Milwaukee Avenue

Milwaukee Avenue

Jessica and I took a break from our drive down to Greek Town in Chicago from Des Plaines to walk around on Milwaukee Avenue in the city on a warm spring afternoon.  We were glad to see a Brooklyn Industries store there, but mainly we just wandered around for a while as lots of people were out enjoying the weather. 

Arlen Specter hits back

The Republican party, controlled as it is these days by right-wing extremists, has been threatening Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania’s last remaining Republican senator, for many years now.
First the so-called “Club for Growth,” a lobby group that for years has pushed for more deregulation and tax cuts for corporations and the rich, backed a far-right nut named Pat Toomey in the 2004 Republican primary, which the incumbent Specter barely won.
Now Republicans had started making noises about attacking Specter again in this election cycle. Well, not anymore–Arlen Specter is changing parties and becoming a Democrat.

Freddie Mac's latest victim

Someone should have thought about the problems these insane government-backed financial leviathans like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would inflict on the economy the day the real estate market went south. Well, I thought about that stuff, but why would anyone listen to some blogger (along with as a lot of other people, many of them much smarter than myself, who were sounding the same kinds of warnings)?
But anyway here we are. Those GSEs pumped up the lavish but ultimately ridiculous real estate market of the last decade across the country. Now the crash is happening, and not only is the result a wave of foreclosures, but also severe financial strain at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac–who are no longer “implicitly” backed by the federal government so much as explicitly now since last year’s government bailout.
So now the acting CFO at Freddie Mac has died by apparent suicide.
Gawker thinks it’s too early to conclude that this had anything to do with the company where David Kellermann had worked since around 1993.
Nobody knows yet if Kellerman bent to the stress of his job, or if something else was going on.”
Yeah, but someone will know what he was thinking soon?

Did MSNBC just lose it?

So Maddow, Olbermann and Shuster went crazy this week, repeatedly making “tea-bagging” jokes about the “tea parties”, often for several minutes at a time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not offended by this, but what a stupid move for a news network that wants to be seen as legitimate.  Olbermann tried to justify it last night (maybe it was the night before) by saying “next time don’t use a colloquialism for a sex act to name your event!”.  The real joke is that they didn’t.  Since these things were called “tea parties”, and not “tea-bagging parties”, the only thing in common is tea, so the joke was a stretch at best.  Is no one allowed to refer to tea anymore? Maybe next week we can talk about those limey British, with their daily tea-BAGGING time. Hilaaaaarious. 

The thing that pisses me off is that MSNBC is trying to pull legitimacy from something I support (reigning in government spending) just because they see it as a criticism of Obama. They painted the crowds as “racist”, “anti-government”, far-right, and ignorant.  Many people at these events didn’t support the spending of the Bush years, or the past few decades in general.

The Administration's New Plan for the Auto Industry

I’ve hesitated to write about the government’s intervention in the auto industry, as it seems silly based on the scale of investment so far (auto bailouts are only about 1% of what we’ve put toward stimulus and the financial sector),  but today’s announcement from Obama, following his rejection of both GM and Chrysler’s business recovery plans,  warrants a little attention.  I thought the following things were significant, ordered from best to worst:

1) The prospective of a managed bankruptcy was intruced as an alternative to drawing this out.  If I had to grade this move: A+++.  This is absolutely key, and actually should have been done faster.  Union reaction of course has been negative, as they may lose a lot, but legacy costs are the 800lb gorilla here. The math is overwhelming. In fact, it brings to mind how completely stupid the concerns over bonuses and corporate jets were.  Idiots in congress were hung up on visceral million-dollar issues while ignoring that GM drops 7 billion on legacy costs per year.

2) The Federal Government will back vehicle warranties.  I obviously don’t like the extent of government involvement to this point, but since we’re already invested I think this is potentially a good move as it may curb some fear and generate some greatly  needed short-term sales.

3) GM CEO Rick Wagoner must step down if GM wants to receive more in government loans.  While I agree that Wagoner is kind of a chump, this is a terrible move and feels an awful lot like a government power grab. I’m actually shocked the administration did it. Even taking into consideration that the government has some leverage when giving these types of loans, they should concern themselves with the what and not the who, and even that should be limited to decisions directly related to a return to profit. Do we really want our government picking CEOs? Their record in market intervention certainly doesn’t warrant it.

