Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Some things speak for themselves

(Via Fausta)

If you enjoy life, I think this tells you which way to vote. And if you don't, likewise.

The Key To The 60 Minutes Interviews

I watched 60 Minutes last night so my readers didn't have to. The key moment was when Obama tried to define what would make him a good President. Careful observers will have to concede that he wasn't actually describing himself, except perhaps as how his ego causes him to see it. But he was most certainly describing John McCain.

Yes, I too cringed when McCain suggested Andrew Cuomo for the SEC. But significantly less than I did when Lawrence Taylor decimated Joe Theisman's leg on national television figuring it was chiefly for the benefit of Ohio and Pennsylvania Democrats who may hold the key to putting victory out of reach for Barack Obama. As the saying goes, you go to war with the army they gave you. But the pivotal point for me was a question to Obama.

In essence, "Why are you the guy to be elected President?" I've heard Obama's answer in any number of interviews I've conducted over the years and always from people I eventually didn't hire. It was, "I'm the guy (or gal) who can ..." It was not, I'm the guy who did. Obama's entreaty was along the lines of I'm the guy who can get people who strongly disagree in a room and mediate to find some common ground. What was totally lacking in Obama's answer was, I'm the guy who did ... not much of anything, for that matter.

Some people, likely driven by ego, have a sort of magical view of themselves. They believe that if they just get the chance they know they are the right person to make certain things happen, to make a difference somehow. Yet, at every step of their lives they mostly avoid any opportunity to prove the point. Just think about Obama's argument juxtaposed to John McCain.

When has Obama ever gotten people who "almost violently" disagreed politically into a room to reach consensus? He certainly never did it in the US Senate, though he might have had he ever shown up as opposed to immediately launching his Presidential bid.

Were there people who disagreed when Obama was state Senator back in Illinois? Sure, most likely about how much to raise taxes, how much to regulate - absolutely nothing as compared to what he would find as President in Washington, DC.

Let me guess, he sorted out some neighborhood skirmishes as a community organizer and based on that he professes himself qualified to be King? When I'm interviewing to hire someone that's the point at which I start thinking - Next!

As best I can tell, in role after role when Obama had a chance to step up and actually lead, he voted present and preserved his political ambition over everything else.

Disagree with him or not, cantankerous as he might be, John McCain is a man who has done that very thing. He doesn't live in some magical world where he simply believes he can. Yes, he has angered the Right because of McCain - Feingold, McCain - Kennedy, etc. But isn't that the proof in the pudding of someone who can get people who disagree in a room and bring about some consensus? I'd argue it is.

Obama did define what America likely wants in a next President for 60 Minutes. But for me, in doing so he betrayed both his inexperience and his arrogance and actually made the argument to elect John McCain.


More Demagogic Rhetoric from Obama

In a campaign speech given in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and broadcast in part on MSNBC, Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama told the audience that 'when Bill Clinton left office, we had a surplus. We now have $9 trillion in debt, soon to be $11 trillion.'

This is false, and purposely misleading. While it's true that there were four straight annual surpluses in the Clinton Administration from FY 1998-2001, President Clinton did not leave a net surplus when he left office. In fact, when President Clinton left office in January, 2001, the total federal debt was $5.7 trillion. On October 1, 2001, the beginning of FY 2002, and the end of FY 2001, which was the last FY for which the Clinton Administration was responsible, total federal debt was about $5.8 trillion. The data can be found here.

This kind of false conflation between an annual surplus and total debt or surplus has been a common rhetorical tactic used by the Democrats since 2001, outdone only by the oft-repeated claim that 'there was a $5.6 trillion surplus' at the end of the Clinton Administration. It is dishonest rhetoric. If Sen. Barack Obama represents change as he says, why does he use such misleading -- or plainly false -- rhetoric? Someone needs to find the link to this speech, which was filled with more economic populism than usual.


Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism On Schools

The Weather Underground terrorist was not just a guy in the 'neighborhood.'

Despite having authored two autobiographies, Barack Obama has never written about his most important executive experience. From 1995 to 1999, he led an education foundation called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), and remained on the board until 2001. The group poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists

The CAC was the brainchild of Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s. Among other feats, Mr. Ayers and his cohorts bombed the Pentagon, and he has never expressed regret for his actions. Barack Obama's first run for the Illinois State Senate was launched at a 1995 gathering at Mr. Ayers's home.

The Obama campaign has struggled to downplay that association. Last April, Sen. Obama dismissed Mr. Ayers as just "a guy who lives in my neighborhood," and "not somebody who I exchange ideas with on a regular basis." Yet documents in the CAC archives make clear that Mr. Ayers and Mr. Obama were partners in the CAC. Those archives are housed in the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago and I've recently spent days looking through them.

The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created ostensibly to improve Chicago's public schools. The funding came from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. In early 1995, Mr. Obama was appointed the first chairman of the board, which handled fiscal matters. Mr. Ayers co-chaired the foundation's other key body, the "Collaborative," which shaped education policy.

The CAC's basic functioning has long been known, because its annual reports, evaluations and some board minutes were public. But the Daley archive contains additional board minutes, the Collaborative minutes, and documentation on the groups that CAC funded and rejected. The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda.

One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama's "recruitment" to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.

The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland's ghetto.

In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.

CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).

Mr. Obama once conducted "leadership training" seminars with Acorn, and Acorn members also served as volunteers in Mr. Obama's early campaigns. External partners like the South Shore African Village Collaborative and the Dual Language Exchange focused more on political consciousness, Afrocentricity and bilingualism than traditional education. CAC's in-house evaluators comprehensively studied the effects of its grants on the test scores of Chicago public-school students. They found no evidence of educational improvement.

CAC also funded programs designed to promote "leadership" among parents. Ostensibly this was to enable parents to advocate on behalf of their children's education. In practice, it meant funding Mr. Obama's alma mater, the Developing Communities Project, to recruit parents to its overall political agenda. CAC records show that board member Arnold Weber was concerned that parents "organized" by community groups might be viewed by school principals "as a political threat." Mr. Obama arranged meetings with the Collaborative to smooth out Mr. Weber's objections.

The Daley documents show that Mr. Ayers sat as an ex-officio member of the board Mr. Obama chaired through CAC's first year. He also served on the board's governance committee with Mr. Obama, and worked with him to craft CAC bylaws. Mr. Ayers made presentations to board meetings chaired by Mr. Obama. Mr. Ayers spoke for the Collaborative before the board. Likewise, Mr. Obama periodically spoke for the board at meetings of the Collaborative.

The Obama campaign notes that Mr. Ayers attended only six board meetings, and stresses that the Collaborative lost its "operational role" at CAC after the first year. Yet the Collaborative was demoted to a strictly advisory role largely because of ethical concerns, since the projects of Collaborative members were receiving grants. CAC's own evaluators noted that project accountability was hampered by the board's reluctance to break away from grant decisions made in 1995. So even after Mr. Ayers's formal sway declined, the board largely adhered to the grant program he had put in place.

Mr. Ayers's defenders claim that he has redeemed himself with public-spirited education work. That claim is hard to swallow if you understand that he views his education work as an effort to stoke resistance to an oppressive American system. He likes to stress that he learned of his first teaching job while in jail for a draft-board sit-in. For Mr. Ayers, teaching and his 1960s radicalism are two sides of the same coin.

Mr. Ayers is the founder of the "small schools" movement (heavily funded by CAC), in which individual schools built around specific political themes push students to "confront issues of inequity, war, and violence." He believes teacher education programs should serve as "sites of resistance" to an oppressive system. (His teacher-training programs were also CAC funded.) The point, says Mr. Ayers in his "Teaching Toward Freedom," is to "teach against oppression," against America's history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.

The Obama campaign has cried foul when Bill Ayers comes up, claiming "guilt by association." Yet the issue here isn't guilt by association; it's guilt by participation. As CAC chairman, Mr. Obama was lending moral and financial support to Mr. Ayers and his radical circle. That is a story even if Mr. Ayers had never planted a single bomb 40 years ago.


Ah, Biden

Jennifer Rubin notes a classic Biden moment in his interview with Katie Couric today, talking about the tone of the campaign:
Couric: And you guys haven't been completely guilt-free, making fun of John McCain's inability to use a computer.

Biden: I thought that was terrible, by the way.

Couric: Why'd you do it then?

Biden: I didn't know we did it, if I'd have known we did we'd have never done it, I don't think Barack, you know, I just think that was, ah

Couric: Did Barack Obama approve that ad? He said he did, right?

