February 27, 2009

The Power of Taxation

When the government wants to discourage smoking, it votes to increase the tax on tobacco.


When the government wants to discourage drinking, it votes to increase the tax on alcohol.

When the government wants to discourage investment, it votes to increase the tax on capital gains.

When the government wants to discourage success, it votes increase taxes on the successful.

When the government wants to discourage production, it votes to increase the taxes on the energy of production.

"The power to tax is the power to destroy."

Chief Justice Marshall
McCulloch v. Maryland

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:39 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


February 25, 2009

Friday The 13th Part Two

Not content with the $870 billion in spending they passed last Friday the 13th, the house has passed another $410 billion spending bill.


This bill will go to the Senate where Senators Specter, Collins, and Snow will extract a few window dressing concessions in exchange for their vote to further pillage the American taxpayer. There hasn't been the big full court press media effort to push this through in a hurry like the last one so this process will probably take a few days.

The gang of three will proudly boast about the $100 million in concessions they managed to extract from Senate Democrats and little Chucky Shumer will note that American's don't really care about the 9,000 plus little porky amendments.

Then the conference committee will meet to iron out the differences between the House and Senate Bills. Again their is no sense of the end of the world driving this legislation so they won't be burning any midnight oil in the negotiations. In the end, they will put back 90% of what the gang of 3 had removed.

By the time the conference report is passed by both houses - it will be Friday, March 13.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:25 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


February 23, 2009

Thanks For the Laugh

It's not often that you will find me driving along the Parkway on my way to work laughing hysterically. But there I was on my way to work this morning when the news came on the radio  with the story that The One was was going to hold a Fiscal Responsibility Summit. I was laughing so hard and so loud I missed the rest of the story and most of the rest of the news as well.

I was sure it had to be a joke. The news reports that The One was preparing a budget designed to cut the deficit in half in four years was the set up. The Fiscal Responsibility Summit was the punch line.
 
The Problem is, it's really not all that funny.


I've been doing a little digging and from what I can tell, Fairfield, CT does not require a permit for any sort of organized demonstration. I'm giving serious thought to organizing a "Tea Party." I think the Citi Bank branch on Black Rock Turnpike might be an appropriatly symbolic spot. (Plus there's lost's of traffic, parking and nearby food!) If you're in this area and would like to participate or help get it going - drop me a line.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:11 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


February 19, 2009

Stock Market Hits Six Year Low

I have the feeling that in the not to distant future when we say "The One," we will be referring to the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:18 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


And Now For A Brief Musical Interlude

On February 7, the Fairfield County Children's Choir held their annual Broadway Concert. The daughter was chosen to perform in one of the ensembles. She is the second from the left and sings the third solo verse.

Her parents are very proud.


Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:38 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


February 14, 2009

Volvo Ocean Race Update

Nothing to report really on the Virtual Race. The yacht Hold the Mayo is currently in 35,463rd place but it is too early for that number to mean anything.

The great story is on the water with the real boats.

During the start of leg 5 the boat Telefonica Blue struck something underwater in a place where they should have had more than enough depth. They suspended racing just before the start and returned to docks and puled the boat out of the water to repair their damaged keel and have resumed racing. they are currently 169 miles behind the leader.

The heroes of the event so far are the crew of Ericisson 3. i detailed some of the story in the post below. This is from the write-up on the race web site:

It's been 27 days since they set sail from Singapore for leg four and 18 since they started taking on water through a big crack in their hull. They suspended racing in Taiwan, their boat underwent major surgery, and then, with no one else on the track they resumed racing on Thursday morning (local time) and finished the leg at 1801 local time tonight to collect four points for fifth place.

...

Normally, it would be worth it for the rest and relaxation that comes at the end of a stage, but Olsson, visiting China for the first time, does not have that luxury. The crew expect to leave for the longest leg in the history of the race within two hours of their arrival.

In between, they must load 40 days worth of provisions, a few sails, some fuel, satisfy customs and welcome Magnus Woxen, Arve Roaas and Eivind Melleby onboard. Richard Mason leaves with an injury, while Jan Neergaard and Klas Nylof step off. Olsson laughed at the task, but is confident his shore crew can get his team on the track in good time.

They pulled it off and are currently a mere 29 miles behind the leader.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:58 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


February 13, 2009

It Is Done

The socialist expansion of government bill has apparently passed the Senate. It now goes to the desk of The One who will sign it without waiting the five days he promised while campaigning.

I am simply disgusted.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:10 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


Virtual Racing Begins Again

In a hour from now (11 p.m. EST) leg five of the Virtual Ocean race will get underway. 12,300 miles from Qingdao, China to Rio de Jeneiro.

The real boats start on the same course too. There is a story developing that outlines the extreme dedication of the teams and crews of these boats.

During the last leg, the real boats encountered severe weather. Several boats suffered damage and had to put into shore to make repairs before resuming racing. Of the seven boats that started, two survived unscathed, two effected repairs and finished, and two did not finish and will make their way to Rio via freighter.

That leaves one boat unaccounted for. Ericsson 3.

Ericsson 3 suffered significant damage and had to put into port in Taiwan to effect major structural repairs that took several days. Then they resumed sailing.

With three and half hours to go before the start, they were about 50 miles from the leg 4 finish line sailing in light wind. Their plan is to finish, immediately resupply the boat, which they estimate will take two to three hours then set out on the 12,300 leg five before the fleet gets too far ahead.

That is dedication. That is commitment.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:03 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


February 12, 2009

In Summary... It Sucks

In the name of pretending to be transparent our Lords and Masters have posted summary of their omnibus spending orgy. There is certainly not enough information for any citizen to make any sort of informed judgement. Nor is there enough information for our Lords and Masters to make an informed judgement.

But we all know that the entire thing is just a massive dripping mountain of pork. Which on a barbecue sounds kind of appealing but unfortunately were the ones getting burned.

I tried to read the summary but I just couldn't. This thing is a typographic abomination. It is almost completely unreadable. It would have been better if they had produced the thing with Comic Sans.

Can these morons do NOTHING right?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:55 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


February 10, 2009

In a Handbasket

I've been having so much fun pretending to be an editorial cartoonist I decided to step it up a little and some tonality. Some day I may even try color!


Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:14 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


February 09, 2009

Stimulating Socialism

There is no longer any reason to wonder why The One and the rest of hos comrades are in such a hurry to pass their government expansion bill. They are hoping they can get it through before their subjects can actually find out what it contains.

I'm sure they would rather no one had noticed this:

The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.

But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”

Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far.

New Penalties

Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties.  “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)

What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.

The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.

We can certainly be glad that Daschle was too much of a tax cheat to be confirmed.

So if this bill passes, the FCCCER (I recommend it be pronunced phoenetically)  will be deciding who gets to live and who gets to die. This seems to be in direct contravention of:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I guess this idea is supposed to help the economy, though I'm not sure how. It should help with the looming Social Security and Medicare crises. If all the old people are dead because FCCCER denied them treatment then there will be plenty of money to pay benefits to those who haven't gotten their "hopeless diagnosis" and been told to get on the ice floe and die.

As I'm typing this I got an alert that the government expansion bill has passed it's first procedural vote

With the help of Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter, the Democrats locked in the votes needed to end debate on the bill.

The final vote was 61 in favor, 36 opposed.

The bill is expected to survive a full vote in the Senate on Tuesday, setting up a battle with the House as the two chambers try to iron out differences between their versions of the bill.

Obama wants both chambers to come to an agreement so he can have the bill on his desk by Presidents Day, which is next Monday.

There is nothing really left to say or do.

If you want to know what your healthcare future looks like, keep reading.

The stimulus bill will affect every part of health care, from medical and nursing education, to how patients are treated and how much hospitals get paid. The bill allocates more funding for this bureaucracy than for the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force combined (90-92, 174-177, 181).

Here's the PDF of the bill if you want to check through the page numbers referenced in the quotes.

