Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The phrase "jury rig" or jerry built, or jerry rig has several possible origins, the one I'm most familiar with derives from the waning days of WWII when the Germans, or "Jerries" had to improvise a lot of their equipment, and afterword, their whole economy.

Here's a site where improvised solutions, for better or worse, are celebrated. Duct tape, hose clamps, and what-have-you are quite popular.
Of course if this guy could learn to drink more pedestrian scotch, maybe he could afford a proper overflow tank for his radiator. OTOH, you have to keep your priorities straight. To ruin a good quote: Good Scotch will get you through times of leaky radiators better than a leaky radiator will get you through times of no Scotch.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Honduras Coup

Maybe a coup, maybe more like a summary impeachment. The WSJs O'Grady writes:

Yesterday the Central American country was being pressured to restore the authoritarian Mr. Zelaya by the likes of Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Hillary Clinton and, of course, Hugo [Chavez] himself. The Organization of American States, having ignored Mr. Zelaya's abuses, also wants him back in power. It will be a miracle if Honduran patriots can hold their ground.

That Mr. Zelaya acted as if he were above the law, there is no doubt. While Honduran law allows for a constitutional rewrite, the power to open that door does not lie with the president. A constituent assembly can only be called through a national referendum approved by its Congress.

But Mr. Zelaya declared the vote on his own and had Mr. Chávez ship him the necessary ballots from Venezuela.
Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, Fidel Castro, and Hillary Clinton. Now there is a set of names you would only normally want to see together as the guest of honor list for a mass hanging.

It's good to make clear that when it comes down to a choice between constitutional democracies and tinpot dictators, which side the Obama administration comes down on.

Update: Obama says the coup was illegal. The Honduran Supreme court, however, does not concur:
The Honduran Congress named an interim president, Roberto Micheletti, and the country's Supreme Court said it had ordered the army to remove Zelaya.
Interesting position he's taking on the topic of a president illegally attempting to extend his otherwise constitutionally limited term. Chavez is threatening military action. I wonder how that will play in D.C.?

Sunday, June 28, 2009


The traditional forms of celebration of the founding of a country of free men having been largely forbidden by the government, it is left to us to figure out how to accomplish this with the available resources.
This is a model of a Dahlgren-style black powder cannon of the sort one might find in the late 1800s. This particular item has a bore of 3/4" which opens up several possibilities for loadings.
This is fired with a fuse, which allows for retreat to a safe distance when firing. The originals were fired with a quick match, which was similar in function, but faster. That much detail was more than I wanted to get in to.

The wedge under the barrel is the usual procedure for elevating the barrel. Presumably the operators would have worked out the ranges at different elevations, and marked them on the base plate under the wedge.

For general noise making, about 30g of 2 or 3f black powder under a wad made of 3/4" Ethafoam will certainly do the job, and with a minimal recoil. The bore being what it is, shot cups from a 12 ga will fit smoothly down the barrel, and at an extreme, a 1 oz 12 ga shotgun slug could be loaded in to it.

The gun weighs 13 lbs which is heavy for a 12 ga deer gun, but think about the expected recoil. I would not fire this with a heavy projectile without coming up with a way to anchor the gun to whatever platform it was shooting from, preferrably with some elasticity involved to avoid sudden impact. Cannon from this era were normally loaded with powder never greater than 10% of the projectile weight. For something untried, I would start at 5% or less, which works out to about 20 grains. Note also that the cannon wall thickness is approximately equal to the bore of the gun. This is a good starting point.

It's not really done yet. Before shooting any heavy loads, I intend to cut the top of the carriage, and add Iron straps to hold down the barrel, this should result in greater historical accuracy, and a much diminished likelihood of the wood splitting and the barrel flying back into someones vehicle. The wood is Maple. Use only hardwood.


