Saturday, September 27, 2008

China says that we made a lot of bad loans?

A Chinese banking regulator actually used the word "ridiculous" to describe the status of loans in the U.S.. Nothing could more exemplify the pot calling the kettle black!

This imbecile should worry about his own house before decrying others. Recall that China is the country that's sitting on over a trillion dollars worth of bad debt, and those were Ernst & Young's calculations in 2006!

China's government encouraged its nationalized banking system to make bad loans as a matter of policy. Oh, wait a minute, actually the U.S. subprime mess is the result of loans also made as a matter of policy. Bad example.

However, the nature of the loans is different. E&Y calculated "non-performing" loans that will never get paid back. The federal government wants to blow $700 billion in this "bailout," when in fact that figure was simply chosen arbitrarily. As with all federal spending, the wrangling isn't over how much to spend, but how to spend it, and how to finance it (Democrats like taxes, Republicans like passing debt on to our children). Even combined with the $300 billion to bail out actual housing, the dollar value of actual "bad" securities and "bad" mortgages is far less than $1 trillion. So if China were to do a similar bailout, it would have to spend, what, $3 trillion?

I haven't talked about the housing bailout yet, but suffice it to say today that it's not as bad as the federal government claims -- nor would it be as bad if homeowners were held responsible (including prosecution for fraud) when they simply "walk away" from their debt obligations. But if the Bush Administration, Congress, rent-seekers and activists admitted the truth, then that means they couldn't get to spend as much of Other People's Money. As I've noted time and time again, government measures its success by the most money spent and the most people "helped," regardless of how efficiently the money is spent, or whether those "helped" legitimately needed it.

Meanwhile, it's China, not the U.S., that needs to hold a trillion dollars in foreign reserves as collateral for its banking system. And foreigners still look to the U.S. as the best place to invest.

And while I'm at it, we're not the ones putting 14-year-olds on our Olympics team, then faking all necessary documents to "prove" they're over 16. We aren't writing news stories about our spaceflights hours before lift-off, complete with astronauts' dialogue.

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The nature of government: "We don't have anyone qualified"

From This Is True:

"Several residents in the Chichester district of West Sussex, England, reported a trash can in a creek, polluting it. Trash collectors refused to touch it because it was not a council-owned container. But despite call after call, no one dragged it out of the water. Harting parish councilor David Barnard finally got an explanation: "[The district spokesman] said, and I quote, 'We don't have anyone qualified to wear wellington boots'. I said: 'But it's only four inches deep'." The district spokesman expected it would take a week to get someone qualified to wear boots to step into the stream to grab the bin. The next day three parish counselors got their own boots and walked over and cleaned the mess up themselves, which they said took all of 10 minutes. (London Telegraph) ...Which was the district's plan all along."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"The case against Elizabeth Miller" - and it's utter bullshit

I was looking for coupons when I came across the case of Elizabeth Miller, the manager of a Bed, Bath and Beyond in Kentucky, who refused to allow a man and woman to use the store's phone to call 911. Apparently they needed help after being stupid enough to lock their 3-year-old in the car. She was charged under an idiotic Kentucky statute that imposes upon private citizens the "duty to report dependency, neglect and abuse, a Class B misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of 90 days and a maximum fine of $250."

Most people, being shortsighted, probably think she was an idiot and should be thrown in jail. There's a practical reason she was right not to involve herself and her employer: it's best not to! What if it turned out to be a prank? Then Miller would be held at least partially responsible for causing a panic in the store, delaying customers who simply wanted to get checked out and leave. Worse, the police could have held her (perhaps her employer) partially responsible for wasting 911 resources and having someone dispatched. And heaven forbid it was a prank about someone else's car, meaning responders to the dispatch would break a third party's car window only to find there's no baby.

You just can't tell these days. No matter how extreme the emergency may seem, it's hard to take anyone's story at face value. We don't know. What if they were a couple of kids who looked straight from the ghetto, who ran into the store with their arms flailing about, ranting incoherently? Were I the manager, I'd have told such people to get the hell out if they weren't buying anything, regardless of the story.

But beyond the practical reasons is the moral reason that Miller had every right to refuse to help. As paradoxical as it may seem, there's a moral basis for her to have the right to refuse to do what most people deem a moral duty. But most people do not understand what individual rights truly mean. Maybe they'll quote 8th grade civics: "life, liberty and property." But they still can't fathom the real meaning: such sovereignty over your own life that the rest of society cannot compel you join against your will, regardless of how "noble" the cause, or how "helpful" or benevolent your participation may be to others. The only involvement with others is that which you voluntarily choose.

For the same reason, it's immoral for the rest of society to compel you, via voting that elects public representatives, to "pay" taxes that "help" others. (I enclosed "pay" in quotes because the proper term is "to be mugged of.") It wouldn't matter if every penny stolen from you was perfectly distributed to only the most deserving people. An immoral act cannot be excused or rectified by any "moral" use of the act's ill-gotten proceeds, regardless of the extent and/or success of the results. To say otherwise is to assert that the ends really do justify the means.

As "moral" as it may have been for Elizabeth Miller to help, it would have been immoral to force her to, and it's flatly immoral to punish her now. But even assuming this absurd statute is morally enforceable, it only reveals the hypocrisy of the district attorney: the parents should have been charged under the same statute, for endangering their own child by being such damn fools, and they should have their child taken away for its own good.

Update: what inane comments at Digg. To reiterate what I said above, most people are idiots who won't understand about forcing others to help. Also, the link to the Consumerist story is completely misleading. Bed Bath and Beyond wasn't stopping the people from calling 911. Elizabeth Miller was merely telling two people that she wasn't going to let them use Bed Bath and Beyond's property to call 911.

The most sensible comment is the one about breaking the car window instead of waiting, because you never know how long it will take for police to arrive. Absolutely: never forget the case of Hsiao Hsu, who was shot to death while on the phone with 911.

This is why you shouldn't give checks as wedding gifts

A couple of my in-laws gave us a not unsubstantial amount of money. I wish they hadn't, but it's rude to refuse gifts given so generously.

Well, the check...bounced. They probably didn't expect us to deposit it so quickly. The bank didn't return it to me, so I presume it's being returned to my in-laws. They'll realize what happened, then, although we won't bring it up. They really didn't have to give us anything, and they were too nice to take us to dinner this week anyway.

Anyway, as the title says, if you want to give money as a wedding gift, cash is best.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I hope y'all understand why blogging has been light

In the last month I've aged about 20 years trying to get everything ready, and today I'm getting married. Be back sometime.

Obama's idea of "service" and "tax credits"

From tonight's claptrap interview: "a tax credit making the first $4,000 of college tuition free for students who conduct 100 hours of public service a year."

In other words, his idea of government is to make you give up one hour of your life roughly every third day, just so government will "permit" you to keep more of the money you earned in the first place. Yeah.

To hell with that boy. God damn him straight to hell, where he belongs.

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