Archive for the UGH! Category

Ethanol is ruining small engines

Posted in BIG Government, Congress, FAIL, Goin' Green, UGH! on May 5, 2011 by DaMook

The ethanol controversy (more here) is heating up again as the EPA announced a mandate last fall to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline from 10% to 15% (more here). Despite the growing evidence that ethanol costs more, is not really environmentally friendly, drives up the price of food, and is actually ruining engines on vehicles (older than 2007). The ultimate slap in the face is that your tax dollars are being used to ruin your car (more here).

The recent revelation that ethanol ruins small engines (like lawn mowers and weed whackers) has created a niche market for “Boutique Fuel” – pure (no ethanol) gasoline for small engines. Of course, this comes at a pretty stiff premium (story here from Popular Mechanics).

Small-engine repairmen tell PM that ethanol mixed with gasoline is corroding and damaging chain saws, string trimmers and other outdoor equipment at an alarming clip. As a result, a new market is growing in U.S. hardware stores: Ethanol-free gas packaged in small cans that sell at a premium but promise to make your small engines last.

Repairman and small-business owner Rich Herder doesn’t mince words about the damage ethanol in gasoline is doing to the small engines in outdoor power equipment. “It’s the biggest disaster to hit gasoline in my lifetime,” Herder says. He owns McIntyre’s Locksmith & Lawnmower, a service business in Westfield, N.J. Founded in 1898 to refurbish saddles, the business today repairs more than 5000 machines a year—mostly pieces of outdoor power equipment, and many of them, according to Herder, damaged by the alcohol in today’s gasoline, known as E10 for the 10 percent of alcohol it contains.

Herder estimates that as much as 75 percent of that work is not due to normal wear and tear, but results from the use of ethanol, which can cause rust and carbon deposits inside the engine, dissolve plastic parts and more. And if repair shops like Herder’s are already busy, you have to wonder what will happen this summer when gas pumps begin dispensing E15 gasoline; the Environmental Protection Agency recently approved the fuel for cars built after the 2000 model year, but the fuel could hit small engines even harder than E10 does. But now, because of all that ethanol-based wear and tear, a nascent industry is starting up: Ethanol-free gas, distributed in cans for owners of small engines.

Deposits and corrosion aren’t the only reasons alcohol is hard on today’s small engines. The power plants are easily ruined by bad fuel because they lack the sophisticated computer-controlled ignition systems found in today’s cars and trucks. The alcohol can cause the fuel to ignite at the wrong time in the combustion sequence, ruining parts in the process. “The pistons are the first to go,” Herder says. “They look like they’ve been hit with a hammer.” Clearly the time for an alternative has come.

With congress in the pocket of agribusiness and the EPA mandating even more ethanol in fuel, the alternative is Boutique Fuels. Thank you government – BOHICA consumers!

The phenomenon of fuel-related problems has become so severe that the niche market for specialized fuel is growing fast. Tidily packaged little metal cans containing ethanol-free gasoline were just an oddity a few years ago; now they’re sold in hardware stores and by power equipment dealers, and people are taking specialized fuel seriously. There are at least three brands to choose from: MotoMix, from outdoor power equipment manufacturer Stihl USA, SEF from VP Racing Fuels and Truefuel from TruSouth. Of the three, only Stihl relies on an outside-contract chemical manufacturer to make its boutique fuel: Johann Haltermann, Ltd., a company that makes, among other things, precisely blended fuel for testing vehicles. Stihl was likely the first outdoor power equipment company to enter the boutique fuel market when, more than 20 years ago, it was so concerned about fuel quality in Germany that it introduced packaged fuel for its equipment sold in Europe.

The market for these fuels is still so new that there’s no generally recognized name for them. But regardless of whether you call this stuff—boutique fuel, packaged fuel or canned gas—it’s an end run around the gas pump. Sold as straight unleaded gasoline or blended with oil for high-rpm two-cycle engines in chain saws, blowers and string trimmers, it’s expensive stuff, costing anywhere from $5 to $8 per quart. Despite the high price, customers might be willing to pony up if it means seeing an engine or its components run for several trouble-free years rather than seeing the engine destroyed or damaged by ethanol—after all, avoiding just one ruined engine might be worth the cost.

Imagine that – pure gasoline at $20 – $32 a gallon. That works for me. I just love my government so much – BLECH!

Advertisements

New passport application – Kafka’s Catch-22

Posted in BIG Government, Government Folly, Huh? WTF?, UGH! on May 4, 2011 by DaMook

If you don’t have a US passport you might want to get one now before a proposed new application form is adopted. This is particularly true if you don’t have a copy of your long form Birth Certificate. According to this story, many of the questions are almost impossible to answer.

The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants: The proposed new  Form DS-5513 asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and a variety of other information.  According to the proposed form, “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.”

The State Department estimated that the average respondent would be able to compile all this information in just 45 minutes, which is obviously absurd given the amount of research that is likely to be required to even attempt to complete the form.

It seems likely that only some, not all, applicants will be required to fill out the new questionnaire, but no criteria have been made public for determining who will be subjected to these additional new written interrogatories.  So if the passport examiner wants to deny your application, all they will have to do is give you the impossible new form to complete.

This form is a bureaucrat’s dream come true – Kafka’s Catch-22. With the stroke of a pen some government drone who may be having a bad day has the power to deny your passport.

You’re probably thinking, “How could they possibly know any of this – I’ll just make up a bunch of stuff.” That’s true, but that’s also the beauty of it. They don’t have to know any of it. If they deny your application, the onus is on you to prove it.

Please make it stop…

Lemonade Day – a lesson in government regulation

Posted in Culture, Government Folly, Heros, Nanny State, Take back America, UGH! on May 2, 2011 by DaMook

lemonade standOnce upon a time a kid could set up a lemonade stand virtually anywhere and make a few bucks. Sadly those days are over as you are now subject to government harassment and even prosecution should you try it now. In many areas you need a business license and Health Department inspection to set up a simple lemonade stand. But wait, there’s hope. You can do this one day a year on Lemonade Day. That’s right, one day a year many cities will allow this so that kids can “learn and appreciate” entrepreneurship. Actually, it’s a lesson in government regulation (story here from the LA Times).

My 8-year-old recently got the lemonade stand itch. So we started laying plans to enrich her college fund by enticing passers-by with white chocolate-pistachio cookies and juice from organic lemons. Fortunately, our property backs onto one of the busiest paved urban trails in America, bustling on weekends with cyclists, rollerbladers and pedestrians. Visions of dollars danced in our heads.

Googling for the perfect lemonade recipe, we soon found a site promoting a May 1 “national” event called Lemonade Day. This event, organizers say, is an “initiative designed to teach kids how to start, own and operate their own business — a lemonade stand.” What better day to begin building our lemonade empire?

After shopping for her raw materials, I gave my kid a bedtime primer about starting a business. How much profit do you make after expenses? How should you promote your business? Give the customer a great product. She soaked it up and went to sleep all inspiration and smiles. Then I got to thinking about something I hadn’t discussed with her: government regulations.

The author relates a three day odyssey of contacting various government agencies about setting up a simple lemonade stand. The bottom line was that under normal circumstances, a simple child’s lemonade stand was out of the question. They would allow it, however, for Lemonade Day.

What the Lemonade Day organizers should teach the children, said the health official, is about the importance of learning and obeying the government regulations that prohibit lemonade stands.

If we had made it past the health and parks departments, my kid would have been stymied by zoning laws that prohibit lemonade stands in residential neighborhoods. Overcoming that barrier, we would have hung our heads at the daunting costs of business and vending licenses, not to mention taxes.

