Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, December 02, 2011

Christmas List 2011 - A House

Santa dear, yesterday we spoke about a money machine.  Even though it sounded like a great idea, obviously the notion of everyone getting a money machine (authorized by the government so that everyone would have legal tender) was rather impractical.

But what would be a darling gift is you could get my mortgage forgiven.  I’ve been very faithful in paying it off.  I was a very good girl.  I didn’t buy an enormous house as my brother tried to urge me to go into hock for.  I only bought what I could afford.  What’s more, I bought the condo on a short sale for $60 thousand.  The mortgage was a 20-year mortgage at 7.25 percent interest, with $20,000 down.  Currently, the mortgage is at about $15 thousand.  By next summer, when my severance pay runs out, it should be below the teens.

Santa, it’s such a tiny amount.  Yes, it’s true that I have enough savings, more or less, to pay it off myself as long as I’m careful with my spending.  I’ve been a very good girl about my electricity usage.  Instead of chicken breast, which is expensive, I buy the cheaper chicken legs.  I cancelled my cable television.  I walk to the A&P instead of driving my car.  I’d walk down to Stop & Shop if there were sidewalks on Ringwood Avenue.  I love walking.

I’ve sworn off all fast foods and I’m watching my diet so I lessen my chances of becoming seriously ill, since I also won’t have health insurance.  I’d rather die than have the working class taxpayers pay my bill.  It’s so embarrassing thinking that I’ll have to be on unemployment for so long, but New Jersey has done such a fantastic job of driving away business with excessive tax rates in order to support the inner cities, that there are few jobs to be had.

Life would be so much easier, Santa, if I didn’t have to worry about the mortgage.  Then I’d only have to worry about the exorbitant property taxes.  $4,500, Santa, for a 750 square foot condo.  All so some teacher can buy a vacation home in Florida.

I’d love to have a house, Santa.  Not a big one.  One of those nice little Cape Cods or ranches that haven’t been transmogrified into a center hall colonial.  I'd have a little garden in the back, all my own.  I could let my cats out to chase butterflies, and I could even get a dog.  Oh, living in a condo complex has its conveniences.  The landscaper takes care of mowing the grass and clearing the snow (for the most part).  R., our maintenance guy, maintains the outer portions of the building, fixing the roof, cleaning the gutters and so forth.  You give up a lot of freedoms when you live in a condo, though.

The town does all sorts of inspections, everything from smoke alarms to garbage inspections.  Our association is good about gardening and putting out decorations.  Most aren’t, though.  Still, we have a 50-page booklet of rules we have to follow.  One rule even dictates what you may or may not do within your own unit.  Smoking is forbidden (well, I don’t smoke anyway).  They don’t allow apartment-sized washers and dryers and the association’s laundry facilities are down a steep, dangerous set of stairs.

If anyone wants to know what communism is like, just go live in a condo association.  That’s exactly what the state of New Jersey has in mind for its Senior Citizens, Santa.  I’ve grown used to the trade-offs.  But they can’t go move my mother out of her house at age 87 (she’ll be 88) next month.  It would kill her.

That’s just what New Jersey intends to do to its seniors, though.  The Progressives call it Smart Planning.  There are two words that should ring any freedom-loving citizen’s liberty bell, Santa.  One is “planning”, the other is “growth”.   No one should be planning anyone else’s life.  “Planning” is another word for “social engineering”.  New Jersey just released the proposed final draft of “The State Strategic Plan:  New Jersey’s State Development and Redevelopment Plan.” 

The SSP is 50 pages long, not counting additional directives.  It’s a nightmare.  Basically, they want to redevelop New Jersey along the Holland model.  In Holland, they’ve built senior citizen housing over shopping malls.  Mom’s friend lives in one.  Some people go to these places and are very happy.  Others aren’t.

On paper, it sounds great.  New Jersey is worried that too many seniors are holding onto their homes for too long, long past the time their grown children have left, causing a housing shortage.  The next generation goes out and builds new houses.  For their part, the children don’t want to live in those older houses because they’re too old and small.

So the state is planning to redistribute the property, shepherding older people into retirement homes, whether they want to go or not, and moving urban families out of their rented apartments and into the unoccupied homes.   I haven’t waded through all the details of the plan yet to figure out how they’re going to manage this.

In reality, this isn’t the great idea it seems.  When a bureaucrat talks about growth, he means to grow the government.  That means higher taxes.  What kind of bureaucracy will it take to accomplish this population redistribution?  How do they plan to enforce it?  Then, too, there’s the problem of crime.  People moved out to the suburbs in the 1960s to escape the crime the Progressives unleashed upon them.  Now, the crime will be redistributed; it’ll be everywhere, and no one will do a thing about.

All they care about are those empty rooms in my mother’s house (and my older brothers).  If you really want to “engineer” a society, you start with the basic values.  Teach children to be honest and to make themselves useful.  Teach married people how to save their marriages, starting with kindness and patience.  Stop taxing families to death, so it’s not so expensive to have more children.

Americans fell for the notion of Zero Population “Growth” back in the Sixties.  The result is, we have a diminished, non-competitive labor force.  Poorer families have produced more children who are undereducated.  The overeducated children who are literate don’t want to work at menial tasks.  Because there’s actually a general shortage of labor, Americans, especially American unions, demand a wage that’s too high compared to other countries.  When the companies flee, they take with them their jobs and their corporate tax base.

I guess I really don’t need a house, Santa.  I’m actually quite comfortable where I am, with the shopping center right around the corner.  I don’t have to mow grass or worry about loss mitigation on the property.  I don’t have to trim trees or hedges.  Housekeeping is relatively easy, which means I can devote more time to studying and writing my blog, and warning Americans about the dangers they’re ignoring.  It’s a 24/7 task.  Americans are very stubborn, Santa.

They have to pay attention to this United Nations-inspired Agenda 21, under its many names and guises.  Americans love their homes and property and they’re going to lose them if they don’t watch out.  Once you’re trapped inside a government housing development, there’s no escape.  I’m sorry to say, it’s rather like being in prison.  I happen to have the neighbor from Hell.  There are going to be a lot of unhappy people once this plan is realized.

She shouldn’t be living in a condo at all.  She has a big dog, big ears and a big mouth.  She needs plenty of space between her and any unfortunate neighbors.  So, Santa, if you can’t get me into a house, that’s okay.

But could you please find a house for my Neighbor from Hell?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Christmas List 2011 – A Money Machine

Today is December 1st and so begins the 25 days of Christmas.  Last year, we looked at the 25 best songs of Christmas.  Maybe next year, we’ll study the 25 best movies, but as these are hard times, let’s take a look at the 25 best Christmas gifts.

The first thing on my 2011 Christmas List, Santa Claus, is a money machine.  I’d like to have a money machine just like Uncle Sam’s.  With it, I could print out money willy-nilly, without having to earn it, work for it, account for it, or save it.  Europe is in an economic hole and we want them to be our friends?  No problem!  Just roll out those dollar bills and dump them over Europe.  The more the merrier.

So what if Europeans spent carelessly?  So what if the United Kingdom was ruined by her unions?  They’re marching in the streets now demanding those pensions.  Never mind God saving the Queen or God saving the Union Jack.  God save the Unions.  Spread that money over the Yorkshire dales and the Midlands, London, and Wales.  Our dollar is a lot lighter than England’s pound, anyway.  Those things weigh a ton.  What a nuisance!

So what if the Greeks are as Greek as their ancestors?  What if they are as libertine, scandalous, and irresponsible as Marc Antony himself?  Their unions are rioting in the streets.  The Parthenon is already in pretty bad shape.  If we don’t bail them out, there’ll be nothing left for American tourists to see.

Think of all the good we could do right here in America.  Print out that money, go to the top of the Empire State Building and let it fly!  Think of all the happiness there’d be in the streets of New York City!  New York would forget all about the OWSers and the nightmare at Rock Center yesterday when Obama came to the City right at rush hour, when they were about to light the Christmas tree.  Throwing out all that money would be just like – well, Christmas.

Mothers could feed their children and put them in Nike sneakers!  Students could buy Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations!  My brother wouldn’t have to eat bologna sandwiches for lunch any more (he makes more money than I do).  We could fill up those Salvation Army kettles!  The food pantries would be stocked with yummy food.

All this just by printing money and spreading the wealth around.

But of course, there is a problem with printing all this money.  Merchants would demand more of the stuff for their products, because their union members would demand more of the stuff.  The wheelbarrow and rolling suitcase makers would be gazillionaires.  You’d need them to carry all that cash around.

And even though the money is free, that wouldn’t stop robbers from taking it away from you at gunpoint.  Pretty soon, you’d have riots in the streets with all those crazed shoppers trying to get more of the free money.  Since they couldn’t carry enough of the stuff to buy what they want, they’d simply start breaking shop windows and running down the guards at the doors.  Black Friday?  A day in church compared to the chaos of a free money world. 
The European unions were given everything they wanted until there was nothing left to give.  Now that the government is saying “that’s enough”, they’re marching in the streets in protest over having to pay their fair share.  Europe is having a hard time putting the free genie back in the bottle.

So the only answer is for Santa to give everyone their own money-making machine.  Think how busy everyone will be all day printing out their own money.  They’ll be so busy printing out enough of it to buy a loaf of bread that they won’t have any time for anything else, unless they want to bake their own bread.  But that would mean growing their own wheat, building their own mills, and wondering what to do with the excess wheat.

They’d have to trade something for it.  Bartering.  But what if the guy you want to buy milk from doesn’t want any bread?  That’s the beauty of money.  You can buy anything you want or need with it.  The trouble is, you have to work for it.  Or at least, you used to have to work for it.  Now if you can’t find work or don’t want to, you just pay some bureaucrat to print some money out for you.  He gives you $100, of which he keeps $25, and there you have your free money.

But if we could print out our own money, we wouldn’t have to pay a bureaucrat anything.  As long as we all print the same money, we’d be set for life.  Only – if everyone printed out their own money, no one would have any incentive to make anything like bread or TV sets or cars.  The government would have to step in and force people to make those things.  Wait.  Isn’t that slavery?

Isn’t slavery the opposite of freedom?  Hold the phone on that order, Santa.  I have some other things on my list that might be more useful than free money.  I’ll get back to you tomorrow

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Prelude to War

Great Britain closed the Iranian embassy in London after its own embassy in Tehran was attacked and personnel kidnapped.   Essentially, closing an embassy means the end of diplomatic relations.  Kind of like when a wife locks her husband out of the house.  Once you can no longer negotiate, a relationship, whether domestic or international, takes a nasty turn.  Wars begin this way.

Back in 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was overrun, and its personnel held hostage for 444 days, until Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president.  If you’ve ever seen the film, Not Without My Daughter, you get an idea of the kind of problems that arise from the termination of diplomatic relations.  You also get an idea of just how bad Iran is.

Liberal critics accused Reagan of setting up Saddam Hussein in a puppet state, in a puppet war, without ever acknowledging that Iran had ambitions toward Iraq.  Like Germany in the two World Wars, Iran craves land, and oil.  Iran is looking to expand its territories and has the nuclear capability to accomplish this goal.  Wiping out Israel is like the icing on the cake.  Israel is the only thing standing between Iran and complete domination of the Middle East.

Turkey, as soon as it could, Islamacized itself.  With Iran ruling the southern Mediterranean and Turkey eventually ruling the North, they will have a monopoly on Middle Eastern oil.  Iran has  obvious ties to Russia and back in the day, Russia was hot for us to get our missiles out of Turkey, so much so that they precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

After the 1979 embassy kidnappings, the U.S. broke off all diplomatic ties with Iran.  Obama vowed that as president he would be willing to reestablish those ties, sit down with Ahmadinejad.  We’ve normalized relations with China and Vietnam.  Our relations with China are so “normalized” with China that we’re billions of dollars in debt to them.  If Obama had his way, we’d have normal relations with Cuba.  We have tried negotiating with North Korea.

Many more of our embassies and military bases have been bombed or driven out, as in Saudi Arabia.

Since 9/11, Americans have taken on more of an isolationist stance.  Let the Arabs keep their oil and see what happens.  What is happening is that China and India are all too happy to consume it.  Isolationism is not a particularly sound foreign economic policy.  When you no longer have trading partners to whom you can sell your excess products, or buy materials you don’t have (admittedly, there isn’t much America doesn’t have), you run into fiscal problems domestically.  Surpluses can drive down real production and cost a country jobs.  Shortages can drive up prices.

Free trade isn’t just for America within her borders.  Afghanistan is an interesting country we shouldn’t be in such a hurry to depart.  This mountainous country is filled with rare earth minerals necessary for the production of our prized electronics.  China, which already has cornered the rare-earth minerals market, has several stakes in the Afghan mountains.  If she controls Afghanistan, as she seems want to do, those rare-earth minerals are going to be even rarer.
China will control the market.  She can sit on those rare earth minerals forever, or she’ll expend all of Afghanistan’s mineral resources and save back her own.  That’s the trick to controlling any market, including the oil market.  So said an oil industry commodities trader.

“Why are we bowing to the Arabs?” asked I, back in the late 1980s, when Osama Bin Laden was blowing up all the natural gas pipelines.  “Why don’t we just drill for our own oil?”

“Because,” said he, “you want to be the last man standing when it comes to commodities.  You want to be the last country that still has oil.  If we use up all our oil and then we have to go begging the Arabs for their oil, they’ll really have us over the oil barrel.”

Alas, we elected someone as President of the United States who majored in bowing.  Although the closing of the Iranian embassy in London is a brief story, it has the unsettling feel of a store that has just closed its doors for ever.

Should events keep moving in this direction, our very nation could be hanging the “Gone Out of Business” sign.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cyber Monday Blues

Remember what I said about some books being out of print and very hard to get?  Well, you can put China’s Destiny by Nationalist China President Chiang Kai-shek at the top of that list.  In late December 1943, or early 1944, he published his views on China’s future.  No fan of communism, or capitalism (if we’re to believe Wikipedia) for that matter, he wanted China to control its own destiny.

It would be very interesting to read his book.  Only it’s rather hard to come by.  There are much older books, written in the 1920s that are easier and less expensive to purchase.  Wikipedia doesn’t list China’s Destiny in its article about him.  The best or even Barnes & Noble can do is come up with used versions of the book.  The least-expensive volume sells at about $80 and the price goes up from there.  I finally settled on a reprint version, not quite as costly as the $80 original, but at least it’s some version of Chiang’s writing.

Another work that was difficult, if not impossible to locate, was Churchill’s World in Crisis – his history of World War I.  World in Crisis is even more prohibitively expensive than China’s Destiny.  The best one can do is order an abridged paperback edition of the work (which is five or six volumes in length unabridged).  Churchill writes in The Second World War that he considered the two wars all of one piece and that if the Allies had been more vigilant when Germany was secretly building up her arms, the second set of books might not have been necessary at all.

The shipping was free, per Cyber Monday rules, though given the cost of the books, it would have been free anyway.  This will be my last order of books for a long time.  For one thing, I’ve run out of room to store any more books.  My job also officially ends at the end of next month, for another.  I have the good luck to remain employed by my company until the end of March, giving me plenty of time to read and study.

Meanwhile, Christmas is coming.  The latest war with the Nosey Neighbor is weeding and Christmas decorations.  I’m obliged to weed my garden, which I hadn’t done in about a month, so I didn’t mind complying.  However, she also demanded to know why my Christmas decorations weren’t up.  The date was Nov. 28th.  I could have made a reply of, “It’s none of your darned business when or if I put up decorations.”  However, I chose the more diplomatic response, “It’s too early.”

She and another neighbor (they’re both renters) complained how the neighbor upstairs never decorates.  I could have told them that those residents are Jewish.  However, if this nosey woman wants to display a little discrimination, a little anti-Semitism, and consequently give the association one more reason to order the condo owner not to renew her lease, I shall not stand in her way.

There seems to be no limit to this woman’s bossiness.  She doesn’t like the idea of paying a fee for grounds maintenance; she thinks we should do it ourselves and save money.  What’s more, she intends to crash the association board meeting (to which renting tenants are not admitted) and give them a piece of her mind.  I look forward with great anticipation to that meeting, though I never attend the meetings myself.  The treasurer lives upstairs above me.  A Scottish lady with a slightly brusque brogue and burr, I’m sure she’ll be thrilled, too.  This woman lays in wait for her every morning and afternoon, whenever she goes and comes home, to register some new complaint or piece of gossip.

What good thing about her is that I’ve become better friends with the Jewish residents up above her.  We don’t say anything about this hypocritical woman with her garbage can right outside her door, her dog (which I love dearly but is ruining the grass in back), and all the junk she herself has piled up right against the water heater in their basement (I saw it when she showed me what a state of disrepair the Jewish residents’ half of the basement is in).  I’d must remind the treasurer before she goes after the Jewish people that while they’re messy they don’t pose anything like the danger the Dog Woman does.

We used to be so peaceful before she came along.  No one’s nerves were on edge.  We all got along pretty well and left each other alone.  Wonder if Hagrid from Harry Potter could spare some of those unicorns in the Dark Forest to drag her away?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Frankly, My Dear, We Don’t Give a Damn About Barney

Barney Frank is a sore loser.  He announced today that he will not be seeking another term in office.  After the 2010 midterm, he decided he didn’t want to be a lame duck so he didn’t announce his plans until now.  He also said that redistricting has made campaigning too “strenuous.”

In addition to the 2008 Dodd-Frank Law, which created a legacy of regulatory burdens that have no chance of preventing future financial meltdowns, in 1987, Frank was also the author of legislation that relaxed the oversight of foreign students in the United States.  This was the law that allowed terrorists like Mohammed Atta to enter the country and then vanish.

Frank will be able to retire comfortably after 16 terms, something most of us will probably never be able to do since the 2008 meltdown liquidated our 401ks.  He plans on a combination of writing, teaching, lecturing and advocating for public policies. 

“I don't have to pretend to be nice to people I don't like," he said.  And we don’t have to be nice to him anymore, either.

Frank was previously chairman of the House Financial Services Committee but is now ranking member since Democrats lost the majority in the 2010 midterm election.   He stated the financial fallout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's near collapse came as a surprise, claiming that in 2005 he did try to get legislation passed to prevent unqualified homeowners from getting loans, but was stopped by then-House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas.

However, in 2003, while serving as the ranking minority member on the Financial Services Committee, Frank opposed a Bush administration proposal, in response to accounting scandals, for transferring oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to a new agency that would be created within the Treasury Department. The proposal, supported by the head of Fannie Mae, reflected the administration's belief that Congress “neither has the tools, nor the stature” for adequate oversight. Frank stated in a New York Times story, “These two entities ...are not facing any kind of financial crisis ... The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing."  In 2003, Frank also stated what has been called his “famous dice roll”:   “I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness [in the regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that we have in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision. I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing.”

Later on, he would lay the blame for the subprime mortgage crisis on the Bush administration, declaring that he never wanted to put people in homes they couldn’t afford.   Frank is certainly getting out while the getting is good.  No doubt, he’s invested his money wisely and feathered his retirement nest with our taxpayer money.  Too bad Massachusetts didn’t hoist this deadweight from office as he deserved.  Sadly, Maxine Waters is rumored to be his replacement on the Financial Services Committee. 

Good-bye and good riddance to Barney Rubbish.