Thursday, February 26, 2009

Quote of the day

Oklahoma Democrats say GOP protecting insurance companies.
"It's not our obligation in the Senate to make sure the insurance companies make money," said Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah.
Say what?

Killing the sacred cow?

Ever since Joseph interpreted the phaoah's dream, agriculture has been a sacred cow. (I've been waiting forever for the opportunity to post that!)

Considering the sheer enormity of Obama's program to "save" the economy, ending direct paymments to farmers counts as less than a needle in a haystack. Nevertheless, I'm glad to see that ending this particular form of welfare is finally on the table, as the Tulsa World is reporting.

The Oklahoman is carrying the World's report, and I can't begin to tell you how gratifying it is to read the comments and see how many of the commenters get it.

Unfortunately, US Representative Frank Lucas doesn't get it, and his hypocrisy also is noted by several commenters.

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Round Up is hosted by Making Progress.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Brian Phillips' virtual platform: Quality of Life

How often do we hear something described as a "quality of life" issue? Brian Phillips exposes it for what it is:
My opponents promise that they will improve the city’s “quality of life”, but they do not define the term. They assume that we all know and agree to the same definition of “quality of life”. As used by my opponents, "quality of life" is a meaningless phrase.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Brian Phillips, virtual candidate for mayor of Houston

Brian Phillips has earned a reputation as an effective campaigner against zoning and for property rights by making a principled case for restricting government intervention in the developement of urban areas. Now Brian hopes to take his promotion of individual rights to the next level by participating in Houston's next mayoral election as a "virtual" candidate.
Over the past few months I have previewed some of the potential candidates for the Houston Mayoral election in 2009. I have even fantasized about my ideal candidate. But rather than continue to wait in vain for my ideal candidate to emerge, I am now declaring my virtual candidacy for Houston Mayor. (By virtual candidacy, I mean that I am not literally running for Mayor. But I will address the issues as if I were.)
The idea of running as a "virtual" candidate is a potentially interesting one, particularly if the "candidate" is able to contrast his ideas with those of his very real opponents by expressing them in terms of concrete solutions to actual, real world problems.

Will Phillips' campaign be able to connect with an actual constituency and build real-world support for Objectivist ideas?

The election is in November.

Here's his announcement of his candidacy.

Brian's platform: statement of principles

Brian's platform: crime

Brian's platform: city services


"We live in a time when billions of dollars of market capitalization can be wiped out by a single political speech, statutory command, or regulatory decree; and those politicians consume our lives as much as our dollars . . . "
Those are the words of Jim Woods, describing the circumstances and reasons that motivated him to decide to "go on strike".

How many of "those politicians" are motivated by cowardice? How many by power-lust? How many by destruction for the sake of destruction?

How many by a sincere commitment to altruism?

Whatever their motive, the effect on our best and brightest remains the same.

Who's the biggest threat?

You would think that anyone could see that the biggest threat facing this country today is the economic situation and Congress's cowardly, craven, power-lusting response to it.

You would think that would be the prime pre-occupation of every legislator in the country right now.



Apparently some legislators seek a distraction to deflect the public's attention away from their culpability in the current situation. Witness Utah state senator Chris Buttars. According to an email I received this morning from the Human Rights Campaign, senator Buttars has caught the Kern disease, and seems to have nothing better to do in this time of crisis than inform his fellow legislators and constituents that the greatest threat this country faces today is . . .



HRC has posted a video of Buttars on YouTube.

Update - 6pm, Feb 20th: Buttars has been reprimanded by the Utah State Senate.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Armstrong rallies against stimulus

Ari Armstrong at has posted a series of in-depth entries analyzing the "Pork Roast Rally" (great name!) to protest Obama's signing of the stimulus package in Denver on Tuesday.

Here's his comment that I think does the best job of summing up the proper response to all the BS from both sides:
" . . . the Obama "stimulus" package is bad, and so was Bush's. This is a view rooted in the ideas of liberty, not party politics. I am perfectly happy to condemn Republicans and Democrats alike for violating economic liberty and individual rights."
Some of the speakers at the rally made great points, too:
Jim Pfaff: "Stimulus is when individuals and businesses are able to take their own decisions and go out and make a life for themselves. To pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Shawn Mitchell: "If the problem is that people are borrowing too much on credit cards and on home equity, how does it help things for the federal government to shove us aside and show us what a world-class credit binge looks like?" (Talk about dead on!)
Overall, Armstrong feels the rally was a mixed bag with too little emphasis on liberty and too much on distracting GOP partisanship. For instance, why was Tom Tancredo there, talking about illegal immigration?

Still ya gotta love it when Democrats get compared to Bernie Madoff.

Here's where to go to read Armstrong's analysis:
Pork Roast Mixes Liberty, Populism, and Partisanship

Stimulus and Partisanship
Armstrong has pics of the event, too:
Pork Roast Rally in Photos


Sally Kern's stealth-creationism bill passed out of the Common Education committee of the state House this evening. The vote was 8-5. The bill has a new author and a "committee substitute" which I don't have any information on yet.

The fight continues.

Poor investment plan

The Oklahoman has a good column today by a local financial advisor, John Pribyl.
Poor investment plan
POINT OF VIEW Obama’s strategy punishes Wall Street
Published: February 18, 2009

Like many, I was impressed with our new president in the early weeks after his election. His ability to inspire hope and communicate effectively impressed even his detractors. However, his actions, words and behavior in recent weeks have given me reason to reconsider his message of "hope."

President Obama has relied upon fear to pressure Americans and their elected representatives to support a plan that presumes catastrophe and doom. As part of this push for passage and acceptance of his partisan spending package, Obama and his administration have continuously blamed Wall Street for the financial and economic crisis we are now experiencing. Certainly, Wall Street (not the place, but the acronym for the financial community as a whole) deserved, and accepted, much of the blame. However, our new president has failed to admonish or even acknowledge Congress for its role in this crisis.

Marginal loans that lenders were required to make were the genesis of our current economic malaise. Now, his solution is to give control of our assets to the same entity that created much of the problem and whose oversight failed us badly.

Policies set forth by the new administration are designed to punish and penalize Wall Street. They propose mortgage debt "cram-down,” onerous new regulations, dilution of current stock ownership that impedes the ability to raise new capital, and congressional hearings designed to embarrass and grandstand. In its zeal to reform, the current administration is crippling our ability to rebound.

I would argue that President Obama’s apparent disdain for capitalism is the compelling reason for skepticism surrounding his unprecedented financial plan. Companies won’t be able to raise capital when stock prices are declining. Without the ability to raise capital, companies will be limited in their ability to buy, build and hire. The success of businesses, large and small, and the employment of the masses requires a functioning Wall Street.

Unfortunately, the rhetoric and action being employed by the current administration is creating class conflict that should not exist. Even those who have no investment in the stock market benefit from Wall Street’s success. When Obama learns, and acknowledges, that Main Street benefits from a healthy and thriving Wall Street, then he will begin to prove that he understands the difference between capitalism and socialism.

I have long held the belief that the financial markets are bigger than the policies of any administration or government. However, when those policies disregard the fundamentals of capitalism, I must begin to question that belief.

"Hope” is not a good investment strategy. Our new president helped launch his meteoric climb with a book titled "The Audacity of Hope.” If it is audacious to hope that we could elect an African-American as our president, why should it be considered audacious to believe that Wall Street can help us to recover from this economic crisis?

Wall Street has functioned well for more than two centuries. Given the chance, Wall Street will lead us, again, to prosperity.

Pribyl of Oklahoma City is senior portfolio manager for Leonard Investment Advisors, Inc.
The online comments - except for mine - are disgusting.

More from this week's Gazette

In addition to my letter, this week's Oklahoma Gazette also contains a (very lengthy) letter by Terri Miller criticizing the "Clouds Over America" conference that was the subject of the "It's a conspiracy" article in the Feb 4th issue.

While the Gazette does not post letters online, it does post much of the rest of the paper on its website, including the weekly op-eds. This week, Kurt Hochenauer discusses SB320, state Senator Randy Brogdon's "Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act" which failed to pass the Senate Education Committee on Monday. This bill was a carbon copy of a bill that was passed and signed by Governor Jindal in Louisiana last year. This has led to the state being boycotted by scientific groups.

Defeating this bill took much effort from Oklahomans - including me - who value science undiluted by religion. Unfortunately Sally Kern's "Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act" was re-introduced this year and is making its way through the state House of Representatives. Senate president pro tempore Glenn Coffee has been quoted in the Tulsa World as saying he won't allow the bill to get through the Senate, but as we've seen before, nothing is guaranteed.

Chris Smith has written a column which makes some good points regarding government regulation of smoking and the hypocrisy of a bill expanding such regulation coming from a Republican state senator, David Myers. The Gazette's website doesn't allow right-clicking, so I'll just confine myself to one quote which sums up Smith's argument quite nicely, I think:
"Why is the party of free markets, private commerce and individual freedoms proposing this bill?"

My letter in the Oklahoma Gazette

My letter has made it into the new Gazette, out today. In fact, it's the lead!
In Ben Fenwick's article in the Feb. 4, 2009 issue of the Oklahoma Gazette, "It's a conspiracy!", state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, is quoted as saying, "The homosexuals get it - it's a struggle between our religious freedoms and their right to do what they want to do."

No reasonable person could think that allowing homosexuals the freedom to be homosexual could in any way possibly interfere with anyone's freedom to practice their religion as their conscience dictates. The Founding Fathers knew the way to ensure everyone's freedom was to recognize that all citizens have the same basic rights - a principle they enshrined in the Constitution in Article 4, Section 2 and the "Equal Protection Clause" of the Fourteenth Amendment.

According homosexuals the same rights and freedoms as every other citizen of this country in no way infringes anyone's right to practice their beliefs and to express them accordingly in their own homes and churches, or even in public. It only constrains those who wrongly believe that their religion obligates them to use force to impose their views on others.

In such a case, the line is clearly drawn, as it is in every other situation when coercion and force comes into play: No human being has the right to use force against other human beings, except in cases where another human being has used force first.

It is irresponsible of Sally Kern to be wasting the government's energy and resources on such a non-issue when the country - including Oklahoma - is facing an economic crisis that threatens to deprive all of us of real freedom. I hope this year that we will see even some of Mrs. Kern's fellow Republican legislators getting wise to her.

Rob Abiera
Oklahoma City

Abiera is owner of
I was dissuaded from actually quoting the Constitution in my letter, but here is the text of the sections I cited (emphases mine):

Article 4, Section 2 - excerpt:
The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
14th Amendment - excerpt:
1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
(Text from The US Constitution Online)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Round Up is hosted by Titanic Deck Chairs.

Definitely check out Doug Reich's "How to Solve Economic Crisis in 5 Minutes"! I'm going to send that one to a few legislators, the head of the state GOP & everywhere else I can think of!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Crisis this

Hmmm . . . while the stimulus-mongers scream "the sky is falling!" Capitalism Marches On:
Imagining tech's post-nuke winter? A preview

EXCERPT: "The fact is that Web 2.0 has played out. The VCs who invest in this sort of thing continue to argue otherwise, but I've tuned them out. Nobody's offered a convincing explanation as to why Web 2.0's 15 minutes of fame aren't about up.

At the other end of the spectrum, this horrid economy is creating a paradox: the strongest technology companies are actually doubling down to extend their advantage.

Just this week, Intel disclosed its plans to spend $7 billion over the next couple of years. The investment will go to upgrade Intel's manufacturing technology here in the U.S. (stimulus bill or no stimulus bill) with an eye toward the introduction of 32-nanometer technology. That is quite a sum, but consider that Intel had about $12 billion in cash and investments on its balance sheet at the end of its last quarter. In other words, there's a lot more where that came from.

Elsewhere, pay attention to what's taking place at Cisco Systems. Talking with analysts earlier this month, CEO John Chambers didn't seem overly concerned as he warned sales might decline by as much as 20 percent in the current quarter. In fact, he predicted that a stronger Cisco will ultimately emerge, ready for the recovery.

Maybe he was telegraphing what was in store. On Monday, Cisco announced that it was selling $4 billion worth of bonds in what's the probably prelude to another Chambers shopping expedition. A company representative says that $500 million will go to pay down existing debt. That still leaves $3.5 billion in Monopoly money with which to go on a spree."

A dangerous situation

According to an AP report:
Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia on Dec. 31, reported that it had reopened lines of credit to some Wachovia customers who had been denied credit. It also reported $22 billion in new loan commitments and $50 billion in mortgages in the last quarter of 2008.
Why were these customers originally denied credit? Will they be able to pay these loans back? What if they can't? Won't this put banks in the same situation they were in before the bailout? And how will that build the confidence of the kind of responsible person who does not apply for loans he can't pay back? How does this restore consumer confidence and convince them it's safe to spend money rather than save it?

And why aren't journalists - much less bureaucrats - asking these questions?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ray Niles on bonuses

"As Wall Street Bonuses Go, So Goes the Liberty of All of Us"

And check out the comments on NoodleFood regarding the bank bailout.

Republicans as Democrats

Thomas Sowell gets it.

Excuse me?

Oh geez, this is so lame:
"And, you know, we looked for the people with the brilliant ideas of what to do, we didn't find them, . . . "
That's Chris Anderson, the 'curator' of the TED Conference, on "why the biggest financial crisis of our time didn’t have a more prominent place on the TED agenda." (as reported by Steven Levy on his blog)

Do you think it even occured to Mr. Anderson to possibly look in places like, say, the Ayn Rand Institute?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Some Oklahomans really do want freedom

Wow. Check out the letters column in today's Oklahoman.

Stimulating hasn't worked before, why should it now?

Something occured to me while I was reading yet another email bashing the Republicans who are resisting the stimulus. Supporters of the stimulus claim that the only way to get the economy going is for the government to spend lots of money.

But isn't that what got us here in the first place? The federal budget expanded to over 3 trillion dollars during the Bush administration. Now suddenly the solution to the economy going into the tank is more of the government spending that got us here in the first place?

I'm not seeing it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Oklahoman tells it like is - for once


I never get excited by the editorials in The Oklahoman - there's always too much for me to disagree with. But damn if this isn't an exception: especially the title and the first two paragraphs.

Too bad the writer doesn't go all the way and point out the fallacy in the altruism that motivates the pushers of insurance mandates for things like autism - but then, that would be going against The Oklahoman's basic position of religious conservatism.

And notice the quote by Representative Mike Brown. People like him are not worried about running off private insurers because they want the government to take over the insurance industry. They want the government to be the insurance company and they want the power that goes with that.
Risk averse: State control affects insurance market
The Oklahoman Editorial
Published: February 8, 2009

Here’s what happens when governments assume too much control of the property and casualty insurance market: Private insurers are driven out, leaving taxpayers as the insurers of last resort.

Here’s what happens when governments assume too much control of the group health insurance market: Premium prices are driven up, leaving some citizens uninsured.

Florida’s largest private insurer, State Farm, is exiting the state. Hit with huge losses after the hurricane season of 2004, State Farm asked for a substantial rate increase. The state said no. State Farm said goodbye.

Other large insurers had already left Florida, unique in the amount of shoreline property being covered and the potential for that high-dollar property to be destroyed by storms.

Oklahoma also has a property and casualty problem because of wind, tornado, fire, ice and hail events. Unlike in Florida, though, Oklahoma hasn’t — yet — assumed too much control of the market.

State Farm said it’s paid out $1.21 in claims for every dollar of premiums collected since 2000. Florida’s largest insurer is now a state-run, nonprofit company created to offer coverage where private insurance wasn’t available. That area just got a lot bigger.

Group health care premiums in Oklahoma would likely get a lot bigger if the state adds an autism treatment mandate. Lawmakers last week rejected the mandate, but the fight isn’t over. Mandate supporter Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, taunted opponents by saying, "Who’s running this, the insurance companies or you legislators?"

He should worry instead about running off insurance companies and running up the uninsured numbers.

Update - Feb 10th: Paul Hsieh has posted a comment at the FIRM blog.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My letter to the governor

I have emailed the following to Governor Henry, and intend to follow-up with a hard copy by postal mail:
Dear Governor Henry,

I am writing to ask you to support the separation of church and state in Oklahoma. As I'm sure you are aware, there are bills in the legislature to give government backing to religious dogma.

HB 1001 would create a climate which would empower religious proselytising in Oklahoma's schools. You vetoed a bill last year which was a virtual carbon copy of this bill. You know how destructive this bill would be if enacted and it deserves your opposition again.

SB 320 specifically attacks the teaching of science in Oklahoma. The bill's sponsors seek to create the impression that important facts about the theory of evolution are being actively suppressed in Oklahoma's schools. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, and their true intentions are to smuggle in creationism under the guise of "intelligent design". This would transform science classes into forums promoting religious dogma. The place for teaching about religion is in religion classes, not science classes. A similar bill was signed into law last year in Louisiana, and already creationists are using the education administration in that state to subvert science classes by turning them into platforms for the promotion of religion. This bill is a profound threat to genuine academic freedom and the integrity of education in Oklahoma and deserves your strongest opposition.

SJR 8 would require prayer in Oklahoma's public schools. This bill is an assault on the rights of religious minorities in Oklahoma - some of which do not believe in praying in public and some of whom do not believe in religion at all. Please do not subject Oklahoma's students to the tyranny of the majority. There is nothing stopping those who choose to do so on their own from praying in Oklahoma's public schools. This bill is obviously directed at students who do not subscribe to the "majority belief" and choose - for whatever reason - not to pray in school. This bill is created by those who seek the power of government coercion to force their beliefs on others. School prayer has been ruled unconstitutional and any attempts to institute it would result in expensive lawsuits and the attendant publicity. This bill must be opposed - even a moment of silence is a dangerous concession that lets them get their foot in the door.

HJR 1009 would place Oklahoma on record as opposing the property rights of pregnant women. A woman's body is her property and she alone should have the final say on what happens to it. The Freedom of Choice Act recognizes this and its opponents know that. They are the enemies of Freedom. You stood up to them last year. I respectfully implore you to stand up to them again.

In your State of the State address you spoke of your desire to see Oklahoma become a leader in the field of biotechnology. This will not happen if Oklahoma's students are unable to receive the kind of education in science and biology that makes them attractive to biotechnology employers. Oklahoma's students will not receive that kind of education if the teaching of evolution is compromised by religion. This is why the separation of church and state is not simply some abstract idea, but something fundamental to Oklahoma's future. For the sake of Oklahoma's future, please help us uphold it.

Thank you,
Rob Abiera