Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Being that it is no longer required that you present a birth certificate to run for the presidency of the United States, let's run this fella! :)
That seems to be an appropriate response to the speech during Gordon Brown´s visit to the European Parliament by Daniel Hannan, a member of that parliament representing southeast England. The video at the link is worth watching. (It's about 3 minutes.)
In the last week or so, the Obama Administration has repeatedly claimed the automatic weapons fueling the wars among the drug cartels in Mexico. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put a huge portion of the blame for violence along the U.S.-Mexico border on the U.S. because we are importing drugs from Mexico and exporting money and guns. Just today, on CBS News' Meet the Press, part of a question by host Mike Schieffer was
It's my understanding that 90 percent of the guns that they're getting down in Mexico are coming from the United States. We don't seem to be doing a very good job of cutting off the gun flow.President Barack Obama accepted this premise, without directly responding to it. But just a moment later, Obama said
And so what we have to do is to recognize that, look, this is a two-way street - as Secretary Clinton indicated - we've gotta reduce demand for drugs. We've got to do our part in reducing the flow of cash and guns south.Less explicit than other Administration spokesmen, but still saying the U.S. is the source of the Mexican drug cartels' guns.
I CALL B.S. ON THESE PEOPLE! Automatic weapons have been illegal in the United States for 75 years. U.S. gangs have had to import these weapons to increase their firepower because they can't get them here. To the extent guns are moving south across the U.S.-Mexico border, they are coming through the U.S. not from the U.S. (Mexico's criminal gangs traffic with U.S. criminal gangs!? Who would have thought?) And an awful lot of (non-Administration) observers note that most cartel weapons come across Mexico's southern border and point their fingers at other Latin American countries, particularly including Venezuela.
So, is the Administration lying to us, or to themselves? And if the former, what is their real agenda?
UPDATE: Now we can see where the Administration's 90% figure comes from. It appears that 90% of the guns sent to the U.S. for tracing, and successfully traced, are traced back to (or through) the U.S. But the large majority of the guns are not sent to the U.S. because they so obviously don't come from here. Surely the Administration knows this. So why is it trying to mislead us?
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The University of Notre Dame, a Catholic university, has invited President Barack Obama to speak at the university's May 17 commencement. The university has asked other presidents to give similar speeches, and several have spoken at previous commencements.
But this case is different. President Obama has recently issued Executive Orders directly counter to primary Catholic teachings. As a direct result,
- Bishop John M. D'Arcy, bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese that includes the Notre Dame campus, has announced that, for the first time in his tenure as bishop, he will not attend the commencement ceremonies because of President Obama's "long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred."
- The university community is now in an uproar. The Cardinal Newman Society has created an on-line petition at http://www.notredamescandal.com/ and has collected, as I write, well over 100,000 signatures asking the university to uninvite Obama.
I am amazed at how Orwellian our governmental administration has become, and how quickly! Just as an example, the House of Democrats last week passed, and sent to the Senate, President Obama's GIVE Act. That's the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act. (Boy, did they have to reach for that acronym!) Far from its name, however, this act includes language indicating young people will be forced to participate in mandatory national service programs. The bill also states that "service learning" will be a mandatory part of the youth curriculum. (emphasis in the original) This includes a "mandatory service requirement for all able young people" a youth corps.
This is simply incredible! It is profoundly Orwellian. It does major violence to the language we speak and write. Volunteerism is voluntary; "mandatory volunteerism" is involuntary servitude. Silly me, I thought that was banned in this country 145 years ago.
There's another disturbing aspect to this as well profoundly disturbing: The only places I recall seeing such youth corps in history is in socialist countries. It is a characteristically socialist program. If it is instituted here, we are a socialist country and it won't matter whether it is national or international socialism.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Some friends and I been having some discussions about the economy, how deep the hole we're in will get before we start recovering, and what we should be doing about it. The following are excerpts from one thread of our discussions, put up here in the hopes of producing more discussion and ideas.
My friend, the cave bear writes
"So, what should we be doing with the bailout money instead of what the democrats are doing?" Now in a quiet moment, I think I can give a reply.I reply
1. Lower the starting point for the lowest income tax rate (currently 15%) so that at least 50% of the people in the country pay income taxes.
2. Drop the income tax levy at all levels by 10%.
3. Give EVERY home buyer after 1 Jan 09 a $10,000 rebate. If you only give the rebate to poor people, you exacerbate the existing problem.
