Sunday, January 26, 2014

Government Gangsterism in San Diego

The news of indictments involving associates of Mexican businessman Susumo Azano makes for entertaining reading.  There is a trail of illegal campaign donations to various mayoral candidates funneled through a straw-donor and a social media guru.  The U-T is all over the story, with the best overall description of the case published in Sunday's paper.  I also want to give credit to Dave Maass, formerly of San Diego City Beat, who first broke the story of questionable campaign contributions by Azano in 2012.  The alleged motive for illegally funneling campaign contributions was so that Azano could slow down water front projects and gain a controlling interest in them after they ran into political trouble. From the U-T:
The prosecutor’s statement for the first time specifies a larger motive behind the financing scheme — creating California’s version of Miami’s tropical playground. 
While federal authorities have not identified the donor, court documents contain enough detail to indicate it is José Susumo Azano Matsura, a wealthy Mexican citizen who supplies surveillance equipment to the Mexican military and owns construction companies based in the state of Jalisco. 
The prosecutor said a candidate — who sources have identified as former Mayor Bob Filner — told the businessman that he didn’t have jurisdiction over the bayfront, but he may be able to help by holding up development of the Navy Broadway Complex so the businessman could gain control of the lease.
Further, one of Azano's associates, Ernesto Encinas, allegedly wanted to ensure that the new mayor installed a police chief to his liking in return for the contributions.
The motive of Encinas, who retired from the department in 2009 and now owns security consulting businesses, apparently was to install a new chief more amenable to issues surrounding alcohol licenses and entertainment venues to help his businesses.
Now these guilty parties are innocent until proven otherwise.  But the U.S. District Attorney would not have presented the indictments if their theory of the crime was not credible, and that is the real crime.  The rule of law is degenerating both nationally and locally when the success of business ventures is dependent on the good will of elected and appointed officials.  It opens the door for further corruption when we lack clear standards and processes that allow projects to go forward.  I wrote earlier about Filner's penchant for interfering with already approved projects.  The U-T chronicled a long list of its own.  Does anyone doubt that Filner lacked the power to disrupt the bayfront project?

Now there is news that Filner was quietly trying to remove Police Chief Landsdowne. It is not proved or known whether this was in response to Encinas' request.  But why should it matter.  The police view on licensing shouldn't be based on personal opinion or personalities, but on objective criteria such as arrests in the area for drunk and disorderly, or number of noise complaints.  The fact that a credible theory of the crime includes the belief that officials can get with arbitrary rulings to benefit themselves or their cronies is evidence of that we are on a road to tyranny.  Hayek knew what he was talking about.

What You Should Be Reading

Monday, January 20, 2014

Is Kashkari's Approach a Winner for Cal GOP? UPDATE - Announcement

I have a lot of respect for Steven Greenhut, who covers California politics very well, and founder of CalWatchdog.  Imagine my surprise when I saw an article in which he touted Neel Kashkari (pictured) as the best Republican candidate for Governor, running against Jerry Brown in 2014.
Enter 40-year-old Neel Kashkari, an Orange County financial executive of Indian descent who led the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) during the Bush administration. He has been canvassing the state, meeting with Republican leaders in Sacramento and building the foundation of a campaign. He has garnered a little insider-GOP buzz, although he has yet to announce his candidacy.
It’s odd that the Republicans’ most promising potential contender is a political novice who once voted for Barack Obama and is best known for heading a federal bank bailout program that generates much hostility among GOP voters. It’s either a sign of the party’s desperation or proof of its new-found openness to new messaging.
Something has to change for the Republican's fortunes to change in California, but running a candidate likely to antagonize your base doesn't seem the way to go. What does Kashkari have to say that does resonate with the base?  From the Mercury-News:
He  [Kashkari] claims that Brown hasn't adequately tackled California's biggest problems: the nation's highest poverty rate, the fifth-highest unemployment rate, and schools that rank toward the bottom.
"The narrative that 'California is back' is outrageous,'' he said. "The people on the street definitely know better."
He likened Brown to a teenager who shovels the state's mess under the bed to make the room look clean.
Making the connection between Democrat/leftist policies and greater unemployment is very important.  Those at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder make the mistake of voting Democrat, often because they think it will help them.  Of course, when jobs, especially entry-level jobs, dry up, those at the bottom are hurt worst.  Democrats believe that promised generous government benefits promised will turn these voters into reliably Democratic voters. Pointing out the flawed logic is important to breaking the left's grip on this state's politics. From the same article:
HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Kashkari calls it “the biggest example we have of misplaced priorities in our state.” He calls Brown’s plan to divert carbon emission cap-and-trade revenue to the project a “gimmick,” nothing more than a Band-Aid on an imaginary financial plan.
Some of the articles I have read on Kashkari emphasize the fact that no Republican is likely to unseat Brown for Governor, and go on to say that what matters is the primary message from the top of the GOP ticket.  Emphasizing economic issues and being a social moderate make Kashkari attractive to Greenhut:
On the surface, Kashkari seems right out of the moderate camp reminiscent of failed multimillionaire candidate Meg Whitman. He is advised by former aides to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mitt Romney. A former Goldman Sachs vice president in San Francisco, he favors abortion rights and gay marriage.
But, after a 45-minute interview with him on Monday, I thought he had something lacking in many California GOP moderate candidates: passion. Most interestingly, Kashkari is packaging Republican issues in a way that’s designed to appeal to people who wouldn’t normally vote for Republicans.
I am not ready to endorse Kashkari, especially given his involvement in TARP and his vote for Obama, but his approach to California politics is worth considering.


It's official.

What You Should Be Reading

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Influencing the Culture - Economics of Divorce

Fellow SLOB blogger, KTCat, rightfully points out the overwhelming number of correlations between cultural dysfunction and economic blight both in the U.S. and overseas.  He asks tough questions and gets on my case over drug legalization because I believe he sees it as another step backward in maintaining a culture that caused our country to become a great and wealthy country.  The culture is at least partially the product of the incentives that the populace operates under.  For example, we subsidize single parenthood through AFDC and low and behold we get more of it.  We should ask what incentives could be changed to start to change the culture.  I have also been surveying some blogs that focus on culture for some of the answers.  I offer some ideas for your consideration.

Divorce.  The U.S. Census Bureau reports that children of divorce are more likely to live in poverty.  What causes divorce?  I don't know all of the reasons, but we know that divorce was less likely in times past.  Maybe the question we should be asking is what prevents divorce.  It turns out that the extent to which courts enforce alimony and child support increases the probability that a woman will seek divorce.  H/T Dalrock.  Dalrock points out that the authors of the study think this is a good thing, because it allows mothers to have more leverage over fathers in marriage.  Why this is good is not explicitly stated.  Any discussion of reducing the rate of divorce has to start with reducing the incentives, including alimony which typically goes to the woman, because woman tend to marry up.

Single Parenthood.  The divorce rules will also provide an incentive for men to avoid marriage as well.  The greater the potential financial penalty in a potential divorce, the less willing will men be to enter into marriage.  Given the average woman's desire to have offspring and the uncertainties of birth control and the lack of opprobrium surrounding extramarital sex, there are powerful incentives for men to avoid marriage.  Changing the ground rules in family court might help change these incentives.  Perhaps the old rules requiring a cause of action for divorce would apply if one of the aggrieved parties desired alimony or child support.  Flimsy reasons for divorce provided by supposedly Christian mommy-bloggers might not look so attractive if no child support or alimony were forthcoming.

Penalizing Marriage. The ACA encourages divorce because of the way that subsidies are tied to the poverty level.
Any married couple that earns more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level—that is $62,040—for a family of two earns too much for subsidies under Obamacare. "If you're over 400 percent of poverty, you're never eligible for premium" support, explains Gary Claxton, director of the Health Care Marketplace Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
But if that same couple lived together unmarried, they could earn up to $45,960 each—$91,920 total—and still be eligible for subsidies through the exchanges in New York state, where insurance is comparatively expensive and the state exchange was set up in such a way as to not provide lower rates for younger people. 
The tax code overall is mixed regarding penalties and bonuses for getting married.  Continuing to ensure that there is no penalty for marriage is helpful.

These are a few ideas that come to mind.  I am not so naive as to believe that economic incentives by themselves will change the culture, and surely not in the short term.  But I notice that people respond to incentives in the long run.

What You Should Be Reading

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mexican Vigilantes, the War on Drugs, and Gun Rights

Armed vigilantes are battling drug cartels in Mexico.  Business Insider has a great set of photos about recent events.

The WSJ also reported on the vigilantes successful take over of Neuva Italia, a small town in Michoacan.
Hundreds of armed vigilantes stormed a town in rural Mexico on Sunday morning, forcing out most of its local government, witnesses said, and declaring they were close to ousting a powerful drug cartel that has menaced the region.
The takeover occurred in the southern Mexican town of Nueva Italia and was led by one of the area's so-called self-defense groups: armed squads of vigilantes that are making fast gains in some areas against organized-crime groups that Mexico's security forces have failed to defeat.
The LA Times is reporting that the vigilantes are holding 11 local police in custody, whom they blame for collusion with the Knights Templar drug cartel.

This has implications for U.S. policy.

First, our brain dead drug policies are partly to blame for the situation.  Legalization of marijuana and other drugs would vastly reduce the money available to the cartels to fund weapons buys.  I don't approve of abusing drugs, I just know that preventing drug abuse through police enforcement is a cure worse than the disease.

Second, the government is ineffective in Mexico at maintaining the law.  It must take high levels of fear and frustration to get ordinary people to turn to vigilantism to defeat criminal gangs.  This is one reason why citizens have an inherent right to possess firearms; you ultimately can't fully rely on government to protect you.  Governments the world over have failed to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals, no amount of wishful thinking will change that.

Third, the anarchy in Mexico doesn't bode well for our ability to maintain economic ties, which depend on a reasonable ability to cross the border with goods and services.  The worse the anarchy, the tougher we will end up making the border crossing.

What You Should Be Reading

Friday, January 10, 2014

Weekend Music Chill

Holidays are over, we are back at work.  Time to mellow out with The Wallflowers.

One Headlight.

Three Marlenas.

I especially like the pictures of Marlene Dietrich in the second video.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What You Should Be Reading

Dalrock on Feminism. I stumbled across a blog I really like, linked at right, Dalrock.  He blogs from a Christian male perspective and takes on even the modern church when needed.  I find his perspective refreshing.  I love the title of a recent post, Feminist are ugly.  (Although he could have titled it, Why feminists are ugly.) Essentially, feminists deny that women should show love through service to their families.  This withholding of love hurts the women it is supposed to help and turns them ugly.
The real reason feminists are ugly has nothing to do with their physical appearance. [But I notice that they are often physically ugly as well.]  Feminists are ugly because they are miserly with love.
. . .
Cooking is an act of love, an act of service to others.  It is an opportunity to care for others in a very fundamental way, to literally nourish them through the work of your own hands.  This is precisely what troubles the modern woman so much about cooking (or cleaning, or changing diapers).  Serving others in the mind of a feminist is an indignity, so cooking, cleaning, or any other act of service and love is the object of revulsion.
Spanish feminists urge banning of book urging wives to be submissive.

Author of said book, 'Cásate y sé sumisa, Constanza Miriano.

Dean on High Speed Choo-Choos. It seems that no court ruling, no amount of illegality can stop the spending when you are a beloved leftist program.
Oh, California high-speed choo-choos, we just can’t quit you as we are hopelessly addicted to wasteful and completely counterproductive public works projects. You keep this up and you just might supplant 2009’s $780 billion American Recovery Act aka Porkulus as #1 in our hearts.
The level of corruption, deception, mendacity and willful suspension of disbelief contained herein makes this probably a done deal.
The Popping of the College Bubble.  One of the least reported, but most important trends is that college is a bad deal for most students.  The college bubble has been far worse than the housing bubble.  The latest from the WSJ:
A college degree's declining value is even more pronounced for younger Americans. According to data collected by the College Board, for those in the 25-34 age range the differential between college graduate and high school graduate earnings fell 11% for men, to $18,303 from $20,623. The decline for women was an extraordinary 19.7%, to $14,868 from $18,525.
Meanwhile, the cost of college has increased 16.5% in 2012 dollars since 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' higher education tuition-fee index.
. . .
We now have more college graduates working in retail than soldiers in the U.S. Army, and more janitors with bachelor's degrees than chemists.
What You Should Not Be Reading.

  • Anything involving Dennis Rodman.
  • Robert Gates' memoirs, because if he was so butt-hurt about Obama's mismanagement, he should have quit a lot sooner.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Rescind Egregiously Stupid Tax - San Diego Linkage Fee

Rare is the day when we have the ability to directly rebuke the stupidity of our city council; but that day would be today.  Two months ago I pointed out the uselessness of linkage fees in alleviating affordable housing problems, even if that is the stated purpose of the tax.  Felipe Monroig of the SD County Taxpayer's Association showed that most of the money actually goes to helping the homeless through "transitional" housing assistance,  a large disconnect from helping the "working poor" finding affordable housing.  Meanwhile, the fee has a negative impact on development by raising "linkage fee" taxes paid by developers by over 350%.

But there is still time to kill this tax, former Mayor, Jerry Sanders, writes in the Pomerado News:
We have less than a month — until January 23 — to collect 34,000 valid signatures of voters living in the City of San Diego. Once we do, the council will have to rescind its ill-conceived decision or put the issue before voters in June 2014.
. . .
This jobs-killer also is a zombie tax because it will continue to automatically increase year after year without any review or approval by elected officials.
His article links to the Stop the Jobs Tax web site, which gives information on how to sign the petition and of course, how to donate.  They also debunk some myths about the tax.
Despite numerous requests for information to verify this claim [that the money is leverage with federal and state dollars], the proponents of the jobs tax have provided little statistical data to support this claim. Additionally, the annual revenue estimated from this tax is too small to make much of a difference. In fiscal year 2013, for example, less than $1 million was raised.  Even the Housing Commission acknowledged that at projected peak revenue, the tax would only provide 100 homes a year noting that over 45,000 people are waiting for subsidized housing.
. . .
According to many economists, San Diego is already at a competitive disadvantage, and this tax increase makes it even more difficult to create and attract new jobs. In fact, San Diego is the only city in the entire region that charges this kind of tax for subsidized affordable housing.  Most competitor regions across the nation do not charge this tax.
This is NOT what the linkage fees will be used for. 
(Used by permission of Mjbeal  [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

But the bottom line is that restrictive land use policies decrease the availability of housing which in turns drives up prices and makes it less affordable.  Nothing short of allowing more housing development is going to make a dent in the affordable housing problem in San Diego.  It's a good day when we can directly challenge the collective ridiculousness of a leftist shakedown.

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year's Revolutions

I like the AT&T commercials with the little kids being questioned by the moderator.  One of the more recent offerings involves the concept of a New Year's Revolution:

That kid to the left looks like he might want to pick a different revolution, but it got me thinking that sometimes the accumulation of small change is sufficient to defeat the forces of tyranny.  Just like eating too many jelly beans over time will pack on the pounds.

The purpose of this blog is to educate and advocate for freedom.  The forces of tyranny have been very busy during the Obama administration, so I am convinced of the need to make the case for freedom.  Many of my friends and fellow SLOBs paint a grim picture of lawless tyranny out of control, with .  While I don't deny the myriad and putrid ways in which this administration and the previous one have undermined the rule of law in this country, the march of technology and the impulse to freedom keep eroding the seeming victories of would-be oppressors.  Some examples:
  • Freedom of speech continues to come under assault, especially on college campuses, as our good friends at Legal Insurrection keep pointing out.  But we have never had such a great opportunity to actually make the voices of ordinary citizens and students heard as in this era.  Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media allow the citizenry to curb the impulse to suppress speech that is in the hearts of the leftists.  Yes, attempts at suppressing speech continue unabated, see Handle's Haus for an impressive compendium of recent efforts. However, the very fact that he can publish the list and link to so many rebuttals is proof that technology is keeping freedom of speech alive.
  • While Bernanke and now Yellen have debased the currency and taken money out of your pockets and into the hands of bankers, alternatives to protect your hard earned cash exist.  Bitcoin is an example of smart people realizing that the stated inflationary policy of all government issued currency czars erodes the value of your wealth.  For a useful explanation of Bitcoin and some of its limitations, see The Economist. While Bitcoin may have fatal flaws, eventually some cryptographic based currency will give fiat a "run for its money."  In the meantime, gold has held its value like it has for millennia, see Matthew 2:1-9.  A free market in reputable gold coins exists to offset the dangers of paper money.
  • The more the oppressors succeed, the more they fail.  The ACA is a prime example of course.  I have read of doctors who don't take insurance any more and wondered if this is a trend?  By accident, I met a pediatrician on a bus trip who doesn't take insurance and said that her practice isn't suffering one bit, as she has lower overhead.  As the ACA destroys health insurance, the number of doctors who opt out of the system will cause it to collapse.  We have to be ready with our free market alternatives when that happens.
Be of good cheer, the forces of tyranny are being outwitted world-wide and will not prevail.  Sometimes the revolution comes in the form of small jelly beans that have the accumulated affect of weighing down the system.

What You Should Be Reading
  • KT continues to show the myriad ways that the culture contributes to poverty, through single mommy families, in yesterday's post.
  • Dean gives out the Walter Duranty Putridity in Journalism Award. Cato agrees with him on the winner, who is?  Read the link to find out.  Hint: He claims to be "conservative."