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Monthly Archives: February 2009


February 27th, 2009 - 7:50 am

Et tu, Brute?

Conservatives created Barack Obama and his vision of the Europeanization of America, and so have themselves to blame for the current recessional, as the present as we have known it fades into the past..

Let me explain. Yes, I know that the 2000-01 recession, Hurricane Katrina, two wars, and a $1 trillion hit after 9/11 made fiscal discipline hard. But being a conservative in America these days is hard—and one gets very little leeway or second chances. Not disowning a Ted Stevens and instead pointing to a Charles Rangel or John Murtha or William Jefferson is fatal for a conservative. We expect such things from a promiscuous spender, but cannot tolerate it from a professed budget hawk.

Pillars of Wisdom

The pillar of conservatism is fiscal responsibility.

Why? Balancing budgets and saying no to always expanding government, first, is a moral issue. Just as the individual does not borrow from others to satisfy his own appetite, does not consume what he does not earn, so too government should not spend what the nation has not produced. The conservative, as the custodian of ancient morality, must remind the populace of the thriftiness of our ancestors that explains the bounty we inherited. If not he, who will say that life is not fair, that human nature is predictable and thus tragic, that in our brief corporal lives we can guarantee an equality of rough opportunity but hardly mandate an equality of absolute result—since we are mere mortals, not gods?

Political Suicide

Second, there are crass political concerns as well. The greater government grows, the larger the number of those receiving and expecting entitlements, and the more expansive the public work force becomes, so likewise the more permanent is the recipient constituency for high taxes, big government, and perpetual largess. The tragedy of the present disaster is that the Democrats are forming dependencies—cf. the President’s promises to provide new proposals for guaranteed cradle-to-grave education, health care, jobs, etc.—through these massive outlays that will last almost indefinitely—until the system collapses from its own weight and we start over again


Third, there is the question of hypocrisy. The liberal philosophy maintains that government, better than thousands of informed and self-interested individuals, can direct and guide our lives and national purpose. It has more confidence in the tenured bureuacrat than it does the small businessman, whose unpredictability and autonomy prove too disruptive to the common vision. If conservatives borrow and spend, then liberals quite naturally sense there are no longer any fiscal auditors left, and they can—and must—trump their newfound competitors for dependent constituents. For the liberal Democrat it is a liberating experience to see a free-spending Republican conservative run up deficits in hopes of providing largess and earmarks to his constituents—the proverbial mouse swallowed by the python, or the strutting hawk trapped under the eagle’s talon.

It Wasn’t Yours to Begin With

Four, philosophically, conservatism hinges on rewarding the individual for his success, on the theory that such encouragement will eventually mean greater wealth for the common good, and reminds the citizenry that the individual, not government, owns his own wealth. But once spending spirals out of control, then naturally the government must take measures to raise revenue—and to accomplish that goal, it must educate the populace that the “rich” are greedy, and impoverish rather than enrich the commons; and, second, that wealth naturally belongs to the government. It taxes and thus merely takes back what is naturally its own, rather than lets be that which it has no intrinsic right to.

Conservative felonies

So the Republicans betrayed their own principles and allowed the Democrats in 2006 and 2008 to run against deficits in order that they could enlarge deficits, convinced that the natural opposition was long ago discredited.

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Perverse Thoughts about this Perverse Recession

February 25th, 2009 - 6:20 am

I do not understand at all this going into debt for almost another trillion dollars, and then immediately promising to balance the budget soon (like blowing off your foot near an emergency room), or how “stimulate” differs from “borrow”, or why the more noble victim is the one who sought to borrow too much for too much house and then defaulted, rather than he who chose to borrow less for less house and paid his mortgage on time each month and now subsidizes the less responsible. (The former apparently will still have the larger house, the latter the smaller.)

Some other perverse thoughts.

1) If one were, say, to have $400,000 in cash in a passbook account at either Citibank or Bank of America (both about broke), and also separately owed them $150,000 on a home mortgage; and if they went under, or had to recapitalize and then informed one that only the first $250,000 of the passbook was covered under FDIC (you laugh? But why have such deposit insurance limits, if all money in all savings accounts were really to be covered?), and thus admitted that they had lost one’s balance of $150,000 that exceeded federal insurance, could one then just say, “No problem, you canceled what you owed me, so likewise I just cancelled what I owe you on the house and we will call it even?”

