American Elephants

Andrew Klavan Explains the Financial Crisis, And Gets it Exactly Right! by The Elephant's Child
May 7, 2010, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Law, Taxes | Tags: , ,

Andrew Klavan tackles the financial crisis, and explains the connections.  He also explains, with brief humor, why the Dodd Financial Reform bill is such a disaster.  Under the guise of “protecting consumers” they encourage risk on Wall Street, offer taxpayer bailouts, and don’t reform any of the things that need reforming.

The Financial Crisis was caused by government, not Wall Street.  It was not caused by deregulation, but by bad regulation.  Fannie and Freddie, the Government Sponsored Enterprises, are in desperately bad shape.

Freddie Mac just posted another staggering quarterly loss — $8 billion in just the first quarter.  That’s after taxpayers have supplied $60 billion in bailouts.  The Republican alternative to the Dodd bill aims to wind down and break up Fannie and Freddie on a 15 year timeline, and to limit taxpayer exposure in the meantime.  The Democrats want to kick that problem down the road, and they are still encouraging home loans to buyers who cannot meet prudent banking standards.

Economist Alan Reynolds points out Obama’s tendency to cram bills through by picking a business to demonize.  Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield was the victim in the Health Care Bill when they were accused of raising premiums “by anywhere from 35-39 percent” except no one could find anyone who paid 39% more.  For the Dodd Bill, the demon is Goldman Sachs, with a suspiciously timed civil suit as a flimsy excuse.  And of course the bill is favored by Goldman, which tells you how straightforward this is.

So there’s a lot of reading if you want to bone up on the Dodd Bill, but Andrew Klavan has it pretty much exactly right.

Thirty-two Blacks are Running for Congress This Year, And They’re All Republicans! by The Elephant's Child

Barack Obama’s election to the presidency has had unexpected consequences.
At least 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year — as Republicans.  The biggest surge since Reconstruction.  The House has not had a black Republican since 2003, when J.C. Watts of Oklahoma left  after eight years.

Black Republicans are running with a confidence that they haven’t had before.  They cite two factors:  dissatisfaction with the Obama administration, and the proof provided by Mr. Obama himself, that blacks can get elected.  They realized that what once seemed impossible — for a black candidate to win election with substantial  white support — was not.  And the candidates have strong records of accomplishment behind them.  They are serious, qualified candidates.

To the horror of Liberal politicians and pundits, many of the black Republicans are seeking support from the Tea Party movement.  The Liberals have tried so hard to stick the “racist” and violent label on the Tea Parties that at President Obama’s recent speech the SWAT team was called out to protect the President and his hangers-on from the potential violence of a large group of smiling grannies.  It just doesn’t work.  It’s Liberals who see everything through the lens of race.

For example the New York Times article linked here had this line:

Still, black Republicans face a double hurdle: black Democrats who are disinclined to back them in a general election, and incongruity with white Republicans, who sometimes do not welcome the blacks whom party officials claim to covet as new members.

Yes, many black Republicans do face criticism and name-calling from black Democrats, simply because they belong to a different party.   The “incongruity with white Republicans” lies only in the bigoted view of a leftist media.

Great Moments in the Green Bureaucracy’s Regulatory Adventures. by The Elephant's Child
May 7, 2010, 7:30 am
Filed under: Environment, Humor, Junk Science, Law | Tags: , ,

Henry Payne recounted this delightful classic —  reprinted by the Mackinac Center —  in Planet Gore at National Review.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, a hapless bureaucracy in Michigan’s capital city, with careful attention to the rules and regulations of  Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994.  Here is the DEQ letter to a private landowner reprinted in all its indignant, bureaucratic fury.

LANSING MI 48909-7973
December 17, 1997

Mr. Ryan DeVries
2088 Dagget
Pierson, MI 49339

Dear Mr. DeVries:

SUBJECT: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023-1 T11N, R10W, Sec. 20, Montcalm County

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property.  You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity: Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department’s files show that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris dams and flooding at downstream locations.  We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all unauthorized activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel.  All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 1998.  Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff.

Failure to comply with this request, or any further unauthorized activity on the site, may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter.  Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

David L. Price
District Representative
Land and Water Management Division

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s infamous regulatory war against beaver dams — the clueless, indignant bureaucrats had probably never seen a beaver.  They’re really kind of cute.  And they will never, never live this one down.

