Sunday, May 24, 2009

A new crime syndicate

Would any of this survive a prosecution under RICO laws?

General Motors and the United Auto Workers on Thursday reached a deal that enables them to enter into bankruptcy at the end of the month with a united front against thousands of bondholders and dealers, who are being asked to bear the brunt of the cost of GM's monumental looming bankruptcy.

The massive restructuring of GM is shaping up to be historic not only for transforming the largest U.S. manufacturer in the nation's most important industry, but in sealing a political deal that fuses the interests of the union and car companies with the environmental allies of the White House with the overarching goal of creating a "greener" fleet of cars in the future.

In exchange for endorsing the White House mandate for much more fuel-efficient cars, the main sacrifice from unions in the deal is the acceleration of job losses as GM shuts 16 plants employing about a third of its 60,000 workers by 2010. But retirees and workers who stay on the job would be rewarded with 39 percent ownership of the company while the government, which has lent GM $15.4 billion, takes a 50 percent controlling stake.

Bondholders, an assorted group ranging from individual retirees to gigantic pension and mutual funds that lent GM $27 billion, are offered only a 10 percent equity stake in the company - a paltry sum that most bondholders have already rejected. Their reluctance to go along with the plan ensures that GM will have to go to bankruptcy court to force them to relinquish their claims against the company.

"The reality is that the direction of the auto industry restructuring is all about politics," said Glenn Reynolds, analyst at CreditSights, an investor research group. "The political calculus says there is little risk in shafting bondholders. ... All is fair in love, war, politics and apparently also bankruptcy" under the White House auto task force's game plan, he said, noting that votes in Ohio, Michigan and other auto-producing states will be pivotal in upcoming midterm elections.

As the administration did with its successful gambit to quickly usher Chrysler into a bankruptcy reorganization biased in favor of unions and against creditors, the GM plan represents an "outright politically motivated wealth transfer" from lenders to unions, he said.

Mr. Reynolds contended that political goals motivated the White House to seek approval between unions and management ahead of the bankruptcy filing, along with a small but significant number of creditors who can help make a convincing case before the bankruptcy court that the reorganization is fair and should be expedited, Mr. Reynolds said.

While the administration won the support of Chrysler's four largest bank lenders using the bargaining chip of bailout money the Treasury had provided, it gave much less to Chrysler's other secured lenders and persuaded a Manhattan, N.Y., bankruptcy court to rule against them in key initial skirmishes. Only a small contingent of teacher and police union pension funds continues to fight against the Chrysler plan.

With GM, the White House is following much the same playbook, although GM's bankruptcy is expected to be much bigger and more complex, analysts said.

The administration secured agreement ahead of time between management and labor in a deal that favors unions. Then, it aims to divide the company's creditors by offering full reimbursement to GM's secured lenders, who are owed about $6 billion, while offering very little to unsecured bondholders who are owed the biggest chunk of money.



Things That Could Have Killed Me

It's amazing any of us survived childhood


Friends and acquaintances sometimes remark that the world is more dangerous now for kids than "when we were growing up." Cut to images of happy kids frolicking through fields of sunflowers.

Not in my childhood. I don't think the world has ever been a particularly safe place for anyone, certainly not kids. I spent large swaths of my childhood unsupervised and getting into whatever trouble I could find. I seem to remember coming home for meals, at least breakfast and dinner. For lunch, I ducked into whatever friend's house I could find. There were certain obligations between parents and children when I was a kid, but more in line with a treaty observance by two wary nations than an actual desire to spend time together.

A brief catalogue of "things that could have killed me" while trotting around unsupervised when I was a kid:

- There was a 30-foot bluff at the end of my street in Athens, Ohio. A wire (not electric apparently) of some sort went from the bluff's ledge to the roof of a liquor store below. When I was five, my neighbor friend, a girl named Vonnie, and I decided to suspend ourselves over this bluff by the wire. We hung over the liquor store's parking lot for a minute or so before tiring and deciding to find some other deadly amusement.

