Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ketiva ve-chatima tovah 5769

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.

Leviticus 23: 24-25

To our friends, may you and yours be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Monday, September 29, 2008

It's NOT a bailout, STUPID.

What neither the Congress, Paulson or Bernanke have made clear is that this 'bailout' plan is NOT going to cost $700 billion. Not even close.

First of all they should have called it a bailout plan because a) its not that accurate and b) it sounds terrible on Main Street

What this plan is envisioned to do is to create a market for distressed debt that is severely weighing on bank balance sheets. How severe is this? Wachovia was talking about BUYING investment banking giant Morgan Stanley a week and a half ago. Today THEY had to be BOUGHT OUT by Citigroup. Banks aren't lending to each other and no one wants to lend to banks for fear of the other party failing. The central bank windows have become the only lenders.

The Paulson plan will take many of these assets off the books of the banks so they can start anew. Here's a hypothetical example:

Let's say a $10 billion slice of these problem loans is trading at 30 cents on the dollar. This assumes that 70% of the loans will default. A 70% default rate it on virtually any package would be extremely unlikely. So the Treasury will bid 40 cents on the dollar for this debt. If an institution has already marked the loan down to 30 cents they are likely to sell as it gets it off their books at a mark-to-market profit. Now they will have lost 60 cents on the investment but its better than all of it. Treasury can hold this until maturity or eventually sell these assets out. If other buyers want to come in ahead of the Treasury and bid higher that would be fine.

Ultimately it is quite possible for Treasury to be selling purchased assets at a profit. It's important to remember that panic market pricing does not necessarily represent value and for any but the most absolutely toxic group of loans to default 70% is very unlikely. [The absolutely toxic stuff should be bid at 5 cents on the dollar]. The long term cost of this is unknown at this point but the taxpayer could end up being flat on this. Even a 100 billion dollar loss which prevents a deep recession is well worthwhile.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Excellent video on the subprime crisis

Here is a remarkably good explanation of the origins of the subprime crisis.

It does miss the seminal role of the ratings agencies whose malfeasance is well Jack Grubman-like.

McCain-Obama I

I'd say overall the debate was a draw. It seems unlikely that this debate changed anyone's minds. The Obama camp will be happy that he held his own in the 'national security' debate. McCain held his own despite Obama's edge in eloquence and glibness.

Two things that McCain needs to do.
1. Hammer home the point that whether you supported or did not support the war initially should not affect how you prosecute it now
2. We cut taxes to spur the economy and to meaningfully cut taxes you have to cut where it matters and that's not the bottom 50%

Key 'jabs' and some comments

Obama claims he "warned about the subprime problem two years ago" - somehow I doubt it.
McCain - nice touch on the Eisenhower story.
McCain - "You afraid I can't hear it" - nice parry
Mac - "We Republicans came to change Washington and it changed us."
Mac - Obama has asked for $932 million in earmarks - a fundamental difference.
Obama - Mac has called for $300 BILLION in tax cuts for the rich. Tries to hang Bush-McCain
Mac - The problem is that "it [earmarks] corrupts people"
Mac - The 'business tax' is 35% in US, 2nd highest in the world. Ireland has 11%.
Obama - Loopholes reduce business tax

Mac - Energy bill had loads of breaks for big oil, Obama voted for it, I voted against it.
Mac - it's hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left
Mac - get rid of ethanol subsidies, get rid of 'cost-plus' military spending; i know how to get cost overruns under control; e.g., 6.6 billion Boeing and Pentagon

...(unavoidable family interruption)

Even between Obama's hit on getting in the war in Iraq and Mac's hit on his mistake on the surge.
Obama - What is this with PAHK-IS-TAN?? Like NIHKA-RAHGUA...
Obama - good hit on McCain's 'extinction' comment for N. Korea. [Difference is Pakistan, is at least nominally, an ally.]
Mac - create a League of Democracies since Russia causing issues in United Nations
Mac - don't sit down with dictator who advocate a second Holocaust legitimizes them
Mac - catches Obama on initial reax to Russian invasion of Georgia after Obama tacks hard right
Obama - I warned the administration in April about Georgia. REALLY? that's seems to be hard to believe
Obama - China's conspicuous presence in the world is only matched by our absence because we've taken our eye off the ball

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bush Makes the Case

President Bush did in tonight's prime-time address to the nation what Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke have not been able to do as effectively this week in front of Congress.

Bush spoke in clear, simple language and described very well the genesis and development of the mortgage problem and the solution proposed to solve it. This is rendered so simply and directly that even nearly all of Congress could understand it:

Second, as markets have lost confidence in mortgage-backed securities, their prices have dropped sharply. Yet the value of many of these assets will likely be higher than their current price, because the vast majority of Americans will ultimately pay off their mortgages. The government is the one institution with the patience and resources to buy these assets at their current low prices and hold them until markets return to normal. And when that happens, money will flow back to the Treasury as these assets are sold. And we expect that much, if not all, of the tax dollars we invest will be paid back.

Henry Paulson as brilliant as he certainly is [if there are three certain things in life, it's death, taxes and you don't get to be chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs by being a dummy] speaks Wall Street and 'market mechanisms' and 'reverse auctions' which frankly are gobbledygook to most of America. Hopefully enough of America paid attention tonight.

Let me give a dollars and cents example.

John Thain at Merrill Lynch recently sold off some risky loans at 22 cents on the dollar. This means if Merrill paid one billion dollars for this basket of loans it only got 220 million dollars back. A lot of this toxic stuff is still sitting in the financial system, in the investment banks as well as pension funds and insurance companies. THE MARKET'S UNCERTAINTY ABOUT HOW MUCH A FIRM HAS AND HOW MUCH IT HAS BEEN MARKED DOWN has directly caused the failure of Lehman Brothers and nearly the failure of Freddie and Fannie and AIG.

