Friday, August 31, 2007

The $127 Billion Federal Bill (So Far) for Katrina

Here's a pop quiz: How much money has Uncle Sam spent on New Orleans and the Gulf region since Hurricane Katrina ripped the place apart?...I'll give you the answer...The grand total is $127 billion (including tax relief)...Of course, not a single media story has highlighted this gargantuan government-spending figure...This is an outrage. The entire GDP of the state of Louisiana is only $141 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. So the cash spent there nearly matches the entire state gross GDP. That's simply unbelievable. And to make matters worse, by all accounts New Orleans ain't even fixed!...You might be asking: Where in the hell did all this money go? The Big Easy's Billion Dollar Boondoggle, Lawrence Kudlow,, 8/31/2007

Being surprised by theft of federal, state, or local money in Louisiana is about like being surprised to find out that your parents had sex. Kudlow, who published this in the NY Sun as well, should be congratulated for telling the truth. But, the larger truth remains hidden, that, until the political establishment in Louisiana (including New Orleans), is tossed out on its ass, money will disappear faster from U.S. taxpayers (that's us) than a politician asked to comment on Hillary Clinton's Chinese government campaign funding.

Louisianans would do well to study the rise of Huey Long and the populists after another great flood in the 1920s. It took what amounted to a revolution to get rid of the bastards who let New Orleans go to hell then. It will take the same now. Democrats are truly stupid to get themselves in on this as advocates of the local mayor, governor, or legislators. But, on second thought, it's nothing new for Democrats to advocate on behalf of murderers, thugs, and political villains. Going back to the Civil War, they always seem to be on the wrong side until either events or enraged mobs force them in another direction.


McCain-Feingold: Quote of the Day

Let us not put too fine a point on it. These kinds of speech regulations are straight out of Orwell. They belong in communistic tyrannies. The abuse of these laws by the Federal Election Commission begs for attention from the Supreme Court or from the Congress. Everyone could be saved a lot of trouble, and our politics could be conducted more honestly, our democracy enriched and enlivened, if we had only one campaign-speech regulation, the one given to us from the Founders, who began it with the immortal words: Congress shall make no law....Calling the Founders, Editorial, The NY Sun, 8/31/2007

Fortunately, the Supreme Court has started to put to rout this foolish law, a naked attempt by politicians to restrict free discussion of both good and bad ideas. But FEC hasn't quite gotten the message yet. They still have not recreated rules in light of the recent Supreme Court decision striking down a substantial part of McCain-Feingold.


Pete Seeger Sings Recantation

"I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe," the lyrics read. "He ruled with an iron hand / He put an end to the dreams / Of so many in every land / He had a chance to make / A brand new start for the human race / Instead he set it back / Right in the same nasty place / I got the Big Joe Blues / (Keep your mouth shut or you will die fast) / I got the Big Joe Blues / (Do this job, no questions asked) / I got the Big Joe Blues."The Big Joe Blues, by Pete Seeger, cited in "Pete Seeger Speaks -- And Sings -- Against Stalin, Ronald Radosh", The NY Sun, 8/31/2007

Well, blow me down. Pete Seeger, who could never separate his social mission from a lifelong attachment to the Communist Party, admits in song, and to Ronald Radosh, in a long letter, and discussion on the phone, that he should have paid attention.

Don't expect the chorus to be sung by Harry Reid.


The Truth About People Who Listen to NPR

Wonker is consistently amazed at the number of folks who claim to listen to NPR religiously. Dull, sanctimonious, and condescending, their gasbagging newsreaders and pundits project the level of sophistication encountered by the average high school student being put down by the sneering twits and brainless jocks of the school's self-proclaimed "in" crowd.

Nonetheless, students on the social margin feel strangely compelled to be seen "associating" with these dorks, perhaps in hopes of catching an invite to their next regularly scheduled beer pong social. Or, more likely, they hope to raise, ever so slightly, their slim to nonexistent social profile. Yet at the same time, they feel secretly soiled. (Sounds like the average Democrat, actually.)

Musing on this phenomenon, imagine our delight when we stumbled upon this little artifact residing at an offbeat blog called PostSecret. Enjoy. (Hat tip to TigerHawk for the lead.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

NY Times Pursues Happiness, Loses It

Quite a bit of chortling today in the conservative blogosphere concerning another bit of meticulous fact-checking by our intellectual superiors at the New York Times, first data-mined by the always alert Instapundit:
THE NEW YORK TIMES' EDITORS think that the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is in the Constitution. But then, they believe many things that are demonstrably untrue.
The Times editorial, offensively titled "Locked, Loaded, and Looney," breezily weaves an alleged epidemic of depression and suicide amongst Iraq War vets together with the paper's neverending socialist anti-gun, anti-Virginia meme, transforming this weird tapestry into a stupid, nanny-state argument for... legislation against suicide?
It is an eminently good thing that the anti-suicide measure would require medical specialists to keep track of veterans found to be high risks for suicide. But that’s to care for them as human beings, under that other constitutional right — to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Which gets us back to Instapundit and seemingly dozens of others. The Times' editorial staff, no doubt Rhodes Scholars all, along with their brilliant fact checkers, seem blissfully unaware that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" dwell now and always have dwelt in the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. Not the U.S. Constitution. They must've had one martini too many with the paper's ur-ideologue, Paul Krugman.

Apparently, the cynical idiotarians and socialists who run the Times have gotten so accustomed to the antics of activist leftist judges—who create dozens of new "constitutional rights" every year without clear precedent, mainly because it makes them feel good—that they've decided the fun should no longer be limited only to the judiciary. Unfortunately, their own "fact checked" ignorance is now irretrievably on display. (But don't be surprised if they edit the link before you get to it.)

Blogger Charlie Foxtrot thinks the Times' editorial clowns should go back and take History 101. We'd advise Charlie that this won't work, since your average History professor today is a Marxist with a vested interest in keeping students ignorant of the facts while filling their crania with anti-US propaganda. Which is a pointless task in this case, since the Times editorialists are already, ah, full of it.

Another online commentator also thinks the Times' editorial staff had ought to get some mandatory training in constitutional scholarship, including a look at the Federalist Papers. He feels this might help clear the editorial miasma a bit, but does see a distinct downside for conservative bloggers:
Of course, while it would be a good thing for our nation if such an influential organ did this kind of thing, it would deprive many of us of a certain smug satisfaction.
The American Pundit, too, is loaded with good comments on the NYT's zombie editorial staffers' knowledge base. Here's a few:
Oy vey. Attention Editors: “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” is in the Declaration of Independence, among the inalienable rights of man - not the Constitution. Being a “constitutional right” would imply that it is in, you guessed it, the Constitution.
And more:
Remember, though, we need to leave the real reporting up to the real media outlets, like the New York Times. We simply don’t have their fact-checking capabilities.
Thank you, sir, may I have another:
I’m not surprised that the NYT’s editors confused the two documents. They have been looking for amendments to the Declaration of Independence for many years.
Let's let commentator Tom Maguire get the last word as he addresses the pithy observation of our first American Pundit commentator:

Being a “constitutional right” would imply that it is in, you guessed it, the Constitution.

Spoken like a true conservative. Proper libs, on the other hand, can find constitutional rights just about everywhere they look.

John Edwards: Do As I Say

From John Travolta zipping around the world in one of his several fuel-guzzling corporate jets whilst exhorting us to save energy, to Cheryl Crowe et. al. telling us to cut our bathroom ablutions down to 1 sheet of TP per visit, the denizens of the lunatic left have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they've got a lot of gall.

But America's Chief Ambulance Chaser, John Edwards, the mind-bogglingly wealthy trial lawyer who is much smarter than the rest of us yahoos combined, has gone one better, preaching virtual economic suicide to a cadre of union brothers:
The former North Carolina senator told a forum by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, yesterday he thinks Americans are willing to sacrifice.

Edwards says Americans should be asked to drive more fuel efficient vehicles. He says he would ask them to give up SUVs.
Wonder if he consulted the UAW before firing off this helpful hint. Ah, who needs Michigan's electoral votes anyway when you've got guys like this backing your candidacy?

