Friday, December 16, 2011

Interesting Legal Musing

So I don't know if anyone here read about the Barry Bonds Congressional fiasco; if not, I'll give a brief rundown. In 2003, Congress, apparently not having any national business whatsoever to attend to, decided to get involved in a private sports debate, and forced Barry Bonds to give testimony before a grand jury about steroid use. During that testimony, Bonds said as little as possible (as anyone would under the circumstances), answering only direct questions and not offering additional detail. They then had a trail to try to convict him of lying, which ended with a hung jury.

Frustrated in their initial witch-hunt, Congress instead decided to try Bonds for lying to the grand jury, which of course they couldn't prove, because it didn't happen. Instead, they prosecuted him for "being evasive" and "not saying enough to incriminate himself", which would seem like an equally far-fetched theory. Here's the obscene part, though: they convicted him! He's now facing a fine and house arrest; a far cry from the 15 months hard time the government was asking for, but a criminal conviction nonetheless. It's an abortion of justice, to be sure, but tangential to my musing...

So with this precedent, the government may convict you for not saying enough to incriminate yourself during testimony. Any testimony you provide could be judged "not complete enough" or "evasive", no matter the content, and could therefore be considered self-incriminating (even in omission, or phrasing, for example). Thus, could not one argue that any testimony provided whatsoever, regardless of your interest in a case, could be self-incriminating? If so, would that mean that anyone could claim the 5th amendment right to refuse to answer any question in court, under the above justification?

I'd be very curious if any readers with a legal background could chime in. It seems to me that this misguided witch-hunt prosecution, in addition to being ridiculous on principle, has opened the door for literally anyone to refuse to testify in any court proceeding. Thoughts?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Obama: So Slimy It Hurts

I was reading the highlights from Obama's recent address to the nation to push his agenda (, and it nearly hurt to read. Not, of course, because the speech wasn't eloquent; I'm confident Obama's writers crafted something with all the bells and whistles. Also not because it wasn't well-read off a teleprompter; I didn't see the actual speech, but I'm wager Obama did a good job of delivering the carefully-crafted message. No, the hurt was more of a visceral reaction to the dishonesty, the half-truths, the creative spin... all the things which just aggravate those of us who desperately wish the voting populace was more well-informed and intelligent, so we wouldn't ever risk having leaders like Obama.

All in all, though, it was just another standard Obama speech... so why does it deserve a blog post? Well, you can think of this as another public service post, to enumerate some of the distortions and outright lies. In the spirit of Discovery shows, I'll call it: President Obama Tells Lies.

"It's not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all society's problems."
Um, yes, that's precisely your view, as demonstrated by all your proposals, and reinforced by your actions. In fact, the negative of that statement is probably the best summary of your exact viewpoint on what government should be doing that I could come up with if I actually tried. We'll call this a bald-faced, unmitigated lie.

He framed the issue as a choice between making vital investments in future growth or the Republican position he characterized as maintaining "tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country."

"We can't afford to do both," Obama said. "That is not politics. That's just math."
This is a half-truth; the country indeed cannot afford to both continue its current spending and cut taxation, but it's a false choice, because there is another option he's ignoring (which is, in fact, the option espoused by the Republicans): cutting spending. We can certainly afford to cut spending; in fact we must... no amount of increased taxation will ever compensate for Washington's waste, and cutting spending is the only viable option. That, Mr President, for reference, is accurate math, as opposed to your fairy-tale accounting.

"This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class," the president said. "At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement."
This is a pretty bold statement, in context. It's true, in a sense, although one might argue that the period for determining the outcome is longer than this moment. It's bold, because all the Democrat policies are causing the problems, and endangering the outcomes! Democrats are hurting the economy by demonizing and overly-regulating private enterprise, Democrats are eroding savings through inflationary reckless spending policies, Democrats are making homes less affordable by impeding the market's ability to correct for distortions, Democrats are endangering retirement by refusing to get spending under control. Democrats are the primary driving factor for all the dangers Obama is warning about! It's like warning your local neighborhood that a serial-killing arsonist child-rapist is on the loose, when you are in-fact that person! The audacity is astounding...

"Inequality also distorts our democracy," he added to applause. "It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. And it leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them -- that our elected representatives aren't looking out for the interests of most Americans."
I guess I have to give some credit for taking a well-deserved swipe at the various labor unions, associations, and insiders who have disproportionate power in our government. Of course, you only get points if you actually meant to call out those people, and not try to deflect the blame to other people with less corruption and influence. I'll leave it to the reader to conclude if Obama should get credit for this observation; it's correct, but only if it wasn't meant as a distortion.

"This is the height of unfairness," Obama said. "It's wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker (who) maybe earns $50,000 should pay a higher tax rate than somebody raking in $50 million."

He said the issue "isn't about class warfare," a charge leveled by Republican opponents.
I like this one; it is the height of unfairness in the tax code that someone making less money should pay more or less in percentage taxes than someone making more. Hey Obama, you know what would fix that problem? A flat tax. I'd even give you credit for saying it's not class warfare if your proposal treats everyone equally, and tries to fix this "height of unfairness". Or, I guess, if you were a contemptible scum, you could try to "fix" it by engaging in class warfare, and then saying it's not class warfare... that's another disingenuous option, I suppose.

That's all CNN bothered to quote from the speech, so I'll leave it at that. I will grant Obama that I'm certainly not the target audience; surely he's looking to appeal to people who are ignorant or stupid (or both), and his points reflect that. Still, it hurts to think someone like that can and did get elected, and every time he opens his mouth something more insulting to intelligence comes out. Do [much] better next time, America; the future of your country depends on it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Problem with Ignorant Frustration

There's a movement going on in the country right now; small at the moment, but persistent, and getting lots of media attention currently (due in not small part, I'm sure, to the fairly significant alignment of positions between the protesters and the liberal media). This protest movement started as Occupy Wall Street, a sit-in protest against the profits of investment corporations despite the economic downturn, but has grown to be nation-wide to some extend, and into a protest against corporations in general, in addition to a few other things. It has received backing and support from some big-name organizations (namely and primarily, the Socialist party, the Nazi party, several large labor unions, and several well-known Democrats), and although the numbers of people involved are relatively small, there is a solid basis for frustration. America is in a recession, jobs in many fields are scarce, the housing market continues to stagnate and impede possible recovery, and some corporations are still showing large profits. Clearly there is plenty to be upset about, but before we go marching, let's see if we can really figure out what the real problems are.

