Obama wants to create FreddieSpill, FDR would be proud

Written by Ron on June 16th, 2010

In the fine FDR tradition of creating an extra-legal agency to “address” every problem, the Obama administration (and their many friends wanting high-paying, low stress jobs in Washington) now want BP to pay billions of dollars into an escrow account AND have disbursement of the funds from this account administered by a third party. Anyone want to guess what this third party will look like.

OK, I’m no fan of BP. Their safety and deferred-maintenance record has not been very good in North America in the last decade or so and the continuing mess in the Gulf of Mexico is just the largest and latest.

The White House and the Dems on the Hill are behaving predictably – “Something must be done!” – even if it has little or no effect on the real problem. Not ones to let an opportunity pass, they now propose to have BP escrow billions of dollars in funds and then set up a “third party” to administer the claims on these funds.

I can only imagine how this “claim processor” will be constituted. First we’ll need a big name chief for the Wesley Mouch role, and a blue-ribbon panel of former office-holders, technical experts, legal experts, financial experts, then lots of administrative paper-pushers to build and monitor “process.” This “FreddieSpill” will almost certainly set new records for overhead eating up the available funds.

No doubt Congress will pass some special enabling legislation for FreddieSpill that puts it beyond the normal legal-judicial process so no one will be able to appeal or contest the rulings of this “third party.”

Once an entity like this is created, it will never die, so this will become the de facto liability oversight agency for the oil and gas industry in the U.S. Since this agency will be outside the normal legal process, its determinations will be impossible to predict since it is essentially a political animal, thereby dramatically cranking up the risk for US exploration and production at the very time we desperately need to find and produce energy here.

So, the net result will be lots of jobs for friends of those in the administration, a rapid whittling away of the escrow funds, arbitrary and capricious disbursement decisions that cannot be appealed in courts and a frightening risk variable on the domestic oil and gas industry.

Wow, do these people know how to make lemonade or what?

 

A dedicated utility fee for Tulsa Police and Fire? Fine, as long as everyone pays it.

Written by Ron on February 5th, 2010

Normally I’m not a big fan of earmarking little slices of the government revenue stream to only a single purpose or agency. Times change and priorities can change as well. However,  I’m beginning to think that it would be a good idea for Police and Fire funding – but only if EVERYONE has to pay for it. That means every entity that resides or operates in Tulsa and receives a utility bill for water, sewer, etc., regardless of their tax status. Whether or not an organization or individual is a church, private educational institution, ministry  or other non-profit, has no bearing on their benefit from Police and Fire service.

With a dedicated source of revenue that is not nearly as unstable as sales tax, the budgets for Police and Fire could be set and held for longer terms. This would also put limits on contracts with unions. When it is clear that there is only a certain amount of money on the table, then the parties involved will have to figure out a way to live with it, like the rest of us. This would prevent future mayors from agreeing to contract terms that cannot be fulfilled and also reign in union demands when there is only a fixed pot of money to work with.

This is not the first time I have sorely missed the commission form of government in Tulsa. At least then there was accountability to the voters for action and inaction of the major city services of Police/Fire, Streets and Water/Sewer. Now it seems that no one at city hall can be held responsible for anything, but they can sure study it and add more staff and look into ways to blame it on a councilor or the mayor or the union.

 

AfghanisNam

Written by Ron on November 24th, 2009

Headed by President Hamid Văn Thiệu Karzai, Afghanistan is not just like Vietnam, it IS Vietnam. Here we are again backing a corrupt so-called leader after the result of a highly questionable election that we would certainly condemn if it were held anywhere else. (Nguyễn Văn Thiệu got around 94% of the vote in Vietnam in 1971).

We had the opportunity to grab Bin Laden and the key Al Qaeda people in the earliest days and lost the opportunity by a combination of indecision and the faulty belief of a few that smart-bombs, UAVs and Black Ops forces could replace regiments if not divisions in a sparsely populated, mountainous land.
Another 100,000 troops, even if they were all shooters, will not bring back the opportunity that was lost years ago.

The political leadership, past and now current, can not or will not even tell us what success would look like in Afghanistan because they want to be able to change the definition as they go.  Do you really think our fathers, uncles, grandfathers and such would have hit the beaches on Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Omaha or Utah if they had no idea of how success would be defined. That’s what we are asking our troops to do now. How can we look them in the eye and ask them to do this! Saying “Remember 9/11” is only going to last a little longer. They’re going to have to start up the draft again because we have absolutely worn out all of our active duty, reserve and National Guard troops.

