Monthly Archives: December 2008

Gohmert’s Bailout Alternative: Convert Paulson’s Last $350 Billion into Tax Holiday

From Congressman Louie Gohmert’s (R-TX) November 28, 2008 press release:

Gohmert is currently preparing a bill to declare the tax holiday for January and February of 2009 and is also gathering support at the same time. He said, “We can save more home mortgages, increase employment, and boost economic growth for a lower price tag with this plan than with any centralized bureaucratic program, all by giving the power back to the taxpayers. I am demanding that not another penny goes to executive bailouts, but these billions of taxpayer dollars should go to the taxpayers who earned them.”

According to American Solutions, a conservative think tank founded by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Americans pay $101.6 billion per month in personal income tax and $65.6 billion per month in FICA tax. Under Gohmert’s proposed plan, all of these taxes would not be paid during January and February of 2009, and the money would stay in the hands of American taxpayers – the ones who best know where economic stimulus should be targeted. Gohmert’s two month tax holiday would stimulate the economy while costing less than the remainder of the Paulson-Pelosi bailout plan.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01) has also recently proposed returning all 2008 income taxes to American taxpayers as a solution to boost the ailing economy, as he believes taxpayers, rather than the government, should be using their hard-earned money to choose the economy’s winners and losers.

Gohmert’s proposal may not solve all of our economic woes but I’ve got to say, I don’t hate it! Rather than the federal government write stimulus checks wealth redistribution checks, why not give the taxpayer a two month break from paying all federal taxes? It’s not as if the congress and the Bush/Obama Administrations are going to spend this money responsibly!

Radio talk show host Neal Boortz makes the following observation of the Gohmert plan:

Now this is a statistic that should shock you … Americans pay over $101 billion in income taxes and $66 billion in FICA taxes every single month. That means that if Gohmert’s plan went into effect, there would be over $330 billion in American pockets. That is money that you have earned and money that you can decide where it is spent or saved. You pick the economic winners and losers with your money – the government doesn’t get to do the choosing for you. The government can’t use it to pay executive salaries for failing companies or subsidize failing UAW contracts. The government won’t spend $50 million just to send every American a letter saying that their pithy “stimulus” check is on the way. That’s it … you just stop all federal taxes for two months.

Will it cost us anything? Well, no more than has already been pledged in the bailout bill. There’s $350 billion left there … this would eat up most of it.

Of course, the only way the Gohmert plan will ever see the light of day is if we, the people demand it.

Wal-Mart Shoppers Sue For $2M

I guess this one comes from the “give me a friggin break” file:

Two customers are suing Wal-Mart for negligence after being injured in a mad rush for post-Thanksgiving bargains that left one store employee dead, the men’s attorney said Tuesday.

Temporary Wal-Mart worker Jdimytai Damour, 34, was crushed to death as he and other employees attempted to unlock the doors of a store on Long Island at 5 a.m. Friday.

Attorney Kenneth Mollins said Fritz Mesadieu and Jonathan Mesadieu were “literally carried from their position outside the store” and are now “suffering from pain in their neck and their back from being caught in that surge of people” that rushed into the Wal-Mart.

New York Newsday reported that the Mesadieus are father and son, ages 51 and 19.

The lawsuit alleges that the Mesadieus’ injuries were a result of “carelessness, recklessness, negligence.”

In a claim against the Nassau County police department, the men also contend that they “sustained monetary losses as a result of health care and legal expenses … in the sum of $2 million.

“This is a tragic situation that could have and should have been avoided with the exercise of reasonable care. There are very simple measures that could have been put in place to avoid this, such as barriers along the line to spread people out, extra security and a better police presence,” Mollins said.

I’d like to see some receipts for that $2M in healthcare and legal expenses. Was that out-of-pocket? Because I can’t imagine two Wal-Mart shoppers being able to come up with that kind of cash. And it’s somewhat convenient that both shoppers (who happen to be father/son) have “pain in their neck and back”, which I doubt is possible to appear on any x-ray.

Now, I can’t definitively state that this is a fraudulent lawsuit. But let’s just say I’m not exactly surprised. A little media blitz and I’m sure they’ll get the quiet payoff they desire.

Father & son? Some family values, huh?

A Letter to Senator Kerry

Dear Senator Kerry,

I was aghast to read your response to my email on the subject of requiring people to get Federal government approval to work.  It is the sort of totalitarian policy I would expect from some right wing fascist dictatorship. I am especially stunned see a former nominee of the Democrat party send out a letter under his name defending such illiberal policies.

Let us ignore the obvious peril of permitting someone like a Bush appointee telling employers whom they may or may not hire.  Let us pretend that people will never be victimized by enemies withing the government.  Instead, let us pretend that this law will not be abused.