This gun was machined from a solid billet of good grade steel. Putting powder into a piece of pipe, no matter how good it looks, is a bad idea. Before you rush out and build a historically accurate replica of the guns used at Ft. Sumner, only to find you have built a historically accurate pipe bomb, consult with an engineer with some experience at calculating the required size and strength of large hydraulic cylinders.
If you don't know what the math is, or can't do it yourself, I would strongly suggest not doing this at all, or at least farm it out to someone who does, like Dixie Gun Works.

Happy 4th of July.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

N. Korean Rocket

The Norks are planning to launch a Taepodong-2 rocket toward Hawaii on the 4th of July, this being the Norks symbolic version of the legendary Hawaiian good luck sign, normally consisting of an upraised middle finger. The normally expected range of the missile is 4000 miles, but recent tests suggest that 200 may be more like it. OTOH, they have recently made good progress with their nukes getting the output from 5 lb to 15 Kt in one step.

In response, President Obama sent out a diplomatic communique stating:

"Dear sawed-off poofter:

It is our firmly held belief that your jumped-up skyrocket couldn't hit the birth records center in Hilo if your winning the next election to dogcatcher over there depended on it. I have prepared 3 tankers of Alaskan crude, and a case of top-drawer Tennesee whiskey that says you can't.
Come on, show us what you got.

Respectfully yours
President of the United States"
If the rumors of the US sending an anti-missile cruiser to the Sea of Japan are true, you might want to pick the smaller numbers in the missile-range pool.

SAT Question

Found the link at Insty, passing it along to you here:

Smoot-Hawley is to Waxman-Markey as ...
I need a new label for this sort of thing. I think I'll call it "Black Humor".

Other peoples suggestions are in the comments, and some of them are great.

The Battle of First St. Albans is to the Battle of Bosworth.


And some, like the above, go clean over my head.

Chicago Rules

Back along about the time that Rep Conyers' wife was being investigated for taking bribes, Mr. Conyers announced that the House Judiciary Committee, of which he was chairman, would be investigating voter irregularities involving ACORN.

His wife, a Detroit city councilwoman, just pled guilty to the charges. Now Mr. Conyers says he's dropping the ACORN investigation. I'm thinking that the threat of investigating ACORN didn't work to quash the investigation of his wife, but perhaps some kind of plea-bargain may have been reached in which dropping the investigation of ACORN will be traded for a slap on the wrist for his wife, who would otherwise be looking at 5 years in the joint.

The whole country is now Chicago. Get used to it.

Friday, June 26, 2009


There are many ways of calculating the unemployment rate, and different methods are used by different entities, Federal or State. Here is a document that defines the six different unemployment rates the Feds are currently promulgating.
NOTE: Marginally attached workers are persons who
currently are neither working nor looking for work but
indicate that they want and are available for a job
and have looked for work sometime in the recent past.
Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally
attached,have given a job-market related reason for not
looking currently for a job. Persons employed part time
for economic reasons are those who want and are available
for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-
time schedule.For more information, see "BLS introduces
new range of alternative unemployment measures," in the
October 1995 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. Updated
population controls are introduced annually with the
release of January data.

The U-3 rate is the official unemployment rate, and is based on a phone survey of people all across the country.
  U-5 Total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus                                                                                  
all other marginally attached workers, as a
percent of the civilian labor force plus all
marginally attached workers.................10.6%
This is probably a more accurate measure of the current unemployment rate.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

McCain Bows Out

The L.A.Times is reporting that John McCain is officially not going to run for president in 2012.

So this time, maybe they'll only be one Democrat on the ballot.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Quote of the Week

From Insty:

Of course, if Congress and the Administration knew they had to boost the economy or face hanging in a year they’d be cutting regulations and taxes like mad. That they aren’t doing so suggests that growth isn’t really their top priority.
Whatever logo the Tea Party eventually comes up with, I'm voting for one that includes a crossed pitchfork and torch, to start with. Including a noose might be just a bit over the top, but just a bit.

Maybe a teacup full of hot tar and a bag of feathers.

Insty cites Tigerhawk who has a chart up from a JP Morgan presentation suggesting how much annual real growth in GDP will be required to get the unemployment rate back down to 6% in the immediate future.

