Friday, March 06, 2009

Here's Your Change

Tomorrow's Post includes news of the Treasury Department's trillion-dollar plan to make sweetheart loans to private equity firms to encourage them to buy up high-rated asset-backed securities, drawing the winners from the last years' casino markets back into the game.

Philo-Junius for one would like to be the first to welcome our new private equity overlords--George Soros is presumably at the head of the line. But Philo-Junius cannot help but imagine the rioting in Democratic neighbourhoods had the Bush administration attempted such a breath-taking giveaway. Does anyone still maintain that the Republican Party is the party of the rich?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Spinning the Message

It's interesting to note the careful wordsmithing the White House and other Democrats have hammered out in their ad hominem campaign against Rush Limbaugh. The current, precise phrasing of the indictment against Limbaugh is that Limbaugh "hopes the President's economic policies fail" (to quote Robert Gibbs from yesterday).

Philo-Junius thinks that's artful, because it implies that Obama's policies can succeed if everybody claps their hands and thinks happy thoughts. What Limbaugh has not stated out loud, but needs to make clear, is that what he means is that he wants Obama to fail in his attempts to implement wrongheaded and dangerously ideological policies based on flawed understandings of economics and human nature.

The issue is not whether conservatives or Republicans want Obama to "do well." Many conservatives hope and pray that a blinding light of providential revelation indeed strike Obama on the road to Damascus, or Tehran, or wherever, and he realise the manifold errors of his ways and be converted to the understanding of the inevitable failure of attempts to manage the U.S. economy and finance from above, and that, changing his goals, he leads the American economy to recovery and from strength to strength.

But that is not the course he has set, nor the one which a gambling man would wager Obama would ever undertake. Obama is attempting to implement policies which will impair the prosperity and social fabric of the nation for years to come, even if some believe (as some Democrats believed of G.W. Bush) he does it with the best intentions.

When someone sets about organising a campfire in an old-growth forest in the middle of the worst drought on record, it's not mean-spirited to hope he doesn't pull it off. This distinction is what Limbaugh needs to enunciate to defuse the attacks on him, and it is the distinction that we can expect the White House and its surrogates to most artfully attempt to efface.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Newt To Swim Tiber?

Say what you like about his checkered personal life or his fading prospects on the national political scene, but the New York Times Magazine profile on Newt Gingrich (registration required) let fall the following little nugget:

"At a moment when the role of religious fundamentalism in the party is a central question for reformers, Gingrich, rather than making any kind of case for a new enlightenment, has in fact gone to great lengths to placate Christian conservatives. The family-values crowd has never completely embraced Newt, probably because he has been married three times, most recently to a former Hill staff member, Callista Bisek. In 2006, though, Gingrich wrote a book called “Rediscovering God in America” — part of a new canon of work he has done reaffirming the role of religion in public life. The following year, he went on radio with the evangelical minister James Dobson to apologize for having been unfaithful to his second wife. (A Baptist since graduate school, Gingrich said he will soon convert to Catholicism, his wife’s faith.)"

Philo-Junius can't wait to see Newt, Nancy Pelosi and presumptive Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius slapping backs and bonding at the next Archdiocese of Washington Lenten Fish Fry.

I Can Has Chairman Who Doesn't Think We're Nazis?

Philo-Junius doesn't have a lot to say about the moderate Republicans' disdain for Rush Limbaugh, except that one can't fight a runaway freight train of nationalisation and leftward social engineering with nothing, which is all we've seen from the moderates since the financial meltdown, but he does strongly feel that any party chairman who nods and agrees with a hostile interviewer who characterises one's party as "reactionary" and party events as "like Nazi Germany" is one who really doesn't need to come to work the next day.

If Michael Steele had an ounce of self-respect he would tender his resignation today, and let someone who doesn't think Republicans are Nazis have the job.

It's been asked if Steele might have been able to stir himself to some reaction if Hughley, say, had offered Steele a plate of Oreos during the interview; somehow I think Steele would have done something other than nodding and attempting to "relate."

Bluffing the KGB

The hot story this morning at the Washington Post is the Obama administration's attempt to enroll Russia in Obama's half-hearted attempts at containment of Iran (which, we learned Sunday, now has the materials for an atomic bomb--oops) and the mullahs' attempts to acquire the ability to produce atomic weapons.

The question, though, is this: given Obama's deliberate humiliation of Poland's government for its support of the missile defense facilities, what reason does the Russian government have to believe that Obama is seriously intending to complete the project he's now attempting to bargain away?

If Russia is already going to get what it wants from Obama on missile defense--namely returning it to the research-and-development curiosity-we-never-intend-to-deploy box in which it was kept throughout the Clinton years, why would anyone think that this offer alone would be persuasive to the former-KGB clique which runs the Russian government?

Hoping for change, Philo-Junius supposes.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Thinking about the Sinking of AIG

News today about the parlous state of AIG, and the strong likelihood that the government will ultimately wind up owning AIG lock, stock and bookkeeper, gave Philo-Junius the urge to investigate the process of cleaning up AIG's books. It seems that when the credit-default swap mess was first unearthed during the collapse of Lehman Bros. last summer, that AIG's CDS exposure was about $400 billion, and now has been unwound to about $300 billion.

Question for discussion: given the fact that AIG has demonstrated the complete failure of its risk-modeling and effective bankruptcy, shouldn't the primary objective of U.S. government involvement be the transparent marking down of the swaps--the underlying systemic risk whose threat Geithner and Obama maintain we must address?

Some have argued that the swaps should be simply declared null and void as improperly registered insurance vehicles--why is it necessary to continue to pretend that these instruments have any effective value other than what the U.S. government ultimately chooses to assign them? Isn't the value ultimately assigned to these instruments a central question of public policy?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Confirmation Question for Sebelius

Q: Given your public statements that you believe abortion is wrong, do you believe that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided, in that it held that the life and health of unborn children were of no concern to governments?

Readers are welcomed to append their favourite questions below.

Some have said that abortion, and Sebelius' well-publicised entanglement with the abortion industry in Kansas--embodied by partial-birth-abortion specialist George Tiller--might overshadow Sebelius' qualifications to be Secretary of Health. In fact her stance on abortion IS her primary health-care qualification; she has made no national news in the last four years on any health-related issue EXCEPT abortion.

Now, we cannot delude ourselves that the 54% of Catholics who voted for Obama are going to suddenly have the scales fall from their eyes, but we do need to demonstrate that "common ground" really just means "you look the other way and we'll do what we please."

The fact that both of Obama's nominees (first former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle, now Kansas Governor Sebelius) for Secretary of Health and Human Services have been putative Catholics scolded by their bishops for their intransigence on abortion demonstrates the mendacity of the Obama position on abortion, especially where Catholics are concerned.

UPDATE: The New York Times is less than enthusiastic over the choice: "But on matters of health policy, which she will oversee if her nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Sebelius’s efforts to forge bipartisan consensus have rarely succeeded."

UPDATE: The crypto-secular National Catholic [sic] Reporter wheeled out a press-release-cum-"news"-article shilling for Sebelius reporting the support of several of their usual suspects in dissent praising both Sebelius and the choice. Obama's secular infiltrators within the Church were well-prepped, it seems.