Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More Bad Press for M&I

This is more and more amazing, given M&I's history.

Marshall & Ilsley Corp. of Milwaukee was identified as one of the many financial services companies receiving large amounts of taxpayer-funded capital through the U.S. Treasury that may be in worse shape than previously disclosed, according to a research report.

Audit Integrity, a Los Angeles-based firm that rates companies based on corporate integrity risk, looked at the 25 financial services companies that have received more than 90 percent of funding doled out so far through the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

More than 80 percent of those companies have a “very aggressive” or “aggressive” accounting and governance risk rating based on recent regulatory filings, and have a high likelihood to restate earnings or be affected by other adverse events such as regulatory actions or shareholder litigation. That compares to a 35 percent “very aggressive” or “aggressive” rating among the 7,000 public companies measured overall by Audit Integrity.

Fourteen of the 25 financial services companies studied were rated as “very aggressive,” including Milwaukee-based M&I, which received $1.7 billion from the Treasury program.

I don't know who "Audit Integrity" is, but the report raises very serious questions, indeed.

Source: Business Journal

Auto Bailouts Hardly Over With...

Sure, the President un-Constitutionally and illegally directed the expenditure of $17+Bn to the Big3, less FoMoCo.

And sure, the Fed suddenly decided that GMAC was really a Bank, despite all those quibbles about equity interests--thus springing $6Bn into that entity.

But the Fat Lady hasn't sung yet:

The Treasury Department says it will decide on a case-by-case basis whether other companies connected to the struggling automotive industry should be provided emergency aid from the government's $700 billion bailout pot.

President George W. Bush reversed course on Dec. 19 and announced a $17.4 billion rescue package for teetering auto giants, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, which were burning through cash and bleeding jobs.

Can you say "Delphi"?

Hamas: Marching Toward the Sixth Century, Fast

Well, this should separate the wheat from the chaff.

The Hamas parliament in the Gaza Strip voted in favor of a law allowing courts to mete out sentences in the spirit of Islam, the London-based Arab daily Al Hayat reported Wednesday.

According to the bill, approved in its second reading and awaiting a third reading before the approval of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as the Palestinian constitution demands, courts will be able to condemn offenders to a plethora of violent punitive measures in line with Sharia Law.

Such punishments include whipping, severing hands, crucifixion and hanging. The bill reserves death sentences to people who negotiate with a foreign government "against Palestinian interests" and engage in any activity that can "hurt Palestinian morale."

According to the report, any Palestinian caught drinking or selling wine would suffer 40 lashes at the whipping post if the bill passes. Thieves caught red-handed would lose their right hand.

Not that this will give pause to the active anti-Christians, or anything--you know, the ones in this country who are absolutely certain that Christianity is the locus of all evil...

HT: Dreher

Virus Problem? Look at Photo Frames

Uh-huh. That Christmas gift from Amazon?

Some digital photo frames sold by Inc. over the holidays included a computer virus.
Amazon said last week that a frame it had been selling from Samsung Group came with a software CD that was known to have a virus, Computerworld reported Monday.

Amazon sold the SPF-85H frame from October through early this month, though Samsung issued an alert Nov. 27 that software CDs for five of its models, including the SPF-85H, had been infected.

According to the magazine, researchers discovered the virus, known by various security vendors as W32.Salty.AE, W32/Salty, or Troj_Agent.xoo, in August, and earlier variants date back to mid-2007.

The virus, which can download more malicious software on to an infected machine, affects only users of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP operating system.

Samsung did not say how the virus got on to its discs. A "theoretically malware-free" version of its software available for download on its Web site, Computerworld said.

I love that term "theoretically malware-free," don't you?

Source: CW email alerts

Crying the Blues Over Transportation...

We're supposed to get all emotional over this.

Eric Isbister is astonished by the lack of a regional transportation system in southeast Wisconsin, and he doesn’t understand why political leaders can’t find common ground to solve the transportation problem.

“If we’re going to grow Milwaukee and add more jobs to the economy, we simply need more public transportation,” said Isbister, a native New Yorker who, with his wife, Mary, acquired Mequon’s General MetalWorks Corp. in 1997.

The name "Isbister" is familiar to Milwaukeeans, too. A fellow named Bill Isbister was a high-profile industrialist here back in the 1960's/'70's.


General MetalWorks has a history of hiring general laborers from Milwaukee’s central city, providing training and promoting the minority workers into better-paying manufacturing jobs. The company, with estimated revenue of $14 million in 2008 and 80 employees, is struggling to find workers, especially welders, at its second assembly plant in Slinger.


A commenter on the original article (linked above) wonders why Mr. Isbister purchased a business in Mequon and then added a location in Slinger (!!!!!) and suddenly has problems with transportation.

A good question. After all, the 30th/Burleigh industrial corridor has PLENTY of empty factory space, as does the Valley, and (for that matter), Butler, West Allis, West Milwaukee, the Near South Side of Milwaukee......we could go on, and on...

It's particularly interesting that Isbister complains about "welders." He's only competing with the 8,000-lb. canary--Bucyrus--in trying to find them.

Perhaps it's wages?


Or should Mr. Isbister hire people and TRAIN them?


Instead, 'the Region' should provide transportation, according to Mr. Isbister.

Most industrials understand that if you want labor, you go where the labor is. Mequon is not a haven for welders, and Slinger is halfway to the Moon from Milwaukee. Seems to me that Mr. Isbister didn't study the rulebook too carefully before his purchase(s).

There is a worthwhile debate about transportation. But Mr. Isbister's complaints ring a bit hollow and lack credibility.

HT: FoxPolitics

Death by Strangulation: The UAW

The Warrior found this.

It is perhaps the mode of doing business in a unionized company that remains a crippling disadvantage.

...Not only work rules, but fundamental business decisions to sell, close or spin-off plants are forbidden without permission. That permission may come, but only at a price, since everything that affects the workplace must be negotiated.

Both the UAW and the Detroit Three maintain large staffs of lawyers, contract administrators, and financial and human-resources representatives whose principal job is to negotiate with the other side. These staffs are at all levels, from the factory floor to corporate headquarters and the UAW’s "Solidarity House" in downtown Detroit.

...In an environment of downsizing, the problem is exacerbated, as the entrenched bargaining structure causes innumerable inefficiencies

The costs are ferocious. We can all concede that abuse of workers is simply wrong. But what has grown in Detroit (and all the other plants) is a mutual, systematic, procedure-abuse monster which cannot continue.

Bush's "bailout" cannot fix this; he assumes goodwill between the parties, and he assumes wrong.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Next Great Experiment: You Are Rat!

Coming to an Administration near you!

...The New York Times recently reported that Obama may hire economic psychologists “specifically charged with translating the lessons of the behavioral revolution into real-world policies.” One proponent of this approach, Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan, told the Times, “The issues we struggle with today are inherently behavioral as never before. It’s impossible to think of the current mortgage crisis without thinking seriously about underlying consumer psychology. And it’s impossible to think of future regulatory fixes without thinking seriously about that issue.” Excited by the prospects, the Times concluded, “The promise of behavioral economics is that it can help create a better government, one that wastes less money and does more to improve peoples’ lives. That’s hardly a modest goal.”


It should come as no surprise that the 1970s radicals taking over the Federal Government in January are promoting this brand of economics because the hero of their youth was the leader of America’s behavioral revolution, B.F. Skinner...Behaviorists like Skinner argue that psychology should be limited to observations and tenets related to behavior. As epistemological descendants of Descartes, they attempt to sever any connections between the study of man and philosophy, by methodologically denying the existence of the mind and the scientific validity of philosophical psychology in the Aristotelian and Thomistic sense.

