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9/30/2009
SEVEN DAYS IN MAY MEETS COME NINIVEH COME TYRE

Apropos of my piece from yesterday about calling out lunacy on the right being necessary, John L. Perry of Newsmax, with exquisite timing, makes me look like a combination genius and soothsayer:

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.

America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn’t mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it.

Ah, the old “civilized coup” in America trick. I guess that’s where the Joint Chiefs are invited to lunch at the White House by the president and they all sit down to a hearty meal of Chateaubriand and scallops with a tasty Cabernet Sauvignon to put just the right edge on what would almost certainly be the most fascinating conversation in American history.

Of course, right wing military coup’s are nothing new - in American literature anyway. I pointed out in a post that commented on a potential coup on the show 24 that there never seems to be any good movies or books about left wing coups. Why?

And while we’re on the subject, can you think of one movie or TV show that ever showed a left wing plot to take over the government? Of course not. That too would never happen in a million years. The plotters would be too busy sitting around arguing about the make up of the post-coup government and could never come to an agreement. Besides, liberals talk too much. All those angst-ridden soliloquies about what they were about to do would put the audience to sleep in about 15 minutes. There would probably be more action in a movie detailing the mating habits of Three Toed Sloths than in a left wing coup film.

On the other hand, the granddaddy of all right wing military coup films, Seven Days in May, based on the bestselling book by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey, had plenty of action and suspense:

The equally engrossing movie starred some of Hollywood’s most prominent liberals at the time; Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Frederic March. Lancaster played an Air Force General James Matoon Scott who, angry with the President (played by March) for signing a nuclear arms treaty with the Russians, plots to take over the government with the backing of a shady conservative Senator as well as some other generals. The hero of the movie, Jiggs Casey (Douglas), senior aide to the general, discovers the plot and brings it to the attention of the President who then must counter General Scott, trusting only his Secret Service protection and a drunken Senator marvelously underplayed by Edmond O’Brien.

Complicating matters was General Scott’s mistress, the lovely Ellie Holbrooke, played by the ravishing Ava Gardner. She has in her possession some love letters from Scott that Jiggs is tasked to steal so that the counter-plotters have some ammunition.

Of course, being liberals, they are much too principled to use the damning letters and in the end, the President does what he should have done 5 minutes into the movie; fire General Scott and save the republic. Jiggs, who also thought the President was a loon for trusting the Russkies, ends up getting Ava Gardner in the end so sometimes I guess it pays to be the conservative hero in a liberal movie.

According to Perry, the left doesn’t need the military to take over the government and destroy the Constitution. They get themselves elected:

So, view the following through military eyes:

# Officers swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Unlike enlisted personnel, they do not swear to “obey the orders of the president of the United States.”

# Top military officers can see the Constitution they are sworn to defend being trampled as American institutions and enterprises are nationalized.

# They can see that Americans are increasingly alarmed that this nation, under President Barack Obama, may not even be recognizable as America by the 2012 election, in which he will surely seek continuation in office.

# They can see that the economy — ravaged by deficits, taxes, unemployment, and impending inflation — is financially reliant on foreign lender governments.

# They can see this president waging undeclared war on the intelligence community, without whose rigorous and independent functions the armed services are rendered blind in an ever-more hostile world overseas and at home.

# They can see the dismantling of defenses against missiles targeted at this nation by avowed enemies, even as America’s troop strength is allowed to sag.

# They can see the horror of major warfare erupting simultaneously in two, and possibly three, far-flung theaters before America can react in time.

# They can see the nation’s safety and their own military establishments and honor placed in jeopardy as never before.

The “scenario” fisks itself. Any comments I would make addressing specific portions of this idiocy would only distract from the totality of ignorance, the aggregation of asinine, puerile imbecility demonstrated by the writer.

Perry’s description of America under Obama sounds eerily like the details in the plot of Allen Drury’s overwrought but hugely entertaining Come Niniveh Come Tyre where a Carter-like President faces mounting challenges and incursions from the old Soviet Union. Each time he backs down, he’s cheered on by liberals and the MSM as a man of peace and “vision.” Finally, realizing he’s destroyed Americas position in the world (and after a clumsy effort to remove him by the Joint Chiefs) the Russians come calling. The President commits suicide and the reins are handed over to his Vice President, a Soviet agent.

Joe Biden: Moscow stooge? You might note that Perry never mentions the vice president in his little coup scenario. Such inconveniences never seem to disrupt the ravings of lunatics when they’re on a roll.

Here’s the topper:

Anyone who imagines that those thoughts are not weighing heavily on the intellect and conscience of America’s military leadership is lost in a fool’s fog.

Okay, lemme get this straight: I’m the one “lost in a fool’s fog” because I think the notion that anyone - responsible or irresponsible - in our military who has even had this idea cross their idle minds - say, when sitting on the toilet with the latest edition of Guns and Ammo - is batsh*t crazy with a capital “C”?

Here’s why this fellow should be put in a straitjacket, and locked up in a nice padded room with plenty of stuffed animals so he he can work off his misplaced aggression against President Obama by tearing off their heads with his teeth:

Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don’t shrug and say, “We can always worry about that later.”

Ok - I just shrugged my shoulders and said “We can always worry about that later.” Seems to me the republic is still here. Oh sure, Obama is a pifflehead and he wants to nationalize health care but really now, shouldn’t there be like a, you know, good reason to just toss the election results from last year out the window and put General Fiddle Faddle or Colonel Tootie Frootie in charge? No domestic unrest because of this action? What to do with all those very angry liberals and Democrats? It might be emotionally satisfying for some to see our opponents marched off to those detention camps Haliburton built in Utah and Nevada, but gawd, we’d never hear the end of it.

Perry is an old man - served in the Johnson Administration and his bio says he was one of the first journalists allowed into Russia following the death of Stalin. He has got to be in his mid 80’s. He talks of the military performing what amounts to a “family intervention” to remove the duly elected, constitutionally legitimate, president of the United States.

I think his own family should heed that advice and retire this fellow before he hears the laughter directed his way for being such a monumental ass.

By: Rick Moran at 5:51 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (32)

9/29/2009
THE RICK MORAN SHOW: ROMAN POLANSKI - VICTIM OR PERVERT?

You won’t want to miss tonight’s Rick Moran Show, one of the most popular conservative talk shows on Blog Talk Radio.

Tonight, I welcome my good friends Jennifer Rubin, Andrew Ian Dodge, and Jazz Shaw as we look at the Roman Polanski arrest, Obama’s Olympic sales job, and the latest on health care reform.

The show will air from 7:00 - 8:00 PM Central time. You can access the live stream here. A podcast will be available for streaming or download shortly after the end of the broadcast.

Click on the stream below and join in on what one wag called a “Wayne’s World for adults.”

