Archive for January, 2009

When Terror “Governs”

January 5th, 2009 No comments

For those who pontificate regarding Israeli “proportionality” and argue for a status quo ante, I recommend reading The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement – Hamas. An excerpt:

The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Recorded in the Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim).

Categories: Geopolitics Tags:

Mars rovers roll on to five years

January 3rd, 2009 No comments

Via the BBC:

“The US space agency’s (NASA) Mars rovers are celebrating a remarkable five years on the Red Planet.

The first robot, named Spirit, landed on 3 January, 2004, followed by its twin, Opportunity, 21 days later.

It was hoped the robots would work for at least three months; but their longevity in the freezing Martian conditions has surprised everyone. The rovers’ data has revealed much about the history of water at Mars’ equator billions of years ago.”

The advances in electronics, robotics and communications these planetary missions demonstrate are absolutely amazing!

Categories: Space Tags:

“Facts are stubborn things…”

January 3rd, 2009 No comments

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” – John Adams, ‘Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials,’ December 1770 US diplomat & politician (1735 – 1826)

Categories: General Tags:

Moral Equivalency

January 3rd, 2009 No comments

Charles Krauthammer describes the latest Gaza conflict cogently:

“Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating.

Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis — 6,464 launched from Gaza in the past three years — deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.”

Why can’t AP communicate with such clarity?

Categories: Geopolitics Tags:

An Excellent Summary On Financial Meltdown Root Causes

January 3rd, 2009 No comments

Peter Wallison from AEI speaking at the Reason Foundation Dinner. In 25 minutes no less!

Categories: Economics Tags:

More Consumers Union Nonsense

January 2nd, 2009 No comments

Another amusing thread on the issue du jour. Read from the bottom up.

Nameless CU Flack:

I find your bona fides from advocacy groups unpersuasive. Many of these same groups are responsible for substantial lobbying efforts to block further regulatory oversight of the primary buyers of mortgages for packaging into securities, e.g. GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Have you read a Community Reinvestment Act Performance Evaluation from a bank that is in “substantial noncompliance”? I have and am not in the banking or investment field and have zero financial interest in same. It’s rather obvious to anyone with critical thinking skills what’s required to move from the noncompliant status. Excerpt: “The bank does not use any innovative or flexible lending practices or products to target low- and moderate-income borrowers.” No matter the language stating “safe and sound loans”, the actual CRA reports influence business behavior. Reference:

It simple to anyone with a basic understanding of economics: Gov’t intervention/mandates + politics = market distortions = failure = taxpayer bailout or at the minimum increased cost

There’s plenty of blame to spread around and Wall Street investment banks made serious errors in buying these securitized mortgages as did anyone taking a stated income ARM for $500k when they’re making $12/hr. But to place all the blame on the former is disingenuous.

Unless you’re willing to engage in substantive debate rather than a forward of advocacy group talking points, do not email me again on this topic.


Ron Bischof

On Oct 30, 2008, at 1:52 PM, wrote:

Statement from National Civil Rights, Consumer, Community Development and Housing Groups Regarding Attacks on the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)
Washington, DC – The following group of civil rights, consumer, community development, and housing groups today made the following statement:

Recent conversations pointing to the Community Reinvestment Act as the cause of the foreclosure crisis and credit market crisis are an attempt to deflect attention away from the real problem affecting our financial system. That problem is failed regulatory policy and oversight.

For more than a decade, community leaders, civil rights proponents and housing groups have raised concerns about unfair, deceptive and abusive lending practices that have undermined homeownership aspirations for millions of working families. Those pleas for better regulatory policy and oversight not only went ignored, in some cases they were contradicted by regulatory policy that made predatory lending more virulent and prevalent in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Over that same period, thousands of pages of local, state and federal testimony, peer reviewed policy papers and speeches (many from the groups signed onto this statement) have forewarned of a pending crisis stemming from lax regulatory oversight and enforcement. Yet no serious federal response was made. As Harvard University law professor Elizabeth Warren has artfully stated, consumers had better protection buying a toaster or microwave oven than they had when purchasing the family home.

One example of regulatory failure is that many vital financial institutions – and the products they created and sold — were not covered by meaningful regulation. Some market players clearly knew their actions were creating a potential market crisis. A Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Report recently found that in December of 2006 one analytical manager at a prominent credit rating agency wrote to another senior analytical manager to say “let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.”

Improved regulation of the financial system – including brokers, lenders, appraisers, rating agencies and securitizers – was essential. If the Community Reinvestment Act – and other appropriate regulation — had been applied to independent mortgage companies and other non-bank financial institutions, it is likely that our nation would not be confronted with a foreclosure crisis. Critics of the law conveniently ignore that about 75 percent of sub-prime loans were not covered by CRA. They also ignore the fact that most reckless and damaging subprime lending occurred between 2003 and 2007, long after CRA’s passage in 1977.

CRA exams provide clear and strong incentives for banks to make safe and sound loans and penalize them for making loans that are unfair and abusive. CRA is an antidote, not a cause of the current crisis.
Signed by:

Accion USA / Chicago / New Jersey / New York

Center for American Progress

Center for Responsible Lending

CDFI Coalition

Consumer Action

Consumer Union

Consumer Federation of America

Dēmos: A Network for Ideas & Action

Enterprise Community Partners

Housing Assistance Council

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Local Initiatives Support Corporation


National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations

National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC)

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients)

National Council of La Raza

National Council of Negro Women

National Housing Conference

National Housing Institute

National League of Cities

National Low Income Housing Coalition

National NeighborWorks Association

National Policy and Advocacy Council on Homelessness (NPACH)

National Rural Housing Coalition

National Urban League

Opportunity Finance Network

Rainbow PUSH Coalition

US Conference of Mayors


Pamela Banks


—– Original Message —–

From: Ron Bischof


Sent: Saturday, October 18, 2008 6:30 PM

Subject: Re: A Sobering Time (for blame shifting & nanny state activism) (Fwd By Digital Impact)

Mr. Guest:

Please spare me the current iteration of Big Gov’t cheerleading that overlooks the role of GSEs and the Community Reinvestment Act in the hopes that recipients are ignorant to the consequences of government intervention in market behavior.

This is merely your current platform in a career of activism for the nanny state and socialistic policies. It has little to do with informing consumers about products/services from productive sectors of society and everything to do with politics. As a result, I’ve engaged in a little activism of my own and non-renewed my Consumer Reports magazine and Health newsletter subscriptions. And now, I’m unsubscribing from these emails.

May you receive all the government you deserve as you and your ilk squander our heritage of freedom and limited government.


Ron Bischof

On Oct 15, 2008, at 7:06 AM, Consumer Reports Advocacy wrote:

Dear Ron,

You watched helplessly as the stock market sank. Then Washington
prepared a $700 billion dollar rescue for Wall Street without
ensuring an end to the practices that caused the problem in the
first place.

Where was the “cop” when the financial institutions engaged in
a frenzy of gambling on complicated new investments and bad
loans? Well, there was no “cop,” and there were very few rules.

After years of deregulation, financial institutions got used to
doing exactly what they wanted. And we got deceptive mortgage
loans, credit card rip-offs, and now a credit crunch and a near
collapse of the stock market that’s hurting individual Americans
like you.

It’s time to tell lawmakers to get serious about holding
corporations accountable for their actions

No longer do we want our government to stand idly by while
corporations ship unsafe foods and products to our local stores.
No longer do we accept that sick people without health insurance
must just file for bankruptcy as their only solution.

This is a serious time. We need a new approach.

Take a moment right now to call for real change.

Then, please take another moment to forward this on to others,
your friends and family, who may also want to help jumpstart
a new approach to governance that respects you and holds
corporations to a higher standard.


Jim Guest

Consumers Union of the U.S.
Nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports
101 Truman Ave.
Yonkers, NY 10703

Categories: Activist Lunacy Tags:

Consumers Union Activism

January 2nd, 2009 No comments

I find it a source of endless amusement when “activists” opine endlessly for the requirement for governmental intervention to serve the public interest.

As an example, take this email exchange with Consumers Union regarding fuel economy regulations.

Originally, I received via email this from Jim Guest, President, Consumers Union of the U.S.:

From: Consumer Report Advocacy

Subject: Reduce your gasoline costs!

Date: March 28, 2007 9:34:05 AM PDT

To: Ron Bischof


Dear Ron,

Do you pay thirty, forty, fifty dollars every time you gas up the car?

Automakers know how to make their cars more fuel efficient, but have been slow to do
so, in part because American minimum gas mileage standards for cars haven’t been
updated in more than 20 years.

Tell Congress to update gas mileage standards and reduce our gasoline bills!

Consumer Reports latest auto issue, on the shelves now, identifies key technologies
that can reduce your cost of gasoline. Higher-tech multivalve engines, improved fuel
injection, and upgrades to five or six speed automatic transmissions all improve fuel
economy and performance.

U.S. automakers pay lip service to fuel economy, but have not made real strides. With
gas prices rising above $3 per gallon in some parts of the country, it’s time to make fuel
efficiency a national priority.

Tell your Congressional lawmakers from California to vote YES for updated gas mileage
standards now!

After you take action, please take another moment to forward this email to friends and
family who also need better cars with better gas mileage. The two minutes you take now
will help us pass this key improvement in 2007.


Jim Guest

President, Consumers Union of the U.S.

101 Truman Avenue

Yonkers, NY 10703-1057

To which I responded:

From: Ron Bischof

Subject: Re: Reduce your gasoline costs!

Date: March 28, 2007 10:16:23 AM PDT



As a “consumer” advocacy organization, why not let consumers and markets decide?
Empirical data aptly demonstrates that they are far more intelligent than Congress and
special interests.

Example: Sales of crossover SUVs are increasing while truck based models are
declining as automakers respond to market forces. No legislation required.

Then simplistic email below fails to note how much safer vehicles are today
(with the inherent weight penalties) than 20 years ago while managing respectable
mileage ratings in most vehicle categories.

As a Consumer Reports Magazine and online subscriber, I’m interested in consumer
product and safety information, not the political lobbying screeds of the parent
company with populist subject lines that defy logic.


Ron Bischof

And received this in response:


Subject: Re: Reduce your gasoline costs! (Fwd By Digital Impact)

Date: April 5, 2007 8:21:03 AM PDT

To: Ron Bischof

Thank you for your response to Consumers Union’s latest action item. We can appreciate the concerns you have raised, however, we wish to make several points in response.

At the time of OPEC’s first oil embargo over 30 years ago, America was 30% dependent on foreign oil. Today, that number has doubled to an all-time high of 60%, Technological advances allow us today to increase fuel efficiency standards to 35 miles per gallon without compromising passenger safety or choice. We must ensure that fuel economy standards keep pace with technological developments; otherwise we run the risk that automobiles will replicate the fuel economy stagnation of the past 2 decades and thus increase our dependence on foreign oil.

We have a further problem – greenhouse gases that have contributed to global warming. 22 percent of our nation’s emissions of carbon dioxide come from cars and trucks. If we make these vehicles more efficient, we help reduce greenhouse gas emission.

The bipartisan bills Consumers Union backs in Congress will back out every drop of oil currently imported from the Persian Gulf by 2022, and by 2030, and, as the fleet becomes more fuel efficient, it backs out almost 40% of our projected highway oil needs.

When Consumers Union attended a recent press conference to announce one of the bills, we noted that top experts in foreign affairs and national security were in attendance and supporting the bill: , R. James Woolsey, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton and retired Lt. General William E. Odom, former Director, National Security Agency and now adjunct Professor at Yale University.

Both these men talked about the threat to our national security from dependence on foreign oil and called these bills a matter of patriotism as well as the right thing to do.

While we may disagree on the importance of limiting fuel efficiency and increasing CAFÉ standards, we hope you have a better understanding about how Consumers Union arrived at decision to back efforts to improve the fuel efficiency of US vehicles. Thank you for your interest and concern.


Melissa Trevino

Consumers Union

506 West 14th, Suite A

Austin, Texas 78701

To which I replied:

From: Ron Bischof

Subject: Re: Reduce your gasoline costs! (Fwd By Digital Impact)

Date: April 11, 2007 11:57:22 AM PDT


Ms. Tevino:

Thank you for the courtesy of your response.

I found your perspective interesting, specifically that I was in need of additional information. In that spirit, I hope you’ll indulge me when I respond in kind (with references) while staying on topic. I’ll also add that I’m certified in Six Sigma methodologies and have no connection to the auto or energy industries and their suppliers.

Firstly, it’s notable that nothing in your reply addressed the substance of my correspondence, namely that markets and technology are the best mechanisms for addressing the energy requirements of the consumers they serve. Instead, you presented statistics that purportedly require top down government intervention and no doubt the wisdom of NGOs like Consumers Union and Washington insiders Messieurs Woolsey and Odom that share the affinity for government control and the attendant government contractor profits.

I’ll provide an example that aptly demonstrates my point and refutes Consumers Union’s position: Airline deregulation. Begun in 1978 during the Carter Presidency, the long-term sustainable benefits of competition and the resulting consumer benefits are well documented. The corresponding energy benefits of super efficient turbojet engines, incorporation of composites in airliner construction and advanced avionics were driven by markets and consumer travel demand, not government regulations. Professor Kahn notes: “It also was part of a broader movement that, with varying degrees of thoroughness, transformed such industries as trucking, railroads, buses, cable television, stock exchange brokerage, oil and gas, telecommunications, financial markets, and even local electric and gas utilities.”

Please contrast this with the regulatory “success” of CAFE regulations. And yet Consumers Union advocates more of the same! Is it possible that advice includes chasing the ephemeral by increasing oversight, closing loopholes and increasing petroleum taxation to force consumers to conform? That would be an extraordinary position for a consumer advocacy organization!

This brings some questions to mind: Has Consumers Union or any NGO you’re aligned with performed a cost/benefit analysis on increasing the CAFE standard to 35 mpg? And if so, what the net effect would be to our struggling domestically based auto companies as they refocus the majority of R&D spending from introducing models consumers actually want to buy to meeting fuel economy standards? And how will the added compliance costs impact consumers and product demand?

Before I address the stalking horses of foreign oil and global warming, allow me to point out the obvious: Growing economies need energy and conservation alone will not meet the energy needs of our dynamic nation. In the time period that you cite, the U.S.A. share of global GDP has grown from 25% to the current 30%! It’s not surprising, given the hostile business environment domestic energy producers face in the U.S., that energy imports have increased from sources that will meet our energy demand while meeting few of our environmental requirements.

Regarding foreign oil, the new modus operandi is to focus on energy security and oil imports from the Persian Gulf. And yet, it would surprise many that the majority of our petroleum imports are not sourced from that region. In fact, D.O.E. statistics reveal that less than 25% are sourced from the Middle East. Are Canada and Mexico national security threats?

US Petroleum Imports.pdf


On the topic of global warming*, I’ll assume you mean anthropogenic and rather than contribute to the latest in the succession of “global crises” that require immediate governmental action, i.e. population explosion, mass starvation, avian flu, mass extinction, global cooling**, etc., I’ll simply state that market mechanisms and technology have the best track record of success in solving problems that demonstrably exist.

In closing, I hope Consumers Union has a better understanding of my data driven positions on market solution superiority and populist skepticism vs. government centric activism. I’ll reiterate what I originally stated in my correspondence to Mr. Guest: As a Consumer Reports Magazine and online subscriber, I’m interested in consumer product and safety information, not the political lobbying screeds of the parent company with populist subject lines that defy logic.


Ron Bischof

*Media reports of scientific “consensus” are always cause for gales of laughter. Note Galileo Galilei’s heliocentric observations, the germ theory of disease, H. pylori causation of peptic ulcers, etc. and the “consensus” they enjoyed upon introduction. Science isn’t established by vote but by data gathered via the scientific method. And theories can always be challenged with new data (if it isn’t censored or defunded).


Categories: Activist Lunacy Tags:


January 2nd, 2009 No comments

Test of MarsEdit & media upload.

Buttes Canyon Rock

Categories: General Tags:


January 2nd, 2009 1 comment

“It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expence, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will.” —Adam Smith

Categories: Economics Tags: