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OH FER CRYIN’ OUT LOUD: Swedish Church Removes LGBT Altarpiece After Fears It Is ‘Anti-Trans.’

JIM TREACHER: Tarpgate: Yet Another Outrage That Wasn’t.

The most surprising thing about the Trump presidency isn’t Trump. He hasn’t changed, and he’s not going to change. The most surprising thing is how low the press is willing to go just to pester him. I really didn’t think they could embarrass themselves this badly. They still can’t get over Hillary’s humiliating loss, so they spend every waking moment proving they hate Trump as much as they’re supposed to hate him. They’re so addicted to gotchas that they’re now obsessed with… a tarp.

If the Dems want to make a comeback, all they have to do is stop acting crazy. So far, no good.

So true.

YOUR DAILY TR**CH*R: We Must Ban K*te Sm*th Entirely. “You have your instructions, America. You will carry them out immediately, before people start to wonder if you’re racist too. Ain’t totalitarianism grand?”

R**d th* wh*le th*ng.

Related: In addition to the New York Yankees, the Philadelphia Flyers have not only stopped playing Kate Smith’s “God Bless America,” they’ve put a black tarp over her statue outside their arena, despite Smith being a legendary good luck charm for the team during their mid-1970s “Broad Street Bullies” Stanley Cup-winning days.

AS ALWAYS, LIFE IMITATES SEINFELD: After license plate denied, Saskatchewan’s Dave Assman opts for giant ‘ASSMAN’ decal.

Cosmo Kramer, call your office!

I STILL CARE, BUT I’VE BASICALLY GIVEN UP ON GETTING ANYONE ELSE TO: Ballooning debt harms our youth, but Trump doesn’t care — and neither does anyone else.

This piece reminds me of the late Insta-Dad’s prophetic take on the TARP bailout: “The bad thing is that the federal government has figured out that it can borrow a lot more money than it previously thought.”

DISPATCHES FROM THE ORIGINAL GOLDEN ERA OF MUSCLE CARS: A 1970 Plymouth Superbird is featured in the latest edition of Jay Leno’s Garage:

When I was in college, there was a small business owner who lived down the block from my parents with a pair of these (or one or both could have been the similar similarly giant spoiler-equipped Dodge Charger Daytona) tarped. If they were well preserved, I assume he got some pretty big bucks if and when he sold them.

MICHAEL BARONE: Jeff Flake is the senator from the wrong state.

In commenting on Sen. Jeff Flake’s announcement that he was retiring rather than seeking a second term in the Senate, Ben Domenech of the Federalist wrote that Flake’s “brand changed dramatically.”

I take a different view: Flake, R-Ariz., in his 12 years in the House and five years in the Senate has taken consistent views. His strong free-market conservatism on economic issues led him to oppose former President George W. Bush’s Medicare prescription drug bill and TARP legislation, as well as the 2001-02 No Child Left Behind bill. He supported “comprehensive” immigration legislation in the House (for which John Boehner booted him from the Judiciary Committee) and in the Senate (as a member of the “Gang of Eight”).

Domenech’s point is that he bucked the Republican leadership in the House and not in the Senate, but in both cases he was acting in accordance with his own principles. Which are in line with the principles of those of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints and the great bulk of its believers.

Flake is from a pioneer Mormon family: his great-grandfather William Jordan Flake, together with William Snow, founded the Mormon town of Snowflake, Arizona in 1878 (it’s up in the mountains and it does snow there). He graduated from Brigham Young University, an LDS school, and served as an LDS missionary in South Africa. His district residence is in Mesa, the huge (population over 450,000) suburban city east of Phoenix in the Valley of the Sun, which was founded by LDS pioneers at almost exactly the same time as Snowflake.

As voters, members of the LDS Church tend to be Republicans, free market on economics, conservative on such cultural issues as abortion, but also sympathetic to immigrants. These are all Jeff Flake’s positions.

He was clearly not the man for this moment.

STOP TRYING TO MAKE KATRINA HAPPEN. KATRINA ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN. Amid NFL Obsession, Media Blinds Itself to Trump’s Puerto Rico Relief Efforts.

The message was clear: Trump was doing nothing to help Puerto Rico (based on liberal bias and tweets).

As it turns out, it was the media ignoring Puerto Rico—not Trump.

PBS’s John Yang spoke to Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello about the help he has received from the states. Rosselo immediately said he was “very grateful for the administration” and that “they have responded quickly.”

“The president has been very attentive to the situation, personally calling me several times,” Rossello said. “FEMA and the FEMA director have been here in Puerto Rico twice. As a matter of fact, they were here with us today, making sure that all the resources in FEMA were working in conjunction with the central government.”

He asked Congress to quickly provide an aid package to the island.

Politico reported, “Rossello and other officials praised the federal government for planning its response in detail before the storm hit, a contrast with what Puerto Rico has long seen as the neglect of 3.4 million Americans living in a territory without a vote in Congress or the electoral college.”

Tweets mean nothing. It takes no effort at all to send one. Acting like Trump actually spent all day Monday caring about the NFL because of what he tweeted is absurd. Does the media really think all he does is tweet? It sure seems like it. They would rather write dozens of articles about every single one of the president’s tweets than look into what he’s actually doing.

Or maybe they can’t. Maybe [the press’s] humping President Barack Obama’s leg for eight years has made the current Republican administration unwilling to share as much information, because they know it’ll be spun negatively.

Ouch. Well, there’s lots of info at the FEMA website, such as: “There are more than 8,800 federal staff, including more than 600 FEMA personnel, on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands engaged in response and recovery operations from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.”

And:

FEMA, working in coordination with federal partners, provided more than 4.4 million meals, 6.5 million liters of water, nearly 300 infant and toddler kits to support 3000 infants for a full week, 70,000 tarps, and 15,000 rolls of roof sheeting to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria’s landfall.

FEMA is delivering food and water to territorial points of distribution (POD) locations in 7 municipalities in Puerto Rico. Please reach out to municipality officials for specific locations. More PODs will continue to open as areas become accessible.

Officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico opened points of distribution (POD) in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for survivors to get meals, water, and other commodities. The Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands announced that PODs in the islands will be closed Wednesday, but 16 locations in St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John are scheduled to be open tomorrow.

In Puerto Rico, fuel was delivered to 19 hospitals for power generators. 200 gas stations received fuel yesterday for distribution to residents of Puerto Rico.

Maybe if Trump tweets it, the press will notice.

NEWS: “There are more than 8,800 federal staff, including more than 600 FEMA personnel, on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands engaged in response and recovery operations from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.”

FEMA, working in coordination with federal partners, provided more than 4.4 million meals, 6.5 million liters of water, nearly 300 infant and toddler kits to support 3000 infants for a full week, 70,000 tarps, and 15,000 rolls of roof sheeting to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria’s landfall.

FEMA is delivering food and water to territorial points of distribution (POD) locations in 7 municipalities in Puerto Rico. Please reach out to municipality officials for specific locations. More PODs will continue to open as areas become accessible.

Officials in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico opened points of distribution (POD) in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for survivors to get meals, water, and other commodities. The Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands announced that PODs in the islands will be closed Wednesday, but 16 locations in St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John are scheduled to be open tomorrow.

In Puerto Rico, fuel was delivered to 19 hospitals for power generators. 200 gas stations received fuel yesterday for distribution to residents of Puerto Rico.

Much more at the link.

HOW WAFFLE HOUSE’S HURRICANE RESPONSE TEAM PREPARES FOR DISASTER.

Hurricane preparation for many can be a scramble, but for Waffle House, it’s a game of chess with military-style strategy and execution. Before a storm hits, and even before hurricane season, the company makes storm checklists for each location, meets with local authorities, and educates new employees, though many have been through 15 hurricanes. . . .

A Waffle House jump team consists of a small team of restaurant operators from outside the hurricane zone. These employees swoop in at the first possible moment after a storm to restore service and get things open. Typically after a storm, demand for food is high and functioning restaurants are in low supply, and things get extremely busy. . . .

One of the reasons why these jump teams are the key to the chain’s success is because employees may not be able to work if they’re dealing with their own hurricane damage.

“It does help to bring operators from outside so it relieves [local employees] so they can focus on family,,” said Warner. “They don’t have to worry about their restaurant at the same time.”

During Hurricane Katrina, Warner said Waffle House worked beyond its restaurants to provide temporary lodging for its workers, putting tarps on employees’ roofs and shipping in hard-to-find essentials like diapers and formula.

Very cool.

FRANK SANTARPIA: The Progressive Tea Party that Never Was.

A Progressive mirroring of the Tea Party Movement is the thing I feared most after the election of Donald Trump, and for obvious reasons. We saw in 2010 what a difference-maker an “enthusiasm gap” could be, and watched with delight as Progressive attempts to blunt the Tea Party tsunami with rallies of their own flopped miserably. We saw that such a level of engagement could change the face of Congress. And finally, candidate Hillary Clinton saw firsthand that such a gap could not be overcome despite her “inevitability.”

Progressives could have started such a movement — there is no disputing they have the numbers. But they didn’t, and here’s why: what passes for the Progressive Movement in the United States today lacks any real message, which is one of the principle reasons their candidate was on the short end of an enthusiasm gap in the first place. We protested the abuse of the Constitution and espoused the rule of law — not the election of Barack Obama. That then, is the chief difference. We objected to the man’s actions; they object to the man.

Well, that’s the inevitable result of losing an election for a movement which believes in a nation of men, not laws.

LIFE IN THE ERA OF HOPE AND CHANGE: Taxpayers are still bailing out Wall Street, eight years later. “Eight-years after taxpayers rescued the U.S. financial system, some of the country’s largest banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, continue to receive billions in bailout money, according to government data. Wells Fargo is eligible for up to $1.5 billion in bailout funds over the next seven years. JPMorgan and Bank of America could receive $1.1 billion and $964 million respectively. The continuous flow of funds is a remnant of the $700 billion bailout effort, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP, put in place during the financial crisis.”

REPORT: GUCCIFER 2.0 RELEASES CLINTON FOUNDATION DOCS – DEMS FUNNELED TARP FUNDS TO THEIR PACS.

IS THERE ANYTHING HE CAN’T DO? Eric Clapton Goes Fishing and Lands the Biggest Salmon of the Summer.

