Aug 092011
 

This WSJ prepared graphic vividly shows how US spending on entitlements has more than doubled in the last generation

There’s been an appalling amount of nonsense put forth in justification of the differing points of view regarding how to solve our nation’s terrible debt crisis, and an even more appalling amount of nonsense is now being spewed out of the usual sources to try and shift the blame for our nation’s first ever credit rating downgrade onto anyone else but themselves.

So here are the simple truths that you need to understand.

Government ‘Spending Cuts’ Don’t Exist

The simplest truth of all is that the deal – the ‘compromise’ that was reached between Democrats and Republicans – contained no real cuts to anything at all.  It was a political fiction which politicians from both parties eagerly supported.

The ‘$900 billion in spending cuts over ten years’ that we were triumphantly told had been reluctantly agreed to are not cuts at all.  In reality, the government spending will increase by $7 trillion over these same ten years!

The ‘cuts’ are in reality reductions in spending increases.  They are meaningless.  Imagine a smoker proudly telling you ‘I’m cutting back on my smoking, I’m reducing the number of cigarettes I smoke by five a day’.  And he tells you that he currently smokes 20 a day.  So you’d expect him to drop down to 15 a day, right?

But no, he then tells you, without embarrassment, that after cutting down by smoking five fewer cigarettes a day, he will now be smoking 30!  How is that possible, you ask him in amazement.  He answers ‘Oh, I had been going to increase to 35 a day, so I’ve cut down by five and now will only be smoking 30.’

You end up wondering ‘How can a guy who smokes 20 cigarettes a day tell me he is cutting down by five a day and now be planning to smoke 30 a day?’.

It is the same with government ‘spending cuts’, and here’s how their game works.  You take a federal program and increase its budget request massively for the next few years.  You then make this new requested amount the baseline, rather than the actual amount spent in past years, and any reduction in this ridiculously inflated projection of expenditure for the future becomes a ‘budget cut’ – even though the program ends up getting a generous increase!

This is exactly what has happened.  The government is not reducing its expenditure compared to what it is currently spending or what it spent last year.  It has merely reduced its future fanciful increase.

If the government wanted to ‘reduce its spending’ even more, it could have projected a $10 trillion increase and then allowed it to be cut back to the same $7 trillion, and boasted/agonized over the $3 trillion in ‘cuts’.

So, do you understand, that the ‘reduction in federal spending’ claimed by so-called fiscal conservatives in government is nothing of the sort?

But who has been passing this truth back to you?  Has your congressman or senator told you ‘I tried my best, but the government is still going to increase its spending by a humongous $7 trillion over the next ten years’?  Or have they written impassioned letters to you about how any reduction at all will destroy the nation’s social fabric (if they are a Democrat) or about how the time for financial austerity is now and these bold cuts are necessary (if they are a Republican)?  Both sets of claims are ridiculous, because the government has allowed itself to continue to increase its rate of expenditure.

And has the mainstream media had headlines ‘Government fails to cut any spending and will instead boost it by $7 trillion’?  Nope.

For reasons you will have to guess at yourself, no-one wants to tell you the truth.

The Size of the Federal Budget and Deficit

In 2010, the federal budget in total was for $3.456 trillion dollars to be spent.  This is twice the size of the budget only ten years before.  If your income has doubled in the last ten years (not from promotion and seniority, but just ‘because’), then you’ll feel this to be fair.  But if your income has not doubled in the last ten years, then you’ll wonder how it is the government can double the amount it spends while you (and just about everyone around you) has not been able to double the amount they spend, too.

For 2010 the government not only planned to spend $3.456 trillion, but it also had a projected $2.162 trillion dollars in tax receipts – in other words, in 2010 we had right around a $1.3 trillion deficit.  One out of every three dollars the government spent was money it didn’t have.

In actual fact, the reality is even worse because the government engages in accounting practices that makes high profile corporate accounting fraudsters like Enron (CEO Kenneth Lay found guilty and was expected to receive 20 – 30 years in prison but died prior to sentencing) and Worldcom (CEO Bernard Ebbers received a 25 year jail term) look like saints rather than sinners.  If public companies used the same accounting tricks and outright dishonesty that the federal government uses, their leaders are sent to prison.  Even domestic goddess Martha Stewart found herself incarcerated for five months after a high profile show trial relating to avoiding a $46,000 loss by selling shares before they dropped in value.

But what are the chances of the government censuring itself?  Oh, about as likely as them voting to turn off their gold plated pensions!

The government mixes up its various different sources of revenue so that social security payments – the money we pay into our social security accounts to be held for future payouts back to us – are used to adjust their present shortfalls.  This is spending tomorrow’s money today, and is an incredibly foolish strategy that we ourselves know better than to do, but it is something the government happily does every day.

Look at this chart which shows the ‘official annual deficits’ (blue bars) after this government financial trickery and then compare them to the actual budget deficits (red bars) showing the true deficits.  (This second chart shows a projection for the future, and you just know that these projections are way too positive, rather than realistic.)

So our annual deficit is huge.  Imagine if you spend 50% more than you earn this year – and imagine that you’ve been spending more than you’ve earned for each year in the last decade, and imagine further that you’re planning to continue spending 50% more than you earn each year for the foreseeable future, too.  And also imagine that you’re not spending this money on investments like buying a house, investing in securities, or anything like that.  You’re spending it on luxuries rather than essentials, and on things that you use up and consume and which are then gone, leaving only their cost as a reminder.

