The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Another Brief (but Inspiring) Respite from my Sabbatical...
(click to enlarge)
Thursday, November 27, 2008
The Meaning of Thanksgiving
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
We Interrupt this Vacation for...
OK... Carry on. See you soon.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Dems drawing up plans to "Confiscate" 401K plans, pensions?
Democrats in the U.S. House have been conducting hearings on proposals to confiscate workers’ personal retirement accounts — including 401(k)s and IRAs — and convert them to accounts managed by the Social Security AdministrationTriggered by the financial crisis the past two months, the hearings reportedly were meant to stem losses incurred by many workers and retirees whose 401(k) and IRA balances have been shrinking rapidly.
The testimony of Teresa Ghilarducci, professor of economic policy analysis at the New School for Social Research in New York, in hearings Oct. 7 drew the most attention and criticism. Testifying for the House Committee on Education and Labor, Ghilarducci proposed that the government eliminate tax breaks for 401(k) and similar retirement accounts, such as IRAs, and confiscate workers’ retirement plan accounts and convert them to universal Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs) managed by the Social Security Administration.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, in prepared remarks for the hearing on “The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Workers’ Retirement Security,” blamed Wall Street for the financial crisis and said his committee will “strengthen and protect Americans’ 401(k)s, pensions, and other retirement plans” and the “Democratic Congress will continue to conduct this much-needed oversight on behalf of the American people.”
Currently, 401(k) plans allow Americans to invest pretax money and their employers match up to a defined percentage, which not only increases workers’ retirement savings but also reduces their annual income tax. The balances are fully inheritable, subject to income tax, meaning workers pass on their wealth to their heirs, unlike Social Security. Even when they leave an employer and go to one that doesn’t offer a 401(k) or pension, workers can transfer their balances to a qualified IRA.
Ghilarducci’s plan first appeared in a paper for the Economic Policy Institute: Agenda for Shared Prosperity on Nov. 20, 2007, in which she said GRAs will rescue the flawed American retirement income system (www.sharedprosperity.org/bp204/bp204.pdf).
The current retirement system, Ghilarducci said, “exacerbates income and wealth inequalities” because tax breaks for voluntary retirement accounts are “skewed to the wealthy because it is easier for them to save, and because they receive bigger tax breaks when they do.”
Lauding GRAs as a way to effectively increase retirement savings, Ghilarducci wrote that savings incentives are unequal for rich and poor families because tax deferrals “provide a much larger ‘carrot’ to wealthy families than to middle-class families — and none whatsoever for families too poor to owe taxes.”
GRAs would guarantee a fixed 3 percent annual rate of return, although later in her article Ghilarducci explained that participants would not “earn a 3% real return in perpetuity.” In place of tax breaks workers now receive for contributions and thus a lower tax rate, workers would receive $600 annually from the government, inflation-adjusted. For low-income workers whose annual contributions are less than $600, the government would deposit whatever amount it would take to equal the minimum $600 for all participants.
In a radio interview with Kirby Wilbur in Seattle on Oct. 27, 2008, Ghilarducci explained that her proposal doesn’t eliminate the tax breaks, rather, “I’m just rearranging the tax breaks that are available now for 401(k)s and spreading — spreading the wealth.”
All workers would have 5 percent of their annual pay deducted from their paychecks and deposited to the GRA. They would still be paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, as would the employers. The GRA contribution would be shared equally by the worker and the employee. Employers no longer would be able to write off their contributions. Any capital gains would be taxable year-on-year.
Analysts point to another disturbing part of the plan. With a GRA, workers could bequeath only half of their account balances to their heirs, unlike full balances from existing 401(k) and IRA accounts. For workers who die after retiring, they could bequeath just their own contributions plus the interest but minus any benefits received and minus the employer contributions.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Time for a Vacation
Cartoon by Michael Ramirez (click to enlarge)
To all my loyal readers: I am war-weary, battle scarred...and I need to take a break. I am not leaving for good, but I do need to take some time off to recharge the batteries. I'll be back soon enough--I hope you will keep checking back from time to time. I may not be able to help myself from impulsive posting in the short term but for the most part I need the break more than the web needs my .02.