EVERYBODY NEEDS A .303: Enfield Rifle nearly 100 years old works better than a lot of new stuff. “Last weekend, I went out in the country and shot the thing. It still works almost perfectly. I say almost because the safety catch is loose and comes on every time the gun is fired. A new spring and it should be as good as new. . . . I also found the rifle to be surprisingly accurate. At 60 paces, though iron sights, I managed a group small enough to cover with a credit card.”

ANALYSIS: TRUE. Hillary Clinton Will Win the Democratic Nomination But Is an Awful Candidate: The former secretary of state, senator, and first lady is already running against Donald Trump. She might win, but the country will lose.

Clearly scheduled by the party establishment to minimize their impact, the function of these debates isn’t to give Democratic primary voters (and non-Democrats interested in the country’s future) a sense of the range and depth of different candidates’s views and policies. The function is to provide Hillary Clinton the opportunity to workshop her candidacy, pretend to earn the nomination, reverse her high negative ratings, and finalize the exact compass points of her triangulation strategy in the general election. . . .

Clinton was staunchly against gay marriage until it became clear such a position was untenable in today’s America, thus completing the one conversion even more obviously political than Barack Obama’s switch in the heat of the 2012 election season. A one-time free trader whose president husband sealed the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Clinton recently trashed the Trans-Pacific Partnership after having lobbied for its passage as secretary of state. It’s odd as hell that it took her so long to come up with a position on the Keystone XL pipeline, isn’t it? Only if you think she has an uncalculated bone in her body. Once upon a time (in 1996’s It Takes a Village), Clinton supported charter schools and the concept of parental choice. Sensing the need to wrap up support from teachers unions, she singing a different tune these days.

Never slow to attack illegal immigrants (and even deny them driver’s licenses) in the past, she now embraces full amnesty as the Republican Party has gone full into full-restrictionist mode. A strong supporter of TARP and bailing out Wall Street, she nows chants “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes” when asked about letting banks fail. For the most part, she is trying to disown her record as a relentless military interventionist while fudging negligible differences with Obama’s foreign policy.

A recipe for success!

HOW TARP CREATED TRUMP:

Back in 2008, rather than fix mark-to-market accounting, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen, Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke, and other members of the financial market crisis team, chose to use a government-funded bazooka. A $700 billion bank bailout named The Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

President Bush, who authorized this approach, later explained it by saying he “abandoned free market principles to save the free market.” That statement makes no sense. Either you believe in free markets, or you don’t. Violating a free market means it’s not free. More truthfully, the Bush team abandoned free markets because it was the politically expedient thing to do.

But, by doing this, Republican leadership undermined a sacrosanct belief of conservatism – markets are self-healing and government intervention creates unintended consequences. Abandoning this philosophy left voters literally adrift. Politics is just politics. The GOP ship has no anchor or rudder. Why vote for a philosophy if those who claim to support it do so only when it is convenient? The result: Donald Trump.

Read the whole thing.

KEVIN WILLIAMSON: Elizabeth Warren, corporate-welfare queen.

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE: How Silicon Valley Created America’s Largest Homeless Camp.

Feid, an unemployed union carpenter, lives in a fortress of netting and plastic tarp with a cat named Baby. He’s one of the 278 people who’ve claimed a spot in the thicket of cottonwood trees along Coyote Creek. He first moved here four years ago when he ran out of work. . . .

The 53-year-old carpenter made good money at the height of the Silicon Valley construction boom in the 1980s and ’90s. He built movie theaters and installed ceilings in the new offices of high-tech companies that put San Jose and the rest of Santa Clara County on the map.

“All the buildings around here, you know, I probably worked on them,” said Feid, who was making up to $35 an hour in those days. Then came the dot-com crash in 2000, bankrupting dozens of Internet companies and drying up construction work. Feid lost his apartment and bounced around for years, living in people’s garages as he remodeled their homes. In 2009, a friend kicked him out and Feid found himself on the streets. All he had was his motorcycle and a few tarps.

“You build everything up … then you lose your job and then everything falls apart again,” Feid said. “At least here in the creek you know what your status is.”

The number of people living in the camp has tripled since Feid first moved in. The Jungle now has a Spanish-speaking section, and up the creek is the Vietnamese enclave known as Little Saigon. The explosive growth has led to more violence and filth. Dogs rummage through heaps of garbage and human waste. . . .

The current tech boom has made Silicon Valley one of the wealthiest and fastest-growing regions of the country. That has created one of the country’s most expensive rental markets, pushing low-wage workers out of Santa Clara County or onto the streets.

“You need to work five minimum-wage jobs to afford to live here,” said Jennifer Loving, executive director of Destination: Home, the public-private partnership to end homelessness in Santa Clara County. “No one can do that. That right there creates a huge income disparity.”

This year, San Jose and the surrounding county surpassed Los Angeles as having the country’s highest rate of homeless people living on the streets, according to the annual homelessness assessment report from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department. Three-quarters of the area’s 7,567 homeless residents are from Santa Clara County. Most of them live in one of San Jose’s 247 tent cities, just miles from the sprawling headquarters of Google and Apple.

Silicon Valley: America’s future?

IRA STOLL, FACT-CHECKING THE AHISTORICAL PAUL KRUGMAN: TARP and the Tea Party. “The fact that the Tea Party hates TARP undercuts Professor Krugman’s argument that the Tea Party is all a bunch of racists who oppose government subsidies for poor black people but not for rich Wall Street bankers. But Professor Krugman goes ahead with that argument anyway, in defiance of the facts.” Because that’s just how he rolls.

MILT WOLF PHOTOS OF GUNSHOT VICTIMS’ X-RAYS: Scandal, or tempest in a teacup? I note that on twitter the NRSC is clearly hoping it’s enough to knock Wolf out of the race and save incumbent Pat Roberts.

UPDATE: Okay, by NRSC, I really mean the NRSC’s Brad Dayspring. I follow him, and I like his tweets. But he’s been hammering this all day and it’s a dreadful, dreadful mistake. I accept his claim that he’s just interested in making sure the seat goes GOP. But when the NRSC gets out and attacks a Tea Party challenger — and that, make no mistake, is what’s going on — it poisons the well. There’s basically no trust for the GOP establishment among the base. If they stay home in 2014 like they did in 2012 because they feel betrayed by the establishment, what should be a wave election won’t be. Given the importance, in particular, of a GOP Senate in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy, doing anything to foster such a state of events is criminal incompetence.

MORE: Ed Morrissey: “I get that, too, especially on stuff like this. The issue of TARP and Bevin’s position in Kentucky is a real issue of trustworthiness; this Wolf thing isn’t even really germane to policy or politics, and it’s apparently pretty old on top of it. The NRSC should give this kind of thing a wide berth.”

Nothing they do in any particular race is as important as not pissing off the base, which is very unhappy with them and on the verge of staying home/starting a third party. I feel like the GOP establishment doesn’t understand this, though you’d think the 2012 post-mortems would have informed them.

DANIEL MITCHELL: TARP Was Bad, but the Looming Obamacare Bailout for Corrupt Insurance Companies Could Be Worse.

TRAIN WRECK UPDATE: Obama’s Catastrophic Victory.

So the program debuts and it’s a resounding, famous, fantastical flop. The first weeks of the news coverage are about how the websites don’t work, can you believe we paid for this, do you believe they had more than three years and produced this public joke of a program, this embarrassment?

But now it’s much more serious. No one’s thinking about the websites. They wish you were thinking about the websites! I bet America hopes the websites never work so they never have to enroll.

The problem now is not the delivery system of the program, it’s the program itself. Not the computer screen but what’s inside the program. This is something you can’t get the IT guy in to fix.

They said if you liked your insurance you could keep your insurance—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said they would cover everyone who needed it, and instead people who had coverage are losing it—millions of them! They said they would make insurance less expensive—but it’s more expensive! Premium shock, deductible shock. They said don’t worry, your health information will be secure, but instead the whole setup looks like a hacker’s holiday. Bad guys are apparently already going for your private information. . . .

It’s as if it’s 1937 and they launched Social Security, only rich coupon-clippers on Park Avenue immediately started getting small monthly checks, and 67-year-old dust bowlers in tarpaper shacks started getting monthly bills.

You know, they’ve got to be thinking at least a bit wistfully that if they had been less successful in bullying John Roberts around, life would be a lot easier now . . . .

READER CLARE TOOHEY WRITES:

So, as tactical officers, 9 deep, hang off urban military assault vehicles, they feel great. I look at those things rumbling through empty streets and feel sick.

Bad guy #2 was bleeding for 20 hours outside the perimeter the cops and FBI had set. That was a miscalculation I wouldn’t dream of second guessing, but luckily for all of us, a regular guy noticed the torn and bloody tarp on the boat parked out back and called it in. They answered the 911 call and did what was required–excellent! But if Average Joe hadn’t noticed, how long would the officials have kept the city locked down? But I expect we’ll hear how important it is that they have more domestic P.D. paramilitary, oh yeah, and that CISPA that just passed under the radar was a must.

Law enforcement has been working very hard, but how about a little recognition that this was another instance when an alert citizen rose up, without official permission or sanction, to take reasonable, effective steps?

Good point. You could write a book on that.

AT AMAZON, big holiday markdowns on Blu-Ray.

Also, today only: Shop-Vac 6.5-Peak Horsepower 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum. As I learned during the unfortunate burst-pipe incident here at Stately InstaPundit Manor a few years ago, it’s really handy to have a shop-vac. Also, a tarp, for when the water is pouring out of the ceiling. . . .

OOPS: Obama: ‘We Got Back Every Dime’ of Bailout; CBO: Bailout Will Lose $24 Billion. “In fact, CBO reported that as of now $65 billion in TARP funds remain outstanding.”

INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY: Crony Socialism Is Still With Us.

It didn’t take long after President Obama was elected in 2008 for the first signs of crony capitalism to emerge. And as time’s gone by, conditions haven’t improved. If anything, the problem is growing worse.

This much is clear: Democrats who controlled Congress and the White House used the $700 billion TARP program and the $860 billion stimulus as a giant ATM to pay back favored constituencies, at the expense of the rest of us.

We thought the problem, once observed, would disappear. After all, who would want his or her name associated with something as disreputable as crony capitalism?

And yet, it hasn’t gone away. In recent weeks, more revelations show just how corrupt our now-permanent “stimulus” culture is.

Read the whole thing.

MY PROPOSAL TO REPEAL THE HOLLYWOOD TAX CUTS gets more attention.

