Whoso knoweth himself well, groweth mean in his own conceit, and delighteth not in the praises of men. ~ The Imitation of Christ, Bk. 1, Ch. 2.
So, as promised yesterday, your VJ presents two more. Today the theme is double: The City and Songs by Eagles members.
Wow. Don Johnson smoked his cigarettes the same way I did. Didn't know he was a fan.
One of the best songs on The Warriors soundtrack.
Oh, one more just for fun:
This story has it that the changing economy has many people changing jobs. Frankly, I'm shocked. I thought the thing to do when disaster strikes was to stand around in your filth waiting for the omnicompetent government to rescue you. What this? Saving yourself? (Well, not quite: a lot of unfederal dollars are at work there.)
What's next? A return to capitalism?
Oh, well. Maybe it's time for me to pursue my childhood dream. No, not the dream of being a mercenary; my wife would never stand for that. No, I mean the other dream, of being a DJ. Oh. No. A VJ.
Here's two, back-to-back, just for you. It's a two-for-Tuesday sort of thing.
You may have missed the reference in the song to Tijuana. Interesting side-note: We lived there for a few years when I was a child. I have only the vaguest of memories.
Now, from the If-I-could-be-the-central-attraction-of-any-scene-in-any-of-my-favorite-movies Category:
Wow. That was kind of fun. Thanks for tuning in.
Tomorrow's Hump Day. Maybe we'll have to do this again.
Oh, what the heck. One more. From the If-I-had-a-band-I-would-so-cover-this-song Category (and, yes, that would be me on the drums):
The same rationale undergirds the push to give to the executive branch expanded power to seize "non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, whose collapse would damage the broader economy", instead of just banks. (The comparisons with FDR get uncannier and uncannier. If Hoover was FDR-Lite -- and he was -- then Bush will go down, if the economic history is correctly written, as Obama-Lite.)
It sounds good, to some. But the fact of the matter is this. If a company really is too big to fail, then it is too big to fail even if it is entirely solvent. For then it must be kept solvent, always. If "too big to fail" is a good enough excuse for a government take-over of companies on the verge of collapse, then it is an even better excuse -- when you think about it -- for a government take-over of too-big-to-fail-but-still-solvent companies, as well.
As soon as a company gets to be a certain size, the unfederal government will being take-over proceedings. And since the purpose of any business is simply to employ people, the unfederal department in charge of initiating these proceedings should be the Department of Labor. Poetic, when you think about it.
But I have digressed.
Soon, insolvent companies will be required to file permission with an unfederal department of something-or-other to secure permission before filing for bankruptcy. A three-member commission will determine whether the firm belongs to the 2B2F (i.e., Too Big To Fail) category. If so, take-over proceedings will begin. Bankruptcy will be averted. O, happy day!
But, really, if one of government's responsibilities is to ensure full employment then any business which employs people should be considered too big to fail. When you, personally, are unemployed, the unemployment rate is 100%. (Yes, it's a silly notion. I borrowed it from the Dickens novel Hard Times. One of the Gradgrind children says something like it.)
Alfred J. Nock, using the prophet Isaiah as an example, explains, here. It will take you about half an hour to read, depending upon your speed, but well worth it, I think. (You could also listen to it, here.)
As the word masses is commonly used, it suggests agglomerations of poor and underprivileged people, laboring people, proletarians, and it means nothing like that; it means simply the majority. The mass man is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to those principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct; and because such people make up the great and overwhelming majority of mankind, they are called collectively the masses. The line of differentiation between the masses and the Remnant is set invariably by quality, not by circumstance. The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.[...]
