Monday, December 29, 2008

All Star Voting and All That Rubbish

This one has been on my mind for a few weeks. Everyone that follows sports is well familiar with each sport's annual all-star game, MVP award, all-American, all-league best, etc. It is natural for fans, writers and those in the game (players and coaches) to want to have a say in who's been the best during the preceding season. But the way this has evolved has all but made the awards useless, at least for the fan (players often get big money by earning these accolades.

Recently, the Heisman Trophy Award was presented to Sam Bradford of the University of Oklahoma. Certainly he had a great season. He was a key part of the high-scoring Sooner offense, which says little about the generally porous defenses that dominate the Big 12 Conference. He beat out Colt McCoy of Texas and Tim Tebow of Florida, the 2007 Heisman winner.

What bothered me about this award was the way the votes were case. Those voters from the Big 12 refused to give Tebow a single top ten vote (the voters get to vote for ten players from #1 to #10).

Tim Tebow is arguably the best player ever to don a college football uniform. He was by far the most outstanding college football player in the United States for 2008. There was certainly collusion by the Big 12. And one can also assume that there are a bunch of Christian-hating voters.

In the NFL, there were some players elected to the Pro-Bowl on name along, specifically Brett Farve and Derrick Brooks, to name two.

The NFL votes and announces the winners with two games remaining in the season. The complete opposite of baseball that does not announce its award winners until after the World Series.

Finally, it is great that the fans can vote, as without them, there would be no major sporting activities. But allowing them to vote 10, 20 or 30 times each is a bit ridiculous. Ballot stuffing is okay in pro sports...apparently.

So as a my personal protest, I will not be voting or viewing any of the professional all-star games until a more honest and accurate procedure is implemented.

PS: does anyone really watch those college football bowl games? ESPN does a tremendous job hiding the fact that the stands are empty for most of these games. One exception: idiotic BYU fans take their annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas to see their Cougars the fourth place Pac 10 team.

My son, for passionate, certainly not economical reasons, bought two tickets to the Sugar Bowl. He is a Ute fan and got caught up in the hype. He failed to figure out the costs associated with getting to and staying in New Orleans for the game. He put his tickets on sale on Stub Hub and eBay, finally selling them today for a 30 percent loss.

Bowls are for saps. They mean less than a team's out-of-conference, regular season games. The fictitious BCS Championship game is the only one worth watching. I just hope the sagging economy will force a few of these bowl games to go broke. (A 16 team playoff would be a financial windfall for the NCAA. The only stumbling block would be the home/away issues and the existing bowls. Fans are not going to travel to two or more games which would be required for most of the teams.)

PSS: with football over, I have canceled my cable TV. Now I can concentrate on my reading list. I have over 50 books I want to reading in 2009; no TV sports to distract will help.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Appologists Unite Against Israel

It happens every couple of years in Israel: the Israelis and the Arabs living in Gaza and West Bank escalate their attacks. Bombings happen every week but are rarely reported by the western media. When Israel ups the weaponry, they can only do wrong.

The United Nations has condemned Israel's air strikes in Gaza as "disproportionate" and a breach of international law. But I guess the fact that Hamas' relentless attacks, albeit with less fanfare and destruction, are okay?

I have sympathy for the average person living in Gaza. They live in a pigsty. They have little hope for a normal life. Every day is a struggle for their physical well-being.

However, I have no sympathy for the Hamas leaders. They have no desire for peace side-by-side with Israel. Their only hope is for the complete destruction of Israel and the annihilation of every Jew in the world.

Israel was embarrassed in their last skirmish with Hezbollah in Lebanon. They fought proportionately and lost.

Why would a country with military supremacy elect to fight on the terms the enemy can support?

I really do not understand why Israel just does not bulldoze the entire Gaza strip. I am sure there are nice people in Gaza, even Mother Theresa-like, but in the big picture, there is very little of redeeming value that comes out of Gaza.

Corrupt rulers -- Hamas leaders -- make life miserable for their subservient masses. Their only hope is to somehow try to make the stronger enemy appear to be the unfair party. Leave it up to the UN and the liberal media to come to their aid.

If the shoe were on the other foot...and it is not too far of a stretch to see it happen one day...the Arabs would give no quarter to the the Jews. Why should the Jews continue to show restraint when they could literally wipe the Arabs in Gaza off the map?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Big Lie #6 -- Government Cures All

The weekend, I read through Michael Medved's new book The 10 Big Lies About America. Number six on his list is "government programs offer the only remedy for poverty. This one seems timely given the election of Obama and his plan to save us all with his new New Deal.

The general consensus is that FDR's New Deal programs of the 1930s got America back on its feet after greedy fat cats and speculators caused the Depression of the 1920s. The numbers don't back this up.

In 1931, unemployment was over 17 percent (Hoover was president). Seven years later, five under FDR, unemployment was still over 17 percent.

The Dow was at 250 in 1930. In 19941, after seven years of FDR's programs, the Dow was at 151. It did not recover to 1929 level until the 1950s.

Federal spending as a percentage of GDP went from 2.5 percent in 1929 to 9 percent in 1936 -- a 360 percent increase in seven years.

Prior to WWII, national income fell (13%), payrolls fell (35%), durable goods production fell (50%) and profits fell (78%).

Past recessions -- 1815, 1837, 1873, 1893, 1920, 1958 and 1979 -- that were addressed by cuts in government spending succeeded at reviving the economy much faster than increases in government spending.

Recently, a WSJ opinion from the editors, provided an example of how government spending increases is a bad plan for recessionary times. The piece described Japan's "problem solving" methodology for the past 15 years. It has spent time and time again billions on various programs only to get further and further in debt. Today, their debt to GDP is well over 100 percent. They are a disaster waiting to happen...a stack of financial cards waiting to come crashing down. This is not some Icelandic crash but a crash of the world's second largest economy.

Government social programs rarely work. They mean all 'good' liberal programs (compassion of spending other people's money on pet projects), but the records clearly show how they fail. Medved talks about school breakfast/lunch programs ($8.7 billion in 2007) and how poor children still suffer from inadequate nutrition as well as obesity. He references the Job Corps -- a disadvantaged training program for young people -- and how the statistics have shown that graduates fair no better than than a similar group of non-participants. We continue to fund this to the tune of $21,500 per student for the eight-month program. (Note, I have an uncle that spent the bulk of his adult career running a Job Corp program. Not surprising, he's as big of a liberal Democrat as I have ever have the privilege of knowing.)

Poverty is not going to be reduced at all by any government program. Quite the contrary. The more the government does to address it, the greater the problem will become. Poverty is eliminated in this country by every day efforts -- getting up every day, going to work, working hard, getting educated, making prudent financial decisions.

Obama's increase government spending plans will be a sure fired plan to fail. It will create enormous debt that cannot be repaid and it will enslave millions to the government's addictive and personally destructive programs of help.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shoes Thrown at Bush: Long Live Freedom

Earlier this week, Muntadar al-Zaidi, an Arab journalist, threw his shoes (one at a time) at President Bush during news conference along with Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki. Bush ducked, both shoes missing him.

Despite the obvious break down in security, the man was wrestled to the ground and arrested. Bush went on, without really breaking stride.

The aftermath is more interesting. If this would have been in Saddam Husein's Iraq, the attacker would have been shot.

Shoe throwing, and specifically showing the sole of the shoe to someone, is viewed as an insult in Islamic culture. So not only was the man attempting to harm him physically, he was attacking him personally.

What was the reaction by the Arabs and other middle easterners? Glee.

We would expect nothing less from their local media. We know we are dealing societies comprised of nitwits, dolts and hatemongers. We expect this. We even get it here in the US with many of the Bush haters. (Again, nitwits, dolts and hatemongers.)

But what they fail to mention is how this very act and response (from the offended party) shows how democracy is flourishing in a part of the world where this would not be tolerated. What would have happened if this occurred in Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Oman, Yemen?

The real story here is that this opinion can be expressed and the offender can actually live to tell his story, even becoming a local hero for those who are hard-up for heroes.

Long live freedom. Long live democracy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mountainville Academy's 6th Grade Teachers

On Friday, 12/12/08, the three 6th grade teachers from Mountainville Academy (Alpine, UT -- a charter school handling grades 1-8) were fired. The decision was made by the Board, involving no parents (less those seven on the Board). The firing came before the end of the term, a week prior to the Christmas/New Years break, in the middle of the science fair lead-up, etc.

The reasons that were communicated via email from the board to the parents (whose email addresses they have) are:

1. Under utilization of middle-school teachers
2. Budget problems
3. The middle school is using an inequitable amount of the school's resources for the number of students being served.

