Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Health Comrade

I really have no analysis on this one. Chief Economic Advisor Larry Summers says that we are engaging in unnecessary health care procedures. Frankly, I don't care if we do. That is why a market system is better. If people feel that they need these procedures, they should be allowed to have them. Anyone who has had surgery can attest to the fact that they aren't being cut up on a whim. Surgery is always out of perceived necessity.

But now our Economic Advisors are saying that they aren't necessary.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Goes To (Democrat) Camp

Knowhattamean Vern? (Aw, I made myself sad. A moment of silence for Jim Varney.)

Ok, back to the post.

I don't know why anyone should be happy or sad over Arlen's announcement today...slight correction...the only people that SHOULD be sad today are those that believe in the virtues of elected office and the individual discretion that is required by such offices. All Arlen is doing today is buying some blue neck-ties to replace his red ones. He isn't having a "come to Jesus" moment where he will now vote in a completely different way. If you look at his voting record, his ideology has not been incredibly consistent and I must assume that he got a little bit excited about being on Obama's team.

You can also assume that he was not looking forward to losing a primary to Pat Toomey, which would have effectively ended his political career. Poll numbers coming out last Friday (hmm) indicate that Toomy had a 51/30 percent advantage over Specter.

So let's put the "finally saw the light" rhetoric away and see this for what it is: political opportunism. Specter knew he had lost the base that got him elected and sees opportunity with Pennsylvania Dems that overwhelmingly took the state last winter. The real tragedy is that something like this even matters. One could argue that every battle won by party politics is lost by democracy.

Jindal's Gamble

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on 37 year old Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's gamble in refusing federal stimulus funding in order to trim his state's budget and whether or not that will be politically tenable to his electorate in light of the cuts that will be necessary to make this happen.

To be honest, I think the success of any given politician is tied almost entirely to his ability to give a speech. I also tend to agree that Bobby Jindal's response to Obama's speech reminded me an awful lot of Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock. However, these moves will help make Jindal a hero in Louisiana, where they dispise DC (and anyone from the Northeast). Louisiana sees itself as a separate country and will often refer to the "upper 48" as a different place.

In terms of what this will do for GOP nationally, I think the editorial overstates Jindal's influence for exactly the reasons Louisiana believes itself to be a different place. Louisiana does not reflect the beliefs of the nation. Obama is still enjoying tremendous popularity. It will be the effect of stimulus pay-outs on states that DO accept the money that will dictate the minority's political fate. Will states like Maryland have huge tax spikes when the stimulus funding runs out? I'd say it is almost a definite "yes". Will the people be able to get behind these spikes in favor of "Change they can believe in"? I don't think so. Even the most loyal Obama supporter gets to a point where they say "You messin' with MY MONEY. That's MY MONEY, man." In political theatre, we are always talking about OTHER PEOPLE's money. There is always someone ELSE that has too much and is taxed too little. Unfortunately the maxim of "nothing is free" will be invoked as Obama has to explain that the recovery (to the extent there is one) needs to be paid for, and thank goodness we had him at the helm to get us out of it. We should be so grateful that everyone should be willing to pay back into the pot to pay for a government that has had its second rebirth...and it will all be George Bush's fault.

Friday, April 24, 2009

He Made 'em Partners

"And when the cops, when they assigned a whole army to stop Jimmy, what'd he do? He made 'em partners."

You ever take a buddy out to eat on his birthday, pay for the check, only to have him chase you around with a $20 bill for the rest of the night trying to pay you back? Well right now Obama paid for a bunch of bank's birthday dinners (more like "Sorry-you-cheated-on-your-wife-got-caught-got-divorced-and-lost-all-your-money" dinners), they are trying to pay him back, and he's holding his hands up saying "Nah nah nah, I got you, I got you, bro."
We don't want this. If this was a limited intervention to get banks back on their feet, let them pay it back. If this wasn't stage one of bank nationalization (foil hats at the ready, sir), then they are doing a crap job of showing otherwise.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Day Celebration Without the BO