The Chat Room will open around 15 minutes before the show opens,

Also, if you’d like to call in and put your two cents in, you can dial (718) 664-9764.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 4:37 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

‘SILENCE EQUALS ASSENT:’ WHY POINTING OUT CONSERVATIVE LUNACY MUST BE DONE

I have taken a lot of grief over the years because on several occasions, I have used this website not to attack the left (something I do with great regularity and enjoyment) but because I also highlight some of the lunacy on the right we regularly get from talk show hosts, activists, and other prominent conservatives.

It is not an urge to purge that drives me to expose these clowns, charlatans, mountebanks, and just plain goofs. It is rather an effort, in my own very small and insignificant way, to stand up for what I know is right; that employing reason and rationality to fight Obama and the liberals is far superior to the utter stupidity found in the baseless, exaggerated, hyperbolic and ignorant critiques of the left and Obama that is passed off as “conservative” thought by those who haven’t a clue what conservatism means.

Yes, I usually find myself being almost as unhinged in my criticism of these kooks as they are in criticizing Obama. So be it. Trying to argue rationally with someone who believes Obama is a Nazi, or a Communist is akin to arguing with a stone wall. And at least the wall is smart enough not to keep opening its mouth and further proving how irrational it is.

I reject arguments that one shouldn’t criticize one’s own side and “do the left’s dirty work for them” (the silly and simple minded argument that I am somehow “jealous” of a talk show host’s or a pundit’s success are so laughable that I never bother to respond). I believe that one of conservatism’s major problems these last few years has been a failure of self-examination - and I include myself in committing that sin. Unless one constantly challenges one’s beliefs by examining the underlying assumptions of what we truly believe, testing them against what is happening in the real world, and using the logic and reason granted us by our humanity to determine if they still pass muster and are consistent with our principles, we fall into the trap of being inconsistent in the application of our philosophy.

You don’t have to be an “intellectual” to accomplish this. All it takes is to read and listen to opposing viewpoints once and a while. To close one’s mind to alternative points of view is, by definition, unconservative. And to take the position automatically that liberals have nothing of interest you want to hear is beyond illogical - it is ignorant.

And yet, this is the de facto position of most of my many detractors - that somehow, my mind has been polluted because I quote some liberal every once and a while or I agree with something a liberal says about conservatives. This is nuts. And if anyone would take 10 seconds to think about it, most rational people would agree.

Where does this close mindedness get us?

In the past weeks you’ve heard me talk about the How to Take Back America Conference being held in St. Louis this Friday, Sept. 25, and Saturday, Sept. 26, with speakers like: Gov. Mike Huckabee, “Joe the Plumber,” U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Trent Franks, R-Ariz., Steve King, R-Iowa, Tom McClintock, R-Calif., Dr. Tom Price, R-Ga., and Three-Star Gen. Jerry Boykin. But someone who’ll be there that you didn’t hear about is Kitty Werthmann. Kitty was 12 years old when Adolf Hitler took over Austria.

She is 83 with a “vivid memory” of what happened in her homeland next. She witnessed the government take over the banks and the auto industry. Sound familiar? In the last nine months, Obama and the Democrats in Congress have successfully orchestrated the government takeover of Chrysler and General Motors along with countless banks.

She witnessed the “compulsory youth” service and indoctrination. That sounds a little like Obama’s call for “mandatory volunteerism” for America’s youth.

The government takeover of the schools immediately replaced crucifixes with pictures of Hitler and Nazi flags. “All religious instruction was replaced with physical education,” said Werthmann. No prayer was allowed. That all happened here decades ago. It is interesting, however, that Obama’s speech to the captive audience in the government schools – complete with the essay assignment about how students could help him achieve his political goals – was replaced once the American people got wind of it. And speaking of government control of education, if the Senate agrees, all student loans will be government issued, according to a bill that passed the House last week.

Before commenting on the substance of what the author actually believes is solid evidence that Obama wants to set up a Fourth Reich, I want you to look at that list of Republicans who will be giving their imprimatur to a conference that features such idiocy. Those are not “fringe” players. They are all considered “mainstream” conservatives. Should they be taken to task for attending a conference that features such off the wall lunacy?

If it was the only such session that featured, they might be given a pass. But here are a few other sessions that many would see as extreme and many more would see as batsh*t crazy:

HOW TO DEFEAT ATTACKS ON SOVEREIGNTY BY U.N. TREATIES AND NORTH AMERICAN UNION (Just tell me where those black helicopters are)

HOW TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM OF SUPREMACIST JUDGES (um…elect more Republicans?)

HOW TO DEFEND AMERICA VS. MISSILE ATTACK

I would urge you to click on some of the links to other, more sedate sounding seminars like “How to Counter the Homosexual Extremist Movement” or “How to Understand Islam” to understand why I condemn any so-called “mainstream conservatives” who participated in this nuthouse of a conference.

A description of Mrs. Werthmann’s “seminar:”

At the How To Take Back America Conference last weekend, conservative speaker Kitty Werthmann led a workshop called “How to recognize living under Nazis & Communists.” Announcing the panel in a column preceding the conference, talk show host Janet Porter gushed how Werthmann’s description of Austria in the 1930s is a “mirror to America” today — noting “They had Joseph Goebbels; we have Mark Lloyd, the diversity czar.” The room was packed over capacity to hear Werthmann, who grew up as a Christian in Austria and serves as Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum South Dakota President.

During her session, Werthmann went through a litany of examples of how President Obama is like Adolf Hitler. She noted that Hitler, who acted “like an American politician,” was “elected in a 100% Christian nation.” Although she failed to once mention Antisemitism or militarism, Werthmann explained how universal healthcare, an Equal Rights Amendment, and increased taxes were telltale signs of Nazism. Werthmann also warned the audience:

If we had our guns, we would have fought a bloody battle. So, keep your guns, and buy more guns, and buy ammunition. [...] Take back America. Don’t let them take the country into Socialism. And I refer again, Hitler’s party was National Socialism.

[...]

And that’s what we are having here right now, which is bordering on Marxism.

Is there any way to logically address Mrs. Werthmann’s points? The answer is no. And the reason is because she is living in a different reality than the rest of us. To 95% of the world, what Obama and the Democrats are doing you can agree or disagree with, but it is being done by the all-American way of Congress proposing, and the president disposing. Even Obama’s executive grabs like taking over private business finds precedent in American history among presidents. Obama is dead wrong. But he is not a Marxist, or Nazi, or even a socialist. He is a far left American liberal which, by the way, puts him considerably to the right of the Euro-left.

To casually toss about the terms “Marxist” and “Nazi” shows that those who do so are wildly exaggerating what the liberals are doing. Mrs. Werthmann may be a witness to history but her analogies are childlike in their logic. Exaggeration is not argument. It is emotionalism run rampant. And at its base is simple, unreasoning fear. Fear of change, fear that the powerlessness conservatives feel right now is a permanent feature of American politics, and, I am sorry to say, fear of Obama because he is a black man.

The emotional state of conservatism now coupled with the hyper partisan atmosphere in the country (and the already excessive ideological nature of the opposition to Obama) is a combination that afflicts the reason centers of the mind and is proving to be a block to thinking logically. What is there to “fear” about Obama and the Democrats? They are proposing the same liberal crap that the left has been promoting for more than 30 years. We have fought them before using reason and logic. What is so different now?

I agree with the left to a certain extent that the right - especially on the internet - has become something of an echo chamber (it’s true on the left too but their crazies have already been marginalized). This has resulted in what might be termed a “negative feedback loop” where the more exaggerated claims about dastardly Democrats go around and around, becoming ever more outrageous and illogical, until we get overflowing crowds at a seminar where the most fantastically stretched and mangled analogies to Nazis and Communists are taken seriously.

I don’t know how to say it any other way; those conservatives who don’t see a problem with this, or don’t think it “representative” of a significant portion of the conservative movement, or who don’t believe this sort of thing should be taken out, examined, and criticized as forcefully as possible are fooling themselves into believing this kind of thinking doesn’t matter. It is poison coursing through the body of conservatism and we either use reason and logic as an antidote or it will end up killing us.

To my mind, there is no alternative. Ignore it and it only gets bigger and more outrageously out of touch with reality. This is why I write about it. This is why you should join me in condemning and marginalizing these crazies, inoculating conservatism against contracting this plague on rational thought.

By: Rick Moran at 10:51 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (73)

DEFENDING POLANSKI: ‘IT’S NOT RAPE-RAPE’
CATEGORY: Culture, Ethics

Every once and a while, an issue jumps up and really shows the moral chasm that separates the right and the left.

Whether it’s Teri Schiavo or the cop killer Mumia, or AIM founder and convicted murderer of FBI agents Leonard Pelitier, there are some matters that bring out in the starkest relief imaginable, the great liberal/conservative divide on questions of simple, basic morality that seem so self-evident to conservatives but a mystery to liberals.

The Roman Polanski case highlights this difference in spades.

The reaction on the left to what should be a non-controversial case of a child rapist finally being forced to face the music for his horrific crime has been nothing short of astonishing. I suppose we should be used to this kind of moral blindness from people who invented the phrase “If it feels good - do it,” but for the life of me, it is boggling my mind that the Hollywood left - and their fellow travelers around the country - are singing the praises of this “artist” while excusing the bestial actions of a man who lured a 13 year old girl into disrobing to take pictures, drugged her, and then savagely raped her.

But weighed against his “accomplishments?” Tis a pittance, a non-event, or, as Whoopie Goldberg put it, “It wasn’t a “rape” rape.” That kind of sophistry deserves its own award from the Academy.

A couple of good links; first, from Allahpundit who is as discombobulated as I am about the reaction from liberals:

Needless to say, this reminds me of the left’s umbrage at conservatives daring to bring up Chappaquiddick after Teddy died. Yeah, he left a woman to drown and then made jokes about it afterwards; he was for universal health care, though, wasn’t he? Same with Polanski: Dare we deny the man who made “Chinatown” an occasional drugging and raping of a child? Sure, a kid gets traumatized for life, but on the other side of the scale: “Rosemary’s Baby.” It’d be sweet if the left could come up with some sort of mathematical formula by which we could tell whether an artist or liberal politician has exceeded his quotient of moral indulgence. I’m assuming “Chinatown” wasn’t so awesome that Polanski would be excused shooting a kid in the head at point-blank range, so evidently it’s “worth” less than that but more than a child-rape. Let’s figure out just how much of a liberal hero you have to be to get away with certain crimes.

Kate Harding writing in Salon:

Roman Polanski raped a child. No one, not even him, disputes that. Regardless of whatever legal misconduct might have gone on during his trial, the man admitted to unlawful sex with a minor. But the Polanski apologism we’re seeing now has been heating up since “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” the 2008 documentary about Polanski’s fight to get the conviction dismissed. Writing in Salon, Bill Wyman criticized the documentary’s whitewashing of Polanksi’s crimes last February, after Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza ruled that if the director wanted to challenge the conviction, he’d need to turn himself in to U.S. authorities and let the justice system sort it out. “Fugitives don’t get to dictate the terms of their case … Polanski deserves to have any potential legal folderol investigated, of course. But the fact that Espinoza had to state the obvious is testimony to the ways in which the documentary, and much of the media coverage the director has received in recent months, are bizarrely skewed.”The reporting on Polanski’s arrest has been every bit as “bizarrely skewed,” if not more so. Roman Polanski may be a great director, an old man, a husband, a father, a friend to many powerful people, and even the target of some questionable legal shenanigans. He may very well be no threat to society at this point. He may even be a good person on balance, whatever that means. But none of that changes the basic, undisputed fact: Roman Polanski raped a child. And rushing past that point to focus on the reasons why we should forgive him, pity him, respect him, admire him, support him, whatever, is absolutely twisted.

In addition to Goldberg’s dismissal of Polanski’s brutality with the cryptic defense that it really wasn’t “rape-rape,” there’s this from the Daily Mail.

In a statement, Mr Mitterand, a nephew of former President Francois Mitterand, said he learned of the arrest ‘with astonishment’ and that he regretted ‘in the strongest way that a new ordeal has been inflicted on someone who has already gone through so much’.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the arrest was a ‘bit sinister’…

The Zurich Film Festival jury accused Switzerland of ‘philistine collusion’.

‘The case is three decades old and is all but dead but for minor technicalities. We stand by and wait for his release and his next masterwork,’ said jury president Debra Winger.

Other members of the film industry, including Italian actress Monica Bellucci, French actress Fanny Ardant, president of the Cannes film festival Gilles Jacob and Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai issued a petition demanding his immediate release.

I will never watch “Officer and a Gentleman” again and not look at Winger as lower than a slug.

I don’t understand it. The idea of defending Polanski in any way, shape, or form is so far beyond the realm of any conscious thought I might imagine that it enters the world of dreams - a place where the physical laws of gravity and reality simply don’t apply and strange, surreal images float in front of your mind’s eye causing you to wake up with a start. It is then that you heave a sigh of relief because it was only a dream and such things couldn’t happen in the waking world.

Not so with those on the left who are defending Polanski. There is a hole in their soul where conscience and empathy are usually found. There is no way to patch that hole, to fill it with a moral framework that would cause these lefties to react as any normal, rational, human being would react when faced with the choice of condemning a child rapist or excusing him.

