Monday, February 21, 2011

Washington Birthday, Yes; Presidents Day, No

The flag that I fly on national holidays wasn't up for Presidents Day today.

The traditional February 22 holiday honoring the nation's first president was transformed during my lifetime into a generic holiday honoring all presidents and moved from its fixed date to a Monday. The change (in which I never have acquiesced) was instigated by public employees who wanted a three day weekend. 

By honoring all presidents equally, we honor none of them and dishonor the truly worthy ones.  Richard Nixon, Jimmie Carter, and Bill Clinton, to mention but a few examples, are not on par morally or by any measure of accomplishments or service to the country with the rightfully revered George Washington. Neither are the many second and third raters who have occupied the office over the years. 

G.W. was a truly great man and an exemplary leader, quite possibly an indispensable one. My flag will be flying tomorrow to commemorate his birth.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Worth Visiting

An all too rare intelligent voice of reason, Lee Rodgers, is back at this new venue.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More On Wisconsin

The Washington Times, in this insightful editorial, describes what is transpiring in Wisconsin as an opening battle in a leftist war against democracy.

Anarchy will prevail if the public employee union bosses and their mob, political, and leftstream media supporters get their way as is spelled out in this excellent Wall Street Journal analysis of the chaotic situation and what's at stake in the confrontation.

Also, here is a technically poor but substantively fine video clip of the charming demonstrators who are trying to wrest control of public policy from Wisconsin's duly elected public officials:

 P.S. -- Guess which side President Obama is supporting and encouraging.

Friday, February 18, 2011

On Wisconsin

The confrontation in Wisconsin between the state's elected officials and the union bosses (together with the ugly and threatening mobs they have been able to bring forth) is over a very basic and important issue.

Wisconsin, like the federal government and many of the other states and local governmental units, is broke. There is no money in the coffers and no way to meet continuing obligations going forward. The most significant factors that created the situation have been public employees and their unions. Those on the government payrolls receive exorbitant pay and lavish pension and other benefits. Wisconsin officials are trying to get those things under control in an effort to put the state's finances back onto a sound footing.

The unions have responded and are continuing to respond in their usual thuggish fashion, committed to not yielding one iota of future benefits they were able to get politicians beholden to the labor bosses to promise to them. Such incestuous relationships have brought many of the nation's governmental units to the brink of ruin . . . and the unions respond by demanding ever increasing taxes to keep their gravy train going. 

The outcome will determine whether those in government work for the public or if they have succeeded in transforming themselves into overlords who hold in thrall every individual and enterprise in a subservient private sector.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Let's Finally Get Real

The federal budget debates taking place in Congress demonstrate that reality hasn't penetrated the Washington, D.C. beltway.
They're talking about whether and to what extent public broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts should be funded from the public treasury. That's really not the issue as the public treasury is empty except for the borrower's copies of all the IOUs it has issued. 

The government is broke and up to its keister in debt . . . and the debt level is soaring higher with no end in sight. Therefore the real issue is what is important enough to fund to warrant going even further into debt.

Irrespective of what one thinks about public broadcasting and the arts endowment, they are, at best, nice things to have. They are luxuries and not by any means essential necessities.

Given the state of our public finances, the government should be doing just what individuals and families do when in reduced financial circumstances: 

1.  Spend only on necessities -- things that are truly essential. 

2.  Cut out any and all frivolous expenditures, irrespective of how enjoyable any particular nonessential luxury may be.

Such common sense thinking appears to be beyond the capacity of politicians, academicians, and journalists -- those who can (and are willing and eager to) finance their dreams with other peoples' money and by impoverishing future generations.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Familiar Thief Returning

We have been getting some more misleading economic data in our government's reports on very slight increases in retail sales.

Without going behind the numbers one would think Americans once again are buying more stuff.

That, however, is not the case. They're actually buying less but the stuff they are buying costs enough more to cause the number of dollars spent to increase a bit.

