Random Ruminations Repository

A diary of random thoughts on topical issues


Note: the links on this page may be short-lived. I apologize for any broken links.

01-01-2010

Happy new year! Haven't you been annoyed, too, by the large number of persistent Obama '08 bumper stickers still out there? Proudly displayed by smug elitists, by ladies who consider themselves un-political, or by almost-kiddies with a soft heart and little understanding of the real world?

Here is the ultimate bumper sticker for 2010 through 2012. Click on the image to obtain the full-sized version (1/2 MB download). No copyright - please distribute freely.

Say No to Obama 2012

12-24-2009

The Gift that Keeps Taking Merry Christmas. The Christmas present that was brought to us today by Obama and the Senate is the Gift that Keeps Taking. Apparently, the driving forces behind the bill did not hesitate to employ bribery and tax and fee chaos to strong-arm senators into voting aye. For now, we'll just document the Wall Street Journal's predicted costs of the bill. We will observe to what extent these predictions come true.

11-23-2009

The facts are out now. A leaked archive of files reveals unethical behavior, suppression of dissenting opinion and massive fraud perpetrated by purporters of anthropogenic global warming. A report that the author has clearly struggled to keep neutral can be found in the Wall Street Journal. More to-the-point commentaries can be found here:

http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/11/the_evidence_of_climate_fraud.html
http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/11/cru_files_betray_climate_alarm.html

We have long since provided scientific evidence that casts doubt on the anthropogienic global warming hypothesis. Naturally, strong forces exist that support the AGW hypothesis. These are:

  1. Politicians. Never let a good crisis go to waste - if you don't have one, create one.
  2. Media - only bad news are good news that sell well
  3. Environmentalist groups - sell fear, get contribution revenue
  4. Those who call themselves scientists - grant money comes from politicians and is given more generously to those who support AGW (and the crisis that politicians need)
  5. Lawyers - Enviro-lawsuits are very profitable
  6. Subsidized industries - No money is easier to get than taxpayer money, when you are on the right side of currently fashionable politics.
The best part is, you can now download the incriminating files yourself. The download link is here. Sift through it. You might find little treasures that point at fraud, such as

FILE: FOIA/mail/0942777075.txt
From: Phil Jones <p.jones@uea.ac.uk>
To: ray bradley <rbradley@geo.umass.edu>,mann@virginia.edu, mhughes@ltrr.arizona.edu
Subject: Diagram for WMO Statement
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 13:31:15 +0000
Cc: k.briffa@uea.ac.uk,t.osborn@uea.ac.uk

  Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,
   Once Tim's got a diagram here we'll send that either later today or
  first thing tomorrow.
   I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps
  to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from
  1961 for Keith's to hide the decline. Mike's series got the annual
  land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land
  N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999
  for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with
  data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.
   Thanks for the comments, Ray.

Hmmmm... Nature trick? Hide the decline? Perhaps the current temperature decline that started in 1998? Somebody has some explaining to do. Or try this one:

FILE: FOIA/mail/1089318616.txt
From: Phil Jones <p.jones@uea.ac.uk>
To: "Michael E. Mann" <mann@virginia.edu>
Subject: HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL
Date: Thu Jul 8 16:30:16 2004

  Mike,
  [Section shortened here]
   The other paper by MM is just garbage - as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is also
  losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well - frequently as I see
  it.
   I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep
  them
  out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !
Cheers
  Phil

Oh. "even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!". Yes, sure, anything to keep dissenting voices silent. Because the fraudulent scientists know quite well that their hypotheses do not stand a chance in a valid scientific debate.

We will certainly hear more of this as the data are analyzed. For now, please spread the word. Copenhagen must be stopped. Go to the Hopenhagen website and voice your opinion. Realclimate.org predictably tries to cover it up, so go there and voice your opinion, too. If you are a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, discontinue your membership now. The association's name has now an Orwellian ring to it.

Naturally and justifiably, the question of the ethics of hacking into a computer system and posting confidential data must be addressed. Admittedly, this behavior is unethical to some extent. However, informers are used to infiltrate criminal groups. Whistleblowers help identify criminal acts. In this case, an unethical act was needed to uncover an even more unethical act - in fact, criminal behavior - to falsify and manipulate scientific data. The consequences are not only scientific, but also economic with trillions of taxes looming for some "cap & tax" schemes that are based on fraudulent data. This group of "scientists" is so entrenched that they are able to manipulate the peer-review process (see e-mail above). They need to be stopped, and I hope that - if deliberate fraud has been conclusively proven - those "scientists" lose their jobs.

However, expect the alleged fraudsters to fight back. Expect more lies.

11-04-2009

Congratulations, Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Christie. The Republican victories in Virginia and New Jersey are important milestones, but they also carry important lessons for the GOP. As commented on here, Mr. McDonnell campaigned heavily against the policies of the Obama presidency. The voters honored a candidate who did not peddle mushy half-half policies of socialism light. In New Jersey, independent Chris Daggett played a significant role, because he brought the issue of high taxation into play. In a separate commentary here, it is claimed:

Democrat R. Creigh Deeds has been weighed down as much by his troubles addressing questions about state tax and transportation policy as by his ties to Mr. Obama's policies.

And the independents went for Mr. Christie. Conversely, the GOP appointed the liberal-leaning Dede Scozzafava in New York - and lost. Heed the lesson, GOP - this silver lining is far from an indication that the liberal-progressive trend of last year is over.

Heed the lesson, GOP: Voters want smaller government. Give it to us and together we will be sweeping out the bums in 2010.

10-25-2009

Obama Wrestling With Jobs Outlook (Wall Street Journal, 10-23-2009).

Well, now. An economic recovery without recovery of the job market. How could that happen in light of stimulus spending? To those who analyzed the situation without religious adherence to Keynesian theories, this development comes as no surprise. Now, with the stimulus unmasked as ineffective porkulus and with the 2010 elections mercilessly approaching, Mr. Obama desperately seeks help:

Members of the White House economic team are now meeting twice a week, on average, to discuss job creation (...). The White House, meanwhile, has been seeking ideas recently from the private sector, including from a group of high-level CEOs who are in frequent contact with Mr. Obama's top economic advisers.

And I'd not be surprised if each of those CEOs lobbies for a stimulus component that benefits his own company. But:

Other CEOs have called for corporate tax cuts to spur job growth, an avenue the administration seems unlikely to take.

Too bad. Here's why. Imagine yourself as the owner of a small or medium-sized company. You consider hiring, but hiring adds costs to your company. You will have to recover those costs by increased revenue. You look at the general economic climate and you realize that the economy is out of the turbulence and flying smoothly. But you also realize that

Under these circumstances, would you hire?

What Obama needs to heed is what he doesn't want to hear: Lower taxes. Reduce government regulation. Reduce Union influence. Entrepreneur John Galt summarized his advice to government so nicely: "Get the hell out of my way!".

09-08-2009

Friends, let's try a bit of Alinsky. Back in the Reagan era, Alinsky advised a group of protesters to not openly protest, but rather go to a meeting dressed as KKK and show banners proclaiming "Ku Klux Klan supports Bush".

Now, what about this banner for your next town-hall meeting:

ObamaCare Healthcare Now

8-30-2009

We all know that the healthcare debate is emotionally charged. On one side, articles like The Panel illustrate the consequences of the government meddling with individual health-care decisions. And sure enough, end-of-life planning sounds scary if more parties are involved than patient and doctor.

Now, those who voice their concerns are called Nazis, astroturfers, big-corporation-controlled mob, and other unfriendly things. In addition, Obama uses his honey-tongued rhetoric to appease his scared sheeple.

Are the concerns no more than scaremongering?

No, just plain truth. Read this article that reveals the philosophy of Mr. Obama's healthcare advisor Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, "Obama's Health Rationer-in-Chief". To quote from the article:

Dr. Emanuel concedes that his plan appears to discriminate against older people, but he explains: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination. . . . Treating 65 year olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not.

Dr. Emmanuel: What about starting with cases like Ted Kennedy, who got top health care although he was well past 65?

Dr. Emanuel argues that to make such decisions, the focus cannot be only on the worth of the individual. He proposes adding the communitarian perspective to ensure that medical resources will be allocated in a way that keeps society going: "Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity - those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberations - are to be socially guaranteed as basic. Covering services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic, and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia." (Hastings Center Report, November-December, 1996)

This sounds familiar. ...ensure healthy future generations... ... or: individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens. What does that mean? Somebody who has led an active life of, say, 75 years, is now no longer eligible? What about the past? Who decides when a citizen is no longer a participating citizen? The government, maybe? That is, the core of corruption? In a Lancet article (Lancet 2009: 373; 423-31. [link]), Dr. Emmenuel and co-authors used the "reaper curve" reproduced here. To quote form the abstract:

No single principle is sufficient to incorporate all morally relevant considerations and therefore individual principles must be combined into multiprinciple allocation systems. (...) We recommend an alternative system - the complete lives system - which prioritises younger people who have not yet lived a complete life, and also incorporates prognosis, save the most lives, lottery, and instrumental value principles.

Lottery? Prioritize younger people? So who is going to play God? The government, again?

I rarely, if ever, use the Nazi comparison, unless it is backed by strong facts. Now, if the government (i.e., people corrupted by power) starts to make life-and-death decisions, it gets scary (not yet Nazi, though). If the government starts to use rule-based decision making with elements like "the health and productivity of future generations", we are certainly in the gray zone of eugenics. And if we travel down that road, where is the endpoint? If life is no longer an absolute value, but rather seen in relation to some vaguely and arbitrarily defined "common good", moral values and ethics will shift with political expediency, too.

I believe that this road leads straight down into the hell of "unworthy life" - where the ruling class decides who has a right to live and who does not, based on arbitrary criteria. Now, that's Nazi.

8-07-2009

Totalitarian-style censorship has finally reached the United States. Obamas new snitch line, flag@whitehouse.gov, is the most pernicious attempt to-date to stifle dissenting voices. Maybe even worse than the attempt to muddle main-stream conservatives with right-wing extremists.

Check it out for yourself here. In case the page "disappears" unexpectedly, I took a snapshot on 10-25-2009. Click on the thumbnail to the right to get the full-size image. The red rectangle was added by myself for emphasis.

