Friday, October 31, 2008

Stanford CS193P - Cocoa Programming for iPhone

Paul Johnson: Can We Afford Liberalism Now?

If we seriously wish to repair the damage, we need to accept that this is fundamentally a moral crisis, not a financial one. It is the product of the self-indulgence and complacency born of our ultraliberal societies, which have substituted such pseudo-religions as political correctness and saving the planet for genuine distinctions between right and wrong and the cultivation of real virtues.

YouTube - Peggy Joseph Thinks Obama Is Going To Pay For Her Gas And Mortgage

She forgot to mention the free lunch.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions

Thomas Sowell on why he's going to vote for McCain over Obama:  "because I prefer disaster to catastrophe".

The Libertarian Vote

One reason I speculate that this is what I "think is going on here" among libertarians is that until fairly recently this is exactly what I was thinking, even until relatively recently, and I was genuinely on the fence between McCain and Barr (acknowledging that Barr is both a bit of a nut and has some statist tendencies himself). But one reason why I linked Pete duPont's sobering WSJ column the other day is that I have slowly come to the conclusion that as bad as McCain is, Obama really is much, much worse than I realized for a long time. Maybe I'm just slower at this than others, but it really took a long for it to sink in to me exactly how far left Obama really is. On every single issue that I am aware of, he seems to be at the far left end of the Democratic Party spectrum. I mean really out there.

I think that my slowness to really pick up on this was due to several factors. First, Obama's demeanor is essentially moderate--he doesn't come across as a Howard Dean crazy type. I think this leads one to assume his policies are moderate. Second, my resistance to McCain was really quite strong--I've criticized him here before, especially for the way it seems that he approaches problems. Third, until recently McCain has really run a terrible campaign in terms of explaining the differences between himself and Obama in terms of illustrating exactly how far left Obama is. Fourth, because of media bias, the media has tended to reinforce the idea that Obama is a moderate and not to highlight the embarrassing parts of his message.

Perhaps most fundamentally, given the history of the world over the past 25 years I think I just had assumed that no serious politician or thinker would in this day and age hold the sorts of views that Obama seems to hold. Raising taxes in a recession, protectionism, abolition of the secret ballot for union elections, big spending increases, nationalized health care, and most appallingly (to my mind) the potential reimposition of the "Fairness Doctrine"--I mean this is pretty serious stuff. And when combined with a Democratic Congress, I think we may be talking about (to use Thomas Sowell's recent phrase) a "point of no return." I guess I just assumed that Obama would be sort of Bill Clintonish--"the era of big government is over" and all that stuff. That he would have absorbed the basic insights of recent decades on taxes, trade, regulation, etc.

What could we expect from McCain? Not much--but holding the status quo on some areas and perhaps a few improvements in others. Perhaps an end to the incontinent spending of the past few years. Elimination of earmarks. Free trade. No fairness doctrine (campaign finance reform is bad, but I think the Fairness Doctrine is much worse). A much better health care insurance policy. I'm not as optimistic as some of my friends that McCain's judges will be good, but I think Obama's judges likely would be really bad.

So what does this add up to? I totally can appreciate the view of libertarians who fundamentally don't see any real difference that matters between McCain and Obama and so will vote for Barr or another third-party candidate. I think that is a completely reasonable position.

Snow blankets London for Global Warming debate

Snow fell as the House of Commons debated Global Warming yesterday - the first October fall in the metropolis since 1922. The Mother of Parliaments was discussing the Mother of All Bills for the last time, in a marathon six hour session.

In order to combat a projected two degree centigrade rise in global temperature, the Climate Change Bill pledges the UK to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. The bill was receiving a third reading, which means both the last chance for both democratic scrutiny and consent.

The bill creates an enormous bureaucratic apparatus for monitoring and reporting, which was expanded at the last minute. Amendments by the Government threw emissions from shipping and aviation into the monitoring program, and also included a revision of the Companies Act (c. 46) "requiring the directors' report of a company to contain such information as may be specified in the regulations about emissions of greenhouse gases from activities for which the company is responsible" by 2012.

Recently the American media has begun to notice the odd incongruity of saturation media coverage here which insists that global warming is both man-made and urgent, and a British public which increasingly doubts either to be true. 60 per cent of the British population now doubt the influence of humans on climate change, and more people than not think Global Warming won't be as bad "as people say".

Sign battle starts with a zzzzzzzt!

CHAPEL HILL - After Shawn Turschak saw two sets of McCain-Palin signs disappear from his yard within hours of being planted, he took steps to protect the latest pair.

On Monday, he ran wires from his house and hooked the signs into a power source for an electric pet fence. Then he mounted a surveillance camera in a nearby tree and wired it to a digital recorder.

Tuesday afternoon, the camera saw this: A neighbor trotting up with an Obama-Biden sign, grabbing a handful of volts as he touched a McCain-Palin sign, then fleeing at top 9-year-old boy speed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Taxing Times by Thomas Sowell on National Review Online

The idea that you can single out one segment of society to be taxed or mandated, for the benefit of the rest of society, is reminiscent of a San Francisco automobile dealer's sign: "We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you." 

The economy is not a zero-sum game where someone gains what others lose. The whole economy can lose when ill-considered policies gain political popularity and stifle economic growth.

People who do not own a single share of corporate stock can still lose big time when capital gains taxes are raised — not only because jobs can follow capital out of the country, but also because millions of working people's pension plans own corporate stock, and those people's retirement incomes will depend on the value of those stocks, which is reduced by capital-gains taxes.

One of the biggest taxes is one that is not even called a tax: inflation. When the government spends money that it creates, it is transferring part of the value of your money to themselves. It is quiet taxation but often heavy taxation, falling on everyone, no matter how low their incomes might be.

‘Jeffersons’ vs. ‘Sanford and Son’: Obama Confuses 1970s Sitcoms in N.C. Speech

Business and Media Institute: "If Sen. McCain is elected, we'll have another president who wants to privatize part of your Social Security. That ain't right. Can you imagine if you had your Social Security invested in the stock market these last two weeks? These last two months? You wouldn't need Social Security. You'd be having a – you know like, what was it. 'Sanford and Son,' 'I'm coming Weezie.' It ain't right." But, Obama blew it in his attempt to be '70s hip. "Weezie" or Louise Jefferson, was a character on "The Jeffersons," a show about a middle-class black family. Actress Isabel Sanford portrayed her.

Obama mangled the line that Fred used when he was faking a heart attack, supposedly addressing his dead wife, Elizabeth.

Fred Sanford: Ow my heart. I think I'm having a heart attack. You hear that Elizabeth I'm coming to join you honey. Your dummy son has made me a wooden overcoat. Oh, Elizabeth. 

But let's remember, Fred was a lovable rascal, and a bit of a con man.  He was faking it to get what he wanted.  Not an unreasonable hero for most Democrats.

Weezie (Louise) was the voice of reason in the "Jeffersons".  Always telling George to the right thing and to avoid cutting corners.  She was skeptical of George's scheming plans.  I'm not sure she would fit in among the Obama campaign staff.

Socialism We Can Believe In

In all these cases, one is left with the impression his is merely a meandering historical argument of refined legal theory, using highly specified language that does not mean what it sounds like. Normal people like Joe the Plumber cannot possibly comprehend it. However, all these media reports distort the facts and leave a false impression that covers up the explosive revelation contained in his own words: Barack Obama believes the Constitution embodies a "fundamental flaw" in the fabric of America "that continues to this day," has pined for "economic justice" for at least a decade, seeks political power to implement "wealth redistribution" with the aid of Congress, implies the Supreme Court should "break free" from the "constraints" of the Founders, believes public financing of abortion is an "important" aspect of the struggle, and has promised an "activist" Executive Branch to enforce his socialistic vision.
Obama begins, as his media backers note, by discussing "the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the Court." Among its successes he counts the High Court's vesting blacks with "formal rights," such as the right to vote. "But," he rapidly pivots, "the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society." This he plainly counts among the movement's "failures," indeed "tragedies."
This indicates he intends more than mere adequate funding for Tuscaloosa elementaries but the fundamental economic life of the nation. He illustrated the success of "formal rights" by saying under the Court's rulings, "I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order, and as long as I could pay for it, I'd be OK." He later answered a caller's question about whether it was "too late" for nationwide "reparative economic work." (See below.) Later yet, when fellow panelist Susan Bandes broached the topic of the Supreme Court's upholding lawmakers' right to prohibit the federal funding of abortion, Obama replied that the justices did not order funding, as they would if they were activists. They decided whether it was "a legitimate prohibition," adding, "I think those are very important battles that have to be foughtand they do have a distributive aspect to them." (Media Matters dropped this phrase from later press releases.) Barack Obama's comments clearly touched upon a broad view of redistribution of wealth, encompassing everything from minority income to abortion subsidies, all viewed favorably. (In fact, Obama still supports taxpayer funding for abortion and has vowed to restore it.)

New New Deal No Better Than the Old One by Michael Barone

Obama seems determined to follow policies better suited to freezing the economy in place than to promoting economic growth. Higher taxes on high earners, for one. He told Charlie Gibson he would raise capital-gains taxes even if that reduced revenue: less wealth to spread around, but at least the rich wouldn't have it — reminiscent of the Puritan sumptuary laws that prohibited the wearing of silk. Moves toward protectionism like Hoover's (Roosevelt had the good sense to promote free trade). National health insurance that threatens to lead to rationing and to stifle innovation. Promoting unionization by abolishing secret ballot union elections. 

The impulse to social engineering is unmistakable. Government officials will allocate resources, redistribute income, and ration good and services. Use government stakes in banks, insurance companies and Detroit auto manufacturers to maintain the position of those already in place, at the cost of preventing the emergence of new enterprises that might have been spawned by the capital being allocated. 

Social engineering of course is far easier when you are dealing with an economy that is frozen in place. It's harder when you have to deal with the creative destruction, the emergence of new firms and businesses, and the decline of old ones, which as Joseph Schumpeter taught is the inevitable consequence of economic growth. 

Steyn on Pelosi's definition of "bipartisan"

re Nancy Pelosi's assertion that an overwhelmingly Democrat Congress would be more "bipartisan", it makes a weird kind of sense.

The official media definition of "bipartisanship" is a Republican supporting Democrat policies. Chuck Hagel, Jim Jeffords: That's bipartisan. Joe Lieberman standing by the commander-in-chief in time of war? Nothing bipartisan about that.

