Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One Prediction

Quick post this morning. First, I'd like to encourage everyone to go down to the Whole Foods CEO post below and read the comment. We have a new participant, and look forward to more contributions to this discussion. I owe responses to some of the recent posts as well, and I will get to them.

I wanted to post this link/story. I have no idea who this man is, his political leanings, economic schooling, etc, but his dire prediction is one that I have feared ever since I started studying economics (it was one of my majors) in college. I have always feared that one morning we'd wake up and find that things we thought had value like 'wealth' and 'money' would be worthless. Such a catastrophe doesn't just 'happen,' but is the result of many many many poor decisions by many many parties (including you and me).

Don't think it can't happen. Many institutions that nobody dreamed
could ever 'fail' went away in a heartbeat just last year. Not even the
U.S. and the almighty dollar are too big to fail.

"The future will be a total disaster, with a collapse of our capitalistic
system as we know it today, wars, massive government debt defaults and the
impoverishment of large segments of Western society," Marc Faber writes in
the September issue of The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report.

A statement like that pretty much speaks for
itself, but it's a bit more complicated than appears on first blush.

Faber has been bullish -- especially on commodities and emerging market
stocks -- for some time now and believes the current global recovery trade
will last another two-to-three years, as discussed in more detail in a
forthcoming clip. But he has major long-term concerns about the dollar's
long-term viability given rising U.S. deficits, massive unfunded mandates
and the fact "we have a money-printer at the Fed."

This combination will eventually lead to runaway inflation, wholesale
debasement of the dollar, and a major lowering of living standards for
most Americans and many Europeans as well, says Faber, who is "highly
confident" in this grim prediction.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I hope we learn from a recent huge mistake.

If you have bad credit, is home ownership a right? I think that the subprime mortgage crisis showed everyone that home ownership is not a right. Check out this article from the New York Times published on Sept. 30, 1999.

Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending

Published: Thursday, September 30, 1999

In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.

The action, which will begin as a pilot program involving 24 banks in 15 markets -- including the New York metropolitan region -- will encourage those banks to extend home mortgages to individuals whose credit is generally not good enough to qualify for conventional loans. Fannie Mae officials say they hope to make it a nationwide program by next spring.

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.

In addition, banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies have been pressing Fannie Mae to help them make more loans to so-called subprime borrowers. These borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough to qualify for conventional loans, can only get loans from finance companies that charge much higher interest rates -- anywhere from three to four percentage points higher than conventional loans.

''Fannie Mae has expanded home ownership for millions of families in the 1990's by reducing down payment requirements,'' said Franklin D. Raines, Fannie Mae's chairman and chief executive officer. ''Yet there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.''

Demographic information on these borrowers is sketchy. But at least one study indicates that 18 percent of the loans in the subprime market went to black borrowers, compared to 5 per cent of loans in the conventional loan market.

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.

''From the perspective of many people, including me, this is another thrift industry growing up around us,'' said Peter Wallison a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ''If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out the way it stepped up and bailed out the thrift industry.''

Under Fannie Mae's pilot program, consumers who qualify can secure a mortgage with an interest rate one percentage point above that of a conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgage of less than $240,000 -- a rate that currently averages about 7.76 per cent. If the borrower makes his or her monthly payments on time for two years, the one percentage point premium is dropped.

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, does not lend money directly to consumers. Instead, it purchases loans that banks make on what is called the secondary market. By expanding the type of loans that it will buy, Fannie Mae is hoping to spur banks to make more loans to people with less-than-stellar credit ratings.

Fannie Mae officials stress that the new mortgages will be extended to all potential borrowers who can qualify for a mortgage. But they add that the move is intended in part to increase the number of minority and low income home owners who tend to have worse credit ratings than non-Hispanic whites.

Home ownership has, in fact, exploded among minorities during the economic boom of the 1990's. The number of mortgages extended to Hispanic applicants jumped by 87.2 per cent from 1993 to 1998, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. During that same period the number of African Americans who got mortgages to buy a home increased by 71.9 per cent and the number of Asian Americans by 46.3 per cent.

In contrast, the number of non-Hispanic whites who received loans for homes increased by 31.2 per cent.

Despite these gains, home ownership rates for minorities continue to lag behind non-Hispanic whites, in part because blacks and Hispanics in particular tend to have on average worse credit ratings.

In July, the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed that by the year 2001, 50 percent of Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's portfolio be made up of loans to low and moderate-income borrowers. Last year, 44 percent of the loans Fannie Mae purchased were from these groups.

The change in policy also comes at the same time that HUD is investigating allegations of racial discrimination in the automated underwriting systems used by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to determine the credit-worthiness of credit applicants.

