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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

4 Triiiiiiiiiiiiillion dollars.

A phrase I would like to never see in any bill before Congress

The amounts made available under this subsection shall not exceed $4,000,000,000,000.

4 TRILLION dollars!? Seriously? Yes. Have a look at page 438 of HR 4173.

Oh yeah, its basically a big bail out fund for future use at the discretion of Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve – but only if they *really* think they it will work. Riiiight.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Just a minute? Just one? Please?

Joe Leiberman runs out of time on the Senate floor and Al Franken objects to allowing one more minute for him to conclude. Then John McCain takes exception to the unsual ruling.
Tomorrow: Cage fights!

Get it! Wait don’t!

What’s the most ironic item on my Christmas list this year?

Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays

Love me some Texas!

While I do have issues with Governor Perry, he makes some interesting points in an editorial over at Big Government.

I did not realize that

Over the past decade, Texas has added more wind power than all but four other countries

and despite a rapidly growing economy and population

a side effect of all of our efforts has been that our carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by more than nearly every other state and even every country in the world except Germany.

So the land of Black Gold is doing alright with respect to clean energies - and we’ve done all of this without the draconian measures mandated in some other states and also haven’t bankrupted the state just yet.

(I’m still not sure how all my buddy’s power actually comes from wind and mine from natural gas while using the same wires but OK. I imagine herding electrons is a bit like herding cats.)

Jeffersonian propoganda?

Somehow I think Thomas Jefferson would be surprised to see with his quote being used to promote a progressive socialist agenda. This is the winning entry of an art contest at Public Option Please

beating heart of America

Mark Krikorian nails this over at the Corner

Notice that Washington is pictured as the heart of nation, where tired, oxygen-depleted blood is replenished and returned to the hinterland. It's a perfect illustration of the worldview of the Left. The NRCC should turn this into a poster warning Americans about the consequences of another two years of Democratic dominance in Congress.

I’d love to see someone do the same thing but with a federalist slant - 50 hearts, one in each state and maybe little hands holding together. How can the left say no to holding hands? (or better yet, held together with little dollar bills!)

Update: Now thinking more, maybe it should be 300 million little hearts running around making personal choices to engage in direct commerce with each other… But that might be hard to draw.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Turn it down!

The latest in the category of “Things that are a good idea shouldn’t necessarily be a law”

The house just passed H. R. 1084

To require the Federal Communications Commission to prescribe a standard to preclude commercials from being broadcast at louder volumes than the program material they accompany.

Really? Do I need a law to make the commercials quieter?

I know the reason. I’ve been up late and had a commercial come on that was startlingly louder than the scene of the TV show that preceded it. But this is the kind of feel good junk law which sounds like a reasonable idea until you start to think if it should really be a law. I do not want any legislative body worrying about the volume of my TV. Its a waste of time and money and an intrusion. What if I am selling fog horns? I kinda want the commercial to be loud, right?

Hyper-Paranoid Resulting Scenario: new laws mandating volume control of my television remotely accessible by “proper authorities” – sound unlikely? So did remote controlling my thermostat a few years ago.

Mr Bernanke, what are you going to do now? Disneyland?

Time named their Person of the Year this morning. On the way into the office today I heard this quote which struck me as one of the biggest reasons for the title and the biggest problems with his position (my emphasis)

Bernanke is the 56-year-old chairman of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the U.S., the most important and least understood force shaping the American — and global — economy.

It is the “least understood” part that is the most serious problem. Without proper oversight, there is no way to tell how good or bad a job the Federal Reserve is doing. And in recent times the Fed has told both the Executive and Legislative branches to just take a hike when asked to review the books. Its a rogue entity which does what it wants.  That is the reason it is the most important force in the global economy. But without understanding there is no control. “Just trust me” is NOT an acceptable governmental policy.

The next time you hear someone complain about those evil bankers making off with tax dollars, ask them how the banks actually work. Then wait for the dramatic slack jawed pause as they comprehend their own ignorance.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tax me so you can give it back to me

Its charts like this that leave me dumbfounded. Do we really need the federal government to take our money in order to just give it back to the local governments? How much is lost in overhead in this process? How much is just plain lost? How much would be saved if the local governments collected it directly (assuming that these are not things that could just be cut)

You know the only good thing about this graph? That little dip from 1980-1985 when spending actually went down.

(chart from Downsizing Government using data from the latest Analytical Perspectives by Office of Management and Budget)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Banks not always the way to go

Even as the FDIC looks for ways to get more people to use banks instead of short term loan services like pawn brokers or payday loan operators, the FDIC’s own report is evidence that banks don’t want to be in this business and they aren’t good at it.

In 2007, the FDIC set up a program for 30 banks to offer short-term loans of up to $1,000, at a maximum APR of 36% but it had some hitches in its giddy up. breaks it down thusly

While payday loans are approved in a mere 15 minutes, most of these FDIC-sponsored loans took more than 24 hours to approve — failing consumers who needed their funds immediately; some required direct deposit, credit checks and possibly a financial literacy class or collateral (none of which are required for a PDL); some required a portion of the loan be put on deposit (not part of the PDL process); only a few thousand loans were made because of said inconveniences (compared to 100 million loans annually for PDLs due to their convenience); and none of the institutions actually made a profit while some lost money, even when including an origination fee of up to $50 (whereas PDL’s profitability allows them to be widespread and easily accessible).

This is a class of customers who want one thing. They want cash and they want it fast. They do not want to buy and add-on. They do not want to listen to your upsell pitch on how they can invest the rest of the money that they don’t have. They want to walk in, stand in line, sign the papers and go pay their electric bill.

I did find one flaw in big governments comments though (from looking at the FDIC report), some banks did make a profit on these services. But those banks were already providing them to the public. So there was no reason to offer incentives to the banks to do them. Even then it wasn’t a significant source of revenue to the bank, so they were primarily an opportunity to upsell to other bank services.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Forget healthcare, we gotta fix the BCS!

Really, this is what their time is spent on? Come on Joe, I know we take football pretty seriously here in Texas but this is (a) ridiculous and (b) none of your business.

From the Joe Barton’s bill in which the house subcommittee has just approved legislation which would require a college playoff in order to declare a “national champion”.

It shall be unlawful for any person to promote, market, or advertise a post-season National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football game as a championship or national championship game, unless the game is the final game of a single elimination post-season playoff system for which all NCAA Division I FBS conferences and unaffiliated Division I FBS teams are eligible.

I’m sorry that Congress finds that

the colleges and universities whose teams participate in the post-season football bowls experience significant financial windfall … over universities whose teams are ineligible or statistically at a disadvantage from the BCS bowl competitions because of their conference affiliation.

but football isn’t about fairness. And in the end Congress shouldn’t care one bit about how the college organizations decide to pick a winner – even if it is complicated and contrived. Anybody who writes their congressman to get this “fixed” should be flogged.

[full disclosure: Go Horns!]

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Burn him! Burrrrrrrrn him!

And I thought the German’s were a bit overboard with their precautionary anti-Nazi imagery laws. According to

The remains of Hitler, his companion Eva Braun and the family of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels were destroyed in April 1970 on the secret orders of then-KGB chief Yuri Andropov, the Russian news agency said today.

The Soviets were concerned that graves of Third Reich leaders might one day attract Nazi sympathizers, Interfax said. The remains were burned and dumped into the Biederitz River

Although if I were to pick someone worried about a resurgence of totalitarian ideology of idolatry of the state from its former symbolism, I’d pick the current totalitarian ideology of idolatry of the state.

(HT: Jonah Goldberg)

Set your DVRs now

Hmmm, Daily Beast is reporting John Stossel is back on TV as he launches his new show Thursday 8pm on Fox Business Network, but I can’t find the listing.

pins and needles!


My guide finally updated and it is on FBN tomorrow night at 8pm/7pm Central (we get no love in central) but now it conflicts with Community – can’t miss it – and Flash Forward – which may become a “can miss” if they don’t get their act together. *sigh*

Monday, December 7, 2009

Are you “underbanked”?

