...fly and enjoy America's great destination spots; get down to Disney World in Florida; take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed.
- - President George W. Bush, September 27, 2001
Popularly characterized as the shop-til-you-drop answer to terrorism, the
intent was to encourage the public to respond to terrorism by behaving
without fear. The remarks were to airline employees in Chicago.
Conservative Jonah Goldberg concedes that some financial reform is needed, but cautions "that government is not the only—or best—corrective to the excesses of capitalism." This is because free markets are self-correcting. He selects one market failure as his model.
We are just as vulnerable as ever to the threat of Coca-Cola releasing another New Coke. No laws have been passed to prevent it. No new oversight authority has been created to warn of its looming threat. And yet, the odds of Coca-Cola rolling out another debacle like New Coke are severely limited.
Foolishness produces experience. Experience produces wisdom.
Kevin Drum responds with a host of similar market ventures that failed. "Does he remember Pets.com? Or Webvan? Or, restricting ourselves just to the soft drink market, Crystal Pepsi?
With respect, readers here are closer to the mark than either analysis, at least in identifying the actual market flaw that exposes us to future financial catastrophes. Jack Jodell sees the corporate shield of limited liability as the real culprit. "If corporations have the same legal rights as human beings, then corporations must be punished and confined when they do wrong, just as human beings are. Corporations should no longer expect or continue to be granted separate, preferential legal status."
Tim McGaha agrees in substance, but suggests that most owners are marginal: Shareholders in mutual funds that, in turn, have holdings in large corporations. He argues that they are not the villains in potential market disasters. He wants to hold top management responsible, responding to Jack, "I think you mean the senior executive and managerial staff, not the titular 'on-paper' owners." His suggestion? "We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, but we do need to adjust the rules such that the senior execs have more skin in the game. If they were gambling a substantial part of their family's future, they wouldn't be quite so rash." The baby that Tim wants to save is the limitation on liability that corporations offer, since "few would risk starting a new business if failure meant utter, lifetime ruination."
At issue is how to handle the occasional confluence of three elements: Huge potential private benefits, gigantic public risks, and limited liability. Imagine placing a bet. If you win, you get your mortgage paid off forever. If you lose, you forfeit whatever is in your pocket at this very moment. Certainly, there is more at risk, but that will be picked up by an unsuspecting public. Maybe in environmental damage, maybe in kids dying from food poisoning, maybe in a Greater Depression. Do you take the bet? Maybe it depends.
What's in your wallet?
The only (limited) role for government is to decide whether a product is safe.
- - Jonah Goldberg, American Enterprise Institute, April 28, 2010
One of the unfortunate facts of life is that, in the history of everything that works, there was a time it did not work. So advances in human activity, whether technological, historical, or economic, involve the risk of failure.
One of the foundations of a free market economy is that those who take great risks reap great rewards when those risks bear fruit. Investors who might lose greatly when they lose win mightily when they win. So investors take risks. When they win big, the general benefit to society at large is substantial. A free economy works best when those who do good also do well. Those who don't take huge lumps.
But sometimes the cost/benefit analysis to investors can't be counted on.
Occasionally, the benefits generally are extreme compared with the risk, but the benefits cannot be localized enough for basic science to take hold. That's when government steps in. If folks like Al Gore, who never claimed to have invented the internet, had not funded the National Science Foundation and Advanced Research Projects Agency, the internet would not have developed when it did. Much of the technology we take for granted today can be traced directly to the race to the moon and President Kennedy. Defense against the USSR was Kennedy's motivation and all the enlightened self interest in the US free market would not have helped us in those days.
Sometimes the benefits and risks go way, way beyond financial investment. When corporations perform to society's benefit, they profit. But when they do harm, they often escape the cost. Pollution is a case in point. Corporations benefit and the rest of us pay the cost. Regulation is one answer. Imposing some form of measurement and cost is another.
When the risk and benefit are both extreme. Investors can win to an unimaginable degree. But as risk approaches multiples of investment, the free enterprise system gets turned on its ear. Corporations are, under the law, treated as people. Sadly, they are not people. A theological construct of reincarnation might be controversial. But it is a reality in the world of corporate law. If Goldman Sachs wins in the world of derivatives, executives become gazillionaires. If Lehman Brothers loses, the company commits suicide and and executives immediately come back to fight another day, the loss limited to investment. Of course the economy also comes to the brink of complete collapse, but that is of no concern to the corporate decision makers. Who cares what blows up once we're not around? In the wonderful world of someone-else-pays-the-price, it doesn't matter.
Unfettered capitalism is why folks began, in 2007, to find gates closed at work. It's why children died in the first decade of the new millennium from contaminated peanut butter. It's why swimmers on the eastern coast of the United States will be going to the beach to bathe in oil.
It's why you can turn on your tap and get hot and cold running crud.
It may be human nature. It may be part of the American character. Folks become simple minded when it comes to religion and government: If you want government and worship to be separate, you must be anti-worship. But there is an additional element for many. The temptation, straight from Satan, is to see Christianity as less faithful than tribal. Thus, many of us demand extra privileges that Jesus explicitly rejects. The standard is group loyalty, rather than devotion to Christ.
When Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) reversed a long standing policy and allowed state police to refer to Jesus in public prayers, blogger Steve Benen adopted a sort of I-told-you-so stance. "Note to Virginians: electing a graduate of a radical TV preacher's college may not have been a good idea." Steve presumes too much from Virginia's voters. Most Virginians, most Americans in fact, would have no problem with going a lot farther.
Still, we have remained a country remarkably free from enforced religion, despite the efforts of some of my brethren. Oh, there are anomalies. "In God We Trust" has been on our money since the Civil War. "Under God" was put in our Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. But, for the most part, the separation of Church and state envisioned by the founders has stayed intact.
I object to small encroachments. I object to government sponsorship of my religion, or any religion. But my objection is usually tempered by the degree of the infringement. The anomalies are objectionable, but usually in an indirect way. No harm, no foul. At least not much of one.
What offends me profoundly is the denial of Christ that not even Peter, in his post-crucifixion panic, could have envisioned. In a recent case, the Supreme Court got around the constitutional ban by declaring the small bit of land around a cross to be private property. They also bought a bit of logic from Christian proponents. The cross, they argued, is not particularly Christian. It is only a universal symbol of military sacrifice. “It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies would be compounded if the fallen are forgotten.” This from Chief Justice John Roberts.
Early Christians were willing to submit to the most horrible of deaths rather than deny faith. They defied tradition. They would not worship other Gods, the worship demanded by government at the time. They adhered to faith even over life itself. They faced the most brutal deaths that could be imagined by their rulers. They would, I think, find great comfort in a society that today allows pretty much any religious practice that does not infringe on the rights of others, or no religion at all.
There is no way to know for sure, but we can be forgiven for speculating. Early martyrs were unwilling to deny the cross to save themselves from unimaginable horror. Would they have gone along with those who deny the cross to gain a few extra privileges for today's American Christian tribe?
The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion
- - Treaty of Tripoli, 1797
Signed by President John Adams
Ratified by Unanimous Vote of the United States Senate
Chuck Thinks Right finds a UN outrage that really is outrageous. Iran is on a women's rights committee. Chuck falsely says there was an election. Comes from a lazy reliance on Fox. Actually, there were no other takers from that region. The regional system is dumb, though, and the result is still real wrong.
- The Vigil's Vigilante wants Facebook to dampen violence by enforcing it's own rules.
The death of Republican J. Arthur Younger in 1967 left open his seat in Congress. The special election was thought to be almost a waste. A dynamic newcomer was unbeatable. Shirley Temple Black was America's sweetheart. She was the sweet tap dancing little girl that had helped get America through the depression. She was married to a World War II naval hero. And she was politically experienced, active in the GOP. She was also a conservative Republican in a district that had kept returning Younger to Congress since Hector was a pup. It was less an election than a coronation.
Her main challenger was another Republican. Pete McCloskey was a war hero in his own right. He had won the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts in Korea. This was back in the days when even conservatives respected military heroes, before "swiftboat" was a word, much less a verb. But he was beginning to question the conflict in Vietnam.
Still, he turned out to be quite the political figure. In policy debates and public appearances, he slowly turned the tide. His record, his craggy looks, and his gravelly voice posed a contrast to the often shrill persona of his unfortunate opponent. She slowly lost the bright shiny luster of cute movie stardom and began to appear as an uncaring elitist. The Lollipop sank. McCloskey won.
During the campaign, in those days before most of us had heard the word "sexism" she was, in part, its victim. During question periods, irate matrons would angrily demand to know who was at home taking care of her family. It had an impact. Everyone knew a woman's place.
My dad, in later times, told me of his years as a pastor. After reading Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, he wept. He was haunted by the vision of a woman he had counseled. She was depressed at being a housewife. He helped her find psychiatric treatment for her unnatural resistance to a woman's role in life. Like many of us in those days, he had not considered until much later the individual destructiveness of predominant social expectations. He learned. We all began to learn.
Almost all. Earlier this year, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reminded a military officer who had leaked some disagreement with US policy that the proper avenue was to go through channels, and take up such matters with the President. Republicans responded by urging him to put the Speaker "in her place." Instead, he seemed to take her advice to heart.
Last week, Ohio Republicans sent a mailing urging voters to put Democratic Congressional Representative Betty Sutton "out of the House and send her back to the kitchen," where they say she belongs.
Most folks no longer see kitchens as the purview of women. We can only hope that voters might relegate candidates with such views back to their own true calling. At the oven. Taking conservative joy in baking Hansel and Gretel.
I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.