The last reported unemployment rate was 9.4%. It takes about 150,000 new jobs a month to make the rate hold even, no up, no decline. The curve looks to be increasing slightly faster than linearly, but we'll stick to linear. I predict 9.8% unemployment by the end of June, said figure will be released around the 7-10th of July.

As a friend of mine is fond of remarking: "Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?"

Sunday, June 21, 2009


From The Argyle Sweater:
Whatever would give you such an Idea?
Now stand right here, and balance my beer on your head while I do this.

Gasoline and Vacuum Cleaners

Some Dude in Sheboygan set fire to his garage, and himself trying to remove gas from his boat with a vacuum cleaner.

A fellow at a company I used to work at did that in Iowa. Following, some other people in Iowa actually held an event commemorating the act. Outdoors, of course, and at the end of a long extension cord.

It seems the torpedo-shaped vacs will belch fire out the exhaust until the innards slag themselves, but the shop-vac types pop their tops with a satisfying boom, and if you put them out, the trick can be repeated several times.

Keep in mind this 4th of July, that the key phrase here is OUTDOORS with a LONG extension cord.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fusion Power

It seems the boys at Polywell Fusion are moving forward at a nice pace.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gun Fun

The results for last months postal match are up at Armes et tir Passion. This contest was a tribute to a pistol instructor whose trademark was shooting playing cards. Target #1 was the five of hearts. You get 2 shots at each heart from 10 yards. Here's mine:

You get 10 pts for hitting a heart, and one for hitting inside the card.

Having warmed up, you put on your long range glasses, and go for the ace of clubs:
You get 10 for hitting the trefoil club, five for hitting or getting inside the wreath, and one for hitting the card. This from 25 yards.

Class 1 rimfire iron sights:

James 108 points, winner !
Hearts = 73
Ace = 35
Ruger mark II 4"

Billll 90 points
Hearts 55
Ace 35
Ruger mark I 6" ghost ring

Paula 62 points
Hearts 36
Ace 26
Ruger mark II 6"

True blue Sam 47 points
hearts 26
Ace 21
22 super single six 5"1/2

James and Paula were my shooting buddies that day. James insists I assure everybody that he can't hit the ground but for gravity or exceptional good luck, and Paula is my Padewan student. Coming along nicely, too.

Making It Official

Back in the days of my wasted youth, we used to sometimes refer to marriage as "making official what's been going on for some time anyway". So here we are, courtesy of Drudge, ABC is officially married to the Obama administration, making official what they've been doing for the last year anyway. The link may not work for very long, but I'll try to keep it current.

On the night of June 24, the media and government become one, when ABC turns its programming over to President Obama and White House officials to push government run health care -- a move that has ignited an ethical firestorm!

Highlights on the agenda:

ABCNEWS anchor Charlie Gibson will deliver WORLD NEWS from the Blue Room of the White House.

The network plans a primetime special -- 'Prescription for America' -- originating from the East Room, exclude opposing voices on the debate.
This is the sort of thing usually reserved for declarations of war and the like rather than announcements that an additional 15-20% of the economy is about to be nationalized, in addition to most of the auto industry and banking system.

Come to think of it, maybe this is a declaration of war. Guess who the white house thinks the enemy is?

Common Sense

Here's a video, one of several this fellow makes, under the name of "Tom Paine", writer of the revolutionary papers titled Common Sense. I have to say I agree with a good deal of what he has to say, but some of those ideas simple don't make "common sense".

Direct election of the president would reduce the campaign to the Bos-Wash corridor, Miami, and L.A.. The rest of the country wouldn't count.

2 years of mandatory government service? We all saw how well conscripted armies did in the Viet-Nam war, with the unwilling providing about as much hindrance as help, and I get visions of Acorn being elevated to the status of Quasi-government agency for purposes of doing your service.
"Get out there and get every single voter in that graveyard onto a registration slip, and you're done until the elections come up."

And don't mail your congress people a bag of tea. Brew the tea and drink it yourself. Mail them the tab off the string, otherwise the DHS will be analyzing the bag for chemical warfare agents, and you'll be in jail for terrorism. While you're at it, write down some of your complaints about their voting record, behavior, spending habits, what-have-you, and drop the list in with the tea tab. You're dealing with fairly feeble minds here, and you need to get them specifically focused.

Good luck.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gun Control Works

Again, sort of. It seems that in Chicago, where pistols are effectively forbidden, armed thugs are having bad days anyway.
"As he reached to hit me again, I drew my pistol," he said. "He saw the pistol, and I shot and missed him totally 'cause I was half-knocked. He took off running."

Chicago police who responded did what officers often do in the city's toughest neighborhoods. They pretended that the victim had not broken the law by defending himself with an illegal handgun.

"Nothing was said about the gun going off," he said. "The police come over to make a report. The guy said to me, 'Well, you're lucky you weren't killed. You should've had a gun with you. If you had killed the guy, then you would have had to say you took the gun off him.'"
It also sounds like the "perps guns" which are often "taken away from him and used against them" are apparently often "lost in the ensuing affray".

An urban myth could spring from events like this.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Money Matters

Those need to be 100s or else the stack needs to be much taller.

Shamelessly stolen from Theo Spark. Scroll down past the mopsies.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Killer Robots

The upcoming Club Workshop presentation will feature fighting robots only. Homemade guns has been postponed. Meantime, think about this:

Slithering about much like a sidewinder. At some point they'll presumably come up with a skin more like snakeskin, and less like an ambulatory pant leg.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quote of the Day

This one ought to begin like one of those jokes like:"A Californian walks into a gun store...". Steve Lunetta in fact was out buying a .22 boltie for his kid, or maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that part. He might be a straw man or something. Anyway:
After half an hour of fun and games, I was allowed to pay for the gun and leave the store- without the gun. I was now in my "waiting period."

This was fine with me because I now had to go find ammunition since a gun without ammo is like a Democrat without union money. Impotent.
All the indignities he had to suffer will doubtless have some kind of effect on the gun violence associated with the drug trade. Sure it will.

Science marches onward

Or maybe not, depending on where you stand. In the first case, the government is now proposing to cut spending (!) by cutting the U.S. manned space program.

"Other recommendations contained in the bill include a $77million reduction in NASA's proposed space operations budget, which includes the space shuttle and international space station; a $6 million reduction in science; and a $332 million shift in funds from the Cross Agency Support account to a new budget line-item included in the subcommittee's mark. Dubbed Construction and Environmental Compliance, the new account would be funded at $441 million. Congressional aides said the new line item and accompanying funds are aimed at consolidating NASA's various construction efforts into a single pot of money."
When budget items are shifted into a "single pot of money" the usual term for this is "slush fund". It's a pretty good bet that little or no science will be performed here.

On the other hand, here's an article suggesting that the introduction of a couple of enzymes into your cellular structure can cause you to quickly metabolize fat into carbon dioxide, essentially allowing you to mimic the operation of a biodiesel engine.

The researchers then introduced the genes into the livers of mice. While normal mice gain weight when put on a high-fat diet, Liao says that the engineered mice "remained skinny despite the fact that they ate about the same and produced the same waste" and were as active as their normal counterparts. They also had lower fat levels in the liver and lower cholesterol levels. As in the cultured cells, the engineered mice did not convert the fat into sugar, which could have the dangerous side effect of promoting high blood sugar and diabetes. Instead, the scientists found a measured increase in their carbon dioxide output; the excess fat was literally released into thin air. The mice exhibited no visible side effects, although more detailed studies are necessary to verify that.
Of course, since your CO2 emissions go up, your taxes will also, or you can buy an emissions credit from a fat person, allowing him to super-size his lunch at Burger King.

Cancer research tends to be underfunded, likely because the payoff from extending the lives of elderly cancer patients isn't very high. The dead, after all, reliably vote democratic already.

