Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bribery I

I would be an utter fool to say that I had just been offered a bribe to shut up about a good government reform I've been pursuing in Lake County, Indiana. I'd be a lot dumber than I actually am to not notice, nor to not know what the end of the line is.

Just for the record, the data is already dispersed. The only control anybody else has at this point is whether it goes out in a controlled or uncontrolled fashion.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Foreclosure Cooties

I had an interesting conversation regarding the US housing market. One of the current problems that does not get the attention it deserves is the difficulty that many banks are having foreclosing on delinquent loans. The local banks that originated the loans and sold them into Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduits (REMICs) can't do it. The REMICs are also having trouble. They sold the mortgages to investors. Investors, however, do not seem to want to foreclose themselves.

Up until now, this reluctance has been a mystery to me but no longer. It turns out that the investors are suing the REMICs on the basis that they were defrauded. Given that prospectuses include promises that the REMICs had the underlying notes and they could be inspected at any time and this was a lie, it seems like they have a pretty good case. So long as the investors don't touch the foreclosure process, they are not responsible for any paperwork defects in the underlying mortgages. But if they start cooperating with the REMICs in the foreclosure process, they would instantly gain the headaches of the huge paperwork mess that so many mortgages have.

So the banks are being assaulted left and right for their foul ups. It makes you wonder why they ever bothered.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fixing the Obamacare CBO Fraud

When Obamacare was passed under the previous Democrat Congress, it provided for 10 years of increased taxation (starting now) and 6 years of benefits that, on net, will reduce the deficit by $100B over those ten years according to the House budget estimators, the CBO. The GOP rightly called foul but the Democrats and their helpers in the media focus like a laser beam on the CBO estimate.

The GOP chairmen who have jurisdiction really need to ask the CBO to rerun their 10 year estimate this year. This will reduce the subsidy years from 4 to 3 and will have the advantage of at least one year of real-world data to better project tax revenue from. The inevitable headline will be one of Obamacare not being as good a financial deal as advertised. This will be especially important for all those pro-Obamacare Senators up for election in 2012.

The fraud was always going to unravel but by re-running the CBO estimates (every year until the thing is repealed if necessary) the GOP can simply, reasonably, go along with the Democrats and watch as the Democrats are hoist by their own CBO petard.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Misquoting Adams

I just looked over a clip of Bill Maher insulting the tea party movement. In it he has a direct quote from Adams saying
This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.

This is pretty damning and a home run for the "Founders were deists" school of thought. Unfortunately for Maher it's a misquotation (misleading really). The full, in context quote provides the opposite meaning
Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, 'this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!!' But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company—I mean hell.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Commie Porn

Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin has been restored and is being re-released. Go ahead and look for the commentary talking about the evils of communism. It's not there. Can you imagine DW Griffith's Birth of a Nation or Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will having revivals without at least a passing condemnation of racism and naziism respectively?


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I'm too Big

Well, too big for a liver donation for a young child anyway. It was a strange process and they let me down gently but apparently one can only cut down a liver so much for an infant donation.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Enlightened Greed

PenGun had an interesting comment earlier.

Disappointing but not surprising given the greed driven agenda, I mean where would you get enlightened self interest from in that salivating morass of acquisition ... greed.

He seems to think that enlightened self-interest is different from greed in some way. It is not. Enlightened self-interest is smart greed. It is greed that sees other utility besides money, besides power. It is greed that sees that the universe does not have to be a zero sum game. It seems like the right sees unenlightened greed and wants to enlighten it, harness it, and make it a positive while the left just wants to eliminate greed itself, which like most core aspects of human nature, is simply impossible.

Sharing Meds

In another of the vagaries of the US healthcare system, if you and your wife both need the same med, it's cheaper to get one prescription at double strength than two at the 'right' dosage. The cheapest free market solution (buying in bulk and mixing your own) is, of course, out of the question because it would severely impact the profitability of the pharmacist.

Legal monopolies suck.

Friday, January 14, 2011

When Libertopia Comes, Sell Your Blue Chips

Blue chip stocks are, for the most part, stocks of huge, over-sized conglomerates that would not survive without state intervention to keep them from getting nibbled to death by more nimble competitors. Of course they all would deny it and it is quite possible that some of them *would* continue at their present size or even larger in a truly free market world. But that's not the way to bet.

This dependence of corporations on government favor through regulating competitors into disadvantage is a major reason why small government deregulatory schemes seem so often to come to nothing. Corporations that have laid out careful minefields of regulations to trip up new competitors are loathe to have their defenses breached merely to get a fraction of a point on GDP or a smidgen more net employment. Their corporate employment figures are likely to suffer and for them, that's all that matters.

