Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stakeholders BATFE (ATF)

A term often seen in the media is “stakeholder”, which seems to be the highly educated folks way of saying someone has a dog in the fight. Guess it sounds snappier than the more accurate “vested interest”.

Since 2006, the Director of ATF has required Senate confirmation, and no one has been confirmed, leaving the Bureau headed by an “Acting Director”. The Bureau has become a political football. Yes, this is Captain Obvious stuff for the four or five regular readers of my scribbles. This is being written on the offhand chance some “gun violence” troll might stumble across this, and be looking for possible solutions. Hey, it could happen.

Want proof? This is from ATF’s own website.

Q: How can a person apply for relief from Federal firearms disabilities?
Under the provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), convicted felons and certain other persons are prohibited from possessing or receiving firearms. TheGCA provides the Attorney General with the authority to grant relief from this disability where the Attorney General determines that the person is not likely to act in a manner dangerous to the public safety and granting relief would not be contrary to the public interest. The Attorney General delegated this authority to ATF.
Since October 1992, however, ATF’s annual appropriation has prohibited the expending of any funds to investigate or act upon applications for relief from Federal firearms disabilities submitted by individuals. As long as this provision is included in current ATF appropriations, the Bureau cannot act upon applications for relief from Federal firearms disabilities submitted by individuals.
[18 U.S.C. 922(g), 922(n) and 925(c)]

Please note.

appropriation has prohibited the expending of any funds to investigate or act upon applications for relief

Now who is responsible for this “gotcha”? How about Senator Chuck Schumer, D NY who boasts about it; that he has  defunded this  going back to his days as a Congressman. Seems everything his finders touch has “gotchas”.

Want another example of “gun violence” trolls trying to use the public purse to advance their goals? Try this.
You do need to read between the lines.

For folks who “hate” guns, and by extension firearms users and owners, the truth that seldom comes out is this: Firearms owners are against “gun violence”. Their feelings are stronger than yours because their feelings are based on facts, they know what the hell they are talking about. No one wants the elimination of criminal use of firearms more than firearm owners.

Firearms owners who pay attention to national news know, without question, a powerful bloc of political, media, and academia segments want to totally disarm the citizenry. If they can’t repeal the 2nd Amendment, they will try to gut it. Firearm owners oppose them tooth and nail. As the fur flies, those who benefit from this conflict are the criminals. Little attention is paid to finding and bringing to court those who use firearms for criminal purposes.

So here is a modest proposal. Obama and his fellow travelers need to recognize the firearms community as stakeholders. There must be a few individuals, with the necessary skills to manage ATF, who are acceptable to the NRA, GOA, etc. This would make the ATF non partisan. Aren’t our institutions supposed to be exactly that?

I've tried to keep a civil tongue in writing this. Yes, you can "Yeah, but" everything I say. Try this idea; we are all in the life boat together, and need to learn to row together.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Smart Ass Gets Slapped

A friend wants another car lot story. Prefers one that puts me down. Oh well, I aim to please.

Part of my selling technique was to use humor to keeps the atmosphere relaxed. The customers are in a stressful situation; take the curse off.

Collecting the down payment check was one such stress point. Major commitment point. After naming the amount, and their bringing out their checkbook, I would usually say, "Please make that out to 'Frank's Good Times, Inc'." Usually got a laugh, or a rude comment or two. Relieved the stress.

One day the customer was a nice lady that had driven about two hours to come to our lot. I did my usual, and she made the check payable to Frank's Good times Inc. After seeing the payee, I told her I was, "Just joking". Her reply? "That is my last check".  Oh shit. I sat there thinking about how to handle this. Drive two hours to her house to get a check?

"Are you starting to sweat," She asked?

"Ah, yes I am."

"Good, because you have been making me sweat for the past hour," She said, as she brought out another checkbook.

Got me good, she did.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Some Low Humor

Been too serious, lately.

On their wedding night, the young bride approached her new husband and asked for $20.00 for their first lovemaking
In his highly aroused state, her husband readily agreed.
This scenario was repeated each time they made love, for more than 40 years, with him thinking that it was a cute way for her to afford new clothes and other incidentals that
She needed.
Arriving home around noon one day, she was surprised to find her husband in a very drunken state. 
During the next few minutes, he explained that his employer was going through a process of corporate downsizing, and he had been let go.

It was unlikely that, at the age of 59, he'd be able to find
Another position that paid anywhere near what he'd been earning, and therefore, they were financially ruined.

Calmly, his wife handed him a bank book which showed more than forty years of steady deposits and interest totaling 
Nearly $1 million. Then she showed him certificates of deposits issued by the bank which was worth over $2 million, and informed him that they were one of the largest depositors in the bank.

She explained that for more than three decades she had 'charged' him for sex, these holdings had multiplied and these were the results of her savings and investments.

Faced with evidence of cash and investments worth over $3 million, her husband was so astounded he could barely speak, but finally he found his voice and blurted out,
'If I'd had any idea what you were doing, 
I would have given you all my business!'

That's when she shot him.

You know, sometimes, men just don't know when
To keep their mouths shut

Friday, April 19, 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring, Where Are You

Ah, Colorado. It is mid April, and we have April showers today. White, fluffy showers. Which brings to mind April, 1956, in Toponas, CO., and a three day blizzard.

Some posts here are things related to the extended tribe I am part of, and occasionally written at the request of family member. This is one such post. Makes good material, at family gatherings, for the tribe’s favorite past time; arguing.  It may make for boring reading for anyone else. You have been warned
Most blizzards are a twenty four to thirty six hours events in Western Colorado. This storm was over seventy two hours. When it cleared, all of the roads were blown full. All of the fences were covered. Looking across the ground, you couldn’t tell where the roads began. The ranchers had a terrible time getting feed to their cattle
My father was the Section Foreman on the portion of the Denver and Rio Grande railroad from McCoy, CO to Phippsburg, CO. Phippsburg, about 15 miles from Toponas, had a small rail yard and maintenance facility. Sitting in the yard was a steam powered rotary snowplow that hadn’t been used for years. My father, and his section crew, hitched a ride on a State snowplow that was opening Highway 131, to Phippsburg , where they joined other D&RG employees.  Somehow, they got the rotary up and running.

This is about the best I can do to show the equipment and usage of that era.

The D and RG had gone 100% diesel, but most of the infrastructure to support steam remained. They had ample coal,  but water was a problem. Union rules, as to who could do what, were set aside as all of the employees pitched in to get the line open. In the next two days, they got the line open. First, they ran Southbound to Bond, CO where the D and RG mainline was located. Then they turned around and went Northbound to Craig, CO., where the line ended.

When the rotary came by Toponas Southbound, they were running around ten miles per hour. Coming back, Northbound, they were moving fast. All you could see was a huge white cloud.

My father loved horsepower. I’m sure he got his hands on the controls of that rotary, and had a grin from ear to ear as he ran it. He, and his crew, came back from Craig on the Yampa Valley Mail, a daily passenger train that had been stuck in Craig. The train slowed, not stopping, and my father and crew jumped off. Of course, they were riding in the locomotive cab.

The school was closed for a week. Located at the Junction of Highway 131 and Highway 134, it was a two mile walk for me. I had to walk the railroad tracks to Highway 134, and then on the highway to school. While the State Highways were soon opened, the county roads weren’t cleared for quite awhile, and some of the ranch kids had a two week recess. As I recall, we still had snow in places in June.

A few days after this storm, I saw my father come close to death on a motor car.

 The railroad used a private telephone  system. A “dispatcher” would give my father a “block time”, a period when there was to be no trains running his section of track. The system failed. Our house sat right on the tracks. I was on the front porch watching my father approaching on a motor car. Behind him was a locomotive unit coming up fast. Motor cars were very noisy. At the last moment, my father looked over his shoulder and leaped for his life.  The locomotive tossed the motor car several hundred feet down the tracks. Seems the locomotive driver had 1) left Phippsburg without clearance and 2) wasn’t watching the tracks,  per the fireman who was also in the cab.

So ends a bit of family history. Since only two aunts and one cousin are older than me, the rest of you shouldn’t argue with me about this. Not that that will stop any of you!

