ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Sunday, March 04, 2012

New Blog - The Era of Unreason

For anyone who is still following this essentially defunct blog, I've decided to return to posting at a new location, The Era of Unreason. Note that the style, frequency, and point of this new blog is substantially different from the ARC.  Hopefully, you will find the content informative and entertaining.

Your Co-Conspirator in the ARC:
St Wendeler

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Life Imitates the Onion

Sad that this is what it has come down to.

In The Know: Should The Government Stop Dumping Money Into A Giant Hole?

By the way, if the federal government is losing it's @ss on Medicare, how exactly will it "save" anything when it comes to universal health care?

Also, Barack may say that he doesn't want to run General Motors: He just wants to:

  • Select executive management
  • restructure it's distribution network
  • select the location for corporate headquarters
  • determine key aspects of its entire supply chain
  • set labor costs
  • determine equity ownership
  • fix fuel efficiency standards
  • determine future automobile design & technology; and
  • determine it's capital structure
That's all... so, you know.... nothing to worry about!

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Libertarians will never be in the Liberal (Progressive) Sphere

Bruce Bartlett has this column which makes the case that Progressives & Liberals might be able to accommodate libertarian members within the ranks of the Democratic Party, essentially the fusion of political thought into Liberaltarians.

Here's an excerpt of his column:

I recently attended a dinner with a group of prominent liberal and libertarian bloggers to see if there is a community of interest that might lead to closer cooperation on some issues.

On the surface, there would appear to be potential for an alliance. Libertarians tend to be liberal on social issues, favoring such things as gay marriage and drug legalization; and also liberal on defense and foreign policy, opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and opposing torture and restrictions on civil liberties in the name of national security.

But libertarians are conservative on economic policy--favoring a free market with virtually no government intervention except the enforcement of contracts, and no government spending or taxes except those to pay for a very minimal police force and military.

Libertarians' views on social policy and national defense make them sympathetic to the Democrats, while their views on economic policy tend to align them with the Republicans. If one views social, defense and economic policy as having roughly equal weight, it would seem, therefore, that most libertarians should be Democrats. In fact, almost none are. Those that don't belong to the dysfunctional Libertarian Party are, by and large, Republicans.
One is not likely to run into that type of libertarian at a Washington dinner party. These libertarians tend to be well-educated, arriving at his or her philosophy through reading obscure books or random contact with some libertarian in graduate school. They don't own guns--probably never even fired one, don't mind paying taxes too much, have no particular nostalgia for the gold standard and certainly would not choose to live in isolation on a mountaintop. They are cosmopolitan, urbane, articulate and interested in ideas more than just about anything else. They are not especially career-oriented--they are happy to be paid less than they probably could make as long as they don't have to compromise their principles and can do work that advances the cause. For the most part, they aren't family-oriented or religious, and they mostly fit the stereotype of a nerd.
I believe there should be more balance in the libertarian strategy, with civil liberties and non-interventionism having closer to equal weight with economic freedom.

In return, liberals can learn something important about economics from libertarians. Liberals often turn to government to solve social problems simply because that is their default position. But often, there are private-sector alternatives that may in fact be superior. The rich diversity of America's states and localities shows there are many different ways of dealing with social problems that don't necessarily require more government.

I hope the dialogue continues.

Bruce Bartlett is a former Treasury Department economist and the author of Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action and Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.

Bartlett points to the extension of the Civil Rights Act and Women's suffrage as two examples where the Feds action resulted in more freedom for the individual, demonstrating that there may be common ground between libertarian and Democrat initiatives. (Never mind that the GOP passed the deciding votes for the Civil Rights Act.) Unfortunately these examples are few and far between.

Another point I would like to make with Bartlett's analysis is that he's talking to inside the Beltway Libertarians. These folks do not represent the vast majority of people who might rally to the cause of individual freedom. In all likelihood, these D.C. libertarians are steeped in Libertarian thought, but their daily life is spent at the teet of the Federal government or of some wonkish think tank.

The final piece of analysis that Bartlett doesn't consider is how far afield the Democrat/Liberal/Progressive movement has gotten from the concept of liberalism (as defined by classical liberalism). While the Left may push for Gay Marriage, Abortion, drug legalization (certainly not a position any conservative would ever tolerate - please don't look at Clarence Thomas or William F. Buckley), in the end the Democrat/Progressive/Liberal animating force is to eliminate individual freedom and transfer that power to the collective.

Education? Democrats have no interest in letting you decide on the best education for yourself or your family. This is clearly an individual rights issue which would put the Left and Libertarians at odds.

Health Care? Rationing of care to the sick guided by the state is the end goal. Similarly controlling your health (e.g. every decision you make throughout any given day which might impact your health) is a major initiative of the Left, from taxing soda and sugar to outright banning of smoking, amounts of salt, and trans fats.

Foreign Policy? I doubt a libertarian would appreciate liberal foreign interventions (only in cases where no national interest is involved) over "conservative" interventions (where there are geopolitical, economic, and humanitarian concerns).

The Environment? The progressive push is to limit individual choice and free market innovations to increase the role of government in identifying and selecting technologies to improve the environment.

Private Property? The progressives are eager to seize property under the takings clause if it can be justified as expanding the tax base. Seizing large, multinational corporations for the benefits of the workers and public policy is not something that Libertarians would view as compatible with their philosophy.

Abortion? I could make an extremely compelling argument that the practice of abortion - especially late-term abortion - is anathema to libertarian philosophy, since the liberty of the child is the penultimate factor which turned me away from a "pro-choice" position. (My wife was born to young parents and there was much discussion amongst the wider family about whether her teenage should take advantage of the now legalized and "safer" procedure. I am grateful that the teenage mother and father thought about her right to live.)

I see little in the philosophy of the Left which would make it appealing to a true libertarian. Bartlett makes the mistake of equating Libertarianism with only economics. He fails to understand the economics is actually not about money (taxes, spending, fiat money, etc) but the freedom to choose - the freedom to weight the costs and benefits of a particular action and make your own decision on what is best for you.

Bartlett fails to understand that individual activity is economics.

While many libertarians may focus on tax policy, red-ink spending, etc., the underpinning for libertarian thought is that the individual is better able to make decisions which (in the aggregate) are better informed than a centralized bureaucracy.

The decision to drive to work? Economic decision.
The decision to eat at a fast food joint? Economic decision.
The decision to see the doctor about a cold? Economic decision.
The decision to spend an hour visiting a friend instead of shopping? Economic decision.
The decision to go to a private school of your choice vs. the local government run school? Economic decision.
The decision to purchase a large vehicle which can transport you and your family in safety and comfort over a small car? Economic decision.
The decision to fire an employee who is underperforming? Economic decision.
The decision to have another child? Economic decision.
The decision to go to a 4 year university or start your own business instead? Economic decision with long-term implications.

You get the point. And each and every one of these decisions has a cost and benefit to the individual which he or she weighs against a myriad of alternatives. This is economics.

I do not see the Left/Progressive/Democrat philosophy ever moderating itself in this regard.

If Bartlett wants to get a better understanding of libertarian thought, perhaps he should do a bit more than read 1) the talking points from single website and 2) have cocktails with inside the beltway libertarians.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yet Another Inconvenient Truth - Part 1,779

Past Inconvenient Truths are here.

Wait, I thought the "science was settled" and that a consensus had been established. (Nevermind that the scientific method makes the establishment of a "consensus" impossible - something is either proven or it is faith. I seem to recall the church had a consensus about the earth being the center of the universe until someone questioned the "consensus."

From our very own EPA:

The author(s) of the memo suggest the EPA did not thoroughly examine the relationship between greenhouse gases and human health.

"In the absence of a strong statement of the standards being applied in this decision, there is concern that EPA is making a finding based on…'harm' from substances that have no demonstrated direct health effects," the memo says, adding that the "scientific data that purports to conclusively establish" that link was from outside EPA.

Additionally, the new regulations triggered by the finding would likely harm the economy, the brief warns.

"Making the decision to regulate CO2…is likely to have serious economic consequences for regulated entities throughout the U.S. economy, including small businesses and small communities," the memo reads
"This is a smoking gun," Barrasso said, accusing the EPA of making the finding for political reasons.

Jackson responded that the finding was based on science and was in no way politicized.

"That analysis had been done really before I took the oath of office," Jackson said.

She acknowledged that curbing climate change might have economic impact, and added that the costs could be minimized through the administration's favored cap-and-trade system.

"We do understand that there are costs to the economy of addressing global warming emissions, and that the best way to address them is a gradual move to a market-based program like cap-and trade," Jackson said.