The whole situation is so tangled that any serious deregulatory effort that looks like it will succeed should be accompanied by shifting your stock portfolio to smaller firms and sectors not so involved in regulatory defenses. This would have the perverse effect of tanking the stock indexes as the economy gains a better business environment overall but those are the breaks.

Funny pic

Was doing a review of my email box and found this priceless one from my mother-in-law labeled, the Romanian taxpayer. Some things are universal.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Asking the Wrong Question About Rising Oil Prices

The Fiscal Times asks will rising oil prices scuttle the recovery. I guess that's an interesting question but it's the wrong one if you're looking for the big picture. A better question is how low does alternative transport gge (gallon of gasoline equivalent) have to get before you can have a vibrant economy at that transport price?

The first question's answer lets you know whether to invest for a recovery or a recession over the next year. The answer to the second lets you know when the age of oil will end. Supply may very well have actual oil prices well before the tradeoff point when it happens but behavior will still change because then the response to high oil prices will not be suffer a recession and thus reduce demand but rather will be a quick changeover of enough oil based transport to reduce demand by a like amount. The behavior, and the investment opportunities that derive from it are very different.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Healthcare information systems

I'm at a phase where I'm getting more active in supporting my wife's medical practice. It just astonishes me how fragmented healthcare IT systems are and how much they still depend on lowest common denominator transmission systems like fax.

There are huge opportunities here to reduce costs. Because the sector is so socialized, we're missing most of them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Anti Deficiency Act

Sometimes an epiphany comes with your morning reading. Strategy Page's article on the Anti Deficiency Act being used to gut military careers led me to think, why can't bureaucrats in other departments be similarly terrorized. The recycling of TARP funds seems to fairly clearly run afoul of 31USC1517 which the GAO characterizes as part of the ADA.

I think it just goes to show that a lot of our problems aren't solvable by new legislation but instead just by better enforcement of what's already on the books.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

fixing OS X MySQL

Sometimes OS X MySQL has some launchd problems. You can run the server but you get all sorts of odd messages when you try to access it via server manager. And you just can't get it to quit properly.

Here's a fix:

go to terminal and run:
sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.mysql.mysqld.plist

go back to Server Admin and restart mysql


Mysqld should be running fine.

Building Data Sets

I'm finding that a lot of the "boring stuff" that are building blocks of successful political simply aren't easily available.

There's nationwide stuff like who are all the people who hold elective office in the United States of America? How many are Republicans, Democrats, members of other parties? What are their terms in office? You would think that something like this would be easy and then you can take this and a lot of other information to suss out patterns of good government, corruption, ideological affinity, stuff that a data geek like me would find interesting.

Instead, I'm finding I can't even get a reliable listing of who the poll workers were in the last election.

It's incredibly frustrating and there really needs to be some sort of way to pull all this data out and get it available for easy access. At least I've got a decently fast computer at present. And I'm loading updated Pentaho tools so once I get a data set, it's going to be kept available for everybody.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Buying Votes with Lies

It never ceases to amaze me how successful politicians are with buying votes by promising retirement benefits when there is no money to pay the benefits promised. This is a game any party can play and most do.

If a plan's got the money to back up its promises, it's actuarially sound. If it doesn't, it's a lie, a fraud, a cheat, a promise with a balloon payment down the road. And the person who has to make the payment is not the person getting the benefit.

Most public defined benefit pension plans from social security to the various public employee pensions are not actuarially sound. This means they depend on the comparative political power of those benefiting from them and those paying for them, the plans promises will or will not be met.

That's no way to plan a retirement. I would be insulted to get an offer like that. In fact, I am insulted because politicians try to tell me that the actuarially unsound Social Security program is going to give benefits that it's pretty obviously not going to be able to give.

When this sort of vote buying becomes the equivalent of trying to pay for something with confederate dollars, ie a political no-sale, we're going to have turned an important corner. It's a true shame that most people even on the small government right aren't pushing this meme.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

There goes that new year's resolution

Posting once a day was one of my new year's resolutions. That didn't last long.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Care and Feeding of Corporate Overlords

Here's a fairly conventional leftist anti-corporate screech from PenGun.

Your corporate overlords have screwed the pooch. They, not the people on the street, have managed to destroy the economies of the world by sheer greed.

The Europeans being a little smarter and better informed have decided the vast theft performed by the aforementioned corporate thugs will not stand. So they are showing their compliant governments some heat.

