Saturday, January 31, 2009

Progressive tax for "progressives"

Let's put the "progress" back in "progressive."

The so-called "progressives" think that people who work harder and make more money should pay much more taxes than the rest of mankind. They have the right idea about some people paying more than others, but it just needs a little tweaking.

Here's the solution. Mean people should pay more than nice people -- especially the mean people who insist on acting out their mean-ness. And who could be meaner than those who wish to punish Americans who get educated to use their mind more fully and fill their coffers more effectively and make America such an amazing engine of opportunity?

Short answer? Progressives. Long answer: Bottom-feeding, slack-jawed, mealy-mouthed Progressives.

So, yes, you've anticipated me, haven't you? Progressives are the meanest breed of scrotum scum on Earth and should pay "progressively" more taxes than nice people, according to how vehemently they hold their "progressive" mantra. How does such a thing get measured. Oh come on, it's easy. Just ask them what they think of CEO salaries and the wealthy having yachts. Then you measure the lip snarl's height and the amount of the contemptuous squint. Presto, rabid liberal progressive!

Think their progressively smaller bank accounts will make them any wiser and nicer anytime soon?

Nah, me either. But at least it'll be progress.

What hit America in 2008 was the Tsunami Barney Frank

A tsunami – that deadly killer of people and property – struck America’s shores and heartland in 2008. But, unlike the natural disaster, this one was man-made – or mad-made, if you will.
If we were to give tsunamis human names (as we oddly do to hurricanes) we might name last year’s devastating tidal wave Tsunami Christopher Dodd or Tsunami Jimmy Carter or Tsunami Bill Clinton. But it would be more accurate to call it the Tsunami Barney Frank, Capital Hill’s Scott Boras for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – government-sponsored enterprises (how’s that for an oxymoron?) which together held nearly $6 trillion in real-estate debt and liabilities that, directly or indirectly, is drowning hard-working Americans.

These four men are the primary culprits for the miserable situation we now find ourselves in, each playing a major part in ensuring that Fan and Fred became the equivalent of a millennial natural force that inundated the marketplace by coercing private lenders into making loans to irresponsible and under-capitalized home-seekers. Fan and Fred then bought or implicitly backed those loans.

Fan’s debt/equity ratio in 2001 was 60 to 1, more than five times that of private lenders – and it got worse, severely over-leveraging Fan, which sailed along fairly well until the inevitable happened: housing prices dropped … and dropped … and dropped. Then the chickens came to their foreclosed home to roost, and all of the above finger-pointed at the opposing party’s lame-duck leader. Neither the well-meaning but hapless George Bush nor the rudderless John McCain had the brains or the temerity to defend himself against the disingenuously clever liberal assault, which included our new president on his campaign trail.

So let’s set the record straight for all of you who are too busy to understand economics and government and who get all of your news from those who understand economics and government even less – that’s the media, for those not paying attention.

You may have noted that none of the aforementioned culprits is a Republican. Contrary to the MSNBC junta, last year’s cataclysmic annihilation of personal savings and businesses cannot rightly be pinned upon Bush. The Bush administration tried many times to reign in Fan and Fred, but Frank & Dodd LLC (as ranking members of House Banking and Financial Services committees) made sure that didn’t happen. I feel sure that the $40,000 that Frank received in direct contributions from Fan had nothing to do with his decision – or Dodd’s sweetheart deals on two home loans that he received from Countrywide Financial. Nope. Nah.

But I digress. Here’s a brief history of crime. The full force of the earthquake that caused the tsunami didn’t occur until 2008, but its temblors began in 1977, with the so-called Community Reinvestment Act (with a name like that, who could resist?), promoted and passed by the Carter administration. The CRA mandated that all FDIC-insured lenders (virtually all of them) meet fuzzy quotas for lending in low-income (non-liberals call them “poor”) and minority neighborhoods.

But the act didn’t have much legislative teeth until Bill Clinton rode into town on his high horse (that’s “Hillary”) bellowing that lenders were still being too careful (that’s “prejudice”). Clinton circumvented a GOP Congress on the issue between 1997 and 2001 via presidential edicts (through his pit bull HUD chief Andrew Cuomo) that virtually forced lenders to offer “affordable” mortgages to poor people and gave the lenders the allure of great profits at seemingly no-risk or low-risk because the government would buy or insure the loans implicitly. If you’re having a difficult time believing me, perhaps you’ll believe the liberal Village Voice, which (in a fit of left-wing rationality) printed a blistering attack on Aug. 5 against Cuomo/Clinton, saying the same thing and stating that the duo’s actions “gave birth to the country’s current crisis.”