Being the person to defeat cancer would, no doubt, gain accolades, awards, things named after you, and all that. The person who conquers obesity will have enough money to finance a karate castle full of PhD hotties in lab coats beyond the wildest dreams of a James Bond villain, and allow that person to research cancer (or un-natural life extension) for the rest of their natural (or un-natural) lives.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mystery weapon

Here's a picture of what it appears the Yemeni police use on the unruly.

It appears to be 1.5 to 2 inches in dia. Comments over at Jawa Report where I found this suggest it's made of rubber.

I want 2 crates. I already have a launcher.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gun Show Report

The show this month was rather sparsely attended. The reason for this is not clear to me, although the beginning of summer and people being involved in having fun elsewhere is likely a factor.

It is also possible that Obies signing of the bill to have you pay for other peoples fiscal irresponsibility and carry in the national parks may have eased some peoples minds, so some of the ammo shortage may be eased briefly.

He has asked the Senate to ratify the OAS Firearms convention, which has gotten not so much coverage lately. This thing was signed by Pres Clinton, but the Senate refused to touch it. I suppose the thought is that when the clown from Minnesota is seated, the Iron Fist of Harry "The War Is Lost" Reid will get this ratified, without the partisan bickering common to elective democracies.

E-mails to your senators pointing out that gun control by treaty is no different from gun control by legislation should cool the fervor for that.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bluebird of Happiness

The latest unemployment figures are in, and surprise, surprise, they aren't following the government predictions. Here's a chart from Innocent Bystanders that shows you exactly how things are working out:
As you can see, there's a bit of divergence. Oh well, I guess, no ones perfect.

In a possibly related bit of news,
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Symantec Chairman John Thompson say the Obama administration's plans to revise tax policy on foreign profits will force U.S. companies to move more employees overseas due to the higher cost of business and lower profits such policy would trigger.
Which brings to mind a story from back in the 80s that suggested that the Mexican government was working with a consortium of large businesses to create a "New Economic Zone" or ZEN from a modest chunk of the Baja peninsula by defining the "knee cap" area on the western side of the peninsular as a low-tax haven for businesses. This area would be run on a similar basis to Hong Kong, and would provide businesses that relocated there a much friendlier environment in which to work.

When the news of this came out in a Nevada newspaper, at which coincidentally, Sam Clemins used to work, the perception of cozy deals between big business and entrenched politicians nearly brought down the Mexican government before it was exposed as a hoax.

Today, people like Ballmer, Thompson, and several others, could probably make the Mexican government an offer it would have a very hard time refusing to simply buy the territory outright, and run it as their own country, to suit themselves.

This might be easier to do with some of the small, independent Caribbian islands, who already have fairly loose banking laws.

Call it New Hong Kong.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Taxation, Fair, Flat, or Otherwise

There is a discussion over at Right Wing News regarding the probability of the nations tax system being overhauled in the immediate future. Barring passage of the Federalism Amendments, I do not see this happening, but it's fun to speculate. In the comments, HammerNH proposes the basic flat tax with a lower income limit:

So for example - make the bottom exemption the first $30,000 of income.
Then a fixed percentage for every subsequent dollar with no ceiling.
The percentage would be determined by the budget Congress approves.
Let's say that requires 20% this year (hypothetical - I have no idea what the real % would be).
If you make $29000, no tax.
$31000 - tax is $200
$100,000 - tax is $14,000
$1,000,000 - $194,000
The percentage is governed by the amount congress spends, but the problem here is that no one seems to be able to accurately predict either the total that will get spent, or the GDP of the country in some future year. Allocating monies to be spent over some extended time frame would also muddy the picture.

Let me think like a politician here. The national median income is $44,389/yr. If I set up a national flat tax, I make the first $40K tax-exempt, and apply a rate of 30% on everything above that, thus guaranteeing me that 51% of the suckers will approve of my taxation system and re-elect me.

The top 10% will move to some low-tax Caribbean island, and, as they said in the old country before the time of the revolution: The shortages will be divided among the peasants.

