"Once abolish God and the government becomes the God." -G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Democrats: The Party of Yes Men

I have no problem with progressives calling Republicans the Party of No. Frankly, I'm glad someone is willing to say no to runaway spending, wealth redistribution, bowing to foreign dignitaries, and proposing never-ending tax increases. I understand the Democratic effort to paint the minority party as a backwards bunch of obstructionists, although I think the polls show it's not working.

However, if we are going to play this game, then Democrats must be the Party of Yes Men. Clearly, they don't know how to say no to Obama. Ever. As if they're afraid they'll be labeled racists by their progressive friends in the mainstream media. And I don't have to tell you that a Party of Yes Men is a way more dangerous thing than a party that knows when to say no.

Monday, April 26, 2010

When Reform is Worse Than the Status Quo

It goes without saying that people usually associate the word reform with positive connotations. But what happens in the real world is often different from what's in our heads or even our best intentions. Rather than improving a situation, the wrong reforms often exasperate the problem.

Take Sarbanes-Oxley and the mark-to-market accounting rules the collapse of Enron and WorldCom ushered in. Two corrupt companies run by greedy, manipulative CEOs once the darlings of Wall Street went from the penthouse to the outhouse in a matter of months. Did they cook the books? Yes. Was what they did illegal? Yes. Did investors lose millions? Yes. Did it cost the workers in these companies their pensions while the executives made out like bandits? Sadly, yes. But when the house of cards collapsed, it wasn't because the status quo encouraged this behavior. In fact, it was the exact opposite. 

Cheat the free market system, try to make up the data, and at some point you are going to pay for your hubris. Remember: Ken Lay called the Bush administration begging for a bailout. Wisely, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil said no. The end result was a tragedy, but it was nothing compared to the tragedy we would have had on our hands had the government intervened to save a corrupt, smoke-and-mirrors Enron at the taxpayers expense.

Enter Congress. While no bailout occurred, our elected officials tried to score cheap political points by attacking not the robber barons who flaunted the law and ran these companies into the ground, but instead the system itself. They came up with Sarbanes-Oxley as a response and many economists point to it as the beginning of the collapse of our financial sector.

We already know what a disaster the mark-to-market accounting rules were for the housing bust. A number of historians have pointed to FDR's elimination of these accounting rules as the beginning of the end of the Great Depression. And you'll note in our own current crisis the removal of these strict accounting procedures helped bring the banks and markets back. But PC Magazine sheds light on the unintended consequences of Sarbanes-Oxley in regards to IPOs:

What Sarbanes-Oxley has done is add an outrageous reporting burden, which costs an estimated 4 percent of revenue to implement. All American corporations are immediately put at a disadvantage to the tune of 4 percent off the top. And what’s the point of these new requirements? Simply to get accounting firms off the hook for cooked books or criminal activity. It has nothing to do with protecting the public, just protecting the accounting firms.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper once told me that a company has to make $300 million a year to be able to afford the overhead required to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley. Less than that and public corporations just bleed to death.
No matter what you think of Sarbanes-Oxley, one thing is very noticeable: Since the law’s inception, the number of little Silicon Valley start-ups that went public is close to nil. This is the worst IPO market in years, and it’s stifling the country. IPOs have been a traditional form of wealth creation and corporate protection unlike anything else. And you’ve seen what has happened without them. It’s no coincidence that the economy is tanking. Sure, you can blame the housing bubble. But I blame the whole financial collapse on Sarbanes-Oxley and a moribund Silicon Valley.

The financial overhaul legislation Obama and Dodd are pushing is sure to bring these same kind of unintended consequences. In essence, what they are proposing are more loopholes for special interests and less options for smaller companies who play by the rules. What you end up with is a two tier system: preferential treatment for the government's buddies, donors, and those deemed "too big to fail" and standard bankruptcy procedures (which work quite well) for everyone else. This, of course, means the big boys of industry can take unnecessary risks without precautions and expect a permanent bailout at taxpayer expense. But what often goes unmentioned is successful companies suddenly find tax dollars from their earnings going to prop up their failing competitors. So unless you're spending a fortune on lawyers in Washington, you're screwed. Or as I like to say, if you voted for Obama, you've been "hopewinked."