What Paulson proposes to do is have Congress approve a fund up to 700 billion dollars that creates a market for these securities that haven't existed for the better part of a year.

22 cents on the dollar simply speaking assumes that only 78 percent of these mortgages would default. Since many of these loans particularly those made in 2006 and 2007 were made to marginal customers it is probable that there will be significant defaults. BUT NOT 78%. If the US Treasury examined a bucket such as this and shows the market a 45 cent bid for these securities it would be likely that many institutions will sell to the Treasury as many could actually book a profit if they had already marked these securities lower. A profit only in the sense that they had written down 78 cents of loss but would gain back 23 cents of that loss by selling to the Treasury. Even if this bucket of loans was particularly toxic even a default rate of 40% would mean a 15 cent profit for the Treasury and the taxpayer.

What it also does is allow the banks to clean house and with the books clean can start to lend again. Just as important with the uncertainty removed firms won't be subject to panic liquidation which claimed Lehman Brothers and threatened AIG as well as the venerable investment bank Morgan Stanley.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Country First

McCain knows what this means and Obama, not surprisingly, does not.

McCain announced he was suspending his campaign and looking to postpone Friday's debate in Mississippi so he can return to Washington to work on the Paulson plan. McCain has always been a maverick often to the GOP's chagrin and his decision though a surprise is certainly not out character.

A flummoxed Obama has weakly countered that the debate should go ahead...


Polls to reprint on toilet paper and use accordingly

In previous years, The Monk would have gone into conniptions after seeing the ABC/WaPo poll that had Obama up 9 points nationwide. But I've smartened up over the course of the last two presidential elections and decided to drill down into the poll results a bit.

The first problem with the poll is simple: nationwide voting is irrelevant. If Obama wins New York, California, Massachusetts and Illinois by 80-20 and loses every other state, he could actually win a majority of votes but he'd get drubbed in the election. The Electoral College matters, the national majority winner is irrelevant.

Then I noticed this anomaly: Obama holding a 53-40 lead in the "Midwest." That seemed like rank bs. Every poll in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana has been close in recent days, even after McCain's poor week last week. Unless the Midwest consisted solely of Northern Illinois and Milwaukee, the result was out of line.

Sure enough, the poll is riotously unreliable. Don't take my word for it, check out these facts:

(1) the sample, including persons who "leaned" toward one party or another, was 54% Dem, 38% Republican.

(2) the largest spread in party identification in a presidential election since 1988 has been FOUR points -- the 1996 election when Clinton had a high approval rating. Even in 2006, when the Democrats ripped the Republicans in the Congressional elections, party ID was 38% Dem, 35% Rep., 27% independent/other.

More analysis from Kristen Soltis, a Republican pollster who notes the trends:

During presidential years, over the last five presidential elections, the biggest party ID gap was four points, and the greatest swing was four points as well.

Arguments can certainly be made that in this environment, Democrats should be expected to have a huge partisan shift in their favor. But note that in 2006, when Democrats clearly found enormous success at the ballot box, that the advantage in party ID was only three points (38-35). Polls leading up to the election showed party ID gaps as big as eleven points (Newsweek's poll on Oct 5-6, 2006), rarely showing party ID gaps of less than +5 for the Democrats.

* * *

[Reacting to a CBS poll in August:] . . . a twelve point spread [in party affiliation]? Whether this is a blip or what consistently turns up in the numbers, I have incredible difficulty believing that a margin of that magnitude is an accurate reflection of the electorate. A six-point lead is within the realm of possibility given a really great year for Democrats. But a twelve-point spread is simply outside the bounds of history, given that in twenty years of political change and history, the greatest margin has been four.

Smarmy Schumer

Watching my senior Senator Chuck Schumer hold hearings on the Paulson plan:

He is extraordinarily self-serving and smarmy and has no qualms about using this opportunity to score political points.

700 billion dollars is a lot of money. But giving the SecTreas 150 billion and asking him to come back for more if he needs it is like sending a soldier out into battle with one clip in his M16 and asking him to come back for more if he needs it.

The Paulson plan is predicated on two items.

1. Taking deeply marked down mortgage assets off the books of banks probably at some premium to current marks or market. It will mean getting out of these investments at a reasonable price and possibly at a mark-to-market profit.

2. The confidence that now there is a buyer of last resort.

Schumer's idea blows 2. out of the water.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Survival Football

Survival football has become a popular game over the past few years, particularly in the financial markets. Though there can be a slight variation in the rules the premise is simple: Put down a stake and pick an NFL team to win every Sunday. They must win. Losses and TIES lose. One loss and you lose your stake. If are the last person standing you win the stake (or share it). the largest pools have thousands of entries with payoffs in hundred of thousands of dollars.

The kicker, of course, is you can only pick each NFL team ONCE during the course of the season.

The key to this game isn't to map out who to pick each week in advance. Trying to figure out who to pick for week 13 is a LOSING PLAY.

The key in this game is to SURVIVE AND GET TO NEXT WEEK.

This is in effect what the Treasury and Federal Reserve have been doing over the past year and specifically over the past two weeks.

1. The conservatorship of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae became necessary as a looming downgrade from rating agencies put the two primary buyers of US mortgages into capital difficulty. If Freddie and Fannie stopped buying mortgages the entire housing market would have effectively come to a screeching halt. Freddie and Fannie shares were trading under a dollar.

2. Lehman Brothers, unable to secure additional capital and in a disastrous miscalculation on the announcement of third quarter earnings and steps to be taken, does not get help and is forced to declare bankruptcy. This stuns the market as Treasury and the Fed do not step in to backstop Lehman debt and essentially allows Lehman to fail most likely judging that the financial system could survive Lehman going down. The market did not expect this as most thought the Bear Stearns bailout would have served as a model. This decision in retrospect was probably a mistake given subsequent events.

