Archive for December, 2008

My Generation On Israel

December 27, 2008

Today, there was some major news coming from the Israel-Palestinian front.  A cease fire had expired last week, and southern Israel was getting bombarded by rockets launched by Hamas.  Israel responded by bombing police stations and security related targets all over Gaza, killing up to 250 and injuring 750 others.

The Bush Administration urged “restraint,” and the EU said they did not condone the actions of Israel.

The big problem facing Barack and the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict is that many of the supporters of Obama were my age or younger.  I’m 28 and I only read about the Holocaust and the creation of Israel in textbooks.  I never experienced the Cold War or any of the other Arab/Israel wars either.  It is hard for me to find sympathy for Israel when they are using fighter jets to bomb a police station.  Sounds like a use of excessive force if you ask me.

Much of the younger population, especially those that voted for Obama, feel the same way as I do.  We do not understand the complicated history of Israel and it’s neighbors and we do not understand why there can’t be peace.  In our eyes, Israel is just as much of a problem as Hamas in terms of not being able to keep the peace.

This provides hope, however, because the up and coming generation will be able to listen to the Palestinians and their needs and be able to broker or bring about peace.  The current regime and those in power in the U.S. backs Israel unilaterally, and will not even try to make concessions to the Palestinians.

I believe the non-interventionist foreign policy being promoted by Ron Paul is the best course for our country.  We need to end our aid to Israel and other Arab countries, which would be a big step in creating peace in the region.  Once they know we have a neutral position in terms of aid, we will be able to use diplomacy to broker a peace agreement, not create more instability by sending more guns, tanks and bombs to the region.

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What a Suprise. No One Can Find the Bailout Money!

December 22, 2008

Is anyone really suprised that we have no idea where our tax dollars involved in the TARP bailout are going?

The propenents of the TARP like Bernanke and Paulson agreed to all sorts of transparency but they won’t say where the money is going and what assets they have taken in return as collateral.  The Federal Reserve is a bank.  Or at least that’s what it is supposed to be.  If you were lending the money out, wouldn’t you want to know where it was going?

The banks are also playing dumb.  They just say it is pooled with all their other money and they can’t define exactly where it has gone.  What a joke!  They had no money to begin with!  Why else are they taking BILLIONS of dollars?

This is exactly why the recession we’re in isn’t getting any better.  There is no faith in the system at all.  We have no idea when the government is going to run out of ink for their printing press, and we have no idea if where all this money has gone.  Maybe it’s gone into the abyss that Paulson was warning us about.

If the Fed announced they would stop spending money tomorrow, interest rates would shoot up and we would have to find a way through the mess we’re in.  Companies would go bankrupt and there would be a huge initial hit to our entire economic system.  But after that quick hit, we could start to pick up the pieces and rebuild.  The high interest rates might restrict borrowing, but they would encourage lending.  We would come out on the other end as a completely different economy for the better.  Instead, we are just trying to hide the problems behind mountains of printed money.  We aren’t addressing any of the problems we are facing.

The TARP plan has to be one of the worst government interventions of all time.  It was passed by Congress using fear tactics and scare mongering.  It was poorly crafted and had no clear goal or intent, and it has changed since it was approved.  I’m not suprised one bit that no one knows where the money went, because no one knew where it was supposed to go to help in the first place.  It’s been an enormous failure and a waste of $350 billion so far, and no one is that mad about it because we all knew it would fail all along.

23 Percent? That’s it?

December 22, 2008

Today, a CNN poll came out that 23 percent of Americans think Dick Cheney is the worst Vice President ever.

In the same poll, 76 percent didn’t know who Dick Cheney was, and the other 1% thought he was doing a good job!

In reality though, over 30% thought Cheney had done a good job.  To me, that is a great example of how uninformed the American people are.  Just because you’re a Republican doesn’t mean you have to say he did alright.

Bush might go down as the worst President ever, but to me, he was at least genuine in his efforts to guide this country.  Cheney seemed to be a behind the scenes power monger who only wanted to serve himself and his interests.

