Thursday, January 8, 2009

An Inappropriate Metaphor

In recent days, the most ill-used metaphor has been “hit the ground running.” It is largely applied to the efforts of the president-elect to be up to speed when he takes office next week. I do applaud his efforts in attempting to get a head start on manning the helm of the ship of state. I guess it’s the news media and talking heads that are the object of my criticism.

One of my favorites on television is a program on the Discovery Channel called “Myth Busters.” In a recent episode (Nov. 12, 08), they tackled this old shibboleth—“hit the ground running..” They tested it against practical reality. They attempted to lower members of their staff on a closed course by harnesses with releases to actually be running in the air as they were lowered to the starting line. Their speed was then compared to that of starting in a normal manner. None gained any advantage by being in motion at the start. They were almost universally impeded by stumbling at the change point.

Every device they used to gain an advantage at the start met with similar results. Although in some cases hilarious, the results were conclusive; no advantage is achieved in this very physical attempt.

As I watch “the one” and his efforts to obtain an advantage by preparation in advance of the actual inauguration and assumption of the mantle of leadership seems headed for a similar result. The greatest lesson which he has yet to learn is the difference between leadership and direction. It boils down to push vs. pull. Most folks are agreeable if they feel those in charge are pulling them to success in their efforts. Being pushed is rarely any fun for anyone and often meets with serious resistance.

The net result of his announced cabinet choices have resulted in serious resistance from various legislators who either felt “out of the loop” or else being pushed into decisions not of there own making. They do have to be the engine of approval for these people after all. Some more experienced ones recognize their own failings (see Bill Richardson) and have withdrawn. I predicted in a prior posting that he would be the all time champ of failed appointments and he has now already taken over first place among would be presidents. He may even lose one more possible appointment.

While every president-elect hopes for a smooth transition, few achieve that vaunted goal. When one runs on a total change in the philosophy of a government, one should anticipate more than a few rough spots.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Year 1908

The following was supplied by commenter Fred Sinclair in response to a post on Scrappleface.

"THE YEAR 1908

This will boggle your mind, I know it did mine! The year is 1908, one hundred years ago. What a difference a century makes! Here are some statistics for the Year 1908:

************ ********* ********* ******
The average life expectancy was 47 years.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower!

The average wage in 1908 was 22 cents per hour.

The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME.

Ninety percent of all doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION! Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as ’substandard.‘

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used
Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

Five leading causes of death were:

1. Pneumonia and influenza 2. Tuberculosis 3. Diarrhea 4. Heart disease 5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars.

The population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was only 30!!!! (Ed: I question this)

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea hadn’t been invented yet.

There was no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn’t read or write.

Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores. Back then pharmacists said, ‘Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.’ (Shocking? DUH! )

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE! U.S.A.!”

Both my parents were children during this year. Even thirty years later, as a tyke myself, things hadn’t really changed all that much. None of our relatives had indoor plumbing or electricity on their farms. All we had to eat was a cornucopia of delightful food prepared to perfection and in plentiful supply. Mom and I finally got a refrigerator in 1945 and a car in 1949.

Even “deprived” as we were, they were the golden years of my life. Some have equaled but none have surpassed those wonderful days..

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Over Generous Under Funded Pensions

For those readers who are looking to earthquakes, fires, floods, and a sky ready to fall presaging the end of life as we know it; this post will be your “cup of tea..” It is a case of impending disaster which is, as a practical matter, more threatening than any of the calamities in the first sentence. If this doesn’t cause you more alarm and alert you to the happenings in your individual state legislature and local city and country governments then you care less about the immediate future that I thought.

While the country’s pension funds and healthcare plans are not universally at serious risk, you will agree that more are than aren’t. If you would rather read the reports themselves than my caustic comments I don’t blame you. The device I have chosen is rife with links to verifiable sites and additional information. It is a compilation of postings on Instapundit over recent time outlining the shortfall in a panoply of funding schemes for various groups of governmental bodies of employees. So, get your guts up and click on the link. If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude for this, don’t click and I’ll fill you in on some of the highlights.

