30 November 2008

Britian to Re-think Terms of its Banking Bailout

We need to do some re-thinking here in the USA as well.

Government must rethink bank bail-out

The Government must reconsider the terms of the banking bail-out if it wants to see an increase in lending to small businesses, the deputy chairman of the influential Treasury Select Committee has warned.

Fort Dix Trial Update

2nd FBI informant to take stand in Fort Dix trial
Besnik Bakalli came to the United States illegally, then returned to Albania, where he shot a man, then entered the United States again.
Despite his troubled past, he's on the side of the U.S. Justice Department as it tries to prosecute five men accused of planning to sneak onto New Jersey's Fort Dix and kill soldiers at the base.
Bakalli, a paid informant in the case, is scheduled to begin testifying on Monday in what could be several days on the stand in the men's trial, which began in October and could stretch into 2009.

Implications of Mumbai Terrorist Attack

What is to be learned from the terrorist attacks in Mumbai (formerly called Bombay)?

It’s Not the Cold War - Updating strategy to fight the ideology.

The Islamic imperialist project is a totalitarian ideology: It is at war with Hindus, Jews, Americans, Britons, everything that is other.In the ten months before this week’s atrocity, Muslim terrorists killed over 200 people in India and no-one paid much attention. Just business as usual, alas. In Bombay, the perpetrators were cannier.

What’s relevant about the Mumbai model is that it would work in just about any second-tier city in any democratic state: Seize multiple soft targets and overwhelm the municipal infrastructure to the point where any emergency plan will simply be swamped by the sheer scale of events. Try it in, say, Mayor Nagin’s New Orleans. All you need is the manpower.

You’re sitting in some distant foreign capital but you’re minded to pull off a Bombay-style operation in, say, Amsterdam or Manchester or Toronto. Where would you start? Easy. You know the radical mosques, and the other ideological-front organizations.

The ideology has been so successfully seeded around the world that nobody needs a memo from corporate HQ to act: There are so many of these subgroups and individuals that they intersect across the planet in a million different ways. It’s not the Cold War, with a small network of deep sleepers being directly controlled by Moscow. There are no membership cards, only an ideology.

This isn’t law enforcement but an ideological assault — and we’re fighting the symptoms not the cause. Islamic imperialists want an Islamic society, not just in Palestine and Kashmir but in the Netherlands and Britain, too. Their chances of getting it will be determined by the ideology’s advance among the general Muslim population, and the general Muslim population’s demographic advance among everybody else.

A landmark attack in the annals of modern terrorism

The Mumbai attacks represent a scenario that few Western police and security forces have dared envision. Fewer still have prepared for it. The basic strategy: use a large number of attackers to overwhelm a target city's ability to respond, and then suddenly switch focus to high value targets and seize hostages.

The attack on a Mumbai hospital was also a disturbing detail. Terrorists love to create mass-casualty events -- but to attack a hospital? This tactic will probably become a new standard practice for terrorists.

Terror lesson in Mumbai
India terror offensive proves that West’s war doctrine must be modified

India constitutes a broad testing ground for terror forces aiming to take over a large city while using military terrorism. The country constitutes a tool for learning terror’s new conceptions as they manifest themselves at this time, in the face of the conclusions of the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and terror attacks in Pakistan.
Therefore, the war on terror’s doctrine must change. The old-time suicide bombers mostly operated alone or in small groups, in order to prove their power and hurt the enemy as much as is possible. Yet their time has passed.

Today, we see the emergence of a dark, new, and different army, with new branches that include all the components of a military, yet still utilize the terror doctrine. The advantage of terrorist armies is first and foremost the fact they are not subjected to any law or international convention. They do not face any pressure and they are not accountable to anyone.

They tie the hands of the responding force, which is the only side subjected to conventions pertaining to human rights, war captives, and the targeting of civilians.

Muslims worry about their image. I suppose they should.

CNN reporting endangering people's lives.

300 feared dead in Mumbai jihad: piles of bodies found in hotel.

Mumbai Terrorists Tortured Israelis Before They Were Murdered

Mumbai Attack Failures Expose Collapsed Police Force

Pakistan Tensions Increase in Aftermath of Attack

Fiasco

"They are doing whatever it takes. The problem is, the more you go in this direction, the harder it is to turn around and the harder your exit strategy is." -- Laurence H. Meyer, a former Fed governor, on government actions to bolster the economy.


Several years ago, I came across the works of Stanislav Lem, a Polish science fiction writer from the 1970s. His most famous work is Solaris, but my favorite was his novel Fiasco. In his stories, he explored the idea of the problems of communicating with a truly alien species. (No silly "humanoid" Star Trek aliens here, this is literature in a SF setting.) In Fiasco, humanity mounts a major expedition to an alien world to make contact with an intelligent race there. However, once the crew arrives, it finds the aliens occupied with their own problems, who have no desire to interact with the human expedition. The crew, facing the prospect of having spent huge amounts and the effort to get there, are unwilling to simply turn around and go home. They begin to take action to provoke contact with the alien race. In frustration, the crew starts a series of decisions, which build upon the previous decisions, with catastrophic results. The story explores the human tendency to pursue a course once started, without re-examining the basic assumptions at the start of the series of decisions. The outcome? Fiasco.

I was reminded of that book as I was thinking about the bailout over the weekend. Similar flaws in reasoning are taking place in the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. Once committed to the present course of action, it is being pursued to its conclusion, results and logic be damned. An outcome that was not anticipated, or sought at the beginning has been reached. To counter results that did not match the desired outcome, more of the same action is being pursued. So we now find ourselves with half of the annual GDP of the entire nation committed, with potential liabilities exceeding the entire previously existing national debt having been reached. Fiasco.

Think about the political angst and fallout from the debt incurred by the Iraqi war. That debt has now been exceeded in just the past two months with no debate or consequence. Our future has been committed and gambled away, with no oversight, no public participation, no transparency, nor recognized goal. And what has been the result of this commitment? Fiasco.

Call it group-think. Call it confirmation bias. Call it vested interest. Call it pedantry. Call it sophistry. Call it whatever you want to, in labeling this flawed decision-making. No one is re-thinking the basic approach nor the base assumptions nor the desired final outcome on which this course of action was taken. I will call it what it is - a fiasco.

Bailout Fiasco

Bailout Spending is Out of Control

Okay, $7 trillion it is, and if you think that's an exaggeration, you're wrong. In this year alone, we have committed an amount that is more than half of our entire annual gross national product to assorted bailouts and guarantees. No, that doesn't mean that we have diverted half our GNP for bailouts; it means that we have created half our gross national product virtually out of nothing.

Tuesday it was the Fed saying it would buy up to $600 billion more in mortgage-related assets and will lend up to $200 billion to holders of securities backed by some consumer loans. That $800 billion is more than what Social Security lays out each year, and twice as much as the federal government annually collects in corporate income tax. It is about three times as much the entire federal deficit.

Consider: President George W. Bush has been passionately faulted for "breaking the bank" by conducting the Iraq War. But the non-partisan Congressional Research Service figures that the total cost of the Iraq War and the rest of the global war on terror, including the war in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001 is $864 billion. Now, we can whistle past that in a single day, and few seem to worry. There are no metaphors for this because there is nothing comparable to the rapidity of our plunge into national hock.

"Talk about throwing money at a problem," said Sheila A. Weinberg, founder of the Northbrook (Ill.) based Institute for Truth in Accounting. "The better question is where is all this money coming from? The people I ask either don't know, believe that it's money we have on hand or will come from taxing the wealthy. We're borrowing it. About half of the borrowings are coming from foreign entities."

