Archive for June 18th, 2009

June 18, 2009

BREAKING: Grassley Expands IGInvestigation; More Firings Probed; UPDATE: Targeting AIG Bailout?

CHICAGO TRIBUNE has the story and WASHINGTON TIMES breaks more news. Dan Riehl, Quin Hillyer, Ed Morrissey blogging, Memeorandum, plus much more at NTCNews.com.

Dang, I may not have to go to Sacramento . . .

UPDATE: Greg Pollowitz at NRO:

[L]ooks like A.I.G. could be the target here . . . . it was Democrats who were demanding that Barofsky look into A.I.G.’s bailout.

Breaking faster than hell . . .

June 18, 2009

WTF happened to ‘caveat emptor’?

Poking around the Web, I noticed lots of liberals whining that Obama’s massive new financial-industry regulatory scheme — which analysts worry will suck the profits out of banks — doesn’t go far enough.

Let’s face it, liberals won’t be happy until there are more regulatory bureaucrats than there are bankers. You’ll walk into your bank to cash a check, and three federal regulators will have to sign off on the transaction, with another regulator assigned to decide whether your kid gets a lollipop.

Don’t believe me? Liberal blogger Simon Johnson:

But based on what we see so far, there is little reason to be encouraged. The reform process appears to be have been captured at an early stage — by design the lobbyists were let into the executive branch’s working, so we don’t even get to have a transparent debate or to hear specious arguments about why we really need big banks.
Writing in the New York Times today, Joe Nocera sums up, “If Mr. Obama hopes to create a regulatory environment that stands for another six decades, he is going to have to do what Roosevelt did once upon a time. He is going to have make some bankers mad.”

OK, so who exactly is Simon Johnson, and who put him in charge of deciding whether banks are too big? Well, ho, ho, ho:

Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He is a co-founder of The Baseline Scenario. Update (April 2009): Johnson has joined the CBO’s Panel of Economic Advisers.

Johnson worked for the IMF which certainly gives him credibility to talk about banks being too big, eh? As for experience in the for-profit private sector, we have zero evidence that Simon Johnson could turn a profit on the sno-cone concession in Hell.

Which brings me back to the original question: WTF ever happened to caveat emptor?

Banks are not in business to minimize your risk, but to maximize their own profits. Ditto mortgage companies, real-estate agencies, stock brokers, mutual funds, et cetera. I don’t care whether you’re transacting business with Citibank or a pawn shop, the guy on the other side of the counter is there to turn a profit, and it isn’t his job to look after your interests — except insofar as his reputation for trustworthiness helps him attract customers.

Economic Nerf-World
You got scammed by Bernie Madoff? You bought Citi at $54 a share and now it’s at $3 a share? You mortgaged yourself to the max for a new Vegas condo in 2005, based on your salary at a development company that got wiped out when the Vegas real-estate boom evaporated in 2007?

Whose fault is all that, huh? Why is it the job of the federal government to cover the economy in foam Nerf padding like a McDonald’s Playland so that you never suffer for your own financial stupidity?

Liberals want to make the financial sector so “safe” that I could hand my paycheck to my 10-year-old son, let him invest it in Nintendo games and baseball cards, and still be guaranteed a profit.

Not that I don’t empathize with economic losers. I made the clever decision in 1986 to go into the newspaper business, which hasn’t exactly been a juggernaut of growth lately, as you might have noticed by the fact that I’m now shaking the tip jar for blog-o-bucks. (Despite their expressions of concern for boosting economic recovery, Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke ain’t hittin’ my tip jar.)

Compared to some other people, though, I’ve been relatively unscathed by the meltdown. I know retirees who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Big Wipeout of 2008, not to mention all the people I know whose jobs are directly linked to the devastated housing market.

Poverty As Security
I might have lost my butt, too, except for the fact that I had a lot less butt to lose. Couldn’t afford a D.C. condo during the bubble, you see, so I’m still renting, 12 years after we sold our little Georgia bungalow and moved to Washington. So boo-hoo-hoo for the idiots who are upside down on their mortgages, and boo-hoo-hoo for the fat cats who thought Bernie Madoff was going to make them rich.

Becoming a journalist was, in retrospect, a stupid career move, but maybe I’m not quite as stupid as some of those guys who got rich doing something else and then pissed it all away on bad investments. Why should the federal government intervene and deprive us of future opportunities for schadenfreude?

If you went to the county fair and let a carnie hustle you out of $100, do we need a Federal Bureau of Ring-Toss to protect you from yourself? Maybe a federally-mandated advisory sticker on every video-poker machine at the Indian casino: “WARNING: Winning Not Guaranteed.”

Maybe caveat emptor has gone by the wayside because schools don’t teach Latin anymore. So let’s go ahead and ditch E Pluribus Unum while we’re at it. Try a new slogan in English: “Never Give A Sucker An Even Break.”

A sucker is born every minute. You see the suckers every time you walk into a convenience store and have to wait in line behind some fool who requires five minutes to complete his lottery-ticket purchase: “OK, give seven of the Pick Three and five Powerballs . . . yeah, right, now give me six each of Lucky Lady, Pot O’ Gold . . .”

The 401(k) Lotto
You’re reading a blog post about economics and financial regulation, so when you find yourself in that all-too-familiar convenience-store scenario, you almost certainly look down your college-educated nose at the poor idiot throwing away money on lotto tickets.

So, tell me, how’s your 401(K) been performing the past couple of year, Mr. Smart Guy? And how much cash-in-hand would you walk away with, if you had to sell your house tomorrow?

If you’re one of those whiny pukes who wants Uncle Sugar to fix the economy so that you don’t ever suffer a loss on your investments, so that you’re guaranteed permanent employment and health care and retirement security, I despise you far more than you despise that chump buying $37 worth of lotto tickets and a pack of Newports. At least those Newports are worth something, compared to a lot of mortgages brokered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

My idea of “financial reform” is to pull the plug on this bailout/stimulus/regulation/subsidy racket and let some overprivileged Smart Guys get first-hand experience in the virtuous poverty they’re always admiring from a safe distance.

Given the record of previous Democratic administrations, I’d say it’s an even bet that Tim Geithner goes from Treasury secretary to federal prison inmate, so maybe when he gets out of Leavenworth . . .

Well, he’ll sure have a new perspective on the barter value of a pack of Newports, won’t he?

* * * * *

(Get daily financial and economic news updates at NTCNews.com. And hit the tip jar, you swine.)

June 18, 2009

Riehlism vs. Conorism

Since I’m going to be out and about in D.C. today, trying to see if I can’t stir the pot on IG-Gate, you’re going to need something to read. The Camp of the Saints has some good stuff on IG-Gate, but once you’ve read all that, what then?

How about Dan Riehl busting on Conor Friedersdorf? Not enough? How about Dan Riehl busting some more on Conor Friedersdorf? Heck, just go over to Dan’s blog and keep refreshing throughout the day, and he’s liable to bust Conor two or three times again before lunch.

Conservatism? More like masochism.

Frankly, I’m starting to regret blogging about Conor yesterday. Dan and I were talking on the phone yesterday and I said it was like Godfather III: Everytime you try to get out, Conor pulls you back in. If you didn’t more or less force yourself to ignore him, you’d never find time to blog any actual news.

June 18, 2009

How’s the weather in Sacramento?

It rained last night in D.C., where lots of reporters are taking an interest in the AmeriCorps story:

The Obama administration’s dismissal of the inspector general for the AmeriCorps federal “volunteer” program has all the makings of a classic Beltway “cover-up” scandal. Not even the sycophantic White House press corps will be able to ignore this story for long.
Washington is a six-newspaper town nowadays — in addition to The Washington Post and The Washington Times, there’s also Roll Call, The Hill, Politico and the Washington Examiner. . . .

You can read the rest. Blogging will be light today, as I plan to be running around Washington, hoping to meet with some friends who work on Capitol Hill. And who knows what else might turn up?

With so many Washington journalists interested in this case, how long before one of them books a flight westward and starts filing stories with a Sacramento dateline? . . . One way or another, this story could take a long, long time to play out. They say the weather in Sacramento is lovely in June.

And you can read the rest of that, too. Anything can happen . . . uh, sources say.

UPDATE: Sen. Chuck Grassley is asking important questions, and the Prowler is on the loose:

It has not gone unnoticed among some Republicans on Capitol Hill that First Lady Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, Jackie Norris, recently stepped down from her White House position to become head of the Corporation for National and Community Service. According to White House sources, Norris and Obama have already discussed how AmeriCorps could fit into the First Lady’s volunteerism projects.
According to White House sources, Norris’s shift to the CNCS was discussed not only with the First Lady, but also with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. . . .
“You look at what the CNCS is funding over there: a ‘Social Investment Fund,’ which over the next five years is going to hand out almost a half a billion dollars to young people who start up community activist organizations,” says a Senate Republican aide. “Who the hell is going to be monitoring that kind of underwriting? Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff? Emanuel? I don’t think so.” . . .

Hmmmmmm.

June 18, 2009

Strangely, not Iowahawk or Scrappleface

by Smitty

No, “PETA wishes Obama hadn’t swatted that fly”.

PETA is sending President Barack Obama a Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher, a device that allows users to trap a house fly and then release it outside.
“We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals,” PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said Wednesday. “We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals.”

Additionally, they recommend the President curtail all overnight excursions from the White House between August and November, so that he doesn’t accidentally step on insects of sprouting seeds in the night while, say, taking in a Broadway show[1].

[1] Point of clarification: the joke points out a silly recommendation that PETA might offer, and is not to diminish anyone’s pursuit of holiness as such. If a Buddhist reader wishes to engage in a positive discussion about life, the universe, and everything, then bring it on, please.

June 18, 2009

Sen. Grassley wants more answers

Grassley’s not backing down on IG-Gate, and ABC News has the letter (PDF):

Gregory B. Craig
Counsel to the President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. Craig:
This morning my staff met with Norman Eisen regarding the removal of Gerald Walpin as the Inspector General at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Late on the evening of June 16, 2009, my office received a copy of Mr. Eisen’s letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. I appreciate this effort to address the concerns of Congress that the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 be complied with, and I appreciate Mr. Eisen’s time in coming to my office to discuss these issues more fully in person. His letter set forth the reasons for Mr. Walpin’s dismissal for the first time. Mr. Eisen said he conducted “an extensive review” at the request of the CNCS Board on or about May 20, 2009. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Eisen refused to answer several direct questions posed to him about the representations made in his letter. Since he was unwilling to answer them in person, please provide answers to the following questions in writing:
1) Did the CNCS Board communicate its concerns about Mr. Walpin to the White House in writing?
2) Specifically, which CNCS Board members came forward with concerns about Mr. Walpin’s ability to serve as the Inspector General?
3) Was the communication about the Board’s concerns on or about May 20, 2009 the first instance of any communications with White House personnel regarding the possibility of removing Mr. Walpin?
4) Which witnesses were interviewed in the course of Mr. Eisen’s review?
5) How many witnesses were interviewed?
6) Were any employees of the Office of Inspector General, who may have had more frequent contact with Mr. Walpin than the Board members, interviewed?
7) Was Mr. Walpin asked directly during Mr. Eisen’s review about the events of May 20, 2009?
8) Was Mr. Walpin asked for his response to the allegations submitted to the Integrity Committee by Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown?
9) What efforts were made during Mr. Eisen’s review to obtain both sides of the story or to afford the Office of Inspector General an opportunity to be heard?
10) In addition to the claim that Mr. Walpin was “confused” and “disoriented,” the letter also says he exhibited “other behavior” that led to questions about his capacity. What other behavior was Mr. Eisen referencing?
11) If the initial and primary concern had to do with Mr. Walpin’s capacity to serve for potential health reasons, why was he only given one hour to decide whether to resign or be fired?
12) If Mr. Walpin’s telecommuting arrangements since the beginning of this year were a major concern, then why was Mr. Walpin not simply asked to stop telecommuting?
Thank you in advance for your assistance and I would appreciate receiving a response to this inquiry by June 24, 2009. . . .

Oooh, this is getting interesting . . .

June 18, 2009

WSJ is edited by Visigoths

by Smitty

…or so claims Gary Kamiya in Salon in a piece entitled “Night of the living neocons“. As this is a full-service blog, I’ve tried to render the first paragraph into a table, so that the reader might locate the nouns.

NOUN CONTENT
neoconservatives Like Rasputin, the unhinged “Mad Monk” whom they sometimes seem to have adopted as an intellectual role model, the neoconservatives who brought us the Iraq war refuse to die.
they Although they have been figuratively stabbed, poisoned, shot, garroted and drowned, they somehow keep standing, still insisting that history will vindicate George W. Bush’s glorious crusade.
conservatives In a world governed by the Victorian moral code conservatives claim to uphold, they would be shunned, shamed and forbidden to appear on television or write Op-Ed columns.
disgraced pundits But because Beltway decorum apparently requires that disgraced pundits be given a permanent platform to bray their discredited theories, the rest of us are condemned to listen to their ravings.

This post’s title comes from the second paragraph. I’ll highlight it amidst the effluent:

In a piece titled “Obama’s Iran Abdication,” the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, that bastion of unreconstructed neocon lunacy, attacked Obama for not supporting the Iranian protesters more vigorously and derided his “now-familiar moral equivalence” in citing the 1953 CIA-backed coup that toppled Iranian leader Mohammad Mossadegh. In an Op-Ed two days earlier, the paper’s Visigothic editors, who have been calling for the U.S. to bomb Iran for years, took the opportunity to climb into the Wayback Machine to pay homage to one of George W. Bush’s greatest hits. “It turns out that the ‘axis of evil’ really is evil — and not, as liberal sages would have it, merely misunderstood,” sneered the editors, suggesting that the crackdown should make Obama rethink trying to strike a grand nuclear bargain with Iran.

Recalls that old lawyer saying “if your side has the law, then argue the law; if your side has the facts, argue the facts; and if your side has neither the facts nor the law — pound the table!”
After the pyrotechnics, the article does offer some useful links.
The Senator McCain interview for the Washington Times covers a wide range of topics, in addition to Iran. The next bit is cute, too:

Neocon stalwart Danielle Pletka also made a not-so-subtle attempt to use the turmoil in Iran to justify Bush’s invasion of Iraq. In a piece in the New York Times, she and fellow American Enterprise Institute pundit Ali Alfoneh wrote, “Encircled by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, besieged from within by disgruntled citizens, the supreme leader has turned to a bellicose strongman to preserve the system that elevated him.” Earth to Pletka: George W. Bush is not president anymore, and even if he still was, the U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are not going to attack Iran. It would be more accurate to say that the soon-to-depart U.S. troops in Iraq are encircled by Iranian forces than the other way around.

Mr. Kamiya sir, there is no mention of Bush in the editorial. Stating the fact that US troops are present to the East and West of Iran is by no means an apology for Bush policy. Since you bring up Iraq, you might also care to research the Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder Iran’s Involvement in Iraq. Tidbits such as

[in 2007] President Bush said the United States had evidence of Tehran supplying “material support,” including mortars and elements of sophisticated roadside bombs, to insurgents in Iraq who in turn target and kill U.S. forces. Bush promised to respond firmly if Iran extended its influence in Iraq and vowed to “seek out and destroy” weapons-supply networks used by Iranian agents.

are extremely useful in developing an even-handed view of the situation. Granted, moving beyond the Romero-centric weltanschauung does require effort.
Kagan, who’s at least got some credentials to his credit, gets special attention from Kamiya, a “writer at large” for a WaPo editorial that makes the flattering case that BHO is playing a realist foreign policy hand. Kagan’s verdict could have been a more overt slap, like Victor Davis Hanson calling the situation shameful, for example.
Of course Kamiya returns to the ritual Beating Around the Bush that you could expect from Salon.

But this paragraph is especially funny:

It should be amply clear by now that America’s ability to influence events in the Middle East is severely limited. Indeed, as the Bush years showed, U.S. actions in the region tend to result in the exact opposite of their intended consequences.

Yes, that Bush speech in Cairo that triggered the outburst of peaceful elections was particularly memorable, no?
We are assured that the good POTUS’s “foreign policy is still evolving, but it is becoming clear that he is pursuing what Robert Wright has called progressive realism.” <cheap shot>Basically a copy of this essay positioned at Foggy Bottom for easy reference.</cheap shot>
Kamiya’s penultimate paragraph strikes an optimistic note:

[Obama’s] approach has already borne fruit. The success of the March 14 Alliance in Lebanon, a major victory for the U.S., is widely attributed to the “Obama effect.” Just one month of U.S. pressure induced Israel’s far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to utter the magic words “Palestinian state.” And most critically, as David Ignatius noted in an important column in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Obama’s openness to the Muslim world and more sophisticated presentation of America has empowered the reformers in Iran and throughout the Arab/Muslim world, and diminished the appeal of militant jihadism.

It’s about time the region had some peace. Should BHO affect the situation positively, it would be peevish not to acknowledge such. One truly hopes Kamiya is not counting his chickens like Ahmadinejad counts his votes.

June 18, 2009

He’s no Tucker Carlson, but . . .

. . . Dan Collins has managed to figure out Blogspot sufficiently well to create Piece of Work in Progress, his own independent blog, where he can link us as often as he wants (which had better be every freaking day).

Was Dan’s parting with Protein Wisdom amicable? Or was it one of those some-bastard’s-gonna-get-his-car-keyed situations that make sensible men think twice before dating any woman who lives in a trailer park? Down home, we never heard of a “friendly divorce.” No divorce in Georgia is final until somebody’s in the emergency room or under a restraining order.

Inquiring minds don’t want to know. Why not? Because Jeff Goldstein might lay some mind-blowing intentionality on you, and that could take years of therapy to overcome, like when you were nine years old and walked in on Aunt Nelda and Uncle Bert in flagrante delicto. So we’ll just let bygones be bygones and tiptoe around like Senator Ensign’s press secretary . . .

WTF? Where did that bizarre gonzo tangent come from? Never mind. The point is, Dan’s blogging at POWIP now, which means I’m going to have to update that eternally out-of-date blogroll again. Thanks a lot, Dan. Maybe by Tuesday . . .

Rave reviews from Jules Crittenden, and we endorse homeboy Kim Crawford’s excellent suggestion:

I strongly urge you to go leave an inappropriate comment. Something David Brooks or Andrew Sullivan would say. Or, alternatively, I feel the use of the word “cooter” in polite discourse is becoming a lost art.

The word “poontang” has also sadly fallen into disuse, although who knows what tomorrow may bring?

June 18, 2009

Glenn Beck: I got a letter from a woman in Arizona

by Smitty (h/t Nice Deb)

Full transcript is here. There is a related petition to the national leadership, but it appears to have been slashdotted. This is Beck reading a letter from a 53 year old grandmother in Arizona. The interaction of her words and Beck’s dramatic style is formidable:

The video cuts off in the last paragraph, which is a bummer:

Democrat, Republican, independent, libertarian. Understand this. We don’t care. Political parties are meaningless to us. Patriotic Americans are willing to do right by us and our Constitution and that is all that matters to us now. We are going to fire all of you who abuse power and seek more. It is not your power. It is ours and we want it back. We entrusted you with it and you abused it. You are dishonorable. You are dishonest. As Americans we are ashamed of you. You have brought shame to us. If you are not representing the wants and needs of your constituency loudly and consistently, in spite of the objections of your party, you will be fired. Did you hear? We no longer care about your political parties. You need to be loyal to us, not to them. Because we will get you fired and they will not save you. If you do or can represent me, my issues, my views, please stand up. Make your identity known. You need to make some noise about it. Speak up. I need to know who you are. If you do not speak up, you will be herded out with the rest of the sheep and we will replace the whole damn congress if need be one by one. We are coming. Are we coming for you? Who do you represent? What do you represent? Listen. Because we are coming. We the people are coming.

Stay indignant, people. Keep reading the blogs. Buy and read the books you see linked on them. For me personally, an ambivalent Bush supporter most of this decade, Liberal Fascism was the watershed event. Studying some history is crucial: ignorance is weakness. If you don’t do the homework, that’s a sin of omission, and it will be counted against you.
Are you sending email to your Congresscritters? Inflate their inboxes, as they inflate our currency. Let “We the People” be the Patton, and the Congresscritters be our troops.

June 18, 2009

‘Uh, honey, about that Speedo . . .’

No, that’s just a joke. Just because you swing a big bat doesn’t make you a Hall of Famer, and I was strictly an amateur. Not so with young Jason, who neglected to inform his bride-to-be about his major-league past:

“There was no way I could marry an adult film star . . . I don’t know if I will ever be able to trust a man again.”

Well, ma’am:

  • Never trust a man to begin with; and
  • If he’s got UDSA Prime beef folks will pay just to see, be happy to ride the bull for free.

(Via JammieWearing Fool.)