February 2

The Meaning of the Iowa Caucuses

In one word: meaningless.   Caucuses are an archaic invention and should be abolished, or, at least, ignored for purposes of choosing a candidate.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a heated discussion of political issues and presidential candidates.  It’s necessary and something any dutiful citizen should engage in on a regular basis.  But that’s the thing- we can do that every day, and DO – up until the day to vote.  We have every opportunity to argue the subject up until the day comes to make a choice and put to paper to make it real.   That’s why this, so-called, voting equivalent of the Iowa caucus is a sham and should not be taken into consideration for choosing a candidate.  A caucus is just a form of legal electioneering and should have disappeared after the 19th century.  Let me tell you why…

An open, localized political forum where everyone shares their opinions, beliefs, and arguments is a great thing to do during an election cycle.  I recommend it highly at family gatherings and nights at the pub.  But to disguise this type of event as an equivalent of an election is a disaster.  They are the antithesis of an election.  Consider being in a room with your boss,  banker, girlfriend, or wife and you happen to be on the other side of the room from them.  No honest person would believe there’s no pressure to cross that imaginary party line at any given round of “negotiation” that takes place during a caucus.  The only time this type of technique is used in decision making is when someone needs to be found guily or not-guilty.  This is a completely different type of situation but it uses the same process, but even then there’s still a secret ballot.   In a caucus, you aren’t going to walk away from a verdict and never have to deal with the consequences you may encounter because of those you DIDN’T vote with.  When you are in a room showing support from someone other than your minister, you may have some answering to do next Sunday – or four years worth of Sundays.  Or, let’s say Brad, the local loan officer, decides not to loan you money for that restaurant you want to open because you backed that anti-Wall Street candidate.  Or maybe, you want to score brownie points with him to make sure he approves it.  There’s simply too many favors, hurt feelings, or other political implications to the caucus process within any community.  You all know each other too well and are intertwined in the local political climate and economy.  This influence was directly expressed with a club, a knife, or a party boss in the not-so-distant past.  Don’t fool yourself into believing this hasn’t continued to this day in these same face-to-face situations.  It’s just that no one uses an actual club or knife anymore.   We made laws creating secret ballots and outlawing political speech near polling places for the sole purpose of countering this kind of influence on voting.

The secret ballot is sometimes thought of as sacred and uniquely American: to insuring everyone is at liberty to vote their conscience and can be assured they will not face repercussion for their choices. (from other people at least, you still have to live with your candidate).  So, instead of analyzing Iowa on and on and on – just ignore it.  It’s meaningless.   After all, their last republican pick was Mike Huckleberry.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby feather
January 7

Modern Keynesian Economics and Olypmic Games

crumbling olympic stadiumI just finished a great, albeit simplified, article in Outside Magazine entitled, “Why the U.S. Should Never Host Another Olympics”.     It rekindled an idea that I’ve always had about Keynesian theories and so-called ‘economic investment’.  In it, Brian Alexander describes the debt incurred by Olympic host cities year after year – leaving the taxpayers to clean up the mess some thirty years after the event.  Money that could have been better spent on local improvements or sustaining the economy is funneled instead to an overblown, opulent bridge to nowhere with a mortgage attached in every city since 1960.

From the article:

“The Games overrun with 100 percent consistency. No other type of megaproject is this consistent regarding cost overrun,” concluded a 2012 study by Oxford University economists Brent Flyvbjerg and Allison Stewart. Think about that for a moment. Every Olympics, from 1960 through 2012—and that doesn’t even count the massive Sochi boondoggle of 2014—has run over budget. And not by just a little…”

 

Many modern liberal economists, like Paul Krugman, constantly tell us that government spending is the only way to raise a faltering economy from recession.  But if this is the case, then why aren’t Olympic host cities shining examples of re-invigoration dotting the globe?  According to the rhetoric we’re fed, they should be the perfect microcosms of the ‘investment’ theory and be thriving from the created demand fueled by spending.

But the article goes deeper:

   The IOC insists that hosting is a huge honor for any city. The Games, it argues, lead to all sorts of wondrous economic, social, and athletic miracles . This isn’t true. Stephen Billings, an economics professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who has studied the economic impact of hosting the Games, says that even when hosting isn’t an economic sinkhole, as it was for Montreal—which didn’t pay off its debt for the 1976 Summer Olympics until 30 years later—having an Olympics in your city is, at best, “a wash.”