4. Force (there is no other word) the government at federal, state, county, and city levels to send a statement to every American detailing how much they paid in taxes into that governmental level. (Recognizing this would be rather difficult for things like gas taxes. Why does the government levy taxes like gas taxes, real estate taxes, hospital levies, school taxes, liquor taxes, food taxes, medicine taxes, etc. Precisely to make the true tax level computation next to impossible. If Americans had to pay all their taxes by writing one check on April 15th, there would be a tax revolt in 3 months.)
Those four measures would seriously encourage business, investment, and home-buying (not to mention tax policy honesty) in this country. And the impact on the treasury would be about 10% of what we're going to be paying off for the rest of our lives (and our children's' lives).
OK, since none of these are going to happen, I'm with my friend: guns, gold, and gin.
I like your answer, cave bear. The game is definitely lost if less than half are players (#1), and it may be lost if those in the game have no idea how deep they're in (#4). (I'm reminded that a Commissioner of Internal Revenue testified before Congress a few years ago that the current tax system would be insupportable if it wasn't for withholding taking taxes out without the taxpayers ever seeing the money.) #2 is also good -- there is nothing like getting more money into the hands of productive people to produce actual stimulus.The cave bear wrote back, rather pessimistically
Your second sentence in item #3 is absolutely true, and that item might be something worthwhile to do. But if it were me, I'd do something a little different here: I'd follow the example of Communist China, which spurs economic growth and development by having no tax none at all on capital gains.
Depressing thought for the day. My take(s):
In a democracy the people will vote benefits for themselves until there is no one left to pay for them.
And you will reach the knee of the curve long before you hit the point where 50% of the people are no longer paying taxes. We are currently at 44% and rising quickly thanks to a number of Obama policies. The curious effect of people voting for policies that increase their own taxes is that the liberal mindset that "benefits are free" sets in very quickly in people who have never had to work for a living (like my very liberal sister who has always been taken care of by her husband).
Let me suggest some numbers.
A democracy of freedom and responsibility stops when tax policies are set so that more than 40% of the people don't contribute.
Your tax laws are a failure if:
1. The Secretary of the Treasury can claim not to know (or understand?) them. AND/OR
2. More than 50% of taxpayers need professional help to fill out their forms. (We are currently at 80%)
End of monotribe.
One more thing. The following is one of my deeply held premises: The government creates nothing.
All of this suggests a major economic policy thrust should be working our national tax policy to let workers keep more of the money they earn. It's like the quotation attributed to the late Dr Adrian Roge
What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.I wonder if our elected representatives are listening.
When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation.
You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.
I noted before Congressional Democrats intent to punish the AIG executives (and others) who got (or will get) bonuses. That intent is now implemented in Nancy Pelosis discriminatory, confiscatory and retroactive tax bill which has now been passed by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate. It appears that Congressional Democrats are trying to push this bill through (a) in response to the anger they have fostered nationwide and (b) before that anger has a chance to dissipate and, especially, before rational thought can occur.
We can only hope the Senate shows more sense and honor than the House has, and kills this bill, because it is extremely dangerous as well as improper and unconstitutional. John Hinderaker has identified the danger better than I can:
If the Pelosi bill is actually enacted into law (which I still think is doubtful) and upheld by the courts, there is no limit to the arbitrary power of Congress. In that event, we have no property rights and there is no Constitution no equal protection clause, no due process clause, no impairment of contracts clause, no bill of attainder/ex post facto law clause. Instead, we are living in a majoritarian tyranny.You think this is an exaggerated concern? Talking about this, even the New York Times says "This week, the body politic ran off the rails." and describes what Congress is doing as "economic arson."
Related, also from the New York Times: President Obama is about to call for government oversight of executive pay levels. The report says these controls are to apply to, at least, all financial institutions and possibly much more broadly perhaps to all publicly held companies. It also says the Administration is discussing whether to do this through legislation or by regulation.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
There's a lot of anger going around about the millions of dollars of bonuses given to AIG executives. Most of that anger is misplaced.