UPDATE: Reader Philip Zanco writes:

Great op-ed on taxing the “rich.” I’ve been saying the same thing for years, but no one seems to pay attention. Let me suggest a few more items:

1. Eliminating the charitable deduction for all estates exceeding $500 million in gross value (Buffett, Gates)
2. Since salaries in excess of $1 million to executives are not deductible, extend this same provision to businesses paying such sums for television and motion picture acting, directing, and production. Extend the same provision to the music industry royalties, etc. (Geffen, Redstone, Spielberg, and a host of other left-coast lefties).
3. Keep the pre-Bush cut tax rates (possibly even raise them) on executives who led firms that either took TARP money in excess of $75 million or invested significant sums of money in special debt instruments or shares of firms that took TARP money, or who were paid significant bonus moneys from TARP firms during the periods immediately before they took funds from the U.S. (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, GM, Citibank, JP Morgan, etc.) Make these provisions also applicable to capital gains.
4. Excise tax on all premium television transmissions in excess of 2nd tier cable or satellite packages (HBO, Showtime, etc.) Make the tax non-deductible for income taxes.
5. Extending the corporate accumulated earnings tax to all non-profits having cash, investments, and securities in excess of $500 million (Ford foundation, Pew Foundation, Harvard, Yale, etc).

I could have fabulous fun with this, while reinforcing a teachable moment that taxes enacted have real economic consequences – perhaps prompting discovery of the fact that pulling on someone’s hair really does hurt.

We can hope…

MORE: Reader Joseph Mooney writes:

Professor Reynolds: I read with interest your proposals to raise taxes and how it might especially hit Democratic constituencies. Here are a few more:

1. Quit putting off the full force and effect of the alternative minimum tax – this, of course, bites harder in States with high State and local property and income taxes as you’ve noted. I don’t really favor this, however, because the whole AMT idea is misbegotten – we should have one income tax that taxes income. We should lower rates and do away with the deduction for such taxes.

2. Repeal the long standing exclusion from income accorded interest on State and municipal bonds. This would need to be prospective and it would also sweep away the industrial bond issues that allow favored businesses to trade upon this tax exemption. Furthermore, it would also reduce a source of corruption in our State and local governments, e.g., “pay to play.” It would hit the high tax-spend-borrow jurisdictions which, presently, gain at the expense of the low tax-spend-borrow jurisdictions. It also would have the political virtue of being something that could be advertised as hitting very high bracket taxpayers and banks hardest — and low income taxpayers not at all. Presently when we see estimates of the income and taxes paid by the “rich” – the implicit tax in the lowered interest rate on such bonds is both excluded from the income estimate and from the tax rate as well. I thought one very notable thing about Romney’s one disclosed return was that he seemed, as I recall, to have had no reported interest income of this kind. For the rich who might object, one could argue back that their taxes weren’t being raised unless they were too chicken to take a chance on America by investing in stocks, small business etc. [as Romney seemingly has].

3. As far as limiting the home mortgage interest deduction, I agree. The higher housing costs in certain places are often the choice of the governments there. They create those astronomical housing markets via zoning laws, their choices regarding union shop vs. right to work etc. Once they make such choices, they should not be able to export the costs of those choices to other regions.

Well, it’s amazing what people think of once the subject is opened. . . .

IT’S TRUE. THE GOP WOULD HAVE HAD A BETTER CHANCE IF SHE HAD BEEN ON TOP OF THE TICKET. Cheney: Picking Palin for VP was a ‘mistake.’

She probably wouldn’t have panicked like McCain did: “Before TARP failed as policy, it first failed as politics, with John McCain’s panicky announcement — Sept. 24, 2008 — that he would fly back to Washington to push for passage of the bailout. As I explained two weeks later, this was the decision that ensured Obama’s election.” McCain was in the lead from Palin’s selection until then. Then he tanked, and never recovered.

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: TARP Was Even Worse Than You Think: “An Abysmal Failure,” Barofsky Says. “It was somewhat shocking how much control big banks had over their own bailout [and] the overwhelming deference shown by Treasury officials to the banks.”

NEWS YOU CAN USE: How To Shaft Taxpayers, TARP-style.

NITA GHEI: Crop Cronyism: Trillion-dollar farm bill is the latest example of what’s wrong with our economy. “Combine a Midwestern drought with pointless ethanol mandates, and the supplies of corn inevitably dwindle, driving prices sky high. Politicians like Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, are citing the crop crisis as an excuse to ram through a near-$1 trillion farm bill. While a bit of that cash might find its way to a small farmer, the bulk of the loot will be transferred to individuals who are anything but poor. Like the bank bailouts and TARP, the farm bill illustrates the capture of the legislative process by special interests.”

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Wall rallies for better Canada-U.S. relations, decries policies of Obama administration. “Wall’s comments come weeks after an article in Foreign Affairs by Derek Burney, Canada’s former ambassador to the U.S., and Fen Hampson, a foreign policy expert at Carleton University, declared the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Canada has sunk to its worst level in decades.”

Much more here.

GM’S DELPHI PENSION TOP-UP: Another billion-dollar slush fund scandal? “In other words, a bankrupt company spent $1 billion to pay for the pensions of the retirees of a complete separate company (GM spun-off Delphi in 1999). Until now the members of the Obama Administration Task Force have been unwilling to answer questions by the Inspector General of TARP as to how this decision was made and whether maybe, just maybe, the decision had something to do with the political clout of the UAW rather than being a prudent business decision by GM.”

WELL, NO, IT DOESN’T: Tim Carney: Libertarian does not mean ‘pro-corporate.’

So, why is Lambert confused? Probably because he buys the Jane Mayer/Thomas Frank definition of the libertarian movement: a “pro-corporate movement,” as Mayer puts it.

Who opposed TARP? Who opposed the Export-Import Bank reauthorization recently? Who stood against the Chamber of Commerce when the Chamber supported the stimulus? Libertarians.

A final note:

The MPR article mentions that AFP is knocking three lawmakers for supporting the stadium susbidies, and notes, “In an unusual twist, two of those targets are Republicans….” What’s supposed to be “unusual”? That Republican politicians support corporate welfare? Or that AFP, often called a “Tea Party” group would target Republicans for bad votes? Neither surprises people who actually follow the GOP or the Tea Party.

Nope. But they don’t fit the narrative.

AMERICA THE FIXABLE: Undoing the web of obsolete laws.

America is mired in a tarpit of accumulated law. Reformers propose new laws to fix health care, schools, and the regulatory system, but almost never suggest cleaning out the legal swamp these institutions operate in. These complex legal tangles not only set goals but allocate resources and dictate the minutest details of how to meet those goals. Most are obsolete in whole or part.

Congress treats most laws as if they were the Ten Commandments — except they’re more like the 10 million commandments. Most legislative programs do not codify timeless principles of right and wrong. They are tools of social management. These laws allocate social resources — almost 70 percent of federal revenue in 2010 was consumed by three entitlement programs enacted a half century or more ago. Congress almost never goes back to rationalize these programs. Running government today is like trying to run a business using every idea every manager ever had.

At this point, Democracy is basically run by dead people. We elect new representatives, but society is run by policy ideas and political deals from decades ago. Congress has a tragic misconception of its responsibility — it sees itself as a body that makes new law, not one that makes sense of old laws.

Read the whole thing, which is by Philip K. Howard.

REASON: Meet Richard Mack, the Oath Keeper Running Against SOPA Author Lamar Smith: How a state’s rights conservative became an ally to the tech industry.

Mack isn’t opposed just to SOPA, but a slew of other acronyms that Smith has supported: TARP, NDAA, the PATRIOT Act. The former Graham County, Arizona sheriff announced he would run against Smith in the 21st District’s GOP primary back in December, but his profile didn’t blow up until this past Sunday, when the social media giant Reddit christened him the anti-Smith, and promoted his Ask Me Anything (AMA) question-and-answer session on the Reddit homepage. . . .

By Reddit standards, the thread was a success. Many Reddit users seemed to agree that an ObamaCare opponent who also opposed SOPA was better than the ObamaCare opponent who wrote SOPA. After Mack laid out his opposition to the drug war, the PATRIOT Act, and the National Defense Authorization Act, one user wrote, “I hope you are not talking out of your ass, because I like you.”

“No, I am sitting on it,” Mack replied minutes later.

SOPA is just an entry point for Mack’s campaign against federal overreach. “Lamar Smith has been a tax, borrow, and spend Republican, who has tried to increase the powers of D.C. with SOPA, TARP, and increasing the debt ceiling,” Mack said. “His vote for NDAA gave more power to President Obama than all the Democrats put together.”

Read the whole thing.

LIBERTARIAN CANDIDATE GARY JOHNSON EMAILS THIS COMMENTARY ON THE SOTU:

“If the idea tonight was that the President would fulfill his constitutional duty to give us ‘information of the State of the Union’, we should be able to expect some truth. I didn’t hear much truth. Truth is that the real unemployment rate is probably still above 10%. Truth is that after all the hand-wringing and deals of the past couple of years, instead of cutting spending, the President and Congress are going back to the well for another $1.2 Trillion debt limit increase. And the truth is we are seeing nothing from either the President or the Republicans that will really change any of those unacceptable realities.

“Only in the twilight zone that is Washington could a President who has bailed out and stimulated our economy to death stand in the Capitol and declare there should be ‘no bailouts, no handouts, and no cop-outs’. Can anyone spell GM or TARP or Solyndra?

“The President said we deserve a government that plays by the same rules as millions of hard-working Americans. Perhaps that should begin with the government not borrowing and printing 43 cents of every dollar it spends – something hard-working Americans can’t and don’t do.

“Until we see a real plan – not a Washington smoke and mirrors plan – that puts a stop to deficit spending and really puts America back to work, all of this rhetoric is just wasted breath.”

Pretty much.

THE EURO CRISIS: Elites Circle The Wagons. “It is hard to see this as anything other than the political class awarding itself a bailout.”

CLASS WAR ERUPTS AT “OCCUPY NEW YORK:”

All occupiers are equal — but some occupiers are more equal than others. In wind-whipped Zuccotti Park, new divisions and hierarchies are threatening to upend Occupy Wall Street and its leaderless collective. . . .

Facilitators spearheaded a General Assembly proposal to limit the drumming to two hours a day. “The drumming is a major issue which has the potential to get us kicked out,” said Lauren Digion, a leader on the sanitation working group.

But the drums were fun. They brought in publicity and money. Many non-facilitators were infuriated by the decision and claimed that it had been forced through the General Assembly.

“They’re imposing a structure on the natural flow of music,” said Seth Harper, an 18-year-old from Georgia. “The GA decided to do it … they suppressed people’s opinions. I wanted to do introduce a different proposal, but a big black organizer chick with an Afro said I couldn’t.”

To Shane Engelerdt, a 19-year-old from Jersey City and self-described former “head drummer,” this amounted to a Jacobinic betrayal. “They are becoming the government we’re trying to protest,” he said. “They didn’t even give the drummers a say … Drumming is the heartbeat of this movement. Look around: This is dead, you need a pulse to keep something alive.”

The drummers claim that the finance working group even levied a percussion tax of sorts, taking up to half of the $150-300 a day that the drum circle was receiving in tips. “Now they have over $500,000 from all sorts of places,” said Engelerdt. “We’re like, what’s going on here? They’re like the banks we’re protesting.”

All belongings and money in the park are supposed to be held in common, but property rights reared their capitalistic head when facilitators went to clean up the park, which was looking more like a shantytown than usual after several days of wind and rain. The local community board was due to send in an inspector, so the facilitators and cleaners started moving tarps, bags, and personal belongings into a big pile in order to clean the park.

But some refused to budge. A bearded man began to gather up a tarp and an occupier emerged from beneath, screaming: “You’re going to break my fucking tent, get that shit off!” Near the front of the park, two men in hoodies staged a meta-sit-in, fearful that their belongings would be lost or appropriated.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Michael Ubaldi emails: “The Occupation movement is doing for anarchist theory what the Obama administration has done for European-style socialism: put all the myths festering on college campuses over two decades to the test so the world can watch them falter utterly.”

MEGAN MCARDLE ON CLAIMS OF “GOP OBSTRUCTION:”

The GOP voted against TARP before there was any electoral benefit to doing so. To coin a phrase, they were against stimulus before they were against it.

This seems to signal that they were against these things because they thought that they were wrong, not because they thought that it was tactically useful to oppose it.

Indeed.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU DUG A DITCH, BABY? Reader Jim Robinette writes: “Why oh why has no one picked up Oingo Boingo’s ‘Capitalism‘ as the counter anthem to this idiocy?! The lyrics could not be more on point.” Well, we mentioned it before. But here you go again.

Herman Cain couldn’t have said it better.

Related: Capitalism: The Hated Enemy Of The Children Of The West. “Capitalism is the best economic engine for creating wealth and prosperity that has ever been developed. The West once was capitalist, but today it is a corporatist juggernaut in it’s death throes, whereby corporations and banks control the government in their favor, inevitably leading to corruption and decline. This is not capitalism. . . . The Occupiers in, at last count, 147 cities nationwide, protest a system that has been overtaken by corporations that are already in bed with the government anyway. If they have a problem with wealth, they should aim their frustrations at a government that sucked away trillions in tax-payer money for sinfully corrupt banks. Capitalism is not the enemy here, excessive government control and regulations is.” No, and our problems stem from too much corporatism, not too much capitalism. There’s nothing “capitalist” about Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and TARP. Or Goldman, Sachs for that matter . . . .

YEAH, THAT’S HOW IT LOOKS TO ME: TARP After Three Years: It Made Things Worse, Not Better.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Many BSU freshmen unclear why they are in college.

DAVID FREDDOSO: Downgrade Shows DeMint Was Right.

The bond-rating houses kept saying all along that they weren’t worried about the debt ceiling not being increased. Rather, they were worried about the long-term prospects of the U.S. government paying back $15-plus trillion, which is where our national debt (both publicly held and obligated to trust funds) will be shortly.

Because last weekend’s deal didn’t cut spending deeply enough, S&P has just downgraded us. We’ll see just how disastrous this becomes — some are arguing it’s not such a big deal — but consider this the market’s revenge for TARP and the stimulus package. You run up the debt, Mr. President, you lose your good credit.

Indeed.

CONGRESSMAN WU’S creepy enablers.

This is as much a scandal for Pelosi and her failed leadership as it is a scandal for Wu. We’re talking about the same proud feminist leadership and the same dysfunctional ethics panel that have dragged their feet on cleaning Capitol Hill’s mountain of other dirty laundry while providing cover to other predatory Dems:

They slapped New York Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel on the wrist for serial tax-cheating.

They have yet to bring California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters to trial after charging her last year with three violations related to her crony TARP bailout intervention on behalf of minority-owned OneUnited Bank in Los Angeles.

They are just now looking into former New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner’s possible abuse of government resources while sending lurid messages and photos to young women across the country.

And they have only recently reauthorized a probe into the aftermath of allegations that former New York Democratic Rep. Eric Massa sexually harassed several young male staffers.

In that case, you’ll recall that Pelosi’s office and Democratic Rep. Barney Frank’s office had both been told by Massa’s top aides of the out-of-control abuse of underlings — but said and did nothing for months.

Wu’s a creep. But the pattern of malign neglect on the part of his Washington enablers is even creepier.

They protect him while he’s an asset, then dump him when he becomes a liability. Not exactly a pattern of neglect.

FORGET THE DEBT CEILING: S&P: U.S. Debt Could Reach ‘Junk’ Rating by 2030, Absent Entitlement Reform.

Key words: “Entitlement Reform.”

UPDATE: WSJ: The Obama Downgrade: The real reason the US could lose its AAA rating.

So the credit-rating agencies that helped to create the financial crisis that led to a deep recession are now warning that the U.S. could lose the AAA rating it has had since 1917. As painfully ironic as this is, there’s no benefit in shooting the messengers. The real culprit is the U.S. political class, especially the President who has presided over this historic collapse of fiscal credibility. . . .

On spending, it is important to recall how extraordinary the blowout of the last three years has been. We’ve seen nothing like it since World War II. Nothing close. The nearby chart tracks federal outlays as a share of GDP since 1960. The early peaks coincide with the rise of the Great Society, the recession of 1974-75, and then a high of 23.5% with the recession of 1982 and the Reagan defense buildup.

From there, spending declines, most rapidly during the 1990s as defense outlays fell to 3% of GDP in 2000 from its Reagan peak of 6.2% in 1986. The early George W. Bush years saw spending bounce up to a plateau of roughly 20% of GDP, but no more than 20.7% as recently as 2008.

Then came the Obama blowout, in league with Nancy Pelosi’s Congress. With the recession as a rationale, Democrats consciously blew up the national balance sheet, lifting federal outlays to 25% in 2009, the highest level since 1945. (Even in 1946, with millions still in the military, spending was only 24.8% of GDP. In 1947 it fell to 14.8%.) Though the recession ended in June 2009, spending in 2010 stayed high at nearly 24%, and this year it is heading back toward 25%. . . . The President is now claiming to have found fiscal virtue, but notice how hard he has fought House Republicans as they’ve sought to abate the spending boom.

Junk leadership and junk policies lead to junk status.

UPDATE: This reminds me of the Insta-Dad’s prophetic take on TARP: “The bad thing is that the federal government has figured out that it can borrow a lot more money than it previously thought.”

FROM THE DEATHSTAR’S P.R. DEPARTMENT: An Open Letter to Beloved Academy Award Winning Hollywood Actress Natalie Portman. Plus, a swell departmental motto.

THOUGHTS ON TONIGHT’S DEBATE from Ira Stoll. “What was really remarkable was the consensus — not a single one of the seven candidates on stage supported the TARP that George W. Bush proposed and Senator McCain suspended his campaign to get passed in the last presidential election cycle.” I wish Gary Johnson had been included.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Fannie & Freddie got $400 million in no-bid deals from TARP?

BARNEY FRANK’S FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS:

If you want to watch a corruptocrat start sputtering like Porky Pig with allergies, confront him with three simple words: conflict of interest. Asked this week about his role in securing an ex-lover’s highly coveted job at government mortgage giant Fannie Mae, Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank retorted:

“Aba-dee aba-dee aba-dee aba-dee.”

Or that’s what it sounded like, anyway. Frank was rather miffed about the recent disclosure that he helped former lover Herb Moses land a job with the behemoth lender while sitting on a House committee that regulates lenders a decade ago. The Boston Herald reported Thursday that Frank immediately invoked the Everybody Does It card: “It is a common thing in Washington for members of Congress to have spouses work for the federal government. There is no rule against it at all.”

Frank then switched to the Everybody Knew defense: “It was widely known. It was out there in the public.”

Next, he dismissed any controversy about his ethical judgment with the Nobody Cares shield: “It’s nonsense.”

No doubt he’ll spring the Homophobia Card on critics at an opportune moment to ice his multitiered cake of excuses.

Funny thing. Not too long ago, it was Frank himself counseling fellow Democratic scandal magnet Rep. Maxine Waters to butt out of Boston-area OneUnited Bank’s bid for $12 million in federal TARP bailout funds because of conflict-of-interest odors. Waters’ husband, Sidney Williams, was an investor in one of the banks that merged into OneUnited and owned stock holdings estimated at $350,000.

Frank’s exact words to Waters: “You should stay out of it. … You should stay away from this.”

Do as I say, not as I do.

MICKEY KAUS ON BOEING: Live by crony capitalism, die by crony capitalism? “Is Boeing too compromised by its dependence on Obama administration subsidies to fight a ruling by the administration’s National Labor Relations Board telling it where to build the 787? … Even if you heroically assume the NLRB is independent of political influence, that doesn’t mean the administration couldn’t retaliate elsewhere if Boeing fights the NLRB too vigorously. Boeing has recently gotten $15 billion in loan guarantees from the Export-Import Bank. Is the Ex-Im Bank insulated from political influence too? The Washington Examiner rightly points out that it was just assumed–not even a scandal, no surprise at all–that banks receiving TARP funds were inhibited when it came to contesting their treatment as creditors in the administration’s auto bailout.”

TARP INSPECTOR GENERAL: Bank bailout mostly benefited banks. “Worse, Treasury apparently has chosen to ignore rather than support real efforts at reform, such as those advocated by Sheila Bair, the chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, to simplify or shrink the most complex financial institutions. In the final analysis, it has been Treasury’s broken promises that have turned TARP — which was instrumental in saving the financial system at a relatively modest cost to taxpayers — into a program commonly viewed as little more than a giveaway to Wall Street executives.”

Who could have seen that coming?

EVERYBODY’S RESTLESS, AND THEY GOT NO PLACE TO GO. Someone’s always trying to tell them something they already know. So their anger and resentment grow.