Whereas these problems are real problems, the way the board handled the dismissal of the entire 6th grade teaching staff has become a bigger problem.

Reductions in staff are to be expected in economic down times. How these are handled makes all the difference in the world -- for those being dismissed, those remaining, the other staff members, the parents, and most important, the students.

Reasons #1 and #3 should have been known before the school year began; reason #2 has come on only recently.

These teachers did nothing least we have not been told they did. Students build a great bond with their teachers. Teachers should be the last to get dismissed, especially in the middle of the school year. Are there other, less critical roles that should have taken precedence?

There is no real "proof" that 6th graders are going to be better off in middle school with the 7th and 8th graders. I think you'll probably find the opposite to be the case. I know my 6th grade daughter will not do as well mingling with the 7th and 8th graders. If this were discussed openly during this past summer and and implemented prior to classes beginning in August 08, parents could have made a decision as to whether they wanted their 6th graders in a middle school environment or not. The way this has come down, it is being forced upon them, whether the parents like it or not.

All of the "logic" displayed by the board of trustees seems to be lacking. One of its chartered principles is 'parent involvement.' In this case, it did little listening. Its decision was unilateral.

As I was listening to a board member talk today to one informed parent, he stated that few parents are present at the board meetings. He said he assumed his trustee role because no one else was interested. This very well be the case, for a myriad of reasons. But the board is there to represent all the parents who are not on the board. They assume the role because they want to be involved and make a difference. Good for them. They are probably second-guessing their decision today.

In this case, the board made a decision that has become detrimental to the students and the school. The message it sent was that anyone can be fired at the drop of a hat, with no due process. "Students, don't get attached to your teachers...they may not be there the following day."

This firing policy seems to be the exact opposite as found in the traditional public schools who keep teachers on who should have never entered the profession.

These three 6th grade teachers were fired not for being poor teachers but as scapegoats in a questionably ran organization. Last year, the original principle was fired with no meaningful explanation.


UPDATE 12/15/08 -- 10:00am

This morning, a group of 6th grade parents -- three-quarters were women -- showed up at the school. I was there. I listened to a few parents express their views to the 2-3 board members who showed up. Neither the principal nor the board chair were present. Cameras from the three major SLC networks were present, along with a newspaperman.

Nothing was accomplished. The board had no intention of listening to the parents in that setting. They deferred all comments until tonight's meeting (6:30pm).

One thing that some parents did was keep their children out of school. They asked for a boycott. Few complied. It did not seem to be a reason to keep our child out of school for a day. They hired 6th grade substitutes for the week. (That makes lots of sense after firing the teachers that have been there all year.)

My daughter did not want to go when she saw some of her classmates present in their regular close -- no in their Monday dress uniforms. Nevertheless, I took her to class and she got over it.

I left the school around 9am. so did the news media. They will all be back at 6:30.


UPDATE 12/15/08 - 3:30pm

My daughter came home from school at around 3:30. She said only seven students were in her 6th grade class, out of a normal 24. She said that many of her classmates said they are going to transfer schools.

I can see why parents are upset but that action is extreme. It is childish.

The grass is rarely greener on the other side, especially when comparing a charter school program (that has been great from my daughter) to the traditional public schools (which were terrible for my daughter, even in Highland Utah).

We have no intention of pulling our daughter out of Mountainville Academy.


UPDATE 12/15/08 - 11:00pm

The Mountainville Academy Board meeting (parents meeting on 6th grade teach RIFs) was held tonight. the best attended meeting every. The major TV stations were present: KSL, ABC4 and Fox13.

My wife and I stay about 1.5 hours. We heard the board share their thoughts, the state charter organization rep speak, and a number of parents. (We left when the kids spoke telling everyone how great their teachers were -- embarrassing for them and their parents.)

The board probably made the right decision given the circumstances. There were some mistakes that placed them in this position:

i) They mismanaged the funds (not criminally) and did not find out about it until recently after a lengthy audit. A deficit of over $200k forced them to this action which they felt will cut that deficit in half -- making it manageable.

ii) They did a poor job creating electives for the 7th and 8th graders. As a result, there were too few students enrolling in the classes the board hired teachers to cover.

iii) There were too many 7th and 8th grade middle school teachers with not enough to do -- few students (classes with 4-5 students) and few classes (some teachers with only 3 classes a day) while the elementary teachers were more burdened with larger classes (in the 25 student range).

The board was right in not discussing personnel with the parents in open meetings. That would send the wrong message.

However, they board needs to a do a better job in making the faculty feel wanted and more secure.

The public schools are loaded with a high percentage of teachers that should have been fired a long time ago. But their unions keep the bad in.

Charter schools need to be more reasonable in their firing -- they tend to pull the trigger too quickly, creating a more hostile employment environment. Whereas these charter school teachers like the freedom and academically more challenging and rigorous programs, the lack of anything like traditional public school tenure creates an uncomfortable situation, especially for a primary bread winner.

The bottom line here is that the board did a poor job communicating the RIF. there is not reason to ask for any of their resignations.

I felt that some of the parents were a bit over the top. Too many of them were on edge due to emotions, not facts. Too many of the parents seem to be impetuous, ready to hang the volunteer board members without the complete facts.

It was not worth keeping children out of school for a day. That boycott was a bad decision made by those parents that did so.


UPDATE 12/18/08 - 9:00am

The Board of Trustees gave parents an option of donating funds to cover the remaining salary and benefits of the three sixth grade teachers. The needs in the $110k range.

We had a call yesterday from some parent asking if we'd commit to donate. An email also went out asking for $150 per 6th grade family.

A final decision as to whether the three teachers would be rehired for the remainder of the school year is to be made today, according to the board.

Obviously there are parents that feel much stronger about this than I do.

I think overly zealous parents have blown this out of proportion. Certainly it has not been a fun experience and the timing was poor, but it is not the end of the world. People get laid off all the time in the non-government world...over 500,000 each week for the past few weeks.

What is obvious her is that charter schools pull the plug too quick on teachers, regardless of the reasons. Traditional public school do not. For teachers, there is safety in the traditional public schools.

Just like most union-backed organizations, it is great for the teachers and administrators. However, from an economic perspective, it is very costly. The reward and benefit to cost ratio is poor. Sure there are good traditional public schools but the facts do not back this. I have sent children to schools by all reckoning are considered good or excellent schools. However, in my opinion have some real terrible teachers.

The NEA and UEA are for the teachers. They put the teachers first and the children second. Despite the obvious problems with charter schools, they are much better for the children. The education, the challenges put forth, the one-on-one care are all superior to traditional schools.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rock Star Politicians

Most rock stars and politicians (and some corporate leaders) get into their professions based on a desire to perform, make life better for others, serve their fellowman. It isn't too long afterwards that egos and pride take over. Their ideology changes to where they are caught up in themselves. Nothing matters to them other than getting more money, drugs, women, material, titles, status. They are never satisfied.

Consider the obvious list of major egotistical political figures the world over: Cesar Chavez, Vladimir Putin, Nicolas Sarkozy, Bill Clinton, Kim Chong-il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Consider three very different yet eerily similar up and comers: Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, Rod Blagojevich and Barack Obama.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, a 51 year old dentist who became the president of Turkmenistan. He replaced the longstanding 'Leader of the Turkmen' in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov, aka, Turkmenbashi, after his passing at 66 years of age. In his land, he rules supreme. He promised change after taking over but quickly realized that he could rule with an iron fist -- do anything, anytime, anywhere, to anyone. He rules over a closed society -- a North Korea with camels. However, he is making some strides in business and education. He is taking advantage of Turkmenistan's extensive natural gas reserves. Personal freedoms are very limited. The cult of Turkmenbashi has fallen on Berdymukhamedov. "So lock up your daughter n' lock up your wife, lock up your back door and run for your life."

Rod Blagojevich, governor of Illinois, was arrested this morning on conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. He was in the business of selling the Senate seat of Barack Obama to the highest bidder. He felt it was his right to personally profit from the governor's role of appointing a successor. He's just an egotistical idiot, not unlike ex-New York governor Eliot Spitzer and his high-priced call girl program.

Finally there's Barack Obama. The story on him is just beginning. His rise to the top has been of rock star proportions. His admirers and followers are extensive -- groupie-like in their behavior. He may not turn into a Bill Clinton, the definition of a self-aggrandizing president. But because of the people he has surrounded him with, he's going to have to be awfully strong to avoid the many pitfalls of the evil one.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." Rare is the exception.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Capitol Visitor Center's Motto?

