Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Coming Calamitous Catastrophic Sequester (Updated)

Cartoonist Michael Ramierez does a superb job of putting not merely the out of control increase in federal spending in perspective, but the sequester. Allowed to go forward, this 2.4% reduction in growth of government spending (not cuts) over the next decade is being hyped by Obama as the penultimate threat to our economy and, indeed, our way of life. The scenarios he and his administration have painted are cataclysmic and utterly ridiculous:

Emergency responders like the ones who are here today — their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded. Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. … Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.

You know, we just survived the Mayan apocalypse three months ago fairly well. I am pretty sure we will make it through this next one okay. What is really going on here is Obama doing everything possible to prevent these cuts becoming part of the baseline budget before next month, when Congress should be crafting the budget. The worthless s.o.b. is willing to do or say anything in order to borrow and spend us into his version of the new America. It would be pathetic were it not so existential in its possible end result.

Update: From one of the top contestants for dumbest person sitting in Congress, race hustler Maxine Waters, speaking yesterday: "We don’t need to be having something like sequestration that’s going to cause these jobs losses, over 170 million jobs that could be lost."

And from Krauthammer:


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Applying Socialism To Economics Class

From Counting Cats, the story of an Econ 101 professor who, at the urging of his students, applied the socialist economic principle of equality of outcome to grading the class. The predictable result, everyone failed.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Juan Williams & Canards Of The Left

Juan Williams comments on the fact that our modern left does not believe in a free and fair airing of opinions; rather, they attempt to punish any who dares articulate a position with which they disagree. This from Williams during an interview with the Daily Caller:

I always thought it was the Archie Bunkers of the world, the right-wingers of world, who were more resistant and more closed-minded about hearing the other side,” he said. “In fact, what I have learned is, in a very painful way — and I can open this shirt and show you the scars and the knife wounds — is that it is big media institutions who are identifiably more liberal to left-leaning who will shut you down, stab you and kill you, fire you, if they perceive that you are not telling the story in the way that they want it told.

Juan Williams is a smart man. Thus I find it telling that Williams wasn't able to see this reality until he was raped by the left in 2010 for daring to say that he got nervous when getting on a plane with men dressed in Muslim garb. The left's preference for demonizing over debate and their intolerance of dissenting opinions has been blatant and obvious for decades. That our left are "liberal" is one of the great canards of the left - but it is only one of many.

The other great canards are that the left champions the middle class and minorities. Nothing could be further from the truth. The left champions these groups only to the extent that they are, at any given moment, pathways to power and money. For instance, blacks are to be protected - but when it comes to a point where blacks and the teachers unions interests diverge, the moneyed teachers unions win. The left speaks of protecting the middle class - but when it comes to things such as cheap energy, the green special interests win out.

If you want to understand the left's actions, look at what they do, now what they say. Rarely do their actions match their rhetoric - and indeed, often that are complete odds. That is one of the reasons the left are so intolerant of dissenting opinion. That is a level of reality that hasn't dawned on Juan Williams yet, but give him time.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Another 2nd Amendment Victory - The Right To "Bear" Arms Outside The Home

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

U.S. Constitution, 2nd Amendment

In Heller, the Supreme Court held that individuals had a right under federal law to "keep" modern handguns in their home for protection. In McDonald, the Supreme Court extended held that this right extended to the states. But what about the right to "bear" arms outside the home for self protection?

The test case for that was Illinois, the only state with a blanket ban on concealed carry. In December, Judge Posner, in a case on appeal to the 7th Circuit, wrote that the right to "bear arms" means the right to bear them outside the home. He ordered Illinois to craft a constitutionally acceptable concealed carry law within 180 days.

Illinois asked the entire 7th Circuit to revisit the decision - and today, the 7th Circuit, sitting en banc, denied that request. The Second Amendment Foundation is celebrating. The next stop will likely be the Supreme Court, but unless there is a change to the makeup of the Supreme Court between now and when their decision is issued, if they follow the reasoning of Heller, the Posner decision should be upheld.


Monday, February 18, 2013

A Question For The High Tax Left: What Is 39.5% Of Nothing?

Tax rates effect behavior. Tax rates that are too high result in people taking action to reduce their exposure to them. Examples abound, but the most recent is boxer Manny Pacquiao. He is refusing to fight his next match in the U.S. because he will have to fork over 39.5% of his purse to our government. His solution, hold the fight in China, where, despite a smaller purse, he will come home with $5 million more in his pocket. Tax Prof has the whole story.

When will the left learn that taxation is dynamic, not static. Raising taxes 10% does not mean 10% more revenue except in CBO projections. In fact, it may mean less revenue than before the increase was imposed. Or does the left realize this yet keep up their calls for ever higher taxes anyway because class warfare is their primary tactic?


Carbon Taxes & Cow Patties

Because carbon is produced by virtually all human activities, the ability to punish carbon production is the ability to impact, if not control, all economic activity. A tax on carbon "pollution" would provide an inexhaustible source of revenue for the government. Thus the far left, the radical greens and the watermelons - to the extent that those three classifications have any distinguishing features from one another - have been seeking a carbon tax in the U.S. for decades.

The sole and ostensible justification given for a carbon tax is the dire threat of global warming - a threat that has little if any basis in reality. This from Paul Driessen at WUWT:

Average planetary temperatures haven’t budged in 16 years. Hurricanes and strong tornadoes are at or near their lowest ebb in decades. Global sea ice is back to normal, Arctic ice is nearly normal, and the Antarctic icepack continues to grow. The rate of sea level rise remains what it was in 1900.

And yet, President Obama and many politicians, newscasters and alarmist scientists continue to insist that carbon dioxide emissions are changing Earth’s climate, and we need to take immediate action to prevent storms like Hurricane Sandy and avert catastrophes predicted by IPCC computer models and alleged “scientific consensus.”

Senators Barbara Boxer and Bernie Sanders have struck first, introducing a so called "fee and dividend" carbon tax. This from SF Gate:

The Sanders-Boxer bill would impose a $20 per ton tax on carbon or methane equivalent, rising 5.6 percent each year for 10 years, on the nation's largest fossil fuel producers. Imported fossil fuels from countries that do not impose a similar tax would also pay.

The tax would raise an estimated $1.2 trillion over a decade and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent from 2005 levels. Three-fifths of the tax would be rebated to "every legal U.S. resident," which might make it more politically feasible than if it went to the government.

The rest of the money would go to incentives for clean energy and research.

The give back to the legal resident - note, not U.S. citizens - is a nice touch. The problem of course is that, while these people would get back three fifths of the tax, they would be paying for all of it. Moreover, the havoc such a tax would work on the economy and jobs would be substantial and regressive.

Moreover, this would leave $480 billion to permanently fund the world's biggest slush fund for far left and green causes. The record of Obama green energy "investments" to date has been, to put it kindly, a failure. It is rife with cronyism, waste, and fraud. And yet, Obama and the left want to "double down." I use the term figuratively because Obama spent, if I recall correctly, $100 billion over his first four years on "green energy investments." This would more than doubling down.

So there you have it. If the left succeeds in imposing a carbon tax, they will get their mitts on the biggest potential cash cow in our nation. The rest of us will get the cow patties.


Obama & The The Consequences Of Minimum Wage Laws

Federal minimum wage laws are an affront to capitalism and, in the end, do tremendous harm to the young and to other low skilled workers. They are particularly repugnant in an economy that has yet to recover from a recession now four years past. Yet Obama, in his SOTU address, asked for a rise in the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour, claiming that it would only benefit the economy. This joker shouldn't be allowed to run a lemonade stand. The WSJ addresses Obama's claims. Below that, Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell explain why the minimum wage laws hurt the young, the unskilled, and,in particular, blacks.

From the WSJ:

In his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama proposed an increase to $9 an hour by 2015 from $7.25, and then indexing the minimum to inflation. "Employers may get a more stable workforce due to reduced turnover and increased productivity," the White House says. No doubt employers are slamming their foreheads wondering why they didn't think of that.

And don't worry about lost jobs. "A range of economic studies," a White House memo assures, "show that modestly raising the minimum wage increases earnings and reduces poverty without measurably reducing employment." Note the shifty adverbs, "modestly" and "measurably," which can paper over a lot of economic damage.

In the real world, setting a floor under the price of labor creates winners and losers. Some workers will get a $1.75 raise. Great. But others—typically the least educated and skilled—will be priced out of the job market and their pay won't rise to $9. It will be zero.

University of California at Irvine economist David Neumark has looked at more than 100 major academic studies on the minimum wage, and he says the White House claim of de minimis job losses "grossly misstates the weight of the evidence." About 85% of the studies "find a negative employment effect on low-skilled workers."

The minimum wage is also an ineffective way to reduce poverty. Most families in poverty don't have someone who works, so making it more difficult to get a job exacerbates poverty. Mr. Obama says that a "family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty level. That is wrong." . . .

Milton Friedman, in the video below, makes the point that "the [negative] effects [of minimum wage laws] have been concentrated on the groups that the do-gooders would most like to help. The people who have been hurt most by the minimum wage laws are the blacks. I have often said that the most anti-black law on the books of this land is the minimum wage law."

And here is Thomas Sowell on a video labled as "Minimum Wage, Maximum Folly."


Is There Anyone Stupid Enough To Believe This, Take Two

Below, I asked the question, in regards to outrageous assertions by the far left that we don't have a "spending problem," Is There Anyone Stupid Enough To Believe This? Two blogs, Legal Insurrection and Big Lizards, have jointly answered the question. The former tells us that yes, there are millions who believe things of this ilk, and the latter explains how that is possible.

