Sunday, May 31, 2009

GM: A warning for California and the U.S.

Tomorrow morning, General Motors is very likely to file bankruptcy. I'm so happy we poured tens of billions of taxpayer dollars into them to prevent something they have to do anyway. It turns out that if you have massive, unsustainable legacy costs, you can't just dump more money on the problem and hope those costs will disappear. You actually have to do something about the underlying problem.

A parallel comes to mind. It doesn't matter if we pour tens of billions of taxpayer dollars into California's sucking black hole of a government. We have massive, unsustainable legacy costs and continued irresponsible spending. We'll actually have to do something about them, not just pour more money on the problem and hope the costs disappear.

There's an obvious pattern here, so I'll continue it. The U.S. is now doing precisely the same things GM and California have done to end up in their current catastrophic economic situations. As a country, we need to finally stop spending and do something about our legacy costs, or we will eventually reach the inevitable result we'll see with GM tomorrow and with California in a matter of weeks or months. Oh, and about health care? It's really not as hard to solve as people like to claim it is.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Time To Short The US Dollar

I've held this opinion for a couple of months now, but the signs keep on piling up. I'm probably going to actually take some action on this with some actual money. So in the interests of coming back later and telling everyone I told you so, I just want to get this out there on the record.

Short the US Dollar RIGHT NOW.

Probably the ideal time to have done this was the day Barack Obama signed the stimulus (porkulus) bill into law. Back then everyone else in the world was fleeing to the dollar, or being forced to unwind their investments which forced the dollar back up.

My opinions line up exactly with the reccomendations of Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital. Buy international stocks, build up foreign currencies, or at the very least get an account with a currency trading firm and short the dollar. Buy the Yen, or the Euro, or the Canadian Dollar, or the Aussie. Or whatever. Get. Out. Of. Dollars.

Here are a couple of links that I highly reccomend you check out.

This first one is a blog I check everyday. Full of useful info.
www.calculatedriskblog.com

This second one is a story I found that calculated risk linked to and it turns out to be full of very good info.

Tim Duy's Fed Watch

Seriously. Click on the links. Check things out. Lots of good info.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor gets a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons

Mr. Obama's new Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor marks a new low in identity politics.

I don't care what gender or race someone is. I care how well they know the law, and if they'll make decisions based on solid legal principles and reasoning. That's all anybody should care about with regard to a Supreme Court Justice. We have dozens of ethnic groups in the U.S. We can't have a member of each on the Supreme Court, nor is diversity for the sake of diversity the right way to fill a court vacancy. Any good justice is capable of rendering quality legal decisions for the entire U.S. without respect to gender or race.

In fact, they're required to do so. According to Title 28, Chapter I, Part 453 of the United States Code, each Supreme Court Justice takes the following oath:

"I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [TITLE] under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.'' [Emphasis mine.]

I do not understand why people are so eager to continue the Balkanization of the United States, but I hope my generation does a better job of looking beyond skin color to a person's character instead of continuing to stomp on Martin Luther King's dream.

What's especially repugnant about the media's fixation about what color Ms. Sotomayor's skin is and whether she has ova or testes is that they're not reporting that she's really not all that qualified.

Follow up: Thomas Sowell, like many others, agrees.
2nd Follow up: Sotomayor believes individual gun ownership is illegal and protected by the 2nd Amendment.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering the Fallen

This is what Memorial Day looks like at the Veterans' Cemetery in Chico, California.



I went there to pay my respects generally to the men and women who have given their lives to protect the freedoms and lives of my family and my country.

I also went to specifically visit the grave of Matthew "Axe" Axelson, who was a member of SEAL Team 10 and who died in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wing, documented in Marcus Luttrell's excellent book, Lone Survivor. Marcus was the eponymous survivor of the operation, and covers not only the mission, but gives an account of the training of the SEALs.

My daughter was too emotional to go, but she and her sister made a small bouquet that I placed on Axelson's grave. I found myself more emotional than I expected when the time came. My timing was fortuitous enough that I heard the end of the general memorial, saw the 21-gun salute and heard a boy scout play Taps.

We should all be grateful for all of the sacrifice and character of such men.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mexican Drug War Officially has Beachhead in the United States

The Houston Chronicle reports that the Zetas (a branch of a cartel) have their own ranch for training in the US to fight against their competitors here.
The FBI is advising law enforcement officers across the country that a Texas cell of Los Zetas — an increasingly powerful arm of the Mexican Gulf Cartel drug trafficking syndicate — has acquired a secluded ranch where it trains its members to “neutralize” competitors in the United States.

In order to ensure its share of the lucrative illegal drug trade, the cartel’s members reportedly are operating north of the border to collect debts and spy on competitors. They have also protected cocaine and heroin shipments that were bound for Houston, where they were repackaged and shipped on to Alabama, Delaware, Georgia and Michigan, according to the FBI.
And that's the news...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Deflation Over 12 Months

Here's the updated CPI (the press release for April just dropped this morning).

MonthMonthly
Inflation
Rate
Annual
Inflation
Rate
May 2008 0.84% 0.34%
June 2008 1.01% 0.41%
July 2008 0.53% 0.46%
August 2008 -0.40% 0.44%
September 2008 -0.14% 0.40%
October 2008 -1.01% 0.30%
November 2008 -1.92% 0.09%
December 2008 -1.03% 0.01%
January 2009 0.44% 0.01%
February 2009 0.50% 0.02%
March 2009 0.24% -0.03%
April 2009 -0.22% -0.10%

We haven't seen annual deflation for 50 years. It is the greatest fear of the money people at the Fed.

Now is the time to be turning cash into hard assets. Food, gold, property, etc. We are in a window now where your money will buy good deals, so use it wisely folks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Nancy Pelosi is a liar

Nancy Pelosi has had a lovely time trying to cover her behind on the subject of what she knew and when she knew it with regard to enhanced interrogation techniques.

After engaging in several lies, then some serious backpedaling, she's decided to go with what is still clearly a whopper: in 2002, the CIA failed to brief her about waterboarding already in use against al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. It defies all reason to believe that the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, usually privy to the same information the President of the United States has, was not fully informed.

Worse yet, her fellow Democrats have circled the wagons and are saying the CIA may have violated the law by not informing her. They're talking about changing the law to be able to punish the CIA for "misleading" members of Congress.

Politicians are evidently so used to getting away with lying that they think they can engage in this without consequences. In this case, their lies have consequences no matter what ends up happening.

Let's say the Democrats successfully cover Nancy's bony butt on this one. The CIA's morale and ability to do its job will suffer. Agents will be jumping ship faster than the Border Patrol Agents are abandoning their jobs, or California taxpayers and businesses are fleeing their state. Our ability to defend our nation will be severely impaired so one worthless politician can pretend she didn't know about waterboarding.

I prefer the results if Nancy Pelosi is called out and demonstrated to be prevaricating. She'll likely lose her post, and if we're really lucky, her next election.

Which is better for the nation?

The most galling part of all this is that all Speaker Pelosi had to do is say, "Yes, I knew this was taking place. It was immediately after September 11th. I feared that drastic measures were necessary to protect our nation. Think back to how you felt right after the towers fell. I've had a change of heart in the intervening years."

Even though that change of heart really is actually Ms. Pelosi being lead by the nose by constituent polls, I could actually almost respect a statement like that. The current drivel she's spouting throws a vital agency under he bus to save her own political career, once again demonstrating what she really cares about: herself.

Update: The CIA is clearly stating Pelosi was fully briefed. Make copies of your records, CIA, because when you turn them over to Congress, this bunch will probably shred them, burn them, and continue to pretend Pelosi is an angel.

ReasonTV Bids "Hasta La Vista" to Arnold

ReasonTV has a send up of the governator and a review of how the CA budget got where it is. Well worth sharing:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Schoolkids' Biggest Threat: Teachers

I write this in all seriousness. There are great teachers out there, but I now believe they're in the minority.