 

They like to call it ‘investment’.  But make no mistake, ALL government spending is, by default, a cost overrun.   All spending must eventually be paid for by someone because the government doesn’t just create wealth out of thin air – it has to take it from someone first.   (I know, I know, the government does create money out of thin air, but eventually even that will have to be repaid – with interest – or with blood)  So the next time someone like Krugman, or any other economic shyster tries to tell us that we need to spend beyond our means to get us out of trouble like THIS, or THIS,  Just remember that spending will eventually need to be paid back by the taxpayers.  But, you’ll have a nice crumbling superdome to live in during the depression.   You might even be able to take a nice, cheap vacation in Greece.  Overspending there made everything better, right?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby feather
October 12

Rahm the Racist

Well, that’s what he would have been called had he been a Republican and dared to blame Chicago’s increasing murder rate on the Ferguson debacle.    Yes, Rahm Emanuel, as outlined by the Chicago Tribune, stands by his comments made at a DC mayors junket.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday stood by his contention that Chicago police officers are becoming “fetal” out of concern they will get in trouble for actions during arrests, blaming officers second-guessing themselves in the wake of high-profile incidents for rising crime rates in Chicago and elsewhere.

“Fetal” is obviously used hyperbolically, but I don’t even agree with his premise.  A well trained, scrupled patrol officer would not hesitate to act in any given situation. A moral person is constantly tested in situations to make moral decisions.  So, any good officer, who makes these moral choices daily, would be comfortable making these types of decisions.   He would not hesitate – even with the knowledge of Ferguson and it’s aftermath.  Officers who consistently cross the legal line with impunity are the ones who would hesitate because they aren’t used to questioning their own actions. Corrupt officers, who do not have to worry about repercussions for their actions, now have to decide what is legal and not legal.  Which is exactly what police officers should be doing in EVERY situation.  Just like a common liars and thieves, only bad officers would have to constantly make sure their story is straight so as not to face a penalty.  Patrol cops who pull over drivers for legitimate reasons don’t worry about their jobs when they obey the law and respect the rights of citizens.  It’s the illegitimate traffic stops, intimidation, and provoked(or unprovoked) escalation they should be worrying about.  It’s exactly those officers that are becoming “fetal”, like babies with body armor and high powered weapons that are curling up like newborn babies because daddy Emmanuel won’t let them shoot people first anymore and find the lawbreakers later.   For the rule of law to work as intended, law enforcement is about BOTH sides obeying the law.

“Officers themselves are telling me about how the news over the last 15 months impacted their instincts: Do they stop or do they keep driving?” Emanuel said at an unrelated news conference. “When I stop here, is it going to be my career on the line? And that’s an honest conversation. And all of us who want officers to be proactive, to be able to do community policing in a proactive way, have to encourage them, so it’s not their job on the line or that judgment call all the time that if they stop, this could be a career-ender.”

Actually, Rahm, these are EXACTLY the questions officers should be asking at EVERY interaction.  They need to make sure their moral compasses are affixed properly at all times.  Those in charge of the law must respect it and the rights of citizens that they affect during the course of their job.  It’s called being a trained, competent professional.  Something Rahm has never had to worry much about because he gets to do whatever he wants, rules be damned.  How else do you get to be mayor of a town where you aren’t a resident?  Rules are barriers to people like Rahm and others who would flout the laws of the people.

You see, “Pro-active”, to Rahm,  is a code word for harassment and “instinct” is a code word for prejudice. If there is a legitimate reason for stopping someone, they should have nothing to worry about. Perhaps they need to be re-trained since their “instincts” have been curtailed. Maybe they are wrong and need to be taught new ones.   I, for one, want my police officers to act on facts, evidence, and not make rash judgments based on his personal prejudices.   You know, just like the NYC cop who tackled tennis star James Blake because his “instinct” told him to be “pro-active” and just tackle that black guy he just “knew” was a wanted criminal.   Instead of assessing the situation and setting, analyzing the man’s appearance, or using some type of evidence to ascertain this guy’s identity, I’ll just tackle this bastard who has no rights and ask questions later.    Emanuel would have called police work like this “pro-active” and not just tackling the guy as a “hesitation”.

Mistakes like that happen every day because police have been taught to do their jobs with overwhelming force instead of cunning and acuity.  They are not police, they are a gang of thugs.   Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we need to bring in the thugs to manhandle real criminals – but that comes after the “police” work is done.    We don’t need to unleash the grunts on the majority of law-abiding citizenry.  That would be crazy – and it would do nothing to stop the plethora of other problems and reasons why there is so much crime in the city of Chicago.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby feather
September 30

Paul Krugman’s Capitalist Manifesto : Do We Cheat ‘Em – And How!

Krugman is at it again in his relentless attempt to run all aspects of society – starting, as always, with the foibles of capitalism.  In a recent article, Dewey, Cheatam, & Howe, he takes the opportunity to besmirch the freedom of the marketplace by highlighting three current events that have “defrauded” the consumer at large.   As always, he starts out with a passive disclaimer:

No doubt I, like anyone who points out ethical lapses on the part of some companies, will be accused of demonizing business. But I’m not claiming that all businesspeople are demons, just that some of them aren’t angels.

