Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama: Jimmy Carter part II

People are asking what Obama's presidency will be like. I predict it will be similar to Jimmy Carter's presidency where government spending increased overall but spending on military suffered to fund increased welfare and entitlement programs. Taxes will be increased which will slow down the economy. Like Carter, Obama faces an energy crisis as oil production is on a downward trend as a result of decreased demand, and like Carter, Obama will respond by adding more layers of government bureaucracy. Obama will also begin facing the greatest danger to the USA as the bulk of the baby boomers begin to retire during his watch driving government spending drastically upwards through Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare, but like Carter, his presidency will be marked by how he is unable to deal with fundamental economic problems. What was interpreted as patience during the bailout bill fiasco will be seen as indecision as was during Carter's presidency. Obama will thrill the world, but as he is unable to make things better in the USA, the honeymoon will be over domestically as it appears that he cares more about the rest of the world than his own country.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why the government intervened

I really don't like what the government has done by taking over Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, AIG, and funding various other major transactions because what they are doing is setting the stage for another similar problem just as the savings and loan bailout set the stage for later problems, but I understand why they intervened. Almost all of our major companies borrow money for day-to-day operations. This is because even if they make tons of money, they don't make it in a steady flow throughout the year to guarantee that they can pay for any specific day's cost of business. What the government saw was a run by investors away from banks which would eliminate enough money from being available for companies to pay for their day-to-day operations which would effectively stop the economy. Our economy runs on the trust of investors in the banks, and when too many investors flee to cash, the banks don't have the money to lend to the companies. What the government saw was another depression occurring. This wasn't because the economy wasn't fundamentally sound from a short term perspective but because the dip in available money for lending was far too low causing too much of a shock for the economy to ride out without significant damage which would take a long time to recoup. However, the root of the current problems causing investors to flee is because the government intervened in previous problems and causing investors to ignore valid risks in the future which eventually build up causing yet another big mess. What the government needs to do is extricate itself from this death cycle by interfering as little as possible even to the point where the economy may go down slightly because removing short term fear by investors shouldn't lead to them ignoring the riskiness of their investments too much as happened when bad mortgages were repackaged as investment vehicles leading to the sub-prime mortgage mess.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ignoring financial risk comes home

The savings and loans debacle, the sub-prime loan mess, and the current collapse of brokerage firms have their root in one thing - the attempt to mask investment risk. By allowing investment companies to mask the riskiness of their investments either by repackaging bad loans or relying on the backing of the government have only replaced short term risks and smaller downturns with big ones that come less frequently. It is time to remove the abstraction and let the riskiness of investments become naked for all to see without any significant assurance of the government bailing them out. Let each bad loan and investment fail and hurt those who made them directly. Forget all this layer of bureaucracy that tries to hide or push back the bad news.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Choosing Palin shows balls

Mind you, I still believe McCain won't be a good president. His saving grace is that I believe Obama would be a significantly worse president. However, I have to say that McCain has balls and brains to choose Palin as his VP choice. While Obama decided to temper his basic message of change by choosing Biden, an integral part of the political machine, McCain increased his ownership of the message of change by choosing somebody who was far from his image as being a part of the Washington political machine. I am resigned to having a president that will not address the real fundamental economic issues of the country, but McCain made me a little more interested in the race for the White House.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Russia's expansionism

