Saturday, January 30, 2010

Supreme Court (Mis)rulings

Today we will talk about the Supreme Court for the first time ever in this blog. We will cover two recent rulings that I believe the Court got tragically wrong relative to freedom and liberty in this country. Both misrulings were anticipated in two steps listed in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government."

The first ruling concerns eminent domain. Historically, eminent domain was a legal concept used by government entities to take physical land and property, for a supposedly market based price, and use that land for public good. Examples have usually included taking land to build a new road, a new bridge, flood control, etc. The purpose was to use the land for the general public good through the use of government actions. However, a few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court broke new ground when they ruled in the Kelo vs. City of New London case that a government entity could invoke eminent domain and take land that would then be developed by private companies, not for a school, a road or a bridge, but for private enterprises. The city of New London wanted to rejuvenate its downtown area but needed to get the existing land owners to move. Thus, the use of eminent domain, an action that was upheld by the Supreme Court.

The seizure was fought by several residents who did not want to give up their homes, for a fair price, and uproot and move their families. One would have thought that in America, property rights, like other rights, would be respected. If the private development interests in New London wanted the residents to move, they should have either upped their offer for the residents' homes or worked around their properties during the redevelopment. However, they came in the side door, using the power of government to force the residents to leave. The words "power of government" and "force" should never be used together since that usually signifies that somebody's rights are going to get trampled.

The Supreme Court argued that by rejuvenating the downtown area, all citizens would benefit, despite the hardship and rights violations of those U.S. citizens who did not want to move. The original plan called for the private developer to build a new hotel, new retail stores, new apartment buildings, and new office towers and accommodate the construction of a new research lab by Pfizer pharmaceuticals. According to a short article by Damon W. Root in the March, 2010 issue of Reason magazine, the plan did not quite work out. According to Mr. Root, the project never got off the ground and Pfizer announced in late 2009 that it was closing down its facility and moving totally out of New London.

Thus, no new hotel, no new retail stores, no new apartment buildings, no new office towers and no downtown rejuvenation. Families displaced for no reason. The only winners were probably the lawyers on both sides who argued the case all the way to the Supreme Court. All because members of the political class saw a cheap way to help out some developers. Scott Bullock, one of the lawyers who represented the property owners is quoted in the article: "This shows the folly of these redevelopment projects that use massive taxpayer subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare and abuse eminent domain." Well said.

This is why Step 19 was included in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government:" Make it illegal for any government entity to condemn your land and/or your homestead for the purpose of turning it over to or selling it to private commercial interests, regardless of the perceived "public good." Freedom should include the right to stay on the property and in the home you own and not be subject to the confiscation of that property by a government entity who wants it for private development.

The second misruling from the Supreme Court was just handed down. It basically said that anyone, any company, any union, any lobbyist, any PAC, and any foreign entity can now contribute to an American political campaign in any way they want. Previously, campaign finance laws allowed only voluntary contributions from company employees and union members to be funneled to campaign election committees (along with individual, private donations) and basically prohibited foreign companies and governments from donating to our election campaigns. With this ruling, it appears all of those restrictions are out the window. According to the Justices, somehow the First Amendment, freedom of speech, applies to any entity, foreign or domestic, not just individuals.

Step 6 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" stated: Allow only individual citizens to contribute to political campaigns. This eliminates the contributions of PACs, unions, corporations, and lobbyists. The Bill Of Rights guarantees freedom of speech to individuals, not groups of citizens. This is obviously radically different from what the Supreme Court feels. Not only does Step 6 not want American unions, companies, PACs and lobbyists from contributing, but it assumed we would never allow foreign interests to contribute to domestic political campaigns. How wrong was that assumption in light of this ruling? It is likely that the big money in politics will just get bigger and bigger and the voices of individual Americans, in the electoral campaigns, will slowly get extinguished.

Thus, it appears, from these two rulings, that not only is the American political class out to get our freedoms, but the Supreme Court is out to do the same thing. Seizing property and homes for private investment and watering down individual Americans voices in deciding elections is hardly liberty supporting. However, there are two relatively simple solutions. First, at the state or local level, laws could be passed that would make the seizure of land, through eminent domain, for private investment illegal. The Supreme Court ruling, as I understand, said eminent domain could be used for private development, it did not say you could prohibit it from being used.

There is also a relatively easy solution for the campaign finance ruling but it would take some integrity, backbone, and some marketing savvy to pull it off, three traits that President Obama has not exhibited relative to this case. His public reaction to this ruling has amounted to nothing more than a whiny pout. Sure, he does not agree with the ruling but the ruling has been made. Lashing out at the Justices will serve no purpose. It will not change their opinion and given that they are only human, his public annoyance with their actions could possibly have negative impacts on other issues that he favors before the Court. Whining is not very Presidential, you can disagree with the ruling but get over it. Here's the solution:

  • Make a stand for integrity and tell the voting public you and your party will not accept donations from any foreign government, company, or other entity. State strongly that you only want the support and votes of Americans.

  • Market your stand vigorously, forcing your opponents to also not take foreign money or look like they are controlled by foreign interests. The Supreme Court ruling did not state you had to accept foreign money, just that you could accept it.

The ruling is done. Much like the President should stop blaming everyone else (e.g. Bush administration) for his administration's failures, he should stop blaming the Supreme Court and move onto doing something constructive. Declining to accept foreign money and forcing the Republicans to do also would be good for America and good for his political future.

Visit our website at to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.

Odds and Ends From Reason Magazine

As a follow up to our discussion on a Reason magazine article a few days ago, lets take a somewhat lighthearted look at some other events and incidents that Reason reported on in their March issue:
  • In the Brickbats section, Reason reported that the Bowery Mission in New York City was forced to throw out a perfectly good batch of fried chicken that had been donated to the Mission by a local church. Apparently, the church had used trans fat to prepare the fried chicken and city law bans all licensed food vendors, which includes emergency food providers, from serving trans fat cooked food. Seems it is better for the downtrodden to go hungry than to clog their arteries.
  • Also in Brickbats, a Chicago resident has been charged a felony for copying a movie. While doing some videotaping at a surprise birthday party for her sister at a local movie theater, Samantha Tumpach accidentally recorded less than four minutes of the film "Twilight: New Moon." She faces up to three years in jail if convicted. The article does not say whether she was trying to sell the videotape for profit, which she probably wasn't since it was less than four minutes of the film and who would be interested in the private birthday shots anyway. Second, does the Chicago judicial system have nothing better to do with their time and resources?
  • A final Brickbats blurb talked about some true government waste. The House Of Representatives has passed a bill mandating that the National Park Service buy up Billy Carter's President Jimmy Carter's brother, old gas station and make it part of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. Also included in the legislation are requirements to take over a house that Jimmy Carter lived in between 1956 and 1961 and a state welcome center that may be closing because of state government financial shortfalls. This will all cost Federal taxpayers about $17 million over five years. Two things tragically wrong here. First, when the Statue of Liberty was in need of repairs several decades ago, all of the repairs were raised by private donations, no taxpayer dollars were used. In my opinion, the Statue of Liberty, was far more deserving of taxpayer support than a Presidential brother's gas station. If Miss Liberty did not get taxpayer support, then this project should certainly not get taxpayer support. Second, with all of the financial problems this country currently faces, I certainly believe there is a better use for $17 million, including returning it to the U.S taxpayer.
  • A short article by Katherine Mangu-Ward was a little disturbing. According to Ms. Mangu-Ward, who was reporting on a USA Today investigation, meat that had been rejected by MacDonald's and Jack-In-The-Box restaurants is being served to U.S. schoolchildren. School meat faces less stringent meat testing requirements than restaurant meat. In restaurants, most fast food places pull samples every 15 minutes and test the samples every hour or two. The U.S. Department Of Agricultural requires that school cafeterias pull only eight samples a day and and combine the samples for a once a day test. According to Ms. Mangu-Ward, not only is the school meat tested less often but it is also tested for fewer contaminants. It is hard to understand the difference. If the restaurant testing requirements are too stringent, than they should be relaxed. If the school testing requirements are too lax, than they should be tightened up. Either, way having two separate standards for the same product makes no sense. This dichotomy is either wasteful (too much testing) or dangerous (too little testing).
  • A final article uniquely shows how a little ingenuity and creativity can usually be more effective than crude and overbearing government programs that are usually a failure. The article by Mike Riggs, "Hunting For Fish," concerns an major environmental problem in the Midwest. Non-native Asian carp fish, which consume up to 50 percent of their body weight every day, were imported to the country in the 1970s with the intention of using them to filter sewage. Unfortunately, they got into the Mississippi River where they are upsetting the ecological balance and heading north. Illinois authorities installed million dollar electric gates to try and stop the carp but this was a failure. They then dumped 2,200 gallons of poison into the water to try and stop the carp migration. Prior to the dumping, the authorities removed native fish to the best of their ability and moved them to safe waters, all at taxpayer expense. The net result of the poison was one dead Asian carp and 10,000 dead native fish. Millions of dollars wasted and no results. Fortunately some creative entrepreneurs have gotten involved and have turned the crisis into a business. Given that the carp can be as big as 100 pounds and either jump out of the water or swim close to the surface, they are easy prey for bow hunters. Thus, businesses catering to bow hunting the Asian carp have sprung up and are reducing the threat in an environmentally neutral way. As a result, no more taxpayer dollars wasted, fewer destructive carp, a profitable business for the entrepreneurs, and a worthwhile hunting event for the bow hunters. Everybody wins (except the carp).
These examples illustrate two things. First, government solutions are usually costly and ineffective. Why we continue to stand for such slipshod performance is beyond me. Second, our priorities as a country and the associated government are very screwed up. We deprive the hungry of good food, we waste police and judicial resources on trivial matters when other, more serious criminal behavior goes unattended, we waste money on old gas stations when at least 10% of the country is unemployed, etc. That is why Step 39 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government," term limits for Senators and Congressmen/women is so important. If they allow this kind of waste to go on, both the smaller examples discussed above and the multi-billion dollar wastes we discussed on Thursday, they need to be removed from office and we need to elect people who care about how taxpayer dollars are spent.

Visit our website at to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Liar, Liar Pants On Fire - The Greatest Political Lies Of All Time

The next few days will be spent reviewing some information from the latest edition of Reason magazine. Before starting, though, please allow me to put in a recommendation for Reason. Reason's subtitle is "Free Minds and Free Markets" and it does a great job of examining the concept of freedom in a wide variety of settings. The writing is first rate and is supported by detailed and provocative analyses of facts, something politicians rarely let get in the way of their actions. It delves into the seamier side of politics and the detrimental effects the political class and government actions have on liberty in this country and abroad. I highly recommend it as a refreshing alternative to the narrow minded, shallow reporting of most main stream news outlets.

Today we will start with an article in the March, 2010 issue of Reason magazine by Veronique deRugy. I have been looking for the information she writes about for years and I thank her for pulling it together. As you can imagine from the title of this blog, Ms. deRugy's article deals with some of the biggest political lies ever told. It is in the context of budget overruns and how just about every political class program runs over budget. This article highlights some of the biggest lies and failures including the following disasters:
  • Medicare: 1967 estimated cost for 1990 = $12 billion; actual 1990 cost = $98 billion, off by a factor of 8.6 times higher than estimated

  • Boston's Big Dig: 1985 estimated cost of $2.6 billion; actual cost by 2008 = $22 billion, off by a factor of 8.5 times higher than expected

  • Capital Hill Visitor Center: 200o estimated costs of $265 million; actual cost by 2007 = $621 million, off by a factor of 2.3 times high than expected

  • Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Disposal: 1992 estimated costs of $6.3 billion; actual cost by 2008 = $79.3 billion, off by a factor of 12.6 times higher than expected

  • V-22 Osprey Aircraft: estimated 1986 cost of $4 billion; actual cost by 2006 = $12.5 billion, off by a factor 3.1 times higher than expected

  • International Space Station: 1993 estimated cost = $17.4 billion; actual cost by 2003 = $32 billion, off by a factor 1.8 times higher than expected

  • Denver International Airport: 1989 estimated cost = $1.7 billion; actual cost by 1995 = $4.8 billion, off by a factor of 2.8 times higher than expected

  • Kennedy Center Parking lot: 1998 estimated cost = $28 million; actual cost by 2003 = $88 million, off by a factor of 3.1 times high than expected
The original Medicare estimate looks even more ludicrous in 2010 since the annual cost is around $500 billion, 43 times higher than the original annual estimate of $12 billion.

These estimates are reported by Ms. deRugy and are based on a detailed analysis that was published by the Journal of American Planning Association. The authors examined 258 world wide government projects from the past 75 years to come to their conclusions. They found that nine out of the ten government projects they examined came in over budget. The clear cut world wide winners were the Sydney Opera House and the Concorde supersonic jet. The opera house came in at 1400% of budget and the jet came in at 1100% of budget. Looks like the word wide political class cannot run anything efficiently or effectively either.

Back to the waste in the U.S. One would hope that if a project runs over budget that the results would be above expectations. However, that is not the case. The Big Dig not only exceeded its budget by eight fold but it took seven years longer to complete than scheduled and it has been plagued with problems, the epitome of which was the tragic death of a motorist who died from falling roof panels while driving through a Big Dig tunnel. The International Space Station missed its budget but the expected results from the space station have not materialized. The Yucca Mountain Project is not even operational yet despite overrunning its budget by over twelve fold. The Osprey has been plagued by mechanical problems in addition to cost overruns, problems that have killed 32 Marines in four crashes. The Capitol Hill Visitors Center not only missed its construction budget by over two times but it overran its construction schedule by three years. Thus, we as taxpayers are constantly overpaying for under performance in both cost, functionality, and schedule.

The article goes on to explain how badly the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has been in predicting costs for government programs. In 2005, the CBO projected Medicare would cost $1.5 trillion a year by 2050. In 2009, just four years later, it predicted the cost in 2050 would be $3 trillion a year by 2050. How can you predict so horribly that you double your original forecast in a very short time? And we expect these people to accurately predict the cost of the Obama health care reform program?

Speaking of the Obama health care program, the article goes on to explain the financial shenanigans that the Obama administration and the Democrats are doing to us. I never understood why the government would start collecting taxes immediately, if the current Democratic plan passes, but the benefits to Americans would not start until 2014. I thought Obama wanted to make sure that the bad legislation did not start until he ran for President again.

However, I was not devious enough in my thinking. Obama and the Democrats continue to emphasize the ten year impact of health care reform and how reasonable the cost will be. The problem with this approach is that in the first ten years, there are ten years of tax collection under the program but only six years of real expenses of the program. Thus, by looking at the first ten years, Obama skews the true costs to something more reasonable. The true analysis would be to start counting the ten years in 2014. In that case, true costs could be closer to $1.8 TRILLION dollars, double what Obama and Democrats are hyping today. These numbers would cost every American household an additional $1,400 a year in health care costs on average. Thus, as the article points out, Americans will pay much more than the politicians are telling us and who really believes we will see any where near the benefit that is also being hyped? If so, it would be the first time ever that the U.S. Federal government program met its purported expectations.

As stated in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government," the government and the ruling political class never execute any program successfully, always over budget, always behind schedule, always under delivering goals, and in some cases, such as the Big Dig, actually fatal to ordinary Americans. There are many other examples in the book where we see how badly the government functions. Many steps in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government," would address this situation, the most important of which is Step One which would start to shrink the Federal government's budget by 10% a year for five years. The reasoning is that if the political class has less money to work with, they will have less money to waste. Thus, we would be much less likely to hear, "Liar, liar, pants on fire," when it comes to government waste.

Visit our website at to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another Stupid Political Class Economic Idea

The good thing about writing this blog is that you really never run out of materials. The political class continually astounds with stupid, ineffective, and usually excessively expensive programs and projects.

The latest example is a proposal from the Obama administration, as reported in an AP article on January 26, 2010, that would provide a tax credit to small businesses who hire new workers. The idea is to use the small business market as a job generation vehicle to reduce the politically distasteful levels of 10% unemployment. There are a few problems with this plan:
  • How would the government distinguish truly incremental hires vs. hires that would have happened anyway? This is similar to the Cash For Clunkers disaster. People received thousands of dollars in government credits to buy cars they would have bought anyway. There was no incremental sales of autos under the program since the sales levels fell dramatically once the program was over, all the Clunkers program did was shift demand, not increase demand. The same problem would happen here, all jobs would receive the credit even if they would have happened anyway.
  • How long would a new employee have to be on the payroll? What would stop a company from hiring people for just a short time and then firing them so that the temporary incremental wage expense would be less than the tax credit reward? How would the Federal government ever be able to track this situation for the thousands of companies across the country? Remember, this is the same government that could not track a single Nigerian would-be terrorist even though they knew he was coming, what day he was coming, where he was coming from, and his father had notified the government of the danger his son posed.
  • How many hours would a new employee have to work a week to qualify for the credit. Could a company hire ten people and work them four hours a week and get credit for ten people when they could have hired just one person who worked forty hours a week?
  • Given that the political class can do nothing efficiently or effectively, how would they police this national program to guard against abuse? What would keep a small business owner from fraudulently hiring friends and family members, who never do any work, just to scam the program for the credits?
  • What would stop a company from firing its staff on Friday and rehiring them on Monday in order to get the credits? Remember, some of the Cash For Clunkers sales were for Hummers that should not have been part of the program. Just saying a company could not fire on Friday and hire on Monday does not mean they would not do it.
  • It is doubtful firms hire people even though they do not have enough demand for their products and services? Doesn't it make sense that companies would have already hired people if they needed them for their business?
  • According to the article, a similar program was enacted in the 1970s and very few businesses took advantage.
So lets review: the program would likely be subjected to a high degree of fraud, it would be impossible to distinguish truly incremental job formation vs. job formation that would have happened anyway, it will contribute to the skyrocketing federal deficit, it is unlikely to work if a company does not have the sales and revenue to support it, and similar programs have not worked in the past. Sounds like a winner to me. There is no way that this program would be effective, efficient, and workable and trackable.

Not to be outdone, several Congressional members of the political class have proposed similar programs. One of the those programs would exempt businesses from having to pay Social Security taxes for new hires for the rest of 2010. Okay, this would contribute to the hastening bankruptcy of Social Security and would face all of the problems discussed above with the Obama plan such as fraud and lack of demand for a company's products and services.

Would these ideas result in a few new, incremental hires? Probably. Would they reduce the high levels of unemployment significantly? Probably not. If a company needed additional workers, they probably would have hired them already. The political class does not understand a basic premise: the government does not create jobs, the economy does. These types of programs are all temporary: once the money runs out or the credits stop, the hiring levels are likely to revert back to where they were, much like car sales reverted back to their low levels once the Cash For Clunkers program expired. The government needs to get out of the job creation business, they never have done it well or permanently.

As specified in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government,", the best way to create jobs is to 1) reduce taxes permanently so that individuals and companies have more discretionary spending to use for economic activity, 2) government spending needs to be brought under control immediately in order to reduce the financial burden on the country and to free up capital for use by profit generating businesses (by constantly borrowing to fund a growing deficit, the government soaks up the finite amount of capital in the world that cannot be used by the private sector, the only source of incremental jobs), and 3) government regulations and bureaucracy need to be greatly reduced to make business and job expansion easier and quicker. Until the political class wakes up and understands that they cannot create jobs, we will continue to be faced with these types of ineffective programs and the country will continue to suffer.

We need new ideas and actions, not retread ideas form the 1970s that did not work then and are unlikely to work now. It appears that the Obama administration and the ruling political class are now grasping at straws and failed previous programs. Stupid is as stupid does, unfortunately, we all have to pay for it with ever increasing taxes.

Visit our website at to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Obama's Budget Freeze Proposal - Why Bother?

The initial news seemed to be good out of the Obama administration: the President finally got it and was freezing the Federal budget over the next three years in order to begin coping with the huge budget deficits. The good news lasted for about an hour when the following became evident:
  • The freeze would not apply to the biggest parts of the Federal budget (military, Social Security, medicare) so the total Federal budget would likely increase even though he was freezing portions of it.
  • I initially read the plan as saving $250 billion a year, not bad/not great but at least a start. However, it turns out the President's plan would save $250 billion over ten years or only about $25 billion a year.
  • Despite budget deficits exceeding a TRILLION of dollars each year, he is talking about saving a few dozen billion each year. Last year's total Federal expenditures were $3.5 TRILLION and thus, if we saved $25 billion last year, the percentage reduction would have been less than one percent (.7%).
  • Last year the Federal budget deficit was $1.4 TRILLION so the $25 billion in savings would have reduced the deficit by only 1.8%. Thus, the title of this blog: "Why Bother?"

Let's put these numbers in the context of a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report that came out today which estimates that the 2010 budget deficit will be about $1.35 TRILLION, marginally better than the 2009 budget deficit. Thus, Obama's spending freeze would have the same negligible effect this year as last year. The report also estimates that unemployment will stay the same at around 10%, it well improve just a little next year and this year the U.S. economy will grow only 2%. If these numbers are right, the budget deficit is unlikely to improve due to higher payroll taxes from falling unemployment.

Some more bad news. If the estimates are right, then in two years the political class would have spent about $2.75 TRILLION more than it took in via taxes, financing the difference with bonds. If you divide the $2.75 TRILLION by the number of households in the U.S., then an average household is on the hook for about $21,000. In other words, to just pay off the deficit from this year and last year, every American household would have to write a check for an additional $21,000 each.

More bad news. Let's do some rough math. Last year the Federal government had revenue of $2.1 TRILLION but spent $3.5 TRILLION. If the unemployment rate had been zero last year, i.e. the 10% of workers looking for jobs actually found a job, then you could roughly guess that government revenue would have gone up by about 10% since those that were unemployed were now paying taxes. Thus, the $2.1 TRILLION would go up about 10% and result in $2.3 TRILLION, still leaving a deficit of $1.2 trillion. If you believe that true unemployment rate is closer to 20%, as some experts claim in order to take into account those people that have stopped looking for a job, than if by some miracle all of those in the 20% got a job and started paying taxes, the Federal government revenue would rise to about $2.5 TRILLION, still leaving it with a deficit of one TRILLION dollars. In other words, even if everyone in the country got a job and started paying taxes, it still does not look like we could easily eliminate the annual deficit, spending is that out of control.

To the President's credit, several days ago he proposed assembling a sixteen member bipartisan panel to come up with a deficit reduction plan. the panel would put together a plan throughout 2010 that would be voted on by Congress later this year. This was the good news and was consistent with the oft-mentioned recommendation of this blog that an expert panel approach is the only way to get Congress out of the way of progress. Numerous times we have cited the Manhattan Project, the Apollo Space mission, the Grace Commission, military base closing commission, etc. as independent panels that made real, positive changes in the country. However, to my surprise and disappointment, the Senate has already voted down the idea and has not come up with a replacement plan fro deficit control.

A few final observations:

  • Spending is truly out of control and there appears to be no fortitude, urgency, or intelligence in Congress to do anything about it.
  • Non-government economists are right in predicting that failure to get the budget under control will result in higher taxes, higher interest rates, sluggish or no economic growth, credit shortages as the government sucks up all available resources to fund the deficit spending impacts, and a continual devaluation the dollar.
  • You cannot get the budget under control without hitting all of the budget lines, unlike the Obama plan that touched only a subset of the budget items and froze those budgets, did not shrink them. An easy first step, as proposed in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government," is to sharply reduce our military commitments overseas. Stationing 47,000 troops in Japan, 30,000 in Korea and over 50,000 in Germany serve no strategic purpose. Bring them home and you can make a significant dent in military spending without a detrimental impact on security. Deep cuts in ALL areas are required.
  • Late last year I hypothesized the theory that President Obama had lost control of the Presidency and that a small handful of Democrats in Congress were now running the show (Reid, Pelosi, etc.). I think the past few days have proven that the President is rapidly approaching lame duck status. Although his efforts to get the deficit spending under control were definitely on the meager side (freeze only a subset of government functions and put a panel together to come up with a deficit reduction plan), it appears that neither of those efforts will get any traction from Congress. While 53 Senators voted to make the deficit reduction panel a reality (60 votes were needed for passage), including 16 Republicans, 23 Democrats defied the President and did not vote to support the panel idea.
Truly scary situation. The reality is right out there in front of the political class but they are either unwilling or unable to face the reality and make the tough choices. Failure to act and get spending under control will have dire consequences for generations to come and Obama, he of the 70-80% approval rating of 12 months ago, now seems incapable of doing anything about it.

Visit our website at to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Government Intelligence, Part 2 - Incompetence and Anti-Freedom

Yesterday we talked about government intelligence and how incompetent it was relative to the recent terrorist attempt to bring down a jet liner coming in for landing at Detroit. Today we will review how government intelligence operations are really anti-freedom and anti-liberty when it comes to spying on American citizens within the boundaries of the U.S.

According to an article in The American Conservative, written by Brian Doherty and summarized in the January 29, 2010 issue of The Week magazine, the government intelligence community:
  • Wiretaps international calls without warrants.
  • Creates and maintains profiles of citizens even if there is no just or reasonable cause to do so.
  • Seizes information without getting judicial permission beforehand. Mr. Doherty cites the case of Sprint Nextel that provided the government "with GPS locations of its subscribers 8 million times in a recent one year period."
  • A specific intelligence agency, the National Security Agency, built a secret room at an AT&T California center to look at all of the company's Internet traffic.
In the "Boring But Important" section of the same issue of The Week, a Washington Post article is cited that claims the FBI illegally gathered the information of over 2,000 domestic phone calls between the years of 2002 and 2006. The Post claims the records were collected under the guise of nonexistent terror threats or by just simply asking for the records from various phone companies. To cover their tracks, the FBI sometimes issued formal approvals of the records seizure after they had already been seized. The article concludes that these types of requests continued on for two years after FBI lawyers raised concerns about their illegality.

Certainly starting to sound a little like Big Brother from George Orwell's classic, 1984. Thus, we are now paying the government and the ruling political class billions and billions of dollars to harass and track us for no reason. The laws in this country should be set up to protect privacy and government snooping, laws should not be used to maintain dossiers on us for no reason. Maybe these resources used for extensive spying on innocent Americans would have been better deployed to track people outside of the country like the Nigerian underwear bomber. Just another example of wasteful, useless spending while other more vital areas go underfunded and receive less attention than maybe they should.

If the concepts listed in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" were adopted, this type of intrusive, unwarranted government and political snooping would be eliminated. Specifically, Steps 20, 21, and 22 would:
  • result in an independent review of the effectiveness of the Patriot Act and its detrimental effects on freedom.
  • make it more stringently illegal to do the types of things listed above without getting a valid warrant PRIOR to the activity.
  • would tell innocent citizens what information and dossiers have been gathered on each citizen and delete that information once the investigation was over.

During the FBI reign of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI kept extensive files on many ordinary, non-criminal Americans that were at Hoover's disposal to use for his own political gain. No person or government agency should be able to do what Hoover did. Although we are headed in that direction, the three steps listed above could help abort our trend to more snooping and less freedom for the country.

Thus, in the past two days we have proven that the current intelligence apparatus of the U.S. government, as run by the political class, destroys our privacy and freedom while not really protecting us from true terrorist plots. And for this we pay tens of billions of dollars. Looks like we are getting low value for high taxes in this area of government responsibility also.

Visit our website at to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Government Intelligence, Part 1 - Incompetent and Anti-Freedom

For the next two days we will look at some recent revelations about Federal government intelligence procedures and behavior, none of which seem to be competent or in support of liberty and freedom. Today we will revisit the case of Nigerian Umar Faroulk Abdulmutallab who tried to explode a bomb hidden in his underwear on December 25th on an airliner coming into to Detroit for a landing. According to a report in the January 29, 2010 issue of The Week magazine ( that summarized a New York Times Article, there were any number of screw ups by the entire Federal government intelligence apparatus:
  • The Times reported that U.S. intelligence sources learned in November, from al Qaida communications in Yemen, that someone named "Umar Farouk" had volunteered for a mission. The volunteer's name looks mighty close to Mr. Abdulmutallab's name, doesn't it?
  • Later communications intercepts pointed to a December 25th mission date.
  • Some of these communications talked about "ways to move people to the West."
  • Other communications referred to an unidentified militant who just happened to be Nigerian. Mr. Abdulmutallab is Nigerian.
  • Counter terrorism officials assumed, incorrectly it turns out, that the terrorists in Yemen were incapable of getting any terrorism plot to the U.S., an assumption that proved to be so wrong since the bomb malfunctioned over the middle part of the United States. As a result of this assumption and despite the amount of data they had gathered, these officials did not forward any of this information to other intelligence authorities.

Combine this information with other information that is available regarding the plot:

  • Abdulmutallab's father told the U.S. Embassy in October that his son might be a threat.
  • Abdulmutallab was known to have gone to Yemen, a known terrorist haven.
  • Abdulmutallab had purchased a one way ticket, with cash, and was not traveling with any luggage, three well established terrorist indicators.
  • The British were high suspicious of him also, given his interactions with certain characters thought to be linked to terrorist operations.

Thus, the U.S. intelligence community knew from his father that Abdulmutallab might be dangerous, they knew someone with the same first two names had volunteered for a mission and that the volunteer was also Nigerian, they knew that terror cells in Yemen were trying to infiltrate the West, they knew something was going to happen on December 25th, and Abdulmutallab displayed many of the characteristics of a terrorist in the way he was ticketed and traveling. Looks like they knew at least some aspects of the who, the what, the where , the when and the why and were only missing the how. Given five of the six puzzle parts (who, what, where, when, and why), they still could not stop him from igniting a device that fortunately malfunctioned.

To add insult to injury, there are now reports that the best FBI interrogators were not involved in the debriefing of Abdulmutallab immediately after the incident. Although he talked freely for several hours after the incident, he immediately clammed up when read his Miranda rights before the most highly trained interrogators had a chance at him, possibly resulting in not getting all of the intelligence information out of him that they could.

For this type of horrific behavior, we pay tens of billions of dollars a year. In the private sector, if this kind of non-performance and waste had happened, many high level and low level employees would already be unemployed. However, this is government work where competence and performance do not appear to be mandatory. How do you not do your job with all of the information that was available and how to you not utilize your best resource in a case as important as this? Someone should be fired for this disgrace. This was not intelligence, it was utter stupidity and failure. And, according to Step 34 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government," those firings should extend to those Senators and Congressman who sit on the Congressional committees responsible for this part of our intelligence community.

Visit our website at to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Supreme Court Rules, Freedom Suffers

I very rarely find myself in agreement with a member of the political class including most Presidential positions since they rarely consider the impacts on freedom and liberty when they act or pontificate. However, I do find myself in total agreement with President Obama relative to the recent Supreme Court ruling on campaign financing law. According to a January 23, 2010 Associated Press article, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, disallowed parts of a 63-year old law that said companies and unions could be blocked from using their own money to produce and execute campaign advertisements that urge the election or defeat of particular candidates by name. Up until now, under current law, these companies and unions had to use money allocated from employees, not the coffers of the company or union.

It is both President Obama's opinion and mine that this will open up new avenues of campaign financing sources that could overwhelm the voice of the ordinary citizen in favor of lobbyists, special interest groups, large corporations and large unions. In past posts to this blog we reported on how 60% of the House Armed Services Committees were able to trade Defense Department earmarks for reciprocal campaign contributions under the current, more restrictive campaign finance laws; imagine how much easier this has become with this Supreme Court ruling. According to the President, "This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way - or to punish those who don't." According to the AP article, he went on to say that "lawmakers who stand up to banks, oil companies, health insurers, and other powerful interests cold find themselves under attack at election time."

This ruling is in direct opposition to Step 7 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government": "Only allow individual citizens to contribute to political campaigns. This eliminates the contributions of PACS, unions, corporations, and lobbyists. The Bill Of Rights guarantees freedom of speech for individual citizens, not groups of citizens." The purpose of this step and the attendant restrictions outlined in the book was to get the power back to individual Americans, not groups of Americans that have undue sway over political activities. If you believe the concerns of the President and others who have commented on this ruling, this is the exact opposite of what will happen.

This type of ruling will also be counter to Step 8 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" which would restrict campaign contributions to a specific House of Representative or Senate race to only those citizens that are to be served by that race, e.g. if a person was running for Senator from New Jersey, Step 8 would prohibit him from receiving financial aid for his campaign from anyone that was no ties to or in New Jersey. As another example, let's assume that a Senator who chairs an important Senate committee, that oversees a major segment of the economy, is up for re-election in Montana. He can now get a totally new and lucrative source of campaign funds from unions and corporations, as a result of this ruling, that have no connection whatsoever to the citizens of Montana. Thus, while he may not be the best choice to represent the citizens of Montana, he is likely to overwhelm a better choice since he is the best choice to represent the economic segment he oversees, a segment that now can contribute much more to the candidate.

This ruling is also likely to make it easier for incumbents to stay in power, in direct opposition to Step 39 which would impose term limits on Congressional seats. History shows us that incumbents, under the current system, are much more likely to receive campaign contributions from non-individual citizen entities than non-incumbents. This ruling will just make this gap in funding much more pronounced, further preventing new ideas and people to serve the country. Given the dire straits the long term politicians have gotten us into today, as reported in previous posts to this blog, imagine how much worse it will be as these incumbents get more and more of the campaign funding dollars thrown at them.

Thus, Obama is probably right when he says it will be harder to enact financial, tax, health care, and energy changes, since these changes will be going up against a much larger set of campaign financing dollars from companies and unions. However, while I agree with him, if he had acted more boldly and Presidential in his first year, he may have been able to make some changes before this ruling. By being more concerned about the pomp of being President (talking about his NCAA basketball picks, jetting off to Europe to promote Chicago's Olympic bid, filming a TV commercial for the George Lopez show, flitting around the world giving speeches, etc.) than the dirty work of being President, he missed his window being able to get some of his "Change" agenda approved before this ruling. By essentially wasting his first year, seeing his popularity nosedive, and wasting his party's dominance in Congress, he now has a much harder battle to get anything of significance done. Congressional incumbents are not likely to tighten up finance campaign laws since this Supreme Court ruling probably makes them more likely to stay in office in the future.

Thus, the basis of Obama's support, the ordinary Americans who may have hoped for fundamental change by voting for him, are likely to be very disappointed. And freedom and liberty in this country will continue to erode at the hands of the political class and their new best friends, the five members of the Supreme Court who voted to throw out the restrictions.

Visit our website at to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Obama's First Year - No Change, No Progress, No Improvement

Today marks the first anniversary of Barack Obama's swearing in as President of the United States. Back then, the nation was hopefully looking forward to a new administration and a different way of operating the Federal government. In fact, the entire Obama campaign was based on the notion of "change." At that time, President Obama's approval rating was between 70 and 80%, providing him political capital and air cover to make the positive changes he had promised. I did not vote for Obama but I did maintain my record of having never voted for a Republican for national office in my life. While skeptical of his campaign, I was willing to give him a chance to succeed.

A year later I can say without reservations that his administration's first year has been a disaster. There has been no change of consequence, no progress in addressing any of the nation's ills, and no improvement in most aspects of life affecting Americans. In fact, a case could be made that things are worse in many areas since he took office last January. Consider some of the promises he made during his campaign:
  • Although he promised to get us out of Iraq, one of his biggest promises, we have seen virtually no draw down of troops so far. Major draw downs are somewhere down the road and after some major draw downs, there will still be about 50,000 troops stationed within the country. Hardly consistent with his promise to get us out of the country.
  • On several occasions and on his campaign website, he vowed to cut down on the numerous earmark and pork barrel projects spending that wastes billions of dollars every year. He was explicit in his goal of keeping the number of earmarks well under 2,000, the levels last seen about eight years ago. Unfortunately, as reported several times by this blog, the number of earmarks in his recent budget came in at over 11,000. Thus, he missed his target by a factor of about eight fold.
  • He promised to close down the military terrorist prison at our naval base at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay, citing his opinion that it was a source of propaganda for the recruitment of terrorists. While he has tried to shut it down, we are not much closer to that reality than we were a year ago. In fact, he has muddled the entire justice for terrorists argument. He is having four of the worst terrorists tried in civilian courts in NYC claiming it will prove to the world that we have a fair and honest justice system. However, both he and Attorney General Holder have already proclaimed that the four defendants will be found guilty, sort of undermining the whole principle of American justice, innocent until proven guilty. He will also try some detainees in military tribunals and some detainees will never get a trial and will be held indefinitely. Thus, whatever propaganda gain he might eventually get by closing Guantanamo, has already been destroyed by his inconsistent prosecution of other terrorist suspects.
  • He promised that households making less than $250,000 a year would not see any tax increases. He fell short on this promise in two large ways. First, his administration did raise cigarette taxes significantly. Since a higher proportion of lower income households smoke than higher income households, many, many households making under $250,000 did pay higher taxes for their addiction. More importantly, his administration's first year financial management was atrocious, spending about $3.5 TRILLION on revenue of only about $2.1 TRILLION. The difference was made up with borrowing and deficit spending. His budget plans show that the country will incur about a $9 TRILLION deficit over the next decade unless changed. Thus, while taxes may not have gone up yet (with the exception of cigarette taxes), everyone, regardless of income level, will eventually have to pay extraordinary higher taxes to finance the budget deficit trend his administration has created. Thus, his promise of not raising taxes for those making under $250,000 is a complete fabrication. In fact, the taxes required to cover his deficit spending ways will affect American households for years and generations to come.
  • He promised prior to his inauguration that he would reach out, in a bipartisan manner, to Republicans and unite the country under his administration. However, if anything, the country is more bitterly divided than ever. He missed several opportunities to bring us closer together but his silence spoke volumes:
  1. When a Florida Democratic Congressman called all Republicans "knuckle dragging Neanderthals,", the President was silent. Not a good way to unite the country when a member of your own party is insulting other Americans.
  2. When one of his czars called Republicans a#$h*&$s, the President was silent. Not a good way to unite the country when a member of your own staff is insulting other Americans.
  3. When Nancy Pelosi called those expressing their opposition to the current health bill as being un-American, the President was silent. Not a good way to unite the country when those exercising their right of free speech are called un-American.
  4. When Harry Reid insisted that American tourists to D.C. in the summer were bodily smelly, the President was silent. Not a good way to unite the country when a member of your own party insists that the very taxpayers that pay for government are smelly.
  5. When a certain d-list Hollywood actress called all those opposed to Obama's policies as being racist, he was silent. Not a good way to unite the country when you allow honest disagreement to be called racism. His silence has allowed the bitter partisan political environment to grow and intensify, something he said he would consciously work against.
His record in international affairs shows little progress or difference with the Bush administration:
  • We are no closer to reigning in the nuclear weapon intentions of Iran. While Obama has postured strongly many times with regard to Iran, his actions have not backed up his words as deadlines and ultimatums go unheeded, and a year into his administration finds us no closer to the goal of a nuclear weapon free Iran. We have given the rulers there at least another year of development time for their weapons program with no viable deterrent action imminent, giving them more time.
  • We are no closer to reigning in the nuclear weapon intentions of North Korea. North Korea has alternately shown a willingness to dismantle its nuclear program and bold saber rattling, the same old, tired story from the Bush and Clinton administrations. In fact, recent news reports indicate that when the North Koreans signed the agreement in 1994 to dismantle their nuclear program, they actually intensified their efforts to develop nuclear bombs.
  • Although he gave a well received speech at an Egyptian university, nothing has improved in the Mideast peace process. In fact, no one could say that matters are worse as Israel continues to expand its settlements, aggravating the situation with the Palestinians, whose poverty levels have not improved. Hamas and Hezbollah are still major terrorist organizations with uninterrupted support from Iran and Syria.
  • The Obama administration ticked off the Czech and Polish governments, stout allies, by suddenly shutting down the missile defense system that the Bush administration had planned. The administration gave both governments only a one hour notice of the termination in order to cozy up to Russia. This gesture has resulted in nothing of consequence from Russia as far as cooperation.
  • Protecting us from terror attacks seems to be slipshod, given the complete breakdown of the security apparatus as it applied to the Nigerian who almost brought down a Detroit bound jet with an underwear bomb.
  • Other world trouble spots are still world trouble spots including Yemen and terrorists, the genocide in the Sudan, piracy off the coast of Somalia, tense relations between India and Pakistan, etc.
The Obama's administration failures in handling of the economy and the nation's financials have been analyzed many times in this blog and include the following:
  • His deficit spending ways will heavily tax current households and future taxpayers for decades to come.
  • His economic stimulus plans have not worked and official unemployment numbers are up to around 10% while hidden, unofficial unemployment numbers are around 18%.
  • His stimulus projects included fixing bridges that did not need to be fixed and other extraneous spending that did nothing to benefit the country or the economy.
  • Both the number of earmarks and value of earmarks are near an all time high.
  • His administration gave away billions of bailout dollars to banks and other financial organizations in a very slipshod and untrackable manner, bailouts that most did not need since almost all of the them have paid back the bailout money just months after receiving it.
  • Our trade deficits with China continue to soar unabated.
  • The administration wasted billions of tax payer dollars on saving Chrysler and General Motors, rescuing them from their own incompetence, and wasted more billions of dollars on the ill run and ill conceived Cash For Clunkers program.
  • The administration does not realize that when the government goes into deficit spending mode, he sucks up available capital for private industry and businesses to use to expand production, employment, and the economy. By not understanding basic economic theory, the administration has made a bad economy worse, not better.

In the matter of Afghanistan, he made several important mistakes:

  • While Americans were dying on the battlefield and the Taliban were regaining the upper hand, the President was discussing his NCAA basketball tournament picks, he jetted off to Europe to plug Chicago as a host of the Summer Olympics, and he took time to film a television commerical for the George Lopez Show. It was not until ten months into his administration did he finally come up with a plan.
  • And it is not a very good plan. It will cost another $30 billion of taxpayer money to deploy an additional 30,000 U.S. troops. But he put a deadline on the use of troops, 18 months, which gave the enemy a definite time frame that they need to stick it out. Rather than break the enemy spirit with the use of more forces, he undermined the entire reason for the troop increase.
  • By not consenting to follow the enemy into Pakistan, he gave additional comfort to the enemy. They can rest easy knowing that the increased presence will not follow them into the safe havens across the border and they can hang out for 18 months before the withdrawal begins.