Of course you’re not demonizing, Paul, you’re just…demonizing but claiming you’re not. We get it. You’ve set yourself up to say something nasty, but disclaim responsibility for it. You’re like that guy that starts off a sentence with , “not to sound like an asshole, but…” – but then says something an asshole would say. Rest assured, Krugman, we all know you’re the asshole.  So, anyway, here’s his first item of proof that capitalism is flawed:

Item: The C.E.O. of Volkswagen has resigned after revelations that his company committed fraud on an epic scale, installing software on its diesel cars that detected when their emissions were being tested, and produced deceptively low results.

Only – the results of the tests weren’t deceptive. The cars passed standards when tested. They didn’t”cheat” to pass – they passed. No, they didn’t function like that during everyday use, but they gave the consumer more miles per gallon and reliability when the emission controls were turned off. So, the consumers weren’t defrauded of any money, they actually saved money. If anyone was defrauded it was the EPA, and some say that the “environment” that we all share was defrauded and we’ll all die horrible deaths from…something or other. I sense an analogy here to the federally run public schools and being forced to teach to standardized tests instead of teaching skills and critical thinking that are more useful for everyday living, but I digress… In any case, Volkswagon aren’t “predators”.   Rule-benders or cheaters, maybe, but at least they’re not overtly trying to cover up product liability of things that might actually kill people – like GM did while the US Government was the primary stockholder.  Nope, a government regulation got defrauded – and that’s probably the worst thing that could ever happen to mankind according to people like Paul.

Item number two:

Item: The former president of a peanut company has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for knowingly shipping tainted products that later killed nine people and sickened 700.

Yes, it was a bad thing and people got sick and died. Companies got sued. President went to jail. I don’t see the evil here except that the system worked the way it was supposed to because this guy is going to pay for the crimes he committed. I’m guessing the company and their insurance are going to pay out lots of money in lawsuits as well.  How more government control of business would have kept people from dying I don’t know – except maybe torture and death penalty as a deterrent for food producers.  I’m sure that’s on Krugman’s agenda, but only when he becomes supreme leader.  There is also an irony here.  If the government DID extend it’s tentacles into all aspects of product control, there would still be no guarantees – even if they accepted all liability.  People still make mistakes, and sometimes purposefully like the peanut asshole guy.  And then, the broken families would have no recourse at all because you can’t sue the federal government – they have “sovereign immunity”.

Item number three:

Item: Rights to a drug used to treat parasitic infections were acquired by Turing Pharmaceuticals, which specializes not in developing new drugs but in buying existing drugs and jacking up their prices. In this case, the price went from $13.50 a tablet to $750.

Yeah, that guy is a jackhole. Everything about that guy reminds me of every asshole from the movie, American Psycho.  The blank, pale, inhuman stare. An insatiable lust for money and status and willingness to maim or kill to get it.  The guy owns the right to make the drug.  If you can make it cheaper, undercut him and steal his profit!  I guess it’s just easier to play the rich asshole card and regulate him into bankruptcy.   Fortunately, due to public outcry on television and the internet, the guy relented and said he’d drop the price to something more reasonable – new drug research be damned.  So, social capitalism worked in this case with no “extra” regulation needed.  Krugman’s article implies that all of these situations could have been avoided had there been a tighter Federal grip on on the neck of the economy. It’s his answer to everything: Capitalism doesn’t work so let’s force those greedy bastards to do our bidding. Economic forces aren’t doing what we want so let’s use government power to bend them. Social policies aren’t making people nicer, so let’s use the power of government to force them into submission.  People can’t be trusted to do the right thing, so we must force them to always make the right choice.  That sounds a lot like a boatload of tyranny, and, no doubt, music to Krugman’s ears.   Fortunately in America we have courts to solve these problems.  Courts of law and courts of public opinion.  Krugman, however, believes it would be much easier to let the government handle all the problems.

The premise of all of Krugman’s arguments almost always begin with existence of evil “free markets”.   Because they are supposed cesspools of evil-doers, they can’t be allowed to roam free – they must be controlled and forced to make nice nice instead of raping people with their freedom.  But, fortunately for Paul, as long as there is government, there will be regulation, so his tirade against Jeb Bush and the neo-con movement to erase regulation is a straw man argument.   It’s just a matter of what gets regulated, how oppressive it’ll be, and who’s cronies get paid. Krugman opts, obviously, for as much oppression and repression of the markets as possible.   So, when he paints Republicans and conservatives as free-wheeling anarchists who want no rules to restrict their freedom,  it’s simply not true. The argument is moot because regulation cannot and will not ever be “erased”.  It’s simply not possible.  That’s like saying the sky is falling or Republicans will end Social Security, or Democrats want to close Gitmo.  It’s never gonna happen.

