Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Philosophizing on how the US should work

This is gonna by a kinda wonkish post, part of a series of topics I've been thinking about which represent somewhere between where we are now and what a more idea country would be. I don't know if this will be the last one, or even interesting to anyone, but since it's my blog, I'm going to dream on.

So my ideal country is founded on the basis of a few principles, but one of the most important is that the government should work for the benefit of the people, and not the other way around (as an aside, America was also founded this principle; I know, hard to believe in today's times, but look it up). One of the best ways to make sure that principle is preserved is to keep government local; it's much more difficult to feel like your government is a faceless, clueless entity abusing you for their own gain when it is made up of people you know and interact with. To that end, my ideal country has a couple of interesting differences from the US as we know it today.

First, elections would be done locally, for local governments. These people would then, in turn, elect positions for the next highest levels of government, all the way up to the federal elected positions (President and Congress). No more media-whoring popularity contests to determine the "rulers" of the country, where the outcome is based largely on who can come up with the most catchy quip, or spend the most money convincing the idiot masses that their insidious plans to abuse power are less bad then their opponent's insidious plans. Rather, at each level, the leaders are being elected by the people they will most directly interact with, with the people's votes simply weighted by the total number of people who elected them (including all indirect votes). As an added bonus, this also harnesses the power of greed for the benefit of the country: for example, the states are going to have a strong incentive to elect people who oppose more federal government control over the states, etc. Also, this will help curtail the "idiot voter" factor in elections... a solid win all around.

Second, the states and municipalities themselves will be more dynamic. There should be no reason someone owning land on the border between two different governed areas cannot join whichever he/she pleases, given reasonable limits for frequency of switching. Likewise, with enough people in contiguous area, you should be able to create a new municipality dynamically, elect a local government, and govern yourself. As an extension, if your municipality becomes too small or underpopulated, it should be absorbed into a neighbor region (to be determined by majority vote of the remaining people in the dissolving area). Not only would this allow a natural ordering by efficiency and effectiveness of government in various areas, but it would provide a strong incentive for each government to do the best job they could, and provide the best area in which the people can live, something which is sadly lacking in our current government.

Lastly on this topic, I strongly believe the government at the federal level should be providing a stable currency, and in my ideal country the amount of currency would be fixed (or dynamic, but strongly tied to real national wealth). Moreover, each level of government would set their funding requests, but collection laws and procedures would flow upward, with each municipality deciding what to tax and how much to allocate to the government above it. There would be some minimums, probably (likely based on total income in the fixed federal currency of all people in an area/state), but the government would be required to adjust its services to the funding level every year, instead of ignoring the funding level and printing money to pay for partisan agendas and favored-friend payouts. Admittedly, though, this item would need some more thought to actually do, but that's the theory.

Anyway, that was installment one of my thoughts on what I'd want an ideal country (US or otherwise) to be. I'll try to make my next post more actually topical, and less fanciful. :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

California adds "thievery" to "can kicking" and "fraud" in repertoire of budgeting tools

A short post, just to emphasize the obvious, not because it hasn't already been said, but because it deserves to be reiterated (and as a bonus, it serves as a "gimme" prediction for next year when the next wave hits).

So California is expanding its arsenal for dealing with out-of-control spending and a dysfunctional legislature. Not content with just can kicking and accounting fraud (or, more precisely, those we're not enough this time), we recently added thievery [from local municipalities] to the list of lows we're willing to stoop to. Apparently there's not much which is ethically out-of-bounds for our legislator-scum.

Not that I would expect their latest trampling of the laws and common decency to stand up in court or anything, and it's certainly going to be challenged early and vigorously. In the end the lawyers will make a lot of money and the legislature will be able to push off fixing the problem for a few more years while they pretend they can/will prevail in their court case, which is all they really want anyway. After all, there's got to be another bubble around the corner to once again bail-out California and their ridiculous spending excesses, right?

Either that, or just keep issuing IOU's as our own currency, that way we can just print more of them instead of solving our problems; it works for the federal government, surely it can work for states too. To paraphrase Joker, "this country needs an enema."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Since when did "it's broken" become "we need to make it worse"?

