San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Friday, February 15, 2013

Go Nissan Of Littleton Gets Five Stars

I have had occasion in the past to use this blog to complain about some of the shoddy business practices I have been subject to.  There are a lot of shoddy business practices out there so it is not a difficult topic to write about.  To prove that I am not a total curmudgeon I offer today's post as an example of glowing praise for a local business.  Disclaimer:  I am not being compensated in any way for what I am about to write.  I am writing this of my own free will and not under any sort of financial incentive or influence.  The folks at Go Nissan do not know that I am writing this.  Indeed, they do not even know that this blog exists.
I have only purchased four cars in my life.  I suspect that could be some sort of minimalist record.  I believe in buying a car new and driving it until it dies.  As a result, I have had infrequent occasions to purchase cars for myself, although I have often been engaged in the process of car buying on behalf of other people. Here is my car ownership history:
  1. 1981 Ford Escort - I purchased from what used to be called Burt Ford in Englewood.  It was my first car purchase and I used a $1000 inheritance from my wife's grandmother's estate as the down payment.  I was a babe in the woods and I was abused by the salesman and the finance officer.  As we closed the deal the finance officer took all of the papers I had signed and stapled them into a closed envelope.  That aroused my suspicion.  The first thing I did when I got home was open the envelope and examine the documents.  To my shock I discovered I had just purchased credit life and credit disability insurance.  The charges for those insurance policies had been rolled into the loan.  I returned to the dealer the next day and had those policies removed.  Lesson learned--don't trust car salesmen.  The car was a piece of junk.  It had an aluminum block engine and the block cracked shortly after 100,000 miles.  Another lesson learned--don't buy American made cars.  Due to the cracked block the car was smoking so badly my next door neighbor reported me to the police as an "environmentally hazardous vehicle".  I received a letter from the police telling me that they could not cite me but that I was guilty of environmental sins.  Third lesson learned--don't trust neighbors, police or environmentalists. 
  2. 1987 Toyota Tercel - I had learned my lessons on the first car.  When it came time to purchase my second car I studied Consumer Reports to give myself the best opportunity to purchase a car that would be mechanically reliable.  I studied Edmunds to give myself the best opportunity to get a good price on a car.  When the Escort died  I purposed to buy a reliable car at a good price.  The Toyota Tercel (hatchback) was a great car.  I had to go to several dealerships before I could get the exact price I wanted.  I considered that a good sign that I was not overpaying for the car.  It gave me eleven years of faithful service and gave up the ghost with a little over 350,000 miles.  Near the end of its life I was less than cautious in the way I operated it.  The car saw plenty of off road miles.  One summer I had driven it a long way up a four wheel drive road on a backpack trip.  I arrived at an obstacle that was too rough for me to get through so I turned around and parked there.  When I returned to the car a week later it would not start.  I decided to "jump start" it.  I was coasting downhill on a jeep road at a good rate of speed when I hit a bump and went airborn.  I popped the clutch and it roared to life.  Like I said, a great car.
  3. 1989 Subaru Impreza Wagon - My all time favorite car.  This was the first car in which I had a radio/tape player and air conditioning.  It also had all-wheel drive.  It also had power windows and door locks.  Wow!  When I first purchased this car I felt like I was living in the lap of luxury. It too was subject to adventures on all sorts of four wheel drive roads.  I was driving down a jeep road outside of Silverton (in the San Juan mountains of Colorado) one summer afternoon when an approaching driver in a four wheel drive vehicle stopped me.  He rolled down his window and said, "I can't believe you got that Subaru up here!"  I heard that comment many times in the backcountry over the years.  That car could go anywhere that did not require high clearance.  Just two years ago I drove it down the west side of Weston pass, near Leadville.  Those of you who know four wheel drive roads know how rough that road is.  Although I scraped the bottom a couple of times, I made it down safe and sound.  All good things must come to an end.   Last week I was driving on I-70 eastbound through Denver.  I was on the viaduct portion of the highway, surrounded by traffic going at high speeds.  Suddenly the Sube died.  I coasted down the next off ramp and pulled onto a side street.  I called Goodwill (I highly recommend using Goodwill to donate your old car) and the old girl was soon being taken off into the sunset.  Final mileage -- 458,519 miles.  I contacted Subaru to see if they were interested in my story.  They weren't.