Mr. Obama states in his official blog:

...that makes it look like the President intends to "eliminate" private coverage, when the reality couldn't be further from the truth (...) For the record, the President has consistently said that if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them.

For the record, Mr. Obama did not complete the sentence: "you will be able to keep them ... as long as they exist."

First, regarding health insurance: of course Mr. Obama and his left-wing friends in Congress won't "eliminate" private coverage. This is not really necessary. When companies can drop health coverage for a relatively small "tax", they will do so - and the employees get enrolled in the public option. Like Medicare, the public option will be cheaper at the beginning (with tax subsidies). These two mechanisms will drive most insurers out of the market, and the alternative options will simply "disappear". What we realy need is not socialized medicine, but a viable free-market alternative.

Second, regarding the snitch line. You can read on the official White House page:

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.

Since we can't keep track of all of them? Is it the job of the White House to keep track of citizens exercising their right to free speech? If you get an email or see something (...) that seems fishy? Who decides what seems fishy? Did we now arrive at a point where the White House decides on the Truth Of The Day, and every dissenting opinion is "fishy"? Casual conversation? Did we finally arrive at the level of totalitarian states where a neighbor blows the whistle on a fellow citizen for merely having his own opinion? What will be next? Stasi- and Gestapo-style "interrogation chambers"? Don't hurt any terrorists, please. But let's get rid of those pesky dissenters.

8-01-2009

The Blue Dogs' Final Dilemma - an article well worth reading. It shows the sheer depth of the rift in American politics:

With President Obama's health-care bill, the forces that across 40 years grew into unbridgeable opposition to each other could not be more plain to see. American politics has arrived at a crossroads. This struggle over health-care legislation isn't just another battle between the Democratic and Republican parties. It's about which force is going to take the United States forward for the next generation: the public sector or the private sector.

Quo vadis, America?

Will you follow the path of the socialist economies with an overburdening government, stifling of private initiative, permanently high unemployment and low growth, and - yes, indeed - more equality between incomes (albeit on a low level)?

Or will you follow the path of strong private enterprise, of entrepreneurs bringing us new products that improve our lives or new processes that make products more affordable, combined, of course, with a substantial monetary reward for the successful?

I call upon everybody to take sides now. Whoever remains a self-proclaimed "unpolitical" person supports by default the downward slide into socialism.

7-31-2009

The European obamania seems to follow the global climate: it cools slowly but perceptibly. Most recently, the Economist printed an op-ed which predicts that Obama will end up as a failed president, and possibly the least popular of the modern era. This prediction is based on the unprecendented discrepancy between election promises and reality. Not too long ago, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung covered a similar theme in an op-ed by Matthias Rüb (print version 7-22-09) titled "The Over-Exposed President". The main thesis of this op-ed centers on the continuous fight of Mr. Obama to support his planned social-welfare transformation of the American private sector, most notably the healthcare sector. This is where the over-exposure threatens his popularity: people start getting fed up seeing Mr. Obama's one-hour interviews, ad campaigns and other elements of the "Obama show".

But this is the analysis of the US situation. What about Europe? Only a few days after the 2008 elections, American Thinker analyzed the secret fear of the Eurosocialists that the powerful US economy might be weakened by its own turn towards socialism. American Thinker uses no uncertain words:

Europe would crumble like a soggy crouton without America's commitment to its defense. We saw that happen three times in the 20th century, and the bad news is that it's starting again. Real danger is at the gates; Europe's Ruling Class is in denial; and half of it is preparing to surrender to the Russians or the Muslim fascists, whichever gets there first.

Fascinatingly, interest in this topic has not abated. Just a few days ago, the Wall Street Journal also analyzed the free ride that Europe has gotten on the strength of US capitalism and US defence. To quote from the article:

The great irony here is that the European model American leftists envy couldn't survive without its despised cowboy counterparty. If the U.S. economy weakens because of increased regulation, heavy-handed unionization, and higher taxes and debt to support an expensive social agenda -- all policies Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress are pushing hard -- it will hurt Europe.

Interesting, isn't it? Add to this the famous op-ed by the Russian Pravda (see 05-29-2009) and the situation immediately conjures up images of the failed dystopia in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

On the other hand, voices emerge that allow for the possibility that Obamas failure may save his presidency (see article here). If the Republican party takes over Congress in 2010 and thus blocks the transformation into a socialist society ruled by a narcissist elite, the concurrent economic recovery may actually convince the voter majority to keep Obama in the White House.

6-27-2009

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, UC Berkeley Professor of Public Policy writes about the need to have a public health-care plan. To quote from the article:

Without the government as competition, the private sector has little incentive to improve.

Think about this statement for a moment. Test the sharpness of your mind. Can you find out what is wrong about this statement?

Now let's analyze this sentence. First, "Without the government as competition, the private sector has little incentive to improve." Sure the private sector has incentives to improve. Companies are working in competition and have a continuous need to improve their products and keep their costs competitive. If this is not the case, some form of market distortion exists. In the example of health care, there is too little competition (e.g. no competition across state lines) and a rigid insurer-insured relationship through the employer. If there is not enough competition, the problem lies in too much government intervention.

