Sunday, February 28, 2010
From the article:
"After the closing bell on Friday, just in time for everyone to stop paying close attention, mortgage behemoth and ward of the state Fannie Mae ('Fan') released its fourth-quarter and full-year financial results. Its press release (PDF) informs us that its $74.4 billion loss in 2009 (inclusive of dividends paid to the government) followed a $58.8 billion loss in 2008.
"For those keeping score at home, Fan's three-year losses of $137 billion, as reported by the Associated Press's Alan Zibel yesterday evening, plus the roughly $80 billion lost in the same period at kissing cousin Freddie Mac ('Fred'), is over three times the highest-end estimate of $66 billion in total losses at household word Enron, and over four times the roughly $50 billion investors lost to household name Bernie Madoff. Enron and Madoff are history; Fan and Fred are just warming up, and a large portion of the public has no idea who they are.
"Oh, by the way, Fan also told us yesterday that it will need another $15.3 billion in cash by the end of March. That would bring the total of Uncle Sam's combined Fan-Fred cash infusions to $126 billion."
So, losses of billions and still we continue to prop up these market distorting entities-- and we pay for it with a destabilized housing market and with continued de facto loan guarantees on high risk loans from Congress. Brilliant.
Blumer goes on to note this Wall Street Journal article by Peter J. Wallison from late December of 2009 that highlights the incredibly costly problems of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-- problems which, to this day, are routinely denied by the Left. The entire article is quite enlightening and well worth the time to read.
"On Christmas Eve, when most Americans' minds were on other things, the Treasury Department announced that it was removing the $400 billion cap from what the administration believes will be necessary to keep Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac solvent. This action confirms that the decade-long congressional failure to more closely regulate these two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) will rank for U.S. taxpayers as one of the worst policy disasters in our history.
"Fannie and Freddie's congressional sponsors—some of whom are now leading the administration's effort to "reform" the financial system—have a lot to answer for. Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, sponsored legislation adopted in 2008 that established a new regulatory structure for the GSEs. But by then it was far too late. The GSEs had begun buying risky loans in 1993 to meet the 'affordable housing' requirements established under congressional direction by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
"Most of the damage was done from 2005 through 2007, when Fannie and Freddie were binging on risky mortgages. Back then, Mr. Frank was the bartender, denying that there was any cause for concern, and claiming that he wanted to 'roll the dice' on subsidized housing support.
"In 2005, the Senate Banking Committee, then controlled by Republicans, adopted tough regulatory legislation that would have established more auditing and oversight of the two agencies. But it was passed out of committee on a partisan vote, and with no Democratic support it never came to a vote.
"By the end of 2008, Fannie and Freddie held or guaranteed approximately 10 million subprime and Alt-A mortgages and mortgage-backed securities (MBS)—risky loans with a total principal balance of $1.6 trillion. These are now defaulting at unprecedented rates, accounting for both their 2008 insolvency and their growing losses today. Since 2008, under government control, the two agencies have continued to buy dicey mortgages in order to stabilize housing prices.
"There is more to this ugly situation. New research by Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer for Fannie Mae and a housing expert, has found that from the time Fannie and Freddie began buying risky loans as early as 1993, they routinely misrepresented the mortgages they were acquiring, reporting them as prime when they had characteristics that made them clearly subprime or Alt-A.
"In general, a subprime mortgage refers to the credit of the borrower. A FICO score of less than 660 is the dividing line between prime and subprime, but Fannie and Freddie were reporting these mortgages as prime, according to Mr. Pinto. Fannie has admitted this in a third-quarter 10-Q report in 2008.
"An Alt-A mortgage is one in which the quality of the mortgage or the underwriting was deficient; it might lack adequate documentation, have a low or no down payment, or in some other way be more likely than a prime mortgage to default. Fannie and Freddie were also reporting these mortgages as prime, according to Mr. Pinto.
"It is easy to see how this misrepresentation was a principal cause of the financial crisis.
Market observers, rating agencies and investors were unaware of the number of subprime and Alt-A mortgages infecting the financial system in late 2006 and early 2007. Of the 26 million subprime and Alt-A loans outstanding in 2008, 10 million were held or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie, 5.2 million by other government agencies, and 1.4 million were on the books of the four largest U.S. banks.
"In addition, about 7.7 million subprime and Alt-A housing loans were in mortgage pools supporting MBS issued by Wall Street banks—which had long before been driven out of the prime market by Fannie and Freddie's government-backed, low-cost funding. The vast majority of these MBS were rated AAA, because the rating agencies' models assumed that the losses that are incurred by subprime and Alt-A loans would be within the historical range for the number of high-risk loans known to be outstanding.
"But because of Fannie and Freddie's mislabeling, there were millions more high-risk loans outstanding. That meant default rates as well as the actual losses after foreclosure were going to be outside all prior experience. When these rates began to show up early in 2007, it was apparent something was seriously wrong with assumptions on which AAA ratings had been based."
"Why Fannie and Freddie did this is still to be determined. But the leading candidate is certainly HUD's affordable housing regulations, which by 2007 required that 55% of all the loans the agencies acquired had to be made to borrowers at or below the median income, with almost half of these required to be low-income borrowers."
No. No. No. This was all caused by "greed" or something... I can't explain exactly how, but it was capitalist greed. Yep. No doubt.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
The HillBuzz blog is a group of Hillary Clinton supporters recently attacked by MoveOn.org and DailyKos. They have endured the intimidation and insults hurled at them by the hard Left of their political party and refused to fall into the lock-step of the Obama march. Not surprisingly, the HillBuzz group seem to have found themselves confronted with some doubts about the direction of the Democratic Party, doubts that I think many people within the Democratic Party share.
"We’ve told you already what we’ve faced in the last two years, really three years now, since we started opposing 'The Lightbringer', Dr. Utopia. In those three years, Leftists have done more harm to us and shown us more evil than Republicans ever did in our first 30 years of life. Some Republicans might not like that we are gay, and might not like that we support the Clintons, but no Republican has ever threatened our lives, libeled us, thrown rocks through our windows, punched us in the face, or sought to deprive us of employment opportunities and ruin our good names. Leftists did all of those things, because we do not support 'The One', oh He of the Hope and the Change.
"The most a Republican ever did was say, 'I’m going to pray for you boys so the Lord straightens you out, and then you’ll get nice wives'. Which, honestly, is kind of sweet, considering the source and knowing the intent was something along the lines of 'I really like you guys and I believe you have been challenged and I am praying for you because I want you to have a happy life like I have so that you can be happy as I am the way I understand happiness'.
"The Left, should you not agree with them, will pound you and hit you and beat you into the ground until you submit. If you won’t ever buckle, they will just seek to destroy you, throwing every possible weapon they can dream up your way.
"It’s impossible for us, at this point, to justify anything the Democrat party does, or to relate to liberal Democrats anymore."
Perhaps more people are waking up to the basic intolerance the Left preaches, an intolerance that is absolutely essential to their political beliefs. Socialism demands conformity. The big government systems that are required by Socialist agendas must be, as close as possible, universal-- otherwise they collapse. Therefore, the political theories of Socialism simply will not work if there is significant dissent. Furthermore, this dissent cannot be merely categorized in the exclusive and elitist way of either "being on the team or off the team," but rather of being on the team or being a direct threat.
Sure, practitioners of other political philosophies attempt to stifle dissent, but in modern American politics the Left is the only politically relevant group where the political philosophy itself is so inflexible that it cannot tolerate dissent. This is one of several basic weaknesses of Socialism.
When HillBuzz states "If we, as moderate/conservative Dems feel this way, we wonder how Independents out there feel," they may be voicing a great emerging concern of Americans across the political spectrum-- concerns that so far have been not just unacknowledged, but actively denied by Congress and the Obama Administration.
Friday, February 26, 2010
From the piece:
"So on the August 6 edition of CNN’s 'Newsroom,' while Morgan Neil 'reported' on location from a Potemkin Havana hospital, gushing about Cuban healthcare’s 'impressive statistics!' the broadcast included clips from Michael Moore’s Sicko, adding much oomph to the propaganda montage. CNN’s 'Cuba’s infant mortality rates' reported Neil, 'are the lowest in the hemisphere, in line with those of Canada!'
"'Amazing!' probably gasped the type of person who watches CNN nowadays 'No wonder Colin Powell said “Castro had done some good things for his people!' No wonder Barbara Walters hailed Castro for 'bringing great healthcare to his people!' No wonder Michael Moore catches so much grief from those insufferable Miami Cubans! Before Castro only they could afford doctors, as Cuba’s huddled masses languished in sickness and poverty!
"And indeed, according to UN figures, Cuba’s current infant mortality rate places her 44th from the top in worldwide ranking, right next to Canada. (The lower the rate the higher the ranking.) What CNN left out is that according to those same UN figures, in 1958 (the year prior to the glorious revolution), Cuba ranked 13th from the top, worldwide.
"This meant that robustly capitalist Cuba had the 13th lowest infant-mortality rate in the world. This put her not only at the top in Latin America but atop most of Western Europe, ahead of France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Today all of these countries leave Communist Cuba in the dust, with much lower infant mortality rates.
"And even plummeting from 13th (capitalist) to 44th (communist), Cuba’s 'impressive' infant mortality rate is kept artificially low by Communist chicanery with statistics and by a truly appalling abortion rate of 0.71 abortions per live birth. This is the hemisphere’s highest, by far. Any Cuban pregnancy that even hints at trouble gets 'terminated.'"
"The Castroite propaganda in Sicko so outraged people cursed by fate to live in Castro’s fiefdom that they risked their lives by using hidden cameras to film conditions in genuine Cuban hospitals, hoping they could alert the world to Moore’s swinishness as a propaganda operative for a Stalinist regime.
"At enormous risk, two hours of shocking, often revolting, footage was obtained with tiny hidden cameras and smuggled out of Cuba to Cuban-exile George Utset, who runs the superb and revelatory website The Real Cuba. The man who assumed most of the risk during the filming and smuggling was Cuban dissident — a medical doctor himself — Dr Darsi Ferrer, who was also willing to talk on camera, narrating much of the video’s revelations. Dr Ferrer worked in these genuinely Cuban hospitals daily, witnessing the truth. More importantly, he wasn’t cowed from revealing this truth to America and the world. (A recent samizdat reports that the black Dr Ferrer is currently languishing in a Cuban prison cell –not far from Gitmo, btw– undergoing frequent beatings."
Read the article in its entirety, especially ABC's caving in under Havana pressure. It is enlightening.
Michael Moore didn't tell you about any of this. Is anyone surprised?
On a personal note, I should be back to regularly posting on my blog next week.
Monday, February 22, 2010
After recently changing my health insurance, I'm hoping I can see specialists and get second opinions without waiting 2 -3 months between each visit. Because of this lag time between doctor visits, a bad initial diagnosis (which I had) can lead to over 18 months of ineffective treatments and inconclusive tests.
This has been a very frustrating time for me and has been partially responsible for my spotty blogging and frequent breaks from this blog. It's tough to balance a writing career, family, friends, and a blog when I feel pretty poorly about 40% of the time and can't eat solid food several times a month.
Anyway, enough of my making excuses and wallowing in self-pity. I'll be back soon-- hopefully later this week. And just a reminder, my Blog List is full of great blogs to visit. Check them out.
Friday, February 19, 2010
And of course it has been added to my Blog List.
Best of luck to them all!
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Newsbusters has their take here in a post by Kyle Drennan.
Yup, those Tibetans just don't know what's good for them. I mean sure, they have to chafe under China's tyrannical rule and have their culture, history and religion systematically and violently stripped away by an invading foreign power... But I guess that's just the price you have to pay to be forcibly pulled into the Chinese co-prosperity sphere.
Once again we see the Left exposing their elitist core. When Bill Maher says things like: "They're not bright enough to really understand the issues. But like an animal, they can sort of sense strength or weakness. They can smell it on you." He's giving the the same line of thought that Fish in Newsweek gives the Tibetans. We're all just proles. Too stupid to know what's best for us, too stupid to be allowed to little things like liberty and self-determination. We need strength to lead us.
I'll repeat Lincoln's quote that I have posted earlier. "They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it."
Words to remember.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The event began at 6:00 pm. tonight. I received my phone call from them (the only the way I know of to participate) at 6:25, so I missed half of it. About ten minutes in or so, Congressman Schrader was unable to hear any of the callers and he kind of stumped around for a bit while the technical problem was addressed. He also assured us all that this was the first time this has happened (not so-- his teleconference in August was also buggy).
This is the second telephone town hall I've participated in (out of three that I know of). It is also the second time that I received the call late (this time significantly late), and the second time I was unable to ask a question due to technical problems. At least I could hear it this time...
0 for 2 guys! Not a good average.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
"Four Democratic senators, including two facing potentially challenging election campaigns this year, are asking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to use reconciliation, a procedural maneuver requiring only 51 votes, to push for a public health insurance option.
"Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) signed a letter to Reid saying they support this plan for four reasons: the cost savings the public option is estimated to achieve, continued public support for the public option, the need for increased competition in the insurance market and the Senate's history of using the reconciliation process for health care reform.
"'Put simply, including a strong public option is one of the best, most fiscally responsible ways to reform our health insurance system,' the letter says. 'Although we strongly support the important reforms made by the Senate-passed health reform package, including a strong public option would improve both its substance and the public’s perception of it.'"
The article fails to mention a couple of difficulties with this proposal, but Clifton B. at Another Black Conservative mentions them.
"The three biggest stumbling blocks to reconciliation are:
"1. Can a Public Option be passed using the rules of reconciliation? Remember reconciliation is for budgetary procedures; legislation for a Public Option might not fit into those confines.