Everyone with a message nowadays is...eager to take it to the masses. His first, last and only thought is of mass acceptance and mass approval. His great care is to put his doctrine in such shape as will capture the masses' attention and interest. This attitude towards the masses is so exclusive, so devout, that one is reminded of the troglodytic monster described by Plato, and the assiduous crowd at the entrance to its cave, trying obsequiously to placate it and win its favor, trying to interpret its inarticulate noises, trying to find out what it wants, and eagerly offering it all sorts of things that they think might strike its fancy.But Obama, His Beatitude, is only a man of the masses, as I said, in a sense -- only in appearance. In actuality, as an intellectual, his main concern is not the masses; it is control. And as Étienne de La Boétie informed us long ago, control of any large group of people, by a smaller group, is always by shaping popular opinion -- the opinion of the masses. Hence all the phoney outrage over the AIG bonuses.
The main trouble with all this is its reaction upon the mission itself. It necessitates an opportunist sophistication of one's doctrine, which profoundly alters its character and reduces it to a mere placebo. If, say, you are a preacher, you wish to attract as large a congregation as you can, which means an appeal to the masses; and this, in turn, means adapting the terms of your message to the order of intellect and character that the masses exhibit. If you are an educator...with a college on your hands, you wish to get as many students as possible, and you whittle down your requirements accordingly. If a writer, you aim at getting many readers; if a publisher, many purchasers; if a philosopher, many disciples; if a reformer, many converts; if a musician, many auditors; and so on. But as we see on all sides, in the realization of these several desires, the prophetic message is so heavily adulterated with trivialities, in every instance, that its effect on the masses is merely to harden them in their sins. Meanwhile, the Remnant, aware of this adulteration and of the desires that prompt it, turn their backs on the prophet and will have nothing to do with him or his message.
It would be comical if it weren't so dangerous.
How difficult it is to perform the duty of seeking the good of our neighbor! Unless you leave off all thought of yourself and in a manner cease to be yourself, you will never accomplish it. How can you exhibit those works of charity which Paul describes unless you renounce yourself, and become wholly devoted to others? “Charity (says he, 1 Corinthians 13:4) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked etc. Were it the only thing required of us to seek not our own, nature would not have the least power to comply: she so inclines us to love ourselves only, that she will not easily allow us carelessly to pass by ourselves and our own interests that we may watch over the interests of others, nay, spontaneously to yield our own rights and resign it to another. But Scripture, to conduct us to this, reminds us, that whatever we obtain from the Lord is granted on the condition of our employing it for the common good of the Church, and that, therefore, the legitimate use of all our gifts is a kind and liberal communication of them with others. ~ Institutes of The Christian Religion, Bk. 3, Ch. 7, para. 5.
As I've mentioned (here and here), at no time have we been told who these bonus recipients are. Now, unlike lynch mob-inciting politicians like Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, and, of course, His Beatitude, I don't want to know the names of these people. Their names aren't really important, unless you want to make sure that violent leftists know who stand up against walls and shoot. What is important -- and what I've been getting at -- is that we don't know what types of executives these are. We don't what what, if any responsible role, they have played in the mess at AIG. We know only that "executives" in the division of AIG which caused the mess have received, altogether, a whopping .095% of the TARP money given to AIG, less than one one-hundredth of a percent.
Type of executive is important because the stimulus organ, for which these screaming banshees voted (unread, as I suggested here) and which Epihanes signed, also unread, I'm sure, provides for compensation of executives, including bonuses. But the stimulus organ categorizes executives, and then specifies the limits to their compensation, including bonuses. Division B, Title VII ("LIMITS ON EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION") defines, for example, a Senior Executive Officer, as "an individual who is 1 of the top 5 most highly paid executives of a public company, whose compensation is required to be disclosed pursuant to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and any regulations issued thereunder, and nonpublic company counterparts." Furthermore, the stimulus organ provides for the prohibition of certain forms of compensations, including retention bonuses for executive officers.
However, Title VII, Section 7001 ("EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE"), which amends Section 111 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (12 U.S.C. 5221), (b), (3), (D)(ii),(IV), (iii) [you have to love the way legislation is written] states "The prohibition required under clause (i) shall not be construed to prohibit any bonus payment required to be paid pursuant to a written employment contract executed on or before February 11, 2009, as such valid employment contracts are determined by the Secretary or the designee of the Secretary."
The aforementioned clause (i) provides for a prohibition of certain forms of compensation during the period for which TARP recipients have an outstanding obligation (i.e., owe the government the money for the loan). Furthermore, and this goes to my point about the types of executives affected by the stimulus organ, clause (i) specifies prohibitions as applying to the top 5 most highly compensated executives (or the top 10, depending upon more specific provisions of clause (i)).
But the limitations on bonuses received by executives, including senior executives, do not apply, once again, according to clause (iii) because these compensation contracts were executed on or before February 11, 2009.
So, yes, Congress and the Constitutional Dictator, first permitted, by law, the payment of these bonuses and now pretend they had no idea. They now pretend outrage and disgust. They now seek to take away what they first gave.
And by the way, we now know that Chris Dodd made sure that the aforementioned clause (iii) was in the stimulus organ. (See also this NBC News story.) He claims that he did so at Administration request, the present Administration, not the previous (i.e., Bush) Administration. He might be telling the truth. For once.
Wait a minute. What's this? Retention bonuses at Freddie Mac, scheduled for next year? (H/T: Ed Morrissey)
Important note: While we do know that the recipients of these offensive bonuses worked in the AIG division which caused AIG's downfall, we still do not know who these people are, or what their specific duties were, or how the performance of these duties makes them responsible for the calamity. But we're going to treat them like it anyway. (And when we find out who these people are...let the lynchings begin.)
Another important note: We are still talking about money equaling a mere .095% of the bailout money. There is still a deafening relative silence about the 69.36% paid to, among others, certain overseas banks.
And, in top-of-the-hour radio news I hear His Beatitude inform us that the AIG bonuses are a symptom of our entire culture, excessive greed, excessive compensation, excessive competition. And he also informs Wall Street that we shall not be returning to "business as usual". Well, that ought to keep it from ever hitting 14,000 again. There will be no more competition, no more compensation, no more anything which our betters believe is excessive.
And he also compared Timothy Geitner to Alexander Hamilton. The reference to Hamilton, is positively ironic. Thomas Jefferson, no fan, said that Hamilton's goal was to ally the rich to the government at the peoples' expense. The reason he said so is that what Hamilton was after was an economy such as we have. (Hint: Despite repeated usage of the term, it is not a "free" one.)
Hamilton, who Thomas DiLorenzo -- rightly -- calls the founding father of crony capitalism, was a traitor to the Revolution. It would be fair to say that the only thing he and his ilk objected to, when it came to British mercantilism and imperialism, was being on the paying side of it. They didn't mind mercantilism and imperialism as such, especially if it were to be American mercantilism and imperialism. If Hamilton had had his way, at the convention to "improve" the Articles of Confederation, we would have a permanent president who would appoint the state governors and have veto power over all state legislation. Under his plan, state sovereignty would have been destroyed, and there would have been no escape from the central government's high taxes, protectionist tariffs, heavy debt, and foreign-policy imperialism. Oh, yes, and a central bank -- very important; can't have a country without it. It took a while, and a "civil war"; and he didn't live to see it. But Hamilton eventually got most of his way. No, the President can't veto state legislation; but either Congress or the Federal courts can. States' rights? Just use the term and you'll be treated like a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Like I said: The reference to Hamilton is ironic.
The bonuses that our benevolent fathers on the hill are so exercised about (and over which Charles Grassely, who took $26,250 from AIG in 2008, thinks these bonus receiving executives should commit suicide ) are retention bonuses.
There is more to this, of course. In typical journalistic fashion, news media report (and Congressmen spew) that these bonuses are being paid to people in the very division that destroyed the company by issuing billions of dollars in derivatives insuring risky assets. These people work in the division that destroyed the company. And, apparently, simply for working in that division -- quite apart from any consideration for the nature of the work they did -- they are actually responsible, as if they themselves made the decision to issue the derivatives. Perhaps they did, but we don't know. We don't know what these people did. We don't know what, if any, responsibility they have for the mess. They may have none at all. But they work in the division which caused the mess; and that is all we need to know.
And again: We're supposed to think these people are smarter than us. It staggers the imagination.
Nevertheless, what's completely odd is the fuss made over the $165 million spent to honor these contracts while there is relative silence about the billions in payments AIG has made to Goldman Sachs Group Inc and others. Specifically, AIG has paid $120 billion in cash, collateral and other payouts to banks, municipal governments and other derivative counterparties around the world, including at least $20 billion to European banks. Goldman Sachs received at least $13 billion. That's not only more than $165 million, it's more than half of the $173 billion in U.S. taxpayer money spent to rescue AIG. For any journalists and liberal politicians who might be reading (as if!), I'll do the math for you. While the pay-out to Goldman Sach's and the Eurobancs is 69.36% of the bailout money, the bonuses amount to a whopping .095%. Note, that .095% is not the same as 9.5%. And further note, just to make sure we're clear, that 69.36% is bigger than .095%.
I understand the payout to Goldman Sachs: Save the U.S. economy. But if the bailout was to save the U.S. economy, then why the payout to the Eurobancs? Why should taxpayer money, needed to prop up the taxpayer economy, be sent overseas? Could it be that the money was paid out because these payouts, like those executive bonuses, were contractual obligations?
Whatever the answers to those questions, it seems a bit disproportional, like one of those crazy mirrors at the carnival, to focus so much on the .095% rather than the 69.36% -- the $165 million rather than the $120 billion. I doubt we'll hear the likes of Charles Shumer or Barney Frank threatening to get the $120 billion from those foreign countries, or the $13 billion back from Goldman Sachs.
A side-bar comment addressed to the aforementioned Charles Grassely. I agree with the Confederate Yankee: If dishonor in the use of taxpayer money is grounds for committing seppuku, then you first. No one beats Congress when it comes to dishonor in use of taxpayer money. And unlike government, AIG didn't get our money from us at gun-point. And the shareholders of AIG didn't approve the bailout plan. (Does anyone remember what a shareholder is?)
In honor of this being the Lenten Season, a little something on fasting:
The value of fasting consists not in abstinence only from food, but in a relinquishment of sinful practices, since one who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meat is one who especially disparages it. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him! If you see a friend enjoying honor, do not envy him. For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all members of our bodies. Let the hands fast by being pure from avarice. Let the feet fast by ceasing from running to forbidden spectacles. Let the eyes fast by being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances. For looking is the food of the eyes, but if it be unlawful or forbidden it mars the fast and overturns the safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be an instance of the highest absurdity to abstain from meats and unlawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to feed on what is forbidden. Do you eat flesh? Do not feed on licentiousness by means of the eyes. Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear is not to receive evil speaking and calumnies. "You shall not receive an idle report," it says. Let also the mouth fast from foul words. For what does it profit if we abstain from birds and fish, and yet bite and devour our brethren? ~ John Chrysostom.
Now, it's not really that bad. But we still need another stimulus organ.
As talk goes on about this new stimulus organ, we ought to consider the fact that this market is the result of a collapsed housing market, a housing market which was the result of a previous stimulus organ. The CRA, along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's implicit-turned-explicit mortgage guarantee, created an artificial demand for housing, a demand which should not have existed. In true, government-driven-demand fashion, the push for "affordable" housing and "non-discriminate" lending encouraged lenders to lend money to people who otherwise wouldn't get loans. This was all government stimulus to the max. When the goal -- a government-mandated goal -- is simply to increase home-ownership, the question is no longer, "Who can afford a home, and at what price?" but, "Who can be put into a home, and how?" And trouble is just a matter of time, the only question being, "Who's going to be without a chair when the music stops?"
Hint: It's never the one playing the music. And in this case, the unfederal government was playing the music.
On one hand, the unfederal government has made clear it will go after you if you aren't doing enough affirmative action lending, and acknowledged you'll take a loss on these loans due to an increase in defaults:
(H/T: Hot Air)
Then, on the other hand, government sponsored entities, which, between the two of them, had already purchased or guaranteed about half of the U.S.'s $12 trillion mortgage market, have effectively told you not to worry about the bad loans you've made because they will be guaranteed by the unfederal government, there's not much reason for not granting the loans -- quite the contrary, in fact. (Important point: some of the loans you don't grant to people who can't pay them will get you hauled into court, accused of discrimination based on race.)
