Daily Archives: February 13, 2009

Can we please bring copy editors back to the Wall Street Journal?

Because I act as my own copy editor, I know (and Hiram knows) how hard it is to catch errors in one’s own writing. But real newspapers used to have copy editors to do that job and, while I’m sympathetic to the financial woes of that industry, I can’t imagine copy editors are all that expensive. English majors, sadly, come cheap. 

So it’s ironic that in an article on a newspaper reporter becoming a strip club manager as a new career, the Journal prints this:

Soon afterwards, he was visiting Israel when the war with Hezbollah in Lebanon broke out, and to his surprise he found himself disinterested in covering it. “As much as I loved my job and was proud of what I’d done, I didn’t have the urge anymore to run up to the border and explain it all to the American people and then come back and brag about how I’d been shot at,” he says.

A beauty contest judge at a strip joint should be disinterested but not, one hopes, uninterested. In the burned-out reporter’s case, it would be quite the other way around.


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Kettle, meet Mr. Pot

Chris Dodd inserted a retroactive pay limit on bankers into the Stimulus Bill. This phony fraudster, after collecting millions of dollars from those same bankers, after seeking and accepting sweetheart deals for his own mortgages (and would someone please look into how he paid for his Irish house?) is getting flak here in Connecticut for his being a banker’s toady. So he shows us how independent he is by a late night bit of subterfuge that costs him nothing and will make him, he assumes, look like a free, independent watchdog. Fah! He resembles a watchdog deposit, and not a banking deposit. If you want to impress us, Chris, why not release the loan documents you promised us all six months ago? That would be a brave, albeit suicidal act. Dodd would certainly join his father and become the first father son team to both be censured by the Senate but this is a Democrat Congress and if Charlie Rangle skates, I suppose Dodd will too. 

But that doesn’t mean we can’t toss the man out on his fat rear in 2010.


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Is there anyone who didn’t know Madoff was a crook?

Ezra Merkin, a Madoff scam “victim” used former “Yuppie Five” felon as financial advisor while advisor was still in jail. The most amusing part? The crook warned Merkin that Madoff was making up imaginary numbers for his reported profits. But why stop when you’re charging big fees? Walter didn’t, either.

One of the top advisers to the money manager J. Ezra Merkin, who invested $2 billion of his clients’ money with Bernard L. Madoff, is a convicted felon who worked for Mr. Merkin while still in federal prison, according to recently filed court documents.

The adviser, Victor Teicher, who had been convicted of federal securities fraud and was barred from the securities industry, advised Mr. Merkin on the management of his Ariel Fund Ltd. through phone calls made to Mr. Merkin’s Park Avenue office from a New Jersey prison.

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Barbara Streisand’s meeting him in Johannesburg

But Camilla, I am wearing my solar powered beanie!

But Camilla, I am wearing my solar powered beanie!

Prince Charles jets off on an environmental trip, 16,000 miles by private jet. Promises to have a team of wogs plant trees in Ceylon to offset his carbon trail.

Prince Charles was accused of hypocrisy last night for using a private jet on an ‘environmental’ tour of South America.

The prince will travel to the region next month in a visit costing an estimated £300,000 as part of his crusade against global warming.

He will use a luxury airliner to transport himself, the Duchess of Cornwall and a 14-strong entourage to Chile, Brazil and Ecuador on a 16,400-mile round trip.

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Right on!

Michael Lewis author of Liar’s Poker, is my favorite financial writer. He’s penned a column for Bloomberg that he thinks is tongue in cheek but you know what? He’s absolutely right.

Even as I write I am watching the eunuchs now posing as Wall Street CEOs bend over backward before some congressional committee to prove that the operation was a success, and they are now well and truly without testicles.

John Mack swore that he and everyone else at Morgan Stanley have only a secondary interest in money — that the guys at Morgan Stanley love to bank so much that if necessary they’d do it for free. Vikram Pandit went out of his way to apologize for ordering up a single corporate jet. “I get the new reality,” he said.

Get It

No, Vikram, you don’t. You think the new reality is cowering and simpering before elected officials so that they’ll quit being mean to you and maybe even let Tim Geithner give you more money. The new reality is that you need to grow a pair. Here’s how:

— Play the hand you’ve been dealt rather than the hand other people insist that you hold.

Pandit and Mack and the rest have completely swallowed “the people’s” line that because they’ve taken taxpayer money they are somehow now required to care how “the people” feel about them.

Think about this. Some fool comes along and gives you $15 billion, no strings attached. The fool doesn’t own you. You own him. Mack needs to stand up and say, “We at Morgan Stanley are pleased by your investment. Now, if you ever want to see a dime of it back, go away. We’ll call you if we need you.”

While I’d prefer to see corporate chiefs eschew my money, collected from me at figurative gunpoint, and save their companies or let them fail as their skills and market pressures allow, second best is to take the money and still stand up to the slugs who are forking over my dough to claim control over them. NASCAR’s in the dumps because car makers are now owned by the government and what would “the people” (there’s a joke) think if their money was spent on hospitality tents or new tires for Bobby Lee or whoever the hell drives those cars? No jets, except for Congressmen, no junkets, except for Congressmen and Barbara Streisand, no no no! I don’t really care about these wusses giving away their own freedom but I do care that this governmental power grab will extend into all our lives. So ignore Lewis’s sarcasm, boys, and, as he suggests, “grow a pair!”


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I was wrong – it’s not socialism

Micahel Ledeen corrects those, like me, who fret about the country going socialist – it’s fascism, and he explains what he means:

There’s a element of truth to the basic theme (although not to the headline):  the state is getting more and more deeply involved in business, even taking controlling interests in some private companies.  And the state is even trying to “make policy” for private companies they do not control, but merely “help” with “infusions of capital,” as in the recent call for salary caps for certain CEOs.  So state power is growing at the expense of corporations.

But that’s not socialism.  Socialism rests on a firm theoretical bedrock:  the abolition of private property.  I haven’t heard anyone this side of Barney Frank calling for any such thing.  What is happening now–and Newsweek is honest enough to say so down in the body of the article–is an expansion of the state’s role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business.  Yes, it’s very “European,” and some of the Europeans even call it “social democracy,” but it isn’t.

It’s fascism.  Nobody calls it by its proper name, for two basic reasons:  first, because “fascism” has long since lost its actual, historical, content;  it’s been a pure epithet for many decades.  Lots of the people writing about current events like what Obama et. al. are doing, and wouldn’t want to stigmatize it with that “f” epithet.

Second, not one person in a thousand knows what fascist political economy was.  Yet during the great economic crisis of the 1930s, fascism was widely regarded as a possible solution, indeed as the only acceptable solution to a spasm that had shaken the entire First World, and beyond.  It was hailed as a “third way” between two failed systems (communism and capitalism), retaining the best of each.  Private property was preserved, as the role of the state was expanded.  This was necessary because the Great Depression was defined as a crisis “of the system,” not just a glitch “in the system.”  And so Mussolini created the “Corporate State,” in which, in theory at least, the big national enterprises were entrusted to state ownership (or substantial state ownership) and of course state management.  Some of the big “Corporations” lasted a very long time;  indeed some have only very recently been privatized, and the state still holds important chunks–so-called “golden shares”–in some of them.

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Workfare – never worked, never will work, liberals love it

Over the years every study of job training programs and workfare programs have shown them to be utter failures, yet they keep getting re-funded and expanded, year after year, just like Head Start. “Sure it’s a failure, but how would it look if we just stopped it?” So a bureaucracy builds of Head Start teachers, job trainers and, of course, administrators, all doing nothing but collecting a federal paycheck. We’re about to get more of the same. “No jobs for white male construction workers or professionals,” promises Robert Reich. No siree, we’re going after the poorest of the poor, the lowest of the low, and we’ll raise them to the mountaintop! We don’t call the One the “Messiah” just for nothing, you know. He can make wine from water, skilled, motivated workers from drug addicts and brain surgeons from sixteen-year-old single mothers. Tall buildings in a single bound? You’re kidding, right?

Some curmudgeons don’t buy this stuff, but we’ve been outvoted. Still, just for the record, here’s one of them:

Of course, you don’t have to be an economist or statistician to recognize that the idea that the government can train and find productive employment for large numbers of its citizens, especially the long-term unemployed, just isn’t grounded in reality. It’s a fraud that leapfrogs socialism and goes directly to communism.

Let’s add it all up. Workfare doesn’t stimulate the economy. It doesn’t give participants new skills or increase their earning power. It doesn’t lift people out of poverty. And it often costs more than welfare. What exactly is the point?

In Roosevelt’s day, it was votes. Not just votes from individuals employed by the workfare programs, but also votes in Congress. WPA projects could be used to reward friendly politicians by directing funds and manpower to their districts.

In the 1990s, when Robert Reich was secretary of labor, workfare became corporate welfare. Instead of working directly for the government, low-income workers could be hired by private-sector employers in exchange for tax credits, in effect working for less than minimum wage. Of course, this helped hold down wages for other employees too.

Still, many liberals are opposed to the idea of workfare, mainly because it does require recipients to work. In their worldview, the poor are victims of the unjust free market system and shouldn’t be punished or have responsibility.

Some of the more astute liberal critics also recognize that workfare poisons the labor market. When companies or government agencies have access to cheap workfare labor, there’s no incentive for them to offer entry-level jobs. Unemployment increases and more people go on workfare. It becomes a never-ending cycle.

But that’s where the pure political genius of the Green Jobs Corps emerges. By presenting it as a welfare-to-work program with the objective of saving the environment, it is designed to appeal to the right, political center, and the left all at once. Then during election season, politicians can boast about the number of people they moved from welfare to work and the number of solar panels they installed on people’s roofs.

If you vote Democratic, maybe you’ll get a solar panel too. Installation and maintenance are always free in the workfare state. That’s because with more failed leftist economic policies in place, poverty and unemployment become the ultimate renewable resources.

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