2) If we put salary caps on CEOs whose companies beg for federal hand-outs (I have no objection to this), why not do the same for those who want mortgage bail-outs? If the government rescues their loans (through reduced principle or interest or both), then why can it not say that if the house is ever sold at a profit over the renegotiated and readjusted debt, the government is entitled to at least half the ensuing profits?

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Some Reflections in the Times of Hysteria

February 23rd, 2009 - 12:52 am


Had anyone said a few months ago that the federal government would step in to provide a trillion dollars to subsidize gasoline—to bring it down to $1.85 a gallon nationwide from prices that were exceeding $4 a gallon—we would have had a national debate. And yet as quietly as the Iraq war cooled down and was ignored, so too we think nothing of the hundreds of billions of dollars saved in reduced energy costs. For the average driver who puts 15,000 miles on his car per year, the annual savings (depending on regional prices, miles per gallon, and the amount and type of miles driven) could reach $1500-2000.

Or contemplate again: What if the Chinese had announced three years ago that in a spirit of good will they would begin buying trillions of US Treasury bond at a .5% interest rather than the 3-5% of the recent past. The result, of course, would be a multi-billion-dollar stimulus for the indebted US economy that would enjoy a temporary reprieve from the cost of its indebtedness. (Remember, in the Carter years T-bills and US bonds were paying out 8-12% and more).

Natural Stimuli

In other words, there are natural stimuli—quite substantial ones—occurring that are lost amid the hysteria of foreclosure. Cheaper energy prices permeate throughout the entire economy from tractor fuel to fertilizers. Cheap foreign capital means renegotiating loans down to near 4% and several hundred dollars per month in savings on one’s mortgage. We are in a recession that has self-remedying qualities rather than justifications for the most radical changes in the economy since the Great Depression.

Haves and sorta have nots

Are we seeing an enormous transference of wealth? Those with capital who lost their stock accounts, and those who sold homes at a loss in some ways subsidized those who walked away from homes and credit card debt, or are renegotiating with the IRS and banks for reduced obligations. The illogical exuberance that resulted in purchase of “things” like televisions, cars, and vacations, financed in some cases by additional second and third (defaulted) mortgages (or 5th and 6th credit cards), was ultimately paid by someone else when the crash occurred—first by the lending agencies themselves, but ultimately (and soon) by the public through higher taxes or decimated retirement accounts, or those average Joes who had securities bundled among real estate debt.

Not Quite a Depression, After all

Another sobering thought. Over 92% of Americans are still at work. Over 90% are still servicing their mortgage debts each month. For these, the “depression” so far doesn’t mean a radical need to reinvent America. They plan to stay in their homes, even if they have negative equity in them; again, loss of equity doesn’t mean catastrophe if they don’t have to sell quickly, refinance, or remodel.

Ditto 401(k)s. If you are retired—terrible. If you are nearing retirement as many of us are—worrisome. But for those under 50, who still put away pre-tax dollars each month, there is a weird sort of solace. I have friends in their 40s who say they won’t pull anything out for a quarter-century, and would prefer to buy stocks and mutual funds now at rock-bottom prices, rather than as was true in 2005 or 2006 at the peak of the market. Quite logical—if the entire market doesn’t go belly up.

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Our Battered American

February 20th, 2009 - 7:47 am

I am meeting a few battered Americans these days. There are not many left, but those that are seem to sound alike. Yes, I think I am beginning to understand Mr. Battered American, and he sounds tired and a bit like this.

“I’m sorry Mr. President, but we are just not dictatorial in the Middle East. You said the Saudis, not America, showed courage over there. But, Mr. President, the Saudis, they live under Sharia law! And my God!—they once engineered crippling oil boycotts against our nation. And wasn’t it they who produced 15 of the 19 killers on 9/11? So no, Mr. President, those Saudis—they simply are not courageous. Now Mr. Biden, there is no reason to set the reset button on foreign policy, as you promised all those Europeans. None at all. Tell that resetting stuff instead to Ahmadinejad, Chavez, that Korean nut, Putin, and all the other thugs who kill and cause misery, but not to our America that saves and feeds and helps. Mrs. Clinton, it’s now your turn. We are not impulsive as you told the world. So you can stop apologizing for America’s recent behavior—unless you think the world would be a better place with the Taliban, and Saddam and his two boys in power. Or maybe Europe should have Schroeder and Chirac back, or Libya with nuclear weapons, or Khalid Sheik Mohammed freed from Guantanamo. Or maybe America shouldn’t have given that $15 billion for AIDs relief in Africa, or helped with earthquakes in Pakistan and tsunamis in Indonesia. Now all that was sorta impulsive.”

