Friday, April 23, 2010
St George's Day
It is late Friday night as I am writing this in Australia, which means that it is sometime around Friday morning in America and around lunchtime in Britain.
And Friday 23rd is of course St. George's day -- England's national day. So as I am mainly of English descent, I thought it appropriate to mark the day -- which I did. I have had the St George cross flying from my flagpole all day and we had a leisurely commemorative dinner for just four family members.
We started the evening by standing and singing "God save the Queen" (the English national anthem) followed by a toast to the Queen and a toast to "St. George and merrie England". Then we sat down to a meal of England's favourite food: curry.
We washed the curry down with some good Australian "champagne" and a very pleasant evening was had by all. The chat over dinner was very wide-ranging and at one stage I even read a couple of choice excerpts from the 39 "Articles of Religion" from the 1662 "Book of Common Prayer" of the Church of England. None of us are religious but we still enjoyed the power of those historic words.
Gangster Government Becomes a Long-Running Series
Almost a year ago, in a Washington Examiner column on the Chrysler bailout, I reflected on the Obama administration's decision to force bondholders to accept 33 cents on the dollar on secured debts while giving United Auto Worker retirees 50 cents on the dollar on unsecured debts.
This was a clear violation of the ordinary bankruptcy rule that secured creditors are fully paid off before unsecured creditors get anything. The politically connected UAW folk got preference over politically unconnected bondholders. "We have just seen an episode of Gangster Government," I wrote. "It is likely to be a continuing series."
Fast forward to last Friday, when the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against Goldman Sachs, alleging that the firm violated the law when it sold a collateralized debt obligation based on mortgage-backed securities without disclosing that the CDO was assembled with the help of hedge fund investor John Paulson.
On its face, the complaint seems flimsy. Paulson has since become famous because his firm made billions by betting against mortgage-backed securities. But he wasn't a big name then, and the sophisticated firm buying the CDO must have assumed the seller believed its value would go down.
That's not the only fishy thing about the complaint. Yesterday came the news, undisclosed by the SEC Friday, that the commissioners approved the complaint by a 3-2 party-line vote. Ordinarily, the SEC issues such complaints only when the commissioners unanimously approve.
Fishy thing No. 3: Democrats immediately used the complaint to jam Sen. Christopher Dodd's financial regulation through the Senate.
You may want to believe the denials that the Democratic commissioners timed the action in coordination with the administration or congressional leaders. But then you may want to believe there was no political favoritism in the Chrysler deal, too. The SEC complaint looks a lot like Gangster Government to me.
The Dodd bill, however, has it trumped. Its provisions promise to give us one episode of Gangster Government after another.
At the top of the list is the $50 billion fund that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp could use to pay off creditors of firms identified as systemically risky -- i.e., "too big to fail."
"The Dodd bill," writes Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman, "has unlimited executive bailout authority. That's something Wall Street desperately wants but doesn't dare ask for."
Politically connected creditors would have every reason to assume they'd get favorable treatment. The Dodd bill specifically authorizes the FDIC to treat "creditors similarly situated" differently.
Second, as former Bush administration economist Larry Lindsey points out, the Dodd bill gives the Treasury and the FDIC authority to grant an unlimited number of loan guarantees to "too big to fail" firms. CEOs might want to have receipts for their contributions to Sen. Charles Schumer and the Obama campaign in hand when they apply.
Lindsey ticks off other special favors. "Labor gets 'proxy access' to bring its agenda items before shareholders as well as annual 'say on pay' for executives. Consumer activists get a brand new agency funded directly out of the seniorage the Fed earns. No oversight by the Federal Reserve Board or by Congress on how the money is spent."
Then there are carve-out provisions provided for particular interests. "Obtaining a carve-out isn't rocket science," one Republican K Street lobbyist told the Huffington Post. "Just give Chairman Dodd and Chuck Schumer a s---load of money."
The Obama Democrats portray the Dodd bill as a brave attempt to clamp tougher regulation on Wall Street. They know that polls show voters strongly reject just about all their programs to expand the size and scope of government, with the conspicuous exception of financial regulation.
Republicans have been accurately attacking the Dodd bill for authorizing bailouts of big Wall Street firms and giving them unfair advantages over small competitors. They might want to add that it authorizes Gangster Government -- the channeling of vast sums from the politically unprotected to the politically connected.
