What Does Government Do Best?

Pierre Sprey interview on The Fifth Estate
Pierre Sprey being interviewed on The Fifth Estate

Runaway Fighter

Fifth Estate: So you're telling me [the F-35] is a bad airplane: it can't do dogfights, it can't protect troops on the ground, it's a lousy bomber, and despite everything the manufacturer is saying, it's not stealth.

Pierre Sprey: Correct -- you're exactly correct.

Fifth Estate: So what is the point of this plane?

Pierre Sprey: The point is to spend money. That is the mission of the airplane: for the US Congress to send money to Lockheed. That's the real mission of the airplane.


Which of These Circles Isn't Changing?

More channels each year but folks watch just 17 of them
So many channels, so little time ....

Yet Unbundling Would Destroy the Industry

"Our calculations conclude that $80 billion to $113 billion of U.S. consumer value would be destroyed by this shrinking channel choice," [said Needham & Co. media analyst Laura] Martin.... In other words, if Bravo -- which is currently in about 100 million homes -- was suddenly available only in half as many homes, it would have to double what it charges distributors to cover its programming costs. If Bravo didn't double or triple its fees, it would have to greatly reduce what it spends on original and acquired shows.
[Meg James, "A La Carte TV Pricing Would Cost Industry Billions, Report Says," 04 Dec 2013]

Some Say the System Is Rigged

High-frequency trading isn't providing more efficient, liquid markets; it is a technological arms race designed to pick the pockets of legitimate market participants.
[Charles Schwab, discussing High-Frequency Trading, 03 Apr 2014]

Regulatory Capture: Our Favorite Drug?

The FDA's cumbersome, expensive approval process essentially creates a cartel. Only deep-pocketed companies can play the FDA game, and that's why [these companies are] glad the FDA is around to stave off competition from small businessmen like [AIDS victim] Ron Woodroof.
[Kyle Smith, "How the Oscar-Winning Libertarian Favorite 'Dallas Buyers Club' Exposes the FDA," 05 Mar 2014]

The FDA raiding the Dallas Buyers Club
EconPop takes a look at the Dallas Buyers Club

Are Most Published Research Findings False?

[C. Glenn Begley] and his colleagues could not replicate 47 of 53 landmark papers about cancer. Some of the results could not be reproduced even with the help of the original scientists working in their own labs.... Maybe the researchers deeply believed that their findings were true. But that is the problem. The more passionate scientists are about their work, the more susceptible they are to bias.
[George Johnson, "New Truths That Only One Can See," 20 Jan 2014]

Tax-Free NY: Textbook Case of Crony Capitalism?

This proposal is one of the most disingenuous I've ever heard. It acknowledges that New York's tax structure is crippling business and then does nothing to address it. The fundamental flaw with this proposal is that it allows [NY Governor Andrew] Cuomo and [NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver appointees to pick and choose which businesses get sweetheart deals, as every other existing business in this state suffers. This is a slap in the face to thousands of Staten Island business owners who have been squeezed for decades and have got nothing but empty rhetoric from state government.... It's blatantly unfair to the tech businesses already struggling in office buildings along Arthur Kill Road and South Avenue. In sum, this allows a politically connected panel to pick winners and losers ... [those] losers are every one of the state's 2 million existing businesses. This could correctly be called crony capitalism.
[NY Assemblyman Joe Borelli, explaining why he voted against the Tax-Free NY proposal, 14 Jun 2013]

If you're tired of the same old recipe of over-taxation, over-regulation, and frivolous litigation, get out [of New York] before you go broke. Texas is calling. Your opportunity awaits.
[Texas Governor Rick Perry, letting New Yorkers know they can vote with their feet, 19 Jun 2013]

Economics 101: Uber and Surge Pricing

Uber -- Drivers on Demand

To understand the economics of surge pricing from Uber's point of view, think of drivers as supply and riders as demand. Especially in bad weather, demand goes up: Would-be passengers don't want to be out in the snow and rain. Meanwhile, supply goes down: Drivers don't want to be out in the snow and rain, either.

In that scenario, higher prices are meant to accomplish two things. First, by offering drivers more money, it gives them more incentive to get out on the streets — at least in theory — thereby increasing supply. Second, higher fares price out some riders, and demand goes down. Calibrating supply, demand, and price to get the most people the most rides for the least money is the math problem that [Uber CEO Travis] Kalanick says Uber is always trying to solve....

If Uber can truly make itself the most reliable way to get around, its popularity may eventually end up forcing prices down overall. Even as a $175 SUV gets all the attention, in several cities Uber is aggressively pushing its Uber X service, where drivers in their own private vehicles offer rides at rates competitive to regular taxis. In San Francisco, Kalanick says, Uber X drivers make more money than higher-priced Uber limo drivers. The reason, he says, is that more rides trump higher fares.

[Marcus Wohlsen, "Uber Boss Says Surging Prices Rescue People from the Snow," 17 Dec 2013]

Newsflash: U.S. Cities Seize Vehicles, Throwing the Environment under the Bus Union Taxis!

The funny thing is that many cities supported ride-sharing as part of "eco-concious" initiatives when it was on a smaller scale and largely greenwashing. But once it expanded and money became involved many cities had seen enough....

In 2013 the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) -- a city authority that derives its revenue from taxicab licensing -- decided it was time to put a stop to the [carpooling] business, which hadn't paid its toll. It conducted a sting, seizing cars, ticketing drivers, and shutting down the operation....

At this point quite literally the risk of carpooling is becoming that you will get your car impounded/seized and be forced to pay steep fines.

[Jason Mick, "Cities to Carpoolers: Sharing Your Car is Illegal, We Will Seize Your Cars," 04 Apr 2014]

ObamaCare: Don't Sign Up until You Get Sick

I've run the numbers. There's no scenario, when you can buy insurance after you get sick, in which buying it before you get sick makes economic sense. Open enrollment isn't year round, so you might face part of a year paying for your own treatment if things go wrong, but with the deductibles on many of these plans, that's true even with coverage.
[Lane Filler, "Obamacare, Beyond the Glitches," 12 Nov 2013]

Hacking in 1980: Kids Have It Easy Today!

You counted every CPU cycle because as the [screen refresh] scan was moving, so was the CPU clock; and for every three of those 160 pixels you had one microprocessor cycle. You can't do anything in one microprocessor cycle: the minimum is two, sometimes three, sometimes five. So, fifteen pixels have gone by before you do a single five-cycle instruction. So there's not a lot of time to be messing around up there changing these bits. And it had to go into ROM so we counted every single byte. Sometimes we would be at 6K when we were ready to be done with a 4K game. Now you have to go back and re-write every single line of the game; re-write an algorithm and say, "I did it and I did it in three less bytes. So I saved three out of thirty." We would have people -- you'd see graphics on the screen that was actually code because it was easier to do that. Sometimes we would have graphic tables that ended in a byte that was an op code that we could use as the end of a routine -- anything -- anything to get one byte out of the whole thing. [We'd] build our own ROM emulators to plug into the 2600; wrote our own debugging software to be able to set breakpoints and such; this was everything we had to do to make one of these lousy games.
[David Crane, Pitfall Classic Postmortem, Game Developers Conference 2011]

Everyone's on the Take

I think the American people today feel that the system isn't working for them. And I think they're largely right. I think what they've not internalized is that big government is invariably, primariliy, a servant of the strong -- of the organized, the educated, the affluent, the lawyered-up. That's why Washington is what it is today.... It's the old law of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs -- a kind of constant shell game. Two-thirds of the federal budget today is transfer payments. So transfer payments are twice as big as everything else -- the Marine Corp, the National Parks, the FBI -- everything. So everyone's on the take, as it were.
[George Will, "George Will's Libertarian Evolution," 13 Sep 2013]

Too Many Laws?

