Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Phony Furloughing for the Sequester

Like virtually every claim made with respect to the parade of the Sequester's horribles, civilian employee furlough days at the Pentagon and DOD installations nationwide were grossly exaggerated. The number of non-uniformed personnel furlough days for the fiscal year (ending September 30) started out at 22, dropped to 11 and now actually will be more like 6, according to the AP. 

One of the most absurd claims about the DOD belt tightening came early on from the Governor of Hawaii, carping about the sequestering impact on his locals.
The plain fact is, that will undermine our capacity for readiness at Pearl Harbor. And if that doesn't symbolize for the nation that, far from overstating anything, it is zeroing in on a graphic example of what happens when we fail to meet our responsibilities congressionally. You don't want to undermine that capacity to be able to respond.
We called it then and there a "phony alarm."  

As far as I can tell, there hasn't been a Japanese sneak attack.  Maxine Watters said the sequester would "cost 175 million jobs." Education Secretary Arnie Duncan said 40,000 jobs would be lost in education alone.  The White House said 13,000 people would be going down one way or another in Montana.  Obama said first responders wouldn't be able to respond, teachers would lose their jobs, hundreds of thousands of people would not receive medical care, the US would lose its ability to respond to threats and hundreds of thousands of people would lose their jobs.  The national parks wouldn't reopen in the spring because the roads would not be plowed.  Lies, all lies, from the left to justify outrageous spending and passing along humongous debt to our children. 

Debbie Wasserman Schulz complained that lunch prices for hill staffers would go up a couple of bucks as food subsidies were withdrawn.   She was right about that....awwwwww!

Enough said.

Postal Serve -- Time for Reform

I dropped a couple of letters from the name because the only way the Postal Service can survive to serve is trim its scope and hollow its core.

While the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) blithely advertises the Postal Service doesn't cost you the taxpayer a single dime ....

This APWU TV ad aired on NBC, CNN, MSNBC and Fox beginning July 8

..... the Postal Service is broken and broke.

The Postal Service ran up losses of $15.9 billion in 2012, $5.1 billion in 2011, and $8.5 billion in 2010.  Through 2012 total Postal Service losses accumulated to $38 billion.  If the Postal Service were put into bankruptcy today the process would be tasked with resolving debts twice the size of the mountain of debt Detroit brought into its bankruptcy filing.  The Postal Service has been able to pay bills and remain a going concern for the last several years only because Congress has passed emergency, kick-the-can-down-the-road legislation, permitting the Postal Service to welsh on its payment into the Federal Treasury -- payments that fund Postal Service employee and retiree health care benefits, pensions and workers' compensation claims. With its diminishing revenue stream, the Postal Service will never be able to make these payments; thus the APWU claim of no taxpayer funding is a joke, or to use Barack Obama's terminology, phony.

The Postal is confronted with a
permanently declining revenue trend.
The Postal Service's financial collapse isn't so much a question of mismanagement and inefficiency as it is a consequence of an outdated, sclerotic business model imposed on it by the Congress. That model worked, even thrived, during the first 30 years (1971-2001) of the Postal Service's existence as an independent (as in rate payer funded) agency when consistent economic growth, technological breakthroughs in database management and mail marketing, lifestyle changes, and deregulation and innovation in the financial, telecommunications and media sectors of the economy drove strong mail volume and revenue growth. But the mail volume growth curve weakened at the turn of the century, then stalled and stopped entering the Great Recession, when financially lucrative First-Class volumes plummeted, never to return. While the economy was the catalyst, the ultimate disposition of mail based transactions and messages was to the internet. Most of us, for most of that, don't need the mails anymore.

For its long term survival and ability to serve, the Postal Service needs to wrest tens of billions of dollars out of its cost structure. The volume and revenue to support the Postal Service as we know it simply are no longer there.

