Saturday, November 29, 2008

Iraq May Be Won, But The War Isn't Over

An amazing thing happened on Thanksgiving: the Iraqi Parliament peacefully agreed to a slow withdrawal of our troops that would have Americans out of Iraq by 2012. This act, above all other acts in the five years since we toppled Saddam Hussein's regime, is the victory we have wanted for so long. Despite the propaganda from the White House, the Pentagon and others about timetables, this is exactly what we all wanted. There is no greater sign of our victory that our free Iraqi allies and our diplomats hashing out a consensus on withdrawal and the Iraqi Parliament, without violence, passing the resolution by a majority. Victory doesn't mean the war is over, but that its ending faster than any of us imagined.

With our mission accomplished in Iraq (we should take that phrase back, in my opinion), we cannot be blinded to the fact that the War On Terror is not over by a long shot. A success itself, Afghanistan still requires our help in the pacification of the Taliban and Al-Qeada bandits that still throw out massive offenses each spring and summer. The drug trade in Afghanistan also requires our attention as a massive amount of funds to the terrorists come from the poppy/herion trade. All this must be looked too as our troops hold their head high as they leave a stable, democratic Iraq behind.

The biggest threat, though, is not the Taliban or even Osama bin Laden's group. Not anymore. The biggest threat is the hydra known as Jihad, as proven by the co-ordinated and cowardly attack on civilians in Mumbai, India. Since we've taken out most of AQ's command and control, the strategy has become one of ideological infection. The biggest threats are no longer foreigners crossing borders (though that tactic should not be ignored), it is home grown radicals and misguided misfits hoping for a place in history that aim their rifles and bombs at the innocent. London was an example of this. Even in my former home of Canada, several homegrown terrorists planned a massive attack upon the Canadian parliament, though their operation was very, very amateurish.

As during the Cold War, this is a war of ideas as much as it is a war of soldiers. We must not simply just fight them with guns, but with our words and our thoughts. We must make the citizens of the world totally reject that mass murder is a legitimate tool of petitioning one's government over an issue. We must also wipe out the idea that radical Islamist terror is blowback, a term the left has perverted for their own agenda. Any number of our covert and overt operations has created blowback in the Middle East and Near Asia, but that digresses from the fact that committing heinous acts of mass violence for a radical religious pan-Muslim nation is an inherent aspect of radical Islamist terror, not a symptom of our foreign policy.

Cross-posted at Generation Patriot

Friday, November 28, 2008

Escaping to Reality

Lack of sleep bring many thoughts. There are the ones about my lunch for work. The ideas on a new car that will be purchased in many years. Thoughts on religion, politics and my wife's amazing cooking last night. One thought has held in my mind this night: escapism.

Since the turn into 20th century to the turn into the 21st, entertainment has gone from stage shows and big bands to video games, movies worth more than some small nations, reality TV, games on your phone and so on. From radio serials and variety shows to Battlestar Galactica and Hogan Knows Best. From playing outside in the fields and the alleys to fighting aliens or rolling around a big ball for a flamboyant extra-terrestrial king. Things have change a lot since the first days of the modern age. Entertainment escapism has become a worldwide, multi-billion (maybe trillion) dollar industry that has pushed further into introversion than ever before.

I'm a child of this age of online communities, adventures in your living room and acceptable alter-egos. I was born during the age of Atari and Commodore 64 and grew up during the exponential explosion of the DVD and the PlayStation-style consoles. I'm sad to say I used to cope with the troubles in my life by rushing to the PC and firing up a universe I could hide in (Privateer and Morrowind being my favorites). I had shelves of computer games and boxes of console games, not to mention the stack of DVDs I'd throw on at night to aid in my sleep. A habit found to actually hinder my sleep soon after moving away and not having a TV. Movies and games are wonderful escapes into places we can always visit, but never truly affect. Escaping to these worlds is a pleasurable limbo in which nothing is solved, but for a while you feel away from reality. Escaping is a drug in our times, just as bad as the ones people now gorge on to function in an ever increasing disconnected reality.

Hopefully, I got across in Utahn #4 my increasing disdain for cities: their collective mindsets and their suppression of the spiritual need to explore. That disdain plays into what's been rolling around in my head. I've held the notion that my slow pushing away of cities and of so-called "cultured" civilization was escapism. That it was my way of dealing with the reality of the spread of urban areas and that a majority of people live within city limits (80% of Utah's population lives in one long urbanized front). Alas, I'm increasingly coming to the solid opinion that what I feel is not escapism at all, but in fact a need to put my soul back into some form of reality outside of the modern human construct. For years, I have lived on television, computers, video games and countless other man-made gadgets to tie up my brain in a false world. Hell, books used to be enough escape for people before the invention of TV and Mario Bros. Now, with the growth of disconnected interconnectivity, I'd hope many of us would start searching for our own "escape" into the world of dirt, hard work, clean air and hands-on creation.

This isn't a rejection of technology all together. I am not a Luddite or a Zerzan disciple, though I used to be years ago and some of it has stuck with me (specifically the ideas of disconnection). Technology has done us much good, but as Socrates and Plato preached moderation, and we should as well. There is only so much technology can do for a person before he/she is hollowed out into the mindless consumer/watcher that the left warns us about, but it is not the fault of the company that provides us with such amazing gadgets or programs or games. It is the individual who must tear itself away from the screen and open the door to the outside. The company nor the government is the keeper of your natural soul. It is only you that can take a hike instead of watch another crap reality show on some fifth-rate celebrity family.

Hikers in the Maze in Utah's Canyonlands National Park.
The Maze is only accessible by a day long hike.

America’s Hefty Stimulus Packages: Money Just Might Grow on Trees!

Think back to speeches President Bush gave during spring of 2008 assuring Americans and the rest of the world that the fiscal stimulus package, which gave checks to a select group of taxpayers (lower income people who pay little, if any tax), would keep America out of a recession. We saw the results of this effort in the latter part of the summer – a hemorrhaging Dow Jones Industrial Average and negative third-quarter GDP growth. Remember Bear Stearns, and the assurance to taxpayers that if they bailed them out, it would stop a domino effect of collapsing banks and investment houses? Then came Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (both partly owned by the government) AIG, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and many others lining up for federal handouts. The line for free money has now expanded to the auto industry, possibly the airline industry and network television.

On one side, we have the federal government handing out money with little consequence; and on the other side, the recipients of said federal dollars have plenty to spend lobbying the government. These actions give merit to the old saying “money grows on trees.”

All of the financial institutions who received government assistance actively lobby the federal government. As a matter of fact all of these institutions have received a very nice return-on-investment (ROI)*:

While lobbying should not be banned, it is worth noting how much money these cash-flow deprived firms invest in their “best interests.” If America was still a capitalistic society, lobbying would not be an issue. However, when the government decides to bail out poorly run and irresponsible companies from an ROI standpoint, capitalism has given way to a mild form of extortion!

In spite of all that has happened, the spending that the Bush administration has enacted is only a drop in the bucket compared to what the Obama administration plans to spend. Hard to believe, isn’t it? After all, the Bush administration doubled the size of our national debt. Obama initially proposed a plan with a price tag of $175 billion during his campaign. The cost of his package could now easily exceed the Bush/Paulson $700 billion plan. We all know how these plans have their way of “porking up” as they move through Congress. This, of course, does not include the cost of all of the other promises Obama has made: tax cuts for many of whom do not pay federal income tax and healthcare reform, for example.

All through the campaign, Obama convinced voters that a vote for McCain is a vote for a third Bush term. If he represents change, then why does he plan to continue where Bush left off in terms of injecting billions of federal dollars into large corporations that are horribly run and fiscally irresponsible? None of these companies are required to restructure, change their business models, streamline their processes or obtain new leadership. One has to ask how this plan is nothing more than a band-aid. If the aid carries these companies through a recession, what will their position be when inflation sets in and interest rates rise? The absence of a long-term solution is eminent.

The Obama administration doesn’t seem to be too concerned with the fact that our federal deficit will be over $1 trillion after all of the “fiscal stimulus” is enacted. It makes one wonder if money really does grow on trees. This is the change America has elected. Haven’t we seen this before? Does the “New Deal” ring a bell? When has government-injected spending been successful in the past? The harsh reality is that America’s total debt could very well exceed 80% of the nation’s GDP in two years – its highest level in over 60 years.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

We Won

Yup. We won:
Iraq's parliament approved Thursday a security pact with the United States that lets American troops stay in the country for three more years, setting a clear timetable for a U.S. exit for the first time since the 2003 invasion.

The vote in favor of the pact was backed by the ruling coalition's Shiite and Kurdish blocs as well as the largest Sunni Arab bloc, which had demanded concessions for supporting the deal. The haggling among the political factions highlighted sectarian-based tensions that hinder reconciliation efforts, nearly six years after Saddam Hussein's ouster.

The Shiite bloc agreed to a Sunni demand that the pact be put to a referendum by July 30, meaning the deal must undergo an additional hurdle next year. It took nine months of difficult talks for U.S. and Iraqi negotiators to craft the agreement.

Under the agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30 and the entire country by Jan. 1, 2012. Iraq will have strict oversight over U.S. forces.

Now this is something to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving....don't forget

Just a quick post as I'm heading out the door to my in laws.
While I love them to death I shall be giving thanks this year for the fact I don't have to live with them anymore ;)

I shall also be giving thanks for this wonderful country giving me the opportunity to better myself personally and financially.
Those who think the American dream is dead.....look harder.
While it may not seem to be too still truly is!!

So as you're sat around the dinner table this year; be it with your own family, your partners family or just by yourself.....take a few moments to give thanks for what you have.
And be sure to help clean up before you take that nap ;)

From myself, and the Conservative Underground:


Monday, November 24, 2008

New blogger.

Hi guys!

As my handle suggests I will write about economics and politics, aka public policy. A little info about me: I am married with two wonderful young boys. I am going to graduate from SMU with a B.A. in economics, political science, and public policy. I am going to law school next year, but I am not sure where yet!

Lastly: Like the vast majority of young people and self-identified "moderates" I am a social libertarian and an economic conservative. By the way, I identify myself as neither - as the great Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman once said, "I am a libertarian in principle and a Republican in practice."

My first article will be about the potential auto-bailouts and why I don't support them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Conservative Playground - Comic 1 - Hide n' Seek

And so the Conservative Playground is born. This is a series of Sunday strips that will be posted in addition to the random weekday updates, centering around the a group of familiar kids.

Click the image for the large version.

State of Affairs - The Next Generation

By no means am I an economic expert and by no means am I a government whizz, but as a tax payer and a recent addition to the American workforce I see changes being made and society is changing due to this.

Go back 10 or 20 years the whole situation was a lot different.

Children graduated in high school once. The whole duration of school was to graduate and to do well.

In sports the winning team got a trophy and the praise, the losing team went back to training, motivated for the next game and to redeem themselves.

When school let out the children would run home and out to play. Climbing trees, playing sports with friends and going wherever their imagination let them go.

Today I see children with severely diminished outlooks on life.

Children ‘graduate’ by just finishing the school year and not by succeeding throughout school.
In sporting events everyone gets a trophy, there are no losers only ‘good sports’.

So based on that what is the point in training, playing the best game you can and emerging the victor? Just show up, never practice and you get the same reward.

School lets out and the children disappear inside to hopefully get their homework done.

But sadly many jump on the game systems and turn on the TV where their imagination is not stretched, but given to them on a plate. Their brains does not create, they are simply told what’s what and to accept it.

A good example is when you open a book.

As you go through page by page you are told a story and your imagination sets the scene for the back drop and the characters come alive in your mind.

Not turn on a movie (maybe a movie based on the book) and what do you have?

You have the same scenes, the same characters but there is no imagination.

You simply accept what is in front of you and when the film has finished what do you have? A memory of the movie and what happened.

Children are no longer being pushed and motivated to succeed. They are no longer being told that if you hurt yourself climbing that tree you just cry for a few minutes on your grazed knee and you try again. Now the parents freak out and have the tree cut down to avoid it happening again. ‘How dare that tree hurt my child!!’

But imagine the delight on the child’s face when they overcome the tree and the grazed knee and reach the top to see the wonderful view around them.

No more are the children being given the feeling of triumph; the struggle to triumph has simply been taken away.

The boy who was too scared to climb the tree after he saw his friend fall will no longer have the newly motivated friend to help him. They’ll just both stay on the ground and watch the tree be cut down and the struggle removed…..along with the possibility of triumph.

What has happened in recent history that has caused this drastic yet mostly unnoticed change?

Why have parents gotten so paranoid about the dangers their children face, yet as children themselves they faced them and succeeded regardless.

As a child I would come home from school, change clothes and go and play in the park with my friends.

We’d climb trees, splash around in the stream, swing on the swings and jump off as high as we could and generally do dangerous things to find our limits.

Compare to today…the trees are fenced off, the streams are off limits and the potentially dangerous playground equipment has been removed.

How are children to learn their limits?

‘Learn from your mistakes’ I was told. You cannot learn from someone else’s mistakes.

Your parents must have told you ‘don’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself’. Did you listen?

No, you did it…..hurt yourself and learnt from your mistake.

Let’s move forward now 10 years from now….these children are young adults and entering the working world. How do you suppose they are going to deal with life’s difficulties?

We all know life is hard….you will fall down and you will hurt yourself. But we know that you must get up, dust yourself off and keep going. How do we know that and why do we do that?

Because when you were climbing the tree you fell, you cried, but you persevered and you succeeded.

These next generations of working adults are going to be different, very different indeed.
I fear that on the job training will not only be basic to the job in question but also for the basics of survival.

Working with some of them as contractors now I see they are expecting to be treated as regular employees and given all the benefits the company gives to all of its employees.

They are expecting to work as little as possible and be given a permanent position on a plate for the taking.

They are expecting to be given extra incentive to work other than the pay check they already receive and I for one do not wish to see how they act should the contract not be extended.

The causes for this I believe are a huge mixture comprising of society, the media and the home environment in which children are brought up in.

Let’s use the tree climbing as an example.

Should it be your tree and someone else’s child or someone else’s tree and your child, the fear of being sued is overwhelming. With attorney’s offices advertising to get you ‘free money’ if you’ve fallen or tripped and to reimburse for ‘emotional turmoil’ etc.

They don’t explain where the money comes from. You sue your child’s friend’s parents and I highly doubt they’ll want your child to be friends with theirs anymore. The cut down the tree so no one else can climb it. They sue you so you have to cut down the tree.

So in order to not get sued what do you do? You don’t allow it to happen in the first place. No struggle and no succeeding, just a fear of being sued.

Have you watch television recently?

Now don’t get me wrong there are so great shows on that really boggle the mind, still doesn’t beat a good book though.

But you put on most shows children are watching and what do you see?

Paris Hilton being released from jail surrounded by a media circus.

Britney Spears marrying someone for 5 minutes and then being taken to rehabilitation surrounded by a media circus.

Lindsey Lohan being arrested for drink driving and who is around her yelling, screaming and flash bulbs lighting up the night sky….oh yeah it’s the media.

When did someone being arrested or sent to rehabilitation become an acceptable headline that required such an immense amount of coverage?

We have shows now called ‘celebrity rehab’, glorifying what these idiots are doing.

What kind of picture is this painting for our children? What are they supposed to think with this being front and centre on television?

Personally I’d like to see more coverage on our brave men and women out of the front lines fighting against terrorism and not just the rare yet terrible incidents where they are demonized as killers of innocent civilians. They put their lives on the line for what…..less than $40 a year.

People like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton make how much per year? And what do they do for us? What sacrifices do they make each and every day?

Let’s go closer to home.

Normally when a building is on fire people are running out of it. But no, we have brave fire fighters who run into the burning buildings….what coverage do they get? How much do they make for putting their lives on the line?

Police officers, paramedics……plenty of worthy people our children should look up to and admire.

Picture a child today. How do you think they feel when they’re told a police officer is coming to school to talk to them?

When I was young, that was cool and something to look forward to.

Now…why what happened and are drug dogs coming with him?

I was damn lucky as a child. Not only did I have 2 elder brothers to look up to but my parents were together and still are. Going on 30 years + now and I am so proud of them.

As we all know divorces have gone threw the roof the last decade or so.

The stability of the home is no longer a solid father-mother foundation; it’s now a mother figure during the week and a father figure every other weekend. Worse case you can add in a few boyfriends of your mothers and a few girlfriends of your fathers and what do you have? A messed up child to say the least.

Children are impressionable and what they see is what they learn and grow up thinking is OK.

‘Do what I say not what I do’ does not apply, it never has.

Again you can say ‘don’t do it’, but until they do it they won’t learn.

I know many parents face divorce, but stay together for the sake of the children and I think that is very commendable. Your children come first no matter what the circumstance and that should always be the case.

You are the parent, not your children’s friend.

If your children hate you when they are young, you’re doing a good job.

If your children love you when they are older, you know you did a great job.

As a parent you need to give them a solid foundation, set limits that they know they cannot push and motivate your children to succeed on their own.

Is it not the schools job or the media’s job to raise your children.

The media will show you what it wants to see and the school will show you what you have to learn. You have to learn from what they teach.

You plop your children in front of the TV for 3-4 hours a day then that’s what they will learn from. Sit them in front of the XBOX or PlayStation for 3-4 hours a day and that’s the extent of their imagination, what the screen shows them.

Get them to read a book even for just an hour a day.

Allow them to expand their horizons and learn from experiences that may mean they come home crying a few times.

What knocks you down only makes you stronger for when you get up again.

If you stay down crying…..that’s all you’re going to get.