Second, "Without the government as competition, the private sector has little incentive to improve." - why the government as competing enterprise? Would this work? No, it cannot work. A private company must self-improve to stay profitable. The government can bail itself out at any time with taxpayer's money. The government can create an unprofitable bloated bureaucracy with impunity. The government can offer goods with taxpayer subsidies at low prices that drive the competition out of business. And once the private competition is destroyed, it can finally dictate prices or ration the services. The best example is Medicare, an unprofitable "business" that guzzles billions in taxpayers subsidies.

Third, "Without the government as competition, the private sector has little incentive to improve." - Why does the author insist on the government as competing enterprise? There is a hidden premise: the government is a benevolent entity that does a better job than the private sector. Now if this was truly the case, there would be no need for the private sector. The benevolent nanny government can handle business, and if private companies have to adjust to the government's terms, there is really no need for them. Obviously, the author contradicts himself at this point.

Let's correct the sentence based on the above analysis:

Without the government intervening and over-regulating, the private sector has the highest incentive to improve.

6-18-2009

Obama Says Iran Must Pick Its Own Leaders - a recent article in the Wall Street Journal paints Obama's reaction to the Iranian elections as outright bland. To quote Mr. Obama from this article:

"It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be. We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, (...) What I would say to those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was," he said.

So it doesn't matter that a tyrant threatens the world with nuclear weapons, denies the Holocaust and declares his goal to annihilate Israel, one of our staunchest allies. Not to mention Ahmadinejad's friendly attitude towards terrorists.

It doesn't matter that voter fraud was alleged to the point that re-counts are needed in Iran.

Of course not! Obama and Ahmadinejad are clearly two birds of a feather. Remember the massive ACORN voter fraud in the 2008 election?

06-13-2009

A recently reported rise in unemployment (now 9.4%) and in interest rates prompted me to take a closer look at the voodoo economics of the Obama administration. The numbers I found are not promising.

05-29-2009

When the Russian Pravda - the "Truth", a newspaper that dates back to the days of the Soviet Union - becomes more concerned about the direction the USA takes than the New York Times, we know that something really awful is happening with this country.

Read this:

American capitalism gone with a whimper
It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people. [more...]

05-28-2009

Farmers Across Europe Protest Low Milk Prices. Read article here.

So farmers in the EU turn to the governments with demands to boost milk prices. Governments should reject the demands. There is obviously over-production of milk which causes prices to drop. Farmers normally would turn away from unprofitable milk to more profitable products. Supply would diminish and prices stabilize. This is the corrective action of a free market.

Instead, goverments discuss subsidies, put under pressure from violent farmers. With subsidies, milk production remains high. The consumer pays three times: taxes for the subsidies, costs for storage of excess milk, and expensive milk that should have been cheaper due to high supply. And the farmer's violence is rewarded.

Such is socialism.

05-08-2009

The end of the semester is approaching rapidly. One of my students, taking an economics class on Game Theory, took a risk. Up to this point, his performance was A grade, as his professor confirmed. Towards the end, he decided to use Game Theory to highlight particular group's interests in supporting the shaky global warming hypothesis. A controversial topic, for sure. But also a topic that any university that prides itself for supporting diversity (not only in people, but also in opinion) should take seriously. To critisize and to refute his thesis would be appropriate academic discourse.

Unfortunately, there was no discourse. There was just a worse grade. Punishment for supporting an unpopular standpoint? Shame on the university, and shame on the department that allows narrow-minded grading. Unfortunately, this step confirms that universities, even conservative- leaning departments, are breeding grounds of leftist thought, and that tolerance is limited to compliant opinions.

We will soon post a shortened version of the thesis for everybody to judge.

04-11-2009

Let's take another look at piracy. Remember that we recommended arming the sailors earlier (01-24-2009). Read the report in the Wall Street Journal. Apparently, the Maersk Alabama was re-taken by the sailors. While little details are known, it appears that the crew was unarmed. Why? The policy of the shipping lines is to instruct the crew to stand down and seek shelter:

John Reinhart, the president and chief executive of Maersk Line Ltd., the owner and operator of the vessel, said in a hastily called news conference in Norfolk, Va., that standard procedure in such an attack would be for crew members to seek out safe rooms in the ship.
   Crew members are instructed "not to take on active engagement" against onboard attackers, he said, because of safety concerns. "They'd be outgunned," he said. Still, pirates may not have expected the size and training of the crew they encountered. Matthew Thomas, a maritime-law expert in Washington, said that the U.S. requires larger crews on ships bearing its flag than many other countries do for similar-size vessels.
   "It's quite possible that the pirates got more than they bargained for in terms of seafarers," he said.

What am I getting wrong here? The company higher-ups claim that the crew would be "outgunned", yet an unarmed crew regained control over the ship. Question for you: how much more effective would an armed crew be? How much firepower do the pirates really command? This incident, it would seem, shows that pirates are not invincible, and effective means of defense promise to drive back the scourge of piracy.

Fortunately, the Attack Raises Debate on Guns for Sailors. See also interesing commentary here. Interestingly, it is the leadership, both corporate and unions, that opposes arming the crews. In addition, there appear to be legal issues. My question is: is a U.S. vessel, sailing in international waters, U.S. territory? If so, U.S. laws apply. It is time that the government leaders in the U.S.A. finally step up and clarify the issue. However, the reaction from Washington is pathetic. In fact, Washington's response spawned a bitter satire, read it here, it is really worth it. While the words are satirical, they are uncannily close to reality (although some credit must be given to Mr. Obama for authorizing the use of force that ultimately led to freeing of captain Richard Phillips).

Of course, we cannot expect a sensible response from Washington where the next attacks on the right to armed self-defense are planned. In favor of a renewed assault weapons ban, officials cite that 90 percent of the weapons used in the Mexico drug wars can be traced back to US origins. Fox News details why this number is wrong. It is actually a typical example of twisted statistics that nowadays dominates the media. The fact is, according to an ATF spokeswoman in a clarification of the statistic used by her own agency's assistant director, "is that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S". But a large percentage of the guns recovered in Mexico do not get sent back to the U.S. for tracing, because it is obvious from their markings that they do not come from the U.S.

Looking at the numbers, according to ATF Special Agent William Newell, Mexico submitted 11,000 guns to the ATF for tracing in 2007-2008. Close to 6,000 were successfully traced -- and of those, 90 percent -- 5,114 to be exact, according to testimony in Congress by William Hoover -- were found to have come from the U.S. But in those same two years, according to the Mexican government, 29,000 guns were recovered at crime scenes. In other words, 68 percent of the guns that were recovered were never submitted for tracing. And when you weed out the roughly 6,000 guns that could not be traced from the remaining 32 percent, it means 83 percent of the guns found at crime scenes in Mexico could not be traced to the U.S., and only 17 percent are of U.S. origin. In discussing weapons ownership, I cited a Wall Street Journal article that detailed the type of arms used by the drug gangs: fully automatic weapons, grenade launchers, mines, hand grenades, antitank missiles, and similar items that are not allowed in the United States. Do you really belive that a Mexican gangster just goes to a Phoenix gun store and buys his complement of hand grenades, mines, and rocket propelled grenades? When it comes to Mexico, we shouldn't be concerned about a few semi-automatic rifles and pistols. We should be concerned about an extensive black market for military arms from China, east-bloc states, and South America.

Yet, the dogma of the left requires a disarmed population incapable of effective self-defense or resistance. Do not expect common-sense regulations for sailors under pirate attack or even private citizens under attack by criminals.

04-06-2009

Karl Marx considered the nationalization of the banking system as a key step towards communism. In Das Kapital, he suggested the "centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly" as such a step. It might be shocking to view the TARP funds in this light. Read this article in the Wall Street Journal (local copy) or this blog.

The story looks ugly. A healthy bank is not allowed to pay back its TARP funds although it expressly wishes to do so. Why not? Government would lose control over that bank. After seizing control over the automobile industry, the banking sector is next on the lunch menu for the government.

So what? you ask? Obama won the election with Alinsky tactics and is now applying economic theories of Karl Marx. Getting the idea where we are headed?

03-27-2009

Here is a nomination for the Common Sense Lemon award for 2009. Out West, Catching Raindrops Can Make You an Outlaw (local copy). Colorado makes it illegal to collect rainwater in barrels:

Colorado, like most Western states, lives by a rigid and byzantine knot of water laws. Vast quantities of river water are made available, free of charge, to a variety of public and private interests, inc luding oil companies, ski resorts, fire districts and breweries. The international food conglomerate Nestlé has applied for a permit to draw water from a Colorado aquifer and sell it in plastic bottles under its Arrowhead brand.

However, for private persons, it is illegal in Colorado and Utah to collect rainwater. And if you do? You may be in trouble:

Setting a barrel on the lawn to recycle rain "sounds nice and efficient, but in my opinion, under Colorado law, that is theft," says Glenn Porzak, a lawyer who specializes in water-rights claims. "That rainwater is spoken for."

So let's look at this from a common-sense perspective. Rainwater that is not collected in barrels runs into rivers and lakes where it can be distributed according to political expediency (in other words, political favoritism). If rainwater is collected in barrels and used for irrigation later, it also flows into rivers and lakes. Sure, there may be more evaporation and some of the stored water does not make it back into the streams. On the other hand, irrigation would then take place with municipal water, so nothing would be gained. This rule defies even the most basic notion of common sense.

Time for another tea party?

03-21-2009

Inflation. This subject needs to be re-visited. A recent WSJ article Is Inflation Baked Into the Budget Plan? highlights how inflation will play an instrumental role in the reduction of the federal deficit in percent of GDP. The promise? A deficit of less than 3% of GDP by 2013. The starting point - over 12%. How would that work? Of course, there are assumptions. US economic output will increase by 23% over the next 4 years - nearly one quarter larger. Under this assumption, the $14 trillion output would swell to $17.5 trillion in 2013. Optimistic? No, fudged. We are talking paper money. The budget plan assumes that 70% of the projected growth (now 16% increase) is true economic growth, and 30% is inflation - almost 7% inflation per year!

Never mind that the Blue Chip consensus (a group of economic forecasts) is 22% or 0.73 trillion lower than the optimistic forecasts of the Obama administration. Printing money should fill the pothole with new bills and drive up inflation to cover the shortfall.

Can't happen? After the Chinese government got cold feet with US treasury bonds, it seems that the Federal Reserve is going to buy the junk bonds:

Fed launches bold $1.2T effort to revive economy. "To do so, the Fed will spend up to $300 billion to buy long-term government bonds and an additional $750 billion in mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac"

This is the epitome of lunacy; buying our own debt. The inmates are running the asylum.

OK, so you may ask, how would inflation hurt you? Ask yourself: how high was your last salary increase? If it is below 7%, then inflation will eat up your salary increase and you can still buy less than before. Inflation is like a hidden tax. The people pay. The only good news is the cap-and-trade scheme. It will pull additional money out of people's pockets, thus reducing their buying power and keep pressure on the prices. Since nothing is without consequences, there will be layoffs and closures. Never mind. Just tighten your belt.

Was it Milton Friedman? Only government can take perfectly good paper, cover it with perfectly good ink, and make the combination worthless..

03-10-2009

Watch out, U.S.A. When the Prime Minister of a remote island nation like New Zealand tells us how not to recover from a crisis, something is really, really wrong. Read You Can't Spend Your Way Out of the Crisis (local copy).

John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand talks about his approach to solving the crisis:

Big government is also coming under the gun. Mr. Key launched a "line-by-line review" of every government department, and committed the government to cap new spending in its May budget. "If we want to fund new initiatives, we by definition have to stop [funding] some of the things we don't think were working. . . . We're just getting better value for money".

Maybe it is time to take another look at the Freedom Index Ranking - bad surprise: The United States slipped down to rank 6, past New Zealand, which is now on rank 5. And the next winner might well be Canada.

Most importantly, look at Page 5 of the Executive Summary: A very strong world-wide trend exists that the people's wealth rises dramatically with the freedom index score.

These are the fruits of socialism, encroaching government, and loss of freedom: people get poorer. The government spreads the wealth, but there is less and less to spread.

02-27-2009

Interesting news from the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. According to a recent news article, sale of the book Atlas Shrugged is at a record high. Sales have almost tripled over the first seven weeks of this year compared with sales for the same period in 2008. Quote:

"Americans are flocking to buy and read 'Atlas Shrugged' because there are uncanny similarities between the plot-line of the book and the events of our day" said Yaron Brook, Executive Director at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. "Americans are rightfully concerned about the economic crisis and government" increasing intervention and attempts to control the economy. Ayn Rand understood and identified the deeper causes of the crisis we're facing, and she offered, in 'Atlas Shrugged,' a principled and practical solution consistent with American values."

In fact, the similarities of actions between the dystopian government in Atlas Shrugged and our current government in Washington led to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled 'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years (local copy).

If you do not know Atlas Shrugged, it is a fictional story about a dystopian society where the government assumes more and more power to regulate the economy. It creates Orwellian-named laws like "Equalization of Opportunity Bill", "Fairness Doctrine", "Employee Free Choice Act" and "Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog-Rule", and in the process, brings the economy to a complete standstill. At the same time, the productive forces in her book (the economy in her book is somewhat modeled after the ideas of Adam Smith and Schumpeter's notion of the entrepreneur) react to the encroaching government by either shutting down production or accepting government subsidies and in the process becoming hopelessly uncompetitive.

If you haven't read Atlas Shrugged, I suggest you buy it... now. It is a voluminous tome, but I promise you that you will be glued to the pages like I was. I could not put it out of my hand down to the last page. Then, a liberal friend - between clenched teeth - accused Ayn Rand of being poison. Which prompted me to read the book again. Yes, poison indeed. Those who favor a big, encroaching, nanny-style government must find it poison, because it is those people whom the book exposes and illuminates down to the last nook of their soul.

02-26-2009

I just ran across this new Web site, recovery.gov. I guess this is going to be a new trend for government transparency. Without doubt, the idea is good. As the Web site states: This is your money. You have a right to know where it's going and how it's being spent.

I see. This is my (the taxpayer's) money. I have a right to know, but I have no right to influence how it is spent. In other words, the government arrogantly assumes that it knows better how to spend my money. Right?

Let's take a look. There is a nice bar graph with the most prominent block ($288 Billion) to be spent for tax relief. In fact, tax relief sounds great. This is exactly what the economy needs right now - tax cuts across the board. Excuse me? Not tax cuts but tax relief? What is the difference? Click on it for more details. This is what you get:

Tax Relief - includes $15 B for Infrastructure and Science, $61 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $25 B for Education and Training and $22 B for Energy, so total funds are $126 B for Infrastructure and Science, $142 B for Protecting the Vulnerable, $78 B for Education and Training, and $65 B for Energy.

Tax relief for infrastructure? How is this going to work? Tax relief for science? If you do scientific work, your tax burden is reduced? Tax relief for energy? If I install an energy efficient heat pump in my house, do I get an income tax break? How do I apply for this tax relief? For these questions, the recovery.gov page becomes unsettlingly quiet.

Let me guess. This so-called "tax relief" has nothing to do with any form of tax cuts or tax reduction. It is simply and plainly out-of-control government spending, thinly veiled with a pseudo-transparency page called recovery.gov. This is your money, taken away from you through taxes, flowing into various murky channels, and without measurable effect on the economy. When it comes to real accountability and transparency, the new recovery.gov Web page fails to provide any information associated with accountability and transparency.

