Monday, January 31, 2005

Back from the Bahamas

And as I settle in and start catching up with the usual suspects (see sidebar to the right), and run accross Discoshaman's post regarding the Philly 5. I wrote earlier about this situation, and agree wholeheartedly with his assesment.

Thought crimes are scary stuff. It's not long before the government decides an opinion you hold is not "progressive" and requires felony level punishment. Sign the petition, get these people out of jail, and then organize a letter writing campaign informing them that they are still morons.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Keeping Government Out of Our Markets

I've written previously about Tyler Cowen's misgivings with the Bush proposal of social security privatization. Here, he makes the excellent point there is tremendous danger of governmental interference in the markets.

CFO magazine outlines the possibility of a market "bubble" caused by the artificial influx of dollars into the equity markets as a result of this legislation. This via the Mises Economics blog, which refers to all of this as the result of "distorted price signals".

So, there's plenty of reason to criticize the Bush plan. But the dems persist in pretending the current system is ideal, rather than attacking it based on it's economic merits. Of course, economic analysis has never been a weapon in the asses' playbook, and if they did try to apply it here, the arguement would inevitably end up with the conclusion that the program should be ended, and that, of course, is antithetical to all that they stand for.

Bull... uh... loney

From today's Inquirer

Mayor Street's top aide testified today that he was not referring to political contributions when he balked in July 2003 about a proposal to give work to a financial-services firm that "doesn't give" and doesn't "even arrange for us to get money."


After White said it was "because of Denis, Denis Carlson, whose been with us for the last 10 years," Burrell said, "... All I know he's, he's at Janney Montgomery Scott and he can't give us any money and Janney doesn't give. They don't even arrange for us to get money."

"Did you mean political contributions?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan L. Markman during cross-examination.

"No," replied Burrell.

He testified that he had been referring to civic-leadership activity as well as support for the Welcome American program and the Avenue of the Arts.

"My intention was to deal with the fact that Janney Montgomery Scott was not one who was actively involved in local issues," Burrell said.

So, not only are they corrupt, they think we are idiots.

Of course, 58% of the city DID vote for this administration.

Ukrainian Blog I've Neglected


A great rundown on all sorts of angles I wasn't aware of, including the latest info on Yushchenko's poisoning:

· Britain's germ warfare laboratory in Porton Down has received a biopsy of his skin which shows several poisoning attempts over a four-week period.

· Not one but two deadly poisons have been found in his body.

· Evidence has emerged that seems to link one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest staff members to the murder plot.

But hold up. Abdymok is telling us this is sensationalized, and even "unsubstantiated crap". I trust the truth in all of this will come out eventually, but for the moment I am left more confused and skeptical of all sides than ever before. Once apon a time, I would have run with the NYTimes account, unquestioning. Isn't the blogosphere great?

Special thanks on the heads up from the host himself. Lots of good snow-bound reading.

Did I mention I'm still in Philly? Did I mention it's snowing again?

I'm never getting out of this joint.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Where am I?

Does this look like the Bahamas to you?Posted by Hello

Hat Tip to DOT's

of Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Got home safely from my mother's place in suburban DC in order to pack for our flight tomorrow morning for the Bahamas. Given the conditions, these folks did a bang-up job, and we all know they've been working 12-18 hour shifts so we can have the convenience of driving around on Sunday afternoons.

So, if you're looking for me, I'll be here:

drinking something that would be frowned upon in South Philly out of a coconut shell with an umbrella in it.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Plot Becomes Thicker Still In Ukraine

I feel a bit like the adoring little brother trying to keep up with all the cool bloggers as they discuss the NY Times piece on the Ukranian SBU involvement in the Orange Revolution. Dan McMinn at Orange Ukraine has an interesting observation regarding SBU big shot Ihor Smeshko, the central figure in that Times story:

Smeshko, the lead SBU guy who is the hero of the little drama, and who apparently went to the US for the interview, has a really good reason to try to talk himself up. He's the "head of the Ukrainian Secret Services, at who's house Yushchenko ate just before coming down with the dioxin poisoning.

Publius Pundit has a follow up of his own.

