In one fell swoop, the House of Representatives has applied a sledgehammer to the American economy. The staggering plunge in the value of publicly quoted stocks in the US last night - a $1.2 trillion fall - shows more clearly than anything else just how much it had been holding out for a financial bail-out.
Even so, the longer you stare at a screen of the Dow Jones or FTSE 100, the more abstract it seems. So this is what it means:
It means millions more Americans, and hundreds of thousands more Britons, will lose their jobs; it means the recession will be deeper and more protracted than previously feared; it means borrowing costs will increase on both sides of the Atlantic. Companies will cut back on investment. Pension funds will be depleted.
The Western world, in short, will become significantly less wealthy.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Our crazy Congress has put its collective feet in it, and the rest of us we are left to pray we don't find out too much about what this might mean. Here's some food for thought, from the Daily Telegraph online (London):
It is well-established that nobody likes this bill. It looks as if Americans have designed and built themselves an unsustainable system that allows capitalism for profits, and socialism for losses. There will be time enough later to figure out how we got here. That said, what do we do today?
Much of our problem has to do with timing. Our political system is almost incapable of digesting something this immense, this complicated -- only five weeks from a Presidential election. Far better to have had this crisis three months previously, or three months hence. The House of Representatives is getting ready to face voters, and the solons don't want to come before us just after having bailed out a bunch of bankers. In fact, whoever got the media to call this bill a "bailout" and not a "rescue" or something else pretty much decided the political battle right there.
The polls show that the public hates this bill. People have their reasons, but the failure to approve the $700 billion package before the House yesterday resulted in a stock-market decline -- just yesterday -- that wiped out $1.2 trillion in value (the size of the whole Indian economy). That drop's going to sink lots more than Wall Street.
Depend on it, no matter how angry many of us might be, the investment bankers and speculators are going to survive. If the American economy won't float, the world party will move on -- just as it did from London to New York in the early 20th Century. Where next? Maybe Hong Kong. If Wall Street becomes a financial backwater, it will be Main Street that does the paying in terms of tighter credit, fewer jobs and opportunities, and harder times.
We can talk about free markets and principles, moral hazard and enabling till the cows come home, but those opposed to Tresury Secretary Paulson's plan -- which a whole lot of very smart people are telling us we need -- need to have an alternative in mind. More fundamentally, we all need to be sure whether we are really up for the high road of letting Wall Street eat it. There are going to be consequences, mostly to us.
Some of the most interesting consequences are going to be political. In all probability, the past two and a half weeks have ensured the election of Barack Obama, the most liberal, left wing person ever nominated by a major party ever. America is apt to "come home," in a way that would have pleased supporters of George McGovern in 1972. The geopolitical and financial world our children will inherit will be less in America's favor; much more regulated and redistributionist, and probably poorer. Bet, in other words, on things to get worse.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Well, the House Republican Caucus has, mostly, taken a stand, and decided that principles are more important than the financial industry, the stock market or the availability of credit.
Loons! The proposed bailout was a rotten idea, the only things worse were any of the remotely possible alternatives. Just what is the alternative, guys? Other than a depression, is there anything there but praying for a miracle?
St. Barack as President appears to be unavoidable now. And that's the least of it.
Saturday, 13 September 2008, about 6:30 a.m., from the front door. No, it's not Venice, but Grand El Jefe Boulevard is now El Jefe Grand Canal. The driveway gate at left is visible at the right of the earlier photograph.
As readers have noticed. I haven't been posting a lot since things returned to more or less normal around here. Mea maxima culpa.
Here's a brief recapitulation of events since the Kingdom went dark following Hurricane Ike.
When Ike arrived for his visit, I was in the midst of a post, and lost power at exactly 1:19 a.m. I know because, oddly enough, I was looking at the computer clock when the lights died -- not to be on again for five days. It was back to the 40's without newspapers, where the only sources of news were rumor control and the AM radio.
We were lucky, and suffered no real damage. I had not been terribly concerned about the storm, because I had seen the wind charts predicting, at most, 60 or 70 mph winds for the central Cuidad El Jefe area. The Palace is stout and well-built, and I expected a broken window or two, some shingles down, and the odd branch blown around. The wind speed predictions were a little off -- central Houston got winds of about 100 mph. We escaped, however, with a few downed branches and a shingle or two missing. Many, many others, however were not so lucky.
Ike was so HUGE. He came on shore at Galveston about 2:15 a.m., an hour after we lost power; mostly following I-45 from Galveston towards Houston, obeying traffic regulations and mostly keeping to the right side of the road, his eye passing east of central Houston. Anyway, Ike was slow, and he took forever, it seemed, to go by.
The family was scattered in various Hurricane hides throughout the house, with El Jefe and cat FLINKY in a bathroom with the AM radio and a flashlight. El Jefe passed the time reading an old friend (Colleen McCullough's The Grass Crown); listening to assorted crashes and booms outside, one of the other cats howling her concern; the Heir doing his Chatty Cathy thing while SWMBO was trying to sleep; and frantic callers into the local a.m. station wondering if the eye would ever pass them so that the winds might stop for awhile.
About 5:40 a.m., the winds died a little, and the rain started. We were all wanting the sun to come up so we could see how we stood, and about 6: 30 a.m., it finally got light enough to see. . . and we discovered that the street was filling with water. We live in a low spot, near some storm drains, and because of all the downed branches and leaves, the drains were having trouble keeping up with all of the water coming down. For about a half-hour it looked as if we might get some water in the house.
About 7 a.m., we spotted somebody coming down our street in a very loud yellow raincoat, with boots, a shovel, and waders. He went to the drains and started pulling debris out of them. I was dressed in shorts, but I immediately went out and started helping, and pretty soon, most of the neighbors turned out to do the same.
Standing in stomach-high flowing water with all sorts of lovely stuff floating in it was quite an experience. Near the drains, you could feel the water being sucked in -- falling would not have been a good plan. Some of the overhead wires didn't look too secure either: even though the power was out, I was a little concerned a wire might fall, and turn us into fried shrimp. Fortunately, there were no falls of any kind, and we soon had enough branches, shingles and other assorted materials (including somebody's gutter) pulled out of the drains so that the water level receded a bit. I acquired a lovely set of fire-ant bites, which was okay -- I was just happy not to see any snakes.
We stayed near home the rest of the day, thankful to have survived, gathered around the radio listening to what news could be had. On the second day, our friend T and her family (they got power back quickly), took us in for a few days, for which we were all very grateful.
While we were disconnected from the world, so to speak, Wall Street had its conniption, and I have been playing news-catch-up. In general, I haven't felt much like writing, partly because I have been behind on my reading, and on work; and partly because of an attack of the blahs. In any case, this is the last of Ike. Thanks be to God that we came out of it so well, especially as so many did not.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Hey, world, El Jefe is back. The Great One survived, the family survived, the Empire is secure. . . etc.
I have some stories, and some pictures, Ike, God rot him, was quite an experience. I was going to write on him tonight, and have gotten started, but I'm just too exhausted to manage it today. Give me a day or two to be mindless, and then we'll talk about Ike.
In any case, we are all much in God's debt to come away from Ike so well. More soon, I promise. Thank you everyone, for your good wishes and thoughts.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Transformers going "boom" in background...possibly going to be off the air any second...The rain just got here, nice and steady against the panes. On the radar, the green bands have passed us...and yellow has started. It looks like the eye will go over us. Lights flickering.
The storm appears to be a little further west than first predicted. Gusty here (centre of Houston), and the lights have flickered a few times, although they're off on the east side. But the big show is not here yet. Mildly disquieting but not Oh My Gosh, not yet.
Gonna lose lights anytime, I think.
Well, Ike's vedettes, so to speak, in the form of clouds and gusty winds, have arrived. Nothing interesting to report otherwise. Having some difficulty with the garage door. . .it doesn't shut very well when you disable the automatic opener.
The cats know that something is up. MILO, FLINKY and SHINY (blog high patronesses) are all very frisky and concerned by the wind.
We've had dinner, washed every dish in the house, and all the clothes. The lights have flickered once already: I suspect we will lose power several times during the course of the evening before it goes out for the count. Alert status is still at "mildly irritated."
Think of this as Ike's Pre-Positioned Projectile Depot
It's clouding up a little bit around Ciudad El Jefe. The yard stuff is put up, we've cooked as much of the frozen food as possible, we have water, batteries and insurance documents marshaled. In general, the other inhabitants of Grand El Jefe Boulevard, most of whom decided to ride it out, seem ready as can be also. Missing that plywood though.