It's starting to look like time to pick a harbor and stock up on tea.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:49 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


February 08, 2009

How Bad Will It Get?

In the post below titled The Price of Liberty, I asked the questions:

But what would happen if the government did nothing? What it is the worst it could get? Could it equal or surpass the the Carter 70s? Could it equal or surpass the Depression? Is that too great a price to pay for liberty?

So I ask, What would you be willing to endure for the sake of liberty?

The Congressional Budget Office has apparently answered the first part and has released estimates predicting the end of the current recession in the second half of 2009.

They expect this recovery to occur without the government stimulus. Which in fact they expect will make things worse in the long run.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:34 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Inside Wal-Mart

According to American left, one of the great blights on the American business landscape is Wal-Mart. They - and particularly their foot soldiers in the labor unions - see the corporation as uniquely evil.

Charles Platt, former senior writer for Wired magazine, went undercover as a Wal-Mart employee to find out the truth. I suspect the left will not be listening.

Based on my experience (admittedly, only at one location) I reached a conclusion which is utterly opposed to almost everything ever written about Wal-Mart. I came to regard it as one of the all-time enlightened American employers, right up there with IBM in the 1960s. Wal-Mart is not the enemy. It's the best friend we could ask for.

Hat Tip: Powerline.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:52 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


The Tax Cheat Cometh

Still not concerned about the ever growing government intervention in the economy? Still think it might not be as bad as I have been asserting?

Read this Washington Post article on Secretary of Tax Cheating, Tim Geithner. Here's the scariest bit:

The approach reflects Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner's philosophy of how governments should respond to financial crises. He favors aggressive use of all available tools, both to deal directly with the massive losses in the financial sector and to bolster confidence in the future. Too little government response during a severe crisis poses a greater risk than too much response, he said at his confirmation hearing.

Too much government is never worse than too much freedom. That is cabinet level policy thinking in the current administration.

And what does the Secretary of Tax Cheating want to use all that government for? (emphasis added)

For example, there are likely to be new government investments in banks. But so far, the investments have come in the form of "perpetual preferred" stock, and the government has extracted no real control over how banks run themselves or what they do with the money.

The new approach is likely to make the investments convertible into common stock after some fixed period of time, perhaps seven years. If the banks are unable to raise private capital in that span, the government would receive more explicit control.

The Secretary of Tax Cheating wants to aggressively use all the tools of government to move beyond the partial nationalization of the banking industry put in place by the Bush administration.

The plan, according to preliminary outlines, calls for conversion of preferred stock to common stock after seven years. It should be remembered that this is just a policy implementation dreamed up by the the Secretary of Tax Cheating. It does not require an act of congress to change that seven years to seven months just as it did not require an act of congress for his predecessor to change the original bail-out form buying up "troubled assets" to investing in banks.

I think it may finally be time to set aside all the old cliches and theories about sliding down a slippery slope toward socialism. It's starting to look like were about jump off a cliff.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:57 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


February 07, 2009

The Price of Liberty



Ben Franklin said, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

I believe he was talking about physical security, but it applies equally to “economic security.”

As I watch the explosion of the Federal Government that is spreading it’s power into every corner of our lives I have been asking myself “what would you be willing to endure for the sake of liberty?”

I have been asking this question for some time now as I watched George Bush and the Republican congress massively expand the government. No Child Left Behind. Medicare Prescription Coverage. The Wall Street Bailout. None of this should have ever happened. But Bush & Company were mere nickel and dime hustlers in the government expansion racket. They cannot hold a candle to the likes of Obama & Friends.

SCHIP - the all important foot in the door of socialized medicine has already passed congress and been signed into law.

Then there is the trillion dollar government stimulus bill. Quite possibly the largest expansion of government by any administration, and it will be passed in less than a month of The One taking office.

Buried in this legislation is language that will expand medicare and have the government paying a majority of the COBRA payments for the recently unemployed. Taking one more step through the door of socialized medicine.

The One has already demonstrated that those who take government money must dance to the tune he is playing. Just ask the CEO of Bank of America how much he likes the idea of his new $500k salary. It is an old saying that he who takes the king’s gold plays the king’s tune. At the rate we’re going, soon all money will be the government’s money and we will all be playing or dancing as The One commands.

Members of Congress have been floating the idea of expanding The One’s salary cap beyond bail-out recipients to the economy as whole. Others have broached the idea of bringing back the censorship of the “Fairness Doctrine.”

Through it all we hear the constant admonitions that the government must act and that it must act now. Even the members of the Republican party go along to the extent that they agree government must act now - their only disagreement seems to be over how much to expand the government at once. All the while, everyone knows that what they are calling an economic stimulus will do nothing to stimulate the economy.

But what would happen if the government did nothing? What it is the worst it could get? Could it equal or surpass the the Carter 70s? Could it equal or surpass the Depression? Is that too great a price to pay for liberty?

So I ask, What would you be willing to endure for the sake of liberty?

I think John F. Kennedy gave the only answer:

“...we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge—and more.”

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:41 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


February 06, 2009

First They Came For TARP Executives

To all those people who thought I might have been a little over the top in this post: Grand High Exalted Emperor Obama, and to those friends of mine who looked at me askance when I called The One's politics socialist I say, "READ THIS."

Here's a few excerpts to give a sense of where the country seems to be headed:

Congress will consider legislation to extend some of the curbs on executive pay that now apply only to those banks receiving federal assistance, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said.

“There’s deeply rooted anger on the part of the average American,” the Massachusetts Democrat said at a Washington news conference today.

He said the compensation restrictions would apply to all financial institutions and might be extended to include all U.S. companies.

And if they are not going to stop at executives of companies getting bail-out money what makes you think they are going to stop at only the highest paid executives?

They want to make everyone closer to equal. They can't do that by making everyone rich, because being rich requires hard word, dedication and intelligence. So they'll settle for making everyone poorer.

The only thing that remains to be seen is if the GOP has the fortitude to minimize the damage and the strength to replace The One in 2012. Because this mess is going to be even harder to clean up in 2016.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:58 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


Passing the Buck

Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from my last attempt at editorial cartooning - two positive comments - I decided to try again.


Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:59 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


February 04, 2009

Grand High Exalted Emperor Obama: UPDATED

The One spoke today regarding executive compensation, and The one was most displeased:

"For top executives to award themselves these kinds of compensation packages in the midst of this economic crisis is not only in bad taste, it's a bad strategy - and I will not tolerate it as President."

Excuse the F#CK out me?

Exactly what title does this arrogant prick think he holds?

As President it means precisely nothing what you will or will not tolerate in terms of the compensation private corporations offer their employees. And FYI executives - unlike say members of Congress - do not award themselves salaries and bonuses. Executive compensation is set by the corporate board.

Just to be sure of the facts before I let this rant get the better of me, I did a little research into the power of the Presidency. I read this now little used document called The Constitution. In that document I found these brief passages outlining the powers of the President:

Section 2. [1] The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

[2] He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

[3] The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

I may not be the most astute Constitutional scholar but I don't see anything in there that gives the President power to set the salary levels of the employees of any business venture.

When The One was mere member of Congress he and his brethren rushed through a bit of panic legislation for the express purpose of giving large sums of money to wall street financial enterprises to paper over the results of their poor business decisions. That they, including The One, voted to do this without putting any conditions on the recipients of the money is merely a sign of their own lack of foresight and general business stupidity.

Now you bellow from the bully-pulpit of the Oval Office that you will not tolerate how these companies choose to pay their executives. BFD.

And as for any member of congress who feels compelled to share in your intolerance, you need to be hit in the face with a big STFU pie. You people - who screwed the whole thing up in the first place - can vote yourselves a raise whenever you decide you want one. You just decided to increase the petty allotment for every member by $93,000.

Listen closely - the increase in your petty cash allotment is significantly larger than the ever shrinking portion of my hard-eared salary you so graciously allow me to keep. And you have the gall to whine about what a corporate board decides to pay its executives?

None of you may like what these people are being paid. But there isn't - or there damned well shouldn't be - anything you can do about it. You set up the bailout in such a way as to make the Federal Government essentially a silent partner in these corporations. So do us all a favor and be silent.

UPDATED:
No Controlling Legal Authority

As I saw little outrage over The One's dictatorial setting of compensation limits for financial executives I began to wonder if perhaps there existed in the TARP legislation something that made his edict perfectly legal. So I looked it up.

SEC. 111. EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE.

(a) Applicability- Any financial institution that sells troubled assets to the Secretary under this Act shall be subject to the executive compensation requirements of subsections (b) and (c) and the provisions under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as provided under the amendment by section 302, as applicable.

(b) Direct Purchases-
(1) IN GENERAL- Where the Secretary determines that the purposes of this Act are best met through direct purchases of troubled assets from an individual financial institution where no bidding process or market prices are available, and the Secretary receives a meaningful equity or debt position in the financial institution as a result of the transaction, the Secretary shall require that the financial institution meet appropriate standards for executive compensation and corporate governance. The standards required under this subsection shall be effective for the duration of the period that the Secretary holds an equity or debt position in the financial institution.

(2) CRITERIA- The standards required under this subsection shall include--
(A) limits on compensation that exclude incentives for senior executive officers of a financial institution to take unnecessary and excessive risks that threaten the value of the financial institution during the period that the Secretary holds an equity or debt position in the financial institution;

(B) a provision for the recovery by the financial institution of any bonus or incentive compensation paid to a senior executive officer based on statements of earnings, gains, or other criteria that are later proven to be materially inaccurate; and

(C) a prohibition on the financial institution making any golden parachute payment to its senior executive officer during the period that the Secretary holds an equity or debt position in the financial institution.

(3) DEFINITION- For purposes of this section, the term ‘senior executive officer’ means an individual who is one of the top 5 highly paid executives of a public company, whose compensation is required to be disclosed pursuant to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and any regulations issued thereunder, and non-public company counterparts.

(c) Auction Purchases- Where the Secretary determines that the purposes of this Act are best met through auction purchases of troubled assets, and only where such purchases per financial institution in the aggregate exceed $300,000,000 (including direct purchases), the Secretary shall prohibit, for such financial institution, any new employment contract with a senior executive officer that provides a golden parachute in the event of an involuntary termination, bankruptcy filing, insolvency, or receivership. The Secretary shall issue guidance to carry out this paragraph not later than 2 months after the date of enactment of this Act, and such guidance shall be effective upon issuance.

I have said many times before that I am neither a legal scholar nor a lawyer but from my reading of this is seems pretty clear that the provisions empowering the government to limit executive compensation are triggered by the purchase of troubled assets. It is my understanding that Treasury Secretary Paulson decided not to purchase troubled assets but to just give the institutions money.

No purchase of troubled assets means no controlling legal authority to regulate compensation.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:09 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


February 01, 2009

My Cabinet Qualifications

I have been spending a good deal of time going over my past and evaluating my life. This has not been an exercise in empty navel gazing. I have been trying to figure out if I am uniquely qualified for a position in The One's cabinet.

I know it's a long shot because I have always paid my taxes accurately and honestly, but I think there are some opportunities.

In my youth there were numerous occasions in which  engaged in the act of fishing without having obtained the required license. I know that this was wrong and if nominated to be Secretary of the Interior I would retroactively purchase those licenses, pay any and all fines, with interest.

More recently, I have on many occasions driven an automobile while not wearing a seat belt. In addition I have repeatedly driven an automobile in excess of the posted speed limit. I also drove that same automobile for several days with an expired registration. (I needed to log some miles into the recently reset on-board computer in order to pass the required emissions inspection before the registration could be secured. The emissions inspection was about a year and a half overdue. All required late fees and penalties were paid.)

If this history does not make me uniquely qualified to be Secretary of Transportation, I'm just going to have to cheat on my taxes this year.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:47 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


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