Dale F. Ogden's Blog on
|Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! Patrick Henry, 23 March 1775|
|3/31/2008: The term "left-wing
intellectual" is clearly an oxymoron. I know of no left-wing intellectuals, only
brain-dead liberals...which brings to mind another bastardization of our language. A
"liberal" used to mean someone who believed in self-government,i.e., individual,
not group, rights and a mininalist state, like some of our founding fathers. Today liberal
means socialist and a new word, "libertarian" (some still use the term
"classical liberal") had to be invented for what used to be called a liberal.
3/31/2008: The Tall Tale of Tuzla: Hillary Clinton's Bosnian misadventure should disqualify her from the presidency, but the airport landing is the least of it. by Christopher Hitchens
The punishment visited on Sen. Hillary Clinton for her flagrant, hysterical, repetitive, pathological lying about her visit to Bosnia should be much heavier than it has yet been and should be exacted for much more than just the lying itself. There are two kinds of deliberate and premeditated deceit, commonly known as suggestio falsi and suppressio veri. (Neither of them is covered by the additionally lying claim of having "misspoken.") The first involves what seems to be most obvious in the present case: the putting forward of a bogus or misleading account of events. But the second, and often the more serious, means that the liar in question has also attempted to bury or to obscure something that actually is true. Let us examine how Sen. Clinton has managed to commit both of these offenses to veracity and decency and how in doing so she has rivaled, if not indeed surpassed, the disbarred and perjured hack who is her husband and tutor....
In the end, and over her strenuous objections, the United States and its allies did rescue our honor and did put an end to Slobodan Milosevic and his state-supported terrorism. Yet instead of preserving a polite reticence about this, or at least an appropriate reserve, Sen. Clinton now has the obscene urge to claim the raped and slaughtered people of Bosnia as if their misery and death were somehow to be credited to her account! Words begin to fail one at this point. Is there no such thing as shame? Is there no decency at last? Let the memory of the truth, and the exposure of the lie, at least make us resolve that no Clinton ever sees the inside of the White House again.
3/31/2008: The Daily Reckoning is the single best investment newsletter there is. They merely call it like they see it (they are contrarians) and are entertaining as well. I suspect that reading the various free newsletters available from The Daily Reckoning has helped me produce positive (sometimes very positive) investment returns every year, even in down markets, over the last ten years, merely by confirming, as I already believe, that all (that means 100%) of government intervention, tax policy, fiscal policy, the Federal Reserve, etc., in the economy is harmful and the way to "bet" is that the government, run by people whom you wouldn't hire to cut your grass or wash your car, ultimately will do the wrong thing. Read todays, The Daily Reckoning.
3/29/2008: Humorous Video on YouTube: Job Market 2009
3/28/2008: The Whitewater Proxy
"The Audacity of Hoax," yelled a blog posting in the liberal Nation magazine, which innocently asked: "What else is she fibbing about?"
Hillary Clinton's been all the news this week, after she "misspoke" about Whitewater, Travelgate, missing files, suspicious pardons, Johnny Chung and cattle futures. Oh wait, after she "misspoke" about Bosnia. Oh wait, same thing.
That's one way to make sense of the unrelenting, unforgiving, 24/7 news coverage of Mrs. Clinton's fictional telling of Bosnian sniper fire and the subsequent debunking of her every word. In a nasty primary battle that has already featured racial slurs and Chicago slum lords, missing tax documents, and a "monster," you might expect this slip-up to have been yet another blip in the media cycle...
3/28/2008: Getting Mrs. Clinton by Peggy Noonan
I think we've reached a signal point in the campaign. This is the point where, with Hillary Clinton, either you get it or you don't. There's no dodging now. You either understand the problem with her candidacy, or you don't. You either understand who she is, or not. And if you don't, after 16 years of watching Clintonian dramas, you probably never will.
That's what the Bosnia story was about. Her fictions about dodging bullets on the tarmac -- and we have to hope they were lies, because if they weren't, if she thought what she was saying was true, we are in worse trouble than we thought -- either confirmed what you already knew (she lies as a matter of strategy, or, as William Safire said in 1996, by nature) or revealed in an unforgettable way (videotape! Smiling girl in pigtails offering flowers!) what you feared (that she lies more than is humanly usual, even politically usual)...
What struck me as the best commentary on the Bosnia story came from a poster called GI Joe who wrote in to a news blog: "Actually Mrs. Clinton was too modest. I was there and saw it all. When Mrs. Clinton got off the plane the tarmac came under mortar and machine gun fire. I was blown off my tank and exposed to enemy fire. Mrs. Clinton without regard to her own safety dragged me to safety, jumped on the tank and opened fire, killing 50 of the enemy." Soon a suicide bomber appeared, but Mrs. Clinton stopped the guards from opening fire. "She talked to the man in his own language and got him [to] surrender. She found that he had suffered terribly as a result of policies of George Bush. She defused the bomb vest herself." Then she turned to his wounds. "She stopped my bleeding and saved my life. Chelsea donated the blood."...
3/28/2008: The Ten Worst Union-Protected Teachers
Thanks to outmoded, union-defended employment laws and policies, it can be impossible to fire a bad union-protected teacher. Thats why the Center for Union Facts is going to pay the ten worst union-protected teachers in America $10,000 apiece to get out of the classroom - for good. Dedicated, professional teachers have nothing to fear from this contest (in fact, its teachers' unions who oppose paying better teachers more money); were here to showcase the worst of the worst. Read some the rest and read some of the submissions.
3/28/2008: There's just one appropriate response to Hillary and her campaign spokespersons about her trip to Bosnia and "...landing under sniper fire." Bullshit! No one would forget landing under sniper fire unless it happened all the time...and it certainly did not and probably never did. She is a pathological liar, and while most politicians lie frequently, she is far worse than the vast majority...and damn stupid about it, too.
"Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign said she 'misspoke' last week when saying she had landed under sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia as first lady in March 1996. The Obama campaign suggested it was a deliberate exaggeration by Clinton, who often cites the goodwill trip with her daughter and several celebrities as an example of her foreign policy experience.
"During a speech last Monday on Iraq, she said of the Bosnia trip: 'I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.' According to an Associated Press story at the time, Clinton was placed under no extraordinary risks on that trip. And one of her companions, comedian Sinbad, told The Washington Post he has no recollection either of the threat or reality of gunfire."
3/28/2008: The Rick Stanley Free Speech/Gun Rights Case Before
US Supreme Court
An important free speech case will be considered before the United States Supreme Court this Friday, March 28. The Court will decide whether to grant a writ of certiorari in the case of Rick Stanley v. State of Colorado.
Rick Stanley is in prison for six years for threatening to have two Colorado judges arrested for ignoring his Constitutional right to bear arms. He appears to be the only U.S. citizen ever to be imprisoned solely for threatening to issue an arrest warrant.
Here are several details about the case.
Mr. Stanley was under surveillance by the federal government's domestic anti-terrorism task force when he was protesting against an Ashton, Colorado gun ordinance in 2002, while campaigning for the United States Senate. He was arrested for illegal gun possession. Rick Stanley was convicted at trial, and this conviction was affirmed on appeal. Meanwhile, the Colorado legislature passed a law striking down city ordinances like the one in Ashton.
Mr. Stanley, at that time representing himself, filed a notice with the trial and appellate courts in which he claimed that his constitutional right to bear arms had been violated, and invoked the Colorado legislature's recent law striking down the ordinance. The notice demanded that his conviction be reversed and his gun returned, or else an arrest warrant for treason would be issued against the judges for violating his constitutional rights under the United States and Colorado Constitutions, and under the judges' oaths of office.
He was arrested and subsequently convicted of two counts of attempting to influence a public official by threat, and is currently serving a six-year prison sentence in Colorado (two maximum consecutive three-year terms). Mr. Stanley has no previous record, and is an honorably-discharged veteran and successful Denver businessman. Now, as a convicted felon for pure political speech, he has lost his rights to vote or own a gun.
Attorney John Klar, who is representing Stanley before the United States Supreme Court, asserts that Mr. Stanley's notice to the courts was clearly intended as a political protest to publicize events in Colorado. Klar is thoroughly convinced that his client's First Amendment right to free speech was violated to silence his outspoken protests against government restrictions of gun ownership. "Should Americans who charge President Bush with treason for going into Iraq be imprisoned for threatening to kill the President?" Klar asks. "This is essentially what was done to Rick Stanley, and what can be done to any American if the Supreme Court declines to hear this case."
The D.C. v. Heller case is being closely watched by Second Amendment advocates: should the Supreme Court on Friday decline to grant Rick Stanley's writ, those who wish to publicly proclaim their right to bear arms had better not do so to judges or politicians, or they may lose their freedom, like Rick Stanley did.. as well as their votes, their voices and their guns.
This case has garnered national attention because it concerns the rights of American citizens to freely express their opinions about gun ownership - but also about war, abortion, religious views, etc.
Overkill By ALLAN H. MELTZER March 27, 2008; Page A14
Their diagnosis is wrong. Mistaken regulation contributed greatly to the current problems in financial markets. Take the 1970s Basel agreement between developed country governments, which followed bank failures in Germany and the U.S. The idea was to have equivalent risk standards in all the principal lending countries. The agreement required banks to increase their capital if they increased mortgage loans and other risky assets.
The banks responded, however, by developing instruments that avoided higher reserves by moving risky loans off their balance sheets. Risk moved to all corners of the global marketplace. We find out who holds the risky assets when they announce they are about to fail.
The response to the Basel regulation is not unique. The first principle of regulation is: Lawyers and politicians write rules; and markets develop ways to circumvent these rules without violating them.
The financial markets offer many examples. In the 1970s, Federal Reserve Regulation Q restricted the interest rate that banks and thrifts could pay depositors. In response, the market developed money market funds that circumvented the regulation. In the late 1980s, the government set up the Resolution Trust Corporation to buy the mortgages held by failed thrifts. The result: Most of the thrift industry was eliminated and the taxpayers ended up taking a loss of about $150 billion in the early '90s.
The perennial argument of regulators is: "If only I had more power. . ." Not so. Regulators did not see the chicanery at Enron. Nor did they prevent the dot-com bubble or the Latin American debt problems in the 1980s. A main reason is "capture" -- when the interests of the regulated dominate the interests of the public.
Capture is not the only reason regulation often fails. Regulators and most politicians are good at developing rules and restrictions, but poor at thinking about the incentives that the market will face. If the incentives are strong, the market circumvents the regulation. The Basel regulation encouraged a system that is far less transparent than the system it replaced.
Anyone can see where increased regulation leads. The Bush administration abandoned its commitment to rein in the government sponsored enterprises. Instead it increased lending by Fannie and Freddie. This moves risky loans from the financial market to the taxpayers. The Federal Reserve agreed to take $30 billion of risky assets. If defaults occur, the Fed will reduce its annual transfer to the Treasury.
Mr. Frank and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd are planning more schemes to move the risk to the taxpayers from those who made bad decisions, such as buying mortgages that are now in default. As a result, ordinary citizens will ask themselves: Why should I pay my mortgage if my neighbors can get theirs reduced? These proposals have stark long-term consequences. The financial system cannot survive if the bankers make the profits and the taxpayers take the losses.
The government has a responsibility to prevent systemic crises and financial collapse. Long ago that job was given to the Federal Reserve. It serves as lender of last resort to the market. Today, the Fed should not rescue individual firms, but it must keep the payments system from failing. To carry out that responsibility, the Fed has auctioned reserves and exchanged marketable Treasury bills for illiquid mortgages, and it has succeeded so far. Now, it must stop responding to calls for lower interest rates.
If the government underwrites all the risks, call it socialism. If it underwrites only the failures, call it foolishness.
Mr. Meltzer is a professor of political economy at Carnegie Mellon University, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of "A History of the Federal Reserve" (University of Chicago Press).
3/27/2008: The Other Spitzer Scandal March 27, 2008; Page A14
Cultural sophisticates lament that Eliot Spitzer was driven from office this month by a mere sex scandal. Yet now that he's gone, we're learning that he also had far more to do than he's admitted with a scheme to smear Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.
Prior to the revelations about the Democratic ex-Governor's assignations with prostitutes, it appeared that Mr. Spitzer had stonewalled everyone on the scandal known in New York as "Troopergate." Albany County District Attorney David Soares exonerated Mr. Spitzer last year after an initial investigation of the scheme to get state troopers to track his political opponent. But inconsistencies in the testimony of long-time Spitzer enforcer Darren Dopp sent Mr. Soares back to revisit his earlier whitewash.
And now that Governor Steamroller is Private Citizen Spitzer, leaks from the DA's office are making clear that Mr. Spitzer was deeply involved in the smear campaign, even repeatedly calling Mr. Dopp at home to ensure that the leaks would produce a damaging story. Mr. Soares got Mr. Dopp to talk by offering him immunity from prosecution. But there's no question that every public employee in the state -- from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to the Public Integrity Commission to Mr. Soares himself -- was, at a minimum, treating the question of Mr. Spitzer's involvement with kid gloves as long as he remained Governor.
That the truth is only coming out now underscores how corrupt the political culture of Albany is, and how reluctant the political class was to question the malfeasance of a powerful and vindictive Governor. Now that he's out, we may finally learn the truth. But New York voters can consider themselves fortunate that a sex scandal ended Mr. Spitzer's career before his sense of righteous entitlement did far more harm to their state.
3/25/2008: Hillary Says She Misspoke About Wrestling Bin Laden by Andy Borowitz
Was Greeting Students in Orlando, Clinton Admits
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who has been accused in recent days of padding her foreign policy resume while First Lady, admitted today that she may have exaggerated about an encounter she said she had with al-Qaeda terror mastermind Osama bin Laden in 1998. In an appearance on NBCs Meet the Press on Sunday, Sen. Clinton told host Tim Russert, I wrestled bin Laden in his cave in 1998 and had him pinned to the ground before the bastard got away.
But a review of Sen. Clintons official White House schedule from that period revealed that the then-First Lady was nowhere in the vicinity of Mr. bin Laden on that day, but was instead greeting a group of honor roll students at Disney World in Orlando. I may have misspoke about what went on that particular day, Sen. Clinton said today. But it was a very busy time for me, what with having that knife-fight with Kim Jong-Il and all. Reporters peppered Sen. Clintons new press spokesman with questions about another purported exploit of hers, in which the senator claimed that she and a ragtag team of blue-collar drillers deflected an asteroid on a collision course with the Earth.
Everything Hillary Clinton says is true, said her new spokesman, the author James Frey.
3/24/2008: "Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton made healing the housing market the core element of the stimulus plan she announced today. She proposed that President Bush appoint a summit of economic experts, including the likes of Alan Greenspan, to determine if the government should buy up homes."
Obviously, no idea is too stupid for this Commie Pinko. There is nothing that will destroy a neighborhood faster than the governmentr buying up the houses. Back in the 1980's, when oil prices dropped, Alaska tried to do the same thing...IT WAS A DISMAL FAILURE. Prices just kept falling and falling and, eventually, the State took a bath.
3/24/2008: Unions Steal More Money; 850 Convictions
Since 2001, the Bush administration has convicted more than 850 union officials of corruption, embezzlement, and other crimes. Think about this--if 850 oil company executives, or 850 police officers, or 850 cab drivers were convicted in seven years, that would be a front page story. Yet when 850 union criminals are found and convicted, it is at most a back page story. At the same time, government grants and protects a monopoly on the jobs controlled by unions. The L. A. Ports just mandated that 16,800 truckers either join a union (the infamous Teamsters) or lose their jobs. In a free nation, that would not happen. The crimes and the corruption of unions are widespread and ubiquitous, the rule not the exception. If you want to be a teacher or a police officer, you will join the union or lose your job. It is time to end the forced membership in notorious organizations.
It's never been more important for advocates of individual liberty to emphasize that what is failing today is not the free market but the state. To claim otherwise, as so many people do, is to ignore generations of pervasive and deep-seated government interference with the marketplace. A brief article can't possibly catalogue all the ways that politicians and regulators have gummed up the works, created massive distortions, and brought us to our current ominous condition. But it's worthwhile to hit some highlights. More . . .
3/24/2008: How Government [doesn't] work[s] and why there are so many stupid rules:
3/23/2008: Happy Easter...Bar Stool Economics
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20."Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.And so:
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got $10!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I did!" "That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!" "Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists, and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, or attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.
3/21/2008: THE FOUNDERS' BRILLIANCE
"(T)he Constitution separates the power of the state into those three branches which are for most of us (I include myself) the only thing we remember from 12 years of schooling.
"The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.
"Rather brilliant. For, in the abstract, we may envision an Olympian perfection of perfect beings in Washington doing the business of their employers, the people, but any of us who has ever been at a zoning meeting with our property at stake is aware of the urge to cut through all the pernicious bullsh*t and go straight to firearms."
- Playwright David Mamet in "Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal," Village Voice, 3/11/08
...Only, she won't ever give that speech, will she? Because as much as Hillary Clinton the wife and the woman and the mom no doubt hates it, Hillary Clinton the candidate has largely benefited from her husband's extracurricular activities. That's becauseand this is the tragic partAmerica seems to like her best when she's being victimizedby Bill or Rick Lazio or the media. In that sense, her husband is a useful prop who reminds us of the extent of her suffering.
She won't give that speech because the whole narrative of her candidacyand more broadly, her lifeis as rooted in grievance as Obama's is in getting past grievance.
Her biggest supporters are the women who see themselves in her and who feel that she is/they are owed this; after all she has/they have endured. But she won't give that speech because those women don't have as much in common with her as they think. Sure, her husband's behavior has humiliated her. But she has also helped him humiliate the women he's been involved with.
She won't give that speech because she has been on the wrong side of gender bias. OK, there is no right side, but she consistently relates to and protects and stands with the oppressors in the gender wars, not the victims. It isn't only that she stayed with Bill Clinton, but that she invariably sees him as the victim, preyed upon by a series of female aggressors.
According to Carl Bernstein's A Woman in Charge, as her husband prepared to run for president, she pushed to get sworn statements from women he'd been rumored to have been involved with, statements in which they were supposed to say they'd had no relationship with him. She even interviewed one of these women herself, at her law firm. She also led efforts to undermine Gennifer Flowers, whom she referred to as "trailer trash."
In an interview she gave after the Monica Lewinsky affair became public, Hillary spoke about how horribly her husband had suffered in his childhood as the result of being torn between the first two women in his lifehis mother and grandmother. (Note: Again, in this scenario it's the women who are victimizing the poor little guy.)
3/21/2008: We don't let them have ideas. Why would we let them have guns? (Joseph Stalin)
3/21/2008: Eliot Spitzer as Client Number Nine
Since the 1970s, the Democrats and Republicans have been leaking market share like a Chevy Nova leaking oil. In 1970, the Harris Poll asked: "Regardless of how you may vote, what do you usually consider yourself -- a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or some other party?" Fully 49% of respondents chose Democrat, and 31% called themselves Republicans. In 2006, the latest year for which data are available, those figures were 36% for Democrats and 27% for Republicans. With that gap closing, it's not surprising that presidential elections have become battles over voters who identify with neither party.
Libertarians, for instance. As David Boaz of the Cato Institute and David Kirby of America's Future Foundation note in a study of public opinion polls, roughly 15% of the electorate can be considered libertarian. Such folks are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. They like gays and guns, low taxes and free speech. They are pro-globalization and antiwar. They are at the center of American politics. Win them over and you'll win every national election for the next several decades. Here are some smart -- and popular -- policies that will appeal not only to libertarians but to other centrist voters fed up with budget-busting compassionate conservatives and nanny-state buttinsky liberals.
* Let patients smoke dope. In the mid-1990s, a number of states, including bellwether California, passed ballot initiatives and legislation allowing use of medical marijuana. The federal response, first under Bill Clinton, later under George W. Bush: Send armed feds to raid dispensaries that are legal under state law and harass glaucoma patients with zero criminal records. The first party to denounce this buzz kill can expect a 72% approval rating from Americans who favored medical pot in an AARP poll.
* Ban the use of eminent domain for private gain. A vile 2005 Supreme Court decision, Kelo vs. City of New London, touched off a grass-roots rebellion, with dozens of states and municipalities passing laws to protect against eminent domain abuse. Polls consistently show that up to 90% of Americans are appalled at the idea of officials pushing homeowners off their property to aid big developers.
* Legalize online gambling. At least since the mid-1970s, betting has been something Americans love to do. A 2006 poll found that 78% of Americans believe the government should not "restrict what adults do on the Internet in the privacy of their own homes." Yet the feds are waging an unwinnable war on online gambling -- even incurring a World Trade Organization sanction for jailing the head of a legal, Britain-based operation when he changed planes in Dallas.
* Make the Internet tax moratorium permanent. Speaking of online freedom, the Internet Tax Fairness Act of 1998 banned state and local governments from levying sales and access taxes in cyberspace. That was back in the days before the Net economy -- and telecommuting and various other adjunct activities -- had become a mass phenomenon. Every few years, the moratorium comes up for renewal. The party of the future -- even the party of today -- will be the first one to make the ban permanent.
* Grant amnesty -- er, citizenship -- to illegal immigrants. Neither Democrats' fears that unskilled arrivals drive down union wages nor GOP concerns about assimilation are borne out by facts. Most new arrivals go to places with hot economies, and Spanish-speaking households go English-only at the same pace as previous waves of Jewish, Italian and Polish immigrants. Besides, a 2007 USA Today/Gallup Poll found that 59% of Americans believe that illegals should be allowed to become citizens if they meet minimal requirements.
* Bring the troops home, already. For the last year, about two-thirds of Americans have opposed the war in Iraq. Even the modest success of the surge -- a tactical issue, not a strategic one -- hasn't diverted attention from the fact that this was an elective, undeclared war that leaders in both parties enthusiastically endorsed.
* Decouple health insurance from employment. At a time when every business trend is hurtling toward flexible working conditions, constant job-shopping and project-based assemblages of freelancing humans, both parties ař?¤÷@ re doubling down on an employer-based healthcare system. We retain an expensive, regulation-choked system that assumes company-town-style job security from cradle to grave.
Give consumers more control over their health coverage, health providers more leeway to provide flexible products and employers the option -- not the duty -- to offer coverage as a perk, and you'll be acknowledging that we indeed live in the 21st century. Last one through the door gets stuck with the $100 co-pay.
Nick Gillespie is editor of reason.tv and Reason Online. Matt Welch is editor in chief of Reason magazine. This is adapted from an article in the April issue of Politics.
Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times
3/21/2008: The Felony Bar
In an earlier day, Melvyn Weiss would have called it a "scandal" that revealed something deeply corrupt about an entire industry. But yesterday the 72-year-old godfather of the "strike suit" bar was himself the latest tort lawyer to cop a felony plea that could land him 33 months in prison and $10 million in penalties.
Weiss's law firm, Milberg Weiss, promptly renamed itself plain old Milberg and issued a statement expressing shock and dismay that Weiss's original claims of innocence weren't credible after all. The firm itself is still under indictment, while Weiss joins Steven Schulman, David Bershad and Bill Lerach in the pantheon of former Milberg partners who have admitted wrongdoing in the kickback case. At this rate, they may need their own prison wing.
Weiss himself expressed "regret" for his actions and apologized to "all those who have been affected," although he seemed to have in mind mostly his former colleagues at the firm. There are of course others "affected" by the firm's scheme to gin up shareholder class-action suits via kickbacks to professional plaintiffs -- the companies that Weiss sued, often for nothing more than a declining share price. Perhaps some shareholder should sue Weiss and his firm on behalf of all the losers from their fraudulent class-action wealth-redistribution scheme.
Meanwhile, the silence from the usual corporate scolds is telling. In the wake of the felony admissions of Weiss and Lerach and last week's bribery plea by Dickie Scruggs, where are the cries in Congress to crack down on these wealthy wrongdoers who abused their positions of legal trust? Weiss's corner of the tort bar has enriched itself for decades on the backs of shareholders who took home a pittance while the lawyers became megamillionaires.
This might be the biggest pay disparity in the country -- that between class members and the lawyers who purportedly represent them. But you won't hear that from Democrats who bray about executive pay and the "little guy." The tort lawyers have seen to that by sharing a percentage of their riches, almost like a service fee, with the politicians who prevent any meaningful legal reform.
3/20/2008: BMW Diesel Beats Prius in Economy Run
3/19/2008: No matter how many times it doesn't work, the morons who "run" the government think they can repeal the laws of economics. However, all they do (which may be their intention anyway) is transfer wealth from those who created it, earned it, and saved it to the government (which mostly wastes it) and other parasites.
3/16/2008: from today's Daily Reckoning: "...a study by the University of Central Florida found that, as reported by the St. Petersburg Times, 56 percent of low-income respondents said they could not pay their bills if they missed one months pay, which is not very remarkable since these are low-income people. But the startling part is that 38 percent of middle-income respondents also said that they could not pay their bills if they missed one months income, and that 24 percent of upper-income respondents made that same claim!
"And what percent of each class felt like they were so far in debt that they will never be able to get out? Oops! Low income: 25 percent. Middle income: 14 percent. Upper income: 10 percent!"
3/16/2008: The sub-prime mortgage collapse is another tale of unintended consequences. The crisis has its roots in the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, a Carter-era law that purported to prevent redlining denying mortgages to black borrowersby pressuring banks to make home loans in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Under the act, banks were to be graded on their attentiveness to the credit needs of predominantly minority neighborhoods....[T]o earn high ratings, banks were forced to make increasingly risky loans to borrowers who wouldnt qualify for a mortgage under normal standards of creditworthiness. The CRA, made even more stringent during the Clinton administration, trapped lenders in a Catch-22. If they comply, wrote Loyola College economist Thomas DiLorenzo, they know they will have to suffer from more loan defaults. If they dont comply, they face financial penalties... which can cost a large corporation like Bank of America billions of dollars. Banks nationwide thus ended up making more and more sub-prime loans and agreeing to dangerously lax underwriting standardsno down payment, no verification of income, interest-only payment plans, weak credit history. If they tried to compensate for the higher risks they were taking by charging higher interest rates, they were accused of unfairly steering borrowers into predatory loans they couldnt afford. Trapped in a no-win situation entirely of the governments making, lenders could only hope that home prices would continue to rise, staving off the inevitable collapse. But once the housing bubble burst, there was no escape. Mortgage lenders have been bankrupted, thousands of sub-prime homeowners have been foreclosed on, and countless would-be borrowers can no longer get credit. The financial fallout has hurt investors around the world. And all of it thanks to the government, which was sure it understood the credit industry better than the free market did, and confidently created the conditions that made disaster unavoidable. Jeff Jacoby
3/16/2008: Points to ponder:
He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the worlds believing him. Thomas Jefferson
"Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution." -- James Madison (Federalist No. 39, 1788) [Abraham Lincoln was 100% wrong; the South had the right to secede]
"If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify." -- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 33, 3 January 1788)
[I]f industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out. James Madison
The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men. Samuel Adams
The biggest beneficiary of Hillarys 3 a.m. ad isJohn McCain. Of the three candidates, Americans believe he is best suited to be commander-in-chief by a lopsided margin. Hillary argued that when the tough times come, You have to be ready to make a decision. You do, and Hillary isnt... In truth, neither Obama nor Hillary can name an accomplishment that qualifies them for the office they seek. Ben Johnson
McCains greatest advantage is himself. His life story is compelling and something neither Clinton nor Obama can match. He can own the issue of national security. He must now convince voters that on domestic issues he is better able to manage the economy while reducing the size and cost of government. Cal Thomas
Who ever said that it is the responsibility of government to make life easy? Jim Geraghty
[T]he Constitution is not a living organism. Its a legal document. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
The only difference Ive found in Congress between the Republican and Democratic leadership is that one of them is skinning us from the toes up and the other from the ears down. Huey Long
The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny. Edmund Burke
The tendency of democracies is, in all things, to mediocrity. James Fenimore Cooper
A demagogue tries to sound as stupid as his audience so that they will think they are as clever as he is. Karl Krauss
We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times. George Washington
I favor a policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the government. Every dollar that we save means that their life will be so much the more abundant. Economy is idealism in its most practical form. Calvin Coolidge
3/15/2008: What a great week: Slimeball thug Spitzer resigns and now double slimeball Dickie Scruggs pleads guilty to trying to bribe a judge. See Dickie's Plea. Given how corrupt the court system is in Mississippi, I hope his plea doesn't mean just a few months in prison; after all, he has lots of money and power down there in Good Old Boy land. The fix may be in.
Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, a founding father of the modern mega-tort class-action industry, pleaded guilty yesterday to trying to bribe a judge. It is notable but perhaps unsurprising in this particular week, when we have already seen one famous figure, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, brought down by his own sense of invulnerability to the law or common sense.
In the 1990s, Mr. Scruggs famously got corporate defendants, and whole industries, to make mammoth settlements in lieu of fighting the thousands of plaintiffs the Mississippi tort lawyer had gathered into a class-action lawsuit. Mr. Scruggs was a legal entrepreneur, who figured out that the combined weight of endless plaintiffs and bad publicity would force even the richest corporations to plead for a settlement. It was his further insight that his percentage of the take, aka contingency fees, would make him and his associates rich as Croesus. The trappings of wealth that attended the class-action plaintiffs bar are the stuff of legend.
Now it is Mr. Scruggs who has thrown up his hands and entered a plea. He may face five years in prison [maybe we should start a pool for how many days he spends in prison]. Specifically he has pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe Lafayette County, Mississippi, County Circuit Court Judge Henry L. Lackey. Mr. Scruggs was seeking a court ruling in his favor in a mass settlement in cases culled from Hurricane Katrina. At issue were $26.5 million in disputed legal fees. Judge Lackey called in the FBI.
The question buzzing through legal circles yesterday was why a guy that rich and that good at beating money out of corporations would put the whole game at risk this way. We'll sum it up in one famous, potent word: hubris. After the personal ruin seen in the Spitzer and Scruggs cases this week, it is hard to blink at the irony here. They made their mark yelling that the rich and famous were subject to the laws of mere mortals. Once larger than life, both men have shown why that's still true.
3/15/2008: Inflation Report Paves Way for Fed Cut
WASHINGTON -- U.S. consumer prices were unexpectedly flat last month, a government report showed, paving the way for a large interest rate reduction by the Federal Reserve next week to shore up the economy... [Read more]
Over the last couple days, I've been reading about how inflation has been flat for February. Being a skeptic, I don't believe it without more information. I already know that inflation is intentionally understated through finagling when compared with historic measures, so I go to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics ("BLS") web site:
and click on the CPI tables for "U.S. All items, 1982-84=100" and "U.S. All Items Less Food and Energy" (so-called "core" inflation). Here's what it shows for January and February 2008:
They must be using different inflation figures than the BLS.
3/14/2008: The founder of the Weather Channel wants to sue Al Gore for fraud, hoping a legal debate will settle the global-warming debate once and for all.
John Coleman, who founded the cable network in 1982, suggests suing for fraud proponents of global warming, including Al Gore, and companies that sell carbon credits.
"Is he committing financial fraud? That is the question," Coleman said.
"Since we cant get a debate, I thought perhaps if we had a legal challenge and went into a court of law, where it was our scientists and their scientists, and all the legal proceedings with the discovery and all their documents from both sides and scientific testimony from both sides, we could finally get a good solid debate on the issue," Coleman said. "Im confident that the advocates of no significant effect from carbon dioxide would win the case."
Coleman says his side of the global-warming debate is being buried in mainstream media circles.
"As you look at the atmosphere over the last 25 years, theres been perhaps a degree of warming, perhaps probably a whole lot less than that, and the last year has been so cold that thats been erased," he said.
"I think if we continue the cooling trend a couple of more years, the general public will at last begin to realize that theyve been scammed on this global-warming thing."
Coleman spoke to FOXNews.com after his appearance last week at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change in New York, where he called global warming a scam and lambasted the cable network he helped create.
"You want to tune to the Weather Channel and have them tell you how to live your life?" Coleman said. "Come on."
He laments the networks decision to focus on traffic and lifestyle reports over the weather.
"Its very clear that they dont realize that weather is the most significant impact in every human beings daily life, and good, solid, up-to-the-minute weather information and meaningful forecasts presented in such a way that people find them understandable and enjoyable can have a significant impact," he said.
"The more you cloud that up with other baloney, the weaker the product," he said.
Coleman has long been a skeptic of global warming, and carbon dioxide is the linchpin to his argument.
"Does carbon dioxide cause a warming of the atmosphere? The proponents of global warming pin their whole piece on that," he said.
The compound carbon dioxide makes up only 38 out of every 100,000 particles in the atmosphere, he said.
"Thats about twice as what there were in the atmosphere in the time we started burning fossil fuels, so its gone up, but its still a tiny compound," Coleman said. "So how can that tiny trace compound have such a significant effect on temperature?
"My position is it cant," he continued. "It doesnt, and the whole case for global warming is based on a fallacy."
Click here for John Colemans briefs on global warming:
3/14/2008: "The pillars of American liberalism -- the Democratic Party, the universities and the mass media -- are obsessed with biological markers, most particularly race and gender. They have insisted, moreover, that pedagogy and culture and politics be just as seized with the primacy of these distinctions and with the resulting 'privileging' that allegedly haunts every aspect of our social relations. They have gotten their wish. This primary campaign represents the full flowering of identity politics. It's not a pretty picture. Geraldine Ferraro says Obama is only where he is because he's black.
Well, Geraldine, Hillary wouldn't be where she is if she were a man or if she were not married to the former philanderer/rapist-in-chief. She has accomplished nothing on her own. Her life is nothing but Bill's coattails.
3/13/2008: The Entrapment of Eliot by Alan M. Dershowitz
The federal criminal investigation that has led to Eliot Spitzer's resignation as governor of New York illustrates the great dangers all Americans face from vague and open-ended sex and money-transaction statutes.
Federal law, if read broadly, criminalizes virtually all sexual encounters for which something of value has been given. Federal money-laundering statutes criminalize many entirely legitimate and conventional banking transactions. Congress enacted these laws to give federal prosecutors wide discretion in deciding which "bad guys" to go after.
Generally, wise and intelligent prosecutors use their discretion properly -- to target organized crime, terrorism, financial predation, exploitation of children and the like. But the very existence of these selectively enforced statutes poses grave dangers of abuse. They lie around like loaded guns waiting to be used against the enemies of politically motivated investigators, prosecutors and politicians.
There is no hard evidence that Eliot Spitzer was targeted for investigation, but the story of how he was caught does not ring entirely true to many experienced former prosecutors and current criminal lawyers. The New York Times reported that the revelations began with a routine tax inquiry by revenue agents "conducting a routine examination of suspicious financial transactions reported to them by banks." This investigation allegedly found "several unusual movements of cash involving the Governor of New York." But the movement of the amounts of cash required to pay prostitutes, even high-priced prostitutes over a long period of time, does not commonly generate a full-scale investigation.
We are talking about thousands, not millions, of dollars. We are also talking about a man who is a multimillionaire with numerous investments and purchases. The idea that federal investigators would focus on a few transactions to corporations -- that were not themselves under investigation -- raises as many questions as answers.
Even if Mr. Spitzer's derelictions were serendipitously discovered as a result of routine, computerized examination of bank transactions, the dangers inherent in selective use of overbroad criminal statutes remain. Money laundering, structuring and related financial crimes are designed to ferret out organized crime, drug dealing, terrorism and large-scale financial manipulation. They were not enacted to give the federal government the power to inquire into the sexual or financial activities of men who move money in order to hide payments to prostitutes.
Once federal authorities concluded that the "suspicious financial transactions" attributed to Mr. Spitzer did not fit into any of the paradigms for which the statutes were enacted, they should have closed the investigation. It's simply none of the federal government's business that a man may have been moving his own money around in order to keep his wife in the dark about his private sexual peccadilloes.
But the authorities didn't close the investigation. They expanded it, because they had caught a big fish in the wide net they had cast.
In this case, they wiretapped 5,000 phone conversations, intercepted 6,000 emails, used surveillance and undercover tactics that are more appropriate for trapping terrorists than entrapping johns. Unlike terrorism and other predatory crimes, prostitution is legal in many parts of the world and in some parts of the U.S. Even in places like New York, where it is technically illegal, johns are rarely prosecuted. Prostitution rings operate openly, advertising "massage" and "escort" services in the back pages of glossy magazines, local newspapers and television sex channels.
If the federal government really wanted to shut down these operations, they could easily do it without a single wiretap or email intercept. All they would have to do is get an undercover agent to answer the ads, arrange for the "escort" to go from New York to New Jersey and be arrested. But many in law enforcement would much rather reserve these statutes for selective use against predetermined targets.
In this case, if the serendipitous bank audit really led federal agents to Mr. Spitzer, and Mr. Spitzer led them to the Emperor's Club, and federal prosecutors really wanted to get the Club, they could easily have sent an undercover cop to pose as a john, instead of tapping phones and reading emails -- tactics designed to catch and embarrass Mr. Spitzer with his own recorded words, which could be, and were, leaked to the media. As this newspaper has reported: "It isn't clear why the FBI sought the wiretap warrant. Federal prostitution probes are exceedingly rare, lawyers say, except in cases involving organized-crime leaders or child abuse. Federal wiretaps are seldom used to make these cases . . ."
Lavrenti Beria, the head of Joseph Stalin's KGB, once quipped to his boss, "show me the man and I will find the crime." The Soviet Union was notorious for having accordion-like criminal laws that could be adjusted to fit almost any dissident target. The U.S. is a far cry from the Soviet Union, but our laws are dangerously overbroad.
Both Democrats and Republicans have targeted political adversaries over the years. The weapons of choice are almost always elastic criminal laws. And few laws are more elastic, and susceptible to abuse, than federal laws on money laundering and sex crimes. For the sake of all Americans, these laws should be narrowed and limited to predatory crimes with real victims.
Mr. Dershowitz teaches law at Harvard University and is the author of "Finding Jefferson" (Wiley, 2007).
3/13/2008: OK, it's over. The hypocrite has resigned. If there is evidence of a crime (and there must be or he would not have resigned) charge him, have a quick trial, and get it over with. We don't need a long, expensive investigation. Instead of wasting time and money investigating more victimless crimes (prostitution, money-laundering, drug possession, gambling, etc.) why don't prosecutors spend the time and money to investigate the largest collection of thieves in the history of the country...Congress.
3/12/2008: Quotes of the Day (from the Wall Street Journal's Political Diary)
Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal "I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind. As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.... [Now I] question my hatred for 'the Corporations' -- the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live. And I began to question my distrust of the 'Bad, Bad Military' of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world.... I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism" -- Playwright David Mamet, writing in the Village Voice on why he is no longer a "brain-dead liberal."
"It's not just schadenfreude -- Spitzer's foes reveling in his suffering. It's that Spitzer became governor largely thanks to his many hyper-publicized cases against Wall Street titans like Dick Grasso and Hank Greenberg -- cases that he pursued by going after everything and everyone connected with his targets, no matter how personal, by leaking constantly to the press and by making his own nasty, off-hand public comments. Keep in mind, Spitzer was charging Dick Grasso with making too much money.... [W]hen Grasso refused to settle, Spitzer's 'investigation' wound up probing whether Grasso had had sex with his secretary and fathered a child out of wedlock. The apparent effort to beat Grasso into submission included threats of tawdry press leaks about alleged personal indiscretions -- allegations Grasso denies, and for which little evidence ever materialized" -- CNBC reporter Charles Gasparino, writing in the New York Post.
The fall of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer holds many lessons, and the press will surely be examining them in coming months. But don't expect the press corps to delve into the biggest lesson of all -- its own role as his enabler.
Journalists have spent the past two days asking how a man of Mr. Spitzer's stature would allow himself to get involved in a prostitution ring. The answer, in my mind, is clear. The former New York attorney general never believed normal rules applied to him, and his view was validated time and again by an adoring press. [emphass added] "You play hard, you play rough, and hopefully you don't get caught," said Mr. Spitzer two years ago. He never did get caught, because most reporters were his accomplices.
...Time magazine bestowed upon Mr. Spitzer the title "Crusader of the Year," and likened him to Moses. Fortune dubbed him the "Enforcer." A fawning article in the Atlantic Monthly in 2004 explained he was "a rock star," and "the Democratic Party's future." [if we're lucky, he is] In an uncritical 2006 biography, then Washington Post reporter Brooke Masters compared the attorney general to no less than Teddy Roosevelt...
Mr. Spitzer's main offense as a prosecutor is that he violated the basic rules of fairness and due process: Innocent until proven guilty; the right to your day in court. The Spitzer method was to target public companies and officials, leak allegations and out-of-context emails to a compliant press, watch the stock price fall, threaten a corporate indictment (a death sentence), and then move in for a quick settlement kill. There was rarely a trial, fair or unfair, involved.
On the substance, his court record speaks for itself. Most of Mr. Spitzer's high-profile charges have gone up in smoke. A New York state judge threw out his case against tax firm H&R Block. He lost his prosecution against Bank of America broker Ted Sihpol (whom Mr. Spitzer threatened to arrest in front of his child and pregnant wife). Mr. Spitzer was stopped by a federal judge from prying confidential information out of mortgage companies. Another New York judge blocked the heart of his suit against Mr. Grasso. Mr. Greenberg continues to fight his civil charges. The press was foursquare behind Mr. Spitzer in all these cases, and in a better world they'd share some of his humiliation.
3/12/2008: What's Happened to Teaching History?
A survey of British under-age-twenty kids recently reported that more than a fifth of them believe Winston Churchill, Richard the Lionheart and Florence Nightingale were fictional characters, but that Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur were real people.
We hope American students are more knowledgeable, but evidence is not reassuring. They scored an F, or just 54 percent, in a new survey by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute of 14,000 freshmen at 50 U.S. colleges and universities.
Students were asked 60 questions to test their knowledge of American history and government. In general, the better a college ranked on the widely publicized U.S. News & World Report list, the lower it ranked on civic learning. [emphasis added]
We now know that Spitzer is finished. He has become a joke. No longer does anyone take him seriously except a few humorless old liberal hags, like Hillary.
3/11/2008: Dana Stevens Slate writes for Slate:
I disagree. If a Hollywood celebrity purchased the favors of a prostitute, that should be a private matter. However, when a powerful political figure does so, he has, at a minimum, exposed himself to blackmail and could compromise his public trust. In Spitzer's case, having actually prosecuted individuals for engaging in prostitution, he deserves time in the slammer, pure and simple. He should receive the most serious sentence of anyone whom he has prosecuted for the same crime. Then the state legislatures should legalize prostitution, etc., and stay out of people's personal lives.
3/11/2008: Eliot's Waste Land
...At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey isn't buying Alan Dershowitz's claim that Spitzer is absolved from hypocrisy because he really wanted to legalize prostitution: "If Spitzer thought that prostitution should be legal, he has been in uniquely well-suited positions to make that argument. Instead, he positioned himself publicly as disgusted by the exploitation of women through prostitution, even campaigning on it. [and he also prosecuted prostitution-dfo] That isn't just a story about a married man going to a prostitute, it's a story of hypocrisy and deception." While Roger Kimball at Pajamas Media doesn't want Spitzer's hypocrisy to overshadow his other more significant shortcomings: "His behavior gives that ambiguous vice a bad name Really, he was a power-hungry, regulation-crazed functionary whose chief sin was to harness the power of the state to destroy his enemies and aggrandize himself. Had he been a little more hypocritical he might have been less dangerous." [Read More]
3/11/2008: Inflation: John Galt Solution: Caroline Baum of Bloomberg wonders when someone will propose the John Galt solution. Galt, the hero of Ayn Rands magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, stops the world by going on strike. He and the men of the mind literally withdraw from the world after watching their wealth confiscated by the looters (the government). Toward the end of Rands 1,000-plus page novel (or polemic), the economy is in shambles. Desperate, the looters kidnap Galt and prod him to tell us what to do. Galt refuses, or rather tells them to get out of the way. You probably can sense where Im going. Todays economic and financial crisis would resolve itself more quickly and efficiently if the government got out of the way.
3/11/2008: Tax Rebates: President Bush recently announced that many of us [excluding those of is who pay the most income taxes] will soon get a tax rebate [including many who didn't pay much in taxes to begin with]. Why is this called a rebate instead of a welfare program? Anyway, if we spend the money at our local Target or Wal-Mart, or grocery store, much of it will go to China, Peru, or Mexico. If we spend it on gasoline, it will mostly go to the Arabs, Russians, or Hugo Chavez, and almost none of the rebate will help the American economy. We need to keep that money here in America! The only way I can see to keep all that money here at home is to spend it on gambling, prostitution, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco, as these are the only viable businesses still in the U.S. Maybe Spitzer had the right idea after all!
3/11/2008: The Spitzer Files Read about the corrupt life of a thug, Eliot Spitzer
3/11/2008: Spitzer's Rise and Fall: One might call it Shakespearian if there were a shred of nobleness in the story of Eliot Spitzer's fall. There is none. Governor Spitzer, who made his career by specializing in not just the prosecution, but the ruin, of other men, is himself almost certainly ruined.
Mr. Spitzer's brief statement yesterday about a "private matter" surely involves what are widely reported to be his activities with an expensive prostitution ring discovered by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. Those who believe Eliot Spitzer is getting his just desserts may be entitled to that view, but it misses the greater lesson for our politics.
Mr. Spitzer coasted into the Governorship on the wings of a reputation as a "tough" public prosecutor. Mr. Spitzer, though, was no emperor. He had not merely arrogated to himself the powers he held and used with such aggression. He was elected.
In our system, citizens agree to invest one of their own with the power of public prosecution. We call this a public trust. The ability to bring the full weight of state power against private individuals or entities has been recognized since the Magna Carta as a power with limits. At nearly every turn, Eliot Spitzer has refused to admit that he was subject to those limits.
The stupendously deluded belief that the sitting Governor of New York could purchase the services of prostitutes was merely the last act of a man unable to admit either the existence of, or need for, limits. At the least, he put himself at risk of blackmail, and in turn the possible distortion of his public duties. Mr. Spitzer's recklessness with the state's highest elected office, though, is of a piece with his consistent excesses as Attorney General from 1999 to 2006.
He routinely used the extraordinary threat of indicting entire firms, a financial death sentence, to force the dismissal of executives, such as AIG's Maurice "Hank" Greenberg. He routinely leaked to the press emails obtained with subpoena power to build public animosity against companies and executives. In the case of Mr. Greenberg, he went on national television to accuse the AIG founder of "illegal" behavior. Within the confines of the law itself, though, he never indicted Mr. Greenberg. Nor did he apologize.
In perhaps the incident most suggestive of Mr. Spitzer's lack of self-restraint, the then-Attorney General personally threatened John Whitehead after the former Goldman Sachs chief published an article on this page defending Mr. Greenberg. "I will be coming after you," Mr. Spitzer said, according to Mr. Whitehead's account. "You will pay the price. This is only the beginning, and you will pay dearly for what you have done."
Jack Welch, the former head of GE, said he was told to tell Ken Langone -- embroiled in Mr. Spitzer's investigation of former NYSE chairman Dick Grasso -- that the AG would "put a spike through Langone's heart." New York Congresswoman Sue Kelly, who clashed with Mr. Spitzer in 2003, had her office put out a statement that "the attorney general acted like a thug."
These are not merely acts of routine political rough-and-tumble. They were threats -- some rhetorical, some acted upon -- by one man with virtually unchecked legal powers.
Eliot Spitzer's self-destructive inability to recognize any limit on his compulsions was never more evident than his staff's enlistment of the New York State Police in a campaign to discredit the state's Senate Majority Leader, Joseph Bruno. On any level, it was nuts. Somehow, Team Spitzer thought they could get by with it. In the wake of that abusive fiasco, his public approval rating plunged.
Mr. Spitzer's dramatic fall yesterday began in the early afternoon with a posting on the Web site of the New York Times about the alleged link to prostitutes. The details in the criminal complaint about "Client-9," who is reported to be Mr. Spitzer, will now be played for titters by the press corps. But one may ask: Where were the media before this? With a few exceptions, the media were happy to prosper from his leaks and even applaud, rather than temper, the manifestly abusive instincts of a public official.
There really is nothing very satisfying about the rough justice being meted out to Eliot Spitzer. He came to embody a system that revels in the entertainment value of roguish figures who rise to power by destroying the careers of others, many of them innocent. Better still, when the targets are as presumably unsympathetic as Wall Street bankers and brokers.
Acts of crime deserve prosecution by the state. The people, in turn, deserve prosecutors and officials who understand the difference between the needs of the public good and the needs of unrestrained personalities who are given the honor of high office.
3/11/2008: So Spitzer was investigated and caught because he was withdrawing large amounts of money. How fitting. He's guilty of a victimless crime and he prosecuted many people who were also guilty of victimless crimes. But those he prosecuted were victims of his political ambition. He turned decades-long ethical business practices into "crimes" by abusing his prosecutorial authority. He and many of his fellow prosecutorial hypocrites ruined many lives, and he was caught because he and the rest of the power hungry hypocrites like to track others' money, which should be illegal itself. If he is not prosecuted for a crime and does not spend at least a few months in jail, then we know the fix is in. The laws only apply to the rest of us, not to powerful politicians. Spitzer is a prime example of how the Democrats have adopted the worst of the Repulicans as both parties move more and more towards authoritarianism. He is nothing but a bully and deserves the treatment all bullies deserve. Spitzer actually makes Giuliani look reasonable in comparison. As prosecutors, both were menances to society and both deserve prison time. Giuliani continues to cash in on his hypocrisy and no doubt Spitzer eventually will do so, too.
NY Guv Answers Prostie Charges
Embattled New York Governor Eliot Spitzer held a hastily scheduled press conference to answer charges that he patronized a prostitution ring, telling reporters, Ive been screwed.
While Mr. Spitzer refused to elaborate on his comment, he added for emphasis, Ive been screwed and its cost me a lot.
Aides to the New York governor applauded him for responding quickly to the charges but across the state political observers wondered if he had raised more questions than he had answered.
Mr. Spitzer, who has endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), did receive a vote of support from her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who offered to take over his position if the governor is forced to step down.
I am happy to perform all of the roles that Eliot has been performing, Mr. Clinton said, adding that he had the experience to make crucial phone calls at 3 A.M.
3/10/2008: Schadenfreude Alert: Eliot Spitzer finally exposed as a low-life, two-bit hypocrite in additional to being a menace to society (which I already knew he was). Anti-prostitution laws, like all prohibitions of voluntary behavior (drugs, gambling, etc.) between consenting adults, cause more harm than good. And since Eliot prosecuted prostitution rings, no one deserves hard jail time for patronizing prostitutes more than Eliot.
ALBANY - Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month, according to a person briefed on the federal investigation.
Alert By GERALD P. O'DRISCOLL JR.
With "headline" consumer price inflation (CPI) at 4.3% for the last 12 months, we have now reached the inflation rate that spurred Richard Nixon to impose wage and price controls on Aug. 15, 1971. The controls were certainly the wrong remedy, but the intuition that such a high inflation rate cannot long be tolerated was correct...
The bond market was late to the game in the 1970s and may once again be a lagging indicator. The retirement savings of millions are meanwhile gradually being confiscated...
What do ethanol and the subprime mortgage meltdown have in common? On the surface, nothing at all. But dig down a little, and each is a good reminder of that most powerful of unwritten decrees, the Law of Unintended Consequences -- and of the all-too-frequent tendency of solutions imposed by the state to exacerbate the harms they were meant to solve.
Take ethanol, the much-hyped biofuel made (primarily) from corn. Ethanol has been touted as a weapon in the fashionable crusade against climate change, because when mixed with gasoline, it modestly reduces emissions of carbon dioxide. Reasoning that if a little ethanol is good, a lot must be better, Congress and the Bush administration recently mandated a sextupling of ethanol production, from the 6 billion gallons produced last year to 36 billion by 2022.
But now comes word that expanding ethanol use is likely to mean not less CO2 in the atmosphere, but more. A lot more: Instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline by 20 percent -- the estimate Congress relied on in requiring the huge increase in production -- ethanol use will cause such emissions to nearly double over the next 30 years.
The problem, laid out in two new studies in the journal Science, is that it takes a lot of land to grow biofuel feedstocks such as corn, and as forests or grasslands are cleared for crops, large amounts of CO2 are released. Diverting land in this fashion also eliminates "carbon sinks," which absorb atmospheric CO2. Bottom line: The government's ethanol mandate will generate a "carbon debt" that will take decades, maybe centuries, to pay off.
Actually, that's not quite the bottom line. Jacking up ethanol production causes other problems, too. Deforestation. Loss of biodiversity. Depletion of aquifers. Deadlier fires (ethanol fires are harder to extinguish than those fueled by gasoline). More ethanol even means more hunger: As more of the US corn crop goes for ethanol, the price of corn has been soaring, a calamity for Third World countries in which corn is a major dietary staple.
Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa bloviates that everything about ethanol is good, good, good," but it plainly isn't, isn't, isn't. Which is why the fate of ethanol, including how much of it is produced, should be determined by the decentralized process of free exchange -- the voluntary interactions of countless consumers and producers, buyers and sellers, each acting according to his best judgment and in his own best interest. Instead, Congress and the president, convinced as always that they know best, imposed a single, inflexible, ham-fisted directive from above. The result is that the carbon dioxide they aimed to reduce will be increased, and many people will suffer unnecessary misfortune.
The subprime mortgage collapse is another tale of unintended consequences.
The crisis has its roots in the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, a Carter-era law that purported to prevent "redlining" -- denying mortgages to black borrowers -- by pressuring banks to make home loans in "low- and moderate-income neighborhoods." Under the act, banks were to be graded on their attentiveness to the "credit needs" of "predominantly minority neighborhoods." The higher a bank's rating, the more likely that government regulators would say yes when the bank sought to open a new branch or undertake a merger or acquisition.
But to earn high ratings, banks were forced to make increasingly risky loans to borrowers who wouldn't qualify for a mortgage under normal standards of creditworthiness. The CRA, made even more stringent during the Clinton administration, trapped lenders in a Catch-22. "If they comply," wrote Loyola College economist Thomas DiLorenzo, "they know they will have to suffer from more loan defaults. If they don't comply, they face financial penalties . . . which can cost a large corporation like Bank of America billions of dollars."
Banks nationwide thus ended up making more and more "subprime" loans and agreeing to dangerously lax underwriting standards -- no down payment, no verification of income, interest-only payment plans, weak credit history. If they tried to compensate for the higher risks they were taking by charging higher interest rates, they were accused of unfairly steering borrowers into "predatory" loans they couldn't afford.
Trapped in a no-win situation entirely of the government's making, lenders could only hope that home prices would continue to rise, staving off the inevitable collapse. But once the housing bubble burst, there was no escape. Mortgage lenders have been bankrupted, thousands of subprime homeowners have been foreclosed on, and countless would-be borrowers can no longer get credit. The financial fallout has hurt investors around the world. And all of it thanks to the government, which was sure it understood the credit industry better than the free market did, and confidently created the conditions that made disaster unavoidable.
"No man's life, liberty, or property is safe," warned Mark Twain, "while Congress is in session." Mark Twain was a humorist, but that was no joke.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)
Common delusions notwithstanding, the United States, I submit, is not a democracyby which is meant a system in which the will of the people prevails. Rather it is a curious mechanism artfully designed to circumvent the will of the people while appearing to be democratic. Several mechanisms accomplish this.
First, we have two identical parties which, when elected, do very much the same things. Thus the election determines not policy but only the division of spoils. Nothing really changes. The Democrats will never seriously reduce military spending, nor the Republicans, entitlements.
Second, the two parties determine on which questions we are allowed to vote. They simply refuse to engage the questions that matter most to many people. If you are against affirmative action, for whom do you vote? If you regard the schools as abominations? If you want to end the presidents hobbyist wars?
Third, there is the effect of large jurisdictions. Suppose that you lived in a very small (and independent) school district and didnt like the curriculum. You could buttonhole the head of the school board, whom you would probably know, and say, Look, Jack, I really think . He would listen.
But suppose that you live in a suburban jurisdiction of 300,000. You as an individual mean nothing. To affect policy, you would have to form an organization, canvass for votes, solicit contributions, and place ads in newspapers. This is a fulltime job, prohibitively burdensome.
The larger the jurisdiction, the harder it is to exert influence. Much policy today is set at the state level. Now you need a statewide campaign to change the curriculum. Practically speaking, it isnt practical.
Fourth are impenetrable bureaucracies. A lot of policy is set by making regulations at some department or other, often federal. How do you call the Department of Education to protest a rule which is in fact a policy? The Department has thousands of telephones, few of them listed, all of which will brush you off. There is nothing the public can do to influence these goiterous, armored, unaccountable centers of power.
Yes, you can write your senator, and get a letter written by computer, I thank you for your valuable insights, and assure you that I am doing all .
Fifth is the invisible bureaucracy (which is also impenetrable). A few federal departments get at least a bit of attention from the press, chiefly State and Defense (sic). Most of the government gets no attention at allHUD, for example. Nobody knows who the Secretary of HUD is, or what the department is doing. Similarly, the textbook publishers have some committee whose name I dont remember (See? It works) that decides what words can be used in texts, how women and Indians must be portrayed, what can be said about them, and so on. Such a group amounts to an unelected ministry of propaganda and, almost certainly, you have never heard of it.
Sixth, there is the illusion of journalism. The newspapers and networks encourage us to think of them as a vast web of hard-hitting, no-holds-barred, chips-where-they-may inquisitors of government: You can run, but you cant hide. In fact federal malefactors dont have to run or hide. The press isnt really looking.
Most of press coverage is only apparent. Television isnt journalism, but a service that translates into video stories found in the Washington Post and New York Times (really). Few newspapers have bureaus in Washington; the rest follow the lead of a small number of major outlets. These dont really cover things either.
When I was reporting on the military, there were (if memory serves) many hundreds of reporters accredited to the Pentagon, or at least writing about the armed services. It sounds impressive: All those gimlet eyes.
What invariably happened though was that some story would breaka toilet seat alleged to cost too much, or the failure of this or that. All the reporters would chase the toilet seat, fearful that their competitors might get some detail they didnt. Thus you had one story covered six hundred times. In any event the stories were often dishonest and almost always ignorant because reporters, apparently bound by some natural law, are obligate technical illiterates. This includes the reporters for the Post and the Times.
Seventh, and a bit more subtle, is the lack of centers of demographic power in competition with the official government. The Catholic Church, for example, once influentially represented a large part of the population. It has been brought to heel. We are left with government by lobbythe weapons industry, big pharma, AIPAC, the teachers unionswhose representatives pay Congress to do things against the public interest.
Eighth, we are ruled not by a government but by a class. Here the media are crucial. Unless you spend time outside of America, you may not realize to what extent the press is controlled. The press is largely free, yes, but it is also largely owned by a small number of corporations which, in turn, are run by people from the same pool from which are drawn high-level pols and their advisers. They are rich people who know each other and have the same interests. It is very nearly correct to say that these people are the government of the United States, and that the federal apparatus merely a useful theatrical manifestation.
Finally, though it may not be deliberate, the schools produce a pitiably ignorant population that cant vote wisely. Just as trial lawyers dont want intelligent jurors, as they are harder to manipulate, so political parties dont want educated voters. The existence of a puzzled mass gawping at Oprah reduces elections to popularity contests modulated by the state of the economy. One party may win, yes, or the other. But a TV-besotted electorate doesnt meddle in matters important to its rulers. It has never heard of them.
To disguise all of this, elections provide the excitement and intellectual content of a football game, without the importance. They allow a sense of Participation. In bars across the land, in high-school gymns become forums, people become heated about what they imagine to be decisions of great import: This candidate or that? It keeps them from feeling left out while denying them power.
It is fraud. In a sense, the candidates do not even exist. A presidential candidate consists of two speechwriters, a makeup man, a gestures coach, ad agency, two pollsters and an interpreter of focus groups. Depending on his numbers, the handlers may suggest a more fixed stare to crank up his decisiveness quotient for male or Republican voters, or dial in a bit of compassion for a Democratic or female audience. The newspapers will report this calculated transformation. Yet it works. You can fool enough of the people enough of the time.
When people sense this and decline to vote, we cluck like disturbed hens and speak of apathy. Nope. Just common sense.
3/7/2008: Stagflation: If we think of inflation as an increase in prices, it is bad...perhaps not as bad as in the 1970's but still bad. Of course, the government hacks have manipulated the measures of the components of the CPI that make comparisons with the 1970's unreliable. Using today's CPI as a benchmark, the 1970's were not as bad as they look in retrospect. Using the 1970's CPI as a benchmark, today's inflation is worse than it looks.
But inflation is not just a change in prices (as most Americans have been brainwashed to believe); it is the devaluation of the dollar, the devaluation of government-created money by the government. The almightly dollar is a debt instrument backed by the "full faith and credit" of the United States Government. Inflation helps the government screws its creditors. It gets to pay back the money it borrowed with cheaper money. In fact, all creditors get screwed, unless they plan for the devaluation of the dollar. Suppose you had a corporation with Baby Bush as the CEO and Congress as its Board of Directors, a corporation that employed all of the Bureaucrats and government workers in place today...the Post office, the FDA, SSA, BTF, FBI, CIA, etc. Would you buy its stock? Would you buy its debt instruments? Of course not, so why would the "full faith and credit" of the United States Government mean anything? Because we have no choice.
If we think of inflation as a monetary phenomenon, it is much worse than indicated by the CPI measures. While the morons in government (including the Fed) think inflation has been "under control" because it has only averaged 3.04% (compared to their 1-2% target), compounded from 1987 through 2007, prices, as measured by the CPI have increased almost 82% (81.88%). If I had saved money by stuffing it into a mattress, the government would have confiscated 45% of it. Had I placed it into a savings account paying 5% interest (which has not always been possible to get), I would have still lost ground due to federal and state income taxes. Had I bought tax-free state government bonds, I still would have lost some of the value (not even considering the AMT which further decreases the value of "tax-free" bonds). Even over the last ten years, the CPI increased more than 24% or about 2.19% compounded annually.
Inflation should be zero. Average prices probably would decrease over time (except for commodities) due to improvements in technology, but there should be no monetary inflation. The Fed is supposed to maintain the value of our currency, yet they continually debase it. Because of technology improvements, prices should have decreased over the last twenty years. Yet everywhere government involves itself in the economy to a significant degree (transportation, education, health care, government "services" -- an oxymoron if ever there was one) prices increase more than the CPI. Inflation and taxes, as well as spending by the government at all levels, especially deficit spending, is a transfer of wealth from the private sector which creates all wealth to the government sector, which either redistributes or (all too often) destroys wealth.
3/7/2008: Stagflation Is Back And it's even worse than you feared. by Daniel Gross on Slate.com
3/7/2008: Quotes by Robert A. Heinlein
3/6/2008: Obama Speaks! By Larry Elder [Larry Elder decodes Obamaspeak; this is why Hillary can't win with Democrats & liberals...they can't -- or won't -- think, so they love this crap]
Thank you very much. It's great to be here.
You know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. We are going to do things differently and expect a different result. And if we don't do things differently, well, the results we get, well, they'll be the results we deserve. Thank you.
We deserve better results, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I'm running for the presidency of the United States of America. If you want the same results done in a different way, then you're going to get the same results, only achieved differently.
If, however, you want different results with a different way, but not done the same way, without the same results, but with new results in a new way, while ensuring the new results are much more new than the old results we've had the old way, then I'm sure you'll agree with me that we, ladies and gentlemen, must work toward a different way, to achieve results in a different way than the way we used to achieve the results differently. Thank you.
Change is never easy. Change is hard. Some change is harder than others. And easy change is never as easy as hard change, if only because hard change is hard. Changing the easy to the hard is harder than changing the hard to the easy.
But if, ladies and gentlemen, you are looking for easy change done the hard way, then that hard change will not be easy, if only because change is hard, and harder change is much harder when it is hard than when it is easy. This is especially the case if you use the same way of changing results that ultimately result in change done the hard way. And that is why I am proposing hard change with a different approach that could ensure a different change than we've had in the past with the same approach only with different results with easy change than the hard change that we've had when change was, in fact, easy. Thank you very much.
We must have hope. Hope is what we must have. If you have no hope, then you are without it more than you would be if, indeed, you had hope. Without hope, there is only hopelessness. If you have hopelessness, then those without hope will never have hope because those who have it, do, and those who don't, don't.
And that is why I intend to hope that we may have more hope, so that those without hope can get it from those who do have hope. So the hopeful must share the hope with the hopeless to reduce the hopeless while uplifting the hopeful. And I certainly hope that we can all agree that hope alone without hoping for those without hope is, in fact, a recipe for further hopelessness. Thank you.
I ask you not to take a chance on me, but to take a chance on your own aspirations. And aspirations are nothing without inspiration. And with inspiration comes perspiration. So I ask you to aspire to perspire so that you may inspire. And with your inspiration, coupled with the aspirations of those who perspire, that perspiration will create further inspiration to which all of us can aspire. And those who inspire the most will perspire the most, only because their aspirations create the greatest inspirations. And it is a false choice to think you can have inspiration without perspiration.
So, if you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, better get yourself out, unless you're popping popcorn! Until you see the whites of their eyes, then, by god, don't you fire! I have but one life to give to my country, but I sure do regret it! We have nothing to fear, but fear itself, especially when fear fears us back! Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you! Sí, se puede! Pass the guacamole. Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders do not upset us. Boo-ya!
So to sum up, in conclusion, per se, so to speak, if you will, on the one hand, if not on the other, let me say this: Don't do drugs!
Thank you, and may God bless you, and may God bless America!
3/4/2008: Source Unknown: THE JOB & THE URINE TEST
Like a lot of folks in this state, I have a job. I work, they pay me. I pay my taxes and the government distributes my taxes as it sees fit. In order to get that paycheck, I am required to pass a random urine test with which I have no problem. What I do have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people who don't have to pass a urine test.
Shouldn't one have to pass a urine test to get a welfare check; I have to pass one to earn it for them? Please understand, I have no problem with helping people get back on their feet. I do, on the other hand, have a problem with helping someone sitting on their butts, doing drugs, while I work. Can you imagine how much money the state would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance check?
3/3/2008: I anxiously await the poll results tomorrow. Both Texas and Ohio have a history of fraudulent elections (dead people voting is the only reason LBJ, a disgusting excuse for a human being, ever made it to the Senate) and Ohio is...well, it's Ohio. Friends who grew up in Ohio say it is run almost exclusively by organized crime and no one in politics enjoys better relations with organized crime better than the Clintons.
As Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton race around Ohio and Texas for tomorrow's primaries, they are telling a tale of economic woe. Yet the real story isn't how similar the two states are economically but how different. Texas has been prospering while Ohio lags, and the reasons are instructive about what works and what doesn't in economic policy.
There's no doubt times are tough in Ohio. The state has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, home foreclosures are soaring, and real family income is lower now than in 2000. Meanwhile, the Texas economy has boomed since 2004, with nearly twice the rate of new job creation as the rest of the nation. The nearby table compares the states over a decade or so.
Let's start with the fact that Texas's growth puts the lie to the myth that free trade costs American jobs...
3/3/2008: [W]hen all government... in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another. Thomas Jefferson
"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course." -- George Washington (Farewell Address, 19 September 1796)
3/3/2008: The Goal Is Freedom: Health-Care Cons
The economist Joan Robinson (1903-1983) wrote, "The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of readymade answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists." A better reason to study economics is to avoid being deceived by politicians; they are the far greater threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When you consider that the typical political campaign is little more than a series of confidence games, understanding basic economics is a matter of survival. Without such an understanding, one is an easy mark.
3/3/2008: Global Waring is Todays Pet Rock
The Pet Rock was a rock, which could be found anywhere, glossed up, painted a bit, put in a box with maintenance instructions on a card, and sold as if it were real. If you were stupid enough to buy one, you paid $5-10 for the "pet rock." Instead, you could have gone to your front yard, picked up a rock, painted it yourself, and put it on a shelf. Lots of money was made by selling this scam. Global Warming has made Al Gore and other con artists millionaires many times over. Gore and his like sell "carbon credits," i.e., the right to pollute. Sound like the Pet Rock again. No one has the right to pollute. No one has the right to sell a certificate with no meaning. Senator Jim Battin (from guess which party?) paid $45 for a carbon credit certificate and is now demanding the right to drive his car [a Lincoln Navigator] in the HOV lane. He should have bought a Pet Rock instead. Global Warming is nothing more that today's Pet Rock?
3/3/2008: UP AND DOWN WALL STREET By ALAN ABELSON
...You need go no further than a quick glance at some of those hare-brained schemes to rescue homeowners from the housing morass to get an inkling of how much real damage they could wreak. The notion of mandating fixed or lower interest rates for five years on underwater mortgages holds great promise of turning a thoroughly nasty shambles that might go on perhaps for three more years, all the while gradually sorting itself out, into a home-building Ice Age that could last for decades...
...As to the eagerness to get Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac involved, both of which more than met expectations by just reporting humongous losses for last year, it's undeniably an inspired conception. Everyone knows that the surest way to stiffen the resolve of a recovering alcoholic in his never-ending tussle with the demon rum is to give him a drink...
...In the event, the grand delusion proved no match for reality. And the latter came last week, as intimated, not in dribs and drabs, but in a torrent. Oil prices for the first time ever reached $103 a barrel, and that fueled forecasts of $4 a gallon at the pump. Gold, which has proved a much better gauge of inflation than any of those laughable official measures our blessed government uses, also roared to an historic high of $978 an ounce and seems girding for a run at $1,000. The dollar, meanwhile, continued its dizzying descent to new lows, aided by Ben Bernanke's vow in his trudge up to Capitol Hill to keep cutting rates. And the slasher all but promised another meaningful whack this month...
3/2/2008: Phil Gramm Shaping McCains Economic Policy [Maybe there is a reason to vote for McCain after all...but then again, I've been disappointed over and over again by Republicans who talk free market but fail to deliver.]
Presidential hopeful John McCains chief economic adviser is former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, a longtime advocate of free market fiscal policy. And McCain is following the Texas Republicans lead on such issues as healthcare, taxes and the federal budget.
Gramm, a former economics professor, retired from the Senate in 2002 and has been an investment banker at UBS. He joined old friend McCains then-floundering campaign in July and helped turn it around. If McCain follows Gramms counsel, and most of his current positions are vintage Gramm indeed, his policies as president would represent not just a sharp departure from the Bush years, but an assault on government growth that Republicans have boasted about, but failed to achieve, for decades, Fortune magazine observes.
McCain and Gramm joined forces to help defeat Hillary Clintons healthcare plan in 1993. McCain and Gramm now support a plan that would allow Americans to shop for healthcare with their own money.
McCain advocates giving tax rebates of $2,500 per individual or $5,000 per family, and Americans could use that money to purchase healthcare policies on their own. The plan would also eliminate the tax exclusion for healthcare benefits offered by employers and replace it with the rebates.
Clinton and Barack Obama want to retain the employer-based system, and the Democrats would not allow insurers to charge lower healthcare insurance rates for young workers. McCain and Gramm favor allowing insurers to tailor their premiums, and their packages, to their customers, according to Fortune.
Regarding taxes, McCain now support extending the Bush tax cuts he twice voted against. But unlike Bush, he would seek to drastically cut spending. McCains main objection when Congress passed the tax cuts was that we didnt have spending controls, Gramm told Fortune. McCain vows to balance the federal budget by 2012 by, among other things, vetoing all pork barrel spending and reining in spending for Social Security and Medicare.
Amid speculation that Gramm could be President McCains Treasury Secretary, Gramm said hes reluctant to return to public life but he wont rule it out.
3/2/2008: Empower Families Not Government
The same government that has failed our children in government schools for two generations now wants control of our children at the age of three. We can't trust government with the education of our children, with the mail or with most services, so why should we give our children to the government at such a young age (or at all)? "Government is smarter than parents." Just ask elected officials. Every study shows that Head Start is nothing but a multi-billion dollar fleecing of the taxpayers and has been a complate failure. By the time the Head Start children reach the 3rd grade they are academically the same as the children that did not attend Head Start programs. Government is a propaganda machine and the weak among us believe the stories from the government con artists. The results, however, are different. Government is so out of control that it can not control its own spending, and its education system is a failure, so why would a rational person expand its reach? Get angry and change things or or get poorer and lose more and more freedom; that is your choice. What do you think, should government take your children at the age of three? Write your thoughts directly on the web site for all to see and discuss. To see the complete article click on the heading above.
The real Hillary Clinton stood up at the Democratic presidential debate this week: angry, sarcastic, stubborn, secretive, arrogant, mired in the past, victim of the media, and still firmly convinced that she is uniquely entitled to the Democratic Party nomination and the presidency...
Her lifelong pattern of secrecy was once again evident. While publicly promoting transparency in government, she steadfastly refuses to release her personal income tax returns. Thats a clear tip-off that theres something to hide. Recall that the Clintons selectively released tax returns in Arkansas, but refused to go back to 1980, when Hillary had her windfall in cattle futures.
Repeats Same Mistakes,
Whether one likes, dislikes, loves, hates, admires, fears, despises, or envies them, all Clinton watchers have this in common: They are dumbfounded both by the incompetence with which Hillary has run for president and her intransigence at sticking to a failed message...
As citizens, we are entitled to watch Obamas skill, leadership style, and savvy sophistication and contrast it with Hillarys doctrinaire insistence on approaches that arent working and to conclude that Hillary would be a disaster as president and that Obama would be pretty good.
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California State Senate, 2004
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Dale F. Ogden,
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