She noted the irony of the Treasury having to borrow money to bail out companies that can't borrow money. "It is very scary to see the rate that our national debt is increasing. On Sep. 30, the official debt reached $10 trillion. Then in less than a month, we had borrowed another half a trillion. Now the official debt is $10.655 trillion."

But that's just one way--the easy way--to look at it. The real debt, when you include the more than $47 trillion of commitments for retirement benefits, is a staggering $57 trillion. That amounts to $188,000 for each American.

In just eight months, we have made a fundamental change in our financial system and our form of government, without much debate or with, I dare say, no foresight. I'm glad I don't have to make these kinds of decisions, but I can't help think that we have lost something in our national character; we have become so fearful of the present that we are willing to mortgage our future, to risk the kind of calamity that could far surpass the present one.

Texas Transportation Issues

Here is a bi-partisan article about Texas trasportation issues that has some good ideas. An excerpt below.

Legislative challenge: A shaky foundation
Restore the state's transportation infrastructure to provide next generation with a platform for growth

Texas now faces a transportation crisis. We spend more and more of our lives in traffic instead of with our families. We seldom, if ever, see major roads built without toll booths. And the rail lines and highway-lane miles we know we need are being scaled back or scrapped in the face of a hopeless inability to pay for them.

• Support Regional Financing Tools — Other than toll roads and privatization schemes, the state has provided few options for cities, counties and other local jurisdictions to fund transportation. The Legislature should offer new voter-approved funding mechanisms for regions to plan and pay for roads, rail lines and other projects.

• Explore New Alternatives — Texas must move past a 20th century model that relies so heavily on single-occupancy vehicles and work to create a truly comprehensive statewide system for moving people and freight. This should begin by funding the Rail Relocation Fund that voters overwhelmingly approved in 2005.

• Reform the Texas Department of Transportation — With its overt advocacy of privatization and occasional disregard for the Legislature, the department has rightly incurred the wrath of Texans and their representatives. While we applaud the department's recent efforts to be more transparent and accountable, the Legislature must fundamentally reform the agency so that Texans are fully aware of its activities and never question its objectives.

The Change, C'est Moi

Obama, asked about where the "change" is, responds that he is the change.

The rest of the administration is the Clinton third term.

His appointments are Obama's acknowledgement of his lack of experience. He concedes the point. Even if no one else in his campaign or his party would admit it, Obama seems to have accepted to himself that as he has no experience in running anything, he needs to surround himself with old hands.

Which is good, unless you are one of his progressive supporters. Personally, I am relieved to see him pick some old hands who understand how things work.

We do need change in Washington, that is for sure. But we're not going to get it.

Will Plug-In Hybrid Cars Be Profitable?

The Car of the Future -- but at What Cost?
Hybrid Vehicles Are Popular, but Making Them Profitable Is a Challenge
[C]ar manufacturers still haven't figured out how to produce hybrid and plug-in vehicles cheaply enough to make money on them. After a decade of relative success with its hybrid Prius, Toyota has sold about a million of the cars and is still widely believed by analysts to be losing money on each one sold. General Motors has touted plans for a plug-in hybrid vehicle called the Volt, but the costly battery will prevent it from turning a profit on the vehicle for several years, at least.
Also, would filing bankruptcy give GM the flexibility it needs? GM argues that a bankruptcy would drive buyers away, as potential customers would be concerned over their warranties. Others disagree.

Bankruptcy Could Offer GM More Flexibility

Officials Continue To Seek Federal Aid If Congress fails to bail out the auto giant, a prearranged bankruptcy deal might be the least onerous way to spread the pain among shareholders, bond holders, dealers and union members, analysts say. The federal government would probably still need to keep the company alive in a leaner form and reassure customers and creditors.

GM could negotiate concessions from bond holders and the United Auto Workers without filing for bankruptcy. But a J.P. Morgan report notes that a prearranged bankruptcy deal negotiated with major stakeholders before a bankruptcy court filing would also allow GM to break state franchise laws that limit the auto giant's ability to eliminate brands and shrink its extensive dealer network. A negotiated bankruptcy package might also be needed to impose tough terms on reluctant creditors.

Defunct Beer Brands to Request Bailout

The local defunct beer brands, led by the Falstaff Brewery, has announced that they too are seeking a bailout from Congress.

The future of the U.S. defunct beer brands are on the line this week, as Congress debates whether to pass a $25 billion loan package aimed at keeping the struggling Big Fifteen defunct beer brands afloat.

Democrats are pushing a measure that could force the Bush administration to tap into the $700 billion Congress approved to rescue Wall Street and offer past brewers of beer a loan in return for an equity stake. President-elect Barack Obama is putting his weight behind the effort, saying that former giants like Falstaff are too crucial to the U.S. economy to be allowed to fail.

All defunct beer brands are in dire straits, especially Falstaff, which has warned that it may run out of cash before the end of the year unless Congress steps in. Falstaff fan Sheryl Crow claims, "With the help of Congress, and the taxpayer, they can afford to make products that no one wants to buy. Just like the domestic automotive industry."

"It may not happen," acknowledged Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee. But he added, "There's no downside to trying."

"This is a national problem," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., co-chair of the Senate beer drinking caucus. "We've got at least 3 million jobs dependent on this industry's surviving. This is a Main Street problem."

Democrats insist their plan would put conditions on the former brewers in return for the loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that since she ingests only botox and Sanka, and has no knowledge of the beer industry, she will still give advice, suggesting that all brewery employees be forced to attend sexual harrassment sensitivity training, in order to "assure the long-term viability of the industry."

29 November 2008

Power Sports Drink Industry to Request Bailout

The local power sports drink industry, led by the Brawndo "The Thirst Mutilator", has announced that they too are seeking a bailout from Congress.
The future of the U.S. power sports drinks industry is on the line this week, as Congress debates whether to pass a $25 billion loan package aimed at keeping the struggling Big Fourteen power sports drink manufacturers afloat.

Democrats are pushing a measure that could force the Bush administration to tap into the $700 billion Congress approved to rescue Wall Street and offer sellers of water replacements a loan in return for an equity stake. President-elect Barack Obama is putting his weight behind the effort, saying that giants like Brawndo are too crucial to the U.S. economy to be allowed to fail.

All sports drinks are in dire straits, especially Brawndo, which has warned that it may run out of cash before the end of the year unless Congress steps in. "It's got electrolytes," claims CEO Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, "It's what the body needs."

"It may not happen," acknowledged Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee. But he added, "There's no downside to trying."

"I've got a 3 point plan that's going to fix EVERYTHING," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., co-chair of the Senate powerfully thirsty caucus. "Number 1: We've got this guy. Number 2: He's got a higher IQ than ANY MAN ALIVE. and Number 3: He's going to fix EVERYTHING."

Democrats insist their plan would put conditions on the power sports drink industry in return for the loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that to qualify, companies such as Brawndo need to develop new flavors of drinks, such as Code Pink Lemonade, Earth Liberation Front Limeade, Proposition Eight Passionfruit, Kos Kool-aid, Global Warming Artic Blast, as well as introduce a new line of Congressman William "Cold Cash" Jefferson frozen beverages, in order to "assure the long-term viability of the industry."

28 November 2008

Whigs and Booze

Here's a contribution the Whigs have made. Whigs were responsible for the adding of the word "booze" to the English language. True story. It happened during the election of 1840:
Thus log cabins, hard cider, and the accompanying coonskins that attested to the candidate's frontier background became the dominant symbols of a symbol-laden campaign. Transparencies featuring log cabins were hoisted during parades, log cabins were raised at Whig gatherings, and hard cider was freely dispensed.

