Tuesday, March 31, 2009

That Olde Time Arguement

This post is in honor of the 2012 GOP Presidential hopeful and "future Ronald Reagan" governor of Louisiana, and all he has done for science education in Louisiana state schools.

"There are days when I almost wish the fundamentalists could get their own way, just so that they would find out what would happen to them." - Christopher Hitchens

You'll have to go over to Newsweek to read all of what Hitchens had to say about religion in schools, but here's some of the goods:

Try asking an "intelligent design" advocate to stipulate upfront what would constitute refutation of his world view and you will easily see the difference between the scientific method and the pseudoscientific one.

But that is just my opinion. And I certainly do not want it said that my side denies a hearing to the opposing one. In the spirit of compromise, then, I propose the following. First, let the school debating societies restage the wonderful set-piece real-life dramas of Oxford and Dayton, Tenn. Let time also be set aside, in our increasingly multiethnic and multicultural school system, for children to be taught the huge variety of creation stories, from the Hindu to the Muslim to the Australian Aboriginal. This is always interesting (and it can't be, can it, that the Texas board holdouts think that only Genesis ought to be so honored?). Second, we can surely demand that the principle of "strengths and weaknesses" will be applied evenly. If any church in Texas receives a tax exemption, or if any religious institution is the beneficiary of any subvention from the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, we must be assured that it will devote a portion of its time to laying bare the "strengths and weaknesses" of the religious world view, and also to teaching the works of Voltaire, David Hume, Benedict de Spinoza, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. This is America. Let a hundred flowers bloom, and a thousand schools of thought contend.


Brilliant.

This harkens back to two old debates we already had at Hurricane Radio, in June of 2005, and in November of 2005.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Or, "It took them a few minutes to admit the Titanic was sinking, too."

First of all, had Obama handed GM any more money this week, you'd have heard a bunch of right-wing talk about the debt we're handing to our grandkids. Since Obama decided not to hand GM any more money, and decided to end diplomatic relations with the captain piloting that particular ship into that particular iceberg, you've heard a bunch of right-wing talk about the public sector interfering with the private sector.

Guess Obama just lost that whole "populism" thing. Now the right and the left get to talk smack. We'll look at how we got here another time. I'm interested in some quotes from this article, a boo-hoo "autoworkers have no friends" lament that includes the following whoo-hah quotes:


Twenty years after "Roger and Me," we are all heartless capitalists. We want efficiency, viability, and fast results, and we're not going to fritter away tens of billions of taxpayers dollars waiting for them.
First of all, capitalism is only about anything efficiency and viability when there is money to be made in efficiency and viability. It is all about fast results (real or imagined), which is why we got here in the first place. Second, we already have frittered away billions waiting for them. Hey folks, we've been waiting for the wealthy CEO's and the union bosses to figure it out for years. And for years all we've gotten is higher CEO pay and higher labor costs, while, inexplicably, autoworker's real income has gone down.


But in picking the winners of the automobile industry, the government is also picking the winners and losers of the national economy. And it's very clear who the losers are: It is the same autoworkers and their families who were the losers in "Roger and Me." Who have been the losers for decades, as the slow drain of the auto industry has sapped the benefits, wages, and, most important, the job prospects of the people who depended on the mid-20th-century industrial economy.
The government didn't pick the winners and losers, the consumers did. The government has kept the losers alive and on life support for too long, allowing wealthy individuals to get wealthier off the government teat all in the name of keeping autoworkers employed.


"Restructuring" means that we have reached the endgame here. The administration has said, in effect, that it will no longer expect, or even allow, the auto companies to subsidize the failing rust belt economy.
In the context of the article, this is apparently a bad thing. I say welcome to reality.


The responsibility of government, however, is not to keep any particular company running. It is to keep the workers of the auto industry employed, and so far there is no plan.
No, it is not the responsibility of government to do that. It is awful nice of government to do that, when they are able to do it correctly, because it helps transition the economy from point A to point B with less stress on other industries, families, etc.

But when you start talking about it being government responsibility, after years of dealing with this, after years of zero innovation, then we're better off (and so are the autoworkers) by letting the thing fail so something new can replace it.


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Monday, March 30, 2009

Bring It On: School Links, I Has Them

Let's see if we can make this flow...

