libera voce/libera mente

"free voice, free mind"

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

'Caddish'

"Earth: The Climate Wars", broadcast on BBC 2, was billed as a definitive guide to the history of global warming, including arguments for and against. During the series Lord Monckton, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, was interviewed. He claims:
"The BBC very gravely misrepresented me and several others, as well as the science behind our argument. I was interviewed for 90 minutes and all my views were backed up by sound scientific data, but this was all omitted. They made it sound as if these were just my personal views, as if I was some potty peer. It was caddish of them."
Lord Monckton says scientific data show the world is cooler today than in the Middle Ages. He said:
"We do not dispute that there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but we do dispute its effects. The data shows that 2008 is the same temperature as 1980 and that the effects of these changes in the atmosphere are not negative but more likely to be beneficial."
From "BBC investigated after peer says climate change programme was biased 'one-sided polemic'" by Tamara Cohen on 27th September 2008.

'The Greatest Trade Ever'

"My models suggest that Fannie and Freddie . . are a gold mine. For $2 billion in cash up front and some $200 billion in loan guarantees so far, the U.S. government now controls $5.4 trillion in mortgages and mortgage guarantees . . I am figuring Mr. Paulson could wind up buying more than $2 trillion in notional value loans and home equity and CDOs for his $700 billion. My calculations, which assume 50% impairment on subprime loans, suggest it is possible, all in, for this portfolio to generate between $1 trillion and $2.2 trillion -- the greatest trade ever."
From "The Paulson Plan Will Make Money For Taxpayers" By ANDY KESSLER September 25, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Brothers-in-Arms

An outspoken Catholic priest has scrapped plans to build a religious society of priests dedicated solely to fighting abortion, just two years after its founding.

The Rev. Frank Pavone said the religious community he founded in 2006, the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life, was diverting attention and resources from his primary goal: ending abortion.

Nine seminarians were studying to join the society, based in Amarillo, Tex., Pavone said, but he was its only member. The goal was to ordain and train an army of priests free from diocesan duties and dedicated to fighting abortion across the country. The nine will return to their home dioceses.

Priests for Life, founded by Pavone in 1991 and one of the largest anti-abortion groups in the United States, will continue as a "private association of the faithful." Pavone's strident style of anti-abortion activism has at times vexed the Catholic hierarchy. In 2001, Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, where Pavone was living, forced him to step down as head of Priests for Life and accept a parish position. Egan eventually allowed Pavone to transfer to Amarillo.

From RELIGION BRIEFING Saturday, September 27, 2008 "FIGHTING ABORTION: Priest Scraps Plans to Form Dedicated Society".

'Unexpectedly Impregnated'

"I do believe in age-appropriate sex education and that teenagers should be informed about the proper use of birth control. And that a girl who finds herself unexpectedly impregnated by an unemployed high school dropout ought to have some choice other than becoming a shotgun bride."
Colbert I. King "Hanging With the Palins? Not for Me." September 27, 2008.

On the hypothetical "unemployed high school dropout" scare: How does it alter the moral and spiritual question? If it were the high school quarterback with an important future position in his father's business would killing the unborn, with all the horrible consequences (emotionally, physically, morally, spiritually) for the mother, become somehow less acceptable? When was the last "shotgun bride" on record? Or is this just more irresponsible sensationalizing?

How "unexpectedly"? As if the results of sexual activity are some big surprise to a "girl". As if she plays no role in choosing her sexual partners or in engaging in sexual activity with them. Her "choice" occurred at point of abstaining, or at point of "birth control". She does not have the "choice" now to murder the unborn.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No Bailout

Now that the remaining investment houses have been converted to banks, is this bailout still necessary?

Why not . .
  • Eliminate the pointless $100,000 cap on federal deposit insurance and go take inventory?
    • If a bank is solvent, money market funds would flow in, eliminating the need to insure those separately.
    • If it isn't, the FDIC has the bridge bank facility to take care of that.
  • Put half a trillion dollars into the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. fund
    • and as much money into that agency and the FBI as is needed for examiners, auditors and investigators.
  • Keep $200 billion or more in reserve, so the Treasury can recapitalize banks by buying preferred shares if necessary -- as Warren Buffett did this week with Goldman Sachs.
  • Review the situation in three months, when Congress comes back.
What to do about the housing crisis and restricted governmental spending?
  • Create a new Home Owners Loan Corp., which would rewrite mortgages, manage rental conversions and decide when vacant, degraded properties should be demolished. Set it up like a draft board in each community, under federal guidelines.
  • Reenact Richard Nixon's great idea: federal revenue sharing. States and localities should get the funds to plug their revenue gaps and maintain real public spending, per capita, for the next three to five years.
  • Enact the National Infrastructure Bank, making bond revenue available in a revolving fund for capital improvements.
From "A Bailout We Don't Need" September 25, 2008 by James K. Galbraith, author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