One item of the paraphernalia used to publicize this pervasive theme made a permanent contribution to the American vernacular. To quench the thirst of ardent Whigs, a Philadelphia distiller bottled Log-Cabin Whiskey in small bottles shaped like cabins. The liquor became so famous that the name of its distiller, E.G. Booz, soon became a synonym for whiskey itself.
from The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, pages 106-107, by Michael F. Holt.

Freight Industry to Request Bailout

The local freight industry, led by Tong Gong Freight, has announced that they too are seeking a bailout from Congress.
The future of the U.S. import industry is on the line this week, as Congress debates whether to pass a $25 billion loan package aimed at keeping the struggling Big Thirteen freight companies afloat.

Democrats are pushing a measure that could force the Bush administration to tap into the $700 billion Congress approved to rescue Wall Street and offer companies that import goods from China a loan in return for an equity stake. President-elect Barack Obama is putting his weight behind the effort, saying that giants like TG Freight are too crucial to the U.S. economy to be allowed to fail.

All importers are in dire straits, especially TG Freight, which has warned that it may run out of cash before the end of the year unless Congress steps in. CEO Xie Xie stated, "Since nothing is actually made in the USA any longer, what are you going to do if we don't import goods from China? So we can accept your money by check or wire transfer."

"It may not happen," acknowledged Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee. But he added, "There's no downside to trying."

"This is a national problem," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., co-chair of the Senate handout caucus. "We've got at least 3 million jobs dependent on this industry's surviving. This is a Main Street problem."

Democrats insist their plan would put conditions on the importers in return for the loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that to qualify, haulers like TG Freight will have to convert their ships to solar power, implement an algorithmic framework for the service network, and start transporting shipping containers by bicycle, in order to "assure the long-term viability of the industry."

27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. -- Theodore Roosevelt

26 November 2008

Public Warning - For Your Own Safety - Please Take Note

Confirming that it is now lost to the dark side, tonight at 8 eastern/7 central, NBC will broadcast the premiere of Rosie O'Donnell's variety show, Rosie Live.

In high def.

The greatest abuse of modern technology since "Pink is the New Blog" hit the internet.

I am posting this as a public service and warning. If you are like me, you channel surf. So tonight, take care to avoid your local NBC channel. It would be a shame to have to drag your HDTV out to the curb and put it out of its misery. Remember, this is the same device that has brought you countless hours of high def sports, violent movies, the History Channel, and has practically raised your children. So take pity.

If I can reach and save just one HDTV, then this entire blog will have been worth it.

UPDATE: 'Rosie Live' a ratings turkey. No more will be made. Whew.

Gates to Stay At DOD

Obama Plans to Retain Gates at Defense Department
President-elect Barack Obama has decided to keep Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in his post, a show of bipartisan continuity in a time of war that will be the first time a Pentagon chief has been carried over from a president of a different party, Democrats close to the transition said Tuesday.

Throwing Money Down A Hole


In The Know: Should The Government Stop Dumping Money Into A Giant Hole?

Tone Deaf Auto Executives

Obama: Auto Executives 'Tone Deaf' to Concerns of Ordinary Americans

President-elect Barack Obama doesn't think much of big-business executives' ability to related to the common man, especially in the wake of congressional testimony by the chiefs of Detroit's Big Three. "Well, I thought maybe they're a little tone deaf to what's happening in America right now," Obama told ABC's Barbara Walters in interview excerpts released by the network. "And this has been a chronic problem, not just for the auto industry."

The heads of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler drew fire last week for flying to Washington in separate corporate jets to ask Congress for federal assistance for their ailing companies.

"We're sort of focused on them. But I think it's been a problem for the captains of industry generally," Obama told Walters in the interview, to air Wednesday. "When people are pulling down hundred million dollar bonuses on Wall Street, and taking enormous risks with other people's money, that indicates a sense that you don't have any perspective on what's happening to ordinary Americans."

He's right.

Modern Whig Party of Texas Update

Here's an update about the Whigs in Texas:

The Modern Whig Party of Texas is deepening its grass roots by naming the first six county chairmen. These individuals are taking the lead in their communities in organizing the Modern Whigs.

The counties of Bell, Denton, El Paso, Fort Bend, Harris and Walker counties now have their own county Modern Whig parties.

Whigs nationwide have attracted leaders from a wide range of backgrounds, and the same is true in Texas.

The Modern Whig Party was inundated with new members -- both military and civilian -- after the election. As we near our next goal of 20,000 members, this grassroots movement continues to be widely recognized as the fastest-growing mainstream political organization in the country.
Click here to go to the list of new county chairmen in Texas.

The Walker County Modern Whig homepage is here.

The El Paso County Modern Whig homepage is here.

Software Industry to Request Bailout

The local software industry, led by Initech, has announced that they too are seeking a bailout from Congress.

The future of the U.S. software industry is on the line this week, as Congress debates whether to pass a $25 billion loan package aimed at keeping the struggling Big Twelve software development companies afloat.

Democrats are pushing a measure that could force the Bush administration to tap into the $700 billion Congress approved to rescue Wall Street and offer software developers a loan in return for an equity stake. President-elect Barack Obama is putting his weight behind the effort, saying that giants like Initech are too crucial to the U.S. economy to be allowed to fail.

All software companies are in dire straits, especially Initech, which has warned that it may run out of cash before the end of the year unless Congress steps in. Manager Bill Lumbergh has stated, "I can't believe what a bunch of nerds we are. We're looking up 'money laundering' in a dictionary. "

"It may not happen," acknowledged Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee. But he added, "There's no downside to trying."

"This is a national problem," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., co-chair of the Senate series of tubes caucus. "Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements."

Democrats insist their plan would put conditions on the industry in return for the loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that to qualify, companies such as Initech would have to commit to filing their TPS reports timely, transfer operations to India, and to start coming in on Saturdays, in order to "assure the long-term viability of the industry."

25 November 2008

The $7.7 Trillion Bailout Outrage

It's hard to parody a situation that has moved beyond parody. This has gotten completely out of hand. Check out this story:

Bloomberg.com: U.S. Pledges Top $7.7 Trillion to Ease Frozen Credit

Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $7.76 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers after guaranteeing $306 billion of Citigroup Inc. debt yesterday. The pledges, amounting to half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.

The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $3.18 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since the New Deal of the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The commitment dwarfs the plan approved by lawmakers, the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Federal Reserve lending last week was 1,900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis.

When Congress approved the TARP on Oct. 3, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson acknowledged the need for transparency and oversight. Now, as regulators commit far more money while refusing to disclose loan recipients or reveal the collateral they are taking in return, some Congress members are calling for the Fed to be reined in.

Bloomberg News tabulated data from the Fed, Treasury and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and interviewed regulatory officials, economists and academic researchers to gauge the full extent of the government’s rescue effort.

The money that’s been pledged is equivalent to $24,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. It’s nine times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Congressional Budget Office figures. It could pay off more than half the country’s mortgages.

“It’s unprecedented,” said Bob Eisenbeis, chief monetary economist at Vineland, New Jersey-based Cumberland Advisors Inc. and an economist for the Atlanta Fed for 10 years until January. “The backlash has begun already. Congress is taking a lot of hits from their constituents because they got snookered on the TARP big time. There’s a lot of supposedly smart people who look to be totally incompetent and it’s all going to fall on the taxpayer.”

This is an outrage. I can't even think of anything to say.

I'm aghast. Really. We are getting so completely screwed, it's not funny.

How anyone can ever vote Republican after this complete fiasco, I don't know.

Heads need to roll.