I needed a new car and I had decided earlier that it was time to get a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle.  Over the years I have come to realize that there are some mountains I am not going to climb without a high clearance four wheel drive.  I narrowed the choice down to the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier. Both have excellent mechanical reliability ratings.  Last Saturday my wife and I went out for some test drives.  We both liked the Nissan more.  We also discovered that the Nissan could be purchased for several thousand dollars less than the comparable Toyota model.  I suspect Toyota's sterling reputation gives it the ability to charge a premium.  We did not want to pay that premium.  It was settled, the Nissan Frontier was the car for us.
Knowing what it was we wanted, it was time to talk to the salesman and experience brain damage.  I know the routine well enough to play the game and go through the motions of negotiation.  We were in for a very pleasant surprise.  Our salesman was Rob Pence.  After we described what we wanted he made no attempt to sell us up.  He actually listened to what we had to say.  He was very knowledgeable about the car and answered all of our questions thoroughly.   The car we wanted was not easy to find.  He did not have one on the lot.  It took about a week to find the car we wanted but he persevered and found the exact one we wanted.  He was upfront about the difference between the MSRP and what we would end up paying.  He pointed out what was negotiable and what was not.  He even went so far as to suggest things we could do to lower the overall price of the car.  For example, he told me that Costco members (a discount "membership" grocery retailer like Sam's Club) get a lower price on cars.  I joined Costco that day. I had never experienced that type of service before.  Here was a car salesman who was actually listening to the customer and actually acting in the best interest of the customer.  I almost fell out of my chair.
So, here's to you Rob and Go Nissan of Littleton, Colorado.  You did a great job and you have a very satisfied customer.  If you are in the market for a Nissan, go to Go Nissan and be sure and ask for Rob.  I can't vouch for the others.  And for all of you readers who think I never have anything positive to say.....HA!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Christians Are Losers

I was in my car a long time yesterday.  I had to drive all around the northern part of the state on various errands.   I decided to spend my time in the car listening to one of the local Christian radio stations.  The station I selected is one of those that spends most of the day running teaching programs, interspersed with short commercials between the various shows.  It is not unusual for me to tune into a Christian station of this type because I like to stay informed about what the evangelical Church is doing in my area.  Most of the time I listen for examples of bad theology.  I am rarely disappointed.  I also listen for examples of terrible exegesis.  I was not disappointed yesterday as I heard multiple examples of biblical passages being ripped from their context and used to "prove" erroneous theological positions.  But all of those things are not why I am writing this post today.
After listening to Christian radio for several hours yesterday I am forced to come to the conclusion that evangelical Christians are the biggest bunch of losers in the universe.  What forces me to that conclusion?  I am forced to that conclusion after listening to the content of the commercial advertisements that were specifically directed to the Christian listening audience.  Now I suppose that if the advertisers have completely missed the mark about the nature and character of their targeted audience, it could be possible that Christians are not losers.  However, if the advertisers are correct in what they believe about their targeted audience, Christians are one of the most pathetic groups of people in the SDA.  Here are just some of the ads I was subjected to while I tuned in yesterday:
  1. A group called "New Venture on Wall Street" was promoting an upcoming financial seminar in the Denver area.  The promotional spots informed me that "Wall Street fat cats" have been withholding the "secret" about how to earn triple digit annual returns in the stock market from common people like us for "three hundred years."  All I have to do is sign up and go to the seminar and there I will learn, for $99, the "secret" that has been kept from me all of my life.  Presumably, after I learn this secret I will be able to start investing and realize 100%/year in total return regardless of market conditions.  Anybody who believes that hype is a fool.  The mere fact that this group would consider the audience of this Christian radio station as fertile ground for their marketing efforts indicates to me they consider evangelical Christians to be some of the most foolish, naive people in the financial world.  In other words, Christians are losers. In this case they are desperate losers in search of a secret to instant riches.  The lottery would be a more viable means of wealth than this group.
