Odd Citizen

Odd Citizen
An Odd Citizen’s Search For Vanishing Freedoms

Summing Up Idiocy Before Voting

October 23rd, 2010

Read this, then go and vote: Three Charts that Will Infuriate Taxpayers

(again, courtesy of a link on Maggie’s Farm blog.)

Beating The Entitlements Tar Baby

October 23rd, 2010

A provocative Forbes Blog article was referenced by Maggies Farm Blog: Why The GOP Will Never Cut The Size Of Government by Rick Unger. The article rightly observes that if you “[a]dd the 42 percent for Social Security and subsidized health care and the 23 percent for other entitlements and net interest […] you get to 65 percent- or roughly two-thirds of our total federal expenditure.” The author then concludes that the American public, including tea party participants, won’t ever let these entitlements be significantly cut, so the federal budget is permanently stuck-on-overwhelming. We’ve got our fist in the belly of the tar baby.

The magnitude of the entitlements, not even including the looming trillion-plus dollar addition of Obamacare is an unavoidable fact. It is also an unavoidable truth that a large portion of the U.S. citizenry has paid into these (social security and medicare) programs and relies on them. But it is also an unavoidable truth that these programs are fiscally unsound if not already bankrupt. So any way you parse it, something has to be done. If we leave things as they are, taxation and borrowing will inevitably be unable to sustain the burden, and the entire economy of the country will collapse.

But first, let’s look at the one-third of the budget that is not entitlements. Within this portion of the budget are most of the liberty-nicking and draining, annoying and harmful regulatory measures that make government increasingly odious and the private economy and life in general increasingly burdened. The vast majority of these bureaucracies produce absolutely nothing of value for individual voting citizens. (I dare you to take an inventory and list Federal Government activities that actually benefit you personally.)

For an interlude we may be able to ignore the entitlements mess and direct our attention to reducing the intrusiveness of government into our every-day lives. We may be able to celebrate and encourage individualism and self-reliance by drastically reducing or better yet, eliminating departments of government like Education, Commerce, Labor, Energy, Transportation, EPA, HHS, and other burdensome, expensive and useless bureaucracies. (I wrote about this here, here, and here.) That would distract some of the attention from entitlements, as millions of bureaucrats would have to find civilian employment. Just removing these people from the future retirement cost burden of the government and reducing taxes needed to pay and equip the bureaucracies would have a major stimulating effect on the economy. And that’s even before the economic and spiritual uplift from tax reduction and elimination of red tape, regulation and harassment that would follow.

After successfully hacking back the federal bureaucracy and regulatory apparatus, thereby stimulating the private economy and renewing a sense of can-do private initiative throughout the country, it would then be possible to think seriously about the problem of entitlements. The first thing to do about this is to allow younger people to opt-out of these government programs, with a final drop-dead date for phasing them out completely. This reduces the future entitlements problem, but pops the Ponzi-scheme that allows current and near-term eligible people’s benefits to be paid from revenues collected from new participants. We’re then left to rely on the so-called “trust funds” which the government has already looted, leaving behind government IOU’s. Here is where some pain comes in. The pain will be apportioned mostly to the younger generation who will have to pay for their own private retirement and medical plans, and will also bear the tax cost of redeeming those government IOU’s. A newly buoyant economy will help, but it will still hurt. The irresponsibility of generations of politicians and voters has a cost — no escaping it.

Then, after four to six presidential election cycles have passed, assuming that the will to reform can be sustained — as it might be through evidence of progress and success — the country can emerge from its encounter with the entitlements tar-baby, stronger, better, and more self-confident than it has ever been before. And the best of it is that we’ll preserve our freedom.

Federal Government Stock Market Manipulation – Continued

October 21st, 2010

Back on May 31, 2009 I wrote about suspected stock market manipulation, a suspicion based on my daily observation of stock market behavior patterns. It seemed strange to me then, and since then it has continued to be suspicious. The market has been characterized since March 6th of 2009 by a steady, nearly uninterrupted uptrend. Much of the upward action has appeared near the start and end of the day and after hours.

Since that article was written additional voices have expressed similar disquietude about the possibility of government interventions to manipulate prices upward, also citing strange market behavior they’ve observed.

An influential voice appeared in the ZeroHedge.com blog last December. The article, subtitled “Who Is Responsible For The Non-Stop Market Rally Since March” was written by TrimTabs’ Charles Biderman (whose firm describes itself as: “…the leading independent institutional research firm focused on equity market liquidity.”

