Friday, March 28, 2008

Willey account praised

Michael New reviews Kathleen Willey's book, Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton, in today's edition of FrontPage. As he points out, it is not just a rehashing of past events, but rather a story with significance for the current presidential election.

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Thoughts on the Fed trying to clean up its own mess

David Wessel of the WSJ has an excellent column today entitled "Ten Days that Changed Capitalism" that explains the significance of the recent steps undertaken by the Federal Reserve and Bush Administration to address the current financial crisis. To sum it up, Wessel quotes economist Ed Yardeni: "The Government of Last Resort is working with the Lender of Last Resort to shore up the housing and credit markets to avoid Great Depression II."

Wessel certainly makes some good points. It may be too early to tell how all of this will play out. While government involvement in the economy via the central bank or Treasury is generally undesirable and will most certainly have long-run unanticipated consequences, I am sympathetic to Fed Chair Ben Bernanke in one regard. He inherited a mess that his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, played a large role in creating. Greenspan's manipulation of interest rates following 9/11 caused a distortion in the free market, injecting excess liquidity that largely made its way into real estate and set the stage for a bubble.

In a way, it's deja vu all over again. As I wrote in my book The PayPal Wars, we saw the same drama play out eight years ago in Silicon Valley. Currency market "contagion" in the late '90s had been the catalyst for Greenspan's interest rate roller coaster, and tech stocks were the asset class that was taken along for the ride. That bubble burst as rates were rapidly jacked up by the Fed after it had concluded a period of aggressive cutting. Sound familiar?

Wessel makes the point that capitalism might be profoundly changed by this current crisis. And that seems possible. But can the Fed's policy of using interest rates in Keynesian fashion -- to "stimulate" the economy -- really be called a form of capitalism? It seems more like central planning than the Invisible Hand. But I doubt that any of the presidential candidates, and certainly not Hillary or Obama, will cite this crisis as a reason for less government meddling in the economy.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Americans oppose mortgage bailouts

A majority of Americans oppose federal assistance to homeowners who borrowed more than they can afford. A Rassmussen Reports survey indicated that 53% disapprove of Washington taking action, while 29% support it. Also, contrary to the liberal stereotype that conservatives favor big business, the poll suggests Republicans are more likely than Democrats (by 68% to 53%) to oppose bailing out the banks who made bad loans.

It will be interesting to see if this skepticism of federal handouts holds up should the mortgage crisis worsen. Over the past week, investment banks have averaged $32.9 billion per day in borrowing from the Federal Reserve's new emergency lending facility. No doubt Hillary and Obama will be ratcheting up their calls for command economy solutions to address the problem, but hopefully the American people will remain skeptical.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Making our nation proud

Three cheers to the soldiers at Fort Hood for making a sick child's wish come true. You guys are amazing.


A Good Friday meditation

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53: 3-6)

As the economy stumbles and terrorists bray new threats, take heart, my friends. The world is broken and evil is most real, yet the endgame is in motion. We are actors in this grand drama, but the script has already been written. And the Author penned for Himself the most shocking, unsettling, and important role in the entire story.


Monday, March 17, 2008

China blocks YouTube -- how will Google respond?

In the wake of the uprising in Tibet, reports indicate that China is blocking its citizens from accessing YouTube. According to the AP:
Access to, usually readily available in China, was blocked after videos appeared on the site Saturday showing foreign news reports about the Lhasa demonstrations, montages of photos and scenes from Tibet-related protests abroad.

How will Google, YouTube's parent company, respond? Readers of my blog will recall that I've previously criticized Google and other Silicon Valley companies for assisting Chinese censorship by restricting search results (see here and here). Now that one of Google's most valuable web properties is being blocked, will it stand up to the dictators in Beijing or seek to accommodate them by removing the related videos?

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Audacity of hate: Obama and his spiritual mentor

WND reports more disturbing news about Barak Obama's spiritual mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr:
The Chicago minister ... said in a January 2006 sermon at his alma mater, Howard University, "America is still the No. 1 killer in the world. … We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns and the training of professional killers."