A version of this article appeared in print on Thursday, September 30, 1999, on section C page 2 of the New York edition.

Clearly, this program was one of the worst mistakes in the recent history of this country. Home ownership for the credit-unworthy is not a right. Ten years later, some tell us that healthcare is a right. Maybe we can learn from this mistake instead of repeating it. Imagine where our economy and our country would be now if the loosening of standards to extend mortgages had been greeted with as much furor as healthcare reform is being shown now? I bet that Obama would not have been elected President.

Tangent alert: On Charlie Rose tonight, I watched an interview with an author named Jim Collins. His most recent book is called How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In. He studied how huge, massive businesses fail. His writing can be expanded to apply to a huge, massively successful country like ours. He lists five steps that a company undergoes on the way from being on top of the world to no longer existing or, even worse, becoming irrelevant. The step that reminds me of the current push for healthcare reform is "Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More". This step is marked by a poor decision to expand too fast into an area where the consequences of failure are not worth the risks. Expansion by the government into the healthcare industry strikes me as classic over-extending.


Not much original thought from me at the moment (and its a months-long moment, I fear), but I will use this blog to stockpile really great articles from other people. At the very least, I will be able to read them again and reflect.

This article comes from the San Antonio Express-News, a newspaper I only look at to read Brent Zwernerman's Aggie sports blog. I went from reading about Von Miller being compared to Ray Childress to this. I feel like this author captures some of the frustration of the public at this pivotal time without applying a partisan filter to the events of the day. I will be reading his stuff in the future.

Dissent OK, unless it's against Obama's plans

Jonathan Gurwitz

Remember when dissent was considered to be the highest form of patriotism? That would have been during the era that began after George W. Bush's inauguration.

It was the summer of 2002, in fact, when leftist historian Howard Zinn — not Thomas Jefferson, to whom the saying is frequently misattributed — popularized the dissent-equals-patriotism formulation in a magazine interview. That era ended on Jan. 20, 2009, the day of Barack Obama's inauguration.

Today, if you merely disagree — dissent is too strong a word — with the policies being formulated by the Obama White House and the unchecked Democratic majorities in Congress, you could be some sort of mindless Nazi. That's what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to insinuate when she referred to Obamacare protestors as “AstroTurf” who were “carrying swastikas and symbols like that.”

Well, yes. There have been a few protestors who in very poor taste have utilized Nazi symbols, mostly with the universally recognized, crossed out red line to indicate what they are against — an unprecedented expansion of government power.

If you assume, charitably, that Pelosi was merely expressing disgust at the casual use of symbols of hate to express a political disagreement, ponder this: Where was her sensitivity over the years when explicitly equating Bush with Hitler was considered to be an elegant expression of political thought?

Suggesting that the U.S. government is in any way comparable to the Nazi government and shouting down opponents, as a handful of ignorant Obamacare protestors have done, is offensive and wrong. But it is surely no more offensive or wrong than the suggestion by one of the most powerful political figures in the nation that peaceful citizen protests are an artificial manifestation of stormtrooper mentality.

In case that suggestion was in doubt, Pelosi clarified it in an op-ed she penned last week for USA Today with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. “Drowning out opposing views,” they wrote, “is simply un-American.”

Drowning out? Un-American? Perhaps they had in mind the Service Employees International Union, whose blog declares the imperative, “We must fight back against lies and fear-mongering to drown out the opposition.”

No, wait. SEIU mans the barricades for Obama and supports one or all five of the unsettled health reform bills in Congress.

Perhaps they were referring to Kenneth Gladney, an African American who was roughed up outside a town hall meeting near St. Louis. Police made two arrests for assault.

No, wait. Gladney was giving out “Don't Tread on Me” flags and the goons who allegedly attacked him were Obamacare advocates and, in video of the incident, appear to be SEIU members.

Perhaps they had in mind the speaker at a recent political rally in Virginia. “I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way.”

No, wait. That was Barack Obama, president of the United States, telling opponents to shut up and move. The same president whose White House has set up an Internet tip line for patriotic citizens to report “fishy” criticism of the yet to be defined health reform plan. This is no way to restore civility and elevate the debate.

The official White House blog instructs informers to rat out suspicious dissent by emailing flag@whitehouse.gov. Get it? Rally around the flag. There's liberal nuance for you.

Remember when a false appeal to patriotism was considered to be the last refuge of a scoundrel? This saying actually did come from Samuel Johnson, an 18th century British conservative. The era for scorning such appeals evidently came to an end in the United States on Jan. 20 as well.


Friday, August 14, 2009

I will now shop at Whole Foods whenever possible

If this guy ever runs for any office I will vote for him. His list of things to do is partly recycled (who isn't in favor of Medicare reform?), but it is complete and the commentary after the list is especially good.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare

Eight things we can do to improve health care without adding to the deficit.


