Sunday, December 27, 2009

Kevin's Back

Maureen Dowd's latest column is a hoot.  She let her conservative brother Kevin write it.  Here's the link.  Best line is near the end.  "To the Democratic senators: Go last next time; the bribes are much bigger."  I like this guy.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My E-mail to Senator Carper

I sent my Democratic senators e-mails to express my feelings about their support for the Health Care cloture vote. Here's the one I sent to Senator Carper. The one to Senator Kaufman was the same except for the different election date and an acknowlegement that it wouldn't be him running in 2010 since he was only appointed as a placeholder for Joe Biden's son Bo. I'd like to encourage all of you to make phone calls and write letters of your own. It may not have much practical value, but it might make you feel better. Here is the contact information:

E-Mail Senator Carper Phone: (302) 674-3308

E-Mail Senator Kaufman Phone: (302) 573-6345 or (302) 424-8090

I am following up on my phone call to your office this evening with this e-mail to express my outrage at your support for this health care monstrosity. I am not writing to complain that you failed to hold out for a large enough bribe. That element in this story simply emphasizes how tawdry a business you are engaged in. The fact that such bribery was necessary to pass this bill speaks volumes about what terrible policy this is for our country. Your support of it just because you are a Democrat is despicable. I won't waste the bandwidth asking you to vote against the final bill. I know I'd be wasting my time. Just know that in the words of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto after Pearl Harbor, you have " awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve." I will donate my money and my time to work for your defeat in 2012. I believe you will one day not simply regret this vote, but you will be ashamed of it.

Jess McVay

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Crisis

As I sit down to write this post, the headline on the Fox News website is declaring that Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson has agreed to support the Senate Democrats' Health Care Reform bill. He was finally coaxed to sell out for his 30 pieces of silver, just like Mary Landrieu before him. She set the bar pretty high with a $300 million bribe for Louisiana. I wonder if Nebraska did as well. Our tax dollars at work! This brings the Dems to sixty votes, the number required to defeat a Republican filibuster, and send the bill to conference committee with the House. Not a done deal yet, but one more step on the way to a legislative trainwreck of historic proportions. So you can imagine, I'm feeling a little depressed right now.

But I don't intend to wallow in despair for too long. I'd like to share a brief story with you. Last Wednesday night I attended a meeting of the 912 Delaware Patriots. Its one of those Tea Party organizations that have sprung up all over the country. We're mostly a bunch of gray or graying conservative citizens who love our country and are shocked by this juggernaut barreling down on us since the November election. I suspect the most common phrase you'd hear from this bunch would be, "I'm not usually very political but...". You get the idea. We feel like we have to take action to save this country from Barack Obama's vision of Entitlement America. At the end of last Wednesday's meeting, the founder of the group, Russ Murphy, got up and made some short closing remarks.

He said that Christmas was approaching, and this would be our last meeting until the new year. There are a lot of serious issues before us, and it might be easy to get discouraged, but he wasn't going to give up. Then he reminded us of another Christmas season 233 years ago. In December of 1776, the Continental Army was all but defeated. In August of 1776, they had lost the Battle of Brooklyn and had been forced to abandon New York City. They had been in retreat across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. Ninety percent of the army that was present in Manhattan was now gone. Many had lost faith in their prospects for success and had deserted. Many more were reaching the end of their enlistment and would soon be gone. Winter was upon them. Morale was low. America's revolution was on the brink of failure. In an attempt to bolster morale and end the year with a victory, George Washington, who was Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, devised a plan to attack the Hessians at Trenton on Christmas night. Two days before that fateful battle, in an attempt to raise the spirits and strengthen the resolve of his army, Washington had the text of Thomas Paine's pamphlet, The Crisis, read to his men. Russ Murphy read the first few lines to our group last Wednesday night. It begins:

These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value." Thomas Paine, The Crisis

Washington won his victory, and though the numbers were small and the strategic value limited, this minor triumph has gone down in history as a turning point of the Revolutionary War.

Today, we are engaged in another conflict, not with armies this time, but still, as then, with ideas. We don't deceive ourselves that our sacrifice compares in any way to theirs. But as they served their country then, let us not shrink from our duty to serve it now. Let us live up to the example that they set for us. Stay in the fight. Don't be discouraged. Let every battle we lose make us even more determined to succeed in those that are to come. They fought for their children and their grandchildren. Are our children and grandchildren any less important? November 2010 is less than a year away. I am dedicating myself to the goal of taking my country back. I want you to join me in this effort. A recent 912 Delaware Patriots newsletter included a slogan that I am adopting as my personal motto. "I am not just one person. I am one more."


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Obama Channels Clinton in Oslo

Maybe you heard that our president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a few months ago. It made all the papers. The decision was quite shocking at the time and a bit difficult to understand. The late night talk shows had a field day with the news. Conan O'Brien had one of the best bits. Seems no one could figure out what the president had done to deserve such an "honor". I use the word "honor" while biting my tongue in light of the fact that scumbags like Yasser Arafat and crooks like UN Secretary General Kofi Annan have been similarly "honored". Snake oil salesman Al Gore got a Nobel Prize too. So did the worst American president in recent history (until now) Jimmy Carter. Mikhail Gorbachev got his for helping to end the Cold War. Ronald Reagan was somehow overlooked by the Nobel Committee. In the end, the consensus was that Obama won the award for making really awesome speeches and not being George W. Bush.

Well, this week the president went to Norway to collect his award and grace the committee with a characteristically awesome speech. Unfortunately, the president disappointed the crowd in Oslo. But conservative politicians and journalists back home had mostly nice things to say about the speech. What's up with that? The president apparently was seen to have dissed the Norwegians in general and the Nobel Committee in particular. There is this from Britain's The Guardian:

The White House has cancelled many of the events peace prize laureates traditionally submit to, including a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee, a press conference, a television interview, appearances at a children's event promoting peace and a music concert, as well as a visit to an exhibition in his honour at the Nobel peace centre. He has also turned down a lunch invitation from the King of Norway.

The Norwegians felt snubbed by Mr. Obama. And as far as the speech itself was concerned, I guess you could say it fell short of the Nobel clan's expectations. I haven't listened to the speech myself. I can't stand to hear Mr. Obama pontificate. I find myself shouting at the TV ala Joe Wilson. So I read the transcript. You can read a transcript of the speech here. I read about 3/4 of it before I gave up, but it seemed pretty good to me. I had no problem picturing George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan delivering the same speech. Maybe that is why so many conservatives praised the president. People like Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Bill Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer gave the president high marks with perhaps a few small caveats. And I can see how they could be favorably impressed. Here a few short excerpts that you may have seen or heard:

For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

Yet the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions - not just treaties and declarations - that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.

I - like any head of state - reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation.

I understand why war is not popular. But I also know this: the belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it.

Great stuff. Fantastic speech. In your face Nobel Committee! I'd even believe he meant it if it was anyone besides Barack Obama. But this is just too out of character for the president I have come to know. I don't like this guy. I don't trust this guy. I wouldn't waste my spit on this guy if he was on fire. To paraphrase the old lawyer joke, I can tell he's lying because his lips are moving. Now that I've established my credentials as a less than objective observer, let me tell you what I really think.