Thus, I find little to be optimistic about regarding Obama's first year. Some of his supporters would say that he inherited a mess from Bush and that is why there has been little progress. But let's not forget that the Democrats have controlled Congress and the Federal budget process for three years. Never a big fan of Bush, he did try to fix the housing problem before it exploded, as we documented in a late 2009 post, but he was constantly blocked by the Democrats. Anyway, Obama had any number of opportunities to execute some positive actions, if only to criticize those that devolved into name calling (Neanderthal, racist, un-American, etc.). Some of his supporters would claim he is close to passing the first ever national health care reform law. To that I say two things. First, passing a law for the sake of passing it when it is a horrible piece of legislation should not be counted as an accomplishment. Second, he has not passed the bill yet.

The following saying, often quoted by Jon Gruden, ex-head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, seems appropriate: "You are only as good or as bad as your record." Bad economic policy, no progress in international relations and situations, more division between groups of Americans, a faulty anti-terrorist security system, two lingering and expensive wars, high deficits, high unemployment, public schools that still are failing, a drug war that is still unwinnable, no national energy program, no viable immigration plan, etc. President Obama is only as good as his record and his record is not good. Maybe I should send him a copy of "Love My Country, Loathe My Government." How much worse could he do than executing the fifty steps in the book?

Visit our website at to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Innovation Models For Government

In reading the current version of Fortune magazine (January 18, 2010), I came across two examples where innovative thinking is changing the fortunes of two entities, one a business and one a local government. In both cases, people are thinking through the whole problem, understanding interrelationships between the parts of the systems, understanding the financials of the entire process, and acting creatively to solve their problems and create value. I thought of them as modes for the operations of the Federal government which seems to do none of the above things:
  • the political class seems to never understand interrelationships, with many of the laws they pass having unintended negative impacts on other areas of the economy or the country.
  • the political class never seems to consider the financial costs and impacts, continually running up huge spending deficits.
  • when was the last time you ever stood back and thought: "What a creative and innovative government solution!", it never happens.

The first article, by Gregg Segal, was about Hyundai Motors of South Korea. Hyundai entered the U.S. market in 1986 with a single model, the Excel. It was one of the very lowest priced cars in the market and was also one of the most quality deficient in the market also. According to the article, when Hyundai repossessed cars from its lower income delinquent owners, their quality was so bad that they were usually worth less than the outstanding loan balances. However, since then, Hyundai has made quite a turnaround. In the past year or so when all major car companies saw their sales drop significantly, Hyundai actually saw a steady growth in its sales. Hyundai is now the fourth largest car company in the world, surpassing Ford in 2009. Hyundai now has a full line of vehicles for sale at its dealerships and has steadily moved up the charts in J.D. Powers quality ratings, becoming the best quality mass market car brand in 2009.

How did Hyundai move from a terrible single product line up to a full line, high quality performer? The article points out a number of contributing factors:

  • Hyundai maintains a Global Command and Control Center in Seoul that minute by minute tracks every aspect of its operations including the shipping and tracking of parts to ensure adequate, but not unnecessary, availability of parts, cameras continually monitor every assembly line around the world, the center watches over all R&D activities around the world, and monitors the massive Hyundai test facility in California. This constant monitoring and adjusting allows Hyundai to anticipate and react to all problems before or just after they crop up. When was the last time the political class was so proactive as to avoid a disaster before it happened?
  • Hyundai constantly shortens and improves its delivery process to introduce new autos to the market. Thinking about the agonizing slow process of the health care reform bill, when was the last time the political class ever shortened and improved its delivery process of worthwhile laws and government services?
  • While Hyundai has improved its sales volumes substantially over the past few years, its corporate philosophy is now focused on quality, not volume, which is quite a difference from the Excel days when sales, not quality, was the mantra. When was the last time the political class focused on quality?
  • Hyundai has built a cross functional quality culture where all parts of the company work together to ensure that quality exists from the design team to the sales floor. When was the last time the political class had a quality process to ensure that the laws it passes actually are enforced in the manner they were designed to be enforced and address the issues they were designed to address?
  • According to John Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai's American operations, "Hyundai is an ambitious company that looks for boldness and leadership." When was the last time that the words "boldness" and "leadership" were apt descriptions of the American political class?

The second example was also in the Fortune issue. In an article written by David Whitford, the possibility of reinventing Detroit is reviewed. In previous posts we have reviewed the sad state of Detroit today. It has gone from being the fourth largest city in the country with a population around two million people to a shell of its former self with less than one million residents. Its unemployment rate is approaching 30% and its housing market has collapsed. There are vast swaths of inner city property that have been abandoned and the buildings have been knocked down or burned down. This has made the city very difficult to run and manage. Tax revenue is down and police, fire, ambulance, and other services have become very inefficient since they must serve a large geographic area with low population density.

The question becomes one of what would help rejuvenate Detroit. Becoming a regional financial center would be tough because Chicago and Minneapolis fulfill that role in the Midwest already. Boston and San Diego are years ahead as far as being biotech centers. Some have suggested that Detroit might become a center for TV and movie production but Hollywood does not seem interested. Anyway, none of these ideas would make good use of the acres and acres of empty and blighted land.

Mr. Whitford's article, "Can Farming Save Detroit," reviews an incredibly unique way of approaching and solving Detroit's problems. Rather than try to rebuild Detroit's historical industrial base, some people are dreaming of turning the city's many vacant lots into high tech farming centers. Their thought is if they can convert the vacant land into a productive farming industry, it will generate jobs and hopefully consolidate the remaining residents closer in to a core city center, making fire, police and rescue more efficient and less costly. The outer parts of the city limits would evolve into farming centers, the city core would evolve into a more manageable city.

And we are not talking about a typical farm and just tilling some soil and planting some seeds. The people dreaming up this transformation are looking at the latest in farm technology, indoors and outdoors, that would utilize such technologies as compost heated greenhouses, hydroponic growing (water only, no soil), aeroponic farming (air only), etc. Crops would grow year round despite the cold Detroit winters and the farming centers would be a tourist destination for both locals and visitors.

Is this a viable solution for Detroit? I do not know but at least those addressing the city's many maladies seem to have done their homework. They understand the problem, i.e. they have a lot of unused assets (vacant land) with little chance of using that asset they way it had been used historically (car and other industrial production). They understand the bad economics of a lot of vacant land with not a corresponding population density that needed to be served by fire, police, and other city services, i.e. they understood the root cause of the problem. They are thinking creatively to find unique solutions to dire problems.

Like the Hyundai example, the Detroit farming solution stands in stark contrast to the government and the ruling political class who rarely, if ever, display the characteristics of 1) understanding the root cause of a problem, 2) understanding the relationship between all components of the problem, 3) understood the financials of the problem, and 4) acted boldly, quickly, and creatively to solve it.

Many steps in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" would help bring the positive characteristics of Hyundai's rise and the Detroit farming idea to the ruling class. Term limits would remove politicians from office after a reasonable time, infusing new people with new ideas into the ruling process on a regular basis. Doing a comprehensive zero-based review of all Federal government functions and programs would weed out unnecessary functions, meld together related and redundant functions, and would help bring creativity out in solving problems. Holding politicians accountable based on their performance on Congressional committees would also move members of the ruling class out of committee positions for not thinking uniquely and creatively in solving problems.