From Legal Insurrection, in a post looking at how a far left webside is reaching low information voters with pure memes:

I previously wrote about how BuzzFeed Politics has combined “the culture” and savvy crafting into a highly effective tool for undermining Republicans with subtle and not-so-subtle mockery. “Look at the goofy cat, look at the goofy celeb, look at the goofy Republican” is more dangerous to us than a 5000-word article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

To follow up on that theme, I happened upon a website called Upworthy, which had one its posts run at HuffPo, Elizabeth Warren Asks The Most Obvious Question Ever, Stumps A Bunch Of Bank Regulators.

The post was so wrong on substance, I just had to click over to the source.

And therein I learned what millions of very low-information young liberals already knew — there is this website called Upworthy which is one giant liberal activist social media machine which creates viral social media memes in the cause of liberal political activism.

The far left crafts the message they want their viewers to adopt sans critical analysis. So, yes, low information voters will bite on what they are told to bite.

Dafyyd at Big Lizards, in an insightful post, explains how the left can, on some level, believe the most blatant of falsehoods. Their world is ruled by symbolism as an affect of "socialist truth.".

[I]t's not just Barack H. "You didn't build that" Obama; the entire ironical, metrosexual, sensation-seeking, Progressivist world has devolved into a surreality of signifiers without signifieds, arrows pointing towards nothing; words without meaning, but treated as if the word was itself the meaning. . . .

The creepy Left demands a life not of the mind, nor of phenomena, nor even of reality, but a life of pure symbolism -- messaging, imagery, false front, bravado, bluster, and bluff. Image isn't just everything, it's the only thing.. . . .

When all is merely sign and signifier, map and menu, indicator and imagery, then there is no difference between reality and wishful make-believe. . . .

An admirable list of magic words, like "open sesame" (or more appropriately, "Avada Kedavra") that lefties use in place of actually, you know, doing anything. Fiat obscurum! Thus what we on the Right see as braggadocio (before the fact bragging and braying) or lying in one's teeth (after the fact pretense that all went well) is not so seen by Progressivists; for they have a different metric for truth and falsity, the neologistic oxymoron of "socialist truth."

Socialist truth can be defined operationally as "that which advances world socialism," while socialist falsity is that which retards it, prevents it, or ridicules it (like this post); the literal truth -- lefties would say infantile truth or unraised consciousness -- never enters into the equation.

We just saw an election where Obama was voted into office despite his policies being utterly devastating to his strongest supporters, the young and the blacks. I have been mystified since November how this could happen. Irrespective of how poor a campaign Romney waged, no rational person other than a unionized public sector employee could have pulled the lever for the grossly incompetent Obama. But I really think the posts above go a long way to explaining it. Yes, people are stupid enough to believe this, and its because they are not applying any sort of critical thinking that would allow them to distinguish between "reality and wishful make believe."


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Is There Anyone Stupid Enough To Believe This

The Democrat Party has hit on a winning formula for success in the past decade. One, assume that the average voter has an about equal to a tomato. Two, be utterly shameless in exploiting the mental vegetables - memes oft repeated and with no basis in reality are the preferred means.

That said, it is beyond argument that Obama and the left are spending our nation into penury.

Federal spending under Obama has "grown 27 percent in just the last four years . . . ." Obama and Democrats have made a mockery of the saying "spending like a drunken sailor" - at least the sailor has to stop when he runs out of money. Obama just turns on the printing presses and continues ahead.

And yet, we have heard, over the past week, such luminaries as Crazy Nancy Pelosi claim that our federal government doesn't have a spending problem. But no one can match Democrat Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, one of the dumbest members of Congress, for this offering:

Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) urged her colleagues to reach a compromise to prevent spending cuts through sequestration, arguing that government programs are already as lean as they can be. "We're at the bone almost, , , ,"

Honest to God, tar and feathers isn't enough for these people.


Obama's 2013 SOTU Address: More Taxes, More Spending, No Cutting

In his State Of The Union address, Obama called for massive new government revenues from eliminating tax loopholes and a carbon tax. He likewise called for massive new spending as the path to prosperity, or at least his far left version of it.

As to his proposals:

- Medicare: Obama says he will agree to reform Medicare, he just won't give specifics. We have heard like proposals in prior SOTU speeches, none of which amounted to Obama offering any compromise on entitlements.

- Revenue & Tax Structure: Obama wants “hundreds of billions of dollars” in more revenue by closing tax loopholes for the evil rich. He made no mention of the fact that he rejected just such an offer in December, preferring to raise tax rates above what they were during the Clinton years.

- Capital Gains Class Warfare: Obama is still playing class warfare for all its worth. He still wants to tax investment income the same as ordinary income, regardless of how economicly insane that idea actually is. There is a reason that Sweden, the most socialized and highest tax nation in Europe, recently dropped their capital gains tax to . . . zero. As Obama put it, he wants to insure that “billionaires with high-powered accountants can't pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries.”

