Thursday, June 21, 2007

Congress Crisis of Confidence

Harry Reid, famous Senator from Las Vegas, said that he didn't pay attention to anyone whose poll numbers were lower han Congress, referring to the Vice President. Now that the latest Gallup poll shows that he and 534 of his closest friends share a confidence rating lower, he is silent...

Generally speaking, Americans have been skeptical about Congress for decades now. But the current 14% confidence rating for Congress is down from 19% last year and is the lowest in Gallup’s history, surpassing the 18% confidence in Congress measured in 1991, 1993 and 1994.

Americans' are generally in a sour mood, as discussed here. The particularly low rating for Congress this year thus represents a continuation of the existing low esteem in which Congress is held, coupled with a strongly negative mindset on the part of the American public.

Mark Tapscott offers the additional views that

Nothing is so critical to the continuing health of a republic than the confidence of people that their elected representatives have their best interests at heart in their decision-making. Once that confidence is lost, a revolution of one sort or another becomes likely. In America, such a crisis could be right around the corner.

Consider the latest Gallup Poll, which finds only 14 percent of the American people have "a great deal of" confidence in Congress or "quite a lot," compared to 19 percent a year ago. That is the lowest confidence rating Gallup has ever recorded for Congress since the survey firm began measuring public opinion on major American institutions in 1973.

Congress is far from alone in suffering plummeting confidence ratings. The presidency dropped from 33 percent to 25 percent and the Supreme Court from 40 percent to 34 percent during the same period. The trend line for all three branches has been downward since 9/11.

The "fourth branch" of government, the mainstream media, also has declining public confidence ratings. Television news dropped from 31 percent to 23 percent, while newspapers were down to 22 percent, compared to 30 percent a year ago.

The highest confidence levels were for the military at 69 percent, small business at 59 percent, and the police at 54 percent. Organized labor remained among the lowest at 19 percent, along with HMOs at 15 percent and Big Business at 18 percent.
Until the advent of the Internet and tools like blogs for making it a convenient tool for mass communication, however, that public frustration had no positive outlet, other than Talk Radio. Now that blogs and other online news and commentary tools such as the Porkbusters and Sunlight Foundation approaches to public policy advocacy are developing at a rapid pace, the decline of the mainstream media as the crucial bridge between the public and policy-makers is evaporating.

When people have an affordable, effective alternative to a failed product or service, they will go to it. As things currently stand, however, there is no viable alternative to the two major parties that make up the heart of the American political class.

None of this is new or even particularly controversial. The Press have turned every issue into a sports contest style of winners-losers reporting... They offer opinion, analysis, and reports of opinions and analysis... and then get caught with "fake-but-emotionally-true" news, reors filed from the sparebedroom instead of the scene, reporters taking instruction and photo-ops from the enemies of the nation, and just plain lying... After disparaging everyone, the messenger is found to have unclean hands...

In Who do we trust?

Hidden Cost to Education

Today's SFChronicle has a report about the high cost of replacing teachers every year.

About 500,000 teachers across the country flee their jobs every year -- a persistent churn and burn that costs public schools an estimated $7.3 billion annually, according to a national report released Wednesday.

"Schools are able to hire enough teachers, but they just can't keep them in the classroom," said Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, which conducted the study, released Wednesday.

The study looked at five districts from rural to urban, large and small, adding up the money each spent to find and hire new teachers.

In San Francisco, the district spends an estimated $12 million to recruit, hire and train new teachers each year to replace the 500 who leave, the report said. That annual exodus equals about 16 percent of the district's 3,187 teachers.

Earlier this year, the San Francisco Education Fund estimated the cost to address the annual teacher turnover in San Francisco schools exceeds $3 million each year, a figure derived from U.S. Department of Labor calculation methods.

But the authors of the report said such statistics underestimate all the costs associated with replacing teachers, including travel to job fairs, staff time to interview, paperwork, new hire training and other administrative tasks.

Past polls show a majority of teachers cite San Francisco's expensive housing as a major impediment to staying; school and city officials are looking to address that issue with mortgage assistance or other financial help for teachers.

If they can find a way to help with the housing, more would become teachers...

Hillary and Press Bubble Froth

morning radio has Whoopie Goldberg talking with the "happy-voices" about the criteria to be President. I tune in as she was taking about Mayor-Mikey being short... And then went into a discussion about why height should be a criteria, why do tall people get a pass, and how some short people have been wonderful leaders (i.e. La Guardia) ... Then she went off into looks. She claimed that people wouldn't have sought out JFK for his looks (some thought him incredibly handsome). She admitted that Bubba was often sought for his physical appearance... Ultimately, she thought we should choose a President on "common sense"... "Smart is not enough. There are a lot of smart people" ... she said... But... Do they have any common sense?

Which set up the MSNBC feed from the Washington Post talking about The-MOST-CONTROLLED-WOMAN-ON-THE-PLANET's minders and controllers and protective warriors... (Praetorian Guard?)

Gatekeepers of Hillaryland
Candidate’s coterie from her White House days is back together

... when she agreed to become Hillary Clinton's chief of staff. The woman was quite prepared for all eyes to be on the biggest celebrity arriving in Congress, the first lady of the United States, who was expected to use her Senate seat as a springboard back into the White House.

But what caught Tamera Luzzatto unawares was the full force of the Hillary machine already in place and making decisions

All of a sudden, I had the equivalent of a board of trustees -- an infrastructure that was integral to how she did business," recalls Luzzatto, who continues as Clinton's top Senate aide. "They knew what made her tick, how she thought, how to present advice to her -- with everyone united in a determination to see her do well. It was certainly a new experience."