There's something which has been bothering me about the whole way Obama is phrasing the discussion about health care nationalization ("reform"), aside from his normal rhetoric strategies which continue to aggravate me (such as saying one thing, and doing the exact opposite). Over and over, I hear from the Obamanation that the health care system "is broken", and we need to "fix" it. You know what? I agree with the first part: the health care system does appear to be broken and unsustainable, and I agree with most of the reasons why. Although I'm not sure we "need" to fix it (any more than we need to fix other unfunded entitlement programs left over from historically destructive administrations, such as Social Security), I do agree with a lot of the arguments for why we might want to.

For example, escalating costs of medicare. That system is bad: its an entitlement program which underpays providers while being underfunded and very inefficient. It's unsustainable, and it needs serious reform to cut the costs, and could also use more free-market competition in the rates it pays, to prevent medical providers from being stifled out of business. On this I agree with Obama.

Also, the current insurance system is somewhat of an aggravating disaster. Billing errors are common, consumer protections are scarce, getting quality care is time-consuming and difficult even for those with means to acquire it, and the common consumer is often trampled on. I agree that this, too, could use some serious reform and consumer-oriented oversight.

Consider, too, medical liability costs. America is an overly litigious society, and medical malpractice insurance costs are enormous as a result. This in turn raises the cost of health care for everyone, and almost exclusively only to the benefit of the lawyers involved in medical cases. This is an area where the government could certainly help, establishing safe-harbors and cutting down on rules, to make it easier for providers to follow the law, and reducing insurance premiums (and thus cost of coverage).

Given all that, you'd think I'd be generally for health care reform... but it turns out I'm not. See, somewhere along the line, all those problems which the president emphasizes and I agree with got transformed (inexplicably) into rationale for making the problem worse! How did that happen?

Obama's plan doesn't cut costs or entitlements; it raises both, creating more unfunded liabilities and bureaucratic waste. It doesn't fix the under-payment of providers; it continues and possibly amplifies it. It doesn't fix consumers getting trampled by private providers; it creates a new provider you have even less recourse with. It doesn't reduce liability costs; it creates an entirely new confusing legal scheme which would increase them. Not only does it not fix any of the problems being used to justify the need for the nationalization initiative, it makes all of them worse!

Seriously, did I miss the societal bulletin where "it's broken" became code for "this problem is not bad enough, we need to make it worse"? Or is Obama just counting on people not realizing how what he's advocating does nothing whatsoever to address the problems cited to justify it? And when/how can we get some actual health care reform, to fix the very real problems with the current system which we all agree upon?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Concealed carry amendment is interesting

I figure if I want to comment on this proposed amendment, I should do it soon; it doesn't seem to have much chance of getting past a Democrat majority, and is more noteworthy for the coverage it's getting rather than the chances it would become law. Regardless of my opinions on gun control in general (which I won't state, so as not to distract from the point), I find this proposition interesting.

It is interesting, in one sense, because of one of the immediate objections quoted from a police officer in one of the initial news reports: "if this passes, we wouldn't be able to tell if someone is allowed to carry a firearm." Notwithstanding the fact that the officer would presumably do the same thing he would do currently (ie: ask to see the permit and check its validity), the statement itself serves to exemplify something which many people object to: authority figures (eg: law enforcement) consider it their de-facto right to control you (the normal people), and restrict your rights. Your rights are certainly restricted in some cases by specific laws, and for legitimate social reasons, but shouldn't the default (under the Constitution) be: you're allowed unless explicitly forbidden? Shouldn't the police officer be asking, "how can we tell who isn't allowed to be carrying?" That reason alone might be enough to justify this amendment in my mind, to sacrifice some public security to regain some freedom, and not fall into the trap Ben Franklin elocuted?

Another way it is interesting is with respect to the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Essentially, the argument would be that under the Constitution, what is granted in one state as a legal status must be honored in all other states. Of course, this is not held true for laws (only for court rulings and documents), hence the need for a federal law. If you could pass a law specifying this, though, presumably you could also do the same for gay marriage (a fact which, I'm sure, has not escaped the gay marriage opponents). I'm sure it would be tested in various courts if passed in either case, but it would be legally interesting to watch, and have strong implications for federal/state legal authority.

Finally, and almost as an after-thought, there's the argument in support of the amendment itself, that having more people armed deters crime. Here, both sides have legitimate points, and surprisingly rarely contradict each other. The Republicans argue that in states with more people carrying guns, general crime is reduced (which seems to be true), while Democrats argue that in such states crimes involving guns increase (also true), and serious crimes involving guns are more likely in states more permissive to gun ownership (also true). So really, it's a question of whether less crime in general is worth an increase in proportion of crime involving the use of a gun, which seems like a debatable trade-off to me; I'm not sure which side I'd be on, but neither position seems overwhelmingly better.