First, let us examine what you call an ‘illegal worker’.  I assume that you are not implying that people are somehow illegal.  That notion hopefully died with the victory of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.  I am sure that what you meant was that rather some people are working illegally, i.e. without your permission.

So let us examine what workers do.

Workers produce things.  When they work for pay, selling their labor services to some customer who needs help getting something done, both the workers and the customer benefit.  The worker of course gets the wage that he values more than his time.  The customer gets the wealth created by the labor which they value more than the money they expend in paying for it.

In effect, two people (or one person and a company, or two companies) decide to engage in trade.  You have declared that some of these relationships are illegal.  I assume that you believe that these transactions should be illegal because someone was harmed (the alternative is too depraved to consider).  Obviously, the people engaged in the practice you want to make illegal are not harmed;  they wouldn’t enter into these arrangements if they didn’t feel that the trade was better than not trading at all.  Obviously the person who is harmed is someone else – someone not involved in the trade.

It is clear that you want the customer to be forced to deal only with a subset of labor sellers.  Much like the segregationists in Virginia who sought to prevent black people from marrying whomever they wished and limit them to only marrying other black people, you want to force employers only to employ people you approve of.  Of course this is ridiculous.  Am I harmed because your wife decided to marry you and not me?  Is Sacks 5th Avenue harmed because Target makes me a better offer?  The very notion is absurd.  Like the segregationists in the old south, you are taking your emotional disapproval of how other people interact each other and are threatening them with violence.  Of course, you don’t want to dirty your hands; the clubs that beat lawbreakers will be wielded by the police, allowing you to sleep comfortably in bed with no inconvenient memories threatening your delusion that you are somehow a moral person.

Much like the Mr and Mrs Loving who decided to ignore the racists in the Virginia legislature who declared their love ‘illegal’, people are deciding to do business despite your attempts to stop them.  You call it an ‘underground’ economy in an attempt to discredit it.  What I see are people heroically asserting their right to choose whom they do business with.  Of course they hide it from you!  If my wife and I had lived in the 60’s in Alabama, we’d hide our marriage from the Ku Klux Klan.  The fact that people are hiding from you does not discredit them – rather it discredits you.  Think about it!  People are hiding from you.  They are scared of you. Are you proud of this?  Do you consider this an accomplishment?  If your son came home from school proudly announcing that he’d bullied someone, would you tell him how proud your were of him?

I am told you are a religious man: when you face your creator on judgement day, I don’t think you will earn many brownie points by  telling your maker that your big accomplishment was threatening people who wished to peacefully do business with each other.

In these difficult times it is shameful that an influential senator like yourself is throwing rocks at your countrymen’s efforts to earn a living and improve their lives.  I hope you will come to your senses and stop threatening us and let us go about rebuilding our lives.

The letter that triggered my ire below the fold » 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.

Another Whimper In The Continuing Death Of Liberty

And this time, I doubt that anyone will even notice:

The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.

The long-planned shift in the Defense Department’s role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts, defense analysts said.

There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military’s role in domestic law enforcement.

But the Bush administration and some in Congress have pushed for a heightened homeland military role since the middle of this decade, saying the greatest domestic threat is terrorists exploiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, dedicating 20,000 troops to domestic response — a nearly sevenfold increase in five years — “would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable,” Paul McHale, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said in remarks last month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But the realization that civilian authorities may be overwhelmed in a catastrophe prompted “a fundamental change in military culture,” he said.

This comes despite the fact that the Posse Comitatus Act, passed all the way back in 1878 clearly and emphatically prohibits the use of American military forces in the United States as “law and order” forces in areas not already considered to be the property of the Federal Government.

The dangers of using military forces in areas that, by law and tradition, are the jurisdiction of domestic law enforcement should be manifest and, as Radley Balko predicts, it seems fairly clear that their role would, inevitably and inexorably, expand:

I predict that while now couched in terms of the necessity for a ready response to a cataclysmic terrorist attack, within five years there will be calls to use these forces for less urgent matters, such as crowd control at political conventions, natural disaster response, border control, and, inevitably, some components of the drug war (looking for marijuana in the national parks, for example).

Slowly but surely, the distinction between local, state, and federal law enforcement — all of which operate within limitations prescribed by the Constitution — and the military would be blurred.

From early days of the Republic, one of the greatest fears that the Founding Fathers had involved the creation of a standing army that would operate domestically in a manner that threatened the liberty of the people. Prior to the Civil War, that wasn’t a real concern because the standing army didn’t amount to very much. The passage of the Posse Comitatus Act sought to ensure that a larger Army would not become a threat to freedom.

