Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vampires in broad daylight

The premise is the same in every cheesy movie that features them; vampires are really, really hard to kill. And even when they appear to be dead, they rise up again--sometimes not until the sequel--to menace unsuspecting, half-dressed teens. Silver bullets, wooden stakes, copies of Jon Stewart's book--none of them is effective against every vampire variation.

These mythical un-dead creatures came to mind when I was considering what has recently resurfaced in American life. Ideas considered dead and buried by most sensible people have crawled from their musty graves and stumbled forward, dirt-covered and smelling not at all well, to land squarely in the little minds of our government officials. Some examples:

--"Ease up on credit standards." Government officials have been pressing banks to lend more money, and ease their credit standards, especially on new and existing mortgages. This sounds like a fine idea. What could possibly go wrong with lending money to anyone with a pulse, and requiring little or no down-payment?

--"Fairness" in the tax code. This one has a definition that's more slippery than one of Mr. Gutfeld's houseboys after an oil massage. I've heard that "the rich should pay their fair share." Really. According to IRS statistics for 2005, the latest I could find on the IRS web site, 2.3% of U.S. tax filers paid the 33% or 35% marginal rate on their income. Those 2.3% of filers paid 41.9% of all personal income tax that year. Note that the 2005 income tax year was several years after the "Bush tax cuts" had been enacted by Congress. It appears "the rich" are paying their fair share, and some of ours, as well. But let's push the top marginal rate to 39.6% and beyond, as Obama wishes. Add to this the increasing levy imposed by cash-strapped states and, if one is self-employed, the higher limits on Social Security taxes, and a self-employed high-earner could lose 60% of each additional dollar to taxes. Those additional dollars are looking less appealing by the day. Perhaps it would be best to avoid expanding the business, after all.

--"Single-payer health care." That's supposed to make medical access controlled by government bureaucrats sound oh-so-efficient. Kind of like the way the Soviet Union had a single-party political system, and children trapped in rotting public schools have a single educational provider system. Once buried under a tombstone that read "Hillary-Care," this particular vampire has risen again. Despite the wreck that is the British system, and the fact that most life-saving drugs and medical equipment are invented by for-profit U.S. businesses, and the manner in which socialized medical societies make it a criminal offense to pay for your own medical care, the mythical 47 billion (or whatever the number is today) uninsured Americans prod us toward this health-care final solution. But I wonder; if we have socialized medicine, where will Canadians go to get medical care?

--Socialism/communism. Nationalizing banks? Rewriting mortgage terms by legislative fiat? Is this America, or Venezuela? Placing American law subordinate to U.N. committees and "international courts?" Assigning, in perpetuity, a portion of American GDP for tithing to U.N. bureaucrats do distribute as they are bribed to do see fit? Orwell, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!

By the way, who is John Galt?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Not in my back yard!

They only want clean, "renewable" energy. Obama promised to "invest" in solar technology, and provide us "energy independence," whatever that is. Note that we don't have "food independence," "clothing independence," "software support independence," or, as the past months have demonstrated, "banking and finance independence." But for some reason it's important that we only use energy sources found within American borders. Er, unless they are gas, coal, and oil. We'll keep our own deposits of oil and gas locked up, buy more and more from abroad, and stop using coal--which provides about half of our electricity--altogether.

Well, at least we can all agree that generating electricity from the sun requires massive solar arrays, and they should be placed in a large, flat, sunny area. The Mojave Desert of southern California would seem to be ideal for this purpose--barren, off-limits to housing and commercial development and mining, and sunny and clear almost every day of the year. And yet there is one fly in the ointment, if by ointment you mean billions of your dollars being spread on the lithe, muscular back of favored special interests, and by fly you mean U.S. senator.

Dianne Feinstein (D., Crazy-Land) has deemed placing solar arrays in the Mojave "unacceptable," and has directed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to suspend any further consideration of solar plans for the area. She believes the aesthetics of the desert will be spoiled by massive solar arrays stretching to the horizon in all directions.

Feinstein's spokesman Gil Duran said "There's plenty of room in America's deserts for the bold expansion of renewable energy projects." There sure is, Gil. After all, the Mojave Desert covers about 25,000 square miles. Current permit requests for building solar plants request the use of 500,000 acres of that land, or a bit over three percent. Surely three percent of the land can be set aside for what your supporters call "clean, renewable energy." Why not? Next you'll be telling us we can't put windmills off the Massachusetts coast because the wealthy family of a U.S. senator thinks the mills will spoil their views while sailing.

