Tag Archives: Politics

We’re here to help you… by killing your chances of success!

4 Nov

Ready… aim… fire!

Are DOE loan standard requirements actually shooting down good projects?

We’re a country in search of affordable, sustainable, and “environmentally friendly” fuel. Right?

Well, good luck getting it!

You see… once again, Big Government is there to jump in and lend a hand.

How? Well… apparently by making it nearly impossible to get it.

I’ve told you about “government analysts” that are basically “hired guns,” whose job it is… to shoot down viable energy projects. Seriously.

“We have money and you can’t get it… Na-na-na-na-na-nahhhhhh!”

But wait! There’s more…

In Washington, the US Department of Energy is requiring that renewable energy projects meet a debt rating standard higher than 63 percent of all US corporate first-time debt issuers since 2007, in order to qualify for DOE loan guarantees. The loan guarantees were originally designed “to encourage early commercial use in the United States of new or significantly improved technologies in energy projects.”

A ‘BB or higher’ rating requirement chokes bioenergy development, say bankers, attorneys, and project developers.

Okay… here’s the meat of the issue;

Congressional legislation for DOE loan guarantees typically require “a reasonable prospect of repayment of the principal and interest on the obligation by the borrower.”

The Department of Energy is generally left with the responsibility of interpreting “reasonable”.

In this case, the DOE, as advised by investment banks, has developed minimum threshold for loan guarantees of a “BB” or higher rating (prior to the guarantee).

According to Standard & Poor’s, 333 of all US corporate first-time debt issues since 2007 – out of a total of 528, failed to meet that standard.

In many cases, these issuers would not have been attempting to bring transformative technologies to market in support of  national policy – based on what EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said was designed to produce “green jobs, innovation and technology, and action on global climate change.”

Once again, it’s apparent that money has been placed into a non-existent pipe by Congress, so that they can make claims that they’re actually doing their jobs.

Is it any wonder that all the jobs are going to Malaysia?

According to David Jacob, Executive Managing Director and Head of Structures Finance Ratings for Standard & Poor, ratings for renewable energy projects range from BBB- to CCC, with a preponderance of ratings weighted towards CCC, or two ratings below the threshold set by the DOE. Jacob was speaking at a recent meeting on energy finance in New Jersey.

My personal thanks to the fine folks at  BioFuels Digest for bringing this to my attention, and for ruining my day…

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

“I’m sorry – We’re Broke.”

1 Nov

I have been accused of being a “treehugger”around here, recently. Again…

I’m not sure why…  Sure, I write posts about saving energy. Because I have to pay for the energy I use! Well, duh!

I like CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent light bulbs). Why? Well,  because I don’t have to change them as often, and they save me money.

treehugger1

Sure, I write posts about being kind to the trees that give us WOOD, and oxygen, and shade… Why? Wood gives me an excuse to use POWER TOOLS!  Plus, if you water those trees, they give you SHADE! Shade saves energy, and gives me a place to hang the hammock!

I’m not a militant “tree-spiker”, and I don’t agree with a lot of the “treehugger agenda”. Or maybe it’s just the methods I don’t’ agree with. Saving a tree is never worth killing a human being over. And that’s what “tree-spikers” do. I know from first-hand experience.  If you kill a person over a tree, you’re NOT an “environmentalist…” You’re a MURDERER.

Terrorism is terrorism, no matter what “flag” you wrap it up in.

Nothing good can come of it.

But… people see shipping containers being cut up and reassembled into houses, and they immediately think “Eco-Whackjob.”

Look, I love trees. Truly! But my primary goal isn’t to clean up the earth, or save the environment, or even make sure that my kids breathe clean air right now.

WHAT? RONIN SAID WHAT?

As my wife slowly dies, as my two year old son starts venturing out into that great big world… my family is living in a hovel. It’s a horrid little box, that hasn’t had anything resembling “real maintenance” done to it, since about the Kennedy Administration.

It wasn’t always like this. We had a nice home, and it was almost paid for. We had a decent car, and we had money to pay the bills. Until…

A hurricane wiped it all out. Sure, we had insurance. But, you know what? The insurance company is pleading “bankruptcy” if they are forced to pay off all their claims. So, we’re part of 2,000 families in a class action lawsuit against them now, trying to get the “protection that we paid for.”

The facts are that they HAD the money.

But, the stockholders would’ve taken a huge hit (okay, an even bigger hit), and the fat-cats in charge would have seen their bonuses (and possibly even their jobs) diminish. So guess who gets screwed? Guess.

I’ve written extensive posts about all this before, you I’m not going to rehash it now. It just raises my blood pressure.

While all those environmental goals are noteworthy, and even applaudable, I just don’t have the means to change any of  circumstances that contribute to them. I have to leave that to you guys and gals.

What I am out to accomplish is getting my family back into a safe, secure, weather-resistant house, that we can afford to live in. One where we have the same basic needs covered that most of you have. And, we’d like to do it without a huge mortgage, huh? Is that too much to ask?

And if I manage to slay any environmental dragons along the way, well, that’s just a wonderful bonus.

From the feedback I’m getting, you’d certainly think that I might be asking too much…

I’ve groveled,  I’ve crawled, I’ve lobbied politicians, I’ve made speeches before “Capital cronies,” I’ve written “blood-covered” posts, and I’ve even begged, because my family is FAILING, but help is just not happening…

Some of you already know that we just got a shipment of damaged shipping containers, that we’re cannibalizing for fun and “experimentation.” Okay, three. We got three. It’s not like we got a container ship fulla boxes. Don’t I wish. I’d build houses  for families that needed them… until I dropped dead from exhaustion.

While I was out behind a warehouse recently, using a plasma cutter to dissect a Corten Cubicle, I had a guy walk over and get on my case about my “ambition.”

It seems that if you cut up a steel box and then live in it, you’re “putting carpenters out of work” in an already failing economy. Why, what you’re doing is downright “un-American!”

Exact words.

I had to laugh. Right in his face.

That just made him madder. For a minute I thought that he was looking for something to hit me with, but everything laying around was steel, and way too heavy for him to lift. So, he just rattled off a string of obscenities, shook his fists at me repeatedly, and then waddled off.

I guess he forgot that you have to put interiors into these boxes in order to make them livable, and then… you’ll probably put insulation and siding on the outside of them, to confuse the neighbors even further… I think carpenters do that, unless I’m mistaken. I’ve never seen any “Container Gnomes”, or anything like that… 🙂

If wanting a safe, affordable, sustainable house to live in is considered “Un-American”… then sign me up and send me a lifetime membership card.

Having had just about enough of his nonsense (and his threats), I calmly put down the plasma cutter (Remember, campers… always treat your tools with respect. Your neighbors? Well… um… er… it depends on what day it is…), and took off my goggles, and my wristwatch.

This was going to be just the “attitude adjustment “I needed. I hate taking “anti-stress and blood pressure medication.” But, I’m all pent up with frustration. What better outlet, than an idiot cursing my family ancestry? Hmmm?

But he didn’t possess enough “conviction” to actually put his butt behind his mouth. He literally ran away.

Now, I realize that I seem a little bit “up-patriotic” at times. I’m disenchanted with government. I’m tired of give-away programs that only benefit the elite, or fund projects that seem unlikely to succeed, while the rest of us suffer.

Bailing out Wall Street?

I’ve heard all the arguments. And now, I’ve seen everything go right back to the way it was… except the bonuses are even bigger. Why?

Bailing out the Car Companies?

Again, why? Not ALL companies started withering like grapes in a heatwave! Only the ones that refused to change with the times.

Cash for Clunkers?

Okay, some of us got new cars. (I didn’t.)

