Thursday, November 17, 2011

There is No Dress Code for Patriotism

This picture was on the front page of today's Drudge Report.
Do any of you who are constantly badmouthing the entire Occupy Movement recognize what the scruffy guy in the blue bandanna has in his hand. I'll give you a small hint. It's a copy of the CATO US Constitution. Maybe you're familiar with it. If not maybe you should get one and check out Pg 43!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

OWS Should Declare Victory and Go Home

OWS got booted from Zuccotti Park this morning.  I think they should declare victory and go home.  Come back every Saturday to keep the message alive if they want to, but go home.  I have some sympathy with their message, though very little for their solutions.  But I have identified with their anger and frustration right from the start. And they certainly have a right to have their voices heard.

I understand Mayor Bloomberg's dilemma. How can you be responsible for the orderly running of a city and allow camping in the streets?  To paraphrase my son  I'm not particularly in favor of zoning laws, but how can you do justice to the people of New York and in particular the businesses in Lower Manhattan if you sanction a large outdoor squatter's camp rife with crime in one of the premier parts of the city? 
Furthermore, to press on with their current strategy is to see the effort wither by attrition and bad weather, and to see further co opting of the Occupy sites by criminals,  political opportunists, and the homeless.  America will turn against them, and that is not in their interest.  Better to take this opportunity to withdraw with honor, their dignity intact.  Mayor Bloomberg is giving them the chance to save face and exit the stage at their zenith. Will they have the sense to seize the opportunity?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rent Seeking 101: The Solyndra Chronology

The following is a list of links to stories detailing the Solyndra Saga.  They are listed chronologically with the latest listed first.  I will try and update the list as newer information surfaces.  For the best and most coherent summary in the shortest time, read the stories published by Bruce Krasting first.

As I've been saying, I believe this story represents, government corruption, crony capitalism and corporate rent seeking at its worst.  There is the potential for a huge scandal here, and I would not be surprised to see the government attempt to cover up incompetence and/or wrongdoing and stonewall efforts to expose the facts.  I'm very concerned to hear that the FBI and the DOE Inspector General were responsible for raids of the company headquarters and the homes of prominent Solyndra officials.  I'm more concerned that they are attempting to hide or destroy evidence rather than expose the facts.  This is the government in charge of investigating itself.  Like foxes guarding the henhouse.  FBI falls under the Department of Justice.  Does anybody trust Eric Holder to conduct a thorough and honest investigation?  This whole thing stinks big time.  Fortunately there are Congressional Committees with oversight who may be more motivated to seek justice.

20 January, 2012    Bankrupt Solyndra Caught Destroying Brand New Parts  CBS San Francisco

21 September, 2011   As Solyndra Execs Prepare to Take the Fifth, Company Blames DOE for Its Demise  NYTimes

20 September, 2011   George Kaiser 2009: “There’s never been more money shoved out of the government’s door.”   Reason Magazine

19 September, 2011 Why Was Congress Forced To Subpoena Head Of Obama's Budget Office To Get Info On Solyndra?   Zero Hedge

19 September, 2011 A Solyndra Insider's Words   Bruce Krasting

17 September, 2011  Solyndra's Whorehouse Lender  Bruce Krasting

16 Septmber, 2011  Solyndra: A Few New Facts, A Few New Questions  Bruce Krasting

15 September, 2011  Jon Stewart on Solyndra

14 September, 2011 Solyndra Scandal Gets Even Worse for Obama Administration  Reason

 13 September, 2011   Exclusive Timeline: Bush Administration Advanced Solyndra Loan Guarantee for Two Years, Media Blow the Story

13 September, 2011  Solyndra--Moving Forward to What?  Bruce Krasting  ZeroHedge

12 September, 2011  House to Probe Failed Energy Company Solyndra  at Hearing  LA Times

10 September, 2011  More on Solyndra-The Next Move   Bruce Krasting  ZeroHedge

9 September, 2011   FBI Visits Homes Of Solyndra CEO, Co-Founders  WSJ

8 September, 2011   Solyndra Officials Made Numerous Trips to White House, Logs Show   Daily Caller

7 September, 2011   "Connected" Energy Firm Got Lowest Rate on Government Loan  ABC News

7 September, 2011   Solyndra- The Obama Connection  Bruce Krasting 

6 September, 2011  Solyndra: Pay Some Investors Before Taxpayers In Solar Flame Out  Forbes

6 September, 2011   Solyndra Bankruptcy Reveals Dark Clouds in Solar Power Industry  NY Times

1 September, 2011  Solyndra Collapse a 'Waste' of Half a Billion By Obama, GOP Critics Say  ABC News

31 August, 2011  Solyndra, Solar-Panel Company Visited by Obama in 2010, Suspends Operation  Bloomberg

30 August, 2011   Government Investment Disaster in the Works?   Bruce Krasting

30 August, 2011  Solar Purge Drives Weakest Into Buyouts, to Spur More Deals  Bloomberg

28 February, 2011  Solyndra Raises Another $75M, DOE Loan Guarantee Period Extended  Gigaom

Monday, August 15, 2011

Careful With Those Headlines

Remember last week's show when we commented on the #obamabusname hash tag on Twitter?  Well, I saw this headline on Fox News when I opened up my browser this morning:

Obama Embarks on Job Saving Tour
The cynic in me says, ”Putz! How’s a bus tour supposed to save jobs?”  It reminded me of Hard Rock Café’s motto “Save the Planet.”  How?   By standing in long lines to buy overpriced hamburgers?  Then I thought, "Wait a minute. What’s the president calling it?  Maybe Fox News is using a misleading headline. Gee, that’s never happened before." has the headline:

President Obama Kicks Off the Economic Bus Tour in Cannon Falls, Minnesota

OK, so maybe it is some lame claim to a job saving tour.  Then I realized, it was HIS job the president was trying to save!  And then I realized,  that was what Fox News was trying to get me to conclude all along.   They just wanted me to think I was oh so clever for figuring it out "all by myself."

Take Home Lesson: Be very careful with headlines on stories. They are used to manipulate opinion. Especially if you just read the headline, and not the story!!

And yeah, I know.  Serves me right for having Fox News for a home page!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

David Brooks Says Compromise. I Say Bollocks!! Alternate Title: In Praise of North Korea.

I like David Brooks.  He's gone a little squishy in the past few years, but I still like him.  He's an honest and principled debater.  He argues based on the facts as he sees them.  He eschews hyperbole, straw men, and insult.  But in this, his latest article, he's just wrong.  Too much time rubbing elbows with colleagues at the NYT,  perhaps.  The gist of this article is that the Republicans should compromise with the Democrats on the current budget/debt ceiling crisis while the D's are willing.  Brooks believes they should take what he thinks is a good deal.  It sounds like David has been drawn over to the dark side.   He's outed himself, though, with the inadvertent use of the phrase "eliminate tax expenditures", which is liberal code for raising taxes by eliminating loopholes.  Make no mistake, I support eliminating loopholes, but I think it merits its own debate so that it is comprehensive, thereby simplifying the tax code in the process.  I also feel it needs to be accompanied by lower rates to keep it revenue neutral.  As far as compromise is concerned, I wrote a blog in Oct 2009 explaining how I feel about that.  It features a recipe for a certain ice cream treat using dog s**t as one of the ingredients.  Please read it if you have the time.  

I see the R's current strategy as similar to North Korea's negotiating strategy.  Take no prisoners.  It's brutal.  It is unyielding.  It assumes they have all the advantage even when they don't.  It is willing to ignore threats of great pain if it fails.  But North Korea never fails.  They win.  Say what you like about North Korea.  They know how to negotiate.

Republicans:  I don't know how the more traditional elements of the GOP will react if you cave on this budget/debt ceiling opportunity, but the Tea Party wing of your party and those of us in the liberty movement aren't interested in compromise.  You need to man up, grow a pair, and get in touch with your inner Kim Jong Il.  This is your last chance.  We mean it this time.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Police Use of Deadly Force Called into Question

The following are some partial links to information, articles, and videos pertaining to police actions where people or pets were killed, and the legitimacy of the police actions have been called into question.

Excessive Use of Lethal Force

Derek Hale,  Wilmington, DE  Nov, 2006
Jason Kemp,  Grand Junction CO  July 2010
Jose Guerena,  Tucson, AZ  5 May, 2011

SWAT Style Assault and Shooting of Dogs

Jonathan E. Whitworth,  Columbia, MO  Feb 2010     video

Will and I spoke about this on this evening's radio show.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tax Season or No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I did my taxes early this year.  No procrastination.  Got a decent sized refund too 'cause I discovered that the IRA conversion that I did last year came with the option of deferring the taxes from this year to the next two years.  Sweet.  But then last month I got another tax document in the mail.  A Schedule K-1 from US Oil.  That's a limited partnership that you invest in like a stock, except the partnership pays no tax.  The tax liabilities pass through to the limited partners.  That is to say to me.  That's OK.  I got no problem with that.  The problem is, they don't have to send out the paperwork until sometime in March.  No 31 January deadline like for all the other tax related crap.  So here I am, thinking I've done the right thing by filing early, and the arcane tax code comes along and slips it to me big time for being too conscientious. 

No big deal, right?  I did my taxes with Turbo Tax.  I'll just plug the extra numbers into TT and file an amended return.  How hard can that be?  Fuck me!!!  That's how hard it can be.  Spent the better part of yesterday afternoon preparing the amended return.  Turns out I owe $2.00.  Not $2000.00.  Not $200.00.  $2.00.  As in Two dollars and no/100 cents.  My first thought was, "The hell with it.  They won't care if I just pretend I never got the added paperwork.  It's too much hassle for me, and I know it has to be too much hassle for the IRS just to collect a measly $2.00."  Then I thought about it for a minute.  If this was my doctor or my dry cleaner that I owed an incidental $2.00 to, yeah they'd say forget it, or pay it the next time your in.  Hell, I might even just drop off a dozen donuts the next time I'm driving by as a thank you for the courtesy and we'd all call it even.  But this is the IRS we're talking about.  You know, the "guilty until proven innocent" IRS.  I could be lookin' at hard time with a room mate named Bubba if I get this wrong.  So, I sucked it up, printed out the amended tax form, reprinted all the previous tax forms, and got the package ready to put in the mail.  Did I mention that you can't e-file an amended return?  Yeah, well you can't e-file an amended return.  What I was able to e-file the first time with a few mouse clicks had to be printed, collated, and sent via snail mail.  We're talkin' about fifteen sheets of paper, and that was only because I opted to pick and choose which forms to send and I printed front and back when I could.  Turbo Tax and the printer are apparently involved in some kind of conspiracy to prevent me from doing this easily.  I had to manually print and flip pages in a noble, but ultimately futile attempt to save paper.  Between Turbo Taxe's propensity to never do duplex printing and their weird obsession with printing out two pages of worksheet for every page of tax form, Turbo Tax wanted to print thirty two pages for a freakin' tax filing. 

But at least it is now all done.  The final accounting looks like this.  In order to dot all my I's, cross all my T's,  stay out of jail, and make the IRS happy by sending them their f'ing two dollars in blood money, I had to spend most of a Saturday wrestling with my printer and some headstrong tax software.  I had to stop by Walmart today to spend $2.84 to pick up some 10x13 envelopes to mail this mound of paperwork to Kansas City, and tomorrow, I'll get to stop by the post office (yet another "we're from the government and we're here to help you" government agency) and spend another buck or so for postage to send this tidy little package on it's way.  God only knows how many of my tax dollars will be wasted on the other end for some data entry clerk and an endless string of IRS bureaucrats to sort through the whole mess when it finally gets there.  And all this for two dollars.  Does anybody out there really think I had any other choice?  As Yakov Smirnoff used to say, "what a country."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Panem et Circenses

On last week's radio show, Will and I were talking about the unrest in Egypt.  We acknowledged that there were probably many causes such as unemployment, lack of democracy etc.  But the precipitating factor is commonly believed to be food inflation.  You can have an angry and restive population for years without it boiling over into violence and a call for the government's downfall.  But when food prices start to rise, and people start questioning whether they can afford to feed their family any longer, well that tends to concentrate the mind.  That can be the difference between action and inaction.

As one Egyptian commentator put it in a round table discussion on ABC's This Week this morning, and I'm paraphrasing, "We all know there is corruption in government.  We accept it because that's the way it's always been.  But now when we can hardly afford to feed ourselves, and you're still stealing from us?  That's too much."

I can't help but draw the parallel to the conditions in the US.  They're certainly not as bad here as they are in the third world, but I see some striking similarities.  We have growing numbers of unemployed.  Over 43 million people are on food stamps.  That's roughly 14% of the population.  Young people are graduating from college with mountains of debt who can't find a job.  If they do find work, they'll be taxed at crippling rates to pay entitlements to the profligate generation that preceded them.  Millions are struggling to pay off a mortgage which is larger than the value of their house.  We have a bloated government that panders to an ill informed electorate while shoveling money and favors to powerful banking interests in return for campaign contributions and lucrative private sector jobs upon retirement from "public service."  The stench of government corruption in this country is as bad as in any banana republic.  It's only made worse by lying politicians, peddling false promises of recovery, supported by manipulated government statistics.  And those same politicians won't hesitate to wrap themselves in the sacred aura of our country's noble beginnings. 

We are a country in decline, desperately in need of leadership equal to that with which we were blessed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.  But I see few leaders of that caliber on the horizon.  Instead, what we have is a pack of weasels, whose only qualification for office seems to be an over sized ego and a willingness to tell people what they want to hear.

Rome's decline was characterized by the Latin phrase panem et circenses, or bread and circuses.  To quote Wikipedia,

...the phrase is used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace... it connotes the triviality and frivolity that in popular culture is supposed to have characterized the Roman Empire prior to its decline.
How fitting that today is Super Bowl Sunday.  I'll be watching, just like millions of other Americans.  I don't care much about football, but it is the major American holiday in February, unless you old fashioned traditionalists want to count President's Day.  And besides, the commercials are usually pretty entertaining.  43 million Americans on food stamps is kind of a big deal, but most of them will probably be watching the Super Bowl too, so why shouldn't I?  Panem et Circenses?  I wonder how many years until English is a dead language. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Cat Will Probably Die Today

Just read a very long and detailed article on Zero Hedge about the latest revelations of fraud in the financial world.  I won't go into the details.  It's too complicated and too depressing.  I actually skimmed the second half myself.  Read it at the link above if you care to.  Here's the title of the article.  Maybe that will get the point across. 

JP Morgan Sold Investors MBS Covered By "SACK OF SHIT" Loans... Then Shorted All Those With Exposure: A Goldman-AIG Redux

It's all part of what Bill Black calls control fraud.  Click these links or Google it.  It'll upset you and make you very angry. 

It's just one more in a series of revelations that seem to crop up every day or two in the internet media that I read.  No exposure in the mainstream press. If you're one of the sheeple tuning in to CNBC and watching news on the broadcast channels or even the popular cable channels, you probably never heard about any of this.  We're three years on from the start of the crisis and probably fast approaching some sort of statute of limitations.  And with the exception of two failed prosecutions of a couple of Bear Stearns hedge fund managers, we have no indictments, no prosecutions, and no one in jail.  Madoff doesn't count.  His wasn't control fraud or housing related.  Just a run of the mill Ponzi scheme, though admittedly, a big one.    And our government was culpable at every level.  A passive participant via regulatory capture leading to criminal lack of oversight,  a co-conspirator to the ongoing and unabated looting  (I'm talkin' to you, Misters Greenspan, Rubin, Bernanke, Paulsen, Geithner, Gensler, Summers,  et al),  and an integral part of the cover up.  It's called extend and pretend.  Google that if you care.  And while you're at it, Google Plunge Protection Team.  Don't do any of this unless you really want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.  (see the link below for red pill/blue pill)  

Maybe I'm just a conspiracy theorist.  I don't read the "polite" "accepted" "mainstream" news any more.  I read stuff that sounds shocking and unbelievable at first.  Maybe it will all get better if I just stop reading those websites.  Maybe I should shun the red pill and take the blue pill instead.  But I doubt it.  To take a quote from the film V for Vendetta, "there is something terribly wrong with this country isn't there?"

Anyway, I started this piece referring to the Zero Hedge article above.  I'm only writing this piece because I want to share one of the comments to the article, but felt I needed to provide some background first.  Well, you've got the background.  Here's the comment:

Yep, consider hearing a doctor tell you that you have 3-5 years left to live. Are you going to become Mother Teresa or Amy Winehouse?    For the last three years, many of us who have repeatedly pointed out what is going on and what will eventually occur have actually had a pretty fun time, notwithstanding the mental anguish of seeing one of humanity's greatest experiments in self-government ride off into the sunset.  So, break open the liquor cabinet and party on. There will be time enough for discipline & hardship.

  Made me very sad to read those words about humanity's greatest experiments in self government, but he might be right.  Consider these words from former Supreme Court Justice Brandeis:

Our government... teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.

 P.S.  My cat's been losing weight and for the past two days, he's stopped eating all together.  We took him to the vet today, and he says he can't do much.  He offered to euthanize him.  Kittyman doesn't appear to be in any pain, so we brought him home.  I'll be surprised if he sees tomorrow.

It's not been a very good day so far.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

From Mainstream Politics to Libertarian Reality: The Analogy to the Five Stages of Grief

In 1969, psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross  wrote  "On Death and Dying" in which she described the five stages of grief.  She was referring to the evolution of feelings that people went through as they were adjusting to a tragedy in their lives or to the news that they were dying from some incurable illness.  We see an obvious analogy between Kübler-Ross' understanding of coping mechanisms to bad personal news and the evolution of peoples' political activism as they start to realize the level of corruption in government.

On the personal level, the progression of states is described as follows:  (adapted from Wikipedia)
  1. Denial—"I feel fine."; "This can't be happening, not to me."
    Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual.
  2. Anger—"Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; "Who is to blame?"
    Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy.
  3. Bargaining—The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay the inevitable. "Just let me live to see my children graduate."; "I'll do anything for a few more years."; "I will give my life savings if..."  
  4. Depression—During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of the outcome. "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "What's the point?  Why go on?"  Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.
  5. Acceptance—"It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it."  In this last stage, the individual begins to come to terms with his dilemma.
On the political level, the progression might be described like this:
  1. Denial—"America, love it or leave it"; "My country, right or wrong";  "Land of the free and home of the brave."  Firm dedication to the concept of American exceptionalism.  If America does it, it must be virtuous.  Never second guess the government.  This is the kindergarten view of America and the world.  Belief in everything you learned in elementary school and the Cub/Boy/Girl Scouts.  For most Americans, this stage is anything but temporary.  Probably 90 % of Americans are in this stage, and as long as American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, and Jersey Shore are among the most popular shows on TV, they'll be here forever.
  2. Anger—"These politicians are all a bunch of lying, self serving bastards!"; "Those greedy banksters need to go to jail."; "First, we need to shoot all the lawyers."  Stage two often has a precipitating event.  Something happens that rouses the typically apathetic voter from his slumber.  It might be something real like TARP (bank fraud, crony capitalism, regulatory capture), or overstepping Constitutional boundaries as evidenced by the EPA, the FCC, or the TSA.  Or it might be a politically manufactured outrage like the class warfare preached by the Democrats in support of their tax policy.  For most, the anger never really materializes into anything tangible.  Most will just continue to vote or not vote as they always have.  Once in a while, someone will switch from one incumbent party to the other incumbent party.  As if going from Tweedle Dee to Tweedle Dum , or vice versa, will make any difference. 
  3. Bargaining—The third stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay the inevitable.  It involves the hope that the individual can somehow make a difference.  People become activists.  They join a Tea Party organization, and become active in a political party.  They call their Congressman and state legislators.  They go to rallies and write letters to the editor.  "Don't tread on me."; "Term limits.  Throw the bums out.".   They donate money to political causes.  "I'll do whatever I have to do.  If only there was a way to make a difference."  They might even become Libertarians and run for political office themselves.  "Smaller government, lower taxes, more freedom."
  4. Depression—During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to understand the certainty of the outcome. "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "What's the point?  Why go on?"  Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.
  5. Acceptance—"It's going to be okay."; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it."  In this last stage, the individual begins to come to terms with his dilemma.  He moves to the country and starts growing his own food.  He pulls his money out of the bank and cuts up his credit cards.  He buys a generator and removes himself from the grid, not just literally, but politically and financially speaking as well.  He stops voting, and he stops paying his taxes.  He stops calling the bills in his wallet money and starts referring to them as Federal Reserve Notes.  He tries to make all of his purchases with those FRN's as long as he can find anybody willing to take them.  He stockpiles gasoline, fuel oil, firewood, water, canned goods, precious metals, guns, and ammo.  He also stockpiles cigarettes and alcohol even though he doesn't smoke or drink because they're good for barter. 
And so the transition is complete.  As with the stages of grief, you don't have to go through all the stages.  You can skip some.  Nor must the stages occur in order.  With political awakening, as with grief, sometimes the order gets mixed up a bit.  You can go back and forth between various stages too, visiting and revisiting some stages more than once.  And you can sometimes exhibit elements of more than one stage at a time.  That's seen occasionally in both progressions.

But, at least with grief, you always end up with acceptance.  One way or another, that's the end of the line.  Like it or not, it's reality.  If you're dying, refusal is not an option.  With a political awakening, some people never leave the "denial" phase.  They go to their graves believing their government is here to help.  We can only hope that their faith is not misplaced and acceptance is not an inevitable requirement.  That is, we hope we've chosen a poor analogy.  We hope there's a way out.  Otherwise we all better start checking out the internet for productive farmland.

Will and Jess McVay

    Niall Ferguson: Empires on the Edge of Chaos