So, an interesting amendment, which I thought I'd comment on; that is all. :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Often I don't understand politics

The thought occurs to me, sometimes, that I just don't understand the political process, or what people are talking about in reference to a political process. Now sometimes, that's because the process itself is incomprehensible, obtuse, meandering, idiotic, or any/all of the above. Sometimes, though, the process seems like it would be straightforward, yet it is not, and I really don't understand why.

Take, for example, nationalizing health care in the US. Obama says he wants to do it, in about a month or so. The Democrats have the majority in both houses of Congress, enough members to override a filibuster, the ability and expressed willingness to use the "reconciliation" process to write whatever legislation they want with no Republican input whatsoever, and have given up on any credible notion of bipartisan anything ("Rahm it through" politics). So why is nationalizing health care seeming to be "hard"?

Maybe it's the money. It's going to cost a few Trillion dollars (at least $1,500,000,000,000 up front per the CBO, and probably another couple Trillion by the time it's actually done), but that shouldn't be a stumbling block: those figures are over ten years, and the Obamanation has already printed/wasted over a Trillion dollars this year alone. Heck, Biden just came out and said you needed to waste money to make money (I guess that passes for economic theory in the Democrat party these days), and the Obamanation is spending without regard so far, so the money problem just doesn't make sense to me.

Maybe it's the quality of care; after all, most countries with socialized health care have long waits for low-quality care, and maybe some people are regretting destroying America's leadership in medical research. However, the people bemoaning that loss are all Republicans, and they don't have any say in "Rahm it through" politics; why would that impede the process? The same goes for the public insurance plan eliminating private plans, practitioners being underpaid, facilities closing, jobs lost, the hit to the economy: all valid concerns, all legitimate complaints about Obama's plan, but all only being voiced by Republicans. I don't see how they would impact the process either.

Maybe it's the new taxes on small businesses, or the escalating high-end tax rates which will be raping the people who try to provide jobs for their fellow Americans? Maybe somebody would clue in to the fact that obliterating a large chunk of our economy during a recession might not be such a stupendous idea? It might be credible, except that again, only the Republicans seem to be expressing the concerns; the sheeple Democrats should be lining up behind their Chosen One and his priests like Polosi, right?

I mean, I'm against nationalized health care as much as everyone else in the country with any functional brain cells, and I'm glad for whatever mysterious process is delaying the "inevitable" descent into socialized medicine, but I just don't understood exactly what's keeping us from falling over the edge. Couldn't the Democraps just pass a simple appropriations bill, then rewrite it during "reconciliation" into the enormous Socialist Manifesto the Chosen One has vowed to "Rahm through" by fall, and have it enacted without debate already? I mean, what's the hold up; if you're going to shred and piss on the Constitution, do it already... the country deserves better than a drawn-out, torturous death at the hands of you despicable villains.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Large words confuse small minds

It seems like every time Obama's pit bull Rahm Emanuel opens his mouth and opines about "bipartisanship", I'm reminded of a quote from The Princess Bride: "You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means." For example, consider this gem:
“That’s a test of bipartisanship -- whether you took ideas from both parties,” Emanuel said. “At the end of the day, the test isn’t whether they voted for it,” he said, referring to Republicans. “The test is whether the final product represented some of their ideas. And I think it will.”

So, basically, what he's saying is that in his interpretation of the word, it just means you incorporated some of the ideas which didn't come from your party into the bill you then rammed up everyone's ass. So, for example, if your bill only wastes a few Trillion dollars, you can claim you incorporated some Republican ideas because it doesn't waste $10 Trillion, and Republicans favor saving money. It's a pretty nice interpretation, if you want to fit anything you might conceivably do under the banner of "bipartisanship", but I'm not sure his definition would match that of the common man, even if the common man in question is as dumb as a pile of rocks.

It makes me wonder why the spin-masters are even bothering to try to push such a preposterous claim. The health care reform bill is an enormous partisan socialism push, but the Democrats have a majority in both houses of Congress and hold the Presidency; why would you feel the need to make asinine statements like this? Just ram the bill through like all your other initiatives, and stop wasting time pretending like you have any concern for what the other side thinks: it's worked for you so far, and it's hard to believe you're winning more friends by treating the American people like retarded imbeciles. Unless, of course, they really just don't even understand the term "bipartisanship"; it's hard to believe that they just don't know what the term means, but it's really the only explanation I can think of.