My friend Christopher Malagisi of the Young Conservative Coaltion withstood the Global Melting (known to us peons as "rain") to stage an Earth Day protest against the backwards environmental policies proposed by the Obama administration. While there was some discussion of Climate Change (the PC term for "Global Warming"), these conservatives expressed their own form of love for Mother Earth: private market-based solutions. A big issue here is that government programs are static while a market is arguably fluid. A static program can evolve, but it is bulky and anything but organic. These programs do not always take into account all of the consequences, and when the consequences appear (i.e., ridiculous energy prices) they are slow to respond. Market solutions present the opposite end. They can fail outright and never address any part of the problem. What is more likely is that their original form will fail, but be quickly succeeded by a better solution, which will then fail, be replaced and so on and so forth.

The article notes that there were no proposed solutions from the YCC here, but that is based off of a presumption that those against government programming must have a government program to replace it with. What about creating market incentives to have the market create the solution? It worked for the automobile, personal computer, cellular phone, electricity...

You WANT me on that wall...You NEED me on that wall

(I will use whatever oppoturnity I can to quote from the following three movies: A Few Good Men, Goodfellas, and Tombstone. That is all.)

Attorney General Eric Holder looks like he's got his finger on the trigger of prosecuting past Office of Legal Counsel attorneys that helped draft the "Torture Memos." Obama keeps licking his finger and holding it out into the winds of public opinion to see which way things are swaying, but I'll put my money on at least a disbarment of one of these attorneys (who now all work as professors at Harvard & Yale law schools).

This concerns me on a few different levels. First, these people were doing their job. We may not like their conclusions and we may think they did a crappy job, but no one went to work thinking "If only I can find a way to authorize torture...a man can only dream." Legal memos are written in the same way military strategems are. You write what you COULD do in a given situation. Most memos are never used. The reason you have them is so you can act quickly to seek a particular legal remedy without having to do the research from scratch.

Second, the criminal prosecution of past administrations works very well in third world countries, but I don't think we need to join in on this practice.

Third, it would set a bad precedent that would diminish government transparency. The last days of any administration would cover the streets of DC with a cloud of file burning smoke so thick that we'll have to close the schools.

Fourth, Dems knew what was happening.

Fifth, and in reference to the title:
Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom.... You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. ...
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I liked you better on 24

The "Harmless" Social Harm

Today being a day celebrated at college campuses across this country, I thought I would briefly discuss the political status of the War on Drugs and its implications in libertarian/conservative thought. A few thoughts up front:

1) It amazes me that some of the same people that use pot most frequently also stage boycotts for sweat shops and the like. If they would do just a little research, they would realize that the drug trade (yes marijuana is part of the "drug trade") involves more humanitarian harms that that Adidas soccer ball that costs $35. Wars are fought over this stuff. So while pot may make you feel happy and turn the Home Shopping Network into Comedy Central, there is about a 50% chance you are hurting people with every purchase. Legalization within the United States would have a marginal effect on this.

2) Pot is currently against the law. Whatever your beliefs on the subject, there is not much of a difference (in the eyes of the law) between you smoking pot and the guy down the street shooting coke. You do it because you feel good. Don't look down on him.

3) I absolutely believe that if our current legislature had grown up alcoholics instead of hippies, alcohol would be illegal and not marijuana. Politicians passed these laws to distance themselves from their past.

Now, I believe the War on Drugs is a failure. Drug laws are written with racial undertones (crack/power cocaine discrepanies being the most glaring of examples) and putting addicts in jail does nothing but put them through professional criminal training. I believe the populace gains some unexplainable pleasure from seeing addicts put in jail instead of into treatment. I think our society is above this, but yet it continues. Pot smokers, being of the same legal status as coke users, and working off of the same motivations for using, SHOULD be up in arms to free their brothers in chemistry, but they're not. Instead they are using their political capital for THEIR brand of drug to be legal. Pot users already have minimal penalties for being caught (with such laws rarely being enforced), but yet want THEIR drug made legal so it would be easier to purchase.