Of course, like the Goracle and everyone else, Edwards' sage advice doesn't apply at the Edwards compound a residence whose square footage is approximately the same as that of Rhode Island. Observing an aerial shot of the compound, what to our wondering eyes does appear?

The circled vehicles in the photo above (click the image for a larger view) are, you guessed it, SUVs, each and every one. But before you go jumping to conclusions, remember, Edwards is a Democrat and is smarter and better than us. So we'd better listen up, and trade our own SUVs for mopeds. John NEEDS his. Besides, he can afford to purchase enough offsetting carbon units to otherwise redeem his sense of virtue.

We hope the electorate is wising up to clueless, politically tone-deaf boobs like this one.

Bin Laden on Wall Street? Puts and Propaganda

Well, now, here's something disconcerting:
As if the mortgage-market meltdown isn't enough to spook investors, some market players are worrying about unusual options bets that some observers have dubbed "Bin Laden Trades."

The blogosphere and options trading desks have been rife with speculation about these trades, which are unusually large bets that the market will make a huge move in the next month. Some entity, or entities, has taken a large position on extremely deep in the money S&P 500 options, both puts and calls, that won't pay off unless the market undergoes an extremely large price move between now and the options' expiration on Sept. 21.

These grafs are the opening salvo in an interesting piece by Steven Smith and Aaron Trask on today's edition of To make a long story short, traders are putting on certain types of stock option* transactions that seem to be hedging their funds/accounts/customers against the possibility that a highly disruptive physical or fiscal disaster will occur sometime prior to the day September option trades expire: September 21.

So? A considerable number of traders seem to be betting that, for a variety of reasons, the Boyz of Al Qaeda, who haven't had a really big win in a long time, are intent on doing something quite spectacular during the 9/11 period. Which, of course, is well within the period covered by the September option expiry date.

After the fact, late in 2001, spooked traders noticed that something interesting had happened in the options market immediately prior to 9/11/01:
Those worrying about the worst-case scenario are recalling that large put contracts[*] were placed on airline stocks, notably American, a unit of AMR and United Airlines, in the weeks leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
Hmmm. Did Al Qaeda front groups make this bet, immensely enriching their coffers as a result of the disaster? There's no firm evidence that this is actually true, but this has made for a lively conspiracy theory environment on Wall Street ever since. Which could be leading to the current market action.

We hate to entertain the thought that nervous investors could be onto something here. But you at least have to consider it. Al Qaeda really hasn't whacked us since 2001, although they have certainly been trying. Since they are getting their tails handed to them right now by General Petraeus in Iraq, astute observations by current Congressional leadership aside, you have to figure that they need to do something really big at this point to maintain their credibility on the world stage.

We'd always figured they'd be keeping their powder dry in Iraq until right before Petraeus' upcoming testimony on Capitol Hill next month. But who says they have to blow up all the Shi'ite mosques in Baghdad? After all, the Holland Tunnel, the DC and NYC subways, or every building in the U.S. that's taller than the Washington Monument might be more picturesque fun.

Ultimately, what will be will be. The Feds and our military, no thanks to the Democrats and the MSM, have indeed kept another major attack from transpiring here since that awful day in 2001. You never really know.

But don't think for a moment that Al Qaeda, an astutely evil organization that's played the Democrats, America's Socialist Party, like a fiddle for roughly 6 years in a row now, isn't at least angling for some World Trade Center quality footage in the near future. Footage that they breezily assume will allow Bin Laden's legion of Marxist apologists to take over the entire Federal government next year. One has to consider the possibilities.

On the other hand, Chimpy BushMcHitler is still in the White House, allegedly greatly diminished in effectiveness and authority. More sober elements in Al Qaeda's inner circle, however, may very well remember what happened to their training camps and their Taliban hosts the last time they attacked under a weakened President Bush. A September 2007 surprise, meant to ruin the now clearly positive effects of the Iraqi surge strategy and pave the way for American Socialists in 2008, could backfire. Big time. And ensure 8 more years of the kind of government Al Qaeda desperately needs to get rid of in order to advance its faltering plan for a New Caliphate in our lifetime.

* (For the uninitiated: Options are one of the more difficult investment vehicles to explain to non-traders. To slightly oversimplify for purposes of this blog entry, options are "bets" on the direction a given common stock will take within a certain time period. Note: these are not to be confused with employee or executive stock options which are something entirely different.

In straightforward options transactions, a "call" option on Company X is a "bet" that Company X stock will go up in a certain timeframe. A "put" on Company X is a "bet" that Company X stock will go down in a certain timeframe.

Each option an investor acquires is levered to 100 shares of the given stock and is a lot cheaper than acquiring the stock itself. Hence the attraction of options. However, unlike shares of common stock, options have an expiration date, normally the third Friday of a given month. And on this date, if your options haven't worked for you and if you haven't gotten rid of them, they expire worthless.

The situation described at the outset of this entry illustrates that, right or wrong, a lot of professional money is afraid that something very bad will happen to their portfolios in September. Thus, they are employing various options strategies to hedge against possible near-term disaster. For a more in-depth discussion of options, link here. And HazZzMat issues the usual disclaimers, we're not giving investment advice, etc. You're on your own!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Democrats' Secret Plan to Take Over Congress

You heard it first here. The Democrats are:
...thinking of making it a misdemeanor to be a US Senator or Member of Congress.

Then all of the Republicans will be forced to resign. The Democrats, en masse, will announce that they deeply apologize, but that the offense has no bearing on their ability to continue doing the job the American people expect them to do.
Actually, you heard it here second. Hat tip to Redstate for this insightful bit of whimsy.

Oklahoma's Auditor and Inspector: McMahan Without a Party

More anonymous political skulduggery reported this morning, this time in Oklahoma, via that always-reliable Marxist news outlet, the AP:
OKLAHOMA CITY -- FBI agents seized campaign records after a search of state Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan's Tecumseh home and later confiscated jewelry from his sister-in-law's home, according to a published report.

At least one piece of jewelry agents seized was purchased by Steve Phipps, who has admitted to paying kickbacks to three state legislators, The Oklahoman reported Tuesday in a copyright story.
The story goes on to provide plenty of juicy details. But never a hint as to McMahan's political affiliation. No hints, either, as to the affiliation of any of the other pols cited in this piece (which ran in the online Tulsa World), like Representative Dan Boren and Governor Brad Henry. Any guesses?

HazZzMat, via an exclusive insider tip, can now report that that—SURPRISE!—McMahan is a Democrat. If he'd have been a Republican, like Idaho's hapless Senator Larry Craig, you'd have already learned his affiliation from the headline or the lede. As always, his fellow Republicans are attacking him as fast as the Dems can point fingers, as you'll learn here. (Free subscription may be required to link.)

As to McMahan:
A spokeswoman for McMahan says McMahan has no plans to step aside.
Of course not. He's a Democrat. Neither does fellow Democrat and Hundred Thousand Dollar Congressman William Jefferson. Stepping aside is only for alleged miscreants dragging their knuckles as denizens of the Stupid Party.

Don't believe that Repub scandals are treated differently by the Lamestream Media? Check out our previous bloggery on the topic here and here.

PC For Republicans

I've been away for a while, but evidently my fellow Wonker doesn't know the rules:

A) If you're a Democrat and get involved in a sex scandal, then you're a hero fighting for the rights of minorities (adulterers; gays; etc.)
B) If you're a Republican and get involved in a sex scandal, then you're an agent of Satan and can be described with words held socially irresponsible in these days of progressive reform.

Note that B) essentially allows the expression of old-fashioned prejudice. So, as long as the politician involved is a Republican, or a Democrat held as a traitor by the DNC, it's okay to scream "faggot" in a crowded theater. If the politician is an officially approved Democrat, such words and phrases are evidence to be used in a civil rights case.

If there were a rule C) it might be as follows:

C) Sanctimonious hypocrisy is the mark of the modern liberal Democrat (or liberal Republican)

Hope that clarifies things.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Senator Craig vs. Rep. Jefferson: Do Repubs Have a Clue?

We here at HazZzMat have said it here before and we'll say it here again: Any Republican who is not capable of achieving canonization in this lifetime will never catch a break, in the media or anywhere else.

