is serving his second six-year term in the United States Senate.   He was returned to his senate seat with a resounding plurality when the opposition vote split last November between Republican candidate Denny Rehberg and Libertarian candidate Dan Cox.  During the campaign Senator Tester said he is no Barack Obama puppet.  He will support truck control legislation so long as President Obama opposes it.  

Top of the Mind

My couldn't lose Rose Bowl hat showed up.  It'll get plenty of wear when the golf season opens up in the spring.

Looking For Work?

Joseph Banks Clothiers stock is dropping like a rock today after the company updated its earnings outlook Friday night. In a press release the company said,

We are disappointed that we were not able to drive the sales gains we had expected. The fourth quarter started out slowly, as the first two weeks of fiscal November were negatively impacted by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the distractions created by the presidential election and the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff. Going into the critical holiday selling season, starting on Black Friday, we believed we had a strong marketing and promotional strategy for the period. However, many of the promotional items and a large part of our holiday assortment were items that sell best in cold weather and the weather was unseasonably warm.

Given the company’s dismal business prospects, I would suggest employees in its PR Department look elsewhere for employment.   The White House, with its current round of staff turnover, might be a good prospect particularly because the flacks would not have to change their list of excuses – not a bit.

It's For the Kids

Courtesy of an S&P downgrade the cost of the War On Children increases.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Going Home Again on the Net

New Google Maps Street View
I took a look yesterday at real estate sales in our old Arlington Virginia neighborhood, and there it popped up – a new street view photograph of our former Arlington home on Google Maps.  The picture shows the house as of a late June Friday morning last year, the timing identifiable by trash receptacles out front, the position of the sun and the “For Sale” sign with an “Under Contract” addendum.  For posterity, or at least for the several years that stand in for posterity on the Internet, our old pre-WW II revival colonial is primed for sale. The grass is lush and green, foliage clipped, flower beds mulched, porch, garage door and trim freshly painted, porch glider adorned with fresh cushions, the porch itself framed by hanging flower baskets and sitting flower boxes, and new double hung windows installed.  It never looked better.

Even so, Google Maps does not do the house (or the work Teresa and I put into it) full justice.   The Mouse On House picture I took below presents a street view better and brighter.  

Mouse On House Street View

I showed these pictures to the kids, asked if they missed the old place. Our South 5th Street home was one of the dozen largest in its Arlington Heights neighborhood.  So what do the kids say?  Blake says "Nice cottage."  Blythe says "It's like a chicken coop."   It sure didn’t take the kids long to adjust to the open expanses and larger sizes out West.  Someday I suppose they will be off to college where they will need to confront down-size reality once again. 

As for myself, I wish Google had waited a few months to refresh the picture because I would have liked to see the front porch with the railings, side extension and stairs down to the driveway, which I understand the new owners have built in.  I expect it will be some point beyond Internet posterity when I have the pleasure.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy 45th Big Mac

This year McDonald’s is celebrating the 45th anniversary of the nationwide rollout of the Big Mac©.   

Just before the rollout I ate my first.  My dad worked for Field Container Company, which was located across town from McDonald’s Hamburger University in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.  Field printed the first packaging. One day in early 1968, several weeks before the rollout, Dad brought home a Big Mac wrapped in a sleeve plus a folded sheet (the boxes came later).  He told me I would like it; this new cheeseburger would go really big.  Dad was half right. 

The Big Mac’s popularity has risen to the point where The Economist Magazine prepares a Big Mac Index which gauges purchasing power parity across currencies by comparing the purchase prices of a Big Mac among countries.  Bottom line, if you are traipsing off to the Ukraine, South Africa or Egypt, then chow down and enjoy cheap eats. But if the fjords of Norway, the rain forests of Brazil or the Australian Outback are beckoning, you had best go vegan if you want to protect your pocketbook.

Dad was wrong about my liking the “(t)wo all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – all on a sesame seed bun.”  It seems I learned a lesson that day.  Never, ever eat a cold Big Mac.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

We the Feds Part III -- A Ponzi Scheme

Young people, don't think you will get to join club Fed, not for a moment.  To the contrary it is your patriotic duty to support it. 

“It is characteristic of any Ponzi fraud that the people who get in on the ground floor do well. That makes the scheme popular; people clamor to get in. This is what has happened with Social Security and Medicare here in the U.S. Past and current beneficiaries are receiving benefits that are entirely disproportionate to what they paid in. This obviously cannot continue indefinitely. Every Ponzi fraud inevitably crashes when its exponential growth cannot be sustained because there is not enough new money–not enough suckers, to put it bluntly. In the context of entitlements, ‘new money’ means young people. That point is now approaching rather rapidly.”

 Recent events in Illinois are quite instructive. 