Let me translate that last statement:

"We do understand that there are costs to the economy of addressing global warming emissions, and that the best way to address them is to spread out those costs to every human activity and direct the payments of those costs to the federal government."

nothing to see here... move on.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Must See Smackdown of Stewart

Bill Whittle has this excellent, must see response to Jon Stewarts idiocy regarding Harry Truman being a war criminal for dropping the A-bomb on Hiroshima.

Unfortunately, I doubt Stewart will even see it. And if he did, his response will surely be, "I'm just a comedian!!! Don't take anything I say seriously! I mean, come on... I'm on right after puppets!!!"

The Daily Show - Where our next generation gets its news.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Gettelfinger Motors

Or, why I will never buy a GM car for the rest of my life.

Gettelfinger Motors
The mauling of GM's bondholders reveals Treasury's political hand.

President Obama insisted at his press conference last night that he doesn't want to nationalize the auto industry (or the banks, or the mortgage market, or . . .). But if that's true, why has he proposed a restructuring plan for General Motors that leaves the government with a majority stake in the car maker?

The feds have decided they should own a neat 50% of GM, yet that is not the natural outcome of the $16.2 billion that the Treasury has so far lent to the company. Nor is the 40% ownership of GM that the plan awards to the United Auto Workers a natural result of the company's obligations to the union.

Yet Secretary Timothy Geithner and his auto task force, led by Steven Rattner, have somehow decided that Treasury and UAW chief Ron Gettelfinger will get to own a combined 90% of GM. If there's a reason other than the political symbiosis among the Obama Administration, Michigan Democrats and the auto union, it's hard to discern. From now on let's call it Gettelfinger Motors, or perhaps simply the Obama Motor Company, though in the latter they'd have to change the nameplates.

The biggest losers here are GM's bondholders. According the Treasury-GM debt-for-equity swap announced Monday, GM has $27.2 billion in unsecured bonds owned by the public. These are owned by mutual funds, pension funds, hedge funds and retail investors who bought them directly through their brokers. Under Monday's offer, they would exchange their $27.2 billion in bonds for 10% of the stock of the restructured GM. This could amount to less than five cents on the dollar.
Memo from the Obama administration to private investors, retirees, citizens of this great land who decided to lend some cash to GM for a profit:
DROP DEAD!!! You're not politically connected!!!
The Treasury, which is owed $16.2 billion, would receive 50% of the stock and $8.1 billion in debt -- as much as 87 cents on the dollar. The union's retiree health-care benefit trust would receive half of the $20 billion it is owed in stock, giving it 40% ownership of GM, plus another $10 billion in cash over time. That's worth about 76 cents on the dollar, according to some estimates.

In a genuine Chapter 11 bankruptcy, these three groups of creditors would all be similarly situated -- because all three are, for the most part, unsecured creditors of GM. And yet according to the formula presented Monday, those with the largest claim -- the bondholders -- get the smallest piece of the restructured company by a huge margin.
But of course! This isn't about fairness. It's about political pull. And this is just the beginning.
This seems to be by political design. GM CEO Fritz Henderson says Treasury insisted that bondholders receive, at most, 10% of the company. "We went to the maximum and offered 10%," [...]
Why the Treasury is empowered to decide what percentage creditors should receive is beyond me, but I do know we're not in Kansas anymore!
Some Treasury officials have told the media that 50% government ownership is important to ensure that taxpayers get repaid for the $16.2 billion in Treasury loans. But this is false logic. Taxpayer-shareholders are likely to be far better off with a smaller stake in a truly private company that is better insulated from political meddling. Private owners are more likely than the Treasury or the unions to try to run the company for profit, and so increase its equity value over time. Treasury says it would be a hands-off owner, but that hardly seems plausible and in any case that would merely leave the UAW in control. At the next labor contract bargaining session, the union would sit on both sides of the table.
This isn't about taxpayer money, return on investment, or any of those things. This is about turning GM into a political machine that, oh by the way, produces cars that are politically approved.
[...]GM's SEC filing on the debt-equity swap also warns darkly that if the requisite 90% of bondholders don't agree to these terms, they may recover little or nothing in bankruptcy court. But given the choice between a 10% stake in Gettelfinger Motors and the independent mercies of a bankruptcy judge, bondholders could be forgiven for taking their chances in court.

Certainly the bondholders deserve to take a haircut like everybody else. But squeezing them in such a blatant fashion has other consequences. Who would be crazy enough to lend GM money in the future? The Treasury also says it wants banks that do poorly in its "stress tests" to try to raise private capital before putting in more public money. The mauling of GM creditors tells investors not to invest in TARP banks because everything this Treasury touches turns to politics.

Monday's offer is so devoid of economic logic or fairness that it confirms the fears of those who said the original bailout would lead to a nationalized GM run for political ends. This fiasco will in part go down on George W. Bush's copybook, since he first decided GM was too big to fail.

But rather than use his early popularity to force hard decisions through the bankruptcy code, President Obama has decided in essence to have the feds run GM and Chrysler. This inevitably means running them for the benefit of the UAW that is so closely tied to the Democratic Party. Next up will be tax changes and regulations intended to coax, or coerce, Americans to buy Gettelfinger Motors cars. This tale of taxpayer woe is only beginning.
I just know that the quality of the product that the new Federal Gettelginger Motors will be far superior to anything created by the semi-private General Motors of Wagoner.

Of course, with regard to GM I always love to point out that only in the US is GM unprofitable. GM's non-US divisions were always more profitable than their US division. And the attempt by Fiat to pull off a turn-around at Chrysler, something that Daimler and Cerberus could not achieve, is absolutely laughable. Of course, if Fiat has any sense as it watches the debacle with GM, it'll back away from Chrysler in short order.

Given this evidence, one might begin to ask the question as to why the US market is so unprofitable. Perhaps it has to do with the cost inputs for the vehicles manufactured in the US?????

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Stupid. It hurts!

How stupid do you have to be to think that flying a massive 747 low over the skyscrapers of New York City would not cause a panic?

Apparently, stupid enough to also think that you're prepared for the presidency based on your prior experience as a community organizer.

Of course, we all know why Obama decided to get the photo op of Air Force One updated. The one of it near Mount Rushmore just wouldn't do, you know?

He just wanted to have a more exciting picture to use for his acceptance speech for being theWinner of the Iowahawk Earth Week Virtual Cruise-In.

And the Winner Is...

Yow! Despite tough economic times, 2009 saw the biggest Iowahawk Earth Week Virtual Cruise ever. The 4th annual edition attracted over 60 contestants from every corner of America, plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Dubai, Qatar, and Iraq; in total almost 100 beautiful carbon spewing conveyances of every type, pushing out an estimated total 200,000 horsepower and over Five Million (?!) climate-soothing foot-pounds of torque. Best yet, those 100 green machines totaled nearly 500 miles per gallon -- now that's efficiency!

The downside of all this, of course, is the difficulty it poses for the Grand Prize Selection Jury. All of the entries were worthy in their own way. If we were to go by the objective fuel consumption numbers, the 1600 gallons / minute Wartsila-Sulzer would win handily.
Yet, neither of those yardsticks captures the true spirit of the Cruise, which is really about attitude. It's that menacing glimmer that warns Gaia: my pimp hand is strong. The sassy insouciance that invites the moralist biddies and prim religious scolds of the green movement to Kiss. My. Ass.

Luckily, there was one last minute entry which exemplified that spirit more than any other, perhaps in the entire history of the cruise. And thus I am please to announce the unanimous 2009 Iowahawk Earth Week Virtual Cruise-In Grand Champion Carbonator is:

New champ pops down to Whole Foods in the family SUV to pick up some free range arugula

Although he did not submit an entry of his own, President Obama was nominated by several admiring Iowahawk readers. Sure, his customized Boeing Air Force One only gulps about as much fuel as a typical Earth Week Cruise-In vehicle, but, by golly, the Carbonator-in-Chief knows how to burn it with panache. The feat that cinched the coveted Carbon Obelisk of Excellence for the Prez: taking a joy ride to Newton, Iowa on Earth Day to deliver a lecture on energy conservation. (h/t: Instadude). No word on whether he cruised over to Maid-Rite for a root beer and parking lot burnouts.

The sheer, mindboggling nerve it took to pull off a eco-prank like that simply shames anything I've ever accomplished, and I daresay the same goes for you. And here's the best part: most of the clueless ecoweenie marks still don't realize they've been punked! Now that's what I call "The Audacity of Carbon."

Well done, Mr. President, and congratulations. On behalf of the readers, creditors, and fuel suppliers of Iowahawk, here's hoping you will wear your crown with pride!
It is hilarious that while Barry is pushing to tax energy out of our lives, his massive jet is flying circles around New York City at high speed, killing the planet & sending New Yorkers into a panic for a photo op! No doubt NYC air traffic control had to delay flights to Newark, Laguardia, and JFK during the photo op.

I know, I know... let's move on.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler