Fair Trade

Can we fix trade imbalances by enacting punitive tariffs against companies and countries? These are excerpts from a conversation on Citizen Tom’s blog. My counterpart here is not a bad person, but I certainly disagree that tariffs are the answer to trade imbalances, and I said so… Continue reading Fair Trade

Thomas Jefferson, Progressive

Thomas Jefferson is considered to be one of the leading Founding Fathers of the United States. Not one of the Framers, however — he was in France during the Philadelphia convention in which the Constitution was drafted, and other than some correspondence with James Madison had no role in its creation or ratification.

At the end of his life, 40 years after the creation of the Constitution, Jefferson was asked to lend his hand in a political campaign. In this excerpt from a letter to Samuel Kercheval, Jefferson discusses his belief that the Constitution should be re-drafted “every nineteen or twenty years” in order to “keep pace with the times” and provide “progressive accommodation to progressive improvements” to society. Continue reading Thomas Jefferson, Progressive

In Debt to Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson has been something of a controversial figure in the founding of the United States, giving rise to mixed opinions. Even mine. He was wise, even prescient, in many of his writings. But he was also intensely political, and given to rather underhanded tactics in dealing with his political enemies. On balance, I still give him high marks, while aware of the deficits. But speaking of deficits… Continue reading In Debt to Jefferson

Sachs of Manure

The progressive establishment media and establishment Republicans have joined forces, and obtained odd allies, in a massive assault against Ted Cruz.

I will be so bold as to predict that Ted Cruz will win in November in a landslide reminiscent of Ronald Reagan. He’s on a path that follows closely that of Ronald Reagan in 1980. It would be refreshing to have a conservative presidential nominee, as we have not had one since 1984. The Bush family is Republican, but hardly conservative.

One of the current attacks on Cruz is summed up by the new trendy phrase “Ted Cruz is owned by Goldman Sachs.” He hid the fact that his campaign was financed by Goldman Sachs and he owes them as a result.

What is the reality? It’s actually rather mundane. He and his wife, who works there (but is on leave currently to help with the campaign) had an investment account at Goldman Sachs. Such investment accounts have most of the value tied up in stocks and funds and similar investments. But it is quite common to allow the account owners to borrow up to 50% of the value of the assets as a “margin loan” — this is analogous to buying stocks on 50% margin, which is quite ordinary. I’ve done it myself.

That’s what the Cruz family did. They borrowed on the value of their own assets in the investment account, resulting in a loan in an amount somewhere between $250k and $500k. They also took out a line of credit on other assets in a similar amount from Citibank. These were in Ted’s name, and he then loaned the money to his campaign. It was less than $1 million in total.

He disclosed the loans to the election commission and disclosed his own loan to the campaign. And both were real loans, made on ordinary terms for such loans, and have been almost completely paid back as of January.

So what’s the problem?

First, the media breathlessly alleges that this arrangement will necessarily result in Cruz being “beholden” to Goldman Sachs and will seek to protect them from litigation and will participate in crony capitalism arrangements in their favor. Does this make sense?

No. First, Cruz has been adamantly and consistently against crony capitalism deals, in words and actions. The most that a media outlet could raise against this was that, when Cruz opposed a bloated budget bill, it contained within its thousand-plus pages a rider that would have helped Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms, a rider put in by Senate Wall Street cronies.

Cruz opposed the entire bill, rider and all, but now it’s being alleged that his opposition distracted attention from the rider — so that when it was passed, the rider had not been independently scrutinized. I have to ask: Who would have “scrutinized” it — the senators who put it in to begin with? Of course, this rider was a small thing in a porkfest of favors adorning the bill, and Cruz spoke eloquently against such practices. The one rider was, of course, hardly the major feature of the thing, it is merely a “gotcha” item raised now. His own offered legislation has been far more pointed in the damage it would do to the cronyism of Wall Street, including of course Goldman Sachs.

Loaning Credibility

Now we know: Ted Cruz was not “financed by Goldman Sachs” — he borrowed money against his own assets, and in a relatively minor amount. In fact, this total loan was about the amount Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton for a single speech.

It will be amusing to see Hillary Clinton attack Ted Cruz for this Wall Street business. That Clinton one-time speaking fee of $355k did not include her transportation and rather exotic accommodation requirements, which add tens of thousands of dollars to her speech costs. And she and Bill Clinton made multiple such speeches — tens of them in total — for Goldman Sachs and several other Wall Street finance firms, raking in many millions of dollars quite separate from Wall Street’s outright donations to the Clinton campaign (which the Cruz campaign evidently did not receive).

Hedge fund giant and political puppeteer George Soros recently gave an additional $6 million to Hillary’s direct campaign, and has given millions more to her SuperPAC. Hillary’s defense is that such contributions never influence her.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Back to Ted Cruz: He did not “hide” or “fail to report” the loan and credit line. He disclosed both. As NPR noted:

There are two disclosure requirements. He complied with one, reporting both the Goldman Sachs and Citibank deals in his personal financial reports as a candidate and newly elected senator. The campaign paid zero interest, the documents say.

The issue is one of semantics on the alleged second disclosure requirement. Neither the loan nor line of credit were loans directly to the campaign; both were to him, who then made a loan to the campaign using those and other assets. Various observers have noted the somewhat confusing requirements of the Federal Election Commission in this regard, and the extent to which they require that the sources of funds to personal loans be explicitly linked is an area where many make mistakes.

As Ted Cruz put it, he’s happy to refile the forms resolving any discrepancies, and has released documents to “supplement the public record” — but apparently has not been asked to do anything by the SEC. In fact, the reason the news media knows of these two loans, and their approximate amounts, is precisely because he did disclose them.

We can see that these amounts were small, they were loans on Cruz assets, they were quite ordinary, and they were paid back. Trivial stuff, and who made the loans would naturally be inconsequential since they were so very ordinary.

But look how the media and establishment Republicans are treating this issue. This group even includes Ron Paul, former candidate Rand Paul’s father, who is savvy in financial matters and should certainly have known better:

Nightmare on Wall Street

It’s a “problem”: Ted Cruz’s Goldman Sachs Problem

It’s a “scandal”: How Ted Cruz fixes the Goldman Sachs loan scandal

It’s a “nightmare”: 10 reasons that Goldman Sachs loan is a nightmare for Ted Cruz

And Ron Paul weighs in: Paul attacks Cruz over the Fed and Goldman Sachs

These are such ridiculous distortions that you’d think that the media and establishment Republicans didn’t like Mr. Cruz.

Incidentally, at about this same point in the 1980 election cycle, Ronald Reagan was projected to lose badly against Jimmy Carter, and the Republican establishment was mounting a campaign to draft Jerry Ford to run against him. Media reports for that cycle ran 96% negative articles about Ronald Reagan. And he won in a landslide, winning 44 out of 50 states then 49 out of 50 the next time.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Religious Differences

Even to a person who has never been a believer in any faith, the differences between faiths may still be observed. Continue reading Religious Differences

Killer Jesus?

Years ago, I posted a series of Sunday musings about Christianity. I wound up being listed on a Christian blog as a worthwhile Christian theological writer (rather amusing to this non-theist) and was graced with a Christian “Food for Thought” award by Citizen Tom.

Today, I have occasion to add something to that list of posts: Sam Harris, a well known anti-religious author and speaker, has asserted that Jesus commanded his followers to kill those who do not accept his rule.

This would place Jesus in precisely the same position as Allah and Muhammad of Islam, as the Qur’an contains many verses to the effect that killing non-adherents is not just permissible, but a duty. But is the assertion about Jesus well founded? Continue reading Killer Jesus?

Framing

From a discussion on Citizen Tom’s blog on the forms of government, I wrote a bit on of how the US Constitution was inspired and framed:

There are conceptual hints in Scripture and remarks by Jesus on what forms of government are disfavored, but the Framers took inspiration from Aristotle. Many Enlightenment thinkers tended to downplay Aristotle, though the re-discovery of his works is one of the factors leading to the Enlightenment. But many of the Framers read Aristotle directly as well as earlier writers he inspired including Locke and de Montesquieu. Continue reading Framing

Anonymity

One very desirable benefit of the FairTax system — and not part of any “flat tax” — is anonymity. No tax agency needs to be aware of your income, your transactions, or your assets. Continue reading Anonymity

Climate Science

Mogur commented on a previous post to the effect that this year’s increase in Arctic ice is not necessarily a refutation of global warming.

I’d agree: One year of uptrend in ice, even a few as we’ve now seen, is not even particularly indicative, let alone conclusive. But I do see evidence that there is a general cooling trend underway, being furiously masked by adjustments. This is not “the coming ice age” — any more than it was when it happened half a century ago. But the US temperatures (where long-term record-keeping has been the best) have been in the 21st century about what they were in the 1930s/1940s, and we considered the drop from then to the cool 1970s a very bad thing at the time. In the 1970s, amidst papers, articles, books and media about global cooling, the US assembled the first government-sponsored climate science panels to deal with what they perceived was a crisis. The famous CIA-assembled panel of 1974 is interesting for its tone as much as its science.

But the point is not what happened in the past, or various people’s gut feelings about it then or now. Even mine.

Paris Propaganda

In the run up to Paris, the media was full of doom. Now, papers are appearing saying (sheepishly) that global warming might not be producing much warming after all. And that species in the Arctic have survived much worse than the current predictions.

The question is not “is global warming real?” Instead, it is more important: Is global warming now a crisis?

It does not appear so. News sources and interest groups hyperventilate over each weather event, and corporations make their living sensationalizing them or selling a certain future based upon them. Such hyperbole suits the purposes of those who would grow government as well, perhaps most of all. One would think that if the threat were real, the folks involved would not have to trot out so much nonsense trying to frighten people into obedience. And there’s been a lot of such things.

But the number of “climate disasters” these days is low — and apparently less expensive. The low tornado and hurricane counts (though sporadic and operating on about a 40-year cycle) have engendered the new science of naming every tropical depression in sight (and now even naming winter storms!) to build up the counts. Droughts that would destroy crops for years have been vastly overstated — and old ones forgotten. One predicted disaster after another has failed to materialize.

None of this “global warming is real!” hysteria is compelling if one is familiar with history.

Plant Food for Thought

Clearly plants are benefiting immensely from the current CO2 levels (independent of agricultural improvements), and virtually all life depends directly or indirectly upon plants, or their CO2-consumer analogs in the ocean (algae/cyanobacteria). This CO2 effect is feeding people, without doubt, right now — perhaps the equivalent a billion of our current population, based on measured effects on growth on the order of 15% from “pre-industrial” CO2.

It’s not just “is global warming real?” The real question is, how do the benefits stack up against the negatives? And as a science researcher and writer, writing papers and proposals for scientists (not in this field), I am highly mistrustful of conclusions drawn when paychecks and positions depend upon getting a certain answer. Moreover, to the extent examinations of such work have been done, those conclusions are shown to be very problematic. The post-publication analyses have been transparent; the original work rarely is. And the strident media drumbeat continues.

Corruption of Science

I am ready to change my opinion from when it formed tentatively in the 1970s, and certainly it has been shaped around the edges by data coming in. In fact, it’s rather annoying: I’ve been debating creationists for decades (including several thousand posts online in other forums), and defending scientists in that arena who have been falsely accused of manipulating data. Sadly, there ARE scientists, in this new and highly contentious climate field, that DO manipulate data just as evolutionary biologists and geologists had wrongly been accused of doing.

This makes my work regarding evolution much tougher, and it annoys and saddens me because of my deep respect for science. I do NOT like to see it mistreated, whether in the service of government, corporations, quangos, or academia — and especially with those interest groups strongly aligned as they are now.

Contrary Theories

In biology for example — as long as you stay away from climate issues — it can fairly be said that science is, with time, self-correcting. Geology was the same, though the notion of tectonic plate movement, and later asteroid impacts, actually resulted in fistfights among scientists at conferences. Both of those major upheavals against the consensus were within my lifetime.

But try advancing a research proposal now that tests a threatening hypothesis, and you will not only receive no funding, your career will be threatened. That is a terrible state of affairs for any seeker of truth.

Appeasing or Analyzing

The best that thoughtful researchers can do is burn the right incense, pray to the correct strange gods, and insert “but global warming is real!” in their work (sometimes using those literal words) while actually sneaking in a bit of straight data on what they’ve discovered.

The trend in global warming science is gradually changing. In isolated spots, in occasional media, it is becoming acceptable to question the dogma. It is a hopeful sign. And if anyone’s science is wrong, let’s show it and show why — and do it publicly. Hidden data and methods supporting multi-trillion-dollar policy changes is a horrifically wrong notion.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Ocean De’ath

Ocean acidification is a bugaboo that has been flogged recently since the pause made warming rather a non-issue.

They recently adjusted temperatures to “fix” the pause, but have not been able to adjust the global satellite temperature record, so the pause is still there. And people are growing weary of having every single bit of weather ascribed to global warming. But ocean acidification does not have a clear measurement history, thus can be constructed and modeled in a way that can be as scary as desired. And it is poorly understood by the public, and difficult to refute. Continue reading Ocean De’ath

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