Thursday, December 04, 2008

Rough days ahead

I almost feel bad for Obama, actually. Well, about as much as I feel bad for Bush. Contrary to what most presidential candidates (and most people) think the president has very say in what will define his term. The only recent president without significant surprises was Clinton, who instead manufactured his own. Carter was defined by OPEC and Iran; Reagan by the USSR and a recession (and subsequent recovery); Bush by the Gulf War; Clinton by... a Republican congress, sex scandals, and a non-war in Bosnia which is directly related to NATO / Russian tensions today; and GWB by 9/11. What will define Obama's presidency? He ran on getting out of Iraq. By the time he takes office, his position on that will be largely irrelevant.

Things Obama will have to deal with:

The possible demise of NATO. NATO represents an era of foreign policy in the world defined by long term alliances between many nations against a mutual threat. That era may well be over. Germany's chancellor essentially told NATO to shove it during the Russo-Georgian incident a few months ago. NATO is struggling to maintain a coherent face to the rest of the world, largely due to stresses induced on it by the global financial crises, a resurgent Russia and the ongoing fight in Afghanistan. It's being pulled apart. Without NATO we are back to an environment of short, shifting alliances similar to the 19th and early 20th century.

A Resurgent Russia. Russia was largely a non-factor on the world stage for the past decade. Other than a few fits of pique involving Ukranian natural gas contracts, threats of energy supply cutoffs to Europe and an internal rebellion in Chechnya which was ignored by the rest of the world, Russia has been relegated to obscurity. That all changed when Russian troops invaded South Ossetia and nearly toppled a US-backed state in the process of applying for NATO membership. It was a direct statement to the rest of the world. Russia is reasserting itself in its sphere of influence lost in the breakup of the Soviet Union. The opportunity exists because the United States is stretched thin due to deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and because NATO is no longer coherent enough to object. The world is discovering that the EU has no real power, and the UN has been a joke for decades. Russia was seemingly deliberately baited by NATO membership hints to Georgia, the Western-inspired Orange revolution in Ukraine (a nation which was direct geopolitical consequences to Russia, including Mediterranean port access, pipeline control to Europe, and geographic defense value), and western involvement in the Balkans during Clintons term. Now they have the opportunity to object to these perceived threats, and they are taking full advantage of it while it lasts.

A deteriorating state of affairs in the Indian subcontinent. One of Obama's first, and possibly most important, challenges will be to pick up where the Bush administration leaves off in India and Pakistan. Condoleeza Rice is heading to Islamabad after she finishes in New Dehli to try to prevent a crisis between the two nations. However, there are fewer and fewer options available to all players. India, driven by public opinion within, must react to these attacks. They must assure their populace that a similar attack will not occur again, much as the United States was forced to react to 9/11. The only way they can accomplish this is to address the growing factions of militant Islam functioning with increasing boldness in Pakistan. So far this has been limited to a demand for Pakistan to control these elements of their populace and military. If this does not happen, they may follow the US model in Afghanistan: namely, that a nation providing asylum or aid to terrorist interests is acting in a state of war and react accordingly. This will result in a crisis of some sort, anywhere from a buildup of troops on the border to artillery or airstrikes into Pakistan's interior.

Pakistan is in a state of near-crisis. The civilian government is almost insolvent and seems to be at direct odds with the military government, which is a separate entity. The civilian government is writing checks it cannot cash in an attempt to prevent crisis with India. They are caught between a rock and a hard place with the US and India. The United States is demanding (via Obama's incoming administration's statements) that they increase their participation and cooperation on Taliban and al Qaeda factions in Waziristan along the Afghan border. They currently have 100,000+ troops stationed along that border. However, action against the militant Islamic factions is not very popular with the Pakistani population, and even less so among factions of the military and intelligence services. How mainstream those factions are will be seen in the coming days. Any threatening action by India will result in a movement or reaction by Pakistan away from Afghanistan and toward India, which will upset the US. Any significant action against the Taliban or other militant Islamic factions may result in a failed state or elimination of the civilian government. A failure to act in any meaningful way will result in increased US cross-border attacks, which will also stir public opinion against the civilian government.

Afghanistan / Iraq. Directly related to the former, Obama will have to deal with realities in Afghanistan -- namely, that without a significant increase in troop levels or a drastic change in policy, the US will not win in Afghanistan. The Taliban is too entrenched in "off limits" areas to directly engage. Without NATO involvement (see above) or Pakistani compliance, the US will have to go it alone -- a proposition most of the population is not ready to face. If the Indo-Pakistani crisis develops into a real mess, the options for the US in Afghanistan will rapidly decrease. The Bush administration is preparing for this already. Gen. Petraeus has already began to float indications of negotiations of some sort to reconcile Taliban factions into the existing government. This is very similar to the recent about-face the Bush administration did on their stance with Iran in the face of the Russian crisis. As Russia asserts itself, other geopolitical issues must be reprioritized. US "agreements" with Iran and Iranian factions in Iraq led to a not-good-but-OK solution in Iraq. If not a US-friendly government, Iraq will at least be, for now, a US-neutral state. Obama will be left with this tenuous arrangement and will be the deciding factor in the future of Iraq. Again, this future is largely out of his control, as most of his options will be reactionary.

And that doesn't even begin to factor in all of the mess on the economic front -- all the better, too, because he seems hell-bent on following the path of FDR and the New Deal. It wouldn't make his future look any brighter.

The biggest problem for Obama is going to be that the decisions he must make have no happy answers, particularly for his base. He will be, as all successful politicians, a pragmatist. This is why his cabinet has been largely Clinton retreads and middle-ground people. This will make a lot of people happy, but it will (and has) infuriate large portions of his base. He will have to consolidate his base of power while navigating through decisions that have no win-win solutions. We'll see how he does -- and how long it is before people evaluate Bush fairly.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The kine that tread the grain

This is something that I've been thinking heavily upon in the past few years. I find our current system of no-cost universal suffrage to be unsustainable. Therefore, in the spirit of preserving our great nation, I propose that we continue to make suffrage universal but no longer make it free.

Let me explain. I do not want to deny anyone the right to vote. Attaching a cost would have that affect, but in the end it is not the desired outcome. Instead, I want all people to place a higher value on the votes that they can cast. Rather than voting being a meaningless thing with no value attached to it that we must do once every few years, I would like voting to be something that is cherished.

People do not value that which they are given, or that which they do not earn. This is the greatest single failure in mass socialism. If we accept this, why do we continue to allow an unjust system of entitlement to continue in this nation? The bottom 50% of workers pay less than 3.5% of taxes while the top 5% pays over half. And yet the votes of the bottom 50% of earners count every bit as much as the votes of the top 5%. This is not fair. Furthermore, this is unsustainable in a climate where politicians willingly pitch class warfare as a campaign platform and where people view the rich as evil, greedy and selfish.

As long as the American citizen can freely vote to steal money through reapportionment of wealth we will be caught in a downward spiral where fewer and fewer people are pulling the cart, and more and more are riding it. Eventually, Atlas will Shrug.

To counterbalance this I have a few proposals. The first and most logical is this -- a nonprogressive income tax based on a single flat percentage of income. For those who do not currently pay taxes, this would be a burden -- but what sort of justice is it where a man who works hard may come out with less than a man who does not work? Why should a greater and greater amount be taken out of a paycheck for increased success? This is perhaps the simplest and easiest way to eliminate some of the pain of the current system. Under a nonprogressive, universal income tax everyone would have a fair stake in the game.

An alternative to this would be to keep the current progressive tax system but require that one must present that year's income tax return showing a net positive amount paid to the government in order to vote in that year. This is similar to voting on "shares" in a corporation except that it does not afford the rich more votes based on the increased amount of dollars. However, the principle is the same -- if you want to vote, you have to buy in. There is absolutely no valid reason for a person who has not even paid the "cover charge" to get to decide how the nation is run.

A third idea is to have anyone able to vote based on some sort of earned suffrage, which must be universally available. By that I mean that anyone should be eligible to earn their citizenship, but that it must nevertheless be earned. Citizenship would, under this system, be voluntary. I feel this is a strong idea, but the devil is in the details. What would qualify a person for citizenship? Public service, of course...but what constitutes sufficient service to the public? Military service, would be one, including the national guard and the reserves. Would being a fireman or a police officer count? How about a doctor or nurse?

My tentative answer to this is to allow any person of any vocation, skilled or otherwise, to opt to work for society for a specified amount of time to earn their suffrage. Thus, a bricklayer could lay bricks for, say, five years. An engineer could engineer; a soldier could soldier; a doctor could doctor. No vocation is worth more than any other...and if you're unskilled, there's no harm in that: you join the military.

The crux of the matter, though, is that at the end of the day they would have to buy in to the system. Suffrage would come with a price -- greater for some, perhaps, but a price nonetheless.

Under this system there exists the risk of tyranny: the citizenry riding roughshod over the non-suffraged members. But aren't we at that point now anyway? The tyranny of an unchecked majority? We see the effects of a rabid, unlimited "democratic" majority in the French Revolution -- is that what anybody wants? Furthermore, suffrage would be guaranteed to be universal: if you don't like it, sign up and then vote. It would end the never ending deluge of complaints about the system.

In summary, I believe that the kine that tread the grain should be rewarded. In that train of thought, though, those that do not tread should not eat.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thoughts

This is a random mishmash of thoughts about the election.

I hope the right doesn't act like the left has for the past eight years. I hope I will never hear the hatred or vitriol towards President Elect Obama that I heard against Pres. Bush -- things like "chimpy mc hitler" or "shrub". For starters, it's childish, and it's unbecoming of a nation to eat its own like that. The Right has consistently decried the Left for "Bush Derangement Syndrome," most disgustingly personified in the attempts of the Left to sabotage anything they deemed to be associated with Bush, including our efforts in the GWOT. Let's not be hypocrites now, hmm? As some guy recently said, "Country First".

Another thing I hope is that people like Buckley were right and he'll tack toward the center, thought I doubt it. We know very little about this man, and, frankly, he has very little reason to do so. Now, his popular vote is hardly a mandate (though keep and eye out for the media to spin the electoral college mismatch as such... a thought process strangely absent from the Bush wins) but he is very nearly immune to approval ratings for a year at least, given the fact that his party controls the senate and the house convincingly. I don't think most people realize this but as things stand he will have more power on his inauguration day than most presidents ever realize across their entire terms. With that in mind, why on earth would he tack center? Particularly if his personal ideology is far left (as I believe it is)?

The timing of the credit crunch is particularly...humorous, given its origins in leftist legislation. Just as it seemed we were finally free from the malaise left to us by Jimmy Carter, in comes Obama to capitalize on the meltdown cause largely by the community reinvestment act. I don't believe most people have an understanding of the financial crisis or its underlying causes, making the story that the economy won him the election all the more bitterly ironic.

As an employee of an industry that is tied at the hip to both the power generation and energy sectors I have particular concerns with Pres. Elect Obama's energy plans. My employer's customer base varies from paper mills to electrochemical companies but is by far represented the strongest by power generation and oil & gas production. This gives me double cause to pause, as the plan to defame the coal industry alongside "evil Big Oil" will not only pain me on an ideological level, but possibly on a practical (read: employment) one as well. Coal fired electrical plants make up a very large portion of our electrical infrastructure. Coal plants are wonderful for baseline electrical loads. They represent cost efficient, reliable, and proven technology. Many coal plants under current regulations actually exhaust air cleaner than they take in (specifically plants in states with strict regulations such as California). The campaign against them is foolhardy and, if taken to fruition, will ultimately bankrupt an industry which employs tens of thousands while simultaneously increasing costs on every item every consumer buys. Ever tried to do much of anything without electricity? Why fix what ain't broke?

The next few thoughts I'd like to share came to me as I was trying to go to sleep last night. When the networks began calling the victory for Obama, cheers, whoops, and yells began to ring out in the apartment complex I live in. I heard shouts of "Praise Jesus, he won!" "Obama! Yes we can!" and other similar cries. Shortly thereafter I began to hear arguing over his victory, whether he was a good choice, and shouting of a different sort.

A few things occurred to me as a I began to think about it. One, that anyone who is excited enough about this election (or any other) is likely due for an extreme letdown.

As the media is already noting, this does not erase the history of race in this country, for better or for worse. It does not prove that people are (or are not) racist, and it does not fix the tensions between people. Judging from the shouting match I witnessed last night, it may have exacerbated the problem. This election was not unifying on any level -- race, party, or geography. Furthermore, I don't really believe that it was intended to be. Divisiveness has fueled the political machine in this nation in ever increasing amounts for the past twenty years. Why should it stop? It should be noted that most of mention of race in this campaign came in the form of unfounded accusations and threats of threats from Obama's own party!

These people who are so deliriously ecstatic are going to wake up in their same beds, with their same jobs, their same lives tomorrow as they had the day before. People can not, must not, look to external secular leaders to give their lives meaning or happiness, hope or joy. To do so is inviting disaster. Obama's victory brought elation to those who voted for him, and perhaps rightly so. But to assume that it will somehow transform this country for the better is sheer foolishness.

Those particularly ripe for letdown are blacks in this country. I am a strong critic of the current state of black culture in this country. I feel that the lack of a father figure, the prevalence of single-mother households, and the chip-on-the-shoulder victim of white oppression angle has severely handicapped black America. Unfortunately, Obama's victory does nothing to assuage these serious concerns, and in reality his brand of politics will most likely lead to legislation that will be to their detriment. His choice of preacher is telling, as are his constant "reminders" to his race, the so-called "plight" of blacks in this nation and the hearty serving of guilt to the "rich white people" that "caused" it.

I wish him the best of luck in upholding the duties which he will assume once sworn in. I will support him as an American in defending America and fulfilling the obligations of his office. However, I will vehemently oppose him in any endeavors to swing our free market further towards socialism, to increase the dependence of the poor on the government, or to limit our strength militarily. I hope others on my side of the political spectrum -- and on the opposite side as well -- will be similarly thoughtful.

Finally, this election has proved to me one thing beyond all possible doubt: the ignorance of our nation will be our downfall. Take that for what you will.

Read the rest.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Where has all the warming gone?

Seriously, wasn't the polar ice cap supposed to totally disappear this year? Or something like that?

Instead, enter reality:

Two hundred years of glacial shrinkage in Alaska, and then came the winter and summer of 2007-2008.

And this:
Cold temperatures set several new record lows this weekend, including a low of 22 Saturday in downtown Pendleton that broke a 118 year-old record of 24.

Record lows started falling Thursday with a new low of 20 for Meacham, four degrees cooler than the previous record from 2006, according to information from the Web site for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Pendleton.

Heppner and Long Creek then set new low temperatures Friday. Heppner hit 29, the coldest that date has seen since 1960 when it was 30; and Long Creek was 21, besting the 1987 record by four degrees.

And...this, too:
Temperatures dropped to 31 degrees in the Ukiah Valley on Saturday night and early Sunday morning, the coldest Oct. 12 morning since record keeping began in Ukiah in 1893, said Troy Nicolini, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Eureka. The previous record was 34 degrees in 1916.


As always, the disclaimer: Anecdotal evidence is beyond stupid as support or condemnation of global warming. I only point these out as a foil to the increasingly shrill comments and stories presented by the mainstream media linking warm-weather aberrations to global warming.

Read the rest.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Poor form!

In my own pet theory I think Pelosi intentionally goaded them with that speech, and probably had members of her caucus vote Nay as insurance, to make this bill fail. It's win-win for them: if the bill fails, and the market is ok, they don't have to sully their little patty-paws with an on-the-record vote that was fairly unpopular; however, if the market tanks (check) and continues to do so, come Thursday it is likely they will have enough political capital to do pretty much whatever they dang well please.

That? That would be bad.

Poor form, house Republicans. Poor form indeed.

Read the rest.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Burning Down the House

This shows in 10 minutes what I've posted over the past few days. Enjoy.



Also, check out the Hot Air and Biz Lizards post to see how the democrats are trying to use this crisis to:
1) Pump federal funds into sympathetic groups such as ACORN and The Urban League. This a means for them to federally fund their elections.
2) Continue their subversive campaign against free markets by slowly but surely nationalizing the finance district completely. What started in 1913 may reach fulfillment today.

Read the rest.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Isn't it funny?

When Jim Cramer said this everyone laughed. Maybe he isn't as dumb as everyone always says? Seems to me he was dead on the money...almost a year ahead of the curve of the media.

Read the rest.

Sick of it!

I'm sick and tired of hearing people -- on the left and the right -- say stupid things about the financial crisis.

First, let's get this clear. This is a problem caused by aggressive social engineering by the federal government, from Carter to Clinton. However, at this point the funds that have been poisoned by shady lending practices—tranching and re-tranching of MBS and CDOs until nearly everything carried an AAA rating—have been come so prolific that liquidity is essentially gone. We were <--this--> close to having a freeze on commercial paper last week. We almost had a $200Bn run on money market accounts, one of the most stable places for capital in our entire financial system. This is not a “small thing”. This is not the S&L crisis; this is potentially much, much worse.

Credit: Casey Research for graphs.

The bad thing about this situation, this crisis, is that it is complex—so complex that it is not easily condensed into modern news story sound bites, so that most of the people in this nation have no clue whats going on, other than a vague notion of “financial crisis". Most don't "get" what those graphs above imply.

Namely, this -- commercial paper is the grease that makes our economic wheels spin. It's what allows you to use credit cards, what enables companies to expand, to buy new assets, and to enter new income streams. It is to a major corporation what a home loan is to an individual -- a way to reach financial goals that would otherwise be completely impossible to attain. And it was getting so expensive, and so scarce, that it nearly collapsed. That would be, as they say, "bad".

Secondly, please people -- don’t bash the Paulson-Bernanke plan yet. For one, the outline proposed pre-Democratic meddling is not a bailout. It is an extension of capital in exchange for marked-to-market poisoned assets, most of which worthless and legally nonviable under current accounting rules. This allows banks to get the junk off of their balance sheets. It’s like a get-out-of-jail-for-billions-card. This is not a free pass. Banks with a lot of residential mortgage backed securities (RMBSs) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) are going to lose a ton of money—on top of what they’ve already swallowed. This plan will pay them pennies on the dollar for assets that aren't really worthless...they're just not viable under the present financial situation and accounting rules.

For two, it stands to make the government quite a bit of money as the currently near-worthless BBB or lower rated assets will be sorted out, re-rated and sold back to the private sector, once federal intervention increases the transparencies of these securities. This is not a permanent Finance Czar, nor is it a $700Bn bailout—yet (we’ll see what Reid et al in the senate tack on to the bill). Please note that the $700 billion is a proposed spending cap, not a mandate. Additionally, the program is currently timelined at a two year horizon.

And, to answer the populists, of course people on Wall Street were complicit. These securities didn’t trade themselves, and everyone was glad to play along with the bogus rating system as long as it made them money. But make no mistake—this crisis is government caused and government reared. The Bush Administration tried no less than seventeen times in 2008 alone to fix this by, namely by increasing transparency and regulatory oversight, but Chris Dodd and others busily shoving taxpayer money into their pockets (or campaign coffers) blocked them at every turn. Aside from massive corruption, they did so because this plays right into the “capitalism is a failed system” playbook of liberals. If they can spin this as a situation that capitalism is inherently prone to suffer from, you can kiss a lot of our free-market principles good-bye. Prepare for nationalized everything, as clearly "irrational exuberance" must yield to "older and wiser heads".

Which brings up another thing that really irritates me -- on September 17, Harry Reid said this:

No one knows what to do...We are in new territory, this is a different game. [Neither Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke nor Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson] know what to do but they are trying to come up with ideas."
Well, someone must have got to him (and quick!) because he's definitely singing a different tune today:
"The Bush Administration has called on Congress to rubber stamp its bailout legislation without serious debate or efforts to improve it. That will not happen," said Reid.
Who the heck are you to criticize if just six days ago you were wringing your hands, meekly admitting that you hadn't the foggiest what to do in a situation like this?

The reason for his change of heart? Undoubtedly he got some nasty phone calls from corporate interests and lobbyists...which I imagine went something like this:
Listen you dolt, you're blowing it, blowing it! This is a chance for us to do something...[the perennial liberal mantra, of course] and get some power besides! Get back out there and do your job -- representing those who pay you best.
Sadly, it's apparent to me that people in Washington (on both sides of the aisle) are more interested in playing partisan and catering to their own interests than buckling down and getting things done.

I think the plan, as outlined thus far, is a good one. Here's to hoping they get it passed before Reid and his cronies can stick so much socialism into it (up for grabs thus far, partial nationalization of all affected banks, government mandated CEO salaries, and federal judges waiving mortgage payments) that it no longer does anything worthwhile -- or before they drop a half trillion of their own in an attempt to throw debased dollars at the problem.

Read the rest.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Answers -- The Case Against BO

As Ronald Reagan once said, "...it isn't that our liberal friends are wrong...it's just that there's so much they know that isn't so."

There's so much you know that isn't so! I'll take it point by point, because there's a lot to work with here.

First of all, the premise of my former post was that Obama has run on himself. He didn't really run on ideology because in the later stages of the primary, he was the same or left of Clinton. He ran on the idea he's created that he is the embodiment of change, that he will drastically cut military spending and move to reduce nuclear arsenals, on populist platforms (a nice word for socialism) that would increase drastically the amount of government spending, on blame-game politics that, clearly, everything that goes on in this world that is bad is the direct result of the Bush administration, and that, most of all, he isn't the same kind of politician. He's going to heal the divide (and the planet) and change Washington because he isn't really a politician...he's a community organizer.

And then we've got some liberal hack running interference for him when he reneges on all of those promises (Get Out of Iraq Now, the Post Racial Candidate, I Will Take Federal Campaign Funding, I Will Not Resort to Negative Ads, to name a few) and begins playing politics as usual saying that, somehow, that that too is reformative and changing! What a magnificent feat Obama has accomplished! He has come full circle! He has changed so much that he is now the same. How's that for a moment of zen?

But then the commenter Matt races in to denounce my idealism, my ideas of how this is to claim, somehow, that we're all the same and that the only differences between parties is who is in charge. I profoundly disagree.

To start with: bipartisan reform. There is one word for two definitions. When McCain says bipartisan, he means, in my opinion, "I don't care what letter comes after your name, if you're willing to work with me let's go...if not, get the hell out of the way". This is the attitude of a man who is above party politics in that he doesn't identify with either party; you can see this theme running through some of our founding fathers, such as Adams or Washington. Like McCain, both of these men did things that made them profoundly unpopular within their own parties. Do I agree with everything McCain has done? Good gracious no. Is he my ideal candidate? By far, no! But he has some things in common with GWB that I respect. The aspect of their character that allows them to go against the flow even when it is vastly unpopular that I respect most of all is their conviction. They believe what they believe and they don't need polls or focus groups to determine that for them -- a stark contrast to The One, who has bent and flopped and flailed with the prevailing political winds.

The second working definition of bipartisan reform is that of the left, which largely means "we're going to do this; if you don't like it, you're a partisan hack, and if you do then welcome aboard". This is the theme of Barack Obama, the Clintons, and founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson. They don't view political parties as an annoying but necessary evil to get things done. They use political parties as a bludgeon to muscle their way into getting their way. For better or worse, Democrats toe the party line far better than Republicans do. There are way more RINOs than DINOs -- because, by and large, Republicans do more cross-aisle work than Democrats. Similar to the fairness doctrine, for some, bipartisanship...isn't.

Secondly, the idea that Barack Obama isn't an idealogue is ridiculous! Look at his political connections (those he has -- his sidelines are conspicuously empty of friends, allies, or longtime supporters). His list includes folks from as far left as can be, including William Ayers and his pastor of twenty years, who is "like an uncle" to him, Jeremiah Wright. Where are his friends? His vouchers for his character? Everyone who knows him, so far, has been shushed up or totally abandoned.

There are no similarities to John McCain on this. McCain has a history of praise from both sides of the aisle over the past two decades because he does what he thinks is right -- whether it upsets his party or not. Did he vote with his party 90% of the time? Sure -- but he also stuck it to them with the Gang of Whatever the Number Currently Is when it came to judicial nominees. McCain's party voting record varies from 67% (2001) to 95% (2007). By contrast, Obama has voted with his caucus 97% of the time. Who is really the embodiment of independent, bipartisan change here?

You want me to cite examples of change? How about McCain's longtime stance against earmarks and pork-barrel spending? Or the funneling of money to candidate's campaigns and districts? Or sketchy deals with lobbyists? It's easy to contrast: Obama has requested over 740 Million dollars in earmarks in his extremely short career (including money funneled to the Hospital that employs his wife and amplifying pork to his campaign bundlers), and has become the Pork Barrel Champion. He picked a long-time porker and Washington insider for his running mate. And in his time in the senate he has managed to become the number two recipient of money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac when the list is sorted on donations from 1989 to the present with $126,000 in two short years. The only person that outranks him on this list of dubious honor is Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking committee -- another case study in corruption.

By contrast, McCain has $20,000 in donations over twenty years from Fannie and Freddie, a figure which is irrelevant by comparison. Incidentally, McCain tried to reform Fannie and Freddie as a consponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, saying:

If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.
Unfortunately, the bill never made it out of the committee headed by Chris Dodd.

McCain has never used an earmark and is known on both sides of the aisle as an enemy of pork. He has promised to veto any bill that comes across his desk with earmarks on it. Is this possible? I don't know, but at least it's a start.

Oh, and that bridge to nowhere that Obama is saying that Palin was for before she was against? He and Biden both voted for the earmark -- twice, the second time coming when Sen. Tom Coburn motioned to transfer the funds from Alaska to Katrina relief efforts, which they both voted down.

Moving right along:
It goes without saying (to anyone with a brain) that the current economic crisis we're in is the direct result of excessive deregulation.
I really wish you had the time, inclination, or lack of ignorance (and I mean that genuinely) to realize that the current financial situation of the US is far more complex than anyone can sum up in an short statement like that. This isn't the place to go into it, because it involves complex ideas like commercial paper, leveraging, the paradox of deleveraging, liquidity, inflation and deflation, rates, federal mandates, meddling and lawsuits -- but the short answer is you're flat out wrong. This financial situation comes from one place and one place alone: The Community Reinvestment act of 1977, pushed by Jimmy Carter and overwhelmingly voted for by Democrats. This act was later "put on steroids" by the Clinton administration in their efforts for social engineering. The essence is that the government demanded that banks find a way to lend money to poor people -- whether they could rate it or not. The quick method of how they did this was federal subsidies in the forms of low rates and loans to Fannie and Freddie, who then leveraged out the market. Was Wall Street complicit in this? Sure, takes two to tango. But the Bush Administration saw this coming and tried to fix it, 'way back in 2005, as reported by none other than the New York Times:
The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.

Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.

The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies. It would exercise authority over any new lines of business. And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing the risks of their ballooning portfolios....

''These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are not facing any kind of financial crisis,'' said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ''The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.''
Which party caused this crisis again? If anything, it was government meddling in the free market, and then a lack of regulation to prevent corruption that caused this crisis. It wouldn't sting so badly if you didn't frame your opinion as if it were an obvious, absolute truth.

Next...
The only real tangible differences as far as I can tell between these two candidates are their plans for taxes and healthcare.
If you genuinely believe this then either you have no political ideology or you're completely ignorant of the ideology of the two parties. This goes as far back as 1964 when Reagan told us that Social Security, supposedly a government backed insurance program, was actually being funded as a welfare program, and was of course bankrupt -- $220 billion in the hole, 44 years ago. It comes down to who's side your on; the government's, or the people's.

Liberals believe that everything can be solved by government intervention. And when that intervention fails, by creating new and better government programs to right the mistakes of the previous intervention, and so on. Socialism in this country will never come the way you seem to expect it to, in one glorious Proletariat revolution. It comes stealthily, through foot-in-the-door tactics such as social security and medicare, nationalized healthcare, FEMA and Federal intervention to state matters in which they have no constitutional mandate, farm programs and subsidies, or the building of baseball fields, museums, parks or housing, or demanding that Wall Street loan money when and where the Fed decides.

These aren't new questions or problems. The answers offered by either campaign are recycled, too. But the point is that these changes to government are largely irreversible. We haven't seen, ever, a retraction in the size of the Federal government -- or a retraction of its sucking up of personal liberties, either. The campaign comes down to which side your on. As Reagan said, and as is true for every election year, it is "a time for choosing". Socialism or capitalism? Personal freedom or personal security?

Almost done -- stick with me. To deride McCain as a flipper is ridiculous. McCain is who he is. He's a Maverick. He isn't a strong conservative -- and that showed in the lackluster response of the base in the primaries. He's wooing conservatives through Palin, who (apparently) is a conservative. But he's more conservative than Obama, or rather, he's less conservative than Obama is socialist. As for the list of "flipper" subjects:
"pro-choice, anti-torture, pro-gay rights"
McCain has never been "pro-torture". He hasn't changed on that issue even when it meant voting against his caucus. He has a 0% rating with NARAL when it comes to being pro-life -- it doesn't get any better than that -- and exists as a sharp contrast to Obama's record of voting for infanticide, allowing babies born alive during procedures to be intentionally murdered via exposure and neglect, all in the name of supporting abortion. Obama, by the way, has 100% voting record in all three of his years in the senate with NARAL and has earned their endorsement. Who's not to the left of his caucus?

As for gay rights, I'm not sure what your point is -- McCain has a record of leaving gay rights up to the states and despises the idea of judicial legislation, as strong a conservative support of federalism as can be.

Finally...
Ever notice how our side doesn't repeat bottom-feeding, dishonest attacks like that one, even when we have more material to work with?
Are you freaking kidding me? Seriously? I mean really???

Update for 9/20: How long should I keep posting evidence?

Thanks for the laugh.

Read the rest.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Rationalization

This is the most amazing case of rationalization I've ever seen:

That attitude [of anything to win politics -Ed.] is why charges of flip flopping against Obama will not work. Voters expect the next president to be willing to change his position if necessary to get government moving again. In fact the willingness to change to adapt to new realities is viewed as strong not weak politics. What is weak politics is polarization and inflexibility. The politicians and their polarizing special interest allies who play that game will be rolled by the voters especially if the voters are encouraged to do so by a charismatic cable guy president who is seen as willing to find reasonable consensus in order to "get 'er done".

None of this is to suggest that Barack Obama lacks a moral compass. What he is blessed with rather is an internal compass with the capability to lead us from here to there. No one argues that staying where we are is acceptable. Most agree on where the there is we need to go be it healthcare reform, ending the war, protecting the country, or educating our kids. The only question is how we get there and who has the ability to lead us there. In other words, who can "get 'er done".
I really don't think most "voters" want a president who will "get 'er done" -- because that's as vacuous, vague and empty as "hope and change". What, exactly, is he promising to get done? It isn't as if conservatives and liberals are promising the same actions with different means; if that were the case, this argument would hold water. But they're literally trying to take the country in opposite directions. How can methodology and ideology be irrelevant?

One other thing -- aside from demilitarization, denuclearization, and massively socialistic policies (all of which actually put him to the left of his party), the only thing Barack Obama ran on was his lily-white political naivete purity and his denunciation of politics as usual. He was promising the exact opposite of pragmatism and cold, calculating political maneuvering. If Beckel is truly outlining Obama's plan then he is anything but a "new kind of politician". He's just a really, really good old style, Chicago Rules candidate.

If he doesn't have the "New Politics", and he doesn't have the liberal ideology...then why would anybody in the nation vote for him?

Oh, and read the "about the author section":

Bob Beckel managed Walter Mondale's 1984 presidential campaign...

(Where he lost in a landslide, winning only DC and his home state of Minnesota, losing the election by a "score" of 13 - 525, making him the worst loser of the Democratic party ever: quite a feat.)

This is the guy who managed the worst campaign in modern political history. How is his opinion even remotely close to relevant?

Read the rest.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reformed Alarmist: Global Warming Not Anthropogenic

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.:

I DEVOTED six years to carbon accounting, building models for the Australian Greenhouse Office. I am the rocket scientist who wrote the carbon accounting model (FullCAM) that measures Australia's compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, in the land use change and forestry sector.

FullCAM models carbon flows in plants, mulch, debris, soils and agricultural products, using inputs such as climate data, plant physiology and satellite data. I've been following the global warming debate closely for years.

When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty good: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, the old ice core data, no other suspects.

The evidence was not conclusive, but why wait until we were certain when it appeared we needed to act quickly? Soon government and the scientific community were working together and lots of science research jobs were created. We scientists had political support, the ear of government, big budgets, and we felt fairly important and useful (well, I did anyway). It was great. We were working to save the planet.

But since 1999 new evidence has seriously weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming, and by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming. As Lord Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

In the brilliance of daylight, the straw man arguments that socialist power-grabbers like Al Gore have put up are withering away. Even ideologically motivated scientists can only lie to themselves for so long.

I wonder how long it will be, now, until the global warming movement is well known to be an utter and complete hoax? And how long from that point will it be, then, to the time of backlash and anger for the fast one they pulled on everybody? My guess is that, unfortunately, due to widespread media support it will never get that far.

Read the rest.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Give me a Freaking Break

This sob story seriously almost made me vomit. I know him a heartless and cruel person, but honestly, someone has to be with me on this one, right?

A generation ago, the livelihood of Gloria Nunez's family was built on cars.

Her father worked at General Motors for 45 years before retiring. Her mother taught driver's education. Nunez and her six siblings grew up middle class.

Things have changed considerably for this Ohio family.

Nunez's van broke down last fall. Now, her 19-year-old daughter has no reliable transportation out of their subsidized housing complex in Fostoria, 40 miles south of Toledo, to look for a job.

Sad, isn't it. Just wait, there's more:

Nunez, 40, has never worked and has no high school degree. She says a car accident 17 years ago left her depressed and disabled, incapable of getting a job. Instead, she and her daughter, Angelica Hernandez, survive on a $637 Social Security check and $102 in food stamps.

...The rising cost of food means their money gets them about a third fewer bags of groceries — $100 used to buy about 12 bags of groceries, but now it's more like seven or eight. So they cut back on expensive items like meat, and they don't buy extras like ice cream anymore. Instead, they eat a lot of starches like potatoes and noodles.

Gasp! Horrible! Outrage. Can't you read? They're starving.

...Wait til you see their picture:

Now, really. Really? Looks like they could use a little less money in food stamps to me. Or maybe less car driving and more bike riding. And definitely cut out the ice cream.

All fat-jokes aside, if her father worked here 45 years ago and they "grew up middle class" that means she has absolutely no excuse for failing to graduate high school other than flat out listless stupidity, lack of a pulse, or a head full of mush. News flash to Ohio: if you lack the gumption to graduate from school and have never had a job at the age of 40 you are simply not going to make it in this world. (Aside: So she got into a wreck that left her depressed and disabled 17 years ago, sort of the way I'm feeling after reading that article and seeing that picture, I imagine. That still leaves her with 23 empty years spent on this planet as a worthless sack of flesh that did -- apparently -- nothing but eat, sleep and exist.)

Remind me again why I should feel sorry for this family of ne'er-do-wells? Or how anyone can justify completely wasting money supporting them in their sloth? At this point it appears that the government (that's funny-talk for you and me, by the way) pays for their car, their home, their food, and their clothes...but apparently not enough for a membership to a gym, therefore making their obesity our fault, see? In the process of dropping out of public school she must have skipped the day in PE where they teach you the food pyramid -- and also the one where they went over push ups and sit ups.

Now to turn my ire upon a different target. Who the heck wrote this piece of trash? Yuki Noguchi? What can you possibly call this other than cooking the books?
Low-income families in Ohio say they are particularly hard-hit by the changes in the economy, according to a new poll conducted by NPR, The Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health. Two-thirds of lower-income respondents, or 66 percent, say paying for gas is a serious problem because of recent changes in the economy. Nearly half of low-income Ohioans, or 47 percent, say that getting a well-paying job or a raise in pay is also major problem.
Well, duh? If getting a well-paying job or a raise wasn't a problem, they wouldn't be low-income.

Only half of the poor people in Ohio, apparently, aren't satisfied with being poor. The only tragedy I see here (aside from the picture above) is that the other half of the "low-income" bracket, whatever that may be, apparently is fine with staying poor. If you're a low-income Ohioan, or American for that matter, that ought to be a major problem when the economy is up or down. What bigger problem could you have?

Contentment and sloth are cousins; one comes before the other.

Read the rest.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Responding to stuff: Part 1203958123091

A friend sent me this article saying:

I mean, I don’t claim to know a lot about the situation, but I DO know that 90% of those people are wrong.
I read over it, and I think he's right...the comment section (and the article itself!) is a mishmash of wishful thinking, financial super-secret advice of the type you typically receive in penny-stock spam email, and some solid points.

The article? Oh yes -- a six-pronged thrust "Plan-B" (financial, not contraceptive) akin to the Fed's bailout of the financial markets to counteract the very real threat of skyrocketing oil prices. The author suggests that
  1. Asian countries should remove all energy subsidies from their economies, allowing the cost to rise and (hopefully?) demand to fall
  2. The EU should set a maximum tax on "petrol"
  3. Non-OPEC nations reduce or eliminate royalties or taxes on new oil production in their nations
  4. American political candidates should campaign to reduce American oil imports by 5% a year
  5. All oil tax revenues should be earmarked to "renewable" non-oil or "zero-carbon" research
  6. All commodity speculation should be ended, now.
The author states that by following these points the market would anticipate the drop in demand, causing oil prices to fall now, not later when the drop actually hits.

(Aside: wouldn't that be speculation? This article even starts off badly, titling itself "Oil is too important to leave to market forces". In one of the many paradoxes of this rather shabbily thought-out production, the author is requiring market forces to combat market forces -- and speculation to fight speculation. Oh well, fight fire with fire, I always say! If you want to get rid of ignorance you should just...be more ignorant, perhaps.)

But the point here wasn't to fisk the article; it's bad enough as it stands. There were actually some writing-worthy comments in the section. Gleaned from the bones of this very rotten piece of typewriter excrement, I have prepared for you a smörgåsbord of worthwhile conversation topics -- and my responses to them, to boot.

We are on the downward slope of oil production (not temporary). Because various VI's including governments wont admit to this for financial and political reasons, scapegoats will abound and every pundit in the media will have a simplistic but incorrect answer.
Wrong! Massively wrong! Incalculably wrong. That is, for the reasons this person thinks. Or at least what I think they think. The usual suspect for someone spouting this drivel is that Oil Is About To Run Out. This couldn't be more wrong. Even relatively easy-to-get oil isn't going to run out any time soon -- estimates vary widely that "Peak Oil Production" is going to occur anywhere from before now to 2012 to 2112. The Society of Petroleum Engineers hangs it's hat on 44.6 more years from now...counting officially reported reserves.

However, boys and girls, this doesn't take into account unproved or unreported reserves or "unconventional oil sources", such as tar oil, heavy oil, tar sands, or the massive pile of oil that is the bedrock of the Rocky Mountains. Oil shale reserves represent anywhere from two to four trillion barrels of oil -- or at least twice that of the reserves held by Saudi Arabia. There is more oil in the tar sands of Canada than we've used so far...as the human race.

So, are we going to run out of oil? No. Will it get more expensive? Yes. But, as our reader(s? perhaps?) know, not all of this is actual supply-demand economics!

To make a long answer short, this commenter is an idiot and utterly uninformed. His excuse is contained in his comment -- he's a product of modern media information dissemination.

If you curb 'speculation' in consuming countries, 'speculation' will move t[o] bid up prices on producing nations exchanges like Russia and Iran. This would remove any incentive to keep prices down and result in much higher prices. Actually there would be much, much higher prices and shortages.

and

The last point on speculation: maybe it is the wrong way round. Consumers are disappointed by higher prices because they are unprotected. They couldn't lock-in forward prices when they were lower. Speculation in oil is much lower that other financial mkts. Broader participation is better.

These are very good, very solid comments. Bravo to them! Speculators are actually good for markets. They take on risk that larger companies won't or can't; bigger risks for potentially bigger rewards. Not to mention the fact that by taking on this risk, they allow the bigger players to "read" the market more effectively without wagering any of their own capital. A great example of this is the masterful utilization of contract-buying and speculator-using being displayed by Southwest Airlines. They bought their fuel contracts at the right time. There's a reason they're the only airline posting positive numbers.

There is more than enough sunlight to answer the world's energy needs, and the technology is there to exploit it. The electric car is already a viable form of transport and can be developed much further.

It is vested interests that are deliberately blocking such developments.

and

It seems to me that the replacement of income tax by a carbon tax on finite fossil energy resources will both remove a disincentive to work, while ecouraging the development of alternative renewable energy sources and the more prudent use of those whose supply is not limitless

This worries me. No resource is unlimited. Solar cells require gallium arsenide, cadmium telluride, or copper indium selenide, as well as massive amounts of silicon -- all of which are found in, shall we say, limited quantities lying around your garage or growing in a field. Where do people think solar cells come from? Storks? How about wind turbines? Do we find them in cabbage patches? (Actually, wind turbines come from India). It takes energy (and steel, and mining, and carbon fibers, and rare-element ores) to make these things.

If people really want to be "sustainable" we need to kick it back a few centuries, because wood grows forever. But oh-- that causes global warming! And it would be a huge step backwards towards a life that is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short".

Additionally, should US taxpayers continue to subsidize the rest of the world market by providing the backbone force protection for the major sea lanes internationally?

AK - Next you'll be saying that it should be illegal to hedge against monetary inflation. Sounds like FDR speak and oil is the new gold. Why do you avoid writing about the last few years of G8 currency debasement and the effect this has had on the price of everything?

These are three very interesting comments. They speak for themselves and really should just get gold stars for thoughtfulness.

Forgive my cynicism - but isn't a combination of weak dollar and high oil prices a very good way from the US to prevent rapid Chinese and Indian economic growth and everybody blames the Chinese anyway?

Now this is a very thought-provoking idea. I don't truly believe the Bush administration is crafty enough to pull something like this off, though I wouldn't put it past any administration. The weak dollar policy helps American trade numbers by driving up exports and pushing down imports, making it more or less expensive to trade depending on the direction.

By direct corollary, a weak dollar hurts China because it literally makes their products more expensive. Combine this with the fact that commodities such as oil and food are on the rise (due to the weak dollar, in part) and you get a lose-lose situation for China, as they must allow their currency to rise in order to stay out of the wringer -- which ties into point one of the original article. However, America is essentially a big customer to China's cheap production. While we may have geopolitical motives to prevent them from becoming an economic behemoth, we also hold the keys to their livelihood. We can take our business elsewhere. While it would hurt our economy, it would not destroy it as it would theirs.

It's food for thought, at least. The situation would play out as described, but I don't know if that is by design or by coincidence.

Finally, the winners for pure succinct literary gold:

Politicians can only block or unblock. They never create anything. Politicians caused the world's energy prices and cannot be the solution to them. I confidently predict that future generations will look back and marvel how private enterprise will have solved what will be viewed as a minor problem.

Either you're a capitalist or your're(sic) not.
Need I say more?

Read the rest.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oil price surge: market forces or inflation?

The other day I saw a chart that showed the value of the Dow in absolute terms, by dividing it by the price of gold to remove inflation. I thought that was pretty clever, so I made one of my own using historical prices of oil and gold going back to 1975 on a percent change basis. What I found was interesting.

Methods (boring, I know...): I indexed the price of oil, the price of an ounce of gold, and the price of a gallon of gasoline in yearly increments -- December of each year, to be exact. All percent values are referenced to the original values in 1975, or $160/oz gold, $12.21/bbl oil, and $0.53/gal gas.

The first interesting thing is that when you adjust for inflation, the price of oil has not changed that much since 1975 -- about 1.8 times. It steadily dropped until the 90's, and then began to rise again (presumably on the heels of a global rise in demand from China, India, etc.). Even so, it is my observation that the drastic numbers we see today are more of a result of inflation than the rise in global demand, or at least the rise that can outpace supply or production growth.


The second interesting thing is that irrespective of oil prices, gas prices have not kept up with inflation. The cost of a gallon of gas has been more stable than the price of a barrel of oil but they don't track on a 1:1 ratio. When oil hit its lows, it fell lower than the cost per gallon...but now that oil is at its highs, it has risen more than the cost per gallon. This is strange considering the fact that the amount of gasoline produced from one barrel of oil is the same no matter the price of crude.


Gas is 1.2 times more expensive in ounces of gold per gallon now than it was in 1975...compared to 1.8 times the change in a barrel of oil. Also, it's interesting to note that on an absolute value scale, gasoline is actually cheaper now than it was in 2000. The real kicker, though, is that over the past decade the absolute value of oil has increased about six times, while gasoline's absolute value has increased by a factor of 1.6. To put these numbers in perspective, if the price change of gasoline was to match the price change of oil, gasoline would cost $5.28 per gallon.


This leads me to believe two things. One, that oil companies are somewhat immune to changes of the price of oil on the commodities market since they buy and sell from themselves, essentially making the price of oil irrelevant for oil they produce. Vertical integration is their friend. Two, that oil companies actually do control the price of gasoline, not through collusion but through market economics. And this information leads me to believe that they have intentionally stabilized gas prices over the years! I think that ExxonMobil and others understand that if the economy tanks, they tank, and vice versa. So in the 90s, the price of gas did drop as much as the price of oil did, and now they're actually subsidizing the price of gas under the shadow of forcing the economy into a recession -- and reducing their profits short term profits. "Big Oil" is in the same economic boat as all of us, and they're maximizing their profits over the long term for that reason.

Finally, the effect of inflation on the global commodities market is staggering when looking at these graphs. It is yet another reason to curb government spending and end the Fed's (and the Bush Administration's) policy of a weak dollar.

Read the rest.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

So what's the real story here?

It's getting increasingly difficult to discern the true story of events going on in Iraq. Is the operation in Basrah a massive failure, or a success? Is al-Maliki fighting an enemy he can't handle, or is he acting as the executive of a free nation should?

I can't honestly tell you because I'm not there. Part of the reason its difficult to figure everything out is because the news reports coming in are massively conflicting. Take a look at these articles, for example. Bill Roggio's report from the Long War Journal is considerably more "factual" in tone while reporting more positive information, while the AP calls the situation a "mounting crisis".

Here's a taste of the cherry picking that's going on (emphasis mine):

Anti-American Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers Saturday to defy government orders to surrender their weapons, as U.S. jets struck Shiite extremists near Basra to bolster a faltering Iraqi offensive against gunmen in the city.
But to my eyes, Sadr's government-defying order was actually a form of pseudo-surrender:
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who is in Basrah supervising Operation Knights' Assault, has given the Mahdi Army 72 hours to lay down their weapons. "We are not going to chase those who hand over their weapons within 72 hours," Maliki said. "If they do not surrender their arms, the law will follow its course."

Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army and the Sadrist movement, is calling for an end to the fighting, according to a statement released by Hazem al Aaraji, a close aide to Sadr. He called for "everyone to pursue political solutions and peaceful protests and a stop to the shedding of Iraqi blood."
I've never heard of someone who is winning crying "uncle" -- certainly not someone who has shown repeatedly to have no compunctions about the shedding of his follower's blood, as Sadr has.

His reason for waving a gray flag is apparent in Roggio's dispatch, but is curiously absent from any of the AP reports: 120 Mahdi army members killed, 450 wounded, another 218 captured -- and the strength of the Iraqi army presence in Basrah has been elevated to over 15,000. US forces have killed an additional 68 Mahdi soldiers in Baghdad, with similar body counts all over the country. He's not worried about shedding Iraqi blood; he's tired of the bloodshed being one-sided!

To make matters worse for the Mahdi militia, Al-Maliki is actually in Basrah, supporting his troops. And Sadr? He's a non-entity in this struggle, relying on his headquarters in Najaf to make his announcements via press release.

Maliki has given a 72 hour ultimatum for the Madhi army to lay down its arms. I'm curious to see how the situation unfolds.

Keep your anti-American propaganda filters up, kids -- this is shaping up to be another media battle a-la Tet offensive.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Global climate change strikes again!

We're coming out of the coldest winter in a decade. The Washington Times runs an article on global cooling. Here's a list of other articles that cover the subject:

  • Earth's 'Fever' Breaks: Global COOLING Currently Under Way; Report: Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling (Daily Tech – February 26, 2008;

  • Forget Global Warming: Welcome to the new Ice Age (Canada's National Post – Feb. 25, 2008);Arctic Sea Ice Sees 'Significant Increase' in Size Following 'Extreme Cold' (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation -CBC – February 15, 2008);

  • Ice between Canada and Greenland reaches highest level in 15 years (Greenland’s Sermitsiak News – February 12, 2008);NewPeer-Reviewed Study Shows Arctic COOLING Over last 1500 years;

  • Antarctic Summer Thaw 'Later Than Normal' (AccuWeather Global Warming News – February 6, 2008;

  • Report: Sun's 'disturbingly quiet' cycle prompts fear of global COOLING (February 8, 2008 - Investor’s Business Daily);

  • Solar data suggest our concerns should be about global cooling – (By Geologist David Archibald of Summa Development Limited in Australia – March 2008 Scientific Paper);

  • Report: Too Much Ice = Polar Bears Starving? (Scientist Philip Stott’s Global Warming Politics – February 15, 2008);Report: Solar Activity Diminishes;

  • Researchers Predict Another Ice Age - Sunspots have all but vanished in recent years. (Daily Tech – February 9, 2008);Scientist predicts 'Coming of a New Ice Age' (Winningreen February 2008."

  • And now this:
    Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren't quite understanding what their robots are telling them.
    Or, you know, it could mean that the ocean waters haven't heated up.
    "There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant," Willis says.
    ...Don't be alarmed. Global warming is still real.
    So the buildup of heat on Earth may be on a brief hiatus. "Global warming doesn't mean every year will be warmer than the last. And it may be that we are in a period of less rapid warming."
    That's funny. To me, cooling doesn't = less rapid warming. There's a bit of a directionality issue involved in that statement.
    It's also possible that some of the heat has gone even deeper into the ocean, he says. Or it's possible that scientists need to correct for some other feature of the planet they don't know about. It's an exciting time, though, with all this new data about global sea temperature, sea level and other features of climate.

    Trenberth and Willis agree that a few mild years have no effect on the long-term trend of global warming. But they say there are still things to learn about how our planet copes with the heat.
    But don't worry -- the science is still settled. Right?

    Read the rest.

    Petraeus and Hillary

    I almost don't even want to write this because it's so totally and completely unsurprising to me. The ultimate reason I'm doing it is because I want to gloat.

    Remember, if you will, when Hillary Clinton censured Gen. David Petraeus with these words, lecturing to him as if he were a child:

    "...You have been made the de facto spokesman for what many of us believe to be a failed policy. Despite what I view as your rather extraordinary efforts in your testimony both yesterday and today, I think that the reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief.

    In any of the metrics that have been referenced in your many hours of testimony, any fair reading of the advantages and disadvantages accruing post surge, in my view, end up on the down side."
    She then proceeded to vote against the senate amendment that would have defended and honored Gen. Petraeus. Remember?

    That was then, this is now:
    As critical as she is about the Bush administration’s conduct of the Iraq war, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a relatively rare shout-out to the military’s top man in Baghdad, General David Petraeus, calling him “an extraordinary leader and a wonderful advocate for our military.”
    Extraordinary leaders aren't liars or shills for other politicians as she implied. And they're certainly not so stupid as to misrepresent (or misunderstand) their own two day long statistical presentations to congress.

    I wonder if her sudden change of heart has anything to do with this?
    Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, spoke with reporters accompanying Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is visiting the country.

    The security trend lines all are favorable (still) , the general said. “Attacks have continued to go down. We’ve had a five-month period consistently of a level of attacks we’ve not seen since spring of 2005,” he said. “This past week was the fourth-lowest since October 2004.”

    Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker will explain why they believe attacks have come down when they report to President Bush and Congress (again).

    The general said he is encouraged by the statistics and what he sees around the country. “In fact, the level of attacks has come down in recent weeks below a level we thought might be the ‘irreducible minimum,’” he said.
    Emphasis, and italicized comments mine.

    I know the guy won't be snarky in his testimony; he's too much of a professional for that. But wouldn't it be wonderful if he was? I would love to be in his shoes at the end of the testimony, just to have such a legitimate excuse to smirk.

    Read the rest.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    Obama's Stupidity

    Obama has been trying to promote "race healing" but it occurs to me that the wound of racism in the United States has long since scabbed over...and the only time it continues to bleed is when people who stand to benefit from their vampirism (e.g., Barack Hussein Obama or Jesse Jackson) pick at it.

    Read the rest.

    Sunday, January 27, 2008

    ...See what I mean?

    As if to underscore the first paragraphs of yesterday's post...

    They had small means and big hopes of owning a house. But African-Americans snared in the US mortgage crisis have seen the American dream turn into a nightmare many call "financial apartheid."

    The storm triggered by risky "subprime" loans has left many in ruins, forced out of their modest homes and furious at falling victim to financial dealings that have taken a particular toll on minority families.

    "People of color are more than three times more likely to have subprime loans," concluded the organization United for a Fair Economy in a recent report which estimated that minorities have seen between 163 billion and 278 billion dollars of their equity go up in smoke since 2000.

    Read the rest.

    HUD, Racism, and lending crises

    The US Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD seems to exist to sue companies on behalf of poor people. Unfortunately in this country, due to reasons we've discussed here in the past, poor folks in the US are disproportionately black. Don't forget that now. When you hear things about "unfair lending practices" what they're really talking about is race, and when you hear "racist lending practices" what they're really talking about is poor people. So re-read the first sentence of this paragraph. It's not surprising, though, when you consider that HUD is itself a massively racially motivated organization:

    The U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development long has had an aggressive minority hiring quota program. An Office of Personnel Management report released this year shows that HUD has deliberately over-hired blacks by 382.9% more than their proportion in the civilian work force. White employees are routinely denied advancement within the agency in order to give preference to designated minorities.
    But I digress...

    So the All-Fathering Federal Government lays down a few lawsuits to fight racist unfair lending practices. Now, banks and real estate companies like their money and don't want to lend it to black poor people because traditionally poor people of all colors are very bad people to lend money to; that's why they're poor. But because poor people in this country are more often black than any other color, this is seen as banks not lending money to poor black people. See the game now?

    The next step is for Uncle Sugar to force lenders to loan money to poor disadvantaged urban people by suing the pants off of them every time they turn someone away who is a minority, a woman, or who has bad credit. Banks react to this by a game of cover-your-tail; they'll grant a loan to anyone, provided they can make sure they get what they want out of it -- namely, some money to show for the risk they take on.

    Enter the famed Adjustable Rate Mortgage! No money down, an attractive loan for folks who can't manage their money (also known as poor people). Not to mention the fact that hippies against urban sprawl have incited an near-national land crunch leading to a housing shortage which has caused a supply-side real estate bubble.

    Now the stage has been set, the die cast. We've got lenders acquiescing under pressure to loan money to high-risk borrowers, people who have no business getting loans being granted credit, and pressure from the underside forcing real estate prices up. More and more people are buying stuff that they can afford today...but not tomorrow.

    Because, you see, when the value of your property goes up...so do your taxes. And when the Fed raises rates to fight inflation, your payment rises with it. Just like magic, a payment that was $900 per month can blossom into the lovely figure of $1,400. Also like magic, people mysteriously disappear from their houses and once-viable loans dissolve into foreclosures.

    That's the end, right? A novice may assume that the end game is economic pressure due to a reluctance to lend or invest money -- once bitten, twice shy -- which is essentially the same thing as raising the interest rate. But the discerning reader would know that this scenario is far from over.

    The interest rate was cut by .75% the other day, the largest single-day decrease of my entire life. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop after hearing that. The situation was just too juicy for the government to pass up. And then it happened: George Bush and congressional Democratic leaders were going to cook up a plan for the Government to bail us out of this mess that Countrywide caused.

    To the unaware, this seems great. To be sure, I'm not going to rip up my $600+ check. But I'm not thankful for it. As you now know, this whole mess is because of government meddling to begin with -- and now they presume to fix it? Isn't this the classic create-a-problem-and-then-solve-that-problem tactic people so often accuse "Neocons" of? This is a perfect chance for big-government elitists to flex their muscles and further entrench the perceived need for government bailouts. The bureaucracy must expand to meet the needs of the bureaucracy.

    Here's great quote describing the scenario (from an article linked earlier):
    It is time to recognize that fair housing laws have become largely pretexts to allow politicians to stretch their power and to plunder one industry or target after another. Insofar as people are schooled to believe that government power is inherently just, thus far will people be abused and exploited by the State.
    And that's how race baiting can push an economy into recession...and how selective delivery of information can keep an entire nation completely in the dark as to the real reason behind the machinations of our government.

    Read the rest.

    Saturday, January 26, 2008

    Random thoughts

    I never wanted to turn this into a periodic diary-blog, but I'm kind of bored with politics right now. I feel as if I'm reaching a point with the current political field that I can just link to old blog posts and save time, rather than commenting on current articles. It's a Saturday night, and some friends of mine just left. I'm flipping through Drudge and ABC to read, and I really see the same old things.

    Obama vs. Hillary is a race vs. gender campaign that neither of them will take credit for or acknowledge that they're using it to their advantage while simultaneously pointing the finger at each other. The Democrats are finally seeing the nasty side of the Clintons and noticing, perhaps, what most conservatives have known all along -- they're not really nice people. They're power hungry and they'll do just about anything to get it.

    The Republican side is a mess. There's only one real conservative, and he ain't doin' so hot.

    The MSM has completely dropped Iraq from its focus, even though yes, there is still a war going on...and yes, we're winning. There's no articles to discuss because they're playing the politics of omission, and drooling for the chance to pound Bush on the economy.

    Speaking of the economy: though waiting with baited breath to announce a new depression thanks to the Bush administration, no stories will come out about how racially motivated this whole situation is.

    But Ah ha! Finally something worth writing about!

    Read the rest.