First of all, calm down all you liberals out there. A lot of liberals have been getting very upset lately. They've been wringing their hands about the president's Afghanistan decision, and now he's off in a foreign country praising America instead of apologizing for us. There, there. Don't worry. He doesn't really mean it. This is political theater in my opinion. He's taken a page out of President Clinton's playbook. This was Barack Obama's Sister Souljah Moment.

Sister Souljah was a black hip hop MC and activist who had made several racist remarks against white people. Speaking at a meeting of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition at which Sister Souljah was also scheduled to speak, Bill Clinton repudiated her remarks and compared her language to that of white supremacist and former klansman David Duke. The incident was seen by some as a courageous and principled act by Mr. Clinton, but by others as a transparent and shameless attempt to gain favor with moderate voters by distancing himself from Jesse Jackson and Souljah.

Mr. Obama has a problem with mainstream Americans. Conservatives have never liked him. Moderates and independents helped get him elected, but are falling away in droves according to recent polling. I believe this Nobel speech was a bit of political gimmickry to court moderate voters. He gave a speech that sounded like it was written for Ronald Reagan. Never mind that he doesn't mean it. It's just a speech. It's not as if he's making any commitments to any real policy. And while he's at it, he kicked a little sand in the face of the Norwegians. No harm done there. It's not as if he needs anything from them. He can afford to insult them. It costs him very little, but some of the folks back home love it. The Norwegians are a nice enough lot, but to some Americans, they're just another ultra liberal Scandinavian social democracy thriving under the umbrella of protection that our defense spending provides, all the while lecturing us on how to become properly civilized. The Danes have Hans Christian Anderson, the Swedes have Abba and a reputation for sexual freedom. All the Norwegians have is the Nobel Committee with its penchant for awarding Peace Prizes to crooks, tyrants and conmen. In that regard, they're a little more arrogant than they've got any right to be. Many Americans don't mind seeing them get their comeuppance.

So three cheers for Barack Obama. He showed them I guess. He delivers a characteristically great speech. It was written to please a conservative, patriotic audience. But it's just a speech. We know he's good at that. That's essentially why he was getting the Nobel in the first place. Then to compound the effect, he slights his hosts to the delight of the same conservative crowd. He gains the kudos from conservatives at home, sacrifices a little good will from the Norwegians (who cares), and he does one more thing. Remember all the ridicule he endured for having been awarded the Nobel without any accomplishment? He successfully deflects the criticism that would naturally have ensued had he not upstaged himself with an uncharacteristically pro American speech. So congratulations Mr. President. It was a win-win-win performance. But I believe a performance was all it was.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Check Out The Liberty Dial

 I came across a video on YouTube which was posted , and I presume produced by, a blogger at  The subject of the video is the Liberty Dial, a better way to view the political spectrum.  Instead of simply differentiating between Conservatives on the right, and Liberals or Progressives on the left, the Liberty Dial places the different political philosophies on a circle, with the extremes of both left and right, ie. Communism and Fascism, meeting at the bottom.  This recognizes that they are both really just different variations of the same theme: Statism.  At the top of the dial is Liberty.  As the author acknowledges, total liberty would be chaos or anarchy.  The philosophy that we call Conservative, or Libertarian, would go just to the left of total liberty.  Then come the Moderates, the Liberals, and then, as we approach the Statist bottom of the dial,  the 111th Congress.  I think this is such an elegant description of the relative positions of our political philosophies, that I wanted to share it with as many people as possible.  Please watch the short video below, and then visit the website to read his own discussion of his concept.  While you're there, check out the prior article about the D-Day Memorial in Virginia.  Its quite impressive as well.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thank You Jon Stewart: Public Servant

The headline on the Foxnews website declares, "Fake News Show is Covering Climate-Gate, But Not 'Real' News Shows?  No Joke."  The article goes on to describe how Jon Stewart of The Daily Show on Comedy Central is covering this remarkable revelation about tainted science providing what has been the basis for the theory of global warming.  The mainstream media (MSM), on the other hand; ABC, CBS, and NBC are ignoring the story.  I described the fundamentals of this scandal in an earlier blogpost.  Since that time, Phil Jones,  the director of the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University has stepped down , pending an investigation, due to his implication in this funny business.   The Daily Show narrative is a masterpiece.  Jon Stewart proves, once again, that humor, sarcasm, irony and wit are often the most effective way to tell an important story.  See for yourself in this short clip.
Dec 11 update: YouTube clip got deleted. Replaced by new source: Comedy Central. Best part begins at 2:20 min into clip

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It is a travesty that the mainstream media is ignoring this story. Their political bias is exposed for all to see when they attempt what amounts to a cover up of this huge revelation in the climate change debate. Foxnews, The Wall Street Journal, talk radio, and lots of web based outlets have covered the story. And now even Comedy Central has scooped the MSM. Hello major networks. Anybody home in the news divisions?

Fortunately for the cause of truth, President Obama will be attending the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this month. I can't believe he's still going. What's he likely to accomplish besides stepping in a big pile of doo doo?  Its widely acknowledged that they will not achieve any of the forum's goals. The conference will be a failure, thankfully, and Obama will get his share of the blame for another slapdown in Copenhagen. It sounds pretty much like a win-win to me. And in the process, the media will be forced to focus more attention on the new controversy surrounding the climate change hoax. The president is really giving us a gift here. How dumb can this guy be?


Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Secret Service Is On The Job

Many of you have seen this photo in the news in the past few days.  Apparently this past Tuesday a Virginia couple , Michaele and Tareq Salahi, crashed President Obama's state dinner  honoring the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  The Secret Service was quite embarassed by the breach of security.  Here is the image in question showing the couple in a photo op with Vice President Joe Biden.

 But it seems there was at least one other unauthorized couple present at the party who were definitely not on the guest list.   As far as security breaches go, this one looks to be just a little further up the food chain.

 In the famous words of Ricky Ricardo,  "Lucy, you got some splainin' to do!!"


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Jewish Dilemma

There is a short editorial in the Wall Street Journal about congressional liberal David Obey who wants to propose an Afghan War surtax as a means of funding the conflict.  On the face of it, paying for the war rather than deficit spending to fund it is a better option.  I'm sure that conservatives in favor of the war would prefer to get the money from another program to keep it budget neutral rather than raise taxes, but that's just a bit of nuance these days.  However, this does pose a problem for Republicans.  Most want to prosecute the war with vigor, but will they raise taxes to do it?  That's obviously contrary to their instincts.  I'm sure that's why Mr.Obey is suggesting it; to put the Republicans in an uncomfortable box.  Kind of like Charlie Rangel proposing a draft a few years ago to try to damp down America's appetite for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I look for the administration to pick up on Obey's proposal.  Maybe as part of Obama's speech to the nation on 1 December to discuss his decision regarding troop requests.  What better way for Obama to weasel out of his commitment to fight the "necessary war" than to responsibly offer to pay for it.  Typical passive aggressive behavior.  "What's that America?  You don't want your taxes raised?  OK, well never mind.  I was willing to fight this war, but if you aren't in favor of that, I'll bow to the will of the people," our Dear Leader will say.  Poor Republicans will be in a bit of a pickle.  Reminds me of the old joke about the Jewish dilemma:  Free ham.


