Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Come To Think Of It, An Even More Original "Party of No"

Do not have any other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Friday, February 26, 2010

On Gays in the Military

"When I joined the military it was illegal to be homosexual, then it became optional. I'm getting out before it becomes mandatory."

MSGT Harry T. Serres, USAF Ret.

h/t Theo

The Original "Party of No"

The Bill of Rights:

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law . . ..

Second Amendment: . . . the right . . . shall not be infringed.

Third Amendment: No soldier shall . . ..

Fourth Amendment: The right . . . shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue . . ..

Fifth Amendment: No person shall . . ., nor shall any person be subject . . ., nor shall be compelled . . ., nor be deprived . . ., nor shall private property . . ..

Seventh Amendment: . . . no fact tried . . . shall . . ..

Eighth Amendment: . . . shall not be required . . . nor . . . imposed . . . nor . . . inflicted.

Ninth Amendment: . . . shall not be construed . . ..

Eleventh Amendment: . . . shall not be construed . . ..

Twelfth Amendment: But no person . . . ineligible . . . shall be eligible . . ..

No doubt written by "nattering nabobs of negativism".

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not Your Daddy's CPAC

Ron Paul won the straw poll at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference because this year's meeting was infested with libertarians, which is why this happened:

CPAC is perhaps the nation's premiere conservative gathering, a convivial opportunity for impassioned right-wing activists to network, plan for upcoming elections and listen to the biggest names in the conservative movement. It's the sort of atmosphere in which the casual observer might expect someone like Ryan Sorba to receive a warm welcome.

Sorba, who wrote a book entitled "The Gay Gene Hoax," took the podium at this year's CPAC and immediately expressed his unhappiness that the conference had allowed a gay Republican group called GOProud to be a sponsor.

He didn't get very far. After delivering a rambling condemnation of homosexuality, Sorba was essentially booed offstage, prompting him to angrily complain to his conservative audience that "the lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do."

To read more, go here.

Government Employees Have Built "Their Own Entitled Little World"

Joe Mysak comments here at that "Banker Bonus Anger is Shifting to Government Workers."

One reason why:

Businesses have fired 8.5 million people, or 7.4 percent of those on the payroll when employment peaked in December 2007. Local governments kept hiring through September 2008, and since then have fired 141,000 workers, less than 1 percent of the 14.6 million they had at the top, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There's much more at the link.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On Getting to the Definition of Real Health Insurance

There are many good ideas in this small article, which originally appeared here, however one may have wished the author had addressed the problem of moral hazard raised by his recourse to direct state subsidy in the case of patients with pre-existing conditions.

Otherwise it is a useful effort to relocate the concept of health insurance from the wonderland it now inhabits to the universe of reality occupied by homeowner and automobile policies, which do not pay for routine maintenance, whether it's scraping off the wrinkled paint or changing the oil.

In "‘Don’t Ask’ Is No Way to Run Health Care," Clifford S. Asness says

we haven’t been talking about insurance as we commonly know it.

True insurance comprises two things. The first one is a goal: to protect against very large losses. The second one is a method: the proper assessment and pricing of risk. ...

What we need is real insurance, yet our current system and proposals look nothing like it. ...

When people today refer to their health insurer, they mean the payer of all their health-care bills (ignoring deductibles and copayments). That isn’t how they refer to homeowners insurance, which generally only protects against large losses. ...

Health care is over-consumed because it is essentially, at the margin, free to employees and too cheap -- fully deductible -- to the company. All incentive for the consumer to control costs is abandoned. Furthermore, the system is nonportable and famously bureaucratic, with the associated costs in time, money and frustration.

To put the “insurance” back in health insurance, we need to remove the tax deduction for routine health-care expenses, whether the coverage is purchased by employers or individuals. If we choose to retain a deduction for insurance against large losses, it should apply equally to plans bought by individuals directly and those provided by employers. ...

Though you wouldn’t know it from the headlines, our system today, and our discussion of reform, isn’t about insurance.

Provocative stuff, about which you can read more at the link.