That can boomerang even against the latter. Goldman Sachs employees gave nearly $1 million to the Obama campaign and $4.5 million to Democrats in 2008. That didn't prevent Goldman from being shoved under the SEC bus.
Gangster Government may look good to those currently in favor, but as some of Al Capone's confederates found out, that status is not permanent, and there is always more room under the bus.
John Stossel and the Media's "Statist Syndrome"
When he first began his career as a crusading consumer journalist in the 1970s, John Stossel believed fervently that higher taxes and greater government involvement in the marketplace were integral checks against corporate greed and malfeasance. With an irreverent, intelligent and skeptical tone that riled corporations – but resonated with viewers – Stossel’s career flourished, leading him to the pinnacle of his profession at ABC News.
But then Stossel experienced a metamorphosis in his thinking. After observing the chronic, costly failure of so many of the numerous big government solutions that he and his media colleagues repeatedly prescribed for society’s ills, Stossel reexamined his fundamental beliefs.
“I started out by viewing the marketplace as a cruel place, where you need intervention by government and lawyers to protect people,” Stossel explained shortly after undergoing his transformation. “But after watching the regulators work, I have come to believe that markets are magical and the best protectors of the consumer.”
In fact, Stossel realized that in most cases regulators and bureaucrats only made matters worse, spending billions of tax dollars on so-called “solutions” that invariably wound up creating larger problems. Needless to say, Stossel’s conversion to free market, libertarian principles – which he trumpeted every bit as loudly as he had previously trumpeted government interventionism – was not warmly received by his colleagues.
“Once I started applying the same skepticism to government, I stopped winning awards,” the 19-time Emmy Award-winner said.
Today, Stossel is at the center of another media debate – only this time he’s not just telling the story, he’s a big part of the story.
In October of 2009 Stossel – who has also published two best-selling books – announced that he was leaving ABC News after 28 years to take a position with FOX News, which is widely regarded as the most “pro-free market” of America’s major TV news networks. Ordinarily a reporter moving from one network to another isn’t considered big news, but in Stossel’s case it’s significant.
While both Stossel and ABC describe their break-up in the most amicable of terms, the fact remains that ABC has been among the most vocal cheerleaders of the Obama administration and, in particular, his recently-passed socialized medicine plan. Stossel, meanwhile, watched as his reports on the perils of “Obamacare” struggled to find airtime. And while /20/20/ (to its credit) permitted Stossel’s voice to be heard, his perspective was increasingly drowned out by a steady barrage of pro-Obama news coverage as well as a glorified “Prescription for America” infomercial from the White House.
In fact, during the first six months of 2009, an analysis by the Business and Media Institute found that ABC’s health care stories featured Obama or supporters of his policies 55 times compared to just 18 times for critics of the administration’s plan – a 3-to-1 advantage.
Speaking of 3-to-1 margins, though, the public clearly isn’t overlooking this ongoing media bias.
In fact, in each year from 2001 through 2009, Gallup polling revealed that three times as many Americans viewed the media as being too liberal compared to those who believed it had a pro-conservative bias.
And more of those Americans than ever before now vote with their television remotes, as network ratings from the first quarter of 2010 were a bloodbath for CNN and MSNBC, arguably the nation’s top two “pro-government” networks. Larry King’s show – CNN’s top-rated program – saw its numbers among the coveted 25-54 year-old demographic decline by 43 percent from last year, while Anderson Cooper’s show experienced a 42 percent decline. At MSNBC, the network’s top two primetime programs, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” and “The Rachel Maddow Show,” saw their ratings plunge by 43 percent and 38 percent.
Meanwhile, viewers continued flocking to Stossel’s new home at FOX, which saw its top three shows expand their audiences by anywhere from 25-50 percent over the previous year – giving FOX more viewers than CNN, MSNBC and CNBC combined and extending its streak as the nation’s number one network to 100 months. Also, Stossel’s new TV show thrives on FOX Business Network.
Clearly, the free market is still alive and well in America – if only in our marketplace of ideas.
Tea Party is a ‘bowel movement,’ says ACORN boss Bertha Lewis
It is she who looks like the sh*t-headed one to me. Going by her utterances below, she's certainly got sh*t for brains
ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis praised socialism and said the Tea Party was a “bowel movement” filled with racists in a speech to a left-wing youth group, a new video shows.
