Right Thinking From The Left Coast
Adventure is worthwhile - Aesop

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Give Til It Hurts

A good point:

President Obama’s proposal to limit the tax deductibility of charitable contributions would effectively transfer more than $7 billion a year from the nation’s charitable institutions to the federal government. But the high-income taxpayers affected by the rule change are likely to cut their charitable giving by as much as the increase in their tax bills, which would, ironically, leave their remaining income and personal consumption unchanged.

In effect, the change would be a tax on the charities, reducing their receipts by a dollar for every dollar of extra revenue the government collects. It is hard to imagine a rationale for taxing schools, hospitals, medical research budgets and arts organizations in this way. I suspect that the administration officials who drafted this proposal did not understand that it would have this perverse effect.

Of course, that’s being said by some idiot with a ... oh, wait, it’s a Harvard Professor of Economics.  Well, it’s clearly being published in some Right Wing ra- ... the Washington Post?  Ooops.

If Obama wanted to eliminate tax deductions and create a flat tax, I might support this.  But the push to curtail deductions for charitable contributions makes little sense to me and none at all coming from a Compassionate Liberal.  Obama is essentially cutting a tax expenditure—the amount that the government kicks in through tax breaks when someone donates to charity.  Does he not think this will reduce charitable contributions?  Who cares?!  It soaks the rich.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/25/09 at 05:48 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Eye In The Sky

The Nanny State takes to the skies.

Our movements are already tracked by CCTV, speed cameras and even spies in dustbins.

Now snooping on the public has reached new heights with local authorities putting spy planes in the air to snoop on homeowners who are wasting too much energy.

Thermal imaging cameras are being used to create colour-coded maps which will enable council officers to identify offenders and pay them a visit to educate them about the harm to the environment and measures they can take.

A scheme is already under way in Broadland District Council in Norfolk, which has spent £30,000 hiring a plane with a thermal imaging camera.
It said the exercise has been so successful other local authorities are planning to follow suit.

But critics have warned the crackdown was another example of local authorities extending their charter to poke their noses into every aspect of people’s lives.
Broadland, which covers towns including Aylsham, Reepham and Acle, hired the plane from a Leicestershire-based company for five days at the end of January.

The aircraft took images of homes and businesses, with those losing the most heat showing up as red, while better insulated properties appear blue.

The council’s head of environmental services, Andy Jarvis, said the original plan was to target businesses but it was realised the scope could be extended to include residental properties.

‘The project we put together was for a plane to go up on various nights flying strips of the district and taking pictures,’ he said.

In the 90’s you had the black helicopter crowd. The Brits didn’t need a conspiracy to turn into a paranoid society; just climate change. Great Britain really has turned into The Village, hasn’t it?

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 03/25/09 at 04:40 PM in Europe and the UK  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

The Postman Always Fails Twice

In the end, it wasn’t rain, snow, sleet or hail, but changing times.

The post office will run out of money this year unless it gets help, Postmaster General John Potter told Congress on Wednesday as he sought permission to cut delivery to five days a week.
“We are facing losses of historic proportion. Our situation is critical,” Potter told a House panel.

The agency lost $2.8 billion last year and is looking at much larger losses this year. Reducing mail delivery from six days to five days a week could save $3.5 billion annually, Potter said.

Potter also urged changes in how the post office pre-pays for retiree health care to cut its annual costs by $2 billion.

If the Postal Service does run out of money, the lingering question, Potter told the House Oversight post office subcommittee, is which bills will be paid and which will not. Ensuring the payment of workers’ salaries comes first, he said, but other bills may have to wait.

Potter first raised the possibility of delivery cutbacks in January, but the idea has not been warmly received in Congress.

“With the Postal Service facing budget shortfalls, the subcommittee will consider a number of options to restore financial stability and examine ways for the Postal Service to continue to operate without cutting services,” subcommittee chairman Stephen F. Lynch, D-Mass., said.

