BOOK REVIEW – NUDGE

April 18, 2009

A liberal I respect recently recommended a book he thought I might find interesting, Nudge by Thaler & Sunstein. If a book provides me with at least one new insight or fresh idea, even if the rest of the book was stale, then I consider it to have been worth my time. Well, I can say that I came away from Nudge with a couple of different ideas, and considering it was a very fast read, then my time-cost to benefit ratio was acceptable.

I knew this would be a very liberal book as it was written by two Harvard professors and I was aware that one of the authors had been posted to a position in Obama’s administration. As annoying as it is to read a book inherently written with such a liberal bias, not all of the ideas were bad; even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Quite a bit of the book is devoted to explaining why people make the choices they do, which is very similar to another book I recently read, Blink. Most of it was common sense and nothing that salesmen and marketing professionals did not figure out decades ago.

The book is said to be about “ways of helping people to make better choices without requiring anybody to do anything. It’s a conception of government that is reluctant to impose mandates and bans but is kind of shrewd about enlisting what we know about human behavior in good directions.” They have named their theory “Libertarian Paternalism”, expecting I suppose, to convince those of us with true libertarian leanings that their ideas are right down the middle of the road. They do this a lot, manipulating their own readers with “nudges”, which simply turn out to be insulting.

They offer many examples of tactics and situations in which you can nudge people into making the “correct” decision, and many of them were good ideas for the private sector. But I am going to focus on the ideas where government was doing the nudging, because that it the reason the book was written. The rest of the pages were just padding to obscure the true purpose, which was to allow the virtuous liberal to feel good about himself while he condescendingly tinkers with the decision making of lesser mortals.

It is interesting that despite the theory being named “Libertarian Paternalism”, only three of the many ideas were libertarian in nature — and those were the ones that were okay with me. Not surprisingly, they did not involve nudging at all, but instead called for the removal of government from certain areas of life, such as the doctor/patient relationship, the institution of marriage, and the rights of a human to do what they wish with their own body. All sound ideas to me.

As for the other examples of government intervention, some of those were not nudges either. For example, they support sin taxes such as those on cigarettes. How is that a gentle nudge? The smoker is not given a better choice and nudged toward it. A sin tax is simply a punitive measure. I abhor smoking, but it irritates me greatly when government attempts to make money off the backs of a minority because they know the majority will not care. One never knows what tomorrow’s sin will be when libs are running the show.

The authors give examples of government nudging in the areas of social security, healthcare, and education to name a few. Here is an example of nudging: We are told that too many choices are counterproductive to good decision-making, which may be true. The nudge comes in when the government pares down the citizen’s choices to those that are “best for that person”. The authors emphasize throughout the book that people should retain freedom of choice, but it becomes clear they only mean freedom to choose those options shortlisted first by superior intellects.

At the end of the book they have preemptively addressed objections to their theory. In a section where they admit to believing in income redistribution as a tool of government, they declare “Some of our most extreme critics offer an objection that will strike many readers as just odd.” This is the nudge to the dense reader that what follows is extreme and odd. They then go on to say that some people are against all forced income redistribution (gasp). Damn straight! I tire of libs such as these characterizing us as close-minded if we believe in the strict limitation of the government to its specifically enumerated powers. As if we hold these beliefs out of sheer stubbornness.

In sum, as frustrating and, at times, insulting as this book was, the problems I have with their premise are all within the confines of actions by our federal government. I think some of these ideas are much better suited to government on a local or state level. Around the time I read this book, I happened to read a column by P.J. O’Rourke, some of which seemed amusingly apropos to this topic:

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ANOTHER OBAMA POWER GRAB

April 18, 2009

Part of Obama’s recent budget plan calls for limitations on the tax-deductions on wealthy people’s charitable giving. This idea goes beyond bad to somewhere in the realm of creepy. It is blatantly obvious that such a move would cause a decrease in donations to charitable organizations.

When asked about that, the OMB said Obama planned to take care of the decline in charitable donations by giving charities government money to make up part of the difference.

I see. So instead of individuals giving their money to charities of their choosing, government will have yet another section of society beholden to the election of more Democrats. Then charitable organizations of every stripe can line up with all the unions and community groups to await their handout. The charities deemed most worthy will coincidentally be those with the most liberal connections and those whose members put forth the most aggressive lobbying efforts on behalf of Democrat candidates.


REPUBLICANS GET THEIR SHINE ON?

April 18, 2009

Over the last several days we have seen moderate Republicans and Democrats come forward and admit to having a severe case of buyer’s remorse. Whether it is Jim Cramer or David Brooks, they seem to be surprised that Obama is so liberal, claiming they were certain he planned to lead from the center. Why? Why on earth would they think that? He had the most liberal voting record in the Senate. He came out of Chicago, the petri dish of corrupt politicians. He was a community organizer who followed the teachings of Saul Alinsky, the father of class warfare and street agitation. His running buddies are some of the biggest radicals this country has ever produced.

But if the voters bought into the Emperor With No Clothes, I do not blame Democrats. I blame Republicans. The Republicans had control of Congress for years and proved themselves to be just as inept as Democrats with their irresponsible spending and their later support of the Bush-backed bailout. Neo-Cons and Moderate Republicans have decimated the Conservative base — the nomination of McCain was simply the cherry on top of the crap sundae we’ve been forced to eat for years. The GOP deserved to get their clocks cleaned. So, did they learn their lesson? It doesn’t look like it.

The RNC finally gets a new Chairman and who is it? Moderate Michael Steele, who has stated his intention to do a “hip-hop” makeover on the GOP. At CPAC, Steele asked “Are there any conservatives in the house?” Ugh. Previous GOP mistakes were “our bad”. He’s going to bring about change that is “off the hook”. Steele offered Bobby Jindal some “slum love” for doing a “friggin’ awesome job” as governor of Louisiana. I could go on and on with this embarrassment.

When will Conservatives realize that we can win with the power of our ideas? It is the Democrats who break people into groups based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual preference and so on. They are the ones who try to be all things to all people.

Conservative principles speak to all Americans, regardless of demographic. When we finally find the politician who can properly articulate the Conservative message, he or she won’t need a gimmick to sell it. The truth sells itself.


ALI ‘BAMA AND THE FORTY THIEVES

April 18, 2009

It has taken a great deal of effort to research all of the following information. However, I want for you to verify it on your own if you doubt it. Whatever it takes for you to understand the rotten core at the center of American politics. I have listed the following thieves in alphabetical order just to make it easier for me.

Some issues have arisen and I am looking at a tremendously busy couple of weeks. Thus, I had to stop at 27. I didn’t even get to the Clintons yet. Hah!

ACORN – (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) – A far left group which takes 40% of its revenues from American taxpayers. ACORN has sucked at the government teet for four decades, working to expand the welfare state. HUD funds hundreds if not thousands of “anti-poverty” front organizations across the country led by ACORN. We can thank ACORN for a nice chunk of the sub-prime mortgage crisis as over the years they have brought countless suits (under the Community Reinvestment Act) against banks claiming racial discrimination in lending. ACORN frequently shakes down corporate interests with PR attacks until the companies pay up. Once they cough up the “protection” money, ACORN will enter into a “no lobby” agreement.

ACORN constantly mixes its tax-exempt housing work with electioneering activities. Last July, ACORN settled the largest voter fraud case in the history of Washington State. It has also been implicated in voter fraud schemes in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and at least 12 other states.

Obama worked with ACORN as a community organizer and legal representative as well as a trainer in leadership seminars. ACORN volunteers worked everywhere in Obama campaigns. In fact, the Obama campaign paid $832K to an ACORN affiliate which it initially told the Federal Election Committee was for “staging, sound, lighting” but later admitted was for “get out the vote”.

As payment for all of their electioneering efforts, the “stimulus” package included $2 billion for neighborhood stabilization programs – – basically a slush fund for ACORN and its affiliates. There was an additional $3.25 billion in HUD grants that will inevitably find its way into the hands of these racketeers. The real purpose of ACORN is to elect like-minded liberals through any means possible. They are also heavily funded by George Soros.
Adolfo Carrion – President Obama’s Urban Czar, who in his previous position as Bronx Boro President, pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from city developers whose projects he approved or funded with taxpayers’ money, always within a matter of weeks from the donation. A watchdog group has asked the Attorney General to look into these ethics violations.

Al Gore – A one-man corporation who writes books, makes movies, commands massive speaking fees, and sits on numerous corporate boards – – all in relation to his crusade against global warming. Gore had less than $2 million when he left the vice presidency in 2001. Today his fortune is worth more than $100 million; global warming hysteria really pays off. Over the last several years, Gore has formed giant partnerships with venture capital firms investing billions of dollars in “green tech” enterprises. He often gives speeches to investors and philanthropists during which he alerts the audience on various investments they can make in small, unknown enviro-firms such as Amyris, Bloom Energy, Mascoma, Ausra, AltaRock Energy and more. Of course, Gore has a financial stake in all of those companies. One of the larger VC firms Gore has partnered with, Kleiner Perkins, uses the argument for sweeping governmental regulation as a selling point for investing in its funds. Gore and his enviro- buddies will profit a windfall when Congress and the President decide to regulate carbon emissions on American companies through the ridiculous cap-and-trade rules, as well as slap a windfall profits tax on oil companies. This federal legislation will make green companies more attractive as well as create a market for the whole carbon credit industry, in which Gore is heavily invested. There is a great deal of liberal money tied up in these environmental investments which will only pay off when Washington passes this massive legislation. This is why they cannot allow any doubts to creep into the minds of the American public regarding the dubious crisis of planetary warming.

Angelo Mozilo – Former Countrywide CEO for which the term “Friends of Angelo” was created. He provided special loan deals for connected officials, including Franklin Raines, Jim Johnson, Chris Dodd and DEM Kent Conrad.

Antoin “Tony” Rezko – The Chicago political fixer, real estate developer and campaign fundraiser for Obama, Blago and other Illinois political players. Rezko funded Obama and helped launch him early in his career. Rezko was known as the “man to see” about state jobs through the governor’s office. In 2005, the Obama’s purchased their mansion for $1.65 million, $300K less than the market price, and on the very same day, Rezko purchased the adjoining undeveloped lot at the full price of $625K from the same seller. Hmmm. Rezko was convicted of fraud in 2008 on 16 counts of corruption.

Barney Frank: Democrat Chairman of the Financial Services Committee. Frank’s fingerprints are all over the Wall Street mortgage crisis, which was largely caused by governmental interference which forced the lowering of lending standards to unqualified borrowers. Time and again Frank insisted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in good financial shape and blocked attempts by conservatives to tighten regulation on the two companies. In 2004, when the Bush White House warned of “systemic risk for our financial system” unless the mortgage giants were curbed, Frank complained that the administration was more concerned about financial safety than about housing. In a display of gall only a Democrat could get away with, he recently said the Wall Street meltdown was caused by “bad decisions that were made by people in the private sector”. He said the country is in dire straits today “thanks to a conservative philosophy that says the market knows best.” In the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, it was revealed that Frank’s “partner”, an executive at Fannie Mae, had been one of the leaders in trying to deregulate restrictions on the agency. Long forgotten is another Frank scandal from 1989. That year he admitted a lengthy relationship with a male prostitute who ran a prostitution ring out of Frank’s Capitol Hill apartment. Frank later claimed he had no idea that such a thing was going on.

Charles Schumer – Democrat Senator and member of the Banking and Finance Committees. There is an old joke that the most dangerous place in Washington is between Chuck Schumer and a TV camera. Schumer is one of the most liberal members of Congress, yet happens to receive more campaign cash from Wall Street than any other senator. He was a huge proponent of last year’s bailout. In fact, last September he held a fundraising breakfast while simultaneously promoting the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. In attendance was buyout-billionaire Henry Kravis as well as 20 other finance industry titans. Schumer walked away that day with $135K in campaign donations. He is said to have single-handedly increased donations to Democrats from Wall Street by 50 percent. His recent memorable quote: “And let me say this, to all of the chattering class that so much focuses on those tiny – yes – porky amendments [to the bailout]. The American people really don’t care.”

Charlie Rangel – Democrat Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Currently under investigation by the House ethics committee for failure to pay taxes on his various properties. He is also being investigated for playing a pivotal role in preserving a tax loophole for Nabors Drilling that saved the company an estimated tens of millions of dollars annually. Originally Rangel was firmly against the tax shelter in question but then suddenly did a 180 and kept the loophole in place. It was found that while the issue was before Rangel’s committee, Rangel met with Nabors CEO Eugene Isenberg and a Nabors lobbyist regarding the issue. In the same meeting, Rangel and Isenberg also discussed Isenberg’s pledge of $1 million donation to the Charles Rangel Center for Public Policy at the City College of New York.

Chris Dodd – Democrat Senator and another corrupt political dinosaur. He is also the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Received a sweetheart loan deal from Countrywide. Dodd is the only member of Congress who received more kickbacks from Fannie Mae cronies, over $150K, than did Barack Obama. Dodd is also the one who inserted the language into the “stimulus bill” making the AIG bonuses legal. This was, by the way, the ONLY language he put into the bill. At first he claimed to be furious over the AIG bonuses and then was forced to fess up later that he was the one who added the language. As with Fannie Mae, Chris Dodd and Barack Obama each received more campaign contributions from AIG than any other politicians.

David Obey – Democrat Appropriations Chairman who pushed through a “stimulus bill” earmark for $2 billion to the National Parks Service, for whom his son works as a lobbyist. How is that economic stimulus?

Diane Feinstein – Democrat Senator who resigned from the Military Construction Appropriations (MILCON) subcommittee in 2007 under an ethical cloud. Feinstein was chairperson and ranking member of MILCON for six years, during which time she voted to appropriate billions of government dollars to her husband’s defense contracting firms. She got away with it for so long because her committee colleagues did not suspect that she knew what companies might benefit from her decisions, as that information is routinely withheld from the committee to avoid favoritism. What they only found out later, was that her chief legal advisor, who also happened to be a business partner of her husband’s and vice chairman of one of the defense contracting companies, was secretly forwarding her the lists of projects and appropriation requests that were coming before the committee. In this way, Feinstein’s husband’s defense companies earned over $1.5 billion through MILCON projects. In addition, another three companies in which he had an enormous financial stake won considerable favor from the budgets of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran Affairs (which is partially run by MILCON). The Senate Ethics Committee decided to let her slip by. Currently Feinstein is Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She also sits on the Senate Rules Committee which is there to make sure the Senate acts ethically and avoids conflicts of interest!

Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac – The utterly corrupt quasi-governmental entities that serve as a jobs program for former Democrat pols. These entities have the ability to basically print money. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac borrow money at below-market interest rates based on the perception of government guaranteed repayment, and then they use the money to buy mortgages that pay market interest rates. When things go right for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac they keep the money, when things go wrong, the taxpayers foot the bill. In recent years, these two entities controlled almost 50% of the mortgages in the US. As quasi-governmental entities, they have been exempt from normal securities regulations. While Conservatives have for years advocated the dismantling of these two crime organizations, Democrats have blocked every attempt to even hold hearings on corruption in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae’s charter gives the President the right to appoint five of the board’s 18 members, thus job postings to Fannie Mae are lucrative prizes for pols waiting for their next US government post. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have spent $170 million on lobbying in the past decade alone.

Franklin Raines – Longtime Washington Democrat insider and an Obama campaign and economic advisor during the 2008 election. Raines was a Clinton appointee who served as Director of the OMB and then as Chairman of Fannie Mae. While at Fannie Mae, Raines’ total compensation from 1998 to 2004 was a whopping $91.1 million, including $53 million in illegally obtained bonuses. This money was tied to bonus targets that were reached by manipulative accounting a la Enron. Raines illegally coerced his employees to falsify accounting facts so he could meet profit targets to maximize bonus payments. When a whistleblower attempted to complain about Fannie’s accounting procedures, Raines had him fired. In 2004, Raines agreed to a $24.7 million settlement with a federal regulator in exchange for charges being dropped. Fannie Mae, of course, would later cause the largest bailout in US history. Harvard man.

Harry Reid – Democrat Senate Majority Leader. As a bonus for shepherding through the recent pork-laden “stimulus” package, Reid secured $8 billion in perks for his home state. The only thing all that money will serve to “stimulate” is Reid’s upcoming reelection campaign. Much of the money will go towards Reid’s pet Railway project, which has already been the beneficiary of $45 million in previous earmarks. Reid is known to be in a “class all by himself” when it comes to political payoffs. In 2002, Reid introduced an environmental bill to “protect the ecosystem” in Nevada. What it really did was provide a landslide of benefits to real estate developers, corporations and local institutions that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to his sons’ and son-in-law’s firms. Howard Hughes Corp. paid Reid’s son-in-law Scott Barringer’s tiny law firm $300K in lobbying fees and received in return a provision allowing the company to acquire 998 acres of federal land ripe for development in Las Vegas. The legislation also freed up tens of thousands of acres of federal land for development and annexation by the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas. All three cities were represented by Reid family members. In a four year period alone, firms with Reid family ties collected more than $2 million in lobbying fees. One Nevada paper said “So pervasive are the ties among Reid, members of his family and Nevada’s leading industries and institutions that it’s difficult to find a significant field in which such a relationship does not exist.”

James Johnson – Long time Democrat party activist and Obama campaign advisor. He had to step down as advisor when new details emerged about the millions in sweetheart loans he received under Countrywide’s “Friends of Angelo” program. Johnson ran Fannie Mae from 1991 to 1998, served as vice chair from 1990-1991. Johnson made Fannie Me the revolving door for officials moving in and out of politics and government in Washington. Johnson earned nearly $21 million from Fannie Mae in 1998 alone. Harvard Man.

Jamie Gorelick – Clinton appointee for Deputy Attorney General. Gorelick is the bureaucrat who constructed the dangerous wall of separation that kept the CIA and the FBI from comparing notes which would have notified them of the actions of Muhammed Atta and Zacarius Moussaoui. While many problems were uncovered in our intelligence operations in the wake of 9-11, no single factor came close to the damage caused by Gorelick’s wall. Ironically, Gorelick was appointed by Tom Daschle to serve on the “non-partisan” 9-11 Commission. Although Gorelick had no background in finance or real estate, she was appointed as Vice Chairman of Fannie Mae in 1997 and served in the roll until 2003. For her trouble, Gorelick collected a staggering $26.4 million in total compensation. Another Harvard undergrad and Harvard Law grad.

Maxine Waters – Democrat Congresswoman from California, race baiter extraordinaire and shakedown artist. Consistently named one of the most corrupt members of Congress by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Waters was a major proponent of the TARP legislation and pressured the feds to bailout a specific minority bank, OneUnited. Waters went so far as to personally contact the Treasury Department last December requesting $50 million for the company. The government agreed to give $12 million in TARP funding for OneUnited, despite another government agency fining the bank in 2008 for “operating without effective underwriting standards and practices” and “operating without an effective loan documention program” and “engaging in speculative investment practices.” It also surprised bank analysts because the bailout was intented for healthy banks and OneUnited was considered to be in precarious condition.

What Waters failed to disclose is her personal and financial stake in One-United. Waters’ husband owned between $250K-$500K worth of OneUnited stock and had served on the bank’s board between 2004 and 2008. The banks executives have donated to her campaigns for years.

Waters is one of the biggest hypocrites in Washington, always railing against capitalist cronies while benefiting from shady business relationships. Whenever anybody questions this slimeball they are slapped with the race card. By the way, Waters was one of the Democrats who insisted that Fannie Mae was perfectly sound. Later she called the hearings on Franklin Raines a “political lynching.”

Michelle Obama – After Barack Obama became an Illinois state legislator, his wife landed a job as “Vice President of Community Relations” at The University of Chicago Hospital for a nice salary of $122K. When Obama became a US Senator in 2005, Michelle’s salary suddenly leaped to an amazing $317K for the same job. One of Senator Obama’s first acts in office was to put in for an earmark of $1 million to go to the University of Chicago Hospital. Later, when Michelle moved on to help Barack on the campaign trail, the vital job position she had filled at the hospital was quietly eliminated.

National Council of La Raza – Hispanic racist group that is pro-amnesty and pro-illegal immigration. They were big supporters of the election of Obama and it paid off as they raked in more than $1.3 million from the “stimulus” package. In addition, two La Raza members have been named to positions in Obama’s lobbyist-free administration.

National Education Association – Representing 3.2 million teachers and other educational personnel, this is a powerful and self-serving union that has taken dictatorial control of public education in the US. The NEA routinely blocks parents and taxpayers who wish to institute positive change in public education. Their goal is to create one national system of education, under their direction. To achieve this end they corrupt and subvert local control of education, and they block competition, vouchers and free market charter schools.

Their union is tied directly to the Democrat party and endorsed Obama in the 2008 election, claiming they needed to help elect a “pro-education president”. What candidate was anti-education I wonder? The NEA also lobbied heavily for Obama’s “stimulus” package. They received their payback when the package was passed and included a historic increase in federal education aid in the massive amount of $130 billion. Obama has reassured the NEA of his support for their “cradle to career” platform which includes mandatory universal Pre-K. Not surprisingly, the NEA supports the “Employee Free Choice Act”.

Rahm Emanuel – Obama’s Chief of Staff and the pit bull of Democrat politics. A brilliant, cut-throat Chicago politician who inherited Chicago’s North Side 5th Congressional District held by Blagojevich before he became governor in 2002. Before that, the seat was held by Dan Rostenkowski, longtime chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee who went to prison on mail fraud charges. Emanuel worked in Clinton’s campaign and then later in the White House. Before his posting to Obama’s White House he was Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. During his tenure, the committee received over $1.1 million in direct contributions from organized labor during the 2008 election cycle.

Timothy Geithner – Obama’s Treasury Secretary. Said to be the only man clever enough to save the markets. Clever enough, in fact, to avoid paying his self-employment taxes for years while working for the International Monetary Fund, despite the fact that the IMF gave him extra money with which to pay those taxes and had him sign a form saying he would do so. Now this tax cheat is head of the IRS.

Tom Daschle – Former Democrat Senate Majority Leader. Nominated by Obama for Health and Human Services Secretary, but had to withdraw his acceptance after it came to light he failed to pay over $100K in taxes. This was nothing new. A year prior he had been in trouble for failing to report consulting income.

Unions – After spending an eye-popping $61 million to elect Democrats in the 2008 elections, union bosses are getting their kickback. They have demanded approval of the deceitfully named Employee Free Choice Act, which they claim is about protecting American workers. This “Card Check” legislation has been obediently introduced in the House and Senate by their Democrat lackeys. Card Check strips American workers of the right to a secret ballot and gives the federal government the right to impose labor contracts on workers. This means that union organizers and their thugs will be able to go into any small business, hospital or construction site and coerce workers into signing cards. If they succeed in getting 50 percent plus one, the threshold is met and all of the workers are forced into a union. If the management and the new union fail to reach a negotiated contract, the federal government will just impose one.

The radical left Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representing over 2 million workers, deserves its own paragraph. This corrupt union alone donated $27 million in PAC money to Obama’s presidential run. The SEIU often works closely with ACORN in what the insiders fondly call “Muscle for the Money” where SEIU funnels money to ACORN to pay for a rent-a-mob to protest at companies that refuse to go union. The SEIU gave ACORN over $54 million during 2006-2007.


IRAN GOING NUCLEAR

April 18, 2009

Obama’s election obviously has our enemies quaking in their boots. After years of delay, Russia and Iran are announcing the start-up date for the first Iranian Nuclear Power Plant. Worst case scenario is this is cover for the development of a nuclear weapon. Best case scenario is it represents a huge nuclear technological advancement in the hands of a bunch of whacko fundamentalists.

The UN claims that Iran already has enough enriched uranium to amass a nuclear bomb. Will Obama do anything about this possible threat? Unknown. However, I rest a little easier now that Israel has a strong leader in the return of Benjamin Netanyahu. It has been reported that Israel is drawing up plans to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and, if push comes to shove, is prepared to launch a strike without the backing of the US.