It has been a couple of years since I took my family to the US Capital in Washington DC. We toured the capital, enjoying the experience.

Recently, Capitol Visitor Center was finished and opened to the public.

Initially estimated to cost around $71 million in the early 1990s, it came in at around $621 million and three years late. Besides obvious cost over runs and a project that
turned into a huge boondoggle, the Center's theme has come into question.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has taken a cause accusing the Center of failing "to appropriately honor our religious heritage that has been critical to America's success."

It is most obvious in a quote enshrined at the Center's door from 19th-century Rep. and Sen. Rufus Choate (Whig-MA): "We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution."

It is clear that this pagan statement was placed there to trump our nation's national motto: "In God We Trust."

Although "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance, among other references to the Christian God, do appear in places in the Center, they are just not as prominent.

I love our Constitution but do not place it above our canonized scriptures.

It does not surprise me the learn of this "over sight." Many in government believe they are god incarnate; that man derives his freedoms and rights because of the government's self-believing and promoting omniscient, even omnipotent and omnipresence, roles.

The Capitol Visitor Center is the federal government's latest foray at self-deification.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

20,000 New Uniformed Troops

The Pentagon announced that it
expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe.
The stated reason is related to additional homeland security.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 states that it is unlawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States for the purpose of executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress.

According to the dictionary, a posse comitatus is a body of persons that a peace officer of a county is empowered to call upon for assistance in preserving the peace, making arrests, and serving writs.

So does the Pentagon and Obama envision a posse of armed, uniformed men wandering the streets, looking for trouble -- terrorists, terrorists wannabes, and terrorists in embryo?

If the goal is to address homeland security, let's put them on the border to control illegal immigration, contraband and drug flow. Many of our social and economic problems will be addressed with the removal of the 10-25 million illegals here. We do not need to escort them out ... they got here, they'll find their way back home when they don't have jobs, access to schools, and free health care.

Add to this the law to eliminate the ability to 'drop' a kid here and have that kid become an immediate citizen. One of the kid's parents should be an American citizen to get this privilege.

We do not need an expanded, new or more grandiose federal police force. Hopefully our congressional leaders will nip this 20,000 newfangled troop expansion before it gets started.

Why not resume the notion of state, county, city, or neighborhood militias?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Black Friday & Cyber Monday...What?

Black Friday & Cyber Monday are media made-up words. Let's give names to the day after Thanksgiving where 'everyone' goes shopping at a local store and the following Monday where white collar workers buy holiday gifts online to take advantage of the faster Internet speeds. (I say sleep in and do you really have dial-up still?)

There is a problem with an economy where retailers requires a four-week window in December to make their annual sales progress report. They were the ones that have hyped this holiday buying spree. Even the stock market responds accordingly to buying volume.

I can see no redeeming qualities associated with buying gobs of stuff we do not need. We buy things if we need them or perceive we need them. Why do we need a window in time to do this buying? Because we are all suckers for one of the biggest scams in the history of America.

As we remember the birth of the Savior, the notion that everyone needs to buy everyone a gift in order to celebrate is ludicrous. We can all appreciate the feeling of giving but too many individuals spend money they do not have on things the recipients do not need.

Luckily, my wife and I see eye-to-eye on this. We have not adopted the Scrooge mentality but we have always limited our buying to our immediate family -- our children -- and our parents. In all cases, the items are nice but very affordable. We go around $100 per child and less than $50 on parents. Cash only.

If you were lavished with gifts as a child, then you are likely to do the same as an adult. It seems foolhardy to see people spending $1000s on Christmas presents, even if one has the money. It is a perfect example of attempts to buy one's love.

I hate the commercialism of the holiday season. I hate hearing retailers claim that they did not sell enough stuff this year. I hate the terms Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

One of the best things that can happen to our society is for less money to be spent on useless crap this December.

Save more, spend less is wisdom of the ages.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Expectations and False Hope

Recently, some authors and commentators have stated that many people voted for Obama not really knowing what he would offer -- that they really could not define clear logic for their selection. It has been my experience with people I interact with; e.g., my friends and family members in various parts of the country (not here in Utah) that most people do not study the issues or the candidates to any depth. They make their determinations on face value and opinions they gather primarily through the MSM. With that being said, McCain was a poor option.

McCain was and is an uninspiring politician. Obama painted him effectively as Bush III. The bulk of the conservative and Republican talking heads were unconvincing in their efforts to paint McCain as a viable option.

Obama was someone other than a Clinton. He was not Gore or Kerry -- two individuals that make McCain look like a genius. Obaba is well-spoken when giving a speech. He is young but somewhat of a novice. He has little experience. For some, this is endearing.

When your experience is limited to being a community organizer, a short-time state politician and a Senator with only a few years experience (most of that time was spent running for President), your really do not have a great list of friends capable of running federal departments. He'll be picking party stalwarts and ex-Clinton insiders. His roll-a-dex is rather light for highly-qualified senior managers. Not change anticipated in this area.

The George Bush White House and the Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid Congress should go down in history as some of the worst ever. They presided, as did to a certain extent Reagan, GHW Bush and Clinton, over the largest increase in government ever, coupled with the largest debt ever -- namely foreign. A debt over 10 trillion and increasing daily.

Obama will do his best to instigate some of his own government expansion from climate control measures and cap and trade to socialized medicine to labor reorganization. However, this financial crisis is going to tie his hands.

Yesterday, Obama made a promise to use a massive stimulus program to "jolt" back on track an economy. He also mentioned -- now this will shock those who voted for CHANGE and HOPE -- that a looming huge budget deficit will require cutting programs and reconsidering priorities.

His team members are going to need every bit of the time allocated by the Presidential Transition Act to get their hands around the issues confronting the nation -- if at all possible.

Each day, there is something new. It is a Citibank rescue one day and then the Fed spending hundreds of billions more on a suite of rescue packages: buying up to a $100 billion of debt issued by government-sponsored mortgage enterprises, buying up to $500 billion of mortgage securities backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae, and launching a $200 billion facility to support consumer finance, including student, auto, and credit card loans and loans backed by the federal Small Business Administration.

I am not counting on realized any personal investments I have. I consider all gains to be gone, now that includes principal, never to be recouped. Why should I assume that things will turn around -- that the markets will rebound to 2007 levels, say within ten years? There is nothing to back up dollar. There is nothing backing up any bailout -- the false assumption that the government will have the money to make good on its promises.

The government will go broke. How can an entity that is going broke provide a stimulus package that could be $700 billion over two years? Where does this money come from? Why does anyone think the consumer is going to use it to jump-start the economy again? Is the average consumer going to go out a buy stuff? Some maybe. However, a consumer who has lost all hope of a decent retirement and knows there will be no social security, should put that money in a savings account that pays 1 percent annually. More likely, he/she will pay down debt...which is not a bad move either...hopefully never to return to it.

There are serious flaws to the economic underlying system. Until they are rectified, the political promises and desperate bureaucratic actions will be band-aids.

Sadly, Obama is going to preside over a desperate situation. The Obama fans are going to be sadly disappointed. The hope and change he promised is looking like it will come up a short to his admirers. Perhaps his is not the messiah.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Baseball -- the Greatest of All Games

Here we are in the middle of football season -- rivalry week for many -- and I want to comment on baseball. Over the past few weeks, I re-watch Ken Burn's 1994 PBS Baseball series. Twenty hours of fascinating commentary on America's past time.

I really enjoy football, both college and the NFL. I am a die-hard Buckeyes, Browns and Vikings fan; season ticket holder for the Utes; and NFL fantasy addict. But I love baseball.

My breed is dying. I got it from my dad who got it from his dad and maternal grandfather. My oldest son gets if from me. My youngest son is more NFL and NBA. My daughters are not all that interested -- they can take it or leave it. My wife rarely shows an interest.

Prior to the avent of TV, baseball teams, games and players were the topics of convesations in most households and places of employment throughout the nation. Fans dressed up to attend games: men wore ties and hats, women dresses. The characters are legendary:
Hank Aaron, Grover Alexander, Cap Anson, Ernie Banks, Yogi Berra, Mordecai Brown, Roberto Clemente, Ty Cobb, Leo Durocher, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Whitey Ford, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Josh Gibson, Bob Gibson, Hank Greenberg, Ken Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Tony Gwynn, Rogers Hornsby, Ban Johnson, Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Nap Lajoie, Kenesaw Landis, Buck Leonard, Connie Mack, Greg Maddox, Mickey Mantle, Christy Mathewson, Willie Mays, John McGraw, Stan Musial, Mel Ott, Satchel Paige, Branch Rickey, Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Pete Rose, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Nolan Ryan, Al Simmons, George Sisler, Ozzie Smith, Warren Spahn, Al Spalding, Casey Stengel, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Cy Young.
In 1987, Thomas Boswell penned 101 reasons why baseball is better than football. We all have heard Abbott & Costello's Who's On First routine. Less heard is George Carlin's comedic commentary on a comparison between baseball and football...
Baseball is different from any other sport, very different. For instance, in most sports you score points or goals; in baseball you score runs. In most sports the ball, or object, is put in play by the offensive team; in baseball the defensive team puts the ball in play, and only the defense is allowed to touch the ball. In fact, in baseball if an offensive player touches the ball intentionally, he's out; sometimes unintentionally, he's out.