The key to a reasonable taxation system is one that the pols cannot easily game to the benefit of their supporters. I personally like the flat-tax system, as jiggery is easier to spot. We may safely assume it will be tried.

Imagine HammerNHs plan with an amendment reducing the "flat" rate if the source of your declared income is something politically correct, say, fuel ethanol production. At the same time, imagine a higher rate if your income is politically incorrect, say drinking ethanol production. If any system can be subverted, it is safe to assume it will be.

What is called the "Fair Tax" is effectively a national sales tax, ideally applied to everything at the same rate. I will predict that that idea won't survive the first congress after it is enacted, adjusting the rates to reduced levels for food, and higher levels for "sin" commodities, such as beer and cigarettes. From there, it's all down hill.

Perhaps the income floor should be 1 years income at the current federal minimum wage, multiplied by the number of people in a household for filing purposes. There are problems with this, too. Non-trivial, eh?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fun Stuff

Here's a detailed description of sinusoidal motion and harmonic motion. Engineering types will find this helpful.

Hover your mouse over the green text at the bottom for carefully thought-out graphic examples.

Warning: NSFW

Gun Fun

Contributing to the ammo shortage around here, I got out to the club IDPA (sort of) match last weekend. The finger is still sore, so I figured if I could get the hits, eventually, with my left hand, I'd at least keep my skill level up. Besides, practicing with the weak hand is good, right?

Knowledge gained:
1. Using the CZ-82, I find I can shoot it right-handed, using the remains of my trigger finger.
2. This, however, hurts. I'll try again next month, and on the Postal match.
3. Using a gel/elastic/cloth covering on the trigger finger, I can shoot fairly well using the middle finger. The slight powder burns on the covering don't hurt at all.

Case in point, the world-famous Big Mac Attack drill.

For this exercise, we posit you are grabbing lunch at some fast food joint, apparently in a part of town far less savory than you thought. You get your order and turn around, only to find 2 armed critters standing behind you who would like to add your watch and wallet to their order, which likely will include the contents of the register.
The start point is shown here with our happily enthusiastic model, Bob. Note the panic-stricken bystander crowding in behind the thugs, who hasn't gotten the memo about the holdup yet. Whatever you do to the thugs, the bystander is supposed to survive the experience, untouched.

Step 1: Turn and drop your tray, and engage the two critters, who are about arms length from you. Points off for assuming a "politically correct" stance and 2-handed grip. Shoot from the hip. At this distance, you're unlikely to miss.

Step 2: You note that the first 2 miscreants have brought friends. You can see one of them over Bobs right shoulder.

In fact, there are 3 of them. The angle could have been better here, but behind the nearest gunman are, in fact, 2 assailants, one of them with a gun and one with a knife, and behind the gunman is the third baddie, apparently a rabid midget, represented by a popper, with yet another luckless pedestrian located directly behind him. Your mission is now to move to your left and while firing on-handed, deal with the gunman and the knife man as you pass by, and find cover, just outside the picture, where you shoot the rabid midget without hitting the pedestrian.
This is a view of the popper. Now imagine there's a no-shoot directly behind it. Earlier, I had tagged this thing with one shot, so no sweat, right?

So I do this drill. 1st 2 baddies: A-zone, no sweat. Fast walk toward the cover and nail the other 2, A-zone no sweat. Get to cover and try to carefully line up sights for the popper, and drat! forgot to change glasses before starting the drill. Can't actually see the sights clearly. 5 shots later I assume the midget has run up to me and torn out my throat, and give up. The bystander is totally toast.

Note to self: Change glasses when entering fast food joints.
Note to pedestrians: When entering a fast food joint behind a midget, listen for gunfire. If you hear any, consider another food source, it'll be healthier.

Quote of the Week

Or maybe just Thought for the Day, from the WSJ:

"The financial crisis is not the crisis of capitalism. It is the crisis of a system that has distanced itself from the most fundamental values of capitalism, which betrayed the spirit of capitalism."
President Nicolas Sarkozy, October, 2008

The thought holds true for most of what's ailing the world economy. Good article, RTWT, it's not even very long.

