Friday, May 27, 2011

We have choices to make

Prerequisite: please read Victor Davis Hanson's Ok, Let's Decline

There are people, Americans, who suffer a deep sense of self loathing. They have convinced themselves that America has no redeeming values. Granted these may be the same people who hate their nuclear families and the local pro football team too. Let's set them aside. There are others who plod along blindly, taking life as it comes, too lazy or preoccupied to be concerned with esoteric existentialism as it relates to the country as a whole. There's not much anyone can do to get these people engaged. Then there's the rest of us with some measure of love of country and pride in being Americans, not necessarily deluded into believing as a nation we've never done anything wrong, but recognizing there is something special here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are the ones who are sickened by what is becoming of our country.

In 2010 a large segment of these people woke up from their powerlessness and formed a movement that became known as the Tea Party in direct reaction to the overreach by Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats. The landslide election threw the Democrats out of power in the House of Representatives and transformed many statehouses across country. Since then the major media has done a nice job painting the Tea Party as racists and crazy right-wing extremists (which they are not). Worried for all the blood, sweat and tears they've expended on the magisterium of Barack Obama the media has pulled out all stops in marginalizing anyone opposing the "One".

Why not examine the real reason Barack Obama is opposed by so many? In my eyes he is purposefully leading the decline of the United States as a world power in his every presidential act. People see it, people sense it and people feel it. Barack Obama has chosen to lead the decline of America. It was his choice, our choice will come when he asks for our support on election day in November 2012. Personally I'd would vote for the dog catcher before I will vote that man.

We have choices to make... As Mr. Hanson points out in his article, nations decide to ascend or decline. England is just such an example. Before WWII Great Britain was a world superpower, partnering with the U.S. and the Soviets to defeat the Axis Powers. Since 1945 - as VDH explains:

By September 1945, England had far more of its industrial base intact than had Germany or Japan, and had suffered far fewer losses, both material and human, since 1939 than either of the defeated Axis powers whose entire national ideologies had been rendered bankrupt and their people reduced to global pariahs. Why, then, did a country that produced the sort of four-engine bombers en masse that its wartime adversaries could not, or a Spitfire fighter better than any produced by Japan or Germany until the advent of the jet, end up decades later with unsold Jaguars while Mercedes and Lexus swept world markets?

Britain choose to create a welfare state, and that's what they've got. Currently Barack Obama is choosing to put the United States on the same path. We are becoming a welfare state where everyone (especially the crony capitalists) are on the dole. We are a country with so much potential, but Barack Obama and people of his ideological ilk are choosing decline over prosperity. His goal is wealth redistribution rather than wealth creation. He cannot or will not see that one leads to the other and not the other way around.

Again VDH:

Our poor suffer far more from obesity than malnutrition; diabetes and clogged arteries, not scurvy and rickets, are the plagues of the underclass. Is driving a Kia that much less comfortable than a Mercedes, is hot water in Trump Towers hotter than a mile from my house in federally subsidized apartments? Does a middle seat on a 737 mean you are tortured and exploited while the “rich” zoom by in a Gulfstream? My local Wal-Mart parking lot yesterday in Selma — poorest section of one of the poorest counties in the most bankrupt state in America — had 3 BMWs, 3 Mercedes, 1 Jaguar, 2 Metros, 16 Camrys, 13 Accords, 21 newer double-cab pickups, and lots of late-model Civics, Nissans, and Kias among 82 cars. I counted them for this article; my statistically “poor” town did not look like Dickensian London. Wealth has been distributed to millions in a way once thought impossible. When did driving a Civic make you poor because someone else was driving a BMW, or why was living in a downtown Fresno condo unfair if someone else had one about the same size and with the same accoutrements in Santa Monica with a view of the ocean?

I could go on, so why does Mr. Obama see us in decline? Is it a wish rather than a descriptive assessment?

Yes, yes it is, Mr. Hanson. I actually do believe that the President of the United States hates his country to some degree. Probably not a good thing...

In November of 2012 choose wisely. President Obama has made his case for decline. I don't like the looks of it.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

REVIEW:The Big Short

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
by Michael Lewis

Where to start?

In late 2008 when the TARP bill was being debated I was thoroughly confused. What the heck was a credit crisis anyway? I wasn't the only one who was confused to be sure, in fact, I would wager that 98% of Congress - the people voting on the bill - were too. The financial system had cracked and was spilling out all over the place. Wall Street, Main Street and every street from Berlin to Tokyo was affected. In retrospect it's entirely possible that TARP saved the world from complete disaster although we will never really know because we can't go back and replay what might have happened had TARP never passed. It's also entirely possible, even probable that it was the greatest fraud ever perpetrated.

