Tuesday, March 31, 2009
But I have had enough. The government was bloated before this past October. It was a hulking mass of overextended unfunded obligations. Congress has decided to fix the problem by digging us deeper into the hole.
We have to shrink the size of government. It simply has to happen.
During 2007 I liked Ron Paul's ideas for the most part, but felt that it was too much for America. His agenda would be too radical, too disruptive. I felt that Ron Paul wasn't electable.
Starting right now the candidate that has the most realistic plan for shrinking government will get my support. This goes for all levels of government.
There are still things in the Ron Paul camp that I think are kooky and a little bit off. I don't agree with everything. But the part about radically shrinking the size of government -- that part I agree with. Shrinking government has my enthusiastic support. I also have been struggling with the fact that a political view that wants to shrink government almost by definition has a problem consolidating a political constituency. How do we do it? How do you get the votes needed to shrink government? I don't know.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Now we know why Citigroup mysteriously reported a profit in February. Turns out, AIG was funneling money to them, to falsely prop up the company and keep the market from crashing.
With our money.
Now, where did I put that pitchfork...
Many people have asked why this matters to anyone. They asked it when we found out Al Gore happily uses some 20 times the energy of a normal home in his residence. It was asked after the story broke that Mr. Gore leaves his SUVs with air conditioning running outside of environmental lectures he gives. It's not just taking glee in another person's hypocrisy. We're all imperfect from time to time.
Here's the crux of the issue. Let's start with the famous quotation Al Gore gave before Congress:
"The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don’t say, ‘Well, I read a science-fiction novel that told me it’s not a problem.’ If the crib’s on fire, you don’t speculate that the baby is flame-retardant."Tangent: The science-fiction novel in question was "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton. Michael Crichton was a trained scientist-turned-writer. Al Gore is a politician-turned-activist.
The problem then, and why we look for Al Gore's hypocrisy is simple. Using his own analogy, if you really, truly believed the crib was on fire, you'd do your best to rescue the baby. It would not be enough for you that others were rushing to do it. It would not be enough for you that you paid for some of the water and firemen to put out the fire you helped start. You'd do your absolute best to stop lighting fires and to personally save the baby.
Al Gore isn't doing that.
If Al Gore isn't doing it, then he doesn't believe in his own claims, or at least doesn't believe the issue is as urgent as he's made it out to be, and that deeply undermines his message.
He is in good company, however. California is the state you might associate first with the environmental movement, and according to the power load numbers for the state, there was no noticeable dip in consumption during Earth Hour.
So, I'm much more inclined to listen to Michael Crichton than Al Gore. There's that Author's Message, by the way. I hope you'll buy the book and have a read.
Author's Message from State of Fear:
A novel such as State of Fear, in which so many divergent views are expressed, may lead the reader to wonder where, exactly, the author stands on these issues. I have been reading environmental texts for three years, in itself a hazardous undertaking. But I have had an opportunity to look at a lot of data, and to consider many points of view. I conclude:
* We know astonishingly little about every aspect of the environment, from its past history, to its present state, to how to conserve and protect it. In every debate, all sides overstate the extent of existing knowledge and its degree of certainty.
* Atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing, and human activity is the probable cause.
* We are also in the midst of a natural warming trend that began about 1850, as we emerged from a four-hundred-year old cold spell known as the "Little Ice Age."
* Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be a natural phenomenon.
* Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be man-made.
* Nobody knows how much warming will occur in the next century. The computer models vary by 400 percent, de facto proof that nobody knows. But if I had to guess --- the only thing anyone is doing, really --- I would guess the increase will be 0.812436 degrees C. There is no evidence that my guess about the state of the world one hundred years from now is any better or worse than anyone else's. (We can't "assess" the future, nor can we "predict" it. These are euphemisms. We can only guess. And informed guess is just a guess.)
* I suspect that part of the observed surface warming will ultimately be attributable to human activity. I suspect that the principal human effect will come from land use, and that the atmospheric component will be minor.
* Before making expensive policy decisions on the basis of climate models, I think it is reasonable to require that those models predict future temperatures accurately for a period of ten years. Twenty would be better.
* I think for anyone to believe in impending resource scarcity, after two hundred years of such false alarms, is kind of weird. I don't know whether such a belief today is best ascribed to ignorance of history, sclerotic dogmatism, unhealthy love of Malthus, or simple pigheadedness, but it is evidently a hardly perennial in human calculation.
* There are many reasons to shift away from fossil fuels, and we will do so in the next century without legislation, financial incentives, carbon-conservation programs, or the interminable yammering of fear-mongers. So far as I know, nobody had to ban horse transportation in the early twentieth century.
* I suspect the people of 2100 will be much richer than we are, consume more energy, have a smaller global population, and enjoy more wilderness than we have today. I don't think we have to worry about them.
* The current near-hysterical preoccupation with safety is at best a waste of resources and a crimp on the human spirit, and at worst an invitation to totalitarianism. Public education is desperately needed.
* I conclude that most environmental "principles" (such as sustainable development or the precautionary principle) have the effect of preserving the economic advantages of the West and thus constitute modern imperialism toward the developing world. It is a nice way of saying, "We got ours and we don't want you to get yours, because you'll cause too much pollution."
