Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Grats to McCain

It looks like he's going to get the Republican nomination, and that's probably a good thing. He seems like the republican with the best chance of avoiding the unmitigated disaster that would be Hillary Obama.

I still think Thompson could have been a better candidate, but I sorta got off his train when he started pitching himself as the more conservative, pro-life choice. I get the strategy, but sticking to his real beliefs (federalism, civil liberties) might have played better than pretending you were the hardcore conservative candidate, when even the republican base is looking for someone less inclined to crap on civil liberties than G-dub. Then again, I'm certainly not a political strategist.

Anyway, grats to McCain, good luck to him in November (most everyone in the country with an IQ over 60 is rooting for you, let's hope it's enough). Note for future candidates: ignoring the early-vote states is political suicide, no matter how much Florida et-all wants to be relevant. Note to states: take my previous advice, set your primary date by law to be the same as the earliest other state if you want to be relevant (and give the finger to the parties as necessary). This primary election has clearly shown so far that (as Ricky Bobby would say) if ya ain't first, ya last.

On Bush's State of the Union

Just my personal opinions, major points.

Economy: Hard to do the right thing here (which would be to let people who were financially idiots lose money), and Bush scores a solid 'C' with his PC plan to have the government bail out dumb people with massive, poorly concealed inflation. It could be worse, the democrats will almost certainly do worse when/if they get into power.

Trade: Who cares. I mean, yeah, it matters to macro-economics, but in ways no normal people understand. Let Warren Buffet make the policy, and do that.

Domestic Surveillance: Sorry, G-dub, gotta go with the dems on this one. There is no way in hell the corporations which co-operated with you shady, pseudo-legal (ok, common... blatantly illegal) warrant-less wiretapping should be given immunity, for the same conceptual reason the idiots who lost billions buying securitized bad housing debt should not be bailed out by the government at the taxpayer's expense: it encourages people to not consider the consequences of their actions, and rely instead on big brother bailing them out. Fail. Next time you want to spy on people, change the Constitution to make it legal first.

Education: The government supporting explicitly "faith-based" schools and groups doesn't jive with the idea of getting judges who support the letter of the Constitution (something about church and state). Take that money, and figure out how to stop paying billions into the garbage can called the teacher's union, and how to actually fix the public school system (hint: you're gonna need to take out the trash, figuratively speaking).

Energy: Yeah, the hippies are starting to realize the nuclear power is actually cleaner than burning coal. Now just give us 20 years to catch up on the technology...

Iraq: Meh. I think the war is generally good, in a cynical way, as it gives our military good real-world training and would-be terrorists get to fight our soldiers in foreign countries, instead of our civilians in our country. Just figure out how to do it in a more cost-effective way, please (hint: that means less troops deployed, not less money per troop).

Middle-east peace: Haha. They hate each other, 1000 years of diplomacy wouldn't change that.

Earmarks: Good call, get rid of em. The legislative process is pretty much a corrupt disaster anyway, so it's like scraping a small nugget off a huge pile of crap, but it's a step in the right direction anyway.

That's my opinion on the major points.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Looking for a reference

I'm looking for a reference, maybe someone could help me out. I've been trying to find when it became acceptable and sound policy for the government to take money from people who are financially responsible and save it, and give it to people who are financially irresponsible and waste it. I don't remember this being in the mandate for the government, and I'm fairly sure this was not the intent when the country was founded, at least as far as I remember from civics lessons.

Yet here we are, with Congress and Bush both praising a plan which does just that, and it seems to be both accepted by the people and welcomed with open arms. When did the US become a socialist country? I think I missed the memo... can someone direct me to it? And how do I get off the socialist welfare-state boat?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Political Soapbox

Taking a break from my normal non-partisan-ish ranting to rant specifically about the current political candidates. Now, I consider myself an independent for the most part; socially liberal, financially conservative. That said...

I couldn't tell you who would be worse for the country: Hillary, Obama, Ron Paul, a random bystander, or a rock.