Speaking at the Washington, D.C., school's Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, Wright said, "We started the AIDS virus. … We are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty."
And apparently this is not the only instance in which Wright has blamed the United States for manufacturing the AIDS virus. This comes on the heels of yesterday's revelation that in a 2003 sermon Wright urged his congregation to say "God damn America." Wright has also drawn fire for giving a humanitarian award to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and for saying that America brought the 9-11 terror attacks upon itself.

When asked about Wright's "G-damn" sermon yesterday, Obama rebutted, "...I think it's important to judge me on what I've said in the past and what I believe." Which, of course, is true. Obama's beliefs are what matter. But Obama is a candidate who is trying to remain a tabula rasa upon which American voters should project their own hopes and aspirations; we cannot say for certain what all of his beliefs are. This begs the question: to what degree to Wright and Obama see eye to eye on this issue? Does Obama share his pastor's apparent disdain for the country he now seeks to govern?

Only God knows what is in Obama's heart, but his ties to Wright are worth considering as we attempt to learn more about this political newcomer and presidential front-runner. Rev. Wright has been Obama's pastor and spiritual mentor for two decades. He married Barack and Michelle, and baptized their daughters. Obama's second book, The Audacity of Hope, was inspired by Wright, and Obama himself told the Chicago Tribune last year that Wright was his "sounding board." And Wright has a formal role on Obama's campaign. Politico's Ben Smith reports that Wright serves on the campaign's African American Religious Leadership Committee.

Without a doubt, Wright is an influential part of Obama's life, both private and public. Even if Obama does not agree with his mentor that the U.S. is "the No. 1 killer in the world," creator of the AIDS virus, and deserving of damnation, he obviously must not consider Wright's worldview to be too offensive. How else can one explain the role he's given Wright in his life? It's not ignorance. It's incomprehensible to assert that glimmers of Wright's worldview were not visible to Obama over the past 20 years. (One doesn't choose a "sounding board" because he stays silent, and the reverend is not exactly hesitant about voicing his politics from the pulpit.) So even if he did not directly hear Wright drop "G-damns" on America, Obama surely heard him voice the beliefs that served as the basis for those condemnations. To assert otherwise, you'd have to assume that Obama is either lying about his ties to Wright, or he has no idea of the beliefs of his advisors.

So Obama must've been at least aware of Wright's extreme and hateful beliefs, yet he did not consider them problematic. And Obama's defense that Wright is like "an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with" rings hollow. If President Bush had ever mused about appointing someone like David Duke to his campaign, surely the outcry would have been rightfully deafening, and it would've been the end of Bush's political career. Or consider a real-life example from earlier this week. Geraldine Ferraro had to quit Hillary Clinton's campaign because of her assertion that Obama's ethnicity benefited him at the polls. No one has made a convincing argument that Ferraro herself is a racist, but the Obama campaign charged that the comment was. The ensuing fracas compelled Ferraro to step down.

Obama may very well conclude that he needs to have Rev. Wright follow Ferraro's lead, but such a public repudiation seemingly would just be for show, given that Obama has sought counsel in private from an extremist for 20 years.

Not that Rev. Wright's opinions sound dissimilar to Michelle Obama's. It was widely reported that last month the candidate's wife proclaimed to a Milwaukee audience that "for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." Later that day she told a Madison crowd, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country … not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change." These repeated statements prompted Peggy Noonan to ask, "Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? Do they confuse patriotism with nationalism, or nativism?"

The questions still stand, Senator Obama. We, the people, await your response.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"The campaign of soft jihad"

FrontPage ran an important article yesterday calling out the danger of Islamofascists abusing multiculturalism to bring about "sharia creep" or "soft jihad" into Western institutions. The game plan is that Muslims push for seemingly harmless ad hoc rule changes to accommodate their religious practices at places such as universities, hospitals, and swimming pools. But as Richard Kimble of The New Criterion is quoted as explaining, this tactic is not about tolerance: "Traditional jihad is waged with scimitars and their contemporary equivalents, e.g., stolen Boeing 767s, which make handy instruments of mass homicide. Soft jihad is a quieter affair: it uses and abuses the language and the principles of democratic liberalism not to secure the institutions and attitudes that make freedom possible but, on the contrary, to undermine that freedom and pave the way for self-righteous, theocratic intolerance.”

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