3. The US government takes up to 79.9% of the huge American insurer AIG in exchange for an emergency $85 billion bridge loan priced at a near usurious Libor + 800 bps rate for a two year period. AIG shares were under tremendous pressure as a downgrade looked imminent. A downgrade would have meant that AIG would have to ante up billions in additional collateral and potential trigger debt covenants. Treasury and the Fed judged in this case, unlike Lehman, that AIG could not be allowed to fall or declare bankruptcy as possibly tens of millions of drivers and homeowners could find themselves without insurance.

4. Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed chair Bernanke announce a $700 billion plan to buy distressed mortgage and real estate assets. The plan gets at the core of the problem by buying loans that are weighing on banks' balance sheets. It would provide a buyer of last resort for distressed securities and stabilize the market by getting these assets off bank balance sheets and should also remove questions about assets that brought down Lehman Brothers.

5. SEC bans naked short selling for financial stocks. Philosophically anathema but provides a window of relief for harried financial shares. Effective, crude and philosophically vile but there are no atheists in foxholes and no libertarians in distressed markets.

One hopes here that we are now getting into the late innings of this game and a large enough fund would give the market confidence that a real backstop is in place and cut off speculation and panic that have gripped the financial system.

A bad week for McCain

George Will wonders:

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

That sounds erudite and pithy, but if it's the best argument against McCain and for Obama, it's no argument at all. After six years of on-the-job experience, Clinton still completely failed to inquire about and realize the determination and capabilities of Islamist terrorism, took no steps to stop it and failed to both capture bin Laden when the US could have and retaliate effectively against his organization. Certain great costs are too high to pay for unreadiness. Obama's dithering personality and Carteresque internationalist approach to foreign policy means he gets the big issues wrong.

McCain called for overhauling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2005 and railed against military lollygagging in Iraq before the President insisted upon the Surge. He gets the big things right, even if his temperament or style are a bit terse.

Will's best reasons against McCain do not make an argument for Obama.

Two retired numbers from now . . .

The next retired number for the Yankees will be 42 for Mariano Rivera. Although the number is retired throughout baseball for Jackie Robinson, it will be retired for pinstripes too because the greatest closer in baseball wore it.

After that will be the number 2 for Yankee captain Derek Jeter. His greatness is frequently derided or overlooked by number crunchers and sabremetricians, but he is much more than just The Toss or The Dive. Just ask Peter Gammons.

And Jeter embodied the class of the Yankees organization Sunday night when he gathered the Yankees at the pitchers' mound and addressed the crowd on the PA system.

It's a huge honor to put this uniform on every day and play. And every member of this organization past and present has been calling this place home for 85 years . . . We are the New York Yankees and that means pride and tradition, but most of all we have the greatest fans in the world. On behalf of the entire organization, we want to take this moment to salute you, the greatest fans in the world.

Class, pride, dignity, excellence, Jeter, Yankees.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Whither Rocket?

Watching the celebration prior to the final game at Yankee Stadium yesterday I thought it was churlish to have omitted any reference to Roger Clemens who went 83-37 in 5.5 seasons, won the Cy Young in 2001 and was a mainstay of this last Yankees dynasty. It was a long period of service comparatively but he brought a level of professionalism and intensity that should have been recognized. Boomer was there and so was Jimmy Key.

Also Joe Torre should have a more prominent mention no matter how things went last winter.

It's harbinger that the Boss has probably faded completely into the twilight and his sons don't share the same passion and sentiment that he had for the team.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A fair point re: McCain

There are substantial questions regarding a report by Amir Taheri that Sen. Obama "had urged Iraqi leaders to postpone making an agreement with the United States until there was a new administration in Washington." Taheri stands by the report and the reporting. Obama's campaign denied the report earlier this week, although the denial left a lot of wiggle room in interpretations.

ABC's Jake Tapper, who is one of the fairest reporters in the media, wonders why McCain's campaign did not ask Republicans who attended the meeting that included Obama and various Iraqi leaders what happened.

This is a fair point because the Bush Administration and the self-important Chuck Hagel both indicate that Obama's version of events is correct. So Tapper faults the McCain campaign for blasting Obama based on the Taheri report. This is proper . . . to an extent. The McCain statement, which Tapper quoted in his blog entry, is also proper because it is correctly qualified:

If news reports are accurate, this is an egregious act of political interference by a presidential candidate seeking political advantage overseas. Senator Obama needs to reveal what he said to Iraq's Foreign Minister during their closed door meeting. The charge that he sought to delay the withdrawal of Americans from Iraq raises serious questions about Senator Obama's judgment and it demands an explanation.

Tapper's evaluation of the McCain campaign reaction is, ultimately, unfair:

What actually demands an explanation is why the McCain campaign was so willing to give credence to such a questionable story with such tremendous international implications without first talking to Republicans present at Obama’s meeting

Is Obama just a humorless, lying bully?

Peter Robinson says Barack Obama has displayed no sense of humor. That's basically true -- his pleasant mien has essentially masked the fact that everything Obama says is serious and the man himself is a bit aloof. Compare that with the always sunny Ronald Reagan, the drinkin' buddy aspect of Clinton and the good ole boy currently in the White House.

But Obama is more than just serious. First, he's a bully. His campaign uses its own digital brownshirts to stifle dissent: "Obama's presidential campaign is increasingly using the list [of top supporters] to beat back media messages it does not like, calling on supporters to flood radio and television stations when those opposed to him run anti-Obama ads or appear on talk shows." Compare that with McCain's bemused and nonchalant reaction to the Code Pink protesters who slipped into the Republican convention.

Second, he's a serial fabricator, and will do so both on his own and through his surrogates. And fairly blatantly as Byron York shows.

And he's a inveterate race-baiter who will distort parodies into position papers to make his opponents look like racists.

This is a presidential candidate?

Is Peggy Noonan out of touch?

Or has the hot old chick of the Republican party begun to lose her mind? In the whole arc of her column today on the election campaign she flits from thought to thought while missing one thing: Congress.