I don’t think Obama/Biden are going to do any better for this country either.  We’re just going to shift our war to Afghanistan and we’re going to spend until we have some sort of upswing in the economy and Obama will look like the hero.  Until we get someone in office who believes in the Constitution, sound monetary policy, and a non-interventionist foreign policy (ie, Ron Paul), we’re just going to have more “worst vice presidents ever.”

Thank God Cheney Can’t F-ck Us Anymore

December 21, 2008

Today, Vice President Dick Cheney defended the Bush Administrations actions of basically wiping their ass with the Constitution of this once great country.

The Face of Evil

The Face of Evil

He defended the domestic wiretapping, uses of exectutive power, and torture of terrorism suspects, saying he would do it all over again.  Also, Cheney said that the President has no checks and balances in the War on Terror and could launch a nuclear strike without Congress or the Courts to defend our country.

Really? Nuclear War?  What planet is this guy from?  Civil liberty?  Right to privacy?  Not in Cheney’s book.  He doesn’t care about anything except making the President the new King of the US.  While the neo-conservatives lost this election to Obama, they will be back and they will further advance their agenda of making the Executive Branch the sole source of power in the US.  I can’t believe Cheney has the gall to go on TV and spew this garbage!

Can we use this interview as an admission of guilt and throw this clown in prison for the rest of his life for treason?  As citizens, it is our job to hold our leaders accountable and follow the Constitution, which is the only document that grants power to certain branches of government.  Instead, we have let the Executive Branch grab more and more power.

Look at all the programs the Bush Administration has enacted – domestic wiretapping, recording out internet use, searching and seizing your property without a warrant, the Patriot Act, the right to go to war without Congress, setting up hidden prisons around the world, jailing US citizens without the right to trial, the new financial czar, the office of economic stability, and now the auto czar.  Not only have we stripped rights away from individual citizens, we are now nationalizing our financial system and our auto industry.  The government is really becoming “Big Brother.”

While the powers Bush grabbed seem to be used for fighting terror, how do we know Obama or the next President will not take this power further?  What if the next president decides that anyone who protests the government is supporting terrorists?  He could jail these protesters without the right of habeus corpus because of the powers he has taken. Or, he could search my home right now for writing this blog.  The powers granted to him allow the Executive branch to do this without a warrant.

Sure, he may never use these powers en masse against his own people, but who really knows?  Just the fact that this is possible should be enough to energize the public.  Instead, we are too busy fighting over gay marriage and other issues that do not directly effect our lives.  If we put the same passion behind restoring the government of this country to the vision of our founding fathers as we do in debating gay marriage, we would have a revolution starting tomorrow morning.

I know government will only get bigger under Obama, but hopefully he will have the common sense enough to restore some of the checks and balances on his power that Cheney and Bush have granted themselves.  I’m so glad that Cheney will be gone in a month and won’t have the chance to screw up our country any longer.  Hopefully, he’ll just go sit on the board of some company and f-ck over some shareholders, and not every single citizen of the United States.

When Will It Stop?

December 20, 2008

Today, President-elect Barack Obama announced that he has upped his goal to add at least 3 million jobs in his economic programs.

Also, we announced that we are going to double the number of our troops in Afghanistan.

Both of these announcements comes on the news that we just bailed out GM and Chrysler for $17 billion, and the Treasury is requesting to use the other $350 billion of the TARP that’s not a TARP plan.

Seriously, how are we going to pay for all this?  Even though creating jobs is a good thing, is it really the role for the government to create and pay these jobs?  How much will it cost to continue our military prescence in the Middle East and around the world?

At what point are we going to stand up and say enough?  It’s like we are all waiting for someone in the government to say it for us.  Well, I really doubt that is going to happen.

We need government to lead by example, not do exactly what we did to get into this mess.  Many people were living beyond their means, going deeper and deeper into debt, and now they can’t afford their mortgage payments and don’t want to spend money.  Now, our Federal Government is doing the same thing!  They are printing trillions of dollars, running up more debt, trying to inflate our way out of this crisis.

It’s not going to work!  Who’s going to bailout the dollar when the money finally makes it’s way down through the system?  Our Federal Government cannot print money forever.  It’s going to need a bailout, and when that happens, all of our standard of living will dramatically decline.

