Saturday, February 28, 2009

Needed: A vetter for the vetters

There are several ways to reduce government waste. The best method, of course, is the one least discussed: don't give the government any of your money.

That's the spirit I've tried to honor with "The Whitey Award", a small trophy given for eliminating government waste by ignoring the tax code. Click on "The Whiteys" at the bottom of this post for a listing of all the nominees.

Now people are trying too hard to draw attention to themselves, and I might have to retire the trophy. This isn't supposed to be the Special Olympics. Everyone can't be a winner. It's not an honor if the entire democratic party gets one.

The awards may have gotten the attention of The White House, since Obama's cabinet walls were starting to look like the Trophy Room at Notre Dame. Here's Politico:

The White House has dramatically tightened its vetting process following embarrassing revelations of past tax problems by several nominees, according to two officials familiar with the process...."A narrative was building, and the president asked us to be more vigilant in the vetting process," said a source involved in the vetting.

Dang right, a narrative was building. And the narrative stated that The Obamessiah's disciples weren't tithing, despite advocating more spending by The Church Of Big Government. It was becoming an embarrasment.

So White House counsel Greg Craig has taken over vetting ! ! Here's The Washington Post:

Now, amid a series of embarrassing personnel stumbles that have bogged down the administration's attempt to move swiftly to its legislative agenda, Craig is assuming control of the vetting process for nominees. That portfolio includes helping shepherd the next choice for secretary of health and human services, who will replace former senator Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) after his decision to step aside because of tax problems, and making sure the nomination of Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-Calif.) as labor secretary does not fall victim to the same fate after tax liens against her husband's business were revealed yesterday.

Well, that's admirable.

There's just one little problem. Click here to see an online ad for Noyes Graphics, a design business run by someone named Derry Noyes. Note the business address.

Then click here to see if Derry Noyes, or anyone else, has applied to run a business from that address. (It's a private residence.)

Click here to read the Wikipedia article on Tax Evasion.

Click here to see who Derry Noyes married.

Congratulations, Greg Craig ! You are in charge of making sure no one else in the Obama administration wins a Whitey ! And now you're a winner ! You sneaky son-of-a-gun.

Astounding. Truly astounding.

Who is going to vett the vetters?

The Texas Tea Party, Cowtown Bar and Grill, Fort Worth Texas, February 27, 2009

Yesterday I was able to spend a couple of hours at the Texas Tea Party, the anti-stimulus, anti-bailout, anti-campaign donor refund, and anti-bank recovery protest. It was held at one of my regular hangouts, Fort Worth's Cowtown Bar and Grill.
Having this event spontaneously erupt at my favorite watering hole is like a dream. One of those What-If-I-Ran-The-World dreams. I halfway expected to go to the Camp Bowie Starbucks this morning and have the barrista give me Anti-Al Gore literature.

The crowd was about 75% Republican, 10% Libertarian, 5% Undercover Democrats who wanted to infiltrate the opposition, and 10% bewildered regulars who were wondering what had happened to their favorite bar and why it was so hard to find parking.

My biggest regret is not getting there before the event started. (Work, work, work....) There was a long line of people along Camp Bowie holding up signs and waving flags. Most of the speechmaking and politicking was already over. I set up shop in back, and started handing out Nolan charts and doing my best to explain what the Libertarians are all about. The wind was blowing too hard to set up any kind of a backdrop, but it was time well spent.

It was my first time to represent the Libertarians at any public event, and it was enlightening. (For me. I don't know what it was for my victims.)

The Nolan chart/quiz is a set of 10 questions that does a reasonably ok job of defining your political beliefs. One of the questions is whether or not you favor drug legalization for adults.

People were stymied by this question, and agonized over it more than any other. The reason why? They know that if marijuana is legalized, the government will be able to tax it. They don't want to give anything else to the government ! ! !

These are MY people, and I love them.

If someone's survey defined them as "Conservative", I tried to steer the conversation to the part of the stimulus package that is 40% Republican pork. Then I typically veered off into the conservative opposition to drug law reform and gay marriage as a red herring.

I ran into several Democrats (including one co-worker). I usually told them to put all their drinks on my bar tab, since that's what their lords and masters in Washington were doing to us already. A couple of hundred dollars more shouldn't matter. Only two of them got the joke.

A few people didn't even bother taking the test. Based on previous experience, they just took a sticker and placed it on the very top of the Libertarian portion of the chart.