My advice to Rahm: stop using words if you don't know what they mean, it emphasizes your stupidity.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The difficulty of governing with pervasive collusion and corruption

So I was reading this article about the impending financial meltdown (and probably taxpayer bailout) of CIT, and reflecting on the problems inherent in the government trying to be fair, impartial, and governing in the people's interests. I don't mean to imply that I think our current government is trying to do any of those thing, as they are clearly not interested in any of them, but rather the difficulty in doing so for a government which was interested in doing so.

You see, I think the founding fathers of this country were pretty smart, in a lot of fortuitous ways. For example, they forbade intermingling of government and religion; and although that has not always been followed in literal terms ("under God", Christian remnants in the government, preferred tax statuses, etc.) or in conceptual terms (pseudo-religions like Global Warming, etc.), it has generally been very good for the development of the country. One could make a strong argument that we don't have a repressive theocracy (like Iran) primarily because of this one provision, and I think most people in the US would consider that a good thing.

Another thing the founders and early governors were pretty smart about was establishing the sanctity of private contracts, and establishing that it was the government's job to provide basic protections and a level playing field, and otherwise explicitly not to interfere in private business as much as possible. This turns out to be a very good policy for prosperity and freedom, as 200+ years have demonstrated. Moreover, if the government was interested in doing its Constitutional job, it is much easier if they are not entangled in private businesses, as the article points out.

Apparently, the primary problem with bailing out CIT is the perceived conflict between the government's desire to "stabilize" the economy (read: pretend like everything's okay by shoveling newly-printed money at the problem), and not appear to be rewarding the "fat cats" who "caused" the problem (which is all a problem of appearance, since in reality the government primarily caused the problem, and the "fat cats" just capitalized on the situation). Of course, this is just one of the many people who will soon be clamoring for bailouts; I suspect California will get a bailout before it makes any meaningful progress resolving its budget problems, more large financial companies have systemic problems, the Fed continues its efforts to pay off gambling debts with taxpayer money, etc. But as atrocious as these problems are, bailouts are only part of the problem.

When the government is so pervasively corrupt, it becomes nigh-impossible to do anything in an unbiased manner, and/or to convince the people you're trying to operate in such a manner. Financial bailouts? Rewarding the "fat cat insiders", or an attempt to seize government control of the entire financial sector, take your pick. Universal health care? It's a spending contest between the medical insurance industry and the government bureaucracy proponents, or the largest expansion of government spending and control in US history. Energy bill? A spending contest between the environmental and clean energy lobbies (who stand to profit big) and the oil, coal, transportation, and producing businesses. Is the government entirely for sale, or are there any politicians left with any shred of integrity who are working for the peoples' interests? How could you tell?

Maybe some of these things are not malevolent in purpose, but the point is that once the government has started down the path of bailouts, interference, market manipulation, and overt control, not only is it hard to reverse the damage, but it's equally or more difficult to regain the public's trust that the government is operating in their interest, and not just beholden to all the special-interests they have gladly and openly served in the past. Is there anyone at all in the country who believes that the government is operating primarily in their interest in any/all the above matters, and not just for sale to the highest bidders? If so, I have some houses in California to sell you at 2006 prices; it has become preposterous to think that the government operates with integrity, and that permeates everything that they do. The current government has almost stopped even pretending they are operating in the people's interest; the last bastion of make-believe adherence to the principles of the country, teetering on the edge.

How much damage will the Obamanation do, and how much of America as we remember it will be left when he's done? Only time will tell... but if it were a private enterprise, it would be in line for a corrupt bailout right now like everyone else, like a great big blood-stained warning against moral hazard, government collusion, and the siren call of government "assistance".

Friday, July 10, 2009

If there was going to be a public health care plan...

I realize a public health care plan is a bad idea, but it did get me thinking: if I were making the bill, and everyone else strongly wanted a public plan, is there a form of the plan which I would be agreeable to? I thought about it, and I think a public plan would be eminently workable, provided it has some simple immutable provisions. Now, I don't think the Democrats are going to put anything like this into their disaster of a plan, much less be capable of adhering to all the requirements, but I would venture to say that if they truly wanted bipartisan support, this would be one way to get it; I strongly suspect most Republicans would back a public plan with my simple provisions.