The picture at the start of this blog was a unit in Newfoundland. In my memory, it is very similar to the one operated by the D and RG.  The D and RG operated several rotary plows in the San Luis Valley area (Alamosa). Some of these are preserved, and one is on display in Chama, N.M.

I’m happy we are getting moisture; we need it. What I like about rain is, you don’t need to shovel it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Car Buying Advice

I've shared my car buying advice with a few bloggers, most recently Ami

The advice is in a document I keep and send to my various relatives and acquaintances who want me to "help" them buy a car.

In 1986 I got hired to sell Suzuki Samurais. I was out of work (construction) and somewhat desperate. The plan was to sell cars until construction came back. That lasted nearly thirty years. The first managers I worked with were veterans of the Ralph Williams' stores. A taste of their mindset.

Enough! Here is the "advice".

A person asked me to help them buy a car,  and I refused. I don’t want the responsibility.  A hardcore manager I had years ago was fond of saying, “That monkey is on your back and you are not giving it to me”.  Advice I will give.

NUMBER ONE RULE:  Never, ever, be in position of  “must buy right now”.  Yes it’s Thursday night, your hooptie died and you can’t get to work, see your squeeze, pick up your kids, etc.  Rent, borrow,  cab,  public transportation, a $800 P.OS that runs, whatever.  I try to always have a backup vehicle of some kind.  Once I commuted for three weeks in a truck with a 18’ cargo box.

NUMBER TWO RULE:  Price is  not the same as cost.  What you spend to buy your ride is just a start.  Insurance!  A Honda Fit may get a ton of miles out of a gallon of gas.  Insurance cost on it will put a hole in your budget.  Maintenance is overlooked.  Most used cars will still have an Owners Manual.  Find it and look up the chapter on maintenance.  Find out what theses items cost.  How? Work a little!   Find a dealership or an independent shop and ask.  The service department at a new car franchise should already have this info readily available.  Anything European has enormous parts costs (like $800+ headlights).  Like a Lexus?  The 60,000 mile service is close to $4,000.  A headlight assembly is $2,500.

NUMBER THREE RULE:  Know why you are buying what you are buying.  Hope your new ride will lead to enhanced social experiences?  Do you have people in your social/family/employment circle you are trying to impress?  Do  clients see your vehicle?  Need a 4x4 to get home or to work?  Is this vehicle your treat, to yourself, as a reward for your hard work?  Do you have kids in car seats?  How long will your back handle getting them in car seats in a coupe? Are you buying something to go on vacation once a year?  Ever think of renting a car for that vacation?  Diligent shopping may produce surprisingly low rental costs.  My personal vehicle is a 1996 Escort Wagon with 186,000+ miles.  It is not pretty.  It is reliable, gets over 30 mpg, hauls my overweight body down the road at illegal speeds and the title is in my file cabinet.  I’m not concerned what others think!  The only thing about any vehicle that impresses me is a large gross profit.

NUMBER FOUR RULE:  Always be emotionally prepared to walk away from any deal.  So, you have spent a lot of time at the process and you “just want to get it over with”? Get a backbone and become an adult!  You have found the perfect car/truck, you love it, and you want to drive it home but the numbers don’t work.  Every good seller wants you to buy right here, right now, don’t let it get away!!!!  Go back to Number One Rule.

PRIVATE PARTY,  DEALERSHIP OR  AGENCY?  The majority of used sales are private party.  It can be a win/win for the seller and buyer.  The seller gets more than they can trading in and the buyer gets to go eyeball to eyeball with those who put the miles on the vehicle.  Beware of the sub species “side winding sewer snake” curbstone dealer.  NEVER NEVER NEVER buy a vehicle from some who doesn’t personally own it and who’s name isn’t on the title!!!!!  I don’t care how wonderful the story is, be Nancy Reagan and just say NO!  ALWAYS have the vehicle checked out by a mechanic.  Be prepared to pay for one hour of  shop time.