You see, there are several problems with ignorance, especially among the people trying to influence the course of political happenings. Firstly, obviously, you can easily make the problems worse, if you advocate for people or policies which a contributory to the problems, rather than the solutions. Second, unless you are clear on your understanding and message, your actions or indignation can often be co-opted by other interests, sometimes to support positions you do not adhere to (for example, ask OWS protesters if they are all Nazis; after all, the Nazi party has claimed solidarity with their cause). Third, you can be taking attention away from the real causes of problems, and providing political cover for the people responsible for them, thus impeding the efforts of people who would be able to have more positive impact, but for your efforts. Thus, it's vitally important to have as full and correct an understanding of the situation as possible, if you even hope to affect positive change. In that spirit, lets examine some of the problems that the protesters are ostensibly upset about.

First, I guess, there's the recession. This is an economic correction, caused by years of easy money and bubble creation by the government; it's fairly easy to see at least one of the main perpetrators for this one. However, this recession is going to be prolonged due to a number of other factors, such as the housing market and unemployment. Of the latter, one of the root causes is the lack of skilled workers in the fields/areas which have a shortage (ie: high tech, biology research, engineering), and a surplus in areas where there is little employment potential (ie: literature, history, social studies, etc.). For this it would be easy to also blame the government, but really the blame here should more accurately be directed at college advisers, degree incentives, and other things which have steered students away from fields where the job prospects are good. At best, though, they would share the blame with the students who chose to study areas which did not lead to jobs; it would be grossly unfair to allow these people to dodge personal responsibility for their own educational direction decisions. Thus, if you see a PhD in art history complaining about a lack of jobs (as I did in an interview with some OWS protesters), you know that he is responsible for the problem he's complaining about, and if he wasn't ignorant, should be protesting himself (preferably in private).

Of course, that's not the whole story on jobs. It would be incomplete without at least a mention of the transition of America to a "service-based economy", which was triumphed by various politicians (primarily Democrats) as a way to get rid of all the ugly, polluting manufacturing and product creation, and focus on "clean" industries, such as food service and retail. This economic model relies, of course, on ever-increasing consumer consumption, driven by wealth that they create by borrowing against equity in their homes, or create by producing... no, wait, we're virtually outlawing that old and outdated concept, though oppressive business regulation and environmental restrictions. So that just leaves wealth from housing, which was fine while the government was able to keep that bubble blown, and is now terrible as the government is insistent on prolonging the recovery. So, perhaps demonizing manufacturing and actual goods production was not an optimal plan; that's a good note for the protesters to keep in mind, at least.

Speaking of the housing market, though, let's touch on that for a moment. By now, there's no real excuse for not being at least passably familiar with the housing bubble and its subsequent correction, especially if you real my blog. I suppose the important point here is that although the government was primarily responsible for the conditions which created the bubble, it's also important to keep in mind that they caused more longer-term damage to the economy by prolonging the recovery, with all the idiotic measures to try to keep prices artificially inflated, and thus prevent the market from becoming functional again. In addition to that, of course, there was the government decision to bail out the banks and investment corporations, as a reward for their participation in creating the bubble in the first place (which was only possible because of government encouragement, and the example set by the GSE's with consent and direct support of the government). Thus, and fortunately, it's fairly easy to see where the vast majority, if not all, of the blame for the housing market conditions should be directed.

So now that we have at least a little perspective on the causes of the actual problems, we can better hope to make reasonable choices as to what to be upset about, and moreover to judge if the actual protesters are cognizant of the same. Unfortunately, it would not appear (at least from initial observations) that most of the protesters are even slightly aware of the actual issues or causes, thus virtually ensuring that they will have at best no impact, and at worse a negative one. All I can hope is that the readers of this blog, at least, will make a reasonable effort to be educated about what they complain about, and this not be part of the problem.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

EU Handling of Greece Bailout is Dumb

I was struggling a bit to come up with the right word to describe how the EU is handling the whole Greece/Euro situation. It's not really 'dumb' in the intellectual sense, since a certain amount of dancing around issues and obfuscation seems somewhat necessary to try to get public buy-in to their policies (that is, the only way their people are going to support what they are doing is if they don't really understand it). It's also not dumb in the end-goal sense: if you want to preserve the nominal stability of the monetary union, and prolong Greece's national default by stealing wealth from the other countries in the EU, this is a good way to do it.

No, what I mean by 'dumb' is that this whole process exemplifies most of what I find distasteful about politics in general. First you have a political system which is very popular among the people, but doomed to economic failure like every other attempt before it. Then you have this effort to prolong the problem, by "bailing out" the country, which really means just postponing the default of the country's debts by stealing wealth from people in other countries. Of course, you can't state that directly, so you have this whole elaborate charade of "support funds" and "emergency loans", and all the other facades to disguise the process. On top of that, you have an excellent excuse for all the other countries to print massive amounts of money, which doubles as a huge hidden tax on anyone with savings, and a means to funnel money directly to government members/allies ("stimulus", "banking support", "job creation", etc.).

Of course, the US is doing a very similar thing; replace Greece with "housing bubble", or "stock market level", and you'll get the idea. The only difference is that Greece is generating more debt as time goes on, rather than something which will eventually become "normal" if you just debase the currency enough. Moreover, I'm sure the policy makers know exactly what they are doing, and are proceeding very purposefully; they have an agenda, and these actions support it.

I guess I just find the whole process rather distasteful, stomach turning, frustrating... "dumb".

Thursday, September 22, 2011

OnStar Wises Up to Business Opportunity

As you should know, OnStar is a telematics system which is installed by default on every Government Motors car (and several other makes); it's one of several systems now in use, but probably the most widely known and deployed. This system is used for providing real-time updates to your vehicle, getting assistance, uploading your car's diagnostic information to OnStar's servers, allowing remote control of your vehicle by police, OnStar, or anyone else in control of their network, and surreptitiously monitoring in-car conversations without a warrant. There are other uses as well, but these are the major ones, I believe.

Recently, though, OnStar changed their terms of service to allow the company to use your telemetry information for its own private use, regardless of if you have the service currently "active" (the monitoring and surveillance capabilities are always active, you cannot modify these through any means, for obvious reasons). They have always been collecting the information, of course, but previously only law enforcement (or other government agencies) could use the information "legally"; the legality is debatable, but OnStar had a "get out of jail free" card if, say, the CIA wanted to get all the data, so they were happy to cooperate. It was, and continues to be, a mutually beneficial arrangement; there's a good reason Government Motors installs this system in all their vehicles regardless of customer desires, and if you think this is for the customers' benefit, you probably want to stop reading here, because the real world is going to make you cry, or worse.

What OnStar has figured out recently, it appears, is that in the post 9/11 world, where privacy is an antiquated concept, you can make lots of money selling people's personal information. Facebook's entire business model is built on this concept, and even Google, previously known for trying not to do evil, is making no excuses for its business practices in which your privacy is totally irrelevant to them (see recent comments on real names in google+, and how the company has no consideration whatsoever for user privacy desires, apart from what might be specifically mandated by law or overwhelming public opinion). With more data being uploaded into the cloud every day, and OnStar-type functionality becoming socially acceptable (see: recent commercials and talks promoting total surveillance and remote control in the context of parents remotely monitoring their children), the idea that OnStar could do the same with your vehicle information (and/or conversations in/around your vehicle) has moved out of the realm of scary, and into the realm of taken for granted. Therein lies business opportunity.

Of course, you need the appropriate spin, which is why OnStar was quick to go on the pseudo-defensive, and insist that you can still "disable" it if you like. Of course, the concept is laughable: it's still always on, the data is still collected (for "law enforcement", if nothing else), and the usage is still at their discretion. Remember, it's the contract which defines the legal rights, not the press release with empty promises about how the company may or may not utilize the data. With the direction of the country, though, you won't even need the spin in a few years; it'll just be the way it is, and people will accept it as unchangeable, as they accept OnStar in their vehicles right now, despite all the government control implications.

Kudos to OnStar, though, for recognizing the business opportunity, and making the data which was once only available only to every government entity possibly available to everyone for a reasonable price. As google figured out, if you're going to be Big Brother incarnate, you should at least have the business sense to profit off your part in the conversion of the US to a totalitarian regime.

I miss the days when people wanted to leave the country/world better than they found it...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Health Care Mandate Ruling

A US Court of Appeals ruled that the health care mandate specified in the Obamacare legislation was unconstitutional. This makes one appellate court which has ruled the legislation valid, one which has ruled it [partially] invalid, and two which are still pending; all of which are a waste of time, of course, since eventually the Supreme Court will obviously need to consider and rule on it, making all the other deliberations and rulings a colossal waste of time, money, effort, and attention.

I could take issue with the procedure, I suppose, and complain about how absurd the process is which takes years to resolve anything, and serves no valid societal purpose aside from enriching lawyers (which has questionable social value). I could also of course address just how ridiculously overreaching the government's position is: that everyone indirectly affect inner-state commerce by their existence, and thus the government is entitled to dictate every part of their life. There's certainly plenty of low-hanging feces in both of those areas, but I'm not going to get into either of them in this post, per-se. Instead, I'm going to take issue with the courts themselves, and how the recent ruling, while more or less obvious, was not even unanimous, and how bad that is for America in general.

Sure, the government's position is an absurd abuse of power. You know what, though? I don't blame them too much. I mean, it's not like any of the corrupt power-hungry scum drafting or approving this legislation have any obligation, explicit or implicit, to honor or respect the Constitution (at least, as far as I can tell). Rather, like any power-hungry business-person, they are taking every advantage the system allows, and doing whatever they can do advance their own agenda/position. We don't expect them to be magnanimous or ethical; rather, we rely on the system and the laws thereof to keep their actions in check. For the politicians, this falls to the court system, which is supposed to be on the side of the people.

Here, I think, is where it's fair to be upset. In what scenario is it even plausible to have a judge, representing the interests of the people, decide that the government should be allowed to rule over and dictate every part of peoples' lives, by arbitrary extension of a clause in the Constitution designed to make sure states play nice in business transactions with each other? Moreover, having ruled such, how is that judge allowed to continue to be judging anything, much less reside outside the walls of a mental institution? Have we really progressed so far down the road to idiocy, as a society, that something like the Constitutionality of the purchase mandate of Obamacare can now be considered a reasonable question, rather than the utterly obvious extra-Constitutional abuse of power it clearly is?

I'd like to demand more from our judiciary. I'd like them to take a dim view toward small overreaches of legislative power, much less enormous egregious ones such as this. I'd like them to take a more proactive role in striking down such actions, rather than waiting years for test cases, and the entire appeals process to play out. I'd like them to uphold the limits established in the Constitution, rather than decide if the government is pushing out their boundaries of control "just enough", or "slightly too far". I want a court which is actually on the side of the people and the country, not a "yes man" for government abuses which only occasionally, and seemingly accidentally, acts in the peoples' interests. Is that too much to want?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cyber-Defense Quandary

I work in the computer security industry (more or less). I recently had the occasion to attend the Black Hat and DEFCON conferences, both of which focus on computer security (more or less, with different perspectives). When I got back, I came across this article, which references one of the conferences and points out an ongoing problem in the US: there are not enough skilled computer security experts going to work for (and/or continuing to work for) the US government, specifically in the area of cyber-defense. This is a rather large problem, but presents a rather interesting quandary for the US government.

One of the side-themes of a few of the talks at DEFCON was that if you really wanted to hack things, you needed to be based outside the US, for a number of reasons. First, and probably the most obvious, is that the US has some of the harshest penalties for computer crimes in the world, and just the accusation of such can ruin your life. You don't have to look hard to find numerous "aggressive" actions against hackers by "law enforcement" (really, just government thugs), and/or civil lawsuits. Heck, you can barely write any code at all in the US without conceptually violating someone's patent on something, with how absolutely asinine our patent system is. It's a virtual minefield of legal problems, which can have very real and disastrous consequences for you if you get noticed (everyone's always guilty with the way the laws are, it's only a matter of if you do something significant enough to get one someone's radar).

Second, the US is the most technologically advanced country, so they have the most electronic surveillance. The CIA/NSA/others monitor all internet and phone traffic, the FBI can (and does) track people with GPS, warrants and court supervision are antiquated concepts, video surveillance is becoming ubiquitous, etc. If you find yourself on someone's radar, you will be hunted, tracked, monitored, and when someone feels the time is appropriate, scooped up and detained somewhere, where you may or may not be granted any rights, at the discretion of your particular captors. This is not science fiction, this happens right now: this is the country in which we live. The advice to would-be hackers (or anyone else not playing inside the guidelines the government has established) is to do everything you can to stay anonymous and off the radar; if you fail at either of these, your life is essentially over.

The problem, then, is that when the US needs the computer security expertise to defend itself from foreign attack, it finds that it has, to some extent, become a victim of its own success. Very few hackers want to operate in the US, at least openly. The ones that do, even when explicitly helping the government, can also find themselves ruined. The aggressive prosecution of hackers in the US has bifurcated the talent pool: some go into "white hat" security research, where they can make a good living applying their talents to solving problems in the corporate world, and some go "dark", inside or outside the country, working on their own projects and usually at least away from, if not against, the US government. This leaves very few skilled people to fill the gaps in national cyber-defense, leading to the current state.