What would happen to you?  How long could you continue living like this?

So, ask the same questions of our government.  What will happen to our government, and by direct extension, ourselves.  How long can our government continue spending money it doesn’t have?  And (here’s the really scary question) – what will happen when the government’s lenders stop lending it money?  (Almost the only remaining solutions then become for the government to either default on its debt or to just print more money to pay its debts, something that will create massive inflation and possibly even hyper-inflation).

The unstated huge tidal wave that will engulf us all is the growing interest on the growing balance of money we have borrowed.  Look at this chart which shows what the future holds for us – the red bar is the interest we will increasingly have to pay each year.  People like to talk a lot about the problem with the cost of Social Security (Social Security is not a cost, because it is something we have paid for ourselves) or the cost of Medicare/Medicaid, but what is the fastest growing part of this chart?  Not the green (Social Security) or the blue (Medicare/Medicaid).  It is the red – the interest on our growing debt mountain.

The Real and Very Simple Reason for the S&P Ratings Downgrade

So let’s now consider the historic first ever S&P ratings downgrade.  Is it the ‘fault’ of the Tea Party?  Did the Tea Party support a $7 trillion increase in government expenditure?  No and no are the answers to both these questions.

We can understand the real reason for the S&P ratings downgrade very simply – by reading their statement and explanation of why they downgraded the US.  There’s no need to invent other reasons, just look at the simple words they used to explain their action.

This is what they said :

Overview

  • We have lowered our long-term sovereign credit rating on the United States of America to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA’ and affirmed the ‘A-1+’ short-term rating.
  • We have also removed both the short- and long-term ratings from CreditWatch negative.
  • The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.
  • More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.
  • Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics any time soon.
  • The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. We could lower the long-term rating to ‘AA’ within the next two years if we see that less reduction in spending than agreed to, higher interest rates, or new fiscal pressures during the period result in a higher general government debt trajectory than we currently assume in our base case.

Expressed really simply, while the politicians hope to fool us when they talk about ‘spending cuts’ that in reality are quite the opposite, they didn’t fool S&P at all.  S&P can see that the ‘cuts’ are actually increases not decreases.  Hence the downgrade.  End of story.

Democrats have tried to spin this as being all the Tea Party’s fault, because S&P said they are concerned about the lack of political consensus.  But when S&P say they are concerned about the political process, what they mean is the fact that politicians have not truly faced up to economic reality and cut any of the ever larger entitlement programs that are causing the deficit increases.  All this arguing over the last few weeks was not about actual decreases in government spending at all, it was instead about how much government spending would continue to increase!

S&P are not complaining about the Tea Party trying to encourage a measure of financial responsibility; they are worried about the Republicans and Democrats who pretend to be financially responsible while acting completely the opposite.  Even after all the fuss and theatrical nonsense about ‘the debt crisis’ (didn’t we all know, 100% for sure, that after a lot of chest-beating by both sides, the politicians would get together and work out a ‘compromise’ that in reality was not a compromise at all, shortly before the point where the government was to ‘run out of money’) the politicians have continued their same-old same-old approach to spending ever more to try and keep buying votes at the next election, no matter what the underlying longer term cost to our nation’s economy may be.

Note also that S&P are saying there is a chance they might downgrade our country’s rating still further if things don’t improve.

One last comment about the S&P rating.  Unfortunately, economics is not an exact science, and jokes-a-plenty talk about how whenever you get any number of economists in the one room, you end up with more than that number of opinions (because some economists can’t even bring themselves to express a single opinion about anything).

Other rating agencies still have the US on the top rating, and so the S&P rating drop, while significant, does not conclusively mean that it is the end of the world for life as we know it.  On the other hand, S&P’s decision to do something as hugely significant and symbolic (and to risk attracting the ire of the US government and people – Michael Moore suggested that they should be arrested as criminals) as to downgrade the US economy is certainly not something they’d do lightly, without a huge amount of discussion and thought.

How Did We Get to This Point

The US economy was formerly the rock on which the entire world based its financial system.  Our economy was healthy and strong, and other nations were happy to invest in our economy and our currency, because it seemed the safest place in the world to place money, and even nations that weren’t investing in the US were happy to use our dollar as the basis for their international trade.

All those things are changing – or have already changed.

So what has happened to our economy?  I’m not even going to talk about the ‘hollowing’ of the US economy – the loss of most manufacturing type industry to other countries, and the fact that just about anything and everything we buy these days comes from China rather than from a US factory.  Yes, those issues are indeed problems, but they are not the root cause of the issues facing us at present.

The issue we’re facing at present is that we’re spending too much.  That’s the simple problem.  We – that is, our government – is ignoring how much money it can bring in, and is spending money without any thought to budgeting or fitting its expenditures to match its income.

And what is it spending so much money on?  No – not defense (something too many people love to also cite as the runaway cost that needs to be reduced the most).  And, alas, neither are we spending money on bona fide capital investments and improvements (like new highways) that will give us lasting benefits for decades to come.  It can sometimes make sense to borrow money to build something that will then give you decades of lasting benefit – that way you are paying for the asset during the time period you are using it.

