Archive for the 'Chris' Page' Category

Big Banks Got Played

A Daring Trade Has Wall Street Seething from the Wall Street Journal. Amherst, a small Austin firm found a small loophole in the system. To use a crude metaphor, they sold the big banks hurrican insurance and then made sure the hurrican never came.

The burned banks include J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and Bank of America Corp. Some banks have reached out to two industry trade groups about Amherst’s actions, and the groups are reviewing the transaction, according to people familiar with their thinking. “It’s all-out warfare” between the banks and Amherst, said a senior banker at one firm that lost money.

Really though, I imagine the big banks are mad that they didn’t think of it first.

Economics of Contempt has much more (and better) analysis here.

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Spending Cuts: Better Ideas Needed from the GOP

At the Next Right, Tad DeHaven looks at why The GOP Is Clearly Not Serious about Cutting Down Spending.

The spending cuts the country needs must be substantial, serious, and
put forward in the spirit of recognizing that the federal government’s
role in our lives must be downsized.  Half-measures are not enough, and
from the Republican House leadership, wholly insufficient for winning
back the support of limited-government voters who have come to
associate the GOP with runaway spending and debt.

I have to agree, we need a more thorogh overhaul of the federal budget. Defense spending should not be off limits. You can go over it with a slightly more lax standard but it’s ripe for wasteful spending cuts. Is there any specific reason why every part of the federal budget needs to grow by so much every year? Matthew Yglesias also makes a good point about needing more targeting in the cuts.

If we’re just going to reduce outlays in an arbitrary, across-the-board
way, why should defense and Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid
be left off the table? Well, presumably they don’t want to cut the
defense budget because they think it’s important. But isn’t the FBI
important? Prisons? If Medicare’s important, isn’t the CDC important?
What would be helped by slashing Pell Grants?

This is right, we do need to look at each program and decide what to cut (there’s plenty), but I also think the debt is a sufficient worry that we do need an across the board stop on the spending increases. And yes, even to the bike path funds Matt is so committed to while the nation watches its bond rating drop. There’s plenty of projects that aren’t needed, and plenty that aren’t performing well enough to justify their funds. And that’s just being conservative. If we want to get aggressive here, there’s entire departments that can be eliminated (housing? education?).

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Taxing Email is Useless

Derek Thompson at the Atlantic blog writes about a NY Times piece on taxing email. He’s not advocating it, or arguing against it but looking at the supposed benefits and negatives, and how it would likely increase instant messaging.

What would be the effects of an email tax? I’m not sure it would make such a big difference. To save my daily pennies, I know I would lean more on Gchat or other instant message programs, and I’m sure everybody else would too.

Would that be taxed next? If email can be taxed, why not aim? However one of the key benefits touted by both the Times article and Thompson is that it would curtail the deluge of spam that we all recieve. You know, hey spammers send a lot of email, let’s just tax email, then we not only get less spam, but make money too! Anyone see any holes? I do. How do you keep track of emails and then send the tax bill?

Such a tax is feasible, he says, since e-mail addresses are easily identifiable by Internet service providers and they could pass on the levy in their monthly bills to users.

The problem with this? This isn’t how spam works. Spam is sent from “zombie pc’s“, meaning unknowing grandparents and non-netsavvy people are going to get a huge bill come due for the spam sent. Furthermore, the government will always be behind in technology, there’s just no way spammers and people wouldn’t be able to get around the tax through forged email headers, botnets, tor networks, ect. This will end up costing the unfortunately honest people and not the dishonest ones it’s targeted to.

Let’s also not overlook the liberal arrogance of the Times piece:

You might gulp at the $3-a-day cost for 100 e-mails, but don’t forget you pay more to gulp your daily large caramel macchiato.

For one thing, $3 a day is a lot of money in a year ($1095), for another, I have no idea what a caramel macchiato is.

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GPS System Could Break Down Next Year

On the bright side, I’ll be able to save battery life on my iphone by turning off the gps. The downside of course being that the gps is increadibly useful.

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Some Lenders Object, Why Not Others?

20 Chrysler lenders or about 30% of the debt Chrysler owes lending institutions are objecting to getting fleeced in the governments planned “surgical bankruptcy” plan. In a normal bankruptcy the senior secured creditors (the lenders) are first in line, while unsecured lenders (UAW) and equity holders are last. This is the basis for the lenders’ complaint:

Creditors object to the way the restructuring benefits the United Auto Workers union, which is an unsecured creditor, for the $10.6bn Chrysler owes to its retiree healthcare fund.