11.3 Million Underwater Mortgages Means More Bank Failures

As reported by 24/7 Wall Street:

Underwater Mortgages Hit 11.3 Million

By Douglas A. McIntyre

February 23, 2010

There is a reason that 702 American banks, nearly one in ten, were on the FDIC “problem list” as of the end of 2009. A large number of small and mid-sized banks are burdened with home and commercial mortgages that are in default and may even go into foreclosure.

New data from First American CoreLogic shows why the solution to the problem banks face is so difficult to find. Eleven million, three hundred thousand homes had underwater mortgages as of the fourth quarter of last year. That number represents 24% of all residential home loans in America. The mortgage numbers are much worse when homes with equity of less than 5% are included. First American reports that "an additional 2.3 million mortgages were approaching negative equity at the end of last year, meaning they had less than five percent equity." That means that three out of ten homes have virtually no financial value to their owners.

The pressure that the home value trouble puts on banks is clear. The aggregate dollar value of negative equity was $801 billion at the end of last year, up $55 billion from $746 billion in Q3 2009. People who believe there is no hope of their homes ever having any economic value are more likely to default on mortgages, especially in an environment where unemployed and under-employed people make up 17% of the total available workforce nationwide. Many homeowners are as concerned about their employment future as they are about the value of their houses.

Problem home loans are concentrated in the regions where real estate values have fallen the most–Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Michigan, and California. First American says that “among the top five states, the average negative equity share was 42 percent, compared to 15 percent for the remaining 45 states.” In other words, the odds are relatively high that some of the home owners in those states will never sell their houses for more than the amount of their mortgages. That creates a vicious cycle in which high numbers of people with underwater loans default in the states where real estate values have dropped the most. There is no easy way to create a foundation under home prices.

The FDIC has closed 20 banks this year. Five of those were in the five states where mortgage equity problems are at their worst. The agency closed 15 banks in December. Of those, five were in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Michigan, or California. The bank failure and mortgage failure problems area inextricably linked.

The First American numbers do not leave much hope for a home price rebound this year. It is too hard to sell a house with an underwater mortgage because the bank has to be paid the balance of the loan in cash at closing. Many people do not even try [to] make home payments or cannot afford to under those circumstances. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that a record 15% of American mortgage holders are either in foreclosure or at least one payment behind.

The difficulties that [confront] small and mid-sized banks, which ultimately are a problem for the FDIC, are to a large extent still a fallout of the deteriorating real estate sector. The underwater mortgage problem is still growing and that almost certainly means bank closings will be high again this year as well.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Incompetent Democrats Waste Their Opportunities

Democrats are presently suffering from an acute case of Liberal Projection Syndrome. They blame the minority Republicans for what is more true of themselves: inability to pass Democrat legislation into law, even though Democrats have controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House continuously since January 2009. The truth is the Democrats are deeply divided over many issues, so much so that they cannot govern.

It would be comical if it weren't so pathetic. Indeed, for six months between July 2009 and February 2010, Democrats enjoyed a supermajority in the Senate, if you count the two so-called Independents, Joe Lieberman and the Socialist from Vermont as part of their caucus, which they are. The Senate Democrats could have acted on anything without fear of a filibuster during that time and passed whatever the House had sent them, and sent it on in turn to Obama for a signature.

Is it Republicans' fault that Democrats in the House couldn't agree on their healthcare legislation until just before Thanksgiving? Is it Republicans' fault that Senate Democrats couldn't craft their own bill until Christmas? For bills which were said to be waiting for years in Henry Waxman's desk for just such a moment as this, they sure did take a long time to sell among their fellow Democrats.

Is it Republicans' fault that the two Democrat controlled chambers could not reconcile the two bills before the Massachusetts special election in January to fill the seat vacated by Senator Kennedy and which stood vacant only briefly from August 25 to September 25, 2009? Is it Republicans' fault that President Obama after all this time still cannot produce a piece of legislation, a healthcare bill on paper, which his party can pass?

