Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Vodka: the New Schwag

This Breitbart piece is pretty funny, according to NGOs working in Russia Putin's party has been passing out bottles of vodka labeled as promotional pieces for the party. Eighty-proof political schwag, not exactly shocking. Right now in downtown Chicago some ad man is kicking himself for not doing that first and the Mayor's office is checking whether or not the Daley family has some sort of intellectual property rights to the concept of booze for votes. As you read this the Vodkapundit may be packing his bags to go over there and investigate.

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Jay Footlick Gets PR Boost

Jay Footlik got some decent PR this morning in Neil Steinberg's Sun Times column. Mr. Steinberg was initially amused at Mr. Footlik's name but proceeded to contact the Democratic Congressional primary contestant for Chicago's northern suburbs (IL 10th) and interviewed him. Mr. Steinberg is a liberal, albeit often a very reasonable one.

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Buffett on Taxes: Apples vs Oranges

Warren Buffett stated on NBC News Monday evening that his taxes are too low in comparison to his employees. Here is the exchange with Tom Brokaw:

Tom: You've talked about in your office, for example, you pay a much lower tax rate with all of your wealth than, say, a receptionist does.

Warren: That's exactly right, Tom. And I-- I think the only way to do it is with specifics, and-- and - and in our office, 15 people cooperated in a survey out of 18. I didn't make anybody do it. And my total taxes paid-- payroll taxes plus income tax-- and the payroll tax is an income tax. It's based on income.

Tom: Yeah.

Warren: Mine came to-- 17.7 percent. That-- that was the-- that was line 61 I think-- or, no, line 43-- is the percent of taxable income, plus payroll taxes, 17.7 percent. The average for the office was 32.9 percent. There wasn't anybody in the office from the receptionist on that paid as low a tax rate. And I have no tax planning. I don't have an-- I don't have a-- an accountant. I don't have tax shelters. I just follow what the U.S. Congress tells me to do.

Here is the problem, one which Mr. Buffett surely understands but that may be well beyond the pay grade of Mr. Brokaw; Mr. Buffett is comparing apples and oranges. Mr. Buffett has arranged to be compensated with stock and dividends (which has likely helped the companies that Berkshire Hathaway owns and the firm's own shareholders) rather than taking a salary, causing his compensation to be paid as capital gains. A good friend pointed out that Mr. Buffett is likely attempting to point out the disparities in tax treatment between the rich and everybody else. Among other things the rich can afford estate and tax planning. Mr. Buffett claimed to not have a tax planner and if he is trying to make the point that my friend believes that he is attempting to make then Mr. Buffett needs a decent PR person. His words are being used in an attempt to raise taxes across the board; is Mr. Buffett not familiar with Mr. Brokaw and what he does?

Others have properly pointed out that Mr. Buffett could simply send an extra check to the government to cover whatever he believes he owes and that is true. However it is noteworthy that Mr. Buffett is complaining about a pay structure that he has implemented. On some level he sounds like his buddy Bono. Bono has spent years telling Americans that they need to pay more in taxes in order to give a larger share of our efforts to those deemed needy by Bono and others. The rub is that Bono has been using an Irish tax scheme that subsidizes the artist of that nation. So Bono has been paying in the area of 1% of his substantial income in taxes. With little else to do Bono now spends his days whining that others are not as moral as he is because they do not pay what he believes that those others should pay in taxes.

Mr. Buffett is being used by those who have every desire to stifle American growth in order to feed their own pathetic and envious phyches. It would be a shame if Mr. Buffett's legacy ends up as being a dupe for those who wish to destroy what Mr. Buffett has spent a lifetime building. Mr. Buffett should know by now that society in Washington is likely more stultifying than society in Omaha, so he shouldn't suck up to Brokaw and his ilk.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Delusion, Thy Name is Ellen's Tenth...

Every once in a while when I need a good laugh I point my browser over to Ellen's Tenth Congressional District Blog run by Ellen Beth Gill, an attorney in Illinois. Ms. Gill (if I may call her that) apparently is an attorney in this fine state and that should scare every American. Ms. Gill attended an anti-war rally in Union Park in Chicago (Ashland & Lake) along with several hundred other souls, out of the several million people in the Chicago metro area last Saturday and was obviously enthralled by some dip named Greg Palast. Mr. Palast's Wikipedia entry describes him as a reporter for the BBC, which explains a lot.

If Ms. Gill is to be believed in her account of Mr. Palast's speech then the man has some pretty serious issues, as do those who were in his thrall last weekend. Ms. Gill described a man who is so utterly divorced from reality that he really should be about two bits from the gutter, but no, our "intelligent" Democratic friends not only employ the man but swoon over his deranged ramblings.

Ms. Gill starts out her recounting of Mr. Palast's, um, episode by stating that the price of oil is up because of George Bush, you know, he was once in the oil business. Mr. Palast apparently has absolutely no clue concerning the supply/demand situation that has played out in the oil markets during the past decade. Palast and those dippy Democrats may not realize it yet but the Chinese and the Indians are buying (and yes, driving) automobiles in unprecedented numbers. Oh and those automobiles run on gasoline, the same fuel that Ms. Gill and her fellow travelers use in their automobiles. The dippy Palast said that the war was started not for oil but rather to keep the Iraqi oil off of the market for the benefit of OPEC. That would be the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries that Mr. Palast was referring to, the same group of governments that stole the assets of many American oil companies under the guise of "nationalization". Obviously those oil companies have every reason to forgo the profits of delivery in order to make crude oil more expensive and to help those governments that ripped them off. Roll another one, just like the other one...

Palast was reported to have called Houston, Tx. the "capital of Iraq" and apparently whined throughout the evening about governmental privatization; after all, we all know that "Nobody Does it Better" than the federal government.

The speech got even stranger and the audience got even more gullible as the night went on and Mr. Palast explained that Karl Rove's aides have been accidentally sending Palast e-mails that incriminate the senders, Rove and the Republican Party in a scheme to disenfranchise voters. What type of person would say such an obvious dishonesty in public? Who would take such an assertion seriously? No word yet whether or not Ms. Gill was able to fit the Brooklyn Bridge in her back yard but the view would be just fabulous.

Clearly the Beeb's Boy has some problems, he claimed to have made a FOIA request to see the evacuation plans for New Orleans but that the plans had not been completed because the plan had been outsourced; probably by those notorious Neo-Con Republicans Mayor Ray Nagin (D-NO) and Governor Kathleen Blanco (D-La). The truth is that the city of New Orleans was required to file an evacuation plan with the Federal Government in the spring of 2005, which they did. The problem was that the corrupt Democratic governments of New Orleans and Louisiana refused to implement the plan until it was too late. Those two Democratic leaders held a press conference the morning before Katrina hit (Sunday) and admitted that President Bush had called both of them the previous morning (Saturday) and told them both that they needed to EVACUATE the city of New Orleans. They demurred because they didn't want to scare people. They both reported their exchanges with the President in a manner that made it clear that they would use such a request against George Bush if the city was not inundated. Whoops!

Strangely (or not) Ms. Gill also claims to be in the thrall of the late W.E.B. DuBois, a man who once made this genuinely brilliant observation to the National Guardian in March of 1953, "Joseph Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature." Okay, it's not so strange that Ms. Gill, a woman who apparently will believe anything, is also in the thrall of some guy who lionized Stalin.

It is a sad and pathetic world over at Ellen's Tenth and we should all be glad that we aren't leading lives of envy and delusion like Ms. Gill and her acolytes. Once again, I blame Owsley Stanley.