Simply stated, the US supposedly has one. While wondering if "the presidential election doesn't matter as much as we think" because "[w]hoever wins will govern within more of less the same limits, both domestically and internationally [we'll save that debate for another time -- TKM]" Noonan does not mention the parameters of those limits. And the notion is absurd on its face -- just ask the CIA directors under Carter and Clinton about the importance of presidential leadership.

Right now, Congress is the least important branch of government. Both Congress and the president have left questions of constitutional law to the Supreme Court, thereby abandoning their own role to evaluate the legality of legislative enactments.

The executive is in charge of foreign policy under the Constitution. But it is now by far the leading branch on domestic policy because Congress has: (1) abdicated its role to set a coherent domestic agenda; (2) failed to enact reasonable legislation; (3) overrided the president's veto to pass high spending bills; (4) and admitted its uselessness (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the market crisis: "no one knows what to do"). It's the executive, through Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, that has taken the lead on shoring up the financial markets while Reid, Pelosi and Obama (D-Fannie Mae) decry capitalism and Joe Biden (D-MBNA) says it's patriotic to pay higher taxes.

The Monk works hard in the hardest-working country in the Western world. None of us deserve this Congress. It's a question of leadership -- and to say that the presidential election winner won't have a great effect on that is just foolish.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A thought so stupid . . .

. . . only an academic would generate it.

The stupid notion is from Catherine McNicol Stock and the concept is this: Sarah Palin is from the great northwest, the great northwest has few African-Americans, "the beliefs of ultraconservative, evangelical churches like her family's come dangerously close to those of the Christian Identity movement of those years," there are radical white supremacist groups in Montana and Idaho (Stock mentions none in Alaska) and Palin has no on the record remarks wherein she kowtows to the gods of diversity and racial grievance. Therefore, "it is high time to review the cultural ideals and models of the radical rurals from the Great White Northwest and find out for sure where Gov. Palin stands."

Now liberal idiocy is fully revealed. So let's look at some other facts that Stock elides.

First, Stock admits "there is no evidence that Palin was ever affiliated with white-supremacist groups during her years in Idaho or at home in Alaska."

Second, there is no evidence that Palin's church has ever promoted, tolerated, espoused or otherwise condoned white supremacist beliefs. It would be hard for Palin, whose children are all Eskimo in significant part thanks to their dad, to stomach such a church. Evidently, it is less difficult for Barack Obama, who is half-white, to enjoy a 20-year association and participation in a black supremacist hate-whitey church whose pastor thought 9-11-01 was an indication of the US's chickens coming home to roost.

Third, Stock does not mention the deep KKK history of Indiana and Illinois -- Obama's neighboring state and home state. Why not? Obama could be the first black white supremacist not shown on the Dave Chappelle show, right? Of course not, the notion is stupid and offensive. So is Stock's musing that just because she's white, Christian and from the Pacific Northwest that Palin could well be an undercover member of Aryan Nation.

It's preposterous that the Philly Inquirer -- that city's equivalent of the NYT or WaPo -- not only published the article, but it paid the professor to air her idiocy.



Tina Fey has the Sarah Palin impersonation market cornered. Check out the video from Saturday Night Live's Palin-HRC skit from this past Saturday's season premiere. Fey's intonation and accent is dead-on.

One man with courage . . .

If there's a better argument for McCain over Obama than their positions on The Surge -- the Gen. Petraeus-led increase in force and counterinsurgency techniques in Iraq implemented in late 2006 -- it would be hard to find. And despite his anti-Bush analysis, Bob Woodward's new book, The War Within, is demonstrating that not only does the President matter, he can determine the direction of the country for decades to come.

Think about it: Lincoln replaced McClelland with Grant, and Grant won the Civil War. LBJ and his Cabinet were cowed by Westmoreland and his terrible strategies in Vietnam, and the US effectively lost the war before Nixon became President and actually had an effective military strategy. And 20 years from now, just as we can regret Reagan's withdrawal of the Marines from Lebanon and curse Carter's vacillation during the Iran hostage crisis, we will point to George W. Bush's determination as the main factor in winning in Iraq.

Unlike nearly every Senator (McCain is a rare exception), the Secretaries of State and Defense (Rice and Rumsfeld), the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Iraq Study Group led by James Baker III and Lee Hamilton, and much of the military's top brass, President Bush held firm and decided that the United States had to WIN the war in Iraq instead of claiming victory in the midst of a retreat. He was "out of touch" and his own top generals and admirals worked against implementing their commander-in-chief's orders to increase counterinsurgency tactics. (For more about the turf wars and NSA Steve Hadley's role in winning them for the President, see here).

Bush did the unpopular and correct thing. His decision and Petraeus' leadership have restored the reputation of the American military. And Andrew Jackson's maxim that "one man with courage makes a majority" was proven correct.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ready, aim, fire . . . OW, my foot!

Amateur hour at the Obama campaign hit a new low. Let's show how this played out.

At 5:15 EDT this afternoon, Jonah Goldberg of National Review discussed the new Obama campaign ad, which claims McCain is out of touch because he is computer illiterate. Goldberg wondered:

Does anyone know why McCain doesn't use a computer or email? As a couple readers suggested to me, it might be because his injuries prevent it. I mean he can't lift his arms much higher than his chest and it looks like he has all sorts of other mobility problems with them. Maybe he can't type or use something like a blackberry. I don't know. But I hope the Obama campaign found out before they played the granpa Simpson card on McCain. I'd hate for Obama to be mocking a veteran's disability to score cheap points.

Well, it turns out that is EXACTLY what Obama did. As the Boston Globe profile of McCain during the Republican Primary season of 2000 noted:

McCain's severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes. Friends marvel at McCain's encyclopedic knowledge of sports. He's an avid fan - Ted Williams is his hero - but he can't raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a baseball.