"Saving" Citi may create panic

One bailout was not enough for Citigroup. And it may not be enough for other big banks. While Citigroup’s second multibillion-dollar rescue from Washington hit Wall Street like a shot of adrenaline on Monday, many analysts worried that the jolt would soon wear off. Citigroup has been stabilized, but the outlook for the financial industry as a whole is bleak.

With the red ink deepening, other banks may eventually turn to the government to soak up some of their losses. Taxpayers could end up guaranteeing hundreds of billions of dollars of banks’ toxic assets. Indeed, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. is expected to announce a new plan on Tuesday to bolster the consumer-finance market.

“When all else fails, government does come in,” said David A. Moss, a public policy professor at Harvard Business School.

On Monday, Wall Street put aside its worries, at least for a day. Citigroup’s share price, which had plunged to a mere $3.77 on Friday, shot up to $5.95. Shares of its biggest rivals — banks which, with the government’s help, are emerging to dominate the industry — also soared. Bank of America jumped 27 percent, JPMorgan Chase leapt 21 percent and Wells Fargo gained nearly 20 percent.

In the short term, the latest effort to steady Citigroup has removed the risk that a sudden failure of the giant bank would send losses cascading through the financial industry.

But longer term, the new bailout could haunt regulators and taxpayers. The move ultimately may encourage banks to take more risks in the belief that the government will step in if they run into trouble.

Story here.

We have gone from the old run on the bank to a run on the government. How is that better?

Citi: too big to fail

The bailout of Citigroup, which put the government at risk of hundreds of billions of dollars in losses, was set in motion by three men whose professional lives have long been intertwined.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson; Citigroup board member Robert Rubin; and Timothy Geithner, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, for years have followed one another in jobs in government and industry. Their close relationships helped pave the way for one of the largest and most dramatic government interventions to date in the financial crisis.

The bailout, announced late Sunday, was designed to make a statement, officials said. In agreeing to protect Citigroup against potential losses on a $306 billion pool of troubled assets, the government made clear that it was not going to allow one of the nation's largest financial firms to collapse. The bailout came days after Paulson made comments that many in the financial markets took to mean he would leave any future bailouts to the administration of President-elect Barack Obama. But once Citigroup's stock price plunged 60 percent last week, Rubin, an old colleague from Goldman Sachs, told Paulson in phone calls that the government had to act, according to industry sources familiar with their discussions.

Because of Citigroup's operations in about 100 countries, relationships with a broad range of institutions around the world and about $3 trillion in assets, the firm's collapse would wreak havoc on the financial system. Citigroup is the definition of a bank that is too big to fail,” said William Longbrake of the Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying group.

Story here.

How many investors would it take to collude to short sell a stock to launch a crash and prompt a sure-thing bailout? I'm not claiming that is what is going on here, but there is no transparency in these meetings and dealings. And they're using my money to "save" this company. And is it just me or does it seem strange these deals are always brokered over the weekend when no one is around and most aren't paying attention? Again, maybe nothing bad going on - it just all adds up to something I'm not comfortable with.

Turning Up the Heat on Rangel

Time to Turn up the Heat
The Chairman of Ways and Means is a tax scofflaw, and the Democrats don’t seem to be a bit concerned. If the not-so-new Republican Congressional leadership is intent on doing its job (curbing the worst excesses of the majority and gaining credibility), they should shine a bright spotlight on Rangel. And start asking why he remains in one of the most prominent Democratic leadership posts.
Here's a direct link to the NY Times article. More here: Another Day, Another Rangel Tax Revelation.

Who wouldn't agree to turning up the heat on a corrupt politician?

Except for the Democrats. Or the Republicans. Sheeesh, what a choice.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Biological Weapons Industry to Request Bailout

The local biological weapons research industry, led by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, has announced that they too are seeking a bailout from Congress.

The future of the U.S. biological research industry is on the line this week, as Congress debates whether to pass a $25 billion loan package aimed at keeping the struggling Big Eleven biological research facilities afloat.

Democrats are pushing a measure that could force the Bush administration to tap into the $700 billion Congress approved to rescue Wall Street and offer developers of biological weapons a loan in return for an equity stake. President-elect Barack Obama is putting his weight behind the effort, saying that giants like Weyland-Yutani are too crucial to the U.S. economy to be allowed to fail.

All biological weapon developers are in dire straits, especially Weyland-Yutani, which has warned that it may run out of cash before the end of the year unless Congress steps in. CEO and founder John Bishop Weyland, when informed that it may be seventeen weeks before Congress will be able to act on his request, responded: "Seventeen weeks? Hey man, I don't wanna rain on your parade, but we're not gonna last seventeen hours! Those bankers are gonna come in here just like they did before. And they're gonna come in here ... and they're gonna cancel our line of credit, AND THEY'RE GONNA GET US!"

"It may not happen," acknowledged Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee. But he added, "There's no downside to trying."

"All right sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed?," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., co-chair of the Senate xenomorph caucus. "Another glorious day in the Senate! A day in the Senate is like a day on the farm. Every meal's a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every filibuster a parade! I LOVE the Senate! "

Democrats insist their plan would put conditions on the industry in return for the loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that to qualify, biological weapons researchers such as Weland-Yutani would have to commit only to an endless series of fruitless negotiations, as her policy is to cave in to those developing weapons of mass destruction, in order to "assure the long-term viability of the industry."

24 November 2008

Are You Ready for a Plug-In Hybrid?

Post about plug-in hybrid cars from the deep thinkers at The New America Foundation.

The Plug-In Paradox

"When you look at the horizon, there are chances for big changes here," says Schreiber. "West Texas wind blows in the middle of the night, when the electricity is almost worthless!" Hybrids plugged in at night could capture that electricity and redirect it to the morning commute or feed it back onto the grid at noon when it's worth something.

Willett Kempton, a professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware, who runs its carbon-free energy program, says owners of plug-ins should be given an incentive to make their batteries available to the grid. Frequency regulation--the minute-by-minute balancing of electrical current on the grid--is already a service worth $40 per megawatt-hour delivered. He estimates that some plug-in drivers could earn $2,000 a year by making their batteries available as reservoirs. Now he's studying databases of driving habits to see if some groups of people would be better candidates than others. "Some people have very erratic and bizarre driving patterns, like volunteer firemen," says Kempton.

For decades Americans have embraced the cognitive dissonance of sitting in traffic during punishing commutes while claiming that what they value about their cars is the sense of independence and the open road. Are we ready to let rationality intrude on our sacred relationship with our cars?

Quote of the Day

Useless laws weaken the necessary laws. -- Montesquieu

Six Dumb Traffic Laws That Should Be Repealed

From the National Motorists Association: 6 Dumb Traffic Laws That Should Be Repealed

My favorite: No Checkpoints. This is an issue that recently reared its ugly head here in Texas.

In the name of law and order, we’ve come to accept the idea of being randomly stopped, questioned and made to produce ID — rigmarole that would be familiar to a citizen of Berlin in 1940 or Moscow in 1970. “Your papers, please!” is not what America is supposed to be all about. The goal of getting drunks of the road is beside the point. Probable cause is — or ought to be — the point.

It’s wrong to subject people who have done absolutely nothing to suggest they’ve been drinking and driving to random stops and interrogations. It violates one of the most basic tenets of the Western European legal theory going back to Magna Carta. Until you, specifically, have given the authorities a specific reason to suspect that you have violated (or may be about to violate) a law, the authorities should have no authority to interfere with you in any way.

That we have lost sight of this basic, once-cherished principle and are so willing to give it up in the name of “safety” or “getting drunks off the road” shows we’re very far down a Dark Road, indeed.

