Friday, October 31, 2008

Free for All Saturday!!!!!

Hey, I know this is lazy, but I'm getting up early, driving to Charlottesville and then driving home tomorrow. I don't think I'm going to get back to the computer until Sunday morning.

Go ahead and use this thread to bring up more subjects you want opened up for discussion, and GO HOOS!!!!


That's right, ladies and gentlemen, it's FREE FOR ALL FRIDAY. Here's where you write in and pontificate on whatever it is you wish. Like last week, I'll cut and paste particularly worthy and interesting posts as threads of their own for further comment. Let 'er rip!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Middle Class Wears a Scarlet "E"

In "The Scarlet Letter", Hester Prynne is forced by the community to wear the letter "A" emblazoned on her bosom for the act of adultery. This was the community's way of shaming her for violating its laws of decency and conduct.

I'm beginning to think that the entire middle class of the United States should be forced to have the letter "E" emblazoned on its bosom, representing the word "Entitlements", the evil to which the middle class has lately fallen victim.

There was a time in this country when being middle class meant something. It meant that you and your family lived on the income that the family produced, usually in a house in which regular mortgage payments were made. The family payed its taxes, and it received little or nothing from the federal government in the form of either direct or indirect transfer payments. When items were purchased, they were saved for in advance. And if they were financed, regular payments were made every month until the debt was paid. Being "middle class" meant nothing if not belonging to a class of Americans who looked to the federal government to provide little more than national defense, international relations, the regulation of interstate commerce and the funding of the interstate highway system.

But the middle class I've just described does not exist anymore. Being middle class today means expecting the federal government to underwrite a portion of your children's college education. Being middle class today means that you unblinkingly accept---and loudly defend---tax credits paid you simply because of your ability to reproduce. Being middle class today means that a one-hour trip to the doctor should cost you no more than $25 out of pocket, while your employer is looked to in order to offset the largest portion of your medical care. Being middle class today means braying loudly to the cameras that Wall Street was receiving more love from Uncle Sugar than Main Street, because your $650,000 McMansion has lost 40% of its value and your ARM payment has more than doubled. Being middle class today means looking to government to provide skating rinks, skateboard parks, after-school enrichment programs and a full menu of activities for your aging parents at the local Seniors Center. And when those aging parents reach the age where they can no longer care for themselves, being middle class today means looking to the government to provide full time, long-term care for them.

There was a time during the Reagan Administration where the "welfare queen" came into vogue; you know, the caricature of a single mother with several children (usually of different sires), no job, living in public housing, drawing public assistance and feeding herself and children on AFDC. The welfare queen lives on, except she is now more likely to be driving a tricked out SUV and living in a 4500 square foot house. She (and her husband) are raising a couple of kids, putting little money into their 4o1K's while counting on student loans to finance their children's education. After paying all their bills each month, they only go a few hundred dollars deeper into credit card debt. No one told them that when it came time to refinance out of that ridiculous mortgage they signed, their house may actually have lost value resulting in unaffordable payments for a house they could never afford in the first place. They are lucky enough though, to have a golf cart charging in the garage so that they won't have to drive one of their SUV's to the gated community pool--wouldn't want to contribute any more greenhouse gases than they already do! Oh, and there's a sticker on their cars with only one word on it...."Hope".

UVA Football Player Arrested

These days, with Virginia Football enjoying a surprising turnaround after last year's nine-win season, people like me who think the coach ought to be fired are seen by other UVA fans as crazy. Yet my objection to Al Groh has never been his ability to win, or to coach a team. My problem(s) with him are 1) he browbeats the press and alums, acting like Parcels without Parcels portfolio or record of accomplishment and 2) he can't keep his players in school. UVA lost 6 starters to academic problems before the season started and we lost this year's starting quarterback to problems with the law. News this morning of YET ANOTHER UVA player being arrested.

Either Groh has to do a MUCH BETTER job of recruiting players with better character, or he must run a better program, one that keeps these guys in school by ensuring they get whatever academic counseling/tutoring they need AND that they receive character counseling, oversight and in some cases, harsh discipline to counter-act whatever impulses there are in their nature that cause them to misbehave.

Groh is not running a program that brings credit to the University. He is winning, but I would rather lose if the price is the reputation of the school.

Dems Try to Oust Plumed Knight of the Senate

A delicious story here of machinations within the Democratic Party to relieve Senator "If you want it built, you'd better build it in West Virginny" Robert K.K.K Byrd from his post as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee (a.k.a The College of Cardinals). Bob's slowing down these days (he's 90) and word is some don't quite think he's up to the job. Next in line behind him for the Chairmanship is the spry Senator Inouye, who at 84 is a spring chicken compared to Senator Byrd.

The best is yet to come, folks. Just wait until you see what the Dems do to Senator Lieberman in the next Congress....

Robert Byrd is a pimp and a caricature. He represents much of what is wrong with the Congress, and virtually all of what is wrong with the Senate.

Cost of College Educations Going Up; No One Knows Why...

Jonah Goldberg at National Review loves to point out the stories in the news that come up on a fairly routine basis trumpeting something like "Prison Population Grows Even as Crime Rate Declines". Usually found in the New York Times or some other equally unreliable rag, this kind of story never quite is able to make the connection between the two variables.

We have another example of this kind of (non)thinking this morning. Some very important lady tells us that college costs are going to rise. Later in the article, we learn that there has been an increase of 6% in money available for federal student loans. No thought is given to the connection between the two. Well, no, that isn't exactly true, there is some thought in the sentence that reads, "Rising college costs coupled with the economic downturn also have more students lining up for financial help". Except that the thought is too much in one direction. The expanded availability of financial aid makes college more attractive to more people (a.k.a demand). Also (by the way) a downturn in the economy means people lose jobs....making them available for....higher education funded by student loans! Because expanding university class sizes are fairly stable, supply remains unchanged. What happens with an increase in demand with no increase in supply? Price increases.

Story of an Obama Volunteer

The Post's got a story of an Obama Volunteer from Maryland this morning, and it is a telling example of the racial nature of this election. The women in question seethes with racial pride, envy, and rancor. It is hard to imagine the weight she carries bound up in the tremendous chip on her shoulder.

It should be remembered by Donnell Stewart and all who engage in the practice of racial politics that should Barack Obama be elected, simple math would indicate that over 50% of his voters were not "people of color".

Strike 1 on the Financial Bail-out

News this morning that half the banks taking the government life preserver are continuing to pay dividends. This is insane. Dividends are something healthy companies pay. Companies in trouble retain their earnings, pay down their debt and become solvent. It is hard to believe that European banks were required to no post dividends if participating in their version of a bailout, but our banks were allowed to continue to. Word from Treasury is that allowing them to post dividends was an incentive to about not failing as sufficient incentive? This is troubling.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Phillies Win the World Series

Well, I just watched the end of a baseball game, and it has me smiling. Truth be told (and maybe some of you can chime in), I used to be a HUGE baseball fan. Huge. I was a Reds fan back when that meant something (my distaste for baseball came after a strike shortened season when the Reds were frozen out of the playoffs).

But I grew up in South Jersey, so going to a major league game meant going to watch the Phillies. I vividly remember the 1980 Series, the last one the Phillies won--I was a sophomore in high school and everyone went wild; a good number of my classmates cut school to go to the victory parade (but not me....bit of a rule follower even then).

So now, when I'm no longer a baseball fan, turning on the game to see the Phillies lock it up brought back a lot of memories of a much simpler time.

Congratulations to the Phillies, the City of Philadelphia, and all my family and friends who have loved this team for so long.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why You See All the Obama Ads on My Site

Yes, they frustrate me too. Here's the deal. When you sign up for Google's Adsense, the service that delivers unto me cash money for every click you--my loyal readers--perform on any of the ads here (as of today, a whopping $19.60 has accumulated in my account after three months, payable to me only when it reaches $100), the ads are fed to you automatically based on the content of the site. Clearly, this is a political blog, so I get a lot of political ads. I have the capacity to remove ads, but it is a fairly labor intensive process that I've performed now on a bout a dozen particularly egregious examples. These then, do not ever appear again on the site.