What actually happened is not easy to explain and even harder to understand technically, but in simple terms greed and mass psychosis cast a pall over Wall Street that prompted a fairy-tale like reaction among the few peripheral players that had tossed their blinders aside. As light began to shine on the inner workings of a handful of massive Wall Street firms at different times and in different ways these players realized that the Emperor actually had no clothes.

With The Big Short Michael Lewis, a former Wall Streeter himself spins a tale of the few men who saw the whole thing coming. Even while they were setting themselves up to make a profit by throwing rocks at glass houses they were for all intents and purposes shouting at the top of their lungs that something terrible was about to happen. But nobody would listen...

Mike Burry, a doctor turned investment adviser, Steve Eisman, a cranky, tell-it-like-it-is analyst, a tiny California firm called Cornwall Capital and an employee of Deutsche Bank, Gregg Lippmann stood at the center of the financial storm of the century. These guys were not men in white shining armor, but neither were they responsible for the pain we are all suffering to this day as our home values continue to fall and our economy struggles to keep it's head above the water.

The scoundrels in this story are plenty...

As the subprime market evolved the complexity of the financial vehicles and game playing by firms like Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Bank of America and Citigroup became so mysterious that the under-manned, under-trained Federal regulators stood no chance. When you learn the final authority, namely the two ratings agencies of Moody's and Standard and Poor's were no better trained and no better paid than the Feds - no one stood a chance.

Nothing was on the level. Not to overlook the people who took loans they knew they could never pay back, but it was the mortgage originators pushing booby-trapped loans on the lower middle class that were particularly slimy. Add the pure greed of the Wall Street bond market, their complicated schemes for packaging and selling junk to unwary traders and the delusion that the housing market would go up in value forever and the perfect storm was brewing.

This is where Mike Burry came in. His knack was in seeing things clearly. This was because he did his homework - actually reading "the prospectus" and pouring over the boring details in the fine print. From day one he knew something was terribly wrong with the subprime mortgage business. The big firms on Wall Street were packaging mortgages in investment vehicles called mortgage-backed securities and selling them without the buyers knowing what was actually in them. This got Burry's attention. The more he looked the more convinced he was that these things were a time bomb for the investor. He wanted to bet against them in a big way. He approached different firms looking to buy "insurance" against the possibility of these mortgages defaulting. For a small premium Burry would buy what became known as a Credit Default Swap and the middlemen at Goldman Sachs and other brokers would take a small fee. For Goldman Sachs it was like taking candy from a baby and then getting the baby to pay them for stealing it. Burry would be paid when a certain percentage of the mortgages in any one of the mortgage backed bonds went into default.

Soon every big Wall Street firm and most the super large banks worldwide got in the game. CDO's or Collateralized Debt Obligations were bundles of these mortgage backed securities that the big firms put together and then sent up to the ratings agency for a bond rating. Neither Moody's nor Standard and Poor's had any better idea what was in the CDO's than next guy, so in a sense the ratings were meaningless - except that the higher the rating the more confidence the investor had that it would never go bad. The dirty secret was that regardless of what was in the CDO's they were getting AAA ratings.

Eventually Gregg Lippmann of Deutsche Bank caught on to what Mike Burry was doing and he began a campaign to get investors interested in credit default swaps. Mostly people thought he was crazy for betting that the subprime market was a fraud and would eventually collapse. There were a few for whom the light-bulb flickered. I say flicker because even as they bought into Lippmann's ideas they were still mostly in the dark convinced that what Lippmann said and what Burry knew was just too good to be true. All they had to do was hold the line for a few years with these insurance policies in their hands and their payday would come in spades. The trigger would be falling housing values, the bet was that they couldn't go up forever.

Steve Eisman, skeptical of Wall Street and Lippmann from the start could find no evidence that the whole subprime market was anything but a fantasy. His style was to challenge everyone for details and justification for the seemingly ridiculous level of confidence in the housing and mortgage markets. In California the operators of Cornwall Capital, a firm so small no one on Wall Street would even talk to them, scratched an clawed their way into Lippmann's world having no idea what they were doing - convinced that they had to be missing something. It couldn't be this easy, could it?

When it happened - housing values started to fall - nothing much happened. The world went on. Wall Street went on. Subprime mortgage fraud went on. It was still a year or so away from when a majority on the teaser rate mortgages would start to fail in large numbers. For the next 18 months the people betting short on the subprime market were either questioning themselves or being questioned by their investors convinced they were either fools or thieves. With just a few months left in 2007 the calls came pouring in. The big Wall Street players who had treated the short sellers like chumps suddenly wanted in and were willing to pay big for credit default swaps.

The rest is history, we all lived through it. Burry, Eisman, Cornwall Capital and the rest made at lot of money. Wall Street firms one by one crashed and burned. Eventually the whole credit system went belly up. But none of them felt vindicated, no one was happy with the way it went down. Burry quit the business, Eisman became a kind a caring man for the first time in his life. These men were who had been right all along and tried telling the world were changed. Oddly, sadly, Wall Street wasn't changed.