“What’s happening is the senior secured creditors are going to get 29 cents on the dollar and the unsecured creditors are going to get $10bn,” said Mr Lauria.

Now I think the obvious unasked question is, if the lenders are getting such a raw deal, why are only these institution objecting? what about the other lenders making up 70% of the loans? Your indirect answer is present toward the last half of the article.

Chrysler’s four main banks – JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup – had received about $90bn in government bail-out [TARP] cash.

Now we see why these banks are going along with losing all this money. They are scared of the government’s wraith. After Congress almost retroactively changed their contracts with AIG, and Attorney Generals outright threatened AIG executives physical well being, these TARP banks realize that the government is NOT bound by following the rules of law and can punish them for not acting in the government’s best political interest, namely, making sure the UAW is placated.

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Twitter as a Story Telling Medium

Twitter is the social media website that allows users to share updates on their life with others who choose to follow their updates. It’s proved useful for friends to quickly keep in touch, politicians to keep constituents updated on their activities, bands to interact with fans,  place for famous people to be regular Joes and much more.

Well one interesting use that I had not thought of before appears to be play out out right now, partially started by the recent Swine/H1N1/Mexico Flu outbreak. I jokingly that I was going to start calling it “Captain Trips” and that got me added by one . From there I (and others) discovered the stories of Stephen King (namely The Stand and The Dark Tower) unfolding across our very twitter pages. As a fan, this excites me, as an observer it fascinates me.

This presents a very new and unique way for players (actors?) to perform before an audience of millions. Free form, adjustable, personal and interactive, it’s really fun to watch unfold. Each character with an account, interacting with their tweets to create a story. Could we see this move from an homage now, to something more purposeful in the future? A production of actors using twitter accounts as characters to tell their own story or to give, in essence, a twitter-play? Only Ka will tell. Long days and pleasant nights to you.

edit: Also, in talking about story telling on twitter, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention and his on going tale.

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New GOP 2012 Challenger: Gary Johnson?

2012 could be an interesting year for GOP presidential candidates if it features both Mark Sanford and Gary Johnson. This, along with the tea party movements, seems to be an outgrowth of the Ron Paul candidacy, perhaps similar to what happened to the Democrats after the Dean candidacy.

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Journalist Arrest for Journalism in Front of USC Journalist School?

That’s the glib way to put it, but John Ziegler explains what he says happened at event and responds to a Journalism school Dean Wilson’s email accusing the Dean of “blatantly lying”. Go check it out and watch the video for yourself.

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Your New Drink

Burbon and Ginger beer. Thank me later reader(s).

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Tea Party Turnout Totals

Texas leads the way with 18 protests and 64,000 attendees.

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US Treasury Refusing Bank Repayments?

That’s what’s claimed in this article in the IBD. This becomes pretty thuggish when you add to the fact that these banks were (allegedly) outright threatened to take the TARP funds in the first place. The reason for all of this is to make the process as opaque as possible. The political establishment’s efforts at transparency thus far have been just a show to get elected and/or score political points. It’s obvious neither Obama nor Bush believed in it, so why should we expect it with the TARP funds?

The idea as I understand it is to make sure no one knows which banks needed the money so as to not cause a run on that bank. But that means the market doesn’t know which banks are good either and so rather than reward good banks it just waits the whole thing out. Now of course the gov’t can’t accept repayments because that would make it obvious that those banks that can’t pay back the money aren’t doing as well as those that can. This is a pretty clear refusal to let the market work ostensibly because it’s “broken”.

Now all this wouldn’t be as bad if it wasn’t the gov’t involved. Why? Because the gov’t interests are politics. You have people involved and now running things that aren’t looking out for the best of the company, nor the market, but for their best interests which are being popular. Combine that with the ignorance of the system or market and you get stuff like Maxine Walters’ crazy and conspiratorial questions. Combine that with grift and you get Chris Dodd and Barney Frank. So now with the gov’t involved we start seeing wild political demands on these banks with the full force of a hypocritically righteous rage. Limits on wage rates, specially targeted, punitive 90% taxes that go back on contracts, outright extralegal public threats to intimidate.

This is why it’s dangerous to deal with the government because the government has captured that industry and won’t give it back while it can still play with it (i.e. ruin it).

(edit to fix some atrocious spelling)

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Sugarland Tea Party

Live at the Sugarland tea party now. Yes I’m working harder than Washington already. Good number of people here. Hundreds maybe over 1000 if you count people that left earlier. Young republican head talking now after the railroad commish I think (edit: yes, it is Elizabeth Ames Jones). Now it’s Ted Cruz speaking. Set up is pretty open in front of city hall, compared to the closed in park in downtown Houston.