“After pension reform went down in flames last week, Illinois moved to Plan B: war on the young. Governor Pat Quinn’s administration claims that the upcoming budget will include major cutbacks on state services to make room for a $1 billion increase in pension spending. Most notably, education spending will decrease by $400 million, which would make 2013 the third straight year in which education spending has dropped.”

“Sticking it to either group, the young or the old, isn’t appealing, but the boomers are politically organized and better positioned to fight for their interests, particularly because powerful unions are on their side. The young, by contrast, are among the least politically active groups in the country, making them much easier for politicians to ignore. Illinois has obviously chosen the path of least resistance.”

AARP stuck to me like flypaper when I moved across the country.  The baby boomer lobbyists are filling my mail box with fliers beseeching me to re-up my ten year AARP membership before it expires later this year.  I have wisened so I won't be offering them the pleasure of a reply, but that makes me part of the one percent.   The other 99 percent of the baby boomers has young people squarely in their fiscal crosshairs.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

We the Feds Part II – Special Interest Rates for Federal Employees

How would you like to have had a money market account in the zero interest rate environment of the last few years that paid better than 2 percent? How would you like to buy bonds that will adjust to higher interest rates with no decrease in principal value? If you are an ordinary person, saving and investing, planning to buy house, hoping to fund a college education or contemplating retirement, you don’t have these options because you are not a federal employee. You can stash your money in an interest bearing account that pays 0.01 percent. Or you can package a bundle of long term treasury bonds that yields 2-plus percent, but the package will lose value, and result likely in an overall net loss when the Federal Reserve Board reverts to standard monetary policy with higher interest rates a year or two down the road.

The federal employee option that you don’t have is referred to as the G Fund in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).  The TSP website describes the G Fund thus.

“Fund principal and interest is guaranteed by the U.S. Government. This means that the U.S. Government will always make the required payments. In other words, your G Fund investment is not subject to credit (default) risk. The G Fund interest rate calculation is based on the weighted average yield of all outstanding Treasury notes and bonds with 4 or more years to maturity. As a result, participants who invest in the G Fund are rewarded with a long-term rate on what is essentially a short-term security. Generally, long-term interest rates are higher than short-term rates.”
The one, three, five and ten year returns for the G Fund, compared to the same timeframe returns for a commercially available government money market fund, are given in the following table.  Note  that for the last three years, the G Fund offered 2.2 percent better annual returns than the money market fund.

G Fund and Money Market Comparison
TSP G Fund Annual Return
Money Mkt Fund Annual Return
G Fund Premium
10 Year Avg.
5 Year Avg.
3 Year Avg.
One Year (2012)
Through 12/31/12, sources:

We the Feds Part I -- Postal Perks

Credit card fraud using Postal Service issued travel cards identified by the Inspector General is tiny in the grand scheme of things.  Have to wonder why the supposed watchdogs don't focus on the much larger issue of handing over frequent flier miles and hotel awards earned for official travel, to personal use by employees who rack up the perk points by the hundreds of thousands on Uncle Sam's dime.  It's symptomatic of what happens these days government wide.  Agencies are run for the benefit of the employees, to hell with the ratepayer or taxpayer.  More than anything Obama's "We the People" is "We the Feds."

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Caddies Thank You Dr. King!

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day which brings up images of the Civil Rights movement – sit-ins, marches and throngs of protestors, arms joined, chanting, swaying and singing “We Shall Overcome.” 

So it is only natural to think back and reflect on our remembrances of that era, a highlight revolving, believe it or not, around my experiences at the caddy shack.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A New Term Begins

It’s January 20th, Inauguration day.   And for the first of these quadrennial events during the last 32 years, I’m not in Washington, DC. 

Ronald Regan Swearing In
January 20, 1981
I am reminded of my first – January 20, 1981.  Ronald Wilson Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States.  The Gipper came back from early polling deficits to shellac Jimmy Carter, a President whose image was fatally tarnished by vacillation and ineffectiveness during the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  If the moralizing and temporizing JC could not take on a bunch of unruly university students who kidnapped American diplomats, how could he be expected to successfully confront the infinitely larger threats posed by the USSR and its Cold War allies?  The economy struggled with recession and double digit inflation.  The former Governor from Georgia told the US populous they were at fault, suffering from malaise.  Jimmy Carter was toast. 

West Portico of Capitol
and Reflecting Pool
The morning of the ceremony we took a Metrobus from our apartment in Alexandria to the District.  Because we would be a couple hundred yards distant, I carried along binoculars and a transistor radio, to better see and hear the inaugural address.  We settled in on the National Mall just across the Capitol Reflecting Pool, as close as us non-ticket holders could get to the podium and reviewing stand built and deconstructed every four years for the occasion.