The LA Times is currently running a series called "Failure Gets a Pass."

Not only is it nearly impossible to fire a teacher, but while they're waiting around many of them are "housed" -- out of the classroom to protect students -- being paid their full salary while the appeals process goes through, sometimes taking years.

You'd think if the issue were more serious than simply bad teaching performance, it'd be easy to get rid of them. You'd be wrong. Even when a teacher molests a student, they can be moved to another school, turning another classroom into potential victims.

Of course, every time there's a budget cut, the new teachers get cut first, even though they're often the most energetic (and because they're the lowest wage it takes more of them to equal the cost of fewer senior teachers). This policy, and the maze-like dismissal process are a direct result of the teachers union. And it's the teachers who are responsible for this union.

'Empathy' Versus Law

Thomas Sowell has a great series of articles about the importance of keeping justice blind.
That President Obama has made "empathy" with certain groups one of his criteria for choosing a Supreme Court nominee is a dangerous sign of how much further the Supreme Court may be pushed away from the rule of law and toward even more arbitrary judicial edicts to advance the agenda of the left and set it in legal concrete, immune from the democratic process.

Would you want to go into court to appear before a judge with "empathy" for groups A, B and C, if you were a member of groups X, Y or Z? Nothing could be further from the rule of law. That would be bad news, even in a traffic court, much less in a court that has the last word on your rights under the Constitution of the United States.

Appoint enough Supreme Court justices with "empathy" for particular groups and you would have, for all practical purposes, repealed the 14th Amendment, which guarantees "equal protection of the laws" for all Americans.
Read all four parts:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

How Many People Have Your Lightbulbs Poisoned?

I'm done buying CFL light bulbs. In addition to the fact that they cost more, are shipped over from China (thus killing jobs in the USA) and don't work with dimmers, they're also poisoning the workers making them:
Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs. A surge in foreign demand, set off by a European Union directive making these bulbs compulsory within three years, has also led to the reopening of mercury mines that have ruined the environment.

The Bell Tolls For Thee

This is a post by a real estate guru / libertarian mensch John T. Reed. I am quoting the entire post here, but please note that the title is a link back to the original post, as well as all the quoted text is a link back to John T. Reed's headline news page where I first read this. I highly recommend perusing some of his other articles on the site, it is food for thought. For example his article on why we should bring back the draft changed my mind on the issue.

But this article "Kids and grand kids my ass" so completely and thoroughly resonated with me I have wanted to talk to people about it ever since I read it a few weeks back. I wanted to go all Jerry Maguire and print out a copy and put it in everybody's mailbox at work. I wanted to invite friends over and discuss it over tea.

Here it is.

Editor's note: Mr. Reed has asked that we not post the full text of the article here, but it is worth your time to read.

http://johntreed.com/grandkids.html

Monday, May 11, 2009

Grading the Stimulus

Back in January, the incoming Obama administration was pushing the stimulus plan. They said that the results would be dire if the stimulus didn't pass. They even gave us this handy graph to compare what unemployment would be like with or without the stimulus:

As you can see, the prediction with the stimulus was that unemployment would top off at 8% and then gradually fall. Without the stimulus, unemployment would rocket to to the crippling level of 9% by Q1 2010, then gradually fall to be the, um, same as the alternative by 2014 (which means that this massive debt Obama is incurring is to save 1% unemployment for a couple of years).

Now the April unemployment numbers are in, and we can do some comparing:
Yay! Current unemployment is 8.9% and would have been nearly 9% if you don't count the 66,000 temporary employees added to federal payroll for the 2010 census and the 6,000 employees added to local and state governments.

So our current economy has now reached a point worse than where the Obama team predicted we would ever be if the stimulus didn't pass. Oh, and we've added huge amounts of debt and the debt will only get worse.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Freedom from Offense?