I cannot thank you enough for all of your support over the last 4+ years. You have become like a second family for me and I cannot express enough gratitude. You know who you are and you know I mean it.
Taking some down time now will allow me to gather energy for the important fights ahead, and (assuming the Leftist thugocracy thought police do not shut down my right to speak out...) God willing, I will be there when needed.
In the meantime keep your heads held high and remember that our founding principles can never be defeated, because they are TRUE. Only politicians can be defeated. We are all here but for a brief moment in time. People like Pelosi and Reid are but flies in the ointment. They too will pass. But the Truth endures.
Our Founders knew that humans were imperfect, but they also knew that the Founding principles--for which, against all odds, they fought our glorious American Revolution--are not mere ideas; they are the very foundation of individual Liberty. As as long as humans inhabit the Earth, these principles will be an innate part of every human being--whether he can name them or not; and no matter what other tired, decrepit philosophies tyrants bury them under. They cannot be buried because they are innate. This is why we must take heart. The truth cannot be long suppressed. History has proven this time and time again.
I appreciate each and every one of you, my readers: because you can name it. Because you have fought for it. Never stop fighting for the Truth. Stay engaged, as I will.
See you soon... DT
Yes, there is much to be concerned about (like where to put my 401K money so that the government can't confiscate it...). But there is a lot of wisdom herein:
You got that right.
I think this election is going to be a "coming of age" moment for a lot of people. They say, "Be careful what you wish for" and a lot of people got their wish yesterday.
And now they're bound to be disappointed. Not even Jesus could satisfy all the expectations of Obama's most vocal supporters, or fulfill all the promises Obama has made.
I think Obama is going to turn out to be the worst president since Carter, and for the same reason: good intentions do not guarantee good results. Idealists often stub their toes on the wayward rocks of reality, and fall on their faces. And the world doesn't respond to benign behavior benignly.
But there's another reason why: Obama has been hiding his light under a basket. A lot of people bought a pig in a poke today, and now they're going to find out what they bought. Obama isn't what most of them think he is. The intoxication of the cult will wear off, leaving a monumental hangover.
And four years from now they'll be older and much wiser.
A lot of bad things are going to happen during this term. But I don't think that this is an irreversible catastrophe for the union. I've lived long enough to absorb this basic truth: the US is too large and too strong to destroy in just 4 years. Or even in 8. We survived 6 years of Nixon. We survived 4 years of Carter. We even survived 8 years of Clinton, God alone knows how.
The President of the United States is the most powerful political figure in the world, but as national executives go his powers are actually quite restricted. Obama will become President, but he won't be dictator or king, let alone deity. He still has to work with the House and the Senate, and he still has to live within Constitutional restrictions, and with a judiciary that he mostly didn't appoint.
The main reason this will be a "coming of age" moment is that now Obama and the Democrats have to put up or shut up. Obama got elected by making himself a blank slate, with vapid promises about "hope" and "change" -- but now he actually has to do something. Now he has to reveal his true agenda. And with the Democrats also having a majority in both chambers of Congress, now the Democrats really have to lead. And they're not going to do a very good job of it. It's going to be amusing to watch.
And the people who fell for the demagoguery will learn an invaluable lesson.
Oh, the Democrats try to blame failure on Republican filibusters, of which there will be many. But that's always been a factor in our system, and many people believe it's an important check on government excess. The tradition in the Senate is that it is supposed to be a buffer against transient political fads, and the filibuster is a major part of that.
If the Democrats go all in, and change the filibuster rule, then they'll have truly seized the nettle with both hands and won't have any excuses any longer. That's why they won't do it. It's their last fig-leaf. But even with the filibuster rule in place, they'll be stuck trying to deliver now on all the promises implied, or inferred, during this election. The Republicans can only filibuster on bills the Democrats have already proposed.
And it ain't possible for the Democrats to deliver what's been promised. Gonna be a hell of a lot of disillusioned lefties out there. A lot of people who felt they were deceived. A lot of people who will eventually realize that the Obama campaign was something of a cult.
Disillusionment will turn to a feeling of betrayal. And that will, in turn, convert to anger.
In the mean time, Obama and Congressional Democrats will do things that cause harm, but very little of it will be irreversible.
I would have enjoyed watching lefty heads explode if McCain had won. But we're going to see lefty heads exploding anyway; it's just going to take longer.
In the mean time, those of us who didn't want Obama to be president have to accept that he is. And let's not give in to the kind of paranoid fever dreams that have consumed the left for the last 8 years. Let us collectively take a vow tonight: no "Obama derangement syndrome". Obama is a politician. He isn't the devil incarnate.
So what are the good sides of what just happened?
1. It is no longer possible for anyone to deny that the MSM is heavily biased. The MSM have been biased for decades but managed an illusion of fairness. That is no longer possible; the MSM have squandered their credibility during this campaign. They'll never get that credibility back again.
2. Since the Democrats got nearly everything they hoped for in this campaign, they'll have no excuses and will have to produce. They'll have to reveal their true agenda -- or else make clear that they don't really have any beyond gaining power.
3. Every few decades the American people have to be reminded that peace only comes with strength. The next four years will be this generation's lesson.
Now, a few predictions for the next four years:
1. Obama's "hold out your hand to everyone" foreign policy is going to be a catastrophe. They'll love it in Europe. They're probably laughing their heads off about it in the middle east already.
2. The US hasn't suffered a terrorist attack by al Qaeda since 9/11, but we'll get at least one during Obama's term.
3. We're going to lose in Afghanistan.
4. Iran will get nuclear weapons. There will be nuclear war between Iran and Israel. (This is the only irreversibly terrible thing I see upcoming, and it's very bad indeed.)
5. There will eventually be a press backlash against Obama which will make their treatment of Bush look mild. Partly that's going to be because Obama is going to disappoint them just as much as all his other supporters. Partly it will be the MSM desperately trying to regain its own credibility, by trying to show that they're not in his tank any longer. And because of that they are eventually going to do the reporting they should have done during this campaign, about Obama's less-than-savory friends, and about voter fraud, and about illegal fund-raising, and about a lot of other things.
and 6. Obama will not be re-elected in 2012. He may even end up doing an LBJ and not even running again.
One last thing: I'm not saying I'm happy with this outcome. I would much rather have had McCain win. But this is not the end of the world, or the end of this nation. We've survived much worse.
And now we need to show the lefties how to lose. Our mission for the next four years is to be in opposition without becoming deranged.
UPDATE: One other good thing: no one will be spinning grand conspiracy theories about this administration's Vice President being an evil, conniving genius who is the true power behind the throne.
So who's for making Lemonade? (and I am open to suggestions about that 401K money...)
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Just for Today...
With that said, I can find a lot to agree with in what Jim Manzi said:
I have argued in this space that I believe that neither of this year’s nominees was likely to be a successful President. I continue to believe that Barack Obama is likely to be a poor President who will attempt to implement policies that will be detrimental to the national interest. Further, I think most political commentary relies far too much on the sloppy sentimentality of “Here’s how I feel about things”, but here goes.
Legal racial segregation was prevalent in America within living memory, yet we appear to have just elected a black man to the position of maximum honor, authority and influence in the country. The manner of this political victory is important, as well. This was not some prize bestowed upon him, and Barack Obama didn’t just buy a winning lottery ticket; he out-smarted and out-worked both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. It is healthy that the American political system gathers the energies and talents of those who feel excluded into the nation to change it, rather than pushing them away from the nation to oppose it. I expect a lot of damage to be done to the nation’s economy, politics, and social order due to the excesses of a government dominated by a combination of Barack Obama and a radicalized Democratic caucus in Congress, but as a wise man once put it, “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.”