The democrats seem to be fairly identical; their platform is spend more, socialize medicine, tax the rich till they take their money and leave, encourage business to leave the country, evangelize Global Warming (the religion), expand welfare, destroy the currency, cripple the military, ignore problems outside of our border because people "over there" can't possibly hurt us, and ignore all long-term problems. Fortunately this platform plays well to the uneducated masses that are allowed to vote, so they should do well.

Ron Paul has some really good ideas (he's the only candidate with the first clue about encouraging financial responsibility), but he's hardcore isolationist. Gosh, I'm sure that will work out well in today's world...

A random bystander would be a step up from any of the democrat candidates in policies, because really how could anyone not be. On the other hand, you could get a crazy person, or a religious nut, or some other wacko. So kinda a toss-up.

A rock would almost certainly be the best of the above choices, just because it would be hard for a rock to sign any legislation or really create that bad of a mess. On the other hand, the government would grind to a halt because Congress could never get passed their partisan fighting to get a 2/3 majority to pass a budget, and that would be bad. Again, a toss-up.

So there you have it, a virtual tie for the bottom of the barrel. Gotta love this current crop of candidates.

Monday, January 21, 2008

How to prevent another housing bubble

Ok, the titles a little misleading; at beast, this would be one step toward preventing another housing bubble. That said, it would be a fairly substantial step, and benefit pretty much everyone I think.

States should pass a law (each state, perhaps based on a template) which does a couple things:
1. Makes all lienholders with a claim on a property jointly liable for all taxes and assessments on the property in the event that the title holder is in default
2. Allows the state to take possession of a vacant property on which there is no claim of ownership after a period of time (say, 6 months), and after all lienholders have been afforded the opportunity to buy out the others and take possession of the property (say, 1 month after notification of state's intent to possess).

If the state takes possession, it would auction the property within a month, sold as-is, but with a guaranteed clean title. The proceeds would pay off the lienholders in the legal precedence for proceeds from the asset. The law would allow the title to be clean at this point (any outstanding claims are void), although the new owner might have costs to bring the property into repair and up to code.

This would have at least two effects:
1. Prevent the ownership limbo, where the property is abandoned and nobody is paying taxes/upkeep, and the lienholders don't want to forclose
2. Encourage more responsible lending by adding more downside risk if the buyer abandons the property

Anyway, just wanted to put up a good idea, since I'm usually bashing on all the bad ideas.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

General rant on "economic stimulus"

The government has a problem, and a different perceived problem. The perceived problem is that the economy is headed toward a recession, and the various government institutions should take actions to prevent that. The actual problem is that the government takes a bunch of dumb actions trying to help the economy, which causes the economy to bounce up and down like a 5 year old on a see-saw blowing bubbles (and financial insiders to get rich while everyone else gets screwed). Regardless, it looks likely that this will not chance any time soon, and I fully expect the next president to come up with a stimulus package to do more long-term damage to the economy (more-so if it's a democrat proposal, which looks likely).

The goal of "stimulus" is to cause more money to be spent in the economy, so businesses sell more stuff, there are more jobs, etc. Americans have been spending their home equity over the last 5 years, and it's run out, which is what's causing the current "downturn". Americans have a negative savings rate, so in general they have no other money to spend, and credit is getting tighter as everyone defaults on loans they couldn't afford, so people don't have credit to spend either.

You might think, "ok, so give everyone some money to spend, like a tax break across the board." Two problems with that, though:
1. The government is already hugely in deficit (not a real problem, since they can print money).
2. Smart/wealthy people are not over-spending, so their less likely to wastefully spend extra money they receive.

Given this, the obvious best solution is to give money to the stupid people who overspend every penny they get, take out enormous debts they can't afford, are not fiscally responsible, and go to any means to preserve their spending for as long as possible. Give those people $100 dollars, and you can bet they will waste it on crap instead of paying down debts, saving, investing, or any of those other things that don't "stimulate" the economy.

And here were come to the happy coincidence with bailouts and stimulus: the best people to give money to are the same people most likely to need government bailouts! It's a win/win... the government gets their stimulus, people get to keep spending and ignoring their debt/savings/retirement/etc, and everyone's a winner! Right?

