Archive for September, 2009

If One Of You Comes Clean, We Might Issue A Ya’ Think Award™

Wall Street types who voted for Obama, believing he was a moderate

The first person to go public admitting the error of his ways can count on an award. But, if you’re only going to speak off the record, fuggedaboudit.

In the depths of the financial crisis last year, people like Morgan Stanley’s John Mack, BlackRock’s Larry Fink, Greg Fleming (then of Merrill Lynch), JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein were telling everyone that candidate Barack Obama was a “moderate,” and moderation was what this country needed.

What a difference a year makes. They won’t admit it in public — but in private conversations, the top guys on Wall Street are feeling burned.

The guy who seemed like such a steady voice — vowing to curb runaway spending and restoring order to the banking system and the economy as a whole — is instead so driven to achieve his big-government policy goals that he and his policy people are ignoring their own economic advisers on the severe economic costs that his agenda will cause.

I’m told that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and chief economic adviser Lawrence Summers have both complained to senior Wall Street execs that they have almost no say in major policy decisions. Obama economic counselor Paul Volcker, the former Fed chairman, is barely consulted at all on just about anything — not even issues involving the banking system, of which he is among the world’s leading authorities.

At most, the economic people and their staffs get asked to do cost analyses of Obama’s initiatives for the White House political people — who then ignore their advice.

It’s almost the opposite approach, the Wall Street crowd complains, from the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, whose main first-term achieve- ment — deficit reduction — was crafted by his chief economic adviser, Robert Rubin.

Like Obama, Clinton and Rubin promised to raise taxes on the “rich,” and they did. But Clinton didn’t raise taxes to embark on a wild-eyed redistribution of wealth and massive programs. In the early Clinton years, Rubin convinced the president that he needed to avoid the grim consequences of runaway spending — and after the Republicans took Congress in ’94, it was no longer an option.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. Come clean guys. Go public. A much coveted award awaits you. Your friends will be so jealous.

- Aggie

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Thought We Fixed This

What happened with all the bailouts?

Maybe they put off the inevitable for a few months.

CIT Group Inc. shares plunged Wednesday as the commercial lender is reportedly trying to craft an exchange that would cut its debt and offer bondholders an equity stake in the company in a bid to avoid bankruptcy.

Shares of the New York-based financial firm, one of the largest U.S. lenders to small and midsize businesses, fell 85 cents, or 38.6 percent, to $1.35 in morning trading.

CIT Group is preparing an exchange offer that would eliminate as much as 40 percent of its more than $30 billion in outstanding debt, The Wall Street Journal said, citing anonymous sources. The exchange would hand control of the company over to its bondholders and wipe out common stockholders, according to the report.

A spokesman for the company declined comment on Wednesday.

CIT Group spent the summer trying to stave off a potential collapse amid mounting loan losses and rising funding costs. It has been devastated by the downturn in the credit markets and is attempting to restructure its operations to remain in business. CIT in the past relied heavily on cheap, short-term debt to fund its operations — a type of funding that essentially evaporated during the peak of the credit crisis last year.

The financial firm, which received $2.3 billion in federal bailout aid last fall, received a $3 billion emergency loan in July from some of its largest bondholders and completed a debt repurchase program in August to help ease its cash crunch. Those measures appear to still be short of saving CIT Group, which has said in the past it would need to continue to reduce its debt burden to survive

File this one under Obamanomics.

And what will happen to the market if investors fear that all the stimulus-bailout-hopey-changey thing didn’t pan out?

- Aggie

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If You Have a Moment…

I’d like to talk to you about Afghanistan, sir.

Afghanistan. You know, the place between Iran and Pakistan, the one that…

Pakistan, sir. Next to India? Muslim? Yes sir, that’s the place, the one with all the dead women leaders, you got it. Well, just to its left—I mean, right next door—is Afghanistan.

The Tal-ee-ban, that’s it. You really are sharp if I may say so, sir. Now, if I can bring to your attention…

Time’s up, sir? So quickly? Yes sir, I realize how much time it’s taking to convince the International Olympic Committee to give the 2016 games to Chicago. You must be exhausted.

I’ll just see your appointment secretary on the way out, shall I? Is 2010 good for you? No? 2011? Yes sir, we’ll just keep it flexible. Yes sir, “rapid reaction”, very funny, sir. I’ll await your call.

President Obama will hear from his top commander in Afghanistan on Wednesday for the first time since the general warned that America’s mission in the unstable country will likely fail without more troops.

