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Monthly Archives: September 2008

Sing for change

September 30th, 2008 - 1:57 pm

The resemblance between these two videos is purely coincidental. Between events like this, promoted by a “grassroots” activist in suburban California …

And happy relaxation in places of entertainment in years past …


Memory lane

September 29th, 2008 - 9:27 am

Only the beginningAlthough some critics will say that the selections from the 2004 hearings on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are cherry picked, can anyone seriously doubt, after watching this 8 1/2 minute video on the failed attempts to regulate these two institutions, that the Democrats also share a very large responsibility in creating the current financial mess. Repeatedly the speakers, including Barney Frank, say there’s nothing wrong with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Why is anyone trying to regulate it or even think it needs to be regulated? One of the most telling passages in the video was Shay’s accusation that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae simply hired anyone who might criticize it.

The 19th century British politician Andrew Tytler was supposed to have said, “a democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.” ‘Always’ is a very strong term; and it presupposes that information has no cautionary effect on the public.

In my experience information eventually filters through to the public, but it takes a long time. At some point everyone learns that no demagogue can deliver on his promises, but always on the reverse.  A dictatorship is always temporary in nature; a permanent tyranny cannot exist. It will continue up until the time that it breaks down from its brutality and inefficiency. From that moment on, the individual will realize that he can defy it without much fear of reprisal, with the result that every tyranny will finally collapse from its own corruption, which is temporarily followed by a democracy.

The other side of the coin

September 28th, 2008 - 9:51 pm

Bala Ambati, who became the world’s youngest doctor and is also a blogger, believes Obama should be President. You may not agree with his reasons, but they are worth reading.

It’s now or never

September 28th, 2008 - 7:13 am

Last Chance SaloonThe conventional wisdom is that Obama is the man of the future. It’s argued that he represents what the younger generation desires. But what if, on the contrary, Obama actually represented the last gasp of the past? When Thomas Sowell writes about Obama’s “worn-out economic ideas” can he really be serious? Michael Ledeen argues in dead earnest that BHO’s ideas are mostly obsolete.

“Paradoxically, Obama is in some ways more a victim of age than McCain, although of a different sort.  Obama is an advocate of ideas that have aged to the point of dementia.  He’s an old-fashioned radical, and the leftist ideas that inspire him are no longer relevant to our world.  As Hegel used to say, the world changes, and the ideas that once described reality, and could be used to effectively change it when necessary, no longer apply to the changed world. Obama’s political ideas have aged, which is why they have no policy saliency.  They’re just words, fossilized remnants of a civilization that no longer exists.”

It may be objected that simply because ideas are old they are not necessarily in decline.  Perhaps they are notions “whose time has come”. But the site Gene Expression describes the results of interesting experiment which suggest Leftist ideas are now past their prime. The author did a frequency count of terms which are strongly associated with the leftist ideology in archives of JSTOR by year. JSTOR is an archive of academic journals.  The result of the frequency counts are startling to say the least.


Laughing on the outside

September 27th, 2008 - 9:07 pm

To laugh or to cryThis video is not as famous as “Burning Down the House”, (see previous post) but is very funny an provides a concise history of the subprime mortgage crisis. This “serious” entry from Wikipedia tells a story that is not much different from the comedic skit.  The subsection on the causes of the crisis illustrates how comprehensive the system failure was.  Whole swaths of the political, financial and journalistic systems simply didn’t work as expected. My guess is that when a big enough carrot is dangled in front society the incentives to “get along” simply become too great to resist.  Some of my friends in the management consultant business say the the “global warming” bandwagon is too tempting to avoid. “Green compliance” and there is a cynical attitude that one should make money off the fad while it lasts. Less than a decade ago it was fashionable to argue that the Y2K bug (remember that?) would cause a global catastrophe. Fortunes were made on it. I wonder how much of the subprime bubble was created by the need to simply get with the program.


After the house burns

September 27th, 2008 - 1:54 pm

Ring of fireHere’s a link to the famous YouTube video “Burning Down the House”, which traces (at least some of) the roots of the current financial crisis to the mass production of bad mortgages.  Personally I think there’s enough political blame to go around both sides of the aisle, though I generally agree with the video’s assertion that one the causes of the the flood of toxic paper was these poorly secured loans which turned around and bit their supposed beneficiaries. But here are several issues that it doesn’t address:

  • Although there were a few warning voices about the poison spreading through the financial system (there were some journalists who kept hammering on it for years) why did the issue not force its way to the front and center of the political agenda sooner?
  • Going forward, which candidate’s policies are more likely to lead to the resolution of the financial crisis?
  • Will the choice of President even matter or is the political system doomed, like some automaton, to keep trying to buy off voters with one entitlement after the other no matter who wins thereby ensuring that overspending will always be with us?