The US will continue down the road they are on, fleecing the poor and middle class to pay for the mistakes of the rich. This will not work.

Have a nice decade.

And now the fisking:

1. "Your corporate overlords have screwed the pooch." Why yes, they did, PenGun. Here we absolutely agree, though I doubt we've mutually come to that conclusion for the same reasons.

2. "They, not the people on the street, have managed to destroy the economies of the world by sheer greed." Actually, you're letting the average citizen off the hook there. You see the corporate overlords as you put them have done some of their most damaging work by entering into corrupt deals with power hungry politicos and bureaucrats. It's the combination of corporate cash, political influence peddling, and regulatory kneecappings that really have put the world economy in trouble.

3. "The Europeans being a little smarter and better informed have decided the vast theft performed by the aforementioned corporate thugs will not stand." This is nonsense on stilts as the thugs in the streets are being led around by the nose and essentially whining for more free money, not realizing that they've already sold their patrimony and their older sibs and parents ate the mess of pottage. They've run out of funds to steal and redistribute.

4. "So they are showing their compliant governments some heat." You really could do with reading Thomas Wolfe's classic Mau-Mauing the flak Catcher. The guys really in charge have sent up the lifers for the street people to mau mau and the street people will make the lifers wet themselves and then go away. It's all going according to script.

5. "The US will continue down the road they are on, fleecing the poor and middle class to pay for the mistakes of the rich. This will not work." The US has just had elections and created the largest turnover of the political class in decades. It's very unlikely that we're going to continue down the same road as prior to the elections but if we do, we're very likely to have an even bigger turnover at the next polls in two years.

Stay on Topic

PenGun's been one of my most difficult correspondents that actually has somethings worthwhile to say occasionally. That we disagree on a lot is not that important. Without people like him, I'd live in an echo chamber as sad as the one the left tends to occupy.

However, there are limits and running a comment like the following exceeds them:

Your corporate overlords have screwed the pooch. They, not the people on the street, have managed to destroy the economies of the world by sheer greed.

The Europeans being a little smarter and better informed have decided the vast theft performed by the aforementioned corporate thugs will not stand. So they are showing their compliant governments some heat.

The US will continue down the road they are on, fleecing the poor and middle class to pay for the mistakes of the rich. This will not work.

Have a nice decade.

The problem isn't the sentiment. It's that the post wasn't relevant to the topic.

Census visualization

The NY Times has a quite good census 2010 visualization tool. Typing in my own area I see much of what I expected but also a few surprises. Census area 206 in Indiana was a bit of a shocker that 100% of the 900+ reporting households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. It's mostly a poor area but there are a few there that make over $100k according to the income graph.

This is the sort of stuff that good data tools really can help you understand your own surroundings, your own life. It enables you to swiftly digest an enormous amount of data and toss out the 95%+ that is what you expect so you can quickly focus on the margin, on the anomalies that make the exercise worth doing.

HT Clayton Cramer

Monday, January 3, 2011


Amazing, I haven't tweeted since May 18 and I still have 83 followers. I think I'll pick it back up.
Here's my profile.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Iran Backs Off Fuel Socialism

Iran finally is crying uncle and reducing its massive fuel subsidies. The result seems to be a 20% reduction in petroleum use. That's going to be a welcome increase in available world supply as well as something that will pressure the Iranian system.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Deniable Intimidation Echoes

Wretchard has a good article on the Left's habit of indulging in deniable intimidation. The use of left-anarchists as street troops to signal that one part or another of the Left is not sufficiently militant is real and well taken. It isn't the whole story as there's a mirror image effect on the right. There, the less militant in the GOP use the threat of waking up the beasts on the left to reign in more militant factions.

I have personally been warned multiple times to avoid being too strident in my own political activities with tales of past political assassinations of reformers who went "too far". Of the ones I recall (and can anonymize), two were delivered by town chairmen, one by a committeeman. These are not generally hysterical people yet my little attempts at stirring up small government activism were viewed with real alarm. Even though they did not show it under most circumstances, these people are terrorized.

The terrorizing of GOP party officials is a generally hidden reason why the GOP often doesn't take full advantage of its opportunities and generally acts in more of a squishy fashion than you would otherwise expect. If retribution comes, they reason, it will come to them, personally or to their families.

Happy New Year

I wish everybody a healthy and happy New Year.

This is a continuation of my old blog, Flit(TM). While I can still log on, something's happened and I can no longer post there. Since one of my new year's resolutions is to blog daily, this is a problem, one I'm solving by creating this blog.