Saturday, April 16, 2011

Atlas Shrugged - They didn't screw it up.

I went to the local premiere of the Atlas Shrugged movie last night in Southlake. 

Southlake is having an arts festival in the same shopping center as the theatre, and I decided to grab something to eat and check out the artists before the movie started.  I found a great Steak-K-Bob, paid for it, and then decided to step into the beer booth for a Bud Lite. 

Beer Lady: Do you have coupons? 

Me: What?

Beer Lady: You know how it is, sorry for the hassle, but we have to ask you to purchase some coupons at the next table, and then you can redeem the coupons for beer. 

Me: Huh? 

Beer Lady: You know how it is, it's one of the rules of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.  We're not allowed to sell beer, but we can exchange beer for coupons that were purchased elsewhere. 

So I took four steps to the left, bought four dollars worth of coupons from the Coupon Lady, took another four steps back to the right, and exchanged my coupons with the Beer Lady for a Bud Lite. 

This ritual didn't help anybody, it added unnecessary costs to the transaction, no one would've been harmed if the Beer Lady had been allowed to take my money.  But we can't allow Bud Lite Beer Ladies to simply sell Bud Lite without the State's blessings, can we? 


This puts one into a fine frame of mind for watching Atlas Shrugged.  Sorry for the digression. 

I hung out with numerous libertarian-types after the movie, and our most common comment was....they didn't screw it up.  Thank God they didn't screw it up. 

The screenplay isn't particularly good, the acting is nothing special, the Reardon Metal tracks and John Galt trains employ special effects that look like early 1980's.  The editing is kinda sloppy.  I was sitting by my friend Michael Coyne, a fine guitarist, and he shared my opinion that some of the background music was good, and some of it seemed borrowed from another movie.  But at least they didn't screw it up !!!

I once spent two years of my life doing metal price quotes.  When pricing metal, there are a lot of factors you have to take into account, and that's just for building fruitstands.  In this movie, Hank Reardon instantly commits to about half a dozen massive metal deals without even calculating the expenses on the back of a napkin.  Granted, he was trying to bed his customer, but one of those deals was for a bridge that rivals anything in North America.  I almost broke out in giggles.  But they didn't screw it up !!!!

I spent last weekend with my daughter at a two-day beer and music event called "Chilifest".  There were people at Chilifest who had an alcoholic beverage in hand for 48 hours.  That was nothing compared to the cast of Atlas Shrugged.  Those actors drank like Prohibition was just around the corner.  I stayed for the end credits, just to see if "Turning Leaf" had paid a product placement fee.  But at least they didn't screw it up !!!

Another problem....Rand's novel is set in an imaginary future.  Since this was a very low-budget production, there wasn't much money for funding any whiz-bang future.  So the future looks, but with lots of trains.  There wasn't much money for the set designer to come up with any elaborate CEO offices, or a corporate Valhalla for the Taggart board meetings.  And the dress that Dagny wears to the Reardon anniversary party?  I think I've seen it before.  On a bridesmaid.  But the bridesmaid's version didn't need ironing.  The filmakers made some mistakes in the movie adaptation of this novel, but at least they didn't totally screw it up !!!

I'll purchase the DVD to this thing because it reflects reality.  Washington crusaders are shown to be the calculating parasites that they are.  Entrepreneurs are shown working longer hours than the people that they support.  This is a movie about a business and corporations, but the CEO's of these corporations are not in an underground lair, plotting to kill all their customers from deep inside a hollowed-out volcano, just so they can increase their margins.  You start thinking....what would happen if the a-holes that run my company went on strike? 

There was a very libertarian audience on hand for the showing in Southlake, so Dagny Taggart's line about "I'll let you and your Washington friends solve that problem" got a massive laugh.  One sequence of headlines and magazine covers had the guys sitting behind me saying things like "saw it today", "now", and "General Electric". 

The audience cheered loudly when the title flashed on the screen, something I think I've only seen done for the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter movies. 

They cheered just as loudly when the movie ended, mostly because....they didn't totally screw it up !!!

When the book was released in the late 1950's, mainstream critics ripped it all to pieces, but it has gone on to be one of the bestselling novels of all time, and one of the most influential.  I hope this first installment will earn enough to justify some upgrades on the next two. 

Overall, just because of the subject matter, I'd give it a 6 or 7 on the 10 scale.  It's nowhere near as good as the book, but with only a 20 million dollar budget, it's far superior to the Barack Obama Community Theatre version that has cost us trillions.  Now THAT version is screwed up. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

More on the Incredible Shrinking Republican Budget Cuts !!!!

