On the subject of secession

In all this recent hullabaloo about the secession petitions going around, one important fact keeps getting overlooked.

An article from WKRC quotes a University of Louisville political science professor who explained that these petitions aren’t uncommon. Similar petitions were filed following the 2004 and 2008 elections.
[Note: The article in the quoted link actually says it was the 2000 and 2008 elections. Neither article actually directly quotes - or even names - the professor they claim to be citing, so take that for what it's worth.]

So, really, none of this is actually new. It seems to happen pretty much every election cycle. I bet if we looked back at 1996 and before, we’d see the same thing, but the internet has made it both more visible and caused more signatures to be collected.

So, basically, it’s not going to happen. Everyone can take a deep breath and relax now, it’s just the legacy media blowing a non-issue entirely out of proportion, yet again. Probably in an attempt to keep people distracted from the economy now that the elections are over.

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[Source: Yahoo! News blog post, retrieved 11/12/12]

A thought worth far more than a fiat penny

Joe Huffman notes that the recent spike in gold prices doesn’t mean that value of gold has gone up, it’s just that the dollar is suddenly worth less with the latest round of “quantitative easing“. HerrBGone points out that the effective purchasing power of gold has basically remained flat for nearly 100 years.

In 1920 [...] the base price of a Ford Model T was $260 (according to Wikipedia).
The dollar was backed by Gold at an exchange rate of $22 per Ounce Troy (oz/T).
So the cost of the car was 11.81 ounces Troy if paid for in gold.

The invoice price of a base 2013 Ford Fusion is $20,235  [...]  Today the spot price of one ounce Troy of Gold is $1693.70 (according to Kitco).  So the cost of the car is 11.94 oz/T if paid for in Gold.

You’ll notice a slight difference in the gold price between the two cars, but then again they’re not really directly comparable – the Ford Fusion is much more complex, and requires a greater amount of materials. On the other hand, manufacturing capability and efficiency have both increased exponentially in the interval. A true direct cost comparison that accounted for these changes would be long, complex, and difficult.

But it still makes a good illustration of the effective drop in purchasing power of the dollar – the same amount of gold will buy you an average car now as would buy you an average car about 100 years ago, while the number of dollars required to do so has increased by a factor of more than 75.

Just think about it.

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(h/t SayUncle)

A very good point about Paul Ryan by Lee Doren…

and one that I’ll take to an additional conclusion.

He’s exactly right. The Obama campaign (and Democrats in general) has been using Paul Ryan as the economic bogyman of the Republican party, while most Republicans have done a poor job of defending Ryan’s plans and articulating his reasoning. Paul Ryan as Romney’s VP candidate will neutralize that avenue of attack because he can articulate his proposals and the reasons behind them in a way that other Republicans cannot, and hopefully he won’t let them cherry-pick the facts and talking points, either.

But there’s another reason that Ryan is a good pick for VP.* Simply put, the vast majority of voters don’t really understand how bad the federal “budget” is. Having Ryan as a VP candidate will put someone in the national spotlight that the press will have a hard time justifying  ignoring, and who can present the situation to the public in an articulate fashion. It will, hopefully, get the word out in a way that will make people pay attention.

Watching him wipe the floor with Biden in the debates will just be icing on the cake, and probably pretty entertaining.

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* Aside from the fact that, like Palin was for McCain, he’s a better Presidential candidate than Romney and will draw a number of people who will be voting for him rather than for Romney.

Our global village idiot.

Whether he was right or wrong, this image sums up how utterly and mind-bogglingly stupid Obama’s comment was.

Seriously? You’re going to tell people whose votes you need that they didn’t actually do something they’re proud of? That all the work they put in to building their business was unnecessary and pointless?

Not that I would mind if he was just trying to throw the election, but WTF?

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[From didntbuildthat.com]

What government does

Closes pools for not having equipment that isn’t available.

Hotels may be forced to close their pools this summer. May 21 is the deadline to comply with new regulations that require all public pools to be handicap accessible.

But the equipment they need isn’t available.

[...]

The General Manager ordered the wheelchair lift the first of the year but it’s now on back order.
He’s not sure when it will arrive.  The lift and installation will cost the Quality Inn about $6,000.

Uncle mentioned this back in March when the original deadline hit. That was extended, but that extension runs out just before Memorial Day weekend, when most hotels open their pools for the summer – and get a lot of business from people expecting to be able to use the pool. The Feds are supposedly considering another extension, but “no decision has been made” yet. And, of course, we see this onerous and retroactive requirement (there is apparently no grandfathering) in the middle of a recession.

