Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Before starting the discussion, she re-iterated her reasons for not debating, referencing the way Sarah Palin was made to look bad by the way her interviews were edited during the 2008 campaign. She said that she was not invited to the very first candidate forum and felt that she was being deliberately frozen out. She discussed that she was elected to the Republican Central Committee, with about 11,000 votes, even though she was not on any slate of candidates. She also mentioned that she was still involved in charitable work this week, including cooking ethnic foods for nursing home patients.
We then got into the questions:
B-D: What do you intend to do about the pension issues for city workers? Do you think bankruptcy is an option?
Tran: This is the big huge issue. Chapter 9 bankruptcy won't allow us to discharge pension obligations in bankruptcy. To qualify, we would have to spend spend $100 million in lawyers fees, this is a very costly option. I don't promise people a rose garden.
The employees expect to be vested in their pension, but it is a fund where the both government and employee are contributing and the money invested. In good times, the excess in the pension fund was used to pay for other projects. Now that the stocks are down, there is a deficit in the funding. We should make it so that city employees are fully funding their contributions. There is not any one solution, we can't just say, this is it. The labor unions are very powerful, so we have to be diligent and analyze our options and talk to everyone involved, and bring in the city attorney. We must negotiate a solution with all cards on the table.
People are concerned over the $75 million deficit. I will become your voice, I know your concerns. I am not owned by any group, I am independent, I have no string on my nose. My strengths are my ethics and my honesty. [ed. note, Ms. Tran was really animated by this point.]
People ask about contracts bringing in private entities [to perform city services.] This must be done openly. I supported the initiative that allowed outsourcing, but it has been stopped by this city council. I will bring it out, to allow it go forward. People have to list everything and negotiate, all parties involved including the city employees.
B-D: Your website says that police and firefighters are your priorities, however, their pensions are as much of a problem as other city workers. What will you do to reduce the cost of police and fire protection?
Tran: Safety of people are my priority. There are a lot of prisoners out of prisons, we must protect public safety. I do not want to cut firefighting and police. However, their pensions are part of the same problem as the all the city, they are not separate. I would deal with their pensions as part of the overall city pension problem. But the budget priority is public safety and firefighting. We could see about citizen patrols and other volunteer activities to reduce the costs. But people are telling me that other priorities are potholes and trash collection.
B-D: What are your priorities for city government?
Balancing our budget is number 1, it is a big and huge problem. The current city council is working hard already, but more work needs to be done. I would use the Independent Budget Analysts program to look in depth at all city programs. I will analyze where we can save work with all parties to review the budget. Right now, we have plans to build a huge new city hall, but can we afford it. We have to consider balancing the budget first.
B-D: If you could ask Lorie Zapf one question in a debate, what would it be?
Does she think she can proclaim herself as someone with fiscal responsibility, with a city budget so big, how could she be responsible, but cannot balance her own personal check book? Even though she was a leader of CALA, she has sued or been sued several (seven?) times, why? [Robert chimed in that the definition of a serious lawsuit is one you file, a frivolous lawsuit is when someone sues you.] Also, is she suggesting that some people shouldn't sue, for example over an issue like handicap access?
I have very ethical behavior. I knew about her [Zapf's] default in Nevada a long time ago, but I did not bring it out. I thought, a lot of people in San Diego are in the same situation, I didn't want to inflict a wound. [In the context of the discussion, I thought she was also saying not inflicting a wound in the Republican party.]
Now she has another default and continues her mismanagement. It might be a scam action to take a loan with intention to default, if the intent is not to pay it back. Strategic default is a scam. In Nevada, there is an allegation of rent skimming, collecting rent, but not paying a mortgage. Maybe or maybe not if this is a crime in Nevada. The people of San Diego need to make a judgment.
At the end of the interview, she talked about how proud she is of her family, including AJ who was with us. She has a daughter flying F-18s and thinks about her this Memorial Day weekend. She tells her family the same thing that she tells people she meets campaigning, to always fight and never give up. If she can just get people to open their eyes, we can solve our problems.
At the end of the interview, Ms. Tran asked me what I thought the priorities should be. I was a little surprised but had a ready answer.
1. Solve the pension issue by reducing the numbers of city employees. Keep a very close watch on the actual count of employees and keep that down.
2. Initiate the outsourcing that the voters approved. I know from personal experience as a federal manager that outsourcing can lower costs.
3. Don't spend any money on big projects we can't afford, no new library, no new city hall, no spending for a stadium.
My overall impression, is that Ms. Tran's heart is in the right place. She brings incredible energy to San Diego politics and due regard for fair process. I have to admit that I found her accent to be difficult to understand at times and this is a real issue for any political leader, because communications are such a big part of the job.
Given the controversy surrounding Lorie Zapf, am I changing my endorsement? I find this challenging. Clearly the Republican establishment has put their money behind Zapf (maybe that should be a warning), and it takes money to win the election. Also Zapf seems to have the right personality to take on the key issues. But the ethics issues look serious, and she and her husband have yet to take action that would clear them up.
I asked Mr. Sutton to take a picture at the end, my official photographer was unavailable. If he was, it wouldn't have looked like this.
*That is how Robert Sutton and Kim Tran were introduced to me, Google search seems to indicate that Sutton and Tran are husband and wife.
He starts off by conflating the Tea Party with libertarianism, and although there is large overlap, they are not synonymous. He says that the movement enshrines individual choice as the highest virtue, which he calls un-Christian. In fact, the Tea Party enshrines individual choice as a political virtue, which is very different. Further, Christianity enshrines individual choice as a key virtue as well; every individual is called to make a choice to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, no amount of social justice gets you to heaven, only that personal choice. He condemns the Tea Party for ignoring injustice to the poor, because we want to shrink the size of government. But if you really look at the statist policies of Obama, it is the poor who are hurt worst, because the rigid structures of the economy create a permanent underclass, often filled with minorities, like present day France.