"2. Are there 50 Democrats willing to use the reconciliation? Reconciliation will look like doing an end run around the will of the people. Even with all these retirements that have produced Dead Men Walking (senators who do not have to face the wrath of the voters come November) are there still 50 Democrats willing to try reconciliation?
"3. Is there enough time? Since reconciliation allows for unlimited amendments, Republicans can draw out the process indefinitely by simple offering one amendment after another."
I'm beginning to think of Obamacare as Jason or Michael from those slasher flicks. You think it's dead, but then it just keeps popping back up. And you know how in those movies sometimes it's some foolish teenagers messing around with black magic or something that resurrects the psycho, and then they're the first ones that get skewered or whatever when the villain rises? Well, it looks like Merkley, Bennet, Gillibrand, and Brown are working to fulfill that part this time around. We'll see if their careers get skewered over this.
Probably not, but who knows?
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Right now he's taking the plunge and reading "The Audacity of Hope." Good luck with that. I can't get through the first chapters of either of Obama's books.
Anyway, check him out here. Like I said, he's new so give his blog chance and take a look. He's in the Blog List as well.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I contended that the narrative currently used by the Left is essentially a dressing up of Renaissance (and earlier) Europe's Divine Chain of Being-- an elitist construct that allows for unmitigated hatred when people step away from their place. I do not believe that some leaders sat down and decided to copy the Divine Chain of Being's , but that similar "modes" (modes stressing identity, "taking good care" of people, an elitist mentality, etc.) of thinking led to very similar conclusions.
So here you go:
Somewhat recently Janeane Garofalo was a guest of Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. During the interview they both claimed that RNC chairman Richard Steele is a "self-loathing" black man, thus explaining away the inconvenience of his political views. Garofalo also claimed that "any female or person of color in the Republican party is struggling with Stockholm Syndrome." Sort of funny how she can insult and belittle a person and still keep herself politically correct... any person of color-- African American if you will... Sheesh.
This zealous intolerance is nothing new for Garofalo, a former host of Air America. Earlier, in an interview in the celebrity blog Ecorazzi (NewsBusters.org story here), she claimed that Republicans are essentially brain-damaged during a profanity-laced rant. Nor is it new for the left to attack right-leaning minorities. As Newsbusters.org has reported, white left-wing bloggers have regularly portrayed Richard Steele as Sambo and Michelle Malkin claims to be understandably bored at self-loathing smears directed toward her. And we all know of the fervent assaults levelled against personages such as Clarence Thomas (he's a sellout, etc.), and Sarah Palin (she's not really a woman-- just a vapid "milf" blah... blah... blah....).
While it's certainly best to simply write off these shabby attacks as sophomoric, and it's correct (although pointless) to observe and report the obvious double-standard at work, the blatant racism and its elitist implications are, nevertheless, both telling and disturbing. And that should not be ignored. The ferocity of these attacks, from some on the left, far exceeds normal political bickering. This viciousness is not simply due to the breaking of "established" ranks, nor merely the childish novelty of suddenly having the chance, or indeed the "obligation," to indulge in racist or sexist attacks.
On the surface these intolerant charges and arguments make little sense. After all, do these remarks not come from the self-celebrated, "progressive" side of the political spectrum? Would these people not say with great pride and smugness that they are feminists and racial progressives? These attacks seem to be borne from the childish and simple-minded musings of angry, arrogant minds. It's sticking out the tongue at the evil opposition, giving The Man and his minions the finger, revelling in the (mis)use of big and important sounding words and phrases. And it is that. But if this reflected only childish behavior and simple hypocrisy, then I wouldn't waste my time with a post about it. Whether the perpetrators of this behavior realize it or not (and in my personal experience they almost always do not) they are ascribing their beliefs to an elitist chain, an ideological and eugenic hierarchy. To keep themselves free of hypocrisy they have constructed their own version of the horribly dehumanizing Divine Chain of Being. This is different from the more normal liberal racism of placing white in the privileged position of gifting minorities with their benevolence (more on that in a different post).
In a previous post, I talked about the Divine Chain of Being. I'm afraid you'll have to forgive me if I restate a fair amount of that once again (ah... the wonders of cut & paste) in an oversimplified, but still relevant way. The Divine Chain of Being was an established (at the time of the Renaissance although its roots go much further back) theological and philosophical concept that all things in the universe are ranked in a hierarchy accordance to God's wishes. The bottom consisted of rocks and such and as one goes higher up the chain, things became better and more complex. Human beings were separated into several levels within the chain, the lower class being viewed as fundamentally inferior to the upper classes, the monarch superior to the aristocracy. In fact, the separation was believed to be so great that there was debate among the European nobility as to whether or not the lower-classes felt pain in the same way that the aristocracy did. Oftentimes the answer was ridiculously "no," the belief being that the lower classes were a lower order of human beings and naturally less sensitive to the physical sensation of pain.