Lynch said the financial stability of the Postal Service is “critical to the American expectation of affordable six-day mail delivery.”

It might indeed be a “Venerable instituttion,” but the postal service has been in trouble for at least two decades now, with the rise of email and alternatives like FedEx. Cutting them loose from government dependency and privatizing all or part of their operations might be the best thing for them at this point.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 03/25/09 at 04:28 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

And Now You Know … The Rest of the AIG Story

Megan McArdle rounds up the info emerging from the evil evil AIG bonuses.  Read the whole thing, but here’s her executive summary.

For one thing, the people who actually lost the money have, from most accounts, either been sacked, or left on their own.  The people who got the bonuses were not involved with the dangerous trades, other than to help wind them down.  The congressmen who called for Liddy’s resignation, apparently unaware that they had just hired him for $1 a year to help save the company from his predecessors’ decisions, have been the most egregious embarassments, but few commentators, including me, have covered themselves in glory on this angle.

Also, apparently, these payments were neither retention bonuses in the conventional sense, nor performance bonuses.  They were guaranteed payments used to persuade employees from other parts of the Financial Products division to stay and wind down the FP’s books, according to Liddy’s testimony. 

When you swing the populist brickbat around, you tend to smash some perfectly functional windows.  The rage and anger that our politicians indulged in last week was directed against the wrong people and is doing more harm than good.  I’m happy that I didn’t participate.  As I said, the odds that these bonuses will keep AIG from utter collapse do not have to be very high for the bonuses to be worth it.  If $165 million doled out to some fat cats saves the taxpayers $1 trillion, I’d say we’re getting a pretty good deal.  That’s certainly a better return than the fucking “stimulus”.

One more thing: the Founding Fathers saved us from ourselves again.  Our deliberate system stopped Congress’ illegal clawback from becoming law right away and there’s a good chance it’s been stopped for good.  This bolsters the argument against Obama’s proposal to let the Treasury Department take over businesses (see last post).  If the Treasury Department had those powers last week, they would have shredded AIG and potentially caused hundreds of billions of dollars in damage.

Update: Sullivan adds:

Hatred of those with more perceived power than you is still hatred. It is different than the contempt of the strong for those they they view as weak. In its structure, anti-Semitism is constructed differently than racism in the human psyche. But hatred out of envy is no less wounding or dangerous than hatred out of contempt - as we’ve seen with the horrifying consequences of anti-Semitism in recent history. And when it is wielded by mobs and ginned up by elites, it can be very dangerous.

Last week, he mask was torn on the Democratic Party.  They are no more full of love, happiness and rainbows than the GOP is.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/25/09 at 07:58 AM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Disaster Socialism

You would think that, given the way they’ve completely bungled TARP and AIG, the Feds might be backing off the idea of getting more and more entrenched in the economy.  You would think wrong.

The Obama administration is considering asking Congress to give the Treasury secretary unprecedented powers to initiate the seizure of non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, whose collapse would damage the broader economy, according to an administration document.

...

Giving the Treasury secretary authority over a broader range of companies would mark a significant shift from the existing model of financial regulation, which relies on independent agencies that are shielded from the political process. The Treasury secretary, a member of the president’s Cabinet, would exercise the new powers in consultation with the White House, the Federal Reserve and other regulators, according to the document.

...

The administration’s proposal contains two pieces. First, it would empower a government agency to take on the new role of systemic risk regulator with broad oversight of any and all financial firms whose failure could disrupt the broader economy. The Federal Reserve is widely considered to be the leading candidate for this assignment. But some critics warn that this could conflict with the Fed’s other responsibilities, particularly its control over monetary policy.

The government also would assume the authority to seize such firms if they totter toward failure.

Besides seizing a company outright, the document states, the Treasury Secretary could use a range of tools to prevent its collapse, such as guaranteeing losses, buying assets or taking a partial ownership stake. Such authority also would allow the government to break contracts, such as the agreements to pay $165 million in bonuses to employees of AIG’s most troubled unit.