Here's the situation: AIG signed the contracts with these bonuses long before it got into trouble and got effectively nationalized. The contracts could have been renegotiated, just as the auto workers' contracts were, but that would have required renegotiation to be among the terms of the AIG bailout as it was for the auto makers. In this case, however, renegotiation wasn't part of the AIG bailout package put together by Tim Geithner as a Federal Reserve executive, and it wasn't part of the subsequent bailout packages put together by Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary. The bonuses could also have been blocked by a provision in the $787 billion stimulus bill, but Senator Chris Dodd inserted a provision literally in the dark of night in the conference committee session that specifically protected all such bonuses agreed to before a specific date (I think it was February 11 this year). After the news exploded, Dodd spent a lot of time denying he had anything to do with that provision. Now he admits it really was his doing.
Senate Banking committee Chairman Christopher Dodd told CNN’s Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer Wednesday that he was responsible for adding the bonus loophole into the stimulus package that permitted AIG and other companies that received bailout funds to pay bonuses.He now says he put that language into the bill at the request of the Treasury Department. That would be Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, acting for the administration of President Barack Obama who also denied knowing about these bonuses before having to admit he really did know about them since last fall, at least.
On Tuesday, Dodd denied to CNN that he had anything to do with the adding of that provision.
What's the Congressional reaction to the public's outrage? The loudest voices are those of Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Barney Frank, arguably the two individuals most responsible for the mess we are in. They're saying that, if the executives don't return the bonuses they were legally given, they (Dodd, Frank, and the Congress) will pass a law to take it from them. The problems with that include that such a bill would be an ex post facto (after the fact, retroactive) law aimed at particular individuals. As Charles Krauthammer notes, such laws are banned by "a few hundred years of common law". They are also (a) blatantly unconstitutional in large measure because such bills and laws (b) were a large part of why the American colonies revolted against Britain just under 235 years ago.
Beyond the illegalities, and deserving of greater anger, is the blatant dishonesty and hypocrisy being heaped on the heads of the public by these "public servants". They have known about these bonuses, and took actions to protect them. And now they're pretending to be outraged in an attempt to distract us from their own culpability. It's all a Kabuki theater fraud. You'd think this government was being run by a bunch of crooked Chicago politicians.
The North American Free Trade Agreement has provisions in it to allow Mexican trucks (among others) to deliver their cargos inside the United States, and to allow US trucks to deliver cargos in those other countries. Without this, cargos have had to be unloaded from one truck and reloaded on another in border areas to cross from one country into the other. This treaty provision was phased in over several years, and was associated with aggressive safety inspections of the trucks involved.
That wasn't good enough to satisfy the Teamsters Union, which has consistently demanded this treaty provision be changed or breached. The Teamsters claimed their objection is based on safety concerns, but their real objection is that the Mexican truck drivers don't pay them. Now they have Congress and the White House doing their bidding, and they are willing to go to war over 98 trucks. (If safety were really their concern, they would have dropped their objection the Mexican trucks have turned out to be safer than their US counterparts.)
And so a small item was sneaked into the $410 billion omnibus spending bill, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama, to kill this trucking program. As that took effect, Mexico responded by slapping tariffs on some 90 products from 40 states. This is likely to be the first response to the US starting a trade war. CNN quotes Senator John McCain saying
"Unfortunately, this is a predictable reaction by the Mexican government to a policy that now puts the United States in clear violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and was inappropriately inserted into the omnibus appropriations bill," McCain said after learning of the Mexican government's plans.
Now the Administration is saying it really doesn't want to start a trade war, and it wants to work with Mexico to come up with a new trucking plan. But, as the Wall Street Journal noted, "unilateral treaty violations aren't the way to get other nations to negotiate concessions."
Thursday, March 12, 2009
China seems to be doing a thing or two that make more sense than anything our government is doing. For one, instead of heavily subsidizing their auto industry, the Chinese decided to cut their auto retail taxes in half. As a result, Chinese auto sales in February were up 25% over the year before.
China also figured out how to get more investment. It has talked in the past about imposing a capital gains tax, but has never done so. Short term or long term. As a result, China's investment and stock market are up, while ours are down just like Taiwan's is ever since they imposed a capital gains tax. China also noticed the real estate market was chilled by increased real estate taxes.
Bottom line: China has figured out cutting taxes is the way to stimulate the economy, and imposing taxes is a good way to kill economic growth. About all this, Don Surber notes that
50 years ago, President Eisenhower dreamed of the day when China would abandon communism in favor of capitalism.
That dream is coming true.
Little did he know that we would be doing the reverse.
Out in the parking lot, I noted a station wagon with a new bumper sticker identifying its owner as a Proud Member of the Reality-Based Community. Judging from his other bumper stickers, I'd say his “Reality” is Reality TV.