The government is spending money on ‘entitlements’ – welfare programs and the like.  Increasingly, our politicians have been buying our votes each election cycle by giving ‘us’ more benefits and handouts.  In the mid sixties and through to the beginning of the 1970s, the percentage of the federal budget spent on entitlements was less than 30%.  But since that time, with the only notable exception being during the Reagan years and the first half of the Bush snr presidency, entitlement spending has been steadily growing – not just in real dollar terms, but also as a percentage of the total federal budget.

Entitlement spending is now over 65% of the total federal budget (as shown in the chart at the top of this article).  Two out of every three dollars the government spends goes towards payouts (some would say ‘pay-offs’) to individuals.  As for defense spending, that represents a mere 20% of the federal budget.  And of that 20%, about 13% goes to actually spending money on defense, and the other 7% is interest on government debt that is so-called ‘defense related’.

No wonder that half of the US population no longer pays income taxes.  And that is an unsustainable and crazy situation to be in.  If the definition of ‘truly needy’ has shifted from a point where the bottom 5% or even 10% of the nation needs support to now where the greater half of the entire nation all needs support, then we need to change the definition back again.

Because there is the other part of the problem.  Politicians love to talk about ‘the wealthy paying their fair share’.  But what is a fair share?  Is it fair that half the country pays no income taxes at all?  Is it fair that someone who has been successful, who has created jobs for other people, who spends money on things that help other parts of the economy function, and who saves some money, creating funds available to then be lent to others; should this person pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in taxes (or even millions of dollars)?  Who do we better trust to keep our economy stable and growing – successful businessmen, or politicians?

How about some hard-hitting talk about the ordinary people also paying their fair share?  Don’t get me wrong – I’m an ordinary person too, and I don’t like paying taxes.  But the solution to my not liking paying taxes is not to tax the wealthy guy more, it is for the government to reduce its spending.

The real problem here is the government is trying to become unaccountable for its expenditures.  By focusing on a minority of the population to get their tax income from, a government no longer has to worry about any retribution at the polls, because although the heavily taxed minority might vote against them, the 50%+ of the population who are net beneficiaries of government spending will support the government, and enough of the people in the grey area between paying no tax and paying a lot of tax will support the government to ensure its survival.

Lastly, let’s just think what the $14.3 trillion federal debt ceiling (prior to it being increased) means to us.  It means that each and every one of the 300 million US citizens have close on a $50,000 debt incurred by the government on our behalf.  If you’re a family of four, that means your share of the nation’s debt is almost $200,000.

If you think that is a lot of money to owe, there’s more to consider.  This is just the total of the federal government’s debt.  How about the money your state owes?  Your county?  Your city?  How about your school district?  Fire district?  Port Authority?  Transit Authority?  All these other organizations probably have ‘negative net worth’ as well, adding further to your overall indebtedness.

So in total, you personally probably have closer to a $100,000 share of the total government debt of all types, and your family is getting close to half a million in debt.  And unlike your own personal debt – a mortgage on a house, a loan on a car, perhaps a student loan still being repaid, and hopefully not too much credit card debt – what can you show for this huge ‘investment’?  A lovely house?  Nope.  A shiny new car?  Nope.  How about increased earnings capabilities as a result of a degree or trade qualification?  Not that either.

Which begs one final question.  If we can’t see anything as a result of the huge over-expenditures the government is making, how exactly would we be harmed if the government eased back on spending money it doesn’t have?

Sources

1.  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903454504576493173381179508.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop – this shows the growth in government expenditures that are payments to individuals from 1965 to 2011, and draws its raw data from OMB.  The chart at the top of this article is taken from this source.

2.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:InflationAdjustedDefenseSpending.PNG  – this shows the makeup of defense spending

3.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Federal_Spending_-_FY_2007.png – this shows total 2010 government spending

4.  http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/273876/mad-debt-mark-steyn – the source of the ‘government cuts $900 billion but raises spending by $7 trillion’ statement.  The article goes off on a tangent by strangely comparing our debt to Chinese military spending (and probably underestimates the Chinese military budget, too) but the first part of it is excellent.

5.  http://www.cnbc.com/id/44051683 – Alan Greenspan acknowledges that the government can ‘cheat’ by simply printing meaningless money to ‘pay’ its debts, then amazingly blames the US’ problems, not on itself, but on Italy!

Aug 072011
 

Mayhem and potentially murder when riots rage around you

The good news is this appalling incident is less likely to happen much more in the future, because it occurred in Wisconsin, which last month passed a law allowing its citizens to get concealed weapon permits.

But the bad news is that it happened at all.  I don’t know if it is a passing craze, or a new media focus, or whatever, but my sense is there are a growing number of ‘flash mob’ type mini-riots occurring in the country these days, situations where a group of people suddenly congregate and go wild for no apparent reason, attacking ordinary peaceful other citizens in a location that you’d not normally consider an at-risk location.

Here is a report of this particular flash-mob that formed at the exit to the Wisconsin state fairgrounds.  You’ll note that the police were less than effective, and some police, a mere block or two away, busied themselves with directing traffic rather than going to assist at all!  Although some police did get into the middle of things, and were even injured, they were woefully outnumbered and unable to protect and prevent lawful citizens leaving the fairgrounds from being victimized, terrified, and assaulted.

Once again, we’re reminded that the only people we can count on to defend us in an emergency is our own selves – us personally and hopefully the loved ones and close friends with us.

Note also the muted reporting on the subject of whether it was black people selectively attacking white people only.  On the other hand, this report quotes people with obviously vested interests as saying it was only black people fighting other black people.  Ordinary citizens saw black people selectively attacking white people, but public officials did not.  Hmmmm……

What Would You Do?