Lemonade Day is promoted as a way to “inspire a budding entrepreneur!” But it is actually a dispiriting lesson about how hard it now is to become an entrepreneur, whether you’re an adult or a child. It is about how even the most harmless enterprise, the humble lemonade stand, has been sacrificed on the altar of government regulation.

“Obeying the government” – that’s the real lesson here. The author handles it well.

Learning to be an entrepreneur “starts with a lemonade stand,” say the organizers of Lemonade Day. But they don’t want to talk about the regulations that make it impossible for my kid to become a lemonade stand entrepreneur. They tell me it is “silly” and “beside the point” to focus on the regulations. I am told that Lemonade Day is about kids learning to “give back to their communities,” “do better in school” and “open bank accounts.” It is not about something so self-serving as making a profit by selling a good product. That is the old American way, but the new way is living with rules that banish the lemonade stand to one government-approved day a year.

What are my kid and I going to do on Lemonade Day? We are going to set up a stand in one of the permitted locations — in a park or at one of the approved sponsors — with hundreds of other kids doing the same thing. But our “secret ingredient” is that we will hand out leaflets explaining why operating a lemonade stand makes my kid and yours not just a hopeful entrepreneur, but an actual lawbreaker.

Next year they should rename it Regulation Day.

It makes you wonder if America can survive this assholery…

After SC Tax vote, Amazon says UP YOURS!

Posted in Economy, FAIL, Government Folly, UGH! on April 29, 2011 by DaMook

Amazon logoAmazon.com is the largest and most successful on line marketplace with 33,700 employees and over $34B in revenue. One of the biggest reasons most people shop on the internet is the lack of sales tax on purchases – in most instances. Of course, state governments lament this “loss of revenue” and they have been looking hard at legislating this advantage away from internet merchants (more here). Amazon has been the obvious #1 target of the taxers and they have vowed to fight efforts to tax on-line purchases (more here).

One of the ways states can currently collect sales taxes from internet purchases is if the seller has a presence in the buyer’s state. For example, if you purchase an item from Amazon that comes from one of their affiliates and that affiliate has an outlet in your state, you pay the sales tax. One of the ways Amazon has fought this is to simply close their affiliate program in the states that enact on-line taxing legislation. According to this story Amazon has upped the ante with the state of South Carolina. After the legislature approved an internet tax, Amazon cancelled a project for a distribution center in Midlands. The plant is under construction and was anticipated to provide over 1200 jobs.

South Carolina lawmakers’ decision to deny a sales tax break for online retailer Amazon.com will cost Lexington County more than 1,200 jobs, but the effects could ripple across the state.

Some say the incentives were unfair to established brick-and-mortar retailers while others maintain the reneged deal will cause other industries to pause before bringing their business to South Carolina.

Amazon.com decided after the vote to cancel $52 million in procurement contracts and remove all job postings from its website for the Midlands plant, effectively saying goodbye to South Carolina.

Newly-elected republican governor Nikki Haley applauded the decision, saying that South Carolina wants to “level the playing field” for business. Ugh!

That did little to change Gov. Nikki Haley’s stance, and she applauded the House’s 71-47 decision in a visit to Charleston on Thursday.

‘When you come to South Carolina, we’re going to give you a fair competitive marketplace to do business, and we’re always going to take care of businesses that are in town,’ she said. ‘By allowing Amazon to get a tax break that we’re not giving to any other business in our state destroys what I am saying.’

Haley said retail is different from manufacturing because its jobs are subject to higher turnover and lower pay. ‘It is not a Boeing. It is not a BMW,’ she said during the Free Enterprise Foundation’s awards luncheon at The Citadel.

Amazon is not a Boeing or BMW so we don’t need their business? Those 1200 jobs are low-paying with high turnover – you know, the kind that Americans won’t do but Mexicans will. Great job, governor!

