July 30, 2008

Obama: America's 'Tragic History'

Jack Risko discusses Obama's latest gaffe. A fatigued Obama made a slip that he immediately corrected. The concern is that the tired slip is what he actually meant.

“I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged,” the Democratic presidential hopeful said.

So is our history itself tragic or is it a history with the tragic elements that all national epics have? Which one is it, Senator?

I'm pretty sure what Obama actually thinks (apparently Michelle was speaking for both Obamas). I'm pretty sure what he'd say if asked directly. I'm pretty sure that his campaign tries to screen out anyone who might ask him.

And isn't part of American exceptionalism the opportunity to transcend those tragic elements? While that's small comfort to the casualties of history, it should not be allowed to blot out the big picture.
The Star Bulletin's Obama quote continues:
"I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it's Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds."
Reparations, eh? By all means let's have an election about reparations.

I felt uneasy back when 'equal opportunity' morphed into 'affirmative action', and am aghast at government sponsorship of 'diversity'. Unfortunately, just because we're approaching a reductio ad absurdum doesn't mean the craziness will stop.

Addendum. Obama has come out against reparations. As is commonplace these days when a politician takes a position, his supporters and his opponents and people on both sides of the issue question whether he means what he says.

To not jump all over Obama's apparent endorsement of reparations was the right move by the McCain campaign. They're not going to win the independent vote by looking like 'mean-spirited' kneejerk obsessives. It's Obama's overall credibility that they have to bring into question. By preemptively addressing the matter, Obama probably made his best available move too. Nevertheless, another flip-flop is on tape, and the McCain campaign can use it as they choose.

July 27, 2008

Obama Doesn't Visit Wounded Troops at Landstuhl

The Obama people's version is that the military made a last-minute reclassification of the Landstuhl visit as a campaign event; that, because of the ensuing sudden logistical complications, Obama chose to phone the wounded troops at Landstuhl; and that Obama had just visited wounded troops in Iraq.

I don't entirely buy this--my sense is that Obama could have gotten to Landstuhl if he'd really wanted to--, but IMO the situation is not as clearcut as some partisans on the right claim.

I don't know the net impact of this affair on independent voters. This independent voter thought the McCain campaign was hitting its stride with the media-loves-Obama ad (warning: some Web links to the video have been short-lived and this one may be too), but the stridency of Landstuhl criticism strikes me as a step backward.
If the Republicans think they'll win this thing with negative campaigning, in all likelihood they are grievously mistaken. The 1988 election was won with negative GOP campaigning, but it followed a successful Republican Presidency.

Afterthought. So what should the Republicans have done? McCain, as quoted by Jack Risko, made a good start:
If I had been told by the Pentagon that I couldn’t visit those troops, and I was there and wanted to be there, I guarantee you, there would have been a seismic event.
This makes McCain's temper work for him: it implies that President McCain will not be maneuvered by ploys from bureaucrats and other players, but will be President. The McCain people should have contrasted that single statement with all the equivocations from the Obama campaign--but such points should be made with a rapier, not a bludgeon.

July 24, 2008

Things (Begin to) Fall Apart

Instapundit links Althouse's discussion of this Zogby poll, which finds that 20% of Americans believe that a state has the right to secede from the country. About twice that among Hispanics and blacks.

Zobgy's headline does not mention the last poll, which is the real kicker:
I believe the United States' system is broken and cannot be fixed by traditional two-party politics and elections:
Agree 44%
Disagree 53%
Not Sure 3%
This is a natural consequence of identity politics and the elites' dysfunction.

Authoritarian rule crosses my mind from time to time, but I've hesitated to mention it.

Congress: We Don't Need No Steenking Speculators

The WSJ’s ‘An Energy Sarbox’ describes an intrusion into the market that is grosser than the SEC’s favoritism to some institutional short sellers:
…Congress has begun to believe its own demagoguery.
Congress sez: "We'll drive our futures markets offshore. Those people are trading for ewww profit. Let them go to Dubai. Let's broadly expand the CFTC's powers and show these speculators who's boss."

Megan McCardle has more on the energy-trading legislation, which passed its first hurdle 94-0. I salute this commenter's pithy invective:
The legislation reads like an excerpt from a Soviet five-year plan for commodity futures.
And this one's:
How do you even compare the credibility of the two parties? It's like trying to compare the credibility of two 4 year olds when one says his dad is Superman and the other says his dad is a dinosaur.
And if the futures markets move to Dubai, we won't buy any oil! That'll show 'em!

July 22, 2008

Moon Landing

I have little to add to this, but that little is important.

Prospects are increasing that private parties will return humanity to the moon not long after, or even before, governments do.

The chances are still very small, but they are growing.

This Is a Democratic Year...

...and the Democratic candidate will win the Presidential election.

In fact, the Republicans haven't even nominated one of their own. They've thrown in the towel and put up a center-right Democrat-in-all-but-name who reminds me of John Glenn.

John Glenn would not win the Democratic primary against Barack Obama, but this year the Democratic primary has been moved to the general election.

Stay tuned.

July 21, 2008

Obama Has a Wide-Open Look at the Basket.
Will He Take the Shot?

After printing an op-ed by Obama, the New York Times refused to print a submission by John McCain.

By criticizing the Times' decision, Obama could claim to put the democratic process above his partisan advantage. The impression on undecided voters might be significant; the loss of partisan support would be minimal or none.

Might this be a set-up? I'm not claiming that, but I can't dismiss the thought either.

More on the SEC and Short Selling

Yahoo has some links to commentary.

On the few occasions I've looked at the New York Times recently, its readability has seemed to be improving. Of course, it might be my attitude that's changing. Joe Nocera slammed the SEC on July 16 and twice on July 15.

The Times notes the avoidance of creative destruction in the government response to the crisis, and wonders if we're risking Japanese-style stagnation. As I write the S&P 500 is about 5% below its value--denominated in debased dollars--when Bush took office, so we may be well into such stagnation already.

July 19, 2008

The Warp Drive: Work is Progressing

The arXiv blog reports that unwrapping compactified dimensions might enable the space-time distortions that allow an Alcubierre warp drive to circumvent the speed of light.

I'm not qualified to assess its theoretical basis, but clearly the concept is highly speculative. As of this writing there is no experimental evidence for compactified dimensions.

Nevertheless, the development reinforces the caveat that it is reckless to shout "HERE WE ARE!!" into the cosmos.

July 17, 2008

Nasssty Short Sellerss...We Hates Them, Preciousss...

Gee whiz, all this time I've been thinking the market's and dollar's troubles happened because of the Bush Republicans' sleazy fiscal buffoonery (with the Democrats promising to do even worse). Fortunately, nefarious short sellers have been unmasked as the real culprits, and all will be well after America's good and wise government gives the globalized financial markets a stern no-nonsense talking-to.

Forbes reports:
Many hedge fund managers deny naked shorting occurs, but a growing number of company executives, from bigger and bigger companies no less, have complained that short-sellers have used manipulation to drive their shares down. Clearly, the SEC was concerned enough about it (and probably got an earful about it from enough constituents) that it decided emergency action was needed.

Plenty are angry about not being included in the emergency club, however. Patrick Byrne, chief executive of Overstock.com (nasdaq: OSTK - news - people ), who has campaigned for three years for the SEC to tighten the locate requirements for short-sellers, says..."It's the theater of the absurd."
Note the non sequitur in the first paragraph. It's not hedge funds that enable naked shorting; it's the big brokerage firms which are major stock repositories (and whose gross irresponsibility was essential to the housing bubble). Perhaps they're campaigning for regulations that will provide a pretext for new fees on their short-selling clients. As for the second paragraph, some time ago I cut my losses in Byrne's stock.

Forbes continues about the SEC:
...the agency recently extended a comment period on rules that would eliminate option market makers' exemption from the locate requirement. Critics say the option market makers' exemption, together with the SEC's elimination of the uptick rule last year, has exacerbated the downward pressure on heavily shorted stocks.
In effect, apparently the SEC is dragging its feet to accommodate the creation of overpriced leverage. Derivatives are not usually created by individual investors or hedge funds, but by the fine people who brought us the housing bubble, the Internet bubble, the emerging-markets bubble,...

