Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cardinal George Explains

Francis Cardinal George lays it out:
Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago. I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval. Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city? Is the City Council going to set up a “Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities” and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it? I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, “un-Chicagoan.”
I'll cop to it that I've been belaboring the point about Chicago politicians in recent days, but I haven't seen it better expressed than what I've posted here. There's more, of course:
People who are not Christian or religious at all take for granted that marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the sake of family and, of its nature, for life. The laws of civilizations much older than ours assume this understanding of marriage. This is also what religious leaders of almost all faiths have taught throughout the ages. Jesus affirmed this understanding of marriage when he spoke of “two becoming one flesh” (Mt. 19: 4-6). Was Jesus a bigot? Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan? Would Jesus be more “enlightened” if he had the privilege of living in our society? One is welcome to believe that, of course; but it should not become the official state religion, at least not in a land that still fancies itself free. 
Every era has its Pharisees. The key is recognizing who they are.


If you want to know why we're spending so much time talking about gay marriage, it's because the Obama administration and campaign, which has always been a distinction without a difference, would prefer you not consider things like this:

When President Obama first announced HAMP in February 2009, he promised it would help more than 4 million families "who've played by the rules and acted responsibly" to modify their mortgages and avoid foreclosure.

"Banks and lenders must be held accountable for ending the practices that got us into this crisis in the first place," Obama said. "But if we move forward with purpose and resolve," he continued, "I am absolutely confident we will overcome this crisis."

Unfortunately, Obama and his cohorts at Treasury never really considered how long it would take to develop new guidelines ensuring that only those who "played by the rules and acted responsibly" got loan modifications. As former Freddie Mac economist Arnold Kling noted at the time, the government-sponsored mortgage entities had spent years developing thousand-page notebooks for selling and servicing mortgages. Creating a new mortgage modification program from scratch would be like ripping out hundreds of pages from both guides, rewriting them, shuffling them, throwing them in the air, and then telling the banks to pick them up. Instead, Treasury just let banks implement the program using the same practices that caused the crisis in the first place. Where mortgage servicers had issued no-doc mortgages before the crash, Treasury allowed them to issue no-doc mortgage modifications after the crash.

And the entirely predictable result?

And, surprise! The program was a complete failure. Of the 1.3 million mortgages modified by HAMP through June 2010, only 43 percent were converted to permanent modifications. Treasury did start requiring verified income documentation after that date, but the final numbers are not impressive either. As of June 2012, only 1 million mortgages had been permanently modified, far less than the 4 million Obama had promised.

Worse, as Barofsky's book notes, Treasury's failure to help more families was a feature, not a bug, of the HAMP program. "HAMP would 'foam the runway' by stretching out foreclosures, giving the banks more time to absorb losses while the other parts of the bailouts juiced bank profits," Barofsky writes. "Helping banks, not home owners, did in fact seem to be Treasury's biggest concern."
All this leads to the epiphany:

Barofsky's book was not the first clue out of the Treasury Department that HAMP was designed to help banks, not homeowners. Geithner admitted as much to a gathering of friendly financial bloggers back in August 2010, prompting Media Matters Senior Fellow Duncan Black to write, "[I]f you do liberalism badly then people get it in their heads that maybe liberalism is pretty sucky. The economy sucks and HAMP was a complete failure, whether deliberately or not, and that's what people know."

The headline of Black's post: "When Liberalism Doesn't Work It Discredits Liberalism."

If I were a Democrat, I'd be talking about sex, too. Better to talk about the screwing you're wanting rather than the screwing you're getting. Yet the Duncan Blacks of the world still love Obama anyway, no matter how unrequited the love is.

Go figure

Ain't love grand:

A deputy press secretary for Barack Obama's reelection campaign married an ABC reporter over the weekend. The ABC reporter, Matthew Jaffe, "covering the 2012 presidential campaign," according to his biography on the website of ABC News. "For the past year he traveled around the country covering the Republican primary, from the Iowa Straw Poll to the various debates to this year's primaries and caucuses."

The deputy press secretary Jaffe married is Katie Hogan. Many members of Obama's reelection team and the press celebrated the wedding together Saturday. 
The president's reelection team and the press celebrate a lot of things together, of course. But there's this:
Jaffe and Hogan appear to have registered for wedding gifts at Bloomingdales and Crate & Barrel. A search of BarackObama.com reveals that the newlyweds have not registered with the Obama campaign, which would have allowed well-wishers to send cash donations to the campaign instead of getting wedding gifts.
Pretty selfish, if you ask me. Then again, Jaffe and the press tend to give a lot of gifts in-kind to the president, so perhaps the cash isn't strictly necessary.

Monday, July 30, 2012

This is CNN

Fun with bumper music:

But remember, it's the Republicans engaging in the War on Women.

Home Truth

Ross Douthat, writing in the New York Times, gets to the nub of the matter:

It may seem strange that anyone could look around the pornography-saturated, fertility-challenged, family-breakdown-plagued West and see a society menaced by a repressive puritanism. But it’s clear that this perspective is widely and sincerely held.

It would be refreshing, though, if it were expressed honestly, without the “of course we respect religious freedom” facade.

If you want to fine Catholic hospitals for following Catholic teaching, or prevent Jewish parents from circumcising their sons, or ban Chick-fil-A in Boston, then don’t tell religious people that you respect our freedoms. Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that’s good and decent, and that you’re going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will.

There, didn’t that feel better? Now we can get on with the fight.

Do you feel better?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Public Relations

It might be coincidental:
The public relations head of fast-food chain Chick-fil-A died suddenly early Friday, according to media reports. Donald Perry, the fast food chain's vice president of corporate public relations, reportedly died of a heart attack Friday morning.
It could have been the stress of the last week. He might have eaten too many chicken sammiches, too. Can't rule that out. What's more interesting is the reaction. A random sampling of enlightened commentary on the issue:

Am I the only one that thinks the irony of this is hilarious??!


Maybe Dan Cathy will go next? :)

Is their god trying to send a message?

Thank you God for taking that biggot from this world before his words can hurt any of your other children.

This is too funny. Satan has called his boy home.

The last thing all those retired tea-baggers need to do is hoveround their fat asses into a chick-fil-a to support republican Jesus by adding another tire of fat around their midsection. Nothing says “I support family values” like needing six line-backers to carry your coffin.

Feel the love.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Chicago Values in Action

Here's how they roll:

 A federal grand jury has formally indicted a former Chicago alderman and a former Cook County commissioner for alleged corruption.

Thursday's 10-count indictment accuses the former alderman, Ambrosio Medrano, and the one-time commissioner, Joseph Moreno, of trying to accept kickbacks in schemes that included selling bandages to public hospitals.
By the way, this isn't the same Joe Moreno who is battling Chick-fil-A. There's an inexhaustible supply of corrupt politicians in Cook County, Illinois.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Playing Chicken

You can believe what you want, but only on certain issues, apparently. That's the lesson we learn from Chicago Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno, who feels the need to save his ward from the pernicious effects of bad thoughts chicken:

A Chicago alderman wants to kill Chick-fil-A's plans to build a restaurant in his increasingly trendy Northwest Side ward because the fast-food chain's top executive vocally opposes gay marriage.

Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno announced this week that he will block Chick-fil-A's effort to build its second Chicago store, which would be in the Logan Square neighborhood, following company President Dan Cathy's remarks last week that he was "guilty as charged" for supporting the biblical definition of marriage as between a man and woman.

"If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don't want you in the 1st Ward," Moreno told the Tribune on Tuesday.

Moreno stated his position in strong terms, referring to Cathy's "bigoted, homophobic comments" in a proposed opinion page piece that an aide also sent to Tribune reporters. "Because of this man's ignorance, I will now be denying Chick-fil-A's permit to open a restaurant in the 1st Ward."
We've been talking a lot about Chicago politics here lately and what Moreno is doing here is a classic example of the arcane way things work in Chicago. An alderman, should he choose to do so, can act as a bit of a divine right monarch. Not surprisingly, they all do. And City Hall usually lets them get by with it, so long as they toe the line on the things that really matter to City Hall at the time:
Moreno is relying on a rarely violated Chicago tradition known as aldermanic privilege, which dictates that City Council members defer to the opinion of the ward alderman on local issues. Last year Moreno wielded that weapon to block plans for a Wal-Mart in his ward, saying he had issues with the property owner and that Wal-Mart was not "a perfect fit for the area."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel backs up Moreno:
"Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values," the mayor said in a statement when asked about Moreno's decision. "They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty."
How so? Well, let's look at what Dan Cathy actually said:

“We don’t claim to be a Christian business,” Cathy told the Biblical Recorder in a recent visit to North Carolina. He attended a business leadership conference many years ago where he heard Christian businessman Fred Roach say, “There is no such thing as a Christian business.”

“That got my attention,” Cathy said. Roach went on to say, “Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me.”

“In that spirit … [Christianity] is about a personal relationship. Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are,” Cathy added. “But as an organization we can operate on biblical principles. So that is what we claim to be. [We are] based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us.”

The company invests in Christian growth and ministry through its WinShape Foundation (WinShape.com). The name comes from the idea of shaping people to be winners. It began as a college scholarship and expanded to a foster care program, an international ministry, and a conference and retreat center modeled after the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove.

“That morphed into a marriage program in conjunction with national marriage ministries,” Cathy added.

Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. …

“We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized. “We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

Except in Chicago, apparently.

There is no shortage of chicken purveyors in the Chicago area, of course. Sometimes you get more than chicken, too, but we'll leave that aside. The larger issue here isn't even the institutional corruption of Chicago politics, although that plays a role. Here's the question you need to ask yourself -- look again at what Cathy says and compare it to what Moreno is alleging. Is it clear to you that Chick-fil-A is actually discriminating against gays? I would wager that any gay person could walk into a Chick-fil-A anywhere in the country and get served with a smile. Chick-fil-A isn't really about doing anything other than serving chicken sandwiches. The politics here are all from Moreno and Emanuel, not from Cathy. Not surprising, since that's what they do. But let's be honest about it. The larger issue is that Ald. Moreno is essentially denying Chick-fil-A an opportunity to operate because they haven't got their mind right on a particular issue. Elizabeth "Anchoress" Scalia sums up the matter well:

This is not about being “right” or “wrong” on an issue. This is about menacing and bullying people into conforming or paying the price. It’s about the bastardization of the word “tolerace” in our society, to the point where the word no longer means “live and let live” or “let people be who they are”; the word has become distorted in a very unhealthy way. Someone’s a bigot? Let him be a bigot; like it or not, a man is entitled to his damn bigotry. Someone’s a curmudgeon? Let him be a curmudgeon. Someone’s a misogynist (or, conversely, a male-hater?) let them be! People are entitled to be who they are — just as a church is entitled to be what it is — free of government compulsion to be what they are not. We cannot “make” people be more loving. We cannot “legislate” kindness. A bigot, or a hater (of any sort) will eventually find himself standing alone, will have to figure things out for himself. Or, not.

If people are no longer entitled to their own opinions, or to think what they think, then we are not free people, at all. Period. Full stop. That’s a fundamental as it gets.

Now I wouldn't expect Chick-fil-A to back down on their values. They have given up a lot of business over the years by closing their restaurants on Sundays. And given the screwed up value system that Chicago has, I'm guessing that Cathy would wear the claim of Rahm Emanuel that his company doesn't have "Chicago values" as a badge of honor. It's the difference between chicken and something else.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Burning clean

A tidbit, courtesy of Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

Thus, we learn from Wynton Hall at Big Peace that the United States Air Force spent $639,000 on 11,000 gallons of alcohol-to-jet fuel from Gevo Inc., a Colorado biofuels company, at $59 a gallon. The cost of petroleum is presently $3.60 a gallon, and one imagines that the government can use its purchasing power to get a considerably lower price than that.

So why pay $59 per gallon? It turns out that one of the venture capital funders behind Gevo Inc. is Vinod Khosla. Since 1996, opensecrets.org reports that Mr. Khosla has made $474,534 in campaign donations, 86 percent of which went to Democrats. As of this March, when Gevo filed with the SEC, Khosla’s firm owned a 27 percent stake in the company.

Just to put things in perspective, according to their latest ad (PDF) our friends down the street at St. Anthony Village Wine and Spirits are selling Jim Beam bourbon at $24.99 for a 1.75-liter bottle. Two bottles of Jim Beam would net out cheaper than that jet fuel. I think St. Anthony Village Wine and Spirits is missing a bet here.

Just ask him

So do you think the economy isn't doing well? Apparently you're wrong:

Discussing his economic policies at a fundraiser in Oakland, California, last night, President Obama told supporters that “we tried our plan — and it worked.”

“We tried that and it didn’t work,” Obama said of Mitt Romney’s proposed tax cuts and spending cuts, which he dismissed as a Bush-style “top down” economic policy.  “Just like we’ve tried their plan, we tried our plan — and it worked,” he added later in the speech.  “That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election.  That’s why I’m running for a second term.”
It worked. Well, there you go.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The world beyond Aurora, CO Part II

Meanwhile, in Chicago, the triumph of strict gun control laws continues apace:
Three men are dead and at least 28 other people wounded from gun violence across the city since Friday night.
Those guns just won't leave people alone. And the fun happens all over town:
The weekend’s first fatal shooting happened in the 400 block of North Austin Boulevard, after a man intervened in a domestic argument between the suspect and a woman, police said. The suspect left to get a handgun, then returned about 12:50 a.m. on Saturday and opened fire, striking the man and two other people.
That's the west side of Chicago -- Austin Boulevard is the border between Chicago and Oak Park, where I lived 20 years ago. There's more:
Another man died after he was shot in the abdomen in the 4200 block of North Milwaukee Avenue at 1:46 a.m, police said. Pablo Hernandez, 41, of the 3500 block of South 60th Court in Cicero, was pronounced dead at Masonic at 3:37 a.m., according to medical examiner’s office.
That's the Northwest side and a generally quiet area. But there's more:
About 6 a.m. on Saturday, Gerry Woods, 37, was shot at his home in the 4500 block of South Wood Street after he had apparently been in a fight with another man, authorities said. The other man returned to the scene with a semi-automatic handgun and fired several shots at Woods, authorities said, adding that the shooting may have been gang-related.
That's the South side, in the quiet neighborhood known as Back of the Yards, which borders the Bridgeport redoubt where the Daley clan lives.

The thing that strikes you is this:  Milwaukee Avenue and Austin Boulevard are major thoroughfares. It's been 20 years since I lived in the Chicago area, but these are areas that weren't especially known for violence back then. When I left, the Austin neighborhood was getting back on its feet a little bit. Things change.

The world beyond Aurora, CO

Before it slides down the memory hole, we really ought to talk about this story, which didn't make the 10 p.m. news that I watched last night:
At least 14 people were killed when a pickup truck crammed with 23 passengers slammed into two trees in rural South Texas Sunday night.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the victims, who included two children, were from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. An ICE spokesman added that they were "alleged as being in the country illegally."
That's a higher death toll than what we saw in the mass murder in Colorado. And yet the story mostly gets crickets. There's more:

Migrants often pay thousands of dollars to be smuggled into the U.S.

Eleven passengers, including two girls, died upon impact in the Goliad accident; another three died at the hospital, officials said.

