Saturday, November 17, 2012

Retrospective

The elections are over.  The people have spoken — we think.  Republicans are crying in their beers.  Democrats are celebrating, but few of them know what or why.  All they know is that 'our side won!', and this is a good thing because 'our side' will make things better.  Oddly, few reflect that both sides claim to want to 'make things better' and that whichever side has been in power for the last ninety-or-so years, things have not gotten better.  Far from it, things have gotten progressively worse whether the Republicans were in charge or the Democrats.

"It's the economy, stupid!"  Both parties, of course, claim to know the secret formula, the magic incantation that will make all our economic problems disappear.  Neither party, it seems, has been in power long enough to actually mutter the counter-curse that expels our economic demons.  Even FDR, in office for a record 12 years (16 had he lived out his fourth term), had insufficient time to put everything to rights.

Perhaps it's time for us to consider a heretical suggestion.  Perhaps it's time for us to entertain the notion that politicians, for all their promises to the contrary, in fact cannot manage economies, that politicians may be the cause of those economic problems.  Given their success at fixing economic problems, it's at least a plausible theory.  What's more, it has "the ring of truth".  Observe:

Let us start with the assumption that politicians can manage economies.  Alright, that means we are standing here, the rubble of a housing bubble around our feet, the Fed about to start printing $40 Billion (with a 'B') per month for 'Quantitative Easing III' because (we are told) QE2 and QE1 didn't perform as expected, official unemployment around 8% (although some of us suspect it's really above 20%), and all because those politicians managed the economy.  I beg your pardon?  They managed us into this mess?  Somebody get a rope.  Somebody get 535 ropes.

Oh, you meant they could have managed the economy if it weren't for that dratted "other party".  I see.  Only one party knows how to manage the economy, but the others are just obstructionists intent on preventing us fixing this mess.  If only the people would stop electing them, things would turn right around.  Riiiiight...  Eight years in power just isn't enough time for us to show some progress towards a solution.  I don't know whether that's malfeasance, misfeasance, or just nonfeasance, but I think we're going to need more rope.

Interestingly enough, it seems that every country has more-or-less the same problem, and their politicians are no better at managing their economies than ours are at managing ours.  Just cast a glance across the Atlantic and see the troubles plaguing the Eurozone.  Gosh, it's like looking in a mirror, isn't it?

No, there's no evidence to indicate any politician anywhere has any clue about running an economy, and any politician who claims to know how is probably committing fraud.  Pffft.  Now there's a revelation.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Should We Tolerate Muslims?

An American filmmaker (I use the term in its broadest, most inclusive sense) makes a film critical of Islam and Mohammed.  The Muslim World goes nuts (not exactly something unusual) and now the U.S. Ambassador to Libya is dead along with three others, and the embassy in Tripoli is ashes.  A CNN blogging-head suggests that it's not really the fault of those Muslims because they've all been raised under dictatorships and don't understand esoteric concepts like 'freedom of speech'; they think the U.S. government should have prevented the production of that film just as their own government would have.  Americans, by and large, are shocked at how thin-skinned Muslims seem to be.

Yeah, well, this isn't the first time we've run afoul of Muslim hypersensitivity and it assuredly won't be the last.  What to do?  What to do?

Here's what I'd do:  I would immediately cut off foreign aid to Libya and any other country we know or suspect implements Sharia law until such time as they demonstrate that they can act like adults and not merely petulant children.  I would warn Americans that travel in those parts of the world are extremely hazardous and that they should expect no diplomatic or consular help should they step on the wrong crack on a Muslim sidewalk.  I would immediately impose severe visa requirements on all those countries, cancelling all existing visas, and expelling any here on those cancelled visas.  That includes diplomats, and I would pull all of our foreign service personnel from their countries.

Left to their own devices, the Muslim world would quickly devolve to its natural state — a ninth- or tenth- century culture, complete with slaves and beheadings on the town square (something that actually still happens in places like Saudi Arabia).  Since this appears to be what they so desperately desire, we should strive to make them happy by cutting them off from all our decadent 21st-century technology.  Set them adrift.  Isolate them from the civilized world.

Someday, possibly far in the future, Islam, the Religion of Peace, will discover The Golden Rule and internalize it to their theology.  They will stop 'converting by the sword' in the name of a god who apparently isn't awe-inspiring enough to gain adherents merely by the strength of hir philosophy.  Until then, Islam cannot claim to be a religion in the true sense of the word.  Until then, Islam is merely ideology.  Since it's not a real religion, the First Amendment doesn't apply, and we should forbid the practice of Islam, just as we would squelch Communists and anarchists.  Should Islam ever overtake America, you can be sure they would see it exactly that way as regards Christianity, Judaism, and any other religions.

