Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Welcome to the Oweligarchy

Like Oligarchy, oweligarchy is a form of government where power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society. Oweligarchy, however, is distinguished from its homonym by a haughty elite who are spendthrift statists, bitterly dedicated to the permanent impoverishment of the non-elite, and who may be further characterized by their affinity for home grown arugula, wagyu steak and tendency to drift into kleptocracy.

In its treatment of business the United States is now fully equivalent to Russia's handling of Gazprom. In sucking up to government many US businesses are equivalent to the crony capitalists in Red China. CEOs of such firms in both Russia and China met with bad ends, ranging from long jail sentences to bullets in the back of the head.

So far, we've had two State Attorneys General threaten several dozen executives who had broken no law, encouraging the Red Guard ACORN to mount protests and others to make death threats. We've seen the firing of the CEO of a private business by the President, and Barney Frank has a bill to control the entire pay scale of any company who took federal money.

General Eisenhower warned us of the military-industrial complex only because he failed to foresee the unholy alliance of government with corporate welfare queen rent seekers promoting the sale of carbon indulgences offsets for their own aggrandizement at taxpayer expense.

Corporations don't pay taxes, but some of them sure as hell increase yours through their lobbying efforts. I refer to the specific examples of the General Electric company and T. Boone Pickens. GE has been positioning themselves for years to collect handsomely on the sale of some form of carbon indulgence as championed by AlGore, and Mr. Pickens wants you to spend $70 billion on infrastructure and windmills so as to increase the value of his natural gas holdings, and the windmill parks he's building. Such corporatist swine should not be confused with capitalists. They are more akin to the people "in charge" of the railroads under Mussolini, the punctuality of which, by the way, has been vastly overrated.

In 2008, the Wall Street Journal deemed the Warner-Lieberman Kyoto Protocol clone bill "the most extensive government reorganization of the American economy since the 1930s." Sadly, they could no longer say that. Nor, tragically, this:
Thankfully, the American system makes it hard for colossal tax and regulatory burdens to foxtrot into law without scrutiny. So we hope our politicians will take responsibility for the global-warming policies they say they favor. Or even begin to understand what they say they favor. For a bill as grandly ambitious as Warner-Lieberman, very few staff, much less Senators, even know what's in it. The press corps mainly cheerleads this political fad, without examining how it would work or what it would cost.
Emphasis mine.

I have recommended The Suicidal Corporation in a previous post on corporatism. All of you out there driving Atlas Shrugged to #1 should read that next.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Permits optional

Cape "tea party" canceled; City fears too many attendees

If you would sponsor an assembly in the City of Cape Coral, Florida, and if more than 500 people are likely to attend, then you need a permit and insurance. From Cape Coral's POV, this is reasonable. For an individual simply encouraging people to speak up about the behavior of their general government, it's a bit much.

Perhaps there are parallels here to the Tea Party of December 16th, 1773. In that case, the demonstrators did not petition King George for a permit, and any insurance would have been purchased by the East India Company, not the colonists Indians involved.

In Cape Coral a bunch of people could just show up spontaneously because we have the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment doesn't say there isn't personal responsibility, and it doesn't require an insurance policy purchased by one individual to guarantee the behavior of other individuals peaceably to assemble. Just like a riot in East Lansing after a Michigan State NCAA tournament loss, nobody has to get a permit and individuals are responsible for themselves. If a riot can just happen, so can a peaceable assembly.

We will need some securely anonymous social network, however, to keep the state from coming after individuals who merely pass on the news of such an event. I think in the next few years you will see this become mainstream by necessity, and it won't be because of municipal regulation.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Defamation of infidels

In response to the U.N. Human Rights Council's vote last week to outlaw criticism of religion in a resolution that mentioned only one religion specifically, I thought it would be a good idea to put forward some criticism/insult/mockery of every religion. Images seemed appropriate since this nonsense has its origins in some cartoons of Mohammed published 2 years ago.

What I needed then, were cartoons or photos for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism and Judaism. I decided to skip Wicca, maybe that's an insult in and of itself. I also didn't look specifically for Sufism as a separate religion from Islam, and I'm pretty sure that is an insult. Likewise, various sects of Christianity are lumped together. Fortunately, Christianity in all forms is easy to insult with a single image.

Insulting and mocking images of either Christianity or Judaism greatly outnumber those targeting Islam. Hinduism is a distant 4th, though I did turn up something. Buddhism seems to indulge in mild self-mocking, but the only real insult would be pictures of the Taliban blasting ancient statues of Buddha with artillery. I thought that might actually be considered doubling down on Islam, so didn't include it. For Jainism I could find nothing. Anyone out there who can fill in the gaps, let me know.

Let's go at this alphabetically. First up, Christianity:

That's "Piss Christ" by American photographer Andres Serrano. It's a small plastic crucifix is submerged in a glass of the artist's urine. Serrano's photograph won a prize from the National Endowment for the Arts. Nobody rioted, died or put a price on Mr. Serrano's head over this. The NEA wasn't shut down. I went with this instead of the exhibit of the Virgin Mary smeared with elephant dung for its more universal character. I also considered this cartoon. Warning, not family friendly.

On to Hinduism. This is an artist's depiction of the Goddess Saraswati in the altogether.
This image is associated with the only non-Islamic reference I found (I wasn't really looking) to putting a contract out to kill an artist. Little known Hindu outfit offers Rs 51 cr for Husain death

More on that controversy here. Rs 51 crore is 510,000,000 rupees, around $10 million USD, and is a popular number for killing artists in the name of insulted religions as demonstrated here in another Indian case, but with a different religion.

Which brings us to Islam:

I like this because it mocks the UNHCR, too.

Next Jews. Really hard to choose from such a wealth of material, but you have to like this one in light of the Muslims at the UNHCR passing the resolution that singles out one religion by name for protection.

Especially when you find out this logo was created by an Israeli to mock the Iranian contest.

So, how did it come to pass that the UNHCR decided religion needed protection from criticism? UN body OKs call to curb religious criticism
The U.N.'s top human-rights body approved a proposal by Muslims nations Thursday urging passage of laws around the world to protect religion from criticism.

The proposal put forward by Pakistan on behalf of Islamic countries - with the backing of Belarus and Venezuela - had drawn strong criticism from free-speech campaigners and liberal democracies.

A simple majority of 23 members of the 47-nation Human Rights Council voted in favor of the resolution. Eleven nations, mostly Western, opposed the resolution, and 13 countries abstained.

..."Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism," the resolution said.
Here we have a resolution purporting to defend human rights by suppressing freedom of thought, brought by a religion that considers women to be third class citizens and whose adherents riot, threaten cartoonists and writers with death, glorify suicide bombings of civilians and call for beheading those who mention any of that.

Apparently, these UN HCR Muslims lack a sense of irony as well as a sense of humor.

Do you think this resolution means the Muslims who voted for this will cease calling for Israel's destruction because Jews are Apes and Pigs? Me neither.
..."It is individuals who have rights and not religions," Canadian diplomat Terry Cormier said.

India, which normally votes along with the council's majority of developing nations, abstained in protest at the fact that Islam was the only religion specifically named as deserving protection.

India's Ambassador Gopinathan Achamkulangare said the resolution "inappropriately" linked religious criticism to racism.
Thanks to Canada, but why are they even participating in this buffoonery? And what, India, is meant by "inappropriate" linking of religious criticism to racism? What would be appropriate? I'd like to post an example.
The United States did not vote on the resolution because it is not a member of the council. The Bush administration announced it was virtually giving up on the body and would participate in debates only if absolutely necessary because of the Geneva body's anti-Israel statements and its failure to act on abuses in Sudan and elsewhere.