Or maybe he's just out of phase. His new “Proud Member” sticker was pasted over the top of a bumper sticker that's more appropriate now than it was before If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention.
I've also noticed that my friend who has spent recent years proclaiming Dissent Is the Highest Form of Patriotism has been strangely silent for the last four months. It's all very interesting to see. Others have noticed, too.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.Nordlinger comments:
Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.
And I was reminded of a story I learned from Tony Daniels (a.k.a. Theodore Dalrymple). It’s sometime in the 1930s, I believe, before the Reich has really gotten going. A hundred “Aryan” scientists sign a letter against Einstein, saying that the theory of relativity is a Jewish hoax (or whatever). Asked for his response, Einstein says, “If what they are saying were true, one signature would have been enough.”Consensus is often claimed where it does not actually exist. Even when a consensus exists, it represents only what is believed, not what is true. And what is believed always is and must be subject to change.
That is my favorite story about majorities or mobs.
The New Mexico state legislature is in the middle of its 60 day session. (Legislative sessions in even-numbered years are only 30 days long here.) And it has continued its actions against New Mexico's voters.
For one, the legislature led by House Speaker Ben Lujan of Santa Fe and Majority Leader W. Ken Martinez of Grants killed a Republican-sponsored voter ID bill on a straight party-line vote. As noted in the Albuquerque Journal story on the bill (registration/subscription required)
Current New Mexico law, approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, allows voters to identify themselves in one of several ways that don't involve a photo ID, including a “verbal or written statement” by the voter giving their name, registration address and year of birth.In other words, just walk in and claim to be someone, and you can vote in their place. That's an open invitation to fraud which has occurred, though the authorities have declined to prosecute even when they had signed confessions. A large majority of New Mexico voters (apparently 80%) favor a voter ID law, but that doesn't matter since that 80% obviously doesn't include the legislators. As I have said before, anyone who opposes a serious voter identification requirement is objectively promoting vote fraud.
In another action, the Mew Mexico House of Representatives told New Mexico voters they shouldn't bother to vote in presidential elections, voting for a "compact" under which New Mexico's electoral college votes would be given to the candidate who got the most popular votes nationwide, regardless of how New Mexico's voters voted. This idea, the National Popular Vote proposal, seems to be a spectacularly bad idea. It sends exactly the wrong message to voters at least in small states like New Mexico.
I saw White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on Face the Nation (CBS) this morning. He made me yell at the TV. I could not believe the tissue of false statements, half-truths, and straw men coming out of his mouth.
A prime example of Rahm's outright falsehoods was his statement repeated more than once, for emphasis that there were no earmarks in the stimulus bill. (!!) Certainly that was the initial stated intent, as it was reported that
top Democrats and the Obama administration decided that there would be no earmarks: no "special projects," no pork-barrel spending.Of course, it didn't stay that way. The bill ended up with a number of earmarks, inserted in the dark of night in closed-door meetings from which Republicans and less conspiratorial Democrats were excluded, including $30 million for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for wetlands restoration that the Obama administration intends to spend in the San Francisco Bay Area to protect, among other things, the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse and $8 billion for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for building a maglev train between Las Vegas and Southern California. It is true the stimulus bill did not have the more than 9,000 earmarks in the Democrats' omnibus spending bill, but these (and other) earmarks demonstrate that Rahm's statement was completely false.
The omnibus spending bill provides an example of the half-truths. According to Rahm, the deficit in the government's Fiscal Year 2009 spending is the fault of the Bush Administration. That was part of his effort to make the assertion (without quite saying it) that the Obama Administration isn't raising the deficit that the Obama deficit is "inherited from George Bush". There are at least a couple of problems with this. The budget bill is not George Bush's budget. The Pelosi-Reid Congress refused to pass the Bush budget, and only passed a temporary spending bill so the new administration could put an immediate imprint on the budget without Republican interference. So (1) current spending is the Democrats' budget and (2) the omnibus spending bill (with its 9000+ earmarks) is Barack Obama's budget. And doesn't it take a awful lot of chutzpah to claim to be reducing the deficit while actually nearly quadrupling it.
I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised. After all, I lived in Chicago for a couple of years under Mayor Richard Daley and his political machine. And Rahm Emanuel is a dirty Chicago politician. (Yes, I know that's repetitive, and redundant.)