Without further ado, the provisions:

- All public employees will be covered by the same public plan with the same benefits, from every level of government from janitors to the President. This will ensure that the plan is good, provides reasonable coverage, and Congress has a strong incentive to get it right. It also provides an immediate large base of participants from which to negotiate with health care providers, which should allow savings from scale.

- There must be no coercion, direct (laws forcing, pressure) or indirect (tax breaks, incentives, etc.), to force health care providers to accept the public plan: the government must negotiate fairly and openly like every other insurance provider. There should be an independent commission to investigate claims of coercion, and it should be a federal crime with stiff penalties. This means if the government want more providers and/or services available, it will need to pay for them at market rates.

- The cost of the plan should be entirely paid by the plan participants, and nobody else. That means no tax hikes, no changes for everyone else, no raises for public employees to compensate, no new fees, no nothing. If the pundits are correct and the government can save money by economy of scale and increased efficiency, then the savings should be more than enough to cover the additional people (not government employees) who are allowed to be on the plan. If not, then the plan participants will feel the pain only, and not everyone else. This will also provide incentive to limit the availability to only those people who are worthwhile for the government to insure for free, and incentive to set the cost of participation for people choosing the plan to be as near the actual cost as possible.

That's it; simple provisions, logical, fair, and would make the plan acceptable to me, and I suspect would be enough to gather bipartisan support. Readers, thoughts?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hypocracy and dark humor from the Senate

I was reading this article about Franken being sworn in, and how the Democrats in the Senate still wanted some Republican support for their agenda bills (despite the calls from left-wing organizations like to ram through their partisan agenda items). I was struck with the somewhat humorous hypocrisy and blatant stupidity of some of statements; let's see if you agree:
Senate Republicans must understand that Senator-elect Franken's election does not abdicate them from the responsibility of governing. That is why we have and will continue to offer Senate Republicans a seat at the table. It is up to them to decide whether they will sit down and work for the common good or continue to be the 'Party of No.'

- Majority Leader Harry M. Reid

Hm... last I checked the Republicans were more than willing to sit at any table you happened to invite them to; moreover, they have been the ones proposing alternative (and often more feasible) solutions to the nation's problems. As I see it, you (the Democrats) have constantly rejected all of their bills, suggestions, revisions, amendments, and other input. Wouldn't that make you the 'Party of No', if not the "Party of WTF is that BS You're Spewing'?

Wait, there's more:
"Our strong preference is to pass a bipartisan bill," Reid said after the meeting.

Hey genius, if you really actually have a strong preference to pass a bill that is bipartisan, how about including some of the provisions and suggestions the Republicans put forward? Or did you mean to say you have a strong preference to have Republicans vote for your extremely partisan bill (which would more match your actions)? Did you just misspeak, or are you a scum-sucking bald-faced liar?

One more...
In a closed-door meeting immediately after Franken's swearing-in, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) asked his caucus to always join ranks in supporting cloture votes. Those procedural votes require 60 senators to agree to halt debate, a step that would derail any potential filibuster.

So, if I understand this correctly, you say you want to work with the Republicans, while at the exact same time you are lobbying your own party to not work with the Republicans, and rather convince the few remaining decent members of your own party to abandon their principles, shut off bipartisan negotiation, and help you ram your own partisan agenda up America's metaphorical ass.

It's kinda like watching Mystery Science Senate 3000, where you just ridicule the actors for their absurd situations and equally absurd dialog. It would be kinda funny, if they weren't contemplating the destruction of the US as we know it. A lot of nerve, those a-holes.

This recession compared to 1930's

This is a great passage, which is really interesting in contrast with the government's current approach to virtually the exact same problem:
Hoover again rose to the occasion, trying to arrive at some solution. Lending more money would not solve the problem. The vast, intricate entanglement of the foreign debt situation was a time bomb waiting to explode at any moment. Hoover’s proposal was to call a complete "standstill" among all banks everywhere, preventing anyone from calling upon German or Central European short-term obligations.

France still pressured for a $500 million loan to Germany. Hoover refused to go along with it. Mellon warned Hoover that if the U.S. did not go along with the plan the French intended to place all the blame on the United States, and he warned that he was playing into the hands of the French. Mellon strongly urged Hoover to accept the French proposal. Hoover lost his patience, as he put it, and informed Mellon that his "standstill" plan was being released to the press at that very moment. When the news came out, the London Conference was forced to accept Hoover’s proposal because the truth was at last coming out.

