February 28, 2009

Rich Karlgaard on Capitalism and Morality

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:12 am

I read this Forbes item from Karlgaard when it was published in mid-January, meant to do something with it, and haven’t — yet.

I need to, and feel compelled to follow it with few points:

….. Many people do blame capitalism for bringing us to this low moment in the economy. Do they have a point?

They do if capitalism, as they define it, is devoid of any underlying morality. True enough, it is hard to see any underlying morality when one surveys the present carnage caused by liar loans, shady banks, duplicitous politicians, Ponzi schemers and regulators angling for Wall Street jobs.

This weekend, I caught a BBC radio program on the meltdown in “The City”–London’s financial district. The program quoted many young Brit bankers who said morality was a barrier to personal success in The City. Better to have the sociopath gene if one wants to become a billionaire.

What we are hearing and seeing, in other words, is a failure of morality, not of capitalism.

How do we get back to the old Adam Smith/Benjamin Franklin idea of free enterprise based on a moral foundation? It won’t be easy, but I think we need to start with these:

– Throw the scoundrels in jail and lock the key. Since America is a land where “all men are created equal,” let’s include scoundrels high and low. Find that woman who bought a $750,000 house with a $14,000 income and make an example of her, along with every liar up the pyramid to the investment bank CEOs who bought and sold and overleveraged these toxic loans.

– Deny Tim Geithner the Treasury Secretary position. He cheated on his taxes. The IRS would report to him. This won’t do. (Oh well. — Ed.)

– Radically simplify the tax code. Pick a number–I say 15%–and have that apply as a rate for every federal tax: income, payroll, corporate, cap gains, dividends, inheritance. In other words, remove the temptation to manipulate and cheat.

– Don’t ban political fundraising and lobbying, but make its influence transparent and immediate. If, say, the chairman of the House Financial Services committee has a lover at Fannie Mae trying to relax lending standards, let’s know about it.

America’s Founding Fathers came of age at a time when the secular values of the Enlightenment were in ascendance against a backdrop of religious tradition. The founders themselves ranged from Christians to agnostics, but their center of gravity was a deism that accepted the duality of human nature. Men are devine. Men are animals. The best government is one that encourages man’s divine side and mitigates the damage from the animal side.

We have to get back to that. Every alternative you can imagine is much worse.

Here’s what big-government fans fail, and in many cases refuse, to understand:

  • The greater the concentration of power anywhere — government, corporations, or in medieval times the Church — the greater the possibility of humanity’s animal, immoral side dominating its divine, moral side.
  • An ever more powerful government begins to see the divine side first as an obstacle, and then as its enemy. That hardly needs elaboration, given the growing government-sponsored hostility directed at innocent life, expendable life, individual conscience, and the traditional family.
  • Businesses, which occasionally do have to be kept in check if they gain and abuse monopoly or market-dominating powers, have NEVER committed abuses that even resemble what governments are capable of, and which too-powerful governments have actually done throughout history (up to and including mass murder and genocide).
  • Sticking just to econ and finance, businesses or groups of organized individuals have never committed on any kind of scale the following heinous acts that even the most benign-looking governments on earth have routinely engaged in: financial theft (excessively “progressive” taxation, double and triple taxation, deliberate currency inflation/deflation), property theft (taking of property without cause or without just compensation), and intergenerational theft (Social Security, Medicare, excessive borrowing).

The best hopes for the most moral outcome in a society are to keep government as small as possible consistent with maintaining security and enforcing the rules of the game, and for society’s institutions to encourage and foster faith-based morality among its people.

Tragically, we continue to head in the opposite direction on both counts.

Lucid Links of the Day (022809, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:20 am

Noteworthy Net-worthies:

Jake Tapper at ABC’s Political Punch has the quick rundown of Obama’s planned trillion dollars in tax increases.
Dick Morris reiterates points previously made by your truly here, here, and here for starters — “It’s Obama spreading panic.”

Catholic News Agency — “Obama administration may toss pro-life conscience protections.”

Catholic News Agency — “Bishop Martino writes Sen. Casey over vote against Mexico City policy”

Don Surber — “Palin Was Right (about Bill Ayers).” This means her critics were, and still are, wrong.

Allah at Hot Air — “Nutroots tries to smear Jindal over Katrina.” Pathetic, and refuted.

Reason’s Ronald Bailey — “Eighty Seven Percent of Housing Value Loss* in Just Four States.” Along with what yours truly has previously presented, the concentrated, few-states nature of the initial stages of the downturn also is a further argument against characterizing the first half of 2008 as recessionary.

Wall Street Journal — “Brutal February for Blue Chips.” I blame Bush (/sarc).

You don’t say? From the Washington Times — “Charity tax limits upset many.”

Awwww — “Newspaper convention canceled amid industry woes.”

Positivity: New Therapy With Stem Cells To Treat Crohn’s Disease

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:15 am

From Science Daily, regarding developments in Spain, and elsewhere:

Feb. 21, 2009

Cellular therapy with stem cells is revolutionizing the focus of treatment of many serious diseases. Replacing the cells of damaged tissue with other new cells from the same patient is already a reality. This is the basis of cellular therapy and regenerative medicine, the latest great advance in biomedicine.

In this line, Hospital Clínic, Barcelona is exploring an innovative cellular therapy that uses stem cells to treat Crohn’s disease, a chronic genetic disease that affects 1% of the population in Spain and which has considerable impact on the quality of life of the patients. The procedure is based on an autologous bone-marrow transplant (when patients receive a transplant of their own stem cells) and now constitutes a treatment option to cure an intestinal disease that sometimes does not successfully respond to drugs and requires highly complex surgery that does not provide a cure.

With this therapy, in an average follow-up period of 6 years, 80% of transplant patients are in a phase of total remission of the disease and the remaining 20% have shown considerable improvement following the transplant, and are now responding favorably to drugs.

Dr. Julián Panés and Dr. Elena Ricart over the Gastroenterology Department of Hospital Clínic, Barcelona are the driving force behind this therapy in Spain and began to implement regenerative cellular therapy in patients with Crohn’s disease in August 2008. To date, a total of 6 patients are benefiting from this new treatment, of whom 3 I’ve already completed the process and are in the follow-up face, and a further 3 are at different stages of therapy. The transplant requires several weeks of admission to hospital before patients receive their own cells.

Cellular Therapy as a Strategy to Combat Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease, together with ulcerative colitis, is included in what is called irritable bowel disease. It is a chronic genetic disease that occurs when the immune system loses tolerance to the patient’s own intestinal flora, leading to an abnormal inflammatory response that continues over time. The results are inflammation and ulceration in different areas of the digestive tract, leading to the symptoms. The disease progresses in the form of unpredictable and variable outbreaks throughout the patient’s life and the severity of the symptoms varies according to the level of involvement of the intestines and the patient’s response to the assigned treatment.

It is a disease that usually affects young people between the ages of 18 and 40 years, and approximately 2000 new cases are diagnosed in Spain every year. Diagnosis is often difficult because it presents symptoms similar to those of other diseases of the digestive tract: abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever, general malaise, etc. Patients’ quality of life is conditioned by the severity of the disease and, in the most severe cases, prevents them from leading a normal life, with a very high level of suffering due to the acuteness and frequency of the intestinal symptoms.

Hospital Clínic de Barcelona is one of the few hospitals in the world to instate cellular therapy using autologous stem-cell transplantation. In the US, the treatment has been tested on 12 patients with severe Crohn’s disease, of whom 11 have had very good results; in Italy, the treatment has been applied to 4 patients, 3 of whom are also showing excellent progress following the transplant. As Hospital Clínic, 6 patients with Crohn’s disease are already included in the process and, following the international examples, increasing numbers of patients are expected to choose this option to treat the disease in a state that was, to date, practically untreatable. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

February 27, 2009

AP Report on Uncle Sam’s Citi Deal Avoids ‘Nationalization,’ Plays ‘Name That Party’ with Fat Cat Former Obama Adviser Bob Rubin (Recalling Rubin and Enron)

RobertRubin0209.jpgOverview:

  • An 800-word AP article on the quasi-nationalization of Citigroup doesn’t mention any variation on the word “nationalization.”
  • Clinton Admin Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin is not described in the article as a Democrat. He was once (quite erroneously) considered one of the architects behind the economy’s mid- to late-1990s growth. Now he’s just “a former Treasury Secretary.”
  • Rubin “earned” $115 million while he was at Citi and significantly influenced its failure.
  • Update 2 below recalls that Rubin tried to get the Bush administration to bite on influencing a delay in a ratings downgrade of Enron debt in 2001. While not technically illegal, that attempt was certainly unethical and corrupt.

_____________________________________________

There’s an N-Word you apparently write at your own risk if you’re in the establishment media. It’s “nationalization.”

The Associated Press’s Stephen Bernard, with the help of old reliables Jeannine Aversa and Martin Crutsinger, blew through almost 800 words (link is dynamic; 12:49 p.m. version is saved here for future reference, is now authored by Crutsinger, and is longer than what I originally read) about the deal between Uncle Sam and Citigroup, under which the government could end up with a 36% ownership stake — almost certainly enough, as Citi’s largest shareholder, to impose its will — without mentioning the term.

Another precious tidbit is in the story’s second-last paragraph (bold is mine):

Last month, Robert Rubin, a former Treasury Secretary who was a longtime Citigroup board member, and Win Bischoff, most recently chairman at Citigroup, both announced their retirement from the company.

“A” former Treasury Secretary?

Gee, until recently he was known as Democratic Treasury Secretary under Democrat Bill Clinton.

According to the press until relatively recently, Rubin was the one guy besides Alan Greenspan who was responsible for engineering the mid- and late-1990s prosperity. A Google News Archive search on ["Robert Rubin" Clinton prosperity] (typed as indicated between the brackets) for 1996 and 2005 returns over 200 results. One of those returned results refers to a Miami Herald article where Rubin is described as “the best (treasury secretary) since Hamilton.”

Even more recently, Rubin, a January 10 Wall Street Journal item on Rubin’s departure from the bank (“Rubin Departs Citi on a Low Note”; HT Paxalles recalls that WonderBob was “an economic adviser to Barack Obama’s campaign.”

But to AP, Bob Rubin is now just “a former Treasury Secretary.” How convenient.

While we’re in the neighborhood: Do Clinton and Rubin deserve credit for the late-1990s economy?

Uh, no. Actually, heck no.