With the recent ‘government bailouts’ the ‘you are no longer allowed to fail’ generation is rolling in:

It doesn’t matter that the banks lent money they knew people couldn’t pay back.
It doesn’t matter that your team didn’t win.
It doesn’t matter that the unions made it a lot less profitable for companies to manufacture and thus now they are losing money.
It doesn’t matter that you didn’t try your best in school.

Because as long as things continue the way they are you will be taken care of.

‘Who pays for those people?’ you ask.

Why those who did work hard. Those who did succeed despite the struggle involved and those who bettered themselves despite previous failure.

Those who fall down crying, but get up again more motivated than before.

What happens when those people are no more…..I hope we never find out.

-Tony Leach

Saturday, November 22, 2008

City/Country and the Pioneer Spirit

It has only been 150 years or so since the United States expanded across the continent. Not that long ago in the history of Western civilization. 150 years ago my home in the Salt Lake Valley was nothing but vegetation and the cold wind coming from the Wasatch Front. Just over 150 years ago the pioneers coming into Utah first saw the Valley from Big Mountain. The first major settlers to see the valley were the ill-fated Donner Party, followed soon after by the first Mormon settlers who held to the low areas and avoided the weather that fell upon the infamous cannibals.

The View from Big Mountain

Last week, I stood upon the very mountain the first Mormons stood upon when they laid eyes upon the Salt Lake Valley. As you can see from the picture above, they saw their entire future from the top of Big Mountain; the entire Salt Lake Valley and beyond can be seen. I felt like I had just discovered the valley myself when I got out of my car and took in the view. What the Mormons must of felt we cannot fathom. What drove them to cross near half-a-dozen states and over one of the great American mountain ranges also cannot be easily explained. Whatever their emotions and motivations, they were one of many millions to settle the American frontier.

The American frontier still exists today, but in a odd reverse of traditional usage the frontier is within the borders of the United States, not on its edges. The largest cities in the country are located on the borders or in the old East and, unsurprisingly, most of these cities are centers of collective, urbanite thinking. Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, Detroit, Washington D.C.; grand cities held under the sway of their own bloated, over-civilized nature. You have to travel outside the borders of these beacons to find one ounce of the adventures that the brave Americans had not too long ago. When I lived in Los Angeles it took me near two hours to get out of the continuous linkage of cities that make up Los Angeles County. It was not until the highways dwindled to two lanes, until swathes of homes faded into rough hills of arid desert, until the sky became bluer and the air cleaner that I could feel truly outside of grasp of modernity. Los Angeles and San Fransisco hold millions, but are specs upon the map of California, and yet hold much sway in its politics. Driving through the desert I found people who's lives were completely alien to the residents of the cultural centers of the state. These people use firearms, drive big trucks, rely on less-than-clean sources of energy for employment; things that are abhorrent to the civilized of the Golden State. I've had a respect for the natural world for many years, but it never occurred to me until I moved to one of the largest cities in the country that city life truly did not meld with my nature. It wasn't until that asphalt and concrete replaced grass and dirt that I found the repulsiveness of metropolitanization and felt an affinity towards the country-minded folk and the land untouched by inorganic improvement.

This week displayed the great divide between those of the urbanite mindset and those who are of the country/pioneering philosophy. Alaskan governor and former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin gave an interview at a turkey farm. While being interviewed, in the background, a farm hand was in the process of bleeding out a turkey. For those who have a reality-based mindset, this is simply what happens on a farm on a daily basis. To the anchor on MSNBC, it was a chance to lampoon Mrs. Palin for her apparent feeble-mindedness and inhumanity towards the fallen fowl. No less than five different mocking subtitles for the interview clip appeared during the MSNBC piece. As soon as the clip made the blogosphere, the cyber-intelligentsia took it upon themselves to suggest Mrs. Palin be the one bled out, or that the turkey was “slaughtered alive”, or that her support for the farming industry and for meat products is a barbaric one. Apparently, these people believe their meat is produced harmlessly, without killing, or that supporting the meat industry is something only dummies do. I would not be going out on a limb to say these people are city folk (but it does not necessarily mean each of them are from the city) and that the rigors of a life not found at the nearest store is one they cannot comprehend.

I've been living in and working in cities all my life. I am a born and bred city boy, but today it is the last thing I want to be. For most of our history people have come to the cities from the country. Today's world reverses that: people of means are now turning to the country for their freedom. There are those who love tall buildings, busy sidewalks, concrete and the collective atmosphere, but most of the country isn't even close to the visions of the urbanites. You look at a physical map of the US and it's not dotted with gray steel cancers, but with brown, green and yellow farms. It's covered in land untouched by modernity, save for new irrigation systems or hikers with iPods and GPS. It's covered by forests, deserts, plains and mountains open for new explorers to discover.

The United States is not just those who gravitate to the ends of the country and congregate themselves in condos, suburbs or the high rises. America is not just those who dress up to go to work, hold their breath for the newest celebrity gossip or spend a month's pay on uncomfortable shoes. America is also the farmer, the hunter, the small town clerk, the lone county sheriff; these citizens who hold to the ideas of smallness, of humbleness, of simpler, easier lives. The city/country mindset is not Democrat/ Republican, liberal/conservative, white-collar/blue-collar or city-dweller/farmer, it goes much deeper. It touches the very nature of those who stayed in the East and those who took up the motivation to cross dangerous land and create new parts of the country. Like me, a city dweller can have the country mindset or a small-town resident can dream collective sheep. It comes down to one's willingness to take one's life into one's hands and to shape it through the unknown and through an undying need to explore that unknown. I long to find new places, make new trails, find things few see for few really take the time to climb a mountain (even in a car) or explore old paths (physical or historical). The pioneer spirit lives on, both geographically in the wild between the East and West Coast, and within individual Americans looking to find their own Zion. Take time to explore, you never know what you'll find.

Cross-posted at Generation Patriot

Windfall Profits Tax on Oil Companies: Is this Change?

Here are some quotes that may sound familiar to you:

"Unless we tax the oil companies, they will reap huge and undeserved windfall profits."

"When I proposed this tax I indicated that the revenues should be used for three basic purposes: one, to assist low-income households in bearing the burden of rapidly increasing energy costs; secondly, to improve the transit systems of our country, including not only rail but also buses and subways, and even the sharing of rides in other rubber-tired vehicles; and third, the development of alternative supplies of energy."

Do you recognize any of these quotes? Did you hear something similar during the 2008 campaign? In all actuality, these are quotes from former president Jimmy Carter around the time he enacted "The Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax of 1980". That is correct; we have tried this before. A windfall profits tax on oil companies is not change; rather it represents a government policy that has already failed us.

For starters, "The Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax" wasn’t exactly a windfall profits tax. It was an excise tax on domestic oil production based on the amount of oil a company produced. The more barrels of domestic oil they produced, the more they would pay in taxes. The average citizen was struggling with high energy prices at the same time oil companies were reaping huge profits. This was seen as unfair by Congress, President Carter, as well as the average citizen. Once the tax was enacted, the federal government would then reinvest this money in alternative energy supplies and inject the money back to other areas of the economy to help low income citizens deal with rising energy costs. After all why should these greedy oil companies keep this money when this money can be moved around to other people who need it more than they do? It only makes sense, right? This was a socialist concept supported by Jimmy Carter and the overwhelmingly Democratic controlled Congress.

It was estimated that the tax revenue from a windfall profits tax would exceed $320 billion during the years of 1980 and 1989. In reality, this tax brought closer to $80 billion in gross tax revenue. The net amount was actually much lower than this because the tax was deductible against corporate income. The final net amount was around $40 billion by the time this deduction was figured.

The graph below illustrates the projected tax revenue versus the actual tax revenue:

As the graph indicates, the realized tax revenue from a windfall profits tax never came close to the projected expectations. So what exactly were the results of "The Crude Oil Windfall Profits Tax;" and why were the results so disappointing? How could something that seemed so good turn out so bad?

According to the "Congressional Research Service,” the tax had actually decreased domestic production by 3 to 6 percent. Domestic production dropped by the oil companies to avoid having to pay extra money in taxes. As a result of drops in domestic production, America increased their dependence on foreign oil by 8 to 16 percent. The windfall profits tax actually lead to more oil imports instead of producing the oil domestically. In addition, like most government mandates, this tax was very difficult for the oil companies to comply with. At the same time, this was equally as burdensome for the IRS to collect. It’s no wonder why this tax didn't meet the target revenue. In today's world, the last thing we need is to increase our dependence on foreign oil.

According to the Tax Foundation, US Oil companies as of 2005 spent nearly $150 billion just to comply with existing federal income tax alone. The Tax Foundation also states that between the years of 1980 and 2005 oil companies paid nearly $2.2 trillion (adjusted for inflation) in taxes at both state and federal level. In addition, the price of gasoline has both state and federal taxes figured into the price at the pump, which you pay when you fill your gas tank. The Democrats back in 1977 as well as today do not understand that corporations cover their costs in the price of the product they sell. In this case the product is gasoline. Increasing taxes on any company is going to be passed off onto you, the consumer. In the end, it will mean higher gas prices at the pump. So why are we crossing this bridge again when we see the data clearly shows it has not worked before? Is this the change America is looking for?

The average profit from a gallon of gasoline is about 8 percent, which is way less than most other industries. When a corporation makes a profit, the company will keep a portion of this profit as "Retained Earnings”, which is money for the business to operate. This money will then be used to find more oil, find more alternative fuels, expand and hire more employees as well as improve the way they produce gasoline. In essence, oil companies showing a profit can actually lead to lower gas prices due to better equipment, production efficiencies, and oil exploration. Probably the most overlooked aspect of this is the fact that oil companies have provided millions of jobs and increases in wages during these prosperous times. Increasing their costs to do business will only force them to cut back on these expansions or even worse, leave the United States for a more favorable business environment. Today the global market is more competitive than ever, and America should be looking for ways to attract companies to stay in the United States.

Finally, the profits that are not kept in retained earnings are distributed to the shareholders. Who are these shareholders? Well if you own a 401k or a pension plan, the chances are you own shares of stock in an oil company. About 40 percent of all oil stock is owned by mutual and hedge funds. Does our government have the right to tell you that you do not have the right to a prosperous and happy retirement? Who is our government actually hurting if a windfall profits tax is enacted the way Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama would like? The truth is they will be hurting everyone including the low income and middle class families they claim they to be assisting. In 1988, "The Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax" was repealed by Ronald Reagan because it was actually harmful to our economy. Why would anyone consider revisiting this terrible mistake 20 years after it was repealed? This does not represent change, but a failure in history our government is about to repeat.


Friday, November 21, 2008

The Price of “Progress”

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” -President-Elect Barack Obama
Barack Obama's politics are full of love. He talks of “change”, “hope”, “unity”, “an end to divisiveness” and other such soft, warm words. His programs and ideas promote an new, motivated American citizenry ready to revolutionize the nation and the world with the power of their idealism. Before his nomination, even I had a tinge of euphoria when I heard one of President-Elect Obama's speeches. He gives you the image of the new America and the new American. Barack Obama's politics are not a new [link to Jonah's LA Times article]. Barack Obama's politics are dangerous.

The benevolent, caring government is an idea that spans ages. It goes back to the days of state religion and monarchy. The kings and queens with intelligence saw that their popularity relies not on their narcissism or greed, but the love of the people. The love of the people came from their comforts, their patriotism and their faith. Elizabeth knew this and she earned centuries of admiration from the British and the Commonwealth. The American Progressives tapped into this populism and exploited it. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican that is idolized in some circles, held that the government could do anything that wasn't expressly forbidden by the Constitution to help the people. Woodrow Wilson held that the nation needed to become an ideological organism, a body politic and went so far as to suppress all opposition to his presidency during World War I. Franklin D. Roosevelt is held in high esteem for his speeches and uniting persona during the Depression and World War II, but such unity came at a price. FDR created vast amounts of authoritarian bureaucracy and formed the Civilian Conservation Corps, a paramilitary group eerily similar to those in Italy and Germany. All held the people as their mandate and as their will made manifest. All entrenched large benevolent government into the American psyche.

Ideologically, the benevolent government is the basis of communism and fascism. The former being a more international movement and the latter being more focused on a nation's traditional culture and its greatness. By the traditional American definitions of left and right, both are of the left. History has shown us the consequences of these forms of government in Europe and at home through the American Progressives. With President-Elect Obama, are we to expect a modern Progressivism? Are we to expect a new National Reconstruction Administration? A new CCC? A new push for a New Patriotism? A New America? Where does this push for change end? We sit on the threshold of a new historic thrust into benevolence and social revolution, if Obama's rhetoric is to be made true. The past will become irrelevant. Social and legal tradition will be ignored. The American Revolution will be supplanted by a new revolution of the mases that will have all the hallmarks of a political mob.

Please, do not take this as an premature indictment of President-Elect Obama's policies. As this is being written, his actual policies are largely unknown and his true beliefs still in question. Please, do not take this as a reactionary view or an alarmist screed. The future is unknown and the actions of Mr. Obama are anyone's guess. This is just a warning based on the rhetoric of Mr. Obama and information taken from his platform. This is just speculation based on the facts we are supplied with.

The Roman Republic was part of the foundation of philosophy of the American Patriots that gave their lives for our nation's liberty. For hundreds of years, Romans lived in relative freedom and prospered. When the Republic started to fracture and collapse, a popular figure, one loved by the masses took hold and birthed one of the greatest empires of Antiquity. Yet, this national greatness led to the loss of liberty, began a long march towards deep-seeded moral corruption which laid the path to the downfall of the Empire and the creation of the violent and tyrannical Dark Ages.

When liberty is sacrificed for pragmatism, when morality is sacrificed for greed, when a great and moral people fall, tyranny arises.

We have been warned.

Cross-posted at Generation Patriot

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A memo in regard to welfare

One of my academic concentrations is Criminology. Therefore, I feel that it is my duty to approach social issues in today's time, from as much of a Sociological perspective as I can. I am going to start by looking at the issue of welfare and the perceptions of liberals and conservatives regarding this.

As a college student, I have been well-versed in the liberal rhetoric regarding the reasons why we should have a welfare system. Here are a few: There are constraints that do not allow lower class people, especially minorities, to break the bonds of being limited to tertiary jobs where they are limited to less than $21,000 a year. Poor educations in minority neighborhoods combine with a lack of economic opportunities to cause this. Therefore, there needs to be something to help these people along in order for them to survive.

These arguments are liberal 101 when it comes to this issue.

What they fail to account for is the fact that dependency is not going to solve any of the problems they cite as being the cause of this poverty. The only way to get out of poverty is to better yourself through means of education and jobs. In order to get these things, it may take minorities moving out of urban ghettos, much like some have.

Coupled with this, the institution of family must be restored in America. This means we should get rid of programs that reward being single and having multiple children. We must promote the family structure. By doing this, we will be providing positive role models for the youth of America.

Crime is glorified in this culture as well. This needs to stop. I realize that urban culture is unique, but if these people ever want to better their situations they need to stop embracing these things. Crime being viewed as legitimate in lower class areas is merely the result of a culture that doesn't want to work for what it has.

I often hear liberals bash others for stereotyping minorities, but many of these stereotypes have been born from the findings of Sociologists themselves, most of which are liberal in nature. I once read a book entitled "Slim's Table." It is by a sociologist named Mitchell Duneier, and studies a restaurant setting of Valois, where older Black patrons spend much of their time. They are of a lower class, but hold the same stereotypes that others do about the youth in their neighborhood. They are not sympathetic to Republican leaders, but hold many conservative views when it comes to their beliefs about the youth.

My overarching point here, though it may be lost, is that we need to stop compounding problems with methods that seem to be in the best interest of the targets, but really only perpetuate a culture of poverty and violence. Jason Lewis, a local talk radio host put this best for me. He said something to the effect that if Dairy Queen started handing out free hamburgers and shakes to everyone in a neighborhood, people would start believing that they needed them. This is how the welfare system is in America. It does not provide any better benefits than the tertiary sector of jobs, but also provides just enough to where people don't feel the need to rid themselves of it. There has to be a better way.

My Response to GM’s “Urgent Message”

If I were in the “Big Three’s” top management, I’d be ASHAMED to send this kind of a letter to customers – pathetically asking for financial aid. As a matter of fact, this is so pitiful; I’ll commit it to a column. My comments are in italics below each paragraph.

Dear Michelle,
Dear under-worked and overpaid GM executive,

You made the right choice when you put your confidence in General Motors, and we appreciate your past support. I want to assure you that we are making our best vehicles ever, and we have exciting plans for the future. But we need your help now. Simply put, we need you to join us to let Congress know that a bridge loan to help U.S. automakers also helps strengthen the U.S. economy and preserve millions of American jobs.

I’m glad you think I made the right choice, but I wish I could say the same for the decisions GM has made over the years. If GM is making their “best vehicles ever,” why are 4 of your 6 brands’ market share rapidly evaporating to your competitors? GMC, Pontiac, Saturn and Buick have not been viable players in the market for quite some time. Exactly what are those exciting plans for the future? I’ve been hearing about all of this good news in your annual reports for the past 10 years – I’m still waiting.

Despite what you may be hearing, we are not asking Congress for a bailout but rather a loan that will be repaid.

Repaid, how? Has GM realized that they cannot continue on the current path? Explain to the taxpayers what changes your company intends to make and convince them that a loan will not simply prolong the inevitable. Chrysler’s Lee Iacocca at least had a sound PLAN… not just a promise of a bright future and to make the “bestest” vehicles ever! He also did not use federal dollars. The government simply guaranteed private loans in exchange for stock warrants. Seeing that Chrysler is now back in the same predicament, why should the taxpayers commit resources AGAIN?