Well, THAT makes it simple!!

And doesn't it all make sense?

Skinner and his followers deny the existence of the mind and reduce human psychology to the mere study of intersubjectively demonstrable events – that is behavior. Consistent with Cartesian reductionism, qualitative differences are denied by behaviorists. By recognizing nothing beyond the perversely simple materialistic continuity derived from mere quantitative reductionism, behaviorists boast they can study rats to draw conclusions about man. Skinner emphasizes that man is no more responsible (nor laudable) for his creative accomplishments in music, art, literature, economics, science, and invention, than is the warthog for his warts. Accordingly, there is then no essential difference between modern “objective” psychology and rodentology, or between man and rat.

One suspects that even the more rabid LeftoBlogathingy types might resent that comparison; I mean, even lawyers resent it at some level, (I think).

But now, ALL of us can be rodentologized under the Great Obama.

HT: The Catholic Thing

Dumb and Dumber

Blago actually appointed someone....and the poor fool ACCEPTED!

Ignoring threats from the U.S. Senate Democratic leadership to block his pick, Gov. Blagojevich this afternoon said he's appointing Roland Burris to President-elect Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat

Vote for "dumber of the two" at some other blog...

Money Multiplier Goes Negative (!!)

This ain't good. My creaky-old Econ 101 memory tells me that money usually runs at about a 3.2 multiplier, which we haven't seen since the mid-'90's.

The period from 'the end of 3.2' to 2008 was kinda 'sticky-gooey' economically, come to think of it...

At any rate, a negative multiplier has serious implications if one is running the Hell out of the printing presses, as MarketTicker 'splains.

The question not answered: is the negative number a result of the money-pumping, or of the crash in housing and other assets?

Echoes of "Jena 6"

Oh, yah.

After beating someone unconscious, and being feted on some obscure BET awards show...

A teen convicted in the "Jena Six" beating case shot himself in the chest and was taken to the hospital Monday, days after his arrest on a shoplifting charge, police said.

Mychal Bell's wound isn't life threatening, said Monroe Police Sgt. Cassandra Wooten. The 18-year-old used a .22-caliber firearm in the shooting around 7:40 p.m., she said.

Wooten believes Bell was upset over media coverage of the arrest last week."I think he was upset over the incident ... and didn't want to be in the news again," she said.

Shoplifting and failed self-execution WILL get you in the news again, Mychal.

HT: Gateway

Living and Dying Semper Fi

Personally, I'm an Army guy. But Marines are known to lead the way, and here's another example of why:

Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter saved Iraqi police and fellow Marines from a truck-driving suicide bomber, Marine brass say. The April attack could have slain dozens

...On April 22, the two were assigned to guard the main gate to Joint Security Station Nasser in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, once an insurgent stronghold and still a dangerous region

The sun had barely risen when the two sentries spotted a 20-foot-long truck headed toward the gate, weaving with increasing speed through the concrete barriers. Two Iraqi police officers assigned to the gate ran for their lives. So did several Iraqi police on the adjacent street.

Yale and Haerter tried to wave off the truck, but it kept coming. They opened fire, Yale with a machine gun, Haerter with an M-16. Their bullets peppered the radiator and windshield. The truck slowed but kept rolling.

A few dozen feet from the gate, the truck exploded. Investigators found that it was loaded with 2,000 pounds of explosives and that its driver, his hand on a "dead-man switch," was determined to commit suicide and slaughter Marines and Iraqi police.

The thunderous explosion rocked much of Ramadi, interrupting the morning call to prayers from the many mosques. A nearby mosque and a home were flattened. The blast ripped a crater 5 feet deep and 20 feet across into the street.

Shards of concrete scattered everywhere, and choking dust filled the air.Haerter was dead; Yale was dying.Three Marines about 300 feet away were injured. So were eight Iraqi police and two dozen civilians.

Some Iraqis told him they were incredulous that the two Marines had not fled.

When Marine technicians restored a damaged security camera, the images were undeniable.

While Iraqi police fled, Haerter and Yale had never flinched and never stopped firing as the Mercedes truck -- the same model used in the Beirut bombing -- sped directly toward them.

Without their steadfastness, the truck would probably have penetrated the compound before it exploded, and 50 or more Marines and Iraqis would have been killed. The incident happened in just six seconds.

"No time to talk it over; no time to call the lieutenant; no time to think about their own lives or even the American and Iraqi lives they were protecting," Kelly said. "More than enough time, however, to do their duty. They never hesitated or tried to escape."

Kelly nominated the two for the Navy Cross, the second-highest award for combat bravery for Marines and sailors. Even by the standards expected of Marine "grunts," their bravery was exceptional, Kelly said.

The Haerter and Yale families will receive the medals early next year.

Requiescant in pace.....

HT: Ace/Drew

The Winning McCain's Aphorisms

One good reason to read the Winning McCain's blog is the down-home southern-fried stuff:

"Paint the shotgun white, Pa -- it's going to be a formal wedding!"

I suppose a nice cummerbund black stripe would be REALLY formal...

Case-Schiller Annual

No real surprises here.

We've used Chicago and Minneapolis as 'notional comparatives' to Milwaukee. I realize that there are big differences between those areas, but hey! they're all in the Upper Midwest...

Chicago year/year, off 10.8%
Minneapolis year/year, off 16.3%

The Really Sick Man in our neighborhood is Detroit, off 20.4%.

Worst on the chart: Phoenix, off 32.7%

HT: Calculated Risk

Samuel Huntington's Thought

This guy Huntington was a thinker, and was ahead of the curve. Prof. Fouad Ajami writes a memoir of the man.

The last of Samuel Huntington's books -- "Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity," published four years ago -- may have been his most passionate work...

...He wrote in that book of the "American Creed," and of its erosion among the elites. Its key elements -- the English language, Christianity, religious commitment, English concepts of the rule of law, the responsibility of rulers, and the rights of individuals -- he said are derived from the "distinct Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers of America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."

Critics who branded the book as a work of undisguised nativism missed an essential point. Huntington observed that his was an "argument for the importance of Anglo-Protestant culture, not for the importance of Anglo-Protestant people."

...Three possible American futures beckoned, Huntington said: cosmopolitan, imperial and national. In the first, the world remakes America, and globalization and multiculturalism trump national identity. In the second, America remakes the world: Unchallenged by a rival superpower, America would attempt to reshape the world according to its values, taking to other shores its democratic norms and aspirations. In the third, America remains America: It resists the blandishments -- and falseness -- of cosmopolitanism, and reins in the imperial impulse.

Huntington made no secret of his own preference: an American nationalism "devoted to the preservation and enhancement of those qualities that have defined America since its founding."

...But he looked with a skeptical eye on the American expedition to Iraq, uneasy with those American conservatives who had come to believe in an "imperial" American mission. He foresaw frustration for this drive to democratize other lands. The American people would not sustain this project, he observed, and there was the "paradox of democracy": Democratic experiments often bring in their wake nationalistic populist movements (Latin America) or fundamentalist movements (Muslim countries). The world tempts power, and denies it. It is the Huntingtonian world; no false hopes and no redemption

...a most interesting, and acute, observation...

Then Huntington became a prophet, albeit that he merely read history accurately and 'played it forward.'

In the 1990s, when the Davos crowd and other believers in a borderless world reigned supreme, Huntington crossed over from the academy into global renown, with his "clash of civilizations" thesis. In an article first published in Foreign Affairs in 1993 (then expanded into a book), Huntington foresaw the shape of the post-Cold War world. The war of ideologies would yield to a civilizational struggle of soil and blood. It would be the West versus the eight civilizations dividing the rest -- Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist and Japanese.

In this civilizational struggle, Islam would emerge as the principal challenge to the West. "The relations between Islam and Christianity, both orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other's Other. The 20th-century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity."

He had assaulted the zeitgeist of the era. The world took notice, and his book was translated into 39 languages. Critics insisted that men want Sony, not soil. But on 9/11, young Arabs -- 19 of them -- would weigh in.

Yah, that was a wakeup call, alright. And the 'imperialism of Sony' is proving less and less persuasive as time goes on.

Here's the payoff line in this homage:

If I may be permitted a personal narrative: In 1993, I had written the lead critique in Foreign Affairs of his thesis. I admired his work but was unconvinced. My faith was invested in the order of states that the West itself built. The ways of the West had become the ways of the world, I argued, and the modernist consensus would hold in key Third-World countries like Egypt, India and Turkey. Fifteen years later, I was given a chance in the pages of The New York Times Book Review to acknowledge that I had erred and that Huntington had been correct all along.

There's a lot to think about as we enter 2009, no?

If You Really Want to Know About the Crash...

Then this series of articles is for you.

The WaPo writes in lucid, understandable prose. The article linked above discusses the fall of AIG.

You Clintonites won't like it because it names names--Rubin (inter alia) when discussing the derivatives regulation question.

Cheney: Lackey, Running Dog, or Jerk?

Reported in Human Events:

...Vice President Cheney and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton met mid-week with Senate Republicans in a private lunch. As several sources told me, the discussion was heated, with the White House insisting on the Democrats’ principal ground rule for a deal: no bankruptcy for the automakers.

...The White House’s adoption of Democratic talking points pushed the Republicans too far. Cheney’s statements were particularly offensive to the senators. At one point, Cheney said that if the automaker bailout didn’t pass, it would be “Herbert Hoover time.”

As we all know, Bush is now illegally and un-Constitutionally providing welfare to GM and Chrysler, evidently with the support of Cheney, who is supposed to be the mature member of the team.

I guess "maturity" is a lot easier to fake than we thought.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Not Gentlemanly

While a certain Franklinophile and I differ regarding Brett Favre's trade, I am certain that neither of us would treat the guy this way...

Brett Favre's season is over, an MRI on his shoulder may be done later today, and the New York media are after him.

....Newsday columnist Bob Glauber said Favre "provided more proof that he is finished as an NFL quarterback."

In the New York Daily News, writer Ohm Youngmisuk wrote that, "Unfortunately for Favre and the Jets, what started out as a marriage made in heaven in August ended in heartbreak and bitter disappointment."

And in the New York Post, the Post said Favre had an "ancient arm."

Hey. The guy DID help your stinking team, no? He DID throw some TD's, no? He DID inspire a so-so team to a .500++ season, no?

Screw youse jerks in duh press!

He's an old warrior, yes.

But old warriors deserve respect for the fact that they competed and won.

PoliticianSpeak, Graduate Level

Roeser comes up with a very, very good one.

...a friend and reader of this website contacted me with a brilliant example of political talk where the rhetoric is cotton candy but the nutrition is zilch. It is an obscure but brilliant Irish song from a political reporter who, after many years of covering politicians with doublespeak, finds he has contracted the same malady.

All you need is the chorus:

“Well, I’m very glad you asked me that for at this point in time
In the circumstances that prevail there is in the pipeline
Infrastructural implications interfaced with lines of thought
Which lead to grass roots viabilities which at this time I’d rather not
Annunciate in ambiguities but rather seek to find
Negotiated compromises which are at the bottom line
For full and frank discussion which would serve to integrate
With basic fundamental principles to which we all relate
Not in doctrinaire philosophy which any fool can see
An inescapable hypothesis confronting you and me
So in the interest of the common good now you need never fear
For I’ve got the matter well in hand and I’m glad I made things clear."

The rest of the song is just as good, but you have to hit the link to read it...

Factoid of the Day

As usual, Random 10 comes up with a good one.

Consider this staggering comparison: State and local public employees comprise approximately 12 percent of the U.S. workforce and have an estimated $800 billion or more of unfunded pension liabilities (not counting other post-employment benefits). By comparison, employees in the private or corporate sector make up about 78 percent of the U.S. workforce with an estimated $450 billion of unfunded liabilities.

R-10's prediction regarding this is not cryptic.

My take?

Easy Street is a one-way street. The taxpayer gets to build it, but had little to do with naming it.

Hmmmmm! QB Ratings

Well, well, well.

Final regular-season QB ratings, 2008, NFL:

Best: Rivers, San Diego, 105.5, 11 interceptions

6th: Rodgers, Green Bay, 93.8, 13 interceptions

8th: Romo, Dallas, 91.4, 14 interceptions

.................scroll, scroll, scroll.....................

21st: Favre, NYJets, 81.0, 22 interceptions

Last: Anderson, Cleveland, 66.5, 8 interceptions

Yah, I know. It's all about leadership, not ratings. /sarcasm

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Caroline's Tanking

It appears that Ms. Kennedy has lost the favor of the MSM by virtue of utter stupidity (hers, not theirs.)

Worse, the line on her appointment is shrinking rapidly:

Likelihood of her appointment 10 days ago, per InTrade: 85 percent. Today: 53.5, down four points from yesterday

It may be too late to sell short on the contract...

HT: HotAir

More on the GMAC Bailout

Apparently the Bailout of GMAC is not the same as the Bailout of GM.

Investors were still waiting word if GMAC Financial Services, the financing arm of General Motors Corp., will be eligible for a government bailout. GMAC received the Federal Reserve's approval to become a bank holding company last week, but that was contingent on putting into place a complicated debt-for-equity exchange by 11:59 p.m. EST Friday.

That deadline passed with no word from the company. Analysts have speculated that if GMAC doesn't obtain financial help it would have to file for bankruptcy protection or shut down, which would be a serious blow to parent GM's own chances for survival

Ooooohhhhhh....speculative hog-heaven. GMAC is a dealer-financing (floor planning) player, a buyer-financing player, and a mortgage player ( and others.)

All KINDS of stuff could go wickywacky if that debt/equity deal isn't done.

Food-Raids, SWAT-Style

Submit to the State, you miserable serfs!

A state agent from the Ohio Department of Agriculture pressured a family whose members run a food cooperative for friends and neighbors to "sell" him a dozen eggs, sparking accusations of entrapment from a lawyer defending the family.

The case brought by state and local authorities against a co-op run by John and Jacqueline Stowers in LaGrange, Ohio, came to a head on Dec. 1 when police officers used SWAT-style tactics to burst into the home, hold family members including children at gunpoint and confiscate the family's personal food supply.

See, you need the AR-15's and vests because those friggin' chickens can be really, really, vicious. Especially Food Trafficker chickens.

The confrontation began developing several years ago when local health officials demanded the family hold a retail food license in order to run their co-op. Thompson said the family wrote a letter questioning that requirement and asking for evidence that would suggest they were operating a food store and how their private co-op was similar to a WalMart.

The Stowers family members simply "take orders from (co-op) members … then divide up the food," Thompson explained

Sounds like a conspiracy to me...

Thompson explained the genesis of the raid was a series of visits to the family by an undercover agent for the state agriculture agency.

"He showed up (at the Stowers' residence) unannounced one day," Thompson explained, and "pretended" to be interested in purchasing food.

The family explained the co-op was private and they couldn't provide service to the stranger.
The agent then returned another day, stayed for two hours, and explained how he thought his sick mother would be helped by eggs from range-fed chickens to which the Stowers had access.
The family responded that they didn't sell food and couldn't help. When he refused to leave, the family gave him a dozen eggs to hasten his departure, Thompson explained.

Despite protests from the family, the agent left some money on a counter and departed.
On the basis of that transaction, the Stowers were accused of engaging in the retail sale of food, Thompson said.

It's not the first instance of a State mashing its jackboot onto Food Traffickers, either.

The raid on Manna was not the first such case of authorities invading a home over issues involving the operations of food co-ops and direct producer-to-consumer arrangements. WND reported several months ago when authorities in Pennsylvania demanded $4,000 in fines from a farmer who provided raw milk to friends and neighbors.

That case also was highlighted by a SWAT team-like raid on Mark Nolt's farm, when government agents confiscated tens of thousands of dollars worth of his products as well as pieces of machinery he used for his milk handling and sales.

In that case, of course, it was the Vicious Cows that called for the ARs and vests...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thomas Sowell

Mined from a column spotted by Kevin:

People who are impressed by how many of Barack Obama's advisors have Ivy League degrees seem not to remember how many people with Ivy League degrees mismanaged the Vietnam war and how many people with Ivy League degrees mismanaged economic policy during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

If at first you don't succeed (at demolishing the Republic), try, try, again!

Counter-Intuitive Consumer Spending Numbers

The key to understanding the chart is knowing that "Chained" dollars is inflation-adjusted dollars.

Thus, both personal income AND personal consumption dollars rose in November (adjusted for inflation--which is mostly adjusted for the cliff-dive in gasoline prices.)

Those are 'counter-intuitive' because we also know that retail sales were less than expected during the Christmas buying season.

But the numbers are not necessarily 'wrong' just because they are counter-intuitive. Remember that retail sales expectations are conjured up by retailers (!!) not by bean-counters--so expectations are pro-forma numbers--no more, no less.

Something to think about...

HT: NewsBusters

Friday, December 26, 2008


Found in the midst of a book review by Fr. Oakes, SJ:

...the standard ploy of Whig and liberal historiography: Take the high road of monopolizing all the virtue and consign "conservatives" to a hidebound redoubt of obscurantism.

Neat summary.

HT: Fr. Z

Another Another Look at Christmas

From G K Chesterton, of course:

When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?

HT: Ironic

Think of it This Way

Another look at Christmas:

Christmas. Urban legend has it that the common pagan celebration of Christmas had its origin in an ancient Christian feast.

--Dr. Boli's Encyclopedia

HT: Happy Catholic

The Loony-Tunes on Guns

Every once in a while, it's good to read the 'original spin,' so that you know what to expect from the Interwebospherethingy echo chambers.

Here's an item from the Shepherd Express' online site which is, ah, .......interesting.

The gun industry and the National Rifle Association (NRA) don't want you to know that gun sales have stagnated for years, and their campaigns to legalize concealed carry and fight restrictions on the sales of highly lethal weapons are part of their strategy to boost stagnant gun sales.

Umnnnh, yah. That 'stagnation' is why barrels for AR-15's are backordered by 6+ weeks, and why the FBI reports that NICS checks remained approximately constant at 8+ million/year from 1999 through 2007. One can accurately use the term "stagnant" to describe flat sales, which the NICS stats would seem to support. But the article itself also tells us that guns are 'durable goods' (true); thus, we are seeing additions to personally-owned gun inventories at some percentage of gun sales/year.

And we haven't seen the numbers for 2008, which by all reports is going to be a banner year for gun sales.

The SE interviewed a fellow named Tom Diaz.

Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center, argues that this business strategy does a disservice to the sport shooters and hunters who make up the bulk of the NRA's membership, and has resulted in turning the United States into the "last great market" for cheap and highly lethal weapons

"Highly lethal?" Is that worse than "Middling Lethal?" or "Lightly Lethal"? Ask any victim, (if they were only 'lightly lethally" assaulted, I guess...)

[Diaz:] I realized was that the gun industry and manufacturers had changed the profile of who their target market was. It was not about self-defense or the right to bear arms. They were hyper-marketing very lethal guns and they flooded the U.S. with them. The NRA doesn't represent sport shooters and hunters. They were selling these killing machines

Diaz is a rhetorician, using the elision of actual facts from his propaganda statements to stoke up the uninformed. NRA, of course, does not "sell" weapons, and its principal magazine's (American Rifleman) content usually runs about 50% hunting-related articles. Self-defense articles are another 30% of content; accessories (scopes, binox, etc.) and 'historical gun' items are the rest of the content, (excepting editorials.)

And just like with newspapers, who reads the editorials?

[Diaz, again]: how do I, as a gun manufacturer, get you to buy more guns? They recognize this problem. They discuss it. This is their innovation: In the past 25-30 years they have come up with new designs that are more lethal. They push them through magazine articles and gun shows.

A comparative of "lethal" again. I'm waiting for the superlative of "lethal".....

Then there is the NRA campaign to allow concealed weapons to be carried everywhere. So the manufacturers started marketing small handguns, so you could walk around with a gun in your pocket. And they are marketing to women and children to broaden their market.

Manufacturers "started" marketing small handguns in the 1800's. They were called Derringers, after the inventor of the product. Concealable handguns were also sold to tens of thousands of police officers and civilians. They are not "new" in any sense of the term.

[More Diaz, yet again]: they get hunters and recreational shooters all worked up about people trying to take their guns away. But I don't know any rational person in the gun-control movement who wants to take away someone's hunting rifle.

Half-true, at best. The gun-control weenies have tried, very hard, to make semi-auto rifles illegal, including semi-auto hunting rifles down to .22LR Rugers used for controlling coyotes, squirrels, skunks, and chipmunks. They haven't gotten around to "siezure"--only because they never managed to get the ban they so desperately want.

Actually, Diaz' real problem is finding 'rational people' in the gun-control movement in the first place. Diaz does a good job of personally demonstrating irrationality as the article goes on.

[Diaz, ad nauseam]: adopting a public health perspective would allow us to know more about firearms and death caused by them. The industry has been instrumental in suppressing data on gun violence

Suppressing data on gun violence? Really!! You mean that Marty Kaiser at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has been getting threats from NRA and the NSSF about running those news stories every day? Or that the JS' crime reporters are spiking stories before they even get to Marty's desk? Or that the FBI no longer publishes Uniform Crime Reports?

[Diaz]: So if gun violence was addressed from a public health perspective, guns would not be eliminated. But we could control the types of firearms that are most lethal, like the military-style automatic weapons

Finally!! The superlative of "lethal!!"

ALL "automatic weapons" are already 'controlled' by BATFE. Anyone who owns a full-auto weapon (legally) must have a specific permit to buy and keep one. The statement is a deception-in-phrasing, of course. He says "military-style automatic weapons" to create the mental picture of war zones, which is not even accurate in the worst sections of US urban areas. Ask any actual cop.

[Diaz, the Conspiracy Theorist/Paranoid Ranter]: The Bush administration has been prime co-conspirators with the gun industry. Secretly, the administration has opened the valve for the import of assault riles into the country suspects he refers to CONGRESS' refusal to renew the Assault Weapons Ban. The President does not serve as a Member of Congress, Mr. Diaz. And it's no "secret" that semi-auto rifles are imported. Hasn't ever BEEN a "secret." We import arms from Israel, Europe, and South America (not to mention AK's from China) every day, all day long.

A lot of people will read the SE article and assume that the contents are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Too bad.

The article actually provides little that is true, and none which is whole-truth.