 Often the seller, especially a dealership, will be resistant to having the vehicle inspected by a third party.  They are not always being evil; there are many valid reason for not letting a stranger drive away with thousands of dollars to be poked and prodded by another stranger.  Offer to have a firm appointment at the shop and let a seller’s representative come along. The principal items you want checked are timing belt, axles/CV boots, brakes, transmission and cooling system. You want them to check under the seats and behind the dashboard for water damage (a flood car). You do know that buying a vehicle with the “CHECK ENGINE” light illuminated qualifies you for the “Fool of the Day” award, don’t you?  As part of your test drive, locate a safe area where you can observe the vehicle, from the outside, being driven (by someone else) away from you in a straight line.  Observe how well the front and rear tires line up as the vehicle moves away.  This is the best way I know to spot a “framer”; a vehicle involved in an accident. A CARFAX report will tell you if the vehicle was ever a “rental rocket”.  Any vehicle with a SALVAGE title is suspect. Rarely can you obtain financing from a regular lender.  These vehicles often are sold Buy Here Pay Here.  ALWAYS take it to a Body Shop, pay for an hour of their time, and see if the car is intact enough to safely drive. I’ve seen more than one pieced together with rags, cardboard, Bondo and a slick paint job.

When you do business with a dealership you are buying convenience and saving time.  The owners and the staff are entitled to fair compensation.  If you are not willing to fairly pay them, don’t waste their time! Can you do well financially at the dealership?  Yes, if you are reasonable, have educated yourself so you recognize a fair deal and you are prepared to buy right here, right now!  Another hardcore manager I worked for explained his philosophy like this, “I will always let the customer have the opportunity to pay  FULL RETAIL.  After an hour of grinding their tits off I will take a $300 (gross profit) deal.  It just iron, I can get more iron than I can customers.”  I liked well prepared customers.  I loved them when they made an appointment in the morning.  We could have them in an out in an hour. The usual rodeo is three hours on a used and four on a new.  Take a short deal from Mrs. and Mrs. Prepared? - You bet!  Money in my pocket and back on the floor works for me!  What will hurt you is how you approach a car dealership.  Understand everyone works on a commission basis up to and including the owner. They don’t sell; they don’t eat.  They HATE time wasters (by their definition).  If you are looking for “information” or “data” you are a time waster.  If your want to “look around” you are time waster.  No well run dealership will let you wander around unaccompanied.  Don’t like that?  Buy your own dealership and run it however you want.  Show up with a notebook and computer printouts and you are instantly labeled a “consumer commando”.  No experienced salesperson wants to talk to you.  You are a time waster.  You, the consumer, want the Nordstrom treatment at Sam’s Club prices.  Not going to happen, bubba.  You will eventually buy a car but you won’t be happy.  Please understand the manufacturer has a nasty little club over dealerships called Customer Satisfaction Index.  CSI controls lots of different monies dealers and their employees earn.  A few days after your purchase, you are contacted by an opinion taker and asked to rate your experience. You are bummed out by the whole process and unload!  You have just cost the salesperson and their manager more money than they made selling you a car.  Experienced salespeople and managers will lose a sale if they think you will give them bad CSI.  Sunshine, your one deal just isn’t that critical; you are not that important.  Get your facts and your financing in order before every going to the dealership.  Make an appointment.  Try to make it with the TOP salesperson.  Call, and ask, “Who was your salesperson of the month last month”?  Make a morning appointment.  Shop in the first week of the month.  Why?  The top salesperson needs deals and knows how to make them.  A manager will take a short deal in the morning to “get the store open”.  Dealerships sell more cars at the end of the month.  Top professionals know if they are going to have a great month they need to capture the first week sales.  Third and fourth weeks will take care of themselves.

Financing is a huge profit area for a dealer.  Arrange your own before you every start shopping!!! Use a credit union.  Knowing what you can spend helps answer the “what to buy “questions.  If the dealership can beat the credit union deal,  that gives you  a nice option.  Having your financing arranged or cash in hand gives you a real edge in private party sales.  Be very careful in divulging credit information at a dealership (or anywhere).  Your should only do so AFTER you make the deal.  The dealership must report all transactions over $9,999.00 and needs your social security number to do so.  Any dealership that makes you “prove” you can buy a vehicle before negotiating with you is run by lazy, arrogant managers.  Leave!  See Rule Number One.