And that goes to [Mark] Cuban’s starkest point, which anyone living in a democratic society should appreciate. Law-abiding citizens should be afforded ex ante notice of what is permitted behavior if they inquire. Cuban said if you call up the SEC and ask "am I allowed to do this, they will ignore you." He is right. Rule makers and rule enforcers should at least be capable of articulating the rule and afford average people the ability to interpret it. When that’s not the case, there is a problem, and it is an increasingly big problem in our over-legislated, over-regulated, and over-criminalized society. Luckily for Mark Cuban, that’s not his problem anymore. He did people a service though by showing why it could be yours.
[Brett Joshpe, "Mark Cuban, The People's Billionaire," 18 Oct 2013]

If you laid all of our laws end to end, there would be no end.
[Mark Twain]

Washington: Addicted to Goverment Shutdowns

If your metric for quality governance is "ability to avoid shutdowns," then [Ronald] Reagan is absolutely the worst president of the modern era. The government shut down eight times under his watch, more than any other president, representing nearly half of all shutdowns that have occurred under the modern budget process. And [Tip] O'Neill is an even worse speaker, if that's our criterion. He presided over 12 funding gaps or shutdowns, or almost 71 percent of all shutdowns to date.
[Dylan Matthews, "Sorry, Chris Matthews: Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan were terrible at averting shutdowns," 26 Sep 2013]

Senate Says: Time to Shut Up, Peasant

Whom would the Senate's definition [of a journalist] protect? Journalists employed at established publications, who are mainly white men from privileged backgrounds -- a category of people who may have little interest in critiquing the establishment that benefits them. The Senate's definition of journalist protects the people who need it least.
[Sarah Kendzior, "Who Is a 'Journalist'? People Who Can Afford to Be," 17 Sep 2013]

Today's Special: Corruption in Garlic Sauce

The deal by which the [Chinese Communist] Party guarantees economic growth, plus rising incomes, in exchange for a politically docile urban population is unraveling. The now-widespread knowledge that the system is rigged to benefit those in charge -- that officials and their families have illicit opportunities to amass fabulous wealth unavailable to most of China's citizens -- could push the Chinese to demand an end to the collusion between princelings, their families, and business. What might emerge to replace this network of power, if anything, is unclear.
[Dexter Roberts, Six Take-Aways for China from the Bo Xilai Trial, 28 Aug 2013]

Where Would We Be Without Troublemakers?

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.... [O]ne has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
[Martin Luther King, Jr., Responding to a group of clergymen who called him an "outsider" disobeying the principles of law and order, 16 Apr 1963]

What Fourth Amendment?

Obama telling child his father isn't

Unlucky Rabbit's Foot

Not too long ago, I told Marty Hahne’s story. He is a long-time children’s magician who got in trouble with the USDA for using an unlicensed rabbit in his shows. Among other things, he also had to give the agency proof that he was making regular vet visits, and submit to random inspections of his home. The topper was that he had to submit a 28-page disaster plan covering how he would care for his rabbit under at least 21 different calamities....
[Ryan Young, "Pulling a Rabbit Out of a Hat," 31 Jul 2013]

Microsoft Windows 8 Suction Whirlpool Sinks Entire PC Market

Hidden in IDC's analysis was an unusual assertion; namely, that Windows 8 had not only not helped PC sales, but actually depressed them. This statement reflects IDC's belief that market dynamics are turning treacherously against Microsoft operating systems.... It would be wrong to dismiss Microsoft as a dinosaur incapable of moving with the times.
[Andrew Binstock, "Pulling Back from Windows 8," 16 Apr 2013]

Micro-Managing Your Ride

The people of Denver don’t need a government agency deciding whether they have too many transportation options any more than they need a government agency deciding whether the city has too many restaurants or shoe stores.
[Robert McNamara, senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, 22 Apr 2013]

Municipal Debt: Nothing to See Here

State Example
Arizona Due to problems arising from outdated computer systems, schools in Arizona spent $125 million a year on students that had already transferred out of the state.
California General contractors have been charging the state, and ultimately the taxpayers, $45 per hour for janitors on public works projects, but only pay their subcontractors $10 to $15 per hour for the actual work.
Delaware Two roofing companies sued the Delaware Department of Labor claiming an office run by Senate President Pro Tem Anthony DeLuca was not properly enforcing labor laws and preventing contractors from appealing prevailing-wage decisions; DeLuca's office has reportedly forced companies to pay sheet-metal workers a rate of $61 an hour versus the average rate for the job of $21 an hour.
Florida Miami-Dade County officials "discovered" a fleet of 300 brand new Toyota vehicles, mostly Prius hybrids, that the office had purchased between 2006 and 2007.
Illinois The state paid $2 million in unemployment benefits to inmates last year; in fact, one Cook County inmate collected almost $43,000.
Iowa $189 million in taxpayer money and tax breaks were given out by a board to give new businesses incentives to move to Iowa, but the majority of these companies had a deep connection to board members and were already in state.
Michigan The state spent about $1.3 billion and $1.2 billion on tax credits for Chrysler and GM respectively for the year.
Mississippi The University of Southern Mississippi must pay out $2.1 million to fired football coach Ellis Johnson for his remaining three-year contract.
New Jersey Forty-five superindendents collect over $4 million in retirement checks each year, on top of their regular salaries.
Pennsylvania The heads of Pennsylvania s four largest taxpayer-funded universities told members of the state Senate that they see no reason for their institutions to abide by Pennsylvania s open records laws after receiving upwards of $500 million in total from taxpayers.
West Virginia According to a report from the Legislative Auditor s office, 30 prisoners filed over 700 weeks of claims and received over $150,000 in unemployment benefits, with one inmate receiving benefits for 135 weeks while behind bars.
[Excerpted from "How Broke Is Your State?" 11 Apr 2013]

Ethanol: Environmental Disaster?

U.S. farmers converted more than 1.3 million acres of grassland into corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011 ... Grasslands are key breeding grounds for ducks and other wildlife ... [and] grassland soil captures carbon better than cropland.... Corn, moreover, is one of the most profligate water-using crops on the planet. Under drought conditions, as experienced across the Midwest and Great Plains in recent years, groundwater levels are plummeting, falling by six feet or more in some parts of the corn belt.
[William F. Shughart II, "Think Ethanol is Environmentally Friendly? Think Again." 18 Mar 2013]

The Sky Is Falling!

Federal Spending Skyrockets; Sequestration Relatively Miniscule

A Wall of Separation

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
[Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802]

K-12 Schools: Headcount Skyrockets Relative to Students

Since 1950, America’s public schools have seen a 96 percent increase in students but a staggering 702 percent increase in administrators and other non-teaching staff.

School Headcount Explodes Between 1950 and 2009

Between 1992 and 2009, the states with the most disproportionate increases were:

State Students Non-Teaching Headcount
Hawaii + 2.7% + 68.9%
Ohio + 1.9% + 44.4%
Minnesota + 8.1% + 68.2%
New Hampshire + 11.7% + 80.2%

Whom Will Obama Drone Today?

Oddly, under current law, Congress and the courts are involved when presidents eavesdrop on Americans, detain them or harshly interrogate them -- but not when they kill them.... Mr. Obama should declassify and release, to Congress, the press and the public, documents that set forth the detailed constitutional and statutory analysis he relies on for targeting and killing American citizens.
[Vicki Divoll, "Who Says You Can Kill Americans, Mr. President?" 16 Jan 2013]

Founder asking that death-by-drone rights be put into Constitution


HSBC: Do the Banksters Own Our Government?