But, I’ll remind those of you who did that the REST of us are paying for them. Billions of dollars. So, when you go out into the driveway, to start up that new car you bought with your $4500 free bucks, remember that the rest of the taxpaying citizens of America helped put it in your driveway, and now we’re helping you pay for it.

Like it or not. I don’t remember voting for that one. Oy.

The Stimulus Package?

Sure, now hundreds of large US-based corporations can afford to outsource jobs to Malaysia, to build solar panels and other cool environmental stuff. And, it’s exactly what’s happening. I just read a report that several large companies here in the US are on a hiring binge in other countries, to build these products, now that they have government money to do it with. In fact, they may offer to move you to that country, if you want to keep your job. I hear India is nice this time of year. And, the  curry is good…

We just picked our own pockets until there was nothing left but lint. Am I really the only one who sees this?

Recently, I ran a post that talked about grants, and loans, and “money lost.”

I got a list of grants and banks, and “other” organizations helping American families to build homes. And, it wasn’t worth the paper that they printed it on. Should I be surprised? After all, I got it from a Government official.

And, I got pissed off, and wrote a post about it.

People emailed me like mad, telling me that I was crazy. After all, the Government is just giving money away, to anyone who wants it!

Yeah? Bull.

Apparently, they’re only giving it away to people OUTSIDE this country, who supported Presidential Campaigns.

Want yet another an example?

The Wall Street Journal (Yes… Ronin reads… I don’t just look at the pictures…) The Department of Energy just awarded $529 million to Finland…

FINLAND!

… for an $89,000 all-electric sports car, while US projects die, jobs languish, and American companies go bust.

The U.S. Government has offered a $529 million loan to FISKER,  an Al Gore-backed company making $89,000 all-electric sports cars in Finland, while US projects, and the resulting US jobs go unfunded.

Why are US projects unfunded? The Government says they don’t have the money to fund them… Whaaaa?

It might interest you to know that Fisker‘s top investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a veteran Silicon Valley venture-capital firm of which Gore is a “significant” partner.

Employees of KPCB have donated more than $2.2 million recently to political campaigns, mostly for Democrats, including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign contributions.

A representative from the CRP added; “And that’s just the money that we can actually track.”

You wonder why I hate (okay… I don’t “hate” him, I just dislike him…a lot…) Al Gore?

Here’s yet ANOTHER reason. This backstabbing b@st@rd continues to rake in the cash, by using his “global warming platform” as an ATM.

There is a distinct difference between “Global Warming” and Climate Change. I totally, totally, totally…  believe in Climate Change… but “Global Warming?” Bah-Hooey! 😉

But, back to Al Gore… First, it was “Bad Science“. Hey, if nothing else, Al Gore IS the Paris Hilton of the Scientific Community… He’s stinking rich for no apparent good reason, he’s a “charismatic idiot,” he turns up every time he sees a press camera light go on… and he looks good on camera… sometimes.

Thousands of notable, credentialed scientists (including many who specialize in Climate Change Science) are now going on record to state that Gore pulled a fast one on EVERYBODY…

Then, it was “carbon credits.” Again, Gore‘s “Carbon Credit Trading Company” made millions of dollars.

Now FISKER is using Gore‘s contacts and political prowess as a “Hollywood backed media darling“, to bilk American taxpayers again, and again, and again.

Other car companies have gotten money recently. Hello? You know, GM, Ford, and Chrysler, for example. Even one of my favorites, TESLA,  got some cash, in the form of a loan.

Now, I’m okay with Tesla getting some cash. Tesla builds electric cars. Cool electric cars, I might add. Those idiots in Congress gave Tesla $465 million bucks, in the form of a loan. Okay, so Tesla has to pay it back… I’m okay with that. They actually build their cars here. So Americans get jobs and Americans want, and will get the cars they build.

But Fisker? Wait a minute!

The Silicon Valley-based Fisker said that the bulk of loan proceeds will go towards the development of a $40,000 family sedan.

That they haven’t even designed yet!

And if that’s true, why are they diverting a large portion of the funds to fuel yet another car, an “alleged” $90,000 electric car that nobody can afford except status seeking… um… er… Hollyweirdo’s and fatcats…. Oh… I get it… never mind! 😉

Wait a minute! you say… It’s a Silicon Valley corporation! That’s not  “alien.”

Um… where do Finnish cars get built?

So far… FINLAND.

So, how many American jobs will that money fund?

I’m Betting ZERO!

Fisker‘s Silicon Valley operation is just a glorified design center. It’s a place for the top 1% of their employees to hang their hats. So either Fisker plans on giving them HUGE pay raises, or that money is going overseas.

I read the data. The plant in America (Wilmington) that they’re talking about is hopelessly locked in turmoil. Moses couldn’t bring that plant on-line any time soon. The Union isn’t budging, and there are big troubles ahead…

But… employees of Fisker’s top investor, KPC&B, donated more than $2 million to the Obama presidential campaign, and customers who have pre-ordered the Fisker include… who else… Al Gore.

Wanna bet that his doesn’t come with an invoice?

The DOE denied that politics played a role in the decision.

abductions

Yeah, right. And yesterday I was abducted by aliens…

I’m thinking that if you spend about $4 million dollars on the right politician, you can get a hell of a loan… no matter where you live. But, I bet that the DOE will deny that, too…

But zero is still zero. Unless you count the millions of bucks that Finland (and Al Gore) just raked in.

For 1/10th of 1 percent of that money, I could have built homes for 15 small families. Okay, sure… it’s only 15 families, but it’s a START! It’s 15 families safe, dry, and warm in their 600+ square foot houses made of steel. And one of those kids could grow up to be President. But probably not… because growing up to be energy efficient, self-reliant, and socially  responsible… would probably disqualify them.

Somebody pass the Tylenol…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin Look, if you like this blog, if it helps you plan your ISBU project, or even if you just enjoy watching me make an @$$ out of myself … hit the Paypal button up there (if you can afford to), and donate a few bucks to help us out. Look, if I didn’t REALLY need it, I wouldn’t ask. It’s humiliating, and it’s embarrassing. I just ran out of options. If we don’t help “ourselves,” no one will. Government isn’t going to do it. If something doesn’t happen REAL soon, my family will fail, and we don’t have a safety net. I write this blog, to help as many families as we possibly can, while we try to heal, ourselves. Thanks for reading!

Sometimes the Cavalry never comes…

27 Oct

Welcome back!

Now, before you start thinking; “Oh Man… that Ronin is on a tear again…” I’m going to ask you for a few minutes of your time, to read this post. I know how valuable your time is. I’m asking, because this is important.

Look, I know it sounds like I’m trying to become a “Political Activist…”

But that’s really not the case at all. Truly.

We’re living in a time… in an economy… that has changed the way “We the People” must do things, in order to insure that our families survive.

Congress isn’t going to save us. They talk… and they spend… but somehow, they manage to miss the mark on almost every target they supposedly focus their attention on. In fact, some would say that they are only making things worse.

That’s why I’ve brought forward some of my views on what’s happening in America, as I discuss the creation of alternatives to traditional housing…

Good, bad, or indifferent, I don’t have time to wait for the outcome… to determine who was “right or wrong.” My family needs help NOW.

Congress is completely insulated from the conditions that most of us are suffering from on a daily basis.

From their “Hallowed Sanctuary on the Hill” they make decisions with impunity, that affect each and every one of us, without EVER being subject to the circumstances they create. Remember, they’re wealthy, protected, and isolated for the most part, from the constituents who elected them.

It can’t be “just me.” I’ve already proven, for almost 200 articles/posts on this blog alone… that I’m not “all by myself” in this thought process.

If you’re reading this blog, I have to think that you are looking for answers, too. I don’t WANT you to feel like you’re alone in this.

In part, it’s why I have that Counter up there. It’s not “vanity.”

If it was vanity, I would have admitted defeat and quit, long ago. I know of many, many blogs that get that many views in a single day.

I want you to see that there are thousands of us, thinking in the same mind. This blog gets hundreds of views daily, from people just like you and I, from all over America and beyond… who are looking for a way to provide both ourselves and our families with safe, affordable homes, at a time in America’s history where they just don’t exist for most of us…

In the meantime, winter is coming, and we MUST house our families safely. My family cannot survive without a roof over it’s head. And neither can yours.

I’m bringing forward some of my “politics” so that you can see that it’s going to require a different way of thinking, a different course of action, to achieve our goals.

Because, Virginia… Sometime the Cavalry never comes.

I’m recycling, reclaiming, and even BEGGING for material (sometimes “on my knees”) because my family’s SURVIVAL is at stake.

I’m asking you to get involved.

If I’ve helped you, informed you, educated you, or just entertained you… consider donating a few bucks to the blog, to help us survive and build. Our family needs a home. Our situation is dire. And yes, I’m begging…

I’m not going to waste bandwidth plastering pictures up of my wife in her sickbed… or my little 2 year old son. I’ve written about the circumstances here, already. And… if  you’ve been reading the blog, you already know how cute he is. He’s our source of JOY.

The reason I try to keep this blog “humorous and light” is because if I can’t find something to laugh about, I’ll start crying. It’s my requirement for the ability to actually stop crying, that scares me…

If you’re building something, and you have scrap lumber or materials left over, find someone who needs them, and help THEM.

I talk about how we are helping other families build their homes. It’s not because I’m rich, or even because I can afford to… because frankly, I just can’t. It’s because I HAVE to, because I know what it feels like to live in fear. I cannot, will not let another family fail, because I stood idly by.

We don’t live in a housing tract, or even in a house. We live in a two room hovel, in a place where Landlord/Tenant law is devised to protect the property owners (because THEY pay taxes). We don’t drive an SUV or a big sedan… in fact, we don’t drive at all. The cars were sold long ago, to insure that my wife got the medical care she needed to survive. We don’t have a satellite dish, a widescreen TV, or even an iPod. We live – day to day.

My dreams aren’t about far off destinations or the next holiday. They are about whether or not we’ll be safe, the next day. I don’t have control over anything else. All I can do is try as hard as I can to influence the next 24 hours.

In fact, they aren’t even dreams, they’re nightmares.

“We’re” everywhere.

You probably know someone in your neighborhood, in your inner circle… who is going through what we’re going through.

If you’re talking to someone who needs help, even if it’s just understanding something, help THEM.

Even if it’s just to offer some kindness, do it. Strife and crisis isolates people, and they start feeling alone. That leads to feeling “lost…” a feeling I’m intimately acquainted with. FEAR is a wicked mistress…

Every single small step you take will lead toward helping a family.

And that will make all of us stronger.

And if you pray at night, please pray for us. We’re in “trouble deep,” and the water isn’t getting any shallower…

Ronin

The Renaissance Ronin

“I’m from the Government. I’m here to HELP you.”

23 Oct

Greetings Campers!

If you’ve been following along, you know that my family is trying to build a steel house, in a backasswards neighborhood.

I’m talking about using Shipping Containers and recycled Aircraft Hangars, to build homes for people who really need them. And, the goal is to do it affordably and sustainably.

Shipping Hangar HomeNo! Not ADAM’s house. but something like it…

It’s a long, pot-hole filled road, but we’re further from the start than we were yesterday, so all in all, it’s a good day.

Until you open your email.

As I sit here, my email box is getting flooded with email from politicians.

Yep, “POLITICIANS”.

im_from_the_government_im_here_to_help

It’s been going on for weeks, and I’m getting sick and tired of it.

They’re telling me about programs that I can sign up for, that will assist my family in building a home. They range from “government backed loans”, to grants for land, and  grants or long-term loans for building supplies. There are even grants that cover the costs incurred when you hire other people to help you build.

Oh Happy Day!” Right?

Wrong.

I’ve been raising hell about this for over a year. I’ve been using the Internet as a hammer, to try and beat some sense into those idiots in Washington D.C. who claim that they are “single-handedly saving America.”

Most of the email I’m getting (and it’s coming from aides, direct mail outfits, and morons… and not the “other morons…” the actual congressmen and representatives…) is just political double-speak, pointing me at programs that either don’t exist at all, are completely deadlocked by political bungling, or impossible to enroll and qualify for, by design.

Here’s an example:

I got a listing of banks and lending institutions that would write loans to people who qualified thru a “government program” allowing them to buy and build. It was a long list, with over 200 institutions on it.

I looked it over, and then like an idiot, started dialing.  I talked to what seemed like every banker in the South. And, I got the same story with each new opportunity.

“We have not made this kind of loan in the past 5 years. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we even processed an application. If you come into the bank, we’ll explain why you can’t apply.”

And those were the ones that seemed to take an interest in my questions.  The rest of them said that they had stopped supporting this kind of loan program decades ago.

They claim that they are understaffed and not equipped to deal with additional workloads created by these programs.

When I did find a bank willing to work with me on this kind of loan program, the guy on the other end told me not to get my hopes up. It seems that you can apply, but the USDA refuses to communicate with the banks.

The USDA? The US Department of Agriculture? I’m not trying to start “Old MacDonald’s Farm!” What the hell?

Keep reading…

I found out that there is a grant program that would help me build my house. But there was one catch. I needed a USDA guaranteed surety bond, for $25 million dollars.

$25 million dollars. Whaaaa? For a house?

I was confused as a mosquito at a convention of Bubba’s (trying to figure out who to bite first), but I figured; “Hey if the USDA wants to help me qualify for this program, I’m game…”

So, I contacted the USDA. Guess what? That’s right. The USDA doesn’t even have a program that gives surety bonds to citizens, much less to help them build residential property. They suggested that I call the SBA (Small Business Administration).

I sent the USDA guys a copy of the grant I was applying for. And I bet it won’t surprise you to find out that;

  • (a) they’d never heard of  it,
  • (b) wouldn’t possibly support it, and
  • (c) didn’t have the funds, even if they could. In their exact words… I was “S.O.L.”

I contacted SBA, to see if THEY had any programs I could use to leverage the building grants. Guess what? That’s right. More governmental BS. The guy told me that I’d need to pay $5,000, to get a business plan written, that would allow me to apply for their programs. Now, it wouldn’t ASSURE that I qualified, it would just increase my chances.

Three days later, I heard from a different SBA official, who informed me that they don’t even have “a product that will accomplish the tasks you are trying to complete.” When I asked him what the $5,000 business plan was for, he replied:

“It’ll increase your chances of qualifying for a program. You should do it.”

When I pointed out that he’d just told me there were NO programs that allowed me to do what I was trying to do, he hung up. When I called him back, I kept getting his voice mail.

So, I talked to someone else, who told me:

“We get points for every person we get to enlist in the Business Plan program.”

Our government at work. Oy. And we actually PAY these people to do this to us.

In all, I called, emailed, or mailed letters to all 200 institutions. You want to know what I got for my trouble? Lost days of work and a huge dent in my cell phone minutes. Beyond that, I got nada.

Where’s the The Golden Fleece Award, when you need it?

I’ve seen a lot of grant paperwork in the last year. So far, my personal favorite grant was announced in July.

It’s an $85 million grant “to support at least 50 early career researchers for five years at US academic institutions and DOE national laboratories.“

The US Government, in all their wisdom, won’t help citizens build decent homes for their families, no matter what they TELL you. But, they’ll give $1.7 million dollars per “researcher” or $340,000 per desk, per year.

But WAIT! There’s MORE!

These university positions are for “summer salary and expenses” only. Only some of these positions — for DOE National Labs — are full time. And if you’re a “full-timer”? Well, full-timers get $500,000 in funding, per person per year.

Okay, color me “googled…” I race off to “Salary.com.” And what do I find? Well, the average salary for an assistant professor in the United States is $62,654.

So, I reread the grant. It seems that “undefined” excess in the expenditures is for DOE Lab expenses. That’s $438,346 per person.

Let’s put this in perspective. This 50-person “sweetheart program” received more money than nuclear energy R&D, hydroelectric power development, solar power research, or fuel cell research.

What is wrong with these people?

Somebody pass me a Tylenol, please…

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

Oops, they did it again… Or DID they?

22 Oct

“If America is healing… and everything is getting fixed…”

Then how come everything is still broken?

I mean, if I was a Nobel Prize Winning President (and in only 14 days, no less!), you’d think I’d have actually delivered on at least ONE promise.

Pick one. Your choice. ANY one…

Well? I’m still waiting…

After spending trillions of dollars that we didn’t even have…

Taxpaying Americans are still losing their jobs in record numbers.

So, we propped up the banks… Guess what? The money is G-O-N-E!

Those same taxpayers are still losing their homes in record number, too…

Before long, there will be a shortage of packing materials…

boy-in-box

Because we’ll all be living in cardboard boxes, or maybe even…

living-in-a-box… a “Versace-esque box” made outta Italian pressboard and veneer!

Talk about “high density!” Oy Freakin Vey!

And the majority of the banks aren’t releasing those foreclosed homes to “the sales stream…” either. They’re holding them “in inventory,” so that when the market rebounds, they’ll make billions in profit.

Thanks for saving our bacon… now bend over…

And winter is coming.

So, we’ll just help everyone  get more debt, by “helping” them into new car loans…Everybody loves a new car!

Nobody in America would say “NO!” to a new car, unless they were just plain stupid, or absolutely crazy. Right?

And, if you’re “crazy,” you probably shouldn’t be driving!

And buying new cars means building new cars.  It provides jobs. A lot of jobs… It does! 🙂

But as cool as that was… we just picked our own pockets again! “Cash for Clunkers” is a program underwritten by our  TAXES! Oy!

Like I said… we made sure that the banks had tons of cash. Literally TONS of cash.

pallet_1billion-dollars

Pallets of Benjamins stretching as far as the eye could see… But, are the banks writing loans? No. Why? Well, it seems that everyone in America is a bad risk. But, those bank officers get paid pretty well, I guarantee…

To make matters even worse, confidence among U.S. home builders slipped again in October, largely on the looming expiration of a big tax credit.

The National Association of Home Builders’ gauge of confidence in new-home sales fell for the first time in four months, slipping to 18 from 19 in September.

Wall Street expected the confidence gauge to rise to 20.

What’s that translate into? Even MORE construction job losses, that’s what it means!

Oh great… That’s just what we needed.

Hey, the upside is that jolly fat man with the big bag of presents is gonna have a lighter load this year. Hell, he might even be able to stuff it in the overhead bin, as a carry-on…  Oy.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Talk about a lot of coal in stockings! But, wait! Another bright side! Coal burns, and that means that… it’ll provide heat! 🙂

Okay, okay, I’ll stop… Maybe.

We all know that the sale of new homes has been driven by the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers! They said that it was supposed to “stimulate” the economy.

Yeah, right. More like, to coax young “new” home-owners into joining the ranks for the “in-debted public” before the walls come crashing down…

Well, you better hurry up. Come and get your debt before you lose your chance to get that tax credit!

Come and get it… while it’s hot-t-t…

Hey, it worked for a while, home sales rose by 30% through August. But… all good things must come to an end. November, to be precise. That’s when the credit expires.

If you listen closely, the next time you go outside, you’ll hear it… That’s not the wind howling around your ears… It’s the home-builder groups wailing for an extension of the credit.

“It comes as no surprise that after trending upward from an historic low in January, the HMI’s [the group’s main index] positive momentum now appears to have stalled,” said Joe Robson, the NAHB’s chairman.

You see, the bottom is falling out. All three components in the Housing index slipped — and that’s the first time that’s happened since November 2008 when the recession was nearing its worst. The component that measures current sales conditions fell in October to 17 from 18 during September. The gauge of traffic of prospective buyers slipped to 14 from 17. The component measuring sales expectations over the next six months tumbled to 27 from 29.

“Congressional action to expand the tax credit and extend it for one year would provide a critically needed boost to the employment market and economy, generating nearly 350,000 jobs, $28.2 billion in wages, salaries and business income and $11.6 billion in additional tax revenues,” Mr. Robson said. “That’s an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up at this difficult time.”

Alas, it’s gonna probably fall on deaf ears, as Congress will be too busy… one again trying to quietly pass their annual pay raises. They figure that they’ve all earned it, after all the camera time they’ve been getting about Health Care Reform.

And, after all, it’s hard to make due, on their pitiful six-figure salaries…

In the meantime, the ending of the tax credit will scare away any buyers foolish enough to enter the market…

… and the trickle down will be felt all the way to Home Depot! After all, it’s the home builders who drive the lumber yard production, right?

The best part of this is that the Fed is talking about inflating the dollar, due to so many other countries treating it like toilet paper.

Simple economics: 101:

When you lower the interest rate, you have to inflate the value of the dollar, to bring it back up.

So lumber prices will go up! That’s gonna help get houses built, and sold! Yep! Good thinking! Now we can’t afford the materials, and the house price will skyrocket!

Boy, my local Realtor is gonna be one a sad lady… 😦

And the way things are going, taxes will rise and inflation will jump way, way  up. If you have a mortgage rate in the 5’s, you’ll be doing the happy dance in the street.

But don’t do it around here, or I’ll turn the hose on you, just out of spite… 🙂

This is starting to remind me of the “Jimmy Carter Era…”

But wait! It’s another chance to start a new program! And, Obama can appoint another Czar! Hop Dingitty Dawgie!

We’ve propped up Wall Street. We’ve bailed out the banks.  We’ve even gone into the “national car business…” Now…

We can have a “Cash for Stinkers! Home Rebirth and Subsidy Sale!”

All we have to do is bail out every home builder!

Yep, if you can swing a hammer, you can get a check!

But wait… there’s more!

We offer Ma and Pa Public and every other owner of an existing “older” home a bundle of Benjamins ($10,000) in cash to demolish that energy guzzling monster and replace it with a more energy miserly new home. And wait, if you act now…

We could give them a mortgage with zero percent down and zero percent interest…

… until they reach 65 years of age.

Why only 65, you ask? Well, because after they turn 65… we don’t care about them any longer! After all, if we DID, wouldn’t we have taken better case of Social Security and Medicare?  And, wouldn’t we have provided adequate cost of living raises?

Mr. Obama… What cost of living raise? …

What’s the end result? Um… Trillions more dollars of debt for our children to pay, a bunch of jobs, and a fuel efficient America…

… except for the emissions from those “gas-bags” in Washington…

But, it won’t happen. Why not? Well, Virginia…

The US Government does NOT want a larger supply of homes. The banks (that we propped up in the first place) already have a huge inventory to sell. What the government actually wants… is  higher housing prices to justify much larger mortgages!

Why? Um… well it’s because the government wants people to borrow huge amounts of money, so that banks create more money through lending! That is how they inflate the money supply.

