Monday, September 29, 2008
If in fact the crisis is as dire as Treasury Sec. Paulson and Fed Reserve Chairman Bernanke have described it to be, then the leadership in both parties didn't do the job they should have to sell it to their Members. If it truly is not as bad as billed, then they've done a terrible job of educating the public.
I tend to give the Repubs a little more slack, because from what I've seen and heard on TV and read in the papers, some of them are opposed on honest philosophical grounds, and have never been on board with the plan. That's not to say that the Repub leadership couldn't have twisted the 13 arms whose votes could have passed the bill, but after Pelosi's speech just before the vote they might have thought, "Why bother--in any event we're going to be blamed for all the bad and Pelosi and the Dems will take credit for all the good, so what's in it for us to cooperate?"
Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Dem leaders don't have that excuse. Whatever else you might say about Pelosi, she is very good at political infighting, and she knew very well when she gave that speech this morning what its likely effect would be on the Repubs. She needed 13 votes for the bill to pass, and she didn't twist any of the 95 Dem arms who voted against to get them. Instead she preferred to alienate the Repubs and then blame them for the failure, while giving her own Members a pass to vote as they wished.
The backstory here is that the freshmen Members who were voted into office in 2006 and gave the Dems the majority are largely from relatively conservative districts and basically got elected by talking like a "true" Republican (as opposed to those bozos who overspent and feathered their own nests, and were voted out). They also were getting messages from the hinterlands that were running at least ten to one against the bill. So in order to safeguard her majority, Pelosi let those Members vote against the bill.
Now, when the Speaker of the House says it's the other side's fault that a bill didn't pass when the Speaker could have produced the necessary votes for passage, then what she's claiming is a bald-faced lie. If she had really wanted the bill to pass, it would have passed. Instead, Pelosi was willing to sacrifice the financial and economic health of the Nation for political advantage. That's not leadership--that's gutter politics, and Pelosi deserves all the scorn she's going to get.
If it wasn't gutter politics, then Pelosi doesn't believe that the situation is all that dire, and either she knows something that the rest of us don't or she's an idiot.
Boo! Congress! You've let us all down. I hope there's time for you all to come to your senses and pass a bill that will at least stop the bleeding before the patient dies.
I wonder who the Warner Music Group execs are supporting for president?
Sunday, September 28, 2008
As a matter of pure speculation (I have no proof of anything, of course)I wouldn't be surprised if the Obama campaign were running one of those focus groups where the participants have a knob that they turn up or down depending on whether they like what they hear, and were signaling Obama somehow when something he was saying was positively or negatively received. All it would take would be two cell phones set on "vibrate," one in a left pocket and the other in a right pocket, and all the campaign operative would have to do would be to dial one or the other to signal the candidate that something was or was not working. If the candidate prepared for the debate using such a scheme, it would not be distracting and he would be able to keep talking without missing a beat, just the way the news anchors do when someone's talking to them in their little earbud that they all wear.
I have no idea what the rules of the debate were, but I'm willing to bet that the candidates had to be unassisted during the debate, to be certain that their statements were really off-the-cuff, or at least rehearsed/memorized, as opposed to prompted by external "helpers."
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Look at the videos and check out his eyes and lips.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Whether or not you agree, it is consistent with stories that I have read in the Wall Street Journal. Remember, people tend to get the government they deserve.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
As I see it, McCain's move put Obama between the rock of the campaign for President and the hard place of the Senate, of which he is still a member (although it's been so long since he's done anything but campaign for President, I guess it's understandable that he's forgotten that little detail /snark). Obama evidently decided his campaign was more important so he's sitting on that rock.
It'll be interesting to hear what his explanation is.
I am very concerned about the headlong rush--some might say stampede--to spend $700 Billion to resolve the credit and banking crisis arising from the subprime mortgage debacle. I believe that if it is absolutely necessary to keep the economy from crashing, then by all means do it. But I am not yet convinced that there aren't other, less drastic and less costly means to accomplish the necessary ends. In short, hitting up the taxpayers should be the last resort, not the first.
I have read about several other possibilities for action that would reduce the potential hit to the taxpayers, such as the Government or its agent being a "buyer of last resort" for the bad paper at a stated, fixed percentage of their face value, or by temporarily suspending the "mark to market" rules relating to specified classes of securities, i.e., those for which no market exists, and sequestering them on the affected firms' balance sheets.
I'm no expert on markets or economics, but it doesn't take a genius to realize this is a complex problem. Accordingly, all the alternatives should be examined before a course is set. I understand the political pressures, but I think it's more important to get this right than to do it too quickly. It is also the duty of our Congress (both houses) to do what's best for the American people after duly considering all factors, and not succumb to the herd mentality, which was a factor in causing the crisis in the first place.
I urge you to carefully consider all the alternatives "with all deliberate speed" before voting for any plan. I also urge you to avoid trying deal with more than the most urgent issue in this legislation. It is at times like this that unintended consequences are most likely to arise, and whatever is enacted should be as simple as possible.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
Alan Greenspan is cited:
If Fannie and Freddie ``continue to grow, continue to have the low capital that they have, continue to engage in the dynamic hedging of their portfolios, which they need to do for interest rate risk aversion, they potentially create ever-growing potential systemic risk down the road,'' he said. ``We are placing the total financial system of the future at a substantial risk.''
Prophecy, I tell ya. But the Dems didn't listen. McCain was a cosponsor of S. 190.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I believe that Obama's plan would be a huge mistake, for lots of reasons. With N. Korea, China, Iran and others developing ICBM systems and space-based weapons, it would be folly to scrap our missile defense capability. It would be equally dumb to ostrich on "weaponizing space" when our adversaries are scrambling to do exactly that. Finally, when you gut your conventional forces, you are less able to respond militarily to threats that may arise. When you are finally forced to respond, you use what you have. Notwithstanding what he says in the video, Obama won't be scrapping our nuclear arsenal anytime soon (if he does he should be impeached) and if that's all we have left, that's what he'll use, or he'll fold. Either way, a disaster for the US and the world. Not only that, but how is Obama going to reconcile his stated strategy of going after bin Laden if he shrinks the military from what it is today?
The best way to guarantee an attack is for your enemy to believe you're defenseless. That's what bin Laden thought we were on 9/11. We currently have the best military in the world, but if we declare to the world that we won't use it, we are as defenseless as if we had an army of toy soldiers, a navy of model boats and an air force of paper planes.
As President, Obama would take an oath to defend the United States against all enemies. If he actually follows through on these promises, he's a change we can't believe in and can't live with.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
The talking heads say this can all be traced back to the subprime mortgage debacle, and the presidential candidates are falling all over themselves trying to blame each other. I am of the opinion that the President has very little control over the economy, and generally speaking it's better to let financial kinks work themselves out without government intervention. The problem now is, that strategy apparently carries a significant risk of shutting down the nation's, and possibly the world's, credit markets. That would be catastrophic, so I guess it's appropriate for the government to step in. One thing's certain: no other government has the capability of doing anything about this mess. The danger is, of course, that the cure will be worse than the disease.
My take on the subprime market issue is that the problem was caused by two main factors. First, it was absolutely stupid during an obvious housing bubble to lend money to people who had no hope of ever making their mortgage payments. It was even more stupid to lend to mortgagees without even doing the most elementary due diligence. Second, one reason for such rampant stupidity among (presumably) rational business people was, everyone in the chain from mortgage originators to the banks to Fanny and Freddie and the investment banks who bought the mortgage backed securities believed that someone else would ultimately take the hit if the mortgages went bad, and they grossly underestimated the likelihood of that happening. Also, I suspect at some point the herd instinct had something to do with it--some companies invested heavily in the mortgage backed securities because someone else was doing it. I absolutely believe that in each and every one of those companies that invested heavily in those securities, some lonely voice warned against the risk, but was ignored because of the profit potential, and besides, "everyone's doing it." Obviously those decision-makers were taking some kind of youth drug, because they reverted to teenage logic. Great argument for the "CEOs are grossly overpaid" crowd, don'tcha think?
As I understand it, the reason those securities are not tradable right now is that nobody knows what they're worth. Lehman, AIG, Fanny and Freddie and Bear all had significant portions of their assets tied up in those securities, and as a result of their being unsellable and mark-to-market accounting rules, they had to revalue those assets to zero. It's almost the same effect as if the bank was robbed, with no deposit insurance.
I'm not a financial professional, and I've never taken any courses in finance except in the College of Life; this stuff is way too complex for me to analyze with any kind of scholarly precision, but it seems obvious to me that the best-of-both-worlds status of Fannie and Freddie had a lot to do with this mess, as did the do-gooder regulations imposed by Sarbanes-Oxley. I expect a lot of rules and regs will be rewritten as a result of this, and I can only hope and pray that those who are doing the rewriting look at the whole system using dynamic analysis techniques, and that lots of time is spent looking for unintended consequences. The taxpayers who are now on the hook for approximately $1 Trillion deserve nothing less.
BTW, I sure would like to know what George Soros has been doing with his money for the last few months, especially the last few weeks. Just sayin'.
UPDATE 20080920:1510PDT: Tom Maguire has an excellent informative and educational discussion of the issue here.
Friday, September 19, 2008
A friend of mine sent me a link to this snopes.com post about a California Assembly bill to commemorate the birthday of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk with "exercises" in the public schools. Milk was purportedly the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the US, and was murdered a year later by Dan White, who had resigned his seat on the SF Board of Supervisors.
I replied as follows:
Obviously, in the midst of our state's annual budget crisis, Assemblyman Leno (I have no idea whether he's related to a certain late-night talk show host) and his colleagues have zeroed in on the much more important task of honoring the murdered SF Supervisor Harvey Milk with a plan to "commemorate" Mr. Milk with "exercises" in the schools to mark his birthday. I can only imagine what those "exercises" might be, but given his support for the infamous Illinois sex-ed bill, I'm sure Mr. Obama would approve, not to mention Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid.
Perhaps I wouldn't mind so much if Supervisor Milk had done anything particularly noteworthy, but basically his qualifications for commemoration are (1) he was gay and (2) he was murdered by a disgruntled predecessor. Yes, he was the first openly gay person elected to office but hey, he was from San Francisco! It was always a matter of "not if, but when," which is why I don't regard his election as noteworthy.
30% of California students don't graduate from high school, and to be quite frank, this kind of thing is one reason why. Too much social engineering and too little real education. The school day is only so long--time spent conducting "exercises" to commemorate Mr. Milk is time not spent teaching English, mathematics and history--it's a zero-sum game. No wonder people here are opting for home-schooling in droves.
I've been trying to vote clowns like Mr. Leno out of office for decades, but since he's not from my district, I have no voice here, and unfortunately there are enough voters in his district to elect Mr. Leno.
To quote Thomas Paine, "These are times that try men's souls."
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
It is troubling that our next-door neighbor is experiencing this kind of violence, particularly so because our southern border is so porous. I fear it's only a matter of time before some major tourist destination is subjected to attack, and Americans killed en masse.
If I recall correctly, Glenn Reynolds noted some time ago that Mexico is getting to look more and more like Iraq. He was right, and it's getting worse. (Unfortunately, I couldn't find a link, but that's probably due to my poor search skills.)
Monday, September 15, 2008
Now, I don't know how the UK deals with the notion of equal protection under the law, but it seems to me that separate but equal legal systems will work about as well as separate but equal education systems. That is, someone's gonna get screwed.
I imagine that Sharia courts will (at least initially) only deal with disputes in which all the parties are Muslim. I figure it'll be about a year, maybe less, before some non-Muslim gets hauled before a Sharia court by a Muslim in an attempt to impose Sharia law in any case in which at least one of the parties is Muslim. The logic would be, of course, that the Muslim is entitled to be judged according to Muslim law, irrespective of the identity of the other party. That's political correctness run amok, but that appears to be the way the UK, and the rest of Europe, for that matter, is heading. Anything to prevent religious riots, right?
Neville Chamberlain's ghost is somewhere smiling in approval.
I have had a fear for a couple years now that our cousins in the UK are committing cultural suicide. This will prove to be one more nail in the coffin, and it's a damn shame.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Here's the real problem with Mr Obama: the jarring gap between his promises of change and his status quo performance. There are just too many contradictions between the eloquent poetry of the man's stirring rhetoric and the dull, familiar prose of his political record.If Mr. Obama becomes President, his election will certainly embody the triumph of hope over experience.
It's been remarked that the biggest difference between Americans and Europeans is religion: ignorant Americans cling to faith; enlightened Europeans long ago embraced the liberating power of reason. Yet here's an odd thing about this election. Europeans are asking Americans to take a leap of faith, to break the chains of empiricism and embrace the possibility of the imagination.
The fact is that a vote for Mr Obama demands uncritical subservience to the irrational, anti-empirical proposition that the past holds no clues about the future, that promise is wholly detached from experience. The second-greatest story ever told, perhaps.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
What do the top ten cities with the highest poverty rates all have in common?
Detroit, MI (1st on the poverty rate list) hasn't elected a Republican mayor since 1961;
Buffalo, NY (2nd) hasn't elected one since 1954;
Cincinnati, OH (3rd)...since 1984;
Cleveland, OH (4th)...since 1989;
Miami, FL (5th) has never had a Republican mayor;
St. Louis, MO (6th)....since 1949;
El Paso, TX (7th) has never had a Republican mayor;
Milwaukee, WI (8th)...since 1908;
Philadelphia, PA (9th)...since 1952;
Newark, NJ(10th)...since 1907.
Friday, September 12, 2008
To that add his recent admission on O'Reilly that the surge worked, and his recent musings that he might not raise taxes on "the rich" if the economy were in trouble, and it appears that Mr. Obama and/or his strategists have realized that the message that worked with the Kos Kids is not resonating with enough Americans to get him elected.
As for myself, I cannot vote for Obama because he's a cipher--a blank slate. He's got the most liberal voting record in the Senate, but other than that, his campaign speeches and his two memoirs there's not much information out there that demonstrates where he actually stands on the issues. And his speeches aren't all that reliable because he's been straddling a lot lately. So as far as I can see, Obama's just another politician that says what he needs to say in order to get elected. We won't know anything about how he'd actually run the country unless and until he's sworn in, although a fair inference could be made that he'd be somewhat more socialistic than LBJ.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
South Carolina Democratic chairwoman Carol Fowler sharply attacked Sarah Palin today, saying John McCain had chosen a running mate " whose primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.”
Glenn Reynolds has made the point that Obama's friends are doing him more harm than his enemies. It appears he's right.
Yesterday I heard Bob Beckel trying to explain a remark that he'd made to a FNC producer just before appearing on the morning news show with Bill Hemmer, in which he had said "This rottweiler is going to self-destruct." When Hemmer challenged him, Beckel got all indignant because he said it was "a private remark." Right--a remark made to a news show producer in the studio just before appearing on the air is a "private remark." Beckel, who's been commenting on multiple news channels for years, really ought to know better. He told Hemmer that he was merely making a joke based on Gov. Palin's "pit bull/lipstick" quip in her acceptance speech, but he screwed it up. Not only was the remark not particularly funny (it might have been a bit, if he'd gotten the breed right) but his "private remark" explanation is risible.
Now, as far as I'm concerned all this trash talk is neither productive nor enlightening for either ticket, but I believe it has had the salutary effect of making some people a bit more open to hearing things about Sen. Obama that are not included in his carefully crafted narrative.
That said, I don't think it's a big deal in the sense that bribery or being bankrolled by a foreign entity would be, but it does give an insight into the candidate's character. In my view, it makes Obama look like an eighth grader in a suit. That kind of tactic is sophomoric and very "unpresidential."
Mr. Putin, Mr. Ahmadinijad and Mr. Chavez won't be impressed, although Mr. Chavez might be miffed that Mr. Obama is copycatting.
UPDATE 20080910:1030PDT: Here's Obama's "explanation" of his remark. I rest my case.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Fox News is reporting that Kim Jong Il, North Korean dictator and demigod, might have suffered a stroke last month and may be "gravely ill". Some intelligence reports suggest Kim might be wheelchair-bound.
Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
If Kim dies, I'm sure there'll be a major power struggle among his generals. The best thing that could happen in the long run may be anarchy, because only by means of a complete break with the Kim regime-father and son-can North Korea begin its journey back into the community of sane nations.
Many would die, but many are dying now of starvation and illness. I pray for the people of North Korea, and for the end of the Kim dynasty.
In context, it's clear that he is admitting that McCain himself has never said, or even intimated, that Obama is a Muslim. However, I think his use of the particular phraseology reveals something about Obama's mindset, although I'm not sure what.
For example, if I were being interviewed on that subject, I expect I would make the point more directly, as in, "... you're absolutely right that John McCain has not said I'm a Muslim ...," as opposed to what Obama said: "... you're absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith ...." Maybe it's that Harvard Law education coming out--you know, being able to argue all sides of an issue and all.
As many others have pointed out, when he's away from the Teleprompter, Obama is as prone to verbal gaffes as President Bush, or maybe even Sen. Dan "Potatoe" Quayle. But you don't see skits on SNL about his misstatements, and you don't see snarky opinon columns in the likes of the New York Times, the Washington Post or Newsweek. I agree with many others that such verbal missteps by McCain or Palin would be discussed for days as evidence of their unfitness for office, their lack of intelligence, their inability to communicate, their stupidity or their true evil nature. (Don't believe me? Look what they've said about Bush.) This whole episode says a lot more about the media than it does about Mr. Obama.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Thanks to NRO for pointing to this article in the Tehran Times (yes, that Tehran).
It says that Iran would be willing to engage in bilateral talks with the US if the US changed its policy toward Iran. To quote the lead paragraph:
Tehran would be ready to hold talks with Washington on the basis of “mutual understanding” providing the White House changes its hostile policy towards Iran, said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an interview with the Japanese English Channel, NHK.
That's hilarious! Obama is famously willing to negotiate with Iran "without preconditions" (see the third paragraph under "Iran") but Iran insists on preconditions. How weak does that make Obama look?
That's pretty funny--a caricature based on a caricature created by Hollywood.
Perhaps I'm being unfair, though. I didn't live in Tennessee in 1925, and I have no idea whether there was a real person on whom the Rev. Jeremiah Brown was based. I do know that as late as the 1950s, when I was growing up, there were a lot more of that kind of preacher (hellfire and brimstone for all you sinners) than there seems to be now. And there are still people who haven't given up on creationism as described in Genesis. But it seems to me that the modern religious Christian conservatives are a lot more into redemption than damnation.
Update 20080909:0910: Corrected date typo. Egad, I'm not that old.
Whittle has been one of my favorite essayists over the years I've been reading blogs. His site isn't so much a blog as an online magazine. His writings are insightful, informative, easy to read and even inspiring. If you've never visited his site before please do so--you'll be glad you did.
BTW, the site's motto, "Ad astra volemus sella tonanti" means, "To the stars in a thundering chair."
You'll get it when you visit.
Friday, September 05, 2008
"A spokesperson for Wenner Media, which publishes Us, says “it is completely false that we are losing 10,000 subscribers.” As for the 5,000 estimate, the spokesperson only said “that is false, too,” but wouldn’t comment further."That statement reminds me of an anecdote from law school:
A deadbeat ex-husband was brought before a Michigan judge for failure to pay alimony. He (naturally) claimed he didn't have the money. The wife blurted out, "That's a lie! He has $100,000 in a bank account in Cleveland."
The judge turned to the man and asked, "Do you have $100,000 in a bank account in Cleveland?"
"No, your honor."
"Do you have a bank account in Cleveland or anywhere else in Ohio?"
"Yes, your honor."
"How much is in it?"
"About $98,500, your honor."
Needless to say, the woman got her back alimony.
The point of the story is, of course, when the question contains too much detail, it's easy to give a technically truthful but misleading answer. Likewise when someone makes a statement that contains a precise number of any kind. People should keep that in mind, especially during election season.
The media are supposed to be smart enough to pick up on weasel words like this, and continue questioning until the facts are revealed, or the subject refuses to answer. From what I've seen, they're only that smart when they're interviewing Republicans and others who are "out of favor."
Thursday, September 04, 2008
I realize that Mr. Bolton writes to show himself in the best possible light, as all memoirists (is that a word? do, but there are ample alternate sources that corroborate the impressions set out above.
The book is dense with information, and should be read thoughtfully, but it's worth the time, based on my (slow) progress to date.
The latest quote in the left column just jumped out at me.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
But there's certainly a political angle to this, too. The perpetrator or perpetrators are clearly acting in what they believe to be the interests of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. They are likely as not involved in the campaign at some level. Do we really want to be governed by someone who attrzcts this kind of lowlife scum?
Oh, I'm sure Barack Obama or one of his surrogates will within hours make a public plea to stop this kind of activity, but he sort of has to, doesn't he? I mean, if he doesn't condemn it, then he's tacitly in favor of it. (Not to mention the possiblility that he himself is vulnerable to having unfavorable private information made public.) Besides, Mr. Obama is undoubtedly smart enough to know that this, like the attacks on Bristol Palin, is the kind of thing that can generate large and passionate backlash, especially if it continues for a week or more. Americans generally are decent people, and their acceptance of dirty politics is limited.
Back when Bob Dole was running for President, the buzzword used against him was that he was "mean spirited." Well, I submit that many in today's Democratic party (I hope nothing near a majority) have behaved and are behaving in ways that redefine the term. They are nothing more than thugs who use rumor and innuendo and lies instead of guns, knives and blackjacks.
If I were a Democrat, I would be appalled by this kind of activity, and I would let the party leadership know that this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated, lest the Democratic Party become known as the party of criminals. If the majority, or even a large minority of Democrats find this kind of behavior acceptable, then the party, and the country, are in deep trouble.
Monday, September 01, 2008
Seems pretty clear that they can only finish the phrase, "a woman's right to choose" in one way. Any ending other than "to have an abortion" is anathema.