That prosperity of the late-1990s took shape because of:

  • The GOP takeover of Congress in 1994, effective January 1995.
  • The modicum of spending control resulting from the GOP takeover. Even though Newt Gingrich & Co. “lost” the PR battle during the 1995 government shutdown, the restraints (relatively speaking) on spending growth that came about from it paid multi-year dividends. Yesterday, as I listened to Hannity, I was reminded that then-Ohio Congressman John Kasich was a major player in this drama, and deserves mountains of previously unrecognized credit for his role in it.
  • Welfare reform. The Clinton Administration vehemently opposed welfare reform until it realized that the Boy President’s continued vetoes would threaten his reelection. As a result of welfare reform, about a half-million people a year moved government dependency to producers producers of value from 1997-2000. Total caseload decreased by about 2 million a year.
  • The GOP-inspired capital gains tax cut of 1997, which Rubin resisted. This move, more than any other single factor, explains why the federal budget went into surplus in the late 1990s, more than offsetting the negative impact of Clinton’s 1993 tax increases. Of course, the press gave Clinton mostly undeserved credit. But without a GOP Congress, the idea of a cap-gains cut would never have gained any traction.

Getting back to Rubin, the Journal’s January article added that “After collecting $115 million in pay, he (Rubin) leaves with his star diminished.” But apparently not his own bank account.

Did anyone hear Barack Obama or anyone else on the president’s team denounce Bob Rubin’s stratospherically exorbitant reward for failure by name? Didn’t think so.

Given the Obama administration’s relentless talk-down of the economy until his sort-of State of the Union speech three days ago, the quote caption under Rubin’s picture above (“liquidity is psychological”) is bitterly ironic.

Citigroup is really “the Bob Rubin Bailout,” and Rubin’s nickname should henceforth be Bailout Bob.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

____________________________________________________

UPDATE: Citi closed the day down over 40% at $1.49 a share. Just one more step in the “borrow-spend-panic-bailout-repeat cycle.”

UPDATE 2: Commenter Gary Hall at NewsBusters reminded me that Rubin asked Bush administration to intervene to delay an impending ratings agency downgrade of Enron debt largely held by Citi in 2001. From the New York Times:

Mr. Rubin, who resigned as Treasury secretary in July 1999 and several months later became chairman of Citigroup’s executive committee, called Peter R. Fisher, the under secretary of the Treasury, on Nov. 8, 2001, after learning that Enron was close to losing its investment-grade rating.

Citigroup stood to lose more than $1 billion that it had lent to Enron if its credit rating was downgraded and the company subsequently collapsed. Mr. Rubin had been asked to make the call by the head of Citigroup’s investment banking unit at the time, Michael A. Carpenter, according to the staff report by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

….. The staff report, expected to be released on Friday, says that ”it does not appear that Rubin violated any laws or regulations in contacting Fisher and proposing that the Treasury Department contact a credit rating agency in connection with Enron’s rating.”

The Great One, Mark Levin, translated at National Review:

Despite all the noise Democrats like Lieberman and Levin made about Enron, and their efforts to tie the company’s corruption and bankruptcy to the president, vice president, and the Republican party, Rubin was the only major political figure who sought to use his influence to conceal the true financial status of Enron. And he did so not out of concern for energy markets, as he apparently told Senate staffers, but in response to a request by Carpenter, the head of Citigroup’s investment-banking unit, who was concerned about a $1 billion loss should Enron’s true financial condition be accurately reflected in its public credit rating.

If Rubin had succeeded in persuading Fisher to intervene with Moody’s, an independent credit-rating company, Citigroup would have been able to minimize its losses by dumping its bad Enron credit on unwitting investors. Talk about insider trading!

In any event, the staff report’s conclusion — that Rubin’s sleazy actions, for which he arrogantly makes no apologies, did not violate any law — is not a decision congressional committees are empowered to make.

UPDATE 3, Feb. 28: More background on Rubin, Citi, and Enron, from an August 1, 2002 Freedom Works open letter

The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman
Chairman, Senate Government Oversight Committee

….. It is difficult to understand why credit rating agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s failed to downgrade Enron’s debt rating to junk status until December of 2001. While the equity-backed special purpose entities (SPEs) Enron used to keep leverage off balance sheet were not widely known to the public until October 16, 2001, credit rating agencies knew of them since their inception, as they were responsible for issuing a rating on most, if not all of them.

Later it was discovered that many of Enron’s financial dealings contained repayment clauses to be exercised when Enron’s credit rating fell below a specified grade. Clearly, maintaining an investment grade credit rating was critical for Enron and investment banks, like Citigroup, with large exposure to Enron. With such huge sums at stake, both Enron and its creditors could be expected to use what ever means available to avert financial disaster.

Evidence suggests that Citigroup disguised loans to Enron as forward swap contracts to allow Enron to book the transaction as cash flow instead of debt. At the same time, Citigroup is suspected of having sold credit-linked securities to investors to raise capital to be transferred into the same SPEs that stood to receive delivery on the swap. This, in and of it self, could be an act of fraud if Citigroup did not expect delivery of the oil or gas and considered it a loan.

But more importantly, when did Citigroup executives know that Enron depended on an investment grade credit rating and what steps did it take – both through financial dealings and influence – to help maintain it? If Citigroup used the swap contracts to improve Enron’s appearance to bond raters with the knowledge that a downgrade would not only make Enron less able to attract new bondholders, but also trigger repayment options Enron could not cover, this could be a case of securities fraud.