This is the LBJ moment. It’s sounding now that Barry is going to push ahead so as not to look weak. Yes we have lost good people there and yes their sacrifice is very much appreciated and gratefully acknowledged by this old jarhead and countless thousands of others. At this point, the best way to show that we truly support our troops is to get them out of a situation that has no end in sight, before thousands more are maimed and killed.

Can’t we be smart and retain some of the lessons of our own history. Must we continue to follow the failed steps that Britain followed in both Afghanistan and Mesopotamia. I’m not ignoring or forgetting the history of Al Qaeda or the Taliban, but continuing to send the best of our youth and literally tons of our treasure to this place that has swallowed up armies from Alexander to the Soviets is just madness and does a great disservice to those who must fight and die so politicians can say that they did not forget 9/11.

Over 50,000 of us died for the domino theory of Communism in southeast Asia. We lost a generation, nearly ruined the Army and Marine Corps as career options for patriotic Americans and thought we had forever changed how our country’s military forces would be deployed in foreign lands. How many more Americans have to be killed, maimed and forever emotionally scarred in this exercise in futility?

 

Thanks for shopping at Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club – We assume you’re a thief until you prove otherwise.

Written by Ron on November 24th, 2009

I did something today that I do not often do – I bought some food at a Wal-Mart. I tried to get my Thanksgiving turkey at a locally owned grocery store, but they seem to have decided that no one needed a turkey smaller than 20 pounds. Since I was out already, and really wanted to get this bird in the fridge and thawing, I went down the road a mile to a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market to check their selection of turkeys. They actually had a much wider selection of turkeys than the local grocer, and they were lower priced for the same brand, so I got a nice 12-pounder and headed for the checkout.

As is usually the case, there were two checkouts open and long lines in each, so I headed for the self-service checkout. These are often problematic, but since I only had one item it seemed fairly foolproof. The moment I scanned the turkey’s tag, I got an automated voice telling me “approval required.” Funny, the turkey did not look like spray paint or anything else I could think of that might have some purchase limitations. Usually when I get an error on these automated checkouts, I just abandon the lane and seek another or head for the human checkout. This time, there was already an employee headed toward me and the other lines were still long so I waited. The employee looked at the screen, then carefully looked at the tag on the turkey. I asked what the problen was and mentioned that the audible message had started before I could move the turkey from the scanner to the bagging area and its validation scale.She told me that they were having problem with people stealing turkeys and switching labels.

I told her that my understanding is that the bar code on the turkey contains the weight of the bird also and was surprised that it halted the transaction without waiting to check the weight. She mumbled something and began logging in to the terminal.

Since I was only buying one item, it seems pretty clear that Wal-Mart has simply decided that all turkey purchases must be scrutinized and manually verified since everyone coming in to the store is a thief unless proven otherwise. Sam’s Club has had a “prove you didn’t steal it” check at the exit door for a long time and I have grudgingly accepted it, though I still hold up my receipt and say “see I didn’t steal anything today” when I check out.

I’m sure every retailer has problems with loss control, but only a couple seem to have resorted to just assuming that everyone in the store is there to steal until proven otherwise. This is one of the results of total focus on lowest price by the consumers to the exclusion of any other factor. If this same type of behavior were done by a retailer that was not seen as lowest possible price, they would soon have no customers to worry about.

There are limits to how much customer-hostile behavior we will tolerate. We all need to make more of an effort to let the retailers know when they are pushing that limit, and also let them know when they are doing a good job. Yes, I have communicated this experience to Wal-Mart as well, . . . for all the good it will do.

 

Adelson and Bartlett compete to show worst judgment, least scruples! Perkins looking better every day.

Written by Ron on October 30th, 2009

Tulsa’s party-hack mayoral candidates Tom Adelson (D) and Dewey Bartlett (R) continue to set the bar lower and lower in their battle to show which one can demonstrate the least amount of leadership and poorest judgment.  I’ve been watching and sometimes participating in campaigns for a number of years now, but cannot remember  seeing one that has had so little  substance, yet been so full of mud-slinging. Neither candidate really has much political history or background despite holding minor offices, so the campaigns are harvesting every word ever spoken and driving every past vote or stance to some sort of bizarre extreme.

The latest one has Adelson’s ad showing an apparent child molester on a playground and proclaiming that Bartlett would leave your children to fall victim to these criminals. What’s next? Will Bartlett’s campaign create an ad or yet another mailer showing Adelson crushing kitten heads or feasting on dead bodies of puppies?

The one thing that is abundantly clear to me is that both of these morons (and their campaign managers) should be tarred and feathered, then run out of town on a rail. How a candidate campaigns shows their judgment and their ethics (if any) and these two idiots have shown themselves totally unqualified to run a snow-cone stand.  Plus, the incredible amounts of money that the Bozo boys are spending means that if either of these slanderers gets elected, there will be a lot of favors to return.

I didn’t find Bartlett or Adelson particularly appealing at the start of this contest – but thanks to their combined efforts I genuinely loathe them both now. You may say that this is just campaigning or that I should focus my anger and disgust on the campaign managers—but the candidates approve this crap or it would not be going out. People show you their true face when they are striving for something they desperately want.

If ever there was a time to ignore political parties and just examine the candidates, this is it. I’m trying my best to found out all I can about the independent candidate Mark Perkins.  So far I like what I see and unless he decides to get in the sewer with the other two, he will have my support and vote.

 

Can the Police ride along with home plate next time?

Written by Ron on October 28th, 2009

Just cannot resist the opportunity to wonder aloud who paid for the helicopter to move the Drillers home plate a handful of miles, while we are grounding the Police helicopters for lack of funds. Once again we see incredible insensitivity on the part of some. I doubt that any govt. funds paid for the silly chopper flight, at least I certainly hope not. However, you can bet that some business will charge this off as business travel or something. Once again, sports trumps everything around these parts, even good taste.

 

Lori Sears’ Portraits

Written by Ron on September 20th, 2009

For several years now my wife Lori has been creating some wonderfully beautiful and touching artwork, primarily portraits from her home studio here in Tulsa, OK.

Cambodian Boy - Oil

Cambodian Boy (From Innocents in Cambodia) © 2009 Lori Sears

Some of these are in oil, others in charcoal or conte. Recently we have created a site, lorisportraits.com, for her works. I think you will find that the pieces speak for themselves far better than words could. The pieces are of people from the past and the present.

 

T-Mobile puts the greed in green

Written by Ron on August 28th, 2009

Starting in September, T-Mobile will add a $1.50 per month charge to get paper bills, and be able to mail in payments. Of course this is all being played as “green” when we we all know it is simple greed.  Sure, it costs to print and mail invoices and to process payments that are mailed in.  That is called “cost of doing business.” Since phone companies are already well known for passing along any and every charge and fee imaginable as well as some that are hard to imagine, I guess this should not really come as a surprise. What goes along with this paperless billing is also the requirement to either pay online via credit/debit card or via electronic funds transfer from a bank or credit union account. If you insist on paying with cash, check or money order, you will have to take it to a T-Mobile store as they will not accept payments mailed in.

The galling part of this is that the only way I found out about it was by routinely checking my minutes of usage on their web site. Wonder how long I would have gone otherwise? I already know that I have to carefully dissect every piece of paper included with credit card bills to make sure one of them is not a carefully veiled notice that my interest rate is doubling next month and that I agree to accept it if I use my card even one more time. Can’t wait to see the next T-Mobile bill and see how this new green fee is communicated, if at all.

The terms that you must agree to are fun too (see below and link).  So it is now my responsibility to set a date on my calendar to check for billing, since they can’t be bothered with sending a no-charge SMS to make sure I got it. #12 is a hoot too. Sure good to know that T-Mobile’s system is right on the bleeding edge of Internet browsers. I guess I should not plan to use it with Safari or Chrome or Firefox or  even a very old version of IE6. Wonder why the iPhone went to AT&T? Guess accessing your account and paying from any mobile browser would be completely out of the question.

(Terms) By agreeing to receive my Bill electronically I agree to the following:

Paperless Billing. I may view my paperless T-Mobile Bill for wireless services (Bill) online by accessing my account at www.t-mobile.com/mytmobile. I may also determine how much I owe by dialing #BAL# on my T-Mobile phone or by calling Customer Care.
1. Payment. I will pay my Bill (including any late fees) timely, whether or not I receive a Bill notice or am able to access my paperless Bill.
2. Not receiving a Bill notice. T-Mobile will attempt to send me a Bill notice to my current e-mail address in T-Mobile’s records. It is my sole responsibility to contact T-Mobile directly if I do not receive my Bill notice. I agree to hold T-Mobile harmless for any delay or failure to deliver notice.

—snip—

12. System compatibility and blocking. The ability to receive Bill notices is system and Internet Service Provider dependent. To accurately view your paperless Bill, your system must be running either Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher, Netscape Navigator 6.1 or higher, or AOL 5.0 or higher. Some ISPs may block e-mail from senders who are not on a “contacts” list, so I may not receive my notification unless I specifically add T-Mobile to my contacts or “people I know.”  — (bold emphasis added by aRdent)

T_MobilePaperFee

Even with this, T-Mobile is still cheaper for the voice service that we use, so switching to AT&T is not an option. I would not even consider changing to one of the CDMA carriers (Sprint, Verizon, US Cellular), regardless of rate difference. The CDMA system and their devices are just too limited and delicate. There are many good reasons why the rest of the world uses GSM for cellular.