Last speaker is a fair tax advocate. Overall pretty good speakers but I think that may be because this tea party is associated a little closer with the local politicians. That’s a little less likely in big cities like Houston.

Update: Now that I’m home, some more thoughts and pictures below. The thing to know about Sugarland is that it’s a suburb of Houston, but its own city. It’s very affluent with lots of upper income and well educated people. The area is pretty strict Republican helping to elect Pete Olsen to Tom Delay’s old seat.

The crowd was a little more uniform and older, and there were few if any Ron Paul types there.

Pictures below the fold.


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Houston Tea Party

I’m at the Houston tea party downtown right now. Over 1000 people easy (update: closer to 10,000). Definitely an experience. I can’t even get close enough to see the stage. Previous speaker was pretty good at firing up the crowd tossing out lots of slogans and popular pro-American sentiments. Speaker now it a bit more academic. Out of the Ron Paul mold, referring to mises and Austrian economics. Giving a historical tax lecture. Protest babes when I get home. Update: More pictures below the fold (more…)

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List of All Tea Party Protests

A pretty comprehensive list for Texas here. I roughly estimate around 64 protests planned for just Texas. You’ll note that other states are listed on the right. I’m closer to the Sugarland one and may check it out. I’m curious to see just how big it will be, especially considering there’s about 4 other Tea Party protests planned for the Greater Houston area.

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Jenny McCarthy Body Count?

though probably not the kind you were hoping for. I think the “Anti-Vaccine Body Count” version is the better one to use, but the Jenny McCarthy one will be used because it’s more sensational and attention grabbing, the same reasons anti-vaxers use Jenny McCarthy as their spokeswoman.

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Happy Tax Freedom Day

Today is the day that we have earned enough to pay its tax burden for the year. This year’s day comes earlier than last year, though this is due to recent stimulus effects. Before you start to celebrate though, Doug Bandow warns us that the future does not look good on the tax burden front.

Runaway spending ensures that this year’s TFD will be dwarfed by future TFDs. Some day someone will have to pay off the debts being run up today. The Obama administration’s budget figures are bad enough, but they almost certainly rest upon unrealistic economic expectations. The CBO again offers a sobering analysis: “CBO’s estimates of deficits under the President’s budget exceed those anticipated by the administration by $2.3 trillion over the 2010-2019 period.”

What do do about it? Many are taking to Tea Party protests. While Jon Henke defends the protests from Paul Krugman’s libel.

Yet, in today’s New York Times column (in which he makes some reasonable points about the sad state of the Republican Party), Paul Krugman grossly misuses a term to libel a variety of people.

Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.

What Freedomworks and various other organizations are doing is not “astroturf” any more than the anti-war protests of some years back were astroturf because ANSWER and helped organize people around those events.  Astroturfing is paid activism by an organization; it is not genuine grassroots activism that funded groups are simply helping to organize.

Update: More piling on from my home town Tea Party site.

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Hey Now

Who are all these people posting on my blog?

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Using a Police Search as a Free Speech Threat

That’s what is claimed by Jeff Pataky after his home was searched by Arizona police and his computers, records, wireless router, and even his cable modem (presumably to cut off his internet access so as to quit blogging) were confiscated. Pataky runs the quite amazing Bad Phoenix Cops blog that is critical of the Phoenix police force to put it mildly. Some of that blog and its accusations really have to be seen to be believed, quite amazing stuff. They now have a press release up that provides some shocking (if true, remember this is all one sided)

In a retaliatory measure and while the Notice of Claim was still pending, the Phoenix Police raided the Plaintiffs home with a search warrant, unlawfully imprisoned a guest and refused them access to counsel. During the search, officers seized all documents pertaining to the District Court lawsuit, including privileged communications with counsel and all recordings and evidence relating to the District Court case. Seizure of these documents and communications are in violation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights.

Terry Heaton looks at the First Amendment outrages in the City’s defense of the incident.

But here’s what really bothers me. In justifying the raid, Phoenix Assistant Chief Andy Anderson called Pataky’s site “an unaccredited grassroots Web site.” Um, Chief Anderson, who “accredits” web sites? This is the most chilling part of the whole thing to me, because the police and the courts in Phoenix have taken it upon themselves to determine who qualifies as “the press.” And here’s the thing: anybody with an ounce of ink in their blood knows that Pataky deserves First Amendment protection, but they’re unlikely to say it publicly, because “the (professional) press” thinks of itself as a special class of people and have railed for years against the likes of Pataky.