We've already got more than our fair share of ideologues here in America.  Let's not go looking abroad for more.  Cut them loose.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Little Blue Book

Subtitled "The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic", this volume gives the party faithful a guide to winning debates with Conservatives.  Yes, it's all Bantha poo;  how could it not be?  But while it does have some interesting stuff, don't try this one on me:

"The liberal market economy maximizes overall freedom by serving public needs: providing needed products at reasonable prices for reasonable profits, paying workers fairly and treating them well, and serving the communities to which they belong."

Left unsaid here is the definition of "reasonable" and (more importantly) who decides what constitutes "reasonable".  I have my own definition, and if you leave it up to me, you may be quite uncomfortable with the result.  Lucky for you, I don't get to make that decision.  Lucky for me, you don't get to make it either.  Here's why:

When making economic decisions, these decisions cannot be made in a vacuum.  Every decision affects every other facet of the economy to a greater or lesser extent.  The problem is best illustrated by a water balloon:  squeeze it here;  it bulges someplace else.  Where?  Nobody knows.  It might bulge where the effect is beneficial but it might  (and Murphy says it probably will)  bulge where the effect would be catastrophic.  That is:  making a good change here might cause a much worse change elsewhere.  You can't get past this.  There is no one and no group with adequate knowledge or wisdom or skill to guide the economy in a constantly positive direction.  Even if they succeed temporarily, eventually this chicken will come home to roost.

It gets worse.  "[B]y ... providing needed products at reasonable prices" has a built-in self-destruct mechanism:  the one who sets the reasonable price is, in the liberal economy, not the one who produces.  If the producer judges that the reasonable price is unreasonably low  (and, really, what other scenario is there?)  production doesn't happen.  There's an old joke my mother used to tell me:

"How much are these bananas?"
"$1.69 per pound."
"That's outrageous!  The market down the street sells bananas for 79 cents per pound!"
"Okay, go buy them from the market down the street."
"They're out of bananas."
"Oh, when I'm out of bananas, the price is 59 cents per pound."

When the price is unreasonably low  (in the producer's estimation)  you're out of bananas. If the selling price is unreasonably high in the buyer's estimation, you're left with lots of brown bananas.  Commerce happens when buyers and sellers agree... unless  (as in The Affordable Care Act)  government steps in to force commerce to happen.  Again, this can only go on for so long.  Eventually production stops, companies leave the insurance biz, cost-effective alternatives are found and the system is thwarted.  Only in a thorough-going police state can this scheme be run on a relatively-long-term basis, and we have some good examples of how that works in the not-so-relatively-long-term:  In 1989, after driving The Great Socialist Experiment in near-laboratory conditions for 71 years, the USSR collapsed economically.  A country with everything going for it simply could not overcome the effect of the economy doing what it damned well pleased in violation of the Commissars' orders.

The only solution that works consistently and corrects itself rapidly is an unfettered free market, and by 'unfettered', I mean unfettered:  give the government authority to license entry into the market to keep the unscrupulous out and it fails;  let corporations shield their assets via the scam of 'limited liability' and it fails;  let the government issue letters of patent and it fails;  let companies rig the market by having trade secrets whose secrecy they may enforce in court and it fails.  And when it fails, who gets hurt?  Corporate officers?  Probably not.  Government officials?  Never.  Joe Sixpack?  Joe takes it in the shorts every time.  It's Joe who ends up on a soup line while the well-connected escape to Barbados.

Yet, who is it that constantly whines about government not doing enough to manage the economy?  Why...  isn't that our old friend Joe holding a placard over there and chanting something about 'the 99%'?  Yes, I think it is...

Until we solve the problem of people ordering poison for others and drinking it themselves, we will never have an economy that doesn't prove "it's not what you know, it's who you know".

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Those damned wily Democrats! (snort)

Well, no doubt about it, this economy is sicksicksick and it's all Obama's fault.

At least, that's what some people would like you to think.  Those people would be Republicans.  In fairness, the Democrats want you to believe that the whole mess is directly attributable to the GOP.  Is it a breath mint or is it a candy mint?  Indeed, it's both.

Don't believe me?  Observe:

Here's how the 'budget process' works:  the President puts together a budget and ships it over to Congress for its approval, House first, then the Senate because all revenue bills must originate in the House.  The two houses of Congress massage the budget then conference on the changes, if any, and pass the approved budget back to 1600 Pennsylvania for a signature.  The President signs the budget bill and then instructs the IRS to go collect the taxes authorized by the budget.

If the President doesn't like what Congress did to the budget (if they did anything) the President can veto it.  Congress can override the veto if 2/3rds of both houses insist on their version.  If the veto isn't overridden, there is no budget and the IRS has no authority to collect any taxes.  Everything stops for lack of funding.

So...  you can pass a budget with simple majorities in both houses if the President agrees.  If the President doesn't agree, you'll need supermajorities of both houses to get a new budget.