U.S. diplomats resumed their observer role in the council after President Barack Obama took office, though it is unclear whether Washington will stand for one of the 18 council seats up for election in May.
And if the US were to rejoin such a body, what would that mean?

Eleven countries voted No: Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Italy, while 13 abstained, including Bosnia, Brazil, and Mexico. Since the Yeas were 23 out of 47, and a simple majority was required, it's the abstainers who should be blamed.

Here's
the resolution.

Here's more comment on it.
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL TRAVESTY: SEEING IS BELIEVING

UN Watch and 186 NGOs call for rejection of "defamation of religions" campaign

Islamic states protest “Islamophobia,” “defamation of religions” in talks on racism

Update: 2:20PM No word yet on whether Mexican Christians will riot over SecState's ignorance.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I vote for global warming

Earth Hour approaches, when we are all supposed to turn off our lights to heal the planet. Some of us will protest the environmentalist desire to eliminate half of earth's population and bring the economy into the 19th Century by leaving our lights on. Counter-protest is an appropriate term, since the environmental industry has made this a contest. I did not make this up.
This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming.

For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming.
They insist, you see, on a false dichotomy. You are either for them or you are for global warming. The debate is over, of course, but I am surprised they forgot to call it "climate change," because it's been getting cooler for a decade.

Given that choice, I'll vote for global warming. Back in a minute... There, all my lights and electronics are on.

Let's celebrate Human Achievement Hour.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute plans to recognize “Human Achievement Hour” between 8:30pm and 9:30pm on March 28, 2009 to coincide with Earth Hour, a period of time during which governments, individuals, and corporations have agreed to dim or shut off lights in an effort to draw attention to climate change. Anyone not foregoing the use of electricity in that hour is, by default, celebrating the achievements of human beings.

We salute the people who keep the lights on and produce the energy that helps make human achievement possible.

Green and private conservation are fine. We have no problem with an individual (or group) that wants to sit naked in the dark without heat, clothing, or light. Additionally, we would have no problem with the group holding a pro-green technology rally. That is their choice. But when this group stages a “global election” with the express purpose of influencing “government policies to take action against global warming,” we have every right as individuals to express our vote for the opposite

If Human Achievement Hour is at all a dig against Earth Hour, it is so only by the fact that we are pointing out what Earth Hour truly is about: it isn’t pro-earth, it is anti-man and anti-innovation. So, on March 28th, CEI plans to continue “voting” for humanity by enjoying the fruits of man’s mind.
I think the best part might be that there is now a good reason to leave your outside Christmas lights up until March so as to use them during Earth Hour. This also means it'll be, on average, warmer when you do take them down.
(Some glitch caused this to pop up briefly on Sunday. When I noticed I re-posted to the original. ??

Friday, March 27, 2009

"A word means what I choose it to mean..."

I have commented previously on how Stephen Pinker's euphemism treadmill is an overused piece of equipment in the Democrat gym. First Socialist, then Liberal, and now Progressive. Etc.

But they are now beyond Pinker.

The Other Club opined last week on the dropping of "enemy combatant". But that was merely the routine work of old hands using the old treadmill. They have been surpased and supplanted as the wordsmiths of the Obama Nation. Is it Carrolls's Wonderland with Humpty Dumpty or Orwell's 1984?

As reported in today's Investor's Business Daily, we are no longer at war. By dictum of the white house, Bush's War on Terror (a dumb name if there ever was one), has now become a "Foreign Contingency Operation". Honest. Now tell me, do you think Orwell's Winston Smith did any better than this?

Or what about our Homeland Security chief. Does she take a back seat to Winston Smith? You decide. The attack on the World Trade Center was a) an attrocity, b) a terrorist act, c) "a man-caused disaster". I prefer a); reasonable people prefer b); Janet Napolitano chooses c).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Drugs, guns and wacky pols

President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Attorney General Holder and some lesser lights in the Democrat hierarchy have, of late, periodically referred to the weapons and other munitions possessed by Mexican drug gangs as a problem that originates in the United States.

One item of supply and one of demand figure into these comments. The demand side, from a U.S. perspective, is for drugs. As long as it is immensely profitable for Mexican drug lords to smuggle drugs into the American market, they will constitute a demand for weaponry to defend their business. In sum, we supply the cash with which the Mexican criminals purchase military hardware.

The drug claims seem likely to be true. We have failed deter the north bound drug traffic by failing to defend our border in general. The President has shown he can stop cross-border traffic involving legitimate Mexican truckers when the Teamsters get upset, but, like George Bush, has responded with less vigor to patrolling our southern border against illegal Mexican incursion.

The weapons claim is either a lie or an admission that we cannot enforce our own laws. No weapons of the type being touted are able to be legally owned by American civilians. You cannot legally buy an automatic weapon. You cannot legally buy hand grenades. You cannot legally buy an rocket propelled grenade or a launcher for it. There is simply no legal civilian channel for these weapons. Therefore, if American civilians are involved in the arms flow to Mexico, they are already committing felonies the United States - according to Obama, Clinton and Holder - is powerless to prevent. And this claim would also require that the civilians smuggling such weapons are fools. It is not credible that highly restricted weapons are being smuggled, in quantity, across our borders twice when they need never enter the U.S. at all.

If Obama, Clinton and Holder think these weapons are being stolen from U.S. military or police supplies the law-enforcement problem is even greater. Fortunately, neither U.S. civilians nor our military are exporting automatic weapons, hand grenades or RPGs. Even the LA Times has pointed this out.

Most of these weapons are being smuggled from Central American countries or by sea, eluding U.S. and Mexican monitors who are focused on the smuggling of semiauto-matic and conventional weapons [Sic. Semi-automatic weapons have been conventional civilian arms for 100 years.] purchased from dealers in the U.S. border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Why then, do the Democrat bigwigs keep bringing up the idea that military grade small arms are entering Mexico from the United States? Simple, if they can tie the ownership of conventional hunting and self-defense weapons to border violence and drugs, they will perhaps get a chance to further regulate these standard civilian arms. Certainly, the records of Obama, Clinton and Holder show they would welcome such an opportunity.

However, far be it from The Other Club to simply complain. There is a solution to both problems. First, legalize the drugs and then tax them to within 80% of the street value. The revenue would be more than the cap-and-trade carbon tax, without damaging the economy, and the government could reduce the death toll from bad drugs while also starving the Mexican drug cartels. They would no longer be able to afford, nor have any use for, military grade weaponry.

Second, as a matter of consistency, since Nancy Pelosi considers enforcement of our immigration laws to be un-American, require Mexico to grant Second Amendment rights to its own citizens. After all, the claim is that they do have full Constitutional rights as soon as they cross the border, legally or not. They might as well enjoy the same rights in Mexico. Isn't it un-American that they don't? Besides, maybe allowing the average Mexican citizen to defend himself would help law enforcement there.

Update 7:16PM
Congressional testimony here on the topic.

And here on the success of Mexican gun control laws. They do need a Second Amendment.

No fishwrap left behind

Senator Benjamin Cardin, D-MD, is proposing to fold newspapers into the Department of Education.
Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.
What now, without any legislative interference, stops newspapers from becoming non-profits without giving up their right to political speech, the most important example of free speech protected by the First Amendment? I mean, aren't the AARP and the NRA non-profits who publish magazines containing political opinion? The AARP and the NRA, of course, have members about whom they care intensely, not customers who are supposed to believe content from the Associated Press does not represent a political endorsement.

But, never mind that. It's obviously a bit too subtle for Senator Cardin. What we must truly puzzle over is his farcical contention that NPR and PBS do not make political endorsements; on the strength of which fallacy he deftly advocates removing the First Amendment rights of newspaper publishers. "We had to destroy the Press in order to save it?"

Senator, what newspaper wants to be castrated? The thrill won't be running up their legs anymore.