We need our government to try reign in their spending and pay attention to the huge deficit they are running.  Everything is at a standstill, waiting for the next bailout.  If they would just say, “we’re done, you figure it out” we would be out of this mess already.  The prospect of more and more money is making everyone sit on their hands.  We won’t find a bottom until the government stops trying to be a hero and gets out of the way.

Everyone is expecting Obama to come in and pull a couple of levers and make everything good again.  His already announced spending plans have the chance to run us into an even deeper hole.  We need a sound fiscal policy to start with the government and we need them to stop printing money and bailing everyone out.  Only after that will we really turn the corner and return to prosperity in the US.

A New Economy

December 19, 2008

With the downward spiral our economy is in right now, a simple question must be answered:  What will the new economy look like?

Certainly, we can not continue our current consumer based model.  People have run up enough debt and made enough bad decisions where they are cautious to spend money.  Savings is becoming back into vogue, and the American philosophy of thrift has returned to the mainstream.

What made our economy so successful in the past is that goods bought and sold in America were made here at home.  Also, many of these products were exported as well.  In our current economy, we rely on emerging nations like China, Vietnam, the Philipines, etc as the producer of our goods.  In order to regain our standing as the world’s leading economy, we are going to have to shift some of that production back to the U.S.

The only problem I see is a really big one.  What will we produce?  Can we make electronics cheaper and better than those made in Asia?  I doubt it.  The Big Three has trouble selling cars here at home, how are they going to compete in other markets?  A lot of the alternative energy solutions will reduce our dependence on foreign sources, but how will it lead to exports?

One area I know we already export is our services.  I work in the architecture industry, and we export our designs to China, the rest of Asia and the Middle East.  Our expertise and creativeness is needed to help design projects that will succeed.  The engineering is more mathematical and logical, so that can be done locally.  But the American sense of design and place is exported to any emerging real estate market.  However, this industry is relatively small, and does not have a major effect on our economy.

What else can we export?  Where is our expertise located?  Where can we be competitive with other countries?  These are all questions that I really don’t have an answer for.

Please leave comments and ideas on areas where we can focus our economy and shift from an importing, consumer based economy to an exporting, production based one.

Religion and Government Meet at the Hospital

December 18, 2008

Today, President Bush passed the “Conscience Rule” which protects doctors and nurses from performing medical procedures that are against their religious beliefs.  The main procedure that is involved in this discussion is abortion.  The new rule enacted by Bush allows hospitals to still receive Federal funding if they choose to not perform procedures that conflict with their religious beliefs.

First and foremost, I do not believe that the Federal Government should be funding these hospitals at all.  Only hospitals that are run by the Federal Government, like the VA Hospitals, should get Washington money.  There is no point in my tax dollars going to support some private hospital in New York.  Local and regional hospitals should get their funding from local and state sources.  This will never happen though, until the Fed funds get cut off.

I also have no problem with doctors recommending or denying treatments based on their beliefs.  However, if it is in the emergency room or in a life or death situation, the doctor should put their beliefs aside and put saving the life first.

The decisions on treatments though, including abortions, life support or euthinasia, should be between the doctor and the patient and maybe the patient’s family.  If you have the same beliefs as your doctor, it should be an easy decision.  If you conflict with your doctor, you should find a new one.  The government should not get involved at all.  Why should politicians in Washington dictate the kind of care you get?

This can be hard though, because of our broken, HMO based healthcare system.  It is not easy to just find a new doctor.  Most of the time, you’re just assigned a name and number of a doctor’s office and off you go.  The doctor patient relationship is not about building a personal relationship anymore, instead it is a business partnership.

While treatment or denying treatment based on religious beliefs is a very touchy issue, we should realize that government has no say in the issue.  This is between the patient and doctor, not bureaucrats and politicians.  The sooner we get the Federal Government out of these decisions, the better for all involved.  Patients will get the treatments they want, and doctors can operate freely without the fear of government intervention.

Like Recessions? Better Get Comfy!

December 16, 2008

This is awesome!  Today, the genius Ben Bernanke announced that we will officially be in the longest recession in American history!  As much as I love worrying about my job and scrimping and saving to pay the bills, I can’t wait for it to get worse!  I hope I get to eat Hamburger Helper and Ramen every night!  Better get used to those PB and J’s!