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was in New Orleans recently to check on progress. To get a good idea of the facts on the ground, he visited Edna Karr HS (Charter) and Sophie B. Wright (Charter).

To quote Arne's blog: "[W]e visited New Orleans, La., to see how schools are doing three years after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city."

So he comes to New Orleans, and visits two schools in neighborhoods that never flooded. Awesome. That makes about as much sense as checking progress in Iraq and Afganistan by visiting Dubai.

What did Arne find out? Nothing but validation. That's what happens when you only talk to people who agree with you. But this is bi-partisanship: Contracting schools out and making them charters is better than actually running them right in the first place. Right?

I mean, our failing public schools got into the shape they did because public officials failed to provide leadership and oversight. That will never happen with charters, right? Unless you're in Georgia, that is.

The report from the state Department of Audits and Accounts also says the Education Department has been lax in monitoring Georgia’s 113 charter schools and fails to make sure local school boards are keeping tabs on the charters in their systems.
How could this happen? Wait. Don't tell me. I know.

Its the teacher's fault.

Because real charters run correctly don't have problems. Just look at KIPP in Fulton County. No problems there, right? Wait. Don't tell me.

That's the teacher's fault, too.

Because KIPP is awesome, nationwide, easily sustainable, incredibly stable, and delivers proven results when servicing helpfully self-screening at-risk populations. As long as there is a highly motivated pool of TFA teachers without families or mortgages or hobbies to work the extra hours. The model is so successful they have 66 schools in 19 states.

The only reason they don't have more? That's the teacher's fault, too.

But that's cool. Teachers aren't our last lines of defense. If everything else fails, we can send in the Marines.

Hell yes.

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White House Calling the Shots at GM

Over the weekend the White House has announced that all your automakers are belong to us! You have no move. Make your time. They're forcing General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner to resign. The White House is already tugging on the strings they've woven. Too big to fail my ass! Our executive branch now controls one of the United States' largest businesses. Rick Wagoner claimed that the White House would leave GM in Detroit under his supervision. The White House responded to Wagoner with, "We are altering the deal. Pray we do not alter it further."


I don't have a photo of Rick Wagoner on file but I do have one of TV's Lyle Waggoner so it'll have to do.

We also have a shot of the conversation between the White House and GM:


For great justice...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The GOP Soul Search Continues Back in Georgia

Even the rank and file conservatives are tired of the shenanigans. This post a Peach Pundit is a laundry list of things that are going wrong. Hopefully, the fight for the soul of the GOP will be won by cats like Icarus rather than the powers that be.

He doesn't narrow his criticism solely to the GOP, however, and reminds us how we got here. (Tell me if any of this sounds familiar, New Orleans....)

Because we have the Voting Rights Act to protect us. Oh sure, we all love to talk about how evil it is, but let’s be honest; Partisans love it. It makes sure that we don’t have any of those squishy, pragmatic types. You know, the ones who make an honest attempt at governing, with real issues and real voters in mind. No, God no, we don’t need anyone around like that. We need to make sure that the worst of the worst, the extremes of each party are protected. We need people who will either promise to start work on reparations, or to start another secessionist movement. We need people who will provide earned income tax credits for each abortion, or who will force any woman with an unoccupied uterus to accept a newly liberated embryo from a fertility clinic. We need to elect people who vow to remove all references to God from public view, or who will promise to submit all proposed legislation to the Southern Baptist Convention before filing a bill in the House or Senate.
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Let’s keep talking about manufactured events of racism/reverse racism, while the General Assembly tries to shift even more of the tax burden to the middle class. Our elected officials aren’t nearly as dumb as we would like to think they are. They’re just hoping we continue to remain as dumb as they think we are.


(Psst, I love it when someone talks about how our current system of district drawing is one of the roots of our political impasse. While our cultural political problems are primarily holding us back, drawing our districts the way we do only keeps the problems systematic.)


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Does Anyone Else Have a Problem with This?

Am I alone here or is this a very dangerous idea? Congress is moving to "save" local papers by allowing them to restructure as nonprofits with tax breaks. Maybe it's just me but our government acting to prop up failing bits of the press with strings attached is a very very bad thing, especially when those strings dictate content as they do here. For example, according to the article any such restructured paper would be prohibited from making political endorsements. I just can't see this as being good for our country or our currently-free press. If our press is truly going to be free, then we need to keep the government from bankrolling them or offering any other sort of financial support the government can use to bully the press.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Post-Racial Issues

Your commuter click for the evening comes from the American Zombie, who posts this extremely important examination of the difference between racisim and culture. I hope folks like Eric Holder are paying attention, because this kind of talk is anything but cowardly.

I think more often than not, in the current psyche of the average American, we confuse the semantics of “race” with “culture”.
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Someone once said “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” We witnessed that first hand on a national level for the past 8 years. In our case (New Orleans) I would say, quite often, racism could supplant patriotism in that adage.
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This city is crippled by its bombastic perception of race. It’s not actually racism, it’s the perception of race and the confusion created by those invoking racial sentiments.

I think every city in this nation deals with issues of “race” in some form or another,it’s just that in New Orleans, it tends to pervade and eventually destroy everything we do.

I have said before that every problem our nation faces today is present and amplified in New Orleans. Go and read the whole thing.

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Well, he could've killed someone...

An 8th Grader in Lakeland, FL was recently suspended from riding the school bus because he farted on the bus. Here is a dramatic reenactment of the incident along with commentary. Of course the boys contends he is innocent after he put lives in danger by "creating a stench so bad that it was difficult to breathe." Students cannot bring weapons to school but what happens when the student himself is a lethal weapon?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Had Things Been Different

And they still won't let local governments choose to sell alcohol on Sundays...

Again, I'm just pointing out how the GOP acts when they rule unopposed. Again, we're using Georgia as the example. Today's lesson will start with actual policy and move into symbolic measures. Though I've talked to several folks who don't mind paying Georgia Power now for a nuclear plant they will get at some point in the future, there are still many folks (left and right) unhappy with ponzi schemin' for Georgia Power's benefit. Hell, at least they don't have to deal with Entergy...

But let's move beyond that (and not being able to buy beer on Sunday...), here's one breakdown of Georgia's "no mo' in-vito" fertilization law, currently working its way around the ATL. That's right, folks, the Gold Dome - so keen on deregulating business, is awfully keen on regulating how many babies you can have if you have trouble concieving, and establishing legal rights for embryos. (Which reminds me, what does the "life begins at conception" intelligencia think about folks who cannot biologically concieve? I'm just asking.)

I mean, I can see the ideas behind this bill (Georgia would rather let places like California handle the stem cell research, and after our rather unfortunate history with eugenics, I too find picking embryos based on sex and hair color anathema to life creation), I worry that it does not make proper distinctions necessary to properly guide policy on reproductive health. Every flaw in this bill will later be hashed out in divorce court, I'd wager.

Now for the failings of symbolism, JMac points us to the strange debate about the Georgia General Assembly failing to adopt an honorific resolution for President Obama. Now, I'm a utilitarian, and I don't really like all the symbolic resolutions our localities, states, and nation have to deal with every year, (entertaining as some of them may be). But I do understand the desire of politicians to associate themselves with heroic actions, high acheivement and important milestones. These things are a part of our political spectacle, and they aren't going away.

Except in Georgia, where they voted down a resolution to salute President Barack Obama as the first black President, and recognize this rather historic milestone with an honorary title within the Georgia General Assembly. Then editorials came out getting all pissy with the state Rep. who came up with the bill. I'm sure Rep. Heard is shocked at this.

Why would he not know that this may be controversial? Maybe because (and I had to look this up because I'd never heard of it before today), back in September of 2005, the Georgia General Assembly recognized and commended one George W. Bush, President, for his "outstanding service provided to the people of this nation in this time of need." Yes, that time of need was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Georgia thought George did a good job. At least that's what the resolution they adopted says.

Now, to be fair, this resolution did also recognize "others," who just happened to include "the military and national guard from every state, first responders, private business, emergency medical technicians, cardiac technicians, paramedics, firefighters, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other law enforcement and devoted citizen volunteers of Georgia and other states, who have given tirelessly during the Hurricane Katrina disaster and its aftermath."

