Friday, September 19, 2008
Rush Spanks the Obamunists
Sometimes liberals, especially elitists like Obama, pick on someone who is ready, willing, and more than able to fight back. The Obama smear squad got more than they bargained for this week when they tried to set up Rush Limbaugh.
Rush, who has years of experience dealing with shameful liberal slanders, promptly called out his "rapid response" squad to respond, which culminated in this op-ed in today's WSJ.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2008
Obama Is Stoking
I understand the rough and tumble of politics. But Barack Obama -- the supposedly postpartisan, postracial candidate of hope and change -- has gone where few modern candidates have gone before.
Mr. Obama's campaign is now trafficking in prejudice of its own making. And in doing so, it is playing with political dynamite. What kind of potential president would let his campaign knowingly extract two incomplete, out-of-context lines from two radio parodies and build a framework of hate around them in order to exploit racial tensions? The segregationists of the 1950s and 1960s were famous for such vile fear-mongering.
Here's the relevant part of the Spanish-language television commercial Mr. Obama is running in Hispanic communities:
"They want us to forget the insults we've put up with . . . the intolerance . . . they made us feel marginalized in this country we love so much."
Then the commercial flashes two quotes from me: ". . . stupid and unskilled Mexicans" and "You shut your mouth or you get out!"
And then a voice says, "John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces. One that says lies just to get our vote . . . and another, even worse, that continues the policies of George Bush that put special interests ahead of working families. John McCain . . . more of the same old Republican tricks."
Much of the media that is uninterested in Mr. Obama's connections to unrepentant 1970s Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright have so far gone along with the attempt to tie me to Mr. McCain. But Mr. McCain and I have not agreed on how to address illegal immigration. While I am heartened by his willingness to start by securing the borders, it is no secret that we have fundamental differences on illegal immigration.
And more to the point, these sound bites are a deception, and Mr. Obama knows it. The first sound bite was extracted from a 1993 humorous monologue poking fun at the arguments against the North American Free Trade Agreement. Here's the context:
"If you are unskilled and uneducated, your job is going south. Skilled workers, educated people are going to do fine 'cause those are the kinds of jobs Nafta is going to create. If we are going to start rewarding no skills and stupid people, I'm serious, let the unskilled jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do -- let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work."
My point, which is obvious, was that the people who were criticizing Nafta were demeaning workers, particularly low-skilled workers. I was criticizing the mind-set of the protectionists who opposed the treaty. There was no racial connotation to it and no one thought there was at the time. I was demeaning the arguments of the opponents.
As for the second sound bite, I was mocking the Mexican government's double standard -- i.e., urging open borders in this country while imposing draconian immigration requirements within its own borders. Thus, I took the restrictions Mexico imposes on immigrants and appropriated them as my own suggestions for a new immigration law.
Here's the context for that sound bite: "And another thing: You don't have the right to protest. You're allowed no demonstrations, no foreign flag waving, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our president or his policies. You're a foreigner: shut your mouth or get out! And if you come here illegally, you're going to jail."
At the time, I made abundantly clear that this was a parody on the Mexican government's hypocrisy and nobody took it otherwise.
The malignant aspect of this is that Mr. Obama and his advisers know exactly what they are doing. They had to listen to both monologues or read the transcripts. They then had to pick the particular excerpts they used in order to create a commercial of distortions. Their hoped-for result is to inflame racial tensions. In doing this, Mr. Obama and his advisers have demonstrated a pernicious contempt for American society.
We've made much racial progress in this country. Any candidate who employs the tactics of the old segregationists is unworthy of the presidency.
Mr. Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host.
Garry Kasparov, former chess champion and now leader of Russia's political opposition, has a simply excellent op-ed in today's WSJ. He just nails the gangster Putin -- in fact, he calls him out on his mafia-style thuggishness.
Keep in mind that such honesty from Kasparov calls for real bravery. More than one journalist in Russia has been the victim of a "random" crime or had an unfortunate accident after criticizing the criminal oligarchy in the Kremlin.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2008
Putin Is Ruining Russia's Economy
This week's global market catastrophe kicked the Russian economy when it was already down. On Wednesday trading was suspended for a day and a half. An unprecedented 1.126 trillion rubles (around $44 billion) has been allocated to rescue three major Russian banks. One, Gazprombank, is controlled by Yuri Kovalchuk, Vladimir Putin's closest partner.