- Debt Ceiling: A warning to evil Republicans – stop using the debt ceiling to challenge spending (Art. I, Sec. 8 be damned)

- More Public Sector Stimulus: Pass Obama's American Jobs Act (because public sector unions need more money and the government needs to get more involved in private sector finance)

- Research: Obama defended spending on “research,” most brazen being his assertion that he is spending to “[devise] new material to make batteries ten times more powerful.” Great. But didn't we just blow a quarter of a trillion dollars in taxpayer money sent to A123, the producer of advanced lithium batteries that was just purchased in bankruptcy by a Chinese company?

- Global Warming Set-Up: Obama stated “the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense.” Where did that come from? One, using the term on “on record” refers to a little more than the past century. The earth has been, at many times, far warmer than it is today. Two, there has been no warming globally over the past 16 years. Three, even the IPCC draft wholly contradicts the claim that “heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods” are in any way connected to climate change. What horseshit.

- Carbon Tax: Obama called, in so many words, for the implementation of a carbon tax or a cap and trade system. The fact that the EU's experiment in cap and trade involved massive fraud and that their cap and trade market has completely fallen apart didn't make it into the speech. And if you can tax carbon, then you can tax every aspect of human existence. It is a nanny state nightmare.

- Constitutional Shuffle: If Congress won't give him what he wants, he stated his explicit willingness to bypass Congress and get what he wants through the regulatory bureaucracy. That he can do this really is the most significant systemic problem our nation faces. It flies in the face of the Constitution.

- Green Investments: Continue throwing money at wind and solar, ancient technologies that stopped being cost effective centuries ago.

- Energy Security Trust: Use our “oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.” So this hits three buttons. It creates a brand new bureaucracy for government to fund. It proposes punishing gas and oil production to fund it. And, the purpose of the trust is to channel funds to more left wing donors.

- Fix-It-First Program: A massive new public works program to fix our infrastructure. No price tag given.

- Partnership to Rebuild America: Obama plans to invite private businesses to fund his public works projects. This one actually sounds quite ominous, though no particulars were given. My understanding of business is that they invest with the expectation of profit, not mere good will from government. This has the distinct smell of a mafia strong arm operation.

- Housing: Obama plans yet another Fannie / Freddie style foray into our financial system, with the government taking over refinancing of existing mortgages to today's rates.

- Massive Expansion of Head Start style program: We know that Head Start has no lasting impact on children, yet the centerpiece of Obama's new push on education is to create “ a high-quality preschool program” for all of our children, claiming that this will be the most helpful. This is nothing more than another giant program for public sector unions. What children need is access to good schools – just like those that Obama's children attend.

- Tie Federal Aid In Student Loans to Costs & Success Rates: This actually is a good idea.

- Immigration Reform: check.

- Violence Against Women Act: check.

- Paycheck Fairness Act: This act has nothing to do with paycheck fairness. It would have much more to do with the bottom line of lawyers than women. As it stands, this act is just the left's weapon to beat Republicans over the head with when the left needs to claim a war on women.

- Minimum Wage: Obama wants to raise it to $9 an hour. The negative effects of the “minimum wage” laws are so well established that its hard to understand how Obama could possibly push for this, particularly at a time of record long term unemployment and in an economy where the majority of new jobs being created are low wage jobs. Just insanity.

- Underwrite Democrat Failures At The Local Level: Virtually all of the most economically depressed cities in America share a single thread – years of one party Democrat rule. Obama wants to put our federal tax dollars to work helping out the 20 worst offenders. You will recall that after the election, one of Detroit's politicos asked when Obama was going to start sending Obamabucks their way, since they had gotten out the vote for him. They apparently now have their answer. No price tag given.

- Afghanistan: We're out of there. Obama is unilaterally ending the war.

- Al Qaeda: Its dead, but its reforming in many places. Obama will do nothing in the war of ideas. He is just going to support Muslim governments.

- Cybersecurity: This is a legitimate issue. Obama wants much more Trade: Obama is calling for some type of trade pacts with Asian nations and the EU. No details were given.

- World Poverty & AIDS: Obama wants to spend tax dollars so that he can cure world poverty and eradicate AIDS. He has a plan, I think.

- Gun Control: According to Obama, gun control is good, it's needed, every thinking and moral person wants it. Interestingly enough, he called on Congress to give each of his gun control measures a vote. I found that fascinating, given that there are a host of Democrat Congresscritters in purple and red states who would rather have their teeth pulled than have to vote on gun control.

Other Responses:

- Rand Paul's Rebuttal On Behalf Of The Tea Party

- Marco Rubio's Republican Response

- AP Fact Check

- Nice Deb: Sen. Cruz Statement On SOTU

- WSJ: Obama offers an agenda aimed at electing a Pelosi House

- Daily Caller: Obama puts government at center of Americans' lives

- Krauthammer: ‘This speech is about spending your way to prosperity

’ - George Will: SOTU makes clear no entitlement reform, spending cuts are coming


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Finally: The DOJ Charges S&P With Fraud In Rating Sub-Prime Backed Securities

The DOJ is going after S&P for giving sub-prime mortgage backed securities AAA ratings in the run-up to our economic meltdown in 2008. This move is getting panned by many on the right as payback against S&P for downgrading U.S. credit rating to AA in 2011 - and that certainly is a reasonable conclusion, given that the DOJ has not similarly targeted either Moody's or Fitch, both of which were equally guilty of vastly over-rating sub-prime mortgage backed securities.

Regardless, this is a lawsuit that I sincerely hope plays out in public. The fraud perpetrated by the ratings agencies was wholly intertwined with an insane government policy to force banks into making loans that did not meet traditional colorblind lending criteria. The ratings agencies were both complicit in and victims of this policy. There are a lot of facts that need to come out. Moreover, it is an issue with direct application to today, as the Obama administration not merely continues, but actually has strengthened the same insane government policies that gave rise to the the subprime crisis and our 2008 economic meltdown.

To explain, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was used by the left for 16 years to destroy color-blind lending standards and force banks to make sub-prime loans. Fannie and Freddie were used to create a massive market for these loans. Still, none of this would have worked if the credit rating agencies had not given AAA ratings to the securities containing these mortgages, as most if not all banks were limited to purchasing securities with AAA ratings. That is how the sub-prime contagion spread throughout world markets.

In 2008, I wrote a long post explaining the origins of our melt-down. As to the ratings agencies, I opined at the time:

One of the most questionable aspects of the subprime meltdown is how mortgage backed securities being pumped out by Fannie Mae and others, were vastly underrated as to the actual risk they represented. This is another horror story that centers on the tearing down of "outdated and arbitrary" lending criteria. From the information available today, it appears that, when the old standards were labled "racist" under Clinton, the rating agencies tried to adapt to the new "market innovations" without reliance on old standards. This from Stan Liebowitz of the University of Texas:

[Why were] the rating agencies were willing to give [risky loans] AAA ratings? . . .

[T]he housing price bubble that was caused in part by these relaxed underwriting standards tended to reduced defaults and obscure the impact of the standards while prices were rising because almost no one would default when they could, instead, easily sell the house at a profit. Rating agencies could suggest that these loans were no more risky than the old antiquated loans and provide empirical support for that conclusion, given the still low default rates at the time, although to do so was short sighted to the point of incompetence.

In fact, the rating agencies seemed overly concerned with the trees and lost sight of the forest. For example, a Wall Street Journal article (which is the basis for the following three quotes) reports on rating agencies’ benign treatment of piggyback mortgages (taking out a second mortgage to cover the downpayment required by the first mortgage). In previous decades, mortgage applicants unable to come up with the full downpayment and therefore thought to be more at risk of default, were required to pay ‘mortgage insurance’ which raised the interest rate on the loan. Piggyback loans allowed borrowers to avoid this mechanism, thus presumably making the loan riskier. Nevertheless, the article reports that rating agencies did not consider these loans more risky:

Data provided by lenders showed that loans with piggybacks performed like standard mortgages. The finding was unexpected, wrote S&P credit analyst Michael Stock in a 2000 research note. He nonetheless concluded the loans weren't necessarily very risky.

The finding was unexpected because it contradicted what had generally been known about mortgages by a prior generation of mortgage lenders—that when applicants made smaller downpayments, increasing the loan-to-value ratio, the probability of default increased. This finding contradicted common sense. Further, these measurements were being made at the front end of a housing price bubble (Figure 1 below shows that prices were rising smartly in 2000), likely biasing downward any default statistics. Relaxed lending standards also had a short enough track record that rating agencies could not know how they would perform in the long run or in adverse conditions, meaning that it isn’t clear that sufficient information existed to even rate these securities. So how did the rating agencies defend their counterintuitive ratings?

One money manager, James Kragenbring, says he had five to 10 conversations with S&P and Moody's in late 2005 and 2006, discussing whether they should be tougher because of looser lending standards… Other analysts recall being told that ratings could also be revised if the market deteriorated. Said an S&P spokesman: "The market can go with its gut; we have to go with the facts."

Whether such a myopic view of the “facts” was responsible for all or most of the excessively high ratings I cannot say, but these ratings were consistent with the views of the relaxed lending standards crowd. The real facts, of course, eventually soured the view of the rating agencies:

By 2006, S&P was making its own study of such loans' performance. It singled out 639,981 loans made in 2002 to see if its benign assumptions had held up. They hadn't. Loans with piggybacks were 43% more likely to default than other loans, S&P found.

In spite of their inaccurate ratings, the rating agencies, nevertheless, were making great profits from rating mortgage-backed securities, a quasi-sinecure created by the government which required many financial organizations (e.g., insurance companies and money market funds) to invest only in highly rated securities as certified by government (Security and Exchange Commission) approved rating agencies (NRSROs). There were only three such approved rating agencies for most of the last decade (S&P, Moody’s and Fitch). Given that government-approved rating agencies were protected from free competition, it might be expected that these agencies would not want to create political waves by rocking the mortgage boat, endangering a potential loss of their protected profits.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hilarious - The Hillary-Obama Ad

Say what you will, Leno is a superb comedian. His take on the 60 Minutes interview of Obama and Clinton was that it was more of a love fest. And indeed:

From Hot Air's Greenroom


The NYT Tosses Sen. Menendez Under The Bus

There is a lot of smoke rising from the area around Sen. Bob Menendez of NJ, the man designated by Sen. Harry Reid to be the next Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Is there fire underlying it? A recent op-ed from the NYT suggests that there might be an inferno.

Allegations are that Menedez engaged in sex with underage Dominican prostitutes and that he accepted expensive gifts, all of which are related to his relationship with Florida eye surgeon Salomon Melgen, a man whose interests Menendez inappropriately championed with our government. We of course do not know definitively at this point whether any or all of the allegations are true, but in a rather amazing turn of events, the NYT editorial board has tossed Menendez under the bus in an op-ed calling for him to be denied the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And indeed, the op-ed looks like it could have been written by someone at the NRO:

. . . At issue are the curious dealings between Mr. Menendez and his close friend and benefactor Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye surgeon and major Democratic donor. The senator’s efforts to help Dr. Melgen, part-owner of a firm that had a long-dormant contract with the Dominican Republic to provide port security, revive that lucrative contract — deemed an exorbitant giveaway by business leaders and government officials there — were detailed in an article in The Times last week by Raymond Hernandez and Frances Robles. The contract’s dubious legitimacy and Dr. Melgen’s lack of experience in border security issues did not deter Mr. Menendez from pressing State and Commerce Department officials to insist that the contract be honored, including at a hearing in July of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee over which he presided.

Compounding the unseemliness, Senator Menendez’s help came as Dr. Melgen was in the process of making donations totaling $700,000 to Majority PAC, a Democratic “super PAC” set up by former aides to Mr. Reid. Majority PAC ended up shoveling $582,500 to Mr. Menendez’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Mr. Menendez’s interventions on Dr. Melgen’s behalf were not limited to port security. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Mr. Menendez personally raised concerns with top federal health officials in 2009 and again in 2012 about the fairness of their finding that Dr. Melgen had overbilled the government $8.9 million for care provided at his eye clinic. The Post also reported that Dr. Melgen invoked the senator’s name repeatedly to exert pressure on federal fraud investigators. Last week, F.B.I. agents raided Dr. Melgen’s offices in West Palm Beach and removed 30 boxes of documents and other material, but the focus of the inquiry is unclear. . . .

One suspects that there must be a lot of truth to the allegations for the NYT editorial board to toss a latino progressive Senator from a bluer than blue state under the bus. Normally, the left merely yawns and ignores it when one of their own engages in misconduct. I am left with the impression that the NYT is acting proactively here because they are convinced of the truth of the allegations and that the fallout from the scandal would be exponentially worse if it all comes out only after Menendez is appointed to a position of high power in the Senate democratic hierarchy.


The Left's War On Religion & Family

The left has two goals - one, to imbue children with socialist morality and ethics (to the extent such can be said to exist) irrespective of how parents want to raise their children. The second is to drive its biggest competitor in the arena of ethics and morality, Christianity, from the public square (see A Historical Perspective On Religion & Obama's HHS Mandate). One area where these two goals converge for the left is in regards to sex.

In NYC, Mayor Bloomberg started a stealth program three years ago to freely dispense birth control drugs and the morning after "Plan B" abortion pill to NYC high school students. This was done without the knowledge or permission of the children's parents. After the program came to light, a FOIA request showed:

About 40 separate “school-based health centers” doled out 12,721 doses of Plan B in 2011-12, up from 10,720 in 2010-11 and 5,039 in 2009-10, according to the newly released data. About 22,400 students sought reproductive care from January 2009 through last school year, records show.

This is a left wing government standing "in loco parentis," assuming the role of parents in deciding about how to address sex and abortion with their children. Parents are pushed wholly out of the loop on these critical issues. Moreover, in the way this is being handled, the state is promoting the sexualization of our children. Just as a practical matter, this a huge issue for the health of our children. If the Plan B pill was doled out 12,721 times last year, that shows a high number of teens having unprotected sex. The implications of that are frightening. According to the CDC:

An estimated 8,300 young people aged 13–24 years in the 40 states reporting to CDC had HIV infection in 2009. Nearly half of the 19 million new STDs each year are among young people aged 15–24 years.