This isn't reform. It's the deformation of capitalism and the slow transformation of our economy into crony capitalism. It's forcing businesses to get in bed with government and spend more time and money lobbying to earn the good grace of the government gods. In other words, the Obama Way.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Only Thing You Need to Know about Wall Street Reform is Slimy Billionaire George Soros Supports It

As bad as President Obama's major legislation has been to date, his financial regulation overhaul might be the worst yet. I'm actually surprised how little attention it's getting. Unless you go deep into search queries, most of the mainstream media coverage focuses simply on the horse race, and even conservative blogs fail to delve into the layers of the bill for the game-changing intricacies I am sure exists.

Question: Who will benefit the most from Obama's reforms?

Answer: George Soros

How do I know this? Because Soros strongly supports the bill. This is the same George Soros that made his fortune by betting against the British pound, the same George Soros convicted of insider trading in France, the same George Soros that made billions off America's financial meltdown, the same George Soros that makes Halliburton look like a mom-and-pop store, and yes, the same George Soros who practically owns and pays the bills for the Democratic Party. That's all you need to know to be opposed to these "reforms."

If a Wall Street speculator like Soros is talking up the regulation, you can bet it's in his financial interest. If a billionaire sleazeball needs volatile markets to game the system , you can rest assured the "reforms" will do nothing for financial stability on Wall Street.

Every thousand page bill Obama passes has layer upon layer of bribes, hidden beneficiaries, and unintended consequences. This bill is no different. The civil suit brought against Goldman Sachs at the same time is classic misdirection. There's a huge story here, but it's going to take some digging.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Regulating Salt in My Diet? That'll Be the Day

Dear Congress,

I'll discuss limiting my salt intake when you eliminate pork from your diet.


The Taxpayer

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Worse Than Guilt by Association

When conservatives questioned Barack Obama's character to be president based on his association with Pentagon bomber Bill Ayers and a twenty year membership in Rev. Wright's church of liberation theology, it was frowned upon by the Mainstream Media. "This is an attempt to paint Obama guilty by association!" the Left screamed. Nevermind these weren't casual encounters. Barack Obama made a conscious decision to maintain relationships with these individuals over several years. He called Rev. Wright his spiritual mentor. He launched his political career from Bill Ayers living room. In questioning Obama, we were judging him by the company he kept, the inner circle of those who influenced his thinking. This is hardly guilt by association.

Now we see the Left was only projecting. Accusing us of guilt by association turns out to be their new modus of operandi. Actually, it's even worse. What we are now witnessing is guilt without association. How else do you explain the invisible dots Democrats keep trying to connect by repeatedly mentioning domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh in the same breath with the Tea Party?

What exactly do Timothy McVeigh and conservative demonstrators have in common? Absolutely nothing. There wasn't even a Tea Party movement fifteen years ago. Sure, they both distrust the government. But so what? According to a recent Pew research poll, 80% of Americans distrust the government, the highest level ever recorded. If we are to believe the hyperbole of the Left, then 80% of the country is a potential domestic terrorist. Of course, given the growth of the public sector over the past decade, it's likely that the other 20% work for the government anyway, so perhaps it's closer to 100% distrust.

Historically, guilt by association attempted to connect two unrelated individuals without evidence that they knew each other or shared the same values. During the dark days of McCarthyism, if anyone who belonged to a group or club confessed they were a Communist, then everyone who ever belonged to that group or could be placed at an event with any of those members must also be a Communist.

Democrats have basically made the same absurd leap of logic with the Tea Party. Already they have tried unsuccessfully to connect anyone who takes part in the movement with fringe racists. Last week, threatened by the increased popularity of the Tea Parties going mainstream, Democrat leaders including former president Bill Clinton upped the ante and are now comparing the Tea Party protesters to Timothy McVeigh, the convicted Oklahoma City bomber.