So if "bipartisan" means a Republican joining a Democrat to enact Democrat policies, fewer Republicans joining more Democrats to enact even more Democrat policies is surely even more bipartisan.

And, as I always say to those folks who coo about Obama getting beyond the partisan divide, there are plenty of places that have managed to get beyond the partisan divide: they're called one-party states. Looks like Nancy has figured it out.

Two quotes from the Obama-Khalidi videotape

This is completely unverified, but the LA Times refuses to publish the tape or transcript so we're left with speculation and unfounded rumors floating around the web:

Saw a clip from the tape. Reason we can't release it is because statements Obama said to rile audience up during toast. He congratulates Khalidi for his work saying "Israel has no God-given right to occupy Palestine" plus there's been "genocide against the Palestinian people by Israelis."

It would be really controversial if it got out. Tha's why they will not even let a transcript get out.

Ohio official OK’d records search on Joe the Plumber

The Columbus Dispatch reports that at least one culprit has emerged from the misuse of public information to attack Joe Wurzelbacher — and to no one's surprise, she's a Democrat and a big Barack Obama supporter.  Helen Jones-Kelly decided to check on Wurzelbacher as soon as he became an issue in the third presidential debate.  But this maxed-out donor to Obama swears that she had no political reasons for her sudden curiosity about Wurzelbacher:

Ohio's inspector general is investigating why a state agency director approved checking the state child-support computer system for information on "Joe the Plumber."

Helen Jones-Kelly, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, confirmed today that she OK'd the check on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher following the Oct. 15 presidential debate.

She said there were no political reasons for the check on the sudden presidential campaign fixture though the Support Enforcement Tracking System.

Amid questions from the media and others about "Joe the Plumber," Jones-Kelley said she approved a check to determine if he was current on any ordered child-support payments.

Those records are supposed to be checked only when some probable cause exists to do so.  What was Jones-Kelley's probable cause?  She claims that sudden public notoriety is enough to generate an investigation of someone's status.  I can't wait to hear what the ACLU makes of that explanation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

John McCain -- The Agony of a Gadfly by Rich Lowry

When you're a gadfly, you can flit above the substantive debate, because it's your posture rather than your knowledge of policy that matters most. People who argued with McCain years ago about campaign-finance reform always were shocked by how little he knew about his own signature policy initiative. It's been a long road for McCain to get up to speed on domestic policy, and he's constantly fallen back on one of his greatest hits as a gadfly, his opposition to earmarks.

Gadflies are loners because they spend so much time offending their own side. In his initial primary campaign prior to the 2007 meltdown, McCain staffed up with Bush loyalists — because there were so few McCain loyalists — who didn't understand his appeal. Now, his general-election campaign is rife with former Bush staffers leaking to the press to save their post-McCain campaign reputations. Ah, the agony of the gadfly.

The Next RNC Chairman

Republicans don't just need a manager.  Republicans need a communicator and a visionary.  That's Fred Thompson.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Laffer: The Age of Prosperity Is Over

The stock market is obviously no fan of second-term George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ben Bernanke, Barack Obama or John McCain, and again for good reasons.

These issues aren't Republican or Democrat, left or right, liberal or conservative. They are simply economics, and wish as you might, bad economics will sink any economy no matter how much they believe this time things are different. They aren't.

I was on the White House staff as George Shultz's economist in the Office of Management and Budget when Richard Nixon imposed wage and price controls, the dollar was taken off gold, import surcharges were implemented, and other similar measures were enacted from a panicked decision made in August of 1971 at Camp David.

I witnessed, like everyone else, the consequences of another panicked decision to cover up the Watergate break-in. I saw up close and personal Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush succumb to panicked decisions to raise taxes, as well as Jimmy Carter's emergency energy plan, which included wellhead price controls, excess profits taxes on oil companies, and gasoline price controls at the pump.

The consequences of these actions were disastrous. Just look at the stock market from the post-Kennedy high in early 1966 to the pre-Reagan low in August of 1982. The average annual real return for U.S. assets compounded annually was -6% per year for 16 years. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a bear market. And it is something that you may well experience again. Yikes!

Then we have this administration's panicked Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, and of course the deer-in-the-headlights Mr. Bernanke in his bungling of monetary policy.

There are many more examples, but none hold a candle to what's happening right now. Twenty-five years down the line, what this administration and Congress have done will be viewed in much the same light as what Herbert Hoover did in the years 1929 through 1932. Whenever people make decisions when they are panicked, the consequences are rarely pretty. We are now witnessing the end of prosperity.

Sense of Events: What has NATO done for us?

it's time for the US to disengage from NATO

Agreed.  You can make the group into free trade partners, but forget about protecting them militarily.  We don't need bases in Germany anymore.    Let the French defend France.  We can make bilateral agreements with the Czech Republic and Poland for missile defense, but we don't need NATO for that.

And while we're on the subject of disengagement, what do you need the United Nations for?  Let's drop out and spread the wealth around to Americans for a change.

Senate salvage [Mark Steyn]

We're in this mess in the first place because we have an over-Senatized party, starting with the presidential candidate, whose fortunes went south not when he picked his running mate but when the subprime hit the fan and he reacted senatorially - by heading back to Washington and "reaching across the aisle". Whether the bailout bill was good or bad, it was always going to be ugly - and it was something a shrewd national candidate would have stood aside from, as Obama did, coolly detached as the Capitol pygmies scurried hither and yon. [...]

If McCain loses and he's back in the Senate with Arlen and the Maine ladies and the rest of the gang, it will be a club of bipartisan accommodationists and capricious eccentrics. The idea that these guys will be any kind of "engine of our renewal" strikes me as far more ludicrous than the possibility of Mister Maverick getting to 270 next Tuesday. The best way to help Senator Sununu & Co is not to write off the top of the ticket but to drive up turnout for it.

The L.A. Times Suppresses Obama’s Khalidi Bash Tape

Why is the Los Angeles Timessitting on a videotape of the 2003 farewell bash in Chicago at which Barack Obama lavished praise on the guest of honor, Rashid Khalidi — former mouthpiece for master terrorist Yasser Arafat? 

At the time Khalidi, a PLO adviser turned University of Chicago professor, was headed east to Columbia. There he would take over the University's Middle East-studies program (which he has since maintained as a bubbling cauldron of anti-Semitism) and assume the professorship endowed in honor of Edward Sayyid, another notorious terror apologist.

The party featured encomiums by many of Khalidi's allies, colleagues, and friends, including Barack Obama, then an Illinois state senator, and Bill Ayers, the terrorist turned education professor. It was sponsored by the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), which had been founded by Khalidi and his wife, Mona, formerly a top English translator for Arafat's press agency. 

Is there just a teeny-weenie chance that this was an evening of Israel-bashing Obama would find very difficult to explain? Could it be that the Times, a pillar of the Obamedia, is covering for its guy? 

Gateway Pundit reports that the Times has the videotape but is suppressing it. 

Smells Like Socialist Spirit

> Seven years ago, Obama told Chicago Public Radio that the Warren
> Court was too conservative and missed its opportunity to
> redistribute wealth on a much grander scale. In fact, Obama wanted
> them to break the Constitution and reorder American society far
> outside of what the founders intended.

[Highlighted Obama quotes:]
>> But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of
>> redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as
>> political and economic justice in society. ...
>> It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were
>> placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution ...
>> I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change
>> through the courts. You know, the institution just isn't structured
>> that way.

The implication is that capturing the presidency and both houses of
congress might be a better path towards "major redistributive change".

Friday, October 24, 2008

Obama’s Fundraising Fraud

It turns out that half of Obama's haul in 2008 has come in contributions of $200 dollars or less. These small donations do not require public disclosure under FEC guidelines, and the Obama campaign refuses to make public its list of contributors. Obama earlier announced he'd accept public financing if the GOP nominee did the same (and then, of course, broke his pledge in June after realizing he'd far surpass previous fundraising records). So there's a pattern. By keeping his donor list secret now, the Illinois senator has heightened speculation of financial impropriety. Not only can Obama's inside operatives organize massive bundling operations outside the law, there are no safeguards against the new "fat cat" contributors who bundle their own cash. Hillary Clinton's Norman Hsu scandal from late-2007 points to the kind of abuses possible under the current regime. A more serious breach of faith may be taking place right now in the Obama camp.

As Scott Mirengoff at Powerline reported on Thursday, the Obama campaign refuses to screen credit card contributions for potential fraudulent transactions, and thus any individual could make unlimited contributions using infinite aliases.

It turns out, for example, that credit card companies deploy a variety of security measures to guarantee the processing of electronic transactions. For campaign giving, the key safeguards are vendor address verification, country of residence, and proof of citizenship. We now know that Obama operatives at the campaign's website have disabled the security settings on vendor identity to expedite online donations, gifts that then speed through to fund election activities that would be flagged as illegal under normal FEC reporting standards.

Barney Frank, Meet Robert Heinlein [Andy McCarthy]

This morning's WSJ editorial on "Obamanomics" starts with this quote from Barney Frank (and as you read it, note how confident the Left is:  One of the main culprits of the credit crisis, saying this sort of stuff already, just before we vote and before they are even fully in power):

I think at this point there needs to be a focus on an immediate increase in spending and I think this is a time when deficit fear has to take a second seat . . . I believe later on there should be tax increases. Speaking personally, I think there are a lot of very rich people out there whom we can tax at a point down the road and recover some of the money.

It reminded me of this passage a reader sent me a few days ago, from the late, great science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein's To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987):

The America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories. A perfect democracy, a "warm body" democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally, has no internal feedback for self-correction.... [O]nce a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader — the barbarians enter Rome.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights?

Your job, as journalists, is to tell the truth.  That's what you claim you do, when you accept people's money to buy or subscribe to your paper.

But right now, you are consenting to or actively promoting a big fat lie — that the housing crisis should somehow be blamed on Bush, McCain, and the Republicans.  You have trained the American people to blame everything bad — even bad weather — on Bush, and they are responding as you have taught them to.

If you had any personal honor, each reporter and editor would be insisting on telling the truth — even if it hurts the election chances of your favorite candidate.

