mm503: The $700 Billion Fairy Tale

September 25, 2008
© Penguinn | Dreamstime.com

© Penguinn | Dreamstime.com

Don’t have the energy for a full fledged rant, but several stories and commentaries crossed the screen today, and made it clear that, in an administration that never stops scamming us, they’ve totally topped themselves.

The Yiddish term is Chutzpah, whose classic definition has a young man, caught with bloody hands after murdering his parents, asking the court for mercy, as he’s an orphan.

We begin with that stalwart bastion of progressive thought, Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune. Stalwart, yes, bastion, yes, progressive? Judge for yourself.

chitrib

The case against a federal bailout

Steve Chapman | September 25, 2008

The late comedian Jack Benny made a career of claiming to be a cheapskate. In one joke, a robber accosted him and said: “Your money or your life.” Getting no response, the thug repeated his demand. Benny replied, “I’m thinking about it!”

That’s the sort of dilemma posed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke in their proposed rescue of financial institutions. They predict dire consequences if they don’t get their way. But the consequences of letting them have their way are so awful that the alternative doesn’t look so bad.

What they prescribe is for the federal government to buy $700 billion worth of lousy assets from banks and other lenders, exposing taxpayers to a potentially crushing liability. This plan would nationalize the money-losing part of the financial sector, to the benefit of capitalists who have made spectacularly bad decisions—fostering more bad decisions in the future.

It would add to the liabilities of a government that is already living way beyond its means. It would give unprecedented power to a couple of officials who have proved highly fallible in trying to avert this alleged crisis. And it poses the risk of abuse and corruption because the government has no way to gauge the value of what it will buy….

Paulson and Bernanke say, and probably believe, that their program is for the good of us all. But remember what Thoreau thought of their 19th Century counterparts. “If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good,” he wrote, “I should run for my life.”

The case against a federal bailout — chicagotribune.com

Read a local media observer today who thought that this was the year that Chapman’s paper, the Chicago Tribune might endorse a Democrat for president for the first time. Ever. In over 150 years.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm314: Was Spitzer a crimeless victim?

March 13, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

If a left-leaning curmudgeon constantly finds good things to think about in the writings of Chicago Tribune editorial board member Steve Chapman, whose credentials are at risk?

As the smoke dissipates from the extinct shooting star that was the public career of disgraced governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, Mr. Chapman takes a look at the underlying story: why was hiring a prostitute illegal?

After we posted the night of the revelation about the true victim of this stupid tragedy, the martyred Mrs. (how much longer?) Spitzer, we saw many others pick up on that angle.

And the schadenfreude thing: all picked up on the irony of Mr. Attorney General Scourge of Prostitution Rings caught, by the FBI no less, as a wildly overpaying client of one of the most flagrant.

So, maybe it’s not just a victimless crime, this prostitution thing; maybe it isn’t a crime at all. Mr. Chapman?

Read the rest of this entry »


mm274: Overdue: decriminalize marijuana use

February 3, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

As expounded upon in this space several months (and 100 posts!) ago (here and here), MUDGE has no patience whatsoever with the U.S.’s other failed war.

And whether you care to believe it or not, this long-held position comes not as a result of this child of the 60s’ own recreational habits. We’ll cop to other vices, but not recreational pharmaceutical use, ever.

Unaltered reality is quite exciting enough for yr (justifiably) humble svt, thank you very much.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm245: Obama – the pundits are still marveling

January 6, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

A news story that just won’t go away: Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee winning the Iowa caucuses; our post, including a distressingly poor quality but nevertheless inspiring video, is here.

The always refreshingly incisive Steve Chapman sheds some light:

Authenticity is the winner in Iowa test

Steve Chapman | January 6, 2008 | Chicago Tribune

Back in the 1990s, Bill Clinton talked a lot about building “a bridge to the 21st Century.” Right now, his wife looks like an unappealing detour back to the 20th.

Having him stand behind her as she addressed supporters after her third-place finish in Iowa didn’t help. She might as well have invited Fleetwood Mac to provide the music. Nostalgia isn’t everything.

The Iowa caucuses, it should be noted, are rarely as decisive as they may appear. Since 1976, only one candidate has won Iowa on the way to becoming president—George W. Bush in 2000. But if you can’t win the election in Iowa, you can certainly put yourself in a solid position to lose it, which is what Clinton and John Edwards accomplished Thursday evening.

Steve Chapman The evening was full of surprises. I would not have guessed that Barack Obama would reprise a German slogan chanted upon the fall of the Berlin Wall: “We are one people.” But it was appropriate, since the polarization of the last 15 years has featured everything short of an Iron Curtain between the red states and the blue.

Regarding Huckabee, Chapman warns that a win for an evangelical darling” in Iowa may not translate in the rest of the U.S.:

His victory was one for “none of the above.” Once voters get to know the newcomer better, he may look worse than the other options.

And as for Romney and Clinton, he believes that their smooth politician’s pandering became transparent to Iowa’s caucusers.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Authenticity is the winner in Iowa test — chicagotribune.com

Faithful reader should know by now what side of the political spectrum yr (justifiably) humble svt usually finds himself, not for nothing is this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© is called Left-Handed Complement.

And readers of Steve Chapman, in the Tribune as well as Reason have every reason (as it were) to believe they know on which side of the aisle he feels most comfortable.

Yet, both of us are (perhaps unexpectedly, or in spite of our selves) impressed by Obama’s victory this past Thursday night.

The key question remains regarding every candidate: can s(he) govern?

