Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Credit "Crisis" and Zombies

I read an article with a somewhat hyperbolic title, Main Street America angry over credit crisis. Here is an example of how the credit market has tightened in response to the over-extension of credit that has led to our current financial troubles:

David Zugheri, co-founder of Envoy Mortgage Ltd, which has 475 employees in 20 states, has also seen a big slowdown. He said 30 percent to 40 percent of prospective buyers who could have qualified for mortgages two or three years ago are being shut out.

"There has been a mad rush back to the basics and if you don't have the necessary documentation you cannot get a loan," Zugheri said. But he noted that not all credit is dead.

"If you have decent credit, a verifiable income and want a loan for under $400,000 it's business as usual."

Well, I think it's pure scare tactics and exaggeration when the President and the media are telling us that we won't be able to get any credit at all. What is happening now is exactly what needs to happen. The banks need use more discretion and tougher requirements for credit than the free-for-all orgy of credit that has been going on for about the last decade. People will have to learn to live within their means and to stop expecting to get credit that they don't really deserve. What ever happened to the wisdom that credit has to be earned?

The article opened with a story of a guy wanting to buy a new truck with a $3000 down payment. The trouble was that he owed more on the old truck than its trade-in value, and he couldn't get approved for a loan without more down payment. That always happens when you buy brand new vehicles. They are already overpriced, and as soon as you drive off the car lot they automatically lose at least 25-30% of their resale value. This is one of the problems with the auto industry. It costs so much to build the cars because the auto unions demand that the employees are paid $30/hr to make the vehicles. But in the real "free market" of used cars the actual value is much lower than the new ones, and so people always end up owing more than they are worth for several years. The lender knew that the guy with the $3000 down payment would still end up driving off the lot owing much more than what the truck was worth. The bank knew that if they had to repossess the truck then they would be stuck with a loss because they couldn't resell it for enough to cover the loan amount. That is the proper decision of a lender. But people have gotten so spoiled with all the too-easy credit that the banks, for whatever reasons, foolishly extended.

Harsh as it might seem today, I have to say that this whole push by Bush, Congress, and so many supposed capitalists for keeping that kind of credit orgy going is absolutely insane. And as Neil Cavuto described it, they've all been turned into some kind of government bailout zombies:

Neil, you're not all alone in feeling like you've entered into some kind of "Night of the Living Dead" Zombie-land. I feel it too. But there are still others like us, who haven't yet been infected by the zombie virus which apparently morphed from the toxic loans and became contagious.

Well, I guess we are on some kind of precipice to disaster either way. But must we have to choose between two evils? Do we really have to protect all the spoiled rotten people who can't bear to face the consequences of their irresponsibility and orgy of credit spending?

I'm a vicious momma, and that means tough love sometimes. I don't coddle my children and try to protect their feelings too much when they've made really bad decisions. I want them to learn to face the consequences of their freedom. Freedom means being allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. A good parent can't prevent every bad decision a kid makes, and a good parent can't really pay the price for them. If they do, the kids become spoiled and entitled and irresponsible. I love my children more than life, and they love me. We are very affectionate, but they know that I won't excuse a bad decision or bad behavior. They know that they must take responsibility and face the consequences. I don't want them to think that the government will do more for them than I will.

Part of America has become some kind of sub-nation of entitlement zombies. They think that are entitled to as much credit as they want, without having to earn it. They think that they are entitled to college educations, paid for by their parents and/or the govenment at huge expense. They think they are entitled to get a house and cars that they can't really afford. This is not a good economic strategy.

What is wrong with all the so-called free market conservatives who are trying so hard to preserve a totally unsustainable economic status quo by injecting some ungodly amount of money into it? It will only calm the credit junkies for a very short time. I remember when interest rates were in the double digits and when getting a mortgage required jumping through all kinds of hoops. We survived that just fine. We worked hard and earned what we got.

I'm so disappointed in how the world is turning out for my kids who will be saddled with this for the rest of their lives. Some of us are more prepared than others for hard times, but in today's world somehow we are seen as the bad guys or the selfish ones for expecting others to be responsible and prepared too. It's just not right. I have plenty of compassion and empathy for people in truly desperate places, but cruel as it might sound, there's not so much for those who've been reckless and foolish and have expected so many entitlements without earning them.

Whatever happens, it won't be painless. But by God, I'm not letting the zombies eat my brain.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Assorted Thoughts on the "Crisis"

For a nice time-line explanation of the events leading up to the current "crisis" click here. It's interesting how they kept denying that there were problems and then all of a sudden it was impending catastrophe. And we're supposed to believe what they are telling us now?

Show Me the Money

I really want to see some actual numbers and figures about the supposed financial catastrophe and "credit crisis." No one seems to want to give us, the taxpayers, any kind of details about who, where, what, when and how all of this money 'disappeared'. I pretty much understand a lot of that just from the bits of research I've done about it, but I can't find any actual numbers anywhere. Somebody needs to show me exactly how many and which banks and where they are that are on the verge of collapse and closing up credit. So far, we've just been told that they need this huge amount of money but they don't give us any real examples of where that amount comes from. I don't like all that secrecy and predictions of disaster without much evidence. It's too much like the climate change alarmism. I'm a skeptic.

All these places have been "cooking their books" apparently. Well, show me the money trail and where it disappeared. Don't just try to coerce and scare me into complying with this insane bailout without proving exactly why it's needed.

The Mexican Connection

I don't have anything against Mexicans, just illegal immigrants who exploit our system without really contributing to it. I've noticed that there aren't so many Mexicans around anymore. Gee, I wonder why. Well, let me tell you. The construction jobs dried up so they just packed up and left, often leaving houses that they were able to "buy" with money from banks who didn't seem to care that they weren't legal citizens. There is a house down the road from us that was abandoned by the Mexicans who "bought" it. There was always a Mexican flag flying from their porch, so that's how we know they were Mexicans. Okay, I don't know who financed their house, but now it's been sitting empty ever since the housing bubble burst and the construction jobs disappeared. The Mexicans were only here to make a quick dollar, and when those quick dollars stopped they left. How many other houses and mortgages have been abandoned all over the country in this same way? So much for Bank of America's courting the illegals with credit cards and whatever other credit they gave them. Why should I have to pay for that?

Also, two illegal immigrants are in custody suspected in the slaying of a 21 year old Alabama woman who was here on business and disappeared last week.

Lots of "Told You So"s

I know that of which I speak, and I've been saying it all along. It's just that no one was listening because they always think, "What can some dumb redneck housewife in Tennessee know about anything?" Okay, well, I've been predicting this mess for a while and even have offered up some great free advice to any interested, serious journalists on a big expose that probably would have won them a freakin' Pulitzer Prize or something if they recognized it and pursued it. Hey, I think I should get some kind of prize for seeing this coming even though most people weren't paying attention. So much for all the supposedly smart people who are screaming, "Why didn't anyone tell us?" Duh!! If a stupid redneck housewife in Tennessee can figure it out, then why couldn't they? Stupid is as stupid does, and I hope that all those supposedly superior people are figuring out just how stupid they really are.

September 2008

January 2008

February 2, 2007

February 19, 2007

The House Defies Pelosi

Apparently many Democrats, as well as Republicans, chose to listen to their constituents and vote no on the current bailout plan. Looks like all of Pelosi's, Dodd's, Reid's, and Frank's yelling and threatening didn't work after all. Maybe the House Republicans' plan should be the one that is pushed. Instead of a bailout at taxpayer expense, it is an insurance set-up like the FDIC which protects our bank deposits from bank failures. The House Republicans want the financial institutions to pay premiums into this new insurance that will protect people's other types of assets that are used by banks as their "currency" between themselves.

Stock Market Crash

Well, yeah, it's gonna hurt a bunch of people. But sometimes it takes really hard lessons to learn what's right and wrong. I'm not happy that the small amount of money I have invested in what was explained to me as "conservative, low-risk" funds is probably going to disappear. Well, it would be nice to at least be able to recover my initial deposits, but I knew full-well that these funds were not insured and that they might disappear someday. And that's why the money I put in them is small enough that losing it isn't going to ruin my life. I feel a little sorry for those who invested all their savings in the stock market, but then again, they should have known better.

One of my best, against-the-experts-advice decisions was to purchase a "whole-life" insurance policy in 1993. Every month since then I've sent in my little premium, and slowly but surely it has been growing at an interest rate that is better than most other savings since then. I'm pretty sure that my rate can't fall below prime - it never has although the rates have been up and down a lot over the years. Now I have to wonder how many of those "experts" who advised against whole life insurance have lost all their money in other types of savings? Well, this is an example of being conservative really paying off. I just don't want to gamble with so much money, and that is exactly what the stock market seems to have become. An institutionalized casino with all the house advantages of any other casino. Sorry, but even an adorable little baby can't convince me to waste my money on investing in things that don't look too secure:

Uh-Ah-Um-Uh-Uh, Yeah

The "great orator" who's supposedly so much better than Sarah Palin:

He's completely incoherent and can't answer a simple question with a simple answer. This is for those who say Sarah Palin's answers are too long and irrelevant. Hah:

He doesn't even know how many states there are:

He's lost without a teleprompter:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Passing the Buck

I think that McCain's dropping the campaign to go to Washington for the bailout negotiations was an honest and sincere gesture, putting the country's concerns above his own. If it helped or hurt him wasn't his main concern. Obama says otherwise, but that's to his advantage to be cynical and disparaging of his 'opponent'.

I think McCain was thinking that whoever is going to be the next President and will have to inherit the mess and its fallout really should at least be there to know first hand what exactly the Congress and White House are doing about it. Also, as a Senator *it's his job* to be there. Yeah, it's Obama's job too, but he's more interested in playing politics than actually doing something.

Obama blowing it off and saying "they can call me if they need me" sounded extremely selfish and arrogant as well as unconcerned about what his future job might involve. It is that casual disinterest in "regulating" the process that makes him look pretty hypocritical for blaming Bush and Co. for not keeping a good enough eye on things years ago. He's trying to pass the buck.

Passing the buck like that is the very reason why this thing has grown so out of proportion. All those people were passing the responsibility on to others while packing even more onto it as it goes, until now, and they're trying to pass it on to the responsible taxpayers.

And it really irks me that Bill O'Reilly has been harping on Bush and Co. about not warning everyone vigorously enough about this financial mess coming. Well, I think he's passing the buck too because he should be feeling some responsibility for not paying enough attention to the news over the years that suggested that this problem was on its way. And really, if he will be completely honest he will admit that if Bush came out and forcefully warned everyone about this back then, the Democrats would have crucified him and there probably would have been widespread financial panic and chaos. Then they would have totally blamed it on Bush, saying his alarmism caused it to crash and so on. Bill really needs to stop it with the Botox because it's not only seeping into his nuts, it's seeping into his brain too.

And another thing, what exactly is Bill's job as a highly paid media figure? Doesn't he realize that part of HIS responsibility, as such a prominent media presence (as he's always reminding everyone about his ratings), is to keep up with the news and spot the big, important stories developing? Stop passing the buck to the government. What was he paying attention to in 2003-2007? Why wasn't he reading the NYTimes and their stories about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and trying to look deeper into the issue? Isn't that the job of a journalist and/or commentator (especially one with lots of resources and assistants to do the grunt work)?

Apparently, he wants all the glory but none of the responsibility. Just like all those crooked hogs who kept feeding at the teats, even as they were drying up. Bill said nobody told him that his Merrill Lynch stock was worthless. Well, poor little baby. First of all, I don't think anyone should invest a lot of money in something that they don't really know that much about. But anyway, can't he see that the reason why his broker and the employees of Merrill Lynch and everyone else, including the government, didn't know is because the Congressional committees that were supposed to "regulate" this stuff were all caught up in the corruption themselves. They did everything they could to keep everyone ignorant about what they were doing. It wasn't just the CEOs but the Congress members too who were hiding things. They were almost caught when the "accounting scandals" were discovered, but they were sneaky enough to get past that. And that's why, when the President tried to address this issue, one of the main guys who should have been concerned - Barney Frank - sat there and denied that there was a problem at all and said that suggesting that there was one would actually cause problems. Fannie and Freddie should have been properly dealt with back then, but in trying to avoid a big financial crisis at that time they just passed it on to now. How hard is it to see how that worked out?

Why wasn't there good enough regulation already? Well, in 1999 President Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which loosened some rules about banking and also contained new laws regarding privacy of personal information. By passing that bill no one was advocating corruption or abuse within the financial industry in cahoots with the Congressional committees on banking and finance. The bill was intended to increase competition among banks so that people would have more choice, etc. There were mostly Democrats at the helms of both the Congressional committees as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It's completely disingenuous to blame Bush for inheriting this whole setup. And let's try to remember that just after he was inaugurated our country was attacked in the most serious way by terrorists, so all the crooks were able go to work 'under the radar' since the responsible people in government were pretty distracted by dealing with national security.

So I hope that explains somewhat where that toxic buck came from and who started passing it in the first place. This isn't some fairy tale version of history. It's the real thing.

No, McCain hasn't been perfect, but I think he's been very honest and selfless in his work. And those who suggest otherwise should really stop because they can't offer any real evidence to the contrary or any justification of their own behavior.

PS To Bill O'Reilly, please stop blaming Bush for not warning the "people" about Fannie and Freddie. He even mentioned the need for reform in his 2008 State of the Union address:

On housing, we must trust Americans with the responsibility of homeownership and empower them to weather turbulent times in the housing market. My Administration brought together the HOPE NOW alliance, which is helping many struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. The Congress can help even more. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, modernize the Federal Housing Administration, and allow State housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. These are difficult times for many American families, and by taking these steps, we can help more of them keep their homes.

Whose fault is it that they weren't watching his speech? Or if they were watching, why weren't they paying attention to these things? As citizens of this country it is our responsibility to be informed, and Bush was trying to inform us in the one most important speech of the year.

Another quote from that speech:

The strength -- the secret of our strength, the miracle of America, is that our greatness lies not in our government, but in the spirit and determination of our people. (Applause.) When the Federal Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787, our nation was bound by the Articles of Confederation, which began with the words, "We the undersigned delegates." When Governor Morris was asked to draft a preamble to our new Constitution, he offered an important revision and opened with words that changed the course of our nation and the history of the world: "We the people."

Okay, so like I said before, we the people are really the bosses, so let's start acting like it and finally vote out all the corruption and crooks instead of letting them hold us hostage and demanding from us some hundreds of billions of dollars ransom. That's just is not the American Way.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Transcend the Poison and Boot the Bastards

This whole financial scandal is full of poison, and it's making many of us very sick. On top of that I've been dealing with my own monthly possession by some kind of evil, satirical demon, as well as going through a battery of tests to make sure there isn't any more cancer trying poison my body. I am working on transcending all of this poison. Here is a dose of reality to try to help others transcend it too.

Let's look at the reality of who said what in recent years about the problems surrounding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:

The NYTimes reported this Sept. 11, 2003

The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.
Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending.

However, what many do not recall is that Bush wanted to tighten oversight with a new regulatory board for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government recipients for the express purpose of addressing bad loan practices — and Democrats blocked it.

What Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, said (page 2 of article linked above):

These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.

Well, so much for the Democrats' argument that the Bush Administration ignored the building problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and is responsible for it. Obama, read it and weep, or at least quit falsely blaming Bush and McCain for all of this mess which is rooted much more in the corruption of the Congressional Democrats on the committees involved in finances and banking.

May 25, 2005, John McCain, speaking to the Senate:

Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae’s regulator reported that the company’s quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were “illusions deliberately and systematically created” by the company’s senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight’s report goes on to say that Fannie Mae employees deliberately and intentionally manipulated financial reports to hit earnings targets in order to trigger bonuses for senior executives. In the case of Franklin Raines, Fannie Mae’s former chief executive officer, OFHEO’s report shows that over half of Mr. Raines’ compensation for the 6 years through 2003 was directly tied to meeting earnings targets. The report of financial misconduct at Fannie Mae echoes the deeply troubling $5 billion profit restatement at Freddie Mac.

The OFHEO report also states that Fannie Mae used its political power to lobby Congress in an effort to interfere with the regulator’s examination of the company’s accounting problems. This report comes some weeks after Freddie Mac paid a record $3.8 million fine in a settlement with the Federal Election Commission and restated lobbying disclosure reports from 2004 to 2005. These are entities that have demonstrated over and over again that they are deeply in need of reform.

For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac–known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs–and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO’s report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO’s report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.

I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation.

The legislation was blocked by Democrats, with the assistance of a few Republicans.

October 27, 2005, NY Times reports:

Responding to the accounting scandals at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the House of Representatives approved legislation on Wednesday overhauling the regulatory oversight of the two huge mortgage financing companies.


The White House issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing the legislation adopted by the House, saying it envisioned a regulatory regime that "is considerably weaker than that which governs other large, complex financial institutions."

The legislation "fails to include key elements that are essential to protect the safety and soundness of the housing finance system and the broader financial system at large," the White House statement said.