The Postal Service is in an all of the above kind of situation, the most important items of which are listed below.
  • Six day a week delivery must go.  While 5-day delivery plans have been put on the table, ultimately there need only be 3. These days, anything that is so time-sensitive that you can't wait a day or two for it comes via email, express, or expedited delivery services. The every day, grind it out postal delivery model is needed no more.

Collection boxes are not the only
things that need to be surplussed.
  • Those who receive door delivery need to join the rest of us (most of the population) who receive our mail curbside or at some sort of centralized delivery receptacle. The labor intensity of door delivery is insupportable by declining postal revenues.
  • Thousands of small stations, branches and post offices need to go. While many of their patrons claim the social fabric of their community will be torn by closure, the real agenda mostly is to support keeping in their communities the very high paying jobs that the postal system can no longer afford.
  • Postal Service management needs to get new tools to negotiate agreements and compensation structures with postal labor. Currently, third party arbitrators are authorized to impose labor contracts on the postal system with little or no regard or economic consequence. One of the consequences of this extraordinary circumstance is large portions of the postal labor force are compensated significantly more than counterparts at FedEx and UPS. The resulting artificially high cost structure makes it impossible for the Postal Service to compete for most of the package delivery market, which costs the postal system revenue that  could help support the Postal Service's infrastructure.
  • The Postal Service pension and post retirement health benefit systems and their funding must be reformed. While most of the public discussion on these issues has focused on funding mechanisms, the basic obligations are too expensive for the Postal Service to afford going forward. The postal unions exaggerate by a factor of two or three the annual savings that will result from legitimate pension and health benefit reform. Retirement programs are not the only problem, not by a long shot. 
  • And yes, postal rates need to rise, for many services significantly. The big users of the postal system are big business -- big banks, big mail order companies, big telecommunication firms and big publishers.  They have used their insider status and political influence to put restrictive and financially draining caps on postal rates.  It's time for big business rate caps to come to an end.  Otherwise our children and grandchildren will end up paying the bill through postal-sourced accretions to the burgeoning federal debt bomb.  
There is much to do.  Congress needs to get on with it.

Here in Montana we are part of the problem instead of part of the solution, thanks most obviously to Senator Jon Tester. Earlier this year Tester stood in the way of postal reform by invoking the constitutional right to mail delivery. Tester said, "It's in the Constitution that we have to have a Postal Service" which is, of course, an outright fabrication. This wasn't an off the cuff remark. Tester put it out in a press release. Tester's big idea for reducing the $10 billion gap is to get rid of a couple of part time members of the Postal Service's Board of Governors and to limit the Postmaster General's salary. This guy really believes his stuff.

Something has got to break, and for the sake of my children and grandchildren who otherwise will be paying today's outsize postal bills tomorrow, I would hope that what breaks is the Jon Tester, big labor and big mailer stranglehold on the outmoded and unsustainable, debt accumulating, postal business model. It is time to move truly forward. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Credit That

An Oregon woman successfully sued Equifax for messing up her credit report. She was awarded $18.6 million in damages.

Miller's troubles began in 2009, according to her complaint, when she was denied credit from Huybbard Bank based on her Equifax credit report. She requested and eventually received a copy of her report, which, she discovered, contained false identifying information, an incorrect Social Security number, a false birthday and false, derogatory collection accounts attributed to her.
She began disputing these inaccuracies starting in 2010. She repeatedly contacted the company and was repeatedly told Equifax needed further information before it could process her dispute.
Later in 2010 Miller was denied credit by Key Bank, based on her Equifax report.
After filing further protests with Equifax about the inaccuracies in her report, Equifax representatives told Miller her data had become "mixed" with another person's. They told her she would need to dispute the false information directly to her creditors.
In all, Miller tried eight times to get her report corrected. Finally, she brought suit in Oregon Federal District Court in October 2011.
There is at least some justice in that corner of the world.  Now if we could only sue the IRS.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Moon Rise Over Montana

Moon Rise Over Montana
Blackfeet Nation,
DeeBoo Ranch, Valier

Saturday Pictures

Saturday Pictures
July 27, 2013
(click to enlarge)

MMMMMOOOOSE!  First hole, Bridger Creek Golf Course.