It looked like 300 people attended. No one threw anything at me. None of the (few) Democrats I spoke with had any rational way of justifying the recent spending abortions. None of the (many) Republicans could justify their continued support of the party of Snowe, Collins and Spector, or the Bush/Reagan/Bush budget busting.

The libertarians all had a fanatical gleam in their eyes. Our day is coming. I loved every minute of it. I want to do this again.

Pics came from here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Tea Party" protest at the Cowtown Bar And Grill in Fort Worth ! ! !

To: Fort Worth residents who have been paying attention
From: Me

Tired of giving your money to people who couldn't pay an $800,000 mortgage on a $25,000 salary?
Tired of watching your dollars buy less and less because The Fed is printing too many of them?
Tired of the current Billions For Bankers Bailout?
Boy, do I have the event for you ! ! !

This is from Craigslist.

"TEA PARTY '09."

Let "the man" know that you're mad, and you're not going to take it anymore!! Bring your protest signs and indignant taxpayer attitude with you to the rally at the outside stage at The Cowtown Bar & Grill on Friday, the 27th of February, from 3pm to 7pm, located at 7108 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76116 (817) 570-7910

We hope to have a guest speaker there from KLIF radio. The "Desert Son Band" will be performing on the outside stage with their original music and some covers appropriate for the rally. Food and drink will be available for purchase.

This bar is right around the corner from my job. It's not quite a home away from home, but it's at least in 3rd or 4th place. A fun time WILL be had.

This is how they did it in Boston in 1773.

This is how they're doing it in Fort Worth in 2009.

If I can get finished at work by 6:00, I'm going to buy a bottle of alcohol-free beer and pour it out on Camp Bowie. (Wouldn't want to waste anything good on a protest.)

Here are a few more links with info about the event, including one where some idjit writes in to Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show", suggesting they show up with a camera crew to film "the rednecks" for the comedy potential. As if there could be anything dumber than the blatant giveaways we Texas rednecks are protesting against.

Hope to see you there !


In the previous post I featured some student activists who were, to put it gently, not quite competent.

They could take a few lessons from these kids. This is brilliant. Enjoy !

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Consensus on the Kimmel Center student takeover at NYU, with notes on Corporate Water

This is the saddest thing I've ever seen.
It's sadder than "Dog Day Afternoon". It's more depressing than "Midnight Cowboy".
This is sad.
Just wanted to warn you.
A group of NYU students, no doubt intoxicated with the
romantic 1960's campus takeovers, took over their student center cafeteria. After a few hours, they realized they'd forgotten to take over a toilet.
Potty breaks were eventually negotiated (through non-violent confrontation).
My God in heaven, this is sad.

They're taking these kids, pumping them full of theoretical bullshit, teaching them how to sprinkle a few Smart Words into every sentence, and then releasing them, untethered, into the Post-Marxist Mist, where they flounder about trying to define the hierarchy in their consensus space. (You'll understand that sentence later on. I promise.)

The video begins with some campus official looking over the barricades and asking the students for some identification.

:27 Idiot: "We're using Democratic Process here; I don't know if you guys understand that....We're using consensus here, and the way that works is they need to come back and report to us what the disciplinary measure are....We need to collectively decide how to proceed."

This was in response to the cops asking for their student I.D.'s. It gets better.


The cameraman is addressing a large security officer who has had to climb over an improvised barricade, and who is not amused. He doesn't seem to have much patience for spoiled little documentarians whose parents pay $48,000.00 a year in tuition, only to have Junior take over the Food Court as a Poli-Sci project. He doesn't seem amused at all. Plus, it's a privately owned school, BTW.


I believe the Spielberg wannabe might have glimpsed a taser at that point.

1:50 Our heroic cameraman briefly breaks character when he spots a competing cinematographer. He goes from whiny little consensus builder to "Dude ! I'm getting the same footage !"

2:17 Idiot: "Are they armed? Do they have tasers? As long as they don't have Devices Of Force, okay."

I don't think anyone was needing your approval, buddy.... But if they'd had Devices Of Force, this would be a much shorter video. And the world would've applauded the Force Device Wielders for ending it.

2:35 Idiot addressing his Trustafarian troops: "We have to be civil, let's be civil, this is civil disobedience...."

3:00 to 3:30 The University's designated Flak Catcher has to explain that this is not a negotiation. This is private property, and you will show us your school I.D.'s.

In the words of one YouTube commenter: What... what exactly are they supposed to be doing? I've taken part in many protests myself, but this is the first time I've ever been rooting for The Man. What a pathetic display of entitlement and... well, pissiness.

3:40 Idiot: "We need to use a consensus process to move forward. This is directly democratic, okay?"

At this point, all decent god-fearing Christians, Muslims, Jews, Scientologists and Seventh Day Adventists want to crawl through their computer screens and LET THE STRANGLING BEGIN.

3:55 Cop: "There is no cooperation. You guys need to leave."
Idiot: "We need to democratically decide on that."

4:10 Idiot: "We would like to democratically decide in a consensus area...."

More confusion while Idiot tries to get his troops rallied into a consensus area.

5:10 Idiot: "Who is the hierarchy here? Like, who is the top...."

5:15 "Guys, focus on consensus here, we have 10 minutes....we need to look at the situation here, the hierarchy here, the power relationship here, we need to decide if we're going to cooperate with their demands by force, okay? They're using force."

(Note to cameraman: You are freakin' surrounded by cops. Some are campus cops, and outside the building are the NYPD cops. And they don't like you. That is the power structure.)

5:40 Screaming erupts from stage right. One of the young ladies in a PLO scarf accuses the cops of touching her, and perhaps trying to throw her off the balcony. She's screaming "Don't touch me !" They don't make revolutionaries like they used to.

Every one of these police officers deserves the Congressional Medal Of Honor. For restraint. Normal humans would've gone Medieval on these people.


I guess this is as good a time as any to discuss their demands. There were 13 of them. The first one was the most self-serving (amnesty for all protesters, of course). The funniest one is that the school library should be open to the general public. The most contradictory? They want to rebuild the University of Gaza, provide scholarships for 13 Palestinian students, and (ahem) lock in tuition fees at a fixed rate. Nothing was said about a free pony.

6:30 Idiot: "We have to decide....can we have some space where we can discuss in private? We can take this space and discuss what's going on and....We need to have a consensus ! Freddy ! Freddy ! We're going to decide without you !"

I think Freddy might have decided to abandon censensus-building principles, and embrace a more libertarian world view in a more remote space.

7:20 Idiot: "We can negotiate in private. We're going to talk in private. We use consensus process, right? We're going to use this space to privately discuss....They're not going to let us have four of our people to consensus.... " (One glorious shot of a kid with dreadlocks, giving up, and picking up his skateboard to go home.)

7:35 Idiot" "We're going to use this space to privately discuss...."
Cop: "No, stay over here, please."
Idiot: "Well, you'll have to use earmuffs. Ok, just pretend you can't hear us."

Get ready for my second-most favorite line of dialogue. Let me set the stage. Rome is burning. There are barbarians at the gates. And what does our Che Guevara wannabe have to say?

7:50 Idiot: "Okay, who wants to be facilitator? Who wants to facilitate at this point? I have markers."

At the 8:00 mark, our cameraman cuts away to the backpacks. He's apparently looking for contraband, maps of the Pentagon, incriminating evidence, the weapons stash, weed, or anything else that the authorities could use to force the consensus-builders to miss The Big Game or Serve Detention in Study Hall.
He finds iPods, MacBooks, various laptops, and he's using a nice video camera. Got that? He shows iPods and Mac computers on his video. iPods. Macs.

8:30 Idiot: "Water bottles. I don't think they want (our) water bottles. I bet they drink Corporate Water."

The End. Except for....

9:22 Idiot: "I guess we're converging back into this space...."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Caption Contest - Easter Pageant Gone Wrong Edition

I need a caption for this picture.
Fembuttx won last week's contest, which is what I deserve for selecting a picture like that one.

Welcome Back Kotter, and Carter

T-shirt available here.

We're "A Nation Of Cowards", and here's the reason why....

Eric Holder, the new Attorney General, says that we are a "nation of cowards" when it comes to discussing race.

Eric Holder has taken a lot of heat for this, but he is 100% correct. We don't talk about race, except in the most guarded terms. Then we change the subject as quickly as possible.

Here's the reason why. This is from The Huffington Post:

A cartoon likening the author of the stimulus bill, perhaps President Barack Obama, with a rabid chimpanzee graced the pages of the New York Post on Wednesday.
The drawing, from famed cartoonist Sean Delonas, is rife with violent imagery and racial undertones. In it, two befuddled-looking police officers holding guns look over the dead and bleeding chimpanzee that attacked a woman in Stamford, Connecticut.

At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it. Others believe it compares the president to a rabid chimp. Either way, the incorporation of violence and (on a darker level) race into politics is bound to be controversial. Perhaps that's what Delonas wanted.

Of course it's bound to be controversial. Hell, I can't believe I've gathered up the nerve to write anything about it. But let's start with a few obvious facts:

1) The cartoon isn't very funny.
2) Delonas has an editor who approved the cartoon's publication.
3) Look at the Huffington quote in italics above. They said "on a darker level", as if to imply that light is good and dark is bad. Silly, isn't it? But I find myself avoiding phrases like that all the time. If someone really wanted to make a racial issue of that sentence, they could easily do so.
4) The symbolism used in the cartoon is waaaay out there, especially in terms of the racist symbolism that was often used in the Deep South.
5) But the cartoon provides a muted commentary on the quality of the stimulus bill. A million monkeys at a million typewriters for a million years couldn't have produced anything as bad as that abomination.
6) Al Sharpton and Julian Bond and plenty of others are issuing critical statements attacking the New York Post, calling for the cartoonist's head, and doing whatever they can to get back in the limelight somewhere far away from the Obama glare.
7) Anyone who dares to talk about race in a public forum is insane. That includes Eric Holder. That includes me. There are a lot of sociologists who predict that within the next 20 generations or so there won't be any "races" left. This would eliminate racism, tribalism, and a host of other harmful isms, wouldn't it?
8) But getting back to the subject at hand....if I were a monkey, and someone drew a cartoon about me writing the stimulus bill? I'd be angry.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Of Regulations, Red Tape, and the Trade Deficit

The great economist Frederic Bastiat, one of the guiding lights of this blog, worked as an exporter. Here's some more info on his career from :

Bastiat was orphaned at age ten, and was raised and educated by his paternal grandparents. He left school at age seventeen to work in the family exporting business in the town of Bayonne, where he learned firsthand the evils of protectionism by observing all the closed-down warehouses, the declining population, and the increased poverty and unemployment caused by trade restrictions.
I work in the shipping and logistics industry. I've seen the same "evils", and this is one of the many reasons I've started supporting the Libertarian Party.

My friend and fellow blogger Stephen M. Smith works in the shipping and logistics industry. I mentioned this to him about a month ago, and asked for his thoughts on why people in the shipping industry often have Free Market leanings.
This is what I got back from Stephen.
(Please bookmark his website - A Beginner's Guide To Freedom. In a just, rational world, Stephen's words would be carved into marble.)

Of Regulations, Red Tape, and the Trade Deficit
- by Stephen M. Smith

A number of pundits lately have declared that the recent housing-related chaos in the financial and banking sectors is proof that deregulation doesn’t work, or that markets can’t regulate themselves. Clearly, they argue, what we need is more government regulation and oversight. Evidently the same government that specifies the size of the holes in Swiss cheese and mandates the number of toilets each building must have just isn’t doing enough in the area of regulation.

The people calling for more red tape obviously don’t work in logistics. If they did, they would understand that the United States is already the most heavily regulated society in the history of man. The finance and banking industries are without a doubt the most heavily regulated sectors of the most heavily regulated society, but I suspect the logistics and transportation sectors aren’t too far behind.

Granted, my evidence is anecdotal rather than empirical, but given the fact that my entire job is dedicated to regulatory compliance, I think I speak with some authority. When I’m not busy annoying socialists with free-market blog posts, I spend most of my waking hours making sure my company complies with all of the relevant federal regulations covering exports.

And there are a lot of them. So many, in fact, that the bureaucrats hold a conference in Washington, D.C. each year just to review the changes in the regulations. The conference doesn’t cover all the regulations, mind you, just the changes from the previous year. But even that takes three full days. Last year there were well over a thousand attendees (and they were just the ones who managed to get in - demand for the conference routinely outstrips capacity). That’s at least 24,000 man-hours of lost productivity just so we can understand what’s different this year from last.

One of the many focus areas of the latest conference was a new electronic filing requirement mandated by the US Census Bureau. You probably thought that Census only existed to count the number of people and identify the languages spoken in your household once every decade. But it turns out that they are also responsible for compiling all of the statistics that go into those weighty government reports that are ignored by your elected representatives as they vote to separate you from your money.

But the boys and girls from the Census bureau were all fired up for this latest conference. And why were they so excited to see us this time? Because their new regulations increase the penalties for errors. In the past, the most Census could fine a violator was a paltry $1000 per mistake. Now, though, the penalties can include fines of up to $250,000 and - this is where it gets really exciting – jail time! The folks at the Census Bureau couldn’t be happier. They finally get to throw people in jail, just like the big kids in the other branches of government.

Now I know a lot of non-libertarians just roll their eyes when they hear us yammer on about the “gun of government,” but I can assure you it is not an exaggeration. Seriously – the guy with the gun actually gave a one-hour PowerPoint presentation about all of the terrible things he was willing to do us if we stepped out of line. Ironically, he was the most engaging and entertaining speaker of the entire event.

So what could be so important about this new filing requirement that they’re willing (and eager) to put people behind bars over it? It’s not about national security – that’s covered by a whole host of other government bureaucrats (who also carry guns). As I mentioned earlier, the Census bureau compiles statistics. And one of their most important (in their minds, at least) functions is to calculate the trade deficit. The fact that the US has been running a trade deficit for years is a horrible state of affairs according to the bureaucrats in D.C. To correct this “problem,” they drop a thousand pages of new regulations on our desks each year, threaten us with fines and imprisonment if we screw up on any of them, and then tell us we should export more. And at the end of the conference, they give us pocket calculators made in China. No kidding.

A lot of people get all torqued up about the trade deficit, of course. Take Lou Dobbs (please). Lou has made a fortune complaining about the trade deficit, but at least he’s not pointing a gun at anyone to make it go away (as far as I know). I’m not sure why the trade deficit evokes such a fierce reaction in so many people, since any first-year economics major can tell you it’s a completely meaningless number. To see just how ridiculous the whole thing is, allow me to summarize an illustration originally provided by my favorite economist, Frederic Bastiat. (It seems they were torqued up about the trade deficit in 19th century France as well).

A French merchant ships goods valued at €200,000 to the United States. After freight, insurance, and cost of goods sold, the merchant clears €40,000. He then imports American goods valued at €320,000, which he turns around and sells for €400,000. Foolishly, he believes that he has made a profit of €120,000 from these two transactions - €40,000 from the first shipment to America, and another €80,000 from the sale of the imported American goods. To the layman, this may seem like a pretty good business model and the kind of thing one might wish to continue. But there’s a problem, you see. France now has a trade deficit with the United States – after all, she wisely exported €200,000, but then foolishly imported €320,000. All the politicians start whining that France has “given away” €120,000 to foreigners.

Later, the same merchant ships out another €200,000 worth of French goods. But the ship is lost at sea. For some strange reason, the merchant records this as a loss of €200,000. But how can that be? After all, the trade deficit is now greatly improved. French Customs recorded €200,000 of exports, and there were no corresponding imports. Not only has the previous trade deficit with the United States been erased, but France now finds itself in the eviable position of having a trade surplus of €80,000.

Based on the logic of the balance of payments, it becomes obvious that France can easily double its capital at any moment. All the French have to do is load their goods onto ships, and once they’ve cleared Customs, dump them into the ocean. France will gain all that the sea swallows up.

With Bastiat’s illustration in mind, worrying about the trade deficit doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. So does it make any sense to threaten people with jail time over it? And even if we were to accept the primitive notion that exports are good and imports are bad, why would we wish to increase the regulatory burden associated with exporting from the United States? If the trade deficit were the demonic force most people believe it to be, then surely we would want to reduce the costs associated with exporting, not increase them.

The regulatory burden is by no means limited to the export sector. All areas of economic life in the United States are burdened by miles of red tape – to a far greater degree than most people realize. Every one of these regulations increases the cost of doing business in the United States. Presumably we should be looking for ways to cut the cost of doing business in this country so that we could afford to do more of it. This should be standard practice even in the best of times, but given the depressed state of the economy these days, it is more important now than ever.

I wish I'd said that.
The only thing I might add? If an American firm purchases something from China, what are the Chinese given in return?
Little green pieces of paper with Benjamin Franklin's picture on them.
What is the only use for these green pieces of paper? Where can they be redeemed for something else?
Thank you, Stephen. The world is a better place with you in it.

Robert Earl Keen at Billy Bob's

The Aggie talked me into taking her to Billy Bob's tonight to hear Texas A&M alum Robert Earl Keen.
I didn't require a lot of persuading. Great show.
The band was the same as you'll see here, minus the banjo:

Rich Brotherton, the guy playing the guitar solo at the 1:20 mark, probably isn't human. Or he's made a deal with Satan.

I think The Aggie turned down two different cowboys who wanted to dance. She claims that she shot one of them down because he had on a University Of Texas shirt.

I could've listened to REK all night. Great, great show. Go hear him if you ever get a chance.