True libertarian thought would not split the baby here. Either all in or all out. Either we let people put whatever they want into their bodies or nothing. I can't say I subscribe 100% to this, especially in an age of social programs that would foster a drug culture in a very unproductive way. Currently these social programs are cut off if drug use is established.

My solution: Become a society of treatment over imprisonment. Drug users, alcoholics, chronic gamblers, etc. all need treatment, not jail time. I'd suggest that those who want the legalization of THEIR drug instead seek out the legalization of ALL drugs and at least stay intellectually honest. They would then have to address the consequences of what that would mean.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Letter to the Editor

My letter was published in the Sun today. It was edited a good deal, but I think they stayed true to the objective.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Quote from Ken Ulman on Speed Cameras

"In this county, 30 people per year die from collisions related to speed, compared to between four and six people from murder."

1) The fact that the speed to murder death ratio in Howard County is 6 to 1 makes me more concerned about the six murders than the need for speed cameras.

2) Home Improvement accidents are also higher than murder...should we install "Ladder Cameras"?

3) Where were Ken's handlers?

Supply and Demand

I am curious why the Obama administration is blaming the United States for demand for Mexican drugs, yet blaming Wall Street for the supply of sub-prime mortgages rather than the public.  What am I missing?  Is there a presumption that drug addicts are more sophisticated than home buyers?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Speed Cameras...Again

Hey Baltimore Sun,
Thanks for reporting this story when discussing the speed camera law. I'm sure the fact that a bunch of high schoolers using the cameras for pranks was irrelevant to the concerns of those that believe citations are best dispensed by REAL PEOPLE.

There are days when I really wonder why I maintain my subscription...but that Peter Schmuck writes a darn good sports column...and I've probably made up my subscription costs in free stuff through Readers Rewards...BUT PLEASE, do some real contrarian investigations here. We're being bamboozled and the best you can do is report what is contained in press releases.

Tom the Pissed


Fascinating stuff right here. The editorial is about gay conservatives and where that ideological band fits within party lines. I'd be interested to hear what social conservatives that read this blog may say to that. Do you welcome these groups, or are you unwilling to trade some ground on social issues for conservative government (in the direct understanding of the words)? Can a coalition movement be made without having to trade anything?

My cousin and a few close friends are gay. One of them is the most conservative guys I've ever met. For the most part they just want to be left alone...where does that sound familiar...

Tea Party Thoughts & Other Notes

I don't understand the derision that has been aimed at the Tea Party participants. In not understanding what these protests are about, critics impose their own confusion on the protesters stating that these people "did not know what they were protesting." I thought it was quite clear that this was a protest against the encroachment of government and the fact that this is sponsored by people who don't support it. Critics point to the fact that taxes have not been raised by the Obama administration for the majority of Americans (all those below the despised $250,000 income limit...oh how we hate those people), but it would be the last proof of economic ignorance to raise taxes in this economy (and probably have limited gain in light of under and unemployment).

I think this effort needs some additional focus and would do well to replace hate with passion. Obama and O'Malley are just cogs in a wheel...a wheel that can also claim George W. Bush as a participant. The reeling back of government is a Republican ideal, but rarely a Republican accomplishment. Instead of blind party voting, we need to look towards what our real goals are. The expansion of "social conservative" issues through government is in essence an expansion of government power over our lives. I have never understood this discordance in modern conservative thought.

"I want smaller government, but I want government to have a say in who my neighbor spends the rest of his life with."

"I want smaller government, unless there is a moral issue that I want decided in accordance with my beliefs and applied to everyone else."

That stuff just don't jive, turkey. People are angry, and I hope this isn't just frustration at not getting their guy into office. I hope it represents an ideological shift and some hard thinking amongst those of us that think we can do things better than the government can. I hope it means that we think we can do a little more of this "governing" thing ourselves without trampling the disadvantaged and under-represented. I know we can, but I also think we need our priorities straight first. But that's just me...