I really can’t believe how bad of job Bernanke is doing.  He is driving this county off a cliff, and instead of applying the brakes, he’s stepping on the gas.  Remember the “financial abyss” Paulson warned us about when Congress didn’t approve the TARP bailout the first time?  We’re there, and Helicopter Ben is taking us all down with him.

I guess I have to cut him a little slack because he was only a professor at Harvard.  He never got any real world experience, so I guess he never really actually got to apply any of his theories until now.  The old saying is “those that can’t, teach.”  I respect elementary, junior, middle and high school teachers.  They believe in what they do and are trying to help make the world better.  However, everyone wants to have a cush job like a college professor.  You get tenured, you can’t get fired, you get fat pay, great benefits, 3 months a year off, paid sabaticals and a great pension.  I’m sure glad we picked such an idiot to run our financial system.

Ben was supposedly an expert on the Great Depression in his research as a professor.  I guess he didn’t study an recent history like the Lost Decade in Japan.  Can the problem be any similar?  Cheap credit, a real estate bubble, a credit crisis, a central bank that cut it’s rate to zero, and then a 15 year recession.  Wow.  Sounds like a blast.  Maybe Ben wanted to relive the Depression first hand!

Here’s a quote from Yahoo! Finance:  “Given how low interest rates are, the central bank said it planned to use a variety of unconventional methods to flood the banking system with credit and drive interest rates lower.”

Sounds like that’s exactly what we need right now.  More and more credit.  Floods of it to be exact.  Isn’t that how we got here in the first place?  How is it going to get us out of it?  It’s like telling someone who’s drunk that what they need is more tequila, not trying to sober up.

The American consumer is being criticized right now for cutting back, being frugal, and not buying big ticket items (with debt) like cars and appliances.  They should be lauded for setting a great example.  Helicopter Ben should realize what everyone, from banks to lenders to consumers, wants is a stable economic policy.  We don’t need more reckless spending and more and more debt.

I wonder what Ben’s personal finances look like.  If he practices what he preaches, he must have 10 maxed out credit cards and no savings.  He probably has all new appliances on the store’s credit card and he has huge car payments each month.  That’s supposedly what is good for the economy because he’s spending.

What we need right now is for Ben to make an early exit, and for Obama to name a new person to run the Fed, not this Geithner clown who shares Ben’s affinity for the printing press.  We need someone who will run our economy like we all have to run our houses.  We need to live within our means and manage our debt.  We can’t rely on printing new money whenever we get in a bind.  Why should the Fed be any different?

All I know is that right now, all the actions of the Fed and Washington have failed miserably.  Ben the Genius keeps thinking that more debt and credit will right the ship.  We have a credit crisis, but the underlying problem is a complete and total lack of confidence in our economic system.  The government also has a huge credibility problem because it has no plan, is running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off, and pumping trillions of dollars into the system.

Until we get a policy that restores confidence in the system and faith in our government, we won’t get out of this.  So grab a chair and a blanket, sit back, and enjoy your Hamburger Helper.

Plunge In Consumer Prices Decoded

December 16, 2008

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot today about the “plunging consumer prices” in the news.  There’s a huge headline at the top of Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and Google News.  

The problem is that these numbers are reported linking them to the Great Depression.  This is completely different, but to the lay person, it looks like they should be scared and nervous.  No wonder there is no confidence right now.

Here’s a story from the AP, with my comments:

Inflation plunges by record 1.7 percent in November, housing starts fall more than expected

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — A record plunge in consumer prices in November puts pressure on the Federal Reserve to act decisively to guard against a debilitating bout of deflation.
BE:  What is so debilitating about this episode of deflation?  Please explain to me, AP, why this is so bad?  Is paying less for gas so horrible?  How will this adversely effect businesses?  Also, why do they report deflation in consumer prices, but inflation in core prices, which exclude food and energy?

The Fed wraps up a two-day meeting Tuesday. Economists expect the central bank to cut the federal funds rate, already at a low of 1 percent, by another half-point in an effort to keep the recession from worsening.

BE:  How about you report on how well the Fed’s easing of the monetary policy has worked so far and then talk about this “effort”?

Consumer prices, an inflation barometer, last month fell by the largest amount on records going back 61 years as energy costs posted nearly double the decline of the previous month, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

BE:  Oh, now you tell us how the deflation you spoke of earlier is directly tied to falling energy costs.  When gas prices were skyrocketing, you told us inflation was in check because if you excluded food and energy, prices weren’t going up.  Now, you want to show how bad deflation is, and you include these items.  What kind of double standard is this?

 

Prices fell 1.7 percent, surpassing the previous record decline of 1 percent set in October. It was the largest one-month decline dating to February 1947. Core inflation, excluding food and energy, showed no increase at all in November after a 0.1 percent drop in October.

BE:  Here’s the part about core inflation, and it’s flat!  Well, that sure looks a lot like “deflation” if you ask me!  There is a huge correction going on in the commodities market right now, and that is the whole reason for the flat reading.  With the amount of money we’re printing, we should still be worried about future inflation.

The overall slide in prices reflects the big drop in energy costs in recent months. After hitting a record at $147 per barrel in mid-July, crude oil has fallen by $100 per barrel since then, pushing down the price of gasoline from a record $4.11 per gallon in July to $1.34 in the most recent Energy Department survey.

In other economic news, the Commerce Department reported that construction of new homes fell in November by 18.9 percent, the biggest drop in a quarter-century. The steep decline pushed construction down to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 625,000 homes, the slowest pace on records dating to 1959.

Only a few months ago, some anticipated that the Fed would start raising interest rates to battle a prolonged surge in energy costs. But since September, the Fed’s focus has switched to trying to prevent the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression from pushing the country into a deeper recession.

BE:  And it has completely failed so far.  Most recessions last 10 months, and we’re a year into this one and probably haven’t hit bottom yet.  Good job, Ben, pat yourself on the back.

Energy prices fell by 17 percent in November, nearly double the 8.6 percent decline in October. Both declines were record drops.

Food costs posted a modest 0.2 percent rise in November, the smallest increase in eight months.

The 1.7 percent decline in consumer prices was larger than the 1.2 percent drop that economists had been expecting. It left inflation rising over the past 12 months by 1.1 percent, the smallest 12-month increase since June 2002. Inflation has not risen at a slower pace since a 1 percent rise in the 12 months ending in February 1965.

BE:  Again, why is this bad?  Why is it bad that the consumer can buy more goods for less money?  I love having to pay $25 to fill up my tank.  A few months ago, I was paying $40 for less than half a tank of gas.  All of our recent inflation/deflation has been energy cost driven.  

Inflation is good for the government because they can fund their ever increasing programs without raising taxes.  However, inflation is a hidden tax that erodes the value of our dollars.

New car costs fell by 0.6 percent in November, underscoring the troubles facing auto companies as demand plunges in the weak economy. General Motors, Chrysler and Ford are appealing for a government lifeline, and the Bush administration has said it is considering what type of support to provide.

BE:  Supposedly, deflation caused by people waiting for a better deal to come along is a detriment to our economy.  However, with auto sales, it’s not that people are waiting for a better deal, it’s just that they don’t want to commit to such a big ticket item when times are tough.  The lower price reflects dealers trying to clear out inventory.

Airline prices fell by 4 percent in November, reflecting the big declines in fuel prices, while clothing costs were up 0.3 percent, a rise that followed a big 1 percent drop in October.

BE:  Airline prices dropped because of lower fuel costs, which means we’re counting the same energy prices twice.  This shows how flawed the inflation/deflation calculations are.  Also, the change in clothing costs shows the month to month volitility that appears in short term measures.  We need to look at inflation over the long term to really see it’s effects.

Problem with the Big Three Bailout

December 14, 2008

There was one huge problem with the Big Three Bailout from the start:  They didn’t ask for enough.

Look at the TARP, the 700+ billion dollar bailout of the fiancial system.  They had the balls to come to the table asking for almost a trillion dollars.

Everyone was so scared, “Jeez, they need $700 billion!  It must be serious!”  Paulson kept saying words like “abyss” and “crisis” and Bush eloquently said “this sucker could go down.”  They duped Congress and the Senate by asking for a number so astronomical, they couldn’t say no.

If the Big Three had come in and asked for $200 billion from the start and talked about falling into an abyss, I bet they would have had a bailout already!