Now, we’re on the verge of reversing 200 years of history.

There’s no real possibility that this new power won’t be abused.

Is Atheism Really Threatening?

These signs have been popping up lately in the Denver area…

…and some folks are none too happy about it.

The hate mail and nasty, threatening phone messages began almost immediately.

John Matson, of Denver, was so mad after seeing the Santa Fe Drive sign that he dashed off an angry letter to the billboard’s owner.

“It is a despicable act to allow that sign,” the 60-year-old man said in an interview, “and for just a few pieces of silver.”

He went on COCORE’s Web site, and it made him even angrier, John Matson said. It is trying to gather, he said, “a constituency of what I call mob rule.”

“I know they’re atheists, and my opinion is they want others to believe the same thing. The billboard misrepresents their purpose,” he said. “Their agenda is wolf-in-sheep’s clothing political. Why don’t they just say it.”

Yes, he is a Christian, John Matson said.

Perhaps it’s simply that I’m a godless heathen myself, but I have yet to see any way that these billboards, as some of their detractors have claimed, “denigrate Christians”. As far as I can tell, this is simply an advertising campaign for their group. Given the number of billboards I’ve seen throughout my life advertising for various churches, I don’t quite understand why this would create such an uproar. I’m not surprised, mind you, but I don’t understand.

While I don’t necessarily agree with Matson’s statement that “they want others to believe the same thing” — not that I’d find anything wrong with that — this is clearly an advertising campaign. In many ways, being an atheist is very similar to being a libertarian: nobody understands you, you’re often finding yourself unable to admit your beliefs in public, and thus you have a very difficult time finding others like yourself. While church members have a natural venue to meet like-minded folks, the very lack of belief makes it very difficult for atheists to do the same. Thus, it can be a lonely existence, and the knowledge that there are others who at least share your belief is a small comfort.

Matson, of course, does have a point. A group like COCORE may, through campaigns like this, slowly legitimize atheism in the general public. That will allow people of weak faith who might naturally tend towards atheism make the complete leap. But such at attitude by Christians would only make clear that they are against one of those central tenets of Christianity, the idea that accepting Christ is a choice to be made freely and with all the information laid out.

Instead of knee-jerk reaction, perhaps those who believe would do better if they spent their time working towards conversion based upon the positive aspects of their faith, not by trying to silence their opposition. To do such a thing would be respectful of freedom, and would earn my respect*. It may not spur me to believe, but it would certainly temper my disgust at some of the behavior of the more vocal and least-tolerant believers.
» Read more

Sex Offender Insanity

I’ve written several times in the past about the manner in which America’s sex offender registry laws have led to insane, some might even say unjust, outcomes. There was the six-year old boy in Virginia who will go through the rest of his school career tagged as a sexual offender. The 15 year old Ohio teenager who was charged with distribution of child pornography for sending a nude picture of herself to her friends. Last week, I wrote about a 24 year old woman in Georgia who could lose her house because she was declared a sex offender for having oral sex with her boyfriend when she was a teenager. And, then, of course, there’s the case of Genarlow Wilson, who spent was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having oral sex with his girlfriend.

Well, the insanity continues.

Consider this story of a 16 year old who’s life is essentially ruined because he did something teenagers do every day:

When Ricky was 16, he went to a teen club and met a girl named Amanda, who said she was the same age. They hit it off and were eventually having sex. At the time Ricky thought it was a pretty normal high school romance.

Two years later, Ricky is a registered sex offender, and his life is destroyed.

Amanda turned out to be 13. Ricky was arrested, tried as an adult, and pleaded guilty to the charge of lascivious acts with a child, which is a class D felony in Iowa. It is not disputed that the sex was consensual, but intercourse with a 13-year-old is illegal in Iowa.

Ricky was sentenced to two years probation and 10 years on the Iowa online sex offender registry. Ricky and his family have since moved to Oklahoma, where he will remain on the state’s public registry for life.

Being labeled a sex offender has completely changed Ricky’s life, leading him to be kicked out of high school, thrown out of parks, taunted by neighbors, harassed by strangers, and unable to live within 2,000 feet of a school, day-care center or park. He is prohibited from going to the movies or mall with friends because it would require crossing state borders, which he cannot do without permission from his probation officer. One of Ricky’s neighbors called the cops on him, yelled and cursed at him, and videotaped him every time he stepped outside, Ricky said.

“It affects you in every way,” he said. “You’re scared to go out places. You’re on the Internet, so everybody sees your picture.”

His mother, Mary, said the entire family has felt the ramifications of Ricky being labeled a sex offender. His younger brother has been ridiculed at school and cannot have friends over to the house; his stepfather has been harassed; the parents’ marriage has been under tremendous pressure; and strangers used to show up at their door to badger the family. One neighbor came to the house and told Mary he wasn’t going to leave them alone until they took their “child rapist” away, so they moved, she said.

