Morning Links

March 31, 2008

Multiple Pages

I see Andrew Sullivan is taking—yet anothervacation. I, for one, am all for it—anything to give us a break from crap like this. I mean, who cares if the latest casualty in Iraq was gay, or not?

I sure the hell don’t. Sully does, of course:

“It was Len Downie who kept the sexual orientation of a fallen American military hero quiet, despite many in the WaPo newsroom who opposed the well-meant if still homophobic decision. Why homophobic? Because it perpetuates the notion that there is something shameful about being gay. There is no privacy concern here because a dead person cannot have his privacy invaded any more than he can be ‘libeled.’”

But of course a dead person can indeed be libeled: take the late William F. Buckley, Jr.‘s obituary of Murray N. Rothbard, for one classic example. Be that as it may, however, not mentioning something about a person doesn’t mean that it’s shameful—it means that it’s none of anyone’s proper business. Period. Of course, this kind of what we used to call discretion is completely out of style in today’s Oprah-esque Chatty-Kathy world. Yes, the guy liked boys, and what of it? It’s about as relevant as his eye color, or the fact that he used to shop at Trader Joe’s for his favorite brand of Gorgonzola.

On to more serious matters: the economic meltdown proceeds apace, this morning, with news that the Fed is getting powers it already had to stanch the bleeding in the financial sector. I love how this Reuters piece, now being headlined by Drudge, frames the crisis:

“Treasury acknowledged in draft proposals that the current regulatory system is full of ‘regulatory gaps as well as redundancies.’ It sets out an ambitious schedule for modifying and simplifying it—one that has little chance of being enacted in President George W. Bush’s remaining 10 months. Among changes, Treasury wants to merge the Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. markets watchdog, with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that is charged with overseeing the activities of the nation’s futures market.

“It also recommends getting rid of a Depression-era charter for thrifts that was intended to make it easier to obtain mortgage loans, saying it is no longer necessary. That would mean closing the Office of Thrift Supervision and transferring its duties to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that oversees national banks.”

This amounts to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic—the sort of gesture that one expects of government when faced with a crisis. When in doubt, play around with organizational charts.

Interestingly, the supposedly “leftist” presidential candidate had the sharpest commentary on the subject. While John McCain mumbled something about how the economy isn’t his forte, and left it to his campaign spokesmen to say something vaguely reassuring, Barack Obama hit the nail on the head, so to speak, with this:

“Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has pointedly noted that he saw ‘no call for increased capital reserve requirements and liquidity requirements on investment banks’ similar to those of commercial banks, despite the fact the Fed is now lending to investment banks.”

The big investment bankes, who profit from Fed policies, and are the first to get bailed out, are the real villains in this drama, and yet no Republican (and certainly not Hillary, whose campaign contributions from this crowd ensure her silence) is going to say this out loud. The real roots of the problem are the inflationary policies of Greenspan-Bernanke, who put the peddle to the metal during the days of “prosperity”—in short, Ron Paul was (and is) right. But a Republican administration would rather nationalize the banking sector than admit that.

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March of the Obamacons—The New York Sun notes that the “surge” is working ... that is, the surge of support for Obama among antiwar Republicans. Lincoln Chafee, Douglas Kmiec, Susan Eisenhower, and, perhaps, Senator Chuck Hagel. As the Sun notes: “Asked yesterday on CNN whether he would endorse his party’s presumptive nominee, Mr. Hagel said he would base his support on the candidates’ positions on withdrawing from Iraq.” While neocon hacks of the Rush Limbaugh variety are calling out the thinning ranks of the GOP troops to switch parties for a day and support Hillary, antiwar Republicans are switching and supporting Obama all without prompting from anyone, and the numbers are impressive in Pennsylvania, where the upcoming Democratic primary is going to be decisive. As the Sun reports:

“Of the 140,000 Pennsylvania Republicans and independents who switched registration in the last year to Democrat, the majority are Obama voters, the director of the Franklin and Marshall College poll, G. Terry Madonna, said. Registration for the state’s closed April 22 primary ended March 24. ‘If 2 million people vote in Pennsylvania, which would be a huge number, I think Obama gets 85,000 to 90,000 switchers,’ Mr. Madonna said. ‘That’s 3 or 4 or 5%, which is a big deal.’”

The Ron Paul Republicans are making a difference, albeit, at this point, a purely negative one. Here’s a nice touch from the Sun piece:

“Another Pennsylvania Republican who supports Mr. Obama is retired Major General Walter Stewart, a township supervisor in Burks County who says he has given money both to an anti-Bush Texas Republican, Rep. Ron Paul, and Mr. Hagel, who he said was his first choice for president this election season.

“General Stewart said he was supporting Mr. Obama because he could not endorse a candidate who voted to authorize the war in Iraq, which he compared to King George’s decision to send the British army and Hessian mercenaries into New York Harbor in the Revolutionary War. In 2004, General Stewart said, he supported Mr. Kerry, the Democratic nominee, over Mr. Bush. ‘I think there is a general feeling in the military that this war in Iraq has been a catastrophe,’ he said.”

Gen. Stewart, meet Andy Bacevich ....

Remember the AIPAC spy trial? You’re forgiven if you don’t. Two top honchos over at the powerful pro-Israel lobby were indicted, waaaaay back in 2004 (!) for spying for A Certain Country—caught red-handed turning over highly classified US secrets to officials of what prosecutors called “country A” (hah!). AIPAC’s offices were raided—twice. This piece in the Washingtonian gives a good overview of the case, as well as revealing that one of the raids was conducted surreptitiously. At any rate, the pre-trial process has dragged on since 2004, with the defense daring the government to reveal classified information that they say exonerates their clients. And the judge has gone along with it, with his latest ruling delaying the trial—which had been scheduled to begin April 21—yet again.

With the chief prosecutor in the case leaving the Justice Department, and the US government not exactly eager to reveal, in a public courtroom, the extent to which they’ve been snookered by the Israelis time and again, I can’t help but think that this is one spy nest that won’t be exposed to the light of day. Is it me, or did the prospect of having Condi Rice, Stephen Hadley, and a whole brace of government officials testify—under subpoena—as to the extent of Israeli influence in the top tiers of US policymaking councils scotch this case once and for all?

Late entry I see where the big money donors aren’t rushing to contribute to the McCain campaign, but there’s no need for head-scratching on this one. They’ve got all their money tied up in Hillary, for one—and, for two, they know a loser when they see one ....

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