Saturday, February 28, 2009

Compare and Contrast

If you aren't convinced by now that The New York Times is completely in the tank for the Bolsheviks Democrats, read "That Was Then, This Is Now", over at Powerline for an interesting and revealing juxtaposition of how they editorialized on the early Bush administration Republican deficit spending and how they are treating the early Obama administration Democrat deficit spending now.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How's Your 401k Doing?

The Obama Bear Market

From an editorial in Investor's Business Daily. Go read it.
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

The East Valley Tribune and Airbrushing

Earlier this week my local paper, The East Valley Tribune, published a story about the President's visit to Dobson High School in Mesa, AZ. It was an interview with several students who were actually quite critical and skeptical of the President. The story was picked up by Drudge, then Rush, and then it seemed to vanish and be replaced by something else. There were a lot of charges of "airbrushing" and sinister plots to bury news that reflected poorly on his O-ness. I'm just cynical enough that I was ready to believe it myself. Eventually, the article reappeared in its original form. EVT editor Chris Coppola published an explanation of the incident today.

I've been a subscriber to the EVT since I moved to Arizona 5 years ago. Until recently it was a typical daily paper with home delivery but early this year went to a 4 day a week,limited distribution paper and 7 day on-line publication (newspaper industry economics are not kind these days). The editorial tone of the paper is of a fairly libertarian bent and over the years I've found the locally written news stories to be pretty straightforward and free of any particular bias (AP-sourced stuff is another matter) and the editorializing confines itself to the editorial pages. One of my neighbors used to work for them and thinks pretty highly of the people there. Given my experience with the paper, I'm prepared to accept Coppola's explanation at face value. Perhaps we were all a little to quick to think the worst, and who can really blame us given the naked partisanship of some of the major news outlets and their legions of Obamafellators?
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

PItchforks, Torches, Tar and Feathers.

Decisions, decisions. I may be joining a few people for a trip to Washington DC soon and was wondering whether I should take one of these four tine pitchforks:

Or this nine tine beauty:

I suppose the nine tine would be more likely to jam on a rib. I'm thinking I'd best go with the four tine. Does anyone with a little more experience with these outings have any advice?

I also need to research tar (low or high viscosity?), feathers (or goose down, and what sort of loft), and to complete my packing list, torches.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

No, We Are Not All Socialists Now.

So says Claudia Rosett at Pajamas Media.

"The endless fallacy of state economic planning is that greed can somehow be eliminated from human nature. The virtue of capitalism is that it takes greed into account, and puts it to good use. Free markets give people incentives to satisfy their greed by providing things that other people really want, and which they choose to buy in a process of voluntary exchange. In that system, government is supposed to exercise restraint, rather than treating taxpayers as providers of an all-you-can-eat Washington buffet."

Go read the whole thing.

(via Samizdata)
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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Obama's Broken Promises Were Entirely Predictable

Nicholas Guariglia at Pajamas Media catalogues the many missteps of Barack Obama's not even four week old presidency . He begins thusly:

"Barack Obama swept into office with the limelight at his back. For nearly two years of campaigning, Obama led a nationwide movement for change and became a phenomenon, breaking all sorts of political barriers along the way. People of all demographics used Obama as a vessel in which to invest their hopes and dreams. But today, just three weeks into his presidency, Mr. Obama is on the verge of losing the country’s confidence and the large reservoir of national goodwill afforded to all incoming presidents."

Read the whole thing. As Guariglia says, it's going to be a long 4 years.

(via Instapundit)

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The Wisdom of Thomas Jefferson

Some quotes from the author of the Declaration of Independence:
"When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe."

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."

"It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world."

"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."

"My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government."

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms."

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

And here's a Very Interesting Quote. In light of the present financial crisis, it's interesting to read what Thomas Jefferson said in 1802:

"Banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Barack Obama Meets the Peter Principle.....

...and Murphy's Law. Kyle-Anne Shiver at The American Thinker spells out what happens next:

What happens when everything that can go wrong in a person's character formation does go wrong, and that person continues to be promoted to his level of incompetence?

President Barack Obama happens.

Personally, I don't think our new president is qualified to be the Wasilla dog catcher. Read the whole thing.

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The Wealth of Nations

P.J. O'Rourke, author of On The Wealth of Nations: Books That Changed the World, has an article in the Financial Times today, quoting extensively from The Wealth of Nations, written by Adam Smith 232 years ago. It seems things haven't changed much in all that time.

The idea that The Wealth of Nations puts forth for creating prosperity is more complex. It involves all the baffling intricacies of human liberty. Smith proposed that everyone be free – free of bondage and of political, economic and regulatory oppression (Smith’s principle of “self-interest”), free in choice of employment (Smith’s principle of “division of labour”), and free to own and exchange the products of that labour (Smith’s principle of “free trade”). “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence,” Smith told a learned society in Edinburgh (with what degree of sarcasm we can imagine), “but peace, easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice.”

How then would Adam Smith fix the present mess? Sorry, but it is fixed already. The answer to a decline in the value of speculative assets is to pay less for them. Job done.

We could pump the banks full of our national treasure. But Smith said: “To attempt to increase the wealth of any country, either by introducing or by detaining in it an unnecessary quantity of gold and silver, is as absurd as it would be to attempt to increase the good cheer of private families, by obliging them to keep an unnecessary number of kitchen utensils.” [440]

We could send in the experts to manage our bail-out. But Smith said: “I have never known much good done by those who affect to trade for the public good.” [456]

And we could nationalise our economies. But Smith said: “The state cannot be very great of which the sovereign has leisure to carry on the trade of a wine merchant or apothecary”. [818] Or chairman of General Motors.

What is it that the French say? The more things change, the more they stay the same?

Read the whole thing.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Snow on the Superstitions

This is a picture of the Superstition Mountains, to the East of where I live (as long as I continue to believe they are anyway) taken with my cellphone camera today on my way back from foraging for lunch. Seeing snow on the Superstitions is pretty rare. The peaks range from about 3500 to 4500 feet above sea level. We're at 1400.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Why Do We Have a Budget Deficit? Look to Congress, Not the President

When it comes to budget deficits, the sitting President usually seems to get the blame for them. In fact, the President can't spend a dime of taxpayer funds that the Congress doesn't appropriate. It's true that President Bush left office with a budget deficit but the deficit President Obama has inherited is mostly the creation of a Democrat controlled Congress. At the end of fiscal 2006, when Republican control of congress ended, the budget deficit was $248 billion. That's bad enough and the Republicans lost control in large part because they forgot why they were sent there in 1994 and acted like Democrats. They spent every thin dime of tax revenue that came into the Treasury and then some. And it certainly didn't help that it took until 2006 for President Bush to find his veto stamp. Perhaps if he'd reined in the Congress, the Republicans might have held onto it.

I expressed hope after the 2006 elections that 1.) the Republicans would learn their lesson and remember that people vote for them because they profess to be in favor of small government and fiscal discipline and 2.) that the Democrats would act responsibly, now that they'd been handed the car keys. No such luck. The deficit for the end of fiscal year 2008 ballooned to $407 billion and that was before the ill-conceived and hastily passed $700 billion TARP. Now President Obama is demanding that the Congress pass an $800 billion to $900 billion "stimulus" bill that will deepen the deficit even further and leave the bill for future generations to foot. Remeber who controls the purse-strings. It's the Congress. The hole may have started under a Republican Congress, but it's the Democrats that have kept on digging. The first rule of holes states that when you find yourself in one, you stop digging.

How do we stop this hole from getting deeper? We have to stop spending more than we bring in. No matter where you set marginal tax rates, receipts to the treasury will not exceed about 19.5% of GDP. Congress is currently spending about 21.5% of GDP. Spending has to be brought into line with GDP and if we want to really increase tax revenues (not rates, revenues) we need to grow GDP and the quickest way to do that is to reduce tax rates. Leave money in the productive economy, i.e., the private sector and we will start to come back. Unfortunately the Democrats are more concerned with punishing the "evil rich" and redistributing wealth than they are with actually solving the problem. They can do a lot of damage over the next two years and the Republicans need to point this out loudly, often and stick together to resist the systematic looting of the private economy by the statist, power hungry monster that is the Democrat Congress.
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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Free Market Capitalism Isn't at Fault - It Doesn't Really Exist

Via Instapundit, I ran across this post at Notablog. It has become fashionable in certain circles lately to blame unfettered free-market capitalism for the current mess in the banking system. The author of the post, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, argues that it can't be true, because unfettered free market capitalism has never truly existed:

"The current state and the current banking sector require one another; neither can exist without the other. They are so reciprocally intertwined that each is an extension of the other.

Remember this point the next time somebody tells you that "
free market madmen" caused the current financial crisis that is threatening to undermine the economy. There is no free market. There is no "laissez-faire capitalism." The government has been deeply involved in setting the parameters for market relations for eons; in fact, genuine "laissez-faire capitalism" has never existed. Yes, trade may have been less regulated in the nineteenth century, but not even the so-called "Gilded Age" featured "unfettered" markets."

I think he has a valid point. This just lends more credence to my own frequent assertions that we are where we are due to politcal interference in the market, which leads to irrational behavior. When the government stops trying to "help", that is when the markets will start to find their equilibrium. That isn't to say there won't be further ugliness. There will be. It just means that they can finally find clearing prices for toxic assets and get back to business without all the uncertainty that political interference breeds, and that markets hate
Read the whole post.
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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The SEC Is a Paper Tiger

The Wall Street Journal today posted the testimony of one Harry Markopolos who testified in front of Congress today regarding the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. He is a CFA and CFE(Certified Fraud Examiner in the private sector of the financial services industry. Over the past decade he and three similarly credentialed colleagues accumulated a file of evidence that proved Bernie Madoff was a fraud as far back as 2000. They repeatedly went to the SEC with it and even as they gathered more and more evidence, they were repeatedly blown off by the SEC. Even when pointed straight at it, the SEC couldn't comprehend one of the biggest frauds in history. Meanwhile they are investigating Steve Jobs on the basis he isn't sharing the most intimate details of his health problems with the entire world.

This report is quite damning. Four private citizens could have stopped this a long time ago, if only the staff of the SEC had had the good sense to listen to them.

A good summary of why the markets remain so thoroughly paralyzed is on page 28 (printed page) or 35 in the pdf on line. The full report is 65 pages but reads very well. It's worth the time if you are interested in this kind of thing.
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Monday, February 02, 2009

Powerline on Obama: "Let Them Eat Steak"

That's the post title here. Dozens of people in Kentucky have died due to the icy weather of last week yet. It took 5+ days for FEMA to make an appearance and as far as I know, President Obama has yet to say a thing about it, let alone take any action, such as declaring it a disaster area.
"Many on the web--but no one in the mainstream media--have commented on the fact that Obama has not even pretended to do anything about the massive ice storm that has disabled much of Kentucky and neighboring states. It took days for FEMA to swing into action. Why is that not a scandal? Days went by before Kentucky's governor called out the National Guard. Why did no one blame Obama for failing to call out the Guard sooner? Probably because he lacks the constitutional power to do so; but the Constitution hasn't changed since 2005."
If this had happened on George W. Bush's watch, he'd have been pilloried in the press, despite the fact that first response is a primarily local responsibility, but President Obama gets a complete pass. One of the Instapundit's readers sums it up nicely:
"What Katrina taught the media was that they could hurt Bush by lying. What 2008 taught them was that they could help Obama by not reporting at all. What will 2009 teach them? I shudder to think."
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