Wait, that's not a political bill like the Obama honorarium, is it? It has all sorts of refrences to real heroes who did real stuff in an emergency. Look at the dates, 9/9/2005 - 9/10/2005. Wasn't there some rather loud criticism going on around then? Some rather political criticism? Even prominent government officials were saying the Federal response to Katrina was "not enough," and that was going on as far back as September 2nd. There was plenty more to go around, and it came from the left and and the right.

So, a few days later, the Georgia General Assembly, overwhelmingly GOP, wrote up a bill that commended a bunch of honest American heroes, and led the resolution with the government official most criticized for the handling of the crisis. I guess if someone who thought the criticism was deserved, dared call the resolution 'political' or even go so far as to oppose it...well, they'd just be seen as anti-hero. Can you imagine what would have been said of anyone opposing this bill?

I guess that makes a "little politically motivated bomb-throwing with a near-meaningless legislative resolution" OK behavior for the GOP, but not for Democrats. Also, I'd wager that, had the election gone the other way, Georgia reps would have been lining up to author a resolution honoring John McCain.

Man, I just hope things can change someday.

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Sanford in His Own Words

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford has decided to turn down the federal stimulus money he has control over. Wall Street Journal has an piece written by Sanford explaining his position. I thought it was worth a read but I really think it all boils down to this point:

But many people do not realize that the stimulus money runs out in 24 months -- at which point South Carolina will be forced to find a new source of funding to sustain the new level of spending, or to make sharp cuts. Sure, I could kick the can down the road; in two years, I'll be safely out of office. But it would be irresponsible.


Sanford doesn't want to pay to continue the stimulus-funded programs once the stimulus money runs out. He also said he'd like to take that $700 million to pay down state debt. Which brings up another interesting quote from the article:

When you're in a hole, the first order of business is stop digging. South Carolina is in a hole, and it's not a shallow one.


Which immediately reminded me of one of my favorite Simpsons episodes, "Homer the Vigilante":
[Several townspeople are stuck in a deep hole they've dug.]
Homer: We'll dig our way out!
[They begin shovelling afresh.]
Chief Wiggum: No, no... dig up, stupid.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We Found the Super Secret Liberal Takeover Headquarters!

Pat tried to convince us it didn't exist by talking as if it did exist. For years we fell for the double-bluff but no more. They hid the Super Secret Liberal Takeover Headquarters in the least obvious of all places: a listerve. Brilliant! Who the hell has even heard of a listserve these days? That's almost as smart as hiding in the gopher protocol. Limbaugh was wrong. They don't repeat each other's ideas from what they hear at cocktail parties. They get their groupthink emailed to them. (At least it's a peer-based system.)

Hybrid Sales on Decline

Was Hybrid just a fad? I know I was excited to hear about the Honda Insight back when it first came out. Then I heard and was pretty unimpressed. A tiny Honda Insight with a hybrid powertrain can get 60MPG? Big deal. The 3 cylinder Geo Metro could get 40-50MPG and it was roomier. A Hybrid Chevy Tahoe can get 21 MPG?! OMG!!! Ponies!!! I got better real world mileage in my V6 Explorer (typically 22-24 MPG).

When gas prices shot through the roof, hybrid sales took off and automakers got off their duffs and actually started working on new hybrid vehicles. But as with all things in the automotive industry, their time-to-market was waaaaaaaay too long and gas is cheap again. Nobody is paying the multi-thousand dollar premium to save a minimal amount on gasoline.

I'm really hoping this doesn't impact the release of real electric cars that can travel a decent distance. I'd go for one of those. In fact, I'm pretty excited that my Jeep will be paid off right about the time the Chevy Volt comes off its new model glitches and new model high demand. What I really want is something that will run without a drop of gasoline for at least 60 miles between charges but can run off of gasoline if I ever need to take a trip somewhere. That's what I thought a hybrid was when I first heard about them. Too bad I was wrong. Give that to the people and you'll have more converts.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pot Calls Kettle Black: News at 10:00

What?! Did Barney Frank really just claim that AIG paying bonuses to its executives "rewarding incompetence?" Is this the same Barney Frank that voted to bail out our automotive industry? How exactly is that not "rewarding incompetence?" You can be mad at them if you want, but they were just following your example, Barney.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Meanwhile, Back in the Empire....