Remember when the Administration assuming unprecedented power was a bad thing?  I miss that week.

Where does this power end?  We’ve already seen TARP used not to buy toxic mortgages but to buy banks, car companies and parts manufacturers.  Now it’s hedge funds and insurance companies (the latter added so that we could prevent future AIG bonuses).  All in the name of economic stability.  Of course, as Bolivia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and every other nation that has tried this has found out, taking over failing economies causes more disruption, not less.

You will never find a better definition of Disaster Socialism than what it described above.  The federal government is using a bad recession as an excuse to literally take over any company that looks weak or just gives it a smart look.  I’m sorry, I have to ask this: Who the blue fuck do Barack Obama and Timothy Geithner think they are? Why do they think that they can succeed where men with decades of business experience have failed?  What makes their judgement so much better than the market?

This crash was caused, in large part, by a systematic underestimate of risk throughout the financial sector.  Are we supposed to really believe that a bunch of guys having a sleepover in the White House have a better idea of risk?  Especially, when the last bunch of geniuses kept insisting that everything was fine and exerting more pressure on the housing market?

I know I’m supposed to be patient with Obama.  I’m trying very hard to be.  But this does not cross me as a reasonable course of action.  It crosses me as the action of a group of arrogant know-it-all’s who think they can do anything, they can fix any problem, they can right any wrong, they can steer any ship, they can save any job.  These people fundamentally do not trust the market which, by extension, means they do not trust the American people. I’m becoming ever more sympathetic with the view articulated in a Chicago Tribune article:

According to Epstein, Obama’s temperament and training as a law professor can make him difficult to read. Obama, he says, is very good at listening respectfully and articulating all sides of an issue, but usually only as the lead-in to adopting a predictably liberal position. He describes his former colleague as an unreconstructed New Dealer who “has never met a mandate that he would vote against.”

So whatever free-market truth and wisdom Obama may have absorbed during his years on the University of Chicago campus, Epstein doubts we will be seeing much of it in the new Obama administration.

“Obama comes from the tradition that thinks you can get your way on social justice and economic issues without affecting productivity very much—and that’s simply living in a dream world,” he says. Obama and his economics team “are very smart, but the problem is these high-IQ guys always think they can square the circle; they always believe they can beat the system with a cleverer system, and they always fail.”

If we had a competent opposition, like we did in 1993, there would be hope. But the GOP is too busy sucking Rush Limbaugh’s dick to focus on the bigger issues.  We need someone to apply the brakes to our economic fixers—now.  There’s a time to put up alternative plans and make constructive criticism.  And there’s a time to just, “No!” This is looking more and more like one of those times.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/24/09 at 11:04 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

George Carlin Rolls In His Grave

I heard about this ten years ago and assumed it was a joke.  Never let it be said that there’s anything too stupid for the PC police to adopt.

Here are seven dirty words you can’t say in real-estate ads: exclusive, quiet, private, bachelor, kids, walking and playroom.

Despite repeated warnings in state-mandated training sessions that such language could violate anti-discrimination laws in the context of selling or renting an apartment, the seemingly innocuous terms continued to appear in ads.

So this week, real-estate giant Corcoran officially banned more than 200 potentially “offensive” words and even installed new software that makes it impossible for brokers to type them into their ads, according to a memo e-mailed company-wide.

Laws such as the Fair Housing Act were written to prevent discrimination against buyers or renters on the basis of their race, gender, occupation, religion, sexual orientation, marital status or disability.

Now, due to a slew of recent court cases and increased enforcement, companies such as Corcoran are taking pains to strip terms such as “bachelor pad,” which may discriminate against couples, and the terms “couples” and “family-friendly,” which may offend singles.

The Corcoran list considers mentions of nearby churches and synagogues as sinful, while the word “professional” is out because an ad cannot discriminate based on occupation.

The company also excised the term “exclusive” because it may be interpreted as meaning racially exclusive. The reasoning behind some of the banned words - like “quiet” and “safe” - could not be readily determined.

