Thursday, April 17, 2014

U.S. Stock Market, Modern Day Nero

     Roman mythology says that first century Roman emperor Nero was so oblivious that he played his fiddle while Rome burned. The recent behavior of the stock market is reminiscent of Nero's obtuseness. But instead of ignoring a city in flames, those in the market have ignored economic data that would need an extension ladder just to rise to the level of mediocrity, corporate earnings that can barely jump the hurdle of the market's lowest expectations, and a brewing civil war in Ukraine orchestrated by Vladimir Putin.
     The market has reached new highs even as the economy makes its obvious lurch towards recession. This slowdown is not only evidenced by the economic data that is worst than last year at this time, which was no great shakes even then, but by companies reporting first quarter results that, even when they meet lowered expectations for earnings, have missed on revenues. And even companies who have met expectations on both earnings and revenue, have not, for the most part, met their previous year's sales. Of the nation's three biggest banks, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup, the two former missed even the lowered expectations for earnings, and Citigroup barely eked out a mediocre performance.
     Author Michael Lewis recently penned a tome called, "Flash Boys," in which he surmises that the stock market is rigged by high frequency traders. High frequency traders are those who ply their trade in the milliseconds between when an order for a stock purchase is made and when it is filled on the exchange. They use high powered computers near the exchanges, and even higher powered mathematical algorithms to intercept these trades and make fractions of a penny on millions of shares, thousands of times a day.
     The market is rigged, not by high frequency traders, but by the big money players. That is why the market no longer responds to economic data or corporate earnings like it should. Instead, the market is like a marionette, having its strings pulled by the likes of Warren Buffet and others who control its direction. When the Federal Reserve's insanely low interest rates for the last 6 years, and their quantitative easing program which has pumped three trillion dollars into the market, is added to the mix of big money players, the market becomes a rigged game, no more honest than a street level version of Three Card Monty.  
     The mid and low level brokers who are successful, do not acquire that success through studying market fundamentals and corporate earnings, but through following the money flows of the "Big Guys." In  other words, what drives the market is the old adage, "Follow the money." And while the "Rome" of our economy and the stability of geopolitical relationships "burn," the Neros in the market continue to "fiddle," oblivious to anything but driving stocks higher simply because they can.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bundy Ranch Post-Part II

     When I began writing this blog I promised myself that I would try to maintain the highest level of intellectual honesty, complimented by the Conservative principles in which I believe. And so my post yesterday about Cliven Bundy's standoff with the Feds over grazing rights on federal land, was written from the perspective of a clinical assessment of Mr. Bundy's actions as they relate to the law. I really shook up a hornets nest with my comments. I received the usual disagreements, but was also called a Liberal for not supporting armed conflict with our government, and a Nazi for not whole-heartily supporting the actions of Mr. Bundy and his followers.
     First, let me state that I am aware of the facts. I understand that Mr. Bundy and his ancestors have been using the land in question for over 140 years to graze their cattle. I also understand that the federal government, through the Bureau of Land Management, has been using ranchers' grazing fees, not to maintain the land, but to buy out ranchers to gobble up their property. Just to set the record straight, I also understand what a dirty, low-life Harry Reid is, although there is no evidence in this case of a solar deal with the Chinese to be built on the current grazing land used by the Bundys.    
     There are some things I do not know. I do not know what other remedies Mr. Bundy took other than to discontinue paying his grazing fees. That action is somewhat analogous to me not agreeing with how my car registration dollars are being spent, and deciding not to pay them, but continuing to drive on public roads. I also do not know whether Mr. Bundy tried to remedy the situation with his representative in congress. Or if he did and was turned a deaf ear, why did he or one of his sons not run for that seat themselves. I am sure with the response they received at their standoff they would have received the same support for a congressional campaign in their district. After all, as I have been so bluntly reminded, this situation has been going on for some twenty years. Certainly in all that time, with the proper effort and tenacity, a political solution could have been found.
     I believe that Mr. Bundy and his fellow ranchers have been treated shabbily by the federal government. But shabby treatment does not give one the right to throw out the Rule Of Law. The very Rule Of Law that the Bundys say has been violated by the federal government. If each man can decide for himself which laws to obey and when, then society devolves into anarchy, and anarchy is tyranny's step-sister, and just as dangerous. The Founders knew this, that is why they created a nation of laws, not of men, and gave authority to make laws to the people's representatives in congress. Besides, how can we point the finger of blame at a lawless president, and have any credibility, when our four other fingers are pointing back at us to reveal our own lawlessness.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Rarity; I Find Myself On The Side Of The Feds

     One of the primary contentions that Conservatives like myself have with comprehensive immigration reform, i.e., amnesty, is that it violates the sacred principle of The Rule Of Law. Those on the Right who defend Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy and his supporters, are in danger of drinking from the well of hypocrisy, precisely because their actions violate that same rule of law. Do not underestimate my impassioned fidelity to the Constitution of the United States of America, or my undying support for the personal liberty that is the very cornerstone of that most sacred document. But with all due respect to my fellow Conservatives who believe that Mr. Bundy is a poster child for government tyranny crushing the little guy, there is little chance of making that dog hunt.
     Cliven Bundy's family originally came to Nevada in the 1870s with the desire to ranch in the wide open spaces that were amenable to raising cattle. The federal government at the time wanted to encourage migration into the area, and the raising of cattle for both food and economic growth. To that end, the government allowed ranchers to graze their cattle on federal lands. As the Bureau of Land Management put more restrictions on the grazing rights of ranchers, instigated by the radical environmental Left, Mr. Bundy decided to stop paying his grazing fees. That was in 1993, and even though he refused to pay his fees, he continued to graze his cattle on federal lands.
     The federal government engaged in many legal actions in the last 20 years, which culminated with the  Bureau of Land Management attempting to physically remove Mr. Bundy's cattle from the federal lands this past weekend. The government agents were met with resistance in the form of armed men on horseback, who for some reason felt it was okay for Mr. Bundy not to pay his grazing fees and continue to use federal lands to feed his cattle.
     The federal government throughout the years, and most definitely in recent years, have overstepped the bounds of conscientious constitutional constancy and proper respect for personal liberty and property rights, the Bundy situation does not qualify as one of those. In other words, the government would have every right to remove my personal property from federal lands if I were to park a trailer there and refuse to pay the proper fees for doing so, and refused to remove it.
     Some of those on Right-Wing talk radio seem to have sympathy for the Bundy clan and their supporters, which I find extremely disheartening. It makes some on the Right look as though they are picking and choosing in which situations The Rule Of Law applies and which it does not. If Cliven Bundy, or anyone else for that matter, has a problem with a particular law, they have two choices. They can obey said law while attempting to change it through proper legal channels, or they can break the law and accept the consequences. Mr. Bundy seems to believe he is above these two options and can simply ignore the law. I am not particularly sanguine about buying license plates for my car, but I must obey the law or accept the consequences of driving with expired plates. And so it is with every law.
     For those who are celebrating the temporary victory by the Bundy Bullies, just remember that civilized society is secured by The Rule Of Law. If that law is excused for politicians, illegal immigrants, or even ranchers, then the fabric of society begins to unravel and deteriorate into anarchy and mob rule. This is not a concept that is compatible with conservatism, and it certainly is not a concept that exemplifies the better nature of the founding documents upon which this great nation was built.

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Say Do Not Replace Sebelius

     With last week's resignation of Kathleen "Billion Dollar Website" Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services, the question is left severely begging, "Why replace her with anyone?" No one can make the argument that her position in the government would yield any worse results for the American people if it were just to be left empty. In fact, it was Jeane Kirkpatrick that said the "family is the original departments of health, education, and welfare." And therein lies the answer to this faltering, spinning into a degenerative oblivion country that had been the beacon of freedom, prosperity, and the rectitude of a family-centric culture compared to the oppressive disillusionment that is a government-centric one.
     When George Washington became our nation's first president, he appointed three cabinet positions at the level of Secretary. There was a Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, and Secretary of war. These three positions, along with the Attorney General, comprised the president's entire cabinet. The current president's cabinet is occupied by almost two dozen advisors, fourteen of them holding positions at the level of Secretary. Each one of those Secretaries presides over their own little theifdoms called departments, each with tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars flowing into their budgets every year.
     Now some may make the argument that we have become a larger country and more diverse economy compared to the waning days of the 18th century when General Washington became our first executive. That is true, however, when the money flowing into these departments is spent mostly on union benefits for government workers, and the administration of the departments themselves, the wheels have most definitely fallen off the wagon of State. The department of education, for example, spends over 100 billion taxpayer dollars each year, and not one dime goes to hiring teachers, buying books, or anything else related to education. The dollars are sucked into the giant, gaping chasm of government bureaucracy like dirt into a shop vac.
     President Obama once said he wanted to cut the budget with a scalpel, not an ax. But the budget, which has grown to four trillion dollars, needs to be slashed with a chain saw to make any meaningful progress towards fiscal probity. Whole departments should be eliminated, beginning with the Department of Education, which has only consolidated union power and influence over our children and has lead to deterioration, not elevation, in the way in which our nation's schools educate our young. The Departments of Commerce and Agriculture are two others whose only purpose seems to be to dole out tax payer dollars in low interest government loans to victim groups for the former, and to an ever increasing base of food stamp recipients for the latter. What either of those activities have to do with commerce or agriculture is beyond the reasonable mind.
     Ronald Reagan once said that the closest thing we have to eternal life on this planet is a government program. And the cabinet-level departments in the federal government have grown into grotesque and bloated creatures whose only purpose is to push a politically correct agenda, and to feed its rapacious appetite for an ever larger pile of hard earned tax payer dollars. If the insanity of cabinet-level positions like Secretary of the Interior or Secretary of Labor are not reigned in, I fully expect that at some point in the not to distant future we will have a Secretary of Secretary, the ultimate in Orwellian big government double speak.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Law's Proper Place In A Free Society

     For most public servants of the past that served in congress and the White House, politics were the necessary means to a principled end. And while they may have actually enjoyed and excelled at the contest of political chess, their ultimate goal was to advance the cause of the people in the best ways possible. Barack Obama and most of Democrat party modernity sees politics as the end to its own means. They exist to destroy their political opposition, not debate them, and to grow government for its own propagation, not for the benefit of the governed.
     Since the Republicants won the 2010 mid-term elections, which gave them control of the House of Representatives in January of 2011, Democrats' favorite refrain has been to call them the "do nothing congress." They of course neglect the fact that Democrats control half of congress with their majority in the Senate, but then reality and truth has meant less and less to Democrats with each passing year. Republicants have tried to run away from this label, but should instead embrace it.
     The moniker of Do Nothing Congress is a compliment because the limited damage that may occur from congress doing nothing is far more preferable to the unlimited damage that congress can do by enacting bad legislation. To Witt: The Affordable Care Act, which has reached its tentacles of tyranny into every aspect of what was once the best health care industry in the world, and has set it on the path to becoming the equal of much more inferior health care systems throughout the world.
      With the literally hundreds of thousands of pages of legislation written by the Obama administration added to the existing Federal laws, the number is so great that academics, lawyers, and those in government have not even been able to accurately count them. One has to wonder why new laws are even passed. But then the answer to that question is self-evident: legislators who do not legislate are like clowns who do not wear rubber noses, colorful wigs, and big floppy shoes. Actually that is an image that is more apropos to those who have recently represented us in congress, especially in the Democrat party, than any performer at a circus or a child's birthday party.
     When a nation has burdened itself with so many laws that no one can even count them, then that nation ceases to be a nation of laws and becomes a nation for laws. And when liberty is strained under the yoke of such a burdensome amount of laws, she is made impotent in advancing the human condition, liberty being necessary to that task. Laws are a necessary cog in the wheel of a prosperous and free society, but when they become the only cog, it renders the wheel of that society useless. We can hardly survive as a free nation being smothered by draconian laws, both in scope and number.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Whole Numbers Economy Replaced By Tenths

     Since the start of his administration, Barack Obama and his sycophants in the media and government have defended his failed policies by claiming that without them, things would have been worse. This circuitous logic stretches the reasonable mind into the oblivion of idiocy. The one has nothing to do with the other. Using the absence of the worse case scenario as a means to obfuscate the results of policies that are far below even the president's measures for them upon their implementation, is disingenuous at best and deliberately deceptive at worst. It is analogous to a child bringing home a report card with all F's and excusing it by saying, "Well I did not burn down the school."
     It has been breathtaking to witness the American people becoming evermore satisfied with lower and lower expectations from Barack Obama. Our whole numbers economy has been replaced with a tenths economy. Economic data that use to show improvement in whole numbers, now is considered worthy of record high stock prices when it moves only a tenth of a percent. And this five years into a recovery from a recession.
     You may have heard reports yesterday that the initial claims for unemployment benefits last week dropped to the lowest level in seven years, only 300 thousand claimed benefits for the first time. However, while the administration and some in the financial world crow about an "improving labor market," what they do not say is that first time claims are a corollary to the Labor Force Participation Rate, which is at a forty year low. The first time claims for unemployment benefits would naturally decrease because of the lack of workers remaining in the work force that can be cut from companies payrolls.
     The United States economy is still carrying a record number of long-termed unemployed, and that does not even count the millions of unemployed that the administration has moved to the disability roles upon expiration of  their unemployment benefits. Some experts have claimed that this little trick has saved the president at least a full percentage point on the unemployment number. This assertion is supported by the government's own U-6 unemployment number which counts all the unemployed, a number that currently occupies a space north of 12%.
     And even when Barack Obama cheats, as he has done by changing the calculations and formulas of key statistics to make them more favorable to his administration, the unemployment rate is still at 6.7%.  Considering the results of his cheating, one could only conclude that Barack Obama is either the most incompetent president ever to occupy the office, or he has deliberately destroyed the United States economy as part and parcel to the chip he has on his shoulder for this country. Either way the American people have been made to suffer hardship, mediocrity, and an ineffable loss of liberty.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What The Margaret Sanger Award Says About Democrats

     Planned Parenthood occupies the highest position in the clergy of the Left, being extolled as the great liberator of women by exterminating their unwanted children. And the highest and most venerated achievement of any Leftist is receipt of the Margaret Sanger award. Hillary Clinton received it in 2009, and Nancy Pelosi is its most recent recipient.
     Margaret Sanger is the woman who founded Planned Parenthood as a way to implement what she termed her "negro project." Her writings and public speeches were laced with talk of "purification of the race" and "keeping undesirables from breeding." In fact, in 1929 she gleefully accepted a speaking engagement from the Ku Klux Klan to present herself at their convention in Silver Springs, New Jersey. She also wrote in a letter to a doctor friend, which is on display in a museum dedicated to her "work," that she did not want it to "get out that they wanted to exterminate the negro population."
     And this is the woman, Margaret Sanger, in whose name high profile Democrats like Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Pelosi have no shame accepting an award. In fact, in her speech to Planned Parenthood, Nancy Pelosi said that those who are pro-life are closed minded, stupid, and ignorant. What is ironic about her statement is not only that Mrs. Pelosi is a Catholic, which requires defense of the unborn even over politics, but that she accepted blessed rosary beads from Barack Obama who was given them by Pope Francis. I wonder if the Pontiff knows his rosary is now in the hands of someone who thinks he is closed minded, stupid, and ignorant?
     The evil eugenics of Margaret Sanger, which grew into the massive fields of life strangling weeds that is Planned Parenthood today, is illustrative of most, if not all policies of the Left. Their ideology refuses to allow any idea based on virtue and morality, instead opting for those based on oppression, larceny, and infamy. The Margaret Sanger charter of reducing the black population is not something in the distant past of the organization she founded. Even today, Planned Parenthood is about the business of eliminating black babies more than any other race or ethnicity. That is why their "clinics" are located mostly in black neighborhoods and why when journalist James O' Keefe called their centers around the country, and pretended to be a donor only if his money could be used to abort black babies, every center he called gladly accepted and reassured him that the money would be used for that purpose.
     All Leftist initiatives are borne of the most negative aspects of the human condition and are implemented for the purpose of subjugating their fellow citizens to their authority and their will. But abortion, more than any other Leftist practice, is the grand sacrament of their faith. And Margaret Sanger, whose namesake award is proudly accepted by high profile Democrats, is history's most prolific mass murderer, with over 100 million deaths of innocent victims to her credit. Elevating the reprobate to a status of respectability is the mission of a venal ethos like Leftism, which has no moral core upon which to judge its actions or improve the human condition which they daily sacrifice to their god of politics.