Tid Bits:
If you somehow thought Baltimore was a well-run city, I would first like to sell you some property in Greenland. After that is done, I will suggest you read this article. Basically, Mayor Dixon found $40 million in a fur coat she hadn't worn since last spring. The worst of it all is that Baltimore still needs to cut programs that had worked, such as the Police Athletic League, due to a constitutional provision stating that surplus monies must be used to pay down bond debt. I cannot believe that this happened. I am absolutely shocked.

More well deserved praise for Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith Jr. (Democrat). I like the fact the Baltimore County tends to decide our state-wide elections. They know what they are doing up there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Budget That Works

Baltimore County Executive James Smith Jr. has offered a budget that works. Through surgical cuts and reallocation of funds, Smith has apparently avoided the lay offs that most counties (including our own) will experience in the coming year. He has also been able to fund projects, such as the food bank, that will be in greater need as the economy recovers. This can be contrasted against those that find redundant stem cell funding to be essential in a time of belt tightening.

I should also note that County Exec. Smith is a Democrat!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Challenged to Be Something Better

A recent post by one of my five readers (this is a guesstimate based off of made up surveys and other guesstimations) suggested that this is an empty conservative blog that offers nothing to the general public. Sometimes a good criticism is all you need to re-evaluate the product you are putting across. To start I want to note that this blog is not to be sold, therefore if I never get more than the five readers noted above, I'll be happy. Having "no" readers would be difficult, but a blog is a self-congratulatory device in itself so I'm sure I could find a way to move on.

Anyhow, what I want to do is give some POSITIVE ideas for public policy that can contrast a bit against the empty sarcasm and criticism I've posted earlier. I do believe criticism of our elected officials is important, but it really means nothing unless you have something else.

1) I believe at least 30% of our government programs at local, state, and federal levels can be better run in the private sphere via a bidding process and government oversight. This would require stricter ethics laws, but these are necessary even now. A company looking toward the bottom line and forced to be the lowest bidder will save taxpayer money and find more efficient ways to perform the same task. There will certainly be some areas that are so sacred to our public life that we would not be willing to give them over to private enterprise, but the states are intended to be the laboratory of government and should be able to find those areas that are best open to privitization.

2) Term Limits: Professional politicians lose touch with their bosses (us). We should restrict every office to two terms.

3) Fixed budgets: State and Local (hopefully one day federal) budgets should have a fixed amount based on a percentage of the state revenue. Tax increases can become unpredictable and have significant market effect on both corporations and individuals. If budgets were fixed, increases in taxes, when needed, will be comeasurate with the success of the state's economy.

4) Social Entraprenuers: This is the future of public change. The government should offer special funding for these private enterprises similar to higher education loans. The more taken on by self-sufficient private companies, the less that is necessary for the public coffers.

These are just some ideas off the top of my head offered for public criticism and discussion. Hopefully people can avoid personal attacks. I'm looking at you Anonymous...

What Dreams May Come

Governor O'Malley is trouncing around the country fluffing his platform for federal office while his pet projects are weighing our state down. It amazes me that Democrats can even find anything positive to say about him. Slots, which were for the most part bipartisan, gave him a shot at saving face but it was EXECUTED horribly. my constitutional review may be flawed but THE GOVERNOR EXECUTES OUR LAWS. He has failed at one of the most important new programs our state has taken on, yet he was singing to Obama on St. Patrick's day. Have you no shame?

Anyway, I sent this letter to the editor in today. I haven't had much luck with the Sun recently, but I have you kind folks to read my hard labored thoughts.

A recent quote from Gov. O’Malley in today’s Sun piqued my interest. Reflecting on the need to preserve government programs, despite budget cuts in family rooms and congressional chambers alike, the Governor stated that "That if you do away with the things that made you a strong state in bad times, you're not going to be strong after the rebound" ("Busy Last Day for Assembly", 4/14/09). I believe Gov. O’Malley’s ideas of what makes Maryland a strong state are very different from those held by those who are losing their jobs. During his tenure, and by way of his lobbying efforts, our state has fallen on the nonpartisan Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index Rankings from a respectable 28th in the nation to 45th. A $1 billion surplus left by Gov. Ehrlich, and originally intended for tax cuts, was quickly squandered in a ballooning of government programs. We have faced two budget crises, the first of which was resolved by a lobbyist heavy special session, the second a federal stimulus that clearly foretells a future shortfall. All the while, Marylanders have had to watch as their money is wasted on pet projects ("Patronage Endures, Even in Hard Times", 3/22/09) and wait for Big Brother (in this case "Big Hall Monitor") to set up speed cameras across the state to establish an additional driver tax. It all tends to remind me of the Geico commercial with the overseeing stack of money, except we may want to change the slogan to "This is the money you could have saved by voting Republican."

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Withering Defense

I would like to begin this post by noting that I am a fan of Secretary Gates.  There have been many instances that were not covered in the press in which he showed great intelligence and problem-solving skills.  However, I believe he is falling into the roll of puppet, which arguably is not far off from what a cabinet position should be.  It is arguable because sometimes the things a secretary is asked to do rises to the level of resignation.

We are neutering our defense.  If I have learned anything from DoD policy makers, they are mostly backward looking, which is incredibly dangerous.  Gates' new approach may be fantastic for an enemy that makes bombs out of trash heaps, but horrible for Chinese, Russian, Turk, etc. efforts to militarize space and develop weapons that can surpass all US efforts up to our current "stopping point."  Don't get me wrong, the research and development will continue, just as stem cell research continued under the ban, but it is hindered by policy.

What should be most concerning is that the DoD budget is being cut to pay for other programs.  An area of governance specifically proscribed in the Constitution is being cut in favor of a slew of government muck that leaks like molasses from the General Welfare and Commerce Clauses.

Our next threat will be one that we have not planned for.  The "unknown unknowns" (those unknowns that we don't know we don't know) are going to fall in the balance here...and it will probably be "Bush's fault."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Checking In

I'm in Texas this week on business and have been unable to prepare much in the way of posts.  I just wanted to let you all know that I haven't abandoned the project and am still here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

PPIP: Very Badly Needing A Drink

It is very important to me that people that read this blog understand the financial issues that are being proposed as "over our heads."  They aren't.  The problem is that even in their most simple form they appear to be screw jobs and people can't believe the government would do that to them.  My financially minded buddy who I sometime reference in this blog recently broke down the PPIP to me as saying "The banks are going to be buying each other's toxic assets basically using the PPIP as a FDIC cleansing mechanism to remove the risk from the equation."  The video below is a very simplistic review of the program in terms that everyone can understand.

You Get What You Voted For

Here we sit.  Our state is about to pass a $1.1 billion capital budget founded on a stimulus cash stream that will run out in two years.  The legislature did not use the opportunity to cut needless programs or slow the expensive "brain-children" of our Governor.  Tax cuts were never in the mix, despite the need to enable private capital to boost the economy.  Maryland remains the 45th worst state for corporations in terms of taxation, which means those that are unemployed cannot expect new jobs to come to them.  The cycle continues when there are less corporations to tax and the individual income tax needs to be raised (although these speed cameras impose the driver tax without any delay).

Our county executive has proposed a $392 million capital budget, based on $100 million of borrowed monies in the way of bonds AND $68.8 million in expected federal stimulus.  That is $168.8 million that the county can not depend on and will have to be made up by taxpayers.  Furthermore the entire budget is based off of a faulty revenue projection considering most tax assessments are not reflecting current market prices.  Again, tax cuts were never suggested or entertained at any level.

Our President is on the other side of the Atlantic tells throngs of young Europeans that America has show arrogance and failed to recognize Europe's "leading role in the world."  This plays directly into anti-American sentiment when our own President scolds us from afar.  Just as his dance with Iran made no significant progress (and may have even hurt us), Obama is submitting to the "I just want them to like me" approach that he has taken to every step of his young presidency.  I would encourage you to think of one great president that was able to succeed with this mindset.  Lincoln (known in the press as "Obama's-reincarnation-predecessor") was derided as a stupid war-monger as he was doing what he believed was right.  JFK put forth civil rights legislation before it was politically tenable.  And as much as some of my readers may not be willing to admit it, President George W. Bush most likely saved American civilian lives by disturbing a vast network of terrorists (or Islamic Extremists...or whatever Obama is calling them now) by keeping the fight at bay in face of tremendous disagreement at home.

De Tocqueville said that in a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.  Right now it is more cool to hate America than it is to want our government to do what is good for its country.  For some reason people see Europe as a happy commune of sharing and smiley faces.  It's not.  They formed the European Union so that they could compete in the world economy with the United States.  They formed the EU out of SELF INTEREST.  They deride the United States out of jealousy for the power that Europe once had before it tore itself apart. 

 Our government wants to please us without concern of the consequences.  The more citizens you have feeding off the government teat, the more auto-votes you have come election day.  Tax cuts are popular, but tax cuts = independence.  We may always have democracy, but the institution means less and less as we become more dependent on the people that are supposed to be our employees: the politicians.  When will we as a people say "You know what government, we think we can take care of the homeless/sick/etc. on our own, so why don't you just give us back the money you were going to use and we'll do it better and more efficiently."  It is clear that we can!  But we are stuck in a cycle of feeding more of our independence into the system and getting the soma of "it's being taken care of by them" back.

I'm tired of this and I hope you are too.  This is serious stuff and it is happening faster than anyone could expect.  I hope that when it is time to get a bumper sticker, yard sign, knock on doors, make a donation, VOTE, write a letter to the editor, talk to your friends, ARGUE, speak your mind, and stand up for yourself you will.  I hope.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Speed Camera Reversal

This morning the Sun reported that the speed camera bill had been voted dead. This afternoon the bill has passed after proding by Governor O'Malley. Some quick reasons why this is bad:

1) The idea of Separation of Powers was ridiculed here. The legislature is intended to be an independent body.

2) The reason for this bill is made even more stark. Why would the governor care so much about a bill with everything else that's going on? Well his slots proposal is in the toilet and state revenue is way down. The bill is crafted in such a way that local governments are only allowed to keep costs plus 10%!!! They made this bill so that localities will feed money to the state general fund. I'm so glad the Sun did such a great job covering this explicit shake down of Maryland drivers

3) This is a hastily drawn bill that will be hastily executed. The article this morning mentioned that one of the legislators spoke on the floor about how he had been erroneously fined by one of these cameras in Montgomery County and that it took FOUR MONTHS to sort it out. This story was left out of the present article.

The only good news here is that this is an explicit example of how Democrats have very little interest in "the right to be left alone". If there is a means to step on the individual in favor of the collective, it will be sought out and exploited.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Troll Bill

According to the Baltimore Sun, it appears as if speed cameras will be coming to a school or construction site near you sometime soon. The restrictions on the use of these cameras is stated to be "45 MPH or higher zones", which would seem to me to make the "school" designation irrelevant since school zones are normally 30 MPH. The driver has to be going 12 miles or more over the limit, will get a $40 fine, and no points on their license.

While the restrictions on the cameras give this measure the appearance of reasonableness, it is really just a driver tax. Montgomery County generated $10 million last year through the pilot program. Also, while protesting that this is not a fund raising effort, check out the following quotes from the Sun article:

Chevy Chase- one of several Montgomery County municipalities that use the cameras - made more money from them last year than its entire town budget, Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat, told colleagues Tuesday.

McIntosh said cameras can play an important role "as you cut local funding for core services." She said cameras are "a way to fund public safety."

I hope it is clear why I titled this post "The Troll Bill". Drivers are being preyed upon by the government. Should you speed in construction and school zones? Obviously not, but should the government use the construct of "public safety" when they are really after "public money." Is this proposal really that far off from putting monitors in your car to fine you for speeding.

If they were being honest about enforcing the law to raise money, I have an original proposal. Add a $10,000 fine to any state legislator that did not properly fill out his or her ethical disclosure form.