“Non-smokers” and “no students” are banned too, even though these are perfectly legitimate restrictions to put on real estate.

Hey guys?  Let me introduce you to a concept called marketing.  My house in Texas, for example, is very well-suited to a family.  But we’re not supposed to mention that in ads even though this represents information that a buyer would want.  Having recently been on the housing market myself, I want to know if a home is good for families, near schools or parks and in a quiet area.  When I was single and child-free, I would have avoided homes that were advertised that way.  But if I were a bachelor and wanted a big quiet place anyway, such an ad would not have kept me away— although I will grant that this is mainly because I am not a simpering timid fool who breaks down into tears over the verbiage of a classified ad.

These words—even “exclusive” with its racial (and, for me, religious) connotation—are not intrinsically discriminatory or insensitive.  They provide information.  Sometimes information is useless—a single person may not care about schools.  But why ban it?  Even “exclusive” can be defended since most areas outlaw racial or religious discrimination and “exclusive” today usually means “rich”.  And if exclusive still had its old discriminatory connotation, I still would want it used so I wouldn’t waste my precious time looking for a house in a cracker-ass neighborhood.

I’ve never understood the Politically Correct’s war on fact.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/24/09 at 07:50 PM in Left Wing Idiocy  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Cheney’s Crusade

How bad is Dick Cheney hurting the GOP? Even they want him to knock it off.

Congressional Republicans are telling Dick Cheney to go back to his undisclosed location and leave them alone to rebuild the Republican Party without his input.

Displeased with the former vice-president’s recent media appearances, Republican lawmakers say he’s hurting GOP efforts to reinvent itself after back-to-back electoral drubbings.

The veep, who showed a penchant for secrecy during eight years in the White House,has popped up in media interviews to defend the Bush-Cheney record while suggesting that the country is not as safe under President Obama.

Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) said, “He became so unpopular while he was in the White House that it would probably be better for us politically if he wouldn’t be so public...But he has the right to speak out since he’s a private citizen.”

Another House Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity said he wasn’t surprised that Cheney has strongly criticized Obama early in his term, but argued that it’s not helping the GOP cause.

The legislator said Cheney, whose approval ratings were lower than President Bush’s during the last Congress, didn’t think through the political implications of going after Obama.

Cheney did “House Republicans no favors,” the lawmaker said, adding, “I could never understand him anyway.”

That makes two of us. And all it seems to be doing is helping Obama make his case about the excesses of the former administration.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 03/24/09 at 05:02 PM in Right Wing Assholes  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Anger Mismanagement

Joe Kline warns how anger can only go so far:

Yes, people are “angry” at Wall Street. They are also “angry” at Octomom. I wonder if the depth and quality of those two rages differ--or is this all just a television show? I mean, how many demonstrations, how many economic riots, have there been? There have been real free-for-alls, featuring real violence and bloodshed, in places like China, where the level of societal unfairness and desperation makes our own not-insignificant inequities seem like a workers’ paradise. There used to be economic riots and marches here--back in the Great Depression, and further back in the populist era of the late 19th century. But none lately. There doesn’t even seem to be significant movement in the polls, which are our own, latter-day way of marching on Washington.

There is a real crisis out there. It has existed for a while. It has been spreading slowly as factory after factory has shut down, as the gap between rich and poor ballooned, as the rich found ways to get richer betting on exotic financial instruments with all the economic substance of a roulette wheel, as the middle class found it harder to pay for college, for health care, for gasoline.

But most of the anger we see and hear comes from people who are paid to be angry, on cue, on cable television--as opposed to people with actual grievacnes. Suddenly, the White House press corps goes barking mad over the AIG Bonuses. It is said that the bonuses are an aspect of the bust that the “public” can understand; in truth, the bonuses are an aspect of the bust that reporters can understand. Suddenly, the Obama Administration has a “crisis.” The President has to go on television and act as if he’s angry, even though he knows these bonuses are the tiniest outcropping of outrageousness. (I mean, AIG insured mortgage-backed instruments that any qualified CPA could have seen were as solid as a soap bubble and thereby came close to bringing down the world’s financial system--that’s outrageous.)

The problem with outrage is that it occludes vision. Today Geithner proposes a bank bailout plan. The markets love it--the Dow is up 350 points as I write--and so we can move on. No more calls for Tim’s head; the bank thing actually may get straightened out. Uh...so where’s the next Octomom? Does Novamom lurk? What’s A-Rod up to this week? The trouble is, Geithner’s plan--if it works--is only the beginning. We need a new set of rules to prevent the wizards from short-sheeting our pension money. We need an informed public to stay vigilant and make sure banking lobbyists don’t shred the thing in committee. (New York Senator Chuck Schumer, before he got so outraged last week, stood athwart a plan to have hedge fund managers pay regular tax rates, rather than capital gains, on their management fees.)

If you want to be angry about something, get pissed at a media culture that goes beserk about bonuses one week and forgets all about them the next. And be worried, quite worried, about a society for whom anger is a form of entertainment.

When the anger doesn’t work, what do the “Populists” have left? Not a whole lot. This is why the Tea Parties haven’t really become the nationwide movement that people like Glenn Reynolds have been hoping for. It also makes stuff like this sound all the more ridiculous. And it looks as if some of the AIG folks are giving the money back anyway.

Populism might be good for venting and even catharsis, but it doesn’t really solve anything. We’re not on the verge of another civil war or revolution. We’re in a recession. People are expecting results, not theatrics from either the right or the left.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 03/24/09 at 04:29 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Absence Of Profit

It looks like the newspapers might be getting some help:

With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

“This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat,” said Senator Benjamin Cardin.

A Cardin spokesman said the bill had yet to attract any co-sponsors, but had sparked plenty of interest within the media, which has seen plunging revenues and many journalist layoffs.

The newspapers as charity outfits? Is that really what they want? Plus, there’s this:

Cardin’s Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt, and contributions to support news coverage or operations could be tax deductible.

The biggest danger of government intervention in the media is the kind of influence-intentional or otherwise-it would wield. As much as I might disagree with some of their politics, it seems that newspapers, as private enterprises, should have the right to support whomever they want come election time. We’ll see how many of them are really willing to go for this or not.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 03/24/09 at 04:18 PM in The Press Machine  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Monday, March 23, 2009

Get Off This Bogus Bus

Good grief:

A busload of activists representing working- and middle-class families paid visits Saturday to the lavish homes of American International Group executives to protest the tens of millions of dollars in bonuses awarded by the struggling insurance company after it received a massive federal bailout.

About 40 protesters sought to urge AIG executives who received a portion of the $165 million in bonuses to do more to help families.

“We think $165 million could be used in a more appropriate way to keep people in their homes, create more jobs and health care,” said Emeline Bravo-Blackport, a gardener.

Ignore any arguments about contract and incentives and such.  What struck me on reading the article was this: do these people even know how much $165 million is?  It’s about half the cost of the Bridge to Nowhere.  0.5 BTN’s is not a significant amount of money by federal standards.  We’re spending a thousand times that much to bail out AIG in the first place.  And our potential exposure, should AIG collapse, is ten thousand times that.  The Iraq War costs that much every 12 hours.  Barack Obama’s stimulus plan spend more than that to revitalize the National Mall.  It spends three times that much renovating the CDC buildingss.  All told, it takes our government about 20 minutes to spend $165 million.

Are we 20 minutes away from more jobs, more health care and more homes?

Look, I’m against government waste and wasting even $1.65 is bad.  But we need to get some perspective here.  Our government spends astonishing amounts of money, including hundreds of billions frittered away on “creating jobs” and “healthcare”.  There are far bigger fish to fry, like the $1 trillion we’re exposing to help banks.

