Friday, June 29, 2012

Obama Will Lose in November Based on Two Key Economic Indicators

Over the last almost 50 years, two economic indicators, have done a great job predicting the vote share of incumbents in Presidential elections (note I used vote share vs. the main opponent to adjust out the third party candidacies), real GDP growth and consumer confidence. Each has a correlation of 0.8 with vote share and each suggest that Obama will not be able to get 50% in a two way race with Romney.

Let's start with real GDP growth (more precisely, real quarterly GDP growth compared to the prior year during the quarter prior to the election):


As you can see, this is a pretty good indicator, with all the relatively deviations from the trend having great explanations. LBJ did better than expected because JFK had just been assassinated the year before, George H.W. Bush did worse because of Perot's outrageously successful 3rd party challenge that siphoned off votes and Ford did worse because of the Watergate fiasco.It suggests that Obama will likely get about 48% of the vote in November, with a full 1% more GDP growth necessary to cross the 50% threshold.  That is a pretty tall order given that Obamacare was just affirmed (with all of its job killing taxes and regulations), the upcoming fiscal cliff (taxes increase by 3.4% of GDP in January) and China & Europe are slowing down.  If anything, there is a good chance our economy will worsen, putting Obama even deeper in the hole.

Now let's take a look at consumer confidence:


As you can see, based on the abysmal University of Michigan consumer confidence readings, Obama is likely to get only 42% of the vote.  That's what happens when consumers are more unhappy under your administration than they were under Carter! 

It seems the only way Obama can continue his reign of terror is by either stealing the election or bombing Iran in October (to get a patriotic boost). 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

America is Now Even Closer to Fiscal Doom

Today is just an awful day. If Bush-appointed Justice Roberts had only voted with the rest of the conservatives, we would have been rid of all of Obamacare, not just the mandate, as their dissenting opinion implies. Once again, decisions that George W. Bush are turning out to be disastrous for those of us who believe in individual liberty and limited government.  Let's just do a quick run down shall we?
  1. Appointed Ben Bernanke to be Fed Chair.  How he could appoint the guy who actually hired Paul Krugman at Princeton to run our money supply is beyond me.  Bernanke has done almost nothing but debase our currency and fund Obama's deficit spending through his debt monetization (QE) programs.  Also, let's not forget what role that QE had on commodity inflation worldwide, causing riots in much of the developing world and probably leading to the US friendly Egyptian government to be overthrown.
  2.  Enacted Medicare Part D.  By actually expanding an entitlement while President, W made many Republican voters say "what exactly is the point of voting Republican if they act like Democrats"  and stay home.  The routs that were the 2006 and 2008 elections enabled  the passage of Obamacare by razor thin margins in both Houses of Congress
  3. He chose Justice Roberts, who has singlehandedly allowed a monstrous piece of legislation that does nothing but increase government largesse and hurt our long term fiscal health, to be enacted.
I guess I've found something to agree with Obama on, it is Bush's fault! 

Now let's get back to Obamacare.  You would think that an economy that continues to grow feebly, with unemployment rising again would not need the additional taxes and regulations that is Obamacare.  Let's just take a look at the taxes that Obamacare increases:
  • Broaden Medicare tax base for high-income taxpayers: $210.2 billion
  • Annual fee on health insurance providers: $60 billion
  • 40% excise tax on health coverage in excess of $10,200/$27,500: $32 billion
  • Impose annual fee on manufacturers and importers of branded drugs: $27 billion
  • Impose 2.3% excise tax on manufacturers and importers of certain medical devices: $20 billion
  • Raise 7.5% Adjusted Gross Income floor on medical expenses deduction to 10%: $15.2 billion
  • Limit contributions to flexible spending arrangements in cafeteria plans to $2,500: $13 billion
  • All other revenue sources: $14.9 billion
And then there is the biggest tax increase of all, the individual mandate, which is also a regressive tax.  I remember when I was first out of college, there is no way I could have afforded to pay for my own health insurance, nor would I have been able to qualify for medicaid.  The need to rend an apartment and lease a car sucked much of the money out of my pocket.  Where would I have found the money to get health insurance on top of that?  I never got sick at that age, so why would I have wanted to piss away thousands of dollars on something I wouldn't use (I didn't even go to the doctor for the first 3 years after college)?  Jay Cost has a great description of what the individual mandate actually does:

The individual mandate represents an enormous transfer of wealth, completely independent of income or social status. It transfers resources from the healthy to the sick, from the young to the old, without regard to who has more money to begin with. Democrats typically rail against supposedly regressive GOP tax proposals, but nothing the Republicans have ever cooked up compares to the individual mandate.
For all the talk about taxing the rich and giving the poor the break, the mandate actually seems to do the exact opposite as:
The mandate itself is the method by which the Democrats have delivered literally billions of dollars worth of patronage to the key interests groups that lined up with them during the health care debate. The party sought to apply new layers of regulations upon doctors, nurses, hospitals, retirement care facilities, etc., and they rightfully feared a rebuke from these key “stakeholders,” as the Obama White House called them. What better way to buy their silence than to require 30 million Americans become their customers, whether they want to or not! All it took was a flip-flop on the part of the president – who conveniently disavowed his campaign opposition to a mandate – and suddenly all those opponents turned in to lusty supporters, eager to get their hands on all that new revenue.
As soon as the mandate comes into force, suddenly there will be millions of Americans with reduced disposable incomes, forcing them either to go deeper into debt or cut spending on things they would rather spend their hard earned money on (like food other than Ramen noodles and macaroni & cheese).  There is no way this is good for the economy.

And the last thing we need is for the economy to get any weaker, especially with our annual deficit at about 8.5% of GDP, our debt to GDP at about 100% and 35 cents of every dollar of federal spending having to be borrowed from countries that aren't exactly friendly to American interests like China.

Let's also not forget that even without Obamacare, our fiscal health is severely compromised.  Here is a nifty graph from Mary Meeker's USA,Inc. presentation on how just our entitlement and interest expenditures will soon be well over 20% of GDP alone.  And that is before paying for things like the military or the patent office or just about every government agency outside of the SSA and CMS:


As this chart indicates, even before Obamacare, entitlement spending has grown at a rate that is 5 times faster than REAL GDP!


As you can see, it's not defense spending or other discretionary programs that are bankrupting us, it's entitlements, and now we have another major one, which will undoubtedly blow the bank.  I know the liberals keep saying that the CBO score showed it was deficit neutral, but as we know that is just unrealistic.  Medicare ended up being 10x greater than estimated by the government.  That is definitely NOT reassuring.


So what now?  Are we doomed?  I'd say "probably but not necessarily".  As long as we have people like Obama in the White House and Bernanke in the Fed, we are doomed.  As long as we keep spending like we are and adding more and more entitlements, we are doomed.  If you think these countries will perpetually be buying more and more US debt at anywhere near today's interest rates, you have another thing coming.  Eventually we will have a treasury debt crisis and the game will be over.

The first step is to kick both out of their current positions (and as far away from this country as possible would also be nice).  Also, something to at least consider would be to refuse to increase the debt ceiling.  I know the mainstream media thinks this means the US would default, it actually wouldn't.  We would still make interest and principal payments on debt without an increased debt ceiling, we would just be FORCED to balance the budget.  That is probably the fastest way to limit the size of the government, though given the way the world's financial system is going right now, a shock to the system like that might be too much (though it might be necessary regardless). 

Anyway, I have some other things that I would favor right now, but I am still a bit pissed by this decision so should probably stop typing before I say something I shouldn't.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

DC Students Cost Taxpayers over $27,000 per Pupil Yet Are Usually Ranked the Worst

I was a bit shocked when I first heard (from this Cato post) about how much DC students cost taxpayers on a per pupil basis.  According to Table 11 of the Public Education Finances: 2010 Report from the Census Bureau, in 2009-10, DC students cost taxpayers a whopping $27,263 per pupil!  This from an education system which is ranked near or at the bottom in terms of test scores.   Just to put things into perspective, the next highest spending level is in NY state at just over $20,000, a whopping 25% lower.  My town, which ranks near the top of all schools in New Jersey spends only $14,100 per pupil, almost half the level for DC students.  You really have to go to the level of uber-elite private schools to surpass what is spent on DC students.  Tuition at Philips Academy is $32,850, while higher, is closer to what DC spends than DC spending is to all other states in the country.  Are DC students getting a Philips Academy education?  Obviously not.  They're practically not even getting a Libya-quality education.  Okay, maybe its unfair to compare the two systems as private school faculty tend to be non-union and the school doesn't have to operate under state or union rules.  If Philips were public, spending per pupil would probably be twice as much as it is as a private institution.  Then how do you explain my town's public school system, with unions and all, achieving so much more with just half the money?  The amount of waste and corruption at the DC school system must be absolutely mindboggling.

Some Useful Definitions to Understand Our Modern Progressive World

From Cliff Asness of the hedge fund, AQR (h/t ZeroHedge):

Failed Policies of the Past

Definition: Limited government, free markets, personal responsibility, liberty.

We Are All In This Together

Definition: For the love of God who do we tax back to the stone-age to get out of this!?

Social Darwinism

Definition: Essentially a darling concept of the progressive left of the first half of the 20th century (along with eugenics its even more vile cousin). It now is defined as "any attempt by conservatives and libertarians to rein in the unsustainable spending of out of control government."

Fairness

Definition: A word used to motivate making sure outcomes do not match abilities or effort. Note, pre-1970 it meant roughly the opposite.

Social Justice

Definition: Redistribution based on group affiliation, regardless of anything the actual individuals in question did, or even their specific ancestors did, but instead based on the actions of other individuals in the past who just kind of looked vaguely like those in the relevant groups being discussed now, both victim and oppressor. Also applies to redistribution of any kind, whether based on actual unfairness, or on simply outcomes liberals do not like.

Alternative definition: Unspecific. Just a meaningless phrase that screams "I am liberal and this phrase sounds liberal and nice with just a hint of revolutionary sexiness."

Antonym: Justice (which, even if it must be applied broadly to address real group-wide wrongs, is always and everywhere an individual notion)

The Phrase "Deny Access to…"

Used in a sentence: "It is unfair to deny access to healthcare to 26 year olds living off their parents."

Definition: When a person isn't given something they want for free, and they have not found a way to steal it yet, they have been "denied access" to it. In general it is the "1%" that "denies access." See "1%" below.

Entitlement

Definition: Something provided by other men and women's labor that some claim as their right, sometimes claiming to have paid for it during their lifetime, when all forms of modern mathematics and accounting reject that notion.

Rights

Used in a sentence: "I have a right to healthcare."

Definition: A more extreme form of "entitlement" defined above. Note that modern usage throws out the long tradition of natural rights only of a negative nature, that is, the right not to have something done to you, for rights of a positive nature, that is, the right to certain goods and services, like health care, Apple products, and soy milk. Since, no matter how important these items are, these modern positive rights must still be produced and taken from others, essentially the word "rights" now often stands for a system of slavery and theft.

Main Street

Definition: A place liberals used to ridicule as Mayberry but now pretend to love.

Regular Americans

Definition: People who support me.

Special Interests

Definition: People who support you.

Fat Cat

Definition: Something a politicians calls someone with 3x more money than the median voter who supported the politician in question.

Alternative Definition: Someone the same exact politician hits up for cash.

The 1%

Definition: Those who pay more than 1/3 the total federal income tax and are never thanked for it. More generally, they are responsible for all evil in the world today (unless they work in Hollywood or hi-tech in which case they are "honorary 99%-ers" regardless of income, tax rate, and lifestyle).

Middle-Class

Definition: A focus-group tested better word than "the poor" for progressives to use to advance their statist schemes. Some speeches by progressives now consist of just saying it over and over again in different hypnotic musical tones.

Income Inequality

Definition: What occurs when a free and productive economy includes people with different abilities, work habits, and, of course, luck. Also, one of the main reasons anyone actually works at anything.

A Fair Tax System

Definition: One in which the "rich" (i.e., those making more than the speaker of these words, or those voting for the speaker) pay 50% more than they currently pay, and the speaker and his constituents get to pay 50% less than they currently pay. These figures remain unchanged despite any starting tax rates. If this change pushes the "rich" to over 100% or the non-rich to below 0% more the fairer.

Julia

Definition: The person living the ideal progressive life where no responsibility is taken, no risk is taken, the government perks are endless, you never see who pays for it, and the tyrannical hand of big-brother never makes it into the cartoon narrative.

Synonym: Sheep Antonym: Men

Citizens United

Definition: The ultimate evil Supreme Court decision (narrowly defeating Dred Scott) which expanded free speech, thus allowing those with money to, uh, speak freely.

SCOTUS

Definition: A delicious breakfast treat that goes well with English Breakfast tea and clotted crème. Conservatives prefer theirs in the traditional 9 pack, liberals enjoy up to 15.

Elizabeth Warren

Definition: An "Elizabeth Warren" is any brilliant scholar who both thinks we can fix the U.S. financial system simply by adding another giant bureaucracy with near unlimited power, and who can, by dancing vigorously in a circle, make it rain. Both equally as likely.

The IMF and/or the World Bank

Definition: Nobody knows. See SMERSH and CHAOS for similar definitions.

The European Financial Crisis

Definition: A complex multi-year dance whose sole purpose is to see how much money can be shaken out of the German middle-class.

Universal Health Care

Definition: The system formerly known as single payer.

Single payer Health Care

Definition: The system formerly known as socialized medicine.

Socialized Medicine

Definition: Something Democrats claim they don't want, as they simply want Universal Health Care.

Nobel Peace Prize

Definition: A prize awarded to the left's favorite person that year.

Antonym: Any prize having anything to do with actual Peace, or frankly accomplishment of any kind.

Stimulus

Definition: Taking money from current and future Americans to undertake projects that didn't make sense before, don't make sense now, will net cost jobs as the stimulus must be paid for privately, but since the job losses will be hidden, and the direct hires put on the evening news, might let those in charge keep their cushy jobs a bit longer.

World War II

Definition: Mainly important as proof that Keynesian stimulus works (side note: also led to defeat of Nazis and Imperial Japan). Since it is the only such "proof" ever, and we all have nuclear weapons now, different options are being considered for future stimuli. Actually, since World War II ending did not crash the economy as Keynesians predicted at the time, frankly we're rethinking the whole thing.

Cash for Clunkers

Definition: What we came up to replace World War II as stimulus. Many perfectly good cars destroyed, no Nazis defeated.

Quantitative Easing

Definition: The act of printing pieces of paper to purchase other pieces of paper and thinking it matters at all for anything. See "dogs chasing cars" for related examples.

Austerity

Definition: Spending much more than ever before but slightly less than you had once thought you might spend which itself was a completely insane amount to spend.

Synonym: Profligacy

Paul Ryan

Definition: A "Paul Ryan" is a Hollywood monster which kills and devours old people simply by showing them a preliminary reasonable plan to grow spending slower than we currently are, while keeping any obligations already made to the elderly.

Grand Bargain

Definition: An agreement to raise taxes now while tacitly agreeing to waive the corresponding spending cuts later. Usually done in at least a 10:1 ratio as waiving 10x the future cuts is a particularly effective amount of waiving.

Reform

Definition: To make something (e.g., government) bigger, more intrusive, less efficient, and more dictatorial.

Bipartisan

Definition: We found one old sap from the other party dying for one last shot at relevance who will add his name to our highly partisan effort.

Dodd-Frank

Definition: A verb, to "Dodd-Frank" something is to use the perpetrators of a major crime to fix things for next time. Like taking ex-computer hackers and putting them in charge of your security (this example is not perfect as this might actually work). Used in a sentence: "We really Dodd-Franked that financial reform."

See also "Searching for the real killers."

Right Wing Extremist

Definition: Someone objecting in any way to left wing extremism.

Conservative

Definition: Moron

Liberal

Definition: A word that when applied to yourself conveys an instant halo of goodness that does not have to be justified with actions, logic, or even the slightest examination of what the policies you support have wrought. Works particularly well for rich hypocrites (Wall Street) and rich morons (Hollywood).

Progressive

Definition: A rebranding of "liberal" post-Dukakis, going back to an older word, that means essentially the same thing, but contains the very positive word "progress" within it, and the always welcome "ive" ending.

Libertarian

Definition: A philosophy held by annoying bastards who happen to be right about nearly everything. Fortunately, due to the frustration that comes with being right about nearly everything, in a world wrong about those same things, there are only 19 of them, and we're going to find the bastards soon.

The Party of No

Definition: Legislators who are rightly demonized by the press and progressives for being elected to bring down the size of government and then actually trying to do so. Sons of bitches.

Synonyms: Obstructionists, Do-nothing Congress

The Buck Stops There

Definition: Something Barack Obama says about George W. Bush.

Foreign Policy

Definition: A process where the USA makes amends to the rest of the world for being more successful than them, footing many of their bills, and shedding our blood to keep them safer and freer.

Due Process

Definition: Something progressives get misty over when Henry Fonda is being denied it on the silver screen and when in power they deliver at the end of an explosive drone after Judge David Axelrod pronounces the target guilty.

Climate

Definition: A non-linear chaotic system that is a near-perfect example of something that is very very difficult, even using modern methods, to explain or forecast. This in no way takes away from the possible reasonableness of man-made climate change described below. Though, one might note, we get frustrated by weathermen as they can't forecast the climate today.

Global Warming

Definition: What we now call "climate change". Global warming was phased out as it also leads to things being too cold, and sometimes being just right. Mama Bear has been replaced with a highly volatile mix of all three bears.

Climate Change

Definition: The fact that over time the climate, uh, changes.

Man-Made Climate Change

Definition: The entirely reasonable idea that seven billion industrialized humans may be affecting the climate.

Krypton Seven Seconds Before Kal-El Was Launched Into Space

Definition: The stage liberals are certain the Earth is at.

Jor-El

Definition: Both a character once played by Marlon Brando and coincidentally the fictional character Al Gore pictures himself as. Nobody listened to Jor-El and look what happened! A fascinating additional coincidence is that when Brando was alive, Marlon and Al alone actually omitted ¼ of the USA's greenhouse gases.

Infinity

Definition: The amount progressives will spend to combat man-made climate change without any assessment of the costs and benefits of these actions.

The Green Agenda

Definition: The additional use of man-made climate change, even if it's fully true and it makes economic sense to sacrifice to fight it, to have government and its anointed priests take over much more of our lives. Any questioning of it is absolute proof of evil. Children must be indoctrinated in it in grade school before reading or writing or arithmetic. They must then be sent to spy on and lecture their parents.

Resistance is futile.

Ronald Reagan Definition: Right wing extremist President who kicked people off welfare which progressives said would be a holocaust, radically broadened free trade which progressives say has since killed American manufacturing, and whose administration perpetuated the horrible banking deregulation progressives say brought on the financial crisis.

Bill Clinton

Definition: The guy who actually did those things right above (though Reagan did some other cool
things). Oddly today's Democrats insist that it's Republicans who've changed and gotten "way more extreme" since the 1990s.

Trickle Down Economics

Definition: A brilliant marketing phrase for denigrating the truth: that a freer economy helps everyone. Not to be confused with "trickle up poverty" a perfect definition of socialism.

Democracy

Definition: An excellent form of government where if you can cobble together 51% of the people, by promising them other people's stuff, or scaring them that you'll take away their stuff, you can rule as a dictator. It is decidedly not the form of government originally chosen by the United States of America, which is a constitutional republic with limited government. Thankfully we've mostly done away with that nonsense.

Socialism

Definition: A word that is a hate crime if used about an American politician who wants us to be more like Europe. Or, alternatively, a word used by many European politicians to define themselves.



The Looming State Pension Disaster

A great piece from Walter Russell Mead on how lax accounting, underfunded promises and the need to reach for yield will likely doom many state pension funds.  Be sure to read the whole thing:

The biggest scam going in American financial life may be the collusive effort by Wall Street, the political class, and public sector unions to use union retirement money to prop up Wall Street speculation.

Step One: state politicians promise big pension and health care benefits to their unionized work forces, but don't set aside enough money to fund those benefits when the bill comes due. This makes union leaders and unions look good, because they can point to the shiny new benefits they have negotiated with the politicians. Meanwhile, it makes the politicians happy because the unions support them with contributions and volunteers at election time, but because the unions don't insist on full funding for the benefits, the politicians don't have to raise costs or otherwise disturb the big majority of voters who don't work for the government.

Step Two: Make aggressive assumptions about the rate of return on pension investment funds. This has two consequences: it covers the gap between promise and reality (for a while), thereby postponing the day when the politicians have to face the voters and the union leaders have to tell their members that those beautiful benefits were bogus from the start. But the other purpose, equally important, is that it forces America's public sector pension funds into the deep end of the financial markets, leading pension funds to be major investors in hedge funds, derivatives and various other not-for-the-widows-and-orphans investments. If these work out, great — the funds hit their investment targets and the benefits, or at least some of them, get paid. If they go awry — as many did in the last few years — then the pension problem turns into a crisis.

...

Private sector pension funds "are required by law to use low, risk-adjusted discount rates to calculate the market value of their liabilities, [but] public employee pensions are not." This means that the private pension funds must take into account the chance that their projected rate of return on investment isn't met. The higher the assumed rate of return, the greater the risk that must be taken into account.

This is exactly what public pension plans, backed by the unions, do not want to do. Ignoring the chance that assumed rates won't be achieved disguises a harsh reality for state and municipal pension funds. As a new report from Boston College's Center for Retirement notes: "there is a total of $2.6 trillion of assets on [the 126 public sector pension plans tracked by the study] but current liabilities under today's assumption that they can grow by eight percent annually are $3.6 trillion. If the investment assumption is moved down to four percent (still high when compared to current returns), then the liabilities of those plans jumps to a staggering $6.4 trillion."

Pension funds and union officials like the current lax rules. When Montana needed a new actuary it ignored all applicants who suggested using the same methods private pensions do to assess their future risks. "If the Primary Actuary or the Actuarial Firm supports [market valuation] for public pension plans, their proposal may be disqualified from further consideration," read the job description. Scott Miller, legal counsel of the Montana Public Employees Board, was more blunt: "The point is we aren't interested in bringing in an actuary to pressure the board to adopt market value of liabilities theory."

The new GASB rules allow many pension funds to continue to use these lax risk accounting methods that would be illegal in a private company. And amazingly, once you sprinkle a little pixie dust and some optimistic, undiscounted assumptions onto them, a number of shaky pension systems look strong. For example, New York City: "The current accounting rules make New York City's plans look almost perfectly funded. Using the risk-free [market-based] method, Robert C. North Jr., the chief actuary for New York City, has said, there would be shortfalls running into the billions of dollars."

Even the new rules, weak and watered down as they are, reveal a devastating picture of political irresponsibility and opportunism from one end of the country to the other. When a pension fund can reasonably project having 80 percent of the money needed to meet its obligations, it is considered to be in reasonably good shape. Under the new rules, startling numbers of large state pension funds don't come anywhere close. (Click here for a Wall Street Journal table that shows what the pension situation looks like around the country.) In Illinois, the pension system for teachers is about as well funded as a Bernie Madoff fund: 18.8 percent of what it needs.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

State Department Violates Law, Doesn't Seem to Find Anything Wrong With That

Last week, Eli Lake, broke the story that the State Department issued a visa to a known member of an Egyptian terrorist organization, in violation of US law.  In yesterday's press briefing, it doesn't sound like the State Department really cares that they broke the law.  They apparently investigated the matter and won't really say what they concluded from that investigation but said that they think its a good idea to engage "a broad cross section of Egyptians".  In completely dishonest fashion, they added that "US law comes first".  Do these people listen to themselves?:

QUESTION: Okay. Can I go back to Egypt for just one second?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And – but it's not having to do with the government. It has to do with the visa for the Gama'a al-Islamiyya member. You said last week that there was a – you were looking into the circumstances of how this was issued. Has – have you determined how this – how it happened? And are you aware that Representative King has asked – formally asked Homeland Security to find out how he was in fact allowed entry, quite apart – separate from the visa issue?

MS. NULAND: On the latter, yes, I've seen the reporting. As we promised, we did look into it. Unfortunately, you're not going to be happy with me when I tell you that we are not going to get into the details of confidential visa issuance. He and the rest of that delegation who were here last week have all now returned to Egypt.

QUESTION: Do you regard it as a mistake to have issued him a visa, given that he is self-proclaimed a member of Gama'a al-Islamiyya?

MS. NULAND: Well, let's start with the fact that we have an interest in engaging a broad cross-section of Egyptians who are seeking to peacefully shape Egypt's future. The goal of this delegation, as you know, was to have consultations both with think tanks but also with government folks, with a broad spectrum representing all the colors of Egyptian politics: liberals, Islamists, Salafists, women, Bedouin Christians. We were encouraged that they were willing to travel, that they were open to meetings with us, et cetera.

But in terms of specific questions on the visa issuance, I'm not going to – I'm not at liberty to get into anything further.

QUESTION: Well, but here's the thing: I mean, I appreciate that you feel that you have an interest in consulting with the entire spectrum of Egyptian political society. But you also have U.S. laws which state that members of foreign terrorist groups are not eligible for travel to the United States, and would state, in some cases, can actually be removed from the United States if they happen to come here.

So the question – and I don't think it's an unreasonable question – it's whether it's a mistake to let somebody who is a self-proclaimed member of such a group in or not. It may be that the threshold under the law is higher and that you have to do more than just say, "Hey, I'm a member of X." You actually have to have a card or, I don't know, pay dues. I mean, maybe there are --

MS. NULAND: The T-shirt?

QUESTION: I bet he has one. But the question is whether it – this is a mistake or not regardless of – nobody's asking you about the specific details of the issuance or – it's just "Did you make a mistake?"

MS. NULAND: Again, with regard to this case, we pledged to you that we would look into it. We did look into it. But I can't get into any further details with regard to the how, why, where of the issuance for all of the reasons that we usually state.

With regard to the broader principle of engaging a broad cross-section of Egyptians, as I said, we think that's a good thing to do.

QUESTION: So in the future, you're going to allow in members of Foreign Terrorist Organizations to the United States Government, because that's an interest to the U.S. Government to talk to a wide range of people?

MS. NULAND: As we always do, U.S. law comes first.

QUESTION: I don't recall you saying when you said you were going to look into it, that you weren't going to tell us what the results of the investigation were. I missed that part.

MS. NULAND: That's true. You did.

QUESTION: No, I missed it because I don't think you said it. And I think there was an expectation that if someone acted inappropriately or if somehow this guy slipped through, if procedures were violated, that you would at least be able to say that. So can you say if – has there been a determination that someone missed the ball here?

MS. NULAND: Again, I can't speak to what our looking into this resulted in, except to say that the delegation has all departed the country now.

QUESTION: Well, right, but we knew that they had left on – or were in the process of leaving on Friday, so --

MS. NULAND: They were. They were.

QUESTION: So --

MS. NULAND: I've said what I've got on this one. Arshad had more --

QUESTION: I understand, but I just – I really – I mean, if you say you're going to do an investigation and the results of the investigation are secret, that's --

MS. NULAND: I said we were going to look into it. We did look into it.

QUESTION: And that's it? It's a done deal?

MS. NULAND: Under U.S. law --

QUESTION: So the matter – no one's going to face any disciplinary action? There hasn't been --

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to --

QUESTION: I don't understand how that --

MS. NULAND: I'm not in a position --

QUESTION: I don't understand how that gets into the Privacy Act, I don't understand how that gets into visa confidentiality, and I suspect that you're going to hear a lot more about this from the Hill. Maybe you'll be more forthcoming with them than with the American people, who are supposed to be protected by these laws.

MS. NULAND: Anything else?

QUESTION: Two, yeah, related to this. To your knowledge, are there any legal or criminal inquiries into whether any U.S. laws were violated in this instance?

MS. NULAND: I do not know the answer to that question, Arshad.


Japan Set to Double Sales Tax to 10% and Set to Have Several More Lost Decades

The lost decade of the 1990's in Japan turned into a lost two decades as the 2000's were little better, and unfortunately, it looks like the pain is likely to continue for a long time to come.  Japan's debt-to-GDP ratio is an enormous 236% thanks in part to disastrous demographics which will cause the population to shrink by a third in the next 50 years.  This will lead to a one worker/one retiree ratio by 2050, an extremely unsustainable level as there is no way one worker can sustain one retiree and have enough money to support a decent lifestyle.  It's only a matter of time but something has to give, retiree benefits just have to be cut and retirement ages have to rise, otherwise Japan will be in a permanent depression.  Unfortunately, the Japanese government, at the behest of the IMF, has decided to put more pressure on its fragile economy (nominal GDP is actually 10.6% less than it was in 1997) by doubling the sales tax to 10%.  To make matters worse, the IMF actually wants them to increase the tax some more to 15%.  This will all put enormous pressure on consumers as well as the economy as a whole potentially causing a Greek like crisis.  Rising massive debt leves and a falling economy can make for a combustible mix.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Simple Solution for the Euro

Arnold Kling of EconLog write a nice succinct post on what it will take to solve the Euro crisis:

The crisis will end only when the liabilities of the insolvent governments and banks have been properly discounted. Maybe Spanish bonds will be worth only 70 percent of their face value. Maybe creditors of some large banks will receive new notes worth, on average, 80 percent of their existing notes. (But will small depositors get 100 percent, and large creditors get much less than 80 percent?).

Another important issue arises from the nature of sovereign debt. For private debt issued within a country, creditors have recourse to the court system to try to recover their money. But there is no court with the power to force the government of Spain to pay anything to its creditors. So, even if the German government, in order to "save the European union," agrees as an agent for its citizens to buy existing Spanish debt at par in exchange for new debt worth 70 cents on the euro, how can we be sure that Spain will pay off the new debt?

In any case, the important point is that resolution of the crisis requires large markdowns in the value of the liabilities of some governments and banks. The crisis continues because the parties involved are unwilling to undertake this step. The crisis will end when they have exhausted the alternatives.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Looks like Egypt Just Elected Hitler

Here is footage of the new Egyptian President saying that he wants Jerusalem to be his capital.  I can just imagine what he would want to do to all the Jews in his way:


Friday, June 22, 2012

Another Great Example of Why Europe is Screwed

The European Court of Justice just ruled that if you get sick during your vacation, that you are entitled to another one:

Entitlement to paid annual leave must be regarded as a particularly important principle of EU social law, a principle expressly enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The right to paid annual leave cannot be interpreted restrictively.

The Court also points out that the purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure. The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.

Paid annual leave is a fundamental right?  Freedom of religion is a fundamental right.  Freedom of speech is a fundamental right.  Paid vacation time from work?  Come on.  I wonder how John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would have reacted if someone mentioned that vacations were also an inalienable right that was endowed by our creator?  The right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and to get paid while wearing a speedo on the coast of Valencia?

And of course it should not surprise you that the President of the European Court of Justice is Vassilios Skouris, a Greek judge.

The Toothless Iran Oil Embargo

It's amazing how unserious the Obama administration is in trying to put pressure on the Iranians.  They've spent years in futile negotiations with that murderous and dishonest regime and now are declawing oil sanctions by granting waivers to all the major countries who import oil from Iran.  So far they have granted waivers to Japan, South Korea and India and now seem to be hinting at a waiver for China.  Check out Hillary Clinton's comments on the Charlie Rose show:

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, absent some action by Iran between now and July 1st, the oil embargo is going into effect. And that's been very clear from the beginning, that we were on this track. I have to certify under American laws whether or not countries are reducing their purchases of crude oil from Iran, and I was able to certify that India was, Japan was, South Korea was. And we think, based on the latest data, that China is also moving in that direction.

What latest data?  The 39% jump in oil imports in May compared to April?  Sure, China had reduced oil imports earlier this year but that was because of a commercial dispute between the China International United Petroleum & Chemical Company and the Iranian National Oil Company and has absolutely nothing to do with the embargo and therefore is not indicative of how much China will import going forward. The dispute is now resolved, hence the reason for the huge monthly jump.  On a year over year basis, China only decreased imports from Iran in May by 2.2% which could easily just be due to a slowing economy, is that what Clinton means by "moving in that direction"? 

This administration has been nothing but dishonest in their dealings with Iran, pretending to be acting decisively but, in fact, doing almost nothing to stop them.  It seriously seems like their only real goal was to delay Israel acting against Iran.  In that, unfortunately, they have been outrageously successful so far. 


Thursday, June 21, 2012

The New Greek Government is Hardly an Improvement over the Old One

The new government in Greece, which is a coalition of the New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left parties seems to be just as boneheaded as previous governments,  What they should be doing is continuing to shrink the parisitic public sector while encouraging the private sector.  Of course, they have decided to do the complete opposite.  They say they want a change in terms in the bailout agreement in which there will be fewer public sector cuts than previously promised and also they want to scrap a reduction in the minimum wage.  Fewer public sector job cuts mean you are maintaining a higher level of government spending and therefore taxation (they could be funded by debt temporarily but even the Germans can't mathematically keep bailing out the other nations of Europe for much longer).  That higher taxation hurts the ability of the private sector to rebound, which prolongs the depression.  A cut in the minimum wage are also necessary.  Greece has 22.6% unemployment, wouldn't it be nice if Greek employers could afford to hire more workers?  Also, this cut isn't forcing anyone to work for less money, it just allows consenting adults to come to a contractual agreement at a wage level less than what is legally allowed to today.  Why shouldn't people be allowed to work at cut rates?  Isn't it better than having no job at all?  Also, note that Germany has no statutory minimum wage and they seem to be doing fine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Some Quick Thoughts on the VP Contenders

After yesterday's kerfuffle regarding Rubio's status on the short list of VP contenders, I thought it was time to put some thoughts together on the subject.  My belief is that Romney needs to find someone who is to the right of him (to appease conservatives) and has a sufficient amount of administrative experience that the GOP can highlight how Obama's inexperience led to bungle the last 4 years.  Finding someone who might help Romney carry a battleground state or increase vote percentages within certain demographics would be gravy, though its unclear how much the VP slot actually helps with those:

Marco Rubio - I like Marco Rubio.  He ran a wonderful insurgent campaign against the RINO Charlie Crist and won a race that excited many in the Tea Party.  He's a bona fide conservative and a great speaker, what's not to like?  Well, a couple of things.  First, he is a Senator not a Governor so he has very limited administrative experience.  Also, he has only been Senator since 2011, which after extensive research I have concluded is the year before this one.  There would be a big question in the media whether he is ready to take the mantle if anything happens to Romney.  I realize Obama got a pass in this regard but the media is biased (duh) and look where voting in someone so inexperienced got us.  Could he make up for any weakness on that account by the number of Latinos who might vote Republican?  I'm not sure.  Rubio isn't Mexican, he is Cuban, and from what I can tell their special refugee status has led to a lot of resentment amongst the Latino community.  He might not lead to as much of a bump amongst this much desired ethnic group as people think (Brian Sandoval, who is Mexican, would be better in this regard).  Rubio is only 41, there is no need to rush to get him on a ticket.  I say we save him for 2020 or so when he is more seasoned and experienced.

Rob Portman - It seems he has two things going for him, he is boring and he is from Ohio, other than that I don't see why Romney would want to pick him.  First, he isn't very conservative.  His lifetime ACU rating is only 88 and in 2011 he had an abysmal 75, which is lower than John McCain's (he got an 80), thanks to some pro-Union votes from Portman.  I don't think the right will be terribly happy with Portman being the VP.  Also, he isn't really an administrator, with the only experience he has in this regard coming from 2 years he spent in the W administration (not something you want to have on your resume).  Unless Romney wants to be painted as someone who just wants to bring back the W years (anathema to liberals and conservatives alike), he will avoid Rob Portman. 

Tim Pawlenty - Full disclosure, I was a Pawlenty supporter at the beginning of the primary cycle so if I thought he would have been a good President, I definitely think he would make a great VP.  He's a two term Governor from a liberal state who was still able to receive an A from the Cato Fiscal Policy Report Card in 2010, one of only four Governors to do so.  He also can counter the "Republicans are a party of the rich" argument pretty easily.  His dad drove a milk truck, his mom died when he was 16 and he was the only one of his siblings to attend college.  He is a smart, sensible politician who nobody would worry about being one heartbeat away from the Presidency.  The Romney campaign already finds him to be a dependable go-to surrogate.  He has appeal for the right, for moderates, for blue collar workers and anybody who wants a competent manager, what is not to like?  The only drawback is that he probably won't even be able to help Romney carry Minnesota.  Even though he was re-elected, he benefited from a 3 way race and never actually received more than 46.4% of the vote.

Paul Ryan - He is a superstar, so much so that I don't think anyone would care that he is just a Congressman.  The problem for Romney though would be that he is too much of a superstar and overshadow him (heck, many would have preferred Ryan at the top of the ticket to Romney).  He has more charisma and came out with a detailed plan to reform our budget so Romney might actually get more questions on Ryan's plan than his own.  Presidential candidates don't like being overshadowed and so I think Romney will probably end up passing on this one.

Chris Christie - While he talks conservative, he is much more moderate than people think on a variety of issues.  So it's unclear whether he would help matters with conservatives.  Also, he has only been Governor for 2 years and before that he was just a US Attorney so he probably doesn't have the experience necessary for the VP slot.  I think we should keep him on the bench, he could prove more useful in later races when he has more experience under his belt.

Bobby Jindal - He is a wunderkind.  When he was just 25 years old he was appointed Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, which represented 40% of the state budget.  During his tenure, the Louisiana Medicaid program went from bankruptcy to 3 straight years of surpluses.  He also has a successful record as a two term Governor of Louisiana with the Cato Institute giving him one of only 4 A's in their Fiscal Policy Report Card of 2010. Between that and the fact he was a Perry supporter in the primaries, he is very popular with conservatives.  His one and only drawback was that he messed up his only chance on the national stage so far when he flubbed the Republican Response to the State of the Union in 2009.  Some of it was simply delivery which I think can be coached away.  Regardless of his delivery, few would think he isn't ready to take over if necessary. 

Bob McDonnell - The Governor of Virginia is popular and a competent administrator in a battleground state.  However, he has two problems.  First, he might actually widen the gender gap.  In his 1989 thesis he said that working women were detrimental to the family.  Also he recently signed a bill that required ultrasounds before abortions.  The two together will be used against him to scare women from voting for the GOP.  Also, McDonnell, like Christie, has only been in office since 2010 so his experience as an administrator is somewhat lacking.  However, since Virginia has a 1 term limit, McDonnell would have to find an administrative position outside of the Governorship to build his resume to rectify this.  Anyway, while McDonnell is a pretty good choice for VP, it probably would be better for Romney to pass on this one.

Jeb Bush - Not another Bush.  Not.  Ever.

Brian Sandoval - The Governor of Nevada has a few things going for him.  First, he was a former judge and an Attorney General, something that suggests competence.  Second, his family is Mexican, so he might be better for the ticket than Marco Rubio in that regard.  And finally, Nevada is a battleground state, one with only 6 electoral votes but a battleground nonetheless.  The big weakness that he has is that he only took office in 2011, so, once again, we are left with wondering whether he is ready to be one heartbeat away from the Presidency.  Here is another one we might want to leave for future races (it's nice to know though that we seem to have a deep bench).

Susana Martinez - The Governor of New Mexico has been brought up as a potential candidate in the past mainly because she is a woman and has a Mexican background.  But once again, we come up with the dreaded reality of the fact that she has very limited experience.  Like Sandoval and Rubio, she only took office last year so she has almost zero administrative experience.  Before that, she was just a district attorney.

And there you have it.  Sorry if I left out anybody who is your favorite.  I generally didn't look at too many Senators as I think they would be a detriment to the ticket, especially when we have quality Governors to choose from.  In there end, I think Romney should choose someone like Tim Pawlenty or Bobby Jindal to be his VP.  Both are competent administrators who can draw a real distinction with how a Romney administration would differ from the last 4 disastrous years.  Plus, with some grooming and some time in the national spotlight, both could be great Presidential candidates in their own right down the line.

Nigel Farage Thinks the Head of the EC is a Deluded Communist Idiot

Another great one from Nigel Farage, this time commenting on the EC President's statement that the US is to blame for Europe's ills (h/t ZeroHedge):

Great, Though Dark, Whittaker Chambers Quote

I've finally gotten around to reading the Whittaker Chambers classic Witness, which is about his time as a Communist and his conversion to the light (and the Republican Party).  The Foreword is written by William F. Buckley  and they include this gem of a quote from Whittaker Chambers:

It is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Shocker: Iran Talks Fail

Okay, it's not THAT shocking, at least not to anyone with half a brain (which excludes the Obama administration, I guess).  After months of delaying any action on Iran, months that have given Iran the opportunity to get closer to nuclear weapons, the P5+1 talks with Iran have been suspended.  I guess the only good news is that the farce is not continuing next month and Israel may finally have the cover they need to bomb the Iranian program straight to hell.  Israel has been very patient, allowing years to pass as the western powers tried everything in their non-military arsenal to coax Iran to giving up nukes.  Now they have no reason to wait.  Iran will never give up their nuclear program willingly, that has to be clear to just about everyone at this point.

On another note, I wonder if this suspension of talks is one of the reasons Hamas has started sending rockets (45 and counting) into southern Israel.  While rocket fire in Israel is nothing new, Hamas admitting to it is kinda new as they have generally been afraid of Israeli retaliation since Operation Cast Lead.  While they have an excuse, one of their members was killed in retaliation for an attack on Israeli fence workers, this seems a little over the top.  Perhaps they are trying to keep Israel's mind off of other matters (Iran and/or Syria) by escalating as they have?  Of course, its also possible that the person from Hamas who claimed responsibility wasn't authorized to claim responsibility and this dustup will calm down in a few days (Palestinian terrorist organizations aren't known for their discipline). 

Anyway, we'll see what happens next.  I have a feeling it's going to be a hot summer.

Jon Stewart Interviews the Drachma

Biderman: Germany Has to Say No

A great little rant on my Germany needs to stop providing any funding to Spain, Italy and Greece (h/t ZeroHedge):


Monday, June 18, 2012

We Need to Support the Egyptian Military Takeover of Egypt

Once again, I find myself turning my back on the neocon label I put on myself (I did so last week as well).  The Egyptian military recently dissolved the Radical Islamist dominated parliament and declared martial law.  Also, it now seems unclear what real powers the newly elected President will have.  The Egyptian military is clearly very reticent about turning power over to the Muslim Brotherhood and may even be contemplating a complete takeover of the government. I think this is something we should support.  I just don't see how it is in our interest to force the Egyptian military to stand down and let the Muslim Brotherhood takeover a country with over 80 million people and 1,130 M1 tanks.  The only way you can justify such a move is through tortured logic, like the one neocon Max Boot uses:

I do not envy President Obama having to figure out how to respond. The American interest in democracy appears, in this case, to be at odds with our strategic interest, which is working with the Egyptian military, as we have since the 1970s, rather than trying to deal with the anti-Western, anti-Israel Brotherhood. The U.S. has considerable leverage over the process, thanks to the $1.3 billion in military aid that we provide to Egypt every year. How the U.S. uses that leverage can help to shape the outcome.

Tempting as it is for the U.S. to acquiesce in the military's latest power grab, it is a mistake. The military is either ushering in the day of reckoning (if civil war breaks out) or delaying it (if it doesn't). Either way, Egypt's long-term prospects are not served by this decision, because it will allow the Brotherhood to claim the cloak of martyrdom. The best bet in the long run for weakening Brotherhood authority would be to allow it to rule. Already, the Brotherhood's appeal seems to have declined since the parliamentary elections which ended in January. Undoubtedly, if the Brotherhood were granted full authority over Egypt's dysfunctional state and anemic economy, its popularity would decline some more–unless it were able to moderate its wilder instincts and deliver real results. By keeping the Brotherhood out of power, the SCAF is taking upon itself all the blame for Egypt's dire condition–not a wise long-term bet.

The U.S. will share that popular opprobrium if it appears to connive in this military coup. Obama would be better advised to tell the generals, in no uncertain terms, that they need to take a step back from the political arena. The military should still have a role to play but only as a guarantor of the election process. As long as a Brotherhood government must face voters in the future, popular sentiment will act as a check on its illiberal tendencies. The days of military rule have long passed in Egypt. The military just doesn't know it yet.

Note the key assumption that leads him to the conclusion that the military should be told to stand down and the Brotherhood should be allowed to rule.  He writes, "as long as a Brotherhood government must face voters in the future, popular sentiment will act as a check on its illiberal tendencies."  How about those free and fair elections in Iran that keep the theocracy in check?  There is no proof that a radical Islamist state will support civil liberties and regularly conduct free and fair elections.  This whole argument reminds me of the argument that was taking place in 1979 over what to do in Iran.  Unfortunately, our fear of being seen as supporting a military takeover caused Carter to tell the Iranian generals to stand down and not fight the revolutionaries.  Not only did we never get that chance again (about two dozen were summarily executed), but a once ally become one of our biggest enemies and biggest threats to world peace.  Do we really want to risk Egypt going down the path of Iran?  How about we learn from history for a change?

A nation controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood will never be a US ally and will likely never cooperate in our efforts to fight terrorism, so why should be back a government run by them instead of a government that will likely be much more amenable to cooperate?  It just doesn't make any sense to me.

I still believe in democracy, but as a means to an end (more freedom in the world) not an end unto itself.  Wouldn't Germany have been freer under a monarch in 1933 than under the democratically elected Nazis?  Democracy shouldn't be the gun we blow our brains out with.  We should support democracy in countries where it would lead to greater freedom (places like Poland, Czech Republic etc.) and promote US interests while opposing it when it leads to greater tyranny, like it most certainly would in Egypt, and works against our interests.

Over 38% of the Greek Vote Went to Communist & Fascist Parties

While some people (though clearly not the markets), seem to be relieved by the results of the Greek vote this weekend in which the "conservative" New Democracy party ended up being the largest party in parliament, there is no reason to celebrate just yet. 

First, the New Democracy Party will need to rely on their historic rivals in the Panhellenic Socialism Movement (PASOK) to rule, so there is no guarantee that a government can even be formed or that it will be stable.  PASOK is already making trouble by demanding that SYRIZA, the second largest party in parliament be a part of any government.  As a reminder, SYRIZA is a coalition of a bunch of whacko communist and socialist parties (including Trotskyite and Maoist parties) with such names as Anticapitalist Political Group, International Workers' Left, Communist Organization of Greece and Renewing Communist Ecological Left.

Second, what I would refer to as the Authoritarian parties, SYRIZA, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the fascist Golden Dawn (XA) gained a whopping 38.3% of the vote.  That is up 6% since the elections just 1 month ago.  Needless to say the trajectory is quite worrying.  Just as a frame of reference, the authoritarian parties in Germany (the Nazi and Communist parties) gained 31.4% of the vote in the 1930 elections.  If the Greeks think things can't get any worse, the way things are going they will be looking back at 2012 with relative nostalgia.

Friday, June 15, 2012

State and Local budgets grow at 3 times the rate of the private sector and Obama thinks we need to give more to State and Local government spending?

A stunning chart from the Mercatus Center comparing the growth of State and Local government spending and comparing it to the private sector:



Obama's Third World Roots Are Showing, He's Decided to Rule by Decree

Obama, in a desire to get more Latino votes, has decided to effectively grant amnesty to 800,000 illegal immigrants and even give them work permits.  The criteria for who is eligible for this amnesty are as follows:

1.)    Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;

 2.)    Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;

3.)    Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;

4.)    Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;

5.)    Are not above the age of thirty.

Essentially that is a carbon copy of the DREAM Act that has been held up in Congress.  So what he hasn't succeeded to do through legal, legislative means, he has decided to do by decree.  Even though he was born in Hawaii, his thinking definitely comes from Kenya or Indonesia, where he grew up under the dictator Suharto.  The worst part is there was no real legitimate reason for him to do any of this as the Dream Act concept was hardly dead (though the version he supports probably is).  GOP VP hopeful, Marco Rubio, has his own version and probably had a good chance of passing with bipartisan support, from Democrats and moderate Republicans.  And that is probably the reason that Obama has decided to put his Banana Republic Dictator hat on, he doesn't want Marco Rubio getting the credit for this and possibly siphoning votes away from his re-election effort. 

Obama will do anything to stay in office.  A part of me is starting to wonder if he will refuse to leave when he is voted out in November.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The EEOC Doesn't Want You to Discriminate Against the Stupid In Your Hiring

C. Boyden Gray, former White House counsel, pointed out a memo that the EEOC wrote recently that said that high school diploma requirements discriminate against the learning disabled.  Here is the key excerpt:

Thus, if an employer adopts a high school diploma requirement for a job, and that requirement "screens out" an individual who is unable to graduate because of a learning disability that meets the ADA's definition of "disability," the employer may not apply the standard unless it can demonstrate that the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity. The employer will not be able to make this showing, for example, if the functions in question can easily be performed by someone who does not have a diploma.
Even if the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity, the employer may still have to determine whether a particular applicant whose learning disability prevents him from meeting it can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation. It may do so, for example, by considering relevant work history and/or by allowing the applicant to demonstrate an ability to do the job's essential functions during the application process. If the individual can perform the job's essential functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation, despite the inability to meet the standard, the employer may not use the high school diploma requirement to exclude the applicant.

Yup, that's right.  The employer has to prove that they can't just hire some idiot to do the job they are looking to fill.  And even after they prove that, they then have to show that there isn't a reasonable accommodation that they can make so that they can hire the idiot (I wonder how long before one of the possible accommodations includes hiring someone qualified to actually do the job for them?).  This accommodation seems to include a "demonstration" that the idiot isn't so idiotic.  And you just know that if there is some idiot class action and you find that none of these idiots got the opportunity to "demonstrate" their non-idiocy, that a company could be up sh*t's creek with the EEOC.  Also, given how the EEOC does things, I'm assuming that if a company has a fewer percentage of idiots than the general population that this company could be found to discriminate against the mentally deficient. 

I do realize that in many cases, stupidity is genetic and so it's not the idiots fault that he comes from a long line of buffoons, morons and schmucks.  But it seems that its not the businesses fault either and so they shouldn't have to bend over backwards in order NOT to hire the vacuous.

I guess Obama and the EEOC have found one way to get around the fact that our failing, union-run, public schools are churning out students who are barely able to qualify for positions at a Burger King.  For them, if a standard is too high, don't strive to achieve that standard, lower the bar.

Seriously, the wheel is turning but the Hamster's dead.


Great Nigel Farage Rant on the Incompetence of the Spanish Bailout

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It's In Our Interest to Stay Out of Syria

You're probably surprised to read that title for a post in a blog with the word "neocon" in it.  But that doesn't change the fact that it's true.  A few years ago, I would have been very gung ho about going into Syria and overthrowing the dictatorial Assad regime and all of their cronies.  But one thing I've learned is that while the initial euphoria of victory can be satisfying, very little good might actually be achieved, especially for American interests.  Definitely not enough good will come out of it for us to have to borrow even more from the Chinese.  Let's just go down the list of recent interventions and see what they have accomplished:

Afghanistan - Wiping out Al Qaeda was a national necessity.  You can't let people kill thousands of Americans without being wiped out themselves.  We mainly achieved that, we destroyed most of Al Qaeda and overthrew the Taliban.  But then what have we achieved by staying there an extra 9 years?  Just more dead Americans and when we leave Afghanistan, the Taliban will likely be back.  Even if they aren't, the current government is only mildly allied to us at best these days.  The whole nation building aspect was all for nought.  We probably could have done better if we were more merciless about wiping out the Taliban but clearly neither Bush nor Obama had the stomach for it.

Iraq - Wiping out Saddam and his murderous family was a mitzvah.  That much is clear.  But destroying the whole Sunni power structure in our quest to re-engineer Iraq has just led to Iran gaining more power in the majority Shiite nation. Things are so bad that when the Iranians were looking for a friendly city to hold nuclear talks, Baghdad was at the top of the list.  We probably should have just decapitated the government, allowed the Kurds to secede and have their own nation and left it at that.  We would probably be in relatively the same place today but with a lot fewer dead Americans and it would have been a lot cheaper.

Egypt - I realize we didn't intervene militarily here but given our closeness to Egypt, we certainly helped push Mubarak out of power.  Mubarak, who was a dependable ally to the US and who even helped Israel is most likely going to be replaced by an anti-American, anti-Israeli Islamic dictatorship which persecutes Christians and other minorities.  Tell me how we are better off after our soft intervention?

Libya - We overthrew Ghadaffi and are we really better off?  I certainly don't miss the man but are things so much better in Libya now that he isn't there?  If anything Al Qaeda is probably stronger now that he isn't there.

I realize what is happening in Syria is atrocious.  There is certainly a part of me that wishes Assad and his murderous family was being scraped off the ground right now.  But what will that get us?  Maybe some goodwill?  But how long will that last?  Judging by how long it lasted in other interventions in the area, the answer is clearly "not very long".  Daniel Pipes actually makes a good point about why it is in our interest to stay out of it:

  • It lessens the chances of Damascus from starting a war with Israel or re-occupying Lebanon.
  • It increases the chances that Iranians, living under the thumb of the mullahs who are Assad's key ally, will draw inspiration from the Syrian uprising and likewise rebel against their rulers.
  • It inspires greater Sunni Arab anger at Tehran, especially as the Islamic Republic of Iran has been providing arms, finance, and technology to help repress Syrians.
  • It relieves the pressure on non-Muslims: indicative of the new thinking, Jordanian Salafi leader Abou Mohamad Tahawi recently stated that "The Alawi and Shi'i coalition is currently the biggest threat to Sunnis, even more than the Israelis."
  • It foments Middle Eastern rage at Moscow and Beijing for supporting the Assad regime.
I realize that standing by and doing nothing also has a cost.  It's very hard to stand by and watch as innocent women and children are massacred by a repressive regime, it practically seems un-American.  But we just can't keep policing the world, especially when we are talking about a country that really doesn't get us anything by intervening in. 




Under Obama, New Bank Formation Has Dwindled to Nothing

While listening to the Jamie Dimon testimony before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee today, I was struck by a comment by one of the Senators.  He mentioned that he had heard, but hasn't verified, that in the last year no new bank charters were granted.  If true that is very damning.  We know that banks continue to shutter and if no new ones come on to take their place, that could explain some of our current malaise.  It looks like what that Senator had heard is true.  Here is what I got from the FDIC statistics:


So far in 2012, there has not been a single bank charter approved.  In 2011, only three were approved (the lowest number since at least 1936!) and even they weren't actually new banks.  Those were charters given to banks specifically created to buy failed banks.  If you add up the number of new bank charters over the entire Obama administration, all 3+ years, the total is 37.  The lowest number in any one year was 50.  That is just abysmal.  To put another way, there were more banks created in the late 1930's, in the 1970's recession, in the 1980's recession and in the wake of the Savings and Loan crisis than there are today.  Also, the total number of banks shrank by 11.6% since Obama took office.  Fewer banks mean fewer places to apply for a loan and therefore less chances you'll get any money at all.

Dodd-Frank and all those massive regulations that have been crammed down on banks is clearly a culprit.  As former FDIC Chairman Bill Isaac commented back in March on the new regulations:
The bigger banks can absorb it, the smaller banks can’t. I would not be surprised to see half of the community banks in this country go out of business if we don’t give some relief from Dodd-Frank for them...  I think that Dodd-Frank is a terrible piece of financial legislation.  It didn’t address any of the causes of the crisis that we just went through. It won’t prevent the next crisis. It’s heaped volumes and volumes of regulations.
As Jamie Dimon testified today, he currently has hundreds of regulators onsite at any one time at JP Morgan, but with all the changes, they aren't clear who is in charge of what or who has the authority to do anything.  And this is JP Morgan which has an army of lawyers guiding them through the regulatory jungle.  If he is lost, community banks have no hope.  No wonder there has been almost no new banks formed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thomas Sowell: Obama is a Fascist Not a Socialist

He's probably right:

It bothers me a little when conservatives call Barack Obama a "socialist."

He certainly is an enemy of the free market, and wants politicians and bureaucrats to make the fundamental decisions about the economy. But that does not mean that he wants government ownership of the means of production, which has long been a standard definition of socialism.

What President Obama has been pushing for, and moving toward, is more insidious: government control of the economy, while leaving ownership in private hands. That way, politicians get to call the shots but, when their bright ideas lead to disaster, they can always blame those who own businesses in the private sector.

...

Government ownership of the means of production means that politicians also own the consequences of their policies, and have to face responsibility when those consequences are disastrous — something that Barack Obama avoids like the plague.

Thus the Obama administration can arbitrarily force insurance companies to cover the children of their customers until the children are 26 years old. Obviously, this creates favorable publicity for President Obama. But if this and other government edicts cause insurance premiums to rise, then that is something that can be blamed on the "greed" of the insurance companies.

...

One of the reasons why both pro-Obama and anti-Obama observers may be reluctant to see him as fascist is that both tend to accept the prevailing notion that fascism is on the political right, while it is obvious that Obama is on the political left.

Back in the 1920s, however, when fascism was a new political development, it was widely — and correctly — regarded as being on the political left. Jonah Goldberg's great book "Liberal Fascism" cites overwhelming evidence of the fascists' consistent pursuit of the goals of the left, and of the left's embrace of the fascists as their own during the 1920s.

Mussolini, the originator of fascism, was lionized by the left, both in Europe and in America, during the 1920s. Even Hitler, who adopted fascist ideas in the 1920s, was seen by some, including W.E.B. Du Bois, as a man of the left.


Mitt Romney for President

Mitt Romney was definitely not my first choice for GOP nominee.  In fact, I believe I would have preferred Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul & Newt Gingrich over him.  I always had this nagging suspicion that he had no core and that once the nomination was locked up, he would drop all pretense and all of his supposedly "severely conservative" beliefs.  But that isn't really what happened now is it?  In fact, he actually seems to sound more conservative now than during the primaries.  Here is Mitt in St. Louis:

Our example – and commitment – to freedom has changed the world. But along with the genius of our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights, is the equal genius of our economic system. Our Founding Fathers endeavored to create a moral and just society like no other in history, and out of that grew a moral and just economic system the likes of which the world had never seen. Our freedom, what it means to be an American, has been defined and sustained by the liberating power of the free enterprise system.

That same system has helped lift more people out of poverty across the globe than any government program or competing economic system. The success of America's free enterprise system has been a bright beacon of freedom for the world. It has signaled to oppressed people to rise up against their oppressors, and given hope to the once hopeless.

It is called the Free Enterprise System because we are both free to engage in enterprises and through those enterprises we ensure our freedom.

But sadly, it has become clear that this President simply doesn't understand or appreciate these fundamental truths of our system.

...

I don't want to transform America; I want to restore the values of economic freedom.

So for every government-spending proposal, I will ask the following question: "Is this program so important that it is worth borrowing more money from China to pay for it?"  With our nation facing 16 trillion dollars in debt, most times the answer will be an easy and unqualified "no."  We've seen how fast our debt can grow.  It's time to see how fast our economy can grow, and the first step is spending discipline.

Instead of throwing more borrowed money at bad ideas, I will lower tax rates, simplify the tax code, and get the American economy running at full strength.

This speech could have been given by Steve Forbes, by Ron (and Rand) Paul, by Newt Gingrich and even Ronald Reagan.  The fact Mitt Romney is doubling down on his conservatism to such an extent even after he has wrapped up the nomination is very reassuring (maybe he isn't the etch-a-sketch candidate).  What really crystallized it for me was this poster from the Occupy Wall Street folks that I posed yesterday.  It very succinctly pointed out one major impact that his election is going to have on the future:  the makeup of the Supreme Court.  With Scalia, Kennedy and Ginsburg all in their mid-late 70's a second Obama term could see three new justices.  If all three of them are liberal and they have a 6-3 majority, you can pretty much kiss the America we know goodbye (what's left of it after almost four years of Obama).  There will be no further limits to any government largesse.  They will be able to regulate everything, tell you what to eat, how you spend your money and you will have no recourse.  Sure, you can sue, but then you'll just be appealing to a liberal kangaroo Supreme Court which will tell you that "government is always right". 

Then there is the issue of Obamacare, if it isn't completely struck down by the Supreme Court in the next couple of weeks.  Under a second term of Obama, that monstrosity will be imposed on the American people despite the fact that the majority have said repeatedly that they don't want it.  Our taxes will go up, our premiums will skyrocket and our quality of healthcare will go down.  Romney, who fathered Romneycare, is not the guy I'd want in office to repeal Obamacare, but I think that even he would try to repeal the most harmful aspects of it.  After all, Romneycare was only about 70 pages long while Obamacare is over 2000.  I'm sure there is plenty in that difference that he doesn't like. 

I realize that I had previously said I was going to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for President.  In a perfect world, if it were a real three way race, I would be fully behind him.  But even he himself admits he has no chance so what exactly is the point?  Sure it would make me feel good, in a way, to vote for the guy who is closest in philosophy to myself.  But I think I would feel worse if a close state went to Obama thanks to people who would normally vote Republican voting Libertarian.  Also, if people like Rand Paul and Newt Gingrich can endorse Mitt Romney, despite having great excuses for staying on the sidelines, why am I throwing a temper tantrum at the party which I've called home since I was a kid?  If the Democratic candidate  were Bill Clinton or an Evan Bayh or a Jim Webb, I'd probably be more likely to vote Libertarian since the future of this country would be less at stake.  But they aren't running, the anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-private sector Barack Hussein Obama is the other choice and he must be stopped in November.

It looks like after everything, I'm voting for Willard.  I hope he doesn't let us down.

Monday, June 11, 2012

This Occupy Wall Street Poster Has Just About Convinced Me to Vote for Romney

Probably not the desired effect:


Democrats May Nominate Racist Anti-Semite for Congress

Check out these choice quotes from New York City councilman Charles Barron, who is likely to become the next Congressman for New York's 8th Congressional District (h/t Weekly Standard):

First, this one from 2010:

Jews get preferential treatment in Crown Heights.  They only make up 20 percent of the population, but they've always walked these streets as if they owned them, and acted as if they are the only ones in the community that matter.

Then this one:

"I think he's a coward. I think he's just doing stuff to satisfy his constituents and satisfy the Jewish lobby."

- Commenting on City Councilman David Greenfield's criticism of his recent comments on Gaza, during an interview with CBS News, June 4, 2010


or this one:


"We are sick and tired of this country supporting dictators, supporting terrorists and then saying they have a homeland security office to stop terrorism. Well you want to stop terrorism? The biggest terrorist in the world is the government of Israel."

- Rally outside of the Israeli Consulate in New York City, June 1, 2010

Charles Barron is also affiliated with the New Black Panther Party (the African American version of the KKK) and the anti-semitic Nation of Islam.  Heck of a candidate the Democrats have there.  Imagine the outcry if he were this racist but white and Republican.