* I believe people are well intentioned. But I have great respect for the corrosive influence of bias, systematic distortions of thought, the power of rationalization, the guises of self-interest, and the inevitability of unintended consequences.
* I have more respect for people who change their views after acquiring new information than for those who cling to views they held thirty years ago. The world changes, Ideologues and zealots don't.
* In the thirty-five-odd years since the environmental movement came into existence, science has undergone a major revolution. This revolution has brought new understanding of nonlinear dynamics, complex systems, chaos theory, catastrophe theory. It has transformed the way we think about evolution and ecology. Yet these no-longer-new ideas have hardly penetrated the thinking of environmental activists, which seems oddly fixed in the concepts and rhetoric of the 1970's.
* We haven't the foggiest notion how to preserve what we term "wilderness," and we had better study it in the field and learn how to do so. I see no evidence that we are conducting such research in a humble, rational and systematic way. I therefore hold little hope for wilderness management in the twenty-first century. I blame environmental organizations every bit as much as developers and strip miners. There is no difference in outcomes between greed and incompetence.
* We need a new environmental movement, with new goals and new organizations. We need more people working in the field, in the actual environment, and fewer people behind computer screens. We need more scientists and many fewer lawyers.
* We cannot hope to manage a complex system such as the environment through litigation. We can only change its state temporarily --- usually by preventing something --- with eventual results that we cannot predict and ultimately cannot control.
* Nothing is more inherently political than our shared physical environment, and nothing is more ill served by allegiance to a single political party. Precisely because the environment is shared it cannot be managed by one faction according to its own economic or aesthetic preferences. Sooner or later, the opposing faction will take power, and previous policies will be reversed. Stable management of the environment requires recognition that all preferences have their place: snowmobilers and fly fisherman, dirt bikers and hikers, developers and preservationists. These preferences are at odds, and their incompatibility cannot be avoided. But resolving incompatible goals is a true function of politics.
* We desperately need a nonpartisan, blinded funding mechanism to conduct research to determine appropriate policy. Scientists are only too aware whom they are working for. Those who fund research --- whether a drug company, a government agency, or an environmental organization --- always have a particular outcome in mind. Research funding is almost never open-ended or open-minded. Scientists know that continued funding depends on delivering the results the funders desire. As a result, environmental organization "studies" are every bit as biased and suspect as industry "studies." Government "studies" are similarly biased according to who is running the department or administration at the time. No faction should be given a free pass.
* I am certain there is too much certainty in the world.
* I personally experience a profound pleasure being in nature. My happiest days each year are those I spend in wilderness. I wish natural environments to be preserved for future generations. I am not satisfied they will be preserved in sufficient quantities, or with sufficient skill. I conclude that the "exploiters of the environment" include environmental organizations, government organizations, and big business. All have equally dismal track records.
* Everybody has an agenda. Except me.
To start, let me assert that money is power (just a form of it).
One of the early forms of this idea comes from the Bible, and the quotation is what started me thinking about the issue when I hear the oft quoted, "Money corrupts" or "Power corrupts."
1 Timothy 6:10: For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (KJV)Notice the important difference. It isn't money (or power) that corrupts, but the love thereof.
Why are so many of our politicians corrupt? To win these days, I think you have to develop a love of power. Are all of them corrupt? No--some people have honestly entered politics to make a positive difference, and they may well keep their convictions until party machines crush them with demands to compromise or lose their next election.
Let's get down to concrete examples of power not corrupting. For the faithful, there's God, who is both omnipotent and incorruptible. Feel free to play the "special case" card on that one, because it is a rather unique example.
Cincinnatus was thrust into the position of absolute dictator of Rome, but following the end of the crisis that put him in power, he set down the power voluntarily and went back to farming. There's some indication that he may have even done this two separate times, though historians disagree.
George Washington, we can all agree was just a person. An extraordinary person, but still just human. Following the Revolutionary war, he was so popular, some Americans wanted to crown him king. He refused, saying, "Never, we are finished with Kings in this Country." When he served as President, he set down power after 2 terms, setting a precedent respected by all presidents until FDR. FDR's multiple terms in office prompted Congress to amend the Constitution to prevent it from ever happening again.
A more modern example comes from Jon Huntsman, Sr. who is incredibly rich (money is power), yet chooses not to use it to empower himself, but rather to help others. He funds his Cancer Institute with every intention of curing cancer. He has reportedly said, "We can make money or we can cure cancer, but we can't do both." It's more important to him to cure cancer.
I believe a person who does not love money or power can not be corrupted by it. They can come to love it, and thus open the door to corruption, but until that happens, all the power and money in the world can be heaped upon them and they will use it only to do good and give it back when they've accomplished their selfless goals.
I do agree that such individuals are rare, but the above examples are just three very famous people I thought off off the top of my head. How many relatively unknown people are using the little bit of power or extra wealth they've obtained for good purposes? We have to recognize that there's nothing inherently bad about money and power, the bad all comes in learning to love them.