Elk, herd that is, Triple Tree, just south of Bozeman.

Blogger on horse ("JJ"), Valier MT, Blackfeet Nation, the DeBoo Ranch.

Girl, our littlest, with horse, the DeBoo Ranch.

Corral, DeBoo Ranch.

Mrs. Blogger at corral, DeBoo Ranch.

Girls in teepee, DeBoo Ranch.

Girls (and boy) on trampoline, DeBoo Ranch.

Sequester Tightens, Uh, Real Estate Market in DC

Club Fed continues to spew riches. This comment on WAPO's blog says it so.
All that wealth and opulence – bought and paid for by the rest of the country, so our rulers can live in a style and fashion that the rest of us can only imagine. Is this a great country or what?
Sequester is a no-quester when it comes to housing and real estate in the federal government based economy in the Washington, DC area. Feds throughout continue to grow the financial divide with middle America as the real estate they occupy appreciates by leaps and bounds and federal largess makes housing affordable for contractors and employees.
Demand is soaring, but supply is not keeping up. The region’s supply of homes is the tightest it’s been since well before the financial crisis, according to recent data.
The result? It takes only nine days for most homes to be snapped up by hungry Washington home buyers. The region’s entire inventory of homes for sale could be consumed in as little as two months.
This tight inventory is pushing up home prices, setting up bidding wars and pricing new home buyers out of a market that is still enjoying historically low mortgage rates.
Homes in the $300,000 to $600,000 price range are selling the most quickly — usually in a week, according to June data — making the market particularly hard to navigate for first-time home buyers who want to live close to the District. Just a year ago, those homes sat around for at least three weeks.
Even homes at the higher end of the spectrum — from $600,000 to just shy of the $1 million mark — are on the market for eight days. On the other side of the scale, homes priced lower than $300,000 are available for just over two weeks.
Washington’s strong labor market and relative immunity from the housing crisis meant that demand never really dried up here, analysts say. But supply hasn’t kept pace.
Here are the numbers.  It pays to be in Club Fed.

For all home types in the Washington area:
In thousands
In thousands
For all home types
June 2013
June 2012
Washington metro area
Arlington County
Fairfax County
Loudoun County
Montgomery County
Prince George‘s County
Prince William County
Washington, D.C.
SOURCE: RealEstate Business Intelligence. GRAPHIC: By Tobey - The Washington Post. Published July 24, 2013.

Club Fed Balks at Obamacare

It's being implemented. We are learning what is in it now.  Federal employees see Obamacare coming their way. They are ducking and heading for the hills.
In the private sector, many workers are concerned about losing their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, and being dumped into Obamacare’s subsidized insurance exchanges. Two weeks ago, representatives of three large labor unions fired off a harsh letter to Democratic leaders in Congress, complaining that Obamacare would “shatter…our hard-earned health benefits” and create “nightmare scenarios” for their members. Today, we learn that the National Treasury Employees Union—the union that includes employees of the Internal Revenue Service—is asking its members to write letters to their Congressmen, stating that they are “very concerned” about legislative efforts requiring IRS and Treasury employees to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges.
“I am a federal employee and one of your constituents,” the letter begins. “I am very concerned about legislation that has been introduced by Congressman Dave Camp to push federal employees out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and into the insurance exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).”
Oh my! Oh no! Club Fed is saying not for us, Obamacare has got to go.