"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out
of other people's money."

—Margaret Thatcher

With a projected $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009, several trillions more in deficits projected over the next decade, and with both Medicare and Social Security entitlement spending about to ratchet up several notches over the next 15 years as Baby Boomers become eligible for both, we are rapidly running out of other people's money. These deficits are simply not sustainable. They are either going to result in unprecedented new taxes and inflation, or they will bankrupt us.

While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone:

• Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees' Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.

Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. Our team members therefore spend their own health-care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. Our plan's costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.

• Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.

• Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable.

• Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.

• Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.

• Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor's visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?

• Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.

• Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren't covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care—to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals. While all of us empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have to food or shelter?

Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This "right" has never existed in America

Even in countries like Canada and the U.K., there is no intrinsic right to health care. Rather, citizens in these countries are told by government bureaucrats what health-care treatments they are eligible to receive and when they can receive them. All countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce treatments.

Although Canada has a population smaller than California, 830,000 Canadians are currently waiting to be admitted to a hospital or to get treatment, according to a report last month in Investor's Business Daily. In England, the waiting list is 1.8 million.

At Whole Foods we allow our team members to vote on what benefits they most want the company to fund. Our Canadian and British employees express their benefit preferences very clearly—they want supplemental health-care dollars that they can control and spend themselves without permission from their governments. Why would they want such additional health-care benefit dollars if they already have an "intrinsic right to health care"? The answer is clear—no such right truly exists in either Canada or the U.K.—or in any other country.

Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health. This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health.

Unfortunately many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted: two-thirds of Americans are now overweight and one-third are obese. Most of the diseases that kill us and account for about 70% of all health-care spending—heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity—are mostly preventable through proper diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal alcohol consumption and other healthy lifestyle choices.

Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat. We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age.

Health-care reform is very important. Whatever reforms are enacted it is essential that they be financially responsible, and that we have the freedom to choose doctors and the health-care services that best suit our own unique set of lifestyle choices. We are all responsible for our own lives and our own health. We should take that responsibility very seriously and use our freedom to make wise lifestyle choices that will protect our health. Doing so will enrich our lives and will help create a vibrant and sustainable American society.

Mr. Mackey is co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc.

Very good stuff. And extra good because he is causing reactions that, at least to me, color his opponents as not too bright. Says one pissed off former Whole Foods customer:

"While Mackey is worried about health care and stimulus spending, he doesn't seem too worried about expensive wars and tax breaks for the wealthy and big businesses such as his own that contribute to the deficit," said Lent.

So diversionary. If a supporter of Obamacare, or even Obama himself, can't come up with a more reasoned response to the points put forward by Mr. Mackey and others, this attempt at reform will cease soon. Earlier today I thought about making a post saying that the Obama administration was already sewing the seeds of blame for the failure of health care reform (insurance companies mobilizing armies of bought and paid for mercernaries to show up to town hall meetings, those vicious viral emails that spread lies unchecked, accusations of astroturfing) with its actions over the past few days. If you look at that first link, you will notice that the first part of the story is confirmation there were not lobbyist funded buses outside the meeting.

Obama's approach to this whole topic was a serious overestimate of the magnitude of his electoral mandate.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bush/Obama Jokers

Apparently there was one of Bush last year, but it didn't get the attention Obama's is. Bush's published in an actual magazine: Vanity Fair.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Grassroots Propaganda

There's an image of Obama circulating on the Internet in which he's made to look like the Joker from the latest Batman movie. Below the image is the word "socialism" in bold black letters. The image has also been posted on telephone polls and walls around Los Angeles. I chose not to post the image here.


I haven't seen the latest Batman movie, which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. I don't know what the Joker does in that movie, or why someone would make a connection between that character and the current President. Is the author going for a physical resemblance, or is the Joker a socialist in the movie? I don't know. The article intimates that the Joker is more of an anarchist in the movie. It makes sense to me that a period of anarchy, or at least violent revolution, is likely at some time after socialism sets in, especially in a nation accustomed to the greatest freedom in human history.

I've only seen one scene from the new Batman movie, and in it the Joker is robbing a bank, and he or his partner in crime murders the driver of a bus that arrives to be the vehicle to whisk away the money being stolen from the bank. I don't know what happens to the Joker (I honestly don't). I hope good triumphs in the end.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Participatory Democracy

I believe it is too difficult to get involved in politics in this country. Politicians are demonized, and rightly so, because the game is so cutthroat. There are 535 jobs in Congress. There were 219 million people in this country of voting age in 2004. That means there is one person in Congress for every 411,165 people of voting age. That is a large pool to draw from for one job. The competition drives candidates to spend outrageous amounts of money and make outrageous promises to get elected. They then must go to Congress and bring huge amounts of money to their district so they will be re-elected. Sometimes, they are not re-elected, but it turns out that is does not matter. The cast changes, but the script stays the same.

So how can this be changed? Political office is viewed as a publicly ridiculed pursuit that requires nearly life-long dedication because of the competition for jobs. I would like to change this country, but not at such a high personal cost. I have other goals in my life besides becoming a politician. What if there were ten times more seats in Congress? In fact, how many seats were there in Congress 200 something years ago, when the country was founded, and how many citizens were there in the country then? Well some quick research tells me there were 132 electoral votes in 1792, which is equivalent to the number of seats in Congress, and that the total population in the 1790 census was 3,797,231. That averages out to 28,767 citizens per Congressional office. 411,165 divided by 28,767 equals 14.3. How much more participatory would our democracy be if there were 7,646 seats in Congress?

Right now there are a very small number of elite politicians who are paid, legally and illegally, exorbinant amounts of money to direct our country. Expand that group so that it is no longer such an exclusive club, cut their benefits and maybe their (legal) pay, and limit the amount of time one person can serve. Dilute the power one individual can have. Stop politics from being a profession, and return it to being a public service.

I am not posting links to the data I used because I am not confident in its absolute accuracy. I welcome anyone to find reliable data and post it. Even better would be to show the average total population per Congressional seat from 1792 to 2004 (or 2008 if the data is available).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The cost of your crappy healthcare in 15 years...

Second post in a row with foxnews as my primary source. I know they're not an unbiased source, but do unbiased sources exist anymore? There aren't many, and the vast majority of bias is on the other side, so please allow yourself to see a different perspective.

After 10 Years, Health Care Coverage Costs Turn Into Unfunded Mandate


According to an analysis by Republican staff of the House Ways and Means
panel, the deficit from the health care reform bill would be $760 billion by
2024, the end of the first 10 years of full benefits coverage. It would be
$1.6 trillion by the end of the 2020s.

The Republican projection takes the CBO estimates beyond the 10 years
the agency is restricted by law from projecting and shows that while the program
will cost about $1 trillion between 2011 and 2019, it will cost $2.2 trillion
between 2015 and 2024, not counting offsets to reduce the cost.
another way, by 2019 the House proposals will be adding $65 billion a
year to the deficit, even with all the revenue raisers Democrats are now
proposing. The amount of deficit spending will continue to increase after 2019,
which would mean Congress is creating another entitlement.

The more hilarious part is at the end of the article.

House Democrats say many savings will be realized by the reduction in illnesses
as a result of preventive maintenance.

What the hell preventative maintenance BS are they talking about? Preventative maintenance? Like the government telling you to eat and exercise so you can stay healthy?

Don't they already do that? And how's that working? Peopel are still fat, and getting fatter than ever. The food pyramid has been around forever, and the government's recommendations on what's 'healthy' tend to change. How reliable is that? You want that government in control of healthcare?

Realize this is such baseless, farcical, hindenburg flaming hot air that it will never EVER EVER EVER work to 'reduce costs.' EVER. As much as they may try, government can't prevent or control behavior, and they especially can't help illness. Who signs up for illness? The lines to enroll in cancer, and alzheimer's are pretty short. These things just HAPPEN. You can't 'maintain' your way out of them! And you DEFINITELY can't rely on this fairy tale maintenance to reduce future healthcare costs. Or how about difficulties caused by aging? Will preventative maintenance help that? Broken hips and bad knees from aging HAPPEN. But yet the democrats have figured how 'preventative maintenance' will help reduce healthcare costs.

Hope this fails.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Healthcare Bill


This is disgusting.

The plan would honor Obama's campaign promise not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000. But it would break an Obama pledge that no one -- including the wealthy -- would pay higher taxes than they did in the 1990s. The pledge, as listed on Obama's campaign Web site, was: "No family will pay higher tax rates than they would have paid in the 1990s."

Democrats argue that high-income families fared well under President George W. Bush's two terms as their taxes dropped and their income ssoared, giving them the ability to absorb higher taxes. Republicans argue that the tax increases would hurt small business owners who typically paytheir business taxes on their individual returns.

The rich 'had it easy' in the 1990's so they should bear the burden of higher taxes now? Such an argument is so void of logic it's nauseating. What about those who weren't high earners in the 1990s but are now? Why should they "absorb" (get robbed by) higher taxes.

Why bother dancing around it anymore? This is socialism sneaking up onyou from the backside. Let's hope there are enough brains left in power to keep our pants up while it tries to strike.

This broken campaign promise will surely be forgotten when 2012 rolls around. And even if it isn't, as the numbers of those benefitted by these government redistributions of wealth continue to grow, the votes will be secured to perpetuate. But realize this isn't sustainable. Not even close. And we're a lot closer than you may think to the dangerous realization of it.

It's a terrible time in America, where the bleeding of the public donefor a long time by all politicians, be it democrat or republican, is being taken to a new, irreversible, and terrifying level.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mission Accomplished?

I guess its all a question of how you define "disastrous economic collapse".

World has avoided economic disaster, Obama says


L'AQUILA, Italy (AP) -- Lasting worldwide recovery "is still a ways off," President Barack Obama declared Friday, but he also said at the conclusion of a global summit that a disastrous economic collapse apparently has been averted.

Obama said world leaders had taken significant measures to address economic, environmental and global security issues.

"Reckless actions by a few have fueled a recession that spans the globe," Obama said of the meltdown that began in the United States with a tumble in housing prices and drastic slowing of business lending. The downturn now threatens superpowers and emerging nations alike.

Obama urged national leaders to unite behind a global recovery plan that includes stricter financial regulation and sustained stimulus spending.

"The only way forward is through shared and persistent effort to combat threats to our peace, our peace, our prosperity and our common humanity wherever they may exist. None of this will be easy," Obama told a news conference at the end of the Group of Eight summit of major economic powers.

The president rejected suggestions that the summit fell short of expectations by failing to call for tough new sanctions on Iran for its crackdown on democracy advocates after its disputed presidential election.

"What we wanted is exactly what we got - a statement of unity and strong condemnation," Obama said. He said the leaders' declaration was even more significant because it included Russia, "which doesn't make statements like that lightly."

Obama said world leaders will reevaluate their posture toward Iran at a meeting in Pittsburgh in September of the world's 20 major industrial and developing economies.

He cited "the appalling events of Iran's presidential election" and said the world would "take stock of Iran's progress" and watch its behavior.

Leaders have made clear that for Iran to take its "rightful place" in the world, the country must adhere to international standards and behave responsibility, Obama said.

The president was next turning to more photogenic events: a meeting with the pope and a stop in Africa.

Obama, his wife and senior advisers met Pope Benedict XVI and exchanged gifts shortly before leaving Italy late Friday for Ghana. Obama and Benedict had spoken by phone but had not met before.

"It's a great honor for me. Thank you so much," Obama said as he met the pontiff.

Benedict asked Obama about the G-8 summit, eliciting Obama's assessment that it was "very productive."

The cameras clattered while that sat down at the pope's desk.

"Your Holiness, I'm sure you're used to having your picture taken. I'm getting used to it," Obama said.

Later in the day, Obama was to fly to Ghana on his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president, but second visit to Africa. He gave a speech in Egypt last month.

On a pressing issue back home, Obama acknowledged that his top legislative priority - health care overhaul - had encountered rocky going in Congress during his overseas trip, with opposition building among both Republicans and economically conservative Democrats.

But he said he still was confident of getting the measure passed before Congress begins its August recess.

Asked if that timetable was "do or die," Obama responded: "I never believe anything is do or die. But I want to get it done by the August recess."

On the world economy, Obama said that rising food prices mean millions more are falling into desperate poverty "and right now, at this defining moment, we face a choice. We can either shape our future or let events shape it for us."

"While our markets are improving and we appear to have averted global collapse, we know that too many people are still struggling. So we agree that full recovery is still a ways off." He said the world leaders felt "it would be premature to begin winding down our stimulus plans."

Earlier in the week, the 186-nation International Monetary Fund released an updated economic forecast, predicting that the global economy will shrink 1.4 percent this year, the worst performance in the post-World War II period. That forecast was slightly worse than the 1.3 percent decline the IMF predicted in April.

The international lending agency did see prospects improving for next year with global growth forecast to climb to 2.5 percent, up from an April projection of 1.9 percent.

Leaders at Friday's meetings also committed themselves to a $20 billion initiative to help farmers in poor countries boost production.

Asked about his appeal to fellow leaders for the aid, Obama said he talked about his father, who was born in Kenya.

"The telling point is when my father traveled to the United States from Kenya to study ... the per capita income of Kenya was higher than South Korea's."

Now, Obama said, South Korea is industrialized and relatively wealthy while Kenya, as well as much of Africa, is still struggling economically.

"There is no reason why African countries can't do the same" and rise out of poverty with modern and open institutions, Obama said.

On nuclear weapons, Obama said the U.S. and Russia must show they're "fulfilling their commitments" to lead global efforts to curb the spread. If the two superpowers show they can limit or eliminate these weapons, it would strengthen their moral authority to speak to other potential nuclear nations such as North Korea and Iran.

Obama said there is a need to build "a system of international norms" for nuclear weapons. With respect to North Korea and Iran, he said, "It's not a matter of singling them out ... but a standard that everybody can live by."

Six months in office, Obama said he supports a streamlining of summits - the G-8, G-20 and NATO - and attending fewer of those meetings. He said the United Nations is in need of reform, but international summits fill a gap left by a U.N. structure that doesn't leverage its power as effectively as it could.

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Funny how things turn out

I am posting this because it is in the WSJ, which means that you can only access it for seven days after publication without paying.

Before that article, just a quick blurb. Who wants to finance a small nuclear power plant with me? I think we could pay off the debt in about 15 years, and that is 45 years of selling (carbon-free) power. My quick estimation suggests this thing would produce 900M - 1B kWh/yr.

WSJ link

President Obama swept to office on the promise of a new kind of politics, but then how do you explain last week's dismissal of federal Inspector General Gerald Walpin for the crime of trying to protect taxpayer dollars? This is a case that smells of political favoritism and Chicago rules.

A George W. Bush appointee, Mr. Walpin has since 2007 been the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees such subsidized volunteer programs as AmeriCorps. In April 2008 the Corporation asked Mr. Walpin to investigate reports of irregularities at St. HOPE, a California nonprofit run by former NBA star and Obama supporter Kevin Johnson. St. HOPE had received an $850,000 AmeriCorps grant, which was supposed to go for three purposes: tutoring for Sacramento-area students; the redevelopment of several buildings; and theater and art programs.
[The White House Fires a Watchdog] Associated Press

Gerald Walpin, Inspector General of the Corporation For National and Community Service, was fired by President Barack Obama.

Mr. Walpin's investigators discovered that the money had been used instead to pad staff salaries, meddle politically in a school-board election, and have AmeriCorps members perform personal services for Mr. Johnson, including washing his car.

At the end of May, Mr. Walpin's office recommended that Mr. Johnson, an assistant and St. HOPE itself be "suspended" from receiving federal funds. The Corporation's official charged with suspensions agreed, and in September the suspension letters went out. Mr. Walpin's office also sent a civil and/or criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.

So far, so normal. But that all changed last fall, when Mr. Johnson was elected mayor of Sacramento. News of the suspension had become public, and President Obama began to discuss his federal stimulus spending. A city-hired attorney pronounced in March that Sacramento might be barred from receiving stimulus funds because of Mr. Johnson's suspension.

The news caused a public uproar. The U.S. Attorney's office, which since January has been headed by Lawrence Brown -- a career prosecutor who took over when the Bush-appointed Attorney left -- had already decided not to pursue criminal charges. Media and political pressure then mounted for the office to settle the issue and lift Mr. Johnson's suspension. Mr. Walpin agreed Mr. Johnson should pay back money but objected to lifting the suspension. He noted that Mr. Johnson has never officially responded to the Corporation's findings and that the entire point of suspension is to keep federal funds from individuals shown to have misused them.

Mr. Brown's office responded by cutting off contact with Mr. Walpin's office and began working directly with the Corporation, the board of which is now chaired by one of Mr. Obama's top campaign fundraisers, Alan Solomont. A few days later, Mr. Brown's office produced a settlement draft that significantly watered down any financial repayment and cleared Mr. Johnson. Mr. Walpin told us that in all his time working with U.S. Attorneys on cases he'd referred, he'd never been cut out in such fashion.

Mr. Walpin brought his concerns to the Corporation's board, but some board members were angry over a separate Walpin investigation into the wrongful disbursement of $80 million to the City University of New York. Concerned about the St. HOPE mess, Mr. Walpin wrote a 29-page report, signed by two other senior members of his office, and submitted it in April to Congress. Last Wednesday, he got a phone call from a White House lawyer telling him to resign within an hour or be fired.

We've long disliked the position of inspectors general, on grounds that they are creatures of Congress designed to torment the executive. Yet this case appears to be one in which an IG was fired because he criticized a favorite Congressional and executive project (AmeriCorps), and refused to bend to political pressure to let the Sacramento mayor have his stimulus dollars.

There's also the question of how Mr. Walpin was terminated. He says the phone call came from Norman Eisen, the Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, who said the President felt it was time for Mr. Walpin to "move on," and that it was "pure coincidence" he was asked to leave during the St. HOPE controversy. Yet the Administration has already had to walk back that claim.

That's because last year Congress passed the Inspectors General Reform Act, which requires the President to give Congress 30 days notice, plus a reason, before firing an inspector general. A co-sponsor of that bill was none other than Senator Obama. Having failed to pressure Mr. Walpin into resigning (which in itself might violate the law), the Administration was forced to say he'd be terminated in 30 days, and to tell Congress its reasons.

White House Counsel Gregory Craig cited a complaint that had been lodged against Mr. Walpin by Mr. Brown, the U.S. Attorney, accusing Mr. Walpin of misconduct, and of not really having the goods on Mr. Johnson. But this is curious given that Mr. Brown himself settled with St. HOPE, Mr. Johnson and his assistant, an agreement that required St. HOPE (with a financial assist from Mr. Johnson) to repay approximately half of the grant, and also required Mr. Johnson to take an online course about bookkeeping.

Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, a co-sponsor of the IG Reform Act, is now demanding that the Corporation hand over its communications on this mess. He also wants to see any contact with the office of First Lady Michelle Obama, who has taken a particular interest in AmeriCorps, and whose former chief of staff, Jackie Norris, recently arrived at the Corporation as a "senior adviser."

If this seems like small beer, keep in mind that Mr. Obama promised to carefully watch how every stimulus dollar is spent. In this case, the evidence suggests that his White House fired a public official who refused to roll over to protect a Presidential crony.
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A13

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The World Never Stops

You can't escape the goings on in the world, especially at such a critical time. This week we have GM officially entering bankruptcy (as if there were any doubt), a new nominee for the Supreme Court in (use your best accent with me, be sure to roll your R!) SONIA SOTOMAYOR, another weak treasury sale (potentially my next big topic), North Korea testing the resolve of the world (more sanctions? oooh, they're so scared...), and an oddly timed plea by the President for Congress to look at health care reform (let's hope they don't, or if they do, that you won't need to use it). I suggest trying to escape for a bit by taking in the National Spelling Bee. These kids are good. Though I have a problem with all of the "use the word in a sentence" sentences being 'funny.'

Monday, May 25, 2009

Why you have Monday Off...

My Grandfather is a Korean War Veteran. My other Grandfather is a Korean Conflict Veteran. One was in Korea, the other was close, but at the end of the day, I'm here today, and we should all remember the duty they served to us.

We don't have to work Monday because our nation sets aside this day every year to remember those that have died for our Constitution. Dying for our Consitutution means dying for what we believe in; dying for our liberty.

That's not something to be taken lightly.

We may celebrate it by frying a turkey, playing whiffleball, entertaining friends, and discussing our political perceptions, but all of that ought to be only the backdrop of the fact that we're able to do that in the first place.

I don't have the URL, but Obama, in his weekly Presidential address, implored upon us to remember what Memorial Day is all about.

I couldn't agree more.

We don't have to set aside our whole day, or say an entire Rosary, or even visit the grave of a veteran, but as we enjoy our three day weekend, let's set aside one drink, one shot, one moment, for a Veteran who believed so strongly believed in what America promises, that he or she died for the Constitution.

Let us remember he or she.

And let's not forget to continue to honor the sacrifice of that Veteran by keeping whole that same Constitution that ultimately governs this great land of America that we share.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Puppetmaster


Obama may soon send GM into bankruptcy

Obama may soon send GM into bankruptcy.

The head of the executive branch of our government may soon send one of the largest and oldest companies into legal protection to mask the additional lending of billions of dollars in an attempt to salvage the company from the depths of less-than-mediocrity and insolvency. Obama's way.

Billions of dollars of your money, and don't be mistaken that it is your money, in one way or another, will go into a company that produces vehicles that you may not own, and likely, ought not to buy. Just because the company is "American."

But by the way, let's not mention that this "American" company was recently reported to be shifting "more production of vehicles bound for the U.S. market to China, Mexico, South Korea and Japan, but will keep total imports at roughly one-third of all sales here."


The percentage of sales here will remain at one-third, they say, but think about this rationally. They are increasing production abroad, but hoping to keep the number of sales domestically at the same foreign-produced percentage. That simple math requires sales domestically to increase, along, of course, with an equal increase in domestic production.

But what happens if sales don't increase domestically? Production will be cut back, and which production will be cut first? The cheap foreign production in China, or the much more expensive production domestically?

Your "American" company will become less and less American. Or, your tax dollars will support domestic production of vehicles you don't want, only to support a businesss model that shouldn't be suriviving.

So what should happen to GM? I can't give you the answer, but Obama shouldn't either.

Not as long as he's in the position of the branch of government designed to execute that law of a different branch, rather than playing puppetmaster trying to save an American institution suffering from the failure of your and my lack of "dollar votes."

Friday, May 8, 2009

You got Duped like Dirk

Dallas is a city of sports drama that never ends. Usually it's Cowboys related, but lately the other sports teams have been making headlines of their own. The Texas Rangers have a laundry list of players accused of taking steroids in the 90s, my beloved Stars signed an idiot who made an off color comment that brought out all the ire and hatred of his teammates in a fury that led to his being given psychiatric treatment and his being given away to another team, and Josh Howard of the Mavs disobeyed his coach and threw a birthday party during the playoffs last year, admitted to smoking weed in the offseason (only? yeah right), and was caught drag racing in the summer in North Carolina. Most recently, the girlfriend of star Mav Dirk Nowitzki was arrested as his home, with Dirk alledgedly reporting her to authorities after a private investigator he hired dug up dirt from her past. The woman claims to be pregnant as well, and this is all coming during a key playoff series that finds the Mavs down 2-0 to a team that is much better than they are.

Poor Dirk got duped by a con artist. Details are still coming out, but as of now it looks like he got involved with a chick with 8 or 9 different aliases and with arrest warrants outstanding for fraud and theft. Dirk's seems like a good guy who got duped, and I feel really bad for him. He fell for someone who wasn't at all what he thought, and who had devious, selfish intentions in mind behind a facade that was the complete opposite of all of that. A professional who's good at doing this can deceive even the most guarded and prepared of people, such as a professional athlete who is warned to be wary of people just like her.

It should come as no surprise, then, that well-intentioned, good people got duped by a presidential candidate who is a great, professional public speaker, making promises that just sounded so good the brain never got around to actually thinking about them, espeically at a time when public opinion and the media was simply tired of the regime in office and his act of good 'ol boy blumbering bufoon who was just a rich oil man from the wild west of Texas (it overshadowed whether people were in fact tired of his policy and whether they truly didn't like it). Obama was the perfect opposite of Bush. He marvelously, in his great way of speaking, made you believe that Bush blumbering idiot = Republican politics = John McCain. At a time when America was craving a poised human with a great gift of oration, Obama arrived. The autopsy is definitive on how you got duped.

But don't stay in the pit of "got'cha" and repeat the error that has us in the spin cycle of economic catasrophe. Start using your brain, and see the abuse of power and smoke and mirrors that Obama is playing. Start preparing yourself for the next round of oration and promises that began on election night, when Obama said it may take more than 1 term to accomplish his vision. See the deception at work:


The headline reads, "Obama touts $17 billion 'lot of money' budget cuts"

Most people will only read that headline. You probably didn't click the link, and if you did, probably didn't read the whole article. He's 'boasting of cutting or killing 121 federal programs in a belt-tightening he likened to that of most Americans in difficult times.' He's just like you and me, trying to cut back in these hard economic times. But you know what he's also doing? Proposing a budget that's going to add $1.2 TRILLION dollars to the Federal debt. The overall budget is $3 Trillion. He's outspending that great 'savings' from cutting back by over 70 times. It's simple math, and it's time to start reading between the lines and not be fooled by the man's words, or the headlines written by those who want to prop him up. I give this article credit for actually mentioning the other side of the story.

In another post I'll get to the disastrous consequences of such rediculous spending. I hope for Dirk's sake that that woman is not carrying his child, because then he has to deal with her for the rest of his life. We, though, are inheriting the child of irresponsible government, and spending that not only your children's children, or your children, but you and I will have to pay for. Remember this. You may have fallen for the rhetoric before, but you don't have to keep being romanced by it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Threats Behind the Smile

Welcome back to Racialblind. It's been a long absense, and in the meantime we've endured the historic inauguration, the first 100 days, and three prime-time press conferences.

I'm going to focus on a story that may only be beginning, or a story that nobody will ever hear about.

"Creditors to Chrysler describe negotiations with the company and the Obama administration as "a farce," saying the administration was bent on forcing their hands using hardball tactics and threats."


The Obama Administration gave billions of dollars to the big 3 U.S. automakers in exchange for time to make plans about how they were going to save their companies. They were given a deadline, and the Administration put themselves in the position to decide whether the company's plans were acceptable or not. The problems here start with the 'lending' of money to the companies, but increase exponentially when the government puts themselves in a position to determine the fate of private enterprises.

More disturbing, though, are the scare tactics described in the article. Threats of political repercussions from the Obama administration as the means to achieve its ends. The administration's plan for Chrysler was determined long before its deadline, as it is for GM, whose deadline is next. Those involved in the negotiations from the administration merely had to make those plans happen, and they did it using political power plays. The threat to American's freedom is real and terrifying.

Even more terrifying is the prospect that the masses may never know what exactly is going on. Not just because of coverups by the administration, and the chilling of participants into silence, but because of the lack of an unbiased media to do the dirty work and investigate what's really going on. It's a dangerous machine right now, between the president in power, the balance of power in Congress, and the media propogating its message.