Well, here's an Orwellian bit of legislation. H.R. 1966 would evidently make offending anyone on the internet a felony. What's wrong with that?

Well, the big problem is that it's in direct opposition to the 1st Amendment. There is no right to freedom from offense. If we're going to go that route, maybe we should just allow Canada to annex us and get it over with.

Nobody seems to get that the 1st Amendment isn't there to protect what we want to hear. Things that don't challenge us don't need protecting. Thus, it exists to protect offensive speech. The stuff that makes you think, even if it's a bit hard to hear.

Eliminate that, and you eliminate real political debate, which I believe is the real goal. 20th Century Progressives like Woodrow Wilson are simply fascists (don't believe it? Check out the Sedition Act of 1918).

A softer approach with a big red heart (or is it a star?) and a smiley on it doesn't change the fact that it's shutting down real freedom of speech.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nullification of Federal Law and States' Rights

I've mentioned these stories tangentially below, but they deserve their own post. Montana has already passed a law, and Utah and Tennessee are considering following suit, that has great importance. The stores are here and here.

The issue is guns and gun control, but the laws have broader implications. Much broader. First, specifically, these laws make "guns that are made and kept within state boundaries exempt from federal regulations. That means they're exempt from things like background checks, licensing and registration." (First story above.) In effect, Montana is choosing to nullify Federal law with regard to firearms. I hope Utah and Tennessee really do pass similar laws.

The broader implication is that we may soon be fighting civil war fought not with firearms but with legislation. Nullification of Federal law within state borders would result in a reassertion of States' Rights, a concept enshrined in the 10th Amendment. When the 10th Amendment is active, the 9th is usually respected as well, since State legislatures are very directly dependent on their constituencies.

How will the Federal government fight this blow to their power? They'll try to use interstate commerce, which they regulate under the Constitution. The pretext used in the past will be that because people in Montana are buying fewer guns from other states, they're affecting interstate commerce, and thus the Federal government can step in and regulate even guns made in Montana for use only in Montana. Yes, that pretext is just as stupid and ridiculous as it sounds, so we need to fight it as hard as possible. When it arises, we need to call, write, and otherwise bombard our representatives with communications that we support Montana's law and do not support Federal attempts to undermine it.

If this is done with respect to firearms and eventually on other matters, we have the chance to once again become a Republic worthy of the respect of Jeffersonian Libertarians.

How Joe Arpaio deals with Blackmail

Al Sharpton (I reject his title as reverend--he's not a spiritual leader no matter how, where or what he studed in college) has made a living of whoring himself to the media in order to build enough attention to blackmail public figures he doesn't like. He doesn't seem to have any actual interest in advancing the rights of African Americans, and most of them seem to be aware of it, and reject him as any sort of leader.

Al Sharpton has been making noises about protesting Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his department's enforcement of immigration law. Fortunately, Sheriff Arpaio seems to know how to deal with a blackmailer. See his response to Sharpton here or read on:

Photobucket
Photobucket

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chuck DeVore's Idiocy

California State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R, Irvine) has incited my ire today. He made some less than impressive comments with regard to legalization of marijuana in this Sacramento Bee article.
"Studies have shown there is impairment with marijuana use. People can get paranoid, can lose some of their initiative to work, and we don't live in some idealized libertarian society where every person is responsible completely to himself. We live in a society where the cost of your poor decisions are borne by your fellow taxpayers."
(Above emphasis mine). It is true that our current society is not libertarian. In this quotation, he seems to get what libertarianism is in practice: you take responsibility entirely for yourself, and don't expect society to take care of you.

Then Mr. DeVore went on the Armstrong and Getty Program to clarify his comments today, as they spoke about those statements yesterday. Audio of the interview is available here.

He made an utter ass of himself with his take on libertarianism, indicating that "his libertarian friends" want to smoke doobies and have government pay for welfare, too.

I can't stand politicians who pretend to know what they're talking about while demonstrating they don't, and who pretend to have friends they clearly don't.