As is shown by this report, -- although it makes light of, and understates what we're just beginning to experience -- even The New York Times is being forced to admit that inflation is coming back.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Identifying Characteristics of a Third World Country

1.  Middle class being destroyed or absent with a huge and constantly growing gap in wealth between a tiny very rich class and the struggling to survive bulk of the population.

2.  Inadequate and collapsing infrastructure.

3.  Government constantly expanding its size and scope to maximize control over the population, performing just enough traditional functions to maintain a facade of legitimacy, while actually engaged primarily in (i) bestowing power and wealth on members and supporters of whatever gang has seized control of its institutions, and (ii) perpetuating or at least maximizing the controlling gang's hold on power.

Seem familiar?

Our Dysfunctional Nation . . . with California and Berkeley Leading the Way

More than two decades -- 21 plus years to be more precise -- have elapsed since the Loma Prieta earthquake, and California still is struggling to replace the portion of the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge which that event showed to be unsafe. That's longer than it took an earlier generation to build entirely from scratch the nation's first transcontinental railroad.

Gas lines leak and explode, killing people and devastating neighborhoods at various locations around the country.

A bridge collapses in Minnesota and emergency inspections reveal that huge numbers of similar structures are at risk of failing across the nation.

The country's infrastructure has been ignored for too long as its 'leaders' have diverted resources to fanciful endeavors and efforts to curry favor with, and purchase political constituencies. As a result the physical infrastructure on which the nation's people and their economy depend is in a state of collapse.

Furthermore, we are laden with unsustainable debt that makes corrective action extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Nonetheless, California pursues an uneconomic high speed rail system and the nation's administration pushes to finance the project and to inflict similar unsustainable and delusional ones on other portions of the country.

These things occur because of a lack of accountability. Irresponsible holders of public office are unaccountable. The consequences of their actions only become known after they have moved to higher offices, retired, or passed off this mortal coil. There is no institutional memory or accountability. And the news media that once functioned as the peoples' watchdog over government and those in office have become cheer leading megaphones for those in power.

California's governor now wants to increase -- supposedly temporarily -- some previously enacted "temporary" taxes. That's temporary like the bridge tolls that were supposed to be removed once the modest initial tolls retired the bonds that financed construction of the bridges. Those tolls now are $4 to $6 a crossing. The last time a 'temporary' tax expired was five years ago when the government gave up trying to defend in litigation a three percent tax on long distance telephone calls that it had imposed 108 years earlier to help pay for the Spanish-American War.

The California tax extension is to help meet a deficit largely due to ultra generous public pensions to which now long gone officials obligated the state. Here again, the media failed to point out the consequences of these bestowals from the public treasury when they were being put into place.

How is that working out on a current basis?

Take a look at Berkeley, where the city council recently found it necessary to give the city manager a raise from his close to $300,000 annual salary because he essentially was working for nothing. He could have retired and received benefits equal to what he was earning while working. Of course the raise also will bump up his pension so they'll have to go through the same process again just a bit down the road.

Meanwhile, a small neighborhood ice cream store is continuing to struggle to get city approval to open for business. The shop has been ready to do so for nine months throughout which it's been paying rent and trying to work through the labyrinths of city rules and regulations.

At the same time, commercial spaces in formerly prosperous areas are remaining vacant. Nobody wants the travails of trying to do business in the city . . . and shoppers are going elsewhere to patronize establishments in places where a delay in returning to one's car won't result in a $50 expired parking meter ticket.

Is this a great country or what?

Meaningless Economic Data

Periodic reports about a good many economic things actually reveal very little.

For example, the unemployment rate, even though it is sky high, obscures how truly terrible the nation's employment situation actually is. It takes into account only the unemployed who are seeking work. It totally ignores those who have given up on trying to find jobs as well as those who are working only part time and those who are underemployed. People in these categories are not taken into account at all in calculating what is said to be the unemployment rate.