The flip side of that coin is this:  If you have a majority in even one house, you can force spending down to the level you will tolerate.  If the President is on your side, you only need 1/3rd of one house to sustain a veto.  That is, 'keeping things from happening' takes only a fraction of the power that 'making things happen' takes.

If your party has the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress, you can pretty much do as you please, except that the Senate can filibuster a bill to death with a mere 41 'nay' votes on cloture.  The last time the Republicans didn't have 41 votes in the Senate was 1979, the 95th Congress.  Since 1980, the GOP has had the ability to rein in spending in nine Congresses out of sixteen.  Add in 'enough juice to sustain a veto' and the Dems have only had an unassailable upper hand for something like seven years out of the last thirty-two.  Add in 'enough Senate votes to pull off a filibuster', and the Dems have never (since 1980) been able to get whatever they wanted.

Oh.  I hear you protesting that some Republicans regularly cast Democrat-ish votes and can't be relied upon to stand foursquare behind the party's goals.  That's a problem, but I'm not in your party, so it's your problem.

All I need you Republicans to do is stop complaining about how bad the Democrats are.

P.s.:  the same analysis applies to every law, not just the budget, and it applies equally to both parties.  The numbers might vary a little, but the overall analysis is identical.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Democratic Electoral Trap

Sometime next year — mid-2013 or so — the U.S. economy will crater.  The Weimar-Republic-like inflation we've been worrying about will finally become a reality.  The dollar will crumble.  The "world's reserve currency" will have gone the way of the Euro which will likely crumble this year.  The new "world's reserve currency" will be the Yuan and China will call the tune.

The Democrats are hoping they will be able to play the game for another inning or two, but they are probably wrong.  Whoever wins the White House in 2012 will preside over the disolution of the American economy.  Both the Republicans and the Democrats are hoping to be that someone.  It is clear they have a death wish, because the party left standing when the music stops will never thereafter win another national election.

I'm assuming here that Barack Obama will be the Democratic candidate and that Ron Paul will not be the Republican candidate.

There is a small non-zero probability that Ron Paul will secure the GOP nomination and go on to defeat Obama in November, but I'm not betting any actual money on it.  If such a miraculous thing happens and if President Paul really does yank all our troops out of foreign countries and if he manages to cut a serious chunk out of the bloated federal budget...  IF...  the economy might be saved at least temporarily.

The short odds are on Romney or Gingrich going up against Obama...  and losing.  The winner loses and the loser wins.  Could it be possible that the GOP is really smarter than we ever gave them credit for?  That they will back a known-loser so that Obama gets re-elected and is thus in a target position when it all comes tumbling down?

I don't believe that.  I believe the GOP is in denial:  they don't believe a meltdown is imminent and they believe they can beat Obama with the likes of Gingrich.  They will lose in November and thus save their party (accidentally) while condemning all the rest of us to Hell.

It will be a good time to be in debt.  The resulting inflation will wipe most of that debt out by allowing the debtors to pay it off with cheap dollars.  I may just refinance my house.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Republican Electoral Trap

The GOP is in serious trouble.  They have tried with all of their might to marginalize Ron Paul, and they have been only marginally successful.  This is inadequate.  The GOP must be able to make Ron Paul a non-person, an almost impossible feat unless Paul is caught in bed with "a dead girl or a live boy".  Not bleedin' likely.

So, what's the trap?  It's this:  Ron Paul supporters — by and large — will desert the GOP if Ron Paul is not the party's candidate.  'Big deal,' you say.  'Big deal,' I repeat.  Yes, it is a big deal.

If Iowa can be believed, Ron Paul owns twenty-something percent of likely GOP voters, and over the course of time (if things go as they have been going) this will grow.  The problem for the GOP is that most mainline Republicans simply want to beat Barack Obama in 2012.  Ron Paul's supporters want Ron Paul to beat Barack Obama in 2012.  These goals are at serious cross-purposes.  If Ron Paul isn't the GOP's choice to cross swords with the incumbent, Paulistsas will either stay home on Election Day or vote Libertarian.  What if, on Election Day, 20% or more of Republican voters don't show up?  (I'm here positing that voting for some other party is, as far as the GOP is concerned, the same as not voting at all.)  In order to make a decent showing, whoever is the GOP candidate will need every available nominally-GOP voter plus a smattering of nominal Democrats.  A GOP candidate who cannot pull that off cannot defeat the incumbent President.  Cannot.

Ron Paul can.  Romney may if he sucks in a noticeable chunk of Democratic voters;  don't bet on it.  Santorum and Gingrich cannot, nor can any of those candidates who have dropped out of the race.

To summarize:  the GOP seems intent on having Romney go head-to-head with Obama, but he will do so without twenty percent or more of the voters he's counting on, the voters he's depending on.  Romney, no matter how good he looks the morning of Election Day, will lose to Barack Obama.  Ron Paul may also lose to Barack Obama;  it's possible a large chunk of Republicans will desert the GOP if Ron Paul is the candidate;  it's possible.  Walter Williams has already suggested that this election is a waste of money and air time.  Ron Paul is, however, the only Republican who has a prayer of unseating Obama.  That's going to be hard for mainline Republicans to handle.  Can they do it?  My money is on Obama.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Enemy Action

  • Dec 15th, 2011 — Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler was arrested at an airport in New York City after he attempted to check-in a locked gun box holding his Glock 27 pistol and ammunition to a Delta Airlines ticket agent.
  • Dec 22nd, 2011 — 39-year-old Meredith Graves, an RN studying for her MD and who has a Tennessee concealed weapons permit, was arrested on a gun-possession charge when she tried to check her loaded pistol at the WTC memorial.
  • Jan 2nd, 2012 — Ryan Jerome was enjoying his first trip to New York City on business when the former Marine Corps gunner walked up to a security officer at the Empire State Building and asked where he should check his gun.

A prominent political activist from California, a Registered Nurse-Medical student from Tennessee, and a combat Marine from Indiana, three vicious criminals now safely stowed behind bars in New York City where they won't be able to threaten the peace and safety of the community further.  Score three for the Sullivan Law and New York's no-nonsense zero-tolerance for terrorists with handguns.

Military people will tell you: the first time it's an accident, the second time it's a coincidence, but the third time it's 'enemy action'.  Is it possible this all has nothing to do with H.R. 822 now working its way through Congress?  H.R. 822 would require states which issue concealed weapons permits to recognize permits issued by other states.  People would always have to abide by the local restrictions, but these three would not have been arrested had H.R. 822 already been signed into law.  'Enemy action' indeed.

For a hundred years, New York State's 'Sullivan Law' has made it difficult to get a handgun permit in most of the state and damn-near-impossible in New York City where you have to be a close personal friend of the mayor in order to qualify.  A NYS pistol permit is not even valid in New York City.  As a result, most of the violent crime in New York is committed with guns obtained elsewhere from states with horridly permissive laws.  Oddly, crime in those otherwise lax jurisdictions never seems to rise to the levels of New York despite Rudy Giuliani, 'America's Mayor', having turned the place into a veritable police state.  To deter malefactors from continuing their dastardly pursuits, New York imposes draconian punishments:  each of the three criminals mentioned above are facing three-and-a-half years in slam if convicted, loss of voting rights, and loss of their 2nd amendment rights — in perpetuity.

If convicted.

Therein lies the rub.  New York's DA, one Cyrus Vance Jr., has some experience prosecuting such cases, three of which are now on his docket.  Alas for Cyrus, that experience is mostly bad.  Early in 2011, Jonathan Ryan of Florida was stopped by NYPD for making an illegal right-on-red (legal in NYS, illegal in NYC, go figure).  During the stop, the police discovered a 9mm pistol in the car's glove box and arrested Ryan for illegal possession of a handgun.  Facing three-and-a-half years in prison, Ryan nevertheless rolled his dice for double-or-nothing.  The jury took thirty minutes to deliver a 'not guilty' verdict.  The cops kept Ryan's gun anyway, but he walked out of the courthouse a free man.  The newest three defendants are even more sympathetic and thus even less likely than was Ryan to be convicted.  In view of that, Cy Vance may not even bother charging them.  If Vance takes their cases to court, he will win or he will lose.

If he wins, he will spray gasoline onto the brush fire that H.R. 822 has been thus far.  If he loses, his credibility (and possibly his career as a prosecutor) will lie in tatters — and he will spray gasoline onto the brush fire that H.R. 822 has been thus far.  Win or lose, he loses.  Beyond doubt, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-founder of MAIG, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, smells blood in the water.  Is he smart enough to realize (or suspect) that the blood was put there on purpose?...  that high-priced lawyers in the suburbs around Washington D.C. are waiting for him to take a nice, big bite?  And I do mean 'big':  Gura and Possessky PLLC has just been awarded $1.3 million in attorneys' fees for their win in D.C. v Heller where the Supreme Court struck down D.C.'s total ban on handguns.  D.C.'s ban was barely more severe than NYC's regime whereby huge filing fees ($445) are necessary merely to have one's application considered.  There is no guarantee that consideration will result in a NYC concealed weapons permit; in fact, it is a near-certainty that the application will be rejected absent some extraordinary circumstances.  This 'restrictive may-issue' policy thus comes very close to a total ban, such that of NYC's 7 million-plus inhabitants, only 2,291 of them may actually carry a firearm with them wherever they go.

So...  D.C. has had their total ban burned to the ground in D.C. v Heller (2008), and Chicago's ban has been ruled unconstitutional in McDonald v Chicago (2010).  Is New York City next?  One can only hope.