But when you raise $750B, you have a lot of walking around money to buy ads. And the Obama Campaign has been nothing if not savvy in using the web to advertise. I don't have the energy or
inclination to keep up with killing all Obama ads--if I did, there'd be no content on the site.

Obamunism T-Shirts

Saw an ad for these shirts today and thought they were pretty funny.

Message to Washington: Do Not Bail Out Auto Makers

It seems a bevy of businesses are lining up at the trough to gorge their snouts in the $700B bail-out, including the big three American auto makers.

Congress should not let them in. US auto-makers problems are not born of credit liquidity issues; they are born of lack of market share. They simply have not been turning out products that the public wishes to buy, and those that are popular tend to be very sensitive to changes in the price of oil.

Congress would be better served in allowing the big automakers to go into bankruptcy, and using the money of the American people to fund tax credits and low-cost loans for auto-makers SERIOUSLY pursuing electric cars. Change or die Detroit. Change or die.

Raid Into Syria

I've kept quiet on this raid because I was waiting from some sign from the US government that this was indeed a raid that we pulled off (as opposed to an Iraqi job that we "supported"). Looks like it was indeed our work.

Very good things here....a leading figure in AQ killed....a strong message sent to the Syrians that we won't tolerate their continuing role as a funnel for foreign fighters....

But some things to think about too. France and Syria have historic ties....Sarkozy has proven to be an able, steady friend to the US, at least by the standards of leaders on the continent. Conducting a raid into Syria could have real consequences to that relationship. Secondly, we've now pursued terrorists into Pakistan and Syria---presumably without permission in each case (though I do think there is an elaborate Kabuki with Pakistan--the result of a deal in which we looked the other way while they organized a palace coup to take Musharref out while they agreed to ONLY bitch and moan when we attacked in Waziristan). We need to watch our international reputation closely.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ted Stevens Convicted

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska has been convicted of seven counts of lying on financial disclosure statements, hiding considerable gifts/services given him over the years. Good. He deserves to be convicted, and he deserves whatever punishment comes his way.

He needs to resign now. If Republicans were to be able to maintain 41 votes only through his holding the seat, then I would rather see the Democrats have filibuster proof majorities. It is that important to the Republican Party to separate itself from this cancerous man.

From the Other Side....

My brother sent along an email from another resident of his Stepford Neighborhood. I've pasted a particularly telling paragraph from it below, to give you a glimpse of how Obama voters think:

There is no entitlement class, however there is the "middle class" (you and I). Since the 80's tax cuts the middle class has lost 600 billion dollars a year in "redistribution" of wealth to the top 2%. The gap between the middle class and the wealth in this country has widen ever year over the past 20 and continues to. Trickle down economics has not worked. Of course when you give tax breaks and corporate welfare that is not considered socialist policy is it? All Obama is doing is giving the engine of our economy, the middle class (you and I) a better tax break. It puts money back in the hands of people who will feed the economy by spending it on their children, home, Walmart, NEW CAR, ect. Even Warren Buffet agrees with that.

Read that again; this fellow claims that the middle class has lost 600 Billion dollars in redistributed wealth to the top 2% of wage earners. This is preposterous. The GDP of this country has grown nearly $5 Trillion in just the past eight years....this is a growth in wealth, not a redistribution.

Another Member of the Press Looks Inward

A truly great indictment of the press. A perfectly written take-down.

Oz Unmasked

Well ladies and gentlemen, I've decided to step out from behind the curtain. As you can see from the intro to the site, my name is Bryan McGrath, and I proudly associate myself with each and every idea, concept, policy and opinion that I have rendered on this site. I take no credit for anyone else's.

Many of you knew this already, and I appreciate your having tried to protect my anonymity this long. But the more I did this, the more I thought that I have nothing to hide here.

Besides, this blog could wind up being my launch pad for the 2024 Presidential Election.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Great Day on the River

It was a gorgeous day on the river today, so we went out and enjoyed it. Bagheera likes to stow away in the Kitten's boat.

The Press Loves Covering Itself, Part 6,343,234

In a tragedy in Arkansas, a young woman was attacked and savagely beaten in her home. She died yesterday in the hospital.

It is story one on Why? Well, she was a REPORTER. So her life was worth more the other two dozen people murdered in the US that day.

Slow Boot Times in Jeopardy

I realize that I am a Type A fellow, and this type of thing appeals to the small portion of us who can't STAND how long it takes for the computer to boot up (you know, "we put a man on the moon, but I have to wait 3 minutes to do anything on my computer"). But there is hope.

Computer manufacturers are beginning to realize that there is a market niche to be filled among the Type A's.

I'll pay good money for a computer that allows me to do what I want in 30 seconds or less.

Another Great Reason Not to Vote For Obama

He's heavily supported at the UN.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Redistribution in Action

UVA 24 #21 Ga Tech 17

Yes that's right, ladies and gentlemen. The Hoos won their fourth in a row, their second in a row over a ranked team.

Things are looking good; they are in first place in their division of the ACC, and they seem to be clicking on offense. Plus, they won on the road, something this team has not been good at in the past.

I'm pretty psyched right now.

Lower Oil Prices are a Glimpse of a Positive Future

News keeps coming of the continuing slide in oil prices. This is good news for a couple of reasons. First, it is more money in the pockets of consumers who are being hit hard by economic hard times right now.

But more importantly, the decline in oil prices is a direct result of a drop in demand...this drop in demand is causing economic chaos in places I love--like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, etc. As we begin to move beyond our fossil fuel driven economy (further driving down demand!) places that wish us harm will find themselves getting their just desserts.

Anonymous, Channeling the Acient Greeks, on the Decline of Democracy into Mobocracy

Anonymous deals with the eternal subject, in the Friday Free For All:

Once the huddled masses in a democracy figure out they can vote for more money for themselves the gig is up. They are on the brink of becoming self aware (a la Skynet). Two to three generations hence and the US will implode as the previously uncaring, disenfranchised masses vote themselves each a house and a $100,000/year annual bonus. The fat lady is warming up.

Or maybe I just got caught up in the thread...

Is a Limited Welfare State Permissible under Conservative Ideals?

Goldwater's Ghost points us in the direction of an excellent exchange on National Review's The Corner--in the Friday Free For All:

Yesterday, there was a great exchange between Jonah Goldberg and others on NRO's blog The Corner (I have to go somewhere in between your postings). The back and forth had to do with whether or not conversatism accepts the role of a welfare state.

Goldberg, I think rightly, feels that there is indeed room for a limited and means-tested welfare state, and the existence of one isn't necessarily a contradiction of conservatism's principles.

Your thoughts??

What Will Become of the Children in the Down Economy?

Tom de Plume asks in the Friday Free for All:

As our economy and society enters Obama's recession, what effect will it have on the "Kindergarchy"?

What will happen to the weekend traveling soccer league or the numerous tae-kwon-do schools? What is to become of the restaurants that have counted on the 6 year olds making the dining decisions for the family?

Will consumers cut back on spending directed towards "the children"?

Texting: A Sign of the Apocalypse?

In Free for All Friday, John S takes aim at text messaging:

Want another indicator? "Texting." These kids would rather text than talk to a real person. I've had concerns since the advent of e-mail, then IM, now texting about our society's ability to document culture and history in the electronic world. Ask brother Kurt, the writing professor, about this trend. Not that the "Letters of Obama" would ever be a classic anyway, but there simply won't be letter compendia to document the next, last hundred years of our culture.

Department of Energy--Necessary Evil?

From Friday Free for All, Smoothfur asks:

Does anybody out there have any memory of the reason given for the establishment of the DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY during the Carter Administration? Anybody? Anything? No? Didn't think so. Bottom line . . we've spent several hundred billion dollars in support of an agency the reason for which not one person who reads this can remember.

Ready? It was very simple, and at the time e v e r y o n e thought it very appropriate.

The Department of Energy (located very inappropriately at 1000 Independence Ave ) was instituted 8-04-1977


The Happiness Gap

Great, great article here from yesterday's Post about something we already knew. Republicans on the average, are happier than Democrats. Does this surprise any of you? It shouldn't. Of course, the Democrat interviewed attributed it to his view that Republicans simply don't care about other people, but this is clearly undercut by the clear per capita advantage Republicans have in charitable giving.

The explanation I like better comes later in the article, where one of the study leads finds another correlation; that of Republicans and a sense of control over outcomes. That is, Democrats are more likely to feel that they are victims of events beyond their control than Republicans are. This seems to make flat out common sense to me.

Or could the real answer be as simple as this?

Saturday Update

Thanks to all involved who made Free For All Friday a success. I'll spend a little time later today combing through the wheat (and chaff) to post a few ideas for follow on threads.

For now though, I'm off to hunt pumpkins and the like.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I know, I know. It is still Thursday. But I'm going to bed, and I didn't want you night owls to be without a place to post your Free For All Friday thoughts. Remember...the purpose of this entry is to give you--the reader--a chance to freely opine on subjects you consider important. Or, perhaps you'd like to question me on a view I've expressed (or haven't). I'll cut and paste some of the most worthy submissions as blog entries of their own. Enjoy!

Yet Another Plan to Help Homeowners....

Okay, I really am growing tired of this. Apparently, homeownership has become the latest middle class (and below) entitlement to be supplied by the federal government. Yes, it's true, you MUST own a house, and if you can't make your payments, well, Uncle Sugar will step in to help out.

Let's look at this problem differently, shall we? I was once at a tailgate with a good buddy of mine who runs a mortgage brokerage. This was actually, last football season, right at the beginning of THE CRISIS. He was telling me about some of the phone conversations he was having with folks who weren't paying their mortgages. He said something like,

"I'd be on the phone with someone living in a $500,000 home who hadn't made a payment in six months. They'd been in the place, maybe two years, put nothing down, and probably had about $4000 equity in the place. When I told them that they'd have to begin making payments again--or they'd be foreclosed upon and have to leave---they started ranting about how I couldn't "kick me out of my own house". My own house? Guess what. That's MY house! I've got $496000 tied up in it and you've got $4000."

That's the way this "crisis" needs to be viewed. Putting aside for a moment the negative impact of foreclosures on neighborhood home values and the like, what exactly is so awful about foreclosures? I'd wager that if we were to run the numbers, we'd find that the average lost equity for homeowners foreclosed upon in the last year was less than 10% of the assessed value of the home...even the deflated value. This whole "main street vs. Wall Street" argument is a straw man...foreclosure is a bad thing for those foreclosed upon, but it isn't the end of the world. There are apartments, there are other homes to rent. While your credit rating may take a hit, that's to be expected. The banks and financial institutions who put the big money out, across thousands/millions of customers...they're in a huge pickle. This is why the bailout was SO necessary. We can't survive without a banking system; we can survive with a million or so more people paying rent.

Let's face it; mortgage payments really ARE simply rent to own. Not until you burn that mortgage do you really "own" that house, and I'd wager that the percentage of American households (not in retirement) owning their own home free and clear is pretty small. Yes, there is a tax advantage to owning (one I'd like to see go away). And yes, there is the potential to make money on real estate. We complain about "leverage" on Wall Street, but what in God's name is virtually every real estate transaction but a leveraged deal? You're using the mortgage company's equity to make yourself some money....that's what leverage is all about! And when the deal goes south....leveraged positions are never fun.

The economy can stand more foreclosures.

Friday Free For All

Tomorrow, I will inaugurate a new feature here on the site, a weekly "Friday Free For All" thread. The purpose of this thread will be to provide you with a place to tee up issues you find interesting---some of which I'll then turn into threads of their own. This is also the place where interested readers can solicit my opinion on matters they find important. I look forward to your thoughts!

Robert Heinlein on the Road to Serfdom

Hat tip to National Review Online. Worth reading....

Patriotism and Taxation

Joe Biden's comment a few weeks ago linking paying more taxes with Patriotism has really stuck in my craw. His running mate's statements in the final debate ("no one likes paying taxes") are far closer to the truth, but in the end, I've found myself thinking about this patriotism/taxation nexus. And I've come to conclude that there may actually be a way in which paying more taxes IS patriotic. I mean, if Joe Biden wants to demonstrate his patriotism by paying extra income tax (essentially making a donation to the treasury), well then, he should. The key here is that such an additional payment MUST BE VOLUNTARY in order to be patriotic.

To this end, I'd like to see a line-item on the tax form enabling the taxpayer, should they warrant a refund, to decrement the amount of refund ( or increase the amount of a tax liability) in favor of a donation to the general treasury of the United States. Several readers here are quite fearful of the increase in our national debt--such a line item would give them the opportunity to personally address this fear through a selfless, voluntary donation to the treasury. I'm serious here. I actually think this would work...that the country could indeed raise additional tax revenue from people who claim to be undertaxed, who are quite proud to state that they are obviously receiving more benefit from the federal government than they are paying for (as there cannot possibly be any other rationale for deficit spending and debt increase). I honestly believe that if at the end of filling out my taxes, I found myself with a few hundred dollars of refund coming my way, I'd chip in an extra $50 to the treasury without batting an eye. I wouldn't do this because I feel undertaxed or because I feel like I get more benefit than I pay for...I'd do it because I love my country, she's in the outhouse financially right now, and I've got a few extra dollars to spare.

What do you think?

Indian Lunar Mission

India's launched a rocket to map the surface to the moon, joining the US, Russia, Japan and China as nations with serious space programs. This mission is a great source of pride for the Indian people, and it is yet another sign of the emergence of this nation as a player of great weight on the international scene.

I'm a bit of an India fan. I like the food, Bollywood movies, and the fact that nice young Indians are falling over themselves to learn English, adopt English names, and answer my credit card issues from call centers in Bangalore.

But I find myself wishing that India would spend less time on lunar missions and nuclear weapons, and more time on raising its $978 per capita GDP. This is a nation of GRINDING poverty, with a quarter of the country living on less than a dollar a day. Things are getting better, and liberalizing the economy has definitely increased prosperity...but I hardly think moon missions should be a priority.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Libertarians vs. Obama

One delicious aspect of an Obama Administration is the predictable training of the Libertarian intellectual community's guns on his policies. Libertarians are wholly unable to govern; they are however, very capable of shaping policy by pointing out inconvenient facts, such as those contained in the Constitution. Here's a taste of a possible future.

A Smart Debate on Nuclear Power

Take a look here to see a very smart debate on nuclear energy. As we've discussed here in the past, the startup/construction costs of nuclear plants are considerable, and the libertarian in this debate hits that aspect hard--I imagine he'd be ok if nuclear plants were totally built with private money, but I think he rightly sees government subsidies as a necessary part of new plant construction--and I think they will be.

Libertarian arguments are usually coherent, but in many cases, unrealistic. How much is our government spending to maintain the flow of oil from the Middle East...generated by folks who wish us ill? How much will our government spend on tax credits to "green" energy?

Nuclear is here, it is proven, and it will be a big part of our energy security in the future.

Old School

I've written in this space before about the guilty pleasure that is watching Will Ferrell's movies. I'm watching "Old School" as I write this, a timeless classic also starring Vince Vaughan...another of the coolest of the cool.

Is there any female analog of Will Ferrell? Not necessarily someone as funny or nearly as funny, but someone women watch as a guilty pleasure that allows them to connect with their inner "girl". Or do they consider doing such a thing childish?

