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Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Miscellaneous Thoughts on the National Scene

Mostly brief notes on Arlen Specter, one less headless federal department, the political uses of overstated pandemic, thuggish federal abuse of banks, and a poorly thought-out photo op.

The Specter Specter

The big story out of Washington, DC, today was Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter's announcement that he will run as a Democrat for re-election in 2010. Not coincidentally, I suspect, this comes very shortly after a news story that he is already polling very badly against a likely Republican challenger, Pat Toomey, who almost beat him in 2004. I'm sure that Senator Specter's defection has some implications for Senate Republicans' ability to block, well, anything in the Senate. He will be the 59th Democratic Senator, with Al Franken possibly being the 60th, depending on the final results of likely election fraud in Minnesota. But I'm not sure Specter was very useful in such matters lately as a Republican, anyway. In fact, Arlen Specter turning Democrat seems to me to be, above all, a triumph for truth-in-advertising.

Headless Orgs

Several days into the swine flu scare, the Senate finally confirmed President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services (Mike Leavitt's old job) today -- just inside the first 100 days, as a matter of fact. There's still no Surgeon General, and the Centers for Disease Control have an unconfirmed appointee for the top spot too, according to one story I heard today. The story seemed to be advocating some hand-wringing, in view of the swine flu epidemic. Until the political appointees take office, after all, these organizations are being run by . . . non-political interim appointees who have spent their careers at these agencies. Tell me, what is there to fear in this? That they'll run as smoothly as they usually do (however smoothly that may be), but without the proper ideological guidance the political appointees might provide?

Overreaction as Policy?

It's interesting that the Obama Administration was telling us yesterday that they're treating the swine flu thing as a pandemic (epidemic is just too small a word for these overanxious times) -- even though they admit it is not a pandemic, at least not yet. Swine flu was a dud back in about 1976 too, as some few of you may recall.

Maybe it's a good test of policies and procedures. Or maybe this is the modus operandi of the Obama regime, which seems inclined to exaggerate a crisis in order to get people to go along with massive debt-driven expenditures and dizzying federal power grabs. Witness the bailouts and the soaring budget deficit, not to mention the partial nationalization of the banking industry, which seem to exploit the manufactured fear of a new depression that does not now exist. Maybe they've decided that if they blow up the swine flu story enough, it will help them nationalize the health care industry more quickly and with less uproar.

Hostile Takeover?

Speaking of bank bailouts, we heard stories a few months ago about some major banks which did not want to accept bailout funds being pressured by the federal government, perhaps even to the point of being told that if they didn't play ball -- meaning go all needy and take their money like nice, obedient subjects -- they'd be audited and investigated until they were bankrupt. Lately we're hearing of banks now able and wanting to pay back their bailout money, which supposedly was the intent all along, but finding the government unwilling to accept payment. Instead of the money, the federal government now wants common stock in the banks -- as in partial ownership.

For what it's worth, I don't see how we can place all the blame on Obama and his regime for this thuggish attempted takeover. The whole debacle got off to a great start in the last few months of the Bush administration.

Here are three paragraphs from Stuart Varney at the Wall Street Journal, writing earlier this month:

Here's a true story first reported by my Fox News colleague Andrew Napolitano (with the names and some details obscured to prevent retaliation). Under the Bush team a prominent and profitable bank, under threat of a damaging public audit, was forced to accept less than $1 billion of TARP money. The government insisted on buying a new class of preferred stock which gave it a tiny, minority position. The money flowed to the bank. Arguably, back then, the Bush administration was acting for purely economic reasons. It wanted to recapitalize the banks to halt a financial panic.

Fast forward to today, and that same bank is begging to give the money back. The chairman offers to write a check, now, with interest. He's been sitting on the cash for months and has felt the dead hand of government threatening to run his business and dictate pay scales. He sees the writing on the wall and he wants out. But the Obama team says no, since unlike the smaller banks that gave their TARP money back, this bank is far more prominent. The bank has also been threatened with "adverse" consequences if its chairman persists. That's politics talking, not economics.

Think about it: If Rick Wagoner can be fired and compact cars can be mandated, why can't a bank with a vault full of TARP money be told where to lend? And since politics drives this administration, why can't special loans and terms be offered to favored constituents, favored industries, or even favored regions? Our prosperity has never been based on the political allocation of credit -- until now.

In fact, let's look at the next paragraph while we're at it, just for (desperate) laughs:

Which brings me to the Pay for Performance Act, just passed by the House. This is an outstanding example of class warfare. I'm an Englishman. We invented class warfare, and I know it when I see it. This legislation allows the administration to dictate pay for anyone working in any company that takes a dime of TARP money. This is a whip with which to thrash the unpopular bankers, a tool to advance the Obama administration's goal of controlling the financial system.

Tell me, really, did you expect less?

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's a Photo Op!

Last but not least, did you hear about the simulated terrorist attack the White House ordered on Manhattan? That's not what it really was, just what it looked like. What happened is, a White House official set up a photo op which involved one of the President's 747s (which would be Air Force One, were the President aboard) flying low over the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor, in the company of an F-16 fighter jet or two. Apparently, there were some panicked calls to 911 from people in the general vicinity of 9/11's Ground Zero, because this looked like a rogue jumbo jet with the Air Force in pursuit. Is all of history prior to the Obama inauguration now officially forgotten? What was someone thinking? Was someone thinking?

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