This sort of situation raises a very difficult question.  What would you do if you found yourself in the middle of such a mob, and a group of youths attacked you?  (Assume, for the sake of this discussion, that you were carrying a pistol with you, as hopefully you always do.)

The significant outcome of most of these flash mob attacks is that no-one has been killed, or even gravely/critically wounded.  Sure, people have been punched up, kicked down, and generally injured, but is it really a situation where you can truly say you feared for your life; is it truly a situation that warrants the use of deadly force?

On the other hand, it may well be that you had no ability to retreat.  If your state has a ‘stand your ground’ law, why should you either try ineffectively to run away, or passively accept a beating?  And just because few people have been critically injured or killed, that’s no guarantee that you might not be less fortunate.

Let’s think what would happen if you did resort to your gun.  When you pull it out, if you don’t start shooting immediately, one of three things will happen.  Either the flash mob will run away screaming, or it will taunt you and get closer to you (and they may already be way too close for comfort), forcing you to either use your gun or lose it, or, option three, someone in the flash mob also has a gun, and he (or they if more than one) will draw it and shoot you first.

If the flash mob runs away screaming without you needing to fire a single shot, then good job, well done.  But how likely is that?

Let’s think about scenario #2.  They crush in towards you, leaving you no choice but either to surrender your gun (and risk having it used against you) or to start shooting.  Even if you managed to disable the weapon before it was taken from you (at the very least, releasing the magazine and kicking it away) you’ve raised the odds and probably increased the severity of the beating you’ll get.

Maybe you fire a warning shot in the air (not really advised by most experts).  Perhaps they’ll now turn around and run away screaming, but even if they wanted to, maybe – if there is a crush of others behind them, they can’t.  Do you then start shooting for real, or do you surrender your weapon and hope for the best?

And what if you start shooting?  You’ll have half a dozen people all crowding in on you, and more behind them.  How to fight them all off with only one gun and however many rounds in its magazine?

The answers to these questions fall into two parts – legal issues to do with the justifiability of you shooting at these attackers, and the tactical issues of how best to get a positive outcome from your situation.

Legal Issues

I asked a respected attorney who specializes in gun law issues for his opinion on the situation.  Unfortunately, his opinion is only valid in the one state he practices law in, and each state has different legislation (and customary practice) in terms of what is acceptable use of deadly force and what is not.

Based on the laws of his state, he believes that shooting at your attackers would probably be justified in his state – a state that says there is no obligation to retreat, and which allows you to shoot in self defense if you have a reasonable fear of imminent danger to yourself or loved ones and if such an action is what a reasonable person could be expected to do.

But your state laws may be very different, and no matter what your laws are, there is also this very vague standard of what a ‘reasonable’ person would do.  Maybe your state law allows for use of deadly force in terms of the theory of the legislation, but maybe the practice of how the case law has modified and interpreted the words of the law is such that what you think is a permissive empowerment to defend yourself is actually no such thing.

Maybe a ‘reasonable’ person in your state might think it more reasonable to submit to a beating than to kill one or many attackers?  Surely you’ve heard people say ‘nothing ever justifies taking a human life’ – maybe they say this in opposition to capital punishment, even for the most depraved mass murderers, and often they say it when explaining why they think no-one should be allowed to own guns.  Normally you might just roll your eyes when hearing this and move on, recognizing a viewpoint that you have nothing in common with and are unlikely to change.  But what would you do if you were faced with a jury of people who all subscribed to that point of view – all viewing your actions as ‘unreasonable’ by their fervently held viewpoints?

So the legal issues are murky.  Let’s all pray you don’t find yourself becoming a test case in your state.  If you have a genuine concern, you should consult a good attorney in your state who specializes in firearms and self defense law, and if you get a written opinion with him, please share it with us so we can share it with everyone else.

Tactical Issues

Okay, so if you find yourself where you are forced to shoot, what is the best way to solve the problem you are confronted with, causing minimum loss of life and ensuring your own safety?

I asked two people, both with a huge amount of real world experience, what they would recommend.  One is a former Marine, and a former LAPD officer in some of the worst neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and is a massively credentialed firearms trainer.  The other is a former Navy officer and sworn member of one of the Justice Department’s many branches, and again a well credentialed firearms trainer.

They both agreed that the thing to do is to assertively point your weapon at the person who seems to be ringleader, simultaneously look him straight in the eye, and tell him ‘Back Off!  Or you’ll be the first person I shoot!’  Then point it at a second person and say ‘You’ll be second!  Back Off!’  and perhaps give the same warning to a third person.

Then, if they continue to advance, and particularly if they are getting to ten feet or so of you, and they have ignored your warnings, you’re going to need to start shooting.  One of these two people said ‘If there are other people behind them (and there probably will be) consider dropping down on one knee and then shooting up at the person’s head so that the round doesn’t pass through their body and into additional people behind them’.

I understand the good sense of that advice, but you’re sacrificing dexterity and maneuverability in doing so, and head shots are more difficult to take at the best of times.  Do you really want to put yourself at much greater risk so as to make it safer for the person behind the first bad guy – a person who is far from being labeled as an ‘innocent bystander’?  Furthermore, by dropping down to this position, you’re less authoritative – although it could be argued that the gun in your hand that starts shooting compensates for that!