Also: in football,basketball, soccer, volleyball, and all sports played with a ball, you score with the ball and in baseball the ball prevents you from scoring.

In most sports the team is run by a coach; in baseball the team is run by a manager. And only in baseball does the manager or coach wear the same clothing the players do. If you'd ever seen John Madden in his Oakland Raiders uniform,you'd know the reason for this custom.

Now, I've mentioned football. Baseball & football are the two most popular spectator sports in this country. And as such, it seems they ought to be able to tell us something about ourselves and our values.

I enjoy comparing baseball and football:

Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park.The baseball park!
Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything's dying.

In football you wear a helmet.
In baseball you wear a cap.

Football is concerned with downs - what down is it?
Baseball is concerned with ups - who's up?

In football you receive a penalty.
In baseball you make an error.

In football the specialist comes in to kick.
In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness.
Baseball has the sacrifice.

Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog...
In baseball, if it rains, we don't go out to play.

Baseball has the seventh inning stretch.
Football has the two minute warning.

Baseball has no time limit: we don't know when it's gonna end - might have extra innings.
Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we've got to go to sudden death.

In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there's kind of a picnic feeling; emotions may run high or low, but there's not too much unpleasantness.
In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you're capable of taking the life of a fellow human being.

And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! - I hope I'll be safe at home!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Let the Automakers Declare Bankruptcy

Today, the chairmen and CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler and head of the United Auto Workers union testify to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in an effort to receive a $25billion rescue package. As expected, the bulk of Democrats are in favor, the bulk of the Republicans are not.

The Democrat leaders are in favor of tapping the $700B + $150B Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) for the auto manufactures. Republican leaders are not are sold on this plan. Neither is Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the sole manager of the TARP.

The sky is falling diatribe coming out of Congress and certain industry insiders is that they think failure could be cataclysmic because there are so many companies that are tied to the auto industry. Nobody said solving the problem would be easy. They have taken decades digging their grave, Congress is not going to solve their problems with a short-term $25 billion loan.

Bankruptcy would be a far better option.

Bankruptcy does not mean liquidation. They will still manufacture and sell cars and parts. Repair services will continue. Certainly there will be massive layoffs and plant closings -- for the car companies and the supporting services -- but the end result will be that each will be leaner, more efficient and more competitive.

It makes no sense to continue executing the same failed business model, despite the pain it will cause.

In yesterday's WSJ, Michael Levine's Why Bankruptcy Is the Best Option for GM describe many of the key reasons why bankruptcy is preferred.

-- GM has eight U.S. brands (Cadillac, Saab, Buick, Pontiac, GMC, Saturn, Chevrolet and Hummer); Toyota has three; Honda has two.

-- GM has about 7,000 dealers; Toyota has fewer than 1,500. Honda has about 1,000. Dealers are protected from termination by state laws; eliminating them and the brands they sell would be expensive.

-- Foreign-owned manufacturers build cars in American workers with wages similar to GM's, but GM's benefit expense are huge -- health coverage for union retirees; support thousands of workers with nearly full wages and benefits for workers who lose their jobs due to automation or plant closure; supports more retirees than current workers; owns or leases enormous amounts of property for facilities it's not using and probably will never use again.

[It is interesting that the American car companies do not have a similar competitive problem outside of the U.S.]

What would the government cash do? It would be used to continue support these inherit business inefficiencies. It would fail to address their underlying problem: their cost and business structures are uncompetitive in today's environment. $25 billion would postpone the inevitable. They will be back in 6-12 months asking for more. GM, and perhaps Ford and Chrysler, is going to fail.

A reorganization under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code is GM's (and the taxpayers') best option. All of their handcuffs would be removed -- all options would be put on the table.
State protection for dealers would disappear. Labor contracts could be renegotiated. Pension plans could be terminated, with existing pensions turned over to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Health benefits could be renegotiated. Mortgaged assets could be abandoned, so plants could be closed without being supported as idle hindrances on GM's viability. GM could be rebuilt as a company that had a chance to make vehicles people want and support itself on revenue.
The government will be involved but will be part of a plan that will give the companies an actual fighting chance.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Car Company Bailout and More Stimulus

Let's get our bailout score card somewhat up-to-date -- not a bailout history.

-- Bear Stearns - $30 billion to avert default and acquired by JPMorgan Chase
-- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - $200 billion in preferred stock, $5 billion in their mortgage securities
-- AIG - $85 billion emergency loan in return for an 80% ownership stake; wait, make that $120 billion
-- Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424) -- $700 billion + $150 billion in Congressional pork yielded the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) and and a newly created Treasury Office of Financial Stability with the initial goal to buy troubled mortgage-backed securities. Wait, Treasury has decided not to do that opting instead to invest in the actual banks in exchange for an equity stake.

Don't forget about Bank of America buying Merrill Lynch, the federal government allowing Lehman Brothers to declare bankruptcy (sold to Nomura and Barclays), and Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley converting into traditional banking institutions. On the global stage, the central banks of many nations have guaranteed their banking deposits with money they really don't have.

Today (actually always), liquidity is a premium, making cash flow; i.e., lending, extremely tight. Recession has formally gripped the U.S. and the world. The housing market has not improved -- consumers are months late on their mortgage payments and many in outright default. Likewise credit card debt payments have diminished.

The Congress and the White House were quick to bailout Wall Street and the banks, still not really addressing any core issues. Now the interest is on the big three auto companies. Bush and Congress are serious about loaning them $25B -- the sticking point is where the money comes from. Regardless, the government does not have it and if they do, they are borrowing it from the taxpayers -- future taxes yet to be realized.

Any cash given the auto manufacturers is throw away -- rewarding years of mis-management. Detroit has not created an attractive product line in decades.

Detroit is also tied up with stifling labor contracts and government manufacturing regulations. Pensions and health care costs per Detroit car are in the thousands, costs passed on the consumers.

The Democratic Congress is again talking $billions in more stimulus hoping to increase consumer spending and spur higher production and employment.

Again, this money comes from where? From whom? Future tax receipts -- borrowing from ourselves so we can have stuff now -- stuff we don't need -- and pay for it later.' Isn't that part of what has gotten us into this mess?

The talking heads; i.e., this weekend's G20 powwow in Washington, will blame the lack of sufficient government oversight and look to increasing regulation. And again, they will be wrong.

Whether you bought a home you couldn't afford, loaned money to people or businesses that were too risky, or built cars no one wanted, when poor financial decisions are made, there is a price to be paid by all involved. It is not the government's role to make it all better again.

In the United Socialists States of America, that apparently is the role of government -- to keep everyone equal (except those in power) by hatchet, axe, and saw.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Republicans ... Moving Forward?

Most every one's predication came true this past week: the Democrats won the Presidency for 2009-2012. Specifically Barack Obama garnered 53 percent (65.8 million) of the popular vote to John McCain's 46 percent (57.7 million). Obama had a landslide in electoral delegates 364 to McCain's 163.

Obama ran a good campaign, hammering on McCain's record of voting with Bush and ensuring four more years of the same old rubbish. Who can't be glad that we have seen the end of the Clinton's on the national presidential stage?

McCain ran a terrible campaign. It was unlikely he could have won if he had ran a good campaign. He was just not the man moving forward. He represented the past. A war hero certainly, but a poor senator, a poorer yet Republican and definitely not a conservative. When a Republican abandons his/her conservative core base, he/she is bound to lose -- actually deserves to lose.

I am not a huge fan of Governor Palin but I do think the national media and many inner-circle Republicans have been disrespectful toward her. She was put in a no-win situation from day one. She has only been a governor for a short time, in a small state, far removed from Washington DC (which is a good thing). Her knowledge about foreign affairs, high finance and military operations were non-existent or minimal at best.

They brought her in to 'shore up' the conservative base. It helped in some cases. However, we should remember, we are primarily voting for a President, not a Vice President.

