Saturday, March 1, 2008

Brilliantly Wrong

I meant to put out a comment on the passing of William F. Buckley, the "father" of "modern conservatism", earlier. I'm just now getting to it.
Buckley was a major part of all that is wrong with conservative philosophy. Born to a life of wealth and privilege, he saw no need for government services or a social safety net. In Buckley's world, people who were poor deserved their lot. The free market could operate better without government regulation. Wars of ideas (against "ism's") should be fought frequently, using real soldiers. He saw "elitism" as a virtue rather than a vice.
His eloquent words influenced and inspired Goldwater, Reagan, and the current mob of anti-government conservatives that are ruining this country. He may have been brilliant, but he was wrong. Brilliantly wrong. We've been paying for his wrongness for decades, with no end in sight.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Day Boobie

Happy "Leap Day." Every four years, we add one day to the calendar and the use that extra day to hold the Olympics and a presidential election. Imagine what we could cram into an extra week.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

You Tell 'Em, Shrub

Our glorious shrub, always immune to irony, tells Turkey how to handle Iraq:

On another issue, Bush said that Turkey's offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq should be limited — and should end as soon as possible. The ongoing fighting has put the United States in a touchy position, as it is close allies with both Iraq and Turkey. A long offensive along their border could jeopardize security in Iraq just as the U.S. is trying to stabilize the war-wracked country.

"The Turks need to move, move quickly, achieve their objective and get out," he said.

I guess there isn't room for two long term occupations in Iraq. If only some one could tell shrub to "get out."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

To Add More Sobering News... an already sober nation, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the FDIC is bracing for bank failures.

"Regulators are bracing for well over 100 bank failures in the next 12 to 24 months, with concentrations in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Ohio, and the states that are suffering severe housing-market problems like California, Florida, and Georgia," said Jaret Seiberg, Washington policy analyst for financial-services firm Stanford Group.
(h/t to Bonddad and Calculated Risk)

Now, bank failures currently are at historically stable levels and the FDIC is currently able to handle the few (it's about 5 or so) failures a year.

However, it's very ominous when they're trying to hire back retired employees who specialize in banking failures, as well as new employees to take care of this.

Additionally, the article states that the FDIC has approximately $52 billion dollars set aside for bank failure coverage; that sounds like a lot, but if a big bank like Citi has to get a total bailout from the FDIC, that $52 billion would be gone, just like that (some scuttlebutt is that Citi is in trouble, and if things get worse, could need all that cash just for itself). And, if a big bank like Citi lets go, other large banking institutions might follow, only the FDIC wouldn't have any cash on hand to safeguard depositors funds at those institutions.

So, what to do?

First, don't panic. I'm sure that the banking institutions are doing enough of that themselves; your panic isn't going to help when it is added to theirs.

Second, check on the health of your bank. If it is FDIC insured, you can pull a CALL report on it, but be aware, you really need to be a finance type to make heads or tails of the verbiage.

Or, you can try, which gives a 1 - 5 rating system (5 is best, 1 is worst), which shows my bank, the lovely B of A, sitting right in the middle at 3. also ranks Credit Unions too, as does (look in the Credit Union data area).

And, as many folks are finding out, mutual funds can be risky too. You can do some data analysis here:

Think seriously about your current and near-future spending (say, through 2008). Now might not be the time to plunk down a big chunk of cash on a non-necessity item, especially with inflation soaring. Instead, you might want to think about taking some of the cash out for liquidity's sake and either bury it in your backyard, stuff it under the mattress, or put it in a safe. If it makes you feel better, gold, silver, platinum and other precious metals usually hold value better than greenbacks do, and will probably continue to do so, especially if oil keeps rising (it will) and the dollar keeps sliding down in value (it will, even if we have a "strong dollar" policy). And, obviously, if you go this route, don't forget where you hid the stuff and make sure you can keep & defend it.

Remember, the article says that the FDIC expects "well over 100 bank failures in the next 12 to 24 months." Usually these are smaller, regional banks, but there is no reason it can't be one of the majors. Given the further collapse of the housing market (from today's news) and the fact that it will continue falling for the next 24 months or so, it's possible that one of the majors may take a hit, although Helicopter Ben will be doing his best to prevent that from happening to the big institutions.

And finally, think seriously about growing some of your own food. Not only is it an interesting and fun project, but you may appreciate it later in the year if prices go higher.

Happy Birthday, Big Ditch

On this day in 1919, the Grand Canyon became Grand Canyon National Park. There's a joke line that we boatmen use; "once you've seen one Grand Canyon, you've seen them all." I became enthralled with the Canyon years ago, and rafting the Colorado River through it is one of my greatest loves, so I'm one of the folks fighting against renewed uranium mining in the area. The Canyon is scheduled for flooding March 4th-6th, which helps restore river banks and benefits native species, so this should be a good year for rafting.
Grand Canyon National Park is truly a national treasure, well worth preserving. If you haven't visited it, I would urge you to.

Renzi Wont Go

Oh joy, our corrupt congress critter, Rick Renzi, says he wont resign in the face of his corruption indictments:

Representative Rick Renzi, the Arizona Republican who was indicted last week by a federal grand jury on 35 corruption charges, issued a statement on Monday saying that he would not resign despite signals from Republican leaders in Congress that they would welcome his swift departure.

“I will not resign and take on the cloak of guilt because I am innocent,” Mr. Renzi declared in the statement. “My legal team of Reid Weingarten and Kelly Kramer will handle these legal issues whileI continue to serve my constituents.”

A grand jury last week indicted Mr. Renzi on a raft of corruption charges, including fraud, money laundering and extortion. Prosecutors charged that Mr. Renzi pressured constituents to purchase land from his business partner in exchange for his support for legislation that the constituents needed. At least $733,000 in proceeds from the land sale were funneled back to Mr. Renzi, according to the indictment.

Actually, I'm kind of glad he's not resigning. If he resigns prior to May 4th, there will be a special election to fill the remainder of his term, which could help a Republican candidate gain recognition. By staying, he remains a great symbol of the Republican "culture of corruption" which should help Democrats.
The next question should be about Renzi's role as co-chairmen of John McCain's Arizona campaign. It sounds like he'll be quietly leaving:
Mr. Renzi had been serving as a Arizona state co-chairman of Senator John McCain’s campaign for president. But Mr. McCain has indicated that Mr. Renzi would be resigning that post.
Tying McCain's questionable ethics to Renzi's criminal indictment seems to be a good strategy going forward.