This jury is still out. But, this endless presidential election campaign has certainly become a great deal more compelling.

And our increasing concerns about the dirtiest dirty tricks of all in American politics, outright election fraud, will become a great deal more compelling as Obama’s sizable contingent of young and minority voters find roadblocks to casting their ballots.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm242: Campaigns and Lightweight Laptops

January 3, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Hi, Neighbors! Time for a new installment in our ongoing series…

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Found several stories of interest today; while folks are Deciding in Iowa they’ve apparently sucked all the decision-making positrons out of the atmosphere, so we’ll sample all three…

First, Gail Collins writing in today’s NYTimes seconds the emotions expressed in Slate (and highlighted here) the other day by Christopher Hitchens.

nytimes

The Slice of the Sliver Speaks

By GAIL COLLINS | Published: January 3, 2008

As the presidential candidates tell them every single day, Iowans deserve to be the nation’s kingmakers because they are exceptional citizens who take their responsibilities very, very seriously. So tonight, even though it’s very cold — even though it’s Hokies vs. Jayhawks in the Orange Bowl — the sturdy Iowa voters will pull on their parkas and go out to fulfill their historic destiny. Perhaps as many as 15 percent of them!

“Money will become irrelevant once somebody wins the Iowa caucus,” said John (I Currently Have No Money) Edwards. “The winner of the Iowa caucus is going to have huge amounts of money pouring in.” Edwards, the Democratic third-runner, has spent more time in Iowa than many Iowans, who have a tendency to flee to Florida in the winter.

She says, People, ignore whatever happens here.”

Tonight, the Iowa Deciders will divide into 1,781 local caucuses. Past history suggests that a few of these gatherings may not draw any attendees whatsoever and that several others will consist entirely of a guy named Carl. Attendance has no effect on the number of delegates involved, and we hardly need mention that the whole thing is weighted to give rural residents an advantage. Iowans in politically active neighborhoods where 100 people show up may find their vote is worth only 1 percent as much as, say, Carl’s. This gives them the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a New Yorker or Californian all year round.

Have to admit I never paid much attention to Iowa’s banana republic” (Hitchens-ism) caucus process but in 2008, attention must be paid. And then, as Gail Collins advises, ignored.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Slice of the Sliver Speaks – New York Times

shortattention_thumb2 ©

Always readable Steve Chapman shows up today in MUDGE’s hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, with this interesting perspective.

chapman

Think positive about negative campaigning

Steve Chapman | January 3, 2008

Negative campaigning has a bad reputation, routinely being disparaged as juvenile taunting that serves only to degrade public discourse. A New York Times headline the other day noted “bickering and negative ads in countdown to caucuses,” as though these were the moral equivalent of an old married couple grousing about that mess in the kitchen.

Even devoted practitioners feel the duty to deplore negative campaigning. After commissioning an ad accusing Mitt Romney of grievous departures from conservative wisdom, Mike Huckabee was so remorseful that he refused to run it — though he managed to disseminate his charges in a news conference where he sorrowfully screened the spot for the news media. Explaining his newfound magnanimity, Huckabee asserted, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

But what was so terrible about the ad? It merely said that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney raised taxes, left a budget deficit, provided abortion coverage in his universal health-care program, and failed to carry out a single execution — all of which appear to be grounded in fact, and any of which a few voters would find interesting.

The spot thus passes the only two tests voters should apply to any campaign attack: Is it true, and is it important? Accusing Romney of having devil’s horns would be unacceptable because, though significant, it’s not true. Accusing him of owning too many sweaters, though true, would be over the line because it doesn’t matter.

Chapman believes that all information is good information, either informing voters of facts they hadn’t been aware of, or, often, informing voters about the poor judgement of the nasty guys hired by the candidate spreading that news.

It’s all good.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Think positive about negative campaigning — chicagotribune.com

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And now for something completely technological…

We’ve spent much time writing about small laptop PCs over the past several months; our emphasis has been on the wonderful One Laptop Per Child program [click here for the most recent entry in the series, which includes links to previous posts].

But there are other small, quite inexpensive laptops in the space, meant for business (or at least non-developing-world education) use. The ASUS Eee is one of the newest, and Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post took it out for a spin.

ASUSEEE

Two Pounds of Efficiency

By Rob Pegoraro | Thursday, January 3, 2008; Page D01

The first time I took Asus‘s Eee PC laptop on a flight, the security screener assumed it was a portable DVD player.

That’s an easy mistake to make. This tiny, two-pound machine is barely bigger or heavier and not much more expensive, at $399 for one I tested and $299 for the cheapest model.

For some time, it has been possible to buy laptops for less than $500. But the ones you see in most stores, such as a $450 Compaq, either weigh too much or can barely run Windows.

The Eee (the Asus site says the name stands for “Easy to Learn, Easy to Work, Easy to Play”) is different. It’s lighter than any super-cheap laptop and cheaper than any ultralight laptop, and it can do Web work about as well as other computers.

The ASUS Eee gets its tiny size and commensurate price by paring typical PC components down to nearly nil: Linux operating system; flash memory (no hard drive); reduced size screen and keyboard.

But after spending a few weeks using the $399(!) Eee (a step up in memory from the base $299 model!), Pegoraro says, it does get the job done, with some caveats.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Rob Pegoraro – Two Pounds of Efficiency – washingtonpost.com

With MUDGE’s delicate eyesight and indelicate fingers the ASUS Eee would be a challenge. But, 2-lbs.; 3+ hours battery time; tiny form factor… were MUDGE a road warrior, the Eee would certainly be worth a hard examination.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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