Less than 90 minutes after wondering why McCain is not big on computer usage, Goldberg posted the paragraph containing the snipet of the BoGlo article I referenced above and said:

In a similar vein I guess it's an outrage that the blind governor of New York David Patterson doesn't know how to drive a car. After all, transportation issues are pretty important. How dare he serve as governor while being ignorant of what it's like to navigate New York's highways.

Mark Steyn had a sharp last word on this:

Jonah, why didn't the Obama guys and the AP figure that out? It's extraordinary that someone who wants to be our president and our commander in chief knows how to send an e-mail ...but not how to do a five-minute Google search.

The Obama camp has become a disgrace.

Obama's Palin problem in a nutshell

James Taranto, after analyzing Charles Gibson's reliance on an inaccurate AP report of what Gov. Palin said at her church regarding the US forces in Iraq, also notes that the use of the inaccurate AP report by Gibson, CNN and the AP have effectively been "disparaging her for praying." Read the whole analysis for how Gibson tried to make Palin appear as if she had called the troops' mission a mission from G*d (which she denied -- she was quoting Abraham Lincoln who said, "let us not pray that G*d is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on G*d's side.").

Taranto's key point sums up Obama's biggest problem in the wake of the Palin nomination, and it's not only of Obama's own creation:

It really does seem as though the media and the Angry Left loathe Sarah Palin precisely because she is normal. Through the words of his supporters, Barack Obama has become the candidate of those who oppose religion and motherhood. With friends like these, who needs Karl Rove?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 years after

Click the link -- it's Mark Steyn's column on September 11, 2002. And here's the crux:

Here is my worry: At one end of the national spectrum are the anti-American elite, the Edward Saids and John Lahrs secure in their redoubts. At the other end are the great full-throated "These colors don't run" patriots. But in between is a big wobbly blurry mass trembling on the brink of making this just another wallow in victimization-the "dominant discourse" (as Said would say) of the day. Five years ago, Bob Dole wondered, "Where's the outrage?" Three years ago, Bill Bennett wrote a book called The Death of Outrage. In Europe, the ferociously anti-American Left is plenty outraged — it is raw, visceral, passionate, and none the worse for that. If we can't get outraged-not sad, not weepy, not candle-in-the-windy, but outraged — over thousands of people killed for no other reason than that they went to work, then we're really in trouble. If cultural passivity — love the world, be non-judgmental, everybody does it — co-opts even this awesome event, then the sleeping giant isn't sleeping so much as comatose.

Never Forget September 11, 2001

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Joe Biden's breath smells like his feet

Sen. Biden is a dope and unfortunately thinks he's brilliant. This attitude was best summed up in a political cartoon in 1987 during the confirmation hearings of Robert Bork -- the cartoonist drew something akin to this exchange:

Biden: Judge Bork, 2+2 = 4

Bork: Yes, Senator Biden, but f(a)+\frac{f'(a)}{1!}(x-a)+\frac{f''(a)}{2!}(x-a)^2+\frac{f^{(3)}(a)}{3!}(x-a)^3+\cdots\,,.

which showed the relative intellects of the two (and the equation reads better here.

Today, the Senator from the MBNA state said this:

I hear all this talk about how the Republicans are going to work in dealing with parents who have both the joy, because there's joy to it as well, the joy and the difficulty of raising a child who has a developmental disability, who were born with a birth defect. Well guess what folks? If you care about it, why don't you support stem cell research?

That bout of insensitivity, combined with the liberal's blind passion for embryonic stem cell research (non-embryonic stem cell research is supported by Republicans) is typical of Biden. Yuval Levin, who follows this subject closely, noted:

. . . while stem cell work, including embryonic stem cell research, can help in the study of human development in general, as a matter of basic science, the notion that it offers a path to the treatment of Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities is just not sound. The basic science (which at its edges could have some impact on the study of developmental disabilities) can be and has been pursued under the Bush administration’s stem cell policy, and even the most adamant advocates of the policies Biden has supported have not listed a cure for Down syndrome among the miracles they promise. Biden’s remark is indicative of the lack of seriousness with which some Democratic politicians treat the relevant science here: they don’t themselves think this is one avenue of cell biology that could offer important help in one range of potential biomedical advances but rather they see it as a kind of magic bullet and universal cure-all that allows them to be for curing all that ails the human race and accusing their opponents of being against it all, meanwhile paying no heed to ethical concerns.

And of course Biden's press secretary said this falsehood: We've heard not a dime's worth of difference between the McCain-Palin ticket and the Bush Administration on medical breakthroughs [through stem-cell research].

Don't tell anyone the truth. What is the truth? It's not what Biden's lackey said: Levin notes that McCain "voted to overturn the president’s stem cell policy, just like Joe Biden did" and ultimately, "the example Palin sets in how she and her family have welcomed her Down syndrome child points in precisely the opposite direction from Biden’s call for the destruction of human embryos for research: it . . . treats every human life as deserving of protection and regard."

Monday, September 08, 2008


Barack Obama went after Sarah Palin's acceptance (initial) and rejection of the Bridge to Nowhere earmark in a stump speech on Saturday. Obama's point is she was for it before she was against it.

This is a good soundbite, and the Republicans beat John Kerry over the head with it on a crucial issue (his support for deposing Saddam Hussein), not on a tangential issue like an earmark over which Palin essentially had no say (Congress voted whether or not to fund the earmarks, a governor's input was irrelevant).

And Gov. Palin ultimately made the right decision, unlike Kerry (who flip-flopped the wrong way) and unlike Obama (who still claims he was right to oppose the surge in Iraq because "no one" could have anticipated its rousing success . . . except John McCain). As J.M. Keynes said "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

In other words, Gov. Palin has the capacity to smarten up, but Obama retains his level of stupid.

And Obama's level of stupid is unstinting. After all, he is doing two things wrong: (1) attacking a VP candidate after his own campaign chief said the campaign would not worry about Gov. Palin; (2) making an outrageously ridiculous comparison.