By all means, stop and check out any driver who appears to be weaving, driving erratically or otherwise giving good reason to suspect he may be liquored up. But leave the rest of us alone and free to go about our business until we’ve given good reason to warrant a closer look.

Feeling the Love

The blog Whigs in Virginia had some really nice things to say about our efforts here at THE WHIG.

They mix relevant news with humor. Their opinions almost always are spot on. They have excellent judgment. And they seem to know how to run a successful blog. "The Whig" is intellectual but not pretentious. Funny but not over the top. Interesting but not boring.

So, Whigs in Virginia would like to recommend "The Whig" be added to everyone's blog-reading list.

This is the first time we've read anything this nice about us. Our reaction:



Right back at ya', Whigs in Virginia.

Airline Industry to Request Bailout

The local airline industry, led by Blue Star Airlines, has announced that they too are seeking a bailout from Congress.

The future of the U.S. airline industry is on the line this week, as Congress debates whether to pass a $25 billion loan package aimed at keeping the struggling Big Ten airlines afloat.

Democrats are pushing a measure that could force the Bush administration to tap into the $700 billion Congress approved to rescue Wall Street and offer purveyors of long waits, cramped seats, and more waiting, a loan in return for an equity stake. President-elect Barack Obama is putting his weight behind the effort, saying that giants like Blue Star Airlines are too crucial to the U.S. economy to be allowed to fail.

All airlines are in dire straits, especially Blue Star, which has warned that it may run out of cash before the end of the year unless Congress steps in. Director Kent Dorfman has stated that in order to cut costs they have already eliminated routine maintenance, and according to Mr. Dorfman, "We may have to eliminate the best frequent flyer program in the industry."

"It may not happen," acknowledged Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee. But he added, "There's no downside to trying."

"I dont mind flying," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., co-chair of the Senate mile high caucus. "I always pass out before the plane leaves the ground."

Democrats insist their plan would put conditions on the airlines in return for the loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that to qualify, airlines such as Blue Star would have to commit to placing union representatives on its board, dramatically increase humiliating security procedures, cease hiring military pilots, and eliminate leg room completely, in order to "assure the long-term viability of the industry."

23 November 2008

The Only Thing in my Attic is a Raccoon

Daily Telegraph (UK): Dust covered painting in attic found to be a masterpiece
A dust-covered painting found behind an old mattress in an attic has turned out to be the work of a famous artist worth £50,000.
An image of the painting is here. >>>

You have got to be kidding me! Why can't I find a picture of some dusty dame in my attic worth thousands?

Right after we moved into our house, I found a large, nailed shut wooden packing crate in my attic. It was huge and heavy, so I just left it up there, figuring it was empty.

A few years ago, my kids learned it was up there. They were convinced it was stuffed with money, or jewelry. They finally talked me into dragging that heavy-assed thing down one summer day while I was in the garage. We drug it out to the driveway, and we pried it open. The kids were so excited -- treasure!

The only thing inside that wooden crate were some wadded up San Fransisco newspapers from the 1970s. Man, were they disappointed. And so began my children's sad realization that life is not a story book or a TV show.

It had to start sometime.

Redistricting Game

With the elections over, and political news in a lull (except for Obama's appointments) and you find yourself in need a political fix, and really don't have anything else to do?

Then go here, and play the ReDistricting game.

Don't click unless you are a hopeless political geek. I warned you.

HISD: Our Job is to Collect Our Salaries, Children and Involved Parents Just Get in the Way

A few days ago, I posted about how the Houston Independent School District (HISD)Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra sought to destroy what is working in HISD, and his plans to ruin the district's magnet program.

"Either there’s a diabolical plan, or there is no plan,” says Peggy Sue Gay, a fan of HISD’s magnet schools. “I don’t know which is worse."

The above quote is in Lisa Gray's column in today's Houston Chronicle. It is a good article about HISD's betrayal of parents, Saavedra's attempts to wreck academic acheivement, his enablers in the HISD administration, and attempts by parents to stand up to the HISD monolith. Some excerpts:

An active member of T.H. Rogers’ PTO, she says the kinds of things that I’ve been hearing for years, almost as long as my own kids have gone to magnet schools. I used to dismiss those dark, moms-in-the-hallway rumors that the school district planned to sabotage its best performers. Too dumb to be believed, I thought.

Until recently.

Earlier this month, Chronicle education reporter Ericka Mellon caught wind of Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra’s ideas about cutting back bus service to magnet schools. Saavedra pitched the move as a money-saving measure, and pointed out that the district spends $16.6 million a year on buses for magnet-school kids — only about 1 percent of HISD’s budget, but a million dollars more than the district spends on the programs themselves. Cutting the buses, say magnet-school fans, would gut the popular programs, which serve a fifth of HISD students.

How can you have school choice if kids can’t get to the schools they chose?

Less than a week later, Mellon reported on another bombshell: that the district was considering moving Carnegie Vanguard High School, an HISD magnet ranked among the country’s top public schools, to the campus of Worthing High School, which the TEA ranks “unacceptable.” Carnegie students and parents erupted. Sharing a campus, they said, could wreck Carnegie’s quirky, high-achieving culture.

Officially, there’s no diabolical plan.

It’s less-affluent kids who tend to take buses, and for them, magnet-school buses often offer an escape from abysmal schools — schools that HISD seems unlikely to repair with the 1 percent of its budget that the magnet-school buses consume. If they can’t work out a ride, she noted, some of those kids would leave HISD altogether.

I asked Feinberg, who’d once run a school within a school, how he thought Carnegie would do on Worthing’s campus. College-bound students’ contact with kids who don’t share the same values — even if only on the bus, or in the cafeteria, or the gym — can be devastating, he says. Harassment wears the ambitious kids down.

But would the Carnegie kids have a good effect on the low-achieving Worthing kids? School board member Larry Marshall has said sharing the campus with Carnegie kids might be “inspirational for the Worthing High School kids.” That’s ridiculous, says Feinberg.

More on Saavedra's betrayal of Carnegie's parents and students here.

Against Protectionism

Mexico's Calderon Warns Obama Against Renegotiating Trade Deal

Mexican President Felipe Calderon warned Barack Obama against trying to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying restricting commerce would only encourage illegal Mexican emigration to the U.S.

Calderon's comments reflect unease among U.S. trading partners over the likely economic policies of President-elect Obama, who has expressed reservations about Nafta and pending agreements with Colombia and South Korea. Leaders from the Asia- Pacific region also said they are concerned protectionism would exacerbate the global economic crisis.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who signed a free- trade agreement with Colombia yesterday, has rejected Obama's plan to rework Nafta and echoed Lee and Bush today. "Building walls and closing doors is always wrong,'' Harper said. Signing the trade agreement with Colombia should send a signal to the world against protectionism, he added. Mexico's Calderon was most direct when he asked about Obama's plans to rework Nafta. "I hope that the next U.S. government won't make this mistake,'' he said.

Apec nations vow to steer clear of protectionism
Apec leaders also agreed that no country should resort to protectionist measures and that international trade must remain open.

Even More Do As I Say, Not As I Do

This is rich. Employees of a union who unionized dealing with a union that's not happy having to deal with a union.

When employees of unions organize

Hamilton Gramajo says he was working seven days a week, often from 9 a.m. to well past midnight, trying to organize the 5,300 janitors for the Service Employees International Union. It was a grueling schedule — he couldn’t even get a couple of hours off on Sunday to go to church — but when he and others complained to his union bosses, Gramajo said they were ignored.

Gramajo and his co-workers did what he recommended for the janitors: They joined a union. The SEIU’s own workers reached out to the Federation of Agents and International Representatives, or FAIR, and laid out demands for job protections, limits on working hours and actual food breaks so they didn’t have to eat in their cars between appointments.

But Gramajo said SEIU officials were none too pleased to hear about the other organizing drive going on internally at the office. He said some union organizers received tougher work assignments, others were sent to different locations while some, including Gramajo, were terminated.

The employees, through FAIR, responded with unfair labor practices complaints, alleging that the SEIU refused to communicate, failed to follow seniority rules for layoffs and recalls, and terminated Gramajo for his union-within-a-union work.
The complaint also contends the SEIU reduced its employees’ pay and refused requests to use sick leave and vacation leave. The charges are pending before a grievance arbitrator, said Norm Yen, the SEIU’s state director for Texas.

“It happens more often than you think when a union as the employer is found to violate the laws,” said Mike Muskat, an employment lawyer with Muskat, Martinez & Mahony in Houston. “It’s incredible how sympathetic” union management is to the employer’s viewpoint, Muskat recalled.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Obama's daughters to attend private school.

The Obamas looked at several private schools in Washington and made their decision based on which one provided the best fit, Obama spokeswoman Katie McCormick Lelyveld said. The girls now attend the University of Chicago Laboratory School.

Sidwell has 1,097 students from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade. The school, founded in 1883, is known both for its academic rigor and stressing service. Tuition for the lower school, which has students through fourth grade, is $28,442 annually this year, according to the school's Web site. The middle and upper school tuition is $29,442 a year.

Must be nice to not have to worry about the quality of the local public schools.

You can't really blame them, I guess, although D.C. school board members invited the Obamas to attend.

But still, it's interesting how politicians that preach about improving the public schools don't send their kids there. Even as they preach, they are not emotionally invested because, let's face it, what does it matter to them?

The Obamas missed a chance: Public schools? Yes, Obamas can
Imagine if politicians routinely sent their kids to public schools. Here’s what we’d have: miracles.
A big reason urban schools struggle is that they have almost no middle-class kids. Another reason: the blanket and wrong assumption that they’re all dangerous and horrible.

Themed Restaurant Industry to Request Bailout

The local themed-restaurant industry, led by the Jack Rabbit Slim's chain, has announced that they too are seeking a bailout from Congress.

The future of the U.S. themed-restaurant industry is on the line this week, as Congress debates whether to pass a $25 billion loan package aimed at keeping the struggling Big Nine restaurants afloat.

Democrats are pushing a measure that could force the Bush administration to tap into the $700 billion Congress approved to rescue Wall Street and offer sellers of nostalgia, salad bars, and overcooked meat a loan in return for an equity stake. President-elect Barack Obama is putting his weight behind the effort, saying that giants like the Jack Rabbit Slim's chain are too crucial to the U.S. economy to be allowed to fail.

All restaurants are in dire straits, especially Jack Rabbit Slim's, which has warned that it may run out of cash before the end of the year unless Congress steps in. CEO Durward Kirby has stated, "In tight economic times, people don't want to pay $5 for a milkshake. And sure, you can buy frozen fried mozzarella sticks and cook them at home. But our industry impacts others in the economy as well. What about all of the suppliers of the replica antique items that we use to decorate the restaurants? What about them?"

"It may not happen," acknowledged Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee. But he added, "There's no downside to trying."

"This is a national problem," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., co-chair of the Senate big eaters caucus. "We've got at least 3 million jobs dependent on this industry's surviving. This is a Main Street problem."

Democrats insist their plan would put conditions on the restaurants in return for the loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that to qualify, restaurants such as Jack Rabbit Slim's would have to commit to diversifying their workforce, to closing unprofitable sites, and to stop selling the nostalgic notion that the 1950s were a golden era of American history and acknowledge that America is a living hell and blight on the Earth, in order to "assure the long-term viability of the industry."

22 November 2008

Left Behind: The GOP's Last Days

Poll Data: GOP Fast Becoming Rump Party

If some new poll data is to be believed, the Republicans might be in for a long time in the wilderness. Let's take a look at the numbers.

The new Gallup poll shows that the Republican Party as an institution has a 61% unfavorable rating, with only 34% favorable. And the numbers have only gone downhill since the election -- in October they were at 40% favorable and 53% unfavorable.

But it actually gets worse for the GOP from there.

A separate question in the data set showed 59% of Republicans saying the party needs to be more conservative, compared to only 12% who say the party should be less conservative. So not only is the pool of Republican voters shrinking, but the ones who remain are really nuts.

We could be seeing the emergence of a pattern common in democracies, when a ruling party is turned out of power in a landslide: The folks who are left to pick up the pieces are often the most extreme elements, and are in fact the least fit to actually clean things up. The best examples of this are probably the UK Labour Party after they were beaten by Margaret Thatcher in 1979, the Conservative Party after Tony Blair finally ousted them in 1997, and over here the Democrats when they lost in 1980 and then nominated Walter Mondale in 1984.

Hmm, can anyone say Palin/Bachmann in 2012?

Blog Gender Analysis

Ha! This blog is more manly than Gateway Pundit (52% male) and Instapundit (64%)!

According to the blog GENDERANALYZER, THE WHIG has 82% chance of being written by a male. Yes, it's actually two guys.

Not as high as Jules Crittenden (95% male). But we beat military blogger Mudville Gazette (79% male).

Don't Drink The Water

Space station's new urine recycler has glitches
NASA is experiencing problems with a $250 million machine for recycling urine and other wastewater into drinking water for astronauts, the space agency said on Friday.
Glitches triggered two shutdowns during initial attempts on Thursday and Friday to begin the distillation process on pre-collected samples of urine.
This is a device in which I would not want any glitches. No, sir.

Write in the Lizard People

From IMAO, this post about the problems of judging ballots.

Challenged ballots: You be the judge

Marking ballots seem easy to you? If you are reading this blog, you are smart enough to figure out how to fill in an oval showing your choice. For others, this simple task is beyond them.

If you have wondered about mismarked ballots and why there are problems and uncertainty in counting them, click on the link above to judge for yourself and vote on whether to count mismarked ballots from the Minnesota Senate race.

Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer

Senator Hillary Clinton to be next Secretary of State.

I have stated before that the Democrats are the party of government, and this demonstrates it. Your typical Democratic politician understands that unless you have political power, your opinion counts for nothing. Winning is everything in politics. Democrats of whatever political proclivity seem capable of working together to further at least part of their agenda. Obama and Clinton differ on some issues; but all that, and personal differences to boot, can be put behind them for the ultimate goal: power.

This does solve problems for Obama, even thought the left is upset over it. He has incorporated a potential rival into his administration. I can only guess that Hillary sees the State position as more powerful. By implication, she has abandoned hopes of running in 2012 against any failures of an Obama administration.

You would have thought a secure position in the Senate would be enough, but as the junior Senator from NY, I guess that wasn't enough power. That says even more about our dysfunctional Congress. Unless you are there for 20-30 years, you don't get real power, even for a Hillary Clinton. That's one messed up system. How in touch can you be if you entered Congress in 1975 and have been there since?

Impact of Henry Waxman on Texas Business

Democrats Oust Longtime Leader of House Panel

Representative Henry A. Waxman wrested the chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee from Representative John D. Dingell on Thursday in a coup that is expected to accelerate passage of energy, climate and health legislation backed by President-elect Barack Obama.

The ouster of Mr. Dingell, of Michigan, was another blow to the reeling American auto industry, which learned Thursday that it would not get any financial assistance from Congress until it showed how it could be profitable again. Mr. Dingell, who represents a suburban Detroit district, has been the industry’s most stalwart defender in Congress, having slowed or blocked many safety and environmental standards that the auto companies argued they could not meet.

Some in the industry quaked at the ascension of Mr. Waxman, whom they consider an “irrational environmental zealot,” in the words of David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Business in Texas is worried over the implications of Waxman heading up the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

California Democrat Henry Waxman, a longtime critic of the oil industry and a fierce advocate for climate change legislation, will soon take the gavel at the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Waxman’s new role adds another worry for an oil and gas industry already confronting a severe recession, plunging crude prices and a Democratic administration committed to limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

“Houston has a problem,” said Kevin Book, an oil and energy policy analyst with FBR Capital Markets. “But it had a problem anyway.”

During his 34 years representing Los Angeles on Capitol Hill, Waxman championed the Community Right to Know law, which allows local residents to learn what chemical plants are releasing into the air.

He pushed for investigations of the oil companies. And with the start of the Iraq war, Waxman made Halliburton a household name with his relentless criticisms of the company’s multibillion-dollar contracts from the Pentagon.

Waxman is widely expected to be more aggressive than his predecessor in pursuing legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions — legislation that would affect refineries, petrochemical makers and power plants.

House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio called Waxman’s victory a “troubling sign” that Democrats will be “pulled leftward by radical special interests.”

Bathroom Fixture Industry to Request Bailout

The bathroom fixture industry, led by the Ferguson Toilet Manufacturing Company, has announced that they too are seeking a bailout from Congress.

The future of the bathroom fixture industry is on the line this week, as Congress debates whether to pass a $25 billion loan package aimed at keeping the struggling Big Eight toilet companies afloat.

Democrats are pushing a measure that could force the Bush administration to tap into the $700 billion Congress approved to rescue Wall Street and offer companies that manufacture bathroom fixtures a loan in return for an equity stake. President-elect Barack Obama is putting his weight behind the effort, saying that giants like Ferguson Toilets are too crucial to the U.S. economy to be allowed to fail.

All building supply and home improvement companies are in dire straits, especially Ferguson, which has warned that it may run out of cash before the end of the year unless Congress steps in. As a Ferguson spokesman stated, "Let me tell you the story of the Ferguson. Now these babies are made in Maine, you know, at the little Ferguson factory. It's the Stradivarius of toilets. Other toilets aren't worthy of the name. They come in designer colors, they're too low, and when you flush 'em they make this little weak, almost apologetic sound. Not a Ferguson! It only comes in white and when you flush it ... Woooosh!"

"It may not happen," acknowledged Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee. But he added, "There's no downside to trying."

"This is a national problem," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., co-chair of the Senate toilet caucus. "We've got at least 3 million jobs dependent on this industry's surviving. This is a Main Street problem."

Democrats insist their plan would put conditions on the bathroom fixture companies in return for the loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that to qualify, toilet manufacturing companies such as Ferguson would have to convert to ultra low flow water usage standards, supply the toilets in designer and pastel colors, convert to bidet production, and retain production in Maine, in order to "assure the long-term viability of the industry."

21 November 2008

Bizarre Ads

Two of these ads are for real products. One is a parody. It's hard to tell the difference.





Obama's Attorney General Nominee Eric Holder Favors Restriction of Speech on the Internet and Opposes the Right to Bear Arms

Some information about Obama's nominee for Attorney General Eric Holder:

1. He is in favor of "reasonable" restrictions on speech on the internet. (Link is to video.) I guess he gets to decide what is reasonable.
It is going to be a difficult thing, but it seems to me that if we can come up with reasonable restrictions, reasonable regulations in how people interact on the Internet, that is something that the Supreme Court and the courts ought to favorably look at.
2. He opposes the right to keep and bear arms. He joined in a brief to the Supreme Court arguing against an individual right to firearms. Click here for a copy of the brief to which he attached his name.

As Deputy Attorney General, Holder was a strong supporter of restrictive gun control.

He advocated federal licensing of handgun owners, a three day waiting period on handgun sales, rationing handgun sales to no more than one per month, banning possession of handguns and so-called "assault weapons" (cosmetically incorrect guns) by anyone under age of 21, a gun show restriction bill that would have given the federal government the power to shut down all gun shows, national gun registration, and mandatory prison sentences for trivial offenses (e.g., giving your son an heirloom handgun for Christmas, if he were two weeks shy of his 21st birthday).

After 9/11, he penned a Washington Post op-ed, "Keeping Guns Away From Terrorists" arguing that a new law should give "the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms a record of every firearm sale."

Useful Idiots Discarded

From Jammie Wearing Fool: Obama's Useful Idiots Discovering They're No Longer Useful
The election is over 16 days now and all the promises of a shiny new progressive world haven't yet materialized. It's one thing to pander to the far left, but when it comes time to actually be president, Barack Obama at least realizes stocking his cabinet with nutroots darlings isn't the way to go.
I have to admit, I've been a bit relieved at some of Obama's choices. A pretty dull and hopefully competent bunch, all told. Perhaps he realized that he needs some old hands around because of his inexperience.

The fact that I am relieved means that there are others who are disappointed. Or hopping mad.

UPDATE: More here: Hard Left’s Honeymoon with Obama Is Already Over
The harshest criticism of the president-elect is no longer coming from Republicans.

Cigarette Industry to Request Bailout

The local tobacco industry, led by Morley cigarettes, has announced that they too are seeking a bailout from Congress.

The future of the tobacco industry is on the line this week, as Congress debates whether to pass a $25 billion loan package aimed at keeping the struggling Big Seven tobacco companies afloat.

Democrats are pushing a measure that could force the Bush administration to tap into the $700 billion Congress approved to rescue Wall Street and offer companies that manufacture tobacco products a loan in return for an equity stake. President-elect Barack Obama is putting his weight behind the effort, saying that giants like Morley cigarettes are too crucial to the U.S. economy to be allowed to fail.

All tobacco companies are in dire straits, especially Morley, which has warned that it may run out of cash before the end of the year unless Congress steps in. A Morley spokesman stated, "We have high hopes now that we have a customer in the White House. Still, events like Quit Smoking Day and the ban on advertising on children's television programs don't help."

"It may not happen," acknowledged Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee. But he added, "There's no downside to trying."

"This is a national problem," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., co-chair of the Senate cigarette caucus. "We've got at least 3 million jobs dependent on this industry's surviving. This is a Main Street problem."

Democrats insist their plan would put conditions on the tobacco companies in return for the loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that to qualify, cigarette manufacturers such as Morley would have to use organic tobacco, rethink industry consolidation, and donate a lot of money to Democratic politicians, in order to "assure the long-term viability of the industry."

20 November 2008

Trends Working Against GOP

I'd like to direct your attention to this column: Religious conservatives dragging down the GOP

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh.

Anyone watching the two conventions last summer can't have missed the stark differences: One party was brimming with energy, youth and diversity; the other felt like an annual Depends sales meeting.

But, like it or not, we are a diverse nation, no longer predominantly white and Christian. The change Barack Obama promised has already occurred, which is why he won.

Among Jewish voters, 78 percent went for Obama. Sixty-six percent of under-30 voters did likewise. Forty-five percent of voters ages 18-29 are Democrats compared to just 26 percent Republican; in 2000, party affiliation was split almost evenly.

The young will get older, of course. Most eventually will marry, and some will become their parents. But nonwhites won't get whiter. And the nonreligious won't get religion through external conversion. It doesn't work that way.

Given those facts, the future of the GOP looks dim and dimmer if it stays the present course. Either the Republican Party needs a new base — or the nation may need a new party.

I have read several opinions like that recently. I couldn't agree more. I only hope that the Modern Whigs can capitalize on this political shift.

Texas Board of Education to Vote on Science Curriculum in January

Board of Education challenged over evolution
Scientists, teachers implore panel not to water down science curriculum
Texas risks becoming a national joke if state educators insist on clouding the teaching of evolution, scores of scientists, science teachers and concerned residents Texans told the State Board of Education on Wednesday.
They pleaded with the 15-member board not to confuse public schoolchildren with a watered-down teaching of evolution by requiring teachers to teach the weaknesses or limitations of evolution.
The board is expected to take a preliminary vote in January on new science curriculum standards that will dictate new science books for the state's 4.5 million students.

Boo for Houston Mayor Bill White

I go and say something nice about Houston Mayor Bill White yesterday, and what does it get me? A renewed committment for red-light cameras.

Houston: Pay red-light fines or lose car registration

Hammerlein said a primary concern is customer service. If 100,000 people a year fail to pay red-light tickets, he said, that would mean 100,000 people could end up waiting in long lines at county offices to get new registrations, only to be turned away.

Several council members brought up similar concerns at Wednesday's meeting, including numerous questions about how effectively the ordinance could be implemented and whether it would add a burden to vehicle registration for those who may not be aware they were ticketed.

Sullivan said he was skeptical of the ordinance for a number of reasons: What if a couple goes through a divorce and the notice of a ticket goes to the wrong address? What if someone gives away a vehicle as a gift? He also cast doubt on whether the process would be fluid, given that it involves the city; a private contractor that administers the cameras; the county, which handles vehicle registration renewals; and the state, which would apply the holds.

"It's not fair, it's not reasonable, and in this time of electronic technologies, we'd like to think communication is seamless and we'd be able to clear that up. But I can assure you, based on past experiences with simpler problems, that it's going to be a burden on people," Sullivan said. "We need to make government more user-friendly, not more difficult."

The city began installing red-light cameras in September 2006. Seventy cameras now are positioned at 50 intersections and bring in more than $600,000 a month from citations and fees. The city and state split the revenue, and city officials estimate there is at least $7 million in uncollected revenue from the tickets.

When they were installed, all the talk was about safety. Now the talk is about enhancing revenue. Of course that is what red light cameras are about.

We are but sheep to be fleeced, it appears.

Chinese Food Product Importers to Request Bailout

The local Chinese food importers, led by Blue Sun Corporation, have announced that they too are seeking a bailout from Congress.

The future of food imports from China is on the line this week, as Congress debates whether to pass a $25 billion loan package aimed at keeping the struggling Big Six food importers afloat.

Democrats are pushing a measure that could force the Bush administration to tap into the $700 billion Congress approved to rescue Wall Street and offer companies that import food products from China a loan in return for an equity stake. President-elect Barack Obama is putting his weight behind the effort, saying that giants like Blue Sun Corporation are too crucial to the U.S. economy to be allowed to fail.

All Chinese food product importers are in dire straits, especially Blue Sun, which has warned that it may run out of cash before the end of the year unless Congress steps in. A Blue Sun Corporate spokesman stated, "The concerns over melamine in Chinese dairy products are overstated, and have needlessly damaged our industry. A little plastic in your food probably won't kill you. Unless you are an infant. Or other small mammal."

"It may not happen," acknowledged Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee. But he added, "There's no downside to trying."

"This is a national problem," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., co-chair of the Senate Chinese food caucus. "We've got at least 3 million jobs dependent on this industry's surviving. This is a Main Street problem."

Democrats insist their plan would put conditions on the food product importers in return for the loans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that to qualify, foreign food importers such as Blue Sun would have to improve the conditions for their Chinese workforce, rethink executive perks, and reduce the amount of the G-23 paxilon hydrochlorate additive, in order to "assure the long-term viability of the industry."

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco deactivated

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco, who wears number 85, will be deactivated for tonight's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers for violating a team rule, the Bengals have announced today.

Story here.

I read elsewhere that Chad has been deactivated because he overslept and missed a team meeting. The Bengals apparently have strict guidelines for such things and its nice to see that even for professional athletes, there are occasionally consequences.


You would think that Mr. Ocho Cinco would have had more brains than that.

Judge Orders Five Detainees Freed From Guantanamo

In the first hearing on the government’s evidence for holding detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, a federal judge has ruled on that five prisoners were being held unlawfully and ordered their release.

Story here.

Thats nice. Lets take them to the judge's house.

Antiwar groups fear Barack Obama may create hawkish Cabinet

Activists note that most of the candidates for top security posts voted for the 2002 resolution authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq or otherwise supported launching the war.

Antiwar groups and other liberal activists are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama's national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues. The activists are uneasy not only about signs that both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates could be in the Obama Cabinet, but at reports suggesting that several other short-list candidates for top security posts backed the decision to go to war.

"Obama ran his campaign around the idea the war was not legitimate, but it sends a very different message when you bring in people who supported the war from the beginning," said Kelly Dougherty, executive director of the 54-chapter Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The activists -- key members of the coalition that propelled Obama to the White House -- fear he is drifting from the antiwar moorings of his once-longshot presidential candidacy. Obama has eased the rigid timetable he had set for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and he appears to be leaning toward the center in his candidates to fill key national security posts.The president-elect has told some Democrats that he expects to take heat from parts of his political base but will not be deterred by it.

Aside from Clinton and Gates, the roster of possible Cabinet secretaries has included Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), who both voted in 2002 for the resolution authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq, though Lugar has since said he regretted it.

"It's astonishing that not one of the 23 senators or 133 House members who voted against the war is in the mix," said Sam Husseini of the liberal group Institute for Public Accuracy.

Story here.

So, Obama isn't doing what he said he would do, and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry aren't screaming-crazy-liberal enough for you. This is better than Fight Club.

Pirates Demand $25 Million

The pirates who hijacked a Saudi supertanker have demanded a $25m ransom to be paid within 10 days.

They have warned of "disastrous" consequences unless the money is paid, according to the news agency, AFP.

Mohamed Said, who claimed to be one of the pirates who seized the Sirius Star, told the agency: "We are demanding $25m [£17m] from the Saudi owners of the tanker. "The Saudis have 10 days to comply, otherwise we will take action that could be disastrous."

Story here.

Isn't piracy, "action that could be disastrous" all by itself?

I understand the problems with Somalia and that piracy is the only way these people can get any money. I feel for them. I do. But, that doesn't make piracy okay. That doesn't make me think we shouldn't be shooting them. Somalis have gotten away with it so far because no innocent people have been killed, and the ransoms have been rolled into the cost of doing business. However, with the global economy in it's current state, I don't see that continuing.

The US Navy, Like India's, should be using pirate ships and small boats for live-ammo practice for the real deal. Otherwise, why be there at all? Piracy will continue until the risk involved outweighs the potential gain.

You say, "But Somalia doesn't have a functioning government. There is no infrastructure to take care of these people." I get that. But 250 years ago, we didn't either.

Its time to start bolting large guns to the sides of tankers.

Nation Zigs, House GOP Zags

House Republicans move to the right.

The GOP's problem? It's not right-wing enough
The House Republicans' newly elected leaders hail from the most ideologically conservative bloc in their ranks.

To most observers, the elections two weeks ago sent a pretty clear signal: The nation was sick of George W. Bush, sick of his party, sick of conservatism as a governing philosophy. Don't tell that to House Republicans, though.
On Capitol Hill Wednesday, the House GOP (its ranks reduced by at least 20 seats for the second campaign cycle in a row, and possibly more depending on the outcome of some disputed races) elected a slate of leaders drawn from the most ideologically conservative bloc in their ranks, the Republican Study Committee.

More here: House Republicans elect tough conservatives to leadership posts