The market's collapse, down 57% since May, is linked to the dysfunctional nature of the Russian state and economy. Nearly every aspect of commerce in Russia is deeply entangled with state power, if not with Mr. Putin personally. This, for obvious reasons, does not comfort most investors.
One famous investor in particular was worried about the security of doing business in Mr. Putin's Russia. Rupert Murdoch, speaking on News Corp.'s earnings call on Aug. 5, had this to say: "The more I read about investments in Russia, the less I like the feel of it. The more successful we'd be, the more vulnerable we'd be to have it stolen from us, so there we sell now."
The hoped-for liberalization under new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has turned out to be another case of wishful thinking both in Russia and the West. There's no doubt in the business community about who's really in charge. After his cronies' takeover attempt of steel and coal giant Mechel was rebuffed, Mr. Putin's public outburst of criticism in late July was enough to destroy the company's market value.
Mechel is a tempting new target now that the price of coal is rising rapidly. As Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his company Yukos found out, in Russia success can be a very dangerous thing. Mechel may yet be another casualty of the mafia-like extortion tactics that have become a standard Kremlin maneuver.
In 2000, BP attempted to rebrand itself with the slogan "beyond petroleum." These days the company is scrambling to get "beyond Putin." Robert Dudley, the CEO of BP's Russian joint venture, fled Russia due to what he called "sustained harassment." Even the recent truce between BP and its Russian partners in BP-TNK represents a major defeat for the British company. Mr. Dudley attempted to hold a press conference in Moscow in July, but his venue was abruptly cancelled by the National Hotel, a property of the American giant Starwoods. This was not a unique occurrence.
The National Assembly, an opposition parliament with representatives from across Russia and across every ideological line, scheduled a public hearing on the Russia-Georgia conflict for Sept. 11. It was to take place at the new Hilton hotel in Moscow, and I personally signed the contract for the conference room. On Sept. 10, the Hilton cancelled the arrangement, claiming problems in the hall. Maybe all contracts in Russia should now include a third line for the signature of the local KGB official.
Two days after Mr. Murdoch expressed his concerns, Georgia and Russia opened hostilities. Europe and the U.S. waved their hands helplessly as Russian tanks and ships went far beyond defensive or peacekeeping action. It remains to be seen whether the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which have issued contradictory statements, can act meaningfully in the face of Mr. Putin's belligerence.
Just hours after Nicolas Sarkozy completed his second trip to the region, signed agreements in hand, several of his claims of peacemaking were contradicted by the Kremlin, leaving the energetic French president looking the fool. Mr. Sarkozy has just one more trip to go before he completes his imitation of Neville Chamberlain's infamous trio of visits to Germany in September 1938. Perhaps Georgia should not be as nervous today as Czechoslovakia was then. But one parallel is real: If there is anything an authoritarian leader cannot abide, it's a power vacuum on his borders.
Dictatorial power demands to expand into every available space. Establishing effective penalties will require great political will, especially in Europe. There Mr. Putin has defenders like Silvio Berlusconi, who boasted last week about how he prevented the EU from levying sanctions against Russia over its actions in Georgia. The Kremlin also has many influential employees, including former EU leaders Gerhardt Schroeder of Germany and Paavo Lipponen of Finland, who both took plum positions with the Russian energy giant Gazprom immediately after leaving office.
With their reliable business partners in the West, the Kremlin has opened up a lucrative market for what could be called democracy offsets. In exchange for oil and gas from Russia, they provide democratic credentials and pretend Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev are elected officials rather than mafia bosses.
Until Russia has a government that is accountable to its citizens, no company or individual will be safe here. The silver lining of the meltdown will be the weeding out of so many of the foreign and domestic profiteers who greedily abetted Mr. Putin's drive to turn Russia into a dictatorship. But there are still many who hope that all will be back to business as usual once the dust settles. Apparently they think the show must go on, even though many of the lead actors have left the stage -- and the theater itself is ablaze.
Mr. Kasparov, leader of The Other Russia coalition, is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal.
What a week. It was hard to make sense of the rush of events: Lehman Bros., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, etc. Is the sky falling? Are we heading into a new Great Depression? Who's responsible? Who's going to fix this mess?
Answering the last question first does not take much imagination. The government is already promising: 1. to make things right, and 2. to make sure it does not happen again.
What does that mean? More taxes. More government regulation. Gee, thanks.
As for some of the other questions. I saw no better explanation than this op-ed in Investor's Business Daily. Despite what politicians -- both Democrat and Republican -- will tell you, the answer is as follows:
Congress Tries To Fix What It Broke
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, September 17, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Regulation: As the financial crisis spreads, denials on Capitol Hill grow more shrill. Blame an aloof President Bush, greedy Wall Street, risky capitalism — anybody but those in Congress who wrote the banking rules.
Such denials won't hold against the angry facts banging on their doors. The only question is whether the guilty party can keep up the barricade until Election Day.
A visibly annoyed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected suggestions that Democrats share blame for the meltdown. "No," she snapped at reporters who dared ask.
Stick to our narrative, she scolded: The bursting of the housing bubble was another story of market failure and deregulation.
"The American people are not protected from the risk-taking and the greed of these financial institutions," she said, while calling for investigations of the industry.
Only, the risk-taking was her idea — and the idea of all the other Democrats, along with a handful of Republicans, who over the past 30 years have demonized lenders as racist and passed regulation after regulation pressuring them to make more loans to unqualified borrowers in the name of diversity.
They were the ones who screamed — "REDLINING!" — and sent banks scurrying for cover in low-income neighborhoods, where they have been forced to lower long-held industry standards for judging creditworthiness to make the subprime loans.
If they don't comply, they are threatened with stiff penalties under the Community Reinvestment Act, or CRA, a law that forces banks to make home loans to people with poor credit risks.
No fewer than four federal banking regulatory agencies are responsible for enforcing the law. They subject lenders to racial litmus tests and issue regular report cards, the industry's dreaded "CRA rating."
The more branches that lenders put in poor neighborhoods, and the more loans they make there, the better their rating. Those lenders with low ratings can not only be fined, but also blocked from mergers and other business transactions needed to expand.
The regulation grew to monstrous proportions during the Clinton administration, obsessed as it was with multiculturalism. Amendments to the CRA in the mid-1990s dramatically raised the amount of home loans to otherwise unqualified low-income borrowers.
The revisions also allowed for the first time the securitization of CRA-regulated loans containing subprime mortgages. The changes came as radical "housing rights" groups led by ACORN lobbied for such loans. ACORN at the time was represented by a young public-interest lawyer in Chicago by the name of Barack Obama.
HUD, in turn, pressured Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase more subprime mortgages, and Fannie and Freddie, in turn, donated to the campaigns of leading Democrats like Barney Frank and Pelosi who throttled investigations into fraud at the agencies.
Soon, investment banks such as Bear Stearns were aggressively hawking the securities as "guaranteed." Wall Street's pitch was that MBSs were as safe as Treasuries, but with a higher yield.
But they weren't safe. Everyone in the subprime business — from brokers to lenders to banks to investment houses — absolved themselves of responsibility for ensuring the high-risk loans were good.
The mortgage lenders didn't care, because they were going to sell the loans to other banks. The banks didn't care, because they were going to repackage the loans as MBSs. The investors and traders didn't care, because the MBSs were backed by Fannie and Freddie and their implicit government guarantees.
In other words, nobody up and down the line — from the branch office on main street to the high-rise on Wall Street — analyzed the risk of such ill-advised loans. But why should they? Everybody was just doing what the regulators in Washington wanted them to do.
So everybody won until everybody lost, including the minorities the government originally mandated the banks to serve.
The original culprits in all this were the social engineers who compelled banks to make the bad loans. The private sector has no business conducting social experiments on behalf of government. Its business is making profit. Period. So it did what it naturally does and turned the subprime social mandate into a lucrative industry.
Of course, it was a Ponzi scheme, because they weren't allowed to play by their rules. The government changed the rules for risk.
In order to put low-income minorities into home loans, they were ordered to suspend lending standards that had served the banking industry well for centuries. No one wants to talk about it, so they just scapegoat Wall Street. Even John McCain has joined the Democrat chorus on this.
The FBI is now investigating 24 large mortgage lenders for alleged abuses. But who will investigate the pols and the lobbyists and the community agitators who made the bad decisions that ultimately forced businesses to make their bad decisions?
Thu Sep 18, 12:28 PM ET
A Berlin radio station will broadcast its morning show entirely in Latin on September 26 to mark the European day of languages, the station said Thursday.
Trailers, news and weather will be translated into Latin for the Kiss FM show, listened to by around 4.2 million people daily, to raise awareness of the tragedy of dead languages.
"We are particularly looking forward to a member of staff who has written a Latin rap song," station spokesman Michael Weiland said.
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