Meanwhile, in the buy 'em by the bag land you can buy one, two or three sack fulls. It makes no difference. Pushed by Obamacare's implementation White Castle -- in sharp contrast to its current employee mix -- is driving towards a part time benefit free workforce. Currently,
White Castle employs around 9,600 workers nationwide and about half work full-time. Roughly 80 percent of White Castle's full-time employees opt in to the company's current health care plan and the company spends four to five times more in health care than it makes in net income annually, Richardson said.
Obama is all for the middle class. If you don't believe it, ask him. Remember his motto. Forward! Move on!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Public Safety Message: Surviving Montana Rivers

Whether you are enjoying the view or the refreshing feel of a cool mountain stream, casting for trout, or boating, tubing or rafting, Montana rivers and creeks are an awesome natural resource. But locals and visitors alike best be wary, lest they veer down an embankment,  drive off the road, get pinned by or slip into the current, capsize or even unexpectedly encounter an otter. Drowning and hypothermia are ever present dangers.  Now we can add to the long list of hazards -- a suddenly falling humanoid. 

It happened earlier this week in Missoula, 

Clark Fork River Bridge, Missoula Montana

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A western Montana man floating on an inner tube suffered broken bones in his legs and torn ligaments in his knees when another man jumped from a bridge and landed in his lap.
Andy Hill of Missoula and his wife were floating under a bridge on the Clark Fork River near East Missoula Sunday when the man landed on him, KECI-TV reported.
"Suddenly I had intense pain and was under water," Hill said.
"There was a guy on my lap and he rolled off my lap and he just kept apologizing saying 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry,'" Hill said.
The man swam Hill to shore, still on the inner tube, and the man's friend helped Hill as well.
Hill suffered broken bones in both lower legs and a cracked femur in his left leg and will likely spend the rest of the summer in a wheelchair or on crutches.
But he's been able to keep his sense of humor.
"Who does this happen to?" asked Hill, laughing. "I don't know of anybody this has ever happened to."

Be careful out there!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

White Guy Shot Dead

The shooter carried his weapon from his vehicle into the altercation. The local sheriff says the shooter is "not at fault."
Evidence gathered by investigators of the fatal shooting of an apparent burglar by a Helena-area homeowner Wednesday so far matches the account given by the shooter, according to Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton.
Dutton confirmed that the shooter and homeowner is James Stiffler, 66.
“Right now there’s nothing to indicate that the details provided by Mr. Stiffler are not accurate,” Dutton said Thursday afternoon, shortly after meeting with Stiffler.
Stiffler was defending himself and his property.  He tracked down the deceased and didn't call the police until after the miscreant was fatally wounded.

Dutton said Stiffler brought the weapon into the house from his car. 
He declined to indicate the type of firearm, number of shots fired or various other details about the encounter, but said he believed Stiffler was not at fault in the shooting. 
He said Stiffler has been extremely cooperative with investigators. 
“I’ve known him for quite some time and he’s an upstanding person,” Dutton said. “He’s not taking it lightly.”
Would somebody please tell our illustrious President that jumping on a person and beating on them, casing homes for burglary (Trayvon Martin had a burglary record that was buried from prosecution and public view by the juvenile justice system) and actual burglary are acts that expose the perpetrator to grievous harm, up to and including death.  It has nothing to do with race. 

