Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mitch Daniels Fails Ethanol Test

I previously posted with some gusto about Mitch Daniels, endorsing him as a potential candidate. I have also said that ethanol should be a litmus test for Presidential candidates. Sadly, I find that Mitch Daniels has been a big supporter of ethanol.
The production and transportation of ethanol uses more energy than ethanol yields. State and Federal ethanol subsidies cost American taxpayers billions, while increasing the price of fuel at the pump and lowering the mileage of consumers' vehicles.
. . .
Mitch Daniels is a forthright defender; since he became Governor of Indiana, the number of ethanol plants in his state have risen from one to thirteen and he set a goal of producing 1 billion gallons of the stuff.

This is a big problem with litmus tests, because Daniels does so well in other ways. If he were to move against ethanol in a meaningful way before the Iowa caucuses, I could support him. Right now I'm not sure.

Makes more sense than paying to convert it to ethanol.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Obama Dictator

I remember that far left conspiracy theorists told us that no matter who won the 2008 elections we would continue to live under the fascist dictatorship of George W. Bush. They were half right. We seem to have gotten a President who feels no compunction about abusing the limits of his office.

The Hipster-Dufus in Chief, after hanging out at Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg and commenting on how young folks get their news from non-traditional outlets (like him wink-wink). His administration promptly punished SF Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci for using a smart phone to video a protest at an Obama event. Then they promised to punish anyone for reporting on the punishment. Then they denied the threats. What idiots, antagonizing one of their few reminaing reliable constituencies, the press.

Libya. We are at war. There has been no notification to the Congress. Impeachable offense.

Obama's appointees purport to tell Boeing where in the United States they may manufacture airplanes. (Hint: its not in right-to work states.) Shane Atwell asks Can you hear the shackles clicking closed on your legs? Meanwhile the same NLRB is going to sue Arizona and South Dakota for requiring secret ballot votes before unions before a union can be certified. Funny how elections are pesky things when you don't get the outcome you want.

From Politico: The president “abrogated” section 2262 of the budget compromise law, which prohibits using appropriations for the salaries and expenses of certain White House czars. What is it about this part of the constitution "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law. . ." that the President doesn't understand? More from Politico's Sollenberger and Rozell:
Obama is essentially telling Congress he will avoid confirmation hearings by appointing czars. He also is taking congressional appropriations used to pay their salaries and expenses, even if lawmakers clearly state in law those positions are not funded. Such reasoning represents the height of presidential hubris — and shows an utter contempt for Congress as a co-equal branch.
Not to mention contempt of the constitution.

And that's really the issue. No recognition for constitutional limits = road to dictatorship.

Previous posts have documented any number of other instances of dictatorial overreach, the hits just keep on coming.

It's not like we weren't warned. Valerie Jarrett: (H/T: Moonbattery)
However, giving--given, really, the daunting challenges that we face, it's important that President-elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one.

Weekend Music Chill

Hanging at the local tavern for dinner this evening, watching San Antonio give up an early lead to the Grizzlies. I love the music they always play, a baby boomer extravaganza. If I hung out more often I would probably get tired of it. Here's a little sampling of their offerings.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Obama is Vulnerable

A lot can change in the next year and a half, but I believe that Obama is very vulnerable and could easily be defeated. Here is my take on the trends that could impact him.

  • Inflation is on the rise. The long period of quantitative easing and low interest rates by the Fed appears to be igniting inflation. W.C has some of the background here. From NBC: "A broader measure of inflation, the personal consumption expenditures price index, rose at a 3.8% rate. . ." Inflation takes a long time to tame, once it gets going.
  • Gasoline prices. The coming double dip recession will knock down prices as well as other second order effects that come into play. I don't expect this to be a factor. See previous post.
  • Unemployment appears to again be on the rise. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits jumped 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 429,000, up from a slightly upwardly revised 404,000 the preceding week, the Labor Department said.
  • Libya will continue to sap the President's popularity. There are no good outcomes for him. If the war drags on, it is a steady drip of bad news that threatens to last right into November 2012, with a possible ugly October surprise from Gadaffi. If Gadaffi wins, with attendant slaughter, Obama looks weak, and his failure to get Congressional approval shows incredibly bad judgment. If the rebels win, expect atrocities and racial and tribal hatred to be let loose. See my previous post.
  • Obama will continue to look less than serious with his handling of the historic budget crisis. His initial proposal was mocked by right and left. Even people who don't normally pay attention are noticing that he has done nothing of substance.
  • Obamacare will continue to negatively impact the average person's health insurance with no attendant benefit. What genius in the administration front loaded the pain and back filled the benefits? Wait, this project was outsourced to Nancy and Harry. I have a management that I use at work, "When you outsource a problem, it's still a problem."
You would think that Republicans would be tripping all over themselves to run against the President. From Ron Paul on CNN, "They may believe that the president is stronger than most of the polls show," Paul said. "The president is liked a lot and in politics, being liked is very important. So, maybe they don't think he is as vulnerable as the polls indicate he might be." Given my bullet points above, I don't think he will be that well liked by November 2012.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Meaning of the Birth Certificate. . .

. . .was certainly not about whether or not Obama was born in Hawaii or not. It was rather, what might be embarrassing about the document and why Obama might not be willing to show it. After looking at what was published on line, I'm not sure that there was anything controversial. But the other thing it shows is that the President is a bit odd and will fold under pressure. As long as the birth certificate could be used to allege that Republicans and Tea Partyers were kooks, playing hide the document seemed to be a good strategy. But when Trump got aggressive Team Obama folded like a lawn chair. Interestingly enough, it was Trump's aggressive moves that put Obama in a no-win situation. With the Donald calling him out, his continued refusal to publish the document looked odd, at the very least exhibiting poor judgment. But its release makes Obama look even odder and weaker. The timing is just off and awful. It looks like he caved on a matter of principle, just because he was bullied into it. To steal Dennis Miller's baseball analogy from today's O'Reilly Factor; Obama's the baseball player with "rabbit ears" and Trump's the bench rider assigned to heckle him to get him off his game.

Which brings me to the popularity of the Donald. I think people like that he is challenging Obama publicly, in a way that the mainstream media won't. I think they like the idea of an alpha male as leader of the free world. I believe people are tired of a President that doesn't seem accountable, not from the Congress on Libya, not by the courts on the individual mandate in Obamacare, and certainly not by the lapdog press. Other Republican candidates out to wise up and notice that an aggressive line of attack can rattle Obama and get him off his game. The only time that McCain ever led Obama in the polls in 2008 was shortly after the Republican convention when Palin successfully laid a glove or two on Obama. "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities," was the famous Palin quote from the convention, and it stung and stuck.

But let me be clear, I am in no way endorsing Trump. He is not a serious candidate, nor does his personal record accord with Tea Party principles, as much of his financial success can be attributed to dealings with politicians and his willingness to abuse eminent domain. His first line of attack after the birther fiasco was over was over gas prices, the play of a pure demagogue, as I relate below. His hypocrisy over trade with China is rank. However, a Republican that calls the President to account in strong terms, who has a proven ability to lead and who is committed to reducing the size of government can easily beat Obama.

The winner.

That other thing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Meanwhile in Libya

USS Barry (DDG 52) launching "kinetic military" device on March 29, 2011, near Libya.

Libya seems to have faded from the news, not a single headline from my normal news outlets. It doesn't mean there isn't any news nor the usual human misery and suffering that accompanies a civil war, of course. From the WSJ:
Opposition forces appeared to be caught off guard when the Libyan leader's forces swept through rugged coastal desert while unleashing a pounding artillery and rocket bombardment against the port [Misrata] and the surrounding area. Col. Gadhafi's forces have so far avoided that approach, presumably because the open terrain provides no cover from North Atlantic Treaty Organization airplanes.
Question, where are the coalition air forces. Exhausted maybe? Our allies aren't used to providing sustained operations without U.S. big decks on hand.

Meanwhile, the rebels are probably committing atrocities, targeting blacks because they have formed the bulk of Gadaffi's mercenaries. Video clips of public beheadings by the rebel forces are available on YouTube. (Graphic content warning, I will not personally watch.)

CDR Salamander has some choice observations regarding our mission over at the U.S. Naval Institute blog. Among them:
. . . we now find ourselves in a classic grinding civil war. The first steps of the ground war have started with Anglo-French-Italian advisers. After jumping into a support role, Europe ran out of weapons and reserves to the point that we are now back in the ground attack game – but only halfheartedly. . . . No, our allies cannot do this on their own – we will need to do more and unless we want a repeat of Suez, we have to. It is almost past the point of arguing “should” – after awhile of dithering, things can deteriorate to the point that you have to get involved in order to avoid a total collapse and all the negative second and third order effects. Effects BTW, that you (we/they) created. Butterfly Effect or Dithering Effect, either one works. Which is worse, to let a civil war take its own course, or to try to bend it to your will? That is a hard question – but one the West thinks it has answered, but still thinks it is hedging.
So we are stumbling into a longer and longer war. Our further involvement will be inevitable. And still the President has taken not a single action required by the War Powers Resolution. It was his political cowardice that created this situation in the first place. While it may have been legal to initially prevent the slaughter of civilians in rebel held territory, the continued involvement of our forces required the President to get Congressional authorization. If he had that authority, then we could go in and depose Gadaffi by the most efficient means available.

This chicken will come home to roost. I won't shed a tear when Obama has to eat this crap sandwich and go to the Congress to get war powers for a third war in the Middle East. Say what you will about George W. Bush, he had the sense to get Congressional approval for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Libyan rebels with dead Gadaffi soldiers. Source Business Insider.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tax Breaks and Subsidies

John Boehner succumbed to demagoguery by the President on "tax breaks" for big oil companies. In a calculated political move, he said that the "oil depletion allowance" should be reviewed.

The Ohio Republican told "ABC World News" that the government is low on revenues and that oil companies "ought to be paying their fair share."

"We certainly ought to take a look at it," Boehner said. "We're at a time when the federal government's short on revenues. We need to control spending but we need to have revenues to keep the government moving."

Well, how's that for not getting outflanked on a populist issue.

So here's a reminder about the facts. The oil depletion allowance is a special form of a depletion allowance, applying to minerals, oil, gas and timber. From
In tax law, the deductions from gross income allowed investors in exhaustible commodities (such as minerals, oil, or gas) for the depletion of the deposits. The depletion allowance is intended as an incentive to stimulate investment in this high-risk industry, though critics argue that mineral deposits are valuable enough to justify high levels of investment even without tax incentives.
One might argue that the depletion of a resource is akin to the depreciation of capital equipment. I am not expert enough, to say for sure, but I know this, all depletion allowances should be treated identically, it strengthens the rule of law for it to be applied impartially. I guess that's the cue for the Congress to treat it as a political football.

With regards to the accounting question, the cost of purchasing the asset, be it mineral, oil or timber is an expense to business, the only question is whether it is a capital expense with long term depreciation/depletion or a standard expense. Looking for somebody at W.C. Varones to correct my thinking if I am wrong.

Finally, with regards to the price of oil and gasoline, the best thing politicians could do for the country is ignore it. It will come back down. If this has the feeling of deja vue, it's because it is.

From BwD in July 2008:
I am boldly predicting a large drop in the price of oil within the next three years, unless our government intervenes to make a mess of things. How can I be so sure? History and logic are on my side.

First, the logic. The high cost of petroleum energy induces all sorts of changes in behavior. First, on the demand side, consumers make billions of tiny changes in behavior to compensate for the higher costs. Some examples: Many people drive more gently, accelerating more slowly, driving a little slower. Nissan has found that putting a fuel efficiency gauge on cars increases efficiency by as much as 10% (source here). Car pooling increases. Another small example, our family has started to plan out little errands, grouping trips together that were previously separate. Also, we ditched the 8-cylinder gas guzzler, even though it was a good starter car for our sixteen year old.

On the supply side, two things happen. First, there tends to be an increase in production in those nations not under despotism. (I realize that Iran and Venezuela, for example, will probably not be increasing production, but others will.) Oil that was not profitable to extract at $60 per barrel is very attractive at $140. Maintenance and repairs on old equipment suddenly makes more sense. Second, alternative forms of energy become relatively more competitive and can be brought on line, increasing the overall supply of energy.
From this blog in November 2008.

Last July, on BwD, I predicted a large drop in the prices of crude oil and gasoline within three years. My caveat, of course was that the federal government was perfectly capable of screwing this up. KT has a great post, with pretty pictures, showing just how cheap gasoline is today. At the time, there was a lot of hot air about a temporary suspension of gasoline taxes, releasing the strategic petroleum reserve and windfall oil profits tax, because, by gum, SOMETHING had to be done! Fortunately, nobody got around to do anything and look at the result. (I filled up today for about $2.29/gallon and I saw $2.01/gallon gas in Memphis last week.)

This scenario is perfectly illustrative of the simultaneous difficulty and importance of making the case for less government. In the midst of a hotly contested election, the temptation of politicians to pander seems almost irresistible. But if the public has the awareness of the futility of repealing laws of economics, then such efforts would be laughed off the table.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fixing California - A Reform Agenda UPDATE

The Economist has a special report this week on the state of Democracy in California, and it is not good. For the last few years, I haven't agreed with the magazines editorial positions on a growing number of issues, but they are still first rate journalists and point out some important facts. But before we get to the article, they remind us of an important truth about democracy:
California is a reminder that democracy, like capitalism, can take many different forms, and that it is intended as a means to an end, the end being liberty. Should it ever mutate into a counterproductive form, reform becomes necessary.
This is not to suggest that any other form of government is preferable to democracy, only that the particular form that democracy takes must be judged by how well it advances liberty. No one can argue that our particular circumstances are advancing the cause of liberty nor accountable government, its necessary well-spring. Consider the following facts and their consequences.
  • California transfers about 71% of its state revenue to local governments. Because the money comes from the state, local administrators no longer have much incentive to spend it efficiently.
  • California has the 35th largest legislature, even though it is the most populous state. This means that the effects of gerrymander are even more pernicious, because it's very hard for a challenger to break through. The state has few state senators than Congressman.
  • The responsibility for the budget is no longer really in the hands of the legislature. So many propositions have passed that constrain spending or taxing for particular programs, there is much less room for compromises that mark other states. The state's education minimal funding level formula has been compared alternately to the federal tax code and the general theory of relativity for its complexity.
  • We elect any number of positions in the executive branch that are appointed or part of a party ticket in other states. This results in absurd situations where the governor can't travel for fear the Lt. Gov. will sign/veto some legislation or the attorney general and insurance commissioner seeking to burnish their cred and working at cross purposes. Given the situation, no is really held accountable.
I submit that these results are not consonant with a conservative or libertarian agenda. Some of the fault lies in the proposition process, but it is such an important check on the dysfunction, even if the cause of much of it, that I am not advocating its demise. But process matters and accountability matters. If we are to reform California, I propose the following reforms, which ironically, might have to be passed through the initiative process.
  • Increase the number of state representatives to 200 and state senators to 100. This will diminish the effects of gerrymander because it will cause the make up of the legislature to more closely reflect the population. It could even be sold as increasing minority representation, which it would. I picked 100 state senators to emphasize to symbolize that in many ways, California is America.
  • Only elect the Governor and Lieutenant Governor as a ticket. The attorney general, insurance commissioner, schools superintendent, etc. would all be appointees.
  • Repeal all of the ballot measures that require minimum spending, or that direct tax monies on spending.
  • Restore the local property tax and sales tax revenue to localities that spend the money. In other words, divorce the local governments from dependency on Sacramento. If local government starts harming the local economy, they will lose revenue. Local control is certainly a conservative virtue.
That's a start to the constitutional structural problems that are making democracy more difficult in the state. Welcome your thoughts on other reforms.

Cross posted to

Digital rights to photograph purchased from; commercial re-use prohibited.


In the comments section at sdrostra, Erik reminded me of a big reason that the state transfers so much cash to the local governments. It is the Serrano v. Priest decision of 1971, the California state supreme court ruled that funding of public education based on property taxes that resulted in highly differential per pupil expenditures was unconstitutional. Since that time, the state has endeavored to equalize per pupil spending, resulting in the current system of massive transfers of taxes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Victory for Justice in National City

IJ Client Carlos Barragan Jr. at the CYAC gym in National City.

The Institute for Justice has obtained a victory in the long running dispute between National City and the Community Youth Athletic Center, which was designated as blighted in order to allow seizure of the gym by the city so that an influential developer can build luxury condos. Dean previously posted on this subject. National City took the route of declaring the area "blighted" by paying a private consultant to produce a report allegedly proving the blight. However, they then refused to provide the details of the report.
". . .the Court also held that when the government retains a private consultant to perform government functions—in this case, documenting the existence of alleged “blight” in National City—documents that the private consultant produces are public records subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act. The Court also set a clear standard for what government agencies have to do in searching the records of their private consultants in response to a Public Records Act request."
The abuse of the power of eminent domain, following the infamous Kelo v New London ruling, has been held in check somewhat by reforms in California.
The Court struck down National City’s entire 692-property eminent domain zone in the first decision to apply the legal reforms that California enacted to counter the disastrous U.S. Supreme Court Kelo decision in 2005. This ruling, which found that National City lacked a legal basis for its blight declaration, reinforces vital protections for property owners across the state, and underscores why redevelopment agencies should be abolished.
But Kelo needs to be reversed, or at least chipped away by the Supreme Court, it is certainly the worst Supreme Court decision since Plessy v Ferguson. In the meantime, we can celebrate a small victory for a worthy program helping to make National City a better place to raise kids.

Cross posted to

The President's Lies About Medicare

President Obama and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg hold a town hall in Palo Alto, Calif., April 20, 2011. (Credit: Declan McCullagh/CNET)

Obama has been on a tear lately, accusing Paul Ryan and Republicans of wanting to destroy Medicare as we know it. This is frankly an outrageous lie, because Medicare as we know it, will not survive no matter what proposal passes. It is unaffordable and rife with fraud. Its expenses keep climbing faster than inflation and price controls, the Obama solution, will only cause severe rationing, which will also end Medicare, as the rich, then the middle class leave the system. If that doesn't fundamentally change Medicare, what does?

From the WSJ discussing the board that Obamacare has created to control Medicare costs.

Starting in 2014, the board is charged with holding Medicare spending to certain limits, which at first is a measure of inflation. After 2018, the threshold is the nominal per capita growth of the economy plus one percentage point. Last week Mr. Obama said he wants to lower that to GDP plus half a percentage point.

Mr. Ryan has been lambasted for linking his "premium support" Medicare subsidies to inflation, not the rate of health cost growth. But if that's as unrealistic as the liberal wise men claim, then Mr. Obama's goals are even more so. Medicare grew 2.1 percentage points faster between 1985 and 2009 than Mr. Obama's new GDP target. At least Mr. Ryan is proposing a workable model for bringing costs down over time by changing incentives.

Time for Democrats to get serious about the fact that fundamental changes are required. I am not reading that the President is trumpeting the ability of unelected bureaucrats to actually control costs.

We need to face the facts as a nation. People are living longer, so they want and demand more medical care. The cost of medical care will increase and there are fewer workers to pay into the system. The math is very straightforward. When I retire, I am going to have to shoulder more of my health care than my parents did under Medicare. The only question is the form this will take. Mr. Obama does the country, nor his re-election chances no favors by pretending otherwise and by using demagoguery on this issue.

Weekend Music Chill

Hope you are having a Good Friday. This weekend's music is from Helen Reddy, her first big hit, covering the version from Jesus Christ Superstar.

Here is the original.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Distraction of Birtherism

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, was born in Hawaii. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have something to hide. Obama's original birth certificate if ever published, will no doubt reveal something embarrassing about him. His college papers and documents from his time at Columbia University would likewise reveal damaging information. Otherwise, he and his handlers wouldn't have gone to so much trouble to conceal it. It is fair to ask to see this information to get more sense of his character. Unfortunately, all such inquiries are labeled birtherism and dismissed. Trump, whom I loathe for his use of eminent domain in an attempt to evict an elderly widow to build a casino, could have done us a favor by making clear that he doesn't doubt Obama's citizenship, but just wants Obama to reveal details of his life. Sadly, he has allowed this all to become a distraction, when it is clear that the President has much to hide in his past. I think that the details of the President's record should be revealed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More Obama Fail - Immigration Reform

President Obama discussing immigration reform in June 2009, Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

In a clear signal that Obama will demagogue any issue to help his re-election chances, we read this from the U-T.

President Barack Obama told about 70 national leaders in a private meeting Tuesday that immigration reform is still one of his priorities despite the failure of the DREAM ACT and the absence of movement on other immigration reform.

The meeting focused on how to engage Americans in a discussion around immigration reform and Obama asked the leaders to use their influence to shape the public conversation.

That would be code for, "accuse the Republicans of being racists so this issue can kept alive as a wedge for the next election cycle." The article goes on to quote Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice Education fund, as saying the President is willing to spend his political capital on this cause. Bunk. First, as if he has any. Second, if that was true, the President would have already spent the capital to pass the poorly named DREAM act in the first place. Third, if the President were serious, he would enforce the border.

So what can we do to fill the vacuum left by Obama's leadership on the issue. I think comprehensive immigration reform is too important to let the Democrats take control of the issue. But the American people want the rule of law enforced, so the down payment has to be a real commitment to enforce the border. But the GOP should make this promise, once the border is secured, we will work to establish a guest-worker program of sufficient magnitude to meet the real labor demand in this country. We will provide a path, not to citizenship, but normalcy for those here illegally who are willing to return to their country of origin and enter the country legally. Further, we will be open up the H-1B to millions more workers as part of an effort at reform.

Such an effort would be good for the country and good for the Republican party. Many of these legal guest workers will be Hispanics and Asians, giving the lie to the slander that Republicans are racist. Further, the country needs younger workers to help solve the structural deficit, as I have outlined before.

Note the U.S. baby boomer bulge moving into retirement causing strain on the economy. India, by contrast has a large, young population, facing no such challenge.

Skilled immigrants, like those that come to this country under the H-1B, can help the country compete globally, as discussed here. By advancing a comprehensive agenda that will include respect for the rule of law, but at the same time help solve some of our countries most pressing issues, the GOP will help the country and itself.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Ambivalence Towards Ayn Rand

With the opening of the movie Atlas Shrugged this weekend, it seemed appropriate to discuss my personal feelings on the subject. I admit to some ambivalence towards Ayn Rand and Objectivism. I first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged when I was 13. I re-read the latter book at least two more times, so it had huge influence on me in my formative years. To this day, I view her works not so much as political tomes, but as a personal philosophy that happens to have political implications.

For myself, I lost belief in the religion of my upbringing and thought that through rationality and my own will, I could fashion the success in life I so deeply craved. And indeed I had a measure of success. I graduated high in my class with a physics degree, I had a career in the Navy, which saw fit to send me to graduate school. But I was never satisfied or joyous, nor was I treating those I loved well. It was only after admitting that my own behavior was the cause of these problems and that my own heart was not right, could I look for the answer. That answer was the person of Jesus, whose power allowed my heart to change, which changed everything else.

My complaint about objectivism is that it puts faith in the power of man to change him or herself. Further, it fails to adequately address the ultimate questions of one's purpose on this earth. Finally, it fails to acknowledge the spiritual life necessary to a sense of fulfillment. Further, Ayn Rand's personal story is a rebuke to her philosophy. Her affair with Nathaniel Branden wrecked his marriage and clearly deeply pained her husband. It is said of man that he is not so much a rational creature but a rationalizing one. But, Ayn Rand maintained that rationality was the highest virtue. Ultimately, she rationalized her affair on the flimsiest of excuses, that she desired it, and to hell with any obligation that accrued to marriage. Some would argue that I shouldn't criticize the philosophy due to the failings of the human being behind it. But I believe the criticism is valid, because it shows the weakness and blind spots in her work.

I have focused on the negative, because I believe that most of my readers are fans of the author. There is much to admire in what she wrote. She spoke truths that needed speaking. The fact that human progress is dependent on a highly talented minority, that government stifles both progress and the human spirit, that religion can be a tool of oppression and statism are all key issues that persist over 50 years after the publication of Atlas Shrugged. These truths persist and deserve opposition, and for that I am glad that Atlas Shrugged was made into a movie. Perhaps I just took it too seriously, but I can never be a wholehearted fan.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekend Music Chill

This weekend's music is very chill. This is the final tune from the soundtrack for RED, a very fun movie. The music is a little different, some Italian 70s genre, but hey, who wants the same thing every week. Here is Calibro 35 performing Convergere in Giambellino .

Trailer for the show.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

California Republicans and Demography

California's Republicans have gotten the negative notice of The Economist, no small feat, considering that the magazine covers the world and only runs eight or so articles on the whole of the United States in a week. Titled Dead, or just resting? the main thrust is that California Republicans are so deeply unpopular with Hispanics and Asians who are an increasing percentage of the state's population, that they are in danger of becoming extinct. The meat:
For although the Democrats have their crazies—largely of the green or unionised sort—they have also picked up most of the rising Latino and Asian political talent. And they tend to be moderate, or even conservative. This may help explain why independent voters in California lean Democratic in elections.

Mr Hoffenblum minces no words about what caused this loss for Republicans. It is the “shrillness” of their rhetoric against illegal immigrants, which has “totally turned off Latinos and Asians in this state,” even those who are citizens or legal immigrants. In effect, he says, the Republicans have made themselves “the white man’s party” and “alienated the fastest growing voting block.”

As an angry white man myself, it's hard for me to assess the truth of this matter directly. But I know this, all of the statewide were won by Democrats in 2010, in a year where Republicans did well throughout the rest of the country. I also notice that Hispanics and Asians tend to be much more culturally conservative than the mainstream of Democrat politicians.

What's to be done? Certainly getting the border problem fixed and off the table might help. For whatever reason, the conventional wisdom is that emphasis on border enforcement is perceived as "racist." I know it is not, but changing the perception seems difficult. Border enforcement is actually a more humane policy than what is currently in place, but why the bad perception? Perhaps we should show our support for a rational policy that allows guest workers into America so that our opposition to lax border enforcement won't be viewed as based on the desire to keep out a particular ethnicity. For more on this topic see polls by Bob Moore and Marty Wilson that tends to support this view.

I think that we should also look to recruit conservative Hispanic and Asian Democrats who have already been elected to local office into the Republican party. Perhaps, some who are frustrated with their ability to make progress on their issues within the Democrat party. Without a concerted effort to reach out, we will not be able to offer our superior ideas for governing California, because we will be shut out of the political process. In Texas and Florida, Hispanics seem to vote Republican in much greater percentages than in California, so this problem need not be permanent.

California needs a two party system. The failure of the Governor to offer any kind of meaningful pension reform for state employees is proof that one party rule will be a disaster.

Some notes from the poll I cited above:

• There is a way for GOP candidates to talk about immigration. More than seven-in-ten voters will consider a candidate who says, "secure the border first, stop illegal immigration, then find a way to address the status of people already here illegally" (73 percent favorable reaction).
• More than six-in-ten Latino voters are likely to consider voting for a GOP candidate who would "ensure all children had a chance at a first rate education" (69 percent), who they agreed with on improving the economy and creating jobs (65 percent) and with whom they agree on protecting America from terrorists (63 percent).
• Latino voters are more pro-life on abortion (45 percent say they are pro-choice, 45 percent pro-life) than voters are statewide (56 percent of voters statewide say they are pro-choice and 36 percent pro-life).

Pat Buchanan Nails It

In an article entitled Obama Blows Up the Bridge, Pat Buchanan nails the many reasons for deep seated antipathy to the President's speech on the budget.
"Rather than building bridges, he's poisoning wells," said Rep. Paul Ryan, after listening to Barack Obama's scathing attack on his deficit-reduction plan as a shredding of America's social contract with the elderly and poor.

Ryan is right. Yet, with Obama's partisan savagery, virtually calling the GOP plan immoral, we have clarity.

There will be no grand bipartisan bargain on taxes and spending.

The two parties on Capitol Hill and the president will not be coming together to solve the gravest financial and fiscal crisis America has faced since the Great Depression. Between them today is a high wall and a deep ditch.

The heart of the Ryan plan is to turn Medicaid into block grants to the states, so each can decide for itself how best to use the funds, and to convert Medicare into a program where the U.S. government would provide citizens with the funds and freedom to chose whatever health insurance they wished to buy.

Obama denounced both.
There you have it, the President shows not a shred of Clinton's triangulation. Say what you will about the forty-second President, his triangulation produced welfare reform, an historic free trade agreement and balanced budgets. Obama has yet to get significant Republican support for a single initiative. He lacks serious purpose and is unable to recognize that his positions took a beating in November. Further success will elude him.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama's Deficit Reduction Plan

Leadership. That's about it. To call it a plan is to insult anyone who ever worked hard to put together a plan. More Obamacare, tax increases, these are the big ideas? Get real. I refuse to comment further.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Brainstorming Reducing State Pension Obligations

I have been thinking for some time about legal ways to reduce state pension obligations for current retirees. This is important in California, because it is obvious that this Democrat controlled government won't do anything about the problem until the crisis is so immense as to be impossible to solve. The problem with just unilaterally reducing pension payouts and health care support for retirees is that the pension obligations are a form of contract, at least according to most legal readings I have reviewed. Further, the constitution appears to forbid action which would limit reduce pensions. There are prohibitions against bills of attainder and states may not pass a Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts. Finally, since state's have sovereignty, it is widely believed that they cannot discharge their obligations through bankruptcy. There has been some debate on Volokh on this, but this is my understanding of the consensus today. So it looks like all those pension benefits granted to state employees are a drain on the state's coffers forever, correct? Maybe not.

However, in the debate over Obamacare it became obvious to me that the federal government's power to tax is almost unlimited under the constitution. Ditto for the states. Everyone seems to agree that if the individual mandate had been passed as a tax, Obamacare wouldn't be on its way to the Supreme Court. So that got me to thinking about the state pensions. California could easily place a special tax on state pensions to reduce their burden. Further, the pensioners couldn't escape the tax because the California tax code treats retirement income earned while in the state as taxable by the state of California. State employee retirees could run but they couldn't hide, since the state could collect the tax revenue before they cut the checks.

Alternately, if this method was considered to be a bill of attainder, although I don't see how it differs from any other special taxes in the code, another approach suggests itself. The state could increase the marginal rates, but then exempt all sorts of income from the increase. Earned wages could be exempted for the purpose of job creation. Capital gains could be exempted on the basis of "encouraging investment." Social Security income on the basis of "fairness to the elderly" until all categories except state pensions were exempted from the tax increase. If necessary, the Tea Party should consider putting up such a measure on the ballot when the Governor and his Democrat cohort in the legislature fail to deal with the issue. Even if the measure were struck down by the courts, which I am hard pressed to see what reasoning they would use, it would have the salutary effect of showing that there is a limit on the capriciousness of the tax code.

Looking for input from fellow Tea Partyers or even lefties explaining how my plan might not pass constitutional muster.

War? What war?

Apparently, judging by the headlines, we are no longer engaged in "kinetic military action" in Libya. Not a peep from the World section of the U-T. In the WSJ, the only reference is that the Libyan rebels have rejected the African Union peace plan. But to think that an actual war involving U.S. forces is going on? Unthinkable. The President obviously would have notified the Congress. From his 2007 candidate interview with the Boston Globe.
Q: In what circumstances would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress?

A: The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch.
Meanwhile the Department of Defense official web site has this to say today about our actions in Libya.

NATO aircraft are striking with care and precision while minimizing the danger to civilians, Rasmussen said.

“This is in stark contrast to the pro-Gadhafi forces,” he said, “who are besieging their own cities and shelling city centers.”

Since April 9, NATO aircraft have flown almost 300 sorties, the secretary general said, destroying 49 tanks, nine armored personnel carriers, three anti-aircraft guns and four large ammo bunkers.

Meanwhile, Gadhafi’s forces continue offensive operations against rebels in eastern Libya. The no-fly zone has blunted the effects of the regime force’s attacks, but has not ended them.

“We’ve talked all along about the nature of a no-fly zone and how that restricts the regime’s forces, but that doesn’t stop them,” Lapan said.

NATO officials said the Libyans are using schools and mosques as shields for their armored forces. The proximity to civilians means these targets are off-limits for NATO.

The DOD comptroller estimates the cost of U.S. operations in Libya to be $40 million per month. Total U.S. cost from the beginning of operations in mid-March through April 4 was $608 million, Lapan said.

American forces are not conducting strike missions in Libya. U.S. forces are supporting NATO with air-to-air refueling, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities and unmanned aerial vehicle support. U.S. ships are also participating in the arms blockade off Libya in the Mediterranean.

How about that? A non-war coming in at only $608 million so far? We haven't even hit a billion, clearly chump change. Maybe that's the new interpretation of the war power resolution, it's not a war if it doesn't cost over a billion. Of course, knowing a little bit about DOD accounting, I personally don't trust that figure, but go figure, it's not really the point. And somehow engaging in reconnaissance, surveillance, refueling and UAV support isn't warfare. Tell that to your local Air Force recruiter.

The Congress refuses to assert its authority, so no one has standing to take this constitutional issue to the supreme court. If the Republicans were serious about their reading of the constitution at the start of the term, they would be holding hearings and holding up spending on this war until the President complied with the law.

Picture at top taken from fanpop, a fan art site, shows a relaxed President ready to roll up his sleeves and take his Commander in Chief responsibilities seriously during times of non-war.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Most Significant Article You Haven't Read - Resistant Bacteria

I like reading the newspaper because the format allows browsing in a way that seems to alert me to interesting news in a way that browsing the internet never does. Friday's Wall Street Journal reprinted this article from

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in India Could Spread, Experts Say

A gene that helps bacteria resist nearly all antibiotics is present in bacteria in public water supplies in New Delhi, India, researchers have found.

NDM-1 now appears to be widespread in the environment and that points to the critical need for action to limit the global spread of NDM-1-producing bacteria, said Timothy Walsh, of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues.

The spread of such bacteria could surely change the world in ways both predictable and not. For example, the widespread presence of resistant bacteria will impact major surgery, which is dependent upon the ability of antibiotics to prevent infection. Will this decrease medical tourism to India? The widespread use of analgesics to relieve aches and pains has the ancillary effect of making bleeding harder to stop. Will we limit their use to help prevent infections? (Is there a connection? Maybe just for bleeding ulcers.) Will we see more "nanny state" efforts to enforce hygiene, since we know that politicians like nothing better than crises to impose new controls on people.

I believe that we should think about these issues from the perspective of those who wish to preserve freedom, as I know the forces of statism will seize the opportunity to impose controls. A companion article also points to other failings.

The pipeline of new antibiotics is essentially empty, posing acute huge dangers to health care and efforts against infectious diseases.

Some experts warn health-care provision is in danger of reverting back to a pre-antibiotic era in which hip replacements, care of preterm babies and advanced cancer treatment are no longer possible.

And why are no new drugs in the pipeline? I suspect that our very own FDA, which is getting ever more restrictive in its approval processes under Obama is partly to blame. (Ronald Balley details the way that the FDA afflicts the drug industry here.)

And also, why is this news getting so little attention? Could it be that we have become inured to scientific disaster news, because there has been so much of it? Maybe we don't trust scientists whose horrible discovery will lead to more grant money if they can hype their findings. Maybe this isn't the horrible story I thought after all. This is the unfortunate result of politicians controlling the purse strings for science.

Personal Experience - The Effects of Uncertainty

Light blogging this weekend as I struggle with finishing up my taxes. However, the difficulty I am having is illustrative of the perils of uncertainty that the Democratic Congress and the President put us in last year. Last year, before the election, the Bush tax cuts, including the reduced capital gains tax was set to expire. I needed to sell some investments to pay for some home improvements and also to position myself to re-finance the house. Mrs. Daddy and I have sworn off taking on any more debt, especially debt at variable interest rates. But I also didn't think the reduced capital gains tax rates were going to survive, because Obama seemed likely to veto their extension. I sold significantly more than I needed. Since the assets were purchased in the mid-90s over many months and years, determining the capital gains basis isn't easy. Yes, I have software to help me, but it isn't spitting out the answers in a breakdown that is easy to enter on schedule D.

The point I want to make is that the uncertainty of the tax code provided incentive for me to move money out of stocks, where it was invested in profit making businesses and into cash, where it was available for loan making, perhaps, but this still impacts business' ability to raise capital. Given that the gains rates are still set to go up in two years, it makes me wonder if I shouldn't take other profits now, to lock in the lower rates. I know I am one investor, but I am also certain that many other investors are applying the same calculus to their portfolios.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Shut Down Averted - So What?

Hero of the hour.

So a government shutdown was averted. Is that really significant? In my opinion, yes. Because the deal continues the path of budget reduction, even if small. It turns the tide regarding spending by the feds. Further, it sets the tone for the debate for the next fiscal year.

I would also like to point out Boehner's negotiating skills, as reported in the Seattle Times.
The Planned Parenthood provision remained until it was dropped late Friday. In return, Republicans got more spending cuts.
From Politico, here are some more Republican victories from the spending bill.

— Guarantees Senate debate and vote on repeal of Obama’s health reform law. The House passed such a bill in January.

— Requires numerous studies of health reform that Republicans say “will force the Obama administration to reveal the true impact of the law’s mandates,” including studies on the law’s affect on premiums, the number and cost of contractors hired to implement the law and “a full audit of the waivers that the Obama administration has given to firms and organizations – including unions - that can’t meet the new annual coverage limits.”

— Denies additional funding to hire more IRS agents.

— Requires mandatory annual audits of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, by both the private sector and the Government Accountability Office. The audits will examine the effects of the agency’s actions on the economy, including its impact on jobs.

Some of these provisions do not have the practical effect of repealing Obmacare, but the steady drip of negative publicity that will ensue will hurt the President's re-election chances.

Meanwhile, I cruised over to DailyKos to check the pulse of the left. Seeing the anger on the left, especially over the idea that there should be any spending cuts, makes me smile.
And that's what touting the "biggest annual spending cut in history" as a good thing does. More lipstick from Harry Reid in giving kudos to the other side. Instead of praising the Republicans, why not come out and say the GOP screwed rank-and-file Americans? Why not say the Democrats did what they could to slow them down, but that now millions will suffer because of the cuts the party had crammed down its throat to avoid the entire government being shut down? Hell's bells, the Democratic leadership could have even said they did it for the troops.
I also find it ironic that the President is now taking credit for spending cuts, when his budget, as submitted did nothing of the kind. As Pops always says, even a blind pig gets an acorn once in a while.

Look at me, I'm cutting the budget, wee.

Frankly, the bigger budget fights lie ahead. Once we start the debate about entitlements, we are really going to have fight on our hands. But there was no way that entitlements should be part of the current year budget fight. To use a basketball analogy, this fight was akin to getting the best winning percentage you can, going into the playoffs. It's helpful, but you have to win in the playoffs no matter what your regular season record. The playoffs are going to be the debate over entitlements. If we don't get those under control, they will get themselves under control as our country goes into default on its debt.

Weekend Music Chill

Because these are two great song writers.

And here is Neil doing a song he composed, but made famous by others.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Democracy is Hard

Watch this video to be reassured about the greatness of the American democracy. Skip to 13:30 of the linked video to see my point.

As an IT manager I am also struck by the reliance on Microsoft Excel and Access and uploading spreadsheets to databases. This continues to cause heartburn throughout government.

H/T Hotair via Temple of Mut.

Well Played

Speaker Boehner has taken an important step to insulate Republicans from criticism over a potential government shut down by passing another stop gap spending measure. By immediately announcing that he would veto the measure, the President is signalling that he is the one who actually wants to shut down the government. In fact, if the Senate does not act or the President vetoes the spending measure, then the Democrats will actually be responsible for the shut down. Further, since the stopgap measure only includes $12 billion in cuts, they can hardly claim that the cuts are draconian.

I anticipate that if polling on this question gets started soon, the Democrats are going to find themselves in a world of hurt over this issue. It started with their failure to pass a budget last year, when they held a huge majority in both Houses. Now, they are unwilling to accept that the Republicans were sent to Washington to reduce deficits, primarily by cutting spending. To paraphrase Obama from a previous discussion, "The election's over, we won." The narrative doesn't play well recently, either. Joe Biden left town when he was supposed to be negoitating for the President. The President's budget was laughed out of town when it was presented. Up until this point he has shown his usual leadership skills in solving the problem. Threatening a veto makes him look like a petulant child. Even labor negotiations often drag on with interim agreements, giving both sides time to work things out. But the President has put his own political standing ahead of the good of the country. He has made a mistake on two counts, thinking the country won't notice and thinking that it will enhance his standing.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

So It Begins - Repealing Obamacare

The first repeal of Obamacare is on its way to the President's desk, and he will probably sign it. That's because the particular portion of the law was so odious that its repeal passed the Senate 87-12. I am referring, of course, to the requirement to submit some moronic IRS form for every business transaction over $600. This would have crippled businesses as they drowned in a sea of 1099s. The theory was that use of the form would have increased tax code compliance, so it was scored as reducing the budget deficit in favor of Obamacare.

But the real story is being missed in the media. The reason the repeal is so important is that it underscores the lie that Obamacare would actually reduce the national debt. It is akin to the so-called doctor fix, that threatened Medicare by massively reducing compensation to doctors. These gimmicks were used as pure propaganda to claim that the bill would reduce the deficit. Now that the doctor fix has been passed and the 1099 requirement is on its way to oblivion, a new scoring of Obamacare would definitely show that it massively increases the deficit.

The Answer is Obvious

The question is, "Which plan do you prefer?" Of course, it is not really a contest. The President's budget, submitted to the Congress last January was a fatuous exercise in futility and epitomized his total abandonment of any pretense to leadership.

Dean claims Paul Ryan for his generation as a Great American a member of a cohort destined to save the country. Hard to disagree.

Link to article to WSJ source of material here.

You Say That Like It's a Bad Thing

Full link here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Because This is Too Funny Not to Post

The Campaign for Liberty tweeted about this John Stewart video on Obama, transparency and whatever. Funny because it's true.

Applause for Mayor Sanders

I have been a harsh critic of Mayor Sanders at times. But I need to give credit where it is due, he worked with purveyors of competing reform plans to come up with a single ballot measure. This increases the odds that a measure will pass, because there will be a unified reform effort. Today's U-T has the news.

The new measure, to be announced Tuesday, combines elements from a proposal two weeks ago by Mayor Jerry Sanders and Councilman Kevin Faulconer with ideas from Councilman Carl DeMaio and business leaders.

Under the measure, if approved by voters, new police hires would be the only ones to receive the guaranteed payouts of a traditional pension while other new hires would contribute to a 401(k)-style plan and take on the risk of money invested.

Pensions for current workers would remain unchanged, although the measure proposes limits on pay that prevent future benefits from growing as quickly as they do now.

Predictably, the forces of leftism are gathering together to defeat any meaningful reform. The Voice of San Diego ran an article implying that a pay freeze in the plan is illegal. (My response? See you in court.) They also claim that there will be no short term savings. (I agree, but that's not the point, you have to get started.)

The city's public employee unions commented negatively as well.

Frank De Clercq, head of the city firefighters union, said the change would have long-term consequences for public safety as the city would struggle in future years to recruit and retain firefighters. He also questioned the wisdom of devaluing any worker who puts his or her life on the line.

“I don’t know how anyone, morally and ethically, would not consider the risk that firefighters take being absolutely similar to what police officers and lifeguards take,” De Clercq said. “We risk our lives on a daily basis. I’m disappointed to say the very least that they’ve chosen to go down this path.”

Actually, I read an article in Reason that being a police officer has been getting safer for 35 years, so I don't know why they aren't also included in the reform.

I believe this has a great chance of passing, but expect every dirty trick and court fights to keep it off the ballot. This effort is worthy of the support of the San Diego Tea Party.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Let The Demagoguery on the Left Begin

When I saw the WSJ Headline this morning, GOP Aim: Cut $4 Trillion, I thought, look out, this will bring out the vitriol from the left. When I read on, that the key to the plan was to remove Medicare as a single payer for the elderly, I knew this would hit a nerve.

First, the facts. Paul Ryan is going to release a plan that would move those currently under 55 into a "premium support" system rather than to Medicare as it is currently structured. This will shield the federal government from the skyrocketing costs of the program, but will end Medicare as we know it. Cue the howls, the Republicans are ending Medicare. True enough, but if a better and more affordable way to insure seniors can be found, what difference does it make. Frankly we can not afford the current system, given the trends.
Will seniors have to do a better job saving for and managing their own health care? Yes. Why is that a bad thing? Market competition, while not a panacea is certainly preferable to the current system that is rife with fraud and is slowing falling apart as doctors opt out and the queue gets longer for the ones that remain.

Over at DailyKos, the focus is on the fact that this ends Medicare, as if calling it a sacred cow will save it from the inexorable economics that are already killing it. Josh Marshall of TPM is quoted:
The Ryan plan is to get rid of Medicare and in place of it give seniors a voucher to buy health care insurance from private insurers. Now, what if you can't buy as much as insurance or as much care as you need? Well, start saving now or just too bad.
The Republican rebuttal to this tripe is that if the current system isn't dramatically changed, then seniors will have zero health care help from the government. It is a strong man argument, comparing a still functioning system of today against Ryan's proposal, when the actual comparison is against a bankrupt system that helps no one once it goes bust in the future.

E.J. Dionne, another reliably lefty writer, is also quoted in Kos from his WaPo article.
Will President Obama welcome the responsibility of engaging the country in this big argument, or will he shrink from it? Will his political advisers remain robotically obsessed with poll results about the 2012 election, or will they embrace Obama’s historic obligation — and opportunity — to win the most important struggle over the role of government since the New Deal?
He is asking the President to act irresponsibly, as if the party will never end, and risk his re-election on the hope that the public will buy into the shrill messaging of years past. But I think we are beyond that. The Tea Party has educated the public, they are ready to deal with this.

Exit questions. Is this a political winner for Republicans? Will Obama lead a spirited counter-offensive in defense of all things governmental?