If you’re comfortable with your ability to drop to a one knee position and still command the situation, shoot accurately, and fight effectively, by all means do so.  But right now, your highest priority is your personal survival, not protecting the people who you may well be forced to shoot in a few seconds time.

A Force Multiplier

Lastly, a thought that you need to get front and center into your mind, always.  Try and encourage the people who go places and do things with you to also be armed.  This will not only enhance their own personal safety, but yours too.

Which would you rather experience?  A deadly threat from multiple attackers where you have to simultaneously protect you and a second, defenseless person; or a deadly threat where you have a partner alongside you, also armed and skilled at the use of their firearm?

Friends don’t let friends be unarmed.

One last thought.  You are less likely to need to use your guns if there are two of you and both armed, because you’re a much stronger adversary and you can probably defuse the situation without needing to resort to lethal force.  Which is an interesting concept to tell a friend who is not sure about carrying – ‘If you have a gun, too; then we’re less likely to need to use them than if I am the only one armed’.

We’ll return to the topic of encouraging your friends to become armed citizens in a subsequent post.  It is a very important topic, deserving of its own standalone post.

Aug 042011
 
School prayers are encouraged in Toronto, but only for Muslims, not Christians

School prayers are encouraged in Toronto, but only for Muslims, not Christians

Canada seems hell-bent on committing national and social suicide; turning its back on the country’s traditional values while welcoming and giving preferential treatment to a value system that is hostile to everything that Canada’s society has been built upon.  And while the examples in this post are in Canada, we all know the same thing is happening here in the US, too.

Here are two examples that you should read and ponder the implications of.

First, here is a fairly straightforward situation showing how Muslims get given ‘get out of jail free’ passes by the Toronto police.  Behavior that would get us arrested is apparently acceptable if you are a Muslim.

Okay, so that is something to get upset about, for sure.  But it seems like a finite sort of issue, rather than one which threatens to overturn Canadian society on its head, right?

So now please read this second article, and be afraid – be very afraid.  The scary part is not the appalling hypocrisy that has Canadian public schools banned from any type of linkage to anything Christian, but which allows them to encourage strict Muslim prayer sessions.  While that is bad enough, the really terrifying part is the analysis, towards the end of the article, about the demographic trends in western society.  To put it bluntly, Muslims are immigrating to western countries at greater rates than people of other religious persuasions, and once they get there, they are outbreeding us by two to one (in some cases even more).

Our future looks to be increasingly Muslim dominated.  In the past, it has made no difference to us if our neighbors are Protestant or Catholic or Jewish or agnostic/atheist.  Or, let’s open our minds some more – it also didn’t matter if they were Hindu or Buddhist or even Zoroastrian or – let’s go all the way – belong to some sort of ancient fertility cult.  Because, in at least the last hundred years or so, all these other religions and their adherents have been able to peacefully co-exist in western society (even if not necessarily in their own home countries!) without seeking to change our society and demanding that non-followers of their religion must adhere to their own personal opinions, views, and values.

But the Muslims seem to be different.  They seek to impose their values not only on themselves, but on the people around them too, and their values and behaviors are very different to ours.

That wouldn’t be a problem if we stood up and said ‘Sorry, you’re in our country, which is founded on Christian values of tolerance, decency, and egalitarianism’ and insisted they either conform to our social standards or return back to the squalor from which they’ve escaped.  But, for reasons that I can’t start to comprehend, we don’t do this.

Let’s be frank here – when Muslims move to our countries, they are moving to countries with vastly better living standards than what they’re leaving behind them (why else would they come here?).  And – here’s the irony of it – the reason our societies are so much more affluent and appealing to them – is because we have Christian/western standards and those have allowed us to build the positive societies that these immigrants simultaneously seek out to live in and then wish to destroy.

The ultimate sadness in all of this?  Our problem is not really the Muslim invasion that is occurring everywhere around us.  Our problem is ourselves and the passive way we go out of our way to accommodate them and their beliefs, even though those same beliefs are the opposite of the traditional values that our societies are built on.  Most of all, our problem is the hypocrisy that sees us restricting and debasing our Christian heritage while welcoming the new Muslim system and giving it preferential treatment.

We have met our enemy, and it is, alas, none other than ourselves.

Jul 192011
 
Otis Rolley, a gun hater and Baltimore mayoral candidate

Mayoral candidate Otis Rolley wants to tax your ammo

There are few creatures more venal than politicians running for office.  They’ll say or do just about anything in the desperate hope of winning the election.  Normal people find this impossible to understand, because most of the time, normal people also can’t understand who in their right mind would run for most public offices.  But no-one has ever accused politicians of being normal.

An egregious example of idiocy is on display in Baltimore where mayoral candidate Otis Rolley has proposed a new way of reducing crime – by imposing a $1 tax on every bullet bought.  Baltimore is one of the most violent cities in the nation – I wonder if there is any relation between its appalling crime record and Rolley’s past position as the city’s planning director between 2003 – 2007?

In Rolley’s alternative universe, adding a $1 tax to every bullet would make it too expensive for criminals to use guns when committing crimes and so would result in less crime being committed, with or without guns.

Let’s think about this (distasteful but necessary).  Most criminals never fire a gun in any crime.  Indeed, probably most of the time, criminals don’t even carry a gun.  These criminals will be unaffected by Rolley’s bullet tax.

