Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: June 2011


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 26 Jun 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Libya vote in the House of Represenatatives, the economy, and Gunwalker.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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Al Gore’s fact free climate change rant

I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but Al Gore is again trying to heat up the global warming climate change debate.  In a 7,000 word Rolling Stone article, Gore rails against the news media for being on the wrong side of the debate and giving the “deniers” much more coverage than Gore thinks they deserve.  He’s also not particularly happy with Barack Obama’s progress on that front either.  And finally, he pitches 4 ways activists can reignite the panic he was once successful in creating.

What is conspicuously missing from the rant are any facts.  Other than a few of the same old assertions, and an attempt to tie weather events into his alarmism, he offers absolutely nothing new in the way of science nor does he even attempt to rebut the damning reports that have surfaced since “An Inconvenient Truth” and badly discredited his and other alarmist’s credibility.

Ironically he uses the analogy of professional wrestling as a means of attempting to shame the news media by likening them to the distracted referee in a “professional” bout who always was arguing with one corner or another while the “bad guy” took a metal chair to the “good guy”.

The irony, of course, was that is precisely what Gore, et. al. did early in their fraudulent campaign.  And it was only when the skeptics were able to use actual science to raise so many points refuting key elements of Gore’s thesis that the media could no longer ignore them.

Gore’s attempt to rally the troops ends on the usual alarmist note:

What is now at risk in the climate debate is nothing less than our ability to communicate with one another according to a protocol that binds all participants to seek reason and evaluate facts honestly. The ability to perceive reality is a prerequisite for self-governance. Wishful thinking and denial lead to dead ends. When it works, the democratic process helps clear the way toward reality, by exposing false argumentation to the best available evidence. That is why the Constitution affords such unique protection to freedom of the press and of speech.

The climate crisis, in reality, is a struggle for the soul of America. It is about whether or not we are still capable — given the ill health of our democracy and the current dominance of wealth over reason — of perceiving important and complex realities clearly enough to promote and protect the sustainable well-being of the many. What hangs in the balance is the future of civilization as we know it.

His first paragraph describes precisely what happened to his climate assertions.  They were destroyed by being exposed as false arguments.  And I think it is telling that he doesn’t try to justify or factually support all the nonsense he presented as “fact” in his propaganda piece “An Inconvenient Truth”.  Instead he just doubles down, whines about the media (that’s original) and distractions and claims nothing in the realm of science has changed primarily by simply ignoring that which has. 

There is no “scientific consensus”, much of what he has presented as fact has been successfully disputed or refuted and “the democratic process [which] helps clear the way toward reality, by exposing false argumentation to the best available evidence” has worked.  It is he who is in denial – and in this case, the wrestling is real, and he’s losing.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Today’s tax rant – U2 and Medicare?

You might ask, what could McQ possibly find similar in an article about a U2 concert and an LA Times opinion piece about Medicare?

Well, you might be surprised.

Here are excerpts from the articles.  First the U2 concert:

U2 and its frontman Bono, known for their global poverty-fighting efforts, were accused of dodging taxes in Ireland by activists who crashed their performance at England’s Glastonbury festival.

The anti-capitalist group Art Uncut inflated a 6-metre balloon emblazoned with the message "U Pay Your Tax 2." Security guards wrestled them to the ground before deflating the balloon and taking it away. About 30 people were involved in the angry clash.

[…]

Art Uncut argues that while Bono campaigns against poverty in the developing world, his group has avoided paying Irish taxes at a time when his austerity-hit country desperately needs money.

Ireland, which has already accepted an international bailout, is suffering through deep spending cuts, tax hikes and rising unemployment as it tries to pull the debt-burdened economy back from brink of bankruptcy."

[…]

“Tax(es) nestling in the band’s bank account should be helping to keep open the hospitals, schools and libraries that are closing all over Ireland," Art Uncut member Charlie Dewar said ahead of the protest.