We start with a look at Nevada. One of my very oldest and dearest friends is the beneficiary of a state of Nevada pension plan which she rightfully earned. As an employee at UNLV, she retired after twenty years in the early 1990’s. She enjoys a pension that is 131% of the national average of comparable plans. This is a program which has an entry age of twenty years of service, regardless of age, and is under funded by a current $44 million and carries an exponential demand in the future. By not having a minimum entry age, the Public Employee Retirement System payments could be available to the retiree at a possible age of 38 years and place demands on the system for an additional 38 years assuming a life expectancy of 76 years. Although extremely beneficial for my friend, it is fiscally unrealistic.

For a look at Texas, let’s isolate the case of one legislator: “It turns out that, like most government workers, Texas legislators contribute a percentage of their annual salary to their pension. But while their salaries are a meager $7,200 a year, the salary that's used in calculating their pensions is that of a state district court judge: $125,000. As with most public pensions, you have to stay on the job a number of years to qualify — eight years to retire at age 60 or 12 years to retire at age 50. The longer you stay, the bigger the benefit. One article, published a few years ago in the Oklahoma City Journal Record, noted that one Texas legislator who never made more than $7,200 annually as a legislator retired after 39 years of service with an annual pension of $92,704. Not bad for a session that lasts 140 days every other year.”

In New York City, the pension funds were invested in the market which went south. As a consequence, the city’s obligation will have to be picked up by the citizens. They can likely expect to see reduced services and additional tax levies to make up the short fall which figures out to about $3,000 per every man, woman and child.
Even in tiny Rhode Island, the state was forced to “retire” hundreds of workers to accommodate falling revenues. By doing so they over-taxed a burgeoning retirement system that was already under funded. The result was more folks in the plan and fewer folks making contributions. The shortfall was in the tens of millions.

Massachusetts reported that of 106 public pension funds in the state, only 3 were fully funded. 82 of them were below the 80% level which is normally seen as the minimum requirement. Seven were said to be less than 50%. Some of this is a result of a declining stock market but over generous pension allowances are also a factor. Local official insist that this does not indicate that any of the programs are in jeopardy. Another question was raised over the issue of some state troopers who enjoy a salary in excess of $140,000 a year.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is complaining of a short fall to 24% of needs for pensions of city employees. As a result, they fired several financial consultants, (kill the messenger) to give the appearance of action. It is possible they were incompetent but I rather imagine they were no more or less astute than the financial wizards in the major financial centers. If one has the acumen to anticipate markets that well, I would assume they keep it to themselves and profit accordingly. You don’t always bet the pass line.

There are tons more of these on the link which I furnished above. What is the most troubling is the number of these pensioners who are represented by special interest groups who provide a dependable voting bloc for entrenched politicians. To insure loyalty, they promise the moon and deliver programs which are destined to fail. In their minds, “the font of every blessing” is the taxpayer who will probably have to rely upon Social Security because he didn’t have enough left over to save independently.

Since I brought it up --Social Security—let us save that discussion for another day. It also depends on the faith and credit of the republic.

As I examined these various entries I made a notation that very few were reported from such states as ND, WY, ID, SD, UT, OK, and other “back woods” areas. I guess clinging to guns religion encourages more fiscal responsibility. I am certain, however, that there are probably isolated instances of irresponsibility in these backwaters but the general reporting does not suggest it.

What is the solution: slam and lock the barn door now that the horse has been stolen. It will take some stern and unpopular measures or possibly the meltdown of the entire financial system to stimulate action. More importantly, it will require the electorate to pursue their candidates to implement more fiscally responsible actions. Like Smokey says: only you can prevent forest fires and only you can elect people who are sane.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Monday, January 5, 2009

Monday Morning Rant 72

Oh what a beautiful morning. I can’t think of anything more delightful than watching the Chicago pols self-destruct before my very eyes. The whole circus, which is Daly’s world and “the one’s” cronies, is falling all over itself to see who is going to testify against whom. The feature attraction was Blagojevich’s appointment of Burris to the Senate. This action then brought the full ignorance and racial bad temper of Sen. Harry Reid out for the world to see. His claim of the ability to block the taking of the seat by the appointee is ridiculous. You can search the constitution, the statutes, or the phone book and the result will be the same; they can’t legally block him from assuming the seat.

Had the Illinois legislators (even more corrupt than the US Congress) done some actual work and passed a law barring it, the indicted governor would have been helpless. However, what with Christmas shopping, planning New Year’s parties, and taking bribes, they just couldn’t find the time. In a sense of fairness, I might point out that although the current principals are of the Democrat persuasion, Illinois politics is a bipartisan disaster.