That legislation died in the Senate. Did you catch that part about the Bush Administration wanting stronger regulation? Yeah, that's right. Whatever tripe Obama is pushing is spoiled rotten and full of toxins. We all know why this legislation failed. It was purely political games by the Democrat-dominated Congress because they hate Bush so much they were willing to sacrifice all of our future financial security just because they didn't want him to "win" anything. That, and they used the excuse that they thought he was seeking too much power. blah, blah, blah

All of that being said, can we please put to rest the wrong ideas that the Republicans are at fault for our "financial crisis"? How can Nancy Pelosi or Barney Frank sleep at night knowing that they were actually big players in preventing the problems from being fixed before it became such a huge "crisis"? Pelosi has said that the Republicans and the Bush Administration failed to properly regulate things so that they got out of control. Well, Nancy, why can't you properly regulate the corruption right under your nose (Charlie Rangel, et al)?

Let's just stop it and do what Obama won't do: transcend the poison of the old political games. Yes, it's difficult and I'm having trouble doing that myself, but Jesus Christ, they (and we) are going to have to put all of that political nonsense aside and actually try to solve some problems. Will the Democrats please just stop demanding all these extra things that only complicate the problems? In Sunday's New York Times:
Ms. Pelosi said Democrats would also insist on “enacting an economic recovery package that creates jobs and returns growth to our economy.”

Jesus F. Johnson, is she a complete idiot or what? Oh, sorry, I'm still dealing with some residual poison. ;-) How about we just try to solve this one huge problem first before we start adding all these conditions and extras that will only complicate and impede progress? Growing jobs is important, but let's get this mortgage situation under control first. And as soon as the government-secured mortgages can get properly straightened out and distributed/sold to financial institutions that can actually handle them, then the broader "economic recovery" can be addressed. Sometimes it's necessary to prioritize and handle one thing at a time, instead of trying to kill fifty birds with one stone.

Truth be told, I tend to agree that there needs to be a serious restructuring of how corporations and financial institutions do business. In my utopian ideas it wouldn't be necessary for the government to regulate so much because all the businesses would naturally want to be ethical, fair, and responsible for their own behavior and the consequences of that behavior. But I know that is only an idealistic fantasy and that a lot of people won't regulate themselves without force or fear of severe penalties.

My own ideas are fairly radical, and maybe even "liberal" depending on how you define it. ;-) I've never believed that the corporate business model is really that good because it inherently encourages too-risky behavior without tough enough consequences. Inevitably when a corporation fails, especially the very large ones, it becomes a private profit-public loss situation because the "owners" aren't held accountable for the losses. The value of their ownership in the company is often not at all related to any real, physical assets. Their wealth is just an illusion based on an assumption of future performance. It's just a bad model to begin with, although I do know and somewhat appreciate some of the "pro" arguments for it. But any other purely private business just can't survive or function by doing things in the same way as corporations, and they can't rely on public money for bailing them out when they screw up.

Let's look at this $700,000,000,000 that the government wants to "liquidate" the whole mess, which apparently accounts for only about 10% of all mortgages in the US (though I haven't found any solid numbers on that so it could be inaccurate). Well, I'd say 10% isn't really that much, but because of the fucked up ways that the banks overinflated the values of them and lent much more money than what the actual collateral was worth, the problem seemed to exponentially grow somehow. Anyway, if I've done my math right, which I probably didn't because every time I try to use real numbers I mess up for whatever reasons ;-), every single man, woman, and child in the US either owes the government over $2000, or you might could say they each will own $2000 worth of other people's houses until the mortgages are paid off.

Okay, I suppose the socialists might be cheering about this movement into that direction. But frankly, I don't like it, although logically and rationally and morally speaking no one can place any claims, or liens as they call them, on our mortgage because ours isn't in any kind of trouble. It's just between us and our credit union. I just hope that all those other supposedly 90% of people like us will actually see some "return" on our investments in other people's properties. I'd say it would be fair for the government, as soon as they are able (if ever?), to send us a dividend of that $2000+ per person plus interest (but definitely not at a "sub-prime" rate). ;-) What's good for the goose is good for the gander, so to speak. Or to be a little more "charitable" they could just give us future tax credits for those amounts, including some percentage of interest.

Does anyone really think it's a good idea to trust the current Congress to improve anything? Regardless of your political leanings it should be very clear that these people who are supposed to be "public servants" paid with our money have done a piss-poor job. In fact, I think we should have many of them charged with "high crimes and misdemeanors" and bribery (in the guise of lobbyists' payments). A good explanation of what "high crimes and misdemeanors" means in this context is found in an article by Jon Roland:

... the key to understanding it is the word "high". It does not mean "more serious". It refers to those punishable offenses that only apply to high persons, that is, to public officials, those who, because of their official status, are under special obligations that ordinary persons are not under, and which could not be meaningfully applied or justly punished if committed by ordinary persons.

Our Congress is sworn in and under the obligation to uphold their Oath of Office. This puts the responsibility on them to act on our behalf. I would lead an insurrection if that's what it would take to get all those corrupt bozos out of office. I am a conservative, but I'm a rebel too. Perhaps a revolutionary conservative is a paradox, but here I am anyway. ;-)

As for all those "executives" of these failed and brink-of-failing financial services companies, I think they should be charged with several serious crimes. Stop it with this namby-pamby fiddle-farting around with some big bailout that we can't really afford. Throw the bastards in jail for practically treasonous fraud. Yes, treasonous is a very strong word, but if you believe that the failings of these companies without (and possibly even with) a bailout will actually lead to the complete collapse of the US, and possibly global, economy, then okay, that looks awfully serious to me. They've essentially weakened our country's security in every way.

At least treat them like drug-dealers and seize all their property that they gained from their criminal activities. Make them pay for the mess they created. Of course, that wouldn't be enough to cover it all, but at least it would be something coming from the criminals who caused it. Back in the good old days, people like that would have been dealt with quickly. They certainly wouldn't be rewarded for their betrayals and treachery.

I hope that everyone who reads this will see the truth. And spread the word. I mean really. We're actually the bosses here. So let's act like it.

Amen, go in peace. :-)

Update: Shortly after finishing this and posting it, I heard on the news that the FBI is investigating Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Bros., and AIG. Praise the lord! I hope they are investigating some Congress members too. (of both parties, whoever has been instrumental in allowing the banking fraud to continue)

Monday, September 22, 2008

21st Century Laundry

Over the weekend I bought a new washing machine because my old one was pretty much dead and had already been repaired at least three times since I got it in 2004 (I think). Well, I do an awful lot of laundry and the thing wore out that quick. Also, the last two months' electric bills have been over $500. Ouch! That's about double what we've been averaging. Part of it is probably the addition of the pool, but that is worth some extra expense and it won't run all year anyway. Also, TVA has announced a 20% increase in their rates, so that increase is passed on to us.

So I was thinking about all the other big electricity consumers in the house and what my options might be to reduce our bills. Since the old washer wasn't spinning very well to get enough water out of the laundry, I've had to run the dryer longer and that is a big energy user because of the heating element. I really couldn't afford both a new washer and dryer, so I figured if I got a new washer it might help the most since it could reduce the drying time.

Okay, just a quick aside, hanging our clothes out to dry is not really a healthy option here because of all the allergens like pollen that would collect in the laundry. We all tend to have problems with various pollens so it would be pretty dumb, and unhealthy, for us to add a lot more to the household by drying our clothes outside. Incidentally, Knoxville is rated as one of the worst cities in the US for allergies and asthma.

The old washer was a typical American top-loader, which I think of as a very 20th Century design. The new washer is a front loading Bosch (German company but the machine was actually made in the USA):

At first I was a little skeptical that it would actually clean our sometimes very dirty laundry without so much water. But so far it seems to do very well. It's kind of amazing. And I'm only having to run the dryer about half the time, or less even, that before. Wonders never cease! I guess some people get these things because they want to save the planet or some other lofty goal, but frankly I just did it to save my checkbook. ;-)

And it cost about the same as a replica of an old wringer-style washer like my grandma used to have. I still think those are cool, but the Bosch is even cooler. And smarter because it automatically senses the size of the loads and adds water accordingly, as well as having a special sanitizing cycle and an extra energy efficient option, if I am feeling especially "green". ;-) I'll add a note after the next electric bill saying whether or not it has helped.

Another nice bonus is that I'm not having to spend as much time messing with the laundry either. So that means more time for blogging. :-)

Tennessee Rep's Son Suspected Palin Hacker

Wow, another embarrassment for a Tennessee Democrat. David Kernell, son of Mike Kernell, a Democratic state representative from Memphis (in the State House, not the US House), is under investigation for the hacking of Palin's personal Yahoo email account. According to WBIR, on Sunday morning FBI agents served a federal search warrant at the Knoxville UT student residence of David Kernell. Apparently, witnesses say Kernell and his friends, who were having a "party," fled the apartment when the FBI agents arrived.

