Friday, April 22, 2011

Odd behavior for a politician

From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

Don Young refuses Humane Society award
by TimMowry_FDNM
Outdoors with Tim Mowry

Saying he wants no part of the Humane Society of the United States’ agenda, Alaskan Congressman Don Young last week refused an award from the organization that would have honored his work for animals in 2010.
“HSUS are hypocrites, plain and simple, and I will not join them by accepting this award,” Young said in a press release issued by his office on March 30.
While praising the work done by local humane societies that shelter, spay and neuter animals, Young noted the HSUS does not own, operate or directly control a single animal shelter in the U.S., despite a budget of over $100 milllion. He chastised the HSUS for having “absolutely nothing to do with animal welfare.”
“Instead they prey on the emotions of big-hearted Americans,” Young said. “They flash images of abused animals on our television screens to raise money that will eventually go to pay their salaries and pensions, not to helping better the lives of these animals.
“They run anti-hunting and anti-trapping campaigns and are of the same cloth as PETA and other extremist organizations,” he said.
It was unclear why Young was being honored by the HSUS but the outspoken Congressman suspects it was due to his support of the Wildlife Without Borders program, which develops wildlife management and conservation efforts to maintain global species diversity.
“That program is true conservation; what this group wants is preservation,” Young said of the HSUS. “To accept this award would be supporting their manipulative ways and misguided agenda, and I want no part of that.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fool's Gold: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe

Gillian Tett, of the Financial Times, tells the story of the world-wide financial collapse of 2007 and the people and ideas that created it. Banks, the never-ending quest for higher profits and the management of risk are the issues.

Much like other businesses, banks are competitive within their milieu. They each wish to attract more deposits and investors, increase their sales of products and develop and market new products. Managing risk is a key aspect of the industry. Investors weigh the returns on an investment against the risk assumed. An investment of virtual certain return, a US government bond, for instance, can be accepted at a lower rate of return than would be required for something chancier, like common stock in a Canadian mining company. Investors, institutional, corporate and individual, are constantly in search of opportunities for income that match the level of risk that they can accept.

Tett describes the personalities at J.P. Morgan, people like Bill Winters, Blythe Masters and Bill Demchak and their creations, BISTRO (broad index secured trust offering) and other esoteric financial instruments based on credit risk analysis. Their strategies and products were adopted by the rest of the world banking community. In particular, mortgages were bundled into CDOs that were divided into tranches . These were groupings based on evaluations made by ratings agencies. Mortgage-based CDOs consisted of thousands of home mortgages, assembled and then divided into three tranches based on risk. The least risky, the "super-senior" tranches paid off first. If there was a problem, the holders of the most risky tranches, the juniors might not be paid off at all. Many entities were involved in these transactions, the purchaser of the property, the seller, the bank writing the mortgages and then bundling them for sale, the agency rating the tranches, and the investors purchasing them. Ideally, at least in the bank's view, the bank would write many mortgages that would be rated AAA and then these mortgages would be assembled and sold, coming off the bank's books. As time passed, the federal government began requiring, through the Community Re-investment Act, that banks write more and more mortgages for lower income home buyers. Many of these loans did not perform. As time went on, defaults on home mortgages increased in number, investors that had purchased the CDOs didn't receive payments and mortgages that banks had been unable to bundle and sell threatened to drag them into bankruptcy. But, while you or I can be allowed to expire financially, no such fate is permitted in the banking world. We, the taxpayers, must rectify the misdeeds of the government and the banks.

Monday, April 11, 2011

In today's "Best of the Web" the WSJ"s James Taranto talks about the federal budget impasse and John Boehner and BHO's conflict in aims, which boiled down to Planned Parenthood. However, the most interesting paragraph in the story is this one:

". Planned Parenthood receives millions in taxpayer subsidies and spends hundreds of thousands on lobbying and campaigning. In February, OpenSecrets.org reported that Planned Parenthood's political action committee "donated more than $148,000 to federal candidates--almost all Democrats--during the 2010 election cycle" and "spent more than $443,000 overall." Planned Parenthood made an additional $905,796 in "independent expenditures" during the 2010 cycle--exercising its right to free speech pursuant to last year's Citizens United decision.

The biggest beneficiaries of Planned Parenthood money, according to OpenSecrets.org, were Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Barbara Boxer of California. According to the Hill, both were also among "a defiant group of Senate women," all Democrats, who "said Friday they'll oppose any spending bill that would affect reproductive health funding":

"We are not going to throw women under the bus to give them an agreement to keep this government open," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said during a press conference at the Capitol.
"We are determined to draw the line in the sand," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) added. "There are moments when you must do that, and this is one of those moments."
Yet in contrast with Reid, Murray's and Boxer's sincerity seems beyond question. They're not in it for the money; Planned Parenthood gives them money because it knows they are true believers.

In some ways the dispute over Planned Parenthood funding is symbolic. The legal right to abortion is not at stake, and the subsidy doesn't even pay directly for abortion, which the group is required to fund from nonfederal revenue. So why is the Democratic Party's No. 1 priority?"

OK, Planned Parenthood can't legally pay for abortions with federal funds. But the organization receives millions in taxpayer subsidies. So, does that mean that they have two or more sets of books to keep that money separate? And how much are they charging for an abortion? Do the 300,000 plus women undergoing the procedure pay for the entire cost of it themselves? And, even if no federal funds are used to perform the actual abortions, doesn't that money actually defray expenses that Planned Parenthood would otherwise have to charge "patients", even if the costs of the procedure were paid for by other parties? And the federal government punishes the accounting practices of guys like Bernie Madoff.

The Canadian Free Press, the ultra-conservative counterpart to FiredogLake, brings up an interesting point in the "birther" argument. The issue, as these people see it, is not that Barry Soetoro, as they call the POTUS, was born on US soil, but that he is the offspring of a father that was never a resident of the US. "The key provision in this U.S. Supreme Court case, also highlighted by Mr. Gilliland, lies in the following statement: “the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons, whose fathers have never been resident of the United States.” This is very different from the story we hear from the Mastodon Media.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Rothbardian Video

This character presents the case for a stateless society in the terms that Murray Rothbard would have used.