- - Rich Lowry, conservative columnist, National Review, October 3, 2008
on why conservatives support policies articulated by Sarah Palin
It has gotten way too easy to be cynical about Republicans. At least for me. In the good old days, when figuring what political calculations might be motivating GOP office holders, we could usually at least give a passing glance at the possibility they were acting in good faith.
When John McCain conducted the most remarkably inept GOP presidential campaign in recent memory, we could speculate that, since he was undeniably a patriot, he simply loved his country too much to allow himself to become President. Okay, okay. That was slightly snide. Mea minima culpa.
Still, it is difficult to give credit, even where it is due. Last December, an emergency bill came before the Senate. It funded ammunition and equipment to help our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq defend themselves from attack. Republicans filibustered the funding, trying to keep it from coming to a vote.
Why would Republicans put our troops in danger? Did some sort of waste make supporting soldiers in battle secondary to lowering the burden on taxpayers? Was it a philosophical disagreement with our presence in those war torn lands? Was the equipment substandard? No, no, and no.
It is encouraging for those yearning for transparency in government. GOP Senators were quite open about wanting to hold back equipment for soldiers under fire. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) spoke for those voting against the troops. It was all about an unrelated issue. "I don't want health care."
The way he explained it, if US military personnel were endangered, Democrats would scramble to keep them alive. This might delay health care reform and keep Obama from a victory. These seem to be folks who will say or do anything, anything at all, for the sake of political advantage.
But now it turns out some Republicans are patriots. Several are angry at the Republican National Committee for tricking voters with phony letters designed like official census documents. "Official Document" is all over the outside, along with "Do Not Destroy." Republicans joined with Democrats in passing legislation to keep the RNC from sending those same fraudulent census letters. It was ... oh wow ... unanimous. Be still my bipartisan heart.
But the RNC says the rule doesn't really apply to their fake census mailings. You see, the law says putting the word "Census" on fund raising mail is not allowed. And "Census" is actually just visible through an envelope window. So the word is "in" it, not "on" it. Congress is working to close the loophole.
It's possible angry GOP officeholders realize that sending bogus census junk mail to Republicans over and over again might motivate them to throw away real census forms. The boy who cried wolf and all. And that would lower the count in conservative areas, giving Democrats an advantage in Congress.
Naw! It's patriotism. The sort that didn't apply to protecting US troops.
When it comes to the census there is no separation between Republicans and Democrats. Working together we thought we put an end to this deceptive practice. Unfortunately, the foolishness of the RNC to move forward with yet another deceptive mail piece has caused us to act again.
- - Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), April 28, 2010
It was 1967 and, for the first time, speculation arose about the future political trajectory of Ronald Reagan. Reagan had been an unexpected major player in promoting the unsuccessful candidacy of Barry Goldwater, and now he had just been elected Governor of California. The future looked bright.
Actor James Coburn was also having a good year. In 1967 he starred in a James Bond type spoof, a sequel to the successful Our Man Flynt of 1966. This one was called In Like Flynt. The world was innocent in matters of sexism. As Derek Flint, Coburn was the center of swooning women and the foiler of evil plots. The conspiracy included the kidnapping of the President and the substitution of a double, an actor. Told of the plan, a disbelieving Coburn says, "An actor as President?" The backhanded reference to the pretensions of the new Governor of California did not inhibit the political path of the future President. The movie was campy and well produced. The movie was considered good natured fun all the way around.
We can wonder how "An actor as President?" would be received today. Republicans have largely become a humorless lot, at least in my experience. Any perceived insult to the late President is not received at all well.
Now we have another possibility. Some conservatives lurch toward crazier conspiracy theories. The ambiguities of the Book of the Revelation of John allow the more superstitious of my Christian brethren to fear a Satanic plan to implant microchips into every forehead, or some other part of the human anatomy. State legislatures contemplate laws to outlaw nonconsensual implantation. Virginia's legislature has passed a bill. Wisconsin has it on the books. Satan and his minions are pure evil but are also, presumably, fastidious in following state regulation.
But the best conspiracy to my mind is an offshoot of the birther movement. This birthers see a plot originating back in the 1960s as a newly born baby, Barack Obama of Kenya, was smuggled into Hawaii to have his birth falsely recorded there. Two major newspapers, a hospital, and a bipartisan succession of Governors over more than 40 years joined to make the infant immigrant appear to be eligible to become leader of the free world. Arizona is considering a bill to require Obama to produce yet more evidence that he is not from a foreign land.
But you ain't seen nothing yet. J.D. Hayworth, who is trying to replace John McCain as Republican candidate for the US Senate is concerned about a worse possibility. Suppose the fellow in the White House is not really Barack Obama? He held a press conference last week. "We now require voters to offer proof that voters are who they say they are... If we're asking that of voters, shouldn't we ask candidates for every office on the ballot to be able to offer proof that they are who they say they are?"
This time, it is not an attempt at humor. "An actor as President?"