Here’s the most telling quote, however:

She marveled at AIG executive James Haas’ colonial house, which has stunning views of a golf course and the Long Island Sound. The Fairfield house is “another part of the world” from her life in nearby Bridgeport, which flirted with bankruptcy in the 1990s and still struggles with foreclosures and unemployment.”

“Lord, I wonder what it’s like to live in a house that size,” she said.

Wealth envy, plain and simple.  The protest—indeed much of the AIG controversy—is nothing but a demand that the rich give money to help the poor—because we all know how well the wealth transfer system has worked in helping people.  It’s an appeal to the magical thinking that there is, somewhere in America, a store called Social Justice ‘R’ Us where we can swap $165 million in luxury homes for 0.37 centiliters of “change”.  It’s garbage.

Exit question: I wonder if these protestors, like the ALG, will demand that our politicians return the $4 million AIG gave to political candidates over the last twenty years, including about one hundred grand each to Barack Obama and Chris Dodd.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/23/09 at 11:57 PM in Left Wing Idiocy  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Eyes On The Prize

When I look over our economy, I’m not terribly worried about the stock market, even though my own investments have crashed.  I don’t worry too much about American business.  I’m confident they will rebuild and move on.  There are only two real concerns I have.  The first is debt. Henry Blodget, in discussing five misconceptions about the bank problems, notes:

The economy is in trouble because American consumers and businesses took on way too much debt and are now collapsing under the weight of it.  As consumers retrench, companies that sell to them are retrenching, thus exacerbating the problem.  The banks, meanwhile, are lending.  They just aren’t lending as much as they used to.  Also the shadow banking system (securitization markets), which actually provided more funding to the economy than the banks, has collapsed.

...

American consumers still have debt coming out of their ears, and they’ll be working it off for years.  House prices are still falling.  Retirement savings have been crushed.  Americans need to increase their savings rate from today’s 5% (a vast improvement from the 0% rate of two years ago) to the 10% long-term average.  Consumers don’t have room to take on more debt, even if the banks are willing to give it to them.

Check out the charts on his post.  If I read it correctly, we have piled up more than our entire GDP in debt over the last ten years.  To get back to historic norms will mean a lot of debt write-offs and a lot of paying of bills.  It will mean slow growth for a decade while we work ourselves out of the whole we’ve dug ourselves into.  The only other way is to inflate the currency, which will have the usual happy results inflation has.  The one thing we should not be doing is digging deeper, which is what most of our policies seem oriented around lately.

The other concern is the closing off of global trade.  And we’re well on our way there as well:

After repeated pledges by world leaders to avoid erecting trade barriers, protectionism is on the march, provoking nasty trade disputes and undermining efforts to plot a coordinated response to the deepest global economic downturn since World War II.

...

The most vivid example of that policy is the “Buy America” provision in the stimulus package, intended to ensure that only American manufacturers benefited from public-spending projects. The Obama administration persuaded Congress to water it down, and Mr. Obama has taken up Mr. Bush’s warnings about the dangers of protectionism.

But pressures are building on other fronts. Last week, the energy secretary, Steven Chu, said he favored tariffs on Chinese goods if China did not sign on to mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — underscoring how the “green economy” could be the next trade battleground.

Mr. Obama signed a $40 billion spending bill that scrapped a program enabling Mexican trucks to haul cargo over long distances on American roads. Mexico retaliated by imposing duties on $2.4 billion worth of American goods — everything from pencils to toilet paper. The trucking dispute has its roots in the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, which guaranteed Mexico, Canada and the United States access to one another’s highways for cargo transport by 2000.

Trade protectionism is the one thing everyone knows is bad but the one thing politicians of all nations can never resist.  People’s economic ignorance is just too strong.  And most leaders would rather be popular in a recession than unpopular in a boom.