It is also worth noting that in a post today Ms. Gill described Ann Coulter as the Republican Party spokesperson and wrote that the Republicans are responsible for her comments. What can you say? Ms. Coulter, a woman who does not do her ideas any favors is not a "spokesperson" for anybody except for Ann Coulter, to say otherwise is a lie. Many found her comments on theology to be ridiculous but many of the same folks complainingabout Ann Coulter don't seem very upset over the fact that a sizable swath of a different religion is actively trying to end all of the human rights that Ms. Gill and her minions so often claim to find so dear.

The title of this post was inspired by Hamlet, thank you William Shakespeare.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

World's Great Minds Look at Ag Issues

Here's an interesting one, two of the best minds in the blogging "business" take a look at long-term agriculture issues and the Malthusian thinking that occasionally affects the ag world, Professor Gary Becker the U of Chicago Nobel Economist and Judge Richard Posner the Federal Judge, U of Chicago Law Prof and prolific author (hey didn't he win the pole at Indy in '63?) co-blog the fantastic Becker-Posner Blog. They take on the recent rise in grain prices and the likely long-term issues that the world faces with those pressures.

It is especially enjoyable for me as the discussion is one that I took part in over the course of the last decade during breakfast with a group of fellow grain traders. It's always great to see such great minds turn their prodigious brainpower on an issue and see largely the same story that you and your friends have been seeing. Like us they see some dangers but the likelihood of the world largely adjusting, with noted dislocations. They also point out that before the recent price rallies grain prices have been very inexpensive in real dollars. Thank you gentlemen.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Obama on Social Security: What The?

Senator Barak Obama (D-IL) was apparently feeling his oats in Iowa yesterday while accusing his Presidential Primary opponent Senator Hilary Clinton (D-NY) of not being honest with the public concerning her ideas about Social Security. This is not playing into a strong hand for Senator Obama as he appears to not have a clue concerning that governmental program. Sen. Obama has been stating that we should take the "cap" off of Social Security payments, Social Security taxes 15 1/2% (half paid by the employer, if applicable) of the first $98,000 of taxable income (a level that increases yearly) and nothing above that level, thus the "cap". Income above that level is not taxed for the sensible reason that the system does not pay benefits based on income above that level.

In addition to some fundamental fairness questions there are also the questions concerning the advisability of implementing the Obama plan that in addition to the current top federal tax rate of 35% would result in a top tax rate over 50%; and that is before the Democratic promise to at least return to President Clinton's 39.6% rate, which would result in a 55% top tax rate.

As Social Security stands today it is a pay as you go system, meaning that current benefits are paid by current FICA receipts. When the system is running in surplus, as it currently is, the remaining funds are deposited into the Federal Government's General Account in exchange for unmarketable interest bearing certificates issued at below market interest rates. Those bonds will be paid off by future tax receipts, they are by definition a call on America's future income. I generally shun the government/household economic comparisons that are often made concerning deficit spending (governments are not humans thus they generally will not retire, get sick, move, etc.) but the Social Security fund's surplus situation makes for an exception to that rule: to view the surplus fund as "savings" is similar to viewing payment of one's Visa bill as "savings". The funds in that surplus account, it is quite literally a file cabinet (Al Gore described it as a "lock box") full of Treasury Certificates in Washington DC, are spent today with a promise to be paid back with interest at some point in the future. They can only be paid back by the tax payers or lenders of the future.

When politicians talk about Social Security they discuss the same two options with some variations, a decrease in benefits and an increase in taxation, it would seem that the only way to avoid increasing taxes and/or decreasing benefits is to increase the population of tax payers. What is rarely discussed is the idea of increasing the size of the economy enough to allow payment of future benefits. That is a goal that cannot be achieved (all else remaining the same, which never happens) by taking capital from the job creating private sector and giving it to the government.

Senator Obama's suggestion to raise tax rates more than 15% on top earners was accompanied by a very helpful example, Senator Obama used the example of investor Warren Buffett. The Senator complained that the Federal Government should get another 15 1/2% of the $46 million that Mr. Buffett recently declared as his yearly income. Now call me crazy but I believe that the citizens of the United States would be better off in both the short and the long runs if Mr. Buffett invested the $7,130,000 in question into companies that could very well be employing people twenty years from now who will pay off the Social Security obligations that we are incurring today rather than pouring that money into the black hole of the Federal Government's General Account.

If Senator Obama, and the rest of the Democratic Presidential contenders actually believe that America is better off with the $7 million in question being spent by our profligate federal legislatures rather than being invested by Warren Buffett then they should take the time to honestly explain why they hold such a view. If they believe that Mr. Buffett would do more with that $7 million than our government then they should reconsider all of their economic thinking.

Update: Flying Debris commented on Mr. Buffett's subsequent comments concerning his tax bill here.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Obama on US Troops: Let Them Eat Falafels

Chicago Sun Times columnist Lynn Sweet has written about Sen Barack Obama (D-IL) again, this time in relation to a spat between Senators Obama and Clinton (D-NY) concerning the war. Sen Clinton has supported the US plan to take on Iran by cutting financial ties to Iran's Qud military force. Iran has largely been at war with the United States since 1979 and for all of her faults at least Senator Clinton is smart enough to realize that reality. Senator Obama, despite his education at Columbia and Harvard Law is simply not smart enough to grasp that and much more.

Senator Obama, like so many of his fellow Democrats claim to, ahem, "support the troops". Senator Obama has apparently decided that the best way to support the troops is to be supportive of America's enemies. You know, the ones who are supplying arms to those who are killing Americans and are even killing Americans themselves. What is wrong with Barak?

In Sweet's article Obama is also reported to have said on Wednesday in Dover, NH that he would "'take up arms myself' to prevent another 9/11 from happening." Just what the military needs, some "former community activist" butting in where he is not needed. A reasonable person would ask, who would he attack? What would he do, hit some unknown entity with a copy of Black's Law Dictionary? The man is truly an empty suit.

The title of this post was inspired by this Flying Debris post, Obama on Mid-East: Let Them Eat Falafels.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cheney Spies on Kucinich From UFO!

Okay, the Vice-President did not actually visit the candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Rep. Denis Kucinich in a flying saucer but this story sounds like a moonbat's tale of being spied on by evil Republicans. Here is an excerpt:

Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has seen a UFO, writes Shirley MacLaine in her new book, "Sage-Ing While Age-Ing." Kucinich, she writes on page143-144 of the book, "had a close sighting over my home in Graham, Washington, when I lived there. Dennis found his encounter extremely moving. The smell of roses drew him out to my balcony where, when he looked up, he saw a gigantic triangular craft, silent, and observing him. It hovered, soundless, for ten minutes or so, and sped away with a speed he couldn't comprehend. He said he felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind."

Ahem, "
He said he felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind". Wow!

Hat Tip: Drudge

Many Thanks to the Wonderful Dr. Sanity for inclusion in her Carnival of Insanities again theis week.

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Ron Paul - Still Crazy?

What kind of question is that? On this blog I have repeatedly stated that I do not hold Ron Paul or his supporters in very high esteem but Jay Tea over at Wizbang has a great post today (with the fantastic title Still Crazy After All These Years) on an interview with the Libertarian Presidential candidate that he conducted while in college during the 1988 campaign. You guessed it, the candidate was none other than Ron Paul himself. Like Jay Tea, I too agree with some of the Paul positions from back in the day and like Mr. Tea I do not believe that many of the ideas are implementable nor do I feel that Rep. Paul has the ability to carry them out. It is very noticeable that Mr. Paul has not changed his rhetoric during the past 19 years, his followers however did not have the 9/11 Truther nonsense to babble on about.

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Obama Responds?

Nearly two months ago I wrote to one of my US Senators regarding his party (the Democrats), their leader in the Senate (Harry Reid D-Nev) and their treatment of General Petraeus. Well Senator-On-The-Spot has sent a response and the Senator did not even respond to my concerns. He tells us that he is supportive of the troops, blah, blah, blah. He has also recently stated that our troops were killing women and children; so the, ahem, "genius" from Illinois is now supportive of those he considers baby killers. That is Presidential material right there!

Obama really says nothing new in his delayed response but on the plus side, he responded to the actual letter that I sent him in September. Responses to other letters that I have sent to Senator Obama were puzzling because they did not respond to the concern that I had written about, I guess that it helps to write Senator Obama about a concern that he considers a campaign issue.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Code Pinkos Harass Pelosi Neighbor

Here's a story that I missed last week, the San Francisco Police have cleared the area in front of Speaker Pelosi's (D-Ca) home of protesters and made the spaces in front of her house no parking spaces, fair enough. Unfortunately in addition to loosing five parking spaces the fact that the city has allowed the protesters to stay in the neighborhood means that the Speaker's neighbors are bearing the brunt of the nonsense propagated by Code Pink and their fellow travelers.
Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin.

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Morgan Dumps NY Times Holdings

Bloomberg is reporting that Morgan Stanley has dumped their 7% share of the New York Times A shares. As Flying Debris noted last April most of the voting rights are vested in the B shares that are primarily held by the publishers, the Sulzberger family. As a P.O.B., Flying Debris predicted that Morgan would likely have trouble getting the Sulzberger family to cede voting rights to the A shareholders.

Update: Michelle Malkin had a NY Times A stock chart yesterday and it's not a pretty sight.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Fun I Missed!

A few weeks later the blogger gets back to the keyboard! My excuses? Many. I started out preparing for an hour-long final show on the Main Stage at Second City Chicago after spending a year at the Second City Training Center's year-long Improv Program. In addition to that show and watching the pathetic Chicago Cubs during their post-season swoon I had a guest in town. An old girlfriend came to Chicago and stayed with me for a week. She lives outside of Boulder, Co., so as you the reader can only imagine we approach the world very differently. That's the beauty of America, a neo-con and a neo-hippy can be best of friends and actually talk about our world. However a few more weeks out of the mountains could actually be therapeutic for her.

While I was otherwise busy some of the usual nonsense of the blog world continued, including the fact that Ellen Beth Gill, the lawyer who writes Ellen's Illinois Tenth Congressional District (blah, blah, blah) Blog (Flying Debris discussed her blog here and here) has banned comments from those pesky people who disagree with her and her fellow North Shore Democrats. I was given the heads-up on the issue by Team America, an occasional commenter here and a regular commenter over at Ellen's place, he has been banned and low and behold, so had your humble correspondent. Well Team America has decided not to take this affront laying down and he has started Team America's Tenth District Blog. From what I could discern from his comments and the first few posts he is a sharp and sharp witted Republican lawyer from Lake County, IL. What is it with all of those legal bloggers anyways?

As a self described moderate Republican I would expect Team America to cover the upcoming campaign of my childhood friend Rep. Mark Kirk (IL-10), a Republican moderate who has flown missions over Iraq as a Reservist while serving in Congress. Mark's last opponent Dan Seals, the son of Bear great and former Board of Trade member George Seals has been running again since last June, Mr. Seals has been running for office rather than working for a few years now. His father George Seals is a great guy, when I was just starting out on the floor of the Board of Trade I darted out of a pit into an aisle right as George Seals, the former Bear offensive guard was running to the soybean pit (it was less than a minute before the markets opened), those who know me in person also know that even as a young man I was going to lose to the former Bear. I picked myself up and went on to do whatever I was in such a hurry to do, Mr. Seals never broke stride. I knew that I was in the wrong, I didn't look when I jumped out of the pit but George Seals later came over to apologize and make sure that I was in one piece (I told him that it was my fault and that although I ached a little bit it was a real experience to be run over by a Bear), he is one of those real class acts. I hope that his son follows his father's lead this time around as far as his campaign goes, last year's version was not exactly a high point for the Democratic Party.

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