I'm rather concerned about a construction site down the block, which contains a large sand pile and pallets of bricks, plus a dumpster full of scrap wood with some really choice big nails. Lovely eh? Calls to the builder, the city and all ships at sea have produced nothing but a visit from the realtor who says he's made some calls. Woo woo.
The Kingdom of Chaos Organs of State Security Alert Level is "Mildly Irritated." It's supposed to move up to "Somewhat Disconcerting" this afternoon, and on into full-blown "Oh My Gosh Situation" (OMGS) mode tonight.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Why is it that Cuidad El Jefe gets a hurricane with a name like Ike? Kind of a boring, 1950's presidential name for what we here hope will be a really boring storm. Gustav was a great name for a storm, sounded like a mean bouncer at a metal joint. But our city's going to get wrecked by something called . . .Ike ?!? On the other hand, hopefully it's more President Ike than General Ike. . .Like I said, dull name, but we're hoping it stays that way. Posting is apt to be light for a spell.
Today is the seventh anniversary of the murderous Al Qaeda terrorist attack on the United States. Our enemies will ever be remembered for the cowardly and dastardly nature of their attack on our country; and, today, in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Iraq and other places, the armed forces are serving our foes with the appropriate condign punishment.
Spare a moment, reader, and remember the dead: especially heroes like Rick Rescorla.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Okay, it's Wednesday, and Hurricane Ike still seems determined to visit Texas, perhaps sojourning uncomfortably close to Cuidad El Jefe. The efforts of the Organs of State Security to persuade Ike that Texas is unusually boring this time of year do not seem to be working. The culprits will be re-educated at once.
A friend of mine recently glanced at my profile. . .says that I need to see a film made in this century. I'm not quite as dead to popular culture as he seems to think, but I'm close. In any case, I don't think he appreciates what a high (albeit unintentional) compliment that was.
Posting is apt to be light for the balance of the week. Besides the possible arrival of the aforementioned unwelcome guest, I'm mired in a brief I'm having difficulty finishing. No doubt I shall bash on through, but El Jefe's focus is elsewhere for the moment.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Model's Aide: British paratroopers have landed.Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model: Why should they do that? There is nothing important here. Me. . .I am important. They have come just to capture me.Michael Wolf as "Model's Aide" and Walter Kohut as "Walter Model" in A Bridge Too Far (1977). Directed by Richard Attenborough. Screenplay by William Goldman, from a book by Cornelius Ryan.
Like I said, the Demos are getting ready to go negative in a big way, and they're working on preparing the battlefield. The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama's army of lawyers has just invaded Alaska.
No, I don't think they're going for some community organizing. Here's hoping they miss Sarah and fall off the Bridge to Nowhere.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
McCain has dramatically made up some ground against Obama over these past couple of weeks. The conventions -- specifically the Palin choice and Obama's flubbing the Hillary problem (finessing her out of the Vice-Presidential slot) -- seem to have worked in McCain's favor. This evening, the Real Clear Politics moving average of polls actually gives McCain/Palin a bit of a lead.
It was always on the cards that McCain was going to close the gap some. Obama's been overexposed and oversold by an over-friendly prestige media. Now, McCain (the war hero with an actual record) has finally gotten a little attention, so it was inevitable his numbers would come up a little bit.
We'll have to just wait and see how much this matters. The advantages are mostly still Obama's. On the whole, St. Barack has a better organization, a better voter organizing drive, and a better climate for a Democrat than even Watergate. Don't forget the endless money, and the unified support of the chattering classes. Obama's real weaknesses are in his sparse but liberal record, coupled with occasional verbal slips, and his different past in Kenya, Hawaii and Chicago -- all adding up to making him an unknown and uncertain quantity.
McCain needs to do well with the debates, and I expect him to. But for the moment, we have to hope that Senator McCain and Governor Palin have a second act, a new post-convention theme, to keep the pressure on Obama. They have to keep the initiative, keep moving, and keep the Obamaites on the defensive for a while.
Meanwhile, St. Barack has to get some points on the board. McCain and Palin both had better get ready, because St. Barack and crew are getting ready to go very negative in a very big way. They have to, and they've got the money, the organization and enough support and cover from the big media to be able to make a good job of it. Duck.
Friday, September 5, 2008
More on McCain/Palin later(work calls) but I'm pumped, and actually think there's a chance now. I'm not the only one, Obama's position on Intrade is going down, down, down.
Plenty of good stuff out there in the meantime. Go to National Review Online and have a good laugh checking out "David Kahane's" explanation of the "Chicago Way." Kahane's a Hollywood writer, who pokes fun at what's really on the minds of Hollywood lefties:
We’re not afraid of you, John McCain.Sure, you’re an old, old — did I mention old? — fighter jock who’ll get 99.9 percent of the military’s votes as well as those of every other “patriotic,” “God”-fearing “American.” But so what? Against you we can field an army of community organizers, lawyers, activists, advocates, Code Pink ladies, hippie draft-dodgers, metrosexuals, MoveOn.org’ers, communists, Hollywood stars, NARAL, NAMBLA, the entire population of Seattle, and a platoon of New York Times oped columnists leading most of the rest of the media, all commanded by Der Olbermann. Hail, victory!Listen, pal o’ mine, I’ve got news for you: This jazz about “fighting” belongs to us. We bought it, we paid for it, and we’ve been fighting for it for 40 years. Not that we mean “fighting” in any sense other than metaphorical, of course. We liberals would never stoop to actual fisticuffs or, the Deity of Your Belief System Here forbid, firearms. Real men really do eat quiche.
Read the whole thing. Kahane uses a pen name for reasons which should be obvious.
Additionally, Richard Fernandez (a/k/a Wretchard) at Belmont Club has a most interesting Word Cloud analysis of Senator McCain's speech last night, and Governor Palin's on Wednesday. I would love to see a similar analysis of St. Barack's speech at the Temple of Invesco last week. I suspect such an analysis would show a radically different emphasis. No doubt someone has performed one, and I will go looking when I have some time.
Okay, What's the difference between Sarah Palin and Barack Obama?
One is a well turned-out, good-looking, and let's be honest, pretty sexy piece of eye-candy. The other kills her own food.
That's not my joke, it's from Gerald Baker's very interesting Times (of London) op-ed piece on why Governor Palin has a chance to connect with Americans in a way denizens of the chattering classes are possibly too educated to comprehend. Also in the British press, and well worth a look, is Janet Daley's column in yesterday's Telegraph (online) on why the prestige media sneers at Sarah Palin. They do so at their peril, but stay dumb, comrades, please.
Speaking of comrades, Con Coughlin, also writing in the Telegraph tells us that Vladimir Putin wants a new Russian Empire. This is interesting, and Mr. Coughlin's piece is well written, but it is certainly not news, nor should it be. Why on Earth would the Russians not want a new empire; why would they not want to recover their geopolitical standing and their lost territories? Russia is still a great power (the chance to foreclose Russia's regaining that status died on 9/11) -- and Russia's behavior in Georgia is the sort of thing that great powers do to their neighbors when it is in their interest. Ask the Haitians, Panamanians or Nicaraguans about that.
In any case, I find it incomprehensible that anyone would think otherwise, and I wish that the US government would stop rendering itself ridiculous by insisting so loudly that the Russians behave differently in their own back yard when we have neither the means nor the intention to make them do so.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
As I indicated in my last post, I honestly cannot tell if Governor Palin's alleged issues (her daughter's pregnancy), and her involvement with a civil service dust-up back home -- were known about prior to her selection as McCain's Vice Presidential candidate. If there were indeed defects in the completeness of the background check, I imagine that they arose out of an attempt to preserve secrecy and options until it became clear what Obama was going to do.
Whatever. This is done, the cake's baked. Putting on my strategy hat, McCain just has to lean into it, say that Palin was his choice, and that her personal issues are advantages, and work them enough until they are. No place to go but forward.
Obama says that family is "off limits." Well, he would, wouldn't he?
Monday, September 1, 2008
Governor Palin's daughter is five months pregnant? So the McCain people either knew this, and have and are prepared to deal with the issue. . .or they did not know it.
I so hope it's the first possibility, because the second one tells me they didn't do their homework.