 

We can’t debate healthcare reform until we know exactly what we are debating

Written by Ron on August 11th, 2009

The pundits and progressives are all aflutter about some recent townhall meetings with Congress members that have gotten loud and rowdy.  This should not be a real surprise as healthcare is a very personal issue—especially so if you have a chronic condition or are retired on a fixed income. Sure, some of the participants may have been seeded by those with a particular position, but many are just angry at what certainly looks like a huge change with no public debate.

First, it would help a lot if all of us could actually see and read what we are debating. I’d be very surprised if all the members of Congress have even read it all, much less understand it.  With all the communications outlets currently available to the Congress and the Administration, there is no reason why the people should not be completely informed on the proposed package so we are not running scared with rumors of death boards. Yes, I know we can read the whole thing online, but can most of us make any sense of it?

This is a very serious subject which directly affects people’s lives. Broad outlines from the Administration and a few members of Congress from each side of the aisle does not constitute a debate.  Likewise, one speaker making statements and answering questions in a room full of constituents is not a debate either.

In the absence of clear, concise information about exactly what is changing and what is will cost us all, it is not surprising that many will react with fear. Add to this the number of people, both broadcasters and politicos that know that nothing motivates people to action better than fear and you have a formula for emotional reactions and outrage. The liberals are outraged that the masses would dare question the wisdom or motives of the progressive elite who always know what’s best for us and the conservatives are outraged that there is not a lot they can do to stop this train regardless of where it is currently headed.

Many of us have personal experience with finding out after the fact that a nameless, faceless entity has determined that something  is “not a covered expense” or  “not medically necessary, ” but we have to pay for it anyway. Therefore it is not surprising that people are reluctant to trust what sounds like another group of insurance salesmen telling us not to worry.

It’s real simple. If you don’t want us screaming about the latest rumor we’ve heard, replace those rumors with detailed, accurate information, not broad gentle reassurances. Tell us what exactly this bill is trying to accomplish and how a given section or subtitle accomplishes that.

Congress and the Administration need to spend the next month or two putting out detailed accurate information and give people a chance to digest it. Then, go back and make the changes that this discussion has shown are needed and put it to a vote of both houses. Let’s get this decided on its merits, not on who is best at stampeding their followers.

 

Goodbye Tulsa World

Written by Ron on August 5th, 2009

We finally decided that the time has come to stop paying $17 a month to have the dead-tree version of the local rag deposited on the driveway. The World has long ago ceased being a newspaper.  I will not miss the front page evergreen stories, the full-page snake oil ads, the bizarre editorial positions or the constant drum-beating to spend any amount of tax money to construct some sort of downtown that only exists in the editorial board and publisher’s  fantasies.

What really pushed us over the edge was noticing how many times they kept jumping stories to the website.  There is plenty of room in the paper for a page dedicated to a brand of Bourbon from years past,  and clearly no shortage of space to plug the current touring musicals, but they cannot seem to make space for actual news any more. Today’s top local story is that people apparently get hot and drink lots of water when it is 100 degrees outside. Wow, shouldn’t that be tagged “Breaking News?”

One would hope that the local paper would be the place to find out about local events. Apparently only those events sponsored by the World or favored by Wayne Greene  merit a mention. Don’t even get me started on Mike Jones’ constant stream of liberal hate-speech for any knuckle-dragger that does not share his clearly superior positions. The World’s editorials frequently remind me that no group has a monopoly on intolerance and that nothing is apparently as vitally important as puppies.

Newspapers across the country are fighting a losing battle to stay relevant and stay in business. The problem is that for too many of them the business plan seems to be to do less and charge more, then wail about the Internet while giving away the precious little original content they still generate on the Internet. Thankfully there are still a few newspapers that understand that their strength lies in digging out and presenting stories, both news and investigative, not just adding their “coverage” to a story we have already heard.

I never really liked the Tulsa World, but as a former print photojournalist I still wanted my daily “fix.”  The Tribune always had much better layout, better use of visuals and frankly better writers and editors, but afternoon papers were the first to go in this Darwinian process. I can read many of the best papers online; some for free and some for a very reasonable access fee.

I’m more than willing to pay for quality content. I do not give my work away for free and do not expect anyone else to.  However, I ‘m no longer going to pay $17 a month for shipping and handling of a daily shopper.  The paper kept telling us to go to their website—so we will.