These are the two trends to keep an eye on.  And they are the two trends that Obama—through his spending and his trade policies—is having the worst performance on.  I don’t care how thoughtful and calm he is if he’s driving the economy into a tree.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/23/09 at 11:38 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Don’t Blame Canada

Canada can be mocked for many things-what they call bacon, their wanna-be Euro-style politics, their health care system, giving us William Shatner. But in this case, I have to say that I think somebody went a little too far:

Mr. Gutfeld said the Canadian military “wants to take a breather to do some yoga, paint landscapes, run on the beach in gorgeous white capri pants.”

“Isn’t this the perfect time to invade this ridiculous country?” he said. “They have no army.”

[....]

“I didn’t even know they were in the war. I thought that’s where you go if you don’t want to fight — you go chill in Canada,” he said.

Tell that to the families of these guys:

Four hearses carrying the flag-draped coffins of the latest Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan are receiving a police escort along the Highway of Heroes.

The procession along Highway 401 from CFB Trenton to Toronto follows a repatriation ceremony at the eastern Ontario airbase during which the caskets were taken one by one from a military aircraft.

The mournful skirl of bagpipes could be heard as fellow soldiers saluted and family members embraced.

Mourners gathered at the hearses to lay flowers and grieve, some walking away in tears while clutching other supporters.

One attack last Friday killed Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli and Cpl. Tyler Crooks, who were both members of November Company, 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment.

The second attack killed Trooper Jack Bouthillier and Trooper Corey Hayes of the Royal Canadian Dragoons.

All four soldiers were based at CFB Petawawa, Ont.

Master Cpl. Gutfeld and Cpl. Crooks died during a foot patrol when a booby trap exploded, while Trooper Bouthillier and Trooper Hayes died when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb.

The deaths bring to 116 the number of Canadian soldiers who have died in the Afghan mission since it began in 2002.

Yes, they were opposed to the Iraq War. But they have been with us in Afghanistan since the beginning. Having seen RedEye, I can attest to the fact that it does seem to be run (and hosted by) a group of stoners and college dropouts. Whatever else you might say about Canada, their contributions as an ally when it counts are real.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 03/23/09 at 08:21 PM in Right Wing Assholes  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

The Comeback Kid

Is Geithner finally stepping up to the plate? The market seems to think so:

Bank stocks soared on Wall Street today as investors bet the Treasury Department’s plan to help buy bad bank debt will put the nation’s beleaguered banks on more solid financial footing.

Wall Street seemed buoyed by the Obama administration’s announcement to remove so-called toxic assets—many of them bad mortgage investments—from the banks’ balance sheets through a public-private partnership, with the Dow up nearly 500 points in the day’s trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 500 points, marking the fifth biggest one-day point gain in history and signaling a strong endorsement of the Obama administration’s move to help the nation’s ailing banks take $1 trillion in bad assets off their books.

The rally came after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced the details of the Public-Private Investment Program, which seeks to entice private investors with government incentives to buy the so-called toxic assets from the banks’ books—an effort to thaw the credit freeze and make it easier for people to get loans.

Of course, it’s always prudent to be cautious, but it did give Geithner a much-needed win:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner – who hasn’t had many winning days in his short tenure on Pennsylvania Avenue – scored a big political victory Monday, as Wall Street traders breathed new life into his career with a stock market rally of nearly 500 points

The morning began with Geithner briefing reporters on his new bank bailout proposal, which would use $75 billion to $100 billion in taxpayer dollars, plus money from private investors, to generate $500 billion to buy so-called toxic assets from troubled banks. That amount could increase to $1 trillion over time.

For the day at least, the debate in Washington shifted from whether Geithner should keep his job to an argument over the merits of his proposal. “They have a second chance right now and it’s good that they’re seizing it,” said one Wall Street executive. “The fact that anybody would be willing to participate in this program is a real testament to Geithner.”
....

Geithner was partially boosted by savvy stagecraft at Treasury. He spoke without television cameras present, and attracted a group of policy-wonk reporters who seemed far more interested in the details of the plan than they were in the cable news chatter over Geithner’s woes. As a result, Geithner was not asked a single question about the controversy surrounding his handling of the AIG bonus mess, or the speculation over his future in the Obama cabinet.