Newspapers are going online, and they will live or die there based on whether people want to read the content. If the value - educational, prurient or humorous - of the writers' output does not attract a readership, so be it. Isn't the demise of newspapers about the shift of advertising dollars to platforms people actually want to spend time reading? Besides, I can't imagine how the semi-annual pledge drive from the Lansing State Journal would even be conducted. Extra sticky notes on the front page?

Minus endorsements for even local candidates and critiques of local political policy, the whole LSJ might as well be MSU sports, weather and TV listings. Suppression of political speech would probably improve the "balance" of the Letters to the Editor, but I doubt publishing the remaining missives would be worth the labor cost. Take out the wingnuts and moonbats and you've got a few people from PETA objecting to the local appearance of a circus or rodeo leavened with occasional pleas for everyone to stop eating meat, and seasonal complaints about snow removal and road repair. You could even make a good case that's all political. Boring won't help.

Senator Cardin doesn't understand that the newspapers are failing because the content of their stories - not the editorials, the stories - are mostly endorsements of a specific political philosophy. Compounding this error, he names his bill so as to make NRA the acronym. That's a half measure, and he should rename it.

Here's a suggestion: Preserving Reflexive Advocacy for Venerated Democrats Act. Or maybe Sycophant Assistance Program.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jake DeSantis deserves a standing ovation

...and an apology from the State of New York, the State of Connecticut, Congress, the President and the Department of the Treasury.

Letter to the New York Times.
The following is a letter sent on Tuesday by Jake DeSantis, an executive vice president of the American International Group's financial products unit, to Edward M. Liddy, the chief executive of A.I.G.

DEAR Mr. Liddy,

It is with deep regret that I submit my notice of resignation from A.I.G. Financial Products. I hope you take the time to read this entire letter. Before describing the details of my decision, I want to offer some context:

I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in - or responsible for - the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company - during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 - we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down.

You and I have never met or spoken to each other, so I'd like to tell you about myself. I was raised by schoolteachers working multiple jobs in a world of closing steel mills. My hard work earned me acceptance to M.I.T., and the institute's generous financial aid enabled me to attend. I had fulfilled my American dream.

I started at this company in 1998 as an equity trader, became the head of equity and commodity trading and, a couple of years before A.I.G.'s meltdown last September, was named the head of business development for commodities. Over this period the equity and commodity units were consistently profitable - in most years generating net profits of well over $100 million. Most recently, during the dismantling of A.I.G.-F.P., I was an integral player in the pending sale of its well-regarded commodity index business to UBS. As you know, business unit sales like this are crucial to A.I.G.'s effort to repay the American taxpayer.

The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation. I never received any pay resulting from the credit default swaps that are now losing so much money. I did, however, like many others here, lose a significant portion of my life savings in the form of deferred compensation invested in the capital of A.I.G.-F.P. because of those losses. In this way I have personally suffered from this controversial activity - directly as well as indirectly with the rest of the taxpayers.

I have the utmost respect for the civic duty that you are now performing at A.I.G. You are as blameless for these credit default swap losses as I am. You answered your country's call and you are taking a tremendous beating for it.

But you also are aware that most of the employees of your financial products unit had nothing to do with the large losses. And I am disappointed and frustrated over your lack of support for us. I and many others in the unit feel betrayed that you failed to stand up for us in the face of untrue and unfair accusations from certain members of Congress last Wednesday and from the press over our retention payments, and that you didn't defend us against the baseless and reckless comments made by the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut.

My guess is that in October, when you learned of these retention contracts, you realized that the employees of the financial products unit needed some incentive to stay and that the contracts, being both ethical and useful, should be left to stand. That's probably why A.I.G. management assured us on three occasions during that month that the company would "live up to its commitment" to honor the contract guarantees.

That may be why you decided to accelerate by three months more than a quarter of the amounts due under the contracts. That action signified to us your support, and was hardly something that one would do if he truly found the contracts "distasteful."

That may also be why you authorized the balance of the payments on March 13.

At no time during the past six months that you have been leading A.I.G. did you ask us to revise, renegotiate or break these contracts - until several hours before your appearance last week before Congress.

I think your initial decision to honor the contracts was both ethical and financially astute, but it seems to have been politically unwise. It's now apparent that you either misunderstood the agreements that you had made - tacit or otherwise - with the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, various members of Congress and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of New York, or were not strong enough to withstand the shifting political winds.

You've now asked the current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. to repay these earnings. As you can imagine, there has been a tremendous amount of serious thought and heated discussion about how we should respond to this breach of trust.

As most of us have done nothing wrong, guilt is not a motivation to surrender our earnings. We have worked 12 long months under these contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.

Many of the employees have, in the past six months, turned down job offers from more stable employers, based on A.I.G.'s assurances that the contracts would be honored. They are now angry about having been misled by A.I.G.'s promises and are not inclined to return the money as a favor to you.

The only real motivation that anyone at A.I.G.-F.P. now has is fear. Mr. Cuomo has threatened to "name and shame," and his counterpart in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, has made similar threats - even though attorneys general are supposed to stand for due process, to conduct trials in courts and not the press.

So what am I to do? There's no easy answer. I know that because of hard work I have benefited more than most during the economic boom and have saved enough that my family is unlikely to suffer devastating losses during the current bust. Some might argue that members of my profession have been overpaid, and I wouldn't disagree.

That is why I have decided to donate 100 percent of the effective after-tax proceeds of my retention payment directly to organizations that are helping people who are suffering from the global downturn. This is not a tax-deduction gimmick; I simply believe that I at least deserve to dictate how my earnings are spent, and do not want to see them disappear back into the obscurity of A.I.G.'s or the federal government's budget. Our earnings have caused such a distraction for so many from the more pressing issues our country faces, and I would like to see my share of it benefit those truly in need.

On March 16 I received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes. In light of the uncertainty over the ultimate taxation and legal status of this payment, the actual amount I donate may be less - in fact, it may end up being far less if the recent House bill raising the tax on the retention payments to 90 percent stands. Once all the money is donated, you will immediately receive a list of all recipients.

This choice is right for me. I wish others at A.I.G.-F.P. luck finding peace with their difficult decision, and only hope their judgment is not clouded by fear.

Mr. Liddy, I wish you success in your commitment to return the money extended by the American government, and luck with the continued unwinding of the company's diverse businesses - especially those remaining credit default swaps. I'll continue over the short term to help make sure no balls are dropped, but after what's happened this past week I can't remain much longer - there is too much bad blood. I'm not sure how you will greet my resignation, but at least Attorney General Blumenthal should be relieved that I'll leave under my own power and will not need to be "shoved out the door."

Sincerely,

Jake DeSantis
Mr. DeSantis could also have mentioned that efforts like his saved hundreds of millions of dollars toward averting a "total [economic] collapse," in the President's words. This is the same President who employed that rhetoric to insist the Stimulus Bill approving the AIG bonuses be passed without being read.

It is dangerous and despicable that senior politicians no longer feel constrained by the rule of law. They have acted as little more than a mob, making it up as they go along.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Our President's Response

I received an email today containing the following letter. I cannot confirm that Mr. Ford is real or that he wrote the letter. Really, that does not matter.
Dear President Obama,

Thank you for helping my neighbors with their mortgage payments. You know the ones down the street who in the good times refinanced their house several times and bought SUV's, ATV's, RV's, a pool, a big screen, two Wave Runners and a Harley. But I was wondering, since I am paying my mortgage and theirs, could you arrange for me to borrow the Harley now and then?

Richard Ford
Queen Creek, AZ

P.S. They also need help with their credit cards, when do you want me to start making those payments?

P.P.S. I almost forgot - they didn't file their income tax return this year. Should I go ahead and file for them or will you be appointing them to cabinet posts?
It does not matter if this is a real letter because it encapsulates the feelings of ordinary citizens who, for example, take up the small commitment to show up and be counted at their local Tea Party.

It also provides me an opportunity to create a reply such as Our President might make if he were an honest man:

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your thoughtful and community oriented letter. I am gratified to know that both hope and change have come to Queen Creak.

The residents of the other 56 states (and the District of Columbia) are similarly proud of the funds they have had forcibly taken transferred to Arizona to aid you and your neighbors alike.

You'll be happy to know your elected representatives managed to get $216 million dollars in earmarks for Arizona porkjects
[sic]. I admit this is a small portion of a $410 billion dollar bill, and I agree it does not include all those special spending projects in the stimulus bill that were not pork by definition. In any case, we don't even really understand them all yet since we haven't read the bill.

Still, taxpayers all over the country are helping Arizona to study commuter rail systems ($97.3M+), examine the Colorado River basin and Southern Arizona water rights ($28M) and initiate Phoenix airport taxiway initiative initiatives ($4M). All this benefit is brought to you courtesy of the general government returning some of the money Arizonans have sent to us here in the Beltway. You are one of the very few individuals to write me in active support of the transfer of both wealth and responsibility so that all our communities can be organized identically.

That brings me to a question that should be answered before I invite you the the White House for the arugula planting ceremony in the Obamagarten at the next full moon. As I read your words out loud, streaming by on the teleprompter, they sound sincere to me and to the focus group; but Michelle wants to know if you are being sarcastic. If so, why do you object to supporting your neighbors when the wider community so obviously supports you?

You had the identical opportunity to obtain SUVs, multiple vacation properties, and/or a liposuction and breast augmentation for Mrs. Ford as did your neighbors. Is the community at fault for your lack of organization?

It is certainly gratifying to know that your neighbors "bought American" when they purchased a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. What could be more representative of the freedom of Americans than to conspicuously consume a vehicle they couldn't afford, produced by industry yet to beg for a bailout?

As to the credit card payments... ... ...

You may be aware that I have asked for special authority to seize, at the whim of the Treasury Secretary, any businesses involved in finance. That is, somehow taking in money and then spending it in some way. (I do note you neglect to identify your employer. (8=]) ). In short, unless your neighbor's credit cards are issued by a religion corporation that strictly observes a ban on charging interest, your neighbors will not have to worry about any increase in the balances they ran up due to the actions of greedy Wall Street kulaks operating as if they couldn't fail because they knew Dubya and I would bail them out. As soon as arrangements are complete, I will let you know where to send the checks. We think these payments should be denominated in Euros or perhaps SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) to avoid confusion for the Chinese - from whom we are awaiting instruction.

You raise an interesting point regarding your neighbor's income tax. To answer your second question first, our diversity quota for tax cheat cabinet positions is oversubscribed, and while I'm sure Secretary Geithner would welcome the company (since he's knocking about that huge building by himself and can't even answer the phone calls), people just like your neighbors are getting really peeved about other peoples' income. These mental special olympians Some of them just voted to confiscate money they had approved only a month ago. Congress is in a volatile mood, so I do not think we can add your neighbors to the Treasury Department. I am, however, checking with the TSA and ACORN for open positions.

We must remember that it is possible that your neighbors simply find the income tax forms intellectually overwhelming. In this regard, I know that Secretary Geithner found Turbo-Tax™ to be useful and quite able to be overridden forgiving. I also know that some versions allow preparation of more than one return per household.

Technically your neighbors are not "in your household," and using the software for them may be a violation of the contract you clicked through. But, as you point out, you are "in" their household to the extent that you're paying for their house. So, if you could offer to prepare their taxes for them it would save the government the cost of tracking them down and perhaps reduce your own tax burden - a "Whinge, Whinge," as we like to say in the Oval Office.

So, please ask them to bring you the Manolo Blahnik shoebox containing their financial information so that you can help them and Your Government. I am quite confident you will carefully screen their deductions since you will have assumed legal responsibility as their tax preparer and their payments may potentially affect your own future tax liability (wink, wink).

Again, thank you for your letter. Michelle and I have a bet on whether you are sincere or mocking. I must say I hope you don't let me down, since my bet is 8 hours weeding in the dominatrix garden.

Yours in hopychanginess,

Barack Obama and Teleprompter 3
The White House


H/T TF

Friday, March 20, 2009

Community Organizing for the rest of us

Tomorrow you may find yourself accosted by someone who wants you to sign a pledge:
  • I support President Obama's bold approach for renewing America's economy
  • I will ask friends, family, and neighbors to pledge their support for this plan

You may be told this loyalty oath is simply a non-partisan effort to organize a community of hope for the President to succee
d. In fact, it's a project of the Democratic National Committee and the Obama Permanent Campaign; as seen on late night TV.

I don't know if there is an official counter-pledge site, so consider this:
  • I wish success to the ideals of free minds and free markets, therefore:
  • I do not wish the President success in moving our country away from those ideals.
  • I will resist the Obama Administration's attempt to nationalize any part of the economy and especially health care, energy supply and education.
  • I will make every effort to attend public protests against both political parties' continuing lack of respect for limited government.
  • I will ask friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances and strangers to join me.
Print out a copy if you'll be out and about tomorrow, and ask any ACORN types who accost you to sign your pledge.

Echo Chamber

From the supine:
Yesterday the House of Representatives went belly up to the roaring echoes of their own populist rhetoric, reaching into the totalitarian playbook to pass a bill that is almost certainly unconstitutional. They decided to steal claw back one-tenth of one percent ($165M) of the money they have given to AIG ($173B). They voted for those bonuses - by approving a $787 billion bill without reading it - before they voted against them. They panicked in both votes. Remember this the next time anyone uses the word "deliberative" in connection with the general government.

...to the ridiculous:
Today we find out that the 25 DVD movies Our President gave to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown have a North American region code, and won't work on a UK DVD player. I'm guessing this gift cost the taxpayers maybe $75 on sale at Amazon. Cost - trivial, (though a lot for low-end coasters). Embarrassment - not so much for Obama, excruciating for most of us.

This wide ranging demonstration of competence comes a couple weeks after Our President unveiled a budget he said would increase spending by over $1 trillion dollars in the next decade and double the publicly held national debt to $15 trillion.

Two major components of the increases are further nationalization of health care and a carbon "cap-and-trade" auction. The budget projects the cost of these projects at ~$634 billion and ~$650 billion, respectively. The cap-and-trade system is essentially a government license to emit carbon dioxide and is counted in the budget as "revenue," known outside the beltway as a "tax." A similar system has already failed in Europe, even when the initial licenses were given away.

Since the budget announcement, White House aides have acknowledged that rather than $650 billion, the new energy tax is actually likely to increase energy costs by $1.3 to $1.9 trillion.

Since the amount assigned to "universal health care" is less than 3 percent of annual US spending on medical care, the number is, shall we say, optimistic. The White House acknowledges this, but can't say what the real cost would be.

Let me fix that for them, the estimate of increased spending seems to be low by a factor of at least 3.

No worries, though, Our President has figured out how to cut $2 trillion from spending in other areas. For example, He announced that He will save what we would have spent if we maintained forces, at current levels, in Iraq through 2019. This is like when you consider buying a new Ferrari, but decide you have to get along with your 2 year old Cobalt instead: You've saved a couple hundred thousand. If you decide to do that every year for a decade, you've saved a cool $2 million. Put that in the bank (no more than $250,000 per bank, though). This is such a good idea I can't figure out why he didn't project us in Iraq until 2030. It would have saved even more. Oh, right, He has promised we'll be out, mostly, by 2010. OK, so instead, why not decide NOT to establish a colony on Mars by 2015?

