Monthly Archives: August 2007

We Won’t Have Fredo To Kick Around Anymore

Alberto Gonzalez has resigned as Attorney General:

Embattled Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has resigned from his post, according to an administration official, ending a controversial cabinet tenure that included clashes with Congress over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys and the nature of efforts to spy on U.S. citizens.

The official said Gonzales submitted a letter on Friday saying he had decided to step down, but the announcement was withheld until he met with President Bush at the president’s Crawford ranch. His resignation will be announced at a press conference scheduled at 10:30.

As I said back in April, with a nickname like Fredo, Gonzalez should’ve been concerned.

Monday Open Thread: Questions For Ron Paul Supporters

The posts about Ron Paul’s campaign have brought numerous visitors and comments to The Liberty Papers over the past several months. Some have accused some of is, me in particular, of being overly negative about Paul’s campaign. The truth is, I’m overly negative about the state of the GOP to the point where I doubt that it can nominate someone who thinks like Ron Paul at this point.

Nonethless, I’d like to take today’s Open Thread as an opportunity to ask the Ron PaulĀ  supporters out there some questions.

1. Other than Ron Paul, is there any Republican candidate for President currently running that you could support in either the primaries or the General Election in 2008 ? If not, what would you do on Election Day 2008 if Ron Paul fails to win the Republican nomination ?

2. If you do think he will win the nomination, how do you reconcile his current standing in the national polls, no higher than 3%, with that belief ?

3. Are you supporting any Republican candidates for office (i.e., candidates for Congress, the Senate, Governor, or local offices) other than Ron Paul ?

4. If Ron Paul doesn’t win the nomination, would you stay involved in the Republican Party

I’ll be interested to hear everyone’s responses.

How To Really Reform The Electoral College

Back in April, here and here, I wrote about the National Popular Vote, an effort by some states to change the way the Electoral College works by means of an agreement among participating states that it would give it’s electoral vote to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of which candidates may have actually gotten the most votes in a given state.

As I stated back then, there are several problems with the NPV, not the least of them being that it is unconstitutional. But that doesn’t mean that the Electoral College can’t be reformed short of amending the Constitution. There is at least one alternative, and it’s being considered in California right now:

LOS ANGELES — California Republicans are floating a ballot initiative that would change how the state awards its 55 electoral votes, a whopping prize that Democrats have come over the past four presidential elections to regard as theirs.

Under the current format, the winner of the state’s popular vote takes all electoral votes. The initiative proposes to award one electoral vote for every congressional district a candidate wins, with the statewide winner getting two more electoral votes.

Had such a system been in place in 2004, President Bush would have come out of California with 22 electoral votes instead of zero. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) would have gotten only 33.

“It has a gut-level appeal to it,” said Kevin Eckery, a GOP consultant supporting the initiative, which would be put before voters in June. “It sounds fair, and it is fair.”

Democrats emphatically disagree and are mounting their own campaign to derail the initiative, which strategists say could easily alter the outcome of the 2008 contest.

“You’re looking at between 19 and 22 votes that would shift to the Republican side,” said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist mobilizing against the proposal. “The electoral math becomes very challenging.”

Leaving aside the politics that underlies the debate in California, and would indisputably play a role in any state where this method for allocating electoral votes was considered, there is much about this proposal that is worthy of consideration.

First of all, it maintains the Electoral College’s purpose of balancing large states against small ones, and regions against regions while at the same time addressing one of the biggest criticisms of the way that we elect Presidents. By tying at least one electoral vote in each state to a Congressional District, the proposal would put nearly every state into play in a Presidential election. Yes, the proposal would benefit Republicans in California, but it would also benefit Democrats in states like Florida and Texas. In the end, the benefits would probably balance themselves out across the nation, and candidates would be forced to run a campaign that addresses the country as a whole, rather than one that merely focuses on a few big states.

Second, unlike the NPV, the Congressional district allocation method has been tried before, and works. Both Nebraska and Maine have had this system in effect for several years and it’s worked just fine.

Finally, unlike the NPV, the Congressional district allocation method is completely constitutional. The Constitution leaves to the individual states the method by which Electoral Votes are allocated.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think that the Electoral College is as broken as some people think it is. In it’s 200 year history, there have been only three occasions where the Electoral College winner did not also win the popular vote, and only two where no candidate got a majority of Electoral College votes, requiring the House of Representatives to choose the President. In some sense, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But, if reform is considered at all, the District Method seems to be the way to go.