As an historical aside, a similar state of mind infected America when John Brown went to the gallows in 1859 to die for his crimes. Here, northerners condemned his actions but sympathized with his cause. That reaction drew the same kind of astonishment from southerners that we feel today at the reaction on the left to Polanski’s arrest. In fact, it hurried the day when civil war became probable as the south felt that northerners didn’t care if slaves murdered their masters in their beds as long as it was done in the just cause of getting rid of the institution. They didn’t understand the north’s moral confusion and many felt that a great chasm had opened up between the two sides.

Obviously, Polanski is no John Brown. But I wanted to highlight the fact that such radical differences in moral outlook are really quite rare in American history until recently, since we all spring from pretty much the same general background and ancestry steeped in western traditions that are based on Christian principles of personal responsibility and right and wrong. It used to be extremely rare that Americans, as a group, didn’t generally agree on the Big Questions that define the moral parameters in society, while having a common framework to discuss these questions even if there are what used to be usually relatively minor disagreements over purpose and motivation.

But since this New Morality swept America in the 1960’s - a morality that posits the idea that we are moral creatures responsible only to ourselves and our instincts - such moral flights of fancy have become somewhat more common on the left these days but are still relatively rare.

Apparently, sometimes the hard wiring that is responsible for giving us a moral conscience breaks down and we get inexplicable breaks in our moral continuity like this. To me, this is as good an explanation as any for why there has been this cognitive dissonance on the part of some on the left when it comes to the Roman Polanski case.

By: Rick Moran at 6:40 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (26)

9/28/2009
WHY IS THE PRESIDENT GOING TO COPENHAGEN TO LOBBY FOR THE OLYMPICS?

President Obama has decided to personally attend the International Olympic Committee meeting in Copenhagen this week in order to make a presentation in support of Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 summer games.

Mark Silva:

President Barack Obama, who initially planned to let First Lady Michelle Obama represent the United States in Copenhagen this week, when the International Olympic Committee chooses a site for the 2016 summer games, plans to travel there too.

The White House, which earlier had announced that an advance team was headed to Copenhagen to prepare for a possible presidential trip to Copenhagen, confirmed this morning that Obama will travel Thursday night. The IOC meets Friday.

A senior administration official told the Tribune Washington Bureau this morning that Obama will travel to Copenhagen Thursday night, and return following the Friday meeting. The first lady plans to travel Tuesday, and meet with individual members of the IOC on Wednesday and Thursday to make Chicago’s case for the games. The president will join her at the full committee meeting on Friday.

What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?

It’s not like the president doesn’t have anything to do, nothing important on his plate at the moment, right?

* An economy that, despite administration claims, is not recovering in any meaningful way and is in severe danger of slipping back into crisis.

* An ongoing, vital review of our policy in Afghanistan with the commanding general threatening to resign unless he gets a massive infusion of troops. The president has asked General McChrystal to “wait” - now we know why.

* The very day he leaves for Copenhagen, a representative of the United States government will sit down for talks with Iran about the future peace of the world and Iran’s ambitions with regard to building a nuclear weapon - a supposed centerpiece to his policy of engagement.

* His continuing problems with his own party in trying to get health care reform passed.

Why was his wife’s importunings to the IOC not good enough? What could possibly have possessed the president to put some of these other, demonstrably more important activities on the back burner and go to Copenhagen and personally lobby the super-annuated, corrupt, and cynical IOC members to bring the Olympics to Chicago and create a bonanza of “pay to play” and other schemes to enrich Daley cronies and perpetrate the obscenity that is the Democratic political machine in Illinios?

In a word, payback.

All through December of 2007, Obama and Daley danced around each other’s political ambitions, each wanting the other’s endorsement - neither wanting to pay too high a price. They met several times at City Hall, feeling each other out about both the efficacy of such endorsements as well as the timing.

For Obama’s part, any endorsement of the corrupt Daley would tarnish his “reform” credentials - a crucial element of his eventual “hope and change” mantra. Obama trotted out these “outside the machine” bona fides whenever it suited him politically. The real Chicago reformers never trusted him - with good cause. He had been known to back machine candidates in the past, stiffing his “friends” in the reform movement.

But Obama was trying to preempt Daley from staying “neutral” which would have helped Hillary Clinton who at the time was a prohibitive favorite to win. The Daley family had very close ties to the Clintons with the Mayor’s brother Bill having served in the Clinton administration as Commerce Secretary and also run Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. Bill Daley’s rolodex of heavy hitter contributors was the stuff of legend among Democratic politicians.

But Daley was playing coy. He had never endorsed a presidential candidate in a primary before and just because Obama had close ties to the city, didn’t mean he would abandon that tradition. But Daley was also in a spot of political trouble. Hizzoner’s biggest fear was that the reformers would find an attractive minority candidate to run against him in the Democratic primary.

Now Daley prided himself on his cultivation of the large and politically active Hispanic community in Chicago, as well as his stroking of the South Side black community. But a re-election endorsement from the most prominent African American politician in the state would pretty much seal the deal and assure him of another term in office.

Arguably, Daley would be doing the relative unknown Obama much the bigger favor. Hence, the dance for mutual endorsements ended when Daley gave the nod to what appeared to be the hopelessly outclassed Obama within hours of his announcement that he was seeking the presidency. This followed Obama’s own endorsement of Daley that occurred three weeks previously that dripped with a cynicism worthy of any hard bitten machine pol. Obama actually congratulated Daley for his efforts to clean up the city - less than 6 months after two of Hizzoner’s closest aides were convicted in a patronage scheme.

The rest is history. At the time, Daley was probably the best known national Democratic figure to support Obama’s candidacy. And the fact that Bill Daley, with his trusty Rolodex, was installed as one of Obama’s most important advisors was equally significant.

So now it’s payback time as the president travels to Copenhagen to try and get the biggest payoff for the Chicago machine in its long and sorry history. The several hundred million dollars that gravitated to the city and state in stimulus money will be seen in retrospect as a pittance compared to the opportunities for Cook County, Chicago, and Illinois politicians to garner a potential several billion dollar windfall. The opportunities for graft, featherbedding, pay to play, kickbacks, and other business as usual practices of the machine that reward friends, punish enemies, keep the mob happy, and keep the machine’s loyalists in power will be beyond counting.

The machine will benefit through spending to construct the Olympic village, run concessions, realize a fortune in extra taxes imposed on hotels and motels, restaurants, bars, and other travel industry businesses, and generally prosper from the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected in the city during the course of the games.

For starters, as Crain’s reports, let’s take the construction of the Olympic Village:

Chicago and the Obama administration are exploring ways the federal government can bolster the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games with financial support for the $1-billion Olympic Village.

Crain’s has learned that senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and Lori Healey, president of the Chicago 2016 committee, met this month with top officials of the Department of Housing and Urban Development to discuss financing options for the village, the single biggest project — and question mark — in the city’s bid.