Up Time

Something Huge in Climate Change

 Something huge is developing in the climate change controversy.  Earlier this month someone hacked into the computer server at the Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of Britain's University of East Anglia.  They took e-mail files and other data going back over a decade that show that leading climate scientists in Britain and the US manipulated and suppressed data in an effort to exagerate their claims of man-made global warming.  The emails also show a concerted smear campaign against scientists who are global warming skeptics along with efforts to block their research from publication in the scientific literature.  The e-mails and data hacked had long been sought from the CRU under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, but the CRU had been stonewalling on the release.  There is speculation that the hacker may have been an insider acting as a whistle blower.

The skeptic community has focused so far on e-mails and data that show that the research published in the late 90's, and featured in Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth" showing a sharp rise in global temperatures in the 20th century, the so called "hockey stick", was the result of data manipulation.  One reviewer has been quoted as saying, "This isn't just a smoking gun; it's a mushroom cloud."  I'd have to agree.  I'm not sure what kind of coverage this has gotten in the mainstream press yet.  I know there were at least a couple of articles in the New York Times about it, but the quality of those articles were somewhat disparaged by the author of the article that I am linking to below.  I found a few FoxNews clips referencing the scandal, and they are quite good.  I think Glenn Beck may have run a short segment on this on his show yesterday, but I'm not sure.  Its funny.  I was listening to him yesterday on-line on a different matter.  The video was running in the background while I was reading something else.  I think I remember him speaking about this issue last night.  I can't believe I paid no attention to it.  I had just finished writing yesterday's somewhat tongue in cheek blogpost about continental drift replacing global warming as the new cause du jour now that global warming was seeing more criticism in the press.  At the time I wrote that, I had no idea that this other scandal was taking shape.  And I am amazed that I failed to take note of the significance of Glenn Beck's comments on the video.  Anyway, as I said at the beginning of this post, I think this is huge.  I seriously believe this could turn out to be the scandal of the decade.  Watch these videos first.  Its the easiest way to get the summary.  Then read the article linked below.  Its well written if a little complex, but with a couple of readings and a check of the further links in that article, you will be up to speed on what I think is going to be a blockbuster of a story.  And it looks like FoxNews may lead the way once again.  I'll be watching the mainstream media to see if they are as slow to pick up on this story as they were on the ACORN or Van Jones stories.

And here is a link to Robert Tracinski's article at Real Clear Politics


Monday, November 23, 2009

In-State Tuition for Illegals?

My son sent me this article this morning.  It is an editorial from the Boston Globe entitled "Where Conservatives Have It Wrong".  It expresses an opinion in favor of offering in state tuition rates to illegal immigrants residing in Massachusetts.  Here is the response I sent him:

Dear Will:

Wow!! That was a close one.  For a minute there, I thought we were about to agree on something.  Well close, but no cigar.  I saw the title of this article and thought it might say something I'd agree with.  Nope.  Didn't happen.  There was a little bit of common ground, but not much.  I believe that most illegal immigrants are here to work and make a better life for themselves and their families.   That part I agree with, and I have no problem with just live and let live.  They are to be admired for that.  I don't think they should be hunted down and deported or harassed.  I don't believe that their employers should be harassed.  But neither do I believe they should be offered legal status, or citizenship, or a path to citizenship, or any privileges of citizenship such as in state tuition rates.  I'm an American citizen, and I pay out of state tuition for my daughter in Pennsylvania.  Should an illegal immigrant get better treatment than I do in my own country?  Not on your life.  I believe the proper approach to immigration should be strict control at the borders, by a fence if necessary;  reasoned decisions on who should be  allowed to come here and for what reasons.  If allowing them in is to our advantage, then welcome to America.  If not, then better not cross that line amigo.  If they're here already and not breaking the law, then just ignore them.  Let them stay in limbo legally speaking.  If they don't like that, then they should go home.  And what a clever way the author of this article framed his argument.  The illegal in question was eighteen years old and had been in this country since just after she was born outside the USA.  Completely assimilated in every way.  What about the eighteen year old who has been here for one year?  How about five years?  Ten years?  Is the policy different in those cases?  If not, then maybe the author's real agenda is to push for all illegals to receive all rights and privileges no matter what, and this is just a sleazy way to make a disingenuous argument.  If he does support a time limit, then what kind of limit?  Not such an easy decision now is it?  Maybe they should all be entitled to attend school, but get no special treatment as per tuition rates.  Is that really so unfair? If so, do I have the same argument to make with the state of Pennsylvania.  And let's not kid ourselves that illegals pose no cost to America, or that they all pay their taxes and social security assessments.  I don't know the statistics on this, nor would I necessarily believe anyone who told me that they did.  But how many illegals are on welfare, collect food stamps, or burden our schools and emergency rooms with extra costs?  How many actually pay their taxes as opposed to working under the table in the gray economy.  I'm not advocating denying them critical health care or vital services.  But I'm not willing to ignore the costs they impose on me and my fellow taxpayers either.  This article does not convince me that I'm just a mean, nasty, xenophobic, racist, white Republican.  But I'm pretty sure that was the intention of the author.  All I've got to say to him is, "Nice try pal.  Better luck next time."   There was a time when I might have been more receptive to the argument.  But that was a year ago before every politician on earth started pissin' on my shoes and tellin' me it was raining.  Someone once said that a liberal was someone who was so open minded that he wouldn't take his own side in an argument.  If I ever was that guy, I'm sure as hell not that guy now.  I'm happy to exchange opinions with anybody and consider the other guy's point of view.  But I'm way past the point where I'm willing to suffer a fool gladly.  I've read the argument, considered its merits, and found it wanting. 

Nice to hear from you. Let's do this more often.


Move Over Global Warming

With every passing day we are seeing more and more evidence that the concept of global warming is a fallacy.  Apparently, the planet is not cooperating with the pinhead scientists' computer models and has failed to continue to warm over the past 10-11 years as the models had predicted.  I guess the planet didn't get the memo from Greenpeace.  The upcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen next month will produce nothing at all, much to the chagrin of our Dear Leader Mr. Obama.  We may have reached a tipping point where even the liberal media is starting to ask questions about the climate change orthodoxy.  Its almost as if they forgot that its all settled science.  The debate was supposed to be over guys.  What's with the inconvenient questions?  Hey, maybe that would be a good title for Al Gore's next movie, huh?  The climate change fraud has been debunked.  Maybe we need a new scam to take its place.  Perhaps its time for the tree huggers to find a new global bogeyman.  Fortunately for them, I have just the thing.  Continental Drift.  Think about it.  Its perfect.  It actually has the advantage of already being settled science.  Most people these days already believe that the continents are drifting apart.  There's a tremendous body of scientific literature on plate tectonics.  And it comes complete with a huge catalog of really scary scientific terms, like rift valley, subduction zone, continental collision, and my personal favorite, Ring of Fire.  The big idea guys at Save the Planet Inc. should be able to come up with all kinds of stuff to scare the bejesus out of Joe Bagodonuts who doesn't know any better. 

