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Chronicle of the Conspiracy
Join us as we discover, document, expose and challenge the bad people, the bad institutions and the bad ideas that stand in the way of wealth creation -- and show you how to fight back!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

HUBRIS   Obama isn't even his party's nominee yet, but he already has his own Presidential Seal. Mark Spahn writes us:
The motto of the Republic of Tatarstan is Buldirabiz! -- "We can."

It has been purloined by an overeducated foreigner whose new coat of arms reads Vero possumus -- "Really, we can."

Update... Jameson Campaigne sends along this post from Mark Rhoads:
The Great Seal of Obama reminds me of the time many years ago that Mike Royko sponsored his own contest to design a new city seal for Chicago. The winning entry was a picuture of an outstretched palm up with the Latin Motto, "Ubi Est Mea?" for Where's Mine? How I wish again that Mike Royko's pal Slats Grobnik were still around. Slats would have a field day with the breathtaking pretentiousness of Barry Obama. If the Obamaiacs are truly so far out in la la land that they don't realize how ridiculous the seal looks, then we can look forward to a million laughs in this campaign instead of the vague and nasty one we expected. I promise to make a donation of at least $50 to help the next GOP candidate for Trustee of the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago--excuse me, I mean Water Reclamation District-- who manufactures his or her personal campaign seal. In fact, I hope every Republican candidate in Illinois will design a personal campaign seal with the motto: "Pretendamus Ludicrous Democrati sum."
Update [6/23/2008] Reader David Cavanagh informs us:
I thought you might be interested to learn that not only is Obama’s “Presidential” seal insanely arrogant, but the “Latin” phrase it contains is actually not very good Latin. “Vero Possumus” contains the dative or ablative of the word verus (truth). First of all this would translate as “to truth”, “from truth”, or “by truth”, not “truly” as was intended by the creator of the phrase. Secondly, “verum” in this context is not the appropriate word. A much better Latin expression for the intended meaning – “truly we can” or “yes we can” would be “Enim Possumus”. Evidently Obama’s Latin advisors are as bad as his economic ones.
Update 2... Dave Duval adds:
After Obama changes the Great Seal, he can bring back Nixon's Palace Guard uniforms.

Update 3... Mark Spahn responds,

I got my translation of "vero" as "really" from a dubious site, which lists useful phrases like "Labra lege!" -- "Read my lips!". (I thought that might be a misprint for "Labia lege", but apparently Latin has two words for lips: labrum (plural, labra) = upper lip labium (plural, labia) = lower lip ) But it is no longer easily possible to check whether "vero" is an adverb in itself, or rather a form of "verum" (= truthiness), because all Google searches for "vero" now lead to Obama. Ave Obama! (= Heil Barak!)
Update 4... Matthew Harris adds,
Notice that one of the changes from the real presidential seal is that Obama's eagle, just like the man himself, won't wear the red white and blue! Where the flag/shield should be there is instead what looks like a stack of money. This, truly, is what an Obama administration would be all about: taking your hard-earned money, as swiftly as an eagle swoops down from the sky and carries off a smaller bird's nest egg.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:53 AM | link  


Friday, June 20, 2008

JOKE OF THE DAY  

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:04 AM | link  

NOW HERE'S A REALLY BAD IDEA   In case readers haven't been able to figure it out, my DC-insider friend "Mick Danger" leans toward the Republican end of the spectrum. But "Mick" is no dope. He can feel the way the wind is blowing in Washington. So as along as everyone else has a Democrat-driven government solution to every problem, "Mick" wants one, too:
Attention Wal-Mart shoppers!

I figured out how to solve the “stimulus” problem, the health insurance cost problem and the energy problem all at once.

Instead of nationalizing oil refiners or healthcare, the federal government should nationalize the fast food chain Wendy’s (and/or Popeye’s) and announce that all their food is now free to anyone below the AMT tax bracket. By design, folks would pour in by throngs, gorge themselves and die of heart attacks in the parking lot.

Hey, I don’t really mean any of this and am actually quite repelled by the immortality of it. Still, you wanna play class warfare? Who says we can’t fire back?


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:48 AM | link  

A KRUGMAN CORRECTION!   Nothing too humiliating, but I can imagine (with delight) the desperate battle Paul Krugman went through with his editor to avoid even this bland correction:
In his June 13 column, Paul Krugman misidentified the Korean official who reversed a ban on American beef. It was the president, not the prime minister.

Bad Cow Disease(June 13, 2008)


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:05 AM | link  


Thursday, June 19, 2008

WE HAVE MET THE ENEMA, AND HE IS US   At least that's true if you live in Zheleznovodsk. And no, this picture is not from a Russian mail-order bride site.
A monument to the enema, a procedure many people would rather not think about, has been unveiled at a spa in the southern Russian city of Zheleznovodsk. The bronze syringe bulb, which weighs 800 pounds and is held by three angels, was unveiled at the Mashuk-Akva Term spa, the spa's director said Thursday.