Why is the comparison so bad? Because through early March, Obama had requested $740,000,000 in earmarked spending requests such as "$1 million for a hospital where Mr. Obama’s wife works, money for several projects linked to campaign donors and support for more than 200 towns, civic institutions and universities in Illinois."

That's 740M since 2005 when Obama's Senate career began.

Since 1987, the start of McCain's Senate career, he has requested $0 in earmarks.

$740,000,000 for projects "linked to campaign donors" and local Illinois junk.
$0 for pet projects in Arizona.

Obama's starting a fight he cannot win on this issue. There's 740M of potential corruption on Obama's side of the ledger, a clean slate on McCain, and people compare the PRESIDENTIAL candidates, not the Dems' President to the Repubs' VP.

What a WIMP

Obama is a parody of the left-wing Democratic wimp Presidential candidate. He's starting to make Carter and Mondale look tough. Here's a note from Time on Obama's most recent Sunday morning talkathon performance:

This Week [with George Stephanopoulos]: Obama refused to say if Palin is qualified for VP, saying he’s not interested in “a résumé contest.” Defended his community organizer years, calling attacks on the job “puzzling.” Said he once considered joining the military in Hawaii, and said he would cross his party on charter schools and teacher merit pay, military spending, and health care tort reform. Conceded he was “probably” too flip with Rick Warren when he said defining the beginning of life was above his pay grade.

He's not interested in a resume contest? That means he knows he'll lose.

As for his considering joining the military, there's a lot here that went unsaid: Obama claims he considered joining the military when he graduated high school in 1979 and that he signed up for Selective Service (i.e., possible future draft) that same year. This is not so -- Selective Service registration was halted in 1975 and reinstated in 1980 (The Monk signed up in 1988). Obama would have had to sign up in 1980 (the requirement was retroactive), but by then he was a collegian and had more than a year to ponder any decision to join the military.

Does this matter? Only in the landing-in-Bosnia-during-a-firefight manner of exaggerating reality and one's own ego.

Just one week in the NFL

Jumping to a conclusion after week one in the NFL, The Monk asks this question: is the balance of power shifting from the AFC to the NFC? Until the Giants beat the Pats in Super Bowl XLII, the AFC had won 8 of the previous 10 (following an NFC win streak of 13) and four in a row.

Coming into this season, the AFC again supposedly had three of the four strongest teams in football: Pats, Chargers, Colts (Cowlumps from the NFC round out the foursome). But this weekend, excepting the Bills rout of the S'hawks, the most impressive teams have been from the "weaker" conference:

(1) Carolina goes TO San Diego and drops the Bolts on a final-play touchdown;
(2) Dallas makes the Browns (10-6 in '07, tiebreakered out of the playoffs) look like a Pop Warner team and does so IN Cleveland;
(3) The Iggles dump the allegedly improved Rams 38-3;
(4) The Giants stifle the 'Skins (9-7, playoff team in '07), even without the Pro Bowl DEs they lost in the offseason and preseason;
(5) Da Bearz go TO Indianapolis and on the opening night of a new football stadium drub the Colts 29-13.

With Brady's injury, the Pats are no longer one of the top five teams in the NFL. They already had secondary questions and age issues on both defense and the O-line. Now they have a quarterback question. The Colts looked old and slow last night. The Chargers again seem to be missing something. And seemingly everyone's favorite dark horses, the Jags and Browns, were terrible.

We'll see in the coming months whether the balance of power has shifted again. Right now, the best teams in the NFL (unordered) are the Cowpatties, Steelers, and Iggles, and the Giants, Panthers, Vikes, and Pack don't suck.

Sounds like balancing in the works . . .

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bad journalism 101

This is just poor form by ESPN:

After the Patriots-Chiefs game, in which QB Tom Brady suffered a game-ending and likely season-ending injury, reporters interviewed Pats star WR Randy Moss and brought up the play in which Brady suffered his injury.  Moss said he thought the tackle was dirty.  ESPN played the clip in which Moss made that claim at the top of its broadcast and again in the lead-in to the weekend football analysis show The Blitz.  To get the picture, viewers also watched the Moss clip again in Bob Holtzman's location report on the Pats-Chiefs game.  Moss even said he doesn't know how to play dirty and really cannot tell if a given play is dirty (he's a receiver, it's not like he's wrestling in the trenches with the fat boys).  

Only in Holtzman's final discussion did we learn that Moss was really the only person in the Pats' locker room who thought the play was dirty.  The rest of the team did not share that opinion -- they thought it was one of those tragic plays that happens in football.  And replays indicated that -- the Chiefs safety didn't hit Brady late, didn't aim to hit Brady in the knee and certainly didn't go out of his way to cause harm.

But the Moss audio sounds better, even if it's just one opinion of a distressed teammate.

Bad journalism by ESPN.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Financial underestimation and Mrs. Mac

The article I linked to this post says Cindy Mac's outfit cost up to $313,000. That seems a bit far-fetched.

But heck, she looked like a million, so if the estimate is right, she saved $687K.

That's frugality!

Monk ♥ Gov. Palin II

Here's a notable finding from Rasmussen Reports, the polling organization, which did extensive polling after Gov. Palin's speech and found that Republicans and independents like her a lot.

. . . following the Wednesday night speech, voters are fairly evenly divided as to whether Palin or Obama has the better experience to be President. Forty-four percent (44%) of voters say Palin has the better experience while 48% say Obama has the edge. Among unaffiliated voters, 45% say Obama has better experience while 42% say Palin.

Again, this is excellent for the Republicans and awful for Democrats. The comparison is between the top of the Democrat ticket and the #2 on the Republican side. McCain's experience is a given. Biden's is a nullity because (1) he's the #2 on the Democrat ticket and #1's experience is in question; (2) no one would vote for Biden in a presidential race -- the Democrats have had enough chances and rejected him out of hand in both '88 and '08 and no Republican would switch sides for the motormouth from Delaware.