As he thinks about this apology business, the battered American always gets a little angrier, “And another thing. Mr. Holder, I’ve never said or done a racist thing in my life, not one. Always supported equal opportunity, always will. So don’t call me a “coward” or my countrymen “cowards,” not when you’re my Attorney General. You are The Attorney General of the United States of America, so please, no more playing Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, leveling the latest shake-down charge on television. That’s not really in your job description to call your own countrymen “cowards.” When I was in high school I was taught that name-calling like that might be what they said was “projection.” So maybe, just maybe, you have been cowardly—and arrogant too—but not those whom you accused of all that. At least if someone asked me to help pardon a fugitive on the FBI’s most wanted list, I would have said “no.” Always, no exceptions, period! Anything else? That would be cowardly.”

Our battered American I noticed gets even more riled up and would say to our new energy secretary, “And another thing Mr. Chu, California isn’t going anywhere. What’s this dry up and blow away nonsense? You’re our Energy Secretary, not Jimmy Carter in his cardigan sweater or Al Gore doing interviews on that private jet. So Americans aren’t going to “vanish” in rural California. We’re proud that we created, by blood, and hard work, and suffering, the richest agricultural valleys in the world. They won’t disappear soon—at least not if you allow us to have the water that our great-grandfathers tapped and brought down from the Sierra, instead of letting it run full blast into the sea so that Speaker Pelosi’s mice can live more nicely in the bay than we do on our farms.”

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Depression, Recession, Downturn—Whatever

February 17th, 2009 - 12:16 pm

Ancient Wisdom

My grandfather once said something to me around 1970 that I have never forgotten. He was born in my house in 1890 (or rather, I in his)—twenty years after his grandmother built the present home. He farmed continuously without a day lost to sickness from 1908, when he graduated from the local high school (the same one my children and I went to—but, of course, not the same school either [but that is an entirely different story]), until 48 hours before he died in 1976.

He had plenty of stories about the Depression. It started for farmers, he said, really in the early 1920s, when the boom prices and easy credit of the immediate post-Great War years led to rapid expansion in the planting of trees and vines, more debt, and—well, we all now know the familiar story. By 1933 he said sixteen relatives were living in the house, and another ten or so in various barns and sheds (the farm was only 120 acres).

They ate, he said, communal meals, worked a communal garden and met up in the evening after completing assigned “chores.” (I remember as a child a canned fruit storage room with concrete walls in the shed with old jars with tape on them labeled ‘freestone peaches—1933′, red plums 1936′).

Sometimes he would get a telegraph message delivered to go down to the local train station to pick up another jobless second cousin or sister-in-law. This was pretty much standard, he told, me until 1941 and the onset on the war when the bad times abruptly ended, and suddenly non-perishable items like raisins were needed overseas, labor was short, and nearly all his male relatives, from 18-40, disappeared into uniform and went off to Europe and the Pacific. (My uncle Beldon was injured on the Philippines, Holt died right after Normandy (I saw his grave at Hamm), another uncle went to Alaska, my father and his cousin to the Pacific, and so on).

My maternal grandfather was a rather eccentric farmer (in the 1940s he re-mortgaged his farm, right at the tail end of the Depression, in order to send his daughters to Stanford University). As I look back at some 55 years on his land, I confess I’m beginning to think that I haven’t met too many wiser souls, who combined abstract learning with knowledge of the stars, winds, smells in the air, flight of birds and geese, natural sense of barometric pressures to predict weather or compare climate with years past. In any case, back to the Depression.

He would drive me around in the late 1960s and early 1970s in his1946 international pick-up and point out the grand rural Victorian homes, built around 1918-19 that had bankrupt the farmer-owners, point out the farmers and packers who in reprehensible fashion sorta, kinda stole Japanese land during the war (and those fewer who had helped save the farms for their interned owners), and explained how some farmers on very poor soil had survived the Depression, while others on rich loam had gone under (yes, of course, character and industriousness and acceptance of tragedy with both resignation and determination were the keys, he said to survival).

In whispers, he also mentioned on our rural drives the names of local grandees (this was, again 1970) whose fathers in the late 1920s had burned down their majestic homes or barns (and even their wooden raisin trays) to garner pre-Depression insurance cash coverage. (I though of Balzac’s “Behind every fortune lies a great crime”.)