"There is no kitsch or obscenity, it is a successful work of art," Alexander Kharchenko told The Associated Press. "An enema is almost a symbol of our region."

Thanks to Jameson Campaigne for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:47 PM | link  


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

BEAUTIFUL!   Arthur Laffer quoted in the Wall Street Journal today:
...speaking last month to graduates of Mercer University:
Pursuing your dream of prospering will benefit everyone . . . When I graduated from Yale University, we had a serious commencement speaker not like the one you are stuck with today. The commencement speaker was President John F. Kennedy. And the point I'm making today is the same point he made all those years ago. He said, "No American is ever made better off by pulling a fellow American down, and all of us are made better off whenever any one of us is made better off." He concluded by using the analogy that "a rising tide raises all boats." Never forget or be ashamed of the fact that pursuing your own self interest furthers everyone's interest. Without you, the poor would be poorer.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:27 PM | link  

CNBC POWER LUNCH REPLAY   I'd call this a knock-out in the first round.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:43 PM | link  


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

THOSE EVIL PRICE-GOUGING GAS STATIONS   A little sympathy for the devil, please. High fuel prices are hurting gas stations as much as they are the stations' customers.
But the independents are really getting hit. Take Eranell Miller. He has owned a filling station and repair shop in Baldwin, Pa., just outside Pittsburgh, for 31 years. But lately, he has been losing money on every gallon of gas he sells. Some weeks, he can't come up with enough cash to fill his tanks and has run out of fuel. "If it gets worse I'll close my pumps down and just rely on my garage," Miller says. "I don't want to go bankrupt."

Here's why small independent filling stations like Miller's are hurting. He buys his gasoline for $4.04 a gallon from a local distributor and charges $4.09 a gallon. Since credit-card companies charge fees that are a percentage of the dollar transaction value, higher prices at the pump just mean Miller pays more for the service but without anything padding his margins.

Miller says the credit-card fees now add up to an average of about 5¢ a gallon at his store. That means, including shipping costs and overhead, he loses money selling gasoline. If not for his three-bay repair garage, he'd be out of business.

Perry Eidelbus comments,
People just have no perspective, no understanding that people in the oil and gasoline industries are trying to make a living too, whether running gas stations, manning pipelines or working on oil rigs. Nobody felt sorry a decade ago when oil was a tenth of today's price, but the minute you make a buck, the implication is that you "stole" from the public.

Some years ago, the Maverick gas station chain in Utah tried the reverse, offering a discounts of a few cents if you paid cash. Sure enough, the local government forced them to stop, because that was "anti-competitive."

Update... Skip Oliva, a strong opponent of antitrust laws, says "On the plus side, the government is finally cracking down on 'Big Ice'." From Skip's blog Consumer Sovereignty:
The Justice Department strikes again:
A Cincinnati packaged-ice manufacturer pleaded guilty to allocating packaged-ice customers and territories, the Department of Justice announced today.

The Home City Ice Company (Home City Ice), pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging the company with conspiracy, filed under seal on Nov. 5, 2007, and unsealed today in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. Under the terms of the plea agreement, which is subject to court approval, Home City Ice has agreed to cooperate in the ongoing investigation. According to the charge, Home City Ice participated in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by allocating packaged-ice customers and territories in the Detroit metropolitan area and southeastern Michigan. The conspiracy began at least as early as Jan. 1, 2001, and continued until on or about July 17, 2007.

Um, you know there are other ways to get ice, such as, I dunno, filling plastic trays with water and putting them in a freezer.

Moving on to the substance of the DOJ’s complaint:

According to the charges, Home City Ice and co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by:

* Participating in meetings and conversations to discuss packaged-ice customers and territories in southeastern Michigan and the Detroit metropolitan area;

The First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”
* Agreeing during those meetings and conversations to allocate packaged-ice customers and territories in southeastern Michigan and the Detroit metropolitan area;
Once again, see my recipe for ice above.
* Exchanging information during those meetings and conversations, for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreements to allocate customers and territories in southeastern Michigan and the Detroit metropolitan area; and
See, again, the First Amendment, which protects the exchange of information, even with the subject is packaged ice.
* Refraining from competing for packaged-ice customers and territories that were so allocated.
So there’s some constitutional duty of a firm to compete even when it doesn’t want to? Am I restraining trade by refusing to sell packaged ice to folks in Michigan?

And here’s the kicker:

Today’s case is the first to arise from an ongoing investigation into the packaged-ice industry. The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Cleveland Field Office and by FBI offices in Ann Arbor, Mich.; Indianapolis; and Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio.
The FBI? Really? Nothing better to do over there I suppose…

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:53 PM | link  

PANDORA'S BOX   Who knows what will happen if we look closely at ties between members of congress and Countrywide? At first blush, this one looks a lot worse for the Democrats -- especially some big ones.
...financial disclosure forms released Monday, House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) revealed that Countrywide holds the mortgage on his Washington town house. An aide said Putnam got the mortgage just like any other consumer would: “by calling the 1-800 number and working with the operator for an hour and a half.”

Conrad, by contrast, has acknowledged calling Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo when he needed a loan for a Delaware beach house in 2002. But both Conrad and Dodd have said they did not request — and did not know that they’d received — lower than usual rates on the mortgages they received from Countrywide.

Conrad spokesman Sean Neary said Monday the senator welcomes an ethics investigation because he did nothing wrong.

For Dodd, however, the situation is somewhat more complicated.

As chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, he’s the Democrats’ sometimes reluctant point man on the subprime mortgage and housing crises.

Dodd convened a summit on the emerging mortgage crisis in April 2007 but announced that he wasn’t “overly anxious to legislate. … We think there may be enough laws on the books.”

While his House counterpart, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), plunged ahead with ambitious legislative remedies, Dodd turned his attention toward his ultimately unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination. As a candidate, he further irked housing advocates by collecting millions of dollars in political contributions from subprime lenders, investors and the real estate sector.

Now Dodd is trying to negotiate a major housing bill while his own mortgage is under scrutiny. Senate Democratic leadership could decide that debating the bill — which faces a veto threat from the president — isn’t worth the additional attention it will bring to the Countrywide imbroglio, but Democratic aides say they still expect the bill to make it to the floor later this week.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:41 AM | link  

KUDLOW REPLAY   Here's the YouTube replay:


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:28 AM | link  

ANYBODY GOT WALMART'S PHONE NUMBER HANDY?   Obama yesterday in Detroit:
My energy plan will invest $150 billion over the next ten years to establish a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million jobs over the next two decades. Good jobs...
Let's see... $150 billion over ten years is $15 billion a year. Let's see... 5 million jobs. That's $3,000 a year per job. Let's see... that's a wage rate of about $1.40 an hour. If those are "good" jobs, I'll take a bad one if you don't mind.

Does this mean Obama favors repealing the minimum wage?

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 1:32 AM | link  


Monday, June 16, 2008

THE "CULTURE OF CORRUPTION" REACHES OUT AND TOUCHES THE DEMOCRATS   From Portfolio.com:
Two U.S. senators, two former Cabinet members, and a former ambassador to the United Nations received loans from Countrywide Financial through a little-known program that waived points, lender fees, and company borrowing rules for prominent people.

Senators Christopher Dodd, Democrat from Connecticut and chairman of the Banking Committee, and Kent Conrad, Democrat from North Dakota, chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, refinanced properties through Countrywide’s “V.I.P.” program in 2003 and 2004, according to company documents and emails and a former employee familiar with the loans.

Other participants in the V.I.P. program included former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and former U.N. ambassador and assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke. Jackson was deputy H.U.D. secretary in the Bush administration when he received the loans in 2003. Shalala, who received two loans in 2002, had by then left the Clinton administration for her current position as president of the University of Miami. She is scheduled to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom on June 19.

My DC-insider pal "Mick Danger" writes,
So, Senator if the ethics law you voted for prevents me from buying you a cup of coffee, how about a beach house?

This story is just beginning...

The writers at the Wall Street Journal are calling for an investigation by Congress, mentioning Dick Shelby and Barney Frank as the ones who should lead such an inquiry. Fat chance; besides, the only attack dog left on the Hill is Henry Waxman and he only attacks Republicans.

Congress is increasingly the most powerful branch and the only one which polices itself. (Hmm, could those two facts be causally related?)Congress has intimidated some otherwise strong personalities into timid house boys.(Just think about what the SEC's Chris Cox used to stand for while in Congress or at the Reagan White House.)

OK, let us suggest a better, faster way to the truth. The lawyers overseeing BoA's acquisition in Countrywide are probably looking closely at all of Angelo's records in order to find out the total extent of the liability they might be buying.

Next, bring on the subpoenas!

This case begs for a serious investigation by US Attorneys at the Department of Justice.

Do they have enough guts to go after these committee chairmen on the Hill?


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:45 AM | link  

JUST HOW, EXACTLY, DOES ONE "AIM" A PILL?   Grasp it firmly between thumb and forefinger, line it up with the target, and flick the wrist? From Paul Krugman's column this morning:
...I realized that the tax cuts enacted by the Bush administration are, in effect, a fiscal poison pill aimed at future administrations.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:20 AM | link