Wallis states that anti-government rhetoric is unbiblical, and he has a point. But what is being protested isn't all government per se, but the reality that present size and scope of government leads inevitably to a form of tyranny and injustice. Government of the size proposed by Obama is inherently unjust, because it will rule so much of our lives. The Bible is replete with examples of God's unhappiness with governmental injustice.
Wallis echoes Pope John Paul with his next objection:
The Libertarians' supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin. The exclusive focus on government as the central problem ignores the problems of other social sectors, and in particular, the market.
But the Tea Party isn't asking for an end to regulation, just a level of regulation that is reasonable. The reason that our focus is on government is that it has proved to be the major problem in modern times. In fact, we find most examples of supposed free market failure to actually be the result of some combination of collusion between big government and big business or regulatory capture (see my article on the gulf oil spill.) Truly free markets turn out to be the enemy of big business, because they expose big business to the disruptive technologies from new companies. Regulation tends to be used to prevent the introduction of new products, tending to protect entrenched businesses. Competition has proved more bracing and producing Christian outcomes than excessive regulation.
Wallis then gets to the heart of the difference of how left and right view compassion differently:
The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian. "Leave me alone to make my own choices and spend my own money" is a political philosophy that puts those who need help at a real disadvantage. And those who need help are central to any Christian evaluation of political philosophy. "As you have done to the least of these," says Jesus, "You have done to me."For Wallis, and other lefties, the only compassion that matters is government compassion. In the immediate aftermath of Indonesian tsunami, I saw immediate criticism from the left on ABC's "This Week" over our government's initial response to that tragedy. When George Will pointed out that Americans had already donated hundreds of millions of dollars as private citizens, the Cokie Roberts or George Stephanopoulus said that the outpouring of generosity by our nation's citizens didn't count, because it didn't come from our government. This philosophy that we are only as generous as our government allows us to be is in fact directly in contravention to what Jesus preached. When the Samaritan meets the robbery victim on the road, he doesn't lobby for more police or roadside hostels; he reaches into his own pocket and helps the man. Ask yourself this, would the poor really better off under government entitlements programs that leave them no incentive to improve their condition, or under private charitable programs, that because of their limited resources, push them back into the work force?
Finally, being a true lefty, Wallis has to trot a version of the racist smear, saying that the movement is overwhelmingly white, and explicitly calls the movement racist. He manages to say something that is at its core not true and irrelevant simultaneously. See some data on demographics from Gallup to see the fundamental slander being slung here. Amazing, no matter how polite lefties start out, they just can't seem to hold back a little bile. It makes you wonder about why they crave giving government so much power, perhaps they have issues and are looking for government to provide a little vengeance against their supposed enemies. How Christian is that?
Saturday, May 29, 2010
“Many of the people appointed in the Bush administration are still burrowed in the agencies that are supposed to oversee the [oil] industry,” Pelosi said when asked if Democrats could have prevented or mitigated the crisis by keeping a closer watch on the industry.
And whose fault is that, even if her whiny excuses were in fact, the truth? The Democrats have had overwhelming majorities in both houses, so the President should be able to get any appointees through that he needs. Who are these hold overs any way? Pelosi continues with her politically tone deaf commentary.
…I’ve heard no complaints from my members about the way the president has handled it,” Pelosi said.Apparently, there are no Democrat House members from Gulf Coast states, and this guy isn't a Congresscritter:
Ladies and gentlemen, the always entertaining James Carville.
She said, "I want to listen to voters directly, there are not enough people at one debate. It's more important to walk the precinct. I find out many things from the people and find that their concerns are my concerns." She mentioned that potholes were a big concern and that the city has a deficit of $75 million and people worry about retirement. She emphasized a number of times that "I take it very seriously," referring to listening to the voters in the district. Other news reports I have read indicate that she really does spend some serious time campaigning by walking through the district.
She was very gracious, asking me if I had children in the military. I don't. She thanked me for my service as a veteran over this Memorial Day weekend. She asked what I thought of the debate. I told her I found the debate very informative and talked briefly about Hadley"s performance and that I was able to learn things about the candidates I wouldn't have otherwise known. She said "My campaign manager informed that the questions weren't necessarily the concerns of the people."
Her accent may have something to do with her desire not to debate. While it's true that some people have prejudices, and that might hurt her chances, she really needs to let people see her speaking publicly, because it is such a big part of elected office. I will publish results of the follow on interview when it happens, hopefully before the end of the weekend.
Friday, May 28, 2010
The reality of the situation now is, we will wake up tomorrow with a 10% unemployment rate, a crappy economy, pending nanny-state legislation with higher taxes and anti-growth consequences and still the very real possibility of an evolving, years-long ecological and economic meltdown in the Gulf.I agree, and have a hard time not gloating over the crap sandwich that looks very much like the Katrina sandwich served up to George Bush. But I also want to point out something else brought out by Noonan:
His philosophy is that it is appropriate for the federal government to occupy a more burly, significant and powerful place in America—confronting its problems of need, injustice, inequality. But in a way, and inevitably, this is always boiled down to a promise: "Trust us here in Washington, we will prove worthy of your trust." Then the oil spill came and government could not do the job, could not meet the need, in fact seemed faraway and incapable: "We pay so much for the government and it can't cap an undersea oil well!"This is one of the reasons I haven't piled on Obama over the spill. In fact, the federal government, by its nature is not really capable of preventing and responding to every disaster that might befall us. If we excoriate Obama for failing to prevent this, or failing to respond appropriately, aren't we saying that we believe that disaster prevention is the province of the federal government? Now in this particular case, the regulators in the Lake Charles, LA office seemed to have cozy relationships with the regulated:
Employees of a federal agency that regulates offshore drilling—including some whose duties included inspecting offshore oil rigs—accepted sporting-event tickets, meals, and other gifts from oil and natural-gas companies and used government computers to view pornography, according to a new report by the Interior Department's inspector general.This is typical of government attempts to regulate industry. As industry becomes more complex, it is difficult to find those with the ability to perform adequate technical oversight without drawing on the industry it is regulating. This is known as regulatory capture, and happens frequently, as W.C. would point out in the banking industry. Another consequence of regulatory capture is that it creates a false sense of security and a dilution of responsibility. In this case, one might ask, who is responsible for the mistakes or poor practices that led to this disaster? Doesn't the federal government bear some portion of the blame for failing to regulate? If not, why are we regulating at all?
The report—published Tuesday on the inspector general's website—describes a culture in which inspectors assigned to the Lake Charles, La., office of the Minerals Management Service have moved with "ease" between jobs in industry and government, drawing on relationships that formed "well before they took their jobs" with the agency.
What is the solution? I think that we have to be clear in tort law that BP would be fully responsible financially for the environmental damage they might cause. Might this bankrupt them? Perhaps, but it provides a better incentive than lax regulation.
Meanwhile, graft, oil and sleaze mixing in the Big Easy? Who knew?
*Reference for the title comes from one of my favorite MST3K episodes of all time.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Council candidate Zapf defaults on loan
The latest revelation, which could prove devastating to Zapf’s campaign, is that her family is in default on a second mortgage for its Clairemont home.From the comments in my previous post, there were some choice words for Zapf.
In an interview with All in Favor, Zapf acknowledged that she and her husband, Eric, are in default by about $7,000 on their $230,000 mortgage but dismissed its significance. She said it is simply a strategy to lower the loan’s interest rate.
“We’ve been working with the bank for many months but because there is such a huge volume of people doing loan modifications and reductions, I think it’s well known that banks are just overwhelmed so it’s just taken longer than expected,” she said.
Clearly you missed the stories about Lorie Zapf defaulting on her mortgage in order to negotiate a better deal.AJ said:
Reading the link provided by AJ reveals some troubling information. I get the impression that her husband, who is in the real estate business may have ethical challenges. Unfortunately, they may taint the candidate as well, since her name is on the legal documents involved in a prior Las Vegas default. However, I believe that if Zapf just pays off the Home Equity Line of Credit that they are in default on, then all of this will blow over. There are two issues here. First, are the Zapfs guilty of ethical lapses of which Lorie should have known? Second, doesn't she get that running for office means that her own house must be in order? That she doesn't seem to, is pretty serious in itself. Also, her explanations have been contradictory.
Zapf is playing the victim card. I don't vote for victims. She will go down in flames if she makes the runoff. Read the below link which clearly shows she lied in her interview with channel 10. I don't vote for liars.
But I am still looking for the candidate that will assertively take on the unions, including police and firefighters, who have the city in a stranglehold. Zapf seems the best candidate to do so. Kim Tran may be a nice person, but her web site and public statements say squat about her plans to deal with the unions and pensions. She talks about police and firefighters being her priority. Huckabone is unwilling to undo some of the worst pension excesses and supports cutting a deal to keep the Chargers at the Q. Howard Wayne has also the union endorsements and Steve Hadley is temperamentally unfit.
BTW, I took down my poll in light of these revelations and my poor wording of it. Please take a look and vote at right.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Little new information informs this decision since the debates; you can read my previous coverage of the District 6 council race here. This came down to a process of elimination. First, Steve Hadley showed himself not ready for the dignity of the office with his cheap shots and lack of knowledge despite lengthy time in City Hall. Kim Tran, despite some great community backing never showed up at the debates and hasn't put out enough specific material to make up for the lack of knowledge about her positions. Her web site talks about police and firefighters being a priority, but their pensions are part of the problem. Ryan Huckabone is a likeable enough guy, and we hope to see him in some future forum. But he is too gung-ho about keeping the Chargers at the Q and unwilling to take drastic action to deal with pension issues. I appreciate his position that we have cut a deal, but even Howard Wayne has pointed out that that is to simplistic a position. We can ask the employees for a greater contribution to their own pension fund and still be within the bargaining agreement.
That brings me to Howard Wayne, former assemblyman and deputy attorney general for the state of California. He is knowledgeable but carries the very, very heavy baggage of employee union endorsements, including local firefighters, the local "labor council," the San Diego Police officers association and assorted progressive groups. Sorry, but endorsements by any employee unions are going to earn the enmity of B-Daddy and other Tea Party members. As chronicled in these pages unions have been fleecing state and local taxpayers for decades. Despite Wayne's good impression in the debate, I can't trust him to take on the unions. Further, Wayne seems to change his tune depending on his audience.
Which brings me, finally, to Lorie Zapf. She is a bit more combative than I might normally like in a local office holder, but these are tough times and she has done the hard work of starting her own business. Her heart is clearly in the right place, from her prior work with Californians against lawsuit abuse. I predict a run off between Zapf and Wayne, which is the CW. She needs to step up her debate game if she is going to win in November.
Perez's proposal was anchored by a nearly $9 billion loan from the state beverage recycling fund, along with borrowing from the state disability insurance fund. The state would repay the loans over several years, largely using a new tax Perez is proposing on companies that extract oil in California.
Under the plan by Perez, the state would get a one-time revenue of $8.9 billion from Wall Street by securitizing the California Beverage Recycling Fund for 20 years. The fund comes from recycling deposits collected on glass, aluminum and plastic beverage containers.
Securitizing? As in borrowing? So who is going to buy these bonds from a state that is theoretically bankrupt, because tax receipts don't cover ongoing programs? I'm just asking. There is also an increase in the "severance tax" for oil taken out of the ground in California. If oil prices collapse again, can we really count on this revenue?
This is the kind of creative accounting that got Greece to it's current state. Meanwhile the Democrat state Senate is proposing an additional $5 billion in taxes, largely from an extension in the "temporary" increase in vehicle license fees, and delaying corporate tax breaks. Neither Assembly nor Senate Democrats are proposing any reforms to pensions nor any real spending cuts. California is famously known for its Mediterranean climate, I guess in more ways than one.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Judd Gregg unloaded on the bill:
“The bill is a disaster because it doesn’t address the fundamental underlining causes of the economic issue, which were real estate and underwriting,” he said. “This bill became, ‘I want to score the most points against Wall Street.’ Most of the initiative of this bill wasn’t directed at solving the problem, but it was directed at scoring political points."As previously discussed in this blog, the ultimate issue is how the bill deals with to big too fail. The linked article claims that this bill gives the feds new powers and "authorizes regulators to impose restrictions on large, troubled financial institutions. It also creates a process for the government to liquidate failing companies at no cost to taxpayers." Color me skeptical, lacking supporting detail, given prior regulatory failure, and political incentives in the bill to turn banks into engines of social justice, I don't see any hope for change at all. I think things will get worse. Note that financial markets have reacted to this "reform" bill as a non-event, focusing on the collapse of socialism in Europe instead.
Meanwhile, gold is hovering near record highs against all major currencies, the traditional investor response to global instability. Debt caused by socialist and quasi-socialist policies is the common ingredient fueling loss of confidence world wide. The Democrats in Congress are doubling down on these failed policies like some compulsive gambler convinced that the next card turned over will be the ticket to a lifetime of riches.
The fight is not over on the final details. But the fundamental approach seems flawed, whether you prefer the House or the Senate version:
The firms would face tighter regulation, such as having to keep higher capital reserves. If they failed, certain creditors would be made whole to protect the financial system, but shareholders and unsecured creditors would bear losses and pay the costs of winding them down. It would create a $150 billion fund financed by large financial companies to pay for the dissolution of failing companies. The Senate version originally included a $50 billion fund, but that was removed after critics said it would encourage bailouts and possibly limit the government's ability to assess more fees on firms.The problem with either version is that they either implicitly or explicitly guaranty to creditors of big firms that they will be bailed out by the feds. This perpetuates To Big Too Fail as follows. The surety provided by the feds to creditors lowers the cost of capital of the "too big" firms. This yields a competitive advantage to these firms that encourages them to just keep growing bigger and to take bigger risks. Ultimately the moral hazard of To Big Too Fail is not addressed. Creditors to large firms need to realize the same risks as any other creditor in the market place.
We need a law that explicitly prevents the federal government from bailing out more firms. To prevent contagion, we may need an orderly way to divest the assets are still performing, even as the holding firm is bankrupt. Part of the problem is that in the chaos of a massive bankruptcy, assets cannot be properly valued to allow creditors to receive a just portion of the divested assets. Slowing this process may be necessary, it prevents a form of fraud for you libertarians, but I remain adamantly opposed to my taxpayers ponying up to prop up this process.
This is why I oppose this so-called reform, even though it continues to be incrementally improved, it does nothing to fix the underlying issues behind this crisis, in fact, the consumer protection agency looks like a way to double down on Fannie and Freddie foolishness.
Monday, May 24, 2010
As understandable as the left's instinctive aversion to nationalism might be, it is misplaced in the case of America. The notion of American nationalism is an ideal worth defending. We are a nation of nations, ironically enough, bound together not by the traditional fascist symbols of nationalism, race, ethnicity, or empire; but by ideals embodied in the greatest political documents ever written, the Declaration and the Constitution. The left sees our riches and feels guilt, assuming they are the result of plunder. In fact, they are the result of trade, invention and industry. We see historically that free societies that engage in trade were the richest. The ideals of individual liberty and responsibility, of tolerance for other religions, of democracy, of free markets have made this nation rich. These ideals, along with a belief in the supremacy of our armed forces' will to defend these ideals, form the basis of our nationalism. These are ideals worth defending. It is no coincidence that they are the very ideals for which we are attacked.
Abraham Lincoln laid out the meaning of the nation during the war he fought to save it.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate...we can not consecrate...we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
For Ben, right and wrong is contained in the relationship between effort and reward. If people do not work but get rewarded, that’s wrong. If people work and do not get rewarded, that’s wrong. But Ben believed that America is fundamentally a just society. He loved his country because people who work hard can usually overcome whatever unfairness is thrust in their way.
But when Ben looked at Washington, he saw a political system that undermined the relationship between effort and reward. People in Washington spent money they didn’t have. They just borrowed it from the Chinese. People in Washington taxed those with responsible homes to bail out people who’d bought homes they couldn’t afford.
People in Congress were caught up in a spoils system in which money was taken from those who worked and given to those with connections. Money was taken from those who produced and used to bail out the reckless, who were supposedly too big to fail.
Brooks has captured the essence of the Tea Party with those paragraphs. But he can't bring himself to endorse the Tea Party itself after so eloquently portraying the dismay and disgust of average Americans for the current political mess. He somehow believes that sending Tea Party endorsed candidates to Washington will only exacerbate the current mess and that somehow, "centrists" who are passionate will solve the problem. What? In fact, only those who are passionate about the issues of debt and spending will make a dent and centrists, as well as liberals, have shown a deafness to those concerns over the years.
The passion is needed because there will always be pork barrel incentives. When people aren't paying attention to the big picture, they can be bribed with a few pieces of other people's money. But as the nation and electorate become more self-aware and mature, they realize that such a path is unsustainable. The result is a bi-partisan movement to reign the size of government, because it is its size that allows to be the affront to the values of Ben.
Friday, May 21, 2010
The incentive become easier to understand, once you understand the subsidies. Bottom line:
In general, anyone with a family income of $80,000 or less will get a bigger subsidy in the exchange than the tax subsidy available at work.The subsidies, explained in the previous post, have to do with the fact that no taxes are paid on the employer sponsored benefits. Given the subsidies under Obamacare, employers of people making less than the $80,000 are better off letting those folks go on the government exchange. However the law requires no discrimination in the offering of health coverage. So what's a profit seeking CEO to do? It makes very good sense for the bottom line to restructure the employment situation, so that workers at the lower end of the wage scale get outsourced as contractors to companies that do not provide the health insurance benefit.
Take a hotel with maids, waitresses, busboys and custodians all earning $10 or $15 an hour. These employees can qualify for completely free Medicaid coverage or highly subsidized insurance in the exchange.
So the ideal arrangement is for the hotel to fire the lower-paid employees—simply cutting their plans is not an option since federal law requires nondiscrimination in offering health benefits—and contract for their labor from firms that employ them but pay fines instead of providing health insurance. The hotel could then provide health insurance for all the remaining, higher-paid employees.
Ultimately, we could see a complete restructuring of American industry, with firms dissolving and emerging based on government subsidies.
BTW, I have a little experience with this personally. I am a manager in the federal government. A little over half of my work force consists of contractor employees. Many of them are in the very lowest paid, basic positions in my organization. This keeps my budget down, because I know that the contractor pays very little in the way of health benefits to its employees, especially when compared to the benefits paid by the federal government. It makes no sense to fill those positions with government employees. I find that as I move up the salary scale, the health and other benefits tend to equalize, but contractor profit starts to dominate. So for the middle tier employees, I have more of a government work force. Then at the high end, I find that I cannot pay some of the most experienced, technically qualified employees enough, because of government salary caps, so those employees tend to be contractors again.
Despite the Democrats supposed dedication to helping the lower wage earners, they are actually hurting them, because the government exchanges are unlikely to provide the quality of coverage that employers do. Ironically, the end result of Obamacare may be an exacerbation of a have vs. have-not situation.
Definitely read the whole article, there are also good points about emergency rooms and the shortage of doctors.
W.C. also has some local dirt about what's going on at Qualcomm in response to Obmacare. Too many reports from corporate America are trickling not to believe that huge swaths of the public are going to lose their employer coverage.
By the way, The Knowledge Czar, (H/T Left Coast Rebel) has a nice piece about the libertarian stylings of Matt Bellamy of Muse.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
All of these images have a few things in common. They were rendered by artists who had a respect for and belief in the religious figures shown. They are products of the time and culture which produced them. They bear no resemblance whatsoever to any known historically accurate representation of the individual pictured.
Those in the Muslim world who threaten violence over depictions of Mohammed are loony for threatening the violence in the first place. But more fundamentally, they are wrong to be offended at all, because no one can say what Mohammed looked like in the first place. One could make a stick figure and call it Mohammed, but so what? What is the point in any outrage. Further, the picture of Mohammed provided for this article, I will leave it to you to decide, was painted by a devout adherent to that religion, centuries ago. Muslims are sadly misreading their own traditions to take offense at all.
On a personal note, I believe firmly in freedom of speech, so I defend the right of cartoonists and South Park to portray religious figures any way they want. However, I feel that I should personnally respect people's religious beliefs, because, only in that way, can I fulfill the great commission that I believe I have been given.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
So how did he do it? Here is analysis from the Christian Science Monitor:
The model, as followed by now Rep.-elect Mark Critz (D) of Pennsylvania, goes like this: Keep it local, not national. Don’t even talk about President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Define your opponent early and often, as negatively as possible. Hold positions that match the views of your district – in Mr. Critz’s case, it meant being anti-abortion and pro-gun. It also meant opposing the just-passed health-care reform (though Critz adds that he would not repeal it) and the climate change “cap and trade” bill.So let me get this straight, to win as a Democrat you have to oppose Obamacare, cap and trade, abortion and support gun rights? How does that differ from say, Chuck DeVore, a solid conservative Republican? This is a recipe for victory in November? If so, bring it on. If the Congress was filled with Democrats who truly held those views, the country would be better for it. But we all know that Critz, a former aide to one of the most corrupt Congressmen in history, is lying. Look at Stupak, ok you don't have to, literally. When push comes to shove, all these supposedly pro-life Democrats cut and run and vote with Nancy Pelosi to pass whatever Obamanation the Dems are pushing and sell out on their supposed pro-life principles.
Further, expect more of the same pork-barrel style politics from Critz:
Critz was an aide to Murtha, so while he had the Washington-insider thing going (bad) he was also able to draw on his connection to Murtha (good) and has promised to keep federal money flowing into the district.
The good news is mixed with the bad news. Democrats recognize the need to act like Republicans to win, but enough people are fooled that this works.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
"I have a message from the tea party," he told several hundred supporters at a country club in this western Kentucky town where he lives. "A message that is loud and clear and does not mince words. We've come to take our government back."
Amen, brother. Skip to 1:30 to hear Rand Paul get going, he delivers the Tea Party message very well, much of what the SLOBs have been saying all along.
Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, that self serving turn coat, party of one, Arlen Specter, has gone down to defeat in the primary to Joe Sestak. By the way, I have no love of Mr., formerly Vice Admiral, Sestak, retired as Rear Admiral, BTW. The guy was notorious for treating people badly while in the Navy, CDR Salamander has all the dirt on him. Hopefully, some of this will be useful in the general election.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Right now, in the primaries, is the time to make our voices heard. Incumbents and wannabes of both parties need to start getting the message that THE TIME FOR BUSINESS AS USUAL IS OVER! Sorry to shout, but the nation is in a fiscal crisis without historic parallel. No previous record indebtedness of the nation was caused by such willful political malpractice of running up debt by increasing entitlements and spending on federal salaries and contracts. The crisis is primarily moral and political, so I am unwilling to compromise in the primary election season, when I am given a choice to vote for a true conservative who is dedicated to smaller government.
In Utah, Bob Bennett lost the GOP nomination. Rand Paul seems set to upset the Kentucky Republican establishment tomorrow. Turncoat, and former lefty Republican Arlen Specter may go down tomorrow as well. It's a peaceful revolution, but a revolution none the less. The future of our nation demands that we draw a line and say No More!
Now, if the worst should happen in June, and Tom Campbell is the nominee, I will in all likelihood still vote for him over Boxer. He might even win, although I doubt it, given the enthusiasm gap he will have. I will do so because Barbara Boxer has supported every lefty spending program that has ever come along, and Campbell occasionally shows restraint.
But for now, I am still pulling for Chuck DeVore, so mosey on over and make a donation. I did.
P.S. Sorry about the short hiatus from regular posts. I spent some quality time with my church group in the mountains this weekend. I also had some responsibilities getting it organized. We talked a bit about the role of men in the family and work. Pretty inspiring stuff.
P.P.S. Really sorry I missed the first Beer Summit, more reportage on that from BwD.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Seems fair enough, right, you engage in war against the United States and your "rights" are not protected, because, hey we're at war. But are we really? Consider this:
Administration officials take the view that no legal or constitutional rights can protect Mr. Awlaki, a charismatic preacher who has said it is a religious duty to attack the United States and who the C.I.A. believes is actively plotting violence. The attempted bombing of Times Square on May 1 is the latest of more than a dozen terrorist plots in the West that investigators believe were inspired in part by Mr. Awlaki’s rhetoric.
“American citizenship doesn’t give you carte blanche to wage war against your own country,” said a counterterrorism official who discussed the classified program on condition of anonymity. “If you cast your lot with its enemies, you may well share their fate.”
Section 8 - Powers of CongressSo, when did the Congress of the United States declare war on al-Qaeda? Never, to my recollection. Without a formal declaration of war that specifically calls out the theater of operations and the nation or group with whom we are at war; what are the constitutional limits on targeting U.S. citizens? None. Further, even if this cleric is engaged in anti-American rhetoric, targeting someone for assassination far from the actual war zones seems extra-legal and without constitutional precedent. As always, my concern is over reach and the potential for targeting of U.S. citizens for far lesser offenses, like criticizing Obamacare while in a foreign country. Any legal doctrine that ascribes powers to the President outside the lawful and constitutional framework essentially ascribes unlimited powers in that area. This is why the founders made clear the need to declare war before the President, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, could wage war.
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
How do we deal with such an individual? Certainly he is committing treason by his statements and actions. We should seek extradition from Yemen, and since that might not be forthcoming, then perhaps those Letters of Marque and Reprisal might have a salutary effect.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Listening to some of the argument over the Arizona law reminded me of a legal theory that I always found appalling, but more understandable as I grew older, the theory of "attractive nuisance."
Attractive nuisance is a defense to trespass by children used in tort law. The doctrine of attractive nuisance is premised on the belief that one who maintains a dangerous condition which is likely to attract children on their property is under a duty to post a warning or take affirmative action to protect children from the dangers of that attraction. It imposes a duty to be sensitive to potentially dangerous conditions which are likely to attract children. The attractive nuisance doctrine typically doesn't apply to adults. However, if a child is in danger due to an attractive nuisance and an adult attempts to rescue the child, the attractive nuisance doctrine may hold the landowner responsible for the rescuer's injuries in addition to the child's injuries.Those who argue against the Arizona law often do so with an unconscious mental picture of attractive nuisance. Their argument says something like this. Since the U.S. did not enforce its borders and furthermore, and since some U.S. employers employed illegal aliens, we shouldn't punish them for coming here to work. After all its our own fault. You can see the similarity to the legal doctrine quoted above. The problem is that the theory applies to children. Which is exactly how the average lefty views the populace as a whole.
Regardless, those so arguing wouldn't object to building a real fence that ended the nuisance would they? Saving the lives of illegal immigrants crossing the desert is certainly the right thing to do? See how far that gets you with the left.
Programming note: Blogging will be light for the week.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Without linking to the articles, it is clear we are leaving Bailout Nation and entering Planet Bailout. The U.S. involvement in this global stupidity is growing, quickly erasing any schadenfreude I might have been nursing after watching Greek communists in action. In the what could go wrong category, consider this AP headline:
WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve late Sunday opened a program to ship U.S. dollars to Europe in a move to head off a broader financial crisis on the continent.Hey, that's our money. Who gave the Fed the authority to do that?
Other central banks, including the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Swiss National Bank and the Bank of Japan also are involved in the dollar swap effort.
Meanwhile, the marginal tax rate for the middle class hovers around 40%. Interesting reading here and here on the perverse effects of our marginal tax rates. And the Democrats are set to increase taxes on dividends and capital gains. It's hard enough for the average person to save money as it is, because the average middle income earner loses 40 cents on every new dollar they make. Over the last century, investing in stocks was the best way to increase wealth, but Obama and the Democrats want to make that harder as well.
With ballooning deficits and an apparent commitment to bail out the entire world, no wonder the Tea in Tea Party stands for Taxed Enough Already. Reversing the mushrooming size of government and the idea that handing out dollops of cash will willy-nilly will solve any problem is the signature issue of the Tea Party. We must keep up this fight, because the latest actions of an unaccountable Federal Reserve show how much danger we are in.
Just keep in mind that this is the ultimate destination for your hard earned dollars when the fed ships it to Europe:
Might as well light our dollars on fire here, and save the expense of sending them to Greece.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Though Bennett has well-established conservative credentials (he supports gun rights and favors tighter immigration controls), many tea partyers, as well as the antitax group the Club for Growth that is campaigning against Bennett, cite his 2008 vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bank bailout as the thing that put him on the wrong side of their movement.Bennett also got in the cross hairs of the Club for Growth, an organization that some in the Tea Party movement seem to distrust over immigration issues. (Welcome to politics, neophytes, where you might find your bedfellows to be strange.) Also from the same pre-convention article:
"There are a lot of unhappy delegates," says Kirkham, who, like about 70 percent of the delegates this year, will attend the convention for the first time. Many of the newcomers have been chosen by their neighborhood precincts specifically for their anti-Bennett stance, he says, as well as their tea party credentials. According to a Salt Lake Tribune poll, 68 percent of delegates say they are tea party supporters.This is great news, for the Tea Party. Putting the fiscally irresponsible on notice that there is a price to be paid for spending other people's money is the only way we will make progress in digging out of the hole that Obama and to a lesser extent George Bush, have put us in.
But there is much hard work ahead. Bennett may launch an independent bid, like Charlie Crist in Florida. Exit question, if dumping fiscally liberal Republicans results in the election of fiscally liberal Democrats, are we making forward progress?
Friday, May 7, 2010
This week the strength of this system was again confirmed when Petty Officer Second Class Matthew McCabe was acquitted for allegedly roughing up a prisoner, the notorious Ahmed Hashim Abed, who had masterminded assassinations of American private security guards in Iraq. P.O. McCabe made the good decision in this case to accept court martial in lieu of Captain's Mast (Article 15), because the convening authority, Lt Gen Charles Cleveland appeared to hold some biases. Now, all three seals that were charged have been acquitted.
Video from McCabe here. Embed fixed, video folows:
I would also add that even though he was acquitted, P.O. McCabe has suffered through an ordeal. He had the real chance of going to jail; his career was definitely interrupted, and his reputation was damaged by the comments of his commanding general, who presumed him guilty. I hope that he is able to resume his career.
The linked article uses AT&T as an example of how a large company could save money by dropping coverage.
Looking at the chart, at first glance it looks like AT&T could save a cool $1.8 billion by dropping coverage for employees, because the mandate penalty is only $600 million for their 283,000 employees. But here is the fallacy; before Obamacare passed, they could have saved even more by dropping coverage for all employees, $2.4 billion. So the weak mandate can't be the whole story, because they could have dropped coverage any time before. So why now? It must be speculation that the government subsidies to buy insurance in the new exchanges will be high enough that their employees won't quit over the issue of dropped coverage. So the amount that government is subsidizing insurance and the quality of that coverage, as perceived by the employees, becomes the key issue to be analyzed.
Why did AT&T provided coverage in the first place? Out of the goodness of their collective hearts? I know better. Rounding the figures to make the math easier, (this is a blog, not schrool after all) we see that AT&T spent about $10,000 per employee on health insurance in 2009. But the value to the employee far exceeded that amount, because it was not taxed, either through payroll (i.e. social security) taxes nor through income tax, state or federal. Using a 25% federal rate, 15% payroll tax, and nominal 5% for state tax (YMMV) yields a total tax rate of 45% that was avoided on that $10,000 benefit. (By the way, where does the left get off saying we don't pay much in taxes, 45%, that's a lot.) If the employee had to spend his/her own after tax dollars on health care, their employer would need to increase their total pay package to $18,000 (rounding) in order for the employee to have $10,000 to purchase the same policy. The $8000 difference is a give back in the form of taxes.*
The tax code is the big driver pushing employers to provide health insurance as a benefit; it allows them to provided an $18,000 benefit for $10,000 in this case. So how will the government insurance exchanges work? Who knows? I think it is obvious from this example above that if the exchanges are to come close to matching the benefits provided by employers, they will have to heavily subsidize the exchange, further bloating the deficit. However, is a 40% subsidy realistic? How would employees react if they were given back some of the money spent on health insurance but found that the exchanges were much more expensive?
I don't think we will see a big move by firms that already provide health coverage to expand drop the coverage, because I don't see the exchanges competing effectively either on price, because of the tax advantage, or on quality, because they will be run by the government. They might actually attract a lot of people who have pre-existing conditions, so their costs are probably underestimated. But can't we say that about any government program.
The retirees are a whole other matter, but I lack the knowledge to comment yet.
*Using a calculator the numbers look like this:
$ 8480 = average amount AT&T spends per employee on health insurance.
$15419 = average increase in pay package if employee purchased identical policy with after tax dollars.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
However, I think the results that are coming in from Britain, and Mr. Perot's efforts show what an uphill battle it is for a third party to make enough in roads to be more than a bit player. The Lib Dems seem set to place a distant third in these elections despite polling very close to 27% of the popular vote in the run up to the elections. They may yet be part of a coalition formed by the Conservatives, but if so, will be a very junior partner.
What is the lesson? I think that the Tea Party can be very effective at driving the direction of the debate and adding energy to politics, but forming an independent political party actually fritters away our strength. By shaping primaries and forcing politicians to cater to our concerns, we have more influence than through actually electing candidates. I think Sarah Palin has missed the boat on this by endorsing Carly Fiorina. We should use our influence to move all politicians in our direction. I know that Temple of Mut is disappointed by Sarah's endorsements. But when the general election comes around we need to unseat liberal Democrats, even with moderate Republicans. Look at how Nancy Pelosi passed Obamacare with Blue Dog votes. I think fears that Carly won't be Republican enough if she wins the nomination aren't well founded.
Click here to stay up to date with electoral returns from "across the pond."
However, the larger backdrop is a set of people who through racial guilt, intimidation and victimization are waging a war of "social justice" against those who hold dear the rule of law, property rights, freedom of speech and a belief that this country is not great because of its diversity but rather this country is diverse because of its greatness.Thanks Dean, for putting it in perspective. I tend to be a little tone deaf to the political undercurrents of cultural phenomena, so I have mostly ignored controversies like the kids kicked out of school for wearing American flags on Cinco de Mayo (which Dean also skewers.) I prefer to examine issues through the lenses of economics, constitutionality and law. But the cultural phenomena are important, because they are symbols of a broader struggle and capture the public attention and imagination in ways that pure policy discussions do not.
A couple of asides on this controversy. First, I thought kids were supposed to go to school to learn. What the heck kind of dress code allows display of any logos? My youngest son's school has a dress for success code that bans all logos, advertising, of all varieties. That school should prepare students for participation in the work force is a key theory of the school's director. He has a PhD in education, but displays heaps of common sense anyway.
Second, the fuss seems a little overblown. If one school out of hundreds of thousands has a problem on Cinco de Mayo, considering all of the current controversy over illegal immigration, then we're actually doing pretty well. Kudos to the school board, who didn't back the vice principal on this one as well. One guy made a mistake, let's all move along. A statement from the district:
The district does not concur with the Live Oak High School administration's interpretation of either board or district policy related to these actions.Exactly, if you can wear a Mexican flag, you can wear an American one. Stupid policies have to be content neutral in this great land of ours. Just one more reason to shut down the public school system and fully privatize the provisioning of education.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Mark Steyn had this to say about the incident in Quincy video'd above:
The same day that Mayor Newsom took his bold stand, I saw a phalanx of police officers doing the full Robocop — black body armor, helmets, and visors — as they marched down the street. Goosestepping? No, it’s actually quite hard to goosestep in those steel-reinforced kneepads. So just regular marching. Naturally, I assumed they were Arizona state troopers performing a routine traffic stop. In fact, they were the police department of Quincy, Ill., facing down a group of genial tea-party grandmas in sun hats and American-flag T-shirts. They were acting at the behest of President Obama’s Secret Service, who rightly recognized a polite knot of citizens singing “God Bless America” as a clear and present danger to the republic.
If I were a member of the Quincy PD, I’d wear a full-face visor, too, because I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror. It’s a tough job making yourself a paramilitary laughingstock.
And there in lies the difference. In the U.S. peaceful demonstrators can still embarrass jack booted paramilitary types into backing down. We know how things ended in China. (No para about those military tanks in Tiananmen Square.)
The first danger from this approach is that it undermines pretty decent arguments for military tribunals for foreigners we capture as part of the war on terror, or whatever we are calling it. Conservatives will be seen as willing to suspend the rights of anyone and feed the suspicion of the some that we are closet fascists. We need to clearly make the case that foreigners lack the rights that U.S. citizens retain, in order to maintain public support for a realistic approach against foreign fighters. By lumping all categories of terrorists together, we actually tie the hands of our military overseas, because legal issues become overwhelmingly intrusive on the battlefield.
Even more importantly, we must respect constitutional safeguards if we are to remain a free people. As Glen Beck pointed out last night, the Constitution matters most when it is most inconvenient. Imagine for a moment that you attended a rally that called for the repeal of Obamacare and generally lambasted government excess in general. Of course, a couple of kooks might show up, LaRouche followers perhaps; who start advocating the violent overthrow of the government, in some sort of black hat op. If you were rounded up by the police and charged with terrorism, just because you were there, wouldn't want your rights of habeas corpus, Miranda, and to an attorney to be respected? Our constitutionals rights form a bulwark against tyranny that is perhaps more fragile than we believe.
Conservatives have been sloppy over the last decade on this issue. Even though I supported the military tribunal process while Bush was President, I did not support his extra-legal approach, abrogating powers not granted to him by law or the constitution. Same for foreign wire tapping; I support the effort, if codified into law and given judicial oversight. Our case for our methods are undermined if we fail to support the rule of law and conformance to the constitution. One of the strengths of argument we have against the over reach of the current administration is our adherence to constitutional principles. Let's not fritter away that strength. Go ahead and Mirandize Shahzad.
Addition to post: Volokh Conspiracy, as usual, has a decent legal analysis of the issue. I am kicking myself for not reading it first. They make the great point that the FBI did not need to Mirandize the suspect under the public safety exception if they needed to get further information about other plots.