  2. Another commercial started with a sultry sounding woman asking a question of the listening audience. She asked, "Are you tired of fantasizing about losing weight?"  I could not believe what I was hearing.  She was promoting some sort of green coffee extract that is available in a neat little pill.  According to the announcer, if I buy the pills and take one a day I will discover that excess body fat melts away from my body with no effort on my part.  I am accustomed to the take a pill, lose a pound scam.  Everybody does it.  Obviously it works since so many scammers continue to use the ploy.  What disturbed me about this commercial was the fact that the company selling the miracle pill believes that evangelical Christians spend a great deal of their day day-dreaming about losing weight.  If their belief about evangelical Christians is correct, Christians are some of the most vapid, air-headed people on the face of the earth.  In other words, Christians are losers.
  3. Another commercial came on with a fast talking mortgage broker telling me how he could reduce my monthly payment and refinance my mortgage with no fees whatsoever.  I am familiar with FHA streamline loans so I knew a little bit about what he was talking about.  Unlike the previous two commercials I did not hear anything in this one that was clearly untrue.  What disturbed me, however, was the fact that he went on to promote other loan products that would allow people to obtain loans with a greater loan value to home value. These are exactly the types of loans that were responsible for the housing collapse a few short years ago.  Has everyone forgotten how bad these mortgage products are?  The mere fact that this mortgage broker believed that he could find a market for "underwater loans" among the Christian community that listens to this radio station told me one thing....he believes evangelical Christians to be some of the biggest losers in the world.
  4. The other commercial I heard was certainly my favorite of the day.  Over the course of the day I heard it three different times. This commercial was sponsored by a local legal firm that specializes in bankruptcy.  They were promoting a special offer to the "first twenty five people who sign up" for their bankruptcy package.  Those folks would receive "55% off" the standard charge.  The closing line was "call today and get your $599 bankruptcy".  During the course of the commercial the announcer frequently referred to those evil creditors who keep hounding people who owed them money.  Imagine that!  People expect to get paid back when they lend money to somebody!  Who would have thunk it?  This legal firm, however, was prepared to ride to the rescue and file bankruptcy so its clients could "enter 2013 debt free."  Am I the only person in the world who believes that the type of bankruptcy that cancels legitimate debts is nothing more than theft?  Did the commandment about not stealing ever enter into the minds of the people who made the commercial?  Did the commandment about not stealing ever enter the minds of the Christians who respond to the ad?  Like I said, Christians are losers.
So there you have it.  A Christian radio station has weighed in on its opinion about the moral character and nature of its audience.  The advertising that it has sold tells me that the station believes most Christians are greedy little monsters looking for a secret pathway to quick wealth.   It tells me that evangelical Christians are seen as brainless automatons who have no more interesting thoughts in their heads over the course of the day than how much they weigh.  It tells me that Christians are in trouble on their mortgages, probably due to the fact that they are stupid, greedy, and looking for a handout.  Lastly it tells me that Christians don't believe what they say they believe when they say they believe the Bible.  The prohibition against theft is pretty clear in the Bible.  Yet this radio station believes that Christians will line up to pay some legal firm $599 to obtain what they call "your bankruptcy".  That is astounding.  If the Christian radio show and the sponsors who advertise with it are accurate, Christians are the biggest losers in the world.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Way Too Many Disabled People

When an individual's rights are determined by his appraisal of his individual needs I expect to be quickly surrounded by hoards of needy individuals.  In a moral world rights would not be determined by need.  In a moral world we would recognize what the founding fathers of the United States of America believed to be true about individual rights; they are granted by God, not government, and limited to my life, my freedom and my personal property.  In the Socialist Democracy of America the rules are very different.  In the SDA a man can garner rights to himself by being needy in the eyes of the bureaucratic state.  The more needy he can appear to be, the more rights he will obtain.  As is the case in all other government income transfer programs,  a right is defined exclusively as a moral claim on his neighbors money.  Prepare to be plundered.
According to various sources, the following is a good summary of the present state of Social Security Disability in the SDA:
  • There are approximately 250 million citizens above the age of 18 in the SDA.
  • There are approximately 9 million citizens presently receiving SS disability checks.
  • The total cost for SS disability payments in 2011 was $130 billion.
  • The average monthly check per recipient is $1,230.
  • Therefore, approximately 1 out of every 28 people you meet on the street is getting a monthly check from Social Security disability in the amount of $1,230.
 I don't know about you but I have a hard time believing that one out of every twenty eight people living in the SDA is permanently disabled and unable to work for a living.  In fact, I think Social Security disability is one of the most corrupt and fraudulent parts of the federal government.
Local television news shows always put together high profile stories for sweeps month.  February is sweeps month.  "Sweeps", for those of you who do not know, is when the audience for each show is determined.  It tells each channel how much market share they are getting and allows them to set their charges for advertising time in the future.  I have noticed that an annual story about the immense amount of fraud found in Social Security disability always seems to air.  This year was no different.  It is amazingly easy to follow around people who are receiving disability checks and watch them engage in life activities that clearly prove they are no more disabled than I am.  This year featured a lady who claimed total disability (neck and back injury) who was playing the drums in a nightclub.  Several years ago was a man that came to be known as "Johnny Jet-Ski" because he was able to ride a jet ski at the local reservoir every day during the summer despite his severe back injury.
I am going to go out on a limb and assert that one out of every twenty eight people are not disabled. What would things look like in the real world if this statistic represented reality?  We would all be surrounded by people who would be home-bound and incapacitated.  Nobody lives in neighborhoods like that because they do not exist, except on the Social Security disability database list.   I am going to go even farther out on the limb and assert that if government disability checks did not exist the great majority of those who are receiving them would be gainfully employed.
It is not the business of government to determine disability.  It is not the business of government to take money from one group, labeled "abled", and give it to another group, labeled "disabled".  Individuals should be responsible for their own financial affairs.  If a person wants to do so, he can purchase disability insurance from a free-market insurance company.  I would argue that most people should carry such insurance as a precaution.  It is relatively inexpensive and provides a good income supplement in the event of a real disability.  King Obama gave his "state of the union" address last night.  He talked a great deal about fiscal responsibility.  A good way to start off his second term would be by eliminating Social Security disability and saving the federal government $130 billion every year. 
Career politicians just don't get it.  They think they are doing good deeds when they make laws to help people they believe have a need.  What they stubbornly refuse to recognize is that government programs designed to meet one man's need at the expense of another man's income will always result in a long list of needy people.  Social Security Disability is a perfect example of this nonsense.  Under our present system the federal government has created way too many disabled people.  Those people need to be cut loose so they can return to gainful employment.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Need Gives Me The Right To Take Your Money

A reader of this blog was personally offended by something I wrote in the "King Obama, Stop Lying, We Are A Nation Of Takers" posting (1-22-13).  I had just received a copy of the 2010 Internal Revenue Service report on how much various income cohorts paid in federal taxes as a percentage of total federal income tax revenue.  I pointed out that the top 1% of earners paid 37% of the total federal income tax.  I pointed out that the top 10% of earners paid 59% of all federal income taxes in 2010.  Then I pointed out that the bottom 50% of earners paid just 2% of all federal income taxes that year.  I described the various amounts paid by the various income cohorts as "grossly unfair".  I described those who persist in the belief that the "rich" are not paying their "fair share" as "delusional".  Little did I realize how offensive I was being.
A reader of that blog contacted me personally to complain about its content.  The thing that made him the most angry was my definition of "fair".  I used several examples of fairness from every day life.  Women often complain that the "glass ceiling" keeps them from being fairly compensated for their services.  By fairly compensated they mean equally compensated.  Children often complain when a sibling receives a larger portion of cake and protest the unfairness in the situation. By unfair they mean unequal pieces of cake.  I concluded that most rational people recognize that the concept of fair includes the concept of equal.  A fair income tax system would be an income tax system in which each participant pays an equal share of his income to the state.  An unfair income tax system exists when some minority group within the population is forced to pay a higher percentage than other members of that population.  It really does not matter why the minority group is forced to pay more.  There is no justification for charging one group more for the exact same government services than another group is charged.  Apparently that idea is highly offensive.
The reader presented a counter-argument to my unfair piece of cake illustration.  He informed me that my illustration was in error because it did not take into consideration the caloric needs of those who were eating the cake.  For example, a 300 pound man would require more cake than  a 40 pound child.  Since the man needs more calories he should be given a larger piece of cake.  The determination that he is entitled to a larger piece of cake is therefore based upon his need for more calories and nothing else.  Simply put, his need gave him a moral claim on a larger piece of cake.  The lesser need of the children put them in the position of having to pay the moral claim of the large man.  They would end up with a smaller piece of cake.  This should sound very familiar.  Phrases like "from he who has to he who has not" and "from those with a surplus to those with a need"  and "from him who is able to him who is not" are commonly found on the lips of those who believe in socialism.  Indeed, this concept of need creating a moral claim on my neighbor's money is the basis for a great amount of the political action that takes place in the Socialist Democracy of America.
The reader is correct when he asserts that we live in a country where officials in the state take from one group and give to another group based upon some sort of perceived need.  For example, I have spent the last twenty years of my life spending my disposable income on vacations, hunting trips, a home theater system, and a penchant for Faberge eggs.  All totaled I have probably blown $300,000 on these items.  As a result, I have no assets in any type of retirement account.
Not to worry.  I live in a Yuppie neighborhood.   Yuppies are very concerned about their retirement.  While I was blowing my money they were investing theirs.  They all have retirement portfolios in the million dollar range.  When the time comes to retire I will bring forth my moral claim upon their assets.  Nobody can deny my need.  I live the Yuppie lifestyle and I have no money.  My neighbors have lots of money.   Since my need grants me a moral claim on their money I will exercise that claim and step back to let the government do its magic.  I expect that some sort of tax will eventually be levied on net worth and used to pay social security benefits to those who have not saved for their own future.  In addition, social security benefits will soon be "means tested" and my neighbors, who have provided for themselves, will not qualify for the benefits they expected to receive.  On the other hand, I have a great need.  I will get their benefits.  I win!
This is the system my disgruntled reader believes is fair.   It is based upon the moral (actually immoral) principle that my need gives me a moral claim on your money.  As long as I can get enough people of similar need to vote in a law that will take your money and give it to us, it is a good and moral system.  Pity the fools that have provided for themselves and do not constitute a political majority.  They will be plundered.  And that, of course, was the point of that posting to the blog.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tax Fat People

I am writing this post in favor of Colorado House Bill 1144, the increased sales tax on food.  The Republican representatives who expressed opposition to this bill on the grounds that it is a "regressive tax" and hurts low-income earners are simply misguided.  There are solid data showing that an increase in taxes discourages young people from eating.  And since obesity related disease affects one out of every two fat people, it would clearly be good public health strategy to support this bill.  It is in the interest of everyone to pass this bill, especially for those least able to afford the health care costs of obesity related disease. 
Although Colorado consistently shows up as one of the least obese states in the country, it still remains an indisputable fact that Colorado is in the midst of an obesity epidemic.  This obesity is harmful for everyone.  Obviously, obese people are at greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other illness and maladies associated with their obesity.  It is a well know fact that obese parents are far more likely to rear obese children.  These at risk children need to be rescued from the endless cycle of obesity that is destroying their lives.
Fat people put more of a strain on the resources of the public health system in our state. They are more frequently in the hospital.  Due to the fact that they are disproportionately in the lower income groups they require more taxpayer subsidies to pay their medical bills.  Although it would be nice if we could have a law that would mandate a maximum weight for each person, based upon body type and height, and thus ensure that we could stamp out the scourge of obesity, it is not likely that our elected representatives would show the courage to enact such a law.  In the absence of predetermined maximum weights for Colorado residents we should at least have a law that will create a disincentive for fat people to purchase and consume food.
I know fat people will not like this law.  They will say that they have a right to eat whatever they want.  They will squeal that they have a right to eat as much as they want.  Well, they are wrong.  When their fatness begins to impinge upon my income by forcing me to subsidize their medical care they no longer should be free to eat as they wish.  If fat people are too stupid to realize that this tax is for their own good, I feel sorry for them.  But it does not change the fact that the thin citizens of Colorado have a moral obligation to force them to do what is in their own best interest.  House Bill 1144 will accomplish that goal.

Are you personally offended by what I have written above?  If you are a socialist/statist who believes it is our duty to go around telling others how to run their lives, I suspect you are not offended.  If you are a socialist who believes that all politically unprotected minority groups should be subject to extra tax burdens in order to maximize state revenues, I suspect you are not offended.  If, however, you believe in your God given right to life, liberty and property, I suspect you are highly offended.  If you are one of those people the state has defined as "obese" or "overweight", I suspect you are offended. You should be offended.  In fact, I am personally offended by anyone who is not offended by the comments I have written above.

There is no House Bill 1144 in Colorado that would raise sales taxes on food.  There is a House Bill 1144 in Colorado that would raise taxes on cigarettes.  Carol Goldstein of Englewood wrote a letter to the Denver Post today.  The first paragraph of this blog is the text of her letter except for the fact that I changed "smoker" into "fat person" and "tobacco" into "food".  Here is what Carol wrote, "This letter is in support of state House Bill 1144, the sales tax on cigarettes.  The Republican representatives who expressed opposition to this bill on the grounds that it is a regressive tax and hurts low-income earners are simply misguided. There are solid data showing that an increase in taxes discourages young people from smoking.  And since tobacco related disease affects one out of every two people who smoke, it would clearly be good public health strategy to support this bill."
Carol hates smokers.  Carol is also well aware that smokers make up a minority of the citizens of Colorado.  As a minority group they are ripe for political exploitation.  Carol does not believe that government should exist to protect the rights of the minority.   Carol believes that government exists to take advantage of their minority status and use that advantage to increase state revenues.  To justify her hatred for smokers and to allow her to think good thoughts about herself, Carol convinces herself that she is doing all of this to help the "young people" and discourage people from voluntarily engaging in a practice she deems to be harmful to them. 
Once again we see people who use tobacco products under attack.  The same arguments that Carol uses against smokers could easily be used against fat people, but they aren't.  There are many more fat people than there are people who smoke.  That makes fat people a much more dangerous target.  There are many more fat career politicians than there are career politicians who smoke.  That makes socialist legislation designed to control the behavior of fat people very unlikely.  Tobacco users, however, are another story.
Tobacco users are worse than Hitler.  They are readily identified by the offensive odor that emanates from them when their practice their devilish behavior.  The state should require them to wear arm bands that identify them as smokers when they are not actually engaged in the practice of smoking.  The state should require them to live in specifically identifiable enclaves in our cities and towns so that more cultured folks can avoid them.  These are reasonable measures to take to protect our children and elderly from their evil influence.  If any of this sounds familiar, it should.  It is what the Nazis did to the Jews in eastern Europe prior to WWII.  Welcome to the Socialist Democracy of America, where everyone has freedom until the majority votes to take it away.