28 February 2009

Democratic Party Factions

The Democratic Party Could Face an Internal Civil War

Broadly speaking, there is a long-standing conflict inside the Democratic Party between gentry liberals and populists. This division is not the same as in the 1960s, when the major conflicts revolved around culture and race as well as on foreign policy. Today the emerging fault-lines follow mostly regional, geographical and, most importantly, class differences.

Gentry liberals cluster largely in cities, wealthy suburbs and college towns. They include disproportionately those with graduate educations and people living on the coasts. Populists tend to be located more in middle- and working-class suburbs, the Great Plains and industrial Midwest. They include a wider spectrum of Americans, including many whose political views are somewhat changeable and less subject to ideological rigor.

The Non-Pullout

OBAMA'S PHONY PULLOUT

President Obama went to Camp Lejeune. He spoke in front of US Marines, but his real audience was his left-wing campaign supporters. And his carefully worded speech - its parsing of language worthy of Bill Clinton - may go down in history as his "Mission Accomplished" moment. We'll see who leaves Iraq when.

During last year's presidential campaign, it was evident that Obama wouldn't keep his promises to his leftist base to pull our troops out rapidly. While he benefited greatly from the troop surge he opposed - which handed him a convalescent Iraq - he's learning that reality trumps rhetoric. Forcefully delivered, his speech to the Marines served up more waffles than the International House of Pancakes.

Will the 50,000 troops he intends to leave in Iraq, the trainers and maintainers, be forbidden to defend themselves? Are they just going to hang out? If terrorists or the Iranians skunk us, are we just going to ask for more?

The enemy gets a say, too. The situation on the ground will determine when combat operations end. Obama's just going to call them something else.

From the Modern Whig Party of Texas


The Modern Whig Party of Texas has added some state issues to the issues from the National Party.
Consistent with the Modern Whigs nationwide the new positions taken are moderate, realistic, and sound.

Go check them out.

Bank Nationalization and Corruption

Corruption and Bank Nationalization

Banks that are owned by governments will be run to benefit politicians.

As the federal government moves closer to nationalizing more of America's largest financial institutions, including Citigroup, it's time to recall the history of federal ownership of commercial banks.

It is not difficult to imagine the argument that, if taxpayers own a bank, its branches should serve all Americans and not be concentrated in certain states or neighborhoods.

Banks that are owned by governments will, very naturally, be run to benefit the politicians who serve as agents for the taxpayer-owners and who directly provide the funding and the oversight.

In the case of a nationalized bank, perhaps the politicians will not benefit personally, as they did with the House Bank--although, based on the track record of recent years, we can expect some chicanery of that sort. The main concern, however, is that the banks will be subject to management by political objective.

Deficit Financing Illustrated


Image is from Across the Street via Greg Mankiw's Blog, where I also found the following:
What is a deficit hawk to do?
The bottom line: If you are a deficit hawk who lamented the Bush budget deficits, the new administration's budget should not make you feel much better. President Obama will give us different fiscal priorities than President Bush did, but the borrowing and debt imposed on future generations will not be very different, at least if the numbers presented in the Obama administration's own budget document can be trusted.

A Government That Does Not Trust It's Law Abiding Citizens To Keep And Bear Arms Is Itself Unworthy Of Trust

A government that does not trust it's law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms is itself unworthy of trust. -- James Madison

There are lots of gun-control legislation coming out of Illinois. I find it interesting that a state with such corrupt politics doesn't trust it's citizens to own a gun. Governments that truly trust and represent the people have nothing to fear from honest gun owners.

Second Amendment Under Fire: Gun Ownership in the Obama Era
Legislation introduced in Illinois would require gun owners to buy $1 million in insurance — but no company offers that coverage.
Out of Illinois: The buzzards are circling, and they want to take your guns
It requires that all ammunition be encoded by the manufacturer and a database kept of all sales. They will now know what calibers and how much you buy from that point on. All privately held ammo would have to be destroyed, including hand-loaded ammo. They would also charge a five-cent tax on every round, making average costs of our plinking, hunting and homeowner protection ammunition skyrocket.
And it was Illinois Congressman Rush who proposed H.R. 45, which we have posted on previously: President Obama is a heckuva gun salesman and House Resolution 45 takes aim at your rights.

Roland Burris II

More entertaining Sen. Burris news, this time on son Burris II

It seems, according to an investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times, that Blagojevich's state government hired the son of Roland Burris last fall as the senior counsel for the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

It's a $75,000-a-year job that oversees the authority's foreclosure actions. His name, appropriately enough, is Roland Burris II.

The son got the state job Sept. 10, right around the time his father says he contacted Blagojevich to express an interest in the anticipated vacant Senate seat.

But there's another problem. Actually two.

Burris II started the foreclosure enforcement job three weeks after his own mortgage company started foreclosure against him. And, the newspaper reports, a couple of weeks before that, the Internal Revenue Service placed a $34,163 tax lien on Burris II's house for back taxes from 2004 to 2007.

More Tales of Corruption

Most of what I have been posting regarding corruption involves the Democrats. But, of course, the Republicans are no better. So first, the Republicans:

Gregg aided former base as he invested there

Sen. Judd Gregg, President Barack Obama's former nominee for commerce secretary, won taxpayer money for redevelopment of a shuttered Air Force base where he and his brother had invested in commercial property, an Associated Press investigation found.

Gregg, R-N.H., has personally invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Cyrus Gregg's office projects at the Pease International Tradeport, a Portsmouth business park built at the defunct Pease Air Force Base, once home to nuclear bombers. Judd Gregg has collected at least $240,017 to $651,801 from his investments there, Senate records show, while helping to arrange at least $66 million in federal aid for the former base.

There is some speculation that Senator Gregg withdrew his nomination as Commerce Secretary because of concerns that this conflict of interest would come to light. This kind of dealing, and keeping the money inside the family, is standard procedure in Washington. And that is the problem.

Here's the second story of our tales of corruption. We're back to the Democrats. Now it seems that the Obama Administration's chief vetter has himself dodged some tax liabilities.

From Gawker.com: Obama's Chief Vetter Has His Own Tax Problem

White House general counsel Gregory Craig has seized control of Obama's vetting process after a series of nominees with unpaid taxes. But his wife's business may also have avoided taxes. Who vets the vetter?

Derry Noyes, Craig's wife, runs Noyes Graphics, a design business, out of the couple's home in northwest Washington. Between Craig's work and hers, they've been on Washington's A-list for a decade.

Operating a business out of one's home in D.C. requires a home occupation permit and registration with the city's division of corporations. Additionally, the government has instituted a new requirement for business license permits.

A spokesman at the Washington D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs told Gawker that no one has ever sought any kind of permit or registration for a business under the name of Noyes Graphics or at the Craigs' home address. By not registering Craig may have avoided local business taxes.

And a source within the D.C. government has told Culligan that authorities have begun a full-fledged investigation into Noyes Graphics. (The spokesman would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.)

An unregistered home business may seem like a "gotcha" scandal. And were some new appointee to come along with this kind of problem, the public might shrug it off, even with the past tax scandals of Obama nominees. But Craig was charged with putting an end to those problems.

As a former resident of D.C. myself, I can attest to the absurd levels of bureaucracy in the local government there. You will note that to run any kind of home buisness in D.C., you need a home occupation permit, to register with the city's Division of Corporations, and to obtain a business licence. There is probably more. But note that the political party of which these two are a member has been running D.C. for decades, and supposedly they support this level of nanny-state oversight.

Or at least they support all of these rules, regulations, and taxes for other people, which seems to be the entire problem here. The Obama Administration is developing a bad case of "Do as we say, not as we do."

Obama Administration Moves To Ensure Job Loss and To Increase Dependence on Foreign Oil

Lawmakers take on Obama tax hike on energy producers

Energy-state lawmakers vowed Friday to block President Barack Obama’s proposed $31.5 billion tax increase on oil and gas producers.

Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, said Obama’s plans threaten the commercial viability of new domestic production and would price developers out of the market and force companies overseas. “It would be devastating for the cost of energy and for the producing states,” Green added.

Producers of traditional fossil fuels could face a hit of up to $100 billion if Congress heeds the president’s request to abolish what he called of “oil and gas company preferences” in the tax code and adopts his cap-and-trade emissions program. The energy industry would shoulder most of the cost of a cap-and-trade plan that would raise an estimated $79 billion in 2012 with new limits on pollutants blamed for climate change.

Tax and Bailout Protests in Houston


Here's an update on the "Tea Party" protests in Houston. They had 350 people sign in, even more that attended, for a total of about 500.

The image here is from The Grass Widow's Diary.
Channel 2 in Houston even sent a camera crew, and it got a brief mention.

27 February 2009

Citigroup Prefers Some Preferred Shareholders Over Others

On Friday, Citigroup said it would offer to exchange up to $52.5 billion of its existing preferred shares for common stock worth $3.25 each.

Owners of Citigroup's privately-placed preferred shares, which include the U.S. government, will have their holdings converted based on the price of their original investment even though the bank's share price has collapsed since they were made.

But owners of Citigroup's publicly traded preferred shares won't get as sweet a deal. They will be converted at an as-yet-undetermined premium to the market price. On Friday, the bulk of Citigroup's different classes of publicly traded preferred shares closed at less than 40% of their original values, with most settling between $8 and $10.

Citigroup didn't explain in its press release the uneven treatment of its preferred shareholders, which essentially treats some investors based on the book value of their holdings and others based on the market value. But one reason for the complicated deal structure could be that the bank wants to keep its funding options open. At the current depressed common stock price - Citigroup shares closed at $1.50 after touching a fresh 52-week-low on Friday - issuing new common stock is almost certainly out of the question.

By protecting buyers of privately placed shares - like the U.S. and Singaporean governments, as well as Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal - Citigroup may be keeping its funding options open if it needs to tap markets for capital again, since it will be showing its willingness to take care of investors who agree to take a large-sized risk on the shaky bank.

"It shows they are not trying to slam the door, which is what [happened] with Fannie and Freddie," said Donald F. Crumrine, the chairman of Pasadena, Calif.- based Flaherty & Crumrine Inc., an investment adviser specializing in preferred securities. Crumrine was referring to the government seizure of mortgage giants Federal National Mortgage Association (FNM), also known as Fannie Mae, and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., known as Freddie Mac. (FRE), which hurt both preferred and common shareholders alike.

A Citigroup spokeswoman declined to comment.

While the deal may be good news for the bank's prospects, it has some holders of its publicly traded preferred shares hopping mad. They feel like Citigroup has given them short shrift, even though they have already suffered as the bank's shares wilted from near all-time highs just 18 months ago.

You knew there was going to be some under-the-table dealing, right?

26 February 2009

The Republican Party is Failing

The Joe-the-Plumberization of the GOP

If you want to get a sense of how unserious and ungrounded most Americans think the Republican Party is, look no further than how conservatives elevate Joe the Plumber as a spokesman. The movement has become so gimmick-driven that Wurzelbacher will be a conservative hero long after people have forgotten what his legitimate policy beef with Obama was.

The Republicans are floundering, bereft of ideas and purpose.

Moderate or Centrist? Dems say: Get The Hell Out of Our Party

Bloggers, liberal groups call out centrist Dems

A coalition of liberal bloggers and activists backed by organized labor announced a campaign Thursday to pressure Democrats to move to the left by financing challenges to centrist members of Congress.

The group, which calls itself Accountability Now, plans to raise money online and recruit liberal candidates to run in the primaries against Democratic incumbents it considers out of step with constituents.

The effort threatens to deepen rifts that separate the party's liberal Democratic leaders, personified by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., from the growing group of moderates who have helped the party expand its majority in Congress.

The group, which has raised $500,000 so far, is scrutinizing lawmakers' voting records and polls reflecting public opinion in their districts to find opportunities to launch challenges.

Here's the Accountability Now site.

It's not just Republicans with the crazy fringe demanding ideological purity. It is a problem with both parties. If you don't drink the kool-aide, then you are not one of them.

If the extreme left runs you out of the Democratic Party, then come check out the Modern Whigs.

Moving Backwards on Energy Independence

Interior secretary puts brakes on Bush shale plan

The Interior Department on Wednesday blocked a Bush administration plan to open parts of the Mountain West for oil shale development, announcing that it would first study the water, power and land-use issues that complicate one of the nation’s most abundant but controversial untapped sources of power.

President Barack Obama repeatedly has pledged to reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil, an effort he frequently links to his plans to spend billions on renewable energy research, enhanced electricity transmission, efficiency improvement and other “green” areas of the economic stimulus bill. That spending focuses almost exclusively on electricity use in homes and commercial buildings, but more than two-thirds of the oil consumed by the United States is devoted to transportation.

While Obama has called for accelerated efforts to develop electric cars, they are only a small fraction of all vehicles on the road. That suggests the administration’s energy initiatives, at least in the early stages, may not substantially reduce oil imports.
Glenn Vawter, executive director of the National Oil Shale Association, said Salazar’s shale decision wasn’t a surprise. But critics say the string of Interior announcements, which include canceling some oil leases near national parks and lengthening the public comments process for new offshore drilling, amount to reducing the effort to boost domestic oil production.

Congress hears pleas from oil giants on offshore leases

Top executives from some of the nation’s biggest oil companies on Wednesday pleaded with Congress to expand offshore drilling to help wean the U.S. off foreign energy sources and spur new jobs.

Even if lawmakers don’t impose new drilling bans, a final decision on issuing new offshore leases would rest with the Obama administration. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently delayed a Bush administration proposal to offer new leases for offshore drilling along much of the U.S. shoreline and signaled that any surviving plan would be more limited.

A common refrain from the energy executives was that oil and natural gas are needed to fuel the country. BP America Chairman Lamar McKay said the U.S. needs an “all of the above” approach to energy, with “investments across the board in fossil fuels as well as alternatives.”

In a related note: Oil settles above $45 a barrel
Oil prices jumped for a second consecutive day today as the supply of crude, for months a secondary consideration to rapidly declining demand, appeared to gain force as a market mover.
Not only do we need to use energy more efficiently and develop energy alternatives, but we also need to use domestic supplies and stop funding foreign tyrannies with our money. But energy policy is moving in the opposite direction.

Texas Senate Bill 105

Houston Chronicle: Highlights from the Texas Legislature

Students from the University of Texas at Austin protested skyrocketing college tuition Thursday at the state capitol, where lawmakers are considering legislation to freeze rates for at least two years.

The group, which includes members of both the University Democrats and College Republicans, has coalesced behind Senate Bill 105. The bill would put a moratorium on tuition increases for two years, peg future hikes to the cost of living and require that most fee increases be approved by a majority of students.

"We're not a bunch of rabble-rousers," said Andy Jones, spokesman for the University Democrts, who helped lead about 50 students from campus to the south steps of the capitol. "We're serious."

The cost of education per semester at UT, counting tuition and fees, rose 57 percent, from $2,721 in 2003 to $4,266 in 2008.

Fayyad seeks $1.3 billion to rebuild Gaza after war

The Palestinian Authority is asking foreign governments for $1.33 billion to repair and renew homes, industry and other facilities in the Gaza Strip after last month's Israeli offensive.

Sure. Why the hell not?

The Palestinian Authority is also seeking $1.45 billion in budget support for current spending in 2009, such as civil servants' wages.

Really? I'm just thinking out loud here but, what's in this for us?

I'll be shocked if another country donates more money for this cause than the U.S. And let's not forget these people were dancing in the streets after 9/11. Dancing in the streets!! I'm appalled they even have the nerve to ask us for money. And what is the wisdom behind us giving these animals $900 million? If they do manage to rebuild (which I doubt), don't you think it will just get destroyed again? Keep in mind, they hate us!

This all goes back to the theory that if something needs to be subsidized, it isn't worth doing in the first place.

Obama's Bureaucrats are not Hope and Change

It's the same old crap.

Jim Lehrer interviewed Secretary Geithner at the Treasury Department in Washington about his plan to fix the banks.

It always bothers me when I think questions aren't directly answered. Especially when the subject is as huge a scale as the current financial crisis. A piece of the interview follows here:

JIM LEHRER: All right. Now, back to the banks for a moment. Much has been said and discussed about nationalizing the banks. Fit that word into what we've just been talking about.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER: Jim, I think that's the wrong strategy for the country, and I don't think it's a necessary strategy. What we need to do is to make sure that these institutions have the resources necessary to perform their critical function on an ongoing basis in our economy as a whole, these major banking institutions.
Now, there may be circumstances in which we have to provide, for the benefit of the economy as a whole, exceptional levels of support. And when we do that, as the president said last night, we're going to be very careful that that comes with conditions to make sure our support is helping support lending, that it comes with conditions to make sure these institutions restructure so they are stronger, so that there is accountability, and so that we make it more likely, not less likely, that private capital comes in and replaces the government's capital as soon as that's possible.
JIM LEHRER: But the government is not going to be running these banks in exchange for propping them up financially, if it becomes necessary?
TIMOTHY GEITHNER: I think our system works better if these institutions are managed and remain in private hands. But, again, we're going to have to make sure that they have the support necessary to get through this and plays a critical role, and we're going to do that.

Was that yes, or no?

Its being reported everywhere that the U.S. now has something like a 40% stake in Citi and I don't understand how this isn't nationalization. If I suddenly took a 40% stake in Citi, it would be reported as some kind of a hostile takeover.

I get the feeling, along with everyone I have talked to, that the American people are getting screwed royally in all of this, and sideways, half-hearted, spin-artist answers from bureaucrats don't help. Now is not the time for that. Now is the time for the hard questions to be answered in a straightforward, honest way.

The rest of the interview is here.

25 February 2009

Eric Holder wants your guns

U.S. Is a Vast Arms Bazaar for Mexican cartels.

The Mexican agents who moved in on a safe house full of drug dealers last May were not prepared for the fire power that greeted them.

When the shooting was over, eight agents were dead. Among the guns the police recovered was an assault rifle traced back across the border to a dingy gun store here called X-Caliber Guns.

This is exactly the type of sensational headlines that Obama, Pelosi and that coward Attorney General Eric Holder will try to use to pass gun control measures.

Obama To Unveil Healthcare/Tax Plan

Politico: Obama to lay out 8 keys to health plan
The Obama administration will announce a 10-year, $634 billion reserve fund Thursday aimed at expanding health care coverage – and will pay for half the plan with a new tax hike on wealthy Americans that surprised health care advocates and angered Republicans.
More here: Tax hike funds half of $634B health plan

Constitutional Property Rights Case

Volokh Conspiracy: Supreme Court to Hear Potentially Important Property Rights Case

On Monday, the Supreme Court granted writ of certiorari in Alvarez v. Smith, a potentially important case that underscores the dangerously weak state of protection for constitutional property rights...

DAFPA authorizes the government to take away the valuable property of completely innocent people for up to six months at a time, without giving the owner any opportunity to contest the seizure whatsoever. The 187 day time limit applies to any personal property worth less than $20,000, which of course includes most cars.

And note that even after an asset forfeiture action is filed, many more months might pass before the court actually hears the case. In this case, three of the six plaintiffs' cars were held by the police for many months without any judicial hearing (in two cases for over a year), even though none of the three were ever charged with any crime. The Seventh Circuit ruled that such practices sanctioned by DAFPA violate the property owners' due process rights.

Of course we don't yet know why the Supreme Court decided to hear this case. It could be that they want to affirm the Seventh Circuit decision. However, it is rare for the Court to grant cert. simply to endorse a lower court opinion ...

Plans for an American F1 team

Plans have been officially announced for a new, American Formula One team, who hope to be on the grid for the start of the 2010 season. The project, led by F1 veterans Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson, will be based in Charlotte, North Carolina, with European satellite facilities likely to be located in Spain. The team say their mission is ‘to prove that American technology, American drivers and the American competitive spirit can compete and win on the F1 global stage’.

Though the team have yet to make any firm decisions on drivers or engine supply, they plan to take full advantage of Formula One racing’s latest cost-cutting measures, which they believe will help them to take a new and highly efficient approach to running an F1 operation." If you look at the way it has gone in the recent past, it has been to find an incredibly rich trillionaire and have him dominate the team - and you are lucky enough to get a job when you've put the team together," said Windsor in a press conference announcing the project. "Or you are lucky enough to be invited by a large car company to set up an F1 team for them. “Ken and I are lucky enough to have been around long enough not to want to do either of those things - and we always wanted to do our own team our way. It perhaps sounds very arrogant, but we have some history and we have some things that we want to bring into the sport that we think we can do well. "Windsor and Anderson claim to have plans in place to raise the necessary capital, part of which has come through securing a small equity partner for the team.

"The key was not selling anything more than a very small stake in the team, so we set some unbelievably steep hills to climb in the recession," said Windsor. "We wanted to sell off a small part of the team and, as we sit here now, we have done that. We are two guys who can say we want to do an F1 team because we have the capital to do it, and to some extent the recession has helped us a little bit. We have always had a very different approach - and that approach will become visible as this year unfolds." The recent ban on in-season testing, plus the high number of Grands Prix outside Europe, also means that Windsor and Anderson are not expecting the team’s unusual location to present any major logistical problems. "Most of the technology in F1 comes from the US to begin with, and on the logistics side, this year less than half the races take place on the (European) continent so there is less reason for being there," said Anderson. "And the cost of doing business in the US is significantly lower than in Europe - and there are lots of good people here." British-born Windsor, a former Williams team manager and best known of late as a Formula One commentator on US television, will take on the position of sporting director, while American engineer Anderson, recently responsible for the highly-acclaimed Windshear wind tunnel facility in North Carolina, will reprise the technical director role he previously held with the Ligier Formula One team back in the 1980s.

Story here.

There has been constant buzz in F1 over the past 5 or 6 years to get an American driver into the series. Red Bull even sponsored a "contest" to find the right talent for the job. That driver was Scott Speed. He didn't do very well, and he didn't last long. My feeling was always that if a driver had the talent to be in F1, he or she would be in F1.

It would be nice to see this American team work. I have always respected Peter Windsor in his coverage of F1 events and I wish him and Ken Anderson the best of luck in their venture.

Stanford and Pelosi Sitting In a Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Gawker.com: Allen Stanford's Political Kiss of Death

An SEC official called Houston financier Allen Stanford's $8 billion scheme a "fraud of shocking magnitude that has spread its tentacles throughout the world." Last August, Stanford spread his tentacles around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The hug and kiss they exchanged at last year's Democratic National Convention could haunt Pelosi, a Bay Area millionaire who more or less bought her way into office and whose shady fundraising activities, including paying her husband with political action committee funds, have repeatedly drawn rebukes.

Video at the link.

Judge Kent Update

I had several people ask me today about the "retirement" of Judge Samuel Kent and whether he will continue to get paid.

A federal judge cannot get retirement unless he serves at least until age 65 (and at least 15 years on the bench). Samuel Kent is 59. There is an exception if you have to quit due to a disability. Samuel Kent has been laying the groundwork for this in the court proceeding, claiming various physical and psychological ailments as excuses for his behavior.