But what about the criminals who do carry a gun?  Adding a $1/bullet tax would mean that instead of spending $500 – $1000 on a gun and then $10 on a box of bullets, they now need to spend an extra $20 or so to get enough bullets to load their gun.  Wow – that will sure make a difference, won’t it.

And what about the criminals who actually fire their gun?  Maybe they fire their gun half a dozen times in the course of a crime that nets them some thousands of dollars.  Will an extra cost of $5 – $10 really make that much of a difference to them?

Rolley of course deliberately chooses not to think about the other people impacted by his plan – honest ordinary law abiding citizens who shoot guns for recreation or for training.  People like you (I hope!) and me.

We fire hundreds, possibly even thousands of rounds a year so as to ensure we can safely and competently use a gun.  The cost to us would be hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  That would sure impact on us.

There’s a bit of good news, though.  Baltimore is just one single city, and in a very small state.  So it isn’t too far to drive out of Baltimore to find a gun shop in a city not suffering from a crazy mayor, and to buy your ammunition there.  Or to get it online.  Hmmmm – maybe even the criminals will do that, too?  Do you reckon?

Otis is a Democrat.  But you probably guessed that, already.

May 132011
 

Few Cadillacs are sold in downmarket neighborhoods

Okay, so this might seem like a trivial question with an obvious answer, although perhaps asking if the government can force General Motors to do something is a bad example; being as how these days GM translates more to ‘Government Motors’ due to the massive bailout and shareholding in GM by the federal government.  Maybe they truly can force GM to do something as crazy as to open a Cadillac dealership in a depressed downtown slum area.

We can all surely agree that any car manufacturer should be free to open dealerships wherever it chooses, and should be equally free to not open dealerships wherever it does not wish to open them, correct?  That is just common sense and part of the free market.  There is not any suggestion that car manufacturers are obliged to offer their models in all marketplaces – a Yugo dealership should not be forced to open in Beverly Hills, and a Rolls Royce dealership should not be forced to open in Watts.

Let’s try another example.  Should the government be able to control where supermarket chains open stores?  Should they be able to say ‘No, you can’t open a store there, but you must open a store here instead’?  This might be more sensitive – could they say ‘It is unfair on this section of the population not to have a huge big upmarket Whole Foods in their neighborhood’, accuse Whole Foods of discriminatory practices, and force them to open their up-market overpriced stores in poor neighborhoods?  Do people have some sort of built-in right to have expensive supermarkets in their neighborhood, even if they can’t afford to buy the goods offered for sale in them?

Hopefully you agree that supermarkets too can open and close stores as they wish.

Now, for the third one.  Should the government be able to tell banks where they must open branches?  Unless you can see some way in which banks are different to car dealerships, to supermarkets, and to just about every other sort of commercial enterprise, you’ll probably agree that government has no business interfering with the normal commercial decisions of banks and where/how they open or close branches.

But, as this article reports, the government is doing exactly this; indeed, the Justice Department has opened a new division with 20 officials to try and force banks to do things which they would not otherwise choose to do themselves, including forcing them to lend money to risky borrowers and to open branches in areas they don’t see any commercial sense in having branches.

This is justified as a way to forcibly prevent banks from ‘red lining’.  Red lining was a practice, some decades ago, where banks would automatically refuse to lend money to a person based on where they lived.  This was before computerized data bases of credit reports, and at a time when discrimination was much more prevalent, and it suited banks’ purposes to simply say “If you live in a ‘bad’ area, we don’t want to risk our money with you”.  Was this fair?  Probably not, although on the other hand, whenever the government tries to force banks to lend money that they wouldn’t otherwise lend, we seem to end up with huge bailouts at the end of the day.

But these days, no-one in any bank ‘red-lines’.  They simply call up a credit report on their computer, and within 30 seconds, have a FICO score and a series of financial ratios in front of them that indicate if the applicant should be given a loan or not, and if the applicant should be allowed a discounted interest rate due to being an excellent credit risk, or if they should be charged an increased interest rate due to being a poor credit risk.

This is the same as – well, to use the car dealership example again; you go in to a dealership with a vehicle you want to trade on a new car.  If your old car is in good condition and low miles, you’ll get a higher trade-in value than if it is in poor condition and with high miles.  And if it is a vehicle that they know they can’t sell on, they might even refuse to accept it at all, or massively low-ball you on the price.

No-one is suggesting that car dealers should give the same trade-in on all vehicles.  But the Justice Department is blathering on about how banks should adopt identical policies for all potential borrowers, and ridiculously accusing banks of red-lining when in truth all the banks are doing is making prudent commercial decisions based not on race but on financial issues.

So bank regulators are setting the banks up for another banking crisis, by forcing them to open branches in areas where they don’t want to do business, and forcing them to lend money to people who by all normal measures are unlikely to be able to pay back their loans.  Does that sound familiar to you – aren’t we currently in the middle of a multi-trillion dollar economic crisis as a result of banks being pressured to make ridiculous loans to people who obviously had no way of ever paying them off?

One of the interesting consequences of this financial melt-down is that even the people the government was trying to ‘help’ have been massively harmed as a result of their dysfunctional help.  No-one has won, except perhaps for the government itself, which has used the financial crisis it generated largely by itself as a justification to become even more involved in all parts of our nation’s economy and commercial dealings.