There are about 1,460 days until the next Presidential election, and I assume that I will spend approximately the next 1,459 of them opposing Barack Obama. But I’m spending today proud about what my country has overcome.
Mark Hemingway comments, and I find little to argue with here either:
Manzi's photograph below is one heck of a reminder of how far we've come is such a short time, and that is something we as Americans can be proud of. An Obama presidency will stand or fall on its own merits — just as Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted it.Very well said.
Certainly, I can't envison waking up and supporting his broad policy approach. And I still have some doubts about his background and lack of experience. Nonetheless, he's won the votes of a majority of my countrymen, and he's my president. Obama ran a great campaign and I respect him and what he's accomplished. For his part, I hope that he remains cognizant that he represents all Americans, and not just the emboldened Democrats in Congress.
I also hope those who took leave of their senses due to the high emotions of their campaign — on both sides of the aisle — regain their bearings and contribute more positively to the dialogue heading forward. Despite the hysteria, McCain deserves recognition for running what history should rightly show was a very honorable campaign. This was best embodied by McCain's graceful concession speech, which acknowledged Obama's historic victory in a way that was worthy of the party of Lincoln.
Finally, all that said, I have next to nothing good to say about how the media (on the whole) conducted themselves in this campaign. I don't think my complaints here should take away from Obama's victory, as the Republicans made more than few mistakes and the loss is theirs and theirs alone. Still, it's hard not to see how the press completely ablated any and all professional standards in one clumsy attempt after another to destroy McCain and Palin. Meanwhile, when they weren't cheerleading for Obama they were actively ignoring even the most damning criticisms of their preferred candidate. I just hope they realize that this kind of overwhelming bias ultimately isn't helpful to anyone, let alone beneficial to the upcoming Obama presidency.
I need to take a few weeks to recharge the batteries now.
But I'll be back. We'll be back. Count on it.
Monday, November 03, 2008
LAST CHANCE: BEFORE YOU MAKE THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF YOUR LIFE...
(Didn't think so...)
Obama Infomercial Out Takes
Cartoon by Michael Ramirez (click to enlarge)
A few more Closing Arguments
Read the whole thing.
Speaking in Seattle to campaign contributors behind closed doors earlier this month, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden all but endorsed John McCain for president.
"Mark my words," Senator Biden warned the assembled supporters. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."
"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden continued, citing the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."
Recalling that Senator Obama selected Biden as his running mate because of his purported foreign-policy expertise, one might think that more attention would be paid to the obvious import of Biden's words.
Not surprisingly, Biden made no mention of the world testing the mettle of Senator McCain if he were to take office (although he did later, lamely seeking to dismiss the meaning of his words). And for good reason. McCain's mettle has already been tested - proved under conditions beyond the imagining of most Americans. If it is possible to give something beyond the last full measure of devotion to our country, McCain has.
We think that the country would be best served by calling on McCain for one last mission - as president.
If he wins, Obama will take the oath of office, in which he'll swear to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." Yet the record shows that Obama isn't particularly fond of the Constitution. In a 2001 interview on Chicago public radio, Obama noted that the Warren Court had "never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society," and "to that extent as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical." Obama asserted that the Constitution "reflected an enormous blind spot in this culture that carries on until this day."
He also noted that the Court "didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it has been interpreted." Obama seemed to think the Constitution deficient, because it provided only a guarantee of negative liberties - what the government can't do to citizens - rather than a positive right to welfare. The Founding Fathers would be shocked by Obama's attitude toward this cornerstone of American principles.
Meanwhile the third leg of the Power Line troika, Paul Mirengoff, evokes the great and eloquent Thomas Sowell:
And finally, for my fellow defenders of the Second Amendment (hell the entire Constitution for that matter...), what say it better than the words of Barack himself? :
After the big gamble on subprime mortgages that led to the current financial crisis, is there going to be an even bigger gamble, by putting the fate of a nation in the hands of a man whose only qualifications are ego and mouth?
Barack Obama has the kind of cocksure confidence that can only be achieved by not achieving anything else.
Anyone who has actually had to take responsibility for consequences by running any kind of enterprise-- whether economic or academic, or even just managing a sports team-- is likely at some point to be chastened by either the setbacks brought on by his own mistakes or by seeing his successes followed by negative consequences that he never anticipated.
The kind of self-righteous self-confidence that has become Obama's trademark is usually found in sophomores in Ivy League colleges-- very bright and articulate students, utterly untempered by experience in real world.
The signs of Barack Obama's self-centered immaturity are painfully obvious, though ignored by true believers who have poured their hopes into him, and by the media who just want the symbolism and the ideology that Obama represents.
The triumphal tour of world capitals and photo-op meetings with world leaders by someone who, after all, was still merely a candidate, is just one sign of this self-centered immaturity.
"This is our time!" he proclaimed. And "I will change the world." But ultimately this election is not about him, but about the fate of this nation, at a time of both domestic and international peril, with a major financial crisis still unresolved and a nuclear Iran looming on the horizon.
For someone who has actually accomplished nothing to blithely talk about taking away what has been earned by those who have accomplished something, and give it to whomever he chooses in the name of "spreading the wealth," is the kind of casual arrogance that has led to many economic catastrophes in many countries.
The equally casual ease with which Barack Obama has talked about appointing judges on the basis of their empathies with various segments of the population makes a mockery of the very concept of law.
After this man has wrecked the economy and destroyed constitutional law with his judicial appointments, what can he do for an encore? He can cripple the military and gamble America's future on his ability to sit down with enemy nations and talk them out of causing trouble.
Senator Obama's running mate, Senator Joe Biden, has for years shown the same easy-way-out mindset. Senator Biden has for decades opposed strengthening our military forces. In 1991, Biden urged relying on sanctions to get Saddam Hussein's troops out of Kuwait, instead of military force, despite the demonstrated futility of sanctions as a means of undoing an invasion.
People who think Governor Sarah Palin didn't handle some "gotcha" questions well in a couple of interviews show no interest in how she compares to the Democrats' Vice Presidential candidate, Senator Biden.
Joe Biden is much more of the kind of politician the mainstream media like. Not only is he a liberal's liberal, he answers questions far more glibly than Governor Palin-- grossly inaccurately in many cases, but glibly.
Moreover, this is a long-standing pattern with Biden. When he was running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination back in 1987, someone in the audience asked him what law school he attended and how well he did.
Flashing his special phony smile, Biden said, "I think I have a much higher IQ than you do." He added, "I went to law school on a full academic scholarship" and "ended up in the top half" of the class.
But Biden did not have a full academic scholarship. Newsweek reported: "He went on a half scholarship based on need. He didn't finish in the 'top half' of his class. He was 76th out of 85."
Add to Obama and Biden House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and you have all the ingredients for a historic meltdown.
Don't listen to the talking heads. Get out there and do your civic duty. If you have to stand in a 4 hour line so be it: better people than you endured far worse in places like Bastogne, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, and Anbar province: it is time for you to pay them back by defending our country from within. Each soldier in uniform takes an oath to "Preserve, Protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States". The President has to take that oath too.
In my mind, there is no question which candidate would take that oath seriously...and which one did not. Tomorrow is a day that We, the People need to stand up and pull our country back from the precipice. We owe it to those who laid their lives on the line to protect our present form of government--if not to ourselves--to not let the Left throw the baby out with the bathwater.
UPDATED A Reminder: Why you need to vote tomorrow
UPDATE: Once more for the road, Obama's "sponsor", as detailed by an undercover FBI Informant in the Weather Underground. Has to be heard to be believed:
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Far From "Inevitable"...
This is not an asteroid we face. It is not preordained, unstoppable, inevitable. It is a choice made by human men and women, an individual decision made a hundred million times and not the cold, precise product of gravity and mass.
My friend Iowahawk writes some of the most brilliant satire I have ever read. He likes to come across as a beer-swilling gearhead – because he is – but look at this [ http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2008/10/balls-and-urns.html ] analysis of what probability and polling is and isn’t, which I will proceed to steal a graph or two from, simply so that I may bask in its reflected glory:
You take a simple random sample of 1000 balls from an urn containing 120,000,000 red and blue balls, and your sample shows 450 red balls and 550 blue balls. Construct a 95% confidence interval for the true proportion of blue balls in the urn."
…Works pretty well if you're interested in hypothetical colored balls in hypothetical giant urns, or survival rates of plants in a controlled experiment, or defects in a batch of factory products. It may even work well if you're interested in blind cola taste tests. But what if the thing you are studying doesn't quite fit the balls & urns template?
• What if 40% of the balls have personally chosen to live in an urn that you legally can't stick your hand into?
• What if 50% of the balls who live in the legal urn explicitly refuse to let you select them?
• What if the balls inside the urn are constantly interacting and talking and arguing with each other, and can decide to change their color on a whim?
• What if you have to rely on the balls to report their own color, and some unknown number are probably lying to you?
• What if you've been hired to count balls by a company who has endorsed blue as their favorite color?
• What if you have outsourced the urn-ball counting to part-time temp balls, most of whom happen to be blue?
• What if the balls inside the urn are listening to you counting out there, and it affects whether they want to be counted, and/or which color they want to be?
(And what, I wonder, if all around you, every day, you are told by all of the coolest, hippest, prettiest balls that your color is mean, irrelevant, unpopular, un-cool, evil, old, incompetent and probably racist? Would you stick to your guns in the face of that, or keep your mouth shut and show ‘em when the curtain closes?)
If one or more of the above statements are true, then the formula for margin of error simplifies to
Margin of Error = Who the hell knows?
The moral of this midterm for all would-be pollsters: if you are really interested in how many of us red and blue balls there are in this great big urn, sit back and relax until Tuesday, and let us show our true colors.
Well said, buddy. And finally, this, from Zombietime.com:
It may very well be that an army of glum, dispirited and pessimistic conservatives will reluctantly trudge to the polls on November 4, each one imagining they are the only remaining person in the entire country voting for McCain, and lo and behold -- they'll turn out to be a silent majority after all.
That may be the most prophetic sentence of the year.
I don’t want to be the person who sat home and missed being a part of that. And I won’t be.
See you there.
Despair is a sin, and often a mistake. The polls do not record the "refused to respond" which in my judgment is a much larger category than any admit -- it includes me, five times so far this year since I'm home to answer the phone more than many people are -- and I suspect that more McCain people refuse to respond than the trendier Obama enthusiasts.
Few Republicans are enthusiastic. I wish there were a safe recipient for the Turn The Rascals Out! vote. There isn't. Electing a junior senator whose political positions are indistinguishable from McGovern except on the checkoff unionization which even McGovern opposes cannot be a good thing for the future of the nation. If the Democratic candidate were Colin Powell, who has fairly traditional liberal views but is primarily a centrist with some military (including political military, but who has led troops in combat) experience, I'd very likely vote for him on the grounds that he would be a good restraining influence on Rangel, Franks, Dodd, Pelosi, and the weak Reid. Alas, Obama isn't likely to stand up to much of anything; his political experience has been Chicago machine go along to get along.
But the election is not over. There are more decline to answer voters than it takes to change the election.
One vote per precinct in California delivered the nation to Woodrow Wilson.
The way to win elections is to get those who intend to vote for your candidate to go vote. Few readers here are not capable of getting two or three voters to the polls. That's well over a million votes. Think on it.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
The Incredible Shrinking Obama "Tax Cut" Ceiling
In Obama's informercial: $200,000
Biden on the campaign trail this week: $150,000
Now, from NM Governor Bill Richardson, it's down to $120,000.
This is like a nightmarish game of "limbo"...
Just put it this way: Bend Over.
ps: don't think it will stop there. Once they let the Bush Tax Cuts expire--which they have promised--it will hit EVERYONE. (Except those not paying taxes, of course).
Back in the day they called this "welfare"...