San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Friday, March 2, 2012

There Is Much More To Life Than Political Action

On February 29th the Denver Post ran an article about a college student from the University of Kansas by the name of Emily Bullard.  The general theme of the article was that Ms. Bullard is one of an increasing number of young people who take no interest in politics whatsoever.  Not surprisingly, the reactions to Ms.Bullard's comments have been uniformly negative. It is not possible to ignore the god of the State and not be rebuked by its many prophets. 
Virginia Wieigot, of Aurora, had this to say to Ms. Bullard:  "How sad that Emily Bullard, a university student, feels compelled to boast of her disinterest in politics.  Comforting to her is the fact that she is among the 24 percent between the ages of 18 and 30 who don't enjoy politics at all.  Apparently she relies on others, such as her parents, to care about the country and world in which we live."  I can't begin to describe how many things are wrong about Ms Wieigot's response.
The most powerful presupposition under girding Ms. Wieigot's comments is that personal activity related to the state and politics is infinitely more important than any other type of personal activity.  If Ms. Bullard were to marry and dedicate herself to her husband and family, that would a waste of her valuable time and allegedly inferior to political action she could have undertaken.  If Ms. Bullard were to dedicate herself to service to her church (if she has one), that would be deemed to be inferior to service to the state.  If Ms. Bullard were to dedicate herself to starting a business, and thereby potentially serve the interests of many of her fellow citizens, that would be considered inferior to taking some sort of political action within the confines of her particular geo-political boundary.  What is truly sad about this situation is Ms. Wieigot's presupposition that only political action has value.
Ms. Wieigot further states that Ms. Bullard "relies on others" because she is not active politically.  What gross hypocrisy!  One of the primary reasons people become politically active is to use the coercive power of the state to extract the income of others for their own purposes.  It is those who are politically active who most rely upon others (in this case the wealth of others) to accomplish their life goals.  It is those who are politically active who most meddle in the affairs of others in an unwanted fashion.  It is those who are politically active who want to force their will upon everyone else when they should be minding their own business..  It is those who are politically active who are economic parasites that need to learn how to pay their own bills and take their eyes off the wealth of their neighbors.
Ms. Wieigot goes on to conclude that Ms. Bullard does not "care about the country and world in which we live" because she has made the entirely rational decision to eschew political action.  How can such a conclusion be drawn unless one is utterly committed to the absurd belief that the only significant personal action is political action?  Utter nonsense.  Indeed, it can be argued (and I will do it) that if one truly cares about the country in which we live, one should start a business.  If one truly cares about his fellow man, one should start a business.  By seeking to provide goods and services to our fellow man and, by doing so in a non-coercive fashion (you are free to buy my product or walk away....I will not arrest you for non-compliance), the person who starts a business has far greater opportunity to positively impact the world than the person who runs around making laws forcing people to bend to his will.  Political action, by its very nature, almost always ends up being destructive.  Political action, by its very nature, is always destructive to the wealth of the top 49% of the income population.  (Oh yeah....I keep forgetting.....we are in a democracy and those people don't count.)
Tom Durbin is another person who takes exception to Ms. Bullard's voluntary decision to stay out of politics.  He accuses her of being intellectually inferior to himself when he says, "There is more to life than Twitter, ESPN and Food Network."  I would suggest that engaging in any of the three aforementioned activities for just a couple of minutes is infinitely more valuable than a lifetime dedicated to political service.  Twitter, ESPN, and the Food Network do not use the coercive power of the sword to extract income and wealth from defenseless citizens and engage that wealth in the service of activiites the previous owner of the wealth would never have approved of.  Twitter, ESPN and the Food Network seek to obtain my business by providing goods and services I might want to purchase.  They never threaten to arrest me, fine me, or throw me in jail for not buying their goods and services.  Twitter, ESPN and the Food Network have never informed me that I am required  to provide birth control products to my employees or else face heavy fines and jail time.  Twitter, ESPN and  the Food Network don't take 30% of my income, they don't force me to pay for my neighbor's children's education, they don't force me to pay for my neighbor's health care, they don't force me to pay for single women to have babies, and they don't force me to pay for the myriad of government boondoggles I am on the hook for every day.  On the other hand, those who are active in political "service" do these things to me everyday.
Maybe Ms. Bullard is just apathetic.  But why would apathy be a bad thing in this case?  I am apathetic about robbing my neighbor.  I am apathetic about killing my customers.  I am apathetic about plundering my fellow citizens to pay for the things I want to purchase.  I am apathetic about forcing everyone around me to behave precisely as I want them to.  In all these cases my apathy is a good thing.  On the other hand, if I was not apathetic about theft and the power to control all those around me, I would be politically active!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Word Of A Politician Is Worthless

All federal politicians, as well as judges, lawyers, law enforcement officials and other assorted groups, are required to swear a vow of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States prior to assuming their positions.  To swear a vow is to make a promise.  To make a promise is to say "this is what I am going to do and I am not lying".  The vow that the politicians take contains the phrase "to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America."  Therefore, all federal politicians have given us their word that they will do exactly what the Constitution of the United States says they are permitted to do, and nothing more.  How are they doing?  To answer that question I will consider just one item; the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
The Fourth Amendment states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."  Unlike the debates that rage over the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution, where proponents argue that the terminology is vague and means different concepts than the normal use of the words today, the Fourth Amendment is subject to no such dispute about meaning.  What it says is clear.  All US citizens are to be "secure" in their personal effects.  No search of your personal property is permissible by any governmental police force without a prior proof of probably cause of a violation of the law, sworn before a judge.  Then, and only then, are law enforcement officials permitted to search you or your property.  Even then, the only things permitted to be searched must be clearly spelled out in the search warrant and no extraneous searches are permitted.  These restrictions on searches apply to your body, your car, your house, your bank accounts, your brokerage statements, your internet connections, your telephone conversations, your personal property, and everything else that belongs to you.  Every federal politician who is presently in office has sworn an oath to uphold this very clear right.  How are they doing in defending your right to be secure in your person, property and papers?
Under the guise of protecting you from "terrorism", practically every politician has violated his vow to uphold the Fourth Amendment.  Practically every politician has willfully lied to you about his willingness to uphold and defend the Fourth Amendment.  The only exception to the rule that I am aware of is Ron Paul.  He has consistently voted against all legislation designed to violate your right to privacy.  Otherwise, the promise given to you by every other politician in the federal government has been willfully broken on dozens of occasions.  You are now subject to unconstitutional searches on a daily basis.  You are probably not even aware of many of them.  Your emails are scanned by the FBI.  Your bank transactions are monitored by your neighborhood bank teller.  Your brokerage transactions are watched by your personal broker.  Any writings, conversation or transactions that are deemed to be "suspicious" are immediately reported to the FBI.  You are unaware of all of this activity.  In fact, it is illegal for those who are monitoring your activities to inform you that you have been reported to the FBI as a suspicious character and possible domestic terrorist.
The Fourth Amendment was added to the Constitution because the framers of the Constitution recognized the fact that federal government has a voracious appetite for information about its subjects.  They also realized that the federal government has a insidious desire to control the behavior of its subjects.  Lastly they recognized that the federal government wants to obtain, keep and increase its power over its subjects.  Information is a key to power.  Your right to be left alone is what the Fourth Amendment was designed to ensure.  That right is long gone.
It does no good to say that because "I have nothing to fear" it is OK for the feds to monitor my every action.  It has nothing to do with whether I have anything to fear or not.  It has everything to do with my fundamental right to be left alone.  The President of the United States, as well as every sitting Congressman, swore a vow in which he promised to leave you alone.  Within minutes of assuming office every one of those people broke that promise.  By definition, none of them are men and women of their word.  By definition the word of a federal politician is utterly worthless.  If we can't trust them to keep a moral promise and uphold their word to defend the Fourth Amendment, how can we possibly trust them to do anything they say?  If they have already proven themselves to be immoral, why do we persist in the belief that they are moral?  If they have already proven themselves to be liars, why do we continue to believe what they say?  Don't be fooled.  You know that a politician is lying every time you see his lips moving.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

President Obama Claims The Ability To Create Something Out of Nothing

President Obama spoke to a gathering of 1,700 members of the United Auto Workers  yesterday.  The gathering took place in Washington DC.  Why those 1,700 members of the UAW were not at work in their jobs in Detroit was not discussed.  What was discussed was eye-opening.  President Obama, in addition to describing Republican economic statements as fecal material, went on to claim the ability to create jobs where there were no jobs before.  Now that is some kind of power!
Here is how Jim Kuhnhemm of the AP reported the political pep rally. "In a politically sizzling attack, President Barack Obama accused his Republican presidential challengers of abandoning the American worker, and he took credit for the auto industry's resurgence....Speaking to a raucous United Auto Workers audience, Obama said that assertions by Republican presidential candidates that union members profited from the taxpayer paid rescue are a 'load of you know what'".  Now that is an interesting contradiction.  First Obama takes credit for the resurgence of Chrysler and GM, then he says that the idea that union members "profited" from the taxpayer bailout of their businesses is a load of feces.  If the "resurgence" of GM and Chrysler has not "profited" the workers in those companies, what has it done?  President Obama seems incapable of keeping two thoughts in his head at the same time. Either GM and Chrysler profited from the taxpayer bailout or they did not.  Either GM and Chrysler are improving their businesses or they are not.  If their businesses have improved, they have profited.  If their businesses have not improved, they have not profited.  It is impossible to have it any other way.
The blatant contradiction in the mind of the President was not the most disturbing part of his pep rally.  UAW President Bob King praised Obama as "the champion of all workers who saved our jobs and saved our industry."  Now that is quite a claim. The news report does not go on to say that Obama corrected the economically erroneous statement made by the UAW President.  We are left to believe that President Obama agrees with the UAW President's assertion that he is able to both "save" and create jobs.  This, of course, is nothing new.  All Presidents since I have been alive have claimed to have the ability to run the economy in general, and create jobs in particular.  All of the Republican presidential candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, have also made the claim that they have the ability to create jobs.  All of this, of course, creates a question that is screaming for an answer.  If all politicians have the ability to create jobs at will, why is there ever unemployment?  If Obama can create jobs, why is the unemployment rate above 8%.  Nobody ever asks this question.  Why not?
The answer, of course, is that intelligent people know that politicians really cannot create any new jobs.  Any job that comes into existence as a result of a political action had to be paid for with the extinction of a job somewhere else. The job that was created was published in the media and credited to a politician.  The job that was destroyed is ignored by everyone except the man who lost it.  His voice is small and insignificant.  This is called social justice and good public policy by politicians.
At least Obama had the good sense to acknowledge that GM and Chrysler's present profitability is most likely due to the fact that employee wages and benefits were drastically cut in exchange for the government payola.  What is fascinating to me was the response of the 1,700 UAW members to the cuts in their wages and benefits.  The article records that chants of "four more years" spontaneously broke out during the pep rally. 
All of this makes me wonder.  If a consortium of investors and bankers had come to GM and Chrysler and proposed exactly the same deal they got from the government, would they have taken it?  My guess is no. My guess is they would have run screaming and crying to Washington, asking for protection from the "union busters" who were trying to destroy their way of life.  So it seems it all boils down to that old refrain:  when the government does it, it is good. When private business does it, it is bad.  Praise government.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hindsight Bias

As I write this the S & P 500 is up by almost 25% from where it was on October 3, 2011.  The present bull market in stocks really began back on March 9, 2009, when the S & P 500 hit a closing low of 677.  Since then the index has risen by 103%.  The generally accepted definition of a bear market is any market in which a stock market index declines by 20% or more.  The stock market decline from April 29th through October 3rd of last year was 19.4%, not enough to classify as a true bear market.  Hence, we have now been in a bull market for almost three straight years and the stock market has more than doubled during that period of time.  So, where is the jubilation?  Where are the eye-popping headlines?  Where is the optimism?
Article after article in the financial press finds people calling for a new "correction".  Guru after guru declares that the market has come too far, too fast.  Reporter after reporter tells us that the stock market is overvalued and it is too late to get in on the rise in stock prices.  Investors are shunning the stock market and pouring funds into bonds, especially high yield bonds (junk bonds).  What is going on here?
Although every single investor I have ever met has agreed with the principle of buying low, scarcely one in a thousand is emotionally equipped to actually buy when prices are low. There are reasons for low prices.  Prices on stocks are low when economic conditions are perceived as bad.  Prices on stocks are low when expectations for the future are bleak.  Prices on stocks are low precisely because very few people want to buy them. Prices on stocks are low when people, after taking a brief look back at a negative past, decide that they do not feel good about the future for stocks.   That, of course, is when everyone should be rushing in to buy them.  But that never happens.  Why?
The reason the vast majority of investors are emotionally incapable of taking advantage of low stocks prices is a little thing known as hindsight bias.  Investors look at what happened last week, or last month, or last year, and assume that is what is going to happen this year.  Since we had the second worst bear market in the modern history of the stock market in 2008-09, investors assume that we will have another collapse of that magnitude in the near future.  News reports all support that bias.  All news is interpreted in a negative fashion.  When the stock market rises by a measly 25%, as it has in the last couple of months, investment professionals cannot conceive of it going up any higher without some sort of dramatic "correction" first.  All of this is utter nonsense.
Harken back to the good old days.  Remember 1995-1999?  Remember the giddy emotions associated with that brief five year period?  We went through a period of time when the stock market rose by 37.5%, 22.9%, 33.4%, 28.6%, and 21.0%, year after consecutive year.  Remember how the gurus were telling us that, due to the influence of modern technology, we were in a new era in which stock market corrections would never take place again?  Remember how grandmothers were practicing day-trading?  Remember how the price/earnings ratio of the S & P 500 rose to 34 (historic average is 16, present level is about 14) and we were told not to worry, that the stock market would always go up?  Remember how companies that had absolutely no earnings whatsoever would go public and immediatly be worth billions of dollars?  That, too, was an example of hindsight bias.  In that case, it was a positive hindsight bias.  What had happened the previous couple of years had to happen again this year.  Then, of course, came 2000-2002 when the stock market dropped by 9.1%, 11.9% and 22.1% in consecutive years.
Warren Buffet declared in an interview yesterday that he believes stocks and single family homes to be the best values in the country right now.  He is right.  He didn't get to be one of the richest men in the world by looking at investment opportunities through rose colored glasses.  Nevertheless, he was mocked by those who conducted the interview.  They "know" that he is out of touch with reality and that the real estate market is doomed to only go down and stocks, after their recent rise, are grossly overvalued.  They look back at their vast experience, consisting of the last five years, and conclude that stocks can never trade with a price/earnings ratio higher than 13 or 14.  Everyone they talk to confirms their estimations.  All the "smart money", they tell themselves,  is staying out of the stock market and real estate.
Meanwhile, money is pouring into bonds and bond funds.  That is a very bad decision on the part of investors.  Bonds are at the end of a 30 year bull market.  With interest rates near zero, there is no room left for them to appreciate.  When interest rates rise those who have recently invested in bond and bond funds are going to be severly burned.  They will probably switch their funds, after realizing a loss, into stock funds which, by that time, will probably be up another 50-100%.  Buy high, sell low...a great way to guarantee a loss.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Something Is Very Wrong With The Law

A fairly high profile criminal trial just wound up in Colorado Springs last week.  A lady by the name of Detra Farries was charged with several felonies in regards to her behavior that resulted in the death of a tow truck driver.  A tow truck driver by the name of Allen Rose was attempting to tow Farrie's SUV when she came upon the scene.  He had managed to attach a cable to her vehicle when she got into her car and drove away.  Rose chased after the fleeing vehicle and was caught up in the tow cable.  At that point jurors determined that Farries willingly dragged Rose 1.4 miles, swerving and driving erratically in a vain attempt to disengage him from her vehicle.  Rose's body broke free from the speeding SUV after 1.4 miles but by then it was too late to save his life. Farries was charged with the following three felonies:  leaving the scene of an accident involving death, manslaughter, and vehicular homicide.
The court determined that Farries was guilty of killing Rose with her vehicle, killing him, and leaving the scene where she had killed him.  Does this seem a bit redundant to anyone besides me?  It is obvious that she used her car to kill Rose (vehicular homicide).  It is equally obvious that she killed him (manslaughter).  Finally, it is equally obvious that she drove away after killing him (leaving the scene of an accident involving death).  Why should a person have to be charged with three separate felonies that all involve one action that took the life of another person?  Why does the simple charge of vehicular homicide not cover all of the actions that took place?  Farries dragged Rose behind her SUV until he died.  She killed him with her car.  End of the story.
Part of the reason prosecutors decided to charge Farries with three felonies all pertaining to the same action has to do with the penalties associated with each charge.  It is stunningly incomprehensible to me but the most serious charge of the three was "leaving the scene of an accident involving death".  Farries is looking at 24 years in prison for her conviction on that particular charge.  The other much more serious charges (to anybody with a lick of common sense) of manslaughter and vehicular homicide carry sentences of 12 years each, to be served concurrently.
Now let me get this straight.....killing a man is a less serious offense than leaving a scene of an accident in which someone died?  Using your SUV to kill a man is only half as serious as driving away from an accident in which somebody died?  Furthermore, if the sentences for manslaughter and vehicular homicide were to be served concurrently, why bother charging her with both?  This is especially true given the fact that manslaughter and vehicular homicide, in this particular situation, both apply to the exact same action.
This case illustrates that something is very seriously wrong with the law in this country.  When a woman can knowingly and willingly drag a man behind her car until he dies and then be sentenced to 24 years in prison for driving away from that incident, when the actual act of killing the man only nets her 12 years in prison, we have come to a place where the law no longer has any relationship to reality.  The law no longer has any relationship to morality.  The law no longer has any relationship to justice.  The law has become nothing more than something to be manipulated by lawyers for their own interests and advantages.  What a travesty.
At her sentencing Farries wore a T-shirt that said, "Only God Can Judge Me!!!"   If she is really guilty of willfully killing Rose I have a hard time understanding how she can be looking forward to the judgment of God.  It seems like the entire world has gone crazy.