On top of AIDS, we now have STD's that are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Anyone who has unprotected casual sex is playing Russian roulette. The Bloomberg solution is to pass out the Plan B abortion pill like candy and with no notice to the parents. Leave aside for the moment the moral and ethical issues associated with abortion that parents should have the absolute right to discuss with their children upon notice that they are sexually active. The fact is that while parents can't completely stop their children from having sex, notice would at least allow parents to drive home the point that having unprotected sex is very dangerous.

As to the moral and ethical issues associated with sex and, in particular, abortion, the left likes to pretend that they simply don't exist. One can trace a direct line from socialists of yore to Bloomberg's policies of today. In the U.S., Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, as a committed socialist, was a staunch proponent of consequence free sex and an implacable enemy of Christianity (all in addition to being a eugenicist). These things were not unique to Sanger, but rather an established part of the socialist blueprint in their war on religion and family. For instance, in a fascinating article on "cultural marxism" at the American Thinker, author Linda Kimball writes:

In 1919, Georg Lukacs became Deputy Commissar for Culture in the short-lived Bolshevik Bela Kun regime in Hungary. He immediately set plans in motion to de-Christianize Hungary. Reasoning that if Christian sexual ethics could be undermined among children, then both the hated patriarchal family and the Church would be dealt a crippling blow. Lukacs launched a radical sex education program in the schools. Sex lectures were organized and literature handed out which graphically instructed youth in free love (promiscuity) and sexual intercourse while simultaneously encouraging them to deride and reject Christian moral ethics, monogamy, and parental and church authority. All of this was accompanied by a reign of cultural terror perpetrated against parents, priests, and dissenters.

And of course, it is not just teen sex. There has been no greater challenge to religion in our country than Obama's HHS mandate that requires employers to offer health plans that include free contraceptives and Plan B abortion pills. This would require not merely Church and affiliated employers to fund something to which their religion has been opposed since antiquity, but it would require private employers to violate their religious conscience (see Hobby Lobby). The failure to comply would result in massive penalties that would drive quasi religious institutions and businesses owned by Christians out of existence. It is hard to imagine any more of a direct attack on the ability of Americans to engage in the free exercise of religion, nor a plan more directly aimed at driving religious institutions and individuals out of our public and economic life.

If you have any doubt that this is a policy aimed directly at religion, understand that contraceptives are a nominal cost. Further, programs are already in place for women in the lower economic class to receive free contraception. This is not an HHS program aimed at solving a systemic problem for our nation's women as to either access to or affordability of contraceptives.

Obama's contraceptive / Plan B abortion pill mandate was recently made final in regulations issued by HHS. The regulations include the same accounting gimmick that Obama announced last year - that while all employers other than the Churches themselves would have to provide free contraceptives and abortion Plan B pills free to employees, in the case of quasi religious institutions, the employer would not have to pay for contraceptive/abortion aspects of the policy. Rather, their insurer would be required to provide the contraceptives and plan B pills "free of charge" to women. The response from the Catholic Church:

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops on Thursday rejected the latest White House proposal on health insurance coverage of contraceptives, saying it did not offer enough safeguards for religious hospitals, colleges and charities that objected to providing such coverage for their employees.

The bishops said they would continue fighting the federal mandate in court.

The late Andrew Breitbart's riason d' etre was that culture mattered - that it was in the culture wars that the left was working fundamental change to our nation. He was right. And there are no clearer examples of the left's war of cultural marxism on religion and family than the lefts push to sexualize our children, to drive parents from the decision making regarding their children as regards sex, and the left's push to drive religion and the religious out of our public and economic life. The stakes in this war are existential.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

EPA - Out Of Control & Lawless

I wrote below on how Obama is wholly bastardizing our Constitutional form of government by governing through the regulatory agencies. The worst of these is the EPA, an organization being used to legislate a radical green war on coal and oil, as well as to further the interests of entrenched green interests. Most recently: the EPA is tasked to base its decisions on science, but it has ignored that to issue new regulations requiring gasoline to be mixed with 15% ethanol; and the EPA is fraudulently using the courts and friendly plaintiffs to gain powers it is not authorized by its own regulations.

Ethanol mandates are a result of Bush era laws that require ever increasing amounts of ethanol from a variety of sources to be blended with gasoline through 2022. It is an insane boondoggle that benefits no one other than select agricultural special interests, and its impact on food prices and land use has been both substantial and extremely negative. The current EPA mandate for gas to contain 10% ethanol is no longer sufficient to meet legal mandates, so the EPA is now requiring refineries to increase ethanol to 15%. The problem - ethanol burns much hotter than octane while providing significantly less energy. There is real concern as testing shows that an E15 gasoline mix can ruin engines of all types, not merely autos. And yet:

In 2010 and 2011, EPA gave the green light to use E15 - the 15 percent ethanol gasoline blend - in model-year-2001-and-later cars and some other vehicles. EPA's action was irresponsible. EPA knew E15 vehicle testing was ongoing but decided not to wait for the results.

This was a political decision by the EPA, one taken irrespective of current reality.

But far more troubling is the EPA's fraudulent use of our court system as an end around the limits of the EPA's regulatory authority. It is referred to as "sue and settle." A friendly radical green plaintiff brings a law suit, the EPA doesn't contest the suit, but rather agrees to take certain actions that go beyond its authority, either by extending its authority or creating de facto new regulations without going through the procedures required by law to create such regulations. The most recent case, discussed in detail here, involves imposing new draconian federal regulations on coal usage in states, justified on the basis of a "sue and settle" court order, irrespective of the fact that the law provides for state primacy in that particular area.

I have been saying for years now that the laws that allow for greens to have standing to bring law suits based on environmental and endangered species laws - and equally, that provide for payment of plaintiff's attorneys fees - are massively corrupt and need to be changed. The cost to our economy from abusive law suits are massive. But the corruption involved in "sue and settle" suits is criminal. Government officials should be put in jail over this.


Regulations Without Representation

The single greatest systemic threat to our nation comes from regulatory agencies operating outside of our Constitutional safeguards of checks and balances. The Constitution, Art. I Sec. 8, provides that ALL legislative power resides in Congress. In other words, not a single law or regulation should pass into effect without an affirmative vote of Congress. Yet in practice, regulatory agencies are now the primary source of acts with the force of law. The acts of these agencies pass into law without any vote of Congress. It is a complete bastardization of our Constitutional scheme. And the worst abuser of this system since FDR put it into its current extra-constitutional framework has been Obama.

This from the Weekly Standard on what we can look forward to in Obama's second term:

. . . the tone of the president’s second term is unlikely to improve upon the president’s own words, a year ago: “Where Congress is not willing to act, we’re going to go ahead and do it ourselves.” It would be “nice” to work with Congress, he conceded, but he and his regulators were ready to act unilaterally.

That threat echoed the White House press secretary’s own warning, just weeks earlier, that although Congress ought to act to improve the economy, the president “can also act independently—or, rather, administratively, and exercise his executive authority to benefit the American people in other ways. And he will continue to do that.” The White House called this the “We Can’t Wait” initiative.

Today, looking ahead at Barack Obama’s second term, many of his supporters still can’t wait. The New Republic’s Timothy Noah is among them. “With the election over,” he wrote last month, “the president can now take bolder action on a host of issues that don’t require cooperation—or even input—from Congress.” True, “some of these actions might be controversial,” but “that concern matters less now that Obama has faced voters for the last time.”

Noah needn’t fret. In his second term, the president will have every incentive to pursue an agenda predominantly, perhaps even exclusively, through unilateral executive branch action. Some call this the “regulatory cliff”; others, a regulatory “flood” or “tsunami” . . . Call it what you will, but for the next four years, the Obama administration will govern primarily through the regulatory agencies. And Congress and the courts, having tied their own hands, can do little to stop it.

This long offering from the Weekly Standard goes on to discuss at length both how Obama has already abused the regulatory process and the tsunami of new regulations expected to come down in his second term. This is not a republican form of government, it is a socialist bureaucracy with no relation to the Constitution as drafted by our Founders.


Beyonce Complains About Pics - The Net Responds

Beyonce did not care for some of the pictures taken of her during her Superbowl halftime performance last Sunday. Displaying a shocking lack of understanding about the internet, she asked TMZ to remove some of the photos. TMZ promptly published the request, along with the specific photos Beyonce wanted removed. What came next, as sure as night follows day, was the blooming of a thousand photoshops:

There is Beyonce of the crab people

Beyonce the zombie:

And my personal favorite, Beyonce the nerdy teenager:

Follow the link above to see the rest of the photoshops. Heh.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Labrador Retrievers Still On Top

Twenty-two years ago, Labrador Retrievers became the most popular dogs in the U.S. Their spot at the top has never been challenged since. Again this year, according to the American Kennel Club, labbies are the most popular dog in the U.S.

There are many reasons labbies are so popular. In addition to being the best family dogs on the planet, labs are:: unguided missles, anarchists, loyal companions who dispense affection beyond measure, smart and easily trainable.. Our family had a 15 y.o. lab that died three weeks ago. If you want to know why we loved her so much, I wrote a description of her life, and life with her, here.

We kept two of her puppies. Yes they shed, but on the scales of what they bring to the table, no animal can come close to matching labrador retrievers in my book.

Charles Krauthammer also had a labrador retriever, He wrote a paen to the dog – and indeed, to all dogs – upon its passing. It is quite humorous – Of Dogs & Men.

[Hat Tip:  Neo Neocon]