Here’s background from Mark Levin in July 2002, along with more evidence of Rubin unethically attempting to intervene (link is in original):

The New York Times reports that “senior credit officers of Citigroup misrepresented the full nature of a 1999 transaction with Enron in the records of the deal so that Enron could ignore accounting requirements and hide its true financial condition, according to internal bank documents and government investigators.” The Wall Street Journal reports that Enron “marketed similarly structured deals to a slew of other companies.” And yesterday, the Washington Post (original link in original no longer works – Ed.) reported that Citigroup, along with J. P. Morgan Chase & Co., “transferred billions of dollars to Enron … in recent years in what amounted to loans that Houston energy trader concealed as it struggled to survive .…”

….. Moreover, AP reported that at a March 21, 2002 hearing before Lieberman and his committee, John Diaz, managing director of Moody’s Investors Service, a major credit-rating agency, Diaz testified that Rubin had contacted him about seeking a higher credit rating for Enron. Diaz said nothing came of Rubin’s telephone call. However, this was the second time Rubin intervened in an attempt to keep Enron’s credit rating high.

When asked why credit-rating agencies delayed the lowering of Enron’s rating, Diaz said that Enron executives lied to his agency in the fall of 1999 about its complex web of partnerships and that “material information was missing.”

Consider Lieberman’s remarkable reply: “I feel as if you weren’t as aggressive as you should have been. We have got to look seriously at creating some kind of system of accountability and monitoring of what the agencies are doing.”

Yet, Lieberman knew that Rubin, on behalf of Citigroup — which had an approximate $1 billion investment in Enron and the potential of large merger and other fees in pending deals — on at least two occasions, sought personally to protect Enron’s credit rating.

Welcome to the Punk Presidency

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:49 am

ObamaHillaryMiddleFinger0408ObamaMcCainMiddleFinger1108Note: This column originally appeared at Pajamas Media early Wednesday morning.

______________________

Robert Gibbs’ attack on CNBC’s Rick Santelli is just a recent example of a pattern of boorish behavior.

______________________

Here’s how I greeted the news of Barack Obama’s victory on Election Night last November: “Say hello to the Punk Presidency.”

I was hardly out of line, basing the president-elect’s moniker on his poor behavior during the primary and general election campaigns, best exemplified in May and November YouTube videos. In each case — the first in reference to Hillary Clinton, the second to John McCain — Obama scratched his face with his middle finger, and seemed, along with part of each crowd, to smile at the “cuteness” of what he had just done. As I said on Election Eve, “Once might be an accident…. Twice is proof.”

I fervently hoped that the former Illinois senator had decided during the campaign that such conduct was required for victory, to be discarded upon achieving it.

Less than 72 hours later, that hope was dashed when Obama, speaking of conversations with our still-living presidents, cracked what he thought was a funny joke:

“I have spoken to all of them who are living,” he responded. “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any séances.”

Hardy har har. Obama didn’t even get the “joke” right. Nancy Reagan infamously consulted astrology. But in the spring of 1996, it was Hillary Clinton who “‘talked’ to Eleanor Roosevelt…. it was not unusual for White House staff members to hear Hillary, behind closed doors, having animated — if one-sided — conversations with Eleanor’s ghost.” Decades earlier, Jackie Kennedy said, “I used to sit in the Lincoln Room and I could really feel his strength.”

I thought that this misstep might be a “thrill of victory” mistake made in the flush of impending power.

But a month later, the Obama journeyed into dangerous territory, telling the world that workers who had occupied the Republic Window plant in Chicago were “absolutely right.” At the time, I wrote that “Obama’s support of lawbreakers has the potential to undermine the overall rule of law….” It was not a good sign that Bank of America and Chase Bank succumbed to the public-pressure nightmare, “loaning” over $1 million that will almost certainly never be repaid to settle the workers’ alleged claims.

Then there was the president-elect’s condescending treatment of Chicago Tribune reporter John McCormick on December 16. Obama cut McCormick off in the middle of his question about the controversy surrounding Obama’s former US Senate seat, telling him not to “waste” his question.

Regardless of policy differences, surely everyone in America wished that Obama, perhaps with prodding from those around him, would change upon assuming the presidency’s awesome responsibilities.

Nope. Three days after his inauguration, Obama arrogantly told Republican leaders who had come to discuss his mislabeled “stimulus” plan, “I won…. I will trump you on that.” Well sir, every legislator in that room also won an election. Also note that it wasn’t “we won,” or “my party won.” It was all about him, and he was in their face with it. It was Dick Nixon’s “I am the president” with a punk exclamation point.

Now at least one cabinet member and the president’s press secretary have gotten into the act. How else does one interpret Eric Holder’s description of America as “a nation of cowards” on race as anything other than a punkish attempt to force any “discussion” of race to meet his and his administration’s terms?

Most recently, the nation was treated to the reaction of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs to CNBC reporter Rick Santelli’s “Shout Heard ‘Round the World” (CNBC’s term).

On February 19, Santelli roundly criticized the administration’s mortgage modification plan, expressed legitimate concern that it is “promoting bad behavior,” and ridiculed the general idea that we can spend our way out of our current economic troubles.

Gibbs was in full punk mode (a commenter at my blog pronounced it “Gibberish”), as he snidely told the assembled press that Santelli, whose career as a trader and then financial reporter goes back to 1979, “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Gibbs also assumed that Santelli, apparently like members of Congress who voted for the mislabeled “stimulus” package without bothering to read it, hadn’t bothered to peruse the administration’s proposal, suggesting that he should “download it, hit print, and begin to read it.”

You stay classy, Bob. Rick Santelli has more than likely forgotten more than you’ll ever know about economic moral hazards.

Fortunately, Santelli pushed back hard Friday night on Larry Kudlow’s program, even tearing up what he said was a copy of the plan. Kudlow appropriately expressed alarm about the brazen attempt at press intimidation by our Punk President’s spokesman.