SO YESTERDAY’S POST ON LOW-BUDGET DISASTER PREP has produced still more email. Mostly it’s suggestions for what more people can do. That, of course, goes all the way up to a custom bomb-shelter / retreat in the mountains somewhere. But for most people, resources are limited. What are some things you can do that go beyond just keeping some extra groceries and bottled water? But not too far beyond?

You can keep a case or two of self-heating MREs around. They last a long time, they aren’t bad, and they’re more portable than canned foods if you have to leave home, but they don’t need separate water to prepare them like freeze-dried foods.

You might invest in a water filter, which will let you turn iffy water into drinkable water.

You should stock first-aid supplies and extra needed medications, in case you can’t get prescriptions refilled.

You might want some sort of backup power, ranging from a big uninterruptible power supply (keeps laptops and internet going for a long time, recharges cellphones, etc.) to a generator. Generators take annoying degrees of maintenance; a UPS can back up your computer or modem/wireless router until needed for more. But they put out a lot less power than a generator, and won’t keep your freezer from thawing. But generators cross the line into “more serious” as opposed to “slightly serious” preparedness, which is what this post is about.

Some additional source of heat. If you have a gas fireplace, make sure you know how to start it without an electric igniter. If you have a woodburning fireplace or stove, make sure you have plenty of wood, and matches and kindling, etc. (Woodburning fireplaces aren’t much good for heat, really; stoves on the other hand put out a lot). A backup kerosene or propane heater is good, too. Propane is easier to store than kerosene, and there are some propane heaters that are supposed to be safe for indoor use — though I’d invest in a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector to go with any kind of backup indoor heat. Also, extra blankets. And wool socks! Maybe even a Snuggie or two. In case the power goes out in the summer, make sure you have screens on your windows so that you can open them without filling your house with bugs. A small battery-powered fan is nice, too — clip it on to the headboard of your bed and it’ll be easier to sleep on a sticky night. Keep plenty of batteries, too.

Backup lamps and lanterns. One nice thing I have are plug-in nightlights that turn on when the power goes off, so that stairs, etc., remain navigable. I have them at the top and bottom of stairs, and in parts of the house that would be really dark if the power went off. They double as flashlights. These look good, too.

A list of phone numbers for family, friends, neighbors, and various services — plumbers, doctors, etc. — that you won’t be able to look up on the Internet if the power’s out.

A shovel, a crowbar, a water shutoff tool that fits your hookup — make sure you know that it works, how to use it, and where your hookup is in advance — and other simple tools.

A couple of tarps. During the Great Water Incident of a couple of years ago, one of these saved my basement carpet when water started coming out of the ceiling. . . .

Duct tape, duct tape, duct tape. And extra plastic garbage bags. Very versatile.

Any other reader suggestions for things that don’t cost too much, but would take disaster-prep up a level from yesterday’s post?

UPDATE: Reader Thomas Leahy writes: “Don’t forget a little extra food for the pets.” Good point.

Reader Peter Gookins emails:

This goes a bit beyond “prep on the cheap,” but you asked…

Generators-most people get one that’s much bigger than they actually need. Back north, I needed a large 240 volt generator (Honda ES 6500) to power the well pump, fridge and freezer when power went out (“locked rotor current,” which is the technical name for the high amperage required to start an electric motor from rest, on a 1 HP deep well pump is a LOT higher than the 8-12 amps (which, at 240 volts, is 1/2 the amperage it would be at 120; figure starting draw on most motors will be about 4X-5X running current; the 6500 puts out 52 amps and at pump start you could tell it picker up a lot of load) it takes to run the pump, and don’t forget that some stuff – like most -but not all- deep well pumps – are 240 volt only); here in Florida I’m on county water. During the 2004 hurricanes I loaned the big one to a neighbor, and it wound up feeding three houses for refrigerators, fans and TVs. I ran off a portable 120 volt 3K watt portable Honda RV generator (EU 3000) just fine, which powered the fridge, fans, lights and and a window AC at night for sleeping. Since then I’ve picked up a 2K watt Honda to use as “an infinite extension cord” at the gun club – it’ll power ONE saw, or a couple of floodlights and a fan, run cordless drill battery chargers, etc, and it weights 47 lbs. so it’s portable. Turns out it will run my fridge, some lights and a fan OR my window AC and some lights, all on less gas than the 3K watt Honda used. The fuel tank is small, but the RV crowd has solutions for that, just Google “EU2000+fuel tank.” And, Honda sells kits (but it’s cheaper to make your own) that allow tying two EU2000s together to get 3200 watts at 120 volts (about 26 amps) steady output. RVers do it all the time.

Remember, the smaller the generator the less fuel it uses. You can get aftermarket propane conversion kits for the Hondas, which I’ve considered doing with the 6500 when I move back north next year, because even with wheels under it it’s not very portable. I haven’t considered doing it with the 3K or the 2000 because having to drag around a propane tank reduces the portability, but if one expected a semi-stationary use, a propane conversion kit and a couple of 70 lb propane tanks would be a good investment. If I were staying in Florida I’d convert from electric water heater to propane tankless, and replace the electric range with a dual-fuel range, and stick a 250 gallon propane tank in the back corner of the yard. All the propane dealers here brag about how their trucks are propane-powered and they never missed a delivery during the hurricanes.

Speaking of well pumps…there is a great advantage to replacing the small well tank ( about 3.5 gallon draw down – one flush with old style toilets, so your pump is starting up a lot) builders always put in because it’s cheap with multiple large tanks. Well-X-Trol makes one that has a 46 gallon draw down from full before the pump needs to start and refill it. I put in two back north; in daily use the pump starts fewer times and runs longer, which extends its life, and when the power went out I ran the pump on generator until the tanks were full, which gave us 92 gallons before we needed the pump again. With water saving shower heads and minimal flushing we could get through an entire day (BTW, with a little judicious circuit breaker adjusting, one can power only one of the heating elements in an electric water heater with one’s generator, preferably the bottom element; takes a little while, but in 30 minutes or so you have a tank full of hot water. Check what wattage the elements are and replace the bottom one with a 4500 watt or 3800 watt (assuming the original is a 5500 watt) to ease the load on the generator. During normal use you won’t notice the difference.

If I were building my house from scratch, I’d consider putting in an underground propane tank and running everything off propane instead of natural gas, with a propane-powered generator thrown into the mix. A couple of deliveries a year and you’re semi self-sufficient.

Reader Anthony Swenson writes with a low-budget point that’s more in the spirit I meant for this post:

One of the cheapest things you can do – it won’t cost you anything but a nice smell in your laundry – is to make sure you always buy plain, unscented, unflavored chlorine bleach.

“In an emergency, think of this (one gallon of Regular Clorox Bleach) as 3,800 gallons of drinking water.”

Yeah, bleach is good for sanitizing stuff, too. I keep extra around — but it’s harder and harder to find plain old Clorox bleach anymore amid all the scented, splash-resistant, etc. stuff on the shelf. Read the label carefully. . . .

UPDATE: Reader Henry Bowman writes:

Another item to consider if you have a hybrid vehicle: a large inverter. I read an article a couple of years ago about a fellow in Connecticut who ran many of his electric appliances in his house for three days off his Prius, with inverter. He claimed it cost him 5 gallons of fuel. Seems like an inexpensive backup, and one for which you don’t need to worry about starting often, as is the case with a portable generator.

My sister and brother-in-law, who live in the Houston vicinity, were without power for 13 days after Hurricane Ike. They have two Priuses: they could have used a couple of inverters.

A big inverter is a lot cheaper than a comparable generator, and probably safer, too. And you can use it to recharge your UPS. But the hybrid thing isn’t as easy as it sounds. The guy you mention modded his Prius, because the big honking battery that drives the electric motors doesn’t put out 12v DC, and the 12v power system that starts the motor in the Prius (or in my Highlander) is separate. So I’m not sure there’s any special benefit to having a hybrid unless it’s modified, but correct me if I’m missing something.

Speaking of cars, think about when you’re not at home. Reader Mike von Cannon writes:

A note about disaster kits: I work for the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office and starting the morning of Dec 26 our dispatch center was flooded with calls from tourists in rental cabins who were stranded and running out of food (it was even worse during the blizzard in 93, which also hit on a weekend), so even on vacation it would pay to buy extra in case we get more snow than you expect. many tourists who thought they’d be going home sunday were stranded til Wed or Thur.

Good advice. And you should travel with at least a bit of helpful stuff. I keep some emergency stuff in the back of the car — some food bars, water, a spare pair of shoes in case mine get nasty while changing a tire, etc., and assorted minor toiletries and hygiene products and, very important, a roll of toilet paper — which helps. (And if you can produce tampons in a pinch, you can be a hero to women everywhere.)

I use these food bars, because they stand up to the heat in the summer better and they’re not appetizing enough that people will snitch ’em just for a quick snack, and these water packets because they don’t burst if they freeze. Most of this stuff never gets used, but being stuck by the side of the road for an extended period just once makes it worth having.

Also: Some survival blankets, some basic tools, and a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman. (Make sure it’s one with a can opener/bottle opener). And a roll of duct tape! I keep all of this in a small pack that takes up very little room in the back; there’s one in Helen’s car, too.

Reader Gary Saffer writes:

A couple of things that I didn’t notice in your disaster preparedness posts.

Chemical light sticks. A friend of mine suggested these for general use. They’re cheap, they provide enough light to move around, and they save batteries for more light intensive tasks. And of course, you can get them at Amazon.

Consider that under most circumstances, it’s going to be 48-72 hours before rescue or relief shows up. If you are planning for much longer periods of being off the grid, consider moving to a rural area where you can build you entire house around being off the grid for long periods of time.

Firearms. You don’t mention them, but everyone should have a means of self defense. The veneer of civilization is thin at the best of times, it vaporizes in a real emergency. The predators will be out fairly quickly because their disaster plan is to use your prepared material to survive on. They don’t know specifically who you are, but they’ll keep looking until they find someone who has the stuff they want. Or a firearm they want no part of.

Yeah, light sticks are cool, even if Joe Biden thinks they’re drug paraphernalia. The gun issue is a whole separate post, but a gun (or several) is important disaster-prep, but that moves beyond the “easy steps” focus of this post. And the rural retreat approach goes way beyond it.

Reader Tina Howard writes:

For those who actually have a landline: an old-fashioned, non-electric telephone that plugs into the phone jack & has the handset attached to the phone. Easy to identify because there is no electric cord with it. Our phone lines worked after 2003’s Hurricane Claudette but the cordless phones wouldn’t. Very cheap at Salvation Army Thrift shops.

