Posts belonging to Category Federal government



Cash for clunkers: Nothing like using Chinese money to boost Japanese businesses.

Not that I have anything against the Chinese or Japanese — alright, I might have something against the Chinese government — but it’s absolutely hilarious that the United States government is using Chinese money (from the debt they buy) to boost sales of Japanese businesses (from the Financial Times):

The US’s cash-for-clunkers scheme, designed to bolster Detroit’s embattled carmakers, is turning out to be an even bigger boon for their Japanese rivals.

According to data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday, Americans are using the scrappage incentives to buy more vehicles from Toyota than any of the three Detroit carmakers

Toyota has an 18.9 per cent share of vehicles bought so far, putting it ahead of General Motors with 17.6 per cent and Ford with 15.4 per cent. Chrysler is in fifth place, after Honda.

Getting the government you deserve every day since January 20, 2009…

H/t: Matt “threat to democracy” Drudge.

Cross-posted at Virginia Virtucon.

Case in point: Watch a perfectly good car be destroyed.

This Volvo decides to resist (kinda long, you might want to just skip to the end):

Ace of Spades (which also gets a hat-tip for the video) reports that the dealers are pouring sodium silicate into the gas tanks.

Gotta wonder what all that oil is going to do to nearby rivers and steams. Oh well…

Cross-posted at Virginia Virtucon.

House of Representatives approves an additional $2,000,000,000 in corporate welfare.

Because the “Car Allowance Rebate System” (CARS) program (commonly referred to as “cash for clunkers”) needs a bailout after receiving higher than expected interest. The Obama Administration and Congress were shocked — shocked, I tell you — that when the government starts handing out $4,500 to anybody, they get a huge response!

It’s bad enough that there was $1,000,000,000 originally dedicated to this program but now the House, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that it needs another $2,000,000,000. And to make matters worse, 77 Republicans voted for this most recent monstrosity of corporate welfare (roll call vote). At least all the Republicans in Virginia’s Congressional delegation voted against it.

The only thing that would make this whole situation halfway rewarding is if all the cars are being sold by Ford and foreign automakers so Government Motors (GM), Dodge, and Chrysler don’t receive anymore welfare payments.

And this has to be one of the saddest pictures I’ve seen in awhile:

Autos Cash For Clunkers

Yes, I know it’s a gimmick ad by some car dealer but it represents perfectly what the government is doing. They’re paying for the destruction of vehicles, not because they don’t work, but because a couple of businesses need another bailout and the government has the ability to throw away money by the billions. Cars that cost thousands of dollars, and which hundreds of people spent dozens of hours building, are being destroyed by government fiat.

And think about this: What happens when someone just out of college, or someone that has been saving money for a year to buy a used car, goes out and tries to buy a car and finds out to his surprise: “What the heck! Used cars are a lot more expensive than they were a year ago!”?

Why? Because the government has interfered with the free market and worked to destroy the existing supply of used cars.

I’m halfway through reading Atlas Shrugged, and it’s amazing how much this country is starting to look like the situation in that book…

Cross-posted at Virginia Virtucon.

Bobby Scott votes against engraving the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God we trust” in the Capital Visitor Center; Jim Moran votes “present”.

Uh…why?

There were 8 noes, 2 presents, and 410 ayes on the resolution.

United States Army paying $3,700,000 for anti-smoking game.

From GamePolitics:

The image of the hard-bitten soldier grabbing a post-battle smoke may be a cliche, but it’s one that the U.S. Army hopes to change.

To that end, the Texas Medical Center reports that one of its researchers has been awarded $3.7 million grant by the Army to create an anti-smoking video game for military personnel.

Remember this the next time the Army says they don’t have money for soldiers’ body armor or to up-armor HMMWVs. It’s bad enough they’ve been wasting money for almost seven years on “America’s Army” — another video game they created in an attempt to improve recruitment — but this is just ridiculous. And as one commenter on GamePolitics pointed out, if there’s one group that should be able to smoke without being harassed it’s our military personnel.

Eric Cantor votes to give a company (which he owns stock in) a government-enforced majority control of their market until the end of time.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that my idiot brother (shameless plug: check out his two hate-blogs, On The Right and Orange, VA Independence Day Tea Party) brought Cantor’s vote to my attention.

I speak of the recently passed bill that will give the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over tobacco products. Ironically, the bill was supported by the biggest cigarette maker out there: Philip Morris. Why? Well, check out what National Review Online had to say:

Last week, overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, authorizing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products. The New York Times proclaimed the bill an “enormous victory for public health.” President Obama, himself a sometime smoker who reportedly struggles with nicotine addiction, declared that the legislation “will protect our kids and improve our public health” and is expected to sign it later this week. The bill grants the FDA expansive new regulatory authority, but more regulation does not guarantee greater protection of public health — or the public good.

Anti-smoking groups, such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, have long sought FDA regulation of tobacco products and called passage of the bill a “historic victory.” Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Henry Waxman, the bill’s primary sponsors, have sought greater tobacco controls for years. Sen. Dick Durbin proclaimed that the legislation will “protect children and protect America” from the scourge of cigarettes and nicotine addiction. Interestingly enough, the bill also had support of the nation’s largest cigarette manufacturer, Philip Morris, and its parent company, Altria. That alone should clear away some of the euphoric haze surrounding its passage.

[…]

Manufacturers will be required to place expanded warning labels on their products and to provide the government with more detailed information about cigarette contents and smoking by-products. The law also bars flavored cigarettes — save for menthol. As the Wall Street Journal reported, “Menthol cigarettes are initially exempt from the ban because of demands from the Congressional Black Caucus. About 75 percent of African-American smokers buy menthol brands.” The leading maker of menthols is Philip Morris.

[…]

Limiting tobacco advertising and stalling the development of new tobacco products won’t help public health, but it will certainly benefit the nation’s largest cigarette manufacturer. Government regulation is the most tried-and-true way for incumbent firms to squelch smaller competitors, which helps explain why Philip Morris supports the bill and smaller tobacco companies oppose it. Harder to fathom is why public-health advocates who should know better celebrate the law as a major advance.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act is revealed as yet another Beltway deal for Big Government and Big Business. Those who proclaim it a victory for public health and the public good are blowing smoke.

And here’s what Forbes had to say about the bill:

Their [Philip Morris’] reasons for cheering aren’t all so high minded. The bill, already passed by the House of Representatives, will change the face of the tobacco industry by giving the FDA the authority to restrict tobacco product ingredients, impose nicotine caps and limit advertising campaigns. It solidifies the position of the producer with the greatest market share–Altria–which makes 50% of all cigarettes in the U.S.

Because the domestic cigarette market is shrinking every year, manufacturers are competing fiercely for customers. Companies like R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard Tobacco argue that under FDA regulation, they’ll have trouble convincing people to switch to their brands because of stringent advertising restrictions. That means no more sponsorship of sports and entertainment events, color or photo ads in publications with significant teen readership, or free gifts with tobacco products.

“Bringing new products to market will be extremely difficult,” says Maura Payne, a spokeswoman for Reynolds America, which owns R.J. Reynolds, maker of Camel, Winston, Doral and other cigarette brands.

Anyway, to get to the the point of my post, check out these two pages of Eric Cantor’s most recent personal finance disclosure form available via OpenSecrets.org (PDF):

cantor_page04

cantor_page12

Yeah folks, he owns between $15,001 and $50,000 in stock of Philip Morris and between $1,000 and $15,000 of stock in their parent company Altria Group. So, Eric Cantor voted to give a government enforced majority market share to a company that he has a financial interest in. Isn’t that a violation of the House’s ethics rule? If it isn’t, it sure as heck should be.

And here’s a bigger issue. A couple weeks ago Cantor was at the Republican Party of Virginia convention talking about how he wanted smaller and less intrusive government and blah blah blah, but when it comes down to an vote that will increase the size and scope of government and benefit a company that he has a financial desire to do well, that goes out the door.

And if cigarettes are so dangerous and so bad that they need to regulated by the government, why is he making money off their production and sales? Isn’t that like accepting blood money?

Up Next: Let’s correlate campaign contributions and how politicians vote…

Mark Warner certainly isn’t the brightest (in re online medical records).

From Virginia Lawyers Weekly:

A hacker’s theft of millions of Virginia’s most sensitive prescription drug records isn’t slowing Sen. Mark Warner’s push for electronic medical records.

The former governor convened a conference in Richmond last week about the medical and cost-saving benefits of digitizing hundreds of millions of patient records nationally.

“We’ve been talking about this subject, policymakers have, for decades: how can we make sure that we can bring the power of information technology to our health care system,” Warner told reporters at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Warner, who made a fortune as an early investor in cell phones and information technology, was among the earliest apostles of e-medical records. The federal economic stimulus package that Warner supported provides nearly $20 billion to begin the process of digitizing medical records and sharing them over secure networks.

Here’s the money quote at the bottom of the story (read the whole thing still):

VITA [Virginia Information Technologies Agency] was Warner’s idea for consolidating the state’s disparate and far-flung computer networks and technology procurement systems under one agency. It went online during his term as governor from 2002 to 2006.

“You’re never going to have an infallible system. But … you’ve got to make sure that you learn if there are breaches like this and improve and protect the system,” he said.

Does anyone else feel so safe in the knowledge that the government (or even a business) is going to be responsible for retaining your complete medical record?

The story portrays Mark Warner has being so tech savvy but he shows by his own comments he doesn’t know jack about computer security. And notice that he mentions that you improve security on the system only after the data has been compromised.

And given how a bureaucracy responds to computer security problems, I feel even more secure: Consider how the Oklahoma Department of Corrections implemented their state-wide sex offender registry. They set up the system and how it communicated with the database in such a way that it was possible to change a few words in the URL of the web page and viola, you have the social security number of every person listed on the registry (The Register (UK), Daily WTF).

And when the author of the article at the Daily WTF alerted the Oklahoma DOC to the problem they responded by changing the SELECT term from “social_security_number” to “Social_Security_Number”. Just change the URL to the capitalized term and viola, the information was still available to anyone. The problem was only fixed when the author revealed to the Oklahoma DOC that not only was information available about people that were on the sex-offender registry, but information regarding DOC employees, including medical information, was also available.

The author also theorize that given the way the system was set-up, he could have added records to the tables, enabling him to add people as DOC employees or as sex-offenders.

If that’s the way the government is going to handle my medical records, no thanks.

And, of course, it isn’t just the government that has failed to address security concerns. According to the The Register, a prescription processing firm, Express Scripts, offered a $1,000,000 bounty for the return of personal information, including prescription information in some cases, that a group managed to download.

This also goes back to the nature of computer security. It’s a reactive process. Security flaws and exploits are not fixed until there’s a problem that has been documented. Hell, just look at every security vulnerability in any Microsoft product.

And normal citizens don’t give a damn about their security in most cases, and where do those people work? Some are bound to work in sensitive places. You still have people that either don’t bother with wireless network security on their routers, or if the do, they’re still using WEP which the FBI demonstrated could be cracked in three minutes back in 2005. And even the more secure WPA has been demonstrated to have security vulnerabilities.

And by no means am I saying that paper records in a doctor’s office are secure. But at least then it has to be an employee or a burglar that compromises the information. And it wouldn’t affect millions and millions of people if it does happen. It also would take a lot more time and effort to copy and distribute paper medical records than it would take for electric files. Even if you find the people that compromise an electronic medical record, that information could have been forwarded to a million people already.

And then you have situations where neither the government nor business disclose the fact that their information has been compromised. Was it Bank of America that failed to tell their customers that their personal information had been breached until six months after the incident occurred? And look at how the state of Virginia has been mum about what exactly was compromised with the hacking of their prescription drug database.

All around, this is a Charlie-Foxtrot waiting to happen.

Just what we need: A government agency to insure municipal bonds.

Because the government has done such a great job insuring every other form of debt. From Reason Magazine:

The National League of Cities has asked for a $5 billion Treasury Department loan in order to set up a municipal bond insurer that would dwarf other players in the private muni insurance market. Say hello to IMBAC, the Issuers Mutual Bond Assurance Co., which would aim to provide insurance against default for cities with poor bond ratings.

The main private players in the muni insurance market (née 1971) have mostly been laid low by the mortgage-backed-securities pox, and don’tcha know the League has discovered that profit was the word of their undoing: “Fifteen shareholder-owned municipal bond insurers have failed because of the intense pressure to produce 15 percent to 25 percent annual returns for their shareholders,” says the League’s preliminary business plan.

A while back, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) proposed a federal muni bond insurer along these lines, envisioning an entity that provides attractive premiums to at-risk municipalities while costing “zero” to the taxpayer. The Wall Street Journal noted that while it’s true they have had historically low rates of default, city governments are entering uncharted waters of debt — with ballast, in many cases, provided by growing and non-negotiable bills stemming from pensions and other obligations. Further increasing the risk of muni defaults is the existence of the insurance itself, which turns bond default from an apocalyptic to a merely regrettable scenario.

H/t: Patterico’s Pontifications

“Let’s Try a Truly Merit-based System for Picking U.S. Attorneys”.

Virginia Lawyers Weekly, citing the The Roanoke Times, is reporting that Timothy Heaphy appears to have been chosen to be the next United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.[1][2] For those unfamiliar with the nomination process for U.S. Attorneys, the Senators representing the state — in this case, Jim Webb and Mark Warner — nominate lawyers to the President who ultimately makes the decision.

I really know very little about Timothy Heaphy, but I do know this: On August 8, 2006, Heaphy contributed $500 to Jim Webb’s (D) campaign.[3] On February 27, 2008, Heaphy contributed $500 to Mark Warner’s (D) campaign; he contributed another $200 to Warner (D) on September 15, 2008.[4][5] He contributed $401 to Barack Obama’s election campaign on February 22, 2008 and another $1,000 to the “Obama Victory Fund” on October 24, 2008.[6][7] He’s also contributed $500 to the “Forward Together PAC”, a Democratic leadership PAC on May 19, 2006.[8] He’s also contributed $1,000 ($500 on March 26, 2008, and another $500 on September 28, 2008) to Representative Tom Perriello’s (D) election campaign against Virgil Goode.[9][10]

And folks, that’s just for federal candidates. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Heaphy has contributed $2,037 to various state candidates and PACs, all Democratic in nature: $500 to Tim Kaine (D) for Governor (12/10/2003),[11] $200 to Creigh Deeds for Attorney General (08/08/2005),[12] $250 to “Moving Virginia Forward” a leadership PAC of Tim Kaine’s (04/27/2007),[13] $247 in-kind to Constance Brennan for Delegate (09/14/2007),[14] $300 to Creigh Deeds for Governor (06/30/2008),[15] $300 to Brian Moran for Governor (06/30/2008),[16] and $240 in-kind to Steve Shannon for Attorney General (12/12/2008).[17]

Timothy Heaphy may be an exceptional prosecutor and may do a great job prosecuting cases in the Western District of Virginia, after all, he has a dozen years of prosecutorial experience in federal courts, however, it still looks like political cronyism. And ironically enough, Heaphy penned an article for Legal Times titled “Good Choice, Sir: Let’s Try a Truly Merit-based System for Picking U.S. Attorneys”.

  1. Peter Vieth. “Heaphy may be choice for US Attorney.” 6 May 2008. The VLW blog. <http://www.valawyersweekly.com/vlwblog/2009/05/06/heaphy-may-be-choice-for-us-attorney/>. []
  2. Mike Gangloff. “Richmond lawyer apparent pick for Western District U.S. attorney.” 6 May 2009. The Roanoke Times. <http://www.roanoke.com/news/breaking/wb/203785>. []
  3. Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?27020221757>. []
  4. Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28020162256>. []
  5. Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28020573333>. []
  6. Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28930938587>. []
  7. Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28934785774>. []
  8. Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?26950184768>. []
  9. Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28990842857>. []
  10. Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28933520860>. []
  11. Virginia Public Access Project. []
  12. Virginia Public Access Project. []
  13. Virginia Public Access Project. []
  14. Virginia Public Access Project. []
  15. Virginia Public Access Project. []
  16. Virginia Public Access Project. []
  17. Virginia Public Access Project. []

Bailouts for All: Developers want a piece.

From the Wall Street Journal:

With a record amount of commercial real-estate debt coming due, some of the country’s biggest property developers have become the latest to go hat-in-hand to the government for assistance.

They’re warning policymakers that thousands of office complexes, hotels, shopping centers and other commercial buildings are headed into defaults, foreclosures and bankruptcies. The reason: according to research firm Foresight Analytics LCC, $530 billion of commercial mortgages will be coming due for refinancing in the next three years — with about $160 billion maturing in the next year. Credit, meanwhile, is practically nonexistent and cash flows from commercial property are siphoning off.

And Hot Air’s take (they also get a hat tip):

Had Paulson and the White House stuck with the original TARP plan — the one authorized by Congress — they would have bought back the mortgage-backed securities that the government mandated from the bad loans purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The credit markets would have eventually stabilized and the credit would have been forthcoming. Instead, Paulson and Bush decided to convert TARP into a political support system, picking winners and losers among ailing entities for no better purpose than to shore up voter support.

Read their whole take!


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