Dog bites corrupt Senator

I suppose this qualifies as news, but it sure comes close to the “dog bites man” category. The most corrupt Republican in the Senate got indicted for concealing “gifts” from a constituent that he “has maintained he didn’t do anything for…that he didn’t do for any other constituent or pro-Alaska interest.”

That’s pretty easy to believe actually. After all, this is the guy who tried to get a bridge for his 50 constituents on Gravina Island at a cost to the federal taxpayer of $398 million. It’s not really corruption unless the bill to taxpayers is more than $8 million per constituent.

With Ted Stevens, the question wasn’t so much whether he’d be indicted as whether he’d die first. It was just a coin toss as to whether to be ready with the obituary or the story on the corruption scandal with blanks ready for the names of the other actors. Of course, this isn’t a uniquely Republican problem. Next up for the game of Senate Roulette, Robert “Sheets” Byrd – will it be the obit or the indictment?

Ted Stevens indicted, longest-serving GOP senator

Arnie doesn't watch Stallone movies

So, life is imitating art with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of the villain from Demolition Man, Dr. Raymond Cocteau. Arnie just signed a law banning trans fats in California restaurants. They weren’t on the list yet in 1993, but in the future California of that film, here’s Lenina Huxley (Aldous’ great granddaughter, I think, played by Sandra Bullock) giving John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) the run down on what’s illegal:

Stallone: You, get me a Marlboro.
Bullock: Yes, of course.

What’s a Marlboro?

Stallone: It’s a cigarette. Any cigarette.

Bullock: Smoking is not good for you.
Anything not good for you is bad.
Hence, illegal. Alcohol, caffeine,
contact sports, meat–

Stallone: Are you shitting me?

Surveillance Computer: You are fined one credit for violation
of the verbal-morality statute.

Stallone: What the hell is that?

Surveillance Computer: You are fined one credit….

Bullock: Bad language…chocolate, gasoline, uneducational toys
and spicy food.

Abortion is illegal, so is pregnancy
if you don’t have a license.

I feel like Edgar Friendly (Dennis Leary): I’ve seen the future. ” It’s a 47-year old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing “I’m an Oscar Meyer Wiener.”

What’s next for Arnie? Maybe he can make Brawndo the state drink and turn California into a real Idiocracy. Maybe we should amend the Constitution so he can run for President, but only if he changes his name to Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho Schwarzenegger.

Personally, I want trans fats, I want saccharin, I want offshore drilling and high emissions, I want a bluetooth headset sending radio waves through my brain and a computer monitor glaring into my eyes,

I like to think. I like to read. I’m into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I’m the kinda guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, “Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?” I want high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon, butter and buckets of cheese, ok? I wanna smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I wanna run through the streets naked with green jello all over my body reading Playboy magazine, why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, OK pal?

Damn, now I’m hungry.

Gov. Schwarzenegger signs law banning trans fats in restaurants

Values Politicians

Some Republican politicians this year, having lost the moral high ground on fiscal and economic issues after wallowing in the mud of political corruption are, ironically, wrapping themselves more than ever in the rhetoric of values. The commonly used theme is that the United States is a “Christian nation” and that the US legal system is based on “Judeo-Christian values.” Lately I’m left wondering if some of these folks don’t need a refresher course in exactly what Judeo-Christian values are.

  • Hillel the Elder, one of the most important figures in the development of modern Judaism, summed up the Jewish law thus:

    What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Law; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

  • Jesus Christ, inarguably the most important figure in Christianity, summed things up thus:

    Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

This is the Law and the Prophets…The rest is explanation…almost like they met in the Temple or something.

When it comes to public discourse and public policy, it’s hard to reconcile the most basic premise of both Jewish and Christian values with the actions of these “values” politicians when it comes to personal matters either. As if political corruption weren’t enough, there’s case after case where these Christians might want to pay more attention to the words of Christ:

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Whether it’s divorcing your wife of 30 plus years to marry a lobbyist and claiming to be a defender traditional marriage by voting to incorporate bigotry into the Constitution, touting family values while carrying on with prostitutes or keeping kids in foster care or worse rather than let them be adopted into loving homes, Republican politicians would do well to stick with economic conservatism if they can’t walk the walk of “Judeo-Christian values” in their own lives. If they want to improve the moral fabric of the nation, then they should lead by example, instead of trying to use the blunt instrument of government to remove specks from their brother’s eyes. If they could simply recommit themselves to the “values” of limited government and sound fiscal policy, that would do far more to strengthen families than providing example after example of hypocrisy and deceit.

Fannie and Freddie's Woes

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant Congressionally chartered entities that act as market makers for the resale of mortgages in the United States, are supposedly in trouble. On the verge of failure, in fact, if the whiners in the media are to be believed.

The problem is that they’re expected to need to raise in the neighborhood of $75 billion in new capital as a result of a new financial accounting standard on off-balance sheet entities. This seems like a huge amount, until you consider that they each have portfolios worth, conservatively valued, literally trillions of dollars. The difficulty is that this is not a good time for raising money in the mortgage business.

Hank Paulson wants to solve the problem by regulating them more, which typically means raising their capital requirements even further, adding insult to injury. This is reminiscent of nothing so much as the Federal Reserve action, documented by Milton Friedman and Anna J. Schwartz, reducing the money supply at the beginning of the Great Depression. The action that made Ben Bernanke say, “Yes, we did it. We’re very sorry. We won’t do it again.” Maybe he won’t have to, if the Treasury Department does it instead.

Well, okay, it’s also reminiscent of the government’s piss poor handling of the off balance sheet liabilities of Enron. When it became apparent that Enron had a big exposure the government responded with heavy handed threats of regulation of its bankers who responded by beginning to call loans. Enron was awash in cash one day, the government threatened and Enron was bankrupt. As bad as the Enron failure was, it was a minor economic ripple compared to the potential that either of the mortgage giants, let alone both, fail.

There’s certainly room to evaluate the structure and regulation of the mortgage giants, but that doesn’t address the short term issue which is itself the result of throwing new regulations at them at a bad time, kicking them when the mortgage markets they make are down. Realistically the options in the short term are to encourage them to raise private capital, to let them fail and virtually eliminate the US mortgage market, or directly or indirectly bail them out with taxpayer money.

There is a short term solution that’s pro-growth, pro-market, non-inflationary and leaves open the option of slowly raising those capital requirements to a safer level as they raise capital privately: make the earnings of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and, for good measure, Ginnie Mae securities tax free for 10 years, both the debt and equity securities. The class warriors who want to encourage more regulation and eventual nationalization of the pair won’t like that. They’ll paint it as a “tax break for the rich.” To some extent they’ll be right, but the rich in this case (as in most) are the little old ladies whose retirement savings are tied up in the supposedly safe income producing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac securities and who will be broke and eating cat food if the government “bails out” the pair. A cynic might think that’s the goal of the class warriors.