Thursday, April 16, 2009

News Nits

"All the news that's fit to reprint."

There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.
- Richard Feynman

News Nits tries to update all the news that isn't bled to death in the mainstream media. However, sometimes the news is too interesting to deny its coverage. How 'bout them pirates? The activity off the coast of Somalia has been on the uptick, with modern pirates having been paid off to the tune of $150 million this year alone. They have apparently not killed anyone, but as we've come to see, they mean business and the stakes are high. News Nits wonders if they go bankrupt, are they too big to fail? Oh, Jack Sparrow, why can't all pirates be like you?

Lots has been going on in the news. In no particular order...Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was apparently clean of illegal wrongdoing (no word on if what Senators do is "ethical"). The judge is now launching an investigation into the ethics of the prosecuter's office. Pretty nasty when politics enters the courtroom. Sounds like a case of Law & Order, but no body.

American business dude, Charles Simonyi, went to space for the second time, hung out in the space station, probably ate a few burrittos, called it science and got back safely. Either way, cool for him. He's now $35 million lighter, so to speak, and I guess the Russians are the only ones honest enough to just open their program up to high bidders.

Although our Presidential Face has signaled for light at the end of the tunnel, wholesale inventories dropped by their largest amount in 17 years. That's a sign that businesses are still ramping down. Expect more layoffs. Expect lower earnings. Boooooo. News Nits wishes it could blame the Commies for this economy, but it's the Capitalists' fault this time.

For all the "conservatives" out there, be careful what you wish for. All the power expanded and usurped by the Bush administration under the Patriot Act has now switched hands. In a weird move, the Obama administration is lumping veterans, anti-abortion activists, and third party candidates all into the same, vast right-wing wastebasket to target for criminalization. In my own dear Missouri, the Missouri Information Analysis Center has issued official warnings to the state patrol identifying the new generation of terrorists in our country:

The report warned law enforcement agencies to watch for suspicious individuals who may have bumper stickers for third-party political candidates such as Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin.

It further warned law enforcement to watch out for individuals with "radical" ideologies based on Christian views, such as opposing illegal immigration, abortion and federal taxes.

Does this woman look like someone whose judgement you trust? In related news, a 25-year old man, Steve Bierfeldt, was detained for half an hour in a windowless room and interrogated at Lambert Airport for daring to get onto a plane with $4700 in cash. News Nits know our currency continues to be worth less and less, but apparently it is now also contraband. It won't be long until the next Janet Reno is knocking on, or down, your door.

Back to the cool parts of the world. An Australian cattle dog named Sophie Tucker was knocked off of the sailboat her masters were on off the coast of Australia. She swam 5 nautical miles to a deserted island, where she lived on baby goats for 4 months. She became somewhat wild and was difficult to subdue when rangers discovered her. However, her owners say it took no time for her to readjust to the comfy life. That's just Sophie being Sophie.

Even the sun is in a slump. The sun's cycle of sunspots has hit new lows, 100 year lows, and could provide interesting data going forward. One of the main theories to explain global warming is the increase in sunspots over the past 100 years has warmed the oceans, which have then burped more CO2 into the atmosphere. Yeah, planetary warmth leads CO2, not the other way around: stay tuned, nerds.

In more fun science, there's a tiny plant that feeds on poop and could help solve some very big problems in our world, if the corn lobby doesn't get in its way. It's a classic "poop-win-win" scenario.

News Nits has gone under deep cover to find out that the CIA has fired its contractors running the infamous "secret prisons". This could only mean one thing, though, a new black market for secret SECRET prisons.

Back to science, the edge of space has been found, and it's surprisingly not in North Dakota. But if you are ever fishing in North Dakota, or anywhere else, and you get a fish hook stuck in you, here is how to remove it. This is only useful if you are dumb enough to fish without dynamite. No cure has been found for getting dynamite stuck in you. We think the secret SECRET prisons are working on it though.

In some bummer news, the Shriners have announced they need to close a bunch of their hospitals due to a downturn in contributions and a drop in endowment. The Shriners, in addition to entertaining untold thousands with goofy hats and tiny vehicles, have done a lot of good for a lot of people, so it is sad to see this happen. They are apparently not big enough or corrupt enough to be bailed out.

And finally, comrade Roller dished out a serious examination of alternative media sources in a previous post. Steven Levy of Wired apparently read the column and wrote up some of his own experiences as well. There's just no replacing big screens and high quality I guess. But don't throw away your internet connection just yet. The LoopAndTheLou continues to serve our loyal readers!

If only we could turn a buck or two on this site, we might even be able to help out those Shriners.
One time, this guy handed me a picture of him, he said,"Here's a picture of me when I was younger." Every picture of you is when you were younger. "Here's a picture of me when I'm older." "You son-of-a-bitch! How'd you pull that off? Lemme see that camera!" - Mitch Hedberg

[Disclaimer: News Nits apologizes in advance for posting such a large picture of Janet Napolitano.]

Monday, April 6, 2009

An Opening Day Manifesto (sort of)

Even though it was snowing here in Champaign-Urbana, (my Loop cohorts got 3-5 inches) there was something in the air today that let you know that today was different than last Monday. Ok wisecracks, yes, there was snow. However, there was a some kind of sensation that made you know there was baseball yesterday. It was in Philadelphia, where the defending champion Phillies dropped a game to the Braves, 4-1. Derek Lowe picthed 8 scoreless innings, which is awesome, because he's on my fantasy team.

As I always, I begin this baseball season wondering if the Cubs can do it. If you don't know what it means, pull up your favorite search engine and type in Cubs and World Series.

My excitement is tempered by last years postseason flop, even though the pundits are calling for the Cubs to claim the Central division for a third straight year. Other things have changed too. For the first time in 8 years, I'm don't live in Chicago for Opening Day. Champaign-Urbana is a hybrid of Cubs and Cardinal fans with some White Sox fans sprinkled in. Much to my dismay, no Kerry Wood on the Cubs for the first time in 11 years.

I also begin this season with one less person on my roster of Cub fans. My Nana, known to the government as Rosemary Dowling Boyle, passed away last June. When I lived in St. Louis, there wasn't a Chicago Tribune pre-season special section that wasn't shipped to me by her. As she got older and lost a lot of her mobility, she found comfort and enjopyment just sitting and watching the Cubs. She learned more about baseball after the age of 75 then I think a lot of people learn their whole lives. She would be soooo upset if she found out it was a day game and she missed it. Here are some of the great baseball Nanaisms from over the years.
  • She always impersonated Carlos Zambrano's point to the sky whenever she saw it on TV. And in the last game she attended, which Zambrano started.
  • "Oh hi Tim, are you watching the game?" "They played this afternoon Nana, you're watching a replay of the game." "I was wondering why it was so light! Well, don't tell me who wins . . ."
  • My brother overhearing Nana explaining what an RBI was to her Filipino caretaker. Marty has never been so proud.
  • "You know I actually saw Wood smile the other day . . ."
  • "Oh! Look at coach! " Usually when Pinella had a nasty snarl on his face.
  • Her trying to say Fukudome.
The Cubs have become very fashionable over the last couple years. And at times, it's irksome to go to a game and see people with Cubs beads and Prior shirts who don't know that Prior is gone, but the Cubs are so entrenched in my family roots, I can't tear myself away from them. I am watching them play the Astros right now and I can't believe I am rooting for Milton Bradley! But he's a Cub.

I know many of our loyal readers, despite your probable allegiances to the team from the Lou, have similar stories and similar feelings. Feel free to share them in the comments. I'm not going to read them, but I love when people comment on my posts. Its the only thing that gives me self-worth since they canceled Coach.

While I don't think the spike in bunting sales will bring back the economy, baseball being back is good for this country, but not good for my tendencies in putting off homework. Play Ball!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Conservative Manifesto

"If Western man in the future should recover his analytical ability, our times will be known as the age in which trivia replaced culture and bureaucracy replaced life." – Clyde N. Wilson

It has discouraged me to see how unable or unwilling people in our country are to find constructive change. Instead, public brands are swapped with shallow victories being claimed by either side; the lesser of two evils being still evil.

Then it occurred to me that maybe it's because there's a real shortage of ideas and leadership, afterall, listening to the news and the political parties speak is worse than listening to the bleating of sheep. At least sheep give wool. Maybe the genuine efforts for change have simply not been said outloud enough times to introduce them to people as real possibilities. Maybe it is time to remove the trivia and bureacracy from our lives and push for the substance of culture and a vivid life.

I present to you a common sense, conservative manifesto. This is free for debate, but it is not open to the criticism of being too radical or impossible, those being hollow charges since everything proposed here, at one time, has existed in some form.


Taxation should never be a consideration in anyone's life. The fact that it not only weighs on our time and minds every April 15th; the fact that business people actually make otherwise pure business decisions on its consdideration; the fact that politicians are constantly manipulating we the people with the minutia of it all lead to the conclusion that it is a big, huge mess that no politician has ever dealt with. The GOP offers tax cuts, pitting the middle class against the working poor. The Democrats raise taxes on the rich to transfer it to the non-working poor, pitting the poor against the rich and the middle class against eveyone. This absurd policy in combination is designed to keep the average taxpayer dizzy and voting along simplistic lines.

So let me start the proposed tax code off along some simple guiding principles. Every citizen should be taxed in some way – no one is above or below paying their share. Taxes should be simple and easy to pay – there is no comfort or advantage to the people in complexity. The goal is to have every person pay their taxes for the year in what would be a 15 minute ordeal on a form the size of a postcard. The current tax code is over 16,000 pages, and if you order a copy from the guvment, it comes in 20 volumes and costs $974. I see no reason the code can't be simpified to the front and back of single sheet of paper.

The first stab: A flat tax of 15% on the combined income from wages/tips, dividends, interest, and capital gains. If I left anything out, I didn't mean to. All income, including SS, combined into one pot minus 15%. No deductions, no loopholes, no rebates. The rich currently hide their great wealth in trust bundles and other such paid-for loopholes. Many poor currently don't pay taxes (rather receive paychecks from the guvment) and develop bad attitudes that deepen the nasty cycle of poverty and helplessness. This would also apply to all corporate taxes which are currently at record highs in our country.

The 15% reflects a replacement rate as calculated by several economists (who actually estimated the number in the lower teens, but I'm making it simple). Critics who multiply 15% by the stated income of citizens in some year and claim it wouldn't be enough are not doing an accurate estimation. The rich always hide income from high tax rates, thus income declared would go up (this has been proven over and over again).

People who cry for the poor and say they should pay no taxes are free to subsidize any charity they want with their own money and get involved with social work if that is their calling. But our country is in desperate need of a citizen identity, and this is a great way for the poor of our country to take pride and sign up! It will also draw a firm line in the sand between honest citizens and illegal aliens.

National Economics

National Economics is tricky to even talk about because we have been lied to for so long, and our words now have slid around so much that even an honest debate is confusing rather than enlightening. We have been tricked into thinking that the off-shoring of jobs is a good thing since we can now buy cheap crap at Wal-Mart. We have been tricked into thinking that whatever is good for Wall Street or global bankers, must be good for the country since instead of a loan costing 7% interest, it costs 5.5%. We have been tricked into thinking that an invented and construed "Economy" based on 70% consumption is truly creating wealth for anyone but the owners of the companies who have off-shored jobs and pocketed the profits rather than passing on the savings. We have been tricked into thinking that the Consumer Price Index controlled and manipulated by bankers reflects inflation, rather than the actual money supply in our economy. And we have been tricked into thinking we can grow economically through increased debt in order to make our current debt seem smaller - yet this borrowed growth is from buying stuff, not from making good investments.

All of these tricks have worked to the benefit of the tricksters and the harm of the average American. The silence of the middle class bought through inordinately large gains in the stock market for our retirement funds has been shattered when false gain after false gain has been burst like a bubble. The manufacturing base of our country has been auctioned off, and the profits pocketed by the few. The dollar has been debased and weakened to fund this mania and, as a result, our wages and savings have gone down.

First step: dissolve the federal reserve and give Congress direct audit over the money supply of the Treasury. The current federal reserve is actually the third instance of a national bank in our history, the other two having been destroyed by the people for their greed and dishonesty. It can happen again. Interest rates can be controlled by the free market of local and regional bankers, it doesn't need to be "established" by a central authority. We at least have all seen the harm Alan Greenspan has caused that would not have been so easy to do by spreading out risk assessments to all bankers. Not all bankers are foolish, especially if they know they hold their own loans and know there will be no bailouts for them if they go bust.

Return to the gold standard or some hard asset standard. People think this is arcane or foolish, but it had governed our country well until 1971. Read about the Bretton-Woods agreement on your own time. Look at graphs of the value of gold and the dollar and oil since 1971. Gold or precious metals make an ideal backing of currency. They do not prevent inflation by their own virtue, but they give us an honest way to make measurements. Imagine in contrast, if the federal reserve changed the size of a 12-inch foot whenever it wanted to, how that would throw so much uncertainty into the builders across our nation. This is the problem that is most fundamental to the recovery of our currency, or else all other efforts will only have temporary effects and then fail.

Undo all bailouts. Reduce spending at the national level by at least $1 trillion. This would return us to those poor, horrible days of 2006, when we only spent $2.6 trillion. Remember how poor we all were back then, when the government spent so little? It is shocking that so many honest men still think the government has, at any point in history, ever helped spend our way into prosperity – that it controls the economy. What slaves we've become!

The argument over earmarks is silly. If our national budget in 2008 were scaled down to $30,000 (a number we can all understand), earmarks would be $16. A much more prominant part of our budget would be spending on military adventures and security, to the tune of $1 trillion, or in our scaled version, $10,000 – roughly 1/3 of our expenditures. That is insane and needs to be reduced sharply.

Honor all promises for Social Security, yet tourniquet it. We have an outstanding promise of $40-50 TRILLION (4x-5x our current national debt) in benefits that our leaders have ignored. This is a broken system which we need to give people a way out of. Enable people entering the workforce to opt-out. I would gladly do this now, surrendering even what I have already paid in, if it meant I would pay no more and not receive any either.

National Sovereignty and Border Control

Since we have already stated all citizens will pay taxes, then all non-citizens must go. That's right, deport all 12-20 million illegal aliens in this country. This would not only reduce the amount of financial burden on our country but would eliminate huge state costs that are rarely added up and totalled. It would also have the benefit of creating 12-20 million jobs overnight. These jobs are preferable to the jobs the government is claiming to create out of thin air, because these jobs are in demand by industry and are sustainable.

The many troops we have out patrolling the borders of other nations could come home and in relative peace and at a fraction of the cost could patrol our own borders to fill out the remainder of their tours. The situation along the Mexican border is getting really violent, although we'll deal with the causes of that next. But let's also not forget all the terrorists who committed 9/11 came through our friendly northern neighbor's borders.

An additional aspect of national sovereignty is to acknowledge that we have an economic border as well. Those people who wish to conduct business across our borders should pay the cost of opening such breaches of physical and economic security. A simple 1% import tax on all goods and services should do the trick and hopefully reinforce the true cost of shipping jobs overseas (which always depends on shipping cheap products back to our large consumption markets). It is not that no jobs should ever be shipped overseas, but we should not overtly encourage this behavior nor subsidize the profitability of it.

A final point about national economics. Nations rich in a diversity of natural resources do not rely upon imports to survive. Nations like Saudi Arabia need imports, so their approach might be different. But technically speaking, we should need to import nothing of basic importance, just luxury items from other cultures. We are capable of producing and supplying all of our own needs in our own free markets. The drive for profits that destroys these markets within is an unpatriotic one. All discussions on "free market" economics are thrown out the window when it comes to international trade; especially, when we do not even allow free markets within our own borders.

Wars on Concepts and Inanimate Objects

We must stop fighting wars on concepts and inanimate objects, like terrorism and drugs or guns. These wars can never be won. They are indeed targeting very big problems to the people of our country, just not problems that should be fought by the military. The war on drugs diverts billions of dollars away from security or paying down the debt and increases the strain on our borders (which costs us more money in border control). The violence it causes within our country is undeniable and rips apart communities even moreso in supply nations throughout Central and northern South America. Yet, the benefits of the war on drugs is not clear at all. Making puritans feel better about themselves or relieving parents of talking to their children about reality do not count.

At least let's start with decriminalizing marijuana. From what I understand, Amsterdam – where pot and other drugs are extremely tolerated – has a lower abuse rate than the U.S. So where is the benefit on that front? We are also missing out on a huge form of tax revenue as well as stomping all over civil liberties with this silly war started by Nixon. Drug addiction, a horrible problem, is mostly a medical one and should be treated as such. The U.S. also has the highest incarceration rate in the world. This does not speak well of a rich, free society; no, this is the same way communist Russia behaved. It is also an unnecessary drain on our taxes. Half of these people in jail are non-violent drug offenders. This policy has especially decimated minority communities to no good end, turning future fathers, business, and commumity leaders into drug-selling criminals.

The War on Terror is no different. The language about it is exactly the same as the language from the War on Drugs. This is not about ignoring the real threats to our people – quite the opposite. This is about not flying off the handle and committing our brave soldiers to doing things the military shouldn't do. The military shouldn't be in charge of building hospitals and schools and other nation-buiding nonsense. The military shouldn't ask our brave soldiers to be sitting duck targets for cowardly terrorists. The military should be in charge of killing as many enemies as possible, blowing up all their assets and coming home job well done.

These unending conflicts are so harmful to our people. Return to the Christian Just War theory, which says at the very least, we should not attack someone who has not attacked us first or who is not very clearly about to (and able to) attack us. The follies in the Middle East, Vietnam, and Korea have all departed from this theory and have all sacrificed the lives of far too many brave and honorable men while squandering our globally deserved good will as a righteous nation. As Eisenhower told JFK when he assumed the presidency, "America is carrying far more than her share of the free world defense." This remains far more caricatured today.

Judges and Governance

We need to return to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was originally written to constrain the federal government from becoming overbearing against the people. Now, it has been switched around to enable the federal government to constrain our rights! The concept of true liberty is almost dead in our country. Being free is so much more than just being able to go to the mall with a new credit card. Our inner cities are filled with economic slaves living in a rotten culture. Our suburbs are filled with the silence and contentment of paid people. We are more afraid to hurt people's feelings than we are to stand for truth and be critical of falsehoods when we see them.

Our federal government is in a shambles now and has been for at least my whole life. The President is either a hero or scapegoat, but a false idol to all. The Congress stands for almost nothing, as these elected representatives become soft and corrupt after just a few months in D.C. To fill that mushy gap, our judges have been legislating from the benches, interepreting laws based on the effects they have on people, the popularity of the laws, and how they, themselves, feel about politics. Such judges need to be replaced, from the top down, with judges who only seek to square any current rulings with the standard laws of the past.

Presidents need to stop signing into law every piece of dishonest legislation that comes in front of them, which today is almost every single bill. If only a man could be more concerned with his country than his own perceived legacy. Keeping Congress greased and the people dull is a horrible way to waste a legacy. We should only elect honest people to the Congress and Senate. Term limits have not worked, and they have not gotten us off the hook.


Our country used to be a free republic, where people could live as they pleased within their own communities. Taxes were not so high so as to make living off of one's own private land impossible. The economics were not so skewed and dishonest so as to make having more than two children nearly impossible. The morality of the people on average was high enough to consider all of us free men without the need for a nanny state.

This republic has been bought and sold like a slave in the name of progress. We are now left with its ruin and the prospects of a crumbling empire. Unless these fundamental problems in our government are dealt with, we will have to settle for more brand-switching and lying manipulation. We will have to have fewer children who will inherit less, financially, morally, and culturally. The founders of our country would not recognize the state of affairs if they could see us now. They would assume their country has been destroyed and a different one stole their name and existed in its place.

We must look to the past to see what has worked, so that we might look to a more enduring future. May God bless us all in these efforts.