So here's the deal.  We get some schmo professor in the geology department of some third rate university to publish a paper citing some really obscure and unverifiable data showing that the rate of continental drift in the southern hemisphere has been increasing at an alarming rate over the past several years.  We have to be sure to use the word alarming over and over again, and always in italics.  Ooh, ooh, here's an even better idea.  We get some schmo professor in the geology department at Harvard to publish the paper.  That'll really impress the liberal wingnuts, and those Harvard professors are even dumber than your typical university faculty member.  Plus they'll say, do, or publish just about anything you tell 'em as long as it lends support to the cause.  The paper will say that the rate of continental drift has increased from 10-40 mm per year, the rate at which fingernails grow, to an alarming 160 mm per year, the rate at which hair grows.  The paper will cite statistics and provide really complicated graphs that purport to show that this alarming increase in continental drift is positively correlated with rising numbers of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and deadly monsoons in the southern hemisphere.  I know that monsoons doesn't really fit, geologically speaking, but disasters always sound scarier in threes, so I included monsoons.  Besides, including weather phenomena will bring over some of the global warming lunatics who aren't quite ready to give up their old religion yet in exchange for the new one.  Now it goes without saying that all this mayhem is accompanied by tremendous loss of life.  The bogus statistics on third world disaster death tolls should be the easiest to fabricate.  After all, nobody pays much attention to that stuff anyway.  The final conclusion of the paper has to confront the alarming reality, that unless something is done immediately and at tremendous expense, half the population of the planet faces certain extermination from the ravages of runaway continental drift.  Or something like that.  This would be a good opportunity to play up the "Ring of Fire" analogy.  Great potential visuals ya know?  Finally, we need to blame this fabrication we've created on something.  We can't blame it on CO2 emissions, or DDT, or CFC's and ozone depletion 'cause we've already used those, and someone might get wise.  We can blame it on overfishing in the southern oceans or industrial pollution from developing Brazil, or deep water drilling off the coast of Africa.  Ooh, deep water drilling!  That's a good one.  It even sounds vaguely plausible.  And it'll give us one more chance to sock it to Big Oil.  The Birkenstock crowd will love that.  Bottom line:  It doesn't matter what we blame it on as long as we can sell it.  How hard can that be?  Al Gore convinced Blue State America that Hurricane Katrina was caused by too many coal fired power plants and neglecting to switch off the lights when they leave the room.  As long as you include disadvantaged minorities and an appeal to white guilt in the sales pitch, you can sell anything to a liberal. 

Coming up with a new problem is one thing.  Selling the solution is where the real skill comes into play.  The solution will have to be something that will appeal to the anti-globalization crowd.  Let's face it.  They're the ones who are really driving all the climate change mumbo jumbo.  Well, them and the Democrats looking for a new excuse to raise our taxes.  Think Cap and Trade.  To appeal to the anti globalists, the solution has to be something that offers the greatest advantages to the third world while imposing the greatest burdens on the industrialized world.  Its got to be good enough to encourage them to forsake the cause of Climate Change and hitch their horse to the wagon of Continental Drift.    It has to promise the potential to damage the American economy and end our way of life.  It would be better still if it could destroy all of Western Civilization as we know it.  Sounds like a pretty tall order, but fear not.  I have a cunning plan. 

The solution I've got in mind is an inspiration, a work of art, a masterpiece.  Its a real corker.  Obviously, you can't stop an earthquake or a volcanic eruption, or even a monsoon.  Oh, we could try to stop all the deep water drilling, but the fight against global warming demonstrated how selfish and unreasonable some people get when you start messing with their ability to drive their SUVs, watch their big screen TVs, or simply maintain a basic standard of living without the government taxing them into oblivion.  Especially those conservative Republican types.  They just don't seem to be "big picture" kind of people.  And we never could quite figure out a way to cut down on CO2 emissions.  Nope.  You can't fight mother nature.  So what we do is propose the humanitarian approach.  If we can't make the southern hemisphere safe for its inhabitants, we just invite them all up here to the safety of the northern hemisphere.  The solution is elegant in its simplicity.  Yep, we just declare open borders in America and all across Europe.  Hardly seems like much of a stretch from the present circumstances does it?  Anyone from south of the equator is eligible.  I know that will leave out Mexico and Central America, but what the hell.  Most of them are here already.  Oh, we could fiddle with the data to exclude Australia, I suppose.  No sense encouraging immigration from an English speaking country with a western culture, no terrorists, high literacy rates, superior work ethic, and marketable job skills.  The anti-globalists will hardly find that too appealing.  On second thought, we probably wouldn't have to fiddle the numbers.  Once this policy is in place, the Aussies are not likely to want to come here anyway. 

Now as good as this solution is, it can't succeed without a marketing plan.  Global warming had a good one that almost worked.  Mine's better.  Here are a few modest proposals.  Ideally, the scholarly paper by the eminent Harvard professor should be published in the same year as a significant southern disaster with great loss of life.  The connection will be tenuous at best, but it will be portrayed by the media as proof positive that enhanced continental drift is the latest threat to the planet.  (see Hurricane Katrina; paragraph 2)  The media will be instrumental to the success of the plan, and once the original paper is published, its only a matter of time until the liberal press gets a hold of it.  Lets face it:  This whole idea just screams New York Times Editorial Page!!  With just a little encouragement, the liberal media will take this ball and run with it.  It will soon take on a life of its own.  America's journalists these days are not exactly known for their intelligence or critical thinking when it comes  to promoting a story.  Don't believe me?  Then I have just two words for you.  Swine flu.  Now that that's settled, we can move on.  The media will soon be abuzz with talk of continental drift.  Meanwhile, efforts to spur more research at the country's institutions of higher learning will start to pay dividends.  Tenure seeking professors in geology departments all across the land will be fighting for a place at the trough of big government research grants.  Nobody's gonna want to miss out on this gravy train, especially with all the global warming malarkey being tapped out and headed into the crapper.  "Climate change?  Oh that's so yesterday's news.  My latest research interests are along the lines of plate tectonics," they'll say.  Enhanced continental drift theory will be the new "settled science".  "The debate's over," they'll exclaim.

As the movement starts to gather momentum, Hollywood will come along for the ride.  Who wants to be the last of the beautiful people on board the political correctness bandwagon when continental drift becomes the cause celebre?  And think of all the millions they'll rake in on the left coast with a whole new genre of disaster movies.  I can see it now:  Global Warming:  The Next Generation.  This will help cement the concept of continental drift as the world's most pressing problem in the minds of thousands of America's simpletons.  "I saw it in the movies so it must be true.  Angelina Jolie wouldn't lie to me would she?"  The UN will join the chorus early on.  Those weasels can smell money from two continents away no matter which direction the wind or the continents are drifting.

But what if the plan fails?  What if after all the "hard science", the university support, the media blitz, and the UN appeals, the developed countries don't come across with an offer to the huddled masses to come and set up houskeeping up north?  We'll need a back up plan.  Further research could reveal that the drift was even worse than first imagined.  Huge swaths of subduction will be discovered where one tectonic plate plunges to its destruction under its opposing plate, annihilating whole continents in the process.  Instead of the southern hemisphere simply being racked by chronic natural disasters, entire continents will now be found to be disappearing at an alarming rate.  Why, in the next 100,000 years, Africa may be gone altogether.  The call will go out from Congress that we must act quickly on this vital new information if we are to avert disaster.  Not only must we open our borders immediately, but we must undertake an enormous new effort of monumental proportions and with utmost dispatch, to ferry these sad, unfortunate creatures to our shores aboard every ship and airplane that can be mobilized.  We can market it as the Manhattan Project to save the world.  We'll be told  we must set up immigration stations reminiscent of Ellis Island all across the country.  Think of the nostalgia that will be evoked with the reference to Ellis Island.  America will have the chance to relive a glorious piece of her history.  Yeah, I bet I could sell that oad-lay of ap-cray to your average progressive sucker.   These poor souls can be welcomed upon arrival with automatic citizenship and the opportunity to register as Democrats so that they can continue to vote themselves ever increasing welfare entitlements.  It's the least we can do in the name of humanity; in the name of rescuing the planet. That way the anti-globalization zealots will still be happy, and the liberal politicians will be peeing their pants with glee.