A scam. A feel-good scam to keep you from screaming as more money is pulled out of your pockets.

02-25-2009

America moves left A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, titled: "Obama Wants to Move the Center Left". The author, Matt Miller, shares my concern that the USA experiences a political slide to the left. More government, more wealth redistribution, and - naturally - a more intrusive government. For this purpose, I believe, that our government, foremost Mr. Obama, exaggerates the crisis. During the elections, polls gave rise to the notion tha the voters had more trust in Mr. Obama to solve economic problems that Mr. McCain. True to Rahm Emmanuel's adage, You don't ever want a crisis to go to waste; it's an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid, the media converted a banking crisis into an economic crisis hype that became a self-fulfilling prophecy: as consumers held back on spending (upon hearing the bad news), as employers pre-emptively shrunk their companies before unionization would force them into bankruptcy, the economy entered a self-sustaining downward spiral.

The economy is in much better shape than Mr. Obama wants us to believe. But if we buy into his panic speeches, we can worship him even more once the economy turns around. And the economy will turn around, eventually, in spite of massive government intervention. It is clearly in Mr. Obama's interest that we perceive this crisis to be deeper than it actually is.

Read the article here:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123544280120155761.html

02-08-2009

Haggling about the bailout. Congress and White House pack more and more items into the trillion-dollar stimulus package. It is still maintained that the stimulus package is supposed to create jobs and bring the economy back on track. How much stimulus is in it? CNN mocks Republican concerns by listing some items in the package:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/02/02/gop.stimulus.worries/index.html

Among the items listed:

$246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film.
$1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion.
$1.2 billion for "youth activities," including youth summer job programs.
$650 million for the digital television converter box coupon program.

These are just the most egregious examples. How would any of the spending listed above create jobs? In the same list, there are several building projects. Superficially, these projects would need workers. Job creation? Probably more a flash in the pan. In fact, some see the stimulus package more as a endless list of liberal pet projects as we mentioned earlier (see 31-1-09). More here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123379617394050229.html
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123396623933859023.html

The main consequence of this so-called stimulus will be massive debt:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123371083449746103.html

What happens with this debt? Who is going to finance it? In recent years, treasury papers were massively bought by foreign countries such as China and Japan. These two countries alone hold far more than 1 trillion Dollars. Will they be willing to buy more treasury papers to finance the new debt wave? It seems unlikely: in the economic downturn, the flow of Dollars into these countries has dried up. And so has the incentive to invest those Dollars back into the US economy. So what's the plan?

Crank up the printing press. Don't believe me? Here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123388703203755361.html

And the consequence? Economy 101 tells us that when money is created with the printing press, the consequence is inflation. Massive inflation. Because there is more cash for the same amount of goods, the price for the goods will go up. The next logical step down the road to socialism would be price controls. This would actually bring our government's level down to the one in Venezuela. And price controls also have a consequence: empty shelves. Venezuela. Cuba. Former Eastern Germany. This is now the peer level of our government.

And now consider that Mr. Obama actually had the audacity to promise fiscal responsibility.

To be fair, I don't believe that price controls will be instated. Why not? Look at it closely. Inflation is desired. Inflation is the optimum solution for Congress. That is right:

Inflation is desired by Congress.

When you have a trillion-Dollar debt, how can you ever get rid of it? Tax the wealthy? No go - there aren't enough wealthy people to tax, and they would probably move to the Bahamas. Tax the poor and middle class? No go - there is not much money to grab. Also, there are a lot of Democrat voters in this group. Foreign countries? We discussed this already. This leaves one solution. De-value your debt. Let's take one trillion, just for the math. With a 2% inflation, its worth in ten years is 820 billion. Still a sizable chunk. With a 12% inflation (we have had almost 15% in the Seventies), the 10-year devaluation gets the value of the debt down to 320 billion. Down by two thirds! This sounds more like a solution.

Inflation, and -presto! - debt melts and vanishes. I am awed. We just found the perpetuum mobile of the economy. Government spends, liberals pay for their pet projects, and future inflation makes the debt go away.

But wait - some nagging resistance nest of common sense, unvanquished in a back corner of may brain, tells me that somebody must pay for it. Who is it? Two groups. First, those who hold our treasury papers, and second, everybody who has savings. As a consequence, first, other countries become even more reluctant to finance the US debt, second, anybody needing a loan - whether it is the family looking to buy a house or the industrialist planning to extend his factory; and third, we are creating a new generation of poverty-level retirees. Of course, we could give those retirees welfare entitlements, but that would increase government spending...

In J.M. Keynes theories, this is a strategy. F.A. Hayek, fellow economist of Keynes, tells us where this leads. Hayek's important book is called The Road to Serfdom. Read it. Read it today. Read it today to understand what is happening in Washington. We need more Hayek and less Keynes:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123371237124446245.html


01-31-2009

It happened that I just read an interview with an ex-Guantanamo detainee in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. A sad story about torture and injustice. I admit that the possibility of having anybody detained unjustly is depressing, and I feel terribly sorry for every detainee who was there without a cause. But how many of these were there really? As far as one can tell, most of the captives were released within weeks, and now only a few more than two hundred are left in Guantanamo. And for a good reason:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123301909286117971.html

As the article states, those suspected terrorists may well be trained to scream torture when incarcerated. By the way, waterboarding was done to only three prisoners. One of them Khaled Sheikh Muhammad - his name should be known to everybody (except to those tinfoil hat candidates who think 9/11 was the work of the CIA). And for him and his ilk I think that gloves-off methods to extract information vital to the safety of the US is just. Rememer that waterboarding may be considered torture, but it is certainly less harmful than beheading. Remember Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl? For those who do not remember, I recommend the short movie FITNA.