I don't envy the challenge of the US government, and it is a serious one. However, I also don't harbor much, if any, sympathy for them. Like many other recent crises, they have manufactured this one themselves, and now find themselves somewhat uncomfortable with the inevitable results of their own plans and actions. As someone who nominally could do that job, I have a somewhat unique perspective; this doesn't help the situation much, though, other than to be more acutely aware of the many failures which have brought us to the current state. I would wish the US luck in their recruitment efforts, but it would be a false gesture: as I would not help the government trample on the rights of its people more than it already does, nor would I want anyone else to, especially people with actual skills. It's interesting to see the US at least acknowledging the problem, though, even if they are miles away from acknowledging the root issues, or finding any sort of solution.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It would be funny, if...

File this story under the category of "it would be funny, if it wasn't the people making the laws where I live". Apparently, two Democrats in the California legislature are at odds about releasing financial information about office budgets and spending projections. The complaining assemblyman asserts that his budget was cut as a retaliatory measure for voting against the caucus on the budget bill. The speaker of the assembly counters that he has budgetary problems because he consistently over-spends, rather than the arbitrary adjustments which he doesn't deny making.

Wait, though; it's gets more ridiculous. The assemblyman who got his budget allocation slashed in retaliation for having the audacity to try to represent the people (instead of the political establishment), along with various media organizations, requested the budget information, under a free-information request. This was denied, by the rules branch controlled by the speaker, under the grounds that it was equivalent to notes or legislative memorabilia, which are exempted from the public record. Everything about budgeting is supposed to be public to prevent coercion, but I guess when the prime suspect is running the rules committee, there isn't much you can do within the legislature itself.

You gotta kinda laugh at the humor of the situation, though. According to people in the legislature, coercion and punishment through budget manipulation and other measures is a fairly common practice, and is just expected. In this instance, a Democrat voted against the pressure anyway, and was retaliated against for it. In response to his complaint, the Democrat speaker accuses him of out-of-control spending, which seems like it would be a given (they are Democrats, right?). Then we add a coverup with clearly bogus rule interpretations, a mockery of transparency and accountability, threat of lawsuits, and another Democrat proposing a bill to, if I could paraphrase, "force the speaker to follow the law" (because apparently that's not a given in California). And nobody really cares much, because this is politics as usual in California.

Normally I might add a quip here, but I'm really a kinda a loss. It seems sad that such a prosperous state, with such nice weather and resources, could become such a miserable place to live because of the festering shit-hole that is our state government. Aside from changing who gets to vote, though, I really don't know what anyone could do about it: the same contemptible scum keep getting sent back, and as long as that continues to happen, "politics as usual" will continue to run the state into the ground.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Debt Ceiling Capituation: Politics as Usual

So apparently, over the weekend, the leaders of both major political parties finally reached a "compromise" to raise the debt ceiling. To call it a compromise is disingenuous, though; essentially, both parties caved to the administration demand for a blank check through 2012, then added enough smoke and mirrors and other bullshit to try to deflect criticism that it's just another blank check. Honestly, I'm more upset about the clearly bogus rhetoric about having a serious discussion or fixing any of the real problems than the fact that our government ended up doing neither: if you were going to capitulate and write the check in the end, why create all the drama and uncertainly leading up to it?

Let's look at some of the facts for the "compromise", just to be clear:
- $2.4 trillion increase in the debt ceiling limit
- No spending cuts of any significance during this term of Congress; all spending cuts are non-binding to next term of Congress and easily reversible then, so no effective spending cuts
- No reforms to entitlement programs
- Vote on BBA required, but nothing tied to outcome, so a complete waste of time
- No new/higher taxes immediately, but door is open later (especially with debt commission recommendations)
- We spend more money on another debt commission, to tell the government what they obviously need to do (ie: cut spending, reform entitlements), so they can ignore it again

So, basically, this "compromise" is exactly what Obama wanted (sans class-warfare tax hikes, which can always happen later), and nothing that anyone in the Tea Party wanted (eg: actual spending reductions or entitlement reform). The politicians all get to claim victory, nobody's happy about it, and everybody loses, especially the American people. So, politics as usual.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Both Sides Suck

I've been listening, as most of the people in America who are at all cognizant of the political happenings in the country, to the partisan debate about raising the debt ceiling. I have voiced my own thoughts and opinions, of course, but this post isn't going to be able what I think should or should not be done, nor is it going to address any particular statement. Rather, I'd like to criticize the approach to "resolving" the problem taken by both sides. I realize that typically I find myself more angry with Democrats than Republicans, however in this instance, I think the approach coming out of both sides stinks.

First, let me address the Republicans. It's true that the country had a huge spending problem, and your party would seem poised to capitalize on the growing realization of such among the slow-witted populace, and the rising sentiment that something needs to be done to stop the slow bleeding to death. You started out well, opposing the increase without corresponding tax cuts; I would have liked to see more, but it was a much more rational compromise than the Democrats' position. Now, though, you've stooped to worthless posturing motions which you know cannot pass, and simple political bickering. If you want to take a hard line against raising the limit, I could respect that, but playing this immature and transparent political games just makes you appear to not be taking this issue seriously, and not only weakens your current position, but your future political capital for a leadership role in tacking this problem. It's just moronic.

Allow me to suggest an alternative, if I may. Instead of handing the Democrats exactly what they want and turning an easy win into a crippling loss, why don't you pass a reasonable bill which cuts easy spending targets, and raises the debt ceiling by a commiserate (and hopefully smaller amount). I realize that's what Obama asked you not to do, but let me clue you in on something: he doesn't have your political best interests in mind when he gives advice, and clearly he's better at playing the political game than you are. Writing a bill which cut, say, $100 billion annually, and increased the debt ceiling by $100 billion, shouldn't be too hard, and although it would only let the country go another month or so at current spending levels, it would do a lot to reinforce the image that you are trying to do something, even if that something was far less that what Obama and his allies wanted. If the Senate or Obama were to veto such a package, you could then at least reasonably claim that you tried to compromise on something, and make sure the checks kept going out. Moreover, who knows: if you could pass one of those a month for a year or so, we could actually get the finances of the country under control, and eventually solve the real problem.

Now for the Democrats, and Obama in particular, since he has become the spokesperson for the party on this issue. Saying you want to do anything to avert the crisis while refusing to compromise on including tax hikes is asinine: the only reason you can get away with it is that the predominantly liberal media doesn't call you out on it repeatedly for the idiotic premise that it is. You're not going to be able to get tax hikes through the house right now, and hinging your "solutions" on them is just dumb. Moreover, as much as you'd love to get the ceiling high enough to spend like it's going out of style for the next two years like you have for the past two, that's probably not going to happen either.

However, at the risk of helping "the enemy", you're missing a political opportunity. You should be offering a standard "raise the limit" bill, with nothing attached, for the Senate to pass and the House to vote down. Then, don't do anything. When we hit the debt ceiling, have a plan in place to reduce spending arbitrarily through Treasury, probably starting with Social Security. Then, go on TV at every opportunity with carefully constructed, conciliatory speeches which make it clear that you are only doing what you must, and that you regret having to make the decisions at all, since it's Congress' job under the Constitution to allocate spending based on the amount of money Treasury is allowed to borrow, and if Congress was doing their job, you wouldn't have to be hurting people. In the meantime, prioritize spending however you like, since it's your prerogative. Your talking points will ring true with the American people, because unlike most of your normal talking points, these would actually be true and not misleading. Just try not to mess up the delivery, since it will be a new experience for most of you.

Sure, the debt ceiling is a big deal, and the US missing $100+ billion in payments per months could be a huge disruption. Like any other challenge, though, it's both an opportunity to do the right thing, and a chance to show people your "true colors", so to speak. So far, both sides are coming out looking like shit; which I suppose is appropriate, given the state of American politics. If we are going to address any of the large problems facing the country, we the people must find a way to get better people running the country.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hypocrite in Chief

Obama recently told Congress that, with respect to making a deal to raise the debt ceiling, they needed to suck it up, "rip the bandaid off", and deal with making the hard choices which were beneficial for the country in the long run. Personally, I tend to agree with the sentiment, even as I take issue with the specifics: although I'm not at all convinced that writing another blank check we can't possibly afford to the spend-happy democrats is either "right" or "necessary", it does seem to me that it would be the job of Congress, and the President, to do what's best for the country overall, rather than what's most politically expedient and popular at the time. However, to see if Obama is serious about the sentiment, and is not just using it in this case to push his political agenda (and the title might have some foreshadowing as to which it is), it's important to look at some other instances where Obama and/or his party in Congress had the chance to "rip the bandaid off", and do the right thing for the country.

Banking Industry

As banks got incredibly leveraged leading up to the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Congress and the Treasury Department were both well aware of the pending problems. Congress had ample opportunity to fix the laws to prevent catastrophic collapse, but did nothing. Treasury had ample opportunity to intervene in ways which stabilized the markets, but did not reward the participants, but did not. Congress could have instructed the fed to end the leveraging practices through oversight, but did not. Instead, the administration first selectively let some institutions fail, then saved others, creating the concept of "too big to fail" and a nightmare for future generations.

So... a big failure on that one, but it might be an isolated incident. There were certainly more opportunities to show leadership, and do what was right even if it was hard.

Auto Industry

As GM collapsed under the weight of non-competitiveness brought on by years of mismanagement, union largess, and a brazen lack of care for customers, the administration was faced with a decision point. Would they follow the law, and allow GM to fail as the market forces dictated, preserving the legal rights of the various creditors and the integrity of private enterprise in the US? Or would they bow to the pressure of their primary political supporters, subvert the entire legal system by creating new quasi-legal bankruptcy measures to confiscate and transfer wealth, and prop up the company using taxpayer dollars which they were certain to lose, while preserving all the factors which drove the company into the ground and virtually guaranteeing that the company is never competitive again?

Yeah, well... I guess we had another abject failure there. Perhaps the record will get better as we look further.

Housing Market

Ah, yes, the housing market; I great example of a golden opportunity to do the "right" thing, even if it's not the "popular" thing. Back when the country was inflating the bubble, there was ample evidence that the so-called "innovative" financial products which were allowing people to borrow way more than they could afford had the potential to blow up; Warren Buffet even noted it publicly. The Fed was well-aware that banks were under-capitalized for the leveraged risks they were taking, and could have easy used its oversight authority to make sure they were resilient against a decline in asset values. Failing that, Congress could have taken steps to ensure that a default in one or more of those banks would not threaten the financial system as a whole.

Okay, so they failed there, but there was still time to make it up. As the bubble started to burst, it became clear that the GSE's (Fannie and Freddie) were taking too much risk, getting away from their role of providing an exchange market for stable safe mortgages in pursuit of higher profits. Congress could have stepped in and made sure they didn't take on too much risk, or made it clear to investors that if they failed, their bonds would not be covered by the US government. The president could have urged Congress to ensure that if they failed, the taxpayers wouldn't be in the hook. Hm, I wonder what happened... oh, right: Congress and the administration raised their limits so they could do even more damage, socialize more losses, and disrupt more of the market! Then, as if that wasn't enough, Congress also explicitly guaranteed their bonds, inducting them into the "too big to fail" debacle.

Dear god, they really f-ed that one up... but there was still one more chance to do something right. As the bubble started to burst, the housing market essentially froze up: nobody knew how many people were going to default, how long it was going to take, or what "real" prices should be. Development and commerce basically stopped, as people waited for the market to fix itself, and establish a new normal. This was the quintessential opportunity to take some short-term pain for long-term prosperity: flush all the "bad" loans, turn the properties back around (through foreclosure as appropriate), expedite the correction process by streamlining the bureaucracy, get rid of all the subsidization, and get the entire housing industry working again, as fast as possible. Tell, me, please, Mr President, you at the very least did this.

Yeah... not so much. The government, primarily at the behest of the administration, did virtually the exact opposite of what would have been optimal for the country. Instead of flushing the bad loans, it propped them up, wasting taxpayer dollars prolonging the problems. Instead of turning properties around, it delayed the foreclosure process, stripping lenders of their rights and imposing impediments. Instead of expediting the process, the government imposed barriers, turning a one-year problem into a decade of economic malaise. Instead of getting rid of the subsidization, the government increased it, generating more taxpayer losses through the GSE's, and making the FHA the de-facto standard for subprime lending. Instead of getting people back to work in a functioning market, the market continues to drag, trying to fix itself but being hamstrung every step of the way by a government which is simply incapable of doing anything beneficial in the face of public opinion calling for short-term misguided "fixes".

The Bottom Line

President Obama is a hypocrite. He had many opportunities already to do the "right" thing, and failed to take any of them. Now, only when it's politically expedient to use the terminology as a catch-phrase to push his agenda, is he at all interested in "taking the bandaid off", and even then in word only. If we really wanted to take our medicine, so to speak, we would not do anything, and force Obama to spend only what the country takes in, while prioritizing as appropriate. That's the only real "painful but necessary" choice, and I seriously doubt our government, and especially Mr Obama, has the courage to make it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Audacity of Framing the Discussion

Obama infuriates me; this is probably not a surprise to regular readers here. However, in this case it's not his policies, his socialist ideology, or his dictatorial approach which is currently most aggravating. The thing which is currently bugging me is his approach to the debt ceiling debate, and the complacency of the main stream media not calling him out on it.

Now granted, it's a good strategy, and as a shrewd political move I can find no particular fault. Essentially, what he has done is frame the discussion as one where raising the debt ceiling is an inevitability, a fundamental job of Congress, and everything else is partisan politics. From the beginning of his involvement, there was no mention of the "right" or "wrong" of spending without limit, or any mention of deficit reduction, or taxes, or anything else; it was just "this obviously must be done", and nothing else. Only later did he introduce the other issues into the rhetoric, but being careful to label them as "distractions" from the "basic responsibility" of Congress.

Take a moment, and consider the audacity of the position. If you were hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and you started a conversation with your credit cards companies by telling them that it was their "obvious, basic, fundamental job" to extended you more credit without hesitation, and any other concerns they had were simply distractions from their responsibility, how do you think they would respond? Yeah... they probably wouldn't share your opinion, and might even laugh at the absurdity. Yet, this is exactly what Obama is doing, and the media, by and large, just goes along.

There was a very informative article from a small publication about what would happen if Congress didn't act. The Treasury (and by extension, the president, since it's in his branch) would need to decide what bills to pay, and which to not pay, based on the actual revenue coming in. Now, there's only a few hundred billion annually in interest on Treasury bonds, which is the "real" national debt service, the part which puts us in actual default if we don't pay. Everything else (social security, medicare, military, government bureaucrat salaries, etc.) is a voluntary obligation, per the laws passed by Congress. If the government doesn't pay those, it's not in default, it just doesn't have the money to pay all its obligations. Sure that's bad, but is it really that bad?

I'm not sure that I want Obama deciding which programs get funding and which don't, but... I really do want the government to not bankrupt itself with the Democrats' reckless spending, and there doesn't seem to be any other way to force reductions in expenditures. If forcing the Treasury to make the hard choices is the only way to actually reduce spending, because Congress is too childish to suck it up, and the president is too irresponsible to sign off on real spending controls... well, there are worse options for the country. It's not chicken, Mr President... it's the last best hope we the people have against you.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Obama 2012

The speech people didn't hear from Obama to kick off his 2012 re-election campaign. I'm sure the original was something like this, and the final version was just edited for time, and to appeal more to his base and stuff.

My fellow Americans,

Today I'm pleased to announce my candidacy for President of the United States in 2012. We have done more to advance the progressive agenda in the last few years than any administration since FDR, but there is still much to do. Our country still faces many grave challenges, from curmudgeons in Congress who wish to keep us from borrowing infinite money, to the remaining industries which are not being run by our government, there is much we can still do to improve the country, and I intend to be there to help complete my vision for the United States.

Now, before I get into specifics for what I intend to accomplish in the next four years, I'd like to address some of the concerns that people have expressed about my presidency so far, from both sides of the aisle. I believe it's important for any candidate to be clear about where they stand on issues, what their positions are, and what their visions for the country are. I have perhaps not been as clear as I could have been in the past, and I'd like to take this opportunity to clear up some concerns, so we can move forward. I think once the American people have all the information, they will be able to see that I am clearly the best candidate for the job.

First, I'd like to address the issue of TARP. Now, some people have said that this was just a thinly-disguised bailout for the large financial institutions, and this is simply not true. The banks didn't become solvent again after we gave them $750,000,000,000 of taxpayer money, it would have required far more money to pay off all their leveraged bad investments and such. Of course, the Fed gave them a couple trillion additional dollars, but really, that wasn't the point. The point of giving them that much money was that they were able to keep paying their executives millions of dollars, and we were able to count those as jobs "created or preserved".

Also, giving the banks that money was instrumental in making sure housing prices could not correct to realistic values in the short term, ensuring that the housing market downturn would take at least five, and perhaps as long as ten years. Without the bailouts, banks would have to write down their bad loans, and housing prices would have dropped dramatically, making housing affordable for a great many more people. If that were to happen, the GSE's and the FHA wouldn't be effectively running the housing market; instead, it would be a free market. Look at where the free market got the country before all the government intervention and help, before the GSE's could inflate a giant housing bubble while generating huge profits, then turn around and demand a taxpayer bailout: does anyone really want to go back to those times?

Speaking of taxpayer money, I'd like to clear up another common misconception. Since taking office, I have increased the national debt by an enormous amount; a quicker pace, in fact, than any of my predecessors. Moreover, I have committed the country to a fiscally unsustainable path through Obamacare, and my refusal to do anything to confront growing entitlement payments, much less public employee salaries and benefits. A lot of people say this is wasting a truly monumental amount of taxpayer money, but the reality is that that is simply not true. We spend all the actual taxpayer money long before we get to all the bailouts, handouts, undeclared wars, and other things I have spent money on; that money is newly printed money, not taxpayer money. In my fiscal plan for the country, we never come close to catching up to the deficit I'm creating, so actual taxpayer money will never be spent on all the debt I'm accumulating.

Now, I know what you're thinking: won't we run out of money eventually? Well, that's the beauty of my plan: because the US government prints money, we don't need to worry about ever running out. The US economy is strong, we've never defaulted on our payments, and I believe in a strong currency. I have some very smart advisers, like Professor Paul Krugman, who tell me that printing money is never bad for a country, and cannot possibly cause any long-term problems. All of the commotion right now calling for debt reduction and the like is just politics; everyone knows you need to spend money to make money, and I'm certainly the best man for spending money.

Speaking of spending money, I'd like to talk about the stimulus plan for a minute. I'd like to say that this plan was an unmitigated success, despite what the detractors might say. We were personally able to give out nearly a trillion dollars to all sorts of needy individuals and groups, a few of which might not have even supported me in the last election. Under Vice President Joe Biden's watchful eye, not even a dollar of the money has been wasted, and in addition to generously rewarding my political allies, I have also managed to preserve at least 10,000 overpaid government jobs. Now, I know some people will say that with unemployment even higher now, and the private sector still suffering, the stimulus didn't fulfill its goal, but I'm here to tell you that those people just didn't understand the goal of the program. As a direct payout to my supporters and political allies, the program was a huge success, and I hope to repeat it in my second term.

Speaking of success, I'd like to quickly touch on some of my other accomplishments during my first term. during my initial campaign I called for change, and with the government now in control of the banking, housing, and automobile industries, we have had sweeping change. I called for closing Guantanamo Bay immediately, and that's basically done. I called for ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing all our troops home, and that's also essentially done. I got a Nobel Peace Prize, and have brought peace to many areas, including the Israel, Egypt, Syria, and Libya. I called for financial responsibility, and although Obamacare and my spending have put the country on the probably irreparable path to economic collapse, I'd like to qualify that as a victory as well. So all in all, I think we're doing pretty well.

However, we can do much more. The top 2% of the wealthy in this country are still allowed to make money, often in excess of $250,000 per year, and that just isn't fair to the rest of the hard workers in this country. We need a special 200% tax on those people; that's right, I say we not only take all their extra money, but make them pay even more. Now, before people get upset, of course there will have to be some exemptions to this, so that hard working people who exceed the cap don't get unfairly penalized, like retired city workers drawing pensions while also consulting for their normal salaries. That's why I also propose the creation of a new Czar of tax exemptions, who can grant waivers, like we do for Obamacare. That way, only the "bad" people will have to give up all their money, and as long as you can show that you're not "bad", you can keep your money, and maybe even get a tax "credit" at the same time. This system will serve as encouragement for the "bad" people to change their behavior, and greatly benefit the middle class.

Now, there is one more thing I'd like to address now. There have been some people, mostly hill-billy redneck tea-baggers, who have said that I am a socialist. Well, let me be clear: I am in favor of a government-run economy, where the government controls everything in the country for the benefit of the people. If that makes me a socialist, then I'm a socialist, but let's be frank: it's a long time since socialism was really out-of-favor in the US, and the Democratic Party has basically turned into the Socialist Party anyway. Progressive used to mean equal rights and liberal views; now it means unequal rights, crony capitalism, union favoritism, and big government. Those people say "socialist" like it's a bad thing; I say it's just what America needs, and with your help, in another four years we'll be very close to my vision for America.

So in closing, I ask for your vote in 2012, so that I can continue to lead America in this great transformation, from a prosperous nation of freedom, to something far different, and I say, greater. With your help, we can ensure that the next four years have as much profound change as the last four. Thank you, non-denominational politically-correct existential entity bless you, and non-denominational politically-correct existential entity bless America.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Don't Get the NFL

So, in case you don't follow sports, there's an ongoing labor dispute between the NFL and its players. It's a fairly standard dispute: the union wants more money, and the business says it can't afford to pay more. This lead to a lockout, which led to the union decertifying (in name only), which led to a lawsuit by the players, which led to a court order to lift the lockout (presumably along the argument that players should be allowed to work, although clearly influenced by the current pro-union federal executive administration). All of this, though, leads me to wonder: what's the big downside for the NFL?

The NFL has a television contract, from which it derives most of its revenue. Previously, this was contractually guaranteed to be partially distributed to the players, in a fixed ratio set forth in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, with the union dissolved, doesn't this leave the league free to distribute the revenue however they see fit (assuming they can uphold their end of the contract, ie: put on the games)? Moreover, they should be more free now than ever before to craft whatever rules they want for the teams and the league, now that there's one less interested party at the table.

Want a salary cap? Easily done; just work it out among the owners and come to an agreement. Want to pay players less? Also easily done; work it into the agreement among the owners. There's no player's union to collectively bargain, so owners should be free to impose whatever employment terms they want. The league can create whatever rules they want for the sport and the operation of the teams, and teams can hire players as they see fit (in accordance with whatever rules the owners agree to). How is this not a solid win for the league?

The whole point of the player's union and CBA is to get more benefits and revenue for the players by refusing to work as a group unless demands are met. If the players want to not operate as a union, but rather as individual employees, how is this bad for the business? Just write the rules, craft an agreement among the owners, and start hiring whoever is willing to work. What's the problem?

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Police and Personal Rights

I was reading a story recently about a guy who basically got railroaded by the FBI after someone used his unsecured wireless connection to download child porn. Now, child porn is pretty horrible, but so was the abuse this poor guy had to endure at the hands of the FBI, who, as far as I can tell, doesn't care about respecting people's rights at all. Between this, the various recent privacy abuse stories, and the ongoing controversy over recording police activity (which, btw, should absolutely be unequivocally protected), I got to thinking: our current system is pretty bad at protecting peoples' rights, especially against abuse from law enforcement.

It's no surprise why this is so, of course. The police (and I use this term generally, to be inclusive of local, state, federal, and other government enforcers and thugs) are required to respect the laws, but commonly do not. I mean, are we even surprised when we see police routinely disregard traffic laws whenever they feel like it? This is so common, it's not even regarded by average people as surprising, even though it is clearly illegal. Should it come as any surprise, then, that some police officers feel they can step over people's rights as they will, with no consequence? After all, even when they are "caught" and sued, they don't feel the pain: it's the city/state/country, and eventually the taxpayers, who have to foot the bill. This might be somewhat fair if the police acted in the interests of the people, but I think that's so far removed from reality that it's laughable at this point.

What I would propose is to create a disincentive which would actually work, for the betterment of society. Every police force has retirement benefits, paid by the government, and negotiated as part of compensation packages. I would like to see a system where if there were any judgements against the police for violating people's rights, those were paid directly from the pool of money allocated for retirement benefits (perhaps over the next year), reducing the benefit payouts accordingly, and every single affected police officer get a note explaining which officers committed the violation(s) which directly cost them money.

You know what? There wouldn't be any more incidents of breaking down someone's door, beating them, and accusing them of child porn unless the police were sure they had the right guy. You know why? Because Officer Bob doesn't want to have to explain to his 10,000 retired buddies why he personally cost them each part of their rent payments by not taking the extra five minutes to do a 'duh' check with the tech department. There also would be a whole lot less beating random people, and if we (the people) are lucky, we might actually get the police to back efforts to let us record their activities, since the only police seemingly opposed to that are the ones who like to beat people. You know what else? We might accidentally also raise the level of quality we expect and receive from the people who nominally work to "protect and serve".

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Obama Visits the Chamber of Commerce: Joke Night?

I realize this is a couple days late to be super-timely, but it still needs to be commented on, in my opinion...

So Obama paid a visit to the US Chamber of Commerce, to give a rosy speech about being pro-business. Wait, what? Obama's about as pro-business as I am a bleeding-heart liberal; it would be like me giving a speech about the value of public funding for NPR. I mean, I get the reasoning, from a political perspective: people are sorta figuring out that all the wealth redistribution in the world doesn't help people when there aren't any jobs because the socialist regime has obliterated industry, so perhaps it's a good idea to at least give lip-service to the engine which generated virtually all the prosperity the Democrats are now dismantling. Seriously, though, when you're so far removed from what you're saying that it comes off as comedy night, you might want to rethink the strategy.