Biden: Yeah, the answer is, I don't, I don't think anything was intentional about that, they were trying to make another point.

He seems to be suggesting the Obama campaign needs adult supervision, and if only he had known what Obama was up to it never would have happened. Not quite the message the campaign is looking to push these days.


Villain Phil

Barack Obama wants to tell a tale about turbulence in the financial markets, and like any good melodrama this story needs a villain. Sen. Obama believes he has found his mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash in the person of Phil Gramm, the candid-to-a-fault former senator from Texas who presided over a major reform of American banking laws a decade ago. Obama here displays a signal failure to understand the convulsions in the markets. And he also fails to identify the guilty parties - which is odd, since some of them used to sign his paycheck back in his community-organizing days and others are among his most important political donors

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 passed the Senate with 90 votes (8 against, 1 absence: John McCain, who supported the legislation) and was signed into law by Bill Clinton. It had little to do with the issues at play in the current crisis: lending standards and the amount of debt banks can take on relative to their equity. The upshot of the Gramm legislation is that it allows financial services companies to diversify their lines of business: Commercial banks can engage in investment banking, banks can offer brokerage services, and you can have an IRA at the same place you have your checking account.

What we have here is a case of what economist Paul H. Rubin calls "folk economics" - value-laden myths that do not reflect financial realities.

It is not at all clear what, if anything, Gramm's legislation has to do with the current difficulties in the market, other than the fact that Democrats instinctively recoil when they hear the word "deregulation."

Gramm-Leach-Bliley did not create securitization and collateralized debt obligations. It did not change the rules for banks' leverage ratios. If anything, Gramm-Leach-Bliley mitigated some risks by allowing financial companies to diversify their businesses, and it is the most diversified firms that are best weathering the storm. Which makes sense: An investment portfolio is more stable the more diversified it is. The firms that have spectacularly imploded have mostly been non-diversified commercial banks, like Countrywide, or pure investment banks, like Lehman Brothers. But the broadly diversified megabanks are enduring - taking a hit from housing, sure, but they have other lines of business to sustain them. And we should not forget: Without the Gramm-Leach-Bliley reforms, Bank of America would have been legally forbidden to take over Merrill Lynch - very possibly leaving taxpayers on the hook for that one, too. Morgan would not have been able to buy Bear Stearns without Gramm's reforms.

Much more problematic than Gramm-Leach-Bliley is the Community Reinvestment Act, a bit of legislative arm-twisting much beloved by Sen. Obama and his fellow Democrats. One of the reasons so many bad mortgage loans were made in the first place is that Barack Obama's celebrated community organizers make their careers out of forcing banks to do so. ACORN, for which Obama worked, is one of many left-wing organizations that spent decades pressuring banks and bank regulators to do more to make mortgages available to people without much in the way of income, assets, or credit. These campaigns often were couched in racially inflammatory terms. The result was the Community Reinvestment Act. The CRA empowers the FDIC and other banking regulators to punish those banks which do not lend to the poor and minorities at the level that Obama's fellow community organizers would like. Among other things, mergers and acquisitions can be blocked if CRA inquisitors are not satisfied that their demands - which are political demands - have been met. There is a name for loans made to people who do not have the credit, assets, income, or down payment to qualify for a normal mortgage: subprime.

The bankers cannot blame CRA entirely; they made a lot of bad bets on rising home prices. But CRA did influence lending standards across the banking industry, even in those institutions that are not strictly liable to its jurisdiction. The subprime debacle is in no trivial part the result of lending decisions in which political extortion trumped businesses' normal bottom-line concerns.

Along with these bad loans, the underlying problem is that there was a bubble in the price of housing - a bubble caused in no small part by politics, in the form of an easy-money/easy-credit policy from the Fed.

It was politics, too, that created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, enabled them to dominate the mortgage market, and implicitly took upon American taxpayers the risks of those business while the rewards were enjoyed, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, by largely Democratic political opportunists, who then gave generously to Democrats, the top recipients of their largesse being: Chris Dodd, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Kerry, and Barack Obama. And it was politics that unwisely nationalized Fannie and Freddie without resolving the underlying moral hazard - private profit, public risk - that makes those institutions problematic. From this Senator Obama takes away the lesson that there has been a failure of the market, and that what is needed is more politics. In this analysis Obama is as wrong as it is possible to be.

The only reason there are returns on investments is that there is risk involved. Obama talks as though the government can create new regulations that will remove risk from the markets. It cannot. Investors sometimes make bad decisions. Businesses sometimes borrow too much money. "Some of these investment banks look like hedge funds, they're so leveraged," says one longtime Wall Street hand. But the markets are addressing that problem, too, in their own brutally Darwinian way: That's why Bank of America is acquiring Merrill Lynch on the cheap.

Phil Gramm is a fine foil for Obama: a conservative Texan with a furry accent and an unsympathetic demeanor. He's the perfect symbol - and Obama's campaign is rooted in nothing but symbolism. The reality is the thousands of dollars in donations from Fannie Mae executives sitting in Obama's campaign coffers. If Obama wants a villain, he doesn't have far to look.


Michelle's Boot Camps For Radicals

Democrats' reintroduction of militant Michelle Obama in Denver was supposed to show her softer side. But it only highlighted a radical part of her resume: Public Allies

Barack Obama was a founding member of the board of Public Allies in 1992, resigning before his wife became executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies in 1993. Obama plans to use the nonprofit group, which he features on his campaign Web site, as the model for a national service corps. He calls his Orwellian program, "Universal Voluntary Public Service."

Big Brother had nothing on the Obamas. They plan to herd American youth into government-funded reeducation camps where they'll be brainwashed into thinking America is a racist, oppressive place in need of "social change."

The pitch Public Allies makes on its Web site doesn't seem all that radical. It promises to place young adults (18-30) in paid one-year "community leadership" positions with nonprofit or government agencies. They'll also be required to attend weekly training workshops and three retreats.

In exchange, they'll get a monthly stipend of up to $1,800, plus paid health and child care. They also get a post-service education award of $4,725 that can be used to pay off past student loans or fund future education.

But its real mission is to radicalize American youth and use them to bring about "social change" through threats, pressure, tension and confrontation - the tactics used by the father of community organizing, Saul "The Red" Alinsky.

"Our alumni are more than twice as likely as 18-34 year olds to . . . engage in protest activities," Public Allies boasts in a document found with its tax filings. It has already deployed an army of 2,200 community organizers like Obama to agitate for "justice" and "equality" in his hometown of Chicago and other U.S. cities, including Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Washington. "I get to practice being an activist," and get paid for it, gushed Cincinnati recruit Amy Vincent.

Public Allies promotes "diversity and inclusion," a program paper says. More than 70% of its recruits are "people of color." When they're not protesting, they're staffing AIDS clinics, handing out condoms, bailing criminals out of jail and helping illegal aliens and the homeless obtain food stamps and other welfare.

Public Allies brags that more than 80% of graduates have continued working in nonprofit or government jobs. It's training the "next generation of nonprofit leaders" - future "social entrepreneurs."

The Obamas discourage work in the private sector. "Don't go into corporate America," Michelle has exhorted youth. "Work for the community. Be social workers." Shun the "money culture," Barack added. "Individual salvation depends on collective salvation."

"If you commit to serving your community," he pledged in his Denver acceptance speech, "we will make sure you can afford a college education." So, go through government to go to college, and then go back into government.

Many of today's youth find the pitch attractive. "I may spend the rest of my life trying to create social movement," said Brian Coovert of the Cincinnati chapter. "There is always going to be work to do. Until we have a perfect country, I'll have a job."

Not all the recruits appreciate the PC indoctrination. "It was too touchy-feely," said Nelly Nieblas, 29, of the 2005 Los Angeles class. "It's a lot of talk about race, a lot of talk about sexism, a lot of talk about homophobia, talk about -isms and phobias."

One of those -isms is "heterosexism," which a Public Allies training seminar in Chicago describes as a negative byproduct of "capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and male-dominated privilege."

The government now funds about half of Public Allies' expenses through Clinton's AmeriCorps. Obama wants to fully fund it and expand it into a national program that some see costing $500 billion. "We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded" as the military, he said.

The gall of it: The Obamas want to create a boot camp for radicals who hate the military - and stick American taxpayers with the bill.


(For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena . For readers in China or for when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)

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