It is evident now that Russia is moving into a state of expansionism. In bordering areas, Russia is using both the carrot and stick to either ensure neighbors are friendly or are gradually diminished. For neighbors like Georgia or Ukraine, this means that Russia will offer Russian citizenship and subsequently military "protection" in problem bordering areas gradually subsuming them into Russia itself. If you ever played a boardgame called Diplomacy, you would recognize what is happening. Russia is making its move to increase its control of the world. What its goal is to become the next sole superpower. This is why Russia finds missile defense in Eastern Europe directed at Iran threatening to its own interests since those interceptors could also be used against Russia and would decrease the threat and influence that Russia's military has in its quest for world domination. With the USA the current king of the mountain, Russia's ultimate goal is to topple the king and take his place on top of the mountain. So what should the USA do? If we really were playing this game like the Diplomacy boardgame, we would use our current geopolitical dominance to crush Russia's confidence and aspirations. Probably the best way to do this without a direct confrontation is to have Russia get sucked into another resource depriving conflict like the Soviet Union's attempt at quelling Afghanistan. With Russia virtually bulging at its borders, another conflict like that with Georgia is guaranteed. What we have to have our CIA and military do is gradually increase the military capability of possible future conflict areas so that Russia can no longer do what it did to Georgia quickly or cleanly. However, in the real world what we have are too many people in the USA who aren't willing to take such decisive actions considering them to be too self-serving. The trouble is that in the real world if the USA isn't willing to preserve its dominance, it will lose it to those who want dominance more.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Choice between bad and worse

I will be voting for John McCain, but it isn't because I believe John McCain would be a good president. I will be voting for McCain because I believe Obama would be a significantly worse president. If Hillary Clinton had won the Democratic nomination, I would be voting for neither Clinton nor McCain. There is less than 5% difference between their voting records. The main factor which I judge a president is if they would be good for the economy independent of the cyclical ups and downs. Just from listening to Obama's campaign ads, I know that he will be far worse for the economy because he would impose higher cost to business to fund his entitlement and welfare programs which France has shown is a death spiral. Frankly, McCain isn't much better. He has shown that he is more than willing to vote to spend with the rest of pack. Neither of them will address the number one threat to the USA which is the coming economic armageddon as the bulk of the baby boomers retire and blow government spending in Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security through the roof. One day we will have economically conservative leaders, but I fear that day won't come until we experience the worst of our follies.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The left realizes that terror must be faced

I just saw pigs flying. The left has admitted grudgingly what I have been saying for years that support for terrorism in the Muslim world has been declining after they saw that Al Quaida were worshippers of death rather than Islam. All the past presidencies that just threw bombs and cruise missiles from afar only stoked terrorism, but after Bush faced it head on in Afghanistan and Iraq and showed the Muslim world Al Quaida's savagery in a way that they couldn't romanticize, terrorism lost its popular support similarly to the way the KKK lost its popular support in the USA after its savagery was revealed by those brave enough to face it:

From June 2, 2008 Newsweek magazine (http://www.newsweek.com/id/138508) in article titled "The Only Thing We Have to Fear..." by Fareed Zakaria:

'Including Iraq massively skews the analysis. In the NCTC and MIPT data, Iraq accounts for 80 percent of all deaths counted. But if you set aside the war there, terrorism has in fact gone way down over the past five years. In both the START and MIPT data, non-Iraq deaths from terrorism have declined by more than 40 percent since 2001. (The NCTC says the number has stayed roughly the same, but that too is because of a peculiar method of counting.) In the only other independent analysis of terrorism data, the U.S.-based IntelCenter published a study in mid-2007 that examined "significant" attacks launched by Al Qaeda over the past 10 years. It came to the conclusion that the number of Islamist attacks had declined 65 percent from a high point in 2004, and fatalities from such attacks had declined by 90 percent.

The Simon Fraser study notes that the decline in terrorism appears to be caused by many factors, among them successful counterterrorism operations in dozens of countries and infighting among terror groups. But the most significant, in the study's view, is the "extraordinary drop in support for Islamist terror organizations in the Muslim world over the past five years." These are largely self-inflicted wounds. The more people are exposed to the jihadists' tactics and world view, the less they support them. An ABC/BBC poll in Afghanistan in 2007 showed support for the jihadist militants in the country to be 1 percent. In Pakistan's North-West Frontier province, where Al Qaeda has bases, support for Osama bin Laden plummeted from 70 percent in August 2007 to 4 percent in January 2008. That dramatic drop was probably a reaction to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but it points to a general trend in Pakistan over the past five years. With every new terrorist attack, public support for jihad falls. "This pattern is repeated in country after country in the Muslim world," writes Mack. "Its strategic implications are critically important because historical evidence suggests that terrorist campaigns that lose public support will sooner or later be abandoned or defeated."'

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"This world has serious problems and it’s time for America to start addressing them."

From http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/25/us/25dead.web.html?pagewanted=2&ei=5087&em&en=5f66d02b29e6258b&ex=1206590400 :

Six of the Fallen, in Words They Sent Home



“What the hell happened?” any intelligent American might ask themselves throughout their day. While the ignorant, dragging themselves to thier closed off cubicle, contemplate the simple things in life such as “fast food tonight?” or “I wonder what motivated Brittany Spears to shave her unsightly, mishaped domepiece?”

To the simpleton, this news might appear “devastating.” I assume not everyone thinks this way, but from my little corner of the earth, Iraq, a spot in the world a majority of Americans could’nt point out on the map, it certainly appears so. This little piece of truly, heart-breaking news captured headlines and apparently American imaginations as FOX news did a two hour, truly enlightening piece of breaking news history. American veiwers watched intently, and impatiently as the pretty colors flashed and the media exposed the inner workings of Brittany’s obviously, deep character. I was amazed, truly dumbfounded wondering how we as Americans have sank so low. To all Americans I have but one phrase that helps me throughout my day of constant dangers and ever present death around the corner, “WHO THE [expletive] CARES!” Wow America, we have truly become a nation of self-absorbed retards. ... This world has serious problems and it’s time for America to start addressing them.

Ryan Wood, Myspace blog, May 26, 2007'

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wounded Warrior March

From http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120534358726230727.html :

'Wounded Soldiers
See the Pentagon
In Private Parade
Little-Known Event
Is Emotional Salute;
Cpl. Lyon Pays a Visit
March 13, 2008; Page A1

Cpl. Kenny Lyon's mother pushed his wheelchair down a narrow Pentagon hallway, crying as she listened to the applause.

Hundreds of Defense Department employees lined the corridor, cheering for Cpl. Lyon and the other wounded military personnel who walked or rolled past. Some of them patted Cpl. Lyon on the shoulder, while others shook his hand or leaned in to hug his mother, Gigi Windsor.

"I was really humbled by it because I didn't do anything special," says Cpl. Lyon, a 22-year-old Marine who lost a leg in a mortar attack near Fallujah. "I went to Iraq to do a job, and I got injured and actually couldn't do it. So why was I getting honored?"

Cpl. Lyon was taking part in a little-known event called the Wounded Warrior March, which brings military personnel who suffer serious injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan to the Pentagon for a parade unlike any other.

The events, held roughly every six weeks, are notable for their simplicity. No speeches are given, no dignitaries march alongside the veterans and cameras are banned. The parades are closed to the public, except for friends and relatives of the injured soldiers and Marines taking part. Military officials don't tout the program to the press.

It's an example of the ways the military has chosen to honor its own out of public view. The Pentagon has until recently refused to release any photos of the flag-draped caskets of fallen U.S. troops being brought off planes back at home. President Bush doesn't attend military funerals and meets with bereaved family members only in private settings. Journalists embedded with American forces, meanwhile, must sign a contract limiting their use of photos of dead or wounded service personnel.

The parades also show the evolution of military honors for the dead and wounded. In the Vietnam War, soldiers and Marines wrote the names of fallen colleagues on their helmets and uniforms. Today, some wear bracelets engraved with the names and nicknames of colleagues killed in the two war zones, while others have the information tattooed on their arms and chests.

Far from the front lines, the Wounded Warrior events give employees at the Pentagon an opportunity to pay their respects to soldiers and Marines they have never met.

"When these boys came back, they went straight into hospitals, so they missed out on the homecoming ceremonies we all came back to," says Maj. Zachary Miller, an operations officer for the Army. "This is a way of giving that back to them."

Chance Meeting

They began in 2004 after a chance meeting between a young amputee and an Army general. The soldier told the officer that he would like to visit the Pentagon, and the general said he would try to make it happen.

The proposal made its way to Diane Bodman, the wife of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. She volunteers at the Red Cross office at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Ms. Bodman had experience planning and coordinating trips, and offered to take the project on.

The first group of Walter Reed patients visited the Pentagon in the summer of 2004 and the event struck a chord with many of the military personnel and civilians working in the sprawling facility.

"You're just holding back from breaking down," says Maj. Lyndon Marshall, whose office is on the parade route. He says he hasn't missed a single event. "There's pride, and camaraderie, and even a little guilt. You think, 'I've been there. I've done that. And nothing happened to me.'"

Cpl. Lyon's journey began at a small U.S. outpost near Fallujah. He enlisted in the Marines in fall 2003 looking for adventure. His unit deployed to Iraq in August 2004, but the tour was uneventful. In his seven months in al-Qaim, a region near the Syrian border, Cpl. Lyon says he didn't once fire his rifle.

His second tour was different. On May 1, 2006, Cpl. Lyon was sitting outside working on an armored vehicle when he heard a whistling sound.

"I looked at my friend and said, 'Is that incoming?" he recalls. "My ears began ringing and it felt like someone hit me in the back of the head with a frying pan."

Cpl. Lyon was conscious when fellow Marines raced him to a medical facility in Fallujah. Then, he says, everything went black. When he woke up two weeks later, he was lying in a bed at Walter Reed.

Shrapnel from the mortar had destroyed his jaw, knocked out many of his teeth and torn a small hole in his skull. It also damaged nerves in one of his arms so he couldn't raise his wrist or open his fingers. His left leg had to be amputated just above the knee.

When Ms. Windsor first saw her son, she thought there was no way he'd survive. "There was no piece of skin that didn't have a scar or wound," she says.

But military doctors put Cpl. Lyon back together. They rebuilt his jaw and performed plastic surgery to hide the scars on his face. They transferred tendons from elsewhere in his body into his arm. And they gave him a state-of-the-art prosthetic leg. Cpl. Lyon says he underwent more than 50 operations.

Cpl. Lyon learned about the Wounded Warrior program from a Red Cross volunteer. His mother was eager to take part, but Cpl. Lyon wanted to hold off until he was able to walk into the Pentagon under his own power. One evening close to the ceremony he fell out of bed, leaving him unable to use the prosthetic. With his mother coming to Washington from Marion, Md., he decided to take part anyway.

On a cool day last fall, a fleet of buses and vans made the short trip to the Pentagon. Cpl. Lyon and the other wounded veterans gathered in a narrow hallway and waited for their cue. When a military band began playing, they slowly made their way through the crowd.

Surprise Appearances

"It reminded me of that scene in 'The Wizard of Oz' when all of the people step in to say goodbye to Dorothy," Ms. Windsor recalls. "The more you walked, the more people you saw."

After the parade, the military personnel and their families were taken to the spot where a hijacked plane crashed into the building on Sept. 11, 2001, and then to a small dining room for lunch. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, made surprise appearances.

On his way back to Walter Reed, Cpl. Lyon said he spent a lot of time marveling at the number of Pentagon employees organizing and attending the events. It was, he believes, their way of trying to forge a connection to a war that otherwise seemed distant and abstract.

"Some of them make important decisions but never get to see their decisions being carried out," he says. "When they applaud us, it gives them a little bit of closure for what they do every day. It makes things real for them."'