I already explained that… right? Weren’t you paying attention? ARGH! I’m NOT writing these for my own health, you know! 🙂

Look here, if you don’t believe me…

camperbikeride2Well, there’s always my bike…

And they wonder why I’m trying to build a house out of recycled stuff and anything else I can find, without taking out a loan (that I probably couldn’t get anyway!!)…

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninWait a minute… lots of unemployed construction workers. Lots of empty and  discarded ISBUs. Lot’s of vacant manufacturing buildings due to plant closures. Lots of material because nobody is building… Hmmm.. Maybe there is a way… Hey… a fella could build “Corten Cargo Container Condomimiums!”

Cheap, strong, durable, energy efficient and almost recession proof housing!

Now then, if someone was just smart enough to possess enough vision to actually  see the “merit” in it… 🙂

9.5% and climbing…

9 Jul

Most of you know that I’m stuck in Mississippi…

…trying to build a house out of reclaimed and recycled materials, to shelter my family. And, I’d like to do it, before “hurricane season” crashes down on us, once again. But… the politicians are standing between me, and my dream. It’s not like it’s impossible to do… It’s just impossible to “legislate.” OY.

And, while I’m doing this “running around in circles so I don’t just stop, take a deep breath, and go absolutely freakin postal in Jackson” thing… I’m helping some pals build THEIR Shipping Container homes.

Recently, while we were “toiling and planning and conspiring and consulting….” one of my pals got hammered by the evil fist of fate… lay-offs.

Now, this guy… We’ll call him “Pat…” now he’s the stuff America got built of. I’m talking about the REAL America, not that phony “Hollywood America” you see on TV. As a manager, when the lay-offs were announced, he actually went into his bosses office, and offered up his own job, if they’d just use his salary and benefits to keep the other workers employed. After all, they were “youngster’s with families.”

Needless to say, his bosses declined his offer. But, when is the last time you heard of somebody doing that, especially when they were going through the same tough times as everyone else? Hmmm?

So, more good workers hit the streets, looking for something that resembles hope, something that will feed their families, instead of the ridiculous crap that keeps filtering down on us like smog from Washington DC…

And “Pat?” He’s on the phone, on his own time, trying to find his crew new jobs with other companies, so they don’t end up on skid-row.

Meanwhile… all eyes look east, towards DC…

What’s it going to take for Americans to realize that they’ve been duped?

President Obama got himself elected on a pedestal of promises, and frankly, folks… it’s just not happening…

America has more debt now than ever before. Our great grandchildren will be paying the interest on the trillions of dollars that have been haphazardly thrown onto the bonfire.

I still suspect that all that cash got tossed on to make enough smoke to hide the real issues. After all, it’s hard to see clearly, when your eyes are burning.

Whatever happened to all those thousands of jobs that Obama was going to create? Well… they got created in Malaysia and the Far East. The billions and billions of dollars that got spent for “jobs” went to companies who manufacture “offshore,” because hiring Americans costs too much. Whaaaa?

For example;

The ‘stimulus’ promised a jobless peak of 8%; it’s now 9.5%.

And yesterday, we got the bad news… again…

In fact, the best thing that we can say about June jobs report is that “employment is usually a lagging economic indicator.” Yeah? Okay, if that’s true then shouldn’t that accentuate just how bad things are getting? The loss of 467,000 jobs for the month is one more sign that the economy still hasn’t hit the bottom despite months of lies, political aggrandizing, camera-whoring, and epic fiscal and monetary reflation.

Can you say “whirlpool of despair?”

The report was a pig, to be sure. And there’s no way to sweeten it up by adding a prom dress, either. Average hours worked per week dropped to 33, the lowest level in at least 40 years, maybe more.

I’m not exactly sure how much further back than that… Hey, I had pimples and Pink Floyd records, and I was playing with Hot Wheels at the time. Shut up! 🙂

Hey… shortened work weeks! Yippee! More time to play with the kids right? Nope. More time to listen to your significant other moan in despair, as the budget gets turned upside down, just like the mortgage. It’s not like it’s just YOU, right?

This means that millions of full-time workers are being “downgraded” to part-time, as businesses slash labor costs to maintain profit margins.

And, because people are working less, wages have fallen again this year. Factories are operating at only 65% capacity, while the overall jobless rate hit 9.5%, and it’s still climbing…

Throw in disgruntled workers who want their full-time jobs back, and the labor underutilization rate climbs faster than an F-18 hunting bogies! We’re talking double-digits, folks!

So, instead of just firing people, companies downgraded them to part-time, and stripped them of their benefits. It was either that, or; “Hit the bricks, bucko…  and go look for another job.”

Man, what a tough choice… Can you imagine what those numbers would have looked like, if those people had just hit the street? It’d be a tidal wave of unemployment, that would make our grandparents remember the breadlines.

The tragic thing is that existing hourly wages have dropped too. So, the companies are still making profit, but they’re spending less to get it, in some places. Greed has become pretty evident, as CEOs take huge salaries and compensation, as their employees start to hemorrage blood, trying to pay bills as their wages get “adjusted.”

The news is even worse for young people, with nearly one in four teenagers finding themselves unemployed. That’s just what we need, huh? More teenagers standing around idle, trying to figure out how to entertain themselves without any cash… Oy.

And, it get’s better! Remember that minimum wage hike that Congress scheduled? It bumps minimum wage up, from $6.55 to $7.25 on July 24th. You’d think this is GOOD news, right? Nope. It means that labor is going to cost small business more, so they’ll have to CUT BACK the number of employees they keep, to make it through the tough times that the economy is dealing out. Oy again!

Manufacturers aren’t exempt, either! Americans who make things and actually produce those goods we consume lost 223,000 more jobs last month. Almost a quarter of a million jobs LAST MONTH.

Asked about these job losses by the Associated Press, President Obama said Congress should pass his cap-and-tax on carbon energy because “If we’re weatherizing every building and home in America, if we are creating windmills and solar panels and biofuel facilities, that is a huge promising area not only for jobs here in the United States, but also for export growth.”

Bullsh@t! What a bunch of crap.

First, the President has no way on earth to monitor how many jobs “he created.” Only by audit have we discovered that most of the jobs now funded are in offshore factories. How’d they do that? Well, by noting that factories here laid off workers, or even shut down completely, but product still kept hitting the shelves. It had to come from SOMEWHERE, right?

Millions of Americans are unemployed. But, not all of those unemployed workers are capable of building windmill blades and solar panels (especially since most solar panels are built in the Far East, anyway). There aren’t enough plants producing windmill blades or solar panels in the US to bail out America’s unemployed. There would have to be one in every city in America to do that.

And, if there was, the price of goods would have to drop. Competition, remember?

And, that’d mean more cuts, to supply cheaper products. Talk about a “Catch-22!”

With manufacturing on its back, enacting a new energy tax to drive more jobs offshore… is just insanity. And, I’ll point out that I mean no offense to REAL insane people.

If you watch Cable, they keep saying that; “Of course, the economy can’t keep falling forever, and most forecasters still see a recovery starting this year.”

Yeah, what’re they basing that on? More false hope and promises that are starting to smell like lies?  The decline in manufacturing slowed last month and housing sales have picked up — and supposedly these are both positive indicators.

Whaaa? Not around here. In most of middle America, the opposite is true. And, almost all of those tax credits for buying a new home are aimed at the buyers buying “newly constructed” homes, which will only create a glut in the “pre-owned housing market.”

How do you buy a new home when you’re unemployed? Huh? Boy, renting is starting to look better and better all the time!

They keep saying that consumers are spending more. But the cost of living is going up daily.