The schadenfreude is overwhelming and, I might add, not really becoming to those of us who engage in it. A recent examination of the seven deadly sins on the History Channel alleged it was the equivalent of envy. Right or wrong, we all know that it is not healthy. After all, the failure of others, especially those who richly deserve it, is difficult not to cheer but I am afraid it is not pleasing to God

If that were not enough; in spite of having an abundance of experienced politicians and functionaries in New York, their governor, Paterson, is faced with demands from all quarters to continue the Kennedy dynasty by appointing Caroline to Mrs. Clinton’s now open senate seat. Teddy’s at death’s door and the rest are dead or in jail, so we are on the verge of running out of that precious commodity. Their traditional family ball game has turned into a game of catch. Just for fun, imagine a scenario of making that appointment and then watching the Senate fail to confirm Mrs. Clinton’s nomination for Secretary of State; what happens then? That is just too outrageous to even think of.

Through it all, “the one” has been consumed with wearing leis, surfing, and playing daddy in Hawaii. He returned with the family in tow to enter the kids in a private school (no criticism here, it's the proper action of a responsible father) and found Bill Richardson reluctant to accept his nomination to Secretary of Commerce and also, that means George Bush wouldn’t allow the Obama’s to park their U-Haul truck at the white house until they could unload it. It seems Governor Richardson has some pay-for-play of his own to clear up before he faces a Senate confirmation any time soon. The withdrawal of appointees has tied the Clinton administration’s record and before it’s over, I predict at least one more will beg off. It appears that the wheels are about to come off the “clown” car. I hope someone “changes the oil” on the teleprompter before he publicly addresses all these problems.

Thoughts on Oprah

I confess, other than news reports on her activities, I have little contact with the Oprah show. I many stumble across it if I’m surfing for a news broadcast or a sports event, but it is never intentional. I “borrowed” the following from "Skeptoid" and it about sums up some of the stuff I have witnessed myself:

“To her estimated total audience of 100 million, many of whom uncritically accept every word the world's wealthiest woman says, she promotes the paranormal, psychic powers, new age spiritualism, conspiracy theories, quack celebrity diets, past life regression, angels, ghosts, alternative therapies like acupuncture and homeopathy, anti-vaccination, detoxification, vitamin megadosing, and virtually everything that will distract a human being from making useful progress and informed decisions in life. Although much of what she promotes is not directly harmful, she offers no distinction between the two, leaving the gullible public increasingly and incrementally injured with virtually every episode.

When you have a giant audience, you have a giant responsibility. Maybe you don't want such a responsibility, in which case, fine, keep your mouth shut; or limit your performance to jokes or acting or whatever it is you do.

At some point, the real hoax is Oprah herself.”

More to it than global warming

If you are unaccustomed to checking on the Huffington Post you will find this link somewhat unexpected on Zion Beckons. They normally only entertain leftists, progressives and others of their ilk as posters on the website. I’ll admit that finding the words, “apology” and “Al Gore” in the same sentence was enough of a lure to get me to check. It will reveal an article by Harold Ambler to the end of asserting that Al Gore owes the rest of us an apology. He then makes the case in opposition to the concepts of anthropogenic global warming as touted in Gore’s infamous movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

What makes this interesting goes well beyond what Mr. Ambler asserts in his counter of the film. The shock to the regular readers of the blog and the outrage to hear a dissenting voice on the subject will give you a rare insight. Read the piece and then read some of the comments. I truly believe you will find it enlightening.

And finally

It was a chilly but brilliantly clear trip to Miami, OK Sunday morning. I never tire of the drive. The message was delivered by “Nappy” Roberson, and the attitude was one of repentance and renewal. I am extremely content with the members of this congregation. I am probably swayed by the fact that their constant emphasis is on Jesus Christ. Oh, that it were true everywhere.

Call me crazy but I am now buying bird seed in 25 pound bags. I truly believe that the bird feeders are the hottest subject on the bird “phone” network. I would love to know exactly how they communicate this important information to their cousins because it is obvious that we are the top news of the day. No new species have showed up, though.

One final note: I believe our comments section is messed up. I have cleared a couple of comments and done the right things and yet they have disappeared. If your comment didn’t make it, it is because of my ineptitude or else a system glitch. My apologies.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon