Today's "Fifth of November" research link: Voluntaryist
Monkey Joel has two good posts over at Cup O' Joel regarding Philadelphia's screwed-up priorities vis-a-vis constitutional rights versus the "safety" of police. Read them both, won't you?
UPDATE: Looks like he cross-posted here as well. Move along. Nothing to see here.
I'm not sure if this should be filed under "refreshing honesty from the jackboots" or simply "more evidence that government is a band of robbers writ large" but here you go:
Mayor Michael Nutter: "We want our damn money, you owe it, we want it, and I plan to collect it."
It's nice when the "gun in the room" draws attention to itself.
Police in El Reno, Oklahoma decided that assaulting a bed-ridden 86-year-old woman is a good way to get your kicks.
I was going to throw this item to Ben for more sober coverage, but I'm not sure sobriety is the right response to uniformed thugs assaulting an older man whose son's life is in danger. No, I think outrage and disdain are probably more appropriate.
Today is December 23rd which, as everyone certainly knows, is Festivus.
I will start with the Airing of Grievances. Despite tremendous patience on the part of Monkey Management, and a thoughtful post by Ben on The Atrios Rule, there appears to be one among our frequent commenters who is incapable of any measure of self-control, civility, and maturity.
Which brings me to the second Festivus tradition, the Feats of Strength. As a Festivus gift to "the rest of us," I am exercising my power as an Administrator to disable this person's account until they're ready to stop acting like a child.
Ben says we don't talk enough about booze around here anymore. Things ain't like they yoozta be. Well, I've got to agree, so I'm doing my part.
Behold: Tactical Nuclear Penguin
From the label: "This is an extremely strong beer; it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance."
We apologize for the database error messages you're all probably seeing when you read the comments and/or full posts. The simian hordes are furiously pulling apart wires and turning computers on and off trying to figure out how to fix the problem. Your patience is appreciated.
I'm not sure if the timing is amazingly bad or amazingly good, but there it is.
I'm no fan of abuse of power. Hell, I'm no particular fan of power itself. But this new sequel in the Troopergate franchise seems like as big a distraction from more relevant news as the original or, for that matter, the direct-to-video animated series.
I dunno, maybe I'm just fatigued by The Longest Presidential Election Season Ever.
Have a great weekend, everybody!
[hat tip: Photo District News]
Joel just tweeted:
Which means I can now re-post one of my favorite LOLcats:
Michael Flynn over at Reason has another take on the "crisis" -
Let's be clear: This is a Wall Street crisis, not a national economic crisis. The overall economy, while a bit weak, is still growing. Some politicians are comparing the current environment to the Great Depression. But in 1932, when the federal government last moved to bail out the banking sector, economic output had fallen 45 percent and unemployment was a staggering 24 percent. Today, economic output is actually up and unemployment is a historically modest 6.1 percent.
It's not a long article, so I recommend reading it all.
Linked here, a letter from 200 economists nationwide, urging Congress to think twice about Paulson's plan, providing reasons why, and high-level suggestions on how to avoid the pitfalls:
As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:
1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses. Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.
2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.
3) Its long-term effects. If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America's dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity. Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.
For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.
There. I said it.
One of the things that's been bugging me about all of this ZOMG BAILOUT NOW MUST FIX DON'T STOP AND THINK PASS THE BILL PASS THE BILL ZOMG is that it appears that the congressmen are not only trying to "fix" a problem that they caused, but that they're doing it without giving serious consideration to what caused the problem in the first place. Further, rather than addressing the root causes (Fed policy, for instance) they're just throwing more bad government policy at the problem so we can "move on" and never speak of this again.
So. Since nobody writing or reading this weblog actually gets to vote on the bill anyway, why don't WE take a few minutes and explore some of the policies that might have caused the present crisis. Let's start with these:
Given that government's artificial manipulation of markets got us into this mess, do we really want to "solve" the problem through more massive artificial manipulation of markets (and what is buying bad debt at a higher rate than its value, if not artificial market manipulation?) Or, to put it more briefly, do we want to respond to a failure of Keynesian policy with more Keynesian policy? Or might it be wiser (and more principled) to let those who participated in bad decision making suffer the consequences of their actions? Will banks, businesses, and investors be more likely to make the same mistakes again if taxpayers are forced to bail them out, or if they experience the pain of business and investment failure?
I don't ask these questions as if the answers are easy. But I do marvel that conservatives (in particular) who claim to mistrust the ability of government to effectively resolve even the smallest of economic woes, somehow think that ramming through a quickly-thrown-together piece of legislation that relies entirely on massive government intervention in the economy is absolutely necessary.
UPDATE - More voices questioning the wisdom of the bailout:
Bailout marks Karl Marx's comeback (via Drudge)
Just a bit of whistling past the graveyard...
Offered without comment, except to say: Not a joke.
Is there a solution to this problem that doesn't involve taxpayers bailing out other people's mistakes? Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron believes there is.
Well, the whatever is off the whatever with Sarah Palin. Kathleen Parker at National Review Online joins the chorus saying the empress has no substance. A couple of blows to the head:
Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.