"The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles." -Jeff Cooper, "The Art of the Rifle"If gun control worked, I'd still object to it because the 2nd amendment was designed to protect us not only from criminals, but from any possibility of tyrannical government. I want our voices and votes to always work, but if they ever fail to compel the government to remember its responsibilities to the citizenry, we have a tool of last resort, and they'll never forget that.
However, gun control doesn't work. It's so poor a policy in restricting criminal access to guns that the U.K. under-reports its statistics on gun violence! Have a look at statistics for Australia and you'll see similar problems. I use these examples because they're islands and theoretically have the best chance of preventing an illicit flow of firearms to their shores. In the United States, the areas of the nation that have the best rating by the anti-gun Brady Campaign usually have the worst gun violence rates in the nation. In fact, the shooting story linked at the beginning of this post took place in California, which has some of the most restrictive gun ownership laws in the nation.
In short, if you're looking for an effective policy, it's not gun control. In fact, the only thing that seems to help or at slow violent crime rates is permitting more access to CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon) permits for lawful citizens who want them and take the appropriate safety class.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Yesterday during a meeting of the House Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank said the following:
"The goal of public policy is to come up with rules that set a fair playing field, that constrain abuses, that protect legitimate and responsible entities from irresponsible competition. The job of Franklin Roosevelt and his colleagues during the 30's was to set rules that allowed us to get the benefit of the finance capitalism of the stock market, but curtailed some of the abuses. Our job is to craft rules, as did Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt that allow the society to get the benefit of these wonderful, value-added financial innovations while curtailing some of the abuses."Maybe Mr. Frank believes we've forgotten history, and we don't know that FDR's policies weren't just ineffective, but lengthened the great depression.* Also, FDR actually jailed people who refused to comply with the demands of the Office of Price Controls. In April 1934, Jacob Maged of Jersey City, NJ was jailed for 3 months and fined - for charging 35¢ to press a man's suit instead of the 40¢ mandated by the Government. Woodrow Wilson was just plain scary in his violations of civil rights, as previous posts have indicated. Pres. Wilson is generally credited with having helped create the Federal Reserve, formed in 1913 which promised that we would never again have a depression because of the Fed's regulating powers.
Well, that worked out well. Just ask anyone who lived through the 1930's how effective Fed controls were.
It is frightening to think that Frank is serious about this.** He apparently is, though, as he's said it before.
*Yes, I've posted this link before. I don't think it can be posted enough.
**Actually, it's frightening to think this addled, irresponsible man is in office at all, and that he's evaded any implication in the current financial crisis that his policies helped to create.
Yep, if you vote for the toothless spending cap you get hammered with the biggest tax increase in history -- for a few more years.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Even if you're not a fan of history, you should know a little about President Woodrow Wilson, who reigned as President from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921. I use reign deliberately, as he did not serve the people. He was in power during a time when fascism was not yet a dirty word; many believed it was the only way to keep a firm enough hand on a modern population. President Wilson considered the Constitution outdated, and sought to bring about a more parliamentary system for the United States.
"Successful governments have never been conducted safely in the midst of complex and critical affairs except when guided by those who were responsible for carrying out and bringing to an issue the measures they proposed; and the separation of the right to plan from the duty to execute has always led to blundering and inefficiency; and modern representative bodies cannot of themselves combine the two...should we not draw the Executive and Legislature closer together? Should we not, on the one hand, give the individual leaders of opinion in Congress a better chance to have an intimate party in determining who should be president, and the president, on the other hand, a better chance to approve himself a statesman, and his advisers capable men of affairs, in the guidance of Congress?" (The Politics of Woodrow Wilson-available here, have a look at about page 46 on).
In short, the separation of powers the founders instituted to prevent tyranny after they made a thorough study of human behavior and government throughout the ages, Pres. Wilson felt was too restrictive, precisely because it prevented quick executive action.
Pres. Wilson sought to empower himself by using federal prosecutorial power against those expressing political dissent in the wake of the Espionage Act (1917), the Trading with the Enemy Act (1917), The Alien Act (1918) and The Sedition Act (1918). Mr. Wilson also deployed squads of thugs, paid by the government, to intimidate, harass and even harm political opponents.
By the way, Woodrow Wilson was one of our first Progressives, the type Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama say they are.
We now reject fascism, thanks to harsh lessons learned in the 1930's and 1940's, but we've forgotten Progressives were tremendous fans of it, and remain proponents of despotic government power today.
Is Barack Obama really that kind of leader? He absolutely is. We had the first indications of it when he organized Truth Squads during the campaign, and promised civilian forces under his direct control.
How about ACORN, a "Community Organizing" group involved in voter fraud during the election. Supposedly nonpartisan, they were exposed to have been unabashedly supporting then Sen. Obama. (See video below) They receive government funding, and are likely to receive significant funds from the stimulus bill. Oh, and they also were behind a bus tour targeting AIG executives to direct attention away from the fact that Congress and Pres. Obama were aware of the bonuses that have caused such an uproar, and that the directive to insert language in the stimulus bill expressly authorizing payment of the bonus-granting contracts came from the Obama administration.
Thus, we have government paid thugs once again intimidating and protecting a President who is working hard to expand his authority over the people and Congress.