The president is attending the first in a series of Afghanistan strategy sessions with his national security team amid criticism that he has not acted quickly enough to address the challenges U.S. forces face there, and that he has been downplaying advice from Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

The security team includes top military and diplomatic officials with whom Obama has been in regular contact. But McChrystal, who will join the private meeting via video feed, has talked with Obama only once since taking over U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan over the summer.

The strategy session provides a chance for McChrystal to explain personally to Obama why he’s asked for more troops — a request Obama has put on hold while he reviews war policy in Afghanistan with the rest of his security team.

Would it be too cynical of me to wonder if President Obama can even pick McChrystal out of a crowd? The general said they’ve spoken only once, after all.

Let’s hope McChrystal talks fast, though, before more of this takes place:

A United States service member was killed when a suicide car bomber struck a military convoy Wednesday morning in eastern Afghanistan, according to allied officials and the provincial authorities.

Anyhow, they have only today. Copenhagen awaits (Michelle’s already there, having taken her own plane.)

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One Candle of Truth Can Dispel Darkness

One of my favorite Israeli bloggers, Arlene Kushner (who’m I kidding?—she’s about the only Israeli blogger I read) had a link to this quick hit interview of Netanyahu. I hope you watch: it’s about the best minute and a half you’ll ever spend:

I lived in New York at this time, and as a goy, I found it difficult to take the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson (whom Netanyahu is quoting) seriously. The literature that one would see proclaiming him as the Jewish messiah seemed a bit of a stretch. But the wisdom of what he told Bibi, the naive but faithful optimism of his comment, is profoundly moving. It’s almost miraculous how it resonates a quarter of a century later.

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Your Government at Work

Barbara Boxer—sorry, Senator Boxer: can’t live with her, can’t shove her in a burlap sack and throw her off the Bay Bridge (which I would never suggest, let me assure you) [via NRO]:

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s climate bill set to be released today contains a provision that will compensate General Electric quite nicely for its lobbying and media efforts promoting climate legislation.

Section 821(c) requires that, by December 12, 2012, the EPA set standards for greenhouse gas emissions from “new aircraft and new engines used in new aircraft.”

So the Boxer bill would compel airlines and the military, when purchasing new aircraft and new aircraft engines, to purchase more expensive “green” engines made by GE, according to standards set by the current and GE-lobbied Obama administration.

Keep in mind that GE CEO Jeff Immelt is member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Council.

More evidence that GE’s political action committee (GEPAC) meant what it said in its August 19, 2009 e-mail to employees:

The intersection between GE’s interests and government action is clearer than ever.

Other payoffs to GE will likely be unconvered as Boxer’s bill virtually requires the purchase of other GE products including wind turbines, solar panels and water products.

Who says the Democrats don’t support the military? If the money’s right, they’re John Wayne and Chuck Norris, rolled into one. And I for one will not be surprised (saddened beyond belief, but not surprised) when these “green” engines start belching black smoke as the military chopper carrying a dozen soldiers plummets to the earth.

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Cojones Mas Grandes

Local radio host Michael Graham has been having a field day this morning with this story:

A Framingham man who told police he can’t afford to return to his native Guatemala, turned himself in Saturday on identity theft charges so he could eventually be deported, police said.

Carlos F. Boc, 29, told officers he had no job or money and was worried about surviving the winter, police spokesman Lt. Paul Shastany said.

Just after 8:30 Saturday night, Boc went to the front window at the Framingham Police station and spoke to Officer Joe Godino.

“He said he needed help in returning to his home country,” Shastany said.

Boc then showed documents, including a birth certificate and a Social Security number of another man, as well as a driver’s license with his picture but the other man’s information. Boc said he had stolen his former roommate’s identification after the man moved back to Puerto Rico two years ago, Shastany said.

Boc also provided proof of his real name. Boc told police he came to the United States from Guatemala 13 years ago, but could not afford to return. Illegal immigrants convicted of a felony are subject to deportation. He entered this country illegally through Mexico, police said.

“He said he had no job and no money, and he was afraid for his safety in the winter,” said Shastany. “He said the only way to get home was to tell the truth and prove who he was. Godino told him ‘Due to what you just advised me, you committed a crime.’ Boc said, ‘I know.”‘

So after all the crimes he committed, the only questions we have for him are window or aisle, chicken or pasta, beer or wine?

I think this is actually quite complimentary to our country. In what other land would a man from Guatemala learn the true meaning of chutzpah? He’d better hope his deportation doesn’t come before Friday, though. I just checked the weather for Guatemala City, and they’re going to have rain and thunderstorms over the next couple of days.

Since he’s such a paragon of honesty, is it too cynical of me to wonder if he’s got a nice bank account waiting for him back home, stuffed with earnings made illegally at the expense of legal immigrants and citizens? How is it possible he made enough money there to get here (paying smugglers and bribing the constabulary as he went), but not enough money here to get there?

And if his story is true (which I doubt, if you couldn’t tell), what does that say about the Obama stimulus plan, when even hardened criminals of 13 years can’t make a dishonest buck anymore?

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So Annoying

Poor Tom Friedman; he is but a human echo chamber

Once a rumble starts in the Left, you know, sooner or later, our Tommy will amplify it.

I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish settler as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?” The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

Gee Tom, without defending the facebook poll, which is indefensible, let me pose another question. What kind of madness is it to refer to Bush-Hitler for eight years? Or to make a feature length film about the assassination of Bush? I’ll stop here because, like an alcoholic I know that if I continue down this road, there’s no stopping me. But our readers get the drift, even if the NY Times crowd pretends to be oblivious. They are not stupid; it’s all an act.

I agree with one thing that he wrote:

Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word “we” with a straight face. There is no more “we” in American politics at a time when “we” have these huge problems — the deficit, the recession, health care, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that “we” can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective “we” at work.

The “we” was taken care of the way an avalanche forms, slowly at first (the Bork hearings in the ’80s) and then faster (Clinton hatred) and faster (Bush hatred). I would argue that Obama hatred is milder than Bush hatred, but I live in Massachusetts and may not be getting a good reading. We now have a split in our society to rival and possibly surpass the Vietnam era. This is not particularly the fault of Rush or that nutjob on the Left whose name I always suppress… on MSNBC… oh yeah, Olberman. It is the result of years of screaming and lying and discounting reasonable perspectives on the other side. If Friedman had written this during the frenzy of Bush hatred, I would have respected him for it. Instead, this represents more of the same.

- Aggie

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More Good News From The Recession

We’ll all live longer

Americans appear to actually thrive on adversity, according to a study published this week that reached the conclusion after researching the nation’s biggest economic downturn.

Life expectancy during the peak years of the Great Depression increased 6.2 years — from 57.1 years in 1929 to 63.3 years in 1933 — according to University of Michigan researchers Jose A. Tapia Granados and Ana Diez Roux. The increase applied to men and women, whites and non-whites.

The team crunched data from the federal government and concluded that “population health did not decline and indeed generally improved during the four years of the Great Depression, 1930-1933, with mortality decreasing for almost all ages, and life expectancy increasing by several years in males, females, whites, and non-whites.”

For most age groups, “mortality tended to peak during years of strong economic expansion (such as 1923, 1926, 1929 and 1936-1937),” they wrote in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

“The finding is strong and counterintuitive,” said Tapia Granados, the lead author of the study. “Most people assume that periods of high unemployment are harmful to health.”

Well, here’s a thought. People eat less during a depression. Do a study; food is hard to find when production shuts down and becomes difficult to sell, to transport, when you can’t hire help. BUT we know that calorie restriction increases longevity (another study). So the recession will help by restricting calories, hypothetically. We’ll all be skinny like Obama!

Plus, everyone knows that cigarettes are expensive and bad for health. Maybe fewer cigarettes get smoked. Less alcohol consumed.

During recessions, with less work to do, employees may work slower, sleep longer and spend more time with family and friends, he said. With less money, they may spend less on alcohol and tobacco.

Yet another reason to be thankful to Obama. I wake up each and every morning and thank our leader for all that he has done for us. Mm, mm, mm.

Oh, one other reason we are all so healthy. We can’t afford to eat out. We’re eating less meat, more beans. We’re eating seasonal veggies ’cause they’re cheaper. We are truly blessed.

- Aggie

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Mm, Mm, Mm

A frustrated lyricist, I’d like to try writing a paean to our Dear Leader.

Ahem.

Barack Hussain Obama
Was raised by his typ’cal white gramma.
He did well at school,
Cause he was no fool
But now he has banished our summah:

If the academic year gets pushed deeper into summer, as President Obama is advocating, the grumbling will not be limited just to students and teachers who will be forced to spend more days in school.

Critics say the president’s call for a longer academic calendar and a shorter summer vacation will bring on a host of unintended consequences — including increased costs for school systems, major cuts to the nation’s hotel and tourism industries, and a serious blow to summer camp operators.

Obama says kids in the U.S. spend too little time in the classroom, putting them at a disadvantage when competing with students in other countries. The president has suggested that making school days longer and extending the school year will increase learning, raise test scores and close the achievement gap.

So, more of what’s failed—is that the prescription? Let’s not challenge the teachers unions on performance and initiative, let’s not give parents choice and responsibility, let’s just pile on more hours a day, more days a year. All of which should help the indoctrination program.

Mm, mm, mm.

Barack Hussain Obama
Sure knows how to create a drama.
He floats a rash scheme
That would make Jefferson scream,
Then whines, “Man, you guys are a bummer.”

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Senate Working To Ban ACORN Funding

This seems serious to me

With no fanfare and no roll call vote, not even a speech — the Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved an amendment by Sen. Mike Johanns, R-NE, that bars any funds from the Defense spending bill from going to ACORN.

Johanns promised to introduce a similar amendment on every spending bill Congress considers this year, until the chamber takes up his broader bill that would impose permanent ban on ACORN receiving any federal funds.

It took the Senate a little over one minute to consider the measure.

What took them so long?

- Aggie

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Les Girls

Leave it to the Muslims to take the allure out of 72 virgins:

Following are excerpts from an interview with Syrian-born Saudi cleric Muhammad Al-Munajid, which aired on Al-Majd TV on July 25, 2009.

Allah said that the black-eyed virgins are beautiful white young women, with black pupils and very white retinas, whose skin is so delicate and bright that it causes confusion. Allah said that they are like hidden pearls. They have wide eyes, and they have not been touched by man or jinn. They are virgins, who yearn for their husbands. They are all the same age, morally and physically beautiful. They are like precious gems and pearls in their splendor, their clarity, their purity, and their whiteness. They are like hidden pearls – as pure as a pearl within a shell, untouched by man. Each one of them is so beautiful that you can see the bone-marrow through the delicate flesh on their legs.

He had me for a while, but, well, the air has just gone out of my sails.

Such brilliant beauty does not exist in this world. Where can you find such beauty? Whereas the women of this world may suffer, for days and nights, from menstruation, from blood for 40 days after childbirth, from vaginal bleeding and from diseases – the women of Paradise are pure, unblemished, menstruation-free, free of feces, urine, phlegm, children…

Feces, urine, phlegm, menstrual blood, children—which doesn’t belong, and why?

Moreover, Allah cleaned them of all impure and foul things, both in appearance and character. In character, they are not jealous, hateful, or angry. They are not greedy.
[...]
They are restricted to tents, locked up for the husband. There is no such thing as going out. When he comes home – they are there. There is no such thing in Paradise as a man coming home and not finding his wife there. Allah described them as women who lower their gaze, and never look at anybody but their husband.

Allah doesn’t say how they rate at conversation, but that’s a small price to pay for those black pupils.

In this world, men work hard and tire themselves out in order to derive pleasure. The Prophet Muhammad says that in Paradise, a man gets the strength of 100 men when it comes to eating, drinking, passion, and sex.

In the case of Ted Kennedy, the mind reels.

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We Are All Lee Harvey Oswald Now

At least, I think that’s what Patrick Kennedy said:

He cited, as an example, 10,000 signs distributed at a recent Washington protest that read, “Bury ObamaCare with Kennedy.”

Patrick Kennedy is the last member of his storied family to hold federal office. His father, U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, died one month ago after battling a brain tumor. His uncles, former President John F. Kennedy and former presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, were assassinated.

“My family’s seen it up close too much with assassinations and violence in political life. It’s a terrible thing when people think that in order to get their point across they have to go to the edge of violent rhetoric and attack people personally,” Kennedy told the nurses, union officials and AARP members finishing their breakfasts at the invitation-only event in the Providence Marriott hotel. “It’s fine for people to debate the issue and attack the issue, but when they go and stoop to the level of the vitriolic rhetoric that we’ve seen this debate turn up, it’s very, I think, dangerous to the fabric of our country.”

Oh dear, so many ways to go. Should I take the route that today’s “vitriolic rhetoric” is nowhere near as violent as the anti-Bush rhetoric? No, not today. How about the insulting and insane insinuation that people with objections and concerns about this radical plan are no different from Sirhan Sirhan? Or should I just ask what is violent or vitriolic about using a burial metaphor to describe the, uh, termination of a legislative proposal? Maybe a little too soon for good taste, but, Jesus, Pat, grow a set of balls.

I think instead I’ll observe that Ted Kennedy’s name and visage are plastered all over the movement to nationalize the health industry. “Do it for Ted,” is the mantra we hear, over and over. We aren’t the ones who dragged the late senator’s lifeless body from his eternal rest, and propped him up next to the bill, like some vulgar send-up of Weekend at Bernie’s. You let him in peace, and so will we.

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