Oh, and speaking of intimidation, last week we also saw some of Barack Obama’s old friends spring into action. In Baltimore, ACORN members broke into and occupied a foreclosed home in Baltimore, saying, “This is our house now.” Do you think it’s just a wee bit likely that they took Obama’s expressed solidarity with lawbreakers at Republic Window as permission to take their “protests” to the next level?

If enough actions such as ACORN’s occur and go unpunished, investors, businesspeople, and entrepreneurs will begin to conclude that the rule of law is disappearing. If that happens, there may be no limit to how far the markets and the economy might sink.

The President and his people had better start demonstrating something resembling adult maturity, and very soon. America can ill afford its current Punk Presidency.

UPDATE, May 2010: Obama did the following (direct YouTube) while noting the presence of Scranton, PA Mayor John Callahan at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Allentown, PA on December 4, 2009:

Here’s a freeze frame:

ObamaScrantonPAflipoff120409

Lesson of the Day: Never Underestimate the Negative Power of the POR Economy’s Princess, Princes, and Progenitors (4Q GDP Comes in at Annualized -6.2%)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:33 am

When Uncle Sam’s initial report on fourth quarter 2008′s GDP came in at an annualized -3.8% contraction vs. analysts’ estimates of -5.1% in late January, I had hoped that it might indicate a better December than anticipated.

I was wrong. I am sorry.

I underestimated the expectations-shattering, confidence-draining, trash-talking, energy-starving, high-taxing, exponential deficit-growing damage the architects of the POR Economy — Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid — could do in such a short amount of time since I recognized its June onset in early July (with a later the decades-in-the-making assistance of fellow party members who created the housing and banking mess).

This morning, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis revised the 4Q08 GDP contraction to an annualized -6.2% (i.e., it shrank by 1.56% during the quarter, considering negative compounding).

So once again, it’s time to revisit the POR Economy’s benchmarks from June 1, 2008:

  • Unemployment — was 5.5% as of the May 2008 BLS report); now at 7.6%.
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average — was at 12638, closed yesterday at 7182, down 43.2%.
  • S&P 500 — was at 1400, closed yesterday at 753, down 46.2%.
  • NASDAQ — was at 2523, closed yesterday at 1391, down 44.9%.
  • GDP Growth/contraction — was 2.06% in the 12 months preceding July 1, 2008; has been an annualized -3.39% since (-0.5% in the third quarter of 2008, -6.2% preliminary estimate for the fourth, including negative compounding).
  • Inflation — was 4.2% in the 12 months ended May 31, 2008; prices have dropped about 2.5% in the eight reported months since then (through January), and are up about 1.1% in those seven months excluding food and energy.
  • Prime rate — was 5.0%, is now 3.25%.

Way to go, guys.

Lucid Links of the Day (022709)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:49 am

Noteworthy Net-Worthies:

Michelle Malkin — “Prayers for Phyllis Schlafly”

WCBS-TV in New York — “Jewish Leaders Blast Clinton Over Israel Criticism” (Drudge Link Headline: “She’s Not the Hillary We Knew”; Blast from the Past: Hillary Hugs Suha Arafat)

From Top of the Ticket at the LA Times, describing people at the bottom of the barrel — “More entertaining Sen. Burris news, this time on son Burris II”

James Glassman, as Uncle Sam moves in to run/finish ruining Citigroup — “Remember the House Bank” (oh yeah, I remember; so does someone else)

From The E.W. Scripps Company‘s corporate site — “Rocky Mountain News to close” (HT Joshua Sharf at NewsBusters)

AdAge — “Local Ad Spending Forecast to Decline Through 2013″ (that’s 4-1/2 more years)

This one’s not so lucid — The San Fran Chronicle can’t even write an truthful headline about itself (“Hearst wants ‘significant’ cuts at Chronicle”). The reality is that “if the savings cannot be accomplished “quickly,” the company will seek a buyer, and if none comes forward, it will close The Chronicle.”

Video: “Biden falsely claims Jindal’s state is losing 400 jobs a day” (HT Hot Air)

USA Today — “Delta Queen docks in Chattanooga to become hotel.” Alternative headline: “Cincinnati Misses an Opportunity.”

The guy doing this isn’t the only one, but since he contacted me about it, he gets a plug (RecessionJunction.com).

Positivity: Wareham Scout earns heroism award for beach rescue

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:17 am

From Wareham, Massachusetts:

February 22, 2009 6:00 AM

WAREHAM — Tyler Stinehour, 11, like many of the Webelos in Pack 39, recently became a Boy Scout at the pack’s Blue and Gold Banquet in Onset. A smaller number of scouts, including Tyler, received the Arrow of Light Award, the highest rank in Cub Scouting. But Tyler was the only scout to receive the prestigious Heroism Award, which he earned last summer after rescuing his father’s girlfriend from an undercurrent at Horseneck Beach in Westport.

“It’s a rare thing, it’s not something that’s given out all the time,” said Michelle Stinehour, Tyler’s mother, a den leader and assistant pack master for the scouts. “The heroism award was the big deal of (the) night.”

Tyler, who did not know ahead of time that he was receiving the award, said he was proud of the accomplishment.

“It was pretty amazing because a lot of people clapped and stuff, and a lot of people said good job,” he said. “My grandma was crying.”

On July 29, 2008, Tyler was swimming at Horseneck Beach with his father, Herbert “Buddy” Stinehour, his father’s girlfriend, Sally Westgate, and Westgate’s daugter, Kayla, 13, according to testimonials they wrote to the Boy Scouts. Several large waves suddenly came at the group all at once, knocking Westgate down. She injured her leg and back and was unable to stand up as the waves crashed over her head. She called out for help and Tyler quickly responded, keeping Westgate’s head above water as Kayla and Stinehour rushed over to help. Tyler then ran to get help from the lifeguards, who brought Westgate to shore in an ATV.

“In my eyes, Tyler Stinehour is my hero, and I think if it wasn’t for him, I may not be here today,” Westgate said in her statement.

The Heroism Award may be awarded to a Scout or adult leader who has demonstrated heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life at minimum risk to self, according to the Boy Scouts of America Web site. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

February 26, 2009

AFP Criticizes Fox News for Obama-Critical Article — Written by AP

Maybe it was just too easy to assume the worst of the news network most others in the press love to hate. Or perhaps it was deliberate.

Whatever the reason, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) wire service’s Wednesday story about reaction to Barack Obama’s sort-of State of the Union Speech the previous evening spent four of its last five paragraphs pinning a report harshly critical of various claims in the speech on Fox News.

True, Fox News’s web site carried the story (“Fact Check: Obama’s Words on Home Aid Ring Hollow”). But it was actually written by the Associated Press’s Calvin Woodward and Jim Kuhnhenn. (Yes, the AP actually wrote an Obama-critical story. More on that in a bit.)

Here are the four paragraphs in question from the AFP report, which otherwise lavishes praise on Obama’s speech and rips into Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s GOP response performance:

The Fox News network however was critical of the president.

Obama “knows Americans are unhappy that the government could rescue people who bought mansions beyond their means.

“But his assurance Tuesday night that only the deserving will get help rang hollow,” read an article on the network’s website that disputed many of the president’s assertions on economic growth.

Fox also pointed out a mistake: In the speech Obama refers to the United States as “the nation that invented the automobile.”

But it was really the AP’s report. It wasn’t blatantly obvious, but the original source was right there at FoxNews.com:

FoxNewsAPobamaSpeechReport0209.jpg

One version of the article with the Woodward/Kuhnhenn’s byline is here.

As to the AP article itself, the good news is that AP pair indeed spent over 1,200 words ripping into no fewer than eight assertions Obama made during his speech They related to housing aid, who invented the autmobile, oil imports, the credibility of government cost savings claims, how supposedly “gutting” regulations led to current economic mess, how his ideas are only proposals (not dictates, as they would appear to be from the tone of his speech, the nation’s ability to double its production of “renewable” energy, and the claim (criticized in the past by yours truly at NewsBusters and at BizzyBlog) that his programs will “save or create 3.5 million jobs.”

The bad news is that the Woodward/Kuhnhenn’s AP report wasn’t carried widely. A 1:00 PM ET Google News Search using the article’s third sentence came back with 97 results — certainly not a big numbers, compared to the over 8,500 results that came back in a Google News search on “Obama speech” (not in quotes) for February 24-25. Further, it’s not at all clear how many of those web results made into the print editions of subscribing newspapers included in those results.

I suppose we can speculate all day as to why AP’s outlets largely ignored the pair’s story. One possibility is that sugary-sweet odes to the speech offered up hours before Obama even uttered a word by the likes of AP’s Jennifer Loven (noted yesterday at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) crowded out later, longer, and more sober items like the one from Woodward/Kuhnhenn.

Regardless, the end result is that AP will be able to say, “See, see, we criticized the president,” in a story that, compared to others on the same topic, didn’t gain much currency.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy Wreckage Report

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:32 am

Projected093009Deficit

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UPDATE: Cal Thomas

In perhaps the biggest contrast of all — bordering on subterfuge — the president claimed the budget he presents to Congress this week is “free of earmarks.” Well, if earmarks are absent from the budget, they are abundant in the $410 billion omnibus package that will be voted on separately, a bill that contains an estimated 9,000 earmarks. These include, as noted by Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, who gave the GOP response to Obama’s address, “$300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a ‘magnetic levitation’ line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called volcano monitoring.” And according to Tom Jones, a staffer of Sen. Jim DeMint’s who is going over the bill line by line and posting his pork findings on Twitter, $400,000 has been set aside to “combat bullying” and another $200,000 for tattoo removal, as part of a campaign to prevent violence.

The competition is strong, but surely the tiresome and repeated “no earmarks” assertions are among the most risible claims coming from this administration. That they are rarely if ever being challenged by the establishment press when their falsehood is so obvious and blatant tells you all you need to know about how totally in the tank they are.

Lucid Links of the Day (022609)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 9:08 am

Noteworthy Net-worthies:

Michelle Malkin busts the Baltimore ACORN break-in perps — “No Tears for These Foreclosure “Victims”

At USA Today, Eric Holder paraphrases Kermit the Frog — “It’s Not Easy Closing Gitmo”

Nancy Morgan — “A Contrived Crisis? You Decide”

From AP at Investment News — “NYSE may allow penny stocks”

From Monday (Tuesday print) at the New York Times — “U.S. Is Pressed to Add Billions to Bailouts,” including even more to AIG.

Maggie Thurber raised a great issue last week that I left on the cutting-room floor in my Pajamas Media column on “The Punk Presidency” — “Chicago Tea Party and re-default rates.”

AP, on your tax dollars and/or our kids’ and grandkids’ future obligations at work — “GM Posts $9.6 B(illion) 4Q Loss, Burns Through $6.2B in Cash”

Fidelity’s “Ned” Johnson speaks out (finally) — “Edward Johnson slams FDR,‘New Deal II’ — Blames feds for crisis, derides U.S. spending”

In Belgium, a postcard arrives — after 83 years.

Old article, great description, lacking only the word “Pretend” — “NARAL Catholics Line Up for Obama”

Positivity: Adult Stem Cells Already Help Spinal Cord Patients, FDA Embryonic Trials Not Needed

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

From Washington:

January 26, 2009

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of embryonic stem cells in human trials for the first time. While the trials involve controversial embryonic cells that have problems with tumors and immune system rejection, the use of adult stem cells has already proven safe for spinal cord patients.

Despite grave concerns that problems such as the causing of tumors and immune system rejection issues haven’t been solved, the FDA approved the trials last week.

It gave Geron Corp., based in California, permission to conduct the first-ever human trial for a treatment derived from the controversial cells. The trials will involve 10 spinal cord patients.

However, the safety of adult stem cell transplants in spinal cord injury patients has already been proved in two clinical trials involving studies in Australia and Portugal.

The Australian research group reported its findings in the August 2008 edition of the medical journal Brain, saying that “transplantation of autologous olfactory ensheathing cells into the injured spinal cord is feasible and is safe up to one year post-implantation.”

In Portugal, a group headed by Carlos Lima also used autologous olfactory stem cell transplants and put them into the spinal lesions of paraplegic and tetraplegic patients.

In a July 2006 Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine article, they wrote that adult stem cells are beginning to offer the most hope for those paralyzed from spinal cord injuries.

Lima’s team’s adult stem cell research showed restored motor function and sensation in a few paralyzed patients using adult stem cells obtained from a patient’s own nose.

Lima and his research team demonstrated that a patient’s own adult stem cells and olfactory mucosa can treat paralysis caused by spinal cord injury.

“Every patient had improvement in ASIA motor scores,” Lima wrote in his team’s paper. “This study shows that olfactory mucosa autograft transplantation into the human injured spinal cord is feasible, relatively safe, and potentially beneficial.”

Mark Pickup, a disability rights activist in Canada, commented on the Lima study in a statement sent to LifeNews.com. He said he wants to see funding of stem cell research go to adult stem cells instead of embryonic because they provide the most hope for paralyzed people like him. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

February 25, 2009

Kasich on Ohio’s Fiscal Situation: ‘Kick(ing) the Can Down the Road’

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:23 pm

While Ted Strickland was basking in undeserved recognition (*) in the First Lady’s box at Barack Obama’s sort-of State of the Union speech last night, former Ohio Congressman John Kasich was delivering reality in a Columbus Dispatch op-ed:

Governor’s budget plan will worsen Ohio’s plight

At a time when Ohio’s economy is in a death spiral and the state continues to shed jobs, it is irrespons-ible for our state’s leadership to increase spending based on a one-time bailout from the federal government.

Ohio’s families are tightening their belts and making tough spending decisions. But Gov. Ted Strickland consistently has refused to make tough decisions, and his two-year budget plan puts the state’s long-term economic future at risk.

Over the past two years, he has made a series of bad choices that have contributed to the state’s economic woes.

….. When confronted with the seriousness of this situation, the governor used more gimmicks, timing shifts and one-time transfers to compensate for revenue shortfalls. Assuming the rosiest scenario, he failed to make the structural changes that could have significantly ameliorated any future economic downturns.

….. Last month, the governor unveiled his outline for addressing Ohio’s problems. Unfortunately, rather than a sound fiscal plan for Ohio to live within its means, Ohioans received a misguided plan that increased spending and pinned the economic future on a handout from the federal government, for which Strickland for months had been lobbying his friends in Washington. The problem is that this is merely a bandage. It allows the governor to kick the can down the road rather than make tough choices now that will put the state on a sure footing. A governor with his hand out for more money is not the type of leader that instills confidence or will bring jobs to Ohio.

Even Strickland’s fellow Democrat, Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, thinks that “states make a huge mistake if we take the stimulus, paper over the budget deficits that we’re facing this year and next, because, then the stimulus goes away, and we will be in worse trouble for not having taken the steps necessary.”

But Strickland is hoping for the easy way out, and his imprudent decision to use the bailout money to increase spending will leave Ohioans with more government and less money to pay for it in two years when that money is gone.

The Ohio Senate still has a theoretically veto-proof GOP majority of 21-12. Will it act like it does?

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* – Even the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Stephen Koff had a hard time with this, noting that “Those in the box usually represent a special achievement, including military service, heroic action, accomplishments in school or the overcoming of a barrier. ….. Where does Strickland fit in?” I’d say, “outside the box.”

Latest Pajamas Media Post (‘Welcome to the Punk Presidency’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:50 am

It’s here. It fits (“a young, inexperienced person”).

To Obamaniacs who don’t like it: Deal with it.

It will go up here at BizzyBlog on Friday morning (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.

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For those keeping score at home: The BizzyBlog Obama Presidency Punk-o-Meter went back to zero last Friday, February 20, with Robert Gibbs’s bitter, personal, intimidation-attempting attack on CNBC’s Rick Santelli and his supposed lack of qualification to speak his mind. Absent any punkish behavior for the 60 days that follow, the Punk Presidency moniker will fall into disuse on April 21, and won’t return after that unless the punk behavior does.

AP’s Loven Describes Obama Speech — 5-1/2 Hours Before It Began (See UPDATE on Cantor’s Statement)

APabsolutelyPathetic0109Who knew that the Associated Press’s Jennifer Loven has the ability to see into the future?

That must be the case, because yesterday she told us what had happened at Barack Obama’s sort-of State of the Union speech — 5-1/2 hours before Obama uttered a word.