Here's a hoody -- nearly everyone has one here.  It's not a black thing nor white.
Montana State Hoodie
Meanwhile in Detroit, the city Obama brags that he saved from bankruptcy, the need for self protection and self defense is going down like this.
Public services are near collapse because of repeated budget cuts. Crime has been at elevated levels for a prolonged period. Recent figures show that about 40 per cent of street lights do not work. Only a third of ambulances are in service because maintenance funds have been slashed.
“Nothing – nothing works in this city,” said Sheila Cockrel, who spent 16 years serving on Detroit City Council. Since stepping down in 2009, she has been teaching at Wayne State University. “It takes 58 minutes for a police car to come if they accept your call,” she added. “The only calls they accept are if there’s a gun and they believe you’re not lying when you say it. In my middle-income neighbourhood, we pay a private security service ... Once I was in my house at three o’clock in the afternoon and three young men tried to break in. The first call I made? Threat Management.”
Ms Cockrel is referring to Threat Management Centre, a private security company which operates from a black building near the Detroit River waterfront. It is among the many private firms that some residents have resorted to as the city struggles to provide adequate services. Founded in the mid-1990s by Dale Brown, known to his staff as “Commander Brown”, Threat Management’s client roster has 1,000 homes and 500 businesses.
Mr Brown’s men and women are kitted out in military-style trousers, black T-shirts, protective vests and badges. The “Commander”, who began by training locals to protect themselves before founding his company, drives around in a black Hummer 4x4. Threat Management Centre’s personnel are known as “Vipers”, an acronym, Mr Brown told The Independent, for “Violence Intervention Protective Emergency Response System”.
President Obama, we don't need and won't heed your advice, we abhor your leadership and we resent your dictates. You are a phony, a liar and lout. Cut out the crap and leave us alone.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I Agree With Elizabeth Warren

..... for perhaps the one and only time.  

Warren aims to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, repealed as a joint enterprise of former President Bill Clinton, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, former Clinton Treasury Secretary and Obama economic adviser Lawrence Summers and former Senator Phil Gramm, Republican of Texas.  Chuck Shumer, a Senate Democrat from New York, was a huge repeal supporter. Bob Rubin, Clinton's former Treasury Secretary, represented the private sector. Timmy Geithner, Obama's former Treasury Secretary, was on the team.  The repeal effort was one of those collaborative enterprises that demonstrates why you are dumb to be a Republican and positively insane to be a Democrat.  You really don't want these hicks agreeing and compromising on anything important.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is gearing up for some "financial rabble-rousing," said Kevin Roose at New York. Last week, she introduced a bill that would force big banks to split apart their commercial and investment banking operations. Dubbed the "21st Century Glass-Steagall Act" because it reinstates key provisions of the repealed 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, the bill aims to "make the entire banking system safer and less crisis-prone" by shrinking big banks and making it harder for those with federally insured deposits to engage in "risky stuff."
Warren proposes structural regulation. Glass-Steagall is the type of regulation that actually works over the long haul, because unlike other types of regulation, it doesn't rely on clueless drone bureaucrats to be brave, smart and insightful and doesn't require groveling political appointees to be public spirited. Structurally, you can do x and not do y or you can do y and not do x. Make your choice and go to it. But banks could not be commercial banks and investment banks in one big ball of wax. Glass-Steagall worked for 65 years. It's no wonder.

When I heard that Glass Steagall was repealed I said "Oh my God, now Wall Street will become a gigantic conflict of interest." It will become all about financial gaming instead of operating a financial system that tracks and supports a real economy. Looking back we all know now what gaming took place, and how when those games collapsed in on themselves, they brought the financial sector to its knees, and the real economy along with it.

For economic and financial systems to work well, the dominant form of enterprise has to be informed arms length transactions among people and firms reconciling their various interests. That doesn't happen when the financial chain of events are linked together under a single roof. Our economy needs the Wild, Wild West of Investment Banking. It needs also the safety, security and predictability of plain vanilla Commercial Banking. But we are poorly served, in the extreme, when these functions all occur under one roof.

I agree with Elizabeth. Now I need to go wash my hands.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Middle Class -- Obama's Got Your Back

You have to hand it to Barack Obama. He is a guy always willing to speak up, stand up and grow the middle class.
President Obama believes this is a make or break moment for the middle class and those trying to reach it, and he has laid out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last - an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.
Reflecting Obama's policies and commitment to the middle class, just this year, the Obama economy has added one a quarter million new private sector jobs. The White House likes the trend. Earlier this month, Obama's Council of Economic Advisors bragged,