Crap. Here we go again.

Banks face pressure to reach out to underserved as FDIC survey documents gap

The survey, conducted through the Census Bureau, found that 25.6 percent of the nation’s households – representing some 60 million adults – are “unbanked” or “underbanked” and rely on expensive non-bank services such as payday loans, check-cashing services, money orders or pawn shops to conduct their financial transactions.

This reeks of the maternal state telling you how you should manage your money. “If you are not using a bank, then you are doing it wrong!”

The FDIC, operating under the mandate from a 2005 law to bring more people into the financial mainstream, is pushing for banks to offer products such as low-cost transaction accounts and small-amount short-term loans, officials told reporters in releasing the report this week

Maybe if I don’t use a bank, I don’t actually have enough money to require a bank’s services?

“Access to an account at a federally insured institution provides households with an important first step toward achieving financial security – the opportunity to conduct basic financial transactions, save for emergency and long-term security needs, and access credit on affordable terms,” FDIC chairman Sheila Bair said in a statement.

Since when did actually having cash on hand to perform basic financial transactions become a problem? OK, if I don’t have a bank account I may not qualify for credit… and? Maybe that is indicative of a problem with the credit market rather than with the people who physically manage their own money. Yes credit scores are easy to look at but they are severely distorted. I’ve never heard anyone claim that saving and paying cash was worse than buying on credit. Also, note that the push for using FDIC backed accounts to “achieve financial security” is coming from the FDIC chairman.

When was the last time we heard language like this? Oh, yeah about 10-15 years ago when there were so many “underserved” in the mortgage market. What does a bank account bubble look like?

Miranda me? Miranda you!

Today at the Supreme Court is a case on Miranda warnings. The court will decide a matter which has split the lower courts – whether the police officer sufficiently provided a warning to the suspect before the suspect signed that he understood his rights and then during the subsequent interrogation admitted that he owned the gun in question.

The standardized form used by the police read (my emphasis)

You have the right to remain silent.  If you give up this right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you in court.  You have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of our questions.  If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for you without cost and before any questioning.  You have the right to use any of these rights at any time you want during this interview.

I’m not really sure how this can not be read that the warning does not “reasonably convey” the substance of the suspect’s rights.

1) You have a right to ask a lawyer about the questions.
2) You can use any right any time.

It’s about as clear as it gets without Jerry Orbach acting it out - unless maybe the micro machines guy was the one reading them.

In this day and age I’m still surprised (especially with all the Law & Order spinoffs and reruns) that people don’t know that when you first have the tiniest suspicion that the police might potentially be thinking that you may have had least bit to do with anything possibly illegal – shut your yap!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It’ll cost what it’ll cost!

Quote of the Day:

The US Postal Service’s planned new program for combining all their barcode systems for efficient delivery is nearly a year late and may not have enough money to actually finish the project. When the GAO recommended they 

Define the core set of requirements for the entire program and use them as a basis for developing a reliable cost estimate.

the USPS responded

“Any attempt to define the ‘entire program’ and the cost associated is a waste of funding and resources.”

I wish I was allowed to say that when estimating a project.

(HT: Downsizing the Government)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You do what you know

According to a J.P. Morgan research report shows over 90 percent of the prior experience of the Presidential Cabinet appointments is in the public sector


In the spirit of “Judge me by the people with whom I surround myself.” its little wonder that everything Obama’s administration does is to create and expand government bureaucracy. Its the only thing they know.

Only 9 storms? We can do better.

A party is in order. We survived another hurricane season!

Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The Atlantic hurricane season ended today after producing the fewest named storms in 12 years. It was the first time in three years that no hurricane struck the U.S. mainland.

Which got me thinking, why didn’t we get any good storms this year? I figure it must be Obama’s doing because I know if we still had old George in office we would have gotten at least one Cat 5 storm on land by now. I think that must be what the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for – preventing civil unrest in New Orleans via hurricane disruption.