Terry Frank has posted images from Kernell's facebook pages. She also reports that Kernell is a "self-described 'Obamacrat'." Commenters on her blog also suggest that Kernell is closely related to David Plouffe, a campaign manager for Obama, but it looks like any evidence for that claim has been already erased from the Internet, if it ever really existed. Is it just a rumor or a cover-up? We might never know.

There is also some speculation suggesting that Kernell is also known as "Rubico" on the Internet.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Truth About Big Government

Saw these at Xanthippa's and wanted to post them too. They are very much worth the roughly twenty minutes to watch them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

White Trash and Proud of It

Canadian columnist, Heather Mallick, has called Sarah Palin's supporters "white trash" and has said Alaska is full of "drunks and crazy people," as well as saying very insulting things about Palin's teenage daughter's boyfriend.

Well, Ms. Mallick, I'm a white trash redneck and proud of it. And I think you and all of your Canadian elitists should be taken out behind the woodshed, or outhouse, ;-) and be whipped with some hickory branches, or maybe even some thorny blackberry branches. What you people just don't have is any respect for anyone who is different from you, and to me, that is much, much worse than being a country bumpkin or redneck.

I'm really shocked at the hatred directed at all of us normal people. But I guess I'm not that shocked about the hypocrisy spouted by so-called feminists and other rabid liberal opinionists.

Now here's this Mary Mitchell who says,
"Sarah Palin makes me sick. I hate that she was able to steal Barack Obama's mojo just by showing up wearing rimless glasses and a skirt."

Well, you know what, Obama makes me sick with all his lies and cheap shots and fake "change" based on what, class conflict and pitting the "haves" against the "have-nots" instead of focusing on the the real source of the trouble which is the very corruption in which he's been so entrenched and well-funded. Call me a racist if it makes you feel better, but it's not the color of his skin that makes me sick. It's his actions and character, or lack thereof. And there is no way you can compare me to that black columnist who hates Palin just because she's a white woman who "stole" Obama's "mojo."

And Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago’s Divinity School, goes so far as to say this:

Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.

Wow, now what exactly is the liberal feminist definition a woman? This is insane! I can't believe someone who is supposed to be well-educated could be so stupid. Well, actually, I'm not that surprised because of how many of these types I've encountered in my perusal of some "academic" blogs. Anyway, thirty years ago in the black community Obama wouldn't have been consider a "real" black because of his white mother. Oh, but I'm not allowed to say anything like that because that would make me a racist or something. Oh, God forbid I should even hint at some mildly race-related comment about the liberal Sacred Cow Pig, Obama.

And then there are other snobbish, elitist "academics" who proudly proclaim their hatred for Sarah Palin and try to defend their hatred by diminishing all of Palin's accomplishments by saying that she's just a "token feminist." And also claims that her hatred is justified because she thinks Palin is "rich." Great, that's such a perfect "academic-like" reason for hating anyone. ;-)

And really, all of this proud hatred is just completely stunning and unprecedented. I'm pretty sure that there wasn't even a fraction of this kind of elated hatred spouted so blatantly and cavalierly about black people back in the days when the civil rights movement was just beginning. I mean, wow, I just can't believe it.

You know what I really think, and this is not because of any hatred for anyone, is that all those who are so proud of their intolerance and ill will towards "white trash" or "rednecks" or Sarah Palin who actually does represent a great many normal, average women should be gathered up and whipped to shreds with those thorny blackberry branches until they learn the real meaning and consequences of their hatred.

Call me an evil conservative bitch if you like, but it's about time that those of us who have been so denigrated for so long stood up and said, "Enough, already!"

After all, no one ever said that democracy was supposed to be easy. ;-)

The Vicious Momma has spoken. Amen, go in peace. ;-)

PS In case anyone reads this and is somehow disappointed, please understand that the point of this post is to hold up a mirror and reflect back to all those intolerant haters exactly how ugly their hatred looks. To my liberal friends whom I love and don't want to offend, I know that not all liberals, feminists, etc are so full of hatred as the examples in this post.

Invasion of Palin's Email Is UnConstitutional

It's just completely sickening to see what horrible things some people do and get away with doing. The hacker(s) who violated Sarah Palin's privacy by invading her email and making them public should be hunted down and prosecuted at the fullest extent of the law.

Speaking of the law, no, I'm not a lawyer or any kind of academic expert about it, but the way I see it one should not have to be in order to understand the basic foundation of all our laws, The US Constitution.

I've been in an argument about why this hacking event does or does not fall under the authority of the Fourth Amendment. Apparently, back in 1984 the Supreme Court, in its excessive vigor to fight the "War On Drugs," decided that the Fourth Amendment only applies to government agencies and not to private citizens. That was the majority opinion, but there were some dissenting opinions too with which I mostly agree. I think that case was an excellent example of when the dissenters were really the more correct ones. Oddly enough, I seem to be in agreement with the Justices who were considered more "liberal." Well, sometimes I think these labels are pretty meaningless when it comes to common sense and careful rationality and concern for privacy and personal rights and freedoms as prescribed by the Constitution.

The Supreme Court does have the final say about what our laws mean, but it is possible for it to come to the wrong conclusions based on their political leanings and the political environment of the time. And it is always possible for new cases to be brought that re-examine old rulings.

In today's political environment, in which individuals have so much more ability through technology to invade and violate the privacy of others, often even more so than 'government agents," it would be a good idea to look again at the Fourth Amendment and how it must apply to individuals and private groups in addition to government agents. There absolutely must be some serious reconsideration about requiring individuals and private groups to respect the right of privacy of others by including them under the Fourth Amendment's guarantee of "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..."

While it seems like common sense that violating people's "persons, houses, papers, and effects" are already covered by all the laws against trespassing and theft, apparently it looks necessary to in today's culture and situation to make the invasion of personal privacy an even more serious crime, much like so many of the decisions regarding Freedom of Speech and the other First Amendment rights.

Okay, maybe this is an overly simplistic or naive point of view, but sometimes that's what it takes to see through all the obfuscation and overcomplicated mess that other people want to use to defend their wrong ideas. I don't think anyone with a brain could really argue against strengthening our rights to privacy, whether the violators are private citizens or government agents. Without proper privacy and respect for others' privacy there can be no real Freedom of any kind.

Throwing in the Towel

The way things are going these days with the crooks on Wall Street and all the other dummies getting bailed out with taxpayer money, we are seriously considering throwing in the towel and closing up shop. It's just not worth it anymore when my husband works 60-70 hour weeks crawling under nasty houses, getting his hands all cut up and burned, and dealing with all the other very difficult jobs required in the HVAC business when we pay our bills, pay our outrageous taxes, and all the benefits seem to be going to everyone else.

Sure, we have been able to build a nice house and have some nice cars, but that is ONLY because HE HAS WORKED HIS ASS OFF AND HAS REALLY PAID FOR THOSE THINGS WITH HIS OWN EFFORT, instead of relying on government help and bailouts or by taking advantage of other people or taking stupid risks and so on. IF he had ever taken advantage of anyone we would sure as hell be a whole lot richer today than we are because truth be told, most people are pretty stupid idiots who are pretty easy to take advantage of anyway. But we're not really "rich", but just part of that shrinking middle class who is shrinking because we are finally figuring out that we are the ones being exploited by everyone else.

Yes, I'm so angry about these things that I could be spitting venom. We SHOULD NOT have to pay for all the stupid, bad decision and laziness of other people. It is NOT our responsibility or moral obligation to rescue everyone else who has acted in irresponsible ways.

Maybe I should be looking forward to owning part of the big financial giants who are now going to rely on our tax money to survive. But of course, I know not to hold my breath waiting for any dividends on our FORCED investment.

What all the stupid people never consider is that when people like us, who have made honest livings and have supported so many other people through our efforts, decide to give up, that wellspring that they've sucked dry is going to stay fucking dry. Then what are they going to do?

When the system has made it so unprofitable for people to actually work very hard to support themselves, then they aren't going to do it.

I feel like just saying, "Fuck it all!" Let's just do like everyone else and stop paying our house payments, taxes, and all the other things that so many people aren't doing.

If the bank calls and says, "Where is your house payment?" I will answer, "Call AIG or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. They have it."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Surviving Cancer

I think I can now officially proclaim myself a Cancer Survivor, not only for surviving the cancer deaths of my parents but also of my own little skin cancer. Today we got the pathology report from my second biopsy that was done last week, and all of the bad cells have been removed. :-)

So it's time to celebrate.

Hogs In Suits

The full content of John Gibson's commentary yesterday:

Lehman Brothers collapse is traced back to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two big mortgage banks that got a federal bailout a few weeks ago.