It's frightening that the media and star-struck masses are so afraid of admitting a mistake they're willing to watch with sloppy grins as Pres. Obama prepares to finish what Pres. Wilson started using Mr. Wilson's own tactics.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Right now on Capitol Hill Senate Democrats are writing a budget and, according to press accounts and their own statements, they're not including the middle-class tax cut that you include in the stimulus; they're talking about phasing that out. They're not including the cap and trade that you have in your budget, and they're not including other measures. I know when you outlined your four priorities over the weekend, a number of these things were not in there. Will you sign a budget if it does not contain a middle-class tax cut, does not contain cap and trade?See, we already have a solution that takes care of regional differences, it's called, "prices." What Obama is saying is, "Central planning is a lot of work." Yes, Mr. President, that's why every attempt at central planning has failed. It destroys the feedback information that prices provide, and so can never be as efficient as the free market.
OBAMA: Well, I've emphasized repeatedly what I expect out of this budget. I expect that there's serious efforts at health care reform and that we are driving down costs for families and businesses and ultimately for the federal and state governments that are going to be broke if we continue on the current path. I've said that we've got to have a serious energy policy that frees ourselves from dependence on foreign oil and makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy. We've got to invest in education, K-12 and beyond, to upgrade the skills of the American worker so we can compete in the international economy. And I've said that we've got to start driving our deficit numbers down.
Now, we never expected when we printed out our budget that they would simply Xerox it and vote on it. We assume that it has to go through the legislative process. I have not yet seen the final product coming out of the Senate or the House and we're in constant conversations with them. I am confident that the budget we put forward will have those principles in place.
When it comes to the middle-class tax cut, we already had that in the recovery. We know that that's going to be in place for at least the next two years. We had identified a specific way to pay for it. If Congress has better ideas in terms of how to pay for it, then we're happy to listen.
When it comes to cap and trade, the broader principle is that we've got to move to a new energy era, and that means moving away from polluting energy sources towards cleaner energy sources. That is a potential engine for economic growth. I think cap and trade is the best way, from my perspective, to achieve some of those gains because what it does is it starts pricing the pollution that's being sent into the atmosphere.
The way it's structured has to take into account regional differences; it has to protect consumers from huge spikes in electricity prices. So there are a lot of technical issues that are going to have to be sorted through. Our point in the budget is let's get started now, we can't wait. And my expectation is that the energy committees or other relevant committees in both the House and the Senate are going to be moving forward a strong energy package. It will be authorized, we'll get it done and I will sign it.
One definition of communism is:
A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people.Sounds exactly like what the government looks like at the moment.
DEAR Mr. Liddy,
It is with deep regret that I submit my notice of resignation from A.I.G. Financial Products. I hope you take the time to read this entire letter. Before describing the details of my decision, I want to offer some context:
I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.
After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.
I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down.
You and I have never met or spoken to each other, so I’d like to tell you about myself. I was raised by schoolteachers working multiple jobs in a world of closing steel mills. My hard work earned me acceptance to M.I.T., and the institute’s generous financial aid enabled me to attend. I had fulfilled my American dream.
I started at this company in 1998 as an equity trader, became the head of equity and commodity trading and, a couple of years before A.I.G.’s meltdown last September, was named the head of business development for commodities. Over this period the equity and commodity units were consistently profitable — in most years generating net profits of well over $100 million. Most recently, during the dismantling of A.I.G.-F.P., I was an integral player in the pending sale of its well-regarded commodity index business to UBS. As you know, business unit sales like this are crucial to A.I.G.’s effort to repay the American taxpayer.
The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation. I never received any pay resulting from the credit default swaps that are now losing so much money. I did, however, like many others here, lose a significant portion of my life savings in the form of deferred compensation invested in the capital of A.I.G.-F.P. because of those losses. In this way I have personally suffered from this controversial activity — directly as well as indirectly with the rest of the taxpayers.
I have the utmost respect for the civic duty that you are now performing at A.I.G. You are as blameless for these credit default swap losses as I am. You answered your country’s call and you are taking a tremendous beating for it.But you also are aware that most of the employees of your financial products unit had nothing to do with the large losses. And I am disappointed and frustrated over your lack of support for us. I and many others in the unit feel betrayed that you failed to stand up for us in the face of untrue and unfair accusations from certain members of Congress last Wednesday and from the press over our retention payments, and that you didn’t defend us against the baseless and reckless comments made by the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut.
My guess is that in October, when you learned of these retention contracts, you realized that the employees of the financial products unit needed some incentive to stay and that the contracts, being both ethical and useful, should be left to stand. That’s probably why A.I.G. management assured us on three occasions during that month that the company would “live up to its commitment” to honor the contract guarantees.
That may be why you decided to accelerate by three months more than a quarter of the amounts due under the contracts. That action signified to us your support, and was hardly something that one would do if he truly found the contracts “distasteful.”
That may also be why you authorized the balance of the payments on March 13.
At no time during the past six months that you have been leading A.I.G. did you ask us to revise, renegotiate or break these contracts — until several hours before your appearance last week before Congress.
I think your initial decision to honor the contracts was both ethical and financially astute, but it seems to have been politically unwise. It’s now apparent that you either misunderstood the agreements that you had made — tacit or otherwise — with the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, various members of Congress and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of New York, or were not strong enough to withstand the shifting political winds.
You’ve now asked the current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. to repay these earnings. As you can imagine, there has been a tremendous amount of serious thought and heated discussion about how we should respond to this breach of trust.
As most of us have done nothing wrong, guilt is not a motivation to surrender our earnings. We have worked 12 long months under these contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.
Many of the employees have, in the past six months, turned down job offers from more stable employers, based on A.I.G.’s assurances that the contracts would be honored. They are now angry about having been misled by A.I.G.’s promises and are not inclined to return the money as a favor to you.
The only real motivation that anyone at A.I.G.-F.P. now has is fear. Mr. Cuomo has threatened to “name and shame,” and his counterpart in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, has made similar threats — even though attorneys general are supposed to stand for due process, to conduct trials in courts and not the press.
So what am I to do? There’s no easy answer. I know that because of hard work I have benefited more than most during the economic boom and have saved enough that my family is unlikely to suffer devastating losses during the current bust. Some might argue that members of my profession have been overpaid, and I wouldn’t disagree.
That is why I have decided to donate 100 percent of the effective after-tax proceeds of my retention payment directly to organizations that are helping people who are suffering from the global downturn. This is not a tax-deduction gimmick; I simply believe that I at least deserve to dictate how my earnings are spent, and do not want to see them disappear back into the obscurity of A.I.G.’s or the federal government’s budget. Our earnings have caused such a distraction for so many from the more pressing issues our country faces, and I would like to see my share of it benefit those truly in need.
On March 16 I received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes. In light of the uncertainty over the ultimate taxation and legal status of this payment, the actual amount I donate may be less — in fact, it may end up being far less if the recent House bill raising the tax on the retention payments to 90 percent stands. Once all the money is donated, you will immediately receive a list of all recipients.
This choice is right for me. I wish others at A.I.G.-F.P. luck finding peace with their difficult decision, and only hope their judgment is not clouded by fear.
Mr. Liddy, I wish you success in your commitment to return the money extended by the American government, and luck with the continued unwinding of the company’s diverse businesses — especially those remaining credit default swaps. I’ll continue over the short term to help make sure no balls are dropped, but after what’s happened this past week I can’t remain much longer — there is too much bad blood. I’m not sure how you will greet my resignation, but at least Attorney General Blumenthal should be relieved that I’ll leave under my own power and will not need to be “shoved out the door.”
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Still, this announcement of increased enforcement is an expensive and meaningless gesture at best. You can put 50 million agents on the border and it won't make a difference.
If that seems ludicrous to you, you may not know the names Ignacio Ramos, Jose Compean or Gilmer Hernandez. To be fair there's some controversy on the case of Border Agents Ramos and Compean. Read the details of the case and decide for yourself. What is not controversial is that they were given 10 years too harsh a sentence for their alleged wrongdoing, as the prosecutor applied a federal law meant to curb criminal, not law enforcement, use of firearms. The statute, intended to penalize criminals carrying or using firearms in a crime, could not reasonably be thought to be applicable to law enforcement, who are required to carry firearms as part of their employment. Gilmer Hernandez is not as well known, but there's no controversy in his case. He was wrongly convicted and imprisoned. That's right, prosecutors for the Bush administration were imprisoning Border Patrol agents for doing their jobs if they could find any excuse to do so. The message was clear: you're on the border for show, but don't you dare enforce immigration law, or you'll end up in jail.
Maybe you hadn't heard of Ramos, Compean or Hernandez, but you can be absolutely sure every law enforcement officer going to the border has. Do you think any one of them is going to risk 12 years in Federal prison on trumped up charges to enforce policies lawful Americans (including legal immigrants) want but the government doesn't actually support? Add that to the fact the drug runners are often better armed than our agents and you have a real problem. Any agent wanting to return home to his or her family is going to avoid a confrontation that could kill them or land them in jail. They can't win without real government support, and they know it.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The U.S. currency tumbled 3.4 percent versus the euro on March 18, the biggest drop since the 16-nation currency’s 1999 debut, when the Fed unexpectedly announced at the end of its two-day policy meeting that it will buy up to $300 billion of Treasuries and increase its purchase of agency mortgage-backed securities, a policy known as quantitative easing.How low will the dollar go?
Friday, March 20, 2009
On Wednesday, our government did something crazy. The Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed) announced it would buy about $1 trillion in treasury bonds. But the Fed has no assets. It has no inherent value. Which means it is printing the money to do this. Basically, the dollar is now monopoly money.
Coupled with the facts that the CBO has announced that the deficit looks a lot worse than it did a little while ago (to the tune of $1 trillion), China is concerned about the US debt is not a good investment and the G20 is saying that the dollar is no longer a good reserve currency, it all points to a bad future for the dollar.