'Up and Down'

"Do speculators cause the price of oil to go up? No. Do they cause the price to go down? No. Do they cause it to go up and down? The answer is yes."
Michael Mussa, senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

'Advocacy Organization'

“Whatever The New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization . . that has made a decision to cast aside its journalistic integrity and tradition, to advocate for the defeat of one candidate — in this case, John McCain — and to advocate for the election of the other candidate, Barack Obama.”
Steve Schmidt, a McCain campaign senior adviser

From "McCain aide: NYT not legit news source" by MIKE ALLEN | 9/22/08 12:25 PM in Politico.com

The Trillions, The Trillions

$1.3 trillion--total value of the "sub-prime" mortgages
$2.5 trillion--total value of investments through U.S. hedge funds
$2.7 trillion--U.S. Federal government expenditure (2007)
$3.5 trillion--total value of U.S. money market funds
$11.4 trillion--total U.S. household debt, including mortgage loan and consumer debt, (2005)
$11.5 trillion--the combined assets of U.S. mutual funds
$17 trillion--market value of U.S. publicly-traded shares (2005)
$19.8 trillion--total U.S. household real estate assets (2006)
$43.6 trillion--the global market capitalization for all stock markets (2006)
$50 trillion--total U.S. financial assets
$62.5 trillion--total U.S. household assets, including real estate, equipment, and financial instruments such as mutual funds (2005)
$140 trillion--the world's total financial assets

A PEBBLE IN OUR SHOE


Largest shape represents total world financial assets, next largest shape total U.S. financial assets. Small black shape represents relative size of total securitized sub-prime mortgage assets held by financial institutions.

Monday, September 22, 2008

'Beyond Recognition'


"Cutting benefits in half, risking Social Security on the stock market. The Bush-McCain privatization plan. Can you really afford more of the same?"
The Obama campaign stretches the truth beyond recognition when it says that this would cut benefits in half. As FactCheck.org notes, "this is a rank misrepresentation."
  • No one at or near retirement age would have been affected.
  • The Bush plan would have limited benefits for some workers to growing at the rate of inflation rather than at the generally faster pace of wages.
  • Under progressive price indexing, the average-earning worker would see a 28 percent cut in promised benefits--in 2075.
  • Today's average-earning 25-year-old would experience much smaller reductions in promised benefits upon reaching retirement age -- more like 16 percent.
Taken from "Closing the Whopper Gap" by Ruth Marcus Monday, September 22, 2008 in The Washington Post.

'Manageable'


". . the crisis began with losses in the $1.3 trillion market for 'subprime' mortgages, many of which were 'securitized' -- bundled into bonds and sold to investors. With all U.S. stocks and bonds worth about $50 trillion in 2007, the losses should have been manageable. They weren't, because no one knew how large losses might become or which institutions held the suspect subprime securities. Moreover, many financial institutions were thinly capitalized. They depended on borrowed funds; losses could wipe out their modest capital."

From "The Confidence Game" by Robert J. Samuelson, appearing in The Washington Post September 22, 2008.

'Effete'

Men with egalitarian attitudes about the role of women in society earn significantly less on average than men who hold more traditional views about women's place in the world, according to a study being reported today. The study, published in the September issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, is based on information collected by a federal government survey over a quarter-century.
  • Men with traditional attitudes about gender roles earned $11,930 more a year than men with egalitarian views and $14,404 more than women with traditional attitudes.

  • The comparisons were based on men and women working in the same kinds of jobs with the same levels of education and putting in the same number of hours per week.

  • People who endorsed distinct roles in society for men and women were considered to have traditional views, while those who advocated equal roles for men and women at home and in the workplace were classified as having egalitarian views.
Livingston and Judge . . are organizational psychologists at the University of Florida. Judge conjectured:
"It could be that traditional men are hypercompetitive salary negotiators -- the Donald Trump prototype, perhaps. It could be on the employer side that, subconsciously, the men who are egalitarian are seen as effete."
From "Study Ties Wage Disparities To Outlook on Gender Roles" by Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post Staff Writer, published Monday, September 22, 2008.