Of course, now we know that when the music finally stops, you and your fellow bankers will be left standing without a chair, blamed for the financial ruin which was always only a matter of time. And, of course, the unfederal government, which just about single-handedly creating this mess by commanding bad loans to be made, will be wagging its finger at you, crying, "For shame, for shame."
To add to the spectacle, while the government is wagging its guilty finger at you, some of your compatriots in the lending business will have their hands thrown up in the air, claiming not to know how you could have been so unscrupulous as to lend money to people who couldn't pay it back. (Transcript, here.)
And then, as if the spectacle isn't sick enough, those for whom hatred of capitalism is a religious conviction, call it all proof positive that, despite a mixed economy, capitalism -- not government involvement -- doesn't work, that, with 73 thousand pages of federal regulations, there is not enough regulation. (They do the same thing with healthcare. It's never the government involvement; it's always the capitalism.)
It's a simple thing, really, and easy to grasp. Government cannot create demand; but it can exaggerate demand.
The thing to remember about the U.S. left is that their greatest commitment is denying any victory to the right. It may be that adult stem cells can do all that is hoped for from embryonic, but if the right is opposed to use of embryonic stem cells, for whatever reason, then the left is going to insist on embryonic stem cell research.
What I said in that post was:
[T]here is a certain prejudice here. You know how you know people whom you so dislike that if they are for something you are just positive you need to be against it? There are some people who, in addition to scientific curiosity, just cannot stand the idea that the pro-life movement might "win" something.It's very easy for me to understand this. It isn't "religion" versus "science". It's religion versus religion. Only the object of worship is different; the nature of the commitments involved is the same.
Much of this goes back to Galileo's conflict with the Church over heliocentrism, from which the Church still has a black eye. (Of course, the problem is that the Church had made Aristotelianism synonymous with Christian orthodoxy. But any Church which makes that sort of move deserves the black eye it gets as a result.) If anyone associated with any religious perspective objects to a research program, then it is another "Galileo" moment, with affected scientists in the role of persecuted scholar, in the second-oldest conflict in human history: academic freedom versus religious orthodoxy. (The oldest conflict is good versus evil.) Then, of course, there is the conflict between evolutionism and its opponents. "Which scientific breakthrough have these people not opposed?", one might well ask.
So, if "these people" are against it, then we must be on the right track.
[T]his -- not religion versus science -- is where the disagreement lies: To us, species membership is morally relevant, while person-hood (manifested by consciousness) is not. To our opponents species membership is morally irrelevant, and person-hood is morally relevant. (This was the same issue in the Terri Schiavo case.) The two positions are primitive (or axiomatic, if you prefer): I can't think of a way to derive either of them from more primitive assertions. So the two positions are discreet and probably don't share much in the way of significant common ground, and therefore the switch from one position to another really does amount to something like a religious conversion. Both positions are ultimately fairly religious in nature.Obama's lifting on the ban on fetal stem cell research is proof positive that denying any victory to the right is the end game.
The religious nature of the two positions makes debate difficult: each side accuses the other of not being rational in approach. Resolution is impossible. Each side thinks it is being rational. But the more obvious religious connection among the pro-life makes it easier for pro-life opponents to charge us with being irrational, easier for them to characterize the debate as one between "religion" and "science".
It is awfully convenient, however, for those who are conscious to decide that this is the attribute separating those with legal protections from those without. Awfully convenient.
No. I don't think the debate has been quelled. Why should scientists not seek after another method of utilizing stem cells just because this one has been discovered. If there are more roads than one to a panacea, why should we be limited to...one? Just because religious nutters object?
In this article (read by the author, here), Gennady Stalyarov II, explains how we no longer need fear that Hayek, who did not live to see what the internet has become since the days of ARPANET, X.25, BBS and FidoNet, may have been right.
As a decentralized communication system facilitating the sending and receiving of messages by billions of people, the Internet has greatly shifted the balance of power away from governments and toward sovereign individuals. Even in its early days, the Internet played a vital role in bringing about the downfall of the Soviet Union's government. Since then, it has catalyzed tremendous economic, social, and political liberation in countries ranging from Cuba to the United States.It's a good, though rather lengthy, article. If you don't have time to read it,then I heartily recommend listening to it while you work.
While governments have tried to use modern communication technologies to monitor and regulate private individuals, their efforts are doomed to failure stemming from a much more powerful and competent market response.
According to George Bittlingmayer & Thomas W. Hazlett, "the best forecast... is the one made by investors risking their own money. They are shorting the 'stimulus.' "
[F]rom Nov. 4, 2008 through Feb. 12, 2009, the DJI overall fell 18% -- a larger drop than during the Sept-Oct plunge. In January, when the Obama plan, promising far greater deficits than the two...plans signed by Pres. George W. Bush in 2008, was unveiled, the market tanked – the worst January performance in 113 years. (Emphasis mine.)Yesterday, the market closed at 6,763.29. And while today it is up a little (6,772.69) as I write this, it has trended in a, shall we say, down-ward direction. (And to think, just the day after his economic "Gettysburg" address, Mary Cate Cary was writing that she thought it worked.) If investors' willingness to risk their own money is indicative of anything, then the market's continuing dive suggests the investors have precious little confidence in His Beatitude's ability to fix the economy.
Investors Business Daily puts the matter this way: Capital is on strike.
[M]any upper-income taxpayers already are planning to cut back on work and investments to stay under $250,000 in income — the point where Obama's punitive taxes kick in. No one wins from this, yet Obama seems oblivious.Obama, as IBD points out, does seem oblivious; but he isn't oblivious. He doesn't care. I just heard on the news (WBAP-AM, Dallas, 12.00, CST) that he wants us to ignore the market, which he likened to a tracking poll in politics, as a gauge of the economy.
This isn't the only warning sign. A new study asserts that some 100,000 highly educated, well-trained Indians now living in the U.S. will return home in the next few years. Ditto China.
Immigrant entrepreneurs are highly sensitive bellwethers of economic and social conditions. They know where the opportunities are — and where they aren't. They're voting with their feet.
"But, golly gee, Wally," said the Beaver, "that's what they told us to look at when they told us that Bush was responsible for the market tanking in the first place. It's why they told us to vote for Obama."
A popularity tracking poll in politics? My portfolio has never increased or decreased in value in relation to any president's popularity.
In the interest of full disclosure, let us remind ourselves that, in all fairness to His Beatitude, the market has been falling steadily since Lehman Brothers went under, back in September 2008. And to be even fairer, the market didn't respond positively to any maneuvering of the Bush Administration.
What does this tell us? Perhaps it tells us that market performance and federal policy is purely co-incidental, no causal relation whatsoever. Perhaps it tells us that the market's continued fall is a response to both Bush and Obama, specifically, their Keynesianesque policies. That is, the market simply has no confidence in the federal government's ability to "fix" the economy. The housing bubble (the bursting of which brought about this mess) was, some of us think, created by the Fed. Maybe, for now, the market has learned its lesson: ignore the false signals sent out by the Fed, and place no faith in the unfederal government's attempts to "jump-start" the economy.
Apparently, there is a dearth of healthcare professionals willing to perform, or be associated with the performance of abortions. Epiphanes and his court intend to remedy that.
H/T: Pro-life blogs
I have often prayed, requesting that something I thought was good for me be done for me, insisting on my request, and irrationally attempting to force God’s will. And thus I did not leave it to him who knows what is profitable to arrange. And when I eventually received what I asked for, I was very sorry I had asked for my own choice; for the matter did not turn out as I had imagined. ~ Evagrios of Pontus, On Prayer.
- James Frank Solís
- Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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