One of the few places left where the GOP can go ahead and enjoy one-party-rule is Georgia. So, if you want to see what you'd be getting if the 2008 elections had gone another way, all you have to do is look over yonder. JMac has the appropriate round-up here, with some explanation.

This also shows you the true plans behind the "Fair Tax" ideology movement (no income or payroll taxes, only sales taxes): placing caps on how much sales tax is paid when the sales tax might be applied to super-luxury items.

They've also decided NOT to allow localities to decide for themselves the issue of Sunday alcohol sales.


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Not-So-Fastism

Or, how not to call out Republicans for being earmark hogs.

Knowing that the GOP packed 40% of the earmarks into the Omnibus Spending bill, I was excited to read the tagline and the first few paragraphs of this article in Slate, that reminded readers that of the top ten earmark hogs, 6 are Republicans.

Then I read who they were, what states they represented, and applied a little common sense to the equation.

It appears that both Senators from Mississippi, Louisiana and Iowa made the top ten. Both Louisiana and Iowa have split Senate seats (1 Dem/1 GOP). Alabama and Missouri also made the list.

Can anyone name some reasons that the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Iowa and Missouri might try to pack some projects into a Congressional spending bill? Anyone, anyone? Bueller? Maybe this could refresh some memories.... See a pattern, here?

I wonder where Texas shows up on the earmarks list?

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Protect and Serve My Shiny Metal Ass

I'm getting a little sick of police being in the business of income generation. I thought they were supposed to be there to protect and serve but that's really just a sick joke. The City of Snellville has recently stopped operation of their red light cameras. Was it because of the ethical dilemma or a legal battle? No. It's because they're not making money. So the red light cameras are being shut off because they're doing what they told us they were supposed to do: reduce the number of people running red lights. This is almost as bad as politicians complaining that the tax revenue gained from taxing the crap out of tobacco sales went down because people actually quit smoking. Oh noes! You thought you'd get some quick cash by claiming to deter people from doing something. But then your plan backfired because you actually achieved your stated purpose. In the words of Quahog reporter Tom Tucker: "Fornicate yourself. Fornicate yourself with a stick."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

He's Gone from Sell to Don't Buy

I haven't had any sort of cable or satellite for a long long time. When I saw the Mad Money clips on Arrested Development, I assumed they made up Mad Money as a show-within-a-show for Arrested Development. Imagine my surprise when I was eating lunch one day and saw and actual episode of Mad Money on the restaurant TV. I'm not too aware of the show aside from its evaluations of fictional Bluth Company stock (going from Sell to Don't Buy and later from Don't Buy to Risky Business), a rant Cramer actually referenced in this article aimed squarely at the Bush administration, a few attacks from Obama and Jon Stewart, and a few words from Rush. Despite my lack of exposure to Cramer, I did find the linked article interesting. If nothing else, it's a good study comparing the typical Presidential response to pundits (ignore them) to the Obama plan (attack them). There's a longstanding tradition of Presidents not publicly addressing even the more popular talking heads by name and I've always wondered why. On the surface, I think it's a good idea for Obama's people to attack their attackers. But I have a gut feeling that things were the way they were for a reason. Either way, this will be an interesting fixture of the Obama Presidency.

What do you think? Is Obama doing the right thing here going after critics so aggressively?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Defending Stacy Head

Too often in New Orleans, race trumps policy and action.

You know, during the Gustav evacuation, I went to the UPT the Saturday before. The place was full of evacuees, National Guard, professionals from city and state agencies, dozens and dozens of volunteers and a host of media. So many folks were doing their part. There were even some local and state luminaries there giving media appearances.

But there was one local elected official who wasn't standing in front of the cameras. When I saw her, she was working the bus lines for hours. In the heat of the day with the volunteers, National Guard and evacuees, she soothed tempers and helped work out logistical issues during the crush of the evacuation.

The whole time she was getting fussed at, having a thousand questions thrown at her every minute by folks who were angry, hot and confused. She kept her cool the whole time, never snapped at the rudeness she was shown by so many, calmly answered questions, explained what was going on and provided an overwhelmingly positive light in the middle of a rather stressful situation. She walked the walk.

There were a lot of people working the UPT that day, and Stacy Head was one of them. I have never understood the disdain with which she is regarded by some people in this city and I am glad to hear that a group of her constituents is standing up and defending her publicly.

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Deja Vu

This train ain't never late, neither.

The nation of China, our partner in global trade and paragon of human rights, is testing the new President of the United States. Again. This weekend, they went with ships instead of planes and tried to harassing a vessel of the US Merchant Marine in international waters.

The timing of this just happens to coincide with the anniversary of the Dalai Lama's exile from Tibet and last year's pre-Olympics unrest. I'm sure that was not intentional at all < / sarcasm >.

For those of you wondering why I used the terms "again" and "deja vu," a similar incident was perpetuated by the Chinese in the first months of the Bush presidency, when one of their jets "accidentally" collided with a US plane in international air space. The US plane had to make an emergency landing in China, and China, faithful partner in trade that they are, refused to release the US plane or its crew until the President Bush apologized to China for flying planes in international airspace, for being struck by Chinese jets, and for landing at an airstrip in China instead of ditching in the sea.

For those of you that follow Eastern culture, an apology would be a huge loss of face for the United States. But since, in the West, apologies mean little these days, Bush went ahead and apologized, got our people and plane back, and restored our ability to continue outsourcing jobs and buying cheap imports from China produced in less than optimal labor conditions. We were content to exact our revenge in the form of Michael Phelps.

But we never heard about that incident again, 'cause some Americans might be more than a bit agitated at China's behavior, in addition to their human rights record, and their stealing our manufacturing record. But you may hear about it in the coming days as pundits try to make sense of China's latest test of a United States President. As a popular worldwide political figure, an apology or embarassment to President Obama at the hands of China would be a huge social coup in the East.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

High Praise

With all the negative publicity generated for New Orleans by our city government, we must never forget to take a breath and remember how many people are walking the walk and working hard on the recovery of this city. One individual, in particular, stands out for his tireless work rebuilding the Lower 9th Ward. Through his continued actions, evidenced in the houses built and the people back in homes, he has proven his dedication to a worthy cause.

Cliff reminds us of this, and nominates actor Brad Pitt for New Orleans' city spokesman. This is a fantastic idea from a fantastic post that you shoudl take the time to read.

Maybe we can have a Brad Pitt day down at City Hall and give him a second line parade or something. We should be able to get that done as long as it doesn't require emails, trash pickup, city take home vehicles or any cameras.

True enough.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Confederate Currency

Let me get this straight:

Stocks are pieces of ownership in a company. Stocks have value because a company makes profits for stockholders. The better a company is, the more profit a stock makes. The more profit a stock makes, the more valuable the stock is, which raises the prices of the stock as value increases and scarcity drives up the price.

Because of that scarcity, a whole industry sprang up trading these stocks. Once that happened, the prices of stocks began to fluctuate in more extreme ways than the actual value of a stock based on the piece of ownership it represented, or the interest generated on that piece of ownership’s returns.

Because of that fluctuation, money could be made by a stock without the company actually producing anything or providing any service. (And they say Socialists are utopian….)

Because a rational person tends to maximize their wealth potential for personal financial security, putting money into stocks seems a fine investment idea. Retirements, homes and children’s college tuition can be paid in such ways, as the money a rational person earns with their job can now be employed making additional money. Wealth is created, new businesses are created using that wealth, more people get jobs, more people have money to invest in new stocks created by new business, creating more wealth. This is a good thing.

Expanding liberty in our society means that more and more people can participate in wealth creation. This is also a good thing.

Unfortunately, the people who ran the companies that stocks represented were also paid in company stock. Because of this, increasing the value of those stocks, now based more on the “stock market” value than on goods the company actually produced or services the company actually provided, became a higher priority than producing goods or providing services. This is a bad thing.

With less emphasis on goods and services, consumers bought less goods and services from the companies. The company stock made less profit. The less profit a stock makes, the less actual value it has. The remaining value is only a trick of the market. This is a very bad thing.

To keep values up, the people who ran the companies made up stories about how much money the company had and how much money the company would make in the future. The people who reported on the companies and on the stock market did not investigate the actual value of stocks. Rational people believed these experts, and kept putting their money in the stock market because experts said stocks were worth thus and such. This went on for many, many years, and was very, very bad.