Let's just look at a few highlights. For example, Obama said:
I understand the challenges you face. I understand you are under incredible pressure to cut costs and keep your margins up. I understand the significance of your obligations to your shareholders and the pressures that are created by quarterly reports. I get it.

Now if that isn't comedy, I don't know what [it] is. It's certainly not at all accurate: Obama never ran a business, never met a business he didn't want to plunder, and never met a budget he couldn't exceed by the entire wealth of smaller nations. I give Obama credit for some intelligence, but this statement is pretty absurd; it's probably meant for humor, then.

Maybe that's just a line for comedic relief, then. A bit before, he said:
As a government, we will help lay the foundation for you to grow and innovate and succeed. [...] And we’ll work to knock down barriers that make it harder for you to compete, from the tax code to the regulatory system.

Again, must be humor, cause it sure as hell ain't even on the same planet as fact. Since when have the Democrats, ever, been about less regulation and less taxation? I mean, they nominally are trying to do "good" things for the country, and they may mean well, but their policies never involve less government or less intrusion into people's lives or businesses. He actually said this with a straight face?

I could go on... there's parts about regulation making things cheaper, there's a section about Obamacare saving businesses money (which is absurd; if it really does that, why is everyone "on the take" with the administration getting waivers?), some drivel about businesses having moral responsibilities to the American people (I guess this is a nod to unions, but not sure), and lots more garbage. If I were in the audience, I would have been snickering during the speech; the whole thing was just utterly absurd, like some inverted-world view, massaged to be rousing or something. It's hard to tell how it went over for the American people (ie: are they dumb enough to believe that the disingenuous lip-service being paid to capitalism is anything more than a transparent sham), but here's hoping they are not as stupid as Obama apparently thinks they are.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thought Experiment in Population Engineering

So this is an interesting idea I've been pondering, which I figured I'd share; hopefully it's at least thought-provoking, if not amusing.

Consider this: what if there was a cheap, readily-available (as in globally) "contraceptive" pill that men could take which would deterministically set the gender of any children they would father while on said medication? For the sake of argument, we'll assume that you could get either type: male or female children. What would the effects on populations and political dynamics be, both short and long term?

For example, in areas where population is limited (either by law or by resources), and males are given better opportunity and/or status in the society, you could assume that most people would choose to have exclusively male children (especially if it would be the father who was making the choice, presumably at least sometimes without consent of the mother). Over a generation or so, this could shift the population balance significantly, which could lead to undesirable effects (eg: large populations of males without families historically are more violent). Over several generations, though, this could serve as both a population control, and a mechanism for social change, as social planners tried to make more a balanced population more appealing to the people.

In areas of gender equality, and/or where population growth is desired, you might see the opposite effect. Governments could easily encourage more females to be born through simple incentive programs, once it was easy to predetermine gender for children. Of course, this might challenge the traditional family structure within a few generations, though, as that grows out of an average gender balance, and isn't necessarily optimal in a population where gender distribution is skewed by incentives. Policy makers would have to carefully consider intentionally tipping the balance too far, for fear of unintended consequences.

In a couple generations, you might also see some interesting cross-population effects. For example, there might be more racial and area cross-breeding, if there are populations with skewed gender distributions in both directions, as people people looked outside their owns groups/areas for mates. There could also arise some power struggles and negotiations stemming from gender inequalities, and the perceived need to preserve populations (eg: it would be very difficult to preserve the strength, at least in terms of population, of a country who had 90%+ males, without drastic measures). It would have the potential to be the most significant force in gender rights equalization the world had ever seen.

Anyway, it's a thought; I'm curious what other people think.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Problems with Liberal Politics

Let me begin by stating that I'm not anti-liberal, at least generally speaking. There are a few liberal ideals which I ascribe to, and I think generally speaking, liberal politicians have good intentions (if not good long-term vision, or appreciation of consequences). In fact, I would go as far as to say that if some of the most pervasive flaws in liberal political actions could be corrected for (say, in the framework of the government itself), I might be fairly comfortable with liberal politicians. The problems for me mainly stem from fiscal issues; I tend to side with liberals on social issues, and I think many of the ideals are good (eg: equal rights, taking care of people who are unable to care for themselves, etc.).

That being said, here are what I view as the top "problem areas" with typical liberal political agendas:
- Too much taxation
- Too much deficit spending, borrowing against future generations
- Focus on wealth redistribution, in various forms
- Trying to build a nanny state, and control various aspects of people's lives
- "well"-intentioned discrimination

Some thoughts, then, on how a more optimal governmental structure might deal with some of these issues, to make it more palatable for people like me to have liberals in government.

Problem: Incessant growth of taxation
- We could Constitutionally limit the amount of money taken from people, per year, as a percentage of either income or total wealth. For example, say the limit was 20% of income. The government would be free to institute whatever taxes/fees/etc. it wanted, but would be Constitutionally limited to 20% of income total.
- Side note: I would be inclined to limit the federal government to something like 10% of income or less, and allow states to set their own limits, and/or choose to give money to the federal government to pay for additional services. Money is power, and the corrupting and destructive growth of the federal bureaucracy and control is a testament to the danger of allowing it to collect and disperse wealth.

Problem: Deficit spending
- We should have stronger protections in the Constitutions, at a federal and state level, for limiting deficit spending. Ideally, government should not be allowed to borrow beyond the terms of the politicians voting on the borrowing, excepting emergencies (like land invasion, or civil war). This would need to be much stronger than it currently is, but is not impossible.

Problem: Wealth redistribution
- The government should be prohibited, in my opinion, from offering any services on a discriminatory basis with respect to income/wealth. If it's a government benefit, it should be available to all equally. This doesn't preclude offering services which would disproportionally benefit lower income individuals (for example, subsidies on low-end food basics), but at least there would be no income restrictions or phase outs. As a side benefit, this would also simplify a lot of government programs and tax laws, saving money.

Problem: Encroachment on states/individuals rights
- Ideally, this problem would already have been solved by the 10th amendment, but since the federal government willfully ignores it, clearly there needs to be a stronger directive. This, too, should not be hard to accomplish, but may need to be reiterated every couple of years so that politicians don't "forget".

Problem: Discrimination
- You wouldn't think that people would need to point out to liberals that discrimination is bad, but the sad reality is that liberals are just as bad about discrimination as conservatives (see: affirmative action, NAACP, etc.). The NAACP and the KKK and two sides of the same coin; let's see about ending both of them, so we can move forward as a less divided nation.

Well, that's my wish list anyway. Thoughts?