Inflation number provide another illustration of useless and even misleading information. The government issues data on the core inflation rate, which omits the costs of energy and food. What do they think ordinary Americans need to, and do buy on a regular basis? Duh ! ! ! ! Somehow though, this ends up avoiding increases in the amounts paid out as Social Security retirement benefits but, SURPRISE, results in hefty pay increases for members of Congress and their staffs.

Another less than useful statistic is the GDP -- the gross domestic product numbers that reflect the size of the nation's economy and whether it is growing, unchanged, or shrinking. But it really doesn't mean anything insofar as how well the nation's population is doing. To understand why this is so, assume two countries, each of which has an annual GDP of $1,000. Suppose nation A has 1,000 people, meaning that its GDP per capital is $1 a year, while nation B has 100 people, giving it an annual per capita GD of $10.

This explains why people in a good many countries with small populations and a GDP far smaller than that of the U.S. -- such as Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Scandinavian nations, for example -- enjoy a substantially better standard of living than do Americans. 

The fact is that population growth in the U.S. has surpassed the growth of the nation's GDP for a good many years, and we therefore are worse off financially than we were in the recent past.

At least two other factors have to be taken into account to determine how well the nation's people are doing economically. One of these is the distribution of the GDP's benefits among the nation's population and the other is how much disposable income individuals actually have.

Let's go back again to Country B, which enjoys a per capita income of $10. Suppose that one of its 100 people is able to glom onto $999 of its GDP, leaving $1 to be divided by the remaining 99 people -- just about one cent per person. The trend toward disproportionate distribution of the America's GDP has in recent years been exacerbating its failure to grow on a per capita basis.

So does that mean if the GDP is evenly distributed in Country A, its people actually are better off than those in Country B.

Well, maybe . . . but not necessarily.  The second factor, per capita disposable income still has to be considered.

Suppose the various levels of government in Country A impose (i) aggregate taxes of 50 cents a year on each of its citizens and (ii) rules and regulations that dictate how each of them must spend the remaining 50 cents, leaving every one of them with nothing. Here again, this currently is the trend in the U.S.

So, to reflect how well the economy is doing insofar as the nation's people are concerned, we need but lack meaningful data -- data on the actual net discretionary disposable income of ordinary citizens.

Why do you suppose our government doesn't produce that data?

Obama's Spending Cuts

The hoped for savings for which the administration supposedly is striving are graphically put into perspective here.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Want to Shrink Government Corruption?

Some things seem to me to be self evident.

One such thing is that if we have a big government that controls a great many things, it is going to be worth buying . . . and if it is worth buying it sooner or later is going to end up being purchased by those with a big stake in what the government does and the ability to pay what it takes to ensure that the government does what the purchaser desires. Hence corruption of expansive government is inevitable.

On the other hand a small government with limited powers -- such as one provided for, and restricted by the Constitution -- is unlikely to be worth buying and therefore will be far less subject to becoming corrupt.

The framers got it right.

Stirring Call to Defend Freedom

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Career Choice

A Modest Proposal

Because Congress (not surprisingly) adopted different formulas for determining increases in what they are paid and what is paid to recipients of Social Security retirement benefits, those sitting in the House of Reprehensibles and in the United States Sty are getting hefty pay increases this year while those on Social Security are not getting anything more -- nothing, nada, zip zero. Actually, net Social Security retirement benefits are decreasing -- the gross amount hasn't gone up but the deduction for Medicare coverage has, reducing the net amount being paid to the recipients.

Were it up to me, our lawmakers would be paid an amount equal to the top Social Security retirement benefit. Okay, okay, that's  unrealistic. 

But what we can and should do is limit future pay increases for the fat cats to the percentage by which net Social Security benefits rise.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Question For and About the Media

Our former mainstream media have awakened to the financial crisis that the nation's states, counties, and municipalities are facing, largely because of pension obligations the governmental units have no way to meet.

Where were all these slovenly journalists when the unsustainable commitments were being made?

So much for the media's once proud role as the watchdog over government on behalf of the people ! ! ! !

Doofus in Chief or What?

In recent days President Obama has let it be known that he is disappointed in the performance of the nation's intelligence agencies for having failed to warn him of the instability of the situation in Egypt prior to the outbreak of anti-government protests and rioting there.

Now your not so humble blogger is no fan of what passes for an intelligence establishment in the U.S. After all, they had no clue of the weakness of the Soviet regime before it collapsed, and it kept us in fear of that regime's prowess which turned out to be capable of using its missiles to (on a good day) hit a target the size of Nebraska. Nor did it provide advance warning of significant developments such as India's acquisition of a nuclear capability.

But is the supposed leader of the free world (or, perhaps more accurately, the pretender to that title) indicating that he previously believed the situation in Egypt to be a reliable and stable one? All but the most doltish and insular among us have long recognized Egypt as a seething cesspool of instability, kept under control only by the brutally repressive tactics of Mubarak's omnipresent internal security apparatus. That harsh apparatus kept the lid on but the underlying pressures mounted steadily and for years it has been commonly recognized that the death of the old and ailing Mubarak or any of a wide range of other possible sparks would result in at least (and probably far worse than) what Egypt now is experiencing. Our president apparently was not privy to, and  did  not share that universal knowledge, and was depending on an intelligence agency to impart it to him. 

What are we to make of this?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Straight Talk About Islamists

News Report and Questions

Thursday, February 03, 2011

( - Following a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the constitutionality of the new health care law, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told that the Obama administration should continue enforcing the health care law despite federal judge Roger Vinson’s ruling that it is unconstitutional.

In his Jan. 31 Final Summary Declaratory Judgment, Judge Vinson, in the district court for the Northern District of Florida, said “it is hereby DECLARED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010) … is unconstitutional.” 

And in the complete ruling, Vinson wrote that “there is a long-standing presumption ‘that officials of the Executive Branch will adhere to the law as declared by the court. As a result, this declaratory judgment is the functional equivalent of an injunction.’”

Given the judge’s ruling, asked Durbin on Wednesday whether he thinks the Obama administration should stop implementing the health care law.

Durbin, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said, “Personally, I don’t, because the judge was asked for an injunction, and he didn’t rule that there would be one. So he hasn’t enjoined any conduct or activity. 

Questions:  Didn't Senator Dickhead take an oath in which he vowed to defend, protect, and uphold the Constitution? Didn't all of his fellow perjurers ensconced in the United States Sty as well as members of the administration take the same or similar oaths?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Judge With Wisdom and Courage

Don't miss this account of the decision that Obamacare is unconstitutional. It may be too much to hope for but this could be the beginning of a return to constitutional governance.

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the the people to restrain the government --- lest it come to dominate our lives and interests
. . . Patrick Henry

Hating the Truth

Liberal elites recoil from straight and simple expressions of obvious truths.  Their propagandizing journalistic puppets invariably join in attacking those who don't kowtow to the strictures of the ruling class and say things that the elitists deem to be beyond their acceptable boundaries. This explain the frenzied attacks on such truth tellers as Sarah Palin and John Bolton, but as this editorial explains, Ronald Reagan was scorned for the same thing by the media pretenders of his day. And that was even before he had the temerity to point out that the Soviet Union, which the elitists viewed favorably, truly was an "evil empire." 

The Unending Drive to Leave Nothing Unregulated

Using the example of the Environmental Protection Agency's move to regulate spilled milk, the always perceptive and erudite Thomas Sowell in this column spells out how government bureaucrats are constantly expanding their jurisdictional turf and power.

P.S.  The Federal Register of governmental regulations now runs on for 82,590 pages.

Defying Logic

Newt Gingrich disqualifies himself by persisting (and pandering) as the Ethanol Candidate.