A group of New York bankers complained to the White House and warned that they would not comply with the standstill. They demanded that Hoover loan money to Germany so it could pay its debts which the bankers held. As Hoover wrote: "My nerves were perhaps overstrained when I replied that, if they (bankers) did not accept within twenty-four hours (his standstill proposal), I would expose their banking conduct to the American people." Needless to say, the bankers realized Hoover’s determination and his opinion that the taxpayer should not pay for the banker’s problems, which had been created by their eager solicitation of private citizens for foreign securities, and the bankers reluctantly backed off. Indeed, the actions of the banks and the Federal Reserve had bordered on the verge of treason as they acted as willing participants in what proved to be a game of musical chairs with the unsound foreign governmental debt instruments.

-- 1931, "The Greatest Bull Market In History", Martin Armstrong

Basically, the banks wanted the government to give money to Germany, so that it could pay off debts to the banks, and the Fed was complicit with the demand, if not leading the charge. Hoover refused, knowing this was essentially rewarding the bankers for their huge Ponzi scheme with an enormous taxpayer bailout. Instead, the government decided to instigate a delay in the inevitable unwinding of leveraged investments, helping create the Depression.

Fast forward almost 80 years, and we find virtually the same situation; replace Germany with AIG and adjust the monetary numbers up to account for the currency devaluation since we abandoned the gold standard, if that helps clarify the analogy. Except in the current situation, the government decided to give the taxpayer money to the bankers, with the cooperation of (and on the strikingly similar advice of) the Federal Reserve. On the other hand, though, they took Hoover's approach to the huge house of cards in the mortgage and real estate backed securities market: essentially hampering the market's ability to correct itself, and prolonging the unwinding period. So in essence, we're once again creating a prolonged drawn-out recession, except in this case, the government didn't have the integrity to not bow to the bailout demands of the banking industry which created the economic disaster, and is instead capitalizing on the collapse to effectively nationalize several huge US industries, including banking, automobiles, health care, and energy.

Never let a good crisis go to waste, indeed; quite an interesting parallel, both in what we duplicated, and where Obama diverged from Hoover's response.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fear and loathing in the US

A bit of irony, if you will, in this particular post. Recall, not too long ago, one of the primary arguments the Democrats used during the 2008 presidential campaign to rail against the policies of the Bush administration was that fear, rather than prudent considered decisions, was used to justify and push many initiatives which were harmful to the country. Ultimately unfounded fear, it was said, was what justified the invasion of Iraq, and the toppling of the brutal and oppressive regime there. Fear, after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, was used to push through the "Patriot" Act, one of the worst abuses of civil rights ever propagated on the American people. Fear was the justification for illegal wiretaps, shadow courts, capturing and holding prisoners secretly and indefinitely, torture, and many other degradations of the nation and its principles, debatable and sacred alike.

... and the criticisms were justified. There were, indeed, many abuses of civil liberties under Bush, many things enacted which were not properly or adequately scrutinized, and several attempts to advance agendas using fear as the justification. Although I didn't personally favor Obama, I did think this particular criticism was valid: there had been many abuses under Bush, and the promise of a government which did not use fear to push agendas, and allowed everything to be openly debated and judged in the absence of deceitful fear-mongering was appealing.

How ironic, then, to look at the first few months alone of Obama's term. Let's look at the Obamanation's major initiatives, in this light:

- The "Stimulus" Plan, a $800 Billion "fix" for the collapsing economy. If we didn't pass it, unemployment might soar to 10%; if we pass it we can keep the rate under 8%. It will save millions of jobs, but it must be enacted immediately, without time for debate or scrutiny. Most members of Congress didn't even have time to read the bill before passing it. The bill spends more money on pork agenda spending than the entire cost of the Iraq war at the time it was passed.

- The Global Warming (tax and cap, jobs to China, pork and crap, whatever you want to call it) bill, the payoff for campaign promises to the environmental lobby. This is so important to pass now, without debate or scientific input, that we don't have time to listen to anyone who has differing opinions. In fact, its such a pressing problem that we need to suppress the already-prepared report from the EPA questioning the scientific basis for the whole religion. It's so important, it got 300 pages of extra pork tacked on literally less than 24 hours before it was passed by the House, such that nobody had actually read the legislation. If we don't pass this right now, the environment will suffer irreparable harm; never-mind that China is now the largest polluting country in the world, Global Warming, fear it!