Take Republican Louisiana Senator David Vitter. As any news junkie will recall, he was, ah, exposed in the media earlier this summer for his extracurricular activities, courtesy of that upstanding moral beacon, Larry Flynt. Larry's intrepid research staff went through notorious DC Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey's phone records and outed his adventures in Nighttown, along with those of a hapless Bush staffer.

The resignation calls from the MSM were swift and immediate. The staffer exited stage right, but Vitter managed to stay on, presumably after finding Jesus again.

Now, from the "here we go again" department, we get word today that Republican Idaho Senator Larry Craig attracted a little police attention recently by playing a peculiar version of footsie earlier this month in a Minnesota airport restroom. The well-rehearsed Resignation Chorus has predictably fired up again.

We'd not be the first to observe that the Resignation Chorus—recruited, rehearsed, and promoted by the Democrats and their lefty pals in the MSM—rarely if ever gets fired up if a Democrat somehow stumbles into the crosshairs. A Democrat like Vitter's fellow Louisiana pol, Representative Bill Jefferson who got caught on video brazenly accepting a bribe from an FBI informant and was later found to have $100K in bills stored in his freezer. Kinda gives a new meaning to the term "cold, hard cash."

Oh, there were a few halfhearted demands for Jefferson's resignation. But as usual, the "innocent until proven guilty" Democrats circled the wagons around Jefferson. He remains in Congress after, of course, winning re-election last year with this cloud over his head. A Republican would have been long gone by now. Doesn't say much for the common sense of either the Democrats or the voters in Jefferson's district. But then, Dems have never claimed to have any common sense at all. Only a sense of loyalty and an insatiable lust for power. Which we'll get back to in a sec.

We're used to hypocrisy from the Democrats and from the MSM. It's a thing that they do. Having no shame, they regard this kind of stuff as business as usual, smearing and slandering their opponents into resigning for the kind of thing they themselves perpetrate with alarming regularity. (Of course, it also helps immensely if your opponent behaves like an irresponsible idiot.) It's all about power. Getting it and holding it for enough consecutive terms that you can bend the entire bureaucracy into serving your party's will while subverting the other side at every chance. Republicans have yet to figure this out, even after having endured their post-Rooseveltian desert wanderings.

And the Dems are more than happy to get an assist from nonpartisan intellectuals like women's rights activist and noted constitutional scholar Larry Flynt, who, mysteriously, has yet to find a single Democrat perp in the DC Madam's phone records. Flynt's excuse for his apparent leftward tilt, of course, is that the Republicans are moral hypocrites. We hate to point out to Larry minor Democrat peccadillos like Chapaquiddick, the antics of Barney Frank's roomie, etc. Or the fact that sleazy Republican Senator Packwood got booted for occasionally grabbing ass while a certain Democrat president skated after lying about shagging ass.

But we know fine distinctions like these are lost in the grandeur of Flynt's towering intellect. Bottom line: Republican miscreants get hounded to resign and usually do so. Dems get a pass. Or, as one writer states it, citing additional examples from the past:
There seems to be a pattern here. Republicans caught in sex scandals either resign or are voted out of office. Democrats caught in sex scandals stay in office and are re-elected time and time again by their constituents.
But something even more galling is at work here. We expect the unscrupulous Dems to push for Republican resignations, the better to grab their, er, seats in the next election. Everything is fair, after all, if it gives America's only legitimate political party the opportunity to walk away with a free or nearly-free Congressional seat.

What bothers us more is how the Republicans pile on their own. For example, Hugh Hewitt, whom we greatly admire, does just that today, shortly and succinctly. Others will follow suit.

We appreciate our fellow conservatives taking the high moral ground as they should. And Craig is not always a reliable conservative, either, as his voting record shows.

Problem here is that the Republicans, again and again, join with the Democrats and the media in trashing their own, while the Democrats rarely if ever do likewise. The result tends to be political disaster as we witnessed in 2006. Look, it's always fun to appear morally superior. Heck, the Dems do it all the time while laughing into their sleeves.

But, as we discovered last fall, the Republicans' hold on power remains tenuous at best. The deck's still stacked against them by the Democrats who've never met a moral scruple they couldn't easily overlook. They count on Republicans to be, in a political sense, the Stupid Party. And the Repubs never disappoint.

Look, Republican dudes. If you're going to run for office and play the moral high ground card, you'd better be standing on and planning to hold the moral high ground. If not, get the nonsense out right out front, and if you can still win, fine. Giuliani's been doing this all along on the campaign trail, and acknowledging the skeletons tumbling out of his closet right now will help him later on the campaign trail.

But Republican supporters: okay, right, we have to selectively throw out the closet lefties and RINOs in the party. But let's be a little judicious here about the moral high ground stuff. It's hard enough to stay in power when the left controls most means of communication and uses it to smear our side 24/7. But we have to try to level the playing field, even if the results are less than pleasant from time to time. Not to play rough, just like our opponents do all the time, is the wrong tactic right now. We're not nearly done making the courts impervious to revisionists who like to legislate from the bench. And we're not even 10% finished with the Global War On Terror (GWOT), which our opponents would dearly love for us to lose.

We need to win both of these battles. Decisively. And that's not going to happen if Republicans continue to join America's Socialist Party each and every time they throw rocks at our guys while hiding the sins of their own. It's time to play hardball, people. And if that means occasionally supporting one of our son-of-a-bitches over theirs, so be it. Sometimes winning IS everything.

The U.S.: A Nation of Adolescents?

HazZzMat has been goofing off for a coupla days, but we're back with this intriguing snippet from Instapundit:

IN THE MAIL: Diana West's The Death of the Grown-up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization. I was going to read it, but I had to go shop for a PlayStation. . . .

Interesting new book from a Washington Times journo who commands respect. Except, of course, for Marxist house organ Publishers Weekly, which advances this predictably snotty observation:
Her examination of the social repercussions of a new youth market would be better grounded within the context of the transformations in postwar American society, but she focuses instead on the negative aspects of these large and complex changes, without reflecting on her underlying assumptions. In her view, the prolonged adolescence of baby boomers has left America open to an insidious Islamization of culture via a misconceived political correctness that can't recognize the dehumanizing ideology of that religion. West, a vocal purveyor of distrust toward Islamic cultures, lays nothing less than the decline of Western civilization on the American counterculture, making her argument compelling only to those already in her corner.
This is, of course, lefty doublespeak, the usual condescending garbage from a reviewer who, no doubt, has never reflected on his/her "underlying assumptions." But hey, that's okay for lefties.

The very notion that one of PW's allegedly objective ideologues is remotely qualified to pronounce West's argument "compelling only to those already in her corner" is laughable. Publishers Weekly (general link, subscription required) is now and has ever been the embodiment of the MSM's leftist literati in-crowd, none of whom would ever seriously examine the validity of informed opinions not based on current Party Doctrine or standard Marxist dogma. Hence, they can only give positive reviews to books that are "compelling only to those already in their corner." Which corner, of course, is where West's perpetually adolescent Boomers permanently reside. Like, totally.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pat Schroeder and Robert Brandon: Conservatives Are Still Dumb

Let's take a moment to provide some context for our headline.

A few years back, a Duke University professor raised hackles by stating bluntly what a majority of intellectuals already assume: Conservatives largely avoid academia because they are stupid. Daniel Pipes provides the context here:
How do American faculty see politics? When professors are asked about their political outlook, they call themselves liberal about four times more often than the general public. In some departments (English literature most of all, followed by philosophy, political science, and religious studies) over 80 percent of the faculty calls itself liberal and under 5 percent calls itself conservative. This disparity has prompted "a substantial shift to the left" since the mid-1980s, and is still increasing.

Why are faculties so liberal? Conservatives complain of endemic political bias. Liberals retort that conservatives are dumb. In the memorable words of Robert Brandon, chair of Duke's philosophy department, "We try to hire the best, smartest people available. If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire."