Now not everyone is going to be stupid enough to fall for this gibberish.  We should anticipate opposition from the more conservative citizens.  Not all Americans are brain dead.  There are, sadly, some American voters who are still awake and vigilant.  I propose a strategy to undermine their effectiveness.  What I suggest is a plan to peel away the evangelicals from the conservative coalition.  Coopt them in advance and turn them to the dark side, as it were.  This won't be easy.  I know a few evangelical Christians, and they're all smart, principled, and well informed.  In fact, other than the whole "read your Bible" thing, we're pretty much on the same page.  My guess is that they wonder what the hell I could be thinking as much as I wonder about what's going on in their heads.  Anyway, what we do is we find some vague reference in the Bible about famine, flood, pestilence or some other natural catastrophe.  How hard can that be?  We then somehow link it obscurely with our theory of enhanced continental drift, throw in some references to Armgeddon and end times, maybe even some hocus pocus about Nostradamus, and before you know it, they'll be eating right out of our hand.  After getting caught with their pants down with the whole evolution/intelligent design thing, they'll be willing to bust down doors to be on the same side of an argument as popular scientific thought.  Especially when it supports Bible prophecy.  They've been looking for a way to live down the whole "the earth is 5000 years old" fiasco for years now.  Well this is their chance.  Praise Jesus.  Without the strength and integrity of the evangelicals, the conservatives might just be vulnerable.

So that's the plan.  Mine is a message of hope.  Yes we can America.  So the global warming hoax didn't pan out.  We got close didn't we?  We almost had 'em. Next time we'll hit it out of the park.  I'm telling you; continental drift is the winning ticket;  Until then, I invite you to reflect on these immortal words with apologies to Earnest Thayer and the mighty Casey:

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Copenhagen--Mighty Al Gore has struck out.  


Sunday, November 22, 2009

What's a Moderate Democrat?

What's the definition of a moderate Democrat?  I'd never given it much thought before, but after this weekend's health care proceedings in the Senate, I guess the definition is pretty clear.  Mary Landrieu, the " distinguished" Democratic Senator from the "great" state of Louisiana has been described as a moderate in this health care debate.  Apparently, a moderate Democrat is one who sits back and pretends to have serious reservations about this or that aspect of the proposed bill when what they're actually doing is soliciting a bribe.  Then when Harry Reid comes through with $100 million in federal Medicaid subsidies for your state alone, you somehow overcome your previous concerns and vote for the bill along with every other Senate Democrat.  That's what a "moderate Democrat" is.  So I guess a liberal Democrat is one who's too dumb to know as much about extortion as they do down in Louisiana.  What a bunch of suckers those liberal Democrats must be huh?  

How do these people look at themselves in the mirror every morning without puking up their breakfast?


Friday, November 20, 2009

Christmas Comes Early for KSM and al Qaeda

I've been reading a lot of opinion pieces about the decision by Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct civilian trials for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and several other accused 9/11 terrorists.  I think this was a bad policy decision for all kinds of reasons.  I don't have that much new to add to the discussion, but I'd like to summarize some of the better arguments against his decision.

The simplest objection is that we have arbitrarily opted to provide these guys with the rights and guarantees of the U.S. Constitution when they are not entitled to them.  These men are not U.S. citizens.  They were captured overseas, and their alleged crimes were acts of war, not simply routine criminal acts.  We had no reason when we captured them to think we had to be concerned about reading them their rights, or protecting the chain of evidence.  Now these will become issues.  If we had no other venue in which to try them, then civilian courts might be appropriate.  But we do have an alternative in the military tribunal.  And where is the logic of Mr Holder's decision to try these five accused terrorists in civilian courts, while all the rest, presumably, will be tried in military tribunals?  Clearly this implies an acceptance of the tribunal as an appropriate venue for a fair trial. The tribunals offer the opportunity for justice without the obvious flaws of our convoluted constitutional legal system.  As Americans, we like to believe we do everything better than the rest of the world, but I believe we could make a lot of improvements in the functioning of our courts.  We are so meticulous in preserving what decades of liberal jurists have determined to be the rights of the accused, that we have a legal system that frequently releases criminals who are obviously guilty by all rational measures. One procedural misstep, and the perpetrator walks.  We pat ourselves on the back and say we'd rather let ten guilty men go free than to convict one innocent man, but that's nonsense.  Victims have rights too.  To allow a murderer to go free because he wasn't Mirandized prior to his confession makes no sense to anyone but a pinhead liberal Supreme Court Justice.  American justice is NOT the best in the world.  To try these men with all the Constitutional guarantees of citizens doesn't show the world how superior our system is.  It risks justice being frustrated and America being humiliated in the bargain.  And as far as showing the world what we're made of, I'd rather not bother.  There will always be critics of America.  Their barking concerns me not at all.

And what kind of legal sideshow will we be inviting?  If you thought the OJ trial was a circus, you ain't seen nothin' yet.  We will enable these men to conduct open lawfare upon us:  Using our system to make us look foolish.  And make no mistake, this is a propaganda war as much as any other kind of war.  If you succeed in making your adversary look foolish, that is a major victory indeed.  We will be engulfed in minutiae.  How many months did the Paris Peace Talks of the Vietnam era spend to decide the shape of the negotiating table?  I can only imagine what kind silliness we will be forced to endure.  How will an untainted jury be selected in the middle of Manhattan?  Motions for changes of venue are all but certain.  We need to anticipate request after request for classified information on sources and methods of intelligence gathering.  The enemy will reap enormous intelligence benefits no matter how careful we try to be.  I wouldn't be surprised to see regular recesses so the accused can fulfill their obligation to pray several times a day.  Surely we would not want to appear insensitive to the rest of the Muslim world by denying such a fundamental (no pun intended) request.  And consider this:  The significance of a terror act is rarely the act itself.  The death and destruction are horrible enough.  But the goal of terrorism is to terrorize:  To shock, frighten and demoralize your enemy while enhancing the image and morale of your own side.  By providing these men with a platform before the world, we will allow them to perpetrate another act of terrorism, only this one will last for years.  For this justice will not be swift.  This trial will not be concluded in a few weeks or a few months.  This will go on for years.  And how will America and the rest of the world react if these men are acquitted or we end up with a hung jury?  Or what if they are convicted but a squeemish jury is reluctant to vote for the death penalty.  How will our justice system look then?  They may admire us in Europe, but think of the message we'll be sending to Al Qaeda.

Then there is the physical risk factor.  New York is a terrorist target as it is.  This will only make the problem worse.  Are we so arrogant that we can't admit we are concerned about the terrorists' ability to stage another attack in New York City?  Of course they can do it.  To defeat them, we have to be successful every time.  To defeat us, they only have to be successful once.  In asymmetric warfare such as this, the willingness to die for your cause is a huge advantage held by the terrorists.  The danger is real, and we invite it at our peril.  What will we say to the victims and their families if another attack succeeds in New York City?  Guantanamo sounds like a much better venue for this trial. 

I particularly enjoyed this article by Pat Buchanan.  He asks an interesting question.  Are we at war or not?  Why do we hunt KSM's associates in Pakistan and kill them with Predator drones, yet KSM himself gets a civilian trial in the middle of Manhattan?  Why do we tolerate the occasional deaths of the families of these far away terrorists as acceptable collateral damage, yet we offer KSM the rights and protections of the U.S. Constitution?  When we prosecute mafia bosses, we don't claim the right to kill their colleagues in the streets when we find them or threaten the lives of their wives and children.  The difference is that we are at war with these terrorists.  And warfare is not the same as fighting crime.  If Attorney General Holder can't or won't grasp the distinction here, is it because he doesn't see this as a war at all?  Or is there another agenda?

I'm not a conspiracy theorist.  I like to think that I make rational assessments based on hard facts.  I'm a voracious reader; a news junkie.  I  do my homework.  I don't believe Attorney General Holder is an ignorant man.  I'm sure he is aware of all the pitfalls of the decision he has made, as I've outlined above.  So why has he made this decision?  Does he want to showcase to the world the superiority of the American sense of justice?  Does he think this is the way to do it?  Does he think the benefits justify the risks?  Maybe so, but I have some doubts.  Andy McCarthy suggests another possibility in this blogpost at National Review Online.  He suspects that the real purpose of this decision is to put the United States on trial.  More specifically, to put the Bush administration on trial.  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has pled guilty before a military court.  He has no practical defense against the charges leveled against him.  His only alternative, and one he probably can't believe we are giving him the opportunity to choose, is to put us on trial.  We will hear endless accounts of all the evil the United States has perpetrated in the Muslim world.  We will be confronted with the unpleasant reality of his "harsh interrogation".  He was, after all, waterboarded 183 times.  We will hear about secret prisons, renditions, and covert operations targeting Muslims.  All the policies that the left has railed against for years will be dredged up anew in this show trial.  These policies, which arguably helped keep us safe over the past eight years, have been anathema to the likes of the ACLU and the opponents of the previous administration.  This will be one last opportunity for the sufferers of Bush Derangement Syndrome to take a club to our former president. I wonder if this is the real reason we are embracing a public trial in a civilian court.  Rather than regretting the public disclosure of the dark side of counter-terrorism policy, perhaps that is Mr. Holder's actual goal.  Isn't he the one who, just a few months ago, reopened the investigations into the activities of CIA personnel during the Bush administration, putting at risk the brave men and women who have struggled to keep us safe since 9/11?  This trial will provide the Obama administration and their left leaning allies the chance to put the entire Bush/Cheney strategy of homeland protection in the dock.  And they will deny the blame for any of the consequences.  They will, in true passive aggressive fashion, deny any responsibility for what they are about to unleash on this country.  "We are only interested in justice", they'll claim.  And if they can score points on their political adversaries and strengthen their position with their own base in the process, well, I'm sure that is not their intention. 



Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Catalyst toWake a Sleeping Giant

Webster's defines a catalyst as an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.  That's kind of the way I view Barack Obama these days.  There are lots of ways to spin this analogy.  His supporters will say he catalyzed a whole new segment of the electorate to win the presidential election.  They'll say he took  young people and minorities and transformed them from a politically apathetic voting bloc into a force to be reckoned with.  That's probably true.  But he also stirred up a conservative and libertarian hornets nest in opposition to everything he stands for.

It's worth remembering the words of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto reflecting on the consequences of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.  He said, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." 

Today's sleeping giant is the conservative base of the American electorate.  Lulled into such a slumber that they barely raised an objection when their own Republican Party was clearly marching them down the path to big government under George W. Bush.  No Child Left Behind, a new Medicare drug entitlement, and unprecedented growth in the federal deficit elicited barely a peep from the majority of conservatives.

The 2008 election was a wake up call.  Increased Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate, combined with the election of the most liberal president since FDR, or maybe the most liberal president ever, have startled a somnolent America into the realization that we are in jeopardy of forfeiting our national identity based on free markets and free enterprise for a social democratic European model that most Americans reject.  The election of Barack Obama may turn out to have been a blessing in disguise.  Though I must admit, if this is a blessing, then it is indeed, a really good disguise.

Conservatives are asleep no more. Witness the Tea Parties all over the nation.  The typical remark from a Tea Party attendee is, "I'm not usually very political, and I've never done anything like this before, but I couldn't sit by and watch this happen and not try to do something to stop it."  And though the reaction is largely partisan, the movement is drawing in huge numbers of independent voters and significant numbers of Democrats.  This administration is over-reaching, and they are alienating a significant portion of their coalition.  This has been a call to action for all those opposed to the expansion of the welfare state.  Conservatives are examining their values and challenging even their own Republican politicians to meet the standards that they demand or face opposition as happened in New York's 23rd Congressional District recently.  The liberal press was quick to point out how this backfired in this particular battle with the election of a Democrat, but there is plenty of evidence to support the position that this race was an aberration.  The combination of local resentment at outside national interference, and a not particularly articulate conservative candidate with a less than commanding understanding of local issues made this contest less than typical. 

Conservatives and libertarians are motivated as they have rarely been before.  The reckless actions of this administration have filled us with a "terrible resolve", to quote Admiral Yamamoto.  If we can maintain this resolve into next year and beyond, there is hope we can defeat large portions of the Democrat's statist agenda in this Congress, remake the next Congress in 2010, and oust Barack Obama in 2012.  And if we're lucky, the Republican administration that follows will be one that will remember the small government principles that will have gotten them elected.  More importantly, they will know that they are being scrutinized by a newly awakened electorate.  They will know that if they violate those small government principles, they do so at their political peril, as they will incur the wrath of a newly vigilant conservative voter.


Tell Us What You Really Think!!

Do you think these guys have a problem with Glenn Beck?  Funny.  I kind of like Glenn Beck.


Victim In Fatal Car Accident Tragically Not Glenn Beck


I came across a line from Deteriorata, National Lampoons 1972 parody of Max Ehrmann's poem Desiderata.  Click on the links to learn more.  After all these years, it still makes me laugh.  For those of you who remember it, enjoy this walk down memory lane.  If you've never heard it before, consider this part of your popular education.

I'm sure I'd never heard or read the original poem upon which this was based.  But now that I'm older and have the resource of 'the internets' (sic), I was able to find it quite easily.  The original poem is quite charming, though I can see why National Lampoon chose to parody it.


So Much for Philosophy

Ginsberg's Theorem:
    (1) You can't win.
    (2) You can't break even.
    (3) You can't even quit the game.

Freeman's Commentary on Ginsberg's theorem:
    Every major philosophy that attempts to make life seem
    meaningful is based on the negation of one part of Ginsberg's
    Theorem.  To wit:

    (1) Capitalism is based on the assumption that you can win.
    (2) Socialism is based on the assumption that you can break
    (3) Mysticism is based on the assumption that you can quit the

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Intersection of News and Vocabulary

Try this link to a video I found on the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary website. It talks about the leading word searches that were made at Merriam-Webster's site in the week following Michael Jackson's death.  Its fascinating on several levels. First, its mildly interesting as a trivial factoid to anyone who pays attention to popular culture. I guess that's most of us , for better or for worse. Second, it illustrates what kind of insights can be gleaned about what's on the public's mind from examining data from various websites.  Third, of course, is the potential this data mining has to be exploited by third parties.

Now I am not a privacy zealot, but I would not be too quick to criticize those who regard this topic with far greater concern than I do.  Think of what Amazon knows about you based on your book purchases or even just your browsing.  They know, for instance, that I'm interested in money, markets, and politics, especially conservative politics.  They know I fix my own cars (three Haynes Manual purchases in recent months.)  They might guess I'm a gun owner.  They also know I'm frugal.  I buy used books to stretch my book buying dollars.  They probably suspect a lot of other things about me demographically speaking based upon how much I spend, and the number of books I buy compared to other customers. 

Lots of websites collect user information, most of it presumably not individually identifiable.  YouTube knows which videos are the most popular.  With so much political content there now, how might pollsters handicap a political contest like, for instance, today's governors races, if they had access to this information.  And of course, the big daddy of them all is how much the government might know about the population in general, and more concerning, about you in particular, if it had access to this data. (And its my guess they do.)

Try Googling your name, and see what kind of information about you is freely available in the public domain.  For some of you, it will be a lot more than for others.  There's not much about me out there, but it wouldn't take someone long to find out I'm a dentist.  With just a bit more diligence, they'd find out I do crossword puzzles (on-line results for the North American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.)  They'd also know that I'm not nearly as good at it as a lot of my peers.  Then, of course, there's this blog.  As I said, I'm not a privacy zealot.  You don't need to be a detective to find out what's on my mind.  Just ask me.  And even if you don't ask, I'll tell you anyway about 4-5 times every week.  So stop by often for the latest update on what's ramblin' through my mind.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Great Speeches

This is from the TV series 10 Days to War: Episode 8; Our Business is North.  Kenneth Branagh portrays Lt. Col. Tim Collins.  This speech is based on the actual speech delivered by Lt. Col. Collins to his troops on  19 March 2003 prior to the start of the second Iraq War.

Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessep in A Few Good Men.  Tom Cruise got top billing, but c'mon.  Nicholson's the real star.  In the film, Jessep is portrayed as the heavy; the bad guy.  But after this speech, there's no doubt in my mind that he's the hero. 


Kenneth Branagh again, this time as the title character in Shakespeare's Henry V. The mother of all inspirational speeches.

Churchill was a master of the motivational speech. So many to choose from. But this one is illustrative of the man's power to inspire. The last line is history.

A very dignified recital by Jeff Daniels of one of historie's shortest and most eloquent speeches; Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

The Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan. Ignore the title at the top. This is not a famous speech, but the genuine character of the man shines through.

Margaret Thatcher was for Britain what Ronald Reagan was for America. The embodiment of character. She knew what she believed and was proud of it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Interview with Charles Krauthammer

This is a link to a Der Spiegel interview with Charles Krauthammer, who I believe is one of America's best opinion journalists.

Der Spiegel


Connecting the Dots

I connected some dots yesterday.  I read an article online, and that led me to another article.  That led me, in turn, to several Wikipedia entries, and when I was done, I'd discovered a few interesting connections that had not been obvious to me before.  I knew most of the individual pieces of information, but I hadn't seen the big picture.  I hadn't connected the dots.  Here are the links to yesterday's reading list in the order that I read them.  Kind of odd.  The bibliography coming before the article instead of the other way around.

Obama Team Ignores Volcker at its Peril. by Bill Fleckenstein on MSN Money
Volcker Fails to Sell a Bank Strategy  by Louis Uchitelle at the NY Times
Glass-Steagall Act  on Wikipedia
Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act  on Wikipedia
Community Reinvestment Act  on Wikipedia 

Some of you might see where this is leading.  I chose to read the Fleckenstein article because the title intrigued me.  Paul Volcker is the 82 year old former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board under Ronald Reagan who is often credited with having had the insight and the courage to raise interest rates to rein in the runaway inflation of the Carter years.  He is currently the head of the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.   This is the same advisory board, by the way, that includes General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt.  I only mention this because some of you may be familiar with this group as Glenn Beck frequently refers with derision to the potential conflict of interest that Immelt's position on the board represents.  But anyway, the crux of Fleckenstein's article was basically to highlight and support the position of Louis Uchitelle's NY Times article, to wit:  Paul Volcker is an advocate of re-regulating large financial institutions to limit the combination of banking, insurance, and investment activities in one enterprise, but his advice is being ignored by the Obama administration.  He's essentially saying we should bring back Glass-Steagall in some form.  That's a bold step, but Volcker's opinion should count for something.  Volcker is saying that if Glass-Steagall hadn't been abandoned, Citigroup, and Bank of America, and many of the other huge financial conglomerates couldn't have gotten so big, and they couldn't have used FDIC guaranteed depositor's money to participate in the riskier areas of the market, essentially placing bets that would make them rich if they won, and make taxpayers poor if they lost.  Or as it has been referred to elsewhere, privatizing the profits, and socializing the losses. 

So here's a short history lesson.  In 1933, during the Great Depression, Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act.  Glass-Steagall created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), to guarantee the public's bank deposits and restore confidence in banks.  But its main goal was to prevent a recurrence of some of the most egregious banking practices that are widely believed to have led to the market crash of 1929 and the subsequent bank failures of the 1930's.  Most famous of the restrictions imposed on the banks was a prohibition on any financial institution from participating in more than one of the following three businesses:  Commercial banking, investment banking, and insurance underwriting.  In 1999, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act essentially removed these restrictions allowing the banks to incorporate the other riskier activities into their business model.  So for instance, Citicorp, which used to be just a bank, could merge with insurer Travelers Group which had already merged with or bought investment houses Salomon, Shearson, and Smith Barney.  Citicorp thereby became Citigroup, a huge financial behemoth, and a major participant in the recent financial meltdown. 

That's the short history.  The black and white version.  Now let's add a little color.  When financial deregulation/reform was being debated in Congress in 1999, the Senate and the House each passed their own version of the bill, and so it went to a conference committee which had a difficult time reconciling the two versions.  In order to garner more Democratic support for the joint bill, Republicans agreed to measures that would  strengthen the pre-existing Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)Congress originally passed the CRA in 1977 to reduce discriminatory credit practices called redlining.  Banks would routinely refuse to offer loans and other banking services to residents in certain neighborhoods if those neighborhoods demonstrated a higher than acceptable default rate.  Charted on a map of the community, the "bad areas" would be surrounded by a red line, hence the name.  Even people and businesses that were otherwise creditworthy might be refused banking services if they lived within the red lines.  Democrats argued that this effectively discriminated against low income and minority borrowers.  Democrats insisted that a provision be added to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley financial reform legislation to further enhance the ability of the CRA board to influence banks to provide riskier loans in the name of equality in lending.    In order to coerce banks into making loans that they did not feel were good risks, the legislation that emerged out of conference stipulated that any application from a financial institution seeking a merger, an acquisition, or additional branch expansion would not be favorably considered if any of the entities had a less than satisfactory rating on its most recent CRA exam.  This tremendously increased the leverage that the CRA board had on the lending practices of banks.  The CRA essentially had veto authority over any bank expansion activity.  They could compel (blackmail) the banks to do their bidding as regards high risk lending or face the consequences of restrictive regulatory decisions.  The CRA used this authority to promote their agenda of expanding low income and minority home ownership, by compelling banks to make risky loans that they might not otherwise have made.  Further promoting these risky practices, Democrats in Congress turned a blind eye to the increasing warning signs at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  These were the quasi federal agencies that were buying these bad mortgages from the originating banks using funds raised by selling bonds with an implied federal guarantee.  We know how that movie ended.  When inflated housing prices started to decline, highly leveraged individuals started defaulting on mortgages they could never afford in the first place.  Fannie and Freddie, were left holding larger and larger numbers of non performing mortgages, and soon could not make the payments on the bonds they had issued to buy these ill conceived obligations.  The bonds, having an implied guarantee from the federal government, couldn't be allowed to default, so the taxpayer stepped in at huge expense to make good on the debt.  

Click here to see video of Congress in denial of problems at Fannie and Freddie

The analogy of the perfect storm is inescapable.  The combination of multiple factors, each posing a limited threat in and of itself,  coming together at the same time to create an overwhelming disaster.  The Federal Reserve lowers interest rates to aid the economic recovery from the stock market crash in 2000. Low rates promote a feeding frenzy in home purchasing creating a bubble in that market.   Glass-Steagall is eliminated.  That allows banks to get bigger, as in too big to fail.  It allows them to take on risky investments, and do it with taxpayer (FDIC) guaranteed depositor money.   The very legislation that eliminated Glass-Steagall is, by coincidence, the same legislation that puts the teeth into the CRA.  Banks are compelled to make riskier and riskier loans to over-extended buyers at the height of the bubble.  They are further encouraged to make these loans because Fannie and Freddie, acting under pressure from Congress, are buying them up as fast as they can.  Risk takers at the big banks do their part by creating complicated and mysterious derivatives such as collateralized mortgage obligations (CMO's).  Rating agencies who don't have a clue what the potential hazards are with this toxic paper bless it with a triple A credit rating.  And it all works just fine until housing prices start to drop.  Then it all comes crashing down.  As Warren Buffet says, "Only when the tide goes out do we get to see who has been swimming naked."

I had most of this information prior to yesterday morning.  I already knew about how low interest rates led to the housing bubble.  I knew that banks had capitalized on the frenzy with risky loans and riskier derivatives.  I knew that, with Congress' encouragement, the CRA and Fannie and Freddie had played a role, as had the rating agencies.  I knew a little bit about Glass-Steagall and Gramm-Leach-Bliley.  But until today, I had never seen the relationships between all these different factors.  I hadn't seen the bigger picture; the flow of events; the cause and effect.  I had never connected the dots.

So what happens now?  Is Paul Volcker right?  Should we re-regulate the financial institutions ala Glass-Steagall?  Congress and the Obama administration are contemplating financial reform to ensure that something like the recent crisis doesn't happen again.  They apparently favor a regime that keeps the bank structure as it is in this post Glass-Steagall world, but imposes complex layers of regulation and bureaucracy to limit the potential for a repeat disaster.  Separating the entities as Volcker suggests sounds simpler.  Should the KISS rule be applied here?  Keep It Simple Stupid?  Or was H.L. Mencken correct when he said, "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong?"  I'm not proposing an answer, just proposing the question.

Click here to hear bank analyst Chris Whalen on an alternative solution.  This guy is really good.  I understand about half of what he says.  Starts at 49:10 into the video---about 14 minutes.

Perhaps as important as the question of how we change the regulation of the financial industry, is the question of should we change it.  For many, this might be a no brainer considering what we've just been through.  But when I consider the issue, I'm coming from the point of view of a libertarian.  As a matter of principle, I prefer to err on the side of less government intervention in the free market as opposed to more.  But what of the equally vital principle of protecting the interests of the taxpayer and the consumer?  Its worthwhile to consider the merits of all the arguments.  A balance must be struck between the two competing principles.  If the FDIC provides a guarantee of the banks' depositor funding, then the government has an obligation to limit the risk that can be taken with taxpayer guaranteed money.  Certainly, FDIC guarantees are not going away.  Furthermore, if the banks, abetted by the rating agencies, provide inadequate or fraudulent disclosure of the risks they are taking with investors money, then that is surely a matter for government intervention.  Laissez faire does not imply abandoning the consumer to dishonest practices on the part of the financial industry.

This is not a partisan issue.  Democrats are largely to blame for the abuses associated with the Community Reinvestment Act and the lax regulation of Fannie and Freddie.  But Republicans are largely responsible for Gramm-Leach-Bliley and the repeal of Glass-Steagal protections.  The real culprit here is probably the financial services industry itself and the tremendous lobbying clout that it commands.  The big banks also contribute heavily to both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.  Both parties have been co-opted  by money from the financial industry.  This is more an integrity in government issue that a partisan issue.  I wish I could say that I had confidence that our political class had the vision and the integrity to get this right.  I do not believe they do.   When the last dots are connected, my guess is we'll find ourselves well shy of a sensible resolution.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Tea Party Becomes a Documentary

On September 12, 2009, thousands of Americans came to Washington, DC to tell our politicians that we objected to their reckless spending, their mortgaging of our children's future, and their attempt to grow the power of the federal government at the expense of individual liberty.  I was there that Saturday along with my wife and son, and I have to tell you, it was one of the most inspirational experiences of my life.  My greatest fear while driving into DC that morning was that there would not be much of a crowd.  I felt morally compelled to join this demonstration, but would anyone else share my sense of obligation?  I was afraid that Americans would be too apathetic to stand up and protest the blatant grab for power that was taking place in Washington.  My fears were unjustified.  As we reached the New Carrollton Metro Station, we were greeted with a full parking lot and had to drive on to the overflow area.  There were lines ten to twenty deep at the ticket machines.  I generally shun large crowds, but I have never been so happy to be lost in a sea of humanity in my life.  I was not alone.  Overwhelming numbers of my fellow Americans shared my concerns and were prepared to do something about it.  Marching down Pennsylvania Avenue and standing in front of the Capital with thousands of like minded souls gave me hope that we might yet stop this juggernaut of big government out of control.
There was no one single cause driving this throng of people.  Everyone had their own specific motivating issues.  It may have been taxes, spending, immigration, gun control, health care, home schooling, abortion, vaccination, energy policy, cap and trade/tax, the fairness doctrine, prayer in schools, or card check. There were lots of people who were generally just fed up with a perceived lack of integrity in Washington, and yes,  there were even a few who had questions about the president's birth certificate.  There were people who were mainstream and some who were closer to the fringe.  I doubt that in that crowd of thousands there could have been more than a handful of people who shared my views on all of these issues.  But that was irrelevant.  We didn't have to agree on everything.  We were a coalition of individuals, each with their own significant issues; the issues that were important enough to them to bring them out there that Saturday morning.  Not just the issues about which they might have had an opinion, but the issues that were important enough to determine how they vote.  And even if no two of us could agree on all the issues before us, we were united under one common belief; that government has grown too big, too intrusive, and has forsaken the principles upon which this country was founded.

Today I learned that Tea Party: The Documentary Film will be released directly to DVD on Thanksgiving Day (watch movie trailer) to tell the story of the Tea Party Movement and the 912 Project.  I can only hope that the film will help encourage and inspire yet more Americans to rise to the challenge to take back our country from elements who want to abandon the principles of free markets, limited government and fiscal restraint.  There may be thousands or even millions of people out there who feel the way that I did;  people who hate what is happening to this country but feel helpless to stop it.  Maybe this film will restore the hope for them that the 912 March on Washington restored for me, and encourage them to take action to keep this a country that promises equal opportunity, not equal outcomes, and values individual responsibility above group entitlement.