Rational people began to realize that the companies’ stock values were a trick of the market. But the people who ran the companies and the people who reported on the companies and on the stock market kept telling the people that everything was OK. As the housing market collapsed and financial institutions began to fail, we heard the talking: The fundamentals of the economy are sound. There is no recession. Lehman Bros. is no Bear Stearns. Bank of America is overcapitalized. Buy, buy, buy.

And then the rational people realized that the companies and the business media had been whistlin’ Dixie for years, and that stocks were overvalued. Remember, the market fluctuates more extremely than the actual companies are worth. Rational people were now frightened because the owned stock in companies that didn’t produce goods or provide services. They tried to sell, sell, sell. The value of stocks plummeted and continued to go down.

Like the boy who cried wolf, no one believes the companies or the business media anymore.

Why should we? The first group got us here, and the second group never warned us what was coming.

All I’ve heard them do this week is blame our new President for the mess we’re in. At least they still have balls, if not credibility or expertise.

They’ve been on the job for years and are the reason the stock market is sagging. They could have taken some responsibility, did their jobs and worked on righting this ship years ago. But they loved their kool-aid more than the most fervent Obama supporter.

We're out to save the free market folks, and once that's handled, the 'invisible hand' will put the stock market back where it needs to be.

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Basket Case

This is a massive post. For a quick run-down of what I am talking about, the following links say it better than I ever could:

Your Right Hand Thief
We Could Be Famous
Big Red Cotton
Jarvis DeBerry

So....

There are a lot of cities out there with basket case governments. City councils and mayors who cannot get along, rouge city officials doing whatever they please, secret back-room contracting agreements – all of it can be found from the big cities to the small towns and counties. The kinds of inefficiencies, conflicts of interest and inside baseball that go on during these micro-dramas are a far greater threat to free enterprise and progress than any policies from Washington. New Orleans is not the only city to have such problems – we are not a unique in that regard.

But New Orleans is unique in the longevity, scale and public involvement of such problems. Seriously, I feel like I’ve been watching a soap opera since I tuned in during the fall of 2006, or maybe “LOST – The Crescent Initiative,” where you never know what is going on or when you are, but you have your favorite characters who you want to “win.” You need both a flow chart and a story-board to follow all the twists and turns. And then there are the radical swings of public opinion that lose and cloud the big picture so quickly, there is never any resolution to the drama.
Allow me to attempt to explain the latest goings on for my folks elsewhere, based on my understanding of the situation.

- Years ago, city councilwoman Stacy Head voted with the majority of the city council to tear down several public housing projects around the city of New Orleans. This action angered many individuals, including a housing advocate lawyer named Tracie Washington.

- Months ago at a public city council meeting, Stacy Head asked the city sanitation director Veronica White to provide receipts or proof that the city garbage contractors were actually collecting garbage from the number of households they were charging the city for. Head claimed to have requested such documentation over the course of several weeks. White got angry over being asked to produce such documentation. Head wondered if the city could replace her. White stormed out of the meeting.

- The next day, mayor C. Ray Nagin, White’s boss, admonished Head for cursing and using racially charged language in the city council meeting, even though video and audio from the meeting shows that no cursing or racially charged language was used.

- Later, several activist groups questioned the racial motivation behind Head asking for receipts or proof that city garbage contractors were actually collecting garbage from the number of households they were charging the city for because those particular garbage contracts are held by black owned businesses. Public concern turned to racial motivations over getting receipts for services rendered.

- In February, mayor C. Ray Nagin attempted to amend the contract with the garbage contractor that serviced the French Quarter to save money for his budget. On the eve of Mardi Gras, not as much trash would be collected from the main tourist destination of the city, and certain residential and commercial units would have to contract individually with the garbage contractor. It could also be noted that the original garbage contract was authored by Nagin’s office in the first place. Public concern turned to the “lemony, Disney-like scent” and special services offered to the residents of the French Quarter over understanding how this city’s garbage contracting process costs residents money.