It is common for some people to vilify bankers as being greedy and short-sighted, but spare a thought to who is forcing them to do these clearly stupid things – our own government.  There was a time when everyone respected their local banker – what has changed?  Government regulation is what has changed.

I’ll close not with answers, but with two questions.

1.  Why should the government treat banks differently to car dealerships, supermarkets, and just about every other type of private enterprise?

2.  Why can’t the government learn from its past mistakes, rather than repeat them?

May 062011
 

Obama, Biden, Clinton, etc, all pretend to be watching the bin Laden raid

You probably read one of a dozen different accounts of the Osama take-down, many of them including this picture, showing our illustrious President, together with Biden, Clinton, and various others all intently watching something out of the picture.

We were told this picture was taken as they were watching the realtime events unfolding at Osama’s compound.  Here’s a video clip of John Brennan (White House Counter-Terrorism advisor) talking about the group, depicted allegedly ‘monitoring the situation realtime’ and with full visuals.  And here’s one of dozens of articles including the picture.

But it now turns out that for the early 24 minutes of the 40 minute raid there was no video feed at all, and that the picture was a subsequently staged picture for the press rather than a true picture of what happened.

Apart from the assassination in cold blood of bin Laden, it seems everything else that was volunteered and proudly proclaimed about this mission were lies.  And let’s understand this clearly – it is one thing, in the heat of battle, to confuse some of the facts.  But is an entirely different thing for people to invent total lies (and to stage fake pictures) and pass them off as truth to us.

A 40 minute fire-fight?  Ummm, no.  Only one bad guy had a gun, and he was shot almost immediately.  Our guys did kill another person or two or three, but the only bullets heading downrange were from our guys, not the other side.

The helicopter loss was first described as a mechanical failure, then being shot down by ‘heavy enemy fire’ (which was non-existent) and then finally described as having collided with a side of the building.

Osama was first described as initially shooting at the good guys through a window as they stormed the compound, then of course, shooting at them in his bedroom with an AK-47 and hiding behind one of his wives; whereas now it turns out he never touched a weapon, wasn’t hiding behind a wife (who was first described as shot and killed and now the woman in question is described as having been injured) and was unarmed.  But he was ‘resisting’ (by turning and running away).

As for Obama himself, he was described as shot twice, three times, and now possibly only once.  But we don’t know, because the pictures we were promised, we will not know get to see, for fear of upsetting our enemies.

Talking about our enemies, initial reports cited the raid as being done in conjunction with the Pakistanis, and even said there was doubt who it was who shot Osama – maybe our guys or maybe the Pakistanis.  Now we learn that the only role the Pakistanis had in the raid is taking the remains of the destroyed helicopter and threatening to sell them to China or Russia or anyone else who would be interested in seeing the previously undisclosed new stealth technology that was on the helicopter.

The million dollar compound in which Osama was described as living luxurously in?  As any of the pictures of it made immediately obvious, it was a squalid ramshackle building, apparently already decaying in places although barely five years old, and the one million dollar cost estimate has been downgraded to a quarter million or less.

And the ‘incredibly gutsy’ decision made by Obama (quoted here)?  What exactly was gutsy about sending other people to take out Osama?  If Obama had decided to lead the mission himself, then that would be gutsy (and foolish).  But the only sacrifice he made was missing half of a golf game (apparently his 66th golf game since taking office – he is able to golf about once a week on average).

Please tell me what is gutsy about sending in a couple of dozen troops to take out Osama bin Laden.  After the months of monitoring, we probably knew exactly the extent and nature of the people in Osama’s compound (ie very few soldiers and very little resistance, resulting in zero casualties on our side) and was the issue of ‘Do we/don’t we take out Osama?’ even a question that needed to be asked or answered?

Obama risked nothing personally, nor even anything politically.  If the mission failed, it would have been kept secret, or else publicized so that he got points for trying.  And if it succeeded, as we are told it did, then of course, Obama would seek to cover himself in glory, as he double definitely has indeed attempted to do.

In an attempt to play up the element of ‘gutsy’ involvement, Obama then turned around and awarded a Presidential Unit Citation to the SEAL team involved in the action.  A PUC is the highest honor that can be awarded to a unit, sort of the collective equivalent of a Congressional Medal of Honor.

But, let’s think about this.  This group of SEALS were helicoptered in and out, fought against one armed man and another three or four unarmed men, in a friendly country, and took no casualties of their own, with a very mono-dimensional mission that had been as close to completely scoped out in advance as anything ever can be.

Yes, they were successful, and yes, it was a high value target.  But in a world where SEAL teams are tasked with truly risky missions, involving extraordinary feats of strength and endurance, lasting days or weeks at a time, in massively unfriendly places – both in terms of weather and the local people, and against much larger forces, often taking casualties in the course of the action, does this 40 minute ‘stroll in the park’ really qualify for the highest award possible?

I’m sorry, Mr President, but giving out a Presidential Unit Citation doesn’t make your own actions any more courageous or ‘gutsy’ and in doing so, you debase the actions these brave men and their fellow soldiers undergo most of the rest of their lives.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m glad we found bin Laden some time last year, and pleased to see bin Laden now dead.  I’m glad we killed him.  But doing so has changed nothing for the better in our ongoing battle against Islamic extremists.  They still hate us – possibly now more than ever.  Al Qaeda is not going to unravel or give up, just because of the death of bin Laden.  And all the dozens (possibly hundreds) of other Islamic terrorist groups are still there, too.