Perhaps we can compromise, Dianne. You remember compromise--it's what you had to occasionally do before you had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and could ram through legislation that most Senators hadn't even read. Instead of half a million acres, let's set aside five percent of that amount--25,000 acres. Choose sites reasonably near existing transmission lines, and you'll be all set to build facilities than can create millions of watts of clean, carbon-free electricity, and they'll do it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Let's build some nuclear power plants, Dianne.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Like Two Ships In The Night

The attack submarine New Orleans and the amphibious ship Hartford collided in the Straits of Hormuz around 1:00am local time. There are 15 minor injuries reported on the Hartford, and none on the New Orleans, and both vessels are returning to port.

I think it's a safe bet that Iran will try to turn this into a major diplomatic flap, and by flap I mean screaming tantrum by Ahmadinnerjacket demanding that the U.N. "order" the Navy to stay out of "Iran's waters." If China can claim territorial waters that extend almost two hundred miles from its shores, then Iran would feel confident in claiming all of the Straits.

The Associated Press--excellent name for a dry-cleaner, by the way--reports that 40% of all seaborne oil and 20% of all traded oil passes through the Straits. As nobody else will step up (China, Russia, you don't count), then the U.S. Navy must continue to keep a close eye on this vital waterway. It looks like Obama is going to be kept busy with foreign challenges, a confirmation of one of the few smart things Joe Biden ever said.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

First they came for the AIG bonuses

...and I didn't speak up, because, hey, I didn't get any AIG bonus. Then they came for Internet retailers, forcing them to collect sales tax, and I didn't speak up, because I don't spend as much online as I used to spend. So far so good, and as long as I remain selfish and self-centered, apparently I'll do well in Obama's America.

The irony is the locations that are walloping their residents hardest with new and higher taxes. California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are all levying significantly increased--and significant new--taxes. It appears the Blue States will be hemorrhaging green.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

All AIG, all the time

After hearing the news that some AIG employees will collectively receive $165 million in bonuses this year, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Selfrighteousland) leapt into action by charging the nearest microphone and suggesting that those employees "follow the Japanese example" and either "resign or commit suicide." After a comment like that, Senator, I think we may need to press the Reset button on our Japanese relationship.

The Obama administration, desperate to deflect attention from its rudderless economic ship, affects great outrage at the bonus plan. By the way, bonuses that are contractual obligations entered into before this February 11 are exempted from the Troubled Asset Relief Program's limitations on employee bonuses. In case anyone was wondering, T.A.R.P. was approved by both houses of Congress, and continues to be administered through Timothy Geithner's Treasury Department. I can't think of a group of people less believable when they profess shock, surprise, and outrage at the exemption.

Getting to the bonuses themselves, the numbers are slippery in the extreme. The Associated Press reports that, separate from this round of bonuses, 400 AIG employees have already received $55 million in bonuses. That comes to $137,500 per employee. AP also reports that 50 "top executives" will receive bonuses of about $224,000 each, but doesn't reveal the number of employees who will split the remaining $155 million. A distribution of bonuses last year paid $112 million to over 6400 employees, for an average bonus of under $18,000.

It boggles the mind to think that, in America, a legislator advocates the death penalty for those receiving bonuses that average as little as $18,000. Senator Grassley, maybe you should follow the Japanese example. By that, of course, I mean go to Disneyland, take a lot of photos, then go home.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

An Economic War

Obama economic aide Christina Romer says America is in "economic war," and "We haven't won yet. We have staged a wonderful battle."

A few questions, Christina:
  • Who is the enemy in this war?
  • How will we know when we're winning or losing?
  • What's our exit strategy?
  • If we take prisoners, are they to be accorded POW status?
  • In this "wonderful battle," what specifically was our victory?
That's all for now. I'm sure you have plenty of meaningful answers.

If you're unfamiliar with it, the image is Picasso's "Guernica."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Testing, Testing...

Our friends the Soviets have not responded to the furious pressing of the "reset" button by our hapless State Department. Aside from their demands that America renounce missile defense, they now claim that they're considering basing bombers in Venezuela or Cuba.

Can you imagine? Offensive Soviet weaponry in Cuba? It's like a young, inexperienced president is being tested. We know how it turned out in 1962. Let us hope it ends as well this time.