Earlier this year, a sport-utility vehicle carrying 10 immigrants crashed as it fled the U.S. Border Patrol near Casa Grande, Ariz. Four of them died and six more were injured. The driver, an American citizen, was charged with murder.

In another accident in South Texas in April, a van filled with immigrants overturned, killing nine of its passengers. The immigrants were part of a larger group that was being held at a "stash" house in Mission, Texas, near the Mexican border.
Had you heard about the earlier crashes? I don't recall hearing about either of them. These are stories that don't get a lot of attention, but think about the human toll -- 3 crashes with 27 people dead. You'd think that this sort of thing would be more newsworthy than it apparently is. So why do you suppose that is the case?

San Diego Charges

If you're an admirer of Barack Obama, you might want to avoid this editorial from the San Diego Union-Tribune, which suggests that Obama is the worst president in American history. A taste:

He railed against the heavy spending and big deficits of his predecessor, but blithely backed budgets that had triple the deficits ever seen in American history.

He promised a smart, sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health care system, but ended up giving us a Byzantine mess promoted to the public with myths: that offering subsidized care to tens of millions of people would save money; that people would keep their own doctors; that access to care wouldn’t change; and that rationing would never happen.
And this, my personal favorite:
He denounced his predecessor for permitting harsh interrogation tactics with suspected terrorists, but once in office somehow concluded that a better, more moral approach would just be to use drones to assassinate such suspects without getting any information from them.
Well, that's how Nobel laureates roll. There's more, a lot more at the link. And don't forget to read the outrageously outraged comments that follow.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Penn-alty State

So the NCAA hammer came down hard on Penn State today, but the school did not get the "death penalty," which would have shut down the football program. Instead, the NCAA has made it essentially impossible for Penn State to compete for about a decade. It also vacated the school's victories since 1998, which is when Penn State should have turned in Jerry Sandusky.

There's a reason that the NCAA didn't shut down the program; it pays for essentially every other sport at the university. This is the open secret of collegiate sport, especially at the D-I level -- if you don't have a football program, you aren't going to have many other programs. Had Penn State had to shut down their football program, it would have made it impossible for the school to compete in all the other sports, men's and women's, that don't generate much revenue. Say goodbye to track and field, volleyball, swimming, wrestling and a whole lot more. The only sport that might be able to support itself at Penn State is men's basketball, although that has been a middling program at best.

So what the NCAA is asking the Penn State football program to do is simple -- be a wage slave. Never mind that nearly every other school in the Big Ten is going to kick Penn State's butt for the next decade -- just suit up a team and take your lumps. So what if Ohio State beats the Nittany Lions 58-0 one week and then Nebraska blasts them 45-7 the next. Maybe they'll beat Indiana here and there, but the rest of the Big Ten? Not so much. And the message to the Penn State program? Just accept the butt kickings and try to remember that your lumps are necessary to keep the field hockey team on the field.

It will be interesting to see what type of kid will even want to enroll at Penn State in the next four years, a period in which the school is limited to 65 scholarships and is ineligible for a bowl game. The best case scenario would be having a team with the talent level of a Mid-American Conference school -- think Eastern Michigan or Bowling Green; worst case would be the equivalent of a FBS program like Holy Cross or Colgate. Will the Penn State fans continue to pay top dollar to come to Beaver Stadium and watch a substandard program, just so it can subsidize fencing? We're about to find out.

Tarryl Clark, Itinerant Representative of the People

It didn't go so well for Tarryl Clark the last time she ran for Congress -- Michele Bachmann beat her easily. So Clark decided to move to Duluth and run in a different district for this cycle. It may not work out for her this time, either, but she does have her supporters. Especially the Star Tribune, which gave her a nice in-kind campaign contribution cleverly disguised as a news story:

"You have to keep pushing if you want to make things better," Clark said. "I've learned to be both persistent and patient -- and I think that's a trait that will serve me well in Washington."

Her campaign against Bachmann endeared Clark to national Democratic groups like EMILY's list, which helped her raise more than $1 million for her current campaign, dwarfing the other two Democrats in the race -- former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and former Duluth City Council President Jeff Anderson.
But what are Clark's bona fides? Let the Star Tribune tell you:
A longtime community organizer, Clark has worked with groups ranging from labor unions to the Girl Scouts. Long before she rented a condo in Duluth and set her sights on the Eighth District seat, she says, she crisscrossed the district for decades for work or for church youth group programs with her husband, Doug.
In other words, she's driven through the district a fair amount, which distinguishes her from perhaps a half-dozen other politicians in Minnesota. But her commitment to the issues of the 8th Congressional District are true and heartfelt, of course:
"As corny as it sounds, I try to figure out, 'Where can I make the biggest difference?' and right now, with Congress forgetting that their priorities are our families and our communities, I think where I can make the biggest difference is there," Clark said.

I'm sure a lot of people in the 8th think the best way Clark can make a difference is to be someplace other than within the district's boundaries, especially Rick Nolan and Jeff Anderson. Unfortunately for the utterly selfless Clark, some folks in the 8th aren't sufficiently grateful for her ministrations:

But on the Iron Range, the spine of the district, they have a word for people who come North looking for work. They call them packsackers, a term stemming from the days when outsiders carried their belongings in a packsack as they sought temporary work in the region's mines.

How will Clark's strengths as a prolific fundraiser and dogged campaigner with strong union ties balance against the packsacker stigma? 

How indeed? Clark has a bigger problem than being a packsacker, though. It's her day job:
Clark is keeping her day job as she campaigns, working part time for the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor unions and environmental groups. 
And if you want to know why Clark will have trouble, that's the reason. Environmental groups are problematic for the 8th, which relies on mining for much of its economic opportunity. Environmentalists and mining aren't exactly a love connection and while the mine workers are heavily unionized, those aren't the unions that Clark's organization favors. The jobs on the Range aren't about "green energy."

It will be interesting to see if Clark can pull things off. She does have a significant financial advantage over Nolan and Anderson, but the only thing she has in common with many voters in the 8th are the letters "DFL" after her name.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

JoePa Goes Into Storage

Christopher Weddle, Centre Daily Times via AP
They took the statue down at Penn State this morning and it sounds like the NCAA might take the program down tomorrow:

A source told CBS News correspondent Armen Keteyian that Penn State will suffer "unprecedented" punishment for its collective failure to report Sandusky, recently convicted on 45 counts of sexual abuse, to the proper authorities.

"I've never seen anything like it," the source told Keteyian, indicating that both the football program and the school itself would face sanctions.

Per Dodd, a person with knowledge of the process said there is a way to impact Penn State's competitive ability in football without applying the so-called “death penalty.” That term could be mere semantics by the time the NCAA sanctions are announced according to a source. Penn State, the source said, may prefer the death penalty.

A source confirmed for CBSSports.com that there are indications the penalties could be so unique they would be different than any previously applied by the NCAA. They could last beyond one season.

Dodd is Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com, who has been covering the matter for the website. I don't know what sort of double-secret probation the NCAA has in mind, but the larger problem is that punishing the football program at Penn State is going will punish a lot more than the program itself. Penn State, like most major college football programs, relies on football revenue to cover the costs of other sports, especially non-revenue sports. We'll have to await the results tomorrow to know for sure, but if Penn State has to compete in the Big Ten with only half the number of scholarships, or a five-year bowl ban, it's going to be miserable for everyone involved.

Colorado and the New York Daily News

We may get to find out why James Holmes decided to mow down theatergoers in Aurora, Colorado at some point, since authorities have him in custody. We've learned a few things about him in recent days, but we'll learn more.

As it happens, we know that Mr. Holmes had learned how to make bombs as well -- as this report from the New York Daily News indicates, he had his apartment booby-trapped, which has made it difficult for area investigators to get into it.

INVESTIGATORS WERE scouring “Dark Knight” madman James Holmes’ Colorado apartment Saturday night after a robot neutralized a sinister set of booby traps.