As fellow NewsBuster Noel Sheppard is given to say, “I kid you not.”

Loven’s AP story carried at Breitbart (HT to Abe Greenwald a Commentary’s Contentions blog via Instapundit) has a 3:30 p.m. Eastern time stamp:

APlovenObamaPrespeechHeadline022409

Obama’s speech was scheduled to begin at 9:00 p.m.

Loven’s before-the-speech as if after-the-fact review provides plenty of comic relief. Though she would be expected to have been given a pre-release copy of the speech, her use of the past tense gives readers the impression that the speech had already taken place. She even criticized Republicans for allegedly doing exactly what she was doing — but they weren’t (bolds are mine):

Standing before a nation on an economic precipice, President Barack Obama aimed to balance candor with can-do Tuesday night in his first address to a joint session of Congress. Millions more anxious Americans were tuning in on TV.

Obama was arguing that his still-unfolding economic revival plan has room for—even demands—a broader agenda including dramatic increases in health care coverage and wiser, “greener” fuel use. He was addressing an ebullient Democratic congressional majority and an embattled but reinvigorated GOP minority as well as worried viewers at home.

Just five weeks after his inauguration, Obama wasn’t charged with producing a formal State of the Union status report. But for all intents and purposes, that’s what it was: a night for the president to sketch out his priorities in a setting unmatched the rest of the year.

….. Comments on Obama’s address came in early from Republicans, many hours before he had uttered a word. (see UPDATE below — Ed.)

“House Republicans stand united in willingness to work with this president to try and tackle the very tough economic situation that is facing our families, to try and make some of the tough decisions together,” said House GOP Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia. But Republicans would stick to their principles, he said: “One is that Washington shouldn’t be spending money that we don’t have. And two, we shouldn’t be raising taxes on businesses and families that can’t afford to pay them.”

Hey Jen, at least the Republicans were more than likely responding to the pre-release copy of the speech, and (see UPDATE below) not pretending to know how the oratory was delivered.

Apparently, the AP has no embarrassment threshold. A later version of Loven’s report at 4:11 Mountain time (6:11 Eastern, still almost three hours before the speech) at Salt Lake’s Deseret News quotes the President as having “said” things before he even spoke:

APlovenObamaPrespeechQuotes022409

Commenter “chuck martel” at Greenwald’s post was duly “impressed“:

Wow! That’s amazing! Jennifer Loven, who’s going to win the Kentucky Derby? And the World Series? What am I going to get for my birthday? Is my daughter’s baby going to be a girl or a boy? There’s so many questions I want to ask you!

Here’s a more pertinent futuristic question: Can anyone foresee a more glaring example of in-the-tank reporting than the Loven has just displayed?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: Loven’s contention that Eric Cantor’s comments were “on” (i.e., directly related to) Obama’s address are false, and I believe she could have and should have known that when she wrote her report.

I have spoken with and received an e-mail from a person in a position to know. This person was forwarded Cantor’s e-mail containing a 1:35 p.m. time stamp. Its text reads as follows (web link lacking a time stamp is here; graphic below is from the e-mail forwarded to me to show the time the e-mail was originally sent from Cantor’s office):

CantorEmailAheadOfObamaSpeech022409

Cantor Remarks on the President’s Speech Tonight

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) made the following remarks at the House Republican Leadership stakeout prior to President Obama’s speech to the nation tonight:

“Later tonight, we are going to have the opportunity to hear the President give his state of the nation address.  I believe that House Republicans stand united in willingness to work with this President to try and tackle the very tough economic situation that is facing our families, to try and make some of the tough decisions together.

“But there are some principles by which we’re going to operate in proffering our ideas to the President and frankly to our Congressional colleagues on the other side of the aisle. One is that Washington shouldn’t be spending money that we don’t have. And two, we shouldn’t be raising taxes on businesses and families that can’t afford to pay them. What we have to do is to make sure that we are striving for restoring the financial security that people want and deserve, as well as the job security that they need.

“These are the principles, I believe, by which you will see the Republicans in the House come forward with a plan to try and address the economic woes facing families and try to right the ship of government as we continue to see the funding pretty much unlimited for just about everything that comes down the pike. We have got to change course. We have got to become smarter and simpler in terms of the type of solutions coming out of Washington. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve.”

Cantor’s title is less than perfect, and would have been clearer had it contained “upcoming” or some kind of future indicator. Nevertheless, nothing in Cantor’s text indicates that he had an advance copy of the speech.

Because he didn’t.

The person in a position to know I referred to above told me that Republicans got no information about the speech from the Obama administration until over 2 hours after Loven’s report,  as follows:

  • Shortly after 6:00 p.m. — GOP conference received excerpts from the White House Press Secretary, and a list of guests who would be in the First Lady’s box.
  • Roughly 7:45 p.m. — GOP conference received additional excerpts.
  • Shortly after 8:30 p.m. — GOP conference received full text as prepared for delivery.

I’m not in a position to say whether this timing reflects typical protocol for speech releases by the White House to the opposition party. But I can say that Jennifer Loven gave readers the impression that Cantor was reacting to the speech itself when she characterized the congressman’s statement as “Comments on Obama’s address.” The fact is, he in no way could have been commenting on the speech itself. It seems reasonable to believe that Loven, whose position as President of the White House Correspondents Association should make her one of the most in-the-loop reporters on matters such as these, knew that, or should have known that, when she wrote it. If she had any doubt about the basis for Cantor’s remarks, she should have contacted Cantor or one of his advisers.