This exemption must be approved by the chief judge of the circuit, which in this case is Judge Edith Jones of the 5th Circuit. The likelihood of her approving this is low, considering she was on the disciplinary committee that Sam Kent lied to about all of this a couple of years ago. They gave him a slap on the wrist, and are now embarressed that they did not do more about the allegations.

However, Kent is probably preparing a challenge to Judge Jones since she was on the disciplinary committee. Who know how that would play out.

But the whole thing is moot, since Congress is apparently planning on impeaching him anyway to ensure he does not get paid. The Republicans are ashamed of appointing him, and the Democrats would like to get the appointment, so Kent's days are numbered.

Almost forgot -- he will also be disbarred.

As for jail time, we will just have to wait and see what the judge in the criminal case does.

The gag order is bollocks. Kent doesn't deserve such protection, and it is unusual.

26Feb UPDATE: Corrected a mistake. The correct age for retirement for judges is 65.

Governor Jindal Lays An Egg

The reviews are in -- Jindal was not well received.

Censored Whig Letters: The Jindal Lesson: Keeping Those Republicans Out of Power
After listening today to the Louisiana Governor respond to Obama’s speech to Congress and the American nation on the economic crisis and healthcare, I suddenly realized that the Jindal-type of Republican should never, ever be placed in a position of governmental responsibility. Unfortunately, the Jindal-type dominates the national Republican power structure.
Whigs in Virginia: What the #$*! was that, Bobby Jindal?

What the hell kind of crap speech was that? It was like Jindal was reading to a kindergartner.

But was that the best the GOP can come up with? Come on! Did he even prepare for the big stage, or did he think he would just wing it? That speech was read so poorly that all I can say is that Jindal laid a complete egg on that one.

The Fly Bottle: A Rare Foray Into Political Strategy

The only plausible Republican strategy is to put forward an attractive personality able to forcefully and intelligently explain in a relatively detailed way why the Dem’s plans are likely to fail, and to forcefully and intelligently articulate a plan likely to work better.

That’s the only way to sow broad doubt in the wisdom of the majority’s leadership: offer an alternative that looks at least as or more credible. David Cameron is a great example of how to do this incredibly well.

But as Jindal’s embarrassing performance shows, the GOP has absolutely no one capable of doing anything approaching this. So, as far as I can tell, the GOP is going to continue to get flattened, Obama will get basically whatever he wants, and if it doesn’t work, then it almost worked and who else are you going to trust?

A previous post about Jindal the creationist and his alliance with James Dobson here.

Tiger Woods is stimulus to the PGA

Tiger Woods had seven minutes to kill, which for a player who plans his routine to the very second might have been unsettling. Eight months away had taught him something about patience, though, and he calmly peeled a banana and ate it as he waited for his turn on the first tee.

There were a few butterflies, as there always are.
But his surgically repaired left knee was fine, and the shots on the driving range felt good. An Aussie named Brendan Jones awaited in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship, and Woods knew his opponent's stomach had to be churning with even more butterflies of his own.

"It felt like nothing had changed," Woods said. "It was business as usual."

Which is to say that order was restored to the world of golf. Woods was back and he won.

A Mortgage Bailout Tale

There are several reasons I oppose the idea of personal mortgage bailouts. I understand the need to keep the financial system going, but that should involve the removal of these toxic assets from the bank's balance sheets. But as to using tax dollars to bail out individuals from the mortgage messes they have got themselves into, I am implacably opposed.

I have discussed several reasons here. "Moral hazard" and "perverse incentives" are two reasons. There is an argument that paying off mortgages is not the most effective approach for salvaging the financial system itself. And there are other reasons.

But I have to admit I have a personal reason for my opposition.

I know a woman, a single mother, who was making $10.50/hour. She wanted to buy a house. She had very bad credit, but kept looking anyway. After she started looking, she ran into problems at her place of work for her poor performance. She was placed on probation, and was in danger of losing her job. Still, she continued to pursue a house and mortgage.

She was somehow able to finagle a home loan. But her credit was so poor, that she could not get a power company to sign her up. (She didn't have the credit to get an account with a electric company, but she was able to get a mortgage!) The electric company told her she needed a deposit of $250 or else someone had to co-sign the electric account. She didn't have $250. And no one would co-sign her application. No family member, friend, or co-worker would co-sign. Several turned her down. You see, they knew her, and knew they would be on the hook for her power bill.

So she lived in her new house for over two weeks without power, because she couldn't save up $250. (Finally a family member chipped in.) And a few weeks after that she lost her job due to tardiness and poor performance.

She had absolutely no business getting a mortgage, and the bank should never have given her the loan. I have now convinced myself that I will end up paying her mortgage through my tax dollars. She was a bad credit risk and an irresponsible person. And the bankers that approved that loan had to have been brain-damaged to have extended the loan to her.

Quite frankly, I say to hell with the both of them. Bad choices all around. But everyone in any position of authority seems determined to take money from me to give to these two irresponsible parties. That doesn't sit too well with me. It not only makes me feel like a chump, but also punishes me for being responsible.

I accept that I have a moral obligation to those who are less fortunate. But both the bank and the borrower in my story are not unfortunate. They made foolish decisions. And I, and you, and all of us, should not have to rescue every fool out there. There is not enough money in the world for that.

Local Bailout Controversy

Citizens of Houston went bat-sh*t crazy over a plan before the city council that would have used tax money to pay off the personal debts of first-time home buyers.

Yeah, you heard that right. People who qualified would have gotten $3k to pay off credit card debt or to buy a high-def TV. Needless to say, when the local paper, the Houston Chronicle, brought the proposal to the public's attention, everyone hit the roof, and the plan was withdrawn.

White backs off 'credit enhancement' with tax dollars

Houston plan 'hit a nerve across this country,' councilwoman says

Mayor Bill White yanked a controversial plan Tuesday that called for the city to use taxpayer funds to pay off some personal debts for first-time homebuyers, following a flood of outrage and criticism from across the city and beyond.

“I don’t think we ought to be in the business of paying off someone’s debt so they can buy a house,” White conceded during an impassioned City Council meeting. “Paying off people’s credit cards is ridiculous.”

Many council members expressed “embarrassment” over the idea, which received national media attention after the Chronicle wrote about it in Tuesday’s editions. The story appeared to strike a nerve among taxpayers already angry over the recession, the housing meltdown, and federal bailouts of banks and automobile companies.

“Giving people the ability to increase their credit score artificially because we’re allowing them to pay off their credit cards is exactly what got us into this (national economic) crisis in the first place,” she said.


There seems to be a disconnect between politicians and the public on this whole bailout concept.

Presidential Speech

Full text of Obama's speech to Congress and the nation
Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down.

24 February 2009

I Guess It Depends on What Your Definition of "Pullout" Is

Here's the headline: Obama Expected to Set Date for Iraq Pullout.

But the current plan is to still leave behind a force of 50,000 troops. That is still of lot of troops in Iraq. But at that point, the "pullout" would be complete. We will be "withdrawn" from Iraq, but still have substantial forces there. So -- we will be both gone and yet still there.
I guess the media just won't report on Iraq at all any more, so it will become a "Forgotten Conflict" as the media likes to say.

The Battle for our Birthright

PJM: A Dutch Hero Comes to Warn Us, Seek Our Support.

"I have come to warn you of a great threat. Free speech is no longer a given, we must now battle for our birthright. We are looking at the end of democracy, the slavery of women, the death of gays."

Dutch parliamentarian, Geert Wilders, is fighting for Western liberty and Western values, as rooted in the legacies of “Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem.” This is the legacy he wishes to leave the “children of Europe,” as opposed to the legacy of “Mecca and Gaza.”

Wilders is fighting for us all, his fight is our fight. As he said earlier today, “it is not about (him) but about Free Speech.” Today he may be a “criminal, tomorrow, anyone of us might be considered a criminal too,” for telling the truth about the danger that Islam poses to Western democracy.

“Today I may be put behind bars. I am not the issue. Will free speech be put behind bars?”

Tax Protest in Houston February 27th

Some intrepid citizens are organizing tax protests or "Tea Parties" to protest the plans to reward those who don't pay their mortgages with your tax dollars.
There is one scheduled in Houston this Friday, February the 27th at 11:00am - 2:00pm at "Fondren Green at Discovery Green Park. Right in front of Amphitheatre."

For more information contact: fcravens1@peoplepc.com. More information here, and here.

Unfortunately, I have a commitment this Friday, and don't think I can make it.

But you should go. Go!

The Corrupt Senator Dodd (D-Conn)

Getting tired of reading about corrupt Senators and Congressmen?

Sorry. I guess maybe we should stop electing these guys, huh?

How politics works: Senator Christopher Dodd and his cosy Irish cottage
Silver-haired Senator Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has already been getting a lot of heat for his two 2003 VIP mortgage loans from Countrywide, one of the major actors in triggering the current financial crisis.

Dodd became part owner of the 10-acre Galway property in 1994 along with Missouri businessman William Kessinger, whom Dodd knew through investor Edward R. Downe Jnr, who had pleaded guilty the previous year to insider trading charges. The mortgage was listed as "between $100,001 and $250,000". Downe was a witness to Kessinger's purchase.

In 2001, Dodd circumvented the US Justice Department to help get his pal Downe a full pardon on President Bill Clinton's last day in office. The following year, Dodd bought off Kessinger's two-thirds share of the "cottage" for, Dodd said, $127,000.
Ever since then, Dodd has continued to list the value of the property as "between $100,001 and $250,000".

Check out the picture of Dodd's "cottage" (provided to me by Rennie), where he spends summers and which is looked after during the rest of the year by a caretaker. It's not exactly the humble tumbledown abode with a leaky thatched roof, a fireplace with peat thrown on it and donkey tethered outside that the Senator might like you to envisage.

Given the Irish property boom, a conservative estimate would be that the house would be worth approaching $1 million, and very possibly much more than that.

Brother, if this isn't a sordid tale. Wondering how members of Congress get rich while in office? Here you go -- sweetheart deals on foreign real estate in exchange for pardons.

I Guess They Changed Their Minds

Obama's trillions dwarf Bush's 'dangerous' spending

Back in 2006, when Democrats were hoping to win control of the House and Senate, party leaders worked themselves into a righteous outrage over the issue of out-of-control federal spending.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the Republican budget “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic” because it increased the amount of U.S. debt held by foreign countries. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused Republicans of going on “an unprecedented and dangerous borrowing spree” and declared GOP leadership “the most fiscally irresponsible in the history of our country … no other president or Congress even comes close.”

You won’t find too many defenders of George W. Bush’s record on spending these days, even among Republicans. But a check of historical tables compiled by the Office of Management and Budget shows that the spending that so distressed Pelosi and Reid seems downright modest today. After beginning with a Clinton-era surplus of $128 billion in fiscal year 2001, the Bush administration racked up deficits of $158 billion in 2002, $378 billion in 2003, $413 billion in 2004, $318 billion in 2005, $248 billion in 2006, $162 billion in 2007, and $410 billion in 2008.

The current administration would kill to have such small numbers. President Barack Obama is unveiling his budget this week, and, in addition to the inherited Bush deficit, he’s adding his own spending at an astonishing pace, projecting annual deficits well beyond $1 trillion in the near future, and, in the rosiest possible scenario, a $533 billion deficit in fiscal year 2013, the last year of Obama’s first term.

And what about the national debt? It increased from $5 trillion to $10 trillion in the Bush years, leading to dramatically higher interest costs. “We pay in interest four times more than we spend on education and four times what it will cost to cover 10 million children with health insurance for five years,” Pelosi said in 2007. “That’s fiscal irresponsibility.”

Now, under Obama, the national debt — and the interest payments — will increase at a far faster rate than during the Bush years.

The hypocrisy of politicians is truly astounding, hmmm?

The first thing you should do when you find yourself in a hole is to quit digging.

If You Don't Make Dust, You Eat Dust

Today, February 24th, Instapundit posted a link to a story in the New York Times entitled, Latin Americans Decry U.S. Drug War.

If you had been a regular reader of this blog, you would have read about this issue from our post, Calls for a Change in Drug War Policies.

Which we posted on February 18th, six days ago.

Ha! Eat our dust, New York Times and Instapundit!

Everything is Amazing, No One is Happy

Happy Mardi Gras!


23 February 2009

Presidents Always Seem To Have The Most Problems With Their Own Party

Democrats Resisting Obama on Social Security

Mr. Obama considered announcing the formation of a Social Security task force at a White House “fiscal responsibility summit” that he will convene on Monday. But several Democrats said that idea had been shelved, partly because of objections from House and Senate leaders.

The president signaled in his campaign that he would support addressing the retirement system’s looming financing shortfall, in part by applying payroll taxes to incomes above $250,000. But that would ignite intense opposition from Republicans, especially with the economy deep in recession.

Liberal Democrats are already serving notice that they will be equally vehement in opposing any reductions in scheduled benefits for future retirees. But any solution, budget analysts said, must include a mix of both approaches, though current beneficiaries would see no change.

Yeah, sure, let's don't do anything. Why should we? Social Security will collapse after this bunch has left office, so I guess their attitude is "Apres Moi, le Deluge". (The words of King Louis XV of France -- "After me, the flood".)

What a bunch of irresponsible twits.

White House Helicopter Plan Is Excessive, Obama and McCain Agree

One thing known before Monday was that John McCain would never have a new Marine One helicopter at his disposal. One thing known after Monday is that Barack Obama might not either.

At their first public appearance together since Inauguration Day, President Obama and Senator McCain found themselves in agreement that a project to build 28 new helicopters for the White House has gone way off course.

The encounter between the victor and the vanquished came at the end of a “fiscal responsibility summit” at the White House.

At the closing session, Mr. Obama called on Mr. McCain to offer any thoughts. Mr. McCain praised Mr. Obama for holding the event, then suggested one priority should be dealing with out-of-control military contracts. Exhibit A was the program to replace the current Marine One helicopters, with costs mushrooming to $11.2 billion from $6.1 billion. “Your helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One,” Mr. McCain told Mr. Obama. “I don’t think there is any more graphic demonstration of how good ideas have cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money.”

Mr. Obama agreed. “The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me,” he said to laughter. “Of course, I’ve never had a helicopter before, you know? Maybe I’ve been deprived and I didn’t know it. “But I think it is in example of the procurement process gone amok. And we’re going to have to fix it.”

This is exactly the sort of new approach that is going to have to be taken for every single line item in the budget for the foreseeable future.

I'm Not Dead Yet

Senator apologizes for Ginsburg remark

You Would Think We Have Plenty of Money if We Are Giving it to People Like This

U.S. to give $900 million in aid to Gaza
The Obama administration intends to provide some $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after the Israeli incursion that ended last month, administration officials said Monday.
Wow. That seems like a lot of money to give to people that HATE US.

It's a good thing that we are flush with cash at the moment.

Oh, wait ....

U.S. District Judge Kent Is Gone

Judge Kent accepts plea deal and retires from bench

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice today and retired from the bench, avoiding a trial on that charge and five others accusing him of sexually abusing two female employees.

Kent was scheduled to see a jury selected this morning for his trial on all six felony counts. Few federal judges ever go to trial, but his would have been the first in which a federal judge was accused of sexual charges.

Kent faces up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge. Prosecutors have suggested he be sentenced to three years in prison, but the judge is not bound by that recommendation.

Kent, who normally speaks in loud, clear tones, all but whispered his guilty plea at the bench. The court reporter strained to hear what he said.

Well, good riddance to bad rubbish, I suppose. Here at THE WHIG we called for his impeachment and removal some time ago. So it is good that he is gone. It also saves Congress from having to remove him.

