Two cows.

 

I thought others might get a good laugh from this link:

You have 2 cows.

My favorite:

Italian Capitalism You have 2 cows, but you don’t know
where they are. While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman. You
break for lunch. Life is good.”

I know it’s probably not that funny to most, but after dealing with a couple different Italian companies and a office of one I worked for in Italy in my career I really think I’d like to work there. Then again the way they work might be why there are few jobs in Italy.They have holiday like every third week. I could get used to that ;)

 

What Blago actually sold.

 

Seems that while Blago never actually made arrangements to sell a senate seat, it appears he did actually go through with ruining the toll road system for all of us with personal profit for himself.  thenewspaper.com reports that Blago got $500,000 in a donation to his campaign from the contractor that is in line to benefit from the construction of HOT lanes in the toll road system.

The Chicago area has suffered through construction delays on the toll road system for years now with the open road tolling and rebuilding projects. Now they want to tear it all up again to create HOT lanes. For those that do not know what they are, HOT lanes or High Occupancy Toll lanes are lanes that are reserved for those who can pay a higher toll, those who are in or connected to the political ruling class, or those who drive politically approved vehicles. Meanwhile everyone else suffers in even worse congestion.

There is no surprise that Blago was paid off by a contractor who would benefit from this mess.

 

The Motorama Dystopia.

Back in the 1950s and 60s we were promised a highway utopia that never seemed to come about. There still aren’t flying cars
in every garage among other things. Today’s driving future seems to be
in the other direction as the nationalization or at the very least a
bailout (with strings) of the domestic auto manufacturers looms as a
real possibility.

Like all things that government touches the
roads are sub-optimal and political concerns trump those of making a
system function well. Nothing says this best than the way driver
training in the US is conducted. It’s emphasis on learning details of
the DUI laws and following the law over common sense show in no uncertain terms that politics is their most important priority. Instead of building solid long lasting roads we get roads that are in need of constant repair to make work for politically connected contractors. Instead of longer yellow signals for safety we get shorter ones with red light cameras that make money for government and its contractors at our expense.
Time and time again we get ‘solutions’ that are good for the government
and those connected to it but do little to improve the situation on the
nation’s roads.

The solutions being proposed today and may be favored by an Obama administration
fit the same mold. The congestion tax is the current hot new thing
since London put it in. Studies have shown that the congestion tax has
been a failure
with regards to the goal of reducing congestion but that hasn’t stopped
governments around the world from wanting to implement their own
version. What has this form of taxation done? It has allowed
governments to log where people drive.
It has allowed government to set up the mechanisms of granting people
permission to drive into a congestion-taxed area. The same mechanisms
by which one pays their congestion tax ahead of time would work well to
grant or deny permission. Most of all it has increased the amount of
money the government takes from the people. Last but not least of
course is the money to run the system that is paid to a contractor with
the usual connections.

In Illinois and other states the political class is also enamored with the idea of special lanes
that require a larger toll be paid or that one have government
permission to use them. In the name of reducing congestion government
will block off lanes from the common people and then only allow those
with special permits use them. These permits are issued when people fit
a criteria set by government. First and foremost the political class is
allowed to use the reserved lanes. It doesn’t matter what they drive,
just being a member of the political class is enough. In some
implementations all that is needed is to be wealthy enough to pay the
fees. But in this era of taxing by transponder those connected to the
government often use the privilege to get a free ride
with special transponders. The last group to be allowed in the special
lanes will be those who fit the correct political image. Those who
carpool and those who drive approved ‘green
vehicles. Sadly I doubt my 12 year old V8 pony car will qualify despite
the fact that keeping a car, any car a long time is far more green
(because of the resources required to build a car) than any electric or
hybrid.  Instead those that want to tell us what to do would prefer to crush old cars.

Another new hotness is to tax by the mile.
This scheme usually requires some sort of transponder to keep track of
when and where people drive. Especially true when it is combined with a
congestion charge. Government cites the falling fuel tax revenues with
fuel-efficient cars and people driving less. The very things it was
trying to promote are now the reason they have to find a new intrusive
way of taxing us. They have not even considered ending their diversions of present road funds
to make up for the lower income. The federal government and others are
still able to squander significant amounts of money on police check
points, studies on how to monitor us more, forest preserve paths and
other non-road building activities.

One thing that did not go away was the idea of a computer controlled automated highway system.
The government and others are still very much interested in these
systems. However, I don’t think it will shape up to be the 100+mph
system envisioned decades ago. Rather I see it to be a system where we
will have to have permission to go from A to B and then be forced by
machine to do it as the government allows. Politically we will be stuck
going no faster than 55mph. Priority will be given to those who have
political favor. The ruling class will have all sorts of special
privileges as the technology makes it possible those in power will use
it to their benefit and to reward those who help them while the rest of
suffer in even greater congestion and have less freedom to travel.

Many
nations sought to tax ordinary people into tiny dull vehicles by huge
fuel taxes. This taxation left people who could afford it or who would
drive less to still be free to buy whatever vehicles they liked. The US
government was not going to make that mistake. It instituted Corporate Average Fuel Economy
to try and force the auto manufacturers to simply not build the cars
the government thought we shouldn’t have.  The CAFE requirements killed
off most performance cars for more than a decade. CAFE resulted in the
end of almost all the large passenger cars in the mid-1980s. Station
wagons and most big affordable sedans vanished as choices. All that
remained were a few luxury models and those models favored by
government as vehicles for its police forces. The market however isn’t
so easily beaten. People didn’t shift in their tastes, so they bought
the next best thing, the passenger truck. These passenger trucks were
made as far back as the late 1940s for a niche market. In the late 80s
they began to leave the niche. The automakers responded and the SUV
trend was born. Now instead of passenger cars that could get 20+mpg,
people were driving trucks that got 15mpg. Government intervention at
its finest.

Not only did CAFE backfire on its goal, it created
market distortions that are now once again leaving the domestic
automakers in a very bad situation as their most profitable products
are no longer desired by the buying public the way they had been. While
many blame the decisions of executives for the mess they are in and it
is ultimately their fault, there are a variety of conditions they made
their decisions under. These conditions all go back to government
interference in the market, the products we can buy, the rate they had
pay to for labor, the situation with health care, and many other
things.

The conditions of the three largest US automobile
manufacturers is so bad this time around that there is talk of bailouts
and nationalizing them. Once nationalized the government will be free
to tell us what to drive. All it would need to do is tax or ban imports
to prevent us from choosing something else. The protectionism is
nothing new for the political class to dream up. Even if imports try to
increase their manufacturing in the USA the government will likely act
to stop them or nationalize their facilities as well. These cars that
are approved for us by the political class will be as bad as anything
the Soviet Union, East Germany, or any government ever dreamed up. Meanwhile the political class will import their cars from some other nation.

The market reaction to government’s politically driven car design will be the growth of something that would resemble Cuba.
The rebuilding of existing cars will become very popular. The market
(if it is not totally killed by government force) will drive people to
find efficient and cost-effective ways to restore automobiles to
showroom condition or better.  Salvage yards will become places where
every existing car that can be saved will be saved. All those that
can’t will be dismantled for valuable parts. Some companies will offer
enough new parts to practically build
an old car from a VIN number alone. The market will make it so that for
about the same price as a new government designed car, one could step
into a showroom new car from some past era.

The government in turn will try to create scrappage laws
and making used parts illegal. It will levy special taxes or outright
prohibit the manufacture of parts for older cars. It will try to force
people into new government cars all while saying it is for the
environment. Their attacks on the older cars will have nothing to do
with the environment. Saving the older cars is far greener than
building new ones as it takes much less material and energy.
Government’s actual goals will remain as they always have, simply to
run our lives.

Eventually only the approved government cars
will be allowed on the automated or number plate scanned roads. The
good roads will be empty of traffic. The only ones driving on them will
be the politically approved. It will be much like what has already been
achieved in communist nations past and present. The rest of us will be
driving on potholed local roads if we are driving at all.

Police
officers or the government’s machines will ticket for everything and
anything. They will rig the system to create more tickets to steal from
motorists. Speed cameras, red light cameras, stop sign cameras, and even tire tread depth detectors
will continue to rake in the cash. The number plate cameras and
tracking devices will make sure tolls and taxes are paid. If any of
these machines have a problem, motorists will be stuck paying the fines and penalties anyway.

On
top of all of this, the government will take ideas from various lobbies
and do gooder groups that have their own agendas. For instance with the
influence of MADD we would be sure to see a breathalyzer interlock in every car. Technology will be used in every turn to serve those who wish to have power over society.

Instead
of the heated roads that would always make it a perfect day for driving
and low costs we will get a nightmare of controls on our daily travels.
High costs, endless congestion, poorer roads, fuel shortages, poorly
made vehicles, government monitoring, and much more that will make
today’s public transportation look good. By then mass transit will be
even worse than it is today. This is because the method of encouraging
transit usage has been to make driving worse and then cutting mass transit service while increasing the tax dollars going to it.