U2, the country’s most successful band, was heavily criticised in 2006 for moving its corporate base from Ireland to the Netherlands, where royalties on music incur virtually no tax.

Okay?  Got the gist?

Now to an article where Michael Hiltzik obviously thinks he does yeoman’s work “debunking” Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan.  Here’s his underlying premise:

One of the basic flaws of Ryan’s plan is that he folds Medicare’s long-term fiscal problem into the near-term problem of the federal deficit. But these are two very different things. As Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution observes, the current government deficit is the result of an enormous tax cut mostly for the wealthy, of paying for two wars by credit card, of the Great Recession, and of spending to address that recession. Recovery will address at least some of that, and restoring income tax rates to pre-Bush levels would go a long way toward managing the rest.

Or tax cut, spending, recession, spending.   His solution? Tax and tax.  Seriously when he says “recovery will address at least some of that”, he’s talking about increased tax revenue.  And of course the rest of his solution is a tax increase (of course only on the “wealthy”).

Spending?  Well it’s only a problem now.  It becomes a lost word when it comes to solutions.    His tax solutions, you see, will take care of everything.  No need to cut spending.

But that’s not even the big point here.   In both the U2 story and the Hitzik op/ed, a very basic assumption is made – that the money earned by the wealthy is OWED to the rest of society simply because the rest of society has gotten itself in over its head.  And in the case of both stories, the wealthy are assumed to be “dodging” taxes by doing what is legal (and necessary) to protect what they earned.  Their property.

U2, who would prefer to use what they earn for their own priorities (fighting poverty as it turns out), are criticized for not turning it over to be spent as the protesters think it should be spent.   They actually believe they’re being cheated of their money because the band has moved to a place which doesn’t tax what they do as heavily as the country from which they originate.  There’s no other reason for the protest if that isn’t their belief, is there?

So with Hiltzik and the protesters we see variations of the same theme that is so popular on the left.  In essence it says that what you earn is really owned by all and they have every right to determine how much you keep – not you.  That, as most of us know and understand, is a foundational concept of one of the most dangerous ideologies in the world.

Socialism.

And, as Margaret Thatcher famously said, “the problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money”. 

That’s precisely what the “solutions” the protesters and Hiltzik put forward are attempting to stay, isn’t it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Hillary Clinton and patriotism

I swear I think politicians are like geese – they wake up in a new world everyday and are both irony impaired and have no concept of hypocrisy.

Remember Senator Clinton in 2007?

[Mrs.] Clinton, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has since May requested a briefing from Pentagon officials as to whether they have undertaken any serious planning for a future withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

On Thursday she received a response from the Pentagon that she told ABC News was “outrageous and offensive.”

The letter from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman did not mince words. “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies,” he wrote.

“I deeply resent the administration’s continuing effort to impugn the patriotism of those of us who are asking hard questions,” Clinton told ABC News.

The other day, at a press conference in Jamaica, it was she who was being asked the hard questions.  Her response?

QUESTION: [...] We’ve entered a situation in Libya that looks increasingly quagmire-like. And it’s starting to create a political headache for the Administration with Republican leaders arguing that the actions were inappropriate in the sense that they circumvented congressional approval for them. What is the – your vision for the endgame, a medium-term plan for U.S. involvement in Libya? And what do you make of House Speaker Boehner’s remarks?

SECRETARY CLINTON: [...] I have to take issue with your underlying premise. I think that there is very clear progress being made in the organization and the operational ability of the opposition, the Transitional National Council, the military efforts on the ground. I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind that Qadhafi and the people around him have their backs against the wall. The kind of support that we saw forthcoming for the Libyan opposition at the recent Libyan Contact Group meeting in Abu Dhabi was very heartening. Money is flowing, other support is available.

So I know we live in a hyper-information-centric world right now, and March seems like it’s a decade ago, but by my calendar, it’s only months. And in those months, we have seen an international coalition come together unprecedented between not only NATO, but Arab nations, the Arab League, and the United Nations. This is something that I don’t think anyone could have predicted, but it is a very strong signal as to what the world expects to have happen, and I say with all respect that the Congress is certainly free to raise any questions or objections, and I’m sure I will hear that tomorrow when I testify.

But the bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on Qadhafi’s side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them? For the Obama Administration, the answer to that question is very easy.

The irony?  She’s questioning those who oppose her point of view’s patriotism.  The hypocrisy?  She’s essentially saying “you’re either with us, or against us” – something she roundly condemned in her previous life.

Oh, and of course as she rejects underlying premises, let me do my fair share.  I reject the premise that says if you oppose the illegal war in Libya it is because you are “pro-Qadhafi”.  But of course any thinking person should know it’s a false premise to begin with.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Just not good enough for their neighborhood (update–progress)

John Gonsalves, who runs one of the most awesome charities I know of, Homes for Our Troops, has a problem.  And its one that will make your blood boil.

Gonsalves and his folks build specially built homes for disabled war veterans who have special needs.  Such as SFC Sean Gittens.

Army SFC Sean Gittens was left paralyzed and unable to speak or communicate as a result of a battle related traumatic brain injury. Deployed for the third time in his career, SFC Gittens suffered multiple concussive traumas throughout his year-long deployment to Iraq from April 2007-April 2008. Upon returning home, suffering from headaches and other head-injury related symptoms, SFC Gittens suffered an aneurism in his brain and a subsequent stroke which left him with paralyzed and non-communicative. Treated at multiple hospitals, both military and civilian, SFC Gittens now receives care from trained medical personnel in his home.

Homes for Our Troops identified a place for the home they wanted to build SFC Gittens and his family and went to work getting buying the property and getting the necessary approvals.

Building on the 2700 square foot home was to begin this Friday. Homes for Our Troops purchased the land in December and preparations for building the home have been ongoing over the past month. These homes are a reflection of the gratitude of the community and are given mortgage free to the veterans once complete.

Homes for Our Troops received building permits for the project and has been working closely with the Knob Hill Board of Directors, making multiple changes to the plans for the home as requested. The written approval came from Knob Hill BOD President Rick Trump on June 2nd.

Everything is cool, no?

No.

Late last week, a lawyer for the HOA served the contractors on site with a cease and desist letter to stop the preparation of the build site. Facing strong opposition from the Property Owners Association, the Knob Hill Board of Directors and the Property Owners Association met again on June 20th, just four days before the planned kickoff of the home build. Homes for Our Troops was then notified that the house plans do not meet the Knob Hill standards and the original approval was thus rescinded. Homes for Our Troops has now been told that it must begin anew the entire approval process and that the house needs to be at least 3400 square feet and multi-level to even be considered.

"Shockingly, it appears that the Knob Hill community has decided it does not want to welcome SFC Gittens and his family, as we were previously told," said Homes for Our Troops Founder John Gonsalves. "Despite our working closely with the Knob Hill Property Owners Association over the past four months, we find ourselves in an untenable situation. We cannot afford to add 700 square feet to the house, particularly under our special adaptive plans. And our experience in building over 100 homes dictates that severely injured veterans need a specially adapted single level home. Frankly, this late action begun by the Knob Hill Property Owners means we must suspend working on the home. The Knob Hill Property Owners Association has now assured that SFC Gittens and his family will not be able to have the home they so desperately need. We have done everything in our power to try to resolve this situation, but it appears that the community is not willing to accept this home, and SFC Gittens and his family into the community."

According to Gonsalves, the Knob Hill neighborhood covenants state that the minimum size for a house in the subdivision is 2,700 sq ft (see Fox News clip).  He also points out that there are many 2,700 square foot homes in that subdivision.  And, as you might imagine, given that’s the minimum size the covenants allow, that is the size of the proposed Gittens home.   In other words, the Knob Hill Property Owners Association (Evans, GA) are not following their own covenants.  Gonsalves was told the home was “too small” and “didn’t fit in” to the surrounding neighborhood (with some homes as large as 5,000 sq. ft).