Gee. What's Next in Wisconsin?

YOU do the math.

Just look at this page and read the headlines provided.

Then recall that Wisconsin's JimboDoylie's revenue stream includes something called "sales tax."

Next, remember that "decrease spending" is simply NOT in JimboDoylie's vocabulary. Can't be found. Nowhere. No how.

Finally, recall that Wisconsin's budget must balance every bi-ennium.

You got it!

BOHICA, folks!!

HT: Big Picture

GMAC Now "A Bank"

Laugh? or Cry Harder?

General Motors Corp., days from receiving its first installment of at least $9.4 billion in U.S. aid, won another victory with the Federal Reserve’s approval of lender GMAC LLC’s bid to become a bank holding company.

GMAC’s shift to a bank eases the threat of a default that threatened to dry up credit for GM dealers who used the company to finance about three-quarters of their inventory. GMAC also handled loans for about 35 percent of GM’s 2007 retail buyers.

The implication is that the GM bailout money is NOT the same as the bailout money which will be extended to GMAC.

Other stories report that GM and Cerberus (both major shareholders in GMAC) will be required to substantially reduce their equity interests in GMAC "Bank." Fine and good.

But are YOU going to deposit money in the GMAC "Bank"??

"Shoe Jihad": Another Failure by the MSM

The bozo "journalist"'s famous tosses weren't exactly spontaneous, nor surprising, if you know the background. Walid Phares has a good deal of information which the MSM should have moved.

We learn again that MSM cynicism is only one-way: it is NEVER operative when "progressives" make the news.

..Commentators and regular citizens were asking themselves again, seven years later, “why do they hate us?” missing one more time the fact that this particular violent expression, far from being a unique emotional reaction by one individual, is part of a war of ideas; it is a continuous organized confrontation over the future of the region.

First off, the bozo is very well-connected--to the bad guys:

Dr. Abdel Khaliq Hussein, writing in Elaph accused al Zaidi of being a “friend of the terrorists.” Furthermore, along with other analysts, Hussein said the “shoe thrower” used to know about the “terrorist attacks before they took place and managed to be at the location beforehand.” These are serious accusations against a person who was made into an icon of “Arab pride” by the Jihadi media machine.

...It gets better when you investigate the organization paying his salary and expenses. Al Baghdadiya TV, based in Cairo, is owned by another controversial figure in the murky world of Middle Eastern media: Abdel Hussein Shaaban, an Iraqi Shia from Najaf and ex-Communist. According to Iraqi opposition sources based in London, Shaaban was an operative for Saddam, tasked with discrediting the Baathist leader’s critics around the world

But more recent accusations leveled by media experts in the region claim that al Baghdadiya TV, like dozens of other recipients, are getting significant funding from the Iranian regime.

Iran? Who could have guessed THAT?

By coincidence: (/sarcasm)

Minutes after the incident took place and was captured by the media feed and aired worldwide, a snowball flurry of releases, special shows with commentators - gathered too fast for the circumstance - were on the airwaves. Interestingly al Baghdadiya TV issued - faster than the speed of light - a long press release calling for struggle

...“Analysts” for mainstream networks - most of whom can’t speak the language - began lecturing the stunned public on the “lessons to be learned and on the pain felt in those lands at the sight of President Bush"

The end-game?

Within Western democracies, informational confusion reigns: this is “Bushophobia” claim the most sophisticated. It is impossible, after all the Coalition has done to free Iraqis from Saddam, that demonstrators are chanting for the shoe thrower. Others, less confident in the ability of the region’s peoples to accept democracy and to be thankful to the liberators, began a psychological withdrawal: let them live under dictatorships for they don’t deserve better, said many talk show hosts.

When a Western response like this happens, connoisseurs of Jihadi tactics know that the “shoe Jihad” worked impeccably. It spread doubts in the heads of Westerners, particularly among Americans, so that few will support a U.S. President in the future if he asks for sacrifices to “bring change” to the region. The combined propaganda machine of the Baathists, Salafists, Khomeinists and other authoritarians scored a major coup in a job lasting only 48 hours: they forced a confused West to believe that the region is utterly opposed to liberal democracy. Consequently, the next White House and other chanceries across the Atlantic need to learn from the shoe attack: do not intervene in Darfur; do not pressure the Iranian regime; do not help Lebanon against Hezbollah and let go of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan

Phares obviously thinks otherwise; that is, that the Middle East region is NOT 'utterly opposed to liberal democracy.' Whether 'liberal democracy' works over there is still a matter of conjecture; it seems to be gaining traction and momentum in Iraq, but then again, there are 140K US troops over there to 'help.'

But that's not really the point. Instead, we should learn that the MSM's 'reporters' and 'analysts' are intellectually incapable of discerning propaganda for what it is--so long as the propaganda is anti-US, or anti-conservative.

Savings Rate Pops Up

The most meaningful read of this chart is one that compares 1959/1983 to 1983/2008.
(CR also makes a damn fool out of Larry Kudlow in the linked post.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dirty Rahm?

Seems like it wasn't all just casual convo. Ace carries the following item:

Emanuel has not yet resigned from his congressional post. When he does, his position will be filled by a special election. But there was discussion about whether Blagojevich could appoint an interim replacement, according to the criminal complaint in the governor's case.

Days after Emanuel and Blagojevich spoke about Emanuel's seat, the governor is overheard telling aides on secret wiretaps he wanted Emanuel "to get the word today," about raising money for the governor and that when "[Emanuel] asks me for the Fifth CD thing, I want it to be in his head." The "Fifth CD" was a reference to Emanuel's 5th Congressional District seat

And Ace wonders what "appointment" power BlagoDirtBall has over Congressional seats.

But never mind that; the report lays out "quid pro quo" groundwork, at the very least.

Portland (OR) Demolition Derby

HT: Arms and the Law

Conditions are not ideal for driving in the video (end of the post here.)

Merry Christmas!

And may the Child bring you happiness in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

If Demand Died...

Here's a real Christmas joy post...

Denninger's thesis on 'the death of demand' happens to be mine, too; however, he takes it to the next step and postulates that Bernanke's "zero interest rate" gambit is destined for a very hard fall.

At some point the people have all the cars, IPods and flatscreen TVs they need, and their want for additional consumption becomes tempered by the pain of the debt service that came with "pulling forward" from an infinite future horizon.

In short continuing demand becomes irrelevant because debt service chokes off available free cash flow.

"Quantitative Easing" into such an environment, which we are now in, is a complete and utter waste of time because it in fact requires that additional debt be taken on in the economy in order to do anything.

That is, buying assets from banks and pumping reserves back into them so they can loan them out only boosts aggregate demand if there are in fact qualified borrowers who wish to take out a loan to buy something.

Some so-called "economists" will argue that lowering borrowing costs acts as a stimulative effect in that interest costs come down. This is only true to the extent that there is unsated demand among unsaturated (by debt) consumers

It remains to be seen if B's tactics turn into the Armageddon that Denninger forecasts. There's some doubt about that based on Japan's situation; they did the same thing but the yen hasn't turned to Milorganite.

At least, not yet.

Lotsa Dead Dogs and Cop Shooters

Agitator finds all sorts of gems.

Peeples waited until they circled back to the front of his house, at which point he opened his back door to investigate. That’s when his dog, a three-year-old Staffy named Eygpt ran out. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, except that one of the police officers had left the backyard gate open. The dog ran out, and down Peeple’s driveway toward the officers, at which point they shot it three times. Even the police concede the dog never attacked. They shot it as it was running toward them.

It only gets worse from there. The police then arrested Peeples on the charge of assault with a deadly weapon—the weapon being his now dying dog. Peeples says they then euthanized his dog, despite his explicit instructions not to...

...These stories seem to be popping up with increasing frequency. Three weeks ago, police in Waldorf, Maryland shot a family dog in front of two small children while attempting to serve papers on a man who no longer lived at the address. They claim the dog charged them. Last month, police in Indianapolis put nine bullets in a German Shepherd. They ignored warning signs about the dog posted on the property before walking in to serve a warrant on a man who hadn’t lived at the address in years. Just last week week, police in Gwinnett County, Georgia shot and killed a Dalmatian after entering the wrong garage to serve a warrant in a gang-related case.

Milwaukee resident Virginia Villo is suing that city for the 2004 police shooting of her lab-springer spaniel mix, Bubba. As part of her lawsuit, she requested police reports of every dog killed by Milwaukee police over a nine-year period. The request turned up 434 dead puppy reports, or about one every seven-and-a-half days.

Does seem that the police have a deadly allergy to dogs, no?

The Chicago School(s), Deneen, and the Social Compact

Friedman's theories are less Shiny and New these days. (HT: The Big Picture)

It's important to remember "University of Chicago." That's because when you get to the very end of the article linked above, and see the name "Dewey" as part of the U of Chicago constellation, you will (undoubtedly) recall my post of a few days ago, in which Deneen argued that Dewey and Bloom (another U of C guy) had a great deal in common.

Well, yah, besides the U of C faculty slots, they did; a demi-Puritan philosophy. And that Chicago-school demi-Puritan philosophy, (initially financed by J D Rockefeller), has a glaring flaw that has caused a few problems.

Here's the relevant quote concerning Dewey/Bloom:

...they are linked in a common definition of “liberal education” that stresses the liberative quality of education, and can be seen as common antagonists toward an alternative definition of liberal education which rests more deeply upon an acceptance of limits and restraint. One sees especially this common antagonism in their views toward religious education, or more broadly, an education in “virtue.”

The Bloomberg article highlights this 'virtue-lacuna' indirectly; what Friedman & Co., (Hayek was in the group, too...) propose is the economic corollary: that 'markets' will provide the optimum solution--that they are inherently efficient in producing "what's best." This underlies the crusade for de-regulation preached by the Chicago School types, which usually include libertarians of the Hayek/VonMises persuasion.

Big Picture's Ritholtz is particularly biting in his criticism of the Chicago school:

...The Chicagoists somehow read into law a market efficiency component that was never there. I recoiled against it — not because of the libertarianism, which I embraced. Rather, it seemed a backdoor way to circumvent democracy, and force into the legal system rules that were never debated, voted on, or agreed to by a representative government. I found the extremist legal theories of Judges like Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook intellectually repulsive. They were undemocratic, anti-representative government

If there is one silver lining in the entire collapse, its that this group of intellectual charlatans have been revealed as utterly wanting...

The single item missing from Hayek/Friedman and Dewey/Bloom is the 'virtue' issue, or if you prefer, the 'religion thing.' As Deneen points out, Dewey/Bloom rely on "education" divorced from religion as The Solution. Similarly, Hayek/Friedman rely on "the free market" (no religion there, either) as The Solution. The glaring common flaw: reading religion (or virtue) out of the picture.

You don't have to have a long memory to understand the problems which flow from absence of virtue. There's Blago; there's the co-conspirator-Regulator; there are the Bonus Bankers (thankyouverymuch, taxpayers), and of course, there is Madoff.

Seems to me that Ritholtz and Deneen could have a lot of fun if they got together and wrote an essay on the question. It would be even better if they started from the quote of John Paul II regarding “the inalienable value of the human person” who “must always be an end and not a means, a subject, not an object, not a commodity of trade.”

That is the "Social Compact" rightly understood. It is NOT the 'social compact' of Rousseau, another scoundrel whose compact also excluded religion (and whose life didn't have all that much virtue, either...)

It is the social compact which should animate economic decisions, because it reads "virtue" INTO the equasion; it takes into consideration Original Sin, the real reason for regulation.

EPA to Kill SE Wisconsin Economy

The EPA has decreed that SE Wisconsin is "not in compliance."

Federal environmental regulators have declared Milwaukee, Waukesha and Racine counties not in compliance with a new and stronger standard for particle pollution.

...In Wisconsin, the largest sources are electric power plants, motor vehicles, industrial processes, off-road equipment, road dust and wood-burning stoves

You can draw whatever inference you like; something's going to stop, or be horrifically more expensive, or both.

We certainly won't need all that electricity if industry moves out! There's a solution!!

And what with Global Warming and all, you won't mind when the State or Feds sieze your woodburning stove. You won't need heat, after all....

You'll note that the "test" was conducted during a particularly interesting time:

The EPA measures particle pollution over a three-year period. From 2005 to 2007, Milwaukee County's measure was 41 micrograms per cubic meter over the three years

...during the largest single road-construction project in Wisconsin history; the Marquette Interchange rebuild.

Nothing like carefully choosing your statistical base.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Heat's On

News item:

Faced with a double-digit drop in car sales, the Russ Darrow Group is launching a buy a new car, get a used one free promotion from now through Jan. 5, the dealership said today.

The reason for the offer is simple: Business is bad - real bad.

"Frankly we've got a ton of inventory," said Mike Darrow, executive vice president of the Menomonee Falls based dealership....

Umnnnhhhh....we also know that Chrysler Financial sent a nastygram to its dealers, telling them that their floor-planning lines of credit were going to become far more expensive very soon.

S'pose Ernie will offer "three for one"? Or maybe four??

The Packers...

Another blogger who would LIKE to be thought of as a youngster will not like my proposed headline for last night's game:

Special Teams Fail;
Offensive Line Fails;
Defense Gives Up in 4Q
Sadly, the font here does not have the "therefore" three-dot sign to place after the penultimate line of the header...
But Kevin, by all means, put that on your blog.
We'll work up an excuse for Favre's Failure in Seattle later.

Where to Put the Snow?

Some of you will recall the Winter of 78/79. (77/78?) It was as bad as this one; snow piled up all over the place, piled to "top-of-your-car" heights on the Milwaukee street-sides.

There was too much snow for railroad trains to navigate less-used tracks--so the Plant Manager at Harnischfeger sent his labor-force and supervisors out to shovel the siding-tracks next to the plant on 40th street. Why? Because the plant was bottlenecked with machines that had to go out before P&H could build more. Can't invoice the damn thing until it's shipped, you know, and at $1 million or more/invoice, it makes a difference.


The City finally sent out crews with front-end loaders and dump trucks, ripped the snow from curbside, and dumped the snow where it would go away peacefully.

The rivers--Menomonee, KK, and Milwaukee, were the recipients of the snow.

These days, the City still uses the front-end loaders and dump trucks. But they cannot put the snow in the river. Noooooooooosireeeeeee!

Damn Near Russia (DNR/Wisconsin) put a halt to that ugly and horrific practice. Can't have that filthy dirty snow in our Lake, right?

Now the City piles the snow under the Hoan Bridge at the harbor.

That way, when it melts, (June or so) it will drain....

....right into Lake Michigan, just like before.

"Regulator"? How About Co-Conspirator?

One really good way to conspire is to "regulate" your co-conspirator.

A senior federal banking regulator has been removed from his job after government investigators concluded that he knowingly permitted IndyMac Bancorp to present a misleading picture of its financial health in a federal filing only months before the California thrift was seized by regulators.

The Office of Thrift Supervision removed Darrel Dochow as director of its western region,...