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin points out the pernicious form of "community organizing" that Obama performed -- he worked for ACORN, the anti-capitalist, far-left, serial voter-fraud perpetrating operation that is so far outside the political mainstream it makes Biden (lifetime American Conservative Union congressional rating 13.04) moderate. Obama's community organizing should not only be mocked, it should be pilloried.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


A long, rousing cheer for McCain.

"I am grateful to the President of the United States for leading us in these dark days after the worst attack on US soil...and to the First Lady Laura Bush, a model of grace and kindness in public and in private." A nod to W.

"We are fellow Americans...and that's an association that means more to me than any other." [to Obama] One gets the distinct impression that he means it.

"I can't wait to introduce [Sarah Palin] to Washington D.C." You get the sense that was just added after Palin emerged last night nearly as Reagan Reborn.

"I don't work for a party, I don't work for a special interest. I work for you." Not as eloquent as Obama's "It's never been about me, it's all about YOU" but 20 years of record in the Senate make Mac alot more credible.

"I wear his [New Hampshireman Matthew Stanley who died in Iraq] bracelet and think of him every day."

"My opponent wants to wish back old jobs that have disappeared- we will help them get new jobs." THIS NEEDS TO BE HAMMERED HOME.

"Education is the civil rights of this century." This one too.

Obama wants schools to answer to unions. I want them to answer to parents and students. Not as easy to do as it sounds but a basic but pretty important distinction.

He mentions strategic adversaries Iran and Russia- how did Obama skip that?

"I hate war." A warrior who hates war. Amen.

"I've been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. But I've served her yesterday, today and tomorrow."

"I was blessed by misfortune. I served in the company of heroes."

"I am not here to save my country in its hour of darkess. My country saved me and I cannot forget it and I am here to serve her as long I draw breath, so help me God."
I am not THE ONE.

Mac will never speak like Barack and he can't energize like Sarah Palin but what I think is effective is the uspoken question- who would YOU trust steering the ship of state? Juan Williams makes a great point: Obama says McCain doesn't 'get it'. But you get the sense that he does.


I tuned in late in Cindy McCain's speech - two thoughts:

1. Four generations of service to this country. That's meaningful.

2. I had no idea she adopted a orphaned girl from Bangladesh.

"Experience" is value-neutral

Senator Biden has a great deal of experience in foreign policy. So did John Kerry. And Al Gore, Jr. And by the 1980 election, Jimmy Carter had 3.5 years of foreign policy experience as president and Ronald Reagan was the former governor of California who hadn't been in office in nearly six years.

Carter was the weakest president of the Cold War. Kerry failed time and again to get on the right side of history during the Cold War, so did Gore -- who only voted for the first Gulf War because he wanted to help his own record for the 1992 presidential race. And Biden has been wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again on foreign policy for more than 30 years, as Peter Wehner describes in the column linked to this post.

A doctor with 35 years of experience who consistently failed to find disease in his patients, only to watch them be saved time and again by a better doctor who performed competent diagnoses, is not the doctor who should treat you if your other choice is a doctor who has less experience but makes the big decisions correctly.

Experience alone means nothing. Experience alone is not a qualification. Sometimes it's a disqualifier.

Two words: Joe Biden.

Monk ♥ Gov. Palin

To be mild, Governor Palin's speech was a hit. The Monk watched and said to Monkette that it hit about 15 on a scale of 1-10. Monkette herself, who despises political speeches, stopped everything to watch Gov. Palin.

The National Review crowd is so thrilled, they're creating criticisms out of whole cloth. Jonah Goldberg says "she was put on the earth to kill caribou and kick butt and she's all out of caribou." Personally, I like this comparison: Palin is to Obama as Lawrence Taylor is to Joe Theismann's leg.

More tellingly, liberal bloggers and media members are scared. Even Tom Shales, the Roger Ebert of TV criticism (equivalent stature in the industry and left-wing politics) gave her a rave review!

The liberals are so desperate, they're even resorting to the stupidest talking point possible (naturally sent around by the very weak immediate response team in the Obama campaign) to denigrate the speech -- someone else wrote it. This is true, and it's true for every politician including Obama -- they employ speechwriters for a reason. Obama didn't write his speech, Hillary didn't write hers, and Biden probably lifted his from a bunch of failed British Labour MPs of the 1970s. Of course, the great Brit Hume swatted two of his Fox News contributors for regurgitating this talking point without questioning its relevance.

Simply stated, the Gov put on a great performance that the Obama campaign and the Left is at pains to diminish.

Good luck with that.

The press' credibility has sunk throughout this campaign from the low ebb it hit after the Bush memos hoax in 2004 to the failure to investigate John Edwards' fictional portrayal of himself as a good family man to reporting false stories about Palin's progeny and political affiliations to raising a double standard about mothers in politics they would never tolerate if the female politician were a Democrat (kudos to liberal columnist Susan Estrich for bucking the trend on this). The Democrats' best ally has been the press, and the press has been an embarrassment of hypocrisy, Obama-worshipping, tendentiousness and foolishness that the public no longer trusts.

But if they saw her last night, the public trusts Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin Superstar!



Great poise, great voice, firm delivery. [Mr. Biden - you better sharpen those pencils.]

Strong start, reminding again that McCain supported the surge:
"I'd rather lose an election than have my country lose a war."

- "Children of special needs require special love." "To the parents of kids with special needs, I pledge to you, if elected, you will have an advocate in the White House."

- Channels Truman: "we grow good people in these small towns"

- "Difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."

- "A mayor is like a community organizer with actual responsibilities."

- "I am not going to Washington to seek their good opinion [reporters and commentators], I am going to Washington to serve the people of this country."

- "That luxury jet was over the top...I put it on eBay."

- "[Obama] has authored two memoirs but not a single piece of legislation."

- "Victory in Iraq is finally in sight and he wants to forfeit."