My only regret is that we got a good bit of traffic from my posts about Judge Kent. But I will trade site hits for getting rid of a corrupt judge any day!

While They Are Having Breakout Sessions and Singing Kumbaya at the White House ...


Oh my God we really are going back to the 70s.
It's really happening.

Promising One Thing While Doing Another

Obama Plans to Slash U.S. Budget Deficit by 2013

President Barack Obama plans to increase taxes on the wealthy and cut spending for the war in Iraq as part of a plan to slash the U.S. budget deficit to $533 billion by the end of his first term, according to an administration official.

That's good, because Obama always does what he says he is going to do. (via Porkbusters)

Note that the financial industry bailout hasn't even started in earnest, not to mention health care expansion, or propping up social security, which were also campaign promises.

22 February 2009

Does the War On Drugs Help Terrorists?

Two posts over at Volokh Conspiracy discuss this question.

Will Obama End the War on Drugs' Undermining of the War on Terror?
and
And Then Maybe He Can Save Mexico

Link above takes you to both posts.

Death of the California Dream and Hope For Rebirth

Death of the California Dream What follows are only a few exerpts. The entire article is worth reading.

California has returned from the dead before, most recently in the mid-1990s. But the odds that the Golden State can reinvent itself again seem long. The buffoonish current governor and a legislature divided between hysterical greens, public-employee lackeys and Neanderthal Republicans have turned the state into a fiscal laughingstock.

Meanwhile, more of its middle class migrates out while a large and undereducated underclass (much of it Latino) faces dim prospects. It sometimes seems the people running the state have little feel for the very things that constitute its essence — and could allow California to reinvent itself, and the American future, once again.

In my view, the key to understanding California's precipitous decline transcends terms like liberal or conservative, Democratic and Republican. The real culprit lies in the politics of narcissism.

The best great hope for California's future does not lie with the narcissists of left or right but with the newcomers, largely from abroad. These groups still appreciate the nation of opportunity and aspire to make the California — and American — Dream their own.

In contrast, the newcomers, who often lack both money and education, continue in the hierarchy-breaking tradition that made California great in the first place. Many of them live and build their businesses not in places like San Francisco or West L.A., but in the increasingly multicultural suburbs on the periphery, places like the San Gabriel Valley, Riverside and Cupertino.

Opponents of USA in Charge at the U.N.

Obama’s U.N. envoy faces old foes in new roles

President Barack Obama’s U.N. envoy, Susan Rice, has pledged to “refresh and renew American leadership” at the United Nations. But U.S. rivals with a long history of opposing American aims now hold some of the most influential posts at the U.N., a testament to the diminished power of American diplomacy to shape the organization.

The General Assembly is headed by a leftist Nicaraguan priest, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, who routinely rails against the evils of American imperialism.

Cuba chairs the Non-Aligned Movement, an influential Third World political bloc.

Libya serves on the Security Council and next year will preside over the 192-member General Assembly.

Even Iran and Sudan, which are subject to U.S.-backed U.N. sanctions, have made their way back to international respectability, securing leadership positions on the board of the U.N.’s top development agency and at the head of the Group of 77 and China, a group that coordinates social policies for Third World countries.

Animated Short

Always on the Oscars, they give an award to some animated short that no one has ever seen. Here is the one that should have won. Enjoy.

Economic Mess Precipitated by "Disastrously Unstable Alignment of Incentives"

Will Wilkinson: What Do Recent Nobel Prize-winning Macroeconomists Say about the Prospects of the Stimulus?

Talking to these giants of macro has convinced me that we need to be talking about is how to get the institutions right and keep them stable. What the government is now doing amounts to a pretty radical restructuring of our scheme of economic institutions, but with shockingly little deliberation about or regard for the optimality or stability of the overall incentive structure.

This mess was precipitated by what turned out to be a disastrously unstable alignment of incentives. That fact would seem to prescribe taking a lot of care in thinking through how various large interventions might ramify through the system before jumping in.

But our government’s behavior increasingly looks a bit like a zealous small-town narcotics squad, excited by its slick new SWAT gear, that’s just kicked down the door to a meth house and has started shooting at anything that moves.

21 February 2009

Credo Quia Absurdum Est XI

Former Washington Mayor and crack head Marion Barry, now 72 and beset by health problems as prosecutors seek to jail him on accusations of failing to file his 2007 tax returns, was admitted to a hospital Thursday to prepare for a kidney transplant.

Is there anyone who could use that liver who has filed all of their tax returns?
Is there anyone who could use that liver who maybe didn't smoke crack?
What are you willing to bet there isn't some kind of corrupt dealing going on with this liver donor?

Marion Barry has consistently denied using drugs. Uh huh.

NAACP calls for firing of N.Y. Post cartoonist

Leaders of the NAACP called for the firing of the New York Post cartoonist whose drawing lampooning the federal stimulus bill has drawn charges that it's racist and encourages violence toward President Obama.

Speaking at the civil rights group's annual meeting in New York, NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous said that if Sean Delonas is not fired, the group will call for protests of the paper and Fox television affiliates, which are owned by Post parent company News Corp.

"There is consensus that if the Post does not ... get rid of the journalists who are responsible for this bit of hate speech seeing the light of day, that we will move this from a local, regional issue to a very national issue," Jealous said. The group also called for the cartoonist's editor to be fired.

What a bunch of whiners. So much for free speech. I guess free speech is only for AG Holder for calling me a coward. It was a cartoon. Political cartoons have been a part of our nation's history since the day presses began running here. Besides that, they're too stupid to even get the joke! Obama didn't write the bill, he signed it. The joke is comparing legislators who wrote the bill to chimpanzees. Good God!

And anyway, now that a person of color has been elected president, why do we still need the NAACP? Isn't this mission accomplished? What else is there to advance?

Go ahead and boycott The Post. Since they don't even get the cartoon, I doubt many in the NAACP can read it and I know they don't watch Fox.

Remember Chandra Levy?

I remember joking in October of 2001, that Gary Condit should be considered a suspect in the 9/11 attacks because he had the most to gain. We never heard anything more about Chandra Levy's disappearance after the attacks and Condit just went away.

The case gripped the nation's capital, and the nation, through the summer of 2001. A 24-year-old Bureau of Prisons intern named Chandra Levy's disappearance sparked a media frenzy that thrust the obscure Democratic California Rep. Gary Condit into the national spotlight amid speculation over whether he had a role in her disappearance.

Now the woman's murder is grabbing national headlines again after news broke that police are poised to arrest California prison inmate Ingmar Guandique in one of the country's most prominent, but nearly forgotten, cold cases.

Condit expressed relief at the news that a suspect would be charged and is supposedly writing a book. I'm sure it details his victimization. But don't forget he still had a very inappropriate relationship with a very young girl.

That's The Chicago Way: Ambassadorship Sold To High Bidder

Barack Obama under fire for picking a crony fundraiser as his ambassador to Britain

Barack Obama has been embroiled in a cronyism row after reports that he intends to make Louis Susman, one of his biggest fundraisers, the new US ambassador in London.

The selection of Mr Susman, a lawyer and banker from the president's hometown of Chicago, rather than an experienced diplomat, raises new questions about Mr Obama's commitment to the special relationship with Britain.

American commentators denounced the selection of a rich friend to the plumb post, regarded as one of the most prestigious in the president's gift, as worthy of a "banana republic".

They said it was proof that Mr Obama has turned his back on his campaign pledge to end politics as usual.

Critics said that it would have been more appropriate to dispatch a high profile diplomat at a time when there are fears in British government that Mr Obama is not as attached to the special relationship as his predecessors.

And they pointed out that there is little difference between handing a major diplomatic post to a fundraiser and the "pay to play" scandal in which disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich apparently auctioned off Mr Obama's senate seat to the highest bidder.