The main hurdle facing Chicago is coming up with a long-range plan for an Olympic Village that is commercially viable while meeting objectives of existing HUD programs that could be tapped for funds, such as low-income housing tax credits and grants or loan guarantees for community development, affordable housing or housing for seniors.

“I think it’s premature to talk about what the funding might be,” says Ms. Jarrett, a former co-chair of Chicago 2016 and city planning commissioner who now heads White House efforts to help Chicago’s bid. “A proposal has not been made to the federal government, but the administration is not closing the door” on anything, she adds. The administation “obviously (is) willing to meet and listen.”

Hat Tip: John Ruberry

Lastly - and this is pure speculation with a little partisan twist thrown in - my observing Obama these many years has convinced me that there are few politicians who have such an inflated opinion of their own worth. Obama presiding over the Olympics in 2016 - his last few months in office if he wins reelection - would be his own crowning achievement (and Daley’s ticket to immortality as well as the signature achievement of his family’s 50 year domination of Chicago politics). I think there is a significant element of narcissism in all of this which makes his abandonment of Washington at this crucial time appear even more of a selfish act.

I don’t see much in the way of questioning whether this trip is necessary from too many people - press or pundits. Then again, what would you expect?

UPDATE

Byron York and I are on the same wavelength today.

Michelle Malkin has two additions to the Culture of Corrpution - Olympics Edition.

Malkin also had a piece last week that Ed Lasky pointed me to that has Valerie Jarrett standing to make millions on selling some rat infested apartments.

By: Rick Moran at 9:04 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (31)

9/27/2009
CHANGE IS GOOD
CATEGORY: Blogging, General

I finally did it.

Mediacom proved their incompetence once too often and I have made the switch to satellite TV - Direct TV to be specific.

The straw that finally broke the Three Toed Sloth’s back was the total breakdown in Mediacom’s automatic bill pay. After taking about 4 months to get set up - signing up time and time again to have them deduct the bill automatically from my checking account - auto pay finally kicked in last April. For exactly 4 months, it worked fine.

Then in July, Mediacom never deducted anything from my bank account. I probably should have noticed but didn’t. Neither did the company make a deduction in August. This time, I received a notice last week that we would be disconnected unless the July bill was paid.

I called and talked to three separate people - two customer service and one in the collection department - who swore that their records showed the bank had denied their efforts to elicit payment. When I offered to pay online, I was told not to bother, that the situation had been corrected and that auto pay would deduct for both bills last Wednesday. The collection employee was cross, argumentative, and treated me like dirt.

After calling the bank only to find out they were all either lying or incompetent boobs because the bank had absolutely no record of any requests for withdrawal from Mediacom, I decided to wait to see what would happen on Wednesday before doing anything.

Meanwhile, a collection call came every day - each time we had to explain all over again the problem. Each time the Mediacom employee said there was no record of anyone calling previously - including no record of my having called the week before to volunteer to pay the amount immediately.

Wednesday came and went without the amount being deducted from our bank account. When I called on Thursday, it was to inform them that I had paid the past due amount and that I was switching to the dish. The customer service rep was laughing under his breath at me. I could hear the amusement in his voice as I related the entire story of incompetence and lousy service.

With that kind of attitude, Mediacom better hope they can maintain their monopoly on cable TV in the areas they are licensed. Otherwise, they will disappear faster than you can say “Mediacom sucks.”

Today, Direct TV installed 250 crystal clear channels that have already left Mediacom in the dust. The introductory offer includes the whole NFL package - free for 5 months. Every movie channel - premium or otherwise - every sports channel, every artsty fartsy, science, history, news, channel known to the English speaking world.

The picture quality is jaw dropping. Just a few days ago I was saying to Zsu-Zsu that we must be getting too used to HD TV because watching the paltry 30 channels Mediacom offered in HD was getting boring. Well, it wasn’t that it was necessarily getting boring - it was that the signal from Mediacom was coming from 100 miles away. We also got extremely tired of pixelated screens on a regular basis, extremely poor standard def reception, and the constant frozen frames that would sometimes last for minutes.

I was not prepared for the difference in picture quality. It’s like we didn’t have an HD set for the previous year. With 130 HD channels, digital sound on every channel (Our Bose sounds incredible), I can see the follicles on Wolf Blitzer’s face. The nose hairs of Chris Matthews are brought out in stark relief. In short, I am going to watch football in a few minutes and I am sure that I am going to see the bloodshot eyes of Ray Lewis as he eats the opposing quarterback alive.

I was an idiot for not doing this within two weeks of moving out to Streator.

One other big change in our lives; a new arrival:

1-53

Meet Lucky. And yes, he is. Not just for finding a home with us but also for being alive at all.

It seems that lucky was born in the wild, child of one of the many strays who hang around, scrounging for food and looking for sex with kitties lucky enough to have their own slaves. Lucky and her littermates were fortunate enough to have been found by some special needs people who live in a group home down the street. Last weekend, one of the teens was going house to house looking to give the kittens away and we decided to take a chance and bring one into our home.

We have two grown cats, of course, who are very comfortable with each other.

100_0121

So the new arrival was a chance to show their magnanimity and interpersonal skills in adopting the newcomer and welcoming him with open arms.

Wel,, Aramis and Snowball were perfectly willing to be friends but our wild little Lucky had other ideas. Every time either one would approach, he would let out the most ear piercing growls and hisses you can imagine. Yes, they will eventually work out living arrangements but it is so pathetic to see the two of them walking away in bewilderment after Lucky warns them not to approach. I really think they want to be friends but will just have to be patient with the little one until he gets his paws under him.

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Meantime, get plenty of rest and we’ll go looking for more trouble tomorrow.

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By: Rick Moran at 11:26 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

9/26/2009
YOUNG, STUPID THINK PROGRESS RESEARCHER LOSES SANITY IN PUBLIC

Hey - not a bad impersonation of a Think Progress headline, don’t you think? And as I always say…”If you ‘Think Progress,’ Think Idiocy!”

What set me off was this head shaking headline:

Uninsured 22-Year-Old Boehner Constituent Dies From Swine Flu

The copy is predictably bloodcurdling:

A 22-year-old woman from Oxford, Ohio, died from swine flu on Wednesday. Kimberly Young graduated from Miami University in December and continued to live in Oxford, Ohio, within Minority Leader John Boehner’s congressional distrct. Reports now indicate that after initially getting sick, Young put off treatment because she was uninsured…

Oh my GOD! Is this true? Did someone really DIE in a Republican Congressman’s DISTRICT!

Liberals were right when they warned us that Republicans opposed health insurance reforms because they want you to die. That poor young girl should have listened. If she had only had the courage to go against the wishes of her Congressman and buy health insurance, she would be alive today. But Boehner is a sneaky one. He used all of his wiles, all of his GOP MoJo Magic to make that poor girl decide that at age 22, she was indestructible and didn’t need health insurance - a waste of money, that.