Open thread. And while it may seem off-topic, from Enrevanche we have the reminder that raindrops keep falling on our head. RIP Paul Newman.

Who won the debate?

September 26th, 2008 - 8:03 pm

The modern fatesOpen thread. Who “won” the first debate between John McCain and Barack Obama and why?

  • Overall
  • On the economy
  • On foreign policy
  • Will the debate make a difference? How does it set up the atmospherics for what follows?

Henry Kissinger has already weighed in on a subject touched upon during the debates. The Weekly Standard reports: “Henry Kissinger believes Barack Obama misstated his views on diplomacy with US adversaries and is not happy about being mischaracterized. He says: ‘Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality.’”

The shape of things to come

September 25th, 2008 - 10:22 pm

Scylla, meet CharybdisExpect more, not less acrimony as things go forward.

  • From Glenn Reynolds: Obama threatening the licenses of TV stations that run NRA ads.
  • From NRO: “At today’s cabinet meeting, John McCain did not attack any proposal or endorse any plan. John McCain simply urged that for any proposal to enjoy the confidence of the American people, stressing that all sides would have to cooperate and build a bipartisan consensus for a solution that protects taxpayers. However, the Democrats allowed Senator Obama to run their side of the meeting. That did not work as the meeting quickly devolved into a contentious shouting match that did not seek to craft a bipartisan solution.”
  • From the Politico: “Treasury Secretary Down on One Knee Before Pelosi”

It was McCain who had urged Bush to call the White House meeting but Democrats made sure Obama had a prominent part. And much as they complained later of being blindsided, the whole event turned out to be something of an ambush on their part—aimed at McCain and House Republicans.  “Speaking professionally,” said one Republican aide, “They did a very good job.”  When Bush yielded early to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- Nev.) to speak, they yielded to Obama to speak for the assembled Democrats. And it was Obama who raised the subject of the conservative alternative and pressed Paulson on what he thought of the idea. House Republicans felt trapped—squeezed by Treasury, House Democrats and a bipartisan coalition in the Senate. And while McCain spoke surprisingly little after asking for the meeting, he conceded that it appeared there were not the votes for the core Paulson plan without major changes.

  • From ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos says that “Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson fears the Wall Street bailout deal is falling apart after a chaotic White House meeting, sources say”.

Paulson walked into the room where Democrats were caucusing after today’s meeting at the White House and pleaded with them, “Please don’t blow this up.” Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee was livid saying, “Don’t say that to us after all we’ve been through!” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We’re not the ones trying to blow this up; it’s the House Republicans.” I know, I know,” Paulson replied.

Who you gonna call? Who you gonna believe? Bailout anyone? A crisis creates an incredible opportunity to play partisan politics. ‘Want me out of the way? Buy me off.’

Tip Jar.


September 24th, 2008 - 5:12 pm

Here we goAfghanistan is now officially the bad war.  ABC News reports that the situation in Afghanistan is”grim”. The assessment may be correct but the thing to watch for is what actions the pre-leaked NIE findings will be used to justify. It’s a safe bet the still to be completed NIE will have as many political uses as strategic ones, but maybe politics and strategy are all the same thing.

“US intelligence analysts are putting the final touches on a secret National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Afghanistan that reportedly describes the situation as ‘grim’, but there are ‘no plans to declassify’ any of it before the election, according to one US official familiar with the process. … According to people who have been briefed, the NIE will paint a ‘grim’ picture of the situation in Afghanistan, seven years after the US invaded in an effort to dismantle the al Qaeda network and its Taliban protectors.”

All you hold sacred

September 24th, 2008 - 4:15 pm

What shall we talk about?Fausta hosts an emotive video from Catholic Vote on the issue of abortion.  Despite America’s fascination with money, technology and power much of its politics has always been about religion, or at least, about religious themes. The source of liberty, the provenance of inalienable rights, whether all men are created equal and if God Himself had a role in the public space are issues that run like an unbroken thread through its history. The reason for the enduring topicality of these themes may lie in the lack of artifice in the choice of political system America has chosen to adopt. A democracy will inevitably bring the deepest fears and hopes of common humanity to the front and center; while an aristocracy eventually concerns itself with manners. The survival of basic human themes as subjects of American political discourse is testimony to the proposition that it has — not yet — left its roots.