Energy Efficient Dish Washing

Times are tough, right? Of course. To save money on electricity, we now have our cat clean the dishes for us. Check it out.

dishwasher1

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New Year’s Eve Review

Okay, I’m a few days late on this, but we left town early New Year’s Day and I didn’t have time to post until now.

It ended up being a quiet evening at home with just the Younger Daughter and me. We watched several episodes of the X-Files on DVD and had some snacks (since we didn’t eat nearly enough on Thanksgiving and Christmas) as we waited for the big moment.

We tuned into Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. I have enjoyed the show every since I can remember. However, it’s starting to get on my nerves for a couple of reasons.

Ok, let me get this out of the way first. A quick shout out to Dick Clark: enough is enough. Please, please, please fade into the sunset. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of his. I have enjoyed almost all of his ventures throughout the years: American Bandstand, the $100,000 Pyramid, TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes, etc. He is a truly legendary host.

I was very moved when he came back that first year. I admired his strength and courage in working and fighting to make it back on the show just over a year after his stroke. However, it’s now just sad to see what sounds and looks like death on a stick each year.

I realize that it is likely very frustrating to him. I think that he is all there mentally, but he is trapped in a broken body. But please pass the baton to Ryan Seacrest once and for all and leave us with the memories of that young, vibrant 74-year-old that hosted the show for New Year’s 2004.

Next up: Kelli Pickler. She was the reporter on the street mingling and talking with the crowd. What the heck is up with this chick? I have heard some of her music and can take it or leave it. This was the first time I had seen her outside of a musical setting. Holy cow, this girl needs a sedative. I’ve never seen anyone so constantly bubbly in my life. I really believe that if she cut herself, she would bleed syrup and honey.

The music was okay…nothing spectacular. Taylor Swift put on a pretty good performance and even bared her arms in the 1-degree windchill weather. The Pussycat Dolls…I think they sang…but mostly provided some very nice eye candy. Lionel Richie…hmmm…maybe another one that should fade into the sunset. He performed an unimpressive medley of his 80s hits. Again, I would rather have remembered what I heard and saw back then. It was at least tolerable. Then there was the Jonas Brothers. My ears are just now recovering from the ear-piercing scream of the Younger Daughter when they were announced. ‘Nuff said.

Happy New Year!

Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.

I don’t think that anyone can dispute that we are in a full-fledged energy crisis. Skyrocketing oil prices are endangering our economic security and standard of living. We have seen the immediate impact at the pump, but sharply higher prices on the way with every good and service in our economy since everything is dependant upon oil in some way.

Do we need to conserve? Yes. Do we need more wind solutions? Absolutely. Do we need to look at solar energy? Of course. How about hybrid, electric, and hydrogen fuel cell cars? Duh.

We must do everything in our power to attack this energy crisis. That includes drilling for the oil we are currently sitting on in this country. We are the only country in the world prohibiting itself from further development of its own natural resources. Drilling can be done without major environmental impacts and must be done to protect our national security.

American Solutions is a non-partisan organization trying to rise above partisan politics to provide real solutions to our most significant problems. They are currently runing a petition drive demanding that our politicians remove the restrictions on domestic oil production for the sake of our economy and national security. I urge you to check them out and sign the petition if you are so inclined.

1968 Retrospect: Credit Cards

According to the 1968 The World Book Year Book, “Bank Credit Card programs, despite a faltering start 10 years earlier, were flourishing in 1968.” Several new card programs joined the great credit race in 1968–most notably the Interbank Card group (later to become MasterCard). These new cards were introduced to compete with the successful Bank Americard (later to become Visa). In 1970, MasterCard was the industry leader. They remained in this position for about a decade until Visa’s innovative and aggressive marketing finally earned it the industry’s top spot.

In 1968, US credit card debt totalled $8 billion (in current dollars). As of January 2008, that total had ballooned to  $947 billion. For perspective, that is $8,094 per household. There’s nothing more American than crushing debt, right? Well, gotta run. I’m just about up to the pay window at McDonalds and I need to find my Visa card.

Gas Prices Headed Up Again?

Well, strap yourselves in. It looks like gas prices may be headed steeply higher over the next several years. It would really save me some time if I could just have my paycheck direct-deposited into the oil companies’ bank accounts. I’ll have to check into the feasibility of that and get back with you. Meanwhile, reason #160 that this country is doomed: cheap cars in Asia.

Indian automaker Tata has introduced a 2-cylinder, 4-passenger car that will retail for $2,500. With the rising incomes and the introduction of cheap cars like this, automobile ownership in Asia is expected to skyrocket over the next several years.

There are 2 billion people in China and India compared to 300 million in the US. While these cars are extremely fuel efficient, the sheer number of new cars on the road will sharply increase demand for oil when supplies are already tight.

But just look at the car. It’s a death trap. But hey, it will save on burial expenses. The car can easily double as a casket. They will be able to dig a hole and just place the car (with deceased occupants inside) in the grave.

http://money.cnn.com/2008/01/30/news/international/mini_cars_gas/index.htm

I Need Some Stimulation, Please

So it looks like we’re going to get an “economic stimulus package” jammed down our throats whether we like it or not. It’s all about politics. If either party had refused to go along, the other party would have used it against them in the upcoming elections. So in the end, they all agree to squander our future to win the next election. The problem is, stimulus packages don’t work. Our economy is too big for a $300-$600 check per person to have any real impact. Plus, think about it: we import most of our stuff, so a good chunk of the money will be going overseas.

However, the real problem is that we are just adding to an already crushing federal debt (see my previous post Looming Federal Fiscal Crisis: A Wake-up Call). It is simply immoral. We are going to go out and buy another iPod, TV, iPhone, or take a mini-vacation and put it on the national credit card that our kids and grand-kids are will have to pay. Proleptic Life has a great post on this angle of the story–check it out.

Looming Federal Fiscal Crisis: A Wake-up Call

Here at DITH, the topics are normally pretty light. However, today I have come across some information that you just aren’t hearing anywhere else and you need to. It quite literally involves the financial survival of our nation. Please realize that I don’t make such a statement lightly. I know this is going to be pretty dry information and not something any of us wants to think about. But please bear with me through this. This is an important topic.

Setting the Stage

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a federal office charged with keeping the government’s financial books and keeping government accountable to the people. David Walker is the Comptroller General of the United States–basically the head accountant for the federal government. This is a non-partisan, professional position. He was appointed by President Clinton and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. I say all of this so that we can establish that this is not a politician and that he has nothing to personally gain or lose by the information he is sharing.

Mr. Walker has been on a Fiscal Wake-up Tour since 2005, and will continue through the elections. He is attempting to educate the public on the dire financial straits the US government is in. His hope is that if we are aware of the situation, that we’ll demand action from our elected officials. Let’s look at a some of the information he is sharing.

Cooking the Books

You probably heard that the federal deficit decreased from $412 billion in 2004 to $318 billion in 2005. That is technically true using the cash accounting method. However, using the accrual method (the method the federal government requires businesses to use), the actual 2004 deficit was $616 billion and it increased to $760 billion in 2005. You see, the federal government keeps two sets of books: one that the politicians share with us and another that they are required to use when accepted accounting methods are needed (dealing with bond markets, etc.)

Okay, how about the debt? You’ve probably heard that it’s just over $9 trillion dollars right? Again, that’s technically correct. That is our current outstanding debt. Once again, corporate America could not get away with this kind of accounting. What the politicians are not telling you as that we have about $46 trillion in unfunded commitments. That is, we have a $46 trillion shortfall in our upcoming commitments to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (that is up from $20 trillion in 2000). Add our unfunded commitments and our debt, and our actual liability is about $53 trillion. That’s a big number. Let’s put it in perspective: If we divided it up, that would be $411,000 per US household.

The Grim Future

That’s all very alarming and disturbing, but it is an important setup for a look at the future. According to GAO projections, by 2015 federal spending on just Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Interest will consume nearly all of the revenue coming in. And that’s assuming that no new programs are added in the interim.

We are on a path that is simply unsustainable. We have heard for many years that the entitlement programs are growing. Our politicians promise reform, but then fail to do so. We are at the end of our rope. Mr. Walker thinks we have 5 to 10 years at most before it all comes collapsing down.

The Solution

Well, it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be painful for all of us. Those who think our economy will grow enough to solve the problem are kidding themselves; tax increases alone won’t solve it–this would require an immediate $11,000 per year increase per household; cutting programs alone won’t solve the problem, and the pain would be far too deep. In fact, it’s going to require a combination of all 3. The sooner we get started the better, because the price tag gets higher every day we wait.

So What Can You Do?

Mr. Walker has been a lone voice in the wilderness on this. He has been trying to get the word out, but the media has largely ignored it. Our politicians aren’t going to talk about it of their own accord, because bad news doesn’t get votes. We need to do everything in our power to get out the word and then force our elected officials to act quickly and decisively.

Here are some thoughts on what you can do:

Become Informed

  • Check out Mr. Walker’s 11-minute talk on this topic. I know it’s a lot of time to ask you to invest, but he lays it out very nicely and has graphics to help illustrate his points.
  • If you have the time and interest, his Fiscal Wake-up Tour page has some other presentations and information.

Tell Others

  • Make a similar post on your blog. If you don’t have the time to write new material, copy my post. This is too important for me to worry about plagiarism.
  • Talk to people
  • Write a letter to your newspaper

Take Action

  • Talk to every elected official you can and demand immediate action
  • Talk with those running for office to make sure they are on the correct side of this issue