Bomb techs successfully used a “controlled detonation” and a robot to disarm a tripwire rigged to the front door of Holmes’ pad to set off a maze of mysterious liquids and mortar shells.

The painstaking effort ended about 9 p.m. when authorities announced they had finally cleared the apartment of explosives.

“This apartment was designed to kill whoever entered it,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said at an afternoon news conference. “And who was most likely to enter that location? It was going to be a police officer.

“If you think we’re angry, we sure as hell are angry,” Oates added. “There is no question about what the intent was of whoever designed that device behind that door.”

Had they not been warned, an investigator entering the apartment would have would have been blown to bits, as might have other people living in the building. Taken together, we can safely conclude that Mr. Holmes is (a) willing to kill people he doesn't know and (b) willing to use multiple means to do so.

As surely as day follows night, the gun grabbers are trying to leverage the event. It always happens. Take the example from the aforementioned New York Daily News, whose editorial board apparently didn't want to wait to read its own news reports before assigning blame, and giving Holmes a few unindicted co-conspirators to boot:

The police chief in Aurora, Colo., said he is confident that massacre gunman James Holmes acted alone. The police chief was dead wrong.

Standing at Holmes’ side as he unleashed an AR-15 assault rifle and a shotgun and a handgun was Wayne LaPierre, political enforcer of the National Rifle Association.

Standing at Holmes’ side as he sprayed bullets and buckshot into a crowded movie theater were Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, a President and a would-be President, who have bowed to the NRA’s dictates and who responded to the slaughter Friday with revolting, useless treacle.

Standing at Holmes’ side as he murdered 12 and wounded 59 were the millions of zealots who would sooner see blood flow and lives end than have to check a box on a gun registration form.

In a vain claim of innocence, the fanatics will say Holmes is a monster and a maniac, that he fired and fired and fired as a man possessed. Each protestation clamps their fingers with his around the trigger.

Because they made sure that virtually everyone, Holmes included, has unfettered legal access to heavy weaponry. And they made sure he was permitted by law to drive to the kill scene with a fully loaded arsenal.

Emphasis mine. So let's think about that. We've already established that Mr. Holmes was capable of making bombs or other incendiary devices. He could have used a bomb to blow up the theater. He might have achieved an even higher death total, since the carnage was limited to one auditorium. Had he decided "to drive to the kill scene" Timothy McVeigh-style, with a bomb in a moving van, he could have leveled the entire theater. For reasons that Holmes might share with us some day, he decided to shoot the place up instead. So if we are to believe the New York Daily News, apparently the reason that 12 people are dead in Aurora, Colorado, is not because another person was willing to kill them. It's because it's too easy to get guns.

Quod erat demonstrandum, right?

Friday, July 20, 2012

No idea

I don't know why Michele Bachmann is picking the fight she's decided to pick concerning the influence, or lack thereof, of the Muslim Brotherhood on various government officials.

Three things seem clear to me.

  • If the Muslim Brotherhood wants to petition the U.S. government, or cultivate politicians that would support its efforts, that's hardly unusual. All sorts of organizations do the same thing.
  • Being outrageously outraged about what Bachmann is saying is at least as silly as whatever it is she is saying. I would bet there's at least a 75% overlap of those who would condemn Bachmann for McCarthyite tactics and those who regularly denounce anti-tax bete noire Grover Norquist* and ALEC. We all have our boogeymen.
  • Going after Keith Ellison is silly. He's irritating and a regular vote for nonsense, but he has no power in Washington and likely never will. No point to it.
*The funny thing is, Norquist might have some Muslim Brotherhood issues of his own to deal with.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Barack Obama for the Bizarro World Sioux Falls Development Foundation

I haven't heard one of their ads for a while, but it used to be a staple on Twin Cities radio stations. If you didn't punch the button on your car radio fast enough, you'd eventually hear the dulcet tones a guy named Dan Hindbjorgen, spokesman for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, trying to coax Minnesota businesses to Sioux Falls. Perhaps the ads still run someplace.

As I was thinking about Barack Obama's potentially disastrous channeling of Elizabeth Warren, that Sioux Falls radio campaign came to mind. What Obama said was almost the Bizarro World version of the pitch you'd hear on the radio. So we're fair, here's a full quote:
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

"The point is, when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires."
The quote that the Romney campaign is gleefully using is "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

Writing for the Chicago Tribune, longtime Obama observer John Kass asks the salient question, using his father's grocery store as an example:
Somebody else, Mr. President? Who, exactly? Government?

One of my earliest memories as a boy at the store was that of the government men coming from City Hall. One was tall and beefy. The other was wiry. They wanted steaks.

We didn't eat red steaks at home or yellow bananas. We took home the brown bananas and the brown steaks because we couldn't sell them. But the government men liked the big, red steaks, the fat rib-eyes two to a shrink-wrapped package. You could put 20 or so in a shopping bag.

"Thanks, Greek," they'd say.

That was government.
Well, it certainly was government in Chicago, which is where Barack Obama comes from. Government, in the place where Barack Obama calls home, demands tribute, protection. Sometimes it says, "Thanks, Greek." But it always takes the bag of steaks.

In a place like Sioux Falls, the locals need to cajole business, which is why they send people like Dan Hindbjorgen to the recording booth and sell ads on Twin Cities radio stations. They want business and hope to gain tax revenue from relocating businesses, but to get their attention they promise a better return. It's possible that they send guys from the Sioux Falls City Hall once you actually get there, but the pitch is that you'll make more money if you move to Sioux Falls. It's about stakes, not steaks.

There is no disputing that businesses need infrastructure to help them get their products to market. No one, least of all Mitt Romney, would dispute that. And you can easily make the argument that Barack Obama and Dan Hindbjorgen are really saying the same thing, at bottom. Effective, responsive government undeniably benefits businesses.

The problem for Barack Obama is that he looks at things through the wrong end of the telescope. He is espousing a form of communitarianism, but he's not the sort to think a community might figure out how to get things organized without his ministrations. He's not really offering partnership; he's offering protection. And he doesn't see what a lot of small businesses see, which is that he is at the helm of a government that wants the bag of steaks first.

Entrepreneurs are proud and ambitious -- you can't be one unless you have those traits. And a lot of them work very hard. Back to Kass:

We didn't go to movies or out to restaurants. Everything went into the business. Uncle George and dad never bought what they could not afford. The store employed people, and the workers fed their families and educated their children and put them through college. They were good people, all of them. We worked together and worked hard, but none worked harder than the bosses.

It's the same story with so many other businesses in America, immigrants and native-born. The entrepreneurs risk everything, their homes, their children's college funds, their hearts, all for a chance at the dream: independence, and a small business of their own.

Most often, they fail and fall to the ground without a government parachute. But some get up and start again.

When I was grown and gone from home, my parents finally managed to save a little money. After all those years of hard work and denying themselves things, they had enough to buy a place in Florida and a fishing boat in retirement. Dad died only a few years later. You wouldn't call them rich. But Obama might.