- Health care reform, the latest attempt to socialize medicine in America. We must pass this plan this year, apparently, or spiraling health care costs will bankrupt the country (never-mind the exploding deficit spending by the Obamanation, that's a different category of wasteful monetary hemorrhage)! If it doesn't happen this year, we won't be able to get it done; so it must happen, we must push it through, or it's over the edge into the undefined abyss of unregulated Capitalism!

- Financial regulation; we must not let another asset bubble decimate our economy again. The Fed did such a good job inflating the current bubble, it's only fitting that Obama propose they get additional powers to help stop the next one. Not too many, though, as we wouldn't want them to get too powerful: I guess the rest of the new broad regulatory and oversight powers need to be vested in the Treasury Department, under the authority of the President. Why would the American people consent to such a sweeping and general vesting of power in the executive branch? Well, if they are afraid enough of another economic catastrophe, they might tacitly consent to anything...

I'm reminded of a line, which is something like "... so this is how Democracy dies, to thunderous applause." Lack of fear, transparency, openness of government, preserving individual rights, helping the economy, controlled spending, smaller deficits, not trying to take over industries, expand power, and rule the people: all good promises, good ideals, and all stinking globs of irony in the cesspool of lies which characterizes the first few months of the Obamanation... and we have many more months to go. How many more of our freedoms and how much more of our prosperity will be shoveled into the pool, devoured by the black abyss of despicable corruption and malfeasance, before the final decision in the epic battle of the Obamanation against the principles and ideals of the United States of America? And will we the people, in this latest challenge, turn back from the abyss, or welcome it was thunderous applause?

Great tech tip for text message spam

Something I researched recently because it's been aggravating me... a non-political aside to my recently-typical political ranting...

In the cell phone industry, you can (and will) be charged money for incoming text messages that you have no control over. This is particularly aggravating if you don't have a messaging plan, and someone is spamming you with text messages. Apparently there has been some recent movement on the part of cell phone companies to allow users to opt-out of being charged for spam text messages, but it's certainly not easy. You would think there would be some oversight group, amidst the plethora of government oversight groups, that would smack this abusive practice down like the should-be illegal underhanded scam it is, but I guess they are too busy ignoring or contributing to all the other systemic problems... but I digress...

I found a forum post describing how one can modify/delete the service center number in one's cell phone to "work around" the fact that the cell phone companies claim it's impossible to remove the "feature" whereby they charge you for letting other people spam you. There's no specific instructions (each phone UI is different), but I found it on my phone, so we'll see how it works. I'm guessing they will still charge me for the spam, but at least hopefully my phone will not be downloading it and annoying me, and maybe eventually I'll have a chance to join in the inevitable class action lawsuit which I cam only hope will bankrupt these scum companies for this despicable practice.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

California kicks the can, again

So today was just another day in the lovely state of California. The legislature failed to pass a balanced budget as required by the state Constitution (as expected), the state is now roughly $26,000,000,000 in debt, and apparently we're going to be issuing IOU's to contractors, vendors, a few classes of welfare recipients, and residents for tax refunds. These will pay interest, will be due October 1, and will likely be accepted by some banks and credit unions for deposit, making the impact nearly negligible for the effected recipients. In essence, we're kicking the can down the road, again.

Now, I've probably written enough already about how screwed up California is, how corrupt and utterly despicable the Democrats in the legislature are, how a state with more incoming revenue than many large countries can't pull it's legislative head out of its ass long enough to just spend less than, say, $100 Billion dollars a year. I've been amused at the running contest between California and New York as to who can have the most unhelpful, juvenile, and thoroughly repugnant legislature. This time, though, I just want to point out some darkly humorous irony.

The big pitch from the Republicans in California's government, and the Governator in particular, has been for the state to solve the budget problem and balance the budget, and not just kick the can down the road again. Yet, by allowing the Controller to issue IOU's, that's exactly what the state is doing: kicking the can, again. If you really want progress on the budget, stop paying people. No payments for anyone while the state has no budget, and no accounting for the payments on a deferred basis: no payments means no payments for that time, ever. Force the legislature and the bare minimum of infrastructure people to work during that time in order to work on the budget; everyone else can work optionally, but you won't get paid for your work, now or after the state has a budget. Note: security for the legislators is not included in the bare minimum of infrastructure.

I would be willing to bet you'd have a budget within a month, if not sooner. Right now California doesn't have a budget because the legislature can still kick the can, and that has got to stop for the state the make progress.