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Pause and Take a Deep Breath

February 15th, 2009 - 12:09 am

Five Easy Pieces

I. “Bush did it!”

Sec. Clinton went abroad this week and immediately, and yes, gratuitously, blamed Bush. On her initial tour abroad, Sec. Clinton announced that she would follow an approach that “values what others have to say”: “Too often in the recent past, our government has acted reflexively before considering available facts and evidence or hearing the perspectives of others.” And then she promised a policy “neither impulsive nor ideological.”

Yet can’t Team Obama get a life? We are now into month two; and will it always be “Bush did it?” (I don’t recall Bush circa 2001 in a constant anti-Clinton mode); (1) Does Sec. Clinton realize she is sending a subtle message to our friends and enemies, “All our fault—not yours” . Germany won’t really participate fully in the martial sense in the NATO effort in Afghanistan due to George Bush? Iran spread terror due to Bush’s twang? (Do other foreign leaders do such things?); (2) Does she realize that soon, like her boss and his flips on FISA, the Patriotic Act, and rendition, she too will discover few good choices with Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, and then often will follow Bush’s centrist policies—suffering the additional wage of hypocrisy, given the above rhetoric? (3) Cannot Hillary simply show us her own diplomatic brilliance rather than trashing by implication Condoleezza Rice’s performance? Far better to embarrass Bush by showing brilliant diplomacy and creating anew a safer world, not by trashing the past governance of your own country. We are back to the Obama al-Arabiya interview all over again. These thoughts are the legacies of the 1960s that reveal uncertainty about the US and the puerile campus notion that there is always “they” , the “man”, the “establishment,” the “government” that can assume responsibility for our perceptions of imperfections and unhappiness.

II. Better to owe than to save. I think we are seeing the most marked redistribution of wealth in our recent history. The erosion of home equity and, especially, the 20-30% decline in 401(k)s— followed by nearly $1 trillion in additional entitlement spending (“stimulus”)— mean essentially that much of the capital in the hands of those who owned property and had stocks and mutual funds was destroyed and will be recreated by transferring monies to others. How odd that the printing of billions of new paper dollars to spread he wealth is offset by the virtual destruction of billions of old paper dollars in savings and home equity. Maybe that will slow inflation (e.g., some of us figuratively had money burned up at about the same amount that more was printed afresh). In any case, we live in the age of the debtor—low interest, soon to be high inflation, all sorts of plans to alleviate debt, and government transfers favoring those who owe rather than those who saved.

III. To be or not to be. Obama’s problem is simple. At Columbia, Harvard Law, while Chicago organizing, amid the pews of Trinity Church, and the Democratic Senate caucus, and in the campaign mode, Obama embraced the adversarial mentality of us versus them. The country was illiberal and those in power culpable for various sins, past and present, as one would expect of Michelle’s reference to a “mean” country. But suddenly as President Obama, now he must do what? He owns the governance of the United States that suddenly must either morph under his leadership into something quite good or be defended as it is. Note the unease. So “they” “Bush” etc. are still evoked who did the damage to America here and abroad, as our own leaders triangulate with our enemies and allies against other past administrations. (NB: I have no idea whether Obama will confound and confuse our enemies or simply unduly enrage them by sending mixed signals—if he should prove tough with the Russians on missile defense or Iran or terrorism.)

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More on the New Horizon

February 10th, 2009 - 10:05 am

Such a Strange Malady

A strange thing, this Obama worship (cf. the New York Times op-ed on Sunday where the columnist imagined having sexual relations with Obama) and Bush hatred (cf. the Will Farrell Broadway show trashing Bush, and showing images of his purported penis). They are flipside manifestations of the same sickness that has taken hold of a large subset of the population. Millions seems to think by demonizing A and worshipping B, then once intractable problems (that transcend both A’s faults and B’s merits) suddenly, magically will disappear. But the apocalyptic style is quite dangerous, and the 20th century should have told us that answers are not found through fixating evil on “them” and seeking a “He” to address it. In the meantime, civility is prized, and one should criticize Obama in a spirit and tone that are the exact opposites of the way in which Bush was demonized.

That said, stranger, read on:

Change You Can Imagine

Americans know that Obama announced his candidacy on certain principles and positions on the issues that are now, well, “problematic”— 1) campaign financing reform, 2) coal burning, 3) nuclear power, 4) off-shore drilling, 4) NAFTA, 5) hand-gun control, 6) capital punishment, 7) the surge, 8) withdrawal from Iraq, 9) FISA, 10) the Patriot Act, 11) renditions, 12) talking with Iran, 13) Jerusalem, 14) lobbyists and ethics and on and on. Most are silent about this metamorphosis, since the change from his initial positions was in many cases for the good. I agree that the newer Obama is far more realistic than the 2006-7 version. Some welcomed common sense I guess trumps the charge of hypocrisy.