The Republicans have a long way to go if they ever want to win another Congressional majority or Presidency. They were just lucky that the Democrats put up such losers like Gore and Kerry, giving Bush two terms.

There are no inspiring Republicans in the immediate future. Palin's a soccer mom that has been able to figure out Alaskan politics. Kudos to her. She might have a role in the future but not in 2012.

The current batch of Republican leaders have nothing to offer. Until they clean house, they will be losers.

Although liberalism and socialism are growing in popularity, the bulk of Americans want lower taxes, strong homeland security, strong military without lengthy deployments, and economic stability. Conservative is the answer in America.

It can only be accomplished within the Republican Party (of which I am not part of). It will require wholesale leadership changes, not by the old and reformulated leaders but new one's that are not so hung up on self-aggrandizement.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

California Proposition 8

This year's California Proposition 8 is an initiative to change the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California by adding "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

There are strong opinions on both sides: "No On Prop 8" and "Yes On Prop 8."

The LDS Church has taken a strong stance on it. And for good reason.

In the The Family: A Proclamation to the World, presented September 23, 1995 by the The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it clearly states:
The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.


Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
I wonder why so-called active LDS people are on the NO side of this issue? There are a number of LDS families with gay and lesbian children and/or siblings that are taking a stance that is clearly against their Church leaders.

When members pick which laws and commandments they will obey, they are taking that slippery slope toward apostasy.

I imagine most members have questioned one thing or another within the Church. But one always is safe by siding with the Brethren.

The gay agenda is intense. They have done a good job convincing people that same gender attraction is the same as race, etc; that they is no choice in the matter. If it would only so easy to explain away behavior...that I was born that way and so it should be permitted.

Advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like "homophobic." Elder Oaks states: "Homosexuality is not a noun that describes a condition. It’s an adjective that describes feelings or behavior."

Gays are not second-class citizens. They are not denied equal rights. Many of the arguments like hospital visits being limited to close family members is easy to circumvent. Gay marriage does not benefit society. Marriage between a man and a woman has many benefits to society.

The scriptures are ripe with examples of the falling away from the truth. Not only do we see a liberalization of our American society, we see that same mindset invading the Church. Sadly, this falling away will continue to expand.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Most Presidents Ignore the Constitution

In an opinion piece in the Wednesday, 29 October 2008 WSJ, Andrew Napoliano wrote an inspiring piece on how most presidents ignore the constitution (text on Drudge Retort).

Most presidents, and most congresses, have taken this stance. They view the constitution more as a good document in its time. Our history is ripe with examples of how actions, legislation and financial manipulation have no basis in the constitution.
Beginning with John Adams, and proceeding to Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush, Congress has enacted and the president has signed laws that criminalized political speech, suspended habeas corpus, compelled support for war, forbade freedom of contract, allowed the government to spy on Americans without a search warrant, and used taxpayer dollars to shore up failing private banks.

In virtually every generation and during virtually every presidency (Jefferson, Jackson and Cleveland are exceptions that come to mind) the popular branches of government have expanded their power. The air you breathe, the water you drink, the size of your toilet tank, the water pressure in your shower, the words you can speak under oath and in private, how your physician treats your illness, what your children study in grade school, how fast you can drive your car, and what you can drink before you drive it are all regulated by federal law. Congress has enacted over 4,000 federal crimes and written or authorized over one million pages of laws and regulations. Worse, we are expected by law to understand all of it.

The truth is that the Constitution grants Congress 17 specific (or "delegated") powers. And it commands in the Ninth and 10th Amendments that the powers not articulated and thus not delegated by the Constitution to Congress be reserved to the states and the people.

What's more, Congress can only use its delegated powers to legislate for the general welfare, meaning it cannot spend tax dollars on individuals or selected entities, but only for all of us. That is, it must spend in such a manner -- a post office, a military installation, a courthouse, for example -- that directly enhances everyone's welfare within the 17 delegated areas of congressional authority.

And Congress cannot deny the equal protection of the laws. Thus, it must treat similarly situated persons or entities in a similar manner. It cannot write laws that favor its political friends and burden its political enemies.
Bush and his administration have blood all over their hands. Too many of our politicians including Obama and McCain have gone along with it. Even many Republicans and so-called conservatives felt that the government needed to offer some kind of assistance.

Why any conservative would trust the government to do the right thing is beyond me. Now, the federal government always does the wrong thing. This $700B (plus $150B in pork) bailout violates the principle of equal protection, focusing exclusively on private, good 'ol boy welfare.

The U.S. Constitution was inspired by God. It does not need to pushed aside or considered "not applicable for out time." If changes need to be made, there is a provision to accomplish this.

As a member of the LDS Church, we know that the scriptures and living prophets will never lead us astray. As a basis for excellent government, the U.S. Constitution will never lead us astray if we adhere to is core meaning. The notion that is inapplicable for many of our modern issues is democratic apostasy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Confidentiality, Integrity and Authentication

In the world of information security, there is a three acronym core to the premise: CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity and Authentication). This same three letter acronym is applicable to voting.

In security, there is need to address the confidentiality of the data -- be it static or in transit. This is typically accomplished by cryptography. Likewise, ensuring the data being accessed is accurate -- has not been changed in route or within a data file -- is accomplished by cryptography. Identifying who or which application can access the data store, and what authority the entity has once access is granted, is critical to the balanced CIA equation.

In voting, not only should the vote be recorded and counted as the voter intended, it is essential that the integrity of the vote, the authenticity vote and access to the polls be assured.

Elections are rarely done with security in mind. Even a political novice knows about the "vote early and vote often" ways of Chicago politics. In the lead-up to this year's election, we have voter fraud galore. The problem we find ourselves in today is that the political parties are only interested in the fraud that suits them.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) have been caught in over a dozen states for filing fictitious voter registrations. Democrats do not care. They do not think hearings are required. Even if they did, they claim it is too close to the election to bother at this time.

Democrats want to make sure every voter has access to the polls. Few would disagree with this. However, according to the law, everyone does not have a right to vote. Felons are not allowed to vote. Non-citizens are not allowed to vote. Dead people are not allowed to vote. Fictitious entities are not allowed to vote. Many Democrats think they should. Those in power will not acknowledge this because they are the beneficiaries of the fraud.

Congress put the voter fraud statutes on the books, and [the Department of] Justice is obliged to enforce them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Not a Wasted Vote

A wasted vote is a vote for someone you don't agree with -- that does not represent my beliefs and principles.

For years I have voted Republican. I'd have to go back to my days as a college undergrad where I may have voted for a Utah Democrat (nothing like the Democrats of today). I voted for GW Bush twice. That really worked out [sic]. However given the alternatives of Gore and Kerry, the options were not all that alluring.

I voted for Bob Dole, GHW Bush twice, Reagan twice (1980 was the first presidential election I could vote).

For the past three elections and probably all the future presidential elections in the US, it will be a choice between the lessor of two evils. I cannot stand McCain. I agree with about half his stated policies but I am convinced that if he wins the election, he'll lean more to the left than to the right. The two issues that are in his favor are his stance on gun control and on Supreme Court justices. In just about every other item he fails the conservative litmus test. He will cave and be another Bush.

Obama is down right scary. His campaign promises are either unrealistic or as far left as they could possibly be. If he wins and the Democrats increase their majority in Congress, the changes he will make will forever shape our future in a very negative way. The Obama future is higher taxes, larger and more government social programs, and freedom-limiting "rights." The distribution of wealth and the limitations on the America dream will come home to roost.

Both McCain and Obama could care less about our Constitution. It started with FDR and has gone downhill ever since. All of our administrations have continued to promote the notion that the "Constitution is just a piece of paper that served its purpose but we are not beyond its 'shackles.'"

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result (Einstein, or Franklin, or anonymous.
Republicans and Democrats have been leading the country in the same basic direction: toward bigger and bigger government; more and more socialism, globalism, corporatism, and foreign interventionism; and the dismantling of constitutional liberties. Yet, voters continue to think that they are voting for "change" when they vote for a Republican or Democrat. This is truly insane!
In 2008 and from now on, I will vote for principle. I will vote for the candidate that best represents by beliefs and policies. I doubt I will ever vote for a Republican presidential candidate again. I will NEVER vote for a Democrat...EVER!