I shared my displeasure with the Assemblyman and also Armstrong and Getty:
Hearing Chuck DeVore's comments in interview simply enraged me. He's confused libertarian with libertine or liberal.

As a libertarian, I don't want to get welfare and smoke a doobie. I don't smoke marijuana at all, and never have. I don't even drink. I am not and have never been on welfare, and believe it should be pared down to a minimalist level. A complete libertarian would say welfare shouldn't exist at all.

He indicated libertarians aren't interested in taking responsibility for, or living with the consequences of their actions. Nothing could be further from the truth. We believe that government should never relieve anyone of their personal responsibilities, nor should it save anyone from the consequences of their own actions.

Stupid should hurt.
Let's also address Mr. DeVore's original comments. In his comments and interview, he indicated that our society isn't ready for libertarian principles. Though I disagree, that's not really the heart of the issue. The government isn't ready to relinquish the power it assumes through nanny laws.

Let's be honest: except for statistically rare exceptions, people rise to the level of performance and behavior that is expected of them. People are capable of personal responsibility and self-reliance.

Further, given that this country was founded in the ideology now called libertarianism, and continued therein for many years, there's no reason to believe we can't return to our roots.

The only thing standing in our way is the will and education to do it. Everyone needs to be able to discuss the Constitution and what it means. Everyone should be aware of the philosophical underpinnings of our country. That's the required education.

Next we move to the legislative will. We can start with something small. Repeal the motorcycle helmet laws Mr. DeVore mentioned in his interview, and make it law that an emergency room does not have to treat injured motorcyclists who fail to carry insurance and wear a helmet. Note that you would have to engage in nullification of the Federal law that demands anyone showing up to an emergency room must be treated, but that's already being done in other States with regard to other issues (stories here, and here). This step says, "You may behave as you like, but YOU, not society, are responsible for the consequences of your actions." Treat people like adults, and they will act like it, or they will exit society in some fashion.

A child doesn't potty train if you never stop changing her diapers. It's much easier to have someone clean your mess up for you than deal with it yourself. The only problem is you end up sitting in your own filth for extended periods of time, and that's simply unpleasant and unhealthy. Yes, this is a graphic analogy for our current societal situation, which should be as utterly repugnant to any thinking adult as sitting in one's own feces.

We're moving from a guilt society to a shame society, and that's not good. What does that mean? My Greek Classics professor helped us understand Ancient Greek worldview by explaining they lived in a shame society. Individuals were often not terribly moral. They were afraid of shame. So, anything they could get away with for their own advantage, they did, so long as no one was looking. If they got caught, they paid the penalty of societal shame, but that was the only motivation not to do wrong.

Throughout the early history of U.S. society, and in libertarian society, people function on a guilt model. That is, your own individual moral compass guides you. You don't need to be caught to avoid doing wrong, because your conscience rejects the idea.

It doesn't take a genius to determine which model creates a more orderly and responsible society or which society is superior at maintaining and expanding civilization.

Today, we are legislating all behavior, creating an attitude of, "It's fine for me to do this if it's not illegal," and worse, "It's fine for me to do this even if it's illegal, so long as I am not caught." This legal/illegal societal outlook is, functionally, a shame society, or a step backwards for civilization.

The advantage this new shame society provides for government is power, since people are used to an accept regulation of all aspects of their lives. The advantage it provides for people is that they may shirk responsibility and ask the rest of society to bear the consequences of their actions for them. In short, in a shame society such as we're building, you never have to grow up and potty train.

So, Mr. DeVore, I reject your asinine bleating about how we don't have an idealized libertarian society. Our society's decline is in large measure your fault, most recently demonstrated by your corrupt involvement with the farcical budget process that highlighted the illegitimacy of the California State government. We can take steps toward implementing practical libertarian philosophy right now that will at least move us in the right direction. All you have to do is grow a pair of political gonads and stand up for what you claim to believe in.