So Jeb, nor any other Republican hopeful won’t be letting peanut butter presidents kill people nor let German car makers steal our fresh air.  Ronald Reagan may have said that Government was the problem, but he didn’t mean that no government is the solution.  Even die-hard Libertarians know that government is a necessary evil.  Krugman, however, believes that government is not only necessary but, in complete antithesis to Reagan, the only solution.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby feather
September 20

The Hypocrisy of Bernie Sanders

Self proclaimed Socialist Bernie Sanders appealed to a cheering audience last night on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  The “interview” of the presidential candidate allowed him an unchallenged opportunity to outline the pathos of his philosophy to a wide audience.

Sander’s opens this circle-jerk with an emotional appeal to guaranteed healthcare and family leave for all – as if it doesn’t already exist. We’re told to be angry that everyone isn’t being provided for, yet at no time is Sanders willing to admit that his philosophy has already given us the Federal Family Leave Act,  The Federal Medicare Program, The Supplemental Security Income program, the Earned Income Tax Credit,  the WIC program, Food Stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the most famous program – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.   Among a plethora of other state and federal programs to assist the disenfranchised, the latter on the list has been touted by it’s left leaning proponents as a rousing success- and Obama’s legacy of greatness.   So, Bernie – check one: we already have your socialist safety net yet you claim it doesn’t seem to be working- in administration or in practice to cure our economic disparity.  How does Bernie plan to improve this plan that already exists?  He never says.

His next diatribe is a logical approach with an implied equation.  He says the very rich should not be allowed to get richer while everyone else gets poorer.  The obvious implication is that the rich are so because they steal from the poor – and it was met with a rousing burst of applause.  This tactic is the basis for his philosophy and his entire campaign: the politics of envy.  We are told  to be angry at those who have, as we have not.  Colbert asks what this means in “concrete terms”, as an appeal to the practicality of the disparity and what to do about it, but Bernie doesn’t take the bait.  He can’t say anything “concrete” because that would have to rely on real logic, not emotion, so he avoids the question by an appeal to ethos when he states that it is a, “…moral outrage that the top one tenth of one percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.”   ‘A’ moral outrage implies that this is a fact and not a subjective judgement, but it’s just a re-iteration of his mantra.  There’s no explanation of how this phenomenon affects a 99 percenter’s life on a daily basis or how it relates to the price of a gallon of milk.  It’s stated as a fact and the cause of societal ills with no basis or proof of any kind.

I’m not saying the point is invalid.  Super rich ARE getting richer, but Bernie never uses a real argument to back up his implication that because there are rich, you are poor   It could be argued that some uneven wealth distribution can limit economic growth for many income brackets.  For example, if we lived in a feudal society where the local Lord owns 99% of all the wealth and everyone  else had nothing and was dependent on the Lord to distribute his fortune among the peasantry, Sander’s would have an argument.  But that logic doesn’t work here, and Sander’s is unwilling to provide any.  There is plenty of wealth to “go around” apart from the super-rich corporations he’s building a case against.  Those uber-wealthy have no absolute control of wealth and we are not dependent upon them for a weekly stipend of food and water.  The fact of the matter is that the super rich, or even the general rich aren’t the only ones who create jobs, or products and services in our economy.  And the uber-rich don’t get their money by taking away and selling poor people’s food stamps.  They get it from the consumers that buy their goods and services – and those aren’t the poor.  If anyone is to be mad it should be the middle classes who have to funnel money to these rich AND feed the poor with a higher percentage of their tax dollars.

And that brings us to Bernie’s next point that billion dollar corporations don’t pay a nickel of Federal income tax.  What no one of his ilk seem to realize is that no company pays any taxes whether imposed or not.  Consumers pay the tax, whenever imposed, on top of the price of goods and services.  You want to force Apple to pay more tax?  Fine, have fun paying $1000 for an iPhone instead of $700.  General Motors is being forced to pay a $900 billion fine to the government.  What do you think that will do to the price of a Cadillac?  Bernie and his followers need a good economics lesson as to how goods are priced in the marketplace, but it’s easier to fuel envy and demonize those who “don’t pay a nickel” in taxes.  Poor people don’t pay federal income tax – they get free cash money for being poor called the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Should we be extra mad at them for not paying taxes? Should there be a moral outrage that they take money from me to buy flatscreen tv’s at Wal-mart?

But the final point Sander’s makes when being compared to Donald Trump is that, unlike himself, Trump arouses the base instincts of Republicans.  Namely those traits of racism and xenophobia and, as Sander’s puts it, “[Trump is].. describing an entire group of people…as rapists or as criminals.”  He’s against fostering hate, like Trump does, and turning it against people.   Ironic statements coming from Sanders considering he just spent the last 15 minutes outlining a moral outrage against rich people and depicting them as economic rapists and non-tax paying criminals.  This is, of course, the standard political tactic of any Democrat, or Socialist, or ‘Progressive’: attacking your opponent for doing exactly what you are doing.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby feather