Got the garbage story arc down? Ok, get keep that in your head, because this plot is about to collide with the crime camera plot to give you our most recent city drama:

- For the past several years, mayor Nagin’s office has been investing city budget money into the crime camera initiative. This is a ‘big brother’ type program where you hang cameras from light-poles around the city in an attempt to capture crimes on film. This initiative has run into many, many problems, including, but not limited to: a technology director who lied on his resume and didn’t get much done, a lack of controls where contract writers could work for the contractors, the fact that the installed cameras did not work or broke easily in a high wind (see also: Hurricane; Gustav, Ike). Some of the contracting was conducted behind closed doors and out of the eyes of public scrutiny.

- The Inspector General’s office investigates the city government for how they have handled the crime camera initiative.

- News agencies and media investigate the city government for how they have handled the crime camera initiative.

- City councilman Arnie Fielkow proposes a measure that all city contracts entered by the mayor must adhere to state public records and meetings laws. This measure passes unanimously and is vetoed by the mayor. During the veto override vote, all white members of the council vote to override the veto. Two black council members were not in attendance, and the fifth vote (necessary to override the veto) recuses herself from voting so she does not add to the racial tension in the city at this time. The measure fails. Public concern turns to the racial motivations of the vote over following state law, entering city contracts into the public record, and generally knowing who the city is doing business with for what and for how much. For some reason, the fact that past white and black mayors have had the power to contract without scrutiny makes the practice OK.

- A news media organization files a public records request for the mayor’s emails for the past year. They go through the administration lawyer so any emails containing legally privileged information can be redacted. The mayor’s office is unable to produce any of these emails, and claims they have all been deleted due to a lack of server space. No emails are handed over.

- Lawyer Tracie Washington files a public records request for the emails of the white city council members. She makes this request through sanitation director Veronica White, who goes to the city office of technology and produces all emails, for the last three years. The city council’s attorney is never contacted about going through these items and removing legally privileged information. A few days later, a request is made for the emails of the remaining city council members, who are black.

- The city council gets upset and gets a court order to stop Washington from publishing any emails.

- The mayor gets upset because, if people want to see his emails, and the city council wants to force him to be transparent, the city council should have to play by the same rules. Notwithstanding the rules of filing public information requests and legal privilege.

- Public concern turns to the racial differences between one set of emails and the other. If you react differently to each situation, you're being a hack. We choose this over transparency and legal procedure. Now, instead of seeing what the mayor and the city council are doing, we’ve got a batch of deleted emails and a batch of ill obtained emails prohibited from release by court order, and a whole lot of increased distrust based on what group you are in.


At least, that's where the drama ended as of this morning....


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Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Penalty is Much Less Severe

The news out of Canada sounds like a Ron White routine on the death penalty:

"We can’t kill him, he’s too crazy to know we’re killin’ him." Well, if it makes me feel better and he don’t know the difference, what the hell are we arguin' about? Guess he shoulda ate crayons and rolled his s#!t into little balls – the penalty is much less severe.


Now, Canada doesn't have the death penalty, and because of this, some folks may consider them "more civilized" than we Americans, but they ain't even using their "life in prison" option for this one....

Witnesses said Li attacked McLean unprovoked as their bus traveled at night along a desolate stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Passengers fled and stood outside as Li stabbed McLean dozens of times and beheaded and mutilated his body.


Good job, bystanders! Bet they're all glad the dude chose to escape, because apparently he coulda picked 'em all off, one by one, and nobody woulda done anything.

The reason for his behavior?

He did not appreciate the actions he committed were morally wrong,

Yes, but we can appreciate that his actions were wrong – that’s why the West has a legal system designed to punish people for wrongdoing. But watch what happens when legal systems abandon justice for the wronged...

Li can't be held responsible because he had schizophrenia and believed God wanted him to kill McLean because the young man was evil.

So what is the court going to say when some other Canadian feels that Li should be killed because that young man is evil? If justice is not served, how long will it be before others take the law into their own hands? Not even severe mental illness should excuse murder. Especially mutilation and cannibalism. Here's the "punishment" for such a crime:

Li will be institutionalized without a criminal record and reassessed every year by a mental health review board to determine if he is fit for release. (Emphasis added.)

RELEASED!?!? WTF? Hope you feel safe when you sleep at night, Canada. This kind of thing is overboard. While there should be protections for mental illness cases in western justice systems, this kind of thing does not protect the public OR those with mental illness.

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