Mr. Biderman observes that as of December last year the market had gained over $6.0 trillion in capitalization. He goes on to say:

The “wealth effect” of rising stock prices has soothed the nerves and boosted the net worth of the half of Americans who own stock.

We cannot identify the source of the new money that pushed stock prices up so far so fast. For the most part, the money did not from the traditional players that provided money in the past:

and lists the following “traditional players” who by his observation are not responsible:

  • Companies
  • Retail Investor Funds
  • Retail Investor Direct
  • Hedge Funds
  • Pension Funds
  • ..and then says:

    If the money to boost stock prices did not come from the traditional players, it had to have come from somewhere else.

    We do not know where all the money has come from. What we do know is that the U.S. government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to support the auto industry, the housing market, and the banks and brokers. Why not support the stock market as well?

    Biderman then goes on to describe how this manipulation could plausibly, and in his opinion, legally be conducted by the government through the purchase of futures contracts, especially in the ultra-liquid SP-500 futures market.

    That was nearly a year ago and the market has continued to defy gravity. I don’t have anything definitive to add to this question, but here are some observations that strengthen my belief that the U.S. Government, probably with the participation of the Treasury, Fed and Goldman Sachs, can and does dishonestly manipulate the upward movement of stock prices for purely political reasons.

  • The Flash Crash of May 6, 2010 which was blamed on a large ($15 Billion) SP-500 futures trade by a single firm well illustrates the ability of futures prices to influence actual stock prices. If $15 Billion can do that, what can $100 Billion do? At the time of the flash crash I suspected a mistake by government market manipulators, but that was probably wrong.
  • Monetary Easing Before Elections (lower interest rates, etc.) has been a trick used by every president to try and window-dress his economic performance. This year the Fed couldn’t do that. Interest rates are already at zero. The only good economic news out there is the stock market, so the administration would be desperate to keep stock prices elevated. But after the election, what then?
  • Lock-Step Stock Price Moves: a recent Wall Street Journal article details the degree to which stock prices have been all moving in tandem, seemingly being influenced by a single force. The Journal reported that: “Between October 2008 and February 2009, at the height of the financial crisis, correlation hit 80%, meaning lots of stocks were moving in lock step. When stocks rallied last year, the figure fell to 40%, then it spiked back over 80% during the European debt crisis, according to Barclays. What has caught many investors off guard is that correlation stayed high over the summer. In mid-August, correlation was 74%. In recent weeks, it has drifted down to 66%.” Might some of this correlation be the result of manipulative pressures?
  • Government’s Habitual Statistical Dishonesty: Anyone who believes that government statistics are honest reflections of reality would be a good newspaper reporter — gullible and lazy by trade. It doesn’t take a conspiracy for the government to pull off a manipulation of the market for political gain, it only takes a few crooks with access to the resources of the Treasury and the Fed. For a tutorial on dishonest government statistical practices I recommend: John Williams’ Shadow Government Statistics

    One needs to look no further than the low moral character and dishonesty of Timothy Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson, President Obama and the economic team that has deserted him to find a cast of characters capable of the deceit necessary for government manipulation of the stock market.

    It just gives me the shivers to think about what the consequences will be if a) the scheme is uncovered and/or b) the government considers it necessary or expedient to suddenly withdraw its support of stock prices.

    (As an aside, just two weeks before the election the market action has become really hincky. Many market observers would conclude at this point it’s time for a pullback, and the market has gyrated and head-faked, poked and jabbed, but always keeps getting up like one of those childhood clown punching bags. Professional traders don’t argue with Mother Market, she usually does what she wants to do. But maybe she’s being romanced, or more likely, abducted and ravaged against her will.)

    For the good of the country, after the November elections I hope that some enterprising congressman will initiate a probe into those government and private organizations and individuals that have the incentive and the wherewithal to engage in market manipulation. If there’s none, then no harm done. If there is, then some people should go to jail for a long time to keep Bernard Madoff company.

  • Class Warfare Justified on NPR

    October 19th, 2010

    Our tax-supported National Public Radio today published “Partner content from THE NEW REPUBLIC” entitled The New Republic: The Morality Of Taxing The Rich, by Johathan Cohn. If you’re still mystified about the mindset of leftists this is an excellent tutorial.

    Among Mr.Cohen’s rationales for taxing the “rich” are that a) the rich got their wealth mainly by luck, b) the rich derived their wealth from public activities such as the national science foundation and public schooling. So morality dictates that they deserve to be taxed heavily. Cohn argues that “…nobody is suggesting the rich to give up all the extra money they make. All anybody is asking is that the rich pay more in taxes — in effect, that they reinvest in society by a little more than they do now.”

    And what about success due to hard work, education and dedication? Cohn says:

    Yes, a good work ethic will take you far. And I know many well-educated professionals convinced that nobody works as hard as they do. (I’ve been known to indulge the thought myself.) But I’ve met many people at the bottom of the income ladder who work just as hard, for far less reward. Between 1980 and 2005, the richest one percent of Americans got more than four-fifths of the country’s income gains. Does anybody seriously believe that the other 99 percent didn’t deserve to take home a much larger share?

    So, without saying so, Cohn maintains that the “other 99 percent” deserve a larger share of new wealth — through increased taxation of the legendary one-percent. And the government, which collects the taxes, is going to distribute this boodle to the 99%? Or is he really saying that morality or “fairness” dictates that the 1% be punished for their success? Would this really make the 99% more wealthy?

    To sum it up, Cohn says that success depends on luck, public goods, and the achievements of prior generations. Therefore, it is the moral imperative of the government to take the “extra money” from the wealthy by taxing them. Does this argument make sense? Does it even have a single strand of logic from one end to the other? No, but our NPR spends public funds to preach it.

    Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi says “it’s about fairness” of “ownership and equity” — the government’s job is to level the “disparities” between rich and the “middle class”.

    The leftists in and out of government preach class envy and use that to justify higher taxes, more government, less freedom. And in the case of NPR, they’re doing it with our money.

    Why I Go To The Tea Party

    October 13th, 2010

    I’m not a party guy, not a joiner. I don’t like crowds. But I’ve gone to each of Tucson’s Tea Party events. Why?

    The picture below summarizes my motivation. This is Raul Grijalva, my representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. Here’s a guy who so dislikes the idea of enforcing existing immigration laws that he calls for a national boycott of his own state of Arizona.

    Here’s a guy who votes 100% lockstep with Nancy Pelosi for insane spending, government takeovers, and crushing regulations and taxes. This man is an embarrassment to Arizona.

    So what is the alternative? Fortunately we have a wonderful alternative to Mr. Boycott his own district. The alternative is Ruth McClung. She’s young, articulate, and sensible … not to mention beautiful and gracious.
    Here’s her picture:

    Ruth is a physicist working for local aerospace company. She’ll vote for sensible measures to restore sanity to the Federal Government.

    Can she win? She’s got my vote and I’m sure the vote of many others in this district, but we have to face the fact that this district was gerrymandered specifically to elect the likes of Raul Grijalva. This election will be a real test of whether the American electorate can be sensible enough to vote for principle and freedom rather than class envy and racial pandering. I actually have hope that the people are wiser and more independent-minded than they sometimes appear.

    GO RUTH GO!!!

    Trouble at the American Physical Society

    October 12th, 2010

    Thanks to “The Air Vent” for bringing to the forefront a significant development in the Global Warming fantasy skit. Here we have the resignation of a physicist named Hal Lewis from the American Physical Society. I and perhaps others was unaware of Lewis’ credentials. Fortunately the Air Vent blog provides a summary:

    Harold Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, former Chairman; Former member Defense Science Board, chmn of Technology panel; Chairman DSB study on Nuclear Winter; Former member Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards; Former member, President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; Chairman APS study on Nuclear Reactor Safety Chairman Risk Assessment Review Group; Co-founder and former Chairman of JASON; Former member USAF Scientific Advisory Board; Served in US Navy in WW II; books: Technological Risk (about, surprise, technological risk) and Why Flip a Coin (about decision making)

    Dr. Lewis writes a letter in which he resigns in disgust from the American Physical Society over their blatantly political stand on global warming. His letter is well worth reading HERE (pdf).

    A hundred or so articles back I predicted that the global warming fantasy would eventually fade away and nobody once connected with it would admit they were ever involved. That process is taking a while, but it is picking up speed as more and more knowledgeable people recognize AGW as a political scam, a mania, and a money grab bag, not a valid scientific prediction, if such a thing even exists.

    Just Amazing!

    October 11th, 2010

    You think something’s holding you back? No excuses here in this video.

    What kind of determination and self-discipline does it take to accomplish this! Bravo!

