Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One More Illustration of Obama's Idea of Savings

Heh. Here's another visualization of the $100M budget reductions Obama wants to find (not so he can cut the budget mind you, but so he can allocate it to other programs).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obama's 100 Days in Charts

Looking at the spending coming out of Washington, I think of two charts that sum it up. The first came from the Washington Post, about deficit spending under Bush vs. Obama's proposed budget:

The next put in context Obama's pledge cut $100 Million from the federal budget in context (the area of each circle is proportional to the amount of money listed):

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tracking the Swine Flu

Interesting ramifications with the whole swine flu, even if there are no deaths in the US. To keep track of it, you can use this handy google map:

View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Thought on the Redistributon of Income

"One of the reasons some people today feel alienated is that they are alienated from one of the great satisfactions of life--work! Acknowledged is our need to help the poor, but to help in a way that is truly helpful. The more we institutionalize our efforts to help the poor, the less personal these efforts become. The dole desensitizes both the giver and the receiver and it pushes people apart." --Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward, 1977

Friday, April 24, 2009

The FDIC is Bankrupt

The financial crisis has been very confusing for a lot of people. One of the websites I frequent has recently posted a possible explanation for the insanity - The FDIC is totally insolvent, and the bailout is all about covering it up.

Here is the quote (obviously speculation at this point):

We trusted FDIC insured accounts and CDs with our savings. The highly-leveraged banks gambled those savings on subprime mortgages combined with insurance against default in the form of credit default swaps and such.
The flood of money into the subprime market dramatically increased the values of properties above sustainable levels—a bubble. Inevitably, the bubble burst. The insurance that raised junk mortgages to AAA credit ratings worked in theory, but not in practice, for various reasons that have yet to be disclosed—probably technical stuff like overly thin markets, everybody depending on everyone else to do due diligence, basis risk, and so on.
Now, the amount of FDIC-insured deposits that were lost exceed by far the amount the FDIC can cover with its cash and credit lines.
The politicians have decided we cannot be trusted with that information. If we knew, we would have a nationwide run on every bank. The federal government would have only one option: to print money. That, in turn, would trigger hyperinflation for which the politicians would be blamed and thrown out of office. So instead, they are hoping against hope that a recovery will happen and the home values will go back up enough that the run never happens.
Unfortunately, instead of policies likely to cause a recovery—Reaganesque tax cuts, pro-enterpreneur law changes, drilling, and Ebeneezer Scrooge-esque government spending cuts—we are wasting money with pork, earmarks, union boosting, cap and trade, and free health care for everyone.

Big Jay here again. I had previously considered the possibility that the FDIC doesn't have the reserves to cover for all the potential defaults. Why wouldn't they just come out and say that? Wipe out the shareholders. Wipe out the bondholders. Use the TARP money to cover depositors.

But maybe that information - The FDIC being insolvent - would be too much for the markets to handle. What do you guys think?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Obama Repeats the Gun Lie in Mexico

For several weeks, members of Obama's administration have been repeating the lie that 90% of guns recovered from crimes in Mexico come from America. Now Obama himself joins in that lie:

This war is being waged with guns purchased not here, but in the United States. More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that line our shared border.
This was shown to be false back on April 2:

In 2007-2008, according to ATF Special Agent William Newell, Mexico submitted 11,000 guns to the ATF for tracing. Close to 6,000 were successfully traced -- and of those, 90 percent -- 5,114 to be exact, according to testimony in Congress by William Hoover -- were found to have come from the U.S.

But in those same two years, according to the Mexican government, 29,000 guns were recovered at crime scenes.

In other words, 68 percent of the guns that were recovered were never submitted for tracing. And when you weed out the roughly 6,000 guns that could not be traced from the remaining 32 percent, it means 83 percent of the guns found at crime scenes in Mexico could not be traced to the U.S.

Here's a video recap of that story:

This is irresponsible, and as shown in the press conference in Mexico, it's being used as a statistic to support more restrictive gun bans (which don't work).

What the administration doesn't tell you is that the real assault weapons (military weapons that fire more than one bullet when you squeeze the trigger) most likely came from our government. We supplied the mexican government with training and weapons, but members of the mexican military defected from drug enforcement to drug trafficking. Other sources include Central and South America.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

When did Christina Romer change her tune?

This is an interesting article. It would appear prior to her current position, Christina Romer considered tax cuts to be very beneficial to a troubled economy, even using Keynesian theory.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Parties

Today was a day of tea parties. I hope the government recognizes that we're not just upset about taxation, but also (and more importantly) about spending, because it's out of control.

I heard someone say that we are all happy to pay taxes. Well, I'm not. I would be if they were properly levied and used well, but they're not, so I'm not. The Constitution provides for excise taxes. That's all we should have. The 16th Amendment was an accidental result of congressional brinkmanship, the legislative equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis if both sides had launched nukes.

Excise taxes, by the way, are a brilliant solution that make sure the Federal government can't grow too large or extend its power too far.

To use a restaurant parable, think of sitting down to dinner, having a lovely time, and then getting the bill, which turns out to be much higher than you anticipated. Politely asking why that's the case, you're told you're helping to pay for the dinner of the diner at the next table, who's just not able to cover his family's tab.

You can accept that, though you'd have liked to have been asked before it was assumed you'd pay. Then the impecunious diner happily invites people from off the street to join him at your expense, and the restaurant threatens you with jail time if you don't continue to pay the bill. That's where we are now.

What would help change the situation?

1. Taxes must be visible. No more withholding. A fair tax model is the best, most Constitutional solution, but I'd be content with a flat tax.

2. Everyone must have a stake. It doesn't matter if you can't pay much, but you can't pay nothing. That way, when tax money is misused, everyone is outraged together.

3. We can't keep using taxpayer resources on people who aren't entitled to services. If we had unlimited resources, I'd want to take care of the entire planet. We don't have unlimited resources, we never will, and we can't keep pretending we do.

I've also heard some people, and seen some coverage, indicating these tea parties were partisan. They weren't. Many people of varying ideological backgrounds attended.

Conservatives are ticked at the taxing and spending.

Liberals are ticked at the way taxes are being used.

Here's an example of unacceptable spending policies in California.

Let's say you're a hypothetical person who is fine with really high taxes. Aren't you at least a little angry that a legislature has seen fit to cut disability payments before any serious layoff of state workers, or cuts to pork projects? I don't care how liberal you are, that's just ridiculous.

We're doing similar things at the Federal level, and it's likely your state is, too. Want to be sure? Have a look here, at Citizens Against Government Waste.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Truth about Semi-Automatic Firearms

I had a discussion today that made me realize some things that I think of as basic aren't necessarily common knowledge. This video is a police instructor demonstrating the operation of an automatic assault rifle and semi-automatic rifles, and how a lot of news reports are very inaccurate with regard to the difference.

If you know more about firearms, at about 6 minutes he does a nice demonstration of how ridiculous features bans like California's are. In this case, he starts with a firearm that would be completely legal in California, and by changing accessories, ends with a firearm that has unchanged working parts, but would violate the California features ban. This video is a bit older, so you may not get the Stockton reference (if not, it's not important to the information presented).

Why I don't want to see a revolution

I'm all for States rights. I'm glad Texas is standing up for itself, and I hope other states follow suit.

I don't want to see a revolution, though. It's not the usual, "What is your pistol going to do against a tank or F-18 fighter?" I have answers, actually, but more importantly, I think the military is very likely to hold its oath to uphold the Constitution in higher regard than any obligation to support politicians violating the Constitution.

My worry is that there's no way we could do it well. There are some massive differences between the citizenry today and the citizenry in the 1770's. The colonists in the 1700's were largely literate through reading of the Bible. While I don't think you have to be a Bible reader to make a good citizen, that means they were steeped in the Judeo-Christian traditions that included personal responsibility, moral accountability, and solving societal problems at the lowest possible organizational unit of society. Much like early Anglo-Saxon government, the Jewish tradition was to take disputes to the leader of a family first, small community next, group of communities next, and anything that couldn't be solved at those levels would be solved by the nation, or representative of the nation. Nobody expected a President to step in and pay for their mortgage. That would have been unthinkable and repugnant. After the Constitution was established, common people discussed it in every day language so regularly that Alexis de Tocqueville remarked on it in his works. Despite a lack of public education in the early United States, the people were nevertheless educated about their rights and government.

Even more important was the nation's leadership. The founders of the nation and authors of the Constitution were well-educated in government theory from ancient Greek government to their present, and read philosophy. They recognized the need to carefully limit the rights and powers of government to prevent those in love with power from abusing the citizenry. They were careful to make the individual the source of all rights and powers, and the government subject to him, not vice versa. This was done based on a study of human nature, not some contemporary theory of government of the 1700's.

I fear the people of the United States aren't well educated with regard to their Constitution and government. I fear leaders aren't enlightened, and don't understand the principles with which the founders were so well acquainted. In fact, the actions and statements of both bear out my fears.

We can't have another revolution, because we're not sufficiently educated and moral to reorganize the nation in as thoughtful a manner as the founders did. The violence wouldn't be limited to reformation, but would be directed generally at anyone the media didn't like.

There is legitimate concern that the government is working to suppress conservative thought through the Department of Homeland Security. That concern appears to be very valid. Even with the frightening specter of fascism (yes, it's a liberal phenomenon) looming, I still think revolution is a bad idea. This is something we must fix through conversation, organization, and voting.

The job won't be done with the tea parties that will take place tomorrow. Make sure to make friends, get contact information, and start discussion groups. Many citizens of the 1700's were self-educated. It's important for us to follow in their footsteps, and learn more about our founding, our Constitution and government theory so we can peacefully guide our nation back to the unique and very successful system the founders constructed.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Reviving Ni-Cad Batteries

Did you know you could do this? I didn't. Turns out when your Ni-Cad batteries for your tools get tired, there's a very good chance you can revive them.

Here's the video from Instructables. Go to the site for detailed instructions.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Controversial Bow

Lately there's been some controversy about whether President Obama bowed to a foreign monarch. Here's the video, and the discussion will follow.

Yup, that's clearly a bow. What's the problem with that? The President of the United States does not bow to a monarch, and we haven't done so since we told King George III where he could shove his taxes.

I'm not particularly bothered by President Obama's bow, however. The gesture of subservience is a refreshingly honest display of our true relationship with the Saudis, who fund Wahabism throughout the world (including in the U.S.), training people to hate and want to kill people who are not Muslim Fundamentalists. You know, people like you and me.

If this open demonstration of our complete slavery to Saudi oil bothers you, perhaps you'll agree we should do something about it.

Stop Spending Our Future

Elizabeth Warren on TARP

If you know me, you know that I have a lot of respect for this woman. Watch these videos, they are less than 8 minutes each. If you're paying attention you'll notice that in a very polite, civil way Elizabeth Warren is taking congress out to the woodshed.

Get a brain congress.

Here is Elizabeth Warren's April report:

Elizabeth Warren on regulatory reform:

Elizabeth Warren on Foreclosures:

Elizabeth Warren's first report:

The Second Report

Report on Valuation

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

RIP: Little Green Footballs

Little Green Footballs is a blog I follow for news and opinion (I first encountered them when they showed how faked documents purporting to be about George W. Bush were indeed fake). However, they're no longer a viable source. They continue to bash Glenn Beck without actually addressing the substance of his comments.

Then, in a despicable display, they closed accounts of people attempting to refute their weak logic, and even deleted the posts deemed not acceptable (see post #209). Two of those deleted posts were mine.

If someone can't take criticism, they aren't worth my time. Thus ends my interest in their blog.

Practical Libertarian Philosophy

I realized I've thrown around the word Libertarian, and many people have only the vaguest notion of what that might mean. In fact, I would have had as nebulous a concept as anyone just a few short years ago, and now I am a Practical Libertarian.

What is Libertarian Philosophy? Run a Google search and you'll find a lot on it, but the basis is freedom from initiation of force. That is, libertarians object to any coercion of others. As you might guess, this only really works in the moral society envisioned by the founders. In essence, each individual functions on principles of accountability, personal responsibility, and self-reliance. This philosophy rejects the "what is legal is okay, what is not isn't, unless you are not caught," legalistic society we've created in favor of what the founders envisioned, and what worked in our country for more than a century.

Personal freedom begins with ownership of your body and your time. Thus, libertarians reject slavery or forced labor. In a pure libertarian society, you wouldn't have police or jails. Misdeeds would be prevented by armed citizenry or punished with crippling civil suits backed by an inability to do business with anyone because no one finds the offender trustworthy. No compulsion, just natural consequences. I'll get to practical vs. pure shortly. In addition, taxes (ultimately enforced at gunpoint) would not be permissible, as they constitute a coercive theft of your time by government.