So how come that there is so little reliable information? We can again suspect the main stream media and their agenda (including foreign-nation newspapers). It is frightening that the media are accountable to nobody. You'll never know when you are lied to, manipulated, or hoodwinked by the media.

Fortunately, there is still the Internet. And talk radio. Oh, of course, Rush Limbaugh, king of talk radio, is the permanent target of the leftist media. What you hear about him is mainly hate, ridicule, denigration. Justifiedly so? Judge by yourself. Here is a Rush Limbaugh sample:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123318906638926749.html

This is not bad, is it? Be honest, is this what you'd expect from the reviled hate preacher of the ultra-right? Exactly. This is what makes Limbaugh the prime target of the left. So we are facing the Orwellian-named Fairness Doctrine. This is just a twisted name for censorship. Of course, the population started to smell a rat, so maybe we won't get the Fairness Doctrine after all. There are ways around that. For example if the FCC demands a supervisory board composed of locals (community organizers?) who make sure that "local interests" and the "interests of the disadvantaged" are properly reflected. This is another good way to place the garotte around the neck of talk radio hosts.

Remeber, the First Amendment is a good thing only if it furthers agenda of the left. Otherwise, "commonsense" restrictions must be placed on the First Amendment freedoms, right?

By the way, I just read that Mr. Obama signed his first bill into law:

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/01/29/presidents-first-law-obama-signs-lilly-ledbetter-wage-bill/

Now, I cannot deny that pay equity is a good thing. But facilitating litigation? Of course, Mr. Obama is a lawyer, and why not give his colleagues a boon? Maybe Mr. Obama has not thought through the potential consequences. It is well possible that employers will now think twice before empolying women or minorities - those who could potentially litigate.

On another note, Obama tries to level the playing field for labor unions:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123334427045034353.html

These executive orders could be straight out of Atlas Shrugged, down to the wording. A White House task force on the problems of middle-class Americans indeed. I can tell you what the problem of middle-class Americans is. It is too much Government. Remeber Joe the Plumber? But of course, Mr. Obama owes the Unions. After all, they paid about a quarter of the costs of his election campaign. He is just making good on his deal. Something akin to Mr. Blagojevitch trading off a senate seat. Oh, by the way, Mr. Blagojevitch still maintains that he didn't do anything wrong. Maybe something is wrong with Mr. Blagojevitch? Power corrupts, no doubt.

Talking about corruption. Have you had a look at the stimulus package? Details here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123310466514522309.html

There is maybe 12% that could be considered an investment that creates jobs. The rest is a list of pork spending projects, a veritable list of liberal toy projects that had gathered dust for up to 40 years. What this means: almost 90% of the so-called stimulus package will cause a brief economic flash in the pan, and that's it. We'll be left with an un-stimulated economy and a mountain of debt. Of course, this is a good subject of study for economists. Both Reagan and G.W.Bush inherited a declining economy, like Obama. Reagan and Bush brought the economy back on track by cutting taxes. Now, Mr. Obama proposes just the opposite. Let's get back in a year or two and compare how well the two different approaches performed.

Lastly, I have never understood this piracy issue:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123335651246634995.html

As the article states, nobody really knows who is responsible for the safety of crew and ship. So what about using an old and proven principle? In the US, the police are not responsible for the safety of the citizens. They are law enforcement, and if they protect a citizen, this is just a coincidental side-effect of their duty. This is why law-abiding citizens are allowed to keep and bear arms (DC vs Heller). So why don't we apply this principle to the ships? Every crew member has a rifle in his locker, and the ship has a mounted machine gun, say, atop the bridge. Remember, the pirates did not hesitate to fire an RPG at the tanker. I could well imagine that the pirates would reconsider an attack if they had to face an armed crew. Why is nobody implementing that? Maybe some international law concocted by the buffoons at the United Nations?


01-24-2009

Politics topsy-turvey. Sure enough Mr. Bush was not a role model when it came to reasonable cutting-back of the welfare state:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123275512887811775.html

But Mr. Obama sure tops this. Nominating a tax defrauder like Mr. Geithner as head of Treasury is pure irony. Even better, while the polls indicated that the voters put more trust in Mr. Obama's economic compentency than Mr. McCain's, it appears that reality falls short, again. Mr. Obama speaks and the stock market drops:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123258545247904479.html

And his economic plans are rightly mocked as voodoo economics:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123258618204604599.html

We shouldn'be surprised that private companies preemptively reduce their work force now before strengthened unions reduce the flexibility of companies to adapt to market conditions.

Final thought. Finally, there is some indication why Mr. Bush was so much hated. He exposed the left to be fundamentally wrong on one issue:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123241360913796235.html

"Simply put, there are those who will never forgive Mr. Bush for not losing a war they had all declared unwinnable.".

No wonder.


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