Now is not the time to celebrate another false feeling of a mission accomplished.  Now is the time to double down and to press the battle harder, because for sure, that is what the other guys will be doing to us.

Apr 262011
 

Biased headline, biased article

For sure, George Bush was a controversial President and attracted a huge amount of criticism (and, alas, not all of it unjustified).  But do you ever remember reading a headline ‘Left Wingers Continue to Mean-Spiritedly Nitpick at President Bush’?

Now look at this article, prominently featured on Yahoo and elsewhere, but with two key words changed :  Left becomes Right, and Bush becomes Obama.

This article is an appalling example of media bias, from the headline, to the content, and even to the gratuitous insults offered to conservative politicians at the end.

In the interest of fairness, let me match the lack of history knowledge by a congresswoman with Obama’s reference to ‘all 57 states’ – he doesn’t even know how many states there are in the United States!  And let me match Sarah Palin’s hand notes with Obama’s slavish reliance on a TelePrompTer wherever he goes – a total inability to deliver unscripted speeches.

But you won’t see any of this in that article.

Instead, in a desperate attempt to defuse the shameful silence on Obama’s part regarding Easter (click the link for an excellent article on that), and to try and pathetically explain why he enthusiastically talks up Muslim religious holidays instead, the article and its writer does what the left wing has become so skilled at – it attacks and insults the conservatives, rather than choosing to enter into a fairminded debate about the issues.

And that is probably why you’re here, reading this.  Thank you.

Apr 222011
 

LVPD Officer Colling just before beating Mitchell Crooks

Here’s a video that should make your blood boil.  A private citizen – Mitchell Crooks – was filming police activity.  He was on private property at the time.  Filming the police is perfectly lawful, on public or private property.

A police officer approaches him, demands Crooks stop filming – something he has no right to demand, then beats Crooks up when Crooks claims he is within his rights to videotape the scene, then arrests him for obstructing a police officer; a charge subsequently upgraded to battery on a police officer and obstruction of justice.  I guess the officer claimed ‘his nose viciously beat my fist, and his stomach attacked my foot’.

Fortunately the idiot police officer was such an idiot that he didn’t delete the video and audio in the camera, so we all can now get to listen to Officer Colling taunting and gloating about how he put Mitchell Crooks into ‘a world of hurt’.

Colling knows all about putting citizens into a world of hurt.  In his 5 1/2 years as a police officer, he has already killed two citizens, both deemed justifiable slayings.  Crooks should consider himself lucky for merely suffering a deviated septum, chest wall injury, and possibly broken ribs.

Have a look at the video in this article, and wonder why it is that a month later the Los Vegas Police Department is still passively investigating the encounter and the total lies written by their officer in his arrest report, while the officer in question remains proudly on duty and earning full pay.

This is police brutality that would be out of line in the most despotic of dictatorships, and it shouldn’t take more than a minute or two for Colling’s superiors to recognize it for what it is and to act appropriately.  Such behavior has no place in the United States, and Officer Colling should now experience the full force of the law and its severest consequences, as should his stonewalling superiors who are going as slowly as possible and doing as little as possible to make Colling responsible for his outrageous actions.

One other point of note.  Crooks was screaming for help at the top of his voice.  He even said to the police officer ‘All my neighbors know what you are doing’.  But did a single neighbor come out?  Nope, not a one.  The police state is a terrifying place to live, and his neighbors all knew better than to risk a beating themselves.

Apr 222011
 

Getting a US Passport is about to become harder

There is, ahem, a bit of controversy about our present President and the legitimacy of his claim for American citizenship.  Apparently all he has had to do is show a ‘short form’ certificate of life birth, unsigned by any attending doctors or hospital officials, and that is all.

Some people think that it should be necessary to show more evidence to prove one’s eligibility for the supreme office in the country, and with it, the mantle of leader of the most powerful nation on earth.  Others of course disagree.  But let’s not go there – let’s leave that for others to thrash out.

However – here’s a question :  If we are to require more evidence to confirm the eligibility of a candidate for the office of President, what should that be?

That’s actually an easy question to answer, thanks to our own State Department.  They are proposing to amend the form we must complete to get a passport, adding some extra questions.  Actually, adding a huge amount of extra questions.

Go have a look at their proposed new form here.  Section A seems easy enough, although why do they need to know our social security number?

But, read on.  Look at section B, which requires the date and place of birth and citizenship of all related family members, including step parents.

And they’re only getting started.  Next is section C, with questions such as where your mother lived a year before you were born.  And that’s an easy question in this section – how about dates and details of both pre-natal and post-natal visits?  Details of when/where you may or may not have been circumcised!

Now for another memory test.  You’re probably familiar with applying for jobs or credit that might ask you to list past addresses and employers, perhaps going back three, five or even ten years.  So get ready for section D, E and F – but these require you to list details of every place you have lived at since birth, every school you’ve ever attended, and every job you’ve ever had.

You even have to remember the zip codes – I’ve no idea what you do if you’re sufficiently old as to have had addresses prior to the zip code system being instituted.

And as for your jobs, you also have to remember the name of your supervisor and give a phone number at which he can be contacted!

So let’s see this form first filled out, in its entirety, by our present President, shall we.  If it is good enough for the State Department to require us to do this form to get a passport, surely the least he can do is fill out the form, too – indeed, doesn’t he also need a passport?

More details here.