Three observations about such flexibility:

a) Yes, all primary candidates shift positions in the general elections and then often shift back in the first year or two of office (until they get burned and need to return to triangulation). So even Obama’s breath-taking flip-flop-flips have some historical precedents. (Still, I do not understand why Obama didn’t Morris-like triangulate against the Congressional Democrats and the Republicans—something like “x gave you this mess, and y wants the same old, same old pork rather than my z-way out.”)

b) That said, I think a number of Americans are not quite sure what the current Obama position is on tax cuts, the future of publicly financed Presidential elections, rendition, ethics in government—or really on anything. Everything, in contrast, seems in play on any given day. Any position can be hoped and changed with soaring cadences, so the question is what position will fit today, but perhaps not tomorrow?

c) That said again, I think from the first three weeks in office, and the rhetoric of the base, and a few solid facts, we can assume there are about five areas in which Obama really will break from the past, and these issues will prove contentious in the next year or so. Here are examples.

1. Big Brother. In the past eight years there was great acrimony about “shredding the Constitution”. Some of us did not think the Patriot Act, FISA, renditions, or Guantanamo had, by historical measures during the exigencies of war, damaged the civil liberties of Americans, but in toto had made it much more difficult for radical Islamists to repeat 9/11.

Many disagreed. But recently Obama has mentioned a number of things that suggest the government or private concerns might in other areas be quite intrusive—and they will be so without the watchdog Left that was once keen to any perceived intrusion of Mr. Bush’s administration: A) We hear that the President wants “eyes and ears” to monitor the stimulus bill, as in reporting those to a website who supposedly stray from proper conduct (do we really want a nationally-sanctioned, electronic vigilante group reporting to the White House each time a nebulous “they” purportedly takes away their “fair share” of government “stimulus” hand-outs?);

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Our Brave New World

February 7th, 2009 - 7:28 pm

The Apocalyptic Style

Be careful when one uses the superlative case—best, most, -est, etc.—or evokes end-of-the-world imagery. The new Secretary of Energy Chu, who seems eminently qualified and is a Nobel Prize Winner, strangely just declared, ‘We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California’, and went on to declare vineyards all but doomed here—apparently due to global warming.

True, we’ve had this year (and part of last) a mini-drought. In my 50 years of memory of California there have been many; usually they last for a year or two, then we get matching wet years. (In some years in lieu of Sierra irrigation water, I have turned on our electric pumps (15 hp/1000 gallons a minute) in May and turned them off in late August—24/7. And over a 10-year span of dry/wet years, the seasons balance out (e.g., the water table in my front yard varies from 35 feet in wet years to 50 in dry; and my great-great-grandmother’s abandoned 6-inch well, that in the 19th century used to provide hand-pumped water for the house, still, after 130 years, has water in its casing that goes down only 50 feet.)

More germanely, I drove Thursday from Los Angeles in a pouring rainstorm, and now am looking at a steady snowfall outside my window in the Sierra. Several feet are piled up on the ground as we are nearing mid-February blossom break for fruit trees—with more predicted on the way. Is the Secretary convinced that we will run out of water and have no crops (grapes, remember, grow well in the desert if they are irrigated), or does he think hotter weather means things simply don’t grow? If the former, perhaps the Sec. might support raising the Sierra dams a few feet, or even building a new one, given that millions of acre feet of precious water pour out of the Sierra each spring and into San Francisco Bay from the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds, due to law suits and legislation that aim to restore 19th-century water runs that supposedly will bring back former populations of amphibians, insects, fish, and riparian mammalian life.

The truth is that we have plenty of water to farm and to support millions of people—if we utilize properly our resources and invest more in reservoirs and water conservation and storage. But we do not have enough water—if we insist on a business-as-usual infrastructure, designed for 15 million Californians that must now serve 36 million. Open borders, radical environmentalism, urbanization and edge-citification, enormous entitlements instead of infrastructure investments, high taxes that lead only to gargantuan deficits—not Mother Nature— will, in the aggregate, ensure Dr. Chu’s prediction of an end to California agriculture.


So it is unwise to use such hyperbole. Compare the Obama administration’s much ballyhooed “most stringent ethics standards”—ever!—that only leads to 10 (“exempt”) lobbyists appointed to the administration, and at least four tax cheats (an accurate rather than hyped description) nominated to Treasury, government oversight, HHS, and Labor, as well as someone like Richardson imploding, and complete silence about Rangel, Dodd, and Frank.

Likewise it is unwise to keep evoking “patriotic” to describe those who vote for the stimulus package, and cry ‘catastrophic” if opponents disagree and the $1 trillion dollar debt program is delayed. If supporters in congress of Bush and Cheney were criticized for suggesting that to cut off funds for soldiers in the field or to declare a war “lost” was unpatriotic, then surely it is wrong to do the same for an opponent of a stimulus or tax plan.

The Obama Style

If one would carefully read Obama’s al Arabiya interview, or the text of Biden’s Munich address, or Eric Holder’s acceptance speech, there is a now clear style: 1) preface your remarks with the fact that the last 8 years have been horrible (ruined relations with the Muslim world, politicization of the Justice Department, ruined relations with our allies, (fill in the blanks.).
2) Then evoke the superlative to promise something entirely new, singularly moral, historically ethical.
3) Hope that no one remembers 9/11 or that you just praised the Saudi king and trashed a US president, or that you once helped pardon a Most Wanted fugitive, or that we already enjoy good relations with Germany, Britain, Italy, France, etc., or that Russia, Iran, and radical Islam really do not care too much what we say—only whether we do pretty much what they want.

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Hope He Can Change

February 3rd, 2009 - 9:07 pm

An Obamaplosion

I get loads of quasi-hate mail about questioning Obama’s candidacy and governance. But I am worried, not about Obama, or the politics of governance, but about the nation itself. The media has forsaken us. But after only two weeks we are in a crisis stage of confidence, and the story is spiraling by the hour out of control. I write here not to score points, but to warn readers that this is all very serious. Obama is our President, and we must hope he does something fast to save his administration from general ridicule that will incur real dangers for all of us abroad.

Again, anyone who cares about the US, at home and overseas, must be worried, very worried, about the disastrous last two weeks. Even the fawning media–that is responsible in some way for the crisis, given that they chose to be Pravda-like in encouraging the messianic style that got a haughty Obama in his present mess–will soon start bailing in efforts to restore their last fides. If a Dick Morris figure does not come to the rescue soon, Obama’s soaring rhetoric of hope and change will become the stuff of Leno/Letterman and general laughter. Bush was unfairly demonized, but no one abroad thought he was predictably soft and would be so-so about protecting US interests, or that his words and his deeds would be so often in direct antithesis.

What happened? Count the ways, and then let us see what might be done pronto!

I. Obama claimed a new moral high ground, and the media seconded that. But nothing in his career—his failed congressional race, the divorce disclosures of his two Senate primary and general rivals, Rezko, Wright, Blago advisor, Ayers, etc.—had ever suggested he had on a single occasion challenged prevailing norms in efforts to raise the ethical bar.

Instead he was allowed to blather on about heaven on earth, while he was by needs governing from the corrupt cesspool of DC lawyers and lobbyists. So we got the worst of both worlds: the most exalted ethical rhetoric ever, and the greatest ethical lapses of any incipient administration in memory. Over 10 lobbyists now appointed. Consider further: Richardson (nuff said), Holder (helped to pardon a most wanted fugitive), Lynn (Raytheon lobbyist now at Defense), Killefer (sloppy taxes; she’s gone), Geithner (tax dodger), Daschle (would have been a tax felon had he been one of us), Rangel (blank check both to write and break our tax laws), Dodd and Frank (exemptions for ethical lapses at the eye of the financial storm).

There are still the Blago tapes and the fears that Prosecutor Fitzgerald short-circuited the investigation in recognition that once Team Obama started turning up horse-trading on tape they had to be warned to desist. The full release of those transcripts will either confirm or belie that fear—and Blago is sinisterly brilliant and eager for revenge.

II. Then there were the inflated lectures on historic foreign policy to be made by the clumsy political novice who trashed his own country and his predecessor in the most ungracious manner overseas to a censured Saudi-run press organ (e.g., Bush is dictatorial, the Saudi king is courageous; Obama can mend bridges that America broke to aggrieved Muslims [apparently Teheran hostages, Rushdie, serial attacks in the 1990s, 9/11, Madrid, London never apparently occurred, and neither did feeding Somalis, saving Kuwait, protesting Chechnya, Bosnia/Kosovo, billions to Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinians, help in two Afghan wars, and on and on]). It is always dangerous to suggest that ‘America then bad, America now good’—the former gives bad guys talking points, the latter reason to try something stupid.

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