After all, no other 22 year olds in the entire United States have made similar decisions, right? Only in GOP congressional districts are 22 year olds under the spell of evil GOPers and are mesmerized into believing they don’t need insurance and that getting it would be a waste. They’d rather spend their limited income on luxuries like housing and food.

Oh, wait…:

There are plenty of reasons people go without health insurance, but no group has more cause than 20-somethings. These young adults are less likely to be offered employer-based coverage, earn less money to buy insurance on their own, are generally healthy and spend little time worrying about the worst-case scenarios that could befall them.

No wonder, then, that this age group has the highest uninsured rate of any cohort in the U.S. population: some 13 million Americans ages 19 to 29 - or 1 in 3 - lack coverage. That’s a scary number, and not just because any of them could end up needing serious medical care for an unforeseen illness or accident. The willingness of young people to forgo insurance, it turns out, is a major problem for the entire health-care system, which needs them on the rolls to help spread out risk and keep older Americans’ premiums from going even higher. Young adults, after all, are less likely than older generations to need health care, meaning insurance companies can charge them low premiums and, in most cases, sit back and collect without much risk of paying out for health-care services.

What a dick, this Victor Zapanta, fellow is. Identified as a “researcher” for CAP, Zapanta is a blooded political activist having worked for both Clinton and Obama in 2008. Someone should teach this kid what it is a “researcher” does. What they don’t do is smear people based on the most outrageous number of degrees of separation - except in the hyper-partisan world of Think Progress where every raindrop that falls in New York is responsible for a flood in California. That’s actually a more realistic connection to reality than Zapanta’s wretched attempt at guilt by non-existent association.

Let’s take Mr. Zapanta’s technique and apply it in another direction shall we?

467 Chicagoans Murdered in 2006 While Obama Was Senator

While Barack Obama sat in the senate supporting gun control, 467 Chicagoans were murdered needlessly because they couldn’t defend themselves. These poor victims were denied their constitutional right of self defense because they were represented by a senator who hates the constitution and wants to keep guns out of their hands that almost certainly would have saved their lives.

Another 442 Chicagoans were murdered in 2007…

It needs a little work. I don’t quite have the accusatory tone down right, don’t you think?

The idea that Boehner’s opposition to health care reform - or that anything Boehner has ever said or done - is in any way responsible for this young girl’s death is unbelievably calumnious and so off base as to be beyond the pale of rationality, of reason, and logic. The notion that Think Progress is connected in any way to an organization - The Center for American Progress - that is supposed to be a serious place for the study and promotion of public policy is a disgrace to intellectual honesty, a blot on our public discourse, and an affront to the decency of our democracy.

If you were to peruse the archives of this uber-partisan rag, you would find literally hundreds of similar off the wall headlines that are not meant to inform, or even to attack based on facts, but rather to simply smear in the most vile and distorted manner. It is the worst of politics, and given their connection to a supposedly august think tank, beneath contempt.

I don’t want to hear that the right does it. I will turn around the argument I make to conservatives and say, “So you want to ape the worst tactics of your opponent? How idiotic is that?” Indeed, if there is one thing about both right and left extremist partisans that is becoming more and more clear, they are interchangeable in their ignorance and stupidity.

I know I’m pissing in the wind here but God help us if blogs like Think Progress and their righty counterparts ever achieve more influence than they currently enjoy. Rational discourse, so polluted now with bilious rants and wildly exaggerated and distorted attacks, would disappear entirely and all that would be left would be two sides hurling rocks at each other across a great chasm of hate and distrust.

By: Rick Moran at 1:44 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (40)

HOW SERIOUS IS THE WORLD IN STOPPING AN IRANIAN BOMB?

My latest at Pajamas Media is up and it’s on the revelation that Iran has constructed another enrichment facility despite their protestations to the contrary.

A sample:

The question asks itself: why would a nation that claims to be interested only in the nuclear fuel cycle hide a facility capable of secretly enriching uranium to the 85-90% level necessary to construct a bomb?

Nothing Iran has ever publicly said about the extent of its nuclear program has ever proven to be true. The have brazenly and repeatedly lied about matters vital to the peace and security of the world.

What’s the “world” going to do about it?

Why should anyone believe the Iranians when they claim they have no interest in constructing a bomb? And if no one believes them, then the world has two choices: try and prevent Iran from developing a bomb or learn to live with them possessing it.

Obviously, the milquetoast Security Council sanctions we have applied to Iran previously have failed to convince them to stop their drive to build nuclear weapons — or at least develop the capability to build them in a matter of months. Searching for a solution short of war, Western nations will now seek much tougher sanctions against the regime in hopes that it will bring concessions by Iran at the bargaining table in Geneva, where talks are scheduled to begin on October 1.

The major element of any new sanctions will almost certainly be a cutoff by the world to Iran of refined gasoline. Despite sitting on a sea of oil, the Iranians import about 40% of their fuel needs from abroad. Such a cutoff would not only bring the Iranian economy to a standstill; it would more than likely feed the discontent already boiling over in the streets as a result of the stolen election last summer.

I believe President Obama has handled this the correct way, although I think some hard questions should be asked of our intel people whose National Intelligence Estimates appear to be quaintly naive about Iranian intentions to build a bomb.

The fact that the Iranians have lied, and lied some more, and lied again about the extent of their enrichment program is pretty damning evidence that they are trying to hide something. There really is only one logical - and safe - conclusion to reach; the regime is trying to surreptitiously develop the capability to construct a nuclear weapon.

I hasten to add that this does not mean they are close to possessing a nuclear weapon. As I have pointed out previously, many experts believe a likely scenario is for Iran to enrich enough uranium for several bombs at the 5% level suitable for commercial reactors while secretly developing the infrastructure (a secret “pilot enrichment plant?”) to have the capability of enriching that uranium to the 85-90% bomb-grade level so that they could rapidly construct a bomb in a crisis. It is thought that Japan and perhaps other nations have this capability but for obvious reasons, haven’t advertised it.

The non-enrichment activities relating to bomb infrastructure could be conducted without western knowledge. Bomb and warhead design, missile development, and assembling other parts of the bomb would only be discovered by luck - as it happened two years ago when we penetrated the Iranian computer network (thanks to a lost laptop) and discovered that until 2003, this other activity was going on and no one was any the wiser.

But the president did well to keep this information secret. As did Bush before him. It was a nice little tidbit that would have proven invaluable either as a stick to beat the Iranians with if nuclear talks were ever to materialize, or as an inducement for additional sanctions against Iran if the need arose.