Mr. and Mrs. America; Turn 'em In

Interestingly, this quote from Dianne Feinstein is the theme for the governments new approach to transportation in this country. Obama yesterday, in a speech celebrating the nationalization of GM said:
And that’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass fleet modernization legislation that can provide a credit to consumers who turn in old cars and purchase cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars. (emphasis added)
Notice that he promises a credit, and not, like, actual money. In the article I found here, the "credit" is most likely a tax credit, and won't amount to much, certainly nowhere near enough to cover buying a brand new Pelosi GT.

Using the phrase turn in, sounds like other options may well not be available. Oh well, if it keeps the peasants from cluttering up the roads, it's for the best. And the earth. And the children.

Letters or e-mails to the white house are in order here to demand further clarification. As we've been told, nobody making under $250,000 will be paying enough in taxes to make the credit worth much, and if I turn in an old, but serviceable vehicle to the government, it will deprive someone further down the food chain of personal transportation. This sounds, you know, regressive to me, and the left whines a lot about being against that.

Thanks to Insty for the link to Paxety Pages.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Future of Transportation

Today GM officially becomes Government Motors, owned 60-70% by the Government (that's you and me) and 30% by the UAW. The bondholders can be found under the wheels of the shiny, new bus.

Since the government now owns two auto companies, it probably needs to come up with a catchy new name for the conglomerate. In England, they called it British Leyland. In the end, it didn't work out.

Romania also had a government automaker, Dacia, rhymes with gotcha. There is an article in the Wall St. Journal from Ion Pacepa, who founded and ran the company for a while about how this turned out, along with some interesting commentary from Nicolae Ceausescu suggesting what he actually thought of the average Romanian.

My job at the time was as head of the Romanian industrial espionage program. Ceausescu tasked me to mediate the purchase of a minimum, basic license for a small car from a major Western manufacturer, and then to steal everything else needed to produce the car.

Three Western companies competed for the honor. Ceausescu decided on Renault, because it was owned by the French government (all Soviet bloc rulers distrusted private companies). We ended up with a license for an antiquated and about-to-be-discontinued Renault-12 car, because it was the cheapest. "Good enough for the idiots," Ceausescu decided, showing what he thought of the Romanian people. He baptized the car Dacia, to commemorate Romania's 2,000-year history going back to Dacia Felix, as the ancient Romans called that part of the world. In that government-run economy, symbolism was the most important consideration, especially when it came to things in short supply (such as food).

"Too luxurious for the idiots," Ceausescu decreed when he saw the first Dacia car made in Romania. Immediately, the radio, right side mirror and backseat heating were dropped. Other "unnecessary luxuries" were soon eliminated by the bureaucrats and their workers' union that were running the factory. The car that finally hit the market was a stripped-down version of the old, stripped-down Renault 12. "Perfect for the idiots," Ceausescu approved. Indeed, the Romanian people, who had never before had any car, came to cherish the Dacia.

In an article I saw back in the early 80s, the Canadian importer spoke to the wonders of the Dacia. When they arrived in Canada, and were off loaded from the boat, about 30% of the brand new vehicles failed to complete the short drive to the dealership. To keep things simple and cheap, all Dacias used a common key, which resembled a nail with a handle. The author mentioned that he never removed the key from his own personal car, hoping someone would steal it. No one ever did.

Gives you a warm feeling for the upcoming new models, doesn't it? Imagine the Pelosi GT, a licensed version of the Smart car, but stretched 6 inches to allow for installation of a rear seat. Or the Reid GTI (the I stands for India), a Chrysler-built knockoff of the Tata Nano, somewhat more spacious than the Pelosi, but more economical, with the Tata 650cc engine. Available as soon as 1500 lbs of air bags, and roll cage can be worked into the design.

Traditional SUVs will continue to be produced, but will only be available to government employees with a demonstrated need to seat themselves, two personal assistants, and storage space for their egos.