Hope & Change update

Posted in Culture, FAIL, The Regime, UGH! on April 27, 2011 by DaMook

Two of the promises of Hope&Change was that the US would pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq and close GITMO. During the presidential campaign I had (briefly) discussed our dear comrade candidate with several good friends – people who I respect and like immensely. Their reasons for wanting to vote for the dear comrade were that he would get us out of the wars that Bush started and stop the torture at GITMO.

Just a reminder – after two years, here’s where we are:

If you’re tempted to say that we’re not actually at war with Libya, I pose this question: If a foreign power launched cruise missiles and air strikes on US soil, would you not consider that an act of war?

Well friends, how’s that hopey changey thing working out for you? Why are you strangely silent about this now?

Regime threatens Boeing over new SC plant

Posted in BIG Government, FAIL, The Regime, UGH!, Unions Suck on April 25, 2011 by DaMook

dreamlinerIn an effort to meet increasing demand for its new 787 Dreamliner, Boeing needs to expand its production capacity. In 2009 the company concluded that they needed to ramp up production in the face of stiff competition from Airbus (380) for the jumbo jet market. So Boeing went to the largest employee union to negotiate terms for the additional manufacturing capacity, even though it was not required to do so. After losing $1.8B to a 2008 strike, Boeing wanted some assurances that the unions wouldn’t cause problems for the new production lines. The union balked on the no strike terms, demanded a seat on Boeing’s board of directors and a guaranty that all future aircraft production remain in the Seattle area. Since the union refused to bargain in good faith, Boeing decided to move the new production lines to South Carolina – a Right To Work state. They bought a Vought production facility and began constructing the plant.

This story should have ended right there. Boeing tried to negotiate with the union for the new production lines and the union wouldn’t budge so the company decided to go elsewhere. Boeing announced their decision 18 months ago. The new production facility is scheduled to start running in July and there are currently 1000 new employees in South Carolina. Last week the story took a new and dangerous turn as the NRLB, part of the regime, decided to sue Boeing in an effort to block the new facility. Their reason for the suit? That Boeing did this in retaliation against the union (stories here, here, and here).

This week, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint over Boeing’s plans to open a plant in South Carolina. Boeing is not seeking to outsource work to a foreign country. Boeing has chosen a manufacturing location in the U.S. based on cost and risk factors. It plans to open a second production line of its 787 Dreamliner plane there. The plant has been built.

Boeing executives have acknowledged that they were reluctant to expand in Washington state because of the risk of a labor strike. Boeing’s workers in Washington belong to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Its plant in South Carolina would be nonunion.

Seizing on the words of Boeing executives, the NLRB inferred that the decision to choose South Carolina was retaliation against the union. The labor board demands that Boeing open the second production line in Washington.

Retaliation? Sounds more like the U.S. government — the NLRB — is retaliating against Boeing for seeking a better business climate in South Carolina. Appointments by President Barack Obama have given the five-member NLRB a pro-labor tilt.

Boeing tried to negotiate with the union – two years ago. The company is not moving all Dreamliner production, just the new capacity. No union jobs in Seattle are affected. If Boeing really wanted to stick it to the union, they could have moved the whole shebang to South Carolina.

The question here is this: Does the federal government have the authority to prevent a company from opening a plant wherever they choose? Apparently they believe they do. And, according to this piece (from the Washington Examiner), Boeing might be facing an uphill battle.

Boeing is not free to make its jets at the factory of its choosing, according to the National Labor Relations Board — it must make them in Washington state, using union labor.

This extraordinary abridgement of economic freedom might suggest an anti-Boeing vendetta from President Obama, except that this administration’s Export-Import Bank has subsidized Boeing with nearly $15 billion in loan guarantees in the past two years — roughly three-quarters of all of Ex-Im’s guarantees during that time.

This puts Boeing in an awkward position. The NLRB is surely overreaching in trying to block Boeing from making some of its 787s in South Carolina, a right-to-work state (NLRB calls this illegal retaliation against the machinists and aerospace workers union for its 2005 and 2008 strikes). In its effort to fight back, Boeing could be defanged by its reliance on big government. It’s a cautionary tale for Obama’s other corporate allies — from the drug industry that benefits so much from Obamacare to the tech, agrichem, coal, and other industries that have benefitted from the president’s corporatism.

Boeing and Obama, both based in Chicago, have a real political friendship. In 2008, Obama was by far the biggest recipient of campaign contributions from Boeing employees and executives, hauling in $197,000 — five times as much as John McCain, and more than the top eight Republicans combined.

So Boeing could be talking out of both sides of its mouth here. If you suck up to the government and politicians for benefits, don’t complain when they call in their chips.

In Boeing’s situation, it’s not only Uncle Sam who has leverage purchased with corporate welfare.

Washington state, Illinois and Chicago have given Boeing billions in favors. Do you think these Democratic governors wouldn’t squeeze Boeing, too? Does anyone doubt the new mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, would play politics with Boeing’s subsidies in order to help his old boss, Obama? (Of course, the disputed Boeing factory in South Carolina got hundreds of millions in state subsidies, too.)

Forever, business has been seduced by the promise of free money from government, along with regulation to clear out competition. Boeing has been the foremost among businesses partnering with Uncle Sam.

This is what our system of “Crony Capitalism” is all about…

Government wants to regulate icemakers (sigh)

Posted in BIG Government, Climategate, FAIL, Goin' Green, Government Folly, UGH! on April 25, 2011 by DaMook

Remember the “old” refrigerators before ice makers? You had those 2 ice trays that you had to keep refilling and you never had enough ice if you had more than 3 people at a party. As someone who loves a glass full of ice with my drink, I appreciate the convenience of the ice maker. Most of us don’t even think about it any more – we just put the glass under the ice dispenser and enjoy a cold drink. Well, in an effort to save you from “climate change,” your government is about to do something about that horrible, wasteful ice maker (story here).

In its latest effort to save the planet from global warming, the U.S. government is on the verge of regulating ice makers commonly found in many refrigerators because they increase energy consumption by a good 12 to 20%.

This could be detrimental to the environment since there are more than 100 million refrigerators across the nation and they devour a substantial chunk of the electricity used by all households. Energy consumed by refrigerators as a whole has long been documented but not what the ice makers inside their freezers use individually.

Americans can finally sleep soundly through the night because government scientists have completed the ice maker study and the findings have been beautifully laid out in a 79-page report titled Energy Consumption of Automatic Ice Makers Installed in Domestic Refrigerators. The information is being used to make a case for regulating the popular little machines that are contributing to the planet’s destruction.

In a nutshell, the culprit is the tiny motor inside the freezing system that’s used to release ice from the mold and into a tray. Because the motor is specially built to function in a cold setting, it requires an internal heater to keep it from freezing up. Here’s where it gets serious; heating elements require a lot of power and that’s where the extra energy consumption kicks in.

OK, I get it – refrigerators consume a lot of power (we have 3 of them). But what if I’m OK with that and am willing to pay for it? What if I don’t mind paying a little extra for the convenience of having as much ice as I want, whenever I want it? It’s a simple matter to disconnect the ice maker if you don’t want to use it. The salient question is this: Do we really need some government apparatchik controlling the use of our refrigerator?

The Obama Administration has been quite active in its campaign to enlighten Americans about the ills of global warming. A few months ago a group of esteemed scientists from several public universities warned that climate change will make food “dangerous” and add to the malnourishment of millions worldwide.

Before that separate government evaluations revealed that global warming causes mental illness and cancer and that it creates national security threats by spreading disease among people and animals. Authored by government scientists from various agencies, the mental illness/cancer report claims global warming is one of the “most visible environmental concerns of the 21st century” The separate national security assessment, made by intelligence and health officials, says climate change will destabilize developing nations as well as the U.S. economy and military.

Mental illness? I guess that explains this nonsense. SHEEESH!