While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further confirmation that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we remain focused on pursuing policies to speed job creation and expand the middle class, as we continue to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.
Today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that private sector businesses added 202,000 jobs last month (see first chart below). Total non-farm payroll employment rose by 195,000 jobs in June. The economy has now added private sector jobs for 40 consecutive months, and a total of 7.2 million jobs has been added over that period. In spite of monthly volatility, over the past three years the pace of job growth has increased each year (see second chart below). So far this year, 1.23 million private sector jobs have been added.
How's Obama getting it done? Job splitting is a good term for it.
For the entire U.S. workforce, employers have added far more part-time employees in 2013—averaging 93,000 a month, seasonally adjusted—than full-time workers, which have averaged 22,000.
That's right, Obama is bolstering the middle class by adding about four part time jobs for every full time job, reminiscent of Obama's run in with Joe the Plumber and commitment to sharing the wealth.

The Washington Post has recognized the role Obamacare plays  in parsing jobs.
The health care law requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide affordable insurance coverage to workers. For part-time employees, who work fewer than 30 hours, the story is different: A company does not get penalized for not providing health insurance coverage.
The motivation to move even more workers into part-time positions is relatively straightforward. Employers can dodge the requirement to purchase health benefits and not pay a fine to the federal government. All of a sudden, they’re off the hook for an insurance policy that, on average, costs $9,562 to provide — and they don’t have to pay a fine.
One, two, three, let's all say it together now....

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saturday Pictures

Saturday Pictures
July 13, 2013
(click to enlarge)

Today, we offer a selection of Montana webcams.   Get lost in Montana -- the "last, best place."

Big Sky live mountain cam.

Bridger Canyon, Bozeman.

Cathedral Mountain Ranch, Nye.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Obama's Class

In Barack Obama's rhetoric the poor are poorly represented.  The middle gets mentioned.

Source:  http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/2013/06/is-everyone-lining-up-to-challenge.html

Yet mid-wage jobs are declining.

And median incomes are falling.

The results are no good.  Think what might happen if he would just shut up.

Want to Know Anything About the Farm Bill?

Played golf today with a fellow who is an MSU Ag Econ professor, said he is a Democrat and a visiting scholar at AEI, an unusual combination to say the least. He confirmed that most Ag programs mostly subsidize people who are well off. At this point in his career he knows his subject matter inside and out. He joked that he wrote the book on crop insurance. Turns out he did. I said that's OK, so long as you didn't write the book on flood insurance. I may have spoken too soon. That was before I saw the title of his book.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Smarter Government = Feds Spying on Feds

We could make this up but we don't have to so we won't.

On a day that Barack Obama proselytized on the need for smarter, more innovative government we learn that the President is already right on top of it. Government wide he has launched a report on your co-worker tattletale program.
Security investigations can be launched when government employees showing “indicators of insider threat behavior” are reported by co-workers, according to previously undisclosed administration documents obtained by McClatchy. Investigations also can be triggered when “suspicious user behavior” is detected by computer network monitoring and reported to “insider threat personnel.”
Federal employees had better watch their p's and q's,

Federal employees and contractors are asked to pay particular attention to the lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors – like financial troubles, odd working hours or unexplained travel – of co-workers as a way to predict whether they might do “harm to the United States.”
Discretion is not an option.
The techniques are a key pillar of the Insider Threat Program, an unprecedented government-wide crackdown under which millions of federal bureaucrats and contractors must watch out for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers. Those who fail to report them could face penalties, including criminal charges.
Go into debt to pay for your kid's education, work late or through the weekends, or try to sneak away for a vacation without letting the boss know the destination, you are obviously the next Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden. Barack Obama wants you targeted and investigated. That's smart, innovative government, particularly when you consider the the thousands of security personnel Obama will get to hire to investigate and track down all the leads on the next would-be espionage plot. Go to it brother Barack. 

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/07/09/196211/linchpin-for-obamas-plan-to-predict.html#.UdzOQvl18TZ#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/07/09/196211/linchpin-for-obamas-plan-to-predict.html#.UdzOQvl18TZ#storylink=cpy