Some may find such a nightmare to be impossible, but from the Claybrookian
thought that has dominated Washington DC since the 1970s this is where
we would end up should the get the power and implement the technology.
Will it happen? I do not know. I know it could happen. All the pieces
are on the board right now. Until they are swept from the board as the
wrong-headed ideas they are the possibility of this nightmare or at the
very least significant parts of it will continue to exist.

The Motorama Dystopia, version 2

 

It was just another ordinary morning to set out to go to work. Joe was stepping inside his new car. It cost him a great deal but at least he still could drive. Most people were no longer allowed to drive or couldn’t afford it. Those who could afford a car waited on a list before they were able to buy a car. Joe had not been driving to work since the government banned all cars made before 2020 from the road.Last week he finally made it to the top of the list and has bought a new sub compact in purple. He doesn’t like sub compacts or the color purple but he can barely afford better and being selective might mean he wouldn’t get to drive for another year or more.

This tiny little car is powered by technology that is trapped in 2008 with all the build quality of a Trabant. It’s styling reminds him of typical cars made in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. But at least it is a car even though it is nothing like that was produced before the government took control of the auto manufacturers.

Underneath covers in his garage sit his 1969 and 2005 Mustangs. These are cars he can’t even take out any more but refuses to allow the government to get their hands on. The 1969 model is criminal offense for a private person to own. All cars built before 1980 were supposed to be scrapped or rendered inoperable in museums under the clean air act of 2010. Joe had just completed a restoration before the law was passed. His car had been off the road for a number of years so the government had lost track of it. They must have assumed it had long been scraped or sold for parts since they never so much as sent him a letter. He has placed household storage around it so his neighbors can never see it and turn him in. He feels lucky. His friends that could not ship their cars overseas lost their cars in confrontations with the police, one died in the effort to defend his property. The cops regret the failure of their new super-tazer, but say he should have just handed over the keys. The majority of people didn’t much care about the old car hobby or the number businesses it supported. The green activists finally were able to win and get their scrappage laws made mandatory. Joe has yet to drive his restored car, he got busy hiding it rather than lose all that work he had done. He carefully prepared it for long term storage and that is where it sits today. He would like to get a permit to expand his house to make a hiding place for it, but he is fearful the government inspectors would find the car in the process. For now a line of boxes and garage door are the only line of defense.

He remembers driving the 2005 model for many years. It isn’t illegal to own, not yet anyway, only illegal to drive on public roads. When he opens his garage this is the car his neighbors see. He drove it right to the end. It was fully retrofitted with all the devices that became mandatory over the years leading up to the ban. It has transponders that report nearly everything to the government. How fast he drives, how hard he brakes, the route he takes, practically everything he did with the car was logged in some government database. He remembers having to pay an insurance surcharge when he slammed on the brakes to avoid killing a squirrel. The government believed he was not a careful driver because of his sudden and full application of the brakes. Joe misses driving that car. He looks around the plain interior of his new car and sighs.

Last night he went online and got permission for his route to work. He paid the congestion fees. There is not transponder on his windshield like in his last daily driver, that has been integrated into the car itself. Disabling it would now disable the car. The tax per mile of driving is much higher than it used to be, he hopes he can afford it. Driving will only take him 20 minutes to get to work vs. the hour long trip he has suffered on public transportation. Joe blows into the breathalyzer interlock and the computer declares him sober to drive. He starts the car and backs out of his driveway. He makes it through the subdivision he lives in and gets to the main road where the first number plate camera scans his car into the system.

The local arterial roads are simply packed with traffic. Joe is making decent time when suddenly he jolted as his car’s rear passenger tire falls into a massive pot hole. Joe hopes there isn’t any damage, the car is still going okay. The road surface is well cracked, potholed, and frost heaved. He remembers when it was fairly smooth. He’s making a good 30mph, but this road used to be commonly traveled at 60mph.  The aging speed limit signs still read 45mph and then there are the speed cameras. Not that Joe has anything to worry about, he’ll never get his little car up to the speed limit on this road without breaking something first.

Joe approaches an intersection with an overpass just ahead. The light is red and he brakes carefully to stop gently before the line. The red light cameras look down on this intersection like all the rest. The yellow signals are short but Joe remembers how he would start braking on the green signal. Before the brake actuation sensors reporting to the government he would slam on the brakes when the signal turned yellow to avoid the tickets from those contraptions. But once that became worthy of a ticket itself he had no choice but to crawl along up to any light where he did not see the start of the green cycle.