In the years leading up to our current madness, lenders made out like bandits (which some of them were) and went along in this government scheme. But then, like a giant ball of manure rolling downhill, the merde got closer to the fan – while everyone made lots of money and held his nose. Two culprits stand out during these end-times.

Since 2001, Dodd and Frank have been the primary political exponents of evasion, flattery and lies that have floated Fan and Fred and greatly accelerated their leveraging. Frank has told The New York Times and other newspapers and network anchors repeatedly for the last 10 years that Fan and Fred were not in trouble and were sound institutions, and if they ever did collapse, he said in 2004, “I think Wall Street will get over it.” He stalled or stopped reform of the two giants nearly each year of the new century.

Indeed, after receiving $1 trillion of our (taxpayers’) cash, Wall Street may “get over it.” The Wall Street Journal has correctly called Frank “Fannie Mae’s patron saint.”

Meanwhile, we are now regaled by Frank’s smirking mien atop his committee chair. You know the look. It’s that of a man who has stolen his neighbor’s savings – and gotten away with it while sipping cognac aboard his yacht on the floodwater that used to be prosperous America.

It’s a mad mad mad world. And Barney Frank is grinning.

Liberal raindrops keep falling on our head

You should get a low-flow toilet and DON’T FLUSH TWICE. You should not clean your car yourself. (Why should you when you can use five gallons to clean your car, and the local carwash can use 30 to stay in business?) You should not water your lawn in the afternoon and on odd days or even days or ANY DAYS AT ALL. You should flush less. You should constantly be thinking of recycling water. You should take shorter, cooler showers. You should take baths. You should get restrictors on faucets and shower heads. You MUST get restrictors on faucets and shower heads. You should get barrels to catch drainage from the roof. You should bail out bathwater and water your garden with it. You should. You should. You should!

Are you tired of getting should on? I sure am. I’m expecting the politically correct “conservation” cabal to bang on my door anytime and haul me to jail for throwing out that last half-cup of coffee in the morning that I never drink. I keep the blinds closed and pretend to be yawning when the act occurs.

Here’s a frightful fact the PC water police don’t want to hear. There’s plenty of rainfall in the Atlanta area to fulfill our water needs for centuries of population growth, even in “drought” years – even if every year is a drought year of just 30 inches of rain. (Ethiopians are getting some chuckles out of our definition of “drought,” by the way.)

Here are the two things necessary to ensure we have plenty of water. (1) Get the government out of the water business. Let private companies build reservoirs, buy the land for them and manage the water system. Some of that is already successfully being done in New Jersey. More on that in a bit. (2) Send environmentalists to Ethiopia for a 10-year sabbatical and extensive training in common sense. If you, dear reader, think that mussels and fish and snail darters are more important than abundant water for humans, then raise your hand.

If you raised your hand, stop reading!

Well, on second thought, keep reading, because you’re a liberal and you love to get mad, stay mad and tell everybody that you’re mad. Your raison d’etre requires conservatives in some macabre symbiotic way. There. Mad?!

If you think some boxwoods, oaks, pines and swamps (excuse me, “wetlands”) are more important that water abundance for humans, then raise … Well, you know the drill.
Conservatives need to stop cow-towing to Gang Green and the Snail-darter Squadron. Conservatives, especially in the South, have a strong base of folks who are fed up with liberal platforms that violate individual rights of humans. They’re fed up with hearing about mussels and “wetlands.” Mussels aren’t on the verge of extinction, and if they were, so what? Ironically, in a laissez-faire (means “hands off, liberals”) economy, the more scarce mussels become, the more private companies will foster them and produce them on “farms” to ensure a profit and to ensure the public is accommodated with the tasty treats at dinnertime.

America has proven the maxim that private business always outperforms the government in service to the public – and water is no different. There’s one place in America where this is proving itself quite clearly: Jersey City, N.J.

In 1996, Jersey City signed a contract with the private United Water to get water to residents much more cheaply and efficiently. The partnership was the largest public/private partnership for a municipal water operation. United Water operates the distribution system, treatment plants, reservoirs and watershed, provides billing and collection and manages customer service for the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority. Jersey City continues to own its assets while controlling water rates and capital funding. The partnership was a recipient of the National Council for Public-Private Partnership's prestigious Project Recognition Award. The two entities renewed their contract on Jan. 30, 2008.

Here’s what was accomplished by having a private company handle the operations. The city:

• Collected a record $78.4 million in annual billings in 2007 for the JCMUA, compared to $42 million collected in 1997 at the inception of the public-private partnership
• Reduced major maintenance equipment repair costs from $2.7 million in 2000 to $500,000 in 2006
• Improved meter reading from 60 percent to an average of 97 percent actual reads
• Reduced aqueduct losses because of operating efficiencies

These are magnificent results, to be sure. But Atlanta and Georgia need to go one further: Let private companies build and maintain reservoirs and operate and own all water operations.
When building reservoirs has to depend on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Endangered Species Act, local government, state government, federal government and the lawsuit shenanigans of half a dozen environmental and animal “rights” left-brainers, then can we Atlanta citizens ever expect to have enough fresh water today and next year?