- I built a bomb when I was nine. I rooted around under the sink and poured every chemical I could find (this was the 1960s, chemicals were never in short supply) and poured them into a Windex bottle and made a fuse out of a shoelace. Then I went outside and placed the bottle in a field full of dry brush. I didn't think it would work. It did. I set the field on fire, but luckily I was able to stamp it out before it spread and burned down the neighborhood. My sneakers melted.

- I bought a lot of illegal fireworks. I used to spend part of my summer at my grandmother Ida's beach house in Long Beach, N.Y. One summer, my friends Vince Tucci, Tommy Alfazy, and I became addicted to illegal fireworks that we bought from a woman whose basement was stuffed with fireworks. We called her The Firecracker Lady. Everyday, we would go down to the beach and blow up our plastic soldiers. That stopped when the Firecracker Lady was arrested and our supply dried up.

- I liked to disappear into the apartments of strangers. There was an apartment building near our house called the Athens Apartments. I used to go trick or treating there. A lot of students from Ohio University lived in the apartments, including a couple of guys I called The Rat People. These guys bred lab rats and their apartment was full of rats in cages.

I thought they were cool and I used to hang out at their apartment for hours playing with the rats. Then I'd go dumpster diving in the large trash bins outside the apartment complex, looking for cool things. My mother had no idea about any of this.

I could go on, but the point is that childhood was dangerous. Maybe not as dangerous as Dickens-era London, but still, I'm lucky I survived it. Some of my friends didn't, including poor Tommy Alfazy. One day, shortly after I had returned to Athens from Long Beach, he and Vince built a fort in the sand covered with boards and more sand. It collapsed, smothering him. I wish I could reach back now and tell Tommy and Vince not to build that fort, but would they listen to me, a grown-up?

Perhaps that's why I can be forgiven for being a little on the overprotective side when it comes to raising my four daughters. My wife Margie makes fun of me when we're at the airport and one of my older daughters (ages 15 and 17) excuses herself to find the restroom. It's all I can do to stop myself from following and posting guard at the door. Most often, I squirm for a bit while Margie cuts me sideways glances and then bursts out laughing when she sees my discomfort.

Generally, I give in to my paranoia, despite my wife's ridicule. My worry, of course, is absurd. But it's hard for me to accept the notion that, really, no one is safe and no one ever has been. Instead, I fall back on easy falsehoods. "You don't understand," I have told Margie, much to my discredit. "The world isn't like it was when we were kids."



Really Talented Performer Wins American Idol; Liberals Blame Christians

This week Kris Allen, who during the American Idol season prompted unabashed praise from Simon Cowell and the rest of the judges, was voted America’s favorite over Adam Lambert, his theatrical and inconsistent competitor.

Because Adam Lambert is, according to many, gay, the liberal media is blaming Christians for the tough loss. There are even rumblings that this “election” was rigged. Reminiscent of Bush/Gore 2000, anyone?

Liberals are once again falling back on the only explanation they can ever muster when an anointed protégé or pet cause du jour loses: blame the backwards, hickish, intolerant Christian masses. Yes, the same folks who – inexplicably – put George W. Bush in the White House (twice), fell for Sarah Palin, and voted for Proposition 8 all to the shock and awe of the apoplectic left.

The American Idol “upset” prompted Newsweek’s Ramin Setoodeh to offer this searing analysis: “Woah. So it’s really true: Kris Allen is the new American Idol. Really? Seriously?”

His shock was mitigated by what he considered an obvious explanation for the loss: “You could say…that religion is an irrelevant criterion for judging a singing competition. But the fact remains that Idol is one of TV’s most family-friendly shows, and it draws a large number of Christian viewers. Kris Allen had the edge here.”

The Buffalo Examiner’s gay and lesbian issues point man, Kelvin Lynch, likewise explained it, “Kris is practically a poster boy for heterosexual, white-bread Christianity, while Adam is an in-your-face Jewish gay man. That could very well have played a significant role in the final voting among red state voters with texting capability.”