Now, apparently, we are going to use this information in both scenarios. Russia is appears ready to support more serious sanctions while the talks that start next week with Iran just got a lot more interesting thanks to this revelation.

But my question in the title stands; is the world about to get serious about denying Iran nuclear weapons?

Perhaps. It all depends on how far Russia will go with sanctions, and how far Obama is willing to push the Iranians. Would the Russians join a general boycott of supplying gasoline to the regime? Iran imports 40% of its gas so such a sanction would be stiff indeed. There is already legislation in Congress that would make such an action American policy with the added stinger of preventing the US government from doing any business with any nation that supplied the Iranians with refined gas.

But both Russia and China could easily circumvent such a sanction which is why if there is an attempt to impose this on the Security Council, the Russians will probably refuse to go so far. They might support restrictions on refined gasoline but not a total ban.

In this sense, the world is not going to get serious about stopping the Iranians which brings us to what Israel is going to do about it.

Netanyahu’s instinct is to bomb. But he just as clearly is willing to give the international community a chance to see if their negotiations/sanctions strategy can do the trick. I think a ban on refined gas could result in regime change in Iran. But since that is not likely to happen (and even if there was regime change, the chances are good that a government just as hostile to Israel as this one would emerge), the only hope to avoid a catastrophe for us and for the world that would result from an Iran-Israel war is for a solid phalanx of big powers to make it clear to Iran that their enrichment program is unacceptable and that a strict, draconian inspection and verification regime must be put in place and enforced by the Security Council.

How strict?

Now that we know about at least this one covert facility, it is the time to reach a deal with Iran about placing a multinational enrichment facility on Iranian soil. This may seem paradoxical, but such a facility is the best way of ensuring that Iran cannot set up other secret enrichment facilities later. We obviously now know that “suspension” is not the answer; they can use the freedom such inactivity gives their workers to setup new plants outside the prying IAEA inspectors’ view. We need to be with the Iranian scientists and engineers 24 hours a day, seven days a week to understand what they are doing. Of course, the first step will be to require lists of workers at both the covert and overt enrichment plants as well as enough supporting documentation (shift schedules, pay stubs, payroll accounts come immediately to mind) to instill confidence in the West that we know everyone who has worked there. Of course, while we are checking those documents, Westerners can be working in the plants; keeping an eye on those already there. They could start that tomorrow.

This revelation of a covert facility might be just the bargaining chip the West needs to force the measures necessary to build up confidence Iran is not establishing other secret plants.

Would anything be worse than war with Iran? John McCain and others believe that the only thing more dire than war would be Iran actually possessing nuclear weapons. I agree - in theory. But in an imperfect world, it is perhaps inevitable that imperfect solutions to problems present themselves. The world can’t operate in the theoretical. And any open causus belli by Iran is not likely; no nuke tests, no parading nuclear tipped Shahab missiles down the streets of Tehran. For that reason, the world will never believe that Israel - or the US - would be justified in bombing Iranian nuclear facilities.

So we are left with trying to stop the Iranians through negotiations and sanctions. They might work. More probably not. But let’s deal with failure if and when it occurs, planning for any eventuality while keeping in mind Iranian past duplicity when sitting down with their representatives next week.

By: Rick Moran at 8:16 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (13)

9/25/2009
BIBI’S MAGNIFICENT UN SPEECH

He stood in front of the UN General Assembly - sans the representatives of a few despots and thugs - and in a voice sometimes shaking with emotion, he threw down a moral gauntlet to the world, reminding us that there is such a thing as evil and that it is up to all of us to resist it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu committed an unpardonable sin during his magnificent speech.

He told the truth:

Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.

But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?

A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state.

What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations! Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. You’re wrong.

History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.

It is rare that the UN is exposed to such truth telling. That’s because at bottom, the United Nations is not a serious place for serious people. It is a body that plays the child’s game of “pretend.” They pretend that Iran, Libya, Syria, North Korea, and other brutish states are equal to the US, Israel, Great Britain, and other liberal democracies. They pretend to address the serious questions that threaten world peace. They pretend to be evenhanded in their attempts to solve problems when a 7 year old knows their anti-western, anti-Israel bias.

But perhaps the biggest pretense committed by these corrupt, cynical bureaucrats is that they pretend to adhere to the principles in their own founding charter - as beautiful a document that has ever been written - while systematically and deliberately undermining the human rights and the dignity of all spelled out in detail in the document that is supposed to govern their actions.

And Bibi, a towering moral figure in a sea of petty, small minded men and women - reminded them of those founding principles in the most dramatic, and powerful way imaginable:

Last month, I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee. There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people. The detailed minutes of that meeting have been preserved by successive German governments. Here is a copy of those minutes, in which the Nazis issued precise instructions on how to carry out the extermination of the Jews. Is this a lie?

A day before I was in Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Those plans are signed by Hitler’s deputy, Heinrich Himmler himself. Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered. Is this too a lie?

This June, President Obama visited the Buchenwald concentration camp. Did President Obama pay tribute to a lie?

And what of the Auschwitz survivors whose arms still bear the tattooed numbers branded on them by the Nazis? Are those tattoos a lie? One-third of all Jews perished in the conflagration. Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own. My wife’s grandparents, her father’s two sisters and three brothers, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were all murdered by the Nazis. Is that also a lie?

Bibi might have kept going. Were the invoices for the poison Zyklon B, manufactured by the I.G. Farben chemical company and shipped to Nazi death camps a lie? Were memos from I.G. Farben executives to Nazi officials bragging about how efficiently the chemical could kill human beings a lie? Were documents showing competitive bidding among German firms for ovens at Auschwitz and other death camps a lie?

Netanyahu heads a state, surrounded by enemies who refuse to grant it the basic legitimacy given all countries who are signatories to the UN Charter; the right to exist. This is the reality that most critics of Israel either seek to downplay, ridicule, or ignore altogether. And the drive by some of these enemies who wish to destroy Israel to obtain or build weapons that can make their twisted, genocidal dreams come true is perhaps the greatest moral test the UN will ever face. What will this world body do to stop Iran from achieving the capability of destroying a member nation - a nation they have constantly and in the most brutal and direct terms threatened with annihilation? Has the UN become too cynical, too corrupt to deal with the greatest threat to peace and stability in its history?

At the end of his speech, Netanyahu challenged the UN to live up to its charter and warned that unless rogue regimes like Iran were dealt with by the international community, the outcome would be horrible for civilization.

Of course, the very people who desperately needed to hear this speech either walked out or never showed. That pitiful gesture is another lie because you know that they read the speech anyway back in their glitzy offices and plush apartments - living so far beyond the means of most of their oppressed, poverty-stricken people that it makes one retch at their dripping hypocrisy.

More Netanyahu, less Obama please.

By: Rick Moran at 9:18 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (24)

9/24/2009
GET READY FOR ‘HOUSING MELTDOWN: THE SEQUEL’

I don’t know about you but I sure am glad this recession has “bottomed out” and we’re beginning to see the “green shoots” of recovery - “just around the corner,” or “coming into focus,” or - my favorite - “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Of course, even the administration admits this doesn’t mean squat if you’ve been laid off and can’t find a job. This will be another one of those “jobless recoveries” which is perhaps the most confusing term ever invented by political economists. How can there be “recovery” if the unemployment rate comes down slower than a three toed sloth making its way to the ground looking for breakfast? (Check it out: The cute little bugger takes a full minute to climb down about 15 feet. Anyway, I LIKE the analogy.)

I guess they mean that if you’re lucky enough to have a little cash, bargain basement stocks and other investment products are great buys and people can start “recovering” all that money they lost during the recession - except if you own a home.

No jobs but the rich get richer. Some recovery.

Speaking of homes, have I got good news for all you Cassandras out there. There are a staggering number of people who are about to lose their homes over the next year or two. Tim Cavanaugh of Hit and Run has enough bad news to keep our gloom and doom punditocracy busy for weeks:

• A record 7.58 percent of U.S. homeowners with mortgages were at least 30 days late on payments in August, says Equifax, up from 7.32 percent in July. Delinquencies are not only rising from month to month, but rising at a faster pace. More than 41 percent of subprime mortgages are delinquent. (That’s quite an increase from 2007, when I took heart from the fact that only 10 percent of subprime mortgages were in default. But, well, at least the glass is still more than half full, right?)

• About 1.2 million loans out there are in limbo: The borrower is in serious default yet the bank has not started the foreclosure process. Another 1.5 million are in early stages of the foreclosure process but the bank hasn’t yet taken possession of the home. Counting these and loans that are highly likely to end up in default, one analyst estimates three million to four million foreclosed homes will come on the market over the next few years. And don’t believe the freshwater economists when they tell you there’s no such thing as a free lunch: Some 217,000 Americans have not made a mortgage payment in one full calendar year, but their lenders have yet to begin the foreclosure process.

• Option ARM recasts (not resets, as Calculated Risk explains) are as much of a time bomb as ever, with nearly all borrowers in this class making only minimum payments and negatively amortizing their mortgages.

• Something called the National Consumer Law Center criticizes state mortgage-mediation schemes as well as the Obama Administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program, which at last count had managed to prevent 235,247 homes from coming onto the market. However, data from the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency indicate that even when these programs succeed, about half of all the renegotiated loans end up back in default soon afterward.

The subprime loan mess is still with us. If anything, it’s worse. Those balloon payments attached to Adjustable Rate Mortgages will continue to wreak havoc on borrowers caught holding on to a house they can’t sell or borrow against. And Obama’s home mortgage program is worse than a dud - it is actually going to contribute to Meltdown II in a big way.

By the way, did it really cost $75 billion to bail out 235,000 consumers? I’ve got no head for math but that seems to be a huge amount of money to help such a relative few - especially since by my very rough calculations it works out to about $32,000 per consumer bailout. (If that’s wrong, I will use as an excuse that I slept through Sister Mary Conception’s class where we learned long division.) Speaking for myself, that would be equivalent to about 3 years worth of my mortgage payments. I’m sure it’s just because I’m an economic dunce and can’t figure it out but my impression was that the program was supposed to help borrowers who were in serious arrears with their loan to get their head back above water.

And what’s with this 50% failure rate? Somebody please convince me that we didn’t just pour $75 billion down a black hole?

Another thing apparent from those numbers is that some banks are in a really, really precarious position. Many of them may already have too many repossessed properties that have been foreclosed - else why the long delay in starting foreclosure proceedings? Unless we believe that bankers have developed a conscience and a soul to go along with it (just kidding Larry), this could indicate that for some banks at least, the bad paper is becoming very worrisome and rather than take another almost worthless property, they are allowing homeowners to slide in their mortgage payments.

Community focused banks may indeed be bending over backward with their customers, taking partial payments from borrowers until they get back on their feet. But I find it incredible that more than 200,000 people haven’t paid a dime on their mortgage in a year and still have a home. Eventually, I will bet you dollars to donuts that we, the taxpayer, end up bailing them out anyway.

Cavanaugh explains why Obama’s consumer mortgage program had it all wrong to begin with:

[T]he renegotiation has made things worse for everybody. The lender ends up with lower payments in the short term and then has to foreclose on a less-valuable property at some point in the future. The borrower gets no financial upside and (though he or she gets the use of a subsidized domicile for some period of time) is encouraged to stay in a losing situation when immediate foreclosure would have been a more merciful option. Prospective buyers get locked out as dumb lenders, deadbeat borrowers and the government all collude to keep the price of the house artificially inflated. And taxpayers have to spend $75 billion (the budget of HUD’s Making Home Affordable program) for the privilege of making it all happen. The best option for all concerned would be to get the deadbeat out of the house as quickly as possible, but nobody is doing that.

What precipitated the first crisis was an avalanche of foreclosures that caused the bottom to fall out of the new and resale home market. This made the mortgage backed securities and other instruments like derivatives held by the big banks and firms like AIG lose an enormous amount of value. Could history be repeating itself.

Cavanaugh concludes:

Put it all together, and throw in mainstream media outlets that as recently as June were calling for mortgage haircuts specifically to allow people to keep borrowing against their houses, and you’ve got the mother of all perfect storms mixed with the crack cocaine of third rails on steroids. The foreclosure wave may seem all tired and 2008, but it’s hotter than ever.

I’m no economist but it seems to me a possibility that another hair on fire, full blown crisis could come again. Home values are so depressed today that it would be a stretch to think their value could plummet much farther. But that many foreclosures might cause a lot of trouble for smaller banks, regional banks, and perhaps even Fannie Mae (FHA is already in trouble and may need a taxpayer bailout).

But then there is the 800 lb gorilla in the room; the commercial real estate market. The Wall Street Journal had an article back in December that predicted from 10-26% of all retail businesses going bankrupt. That’s an awful lot of empty store fronts, and malls. And the market is incredibly depressed for new office and industrial properties (see this video to get an idea of the problem).

I guess the point I’m trying to make is we are not out of the woods - not by a long shot.

UPDATE: LIKE I SAID - NO HEAD FOR MATH

John in the comments very gently points out that my math on how much each of the 235,000 consumers taking part in Obama’s home mortgage bailout received from the $75 billion program was not $32,000. I was only off by a factor of 10.

The correct number is $320,000.

Now will someone explain that to me? I know there’s a rational explanation - maybe the program is still ongoing and they haven’t given out that much money. Couldn’t find that info at the HUD website so if anyone has a clue, let me in on it.

By: Rick Moran at 10:23 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (19)