Not quite satisfied with this sleight of tongue, Our President went on to add insult to usury by criticizing the financial honesty of Tim Geithner Charlie Rangel Chris Dodd Bill Richardson Tom Daschle Franklin Raines Barney Frank the previous administration.
Denouncing what he called the "dishonest accounting" of recent federal budgets, Obama unveiled his own $3.6 trillion blueprint for next year, a bold proposal that would transfer wealth from rich taxpayers to the middle class and the poor.
It's all that.

Aside from the obvious, that these people couldn't be trusted to run one of those 7-11's Joe Biden used to frequent, what can we take away from the recent performance of our national legislative and executive branches? Perhaps that they've demonstrated they are too venal, panic prone and stupid to be trusted managing either the health care system or energy policy?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

G. O. P. 6

Principle, ladies and gentlemen of the GOP, principle. Principle is what is needed from the Republicans in the House to stop the looting. Today the Democrats propose to loot a few fat-cats we've been told to depise. Their leader has proposed to loot all of us. Connect the dots! It's not complicated.

The Democrats are about to confiscate bonuses legally paid to a few employees of AIG which they, the Democrats, voted to approve. The Democrats may now find it necessary to succumb to a fit of populist pique because they really need to shift the blame, but Republicans in the House ALL voted against the bill Pelosi wrote at the instruction of the White House and with the collusion of Chris Dodd - and that none of them read - so we now need more than vague mouthings from Republican House leadership where members are instructed to "vote their conscience;" we need the honorable members to actually have a conscience: One that acknowledges contract law and the Constitution. And think of this: Beyond the basic rule-of-law thingy some of us expect you to follow, letting the Democrats "fix" their SNAFU with this totalitarian gesture is also a political mistake.

A unified GOP House vote would stop this theft because it needs a 2/3 majority to pass. Nancy Pelosi is coming for the AIG bonus recipients. Next she will come for you. Remember, she voted for the AIG bonuses before she voted against them, but she's never expressed any outrage about FoO Franklin Raines, who got $50 million in bonuses for destroying Fannie Mae while he was busy helping to create the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

The House attempt to tax away 90% of legally contracted payments to specific individual citizens looks like a Bill of attainder to me.
A bill of attainder (also known as an act or writ of attainder) is an act of legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without benefit of a trial. Bills of attainder are forbidden by Article I, section 9, clause 3 of the United States Constitution.
Some legal experts think so. I hope someone sues so we can find out. Maybe the ILJ.

.
.
.
It turns out the GOP "Leadership" wasn't, and 85 House Republicans supported the theft: Getting Our Pound of flesh. Put the 85 on the "Requires Primary Challenge" list. They voted their conscience, after all.

Think kindly of the 6 Democrats who voted “no”: Melissa Bean, Ill.; Larry Kissell, N.C.; Michael E. McMahon, N.Y.; Walt Minnick, Idaho; Harry E. Mitchell, Ariz., and Vic Snyder, Ark. We can't find nearly enough Republicans dedicated to limited government, and maybe these people are. If so, they deserve re-election.

Find how your Congressman voted here. I found Mike Rogers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Administration Rejects Plunder ??

There has been some question about the truth of the Obama Administration's charge that Senator Chris Dodd is responsible for a TARP provision specifically allowing the AIG bonuses. Obama's people are calling it the "Dodd Amendment," Dodd's people are implying it was the White House and the House of Representatives who let AIG get away with the bonuses that represent less than 1% of the federal handout. It is not yet clear who inserted the language in the bill. That is, we don't know which Democrat was skulking around late at night in conference committee negotiations with whiteout and a Bic.

Whatever. Someone who is pretending to shocked and awed, isn't. I've looked around for some recent, relevant commentary and below you will find a hodgepodge of history on it.

Let us begin with Robert Gibbs, Richard Shelby and Barney Frank on Face the Nation from a little over a month ago before anyone was admitting they knew the AIG bonuses were coming soon to a demagoguery soapbox near you.



Here's what they're talking about. It's a debate that began before Obama even took office. He did have a plan, however. On January 11th, 2009 we find this: Big changes to Obama stimulus plan

Under the initial law approved in Congress, once the administration tells lawmakers it wants to access the second installment of TARP, Congress must approve a resolution turning down that request within 15 days – or the Treasury Department can begin to use the money. If a simple majority in both chambers approves the resolution, the president would have to successfully veto the measure in order to dip into those funds.

The Bush administration is expected to imminently request the second installment, but the money would not be used until after Obama assumes office on Jan. 20. But concerns in Congress have grown about the Treasury Department’s use of the $350 billion it's already received, with critics saying that there has been poor transparency and accountability and that the package has not stabilized the volatile economy.

Obama’s team is trying to assure Democrats that it will use the next installment more wisely than the Bush administration spent the last one—and are hoping to avoid casting a veto on one of his first days in office.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Banking Committee, said that “there’s a willingness on the part of some Republicans to be supportive provided that there is some additional conditionality”

Obama’s team will draft a letter laying out some assurances on how it would spend the money, and Dodd says it should be broadened beyond the financial sector to include commitments to help stave off home foreclosures, more accountability and tighter requirements on executive compensation for private companies that receive TARP funds.
Obama was right on the job in letter writing, if nothing else, here's a note from January 12, 2009, wherein Senator Dodd says he'll trust Obama on the basis of a letter: Dodd: A Letter on Bailout Limits Might Be Enough
...Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) suggests that a letter of assurances from the incoming Obama administration, detailing its promises for responsible use of the bailout cash, could be enough to alleviate Dems' concerns.
Apparently, that trust was misplaced: Who me?
The question of how an amendment crept into the bailout bill exempting the very AIG bonuses that are now being criticized by the administration is currently unanswered. The administration calls it the “Dodd Amendment”, but Dodd says he has nothing to do with it.
By February 14th, we were hearing about how Congress had tied up the President on the matter of compensation for bailout recipients: Congress Trumps Obama by Cuffing Bonuses for CEOs
Yesterday, bank compensation lawyers, pay consultants and accountants were combing through the executive compensation rules, which make up 11 pages in the 1,073-page stimulus bill. While there was disagreement over the interpretation of finer points, which would need to be clarified by the Treasury Department, there was broad agreement that the new rules would do more to affect executive pay than years of shareholder efforts combined.
Only 11 pages that nobody in government read. Let's move on to a February 15 story: Stimulus exec pay caps roil Wall Street
During final negotiations on the $787-billion package last week, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) slipped in a provision to limit bonuses for executives at institutions receiving government bailout funds to a third of their salaries. And the bonuses could be paid only in stock irredeemable until the government was paid back in full.

President Obama is expected to sign the stimulus into law Tuesday in Denver. But the White House and Senate Democrats could clash later over the executive pay caps if the White House seeks a legislative adjustment.

The limits go beyond those advocated by the Treasury Department and came as a surprise to Wall Street. Financial services experts are particularly troubled that the caps apply not just to senior executives but to traders, investment bankers, fund managers and others compensated largely through performance-based commissions.
Somebody changed it. Nobody read it, or will admit to it if they did. Senator Dodd, did you know what you were voting for?
While the Senate was constructing the $787 billion stimulus last month, Dodd added an executive-compensation restriction to the bill. The provision, now called “the Dodd Amendment” by the Obama Administration provides an “exception for contractually obligated bonuses agreed on before Feb. 11, 2009” -- which exempts the very AIG bonuses Dodd and others are now seeking to tax.

Dodd’s original amendment did not include that exemption, and the Connecticut Senator denied inserting the provision.

“I can't point a finger at someone who was responsible for putting those dates in,” Dodd told FOX. “I can tell you this much, when my language left the senate, it did not include it. When it came back, it did.”
This week, the President is unhappy. Whether it's the fault of Senator Dodd as he has claimed, or whether he's secretly kicking himself isn't clear. What is clear is that the latest bailout funds were handled in every bit as an incompetent a manner as Obama says Bush handled the first half of TARP: Obama Will Hold Back $30B Unless AIG Bonuses Are Repaid

Heh. OK, you're in charge of AIG. Unless you subtract $165 Million from the $30 Billion you're about to get, you won't get the $30 Billion. What to do? What to do? For myself, I pay the $165 Million back. I know that the money is fungible. Maybe Obama doesn't.

As a final illustration of the faux outrage, here's perspective on spending on Obama's watch:
  • Saving the Salt Marsh harvest Mouse = $30 Million
  • Bonuses to AIG employees = $165 Million
  • ~ 8,700 earmarks in the Omnibus Spending Bill Obama signed = $7.7 Billion
  • AIG's market cap at it's peak ~ $160 Billion
  • Total bailout money given to AIG = $173 Billion
  • Omnibus Spending Bill = $410 Billion
  • Original TARP = $700 Billion
  • Stimulus Bill = $787 Billion
  • Total Obama budget tax increase on all Americans over the next decade ~ $1.4 Trillion
  • Forgetting you have to implement socialism gradually... priceless
It strikes me that the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse community did not get as much per capita as did AIG execs. I don't know how many mice there are, but probably more than there are AIG execs, and the spoils were 5 times larger for AIG. Still, when you think of it on a lifestyle basis, the mice are doing well. Their housing needs are relatively modest, they don't drive and they are not fond of Wagyu Steak. They only weigh a few ounces, so on a dollar per pound basis they either really made out or they are hardly endangered.

Update: 8:05PM from the New York Times. Some employees agreed to work for a dollar a year because of the contractual bonuses:
A.I.G. has refused to identify the current and former employees on privacy grounds, including one who received $6.4 million, but Mr. Cuomo is seeking to obtain and publicize their names.

The employees took salaries of $1 in exchange for receiving the bonuses, which were supposed to keep them from leaving A.I.G., according to Mr. Cuomo’s office. That, he suggested, undercuts A.I.G.’s claims that it could not renegotiate the bonus contracts agreed to early in 2008, and that the payments were “retention” bonuses.
I'd heard Coumo was not publishing the names of individual private citizens. If he does, he should be impeached and criminally charged.
Congressional Republicans, eager to implicate Democrats, initially blamed Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who heads the banking committee, for adding to the economic recovery package an amendment that cracked down on bonuses at companies getting bailout money, but that exempted bonuses protected by contracts, like A.I.G.’s.

Mr. Dodd, in turn, responded Tuesday with a statement saying that the exemption actually had been inserted at the insistence of Treasury during Congress’s final legislative negotiations.
It was the Obama Apparatus, not Republicans, that first blamed Dodd, but if Senator Dodd knows how and at whose behest the exemption was inserted, then he lied just yesterday when he said he didn't know how it got there. I suspect collusion with the White House. How about you?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Impotent Gesture

The AIG bonus structure was disclosed over a year ago, before the Bush TARP plan and long before Obama added $30 billion to AIG's portion last month. It didn't bother him then that AIG had retention bonuses coming up.

It also didn't bother Senator Chris Dodd, who now wants to tax away 90% of the bonuses he was responsible for protecting in the original TARP, via his provision to exempt “contractually obligated bonuses agreed on before Feb. 11, 2009" from federal restrictions. Nothing there about controlling whether taxpayers would fund the bonuses he knew were coming. Oh no, then he was protecting a major campaign contributor. (Note who was the second largest recipient of AIG money.)

These are retention, not performance, bonuses. That is, contractual obligations to pay people who stay around; an issue that would have very much concerned AIG and precisely what Dodd targeted.

Finally, Dodd's provision was in last year's TARP bill, and as Obama told us when he let 8,500 earmarks slip through in the Omnibus Spending Bill he just signed, he can't intervene in "last year's business." We need to move on. What's changed?

This whole brouhaha is an attempt to divert attention from Obama's plans for economy punishing carbon tax proposals and massive federal intervention into health care, education and union elections.

See you at the Tea Party on April 15th. Bring your "Free AIG" signs.


Update: 6:30 PM
Recommended reads from the Wall Street Journal, The Real AIG Outrage and Congress Is the Real Systemic Risk


Monday, March 16, 2009

Now I know what he meant

...in the "Just Words" speech.

The following are also apropos of Paladin's post on meaning yesterday. All are comments on out President.


Inappropriate Words
Mark Steyn
...the loss of accepted language — that "wars" are "won" by "defeating" "enemies" — is a big part of the problem.

We've Got Company

Obama deploys the euphemism treadmill as a weapon of war.
James Taranto
The one shortcoming in this semantic offensive is that the Obama administration does not seem to have put forward a euphemism for "enemy combatant."

Then, there's the economic roller coaster Obama has been riding.


The Economy: Sound After All!

John Hinderaker
Do you think Obama will apologize to McCain for his conduct during the campaign?





And I thought Bill Clinton was the Caterpillar.

But then, he didn't inhale.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Transparency

Transparency, while not a long word, is not a short one either. And in the context of current beltway jargon, just what is its meaning? Like another favorite, "bipartisanship", it is used to mean whatever the speaker wishes it to mean.

“Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all”

-Winston Churchill


"All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honour, duty; mercy; hope."

-Winston Churchill

Of course if one attends to honour, the meaning of transparency is moot.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

By their earmarks, ye shall know them - redux


This post is recycled with minor changes from November of 2007, it seems even more appropriate now.


There are 535 elected members of the federal legislative branch. This is far too many to keep track of from memory. Who would actually recognize Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) if they bumped into him at Wal-Mart? And even if you could pick Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) out of a lineup of other guys from whom you would not buy a used car, would you admit it?

In an effort to reduce the obscurity and highlight the pork, The Other Club suggests that the 535 members be made more easily identifiable. Since it's earmarks we're concerned with here, why not use the long-established earmark method? After all, when you get to have more pigs than you can recognize on sight, you need to take action. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations tells us how it works. (Don't tell PETA.) Emphasis mine:

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 Why do we identify animals.
2 How to notch the ear.
3 Reading the number of the pig.

Why we need to identify animals

If you have a few pigs or other animals, identifying them is no problem. You will be able to identify them by sight and may well have given them a name. [Such as Henry or Laura.] You will need some way to identify a large number of animals especially if you are going to keep records (see Annex 5). There are many ways to identify animals including numbered collars, tattoos, and plastic tags. Notching the ear is easy and is the cheapest way.

Notching the ear

A V-shaped notch can be cut out of the edge of the ear using a pair of clean scissors. Make the notch a few centimetres deep so in future you will be able to read it from a distance.

The notches on the left ear are for single numbers and on the right ear the notches are for tens.

Notching the ear

Recording the number of the pig

Look at the notches on the right and the left ears then add up the number on each ear to give the number of the animal.

Recording the number of the pig

There are some drawbacks. This method can only account for 121 out of 535 members. Worse, any appropriations bill to buy 535 of those yellow plastic ear tags normally used in such a case would undoubtedly attract all manner of airdrop earmarks. This limitation is more theoretical than actual however, 121 is enough when this method is applied only to the worst offenders, and anesthesia is not part of the process.

Another issue is that human ears vary considerably in size, shape and angle from the cranium. It seems likely, given our examples, that notches in Congressman Waxman's ears would be more readable from a distance than in Senator Shelby's case. In cases of small, and/or flat ears a prosthesis may be required to force the ears into a more forward orientation, which would supply the additional benefit of making it easier for our most pork-addicted representatives to listen.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Saved At last!

Yesterday, President Obama assured us that the economic Catastrophe™! he thought we faced, just a month ago, is over: Obama: Economic crisis 'not as bad as we think'

It's not as bad as he thought, nor even as bad as he told us to think it was. This is good news from someone who's been instrumental in the public perception of another Great Depression. It must be that the trillion dollar Porkulus bill, written by Nancy Pelosi, and passed immediately without anyone in Congress actually knowing what was in it, turned the trick in just a month. Now that the President has been able to assemble an extended spending strategy based on a $1.75 trillion deficit "budget" in the first year of his "administration," we're good.

The POTUS settles comfortably into socializing health care, raising taxes on small business, reducing charitable contributions and imposing an economy killing tax increase through a carbon cap-and-trade system the EU has proved doesn't work. Everything is looking a lot rosier than when he was panicking a month ago - or at least feigning panic in order to secure that "budget" opportunity.

Obama is also solidly behind denying workers the right to a secret ballot because that will provide significant benefits to labor union leaders (there will actually be fewer workers). Union driven cost increases to business, small and large, is another Pretty Pony on Obama's horizon.

So, here is at least one instance where The One is wrong. The things that would have worked themselves out are not going to be allowed to. The more of his agenda that succeeds, the more all of us will fail; especially including the temporary beneficiaries. The Veep gave an example of this to open the meeting:

Vice President Joe Biden opened the meeting by warning state officials that if they misuse [?] money from the stimulus package, they should not expect more help from the federal government for a long time.

"If we don't get this right, folks, this is the end of the ability to convince Congress that anything should go to the states," Biden said.
Joe Biden is the guy who predicted a 30% chance of failure no matter what they did. I guess that's because, left to their own devices, the states might not invest enough in tattoo removal or the protection of small rodents.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I was wrong about Michael Steele

It's not simply that he goes all "deer in the headlights" when an intellectual pygmy like D.L. Hughley, a man who makes his living by telling jokes based on race, mentions Rush Limbaugh or compares Republicans to Nazis in an interview. It's worse. Steele acquiesces to the meme of Republicans as racists. Here are 2 post-CPAC exchanges from a Steele interview at the GQ blog:
You made the comment at the convention about the sea of white faces. And you got a little bit of heat for that.

I sure did. And I looked at the people who gave me the heat and said, “What’s your problem? You tell me I’m wrong. Look at the room. Thirty-six black folks in the room? What, are you kidding me? Out of 4,000 people? Come on!”

Why do you think so few nonwhite Americans support the Republican Party right now?

Steele: 'Cause we have offered them nothing! And the impression we've created is that we don't give a damn about them or we just outright don't like them. And that's not a healthy thing for a political party. I think the way we've talked about immigration, the way we've talked about some of the issues that are important to African-Americans, like affirmative action... I mean, you know, having an absolute holier-than-thou attitude about something that's important to a particular community doesn't engender confidence in your leadership by that community--or consideration of you for office or other things--because you've already given off the vibe that you don't care. What I'm trying to do now is to say we do give a damn.
I think Mr. Steele needs to revisit the history of the Republican party so that he could at least accurately criticize it. Perhaps he could have said, "It puzzles me. I know the Civil War is passe, and it's been a while since a Republican president sent Federal Marshals to escort little black girls to schools in Democrat Alabama. It's been many years since the GOP made it possible to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and it's been almost a year since John McCain and George Bush tried to arrange an amnesty for illegal aliens. So, you know, it really does puzzle me, especially given the history of the Democrat party and the damage they have done to "people of color" by continually encouraging them to be wards of the state.

On reflection, I actually think that if only 1% of those attending CPAC are non-white, it isn't automatically the fault of conservatives. Maybe it's a lack of intellectual diversity on the part of some of the 99% of non-whites who don't come to CPAC.

I'll give you one example - it's Democrats and Barack Obama who just killed opportunity for poor black children in Washington D.C. schools, even after some of those children pleaded for mercy. You may find it ironic that the provision to eliminate the Opportunity Scholarship Program was contained in a profligate Omnibus Spending Bill passed by Democrats and a handful of fellow-traveling Republicans, and just signed by the President in a private ceremony. Perhaps he wasn't embarrassed solely by the 8,500 earmarks.

You may find it ironic that a Democrat spending bill would eliminate educational opportunities in a place where the average government school spends $11,000 per child per year while abysmally failing to educate 80% of those children. You may find it ironic that most of those children are black and that 99% of their parents vote Democrat.

I find it sad."

H/T Powerline

Update 9:32 PM. Congressman Hoekstra on offering something, in this case; choice:

H/T Right Michigan

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jeff Flake is fighting against Earmarks

I have advised those who read this blog to send money to The Club for Growth rather than the Republican National Committee to ensure that RINOs like Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe (who does not even have any earmarks in the Omnibus Spending Bill, but will vote for it out of Porkulus Principle anyway), Susan Collins, Thad Cochran and others - but especially Richard Shelby - can't benefit.

The Dallas Morning News editorializes about one Representative who opposes earmarks, which at one time were anathema to President Obama: Flake is fighting a lonely battle against earmarks
Most in Congress lack the will to police themselves, preferring to rail against wasteful earmarks while discreetly fattening up spending bills with pet projects. [Rep. Jeff] Flake [R-AZ] and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, who doesn't earmark any project, are among the few exceptions.

Flake should continue his crusade to expose Congress' charade, which encourages waste and tolerates political corruption. The $410 billion omnibus spending bill contains at least $8 billion in earmarks, including 13 pet projects for clients of PMA Group, a lobbying firm under investigation for suspicious campaign donations to members of Congress. PMA had close ties to Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., and other influential lawmakers who received substantial contributions from PMA's employees and clients.
That $410 billion dollar bill is being passed in the Senate as I write this - with the support of Republicans. They should be thrown out of office. Start there and work backward to the Democrats. There's less chance you'll be stabbed in the back that way.

The justification from Harry Reid and Richard Shelby, respectively, for earmarks is that "faceless bureaucrats" or "the President" shouldn't have the power to direct the money, because then it might be ""wasted.""

Well, under Shelby's direction, $800,000 is going to oyster rehabilitation at the University of South Alabama. I don't know what my share of that is, but, quite honestly, I think it's an issue the people of Alabama have to address locally on behalf of themselves and the drug addicted oysters at the University of South Alabama. This approach would also protect the Senator Shelbys of the world from having to account for corrupt politicians like Rep. John Murtha, D-I'llaska.

Here's another idea for the Senators to consider; "If you might be unhappy with how a bureaucrat or the President might spend taxpayer money if it was their choice, then it shouldn't be your choice either. DON'T APPROPRIATE IT, Idiot!" Work instead to get the general government to observe the fact that the words "oyster" and "rehabilitation" appear nowhere in the Constitution. Maybe if the States didn't have to send money to Washington in order to get back ninety cents on a dollar, they could afford their own oyster rehab programs.

Jeff Flake is a guy who deserves your direct support, as the article linked above makes clear. He has a lonely task, but it's God's work (apologies to commenter John Lofton, Recovering Republican). We should directly encourage it. Contribute
if you can.

G. O. P. 5

Credit where it is due: Obama Administration opposes challenge to 2nd Amendment rights.
March 9 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court left intact lower court decisions shielding Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., Sturm, Ruger & Co. and other gunmakers from lawsuits pressed by New York City and shooting victims in Washington, D.C.

...President Barack Obama’s administration joined the gun industry in urging the Supreme Court not to question the constitutionality of the 2005 law, known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Like the Bush administration, Obama’s lawyers didn’t take a position on whether the federal law required dismissal of the lawsuits.
RTWT, it is interesting to know the origins of this suit. Hint: Giuliani Opposes Pistols.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Tax Day Michigan Tea Party

For pictures from the 15th Tea Party click here.

From Fresh Tea Daily.
City: Lansing
When: April 15, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Where: Michigan State Capitol, 100 N Capitol Ave
Contact: EMAIL
Other Info:
Facebook Group: CLICK HERE [Requires registration]
Plan to be there.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

NO MORE Earmarks

Yesterday, I suggested the GOP mount a campaign to make the party earmark free as a way to begin to indicate they are serious about returning to principles of limited government. Whether the GOP does this as a party or not, any candidate who does not take the pledge does not deserve your vote. It is a small step, but we need to start somewhere, and with Tea Party protests growing in number it is timely.

Here's a list from the Club for Growth of legislators who have sworn off earmarks.

Swearing Off Pork in 2009

Earlier this year, the Club contacted every congressional office to find out who's swearing off earmarks for 2009. We expect more to come, but for right now, here are the brave lawmakers who aren't engaging in the awful pork process this year. ...

HOUSE (25)*
John Boehner(R-OH-08)
Eric Cantor (R-VA-07)
John Campbell (R-CA-48)
Devin Nunes (R-CA-21)
Jeff Flake (R-AZ-06)
Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA-03)
John Kline (R-MN-02)
Mike McCaul (R-TX-10)
Walter Jones (R-NC-03)
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX-05)
Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10)
Virginia Foxx (R-NC-05)
Dan Burton (R-IN-05)
Tom Price (R-GA-06)
John Shadegg (R-AZ-03)
Paul Ryan (R-WI-01)
Joe Pitts (R-PA-16)
Tom McClintock (R-CA-04)
Mike Coffman (R-CO-06)
Duncan Hunter (R-CA-52)
Tom Rooney (R-FL-16)
Lynn Jenkins (R-KS-02)
Leonard Lance (R-NJ-07)
Mike Pence (R-IN-06)
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-03)

SENATE (6)*
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
John McCain (R-AZ)
In 2008's complete list there were 14 more members of the House and 1 more Senator: Barack Obama. As soon as he was president he broke that pledge, See No Earmarks, by redefining "earmark." He applied the same trick while having his name removed from an earmark in the Omnibus Spending Bill carried over from 2008. That earmark was just 1 of over 8,500 in the bill.

The Club for Growth indicates the 2009 "no earmark" list is still being built. I will point out that in 2008 only 2 Michigan House members (and, obviously, no Senators) made the list. I will be urging Thaddeus McCotter (11th District) and Dave Camp (4th District) to renew their pledge if they have not. You can do the same at the links.

If you are in Michigan's 8th Congressional district, as am I, you can reach Congressman Mike Rogers here. Urge him to sign up. Locally, I think Mark Schauer's constituents might want to weigh in, too.

Other resources:

Freedom Works Earmark Pledge

The only problem with this is that it specifies 2009. The pledge should be permanent.

The Club for Growth.
Free membership. Join it. It's their list above.

Earmark Watch
Experimental distributed research project. Free membership. Includes 2008 data, join up and maybe they'll add 2009.

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Download a spreadsheet listing 2009 earmarks.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

G. O. P. 4

Go Outlaw Please

The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance.

To say that any people are not fit for freedom, is to make poverty their choice, and to say they had rather be loaded with taxes than not.

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.
-Thomas Paine

How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.
-Samuel Adams

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.

The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.

No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.
-Patrick Henry

Incendiary? Yes, if daring the hangman's noose is any indication. Ugly? To the ears of many of their fellow countrymen and King George, yes.

So what would "conservatives" who want to throw Rush Limbaugh under the bus have said about Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine and Sam Adams? "Don't rock the boat. We'll never get representation in London."? Would they have had Barry Goldwater say, "Moderation in the defense of liberty may be a vice, but it's all we've got."?

It's not just me talking about shaming the GOP and objecting to the conservative pundits calling for moderation of principle. Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom, On OUTLAWISM and the next phase of liberty’s defense:
I have a strategy — a shame strategy, one that plays to the constitutional weaknesses of the entitlement generation, that I think will resonate and could turn the tides. It also has the practical effect of turning the indoctrination strategy of the left against them. And I want to begin getting the word out.

...I’ve watched the online classical liberal / conservative / libertarian movement head backwards, to the point where the GOP ran John McCain, Roger Simon is now responsible for shaping the “voice” of conservatism, and Patterico and Allah are arguing that Rush Limbaugh’s provocateurism places an undue burden on conservatives and politicians hoping to win over the soft middle (who, we’re told, don’t understand nuance in the first place), making it impossible to win the kinds of elections that would give the GOP power, even if said iteration of the GOP would of necessity be no different, really, than the Democrats they’d be replacing.
And, here's Stephen Green taking up the point, My Fellow Conservatives, Let’s Be Bad Guys!:
Republicans spent the last eight years trying to do the “smart” thing, by buying out the Democratic agenda. It was “smart” to “take Medicare off the table” by expanding it in ways so vast even Democrats hadn’t gotten away with it in 40 years. It was considered “smart” to “take immigration off the table” by forging a grand alliance with Ted Kennedy. It was considered “smart” to “take education off the table” by federalizing it under No Child Left Behind.

Well, we’ve tried the smart thing and all it got us was a bigger, more meddlesome government. Now it’s time to do the right thing.

What’s left of the conservative/libertarian movement in Congress, for the first time in a decade, showed us the way by standing on principle against the pork package a couple of weeks ago. Every Republican member of the House, plus seven Blue Dog Democrats, voted against the thing. Only the misguided yea votes of three liberal Republican senators allowed passage. Had Olympia Snow, Susan Collins, and Arlen Specter gone the other way, the Obama administration would have been virtually DOA.
And just to illustrate what kind of progress the most recent CPAC represents, here's a note from the 2008 version, Conservatives vs. McCain:
Conservatives may wonder why McCain joined Russ Feingold in writing legislation that allows the federal government to dictate free speech in ways never before imagined. Or that he joined Ted Kennedy on an immigration bill that was opposed by most conservatives. Now, McCain sounds like he's ready to join the Minutemen.

Free-market types may wonder why John McCain supports cap-and-trade schemes. Others may wonder why he not only buys into end-of-world global warming scenarios, but opposes drilling in ANWR — comparing that stretch of tundra in Alaska to the Grand Canyon and Florida Everglades.

Fiscal hawks may wonder why McCain was one of two Republican senators to vote against Bush's across-the-board tax cuts. He justifies the position by claiming he believes it should have been tied to spending cuts.

A perfectly reasonable stand — if McCain has actually taken it. But the maverick must have kept those concerns to himself, instead brandishing the liberal rhetoric of "tax cuts for the rich" during the debate.

None of these issues, on their own, would be deal breakers. No candidate can meet all ideological expectations. But conservatives have been asking themselves: Other than Iraq, what does McCain offer us?
Other than slightly less grotesque spending, what does the GOP offer us? More erosion of the meaning of the word "conservative."

Here's a simple "right" idea: Make it a requirement for every Republican in Congress to refuse earmarks. If they can't be shamed into it immediately, and there are at least 9 Senators who probably can't be, (Lamar Alexander, Robert Bennett, Christopher Bond, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Richard Shelby, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter), the RNC should announce they will support only candidates who take a pledge to eschew earmarks completely and will help primary challengers where this pledge is not taken.

I realize that earmarks represent a relatively small portion of spending. This is actually an advantage, since the pain from not getting them is not huge either. What earmarks represent is the profligate arrogance of those who know better than you do how to spend your own money.

This is a winning approach, in line with the principles the GOP has stood for and for which those in Congress just stood up in saying "Nay" to porkulus.

What are the chances that an RNC chairman who publicly mused about RNC support for primary challengers against Collins, Snowe and Specter and then backed off a day later would do it?