Brandon was roundly blasted for this on the Web and even by Duke student conservatives, and seemed rather shocked by it all. He eventually "clarified" his comments in a Duke publication. Which for a leftist means adopting a superior, condescending attitude, evading the argument, changing the topic, and accusing conservatives of inexplicable bias themselves. The opener:

After two days of venomous, hate-filled emails from self-described "conservatives", I am convinced that there is a large group of people in this country who are not at all interested in a calm rational discussion of the issues raised by the recent ad in The Chronicle taken out by the Duke Conservative Union. However in the hopes that there are a larger number of people more interested in the issues, and less interested in spitting venom, I would like to clarify the comments attributed to me in The Chronicle article of February 10.
Of course, nothing Brandon had said earlier about conservatives was "venomous" in the least. Actually, he was just trying to be funny, and those dumb, knuckle-dragging conservatives were too dopey to get it:
In my response to the Chronicle reporter I gave a quote from John Stuart Mill that I thought was quite funny. I now see that humor is not much appreciated in this context.
Gosh, who knew? Humor is generally not appreciated when it is not funny. Brandon's error here was not that he lacked a sense of humor. His error was to express an absolute truth, something leftists generally avoid at all costs. He stated pretty much what most of his colleagues believe about conservatives 24/7. He does dissemble in his response later on, claiming that there's certainly no liberal bias in the philosophy department where he teaches. He carefully avoids statistics, however, blithely assuming we will just accept his authority, which we don't.

The gist of his observation—we can hardly call it an argument— is that the rest of the academic departments get a pass, since he can't speak for them. Of course, he secretly knows they're all leftists like him. But, by casually letting himself off the hook because he has no personal hand in their hiring situations, he smoothly glides out of range. "Who, me?" Pretty slick, actually. But also intellectually dishonest.

But back in the philosophy department, he breezily assures his readers
None of us would want such a bias to be there, and in virtually all cases there is no mechanism for it to be there.
Note the largely passive construction of this sentence. It reminds me of the politicians' favorite phrase when caught in flagrante in some embarrassing illegality: "Mistakes were made." We don't know who made them or how they happened, but those mistakes just suddenly materialized. The damnedest thing.

The killer phrase above is "in virtually all cases, there is no mechanism for it to be there." Right. "There" is no "mechanism." There are merely X professors on a hiring team who autonomically ferret out closet conservatives during the interview process and routinely blackball them. This is the way they avoid any challenges to their absolute authority. It also eliminates the inconvenience of having a non-Marxist on the junior faculty who might point out their consistently faulty reasoning. Their reflex ensures a conservative won't get hired. But there's "no mechanism." It just happens. "Mistakes are made."

Besides, according to Brandon, this is all a lot of silliness anyway, and conservative students should just grow up:
If conservative Duke students object to being taught by liberal professors, there is not much they can do about in the short term. But over the longer haul they could change the political landscape of leading research universities. Study hard, do well in school, go on to get a Ph. D. and get yourself a job teaching at a university. But if you do you might find that political indoctrination is not what really animates academic life.
This conclusion is actually probably the funniest thing Brandon has expressed to this point. Let's rephrase it, just to make sure you get the joke:
If conservative Duke students object to being taught by liberal professors, who almost certainly constitute over 90% of our faculty although we'll never admit it, there is not much they can do about in the short term. Or the long term for that matter. But over the longer haul they could learn to cave in to reality and help us assure that the political landscape of leading research universities remains Marxist throughout the 21st century. Study hard, parrot your leftist professors' Marxist bias in all that you write, do well in school (which you will if you do this), go on to get a Ph. D. and get yourself a job teaching at a university, which you will if you do as we say. If you do you might find that political indoctrination is not what really animates academic life. Because it doesn't need to. Because all its opponents have been exiled from academia. And because you've caved in and accepted your fate. And because you have, at last, truly learned to love Big Brother.
The furor over this nonsense has largely died down by now, although Brandon's statement is still a favorite among conservatives who are still rather shocked that a left-wing academic was actually caught admitting the truth.

But just so we don't forget how pervasive Brandon's attitude is amongst the intellectualoids, former Congressperson Pat Schroeder has stepped up to the podium to do him one better.
Liberals read more books than conservatives. The head of the book publishing industry's trade group says she knows why—and there's little flattering about conservative readers in her explanation.

"The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: 'No, don't raise my taxes, no new taxes,'" Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, said in a recent interview. "It's pretty hard to write a book saying, 'No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes' on every page."

Schroeder, who as a Colorado Democrat was once one of Congress' most liberal House members, was responding to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll that found people who consider themselves liberals are more prodigious book readers than conservatives.

She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who "can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion."

Hey, look, is it their fault that they're so much brighter than you or I? Needless to say

The book publishing industry is predominantly liberal, though conservative books by authors like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and pundit Ann Coulter have been best sellers in recent years. Overall, book sales have been flat as publishers seek to woo readers lured away by the Internet, movies and television.

Surprisingly, the AP writer gives the White House types a shot back at Schroeder:

Rove, President Bush's departing political adviser, is known as a prodigious reader. White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Schroeder was "confusing volume with quality" with her remarks.

"Obfuscation usually requires a lot more words than if you simply focus on fundamental principles, so I'm not at all surprised by the loquaciousness of liberals," he said.

"As head of a book publishing association, she probably shouldn't malign any readers," said Mary Matalin, a GOP strategist who oversees a line of books by conservative authors, Threshold, at Simon & Schuster. Matalin said conservatives and others aren't necessarily reading less, but are getting more information online and from magazines.

It gets funnier. Schroeder is basing her idiotic observation on the following poll results:

Among those who had read at least one book, liberals typically read nine books in the year, with half reading more than that and half less. Conservatives typically read eight, moderates five.

In other words, according to this AP-Ipsos poll, liberals and conservatives in fact read roughly the same number of books per annum. It's the moderates, actually, who look like the dummies here. But what the heck. Schroeder is an arch-leftist. Therefore, whatever she says is therefore true. Who are we to point out her logical flaws?

Although we're used to it by now, it's absolutely breathtaking how little the average leftist really knows about the planet we live on and the people and creatures who inhabit it. First Brandon and now Schroeder publicly make fools out of themselves and have absolutely no idea they're doing so. Criticism is useless with people such as these. They are so righteous and so accustomed to not being questioned that they simply breeze right by the countless individuals who daily eviscerate their feeble arguments and put-downs of those who are not in lock-step with the various shades of Marxism that they preach.

Further, with regard to Schroeder, she perhaps fails to grasp why the publishers, the dying industry she represents, are falling by the wayside. Not only do they fail to provide advertising support to fast-disappearing newspaper review sections, themselves seriously endangered. They largely fail to publish books that appeal to the roughly 2/3 of this nation that are not card-carrying socialists, which actually includes a lot of Democrats.

Increasingly, independent minded individuals, tires of the propaganda being fed to them by academia, the publishing industry, and the MSM, are seeking their news and views on the Internet where the MSM and the publishing and academic gatekeepers have been unable to stamp out the opposition. In other words, if the average conservative reads one less book than his lefty counterpart, that might just be because he's seeking unbiased information on the Internet.

Pat and her publishing pals are slowly achieving the oblivion they deserve. By ignoring a substantial portion of their potential readership, they have driven it somewhere else. The change is becoming permanent, and none of them yet has a clue.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What Happened to Bush's War? Where'd It Go?

We were wondering a day or so ago: What happened to all the column inches devoted to our disastrous failure in the quagmire of the Iraq War in the Washington Post and elsewhere? And what happened to all the horror footage on the cable news networks concerning our abject failure in the Middle East?

Silly us. Instapundit has the answer:

HOW DO YOU KNOW THINGS ARE BETTER IN IRAQ? There's less media coverage.

On the Peace Racket

A hallmark—perhaps the hallmark—of the left's largely successful evisceration of Western democratic institutions has been its uncommon brilliance in the use and manipulation of language to twist words and phrases into a virtual caricature of their original meaning and intent. One classic example, regaining traction recently after a decade or so of neglect, is the deployment of the adjective "progressive" in the MSM.

"Progressive" contains any number of lovely, positive connotations. It's a word that makes people feel good, positive. A "progressive" idea is perceived as one that will move society forward if adopted, as opposed to the backward movement of a "reactionary" whose tendency is to oppose all "progress."

Unfortunately, 90% of the time you see this word in print, its precise translation is "socialist." The average American reacts rather badly to terms like "socialist," or, worse yet, "Communist" or "Marxist." So why not simply cover up the truth by hiding your organizational affiliation behind a much nicer word like "progressive?" Hey, it works. People have been falling for this simple deception since at least the 1930s. If you ever see the word "progressive" used in a political context, you can bet it's been used to conceal a hard core socialist agenda.