Monday, September 15, 2008

'Superwoman'

"Even with a supportive husband, I doubt seriously that Palin has time to be a hockey mom unless she is making a personal appearance on a campaign trail.

And while 7-year-old Piper Palin gave the world a fuzzy moment on stage at the convention when she licked her hand and smoothed her baby brother's hair, and when Bristol, 17 and pregnant, held Trig against her chest while her mother shook the hands of adoring fans, I couldn't help but wonder what it's really like for these kids.

After all, there's no such thing as a superwoman, and children of driven moms make their own sacrifices."

From "Palin should be laughingstock to all feminists: Instead, this fast talker is a star -- and that scares me" by Mary Mitchell on September 14, 2008 in the Chicago Sun-Times.

'Airborne'

"Before Palin, Obama was the ultimate celebrity candidate. For no presidential nominee in living memory had the gap between adulation and achievement been so great . . . Obama's meteoric rise was based not on issues . . . but on narrative, on eloquence, on charisma.

The unease at the Denver convention, the feeling of buyer's remorse, was the Democrats' realization that the arc of Obama's celebrity had peaked -- and had now entered a period of its steepest decline . . . It was inevitable. Obama had managed to stay aloft for four full years. But no one can levitate forever.

Five speeches map Obama's trajectory:
  1. . . his brilliant and moving 2004 Democratic convention speech. It turned an obscure state senator into a national figure and legitimate presidential candidate.

  2. . . his Iowa caucus victory when he gave an equally stirring speech of the highest tones that dazzled a national audience just tuning in.

  3. . . the night of the last primary . . To top himself, Obama had to reach. Hence his triumphal declaration that history would note that night, his victory, his ascension, as "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

  4. . . Not yet seeing how the pseudo-messianism was wearing thin, he did Berlin and finally jumped the shark. That grandiloquent proclamation of universalist puffery popped the bubble. The grandiosity had become bizarre.

  5. . . (his) Denver acceptance speech was deliberately pedestrian, State-of-the-Union-ish, programmatic and only briefly (that lovely coda recalling the March on Washington) lyrical.

The problem is that Obama began believing in his own magical powers -- the chants, the swoons, the "we are the ones" self-infatuation. Like Ronald Reagan, he was leading a movement, but one entirely driven by personality. Reagan's revolution was rooted in concrete political ideas (supply-side economics, welfare-state deregulation, national strength) that transcended one man. For Obama's movement, the man is the transcendence.

One star fades, another is born. The very next morning McCain picks Sarah Palin and a new celebrity is launched . . . But her job is easier. She only has to remain airborne for seven more weeks. Obama maintained altitude for an astonishing four years."

From "Obama's Altitude Sickness" by Charles Krauthammer published Friday, September 12, 2008 in The Washington Post.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Better Man

"Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America. Let’s get that straight. She’s a truly close personal friend, she is qualified to be president of the United States of America, she’s easily qualified to be vice president of the United States of America, and quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me."
Joe Biden, Democratic vice-presidential nominee at a rally in Nashua, N.H.
"Barack Obama’s most important decision of this election, and Biden -- the candidate he selects -- suggests, himself, that he wasn’t the right man for the job, and that Hillary Clinton would have been a better choice. Biden certainly has a credible viewpoint on this."
Ben Porritt, spokesman for John McCain.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Let the Lady Speak


"Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue. The state in my view has no authority whatever to intervene in the biological processes of any woman's body, which nature has implanted there before birth and hence before that woman's entrance into society and citizenship.

On the other hand, I support the death penalty for atrocious crimes (such as rape-murder or the murder of children). I have never understood the standard Democratic combo of support for abortion and yet opposition to the death penalty. Surely it is the guilty rather than the innocent who deserve execution?"

Camille Paglia
"Fresh blood for the vampire"
Salon.com
September 10, 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

Only Way to Win

A nightmare contemplation, and horror-show reality for Mr. Obama these days is that to win this election he must throw his new running mate, Joseph Biden, under the bus and replace him with: Hillary Clinton. To do this he must pull a Nixon, hauling out into the open some unseemly thing about Biden's past (or even family), then yield to the Clintonites of his own party and pull a switcheroo.