Well, almost everyone... the few people that get absolutely screwed are the fiscally responsible people, who see their earnings dwindled by socialist redistribution ("tax breaks for the middle/lower class"), their savings wrecked by inflation, and their financial responsibility made a laughing stock by their government. Well, that's not strictly true... everyone loses in the long run, when the currency is inflated into literal worthlessness, and the economy collapses. I can only hope our elected officials can successfully borrow against that day of reckoning until I, or anyone I care about, is no longer around to be destroyed by it.

Go go economic stimulus.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Why are most politicians idiots?

Ok, so the way a democracy works is that a small number of people are elected to represent the population as a whole, and they get together and make the rules which govern the society. The theory is that small groups of people can put forward bright, knowledgeable, experienced people to make intelligent decisions on their behalf. How, then, did we get to the situation where every single one of the elected politicians seems to have the IQ of silly putty?

Take, for example, the governator (Arnold Schwarzenegger, for those people not in California). On the one hand, California is expected to have a $14 billion deficit this year. If you padded-helmet slow like the California legislature usually is, that means you retards are spending $14 billion dollars more this year than you expect to take in from taxes, fees, kickbacks, bribes, campaign donations, favors, special interest lobbying, and all the other ways government and its officials are financed.

So that's bad, huh? It would take a pretty special kind of retarded to propose spending another $14 billion on a new government entitlement program with that kind of deficit, right? See: the governator announces bi-partisan agreement to spend another $14 billion on universal healthcare for California (see: here)! And Arnold is one of our brighter bulbs... Davis would have pounded his poor little helmet-clad head through the entire padded wall by now.

We really need to stop electing drolling retards to run our country... really.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

On voter identification laws

So I was reading this article about the Supreme Court hearing a challenge to a voter identification law. In this case, it's opposed by the democrats and the ACLU, presumably on behalf of the many, many people who have registered to vote (which requires an ID and a verification of voting eligibility, in addition to registering you for other government service such as the draft and jury duty), but would forget to bring their ID to the voting booth with them.

Now normally, I'm about 50/50 with/against the ACLU. Sometimes they have good points, and sometimes they are out there. As the political opposite of the Cristian Coalition, I think they do serve a valuable function in our society (and I tend to side with them far more than I side with religious zealots, be they Christian (eg: anti-abortion groups), Muslim (Al'qaeda), or otherwise). But this time, you guys are wacked. If anything in our society should require a government issued means of identification to have access to, voting should be it.

But really, the part of the article that pissed me off was Scalia's agreement with the Bush administration's contention that the ACLU not be allowed to challenge the law on its face, but rather should show actual damage after the law has been in effect. That has got to be one of the stupidest things ever said (or, if Scalia is not a moron, things said purely for political purposes). One of the most unfortunate parts of our legal system is that you normally need to bring a case with damages in order to challenge the constitutionality of a law, when that clearly has nothing to do with the constitutionality of the law itself. The proposition that the court cannot rule on the constitutionality without an actual case is dumb: either the law is constitutional, or its not.

It would be like passing a law which said it was ok for Congress to shoot the president in the face, and then the court refusing the rule on the constitutionality of the law until a president had actually been killed. Please tell me our Supreme Court justices are not that dumb; I still have some hope for that branch of our government.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Latest good idea I read

Not mine, but a really good idea: limit copyright on music (and I would add movies, and possibly television shows) to 5 years. I totally agree with the premise which motivates the suggestion: namely that copyright exists to promote innovation by allowing the innovator a period in which he can exclusively profit from the innovation, but that has to be balanced against the public interest in sharing the fruits of the innovation.

The pendulum has swung much too far in the corporations' direction, and the public interest has been essentially ignored by the legislature (since being purchased by special-interest lobby groups). 5 years is plenty of time to exclusively profit from artistic "innovation", in my opinion. And, as an added bonus, it would no-doubt dramatically reduce the amount of copyright infringement being aggressively fought by the RIAA/MPAA. It's a no-lose proposition!

In fact, it's such a good idea that it makes me kinda sad that our legislature is so corrupt and in the pockets of corporate interests that it'll never even be suggested at that level. But it's worth writing about, just in case a future version of our government cares what the people think.