If we were to substitute race for class, replace the theology with ideologically informed social science, then we could have a fair model of Garofalo and like-minded leftists' peculiar world view. We see it is both stratified and elitist, and has little to do with political opinion and philosophical argument. The contrast between left and right is no longer a difference of political theory or opinion, but a fundamental and qualitative (i.e. elitist) distinction between different "types" of humans.
In the privileged position we would have racial minorities and women, a position earned by virtue of their oppression at the hands of the white male. They are the substitute for the aristocracy inside this "new" Divine Chain of Being-- fundamentally different and better than the white patriarchy that oppresses them. This view partially led to an interesting showdown during the Democratic Primary where the African-American male faced off against the white female in the "Olympics of Suffering." Amidst the normal mud-slinging, back-handed political tactics and cheap shots (traits shared by both political parties), was the uniquely leftist contest over who was the most oppressed and thus most deserving of the nomination.The oppressors, white males, are the equivalent to the lower-class of the Divine Chain of Being. They are not merely people who hold a different opinion or have different values. They are fundamentally different and inferior. As Garofalo has put it: "The reason a person is a conservative republican is because something is wrong with them. Again, that’s science – that’s neuroscience. You cannot be well adjusted, open-minded, pluralistic, enlightened and be a republican. It’s counter-intuitive. And they revel in their anti-intellectualism. They revel in their cruelty."
But this "something wrong" must only be inherent in the white male. After all, white males seem to have the option to be conservative. While they may be greedy expletives, they have the freedom to value liberty and individual achievement without the claim of being self-hating. Apparently the white male is assumed to be a conservative unless he "elevates" himself to the more enlightened level of a Bill Clinton or Keith Olbermann.
By placing the comments of people like Garofalo in this context we can better understand where these sorts of remarks are coming from and what they actually mean. We can also see that these are not merely differences of opinions upon issues, but a wholly different perception of political and even metaphysical reality. Much of the venom and anger that is hurled at a Sarah Palin, a Clarence Thomas, a Michelle Malkin, a Codaleeza Rice, a Richard Steele, is due to their audacity to demean themselves down to the level of the white male oppressor. They have not just broken rank, they have consciously chosen to forsake their inherently superior position. They have upset this world view and thus are deserving of the heaps of racial and sexist bigotry that is flung at them. They have made the cardinal sin to no longer be the better sort.
Arguing against this world view is largely pointless. It would be like arguing with Tolkien over different aspects of Middle-Earth or George Lucas over various artistic liberties in Star Wars. In a fantasy construction, one only has to be consistent within what the fantasy establishes. Sound can't be heard in a vacuum, but Star Wars establishes that it can. To argue against it within the context of the film is pointless. You either accept the concept or reject it. There are no other real options.
This dehumanizing viewpoint is unacceptable. Racism, in any form, is intolerable. But to subject others to this intolerant and stereotyped fantasyland is unconscionable. To subject women and racial minorities (notice how the bigoted and oppressive white male still possesses the greatest freedom in this terrible model) to narrow definitions, to assign their worth and restrict their freedom to choose their own values, actions, and even thoughts is beyond arrogant and wrong-headed. It is tyrannical and malignant. When the Declaration of Independence stated "All men are created equal" it was striking down similar elitist and racist concepts of human worth and value. To dehumanize any opposition, in this case to make conservatives defective and essentially sub-human, is to set the US down the path toward totalitarianism. It is wrong and should not be ignored.
While one can write off this elitist, left viewpoint as being fringe-dwelling and unrealistic (it is both), it does affect real and important political decision within the both the Democratic Party and the United States. The "Olympics of Suffering" showdown between Hilary Clinton and Obama is one of the most obvious and direct examples, but there are others. This elitist viewpoint gives passes to people like representatives Clyburn and Waters to freely describe racist fantasies and expect no rebuttal. It gives Al Sharpton further credibility, allows Farrakhan to continue to spread hate with impunity.
Whether Garofalo, Olbermann, or other people who likewise casually spread elitist and eugenic venom know it or not, their "progress" leads only backward to oppression and tyranny for all.
Friday, February 12, 2010
As always, Glick is incisive and logical.
From her essay:
"To date, in light of his sinking approval ratings, the main thing Obama has had going for him is that since the presidential election, his political opponents have lacked a leader capable of uniting his opponents around an alternative path. Over the past week, that leader may have emerged.
"On Saturday, former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin gave the keynote address at the Tea Party Movement convention in Nashville, Tennessee. As she did in the presidential campaign, Palin electrified her audience in Nashville by credibly channeling the populist impulses of American voters. In her signature line she asked, 'So how's that hopey changey stuff working out for ya?'
"Palin excoriated Obama on his handling of US foreign policy. Among other things, she noted that a year into his quest to appease dictators, America's international standing is in shambles. 'Israel, a friend and a critical ally, now questions the strength of our support,' she added.
"Palin bellowed that on issues of foreign policy, there is no room for self-delusion. As she put it, 'National security, that's the one place where you've got to call it like it is.' And then, 'We need a foreign policy that distinguishes America's friends from her enemies and recognizes the true nature of the threats that we face.'
"If her address wasn't enough to convince Americans - and specifically American Jews - that Palin thinks supporting Israel and standing up to Iran are the keys to US national security, then there was her interview on Fox News Sunday. Asked how Obama can win reelection in 2012, Palin responded, 'Say he decided to declare war on Iran or decided really to come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do.'
"And if that still isn't enough, there is her lapel pin. The politician who leads the populist opposition to Obama decided to make her most important speech since the 2008 election wearing a pin featuring the US flag and the Israeli flag.
"Palin, who is considering a run in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, is using her public platforms to reassemble the coalition of security hawks, social conservatives and blue collar workers that propelled Ronald Reagan to the White House in 1980. Her support for Israel serves her in building support among both security hawks and social conservatives.
"Unlike Obama's empty protestations of support for Israel, Palin's support is obviously heartfelt and therefore will not diminish while Obama remains in office. And as Palin becomes stronger, her ability to influence the US debate in a manner that constrains Obama's freedom to intimidate Israel into allowing Iran to become a nuclear power will rise."
Read the whole thing. Glick's analysis of Obama's dealings with Iran at the beginning of the essay is also quite good.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
"The Islamic state is facing its worst domestic crisis in three decades as opposition supporters have rallied round the reformists who lost to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a disputed election last June.
"Ahmadinejad told a vast, flag-waving crowd of government supporters that Iran was now able to enrich uranium to more than 80 percent purity, coming close to levels experts say would be needed for a nuclear bomb, although he again denied it had any such intention.
"'The Iranian nation is brave enough that if one day we wanted to build nuclear bombs we would announce it publicly without being afraid of you,' Ahmadinejad said, addressing Iran's Western enemies.
He spoke as tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Tehran to mark the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
"Thousands of supporters had been brought in on buses to hear Ahmadinejad speak.
Security forces have threatened to crush any opposition protests as Iran marks the anniversary of the revolution today.
"The unrest began after protesters began to chant opposition slogans in Sadeqieh Square, which is about a half-mile (one kilometer) from a huge pro-government gathering where President Ahmadinejad delivered a speech."
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
"As part of his promised new focus on jobs, President Obama yesterday hosted a bipartisan jobs meeting. But he has yet to propose many pro-employment specifics -- and his overall economic plan remains unmistakably anti-job.
"Other than a few odd ideas like using TARP funds paid by banks to fund more government programs, Obama's main push is for a 'jobs' bill like the $150 billion measure the House has already passed, which includes various tax credits and new spending to supposedly create jobs.
"One problem is that these aren't broad tax cuts -- which have had a job-creating effect in the past. Rather, they're specific bribes to businesses for doing a few specific things -- like boosting their payroll over a certain level. The same approach was an utter failure under President Jimmy Carter in the late '70s.
"Worse, the credits -- a total of perhaps $33 billion -- are dwarfed by the tax hikes that Obama and the Democratic Congress are promising for next year. How many businesses will change the behavior for a small carrot this year -- when they know they're about to be hit by a far larger stick?
"The good news is that the fundamental resilience of the US economy will boost employment -- eventually. But higher taxes and the drag on the economy from the exploding federal deficit will leave business struggling for the next several years: Slow job growth is virtually guaranteed.
"If there's a silver lining in all this, it's that -- by proposing tax credits to boost job growth -- liberals in Congress and the White House are finally admitting that high taxes can deter employment. Too bad they're not better at math: Sorry, guys, but $33 billion in tax credits pales in comparison to the $1.1 trillion in new taxes that the president proposes in his budget."
Wasn't the first stimulus supposed to save and create jobs? Ah, well...
There is also quite a bit of buzz about a new "green jobs" boost is in the works. Whether this boost is contained in this bill or not, Obama has left little doubt that he pushes green energy sources. I mean we all remember those "Hope & Change" commercials with those windmills, right?
There's an interesting article written by Gianluca Baratti back in March 2009 (h/t Carol and Carol's Closet) about Spain's own experience with subsidizing "green" power and the mess that unfolds.
"Subsidizing renewable energy in the U.S. may destroy two jobs for every one created if Spain’s experience with windmills and solar farms is any guide.
"For every new position that depends on energy price supports, at least 2.2 jobs in other industries will disappear, according to a study from King Juan Carlos University in Madrid.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2010 budget proposal contains about $20 billion in tax incentives for clean-energy programs. In Spain, where wind turbines provided 11 percent of power demand last year, generators earn rates as much as 11 times more for renewable energy compared with burning fossil fuels.
"The premiums paid for solar, biomass, wave and wind power - - which are charged to consumers in their bills -- translated into a $774,000 cost for each Spanish 'green job' created since 2000, said Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at the university and author of the report.
"'The loss of jobs could be greater if you account for the amount of lost industry that moves out of the country due to higher energy prices,' he said in an interview.
Spain’s Acerinox SA, the nation’s largest stainless-steel producer, blamed domestic energy costs for deciding to expand in South Africa and the U.S., according to the study.
"'Microsoft and Google moved their servers up to the Canadian border because they benefited from cheaper energy there,' said the professor of applied environmental economics."
A sign of things to come? In a way, it's already happening.
This article from ABC News by Jonathan Karl (h/t, once again, to Carol's Closet) describes how the wind power stimulus money has been going to overseas companies and jobs.
"Despite all the talk of green jobs, the overwhelming majority of stimulus money spent on wind power has gone to foreign companies, according to a new report by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C.
"Nearly $2 billion in money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been spent on wind power, funding the creation of enough new wind farms to power 2.4 million homes over the past year. But the study found that nearly 80 percent of that money has gone to foreign manufacturers of wind turbines.
"'Most of the jobs are going overseas,' said Russ Choma at the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He analyzed which foreign firms had accepted the most stimulus money. 'According to our estimates, about 6,000 jobs have been created overseas, and maybe a couple hundred have been created in the U.S.'
"Even with the infusion of so much stimulus money, a recent report by American Wind Energy Association showed a drop in U.S. wind manufacturing jobs last year.
"Matt Rogers, the senior adviser to the Secretary of Energy for the Recovery Act, denied there was a problem.
"'The recovery act is creating jobs in the U.S. for American workers,' said Rogers, 'That is what the recovery act is about, that is what it is doing. Every dollar from the recovery act is going to create jobs for the American workers here in the U.S.'"
Yeah. Great response there, Matt Rogers.
So let's review here. In the short term, wind energy creates jobs for Europeans, so we're pumping stimulus money into their economies. I would not describe this as the best policy for creating American jobs. In the mid to long term, renewable energy is far more expensive (wind-powered turbine "generators earn rates as much as 11 times more for renewable energy compared with burning fossil fuels") which will drive even more American jobs away to cheaper pastures.
If this nonsense passes, better buckle down. Double digit unemployment percentages could be here to stay.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
From the New York Times article by Norimitsu Onishi (h/t BARCEPUNDIT):
"The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling 'My Way' in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the 'My Way Killings.'
"The killings have produced urban legends about the song and left Filipinos groping for answers. Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?
"Whatever the reason, many karaoke bars have removed the song from their playbooks. And the country’s many Sinatra lovers, like Mr. Gregorio here in this city in the southernmost Philippines, are practicing self-censorship out of perceived self-preservation.
"Karaoke-related killings are not limited to the Philippines. In the past two years alone, a Malaysian man was fatally stabbed for hogging the microphone at a bar and a Thai man killed eight of his neighbors in a rage after they sang John Denver’s 'Take Me Home, Country Roads.' Karaoke-related assaults have also occurred in the United States, including at a Seattle bar where a woman punched a man for singing Coldplay’s 'Yellow' after criticizing his version."
Quick note here-- I love the need to include the US in this list. A man stabbed to death in Malaysia, a Thai man's multiple (8!) homicides... and then a Seattle woman who punched a guy in a bar over a Coldplay song. Which one of these incidents doesn't quite fit? No, I'm not suggesting Americans are less violent or whatever... But why include this Seattle incident that could be a skit on "Reno 911!" with these murders?
The article continues:
"Still, the odds of getting killed during karaoke may be higher in the Philippines, if only because of the ubiquity of the pastime. Social get-togethers invariably involve karaoke. Stand-alone karaoke machines can be found in the unlikeliest settings, including outdoors in rural areas where men can sometimes be seen singing early in the morning. And Filipinos, who pride themselves on their singing, may have a lower tolerance for bad singers.
"Indeed, most of the 'My Way' killings have reportedly occurred after the singer sang out of tune, causing other patrons to laugh or jeer.
"'The trouble with "My Way,"' said Mr. Gregorio, 'is that everyone knows it and everyone has an opinion.'
"Others, noting that other equally popular tunes have not provoked killings, point to the song itself. The lyrics, written by Paul Anka for Mr. Sinatra as an unapologetic summing up of his career, are about a tough guy who 'when there was doubt,' simply 'ate it up and spit it out.' Butch Albarracin, the owner of Center for Pop, a Manila-based singing school that has propelled the careers of many famous singers, was partial to what he called the 'existential explanation.'
"'I did it my way" — it’s so arrogant,' Mr. Albarracin said. 'The lyrics evoke feelings of pride and arrogance in the singer, as if you’re somebody when you’re really nobody. It covers up your failures. That’s why it leads to fights.'
"But in karaoke bars where one song costs 5 pesos, or a tenth of a dollar, strangers often rub shoulders, sometimes uneasily. A subset of karaoke bars with G.R.O.’s — short for guest relations officers, a euphemism for female prostitutes — often employ gay men, who are seen as neutral, to defuse the undercurrent of tension among the male patrons. Since the gay men are not considered rivals for the women’s attention — or rivals in singing, which karaoke machines score and rank — they can use humor to forestall macho face-offs among the patrons.
"In one such bar in Quezon City, next to Manila, patrons sing karaoke at tables on the first floor and can accompany a G.R.O. upstairs. Fights often break out when customers at one table look at another table “the wrong way,” said Mark Lanada, 20, the manager.
"'That’s the biggest source of tension,' Mr. Lanada said. 'That’s why every place like this has a gay man like me.'"
It is a strange world we live in...
I do notice how nobody in this article is talking about a legislative solution (such as banning the song-- although Onishi does suggest that there could be "something inherently sinister in the song." And nobody's threatening to sue the karaoke companies or bars. That's refreshing.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Here's an interesting editorial from the New York Post (h/t Michelle Malkin).
From the article:
"White House spokesman Robert Gibbs declared last week that 9/11 kingpin KSM 'is going to meet justice, and he’s going to meet his maker and he’s likely to be executed for the heinous crimes that he committed.'
"And President Obama himself said something similar last November, declaring of KSM: 'I don’t think that it will be offensive at all when he’s convicted and the death sentence is applied to him.'
"Now, obviously KSM is guilty, and richly deserves to die.
"Indeed, he and his comrades offered to plead guilty before military tribunals — and to accept the death penalty.
"But now that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have decided, in order to prove that America really is committed to civil liberties, to try these killers in civilian court, they need to . . . well, respect civil liberties.
"Loose talk like that from Gibbs and Obama is a hanging curveball for defense lawyers determined to exploit every single one of KSM & Co.'s new constitutional rights."
But beyond the legal wrangling, which is by no means an insignificant thing, what exactly are Gibbs and Obama saying? Yeah, I know. They're talking tough for the cameras... but what is their logic here?
According to their own words they are saying that the US government should extend to these terrorists civil liberties that they don't have-- in order to take them away from the terrorists, and then execute them after an all but pre-determined show trial.
This is the logic that's supposed to make the US look great in the eyes of the world again? Seriously?
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Well, the very next day I received news that a close family member in California (my brother-in-law) is very ill. He is recovering from an emergency medical procedure and is currently in intensive care.
I have known my brother-in-law for over twenty-five years. He married my sister when I was in grade school, and I grew up regarding him as a big brother. We were very close. He has always been an intrinsic part of my family since becoming part of it. He is genuinely the most jovial and friendliest person that I have ever met-- and I say that as a truthful statement and not hyperbole. It is my great fortune (and telling of his character) that I have nothing but warm memories and thoughts regarding him.
If you are so inclined, please include him in your prayers.
I will be back posting soon. I cannot give a specific date as it will depend on how quickly, and if, he recovers. I hope to be back within a week.
UPDATE: Terrific news! My brother-in-law seems to be recovering quite well from his operation. He is conscious, talking, and even sitting up in the hospital bed. And there's talk of moving him out of the ICU.
While not exactly a miracle, his recovery and improvement over a very short time (36 hrs. or so) has surprised everybody including the medical staff. In the space of two days, things have gone from dire, to cautiously optimistic, to fully optimistic. Wow, things can move quick.
If everything continues to improve, I'll be back to regularly posting in three or four days. Let me also give a special thanks to the people who have offered me kind and comforting words in the comments section and by e-mail. They are all very much appreciated. Thank you.
UPDATE 2: My brother-in-law is still in the hospital, but out of the ICU. He may even be going home sometime relatively soon!