Trading a car?  You are now a car dealer.  The Used Car Manager is judging everything as “front line ready”.  A FLR vehicle has intact glass.  The windshield is perfect.  Everything works (wipers, power windows, air conditioning blows cold, no lights out, no hole in the dash where the radio goes) and the tires are new or look new.  The vehicle is new car showroom clean.  If your trade isn’t FLR, the manager deducts from the trade value the cost to make it FLR.  If the manager doesn’t want your trade for inventory, then what will it bring from a wholesale buyer or an auction?  He/she has a good idea, based on experience, and that is what they will write down as ACV (actual cash value). ACV, trade allowance to you, and “Book Value” are not the same.  Understand “Book Value” is what a lender will use in evaluating a loan or what an insurance company will use to settle a claim. If your trade is older than five model years it has no collateral value to a lender and the dealership probably won’t keep it. The value of any vehicle is what someone will pay for it.  If you believe you can negotiate up from invoice and down from “Blue Book” you are living in the wrong universe.  What other options are available?  Sell it yourself?  Donate it to a charity?  Say your trade has a “Book Value” of $10,000 and you are in a 30% tax bracket.  Because of the condition of your car no one will give you more than $5500.  This might be a way for you to go.

Selling your trade yourself has serious safety issues.  Do you want strangers coming to your house?  Do you think you can park vehicle in a high traffic area with a “For Sale” sign?  Probably not.  Most municipalities have ordinances prohibiting “curbing” cars.  Rarely will the “buyer” have cash in fist. They want financing schemes.  License plates stay with you unless you are in one of the few states that have a different practice. The buyer wants you to leave the plates on so they can get it home. NO! To make the deal you may need to deliver the vehicle.  As long as your plates are on the vehicle, YOU have all the liability. Use your digital camera to photograph the COMPLETE title transfer.  If the buyers name isn’t filled out and the sale price entered, you have opened yourself to a can of legal whoop ass.

The various agencies that will buy the car for you can save time and money on a new vehicle.  Many are snakes.  The only one I will recommend is AAA.

NO USED CAR IS PERFECT!  If it was it wouldn’t be for sale.  The seller knows, or expects, expensive troubles are coming and they don’t want to deal with it. Your job is to find out what (the mechanic’s inspection) and to negotiate.  I usually walk away from any vehicle with a long list of repairs.  I want the vehicle that the owner says, “I’ve kept up the maintenance and driven it.  Never had to make a repair.”

VERY IMPORTANT.  If you meeting someone to look at their vehicle, don’t take cash with you!  You don’t know for certain if you will see a vehicle or a firearm in your face.  After you have made your deal, go to your branch bank/credit union and get the cash.  Seller doesn’t like it?  Go back to Number One Rule.

UPSIDE DOWN, BAD CREDIT?  You have been making bad financial decision all your life.  Deal with it.  There is no car god that will save your sorry ass.  Life circumstances can put you in a hole (Illness, divorce, uninsured motorist accidents) but  in most cases it is YOU.  Please, be an adult and own your own shit.  Then a dealer can find a way.  Not your way; a way.

 All salespeople believe any customer can be “bumped” $50 a month on a payment.  They believe the two most important numbers to you are the down payment and the monthly payment.  That is how you  became “upside down.”

Drive by your local bank and credit unions. Often, they will have voluntary repossessions sitting in their parking lot. Won’t hurt to go inside and ask.  The lender is trying to get close to the balance due instead of sending it to auction and taking a bigger loss. Same rules apply as in buying a used car.

The military says, “Train hard - fight easy.”  You should say, “Do the hard work before the purchase and drive off with a woody!”

If none of the appeals to you, the work and effort is too much, then go to whatever dealership you want, roll over, sign everything, and get on with your life.  You will have great “whine” material to bore everyone around you.  “It isn’t my fault!  They LIED to me”.   You are a gutless wonder, and you deserve what you get.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Blue Star Hopes

Suzanne McCarley has a son deployed.

My hope for everyone in a similar position; that they can feel the joy I felt on a certain day.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hustling G.I.s

Stephan, at Standing Outside Looking In  has a video posted about Kennedy half dollars, which dredged up some nearly fifty year old memories.

