Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

TIME magazine cover shows Taliban atrocity

TIME Cover Depicts the Disturbing Plight of Afghan Women
Our cover image this week is powerful, shocking and disturbing. It is a portrait of Aisha, a shy 18-year-old Afghan woman who was sentenced by a Taliban commander to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her abusive in-laws. Aisha posed for the picture and says she wants the world to see the effect a Taliban resurgence would have on the women of Afghanistan, many of whom have flourished in the past few years. Her picture is accompanied by a powerful story by our own Aryn Baker on how Afghan women have embraced the freedoms that have come from the defeat of the Taliban - and how they fear a Taliban revival. (See pictures of Afghan women and the return of the Taliban.)

I thought long and hard about whether to put this image on the cover of TIME. First, I wanted to make sure of Aisha's safety and that she understood what it would mean to be on the cover. She knows that she will become a symbol of the price Afghan women have had to pay for the repressive ideology of the Taliban.

[...]

But bad things do happen to people, and it is part of our job to confront and explain them. In the end, I felt that the image is a window into the reality of what is happening - and what can happen - in a war that affects and involves all of us. I would rather confront readers with the Taliban's treatment of women than ignore it. I would rather people know that reality as they make up their minds about what the U.S. and its allies should do in Afghanistan. (See the cover story "Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban.")

The much publicized release of classified documents by WikiLeaks has already ratcheted up the debate about the war. Our story and the haunting cover image by the distinguished South African photographer Jodi Bieber are meant to contribute to that debate. We do not run this story or show this image either in support of the U.S. war effort or in opposition to it. We do it to illuminate what is actually happening on the ground. As lawmakers and citizens begin to sort through the information about the war and make up their minds, our job is to provide context and perspective on one of the most difficult foreign policy issues of our time. What you see in these pictures and our story is something that you cannot find in those 91,000 documents: a combination of emotional truth and insight into the way life is lived in that difficult land and the consequences of the important decisions that lie ahead. [...]

Seeing is believing:



More on Aisha's story:

The Grossman Burn Centers Provides Care and Hope for Bibi Aisha from Afghanistan
At 16, her father promised her hand in marriage and she was handed over to a large family, who she claims were all members of the Taliban in Oruzgan province. "I spent two years with them and became a prisoner," she says. Tortured and abused, she couldn't take it any longer and decided to run away. Two female neighbors promising to help took her to Kandahar province. But this was just another act of deception. When they arrived to Kandahar her female companions tried to sell Aisha to another man. All three women were stopped by the police and imprisoned. Aisha was locked up because she was a runaway. And although running away is not a crime, in places throughout Afghanistan it is treated as one if you are a woman. A three-year sentence was reduced to five months when President Hamid Karzai pardoned Aisha. But eventually her father-in-law found her and took her back home. That was the first time she met her husband. He came home from Pakistan to take her to Taliban court for dishonoring his family and bringing them shame. The court ruled that her nose and ears must be cut off. An act carried out by her husband in the mountains of Oruzgan where they left her to die. But she survived. And with the help of an American Provincial Reconstruction Team in Oruzgan and the organization Women for Afghan Women (WAW), she is finally getting help. The United Nations estimates that nearly 90 percent of Afghanistan's women suffer from some sort of domestic abuse. "Bibi Aisha is only one example of thousands of girls and women in Afghanistan and throughout the world who are treated this way. Aisha is reminded of that enslavement every time she looks in the mirror. But there still times she can laugh. And at that moment you see her teenage spirit escaping a body that has seen a lifetime of injustice. [...]

Such monstrous, unnecessary cruelty. She is being brought to the US for reconstructive surgery. And, I hope, to make her story more widely known.

I'm not a big fan of TIME magazine, but their decision to feature Aisha's story on the front cover, does literally put a human face on what is happening there. And yet, what is the best way to do something about it? That will be the debate.
     

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The Chevy "Volt": more "Brown" than "Green"?

Like so many things that claim to be "green", when you look at the facts, it can actually be the opposite:

Why the Volt?
[...] They (the ubiquitous “they”) tell us it’s green. Look no tailpipe! No gasoline! Is good, right?

No, Brainiac, is not good. Is bad! I’ll explain why.

First of all, the natural base price of a product is a fair guide as to how many resources went into manufacturing that product. So to make a $41,000 car consumed about 3 times the resources of making a $14,000 car. If you want true green, you should first and foremost consume less. Right out of the gate, this monster consumes more. A lot more. To say the Volt is green, you’d have to argue that, over its lifetime, it used enough less energy to make up for the disparity. Even if it ran for free, I doubt it could close the gap.

The foregoing argument could be invalidated if eventual economies of scale will bring down the price of a Dolt. But that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Another argument in favor of the Dolt would be that, as a plug-in device, its fuel is whatever they use at the local power station. In other words, a Dolt might be coal-powered or hydroelectric or nuclear. A conventional car is limited to gasoline. Yes, it would indeed be good to shift away from our inflexible dependence upon gasoline, which is in domestic short supply (and will continue to be, whether we drill in Alaska or not). However, we can’t afford to buy enough $41,000 cars to escape this dependency, with or without subsidies.

Let me repeat that I’m very enthusiastic about true green projects, and I’m also deeply concerned about America’s dangerous dependence upon foreign oil. But what passes for “green” is all too often wasteful and “brown”. This subsidized boondoggle will prove to be just another payoff to cronies and special interests. There will be no benefit for the taxpayers’ dollars other than a photo op for Obama and new toys for cash-laden yuppies, who will then cruise around town proclaiming how virtuous they are. [...]

If the power plant is using coal or oil to generate the electricity to charge the Volt, then it's still responsible for creating pollution, just not doing it in the immediate vicinity of the car. And how MUCH pollution is created making electricity each time the Volt is charged up, when compared to the pollution of gasoline for the same mileage? It's an important question.

I did a post previously, about the Chevy Volt. The technology is interesting, but how green is it really, for all the reasons mentioned above? Are our tax dollars are being wasted to subsidize another "feel good" project? Does it cost so much because it's being subsidized, removing the motive to make it less expensive?

I ask the last question, because the Ford Motor company is going to release an electric Ford Focus model in 2011, and it's expected to be considerable cheaper ($25,000 to $30,000). Ford didn't get a bailout. It's solvent, and it's making a less expensive electric car, but has to compete with a government subsidized competitor.

Rewarding failure and punishing achievement. How fair is that?


Also see:

Electric Ford Focus car due late next year
     

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Will Britain's Cameron provide a model for Republican victory in the 2012 US elections?

There is a good case to be made for it:

UK's Responsible Economic Approach
WASHINGTON -- The chilliness is understandable. When David Cameron, Britain's new conservative prime minister, met with Barack Obama this week, the president was also encountering his worst political nightmare. If Cameron succeeds, he will do more than save his ancient island from the economic fate of Greece -- he will provide a model for Republican victory in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

[...]

But Cameron's austerity has the virtue of economic responsibility. It is easy to close a budget deficit with massive new taxes -- but it is also massively destructive to economic growth. So Cameron has proposed about 4 pounds in spending reductions for every pound in tax increases. A recent study of 44 major fiscal adjustments in developed nations since 1975 found that a one-percentage-point increase in taxes as a portion of GDP cuts annual economic growth by an average of 0.9 percentage points. Reducing government expenditures by one percentage point, in contrast, increases average annual growth by 0.6 percentage points.

If Cameron's approach works -- dramatically cutting deficits without stalling economic growth -- it will be an obvious, powerful example for America and other nations.

But Cameron's progress offers two other lessons that some Republicans may be less willing to acknowledge. [...]

Read the whole thing. When I first read about Cameron's "Big Society", I was quite cynical about it. But now that I see more of what he's trying to achieve, it seems rather brilliant (given what he has to work with). And what it said about "Some type of center-right alliance of fiscally conservative Democrats and Republicans" ... well, read the whole thing. There may indeed, be some lessons there for Republicans.

The Republican's main strategy right now seems to be, that they aren't Obama and the Democrats. But that's not good enough. Remember in the 2004 elections, when the Democrats kept saying, "ANYONE but Bush", to justify their choice of John Kerry, and their anti-Republican platform? They were simply against the Republicans, more than they were for anything. That wasn't a good enough strategy then, and it's STILL not good enough for the Republican side to be using now. If winning matters. And it had better. If we continue losing, we may lose the farm.
     

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National Debt: What the Founder's said about it

Our national debt would horrify the Founders
[...] There is no doubt that George Washington, our first president, Alexander Hamilton, our first secretary of the treasury, and Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence and our third president, would be horrified by the present financial condition of the federal government. Public debt was anathema for Washington, who in his Farewell Address admonished us to "cherish public credit," noting that "one method of preserving it, is to use it sparingly ... avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt." Washington warned that one generation could spend itself into great debt, then "not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen. ..."

Hamilton's greatest service to the nation was his management of the federal government's assumption of states' debt accumulated during the Revolutionary War and under the Articles of Confederation. He knew firsthand the devastating effects of growing public debt on every sector of a society. As historian David Barton notes, Hamilton's most succinct advice to his countrymen was that they always remember "to avoid as much as possible the incurring of any new debt."

Jefferson was Hamilton's great nemesis in the political world, but the two adversaries agreed on the evils of public debt. As evidence of their agreement on this issue, Barton points to Jefferson's statement in an 1816 letter to John Taylor of Caroline: "The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale." [...]

How far we have come from our roots. And in our over-reaching upward, how far we have to fall.
     

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Stop the "Cordoba Initiative" at the WTC site

Rauf’s Dawa from the World Trade Center Rubble
Meet the Ground Zero Mosque imam’s Muslim Brotherhood friends.
Feisal Abdul Rauf is the imam behind the “Cordoba Initiative” that is spearheading plans to build a $100 million Islamic center at Ground Zero, the site where nearly 3,000 Americans were killed by jihadists on 9/11. He is also the author of a book called What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America. But the book hasn’t always been called that. It was called quite something else for non-English-speaking audiences. In Malaysia, it was published as A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11.

[...]

Dawa, whether done from the rubble of the World Trade Center or elsewhere, is the missionary work by which Islam is spread. As explained in my recent book, The Grand Jihad, dawa is proselytism, but not involving only spiritual elements — for Islam is not merely a religion, and spiritual elements are just a small part of its doctrine. In truth, Islam is a comprehensive political, social, and economic system with its own authoritarian legal framework, sharia, which aspires to govern all aspects of life.

[...]

This framework rejects core tenets of American constitutional republicanism: for example, individual liberty, freedom of conscience, freedom to govern ourselves irrespective of any theocratic code, equality of men and women, equality of Muslims and non-Muslims, and economic liberty, including the uses of private property (in Islam, owners hold property only as a custodians for the umma, the universal Muslim nation, and are beholden to the Islamic state regarding its use). Sharia prohibits the preaching of creeds other than Islam, the renunciation of Islam, any actions that divide the umma, and homosexuality. Its penalties are draconian, including savagely executed death sentences for apostates, homosexuals, and adulterers.

The purpose of dawa, like the purpose of jihad, is to implement, spread, and defend sharia. Scholar Robert Spencer incisively refers to “dawa practices as stealth jihad,” the advancement of the sharia agenda through means other than violence and agents other than terrorists. These include extortion, cultivation of sympathizers in the media and the universities, exploitation of our legal system and tradition of religious liberty, infiltration of our political system, and fundraising. This is why Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and the world’s most influential Islamic cleric, boldly promises that Islam will “conquer America” and “conquer Europe” through dawa. [...]

Read the whole thing for all the details and the dirt. I don't know which is more incredible; that this is actually happening, or that the Democrats are encouraging it.

Sharia law is incompatible with American values, and is not something we need to encourage in our own land. Unless of course you're an elitist Democrat who wants to chuck the constitution and replace it with something closer to what the Muslim Brotherhood also wants. They have a lot in common, mainly a distain for personal liberty and a lust for absolute power.

I've posted about the Muslim Brotherhood before:

The Nazi roots of the Muslim Brotherhood

The Democrat leadership has no problem with Dawa. Much to our peril. Another reason to vote them out in November.


Also see:

Islamism's actual NAZI history

The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America
     

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

You can never go back, but can you bring the best forward, and discard the mistakes?

The Return of the Jeffersonian Vision and the Rejection of Progressivism
We are once again—as in the days of the early republic and not in the heyday of the Progressives and the New Dealers—a republic of property owners.

“No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” So reads a portion of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights passed by the First Congress and ratified by state legislatures, sponsored originally by Thomas Jefferson’s friend and political ally James Madison. It echoed, of course, Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Madison and Jefferson followed the tradition of John Locke, the British philosopher whose Two Treatises on Government was taken as the justification for the transfer of power known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89—the subject of my 2007 book, Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America’s Founding Fathers. Locke believed that men could be free only if their lives, liberty, and property were protected by the rule of law. And he believed that only men with property could be relied on to self-govern.

Locke, therefore, thought that the responsibility for choosing legislators in representative government should be limited to property owners, as it was in elections to the House of Commons. In English counties, the franchise was limited to 40-shilling freeholders—owners of property that brought in two pounds a year. The franchise in the more numerous boroughs was limited in different ways, in some cases to the owners of specific pieces of property.

The American people, the property-owning majority, even in this time of economic distress, seem to be embracing instead a culture of independence, a culture as old as the republic itself.

The Founders anticipated a limited but broader franchise in America. They provided that senators should be chosen by legislatures, whose members were typically selected by a large electorate, and that members of the House should be chosen by voters with “the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.”

The Founders had different ideas of the worthiness of commerce. Jefferson envisioned a republic of freeholding egalitarian farmers. Alexander Hamilton envisioned a republic on the path toward commercial and industrial preeminence. But Jefferson’s vision was a more accurate picture of the United States in the early years of the republic, where land was plentiful and labor scarce, where the large majority of white men were farmers and most of them owned the land they worked.

In this freeholders’ republic, it was natural to move toward universal manhood suffrage, to allow every white male adult to vote. Some states took longer than others to reach this goal—South Carolina still had the legislature choose its presidential electors until 1860. But the principle was widely accepted elsewhere: since almost everyone owned property, everyone should be allowed to vote. There was a danger, recognized by Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s, that the poor would vote to strip the rich of their wealth and, in President Obama’s words to Joe the Plumber, “Spread the wealth around.”

The New Deal was an attempt to freeze an economy, then in a downward spiral, into one place.

Tocqueville pointed to another danger as well, the danger of what he called “soft despotism,” in which a seemingly benevolent government would channel citizens into docile obedience like a herd of sheep. But that danger seemed distant, even to Tocqueville, in an America whose dominant and more populist party, Andrew Jackson’s Democrats, opposed government spending on public works projects and feared the power of a central bank.

Up through the end of the 19th century there did not seem to be a significant tension between universal democracy and property rights. The Founders’ vision prevailed.

A New Vision Based on Fear

But that was no longer the case in 1910. By then, another vision was being advanced, the vision of the Progressives—the vision of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, of political philosophers Herbert Croly and John Dewey.

The Progressives explicitly repudiated the Founders’ vision of limited government. They argued that government needed to redistribute property, to take money from one group of citizens to help others, and to regulate economic activity in ways previously considered unconstitutional. The Constitution, they said, was a “horse and buggy” document, suited perhaps to the simpler society of the 18th century, but dangerously out of date in a complex industrial society which could not expect ordinary citizens to make their way without government guidance and assistance. They were acting, they said, in the interests of the people. Their critics said they were acting out of hunger for power.

I want to advance another thesis: That they actually acted more out of fear than of benevolence. They feared revolution. [...]

Read the whole thing. There is lots to chew on here. It's pretty clear where we went wrong. But can we make corrections, and make it right?
     

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Gold, the Dollar, and a new currency

The Tyranny of the Dollar
[...] As Madame Speaker said, we’d know what was in the Health Control bill after we passed it. The other day, we learned the health bill augments the 1099 tax form to track gold coin transactions.

This is another surprise attack in the economic war of the government against the people. You should know more about this war, since you’re in it.

[...]

So if you want freedom from government oversight and overreach, then you’ll either keep false books or you’ll resort to barter transactions that don’t appear on the books at all. Either path sets you on a collision course with authority. But is there anything a citizen can do that’s both safe and legal, or at least closer to being safe and legal? Can we ease away from the Federal monopoly dollars?

The government is deathly afraid of losing control of your assets. If the idea of a money-substitute such as gold catches on, the government will react by pushing the people back onto their radar. Hence the new law slipped into the health control bill.

I have a dream. And I’ll admit that this is a stupid dream; an unrealistic dream; a dream that is not thought out. So please mute your enthusiasm, because I’m doing nothing here but speaking in the vaguest possible terms about where we want to get to. But the goal is to give “we the people” an alternative to the dollar. Rather than being forced to hold our assets in government paper, there should be a new private currency (call it a “NewBuck”), managed by an authority that acts with integrity and is accountable only to the people that hold NewBucks.

The dollar was once respected because you could exchange it for gold. Now it’s respected only by custom and force of law. We take the dollars because the next guy will take the dollars from us. Not to mention that it’s illegal to refuse dollars. But our confidence in the underlying integrity of the dollar is dwindling.

[...]

Several years ago, someone actually tried to create an alternative currency called a “Liberty Dollar”. The idea was to mint coins with silver or gold in them and get merchants to accept those coins. This operation has been stomped down by the Feds. Their website, LibertyDollar.org, now announces: “Site Removed Due to Court Order”. So much for freedom of expression.

I don’t want to rush to defend the Liberty Dollar. I don’t know enough about the situation to offer a definitive opinion. The Wikipedia entry reports that the government saw an unsavory element of multilevel marketing in the operation. I can’t say that’s not the case. And it may be that the term “dollar” should have been avoided, in that it implies legal tender.

On the other hand, it’s not clear how Liberty Dollar’s offences are more than mere technicalities. It seems that people were interested in the notion of Liberty Dollars because they understood how unsound the ordinary dollars have become. I think the government hit hard against the Liberty Dollar out of fear rather than due to any serious transgression. [...]

I used archive.org to find a copy of the LibertyDollar.org website. Here is the last reported page before the Feds closed it down:


http://web.archive.org/web/20080615190237/http://www.libertydollar.org/

The archive shows that the website existed from 2002 to 2008. So the Feds were content to let it exist for several years. I don't know if there was anything crooked about it or not, but the site presents an interesting idea: a viable, private currency. I can see why the government wouldn't allow it, but I can also see why people would want it. Many people believe that the dollar is a fiat currency, and that our US currency has already collapsed; that the current financial crisis is just the first stage of the collapse manifesting, with more to come. I'm not certain of that, but there are some compelling arguments to be made for it. Either way, people do want a sound currency like we used to have. Will the American people demand that we go back to one?
     

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A scary unemployment graph. Long term?



Median Duration of Unemployment
This recession looks very different, and much more troubling, than those in the recent past. I wonder how this dramatic change in the nature of unemployment will alter traditional macroeconomic relationships, such as Okun's Law and the Phillips curve. [...]

It's from the blog of a Harvard Economics professor. He goes on to suggest that long term unemployment may not exert as much downward pressure on inflation as people think.


Related Link:

The Great Recession is just the beginning
     

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Over-embracing "Green" energy: the reality

Great Britain facing blackouts from 'Green' energy policies:

BLACKOUT BRITAIN FACES BIG TURN OFF
BRITAIN faces years of blackouts and soaring electricity bills because of the drive toward green power, a leading energy expert warned last night.

A growing obsession with global warming and “renewable” sources threatens the stability of our supply.

Derek Birkett, a former Grid Control Engineer who has a lifetime’s experience in electricity supply throughout Britain, warned that the cost of the crisis could match that of the recent banking collapse.

And he claimed that renewable energy expectations were now nothing more than “dangerous illusions” which would hit consumers hard in the pocket.

“We are going to pay a very heavy price for the fact there has been a catalogue of neglect by the former Government which has focused on renewable energy sources,” Mr Birkett said.

“We need a mix of sources and this takes time. Renewables have the problem of being intermittent, particularly wind, and we need more back-up capacity. By having all our sources in one basket we are risking disruption. [...]

California made the same mistake in the 1990. They put too large a portion of their energy budget into "green" initiatives that just could not produce the required power. The result was rolling blackouts. They then had to scramble to start building more conventional power plants, which contributed to the states ever growing deficit problem. I posted about it here:

Green Energy, Blackouts, California and France

The mistake wasn't in encouraging and promoting "green" renewable energy sources. The mistake was in trying to rely on them as primary energy sources too soon, before they were ready to handle that capacity.

At best, green energy sources are supplemental. You can't make them prime before their time. They are evolving technologies.

Even people who don't believe the global warming hysteria, like green energy, because it reduces our dependency on foreign oil. But we can't ignore reality, and must acknowledge it's current limitations, even as we try to integrate it where we can, and work steadily to improve it and encourage it. To allow global warming hysteria to force premature adoption of green energy on a massive scale, will have disastrous results. You only have to look at California to see why.


Also see:

Cap and Trade: following California's example?

Been there, done that, got the Tee-shirt... and moved to another state. But our whole nation now is moving to make the same mistake. If you read the whole article about Great Britain, the details, it's the same thing there. How many other countries are doing the same things? Is "everyone doing it" now?

     

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Republican complacency. But whose agenda?

Do they need a stronger agenda? Some would argue yes:

Get With the Program
[...] If GOP consultants who are advising the party to avoid embracing a substantive agenda prior to the November elections get their way, this will be the pitiful Republican dance for the next three-and-a-half months.

We understand the Republicans’ temptation to believe that they can beat the Democrats with nothing. The public has recoiled from President Obama’s agenda and seems set to swing to the Republicans as a check against his liberal overreaching. Why not just play it safe and ride the wave that’s already building?

One, this wouldn’t be as safe as it seems. The consultants think Republicans risk putting targets on their backs by associating themselves with particular policy ideas. But Republicans will be targeted regardless. The White House wants to define them as mindless apostles of “No,” and as “Bush Republicans.” Both of these charges could hurt, and they are more likely to stick if Republicans lack a forward-looking agenda of their own.

Two, a campaign agenda is, if nothing else, a sign of seriousness for voters. The danger in the kind of cynical calculation urged by the consultants is always that the public will recognize it for exactly that and react accordingly.

Three, if Republicans plan on having a majority in either house after November, they had better have some idea in advance of how they will conduct themselves in power. If they have an agenda that has won at least loose assent from voters, they’ll be better-off than if they were trying to come up with something on the fly in the flush of victory, when giddiness will rule and special interests will all want a piece of the pie.

Fourth, Republicans should have confidence in their ideas. If they can’t offer an alternative to Obama now — with the president sagging in the polls, with tea partiers in the streets, with conservative sentiment on the upswing across the board in the public — they should be in a different business. This needn’t entail recklessness. The Contract with America of 1994 wasn’t a radical document, but it did point in a clearly different direction than the Clinton Democrats. This is what Republicans need now (watch this space for our ideas) and what House Republicans have been planning on — so long as they don’t flinch. [...]

My fear is though, that the Uber Conservatives are going to push social issues as the spearhead of the party. That would be a mistake.

Spain's economy is collapsing. It's been doing poorly for a while. Conservatives there have not been able to win elections, despite the poor economy. Why? Because their conservative party is dominated by people who wish to push unpopular social issues, that the majority of voters don't agree with. So the economy there continues in it's downward spiral.

Here at home, the Republican's need an agenda, but it must be one that the majority of voters can gather behind. It should be about jobs and the economy, first and foremost.

I don't expect social conservatives to give up their issues, but those issues should not be the spearhead of the party. We need a large tent, with a spearhead that the majority of voters can rally behind.

Swing voters matter. People who are not rigid social conservatives are not RINOS. If social conservatives insist on drumming all who are unlike themselves out of the party, then we will follow the path of Spain. Or worse.

This next election is ours to win or lose. And it may be the last chance to save our Republic.

And for an agenda that many can rally behind, perhaps Paul Ryan's roadmap would be a good place to start:

'Roadmap' a realistic plan to remake the tax system
[...] The Wisconsin Republican's Roadmap is not a "reactionary" document, as the left usually describes most anything that involves substantially reducing the size, scope and cost of government. It doesn't seek to turn back the clock. Rather, it breaks with a strain of libertarian logic that is always at war with the State, while staying true to the idea that the best government is the one that governs least. It advances libertarian ends by admitting the limits of libertarian means.

The key to Ryan's do-over is acknowledging that America will never eradicate the welfare state entirely for the simple reason that Americans don't want to eradicate the welfare state entirely. The Roadmap explicitly declares that the social safety net — in the form of health and retirement benefits — for those "suffering hard times" is something Americans want to keep. On this and other fronts, the document is a monumental concession to political reality. [...]

It may not be perfect, but it doesn't have to be. It only has be good enough for the majority of voters to agree with, and better than the alternative that the current administration is trying to force down our throats. And THAT, it is.

     

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A WWII story of a brave and unusual escape


Former inmate recalls daring escape from Auschwitz
NOWY TARG, Poland – With every step toward the gate, Jerzy Bielecki was certain he would be shot.

The day was July 21, 1944. Bielecki was walking in broad daylight down a pathway at Auschwitz, wearing a stolen SS uniform with his Jewish sweetheart Cyla Cybulska by his side.

His knees buckling with fear, he tried to keep a stern bearing on the long stretch of gravel to the sentry post.

The German guard frowned at his forged pass and eyed the two for a period that seemed like an eternity — then uttered the miraculous words: "Ja, danke" — yes, thank you — and let Jerzy and Cyla out of the death camp and into freedom. [...]

Read the whole story. Follow the link, and look at the photo slide show. An unusual story, with an ending that's probably not what you would expect.
     

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Russian Cruelty to a Donkey

Huh? Weird but true, apparently:



It's a bird. It's a plane. No. It's... a donkey
MOSCOW – Authorities in Russia are opening an animal cruelty probe into a weekend stunt on a beach in southern Russia in which a donkey parasailed high over the surf. Amateur video footage showed men attaching a parasail harness to the trembling mule. The English-language Kremlin news channel Russia Today reported that sunbathers were distressed at the sight of the flying donkey, which brayed in fear as it glided above the bay for half an hour.

Russia Today reported the donkey was shell-shocked but survived.

Reports said the donkey flight was a promotional stunt. Employees of a leisure firm in the village of Golubitskaya on the Azov Sea could face two years in prison if they are charged and convicted of animal cruelty.

Funny that the "advertisers" didn't realize that the sunbathers might think a distressed donkey was not funny. I guess some Russian Capitalists are clueless.
     

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The Government's incentives to see you dead

When you die, they will be able to take 55% of your wealth via the death tax. And they will also save money by not having to pay you social security and medicare. From their point of view, they're better off if you're dead:

Death *OR* Taxes?
[...] And what of those of us who live to see the dawn of the brave new year? Do I need to point out that, with the coming healthcare rationing and the 55% death tax, the government has both the means and motivation to kill off its aging people? Many thanks, citizen, for your years of productive service! Now please die so we can take your stuff to pay off our cronies.

Am I starting to sound like a kooky alarmist? Yes, maybe a bit. It takes a leap to imagine we’ll get to the point of an actual “Soylent Green” policy. No, I don’t believe our government is actively planning to kill us. But you can see that the government has growing reason to kill us. The power, the motive, the opportunity… this is the sort of temptation you do not want to have in anyone’s hands. Would you trust a stranger to be your sole caretaker when you’re critically ill? What if that stranger would collect most of your financial assets if you were to die? And what if that stranger were a spendaholic, deeply in debt, and facing financial catastrophe if he can’t get his hands on a big pot of money?

Are you starting to get uncomfortable? I sure am! [...]

The government that gives you everything can also take it away. And now they have a motive to do the latter. How's that for Change You Can Believe In?


Also see:

The Deadly Impact of the Death Tax

With Timing of Death, Steinbrenner Family Won't Pay Estate Tax
     

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mathamatics are not Partisan

The Bush Tax Cuts and the Deficit Myth
Runaway government spending, not declining tax revenues, is the reason the U.S. faces dramatic budget shortfalls for years to come.
President Obama and congressional Democrats are blaming their trillion-dollar budget deficits on the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. Letting these tax cuts expire is their answer. Yet the data flatly contradict this "tax cuts caused the deficits" narrative. Consider the three most persistent myths:

The Bush tax cuts wiped out last decade's budget surpluses. Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), for example, has long blamed the tax cuts for having "taken a $5.6 trillion surplus and turned it into deficits as far as the eye can see." That $5.6 trillion surplus never existed. It was a projection by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in January 2001 to cover the next decade. It assumed that late-1990s economic growth and the stock-market bubble (which had already peaked) would continue forever and generate record-high tax revenues. It assumed no recessions, no terrorist attacks, no wars, no natural disasters, and that all discretionary spending would fall to 1930s levels. [...]

The whole thing is very detailed, exposing each flawed premise being used to blame tax cuts for deficits, and then goes on to clearly demonstrate how it's government spending that's driving up the deficits.

Tax cuts allow people to spend and invest their own money, which stimulates the private sector economy and creates jobs, which creates more taxpayers, thereby increasing revenues also. But if the government continues to spend beyond the revenues they are bringing in, well nothing can "fix" that, other than cutting spending. Raising taxes won't do it because that means less jobs and overall less tax revenue being generated.

It's math, numbers. You can't spend what you don't have, and you can't over-tax or you will reduce tax revenues. The solution: live within our means. Duh.


Related Links:

Why the "Recovery" is stalling

What happens when Tax Cuts Expire in 2011?

Obama's Anti-Business Policies Are Our Economic Katrina
     

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The Republican Problem

And what would that be? Getting people to trust them about spending:

Do Not Trust Cornyn or McConnell on Spending Cuts
[...] Republicans, perhaps because of their party’s evangelical wing, understand what it means to be born again — and they’re out to convince Americans that they are born-again debt crusaders, ready to rumble in the holy struggle for smaller deficits and less-unbalanced budgets. This takes a little bit of chutzpah. Here’s McConnell: “The American people don’t think our problem is that government taxes too little. Our problem is that government taxes too much. And that it spends too much and borrows too much. And until Democrats demonstrate even the slightest ability to restrain the recklessness with which they spend Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars, the job creators and the workers of this country aren’t about to take them seriously on how to lower the debt. The American people shouldn’t be asked to pay the price for Democrats’ recklessness through higher taxes.” Until Democrats demonstrate the slightest ability to restrain their recklessness? Fair enough, but let me refresh Senator McConnell’s memory:



Check out the spending under your guys, Senator McConnell. Notice how it doesn’t go down? This is why nobody trusts Republicans on spending: because Republicans have not earned anybody’s trust. [...]

And it doesn't help that we had eight years of a Republican Administration that spent money like a Democrat. Money we didn't have. Republicanism in recent years has meant sucking up to the social conservatives, and ignoring fiscal conservatism.

If Republicans can't put fiscal conservatism FIRST, even before social issues, then why should anyone bother with them?
     

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Is the Global Financial Crisis the beginning of the "brave new world" of life in America?

The books on Amazon.com are often reviewed by customers who also know quite a bit about the topic a book is about. Reading the customer reviews can be a real education in of itself. There are a lot of books appearing about the financial crisis, and what it means.

Below is a link to one book I read about recently. The first link is to the book, with the publisher's description. The two links that follow are from customers who read the book, and then gave their opinion. I thought it made a pretty interesting read:

Aftershock: Protect Yourself and Profit in the Next Global Financial Meltdown
Product Description

A practical guide to preparing for the next phase of the financial meltdown

From the authors who were the first to predict Phase I of our current economic downturn-in their landmark 2006 book, America's Bubble Economy-comes their insightful sequel discussing their predictions for the next phase of the Bubble Economy.

It may seem like the worst has come and gone, but it hasn't. With their proven track record of accurate predictions-which most financial professionals and economists missed-the authors explain how and why the next phase of the financial meltdown is about to hit. Things are not going back to how they were before. Instead, we are moving through uncharted territory, with new challenges and opportunities that few people can anticipate. Written in a straightforward and accessible style, Aftershock shows readers how to seek safety and profits in these dynamic economic conditions.

* Discusses how to protect assets, businesses, and jobs before and during the second wave of financial meltdown

* Provides clear and accurate advice on how to profit from the collapsing bubbles

* Offer focused guidance regarding real estate, which will continue to be a pressing concern for many

The authors' first book was chosen by Kiplinger's as one of the 30 Best Business Books of 2006, and its accuracy has been hailed by Paul Farrell of Dow Jones MarketWatch when he said "America's Bubble Economy's Predictions, though ignored, were accurate." Don't miss out on these time tested author's proven advice for how to mange your money during the coming financial meltdown.

Ok, so that's how it's being presented. Now here is a 5 star review from a customer:

"Don't Worry, Not a Single Penny of your Tax Dollars Will Fund the Bailouts."
"That's right. The bank and corporate bailout money is not coming from our taxes. Instead we're just borrowing it from foreign investors. We're also printing some of it...Of course, we will never, ever have to pay it all back, because even if we tried (and we won't), we never could."

That is why the U.S. Government will eventually be unable to borrow money and the nation will have to start living within it's means. That will be the beginning of the brave new world of life in America. This book is how we are speeding toward this "Bubblequake" and its "Aftershock." Although somewhat depressing (like all bad news is), this book also tells people what they can do to survive this worldwide depression and how to actually be able to make money during the painful readjustment of the world's economies. While this is a scary book because of what is happening all around us, it is also a hopeful book. The nation will survive after the country stops ignoring the basic laws of economics. The three authors are optimistic (maybe overly so) that the American people will be able to make the adjustments needed to achieve economic survival without having to become survivalists who have to grow their own food and defend their homes from roving mobs with guns. They feel that even dictators will be unable rise from the chaos because Americans will be changing its government officials as soon as it's obvious their policies don't work. There will be frequent changes in elected officials.

The nation will survive because basically the country is wealthy and will still be so after the economic bubbles have all popped and forced everyone and their government to live within their means.

These authors "are not bulls or bears or gold bugs, stock boosters or detractors, currency pushers, or doom-and-gloom crusaders," and "have no particular political ideology to endorse, and no dogmatic future to promote."

The goal of this book is "to tell you more details about the next round of bubbles to fall while there's still time to protect your assets and position yourself to survive and thrive in this dangerous, yet potentially highly profitable new environment...Although much of what we predicted in our first book that hasn't happened yet because most of the impact of the multi-bubble collapse is still to come. This is good news because it means you still have time to get prepared."

It's impossible to do justice to this book's message in a short review. The review copy I worked from is now practically destroyed by so many dog-eared pages and underline and highlighted passages. The three authors share a theory of the economy having being boosted by six economic co-linked bubbles. They are: The real estate bubble, the stock market bubble, the private debt bubble, the discretionary spending bubble, the dollar bubble and the government debt bubble. Four of those bubbles have already burst or are still in the process of collapsing. With the collapse of each bubble it puts more pressure on the remaining bubbles, and the two most important bubbles are in dire danger. The dollar bubble and government debt bubble collapses will change the face of America and the world. America will be bankrupt.

In their first book, "America's Bubble Economy" the authors accurately predicted the economic chaos of 2008 and 2009. This book picks up developments in 2010 and the following years and predicts the next economic bubbles that will pop. In the coming much worst economy, the book shows readers the best ways to protect, their jobs, businesses and assets. It explains how the housing crisis isn't "a sub prime mortgage problem whose contagion spread to other mortgages; it is a `housing price collapse.'" The number of home owners with mortgages that are underwater has risen from 14.3% in Q3 2008 to 33% in Q2 of 2009." Since 70% of the American Economy is based on consumer spending, the bubbles that have already popped or are still in the process of deflating won't be able to re-inflate. When the dollar loses it's value and the government can no longer pay its loans, and therefore won't be able to get any credit. America's golden age will be over.

Inflation, resorted to by the desperate government, will rack the nation bankrupting most businesses. "40 to 60%" unemployment may become the norm. There will be so many people seeking jobs that wages will tank. Everyone will be on Medicaid, not Medicare, and all the unemployed will be on welfare. The rich will have left the USA or be broke and all the government's taxes will come from the working people--the middle class. Since as much income as possible will be hidden, there will be national sales taxes and Value Added Taxes on every product or service. Family members will return home to live together with their extended families in order to control housing expenses.

After I finished this book I went home and made some of the changes suggested by this book. They include such obvious things as selling real estate if a buyer can be found and getting rid of variable rate mortgages if you can't sell the real estate. Variable rate mortgages are absolute poison. Selling off stocks is another suggestion. It doesn't have to be done all at once, it can be done over the next couple of years, but most stocks should be sold because the dollar bubble collapse will destroy stock market values. Collectables and art will be non-liquid and will drastically drop in value (90%) for the long term. Gold, and silver to a lesser extent, will retain its position as a hedge against inflation as well as a protection against the dollar bubble collapse. The authors also list the types of jobs that will be in demand during the coming perilous times. As one might expect some job categories will boom while the unnecessary ones will disappear. For example construction workers may want to start looking for jobs that repair existing structures rather than build new buildings. You'll have to read this book to get the answers to many of the questions that reading this volume will provoke.

The thing this reviewer liked the best about this book was the carefully explained logic of it's predictions. It provides a much better overview of the current economy. The readers will discover lots of new information that they've probably never heard or read before, but that the reader's gut instinct and personal experience will tell him or her is obviously true. While the authors may be wrong on some of their predictions, most of them will probably prove all too accurate. At the end of each chapter the authors list a website where more current information on that chapter's point can be gleaned before the next volume of this continuing series is published. This is a page turner, but it will be slow reading from the standpoint of having to constantly stop and make notes in the margin or pause to see how a particular point directly effects the reader's own situation. Reading this book will make you aware of economics like you've never previously been aware. Depending on your age, you may well recall your parents or grandparents advice that they'd learned during the Great Depression of 1929. The coming bubble bursts are going to be a more society-changing depression than the one 1929, although "few will suffer like they did in the Great Depression." The safety net will allow everyone to survive at a low standard of living. While the book didn't make this comparison, while reading it, I could easily visualize the United States as a colder, slightly wealthier version of Cuba. As I read it I also saw some visions of the movie "Dr. Zhivago" pop into my mind.

A "slightly wealthier version of Cuba"? Dr. Zhivago? UGH! Yet I have to wonder if there aren't some people in the current administration who would like to see exactly that. Their policies sure seem to be aiming for it.

Now for contrast, a one star review:

Interesting initial concept, but does not help investors
The book starts with the premise that there are six major "bubbles" that will combine to create great stress in the economy. OK, I'll buy that, but what I was looking for was helpful investing tactics to get through the bubble bursts ok. Written in mid 2009, the book failed miserably in providing tactical investment advice. For example:

o They suggest shorting the market with inverse ETFs. That strategy would have been a disaster in the year after March 2009 when the stock market soared.

o They write that the Euro community will be much more solid than the US dollar in the near term. Now we see the Euro in collapse with the US dollar doing fine.

Also, I find it extremely annoying that the authors constantly point to their previous book and say "We got those predictions right, so you should look carefully at what we have to say now." Such hubris usually leads to unfulfilled predictions.

Particularly with this constant pointing to their previous clairvoyance, I was really disappointed that there was nothing in this book (other than "buy gold"--surely not a new idea) that I found helpful in my investing tactics. I was disappointed in myself for wasting time reading most of the book.

The dollar may be doing better than the Euro at the moment, but I doubt that it's "doing fine". His comment about gold is no doubt true enough. I've found it a common criticism with these kinds of books, that they all say "buy gold", but don't offer much else in advice.

I'm going to end this with one more 5 star review, but THIS one goes into detail about some things he didn't like about the book:

In its field: Outstanding; Outside: Not so good
Although I don't particularly like the way this book is written and disagree with most of the irrelevant asides offered in support of the analyses: I find this to be the most complete and comprehensive analysis of America's ongoing economic problems that I have thus far encountered. In addition: the reasoned deductions which the authors draw from their analyses are far ranging and logical; and, for the most part, the conclusions which they reach are well justified and difficult to dispute. So, if you are looking for a book that will give you some valuable insight into what is happening to the U.S. economy today, and why; which explains how the ultimate collapse of that economy and the U.S. dollar will take place; and which forecasts what the United States and the world at large will be like following that calamity, then this is certainly a book which you should read.

I won't attempt to outline the book since other reviewers have probably done that already; and besides that might spoil the fun for you, the reader. But I would like to point out some of the seemingly gratuitous "asides" [not pertaining directly to the analyses] with which I disagree.

On page 170, the authors praise Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) for freeing the U.S. from the requirement to back its currency with gold, instead backing in by "the full faith and credit of the United States government." In my view, no praise is warranted, since FDR's actions helped set the U.S. on the path toward to its own economic destruction. Also on page 170, the authors state that in 1973 the United States went off the International Gold Standard [stopped redeeming foreign-held U.S. dollars for gold in accordance with the Bretton Woods Agreement signed in 1944] because that was the only way we could continue to buy foreign goods. In reality, the U.S. was forced to stop redeeming foreign-held dollars for gold because by 1973 we had inflated our currency to such an extent that France and Great Britain began to question the safety of our currency and there was a run on our gold reserves. On page 188, the authors once again praise FDR for crossing over political boundaries to push through his New Deal policies. It is fairly common knowledge nowadays, however, that FDR's policies helped propel what is thought to have been a probable recession into a thirteen year depression ended only by America's entry into World War II.

On page 195, the authors use the example of an independent physicist who, following the Challenger Accident in 1986, performed a simple experiment to show NASA why the accident occurred. In reality, Thiokol engineers pleaded with NASA not to launch STS-51L because the O-rings were colder than 53 degrees Fahrenheit. The decision to launch was made for political reasons not out of ignorance. On page 196, the authors praise the book "Silent Spring." That book, of course, misrepresented the science concerning DDT leading to its being banned and resulting in several million deaths worldwide due to malaria and other diseases. On page 200-201, the authors contend that gold is not a good store of value since its price fluctuates. In reality, the price of gold doesn't fluctuate. The price of various nation's currencies fluctuate relative to gold. To illustrate: The oil cartel members (OPEC) routinely adjust the price of oil, in terms of U.S. dollars, such that their return remains fairly constant in terms of gold. (Are they smarter than us, or what?) And, last but not least, on page 217, the authors praise Barack Obama for trying "to contain the growing blaze" [of uncontrolled government spending]. As we all know: Nothing could be farther from the truth.

But, one last thing: On page 187, the authors theorize that, at some far distant future date, some international assemblage will devise an international monetary system, independent of gold or any other metal, that "will be inflation-free because the system that controls the supply of IMUs [International Monetary Units] will be set up to avoid it." In all of man's history, gold is the only standard which has ever met that requirement! And human nature being what it is: How naïve can you get?

Regardless of all this: I can't help but offer my thanks and praise to the authors of this book for their in-depth assessment of America's troubles, particularly at this unique point in America's and the world's history. One can only hope that their work and this book will help bring more Americans to their senses and encourage them to take whatever steps they can to protect themselves and their families. Bottom line: This is a truly outstanding book in the field of economics, but outside that field, as demonstrated by the above noted "asides," it leaves much to be desired.

The interesting thing about customer reviews on Amazon.com, is that people can also leave comments on the reviews. Here is one comment on this last review:

Excellent review of this book. Glad to see someone else take issue with the authors' obsession with FDR, and their general economic illiteracy (even if their specific predictions concerning the economy are spot on). Also happy to see someone point out the obvious flaws in an international monetary system - after all, the whole point of an international monetary system is to increase the control a privileged elite have over spending power (the same function the Federal Reserve serves today). To assume that international currency would prevent economic depressions is naive indeed.

What I would like to add is that the authors mistakenly attribute the cause of the coming "aftershock" to Reagan's presidency in the 1980's. They attempt to paint the origin of our debt problem in his presidency, when in fact it stretches back to the president they so admire: FDR. Between FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society we are left with the real reasons for decreasing productivity growth: government healthcare, welfare programs and social security. By artificially limiting the number of people who need to work, and how long they need to work, the government has decreased the rate of productivity growth. Culturally other problems are also present (declining birth rates being one of them). So, instead of saying that the problem is merely the deficit, the authors should have focused on how government incentivized laziness through its welfare and social security programs.

Excellent! And the author of the review also gives an excellent reply to this comment. But I can't be printing it all here, so if you find it interesting, check it out. There are lots more reviews and comments.

As for the false premise that Reagan's presidency is the cause of the financial crisis, anyone believing that needs to disabuse themselves of that notion, with some facts:

Busting the Bank Deregulation Myth

If you want to look for root causes of our financial crisis, look to FDR, LBJ, and the “Reinvestment Acts" of three Democrat Presidents.

Some Republicans did their best to stop the damage before it reached critical mass, but they were stopped by Democrats:

Our Democrat-Created Crisis: They blocked a Reform bill co-sponsored by John McCain

The Republican's aren't without blame. We had 8 years of George W. Bush, and his spending like a Democrat, and keeping war debts off the national budget figures. I can make no excuses for it, because it is inexcusable. But two wrongs don't make a right, and now we have a Democrat Administration that seems intent on pushing us over the edge of the cliff, instead of guiding us away from it.

Where Republicans have erred, is in going along with the Democrats financial policies. And unfortunately, the Democrat's understanding of economics tends to be very poor. We are seeing the proof of that now.

But the voters choose the politicians, and the blame ultimately rests there. The electorate needs to make better choices. If these problems can be fixed, the voters may have their last chance to do so this November.


Also see:

Has US Currency already "collapsed"?

What would a U.S. currency collapse look like?

What happens when Tax Cuts Expire in 2011?

# Our true national debt: $130,000,000,000,000.

Argentina's Example: Are we heading there?

     

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Brand Names dissapear as the economy flounders; it's survival of the fittest. Or is it?

Many long established companies are going under, except of course for some who are favored by government, and kept going on taxpayer's money:

24/7 Wall St. Ten Brands That Will Disappear in 2011
24/7 Wall St. has created a new list of brands that will disappear, which includes Readers Digest, Kia Motors, Dollar Thrifty (NYSE: DTG), Zale (NYSE: ZLC), Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI), T-Mobile, BP plc (NYSE: BP), RadioShack (NYSE: RSH), Merrill Lynch, and Moody’s (NYSE: MCO).

[...]

Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE) were on our earlier list. We were wrong about them closing. They have become “wards of the state,” kept open by the US government to help maintain an orderly mortgage market. It is estimated that keeping the two firms open costs taxpayers about $7 billion a month. The companies lost a combined $291 billion in 2009. Members of Congress are pushing to have the companies shuttered. It is almost certain that they will not be around, at least in their current forms, much longer. One estimate is that the cost of supporting the two companies will total $1 trillion, making it more likely that they will be closed in the favor of other alternatives to maintain the mortgage market. [...]

In a sensible world, Fannie and Freddie would be shuttered, but economic sensibleness seems nowhere in sight, so I'm not so sure. Fannie and Freddie are government created entities, and the government has their own reasons for maintaining them, at any cost, apparently.

Read the whole article for other companies that are about to disappear. Some of them, like Newsweek, I won't miss. But who knows, they may get a bail-out too? More money taken away from the productive people who earned it, and given to unproductive people who squander it? And the surviving, profitable companies who are paying their own way, are then forced to compete with the unprofitable, government subsidized ones? How fair is that?

Rewarding failure, and punishing success. Change You Can Believe In.
     

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

We know how to recover the economy

We just have to get the government, which is sitting on our necks and strangling us, off of us and out of our way:

Restore Economic Liberty
[...] Reagan had succeeded in turning America’s ailing economy into a healthy and thriving one, and the leaders wanted to know how he did it. Reagan’s policies were defeating inflation and unemployment at a time when the rest of the world was still in recession. His key themes in answering them was to talk about how over taxation and burdensome government stifle the economy and individuals, and how economic freedom and limited government unleash the creativity and passion of the individual, allowing them to pursue their dreams and thrive. Reagan preached, and practiced, the old-time gospel of economic freedom.

Today, Americans are stifled by big government, smothered by over-regulation, and taxed to death. Our Founding Fathers who risked everything they had – their fortunes, their families, their lives – to secure freedom for us would not recognize our current economic reality as anything even close to the economic liberty they worked so hard to secure. Yes, we are endowed by our Creator with the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". But the government formed to protect those rights now makes it awfully hard for Americans to see economic liberty anywhere and nearly impossible to pursue financial security and the happiness that comes with it.

It’s time to reclaim a bit of that old time religion. It’s time to secure economic liberty by cutting taxes, reducing regulations and shrinking the size of government. We’ve got to free individuals to use our God-given talents and imaginations to build a better life for ourselves and our children or we will eventually lose our liberty altogether. [...]

It goes on to say how we should do that, and ends with a great quote by Thomas Jefferson.

The economic truths Ronald Reagan spoke about are timeless. At this critical time when we desperately need to apply them, our current government is doing exactly the opposite. And the results will be exactly the opposite of prosperity. It's also why the recovery is stalling.

If this can still be turned around, we need to start this November by voting OUT the politicians who are promulgating this madness.
     

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Why the "Recovery" is stalling

We need real job creation, but it isn't happening. Guess why:

Barack Obama: The great jobs killer
[...] It's time to call Obama what he is: The Great Jobs Killer. With his massive spending and tax hikes -- rewarding big government and big unions, while punishing taxpayers and business owners -- Obama has killed jobs, he has killed motivation to create new jobs, he has killed the motivation to invest in new businesses, or expand old ones. With all this killing, Obama should be given the top spot on the FBI's Most Wanted List.

Meanwhile, he has kept the union workers of GM and Chrysler employed (with taxpayer money). He has made sure that most government employee union members got their annual raises for sleeping on the job (with taxpayer money). He made sure that his voters got handouts mislabeled as "tax cuts" even though they never paid taxes (with taxpayer money). And he made sure that major campaign contributors collected billions off government stimulus (with taxpayer money).

As far as the taxpayers -- the people who actually take risks with our own money to create small businesses and jobs and pay most of the taxes -- we require protection under the Endangered Species Act.

[...]

I've polled all my friends who own small businesses -- many of them in the Internet and high-tech fields. They all agree that in this new Obama world of high business taxes, income taxes, payroll taxes, capital gains taxes, and workers compensation taxes, the key to success is to avoid employees. The only way to survive as a business owner today is by keeping the payroll very low and by hiring only independent contractors or part-time employees provided by temp agencies.

The days of jobs in the private sector with big salaries, full benefits, and pensions are over. We've all seen where those kinds of jobs get you as a business owner -- in Bankruptcy Court or surviving on government welfare like GM and Chrysler. Or in the case of government itself -- completely insolvent, but surviving by ripping off taxpayers and fraudulently running printing presses at the Fed all day and night to print money by the trillions.

Unfortunately, small businesses don't have the power to impose taxes or print money. So unlike government, we'll just have to cut employees and run lean and mean.

[...]

The days of believing the Obama propaganda about a jobs recovery are over. The trillion-dollar corporate handouts (neatly named "stimulus") may have kept big business in the money for the past 18 months, and artificially propped up the stock market, but small business is the real canary in the coal mine.

My small business-owning friends aren't creating one job. Not one. They are shedding jobs. They are learning to do more with fewer employees. They are creating high-tech businesses that don't need employees. And many business owners are making plans to leave the country. In a high-tech world where businesses can be run from anywhere, Obama has a problem. His one-trick pony -- raise taxes, raise taxes, raising taxes -- is chasing away the business owners he desperately needs to pay his bills.

So who is going to pay Obama's taxes? Not his voters. They want government to pay them. Who is going to create Obama's jobs? Not his voters -- they've never created a job in their lives. [...]

But what can you expect from an Administration that is openly hostile to the private sector? Who's leader has referred to it in his books as "the enemy"? What can you expect from an administration whose members keep insisting that "Capitalism has failed". They are doing their best to make sure that it does, so they can replace it with something else.

And it's having repercussions globally:

With the US trapped in depression, this really is starting to feel like 1932
[...] Investors are starting to chew over the awful possibility that America's recovery will stall just as Asia hits the buffers. China's manufacturing index has been falling since January, with a downward lurch in June to 50.4, just above the break-even line of 50. Momentum seems to be flagging everywhere, whether in Australian building permits, Turkish exports, or Japanese industrial output.

On Friday, Jacques Cailloux from RBS put out a "double-dip alert" for Europe. "The risk is rising fast. Absent an effective policy intervention to tackle the debt crisis on the periphery over coming months, the European economy will double dip in 2011," he said.

It is obvious what that policy should be for Europe, America, and Japan. If budgets are to shrink in an orderly fashion over several years – as they must, to avoid sovereign debt spirals – then central banks will have to cushion the blow keeping monetary policy ultra-loose for as long it takes. [...]

And yet, government seems to be doing exactly opposite of what they need to be doing. How much time is there left to turn it around?
     

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Lifespan of Dollars is longer in Zimbabwe

That's because they launder dirty money - literally:



Zimbabweans wash dirty US dollars with soap, water
HARARE, Zimbabwe – The washing machine cycle takes about 45 minutes — and George Washington comes out much cleaner in the Zimbabwe-style laundering of dirty money.

Low-denomination U.S bank notes change hands until they fall apart here in Africa, and the bills are routinely carried in underwear and shoes through crime-ridden slums.

Some have become almost too smelly to handle, so Zimbabweans have taken to putting their $1 bills through the spin cycle and hanging them up to dry with clothes pins alongside sheets and items of clothing.

It's the best solution — apart from rubber gloves or disinfectant wipes — in a continent where the U.S. dollar has long been the currency of choice and where the lifespan of a dollar far exceeds what the U.S. Federal Reserve intends.

Zimbabwe's coalition government officially declared the U.S. dollar legal tender last year to eradicate world record inflation of billions of percent in the local Zimbabwe dollar as the economy collapsed.

The U.S. Federal Reserve destroys about 7,000 tons of worn-out money every year. It says the average $1 bill circulates in the United States for about 20 months — nowhere near its African life span of many years. [...]

Unlike here, they can't take worn notes to the bank and exchange them. Chemical cleaning fades the color, so they gently launder the bills.

     

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Monday, July 05, 2010

Tammy Bruce interviews Sarah Palin

Here is a link to the podcast:

Special Podcast: The Sarah Palin Interview

An informal interview over the phone, it's just under 15 minutes long.
     

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy July 4th, 2010



Happy 234th Birthday America!

The roots of the American Revolution

Americanism is my religion and the Declaration of Independence is my creed
     

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Meet "Palro", the talking robot companion

It isn't sci-fi, it's an actual product:

Say hello to PALRO
In what comes as a bit of a surprise, Fuji Soft Inc.’s new humanoid robot platform for hobbyists and researchers has been given the name PALRO (pal + robot). Naturally we feel this name is a superb choice! Sales to research institutions will begin on March 15th, 2010 with a general release following later in the year. The robot combines Fuji Soft’s software prowess with an open architecture which will give developers plenty of room to experiment.

PALRO stands 39.8cm (15″) tall and weighs 1.9kg (3.5 lbs), and here’s the good news: it costs 298,000 JPY ($3300 USD). Considering PALRO has 20 DOF, a camera, 4 directional microphones, a speaker, LED arrays in its head and chest, 4 pressure sensors in each foot, 3-axis gyro sensor, an accelerometer, and an Intel Atom 1.6GHz CPU, it is priced very competitively. A comparative robot kit like Vstone’s Robovie-PC for example, costs $1100 USD more and doesn’t have such a fancy exoskeleton.

[...]

During the press conference, PALRO responded to verbal commands through speech recognition (“step back” and “introduce yourself”), and demonstrated its face recognition software by visually identifying three people at once. It then took a picture using its camera (the LEDs in its head lit up in the form of a camera icon) and wirelessly emailed the photo to a PC. To demonstrate its online news reading functionality, PALRO first asked which section of the news it should read before reading from that topic, gesturing as if it was flipping through a newspaper.

It was then commanded to download an application – a dance app from the community! Users will be able to choreograph original motion routines (and from the looks of things, LED animations) and share them online. PALRO units can also transfer applications and files to one another wirelessly. To top things off, three PALROs did their best sumo impressions! [...]

Follow the link, for some Youtube videos of Palro in action. He does quite a lot, seems rather impressive to me. What will the Japanese think of next?

The webpage for Palro, on the manufacturers site, is here:

Humanoid PALRO
[...] Humanoid "PALRO" was born as a personal home concierge that provides you with useful information and services, letting you enjoy life more.
He will add "FUN" to your life with his abilities to communicate naturally based on "Communication Intelligence technologies" & autonomous bipedal walking in living spaces based on "Mobile Intelligence technologies". [...]

Be sure and check out the left sidebar links at the site, labled "features" and "Functions and Specifications".
     

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“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” - George Orwell

I found the above quote in this long, rambling post by Takuan Seiyo at the Brussels Journal:

From Meccania To Atlantis - Part 16: Exodus 1: Reality for Radicals
[...] Insane governments have turned a crisis of imprudent banking into a crisis of imprudent sovereign debt. To cure a disease of debt they have issued more debt. To address a fundamental crisis of insolvency, they are pumping the stock Keynesian emetic as though this were a crisis of liquidity. Like Michael Crichton’s environmentalists (1), destroying Nature they arrogantly wanted to manage, pedigreed economists at the helm of the West’s fiscal and monetary destiny have engaged in ignorant, incompetent, and disastrously intrusive intervention that will be followed by attempts to repair the intervention, followed by attempts to repair the damage caused by the repair.

One after another, fiat currencies are catching fire, as all paper promises by lying governments must. Flight into the perceived safety of U.S. Treasury bonds buys the debt paper of the biggest Greece of them all. Stocks have crashed. If money printing brings them up again it won’t last, for consumer demand itself has cratered. Flight into gold leads into a blind alley foreclosed by the evil vampire squids either through naked shorts that suppress the price as a favor to Leviathan or through fictional fractional business that allows them to sell 100 bars of paper gold against each one they own.

Naked shorting, i.e. selling commodities you neither own nor borrowed is simply a con job akin to selling the Brooklyn Bridge or Eiffel Tower. That such an institutionalized swindle is allowed attests to the fundamental disconnect from Reality and moral bankruptcy not merely of the greedy Crooks but of the governments that have abandoned their few needed and legitimate functions, salient among which is being the honest cop in the bustling marketplace.

Instead, governments are busy pulling off their own mega-swindles, such as promising too many costly entitlements to too many people and misspending enormous funds on social engineering at home and stupid pet causes abroad. Those funds are raised through confiscation from legitimate citizens via onerous taxation, borrowing in international Ponzi schemes, and diluting the currency through “quantitative easing.” The latter forfeits the government’s second needed function: to preserve the value of the currency it issues.

Throughout the West, Karl Marx is smiling even as gangster financial manipulators loot the world with impunity. It’s from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

In the U.S., the government has coerced banks to grant mortgages to millions of favored minorities, irrespective of prospects of repayment. When, inevitably, the mortgages went sour and the banks crashed, the government transferred all that fictional finance onto its own books underwritten by the taxpayers’ money. In Europe, the Northern people who work, produce and save have been forced out of their sound currencies to enable their Body Snatcher (2) elites to subsidize via the common euro the Southern people who play, consume and borrow. When the inevitable happened, the Eurocrats are transferring further trillions from the Northerners, to bail out the Southerners.

As each level of fiction collapses before the onslaught of offended Reality, many more levels of lies remain. The massive foundation of social, economic, cultural, biological, political and geopolitical illusions on which the modern Western state perches as though on a layer of sweet and airy meringue is already so pitted and fissured that all but diehard Snatchers perceive it. Alas, frank public debate of the underlying phantom crossbars is proscribed by Snatcher laws and speech codes. Moreover, the majority of the population is hostile to such debate, for it’s guy-wired by Pod mental chipsets implanted by the state’s compulsory education and remotely controlled by all other major social institutions nonstop for the last 45 years.

Unlike in the financial area, social and martial crashes are still avoidable in theory, but will not be avoided because the ruling elites refuse to discern their true causes and the majorities that vote them in are too far-gone to change that. In the decohered Inverse Reality foisted on the West by its ruling class, nothing can make sense or is ever predictable. It’s all a series of random events while we, free of the burden of facts and their patterns, can proceed gloriously toward a vision of ever more perfect Justice, Equality and Peace.

[...]

To discuss Reality, one does not have to deploy polysyllabic words with Greek and Latin endings. A PhD dissertation written in German is not needed. Reality is what is. We have known for a hundred thousand years what is.

Repeat empirical evidence of Reality is programmed into our genes; for instance the “flight or fight” response. Your body will rarely make the error of trying to wrestle down a grizzly bear, yet your postmodern nation is committed to spawning horrific grizzly bears forever and forcing you at the point of the government’s gun to wrestle them every day of your life.

Reality is also encoded in our cultural legacy. Consider Genesis 3:15, God’s curse on the serpent: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in vain for her heel.” I call it time-tested advice for survival, if needing some caveats for various garter and black (e.g. Coluber constrictor) snakes. But modern-day Loons would call it prejudice, racial profiling and hate speech. And Gnostic Loons who hold the levers of power will deliberately force you to venture barefoot among the vipers, to cure you of your prejudices.

Reality does not need a battery of sociologists to tabulate and ameliorate it. Hear the Welsh priest George Herbert, who counseled in his 1651 Jacula Prudentium, "He that lies with the dogs riseth with fleas." How do the liaisons of your country with the rogue nations of the Third World look in light of this apothegm? Or consider what Benjamin Franklin wrote in Poor Richard's Almanack sometime in the 1740s: "Nine men in ten are suicides." How does the theory and practice of the neo-socialist “social justice” redistributive state look in light of this six-word crystallization of Reality?

[...]

Reality Renaissance

The title of this Part, “Reality for Radicals,” is a play on the title of the book Rules for Radicals – the clever manifesto by Saul Alinsky at whose virtual feet sat the leaders of the ruling elite, starting with the Community Organizer in Chief, B. H. Obama, America’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and probably the entire nomenklatura of Socialist International.

Nevertheless, this opinion channel, this writer and these readers are no Radicals. They are Regulars. On the major issues of life and society they stand roughly in the same zone where stood the Greatest Generation -- their Nazi-smashing grandparents. It’s just that the Snatchers have snatched the goal posts too, and moved them to the far left corner of the field.

The Regulars are radical only in the sense that George Orwell prophesied when he wrote in 1984: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” [...]

And telling the truth is what we must do. Someone's gotta do it. What's the alternative? We can see where the lies are taking us. It's not sustainable. Reality will only continue to be offended for just so long, before it strikes back.


Also see:

This is not a Depression or a Recession

Modern Gnosticism's disregard for reality

The wind caused by the slamming shut of one door often opens another door
     

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