Fifteen years after Clinton first brought these women together at the White House, the "board of trustees" has officially reconvened to help map her unprecedented effort to follow in her husband's footsteps. They are acutely aware their work is making history. Once seen as a tight little sorority, today the group -- happily self-described as "Hillaryland"-- is at the center of a front-running presidential campaign. Never have so many women operated at such a high level in one campaign, working with a discipline and a loyalty and a legendary secrecy rarely seen at this level of American politics.

Older and tougher, they have formed a closely knit Praetorian Guard around Clinton that plots strategy, develops message and clamps down on leaks. But their extraordinary protectiveness also contributes to an ongoing perception of insularity around the candidate and the campaign.

The real question is "What does she wish to do?"... Why does she want to be President?

Her husband never answered that question. He admitted being in full-lust for the job since he met JFK in the early '60s... He had no goal for the nation. No plan, no agenda, triangulation-muddle the differences, but no achievements to accomplish... He was successful in that he achieved nothing.

With Bush I in full popularity mode following Gulf War I, nobody gave him much of a chance... It was a throw-away candidacy that would set the Democrats up for a shot in '96... Shock- Surprise- Amazement... he won. A combination of the fear of a recession that never was combined with an exceptionally aggressive and war-like campaign had turned the odds. The war-like, non-stop, campaign throughout the Clinton years brought about the re-election against a Republican throw-away candidate... The legacy we have from those years; 1) War-like hyper aggressive tactics work 2) Appearance IS reality spin and spin control. Just keep repeating the same message over and over again 3) Keep em divided and tired. 4) You really don't have to DO anything. Just perch at the top like a big bird on a small tree and good things will come to you... It is nice to be king. Too bad we are a democracy...

Hillary helped. How much of the aggressive, angry, take-no-prisoners approach to politics was hers and how much came from him... ? They keep writing books giving her credit... Whatever, it is the Clinton-ista mode of politics. Obama has already found out how the game is played...

Whoopie wants a President with "common sense".... I want to know why they want the job... I don't think Hillary is the one for either of us... I don't see how Hillary can separate herself from his legacy when she * DEPENDS * so heavily on him to get the votes and bring in the money...

We *WILL* get spin, constant war-room campaigning, aggressive attacks against any and all critics. In "Hillaryland" there is no room for America or America's needs... Its ALL ABOUT HILLARY ALL OF THE TIME.. Whats good for Hillary is so obviously good for America that it need not be debated, discussed or stated.


Drudge offers the headline that reporters are donating to Democrats vs Republicans 9 to 1... Then links to the MSNBC story:

Journalists dole out cash to politicians (quietly)

News organizations diverge on handling of political activism by staff identified 144 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 17 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.

There's a longstanding tradition that journalists don't cheer in the press box. They have opinions, like anyone else, but they are expected to keep those opinions out of their work. Because appearing to be fair is part of being fair, most mainstream news organizations discourage marching for causes, displaying political bumper stickers or giving cash to candidates.

Traditionally, many news organizations have applied the rules to only political reporters and editors. The ethic was summed up by Abe Rosenthal, the former New York Times editor, who is reported to have said, "I don't care if you sleep with elephants as long as you don't cover the circus."

But with polls showing the public losing faith in the ability of journalists to give the news straight up, some major newspapers and TV networks are clamping down. They now prohibit all political activity — aside from voting — no matter whether the journalist covers baseball or proofreads the obituaries.

What changed? First came the conservative outcry labeling the mainstream media as carrying a liberal bias. The growth of talk radio and cable slugfests gave voice to that claim. The Iraq war fueled distrust of the press from both sides. Finally, it became easier for the blogging public to look up the donors.

The donors said they try to be fair in reporting and editing the news. One of the recurring themes in the responses is that it's better for journalists to be transparent about their beliefs, and that editors who insist on manufacturing an appearance of impartiality are being deceptive to a public that already knows journalists aren't without biases.

The openness didn't extend, however, to telling the public about the donations. Apparently none of the journalists disclosed the donations to readers, viewers or listeners. Few told their bosses, either.

Americans don't trust the news or newspeople as much as they used to. The crisis of faith is traced by the surveys of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. More than seven in ten (72 percent) say news organizations tend to favor one side, the highest level of skepticism in the poll's 20-year history.

Full list of donor reporters here.

In a similar vein... "feral beasts" -?-

Tony Blair recently gave a speech at the headquarters of Reuters. The WSJ OpinionJournal reacts to discuss the media and their relationship to politicians. Most of what he says applies to the US media. But not all... Some of his suggestions are very un-American... read the speech
In America, presidents end speeches with, "God bless you." In the U.K. last week, Prime Minister Tony Blair ended a big speech with: "I know it will be rubbished in certain quarters." Rubbished it was.

Deep wells of energy are emptied daily in political or professional life now, says Mr. Blair, "coping with the media, its sheer scale, weight and constant hyperactivity. At points it literally overwhelms. Talk to senior people in virtually any walk of life today--business, military, public services, sport, even charities and voluntary organizations--and they will tell you the same." He says, "Any public service leader . . . will tell you not that they mind the criticism, but they have become totally demoralized by the completely unbalanced nature of it."

Mr. Blair's complaint about balance appears not to be about political bias, the normal media beef of American conservatives. Mr. Blair is a Laborite. Instead, Tony Blair seems to believe the media has become mostly melodrama: "Things, people, issues, stories, are all black and white. Life's usual grays are almost entirely absent. 'Some good, some bad'; 'some things going right, some going wrong.' These are concepts alien to much of today's reporting. It is a triumph or a disaster. A problem is a crisis. A setback is a policy in tatters."

He attributes this change to the decline of what we call "straight" reporting and the rise of analysis or commentary in news columns, which most newspaper people will acknowledge, arguing that readers get straight news today from the Web.

Let's assume that straight news has been commoditized and relegated to the two or three paragraphs people are willing to read on the Web. Perhaps in an updated version of "A Canticle for Leibowitz" some monastic order will emerge in the post-factual world to preserve facts-only reporting smuggled around by hand on mimeographed sheets of paper. And let's assume that what's left for newspapers to offer the dwindling brotherhood of "readers" is interpretation, analysis, spin or bias. At bottom, it's all going to be someone's opinion, so ultimately people may simply have to decide whose opinions they find congenial, reliable or thought-provoking.

Tony Blair's right about one thing: Times change. The jury is still out on whether our politics will be better or worse if no one can agree on what any given public problem is because no one knows what the basic facts are, beyond the words in a Web site's headline. Possibly we'll elect better presidents and politicians if we're thrown back on gut feeling and whatever our common sense can intuit from this weird new information ether. Let's just hope civil engineers don't start building suspension bridges on this basis.

The one point Mr. Blair made, which no pressie can refute, is that newspaper market share, both circulation and advertising, is in decline. Many in the press argue this is wholly the result of the Internet invader and has nothing to do with Mr. Blair's criticisms. Some may yet ride the belief that the state of American journalism is impeccable all the way to the basement.

Just give us some straight reporting... Transparency and straight reporting of the events and facts will do. We can spin ourselves. Straight reports, not opinions, views, analysis, reports-of-spin or reaction to it will do the job... In the "information age" the "information superhighway" doesn't have to become the only path to facts, events and straight news... We will even pay for it.

Is anybody listening?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Military Round-up

Military tales from around the blog-O-sphere... Mostly, Links to places that I visit often and the things that I see... The perspective is different than the Associated Press or Reuters... Sometimes that's all the difference needed to see the truth...

Shameless stealing from Glenn Reynolds Thus the red letters for being redhanded...

BILL ROGGIO HAS MORE ON what's happening in Iraq.

IF you're not reading this guy on a regular basis, you should. He writes real good and his tales are interesting.

Bob Owens notes some media recycling.

IF YOU'RE NOT FOLLOWING THE DAWN PATROL over at The Mudville Gazette, you're missing a lot of military news.... Another blog you should visit frequently-AJ...

NAVY SEAL MARCUS LUTTRELL has a new book out, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. He talks about things here, on Breitbart TV.

Here's a nice slide show about how the SEALS do it.... More than you can see from the veranda at the Hotel del Coronado... You have to supply your own martini.... Chicks love to watch the Seals on the beach... Guys get jealous and want to join the fun. The slide show pictures that not everyone gets to stay and play... cue background "Nobody Does It Better" by Carly Simon

I don't care if you have served or not. The military is not for everyone. Those who have been and "seen the elephant" or those who stayed at home and dated Jody... Either way, you must admit that the modern American military is magnificent-! The people who are serving take pride in what they do and well they should. They do it very well. They study, train, analyze the results, examine what the enemy has done, define new tactics and respond... VERY QUICKLY... This is NOT YOUR FATHER'S MILITARY-... Not everyone can be a hero, but whatever part of the tiger, fang and claw, eyes and ears or legs and tail they are assigned: They do it much better than we did it way-back-when...

Thomas P.M. Barnett can't help writing like a PhD, but don't let that stop you from reading his assessments and predictions. I disagree with some of his views, but when looking into a crystal ball...the future is not always very clear... We're all going to live in the future and it looks like we will need a very large, healthy and well trained tiger.

Danger Room is ambivalent about the political necessity of a modern military, but they sure do love the toys, and ideas for new toys, and possibilities of new toys... For those who like military toys... You should visit often...

"Money Is The Mothers Milk of Politics"

I think that quote belongs to Tip O'Neil The famous Boston politician.

Roiling, boiling with envy, lust and righteous indignation the Democrats have pursued their White Whale of "the Rich" for several decades. In their pursuit of this legendary creature, they have tied the Middle Class in rules, regulations and wrapped them in snares of iron as they have taxed them most heavily... The FAMOUS ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX (AMT) was set as a trap for 21 millionaires who used the standard loop holes of state taxes, home mortgage and child exemptions to pay zero federal taxes in a single year. THIS OUTRAGE could not continue. Congress passed the AMT and next year some 20+ million taxpayers will find themselves facing this extra assault upon their earnings.

In the same spirit, Congress read about the large reward coming to Stephen Schwatrzman, CEO of Blackston Group, and like Ahab felt that old familiar yearning...

because the indiscriminate flood of capital that makes Mr. Schwarzman's riches possible shows no signs of abating. And stunning, because, at 15% for most of his earnings, Mr. Schwarzman's tax rate could be less than his chauffeur's.

Should Mr.
Schwarzman's firm be allowed to sell shares to the public without paying corporate tax? Tax experts tell me that to do this, Blackstone -- and Fortress before it -- are taking advantage of a provision in the tax law that permits partnerships to be publicly traded, but only if they engage primarily in "passive" activities, a sop given two decades ago to oil, gas and timber partnerships. Blackstone claims it qualifies because its investments in the companies it buys are largely passive.

... as a matter of public policy, it's fair to ask: Why should the tax laws discourage private-equity firms from going public? To do so seems to favor fat cats and big pension funds at the expense of ordinary investors.

The dilemma for Congress is that private-equity firms aren't the only ones caught in this maze. All sorts of partnerships, including real-estate and oil and gas, rely on the same tax trick. Changing the rules makes sense. But its effects would reach far beyond private equity.

If all this seems hopelessly complex, there is a simpler solution -- abolish the lower tax rate on capital gains altogether. That would eliminate the carried-interest problem, ensure that even the fattest of cats pay their fair share, and also eliminate the lion's share of complexity in today's tax code. With the world awash in investment capital, legislators could argue, there's no need for a tax incentive to encourage more.

To compound the question is the combination of LARGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY and the 2008 POLITICAL SEASON... Democrats lust to take control of the presidency and both the House and the Senate...

Hedge funds spent $1.3 million lobbying Congress last year, a 46 percent increase from 2002, according to numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics and Absolute Return magazine, an industry trade publication that tracks the largest hedge funds twice yearly. Hedge fund managers are also giving more to political campaigns; executives at the nation's 30 biggest funds increased their political donations by nearly 17 percent to $14.7 million between 2004 and 2006, the records show.

These amounts are pocket change for an industry managing more than $1.4 trillion in assets. But
giving Washington any money at all reflects a major attitude adjustment in the hedge fund world. Traditionally, the industry's government relations strategy was to simply stay home.

Avoidance worked well for many years. Since the first hedge fund was founded in 1949, government regulators have largely left the funds alone. Hedge funds raise money privately and cater to the super-wealthy: Getting into a fund has long required $1 million. Hedge fund managers argued that sophisticated investors didn't need the additional protection of securities laws.

Regulators started paying closer attention to the funds in 2003, when the number and impact of hedge funds increased. The SEC expressed interest in making the funds more transparent by requiring them to register with the agency. Most people in the industry opposed this; in fact, they were reluctant to turn over any information at all. However, their opinions weren't backed with much financial clout; in 2003 and 2004, the Managed Funds Association, the industry's largest trade group, spent just $142,000 on lobbying.

In December 2004, the SEC passed a rule requiring large U.S. hedge funds to register with the agency. The rule not only forced the funds to turn over basic information but allowed the agency to conduct audits. The experience taught hedge fund managers a lesson about the power of politics. They could ignore Washington, but Washington had no intention of ignoring them.

Senators Schumer and Hillary Clinton plus Mayor Bloomberg now face a quandary. Do they ignore the issue and continue to take the donations from this group of very rich individuals or do they follow the bloodlust of their most confiscatory party members... Votes vs Dollars... Which has the greater appeal? How to get both without sending the Fat Cats over to the Republican Side of the universe?

Senators Schumer and Clinton are on the fence over a bill that would force private equity firms and hedge funds to pay higher tax rates if they go public.

The bipartisan proposal, offered last week by the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, could be prickly for the New York senators, who have pushed for increased fairness in the tax code while also advocating for growth in the financial sector, which has long been crucial to the state's economy. Opposition to the bill could also put them at odds with the dean of the state's congressional delegation, Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem, who has publicly praised the proposal.

The proposals have drawn opposition from the top three declared Republican candidates for president. "I don't like raising taxes at all," Mayor Giuliani said yesterday in an appearance on CNBC, after being asked about Mr. Rubin's statement. He said booming Wall Street bonuses had contributed to surpluses for the city, and he pushed for lower taxes on capital gains as a way to encourage investment.
Aides to Senator McCain of Arizona and a former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, have also indicated their opposition.

Asked about the issue yesterday during an appearance in California, Mayor Bloomberg did not take a position, saying policymakers should look back to the writing of the tax code to determine whether the intended public purpose of certain provisions is currently being served.

The Senate proposal is seen by some as targeting Mr. Schwarzman, whose lifestyle has been fodder for the press. At a dinner held in his honor last night at the New York Public Library, several of his high-powered friends stood by him. Martha Stewart called him a "very powerful and popular figure," while a vice chairman at J.P. Morgan Chase, James Lee, told The New York Sun that Mr. Schwarzman was "building the Wall Street of the future."

Into this fevered swamp the real estate and venture capital industries see themselves being dragged and may well be hurt by accident...

Senate Finance Committee staffers are looking into reclassifying the so-called “carried interest” that alternative-investment fund managers earn from capital income to ordinary income, effectively boosting their tax rates from 15 percent to as high as 35 percent.

he real estate and venture capital industries make heavy use of the same limited partnership structure used by such funds.

“They’re concerned with highly compensated hedge fund and private equity managers. Our concern is that changes would affect not only those managers but the smallest of real estate deals,” said Steve
Renna, counsel to the Real Estate Roundtable.

A spokeswoman for the National Venture Capital Association, Emily
Mendell, said it would be “ironic” and “terribly, terribly unfortunate” if venture capital were swept in under the change because of the role it plays in the economy

“It is difficult to justify a 15 percent tax rate for the performance of services in one set of circumstances — private equity, venture capital, hedge funds, high-dollar real estate — while at the same time a John Deere or Mary Kay salesperson who gets a bonus for performing their job well will be taxed at a higher rate of often 33 percent to 35 percent,” the aide told The Hill yesterday.

In a limited partnership, the general manager typically takes a 20 percent cut of the profits from the investment, called the “carried interest” or the “carry,” in addition to a fixed fee that usually amounts to two percent of the funds invested.

In theory, the carry is taxed at the lower rate for capital income because, unlike a salary, it is not guaranteed and often
isn’t paid in the year that the manager performs services to the partnership.

But critics argue that the treatment is a loophole that allows fund managers to escape taxation at the same ordinary income rates paid by other professionals.

...the lobbyists emphasize the importance of encouraging industries vital to the economy. In 2005, companies that received venture capital some time in the last 35 years accounted for 10 million U.S. jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenues, Mendell said.

Meanwhile, the quest for revenue due to the reinstatement of pay-go rule is also exacerbating the lobbyists’ concerns. “They’
ve got to get the money somewhere under pay-go rules. Anything being discussed you have to take extremely seriously,” Renna said.


Congress made the rule, it's not a law. Congress can break its own rules...and often does (Shall we discuss spending Ear Marks and 2006 election campaign promises contrasted with the recent rules changes ?)

The pay-go rule is a recipe for tax increases... It is supposed to limit the growth of government but the politicians cannot help themselves. Giving away other people's money is hard and important work. If they could not take from the middle and give to the rich and poor what would they do all year long?

Besides, Hunting Whales is fun. Playing Robin Hood is fun. Why else spend over a million dollars for a job that pays less than $200,000?

Politics -Democrats

Yep. its June....

It's hot outside and the TV season is over... America's longest running soap opera and faux news events continue to roil on. Propelled by their own steam the candidates are huffing and puffing to keep themselves and their campaigns inflated as they struggle towards the January and February 2008 primaries... After the primaries, there will be just NINE short months until anyone can actually vote.... Beginning February 6, 2008 there will be only 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 months with little new to learn that we did not learn in 2007... NINE months of watching those voted "most likely-like able-liked" by the EXTREMISTS of their party will try to convince the large bloc of unregistered, unaffiliated, turned-off, apathetic INDEPENDENT voters that they really didn't mean all those extreme things they said...


The continuing weird news is that Hillary is lagging in Iowa and so she has pulled Bill out to campaign for her during the month of July... Disingenuously, the press release says that this will be his first appearance on her behalf... What was the visit and march in Selma? What was the visit in South Carolina? Rumors abound that he has his own airplane and own campaign staff. he is making calls on her behalf to raise money and garner support.... When will this end? When will SHE run on her own two left feet?.... Will she call him to help-save-her when she is President?... Everytime HE appears she diminishes in stature... "Sisters are doing it for themselves?"... Sure doesn't look that way..

Mayor Mikey = President Mikey

It sure looks like he is heading in that direction... The dots to be connected... Tonight's news says he has left the Republican Party... Shock-! Who else can we get him to take along? He was a Republican In Name Only (RINO) and only swept in behind Giuliani because the Democrats were so feeble and untrustworthy....

Mr. Bloomberg sent out a statement at 6:05 p.m. declaring that he is leaving the Republican Party and has filed papers with the New York City Board of Elections to register as an "unaffiliated voter."

"Although my plans for the future haven't changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our City," the statement said.

Mr. Bloomberg, a life-long Democrat who became a Republican to run for mayor in 2001, is a billionaire who would not have to hold a single fund-raiser if he decides to throw his hat in the ring.

"We have achiever real progress by overcoming the partisanship that too often puts narrow interests about the common good. As a political independent I will continue to work with those in all political parties to find common ground, to put partisanship aside and to achieve real solutions to the challenges we face."

"Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than the partisan battles and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology."

BULL GARBAGE... we have a system that gridlocks by design. IT stops fanatics and visionaries from running roughshod over the opposition. Achieving things that are REALLY IMPORTANT gets done when the people (the ones who decide whats important) finally change the faces until they get the right combination for agreement. His speech from Los Angeles, California earlier in the day...

Bloomberg's office in New York issued his statement today while the mayor was in California appearing at a number of events, including a conference in Los Angeles called "Ceasefire! Bridging the Political Divide."

He said in his speech that partisanship was stopping the federal government from taking on big goals.

"When you go to Washington now, you can feel a sense of fear in the air -- the fear to do anything, or say anything, that might affect the polls, or give the other side an advantage, or offend a special interest. This is paralyzing our government -- and it's leading our elected officials to push all the big, long-term problems onto future generations: health care, Social Security, budget deficits, global warming, immigration, you name it. Their inaction and partisan gridlock are destroying our relationships and reputation around the world. "

I think that has the smell of mendacity.... A self-made billionaire does not make consensus. He commands and people obey. Being a politician is a very different world from being a businessman... Being a mayor, even of a large city is very different from being in control of one-third of the government of a nation. Every good marketing professional understands the importance of knowing your market, knowing the limitations and knowing the game.. Billionares are unique people, most especially, one whose name is on the company and every one of its products... Neither business or politics are a game for small egos, but Mayor Mikey may find that while others may lack his wealth few in Washington lack in comparison of appreciation of the self...

The Mayor aparently sees an opportunity to swoop in and take the Presidency away from Hillary...She was slow walking towards her coronation until Obama rose in the national psyche. Offering good look, charm and a way to assuage racial guilt, Obama has changed the dynamic of the race.

In a recent LA Times-BLOOMBERG poll:

When registered voters were asked which party they would like to win the White House, they preferred a Democrat over a Republican by 8%. But in a race pitting Mrs. Clinton against Mayor Giuliani, a Republican, the former New York mayor was favored by 10%.

Conversations with a dozen Times-Bloomberg poll respondents exposed a sour aftertaste from controversies of her White House years with President Clinton. Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton's chief campaign strategist, said his reading of the electorate is that few voters hold such views.

If Hillary wins the Democrat Candidacy and Guilani wins the Republican Candidacy and Bloomberg runs as an independent...
The nation will see three faces from New York...
Who will Bloomberg take votes from?

Does America LOVE New Yorkers THAT much?
New Yorkers seemingly think so...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sarbane-Oxley Good For Who?

Stephen Bainbridge: Sarbanes-Oxley bleeds profits, cuts risk taking ... (HT Glen Reynolds)

Professor Bainbridge reports, via, that Sarbanes-Oxley may not be the solution to all corporate ills that it was touted to be. Even tho the final results are still unknown and will only be known by the benefit of 20-20 hindsight where we can see the companies that DID NOT go public, DID NOT float their shares in the United States and chose to forego the greatest financial markets in world history... Sarbanes-Oxley never spoke to the exposed ills of corporate greed, corruption, fraud and theft that were making the headlines. Our political leaders found it easier to solve a problem that did not exist than to write new laws for crimes that were already illegal.

Sarbanes-Oxley is praised for restoring confidence in the markets. There was no loss of confidence except in the newsrooms of broadcast television and the backrooms of the halls of Congress. It was just more smoke-and-mirrors by the political class to show that they were busy ding "something", anything. The crimes were not committed by a lack of legislation. They were the result of pure human greedy, weakness, and corruption. They were caught. Arthur Andersen was sacrificed on the altar of "doing something important"... over 20,000 people at Anderson lost their jobs as a result solely of the hue-and-cry by our press to "do-something-now"...

...don’t know whether SOX in fact benefits the economy, we do know that it has imposed a much higher regulatory burden on U.S. public corporations than the law’s sponsors ever imagined. According to The Wall Street Journal, for example, publicly traded U.S. corporations routinely report that their audit costs have gone up as much as 30 percent, or even more, due to the tougher audit and accounting standards imposed by SOX.

The chief regulatory culprit is SOX section 404, which requires both management and the company’s outside auditors to annually assess the firm’s internal controls over financial disclosures. The Securities and Exchange Commission initially estimated that section 404 compliance would require only 383 staff hours per company per year.

According to a Financial Executives International survey of 321 companies, however, firms with greater than $5 billion in revenues spend an average of $4.7 million per year to comply with section 404.

A poorly written passage of the law that confuses EVERYONE, even the brilliant minds in Congress. Nobody knows what constitutes a violation but since the penalties are extremely severe everyone errs on the side of extreme caution.

... other ongoing expenses imposed by SOX include legal fees, premium increases in directors and officers insurance policies, and higher director fees to attract qualified independent directors to serve on boards of directors.

These costs are disproportionately borne by smaller public firms. A study by three University of Georgia economists, for example, found that post-SOX director compensation increases have been much higher at small firms. For small firms operating on thin margins, these and related SOX compliance costs can actually make the difference between profitability and losing money.

As a result, SOX has substantially distorted corporate financing decisions. On the one hand, SOX has discouraged privately held corporations from going public. As law professor Larry Ribstein observed on his blog,, startup “companies are opting for financing from private-equity firms,” rather than using an initial public offering to raise money from the capital markets.

In the long run, or perhaps the not-so-long run, this barrier to the public capital markets may have a very negative effect on the economy, according to Ribstein: “Since going public is an important venture capital exit strategy, partially closing the exit could impede startup financing and therefore make it harder to get ideas off the ground.” Conversely, Ribstein notes, this is also a good deal of evidence that SOX is causing firms to go private.

.... recent study by former SEC Chief Economist Ken Lehn identified a new and very troubling consequence of SOX. Lehn’s study tested the proposition that SOX has a chilling effect on risk taking by managers.

Using a large sample of U.S. and U.K. companies, Lehn and his co-authors found that relative to U.K. firms, U.S. public corporations have significantly reduced their research and development and capital expenditures, while significantly increasing their cash holdings, since SOX. As a result, the equity of U.S. companies has become significantly less risky vis-à-vis U.K. companies since SOX.

Having been involved in start-up and turn-around companies most of my career I can support the chilling affect that Sarbanes-Oxley has had on the projects that I see working. Many are avoiding the venture capitalists when seeking start-up or growth funding. Many are working with Private Equity and Asset-Based-Lenders.These companies are paying a heavy price in our growth timing . They have lost opportunities because they lack the ready access to capital. There are very few exit strategies that mention an Initial Public Offering. Most look to re-cap and sell to management or sell to a larger fund or competitor. The result is less return for success and reward for risk taking. There are fewer investment opportunities for the mutual funds, pension funds, insurance companies and individuals. The United States has periodically gone through an almost-Puritan revulsion at the excesses of prosperity and growth of wealth. hope that someone comes to their senses and adjusts the law. Too many years of seeking to raise capital in Europe (UK) or Asia will ingrain the habit and shift the prosperity out of sight and out of mind...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

California Dreams of Singapore

Christian Probosco writes in the New West about some of the trends that are percolating in California that may be coming soon to a ciy or state near you... (HT Glenn Reynolds)... California has long been the leading edge of many of our fads and fashions. Some would say it is the "bleeding edge" of technology and science.... Whatever we think of the culture, we must admit that a lot has come forth over the years... including this magical machine that allows us to speak with fluid ease if not always complete sentences or coherent thought to the entire world (potentially albeit unlikely)...

After citing some significant factors about the state: "California is the seventh largest economy is the world with a GNP of $1.62 trillion dollars." from Libertarian blogger Ron Getty. That's one thousand, thousand, millions... A lot of zeros and a number too huge to visualize in my checking account.. "CCalifornia has 16 million more people than Australia"... That's even more people than Canada... Zero Population Growth (ZPG) was a good idea for a while but human nature, and California beach bodies, just overwhelmed it...

Probasco then cites some trends that seem disturbing for California and probably will be soundly rejected in Omaha:

Citing the SFChronicle's Carolyn Jones report on Measure G, Berkeley's wish to reduce the whole city's greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050

In Berkeley's green future, there will be no incandescent lightbulbs, Wedgewood stoves or gas-powered water heaters. The only sounds will be the whir of bicycles and the purr of hybrid cars -- and possibly curses from residents being forced to upgrade all their kitchen appliances.

Some measures will be popular and easy, like a car-share vehicle on every block and free bus passes. But others will be bitter pills, such as strict and costly requirements that homes have new high-efficiency appliances, solar-powered water heaters, insulation in the walls and other energy savers.

... To reach an 80 percent reduction, sacrifices would have to be made in all quarters of the city.

Under the emissions crash diet, builders will use only recycled and green materials. Residents will be told exactly how many carbon units they're generating based on the cars they own, the distances they drive, the waste they generate and the energy they consume. Landlords will be required to provide free bus passes to tenants.

Berkeley's green blueprint calls on people to take small steps on a daily basis as well. Incentives and legislation will make common many activities only a few practice now -- walking to work, using cloth shopping bags, buying locally grown produce, shutting off appliances and reducing their use of nonrecyclable packaging.

People are willing to make these lifestyle changes, and the cumulative effort will add up. It's not rocket science. We can do this."

While virtually everyone in Berkeley agrees that reducing greenhouse gases is a worthy goal, not everyone agrees on the process.

Former Mayor Shirley Dean questioned whether the city's enthusiasm has eclipsed its common sense.

Dean supports many of the ideas Bates has put forth, such as solar water heaters, but wonders how many of the ideas would be funded, especially when Berkeley residents already pay some of the highest taxes in the state. She also notes that the city's method of tabulating emissions seems "fuzzy."

The city is omitting Interstate 80, UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from its calculations because those are controlled by state agencies that have their own, and in some cases tougher, greenhouse gas reduction plans, DeVries said.

The city also is counting emissions reductions that occur far outside city limits, such as reductions from PG&E plants and garbage dumps.

... the accounting details are irrelevant, said Dan Kammen, a professor at UC Berkeley's Energy and Resource Group.

"Berkeley is one of the first cities to do this, and I think they're entitled to some creative bookkeeping," he said.

Probosco continues...
Then there’s San Francisco, where animal cruelty laws dictate—another despicable word—that dog “guardians” serve their pets water in a “nonspill bowl in the shade. Their food must be wholesome, palatable and sufficiently nutritious,” which leads me to ask, ‘what makes dog food wholesome?’ and, ‘sufficiently nutritious by whose standards?’ And I also wonder, ‘how would you know whether the food was palatable to your pet or if it—excuse me, s/he--was just really hungry? Would you consult a pet psychic?

See Probosco's article on the requirements to become a licensed SF Dog Psychic.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors banned smoking in all open spaces owned by the city--except for golf courses, initially, because golfers contribute greens fees to the city, while the rest of the smoking rabble do not. Realizing how that made them look, they have now kicked smokers off the greens as well.

Many business and products in California have Proposition 65 warning labels affixed to them, warning the ever-unsuspecting public of the dangers of grocery produce, nail polish, solvents, oil, gasoline, you name it. Businesses which fail to post the proper signage can face fines of $2500 per day. Freelance journalist Donald Melanson noted the following label on his computer’s mouse:

“The cord on this product contains lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.”

And finally, there’s a few nanny-state laws lately considered by the State Legislature, as related by San Diegan Adam Summers an economist and policy analyst for the Reason Foundation:

• AB 722—Would “phase out” the sale of incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs (despite the fact that harmful levels of mercury from fluorescent bulbs can add up in landfills, contaminating the soil and making their way into the food supply). This bill has been amended so that now, instead of banning bulbs outright, it would have the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission set a minimum energy efficiency for bulbs. A nice P.R. move that would, in practice, essentially ban incandescent bulbs.
• SB 7—Would ban smoking in a vehicle--moving or stationary--in which there is a minor.
• AB 86/AB 90/AB 97/SB 490—Would restrict the use of trans fats in restaurants and school cafeterias.
• SB 120/SB 180—Would require caloric, trans fat, saturated fat, and sodium content information to be printed on restaurant menus.
• AB 1634—Would require dog and cat owners to spay or neuter their animals by four months of age.

.... Summers and Smith-Heisters, however, believe that lawmakers will use global warming to justify the next wave of overly-restrictive laws, nanny and otherwise. According to an article by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mark Martin, California Attorney General and former Governor Jerry Brown is using AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, to stick a wrench into San Bernardino County’s 25-year growth plan. Brown is suing the county because several developments on the drawing board don’t even consider smart growth as a way to minimize global warming. And he warns, “This is just the preliminary step in the turbulent waters of AB 32.”

Santa Rosa resident Skaidra Smith-Heisters, also of the Reason Foundation, points out that such laws are not unique to California. New York City has already banned trans fats. It was the first city in the nation to ban talking on cell phones without a headset while driving. “Cultural norms differ from state to state,” she says, “but the underlying attitude is more pervasive than one might first imagine.” However, “What is perhaps different about California is that politicians and voters are not shy about approving radical laws.