And that's why the quote, even if it's incomplete, grates so much. Not surprisingly, Romney's campaign has fashioned a pretty vicious and effective ad out of it:

Dan Hindbjorgen and the folks in Sioux Falls look at business, and business people, as assets. Perhaps Barack Obama does, too. But when you listen to the voice of Obama on the ad, speaking those words, you don't hear that. Instead you hear a sneer. And that's going to hurt the president's campaign. How much? Well, here's one view, from Pat Sajak, of all people:
It's as if President Obama climbed into a tank, put on his helmet, talked about how his foray into Cambodia was seared in his memory, looked at his watch, misspelled "potato" and pardoned Richard Nixon all in the same day. 
Overstating the case? Perhaps. Maybe you wouldn't let a game show host write your political epitaph, but his other observation is the one that ought to chill those who support the president:
These defining moments take hold most devastatingly when they confirm what a large portion of the electorate already believes. Taken alone, it seems unfair that a single moment, an unguarded remark or a slip of the tongue can carry such weight. They're often dismissed as "gotcha" moments, but when voters are able to nod and say, "I knew it," these moments stick and do terrible damage. We have witnessed such a moment. 
This much is certain -- there won't be too many Americans who won't hear the words, because the Romney campaign will make sure they do. How the Obama campaign responds will matter a lot. So here's a little advice that I know won't be taken, but I'll offer it anyway. Instead of listening to David Axelrod, perhaps Barack Obama might want to pick Dan Hindbjorgen's brain a little.

Penn State and the U of C Moment

Many people don't realize this, but it's true: the University of Chicago was one of the charter members of the Big Ten. The school was the home of the legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg and the Maroons won Big Ten championships and national championships, too. And the first winner of the Heisman Trophy was Jay Berwanger, who played for the Maroons. You can read a good, brief synopsis here.

In 1939, the Maroons said goodbye to all that. The president of the school, Robert Maynard Hutchins, had concluded that participation in big-time college sports wasn't compatible with the educational mission of the school and the school withdrew from the Big Ten. The U of C eventually went back to playing football, but they are now a non-scholarship Division III school. For a time they were a member of the Midwest Conference, which includes my alma mater, Beloit College.

There's a vast gulf between playing Bucky Badger to playing the Beloit Bucs. But once the U of C made the decision, they never looked back. And while you don't hear much about the Maroons on SportsCenter, no one thinks less of the University of Chicago because of it.

This brings us to Penn State. Penn State joined the Big Ten in the 1990s, mostly on the strength of two things -- the quality of its football program and the marketing advantages of having an eastern school in the league. For the better part of 20 years the Nittany Lions have been a great fit and welcome addition to the league, especially in football. Adding Penn State to the mix caused the other schools to compete even harder and it also effectively ended the "Big Two/Little Eight" dynamic that had existed for many years, with Michigan and Ohio State dominating the other schools.

Of course, now we know that Penn State had a secret and a terrible one. The Freeh report lays bare the whole sordid mess that the football program was under Joe Paterno. But how do you make it right? The Star Tribune argues that the NCAA should impose the "death penalty" on the school:

The NCAA is reviewing Freeh's report, and its top official has said a "death penalty" shutdown of the Penn State football program has not been ruled out. The NCAA will determine whether the school lost institutional control over its athletic program and violated ethics rules. Based on Sandusky's conviction and Freeh's report, that decision should be clear-cut.

Freeh concluded that Penn State's most important challenge would be to change the culture that permitted Sandusky's behavior. How can that possibly happen if the NCAA fails to levy its harshest penalty? 
I think this is wrong. Yes, the university needs to step away from the madness it has embraced. But it is precisely wrong to have the NCAA, an outside group, be an avenging angel/deus ex machina. It's especially galling because the NCAA is fundamentally corrupt in so many other ways. It hardly teaches the right lesson to turn things over to the regulators. If the school wants to atone, it shouldn't rely on an outside force to make it do so.

No, the way to fix things in Happy Valley is to look at the example of the U of C. It hasn't hurt the University of Chicago to play schools like Beloit, or Aurora, or Washington University. These are just some of the schools that the Maroons have scheduled in recent seasons. Perhaps the way out is for Penn State to play Juniata, or Franklin and Marshall, or Case Western Reserve. To regain perspective on what a university should be doing, that's the way to go. 

Is there a Robert Maynard Hutchins available in State College, PA?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Straight Outta Compton

Forget NWA -- when it comes to Compton, the acronym you need to remember is IOU:

Financial troubles are surfacing in another California city: Compton, just south of Los Angeles, is in trouble. Just like Stockton, Mammoth Lakes and San Bernardino, Compton's bills are too big and its income too small.

Last week, Standard and Poor's, Compton's credit rating agency, put the some of the city's bonds on credit watch. S-and-P cited problems with alleged waste, fraud and misuse of city dollars, and blamed city officials for failing to turn over documents that might clear up questions.
Of course, there's a reason for this:
Now the agency wants the city to complete an independently audited financial statement. But that's going to be harder to get, according to the Los Angeles Times. Compton's independent auditor quit and would not approve the city's financial statements. It's not clear if another auditor was hired.

S-and-P warns Compton is flush with red ink: the city has a deficit greater than $40 million dollars.
So what is happening in Compton? Hard to know without a look at the books, but to have four cities in California essentially go belly up tells you that there are a lot of problems, with the biggest being independent oversight. A true audit would likely reveal that someone in the city government had their hand in the till; maybe more than one person. And because (a) larceny is part of the human heart and (b) omerta isn't just for ganstas any more, the result is what you see.

There are a lot of situations like this, in a lot of places other than California. Expect to see more of these stories.

Just so we're clear

Point one:
Point two:

Jefferson Starship gets educated by president Obama. They didn’t, in fact, build that city on rock and roll. Somebody else made that happen.

Agree or disagree?

Brian, over at his place, asserts the following:

Obviously, Republicans (and here l mean the party not necessarily the people that vote for it) are not philosophical nihilists. But I do not believe that they stand for anything except winning elections.

Democrats sincerely attempt to govern, and often end up doing it poorly. Republicans govern poorly by design and call it "smaller government"...with the notable and notably expensive exception of the military, where no expenditure is too lavish, no mission beyond our grasp, and no criticism acceptable within the bounds of loyalty.

Nihilistic? Maybe not quite. But deeply cynical and dangerously destructive? You bet. 


A fair question to ask

Blogger Jeff Dunetz asks a fair question:
According to Open Secrets, during the present election cycle these Democratic Party candidates took a total of $335,700 from Bain, its lobbyists and employees. So if the Democrats believe Bain is so evil, why are these candidates taking their money?
Because evil money becomes virtuous when it's given to Democrats. It's almost like transubstantiation, except with cash.  John Kerry got $76,200 from Bain and Nancy Pelosi got $10,000. Just so you know. Check out the list at the link.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Paul Ryan's Audience

Paul Ryan, discussing what President Obama said out on the hustings a few days back:
Those of us who are conservative believe in government, we just believe government has limits. We want government to do what it does well and respect its limits so civil society and families can flourish on their own and do well and achieve their potential.
Damn straight. But before he gets to the real point, he goes all Government 225 Western Political Thought Seminar on us:
Every now and then, he pierces the veil. He’s usually pretty coy about his ideology, but he lets the veil slip from time to time. … His straw man argument is this ridiculous caricature where he’s trying to say if you want any security in life, you stick with me. If you go with these Republicans, they’re going to feed you to the wolves because they believe in some Hobbesian state of nature, and it’s one or the other which is complete bunk, absolutely ridiculous. But it seems to be the only way he thinks he can make his case. He’s deluded himself into thinking that his so-called enemies are these crazy individualists who believe in some dog-eat-dog society when what he’s really doing is basically attacking people like entrepreneurs and stacking up a list of scapegoats to blame for his failures.

His comments seem to derive from a naive vision of a government-centered society and a government-directed economy. It stems from an idea that the nucleus of society and the economy is government not the people. … It is antithetical to the American idea. We believe in free communities, and this is a statist attack on free communities. … As all of his big government spending programs fail to restore jobs and growth, he seems to be retreating into a statist vision of government direction and control of a free society that looks backward to the failed ideologies of the 20th century.
Emphasis mine. Couldn't agree more, but let's be honest here -- if you were to ask 100 people on the street what a "Hobbesian state of nature" is, how many would know? I'd say the over/under is about 10. Although I would say sneaking the dog-eating reference in there was pretty clever.

Knowing your audience matters. Now Ryan's remarks appear in a think-tank publication, so I think it's fair to assume that the audience reading James Pethokoukis will get the reference to Hobbes. I would also wager that most people who read this blog would understand the reference as well. But if Ryan is going to take on a larger role, he might want to tone things down a bit. What he's saying is important, but if you need footnotes to understand it, you're going to lose a lot of people. Just sayin'.

Hope I die before I get old

It doesn't matter what Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend sang back in the mid 60s -- whether they really hoped that they died before they got old, it didn't happen. They are still with us, along with the many millions of "my generation."

Joel Kotkin, whose work I've admired for a long time, points out that a different generation is looking at some tough times because people seem to be so cold:

Today’s youth, both here and abroad, have been screwed by their parents’ fiscal profligacy and economic mismanagement. Neil Howe, a leading generational theorist, cites the “greed, shortsightedness, and blind partisanship” of the boomers, of whom he is one, for having “brought the global economy to its knees.”

How has this generation been screwed? Let’s count the ways, starting with the economy. No generation has suffered more from the Great Recession than the young. Median net worth of people under 35, according to the U.S. Census, fell 37 percent between 2005 and 2010; those over 65 took only a 13 percent hit.

The wealth gap today between younger and older Americans now stands as the widest on record. The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68 percent from a quarter century ago, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.
Net worth is only one measurement, however. The larger issue is that the boomers and their older brothers and sisters intend to get paid.

The screwed generation also enters adulthood loaded down by a mountain of boomer- and senior-incurred debt—debt that spirals ever more out of control. The public debt constitutes a toxic legacy handed over to offspring who will have to pay it off in at least three ways: through higher taxes, less infrastructure and social spending, and, fatefully, the prospect of painfully slow growth for the foreseeable future.

In the United States, the boomers’ bill has risen to about $50,000 a person. In Japan, the red ink for the next generation comes in at more than $95,000 a person. One nasty solution to pay for this growing debt is to tax workers and consumers. Both Germany and Japan, which appears about to double its VAT rate, have been exploring new taxes to pay for the pensions of the boomers.
And it happens at all levels of government, too:
The huge public-employee pensions now driving many states and cities—most recently Stockton, Calif.—toward the netherworld of bankruptcy represent an extreme case of intergenerational transfer from young to old. It’s a thoroughly rigged boomer game, providing guaranteed generous benefits to older public workers while handing the financial upper echelon a “Wall Street boondoggle” (to quote analyst Walter Russell Mead).
It is a thoroughly rigged game, an intergenerational Ponzi scheme that is not sustainable, in large part because there aren't enough Boomer offspring to pay for the system.

But there's another problem -- the younger generation is getting screwed before they even enter the workforce. Back to Kotkin:

Then there is the debt that the millennials have incurred themselves. The average student, according to Forbes, already carries $12,700 in credit-card and other kinds of debt. Student loans have grown consistently over the last few decades to an average of $27,000 each. Nationwide in the U.S., tuition debt is close to $1 trillion.

This debt often results from the advice of teachers, largely boomers, that only more education—for which costs have risen at twice the rate of inflation since 2000—could solve the long-term issues of the young. “Our generation decided to go to school and continue into even higher forms of education like master’s and Ph.D. programs, thinking this will give us an edge,” notes Lizzie Guerra, a recent graduate from San Francisco State. “However, we found ourselves incredibly educated but drowning in piles of student loans with a job market that still isn’t hiring.”

This is something I struggle with, because my kids are approaching college age. Do we really want to send them into this mess?

So what do you do if you can't get a job, or if your B.A. in Ethnic Studies limits you to barista work? Well, you delay adulthood:
Inevitably, young people are delaying their leap into adulthood. Nearly a third of people between 18 and 34 have put off marriage or having a baby due to the recession, and a quarter have moved back to their parents’ homes, according to a Pew study. These decisions have helped cut the birthrate by 11 percent by 2011, while the marriage rate slumped 6.8 percent. The baby-boom echo generation could propel historically fecund America toward the kind of demographic disaster already evident in parts of Europe and Japan.
There's a lot more in Kotkin's piece than I can cover this morning, but it's worth noting something else:
While economists may waste lots of hot air debating this, that and the other about the future growth trajectory of the US economy, in the aftermath of Goldman's cut of US GDP to just a 1.1% annualized rate of growth. And with the fiscal cliff, debt ceiling, Europe, China, and a plethora of other unknowns up ahead, this number will certainly decline further. Now here lies the rub: as the chart below shows total US marketable debt has doubled in the past 4 years, or an annualized growth rate of just above 21%.
The overall economy is larger than the amount of debt we have, but not by much. We're on an unsustainable path. If you're more concerned about what Mitt Romney might have done a decade ago than you are with these larger trends, then you deserve what's coming.

There's a lot more at the first link -- it's all worth your time, especially this last bit:
So far, the Great Recession has driven young people around the high-income world to the left. Generations growing up in recessions appear more amenable to arguments for government-mandated income redistribution. And since so few young people pay much in the way of taxes, they are less affronted by the prospect of forking over than older voters, who do. This left-leaning tendency has been on display in recent European elections. In France, 57 percent voters 18 to 24 supported the Socialist François Hollande, one of the reasons why the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy lost. Similarly, 37 percent of those in that age category voted for Syrizia, the far-left party in Greece.
It will be interesting to see if this trend continues here, in this cycle.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ideal vs. real

Brian has a link up to this quiz at his place. Here's what I came up with:

Turnin' loose my inner Burning Man
The result doesn't surprise me particularly, because I've always had a libertarian streak in my thinking. I have voted Libertarian twice in my life for president, too. Doesn't mean I'll vote for Gary Johnson in this cycle, though. While I might agree with Johnson on more issues than I do with Mitt Romney, there's no chance that Johnson (a) can win the presidency and (b) have enough support in Congress to enact a "Large L" libertarian platform. That makes him a non-starter. 

The Libertarian Party is generally principled, inept at getting its message across and almost universally ignored. This is why Ron Paul eventually returned to the Republican Party. And it's also why his son Rand, who is willing to play within the Republican sandbox, will have a much better chance to be a contender for president some day than his father ever did.

Politics is, inevitably, an art of the possible. Coalitions change, people's views change and the circumstances that surround decisions change over time. I'm certain that if Mitt Romney becomes president, he'll disappoint me more than once. If he gets 78% of the things that I care about right, that's pretty good. As a practical matter, Barack Obama has been acceptable to me far less than 31% of the time in his first term. The only way I'd ever have the perfect candidate is if I ran myself, and that ain't happening.

One other thing worth noting -- without breaking into the source code, you can't really know how this online quiz weights each answer. It might play things right down the middle, it might not, but in any event I don't know. Put it this way -- Brian took the same quiz I did and got a high support number (82%) for Johnson as well, but managed to get 70% for Obama and only 7% for Romney. I don't know that happens, but somehow it does. I suspect the weighting is pretty hinky. Still, it's a fun exercise and worth a try. I'd be curious to see what your results are -- feel free to share them in the comment section. And also share the results with Brian over at his place.

Good read

Ed Kohler is one of the better portside bloggers in the Twin Cities and he has a smart piece up at his site concerning the competitive advantage that Amazon is developing and the implications it has for how we buy things in the future. Kohler bought some Cheerios from Amazon and here is the result:
Bylery’s charges $4.95 to let you order online, then drive to one of their stores to pick up your order. Or, they’ll deliver your order for $9.95. Coborns charges $5 for delivery if you order $50 or more, or $9.95 if you order less than $50 of stuff. You can pick up for free at their warehouse in New Hope.

Amazon, on the other hand, shipped Cheerios to my house from Kentucky with no shipping charges, and for $1 less per box.
You can pretty much buy anything on Amazon these days and the key is that they are miles ahead of their competition in order fulfillment. Kohler:

Until recently, big box stores, including now-struggling electronics stores and now-struggling grocery chains, were able to compete largely based on pricing power. They were good at moving products around the country and putting them on shelves, but it turns out that some companies are better at that key part of that type of business. For example, WalMart and Target are darn good at efficiently moving products from all over the world to store shelves where they rely upon customers to spend their own time and money coming to their stores to purchase items.

The next generation move in retail is to win the last mile. If Amazon can get the same product to my door at the same price or less than what Best Buy, SuperValu, WalMart or Target charges, why would I waste my time and money driving to their stores, navigating through ugly parking lots, finding products in a store that I can find online in seconds, then waiting in line to purchase them?

It's an excellent question and one that these companies spend a lot of time trying to answer. There's more at the link and it's definitely worth your time.

Never mind this, what about Bain?

For a guy who rails a lot about outsourcing, Obama seems to like outsourcing his fundraising.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Point/Counterpoint -- IBD and Ace Commenter Rich Explain the Obama Campaign

It's just like the old "Point/Counterpoint" thing they used to do on "60 Minutes" back in the 70s, which SNL did a great job of lampooning later on.

First, Investor's Business Daily explains what's happening:

The Obama campaign has reached new depths of hypocrisy and mendacity in accusing its GOP opponent of a felony. Mr. President, let he who is without secrets guarded like Fort Knox cast the first stone.

For a Barack Obama operative to accuse Mitt Romney of misrepresenting his chairmanship at Bain Capital to the Securities and Exchange Commission over a decade ago, "which is a felony," as Stephanie Cutter said, reveals the desperation of a presidential re-election campaign that must distract Americans from its dismal economic record.
But it also raises other issues, including: this president's willingness to run on lies, his refusal to practice what he preaches, and the outrageous negligence of the Democrats' powerful lapdogs in the media.

To which Ace Commenter Rich, comfortable in Chicago-style politics on this issue, responds:
Romney wants to have his cake and eat it too: He created wealth and was incredibly successfull at Bain, except for when it doesn't fit his narrative. Please! So I am not gonna wring my hands over Obama's attention to detail. Obama isn't a journalist, he is a politician. And politucs ain't bean bag. If Romney is gonna leave his flank exposed this much...that's his problem and our advantage. So I am guessing I will be enjoying the Bain atacks till the first week of November. 
Because strategic advantage is more important than the direction of the country. Back to IBD:

First, the Boston Globe, whose July 12 story Cutter parroted, seemed to be intentionally misleading by saying that, "Government documents filed by Mitt Romney and Bain Capital say Romney remained chief executive and chairman of the firm three years beyond the date he said he ceded control."

Because of the suddenness with which Romney left Bain to save the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in 1999, during which ownership was being legally transferred to a group of partners, it would have been out of order — possibly unlawful — for Romney's name not to be on the documents Bain filed with the SEC.

The Washington Post's Fact Checker even slapped the Globe with "Three Pinocchios" and "were tempted to award this claim Four Pinocchios ... ."

This is not the first lie the Obama presidency and campaign have propagated. From claiming that U.S. oil output "is the highest that it's been in eight years" (while oil output on federal lands was falling 275,000 barrels a day), to portraying a company fixer and job creator like Romney as an outsourcer, Obama's untruths are legion.

Not so fast, says Ace Commenter Rich:
Moreover, Obama's attacks are legit. And contra Gino, this is not too complicated for your average voter to understand. Romney retainined his titles of owner and CEO at Bain through 2002. This means that he is legally and morally responsible for what happened there during this period. In spite of his practical level of day-to-day involvement, he is accountable. (I thought Republicans were big on personal accountability). Do we really want a guy who refuses to take responsibility for his own company while he was sole owner and CEO as President?
We already have a guy who has spent 3 1/2 years blaming his predecessor for everything that has happened in his tenure, so I take Rich's point -- why change horses now? Wait -- I know! If you have a Republican president, you can hold him accountable! Well, back to IBD:

If the media did their job, Cutter's remark would have made this a story about the Obama campaign smearing Romney by spreading a bogus story, then aggressively making false allegations of criminal behavior.

As Politico commented after Cutter's slanderous charge, when it comes to Romney and Bain, "things are reaching the point where the facts don't really matter."

Indeed, that could be a blanket statement about the entire Obama campaign.
To which Ace Commenter Rich replies:
You guys are just upset because Obama isn't following the "Democrats are wimps" narrative. This Pres ain't Gore, Kerry or Dukakis. 
So there. IBD, you ignorant slut.

More Than One

Now that Louis Freeh has turned in his report on what happened in the Penn State football program, it would be easy to assume his work is done at the university. Maybe it shouldn't be. As Rand Simberg points out, institutional coverups aren't limited to the football program at Penn State:

So it turns out that Penn State has covered up wrongdoing by one of its employees to avoid bad publicity.

But I’m not talking about the appalling behavior uncovered this week by the Freeh report. No, I’m referring to another cover up and whitewash that occurred there two years ago, before we learned how rotten and corrupt the culture at the university was. But now that we know how bad it was, perhaps it’s time that we revisit the Michael Mann affair, particularly given how much we’ve also learned about his and others’ hockey-stick deceptions since. Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.

To review, when the emails and computer models were leaked from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia two and a half years ago, many of the luminaries of the “climate science” community were shown to have been behaving in a most unscientific manner. Among them were Michael Mann, Professor of Meteorology at Penn State, whom the emails revealed had been engaging in data manipulation to keep the blade on his famous hockey-stick graph, which had become an icon for those determined to reduce human carbon emissions by any means necessary.
There's more, a lot more, at the link. Definitely worth your time.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Since I'm pretty sure only one of my regular readers cares that much about Bain Capital, let's use this new-fangled poll thingy and talk about the veeps. Pick your favorite from the choices provided. If you want to explain your rationale in the comment section, I'd be interested in hearing it. Some choices might be just a little tongue-in-cheek.

Who should the Mittster pick as his vice presidential running mate?
pollcode.com free polls 

Choose wisely -- the whole world is watching.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lightning Round - 071312

Haven't done one of these in a while and since a thunderstorm is rolling through here as I write, it seems appropriate:

  • There's not much to say about the report on the Penn State sex abuse scandal other than to call it what it was -- a comprehensive failure at all levels. Joe Paterno isn't here to defend himself, but perhaps that's just as well, because there's really no defense for him. Or for anyone else at the university.
  • The Obama campaign and its allies in the media, specifically the Boston Globe and the Associated Press, continue to recycle canards about the timing of Mitt Romney's departure from Bain Capital. It doesn't matter that it's been "fact-checked" before and found to be crap, apparently. I guess if I had to run on Obama's record, I'd be doing everything I can to tear down my opponent, too.
  • Tim Droogsma has been bird-dogging the coverage of the death of Clarisse Grime, a Harding High School student who died when an out-of-control driver crashed into her. Much like the case of the driver who crashed into a school bus in Cottonwood, MN a few years back, the identity of the driver is something that the media apparently would rather not discuss. He also notices something that regularly drives me nuts:
Clarisse's death is an uncomfortable story for the Star Tribune. As we've written before, the man charged with her killing - Carlos Viveros-Colorado - was an illegal immigrant who had no driver's license and a series of traffic violations - including a 2001 DWI - in his past. He went through a "voluntary deportation" a few years ago but quickly returned to the United States.  The Star Tribune's "reporters" have done their very best to minimize these facts, and the headline writers have chosen instead to focus on the vehicle, as if the type of vehicle were relevant to the story.