Catching up on Attorney Andrew McCarthy

If you haven't been following Andrew McCarthy's recent interactions with the Department of Justice, catching up is well worth a few moments of your time.

Andrew McCarthy is a lawyer who has served for a quarter century as an assistant U.S. attorney and a deputy U.S. marshal. In his own words: "I’ve always believed enforcing our laws and defending our nation are duties of citizenship, not ideology. My conservative political views aside, I regularly make myself available to liberal and conservative groups, to Democrats and Republicans, if they think tapping my national-security or law-enforcement experience would be beneficial." (Source given below)

Recently, Mr. McCarthy was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion to assist the President’s Detention Policy Task Force. He declined with honest regret for two reasons:

1. President Obama and Attorney General Holder have created an untenable situation for lawyers asked to advise the government on policy matters.

2. The exercise known as the “President’s Detention Policy Task Force” is a farce.

This is worth your time to read. Here's his column explaining his decision. Here's his actual letter to Attorney General Holder.

Oh, and he also takes on the Justice Department's hypocritical position on torture in this column, which is also worth your time.

In essence, nothing substantive has actually changed with regard to torture. The current administration would just like you to believe it has, since much ado was made during the campaign about how wrong enhanced interrogation is. Note that even while denouncing it, Pres. Obama has carefully left a loophole so that enhanced interrogation may be used if absolutely necessary. (NPR story here).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Libertarian Candy: Repealing the 16th Amendment

Today on the Glenn Beck program, Judge Andrew Napolitano spoke of something that can only be described as libertarian candy: repealing the 16th Amendment. The transcript is available here.

If you've read my prior posts, you know I don't think much of the 16th Amendment, or current income tax law. I don't believe the 16th Amendment should be permitted to trample the 4th or 6th Amendments. I believe Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution (relevant section) was deliberately designed to limit government power: "No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken."

I'm glad to hear there's a growing movement to do something about this problem. By the way, I think the Fair Tax should be implemented instead as a Constitutional source of revenue for necessary programs.

For a brief, cogent argument about why the 16th Amendment should be repealed, have a look at this essay.

Savage Banning

Talk Show host Michael Savage has been banned from travel to the U.K. because of his extremist views. I used to listen to Mr. Savage, because he's often entertaining and brings out some news stories that one might not hear elsewhere, but he's a bit ranty for me.

Why do I care? Well, many internationalists think we should follow Europe's lead in social law. Despite our 1st Amendment, we have political correctness which is a thinly-veiled attempt to shut down thought that opposes progressivism under the guise of politeness.

Benjamin Franklin commented on the freedom to express one's thoughts as a fundamental principle for any free country a half century before the 1st amendment was introduced:

"This sacred privilege is so essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own." The full letter is available here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

More on Global Cooling

While researchers are being careful to point out that Global Warming is going to make a quick comeback, they're admitting an oddly quiet sun may lead to Global Cooling. Huh. I thought human intervention was more important than any natural factor.

Then again, perhaps it's egotistical to think we can have more impact on warming with our tailpipes than our sun has.

As usual, I post this disclaimer: I believe in cleaner technologies (read my previous posts and you'll see). I just believe the human-caused global warming scare is both overblown and a front for a global socialist agenda, which is given in more detail in previous posts.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

California Special Election voting guide

This special election guide will be short and easy. The people who like high taxes in California are hitting the advertisement trail hard in preparation for the upcoming special election, and we need to counter their efforts.

My recommendation? Vote no on California propositions 1A-1D. Why? They're the solutions proposed by a crooked legislature to screw Californians out of more money. They've tried to mislead voters at every stage of this process.

If you're unsure about anything else, please vote no on Proposition 1A. Let the California government know they can't trick you into voting for higher taxes over a longer period of time, no matter what they call the prop or how they try to sell it. The spending cap is fake, and won't stop their rampant buying spree. Only running out of money will do that.

Prop 1F looks like fun. I'm all for expressing my disapproval to the legislature, and suggest voting yes on 1F.