I’m sympathetic to property owners rights 99% of the time.  But this is that 1% where I’m totally against them.  And that’s because they’re attempting to void their own covenants and not abide by them. Remember, these are their PUBLISHED covenants.  These are the minimum standards they AGREED too when they built their homes in that subdivision.  It is the document they’d certainly use to legally enforce the standards therein if it was necessary.  But now they simply want to ignore the document and impose arbitrary new standards that simply don’t exist other than in their demands.

I think the Knob Hill Property Owners Association needs to rethink this entire thing, don’t you?  If you’d like to share your opinion concerning their denial of a disabled vet’s opportunity to live in a home that meets all the standards of their covenants you may want to drop them a line.

Please be polite and respectful, but feel free to make your feelings clear about their actions.  Also remember that, per Homes for Our Troops, not all the people living in that subdivision agree with the board’s decision.  The email address for the board is -  bod@knobhill.org

This is not how America should treat its disabled vets.

UPDATE: Just in (1:20 pm).

The president of the Knob Hill Property Owner’s Association says plans are moving forward for the construction of a home for Sgt. First Class Sean Gittens.

The homeowners association and Homes For Our Troops have been talking. A list of items Knob Hill requires is being provided to Homes For Our Troops.

Both organizations said they hope to make a joint announcement on Monday, June 27, in regards to moving forward with the plans.

Keep the pressure on, but please, be polite and respectful.

[HT: upinak]

 

~McQ

Twitter: McQandO


Misusing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

There’s a difference between a political use of the SPR and an emergency use of the SPR.  It is for the latter the SPR exits.  However the Obama administration has decided to use it for political reasons.

Why do I say that?  Well, 30 million barrels of oil is about a day and a half use in the US.  Or said another way, this is nothing more than political busy work in an attempt to pretend like the administration is a) concerned about the price of gasoline and b) doing something about it.

But a short walk back through their history with the oil and gas industry makes the case that they’ve essentially been opposed to gas and oil exploration and have used every excuse and bureaucratic means to slow or stop it in the two plus years they’ve been calling the shots.

American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard sums it up nicely:

"It’s confusing as to why we would wait to this point to release part of the (SPR), but we’ve still failed to step forward and say let’s bring long-term supply to the marketplace, create American jobs at a time when we have 9.1 percent unemployment and produce millions of dollars of federal revenue at time when we’re struggling with a debt and deficit crisis. … Just yesterday the administration sent a letter to Capitol Hill opposing a permitting bill that was designed to expedite permits in Alaska to produce oil and natural gas. We are getting a confused message."

API’s Mark Green make the most important point in a succinct three sentences:

The United States could and should be taking steps to increase its own production by 2 million barrels a day or more for decades – which is possible if the government would grant much greater access to America’s ample oil and natural gas reserves.

In the long run this would do more for consumers, increase energy security, create jobs and help solve the debt and deficit crisis, to which Gerard referred, by delivering more revenue to government.

Instead of a long-term energy strategy that would help keep the strategic reserve in reserve, the administration seems to be taking action for the sake of taking action trying to cover itself while the economy keeps struggling.

Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Institute adds:

The Obama Administration’s decision to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is ill-advised and not the signal the markets need.   Unrest in the Middle East is likely to continue for quite some time, so a temporary increase in supply is not a substitute for a long term fix.  Our reserve is intended to address true emergencies, not politically inconvenient high prices.  Rather than dabbling around the edges, the Administration should take steps to increase domestic production of oil—on and offshore, like the bill the House passed last night.   With U.S. crude oil production expected to decrease by 90 million barrels in the next year, the Administration should instead focus on increasing domestic production will improve our energy security, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and create thousands of jobs.

Note the numbers she cites.  The administration is releasing 30 million barrels over the next 30 days while presiding over a total drop in production of 90 million barrels annually due to their opposition to increased domestic production.

What is being done with the SPR release is simply more smoke and mirrors from the smoke and mirrors administration.  It does nothing to address the long-term need for increased domestic production, it will do nothing to address the price of gasoline (there is no supply problem at the moment) and it is a misuse of an asset that is to be used for real and dire emergencies.

But then we’ve come to expect nonsense like this from the Obama administration.  Symbolism over substance.  Pretending to be both concerned about consumers and engaged in helping them when in fact their real policy is to opposed the real solution – increased domestic drilling.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Gingrich a bit delusional

Seriously -  and that’s one thing you can say about the Gingrich effort, you can’t take it seriously – what is it about the egos of some of these folks?

On conservative radio host Neil Boortz’ show this morning, presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich concocted an almost endearingly farcical explanation for his campaign’s latest woes, saying the media targeted him because he was best-positioned to beat President Obama. The media desperately wants to reelect President Obama, Gingirich said, and thus he was their “worst nightmare.” “I didn’t think they would realize this early just how dangerous this campaign is and go after it so hard,” he said.

Here’s a guy who has more baggage than Delta Airlines, has now suffered the second staff walk out, consistently polls at the bottom of the field among his supposed base and he still has the temerity to claim that he’s in such sorry shape because the media is out to get him only because his candidacy would have Obama shaking in his boots?

Really?

On what freakin’ planet?

Gingrich’s campaign implosion has had absolutely nothing to do with the media.  It certainly has nothing to do with any effort by opponents.  It is all his.  He owns it … no one else. 

Perhaps it is comforting to him to look on the ruin of his effort and pretend that he’s Obama’s “worst nightmare”, but in fact, he’s his own “worst nightmare” and he’s proven it handily.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The democratization of publishing

I love stories like this because the demonstrate the momentous changes that have been introduced by technology which has democratized publishing and not just opened the gates to everyone, but flat torn the gates down:

John Locke, 60, who publishes and promotes his own work, enjoys sales figures close to such literary luminaries as Stieg Larsson, James Patterson and Michael Connelly.

But unlike these heavyweights of the writing world, he has achieved it without the help of an agent or publicist – and with virtually no marketing budget.

Instead the DIY novelist has relied on word of mouth and a growing army of fans of his crime and western novellas that he has built up online thanks to a website and twitter account.

His remarkable achievement is being hailed as a milestone of the internet age and the beginning of a revolution in the way that books are sold.

His achievement is doubly impressive because of the way he accomplished this:

He saw that many successful authors were charging almost $10 (£6) for a book and decided that he would undercut them – selling his own efforts for 99 cents (60 pence).

"I’ve been in commission sales all my life, and when I learned Kindle and the other e-book platforms offered a royalty of 35 per cent on books priced at 99 cents, I couldn’t believe it," he said.

"To most people, 35 cents doesn’t sound like much. To me, it seemed like a license to print money.

"With the most famous authors in the world charging $9.95 for e-books, I saw an opportunity to compete, and so I put them in the position of having to prove their books were 10 times better than mine.

"Figuring that was a battle I could win, I decided right then and there to become the bestselling author in the world, a buck at a time."

Or, he figured that the opportunity of self-publishing allowed him the freedom to decide how much to charge and take advantage of the royalty being paid a lower price.  Obviously you have to have something worth selling, but he’s figured out that formula as well – what most of us would consider “pulp fiction” with mass appeal:

His books – which centre around characters such as Donovan Creed, a former CIA assassin "with a weakness for easy women" and Emmett Love, a former gunslinger – are unlikely to trouble the Booker Prize judges.

But nevertheless they are immensely popular among the new e-Book fraternity, selling a copy every seven seconds and making him only the eighth author in history to sell a million copies on Amazon’s Kindle – a milestone he passed this week.

Phenomenal.  Kudos to Locke … John Locke, that is.   Great name.

The gate no longer exists and that has to make publishers as nervous as the news media is anymore.  Anyone can publish just about anything and, unlike before, the market gets to decide what is or isn’t worth the money and reward – directly – those who manage to give it what it wants.

What’s not to like (our own Martin McPhillips may be able to give us a little insight into this phenomenon – and it will give him a chance to plug his book)?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama administration complicit in cutting non-union GM employee pensions

Despite denials, it appears the Obama administration had a hand in cutting the pensions of non-union GM workers.  Another “unexpected” event from the transparent administration:

New emails obtained by The Daily Caller contradict claims by the Obama administration that the Treasury Department would avoid “intervening in the day-to-day management” of General Motors post-auto bailout.

These messages reveal that Treasury officials were involved in decision-making that led to more than 20,000 non-union workers losing their pensions.

Remember, this is the same administration that perverted the bankruptcy system to favor unions and essentially screw investors.  This is more evidence of the administrations concerted effort to save their prime constituency by treating non-union workers differently and using their benefits as a means of cutting costs while mostly preserving union benefits.

This came to light in Congressional hearings yesterday:

At a Wednesday hearing, the House Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending started pushing the Treasury Department for answers on the effects of the bailout and on how much of a role the department played in picking winners and losers.

The key point of the Wednesday hearing was to show that the Obama administration advised GM on how to eliminate the Delphi workers’ pensions. The evidence suggests Geithner’s team played a significant role in that process, despite claims to the contrary.

This despite administration testimony previously claimed no involvement:

In 2009 congressional testimony, senior Obama administration official Ron Bloom said the president told the Treasury Department to stay out of the management of these companies and downplayed any administration intervention.

“From the beginning of this process, the President gave the Auto Task Force two clear directions regarding its approach to the auto restructurings,” Bloom said then. “The first was to behave in a commercial manner by ensuring that all stakeholders were treated fairly and received neither more nor less than they would have simply because the government was involved. The second was to refrain from intervening in the day-to-day management of these companies.”

But the emails TheDC obtained show high-ranking Treasury Department officials, including Matthew Feldman of Treasury’s Auto Task Force, corresponding with senior GM officials on how to make certain decisions regarding who was going to win and who was going to lose.

You can’t put it any clearer than the Daily Caller does – this is government picking winners and losers.   Not only that, it is clear that the administration has favorites and no qualms whatsoever about throwing unfavored constituencies under the bus to ensure their constituency benefits.

Is that the purpose of government?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


GOP–pay attention to this poll

Pay attention to this because it is important:

The portion of Americans who say they believe the U.S. is on the wrong track is higher than it was at any point during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, when unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent after the 1981-82 recession, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. The ABC poll showed the wrong-track number during Reagan’s first term peaking at 57 percent in October 1982. The Bloomberg poll shows 66 percent of Americans think the U.S. is going in the wrong direction now.

This is the number I continue to talk about because to me it is the truest indication of the mood of the country.  The mood is obviously critical to the re-election, and wrong track polling has consistently indicated the way previous elections are going to go.  There is a threshold that portends bad news for the incumbent, and we’re well past that.  The question is, will it stay there?  The answer seems to be, by all indications and forecasts, yes.

As the public grasps for solutions, the Republican Party is breaking through in the message war on the budget and economy. A majority of Americans say job growth would best be revived with prescriptions favored by the party: cuts in government spending and taxes, the Bloomberg Poll shows. Even 40 percent of Democrats share that view.

This should be something every GOP politician should have tattooed on his or her inner eyelid to help them focus.  Concentrate on the message about the economy – it’s a winner.  Wander off into wedge issues and you give your opponent an opening and a way to distract the public.   If you do that you deserve to lose.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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