- "Terrorists are ready in inflict catastrophic harm on the United States and he's worried about reading them their rights."

CRUSHING: "Harry Reid, the head of the do-nothing Senate says 'I can't stand John McCain.' I can't think of a greater compliment."

- "For a season a gifted speaker can inspire with his words. But for a lifetime John McCain has inspired with his deeds."

One sartorial comment

What is with the beige suit???

America's Mayor Shines

Rudy Giuliani is giving the best speech of the convention (so far).

Key points:

- The most powerful: "In the state legislature, he couldn't make a decision 130 times. He voted 'Present'. You don't get to vote 'Present' as Mayor of New York City or the Governor of Alaska or President of the United States."

- "[Obama] immersed himself in Chicago machine politics"

- "Change is not a destination just as hope is not a strategy."

- "I've got an idea for you [on the flip-flop on Georgia], call John McCain"

- reminded America what John McCain said of his vocal support of the surge: "I'd rather lose an election than a war." [Amen, ed.]

- "How dare they question whether Sarah Palin can look after her children and be Vice President??!! When have they ever asked a man that??"

Damn I like this man.

Euro Nuts

Two headlines from Reuters today - which would be funny if these folks weren't deadly serious.

RTRS-German experts deem wind turbines lethal for bats

BERLIN, Sept 3 (Reuters Life!) - German animal campaigners are alarmed by the number of dead bats being found near wind turbines and have called for restrictions on generators in areas with high populations of the nocturnal mammal.

"It would be good if wind turbines were only built in areas where bats do not tend to fly. Ideally they would not be put near woodland," he said.

Germany has about 19,000 wind turbines, generating about 5 percent of the country's electricity -- more than any other country in the world.


RTRS-Climate must be heart of foreign policy-EU official

LONDON, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Climate change represents such a threat to global security it must be at the heart of European Union foreign policy, much as energy security is now, a top EU bureaucrat [Helga Schmid of Germany] said on Wednesday.
"Climate change has to move to centre stage of thinking about foreign policy," she told a meeting at the Royal United Services Institute military think tank.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Joe's Best

Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), basically a Democrat until the Connecticut far-left fringe threw him out in 2006, gave an impassioned speech in support of John McCain. His powerful points:

- Senator Obama is eloquent but eloquence does not a leader make.

- my Democratic colleagues are trying to paint him to be someone he is not. [Which is true, he's a maverick and infuriated conservatives over a number of issues not the least of which are McCain-Feingold, immigration and coercive interrogation.]

- reminder that George Washington warned against partisanship in his Farewell address and how that partisanship has poisoned Washington(emanating from the unreasoning hatred the Left has harbored for the President since November 2000 but an argument for a different day)

- McCain crosses party lines, Obama does not.

- Country matters more than party and McCain is the right candidate for the country

Relevancy deficit and the experience issue

Both Dean Barnett and Gerard Baker have written interesting columns on Sarah Palin and Barack Obama.

Barnett notes that Obama is a high pedigree underachiever: Harvard Law educated . . . but he buggered off for two years to write a memoir and find himself before matriculating at a small Chicago firm that did not require either the tremendously hard work nor intellectual acuity that a top firm would have (and as a black man who had excelled at Harvard, Obama could pick his employer). He won a state assembly seat after kicking his competition off the ballot through detailed, legalistic and frequently picayune challenges to ballot petitions . . . and did little with it. He won a Senate campaign after his top competitor withdrew . . . and has no legislative accomplishments in the Senate.

But Palin is the opposite -- a low pedigree overachiever: she graduated from the University of Idaho -- not a school that attracts the future Fulbright and Rhodes scholars of America. She married young and immediately started a family, then became involved in local issues before becoming a town councilman, then the mayor of her hometown, then the first woman governor of Alaska. At each stop, she's had important legal achievements -- from lowering taxes to dethroning the corrupt Frank Murkowski to rooting out corruption in Alaskan politics. She's not a career politician who has merely bopped from post-to-post.

Who would you rather have as President? The brainiac v. enacter dichotomy is a real one in politics. Woodrow Wilson was supposedly ridiculously well-qualified to be president because he had a tremendous academic background; as president, he was awful. But Lincoln had 18 months of formal schooling and Reagan graduated from that non-Ivy League stalwart, Eureka College.

BUT that's not the question because Palin is running for vice-president.

Get it, yet? These comparisons of Obama with Palin are terrible twice over for the Democrats: first, his accomplishments don't exceed hers; second, he's running for the most important political position in the world. Saying that she's only a heartbeat away from the presidency as a scare tactic is foolish -- Obama has no experience and wants to BE the president.

Are you really voting for the Veep?

No, you're voting for the president. But if the presidential candidate's own accomplishments make Dan Quayle circa 1988 look like a poster-child for a leadership conference, the presidential candidate has no resume to run on. And Obama doesn't.

Bristol Palin and John Edwards

About sums it up - Charlotte Hays at National Review

The Washington Post’s delicate sensibilities are such that it had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the story of (an adult) Democratic politician who cheated on his cancer-stricken wife. But Sarah Palin’s pregnant 17-year-old daughter made the front page of the newspaper today. You’d never know from the headlines and commentary over the last few days that the pregnancy bothers liberal commentators but not the religious right — at whom these stories are aimed. The left gleefully hoped that the pregnancy would depress this segment of the voter population. Of course, if they’d actually met a member of the religious right they’d have known better. (And on another page in the same newspaper, Lois Romano reaches a new low in campaign reporting" The McCain campaign said it could not confirm that Palin was still breastfeeding Trig…")

My comment here is if the Palins and/or the campaign knew ahead of time they should have released the news better i.e., don't make it appear that they tried to hide it. I cannot see how folks who believe in the culture of life would view this poorly - it's not as if her parents got her to get an abortion! And I think folks with children, particularly teenagers, would understand at a basic level.