Federal and state authorities have chosen not to indict HSBC, the London-based bank, on charges of vast and prolonged money laundering, for fear that criminal prosecution would topple the bank and, in the process, endanger the financial system. They also have not charged any top HSBC banker in the case, though it boggles the mind that a bank could launder money as HSBC did without anyone in a position of authority making culpable decisions.... Once criminal sanctions are considered off limits, penalties and forfeitures become just another cost of doing business, a risk factor to consider on the road to profits.... If banks operating at the center of the global economy cannot be held fully accountable, the solution is to reduce their size by breaking them up and restricting their activities -- not shield them and their leaders from prosecution for illegal activities.
[New York Times, "Too Big to Indict," 11 Dec 2012]

When you decide not to prosecute bankers for billion-dollar crimes connected to drug-dealing and terrorism, it doesn't protect the banking system, it does exactly the opposite. It terrifies investors and depositors everywhere, leaving them with the clear impression that even the most "reputable" banks may in fact be captured institutions whose senior executives are in the employ of (this can't be repeated often enough) murderers and terrorists. Even more shocking, the Justice Department's response to learning about all of this was to do exactly the same thing that the HSBC executives did in the first place to get themselves in trouble -- they took money to look the other way.
[Matt Taibbi, "Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War is a Joke," 13 Dec 2012]

HSBC profits were $21.9 billion in 2011

For the crime of laundering terrorist and drug money, HSBC will be fined $1.92 billion, which represents less than 10% of HSBC's 2011 profits.



Afghanistan: A Seething Morass of Corruption and Ineptitude

The United States is currently spending $28 million a day to rebuild Afghanistan. This is the largest reconstruction effort ever -- the US has now spent more money to rebuild Afghanistan than it spent to rebuild Germany after World War II.

John Sopko speaking at the Stimson Center, 2013-Jan-10
John Sopko speaking at the Stimson Center, 2013-Jan-10

A typical US-funded Afghanistan project: the Kunduz Army Garrison


Key reconstruction failure areas:



How Do You Define Theft?

In 2000, John Doe buys 100 shares of XYZ stock for $100 each. Mr. Doe holds onto XYZ for ten years, paying taxes on whatever dividends are thrown off by XYZ (from earnings that have likely already been taxed). At the end of ten years, Mr. Doe sells his 100 shares for $101 each.

The IRS claims that Mr. Doe has income of $100, but everyone knows this is nonsense: thanks to inflation, Mr. Doe actually lost money.

Lesson learned by Mr. Doe: even if his long-term investment had done well, the game is rigged in favor of the government. Eschew long-term investments; live for today.


The World's Largest Buyer of Junk!*

New Federal Reserve Logo is a printer

* Audits not allowed


Throwing the Children Under the Bus

There's now solid evidence that there are huge differences in the effectiveness of teachers, even within high-poverty schools.... Get a bottom 1 percent teacher, and the effect is the same as if a child misses 40 percent of the school year. Get a teacher from the top 20 percent, and it's as if a child has gone to school for an extra month or two.... Unfortunately, the union in Chicago is insisting that teachers who are laid off -- often for being ineffective -- should get priority in new hiring. That's an insult to students.
[Nicholas D. Kristof, "Students Over Unions," 12 Sep 2012]

Anachronism. n. Modern Educational Systems of the 21st Century.

The organizational culture of eduction ... is very regimented. It's organized a bit like an assembly line. Children are divided into age groups, for example, as if the most important thing they have in common is their date of manufacture.... We divide each day up into 40-minute periods for the same reason. And then the day is divided into separate subjects. We have standardized testing at the end of it. It's very much like an industrial process, and it's not an accident because our systems of mass education were developed in the 19th century to meet the needs of the new industrial economies -- and they were designed for efficiency, like other systems of mass production.
[Sir Ken Robinson, "Teach Your Children Well," Aug 2012]

Judicial Activism or Judicial Abdication?

Is the Supreme Court really running roughshod over the other branches of government and systematically thwarting their legitimate attempts to make policy?
Decades of the Supreme Court abdicating its duty to enforce the Constitution have made possible the incredible growth in the size and scope of government we see today.
[Clark Neily and Dick Carpenter, "Government Unchecked," Sep 2011]

Housing Rebound? The Shadow Knows ...

The 97% of mortgage loans that have not been foreclosed on but probably will be makes up the largest percentage of what is known as shadow inventory. This number is so horrifically high that even the pundits aware of the issue won't discuss it publicly -- probably because their own livelihoods could be at stake for doing so.... This is the biggest financial and economic disaster in U.S. history -- nothing else even comes close by comparison.... If the probable losses associated with these loans had to be absorbed quickly by way of foreclosure and resale of the collateral property, the losses would almost certainly render all of these [Too Big to Fail] institutions insolvent....
[Roger Arnold, "U.S. Housing Cannot Recover," 14 May 2012]

Why Aren't We Building Thorium Reactors?

Link to Youtube video explaining Thorium

Is this yet another example of regulatory capture?


How Patents Hinder Innovation

Diagram of the modern patent process

Why do firms in some industries ignore patents when developing new products? This paper posits a simple but novel answer to this long-puzzling question: firms ignore patents because they are unable to discover the patents their activities might infringe. The costs of finding relevant patents, which we call discovery costs, are prohibitively high.... In software, for example, patent clearance by all firms would require many times more hours of legal research than all patent lawyers in the United States can bill in a year. The result has been an explosion of patent litigation.
[Mulligan and Lee, "Scaling the Patent System," 06 Mar 2012]

Washington: No Speed Limit on Revolving Doors

Politician expects cush job at Dilbert's company for sponsoring tax breaks

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
[Aesop]


Kind stranger offers $20k at 17.9% APR so family can enjoy XMas

What's That Buzzing Sound?

Look at the latitude. Military budget, foreign wars, empire, Patriot Act, corporate welfare -- for starters. When you add those all up, that's a foundational convergence. Progressives should do so good.
[Ralph Nader, referring to the potential for cooperation between libertarians and the left, The American Conservative, 28 Sep 2011]
Bankers protesting for the Status Quo; New Yorker cover

In Government We Trust

Government is significantly different from anything else in society. It is the only institution that can legally threaten and initiate violence; that is, under color of law its officers may use physical force, up to and including lethal force -- not in defense of innocent life but against individuals who have neither threatened nor aggressed against anyone else.... That's not a controversial description of the State. Even people enthusiastic about government would agree.

Given this unique feature, then, why isn't everyone wary of the State? Whether or not one thinks it's necessary, it's dangerous by its very nature, and we ought to assume it will remain so no matter how many paper checks and balances and bills of rights are thought to contain it.

[Sheldon Richman, The Freeman, 16 Sep 2011]
List of the most corrupt banks in the US

The Right to be Idle

Grand Valley State University economist Hari Singh found that if Michigan had been a right-to-work state, the auto industry would have seen a 25 percent gain in jobs since 1965. Instead, it lost 56.6 percent just between 2002 and 2009, shrinking its work force by 165,777. In a functioning market, high unemployment would lead to lower wages. But in Michigan's auto industry, Singh found, wages actually rose 18.1 percent during that time. Unions congratulate themselves for protecting workers' wages, but they have imposed a heavy price on everyone else. Not a single foreign automaker has ever taken advantage of Michigan's legions of out-of-work but highly trained employees, preferring to train novices in right-to-work states.
[Shikha Dalmia, "Unions: The Cause of Michigan's Malaise," 27 Sep 2011]

Please Pick the Side of this Coin You Don't Like

Intersection between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party

To Print or Borrow: Selecting the Worst of Both Worlds

It is absurd to say that our country can issue $30,000,000 in bonds and not $30,000,000 in currency. Both are promises to pay; but one promise fattens the usurer, and the other helps the people. If the currency issued by the Government were no good, then the bonds issued would be no good either. It is a terrible situation when the Government, to increase the national wealth, must go into debt and submit to ruinous interest charges at the hands of men who control the fictitious values of gold.
[Thomas Edison, denouncing the issuance of bonds for a public works project when the printing of currency would be a better deal for the US taxpayer, Dec 1921]

The Effects of Inflation on $100

John Williams' ShadowStats currently [Jul 2011] has inflation running at 11%. Benjamin Franklin believed in the power of compounding interest. To see this run in reverse, witness the following chart where the value of $100 is halved twelve years sooner when the inflation rate raises just one percent, from 2% to 3%. At 11% inflation, $100 will halve its value in just six years.

inflation table

This Is Leadership?

Huge deficits, paltry cuts


High Tech Org Charts

Various org charts for high tech companies

Conflict of Interest. n. The Federal Reserve.

The non-partisan, investigative arm of Congress also determined that the [Federal Reserve] lacks a comprehensive system to deal with conflicts of interest, despite the serious potential for abuse. In fact, according to the report, the Fed provided conflict of interest waivers to employees and private contractors so they could keep investments in the same financial institutions and corporations that were given emergency loans. For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed's board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks for the Fed's emergency lending programs.
[Senator Bernie Sanders, Press Release, 21 Jul 2011]
Student Loan Burden   Student Loan Graphic

The Republican Congressional leadership should have ensured that it did not appoint individuals [to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission] who would be in the impossible position of judging themselves. Even if the leadership failed to do so and proposed such appointments, the appointees to the Commission should have recognized the inherent conflict of interest and displayed the integrity to decline appointment. There were many Republicans available with expertise in, for example, investigating elite white-collar criminals regardless of party affiliation. That was the most relevant expertise needed on the Commission. Few commissioners had any investigative expertise and none appears to have had any experience in investigating elite white-collar crimes. These Republicans, former Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs) and FBI agents would have played no role in the financial regulation or deregulation policies in the lead up to the crisis. They would not have had to judge their own policies and they would have brought the most useful expertise and experience to the Commission -- knowledge of financial fraud schemes and experience in leading complex investigative and analytical skills.
[William K. Black, explaining the Republican whitewash of the Financial Crisis, "How can the Architects of the Crisis Investigate It?" 28 Jan 2011]
Most Americans know about [the national] budget. What they don't know is that there is another budget of roughly equal heft, traditionally maintained in complete secrecy. After the financial crash of 2008, it grew to monstrous dimensions, as the government attempted to unfreeze the credit markets by handing out trillions to banks and hedge funds. And thanks to a whole galaxy of obscure, acronym-laden bailout programs, it eventually rivaled the "official" budget in size -- a huge roaring river of cash flowing out of the Federal Reserve to destinations neither chosen by the president nor reviewed by Congress, but instead handed out by fiat by unelected Fed officials using a seemingly nonsensical and apparently unknowable methodology.
[Matt Taibbi, "The Real Housewives of Wall Street," 12 Apr 2011]
If your point is: "Does Wall Street have unbelievable power over what goes on in Washington?" of couse they do! Why should anyone be shocked about that -- that's the case.... When they fought for deregulation ... do you know how much money [Wall Street] spent in a ten year period? It is estimated that they spent $5 billion. Of course they have enormous power.
[Senator Bernie Sanders, MSNBC interview, 07 May 2010]
The mottos for american corporate executives and american politicians are the same: By the Time They Figure Things Out, I'll Be Gone and You'll Be Gone.
[George L. Roman, 2011]

The U.S. now accounts for nearly 75 percent of NATO members' overall military spending. What are we doing in NATO anyway? ... Today, the alliance's main functions seem to be forcing the U.S. taxpayer to subsidize Europe's generous welfare states, and periodically embroiling us in conflicts, like Kosovo and Libya, that we'd be smarter to avoid.

There are lessons to be learned from the Libyan debacle. For us, the main lesson is that NATO long ago outlived its usefulness. For Europe, it's that foreign adventurism doesn't come cheap. If you think these things are worth doing, pay your own way, and finish the fights you start.

[Gene Healy, "Time for the U.S. to Get Out of NATO," 26 Apr 2011]

It's no secret that early generations of Social Security beneficiaries got more out of the system than they paid into it. Beneficiaries in the 1940s and 1950s paid very low Social Security taxes for only a few years, then retired and received benefits for the rest of their lives. Until recently, in fact, almost all generations of retirees fared rather well. After all, the combined employer and employee tax rate for Old Age, Survivors, and Disability insurance, or OASDI, was kept low relative to benefits that would later be received. That combined rate equaled only 3.0 percent of earnings in 1950 and 6.0 percent in 1960, and it didn't rise to its still-inadequate level of 12.4 percent until the late 1980s. Since most of these revenues weren't saved, the increased OASDI tax rate supported ever-rising transfers to beneficiaries.

The most recent waves of retirees getting Social Security can make a stronger case that they have paid for their benefits. The complication is that their Social Security taxes mainly supported their parents in retirement, and the only way they can do as well in a money-in-money-out (at times partially funded) system is to foist higher tax rates on their children.

[C. Eugene Steuerle, explaining how a Ponzi scheme works, "Are You Paying Your Fair Share for Medicare?" 06 Jan 2011]
We believe there is a material risk that US policymakers might not reach an agreement on how to address medium- and long-term budgetary challenges by 2013; if an agreement is not reached and meaningful implementation is not begun by then, this would in our view render the U.S. fiscal profile meaningfully weaker than that of peer 'AAA' sovereigns.
[Standard & Poor's, accurately rating the outlook on US Treasury bonds -- which were disasterously impacted by the grossly inaccurate ratings issued by Standard & Poor's on US housing bonds in the previous decade, 18 Apr 2011]
We don't want to change the bankers, because if we do, if we put honest people in who didn't cause the problem, their first job would be to find the scope of the problem. And that would destroy the cover up.... Geithner was one of our nation's top regulators during the entire subprime scandal that I just described. He took absolutely no effective action. He gave no warning. He did nothing in response to the FBI warning that there was an epidemic of fraud. All this pig in the poke stuff happened under him. So, in his phrase about legacy assets -- he's a failed legacy regulator.... Until you get the facts, it's harder to blow all this up. And, of course, the entire strategy is to keep people from getting the facts about how bad the condition of the banks is. So, as long as I keep the old CEO who caused the problems, is he going to go vigorously around finding the problems? Finding the frauds? ... Instead you're covering up the bank losses, because you know, you say you need confidence. And so, we have to lie to the people to create confidence. And it doesn't work. You will cause your recession to continue and continue. And the Japanese call it the lost decade -- that was the result. So, now we get in trouble, and what do we do? We adopt the Japanese approach of lying about the assets. And you know what? It's working just as well as it did in Japan.
[William K. Black; explaining the Washington cover up of the fraud committed during the housing crisis, "Bill Moyers Journal," 03 Apr 2009]
I meet -- very rarely -- musicians who take what they do as seriously as I do, and I'm kind of fanatic about it. There's a part of me in my journey that always keeps reminding me: "Don't forget where you came from; don't forget what first inspired you; always honor that stuff" and I look for that in other players, and when I find it I'm attracted to them. Steve [Winwood] is one of the first people I met with that commitment -- and there's not that many.
[Eric Clapton, describing his commitment to excellence, "Road to Madison Square Garden," 2009]
If people don't stand up for their little rights, all their big rights will be gone.
[Cynthia Willis, a medical marijuana user explaining why she fights to keep her Second Amendment rights, 04 Apr 2011]
Not all regulations are created equal. A 1980 ban on unvented space heaters cost around $100,000 per life saved (in 1995 dollars), according to an article in the Fall 2002 issue of Regulation magazine. By contrast, a 1991 rule governing the chemical 1,2-Dichloropropane in drinking water cost $1.9 billion per life saved. Since money is finite, it makes sense to spend regulatory dollars where they will do the most good. The platitudinous statement that "if it saves one life, it's worth it" is not only wrong, but tragically wrong if the resources used to save that one life could have saved 500 others. And sometimes, regulations actually have the opposite effect of that intended. There is even a term for the phenomenon -- the Peltzman Effect, named after Sam Peltzman, a University of Chicago economist who found that seat-belt laws and other safety measures often encourage more reckless driving. (This has been demonstrated in, among other places, Drachten, Holland, where the frequency of accidents at a particular intersection declined after lights and traffic signals were removed.)
[A. Barton Hinkle, "Government's Work Is Never Done," 22 Mar 2011]
Kelley Williams-Bolar

