Friday, September 30, 2011

Will We Choose to Be A Nation of Adults or of Children? Live Free or Die - Bill Whittle

The title of this new Afterburner is "Live Free or Die" but really it is more about the question of what kind of a country or people we want to be. Will we choose to be a nation of adults or one of children whose every decsion is made for them, for their own good, of course.  Bonus Latin lesson:  "age res proprias tuas." Translation: mind your own business. 



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Monday, September 26, 2011

Why Does the Good Life End? Victor Davis Hanson Has the Answer

Victor Davis Hanson  has another great Works and Days column over at PJ Media on why societies decline and are swept away. A couple of excerpts:

The outsourcing of private morality to the state is a particularly modern affliction, but equally as pernicious. We witness the startling paradox that today’s private society is crasser, less honest, and more uncouth even as its government’s official morality stresses gender, race, class, and green ethical superiority. But just because the state now thankfully mandates disabled parking spaces does not mean that we honor a crippled relative more than in the past, or that our children are more likely to write a note of thanks to a grandparent’s gift. I can surely see an erosion in the public expression of manners and morality even as I sense our government is now more “fair” and “equal” than ever before.
[snip]



When poverty is defined as relative want rather than existential need, states decay and societies decline. In the fifth century, Athenians were content to be paid to go to the theater; by the fourth, they were paid also to vote — even as they hired mercenaries to fight and forgot who won at Salamis, and why. Flash mobbing did not hit bulk food stores. The looters organized on Facebook through laptops and cell phones, not through organizing during soup kitchens and bread lines. Random assaults were not because of elemental poverty, but anger at not having exactly what appears on TV.

Obesity, not malnutrition, is the affliction at Wal-Mart. In our strange culture, that someone drives an overpriced BMW apparently means that our own Toyotas don’t have air conditioners or stereos. But that John Edwards or John Kerry or Al Gore has a huge house doesn’t mean that mine is inadequate — or the tract homes that sprout in my community for new arrivals from Mexico are too small.

Of course, the elite have responsibility to use their largess wisely and not turn into the Kardashians. But that a fifth of one percent of the taxpayers are finding ways not to pay at the income tax rate on their large incomes does not hurt the republic as much as 50% of the population paying no income tax at all. The latter noble sorts do not bother us as much, but their noncompliance bothers the foundations of our society far more than that of the stingy, but minuscule, number of grasping rich.
The whole thing is, as usual, worth reading but down in the comments, the always astute cfbleachers has a great summary of what's eating us alive. A partial quote:

A society that is hell bent on trying to find new and unique ways to pick a fight with itself is in for a headache. This current group is so inane and arrogant, it at once picks a fight, declares the matter “settled”, calls any principled dissent “racist” and then apologizes to the world for our entire past.
 
[snip]

The problem, of course…with having the Protest Culture Cult in positions of leadership, is that they can’t produce a budget, have no foreign policy plan, don’t listen to our generals on the ground, can’t fix Wall Street, can’t make a tax program and can’t negotiate a contract with unions…because they have been in “anti” mode for 45 years. They know how to gripe and cry and moan and march in perpetual protest…but, they never had to actually MAKE something, they only had to criticize the efforts of others.





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Monday, September 19, 2011

ObamaJobs! - Just What the Doctor Ordered

I somehow missed this brilliant proposal by my friend, Dr. Paul Hsieh nearly two weeks ago, but this kind of goodness has no expiration date. He has hit upon the solution for the unemployment problem. ObamaJobs! It is modeled after ObamaCare. It's such an obvious solution, we all should have seen it.
Simply by varying a few features of ObamaCare, the president could guarantee nearly “universal” employment just as ObamaCare has guaranteed nearly “universal” health coverage. He could implement an “ObamaJobs” program as follows:
1) Impose a “job mandate” requiring all companies with greater than 50 employees to add 10% new employees to their payrolls. So if a company currently has 50 employees, they would need to hire 5 new workers. If a company has 100 employees, they must hire 10 new workers, etc.
There's more.  Go read the whole thing.
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Is It Time to Mandate SEC Filings by Companies Wishing to Receive Taxpayer Guaranteed Loans?

A Form S-1 is a document a company must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission before it company may offer securities for sale, either equity securities in an IPO or the issuance of public debt. While the online form is only 8 pages long, in reality an S-1 filing can run to hundreds of pages once it is filled out as it must cover several areas of interest to potential investors. This includes, among other things, a description of the company's business, its history, relevant risk factors, the use of the offering proceeds, capitalization and management's discussion and analysis of the business and the company's financial statements. These will include and opinion by an independent auditor as to whether the company's financial statements fairly represent the performance of the business and comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP) as well as any qualifications to the opinion. 

One of the potential qualifications is what is known as a "going concern" clause which is the audit firm's way of saying "assuming this company remains in business." By inserting that clause in their opinion they are saying that that may not be a safe assumption.  Apparently the auditor's opinion for Solyndra contained this clause and yet the Obama administration pressured the Department of Energy to rush through an approval of a $535 million taxpayer guaranteed loan, despite the Bush administration having turned it down only a couple of months before. There was even concern expressed by DOE analysts that the company was burning cash at such a rate that it would run out by this month. And sure enough, the company filed for bankruptcy, laid off all of its workers and closed its doors on August 31.

If a S-1 was ever filed for this company, I haven't found it and the reason is that the company didn't have to file one because it didn't intend to go public anytime soon. It was entirely funded by venture capital up until the time of the loan.

Yet here I am, an involuntary investor in a bankrupt company, like all the rest of the tax-paying public. I believe that an application for a government loan, guaranteed by the taxpayers, should require the filing of an S-1 or similar disclosure should be made in all cases and that a public comment period of not less than 90 days be mandated before the loan can be made. If the tax-payers can be put on the hook for the loan then they have a right to know what their government is getting them into. The comment period would allow an opprtunity for a crowd-sourced analysis of the company, the soundness of its business case and its financial viability. As long as the government is going to be in the venture capital business and picking winners and losere, and I don't think it should be, this would be a huge leap in transparency and accountability where government and private business intersect. 

Update:  I just went back to Edgar and searched again. I did find an S-1 for Solyndra. I think I probably searched as "Solyndra Corporation" the first time around and it is Solyndra, Inc. Sometimes less is better when searching. In any case, the financials are from pre-revenue 12/31/2006 and 2007 then nine months ended 9/27/2008 and 10/3/2009 and are every bit as ugly as any financial statements I've ever seen, and I do look at a lot of them.  If the company can't get any takers for an IPO, that should be all you need to know about the wisdom of granting a loan. If the market won't touch it, it's sheer idiocy to lend the company money on any terms.
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What We Did Right - A New Afterburner with Bill Whittle

I have nothing to add here. Just watch and enjoy.



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Will LightSquared be the Next Political Favoritism Scandal?

The Solyndra mess, involving $535 million in taxpayer guaranteed loans to a company that the Obama Administration favored and that just went bankrupt only a year after receiving the loan is dominating the headlines now. However, a new scandal may be brewing.
 
There’s a White House scandal involving favoritism towards a specific company high on President Obama’s political agenda — and it’s not Solyndra.


In this case, the company owner happens to be a big Democratic Party donor. And in the pursuit of giving preference to a specific company, the White House undercut a legendary four-star general and potentially undermined U.S. national security. Adding fuel to the explosive story: at one time President Obama was a personal investor, with $50,000 of his own money.
Are we starting to see a pattern here? Taxpayer funded largesse is being bestowed on politically favored companies whose heads and/or major investors just coincidentally happen to be major Democratic Party donors, whether the business is viable on its own or not, while established companies whose heads just coincidenatlly happen to favor Republicans (and are non-union)  are being raided by armed stormtroopers federal agents over the question of whether a certain kind of wood being used to manufacture guitars was obtained in compliance with the laws of another country.  Yet a competing company, which uses the same wood but just happens to be a union shop and whose head happens to donate money to Democrats is left alone. This doesn't look, feel or smell right.

The Obama investment in LightSquared is referred to in the past tense so he doesn't appear to be in a position to profit from any success the company might have, at least not directly. However, through campaign donations from the executives and investors in some of these companies he seems to be making out rather well indirectly.  

This kind of activity is the very definition of what crony capitalism is and these scandals, which seem to be multiplying and growing, is more worthy of some tinpot dictatorship than the once (and hopefully future) greatest country on Earth.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Paul Ryan: Restoring the Rule of Law

In a speech to the students of Hillsdale College (some of whom woke up at the ungodly hour of 8:30 AM to watch it online) Congressman Paul Ryan makes the case for restoring and supporting the rule of law and the Constitution. An excerpt:

The Constitution’s Framers knew that there is a human inclination to increase personal power at the expense of law, so they created Congress as a decentralized and internally divided institution, but they granted it ample authority to secure the rule of law in every case. Congress holds the power of the pen as well as the purse. It has the power necessary to address attacks on the rule of law in our executive bureaucracies and even in the courts. The Constitution provides us with the power to solve these problems; what we need, is the will to do it.
 
I've been told lately that the Constitution is out of date and was never intended to address some of the problems of modernday life. I beg to differ and this speech says why better than I can myself. So as the man says, read the whole thing.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Defining "Fair" in Obama's "Paying a Fair Share" Rhetoric - Gary Wickert

Over at Pajamas Media Gary Wickert does a little bit of translation for us on what President Obama means when he says the word "fair." Not surprisingly it doesn't seem like the same definition of the word most of us would have in mind.

Of course you should read the whole thing.  Wickert goes on to discuss how unfair what Obama and his acolytes advocate really is. An example:


One thing you will never hear our president explain is precisely what he means when he uses the word “fair.” The word actually means “free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice.” What Obama means, however, is something quite different. What he is saying is that it is not fair that somebody earns more than another, owns more than another, or has more wealth than another. And he intends to make it “fair.”

According to the National Taxpayers Union, the top 10% of wage-earners — families and small business owners who make over $113,799 — pay an incredibly unfair 70% of all federal income taxes. The top 50% of wage-earners pay nearly all federal income taxes. Is that fair? It seems that our president is not going to allow the half of Americans who pay no taxes to bear the burden of the other half who aren’t paying their fair share [my emphasis]. This is why the vast majority of the half who don’t pay any taxes continue to vote for Barack Obama.

For some more thoughts on fairness, go here and here.

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