The Struggle to Maintain an Aura of Calm and Competence. by The Elephant's Child

The federal bureaucrats in charge of regulating BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil rigs  badly underestimated the potential damage and size of a serious oil spill. NRO’s Daniel Foster points out:

The Interior Department exempted BP’s calamitous Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact analysis last year, according to government documents, after three reviews of the area concluded that a massive oil spill was unlikely.

The decision by the department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) to give BP’s lease at Deepwater Horizon a “categorical exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on April 6, 2009 — and BP’s lobbying efforts just 11 days before the explosion to expand those exemptions — show that neither federal regulators nor the company anticipated an accident of the scale of the one unfolding in the gulf.

This doesn’t mean too much, simply that neither the MMS nor BP expected an industrial accident of this size and scale, nor did they expect an accident at all.  Drilling for oil is a hazardous business.  There is risk involved.  And there are limits to what regulations can accomplish.

There has been a  plan in place since 1994 that required the federal government to have pre-placement of booms to contain controlled burns of surface oil.  The booms weren’t there, and the plan had been ignored.  Equipment can fail, humans are fallible, mistakes are made, the unexpected happens — that’s what happens in the real world.  We try to prepare, but stuff happens.  The Assistant Secretary of the Interior who was supposedly in charge was white-water rafting on the Colorado River.

The President, however, was stung by suggestions that he was nine days late and inattentive when the spill happened.  The White House has put up a detailed (my goodness is it detailed) timeline, moment by moment, of the administration’s calm and competent response to the disaster.  Apparently the industry experts who have been working night and day had little to do with it — except to get the blame.

At the White House website you will find an extensive timeline of “The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill.” You will also find a piece indicating that the administration was on the ground in Nashville “before the raindrops started falling.”

Nobody has explained how the FBI lost Faisal Shahzad long enough for him to get on an airline bound for Dubai when he was on a “no fly list” and had been under observation since the Clinton administration as a person of interest, yet he was able to travel back and forth to Pakistan frequently.

The Washington Post has a long article on “naming disasters”and the critical importance of the name both as a historic matter and in the “more immediate matters of image, public relations and legal liability.”

What do you call a gigantic man-made disaster that is threatening to despoil the ecosystems and wreck the economies of the Gulf Coast? The answer is important, if you happen to be one of the companies responsible for it.

The media had referred to it as “the Gulf oil spill,” “the Deepwater Horizon spill” and the “Gulf Coast disaster.” President Obama “put a brand name on it in remarks in Louisiana on Sunday”  The President dubbed it “the BP oil spill” after the company that leased the now-sunken drilling platform.

This is perhaps what the President means by ” keeping a boot on the neck of BP.” Which is an unfortunate phrase and should have no place in White House communications.  BP acknowledged responsibility long before the  “boot” comment. Presidents of the United States should not plant boots on anyone’s neck.  The phrase is from Orwell.

What I am getting at in all of this, is not to place blame.  The world is a dangerous place, and things happen.  Those who are certain that more regulation, more agencies, more mandates, more rules — will compensate for dangerous nature, fallible humanity, failed equipment and natural disasters — are mistaken.

The more bureaucracy grows — the more error: the more rules — the fewer are obeyed.  More regulation breeds a disrespect for law, and those who were so sure that wise, benevolent people in charge, changing society to make it better — end up unable to keep the lights on in Venezuela, unable to feed their own people in North Korea,  with a society of alcoholics who have given up having children in Russia,  and with the very best of intentions creating trillions of dollars of debt in America.

The wise folks in Washington are always sure that they know better,  that their ideas are new and fresh, and a glorious future lies ahead. They don’t. They aren’t, and it doesn’t.  Big government is to be opposed not because it is a popular slogan in some quarters,  but because it simply doesn’t work.  It has been tested over and over, and it never, never works.

The American people don’t need or want everything remade, reformed and reorganized for them.  They want truth and transparency.  They have a lot of good old-fashioned common sense and they know — most of the time — when they’re being told the truth, and when they’re not.  Collectively, they have a lot of wisdom too. They deserve the respect and the attention of those in government.

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