This is the worst of mischaracterization and guilt by association, and it's being practiced by the Left, not the Right. It's an attempt to intimidate and demonize law-abiding citizens who disapprove of runaway government spending and never-ending bureaucracy into silence. It's an attempt to discourage everyday Americans dissatisfied with the Obama administration's policies to join the Tea Party movement. It's an attempt not to win the debate, but to silence the debate.

Is it working? Let's hope not. A strong democracy requires a marketplace of ideas, not marching orders or conformity. Forced agreement with the party line is what regimes practice, not the United States of America. You can imagine the outrage if Republicans had tried the same thing when they controlled Congress. You can imagine the outrage if President Bush had called anti-war protesters like Cindy Sheehan "potential terrorists" or sent Dick Cheney out to question whether any Democrats might be spurred to violence due to the talk of "truthers" claiming 9/11 was an inside job.

Then again, conservatives are more tolerant of dissent than progressives. Conservatives are more willing to debate the merits of an idea, to draw a distinction between freedom and tyranny, between collectivism and individual liberty. In fact, it is by defining these arguments that the conservative feels they will win the debate and establish clarity, while the Left can't defeat the idea alone. An argument based on history and/or facts is never sufficient. They have to paint the conservative in a negative light. The conservative must be immoral, racist, harmful, backwards, against the poor, against women, or any number of adjectives they can come up with. This is cheap demagoguery.

Contrast this with how the Left and Mainstream Media treat radical Islam. They are afraid of ruffling any feathers. They go out of their way not to call the violent acts that some members practice acts of terrorism or to connect, for instance, the shooting by Major Nadal Hasan at Fort Hood with fundamental Islam when there were more red flags than a North Korean parade. Instead, the Left asks how they can be more tolerant of Islam. "What did we do to you to cause this reaction?" they want to know. Free people can't even draw a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed without receiving death threats or inciting riots from mainstream Muslims.

Does the Left condemn these acts of intimidation as hate speech? No, they appease it. They ask Americans to be more accommodating and sensitive, all the while unwilling to accommodate nonviolent conservative citizens with real grievances against the government. Sure, no arrests have been made at Tea Party events. But one of these vocal, flag-waving, middle class Americans clinging to their religion could be the next Timothy McVeigh.

Or Bill Ayers. In which case, Democrats should have no problem.

Monday, April 19, 2010

From Russia With Blood

Is the bear back? Arthur Herman had a great article in the NY Post last week detailing the unchecked perils of a rejuvenated Russia during these times of appeasement. We either seem unable or unwilling to confront the sneaky and uncooperative military giant of Europe, instead settling for "reset" buttons and bogus START treaties that give up a fair chunk of our bargaining chips for free cocktails we would have gotten anyway. Are we making headway on Iran? No. Standing firm on missile defense? Not hardly. So what exactly are we getting from the newest member of the Nobel Appeasement Club? I can promise one thing: it's not a good night's rest:

The plane crash that killed Poland's president and 95 others is a tragedy for the Polish people and a loss of a good friend for the United States. For Poland's neighbor Russia, however, it's an opportunity to push for hegemony over Eastern Europe, as in the Iron Curtain days.

For the Russian bear is back. Like Dracula rising from his coffin, it now stalks the world long after we thought it dead and buried. And President Obama's feckless handling of foreign affairs is giving Russia's authoritarian leadership a chance like no other to expand its power -- and steadily diminish ours. 

Some will believe the Russian account of the crash, that the Polish pilot deliberately endangered the lives of his president and the entire upper echelon of his country's leadership by trying to land in a thick fog despite repeated warnings from Russian ground control. 

Others won't believe -- remembering that President Lech Kaczynski was a bitter foe of Russia's Vladimir Putin, and how Putin's dreaded FSB (the KGB's successor) was linked six years ago to a plot to poison Ukraine's president.
Either way, expect new, perhaps irresistible, pressure on Poland to toe the Kremlin line. Throw in the START treaty that Russia extracted from our president just last week, and anyone who imagined we won the Cold War had better think again.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Hidden Meaning Behind "Yes, We Can"

During the campaign, I always assumed that "yes, we can" meant "yes, the people can..." and even though I disagreed with Obama's politics it seemed like a positive slogan for America. But having now analyzed fourteen months of the president's policies and speeches, I have decoded it and realized it's way more sinister. The "we" Obama is referring to isn't at all about us. It's about him. When Obama says "yes, we can" he means "yes, the government can" and "no, you the individual (or private business) can't."

So with health care reform yes, the government can make you buy health insurance and tell you exactly what kind of coverage to buy... yes, the government can limit the profits of private insurance companies and tell them how much they are allowed to spend on administrative costs... yes, the government can tax and penalize doctors for ordering too many medical tests. And if the government can do this, then your individual rights have been greatly limited. So no, you can't choose to not be insured... no, you can't carry catastrophic insurance that has a higher deductible and a lower premium... no, you can't be treated by your doctor without bureaucratic oversight... and no, you can't get a student loan from a private lender.

If the financial "reforms" go through then yes the government can tell you how to run your business and no, you can't tell the government to go take a hike. They own you now.

Alarmingly, our behavior is being controlled and our choices are being restricted all to the tune of a cult-like chorus of "Yes, We Can!" Listen to the president's next speech and notice where he places the trademark phrase. The "we" is his regime. It's not us. Talk about subversion.

Monday, April 12, 2010

About That Recovery, Sales Tax Receipts Show Otherwise: Consumer Spending Down 14 Straight Months

As someone who closed a retail furniture store earlier this year, I can tell you from personal experience how low consumer confidence in Texas is right now. My store experienced a 40% drop in revenue from 2008 to 2009, including a dismal 70% drop during the month of August when cash-for-clunkers was introduced. This was in Austin, Texas, which Time magazine recently lauded as one of the best cities to do business and one of the least affected by the recession.

So what gives? Where are all these confident shoppers? Could it actually be that Obama's policies are killing the chance for a recovery? The evidence suggests that the president has made the recession worse, not better. He has created economic uncertainty tilting the flow of money from the private sector into government and keeping consumers at home. I'm just one of many small business casualties of his poor ecoomic policies.

When Obama talks about helping small businesses, trust me, it's just talk. Every tax credit he has introduced is worthless to businesses cutting back, and no small business owner is going to borrow money they don't have during times of economic uncertainty and sporadic revenue just to save a few thousand dollars in taxes they probably won't have to pay anyways - because they are losing money!

The mainstream media has hold us for nine or ten months now that the recession is over, that we are turning the corner and shoppers are beginning to spend again. Often these reports cite increases in same-store sales, but don't be fooled. This is a mirage. When big chains close stores, nearby stores see a sales boost. That's not due to an increase of shoppers, just a redistribution of them.

There has been no uptick in consumer confidence, and the strongest evidence of this is the continued decline in sales tax receipts. This year's March revenues from sales tax for the state of Texas were down 8% from last March. Let me emphasize that. March of 2009, during what was considered the height of the recession was better for businesses than March of 2010. In fact, sales tax receipts in Texas have been on the decline for some time now, and eight of the previous months saw double digit decreases.

As the Austin-American Statesman reports:

A closely watched indicator of Texas' fiscal health, the state's sales tax revenue is now $1.5 billion below where it was at the same time last year, the figures showed.
Even so, state officials say they have not yet decided to pull the trigger on proposed agency budget cuts, aimed at saving about $1 billion in the current two-year budget.
The $1.46 billion collected from February sales — and remitted to the state in March — was 7.8 percent less than the amount brought in during the same month a year ago.

Here's a chart of Texas sales tax receipts. Keep in mind March brings in a lot of tourists, including spring breakers and SXSW participants to Austin, so it should be up considerably. These numbers are disappointing to say the least:

Of course the liberal Statesman is selling it as a "softening." They might also want to note that Austin construction companies "softened" paychecks by firing 2300 people last month. Somebody tell Newsweek.