Tuesday morning, I linked to something that claimed the Republican budget miserable defeat compromise was down to $14 billion dollars. 

The numbers just keep getting smaller, don’t they? Republicans started the year demanding $100 billion in cuts. But it quickly turned out that when they said $100 billion, they were just talking hypothetically. Instead, they meant $100 billion on an annualized basis. The next we heard, Republicans were aiming to trim $61 billion. And not one penny less! Eventually, they agreed to a deal that they claimed cut $38 billion. But of that $38 billion, it turns out, the real cuts only add up to about $14 billion. Any bets on how many days before the cuts disappear entirely?

I shouldn't have linked to that piece by the otherwise reliable folks at Reason magazine.  The Republicans aren't going to cut $14 billion dollars from the budget.  The Congressional Budget Office reports that the real cuts only amount to $352 million.  That's million, not billion. 
Fool us once, shame on them.  Fool us every election cycle since electing budget-bustin' Ronald Reagan, shame on us. 

A new budget estimate released Wednesday shows that the spending bill negotiated between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner would produce less than 1 percent of the $38 billion in promised savings by the end of this budget year.

The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that compared with current spending rates the spending bill due for a House vote Thursday would cut federal outlays from non-war accounts by just $352 million through Sept. 30. About $8 billion in immediate cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending.

When war funding is factored in the legislation would actually increase total federal outlays by $3.3 billion relative to current levels. 

....The budget deficit is projected at $1.6 trillion this year.

So instead of any type of cut, we'll probably spend 3.3 billion more than anticipated. 

Sorry for posting the inaccurate info on Tuesday.  Gotta remember....  Republicans don't cut government.  Republicans don't cut government.  Republicans don't cut government.  Republicans don't cut government.  Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government.  Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government.  Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government. Republicans don't cut government.

There.  I almost have it internalized. 

Big Government pic came from here. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

14 trillion in debt, and they're still hiring, Part 2

The Department Of Energy, which Jimmy Carter created to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, is still hiring.
They're in debt 14 trillion dollars.  Our children and grandchildren are going to lead diminished lives, starting off their existence paying off the hundreds of thousands of dollars on their parents' and grandparents' bar tabs, and these people are still spending away. 

The Department Of Energy, which hasn't been able to budge our dependence on foreign oil (not that I think that's a bad thing) is trying to hire a Program Manager for the Office Of Geothermal Technologies. 

What does a PM for the OOGT do? 
The incumbent manages and directs the development, implementation, and evaluation of a national program that involves geothermal technologies including technology planning, research, development, demonstration and regulatory strategies. Directs the formulation and integration of the scientific, engineering and technical requirements and market analysis necessary to structure an effective geothermal research and development program. Identifies and interprets legislative requirements for the OGT Program and manages the implementing activities that satisfy these needs. Manages and works closely in partnership with the U.S. industry academia, and national laboratories to advance the technology, market, and policy needs to create and maintain a robust industry for the development of geothermal technology.

In other words, the Program Manager for the Office Of Geothermal Technologies doesn't do jack shit. 

He looks at situations and tries to make up rules and regulations that Congress can sell exceptions to those rules (working closely "in-partnership" with "industry, academia, and national laboratories" to advance the "policy" needs" for a "robust industry".)  Yeah, it's good to have industries working with government to develop protectionist policies.   

The Program Manager is the fertilizer spreader on a subsidy farm. 

Compensation package is $119,554.00 - $179,700.00 /year, not counting benefits. 

Here's an idea....  If someone wants to "develop a robust industry for the development of geothermal technology", he can probably sell some investors on the concept.  Let him get filthy rich doing so, if he's succesful.  If he fails, let him fail with the money of volunteers, not unwilling taxpayers. 

The Department Of Energy is nothing but a vast venture capital firm for wild-assed schemes that no bank would ever consider funding. 

Let's close it down before they can hire another Program Manager.   

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Seven, no wait, six or five, no, just four quotes on the incredible shrinking Republican budget cuts

Here are seven quotes on the incredible shrinking Republican budget cuts....actually, there are just four, but no one seems to be paying to real numbers these days. 

“Only in Washington can a budget that spends more than it did the year before, with a larger deficit, be portrayed as ‘cutting.’” - Rand Paul

The picture already emerging is of legislation financed with a lot of one-time savings and cuts that officially "score" as savings to pay for spending elsewhere, but that often have little to no actual impact on the deficit. As a result of the legerdemain, Obama was able to reverse many of the cuts passed by House Republicans in February when the chamber passed a bill slashing this year's budget by more than $60 billion.

...Instead, the cuts that actually will make it into law are far tamer, including cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can't be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation. Another $3.5 billion comes from unused spending authority from a program providing health care to children of lower-income families. - Andrew Taylor, Associated Press

The numbers just keep getting smaller, don’t they? Republicans started the year demanding $100 billion in cuts. But it quickly turned out that when they said $100 billion, they were just talking hypothetically. Instead, they meant $100 billion on an annualized basis. The next we heard, Republicans were aiming to trim $61 billion. And not one penny less! Eventually, they agreed to a deal that they claimed cut $38 billion. But of that $38 billion, it turns out, the real cuts only add up to about $14 billion. Any bets on how many days before the cuts disappear entirely? - Peter Suderman, Reason Magazine

I do not grudge our loyal, brave people, who were ready to do their duty no matter what the cost, who never flinched under the strain of last week - I do not grudge them the natural, spontaneous outburst of joy and relief when they learned that budget cuts the hard ordeal would no longer be required of them at the moment; but they should know the truth. They should know that there has been gross neglect and deficiency in our defences; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road; they should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of The United States Of America  Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against John Boehner the Western democracies:

"Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting."    - Winston Churchill

The picture of John Boehner came from

The Ten Principles Of A Free Society - by Ron Paul

Ron Paul has a new book "Liberty Defined" coming out in about a week. 

This is in the appendix:

The Ten Principles Of A Free Society: 

Rights belong to individuals, not groups; they derive from our nature and can neither be granted nor taken away by government.

All peaceful, voluntary economic and social associations are permitted; consent is the basis of the social and economic order.

Justly acquired property is privately owned by individuals and voluntary groups, and this ownership cannot be arbitrarily voided by governments.

Government may not redistribute private wealth or grant special privileges to any individual or group.

Individuals are responsible for their own actions; government cannot and should not protect us from ourselves.

Government may not claim the monopoly over a people's money and governments must never engage in official counterfeiting, even in the name of macroeconomic stability.

Aggressive wars, even when called preventative, and even when they pertain only to trade relations, are forbidden.

Jury nullification, that is, the right of jurors to judge the law as well as the facts, is a right of the people and the courtroom norm.

All forms of involuntary servitude are prohibited, not only slavery but also conscription, forced association, and forced welfare distribution.

Government must obey the law that it expects other people to obey and thereby must never use force to mold behavior, manipulate social outcomes, manage the economy, or tell other countries how to behave.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Some thoughts on the Itasca Texas speed trap

I was thinking about the (local) cops from a little hamlet called Itasca Texas, who are always handing out speeding tickets on (federal) Interstate-35, and decided to link to this bit o' greatness by Victor Davis Hanson.  (The city of Itasca has absolutely zero responsibility for safety on I-35.  It's where the Itasca cops go fishing for funding.) 

Here's Mr. Hanson, explaining why we're becoming a nation of speed traps, red light cameras, and desperate policemen trying to hit their quota:

California in the Balance.

We calibrate California’s decline by its myriad of paradoxes. The nation’s highest bundle of gas, sales, and income taxes cannot close the nation’s largest annual deficit at $25 billion. Test scores are at the country’s near bottom; teachers’ salaries at the very top. Scores of the affluent are leaving each week; scores of the indigent are arriving. The nation’s most richly endowed state is also the most regulated; the most liberal of our residents are also the most ready to practice apartheid in their Bel Air or Palo Alto enclaves.

We now see highway patrolmen and city police, in the manner of South American law enforcement, out in force. Everywhere they are monitoring, watching, ticketing — no warnings, no margins of error — desperate to earn traffic fines that might feed the state that feeds them. I could go on. But you get the picture that we are living on the fumes of a rich state that our forefathers brilliantly exploited, and now there is not much energy left in the fading exhaust to keep us going.

I see California in terms now of the razor’s edge with disaster not far in either direction. A postmodern affluent lifestyle hangs in the balance here without a margin of error. Let me give some examples.

The examples are worth reading.  Hit the link.  It seems that stopping a genuine criminal activity is a huge administrative hassle and bother, and is a net minus for revenue.  But some dude driving while talking on a cell phone?  Cha-Ching !!!!
And in case you're wondering, the Itasca cops haven't caught me in a year and a half. 
If I ever win the lottery, I'm renting "Speed Trap Ahead" billboards to put on either side of Itasca so everyone on I-35 can watch that corrupt little 'burg struggle with living off legit revenue for a few years. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chilifest 2011

Some blog posts deserve a soundtrack.  In this case, let's use Charlie Robison's "Good Times". 
Just let it play while you read. 