Someone's REALLY gonna have to make a movie. Or perhaps a movie trilogy.

Yes, I'm Glad it Wasn't Kerry Being Inaugurated

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Anti-Gay Crusade in Virginia

Gets carried away:

- In 2004, Del. Robert Marshall sponsored the so-called Marriage Affirmation Act, a draconian law that not only bans civil unions, but may also strip gay people of their basic right to enter into private contracts, such as wills and medical directives with their life partners.


Another example is that of Fredericksburg-area couple Barbara and Tibby. Barbara, a therapist, and Tibby, a retired schoolteacher, have been together for 40-years and lived in Virginia for more than three decades. According to the Free Lance Star, in 2001, Barbara had a brain aneurysm. While she is still able to function, her long-term future is uncertain.

Thanks to Del. Marshall's Marriage Affirmation Act, the couple can't be sure that the legal contracts they once drew up will sufficiently protect Tibby if Barbara passes away. Although they would much rather stay in Virginia, they are moving to Maryland.

"The whole thing has been a nightmare," Barbara, told the Star. "The law has already accomplished what it set out to do - to squash us and to hurt us."

This is not a gay issue. This is an issue of private property. Governments that don't recognize private property are antithetical to freedom and prosperity. We can't allow governments to be invalidating contracts between consenting adults on the basis of "We don't like it." The inherent implication is that all you have belongs to the government, and you may only determine what happens to it with their approval.

via Andrew Sullivan

Bloggers for the "Head in the Sand" Approach

I couldn't disagree with these folks more, but I do think the fact that this debate is taking place in this manner in the blogosphere is wicked cool.

I find Will Wilkinson's argument much more compelling:

Advocates of status quo-ish approaches are stuck arguing that the future's going to thread the needle of conditions under which the system is viable. Now, I don't know, and neither do they, whether their favored forecast will become reality. But it remains that a well-designed institution should be robust under a broad range of future conditions. Our PAYGO system just isn't. Small differences in the rate of growth, rate of increase of life expectancy, and so on, shouldn't make or break the system. Of course, there is no system that can reliably withstand dramatic changes in any variable. But we should at least aim for a system that is fairly adaptive and robust against moderate changes in growth, population, employement, and aging.

New York Times a Ukranian SBU Pawn?

That's what a former Kuchma bodyguard who fled after recording tapes incriminating him in all sorts of nasty stuff is positing:

- Mr. Melnychenko, you've mentioned Smeshko... I wasn't going to ask you this question, but today one American newspaper has written that this very Smeshko rescued Ukraine from bloodshed during the Orange Revolution.

Mykola Melnychenko: I have to tell you that, very unfortunately, (and this has to be mentioned in the American court, in the Lazarenko case in California), the mafia's money, Kuchma's and others', is making things happen in the United States. Public officials, journalists and politicians are being bribed with this money - and they are doing what's good for Kuchma.

It is common knowledge that Smeshko was in Washington, and it's also known that he's got his people here. I do not exclude a possibililty that this article appeared as a result of lobbying by these people, or that certain information was deliberately leaked in order for Smeshko to appear white and fuzzy [harmless].

My head is spinning keeping all of this intrigue straight.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Bug Trials Continue

Tuesday, Charles LeCroy, boss of Anthony Snell, who pled guilty to wire fraud on Friday, likewise pled guilty in the pay-to-play case in which they paid deceased attorney Ron White for, um, well... nothing. Nothing that is, but the potential of access to confiscated tax payer dollars free from such annoyances as "competitive bidding" or "cost-benefit analysis". So, two big shot bankers have now been hit with reasonable punishment for contributing to the steaming dungheap of corruption that is Philadelphia's city government. That's probably more progress that has been made in fighting city corruption than the previous thirty years combined, and reason to celebrate on it's own. But more intriguing is the possiblility that further trials will do more than scratch the surface, and really begin to cut to the heart of the culture of bribery and extortion that saps the city of so many resources, costs the taxpayers enormous amounts of money, and undoubtedly drives business away.

The first two prosecutions have already shined official light on what has long been assumed, but is now part of official record in a court of law.

Mayor Street's voice is not heard on any of the 44 tapes released yesterday. Nor do the tapes or documents contain any evidence that he personally orchestrated any of the deals in question. Street has not been charged with wrongdoing.

But the hundreds of pages of conversations paint an unflattering portrait of business-as-usual in Street's City Hall.

They reveal how executives from J.P. Morgan Chase, the national municipal finance firm, Commerce Bank and others talked nakedly about ways to put money in the pockets of White and other Street allies - not for their legal acumen, but for their ability to get deals done.


In the many conversations between White and (former city treasurer Corey) Kemp, at times it is almost impossible to discern who is the public treasurer and who the private businessman.

During one call, Kemp patiently details a host of pending bond deals with White - and listens as White instructs him who to cut into the action.

At point, White grows exasperated when he hears the name of a pair of Wall Street investment houses slated to take part in a deal involving Philadelphia International Airport.

"You know what? I'm gonna change that..., man," White said. "I don't like that. I don't like Goldman [Sachs] and Bear Stearns on both of those."

Tremendous. So here we have an unelected individual determining who will recieve city contracts, and that individual is the recipient of a number of payments for services never rendered by competitors for these contracts. And those entities which haven't bribed him (enough anyways...) - "I don't like them on those"

And what happens if you happen to think that it's wrong that an unaccountable civilian should be making these decisions for the city? Well, ask Janice Davis, former city finance director:

Janice Davis, now the finance director in Atlanta, said White had phoned her office looking for inside information on a city insurance deal. Davis ignored the request, and as a result was called on the carpet by Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street.

"He said that Ron was a friend, and if there was no problem giving him information, I should give it to him," Davis said. "He was a little disturbed that I had kind of blown Ron off."

She testified that over the next few years, White made several calls a week to her office lobbying on behalf of financial services companies, and came to play an important role in selecting which were hired to help sell municipal bonds.

On some occasions, she said, companies that White favored were added to contracts solely because of his requests.

I'm sure this method of doing business really has the best interests of Philadelphia taxpayers and residents at heart.

There's more to come out this week in the trial of Dennis Carlson, former VP at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Meanwhile, there's more corruption investigation fun as the Feds file papers against Commerce Bank officials for playing the same game.

$40,000 loan to Street's son and a $150,000 loan to Street's former law partner, both perhaps reasonable - I have no inside knowledge of their respective incomes or credit histories - but again, the influence of one Ron White enters the picture:

White called the loan to Ross "important," prosecutors said, because Ross was in a position to "make an official recommendation to award a potentially lucrative government contract to a firm affiliated with White."

The question I have is this:

Prosecutors painting a picture of a shadow government, essentially being run by one Ron White. And Ron White is now deceased. Who is it that is controlling the purse strings now?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Jonathan Rauch on Social Security

Rauch writes for Reason magazine an intriguing piece outlining social security reform as more of a moral than an economic issue:

(Michael) Tanner (of the CATO Institute) argues that people who own assets behave differently and see their place in society in a different light. Private accounts, he says, would encourage a culture of saving and personal responsibility; they would discourage political class warfare; they may, he argues, improve work habits, and even reduce crime and other social pathologies.

I wholeheartedly agree, and the article is entirely correct that this is a huge portion of the impetus behind the reforms proposed.

There's one point I can't help but be repeatedly frustrated with though, and that's the failure of so many of these pundits to see the spike in the Social Security deficit that the baby boom creates. Sure, it's great for Rauch to point out that "Social Security outlays level off (as a share of gross domestic product) in the mid-2030s.", but what happens in the interim? Perhaps I'm hypersensitive to this issue, because I will be demographically hardest hit by this spike. The period about 10-15 years down the road, when the maximum number of retirees (baby boomers) is coupled with the fewest number of workers in their prime (baby busters) is where the problem lies. The kind of deficits Social Security and Medicare are going to run during this period could be devestating to the economy, and, for people my age, in the prime wealth-building years of our lives. When you break the infinite time horizon down into pieces, you find that this is very much an economic issue, with a nice little icing of positive social engineering.

And Further Related Intrigue

From A Step at A Time via Publius Pundit, a translation of an interview from a chemist who once worked at a Soviet chemical warfare research center, with this conclusion:

Can we conclude that the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko was the work of the heirs of the KGB?

Why the heirs? It's the KGB. I am convinced that the special services of Ukraine or Russia were involved in the poisoning. Kiev also had an Institute of Toxicology and Occupational Pathology. But as far as I know they never had anything to do with dioxins. So draw your own conclusions.

Coupled with the previous post, it looks to me like a case of real life imitates MAD magazine:

Intrigue Inside Ukraine's Spy Network

From the New York Times:

While wet snow fell on the rally in Independence Square, an undercover colonel from the Security Service of Ukraine, or S.B.U., moved among the protesters' tents. He represented the successor agency to the K.G.B., but his mission, he said, was not against the protesters. It was to thwart the mobilizing troops. He warned opposition leaders that a crackdown was afoot.


Having been prime minister for two years, Mr. Yanukovich was well known. Several S.B.U. officers said the premier, who was once convicted of robbery and assault and has close links to the corrupt eastern businessmen who have acquired much of Ukraine's material wealth, was a man they preferred not to serve, especially if he were to take office by fraud.

The story proceeds, with the S.B.U. chief, Ihor Smeshko, and others in the Ukranian intelligence service working on the side of the people to fight against fraud, and taking a tremendous gamble with their lives and careers to prevent the election from being stolen.

It's well worth the read. The behind the scenes workings of the Orange Revolution are unquestionably as intriguing as the public side that we have been treated to thus far. As the weeks go by we will undoutedly find more and more of these subplots, and only then begin to comprehend how they will effect Ukraine's new government.

Monday, January 17, 2005

No Time to Talk

I'm off to hockey...

Read Iowahawk's post from today while I am gone.

As the Post's own Tony Kornheiser would say, "Mockery is the sincerest form of mockery"

MLK's Letter from Birmingham Jail

Nick Gillespie over at Reason brings this to our attention. I had never read this before, and am greatful that he has done so. This letter proves to me that King is indeed the admirable figure historical mythology has made him out to be. As I grow older, wiser, and better read as well as more analytical, I have grown to regard some of the assumptions of history classes and monuments as fallacy. One example which comes to mind is the assumed greatness of FDR. Quite frankly, I must admit I have never taken to time to look into the legacy of Martin Luther King, analyze his writings or concern myself with his true legacy, aside from what are now trite filmreels of him repeating "I Have a Dream" to an adoring throng at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

But this letter takes my image of him a step further. It is inherently rational, in the way that the Declaration of Independence is inherently rational. There is no illogical appeal to emotion, no grand assumptions, no bombastic rhetoric. It's clearly reasoned, carefully argued, and eminently reasonable - a quality so frequently lacking in the debate over race today. Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Kwesi Mfume, and the rest of the leaders who claim King's legacy simply are incapable of this kind of expression, and we all are the worse off for it.

If this letter is indicative of King's insight, whoever was responsible for his death, be it James Earl Ray or anyone else, certainly appears to have deprived not just the black civil rights movement of a great leader, but all of America of a voice of reason, and a perspective that I don't believe has been filled since.

China Learns What Charlie's Dad Already Knows

"An' I hate 'The Colonel', with his wee, beady eyes, an' his 'Oh, I know you'll buy my chicken' ohhh, hoooo..."

"How could you hate 'The Colonel'?"

Because he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes you crave it every fortnight, smartass!"

A Small Moment of Self-Indulgence

Hell, if the Pirate can do it, so can I. And it'll pretty up the site a bit, you know?

So, I present you with the map of countries I've visited:

create your own visited country map

I cheated and included the Bahamas, where my behind will be nice and toasty on a white beach with a drink I'd never get caught DEAD drinking in a south philly bar at about this time next week.

I also chose not to include Canada, despite having changed planes there, and having gazed at the other side of it from across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Port Angeles, Washington.

and the US states I've visited

create your own personalized map of the USA

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Ostrich Act Continues

Looks like the Ted Kennedy stick-your-head-in-the-sand-and-pretend-there's-no-problem approach is gonna be the democratic party line on social security. The left-wing propaganda machine, represented locally by the Philadelphia Inquirer, is already in high gear. Witness this passage from Jeff Brown's column today:

Not that bad

... let's note that the situation isn't as bad as he
(Bush) says it is, and that there are good remedies he refuses to consider.

The President has described a Social Security funding gap of about $10.5 trillion. In fact, it's about $3.7 trillion spread over the next 75 years, according to the Social Security Administration, whose seven trustees include three Bush cabinet members.


$10 more a week

That would push the tax to 14.29 percent of a worker's wages from the current 12.4 percent. If the tax continued to be shared evenly by employer and employee, the worker's tax bite would go up by just under 1 percent. A person earning $50,000 a year would pay about $10 more a week.

But why not make employers pay the full increase? A 2 percent increase in payroll costs is not so much.

And employers have enjoyed big savings in other expenses.

Tax rates on capital gains, dividends and income have all been cut under Bush. And many employers have saved fortunes by scrapping traditional pensions in favor of 401(k) plans.

Let the boss pay more for Social Security.

This is just so rich I don't even know where to begin.

Let's see...

The $3.7 billion shortfall is a good place.

from the SSA website:

Social Security's Chief Actuary projects that in present-value dollars the total net Social Security cash flow for years 2004 through 2078 is projected to be nearly -$5.2 trillion. When the trust fund balances of $1.5 trillion at the beginning of 2004 are added to this value, we get a financial shortfall (or unfunded obligation) for the 75-year period of $3.7 trillion.

So, the $3.7 trillion that Brown is talking about is purely a fictional budget line. The truth is that the net cash flow is -$5.2 trillion over the next 75 years, and the $1.5 trillion is IOUs from the general accounts - in otherwords, deficit spending that hasn't shown up on the "deficit" figure because it's being swiped from the Social Security trust fund and used to fund other government programs. I don't know where the Bush $10.5 figure is coming from, and I'm willing to concede that the SSA is projecting the problem to be half that. Let's not pretend that $5.2 trillion in shortfall is "no problem" though, ok?

So, given the proviso that I think the problem is half again as big as Brown does, let's move on using his figures.

The first solution he proposes is, of course, the ever-popular entitlement money grab!!! Wow, straight up socialism out of the Inquirer. I'm shocked. Shocked, I tells ya! He proceeds by telling us, why, it's only ten bucks a week. We shouldn't get worked up about that.

Ten bucks a week x 52 weeks = $520 a year. Raise your hand if you remember the Bush tax cuts. Raise your hand if you remember how they were "irresponsible", how they were gonna bankrupt the economy and such. Okay. Hands down. That same "irresponsible" cut was $400 a year. Sure seemed like a lot of money then. What happened, Mr. Brown?

Put another way, $3.7 trillion (Brown's unreasonably low number) / 75 years = $49.3 billion every year for 75 years. Wow. Seems to me I remember the lefties flipping out over a particularly well-publicized $87 billion one time allotment around this time last year. That was a HELL of a lot of money back then, wasn't it? More talk of being "irresponsible" and such. It was growing the deficit by leaps and bounds, devaluing the dollar, and just unbelievable in the face of the "huge" tax cut. But suddenly $50 billion a year for the next 75 YEARS!!! Eh, no big deal. He's sensationalizing it.

And then comes the crown jewel in the leftist toolbox - class warfare. Tried and true, it is perhaps the most effective weapon a statist has to corral the ignorant masses. And I quote "Let the boss pay more for Social Security." Why, oh why, do they not require economics classes for journalism majors? I guess pre-Calculus is just too difficult for these folks to handle, and any course of study that requires they understand it would be judged "unfair" and be opposed by legions of sleep-till-noon, parrot-the-professor, it's-my right-to-party-until-exam-eve types.

I'll simplify it for you, Mr. Brown. Corporations don't pay taxes. Businesses don't pay taxes. They raise their prices to account for added costs. Consumers pay those costs. That's right, you and I and every single Mom buying paper towels at WalMart ultimately pay the taxes. Read here for an explanation using road use taxes on trucks.

All that being said, Mr. Brown never bothers to address the BIGGEST problem that I see with the current social security system, that being one of demographics. Social Security, as it is presently constituted, consists at its essential level of a wealth transfer from younger workers to older workers, and from minorities and men, who have shorter life expectancies, to caucasians and women, who live longer. No wonder the AARP is so in love with the status quo.

As a "baby-buster" who will be expected to foot the bill for the "baby-boomers", I expect that the problem will be most acute during my prime working years, and as such I have the most to lose from the current system. Despite my misgivings about the added involvement of the government in our markets that could very well result from the privitization proposals being put forth by the Bush administration, I'm still supporting anything that seeks to shield me from the current reality that our parents' retirement will fall disproportionately on our backs, with a significantly watered-down system likely to remain by the time we retire.

We still don't know enough about the Bush solution for me to determine if I think it's the way to go, but, contrary to the folks who blanketly oppose any cut in entitlements, any Bush proposal, and burst their spleen any time the two are concurrent, there really is a huge problem. I'm not sure I've heard a perfect solution, but I for one want out of this pyramid scheme - the sooner the better.

Note to my friend Bob

If there's gonna be a biker war, the Handle Bar might not be the best place to hang out anymore, ya know?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Philly also in the News

For the arrest of four folks protesting "Outfest", the city's officially sanctioned homosexual block party.

Now, I'm sure these four were acting like, well, jackasses. We've all seen these types before. The ones with huge signs, bullhorns, and chips on their shoulders the size of the Millenium Falcon. And for the life of me, I can't figure why they have nothing better to do with their time than complain about what consenting adults do behind closed doors.

But 47 years and $90,000 a pop? That just seems a BIT out of proportion for being obnoxious, no? And can I slug the person who came up with the ridiculous notion of "hate crimes"? It's a crime or it's not. It's not the place of the court to determine one's motivations and their relative merits or lack thereof.

And to this guy:

"Jim Crow has been resurrected in Philadelphia, and instead of being targeted at African Americans, he is targeting Christians," Joe Murray, a lawyer with the American Family Association's Center for Law and Policy, said during a radio program that reminded listeners that Philadelphia is the home of the Abscam scandal and the MOVE bombing.

"If this city were built on a swamp, I'd say it needs to be drained," Murray said, "because it's a dirty city."

Jim Crow? dirty city? Is this what they teach you in law school these days? Spout off random unrelated insults on the broad geographic area where the case will be held? My god, if I ever need a lawyer to defend me, I hope he's smarter than you, bud.

Next on the Stand?

Why Mr. Mayor himself, John Street. Come on Down!!!

So the best I can make of the whole deal as of right now is that a number of folks think that the way to secure city contracts is to get in good with the recently departed Ron White, a lawyer friend of John Street with what one could charitably refer to as "undue influence". So this big shot at JP Morgan, Anthony Snell, disregarding specific company memos NOT to get involved in "pay to play" operations submits an invoice for $50,000 in legal services to be paid to White. Turns out, however... funny thing... there never WERE any legal services provided by White. Turns out Snell himself doctored up some of White's stationary to be an invoice, 'cause he was just dying to get this swell guy some cash.

No reason. Why do you ask?

Another thing about that $50,000. Seems Ron White learned about it on his way to breakfast with John Street at the Ritz-Carlton - where, by sheer coincidence, I am sure, he ran into Snell in the lobby first. Snell didn't go to breakfast with them. Apparently the Street administration has the mafia procedure down well - always act through an intermediary and never be seen all together at once.

Good thing the FBI had the breakfast under surveilance, or we wouldn't know about ANY of this.

So, Mr. Snell why did you do it?

Well, apparently his income at JP Morgan depended on bonuses which could be significantly padded with some juicy municipal contracts, of course.

According to the plea agreement Snell signed on to today in federal court, "Believing that White could deliver business in Philadelphia, they (Snell and associate Charles LeCroy) therefore had a personal incentive to support him, the firm's objection to an unlawful consulting payment not withstanding."

So, next up, that JPMorgan associate LaCroy, Denis Carlson, senior VP at Janney Montgomery Scott, and former city treasurer Corey Kemp. And Street is set to take the stand in the trial of Carlson.

A couple of political observations:

- If J.F.Kerry were president, I'd be willing to put significant money on the dogs being called off. After all, Philly did deliver a 400,000 vote democratic margin in a state that ended up about 100,000 close. I won't comment on the validity of these numbers or the strength of the Philadelphia Democratic machine, currently headmanned by one John Street.

- Notice how folks associated with the party of the "common people", with a mayor who sold himself as the "neighborhood" mayor seem to be spending a good amount of time consorting with high powered lawyers and investment bankers in shady financial transactions?

This one'll be fun to watch, I'll keep the Rox blog apprised.

Oh, and while the link to the "Street Subpoenaed" story is to the Inquirer, I relied heavily on the Evening Bulletin for my info. I'd link to them, but I am getting a very troubling "we may never be back" message. Let the conspiracy theories begin. Unions, Knight Ridder, Street himself? Or maybe they just have Verizon DSL.

I Certainly Hope to Visit Russia One Day Soon

The wife and I have discussed the possibility of maybe even this summer, when we will be in Ukraine and Belarus. I hope Putin's not going to take my statements that he ought to keep his grubby hands out of Ukraine's recent elections as showing "disrespect" to the country.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

No Problem with Social Security

According to Ted Kennedy. It's all Bush hype.

Even though the
Social Security Administration's own site has this to say:

Social Security's financing problems are long term and will not affect today's retirees and near-retirees, but they are very large and serious. People are living longer, the first baby boomers are five years from retirement, and the birth rate is low. The result is that the worker-to-beneficiary ratio has fallen from 16-to-1 in 1950 to 3.3-to-1 today. Within 40 years it will be 2-to-1. At this ratio there will not be enough workers to pay scheduled benefits at current tax rates.

and this

If Social Security is not changed, payroll taxes will have to be increased, the benefits of today's younger workers will have to be cut, or massive transfers from general revenues will be required.

But, then again, what's Ted Kennedy care? He'll be filling Depends at some nursing home in Hyannis before the economy collapses under the weight of entitlement programs and everyone realizes what an unbelievably assanine thing this was to say.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Fortress DC

They are walling off Jefferson, Lincoln, and Wahington. They have shut down Pennsylvania Avenue. The concrete barriers are everywhere. Washington is not the place it was when I lived there, walking my dog from our house on 4th and F NE behind Union Station, down past the capital, and letting her run on the mall. (Yes, I brought bags, what do you take me for?) I wandered up to the Jefferson Memorial and sketched the whole thing out for an architecture survey class I was taking at Maryland. It was a cold and rainy mid day, and I was the only one there, except for the occasional tourist. They never stayed more than a minute. Not one of them read the inscriptions on the walls.

Anyways... In Monday's Post, Fred Hiatt gets in my head, and verbalizes precisely how I feel about it.

But if it is symbols we are protecting, then what have we lost when older people can no longer stop in at the Jefferson Memorial to read the inscriptions on its curved walls, when every "people's" monument is walled off by deadened streets and armed militia and long lines of tourists waiting to be wanded?

We lose more by having these things walled off, and the lines and the checkpoints, than we would by allowing people access, and yes, perhaps risking the loss of something dear to us as a nation. Tough. If it happens, it happens. Must we live in fear of everything, all the time? Screw that. We're America. We're better than this. And we can start by showing that in our capital.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Sorry, Rummy. He's Right.

Fred Kagan outlines Donald Rumsfeld's failures without resorting to namecalling or Bush-bashing.

It is not that Rumsfeld's decisions were without a rationale. The secretary of defense simply chose to prioritize preparing America's military for future conventional conflict rather than for the current mission. That position, based on the hope that the current mission would be of short duration and the recognition that the future may arrive at any moment, is understandable. It just turns out to have been wrong.

Hanson reminds us that American forces in World War II, and in many other conflicts, had to fight with imperfect weapons and under imperfect conditions. All quite true. But in no previous American war has the chief of the military administration refused to focus on the war at hand, preferring programs that could not help soldiers then in the fight to survive and win. Even Robert McNamara, engaged in a "sideshow" war in an otherwise irrelevant theater, did not imagine that he could focus his efforts on preparing to meet the Red Army in the Fulda Gap at the expense of supporting our troops in Indochina.

If Kerry had coldly outlined his Iraqi position in this manner, he would be president today.

(Link via Andrew Sullivan)

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Only Thing Better Than Saving the Boyd Theater

Would be watching the center city limosine liberals contort themselves into a mental pretzel over the fact that it's the evil mass media corporation, Clear Channel, coming to the rescue. Being the capitalist pig that I am, I have no such confliction. Especially if this is being done without the proposed tax breaks (details to come out later today). The private sector restoring and preserving a beautiful and meaningful landmark on a stretch of Chestnut Street that could have either fallen into blight or developed into a great neighborhood. It's a win for everyone involved.

And while we're on the subject of development in Philly, construction is to begin on the new Comcast corporate headquarters directly accross the street from my office. I could whine about the $43 million in public subsidies, but as Andrew Cassel point out in the Inquirer - it could have been a hell of a lot worse. From a personal point of view, it'll be fun to watch the city's tallest building go up right outside my window at work.

Donate, sure...

But better still - buy South Asian coffee.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Raise Your Hand

If you still believe the Bush administration is about limited government and reduced spending.

Anyone? Anyone?



Thursday, January 06, 2005

Bush Buckles on Sovereignty

I'm pissed.

Go read about it on Boortz's site.

This is why it is not a good idea for governments to engage in charity. Over $350 million that was seized from the American people through confiscatory taxes will now be spent by an agency that is dedicated to the destruction of American sovereignty. Nice going.

Right on. Jeez, it appears that the George Bush with a spine that says "Even if our military effort was all SNAFUd, I'm standing by my guys" is absent on this one - in his place we have the spineless version that hasn't yet opened the ink pad for the "Spending Veto" stamp.

Oh, and if you aren't upset about this, you need to browse on over to the Diplomad and read up about where your "relief" dollars have just been redirected.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I've Just Gotten a New Favorite Charity

Let's be honest, I'm certainly not what I would consider a "philathropist"... I don't have millions to give away, and don't do charity on a regular basis. I have however, given a modest amount to Americares in response to the tsunami devestation in Southeast Asia. It's my feeling that if I am going to espouse the theory that the government has no right to use confiscated money on a function with which it is not explicitly charged, and that private charity should be responsible for such functions, then, well dammit, you'd best make that happen. So I have, in my own little way.

However, I am frequently disgusted with the politics and inefficieny of such organizations, sometimes even their outright corruption. So where to give, should the impetus arise at a later time? Well, it's tough to know where your money is truly needed and will legitimately put to good use. However, my new favorite charity has established momentus credibility this week. If Doctors Without Borders ever asks for money, you can be sure that they truly need it. It's incredibly refreshing to know that not everybody or every organization out there is an agenda-driven, self-important, power and money hungry cesspool of waste and inefficiency.

Monday, January 03, 2005

I Got News for You, Wayne

Sit out two seasons, and there may not BE an NHL.

Gretzky also denied recent published reports that the Phoenix Coyotes franchise is for sale.

Not that there's really anything to sell. I mean, seriously - what is an NHL franchise, other than a logo, some player contracts, and a lease on an arena? None of that has any value outside of an agreement legitimizing the contracts and the actual subsequent playing of hockey.

It's sad. I'm afraid my kids will grow up thinking of the three major sports, and hockey will be much like lacrosse, a sport played at colleges by a few, but with no serious professional league. In the Americas, anyway.

Heck, I'd like to see the players start their own league. The NHL started with six teams. I find it hard to believe that the players can't get enough guys together to form six teams and play a short season. If nothing else, as a way to stay in shape and as leverage against the owners in negotiations. Look, with owners like Gretzky talking about next year, they've got nine or ten months to get it together. What have they got to lose?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Regarding the UN's Tsunami Response

The Diplomad just eviscerates them.

Public sentiment is rising against the UN here. Could it be time to reconsider HR1146 - American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003?

It's probably still a bit soon. But the day when such a measure could pass may not be far off. In my mind, it can't come soon enough.