Hat tip to Mish.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Golf on TV? There's a Nap for That

I don't even have to be tired when I turn on the Masters coverage. If it's on TV, even if I'm drinking a venti java chip frappaccino with a hit of speed, I will immediately fall asleep. It's like when some people have to use the bathroom the minute they hear water running. What is it about this event and watching golf in general that lulls me into slumber land? Is it the whispered commentary in British and faux British accents? What other sport takes place on American soil in which we are treated to over-enunciated words in soothing, foreign accents? This is practically hypnosis. If only they could whisper golf tips over and over again while I dreamt.

"You are Tiger Woods... You are Tiger Woods... Keep your left arm straight... Now go buy some Nike and don't pick up a bimbo."

Does anyone really watch a golf tournament? I mean pay attention to it, try and focus on the whole thing like it's the Super Bowl or March Madness? When you go to work on Monday and everyone asks, "Wow, did you see that shot by Mickelson on the sixteenth hole?" you can almost bet they didn't. They were asleep on the couch as were you. But fortunately, it got played back a hundred times by CBS and ESPN so no matter, you just pretend you saw it live. I mean the TV was on. Doesn't that count?

Without fail, my eyelids grow heavy every time. I admit the game has a certain soothing rhythm when televised - a hush grows over the crowd, everything is silent except birds chirping in the background, followed by the loud whack of a golf club, usually leading into the soft applause of the polite golf clap only to fade to silence once again, birds chirping, another hole and the occasional awwwwwww from a disappointed gallery. Plop. That one must have hit the water.

I've got the Masters on right now and I'm not sure I can finish this sentence without yawning and assuming the napping position. Honestly. They should have golf tournaments at night. Think of all the insomnia that could be cured by televising this at two in the morning. What a great idea! Of course, you might lose some balls and scores would be higher. On second thought, maybe insomniacs should just TIVO it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Retirement of Stevens Proves Elections Have Consequences (even for Ron Paulians)

As I have said to my friends who complained John McCain wasn't conservative enough to earn their vote for president, elections have consequences. Most of them realize that now and are ruing the day they voted for Bob Barr or sat out the presidential election altogether. The absurd mentality that "both parties are the same" has always been one of the laziest arguments advanced by so-called "independents." Right now we are clearly experiencing the consequences of a far left regime (i.e. the modern Democratic Party) that sees little value in the individual and instead views government as the all-knowing panacea to run every aspect of our lives.

Perhaps one of the most significant consequences of an election is the power to appoint judges to the highest court in the land. Today, John Paul Stevens announced he was stepping down from the Supreme Court and with that news, in just under 15 months, Obama was given his second opportunity to appoint a SCOTUS replacement.

Keep in mind that President Bush only got to appoint two justices in eight years. The same goes for Clinton. Two justices in 15 months is astonishing, and I don't have to tell you that Obama and every progressive in America is thrilled to be in this position. If you thought the Warren Court was an enemy of the people, just wait until you see who Obama appoints.

Imagine for a second that McCain had won the election in 2008. We would be looking at the potential appointment of two conservative judges, greatly tilting the court in favor of an original interpretation of the Constitution. After 110 years of moving to the left, the SCOTUS would finally be restored to it's rightful place as envisioned by Marshall, Jefferson, Madison, and all of the founding fathers; as a protector and defender of individual liberties and states rights against a limited federal government with specific and enumerated powers.

Instead, we are left with Sonia "Race Matters Most" Sotomayor and whatever left wing activist Obama chooses to pluck from the lame circles of academia where he used to "teach" constitutional law. Fortunately, the ideology of the court remains relatively unchanged, but at the rate these justices are retiring, I have my doubts that we will make it through the next six years without a conservative stepping down.

Six years?! Don't you mean two? Are you suggesting Obama is going to serve two terms? Yes, actually. While I think Republicans can win back Congress this year, I don't think you can necessarily count on the Ron Paul and Tea Party types to support a Republican for president in 2012 who isn't named Ron Paul. And clearly Ron Paul won't be the next GOP nominee. These idealistic libertarians will again take their toys and go home rather than participate in the democratic process or worse, sacrifice their vote for some third party candidate with no chance of winning. They might as well be pawns of the ever-expanding state, because once again their actions will hurt the fight for liberty and weaken the Republic even further.

