Saturday, July 30, 2011

When the Worst Outcome Is Better Than the Status Quo, What Do We Have To Lose?

The August 2nd date on the ransom note that Tim Geithner sent to Congress is quickly approaching.  We'll see if he shoots the hostage or is just willing to settle for another pizza being delivered by a SWAT guy in a Domino's uniform.  The House passed their plan and the Senate passed their plan, and neither is willing to allow the other plan to darken their doorway.  I'd say the odds of no debt ceiling increase are pretty good.  But what happens if Congress refuses to raise the limit on the national Visa card?

I'm guessing, not so much.  The talking heads are worried about skyrocketing bond yields if the U.S. can't borrow more money for Uncle Han over in Beijing.  Personally, that seems completely backwards to me.  The risk of default only gets higher if Barry gets to borrow another trillion or so every year for the foreseeable future.  Our landlord agrees.

Default is the risk that either the interest or the principal on a debt does not get paid on schedule.  Only in Bizarro-D.C. will lowering the amount of debt increase the risk of default.  Some will say that the U.S. cannot make the scheduled payments on the borrowed money without borrowing the money to make the payments.  We in the financial industry have a word for that:  insolvency.  And it doesn't get better by increasing the debt load.

We've been ignoring this problem since the Johnson administration.  All subsequent presidents and Congresses made the proper noises of concern while actively working to make the problem worse for the next politico to sit in the chair.  Commissions have been appointed, campaign speeches have been made, but NOBODY tried to fix it.  Until now.

If the debt ceiling is not raised, the Treasury will immediately begin prioritizing federal payments.  The interest and principal on the federal debt will remain in first place; to do otherwise really will bring about the doom that is filling the media.  Social Security payments will also be made on time.  Federal law specifies that reductions in the amount owed by the Trust Fund will reduce the amount owed against the debt ceiling on a dollar-for-dollar basis.  Translation:  for every dollar Uncle Sam pays to Grandma, Uncle can borrow another dollar.

Federal payrolls will also go out on time, although we may see some widespread furloughs.  This will be an instructional period for us; if Joe Bureaucrat in the Bureau of Redundancy Department doesn't come into work for six months and nobody notices, perhaps that should tell us something.  In the private sector, pressure from payroll expense is the driving force behind process and efficiency improvements.  Think about it.

So, what doesn't get paid on time?  That's easy, the pork.  All those hundreds of billions of dollars that Congress "brings home" every year will be the first thing to get cut.  Those orange barricades stretching for miles along our interstates, dotted with the signs bragging about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will be with us for a few years more.  At least until the Davis-Bacon Act get repealed and the projects can be finished on a budget that reflects reality.  The cowboy poetry festivals will have to fund themselves.

Because a group of freshmen legislators are unwilling to accept "the way things are" in D.C., this country can finally make our leaders acknowledge the same basic economic truths that every American household has to live by every day.  Recklessly borrowing against the house to pay for all of the things that Junior and Buffy are whining about isn't compassion, it's folly.

The Tea Party representatives in the House have already sent a "cut, cap, and balance" bill to the Senate, which ignored it while accusing the House of being obstructionist.  If the federal debt ceiling is not raised, the Tea Party automatically gets the first two parts of the bill.  All they have to do is...nothing. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ninety Minutes of Nightmare

I've often ridiculed the teen slasher film genre.  Specifically, the plot devices whereby young people in their physical prime are herded and hunted by a lone, knife-wielding killer, often in the teens' own home.  I feel that the genre is contrived and deliberate in its creation of artificial helplessness.

And then life imitates bad art.  When I read yesterday's headlines out of Norway I was initially certain that the headline contained a transposition.  Surely the eighty-five dead were the result of the bombing and not the shooting.  How can any maniac shoot eighty-five people to death in one event?

The answer, of course, is when they have nowhere to run to and the killer has an hour and a half to hunt them at his leisure.  Mr. Breivik selected his location and methods with diabolical care.  Literally diabolical, as in, of, concerning, or characteristic of the devil; satanic.  This man chose a remote location filled with the teenage children of Labour Party members and then spent over an hour methodically hunting them down and shooting them to death.  He even shot the corpses to ensure that no victim was left alive.

Like I said, life imitated a teen slasher film, right down to the contrived helplessness of the victims.