Imagine 45,000 of our children jammed into a South Texas pasture, listening to music, dancing, and drinking beer. 
Lots of beer. 
As long as the next generation can get this creative with transporting their beer, our nation will be saved. 

The event is called "Chilifest", and they've been doing this in Shrum Snook Texas since 1981. 

Lord have mercy, what a party. This year the soundtrack was provided by Rob Baird, The Cody Johnson Band, the sheer incomparable mellowed-out greatness of Smooth Max Stalling, Emory Quinn, Sean McConnell, and the Bandera Texas Demigod and Patron Musical Saint of this website, Charlie Robison.  That was Friday. 

Saturday was the Bart Crow Band, Jason Boland and The Stragglers, Stoney LaRue, the Randy Rogers Band, Wade Bowen, and Dierks Bentley. 

The Aggie tells me that there were some other adults there who weren't police officers.  I didn't see them.  The next-oldest audience member was about half my age. 

This was at The Aggie's apartment on the morning we left for the show.  I'm holding an adolescent hog that they call Fat Kitty. 

The good people at Chilifest will allow you to bring in all the beer and (boxed) wine you want, but have a strict prohibition against anything else.  This was going to be my 11th or 12th time to hear Charlie Robison, and I've never experienced Charlie without Jim Beam.  I'm way too old to start any new habits. 

Some of The Aggie's earliest memories are of me using her like a Bolivian Cocaine Mule, taping drink, food, or Cuban cigars to her so that I could enjoy various events the way God intended.  But since The Aggie is now approaching adulthood, she could be thrown out of Chilifest without me if she got busted with my Jim Beam on her person.  I would be inside the fence, and my bottle would be outside.  That would be tragic.  I had to be responsible for my own supply.  I tucked a bottle into one of the folding chair carrying bags and vowed to get it through the Chilifest checkpoints or die trying.  

The Aggie has a new friend named John who rode to Shrum Snook with us.  He's a handy guy to have around, took me shopping for our supplies of consumables, provided the chairs, etc etc etc.  John has been powerlifting since middle school, and looks like he could whoop a fencepost if necessary. 

John and The Aggie got through the checkpoints first.  They only had some backpacks, I think, as our beer had been loaded onto one of our wagons (see pics above). 

I was carrying three folding chair bags, one of which contained my Precious Treasure, my Pearl Of Great Price, my Living Water.  The Chilifest staffers were looking through everyone's coolers, looking through pockets and backpacks, and in some cases opening up bottled water containers to make sure that they didn't contain Everclear.  I elbowed past some of the female security people with a wild look in my eye, screaming things like "Mary !  John !  Wait a minute !  Peacocks !  We have to find the killswitch to the system !!  Wait on the roots to my timing !!  This can't be the right one !!  Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa !!!!!" 

The female rent-a-cops gave me plenty of room, kinda like they probably did for everybody else who looked stark raving mad.  I was only a few steps away from freedom when one guy who took himself waaaay too seriously stepped in front of me and asked if my chair bags had been searched. 

I craned my neck around as if trying to look into his ear canal and yelled "Searched?  Bags?  Searched?  Mary !!  John !!  Mary !!!!!!   Search !  Search !   I'm gonna be searched over there and I'll meet you back at the car !!  Search !  Where do I remove pants ?? Search??"

The guy waved me through. 
Mission accomplished. 

Inside the campground and concert site, it was like another world.  There were hundreds of Chili cooking teams, each with their own distinctive look, theme, shirts, motives and soundtracks.  

Here's a creative use for a tent:

Every Chili "team" had their own T-shirts.  This one got straight to the point....

Here's a creative use of a quote from one of my all-time favorite books/movies, Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove:

Charlie Sheen references were everywhere.  Bi-winning.  Tiger Blood.  Beer-winning.

My favorite:

If these pics have a 1930's Oklahoma Dust Bowl quality to them, it's because 45,000 people can stomp up a lot of dust. 
Since our first wagonload was nothing but beer, John, The Aggie and I made a trip back to the car to get sleeping bags, food, and other necessities.  The Aggie, who has inheritied her father's sense of ridiculousness, got John to pull her in the wagon back to the car. 
A couple of the rent-a-cops looked at John and said "Boy, you're setting yourself up for a lifetime of misery."
True.  So true. 

Here's what the stage setup looked like:

I don't know who this is. 

I was wearing one of these John Jay Myers produced T-shirts.....

....which got me into some interesting conversations with a lot of the Aggie students.  They're overwhelmingly Republican, and can't quite get past the Libertarian insistence on getting the government out of people's bedrooms, medicine cabinets and personal lives.  When I pointed out that most of them were underage, yet drinking like fish, it helped make my point.  Maybe.  I eventually went back to our camp and changed shirts, just so I could be "old guy having a great time" instead of "old guy who is a political conversation piece". 