Freddie and Fannie used huge lobbying budgets and political contributions to keep regulators off their backs.

A group called the Center for Responsive Politics keeps track of which politicians get Fannie and Freddie political contributions. The top three U.S. senators getting big Fannie and Freddie political bucks were Democrats and No. 2 is Sen. Barack Obama.

Now remember, he's only been in the Senate four years, but he still managed to grab the No. 2 spot ahead of John Kerry — decades in the Senate — and Chris Dodd, who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

Fannie and Freddie have been creations of the congressional Democrats and the Clinton White House, designed to make mortgages available to more people and, as it turns out, some people who couldn't afford them.

Fannie and Freddie have also been places for big Washington Democrats to go to work in the semi-private sector and pocket millions. The Clinton administration's White House Budget Director Franklin Raines ran Fannie and collected $50 million. Jamie Gorelick — Clinton Justice Department official — worked for Fannie and took home $26 million. Big Democrat Jim Johnson, recently on Obama's VP search committee, has hauled in millions from his Fannie Mae CEO job.

Now remember: Obama's ads and stump speeches attack McCain and Republican policies for the current financial turmoil. It is demonstrably not Republican policy and worse, it appears the man attacking McCain — Sen. Obama — was at the head of the line when the piggies lined up at the Fannie and Freddie trough for campaign bucks.

Sen. Barack Obama: No. 2 on the Fannie/Freddie list of favored politicians after just four short years in the Senate.

Next time you see that ad, you might notice he fails to mention that part of the Fannie and Freddie problem.

Also according to the Center for Responsive Politics:

Lehman Brothers has given $9.2 million through employees and its PAC since 1989, with 54 percent of that going to Democrats. Clinton and Barack Obama top the list of all-time recipients for the company, collecting $410,000 and $395,600 respectively.

I think it needs to be said many times that when Obama blames the Republicans for the current "financial crisis" he is being a bit more than disingenuous. I would go as far as to call him a liar. So much for his promise to transcend the old political games. I'm pretty disappointed in how he's come around to that.

I do recall back around 2004, or thereabouts, maybe in one of his State of the Union addresses, President Bush spoke about his wish that more people could become homeowners because he thought it would make them more financially secure. Unfortunately, the greedy Bastard-Pigs-In-Suits who controlled the big financial services companies, who apparently were very invested in the Democrats, took that as some kind of free pass for taking advantage of the people's desires to become homeowners.

I watch a fair amount of TV, mostly news, nature/science documentaries, and a few "reality shows" sometimes. Well, I think it's a good way to gauge the trends of our society to see what is foremost in the popular culture. Commercials are one big source of these trends. Before the housing bubble burst, there were always very many commercials for mortgage and lending companies who were pushing these ridiculous, but superficially attractive, offers for people to get loans, e.g. for 125% of the value of their homes, and those very low "introductory rates" that would allow payments of only, for example, $900 on a loan of $200,000. Also, many of the offers told us that "everyone is approved" or some such encouragement for people to apply who really had no business getting big loans in the first place. Of course, many people are ignorant about these gimmicks and/or the lenders were pretty sneaky about the actual terms of those loans.

Let me explain why those lenders foolishly threw money at so many people. They were thinking that when the low introductory rates ended and people could no longer afford their payments, then they could foreclose on the loans and resell those homes for at least the value of the loan because housing values were climbing so much. They either didn't see that it was a bubble that was going to burst, or they knew and didn't care. And yes, I do blame the lenders more than the borrowers because any reputable and responsible lender is not going engage in trickery and very risky practices in hopes of getting some big pay-off from overly inflated collateral.

A big factor in the housing bubble bursting was when the construction industry responded to the higher demand for new homes, that people wanted to buy with those over-valued mortgages so that they could get more house for less money. They pretty much started a home-building boom because they thought that they would be able to sell all these new houses. It made the economy look pretty good for a while because more people were working and because the increased construction required more materials, supplies, and all the other stuff that is needed when there is a lot of building. It looked like great economic growth.

But it was just an illusion because it was ultimately based on some worthless paper and money games with no real collateral backing it up, not even all those houses out there with no one able to buy or sell them. It was not that capitalism failed. It was that some crooks pretending to be capitalists built their 'house of cards' out of speculation and greed without any solid foundation. You know, most actual functioning businesses just cannot and will not survive by trying to sell something that doesn't really exist. Didn't anyone learn anything from that DotCom bubble bursting?

If someone really wants to place some sort of final blame for these troubles we're in now, they should really look to the people at the top of the chain and who they support and who supports them and their actions. And if you really look you will see that it was not the "evil" capitalist Republicans who exploited the people's hopes and dreams for a better life. It was the Deomcrats who raked in millions at the expense of us all. Do the research. Look it up. Learn the reality and truth of the matter. And stop blaming the wrong guys. Blame the real Hogs in Suits who are pretending to be something else.

Amen, go in peace. ;-)

PS I love Neil Cavuto. He has some seriously big balls because he is the only person I've seen really stand up to Bill O'Reilly and put him in his place. Last night Cavuto was on the Factor and called Bill out on his wanting to blame the wrong guys for all of our troubles:

Bill wants the government to "watch" the big corporations in order to let us know when they are doing bad business. Well, that's a pretty naive view because it trusts the same guys who are the source of the trouble to self-regulate. It won't work. That approach never has worked. Besides, it sounds like he wants the government to be 'fortune tellers' (literally and figuratively) who can predict what companies will succeed or fail. Fortune-telling isn't a very solid business venture either, privately or publicly. ;-)

The real solution is to level the playing field by requiring all those big corporations to play by the same rules as the small businesses that can't and won't survive if they engage in ridiculous pretend capitalism and they aren't protected and bailed out by the government when it all fails for them. Cavuto is right that you can't blame the oil companies for having real profits because the oil companies are actually making money from real products and services and not some worthless paper. Don't penalize the successful capitalists for being successful. Bill O'Reilly should know that because he's always preaching that when it comes to his own money. ;-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bad Economy Affects Corvette Production

Well, you know it's getting bad when the usually "recession-proof" Corvette suffers too-low sales. The Bowling Green, KY, plant will close for one week in October and then reopen with slower production.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Told You So

The following is a quote from a 2-2-07 post in which I suggested that the banking and insurance industries were the source of many social evils:

And why is ExxonMobil the only scapegoat bad guy here? It's one of the biggest publicly traded companies in the world, number 6 according to this Forbes list. What too many people don't stop to think about is that if you hurt a large publicly owned company you are hurting everyone. Well, it's just like global warming, right? ;-)

Let me go off on a little tangent here about the top five on that list.

1 Citigroup United States (Banking)
2 General Electric United States (Conglomerates)
3 Bank of America United States (Banking)
4 American Intl Group United States (Insurance)
5 HSBC Group United Kingdom (Banking)

Banking and Insurance. Yeah. Like those are pristine industries that do nothing to harm and exploit the poor and elderly and the environment. If I were a well-paid journalist I'd do a fancy, in-depth expose on those industries in comparison to ExxonMobil, and I suspect that the results would show that overall ExxonMobil is a choirboy in moral comparison to the evil that the banking and insurance companies do to all of us. But I'm not a well-paid anything. I'm just a random blogger, so sorry, I can't invest the time and energy on that project for free. I'm a capitalist at heart. ;-)

Of course I was just spouting off and not really giving any justification for my intuition. However, turns out I was right anyway, but now that the shit has hit the fan I won't get any kind of credit for my perception and wisdom. Well, I'm pretty used to that by now. ;-)

Okay, I just wanted to say, "I told you so!"

Good Carbon

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dear Barack Obama,

Who do you think you are to decide that my personal offense and "outrage" are "phoney"? I do not feel my feelings because John McCain's campaign tells me to feel a particular way, and I think that your childish response to belittle so many of us reveals that you aren't really interested in "transcending" the old politics and probably don't have the diplomatic skills required of a President.

Yes, I am angry, and my feelings are real and serious. And why should I respect someone who refuses to even acknowledge that his comments really have offended someone, even if it was supposedly "innocent"? Is this how you get along with your wife and daughters? To belittle their feelings and tell them that they are "phoney" and that it's not your fault if you said something they might have taken wrong? Is it your personal tactic to blame all misunderstandings on other people instead of taking responsibility for saying something that is easily misinterpreted?

And I hope you do very much appreciate the velvet glove handling you continue to get from the media and all the talking heads, who apparently don't have the balls to actually admit that your comment was very ill-timed and ill-advised and that you would have shown much more maturity and fairness to apologize and move on instead of twisting it around to use to your own advantage. I feel like you've totally exploited my (and many others') feelings. That's just not very nice. It's just not nice at all.