The edited two-minute video surfaced on the Verum Serum blog Wednesday as a federal appeals court reversed a lower court ruling and temporarily upheld a congressional ban on funding the faltering community activist group.
The comments by Lewis came during a March 25 speech to the winter conference of the Young Democratic Socialists, which is the youth arm of the radical Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). DSA is closely tied to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, an 80-plus member group of left-wing Democratic lawmakers.
President Obama worked for ACORN’s Project Vote affiliate, trained ACORN organizers and represented ACORN as a lawyer.
Although ACORN leaders typically refuse to be labeled as socialists because they realize the term carries with it a negative connotation in American culture, Lewis openly embraced socialism.
“First of all let me just say any group that says, ‘I’m young, I’m democratic, and I’m a socialist,’ is alright with me,” Lewis said.
Lewis then seemed to predict that America would soon enter a period of possibly violent upheaval. “Right now we are living in a time which is going to dwarf the McCarthy era,” she said. “It is going to dwarf the internments during World War II. We are right now in a time that is going to dwarf the era of Jim Crow and segregation.”
Lewis told the audience unnamed forces are “coming after you.” They are “going to be brutal and repressive. They’ve already shown it to you,” she said. “Organize. Get out into the street. You really have got to circle the wagons. This is not rhetoric or hyperbole. This is real.”
Lewis said to applause that the Tea Party movement, a grassroots movement against big government, was a “bowel movement in my estimation” that is associated with “racism.”
Meanwhile, ACORN lost a round in court after the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals temporarily reinstated a congressional ban on federal funding of the advocacy group.
A three-judge panel slapped a stay on a ruling by federal judge Nina Gershon of the Eastern District of New York who ruled the funding ban was an unconstitutional bill of attainder that punished ACORN without a trial. The Department of Justice filed the appeal that led to the ruling.
Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said the ruling reversed Gershon’s “attempt to legislate from the bench.” Congress has “the constitutional right to deny an organization the benefit of taxpayer dollars,” he said.
The appeals panel gave the parties to the lawsuit until May 24 to file briefs on the case. Oral arguments are expected soon after.
Outside the appellate court hearing, Lewis told reporters ACORN was barely alive. “We’re still alive. We’re limping along. We’re on life support,” she said. Although ACORN previously said it planned to dissolve its national structure on April 1, the group continues to operate. As recently as last week, ACORN sent out an e-mail soliciting funds from its supporters.
The ACORN empire of activism remains in flux. At least a dozen state chapters have disaffiliated themselves and incorporated under new names. The largest of the state chapters, California, has morphed into a new entity called Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.
US Navy Seal cleared over beating of Iraqi terrorist suspect: "A US Navy Seal was cleared on Thursday of collusion in an assault on an Iraqi prisoner suspected of masterminding a 2004 attack that killed four American security contractors. Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas, 28, was found not guilty by a six-man military jury of dereliction of duty by failing to stop a colleague from punching the prisoner, Ahmed Hashim Abed. He was also acquitted on charges of trying to cover up the assault by influencing the testimony of another service member. The verdict will be welcomed by veterans groups and other supporters in the United States, where the case has brought calls from congressmen for the department of defence to step in and stop the trial."
US military launches X-37B reusable spaceship: "An unmanned Atlas rocket carrying a miniature space shuttle blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday on a technology test flight that could last as long as nine months. The 20-story rocket, built by United Launch Alliance — a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing — lifted off at 7:52 p.m. ET and soared over the Atlantic Ocean, heading toward orbit.”
Police find Tea Parties more peaceful than anti-war protests: "On Monday, the Christian Science Monitor bucked its mainstream peers by reporting something truthful about the TEA party movement: police officials have begun to relax security requirements at conservative rallies because of the remarkable absence of violence. Yes, you read that right: despite nonstop media warnings about hateful protests, violence from TEA party attendants is so nonexistent that police feel safe allowing them to bring large items and sometimes even guns. … No matter how much prominent liberals talk about rampant violence, the facts on the ground tell a different story, and reporters end up leaving with rather dull footage — no police clashes, no tear gas, no images of people being carted away.”
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Posted by JR at 7:40 PM