Demonizing The Mortgage Industry

In today’s Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman points out the hypocrisy that has been exhibited by many on the left in response to the problems in the sub-prime mortgage industry and the increasing number of foreclosures on such loans:

In the old days, financial institutions that refused to lend to people with low incomes or imperfect credit were accused of victimizing the needy. Today, financial institutions that make many loans to those same people are found guilty of the same crime.

Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, lenders who refused to lend to people with risky financial portfolios were accused of “redlining” — which was the supposed practice of refusing to lend to anyone within certain geographic areas, usually areas dominated by minorities — or of outright racism in their lending practices. In reality, what lenders were usually doing was responding in a rational way to both the prospective borrowers in question, and the rules and regulations they were forced to deal with.

First of all, poor people, whether they’re minorities or not, are not good credit risks. They aren’t regularly employed, they don’t have significant assets, and they usually have financial obligations that make the idea of being able to meet a mortgage payment often unrealistic. Lending someone in such an economic state hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a home would be an incredibly stupid business decision, unless the loan were structured in such a way as to protect the lender from the increased risk of default.

And that’s where # 2 comes in…….

Second, because of banking and lending regulations in the 1960s and 70s, lenders were often restricted in the terms they could offer to borrowers. Interest rates, typically the best way of counteracting credit risk, if not capped, were at least highly regulated, and banks were not permitted to offer anything much more than the typical 30 year fixed rate conventional loan.

When the mortgage industry was deregulated, thanks in part to the people who were complaining about so called “redlining” and discriminatory lending, lenders were able to non-traditional mortgages that permitted people who otherwise would have been locked out of the opportunity to purchase a home the ability to do so. One can argue about whether or not people like this are making the right choice when they take on the responsibility of home ownership, but they’re all adults, and, in the end, they’re the ones who accept financial responsibility when they sign on the dotted line.

As Chapman points out, the mere fact that some of these subprime borrowers are defaulting on their obligations is not a condemnation of either the subprime market itself, or the mortgage industry as a whole:

[T]he fact that some borrowers are behind on their payments is no condemnation of the system that furnished them credit. They are in the subprime market, after all, because their credit history or income suggests they are bad risks, and it’s no shock to find that some of them turn out to be exactly that.

Precisely, and more importantly, all the press about the increase in foreclosures among such borrowers ignores a broader reality:

[T]he overwhelming majority of subprime customers handle their obligations just fine. At last count, fewer than 14 percent of them were delinquent, meaning that 86 percent were not. Most people pay what they owe, and those who don’t suffer the consequences. Absent consequences, fewer people would repay, and mortgage providers would demand higher rates to lend to the remainder.

And that, ultimately, is what the free market, individual liberty, and being an adult in a free society are all about — accepting the consequences of your actions.

But it doesn’t, unfortunately, end there. Details below the fold:
» Read more

Curing alcoholism with free whiskey

Imagine you have an alcoholic brother who lives with your parents because he has trouble holding down a job when he lives alone. So your parents keep an eye on him, limit his access to alcohol etc. One day, you come home, and you find your dad calmly stacking cans of Milwaukee’s Best into the fridge. When you ask why, he explains that your brother has been under some stress, and your parents are trying to help the poor guy out.

This scenario is so ass-backwards that most people would doubt it could happen in real life. However, this is precisely what the Federal Reserve just did last week.

In a further effort to increase liquidity, the Fed wrote to New York-based Citigroup on Aug. 20, temporarily easing restrictions on the relationship between Citibank NA, the company’s U.S. bank, and its broker-dealer subsidiary Citigroup Global Markets Inc.
The change lets the bank channel money from the discount window to the broker-dealer, which would then lend it to clients holding “certain mortgage loans and related assets.” The exemption allows Citibank to lend up to $25 billion to the broker-dealer’s customers.

Citibank’s brokerage unit is out of money, because they made unwise investments. The Federal Reserve is encouraging the bank to divert money to its failing unit from the bank’s reserves, and if that fails, from the Federal Reserve itself. However, nothing, nothing is being done about the root causes of the brokerage arm’s near bankruptcy. When the new influx of money runs out, the unit will still be in the same bad shape, but now the bank will have fewer reserves on hand. Your alcoholic brother is not going to learn how to drink responsibly if you keep offering him beers. » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.
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