I will be voting for Chuck Baldwin, from the Constitution Party, this year. From a recent article by Mr Baldwin...
Vote for someone who is truly pro-life. Someone who would quickly secure our nation's borders, and end the invasion of our country by illegal aliens. Someone who would, on his first day in office, release Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean and fire U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton. Someone who would immediately, upon assuming office, begin leading the charge to dismantle the Federal Reserve, overturn the 16th Amendment, expunge the IRS, and return America to sound money principles. Someone who would get the US out of the UN. Someone who would stop spending billions and trillions of dollars for foreign aid. Someone who would prosecute the Wall Street bankers who defrauded the American people out of billions of dollars. Someone who would work to repeal NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT, the WTO, and stop the NAFTA superhighway. Someone who would say a resounding "No" to the New World Order. Someone who would stop using our brave men and women in uniform as global cops for the United Nations. Someone who would stop America's global adventurism and interventionism. Someone who would steadfastly support and defend the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
These are the principles I want our government to embrace. Today I vote in Utah's early voting.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Credit Crisis and Global Warming

You have to admit you have thought about this: with the governments the world over bailing out banks and tying its money up into long-term insurance policies, their ability to pay for global warming measures is doubtful.

Does it make sense for federal governments to mandate expensive green-house emissions controls, taxes on fossil fuel consumption, or to implement a painfully expensive and fraudulent cap-and-trade energy usage system?

According to the 10/16/08 article in the WSJ by S. Power and L. Abboud (pg A11), UN, European and American bureaucrats and legislatures feel it is a difficult issue to address during these difficult financial times.

You can bank on the fact that any fees associated with cap-and-trade pollution permits would go to bigger government programs, diverted to the latest catastrophe or disaster.

Apparently the so-called global warming problem is only an important issue if we can afford it. As if a group of multi-trillion dollar government programs are really going to make a difference.

The fact that the bureaucrats and environmentalists are questioning their timing on this issue clearly demonstrates how false their claims are.

I thought global warming had to be addressed immediately at all costs or global disaster was inevitable and that all coastal area would be underwater?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Congressional Limited Powers Trumped in 19030s

From Section 8 of the Constitution...
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States
Until FDR's time, "the Supreme Court limited government's action that could affect private markets, applying various constitutional provisions to block minimum wage laws, workplace regulation and, to Roosevelt's fury, much of his New Deal program." (Legal Path for Intervention Was Blazed in FDR's Time, Jess Bravin, WSJ, A4, 10/15/08).

At the time, there was an attempt by FDR to prop up farm prices. Roosevelt and his cronies said that this would cause disaster for states. FDR took his campaign to trump the Supreme Court's 150 year old non-intervention stance to the American people. He claimed that the Court was acting as a policy making body, not judicial. He threatened to expand the Court beyond its nine members. Shortly thereafter, actions by the Court, led by Justice Owen Roberts, issued in the modern era of constitution law. "Ever since, the court has almost never found a constitutional bar on government intervention in the marketplace."

With today's federal government intervention into a particular industry -- the banking and financing industry -- there is solid constitution rationale for the Court to reject the bailout plan.

The bailout plan gives "unconstitutional delegation of congressional authority to autonomous officials." The Treasury and Federal Reserve can spend money as they see fit.

The New Deal was the beginning of the socialism-ization of America, furthered by almost every administration ever since. The Democrats have taken a great role but the Republican have done nothing to thwart it, if not being complacent in it. Bush is doing his best FDR in claiming doing nothing would be much worse than implementing this open ended, unconstitutional delegation of authority.

Justice Clarence Thomas has "argued that the precedent should be rolled back [that] the 'wrong turn' was the Court's dramatic departure in the 1930s from a century and a half of precedent."

The current bailout 'plan' is not only unconstitutional but it furthers a failed ideology, socialism and its cousin communism, which are quickly defining the new America.

I don't want to be like the Europeans. Americans are made up of ex-Europeans who left those repressive and average-at-best societies. Just because a European does not like American ways and thinks we should take more government control, does not mean it is right. I think they are wrong. A good litmus test is to do the opposite of what the Europeans prefer. In more cases than not, you'll be right.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bailout Now Equals Federal Banks

Is it truly in our best interest to own preferred equity stakes in eight different banks / Wall Street firms? The American taxpayer will be proud owners of $25B in preferred stock in Bank of America (including Merrill Lynch and WaMU), J.P. Morgan and Citigroup; between $20-25B in Wells Fargo; $10B in Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley; $3B in Bank of New York Mellon; and about $2B in State Street?

Also announced was a fee-based new debt guarantees called senior unsecured debt issued by banks and thrifts (a supposed three year program). Regulators hope that this will remove the fear among financial institutions that it is unsafe to lend to each other even for periods of a few days; hoping to see the Libor rate decrease.
The FDIC is also temporarily offering banks unlimited deposit insurance for non-interest bearing bank accounts typically used by small businesses, through 2009. This would be voluntary for banks, and would extend the $250,000 per depositor limit lawmakers agreed on two weeks ago. To use these new powers, the FDIC is invoking a "systemic risk" clause in federal banking law that allows it to take extreme steps to prevent shocks to the economy.
President Bush claims it is "not intended to take over the free market but to preserve it."
"Government owning a stake in any private U.S. company is objectionable to most Americans -- me included," Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in announcing the initiative. "Yet the alternative of leaving businesses and consumers without access to financing is totally unacceptable."
Sounds like snake oil to me. What the government takes, they take forever -- tightening the socialist noose. Yesterday's 900+ point DOW rise was one sliver of hope certainly, but today it when up and down ending slight down after profit taking actions.

Many, including me, feel the markets will return, but I am beginning to question this misguided hope. I have followed a plan of building a well-diversified portfolio; re-balancing annually; investing regularly. That philosophy must certainly be re-evaluated.

The current federal position relative to the government possibly assuming partial ownership of the banks is another major “inroad” Marx would recognize as a “means of entirely revolutionizing” our economy.
Ultimately, the money power seeks for and lusts after political power. Karl Marx, the godfather of modern statist ideologies, who lived on the generosity of other wealthy individuals so that he could articulate ways for them to destroy the middle class, outlined ten basic steps for wresting property away from the petty bourgeoisie.

The process in the United States has been gradual when it comes to building total power in the state. With this latest economic crisis, the steps are more bold – the bigger the assumed crises, the bigger the steps they can take to build power.

Business Week's cover depicting Bernanke as some kind of “Reluctant Revolutionary” is deceitful. Bernanke, Paulson, and their corporate socialist allies are pushing forward at a sprinters’ pace.

Monday, October 13, 2008

2008 Election Similarity to 1932

Herbert Hoover certainly had his problems in his one and only term as the 31st President. Although not a laissez-faire and do-nothing politician, he tended to favor volunteerism and 'rugged individualism' as opposed to legislative mandates. However, the massive stock market crash of 1929 and an unemployment rate near 25 percent by 1932 was just too great. His too little, too late federal programs buried him for the election of 1932.

In a roundabout way, McCain, as a Republican running on Bush's coattail (despite his want-to-be-maverick image), is Herbert Hoover. Obama is a want-to-be FDR.

FDR's New Deal was federalism run amok. 150 years of limited government was tossed aside in favor of massive federal government programs. FDR became the father of American socialism.

FDR won the election in 1932 by a landslide (22.8 million votes to Hoover's 15.7 million.)

It was interesting that what FDR said in his famous inaugural address
..."let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance"
...was nothing more than a get-out-of-the-way or get-on-board statement advancing the cause of socialism in America.

Twenty years later, LBJ came along and threw more fuel on the socialism fire with his Great Society's federal growth programs.

A few year later, along comes Ronald Reagan with his pro-American and "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works" attitude. His strong defense, lower taxes, smaller government direction (conservatism) was accepted by the masses, a temporary set-back to the liberal socialists.

The election of 2008 will see another "step forward" for the socialists as the most liberal member of Congress will mostly likely win by a landslide. McCain does not care. He does not really want to win. He does not offer the masses a viable alternative. Not only is he a Hoover-like candidate, he nothing more than a token Bob Dole.

This election has always been the Democrats to lose. They have just nominated a person who does not feel right for the masses. The American people don't want to vote for Obama, but McCain is not strong enough to sway enough votes away from the "democratic incumbant."

The United Socialist States of America will have a new socialist leader shortly (Bush has just been a poser). Obama will preside over another massive New Deal firmly placing America on par with European mediocrity.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sallie Mae - the Next Taxpayer Bailout

I teach part time at the University of Phoenix and ITT Technology Institute in the greater Salt Lake City area. I really enjoy the students and the learning process. My students could not be any more different.

The University of Phoenix students are working adults. They are very mature and respectable. They understand and seem to cherish higher learning. The papers I receive -- both individual and learning team papers -- are usually very well written, researched and documented. The student present their ideas well. They interact with me and each other in a professional manner. Many of them pay for their school through an employer tuition reimbursement program, especially the MBA students. However, many obtain student loans.