It’s hard to argue against cleaner air and water and voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse emissions, but no politician ever wants to stop there. Just as much as they fear the erosion of rights under the twin wars on terror and drugs, those of a libertarian bent also fear the totalitarian implications of a looming environmental crusade, as evidenced by the extreme measures taken in Berkeley. Or course, in the case of global warming, the whole world is at risk. But the world has been at risk many times before, from hellfire and dysgenics, fascism, communism, capitalism, global cooling, terrorism, and Wal-Mart. The leaders of the crusades against each threat believed they had the facts on their side, and in each case, except Wal-Mart’s, part of the ‘solution’ lay in trampling citizen’s rights.

Back in 1909, California progressives enacted a eugenics program which resulted in the forced sterilization of 19,000 people. Oliver Wendell Holmes, reviewing the case of the “socially inadequate” Carrie Bell, in the landmark Buck v Bell, concluded that “her welfare and that of society will be promoted by her sterilization.” That makes the California eugenics statute a “nanny law.” In light of that misstep alone, you would think that Californians would be eager to enact legislation which severely curtailed the powers of their own government, and meted out harsh penalties to overbearing moralists. But the opposite is true.

The real question for everyone, including our latest batch of Presidential wanna-bees mostly of the Democrat Stripe, but with a few Republicans and lots of feel-good-NGO's is: WHAT IS THE LIMIT OF GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT?...

Where is the line? When does too much become enough?... The Constitution states that those rights not specifically delegated to the federal or state reside in the individual.. It sure doesn't seem that way.. Our rights to live in peace and freedom are being encroached upon by the those who start out saving the few and weak and then grow to include everyone... When do we stop allowing people to decide our livelihood, live style, health habit choices and .....? Well, what is your boundary?

Singapore has prospered under the guidance of Lee Kuan Yew.... IS that our future? Over the years he has dictated many laws and rules that have encroached upon the private rights of the people. His criminalizing possession of chewing gum and arrests for "Public Display of Affection". (PDA). are but a few examples... Of course, he also restricted the press and carefully controlled the public image of Singapore and him and his family... Do we really need a dictator, even a benevolent one? Would the NYTimes, WashPost, SFChronicle, LATimes and the electronic news outlets continue to prosper or be forced to bend to the whims..?

"I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken." Oliver Cromwell said that long ago...... It applies to many of our legislators, politicians and cultural Thought Leaders... Who will speak this truth to their power?

No Pressure - Happy Father's Day

Like most Dad's around the nation, today, I slept late today... Had a nice tomato and cheese omelette with some Mexican chili sauce and floured tortillas for breakfast... Then opened the paper to find that I am being watched... My every action or inaction has been observed and recorded for posterity.

Well, I knew it all along and have changed my bad habits to ensure that the kids never wanted to follow me down... i.e. quit smoking. I was going to anyway, but the kids helped motivate me... Today's
SF Chronicle reports on a new scientific study showing that girls seek husbands who resemble their fathers.... We, all, sorta knew that instinctively...

Researchers have long noted that women tend to be drawn to men who are a lot like their fathers, for better or worse. Women raised in households with abusive fathers frequently end up in abusive relationships. Women raised by doting, affectionate dads seem to find doting, affectionate husbands.

In the study, published last week in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, psychologists in England and Poland asked 49 Polish women to look at photos of men and choose the ones they found most attractive. The researchers also asked the women whether they got along with their fathers.

The women who reported a positive father-daughter relationship each tended to select a man in the lineup who had facial characteristics similar to their dad's. The women who weren't close to their fathers showed no preference one way or the other.

It's not as if women are deliberately looking for someone who looks just like Dad. But if he was a good father, then he has genes that might be worth seeking out in a husband, or at least that's what nature might have intended, researchers say.

From early childhood, people look to their parents as examples of what they'll eventually seek in a mate of their own. The opposite-sex parent has the most influence, research suggests, because children and young adults are likely to identify with the same-sex parent and view the other parent as the model partner.

Men aren't immune to their mother's influence -- another European study from three years ago noted that men also were likely to choose mates who looked like their mothers. But psychologists say for reasons they don't understand, men are less likely to carry negative experiences with mothers into their adult relationships.

In the study on appearances, Mordecai said it's interesting -- and reassuring -- to note that it was only women who had a positive relationship with their fathers who picked out men who looked like their dads. That women who didn't get along with their fathers avoided choosing men who looked like them, he said, suggests that people are capable of overcoming some of the negative influences of their childhood relationships.

But it's not that cut and dried. In fact, plenty of research suggests that women who have bad relationships with their fathers are more inclined to seek out men who are no good for them. It's what Freud called "repetition compulsion," Mordecai said: an obsessive, subconscious need to repeat traumas from the past, either out of a desire to fix them or because they feel familiar.


So, I may have some have pun making, world traveling, Fiat loving, surfer-jock guys who read books and love their families as sons-in-law, when they finally arrive...- OR- I'll see a side of myself that I never knew existed and will be ashamed and embarrassed...

My great-grandfather had two sons and eight daughters... He is famous for saying "The lord blessed me with daughters but cursed me with sons-in-laws"...

We'll see... However it works out... I have loved my kids and tried to do it the right way... I am lucky to have a son and three daughters... On this Fathers Day and every day, I have felt like I had all the treasure that any man could ask in a lifetime... I wish that all fathers felt that way.. May YOUR Fathers Day be a reflection of the love you have brought into the world... I hope that all Father's stop to reflect if they should change anything...