December 31, 2009

Lickety-Split Links for Last Post of 2009 (123109, Afternoon)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 1:33 pm

Well, each link will be lickety-split, but a lot of backlog needs to be cleared.

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James Pethokoukis at Reuters: “What Ben Nelson didn’t tell Nebraskans” — “in a TV spot, Nelson failed to tell his fellow Nebraskans that while the Senate bill supposedly improves the U. S. fiscal picture, it employs some Enron-esque bookkeeping tricks to get there.”

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This year’s Christmas shopping season came in “about 1 percent (ahead of last year), in line with what many retailing professionals expected.” Before adjustment for the number of shopping days, it was up 3.6%. Given that the consensus until the week before Christmas had been a slight decline, that’s not bad.

I want to be wrong about this, but based on what I see, I’m very concerned that retailers, who overall did very little seasonal hiring, are bracing for a really rough first quarter, with many accompanying closures and layoffs.

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Ann Coulter writes that Martha Coakley, currently the state’s Attorney General in Massachusetts and the Democratic nominee for U.S. senator there, is “a woman who kept a clearly innocent man in prison in order to advance her political career,” and thus “isn’t even fit for the late Teddy Kennedy’s old seat.”

Ann Coulter is correct. Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote the book on why.

Though I’m not necessarily the best judge of these things, there happens to be an attractive Republican alternative to Coakley. Update: Hillbuzz is calling GOP candidate Scott Brown Hottie McAwesome.

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From the World’s Smallest Violin Dept., on Flight 253′s “alleged” perp — “Web posts suggest lonely, depressed terror suspect.”

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GM offering deep discounts on Saturn, Pontiac” — Hopefully in 2010, someone will explain or expose why Government Motors nixed the Saturn deal and nixed unloading Opel in Germany.

In a 55KRC broadcast in Cincinnati several months ago, a gentleman who claimed to be in a position to know (I have spoken to him, and I believe he is in a position to know via an informant) said that GM was at the ink-drying-on-the-contract stage with Saturn when it backtracked, suddenly deciding that Roger Penske that it wouldn’t make the existing models as originally promised that would have given him the cash flow needed to fund his futuristic car designs and would have enabled him to keep the dealer network largely intact. If true, and nothing else that is known makes sense, of course Penske had to walk away. The Opel pullback, again at the last minute, has angered many in Germany, up to and including Angela Merkel.

In both cases, the ward of the state walked away from multibillion-dollar deals that could either have provided capital, enabled it to pay back a significant portion of the government’s loans, or a bit of each. In the case of Saturn, that means tens if not hundreds of millions in wind-down costs. Both moves have the earmarks, if you will, of car-czar interference. To what end?

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I missed this in September — RIP, Jody Powell.

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“TSA Subpoenas Bloggers, Demands Names of Sources” — It’s over finding out who leaked a Transportation Security Administration directive to Flying with Fish and Elliott. My two-word response would be unprintable.

Surely those who were “outraged” over the “excesses” of the Patriot Act will come to the defense of the blogs’ proprietors. Don’t bet on it.

Update at Pajamas Media: “Armed TSA Agents Threaten Travel Journalist.”

Spot-on comment: “This is not the America I knew.” Especially this, from the text: “They threatened me with a criminal search warrant and suggested they’d call up my clients and say I was a security risk if I didn’t turn over my computer to them.”

Side order of snark, referring to the government’s recorded phone message referring to the “Christmas event”: “So let me get this straight. Our government officially speaks of ‘the holidays’ when wishing everyone cheer — but the moment a terrorism incident happens on one of these holidays, it’s suddenly just fine to call it ‘Christmas?’”

Update 2: Dropped. I’m not impressed. This only means that enough of a stink was raised this time. The more such things are attempted, the less attention they’ll get, the more likely authorities won’t relent. Someone needs to be seriously and immediately disciplined for threatening at least one of the pair’s livelihood.

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From South Carolina (HT Volokh, whose title follows) — “$150,000 Settlement for Black Public School Students Harassed by Other Black Students for “Acting White.”

Here’s a blockbuster story waiting for a journalist with the guts to tackle it: The “acting white” epithet has spread way beyond the schools into extended-family relationships and the workplace.

Too many jealous, bitter, angry African-Americans are throwing the “acting white” slur at “brothers” and “sisters” whose only supposedly “white” actions are working hard, being financially responsible, and maintaining stable nuclear family relationships. This situation, which sometimes rises to the level of intimidation, virtual blackmail (“it’s your duty to give your money to a ‘brother’”), and even violence, may be doing more to hold back African-American achievement and full participation in the American Dream than anything the Klan could ever have dreamed of.

It would be great if a generally courageous guy like Bill Cosby spoke up against this (in a sense, he has, but not directly to this particular matter). It would be even greater if Barack Obama, who has been the occasional target of this ugliness (here and here), would strike back at it with the emotion and persistence he usually reserves for those who disagree with him on public policy.

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Incomplete headline of the day, from Reuters“Treasury to dole out $3.8 billion to GMAC, raise stake.” Actually, Treasury will now have a majority stake. In reality, it’s now Government Motors Acceptance Corporation.

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David Reilly of Bloomberg, glutton for punishment, read the 1,279-page financial services regulation bill passed by the House in early December. This probably makes him more qualified to be in Congress than the vast majority of those who voted for it, because that vast majority probably didn’t read it.

Reilly really finds that:

There are huge giveaways insuring the government will again rescue banks and Wall Street if the need arises.

…. It authorizes Federal Reserve banks to provide as much as $4 trillion in emergency funding the next time Wall Street crashes. So much for “no-more-bailouts” talk.

…. The bill also allows the government, in a crisis, to back financial firms’ debts. Bondholders can sleep easy — there are more bailouts to come.”

Thus, reckless financial dealings by the big boys will still get covered, which will encourage them to be …. reckless. And you thought Obama and Congress were going to put a stop to this just because they said they would? Not when every “crisis” that comes along represents yet another chance to establish yet more federal power and control.

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The sit-in at Republic Windows in Chicago late last year, which got the “moral” support of president-elect Barack Obama, is still considered a “success” by the press and the labor movement.

Republic, where 250 used to work, employed 17 as of late October. At that point, hundreds had gone 10 or so months without a paycheck. There’s a lot more to the story that I hope to get to eventually, but for now I’ll just say that I’d hate to see what “failure” looks like.

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Ron Paul has some good ideas, and many deserve wider exposure, but things like this exemplify why I can’t take him seriously as a presidential candidate.

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Losses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will top $400 billion. What a “coincidence”; just before Christmas, the Treasury Department/Obama administration gave the entities relief without limits. Update: Context — That’s about eight Enrons, and counting.

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Speaking of Fan and Fred, it’s hard to overstate the relevance of this paragraph from Peter J. Wallison in the Wall Street Journal, because it should end the debate over who is primarily responsible for the housing and mortgage-lending messes:

There is more to this ugly situation. New research by Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer for Fannie Mae and a housing expert, has found that from the time Fannie and Freddie began buying risky loans as early as 1993, they routinely misrepresented the mortgages they were acquiring, reporting them as prime when they had characteristics that made them clearly subprime or Alt-A.

The two Democrat-crony government-sponsored enterprises created an artificial market for subprime mortgages by bilking investors for 15 years. If they hadn’t done this, subprimes would never have been able to expand to their mortally dangerous levels. Further, the victims of the misrepresentations logically would appear to include the rating agencies that some state attorneys general are going after as the supposed culprits.

I’d like to think that malfeasance on this scale can’t happen again. Sadly, given the one-party culture of corruption that rules Washington, I fear it’s just as likely to get worse. Heaven knows what goes undetected.

If it does, it will be more than a little bit harder to have a happy new year.

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5 Comments

  1. In regards to the financial regulation bill, it’s typical. The real problem that supposedly needed such overarching legislation in fact is emboldened and entrenched by said legislation, meanwhile more freedom-encroaching federal micro-managing burdens are imposed on everyone else because of a guilty few. Typical.
    By the time the POR regime is gone, our system will be indefinitely crippled with so many fundamental weaknesses that they will leave behind.

    Comment by zf — December 31, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  2. RE: Item3, Christmas shopping retail sales

    Thanks for computing the data, to adjust the Year-to-Year retail sales results for number of shopping days. I’m personally feeling much better about the economy and the country.

    With the public’s interest in stopping bad politic policies, I’ve got a lot of hope that we’ll forestall or minimize the bad changes until can get some personnel changes in Congress in the next elections.

    For what it’s worth, my household’s shopping was up quite a bit this year. Prices were so good, that when it came time to sort and wrap, I’d bought almost enough for two Christmas’s. So, a bunch of next year’s presents (or rewards during the calendar year for kids’ good behavior) are squirreled away in the basement. Looking forward to an exciting year!! :-)

    Belated Merry Christmas,
    Happy New Year, C.

    Comment by Cornfed — January 1, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

  3. #2, thx. The prices during the week before Christmas, esp in electronics, were amazingly aggressive.

    Comment by TBlumer — January 1, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

  4. #2, interesting comment on prices being so good, I enjoyed them too.

    Let me state the obvious since the Happy Talk from the administration and their propaganda outlets are spinning away, does it not occur to anyone that a lower price means less profit for the retailer? What good is rebounding sales to government receipts (point #1) and investor’s dividend (point #2) when you’re having fire sales just to reduce inventory or keep the lights burning in the hope of weathering through until next Christmas season? If 50% or greater of a retailer’s profit is made during the Christmas season then this man caused disaster is going to claim several more retail chains with resulting more job losses.

    Point #3, if we are only doing 1% better in dollar sales volume than last year’s epic bust, does that even keep pace with the cost of inflation? If I read the CPI-W report correctly, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.t06.htm , from Nov 2008 to Nov 2009 inflation was 2.3%. We actually lost 1.3% (2.3% – 1%) or is my math overly simplified?

    Point #4, overlooked in all this is the maxim that all investment capital comes from profits (or future profits). NO PROFITS, MEANS NO INVESTMENTS, and that means zero earnings growth for any sustainable recovery. Unless the Fed (1) lowers the reserve requirements for the banks, and (2) makes it unprofitable to borrow from the Fed at zero interest to then turn around and buy Treasuries at next to nothing there is no reason why the banks should risk their (depositors) money to make loans to businesses. No investment means NO JOB creation!!!!!

    Yet these morons at the Obama admin and propaganda outlets are whopping it up because the unemployment claims are less than 450k. Hello, that’s still a net estimated 100k per month loss of jobs and at that rate another 1.2 million people will be additionally unemployed by next January. I am continued to be stunned by the shockingly stupid comments out of liberals, this ranks up there with Napolitano’s remark, “the system worked”…

    Comment by dscott — January 1, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

  5. [...] Paul, but to bring up a point also made on Thursday (last item at link), yes they are, and yes they did: New research by Edward Pinto, a former chief [...]

    Pingback by BizzyBlog — January 4, 2010 @ 6:07 am

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