There are plenty of other words that have had their meanings utterly perverted by the organized left. "American," alas, has seen many such perversions, perhaps most notably in Norman Lear's den of socialist activists known otherwise as "People for the American Way." It's been the perfect organization for Communists and fellow travelers to disguise their true intent to subvert this country and its values. After all, with a name like that, this organization must be chock full of "patriots," right? Patriots like the Rosenbergs, no doubt.

"America," too, gets flipped for a 180. The failed hard left radio network ingenuously known as "Air America," another hotbed of hatred for this country and all the good it represents, certainly deployed the term as they tried to convince the gullible that theirs and theirs alone was the voice of true patriotism. Now essentially bankrupt, it is clear they didn't even convince their own supporters.

Another favorite of the left is the word "peace," a term that has served to conceal its often deeply violent pursuit of the socialist revolution.

Say it: peace. Hey, here's a word we can all agree on, right? Kind of soothing, isn't it? Peace. Nobody in his or her right mind wouldn't want peace to break out over our troubled world, now, would they? We want "peace" in our families, "peace" in our communities, "peace" in the world. Why don't we just "Give Peace a Chance," eh?

While "giving peace a chance" sounds like a swell idea, it's just another flavor of communist propaganda. Don't believe us? Examine the commie view of world peace right here.

Wonker experienced peace propaganda first hand many years ago when he was an undergraduate at Georgetown and became familiar with "pacifist" priest Richard McSorley, SJ. A supporter of the Berrigans and any and all radicals, the late McSorley actively encouraged students he advised to resist the draft and to protest the Vietnam War. Likewise, he also railed against the Catholic Church's "Just War" theory, making him a marginal figure among the organized clergy at that institution, at least for a time. (Georgetown's Jesuit community, even then, was slowly slip-sliding toward and embrace of "liberation theology" and "social justice," both additional cover terms for leftists hiding under their alleged Catholicism.)

McSorley, though, was onto something, a burgeoning world-wide "one world" movement of which he was but a cog. (See the "one world pledge of allegiance" here.) Under the benevolent cloak of "peace," left-wing "pacifists" were in reality yet another cadre in the service of Marxists, whose specific mission was to "prove" that the United States was, in fact, the "aggressor nation" in conflicts with the Soviet Union and its minions. McSorley's own contribution to this phony peace community was the Georgetown Center for Peace Studies. It seems, at some point, to have morphed into the school's current Center for Peace and Security Studies, a really super cover for at least part of its activities. (Web research is sketchy on this.)

With the implosion of the USSR, it was a simple matter for the left's phony, oppositional, and by now worldwide "peace movement" to transfer its allegiance to the UN, the Third World, and the European intellectual elite, all of whom still shared a common villain in the United States of America (and Israel, unfortunately, which had the bad sense to ally with the U.S. in order to avoid a second Holocaust at the hands of the Islamofascists.)

Which is where HazZzMat picks up the story (and this entry's headline) as brilliantly advanced by expatriate American intellectual Bruce Bawer who writes, in the incomparable City Journal, about the "peace racket."
We need to make two points about this movement at the outset. First, it’s opposed to every value that the West stands for—liberty, free markets, individualism—and it despises America, the supreme symbol and defender of those values. Second, we’re talking not about a bunch of naive Quakers but about a movement of savvy, ambitious professionals that is already comfortably ensconced at the United Nations, in the European Union, and in many nongovernmental organizations. It is also waging an aggressive, under-the-media-radar campaign for a cabinet-level Peace Department in the United States. Sponsored by Ohio Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich (along with more than 60 cosponsors), House Resolution 808 would authorize a Secretary of Peace to “establish a Peace Academy,” “develop a peace education curriculum” for elementary and secondary schools, and provide “grants for peace studies departments” at campuses around the country. If passed, the measure would catapult the peace studies movement into a position of extraordinary national, even international, influence.

The Peace Racket’s boundaries aren’t easy to define. It embraces scores of “peace institutes” and “peace centers” in the U.S. and Europe, plus several hundred university peace studies programs. As Ian Harris, Larry Fisk, and Carol Rank point out in a sympathetic overview of these programs, it’s hard to say exactly how many exist—partly because they often go by other labels, such as “security studies” and “human rights education”; partly because many “professors who infuse peace material into courses do not offer special courses with the title peace in them”; and finally because “several small liberal arts colleges offer an introductory course requirement to all incoming students which infuses peace and justice themes.” Many primary and secondary schools also teach peace studies in some form.

Bawer proceeds to link this socalled movement to its roots among the hard left intelligentsia in Europe. Thus neither he, nor we, will find it surprising that’s America that is the wellspring of the world’s problems. In the peace studies world, America’s role as the beacon of opportunity for generations of immigrants is mocked, its defense of freedom in World War II and the cold war is reinterpreted to its discredit, and every major postwar atrocity (the Gulag, the Cultural Revolution, genocide in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan) is ignored, minimized, or—as with 9/11—blamed on the U.S. itself.

And don't imagine that the effects of this kind of relentless propaganda aren't dangerous and profound:

Warblogger Frank Martin described his visit to the military cemetery at Arnhem, in the Netherlands, where a teenage guide said that the Allied soldiers “were fighting for bridges; how silly that they would all fight for something like that.” Martin was outraged: “I tried to explain that they weren’t fighting for bridges, but for his and his families’ freedom.” That teenager articulated precisely the kind of thinking that peace professors seek to instill in their students—that freedom is at best an overvalued asset that can hinder peacemaking, and at worst a lie, and that those who harp on it are either American propagandists or dupes who’ve fallen for the propaganda. In March, Yusra Moshtat, an associate of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, and Jan Oberg, director of the foundation, wrote that “words like democracy and freedom are deceptive, cover-ups or Unspeak.” And in a 1997 speech at a Texas peace foundation, Oscar Arias, ex-president of Costa Rica and founder of his own peace foundation, described the American preoccupation with freedom versus tyranny as “obsolete,” “oversimplified,” and above all “dangerous,” because it could lead to war. In other words, if you want to ensure peace, worry less about freedom. Appease tyranny, accept it, embrace it—and there’ll be no more war.

That’s the Peace Racket’s message in a nutshell—and students find themselves graded largely on their willingness to echo it. For while the peace professor argues that terrorist positions deserve respect at the negotiating table, he seldom tolerates alternative views in the classroom. Real education exposes students to a range of ideas and trains them to think critically about all orthodoxies. Peace studies, as a rule, rejects questioning of its own guiding ideology.

Bawer's article is profound. It's a major, meticulously researched explication of a specific subset of the propaganda threads we've tried to explore here, but have rarely explained, alas, with such power and clarity. If you care at all about our freedom and our way of life, you need to read the whole thing. Warning: You'll be very upset.

Hon. Robert Filner: WHAT Political Party?

Anytime a Republican pol gets caught with his hands in the cookie jar (or under a young lady's skirt), the media instantly trots him and his political affiliation right in front of the cameras. The pundits denounce him as a rogue. The Democrats wring their hands and weep crocodile tears again and again as they decry that other party as the "party of corruption." And after a decent interval of a few hours, the kangaroo chorus demands the miscreant resign from whatever office he holds.

Of course, that doesn't work the other way 'round. Representative William Jefferson of Louisiana, of course, still retains his office and his perks notwithstanding that the Feds found lots of frozen lucre in his freezer. Dems, after all, are innocent until proven guilty. Republicans, however, don't get due process. They're guilty until otherwise proven innocent.

What's really interesting, however, is the media's fairly recent habit of simply eliminating party affiliation in an expose that highlights the evildoings of a Democrat miscreant. Take this ABC news clip:
ABC 7 has learned the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority have charged Representative Robert Filner of California with assault and battery following an incident at Dulles International Airport Sunday night.
Hah! Must be a Republican, right? Bzzzzt! Wrong again. But you wouldn't learn it from DC news channel and ABC affiliate WJLA, from whose website we pulled this clip.