Sure we’re spending more! You keep jacking up the prices, you @ssh@les!  We still have to eat! Our children’s tummies still grumble. They don’t understand “tightening the belts.” Oy, oy, oy…

The real question should be about “strong and sustained” employment expansion. If the “stimulus” were working as advertised, that would be stronger than “Mr. Clean,” or even the “Incredible Hulk,” huh?? After all, those idiots in DC have thrown trillions of dollars at the recession.

Let’s not forget about that famous $787 billion dollars that was supposed to yield $1.50 in growth for every $1 that was spent.

This almost trillion dollars (don’t forget about interest, as we had to borrow the money from “somewhere.”) followed the $168 billion dollars that George Jr. and “Queen of the Most High Wacko’s” Nancy Pelosi promised in February 2008 would prevent a recession. The jobless rate that month was 4.8%.

Did THAT work? No. So what did Obama do? Exactly the same thing. Throw good money after bad. Hey, it’s not like it was HIS money. After he leaves the White House, he gets a pension for life. It’s not like he’ll be out looking for a job at TGI Friday’s, or Walmart… He’ll just write a book, and make speeches, and get… even more money!

So where has the stimulus money actually gone? Most of this government spending has gone to transfer payments — Medicaid, jobless benefits and the like — that do nothing for jobs or growth.

Let me repeat that for the “reading impaired;”

…THAT DO NOTHING FOR JOBS OR GROWTH.

The spending that might create jobs — on roads, say — is dribbling out with typical government efficiency.

  • Hey, they’re building schools in places where schools are already standing empty.
  • They’re building libraries in places where people don’t live.
  • They’re building airport expansions in places where planes don’t land…
  • They’re building copshop’s multi-million dollar “indoor training facilities ‘ so they can hone their skills… in places where they only have three cops.
  • They’re buying local law enforcement agencies helicopters and airplanes, where they (a) don’t have pilots, and (b) don’t have airports to land them in.
  • And let’s not forget million dollar highspeed powerboats to interdict drug sales, for cops who live in landlocked counties.

They even bought a law enforcement agency with four cops (I’m serious) $287,000 worth of ammunition. Whaaaa? Those idiots never heard of reloading? Maybe they should make friends with those guys who have the “indoor training mecca” and start learning to save some of that ammo…

You think I’m kidding? Nope.

$287,000 worth of ammo… That’s a lot of 9mm… Like, about 2,500 cases (remember, they get a discount for volume)… Lemme see… 1,000 rounds to a case times 2500 cases, divided by 4 cops. That’s like 70 rounds an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, just to use it all up. Yeah, that’s doable… I hope they’ve got donuts and coffee stockpiled too!

Can you imagine a mountain of empty brass that big? Man.. I wish! 🙂

Meanwhile, the money for all of this has to come from somewhere, and Democrats are already saying it will require big (unstimulating) tax increases in 2011, and perhaps sooner. Whhaaa? I’m shocked.

So, while they’re giving away money they don’t even have, they’re going to ask us for money we can barely keep, to keep them in lobbyists and frosty cold beverages, while WE sweat the hard stuff all by our onesies! Oy Freakin Vey!

The Administration argues that the recession would be worse without the stimulus. Yeah, prove it! Oh yeah… you can’t. It’s impossible to prove or even disprove.

However, if you harken back to a time not long ago… Obama’s economist lackeys predicted late last year that the stimulus would keep the jobless rate from exceeding 8%. And now, it’s just climbed past 9.5% and it’s still climbing…

Uh-oh… Time to find a scapegoat to sacrifice on “The Alter of American Ineptness!”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s far more likely that America would have been better off without all that insane spending, and the higher taxes and debt financing that they bring right along with them, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a picnic basket!

I hate to say I told you so, but;

“You bastards in DC are all a bunch of freakin morons! You’ve sold us lock stock and barrel to the Chinese, and anybody else stupid enough to loan us money. We’ll be lucky if our grandchildren still speak English as a first language, before all this madness is through!”

Whew… Glad I got that off my chest.

I can’t wait to see what Congress brainstorms next… Perhaps they’ll just sell our children into slavery, or legislate sweatshops in America, so that the citizens they betrayed can still find a few pennies at the end of the day to eat with.

The best thing Mr. Obama could do to create jobs would be to come clean, admit his cabinet is filled with idiots, and start over. That is, if they’re anything left to rebuild, by the time he’s “done” rebuilding.

Gawd Save us… because Obama won’t. Not if his “progress report” so far is any indication.

Now, where’d I put those MRE’s? I think a storm is coming… and I’m not talking about a “hurricane.”

And “Pat…” I’m proud to know you. You’ve got a backbone of steel, and a heart of gold… You just made “Ronin’s Hero of the Day” list…

Now, if the President would just show that much courage, integrity, and backbone… maybe I’d get some sleep.

Stay tuned…

So you want to build a house…

1 Jun

As you know, my family is building our own house out of shipping containers (ISBU’s), if the idiots in Jackson  will just get the hell out of the way.  But, you probably already know that, right?

It’s a long hard fight, because we’re not building a “traditional house out of straw, or sticks, or even bricks…”

And it seems that the “Big Bad Wolf” (aka: the local authorities and the knuckleheads at the State Capital) are trying to “huff and puff and blow our house down” faster than we can get it built up.

Will that finally stop us? No. We’ll just get a bigger can of “Wolf Repellent” and administer doses liberally, until we accomplish our goals. Now “Wolf repellent” comes in several different varieties, but so far, the one that seems to be the most effective is the “strutting all the facts out in public and then using them as a hammer” brand. Liberal sprinklings of “veiled threats to use the media and your voting record” seem to help as well, as supplements. So, the fight continues.

The sad thing is that the path we’ve chosen (albeit different from most) still puts a family in an affordable, durable house, that is sustainable and efficient. And for the life of me, I can’t get the powers that be, to recognize that fact.

It’s frustrating to the point of “tears and medication” at times, but if we’re going to help other families like ours get back into homes, we have to prove it can be done, in spite of what sometimes seems like overwhelming odds. So, we get up each morning, say our prayers, and look to the new day, to see what develops.

And, that brings me to the topic today.

Once you’ve determined that you’re going to build your own home, how do you actually do it?

Now, I’m not talking about putting “stick (A) into slot (B)” and then repeating that until you have a house. I’m talking about how you actually afford to have people in your employ, to assist you in building your dream home.

As the economy crumbles, and as more and more people end up on the unemployment line, I’m curious as to whether some of the assistance money programmed into the “stimulus package” can actually help you build that house.

Sure, most of the money is aimed at Big Business. But, some of it will manage to trickle down to us “little guys” at the bottom of the feed chain. And it might even do it in the form of Tax Incentives and Tax Credits, if we do it right.

This stream of thought started when I picked up a copy of the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009. It expands tax credits for hiring new workers. You know, guys and gals from groups like the disabled, people on public assistance, and even (gasp!) veterans.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s a pretty narrow stream, huh? But despite what you’ve heard, Jews can swim… We can even walk on water… Well, some of us can. 🙂

Okay, okay… Here’s the gist of my rant today; Those tax credits are only for businesses, right? Well, what if, while acting as your own General Contractor, you actually established a business that employed your help? There’s a really thin line painted here, that looks like it might enable “the common man” to basically start a company that just supplied “independent contractor” labor to be supervised by licensed tradesmen, and in doing so, be entitled to this tax credit.

Now, you want your guys and gals to be independent contractors, for several reasons. First, independent contractors aren’t subject to payroll taxes. Second, you don’t have to include (or even establish for that matter) fringe benefit programs like health insurance or retirement plans.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Here’s the guts of it;

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) will actually benefit “labor employers” that hire people from 9 targeted “groups,” with a tax credit equal to 40% of qualified first-year wages. This includes different amounts for qualified vets or teen summer hires. The only real hitch seems to be that they must work at least 120 hours for the wages to qualify.