Mr Susman's reputation for hoovering large amounts of cash from deep pockets saw him nicknamed "the vacuum cleaner" when he raised more than $240million for John Kerry's White House bid in 2004. He was one of Mr Obama's biggest campaign cash "bundlers", fundraisers who collect contributions from hundreds of others. He also gave $300,000 to the president's inauguration fund.

Tax Dodging Bank Gives Generously ... To Politicians

From OpenSecrets.org: UBS AG Helps Fill Lawmakers' Coffers

Swiss bank UBS AG agreed today to pay $780 million to settle claims by the U.S. Department of Treasury that it helped American customers evade paying taxes by hiding their Swiss bank accounts from U.S. tax authorities.

Among all finance, insurance and real estate companies, UBS has given more campaign donations than all but six other companies. It also spent nearly $1.3 million lobbying between 2007 and 2008.

UBS not only split its funds between Republicans and Democrats, it also made sure to help out more than one presidential candidate in the 2008 election cycle and directed its funds to a few of the higher ups of the finance-related congressional committees.

And just as the company has invested in lawmakers, a few have invested their personal funds in the foreign bank and its subsidiaries. In 2007, seven members of Congress had between $207,187 and $500,180 of their own funds invested in the bank.

Why The Market is Tanking

From Investor's Business Daily: Is It Any Wonder The Market Continues To Sink?
Today, as the market continues to sell off and we plumb 12-year lows, we wish we had a different explanation. But it still looks, as we said four months ago, "like the U.S., which built the mightiest, most prosperous economy the world has ever known, is about to turn its back on the free-enterprise system that made it all possible."
Hat tip: neo-neocon

Chiquita Banana Song



I'm Chiquita banana and I've come to say
Bananas have to ripen in a certain way
When they are fleck'd with brown and have a golden hue
Bananas taste the best and are best for you
You can put them in a salad
You can put them in a pie-aye
Any way you want to eat them
It's impossible to beat them
But, bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator
So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator

Our Collective Problem: The Culture of Defeat

We, as Americans are in trouble. Our culture is changing. Our way of life as we have known it, is not only threatened, it is in cardiac arrest. The culture we have known which is: prosperity, stability and relative security is day by day, piece by piece being replaced with a new culture of defeat. State by state, city by city, house by house we are accepting defeat.

The institutions which govern our lives incrementally eek more out for themselves and their pet programs and people, but usually not so much that we notice. And when you do notice they find a way to spin it so it doesn't sound as bad. They can say there is no inflation because a can of tuna costs the same as it did 2 years ago. They just made the can smaller. And they get away with telling us there is no inflation. That's defeat.

We get a less comprehensive health insurance package and with higher co-pays to boot, and we adjust. We get hit with 5, 6, 7% inflation and we deal with it. We do without a few things. Gasoline doubles in price. We adjust. We adjust until, over the span of 2 or 3 years we have moved from being comfortably in the middle class, down to living hand-to-mouth, down to the point of serious doubt about the future. Step by step it doesn't look so bad but we have made huge steps downward. That's defeat.

We hear about overwhelming CEO salaries and wall street bonuses and we are outraged but do nothing. Should a CEO that I just saved from bankruptcy get a 6 or 7 figure bonus? No! Should a wall street firm that I just bailed out dole out bonuses? No! But they do and we are defeated.

We hear about corrupt politicians in the news and we are fed up but do nothing. Should the cabinet appointees with tax problems get to keep their posts and go unpunished? No! Should corrupt senators go unpunished? No! But they do and we are defeated.

We hear about lobbyists and lobbying firms who are guilty of bribery and of driving corrupt legislation and we are incensed but we do nothing. Should lobbying firms have access to government? No, that is what constituents are for! But they do and that is defeat.

We hear that Bernard Madoff has gambled away and stolen billions of dollars from individuals like you and me. Life savings! And we hear he is under house arrest in his 5th Avenue apartment and we get pissed off but do nothing. Stanford does the same thing and so far has only surrendered his passport. We all know it isn't right. It isn't enough, but where is the rage? Where is the fury?

We hear about red light cameras going up at intersections, which are only known to increase accidents and city revenue and its all done at our expense and we get angry but do nothing. That is defeat.

Why?

Because it is our new culture. We are no longer the cattle drivers; we are the cattle. We are busy being busy and we are lazy and we are too ready and willing to adapt to what is happening. Because it is more comfortable to adjust. It is the path of least resistance. Congratulations America, you have collectively achieved the willpower of water.

You may send an email to your city councilman or state representative or even to your US Senator. Maybe even the White House. It goes to a general delivery mail box where a volunteer may read it and check a box next to a line item on a form that the intended recipient may get to see as a statistic. But it makes you feel better. You wrote your representative and at least you did more than most.

But it doesn't get anything done. Nothing changes. Sending letters didn't get the colonies anything from the King of England. Angry mobs with rifles did.

At what point does the heat in the pit of your stomach cause you to get up out of your chair and climb a pole and disable a red light camera? At what point does the angry mob of former investors show up at Madoff's building and demand his hide? At what point does the angry mob surround all of the lobbyists? Don't they have to register somewhere? Can't we find out who they are? At what point does the mob show up at a senate office and demand clean, honest legislation or else some one's head? At what point does a mob show up at the bailed out CEO's house?

As long as we are more willing to accept the corruption of those that govern us, than we are to gather an angry mob, this is what we will have.

The Attorney General of the United States is a corrupt man, and has called you a coward. Senator Charles Schumer of New York is a corrupt man and thinks you don't care. And they were both so brash as to say so on television.

I don't want a hand out. I don't want a piece of the pie. What I do want is a fair playing field and clean government.

Global Warming Strikes Again ...

GUINEA: Record cold snap destroys crops, kills hundreds of animals

DAKAR, 20 February 2009 (IRIN) - Near-freezing temperatures in north-central Guinea in January destroyed crops and livestock on which thousands of people depend for food as well as cash.

Elderly locals told IRIN they had never seen cold this intense in Mali, a town in Guinea’s LabĂ© region.

Looking for an Alternative

Here's a sentiment worth noting: I think people are hungry for someone who is fed up with the way things are and who seem to believe in something enough to know there in an alternative worth fighting for. Some of the voices may be far from perfect, but Americans are looking for signs of the life of an alternative. And so if a representative pops up — someone who appears to have roots and energy, folks will cheer them on in the hopes there’s a candidate here. Maybe not a presidential candidate, but a leader of some sort. Someone who can offer a vision of something other than a culture of bailout.

Government Creates Perverse Incentive: Better to be a Grasshopper Than an Ant

"I made a mistake. I got a mortgage that didn't overextend me and probably bought the right piece of property so it's not going upside down. As a reward I get to pay for TARP I, TARP II, the stimulus plan, mortgage nationalizations, bank nationalizations, and the AIG nationalization. What all else Obama will think up to punish me?”— Dorothy Myers, responding to "Dukes of Moral Hazard."

Money for Idiots

Our moral and economic system is based on individual responsibility. It’s based on the idea that people have to live with the consequences of their decisions.

Over the last few months, we’ve made a hash of all that. The Bush and Obama administrations have compensated foolishness and irresponsibility.

The financial bailouts reward bankers who took insane risks.

The auto bailouts subsidize companies and unions that made self-indulgent decisions a few decades ago that drove their industry into the ground.

The stimulus package handed tens of billions of dollars to states that spent profligately during the prosperity years.

The Obama housing plan will force people who bought sensible homes to subsidize the mortgages of people who bought houses they could not afford. It will almost certainly force people who were honest on their loan forms to subsidize people who were dishonest on theirs.

These injustices are stoking anger across the country...

Buttonwood: A lament for savers

BORROWERS get bailed out. Run your bank into the ground and the taxpayer will lend it money. Buy a house you cannot afford and the central bank will cut interest rates to ease your burden.

Meanwhile those who have lived within their means and put money aside for the proverbial rainy day, have seen interest rates slashed to 2% in the euro zone, 1% in Britain and virtually nothing in America. No one offers to help them out...

This is quite a different paradox of thrift from the usual one. In theory, everybody regards thrift as a virtue. In practice, they treat it as a vice.

In addition to those who pay their mortgages, and save, what about renters? Don't pay your rent, you're quickly evicted. So renters are having to help others pay for houses they can't afford, and don't think they haven't noticed. Check out AngryRenter.com, where they are -- well -- angry.

All we hear these days is whining from reckless home borrowers and their banks.
But did you know that renters are 32 percent of American households? And that homes in foreclosure are less than 2 percent?

So why is Congress rushing to bailout high-flying borrowers and their lenders with our tax dollars?

Unfortunately, renters aren't as good at politics as the small minority of homeowners (and their bankers) who are in trouble. We don't have lobbyists in Washington, DC. We don't get a tax deduction for our rent and we don't get sweetheart government loans.

Quite simply, we are just Angry Renters. And now it is our time to be heard: no government bailouts!

Obama Rejects Mileage Tax

This was good to see: Obama rejects tax on mileage

President Barack Obama on Friday rejected his transportation secretary’s suggestion that the administration consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive instead of how much gasoline they buy.

“It is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, when asked for Obama’s thoughts about Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s suggestion, raised in an interview with The Associated Press a day earlier.

This little trial balloon was popped yesterday. The Treasury Secretary had proposed a tax on miles driven. The proposal is this: the government would require you to install a GPS device in your car that would track where you went; the data of every place you drove over the year would be stored in a government database; you would then get a bill at the end of each year (or month) that you would have to pay based on how many miles you have driven.

Several states are proposing similar taxes. They are not proving to be popular. Besides the direct issue of higher taxes, there are three main concerns:

Privacy -- The federal government would keep track of everywhere you went. I am not alone in opposing such government tracking of my location and activity. Of course, the proposals make all sorts of assurances, but it is only a matter of time before you start getting speeding tickets automatically in the mail. Eventually, the information would end up being becoming public, or sold to industry for marketing purposes to raise even more money for the government. No, thanks.

Environmental -- Instead of taxing fuel consumption, mileage would be taxed, thus creating a perverse incentive for less-fuel efficient vehicles. An environmentally-concerned person I mentioned this proposal to, If you are to be taxed by mileage, you might as well drive a Hummer.

Logistics -- As one commentator noted: [G]etting the program started will be a logistical nightmare. (Think installing digital converter boxes in 6.5 million households has been hard? Try putting GPS chips in the country’s estimated 250 million passenger vehicles.) It will also be a tremendous expense at a time when LaHood’s former Republican colleagues in Congress haven’t exactly welcomed excessive government spending.

This money-grasping, privacy-violating, environmentally-damaging, overly-complicated tax grab should never be allowed to see the light of day.

20 February 2009

Burris And Corruption: A Sign of the Times

Face it. Politicians are corrupt. Mayor, city council, county commissioner, constable, state senate, all the way to the top regardless of party affiliation are corrupt. Statements like this will be offensive to those few who aren't actually corrupt. I would invite them to step forward and prove it. Otherwise, I'm not buying.

Embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) lost his interim chief of staff Friday amid widening calls for Burris's resignation. Darrel Thompson, who had been on loan from the office of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), announced his resignation late Friday.

Story here.

With the impeachment of a governor, Illinois has already had more political fireworks this year than it has seen in decades. Could the perjury trial of a U.S. senator be next? Sen. Roland Burris could face that charge if he lied under oath on Jan. 8 when he didn't fully disclose contacts he had with Gov. Rod Blagojevich or his advisers before he was appointed to President Obama's former Senate seat.

Story here.

Illinois Governor Quin calls for Burris to, “put the interests of the people of Illinois ahead of his own.” Even Obama's staff thinks Roland Burris needs to resign.

This culture of corruption within our governments is saturating. It runs top to bottom and right to left. I guess we just have to get used to the idea. Imagine the efficiency and the collective good we could do as a country if we weren't constantly dealing with this crap and legislation was honest and not bought and paid for.

Senate plans for climate legislation

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to take up the contentious climate issue by the end of the summer. "We have to take a whack at it," Reid told The Associated Press. He said failure to act "would be neglectful."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also has cited "a sense of urgency" in addressing climate change, adding: "We cannot afford another year of delay." The chairman of the House committee charged with crafting a bill has promised to provide one to Pelosi by Memorial Day and a House vote could come before the August congressional recess.

I agree. No really, I do. Lets start with cutting the helicopters, private planes and limousines used by elected officials everywhere. They work for us, the people. Why can't they fly and ride public transportation with us? We can discuss issues along the way. Its a great idea. A sort of daily town meeting. And just imagine the example it would set. Let's do this!

The story is here.

19 February 2009

We're From the Government and We're Here to Help. No, Not You, That Deadbeat Who Won't Pay His Mortgage.

Economist: Can’t pay or won’t pay?

Now it is Barack Obama’s turn. On Wednesday February 18th he pledged $75 billion to reduce the mortgage payments of homeowners at risk of default. Lenders who help people to refinance their mortgages will receive matching subsidies from the government.

Previous, less ambitious, efforts have flopped. George Bush’s first plan aimed to help up to 240,000 delinquent subprime borrowers refinance their debts into government-backed fixed-rate mortgages. Only 4,000 did so. A Democrat-inspired $300 billion plan to guarantee up to 400,000 mortgages attracted just 517 applications, as lenders balked at the requirement that they first write down the principal. Private-sector programmes have achieved higher numbers, but their success is mixed. Of 73,000 loans modified in the first quarter of last year, 43% were again delinquent eight months later...

Mr Obama’s chances of being any more successful depend on whether his team has correctly diagnosed what is driving the wave of foreclosures. Is it that homeowners cannot afford to pay; or is it that they are declining to do so, because their homes are now worth less than their mortgages, the phenomenon known as negative equity?

UPDATE: FDIC chief: I understand criticism of mortgage program

And some are complaining that the responsible borrowers may be the ones that get the least help from the program.

"I talk to homeowners all day who say, 'Maybe I'll stop paying my mortgage and then I'll get help.' What about them?" said Bob Moulton, a mortgage broker with Americana Mortgage Group in Manhasset.

But Sheila Bair, who chairs the Federal Deposit Insurance Co., or FDIC, suggested that while she understands some would see the program as rewarding bad behavior, she thinks the program is necessary given the economic climate.

"Is it fair to everyone? Perhaps not," she said on ABC's "Good Morning America" yesterday, according to The Associated Press. "But I think frankly we're beyond that."

How do you ever get beyond being fair? I don't think she understands the criticism at all.

Shortchanging Lincoln

The war over Lincoln

But a cause of national celebration is also, inevitably, an excuse for partisan manoeuvring.

[B]oth sides have shortchanged one of Lincoln’s most important ideals: that of self-help and upward mobility. Lincoln was not just content to be a personal example of upward mobility—born, in the poet James Russell Lowell’s phrase, “out of the very earth, unancestried, unprivileged, unknown”.

He believed that the essence of the promise of American life was “to lift artificial weights from all shoulders” and “afford all an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life.”

Both parties continue to pay lip service to this ideal. But they have done far too little about America’s rusting ladders of opportunity.

Mr Bush’s Republicans cut the top rates of tax at a time when the richest Americans were amassing unheard-of wealth, and widened the gap between rich and poor while turning a healthy budget surplus into a big deficit.

The Democrats are wedded to a system of affirmative action that judges people on the basis of their race rather than their individual merits. They are also in the pockets of teachers’ unions which have fought relentlessly against introducing more competition or standardised testing into the public schools.

If the hottest political question in this bicentennial week is “what would Lincoln do?”, then the first answer is surely try a lot harder to repair America’s faltering commitment to meritocracy.