And now there's word from that scores of bills passed and sent up by the House do languish, waiting for Senate action:

Exasperated House Democratic leaders have compiled a list showing that they have passed 290 bills that have stalled in the Senate. The list is the latest sign that Democrats in the lower chamber are frustrated with their Senate counterparts. An aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says the list is put together during each Congress, but that this year’s number is likely the largest ever. However, he said Pelosi blames GOP senators, not Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) or Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

If the last year has proven anything, it's that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama resemble none so much as Moe, Larry and Curly for their fecklessness, vulgarity and ineptitude, but without the humor. You might even say their ability to lead has been highly misoverestimated, if you know what I mean.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Obama Now Officially Supports Federally Funded Abortions

As reported here by Penny Star for

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said that with today’s release of the president’s health care plan, he can no longer say it is Congress that is promoting federally funded abortions.

“Every time President Obama’s spokesmen are asked about the Senate health care bill that authorizes federal funds for abortion, they reply that none of the bills put forth are the president’s own,” Donohue said. “Moreover, the president has said that he would never sign a health care bill that funds abortion.”

“While it is true that the pro-abortion camp will not be happy with the president for not striking some restrictions it deplores, the fact remains that President Obama could have adopted the pro-life friendly language of the House bill,” Donohue said. “The fact that he didn’t is what matters most.”

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Energy Balance of Power is Shifting

From Investor's Business Daily:

If estimates hold up, energy experts say the shale gas that underlies large parts of the United States will be able [to] meet our country's needs for the next 100 years. The Department of Energy expects shale gas to account for 50% of natural gas production by 2020 if not sooner.

What's more, the same drilling techniques for shale gas are now being used in several European countries, including France and Poland, to extract their own supplies. Both China and India have huge shale-gas resources. Geologists say shale gas is so plentiful in some parts of the world that it could meet global needs for several centuries.

Read more here.

One Apology Down, One To Go

The Oil Shortage

A lot of folks can't understand how we came to have an oil shortage here in our country.

Well, there's a very simple answer: Nobody bothered to check the oil.

We just didn't know we were getting low.

The reason for that is purely geographical.

Our OIL is located in: Alaska, California, Coastal Florida, Coastal Louisiana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Our DIPSTICKS are located in: DC.

Any questions?


Didn't think so.

h/t cg

Friday, February 19, 2010

One For Every Man, Woman and Child

"You cannot invade mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass."

-- Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

The Return of the Pinkies From Columbia and Harvard



(The Chicago Tribune, 4/21/1934)

Deficit spending in 2007: $ 162 billion
Deficit spending in 2008: $ 455 billion
President Barack Obama, elected 2008
B.A., Columbia University, 1983
J.D., Harvard Law School, 1991
Deficit spending in 2009: $1,400 billion

Santelli's Rant, One Year Later

A year after Rick Santelli's heated objections in February 2009 to the moral hazard posed by government efforts to bail out troubled mortgagers with $75 billion from the taxpayers, the foreclosure crisis only continues to worsen. Foreclosures have steadily increased in number from 1.3 million in 2007, to 2.3 million in 2008, to 2.8 million in 2009. An additional 3 to 3.5 million are expected in 2010.

At the time, Santelli intended to take a little time off in July for a tea party on Lake Michigan:

SANTELLI: We’re thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m gonna start organizing.

The people of the country didn't wait for July to organize, however, and by April 15th last year hundreds of tea party protests had already materialized all across the country, and their influence has been felt in elections in New York, New Jersey, Virginia and most of all Massachusetts.

Today, tea partiers everywhere stand poised to throw their weight behind candidates in the November elections who oppose everything that's happened under Pelosi, Reid, and Obama to interfere with the operations of free markets and the aspirations of free peoples. They understand that government isn't a magic money machine, churning out a buck and a half for every buck they put in. They understand with Santelli the threat left-wing Democrats represent to the very meaning of America, and who the real subversives are:

SANTELLI: You know, they’re pretty much of the notion that you can’t buy your way into prosperity, and if the multiplier that all of these Washington economists are selling us is over 1, then we never have to worry about the economy again. The government should spend a trillion dollars an hour because we’ll get 1.5 trillion back.

QUICK: Wilbur?

WILBUR ROSS (chairman, W.L. Ross & Co.): Rick, I congratulate you on your new incarnation as a revolutionary leader.

SANTELLI: Somebody needs one. I’ll tell you what, if you read our Founding Fathers, people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson, what we’re doing in this country now is making them roll over in their graves.

When the tea parties succeed at the polls, the Founders will stop their spinning and return to their rest, and we to our labors rebuilding our broken country.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

When New Taxes Are Necessary Is Also Above Obama's Pay Grade

In an interview on February 9, 2010, President Obama says raising taxes on households earning less than $250,000 a year must be on the table of the deficit commission, but that he doesn't know if raising those taxes is a solution:

GOLDMAN: Well, if your deficit commission came back and said, as part of this overall recommendation, we would recommend raising taxes on households earning less than $250,000 a year, you would accept that as part of the overall?

OBAMA: I don’t want to prejudge the commission because the whole point of it is to make sure that all ideas are on the table and let’s see what folks can come up with.

GOLDMAN: So, even raising taxes?

OBAMA: What I can’t do is to set the thing up where a whole bunch of things are off the table because, at that point, there are going to be - some who say, we can’t look at entitlements. There are going to be some who say we can’t look at taxes, and pretty soon, you just can’t solve the problem.

So, what I want to do is to be completely agnostic, in terms of solutions. I want everybody to sit down and work off of a common base of facts.

Just eight days prior, however, he submitted a $3.8 trillion budget which was anything but agnostic about the need for tax increases on such households.

The new agnostic tone on taxes is interesting because of the dust-up over a news report, later pulled, that Obama would let the Bush tax cuts expire, which would mean huge tax increases on every American, including whopping increases of 50% on the poorest of taxpayers by letting the 10% bracket expire and shoving them into the 15% bracket.

The White House quickly jumped on that news report, and emphasized that the new budget calls for making the Bush tax cuts permanent for those making under $250,000.

The Tax Foundation subsequently pointed out that

What the article does not mention is that Obama's budget extends all of the Bush tax cuts for single returns making less than $200,000 and married returns making less than $250,000. Whatever you think of Obama's proposed budget and tax policies, this omission in an article entitled "Backdoor taxes to hit middle class" is either evidence of intentional deceit or terrible reporting.

So on February 1 Obama is intellectually certain not only that tax increases on the below $250K crowd are not needed in the current budget, but aren't going to be needed period and the Bush tax cuts should be made permanent. But nine days later he's a doubting Thomas? What happened in the interim?

Ganja, that's what.

Greek Crisis Unmasks Efforts to Hide U.S. Indebtedness?

From Michael Hirsh at Newsweek:

Michael Greenberger, a former deputy head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) who has followed the new derivatives legislation closely, think[s] that the Obama administration is supporting a forex exemption to help Washington and other governments continue to cut quiet deals to mask their own real indebtedness. "The question is: is the U.S. using swaps to throw financial obligations into the future to make it appear that the deficit is less than it really is? Why else does it matter whether the transaction would be transparent?" he asks. "These are unsavory deals not only because they hide the real parameters of sovereign debt, but the price of the masking is unconscionable to the citizens of the sovereign country. If these deals were transparent, it would be politically impossible to enter into them because they are so one-sided in the long term."

Read more here.

The Present Day Tea Party's Connection to the Past

The author inhabits the world the Tea Party opposes, but provides a sympathetic accounting nonetheless, which originally appeared here. It is especially useful in that it locates a major break with America's past, not in our times, but in the times of Woodrow Wilson, and that Obama's is an attempt to reassert that revolution. To which we say, Reactionaries Unite!

February 17, 2010

Party Like It's 1773?

By Richard Samuelson

Are this year's "tea parties" really tea parties? What could today's protesters have in common with the "Indians" who dumped 90,000 pounds of tea in Boston harbor in 1773? Quite a bit, actually.

What do today's tea partiers want? According to the Christian Science Monitor, the movement "is about safeguarding individual liberty, cutting taxes, and ending bailouts for business while the American taxpayer gets burdened with more public debt. It is fueled by concern that the United States under Mr. Obama is becoming a European-style social democracy where individual initiative is sapped by the needs of the collective." Broadly speaking, the tea parties reflect a growing anger in America that the government seems to be a closed circle, run by an elite in both parties. These elites, combined with a class of bureaucrats, lawyers, journalists and businessmen, use government power to serve their own ends, and not the public good.

The Boston Tea party was the most famous colonial American protest, but it was by no means the only one. In late colonial America, mass street protests, parades, and other events, often led by the "Sons of liberty," were a formal ritual. Some scholars have even described them as a legal practice. In an age when government was understood to be for the people, but not of or by the people, "out of doors protest" allowed British subjects to participate in the political process, and to shape the actions of government. Government was supposed to serve the common good, and it was supposed to be under law, and yet most colonists had no vote. How could they express their opinion? They could shout, protest, and even riot.

Inevitably, some demonstrations got out of hand, and spilled over into needless violence. Such excess led supporters of the King's government to condemn all protests. They wanted to rule without being questioned by the people. After all, the elites reasoned, they were smarter, better trained, and wiser than the common folk. The patriot response to this line of reasoning was that no one, however smart, well meaning, and wise had the right to rule another without his consent.

After the American revolution, we created a government that was much closer to being of, by and for the people. A little over a century later, however, it came under assault. In the early twentieth century America's leading intellectuals concluded that our constitution was out of date. Woodrow Wilson said quite bluntly that "we are in the presence of a new organization of society. Our life has broken away from the past." The founders, he noted, "speak of the ‘checks and balances' of the Constitution." Such ideas were passe. By replacing checks and balances with a simplified administration, he would update and rationalize the American state. Wilson, we should recall, was our first and only PhD president. The social science PhD was a new invention in his day. Wilson believed that experts, armed with PhDs and law degrees, could make better choices than the common people and the politicians they elected. Armed with expertise, Progressive bureaucrats would rule effectively and fairly. Checks and balances, he thought, were no longer necessary.

Wilson, his friends, and his successors in the New Deal and other Progressives (sometimes cleverly calling themselves "liberals"), did not achieve a full revolution. Anyone witnessing the gridlock over health care in Washington realizes that. That has always frustrated them. When Thomas Friedman, the voice of the establishment, declares that "one-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages," he reflects the goal of Progressive politics since Wilson's day. He also echoes the ideas of the Tories of the 1760s and 1770s. Like the Tories, today's would-be elites claim that better training and education gives them the right to rule, although the Progressives and their children have largely dropped birth and wealth as criterion for rule.

Even if their revolution was incomplete, the Progressives did transform American government. They expanded the role of experts in government at all levels in the U.S. This permanent bureaucracy has taken over sizeable chunks of American life, and has, at the same time, removed many areas of regulation from the political process. Our representatives have been only too happy to delegate broad swaths of power to these, unelected branches of government. That way they can blame someone else when things go wrong. Meanwhile, our courts, have taken away from our elected representatives the right to legislate about various issues. The upshot: even though almost all American adults have the right to vote, their votes matter less. Perhaps that's why fewer eligible voters vote today than was the case a century ago.

Now we can see how today's tea parties resemble those of yesteryear. As more and more government operations are taken off the books, popular frustration rises. Similarly, and ironically, bureaucracies often serve the industries they regulate rather than the public good. When the government is unresponsive to the views of the people, and, beyond that, when our administrative and judicial branches restrict the scope of the people's legislative rights, protest rises. President Obama, an heir to the Progressive tradition, wants to strengthen this unaccountable, administrative state. The response has been altogether fitting.

Richard Samuelson is the 2009-2010 Garwood Visiting Fellow at Princeton University's James Madison Program, and an Assistant Professor of History at California State University, San Bernardino.

Palin's Missteps Are Showing Up In The Polling Data

It was a mistake for Palin to defend the TARP bailout in her book. She should have used the opportunity to say that over the course of a year she had reconsidered it and that she was wrong about that and a number of other things. It was also a huge mistake politically to take the job at Fox. It made her look like just another face on television. And now the polls are showing it:

A mid-January CBS News poll found that only one fifth of adults would "like to see Sarah Palin run for president." That includes only a quarter of independents and slightly less than a third of Republicans. Fully 58 percent of conservatives do not want Palin to run.

There is much more on this here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Obama is Incompetent

From a story in USA Today, hardly a right-wing rag:

More than $3.5 billion in economic stimulus funds are going to programs that President Obama wants to eliminate or trim in his new budget. . . . proposed [budget] cuts indicate the programs shouldn't have gotten money from the $862 billion stimulus package, said Tom Schatz of the non-partisan budget watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste.

For more, go here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ideologues Never Prosper

Steve Huntley of The Chicago Sun Times has a firm grasp on reality. It would be nice if Obama and the Democrat left did, he thinks, not appreciating well enough himself that "compromise" is not in the ideologue's lexicon, and never can be, which is the real problem. Obama just doesn't belong in The White House. As of tonight, 52% would seem to agree. Here's an excerpt:

Here is the real story about the current gridlock in Washington -- no willingness to compromise by Democrats. The Senate is not broken; it is performing a function the Founders intended -- subjecting the enthusiasms of the House to careful scrutiny. And the filibuster is serving its purpose of protecting the rights of the minority in Congress. Together they can help force compromise and bipartisanship. Republicans had to turn to the filibuster because Democratic leaders in Congress shut them out of sweeping legislation such as the health-care bill.

Even so, the GOP-party-of-no excuse for inaction is largely bogus. Until last month, Democrats had a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate to go with their House super-majority. They couldn't accomplish anything because they couldn't get moderate Democrats to sign on to the liberal program.

Left-wing Democrats saw the 2008 election of President Obama as a mandate for transformative change. In reality voters were rejecting Bush and turning to Obama to address the nation's economic crisis. Instead, taking Rahm Emanuel's famous advice, liberals saw the crisis as an opportunity to advance a big-government, big-spending agenda.

The voters rebelled. The Tea Party movement sprang up like a spring flower and blossomed. Poll numbers for Obama and health-care overhaul sank. Republicans scored big wins in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts. What would have been unthinkable a few months ago -- a return to GOP control of the House -- now seems possible. Democrats are putting their fingers to the wind and seeing trouble ahead -- with Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana the latest to forgo re-election.

Yet Democratic leaders still don't seem to get the message.

Click here for the rest.

Global Warming Freezes Lake Erie For First Time in 14 Years has the story:

Following a cold snap in the Northeast, Lake Erie's surface is virtually frozen over for the first time in about 14 years.

The ice ranges in thickness between paper thin along the northern shore and several inches along the southern shore, where many people are ice skating. reports that the lake hasn't completely frozen since the winter of 1995-1996. ...

Lake Erie, with an average depth of 62 feet, is the most shallow of the five Great Lakes, which is why it is the only one that completely freezes over.

There's more at the link.

Monday, February 15, 2010

U.S. Banks Helped Europe Mask Debt Off Balance Sheet

The New York Times is reporting on Wall Street's role in off-balance-sheet accounting for European sovereign debt:

In dozens of deals across the Continent, banks provided cash upfront in return for government payments in the future, with those liabilities then left off the books. Greece, for example, traded away the rights to airport fees and lottery proceeds in years to come.

Critics say that such deals, because they are not recorded as loans, mislead investors and regulators about the depth of a country’s liabilities.

Some of the Greek deals were named after figures in Greek mythology. One of them, for instance, was called Aeolos, after the god of the winds.

The crisis in Greece poses the most significant challenge yet to Europe’s common currency, the euro, and the Continent’s goal of economic unity. The country is, in the argot of banking, too big to be allowed to fail. Greece owes the world $300 billion, and major banks are on the hook for much of that debt. A default would reverberate around the globe.