The absence of television crews seems to have helped Geithner, who has been criticized for his sometimes-awkward on-camera delivery. Sipping from a tall bottle of water as he spoke to a packed room of reporters, Geithner did not seem to be a man whose job is on the line. Although the White House has been forced to issue repeated statements of support for Geithner, the Treasury Secretary appeared confident, spoke without a prepared script, and fielded detailed technical questions.

This is an important point, as it appears Geithner may not be quite the incompetent boob everyone thought he was. As Andrew Leonard notes:

In dealing with the economic crisis as a whole, the Obama administration has put into play a steady flow of initiatives that should, in theory, all work together. In addition to the stimulus, the housing plan and credit relief for small businesses, there’s also been a budget proposal addressing long-term issues that even Paul Krugman found impossible not to praise. The Fed has been doing its part by engaging in its own extraordinarily broad-scale stimulative monetary policy…

All along, it has been universally agreed that the most glaring weakness of the Obama portfolio has been the lack of detail on how Geithner intended to tackle the banking system. But there is a difference between a lack of detail and utterly contradictory confusion. If we can hold our breath long enough to calmly assess the last two months, one can see that amid all the noise, the Obama administration has been moving carefully forward in one direction.

Whether or not it should or will work is still open to question, but it does appear that Team Obama is in the process of getting its act together. He’s clearly made mistakes, but the idea that he’s Jimmy Carter II seems to be a bit premature.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 03/23/09 at 07:46 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Kristol Patterns

As you may have heard, Ross Douhat is replacing Bill Kristol as the NYT’s house conservative.  Some libs aren’t too happy about that:

So who would I like to see in the Kristol slot? Actually, Kristol. I was livid when they gave him the job, but he was perfect: a dull, complacent apparatchik who set forth the Bush line in all its fact-free glory. His columns were like press releases--you could hardly remember them two minutes after reading them. But his presence on the page reminded readers that David Brooks is not really what Republicanism is all about.

I can’t disagree with that analysis of Kristol, who is nothing but a partisan hack.  If George Bush put babies on spikes on the White House lawn, Kristol would write a column claiming the babies deserved it and it was all Bill Clinton’s fault and Lincoln used to do it and if we elect Barack Obama, he’d just beat babies to death with live puppies.  Or something.  By contrast, Rush Limbaugh is a fountain of deep thought and principle.

Were I a liberal, having Kristol as the Voice of Conservatism would make me wee my pants with joy.  The only way it could be better if it were Dick Morris.

But Coates points out the obvious:

But here is the thing--in the war of ideas you don’t gain much by measuring yourself against the worst that your opponents have to offer. The thing about competing against jokers, is that it eventually makes a joker of you. Your ideas lose their complexity, their volume and heft, mostly because you don’t need them to take down Kristol. You just need to read the corrections on the Times website. I don’t see how that helps me become a better writer.

One of the reasons I think conservatism went so wrong was because the opposition, for a long time, was incredibly weak.  With opponents like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, conservative got flabby and out of shape.  And when someone smart like Obama came along, we were completely outclassed.

I guess you could make a conservative argument for keeping dolts like Kristol in the foreground of conservatism in order to make liberals equally weak and flabby.  But they are in power now.  The stakes are too high to be screwing around with partisan hacks—several trillions too high.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/23/09 at 05:54 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

It Starts With An M

From the state that gave us Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush comes this.

At a hearing Thursday of the House Committee on Human Services, [Texas state Rep. Gary] Elkins and other members of the panel considered more than two dozen bills related to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Three hours into the hearing, Elkins asked: “What’s Medicaid?”

The Houston Republican continued: “I know I hear it—I really don’t know what it is. I know that’s a big shock to everybody here in the audience, OK.”

Well, at least it’s not only Democrats who have these lapses of memory. However, considering that this is a state where Chuck Norris wants to run as its next President, maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 03/23/09 at 03:27 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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