July 16, 2008

Is this Misconduct Criminal or Merely Squalid?

When all those U.S. Attorneys were fired a while ago, somehow this one was overlooked:
Axion is the latest in a string of aggressive prosecutions brought by Birmingham U.S. Attorney Alice Martin. Those prosecutions are marked by convictions overturned and innocent men wronged. Two judges have openly questioned whether she knowingly prosecuted innocent people...

...She has strong ties to the Republican establishment -- her mentor is William Canary, a powerful Republican campaign consultant in Alabama who has close ties to former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.
Whatever could be the reason?

Keep in mind that Ms. Martin--Attorney Martin, excuuuse me--was put in a tough spot. The really cushy assignments in the Bush administration go to people who are put in place not to do something the government is supposed to be doing. I'm thinking, for example, of Julie Myers heading Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and of the attempt to put Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court.

July 15, 2008

SEC Prohibits Naked Shorting of Financial Stocks

IMO buyers and sellers should be treated evenhandedly. I don't see why allowing naked shorting is evenhanded; my concerns with the SEC's move today is primarily with the timing and the limited scope. However, I disfavor the uptick rule; if it is reimposed, it should be balanced with a downtick rule on margin purchases.

IMO the first paragraph of the Journal's "Operation Stocks Go Up Always" is gallows-hilarious; see also the link to portfolio.com:
The most charitable view of this is that the move is political, designed to make it seem like the SEC is Doing Something in the face of all the chaos. But it doesn't look like that: it looks like the SEC is happy signing on to the belief that stocks wouldn't be falling if it weren't for short-sellers. In other words, the Powers That Be don't trust the market, and the SEC has gone from facilitating price discovery to making it harder.
"When people are hurting, the government has got to move."

Hey, fatcats are people too.

55 mph?!

Joseph White, the Wall Street Journal's automotive editor, just helped to float the trial balloon.

Like other commenters on the piece, I have significantly cut back my driving and my speed because of gas prices.

In what is theoretically a free country, I am capable of making choices about my welfare and the public good without the matters being decided for me and enforced by the cops.

There are ever more voices calling for ever increasing intrusion of the government into ever more aspects of my life. I don't need one more from the Wall Street Journal.

If Mr. White had combined his trial balloon a reduced speed limit with a call for all-out development of traditional and nontraditional energy sources, my reaction to his piece would have been mollified. He didn't and it isn't. I have cancelled my renewals for the Journal and Barron's.
Politicians may be giving the EPA a wink and nod to do their dirty work for them. Plausible deniability of an idiotic unpopular measure, more control, more patronage, no accountability. What's not to like?

July 6, 2008

Howard Berman

This shocked me[1]:
Howard Berman likes to joke that he became a Zionist before he became a Democrat...

Today, as the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he's in a position to do more than wave flags and cheer. He has the helm of one of the most powerful bodies shaping US foreign policy, and he says his decision to run for Congress and focus on international relations while in office was intimately connected to his Jewish background and ties to the Jewish state.

"Israel's security and the US-Israeli relationship is for me an issue that shapes my whole agenda [in] Congress, and guides it," he told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview in his Capitol Hill office.
It shocked me, and I support Israel against its barbarous neighbors.

On the other hand, you have all the people in government on the Saudi payroll (outright, via business relationships, or with the expectation of payback when they retire).

Not to mention other ethnic lobbies.

As Jack Risko is wont to say, how can such a country survive?
[1] Berman seems a real piece of work:
...Berman, a lawyer by training, has served on the Judiciary Committee and headed a subcommittee dealing with intellectual property rights.
Yes, this is the Berman often mentioned in connection with predatory copyright and intellectual property legislation.

Words to Live By

Logic is patriarchy.

July 5, 2008

A Day Late

Thank you, Founders.

A republic, if you can keep it.