The Execrable Press

Here's an editorial written by a Democratic editorial writer, decrying the pitiful condition of the press and its inability to see past its own political biases. It is a must-read.

Possible Election Night Violence

Apparently I wasn't the only one thinking this was an issue.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


We Americans are fortunate to have as the Commander of the US Southern Command, Admiral Jim Stavridis. Jim's been a friend for fifteen years now, and he is doing an amazing job fostering cooperative relationships with our friends to the South, even as he ensures folks like Chavez are aware of just how closely they are being watched.

He's started a blog on his command website, and I commend it to you. This is no average guy...he's got a PhD in Pol/Mil Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and unlike any other officer of his rank I know, he seems to have no enemies.

New Facebook Name

Most of you are too old and too cool to be involved in anything as pedestrian as a social networking site like Facebook, but I am neither of those things.

One of the more annoying phenomena lately has been the adoption by Senator Obama supporters of his given middle name as their own, so that when their profile is displayed, it reads (for example) "Bertha Hussein Hogwash". This is to show how "cool" and "tolerant" they are.

I've just changed my name on Facebook....adopting the middle name "Ayers" as mine. I wonder if they'll get it.

The Mean Old GOP

Richard Cohen takes the GOP to task today for becoming mean. Thanks, Richard, your analysis means a lot to us.

Here's the deal. I don't like where the Republican Party is right now. I believe it is less George Bush's fault than Tom Delay and Dick Army.

But it isn't because the GOP is is because it became intoxicated with its own power. Let's face it, Richard Cohen waxes weepy when remembering George Bush talking about education on the stump during the 2000 election, but the bottom line is he thought Republicans were mean then, and so did most of the folks who think like him.

The GOP Renaissance will not come because it gets "nicer". It will come when it gets smarter.

Veterans Issues and Democrats

A look this morning into the belly of the beast that is the runaway entitlement of Veterans Benefits. Yes, yes, we all know that while these folks were on active duty they were baby killers and war criminals....but when they LEAVE active duty, they are wonderful examples of service and sacrifice, deserving of the continuous largess of the federal government as long as they shall live.

Dems LOVE veterans issues; the military is a constantly renewable source of entitlement freaks. Yes indeed ladies and gents. As many of you know, I have have always found it ironic that there was a streak of conservatism running through the military, what with our socialized medicine, free housing, subsidized education and tax free/subsidized malls. When we leave the military, we are thrust upon a cold and unloving world. You mean I have to pay tax on that gasoline? You mean I actually have to pay RENT? Excuse me, what is a deductible?

Into the arms of the Democratic Party fly many veterans, especially those less suited to face the cold, dreary world of managed care and monthly rent. And by embracing Vets, Dems get to show how TOUGH and STRONG they are! What a wonderful, symbiotic relationship this is! Never mind buying the stuff our Army needs to prosecute its wars....we'll double the education benefit we pay! That'll show those crafty Iranians and Chinese who is the toughest kid on the block!

And for those of you who cry "Hypocrite" as I suckle at the teet of the VA here in my dotage, I respond that I am guilty, and I attempt to expiate my sin by ensuring that most if not all of what I receive from the VA goes out to other people in the form of targeted, private assistance and donation.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nice Baseball Strategy, Barack

Yes, I know. I don't like baseball, so I shouldn't care. But rooting for both teams? Despicable.

The Geese Have Returned

One of the great benefits of living on the Eastern Shore is the annual migration of geese heading south, and their choice of our town as a stopover point (point of fact..we thanked God for their arrival in church yesterday). Every day, there are hundreds, thousands of geese noisily making their way to warmer climes, stopping on our cove for a float and a meal. Their noise is music to the hunters here, and I don't mind it very much myself. I'm trying to work on a bird hunting trip with Mudge sometime soon, so once I've tackled the chore of bringing one of these beasts to table, I'll tell you about it.


Just noticed that the teams are set for the World Series, one of whom is my hometown team, the other is a team I have never heard of.

More importantly, I wasn't aware that baseball was still played in the US.

Those who criticize soccer for its lack of "action", simply must have to try and defend baseball.

Falling Oil Prices and Alternative Energy

Good story here on the potential impact of lower oil prices on the development of alternative and renewable fuels. This is an instance I fear where the "market" may NOT be the most efficient mechanism for addressing the issue, as we'll always be playing catch-up and never be well-suited to meet the demand/supply spikes that seem to bedevil the oil industry (not to mention the inconvenient fact that we're not making many more dinosaurs willing to sacrifice themselves for our gas tanks).

Interesting idea at the end of the story, the one about using an electric car like a cellphone. What do you think?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Solid Advice in Turbulent Times

A good overview here of how to react to market instability, and it should be no surprise to the readers of this blog...rational, clear-thinking, unemotional folks that you are. Keep your head, maintain a diversified portfolio, invest for the long-term.

Another Presidential Conversation

Had a wonderful dinner last night with a couple of friends of ours. He's a very successful wealth management guy and she raises their children. They are a great couple, a lot of fun, and enjoyable conversationalists. They live full time over closer to DC, and head out here to their weekend home when they can.

As you might imagine, the market instability has my friend really in a state. I've not seen him so distracted (and so tired) in a long time. His wife is very understanding of his angst, and she's worried too.

So when she began last night her full-throated approval of Senator Obama's candidacy, I began to laugh out loud. Yep. Laugh. I said to her, "I've sat here very sympathetic to what the market downturn is doing to your family's income, now I realize my sympathy has been misplaced. You don't MIND having less money." She didn't seem to catch on, so then I laid into her with the news that when her guy is elected President, both primary sources of her family's income are going to be taxed at a higher rate. I can't say for sure, but I imagine he makes more than $250K in salary, and I also imagine he takes home a good bit more in bonuses, stock options and capital gains....all of which are going to be taxed heavier in a Barack Obama administration. So, I said, put the down market together with your new tax burden, and ya'll are going to have it even tougher.

He stood there nodding his head, another in the long line of guys working his butt off so that his wife can be liberally inclined.

UVA 16 ( #18) UNC 13

What a victory; UVA is beginning to make doubters like me look foolish. This is the third victory in a row over quality teams, this one against the ranked and surging Tar Heels. The Hoo's dormant offense caught fire in the last two minutes, scoring with 47 seconds left. When it went to OT, there was no doubt in my mind. I still can't stand Al Groh, mind you. But he has really brought the team back.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Paying for Behavior and Grades

A story today about the first round of checks going out in DC from a Harvard/DC Public Schools partnership designed to compensate kids for good behavior, attendance, and grades. Interestingly, some kids were "disappointed" with their haul.

Any thoughts?

Public Corporations Tax Returns Made Public?

A former commissioner of the IRS is on record in this morning's paper as advocating for the public release of public corporations' tax returns, an idea I'm not exactly against (though I think I need to think about it a bit more).

Such a move would certainly settle the debate about corporate tax rates, wouldn't it? But I wonder what additional information would be found in a return that isn't in the financial statements released in annual reports, etc? Any help from folks who know this stuff? Gigs? You listening?

Friday, October 17, 2008

What Will a Democratic Super-majority Mean?

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent editorial out today outlining some of the legislation that died in the last Congress because the Republican minority in the Senate was able to keep it from coming up for a vote. I fear the Dems may win the 60 votes they need to overcome the threat of filibuster....look for legislation like to come forward in the Obama/Pelosi/Reid Administration looking something like this.

Paying Taxes is not Patriotic; Buying Stock Is !

The economy is tanking, the market is down. While I do believe we're in some reasonably choppy waters right now, the stock market's volatility is driven by lots of stupid psychology that I don't even want to consider.