At ITT, almost every student pays for tuition via federal student loans; something like 80-90 percent of the students. These students are hands-on students. They like working with computers and doing "work" on the computer. They like to build networks, install operating systems, design programs; they do not like to write papers or do presentations.

One thing that I have learned from bankers and the students themselves, repayment is a concern.

ITT students will go in-debt around $80,000 for a BS; half that for an AS. I have had students that told me they took the loans and got reimbursed from work but spent the loaned money -- all of it -- gambling somewhere in Nevada.

The risk associated with loaning to students must be high. I am all for investing in education but there should be a clear method to do a risk assessment on each borrowing student, and make a business decision.

A banker I spoke with one day said the bank is forced to make students loans to people they know will not repay it. Its delinquency rates are extremely high.

I wonder how long it will be before Sallie Mae cannot cover its debt and will ask Washington for a bailout for the risky student loans that have gone bad?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Political Tendencies Have an Odor

I spent a long weekend in Denver with my two sons, a nephew, a brother-in-law, and a couple of his family members and a friend. We went up to Boulder for the Colorado-Texas football game.

Boulder drips with the stench of liberalism. One expects this in college towns -- young people doing this and that, finding themselves, nothing that needs to be conserved ... all that crap. But this was different. The whole town reeks of it.

At the stadium, most of the students were drunk. The girls could only be described as skanky. The adults -- alumni, faculty, etc -- weren't much better.

In the town center, the stores, restaurants, street "entertainers," the get-out-the-vote crowd, are all firmly in the liberal camp. They have their Obama retail stores and posters. I am sure if they would have know that I was of the conservative persuasion, they would have seated us last and in seats with splinters.

My boys sensed it to, and they are of that young mindset. They are wise enough to know what's appealing and what if not, at least to them. They clearly got a glimpse of liberalism. It is all pretend -- surface, feel-good non-sense. Liberalism is easy. It's that "if it feels good, do it" mentality. That attitude from the 60s -- the anti-establishment mantra.

I am sure there are some great people in Boulder. There are great people just about everywhere. I am just glad I don't live there among their haughty, liberal attitudes.

Likewise, they would not feel comfortable in northern Utah County. Being segregated like that suites me just fine. I have no plans of moving there; hopefully they will not move here. Agreeing to disagree is just fine with me.

Having traveled to all but two or three of our states and to over 25 country, I have an idea about government policy and how it impacts the lives of its citizens. America has become every bit as liberal as Europe. Whereas this social structure may work well for some; i.e., the Europeans, it is not to my liking. It was not the foundation of this great nation. The winds of change are not just blowing, we are in the midst of a storm. A calming is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Because liberalism is easy and liberalism prays on ignorance, our educational system is turning out liberals at an enormous rate.

Regardless of who wins in November (I still feel Obama will win in a landslide because McCain is such a lousy candidate), the liberal agenda is marching forward. The Republican Party is no better. Its track record is clear on that. It is hard to see the appeal of that Party, given its members' actions and results. We all know what the Democrats stand for. However, when both Parties continue to move left, there is no sizable place for true conservatives and libertarians.

Despite the tens of thousands of people in Boulder, I fell very alone. That's the lot us conservatives find ourselves in. We can try to make a difference, but doing anything with the current structure is a losing proposition.

The notion that the Republicans must lose in order to win again, is based on a faulty premise. They do not offer a viable alternative. The small masses that care in conservative principles is shrinking. The bulk of that group will shortly draw the same conclusion. I pray I am wrong.

BTW, the Buffs stinks; the Longhorns annihilated them.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

451-page Bailout Behemoth & the USSA

The Senate's 451-page bailout behemoth, posted HERE from the the Senate Conservatives Fund, is a debt increasing, pork-laden pile of crap.

Consider some of the earmarks in the bill:

- Film and Television Productions (Sec. 502)
- Wooden Arrows designed for use by children (Sec. 503)
- 6 page package of earmarks for litigants in the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident, Alaska (Sec. 504)

Consider some of the tax earmark “extenders” in the bill:

- Smart electric meters (Section 306)
- Recycling deduction (Sec 307)
- Virgin Island and Puerto Rican Rum (Sec 308)
- American Samoa (Sec. 309)
- Mine Rescue Teams (Sec. 310)
- Mine Safety Equipment (Sec. 311)
- Domestic Production Activities in Puerto Rico (Sec. 312)
- Indian Tribes (Sec. 314, 315)
- Railroads (Sec. 316)
- Auto Racing Tracks (Sec. 317)
- Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act extensions (Sec. 319)
- Computer contribution deductions (Sec. 321)
- District of Columbia (Sec. 322)
- Food contribution deductions (Sec. 323)
- Book contribution deductions (sec. 324)
- Wool Research (Sec. 325)

I have already told my two Utah senators that they will never get a vote or dime of my support for as long as I live. McCain, the very same dork that last Friday said he abhorred pork and if he were president would veto it, voted for this pile of dung.

Most ruin comes upon a nation little by little. This trend has been trumped. The assault on freedom is rampant. We have seen in a short week America become the United Socialist States of America (USSA).

I think "tomato tossing at hated politicians" might make a valid return as a cultural past-time. I've a stockpile for Hatch and Bennett waiting to be unloaded.

Senate Socialists Be Damned

The true republicans (small r) ... the Senators that voted NO on the unconstitutional Senate bailout bill.

Allard (R)
Barasso (R)
Brownback (R)
Bunning (R)
Cantwell (D)
Cochran (R)
Crapo (R)
DeMint (R)
Dole (R)
Dorgan (D)
Enzi (R)
Feingold (D)
Inhofe (R)
Johnson (D)
Landrieu (D)
Nelson (FL) (D)
Roberts (R)
Sanders (I)
Sessions (R)
Shelby (R)
Stabenow (D)
Tester (D)
Vitter (R)
Wicker (R)
Wyden (D)

Utah Senator's Hatch and Bennett will NEVER get my vote, support, money. They are both traitors in my eyes. They told their constituencies that they knew better.

All those socialist/communists that voted for the bailout, be damned.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Gerrard Nets #100

Steven Gerrard netted his 100th professional goal for Liverpool. Coupled with Irish national Robbie Keane's first goal in a Liverpool FC shirt and Dutch national Dirk Kuyt's early opener, Liverpool FC dominated PSV Eindhoven 3-1 at Anfield in UEFA Champions League group play.

Gerrard is my favorite footballer on my favorite team. I am pleased with their start in Champions League as well as their second place position in the Barclays Premier League It is a long tournament and season. I'm there with them all the way, good or bad.

The New Bush Doctrine: Socialism In the Name of Taxpayer Safety

With all of the bailout vote talk, Wachovia being acquired by Citigroup slipped to a sub-headline.

Citigroup paid only $2B for Wachovia but inherited its $312B mortgage portfolio including its share of risky loans. The government-engineered takeover capped Citgroup's mortgage loan losses at $42B, committing to absorb any losses beyond this. The government -- you and me -- received $12B worth of warrants for Citigroup stock and preferred shares.

Citgroup, along with Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase, have quickly become larger than most nations' GDPs. Together, the three have over 30% of all U.S. deposits (31.3% according to 9/30/09 WSJ article).

An investment firm, insurance company, mortgage holders and branch banks are now all or partial taxpayer properties.

The Bush doctrine can now be defined as the process of socializing key private businesses from key industries in the name of protecting the taxpayers.

Senate's Bailout Un-Constitutional

According to Article I (The Legislative Branch), Section 7 (Revenue Bills, Legislative Process, Presidential Veto) of the U.S. Constitution:
All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.
Today, the Senate is set to vote on a "revised" financial industry bailout bill. The House voted down the bailout bill on Monday.

The proposed bill, although similar to the House bill (adding some items totally unrelated to the core problem), is a new bill. This bill, if passed and if it is passed to the House for a vote, would be unconstitutional.

So despite what Harry Reid, Barack Obama and John McCain think, they had better stand down.

Is this potential prophecy fulfillment?:
You will see the constitution of the United States almost destroyed. It will hang like a thread. . . . A terrible revolution will take place in the land of America . . . [T]he land will be left without a Supreme Government, . . . [The Saints] will have gathered strength, sending out Elders to gather the honest in heart . . . to stand by the Constitution of the United States. . . . In these days . . . God will set up a Kingdom, never to be thrown down. . . .[T]he whole of America will be made the Zion of God. - Joseph Smith, Jr. (May, 6, 1843)
I don't know but it is clear what the Constitution says about where revenue bills must originate.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Day After the Failed Bailout Vote

Is this current finance and banking panic associated with the fear of reliving the Great Depression? The government desired bailout has morphed into populism at its finest (or worse).