My initial reaction to this was outrage. I sat at my computer, heart pounding, eyes tearing, because when you peel off all the layers, you have this: a woman (who works with special education children and was attending school for her teaching degree) is being vilified because she wanted something better for her children. And we can't possibly ignore the racial aspect of this situation. A poor BLACK woman on public assistance is being jailed for sending her kids to the rich white school. I'm not arguing whether this is how it should be looked at; I'm saying that is how it is looked at. It's questionable at this point whether the teaching degree she's been working toward will be allowed, because she has a felony charge against her. A family's life is in virtual ruins because of this situation.

[Elon James White, describing the results of one mother's frustration with her government-owned-and-operated school system, "Kelley Williams-Bolar: Mom jailed for wanting to give kids a better life," 25 Jan 2011]
US Debt Circus

We passed this Dodd-Frank reform legislation last year and we applauded and patted ourselves on the back for having fixed the problem. That legislation didn't fix anything! It wouldn't have prevented the last crisis; won't prevent the next one and we are exposed to another crisis. If we don't get proper reform legislation in place, we will not have done anything but address some symptoms and we will be back in the soup again....

That's the danger of passing a bad bill.... The problem is it takes all of the momentum out of the reform effort... they think we're done on financial reform, so I'm not optimistic that we're going to get this addressed....

I don't think we've reformed Wall St in a meaningful way. I'm very concerned that we have a huge amount of concentration of risk and economic and political power in our financial system: The five largest banks in the country control more than 50% of the banking system? I think we all ought to be concerned about that. Dodd-Frank didn't address that at all -- that is something that must be addressed and Dodd-Frank punted on that issue. I think all Americans ought to be upset that Congress did not take seriously this financial crisis and respond to it appropriately.

[Bill Isaac, former chairman of the FDIC, 11 Mar 2011]

A security is a contract in law. It can only be as good as the legal system that stands behind it. Some fraud is inevitable, but in a functioning system it must be rare. It must be considered -- and rightly -- a minor problem. If fraud -- or even the perception of fraud -- comes to dominate the system, then there is no foundation for a market in the securities. They become trash. And more deeply, so do the institutions responsible for creating, rating and selling them. Including, so long as it fails to respond with appropriate force, the legal system itself....

There must be a thorough, transparent, effective, radical cleaning of the financial sector and also of those public officials who failed the public trust. The financiers must be made to feel, in their bones, the power of the law. And the public, which lives by the law, must see very clearly and unambiguously that this is the case.

[James K. Galbraith, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, 04 May 2010]
All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.
[Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service, 16 Aug 1937]
UNIX is a simple language, easy to understand, easy to get started with. It's great for students, great for somewhat casual users, and it's great for interchanging programs between different machines.... It is our belief, however, that serious professional users will run out of things they can do with UNIX. They'll want a real system and will end up doing VMS when they get to be serious about programming. With UNIX, if you're looking for something, you can easily and quickly check that small manual and find out that it's not there. With VMS, no matter what you look for -- it's literally a five-foot shelf of documentation -- if you look long enough it's there. That's the difference -- the beauty of UNIX is it's simple; and the beauty of VMS is that it's all there.
[Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, DECWORLD Vol. 8 No. 5, 1984]
[It's a] severance program with an involuntary methodology.
[Digital Equipment Corporation, avoiding the word "layoff" in a formal R.I.F. statement, Electronic News, 14 Jan 1991]
"Chaos," "a headache," "turmoil," "craziness," "confused," "wild," "uncontrolled" are just a few of the words the Washington press corps has used to describe the ensuing late-night debates. There's a far better word for what happened: democracy. It has been eons since the nation's elected representatives have had to study harder, debate with such earnestness, or commit themselves so publicly. Yes, it is messy. Yes, it is unpredictable. But as this Presidents Day approaches, it's a fabulous thing to behold.
[Kimberley A. Strassel, "Congress Finally Earns Its Pay," 18 Feb 2011]

If the Bush/Cheney regime had really believed that Saddam Hussein had world-threatening weapons of mass destruction, it would have been a criminal act to concentrate America's invading force in a small area of Kuwait where a few WMD could have wiped out the entire U.S. invasion force, thus ending the war before it began. Some Americans are so thoughtless that they would say that Saddam Hussein would never have used the weapons, because we would have done this and that to Iraq, even nuking Baghdad. But why would Saddam Hussein care if he and his regime were already marked for death? Why would a doomed man desist from inflicting an extraordinary defeat on the American Superpower, thus encouraging Arabs everywhere? Moreover, if Saddam Hussein was unwilling to use his WMD against an invading force, when would he ever use them? It was completely obvious to the U.S. government that no such weapons existed. The weapons inspectors made that completely clear to the Bush/Cheney regime. There were no Iraqi WMD, and everyone in the U.S. government was apprised of that fact.
[Paul Craig Roberts, "The Shame of Being an American," 17 Feb 2011]

Gropers Wanted

To understand the scrape we are in, it may help, a little, to understand the system we left behind. A proper gold standard was a well-oiled machine. The metal actually moved and, so moving, checked what are politely known today as "imbalances." Say a certain baseball-loving North American country were running a persistent trade deficit. Under the monetary system we don't have and which only a few are yet even talking about instituting, the deficit country would remit to its creditors not pieces of easily duplicable paper but scarce gold bars. Gold was money -- is, in fact, still money -- and the loss would set in train a series of painful but necessary adjustments in the country that had been watching baseball instead of making things to sell. Interest rates would rise in that deficit country. Its prices would fall, its credit would be curtailed, its exports would increase and its imports decrease. At length, the deficit country would be restored to something like competitive trim. The gold would come sailing back to where it started. As it is today, dollars are piled higher and higher in the vaults of America's Asian creditors. There's no adjustment mechanism, only recriminations and the first suggestion that, from the creditors' point of view, enough is enough.
[James Grant, "Requiem for the Dollar," 05 Dec 2010]

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
[Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, 1933]

The way to increase the concentration of [your] wealth is to partner with the State so the Central State functionaries and agencies funnel ever-larger shares of the national income to your cartel or quasi-monopoly while the State suppresses or marginalizes [your] potential competitors. The more wealth you concentrate, then the more political power you can purchase.
[Charles Hugh Smith, "Concentrated Wealth and the Purchase of Political Power: Democracy's Death Spiral," 29 Oct 2010]

Slots machines versus voting machines


Obama is morphing into Worthless Bush

The Obama administration is continuing the Bush administration policy of refusing to comply with the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) law.... [R]egulators have twisted the term ["too big to fail"] into immunity. Massive insolvent banks are not placed in receivership, their senior managers are left in place, and the taxpayers secretly subsidize their risk capital. This policy is indefensible. It is also unlawful. It violates the Prompt Corrective Action law. If it is continued it will cause future crises and recurrent scandals.
[Prof. William Black, explaining why the United States is now a banana republic, "Black's Proposal for Systemically Dangerous Institutions," 10 Sep 2009]

Dilbert Knows Regulatory Capture

Obama is a Cretin after All

The United States Patent and Trademark Office grants patents for vague ideas, obvious processes and usage models and even the most mundane software user interface conventions. Our patent system is so under-funded, its mission, criteria and processes so broken and ill-suited to today's economy that the best solution is to just dismantled the patent office and start over.
[Mike Elgan, "Why Mobile Patents are Such a Mess," 28 Apr 2010]

With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle, at least not without a period of austerity and significant changes. The countries are trying to reassure investors by cutting salaries, raising legal retirement ages, increasing work hours and reducing health benefits and pensions.

"We’re now in rescue mode," said Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister. "But we need to transition to the reform mode very soon. The ‘reform deficit’ is the real problem," he said, pointing to the need for structural change.

[Steven Erlanger on the end of government-sponsored social Ponzi schemes in Europe, "Europeans Fear Crisis Threatens Liberal Benefits," 23 May 2010]

The Legacy of the Federal Reserve

Massive devaluation of the dollar since 1913

Yeah, my -- my fear is that, uh, the whole island [of Guam] will, uh, become so overly populated that it will tip over and, uh, and capsize.
[Congressman Hank Johnson, collecting $174k a year while painfully revealing a gross lack of understanding about simple geographic formations, 31 Mar 2010]
We have, I think, an excessive degree of concern right now about home ownership and its role in the economy.... We are talking here about an entity -- home ownership, homes -- where there is not the degree of leverage we have seen elsewhere.... Homes that are occupied may see an ebb and flow in [their] price at a certain percentage level, but you're not going to see the collapse that you see when people talk about a bubble, and so those of us -- on our committee in particular -- will continue to push for home ownership.
[Congressman Barney Frank, oblivious to the massive leverage being utilized by Wall Street and the GSEs at the time, in a speech on the House floor, 27 Jun 2005]
Hugh McCulloch, our first Comptroller of the Currency in 1863, ... proposed that the National Bank Act "be so amended that the failure of a national bank be declared prima facie fraudulent, and that the officers and directors, under whose administration such insolvency shall occur, be made personally liable for the debts of the bank, and be punished criminally, unless it shall appear, upon investigation, that its affairs were honestly administered." Under such a regime, moral hazard surely would not exist.
[Alan Greenspan, "The Crisis," 09 Mar 2010]

Wall Street Pigs Own Washington

Around the same time that finance reform was being watered down in Congress at the behest of [Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner], Obama was making a pit stop to raise money from Wall Street. On October 20th, the president went to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York and addressed some 200 financiers and business moguls, each of whom paid the maximum allowable contribution of $30,400 to the Democratic Party. But an organizer of the event, Daniel Fass, announced in advance that support for the president might be lighter than expected -- bailed-out firms like JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs were expected to contribute a meager $91,000 to the event -- because bankers were tired of being lectured about their misdeeds.

“The investment community feels very put-upon,” Fass explained. “They feel there is no reason why they shouldn't earn $1 million to $200 million a year, and they don't want to be held responsible for the global financial meltdown.”

[Matt Taibbi, "Obama's Big Sellout," 09 Dec 2009]

Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ``the buck stops here.'' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit.
[Barack Obama, speech on the Senate floor, 16 Mar 2006]

Because this massive accumulation of debt was predicted, because it was foreseeable, because it was unnecessary, because it was the result of willful and reckless disregard for the warnings that were given and for the fundamentals of economic management, I am voting against the debt limit increase.
[Joe Biden, speech on the Senate floor, 16 Mar 2006]

Listen, I had a point of view when I was bashing business and won 19 Emmys as a consumer reporter. None of my colleagues were bothered by that. It only became bothersome to people when I became a libertarian and began criticizing government.... Every TV reporter has a point of view. Did Edward R. Murrow have a point of view? When he was bashing Senator [Joseph] McCarthy, which is what everybody loves him for, he certainly did.
[John Stossel, Describing media bias at ABC, 08 Dec 2009]

Anything that is too big to fail is too big to exist.
[Simon Johnson, "The Quiet Coup," May 2009]

The Death Star: Too Big to Fail

At this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained.
[Ben Bernanke, Testimony before the Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress, 28 Mar 2007]

There is no crowd in crowdsourcing. There are only virtuosos, usually uniquely talented, highly trained people who have worked for decades in a field. Frequently, these innovators have been funded through failure after failure. From their fervent brains spring new ideas. The crowd has nothing to do with it. The crowd solves nothing, creates nothing.
[Dan Woods, "The Myth of Crowdsourcing," 29 Sep 2009]

When thievery is resorted to for the means with which to do good, compassion is killed. Those who would do good with the loot then lose their capacity for self-reliance, the same as a thief's self-reliance atrophies rapidly when he subsists on food that is stolen. And those who are repeatedly robbed of their property simultaneously lose their capacity for compassion.
[F.A. Harper, Essays on Liberty, 1952]

The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is [cloud computing]? It's complete gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?
[Larry Ellison, Oracle CEO, Sep 2008]

Like [Peter] Cohan, those who continually blame insufficient regulation for our present plight offer little or no evidence. They rely instead on the implicit assumption that if only the regulations had been much stricter, the bankers and other business-sector malefactors never would have perpetrated their evil deeds. This faith in the regulators is touching, to be sure, but it is also extremely naïve. We now have -- and long have had -- miles of regulations on the books and legions of regulators at work in scores of government agencies. What specific power did they lack? And had they been given even greater powers, budgets, and staffs, what enchantment would have transformed these ostensible guardians into smart, dogged champions of the public interest, rather than the time-serving drones and co-conspirators with the regulated firms that they have always been?
[Robert Higgs, "Did Small Government Cause Our Current Problems?" 09 Sep 2009]

CNN time pie chart

Money raining down on Wall St Execs

Enumerated categories of uninsured

Iranians protesting against crooked elections, unlike in the US

We only support three operating systems: Windows, Apple Macintosh, and Mozzarella Firefox.
[Comcast Internet Tech Support engineer; Confusing operating systems, browsers, and pizza in the same sentence; 09 Jun 2009]

When I was young, First Boston Company was an honorable and constructive firm and very much served the surrounding civilization. Investment banking at the height of this last folly was a disgrace to the surrounding civilization.
[Charlie Munger, "Stanford Lawyer," Spring 2009]

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending [sub-prime mortgages], Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.
[Steven A. Holmes, predicting the sub-prime meltdown nine years before it happened, "Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending," 30 Sep 1999]

War is not the answer to the challenges we face ... and to persist in following that path is to invite inevitable overextension, bankruptcy, and ruin.
[Col. Andrew Basevich, "The Limits of Power; The End of American Exceptionalism," 2008]

We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.
[Shannon Mooney, an employee of Standard & Poor's ratings agency, in an instant message to a colleague, Apr 2007]

I hope that you have re-read the Constitution of the United States in these past few weeks. Like the Bible, it ought to be read again and again.
[Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fireside Chat, 09 Mar 1937]

Public pension promises are huge and, in many cases, funding is woefully inadequate. Because the fuse on this time bomb is long, politicians flinch from inflicting tax pain, given that the problems will only become apparent long after these officials have departed.
[Warren Buffett, letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, 2008]

I thought there would have been at least 200 [banks] closed down in '08. There were only about 25 or 30. They're going at a very slow pace because they know how deep and ugly the problem is. They're terrified to have the American public know just how many banks out there are insolvent. And they're afraid of a panic if they start closing down hundreds of banks.
[John Jacquemin, Manager of Mooring Capital, "Why The Street Hates Geithner," Forbes, 18 Feb 2009]

As we have seen over the past few weeks, the country's biggest banks -- Bank of America and Citigroup -- are deteriorating rapidly. They will need far more bailout money beyond the $350 billion of taxpayer cash and guarantees they have already received.

Note that the money already dumped into the black holes of these two financial institutions far exceeds their net worth. And in exchange for this foolish investment, taxpayers have received just 6% of Bank of America, and 7.8% of Citigroup. This is absurd. How [an investment equaling] 120% of a company's market cap yields a single digit ownership stake is beyond my comprehension.
[Barry Ritholtz, "Nationalize Now," 26 Jan 2009]


What Wall Street Wants, Wall Street Gets

12-month spending towers over spending across decades

Government Bailout: the act of taking money from people and businesses that didn't make mistakes and giving it to businesses that made lots of them.
[Radley Balko, "Washington's Wealth Boom," 14 Jan 2009]

If any private corporation employed the same accounting tricks Congress and the White House use to hide the government's massive debt and financial liabilities, its board and executive officers would all be in prison. In the government, it's common practice.
[Radley Balko, "Corporatism, Not Capitalism," 24 Sep 2008]

As long as you've got $3 trillion being taxed and spent by the federal government, people are going to want to get control of that.
[David Boaz, "The System Is Rigged for Incumbents," 17 Oct 2008]

The Fed's real objective here is to promote a combination of fear mongering about deflation to justify keeping interest rates at zero, while at the same time promoting as much inflation as possible in an attempt to orchestrate a massive stealth devaluation of the U.S. dollar and short-changing of all foreign investors in U.S. assets.
[Christopher Grey, "Is It Twilight in America?" 06 Jan 2009]

We hate you guys. Once you start issuing $1 trillion - $2 trillion ... we know the dollar is going to depreciate, so we hate you guys but there is nothing much we can do.
[Luo Ping, a director-general at the China Banking Regulatory Commission, 10 Feb 2009]

Five days before [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson struck his deal with the banks, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown negotiated a similar bailout -- only he extracted meaningful guarantees for taxpayers: voting rights at the banks, seats on their boards, 12 percent in annual dividend payments to the government, a suspension of dividend payments to shareholders, restrictions on executive bonuses, and a legal requirement that the banks lend money to homeowners and small businesses.

In sharp contrast, this is what U.S. taxpayers received: no controlling interest, no voting rights, no seats on the bank boards and just five percent in dividend payouts to the government, while shareholders continue to collect billions in dividends every quarter. What's more, golden parachutes and bonuses already promised by the banks will still be paid out to executives -- all before taxpayers are paid back.

No wonder it took just one hour for Paulson to convince all nine CEOs to accept his offer -- less than seven minutes per bank. Not even the firms' own lawyers could have drafted a sweeter deal.
[Naomi Klein, "The Bailout Profiteers," 31 Oct 2008]

You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.
[Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama's Chief of Staff, 18 Nov 2008]

So when [Treasury Secretary] Henry Paulson argues that it is necessary to pump money into credit markets to prevent them from freezing up, he doesn't bother to realize that the money he pumps into the credit markets is coming directly out of the very same credit markets. He is doing little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; shuffling the money from one set of financial intermediaries to another does not increase either liquidity or solvency. It merely delays the problem for a few brief moments.

Even the failing banks pay lip service to their fiduciary responsibility, but any privately funded firm that took money from more-productive people to give it to less-productive people would soon go out of business. Only the government can violate Hazlitt's logic and survive, because only government can socialize its losses through the tax system.
[Scott A. Kjar, "Henry Hazlitt on the Bailout," 15 Oct 2008]

Not only have individual financial institutions become less vulnerable to shocks from underlying risk factors, but also the financial system as a whole has become more resilient.
[Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, 2004]

It's a safe banking system, a sound banking system. Our regulators are on top of it. This is a very manageable situation.
[Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, less than two months before asking Congress for an emergency $700 billion in bailout funds, 20 Jul 2008]

In late June, when I tried to sign up on McCainSpace -- the analogue to MyBO [Barack Obama's networking site] -- I got error messages. When I tried again, I was informed that I would soon get a new password in my in-box. It never arrived.
[David Talbot, "How Obama Really Did It," Technology Review, Sep/Oct 2008]

Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth -- in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.
[Sam Harris, Newsweek, 29 Sep 2008]

Cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace ... avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt.
[George Washington, Farewell Address, 26 September 1796]

When a country is not on a gold standard, when its citizens are not even permitted to own gold, when they are told that irredeemable paper money is just as good, when they are compelled to accept payment in such paper of debts or pensions that are owed to them, when what they have put aside, for retirement or old age, in savings banks or insurance policies, consists of this irredeemable paper money, then they are left without protection as the issue of this paper money is increased and the purchasing power of each unit falls; then they can be completely impoverished by the political decisions of the 'monetary managers.'
[Henry Hazlitt]

Under a fiat money standard, governments (or their central banks) may obligate themselves to bail out, with increased issues of standard money, any bank or any major bank in distress. In the late nineteenth century, the principle became accepted that the central bank must act as the 'lender of last resort,' which will lend money freely to banks threatened with failure. Another recent American device to abolish the confidence limitation on bank credit is 'deposit insurance,' whereby the government guarantees to furnish paper money to redeem the banks' demand liabilities. These and similar devices remove the market brakes on rampant credit expansion.
[Murray Rothbard, "Man, Economy, and State," 1962]

We are in our present position because government has burdened us with taxes, spending, debt, regulations, subsidies, guarantees (to lenders, for example), trade restrictions, fiat money, and other impositions. Between the endless domestic schemes and war, we are being crushed by the weight of the state. We don't need a stimulus. We need freedom.
[Sheldon Richman, "An Unstimulating Idea," 25 Jan 2008]

The United States is a democratic nation. Here, the people rule. We build no walls to keep them in, nor organize any system of police to keep them mute. We occupy no country -- the only land abroad we occupy is beneath the graves where our heroes rest.

What is called the "West" is a voluntary association of free nations, all of whom fiercely value their independence and their sovereignty. And as deeply as we cherish our beliefs, we do not seek to compel others to share them.

When we enjoy these vast freedoms as we do, it's difficult for us to understand the restrictions of dictatorships, which seek to control each institution and every facet of people's lives -- the expression of their beliefs, their movements and their contacts with the outside world. It's difficult for us to understand the ideological premise that force is an acceptable way to expand a political system.

We Americans do not accept that any government has the right to command and order the lives of its people; that any nation has an historic right to use force to export its ideology.
[Ronald Reagan, Speech to the UN General Assembly, 24 Oct 1985]

All of us have heard this term 'preventative war' since the earliest days of Hitler. I recall that is about the first time I heard it. In this day and time... I don't believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn't even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing.
[Dwight D. Eisenhower, Press conference, 1953]

The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without.
[Dwight D. Eisenhower]

Un-American activity cannot be prevented or routed out by employing un-American methods; to preserve freedom we must use the tools that freedom provides.
[Dwight D. Eisenhower, "The White House Years," p. 331]

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.
[Dwight D. Eisenhower, Inaugural Address, 20 Jan 1953]

I made my arguments and went down in flames. History will prove me right. This is an exercise in folly.
[George W. Bush, casting the lone vote against Major League Baseball Wild Card expansion, 1994]

It is no accident that, with the Wild Card in full flower, Major League Baseball is headed toward its fourth straight season of record attendance.
[Mike Bauman, Baseball Perspectives, 06 Sep 2007]

Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded. They are barred from the latter functions by a great principle in free government, analogous to that which separates the sword from the purse, or the power of executing from the power of enacting laws.
[James Madison, "Helvidius" No. 1 [August 24, 1793], from James Madison: Writings (Library of America, 1999)]

What strikes me as ridiculous is the right-wing view that government is incompetent and dangerous domestically -- at least in economic and social affairs -- but has some sort of Midas Touch internationally such that it can bring freedom, democracy, and justice to any land its troops deign to invade. Not that the right wing is principled enough to pursue its domestic views, but I'm speaking here of its campaign rhetoric and higher-level of critique of government that you find in their periodicals and books. The precise critique of government that they offer for the welfare state and regulatory measures -- they are expensive, counterproductive, hobble human energies -- applies many times over to international interventions.
[Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., "The Foreign Policy of Ron Paul," 21 May 2007]

When a private individual meditates an undertaking, however connected it may be with the welfare of society, he never thinks of soliciting the cooperation of the government; but he publishes his plan, offers to execute it, courts the assistance of other individuals, and struggles manfully against all obstacles. Undoubtedly he is often less successful than the state might have been in his position; but in the end, the sum of these private undertakings far exceeds all that the government could have done.
[Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America," Book 1, 1835]

But it would be a simpler and less dangerous remedy to grant no privilege to any, giving to all equal cultivation and equal independence, and leaving every one to determine his own position. Natural inequality will soon make way for itself, and wealth will spontaneously pass into the hands of the most capable.
[Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America," Book 1, 1835]

Of the 56 banks that failed in the U.S. between 1959 and 1971, 34 had passed their most recent examination in a 'no-problem' category, and 17 of the 34 had been given an 'excellent' rating!
[Rep. St Germain (D-RI), commenting on the failure of government regulations, quoted in Stephen Pizzo's "Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans," p. 475]

What could account for the weakness of our credit markets? Why does the Fed need to intervene at the drop of a market? The reasons have to do with an idea set firmly in place in the 1930s and expanded at every crises up to the present. This is the notion that, while the risks inherent in the business of lending and borrowing should be borne by the public, the profits of that line of work should mainly accrue to the lenders and borrowers.
[James Grant, The Fed's Subprime Solution, NYT, 26 Aug 2007]

Actually, my views are probably leaning toward a libertarian point of view ... Not liberal. Liberal always has the connotation of somebody that wants to spend somebody else's money. And conservatives don't want to spend any of their own money. But libertarians love independence, and I like everyone leaving everyone else alone. I've never approved of government meddling. Whatever people want to do is fine as long as you're not bothering anybody else.
[Clint Eastwood, Rolling Stone Magazine, 17 Sep 1992]

Broadly speaking, Democrats want to protect you from the physical threats posed by habits such as smoking, overeating, and crossing the street while listening to an iPod. Republicans are more interested in protecting you from the moral threats posed by temptations such as drugs, gambling, and pornography. Between them, they've got you covered, body and soul.
[Jacob Sullum, "Who's Your Nanny?" 28 Feb 2007]

If you can't explain something to a six-year-old, you really don't understand it yourself.
[Albert Einstein]

The only justifiable purpose of political institutions is to insure the unhindered development of the individual.
[Albert Einstein]

The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.
[Albert Einstein, "My First Impression of the U.S.A.," 1921]

Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.
[Patrick Henry, During Virginia's ratification convention, 1788]

In private, you got what you got in public. He treated everyone the same. He was just a very warm man, and he worked hard to impress upon his children the value of kindness. He was biologically incapable of gossip. There was no smallness in him.
[Ron Reagan, about his father Ronald Reagan, New York Times, 27 Jun 2004]

The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible.
[A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express)]

Great things will never happen with VCs or professional managers. They have high drive, but they don't have the creativity or the insight. Some do, but most don't.
[Elon Musk, Entrepreneur of the Year, Inc. Magazine, Dec 2007]

It's OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket. The problem with the Silicon Valley financing model is that you lose control after the first investment round.
[Elon Musk, Entrepreneur of the Year, Inc. Magazine, Dec 2007]

See, when the government spends money, it creates jobs; whereas when the money is left in the hands of the taxpayers, God only knows what they do with it. Bake it into pies, probably. Anything to avoid creating jobs.
[Dave Barry]

The recruiters-who-use-grep are riduculed here, and for good reason. I have never met anyone who can do Scheme, Haskell, and C pointers who can't pick up Java in two days, and create better Java code than people with five years of experience in Java, but try explaining that to the average HR drone.
[Joel Spolsky, "The Perils of Java Schools," 2005]

Combined with effective business processes, technology lets you accomplish four basic things: reduce cost, reduce cycle time, increase quality and increase flexibility. If you can do all four at the same time, you're a winner.
[Lawrence D. Runge, "Experience Pays," Software Development Magazine, Jan 2004]

To say that competition is going to improve education? It's just not gonna work. You know competition is not for children. It's not for human beings. It's not for public education. It never has been, it never will be.
[Public school teacher Ruth Holmes Cameron, arguing against school choice, 2005]

The moment a person forms a theory his imagination sees in every object only the traits which favor that theory.
[Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Charles Thompson, 20 Sep 1787]

There is not that much talent in the world. There are very few people in very few closets in very few rooms that are really talented and can't get out. People with talent and expertise at making entertainment products are not going to be displaced by 1,800 people coming up with their videos that they think are going to have an appeal.
[Barry Diller, when asked if he was concerned about the threat of broadband to the entertainment industry, Web 2.0 Conference, 06 Oct 2005]

Well now home entertainment was my baby's wish
So I hopped into town for a setellite dish
I tied it to the top of my Japanese car
I came home and I pointed it out to the stars
A message came back from the great beyond
There's fifty-seven channels and nothin' on.
[Bruce Springsteen]

Every time the president comes up with a new secret tactic to down al Qaeda, the media blows its cover: torture, monitoring our phone calls, monitoring our e-mails, secret prisons. All perfectly reasonable temporary concessions of freedom that will only be in effect as long as our never-ending war on terror.
[Stephen Colbert, Jul 2006]

I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is 'needed' before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents' "interests," I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.
[Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative, 1960]

If you need a dozen lawyers involved every time you want to do something, it's going to be a huge barrier. We need to make sure that intellectual property is not used as a barrier to growth in the future.
[IBM CEO Samuel J. Palmisano, explaining why IBM will be publishing its patent filings on the web for public review, Sep 2006]

In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from the long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time -- literally -- substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.
[Peter F. Drucker, Managing Knowledge Means Managing Oneself, Leader to Leader, Spring 2000]

For there to be a problem here, you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software. I don't believe these evil elections people exist.
[David Bear, a spokesman for Diebold Election Systems, on the likelihood that election results will be manipulated, despite the fact that candidates spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to win elections, New York Times, 12 May 2006]

Diebold Machines subvert election

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