But here's what I want to propose to my readers. Have you liquidated some investments looking to preserve wealth? Have you put more into cash and other easily convertible assets? Have you reduced your equity holdings? Many of you will probably say yes, and I hope that's worked out for you. But here's what I propose. Buy. Buy now. Get back into the market, but get back in by buying dependable, growth oriented stocks. I am not an investment counselor, and I have no stock picks for you....but I damn sure know that there are LOTS AND LOTS of stocks out there that have taken a hit SIMPLY BECAUSE THE MARKETS ARE DOWN and not because of any real issues with the business. Talk to your broker (if you have one). Ask about companies like this. Companies with international presence, companies that actually PRODUCE SOMETHING, things the world wants and needs.

You want to be patriotic? Be a capitalist. Like Warren Buffett says....when others are greedy, be fearful. When others are fearful, be greedy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On Our MBA President

You remember him, right? The President of the United States?

I know it is out of fashion to praise George Bush in any way, but being out of fashion is something with which we conservatives have always been comfortable. Come to think of it, we should really begin to get comfortable with it again after this election.

I'm here to praise George Bush for his understanding of the current credit crisis. Yes indeed. While a good many others dithered and asked "what crisis", Bush and his man at Treasury were working like one-armed paper hangers to shore up the credit market. Why though? Why was it that George Bush seemed to "get" that this was a doozy, requiring quick and substantial action. Two things I think.

First, he went to Harvard Business School, where he received a first-rate education in the importance of credit to business, an understanding far beyond that of the average citizen, or even the average President, I would submit. Secondly, he has actually run businesses, one of which (Arbusto Oil) was the kind of capital intensive business that must have relied heavily on the availability of credit. When confronted with this crisis, George Bush did not have to wonder about what the impact would be....he had lived it. He knew what it would have been like to run Arbusto without access to capital, and he knew that there would be millions of businesses at risk if the credit markets weren't sustained.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Ok gang, it is time!

Bella Napoli

Got an email from my Dad today, and he reminded me that I hadn't shared any thoughts from my recent trip to Naples. So here are a few:

--Flew Air France there and back, through Paris. Perfect flights, plenty of room in coach, tremendous entertainment systems (saw Will Smith in "Hancock"...what a fun movie), great food, attractive flight attendants. Three cheers for subsidized airlines.

--Naples is such an alive city. Yes, it is dirty...but it is also beautiful. The wedding was held on the grounds of a villa in Posillipo, overlooking the bay. Gorgeous scenery, stunning setting. I have yet to find a place in Italy that I could not live.

--One big problem in poop. It is everywhere. There is no culture of baggies and scoops; none at all. I went for a run on Sunday and it really turned into an agility drill.

--As I said in an earlier post, all the Euros at the wedding and most of the Americans were fans of Obama. A little discouraging. One particularly reprehensible woman said something like "i didn't march on Washington and burn my bras so Sarah Palin could be VP". Oh? I suppose you did those things simply so that women who agreed with you could attain high office.

It was a great trip for a wonderful event.

Live Blog Tonight

Once more into the breech! We'll live blog the debate here tonight, so sidle on up with your laptop and be heard!

On Warren Buffett

Over the weekend, I eagerly consumed the latest biography of Warren Buffett, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. It was an interesting read and Buffett is an interesting man. At 976 pages, this book is a thorough look into the life of the Oracle of Omaha, and the author had virtually untrammeled access to Buffett, his partners and his family. A couple of thoughts on Buffett are appropriate.

First, he truly is a genius in business and finance. He's had a set of principles to which he has stuck for over fifty years, and his record is simply unmatched. He was widely criticized in the late 90's for sitting out the technology boom, and hailed as a sage when it went bust. He's been criticizing derivatives (especially mortgage backed versions) since 2002, and he very much predicted the mess we're in now.

He's pretty blunt about how the rest of us ought to go about making money in the market--invest in a diverse set of passively managed index funds and make regular contributions through thick and thin. He sees this as a micro-version of the way Berkshire Hathaway invests. Since 8 of 10 fund managers do worse than the market, this seems a pretty sound way to invest. It is, indecently, the basis for the best personal investing book I've read, Unconventional Success by Richard Swenson. Swenson manages the Yale Endowment, and preaches a similar line to Buffett. Both Swenson and Buffett advocate diminishing the proportion of one's portfolio devoted to equities the closer one comes to retiring (or needing the money, whichever is the trigger event).

Buffett is a fairly flat out, redistributionist liberal when it comes to economic and social policy. He's made quite a flutter about leaving his money to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, all the while leaving the world with the sense that he's cutting his kids and (second) wife off. Nothing could be further from the truth. His children have done nicely by their Berkshire stock (little if any purchased), their father's generosity, and their father's name.

Of particular interest to me though, was the view inside the personal life of Warren Buffett. Like a recent bio of Einstein I read, it revealed a great man with an outwardly humanitarian demeanor, whose own family was ignored and mistreated. Buffett's deceased first wife (Susie) seemed nothing but a mother-caretaker figure (for Buffett), and his children seem to have received little if any attention until they were old enough to sit on boards of companies (presumably Buffett's genius being passed down). Additionally, it revealed Buffett as a virtual incompetent in most life skills, wholly reliant on the women in his life for the very basic functions that distinguish human beings....dressing, eating, etc.

Perhaps most galling to me is the once again repeated canard attributed to Buffett of the inequity of a tax system in which his secretary pays a higher effective tax rate than Buffett does. Since Buffett pays his secretary a salary (i.e earned income--and probably pays her well), she is taxed at a higher rate than the disbursements from capital gains that make up Buffett's annual income. Buffett pays himself a minimal salary (cited as $100,000 in the book), but quite obviously rakes in considerable income from the businesses and stocks he buys and sells. My answer to Buffett is, that if he paid himself a salary commensurate with his position of CEO of a $70B company, he'd solve the whole tax rate inequity thing in a heartbeat. As long as he chooses to compensate himself through passive gain, he's using a tool designed to encourage the rest of us to save and invest for his own personal hobby horse.

Buffett is an interesting guy, and this is a must read. But while my view of Buffett the business-man is enhanced, my view of Buffett the human being is greatly diminished.

Tapping Retirement Accounts

Both candidates are to some extent, coming out in support of allowing people to tap into their 401K's (without penalty) to meet their mortgage payments or other obligations. This is a good sign. We've suggested here before that 401k's and other retirement vehicles are excellent sources of capital, and that tapping into them should not be considered some kind of crisis action. Yes, people will have less working for them when the market returns....but hopefully, they will also have a house and their credit rating.

Thanks, GG

From the looks of things, the site was in good hands with Goldwater's Ghost in charge over the weekend. I especially appreciated the appearance of Mrs. GG....don't know if the Kitten has yet made herself present on the site...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CW's Back; Blogging to Resume AM 15 October....

See you in the morning.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Scruples Question of the Week

Would you like to know the precise date and time of your death?

Coming Directly to a Video Store Near You…

What were the burning questions left unanswered at the end of Bull Durham to necessitate a sequel?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

When is Enough Enough?

John C. Vogel thinks we’ve become greedy. Vogel ought to know – he’s the founder and former CEO of the Vanguard Group Inc, one of the largest mutual fund companies in the US.

Vogel has written a book due out next month, “Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life”. The title is taken from a conversation between writers Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller during a party at a billionaire’s estate. The story goes that Vonnegut pointed to the billionaire and asked Heller, "Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel Catch-22 has earned in its entire history?"

"Yes," Heller responded, "but I have something he will never have: Enough."

A few months ago, I took part in a focus group sponsored by a credit card company. The company was looking to understand….get this…why I didn’t spend more on the card. I turned to the moderator and said, “Because I don’t need anything.” Apparently, I was in the minority. The other participants seated at the table looked at me like I had just passed wind in church, and then proceeded to top one another with stories about how much they charge on their cards all in the name of collecting bonus points. That should have been my first clue.

Don’t get me wrong – I love stuff. I love money. But I just think that before you buy your stuff, you need to ask yourself two questions:

1) Do I really need it?
2) Can I afford it?

Likewise, I don’t think anyone is entitled to home ownership any more than they are entitled to a $40,000 Denali, a 50-inch plasma HDTV, and that wicked-cool Bang and Olufsen stereo. Nor do I think the government is obligated to ensure that you can keep any of it once you’ve maxed out your credit.

I keep looking for a silver lining in all of this mess. Maybe it’s this – perhaps this is the wakeup call for us to begin to take stock in what we truly have, and separate it from the things we don’t need.

The other night, Mrs. Goldwater and I had a friend over for dinner. Nothing fancy, just homemade pizza on the grill and a couple bottles of cheap red wine under the stars. As I unscrewed the cap of the second bottle, I came to appreciate fully the poignancy of Heller’s statement. I’ve got the fetching Mrs. Goldwater, good friends and family, great kids, a warm fire on a crisp October night...I have all I need. I have enough.

This Just in From Bella Napoli....

GG is doing a great job! Just checked on the internet to verify my flights for tomorrow, and I couldn't resist a quick duck into the site.

The wedding was amazing, and there have been a lot of great people to talk with. Almost all of the Americans are Obama fans, and all of the foreigners are.

Thinking that some of the market sell-off is attributable to folks wanting to take their cap gains before the Obama rate increase....any thoughts?

Ciao! See you in a couple of days.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Shut Up! Sit Down!

This headline made me chuckle. You know things are bad when Jimmy Carter takes the moral high ground.

Say It Aint So Joe – Conservative Heroes in the Age of Obama

Every day the Dow continues to tank, the likelihood of an Obama victory increases as the political relevance of the Republican Party decreases. Assuming a worse-case scenario on November 4th, who will be the next generation of Conservative leaders to emerge to piece together the shattered remnants of a once-proud GOP?

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

I have a theory that the City of Philadelphia was built upon an ancient Indian burial ground. Something very similar to the plot of Poltergeist (“you moved the headstones but you didn’t move the graves, didn’t you!”).

How else can you explain a city so deeply rooted in sports having such a weak championship legacy?

But perhaps all that’s about to change. The Philadelphia Phillies have taken a two game lead over the LA Dodgers in the NLCS with an 8-5 win last night. This may be the year that the city can hold its head high, turn to its neighbor in the North and say, “Philadelphia is the true City of Champions”.

Then again, if my theory holds true, the Phillies will break our hearts and the city will face another winter of discontent. There will be no joy for little Joey Bagadonuts this year.

At least we’ll always have Rocky.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Déjà Vu 2008

I’ve been here before. I have had this feeling. Uncertainty about the future…panic…second guessing…checking news updates every 10 minutes…envisioning how the world might be the day after tomorrow, and not necessarily for the better.

Oh right, now I remember. It was September 12, 2001. I also recall the weeks and months following the attack, and the Left’s insistence that Bush & Cheney were “shredding the Constitution”, using the excuse of a national emergency to trample civil rights and transform the US into a totalitarian police state overnight. I shrugged it off; what did it matter to me? How did the Patriot Act and the “War on Terror” really affect me? If anything, I felt a little safer. I play by the rules. I’m a law abiding citizen. Let them monitor my phone calls and email – I’ve got nothing to hide. If it prevents further attacks on our soil, so be it. And besides, I trust this guy.

Fast forward to 2008. The federal government isthisclose to nationalizing the financial system in a moment of national panic. It’s funny, the Right has been sounding the alarms that the death of capitalism will come at the hands of the likes of liberals like Obama, Pelosi and Reid – but it looks as though a conservative president may be beating them to the punch.

Those feelings have come flooding back. But this time, I can’t shrug it off – it does affect me. And you.

Some lame duck.

Who's Minding the Store?

There it sits atop the mantle. The crystal egg. He’s gone, and has entrusted the keys of the Porsche to me. Just use your best judgment Joel, we trust you.

Initially, I was thrilled when CW asked me to consider contributing to the Conservative Wahoo in his absence. But the elation quickly wore off, and in its place was left a dull pit in my stomach as the gravity of the situation hit me – I would have to produce. I was given the responsibility for someone else’s baby - a blog I’ve come to enjoy over the last four months.

I don’t necessarily agree with CW on all of the issues, but I’ve come to appreciate the quality, depth and humor of his dispatches and the responses of those who view this blog. Yes, even you Festool. I can’t guarantee that I’ll have the recall of facts and figures that seem to come easily to CW, but I do hope to stimulate at least some discussion over the next few days. Think of me as Palin to CW’s Biden. Better yet, think of me as Fredo to CW’s Michael:

“I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like dumb... I'm smart and I want respect!”

Now let’s have some fun.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Had it You Got It...Goldwater's Ghost is in Charge

I'm headed off shortly to the airport, flying to Italy for the wedding of a wonderful friend and her man. Full disclosure, she was my girlfriend for four years and she's one of the truly great people I know. She found a great guy, and he loves her son like his own. Bella Napoli awaits! I'll be back Monday night or Tuesday. Thanks for doing this GG, have a ball!

On Civilian Deaths in Modern War

News yesterday of the findings of an investigation into the deaths of 33 civilians during an August raid in Afghanistan, a raid that also killed 22 militants.

While the death of civilians in war is regrettable and worth taking action to avoid, we should not forget why it is 33 civilians died in this raid. It is because the civilians and the militants are indistinguishable from each other, and this is part of their strategy. Relying on the knowledge that Western forces will do all they can to avoid the killing of "innocent" civilians, militants and terrorists seek and gain succor from the civilians in their area (see also Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Israel), and the civilians are often all to happy to give it to them.

Yes, I know, there have been instances in history where forces have terrorized civilians into giving them this support....there is however, no evidence that such coercion is necessary in the modern war on terror.

We of course, will put ourselves through emotional gymnastics in order to demonstrate the requisite sorrow over the unfortunate deaths of 33 civilians, including 12 children. But it is time to begin talking about this problem with a new lexicon, one that ultimately concludes that not all civilians are innocent.

Another Stimulus Package

From soon to be Prime Minister Pelosi, talk of yet another stimulus package. Not a good idea.

Okay, It is Time to Stop and Take a Deep Breath

News yesterday of coordinated action by world central banks to lower interest rates. Each day brings a new story of some action by government (and here I'm speaking of our government) to mitigate the impact of the credit crisis.

But as each new "fix" is announced, the previous one has not had a chance to take....and Wall Street sits back waiting for the next fix to come, so it prices in pessimism. This non-virtuous cycle feeds a lack of confidence in the system, causing governments to continue to "do something".

It is time to stop doing. It is time for the President to go on television and say, "That's it folks, we've done what we're going to do. There won't be any more special bailouts, buyouts, interest rate cuts or emergency actions. We're gonna ride this one out and the country will come back."

What I'm advocating here is providing the American people and the markets with a sense of the "new normal". We haven't figured out yet what "normal" is in the post-mortgage crisis financial world. Crafty investors are trying to find ways to make money if things go down, and if things go up....this is what crafty investors do and we should not mess with that. What we shouldn't do though, is continue to give them the room to maneuver they require because of the uncertainty generated by nearly continuous manipulation of important variables. Let the foam in the cola settle out, and let's see what we have. Just as a Dow Jones average of 14000 was in part the result of "irrational exuberance" so 9200 is the result of irrational pessimism.

That's all. We're done. Go back to work, stop looking at the stock market every thirty minutes, produce more, work harder, get the country moving.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Movies I Cannot Not Watch

What movies can you not turn off? You know, even if you've seen it a hundred times? Here are mine.

1. An American President (I know, I know...liberal fluff with a conservative bad guy...but a great movie nonetheless)

2. The Shawshank Redemption

3. Gladiator

4. Animal House

5. The Dirty Dozen

6. It's a Wonderful Life

7. Star Wars (Episode IV)

Guest Blogger Test Post

Testing...testing....we are now testing for proper modulation. In this sentence, I am learning how to post links.