What's happening is that Bernanke is desperately fighting deflation by pumping tons of cash into the system. The problem is that when the underlying deflationary trend bottoms out, and inflation starts up again, we run the serious risk of hyperinflation. At that point, we'll have to suck tons of money back out of the economy, interest rates will go up, and investment will slow down. We'll run the real risk of a double-dip recession or even a full-on depression (with inflation, whee!), all because we can't take our medicine and deal with the real pain we need to absorb to get past the housing collapse.
Glenn Beck lays it out pretty clearly in this video:
But don't take my word for it, or Glenn's. Do your research, and get out of anything that's not of real intrinsic value.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
"This video was shot in the Sea of Cortez between Isla la Guardia and Bajia de los Angeles. While fishing we ran through a pod of several hundred dolphins. This is part of what we saw."
It's drawn some criticism, as indicated in the article linked here. Before I begin, let me say in fairness that the report doesn't suggest any single or even a few of the items mean someone is a terrorist or militia member.
Items include being a member of the Libertarian party of having voted for their candidate in the last presidential election. Um, since when is being a member of or voting for a third party an act of terrorism?
Another was that you believe the military has deployed troops in the U.S. in defiance of the Posse Comitatus Act. They haven't been deployed yet, but they're training for it, at least if you believe what you read in the Army Times. Then again, some people doing research for the government don't believe Posse Comitatus really restricts the government from using the military as a police force.
Also on the list is if some comments made by Barack Obama concern you. Specifically, this one:
"We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."Here's my original post on that comment.
Further, the report lists opposition to the U.N. as a danger sign.
Funny, I seem to ascribe to many of the items on the list, yet I do not believe in armed rebellion against the government, or in committing any act of terrorism. I'm dedicated to reform through education and persuasion.
Maybe Missouri needs to take another look at their report.
Another excellent commentary on this report may be found here.
The clip speaks for itself.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
AIG has been given, and largely wasted $163 billion in government assistance. Why do we care about $165 million in bonuses? Isn't Barney Frank the same person who declared billions of dollars in pork spending via earmarks irrelevant and something Americans don't care about while passing the swindleus bill?
We shouldn't be angry with AIG executives. Truth be told, I'd rather they have the $150 million than Barney Frank. I think they'll make better use of it.
This is Congress' fault, from beginning to end. There was a flap over executive pay in the 1990's. The result was that instead of straight pay, AIG executives are mostly paid in bonuses so that they can claim small salaries (evidently much lower than those at comparable organizations).
The mortgage situation was caused by Congress forcing looser lending rules. The current economy may be laid squarely at their feet.
With regard to AIG bonuses, Congress specifically authorized contractual bonuses for AIG executives if the contracts existed prior to February 2009 in the Swindleus bill. Thus, Congress is responsible for and was aware of the bonuses!
In the past few years, Congress has become very good at pointing to Presiden Bush and screaming, "It's his fault!" to cover their incompetence, waste and fraud. While Pres. Obama still talks about his "inherited situation" (tangent for Mr. Obama: you campaigned for it, you knew what you were getting into, stop whining--you said you could fix it, so get it done) Congress is stuck looking for new scapegoats so no one will examine their behavior.
Don't let them distract you with AIG executives getting a pittance of the money, your money, which Congress has wasted. Don't forget when election time comes for them. Oust them in favor of people who will actually represent you instead of bending you over the pork barrel.
Post Script: I have to laugh. After all the AIG nonsense and promised action by congress, Fannie Mae, a government-run organization, is reportedly about to pay out massive bonuses. Barney Frank, after an indignant act over AIG, has been in charge of overseeing Fannie Mae for years.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I brought this up several times last week in a 'would you vote for this law?' format. Unanimously people said that they would vote for a law like that if they got the chance. (unfortunately the court system would throw it out immediately).
But I've been thinking. Do you know what would work almost as good as rounding up the board of directors and burning their genitalia off with a blowtorch? Just stripping them of their assets. Maybe making them live in a midwest trailer park, subject to Cletus, and Myrna inviting them over for an afternoon of fried chicken and Nascar.
Oh, and also letting the companies that are failures - fail.
Citigroup, for example, should be allowed to fail if it can't make its bond payments. The shareholders should loose 100% of the value, and the existing bankruptcy laws should be activated to take this company completely apart. If the government steps in to do it in an orderly way fine. Tax dollars can be spent to hire the team that sells off the assets of Citigroup to other entities.
AIG? It should have to feel much more pain than it has been feeling.
In other words - I'm over the fascism. For now. Why can't we just enforce our existing laws?
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Instead of investigating Sheriff Joe Arpaio, why not do your job so he doesn't have to do it for you?
Accountants have their fingerprints on everything. At the facility I work at, the facilities department used to charge $.25 cents to vend a tampon in the restrooms. The logic behind this was that we wanted the supplies to be available for building occupants who needed them, but we didn't want people just taking them home, so there is a nominal per-tampon charge. The janitors would go around and collect the quarters about once per month. In all, the million plus square foot facility went through about $300 worth of tampons per year, and collected about $450 in revenue. The janitors would give the quarters to the facility manager a few times per year, who would turn them in for a cashiers check and deposit it back into his operating budget. Then the accountants came and wanted a bunch of signatures and chain of custody documentation to keep people from stealing the quarters. Not worth the effort. So the decision was made to give the tampons away for free. Now the building gives away about $1200 worth of tampons per year. Go accountants! You protect the american corporation! I am 100% sure that KPMG billed more than $1200 to 'solve' this gross lack of corporate accountability.
And Sarbanes Oxley is like that all over. Everyone has more work to do because of it. The tampon example is my favorite one, but I have several examples of accountants jumping over dollars to pick up nickels, and charging by the hour to do it.
Enron was a catastrophe. What happened there was evil. It should never have happened, and should never happen again.
In the law of Moses there is a distinction for judgments against blue collar crime, and white collar crime. It's a useful distinction, and rings true to me. For blue collar crime it's an eye for an eye. If you stole your neighbors cow, you had to give his cow back. If you killed your neighbors cow, you had to give him a new cow. But white collar crime was punished much more severely. If you were a cattle rustler, an organized group that stole a hundred cows... Then you had to repay 7 times what you stole. Seven hundred cows in this case. The damages were meant to be punitive. Organized crime's penalties were mean to be much harsher because organized crime hurts the victims more. If you were a white collar criminal under the law of Moses, and were caught - you were finished. Out of business. Kaput.
That's how it should be.
What I'm about to propose will sound fascist. And it is. It may sound cruel and unusal. It is not.
I've thought long and hard about it. And I think its the right course of action. I also think you'll agree with me that if there is ever a meltdown like Enron, ever again, the entire board of directors of the offending company should be stripped of all their personal assets, taken to time square, stripped of all their clothing, tied up and their balls burned off with a blowtorch.
That is exactly what should happen to Bernie Madoff. He should be stripped of all his assets, taken to time square, stripped of all his clothing, and his balls should be burned off with a blowtorch.
And thats it. No jail time. No additional regulations on the rest of us. No Sarbanes Oxley forcing multinational corporations to track the chain of custody on a $.25 cent tampon. Just swift justice that is harsh enough that when some greedy sonofabitch decides to play fast and loose with the financial system, he (or in the case of a she we'll have to think up something equally harsh) will think twice.
If this went out for a referendum... how many people do you think would vote for it? I honestly think we could get the votes if it were decided that way.
Update - Here's a similar line of thought having to do with sex offenders. It's in the same ballpark so I'm linking to it here. Please follow the link it is so worth your time.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
What's Prop 1A? As part of the legislature's work on the CA budget, they passed 1A onto the ballot. Republicans cheer about the fact that it has a spending cap on it (though the cap is based on average revenue--that is, the legislature can spend more if it taxes more). What they're not telling you is that it also extends for 2 years the increase in the state sales tax and income tax. The estimated additional taxes are $20 Billion.
Yep, that's right. The legislature passed it, the governor signed it, and the judges said A-OK, even though the wording of the summary doesn't mention the single most important part of the prop, its huge additional tax burden on the average family (which you can estimate for your own family here).
In my opinion, this signals the complete collapse of legitimacy of the CA government. Of course, it doesn't matter what I think. However, if I saw counties secede from the state and join a neighbor, I certainly wouldn't be able to think of a reason that it wouldn't be justified.
First, remember that Gray Davis was recalled after giving away huge swaths of the budget to public union members (especially the prison guard union). Then, he signed an executive order to triple the VLF (vehicle license fee, or "car tax"). That was to close the budget gap created by government, because even though the tax revenue grew nearly every year, CA spending grew even faster.
Arnold Schwarzenegger ran to replace Davis saying he wanted to fix government. Famously he said in his first "state of the state address,"
Upon taking office, he restored the VLF to the rate before Davis raised it. He set out to have the budget reviewed. But then he didn't follow through:
Every governor proposes moving boxes around to reorganize government.
I don’t want to move boxes around; I want to blow them up.
The fruit of these explosions was delivered in 2005 - in the California Performance Review, a blow-up-the-boxes-blueprint for government reform detailing some $32 billion in savings. (Doesn’t that sound good right about now?) It scrutinized more than 300 state boards and commissions and recommended axing 88 of them.In a complete collapse of his promise to structurally fix the budget, he even appointed his friends to new positions on the useless boards his study said to axe. Cushy jobs that are rewards (using our tax money) for doing what the Governor wants.
Yet nearly four years - and many crippling budget crises - later, there’s little to show for it. “Not only did these recommendations fall on deaf ears,” outgoing state Rep. Todd Spitzer recently told The Watchdog, “but since this report was released, state government has dramatically grown. In fact, since the Governor took office, the state has added nearly 700,000 jobs.”
In fact, under Schwarzenegger, the budget has grown much faster than population + inflation--even faster than under Davis. He has repeatedly used the claim of "fixing the budget" to borrow, paper over, and generally not fix the budget, but make it look like we were living within our means. In fact, government spending in CA has doubled in 10 years. Take a minute to think about that.
All of this borrowing, and the budget problems, the bond rating of California was downgraded to the lowest of all the states. Which means that when California borrows a dollar, it's very expensive.
On December 18, 2008, the state legislature violated the state constitution. They passed a budget which raised taxes without the requisite 2/3 majority. They instead reworked taxes and fees (in supposedly a "revenue-neutral" way) and then raised fees to have a total net increase in income (watch Karen Bass--the Assembly speaker--try to justify it here). After calling it illegal, Schwarzenegger vetoed it (though that veto was in doubt for a few days).
Finally, the budget actually passed relied on calling a "reduction of planned increases" in the budget as "cuts," borrowing more money, and raising taxes. And of course, the Republicans in the legislature conspired to pass the tax increases, even though nearly all of them signed anti-tax pledges just before the elections last November. The raised taxes include the income and sales taxes (even though CA already has the highest rate for both in the entire nation).
The irony of course is that one of the tax increases includes...a doubling of the VLF fee, the single biggest issue Schwarzenegger campaigned on against Davis.
Updated to add: one thing practically ignored in the whole budget issue is that the CA governor actually has line-item veto. He can remove or reduce any item in the budget, and from what I've seen, he's only used it for petty purposes.
The nation stood up to an amnesty bill for illegal aliens. We support a border fence, but more importantly, enforcement of existing laws to help prevent stories like this one.
I've written on this topic before, here and here.
With regard to this specific shooting, Germany has stricter gun control than anything found in the U.S., and they've suffered their own tragedy, almost simultaneously:
To date, the only method so far demonstrated to lessen the horror of these events is a quick response to end them. That generally involves lawful individuals shooting the criminal so he can't kill more innocents.
As seen at the right side of this blog:
"The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles." -Jeff Cooper, "The Art of the Rifle"
I've cited this before, but it bears repeating. One of the most notable quotations about gun control I've found comes from Germany's 2002 school shooting:
From the April 26, 2002 CNN article, “Mourning for victims of German school rampage”:
“The shooting came just hours before the German parliament approved a new bill tightening the country’s already strict gun controls.So note: “The danger is from illegal weapons, not legal ones, but boy we’re glad we strengthened our laws against legal firearms owners.”
“Germany already has strict laws governing the right to a gun, but experts say the country is awash with illegal weapons smuggled into the country from eastern Europe and the Balkans.
“People wanting to buy a hunting rifle must undergo checks that can last a year, while those wanting a gun for sport must be a member of a club and obtain a license from the police.
“Interior Minister Otto Schily said there was not much to be happy about on this day, but that he was glad the new tougher gun control legislation passed ‘with a broad majority in parliament.’
“‘The aim of law is to strengthen and to sharpen the (existing) laws,’ Schily said, but added the danger was from illegal weapons, not legal ones.”
It doesn't work. Let's save lives instead of passing feel good laws.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
When it comes to violating the 1st Amendment, I'm trying to think of how one could do it more blatantly than Connecticut is proposing.
I can't imagine this measure passing. If it does, I can't imagine it being upheld as Constitutional. If it is, I think I'm moving to Utah or maybe Texas.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
And seriously... the Republicans weren't exactly doing themselves any favors. Bush/Cheney weren't doing the public relations to explain their policies to the American people. Not worth their time. The republican voters shucked the qualified candidates aside for spurious reasons and ended up with everyone's second choice as the nominee. (Sorry McCain - I do like you, really I do)
I remember explaining to a bunch of Republicans why I would rather have Hillary than Obama. Oh, not Hillary! Yeah, but at least the Clintons balanced the budget once. And at least Bill Clinton went against the crazies in his party at least a couple times per year because they were, well crazy.
I remember telling a lot of my republican friends that it isn't going to be that bad. Obama is a smart guy. He's going to take the country in a direction I wouldn't take it, but he'll do some things only a Democrat could do (chill on marijuana, broker a compromise on gay marriage, similar to how Clinton was the only one who really could pass welfare reform).
But Obama is really really making me nervous. Here are a couple of links. John Reed thinks that Obama is deliberately trying to cause a great depression. Rush Limbaugh thinks the same thing.
Add my name to that list. The administration's actions have gone way beyond 'responding to a crisis'. You don't respond to a financial crisis by doing the things they are doing.
I've got a list of things that have led me to believe that Obama and company are doing this intentionally, but I'll leave that for the comments section. If you also think Obama is intentionally trying to give us Great Depression II add your name to the list in the comments section.
- Big Jay
The more we study it, the less making a twice-yearly change in our time seems worth the effort. Originally, it was thought DST would save energy, but more recent studies say it saves little to no energy at all. Like many government programs, it's not that it's actually helpful, it's just a habit.
Time changing is a habit it's time we break. The problem is that changing the time costs lives. People don't need their circadian rhythms altered twice a year, and most people don't get enough sleep to start with. We can get used to any time schedule as long as it's not changed on us regularly.
Arizona has the right idea with regard to this program: they don't do it. Give your legislator a break from the tough issues and suggest to them we either end DST or switch permanently to it.
Friday, March 6, 2009
See more pics and the recipe here.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
All of the Republicans in the state legislature are liars. Don't believe anything they say.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
It wasn't a Bush economy. It wasn't under-regulation. It was government intervention in the market. It spanned two presidencies and several congresses, with government control in the hands of both Democrat and Republican parties during that period.
Have a read, then ask yourself if you really want the government getting deeply involved in the mortgage industry again.