Pure libertarianism rejects restriction of movement, such as imposed by borders. This only functions if there are no government services for immigrants to take advantage of at the expense of taxpayers. The world would, in time, rise to equal levels of affluence because workers would seek the best employment conditions possible and employers, in order to maintain any workforce, would have to offer favorable conditions.

There would be no banned substances under pure libertarianism, but also no public help for addicts. Private charities would be welcome to help addicts and run recovery programs, but that wouldn't be a government function.

Personal property would be unfettered by government restrictions and codes. People seeking their own best interests would insist on private inspections of a contractor's work, ensuring stable and safe buildings. Similarly, as civil suits would result from injury, businesses would have to ensure a safe building in which to transact commerce.

Pure libertarianism demands a level of maturity rare in our present society.

Practical libertarianism admits all the governments of the world and their associated populations are unlikely to rise to the level of maturity demanded by pure libertarianism. It also recognizes the security limitations of pure libertarianism.

As a practical libertarian, I believe we do need police, FBI, borders and border patrol, etc. I recognize that defense of our country requires taxation, but insist that system be a fair, simple system, such as a flat tax or a fair tax. The fruits of tax revenues must be used only to benefit the lawful payers of those taxes, else taxation is robbery.

When considering if government has the right to do something, there's an easy analogy. Ask yourself if, in a small town, you would find it fair. If Bill has two horses gained by hard work, and Fred has none because he is lazy and chooses not to be industrious, would it be fair to take one of Bill's horses and give it to Fred? Of course not, and the assembled town hasn't any right to do so. How then do we justify the Federal Government's financial policies, under which more than 60% of spending is pure income redistribution?

I recognize that we must ban and punish some behaviors for the good of society, including murder, theft and robbery, and use of truly destructive and addictive substances. The question to be posed at every proposed law would be: "Does the cost to society in money and life justify this policy?" Thus, a marijuana ban isn't practical any more than a ban on tobacco and alcohol was early in the 20th century. (Note: I don't use marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco, and will teach my child not to.)

I believe that the original Constitution with the Bill of Rights and most of the amendments constitute practical libertarianism at its finest.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A relevant story on firearms ownership

Since the media is hammering us with idiots misusing firearms, I heard this story and thought I'd share it. The simple presentation of a firearm may have stopped an ongoing crime spree. Oh, and one of my favorites, a woman who had been raped and would have been raped a second time refused to be a victim and ended a serial rapist's awful crimes.

I've also noticed a distinct willingness of the media to overlook what they don't want to see. The criminal who shot three police officers in Pittsburgh is said to have been afraid Obama would take away his guns, and to have lost his job. Nobody mentioned he's also apparently a white supremacist--that is, a complete nutjob with violent tendencies to start with.

Criminals and crazies with guns are a horrible problem in our society. Lawful owners far outnumber them, often stop them, and shouldn't be penalized because of them.

By the way, you'll notice that after the high profile misuse of firearms stories peter out, as they always do, these defensive, appropriate use stories won't. They're just harder to find.

Should we indict CEO's for signing off on earnings?

Section 802(a) of the SOX, 18 U.S.C. § 1519 states:“ Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. ”

There are a lot of very guilty people here.

Like That Will Ever Happen -

Here is a quote from Elizabeth Warren, the chief watchdog of the TARP funds. "Firstly, the banks must have confidence that the valuation of the troubled assets in question is accurate; then the management of the institutions receiving subsidies from the government must be replaced; and thirdly, the equity investors are always wiped out."

So far I see none of those things happening. And before anyone asks - yes, I am totally uncomfortable with the government removing CEO's from their positions of leadership within a private company. I am more uncomfortable with taxpayer money being involved in the first place.

And as for equity investors being wiped out.... I'm still waiting to see that happen. For that matter, the bondholders shouldn't be very comfortable either. (That last link went to the Huffington post. I threw up just a little bit putting that link in there, but I agree with it)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ronald Reagan's 1964 Speech, "A Time For Choosing"

It never ceases to amaze me how an old speech can so handily address the issues we face today, four and a half decades after it was given. If you have a few moments, this is worth a listen.