Live-Blogging the Debate

Come one, come all....we'll be live-blogging the debate tonight here on the site, so grab a cold one, a laptop, and your best wit/analysis/judgment and join in!

Lehman CEO Gets Grilled

Richard Fuld, CEO of the going out of business giant Lehman Brothers, went before Henry Waxman's oversight committee yesterday for a bit of grilling. Most of what he heard, he deserved. But I watched a good bit of the coverage, and I saw a man who truly tried to save his company, and who definitely got caught up in the swirling vortex of this crisis ( I will always believe that the concept of "shorting" anything is, at its heart, a bad thing for markets).

What really bothered me though was the discussion of Fuld's compensation. Waxman showed a chart with Fuld's compensation from 2000-2007, with fields including salary, cash bonuses, stock grants and exercised stock options. Yes, it totaled $480M. But 85% of it was paid in stock in his own company. If anyone had a vested financial interest int he success of Lehman, it was Fuld. Putting that aside for a moment, how profitable was Lehman during that period? How much value was returned to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock price. Yes, the stock eventually tanked.....but along the way, a lot of people made a lot of money because of this company's profitability.

I wish Fuld had brought his own chart, one that showed total return to shareholders in the same period, and just for giggles, how much Fuld payed in taxes over that period.

Great Lakes Wind Energy

Sorry to interrupt the relentless drumbeat of bad economic news with a report of some progress on wind energy. Seems folks in Michigan are looking very closely at huge wind farms on the Great Lakes...while 100,000 turbines seems doubtful, they are clearly thinking on a large scale.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Franks Plays the Race Card

Barney Franks is a really smart guy, but even worse, he is a very smart politician. Making legitimate questions of the value of making horrifically risky loans to people who shouldn't get them into a racial issue is pure genius on Franks part.

Interestingly though, this is the same, lame line that was used against Republicans when they had legitimate concerns with what Fannie and Freddie were up to. By claiming that Republicans were trying to deprive low income Americans of the dream that was their birthright...and because minorities are disproportionately represented among low income earners....Franks and his cronies in the Congress effectively browbeat attempts to regulate Fannie and Freddie.

Barney Frank's Motivation....

Ever wonder why it is that Barney Frank was so loyal to Fannie and Freddie? We have our answer!

You Want Bi-Partisanship? Look No Further Than the Financial Crisis...As In What Caused It

Good friend Tim is--I believe--a bit more obsessed with the financial crisis than I am. This I know because he provides me with a steady stream of stuff designed to educate me further on this issue. Like most big screwups in government, this one is truly bi-partisan.

Let's start with the Dems in Congress and here's the video. Watch this all the way through. Here you'll see the workings of a House Committee with oversight responsibility for Fannie and Freddie. Now obviously, it is clipped and cut and pasted in order to show Dems in a poor light. But the background information getting out into the media about the Dems two pronged strategy....lean heavily on Fannie and Freddie to make riskier loans while resisting additional regulation necessary to protect well-known.

Then there's the Bush Administration...oh yes, the SEC had quite a hand in this. You see, as my friend Joe H rightly points out, Fannie and Freddie don't lend to anyone. They buy/back mortgages arranged by others. Wall Street found an excellent way to make money by turning these bad mortgages into derivatives, and they needed a little help from the SEC to make it a reality.

And then there's the President himself, with the zany Ownership Society. Don't even get me started on this one.

But really now, no one saw all this coming. Whoops, not exactly true....this article called it in 2002.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Have I Mentioned How Much I Despise Maureen Dowd?

Especially when she's right. Her criticisms of Sarah Palin's delivery are searing and pretty much right. That doesn't mean I don't want her to be VP; I just wish she sounded a little less like the person working the cash register at the Wasilla Giant.

That said, Maureen Dowd's perfect for MySpace, sorority girl chick-lit patois isn't any better. In fact, I'd rather sit and talk with Sarah Palin any day.

On Being a Muslim Woman

Not me, of course. But Mohja Kahf is, and she's writing about it. As I read through this, the glossing over of the actual record of Islam in practice was breathtaking...and I sat down to write a thoroughgoing takedown of her entire article.

Then I read the then 31 comments in the online commentary feature associated with the article and saw that WaPost readers did a much better job than I would have done. Read the article, then read the comments. This woman has been filleted.

Fired US Attorneys Issue

The Post has an editorial this morning criticizing Karl Rove (natch) and others for not cooperating with an internal Justice Department probe of the firing of 9 US Attorneys. A couple of things should be remembered as one thinks about this issue.

1) US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president. If he does not like the way they comb their hair, if he does not like the dress they wear, if he does not like the way they spell their names....he may fire them at will, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. This is of course, behind the practice of firing every single US Attorney in the land upon turnover to a new Presidential Administration. No one bats an eye at this. The job is a political appointment, and part of the job is to carry out the priorities of the Justice Department he or she serves. Those priorities are a reflection it comes.....the politics of the President.

2) Several of the US Attorney's fired appear to have been fired for not initiating investigations in matters that the White House considered to be priorities. The Attorney's exercised their "prosecutorial discretion", which is their right. The President exercised the option to fire them, which is his right. Even if the US Attorneys involved believed that the motives behind the White House's desire for the investigations was political....they do not get to not carry out administration priorities. If you can't carry the water for the guy who gave you the job, then you don't get to have the job.

3) The exception here is if the firing was intended to in some way impact an ongoing investigation. This is illegal; I believe it is known as "obstruction of justice". I don't doubt that there is some evidence of this in at least one of the firings, and it should be fully investigated.

4) The hacks in the White House really screwed this up. By pointing to "performance issues" with the US Attorney's (who weren't carrying out White House priorities), they went in a direction they never should have gone. They simply should have fired the US attorneys and cited a desire for change. Period. End of story.

We'll keep hearing about this (with a Democratic Congress), and they may even find some folks culpable...which wouldn't bother me much. But no one should believe (nor should it ever come to pass) that US Attorneys are some kind of "free agents". They're not. They get appointed because of their political connections, and their jobs are at least partially political.

Virginia 31 Maryland 0

As Sam Shapiro said in another thread, no one saw this coming. It was a gorgeous day in Charlottesville yesterday, just a little teeny nip in the air at gametime. UVA pretty much dominated both sides of the ball for the entire game. In 25 years of UVA football, I don't remember a more dominating performance against a quality team. Everything went right for UVA, while everything went wrong for Maryland.

Al Groh remains on my list of folks to find other work. But his post-game interview was pretty straightforward. This is the QB's second game, there was lots of turmoil with the team that he thinks is settling down, and some hurt people are coming back. He seems to think things are on the right track.

Great time with Tom C, Rob G, brother Tom and a fellow from his Stepford Gated Community--Chris, a guy known here on the blog as Hampton Park Fan.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Coming Republican Bloodbath

Friends, I think things look dark for the Republican Party, and insiders appear to agree. The last few weeks have been devastating for the Party, and House Republicans put the icing on the cake early last week with their performance on the bail-out.

We can talk all we want about standing up for what we believe in, socialism, failure and the like, but at the end of the day, if you want your ideas to prevail, you've got to be in power. What the House Republicans did was a huge strategic error, as their almost certain relegation to a dwindling minority party will have a disastrous impact on their other legislative priorities.

End of the Line for OJ

Looks like the law finally caught up with OJ. This man should have been in jail for a dozen years by now, and the fact that he couldn't stay clean after being acquitted then is a testament to his arrogance.

But man, could OJ run......

Friday, October 3, 2008

Guest Blogger!

Hey everyone...I'll be in Italy 9-13 October attending a friend's wedding. In order that my loyal readers are able to get their daily dose of the goodness of this site, Goldwater's Ghost has agreed to stand in for me.

We don't always agree, but his thinking is clear and his writing is superb.

But not until the 9th!

Last Night's Debate

At the end of last night's debate, I opined that there had been no clear winner. One of the participants in the live blog accused me of being biased toward Governor Palin, suggesting that my, um, attraction for the woman was impacting my objectivity. Perhaps. But let me explain my answer.

