“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Is California getting a raw deal?

OK, it's clear that California is a financial basket case. It's also true that, with a disfunctional legislature pandering to a bunch of vested interests, much of the pain is self-inflicted. That said, everyone should take a look at this graphic:

This is the amount of dollars received from the Federal Government for each tax dollar sent Washington D.C.'s way from 1981 through 2005. The source of the data is The Tax Foundation. Does anyone notice a trend here?

I totalled the defict for those years (and from all I've seen it's as bad or worse since 2005) and the cumulative deficit (including the early years when it was a surplus) is $489B (that's right, half a trillion dollars). Now, the incoming governor (meet the new boss, same as the old boss - will we get fooled again?) Jerry Brown met with the legislature to discuss how to handle the estimated $26B deficit CA is currently running.

The Tax Foundation figures are disputed, particularly with respect to their treatment of deficit spending. That said, recovery of 10% of the Tax Foundation's calculated deficit would go a long way toward curing California's budget ills. Unfortunately, even if the Feds said "OK, you're right, here's $48.9B" the ills that got us here would remain.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Wikileaks and the reaction

It's difficult to know exactly what to say about the Wikileaks saga and it's well outside my typical topic space. But its importance is hard to overstate and I feel like I must commit my thoughts to my virtual soapbox.

I am not in agreement with Julian Assange's expressed goals and I don't think that I have a right to know every syllable of every email, cable, and phone conversation of anyone who receives a check from a Government agency of any type. Diplomats must have the ability to speak in confidence and those in the military must be able to operate in secrecy. There truly are bad people out there who want to kill them and to kill us and our allies. That said, I do think that the reaction of the U.S. Department of Justice, of various members of the legislature, and a number of commercial enterprises is contemptible. And, of course, the those venal and cynical morons who are continually seeking to cause me to disavow conservatism wasted no time in accusing the Obama administration of not acting harshly enough.

We criticize the Chinese when they censor the internet or crack down bluntly on free speech of any kind, and yet our government is attempting to block (by, among other things, coercion of  the sites hosting Wikileaks) any access to the site of an organization that has not been indicted, let alone convicted of any violation of law. The indivdual who founded the AA group in which I got sober says "if you'd be embarrassed if someone found out about what you're doing, you should stop doing it."

Through Michael Tobis' Only In It For The Gold Post I followed a link that, I believe, captures my position fairly accurately. The post is well worth reading in its entirety and is not very long but a key quote is:

The leaders of Myanmar and Belarus, or Thailand and Russia, can now rightly say to us “You went after Wikileaks’ domain name, their hosting provider, and even denied your citizens the ability to register protest through donations, all without a warrant and all targeting overseas entities, simply because you decided you don’t like the site. If that’s the way governments get to behave, we can live with that.
There are many things that have been done in my name that lead me to believe that Bin Laden, et al, have achieved a huge victory. The USA Patriot Act allows prosecution without the right to confront witnesses, criminalizes telling anyone that one is under investigation under its provisions, criminalizes contributing money even for peaceful purposes to arbitrarily (e.g. Wikileaks) designated "terrorist organizations," and facilitates surveillance of U.S. citizens (not to mention anyone outside the U.S.) that is, for all practical purposes, unlimited.

Have I added anything to the debate here? No, but I do feel better having gotten it published.