The Media vs. Joe the Plumber by Jonah Goldberg

In short, Obama's explanation to Joe the Plumber that we need to "spread the wealth around" is a sincere and significant expression of his worldview, with roots stretching back to his church and his days as a community organizer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The comprehensive argument against Barack Obama

Lots of links and videos summarizing the case against Obama.  

Democrats want America to support at once the most radical and least qualified candidate for President in at least a century. They have tried to conceal this with the complicity of a pom-pom-waving national media that has shown much more interest in the political background of a plumber from Ohio than in a major-party candidate for President.

America deserves better than that. Voters deserve the truth from the press, not vague cheers of "hope" and "change" while willfully ignoring or air-brushing Obama's record. We hope to set that record straight with our essay.

My immediate response: "But have you seen the other guy?"  Seriously, I'm not so concerned about the amount of time spent in Washington as an important qualification for a president.  I'd take Palin if could vote for her, but I'm left with McCain as the only other contender and I simply won't vote for him.  Bob Barr (Libertarian) is my man.  If I'm going to lose, I'm going to lose with my principles intact.

Obama’s New Tax Welfare by Peter Ferrara on National Review Online

Barack Obama says he plans to cut taxes for 95 percent of American workers. That sounds terrific, but there are three problems. One, it is meant to draw attention from the real core of the Obama tax plan: proposed increases in every major federal tax. Two, the structure of the cuts will create perverse incentives. And three, many of the people receiving "tax cuts" don't pay taxes to begin with, meaning they'll be in effect getting welfare.  [...]

Finally, Obama's "tax cut," if he follows through with it, will often be a simple giveaway. As it stands right now, roughly one-third of income earners pay no federal income taxes. Many actually receive payments from the income-tax system — these payments total 3.8 percent of all federal taxes paid. Simple arithmetic holds that if one-third of earners don't pay income tax, it's impossible to cut taxes for 95 percent of earners.

Entitlements are forever

Some conservative activists, despairing (prematurely) about the chances for victory on November 4th, argue that an Obama win could be a blessing in disguise. According to this logic, The One would occupy the White House for only One term and whatever big government, liberal programs he managed to enact could be swiftly repealed by some future "true conservative" champion.  [...]

But conservatives need to face the fact that Barack Obama has promised profound systemic changes that will be irreversible—absolutely permanent alterations of our economy and government where there is no chance at all that Republican office-holders of the future could in any way repair the damage.

For instance, consider two sweeping new entitlements that Obama plans to offer for all Americans – universal (but, he  insists, "voluntary") federally-funded pre-school for all children starting at age three, and a low-cost, heavily subsidized federal health insurance plan for every low or middle income American who wants it.   [...]

The chances of ever taking away such goodies are nil --- Presidents may come and go, but entitlements are forever. New government give-aways may accomplish nothing constructive but they're all but impossible to eliminate once they're up and running.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Justice Clarence Thomas: How to Read the Constitution

Let me put it this way; there are really only two ways to interpret the Constitution -- try to discern as best we can what the framers intended or make it up. No matter how ingenious, imaginative or artfully put, unless interpretive methodologies are tied to the original intent of the framers, they have no more basis in the Constitution than the latest football scores. To be sure, even the most conscientious effort to adhere to the original intent of the framers of our Constitution is flawed, as all methodologies and human institutions are; but at least originalism has the advantage of being legitimate and, I might add, impartial.

The Fed is getting it wrong again

Most people now living have never seen a credit crunch like the one we are currently enduring. Ms. Schwartz, 92 years old, is one of the exceptions. She's not only old enough to remember the period from 1929 to 1933, she may know more about monetary history and banking than anyone alive. She co-authored, with Milton Friedman, "A Monetary History of the United States" (1963). It's the definitive account of how misguided monetary policy turned the stock-market crash of 1929 into the Great Depression.

Ms. Schwartz thinks that our central bankers and our Treasury Department are getting it wrong again.

To understand why, one first has to understand the nature of the current "credit market disturbance," as Ms. Schwartz delicately calls it. We now hear almost every day that banks will not lend to each other, or will do so only at punitive interest rates. Credit spreads -- the difference between what it costs the government to borrow and what private-sector borrowers must pay -- are at historic highs.

This is not due to a lack of money available to lend, Ms. Schwartz says, but to a lack of faith in the ability of borrowers to repay their debts. "The Fed," she argues, "has gone about as if the problem is a shortage of liquidity. That is not the basic problem. The basic problem for the markets is that [uncertainty] that the balance sheets of financial firms are credible."

So even though the Fed has flooded the credit markets with cash, spreads haven't budged because banks don't know who is still solvent and who is not. This uncertainty, says Ms. Schwartz, is "the basic problem in the credit market. Lending freezes up when lenders are uncertain that would-be borrowers have the resources to repay them. So to assume that the whole problem is inadequate liquidity bypasses the real issue."

In the 1930s, as Ms. Schwartz and Mr. Friedman argued in "A Monetary History," the country and the Federal Reserve were faced with a liquidity crisis in the banking sector. As banks failed, depositors became alarmed that they'd lose their money if their bank, too, failed. So bank runs began, and these became self-reinforcing: "If the borrowers hadn't withdrawn cash, they [the banks] would have been in good shape. But the Fed just sat by and did nothing, so bank after bank failed. And that only motivated depositors to withdraw funds from banks that were not in distress," deepening the crisis and causing still more failures.

But "that's not what's going on in the market now," Ms. Schwartz says. Today, the banks have a problem on the asset side of their ledgers -- "all these exotic securities that the market does not know how to value."

"Why are they 'toxic'?" Ms. Schwartz asks. "They're toxic because you cannot sell them, you don't know what they're worth, your balance sheet is not credible and the whole market freezes up. We don't know whom to lend to because we don't know who is sound. So if you could get rid of them, that would be an improvement." The only way to "get rid of them" is to sell them, which is why Ms. Schwartz thought that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's original proposal to buy these assets from the banks was "a step in the right direction."

The problem with that idea was, and is, how to price "toxic" assets that nobody wants. And lurking beneath that problem is another, stickier problem: If they are priced at current market levels, selling them would be a recipe for instant insolvency at many institutions. The fears that are locking up the credit markets would be realized, and a number of banks would probably fail.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What Would Milton Friedman Say?

Would Milton have seen the crisis as a setback for capitalism?

Only in the short term.

"If this election goes the way it looks as though it's going to go," says Tom, "then the political system is about to get a major overcorrection to the left. And that means the American people are about to get an extreme illustration of just how badly government intervention screws stuff up."

"If Milton were here," Tom says, "he'd tell us to remember what happened during the Clinton administration. After just two years, the Republicans ended up in control of both houses of Congress."

A Liberal Supermajority -

Though we doubt most Americans realize it, this would be one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history. Liberals would dominate the entire government in a way they haven't since 1965, or 1933. In other words, the election would mark the restoration of the activist government that fell out of public favor in the 1970s. If the U.S. really is entering a period of unchecked left-wing ascendancy, Americans at least ought to understand what they will be getting, especially with the media cheering it all on.

John McCain may have committed the most helpful gaffe in presidential debate history last night when he called Barack Obama "Senator Government." It's already available in t-shirt form.

Obama, Joe the plumber, and the gospel of envy

Senator Obama, in a rare moment of candor, all but told "Joe the plumber" that his wealth should be seized in the name of equity. Their personal encounter this past Sunday played out one of the old themes of democratic politics: the appeal to the many to take from the few. It's traditionally an easy sell in democratic regimes.

Despite Obama's implication to the contrary, however, it doesn't represent much in the way of change.

The personal income tax, the federal government's main source of revenue, is collected overwhelmingly from a relative handful of Americans. Indeed, the most recent IRS data shows that the top 1 percent of filers paid nearly 40 percent of all income taxes. That means the top 1 percent paid about the same as the bottom 95 percent, according to the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. The bottom 50 percent paid just 3 percent.

Given that poorer citizens always outnumber the rich, political philosophers have long worried that government based on majority rule could lead to organized theft from the wealthy by the democratic masses. "If the majority distributes among itself the things of a minority, it is evident that it will destroy the city," Aristotle warned.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Obama to Joe: Plumbing is a Constitutional Right

After a presidential debate which focused on the needs of one man, a plumber named Joe Wurzelbacher of Holland, Ohio, Sen. Barack Obama this morning announced that "plumbing, like health care, is a Constitutional right, and therefore a federal government responsibility."

"Millions of Americans go to bed every night listening to the incessant drip of a leaky faucet, fearing a flooded basement or a backed up toilet," said Sen. Obama. "In my travels around the country, I've learned that single mothers, children and seniors are hardest hit. Often it comes down to a decision between buying groceries, or getting the garbage disposal fixed."

Read the whole thing.  Once again ScrappleFace cuts to the heart of the matter with humor.  The scary part is that it's hard to see how a Democrat could argue with his logic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Change [Cliff May]

One reason Republicans lost the 2004 congressional elections: Corruption, e.g. Duke Cunningham (financial) and Mark Foley (sexual).

Four years later there are allegations of corruption on the Democratic side, e.g. Charlie Rangel (financial) and Tim Mahoney (sexual).

And this appears not to be harming Democrats at the polls not one little bit. Discuss among yourselves.

AP: Congressman Had Second Affair; Tim Mahoney doubles down

It was a big deal when John McCain couldn't remember how many houses he had.  Someone should ask Mahoney how many mistresses he has?

Apparently, no text messaging was involved so this is entirely a private matter.  Let's all move on to celebrate the upcoming victory for Democrats in November.

Hours after a married congressman addressed a report that he had an affair with a former member of his campaign staff and paid her to keep quiet about, details of a purported extramarital relationship with a second woman surfaced.Later Tuesday, a person close to his campaign told The Associated Press that Mahoney also was having an affair with a second woman around the same time.

Mahoney spoke briefly to the media at PGA National Resort & Spa, reading from a prepared statement with his wife at his side. Mahoney responded to the allegations that he agreed to a $121,000 payoff to Patricia Allen and promised her a $50,000-per-year job at the company that handled his campaign advertising, as ABC News first reported Monday.

The affair between Mahoney, 52, and Allen, 50, allegedly began in 2006 when he was campaigning against disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley, according to current and former staff members. Mahoney was eventually elected to replace Foley, who resigned following a sex scandal involving teenage congressional pages.

A person close to the Mahoney campaign said Mahoney also was having a relationship with a high-ranking official in Martin County. The person said Mahoney was having a relationship with a 49-year-old divorcé in the engineering department and that the affair took place in 2007 while Mahoney also was lobbying the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a $3.4 million reimbursement for Martin County for damage caused by hurricanes in 2004. FEMA approved the money late last year.

Obama – ‘Spread the Wealth Around’ Reveals Socialist Plan for America

"Of course not," said Obama. "But what's happened is that we end up – we've cut taxes a lot for folks like me who make a lot more than 250. We haven't given a break to folks who make less, and as a consequence, the average wage and income for ordinary folks, the vast majority of Americans, has actually gone down over the last eight years. So all I want to do is – I've got a tax cut. The only thing that changes, is I'm gonna cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in need and for the 5% of the folks who are doing very well - even though they've been working hard and I appreciate that – I just want to make sure they're paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts. Now, I respect the disagreement. I just want you to be clear – it's not that I want to punish your success – I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you – that they've got a chance at success too."   [...]

Obama said, "My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody. If you've got a plumbing business, you're gonna be better off if you're gonna be better off if you've got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody's so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

An interview with the plumber, Joe Wurzelbacher:

You start giving people stuff, and then they start expecting it – and that scares me. A lot of people expect it now. They get upset when their check's late, they get upset when they don't get as many benefits as they used to, or when different government agencies are cut or spending is cut here and there for whatever reason – people get upset at that. And that's because they're used to getting it and they want more. I mean, everyone's always gonna want more. People work the system left and right to get more out of welfare, to get more out of state assistance, federal assistance. And if government's there for them, they're gonna keep on trying to manipulate it to get more out of it. You got people that come along and say, "Hey, I wanna help you people," I mean, they're all ears! They're like, "Hey, you can help me more, I don't have to work as hard, I don't have to do as much, and you're gonna give me this? Man, that's great, you're a good guy."
So yeah, it goes down the socialist – His healthcare plan scares me. You know, I don't like people going without healthcare, but it's not my job to pay for everyone else's healthcare. It's hard enough paying for my own. I like the idea of deregulation as far as – nationally, you know, you only get insurance companies that can work in this state – if you deregulate that then you have more people competing and then the prices would go lower. It seems pretty simple to me. It probably isn't that simple – but you flood the market with more products, usually they go down cheaper.

Hands Off Palin | The Next Right

Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham aren't defending the campaign to the hilt because they are McCain people, or even McCain/Palin people. It is because they are Palin people. They believe Palin is the only smart move McCain has made. And events since since Palin faded from the spotlight haven't exactly disproven their point.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Indefinable Barack Obama by Mark Steyn on National Review Online

Gaze into the giant zero of the Obama logo, the hole in the star-spangled donut, the vast fathomless nullity that is the gaping keyhole to the door of utopia. To a sad shriveled Republican cynic, there's nothing there but the wide open spaces of Obama's blank resume. But a believer will see therein the healing of the planet and the receding of the oceans. The black hole of Obama will suck you in through the awesome power of its totally cool suckiness.

Toopergate report

The following facts about Sarah Palin's brother in-law, Mike Wooten, were confirmed by a 2005 State Police investigation:

He used a Taser on his stepson. 

He shot a moose without a license, violating a law he has responsibility for enforcing.

He drank beer in his patrol car on one occasion. 

He told others his father-in-law would "eat a [expletive]ing lead bullet" if he helped his daughter get an attorney for the divorce.

Wooten's tenure with the Alaska State Police also includes a reprimand in January 2004 for negligent damage to a state vehicle; a January 2005 instruction after being accused of speeding, unsafe lane changes, following too closely and not using turn signals in his state vehicle; a June 2005 instruction regarding personal cell phone calls; an October 2005 suspension from work after getting a speeding ticket; and a November 2005 memo "to clarify duty hours, tardiness and personal business during duty time."

At the conclusion of the 2005 investigation, the State Police concluded Wooten exhibited "a significant pattern of judgment failures," and decided the appropriate discipline was… a ten-day suspension.

You would never know it, but the 268-page report to the state legislature found "Governor Palin's firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statuatory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads." So note that the firing of Monegan was not the abuse of power; the series of contacts about Wooten was.

Complaint against Steyn dismissed [Mark Steyn]

Because we spent a ton of money and had a bigshot Queen's Counsel and exposed the joke jurisprudence and (at the federal "human rights" commission) systemic corruption, the kangaroo courts decided that discretion was the better part of valor. The Ontario "Human Rights" Commission ruled they weren't able to prosecute the case because of a technicality - I offered to waive the technicality, but the wimps still bailed out. If you have the wherewithal to stand up to these totalitarian bullies, they stampede for the exits. But, if you're just an obscure Alberta pastor or a guy with a widely unread website or a fellow who writes a letter to his local newspaper, they'll destroy your life.

I sympathize with the Canadian Islamic Congress, whose mouthpiece feels that, if the British Columbia pseudo-judges had applied the logic of previous decisions, we'd have been found guilty. He's right: Under the ludicrous British Columbia "Human Rights" Code, we are guilty. Which is why the Canadian Islamic Congress should appeal, and why I offered on the radio an hour ago to chip in a thousand bucks towards their costs.

Christopher Buckley: Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama

Dear Pup once said to me sighfully after a right-winger who fancied himself a WFB protégé had said something transcendently and provocatively cretinous, "You know, I've spent my entire life time separating the Right from the kooks." Well, the dear man did his best. At any rate, I don't have the kidney at the moment for 12,000 emails saying how good it is he's no longer alive to see his Judas of a son endorse for the presidency a covert Muslim who pals around with the Weather Underground. So, you're reading it here first.

Thomas Sowell : Negative Advertising

In words, Obama is a uniter instead of a divider. In deeds, he has spent years promoting polarization. That is what a "community organizer" does, creating a sense of grievance, envy and resentment, in order to mobilize political action to get more of the taxpayers' money or to force banks to lend to people they don't consider good risks, as the community organizing group ACORN did.

After Barack Obama moved beyond the role of a community organizer, he promoted the same polarization in his other roles.

Obama's 95% Illusion -

One of Barack Obama's most potent campaign claims is that he'll cut taxes for no less than 95% of "working families." He's even promising to cut taxes enough that the government's tax share of GDP will be no more than 18.2% -- which is lower than it is today.

It's a clever pitch, because it lets him pose as a middle-class tax cutter while disguising that he's also proposing one of the largest tax increases ever on the other 5%. But how does he conjure this miracle, especially since more than a third of all Americans already pay no income taxes at all? There are several sleights of hand, but the most creative is to redefine the meaning of "tax cut."

For the Obama Democrats, a tax cut is no longer letting you keep more of what you earn. In their lexicon, a tax cut includes tens of billions of dollars in government handouts that are disguised by the phrase "tax credit." Mr. Obama is proposing to create or expand no fewer than seven such credits for individuals...

Here's the political catch. All but the clean car credit would be "refundable," which is Washington-speak for the fact that you can receive these checks even if you have no income-tax liability. In other words, they are an income transfer -- a federal check -- from taxpayers to nontaxpayers. Once upon a time we called this "welfare," or in George McGovern's 1972 campaign a "Demogrant." Mr. Obama's genius is to call it a tax cut.

Acorn epidemic [Mark Steyn]

Apropos my earlier post, a reader responds:

By federal law, ACORN field reps are required to turn in EVERY registration form that is filled out whether they think it is fraudulent or not.

But that's the point - like the fellow in Ohio yesterday who said he registered to vote 72 different times because the Acorn reps told him otherwise they wouldn't get paid. If you swamp small county offices with a gazillion registrations a month before the election, you cripple the system, you make it impossible to do basic background checks, and you make it easier for all kinds of monkey business to go on.

This is why giving groups like Acorn quasi-official status is wrong. If Fred Smith wants to register to vote, Fred Smith should go to the Town Clerk's office and do it himself. The "CO" in Acorn stands for "community organizers". We should be grateful to these guys for bringing to light what a phoney-baloney Orwellian concept Obama's much vaunted "community organizing" is. Like most people, I have no wish to live in a community organized by community organizers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Re: The Markets & Paulson [John Hood]

I think the case against Treasury's plan remains persuasive. Forcing taxpayers to buy assets at prices above what investors would voluntarily shell out for them — which is the most clearcut definition of the plan — transfers scarce resources from people who made better decisions to people who made worse decisions. It doesn't solve the capitalization problem, and proposing such a massive new federal power over the economy is likely to — and probably has already worked to — spook investors far more about current conditions and the future market environment than whatever confidence Treasury expected to build. Indeed, more generally the series of bailouts can themselves be seen as repeated signals to international investors that policymakers are panicked and desperate. Would you want to invest in such a place?

For all the talk about market psychology, there seems to be little appreciation of the fact that when public officials say reassuring things but do death-defying things, investors learn to ignore what is said and treat every new "remedy" as additional tests confirming a terminal diagnosis. That's why central bankers can slash interest rates in concert and then see investors get more jittery.

I remain convinced that the best response to the initial panic was to propose policies, such as changes in accounting regulation and tax relief, that we wouldn't have come to regret and that signaled clearly to worldwide investors that America would be a more attractive place to earn returns in the future. If intervention in the mortgage markets was warranted, something to reduce the severity of the underyling problem — risk of mortgage defaults, not housing prices per se — would have been preferable, essentially a temporary bailout of homeowners via tax credit or a renegotiation program on steriods. And if intervention in the banking system was warranted, working through existing institutions such as FDIC and the Fed was preferable to creating a new entity at Treasury with unclear intentions and clear long-term risks.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

George Will: Is This It?

In 1987, on the eve of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's third victory, the head of her Conservative Party told a visiting columnist: "Someday, Labour will win an election. Our job is to hold on until they are sane." Republicans, winners of seven of the last 10 presidential elections, had better hope they have held on long enough.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Black and Right

If you like that video that Jay Nordlinger recommended, you can find more here:

Hi ya'll! My friends have come to know me by a few names: Macho Sauce Productions, Twenty Pound Sledge, or Zo! Thanks for rollin' through my Cyborhood! House of Christian, Conservative, Republicans, and if you ain't, well you're still welcome!

Other bloggers also know him as Alfonzo Rachel.  This guy's got talent.  He's funny and energetic while driving home the conservative message.  I think he's going to be a star!