Took a little more sleuthing to dig up what we already suspected. Here's an important fact from the online Post-Chronicle which updates the story just an eensy bit:
Democratic Congressman Robert Filner has been charged with class 1 misdemeanor of assault and battery on [a] United Airline employee.
The story then follows with the paragraph cited above.

Watch for this kind of thing. It happens again and again in the MSM. A Republican bad guy carries along his party affiliation in every story. However, if such a story lacks the citation of a party affiliation, dimes to donuts the villain is a Democrat.

Just another way that journalists in the MSM, the left's propaganda army, subtly steers public opinion while claiming to report the truth. In reality, the MSM only reports those portions of the truth that follow the Party Line.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Uptick Rule, Round 3: The Fed Wakes Up

We're pleased to see that the Fed has finally gotten round to cutting the rate it charges at the discount window by a full half percentage point. Market rallied considerably this morning, but the usual activity of the past 3 weeks resumed. Namely, that, on any rise, sellers moved right in, blunting the rise. It's going to be that way for awhile, HazZzMat thinks, as there are still a lot of hedge funds and other entities that need to raise cash to atone for their sins of commission.

Uptick rule is still off the table however, so the volatility on the downside is going to be a given. We suspect the market will take a breather here before it gets back to its downward trajectory. But at least much of the violence, initiated by the subprime-liquidity crisis and abetted by the missing uptick rule, should begin to abate.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled rants against America's closet leftists and their close friends, the international jihadists, a few of whom are now running a taxpayer-supported public school in New York City. Wonder where the ACLU is. (Probably off pulling the Ten Commandments out of some courthouse somewhere.) These clowns and their minions have been destroying America and American traditions far more efficiently than out-of-control hedge funds ever could.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Uptick Rule: Round Two

Warning: Complicated entry below.

Opening graphs of a Fox News story this morning:

Stocks fell sharply Thursday after investors were shaken by problems at Countrywide Financial Corp. (CFC) that confirmed fears of widening credit problems and after the Federal Reserve injected $17 billion of liquidity into the banking system. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 130 points.

In the first hour of trading, the Dow tumbled 130.96, or 1.02 percent, to 12,730.51.

Broader stock indicators also skidded. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 14.08, or 1.00 percent, at 1,392.62, and the NASDAQ composite index dropped 21.53, or 0.88 percent, to 2,437.30.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies edged down 0.39, or 0.05 percent, at 751.15.

Market confidence, already diminished by months of bad news about mortgages and credit, took a further drubbing after Countrywide, the nation's largest mortgage lender said it was forced to draw on an $11.5 billion credit line to fund operations.

And, Wall Street seemed unfazed as the New York Fed — which carries out the central bank's market operation — announced an overnight repurchase agreement worth $12 billion. This was on top of a 14-day "repo" worth $5 billion announced before the market opened.

In a previous entry, HazZzMat railed about the SEC's elimination of the longstanding "uptick rule" . (The Wall Street Journal called it the "downtick rule" in an article earlier this week that's unavailable via link). That's the old rule that prohibited short sellers in the stock market from shorting a given stock straight down. They had to short it after an "uptick," i.e., a "buy" order. For the uninitiated (Wonker is a former stock broker) "shorting" is selling a borrowed stock, then hopefully buying it back when it goes down, profiting on a negative, rather than a positive move. Back in the bad old 1920s, before the rule was put in place, gangs of rich guys could collude to drive any stock right down via massive shorting, wiping out the little guys and pocketing a profit.

Since this rule was eliminated in July, we've seen a terribly adverse affect on the entire stock market which has become poisonous anyway due to the subprime mortgage meltdown and subsequent drying up of the credit markets. The market was absolutely due for a correction, sadly enough, and such corrections will often show up in the summer doldrum time of July-August when the professional traders (and arguably saner heads) are off in the Hamptons for extended vacations.

But the current correction (Dow down over 200 points today, after quite a few days of similar action) has been extraordinarily swift and violent. Same for the other averages. Everyone is getting hosed.

What is now happening is that the absent uptick rule is increasing the violence of what's already happening in the markets. The unregulated hedge-fund market, that massive Wild West playpen for the very wealthy (and often foolish), which lived to speculate on borrowed money, has seen their game come to an extraordinarily dramatic and bloody close. As the credit markets have tanked, the value of mortgages and other instruments acquired in massive amounts by these funds, has essentially disappeared, as investors suddenly realize that there is no way to objectively value debt instruments that are, frankly, crap and always were.

So hedge fund investors have waded in en masse to withdraw what $$$ are left. To honor the redemptions, the hedge funds are having to dump stocks willy-nilly and in vast amounts to raise cash to meet the redemptions. The market is waterfalling now precisely because of this. EVERY stock is getting dumped, almost without exception, with the more expensive being dumped all the faster, because the object is to raise cash to meet the redemptions. Thus, we are witnessing the spectacle of fantastically profitable companies whose July stock prices were justified, being defenestrated right along with the garbage. The lack of an uptick rule serves to increase the violence of the downdrafts and accelerate the public's growing sense of panic.

In other words, if you haven't gotten out already, there's pretty much no escape except at lower and lower prices. There are no longer any upticks to let you out. The hedge funds are just dumping everything indescriminately to raise cash. The rare up-move in any stock today is simply regarded now as another choice opportunity to get out, initiating yet another wave of unabated selling.

But even this is not enough. Because an awful lot of what the hedgies used to buy or short positions in the first place was done with massive amounts of borrowed money. If I can buy stock XYZ at $100 on 50% margin, that means I can buy 100 shares of XYZ for $5,000. That is, $10,000 worth of stock for $5,000. But now let's say I'm a hedge fund that's in trouble. My investors want to cash out NOW, so I have to start dumping even the good stuff like XYZ. But there's a problem. XYZ is now down to $70 a share. So selling 100 shares here brings me only $7,000, not the $10,000 I thought it was worth a couple of weeks ago.

But wait. I've now got $7K to hand out to my escaping investors, right? Nope. Remember, I borrowed $5,000 of the original $10,000 purchase and I have to give that back now. So now, I only have $2,000 to hand out to my desperate soon-to-be-ex-customers. You don't need to know calculus to figure out how long this can go on before my hedge fund disappears into a vast, multi-year lawsuit.

Again, as we've stated before, HazZzMat generally focuses on the meaning and methodology of message control as excercised by the anti-American left. We are essentially out here in the blogosphere to provide intellectual support for American artistic, cultural, and legal traditions.

But sometimes, as now, these traditions also intrude into the essence of America, its wide-open, competitive, but somewhat regulated capitalism, an adaptive, corrective form of capitalism that Karl Marx never anticipated.

However, at some point, even our peculiar version of flex-capitalism can spring a disastrous leak due, usually, to cupidity or stupidity or some awful combination of both. In this case, we think it's both. Greedy hedge funds and their customers went overboard with exotic tricks to try to beat the markets, not by a few percentage points, but for 25%, 35%, 50% or more if they could get it. The core of this latest round of supreme idiocy was the supremely idiotic subprime market, whose worth, when it was transformed into packaged tranches of securities, proved wildly overvalued.

Now the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost. The current Fed has decided to let a lot of institutions and individuals to get slaughtered here to get inflation neatly tucked back into its low target between 1-2% per annum. But the breezy expressions of confidence in this market are beginning to sound like the platitudes of the Hoover Administration in 1930-32. It's time for Repubs and conservatives to take a look here. The current batch of mortgage lending and hedge fund running thieves today does indeed richly deserve to perish in at least a moderate bloodbath. You don't want to perpetuate bad behavior. You do want investors to realize that extended stupidity can indeed wipe you and that no one, not even the Fed, will rescue you.

But the evils twins of investing, subprime mortgages and out-of-control hedge funds, were benignly neglected by the laissez faire crowd just a bit too long (just as Hoover's engineering types figured markets would take care of themselves way back when). They were allowed to assemble impossible positions which are now turning positively gangrenous. If the government doesn't want this gangrene to wipe out the entire financial system in a spectacular worldwide panic, they are going to have to move beyond the platitudes and the short-term cash injections, and contain this spreading infection. Otherwise, the financial system is going to expire before it gets to the operating table.

Pay attention, Fed. Let the guilty get punished. But don't just stand back and watch every American's 401(k) plans get flushed down the toilet. Social Security is already a bad joke. What will happen when there's nothing left to supplement it? What then?