Pretty outrageous stuff, but all I can think is that if Pataky’s blog delt with an election candidate/campagn then he might see his right to free speech go out the window thanks to Campaign Finance Reform laws.

(HT: Insta)

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Obama Fires Izzo

awards Michigan State 18 points.

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The 90% Myth – Only 17% of Guns in Mexico Come from US

You’ve probably heard all over the media and from the politicos about the out of control crime in Mexico. And of course 90% of the guns used come from the US so therefore we need to take away your guns. Leaving aside the dubious logic of citizens having to give up their rights because the Government cannot secure our border there’s one thing about that statistic everyone needs to know, it’s not true.

The fact is, only 17 percent of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced to the U.S.

What’s true, an ATF spokeswoman told, in a clarification of the statistic used by her own agency’s assistant director, “is that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S.”

But a large percentage of the guns recovered in Mexico do not get sent back to the U.S. for tracing, because it is obvious from their markings that they do not come from the U.S.

“Not every weapon seized in Mexico has a serial number on it that would make it traceable, and the U.S. effort to trace weapons really only extends to weapons that have been in the U.S. market,” Matt Allen, special agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told FOX News.

So basically what it’s saying is that 90% of US weapons come from the US. Our very own gun control and government regulation is creating this misperception because the government requires guns to be traceable.

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IPhone Blogging

Blogging from the iPhone. This will probably be everyday useful once they get copy/paste but could be great for covering events live and with pictures.

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I’ve recently joined the ranks of the twitterati. If you’re so inclined, you can follow my twitter feed . Content is a bit lighter than on here of course.

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Why the AIG Mess is Ignorant Populism of the Worst Kind

Via Greg Mankiw comes this letter by a Mr. Desantis published in the NYTimes. The government is spinelessly trying to punish the very people who’s help it most needs. It’s almost tragic really.

I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

And I think I find Andrew Cuomo’s actions the most deplorable. The head of the law and order of the state of New York, residing in an office dedicated to due process and innocent until proven guilty, used his powers and office to threaten and intimidate these people’s privacy and it’s not really a stretch to imagine, their very lives. Cuomo should resign in shame immediately for such a gross misuse of his office, but instead he will be thrust on people’s shoulders as a hero. A sign of the times, to be sure.

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Political Slogan Bad Timing

After working very hard and soliciting thousands of ideas for a slogan to attack and bring more attention to Rush Limbaugh, the DNC has settled on, “Americans didn’t vote for a Rush to failure”.

This slogan seems like especially bad timing with the currently Obama talking point being headlined today, “Obama Claim: Done More in 30 Days Than Other Presidents

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Houston Tea Party

I didn’t get to make it out, as I work almost 30 miles away, but here’s the video:

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So This is How the Zombie Apocalypse Starts

The good news is that it starts in Russia.

According to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, a mosquito managed to live 18 months clinging to the outside of the International Space Station, without any food, being bombarded by radiation and enduring fluctuating temperatures ranging from minus 230 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We brought him back to Earth. He is alive, and his feet are moving,” Anatoly Grigoryev of the Russian Academy of Sciences told RIA Novosti.

The bad news is that there are a LOT of people in Russia.

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Houston’s Own Mortgage Bailout Bad Idea

Kinda. Basically the city of Houston wants to take public money and give it to private individuals to help them pay off loans and improve their credit scores to help them get approved for a mortgage loan. Judging from the comments, the public is not reacting positively to this.

Credit scores do actually mean something and they are used for a reason. They’re a reflection of your financial trustworthiness and giving people tax payer money to improve their score isn’t going to magically make them actually responsible and trustworthy. Government can’t just treat loan standards and credit scores like some game where they’ve found the cheat code, it creates problems, just ask Freddie and Fannie Mae and their subprime loans.

Edit: Mayor Bill White has removed the city council’s agenda.

Council members are now professing their “embarrassment” about the proposal, which has hit the national news circuit, including

“This issue has hit a nerve across this country,” said Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck. “Not just here in the city of Houston. Giving people the ability to increase their credit score artificially because we’re allowing them to pay off their credit cards is exactly what got us into this (national economic) crisis in the first place.”

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Picture of the Day

This is a statue from outside Denver International Airport.

and Hell followed with him

and Hell followed with him

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Chicago Tea Party

Rick Santelli just went off on Obama’s housing proposal live on CNBC from the commodities trading floor in Chicago.

It’s now the headline on Drudge:

VIDEO: ‘The government is promoting bad behavior… do we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages… This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage? President Obama are you listening? How about we all stop paying our mortgage! It’s a moral hazard’… MORE…


Who is John Galt?

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Texas Bill Introduced to Reassert 10th Amendment Rights

H.C.R. 50 has been introduced to the Texas House. Authored by Texas State Representatives Brandon Creighton, Bryan Hughes, and Leo Berman, it reasserts Texas’s rights of sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution.

RESOLVED, That the 81st Legislature of the State of Texas
hereby claim sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the
Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise
enumerated and granted to the federal government by the
Constitution of the United States; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That this serve as notice and demand to the federal
government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective
immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these
constitutionally delegated powers; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That all compulsory federal legislation that
directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal
penalties or sanctions or that requires states to pass legislation
or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed; and, be it

It was only introduced yesterday, but it will be very interesting to see if this passes.It would be really amazing to see a resurgence in the 10th Amendment.

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Two Cows Theory of AIG Implosion

I always love these explanations.

Hat Tip: Megan McArdle

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Sarah Palin in the Eye of the Beholder

With news that Governor Palin started her own political action committee at SarahPAC, she has entered the punditry discussion again, and yet again provokes strong responses, though as Josh Painter shows, little consensus. Many of the descriptions have to be read together to get the full effect of the dissonance.

So, is Sarah Palin the right wing extremist McCain staffers and leftists believe her to be? Is she the fundie theocrat secular leftists say she is?  Is she the “neocon” portrayed by careless conservatives? Is she a populist, as some liberals claim? If the governor is a populist, is that populism as disingenuous as the looser cannons on the left insist it is? Is she a leftist, as Big Oil’s useful idiots would have us believe? Is she the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan that his own elder son sees? Or is Gov. Palin a centrist, as the Alaskan pundit says she has governed? Did Pat Buchanan hit it closest to the mark of all the pundits quoted here, calling her a traditionalist?

It’s a question unfortunately, that will need to be answered to the public. James Pethokoukis of U.S. News & World Report’s Capital Commerce blog has some homework ideas on how to do this. I would also love to see more writing and commentary like this. I think it will be important to remember that when answering this question to the public, the response needs to come in many parts, only one of which should be in the traditional media. She could take a few pointers from Fred Thompson and Jon Henke with the other parts using the new media and youtube and other social sites.

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David Cay Johnston Puts on his Bad Idea Jeans

(Edit: Mr. Johnston graciously replies in the comments section. It seems the invasion was a bit of a modest proposal that I failed to pick up on. While there are things to disagree with in the rest of the article, I think it does a good job of showing the need for a much simpler tax code.)

That’s the only explanation for this column by Pulitzer prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston in Mother Jones.In it, Johnston advocates invading countries who’s laws we don’t like. Not laws like treating women like property, stoning homosexuals, or systematic oppression of minorities. No, laws like having low taxes and vibrant banking systems.

In 1983 just 10 percent of America’s corporate profits were funneled through places that charge little or no corporate income tax; today more than 25 percent of profits go through tax havens. The Obama administration could tell the Caymans—now fifth in the world in bank deposits—to repeal its bank secrecy laws or be invaded; since the island nation’s total armed forces consists of about 300 police officers, it shouldn’t be hard for technicians and auditors, accompanied by a few Marines, to fly in and seize all the records. Bermuda, which relies on the Royal Navy for its military, could be next, and so on. Long before we get to Switzerland and Luxembourg, their governments should have gotten the message.

The rest of the article is also filled with some bad ideas, but this is the one that stands out. Many on the right have been called blood thirsty and warmongers for advocating less against actual military enemies of the US.

(H/T Radley Balko at Reason)

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Tracking Obama’s Campaign Promises

Here’s a site to add to your bookmarks and check every once in awhile. It’s a site called set up by the St. Petersburg Times to keep track of all 510 of might as well call him President now Obama’s campaign promises. He’s already got 2 listed as completed and none as broken. So far so good. No. 502: Get his daughters a puppy is still listed as “in the works.” though. Guess he hasn’t decided whether to follow through with that poodle poll yet.

(H/T Ronald Bailey at Reason)

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How to Show Off Your Conservation Credentials

Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) decided he wanted to show off how green he was by driving an electric car being developed in his district to his swearing in at the Capitol in D.C. Of course no electric car actually has enough juice to make the 300 mile trip. So what’s a feel good conservationist to do?

Massa drove one fuel cell car while a hybrid SUV towing an additional SUV followed along. Once he got half way, he switched to new fuel cell car. The empty fuel cell was then towed back by the first SUV. As he continued on his journey, the second SUV followed. Once Massa arrived in DC, the second SUV then towed the second fuel cell car back to NY.