The U.S. economy is at a crossroads due to the worldwide credit crisis, and all Americans are feeling the effects of the worst economic downturn in 75 years. Despite our successful efforts to restructure, reduce costs and enhance liquidity, U.S. auto sales rely on access to credit, which is all but frozen through traditional channels.

Successful efforts? Why is GM’s labor cost almost double that of their competitors’? Exactly what has GM restructured? Why do losing divisions like Pontiac, Saturn and GMC still exist? Why did the executive team use corporate jets as transportation to beg taxpayers for money? Is that an example of cost reduction? I think GM’s problems go far beyond the limited access to credit markets.

The consequences of the domestic auto industry collapsing would far exceed the $25 billion loan needed to bridge the current crisis. According to a recent study by the Center for Automotive Research:

• One in 10 American jobs depends on U.S. automakers
• Nearly 3 million jobs are at immediate risk
• U.S. personal income could be reduced by $150 billion
• The tax revenue lost over 3 years would be more than $156 billion

Please don’t insult the average consumers’ intelligence by quoting an Ann Arbor think tank. Let’s look at the bigger picture. This is not about lost jobs and tax revenue because a reckless loan to a company who STILL doesn’t have a firm grasp of competition in a global environment will only make the OVERALL economic environment worse, and put GM, Ford and Chrysler in a shoddier situation in the future. How many jobs and lost tax revenue will be at stake at that point? Do we patch the leak here, or do we figure out what is causing the leak?

Discussions are now underway in Washington, D.C., concerning loans to support U.S. carmakers. I am asking for your support in this vital effort by contacting your state representatives. Please take a few minutes to go to, where we have made it easy for you to contact your U.S. senators and representatives. Just click on the "I'm a Concerned American" link under the "Mobilize Now" section, and enter your name and ZIP code to send a personalized e-mail stating your support for the U.S. automotive industry.

Let me assure you that General Motors has made dramatic improvements over the last 10 years. In fact, we are leading the industry with award-winning vehicles like the Chevrolet Malibu, Cadillac CTS, Buick Enclave, Pontiac G8, GMC Acadia, Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, Saturn AURA and more. We offer 18 models with an EPA estimated 30 MPG highway or better — more than Toyota or Honda. GM has 6 hybrids in market and 3 more by mid-2009. GM has closed the quality gap with the imports, and today we are putting our best quality vehicles on the road.

I’ll show my support for GM by offering the following suggestions:

1) Stop whining to taxpayers, and file Chapter 11. You’ve let the United Auto Workers’ Union govern you, and as a result your labor costs are almost twice that of your competitors. Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws will allow you renegotiate your labor contracts, pension plans and other employee entitlement programs in an effort to reduce costs. GM, Ford and Chrysler can no longer afford to sacrifice the quality of their vehicles to make up for higher labor costs.

2) Replace management across the board. Your leadership is horrendous. Your current CEO has seen GM’s stock drop NINETY-FIVE percent during his watch. If an NFL team loses ninety-five percent of their games, do the head coach and his coaching staff return next year? Hire leadership who has an understanding that corporate jets and other executive perks cannot be afforded in a highly competitive global environment. A cost-reduction effort needs to be implemented at ALL levels – not just the bottom.

3) Dissolve your unprofitable brands, and consider joining forces with one of your American competitors – perhaps Chrysler. These actions will result in an immediate costs savings of billions.

4) GM is still lagging behind in fuel efficiency in spite of your boasting about new hybrid vehicles. Fuel efficiency is the road to victory in regaining market share.

Please share this information with friends and family using the link on the site.

I most certainly will – just not in the way you intended.

Thank you for helping keep our economy viable.

Thank you in advance for scrapping your plan to beg for money and devising a long-term strategy that will restore confidence in our markets.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bush should have never been pulled into the picture

Originally posted at RedState

If we've finally learned to cool our heels and drop the fingers, conservatives are beginning to realize that we have sucked it up this decade. But one thing is certain. The accumulation of frustration that has been building up since '07 was pretty clear in the loud of chorus of boos during John's concession speech on the night of the fourth. But wait. Are we quick to say who they were booing? Sure, the mention of 'The One' probably triggered an instinctive backlash of muddled curse words and vocal boos and hisses. Yet, who's to say there weren't those in the crowd who were just a teensy peeved at McCain? A pretty common diagnosis of our failure was an unpopular incumbent, a messianic challenger, yada yada yada. They say Obama's timing was right; that he would have won regardless our chosen candidate. But oh no! It was the BUSH factor! It must have been the President's fault! But... has anyone bothered to realize that it was in McCain's full capacity to kick Georgie out of the picture?

"I am not President Bush."

In theory, if all Americans knew what we conservatives know, that sentence alone would have been enough for there to have been an ah-ha! for the voters, let alone the grassroots. But as we know, Americans don't know that and tend to be attracted to very long coattails.

The President's ideological platform (and no, I'm not talking about the Bush doctrine) was for certain sound enough (or we wouldn't have reelected him in '04). Sure, W didn't run as conservative a campaign as HW did, but did that kick us in the arse? The very vast majority of the perceived dissatisfaction of our President has been induced by arbitrary incidences of alien origin. In other words, the platform didn't screw Bush; we know that much. Black Tuesday screwed Hoover. Watergate screwed Nix. The Iranian hostage crisis screwed Carter (well, he was already screwed). But in this case, like Obama's uncanny power to do magic, it seemed as if the real Bush "doctrine" disappeared. If at all, the President's domestic prowess seemed to be nonexistent this election cycle.

McCain had an open kill here. He really only had two options: renounce George completely, or strengthen his principles while defending the President in subtlety. It's evident he didn't choose the latter. The smart thing for John to have done would have been to tell the voters that he would not run a campaign of 'what-ifs'. They really are nothing new, but politicians these days seem unwilling to detach these 'what-ifs' from core party platforms.

To sum things up, an ideological campaign would have given John a win. His arbitrary one cost him it.

So yes, I just said it. It was not Bush's fault.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Much of a Role did Mark-to-Market Accounting Play in the Credit Crisis?

Not many people outside of the financial world would consider the possibility of a technical accounting rule playing a role in the credit crisis. Unfortunately, it takes a crisis of this magnitude to bring these concepts to light.

In a nutshell, mark-to-market accounting assigns the current market price to a held financial instrument. For example, if you buy 100 shares of XYZ Corporation’s stock at $10 per share, the value of your shares would be worth $1,000 (100 shares x $10/share). Six months later, the stock is trading at $20 per share. The “mark-to-market” value of the stock would now be $2,000 (100 shares x $20/share). By employing mark-to-market accounting, the net worth of your asset just doubled. In the simplest terms, this practice makes sense. The current value of the stock should be recorded on a company’s books regardless of whether this affects their balance sheet positively or negatively. However, there are two things to consider: 1) potential for major abuse when applied to more complex financial instruments – especially debt instruments and 2) how both realized and unrealized gains/losses affect the market’s perception of an entity.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Statement No. 157 in November 2007 with the intent to establish a framework for measuring fair value in generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and expand disclosures about fair value measurements. (1) FAS 157 established a hierarchy of asset classes which attempts to assign values to assets that are not as liquid as a stock that trades on the market everyday. In other words, how is a value assigned when it cannot be assessed by its current trading price? The trade value of a stock can be verified at any time, but what about financial instruments that do not trade in the market on a daily basis? Assets are broken down into three levels:

Level one: consists of assets that have an identifiable market price (price of a stock that trades on the market).

Level two: is a class of assets that do not have market prices. A model is then constructed to determine the assets’ fair value. Some inputs include but are not limited to prices of similar securities and interest rates.

Level three: is comprised of assets that don’t have market prices, and the valuation techniques used to price “level two assets” are not available. As a result, an entity is allowed to use its own assumptions bearing in mind that the asset should be priced based on what a willing buyer would pay.

The analogy behind the level three asset classification is what gives what gives way to the famous term “mark-to-make believe.”

The value of mortgage-related securities relies heavily on assumptions – assumptions that had a positive effect during the housing boom, but now have a very negative affect as banks are now recognizing billions of dollars in losses.

What happens when investors panic and sell? What assumptions can be used to value financial instruments being sold in mass panic? This is where things get murky. Assets being sold out of panic make it extremely difficult to assign value. In addition, the inputs that are used are nothing more than educated guesses by accountants. What a way to halt trading in the market when things go astray! The problem with many valuation techniques is that they overstate the value of assets, which then overstates losses.