Ricky’s family should probably be thankful they don’t live in Florida, though, because they’d probably be living under a bridge:

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) — The sparkling blue waters off Miami’s Julia Tuttle Causeway look as if they were taken from a postcard. But the causeway’s only inhabitants see little paradise in their surroundings.

Five men — all registered sex offenders convicted of abusing children — live along the causeway because there is a housing shortage for Miami’s least welcome residents.

“I got nowhere I can go!” says sex offender Rene Matamoros, who lives with his dog on the shore where Biscayne Bay meets the causeway.

The Florida Department of Corrections says there are fewer and fewer places in Miami-Dade County where sex offenders can live because the county has some of the strongest restrictions against this kind of criminal in the country.

Florida’s solution: house the convicted felons under a bridge that forms one part of the causeway.

The Julia Tuttle Causeway, which links Miami to Miami Beach, offers no running water, no electricity and little protection from nasty weather. It’s not an ideal solution, Department of Corrections Officials told CNN, but at least the state knows where the sex offenders are.

Now, it’s likely the case that the men living under the causeway are dangerous offenders, but where’s the logic in a law that is so draconian in restricting where they live that it encourages them to drop out of the system so that nobody will know where they are ? And where’s the logic in extending the sex offender registry system to offenses that aren’t really offenses at all, but rather just teenagers being teenagers ?

Steve Verdon makes this point:

Making them register as sex offenders and destroying their lives is simply stupid. And even for actual sex offenders releasing them then passing laws that make it impossible to live anywhere in society is just mind boggling stupid. If they are still such a danger to society, then lock them the Hell up. Don’t release convicted criminals who are so highly likely to re-offend back into society and set up a monitoring system that is so harsh it actually encourages them to avoid registering as a sex offender.

While at the same time ruining the lives of essentially innocent people.

Oil Is Too Cheap

No, not for the reason these guys think:

Venezuela will back repeated cuts in OPEC oil production until prices stabilize, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez says, and Russia is proposing closer cooperation with the oil cartel.

Ramirez said Wednesday that his country will back a proposed 1 million barrel per day cut when OPEC meets Saturday in Cairo. If that doesn’t halt the price slide, “We will keep cutting until the market stabilizes,” he said during a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Oil prices fell below $54 a barrel Thursday as dismal U.S. economic data and rising crude inventories outweighed the possibility of production cuts by OPEC and non-member Russia.

Russia, the largest oil producer outside OPEC, produces around 11 percent of the world’s oil and it could be eager to seek new customers to shore up its suffering economy. OPEC output is estimated at about 31.5 million barrels a day — about 40 percent of daily world demand.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has said OPEC should work to keep global oil prices in a “band between $80 and $100.”

I normally explain price moves using conventional terms of supply and demand. In this case, though, the rules are somewhat different*. There is certainly some demand destruction that has reduced the price of crude oil, but I hardly think it’s a large enough change to move from $147/barrel to $50/barrel oil. At this point, the price of oil seems artificially low, considering the fact that fundamental supply and demand forces haven’t changed.

Yet the response from OPEC, Venezuela, and the big oil companies is the same as if the price decline was natural — they reduce production. This is not only true of the state-owned oil companies, but areas such as Canadian tar sands and some of the more difficult offshore fields have stopped production or shelved new exploration projects. This only makes sense, of course, as the marginal cost of production of many of these projects is well over $50/barrel, and they don’t want to lose money.

This causes a major problem for two reasons, assuming that the fundamentals haven’t changed:

  • It takes supply offline in the short-term, and due to the nature of drilling, shutting down existing fields may reduce the ability to pump oil from those fields in the future. I.e. if a field is pumping 500,000 bbl/day before being shut down, it may only reopen with the capacity to produce 460,000 bbl/day. Thus, taking oil offline in the short term reduces potential oil recovery in the long term.
  • Reduction of exploration projects reduces oil supply in the future. While this may only push out exploration projects 2-3 years, current IEA projections of decline suggest that we should be searching for oil right now — and fast.

What does this mean for future oil prices? They’re going to go up, and they may be going up faster than before. This isn’t a return to the norm, this is the swinging of a seesaw. We’re at a low point right now, but an 800-lb gorilla just got on the other side.

Of course, to hear that oil prices are too cheap is not a common theme these days, as here in California gas has dropped under the $2/gallon mark. From a personal level, of course, I’m enjoying the reprieve. But now may simply be the best time to jump out and buy yourself a gas-saving auto, because these prices will not last.
» Read more

1 2 3