Hyundai and Detroit farming are just two examples of innovative approaches to problem solving. Some how we need to get that same energy into the political process before we waste another trillion dollars or so on government processes and functions that just do not work.

Visit our website at to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Few Rays Of Hope

Unfortunately, many of the posts to these blogs are not optimistic. By constantly identifying waste, fraud, corruption, and inefficiencies that the political class perpetrates on American and its citizens, it does get a little depressing. However, in our short post today, lets look at a few hopeful signs for restoring sanity and freedom to the country and its citizens.

Lets start with a special election that will be held on Tuesday in Massachusetts for the Senate seat that was occupied by Ted Kennedy, a Democrat. Kennedy had held that Massachusetts Senate seat for the Democrats for decades. Massachusetts had gone for a Democrat for President all but once in the past sixty years or so. Massachusetts is one of the most politically liberal states in the union and votes heavily Democrat. Massachusetts has had a universal health care plan (one that is failing miserably) very similar to the one that the Obama administration and Democratic Congressman are pushing and crafting behind closed doors. However, despite all of the Democratic Party history, a Republican is on the verge to taking the seat out of the Democrat's column and moving over to the Republicans. The Democrats are so desperate that Obama actually campaigned there yesterday, an event that would have been unnecessary and downright absurd several weeks ago. It looks like that even in heavily democratic Massachusetts, Americans are starting to realize that the current political class, regardless of party, needs to be changed out and the status quo upset. And Democrats in control in Massachusetts cannot get any more status quo.

As a second ray of hope, I refer to a short article in the January 15, 2010 issue of The Week Magazine. The article consists of a quote from David Brooks who writes for the New York Times. A synopsis of Mr. Brooks' quotes include the following:

  • According to a recent NBC New/Wall Street Journal poll, 41 percent of Americans have a positive view of the Tea Party movement. This makes it more popular than either major party.

  • The Tea Party movement is against big government, big media, big business, and affluent professionals that appear to be conspiring to create "a self serving oligarchy - with bloated government, unsustainable deficits, high taxes, and intrusive regulation."

  • A year ago, Obama's supporters had the passion, now the tea Party Brigades have all the intensity.

The Tea Party movement has gone from a rag tag, unknown entity that was ridiculed and mocked by the mainstream media and the political class as a bunch of right wing nuts, to a viable political force in less than a few years. A very, very good sign of hope that America is awakening.

Finally, we have reported favorable trends from a number of recent opinion polls, both in this blog and in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government." In one poll, respondents by a wide majority polled that they would vote to dump the entire Congress rather than keep it intact if they could. All valid polls that track Congressional approval ratings usually have the positive respondents numbering less than 30% and the negative respondents numbering over 60%. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that only 22% approve of what Congress is doing while 68% disapprove and the latest CNN/Opinion Research poll has the approval rating at only 22% and disapproval rating at a whopping 77%. In both polls, by a margin of more than 3-to-1, Americans are waking up to the incompetence, waste, and insanity that the political class is all about. Hopefully, this trend will continue and we can get to a point where politicians do what is right for the nation and its citizens and not what is right for their individual political careers, two often opposing actions.

Visit our website at to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.

Friday, January 15, 2010

North Korea - Why Bother?

One international topic that constantly amazes me is the continual useless political dancing that we do with North Korea. The Korean Armistice was signed about 57 years ago and through all of these decades we have not been able to find a way to deal with North Korea. If the inability to rationally discuss peace and cooperation with North Korea was the only problem, then who really cares. North Korea has very little to offer us and if we cannot get along with them then it was not worth the effort to find common ground.

However, over those 57 years we have constantly had tens of thousands of troops stationed in Korea. If my memory is correct, we have about 35,000 troops currently stationed there. If the Obama administration is correct in their estimate that it will cost one million a year for each soldier stationed in Afghanistan, then we could expect to spend about $35 billion a year to station 35,00o troops in Korea. If we assume that on average this troop level has been sustained over the years, then we as a nation have spent about two TRILLION dollars to station U.S. military troops on the Korean peninsula. If we get very conservative in our estimate (say by reducing the $1,000,000 estimate by 50%), with the rationale that the troops in Korea are not in a shooting war at this time, we still would have spent a TRILLION dollars. Imagine how much better things would have been in America if we had spent that money on infrastructure improvement, new energy sources, better public schools, reduced taxes, or any number of more worthwhile endeavors.

But before we do that, let's look at what we have gotten for our TRILLION dollars. The South Korean economy is much better and healthier than it was in 1953, so much so that it has about the 12th biggest economy in the world (see the Korean section in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government.) One would think at this time South Korea could handle all of its defense needs, especially since North Korea has one of the worst economies in the world. Military duty is mandatory in South Korea so one would think they have enough troops to handle their defense needs. We are no closer to having a peace treaty between the two Koreas than we were 57 years ago so stationing thousands of U.S. troops there may not be the solution; after 57 years one could reach that conclusion.

However, this discussion was inspired by a recent Associated Press article that reported North Korea began a uranium enrichment program, to feed its nuclear weapons program, soon after it agreed to a 1994 deal with the U.S. to dismantle its existing nuclear weapons effort. This pact, as hailed by Clinton and the Democrats, was nothing more than a charade since it appears that North Korea had no intention of dropping its nuclear arms program. Sixteen years after the fact, we finally get the truth. Over that time we have spent untold diplomatic resources trying to convince this little, dysfunctional country to stop developing nuclear technology. President Obama is the latest member of the political class to do this meaningless dance with the North Koreans. Do we really think anything will change with this administration when nothing changed with the previous administrations? Do we really think that all of a sudden the North Koreans are going to do anything different than they did in the past, namely posture, delay, lie and not conform to any agreements?

Here's a thought - why not try something entirely different and follow Step 30 in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" which suggests bringing home all nonessential U.S. troops including those in Korea. The reasons for this step include the following:
  • South Korea is rich enough as a country to defend itself from both a wealth and manpower perspective.
  • If the North starts firing, then 35,000 or so U.S. troops will not make a big military difference when the one million man strong North Korean land army comes over the border. Thus, why even have an inadequate force there at all.
  • North Korea holds no strategic, commercial, raw material, or any other worthwhile asset that we would be interested in dealing for.
  • What makes us think that the North Koreans would ever be interested in a rational peace agreement when all of the other ones they have agreed to were not worth the paper they were written on.
  • By leaving, we could actually weaken the North Korean regime since they no longer could keep their people in line by promising to protect them from the imperialistic Americans. No U.S. troops on the peninsula, no excuse for suppressing the North Korean people in the name of protection.
  • Do we really want to continually spent tens of billions of dollars a year by stationing troops there like we have done for 57 years? Einstein quote again comes to mind: "the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Korea is the perfect example of the political class doing the same irrational thing over and over because at some point in the distance past it may have made some degree of sense. These types of political behavior waste both financial and diplomatic resources at a time when the country needs those resources spent as efficiently and effectively as possible. Step 30 could be one way to break this thought process of stupidity.

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