If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.
As soon as Palin was announced, my friend Deuce mentioned how much she looks like Tina Fey. When I finally saw her, I couldn't wait for the inevitable appearance on Saturday Night Live. In that regard, last week's premiere didn't disappoint:
Of course, in almost every other regard, the show was a complete bust. Weekend Update was about the only other segment that I remember being amused by. Ah, well.
I just flew in to Denver, and while I was waiting for my ride, I witnessed a cop bringing a frazzled young lady to tears (literally) as she was trying to pick up her parents at the airport. She had barely pulled into her spot and opened the doors when the idiot thug started hassling her to close up and move along. She tried to patiently explain that her parents had just called her and were heading down the escalator. Did Herr Jackboot cut her some slack and let her wait 1-2 minutes? I think you already know the answer. She got in her car, and called her parents in a panic as she started to cry. The girl was clearly not familiar with the airport and was trying to figure out how she was going to be able to loop around and find the pickup spot again. The cop was relentless. Finally, and it really was just one or two minutes, her parents emerged from the door and the jackass backed off.
Taxpayer dollars at work. I feel much safer.
The Atlantic's Ross Douthat gives a hot tip to Democrats in this blog entry. Highlights:
Do not attack her. Stop referring to her as a just a small-town mayor and a neophyte governor who's unqualified to be President; in fact, stop referring to her at all . . . Behave as though Sarah Palin does not exist . . . do not under any circumstances allow yourselves to be drawn any deeper into a debate (which the McCain campaign plainly wants to have) over the relative qualifications and accomplishments of Barack Obama and the Republican vice-presidential nominee . . . the Obama-Biden ticket has vastly more to gain from changing the subject away from Sarah Palin than they do from placing her candidacy, her qualifications and her background front and center in this race.
He's right, politically speaking. As long as the public is trying to decide if they'd rather have Palin at the Naval Observatory than Obama in the White House, the momentum will continue to shift away from the Democrats, who for all intents and purposes should have had a lock on this election by now.
Guys - this won't be on the front page, but this is the "instant replay" of the example thread that Ben and I ran. Hit "replay" to see how things will look on Thursday.
Notorious lefty Pat Buchanan writes this column for RealClearPolitics about the South Ossetia conflict, baiting Russia, and America's failure to hold itself to the same standards it has for the rest of the world.
American charges of Russian aggression ring hollow. Georgia started this fight -- Russia finished it. People who start wars don't get to decide how and when they end.
Russia's response was "disproportionate" and "brutal," wailed Bush.
True. But did we not authorize Israel to bomb Lebanon for 35 days in response to a border skirmish where several Israel soldiers were killed and two captured? Was that not many times more "disproportionate"?
Russia has invaded a sovereign country, railed Bush. But did not the United States bomb Serbia for 78 days and invade to force it to surrender a province, Kosovo, to which Serbia had a far greater historic claim than Georgia had to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, both of which prefer Moscow to Tbilisi?
Is not Western hypocrisy astonishing?
When the Soviet Union broke into 15 nations, we celebrated. When Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo broke from Serbia, we rejoiced. Why, then, the indignation when two provinces, whose peoples are ethnically separate from Georgians and who fought for their independence, should succeed in breaking away?
Are secessions and the dissolution of nations laudable only when they advance the agenda of the neocons, many of who viscerally detest Russia?
Read the whole thing.
WARNING: There be spoilers ahead! Properly warned be thee says I.
Some idiot thinks "The Dark Knight" is a metaphor for Neocon anti-terror tactics. Jeff Tucker thinks it's a libertarian morality play. Tucker's analysis has plenty of wishful thinking (he reads WAY more into the script about the underlying cause of black markets than the authors could have possibly intended, for instance) but it's much closer to the mark than the Jack Bauer worshipper. I suppose the fact that Mr. Torture Lover cites Russell Crowe and Daniel Day-Lewis as "the most talented actor[s] alive" should have tipped me off that he wasn't exactly a deep thinking media critic.
The movie is fantastic. It's thought-provoking, thrilling, and suspenseful, and very much in the same league as its predecessor. It definitely explores issues about evil, law & order, corruption, the state, and the nature of man. And it doesn't offer easy answers, which is remarkably refreshing given the standard-issue feel-good slop usually dished out by Hollywood. Nolan is increasingly skilled at delivering a pleasing cinematic payoff without pandering and over-simplification.
Libertarian cheap thrills:
I could go on, but I need to get some sleep. Top-notch film. I'm glad it's doing well.
Via both Joel and Deuce, I was turned on to this Vanity Fair article where Christopher Hitchens allows himself to undergo the procedure King George found to be a necessary-and-not-even-vaguely-immoral "tool" in fighting The Endless War. The title: "Believe Me, It's Torture." The sound bite: I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture. (Yes, that's one of the only times you'll see me even sub-reference a Lincoln quote without pouring derision on it.)
Read the whole thing, especially the second page, where Hitch describes his conversation with Malcolm Nance about what embracing torture does to nations who succumb to its temptations.