The late President Kennedy was wildly popular in West Germany after his June 1963 visit and his famous, “Ich bin ein Berliner”, speech. Kennedy memorabilia and kitsch were for sale everywhere. When Kennedy half dollars became available to we serviceman stationed there, the three dreams of an Army doggie were within reach (women, alcohol, and spending money).

The 50 cent piece, and the German five mark piece,  were almost the same size. Cheap coin holder necklaces were about thirty phennings. The exchange rate was about four DM=$1.00. 

My main trouble buddy and I started acquiring Kennedy half dollars, going so far as to have friends in CONUS get rolls of them,  and mail them to us. We would hit a bar, toss a necklace with a coin in it on the bar, and enjoy instant popularity. We had little trouble getting twenty DM for one, and other considerations.

Expanding, we consigned many to some Turks we had befriended. They sold all kinds of stuff at flea markets. Even with their outrageous cut, we made a lot of money.

We had about an excellent nine month run until we were shut down by our command. This happened along with shutting down the “four for five” racket (four dollars today for five dollars paid back on payday). How irritating, a stuffed shirt first shirt and a Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints company commander!

Good times and good fun. Good money, too!

Friday, April 5, 2013


 Warning: Long, tedious political rant to follow.

Grew up in a staunch Republican household. My father was, for many years, the county committeeman. Ran for sheriff. Won the primary, lost the general. Mother ran for city council, lost. Numerous relatives, in adjoining counties, held party offices. Being involved in the political process was an obligation, as was voting, and joining the service. It was what one was excepted to do.

Leading up to the Reagan years, the Evangelicals made a push to enter the political arena. School boards, city councils, county organizations, and then state organizations. They took over the Republican Party. They were intolerant of any opposing opinions. Brass knuckle politics.  They were so upset with me, they found a candidate to run for Precinct Captain, an elective office at the time. If no one ran, then the party could appoint someone. They worked the precinct as hard to defeat me as they did to elect Ronnie.  I lost by ten or so votes. After turning in the materials in my possession to the “proper authorities”, went to the Democrat headquarters, picked up the same material, as was  appointed Democrat Precinct Captain. Delivered my precinct to the Democrats in the next two elections,  until I moved to a different location.

The main difference between the two  parties was the Dems had a hell of a lot more fun. Instead of Chicken ala King at the Holiday Inn, they had a cash bar at a Longshoreman’s hangout. Things that were very important to me seemed to be in line with their platforms.  Since I was never a lock step Republican, I was never a lock step Democrat. Had some hellacious arguments.

I’ve now watched the Progressives take over the Democratic Party in much the same fashion as the Evangelicals took over the Republican Party.  If you ignore the philosophies, the rhetoric, and the goals, there is little difference between the Evangelicals and the Progressives in the way they act, operate, and their intolerance.

I do see the Progressives doing far more damage to the country than the Evangelicals ever did. Still, the difference between Barry Obama and Tom, The Hammer” DeLay is minor; they are both thugs. Wouldn’t it be lovely if Barry joined Tommy in the lists of convicted felons?

Need I say I despise the Progressives and Evangelicals equally?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Watch Your Wallet

Here comes another hit on your wallet. The, smarter than the rest of us, folks at the Environmental Protection Agency will soon require less sulfur in gasoline. They say is should add less than a penny per gallon to the cost. Others have a different opinion. Some information here.

Some like the new rules.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, consider low sulfur diesel. The EPA mandated it.

Brought us in line with Europe. Seems the Europeans were willing to pay a higher price than the refiners were getting in the United States. Lots of empty tankers departing our shores. Winner!

Except that diesel went up a buck a gallon. 70-80 % of what we consume gets hauled by trucks, mainly diesel powered, that get around six miles per gallon.

Wonder why your living costs are rising?

Probably won’t happen that the new low sulfur gasoline will be sold to Europe, supply and demand - that irksome reality of the market place, and our domestic prices won’t rise to European levels. Naw, that can’t happen.

Now I don’t think this is some grand conspiracy to further weaken our country and send us on the way to serfdom. No, I think it is a bunch of stuttering clusterfuck bureaucrats living in an alternative reality with no damn accountability for their actions. Your mileage may vary.

On another note, a warning  from France, of all places,  that will be coming, sooner or later, to our land of 401k and IRAs.