I have to wonder if at any point while hatching this stunt that someone didn’t tell Rep Massa that by showing off his green technology he was wasting a ton of energy and polluting? Was he just too dense to know or just too callus to care?

(H/t: Radley Balko)

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What Does It Take for a Police Officer To Get Fired?

Radley Balko compares two police officer firings and finds that it’s pretty hard for an officer to get fired, unless they go easy on marijuana users.The first officer kind of reminds me of Alaskan State Trooper Mike Wooten from Sarah Palin’s silly “Troopergate” fiasco.

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Resolution to Repeal the Twenty-Second Amendment

Rep. José Serrano introduced a bill to do just that last week. Not sure why. I would think it had something to do with Obama being president, but he also introduced the same bill in 2005.

(H/T: Euguene Volokh)

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Gaza War Arrives in Second Life

And amid the protests, obscenities, and intolerance we find a scene that you’d only find virtual worlds like Second Life:

An American Jew, Canadian Muslim, and a cute bunny

An American Jew, Canadian Muslim, and a cute bunny

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New Chili Pepper on the Block

The Dorset naga:

Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, recently added a new pepper to its vegetable shelves: the Dorset naga. Inhaling its vapour makes your nose tingle. Touching it is painful; cooks are advised to wear gloves. It is the only food product that Tesco will not sell to children. By the standards of other chilies, it is astronomically hot. On the commonly used Scoville scale (based on dilution in sugar syrup to the point that the capsaicin becomes no longer noticeable to the taster) it rates 1.6m units, close to the 2m score of pepper spray used in riot control. The pepper that previously counted as the world’s hottest, the Bhut Jolokia grown by the Chile Pepper Institute at the New Mexico State University, scored just over 1m. That in turn displaced a chili grown by the Indian Defence Research Laboratory in Tezpur, which scored a mere 855,000. The hottest habanero chilies score a wimpy 577,000.

The naga, originally from Bangladesh, was developed commercially by Michael Michaud, who runs a specialist online chili supply firm in south-western Britain. Having spotted it in an ethnic-food shop in the coastal town of Bournemouth, he bred a dependable and much hotter strain and had it tested. “I sent the powder to a couple of labs. They didn’t believe the reading. They thought they had made a mistake,” he recalls. Jonathan Corbett, the buyer who handles (cautiously) specialist chilies for Tesco says that the naga makes a standard hot curry “taste like a bowl of breakfast cereal”.

The article also deals with the reason we like things spicy:

TASTELESS, colourless, odourless and painful, pure capsaicin is a curious substance. It does no lasting damage, but the body’s natural response to even a modest dose (such as that found in a chili pepper) is self-defence: sweat pours, the pulse quickens, the tongue flinches, tears may roll. But then something else kicks in: pain relief. The bloodstream floods with endorphins—the closest thing to morphine that the body produces. The result is a high. And the more capsaicin you ingest, the bigger and better it gets.

I also wonder if anyone has any anecdotes with how recipes and food has gotten spicier over the years/generations. I find myself adding Tabasco and/or jalapenos to almost everything nowadays, and buffalo wings are probably my favorite food. Is it a bad sign that just reading about these peppers literally has my mouth watering?

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Utter Insanity

Those are the only words I can think to describe this proposal.

The Hubbard-Mayer plan calls for the government to revive the moribund housing market by providing just about everybody with access to a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 4.5 percent interest rate. That’s almost a full percentage point lower than the average national rate of 5.47 percent currently.

Buyers could borrow as much as 95 percent of the value of the home they purchase. The plan might extend to those with existing mortgages, allowing them to refinance and get the same terms. When either type of deal is complete, the lender will place the loan with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Anyone refinancing with positive equity in their home would be relatively easy to accommodate. For those with negative equity — meaning the dollar amount of their mortgage exceeds the value of their house — Hubbard and Mayer recommend that homeowners and lenders split the loss evenly and start over with a clean mortgage reset to reflect the property’s current market value.

The sheer cost, $3trillion is mind bogglingly scary (and when was the last time anything government run ever came close to it’s initial cost estimate?). And let me just say, I’m simply amazed at the poorly thought out reporting from Mr. Hassett here. No thoughts about what happens when huge numbers of people default on these govt mortgages? How ripe the plan is for fraud and gaming? To say nothing of the unintended consequences, waste, and opportunity for patronage ripe in everything Congress does. Is this shallow thinking what passes for reporting at Bloomberg? Government doesn’t just get to throw out economic reality. There’s a reason why private banks don’t offer this.

It seems like every other week I see a new plan come out of congress that makes me think, “This is the worst idea I’ve ever heard” and I think each time it’s true but each time I’m shown how wrong I was.

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“Worst Waste of the Year” Report

Cato looks at Senator Tom Coburn’s “Worst Waste of the Year” report that was just released (pdf report here). Tad DeHaven on how nauseating it was to read through the projects in the report, including a ” $15,000 in HUD Community Development Block Grants for a voice mail service for the homeless” project. The report is defitely not light-hearted reading during these troublesome times, but we all must strike our own balance between blissful ignorance and jaded pessimism.

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Stimulus: Spending vs. Tax Multipliers

Greg Mankiw has a post today look at the real world studies of spending and tax multipliers. Keynesians might be surprised to learn that the tax multiplier appears to be much larger than the spending one. Studies put the Government spending multiplier at or around 1-1.4 while other studies have the tax cut multiplier at or around 3. This means that for ever dollar cut in taxes, we get a 3 dollar increase in GDP.

He ends with some good advise to President Elect Obama:

My advice to Team Obama: Do not be intellectually bound by the textbook Keynesian model. Be prepared to recognize that the world is vastly more complicated than the one we describe in ec 10. In particular, empirical studies that do not impose the restrictions of Keynesian theory suggest that you might get more bang for the buck with tax cuts than spending hikes.

I have a feeling we’re definitely going to see a spending increase though, so I’m not sure whether to hope for a tax cut or not.

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Jon Henke for RNC Communications Director

A good look at how the RNC needs to restructure and how they don’t for the next generation of campaigning. Jon is mentioned as paradigm of what the RNC Communications Director needs to be, I’d agree. You need someone who understands the new media at the top not just a bunch of internet guys stuck on every staff.

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Sullivan: Unhinged as a Truther

Andrew Sullivan, who’s never met a Sarah Palin rumor or slander he didn’t like, continues his transformation into an irrelevant and deranged Palin truther. It’s sad to see a once respectable voice in the blogosphere come unraveled, but Sullivan has decided to become the Palin deranged equivalent of Obama Birth Certificate Deniers and 9/11 truthers.

Maybe Michelle Malkin is right that this is truther, tin-foil hat territory.

Well at least he self aware, maybe there’s hope for a recovery.

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Huckabee: Enemy of Libertarian Republicans Everywhere

Mike Huckabee’s new book is coming out, and in it he takes some pretty heavy shots at libertarian and economic conservatives who don’t share his populist big government views.

The real threat to the Republican Party is something we saw a lot of this past election cycle: libertarianism masked as conservatism. And it threatens to not only split the Republican Party, but render it as irrelevant as the Whig Party.

I cannot understand this view at all. From Reason:

Huckabee trains a lot of fire on the Club for Growth, [..] Perhaps the Club’s biggest success was its pre-emptive demolition job on Huckabee. The governor responds by accusing them and other libertarians of believing in “purity of politics first; people are on their own.” In a chapter titled “Let Them Buy Stocks!” he accuses “libertarian faux-cons” of driving “the party even further away from its base of the hard-working middle class.” He names names.

You can see the growing influence of faux-cons in the 2008 election cycle from the so-called Ron Paul Revolution to the economics-only conservatism reflected by some of the supporters of Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani.

Hopefully the GOP does not follow Huckabee or his advice because I foresee a huge exodus of non-social cons. I know I’d be the first.

FYI, Glenn Reynolds is doing an interview with Huckabee this Wed and is currently soliciting questions. Now of course a rude and/or insulting question may make you feel better but won’t get asked so if anyone has a good question put some thought into it and make it respectful.

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Sarkozy The Georgian Hero?

Not sure how true this is, but here’s what the London Times says about how close Putin came to over throwing the Georgian government.

With Russian tanks only 30 miles from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia’s Government. According to Mr Levitte, the Russian seemed unconcerned by international reaction. “I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” Mr Putin declared.

Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. “Hang him?” – he asked. “Why not?” Mr Putin replied. “The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.” Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: “Yes but do you want to end up like [President] Bush?” Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: “Ah – you have scored a point there.”

This would seem to settle whether or not Russia aimed to actually overthrow Georgia’s government that some in the blogosphere were debating.

Also is it just me or have a lot of my titles been ending in question marks lately? Who knows?

(HT: Reason Online)

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Is it the Means or the End that Matters?

Michele Catalano writing at Pajamas Media yesterday, defending Obama’s call for (at one point) mandatory community service,  gets it completely wrong. To backtrack a little bit for those who haven’t been paying attention the last week or so, at President Elect Obama’s website,, there’s an agenda section. At one point part of it read like this:

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year

(emphasis mine)

This quickly led to a swarm of criticism. Some of course went slightly overboard and likened it to slavery, as the opportunity to note the irony was just too hard to pass up I suppose. Others saw this as Obama building his “Marxist” personal army.

Now those points can be argued against and rightfully so, but that doesn’t mean their main thrust is wrong. Reacting to the criticism, the well oiled Obama online team quickly replaced the text, taking out the required part and changing it to an incentive based service. So good for them, but the piece by Michele Catalano defending it is defending the wrong aspect.

There are thousands upon thousands of high school and college students, as well as adults, doing some form of community service right now. Service to your community is an altruistic thing; it is a way of perhaps giving back to a community that has given to you. It is a way to reach out to a community, to help others who may not be as fortunate as you, to teach young adults about sharing, caring, and helping others, to do something out of the goodness of your heart that will benefit your community. This is not slavery. This is not forced labor. This is outreach. It represents values. Slavery is an act that benefits no one but the person who owns the slave; community service benefits both the giver and receiver and helps make the world a better place and leaves a general good feeling for everyone involved. It is not comparable to slavery.

(emphasis again is mine)

Respectfully to Michele, yes, this is exactly forced labor. Look, no one is saying the end is a bad result, it’s the means with which it’s achieved that is wrong. There was benefit from slavery but that doesn’t mean it’s not wrong, and who benefits has nothing to do with its definition. If you had a slave you could have him or her volunteer at the homeless shelter every day and do a lot of good, but it would still be completely immoral to do so, not because of the work that the person is doing but because the person has no choice.

So this is where she gets it wrong. No one criticising the required language is arguing community service is bad, or not a lofty goal. Millions of people think serving the army is a tremendous good that benefits both giver and receiver (receiver being the US citicizens of course), but no one argues that the draft is either moral or a good idea. So defenders can talk about how much good community service can do all they want, but they need to remember no free man should be compulsed into your definition of “doing good for the community”.

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Post Election Polling?

I’m signed up to recieve emails for Zogby Polls so I too noticed the strange questions a reader at Clayton Cramer’s blog did.

If you knew Barack Obama supported a plan to place a 75% excise tax on the sale of firearms – where a $500 rifle would now cost $875 with tax, would that have made you…

More likely to vote for Obama
Less likely to vote for Obama
No difference
Not sure

If you knew about Barack Obama’s support for national legislation that would overturn concealed carry handgun laws in 40 states, would that have made you…
More likely to vote for Obama
Less likely to vote for Obama
No difference
Not sure

Of course the poll before that asked me what kind of dog I thought Obama should buy his daughters and what they should name it, so I don’t know what to think.

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Our President

Yes, Obama has made history and been elected president. I didn’t vote for him nor support him, but I have supported every US president in my lifetime and President Obama will be no different. I am going to disagree with him on plenty of stuff I imagine, just as I disagree with my friends and family on plenty of stuff, but he’s still the President of the United States of America, and I will want to see him do the best for this country.

The slate is wiped clean today, the benefit of the doubt is given, let’s move forward together.It’s a new day, a day to rise above partisanship and just all be Americans.

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Proper Voting Attire

People are finding out that you have to be careful what you wear to the polling booth.

The 40-year-old Houston Realtor was wearing one of her souvenir T-shirts when she went to cast her ballot at a Cypress polling place Oct. 26. A poll worker told her she would have to change the shirt if she wanted to vote.

Hurley, who votes in every election, is familiar with poll site etiquette. She knows not to wear campaign paraphernalia. She’s never run into trouble before.

What, she asked, was wrong with her light blue cotton T-shirt, emblazoned with a moose head, fishing poles, and the words “Seward, Alaska”?

The word “Alaska,” a poll worker answered.

“She said it could be misconstrued as support for a candidate,” Hurley said.

She argued with the poll worker, but neither one backed down. The worker told Hurley she could go into the bathroom and flip her shirt inside-out. She even offered duct tape to cover the offending word. Hurley refused. Finally, outraged, she stormed out of the polling place.

“I couldn’t believe she wouldn’t let me vote because of my vacation T-shirt,” Hurley said this week. “Every time I talk about it, my blood boils.”

Cooler heads prevailed in the parking lot, and a campaign volunteer urged Hurley to check with the precinct judge overseeing the polling site.

The judge took a look at the shirt and let her vote. She didn’t even need duct tape.

Of course there’s other solutions too

During early voting, the clerk’s office got a report of a woman who showed up to a polling place in west Harris County wearing an Obama T-shirt.

She was told she could cover the shirt up, turn it inside out, or not wear it. She chose not to wear it, and voted in her bra.

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