Friday, September 26, 2008

Shock, In Varying Degrees

Today’s Shocker:  Oregon State 27, USC 21.  Wow.  Shades of last year, eh?  Just when I thought this year’s college ball season would be rather ho-hum… with the Usual Suspects on cruise-control all the way to this year’s bowl games… along comes O-State and knocks off the nation’s Numero Uno.  And I missed it!  This week’s Sunday polls will be oh-so-interesting.  I’m thinking The Piper will be pleased.


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Today’s Non-Shocker:  Depends on the Meaning of 'Close' …Blaming McCain for bailout fallout.”  Excerpt:

So what happened? I'm not sure anyone knows the full story, but here is my take. When John McCain announced that he was suspending his campaign, Democrats moved quickly to portray the decision as strictly political. (Senator Chuck Schumer said as much in an interview on CNN.) An important element of their case was convincing reporters that a deal was close and McCain presence was (a) unnecessary, (b) potentially detrimental, or (c) both.

But that's a hard case for them to make for two reasons. First, Harry Reid. On Wednesday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had explicitly called for McCain to use his influence as party leader to bring House Republicans along. "We need, now, the Republicans to start producing some votes for us," Reid said. "We need the Republican nominee for president to let us know where he stands and what we should do." Reid explained that McCain was crucial to any deal because his approval of a deal would give congressional Republicans political cover necessary to sign on to a bipartisan agreement. The second reason: House Republicans were never on board. Earlier this week, they gave Vice President Dick Cheney an earful about their opposition to the deal. Yesterday morning, a group of about 50 conservative House Republicans got together and when one speaker asked for a show of hands from those who support the bailout, less than a handful said they were likely to support it. One staffer for a Republican in House leadership said: "Understand one thing. House Republicans were never on board."

The market is reacting in a strange (but semi-good!) sort of way to this news.  The Dow is up nearly 200 points as I write, but the NASDAQ is down by 35.  Apropos of nothing… I’ve been keeping an eye on the market throughout this whole interesting turn of events.  It should come as no surprise that I’d hate to see my nest egg go Poof! at this point in life.  Spending my dotage in poverty ain’t exactly my idea of a good time.


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Today’s Shockingly Good Essay on the financial melt-down from Charles Krauthammer, writing at Real Clear Politics:  Catharsis, Then Common Sense.”  Excerpt:


WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson went to Capitol Hill seeking $700 billion. He got an earful. Now, $700 billion is a serious sum, and Congress has the fiduciary responsibility to make sure the money it appropriates goes for a good cause. But from the indignant congressional demands for a laundry list of quid pro quos, you would have thought Paulson wanted it for his personal use.

In fact, Paulson is a lame duck. In four months, he is gone. Paulson is asking for the money not for self-aggrandizement but for the same reason Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the markets are asking for it: to prevent the American economy from going over a cliff.

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Was there misbehavior on Wall Street? The wheels of justice will grind. But why wait for justice? If a really good catharsis will allow a return of rationality to Capitol Hill -- yielding a clean rescue package that will actually save the economy -- go for it.

Capping executive pay is piffle. What we need are a few exemplary hangings. Public hangings. On television. Pick a few failed investment firms, lead their CEOs in chains through the canyons of Manhattan and give the mob satisfaction. Better still, precede the auto-da-fe -- fire is highly telegenic -- with 24-hour reality-TV coverage of their recantations, lamentations and final visits with the soon-to-be widowed. The ratings would dwarf "American Idol," and the ad revenue alone would make the perfect down payment on the $700 billion.

Whatever it takes to clear our heads.


Dang, but I love the way the man thinks!  There are some folks who don’t see Krauthammer’s suggestion as high sarcasm, but I DO love the way the man pokes fun at stupid-ass moves by the Democrats whose sole purpose with their add-ons to the rescue/bail-out/whatever-ya-wanna-call-it seems to be fanning the flames of class-warfare. 

While we’re on the subject… Victor Davis Hanson speaks for me (“Dr. Frankenstein's Wall Street,” at Real Clear Politics) when he says:

All that remains of this Ponzi scheme is the election-year blame game. Republicans charge that important financial firewalls were dismantled by the Clinton administration while insider liberal senators got shady campaign donations in exchange for aiding Wall Street. Democrats counter that the laissez-faire capitalism espoused by Republicans for two decades encouraged financial piracy while tax policy favored the rich speculator over the middle-class wage earner.

But no one dares to ask what really drove the wheeler-dealer portfolio managers. Who re-elected these shady politicians of both parties? Who fostered the cash-in culture in which both Wall Street profit mongering and Washington lobbying are nourished and thrive? We citizens did -- red-state conservatives and blue-state liberals, Republicans and Democrats, alike. We may be victims of Wall Street greed -- but not quite innocent victims.

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We created the cultural climate for this shared madness. Television shows advised how to "flip" a house after putting in cosmetic improvements. Real-estate seminars and popular videos convinced us that homes were not places to live in and raise a family but rather no different from piles of chips on a Vegas table.

We created the phony populist creed that everyone deserved to own a house. So lawmakers got the message to relax lending standards in service to "fairness." But Americans forgot that historically nearly four in 10 of us aren't ever ready, or able, to sacrifice for a down payment, monthly mortgage bills, home maintenance and yearly taxes -- and so should stick to renting.


It should go without saying:  Read the whole thing.  And scroll down for that famous Walt Kelly cartoon about meeting the enemy.  Or click the link.  You choose. 


In any event, we ALL bear a certain amount of responsibility for what’s happened to our financial system.  You might look at people who knowingly took on mortgage obligations they knew they couldn’t afford as “victims,” but I sure as Hell don’t.  It’s that ol’ “personal responsibility” thang, Gentle Reader.  OTOH, I have nothing but contempt for the people who wrote those sub-prime mortgages, knowing full well that the home buyer didn’t have the proverbial snow ball’s chance of repaying the loan.  Krauthammer might sarcastically call for public hangings on Wall Street, but I’d like to bring back public flogging for the people who approved mortgages that had NO business being considered, to begin with.  The difference between Krauthammer and myself?


I’m serious.


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Today’s Pics:  Once again… into the archives.  A brief photo essay on how to keep a 15-month old baby boy entertained.  And his parents, as well.

Perinton, NY. May, 1998.

6 comments:

  1. You have no idea how happy the dh was last night, he hates USC !
    Cute boy!

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  2. Those pics bring back great memories of Bo as a baby. I remember searching the kitchen for my pie pan while a friend looked on. I reached down and pulled the bottom of the refrigerater off and reached in and got my pan. My friend was shocked,"How did you know it was there?" I had remembered that Bo had been playing with the pans while I cooked.

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  3. Jenn: I hate USC, as well. ANY ND fan actively dislikes SC... period. And thanks for the compliment.

    Lou: Kids love them pans... don't they? ;-)

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  4. That little boy is a darling thing!

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  5. I had an opportunity to get a sub-prime mortgage. After careful review, I chickened out... thank GOD!
    I'm still renting.
    Won't buy one until I know darned sure that I can take it all on. Taxes, insurance, repairs, phew! Big scary investment and just a bit too much for me to handle with one in college. Maybe later! Mine was big into pans, paper towel tubes and boxes! He's a cutie Buck! Love the blue eyes!

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  6. Phlegmmy: Thanks!

    Alison: Good on ya for thinking long and hard about that mortgage. I can only imagine what property costs in your part of the world, so virtually ANY mortgage would be beyond my capabilities...

    As for kids being into pots, pans, boxes, etc. ... Isn't it amazing how easily entertained they are when they're very young? And how quickly they becomes jaded, later?

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Just be polite... that's all I ask.