If a political debate were simply the sum of its parts, if there were a "scoreboard" evident throughout the event, then I would suggest Joe Biden won. His command of the facts, his inside knowledge of the issues, his steady, calm, articulate demeanor....all suggest a victory.

But a political debate is more than that. It is a comparison of the two in the minds of viewers. Keep in mind....every single legislative issue that found itself in the Senate since January 1973 has come across Joe Biden's desk. Every single one. If he DIDN'T have a command of the facts and issues, he'd look foolish. The man ran for President TWENTY years ago, as one of the youngest men in the race...yet he had been in the Senate for 15 years then! Last night was akin to asking a Supreme Court Justice or a law school professor to take a bar exam.

I called it a draw because he didn't kill her. She didn't screw up any more than he did. She stuck to her guns, she was likable, she was steady, she did her job (defended her man) and she showed a lot of people that she was "just like them" (don't get me started on this as a qualification for office, but I digress). I looked at the whole thing this way....sitting before you are two candidates for COO of the company you are Chairman and CEO has been with the company for 36 years and really knows his stuff, but for some reason, in each of the last few COO retirements, he was passed over for the job. The other candidate is from outside the company. She's actually run a couple of smaller companies, and it is obvious she doesn't know your business quite as well. Make your decision.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Official VP Debate Live Blog Thread!

This is it, ladies and back here in a little less than half an hour. Let's get ready to RUMBLE!!!!!!

For Those Who Long for the Navy

Some of you occasionally wish I'd write more about the Navy. I would, and I will, when I feel like I have things of value to say. One of the things that keeps me from feeling that I have anything of value to add is the presence of the blog Information Dissemination. Take a look at a few of the entries. The blogger (Galrahn) is clearly not phoning it in. His posts are erudite and well thought through, little gems of naval strategic thinking and analysis of current geopolitical events. I highly commend it to you. I know I've done so already, but there are a few stories there tonight that are superb examples of his talent.

Elevator Pet Peeve

One of the joys of this blog is that I have a place to voice my pet of the other joys is then having others write in to say they share them (just as one of the downsides of having this blog is when my brothers write in to make fun of my pet peeves).

Well, here's a new one.

I work in a high rise, and there are six elevators serving basically 16 or 17 floors. I rarely, if ever, wait long for an elevator or share an elevator with more than two other people.

Yet I find myself almost daily encountering the "late arrival". You know the type....the door is almost closed as they sprint to the button....or even worse, they stick their arm between the doors. These people are the lowest of the low.

Let This Be a Lesson To All Folks In Relationships!

Forwarded, without additional comment.


Hey everyone, let's give the live-blog thing a go for tonight's VP debate. I'll be firmly planted in front of the TV with my laptop, ready to comment in-stream. Looking forward to your comments too!

Maryland vs. UVA

I'll be heading down to Charlottesville Saturday for my first UVA game of the season (was at the Dude Ranch for one, stayed away because of an ultimately non-existent tropical storm for another). I love my Hoos, but there is little doubt about the outcome. Virginia stinks, and it is time for Al Groh to go. Most of us were saying that two years ago, but last year's team confounded those desires by managing to win a gaudy 8 games (most by less than a touchdown).

What really did it for me was hiring his own son as Offensive Coordinator. Al Groh coaches a major college football program, one with several bowl wins and numerous top-twenty finishes in its recent history. After an exhaustive search to replace yet another offensive coordinator (who left to become a head coach), Al managed to find a replacement......sitting at his dinner table. C'mon.

UVA lost about a half dozen starters to off-field issues in the past year, including academic foibles and problems with the law. This is a direct reflection of lowering the bar and then not running a taut program when they get here. If Navy, Duke, and Wake Forest can win in Division 1 football while running clean programs (that's right, I said Duke---they are 3-1!), then so can UVA. Losing with a dirty program is not an option.

Are Medevac Flights Unsafe?

An editorial in this morning's paper contains some rather interesting statistics, positing that emergency medical flights are far less safe than any other kind of flying. Pointing to higher crash and mortality rates, the author questions their safety and suggests some common sense requirements (terrain following system, a second person to operate radios while the pilot flies).

That said, I don't see a lot of "cost/benefit" analysis done here. Ok, so there have been an number of fatalities associated with these flights. How many were made without fatality? How many lives were saved as a result of expeditious transit?

Yes, make the flights safer, but don't raise too big an alarm because of a recent tragic crash.

Is the Economy Making You Do Anything Differently?

I'd like to buy a new car, but I've decided to put doing so off for a year. Truth is though, I decided that before the economy began to tank. I figured I ought to be in a job and liking it for a year, before I decide to take on a major financial obligation (oh, I'm sorry, am I now disqualified from getting a loan because I was able to exercise independent judgment on my own finances?)

Are you putting off any major purchases or doing anything differently from a consumption standpoint?

On Federal Support of Mass Transit

Along with bailing out the world's credit markets (something I wish the Senate never had to vote to do), the Senate last night voted to provide the DC/Maryland/Virginia based "Metro" system a stable funding stream. All I can say is that it is about time.

As many of you have read here before, one of the few things that I believe the Federal government ought to be doing routinely is to help enable interstate commerce (well, it's not just me. Guys like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton also agreed). Doing so means investing in transportation---whether we're talking the interstate highway system, Amtrak, commuter buses.

The Metro system in the DC area is critical to the smooth function of our nation's capital. When the orange line is down, the whole region seems to come to a stop. I saw a statistic the other day that said that 85% of metro-rail's riders HAVE ACCESS to an automobile--talk about a successful mass transit effort!

But there simply needs to be more of it. It must be extended to Tyson's Corner with a spur to Dulles. Why one can't metro into Georgetown remains a mystery to me (well, not really. The love humanity, hate humans, Katherine Graham, limousine liberal crowd who lives there simply did not want to provide an easy way for the criminal element to get there). I'm not sure what Maryland's metro needs are, but I'm sure they exist.

Point is, Metro works. It does what it is supposed to do; it takes people off the roads and delivers them efficiently to their places of business. We should encourage more of this kind of success.

No Child Left Behind

I've never been a fan of a federal Department of Education, and George Bush's early signature legislative win with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has never been the kind of legislation I like. I would prefer that the Federal government, to the extent that it involves itself in elementary education at all, should restrict itself to block grants to the states for their use.

But since that isn't the case, I applaud the strings and performance measures associated with NCLB, and I am glad to see that it is actually doing what it was supposed to do....raise the performance of underperforming schools and entire swaths of underperforming children.

The fact that it pisses off the teacher's unions is simply an added bonus.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

When the Good Times Return....

Do you remember when our economy was in the tank in the late 70's and Japan Inc. was on the rise? Does anyone remember the talk of the end of US dominance, the superiority of the Asian model, the laziness of the American worker? I do.

But the talk stayed talk. Japan tanked in the 90's. The internet (Al Gore's contribution to the world) unleashed world productivity---but mostly US.

Lots of talk in Europe these days about the end of US dominance, the end of "Anglo-American Capitalism". Guess what. This too shall pass. We'll figure it out and we'll come through it. Still at the top.

Main Street

If I hear another politician say something about wanting to take care of "Main Street, not Wall Street", I'm going to puke.

They are indistinguishable from each other in the modern economy.

What are You Doing with Your Money?

I don't really have that much, especially compared to my wealthy brothers. But I haven't done anything with it. It is still sitting there in a reasonably diverse set of funds, waiting for the good times to return--and they will.

Have you done anything different with your money in the past few months?

African American Support for Obama

My friend Chili keeps asking me for data on the levels of support for Senator Obama among African-Americans....I keep telling him that I'll do it, then I forget to.

Then today I read this article. Yep, you read right. 95% to 2% in favor of Obama.

No racism here; move along.
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