This intersection is the entrance to the interstate above. Joe remembers driving on the interstate long ago. He even remembers traffic jams on the interstate. A single truck and one foreign luxury car go past on the interstate as Joe watches. Very little traffic for a weekday morning. Joe notices the sign to his right. The sign reads: ACCESS FORBIDDEN EXCEPT WITH GREENPASS. Joe wanted to get a car that qualified for a greenpass but they cost too much and were usually pushed out of qualification when new ‘greener’ models came out. Only the very privileged could buy a new car every two years to maintain a green pass. The used car was usually crushed as is the fate of most used cars upon required trade in. Used cars could create a surplus of vehicles and that means less jobs for auto workers. Joe thinks such wastefulness is bad for the environment, but he keeps that heresy to himself.

Just as the light turns green Joe sees the latest model of a large foreign made vehicle turn on to the ramp. Only the driver in the car. He knows that must be someone of power. They are the only people allowed to drive nice large vehicles like that on to the interstate or with only a driver on board. Even most truck traffic runs on the local roads these days. Most remaining businesses that are not in some way connected to the government can afford the fees to run trucks on the interstate highways. Goldman Sachs now controls the largest truck freight transportation company in country due to their special interstate millage tax rate.

Joe continues to wiggle his way through traffic until he reaches his destination. He pulls into his employer’s parking lot and parks. He makes his way to his desk where he sees his latest pay stub and the deduction for parking. Parking was made a taxable benefit a year ago. Joe gets to work, wondering what awaits him for his trip back home.

 

It’s the product, stupid!

So, today (4-DEC-08) on WLS AM890 one of Illinois’s congress
critters (I didn’t catch which one) is being interviewed on the big
three bailout. He says their plans lack anything about how to increase
sales. The plans are about how they need loans and make cuts and how to
get through another year as if people will magically start buying
cars.  The fact that banks didn’t have a plan at all doesn’t seem to
have even registered with him or most in congress, but I digress.

The
reason the plans of the big three executives neglect ways
to increase sales is because they aren’t product people. I noticed in
my work long ago that those at the top of the companies I’ve worked at
disregarded product. Everything was about finance. Sure they talked
about product now and then, but ultimately it was in a financial sense.
That’s how they viewed everything.

Now some are thinking, of
course it’s about finance, it’s about making money. And yes it is. But,
product is about making something people want to buy. That’s where the
disconnection is. To the executives, who have been trained in
‘business’ or ‘finance’ or maybe ‘economics’ see it as people not
buying product, sales not selling product, not that the product itself
is faulty. People just aren’t buying. They need a change in conditions
such that people will buy or a way to make it cost less or something
else that over looks that people just plain don’t want it.

That’s
where the big three are. The same economic nonsense that the
government, the federal reserve, and many others believe. It’s just
that people aren’t buying. The economy needs to be ‘stimulated’. There
needs to be loan to get the companies through until people start buying again. What
about product? It’s not part of the Keynesian language apparently.
Those in the Austrian school clearly see it is about providing
something that people want, to the Keynesian,  the problem is people
aren’t buying. It is clearly the later that these executives were
taught.

It’s about product. Make a good product people want that is a value for their money and it will sell if buyers know about it.

“Let them fail; let everybody fail! I made my fortune when I had
nothing to start with, by myself and my own ideas. Let other people do
the same thing. If I lose everything in the collapse of our financial
structure, I will start in at the beginning and build it up again.”
-Henry Ford February 11, 1934

Henry
Ford could say that because he was about product, even though all the
ideas were not entirely his, it was still about the product. He had
good ideas and bad ideas but it was about product. When you care about
product you don’t need a bailout. If your product fails you try again.

Today’s company executives are all too caught up in costs and
finances and not the product. The product really does not matter to
them and hasn’t for many decades. The UAW simply costs way too much for
Detroit’s automakers to make many of the products people want to buy at
the price they want to pay. Instead of doing something about that, the
automakers decided to take cost out of the vehicles and not in a good
way.The UAW didn’t want anyone losing a job so it wasn’t that the cost
came out by more efficient design that reduced the number of people
required, the cost came right out of the materials and otherwise cheapening the parts.
The cost came out by not revising and replacing designs for engines and
transmissions as often. The cost came out in ways that had a negative
effect on the product. 

Eventually this put many products from US automakers so far below
the competition few people would buy them. Only where they could get
high margins did the US automakers do well. Those vehicles happened to
be SUVs. They did well on those vehicles because they did not have to
sacrifice the vehicle itself. When the market shifted away from SUVs
they were put into a world of hurt.

A bailout isn’t going to help them. Not unless they can build higher
priced vehicles that people want to buy.The market segments that are
selling appear to be lower priced vehicles.The Detroit automakers can’t
make those competitively with UAW labor and can’t sell most of the ones they make
without UAW labor in the US.

It’s about the product. If they can’t put out product people want to
buy and be profitable at the price buyers want to pay, they will fail.