Good job, FedGov!

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[Source: WDBJ7 News report, retrieved 5/15/12]

Shopping – Brick-and-mortar vs. Online

Long story short, my parents bought a new, larger TV because Mom is developing some vision problems, and they gave me the old one. So now I have a nice HDTV. But since what I had before was an older standard definition CRT-based TV, nothing I have connects to the new TV except my DVD player (using component video cables) – it doesn’t have a composite video connection or s-video, and nothing I have uses coax. So, I have to buy a few things.

  1. Two HDMI cables – one for my laptop (which has an HDMI out port), and one for the Blue-Ray player I plan to get next month.
  2. The “HD” component video cable for my Wii (which doesn’t really put out HD, just Enhanced Definition).
  3. An antenna for broadcast channels.

While I’ve always known that you can get stuff cheaper online than in brick-and-mortar stores, shopping around this time has really hammered the point home. For instance, the Wii cables? At Best Buy, they have one set that retails for about $35. At Amazon, I can get a set for $5.34 (and that’s Prime eligible, so I won’t pay any shipping costs). The same pricing difference applies for the HDMI cables. The cheapest one I found in the stores here runs about $20. At Amazon, I can get one for $3, with no shipping charges. Even the cheapest one online at Best Buy is $4.74. And remember, with digital it either works or it doesn’t. You won’t see any difference between the $3 cable and a $50 cable, as long as it works. (There could be a quality difference with the Wii cable, since component video is analog, but it’s still worth $5 to see if I can save $30.)

I’m all for supporting local stores (even national chains, because keeping the local store open provides local jobs), but sometimes the price difference is just too much to justify it. Why pay 6 or 7 times what you can get it online for when you don’t have to?

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Quote of the Day – 2012-03-07

From commenter Richard on a post at Sharp as a Marble.

I don’t care who wins. I’m buying more ammo.

Buying more ammo is always a good idea. You can never have too much, and if for some reason you do, getting rid of it is both easy and just plain fun. Unfortunately, I fear very much that the time when we will need more ammo is coming far, far sooner than we want.

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The Manipulative “Mainstream” Media

I’d like you to go check out this story, at ABC News (warning: the video at that link starts automatically). You’ll have to scroll to the end of the print story to see the video.

Go ahead, you’ll need to see it to see what I’m talking about here. Done? Good.

The blatantly manipulative focus of this really ticked me off.

First, I’d like to explain three things about how gas stations set prices.*

  1. Stations do not set prices based on what they paid for what is currently in the tanks, but what they expect to pay to replace what is currently in the tanks.
  2. Most convenience stations make little to no profit on gas. The gas is there to draw customers in so they will buy drinks, snacks, and other items, which is their main source of profit. Gas prices are set at a level that will offset their costs, and maybe (hopefully) make a very minimal profit. Service stations use a similar model with their profits coming from repairs, and the gas being used mainly as advertising.
  3. Prices are usually changed when the station’s tanks are filled. It may also be changed when there is a sharp change in the supplier’s price that changes the anticipated cost of replacing what is currently in the tanks. (i.e., “We expected it would cost us $3.45/gal when we refill the tanks next week, and the supplier is already charging $3.50/gal. We need to raise the price to $3.50/gal now or we won’t be able to afford to fill the tanks next week.”)

Those are just some of the factors that go into how gas stations set the price for gas. Of course, chains like Kroger or Sheetz, that have their own corporate distributors, have other factors to take into account. Now, let’s take a look at that video.

First, I want you to notice something right at the beginning. Look at that sign behind the field reporter. See how the numbers are blinking? That means someone inside is putting a new price into the system, right at the start of the report. Yet the news people then act surprised that the price has changed during the report! My guess? They found a station that was receiving a delivery to use as a background for the report, and waited for the sign to start blinking before starting, so that it would change during the report.

Notice the bit where they say the price “shot up 16 cents in just 3 hours”? Yes, that’s a pretty big change to happen in one day, but it’s not like it went up by 1 cent every 11 minutes – it really went up 16 cents in one jump. That’s how gas prices change, all in one jump. At a guess, I would say that particular station probably didn’t raise prices when they should have, and had to make a bigger increase to offset a loss on the previous load of gas (remember my earlier points).

“Price gouging” at Lake Buena Vista, FL? They conveniently “forgot” to mention that that’s where the Walt Disney World Resort is located. Everything is more expensive around Disney. Plus, due to the large tourism factor, I would expect higher prices there due to higher demand. How much more than the rest of the country do they normally run?

Notice that they’re doing this story from Los Angeles? Even though they do show the average national price, they chose to make the bulk of the story in the part of the country with the very highest prices, without actually mentioning that fact.

Gas theft is nothing new, and while they make a big deal out of it, they don’t make any assertion that it’s actually increasing due to the rising prices.

Then there’s the whole “profit” sequence. Sure, for every $50 spent at the pump, the oil companies might be getting $30.75. But notice what they don’t say? How much of that is profit, and how much is offsetting costs? The $6.00 in taxes they mention? I bet that’s only the taxes assessed at the pump, not what the oil companies and refineries are assessed for taxes before it gets to the pumps. How much of that ~$31 are the oil companies spending on storage and infrastructure? How much on delivery? How much on regulatory compliance and government mandated paperwork? But no, ABC presents that as if it’s all profit.

And then we get to the true setup. “ZOMG, it’s too unbelievable to believe! The price behind me went up ten cents just while we were doing this report!!1!11!!!eleventyone!!!11!!”

Of course it did. YOU SET IT UP THAT WAY! The only part that might have been a surprise was how much, but you knew it was going to change when you started, and “up” was a pretty safe bet.

False outrage and manipulation of the facts by the media, in order to create bias and further an agenda. Quelle surprise!

Look, I’m not arguing that gas prices are getting higher and higher, or even that they’re getting ridiculously high, but this kind of reporting is just plain dishonest. That’s what pisses me off the most.

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* I am not directly familiar with this process, having never been personally involved in operating a gas station. I am basing this off what I have been told by friends who either worked at or were involved in the management of gas stations. If I am wrong about something, please feel free to correct me in comments, and I will correct the post as necessary.

[Source: ABC News story, retrieved 2/23/12]

Quote of the Day – 2011-12-04

From Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame, speaking to the Congressional Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on May 11, 2011.

Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships, and really valuable on the job training opportunities, as vocational consolation prizes, best suited for those not cut out for a four year degree. But still, we talk about creating millions of “shovel ready” jobs, for a society that doesn’t really encourage people to pick up a shovel. In a hundred different ways, I think we’ve slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a good job into something that no longer looks like work. A few years from now, an hour with a good plumber – if you can find one – is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we’ll probably all be in need of both. [emphasis mine - Jake]

Here’s the video.

You should watch the whole thing. He makes some very excellent points about how we have divorced our society from actual skilled labour, how that may be affecting the economic recovery, and how that may affect our society in  the future.

And somehow, he even manages to make a Congressional hearing entertaining. Talk about skilled labour!

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(h/t TFS Magnum)

An unimpressive Occupation

I mentioned before that I was out of town for training, but I wasn’t comfortable saying how far away I was until I got back. Now that I’m back home and sufficiently recovered (the long drive, hotel room bed, and crappy classroom seats all conspired to make my back very unhappy), I can say that I was out at the annual Virginia EMS Symposium in Norfolk, VA. It’s a great way to get continuing education credits towards recertification (at my level I need 48 hours, 36 of which have to be on specific topics), and to hear about some of the more unusual or cutting edge developments in EMS. I also get a chance to catch up with some friends who have moved away. I’m very lucky in that, because of the unique training opportunities, the volunteer rescue squad I’m a member of pays for the whole thing: registration fee, hotel room, and a per diem for food. The squad also provides transportation and fuel.

One thing that happened I already touched on. The first morning I was there, I walked past where the Occupy Norfolk hippies had set up camp, right when the police were breaking it up. There weren’t that many protesters there, though one was pretty loud about it. From the news reports, they ended up arresting about 5 or 6 that morning.

They were back that evening, and the next couple of days in the morning and evening, though they weren’t camping out anymore. Their numbers were actually kind of pitiful.

Occupy Norfolk

Yes, that’s the whole thing. In fact, that’s the largest group I saw in all three days I was there.

Anyway, I had a good time, I got most of the hours I need to recertify (and the others are available online, so I’m good there) and I got a little bit of a vacation. Tomorrow, I go back to work, and back to my usual schedule until Thanksgiving – which is next week. But I should have some more posts soon!

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