4) The Government may “provide a generous credit to consumers who turn in old, less fuel-efficient cars and purchase cleaner cars”.  I hate this kind of crap. First of all, left-wingers in congress have a long, annoying history of talking down to the domestic auto industry about putting too many eggs in the SUV basket, yet no one ever acknowledges why they did it.  They did it because for the last few decades, the great minds in our government have kept in place a huge tariff on trucks that makes it much more profitable for domestic companies to build and sell them here.  (With a little hassle, foreign competitors can build separate plants here and get around it.) And the reason failure manifested in truck and SUV sales is gas prices are unpredictable. If they suddenly run unexpectedly high, trucks and SUVs don’t sell.  So what happens if they run unexpectedly low?  Just check out Prius sales since late 2008.  They can’t sell them – and even worse, they weren’t profitable when they were selling, despite subsidies, because the things are very expensive to make. And don’t get me started on the subcompact cars that will inevitably be pimped. The “Smart Car” is the stupidest car I’ve ever seen. Yeah, can I get in line to sacrifice my life for 3 more MPG? But at least our bogus safety rating system routinely rates those cars at 4 and 5 stars.  This is because comparisons only include vehicles within 250 lbs of the same weight. We conveniently ignore that you are 4-5 times more likely to die in such a car if you crash into any larger class vehicle. The administration and congress need to stop creating artificial incentives for our industries and let companies make decisions based on true market conditions. But then, that would be capitalism.

Barack Obama and the lame attacks of the right-wing

As I watch the laughable blowups of previous Republican top prospects Bobby Jindal and Michael Steele, I can’t help but wonder a little who will finally lead them at least partly out of the wilderness, David Cameron style.

In the short term, the remaining elected politicians from America’s permanent minority party are simply dispirited. Aware of the utter collapse of their party, they are consigning themselves to bitter, long-term opposition.

Into this void has moved a variety of media characters, always right-wing but now feeling under siege, who have launched one lame, useless attack after another on Barack Obama.

Over all this, Obama presides over a remarkably popular administration. Aside from the embarrassments in the cabinet like Robert Gates (he’s a Republican and former Bush administration member) and Tim Geithner (he’s a former IMF official who is a tax cheat and an incompetent bungler so far at Treasury).

But if we step back for a moment, let’s try to see the whole picture–conservatives are deeply alarmed about the “liberal” administration, and a large stimulus plan has already been passed.

And undaunted by right-wing challenges from the media and a few of the less timid Republicans, the Obama administration could be highly successful in turning back at least some of the de-regulatory madness and right-wing insanity in social and fiscal policy that Republicans have instituted over the last decades.

Barack Obama isn't bipartisan – Waaaaah!

OK, you sniveling cry-babies, let’s all have a reality check on “bipartisanship.”

First of all, I can’t believe this is even something that’s still discussed.  Since it’s such a moronic topic, let me just pour a few 55-gallon drums of verbal nuclear waste to make it uninhabitable for a long time.  Or at least as long as the average American’s memory, which should buy us a couple weeks of silence.   

The idea that Obama or any politician is not “unifying” or “bipartisan” should not be shocking; very few politicians on either side actually desire bipartisanship. Obviously that’s because they’re typically partisans- and even if they aren’t, it’s dangerous to “reach across the aisle” (regardless of what you think of Lieberman, take a moment to remember what party leadership tried to do to him), so they vote with their party. Even a so-called “maverick” like McCain typically only diverges from the party line 10-15% of the time.  From my recollection, I think you’ll find Obama in the more typical 0-1% zone.  But let’s remember an obvious, usually-unstated fact here – crossing the aisle in itself is not necessarily a good thing (what?!) – it really depends on what you’re crossing for, doesn’t it?  McCain’s biggest household name bipartisan effort was McCain-Feingold, one of the biggest campaign finance reform failures of all time.

What I really wonder is if those complaining about Obama’s partisan rhetoric on Monday could kindly remind me when he personally claimed to be a Republicrat?  He made no secret of his voting record.  Why do you think Obama’s voting record was so similar to Clinton’s? Anyone who did their homework knows that if you go look it up, every vote they took (listed at ontheissues.org) during the time they were in the senate was the same, save for one which was a pretty minor issue.  They both voted like mainstream Deomcrats.  So if all of the left’s Hillary-haters are right, and Clinton is supposedly so polarizing, and her votes were exactly the same as Obama’s over a four year period, how is he going to be unifying to the two parties?  People made that assumption without doing their homework, based on surface level perceptions reinforced by partisan spinsters.  But there’s good news, Obama supporters – you can counter this with two words, “Who cares!”,  and you’ll be exactly right.  The purpose of our government is to protect its people’s life, liberty and property, not to generate ideal conditions for a Democrat-Republican lovefest (although that does sound hot).

At the end of the day, maybe a few uneducated people who think bipartisanship is important and didn’t do their homework before the election (you know, the morons labeled  “undecided” on all those election year graphs) got duped.  But they’re not the ones making all the noise.  What’s lame is the continued, completely disingenuous cries from hardcore Democrats AND Republicans that they actually care about bipartisanship. They don’t.  Hell, I’m a Libertarian and the only kind of bipartisanship I care about is the kind that gives us supposedly-Democratic social liberties and supposedly-Republican fiscal conservatism. In other words, libertarianism. We all just want it done our way, let’s get real and drop this brain-dead topic.