Core to this is that the government will buy the assets in question cheap and sell them at a profit. If these assets are worth something, why aren't non-government entities -- private parties -- buying them? Perhaps this is buy and hold for a number of years and sell when the housing market rebounds? Who's going to manage these properties; handle the upkeep; evict the squatters for the years required for the market to rebound? Some new government agency?

Why is there no talk of letting troubled financial institutions declare bankruptcy? Is that wrong? Is it just too painful? Financially, that's the right answer.
Bankruptcy does not mean the company disappears; it is just owned by someone new (as has occurred with several airlines). Bankruptcy punishes those who took excessive risks while preserving those aspects of a businesses that remain profitable
Let's also get rid of failed entities and policies that caused this problem: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Community Reinvestment Act. Treat the causes not the symptoms.

A few interesting quotes the day after the failed bailout vote...

"Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly." - Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx, plank #5.
We call it the Federal Reserve which is a credit/debt system nationally organized by the Federal Reserve act of 1913. All local banks are members of the Fed system, and are regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). This private bank has an exclusive monopoly in money creation which in reality has ended the need for revenue from taxes. So why do they tax? To FOOL US into thinking we need them.
"When the government fails to pass a socialism bill and the market goes south, let it go south. I don't want to pass a socialism bill just to protect the stock market. This raw deal would make things worse." - Rush Limbaugh

"The fact that government bears such a huge responsibility for the current mess means any response should eliminate the conditions that created this situation in the first place, not attempt to fix bad government with more government. The obvious alternative to a bailout is letting troubled financial institutions declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy means that shareholders typically get wiped out and the creditors own the company." - Jeffrey A. Miron, Harvard University

Capitalism works. If some financial institutions cannot make productive loans, others can. A disaster for one is an opportunity for another.

The so-called "credit freeze" is nothing more than the bad debt holders waiting for the bailout. Bankers would rather get 50 cents on the dollar for their under performing assets from the government bailout than the 20 cents they'd get in the true market.

Why do we think the $700b is all they need? Why not twice that? The government understates everything.

Why do we think the final legislation (that will probably get passed) will not include earmarks for pet projects and programs -- directly from those structuring the bill and indirectly from the lobbyist horde? Government always does the wrong thing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Socialism Posponed by 23 Votes

Thanks goodness the Bush/Paulson/Reid/Pelosi $700B bailout failed. It defiles all logic why someone would favor rewarding poor business decisions. The only logic can be is that those in power are trying to protect their personal wealth. They could care less about the average American, despite their rhetoric. They also could care less about their future of their country.

Why is it the taxpayers' responsibility to help those bankers, lenders and left wing politicians that felt it was in their best interest to lend money to those unwilling to make reasonable home-purchase down payments and who would be unable to pay their mortgages if the economy turned negative?

It is not the responsibility of my wife and I. We pay our debts. We only assume debts that are reasonable. To us, at this stage in life, we have no debt. We'll never go in debt for anything ever again. We'd rather do without.

Today's vote on the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 shows how poor of a leader Speaker Pelosi is. She is blaming the Republicans for the defeat. She insults every American by her rhetoric. Count the vote.

Democrats voted 140 to 95 in favor of the legislation, while just 65 Republicans backed the bill and 133 opposed it. 95 of those in her party voted against it. She was unable to convince 23 of them to vote for it. She's a disgrace as a party leader. She should resign (she'll never do that) or the leaders should get a new leader (they will if they lose the presidency in November).

The Act give TOO much power to the Treasury. It give the Secretary of Treasury the ability to decide which mortgages and assets that are clogging the balance sheets of which financial institutions. Oversight is poor. Taxpayer dividends are non-existent. It is a "give us your money, we know what's best, trust us" socialist monetary policy.

I could care less if Bush is "very disappointed." I do not buy into the sky is falling mindset. What if we do nothing? What if we left these businesses that make terrible financial decisions fail? What if we experience a period of high unemployment? What if credit is hard to get?

Capitalism rewards the most competitive; punishes those that cannot preform. Capitalism, if allowed to work, gets rid of the chaff. It is painful; tough love is always hard.

Sure the market fell a record 777 points (nearly 7%). It'll probably fall again tomorrow. It seems to me that if left alone, it will fall to an acceptable level, the poorly managed firms will fail, but over time, in months, not years, we will get back onto the road of prosperity. funny how the stock market works: for every share sold, someone buys. Before too long, it will become a buyer's market.

My biggest fear is that the same people who have placed us in this situation are the one's thinking they can get us out. I don't think so.

With the government taking ownership of much of the nation's mortgage paper (Fannie & Freddie -- who the liberals said would never fail and were well managed not too long ago), a huge, global insurance company (AIG), an investment bank (Bear Stears), propping up their remaining Wall Street wonder boys (Goldmans Sachs & Morgan Stanley), pumping billions more into the banking system, we have become a few huge steps closer to full-scale socialism. Next we need to take over a car company or two, perhaps an energy company and why not use a trillion or so in building a renewal energy conglomerate?

I thank those 228 elected officials (including my Rep, Jim Matheson) that had the cajones to vote against the Bush/Paulson/Reid/Pelosi request to stomp on the Constitution and steal from the American taxpayer.

I say let it ride! Government intervention be damned! And I really don't care what the rest of the world thinks.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wall Street Bailout Must Not Happen

I am sick of hearing the "suits" spouting off their "end of the world" and "worst ever" right before they restate their demand for $700 billion.

How will Treasury buy these assets? Will they use an open auction - allowing private people to bid on these bank securities? Why does all $700B need to be allocated at once?

We know the holders of these sub-prime mortgages and bonds cannot sell them. They had to mark these down to market level. Accounting rules freeze them in the marketplace.

What if they changed the "mark to market accounting" rule for the sub-primes only and not force them to mark them down to market value. Instead, just let them hold on to them for some predetermined period of time to free up the market. This may solve half the problem; certainly at a much lower cost.

Paulson and Bernanke are looking out for themselves and all of their Wall Street buddies. Bush is clueless. They want the taxpayers to lend the money -- no collateral of course. They will get these assets at pennies on the dollar. Over time, they will sell them, obviously at a rate higher than they bought them. There will be a profit. But will that money go back to the taxpayer? Absolutely not.

Regardless of whose in power, that profit money will go to their favorite government programs. Perhaps to establish socialized medicine; perhaps to make solvent social security; perhaps to fund carbon trading.

I care less about golden parachutes -- don't like it but that the least of our problems.

We already are on the hook for Freedie and Fannie. What was allowed to go on there was just criminal. The politicians seem reluctant to back away from assuming it is our Constitutional right to own a home; with nothing down; if you can't pay, the government will help you out -- rather those that are meeting their debt obligations and who made prudent financial decisions will help you out.

The consumers who made these leveraged purchases knowing they could not pay but felt is was a good deal at the time, because real estate only increases in value, right? These are often the same people who used their homes as a virtual ATM machine -- refinance after refinance -- for "life's necessities."

S&P, Moody's and Fitch all got it wrong on the assigned risks associated with debt securities. This forced the banks to recognize the losses associated with these assets, in many cases erroneously.

Ironically, the most regulated banks made the worst mortgage investments. You think maybe because of the failed "everyone must own a home" policy? The 1977 Community Reinvestment Act was another failed liberal government program.

The Bear Stearns bail out -- to the tune of $29B guarantee -- sent the wrong signal to the other investment banks. Bear still has some extremely valuable assets. Although Lehman was the unlucky one, they will live to fight another day if Paulson has anything to say about it. The $85B loan to AIG weakens the Federal Reserve's position significantly; though it does make us the proud owner of an insurance company.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley chose to swallow the banking poison instead of having it legislated upon them or being forced to merge like Merrill Lynch did with BOA. As banks -- they can now accept consumer deposits. Their risks will be lower along with their profits and personnel payouts, but they will survive.

The very people who created the mess are the ones asking to be bailed out and who are structuring the bailout. That's one reason they should not be allowed to prosper and steal money from the American people.

I am not panicking; though I know many have. I will stay firm. I wish I were in a position to buy. I am in this for the long term. If I don't make up my losses in 5-10 years, then so be it.

PS - in all of this mess, I have not heard one politician talk about reducing spending. Spending and debt is the main problem here. This bailout is more debt with no intention or ability to ever pay it off. The dollar may take a long time to recover.