Dochow apparently allowed a pre-dating of a capital infusion to IndyMac, which in turn allowed IndyMac to continue soliciting "jumbo" CD's required to support its loan position.

Turns out that this jackass should know about shenanigans; he wrote the book 20 years ago:

In the late 1980s, Dochow had been the chief career supervisor of the savings-and-loan industry, and federal investigators later concluded he played a key role in the collapse of Charles Keating's Lincoln Savings and Loan by delaying and impeding proper oversight of that thrift's operations

So he was demoted and transferred, but "earned" promotions? After completely failing to supervise a banko S&L?

Get familiar with the name. It will be on his pension checks, drawn on YOUR account, for a number of years to come...

HT: Ticker

Actual Profit in News?

For a number of years I've contended that newspaper publishers are conceptual blindlings. They seem to think that the substrate is more important than the content--that is, that dead trees are what people purchase, instead of what's REPORTED on those sacrificial pines.

Oh, well. Maybe somebody figured it out:

...L.A. Times editor Russ Stanton is said to have said, that the Times’ Web revenue now exceeds the cost of running the Times’ newsroom. “That’s momentous,” said Jarvis, since it suddenly means at least one major metro paper really could turn itself into a Web-only professional news operation. He writes:

“What if, once past bankruptcy and the cost of shutting down print operations, the LA Times as a news service could be profitable and grow? Yes, grow. News is a growth industry today; newspapers aren’t. But they could be again.

“If they do it right, the papers shifts from relentless shrinkage back to practically limitless growth

One would think that "limitless" should be discarded as an adjective except when defining the universe, or the powers of God.

But charging readers a buck a week for full access to internet news certainly has its possibilities.

Except for the blind.

HT: P-Mac

Aaaaahhhhhhhnold Wants to Be POTUS

It's reported here and there that Aaaahhhhhhnold wants to become POTUS.

Maybe it's worth a serious discussion, since the Constitution is no longer a bar to anything.

Let's leave it at this: McCain proved that the lukewarm do, indeed, get vomited.

Bits of Good Economy News

Just a couple of bits...

The three month LIBOR has decreased to 1.47%. The three-month LIBOR rate peaked (for this cycle) at 4.81875% on Oct. 10

The TED spread is at 1.48, sharply lower (peak was 4.63)

The A2P2 spread as at 4.93, lower than a record (for this cycle) 5.86 after Thanksgiving,

The two year swap spread from Bloomberg: 77.00 (was as high as 165)

The not-so-good: Treasuries are at 0% for 30-day, and 2.1% for the 10-year. Flight to security is still operative.

HT: Calculated Risk

Monday, December 22, 2008

One More Thing on the Auto Bailout

Here's a chance for all the Dick Cheney haters...

You can read the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-343) here. I do not see any plausible argument that the statute authorized President Bush and the Secretary of the Treasury to lend TARP money to GM and Chrysler.

Indeed, in a little-noted moment in his interview with Chris Wallace, Cheney seemed to acknowledge that Congress did not authorize the loans and, with what can only be regarded as constitutionally twisted logic, used that fact to justify rather than indict Bush's action:

I think it's a good package. I think -- you know, we talk about the Congress being critical. They had ample opportunity to deal with this issue, and they failed. The President had no choice but to step in.

Can someone show me where in Article II it says that if Congress "fails" to appropriate money for a particular purpose, the President can "step in" and do it himself? And can anyone explain why liberals who have been so vociferously (and wrongly) critical of alleged Presidential usurpation in foreign policy have been almost uniformly silent about this actual usurpation in domestic policy?

"Unitary Presidency," indeed.

HT: PowerLine

Journalistic Decline...

You won't believe this one...

This morning, the New York Times published a letter from the mayor of Paris, France:

With all the respect and admiration I have for Ms. Kennedy's late father, I find her bid in very poor taste, and . . . in my opinion she has no qualification whatsoever to bid for Senator Clinton's seat. . . .The Kennedy era is long gone, and I guess that New York has plenty of more qualified candidates to fill the shoes of Hillary Clinton. Can we speak of American decline?
Bertrand Delanoë

This afternoon:

Early this morning, we posted a letter that carried the name of Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, sharply criticizing Caroline Kennedy.This letter was a fake. It should not have been published.Doing so violated both our standards and our procedures in publishing signed letters from our readers.We have already expressed our regrets to Mr. Delanoë's office and we are now doing the same to you, our readers.


HT: AmSpecBlog

Bloom & Dewey, Sittin' in a Tree

Never thought of it this way.

The differences between Dewey and Bloom are so vast and obvious to provide endless fodder for contrast. However, perhaps because of the overwhelming obviousness of these differences, some fundamental similarities can be easily overlooked. Compared to each other, Dewey and Bloom are nearly perfect opposites, natural opponents in a long culture war that pre-dates the invention of that term in the 1980s, and in which Bloom was an incendiary combatant. However, contrasted together against yet another conception of liberal education, it is arguable that it is their similarities, and not their differences, that become more salient. While opponents often attributed to Bloom a kind of cultural conservatism that they found expressed in aspects of educational works by E.D. Hirsch – namely that our culture was deserving of defense and sympathetic understanding – what was often missed by many critics was Bloom’s deep mistrust toward the claims of culture and his pervasive anti-traditionalism, a hostility that he shared with Dewey. For both Bloom and Dewey, liberal education represented a kind of liberation from the traditional and ancestral. To this extent, they might properly be thought of as intellectual cousins within a larger family of anti-traditionalism and rejection of culture; for all their profound differences, in the end they can be seen as united more fundamentally in their hostility to the claims of culture and tradition. To this extent, they are linked in a common definition of “liberal education” that stresses the liberative quality of education, and can be seen as common antagonists toward an alternative definition of liberal education which rests more deeply upon an acceptance of limits and restraint. One sees especially this common antagonism in their views toward religious education, or more broadly, an education in “virtue.”

I still have Bloom's "Closing of the American Mind" on the shelf; read it a long time ago, and was ultimately disappointed in the work, but unable to put a finger on 'why.'

Deneen did, and thanks to him!

Looking at it the way Deneen does also shows the weakness of the Liberal Project exemplified by Bush's 'everybody gets a house', which is an aggrandizement of the 'chickens, pots, cars' meme of FDR.

We are all Liberal Project now! Sad that it's not so easy to pay for it, right?

Another Use for Speed Cameras

You've heard of speed cameras; like red-light cameras, they are set up to catch speeders (or people who run red lights) by a number of municipalities. The camera takes a picture of the vehicle and license plate; if there's a violation, a ticket is computer-generated and mailed to the vehicle's registration address.

Note what's missing from the above, which is important to understanding the "other use" for such devices.

As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county's Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers.

Students from Richard Montgomery High School dubbed the prank the Speed Camera "Pimping" game, according to a parent of a student enrolled at one of the high schools

...students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later

What's missing, of course, is a visual ID of the driver.

Critics have long maintained that the "speed/red-light" cameras are revenue-devices, not really enforcement devices. It would be very sad to learn that they cannot be trusted, right?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Housing Crash: One Lesson

Clearly, GWBush is clueless about a number of things, and certainly contributed to the housing crash. But the NYTimes article which pins the tail solely on the White House is over the top.

First clue, as Calculated Risk points out: there's NO mention of "Easy Al" Greenspan, whose monetary policy was .....ahhhhh...... nuts.

But then, the White House did make some errors, the worst of which was taking for granted that "good social policy" can be implemented if only the Gummint pushes hard enough.

Another big error: ignoring the rent-to-own ratio.

As Mr. Thomas began digging into New Century’s failure that spring, he became fixated on a particular statistic, the rent-to-own ratio.

Typically, as home prices increase, rental costs rise proportionally. But Mr. Thomas sent charts to top White House and Treasury officials showing that the monthly cost of owning far outpaced the cost to rent. To Mr. Thomas, it was a sign that housing prices were wildly inflated and bound to plunge, a condition that could set off a foreclosure crisis as conventional and subprime borrowers with little equity found they owed more than their houses were worth

It was an astute observation, made almost two years ago...

Take the article with a grain of salt, but take a lesson, too: "social goals" are nice to have, but might be impossible to implement, regardless of how much money the Feds can throw around.

Think Congress and the new President will get it?

More Bluemound Road 'Improvements'

Yah, well, maybe the State boyzzzzz will figure out that forcing motorists to venture one or two miles in the opposite direction from where they actually want to go is....counterproductive?

And maybe not.

More Bluemound work coming! Aren't you happy??

Preliminary designs for the 2011 work propose repeating some of the same safety changes that were made this year, such as closing and reconfiguring medians and building more frontage-like roads. The changes require motorists exiting businesses to turn right only. They no longer can drive across three lanes of Blue Mound Road traffic to get to the median to turn left, a maneuver that has caused many crashes.

Frontage-like roads? Such as, exactly, which ones? The one between, say, Barker Road and Brookfield Road?

Oh, I forgot: there IS no such "frontage road."

And of course, that "right turn only" trick is really neat, until the cursing and swearing motorist cuts a U-turn at a stoplight intersection so they don't have to drive to Wauwatosa when they actually wanted to go WEST from, say, Kinko's.

But this is the real laugher:

Major items yet to be decided include whether to make accommodations for on-road bicyclists and off-road pedestrians


There are a few, of course, who venture across Barker Road from the motel to the Perkins, and a few more who cross Bluemound to get to Marty's Pizza. But only State engineers can envision Bluemound Road as some sort of garden pathway for strollers who are window-shopping or doing some sort of exercise-power-walk routine.

And putting in sidewalks isn't going to change that.

The State should spend its time and money re-configuring the mess at Barker/Watertown/Bluemound/I-94.

Andy Needs More Practice

He did the right thing, but maybe not well enough.

Andy Kochanski thought the silhouettes he spotted through the foggy windows were two customers coming into his tavern about 1 a.m. Friday.

...Then Kochanski saw the black ski masks and the sawed-off shotgun.

He didn't hesitate. He reached under the bar for his loaded Glock .45.

As he ducked, he heard a blast and lead whizzing over his head, shattering whiskey bottles and the mirror behind the bar

He stood up and squeezed the trigger.

...He thinks he hit the man firing the shotgun - from the way the man fell back - but he can't say for sure.

Police said they had no suspects in custody Saturday night

Just like with the concertina, Andy, practice works with a Glock. You don't have to say "I'm not sure" if you practice, practice, practice...

DUI Checkpoints?

A couple of observations about this morning's "DUI Checkpoint" article in the JSOnline.

1) Who would have imagined that Jimbo Doylie would pose for holy pictures? He says he endorses checkpoints, (but he knows full well that a bill will NEVER come to his desk.)

2) If we want a high-probability DUI checkpoint, it should be placed at the Legislature's parking-lot exit. You'll get more than a 1/2 of 1% hit-rate.

3) I think "Snarlin' Marlin" may be a hero, albeit tragically flawed. Why the accolade?

"We're already building a surveillance society where we keep track of everything everybody does." he said. "All their purchases, their medical history, their driving record . . . and now we're going to engage (in) this kind of surveillance? One technology at a time, we are building a fascist state. That's strong language, I know, but it is, in my view, very frightening."

He's right, you know.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Corn-A-Hole With Breezes

Yes, we're referring to Texas Windbag Boone Pickens...who may be a racketeer by another name: "investor."

The domestic auto industry isn't the only uncompetitive industry that seems to require life-sustaining transfusions of government cash to stay in business. Alternative energy sources have relied on such subsidies, called "investments," for years.

Yet in President-elect Obama's announcement of his energy team, we were told "the foundations of our energy independence" lie in "the power of wind and solar." Except that for these alternative sources there's been a severe power shortage.

After decades of tax credits and subsidies, wind provides only about 1% of our electricity. By comparison, coal provides 49%, natural gas 22%, nuclear power 19% and hydroelectric 7%.

Wind power is currently uncompetitive. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported recently: "In 1999, 2001 and 2003, when Congress temporarily killed the credits, the number of new turbines dropped dramatically." These subsidies will be renewed in the new administration, but to "invest" in wind and solar to replace fossil fuels will be expensive.

Same as Corn-A-Hole, folks. Steal from the common man, buy enough friends in Congress and the State Legislatures, and call it "investment."

HT: Headless

Earworm Tune

When you hear and watch this old Eastwood film-tune, pay careful attention to the tympanist, who is obviously having much more fun than he should...

HT: LawDog

Let's Play Madoff!

A new game circulating...called the "Ponzi Crawl."

A pub crawl whereby a new person is added at each location and has to buy a round. Each new person is promised that they will get free drinks at all the future bars if they buy this round. Obviously, last person to join the ponzi crawl gets screwed

So--should the last one in be Folkbum or BrewCityBrawler?

Anti-Gun Bloomberg Loses Again

The (perhaps-permanent) Mayor (Royal?) of New York City loses another one in court. Milk-Carton Tom Barrett, beware...

A ways back, Bob Barr filed suit for a Georgia FFL (Adventure Outdoor Sports) targeted by Mayor Bloomberg's "stings," alleging that Bloomberg had slandered the owner. Bloomberg's guys got it removed to Federal court, and argued NY law, giving public officials a wide privilege against defamation suits, should apply. (BTW, those are two different issues. A Georgia court, or its federal district court, may still apply New York law under certain conditions). The federal district court ruled that New York law did not apply, and Bloomberg appealed.

Today the 11th Circuit US Circuit Court of Appeals handed Bloomberg his mayorial hindquarters. The news report is confusing, but apparently the appeals court ordered that the US district court should return the lawsuit to State court

Too bad!

HT: Of Arms

The Revolution: Against What, Exactly?

The shorthand explanation of the American Revolution is that the colonists revolted against King George III. But that's not quite accurate.

The antecedent cause of the Revolution was the imposition of taxes by Parliament while the colonies did not have representation within Parliament. That was decried as "tyrrany," and started the ball rolling.

The Declaration of Independence, however, was aimed at the King, who had managed to foul things up to a fare-thee-well. The preamble is worth reading again, for context purposes.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

One reason that this is worth the read is that in Obama-history, this document does NOT count as part of US history. We've mentioned that here; this is the pertinent text:

Obama, on the night of his election, asked the nation to “to join in the work of remaking this nation the only way its been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years...

Yah, do the subtraction and you'll note that the O-and-Savior chose to ignore the Declaration of Independence (and the Revolution, and the Articles of Confederation....)

Ignoring the Declaration allows him to ignore that inconvenient "right to life" stuff, but there's more that can be ignored by the next Commander-in-Chief.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

...For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

...For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever

(Some of you may recall the 9th and 10th Amendments...)

So, yes, the Revolution was fought against King George--but as is clear from the above, it was fought over the King's egregious violations of human rights (quartering troops, impressing soldiers, and arrogating powers to himself over elected legislatures), AND his 'swarms' of bureaucrats and his taxation.

The Revolution was not exactly against King George, although that was the legal pretext. The Revolution was fought against an arrogant and costly Government.

Worth remembering.