When I got to the camp, The Aggie had already gotten a tattoo.  Lordy, I'm so proud. 

I made it back to the stage, this time wearing something generic, in plenty of time for Charlie Robison.  He has a new band that rocks a little harder than the previous Enablers.  He sounded great and the crowd was loving every minute of it.  (If you've made it this far, it's probably time to play the Charlie Robison Youtube again up top.  Hit play, and get back to me.)
In fact, Charlie went over too well.  It got so crazy that they had to shut down Charlie's set about 2/3rds of the way through.  Bummer. 

The next day, we took one of our couches up to the stage area.  From left to right, that's John, Jordan and Tyler. 

Here's the look of the place in daylight. 

Jordan, John, The Aggie and Chris the cook. 

Four young ladies that I didn't know, but who were very friendly. 

I had a wonderful, wonderful time at this thing.  Can't thank The Aggie enough for inviting me, especially since fathers were such a rarity at the campsites.  Shrum Snook is a nice place, and the Aggie kids are incredibly polite, looked after me, made sure I didn't lose my Blackberry down in the craziness near the stage.  Well, MOST of the Aggie kids were polite and respectful....

I wasn't passed out.  I was just resting my eyes and brain for a while. 
Great weekend.  Good times.  I love my big girl so very, very much. 

Here's Charlie Robison's classic song "Photograph"

14 trillion in debt, and they're still hiring

The Feds are 14 trillion in debt, and they're still hiring. 

Go here.  The posted salary ranges are truly astounding. 

Any other organization would be on a hiring freeze, filling any openings with internal candidates, slashing needless jobs and job functions.  Any other organization would be selling off unnecessary assets, land, equipment, and buildings. 

But no.  Instead, we're hiring "lead recreation assistants". 

THIS IS A FLEXIBLE-20 POSITION; PROVIDING A 20-HOURS GUARANTEED WORK WEEK AND LOGISTICAL SUPPORT (if required). In a patron usage facility, circulates among patrons to assure service is satisfactory; receives and resolves customer complaints; provides information and general instructions on the use of equipment, facilitates and machinery. Assists patrons in use of the facility by checking out equipment, providing safety instructions, demonstrating new equipment, teaching classes, etc. Plans, conducts, publicize and arrange support for special events, social activities, tournaments and related functions. Leads the work of other employees. Passes on to other workers instructions received from the supervisor and starts work. Distributes and balances work- load assuring that each employee has enough work to keep busy. Answers questions of other employees on procedures, policies, and directives. Provides leadership, guidance and oversight in program operations.


The Department of Defense offers excellent benefits programs some of which may include:

Comprehensive health and life insurance
Competitive salaries
Generous retirement programs
Paid holidays, sick leave, and vacation time
Flexible work environment and alternate work schedules
Paid employment related training and education
Possible student loan repayment
Payment of licenses, certification, and academic degrees as applicable
Bonuses, incentives, and awards as appropriate for the job.

If we're 14 trillion in debt, and can't cut "lead recreation assistants" from the payroll at military bases in Germany....
If we can't even ask the question "why are we paying for the privilege of defending Germany?"....
If our soldiers in Germany aren't fighting anyone, and need "lead recreation assistants", then we are screwed. 

Some are more equal than others

Last week, as the Detroit News reported, Obama announced a plan "to 'green' the federal fleet":

"I'm directing our departments and our agencies to make sure 100 percent of the vehicles they buy are fuel-efficient or clean energy cars and trucks by 2015.Not 50 percent, not 75 percent--100 percent of our vehicles," Obama said.
It gets better.....
The News also reports that "some federal vehicles for law enforcement and security purposes will be exempt"--among them "the GM-built Cadillac presidential limousine and other vehicles in the motorcade."
There are always exceptions to the rule.  There are always exemptions. 

Well, you say, there should be some exceptions for things like "The Beast" limo. 

No, not for something like this.  For those of us who see every word from this guy's mouth as hypocritical posturing, there shouldn't be an exception.  If the Green Energy scam is supposed to be about shared sacrifice, then Barack should stay at the White House with Michelle and the girls.  NOT riding around the countryside preaching about Green Energy from the back seat of a car that gets the same miles per gallon as a Tomahawk missile. 

The people who wrote Obamacare gave themselves exemptions. 
"The Beast" limo gets an exception. 
As long as this man has supporters, he will give them, and himself, exemptions.

"Not 50 percent, not 75 percent--100 percent" of the time.