Saturday, March 22, 2008

Challenger to Susan Davis?

As the CDP’s Pre-Primary Endorsement Process winds its way to conclusion in San Jose, it appears that a democratic challenger has emerged to take on Susan Davis. Mike Copass garnered enough delegate votes to pull Davis from the consent calendar.

This is the first time I have ever heard of a sitting Congressperson being pulled from consideration locally. It’s not a secret that Davis isn’t exactly loved in San Diego. But the fact that someone from out of nowhere was able to get enough support to do this is worthy of note.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hope Jim Cramer Has a Defined Benefit Plan

A video of Jim Cramer from CNBC's Mad Money has been making the rounds on the Internet following the historic collapse of Bear Stearns.

A lot of people are now vilifying Cramer for his bad (understatement) advice, but it isn't really fair to pick out one mistake and project it to everything the man has done. Especially in light of claims now being investigated by the SEC.

Today, the LA Times reported that the SEC is looking into claims that traders who benefited from the collapse intentionally spread rumors to cause market panic.

I know this isn't a blog for financial advice, but I think this is a perfect reason why all Americans should strive for a defined benefit plan for retirement.

The bigger issue is that people like Cramer are on television every day making the financial world look easy. People who promote defined contribution retirement plans point out that over time the stock market comes out ahead.

Of course someone in their late 50s who was heavily invested in the fifth-largest securities firm in the country would probably disagree with those claims after the Bear Stearns fiasco.

It is easy to tell everyone who lost large chunks of their retirement that they should have been smarter. But, how can you expect people to make informed decisions when even so-called experts such as Cramer struggle?

It is insane that more and more employees are being pushed toward a retirement system that punishes those who make the wrong decision based on the best information they have available to them.

Monday, March 17, 2008

"It's a paradigm shifting election." An interview with Nick Leibham

I shared breakfast with Nick Leibham last week and discussed where he stands on a number of issues. I mostly just lobbed topics and let him talk; this is the relevant transcript edited to be a remotely reasonable length and minus fun stuff like us chatting with the waitress and our occasional divergence into non-relevant shop talk. Some parts I liked, some parts less so. But here it is. Note this is a contested primary.


Each and every day we remain in Iraq we're compromising our national security further. It's a blood feud that goes back 1400 years between the Sunnis and Shiites. American military forces are not going to be able to sort this out for them and at the end of the day they've got to want peace; they've got to want their own stable form of government; they've got to want democracy more than the American Marine Corps wants it for them

The longer that we're there, the more strain it puts on our own men and women in uniform. They're going out on third, fourth, fifth tours of duty, and you read about it all the time of course because we're just miles away from Camp Pendleton

We need to come out and we need to set a date certain for when we are going to redeploy out of Iraq.
Military and Security

There’s one...threshold question that needs to be answered whenever even the thought of American military use is involved, and that is 'Is it in the interests of the United States of America; Is it in the national security interest?' Obviously the United States military has a role to play in ferreting out al Qaeda, in ferreting out terrorist organizations, in...making sure that our own interests abroad are taken care of.

But the United States military has no business in trying to create whole cloth [or] molding different societies. It's kind of antithetical- democracy can't be imposed at gunpoint.

They’ve got to figure it out for themselves. It can't be the United States government doing it for them.

The most fundamental job of a nation is to protect its sovereignty, and when you can't secure your borders and ports you can't protect your sovereignty...As a nation we need to recognize that we are going to have to put a significant amount of money, time and effort into suring up our southern border.

As a former prosecutor...if you really want to dry up illegal immigration, you hold employers accountable, and I’ll be the only one up on stage that has ever prosecuted an employer for hiring illegal immigrants. After that's done, you get to other questions.
Health Care and SCHIP

We should be providing health care to kids and Brian Bilbray has staked out a position of essentially rabid ideology at the expense of some 10 million American kids...I think that it's a disgrace that he decided to stand on ideology and stand with the President as opposed to providing these kids with proper medical care. I think it's just very mean-spirited and worse, it's bad public policy.

My endpoint [on health care] is that every family should be able to see a family doctor of their choosing. The way in which we get there I think is going to be a battle royale come January 2009. And what is being pitched today out on the campaign trail- there isn't going to be even a shade of resemblance once this thing actually gets done.

There is a little bit of overlap between Democrats and Republicans on a few issues. One, I think all parties agree that you're going to have to see rapid and massive adoption of information technology and digital patient files. That will cut down on everything from medical errors to back office expense. And the estimates on what that would shave off- I've seen 10-12% of the total healthcare dollars. Secondly, another overlapping area is preventative care. There are certain areas of medicine where this makes a lot of sense. This makes a lot of sense in the area of makes a lot of sense as it concerns preventative screening for certain diseases. From a cost benefit analysis and a quality of years lived analysis.

You've got to have a very serious debate on how else you get there. we're the only westernized country in the world that tells the pres drug companies that they can charge anything they want and it doesn't matter...I think that's something that needs to be addressed.

What that final product is going to look like, I’m not exactly sure. But I know that...we need to look at that end goal...and say let's try to get there.

we spoke briefly about the general nature of modern privacy before FISA

What's much MUCH more disconcerting to me is the entire FISA bill...As somebody who has been a prosecutor and dealt with the 4th Amendment, I can tell you that this happened to have been the one amendment in the Bill of Rights that all the Founding Fathers could agree upon; that in order for the government intrusion there had to be probable cause signed off on by an independent magistrate that says you may have committed a crime. I find the entire FISA process to be constitutionally dubious. That doesn't mean that it couldn't be made constitutionally valid but I think that anytime you have wiretaps involved...that deals with an American citizen, you've gotta have a court sign off on it. The only question in my mind is whether or not that has to be done prior to there warrant being executed or whether or not there is some grace period. There is no doubt in my mind that the executive branch itself cannot act as both overseer and executioner (of warrants or wiretaps). That, I think, is constitutionally impermissible; I think it's a violation of the judiciary's proper role of interpreting laws.

As a former prosecutor [and] law clerk in the US Attorney's office in the Major Frauds and Economic Crimes section...I've never heard of anybody being given immunity when you don't know what they've done. It's not how the immunity process works. You don't say to somebody 'Whatever you've done, don't worry about it.'...It's unthinkable to me as a lawyer and as somebody who will have...sworn to uphold the Constitution that I could ever support that.
California Emissions and the Environment

I’m not a scientist, but from what I have read...the EPA seems to have made their decision to deny California its waiver based on faith based science. That’s not good enough. If it's warranted by the facts and the evidence, it should be granted. During the next administration, if it's a Democrat, I think we'll get a fair hearing. And if we don't, that's ripe for congressional action to clarify the rule. Because it's the congress that makes the laws, the executive branch simply carries out those laws.

The debate on the science (of global warming) is over. There is no doubt in any serious scientist's mind that global warming is happening. There is virtually no doubt that mankind is directly causing global warming. The only question at this point is 'What is the causal relationship and what are the consequences going forward?'

The role of government as it concerns energy and the environment I think is going to be crucial in the next 5, 10, 20 years. One of the things I very much hope to work on as a member of pursuing and advocating for alternative energy in the areas of wind, solar, some biomass, hydrogen. And the role of the government here is to set high standards, it's to help foster innovation- especially in the very early stages of research and development- and then I think it's to turn it over to the market who does a great job of packaging this up...and if people can make a...fortune doing it, great. It makes good public policy, it's good politics, I think it's a good way to return some manufacturing to...the Americas.

It's also an issue of national security. We send hundreds of billions of dollars each year to...Middle Eastern regimes many of them hostile to our interests. We know...that some of that money ends up with Hezbollah; that it ends up with Hamas; some of it filters down and ends up with al Qaeda. We're funding both sides of the war in this particular time.

Then there is the great moral calling of our time which is addressing the global warming problem itself...There is no doubt that our kids will bear the full brunt of this, and we need to figure out now a way to mitigate it because to do anything other than that is nothing short of...long-term child abuse.

Two prime reasons (for the current economic situation). One, it has been fiscal insanity on the part of the Bush administration...We see that in everything from the weakness of the dollar which hits the pump and in the grocery aisle, to being able to sure up many of those social programs which we know have a pending disaster: Medicare, Social Security, our infrastructure, etc. Secondly, the war. You cannot talk about anything else in this campaign until you address the war.

We are spending- the estimates are- $10-12 billion a month. We have direct outlays to Iraq...upwards and including $500 billion. For one single solitary day of war making in Iraq, we could have sent 160,000 low-income students to college for a year. For 3 1/2 months of war in Iraq we could have provided healthcare coverage to those 10 million...American kids for 5 years under SCHIP. Until we end that, again, we are committing long term fiscal child abuse. Because we're not paying for it...we're borrowing money from...foreign creditors to finance this thing. It's completely and totally irresponsible and it must end.

There’s some middle class tax cuts that...we should retain. We should retain the 15% capital gains rate as opposed to seeing it revert back to 20%. More than 50 million Americans at this point have 401Ks; hat benefits them greatly. We need to once and for all end the AMT. These last couple years it has snagged a whole cross section of our population that it was never meant to hit, and the doubling of the child tax credit is a positive thing. It's a positive thing for San Diego families and San Diego parents. Of course, the recklessness as it concerns the Bush giveaways in terms of the top 1%- no. That's fiscal insanity and I will be a voice to end it.
Most interesting for me was an interlude about halfway through the interview where we lapsed into discussing this year's election in an historical context:

We win this fight because their platform is old and it's worn out...The Reagan Revolution...which started really in 1964 with Goldwater's culminated in 1980 and 1994 and the end of the Bush years are a bookend. It's tired, it's played out, and it no longer offers up a positive agenda for America. This isn't just a change election in the sense of Democrats or Republicans. This is a paradigm shifting election and Democrats can capture that...they've got a lot of work to do but we can capture it and I think the pendulum is swinging our way.
Cross posted from Calitics

Monday - Quick Hits

Sanders names two to stadium advisory board. UT

Mexican officials belive they have arrested a top member of the Arellano drug cartel. UT

Seven local students honored as some of the state's top scholars by the governor. UT

After first week, Sprinter rail service getting positive reviews. UT