Michael Lewis doesn't even get into the government and regulatory villains until the epilogue, but this book wasn't about the headlines it was a story about being there in the midst of it all. To that end Lewis succeeds brilliantly. It was a nonfiction book that was hard to put down - and that's rare. Sadly, Lewis concludes that what is strange and complicated about the whole affair is that all the important people on both sides of the subprime gamble left the table rich. The rest of us unimportant schleps got screwed and we are still paying the price to this day.

The biggest slap in the face was that the TARP money was paid to make everyone's bad bets good. No one lost their jobs, no one was sent to jail for fraud. AIG, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Bank of America were given billions with nothing asked in return, nothing. Bonuses were paid with TARP funds. Government stimulus money paid off the outrageous 40:1 bets made by AIG and the worst part of it all is that nothing has been structurally changed. On Wall Street it's business as usual, looking for the next scam to screw us with.

We continue to struggle with joblessness, lack of investment, and diminished outlooks for the next generation. Governments face crushing deficits and the middle class is squeezed. I repeat: on Wall Street it's business as usual - busy looking for the next scam to screw us all with.

I used to think what went on with regards to Wall Street, as mysterious as it was , was necessary for our system and our way of life. It's not. The legitimate functions of equities trading and bond trading have been superseded by those who have only self interested greed in their hearts. Maybe it's always been that way, who am I kidding, but these pricks in DC shouldn't be feeding this pricks on Wall Street.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Green World Gone Mad

When we watch the TV show Dharma and Greg (now in reruns) the biggest laughs are elicited when Dharma's parents defy common sense with some 60's hippy nonsense or some 90's "the Earth is our mother" sentiment. It's funny not because of what they believe, but because of the degree to which they take it. Caring and common sense are not really at odds for most of us. In contrast the parents of the Greg character, filthy rich capitalist socialites, are people far above us regular folk, yet they seem far more normal to us than the left over hippies.

There is a point here...

There is group that has taken the counter culture mentality that the Earth is dying and it's our (America's) fault. We are killing Mother Earth by driving our cars and powering our businesses and homes. This group called Our Children's Trust is currently making its case not in the court of public opinion but in the courts themselves. They are in the process of suing the Federal government and 10 states. The are suing on the grounds that our carbon emissions are violating the public trust. The concept of the public trust goes all the way back to Roman times and was meant to protect waters and shorelines from being taken over by private interests, thus restricting access to public resources. Public trust cannot be applied to the atmosphere, but this is exactly what Our Children's Trust is trying to do.

A quick look at their web page tells you all you need to know in the first few paragraphs:

The most basic role of a government is to protect its citizens from dangers too large and complex for individuals to deal with on their own. Global warming is just such a danger...

Earth's climate has passed through many warm and cold phases over many millions of years, but the carbon added to the atmosphere by humans during the past two centuries has changed everything...

We still have a chance to restore the balance, but time is running out. Congress is deadlocked, the Obama administration has failed to show leadership, and the climate crisis is close to spiraling out of control. Take to the courts. Take to the streets. Demand a solution to global warming...

Renewable energy could account for almost 80% of the world's energy supply within four decades - but only if governments pursue the policies needed to promote green power

Yes, Chicken Little the sky is falling and we're all gonna DIE!!!

Taking the notion that renewables would be able to supply 80% of the world energy needs in four decades with a grain of salt I would be totally on board with it if it didn't come with all the green baggage.

As for the strategy of stomping their feet in America's court rooms it defies common sense. Since carbon emissions mix evenly around the globe there is no practical way to distribute any kind of claim. The same society Our Children's Trust touts as leading the green technology charge - our beloved China - is spewing more pollution and toxins into the atmosphere than any other country by far. Thankfully so far these type of green law suits have failed in America and even liberal judges raise an eyebrow when rendering a verdict. Some, including the Wall Street Journal editorial board, think it's time to start issuing sanctions for these nuisance court actions that waste time and state & Federal dollars.

Hear, hear.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Proud moments in life...

There are few moments in life when pride overcomes. As parent nothing compares to when your child succeeds. My daughter marked a couple years of very hard work by graduating with High Honors from St. Paul College with an AS degree in Early Childhood Development - on to University next year with the goal of becoming a teacher. She is focused like a laser beam and I couldn't be more proud!

Way to go Jenelle!


Friday, May 06, 2011

Yes, Chris, I will answer your questions...

At the end of his MSNBC show the other night Chris Matthews expressed his wish that the Republican candidates be asked these questions in the upcoming debate ...

I'll answer for myself as a right of center guy, Mr. Matthews, but first let me ask you a pertinent question: are you a moron or do you just play one on TV?

Q: Do you believe in evolution?
A: Yes, but at micro level not necessarily at a macro level. Do you understand the difference? I believe species evolve special traits due to environmental changes. Humans are getting taller, that's a fact, that's evolution (or adaptation if you will). Darwin's own research showed that animals developed specialized adaptations to take advantage of the environment they found themselves in. There are just way too many gaps to create a linear evolutionary map from ameoba to man.

Q: Are you a fundamentalist who believes in the Bible as written?
A: No, I do not believe everything in the Bible is to be taken literally. Jesus Himself taught with parables and metaphors so His lessons could be applied in real life situations. Did you take everything your father said literally? Then go jump off a bridge...

Q: Has man been around millions of years or, say, just about 6,000?
A: Well that's an interesting question, that goes right along with your last one. The human form, homo sapiens is tens of thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of years old. The Bible says that God looked upon what he had created and was most pleased with homo sapiens (man), the exact year, Mr Matthews, is unknown. At some point homo sapiens became aware of God, probably by first becoming self aware . A relationship began. The rest is history so they say.

Q: Why do we conduct health experiments for people on animals if there's no relation?
A: All earthly material is connected. We all, you and me, are made of stardust, as are the rocks and the trees. The same poisons that kill us will kill almost all life in the right concentrations. So, yes it makes sense to test things on animals, why is that so hard to understand. Animals are not people, people are set apart.

Q: Do you believe man affects climate change?
A: Yes, at the local level without question. I don't believe man's activities compare to the power of nature, it's the height of arrogance to believe we are more powerful than the cosmos. Our contribution to global climate change is minuscule when compared to the power of the oceans, volcanoes and the Sun. Therefore curbing our lifestyle (creating more needless human suffering) as a pointless reaction to an unstoppable force is the essence of human cruelty.

Q: Do you wish to outlaw abortion and if so what should be the punishment?
A: We should outlaw the subsidies, no public money whatsoever.

Q: If having an abortion doesn't deserve punishment, why are you pushing to outlaw it?
A: N/A

Q: Do you support a return to Don't Ask, Don't Tell?
A: No.

Q: Do you support removing Medicare from existence and replacing it with a subsidy?
A: Yes, a means tested, adjusted subsidy.

There you have it.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Undue Credit?

In the post immediately preceding this one I credited the President with making a tough and dangerous decision. Well hold on there...

While I watched only a little of his 9 minute announcement - seeing clips on subsequent news broadcasts as well - I was struck by how many I's, me's, and mine's were used by a confident President Obama. This is his natural MO, but in this case it seemed, perhaps, justified. Not so fast.

After reading this article on Pamela Geller's Atlas Shrugs website a different picture emerges that begins to show the true picture of a tentative, nervous "undecider" rather than the confident I, me, mine man standing before the cameras and the world last Sunday night.

The following is the jist of it - and if true my opinion of President Obama has, if possible, sunk even further...

RE: Osama Bin Laden. Significant push to take him out months ago. Senior WH staff resisted. This was cause of much strain between HC and Obama/Jarrett. HC and LP were in constant communication over matter – both attempted to convince administration to act. Administration feared failure and resulting negative impact on president. Intel disgusted over politics over national security. Staff resigned/left. Check timeline to corroborate.
Now Intel already leaking to media facts surrounding how info obtained. Namely from enhanced interrogation efforts via GITMO prisoners. Obama administration placed in corner on this. Some media aware of danger to president RE this and attempting protection. Others looking for further investigation. We are pushing for them to follow through and already meeting with some access.

Point of determination made FOR Obama not BY Obama. Will clarify as details become more clear. Very clear divide between Military and WH. Jarrett marginalized 100% on decision to take out OBL. She played no part. BD worked with LP and HC to form coalition to force CoC to engage.

IMPORTANT SPECIFIC: When 48 hour go order issued, CoC was told, not requested. Administration scrambled to abort. That order was overruled. This order did not originate from CoC. Repeat – this order did not originate from CoC. He complied, but did not originate.

Independent military contacts have confirmed. Stories corroborate one another. This is legit.

The killing of Osama Bin Laden was in fact a Coup within Obama WH.

This story is far from over!


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Good Riddance

Good riddance indeed. Osama bin Laden is dead. A great job by everyone involved. The President made a dangerous decision, dangerous for his career and for the military men involved, but it was the right decision.

I will refrain from making any predictions. I remember being confident that once Saddam Hussein was gone that Iraq would settle down. I couldn't have been more wrong. While is was great to be excited that Saddam was dead just as it is great to be jubuliant that bin Laden is dead the future is just as uncertain.

Part of me wants Obama to declare victory and go home, but that part of the world left to its own devices could spell trouble for the rest of the world. I don't know exactly what should done, no one really does. Osama's death should change something though...