Mark-to-market accounting also wreaks havoc on the liability side of things. Bond prices are inversely related to the company’s risk. In other words, if the price of a bond falls, it is in response to the market’s perception that the company’s risk has increased. Think Goldman Sachs and Lehman brothers here. Mark-to-market accounting allows these entities to record GAINS on their income statement. One may ask why on Earth they would be allowed to do this. For those who stayed awake during Accounting 101: remember the basic accounting equation? Shareholders’ equity = Assets – liabilities. When the value of the bonds decrease, the result is a decrease in total liabilities which means shareholders’ equity INCREASES…hence the gain. It’s a wonder how Lehman Brothers was able to report $2.4 billion in pre-tax profits by “marking to market” its liabilities. Then, shortly after the collapse of the market bubble, the company is bankrupt. (2)

In summary, the FASB and the Securities and Exchange Commission should rethink the use of mark-to-market accounting in publicly traded companies. Perhaps it should remain only in the futures exchange where the practice originated. Accounting should be uniform and give a conservative, accurate picture of where an entity stands. There are too many unknown factors, and blind assumptions are made when applying valuation techniques. This gives way to artificial market bubbles and extreme volatility when the bubbles burst. If entities are able to use mark-to-market accounting which allows unrealized gains to manufacture synthetic profits which then quickly spirals into realized losses, the housing bubble and burst will the first of many in the future.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Chasing Fairy Tales

Oh lordy, I must have gone back in time because it feels like 2000 all over again. A long, drawn out presidential campaign with a heavy partisan tinge. Emotions riding high on both sides. The victorious candidate being called illegitimate. Except, this time, the winner had an electoral college blow-out and its not his victory being contented, but his status as a natural-born American citizen.

According to reliable sources, Barack Hussien Obama II was born in Hawaii, but don't tell that to the vast swathes of narrow-visioned layman intellectuals trying to add another stain to the already soiled history of American presidential elections. They contend that President-Elect Obama's birth certificate was faked and that he was actually born in Kenya, which would make him a naturalized citizen, not a natural-born citizen and disqualify him from holding the office of the President of the United States of America.

Common sense has apparently fled in the face of absurd personal and/or political vendetta. Despite not being totally vetted by the media as John McCain or Sarah Palin were, Barack Obama was vetted by an institution much more biased and very, very thorough: the Clinton political machine. If the sue-happy individuals would just stop and think, maybe they'd realize that half the legitimate points brought up by McCain/Palin (Ayers, Wright, radical leftism,etc) were originally brought up by the Clinton primary campaign. You would think one of the most ruthless political dynasties bent on making Hilary Clinton president would be able to find such major dirt on her biggest threat. Then again, the birth certificate experts believe they're smarter than hundreds of thousands of experienced political mudslingers and the entire American public.

Like equating the President-Elect to old, dead genocidal dictators, these fairy tale charges do nothing for the grander plan of the new grassroots conservative movement: victory in the marketplace of ideas. Conservatism isn't insane personal hates dressed up as noble political endeavors. Conservatism isn't de-legitimizing a president simply because we don't like him. That's something for the lefties and the Democrats to do.

At the core, conservatism is the long-standing, righteous American ideology of traditional values, free markets, a strong national defense and a federalism that does not overreach. These are easy ideas to preach if we stick to the path of actually preaching them instead of charging at windmills in the distance.

How are we to win over the minds of the young student and the working man if we're too busy trying looking through trash heaps looking for pieces of gold?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dems and National Security: Where Change Is Actually Needed

Since President-Elect Obama's victory two very important national security issues have been brought up and commented on: the status of the prisons at Guantanamo Bay and the Missile Defense System. Both answers have been discouraging.

Mr. Obama gave no guarantees that the MDS program in Eastern Europe would continue. This answer comes only a few days after Russia brazenly moved missiles in the direction of Poland and a few months after Russia invaded Georgia. Earlier this year threatened the Ukraine with nuclear destruction if it joined NATO. This answer comes during a time with an uncooperative Iran testing long-range, nuke-able missiles with increasing frequency. This answer comes when North Korea is on the verge of a new era of leadership or a new world of chaos as the Stalinist state deals with competing strongmen.

Apparently, our new president has not learned anything from the Cold War. The benefits of the containment strategy are up for debate, but the deterrence strategy was undeniably one of the major reasons the Cold War never went hot between the United States and the Soviet Union. Our ability to retaliate in such force as to completely annihilate the Soviet Union kept the Communists from attempting such an insane idea. Our conventional force acts a deterrent as well. North Korea could easily overpower the forces we have just outside, except that tens of thousands of dead American soldiers would not bode well for the power hungry dynasty. There's a reason our only major enemy during the two decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain has been fanatical terrorists bent on our complete annihilation and its not our lack of things that go boom.

Concerning Gitmo, President Bush has had quite the time trying to explain to the public and to the Democratic left the complexity of the operation and the reality of their detainment. Many of the terrorists and terrorist suspects at Gitmo were picked up on the battlefield. Out of the original 600 prisoners, now there are only 250. Some of those released ended up back in prison, picked up while aiming their rifles at American soldiers. Some have even been been culprits of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. Many of those still in prison have nowhere to be sent as many nations think having terrorists and terror suspects in their borders an abhorrent idea. These terrorists are not normal soldiers, but they are also not the straight up criminals you find daily in American courtrooms. This is a new war in which both national security and criminal justice must be sated. This is not an easy task, and as White House Spokesman Dana Perino has pointed out the Democrats are about to discover this jarring fact.
"We've tried very hard to explain to people how complicated it is. When you pick up people off the battlefield that have a terrorist background, it's not just so easy to let them go," Perino said. "These issues are complicated, and we have put forward a process that we think would work in order to put them on trial through military tribunals."
There are two major questions we must ask the President-Elect if he plans on shutting Gitmo down. Firstly, will the terrorists and terror suspects have access to American civilian courts? Secondly, where are these terrorists and terror suspects to go if no nation takes them?

The first answer can be found in the Supreme Court's ruling Boumediene v. Bush. This is a ruling in which a terrorist was given access to American civilian courts so he may challenge his detention. The 5-4 decision was along ideological lines and outraged the White House as well as national security experts. The ability of terror suspects to challenge their detention through civilian means, and the idea that the War on Terror is only a law enforcement or a military matter, will subvert our defenses against an enemy that has created a version of asymmetrical warfare that requires both law enforcement and military methods to defeat it.

The second answer can be found in another ruling in which 17 Uighur terror suspects found in Afghanistan were allowed entry in to the United States since no other nation would take them. These suspects were not found to have committed crimes against the United States, but there is a significant Islamist insurgency by Uighurs in China. The biggest threats against the 2008 Olympics in Bejing were from these Islamists. Although not our enemies by action, these men are of the same mind and ideology as the bombers in Iraq, the murderers in Spain and Britain and the suicide pilots on 9/11. It is one thing to let these men go because they are not a direct threat to us; it is another thing to send them into a completely alien culture they may find detestable at minimum, an abomination at most. We have millions of non-citizens crossing our borders illegally to find better jobs and lives and there are millions more are trying to get into the United States through legal means. Why would should we allow 18 non-citizens that may have ideological and cultural animosity towards us? One is not an American purely by the fact one resides in America.

President-Elect Obama needs to set his mind straight on these issues. Both involves the lives of Americans and both involve the security of many nations, not just ours. We cannot allow aggressive, imperialistic nations to intimate us and our free allies nor can we just throw back to old, static strategies when it comes to a new breed of military enemy in a new, complex world. Mr. Obama needs to adhere to his talk of change because if he sticks to the rhetoric of the old Democratic Party and of the left wing nothing good will come of it.

Cross-posted at Generation Patriot

Ax the Hitler References

There's been a lot of scuttlebutt about Obama's forced community service program. Several have gone to the extreme of comparing Obama's program to the Hitler Youth. This is quite the false comparison. I had to do such a program in Canada and while an unwelcome addition to massive homework and tests that required little thinking and much regurgitation, it wasn't anything like the Hitler Youth.

Obama's community service program along with his push for a slew of new “corps” are nothing like the totalitarian and bigoted Nazi movement. If conservatives want to make comparisons try FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC was a government-led paramilitary organization that went around the country building roads and the like. The Progressive ideology was ingrained into the group: a people united, acting as one organism, can accomplish anything. This is much closer to Obama's goal than the extermination of non-Aryan races or the domination of the world.

If conservatism is going to take root once again in the American psyche we cannot be made the fools like the few bigots and know-nothings that get on TV make us out to be. Conservatives and conservative ideology are complex and intelligent. Nazi comparisons make us no better than the leftist pseudo-intellectuals that compared Bush to Hitler, Christians to Nazis and Iraq to the Holocaust.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prison Break

Did Capitalism Fail or Did Our Government Fail?

In September our great nation was faced with a financial crisis not seen since the 1930’s. In response to this financial crisis, President George W. Bush called for a bill to save our financial markets. On September 28, 2008 America passed the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008”. This bill provides over 750 billion dollars of tax payer dollars to attempt to restore credit and regain confidence in a downward economy that has grown to epic and global proportions. In essence the bill will allow the federal government to buy into the financial system through the ownership of preferred stock. I firmly stand against this action and have concerns about the federal government buying ownership into the financial district.

First lets go over how all this happened. In a nutshell this all leads back to the "Community Reinvestment Act" which forced banks to comply with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by giving out loans to people regardless of whether or not they could pay for them. Fannie and Freddie, partly owned by the federal government, offered to back these bad loans if any of them were to foreclose. With the government backing these loans, banks felt they had nothing to lose since they had to comply with the federal mandates or face costly lawsuits. So banks got creative with how they issued loans (Arm, interest only, no money down, etc.). Fannie and Freddie continued to make money as long as home values increased and as long as more loans were issued. The more loans the more money Fannie and Freddie made. Fannie and Freddie then bundled these mortgage loans into "mortgage backed securities" and sold them as investments to other banks who bought them. Next came high oil prices and inflation started to rise. Interest rates went up and more people started to foreclose. With too many foreclosures at one time, Fannie and Freddie couldn't back these loans and the downward spiral continues to this day.

What happened was not the result of the free market or deregulation, as the left would have you believe. What happened had everything to do with the fact that a bad government policy failed. Fannie and Freddie removed an important element of capitalism…..the element of risk. When risk is removed there is no fear and therefore there can be no failure. Risk is an essential part of capitalism. The old saying “the higher the risk, the higher potential for return” still holds true today as it did hundreds of years ago. In this case there was no danger in giving out risky loans because banks were assured they would be backed by the government. For example, let’s say you and I go to a casino, and I force you to play the slot machines. Then I tell you not to worry because if you lose any money I will cover your losses. Are you going to behave differently in that casino if I tell you I am going to back your gambling that day? Of course you will, and our financial markets are no exception.

So what does our government do? They buyout Fannie and Freddie so they are completely owned by the federal government, and bailout our banks by buying shares of preferred stock as collateral. Our federal government failed us by trying to make everything fair instead of letting the market determine who can pay back a loan. In a normal market banks all take a reasonable amount of risky loans, but too many can jeopardize their business. The federal government failed to regulate Fannie and Freddie and failed to enforce the existing laws we already have in place. As a result the federal government now has complete ownership of Fannie and Freddie, as well as a substantial stake in our largest banks.

So what should our government have done? For starters our government had no business mandating companies to take bad loans in the first place. I would love to see everyone own a home, but as we have seen too many people owning houses they cannot afford can lead to a disaster. I would like to see the government dramatically change the “Community Reinvestment Act” and reduce the power Fannie and Freddie have in the marketplace. Next, I would like to see the government stay out and not offer any tax payer money to financial institutions. However, as I stated above our government broke capitalism so now our government believes they have to come in and fix it. I am against the government owning any shares in our financial sector. If it is decided that federal help is mandatory then I would rather they issued bonds or loans coupled with legislature that completely changed the way Fannie and Freddie operate.

As a free market capitalist I am weary whenever the government buys into the private sector to “help out”. Usually when the government gets involved with anything they cause more problems than they solve. When this is all over is our government going to sell those shares back and get out of the private sector? That remains to be seen, but I have my doubts. What voice is our government going to have now that the government has a direct steak in the financial world? What kind of new regulations are going to be put in place while they are partial owners? Is the government going to mandate how these companies invest their money? I don’t recall hearing GW Bush say a bad government policy had a hand in causing the financial crisis. As other industries fall on hard times as a result, is the government going to bail them all out? The fact is we do not have the money to subsidize the private sector, and our federal government shouldn’t be in the business of running it in the first place.


Because Communists weren't dangerous at all...

...but people who have moral objections to gays (more than half of California) are.

I get their anger. I'd be pissed too if my campaign lost.

I don't get their racist, bigoted reaction.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

At Least Adolfe Won't Have to Explain His Donation to Gurring

From Politico, h/t the Washington Independent:
Now that Sen. John McCain has officially lost the presidency, Politico reminds him that he still has an audit to look forward to.

According to the report, President-elect Barack Obama, who opted out of public financing for his general election bid, will likely avoid an examination of his campaign’s books by the Federal Election Commission. Because McCain did accept public funding, an FEC audit is mandatory, at the campaign’s expense. Fortunately for him, Politico reports the McCain campaign allocated $9.4 million to pay for it.
Good thing Obama is avoiding it (/sarcasm), then they'd find this:
Meanwhile, last week a reader made a donation to the Obama campaign under the name "Adolfe Hitler" (Don't ask me why the "e") of "#1 Reichstag Building, Berlin, Germany", charging it to his Mastercard and is now getting welcome-to-the-big-change emails:
Dear Adolfe,

Thanks for joining this movement. It will take all of us working together to bring change to this country, and we wanted to make sure you know about all the opportunities to get involved in your community and online.

Check out the resources below — learn how you can connect with fellow supporters, organize in your neighborhood, build our national grassroots organization, and stay informed with the very latest campaign news.

Corporate Bailouts: Will They Prolong a Recession?

I’m sure I’m not the only taxpayer frustrated by Washington’s generosity to irresponsible, politically connected corporations. We hear that the credit markets are frozen. Without federal dollars, America would see a domino effect of banks failing one after the other. If you believe this, I have some land I’d like to sell you. Look through your “junk mail,” both snail and online, and see how many invites you receive for credit. Take a stroll to your local car dealership this weekend and see how quickly they’ll get you financed. While it may be true that people who have less than appealing credit or are overextended may not be getting offers, but is that a bad thing? Aren’t reckless loans what got us here in the first place? Isn’t it natural for banks to hold back on lending in harsh economic times? What is the demand for borrowing when people are afraid of losing their jobs?

President Bush’s $168 billion economic stimulus plan in February of this year was supposed to give the economy the boost it needed. Then, along came Bear Stearns. The federal government extended a discounted loan to JP Morgan Chase to entice them to buy Bear’s troubled liabilities. Case closed – economy saved…hardly. In October, the market began to hemorrhage. State governments are now asking for federal dollars along with the troubled auto industry. President Bush addressed the nation assuring us that the federal government would rescue the falling economy. The government being the rescuer is the equivalent of a small raft being thrown to someone drowning in the ocean in the middle of a hurricane, when the one throwing the raft was the cause of the storm!

The federal government now has plans to take stakes in nine of America’s top financial institutions and equity investments in potentially thousands of other banks. One month later, the DOW continues to plunge, consumer confidence is in the tank and the threat of more foreclosures still exists. The threat of a global recession is eminent. What does our President-elect say? More economic stimulus is needed! Why not, as it has worked so well thus far. Don’t forget; he was hired to fix the economy!

One only needs to take a look at history to see how well government intervention works. Did President Hoover’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation of 1931 and 1932 end the Great Depression? Hoover gave federal loans to politically connected companies much like the Paulson/Bush plan. When President Roosevelt took over, he invested heavily in the country’s infrastructure and took the Keynesian approach. Both of these approaches turned a bad recession into the Great Depression and further prolonged misery.

Critics of capitalism and a laissez-faire approach fail to realize that economic downturns are part of the overall economic cycle. Recessions do not mean that capitalism has failed. That also doesn't mean that government oversight is not needed; but there is a difference between proper oversight and intervention. The problem with government intervention is that it prolongs the downturn and creates new problems in the future. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the outgrowth of “The New Deal” along with the waves of entitlement programs that the government is currently having a difficult time funding.

The Bush administration wasn’t interested in bailing out the “dot com” companies at the beginning of this decade. Is the tech sector dead as a result? America had an 8-month recession with a decent recovery. While the credit crisis is far more severe, over-reaction can make a bad situation worse. The federal government has already spent over $1 trillion to try and stop the bleeding. The new administration plans on spending more and possibly a move to bail out the ailing auto industry. As it stands, the federal deficit will exceed $1 trillion next year. The potential effects these actions will have on the value of our dollar and impending inflation, one has to ask if we are pouring water into a leaky bucket and what the opportunity cost will be from allocating an incredible amount of resources to banks, individual states and companies that are poorly run.

Can You Imagine Mini-Pelosi?

Wouldn't that just be the creepiest thing ever?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Conservative Underground Gear

create & buy custom products at Zazzle

Making a post here so folks can link to the panel from the sidebar.

Arizona Supreme Court to Ban Proper Legal Terms

Well, this proves that AZ is truly John McCain's state.
Illegal-alien and open-borders advocates may succeed in getting the Arizona Supreme Court to ban numerous immigration-related phrases, including “illegal alien” and “open-borders advocates.”

In a significant blow to the First Amendment and the use of legally-correct terminology, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor has advanced the demands of the Arizona Hispanic Bar Association by moving to ban the following language from all of the state’s courtrooms:

Illegal aliens
Resident or non-resident aliens
Illegal immigrants
Illegal immigration
Immigration epidemic
Immigration crisis
Immigrant invasion
Pro-illegal immigration activists
Open borders advocates
Anchor babies
Proponents for amnesty

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Oil Speculation: Good or Bad?

One of the most difficult things to hear during the Presidential campaigns was the continued bashing of oil speculation. We elect officials to represent us in Washington and carry out the people’s business, yet most do not have even a beginner’s grasp of how our markets work. I don’t know which was worse during the campaign: Obama’s instance that high oil prices were due to the war in Iraq coupled with investor greed, or McCain’s populist pandering that illustrated his ignorance on the topic as well.

In order to understand the truth behind oil speculation, we must first understand a very simple concept of economics: supply and demand’s effect on prices. Speculation does not just begin on a whim. In other words, investors don’t dump investments in other sectors to flock to the commodity market as Paul Krugman would like you to believe. Increased demand is what drives oil speculation. Globalization has caused global poverty to decline rapidly this decade. In fact, since 2002, the world economy has grown 4.6% which happens to be the highest sustained rate since the 1960’s according to Michael Mussa of the Peterson Institute.(1) When economies prosper, an increased demand for oil is the result.

Now that we have established the motive for speculation, the process must be explained. Speculation is not greed driven. It’s a HEDGE against future price increases. If an investor buys oil futures, that person is betting on the fact that oil prices are going to continue to rise. The contract locks them into today’s prices. However, if one person buys a futures contract that means someone else is selling it. The seller has different expectations than the buyer. The seller believes that prices will DECLINE in the future. In addition, the person bidding up and buying oil futures must then turn around and sell the oil later. This means that the more people’s bidding drives up the prices, the greater prices will FALL in the future. The economic growth the world has enjoyed since 2002 has now come to a halt with the global credit crisis. This means that demand for oil is no longer as strong as it was before. As a result, crude oil is currently trading in the low $60 range as opposed to the $140 range this past summer.

Critics of speculation argue that speculation restricts supply. This statement is false. If a person buys an oil contract now to lock in today’s prices, they cannot sit and hold the oil off the market. They have two options: 1) take delivery of the oil or 2) sell the contract to another investor. In any event, when the contract expires, there is no net effect on oil supply.

Think of speculation as an insurance policy. If you own a company whose profitability is severely hurt by high oil prices, it’s in your best interest to lock in today’s price. If you are correct and the price of oil continues to rise, your business can survive and your employees whose livelihood depends on the success of your business will thank you. If you are wrong and prices drop, you will lose money; however you are still in business and can recover as opposed to shutting your doors had the opposite happened.

Should they not be allowed to do this? Are critics saying that business can’t hedge to survive? What’s the alternative? Should companies close their doors, lay off workers and be deprived of capital to grow? Who does that hurt?

The bottom line is this. If speculation was driven out of pure greed, then we would have seen what we saw in early 2008 years ago. After all, if it’s solely greed driven, then these greedy speculators can drive up the price any time they wish. Remember that there are two sides to these contracts. The global credit crisis blindsided the market, and now people are seeing instant relief at the pump thanks to those greedy speculators who are now recovering from losses.

(1) Samuelson, Robert J. “Let’s Shoot the Speculators!” Newsweek (July 2008) Online.

How Did This Happen?

Tuesday evening our country has taken a sharp turn to the left. Barack Obama has won a historic election to become the 44th president of the United States. Congratulations are in order to a man who ran a brilliant campaign to reach the highest office in America.

Obama now joins the ranks of Pelosi and Harry Reid as they lead our country and the free world into the future. Once thought of as unthinkable, today an Obama presidency and comfortable Democratic congressional majority has become reality. America, previously known as a center-right nation, is bound to move further to the left under new management in January. This is the darkest day for modern conservatism since the election of Jimmy Carter 1977. How did we get here you may ask? I will explain some of the highlights.

I cannot continue without talking about George W. Bush and compassionate conservatism. Compassionate conservative was the theme GW Bush campaigned on when he first ran for office on 2000. This was a vehicle to “extend” the ideology of modern conservatism to a larger platform. Compassionate conservatism swept the nation as a moderate “mean between the extremes” and was eventually adopted by most of the Republicans who controlled congress, whether they knew it or not. GW Bush welcomed this and refused to veto a single bill while the Republicans and Democrats in congress used this as an opportunity to get the pork bills passed they have been waiting on. Compassionate conservatives made decisions according to the free market as well as proposed new social programs to America’s impoverished. Unfortunately it is difficult to fight for both. GW Bush governed like a conservative when it came to some things, but governed as a spend crazy liberal at the same time. The results lead to a federal debt which has doubled in size. I seriously doubt a liberal in the White House would have done much worse as far as spending is concerned. GW Bush is a mixed character for me, where I agree I agree wholeheartedly (Kyoto, war on terror, Iraq), but where I disagree I could not disagree more (NCLB, Prescription drug program for seniors, Financial bailout, Iraq war strategy, open borders). This is consistent with the idea of compassionate conservatives, when you play both sides of the fence you end up with liberalism with tax cuts and record level deficits. Our dollar reflected this spending which contributed to the fall of the dollar against the Euro. Conservatives failing to act like conservatives on most domestic issues became the finger that pushed the first domino and the push to socialism was already underway.

John McCain was nominated as a “moderate” Republican who had a reputation of getting things done. He also had a reputation of fighting against his own party, most notably was the criticism of the Iraq war by GW Bush and the tax cuts in lew of spending. The McCain campaign came out slow in the beginning but after Obama failed to visit the injured American troops in Germany the McCain campaign saw an opportunity to go on the offense. The campaign rose and began to exceed everyone’s expectations by sticking to conservative principles as well as 20+ years of history fighting pork and spending. The campaign reached an all time high when the announcement of Sarah Palin, a woman conservative was added to the ticket. The country was ablaze with enthusiasm after her speech at the GOP convention, many had forgotten Obama was even running. McCain saw record turnout at all their support rallies. With the debates coming up, few thought the momentum would turn and oh how it did.

In the middle of September, we all know America was hit with the worst financial crisis since the S&L crisis in the 80’s. The world was aghast while the markets tumbled and everyone looked for a leader in the mist of a financial crisis. John McCain volunteered to suspend his campaign and see to the crisis personally so a good bill can be constructed. Obama was advised to dodge the crisis to prevent any association with the crisis. Instead he stayed on the campaign trail and continued to hammer Republican policies and free market as the cause of the problem. In all actuality it was bad government policy started with the Democrats that lead to the downturn. The McCain campaign failed to point out the true causes and looked for a solution. Nancy Pelosi’s partisan debacle fueled the fire in the House came out against the first bailout bill. Everything was looking McCain’s way at this point. McCain showed up flat in the first debate the following night, possibly fatigued after months on the campaign trail and racing to help with the first bill. He failed to call out Obama on most of his liberal rhetoric. Obama came off polished and poised and reached out to independents with the usual liberal arguments masked as change. All of which could have been easily refuted by sticking to the facts and explaining. McCain did none of this, he gained some points back on foreign policy but the economy was on everyone’s mind at the time.

Then came the second bill which was ladled with pork. Instead of standing with House Republicans and fighting for a more conservative bill, he supported a pork ridden bailout package. I cannot remember McCain speaking out against the pork in this bill and if he did, he did not articulate it well. The second debate didn’t do anything to advance McCain’s cause either. A tie benefits Obama who had no executive experience. It wasn’t until the final debate was Obama called out on most of his rhetoric…too little too late I’m afraid.

Finally Sarah Palin, once listed as a brilliant pick, was under tremendous scrutiny. Showing up well in most interviews early on, she began to falter later. A two hour interview with Katie Couric turned out to be an edited attack focusing on the things she did not say or articulate well. I am not making excuses for Sarah, I hold my leaders to high standards. Sarah was being molded into a politician, when in all actuality she was a get the job done “real” person and that is who she needed to be on the campaign trail. She showed up nervous and articulated poorly in the Biden debate. Any steam by selection Sarah at this point was out of fire. She came off as a “hockey mom” running for VP instead of the change agent governor of Alaska. This could have been due to a bad policy by the McCain campaign advising her to behave this way. The polls began to widen further.

Which leads us to where we are today. Obama ran a brilliant campaign and articulated his ideas to tie McCain to GW Bush and compassionate conservatives. Republians failing to live up to true conservative ideas is what lead to the push to the left. Now subjects once frightful and out of reach now are a possibility. Fairness Doctrine, universal insurance or healthcare, windfall profits, and wealth redistribution, are all possibilities. The Democrats will waste no time in putting their agenda forward, all we conservatives can hope for now is that the Republicans that did keep their seats and moderate Democrats can work together to keep this great nation free and capitalist. I do not feel one bit sorry for the Republicans who were voted out, they got what they deserve for ditching their principles. Liberalism always makes a case for true conservative ideas just by being who they are. Let’s just hope the next generation of Republicans have learned from these mistakes and will stick to conservative ideology moving forward. This didn’t happen because socialist ideas made sense, it is because the “watered down” version of conservative ideas being presented by the Republicans did not work. Republicans need to take a long hard look at the enemy which lead to this, unfortunately that enemy stares right back at them in the mirror.