    Border Truth Vs. Vicious Propaganda

    October 8th, 2010

    After Sheriff’s Deputy Louie Puroll was shot by Mexican drug smugglers in the desert of Pinal County, Arizona the story went nationwide. But then an unknown, obviously leftist element began spreading stories that accused Deputy Puroll of shooting himself to publicize S.B. 1070, the controversial Arizona illegal immigration enforcement bill. Puroll was accused of racism and worse. It was ugly. Some claimed that Puroll’s shirt had powder marks, proving a self inflicted wound.

    Yesterday, after an investigation, including a forensic examination of the shirt, Deputy Puroll and Sheriff Babeau appeared on local television to answer the press. The investigation completely supported Puroll’s report that he had been shot by Mexican drug smugglers. The interview was very pithy and direct.

    “What did [Puroll] think about SB-1070, after all” demanded a crazed reporter. Paraphrasing Puroll’s answer:

    I don’t care about it and didn’t back then. I don’t watch television news or read newspapers. When I want to read fiction, I go to the public library for a novel.

    I’m quite disappointed, but not surprised, that the interview hasn’t made the national news and YouTube, although I admit that, like Puroll I find little of value in national network TV news. So maybe I missed it.

    Free Speech and Justice

    October 6th, 2010

    There is a group, led by a guy named Fred Phelps and his wife, calling themselves a church. This group rotinely assaults the funerals of fallen soldiers, claiming that their deaths are due to sinful behavior and homosexuality. These demonstrations are unbelievably ugly and offensive. The Supreme Court is considering whether their behavior constitutes protected free speech as guaranteed by the constitution.
    (sorry for the ad)

    I contend that it does constitute free speech, but it also constitutes an assault of the most vicious kind. We all have the right of self-defense, and when assaulted we have the right to defend ourselves.

    The Supreme Court, if it has any sense at all, should rule that what Fred Phelps and his followers say is free speech, but that the manner and place of their demonstration constitutes assault. Therefore, the families and friends of the fallen soldiers have the right to send a pack of dogs to tear the assailants to shreds in self defense.

    That’s free speech and justice.

    A Little Note from the Border

    October 4th, 2010

    Yesterday a border patrol truck came roaring into my property, rounded the driveway loop and sped away. This peaked by curiosity, so I went out to see what was going on. After a few minutes, two border patrol officers appeared. One carried an M-16 rifle.

    I found this disconcerting. 43 years ago I was carrying such a rifle and walking across the private property of Vietnamese. They stood in the doorways, like I did, wondering what was going on and whether they were in danger, and from whom.

    It made me wonder what justified the firepower? My suspicion is that they were chasing people who they thought might fight back. I locked my doors and checked to reassure myself that I was equipped to protect my family if necessary.

    I never thought it might come to this in the U.S.A.

    Hate is Not a Crime

    October 4th, 2010

    Geert Wilders, a politician who heads the third-largest political party in Holland is being tried for “hate speech.” What we’re really talking about here is censorship, plain and simple. Mr. Wilders speaks out against immigration to Holland, particularly by Muslims. In too many formerly free, supposedly democratic countries, such as Holland, France and Canada, among others, it has become fashionable to define certain speech as “hate speech.” In some cases, such as Wilders’, this is subject to criminal prosecution.

    In fact, there are elements in the U.S. who advocate censorship of speech which they define as “hate speech.” I suppose, if I were Dutch, and with a broad smile on my face I said “I love Muslims and the Koran,” but there was HATE in my heart as I said it, then this would be defined as hate speech. My “hate” could be detected and punished regardless of my words or my expression. However, if I said “I love Elvis and his guitar,” but there was HATE in my heart as I said it, then this wouldn’t constitute hate speech, because a. Elvis was male, b. Elvis was white, and c. (only incidentally) Elvis is dead. Only certain groups of people qualify for protection under the hate speech doctrine.

    We all wish to live in a conflict free world. Social friction has historically been relieved by good manners, not strict laws. The solution is to teach manners to children and insist on the same from adults.

    This same phenomenon is reflected in the recent suicide of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers University. The tragic outcome of a prank is being packaged as a “hate crime” by the left-wing media pundits. But in reality it is a case of horribly bad manners with an exaggerated consequence. There are multiple principles of good manners that should have prevented Clementi’s room-mate, Dharun Ravi, from planting a camera in the dorm room and broadcasting Clementi’s private behavior. Respect for the privacy of another is certainly a very basic concept of good manners. Ravi’s behavior was not a “hate crime” as some are characterizing it. It was, however, a stupid, grave violation of one person’s obligation to treat another with courtesy and restraint, no matter whatever else he may have had in his mind when he did it.