I’m curious as to whether or not you can find a way to make this work for  you, as a homebuilder.  I’m going to investigate this further, and see if I can find a way to put some of those “Stimulus Dollars” in your pocket.

And I’m going to take a hard look at other ways to become eligible for those Stimulus dollars, as we build our Corten Castle. After all, if Wall Street and the car companies can benefit from federal handouts, I’m pretty sure that as a taxpayer, I should be entitled too. It’s my kids (and yours) who will be paying off this monumental debt.

Stay tuned.

Jackson and “Jacked Up.”

28 May

Okay, so I took a few days off…

It’s been “pretty difficult” around here lately (in fact, on a one to ten, it’s been an “eight”). The “Mommy” is slowly recovering (“Mommy” recently had a stroke), and Joshua, astutely sensing a momentary change in the balance of power, has taken the opportunity to wage a full frontal assault, and try to make the “Daddy” crazy…um… er… crazier. This is a pretty simple task lately, as Daddy has had his hands full… Oy Vey, have I had my hands full…

Beyond that, due to difficulties beyond my control my appearance at a “meeting of the mind” (singular) in Jackson, was accomplished “by notarized document/statement, read aloud by some unfortunate lackey who will have to bear the scars of having my words rattle around in their brain until the cows come home.”

I say “mind,” because after participating in several of these “Jacksonian jousts,” I’m convinced that there is only one sane person in “Jackson Authority,” and they just pass the brain around, at random.

I’m told that my statement was either well received, or thrown in a well (I’m not sure which), as the phone line that connected us was garbled.

It was just basically the same old “Ronin Rant.”

Get off your dead asses, and do your jobs! Families need homes. YOU need constituents.  The STATE needs to generate tax dollars HONESTLY! Families without homes don’t pay property taxes, and they sure don’t vote in your favor, come election day! We’ll remember that you didn’t give a damn, and then… we won’t either. I promise. Capish?”

For those of you keeping track, this was just another gyration, as the politicians in Jackson strive to drag this whole set of events out as long as possible, so that the people they are answering to either (a) drop dead from exhaustion, or (b) become so senile that they forget why they’re so pissed off.

The issue is whether or not to actually “release” the grant parcels to the families that qualified for them, MONTHS ago. I suspect that the truth of the matter is that they’re still trying to figure out how to make more money off the “re-urbanization” program. This program isn’t costing Mississippi a dime, folks. Not one penny! You see, the Fed has compensated Mississippi for the “land” that is being parceled out, but like most politicians, when the miscreants in Jackson smell money, they do just about everything they can to figure out how they can get their grubby little paws on more of it.

I’d remind them that “there isn’t anything honorable or even remotely responsible in standing between families that need homes, and the property that will make it possible.”

It’s ridiculous really. They complain that their tax bases are dying slowly on the vine and that people are leaving Mississippi for “greener pastures.” Then, they actually demonstrate WHY people are leaving, yet they fail to recognize it. Talk about “being detached and living in a fantasy.”

Attention, self-serving politicians; We will not forget, or go away. (In fact, some of us CAN’T, or we would have… as we’re really sick and tired of your greediness and irresponsibility.) Do your jobs, serve your constituents “honorably and responsibly,” or come next election, I promise you that you’ll be looking for work. (Good luck with that, by the way… as you idiots also killed off most of the jobs!) People like me are going to hold you accountable for your lack of action, and we’ll be more than happy to remind voters what miserable bastards you were, when we actually needed you to do your jobs, for once. I’m taking careful notes, and keeping a list of names. And, I have no problem being one of those who help fan the winds of change.

For example: The Internet is a powerful stick, and I’ll make sure that I beat you on the head with it, for all to see. Think about it for a minute, huh? I’m an “ex-military father/husband, with a dying wife and a baby child, who lost our (completely paid for) home to a greedy insurance company (who bought and paid for) a bunch of greedy politicians who just didn’t give a crap about anything but THEIR own power-mongering, “foreign-soil” junkets (and I’m not talking about ALABAMA), and excessive lifestyles.”

You really don’t want that, do you? Let me assure you… You REALLY don’t want that. I can spell “RECALL.” And, I know what it means, too.

That said, let’s talk about something more pleasant, huh?

Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a home built, using containers as the primary structure. Unless you’re living under a rock, you already know that.

And as my own build is hopelessly mired in “red tape,” I’m currently involved in helping other families build their ISBU homes Some surprising developments have given me hope that soon, despite the procrastination of Jackson’s “finest,” we’ll be building our own “Corten Castle” soon. It may NOT be in Mississippi, but it’s going to get built.

We’ll talk more about that later.

Anyway, I’ve been asked a series of questions lately, that I found so intriguing, I’m going to post them here, and see if I can get a few of you to comment. And, to be accurate, lately the most interesting inquiries aren’t so much “questions,” as “ponderings,” about the combination of structures, essentially combining different types of alternative construction together, to form “habitats.” I’m frankly enjoying this, because it means that some of you guys and gals are truly thinking out of the box, while trying to use one.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

Lately, I’ve been quietly working on a new ISBU project in New Mexico. The family involved isn’t building “in crisis,” or anything like that. They’re actually dedicating their own funds to this build, “simply to prove it can be done.” The home will be a vacation retreat, but it’s large enough that they could live there full time, if they choose to, later on. If I had to categorize it, I’d call it a “bug-out” build. It’s a place to run to, if things get stupid, or you just need to get out of town. I can completely relate to this mindset.

They’re using (3) 40′ HQ ISBUs to build a 24’x40′ box. It’s multi-level, with one ISBU level on what is essentially an elevated and insulated slab, that will hold all the mechanical and service elements of the home. The kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and mechanical room for the A/C and Hot water Heater is in the boxes. Also included in this level are the garage (2 car) and a small workshop. This entire level will be “earth-bermed,” in a manner that will make it similar to the “earthships” popular in the area. A greenhouse will occupy most of the south facing exterior.

Try as I might, the people building just aren’t interested in solar anything, including hot water, geothermal A/C or photovoltaics. Whaaa?

Okay, so there’s ONE solar panel, and it’s mounted on a pump system on a water tank.

Wait, it gets better! You know WHY they aren’t interested in using a bucket full of those “green” elements? It’s because they have their own “fast running” creek/stream/river, that never dries up or freezes over, and the guy building the home is an electrical engineer who has developed a hydroelectric turbine that will fit into a pipe. Big deal, right? Wrong. HUGE damned deal!!!

It’s only a 12” pipe!

And, this little beauty of a turbine will produce enough power to run just about anything he wants to plug in, forever. And to prove it, he’s gonna make it the SOLE source of power, for his home.

(The singular solar panel is used to power a pump that will help him move water to another parcel for irrigation of a “survival” garden. It was pre-existing.)

His “power-pipe system” runs out of the river, and then back into it.

A singular power source from water pressure. Talk about “guts!” If I tried to do that, I’d wake up dead in the morning, with my wife laughing over my carcass! 🙂

So, As I learn more about this little gem of a powerplant, I’ll fill you in, too! Suffice to say, I want one! I can picture this placed between cisterns filled by a well (which is operated by solar power). I have a few really big pieces of culvert pipe that are just begging to be used in a “power by water” experiment. If you filled a rather large primary tank, and then used an outlet pipe to fill a secondary one (and placed one of these little powerplants in that outlet pipe between them…) you’d get hydroelectric power from the water pressure that flowed thru it…

I’m not sure it’d work, because you’d have to keep that first tank filled to get enough pressure (in a constant flow), but I can see it in my head. However, my wife reminds me that “I see a lot of things in my head, most of them unrepeatable, unprintable, or felonious.” 🙂

Okay, I admit it. I get all caught up in this “grant property polka” currently going on in Jackson, and I want to go “postal.” Deal with it. 🙂

Here’s where his build is REALLY different. He’s gonna build his bedrooms and common areas into a dome built ON TOP of the containers. The dome will be 24′ feet in diameter and about 20′ high. It will be built entirely of SIP’s (Structural Insulated Panels) and glass. A winding “freeform” staircase will allow access from level to level, with an ”open overlap loft” plan that will allow you to stand on the main level and look up, to see the top of the dome.

This isn’t such a bad idea. He gets a stable base to build on, lots of room for his “hard stuff” (plumbing, electromechanical requirements, etc…) and really bright and airy creative spaces for his comfort zones.

What other ways can you think of to combine different type of alternative homes together, to form a “super” alternative home?

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23 May

memorial_day_rrMemorial Day, which was originally called “Decoration Day,” is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.

But where did it come from?

Although dozens of cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, my favorite attribution is the evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication;

“To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead”

(Source: Duke University’s Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920)

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5th, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in General Order No. 11. It was first observed on May 30th, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

But it saddens me that when you ask people what they’re going to do on Memorial Day lately, it seems like it’s just turned into another opportunity for “Beer and BBQ,” or an automobile “Blow-out” at the local car lot.

The traditional observance of Memorial day has decayed over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and even the traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, and even neglected.

Thankfully, where I live (in this part of the South), this is not the case. At the Biloxi National Cemetery, it reminds me of growing up in Orange County, CA (a farming community when I was young), it almost looks like hundreds of fieldworkers picking produce, as legions of citizens place flags and flowers on the graves that cover the vast repository of our fallen. But this attending to graves, albeit touching, isn’t quite accurate either.

You see, most people don’t remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. And, some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

Memorial Day is specifically placed, a day to honor those paid the ultimate price and gave all, in the service of our country.

But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address:

“Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”

“To all that have fallen…
Mothers, Fathers, Sister and Brothers…
We grieve as you are sorely missed.
Until we are all reunited,
May you rest peacefully in G_d’s arms.”

The Renaissance RoninG_d bless you all! Amen.

When Money Falls From the Sky…

1 Apr

Why is is, when we’re always claiming to be “first” at everything…

We  have to be “last” in alternative housing?

America is in the grips of what could be the worst economic times since the Great Depression. And families are going to bear the brunt of it, I assure you. The politicians in DC are so insulated that they won’t even hear our teeth chatter.

I’ve been going on and on about “container houses” for months now. At least, that’s my story on the Internet. It’s actually been a lifelong passion, spawned from the simple, yet abstract, realization that those steel boxes provide the “core” of some really unique and durable homes.

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When we were younger, we did it because we didn’t have any money.

Now, with this infusion of “Stimulus dollars,” it may be possible to build that Corten Castle, and let Uncle Sam help you pay for it.  Everybody I talk to expects “money to be falling from Heaven, like Manna to the Israelites!” I’m not so sure that it’s gonna work that way… but I’ve been wrong before.

You can bet that Ronin is going over the Stimulus Bill, line by stinking line, looking for ways to get money out of “Big Government,” to help the families that actually make up the America they misrepresent, seemingly at every turn.

I know, I know… color me “jaded.”

Look, it’s like this… it costs £20,000 to build and buy a container studio in London. That’s about $28,620.15 in USD, according to the Currency Exchange, today. That’s the cost of a new GM car or a Toyota, folks.

It’s affordable. Living in modified shipping containers (ISBUs) has become an increasingly attractive option, to many Americans.

They’ve been doing it overseas for years, kids. I’VE  been doing it for years, overseas. It’s not that hard! England, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, Central America, you name it… there are “container homes” there.

Containers aren’t just for residences, either. Travel Lodge opened a hotel in Uxbridge (in the UK)  made out of 86 containers.  We talked about this very hotel, earlier  in the blog history of “RR.” And the Travel Lodge powers that be say that most of the rest of their new projects will use Shipping Containers as their core.  Clearly, there must be advantages to using them. Right?

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Aren’t those the “same” advantages that we’ve been talking about all along?

They’re;

  • Durable
  • Structurally Strong
  • Low Cost
  • Versatile, and…
  • Readily Available

There are places like Container City, in London where you can rent a “Container Condo.” They work in the housing marketplace, and the rents are reasonable.  Studios go from about $350 USD, up to about $2000 USD per month, depending on how big they are. The studio’s have everything that “a conventional building does. The only thing that really sets them apart is the exteriors, which have been left rather industrial, and the fact that many of the units sport “portholes” instead of traditional windows.

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Both of those “peculiarities” could nave been easily changed, and you wouldn’t know WHAT was under that siding, and behind those double-hung windows.

Sounds great, right?

Here’s the rub:

If ISBUs are so cheap and are gaining such popularity, (especially now, during the current state of “housing failure” that we’re living with),  why aren’t we all rushing out, finding some land and setting up home in our very own boxes? And why aren’t more of the developers doing this? Talk about an opportunity to provide a low-cost quality product, complete with GREEN recycling benefits?

Even though container houses have been here for decades, it’s a relatively “new” concept to the housing marketplace, and not many “production” people are doing it well. We didn’t exactly scream from the rooftops that we were living in shipping containers, back in the day.

In fact, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret… Shhhhh! sometimes we didn’t even have building permits. We just dropped them onto foundation blocks, hooked up water and power, and lived as quietly as we could. After all, it was the middle of the forest? Who knew?

Now, when people do that, they call them “wilderness cabins.”

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The cool thing about them then, and even now… is they were cheap, they were “Tonka Tough,” and they went up fast. Isn’t that what America needs right now, especially in places like the Hurricane belt, and Tornado Alley?

Another cool thing about these Container developments is that they have the ability to be “self-contained.” You can put them in places where other houses wouldn’t go. Places like brown-field sites without fear of contamination.

What’s a brownfield site? Well, according to Wiki;

“brownfield land (or simply a brownfield) is land previously used for industrial purposes or certain commercial uses. The land may be contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, and has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned up.”

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And America is covered with places exactly like this.

Building “production” homes out of a container is an “off-site” operation, easy. Use warehouses to prefab the containers to suit your floorplan, and truck them to your site. Then you just set them in place with a crane. You could turn that “shoddy, dirty, dangerous” old industrial relic into a thriving community, in months. Months. Talk about turning America around!

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And, up to 80% of the construction materials could come from “recycled” sources.

Of course, you’re still going to heat and insulate, like a “normal” house. So, you’re not increasing the “expected ” carbon footprint. But I suspect the same minds that craft these boxes into place will embrace concepts like passive heating and air handling, and solar and wind power production to assist the local grid.

Those naysayers that argue about the “blight of boxes…” (you know, the “not in my backyard type…” right?) can be soothed by the simple use of siding, and modified roofs, just like any other house in the neighborhood.

Personally, I like the “Mad Max meets Armagedon” kinda look of Shipping Containers. They have character,  they look “modern and manly,” and most of all, they’re both cheap, and GREEN.

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If Travel Lodge can embrace them, it’s only a matter of time before your local Planning and Zoning Nazis are forced to!

I’m looking forward to the day when we can go into a county commission hearing, and spread our plans out on the table, without the local cop reaching for his holster. Aren’t  you?

Hey, I can dream, can’t I? Huh?

I bet my conservative stick-up-the um… er… well… neighbors wish this was an April Fools Joke, huh?

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

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