Some of these are the same people who still have contempt for Bush, but I can't say how pleased and fortunate I feel that Bush got to appoint two strict constructionists to the Supreme Court. Both of his appointments serve a center-right court that represents the last firewall against power grabs by the over-reaching state, and the Obama regime in particular. I expect them to strike down ObamaCare should it come to it, as well as the EPA's power to tax carbon, and there is precedent to do so.

For that, I can only say "Thank you, Mr. Bush." Even though McCain wasn't my first choice, it's too bad we don't have a President McCain to cement a non-activist conservative court for years to come. Both parties aren't the same. Elections have consequences. Let's hope everyone remembers that next time.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Narcissist-in-Chief Hijacks Another Sporting Event

His cries for attention have gotten so bad, I'm actually expecting to see the president in the background shots of sports interviews now. Can we enjoy one day of our lives, one holiday weekend, one nonpolitical event, without Barack the Magnificent gracing us with his presence?

This dull moment brought to you by Obama came during halftime coverage of the Final Four. The President played an informal game of POTUS with Clark Kellogg, which was pre-recorded at the White House. What is POTUS, you ask? It's HORSE for narcissists who can't go five minutes without reminding everyone that they are the president. Although to be fair, I'm actually impressed they didn't play OBAMA knowing the president's tin ear.

"What do you have, Clark? O-B-A? I'm stuck at O-B-A-M. One more letter to go."

Don't laugh. I'm sure it was suggested. I was looking forward to the Masters next weekend, but now I'm afraid you-know-who might show up as VJ Singh's caddy (Tiger Woods is obviously out of the question).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Final Four: Revisiting My Predictions

Tonight the Final Four commences with Duke playing West Virginia and Butler taking on Michigan State. Three weeks ago on the day the tournament started, I published my predictions for this year's championship. How did I do? I got two of the final four correct, five of the final eight, and thirteen of the sweet sixteen. Not too shabby. This absolutely put President Obama to shame, and I consider his picks way better than his policies. But of course I've never compared myself to the special olympics

Needless to say, I am currently in first place in all four of my brackets. That's a good reason for everyone to print out my top ten tourney tips and use them to your advantage next year. Here's what I wrote on March 18, 2010:
"As far as my predictions this year, I have to go with the chalk and take Kansas. They are playing at a higher level than almost every other team. After that, I like Syracuse and West Virginia, followed by Duke. That's my final four. I am also singling out Baylor as an athletic team than can do some damage, although I wish they played better defense. Cinderellas I'm putting in the sweet sixteen this year are Washington (11) and Xavier (6). I'm also high on BYU (7) but their game against Kansas State is going to come down to the wire. Finally, I'm taking Old Dominion (11) over Notre Dame and Murray State (13) over Vanderbilt (4) as first round upsets. UTEP (12) is really dangerous on defense and isn't a bad Cinderella pick, although I'm personally taking the favorite Butler. Cornell (12) is also dangerous, before the seeding I liked them a lot, but I have backed off since they got a bad first round matchup with the defensive-minded Temple Owls."
While Kansas is out, so are most of the favorites, including Syracuse, Kentucky, Villanova, Kansas State, and Ohio State. I have West Virginia in the championship game, so if they can beat Duke tonight I will win all four of my brackets. If they lose, I will probably only win two of my brackets.

On Cinderella picks I did exceptionally well. Murray State took out Vandy, Old Dominion upset Notre Dame, Baylor advanced all the way to the Elite Eight, and both Washington and Xavier made surprise Sweet Sixteen appearances. I took Butler for two rounds but didn't see them knocking off Syracuse, and I totally missed Northern Iowa's upset over Kansas (but who didn't?)

I expect Duke to get every questionable call tonight, but I think the Mountaineers can still squeak it out.