I recommend that you grow a pair and admit your errors. Yes, it really is difficult to accept responsibilty for causing a big upset, even if you didn't really mean to, but that's what a real man would do.

Vicious Momma

PS Please tell your pal, Bill O'Rielly, that he needs to lay off the botox because it's making him a p*ssy. It must have migrated down to his balls and paralyzed them. ;-)

Rep. Steve Cohen Worships Obama

The Democratic Congressman representing Tennessee's 9th District which includes Memphis and Shelby County is an embarrassment to our state.

And I have to wonder why it's okay for him to stand up and preach Obama's divinity on the House floor, but so many of the Palin haters think she's the one who wants to blur the separation of church and state (click link for just one example, but you will see several others browsing that forum).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama's Broken Promise

What a difference a few months and a lot of desperation can make in a person's character and behavior. The lastest evidence that Obama's slick facade of "change" is crumbling is his comment that putting lipstick on a pig doesn't change it from being a pig. Well, it is an obvious reference to Palin's joke about lipstick on a Pit Bull, and if he thinks that he's fooling anyone then he's sorely mistaken. He just keeps on offending those whose votes he really needs to win. And if you think that it wasn't an intentional insult, then why did he hesitate after, "you can put lipstick on a pig," in order to let the audience "get it" and applaud and laugh? If he's as smart as people think, he'd have known better.

Let's look at a New York Times article from January of this year:

At the start of the campaign, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers had believed that Mr. Obama’s promise of a different kind of politics — free of the sharp elbows and attacks of the past generation — would handcuff him from running an effective campaign. As she leaves New Hampshire, the reverse appears to be true: it is the Clinton campaign that is handcuffed by the aura that surrounds Mr. Obama. Every time either Clinton or one of their surrogates attack Mr. Obama, they stand as reminders of the kind of politics that Mr. Obama has vowed to transcend.

That Obama vowed to transcend. Yeah. I guess we can see that he's really no different from any of the old white guys that he wants to replace. I don't see how his broken promise is any kind of reassurance that he really can be different. I mean really. If you think I am wrong, then please show me some real evidence to the contrary of my conclusion that Obama is just another talking head whose motives and intentions aren't any more pure or benevolent than his opponents'. Change we can believe in, my ass. Obama is getting really close to being put on my list of Pitchforks. ;-)

Update: Okay, now he's completely denying that he meant anything by the lipstick comment, of course. Just more evidence that he just more of the same, or even worse. I really hate to reveal my dark side, but it really tempts me to say something like, 'you can put a suit on a ______, but he's still a ______.' If he was really and truly interested in sticking to the real issues and "transcending" these inflammatory things then his best response would have NOT blamed the McCain campaign for being upset. His best, positive and gentlemanly response would have been to say something like:

Wow, I'm really sorry that some people took my statements wrong and got upset. That was not my intention at all, and I would very much like to get beyond this unfortunate misunderstanding and focus on the real issues...

But no, his response was to accuse them of a "made-up controversy." Yeah, blame the victim. That's an old ploy, just like the old bags who justified their attacks on Sarah Palin's motherhood by the fact that she is a mother. (No, it doesn't make any real sense, but that doesn't stop them.) Oh, yeah, just blow it off as some women being oversensitive or something, like we women have been hearing all our lives when men try to excuse their insulting us. And how many women have had to endure sexual harrassment that is explained by the men as "innocent comments"? Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting that these sensitive rules don't apply to conservative women.

He goes on to say:

What their campaign has done this morning is the same game that has made people sick and tired of politics in this country," Obama said. "They seize on an innocent remark, try to take it out of context, throw up an outrageous ad, because they know that it’s catnip for the media.

You don't fool me, Obama, because you knew exactly what you were doing when you first made the pig comment. I know you, and all of your advisors, can't really be so dumb as to not have anticipated the natural, negative response to your statement. Come on. Wow. Talk about catnip for the media? You baited the McCain campaign with something much worse than catnip. All in order to turn it against them and try to make yourself look like the victim. Blah, blah, blah. Just more of that same old political garbage. And the real truth is that Sarah Palin has been the one suffering through two weeks of "made up controversy".

Really now, how hard would it have been for you to be man enough to just say, "Hey, I'm sorry for the misunderstanding," instead of discounting and disrespecting the real feelings of so many people by telling them their feelings were a "made up controversy"? If you really want to "transcend" the old crap and to represent a positive change, then ACT LIKE IT!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Obama Going Nowhere

I just heard Obama's press conference today and I just have to say a couple of things. First of all, when he was talking about the importance of the "battleground states" in the campaign he said, "Because they're the ones that really count." Wow, he just alienated a whole bunch of people, like most of the country.

On the Bridge to Nowhere issue he said:

When it came to the Bridge to Nowhere she was for it until everybody started raising a fuss about it and she started running for governor and then suddenly she was against it!

Hello? And isn't that what politicians are supposed to do? They are supposed to learn more about things so that they can decide if they are good or not. The way he characterized it as "everybody raising a fuss about it" misrepresents the process of her learning more and changing her mind. It's just a negative way of presenting it. I think Obama thinks people are stupid if he's trying to deceive them in this way. Deciding to stop the Bridge to Nowhere was a direct result of her uncovering the depths of corruption that it involved. To hold it against her that she actually figured out that it was a bad thing is the real stupidity here. Obama, you will have to do better than that if you want to sway the really smart people.

Monday, September 08, 2008

More Tax Reality

There is widespread misunderstanding and lying about the reality of the Bush tax cuts. Some, like CBS, are trying to use 2001 figures to defend their story that the Bush tax cuts favored the wealthy:

The study found that the effective tax rate for the top 1 percent of taxpayers dropped from 33 percent in 2001 to 26.7 percent this year, a decline of 19 percent.

Okay, I make some big mistakes due to some degree of number dyslexia, but I'm pretty sure that 33 - 26.7 does not = 19. And I don't even have the benefits of any editors or proofreaders. [Okay, I've had that explained to me why it isn't incorrect math, but still, the way it's stated is pretty vague and misleading. And it doesn't really change the gist of my arguments.]

People in the top 20 percent of incomes, averaging $182,700 a year, saw their share of federal taxes decline from 65.3 percent of total payments in 2001 to 63.5 percent this year, according to the study by congressional budget analysts.

In contrast, middle-class taxpayers — with incomes ranging from $51,500 to $75,600 — bear a greater tax burden. Those making an average of $75,600 had the biggest jump in their share of taxes, from 18.5 percent of all payments in 2001 to 19.5 percent this year.

Does it not seem pretty outrageous that the top 20% of earners, most of whom are not really so "wealthy" after all with an average income of $182,700, should have to bear such a large percentage of the tax burden in the first place? Instead of hating these "selfish rich people" maybe it would be much better to say a big "Thank You!" for their contributing over 60% of the taxes. And the one percent increase of the "middle class" might actually mean that there is a bigger middle class due to the better economy stimulated by the tax cuts, so it would be natural for there to look like a slight increase in their "burden." Isn't a bigger middle class what all the Bush tax cut critics actually want?

Okay, so the CBS story is from 4 years ago, but still we hear all these same lies about the tax cuts hurting the middle class. And that "The study is based on figures in 2001 and assumes no changes in wealth distribution from increases in income, dividends or capital gains". I think it should be obvious that their assumptions are questionable.

Now let's look at the other side of the equation as reported by the National Center for Policy Analysis.

The top 1 percent of income earners pay more than one in every three dollars the IRS collects in taxes. From 1986 to 2004, the total share of the income tax burden paid by the top 1 percent of earners grew from 25.8 percent to 36.9 percent, while the total share of the tax burden paid by the bottom half of earners fell from 6.5 percent to only 3.3 percent.

During the same period, the percentage of income the top 1 percent of tax filers paid in federal income taxes rose from 18.3 percent to 19.6 percent. By contrast, the percentage of income the bottom fifth of tax filers paid in federal income taxes dropped from 0.4 percent to zero.

The income share of the top 1 percent rose 7.7 percentage points, from 11.3 percent to 19 percent, while their income tax burden rose even more, by 11 percentage points, from 26 percent to 37 percent.

Okay, can you see what all of that means? It means that the actuality is that the wealthiest Americans have all had big tax increases, even despite the Bush Tax Cuts that have supposedly benefited them. Well, I really don't begrudge wealthy people their hard-earned money because I have enough real life experience to know how difficult it is to make money. But I also don't really have too much guilt about expecting the wealthy to "give back" or contribute more to their communities and society. But let's be fair. Let's not believe all these lies that the wealthy are getting all kinds of nonexistent tax breaks and decreases. And let's not be too greedy ourselves and expect them to give back such huge percentages of their wealth. After all, even God only asks for a tithe. ;-) Anything above and beyond that should be seen as generosity and charity and not some kind of forced social responsibility.

Now back to the other side, let's look at how some groups are misrepresenting the "Bush tax cuts" by picking just one tiny aspect of it and showing that this one tiny part of it has only benefited a tiny percentage of those who claim small business income. The CBPP focuses only on the reduction of the "top income tax rate" (top tax bracket), which is only a tiny part of the whole of the Tax Cuts.

Few small businesses will see any benefit at all from the reduction in the top income-tax rates.

While standing alone that statement is basically true, but their "lies of omission" and other false conclusions attached to it reveal that they are not looking at the whole picture at all. By looking only at those statistics they try to present the Tax Cuts as only benefiting a tiny group, but that is very misleading and dishonest because there are other aspects of the Tax Cuts that have benefited most 'average' small businesses. The biggest example is the increase in the expense allowances/deductions for investment in new equipment such as trucks and other vital big purchases, "capital expenses," as allowed by Section 179.

Perhaps it would be helpful for people to actually read about what are business expenses according to the IRS. When a small business owner needs a new truck in order to stay in business he is allowed to deduct the cost of that truck, which must meet certain technical requirements and can't be just any old vehicle, from his gross profit, thus reducing his "taxable income." Do you think that is unfair to those who don't have their own small business? Or can you see that it actually stimulates the economy for someone to buy something made by employees of other businesses? Or do you think it is better for the small business guy to send that money to the black hole of the government? Seems to me that it's more efficient and more logical to allow people to spend their money on what they know they need instead of making them give it over to an insatiable beast.

I recommend anyone who wishes to be fully informed of the true facts of how small business taxation and tax relief work do some research beyond the lies and convolutions of such places as the CBPP and CBS news. Here is a good place to start which clearly explains the importance of the Section 179 deductions:

The section 179 deduction can provide a substantial measure of financial relief for small businesses struggling to keep up with America’s rapidly changing economic environment. With the funds that become available more readily through this deduction, businesses can extend their budgets and other resources to become more competitive in their marketplace.

Another good explanation of Section 179 is here. I would like to challenge the CBPP and other propagandists to study how this Section 179 has actually stimulated the economy and helped many more small businesses than they would ever like to admit. But make no mistake, I won't bet money on the chance that they will ever even look at it.

So if you ever read some nonsense that says something like only 4% or 2% or whatever % of small businesses have ever benefited from the Bush Tax Cuts, please use your brain to consider that their X% is completely made up and has no basis in the whole true reality.

PS My best unsolicited advice to any small business owner, or anyone wanting to start a small business, is to find a really good accountant whose job is to help you understand your expenses and taxes. Don't try to do it all yourself because you will spend too much time trying to figure it all out instead of actually doing the real work that creates income for your small business.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Tragic Religion of Rationality

Scientists (and some others) like to tell us that ours is a world that can be understood and experienced through rationality alone. Well, you know what? They are wrong. Our world is not purely rational and to expect it to be is some kind of delusion of grandeur and narcissism. Some scientists have discovered that our universe does not actually behave as they expect it too according to their "laws" and principles, and some therefore imply that the universe is somehow behaving "unnaturally" or something. Okay, maybe I really am that dumb, but I would think that if your laws and principles don't match your experience then it's not the experiences that are faulty. It is the expectations that are faulty. You see, human "rationality" is not infallible and it is not ever going to completely agree with the whole of reality. Okay, unless you decide to create strict little conditions, that is, which severely limit all the possibilities. But that is a very unnatural (and tragic) way of looking at big complexities in the same way as some tiny little speck of energy or whatever.

So where does the religion of rationality fail? It fails when the scientists' observations and experiences fail to match their expectations. Why doesn't the world unfold in the exact way that they demand? It's because their "rationality" is limited by its inability to account for irrationality, unexpectedness, and other surprises. They just cannot reconcile the "quantum" nature of life with their strict "standard model" of what is supposed to work and what they want to work. It's all about them and how they want the world to conform to their expectations. Guess what? It is irrational to expect the world to always look, feel, respond, or behave in the way you have decided is the only right way. And it will only lead one to a very lonely and unsatisfying life if one thinks he can reject all things that don't agree with his expectations and "rational" conclusions.

Why is this religion of rationality tragic? Well, because it causes people to limit their options and possibilities by defining something "irrational" which can mean anything from "unlikely" or "untenable" or "impossible." I do believe that anytime someone limits his experiences in life because something will probably require some extra effort and "faith" that it will work out it is a tragedy because there is no growth/progress/learning without trying new and possibly difficult things. Did the Wright Brothers stop trying to fly just because it was "irrational" for men to believe it was possible? Did John McCain give up when he was beaten, broken, and near death in a prison camp just because survival looked impossible and irrational? Do men and women stop falling in love and marrying just because the survival of a marriage is statistically unlikely and "irrational" because their biological makeup is designed for something other than lifelong monogamy? Fear is the rational response to many situations, but sometimes people don't rely on that rationality and instead decide to fight against the odds, even if the odds are very much against them.

I've seen a "proof" that equality is an irrational concept because it has no real physical basis. I find that a tragic conclusion because it does not allow that human beings can transcend their "purely physical" biology. It only looks at some discreet measurements of human bodies and brains but it does not look at the deeper value of life itself. Do we decide that some human lives are less valuable than some others just because of some somewhat artificially determined measurements of their biologies? I don't think that is really and truly a moral, or even rational, approach. Equality exists in the human mind that can actually see more than just the sum of the parts. Maybe some people just cannot conceive of something being greater than the sum of its parts, but thousands of years of human experience have illustrated very different conclusions. Does that thing that is greater than the sum of the parts actually exist? I think it does even though we haven't yet found a way to measure it in some "real physical" way. Is that irrational?

I think that the religion of rationality fails to account for the way that rationality isn't always exact and unchanging. What we see as rational options now might have been seen as crazy fantasies hundreds of years ago. How does that change? It changes because some people are willing to reject strict rules of "rationality" to imagine the "impossible" and to actually have the courage to try to make it possible. To borrow a phrase from Obama, et al, it is the "audacity of hope" that drives many instances of transcending the "rational."

Of course, some rational things can't be changed, just like the omnipotent God trying to convince the immovable object to move. That immovable object keeps telling the God that it is irrational to listen to an irrational God at all and that it is too difficult to try to move anyway. So the God just keeps on making circles around that object so that they are stuck in some swirling "singularity" of conflict between the known and unknown, the real and the imagined, the rational and the irrational, much like the Yin Yang symbol:

ying yang

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Well, of course, all of this is just a bunch of irrational mumbo-jumbo, but it is that irrational mumbo-jumbo that has really and truly propelled humanity to transcend its perceived physical limits, and I think it will be truly tragic if humanity forgets its "divine" nature and relies only on what it sees as "rational". Honestly, how many times has it changed the world for the better when people chose to limit themselves to what they believed were the only "rational" options?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sarah Palin is a Real Vicious Momma (plus some tax talk)

And that is a good thing, and she is also kind of like my soulmate. About 20% of the last 100 visits (as of this writing begun morning of 9-4) to this blog have been people Googling some variation of "Palin is a hoe." Well, I don't know if she is a hoe or not, but it's not necessary to be a hoe in order to be a vicious momma. ;-)

So, what is a vicious momma exactly anyway? She is a woman who is practical, sensible, strong, smart, wise, tough, and brave. Last night while watching all the big buildup to her speech and people speculating as to how she would rise to the occasion, or not, I told David, "This woman has delivered five babies. She's not afraid of pain and discomfort, and she doesn't see delivering this speech as any harder than having a baby." You see, all that talk about "how can a mother of five handle being Vice President?" is completely missing the point because it really takes a vicious momma to be able to handle very demanding situations. All that talk about motherhood interfering with her job is so backwards that it doesn't faze her. She knows it's just complete silliness. And so do all the mothers of several children out there who are doctors, lawyers, judges, civil servants, managers, business owners, and many other demanding professions. By questioning her ability to handle motherhood and a demanding job at the same time people are insulting all mothers' abilities to handle their lives. No, not all mommas are vicious enough to handle so many demands, but many of us are. And besides, being VP is really a pretty cushy job compared to most.