In the same vein, keep the necessary cords to plug a computer directly into the phone modem, because the wireless router is also electric. We were able to get online and check weather and news reports, as well as make posts to update others.

Good advice. Yeah, an old-fashioned landline phone that uses line power is good to have. Cellphone batteries die. Phone company line power is more reliable than utility power. Some multi-handset wireless phone setups or answering machines have a handset at the base that still works when the power is out. (Mine does). Most don’t. You can also hook the base into a big UPS — they don’t draw much power so they’ll work for days that way if you do. Ditto your cable/DSL modem and wireless router.

Reader J.R. Ott writes:

Three lengths of sturdy rope,5/8 climbing rope,inexpensive clothesline type,for bundling up stuff,para chute chord,All three are handy for bug out 50′ min and a few short hunks.Each bundle of rope has a snap knife taped to it (about a dollar each from the paint dept) . . . . Lastly if folks can afford it a Westie dog or a Shepard,good alarm and a Westie will shred an attacker as they are very possessive Terriers and if the dogs women folk are attacked you would not believe how damaging the dog can be.

Dogs are good to have around. More advice on low-cost preparation here, from a reader.

I should also note that while having extra stuff is handy — if the roads are blocked, and you don’t have enough food, there’s not much you can do — it’s also important to have skills. Most of the survival books are aimed at somebody lost in the woods, but, again, a low-budget approach means being able to deal with home-based small-scale disasters. This book, When Duct Tape Just Isn’t Enough, is a good focus. My own skillset is nothing to brag about: I can do basic plumbing, electrical, and carpentry stuff, but I don’t really like it because I’m a perfectionist, but not skilled enough to make it perfect very fast so I get frustrated. (Plus, I’ve usually got an article I should be writing, or something) However, it suffices for quick-and-dirty solutions to problems like clogged or burst pipes, etc. Being able to deal with that sort of thing is a big leg-up, and that’s the kind of thing this book addresses.

FINALLY: Good advice from reader Spencer Reiss: Keep some cash around. Preferably in relatively small denominations: “The universal solvent–gets anything else you need. and no power, no phone=no ATM, no credit cards. Post-Andrew desperate Miamians were driving halfway to Orlando to get some (and in some areas systems were down for up to two weeks). Much easier/smarter to keep $1000 stashed somewhere.”

OH, GOODY: A Ton Of Bailed-Out Banks Are On The Brink Of Collapse. “98 American banks that received $4.2 billion in bailout money are teetering on the edge of collapse, according to the Wall Street Journal. In Q2 the number of unsound banks numbered 86; the increase to almost 100 institutions – most of which are smallish banks with about $439 million in assets – comes as a result of decreasing capital and more bad loans.”

CHANGE: Faith In Government Erodes.

About 45 percent think government is a threat to personal liberty. Only 3 percent of those polled said the government did not need major reform. The recession and the cumulative impact of TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus plan, and the health-care legislation on public psychology have been “substantial.” In one survey, 50 percent now say they would prefer a smaller government with fewer services, and 39 percent a larger government with more services. The number preferring smaller government has risen dramatically since President Obama took office. The belief that government is doing too many things that are better left to individuals and businesses has also risen.

Well, I certainly feel that way.

CHANGE: TARP plays well for Dems in wealthy N.Y. suburbs. Nice to see that they stuck it to the fatcats.

COMPETENCE: Inspector General blasts Treasury for bungling everything TARP.

HUFFPO: Federal Auditor Says Obama’s Anti-Foreclosure Effort Risks ‘Generating Public Anger And Mistrust’.

The Obama administration’s signature anti-foreclosure effort, unveiled in 2009 with the promise of helping three to four million homeowners modify their mortgages, is such a failure that it now risks “generating public anger and mistrust,” according to a federal audit released Monday.

Far from helping at-risk homeowners, the Home Affordable Modification Program has actually made some homeowners worse off, according to the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program — also known as the Wall Street bailout. The Treasury Department set aside $50 billion from TARP, plus another $25 billion from taxpayer-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to give mortgage servicers thousand-dollar incentives to reduce monthly mortgage payments by modifying eligible homeowners’ loans. But more people have been bounced from the program than have been helped by it.

Well, this is less of a surprise to some of us than to others.

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: Treasury’s handling of TARP: Sloppy and secret.

TARP REDUX: Voters Cry Foul As Banks Rake It In.

MEGAN MCARDLE: The Sad State of Economic Modeling.

It’s fine to say “Our best guess is that TARP and the stimulus did some good. But it’s well to remember that our best guess really isn’t very good. And putting an exact number on it–“3.1 million jobs created or saved!” creates a dangerous false precision, giving people the illusion that we have good knowledge in a very foggy area.

Indeed, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that the simulation the Fed ran–and a million others run by regulators, bankers, and investors–probably made the bubble, and the resulting crash, much worse. People thought they knew something they didn’t, and it made them complacent.

Indeed.

MAXINE WATERS UPDATE: OneUnited received more preferential treatment than first disclosed. “Maxine Waters and the Democrats may have thought that all of the bad news from her intervention with OneUnited bank had already been aired, but the Washington Post reports that the House Ethics Committee only scratched the surface. Far from a single intervention by Waters, the record shows an unprecedented effort conducted by Congress, Treasury, and its regulators to rescue the bank in which Waters’ husband had invested a significant amount of money. In 707 applications of TARP money, OneUnited got the most special attention.”

MATT WELCH TO TARP DEFENDERS: “When you assume as axiomatic both a looming ‘total financial meltdown’ and a presidential ability to ‘save the economy,’ the only drama left is the final number of digits on the blank check.”

CHANGE: More Banks Missing Tarp Dividend Payments. “The latest report from the agency shows that more than 120 institutions – nearly all of them small banks – have missed their scheduled quarterly dividend payments, which is more than a sixth of the banks that received federal aid during the financial crisis. In addition, five banks that received capital injections from the controversial $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program have failed altogether, making it highly unlikely that taxpayers will recover the nearly $3 billion poured into those institutions.”

POLLING: Bad news for Democrats: Ohio voters long for Bush. Yeah, with every passing day the Bush Era is looking more and more like a golden age . . . .

Related: Why is it even close in West Virginia? Two words: ‘Barack Obama.’

“Miss Me Yet?”

UPDATE: A reader sends this “Don’t Get Cocky” advice. It’s worth reading.

A Plea From A Moderate Republican

The chest-thumping that is prevalent today among conservative pundits is justified by polling data that seems to spell doom for the Democrats in November. Still, I can’t help but feel like I’m having déjà vu. And you know what they say about those who don’t learn from history.

In the last few years of the Bush administration, the President’s poll numbers crept ever downward. Democrats in politics and the press rejoiced that Americans were finally “waking up” to the fact that they had been right about Bushitler all along. They boasted loud and often that Republicans were losing the country because of their unpopular decisions to go to war in Iraq, establish new national security protocols, lobby for Social Security reform, stress border security, etc. Liberals started at the ideological position that those policies were immoral (if not illegal), and when Bush’s poll numbers dropped, they inferred causality. It never occurred to them that Bush’s poll numbers were dropping because many on the right didn’t think his policies went far enough. Conservatives wanted him to put more emphasis on border security, not less; they wanted to see a more aggressive approach to entitlement reform, not a Medicare prescription boondoggle; they wanted a comprehensive immigration solution that started with border security first, not blanket amnesty. The list could go on. The left, especially liberal journalists, just assumed that their criticisms of the right were being validated by the greater populace with each and every poll. It was wrong at the time, and it’s the main reason that so many of them today can’t understand what happened to their “mandate.”

Conservatives are making the same mistakes right now.

Obama’s poll numbers are dropping and more people than ever are self-identifying as Republicans. Naturally, conservatives believe this means that the public has finally “woken up” and decided that Obama and the Democrats are closet socialists hell-bent on “eroding the bedrock of American prosperity.” They started at the ideological position that the stimulus was a mistake, that health care reform was an overreach, , that the auto industry bailouts were a disaster, that we have to win in Afghanistan at all costs, etc. Every time Obama’s approval rating drops another point, they infer validation that more and more people are seeing the light. It doesn’t occur to them that his poll number are (among other reasons) dropping because liberals are angry that Obama/Reid/Pelosi haven’t worked harder to advance the progressive agenda. Liberals disapprove of the fact that that Obama settled for Obamacare instead of embracing a true, single-payer system; because they watered down financial oversight instead of going for the corporate jugular; because they escalated the war in Afghanistan instead of forcing the new government to sink or swim on its own. The list could go on.

You’re probably asking, “What about independents identifying as Republican? That’s true validation, right?” My answer would be, where else are Independents supposed to go? Their affiliation shift is a protest, and a fickle one at that. Right now, people are unhappy with the present course, specifically when it comes to national fiscal policy. If Republicans make great gains in the November elections, which it seems like they will, they need to govern with perspective and humility. If they mistake their electoral success for a “mandate” to challenge social norms, they’ll be swept out of office again soon. Ironically, the loss of independents from the Republican coalition over the next couple of years would probably provide the boost Obama needs to win reelection in 2012.

If in two years, conservatives are scratching their heads and saying, “What happened to our movement,” they’ll have only themselves to blame.

Humility and perspective are the most underrated commodities in modern politics. Just because people are trending Republican at the moment, it doesn’t mean that they’re particularly conservative. Every time I read a story about how the conservative death knell was greatly exaggerated in 2006 and 2008, or how independents are finally coming back into the conservative fold, I feel like there’s no doubt the right will screw this up again. Conservatism isn’t really back in vogue. Anti-incumbency is. And it will be again when the Republicans are back in charge. You know, déjà vu and all that.

Yes, the polls are proof that the public doesn’t like what Obama and the Congressional Democrats are doing. It would be a grave mistake to interpret it as love for the Republicans. That love must be earned, if it is to exist at all.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Jeff Techentin writes:

I don’t disagree with the empirical points your reader makes. However, the danger for Republicans is the same as it always has been: that in office, they begin to act indistinguishably from Democrats. Thus I think this election cycle presents a unique opportunity, one where Republicans could elect a number of representatives who pay more than lipservice to limited government, who believe that the notion of restoring power to the people who have ceded it to the government is a meaningful one, and who are unwilling to “give to get” with other people’s money. There isn’t just a groundswell against what Obama and the congressional Democrats have done, there’s a growing sense that we have to change the way things are done from the bottom up.

Electing folks who’ve been baptized in the tea party movement is the only way for the GOP to sustain itself as a political party. If the “job” our Congress is to perform is to dole out goodies to the public, you might as well hire Democrats to do it, since they’ll do with with élan and panache. Why bother having a GOP at all, when its only role is to be the one to complain petulantly about the particularities of the largesse? Democrats can do that just fine, too.

Better to have a real alternative, a group that would be devoted to allowing people to pursue their own happiness rather than living on the indulgences of their neighbors, and to enjoy that happiness once they’ve achieved it. Will it sustain a majority beyond this election cycle? I can’t begin to predict. But I’d like to see it try.

And reader David Gulliver comments:

The primary difference between 2006 and 2010 is that more Americans self identify as “conservative” than “liberal” and have for many years. It is not about party. It is about philosophy. I believe 2006 was correctly the result of conservatives giving up on the Republican Party. However, I do not think for a moment that 2010 will be about liberals giving up on the Democratic Party.

Go back to 1994: the Clintons and the Democratic Congress were moving full steam with a liberal agenda. Conservatives, not Republicans, revolted. Clinton triangulated and spent his final 6 years as a moderate. There was no mass defection of the liberal base from the Democratic Party. The most absolutely disenfranchised liberals who voted for Nader were a small percentage of the vote – granted, it was enough to make Bush v Gore happen, but that 5% of fringe voters exists almost every election year and was more a reflection of Bush and Gore themselves than of the conservative vs liberal split.

The reality is that America wants conservatives – and Republicans will win or lose based on how well they fill that role.

Stay tuned. And reader George Bednekoff emails:

I believe that the federal system allows Americans across the political spectrum to get along in a politically diverse country, but only if the size and role of government is relatively small at the national level. With more government functions at the state and local level, voters in different regions can agree to disagree. As an example, Massachusetts chose to have lots of government intervention in their medical insurance market and their choice has very little impact on my life in Texas. However, expand similar government intervention in health insurance to the national level, Obamacare, and political debate is elevated to 1850s level of divisiveness. A Republican congressional majority could help turn down the heat of American politics if they resist the urge to make a federal case of everything. They need to learn from their mistakes in the Terri Schiavo case, No Child Left Behind, TSA stupidity, the TARP bailout slush fund, and reckless earmarking.

Indeed.

MORE: Reader Michael Kennedy writes:

Glenn, one short comment. A lot of us over the years thought that, if the country ever actually got a taste of what leftist rule was like, it would scare the wits out of them. The trouble was that nobody would run such a risk in spite of the grumbling about RINOs and all. Then, it happened !

We were right. Now, maybe we can keep the GOP honest with tea party people on the local committees.

Let’s hope.

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: Maxine Waters Charged On Three Ethics Counts. “Waters is accused of using her position to help secure Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds for OneUnited Bank, in which her husband, a former bank board member, owned a sizable amount of stock.”

UPDATE: Maxine Waters Influenced $12 Million Bail-Out For Bank In Which She Had Business Interest.

DID THE TARP MONEY REALLY GET PAID BACK? “No, not really.”

IT’S A CLOWN SHOW: TARP Inspector General: Obama’s GM/Chrysler Moves Needlessly Accelerated Job Losses.

President Obama’s push for General Motors and Chrysler to close thousands of dealerships across the country as part of their government bailouts “may have substantially contributed to the shuttering of thousands of small businesses and thereby potentially adding tens of thousands of workers to the already lengthy unemployment rolls, all based on a theory and without sufficient consideration of the decisions’ broader economic impacts.”

Obama is a job-killer, it seems. At least when it comes to private-sector jobs.

MARK HEMINGWAY: House ’shreds our constitution for raw, ugly, partisan gain’ by vote of 219-206. “So unions now get nearly unrestricted, undisclosed political spending. Further, the restrictions in the DISCLOSE Act only cut one way — against business. If you took TARP funds as a business, express political advocacy is now verboten. So GM has very limited first amendment rights, but even though arguably primary beneficiary of the auto bailout was the United Auto Workers union which got government guaranteed billions directly as a result of the TARP funding — UAW can spend almost whatever it pleases, and it has a history of spending millions on Democratic campaigns. Further, under the DISCLOSE Act if a company has more than $7 million in government contracts, it has no right to political speech. But public sector unions can spend millions of recycled tax dollars campaigning for Democrats, no problem.”

THE MISSING GATES: Reader John Koisch makes an interesting observation:

For as long as I can recall, the media dubbed everything scandalous a “gate” of some sort after the famous Watergate. So we had Watergate, Contragate, and of course the blogosphere had Rathergate, and so on.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scandals_with_%22-gate%22_suffix

I can’t recall a single “xxxgate” since Obama came to office, at least not in common parlance.

On the one hand, it is welcome relief from a tired meme. But on the other, I wonder if the lack of Londongate, Stupakgate, Oilgate, Golfgate, [the democrat who was anti-abortion and wouldn’t vote for the healthcare bill, but did anyway once he got a hug from Obama]gate, Tarpgate, and so on indicates some sort of complicity amongst the MSM?

It strikes me odd.

Hmm. It’s not as if there haven’t been scandals. . . .

UPDATE: Several readers suggest “Profli-Gate” as the catch-all description for this Administration . . .

NOBODY TELL LEON KASS.

He’d disapprove.

MICHAEL BARONE ON UTAH: Bob Bennett’s defeat in last Saturday’s Republican primary might be the beginning of a national trend:

What riled Utah Republicans against Bob Bennett? One complaint was that he sponsored a health-care bill with Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden to eliminate the tax preference for employer-provided health insurance and subsidize premiums. The party activists and tea partiers who thronged to the state party convention evidently have little appetite for bipartisan initiatives—even those that might have saved the republic from what they regard as the ravages of ObamaCare. More important, apparently, was Mr. Bennett’s vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program in September 2008. This was the kind of emergency legislation politicians expect to be unpopular but most regard as essential. Such bills tend to pass with the votes of members of both parties with safe seats. But sometimes those seats prove not to be so safe. Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss was nearly beaten in 2008 after voting for TARP. And now TARP seems to have ended the Senate career of Bob Bennett. . . .

If you move across the country, from the desert-like landscape where the Wasatch Mountains look out on the Great Salt Lake to the green trees in the hills and hollows of northern West Virginia, you find another defeated incumbent. Democrat Alan Mollohan was first elected to represent the 1st congressional district of West Virginia in 1982. His father was elected to represent the district nine times—in 1952 and 1954, and again from 1968 to 1980.

But 46 years of representation by the Mollohan family were rewarded with only 44% of the votes in last Tuesday’s Democratic primary. State Senator Mike Oliverio, who opposed the Democrats’ health-care bill, won 56%, carrying 14 of the district’s 20 counties.

Mr. Mollohan has been accused of using his senior position on the Appropriations Committee to earmark spending in ways that benefited him and his family—obviously a political liability. But he was also attacked for not strongly opposing the Democrats’ cap-and-trade bill—unpopular in coal-dependent West Virginia—and for voting for the health-care bill after stating that he would not do so if it funded abortions.

I think that there are no longer any truly safe seats, and that the old-style political games aimed at fooling, or at least pacifying, the voters back home don’t work as well as they used to.

Barone concludes: “How many overdogs are in trouble? Probably more than those who currently think so.”

DAN RIEHL ON the fallout from Utah.

UPDATE: A reader emails: “If the establishment GOP lets itself become back biting spoilers, they are done. No one lives up to deals cut with back biters and spoilers. They don’t have to. They only need them to win, not govern. The GOP old guard need to find themselves a coalition to join. There is only one that has any momentum, and that actually believes the ideals the old guard has pretended to believe, the tea parties. Bennett could have joined them himself, but he chose to brazen it out.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Jim Verdolini writes: “His base told him pretty clearly they would not stand for TARP, spending, and ‘compromise’ Health Care Schemes. Bennett, like most of or ‘leadership’ ignored them. Now he is retired. Eventually republican ‘leadership’ will understand that they work for us. Till then they will become ever more extinct.”

MORE: Utah Tea Partier David Kirkham emails: “After convention we walked up on the podium and took this picture. We took over the Utah GOP. All of our candidates were elected today without having to go to a primary (or booted in the case of Bennett). Obama has awakened a sleeping giant.”

MARK TAPSCOTT: Did Obama administration tell GM to lie about its TARP repayment?

SHOCKER: Lawmakers Accuse GM, Administration of Misleading Public Over Loan Repayment.

The TARP inspector general, Neil Barofsky, bluntly told the Senate Finance Committee during a hearing last week that the repayment “is just other TARP money” and lawmakers should not “exaggerate” the feat.

“It sounds like they’re kind of like taking money out of one pocket and putting it in the other to do that,” Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said at the hearing.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., expressed similar concerns Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying it’s “misleading” for the administration to claim the company has paid back its loans.

The GM ad could potentially land the company in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission over its truth-in-advertising laws, which prohibit ads that are “likely to mislead consumers.”

Indeed. (Via Is That Wise?).

MORE PENSION TROUBLES:

The Government Accountability Office has a report out today on the unfunded liabilities of the GM and Chrysler pensions. The most controversial aspect of the bankruptcy reorganizations orchestrated by the Obama administration is that the companies reaffirmed their obligation to their retirement plans, which are often terminated when a company undergoes a bankruptcy. A lot of people–including me–regarded this as a gift to the UAW, at the expense not only of the bondholders who had lent the firms money, but also of the company’s future chances at profitability. . . . Make no mistake, these companies are still on life support. The CBO expects that the lion’s share of the government’s losses on TARP will come, not from anything the Bush administration did, but from the Obama administration’s decision to bail out the automakers and to a lesser extent, its bailout of homeowners. It seems that a big chunk of our cost may come from picking up the gold plated pensions . . . “Cadillac Plans”, if you will . . . of the automakers.

Read the whole thing.

A FULL-SERVICE BLOG: Reader Dave Daniels emails: “Glenn, some time ago on your blog you recommended buying a wet vac for the home. Well, I bought one, and thank you thank you thank you. It really saved my ass today. Just thought you’d like to know. :-)”

Yeah, that was in this post. And the vac I bought came in handy more recently. I was also glad I had a tarp. Don’t ask . . . .

UPDATE: Reader Larry Moore writes:

You got that one right, Glenn. Last week my folks’ water heater went out, it had a leak. (They’re in their 80’s.) So I arranged a good plumber guy I know to come by and change it out when he got off work at 4. I got off work at 4:30 so I thought I’d mosey by and see how things were going. When I walked in, the bottom had just burst loose and water was flowing everywhere! So I drove to my house across the pea field, got my vac and it saved the day. Damned good thing to have.

Yep.

THE HILL: TARP watchdog blasts Obama housing program. “Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general over the $700 billion financial rescue package, slammed the administration’s housing program for having ill-defined metrics and for helping far fewer homeowners than originally proposed.” I’m sure that healthcare will be completely different . . . .

THE TOXIC BOB BENNETT: Utah Tea Party organizer David Kirkham sends this report from last night’s Republican Party caucusing:

Here is the report on Caucus night here in Utah. Here in Utah we elect delegates to the Republican convention. At convention, if a candidate gets 60% of the delegate vote, they immediately advance to general election with NO primary. This levels the playing field so candidates with relatively little money can challenge an entrenched incumbent.

Tonight I ran for precinct chair in my district. We usually have 40 people show up to caucus night. Tonight we had 67. Everyone running to be a delegate (the chair is automatically a state and county delegate) was allowed a 2 minute speech, then 5 minutes for questions. In my speech I told them I organized Utah’s first Tea Party a year ago. Applause. I told them I have helped to organize more than I can remember–maybe 14 or so. More applause. I told them I was not involved in politics at all before the Tea Parties. I had never even voted in a primary before this year–though I did vote in all the general elections.

I told them about our factory in Poland and how I would NEVER vote for Socialism. My first question was if I would vote for Bennett. I said, “Absolutely not.” “Why not?” I was asked. “Because he voted for TARP and the bailouts. He voted to turn out the lights.” Big applause. The next guy got up and said pretty much the same thing about Bennett (he later became Vice-Chair). A third guy got up and said how much we needed Bennett. He extolled how much we needed his experience and influence. Then, we voted. I got 58 of 67 votes cast in the first count. (Now, I think that was more of a vote for the Tea Party and a vote against Bennett more than anything I said–I’m just another blade of grass in the movement.)

Next we voted for Vice Chair. A Bennett supporter came in last out of 3.

Then we voted for State Delegates. A Bennett supporter came in last out of 2.

Then we voted for County Delegates. We have 5 in our precinct and 6 people ran. County delegates don’t even vote for state seats like Senators at convention–only state delegates do. No matter, the first question EVERYONE asked–“Are you going to vote for Bennett?” The lone Bennett supporter came in tied for last out of the 6–he then conceded the seat.

Conclusion: My Tea Party buddies texted me all night from their own precincts as Bennett supporters fell. EVERYWHERE, Bennett was toxic. In our straw poll, Bennett came in 3rd. Maybe there is hope after all.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Reader Randy Simmons emails: “My caucus was exactly the opposite. At the caucus meeting two years ago there were 8 people who attended. This time there were 45. Forty-two of them supported Bob Bennett. Almost all of them were highly offended by the Club for Growth campaign against Bennett. In private conversations it appeared that nearly everyone would support Mike Lee, Bennett’s main opponent, over Senator Hatch but not over Senator Bennett. This caucus meeting was in Cache County, one of the more conservative areas of the state and I was the only person in the room employed at the university so they were not a bunch of pointy-headed intellectuals living off the state.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: More reporting from Utah. “9 people showed up for the last precinct caucus – there were over 50 last night. I lost by 2 votes. BUT THIS IS THE KICKER — I lost to Senator Bennett’s BROTHER. I knew that I live in a pretty entrenched area for Senator Bennett, and I knew I was running against his brother for state delegate, and I knew it was a long shot – BUT I ONLY LOST BY 2 VOTES.”

MORE: Reader David Cindrich writes:

I went to the first Tea Party in Utah and have been to many since then. Couldn’t stand what was going on in our country. Last night I went to my FIRST caucus meeting in Orem, Utah. I even ran for state and county delegate not having any idea what I was saying or doing. All I knew is I wanted Bennett out for voting for TARP and because he has been in there WAY too long.

The precinct chair, who was reelected, was pretty ambivalent towards Bennett. EVERYONE else who ran for state and county delegate wanted Bennett out. Everyone elected for all delegates, except the chair, was solidly anti-Bennett. I was just happy to take part in the system for the first time. The meeting was packed.

Lots of new people are moving into politics this year.

TRANSPARENCY: Treasury to TARP Inspector General: Drop Dead.

INSPECTOR GENERAL: TARP has created a looming disaster.

A REALITY CHECK FOR A LAME WASHINGTON ESTABLISHMENT TALKING POINT: From the comments to my Tea Party column in the Washington Examiner:

And how many times did you take to the streets to protest the deficit during the Bush presidency? I’m guessing zero.

You see this kind of thing pop up in comments a lot, and sometimes even out of the mouth of the less-honest variety of pundit. Which means, of course, that once again it’s time to roll out this graphic:

Notice anything? Like maybe how Bush’s deficits are dwarfed by Obama’s? And maybe how the deficit was falling throughout Bush’s second term? Until the very end, when TARP — hardly popular with the Tea Party crowd — rolled out. The “Bush was as big a spender as Obama” line is just a flat-out lie, which the apologists for the powers that be hope you’ll buy because . . . well, because a lie is pretty much all they’ve got at this point.

Related: The White House will predict a record budget deficit in the current fiscal year and more big shortfalls for the next decade in its upcoming budget proposal, a congressional source told Reuters on Sunday.

BYRON YORK: A Setback For the Drive To Punish Bush-Era “War Criminals.”

One cherished goal of legal activists on the left is to punish the “war criminals” who helped shape terrorist interrogation policies during the Bush administration. Some of those activists now work in the Obama Justice Department and have been hoping the Department would find two Bush-era lawyers in particular, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, guilty of professional misconduct — a move that would likely result in both men facing disbarment proceedings.

The activists are sure to be disappointed in a new report by Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, who say a still-unreleased report from the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility “clears the Bush administration lawyers who authored the ‘torture’ memos of professional-misconduct allegations.”

The Newsweek story is here. Meanwhile, I wonder what vulnerabilities Obama Administration lawyers face over TARP and bailout-related actions, and whether that had anything to do with the treatment of this issue. . . .

MEGAN MCARDLE: Devaluation, Chavez-Style. “One of the hallmarks of a regime in financial trouble is a complicated regime of ‘special’ exchange rates aimed at getting around the problems caused by financial mismanagement. The devaluation that Venezuela announced last week may have been a good idea, given the country’s recession, and the problems of declining oil revenues. But the way Chavez has gone about the thing is typically ham-fisted. By Sunday, he was threatening to deploy the military against . . . shopkeepers who raised prices in response to the devaluation, as if fiat were the main component of import prices.”

UPDATE: Uh oh: “The Treasury admits it’s losing more money from TARP than it’s gaining. The White House considers a bank tax to make up those losses.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Charlie Martin writes:

Oh bullshit. They’re already treating the TARP money as spent — when they *do* get some back they start planning how to spend it before it, my gawd, gets back to pay off deficit. What they *mean* is “here’s a way we can raise taxes and hope our High Dudgeon will make it palatable.”

Looters and moochers.

BLUMENTHAL doesn’t want to talk about TARP. Well, can you blame him? I’ll bet Chris Dodd didn’t want to talk about mortgages, either . . . .

DAVID ZARING: Do the executive compensation restrictions in the TARP prove that executive compensation matters?

KEITH HENNESSEY: The “using TARP funds for stimulus” gimmick.

TIM CAVANAUGH: Corruption, Panic and Incompetence Fueled Geithner’s Backstairs Intrigue. “Tim Geithner needs to be fired. He needs to be fired in 2008, and he needs to be fired even more in 2009. Any fair reading of the SIGTARP report leads to the conclusion that he lacks the competence, the honesty and the moral character to run the Treasury of the United States. Unfortunately it’s hard to fire a man for things he did before you hired him. But lucky for us, Geithner is providing new examples every day.”

Related: The Hill: Dodd Opponent Wants Geithner To Be Replaced.

Also, How Geithner Could Hurt Dodd.

JERRY POURNELLE: “Unemployment is over 10%. It wasn’t supposed to get that high. TARP was supposed to fix that. . . . If the health care bill passes, it will fundamentally convert these United States into a different kind of popular democracy, which generally means rule by a unionized bureaucracy organized to vote. Once that much of the economy is run by government, economic recovery as many hope for will simply be impossible. Permanent unemployment at 7% or so; median income perhaps 10% higher than it is now, but not much higher; and a long period of stagflation. Reluctance to take on new employees, and great incentive to export jobs. Is this a picture of the future? We will have to see, as Congress debates the health care and carbon tax bills. . . . With Detroit a ruin and manufacturing industries on the ropes, small business is the only possible engine of recovery from what they don’t call a Depression; so the Congress is going to add an 8% tax on employing people. We already have the longest period of increasing unemployment since the Great Depression; I presume we are going for a really big record setting period of increasing unemployment. . . . The incentives are now to the job black market — hire illegal immigrants who don’t have to have health insurance — or to export the job if that can possibly be done.”

JERRY POURNELLE:

One estimate is that 500 nuclear power plants would make America energy independent. I think that is optimistic in that an abundance of electricity doesn’t mean we won’t need to import oil for transportation needs, but it would certainly take us a long way toward independence. The cost would be in the order of 2 billion per plant (I would think less; that is the first one might be 4 billion, but the 400th would be considerably less than a billion; but call it 2 billion). That is one trillion dollars, comparable to the TARP or stimulus — and for once a deficit would be financing something real.

It is less than the cost of the war, and less than the war is going to cost if we continue. Cheap reliable energy would be one major step toward economic recovery. Low cost energy plus freedom will bring prosperity. If we have the energy we can work on the freedom. The whole thing could be accomplished in four years. Of course the ravening wolves in the Congress won’t do it — but then it’s not likely that this is the kind of hope and change we can believe in from the current White House.

But it would work. France knows the value of nuclear power. Why can’t we learn it?

You’d think that “be more like France” would sell these days, but nooo. . . .

COMPETENCE: USA Today: Watchdog Excoriates Execution of TARP.

JAMES PETHOKOUKIS: The Next Big Political Issue? The U.S. Dollar. “The greenback’s continuing slide makes it a handy metric that neatly encapsulates America’s current economic troubles and possible long-term decline. . . . And that’s the political problem for the Obama administration. Its benign neglect of the dollar is another example of an economic policy — along with TARP and the $787 billion stimulus — that the White House thinks is helping the economy, but many Americans find wrongheaded.”