And Elliot Olshansky wrote in the New York Daily News: “Going into the finale, there was talk of ‘red state-blue state’ politics at work, with Lambert’s painted fingernails, ‘guyliner,’ and uncertain sexuality against Allen’s down-home, churchgoing sensibilities. Given the current political climate, that matchup appeared to favor Lambert, but a number of blue-state types may be ‘too cool’ for Idol’s mass appeal, and unlikely to vote.”

Apparently for Olshansky, the Christian ear is too untrained to appreciate Lambert's nuanced vocal abilities, and thus fell for the likeable and talented Allen by default. Bizarre indeed.

I didn’t see every American Idol episode this year. Did I miss the one where Adam Lambert ran on stage, draped in a rainbow flag, condemning heterosexuality and celebrating Satanism? What exactly did Christians object to? Nail polish? Makeup? Hair products? Have you seen Christian rock heavyweights like POD, Manafest or Decypher Down? They don't exactly look like the Vienna Boys Choir.

The suggestion that Christian viewers not only correctly interpreted Lambert’s guyliner as code for “gay” -- and not just theatrical effect -- but then decided gay men have no business in, um, show business, is hysterical, paranoid, and incredibly bigoted.

But the whole thing was a set-up from the get-go. Liberal Hollywood and popular gay activists like Perez Hilton threw their weight behind Lambert early on. Adam was a sure-thing for them, but only because they wanted him to be. His performances were criticized by the judges more than once. But it’s not like these Idol arbiters based their convictions on statistics or polls. So if you are plugged into the gossip circles, you’d have believed Lambert was a sure thing, too. Singer Katy Perry put his name on her cape during a performance – and the Daily News claimed this was actually evidence that he was supposed to win.

With few and obscure exceptions, Christian Republicans didn’t launch the attack campaign against Adam Lambert that the left is now launching against Christian Republicans. As we witnessed with the assault on Miss California Carrie Prejean, the same voices seeking increased tolerance are the very voices attacking others for their opinions. And viciously.

American Idol has thus fallen the way of the Miss USA pageant and other one-time innocuous entertainment vehicles – it’s been politicized. Not, however, by the intolerant right, but by the intolerant left who can offer no other explanation for dissent than the lunacy of fringe Christians. Maybe Kris Allen was just the preferred performer? Nah, couldn’t be that easy.



BrookesNews Update

Obama's road to economic ruin and higher taxes: It should be obvious to any reasonably intelligent person that if Obama's economic policies are not abandoned or even dramatically restrained the next four years could make the Carter presidency look like an economic Elysium
The Australian budget exposes politicians economic ignorance and stupidity : Massive spending and deficits reveal that the government has no real idea on how to tackle the recession. Unfortunately, no one in our think tanks, the Reserve or the Treasury have any genuine understanding of the dangerous economic forces that are now at work. And this is why they keep getting it wrong
Austrian business cycle theory defended: Austrian trade cycle theory is the only that can adequately explain what the current economic crisis. For that reason a leftwing economists has attacked it — and failed miserably. Unfortunately, because our self-appointed gatekeepers of free market thinking have taken it upon themselves to determine who shall defend the market it is the market that is now being blamed for the financial meltdown
How America and Australia's central banks badly damaged manufacturing : The global economy is still in a parlous state. Obama's economic policies are a recipe for national bankruptcy. These are the same policies that brought the UK to the brink of economic ruin. What is being missed, however, is that manufacturing was the canary in the coal mine. The crisis — which is a monetary disorder — would have been avoided if the state of manufacturing had been correctly analysed.
Obama wants to "close tax loopholes" — not for more money but to flex government muscle : Under Obama's proposal Americans would have to prove they were not breaking U.S. tax laws by sending money to banks that don't cooperate with tax officials. Americans would no be presumed guilty until proved innocent. This means the abolition of an ancient right intended to protect the accused. I guess this is what Democrats mean by 'Hope and Change'


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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