Last night my 12 year old said, "Momma, she's just like you. And didn't you say a long time ago that you would rather be Vice President than President?" Good boy! He really does listen to me. ;-) While the VP does have to be on the ready to take over in the event that something happens to the President, in general, it isn't quite the same job as President and it certainly comes with many perks that make life easier for a busy mom. Of course, this isn't Palin's reason for running and she'd likely decline some of the perks she found unnecessary, like her Governor's chef in Alaska. Well, I don't think I'd have given that up myself. ;-)

Palin is exactly what I've been wishing for in politics for many years. She's a regular middle class person who has lived a real life outside of politics, and now she's trying to work on behalf of other people like her. As my son pointed out, Palin is exactly what I would be if I were interested in getting into politics. I wouldn't really give two shits about what the elite media (or the academic elites or any other elites) think about me either. She is what our system was meant to produce - citizens who wish to represent and work for their country in some public capacity in addition to their personal and private lives. Our system was not meant to produce a political elite whose only purpose is a career in politics meant to bring them individual power. No wonder the "establishment" is so terrified of this woman, this vicious momma. ;-) She has more courage and dedication than all of Congress put together.

I especially enjoyed her joke about hockey moms being like Pit Bulls in lipstick because I have myself been compared to a Rottweiler, even sans lipstick. ;-)

Okay, I was too busy with my own real life to finish this post yesterday, so now I'll add some thoughts about McCain's speech last night. He's not a great speaker, but so what? Being a great speaker doesn't imply being a great leader. Some of his statements were just rhetoric meant to excite the convention delegates, but much of what he said was very practical and some was very inspiring. What impressed me the most was his concentration on the idea of individuals transcending their worst conditions and losing their selfish concerns for a higher good. He was saying that even when our lives look the bleakest we can still overcome and survive and thrive if we have (some might say "irrational") faith that things will improve and if we fore go our own selfishness we can more effectively work together to survive and improve. It's the same idea as "ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." It's a stark contrast to Obama's message of demanding the government do more and more for you instead of making things easier to do for yourself.

Obama and Taxes

While on the subject of Obama, let me briefly explain why his tax proposals would be even more ruinous to our economy. He says that taxes will only increase for people who make over $200,000. Well, let's be realistic. I'm certain that Obama has no idea how very difficult it is for the small businesses of most of our communities to actually make that much profit, so it seems like a punitive measure for extremely hard work instead of an incentive for people to work as hard as possible to build their own financial security. And really, in this day and age, $200,000 isn't that much anyway when you consider that small business owners are risking everything they have in order to be a business owner. Is it fair that this brave risk-taking should be be punished by taking away so much of that hard-earned money? And the honest-to-God truth is that when small businesses' taxes are increased one of the first expenses to be cut in order to pay the taxes is employees. We have one full-time employee and we've already had to tell him that if, along with all the fuel price related increases in expenses, our taxes go up any more, we won't be able to afford to have an employee. This isn't our own isolated situation. Of course, we are going to make sure we can pay for our own mortgage and living expenses before we can spare money to pay someone else. This is just a fact of life, and if someone thinks it's selfish then they are deluded and possibly stupid.

And it is much better when individuals "redistribute the wealth" by hiring people to work for them than it is for the government to seize people's hard-earned money which is then wasted in administrative expenses, etc, before it ever even reaches those who are supposed to benefit. I wish that all the people who think that poor people actually pay any income taxes would do some research to learn that indeed, they generally receive back from the government much more than they ever contribute. So to even say that one is going to "cut taxes on the poor" is a complete unreality.

So what exactly does it mean when we talk about the "American Dream"? Does it mean, as McCain says, that we should be able to work as hard as we want and should be allowed to enjoy the benefits of our hard work while also being able to "share our wealth" through private enterprise and employment? Or does it mean, as Obama says, having a government that will give you what you want even if it comes from the hard work of other people instead of your own efforts? Please, I don't believe that giving the government all that money and power can ever really result in good things, and it truly is against the very foundations of our nation's being to transfer the people's powers to some insatiable beast we call government.

Okay, so let's talk about people who make over $200,000 a year but who aren't small business owners. I didn't mean to sound as if only small business owners deserve to make that much money and keep most of it. I just want to point out that in today's economy $200,000 is at about that minimal point of being able to really and truly gain some financial security beyond just being able to afford to live a basic life. People who earn that much money are the ones who are driving the economy by spending and buying things that other people are paid to make. Obama keeps talking about helping people afford college for their kids while also being able to afford to save for their retirement. Well, let me tell Obama one thing. It's the people who are making $200,000 who are actually going to be able to pay for their kids' college and their retirements without the government's help. How exactly is it going to help them or anyone else to punish their achievements and take away their "wealth" and ability to pay for their own families' needs? It is patently unfair to these people to take away their money and cause them to be unable to pay their own way through life just to spread it out "more equally" and to give such power and control to the government. That is pure socialist communism that has been illustrated to fail in every place that has tried it. If communism was so good and effective then we'd be seeing many, many more communist communities, and even communes, that survive more than a few years, or decades when unreasonable force is used to maintain it.

I have my own tax plan to propose. If we really want to help the poor without destroying the middle class and punishing the rich then we need to redefine who is poor and who is middle class and who is rich. As it is now, the poverty level is very low and only 12.5% of the population qualifies. The median income in the US is in the $50,000 range. Maybe we should increase the poverty level to %50,000 so that all those people would really and truly get tax relief which would undoubtedly help them. But let's also define the "middle class" much more broadly than it is now. According to Obama, the middle class ends at $200,000, but in the real world the middle class should include those who make between $50K and let's say $500K. The "lower middle class" ($50K to $100K) should probably be exempt from income taxes all together because they are living in a range of uncertainty about financial security. Taxes should not cause people to lose their security, regardless of how much they make, but especially for those who are so close to the poverty level.

Why $500K? Well, let's look at some examples. Here is how the head-of-household tax brackets are defined this year:

10% on the income between $0 and $11,450

15% on the income between $11,450 and $43,650; plus $1,145.00

25% on the income between $43,650 and $112,650; plus $5,975.00

28% on the income between $112,650 and $182,400; plus $23,225.00

33% on the income between $182,400 and $357,700; plus $42,755.00

35% on the income over $357,700; plus $100,604.00

As you can see someone who makes $100K has to send a whole quarter of that to Uncle Sam, which makes their actual living income $75,000 (minus also all other types of taxes which aren't insignificant). In today's economy I don't think many people could reasonably argue that $75K is a very high income. And wow, if that person just happens to get a nice raise of about 12.65% then he has to pay 3% more (28% total), reducing his actual income to $81,108 and then he has to pay still another $23,225.00 which makes it %57,883. So how exactly has it helped this guy to work hard and do well when getting that raise actually reduces the amount of money he gets to keep?!?

Now let's look at the top bracket. $400K minus 35% is $260,000 and then you have to subtract another $100,604 making it $159,396. (At $500K the final figure is $224,369 which is still arguably be too much in taxes.) Well, we have pretty much decimated that income so that this family is probably not going to be able to afford saving for college and retirement and maybe not even be able to live comfortably. It's insane! Okay, so some people will say that the taxes are only paid on "taxable income" which is usually lower than the actual income. But I fail to see how that argument really changes the basic unfairness of the tax brackets. Maybe we should just eliminate income taxes until that $500K "taxable income" level and then ask for only 10 or 15 percent of that. I'm not that worried about if that isn't going to amount to enough to cover all the government expenses as they are now because with this restructuring of the taxes there would be much less need for many of the government's expenditures anyway. The government will just to stop being that insatiable beast and go on a diet! By relieving the tax burden on the true middle class we would allow them to be able to get by without so much government "assistance" in paying for college, retirement, healthcare, and so on.

Yeah, this is very simplified, but this is how a vicious momma would look at it practically, efficiently, and realistically. And by the way, I am working on my own plan to "fix" the healthcare issues and I hope to have it ready to share soon. But I hope that I've at least opened some eyes to how things really are in the functioning world and shown how Obama's tax plan is even more flawed than the one we already have.

**Okay, it is very common for me to make big errors when I try to use numbers, so if there are any here please be kind and gently inform me. ;-)

***This is getting pretty long but let me say a few words about corporations and corporate taxes. This is my personal kind of bias, but I am not and have never been a big fan of the corporate business, especially when they grow into some monstrous entity like the government. The point of corporations is to allow people to buy shares in a business so that the risk is spread out and so that the profit is split among the shareholders. I have personally not found that an attractive way to invest money because I don't really like sharing control of my investment with a bunch of other people, but if other people find it attractive then I guess that's fine. However, most large corporations tend to divert most of their profits to paying its board and its directors and other bosses so that the 'average' investor's return on their investment is sharply reduced. I see no reason why such large corporations should be protected from paying income taxes first, and then distributing its remaining profits to the bosses and investors, instead of leaving the income taxes to be paid by the individuals. A corporation is not a person and does not have the same rights and protections that persons should have. It has become completely corrupt when the bosses are paid some outrageous salaries even though the companies they oversee are not actually making so much money. Perhaps my statements aren't exactly legally accurate or whatever, but I think it is morally correct and the "legal" things can always be changed. ;-)