If it took the Hickory Log Creek Reservoir more than seven years just to get approval to start construction in Cherokee County, can we ever expect to stop being harangued by the “should” do-gooder elite?

We saw what happened when the government was exorcised from the telecommunications, airline and parcel-delivery industries. Those industries are not perfect, as few private companies ever are, but try to remember the Soviet-style service we had in these industries just 30 years ago, before deregulation.

Yes, prices sometimes go up, but there are good reasons for those rises – and usually there are bad reasons that involve government interference with the marketplace, as happened last summer when high-sulfur gasoline was prohibited from coming to Atlanta, when Gov. Perdue threatened the gas-station owners with price gouging (thereby allowing excessive, low-cost consumption that dried up the gas pumps), and when refinery regulations nationwide came home to roost locally.

As the AJC reported in March 2008, seven reservoirs are under construction in the Atlanta area. That’s good news. But there need to be many more – and they should be run by private companies, so we don’t ever have to worry about abundant supply again or ever have to go through our day listening to the nanny-state psychological torture of the left’s “shoulds.”
If it ever happens, then conservatives can laugh at the “should” being on the other foot.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

To torture or not to torture -- That is the question

Is water-boarding torture? Yes.

Is playing loud, obnoxious music torture? Yes – especially if it’s any song by a big-hair rock band of the late ‘89s or early ‘90s.

Is enforced sleep deprivation torture? Yes, but I don’t blame my daughter.

Seriously, let’s not mince words. If you or a government methodically coerces another individual in any way to extract information and/or to punish, then that is torture. Let’s stop the semantic dancing. The above three examples are modern-day milquetoast torture compared to when authorities “got Medieval,” but they are torture, nonetheless.

The question in the torture debate is not whether what happened at Guantanamo or during renditions was torture. It is, “As a free society that upholds liberty and individual rights, should we torture or should we not torture?”

The answer is yes – and if your daughter or son or other loved one could be saved by the torture of a foreign terrorist (or even an American), many of you would say the same and even possibly insist upon much greater torture than is now allowed to save your precious one. But that is not what makes it correct or moral. Here’s what is.

Human beings have a right to their lives, liberty and property. People who purposely murder human beings forfeit their right to their lives, liberty and property and put themselves at the legal disposal of the free people who capture them – inside a country or outside.

If it is beyond any doubt that they are murderers (or terrorists, if you like), then we can snuff out their life. And if they hold valuable information that will save other free people from death or injury, then the murderers must divulge that information or be subject to torture to do so. Mercy is for the innocent, not the monsters.

All of the above said, we must set down legal guidelines to prohibit abuse of a free people’s prerogative to torture. That will include clear definitions and objective, third-party oversight. Here are some ideas.

There must be, I think, two different thresholds for torture: one for foreigners and one for American citizens. Yes, I believe that even an American murderer can be tortured for information if he holds information that will save other Americans from sure death. If a murderer has buried alive another person and knows his/her whereabouts, he can be tortured for that information. If a murderer has planted a bomb that will kill other Americans, then he can be tortured.

Because America is grounded in individual rights and its citizens have a right to a trial before their peers, I think that any exception to this rule must be extreme and therefore must pass a test of absolute surety. In such extraordinary instances, I think that two Supreme Court justices must sign off on the torture – one from each end of the political spectrum (which would mean one liberal and one conservative in today’s terms). I think that the legal phrasing for such an instance must be something like “beyond any doubt” of guilt. If the facts do not support such a phrasing, then the justices must reject the authorities’ request for torture.

Concerning foreign nationals, the phrasing could be something like “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In cases where there is time to have such torture of foreigners reviewed, I think that a federal high court justice must sign off on it. When there is not enough time, two designated high court justices must later review the information and confirm that no foul play is involved. (This should be done afterward also in the former case.)

The idea of torture is reprehensible to most human minds, but we cannot let such distaste discolor our morality or in any way impugn our dignity. What is right is right, and we must stand firmly behind our convictions to honor the lives and liberty only of those who are innocent. We cannot, as a neighbor once told me, allow ourselves to think that we somehow become just like criminals when we punish or torture them. It is our obligation to exact justice and to protect individual rights.

We must remember that criminals (the least and worst of them) have free will, just like us, and could have decided to live free and honor freedom at any point in their premeditation. But they choose destruction. We choose production. They choose hate. We choose love.They choose not to be (human). We choose to be.