A search for "Clarisse Grime" on the Strib's web site reveals three stories, one photo gallery and one video about Clarisse's death. Here are the five headlines:

Out-of-control SUV kills 16-year-old St. Paul girl
Students mourn girl killed by SUV
Teenager killed by SUV
Driver of SUV that killed teen in St. Paul had no license
SUV driver is charged in St. Paul student's death

Got it? Clarisse wasn't killed by an illegal immigrant who shouldn't have been driving, she was killed by one of those evil SUV's! It's a good thing Carlos wasn't driving a Prius or the story might not even have made the paper.
          SUVs -- the shame of a nation.
  • Walter Russell Mead is always worth reading and his thoughts on the developing LIBOR scandal are spot-on, especially his takeaway:
We need a new generation of religious, spiritual and personal leaders. Otherwise we will see a cycle of decline. Weak, immoral and greedy business leaders will make bad choices. Society will pass stricter and stricter laws in the effort to control this behavior. The laws will become less and less effective as the influence of money grows and people lose self restraint.

This vicious cycle has already begun. The only question is, how far down the spiral will it take us? Much of our national business elite is losing its morality. A generation ago, it lost its faith. Unless something changes, loss of freedom will follow.
         Yep. Read the whole thing.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guilty Pleasures Part Eighty-Six -- Fearless Maria Returns With a Bang (and technical innovations!)

Fearless Maria returns to the fray and she's ready to talk tunes.


Wait, you don't sound much like AC/DC.

Right, because I'm Fearless Maria, your daughter. Hello? I'm not really good at sounding like a guy who's been dead for over 30 years! And I've never played the bagpipes, either!

Good point. So what's up with the explosion, then?

Dad, in a world of guns and violence, sometimes you just have to try and fit in. Do you know what I'm saying? You just have to try, in a pacifistic way. I'm not really exploding, I'm just SAYING I'm exploding. It's the whole psychology method, like what they do in politics!

Or on the History Channel when Benster is watching it, right?

Well, yeah. I'm sure "Ancient Aliens" has plenty of it. Not that Benster watches that -- I think he's staying up for the 24-hour Nathaneal Greene marathon.

That is an exciting prospect. So what do we want to do today, Fearless Maria?

Well, Mr. D, we could do something with guns and endear ourselves to our 2nd Amendment loving friends. That's called marketing, you know.

Good point! Well, as it happens, there are plenty of interesting songs with guns in them.

Please don't play "Run Joey Run," Dad! Shall we pull out the very rusty wayback machine that we almost sold at the garage sale? You know, the one no one would buy?

I thought that was a salad bowl, but I take your point. We'll set the controls for 1966. And look, it's a clip from Hullabaloo, complete with bad go-go dancing!

It's Junior Walker and the All-Stars, with "Shotgun," of course.

Well, well, well. We meet again, go-go dancing. It's not a pleasure to see you again. The good thing is, at least, although there's bad dancing, there's good music to go with it. I'm trying to be optimistic here, people. Dad told me that this one is a Motown classic and he's telling the truth. Listen to Junior Walker wailing on that saxophone! He's a lot better than some of the people in my band, that's for sure! The outfits are just the usual 60s thing -- not much to say there. They tried to look nice. And you could say that they did, I guess, although it's a black and white video so maybe the clothes didn't match or something. Final grade -- A-.

So you docked it because of the bad go-go dancing?

You got it, Pops! What's next?

It's a video that wasn't a performance, so you'll have to limit your critique to the song, Maria. But it's a song that gives you a lot to work with:

Yes, it's "Happiness is a Warm Gun" by the Beatles.

"A soap impression of his wife, which he ate and donated to the National Trust?" Some people are just really, really strange. Or maybe he should have made a dish to go with it, to make a bubble bath. I'm not sure what John Lennon was thinking; maybe he had too much Palmolive. Well, the Beatles are a great band and probably my favorite, but I have to say that this is not my favorite song. The clothing department -- well, it's the Beatles, so what can I say? Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but usually decent. Although I'm not too crazy about that pink sportcoat that Paul is wearing. Not really a good look. So final grade -- B+.

You get to give the grades around here, Maria. So now we move forward about five years. We stay in England, though.

Don't tell Benster! He'll want to stop by the offices of the Everton FC and buy a bunch of merchandise so he doesn't have to wait for his birthday!

Well, we're not really in England. That's just a figure of speech.

I know that and you know that, but will Benster know that? We'd better keep moving. Whatcha got, Daddy-O?

It's 1973, it's Top of the Pops, and it's 10cc:

Load up the "Rubber Bullets":

Some people dance on the stage. Some people dance on the street, in flash mobs. But only 10cc would dance at the local county jail. In my opinion, a very nonsense song. But kinda fun, too. And since it's the 1970s, of course they all look like they just came out of a wind tunnel or maybe a rabbit hole. Maybe both! That lowers the grade. Final grade -- B.

I like some of 10cc's other songs better, but they don't fit the theme. So now we move to 1978 and something entirely different. It's time to check out one of the more brilliant and strange songwriters of that era:

Send "Lawyers Guns & Money," Warren Zevon suggests.

Well, not much to critique on the visual side. On the lyrics side, how does he get from running away from Russian waitresses to ending up in Havana and Honduras? And how do you send a lawyer and a gun? Fedex? I don't think they had Fedex back then! Did they go on the Pony Express? Because if they did, the pony would have drowned in the Caribbean! Other than the wacky lyrics, the song has a nice beat. Dad, get me out of this! Final grade -- B.

Well, I like this song a lot, but you get to give out the grades.

Yes I do. But there's no stopping you from giving out a grade, too. What would you give this song?

An A. No doubt about it.

Well, let's see if we agree on the next song.

Sure. Back to England, one year later. Again, it's Top of the Pops and it's the very British band The Jam:

It's the "Eton Rifles."

Dad, can I ask you a question?

Sure -- what is it?

How do they get all that music to come out when they don't have their guitars plugged in?

I think they're lip synching, Maria. They did a lot of that on Top of the Pops.

Well, that's cheap and it lowers the grade for effort. As for the outfits, you can tell that it's the end of the 1970s because the clothing is starting to look less strange. In fact, the lead singer is actually rocking the shades rather than those 10cc guys who were rocking the bloodshot eyes. I like the song; the lyrics are less wacky than Warren Zevon and it's pretty catchy. A solid performance, if they'd only plug in their instruments. Final grade -- A-.

Let's stay in England, shall we? Now we go to the very end of 1979 and beginning of 1980. It's the Clash, with a song from the great album London Calling, with bassist Paul Simonon at the helm:

It's "The Guns of Brixton."

"No need for the Black Mariah?" Well, of course not! You've got Fearless Maria! Well, the lyrics were political, I guess, but Dad tells me that's for a reason. I really like the reggae rhythm and beat, which is cool and menacing, even intimidating. The outfits are 1980s, so not as bad and there's some epic looking fedoras going around, too. So final grade -- B.

I'll reserve the right to disagree again. I give this one a big fat A.

Well, that's fair. Do you have any more, Dad?

One more. Now it's the end of 1982 and we go to another British band, but one that's very different than the Clash:

It's Squeeze, with "Annie Get Your Gun."

I liked it! Good guitar, no wacky lyrics, really and some color-changing lights. I'm all about the stagecraft. As for the outfits, nothing too strange on the clothing side, so that's good. Really, that's all I've got to say. Final grade -- A.

Okay, so let's try something different. We're going to add a Pollcode box to see if this makes it easier to vote:

Pick your favorite Guilty Pleasure

pollcode.com free polls 

Of course, we'd encourage you to share your comments in the comment section, too!

I like this innovation, Dad. I give it an A+! It's about time you moved into the 21st Century, especially since you have a hard time picking songs that aren't 30 years old. And from England, apparently.

I gotta be me, Maria. I gotta be me.