The country, in spite of MSM propaganda to the contrary, has made great strides toward reconstituting its old get-up-and-go attitude during the long series of Republican presidencies since the 1968 elections. We need to be careful now not to create a 21st century version of economic and actual Hoovervilles that will result in another half-century of leftists in the judiciary and socialists running the country. This will finish us off as a country for sure. Wake up, White House and Federal Reserve. You can still keep confidence in the markets while keeping an eye on inflation. What you're now risking, however, is deflation, 1930s-style. And you know what happened the last time this occurred. Wise up. Now. It is nowhere written that ideological monetary conservatism must necessarily trump common sense.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Catholic Bishop Worships Allah?

Well, sort of. Judge for yourself after reading this Fox News clip:

Tiny Muskens, an outgoing bishop who is retiring in a few weeks from the southern diocese of Breda [in the Netherlands], said God doesn't care what he is called.

"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem," Muskens told Dutch television.

Just a chance that Bishop Tiny (great name!) might be getting a little dotty, do you think? Other commentators would tend to agree:

"I'm sure his intentions are good but his theology needs a little fine-tuning," said Father Jonathan Morris, a Roman Catholic priest based in Rome. Morris, a news analyst for FOX News Channel, also called the idea impractical.

"Words and names mean things," Morris said. "Referring to God as Allah means something."

Uh, yeah. It means that you've passively become a dhimmi.

Which is exactly what our friends at Islamofascist front organization CAIR, those intrepid defenders of the Flying Imams, would love to see:
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group, backs the idea as a way to help interfaith understanding.

"It reinforces the fact that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same God," Hooper told "I don't think the name is as important as the belief in God and following God's moral principles. I think that's true for all faiths."

Christians who are Arabic speakers speak of Allah when they speak of God, Hooper added.

"There's not a theological leap to make on the part of Christians," Hooper said.

Embracing this logic, Ibrahim, HazZzMat has an even better idea: Since, as Ibrahim says, "there's not a theological leap" involved with swapping terms for the Almighty in monotheist faiths, why don't all Muslims in the West simply call Allah "God"? After all, there's not a theological leap to make on the part of Muslims, right? And after all, this is our country here, right? Right?

Meanwhile, here's hoping that Bishop Tiny, clearly infected at some point in his career with an overdose of liberation theology, enjoys his retirement in the theological and temporal obscurity that he so richly deserves.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Moral Authority?

Here's a short entry via today's Instapundit, quoting an observation by blogger-military embed, the very-brave and extraordinarily objective Michael Yon. We will have to split hairs and disagree with Michael's conclusion, though:
A new dispatch from Michael Yon. "Our military has increasing moral authority in Iraq, but the same cannot be said for our government at home. In fact, it’s in moral deficit. . . . Washington has no moral clout in Iraq. Washington looks like a circus act. The authority is coming from our military. The importance of this fact would be difficult to understate."
No it wouldn't, Michael. No it wouldn't be difficult at all.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Where the Hell Are the Upticks?

In a blog primarily concerned with the manipulation of language and tradition to suit America's suicidal left, an entry on our current financial situation might seem a little out of place. But then again, maybe not. This entry is meant to voice our serious concern over a little noticed "manipulation" of a longstanding securities regulation meant to insulate small investors from wealthy thugs who want to kill off small investors and pocket the profits. The term and regulation we're talking about is Wall Street's seemingly arcane "uptick rule."

This is a little tough to discuss in a short entry, but we'll give it a shot. Most people, when they think of investing in the stock market, think that the way you make money is to buy a stock for, say, $10 and sell it for $15. That way, you make $5. (Less commish, of course.) In trading jargon, this is described as a "long" position. I.e., if you buy 100 shares of company X, you're long 100 shares of company X.

Well, that's one way of investing in stocks. For the professionals, or for more daring individuals, there's a second way, a trickier way. It's called "shorting a stock," or establishing a "short position."

In another life, Wonker actually spent several years as a stockbroker/investment advisor, and actually taught investments at a local community college. Wonk conducted investment class, in many ways, like Jim Cramer does now on "Mad Money," trying to simplify the complex and add a little entertainment to help make this crazy business understandable and even a little fun. Ironically, this was back in the late 1970s-early 1980s, just when Cramer was starting to run OPM (other people's money). Who knew that this kind of approach would one day prove highly lucrative on TV? Certainly not yours truly. But, as they say, we digress.

My point is, describing short sales to newbies was always one of the more challenging items in Wonker's course since, to the average little-guy investor, nothing seems more perverse, more at odds with natural law and the Word of God than the short sale.

When you sell short you borrow, say, 100 shares of company X that you don't own. The cash flows into your account. The game here is that you want the stock to go DOWN, not up. Is that nuts, or not? No, it isn't. If you shorted 100 shares of company X at, say, $10, you take $1000 into your account. If the stock sinks to $5, which is what you want, you scoop up $500 dollars of that cash and BUY THE BORROWED STOCK BACK. Your profit is the money you have left: $500.

Now shorting is inherently riskier than the "conventional" way of investing in the market. But it's one way that you can make money even when the Dow is waterfalling to oblivion, like it is doing at this very moment.

For you old timers, clever shorting is how Joe Kennedy Sr. made a lot of his fortune. And it was even more fun in his day. Why? Because you could team up with some of your buddies. You could start by shorting company X at 10, then let your pal short it again at 8, then let pal #3 short it at 6, all with big trades, and you and your friends could completely trash the stock, wiping out all the suckers who held onto it before closing your position. This is part of the reason, at least, why Wall Street had such a tough time gaining equilibrium in late 1929, and even thereafter when things actually got worse.

So enter the Roosevelt administration which really did try to level the playing field for the little guy, closet socialists that they all were. In the mammoth and landmark Securities Exchange Act of 1934, one of the things they did was institute what's known as the "uptick rule." Wickipedia has as good a definition for this rule as anyone:

'Uptick' is the name generally given to Rule 10a-1, under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which states that short selling is only permitted following a trade where the traded price was higher than the previously traded price (uptick).

On the New York Stock Exchange a short sale may only be done on an uptick or a zero plus tick (which occurs when the price is the same price as the last trade, but higher than the previous different trade).

On the NASDAQ, shorting is only allowed on the bid side when the current inside bid is not lower than the previous inside bid (i.e. a downtick).

Okay. If you don't totally grasp this, that's fine. To oversimplify (which is mostly what I'm doing in this entry anyway), the uptick rule forbids the next guy after you from shorting more shares of the same stock unless at least one other guy buys it and moves it up a notch first. This still doesn't necessarily prevent a stock from tanking. What it does accomplish, however, is a slowing down of the process which, oftentimes, allows enthusiasts of the stock to jump in and buy, blunting the downward force of what could have been an orchestrated short by professionals. It also means that if the shorting continues, the little guy will get ample opportunities to get out before he's crushed.

Although Wonker is an unabashed capitalist, he's seen too much to want the financial bigwigs to have the stockmarket sandbox all to themselves. Every time you do this, everyone gets hosed. The bankers, the utility monopolies (they used to have them), and the Joe Kennedys of the world whipped up the speculative froth in the late 1920s that resulted in the Crash of 1929. In later eras, when financial institutions were deregulated, starting in (believe it or not) the Carter Administration, the result was the severe Crash of 1987 and the following Savings and Loan debacle which required a massive government (i.e., taxpayer funded) bailout. Still looser regulations didn't help with the Dot Bomb of 2000-2001. And an inability to reign in today's notorious hedge funds or limit the use of exotic mortgage instruments has brought us to today's liquidity mess.

Basically, you can only trust rich investors so far. The genius of the American system so far is that it allows for almost unrestrained capitalism. But it's careful to do mid-course corrections to hem in the excesses of the professional thieves who do business on Wall Street.

Well, lately, that American genius has been going awry, as per the above examples. And now, the latest, which leads to our opening point. Last month, the 1934 securities act was again amended to ELIMINATE the uptick rule. Read the document here. In so doing, you'll read some mumbo-jumbo about how this is going to provide a more "consistent regulatory environment" for short selling. What a bunch of nonsense. What eliminating the uptick rule HAS accomplished is an almost immediate and dramatic increase in the volatility of the stock market.

As a result of this elimination of the uptick rule, which once again commenced barely a month ago, we are witnessing a breathtaking increase in market volatility, and it's scaring the bejeebers out of the small investor. And probably wiping out a lot of them, just as the easing of mortgage rules has led to a lot of little guys losing their houses.

Eliminating the uptick rule, particularly in the middle of massive failures within the financial system due to the massive repricing of real estate loans that should never have been made, is like throwing gasoline on a fire.

Wonk is going to look into just how this happened and see if there's anything he can do to put the genie back in the bottle. Eliminating the uptick rule has just subjected the small investor to the same kind of ruinous volatility that signaled the end of the 1920s bull market and threw millions of people out of work.

We love competition in the markets. But not when it lacks the kind of circuit breakers, like the uptick rule, that can prevent financial panics from morphing into a complete fiscal Armageddon seemingly overnight.

Oddly, in this case, we here at HazZzMat regard the uptick rule as yet another in a series of American traditions that have been thrown overboard. The destruction or subversion of cultural traditions ruins the heart and mind. The destruction, subversion, or in this case elimination of a perfectly serviceable fiscal tradition is going to ruin a lot of wallets and bank accounts.

Craplets: Toward More Picturesque Speech

While HazZzMat regularly hurls jeremiads at lefties who cleverly slice and dice our language and traditions to subvert them, we've always admired a clever turn of phrase, a witty story, or an apt and enjoyable neologism. Particularly if it's good natured. And did we say witty?

We just uncovered one of these gems, a witty neologism, in today's Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately, WSJ online is a subscriber service only so we can't link to it. But lo and behold, we found the author's predecessor article online in another pub, dating back to April. (Wonder if that's a copyright issue?)

Anyhow, Walter Mossberg describes an interesting phenomenon, well-known apparently to PC-users (Wonker uses a Mac). Here's the deal. You go out and buy a new PC or Windoze laptop, which, apparently, Mossberg did recently, purchasing a Sony machine. You then go through the usual ordeal of getting the PC up and running. But now you have to deal with a lot more stuff you didn't bargain on. Let Mossberg tell it:
The problem is a lack of respect for the consumer. The manufacturers don’t act as if the computer belongs to you. They act as if it is a billboard for restricted trial versions of software and ads for Web sites and services that they can sell to third-party companies who want you to buy these products.

I’m distinguishing these programs, sometimes called “craplets,” from the full-featured, built-in Sony software meant to enhance the computer, or from entire, useful programs Microsoft builds into Windows, such as music and photo organizers.

On my new Sony, there were two dozen trial programs and free offers. The desktop alone contained four icons representing come-ons for various America Online services, and two for Microsoft. The start menu and program menu had more items that I neither chose nor wanted. Napster, a music service I don’t use, was lodged at the lower right of the screen.

The worst was a desktop icon called “Watch Hit Movies Now!” This turned out to be four full-length films from Sony’s movie studios, which the company had preloaded onto my computer at the cost of more than four gigabytes of precious hard-disk space. But they aren’t a gift. If you want to play them, you have to pay Sony.
We thought we'd give you the entire context. Once again, no matter where you go, no matter what you buy, somebody is shoving something else in your face to buy. And the way it's done on PCs is by the manufacturer of the box putting on all manner of stub programs with expiration dates or crippled feature sets, hoping that if you test-drive them, you'll pony up for the (always expensive) full version of the product. And just try to delete these puppies from your hard drive!

But the term we focus on here is "craplets." It's brilliant, whether coined by Mossberg or some unknown hacker. The new word is obviously a portmanteau invention, created by grafting the vulgar word "crap" (one of Mrs. Wonker's favorites) onto the computer term "applet," which describes a small program (i.e., "application" or "app"), routine, or stub that runs voluntarily or involuntarily when you boot up your machine. (I think PC people used to call a subset of these "terminate and stay resident" apps.)

In any event, a "craplet" is a program or routine that you may or may not want, but one that's installed on your new computer anyway by the manufacturer. In this sense, it's essentially a bundled advertisement. You have no choice but to deal with it, either by letting it persuade you to buy the full edition or by forcing you to figure out how to get it off of your already-crowded hard drive.

"Craplet." Short. Succinct. And apt. A stump of a computer program you didn't ask for and don't need. Spam on a disk. Wonderful.

But if you start pondering this clever term in your right hemisphere, you begin to see that it might have further use as an extended metaphor. Like, "Just check out the comment craplets that hang from every story in the Daily Kos."

This neologism could have legs. Let's put it in our lexicon and think about it.

(BTW: In the link above, directing you to Mirriam-Webster's definition of "neologism," we noted with interest the secondary definition: "a meaningless word coined by a psychotic." That's a new one on us. But we thought we'd share.)

(PS: a hat tip to the old Readers Digest which invented a regular monthly column entitled "Toward More Picturesque Speech." It was a fun vocabulary builder for those who grew up with the old version of the magazine. RD reinvented itself some time ago and eventually jettisoned this column. The dead-tree version still survives, although it's not as reliably traditionalist as the old version. To check out the web iteration of RD, click here. Take a trip down Memory Lane, assuming you still remember.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Update on The New Republic Scandal

Accusations and counter-accusations continue to fly in the ongoing scandal surrounding the New Republic's "fake but accurate" account of our awful, savage soldiers in Iraq as told by one of them, initially under the comfy cloak of anonymity.

According to John Tabin's brilliant synopsis of this running battle in The American Spectator, TNR's editor, in an astonishing reprise of the Rathergate scandal, blames his periodical's sloppy fact-checking on the bloggers and legitimate writers who've actually done enough fact-checking to uncover the scandal:
On Friday, TNR editor Franklin Foer appeared on Left, Right and Center, a weekly radio show on KCRW in Los Angeles. He accused TNR's critics of smearing the magazine, saying that they "move from one reckless allegation to another reckless allegation" and should "for once apologize when they get something wrong."

Even as Foer was speaking, though, it was being reported that the Army's investigation had concluded that all of Beauchamp's claims were false.
Note here the classic Stalinist approach: deflect criticism of the party and its leadership by smearing and slandering the critics. As always, the aim of this cheap-shot tactic, if it's pursued long enough and loudly enough, is to entirely turn the tables, persuading uncritical readers that "reckless allegations" have been made by the critics rather than the other way around. The validity of the opponent's criticism itself is never addressed, but his credibility is often ruined. Rather than mounting a convincing rebuttal, it is sufficient to demonize the critic to the point where people will no longer give any credibility to what the critic said. In this way, an unexamined falsehood is magically transformed into historical and documented truth.

On a larger scale, the shrill voice of the party apologist consistently creates an envelope of perceived truth for the party's lies while excluding the logic and reason of his rational opponent. The objective: remove your more convincing opponent from the arena via the carefully applied and consistently enforced smear, allowing your own lies to stand unchallenged. It's easy to win an argument if you don't have an opponent.

Note: You are not likely to see TNR's shameless liars ultimately fess up and "apologize" for their malevolent fictions. Rather, they demand that their well-informed critics to apologize for speaking the truth. How nuts is that? Then again, the Marxist dialectic is not rational. It is meant to override rationality rather than overcome it, which it cannot.

The conclusion here is quite clear. It is, in fact, Franklin Foer, along with his now-discredited fabulist, Beauchamp, who is guilty of spreading "reckless allegations" to be used against our heroic troops in Iraq. And of course, against President Bush, the ultimate target of all lefty lies and propaganda. It is Franklin Foer who needs to "apologize." But he won't, since leftists are, by definition, incapable of doing anything they have to apologize for.

Leftists unerringly tar their rational opponents with those "thoughtcrimes" that they, themselves, are guilty of. You're watching this cheap-shot tactic unfold once again. It's pure propaganda. Just another crime of convenience with the ultimate aim of weakening our capitalistic democracy one little cut at a time, the better to conceal the cumulative magnitude of the damage to our national traditions.

We are calling on Franklin Foer, right here and now, to save his tattered and discredited magazine by resigning from TNR along with the rest of his Marxist minions. When "fake but accurate" becomes the order of the day for any publication, it's time for management to go. Along with their "reckless allegations."