Monday, February 28, 2011

Teddy worse than imagined?

I'm a Powerline fan, but here I think they screwed up the headline:
"The Teddy Files: Even Worse Than You Thought!",

...and the conclusion:
"However bad you thought Ted Kennedy was, he was worse!"

I do not find it surprising in the least that the "Lion of the Senate" rented an entire brothel for a night. I wouldn't find it surprising if he'd driven off a Chilean bridge and drowned some young woman there; then ran away from the crime scene and later claimed diplomatic immunity.

No, this tawdry peccadillo does not make me think any less of Ted Kennedy. He did many worse things than temporarily enriching a few Chilean whores.

The English astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington said, "Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." The same cannot be said of Edward Moore Kennedy's morality and ethics - and certainly not of the actions based on the the lack thereof.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's the moral hazard, stupid!

How budget battles go without the earmarks
...[T]he absence of earmarks also allowed for a more freewheeling debate on the House floor during consideration of the Republican plan to slash $61 billion from this year's budget since Democrats and Republicans were not caught up in protecting the special provisions they had worked so hard to tuck into the spending bill...

[Earmarks play] an insidious role in pushing up federal spending through what is known in legislative terms as logrolling.
RTWT.

Earmark aficionados have advanced 2 major defenses of the practice.
  1. Individual members best know the needs of their constituents, directing the money should not be left to bureaucrats.
  2. It's a minuscule amount of money relative to the Federal budget.
Amazingly enough, the first argument evaporates when there is no money to direct. It appears to have depended on a presumption of what "presumption" means. As in presuming you have the right to a permanent floating slush-fund.

The second argument was never more than an attempt at obfuscating the 2 major moral hazards of earmarks: bribery by your peers using other people's money, and becoming accustomed to it.

Without earmark trinkets, it becomes significantly more difficult to leverage a few millions here and there into trillions in Federal spending. Votes bought in exchange for Federally funding an indoor rain forest in Iowa, for example, will be harder to come by. When the bribery opportunities disappear, spending debates can be more nearly rational. Whooda thunk it?

Well, everybody. Really. Even most Lobbyists, Bureaucrats, Representatives and Senators.

The only point of earmarks has been assisting the continued growth of Big Government by enhancing the power of the loot dispensers. This issue is multi-partisan - excluding only those representatives who adhere to morally equivalent Big Government philosophies, like fascism and socialism.

If any of your congresscritters insist on defending earmarks, they need to be retired.

2nd Anniversary

Today is being hailed as the 2nd anniversary of the modern Tea Party.

OK, here's Lansing's first Tea party.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Axis of Corporatism

Even FDR Understood: No Collective Bargaining for Public Servants
Since public servants work for the people, their wages, benefits, and working conditions are set in accordance with the will of the people, as determined by the democratic process. This is why it is not legitimate to ask the people to compromise with public servants in collective bargaining. And this is why the pay, benefits, and working conditions for federal workers are set by acts of Congress, not through collective bargaining.
Yes, the problem is they (Congresscritters and public service union honchos) think of taxpayers as their servants, not the other way around.

Unions and Medicaid
It's not that the union position never coincides with the interests of Medicaid beneficiaries--of course they want there to be more beneficiaries, so they're going to fight to the death against a decline in enrollment. But when it's between them and the beneficiaries, the unions choose . . . themselves. So if the question is higher reimbursement for home health care aides, the union will always be on the "higher" side, even if that means fewer people get served, or cuts have to be made in other areas, like medical devices.

...[I]t's going to be a fight between people who want to control the growth of health care costs in order to provide as many services as possible ... and workers whose paychecks depend on further growth in health care spending.
Obviously. It should have been one of my examples yesterday.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yes, it's about power

Another must read "Best of the Web Today" from James Taranto:

The privileged are revolting in Wisconsin.
To make sense of what's going on in Wisconsin, it helps to understand that the left in America lives in an ideological fantasy world. The dispute between the state government and the unions representing its employees is "about power," Paul Krugman of the New York Times observes accurately, before going off the rails:
What [Gov. Scott] Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin--and eventually, America--less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that's why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators' side.
What an idiot is this Nobel Prize winner, Krugman. Anyone who thinks the corporatist whores need to be balanced by public sector unions has made (at least) two serious errors.

One, many corporations, particularly large corporations, pander for government favors, like GE under Immelt. They cooperate enthusiastically with government restrictions on speech and promote privacy invasion, like Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page (whose motto should be stated - "Don't do anything doubleplus ungood."). They promote regulatory regimes calculated to damage their competitors; again see GE and Google - and don't forget Big Pharma's deals to secure Obamacare.

Mostly, that's "mere" regulatory interference. The regulatory costs are greater (in treasure and in moral erosion), but less obvious than the TARP-based looting on behalf of the bankers, insurance companies and car makers which woke many people up.

We're pissed at "big corporate money" for EXACTLY the same reason we're pissed at public sector unions. Neither has any regard for the people paying for their privilege. The common, enabling element is Big Government, without which neither Immelt nor Stern could get away with their scams. Krugman would have us pit GE's CEO, Immelt, against SEIU's President-for-Life Stern. I have no idea how he makes this determination, but I think Immelt is more despicable. Andy Stern never pretended he considered capitalism to be a good idea.

Two, public sector unions are part and parcel of the corporatist axis. They certainly are no counterweight. More "green" jobs means more tax-breaks to administer and more money to control. More taxes, and remember corporations don't pay them, means more in salaries and benefits for public sector union employees. More taxes means more movie, battery, ethanol, windmill and tourism advertising subsidies - and more public sector jobs to administer the loot.

Finally, on the intent of Krugman's argument: That it is evil, self-interested capitalists behind the critique of public sector unions - we need to assert that no one may be called a capitalist who does not believe in free markets. Capitalists do not seek advantage by manipulating government regulation. They do not take bailouts. They do not attempt to subvert Constitutional protections for their own amusement. No, those are Fascists.

And we should remind him that FDR said much the same thing. He opposed public sector unions.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's the hoarders and speculators

Couldn't be monetary policy.

Rising wholesale prices spur inflation concerns
There's no inflation in the US, though.

According to someone who can't figure out how to use TurboTax, the inflation is in China.
Geithner: Chinese Inflation Helping U.S. Compete

Unfortunately, that would appear to be contributing to rising food prices.
As Speculative Bullish Bets Surge, Is Rice The Next Silver

In Taiwan, they're taking direct action.
Prosecutors Office vows to crack down on food hoarding

In the US, where there is no inflation, preparations are being made for seizure of alternative currencies... the hoardings of greedy capitalists... inedible commodities.

Prepare To Give Up All Private Data For Any Gold Purchase Over $100

That will make it easier to recycle some of FDR's executive orders:

Executive Order 6102 - Requiring Gold Coin, Gold Bullion and Gold Certificates to Be Delivered to the Government
April 5, 1933

Executive Order 6814 - Requiring the Delivery of All Silver to the United States for Coinage
August 9, 1934

No, it couldn't be monetary policy that causes people to shift savings from fiat currency to commodities and alternative forms of money. It couldn't be government printing presses that promote food inflation.

Therefore, you are required to hold on to your dollars until the dollar bubble bursts. If you don't, we'll take your stuff and give you US dollar denominated food stamps in exchange.

The Agricultural Adjustment Administration's Ever-Normal Granary accepts US dollars and food stamps. To avoid disappointment, check exchange rates before entering the queue.
Agricultural Adjustment Administration, USDA, c. 1936.
Source: Special Collections, National Agricultural Library

Friday, February 18, 2011

Prescient post of the year
Given what's going down in Wisconsin

Just after reports of NY City union members' slowdown in snow clearing as a negotiating tactic, Tom Smith, at The Right Coast, had this to say.
If the argument is, some [government] functions are too critical to public safety to put in private hands, then that is an argument against allowing them to be unionized. If unionized, then the state no longer has a monopoly on the power exercised by that arm, which is the whole idea of putting it in the public sphere. So if you can't have private police forces running around, let's say, then it makes no sense to have the monopolized force of the state colonized or even dominated by a union with interests frequently opposed to those of the public.
Some people in NYC died because the snow prevented public safety personnel from getting to them. The Snow Plowers Union didn't think about that one way or the other.

Why should they? The interests of public-sector unions are necessarily not congruent with the public interest. Even FDR opposed unionization of government employees, because of the moral hazard involved.

That, of course, is the problem Mr. Smith brilliantly and succinctly points out. It applies equally well to the arguments of teachers' unions. Simply change the words "public safety" to "public education."

You go, Governor Walker. Stay the course. Governor Snyder can use a moral example.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Holy Congressional Hearing, BATFEman!

Grassley to Holder: ATF refused to answer specific questions in briefing

No surprise
the ATF would not be responsive to questions about firearms used by Mexican drug gangs, but I think they may have made a mistake in refusing to co-operate with a US Senator.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Corporatists to the left of me, whores to the right...

..."Stuck In The Middle With You"
Apologies to Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan.

There was whining in the letters page of the Lansing State Journal about GM spending millions on Superbowl ads. Oh well, I consider this to be a legitimate business expense. That doesn't mean I like paying for it, but if they are going to sell cars, they need to advertise. The Superbowl is no worse a place to do that than the State Journal. Probably better.

There has been far less outcry regarding GM's plans to pay major bonuses. The average UAW worker at GM is going to get around $4,000: Because GM has been "profitable." I think GM should buy itself back from the US Treasury Department before it pays any bonuses. I'll bet the bondholders who were told to pound sand in 2009 feel the same way.

And let us not ponder the $4,000 direct subsidy for every Chevy Volt built at a loss.

But if none of those expenditures bother you, try this blast from the past. In 2009, when the Feds took scalping knives to Chrysler and GM bondholders, the "new GM" was quietly allowed to carry forward $45 billion in net operating losses. This regulatory undersight will allow GM to avoid paying up to $16 billion in taxes on their "profits."
The Obama administration appears ready to disregard years of precedent in bankruptcy and taxation law as it remakes the U.S. auto industry.

The latest example is the General Motors (GMGMQ) bankruptcy, where the intent is to have a newly created GM assume the benefit of tax losses at the old GM.

The problem, says Jeffrey Coyne, senior lecturing fellow at the Duke University School of Law and a management consultant who specializes in reorganizing troubled companies, is that tax losses can be passed on only to companies whose owners controlled at least 50% of the predecessor company. Since the start of 2005, General Motors has reported losses of about $87 billion.

"You can't form new GM, which has never transacted business before, and sell the assets (of existing GM) and then sell the net tax benefit to the new company," Coyne says. "And as far as I can tell, the NOL is not a saleable asset." An NOL, or net operating loss, can be used as a tax loss carry forward, an accounting technique that allows it to be applied to future profits to reduce tax liability...

The rules are different in the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies because the government is the major financier and a major shareholder...

Coyne said... 'The law is the law unless the government is a creditor.'
Indeed. In 2009 the United States Government bought more than 50% of GM. Then the United States Government exempted itself from its own rules so as to hand even more money to GM the UAW.

We bailed them out. We paid for their Superbowl commercials. We're subsidizing the cars they build. And now we're paying bonuses to the UAW.

Can anybody tell me how bonuses paid to any GM employee are morally different from the bonuses paid to AIG employees that caused so much angst? Well, let me suggest a couple of distinctions:

1- The AIG employees involved had nothing to do with the mistakes AIG made. They did not work in the division that brought AIG to its knees.

In GM's case, the UAW - ably assisted by GM management - was directly responsible for GM's demise.

2- Like the UAW bonus recipients, the AIG employees had contracts specifically including bonuses paid for performance. Those AIG employees achieved their goals - before AIG was bailed out. AIG's bailout would have been much more expensive except for their success.

OTOH, UAW members were handed ownership of General Motors despite the fact they had performed at least as badly as had GM management for decades.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Keeping themselves employed

From the LA Times: Guns tracked by firearms bureau found at firefight scene
...federal law enforcement sources have confirmed that two guns, part of a series of purchases that were being monitored by authorities, were found at the scene of the firefight that killed a U.S. Border Patrol agent in southern Arizona.
TOC has commented on BATFE many times. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives is complicit in the sale of firearms to Mexico. The illegal sale of firearms. BATFE is also responsible for tracing guns seized by Mexican authorities to find out if they originated in the US. Of course, Mexican authorities only submit guns they think originated in the US. They are correct 90% of the time.

The headline could easily, have said, "Guns supplied via firearms bureau found at firefight scene"

BATFE could save everyone a lot of trouble by just sending the serial numbers to the Mexicans in advance.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Global Gauss Change

Severe weather events may be associated with the recent movement of Earth's magnetic poles. This is an unsurprising outcome if magnetic north is actually moving. However, associating man's activities with such movement may be a challenge for proponents of anthropogenic climate change. TOC is here to help.

The magnetic north pole is moving because of the massive amount of iron in those SUVs we drive. The pole has been pulled toward us.

It is obvious that if we did not have so much gasoline we would not drive SUVs, incidentally spitting tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As Al Gore has told us, the internal combustion engine is evil. We now have even more reason to return to a 19th century agrarian existence.

Unfortunately, former Vice President Gore's insistence that the "science is settled" hints at an additional, even darker, anthropogenic cause for accelerating magnetic pole shift. It is well known that Mr. Gore's multiple mansions consume enough electricity to power a medium sized town. What if he is using the power to run immensely strong magnets?

It is suspicious, don't you think, that the phrase "regaussing galore" is an anagram for "algore guessing," plus the letters "ra." As we all know, Ra is the Egyptian god of the sun. Guessing about climate is how Al Gore made his fortune.

Questions that need to be answered: Is Gore purchasing the type of cryogenic materials needed for supercooled electromagnets? Does his reading list include Carl Pestano's How To Become A Speaker With A Magnetic Personality - Learn The Secret Art Of Public Speaking And Draw In Large Crowds? Is his solar power subsidy support entirely secular? Is he planning another movie titled Inconvenient Fatal Attraction?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Civility in foreign policy

Assumes you are dealing with civilized people.

The LA Times reports:
The Obama administration said for the first time that it supports a role for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Islamist organization, in a reformed Egyptian government.

The organization must reject violence and recognize democratic goals if the U.S. is to be comfortable with it taking part in the government, the White House said.
If it's that easy, why doesn't he just ask Mubarak to do it?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Pure as Ceasar's wife. Not.

Obama issues global warming rules in January, gives GE an exemption in February

On January 21st, president Obama appointed Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, to head the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

It's worth noting that GE has been whoring after "green"backs for years. The last company that should benefit from an environmental regulation suspension, in the last state that should be allowed one.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

BATFEces

I wrote a letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in April of 2009. My purpose was to find out if BATFE knew if any of the firearms seized from Mexican drug thugs had originated from government sources in the United States. I describe it here, but this is the central point:
Have any of these weapons been traced to aid provided to Mexico by the United States through official channels? That is, which, if any, of these firearms were legally imported by Mexico from United States law enforcement or military sources, or any other government departments or programs?

I assume that transfers from any programs officially sanctioned by the United States will have been precisely documented.
The word "legally" appears to have been overprecise, but more on that later. By June I received a non-response from BATFE, so I wrote again.
What are the various sources in the United States of those firearms submitted by Mexican authorities to the BATFE for tracing? That is, of the submitted firearms you have, or have had, in your possession - where in the US did they come from?
That letter received no response, and I contemplated a FOIA request. But that isn't easy, and BATFE was highly likely to make it expensive. I never did it.

Then, 2 weeks ago, I find out BATFE didn't want to talk about this question because BATFE is very likely a source of weapons purchased by Mexican drug gangsters. Whether BATFE sponsored illegal purchases represent a "legally" transferred weapon in the hands of a drug gang I leave to the courts. That seems to be precisely the question in the video here.

Now, some of those weapons have been detected in use. There is strong evidence that BATFE arranged the sale of hundreds of guns to Mexican drug gangs, and that some of those guns were used to kill a Border Patrol officer.

Since BATFE is being asked to explain this contretemps by a United States Senator, I doubt a FOIA will be necessary.

Nonetheless, I would like to know how many of the guns being counted as "origin United States" over the last several years were part of "origin US government." The President of the United States, the Secretary of State of the United States, the President of Mexico and Mexico's Ambassador to the United States, to name only the highest rank officials, have been telling us we need to suspend the 2nd Amendment to save the corrupt state of Mexico from American purchased firearms. They tell us strict gun control is the only answer.

On the evidence, and judging by the responsiveness, BATFE Control is a more obvious way to address this problem. That, and maybe extending 2nd Amendment rights to ordinary Mexicans.