When I was ten, my father took my younger brother and I camping for a weekend in the Withlacoochee state forest.  It was a very primitive campsite but the most dangerous thing in the area was an alligator that inhabited the pond.  We knew to stay out of the pond unless he was on the bank.  There were no other campers at that site.  One night a large group of what was probably teenagers assembled about a hundred yards away from our tent.  There was much yelling and very likely some quantity of alcohol being consumed.  What I remember most about that night was my father standing outside the tent, with a machete he used to clear brush on our hikes held alongside his leg.  If any drunk people came our way he was prepared to frighten them off.

My father is not a belligerent or confrontational person.  But he understood a basic truth that night; he was the only person there that could protect his children and he had a responsibility to do so.  In an era before cellular telephones, dialing 911 was not an option.  And even if he could somehow summon help, it was many minutes away.

Western society has been infected for too many years with the meme that only the authorities can protect us.  We are told not to resist when attacked, to give the attacker what he wants so he will go away.  In some areas, such as Great Britain and NYC, a homeowner defending his home against a burglar is often in more trouble with the authorities than the burglar!  In the shooting community we refer to this mindset as "Dial 911 and die".  A summer camp filled with Prog spawn pretty much epitomizes the learned passivity that good liberals are told they should practice and Mr. Breivik no doubt knew this.

Attacks on children are a deliberate terror tool meant to shock and demoralize the target populace.  The Israelis know this after several decades on Palestinian terror attacks on schools and kibbutzim.  That is why Israeli schools have more armed adults than just one token resource officer whose primary duty is searching lockers for contraband.

It took ninety minutes for Norwegian law enforcement to be informed of the situation and respond to it.  As soon as an armed response arrived, the killer immediately surrendered and was taken into custody without a fight.  Mr. Breivik wasn't looking to die, he only wanted to kill.  So he chose a target where he could be absolutely confident about encountering no resistance.  Because only police should have guns and gun control laws are what keeps society safe.  Until somebody decides to break those laws.  Then only the police are safe.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Stroke of the pen, law of the land...

Barry the Intern-in-Chief is promising a series of "reforms to the current gun law" in the near future.  The Prez doesn't have time to screw around with the whole legislative process thing, so he plans to use a series of executive orders to presumably dictate that various federal agencies enforce current laws in new and interesting ways.  This ought to be interesting, since I doubt that the administration has any plans to actually liberalize any existing laws, such as making suppressors Title 1 or reinterpreting the Hughes amendment in a more favorable light.  It can be argued that the President lacks the authority to make any changes to federal firearms laws.  At most he can refocus the efforts of federal law enforcement.

Last year the BATFE took a break from harassing people at gun shows and tried to actually catch real criminals, albeit ones outside of the United States.  That didn't work out so well.  If Eric Holder is lucky, some Republican administration won't extradite him to Mexico to face charges of arms smuggling.  I'm breathlessly awaiting an arrest warrant for Mr. Holder to be issued by a Spanish judge.

If the Obama administration approaches this reform task with the same tone-deaf, ham-handed zeal that has become its signature trademark, this will get very interesting.  On the other hand, Obama pretty much lied to the GLBT lobby so maybe the Brady Bunch will get the same brush off.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Justice Was Done

I did not expect the not-guilty verdict in the Casey Anthony trial but I am not surprised by it.  I haven't followed the case since Caylee Anthony first went missing.  My personal gut check says that little Caylee probably died from neglect and her flaky mother attempted to hide the body to avoid the inevitable consequences.  It was clear from the beginning that Casey had something to hide and her story about what happened to Caylee never made much sense.

So, I was expecting Casey Anthony to receive a guilty verdict followed by life in prison without parole.  I based this assumption upon the fact that a little girl was dead and my belief that her mother was not making any sense.  Needless to say today's verdict comes as a surprise.

But as I think about it, I can't find myself faulting the jury.  I try to imagine what it would feel like to literally hold a woman's life in my hands while no incontrovertible physical evidence could tell me how the little girl died much less establishing premeditation upon her mother's part.  I would have difficulty convicting for negligent homicide (manslaughter) much less first degree murder.

I've heard prosecutors complain in the past that police procedure dramas on TV have raised the bar for obtaining jury convictions.  Jurors now want hard evidence and no ambiguity, just like they see on TV.  I don't find myself getting too upset about that.  Too many innocent people have already been released from death row because jurors were willing to believe whatever a prosecutor put before them.  Casey Anthony benefited from this higher standard of proof but that does not mean that the "system" failed.  I think it worked just like it was supposed to.

The jurors were told that there must not be a reasonable doubt in any of their minds before they could ethically return a guilty verdict.  I think that they followed their instructions both to the letter and the spirit of the law.