To read more, go here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Professor Phil Jones Retreats on Climate Change

An op-ed from The UK Daily Mail:

The professor’s amazing climate change retreat

13th February 2010

Data: Professor Phil Jones admitted his record keeping is 'not as good as it should be'

Untold billions of pounds have been spent on turning the world green and also on financing the dubious trade in carbon credits.

Countless gallons of aviation fuel have been consumed carrying experts, lobbyists and politicians to apocalyptic conferences on global warming.

Every government on Earth has changed its policy, hundreds of academic institutions, entire school curricula and the priorities of broadcasters and newspapers all over the world have been altered – all to serve the new doctrine that man is overheating the planet and must undertake heroic and costly changes to save the world from drowning as the icecaps melt.

You might have thought that all this was based upon well-founded, highly competent research and that those involved had good reason for their blazing, hot-eyed certainty and their fierce intolerance of dissent.

But, thanks to the row over leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit, we now learn that this body’s director, Phil Jones, works in a disorganised fashion amid chaos and mess.

Interviewed by the highly sympathetic BBC, which still insists on describing the leaked emails as ‘stolen’, Professor Jones has conceded that he ‘did not do a thorough job’ of keeping track of his own records.

His colleagues recall that his office was ‘often surrounded by jumbled piles of papers’.

Even more strikingly, he also sounds much less ebullient about the basic theory, admitting that there is little difference between global warming rates in the Nineties and in two previous periods since 1860 and accepting that from 1995 to now there has been no statistically significant warming.

He also leaves open the possibility, long resisted by climate change activists, that the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ from 800 to 1300 AD, and thought by many experts to be warmer than the present period, could have encompassed the entire globe.

This is an amazing retreat, since if it was both global and warmer, the green movement’s argument that our current position is ‘unprecedented’ would collapse.

It is quite reasonable to suggest that human activity may have had some effect on climate.

There is no doubt that careless and greedy exploitation has done much damage to the planet.

But in the light of the ‘Climategate’ revelations, it is time for governments, academics and their media cheerleaders to be more modest in their claims and to treat sceptics with far more courtesy.

The question is not settled.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Barack "Fabius" Obama Can Still Be Stopped

Among other things, Bill Flax shows why expunging the study of classical antiquity from the public schools was a priority of the radicals of the 1960's: its stories, repeated and memorized through the study of Latin, stood in the way of their program to subvert our country and destroy our liberty. If you read nothing else this year, read this, which was posted here:

February 13, 2010

We Picked the Wrong Roman Dictator

By Bill Flax

From Government Square in Cincinnati, I often sit surrounded by impressive displays of federal invasiveness, and muse that we picked the wrong Roman dictator.

The Federal Building across the street, serving primarily to dispense largesse confiscated from the workers packed into the square below. The brilliantly marbled Federal Reserve branch where regulators seek enhanced power to oversee commerce while recoiling vigorously against any attempt to be scrutinized themselves. And the block long Federal Court House, which unlike the others, has constitutional legitimacy even as its reach and depth far surpass anything our founders would have tolerated.

Taking nothing away from the many hard-working and honorable souls inhabiting these structures, but America has lost its way. My hometown was named for the Society of the Cincinnati. In ancient Rome, citizen-general Cincinnatus put down his plow to save his nation. When the battle was won, he declined a crown and returned to his farm. His self-restraint in the face of overwhelming temptation bequeathed to Rome several centuries of limited, republican government.

George Washington exhibited similar virtue after our independence. He too could have been king, but his self-denial enabled the rule of law to triumph over the rule of men. Our revolution was largely fought to settle the timeless question of whether government is answerable to the law protecting the rights of its constituents - or - are the people subject to government with a malleable Constitution bending to political pleasure.

America once enjoyed a constitutional republic where property rights were sacrosanct, contracts were conscientiously enforced and markets prevailed. Secure property rights channeled our energies into productive enterprise via the profit motive. An impartial application of the law encouraged market development which enhanced specialization and America's hallmark: an innovative spirit propelling higher living standards for all.

Freedom and prosperity are inexorably linked. Government constrained by law and limited by checks and balances, between both branches and levels of government, birthed an economic juggernaut. Yet, another Roman general has indirectly put a more pronounced stamp on our economy.

Fabius was called to confront Hannibal after the Carthaginian warlord destroyed several Roman armies. Recognizing Hannibal was too strong to confront directly, Fabius conducted a masterful war of attrition. When Hannibal advanced, Fabius retreated. When Hannibal retreated, Fabius advanced always staying safely distant, but close enough to harass the invader. Several times the citizenry grew impatient only for a replacement to hurl the Roman army headlong into calamity.

These "Fabian" tactics became the archetype for a group of sophisticates in late Victorian England. The Fabian Society believed in socialism, not coming by revolution as Marx envisioned, but by evolution. Bored by leisure and rebelling against the strict mores of the time, they sought not to directly confront the existent order, but to undermine it from within.

As prominent Fabian George Bernard Shaw explained, "The Fabian Society succeeded because it ... set about doing the necessary brain work of planning Socialist organization for all classes, meanwhile accepting, instead of trying to supersede, the existing political organizations which it intended to permeate with the Socialist conception of human society."

These ungrateful children of wealth advocated redistribution of other's property while they resided in luxury. Similar to many intellectuals today, they thought they knew better than we how to live our lives. Unfortunately, Fabians and their ilk became the dominant force in our media and educational establishments, indoctrinating generations of Americans to a perverted view of economics and "social justice."

The Fabian movement spawned John Maynard Keynes, an advocate of central economic planning. The overriding focus of Keynes' theory was Aggregate Demand. Loosely defined, aggregate demand reflects the total amount of goods and services consumed at a stable price. Borrowing and spending supplanted classical economic focus on production and savings as the building blocks of prosperity.

Keynesianism was described by Zygmund Dobbs in the illuminating expose, Keynes at Harvard, "The great virtue is consumption, extravagance, improvidence. The great vice is saving, thrift and ‘financial prudence'" because, "If there are no savings there is no private money for investment. Without private investors the government must provide investment capital. If the government provides for investment it has the power to dictate the conduct and processes of those who need investment capital."

Americans wanting to mollify temporary hardship in the throes of recession resurrected Keynes. Rather than endure uncomfortable surgery guided by the market, government injects cortisone to offset the recession's corrective reallocations. Subsidies replace efficiency. Bailouts replace business revitalization. Entitlements replace personal savings. Statism replaces self-reliance. All these government proffered "solutions" may ease our immediate discomfort, but perpetuate economic weakness and come at the price of liberty.

Not only is it immoral to confiscate private property through coercion to redistribute to political favorites, it's also ineffective. Market distortions inevitably harm the economy. The more control we retain over our time, resources and abilities the more closely our efforts will be aligned with productive enterprise. A far-off central planner has no ability to effectively steer this process.

We have witnessed Washington assume greater control with each injection of dubious capital. As Henry Hazlitt warned, "Keynes's plan for 'the socialization of investment' would inevitably entail socialism and state planning. Keynes, in brief, recommended de facto socialism under the guise of 'reforming' and 'preserving' capitalism."

In the closing months of his presidency, Bush crossed the Rubicon authoring vast intrusions "to save" capitalism. Bush quickened what had been a long, painstaking march to socialism. Then a new Caesar immediately began to sprint. We elected not "change," but acceleration.

Only eunuchs were permitted to guard the harem. Entrusting power to the ambitious personalities attracted to government inevitably augments the state to our detriment. Keynes admitted his theories, "can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state than ... a large degree of laissez-faire." We must never abjure our God-given rights to the arbitrary whim of professional politicians in exchange for economic safety-nets.

Incessantly higher spending and increasingly burdensome regulatory controls proved too much. Americans now fear this headlong rush into government expansion. Poor Obama misread the signs and awakened the masses. We weren't yet so effete to be bought by bread and circuses.

The Fabians underestimated the resiliency of free markets and Obama over-estimated his demagoguery. Cincinnatus might be forever gone, but Fabius can still be stopped.