The dollar declines and it is good

Almost all of the cries that the decline of the dollar is bad are made by economic morons. The decline in the relative value of the dollar against foreign currency isn't a sign that the USA is declining as much as that the rest of the world is growing. The world is in such good economic shape that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is running out of countries who needs its help. Africa, long the economic ghetto of the world, is doing better, although its dictatorships are still slowing its growth. Ironically for those who hate Bush, Bush's infusion to stem AIDS in Africa has a lot to do with Africa's relative stability compared to the past which shows that throwing money in general at Africa does nothing, but targeted and monitored aid actually works. The benefits for the USA will be a decrease in the trade deficit as exports become more price competitive, decreased outsourcing of jobs as it becomes more and more expensive to do so, increased tourism as the USA becomes cheaper to visit, and the rebirth of domestic industries like domestic oil. However, there can be too much of a good thing. The dollar has been artificially kept high by foreign countries for so long in fear of losing exports to the USA, that when those crutches aren't enough, the dollar's rate of decline might be like an avalanche rather than the gradual walk down a hill it should have been. This may cause critical imports like oil to increase in price too fast to adjust smoothly causing a roller coaster effect on our economy. Right now, nobody knows if the dollar will decline too fast or not, but our economy has already absorbed a drastic increase in oil prices without really batting an eye and is only starting to feel the strain only when the additional weight of the subprime bubble popping came into play. So what should the government do about it? The best thing the government could do is cut government spending and eliminate taxes permanently (no temporary tax "breaks" where the government thinks it knows best how to redistribute the money back to us) for the long term benefit of the economy. The history of government economic interference shows that it is notoriously bad at timing its infusions to actually properly buffer the dips in our economic cycle and just make subsequent peaks and valleys greater than they should be. Since the government is the worst allocator of resources, its best role would be to do nothing during times like this. Unfortunately, congress is almost entirely run by economic liberals and/or morons on both sides of the fence who couldn't cut government spending to save the country and couldn't resist political pressure to "do something" about natural dips in the economy. The greatest danger to the USA is a result of one of the biggest misguided attempts to "help" the people. When the bulk of the baby boomers retire, they will increase government spending in Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security so fast and so high that the debt to GDP ratio will skyrocket past the all time high right after WWII, and it will bring our country to its knees like nothing since the Depression. We and our leaders don't have the courage to do so, but if we are to avoid this economic armageddon, we must bite the bullet and cut down these programs.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Having a full life means that keeping up a blog often falls down the list of things to do. At this time, I'd like to just look back on Iraq. Why are we in Iraq? It is basically for two reasons:

1. Saddam. You can cloud the issue, but Saddam was basically a Hitler in waiting with a military to match his ambitions. He had to be taken out before he did far more harm to neighboring countries and his own people. His people were forced to breathe, eat and drink Saddam. Just look to North Koreans to see what having too long of this type of indoctrination does.

2. An unwillingness to repeat the past of colonial nations to just do what they want and leave. With all the complaints now about the USA staying in Iraq, the complaints would probably have been far worse if the USA just took out Saddam and left. The region is strife with actions of colonizing nations, including the USA, going in doing what they want and leaving the area far too soon. If the USA was truly going to repeat the history of colonizing nations, it would have never made elections a priority nor would it have cared about Iraq after taking out Saddam and his military. The USA truly wants to make Iraq a better place for its people because when it succeeds in doing this in the past (e.g., Japan, South Korea, Germany, etc.), it ends up being better for the USA. Unfortunately in Iraq, the level of infiltration of saboteurs against the USA (Iran, Al Quaida, radical Shiites, radical Sunnis) is far higher than in previous attempts.

So what's going to happen in the future? Iraq is gradually settling down and lower level priorities beyond damage control are starting to get attention. There are still hotspots like Mosul and relatively low level violence, but Iraq is still one country politically and even the worst critics of the Iraq occupation admit that things are getting better. There will be a point when the Iraqi security forces will be able to take over completely from the USA, and it looks like it will be sooner than later. The key to Iraq's future are in the hands of its leaders, chosen by its people. Despite what's in the news, the politicians are still talking to each other, and they are negotiating although it sometimes looks like fracturing in the headlines. As long as they keep talking, Iraq is on the road to recovery no matter what pressures outside countries put on it.